Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Super Success!

This weekend the home team made us all proud with lessons that apply to any sailor. Sailors from across South Florida raced two majestic boats in the premiere superyacht regatta in North America, the Newport Bucket Regatta. While the boats couldn’t be more different -- the brand new, high-tech 124’ performance sloop P2 on one hand, and the 100’ newly-restored 1929 Alden schooner SummerWind on the other – they used the same keys to success (including full Doyle inventories), and that success couldn’t have been sweeter. Each won her class – of only two classes in the regatta -- with P2 clinching the overall trophy in this prestigious event. Want to know their secret to beating America’s Cup and Whitbread/Volvo champions on some of the most high-profile boats in the world? Here’s a hint: it’s something you can do, too.

P2 is a giant, a sleek, modern boat purpose-built to go fast and look great doing it, featuring Doyle Stratis carbon-fiber sails, the latest in carbon spars and PBO rigging, an aerospace-engineered keel and rudder, and even a carbon fiber ensign staff! Doyle Florida East’s Peter Grimm Jr. led the sail development team and raced the boat, with Doyle’s Barr Batzer fine tuning the sail trim. Aboard, they had 35 of their “closest friends” keeping them company, including a large Fort Lauderdale contingent like Captain Jonathan Kline, Bill Bentz, Mike Cox, John Earle, Peter McNaughton, Randy Reynolds, and Tony Hawker (Jupiter) and Paul Scoffin (Jacksonville). Doyle Sailmakers president Robbie Doyle, along with America’s Cup skipper Peter Holmberg, rounded out the afterguard.

SummerWind takes a different approach. This grand dame is made of wood from the keel to the tip of the mast – except the carbon fiber booms built to look like wood! Instead of a locker of high-tech laminates, she uses Doyle Dacron sails, dyed to a cream color to match her traditional look (but she couldn’t resist one Doyle Stratis genoa for upwind power). Doyle Florida East’s Scott Loomis oversaw the new sail development while SummerWind underwent her refit last year in Palm Beach, and joined the boat in Newport along with Doyle’s Brian Ross. Captain Karl Joyner (West Palm Beach) also led crew Keith Weyrick (Miami) Greg Wessel, (Deerfield Beach), and Scott Heard (West Palm Beach), as well as eleven others including industry veterans -- and fellow Floridians -- Henry Pickersgill (Brooksville), Neil Harvey (St. Petersburg) and Mike Lawrence (Ft. Lauderdale).

These programs each focused on three keys to success any of us can implement.

Prepare. Anyone who’s taken their boat to a regatta knows that getting the pieces together, getting there, and getting ready to race, are each separate projects. P2 is brand new, with mostly customer hardware, and all the fun that brings with it. SummerWind just finished a refit, and flew her downwind sails for the first time the week before the regatta. The type of effort and dedication that goes into preparing the boat from the masthead instruments down to the keel fairing might be bigger on these boats, but no different than our own. Moving parts were examined closely, many each day. This saved P2 from catastrophe when they discovered genoa halyard chafe one morning that could have ended a race. SummerWind wasn’t as lucky – their main halyard shackle broke just prior to race two, crashing the 600 pound full-batten mainsail from full hoist to the boom in seconds. But having the right gear available to re-rig and hoist it meant they started on time, and won the race. Training preparation into every crew member can prevent the bad things from happening, or give you the tools to respond when they do.

Practice. P2 raced the St. Barth’s Bucket earlier this year after a dozen days of crew training in Italy and the Caribbean and still wasn’t up to speed. SummerWind had completed only rudimentary sea trials before arriving in Newport. Learning what makes a boat go, especially a new boat, takes focused thought, even for the best sailors in the world. How high should we point in these conditions? How much faster would we go if the genoa lead came back? How do you tack one of these beasts! Answers to all of these get you one step closer to success, and they require time in the boat. Before the regatta, P2 and SummerWind each practiced three days with full crew, going through the motions required to sail safely, consistently, and fast – in that order. That’s “what allowed us to win the regatta,” Loomis declared. Even so, “On Saturday we did 3 things right and 75 things wrong” and placed fourth. “On Sunday, we did 75 things right and three wrong” and won the race. Golfers go to the driving range, and tennis players use a ball machine. For sailors, time in the boat is key, especially when combined with off-the-boat help like Doyle Florida East’s recent Hillsboro Racing Clinic, where photo analysis and post-sail debrief help sailors learn on their own. Even after winning the overall trophy, Grimm added “we still think we left 10% of her speed on the racecourse – we can do better.” As Loomis echoed, “Practice on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday is what won the regatta.”

Have Fun. It doesn’t matter if you’re a billionaire or a beach bum, there’s only one reason to spend time and any amount of money sailing: because you enjoy it. Surround yourself with the right group of people who share a common love for the sport and willingness to improve. Remember that ours is a sport of intelligence, endurance, and honor, that allows us to play hard but also requires us to keep our heads for safety’s sake. Find ways to have fun -- you don’t need fancy food like curried chicken sandwiches or strawberry power smoothies to have a nice time -- but it does help, as the crew on P2 realized day after day. A good Publix sub and an ice cold beer at the right time do wonders for morale and attitude. Talk to your crewmates. As Grimm relayed from P2, “we have talks before any sailing or racing days to talk about safety above all else, but also how we should enjoy the tasks what we’re doing. It's a team effort regardless of the most mundane task, and more fun when we enjoy the people we’re with.”

Prepare>. Practice. Have fun. Success from superyachts to Sunfish requires these three things. Of course, P2 and SummerWind shared two more things in common – great Florida sailors, and some nice sails. Call us if you want to learn a little more about them.

[More photos are coming! We’ll continue to post them here in the blog as they come in from professional and amateur photographers in Newport. Check back soon!]

1 comment:

  1. Sweet article scott , thanks for the shout out and pics. Scott Heard @ Ramsay Marine