The Winner’s Edge: Interview with Carlo Alberini

Quantum Key West was the host of the J/70 Midwinter Championship, which provided the class with an awesome venue for a top-rate event. We were so fortunate this year to have some of the best weather I have ever experienced, as well as some top-notch racing in a variety of conditions.

The winner this year was Carlo Alberini and his team from Italy on theCalvi Network. They are the reigning European Champs and I was able to catch up with Carlo to get some of his impressions on Key West and the J/70 class.

Carlo, Congrats on your win! How long have you been racing the J/70?
Thanks for the compliments but the big credit goes to Branko and crew. We started sailing in March 2014.

How did you approach training for this event?
Our approach was to study the difference with the USA fleet, we especially concentrated on studying the different rig.

What are the differences in racing fleets in the US from racing fleets in Europe?
The level of the USA fleet is higher than Europeans because they started sailing 2-3 years ago.

What was your daily plan once you left the dock?
We start every day with zero tuning and before arriving on the race field, we sail with the other competitors, changing the tuning according the sea and wind conditions.

The fleet sets up very close to the line, making starting difficult. How did you approach the starts?
Branko (Brcin, Tactician) placed us in a perfect area of the start line every time and as you know, is not easy to stay there perfectly any time because the other competitors are very good. On average, we went where we wanted.

With so many races in a regatta, it is difficult to be consistent. Did you make any decisions on regatta/race management to reduce risk for the entire event?
For me, is more important to do a lot of good placing rather than win a single race; it is the final result that matters.

Downwind – how do you decide when to plane and when to sail low?
The edge is around 15 knots.

What weight are you sailing at?
Too heavy right now (350kg); we are more heavy than last year by 20 kilos; it’s obligatory to reduce it to around 325kgs.

What did you think of Key West?
It was a great venue, with great competition; we cannot wait to sail again in Miami.

One of the highlights of the week was the panel discussion on Tuesday Night. One of the strong things about the J/70 class is that everyone is willing to share and help each other out and grow the sport. There were also many opportunities to learn from class experts as well as great coaches Ed Adams and Ed Baird who shared their knowledge throughout the week.

I was fortunate to sail with Bob Hughes on Heartbreaker for the week. Looking back, here are a few things that I took away from the event.

  • We started out the week with light to moderate air. This put a premium on weight placement in the boat and sail trim. As the breeze went up and down it was critical to adjust the sheets to keep the boat tracking through the chop and to keep the boat at the proper heel angle to stay powered up. If you got too flat, the boat would stall; if you were too heeled, you would slide. It took a lot of effort to keep it constant, but if you did, there were high rewards.
  • Windy upwind: It felt much faster to sit with the weight a little bit aft to get the bow up over the waves.
  • Downwind the last day, there were big gains to be made in the big breeze if you had space to let the boat rip. If you got caught in traffic and didn’t have the ability to steer where you wanted and keep the boat on a plane, you would lose out to the boats that had their own water.

Lastly, it was easy to see some boats had good days and some bad; the key to long events is being able to stay even and always keep working for points. The boats that were good at treating the event like the marathon that KWRW is, did the best.

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