Ever thought about competing in a World Championship regatta? Melges 24 experts Chris Rast and Scott Nixon put together a timeline to help you and your team prepare for the big regatta, so you’ll be fully ready to hit the starting line come the big day.
Preparing for a World Championship or any other major regatta can seem a bit daunting, but with the right preparation any team can make sure their major regatta is a success. Here is our high-level timeline of what you should be doing and about when you should be doing it.
10-6 MONTHS OUT
This is where you lay the groundwork for your ultimate event of the year. Early preparations will ensure that your team can focus on sailing closer to the event and know that the major logistics have been resolved.
At this point you better already have a good part of your team locked in. If not get on the phone and get that perfect bow person that also fits in from a weight perspective. Although an impressive sailing resume is nice, focus more on a good fit with the rest of your team. It’s better to have someone handy that can work with tools and ropes on board than a second tactician. Define and divide responsibilities within your team, enforcing the fact that everybody needs to commit to the ultimate event of the year. Make sure your schedule is transparent for the year so everyone can commit to the days of training, travel and racing. At the end of the day time on the water is key to forming a well prepared team.
Equipment (Sails, rigging, spars, parts/accessories, team gear)
Check in with your equipment and re-access you past history and performance with your gear. Check in with your sailmaker. Make sure you have the latest sails and tuning tips. Review your sail plan for the year & budget with your sailmaker. Go over the goals and events you want to peak at, so that they can make sure you are on schedule to get new sails for the key events. If your one design class has sail buttons you need to manage the yearly allotment early, so that you don’t get caught at the year-end championships with no new sails! Double check your onboard hardware to see if it needs maintenance or replacement. Review your standing and running rigging. Put together a replacement schedule for your rigging, so that you get at least one event on the gear before you go into a major championship with untested gear. Check with your team to see what team gear may be needed depending upon the conditions you may encounter at the big event. A warm & dry team is a happy team that will perform better.
Hopefully your crew for the event already stands, so you can go ahead and get housing and travel itineraries sorted. Someone will have to drive the boat or if you are sailing abroad you will need to find some suitable transport with a logistics company that can handle shipping your boat (in a 40ft container e.g.) If you’re planning to charter a boat for the regatta, consider getting to the regatta earlier to ensure the boat is in top condition before the event. Plan to bring anything you may want to outfit the charter boat with such as your own lines, sheets, or systems that you have practiced with, made marks on, and will be comfortable using during the event. Again review with your sailmaker to make sure you get your sails to the big event. They may need to be shipped a long distance or go through customs, which will take additional time and planning.
Time to do your homework on the venue and the event. Talk to people, that have already been to the venue before, preferably during the same time of year. Other good resources are the metrological websites that offer access to wind and weather data of past years and past articles of people that won big events in the same place. Based on this weather information you will be able to make important equipment choices such as for sails, rig and more. Gather more information about the event itself too. How many boats do you expect? How long of a sail is it to the racecourse? Who will the PRO and the race committee be? All of the above information will help with getting more acquainted with the regatta and ultimately result in a better performance.
5 MONTHS OUT
By now you have sailed an event or two with your final crew and have honed in on some of the bigger issues that are keeping you from getting the most out of your program. It’s time for an honest look at all parts of your program and finding those low hanging fruit. With sailing being such a complex sport it’s easy to get overwhelmed with a long list of issues, so you must be very diligent with prioritizing this list. For every remaining event set yourself achievable goals which will keep all of your team focused on the big prize at the end of the season. Your equipment choices have been made and you are now honing in on tuning, asking the sailmakers/pros for advice on sail-trim and rig settings.
3 MONTHS OUT
With a good, reliable sparring partner you have improved that all-important upwind speed and thanks to the analysis of some on board video footage (thank you GoPro) you have sorted out all those key racing maneuvers. Your tuning chart has nicely defined steps and the on board division of responsibilities are working nicely, like a fine-tuned Swiss cuckoo clock. Now is also a good time to put in your sail order for new sails. This allows you enough time to test them ahead of the regatta and make small changes if necessary.
Time for another hard look at your equipment, figuring out what still needs to be replaced so you don’t suffer a breakdown when it counts. This includes all the rigging, keel/rudder, rudder gudgeons and pins, all blocks, winches and cleats etc. Don’t let a 10 cent ring ding cost you your regatta, just because you thought :”Ahhh, it will be fine, don’t worry about it….”
1 MONTH OUT
This is your rehearsal moment. You are at your last regatta before the “Big One”. You are most likely using the same sails (unless it’s really windy), working on your starts and getting off the line, going through your routines and just making sure everybody is feeling good about the work that has been done up until now. Hopefully you have ticked off the first page of your prioritized to-do list and everything on your boat is working like a dream. This is also the moment where you should NOT make any big changes. Just because some hotshot team shows up and is doing some weird stuff, doesn’t mean you need to change up all of your program. Instead look for incremental improvements that the team can actually work on. If you are going to use brand new sails for the big championship it is recommended to get the sails out on the water for a sail check around this time.
Each boat is different, but in general we recommend using new mainsails for a few days to get them broken in and the team comfortable trimming them. Headsails only need a day or so of light use to get ready for the big event. Nylon spinnakers just need a quick sail check to make sure they are smooth and ready to go.
1 WEEK OUT
Your boat has never looked better. The hull and foils are in great shape, your new halyards and sheets have all the right marks on them (done at your last event) and you have read up on the class rules to ensure you won’t run into any embarrassing moments during measurement and while out on the water. You take another look at the long-term weather forecast as this might influence some equipment choices – applicable to some classes (ex: Medium/Heavy jib for a windy venue). All team members have confirmed their weigh-in weight and have been working out day and night at their local Cross-fit gym.
Finally it’s time to race against all the other top teams out there for the big trophy. There is a lot going on on the docks and there is plenty of wide spread confusion. But your team is just going through the routines that you have worked on over the past few months. Everybody knows just what to do, responsibilities are clearly defined and all you need to focus on is your own job. Yesterday you did one final check on the boat, got rid of all unnecessary items, calibrated your rig tensions and mast rake, and lubed those blocks and winches.
One of the biggest traps you can walk into now is doing things different from what you have been doing all year long. Stick to your routines on land and on the race course. Do your usual pre-race warm up, maybe have a quick upwind tune with your sparring partner and treat this first day of racing like any other racing day.
Enjoy the moment of racing against all these other teams. Use all your preparation and hard work for the last year to help build your teams confidence going into race one. Championships are normally long events, so you need to pace yourself. Prepare for the marathon not the sprint. It has been said too many times but it is always a very valid point at a big regatta…….”You can’t win the event on day one, but you can lose it!” Avoid the big risks that lead to costly mistakes like OCS’s, DSQ’s, and hitting marks. Sail with a cool head and let each team member focus on doing their own job.
Execute and have fun!
Keep an eye out for future articles from our experts on how to get you and your team to the starting line of a major regatta.