Shooting the Breeze - with Travis Odenbach and Farley Fontenot

May 19, 2022

Quantum Sails one design experts Travis Odenbach and Farley Fontenot got together to talk about what it takes to win a world championship. Read their abbreviated conversation here or watch the full video interview. 

Travis Odenbach (TO): How far ahead of time do you start preparing for a world championship regatta?
Farley Fontenot (FF): Twelve months. I sit down, figure out what I want to do, what it will take, and what the tentative schedule is. At xxxx many months out, I need to have the crew set; at xxxx time out, I need to have the boat and sails ready. The boats that are winning major regattas are following this timeline. It’s been on their minds, they’re using other regional regattas as practice events, and they’re constantly improving and training with the ultimate goal to finish the best they can at a world championship.

TO: How do you make sure your boat is in top condition?
FF: If it’s your own boat, make sure you weigh it, optimize it, and chat with others in the class about legal modifications you can make. Take what you’ve learned through all your sailing and customize the setup to what you and your crew want. Make the boat yours. About a month before the event, lock in your layout; you don’t want to be making major changes right before a world championship. At that point, it’s muscle memory and practice practice practice.

TO: How do you build a world championship team?
FF: For small boat OD sailing, you have to form a team that can essentially live together for six months of training and competing at various events, and then make it through a long world championship regatta together and still get along and have fun. Positive attitudes will go a long way since major campaigns can be mentally and physically challenging. At the end of the day, each person needs to be able to proficiently perform their role, and do it with confidence.

TO: When I make these decisions, it’s often about 75 percent ‘Is this person really good at this position?’ and about 25 percent ‘Can I get off the water and go have dinner with them and enjoy myself?’ You must like and respect each other and respect the massive amount of work that goes into world championships.

TO: How do you use your sailmaker to help you prepare for worlds?
FF: One of the best ways to utilize your sailmaker is to have them make sure you’re set up correctly. Are the sails married to the rig? Are you optimizing your tune and trim? It’s great to get some time on your boat with a sailmaker to verify that you’re getting the best speed and angle. Sailmakers can also aid with tuning adjustments – remember that the tuning guide is the tuning guide, not the tuning gospel. Like customizing your boat layout to you and your crew, your tune will likely be adjusted slightly from the stock tuning guide to compensate for how you are sailing the boat and any nuances in your rig and hull.

TO: Quantum provides much more than just new sails. If you’re going to a big event, we can help provide venue and fleet information as well as tuning information during the regatta. Not sure why you were slower in moderate breeze and big chop? Come and chat with us about your setup. We’re happy to share how we were tuned and trimmed.

TO: What should you be practicing going into worlds?
FF: Crew work, crew work, crew work. Switch positions occasionally so that you see your role from a different perspective and have a better understanding of what the other team members on the boat are doing in their roles. Put an emphasis on practicing maneuvers and making them so clean that it becomes second nature. Practice every type of spinnaker set and every type of takedown, penalty turns, roundings, ducks, and so on. You want to practice for every situation you could encounter on the racecourse.

TO: Starting drills are great practice, too, especially drills where you hold your bow on the line and try to hold your position with crew weight and sail trim.

TO: Why is coaching valuable?
FF: Coaches from their off-the-boat position can see things you simply can’t see from on the boat. They offer setup and technique input. And if they give you just one or two nuggets of information that you didn’t have without them, it was worth having them on the water with you. Small trim or technique adjustments can take you from mid-fleet to the podium. Coaches aren’t going to change everything you’re doing, but they are going to improve the fluidity of your team.

TO: How do you maintain a strong mental attitude when you’re pursuing a world championship?
FF: You must be able to mathematically win the regatta on the last day of the regatta. That should be your mental framework, and use it to push yourself. Every race is a new race and a new opportunity to set yourself up for ultimate success. And it’s never over until the final race. Something unexpected can always happen on the racecourse. 

Get in touch with Travis Odenbach and Farley Fontenot with any questions, and check out their full interview. For more information on Quantum one design sails, tuning guides, and other resources, visit the Quantum Sails OD page.

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