The Secrets Behind the 2016 Farr 40 European Champions

Alex Roepers’ Plenty stood at the top of the podium at the Farr 40 Europeans in Ancona, Italy. The first time the team was together after winning the Worlds in Sydney in February and they lived up to their title.

Alex Roeper and his ‘Plenty’ crew sail at the 2015 Worlds in Long Beach. Photo by Sara Proctor.

Alex Roeper’s Plenty won the 2016 Farr 40 Europeans with an impressive 22 point margin, we got with Terry Hutchinson (tactician) and Nate Reynolds (pit) and to see what they have to say about how they got there:

Quantum: What is the first thing you do on the water at a new venue as a team to get dialed in and ready to race?

Nate Reynolds: The first thing we do is look extensively at the sails we will be using, take pictures, digitize shapes, and make adjustments at a local loft if necessary. Once that's taken care of and the entire crew has arrived we go about setting a start line and weather mark with our coach boat and go through the motions of pre-start and mark roundings to get everyone dialed in and focused back on sailing. This is especially important for the amateurs like me who are not sailing every weekend and have a healthy layer of rust that needs to get chipped off. Terry is good at putting the whipping to us in practice so by the time racing comes around it almost feels like a break. Practicing harder than you compete makes for successful regatta results!

Q: This is the first time the team has been together since winning the worlds in February, how did you make sure the team picked up right where it left off? Do you lead the “team motivation speech” before racing?

Terry Hutchinson: We are very fortunate with Plenty, everyone is motivated to win. Alex (Roepers) leads by example, he is focused and determined and so when we train we train with purpose. Practicing like you race makes sure we pick up where we left off.

No motivational speech, each day is the same. We set the day’s goals and go out with an agenda and come back to the dock…this coupled with a lot of laughing and banter is very effective.

Q: What other roles do you take on while on the boat besides pit? Was there anything different in Ancona than normal?

NR: Besides pit, I usually help with any other 'mundane' tasks that need to get done - helping keep the interior organized (although Jenn Wulff is the Minister of the Interior and I take my cues from her in that regard), making sure waters and food get on deck after races, cleaning up the cockpit after the feeding frenzies, etc. I'm not the only one that does those things - it is a 'many hands make light work' kind of crew where everyone is helping out so you never feel like you're getting overloaded. Other duties include tailing the halyard when anyone has to go up the rig between races and at the end of the day.

Ancona did not present anything out of the ordinary other than making sure we had enough sunscreen since it was so hot and making sure our boat was as light as is legal with the light wind forecasts.

Q: Were there any tactical rules you stuck to throughout this event?

TH: No. In fact we knew that the venue was going to be tricky and so we worked very hard on keeping it simple.

Q: What is the simplest/safest takedown?

NR: The best takedown is the well communicated one. Even if it's going to be a late drop in a cluster of boats, if it's communicated from tactician to bowman in advance then you can mentally prepare for the whirlwind.  It's when the middle/front of the boat doesn't know what the afterguard is thinking that it goes wrong and you look silly. Our communication is very good, we have the luxury of Terry Hutchinson and Greg Gendell together, both from Quantum Racing, they have a lot of experience working together. In the rare happenstance Terry doesn't let us know the plan, Greg is more than capable of doing the manual-override and making the call from the bow. I've never once felt hung out to dry in the pit, not knowing what is going to happen. That is what leads to a successful drop 100% of the time.

Q: A 22 point lead over second place is impressive, what made it feasible to stay so consistent throughout the regatta?

TH: We started well which is the first step. We were very fast and did not swing for the fences. 6 of the 11 races we were 4th or 5th halfway up the first beat and so it was important to position the boat in spots that allowed our speed to work for us. Also, the consistency of the team is huge. It allows us to sail with a certain level of confidence and not worry about job delegation. We are very fortunate to have such a great group of Cat 1 sailors.

Q: What do you do for physical recovery after hiking all day?

NR: Fortunately this was a lighter air regatta so it wasn't as painful as a San Francisco day of thrashing. However, after hiking all day, regardless of wind strength, I like to do stretches for my back. If I have access to a hot-tub it's even better. I try not to pound Advil if possible as it's not so great for the body as a whole. The best remedy is a good fitness regimen prior to the regatta so you're in good physical shape with a strong core. Or, the best remedy of all, a couple dark and stormies - they usually fix the back right up!

Q: What type of homework do you do before going into major events? What was the biggest difference about Ancona?

TH: Ancona was a lot like Long Beach. We actually talked a lot about the subtleties of the race course and compared it to sailing in Long Beach. Early left shift in the development of the sea breeze verse a mature sea breeze where the right side is naturally better. We were lucky on race day we lined up a lot with Flash Gordonand got a good feel of the track in those line-ups. A partner on the course is really beneficial even though we can’t talk it still helps develop a feel and the time with Flash Gordon was very valuable.

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