U.S. Team Racing Championship for the Hinman Trophy update from Andrew Campbell of CampbellSailing.com:
Hinman Trophy 2011
The annual Championship is always a fun event to try and put on my schedule. The regatta is a great way to stay in touch with former college sailors and the teamrace-minded crowd is a different breed. The game seems very complicated to some outsiders, but for those who know, and for most who have ever tried, it is hard to say 'no' to a weekend of racing against top talent. Three on three racing makes match racing look exceedingly simple.
Teamracing is a game of trust amongst your teammates, calculated playbook application, sometimes unbelievable feats of boat handling, and all the while, good sailing. The best teams are those who have the right combinations of speed, team race experience, and cohesion amongst their teammates. The beauty of teamracing is that pattern recognition and brains can often trump boat handling. That said the fastest teams with the fewest mistakes will almost always win.
My friend and fellow Georgetown alum, Brian Bissell, asked me whether Jackie and I would want to race with him, Becky Nygren, high school phenom and SDYC sailor Nevin Snow, and College of Charleston Alum and recent Women’s College Sailor of the Year Allie Blecher. It was fitting that our team was named the 'SoCal Luchadores' because we were akin to a band of Mexican wrestlers with our record-setting list of characteristics. We boasted the second-oldest sailor at the regatta (Brian), the youngest sailor at the regatta (Nevin) at 17, and the biggest sailor at the regatta (Me), weighing in at a whopping 192! We had the masks to prove our 'Luchadores' status as well.
Houston Yacht Club is a great place to go sailing. The members and the facility make sailors feel welcome and Galveston bay rarely fails to provide good conditions. We had hot temperatures in the 80s and 90s, but clear skies and 10+ knots of steady breeze for the majority of the event made for good racing during most of the event. Fifteen teams sailed more than 150 races over the course of the weekend. Although the number seems high, it really averaged out to be a lot of shoreside time for the majority of teams.
Unfortunately, the organizers seemed a bit handcuffed by the boats and the format of the event. Fifteen teams is not significantly more than a normal Hinman, but the fleet of eighteen Vanguard-15s provided by Laser Performance was six fewer than years past. The boats they did provide, although brand new, leaked badly. Teams hauled the boats up on the docks and drained, often for a few minutes each time they rotated, about every half hour. One boat had to be replaced part way through the event by rotating in one of the hulls from the local fleet. Beyond the sinking fleet, the fact of the matter is that six boats are needed for each race, thus a fleet of eighteen can run three races simultaneously. This enabled a pace of about eight races per hour. At any given time this weekend there were six teams on the water. That meant more than half the regatta, nine teams, were waiting on shore (Keep in mind that college regattas usually host eight teams per weekend, in eighteen boats, so six teams are on the water, with two teams waiting to be rotated in). Luckily for us, we started racing at 10am on Friday in the first set of boats, but there were teams that waited until close to 3pm on the first afternoon before they started their first race. We joked with other teams about their 27-hour break in racing. While I love racing the Hinman and HYC did a fabulous job of hosting the fleet of sailors, I cannot imagine that all the teams flying in from England and across America came away with a great impression of the regatta. Going into your first race after seven hours of waiting, only to get into boats containing as many gallons of water, takes away from what would have been ideal US Sailing Championship conditions.
Our team had a difficult, but not regatta-ending first day Friday. We were one of the only teams to sail eleven races that day and had five wins and six losses. We did take a win against the eventual regatta winners, Minor Threat, and had an epic battle with the Woonsocket Rockets. I have to mention that the race we had with Woonsocket made the entire trip and the entire regatta worthwhile for me. Nevin and Allie were able to slip around the race in the lead, and Brian and I were in the 4, 5 trying to hold back a 6 against one of the most disciplined and experienced teams at the event. These guys had just finished a trip to the Team Race Worlds last month. Woonsocket’s 2, 3 were hounding Brian and I as we desperately tried to keep their teammate in sixth behind us. Nevin worked hard to help us break through, but in the end was forced to finish first as the rest of us, all five boats, sailed upwind past the finish line. Brian and I had a wall set up to prevent their 6 from finishing. Eventually Brian gybed out to try and break for the finish, but was prevented by Nick Ewenson. When Brian gybed, it opened a gap for Joel Hanneman, who we were pinning. Of course we were still being pinned by Justin Law. Brian’s gybe started a domino effect… Nick followed suit to cover Brian, Joel saw an opening and went for his gybe, we gybed to cover Joel and Justin could only follow and gybe behind us. Somehow we had sailed far enough to the left side of the finish that we were four wide, going downwind on port towards the pin of the upwind finish. All calling for 'Room!' we pinwheeled around the finish. Somehow we came out with the 1,3,5 combination for the win, but the intensity and tension of that entire race, culminating with the finish, made all the waiting of the weekend seem of little importance.
On Saturday we knew we had to win out to get a spot in the final six. We had a 40 race gap in our schedule, so we woke up late, cooked breakfast, enjoyed our great host’s house and finally started around 1:30pm. We went out and had three tough races against some fast teams, but were able to pull it out and finished the day with eight wins and six losses. After waiting for the rest of the afternoon, it became clear that there would not be any race re-sails for sinking boats seeking redress and we fell into a three-way tie for sixth. We had beaten one of the teams, but had lost to Seattle’s team and thus, we were out of the running. The consolation round would not reach completion on Sunday, so the results stood for us in seventh. The top six teams did two round robins amongst themselves, but only the racing of the petit finals could be completed. Minor Threat took the championship, Team Extreme was the runner-up, and our housemates, Larchmont YC, were third.
I have to say we did have a great time at the regatta. Our goals going in were to have a winning record in the opening round and give ourselves a chance to make the final round of six. We did that and lost entry into the finals by the skin of our teeth. I think Nevin learned some new tricks to take to the Prince of Wales Bowl next weekend and use in his future match racing and teamracing. I learned a few new team racing moves as well and was really psyched to try out some new things that I may be able to take into my fleet racing. We had some fun brain twisters with the umpires and, as always, learned some new things on the rules and procedure front. It became clear on the first day of racing that teams with more V15 experience had an advantage and the best teams were also the fastest in V15s by the end of the regatta. I’m not sure I would advocate sailing the regatta in Vanguard-15s again if it means dealing with a leaky fleet once more.
Coming up next is another US Sailing Team Alphagraphics Training Camp at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Ian and I, along with the rest of the members of the US team, are heading up to 6000 feet on Thursday for one last training camp before our final training blocks for the Worlds in Perth in December.
I’ll try and keep the updates coming.