ICSA 2004 Sloop NA Championships

(11.19.04 - 11.21.04) UC Irvine - Balboa YC, CA
REGATTA REPORT by Andrew McInnes:

NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF BELIEF.

If this diatribe appears to be intense I ask for your tolerance - I am relieved that TAMUG finally climbed on the bull and rode it for the full 8 seconds.
In the movie of the same name, Tuff Hedeman rides an "unridable" bull in competition - the same bull that killed his best friend if I recall correctly. That in itself was considered an amazing feat of determination, courage, and desire. But it gets better: not only did he ride the bull for the required 8 seconds, but he continued riding the bull for a further consecutive 8 seconds, then another consecutive 8 seconds. This was more than riding for the memory of his friend - this was an exorcism of sorts. It was imperative to him that he finally break out of the shadow of his famous friend and realize his own abilities. I also think it was more than that. I believe he was tired of mediocrity and determined that it would never again be acceptable to him. "...we all have wings, but some of us don't know why".

Yes I am fully aware that this is just a sailing regatta, that there are innumerably more important "things" in life. I am also fully confident that this is and should be a turning point in the mindset of our team.

I first noticed a turning of the team's mindset under the leadership of Billy Self. Through his gritty determination and competitive hunger the team witnessed that this school - our team - can perform with distinction and grace and sportsmanship on the national scale. I am thankful to Billy's example.

The members of our sail team departed for California with an optimistic and confident attitude, having prepared on multiple weekends for this particular regatta. It is my belief that we were all excited to have the opportunity to compete and to be tested - to not be intimidated, but rather, to perform as this team is abundantly capable of.

Course conditions for the duration of the regatta:
6-14 knots, averaging ~ 8 knots
4-6 feet Pacific swells
53-75 F

RACE 1
Good start, headed left with the majority of the fleet. Held the lane, forced boats on our hip to tack off. After a while we were the furthest most left boat. Tacked when we wanted to and headed on a long port tack. Halfway up this beat we observed that we would cross everybody when they tacked back to starboard - we were in first place in the first race of Nationals.
We rounded in first and remained there for the remainder of the race (W2 i.e. modified windward leeward twice around)
So the next question may have been "was this a fluke?" That question didn't enter our minds.

RACE 2
Off the line well, first to the top mark.
Something becomes very apparent: WE ARE QUICK !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We finished 4th. No big mistakes, just didn't sail as smart as we could have.
Team not happy with result - we didn't believe that was where we belonged.
Coach reminded us to focus on the things that were important:
-"feel what the boat needs"
-"watch the breeze"
-"anticipate"
Determined to rebound in next race.

RACE 3
1st place
Coach is pleased that we don't have back-to-back "poor" races.

RACE 4
1st place
End of day one of Nationals. TAMUG in first.
Pleasing to TAMUG was that if we weren't in the front of the fleet for a while we worked up there anyway.


Saturday. Race day 2.
Whilst we were pleased to be front runners after day one, we were excited for the opportunity to prove that our result the first day was no "flash in the pan", and to put our stamp on the regatta.

Coach talks to us about the pressures the NFL/College Football kickers must experience each time they go out. The other team calls time-outs etc. to mess with his head. What does he have to do? He must focus on what he has to do. That is what Coach suggested we do on the second day - focus on the three things we were doing the day before. (These are the same three things he encourages us to focus on at each practice!)
The race committee decided to complete the regatta on Saturday due to predicted poor forecast for Sunday (and good sailing conditions on Saturday). This meant 7 hrs on the boat, doing the final 6 races.

We didn't start well on Saturday and were spat out the back often. Started the day well with a 2nd then 1st. The next race was not fun! We were struggling to get in phase, our speed wasn't good, and we couldn't find our way to the front of the pack. Rounded the top mark deep and passed a few boats, finally finishing in 5th. This was the only race of the regatta where we struggled, yet we still were trying to pass boats because it was unacceptable to us.
That is the end of the race by race descriptions. The scores are listed above.

After race 9 TAMUG needed to finish 7th or better to be National Champions. (it might have been 8th or better I don't exactly remember because that isn't what we were focusing on. We were going to do what we had been doing all regatta and that is to go for first place.)
Our worst start of the regatta. TAMUG is DEEEEEEEEP.

Oh boy we have some work to do.

Heads out of the boat, ping-ponging from puff to puff, working shifts, and Scott driving as he had done all regatta, "Drove it like he stole it", TAMUG crosses the line in 2nd place in the final race and wins the regatta.

The TAMUG TEAM are NATIONAL CHAMPIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Conclusions:

This is a TEAM result:
it was extremely thrilling to hear the joy in our teammates over the phone as we called in the result on Saturday evening.
The "welcoming" on Sunday night in the Kirkham parking lot was a truly magnificent expression of team spirit; the police "Pull over" was perfect, as was the Gatorade dunking of Coach. Thanks team.

Thanks to the Former Students for their continued excitement and support!

Thank you Coach!


Coach's summary of the result:

Result due to:
- willingness to practice on the J22's prior to regatta
- we were in the breeze consistently
- changed gears/felt what the boat needed (we were fast)
- good anticipation (of weather/breeze and competitors/exit strategy)
- comradery with fellow competitors
- good continuity/seamanship (steady over both days)

Things we need to work on:
- often better to "lead them back" rather than cross then tack (particularly if plenty of the beat/run remains)
- not losing boats on short final beat (this however was also a result of being confident in what we had been doing: sometimes just strictly covering shows a lack of confidence - you were/are in front of them because of what you have been doing well)
- starts and match racing

Things to keep important:
- right priorities (school, work, sailing, then social life)
- a love of sailing (we do it for fun)
- develop/maintain our team spirit

Lessons learned/reinstilled:
- TAMUG should fear no one!!!!!!! (everyone is beatable)
- Keep heads out of the boat
- Sail as efficiently as possible (do the basics right - i.e. shifts, puffs, coarse management)
- Good starts with clean air and a lane are always important.
- Work REALLY hard to hold your lane off the start (stay in the front row)
- If things aren't going great then find a way to rectify it
- BELIEVE

TAMUG determined that we didn't belong anywhere other than the front of the pack and if we found ourselves there we determined we wouldn't stay there. As per the whole regatta, the crew and skipper kept their heads out of the boat and ping-ponged their way up the beat, sailing their own race, aggressively working shifts and puffs, and managing the racecourse to our advantage.

I have said it before:
We must believe (because it is true and we have shown it often over the last few years) that not only can we "hang" with the other good sailing schools, we can and do beat them! Glad to be here!

GIG 'EM SEA AGGIES!