Team Chester sails close-hauled on a sparkling day during Race Week on Bermuda’s Great Sound. Tom Clarke photo.
By Emily Merry
After a long cold winter in Nova Scotia where the only sailing was ice boating, we were truly excited to be invited back to Bermuda for BIIRW. The team hadn’t sailed together since Fall 2017, and for some this can present a challenge. Within our boat, we are fortunate enough to have a solid core team of talented sailors. Regardless of who joins our core team at the various events, we approach each regatta with the same process that has been ingrained into our heads for years.
I believe our success on the race course stems from this process. Many of you may have noticed that our team is filled with creatures of habit. Once something has worked for us in the past, we stick to it going forward.
On each race day our team arrived at the yacht club in time for some coffee, conversation and gearing up. Once we stepped onto the boat our sole focus for the day was racing. The team gets the mainsail and jib up as soon as possible because less time on the mooring means more time for collecting data. While sailing out to the race course we take that time to rig the spin, familiarise ourselves with the boat setup (nothing wrong with labeling the different controls with tape), have a conversation about what the forecast is predicting for that day, and redistribute any equipment and gear bags to the base of the mast. After check-in the team goes upwind immediately and records the angles on a small note pad that is always on the tactician. We complete some maneuvers to acquaint ourselves with the boat, and if time permits, we sail to the windward mark to gather more race course information. Once the start is set, the team runs the line to get transits, and uses these to work on time-on-distance to the line. During this time the team sets a game plan for the race with every intention of sticking to it. There is an understanding on our boat that the minute the team steers away from our game plan, more time is spent recalculating a new plan rather than focusing on our speed. We all know that this can often result in a loss. There are times when a change in conditions warrants a change in plan, but this happens less often than many realise. Adaptability is important, but in our boat, we prioritize sticking to our original plan as a way to maintain focus on our jobs in the boat. This also allows us to perform a more accurate debrief of what worked and what didn’t in each race. This is an integral part of our process. We keep with our process before, during, and between each race to keep on task. My Dad once told me if you ever climb a mountain don’t stop, just keep moving because the minute you stop the harder it will be to continue.
As far as tuning was concerned, our secret to speed on top of our game plan is jib trim. We do not subscribe to the “set it and forget it” ethos with the jib. Our trimmer is always looking ahead and actively playing the jib in and out for the puffs and lulls. Constant communication between the skipper and trimmer happened all week.
Our skipper Peter Wickwire had this to say about our week: “In terms of speed I think we were competitive but in the variable conditions perhaps ‘fast’ had more to do with changing gears via active trim and being careful not to use much helm vs outright full-on-straight-line-boat-speed. Also, despite some noticeable exceptions, overall it felt like we had a good regatta starting, rounding marks, tacking and gybing the boat. Only make maneuvers in an IOD at full speed. It all adds up quickly.”
Throughout the week, we had all sorts of weather, which made each day more interesting. The first day of racing was not what we sailors call “champagne sailing” as it was off and on pouring rain for the majority of races… it was more like a “dark’n stormy” kind of day. On days like those, it’s important to remember that we can decide on what we wear, how we set up the boat and where we go on the race course but we can’t decide the conditions so we just have to get over it and love the conditions we have. Cheers to the race committee and the fleet who were ready to race no matter the conditions. Hope to see everyone back on the race course soon!
Emily Merry was the tactician aboard the Chester Team. Others included Peter Wickwire – Skipper, Hillary Grantmyre – Bow, Dan MacMillan- Trimmer, Chris Veinot – Main Trimmer.