On Christmas Day Riley Gibbs, Willie McBride, and I flew to Florida for the 2013 Orange Bowl and 29er Nationals. Nationals were also the 2014 ISAF Youth World Qualifier. Orange Bowl was the first event from December 27th through the 30th. During Orange Bowl there were great conditions, and even though it was raining the whole time the wind was solid and we were able to get in a ton of awesome racing. Our goal for Orange Bowl was to learn as much as possible about the venue and what our weaknesses and strengths were relative to the competition. Then we would make adjustments and when Nationals came along we would be ready strategically.
On the first day of Orange Bowl the conditions were very shifty and unpredictable, but we still scored two races. The second day was very windy and we completed three good races. In these windier conditions more of the teams were competitive because some of the more experienced teams were also heavier and they were really giving us a run for our money. That second day we learned a lot about how to be faster in breeze, which helped a lot as the final day of Nationals was very windy and we really put all of the lessons we learned together and were much faster in that kind of wind than ever before.
On the third day of Orange Bowl the wind came from a new direction, from the ocean. This caused large waves even though the wind was pretty light. Nick and Kai were very fast in those conditions and we battled with them all day. After three days of different conditions we were winning by quiet a bit as we were luckily the most consistent across all the different wind conditions. When we woke up to no wind on the final day, and after waiting until two in the afternoon, the race committee cancelled racing for the day. That gave us two days of rest so we took advantage and did some final checks of our boat and relaxed with some pool time, movies and eating.
On the first day of Nationals the wind was very cloud driven. The wind never really got over 12 knots, but whenever a big rain cloud came over the course the wind would get a little windier and shift to which ever direction the cloud was coming from. At the beginning of the day there was not much cloud action at all, but we soon found out that the left side of the course was paying dramatically. After two bullets to start the day we were feeling pretty happy with our speed and we thought we knew what was going on with the wind; however, as we set up for the third race Nick and Kai began aggressively match racing, which was to be expected. They forced us to the right side of the course and stayed with us to maintain control. As it turned out we were both passed by the guys on the left and by the time we got to the first mark we were in 5th and Nick and Kai were right in front of us in 4th.
We both knew that Nick and Kai did not care what they finished in that race as long as they beat us, so it turned into an intense match race between for another full two laps. We passed them downwind then they passed us back. Then we passed them upwind then they got us at the windward mark by just a hair. We had one more downwind to the finish, and they were in front. We tried to stay right behind them but the waves were quite big without any consistent pattern and were causing havoc with our ability to stay drafting. We gybed out and tried to get the race in the middle of the course so we could turn it into a gybing dual. They had gained a little on us but after we made them do a couple of gybes we were right up behind them again. We did two more quick gybes and got our bow ahead of them. Now they were right behind us. We tried a fake gybe and they went for it and gybed away. We continued out and when they came back on port we gybed right on them. We did one more gybe to the finish, crossed them to finish about a half a boat length in front. It was a really great race. Thanks to Nick and Kai for some awesome match racing.
The third day we had very consistent breeze and it steadily got windier throughout the day. The wind was very hard to predict and we ended up choosing the wrong side the first race and got smoked by Nick and Kai. We were worried we were not fast enough and a little nervousness set in so we made some changes to our set up to find a bit more speed. That helped. We won the second race and the third race, which made us feel a lot better. The Last race was much windier, probably above 15 knots. We rounded the first mark leading with Max Brill and Zach Malcom close behind. We were worried about them because they are very fast downwind and they passed us on the last downwind leg of the first race early that day. We worked hard to defend and ended up winning the last race of the day.
On the final day of Nationals the wind forecast was well over 25 knots. As we sailed out to the starting line before the first race the wind was in the high teens and building. We had an idea that the left would be favored because the wind was coming from the city so after we checked the line and we realized the pin was favored, we decided to start at the pin and go left. At about a minute to go to the start we were near the pin and there were about 5 boats underneath us. By that point it was getting pretty windy and a lot of the boats were out of control. At about 15 seconds the other boats were still really far from the line so we reached over them and by the time the gun went off we were at full speed right at the pin and going left. Scott Ewing and Geronimo Nores are very fast when the wind gets up in the 20 knot range. Immediately after the start they were right on our hip. We both dragged out to the left side of the course and we were able to finally pinched them off. They tacked out to sail back to the middle of the course and we waited about another 10 seconds before we tacked. By that time both of us were really far in front of the rest of the fleet. We dragged all the back to lay line and tacked just in front of Scott and Geronimo. We rounded the first mark leading and then we extended quite a bit on the downwind and had a very nice lead at the bottom mark. We held on to our lead the next two legs and won the race. The second race was just about the same as the first race with Scott and Geronimo close behind. After winning the second race we sealed up the regatta and were the new National Champions and were going to Youth Worlds.
