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Key takeaways for success from National Champion Steve Liebel and Coach Moose McClintock

by IC37 Class Association 23 Jul 09:43 PDT

"We went into the last regatta in Florida this Spring needing to beat Gamecock to be the overall Winter Series winner and it was Gamecock again that we had to stay ahead of the final race of Nationals to win," reflects Steve Liebel on last weekend's win at New York Yacht Club's Race Week in Newport presented by Rolex.

With the summer season already halfway through, not only is Liebel and his New Wave crew the new National Champions, but due to the largest ever IC37 fleet, he has earned 24 points propelling him to the top of the Summer Season Standings.

Liebel credits his win to his consistent Cat 1 crew and time in the boat. Before purchasing New Wave last year just before North Americans, Liebel held varying positions for other IC37 teams - from tactics to runners - and the same goes for the rest of his 8-person crew.

"Eight of our nine crew sailed in the Sail Newport Regatta the weekend before which gave us valuable practice time in leading up to Nationals. By the time Nationals started, our crew work and weight movement, especially in light air, were great. Our trimmers were keeping the boat going very fast and [tactian] Marty Kullman was putting us in the right places on the course. Everyone knew their job and did it perfectly! I felt like I was the weak link on the boat and was fortunate to be sailing with 8 outstanding people, all of which I consider great friends."

The technique of minimal steering and relying on trimmers to keep the boat moving was also what Class Coach Moose McClintock remarks set the top crews apart from their competitors. "I tell skippers about aiming the boat rather than steering and the trimmers being attuned to adjusting sails to the course rather than the wind. This gets the boat to accelerate with minimal steering, after the boat speed is going positive the skipper can start to trim to the new wind angle."

McClintock has been on the water for 23 official races this summer alone along with multiple practice days watching all the teams and offering advice where needed. "The more seasoned crews are very fast in every maneuver, this comes from doing the repetition necessary to get things done with minimal conversation and lost time or explanation. This goes from sets and douses to getting organized on speed with proper sail settings and trim."

Since purchasing the boat Liebel, has not missed an event, New Wave has attended every class regatta from Newport to Florida and back again as well as sailing the 37 in the St. Pete Nood and other non-class regattas. "The more we sail, the better we get. Florida was invaluable to our training and we will be back there again." Florida dates are on the class website.

Intense and balanced competition

The IC37 fleet can boast to be the largest one-design big boat fleet in North America and no one team has dominated the class this year. Every regatta in Newport this season has had a different winner, Qubit, Members Only and now New Wave and no boat has even been on the podium every time.

"You really can say that it is anyone's race to win, every time," says Peter McClennen with Gamecock. "There are seven of 24 teams represented on the podium in a month alone." Along with his crew, Member's Only, Skeleton Key, Qubit, Defiant, and Ramrod have been at the top. "With the fleet size, quality of the sailors and identical nature of the boats, posting a bad race is nearly inevitable in this fleet; for example, New Wave posted a 20 and we [Gamecock] posted a 19," McClennen adds.

With the goal of three races a day over two to four-day events, a bad race is almost a guarantee in this tight of a fleet. "At the end of a bad race," says Coach McClintock, "figure out what was the cause, be it the start, speed, boat handling or tactics. Make sure the team is all on board with what went on and work on eliminating that part of the equation."

McClintock harps on the importance of getting off the line with boats this even, and in his practices, there are many starts. "For the most part, a bad start is a bad finish, regardless of the ability of the team. It sounds simple but it's true."

Looking ahead

There are still two more events in Newport this summer. Safe Harbors Race Weekend August 12-14 is another opportunity to score points for the Season Trophy and we hear the social events are amazing (lobster and dancing to some live music under the stars!) Then the New England season will wrap September 23-25 for the North American Championships hosted by New York Yacht Club.

Class coach tips

One of the unique parts of the IC37 Class is access to our Class Coach, Moose McClintock.

"Be more aggressive on the mast shims, in light air more teams were going with the minimum, or hedging on the side of being slightly under bricked, this generates more power over a wider range."

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