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Tips From the Chase Boat

Chase boats and race committees have some of the best vantage points for viewing a race. Quantum’s Troy Scharlow manned our chase boat at the 2018 Sperry Charleston Race Week and shares his perspective on the event and top three tips for all racers.

As much as I enjoyed attending the 2018 Sperry Charleston Race Week, it was marred by a small pang of jealousy. I’m normally participating in this regatta as a sailor, but an injury had me sidelined for the event. I was tasked with helping run practice racing for the J/70 fleets and then spend the rest of the event hopping from circle to circle to capture video and photography with the talented Lara Dallman-Weiss. I was put in a unique situation I hadn’t been in before for an event this size, and I learned a lot. For one, I learned that I don’t give race committees nearly enough credit for what they do. After my brief glimpse behind the scenes, I have a whole new appreciation for setting the perfect course.

After my four days on the water, here are three key takeaways I want to share with not only racers from the event, but also any racing team.

TIP 1: BE COMFORTABLE STARTING WITHOUT ELECTRONICS

It has become a best practice to ping the starting marks before every start. This is great, but I can tell you that even the best set pin mark can have a mind of its own and drift a bit before the horn, and now you’re over early. Charleston is notorious for strong currents, but any event with a good breeze or strong weather can move the mark enough before the start that your ping is no longer valid. Practice so that your team is comfortable starting without electronics. Electronics are a powerful tool, but remember your eyes, ears, and intuition as a sailor should always win.

TIP 2: SOMETIMES AN OPEN LANE AND CLEAN AIR IS BETTER THAN THE FAVORED END

This is especially true when we’re talking about big fleet racing. When there are 50 boats vying for the perfect starting location, it’s easy to get squeezed out the back, and a second or third row start can be a difficult hole to climb out of, no matter how favored the end is! I saw a lot of teams opt to stay with clean air and a clean lane and put themselves in a much better position to work their way up the course.

A valuable view - The Melges 24 fleet starts at the 2018 Sperry Charleston Race Week as the Quantum Team watches from their chase boat. Photo by Lara Dallman-Weiss.

TIP 3: JUST KEEP SAILING. CONSISTENCY WINS REGATTAS

One of the more impressive things I saw on the racecourse was watching a top-tier team with a bad start or a foul pick its way back to the top of fleet. These teams don’t get back to the front by hitting a corner of the course or panicking; they do it by keeping their cool, sailing their race, sailing fast, and, most importantly, by executing maneuvers consistently each time. It’s easy to get disgruntled by a bad maneuver, but if you’re going to dwell on it, do it at the bar and not on the boat. Keep yourself and your team focused, sail your race, and, remember, regattas are won by points and consistently sailed races, not by the number of first places.

The last thought I’ll leave you with is to keep having fun. This is less a tip and more a reminder about why we’re out there in the first place. My favorite part of being on the chase boat was seeing how much fun everyone was having. Granted, it made my envy a little worse, but hopefully I’ll be back next year to participate in one of the best, most well-run regattas in the world. It’s known as a bucket-list regatta for a reason and I highly recommend it. Special thanks to my wife Claudia, John Gluek (Dimension Polyant), and Lara Dallman-Weiss for all their help on the support boat and keeping it fun.

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