Even though we did not have to sail the last race we decided to sail it anyway and by the time we got to the first mark it was getting very windy and it started to become a survival race. We were winning half way through the race, but we couldn’t match the speed of Scott and Geronimo. They passed us upwind and they went on to win the final race.
After winning both Orange bowl and Nationals we were super happy. It was especially cool for Riley because this was his first time qualifying for Youth Worlds, and especially exciting for me to get my third trip.
We have countless thanks to all of our supporters: Our parents, our awesome coach willie, John Papadopoulos for taking care of our boats, Kaenon for our sunglasses, SBYC and ABYC, and many more.
The 2013 Youth Champs was last week. After arriving home from ISAF Youth Worlds and Open 29er Worlds with Dane, I teamed up with Riley Gibbs to begin the process of qualifying for ISAF Youth Worlds again. Dane is aging out this year and I’ve sailed with Riley a bit before in the 18 foot skiff and we seemed to get along well. Although Riley and I have not been able to commit to a full training schedule together because Dane and I were training for Worlds, Riley and I had to make the best of a quick five day “orientation” with one another right after I returned from Denmark and Open Worlds. We trained all day everyday for five days taking one rest day after my return from Denmark and another day prior to hopping on the plane to Texas. Our first actual race together was slated for day one of Youth Champs! We were so new to sailing together that we had only lined up against another 29er when Dane and Willie McBride, our coach, jumped in to practice with us a couple days before we left. Riley has a ton of experience sailing all kinds of boats. He’s done a fair amount of 29er sailing, and a crazy amount of time in club 420’s, I420’s, Moths, 18’s, J-Boats, RC boats, Sabots, toy boats and bathtub rubber duckies, so we figured we’d be in pretty good shape.
We had set a goal to be in contention to qualify for ISAF. What happened was we learned a lot more while racing than we expected and ended up in pretty good shape. Now we have time to work on getting tuned up for the next qualifier in January. We were super happy with the entire event and how we communicated and were able to improve each day.
The first day of Youth Champs was windy and hot. We started off pretty rough, but it was our first race together, so understandable. Each race we just identified something to work on and by the end of the day we were sailing a lot better. The conditions in Chorpus Christi were awesome, always windy, and always hot. The water was a touch on the brown side and dirty looking because of how shallow and disturbed it is, but it was also about 85 degrees, which was great. The second day, Riley and I sailed much better. We continued the process of changing one thing each race and just kept thinking what to improve next, what next.
By the end of day two we were improving, but still not enough. We had a major speed problem and couldn’t put our finger exactly on the issue. On the third day the breeze was light and the water relatively flat. We won that race and were feeling like maybe we were getting competitive speed wise. However, during the second race Duncan and Matt came out and beat us again with superior boat speed. We simply couldn’t match them upwind as the breeze got in the moderate ranges. We were puzzled, so in between the 2nd and 3rd race of the day, Riley and I did some blind folded sailing. That settled Riley’s movements down quite a bit. That smoothed things down and the boat felt much more calm. We also put the centerboard down all the way (we’d had it up because I always sail pretty light with Dane and that’s a sure technique when we get in breeze above 12 knots, but Riley’s a bit heavier so putting the board down was actually a plus. Little things make all the difference. From there forward we got happy and finally fixed our speed problems. From then on we felt as fast as everyone else, and finished our regatta on a high note.
The big lesson from Youth Champs for us was to keep experimenting making changes to keep improving. We tackled one thing at a time and it helped us learn much faster.
We want to thank our awesome coach, Willie McBride, US Sailing’s Jon Rogers, our families, and everyone who helped put on this event.
Right when we got home from Europe, Riley Gibbs and I started training hard for US Sailing Youth Champs. Dane took some video and made it cool. Enjoy!
Long, quiet day. DQ got on the water early afternoon before the sea breeze kicked in, but had a nice shakedown, mostly testing pieces, parts, and clothing. Hot is the word for the day. Hot and beautiful water. All systems go with credentials in hand, gear sorted out and some casual speed testing in the bank. All good.