Posted on 7th Nov 2016
Enjoy these interviews between North Sails and the top two finishers at the 2016 J105 NA's.
1ST PLACE “MANDATE” WITH TERRY MCLAUGHLIN
From your perspective, what conditions did you experience in Larchmont for the North Americans?
On the Thursday we had 12-16 knots with big waves from the east. Friday was quite light air and flat water from the SW. We didn’t complete the race that day. On the weekend we had 15-30 knots from the NW and very puffy and shifty.
How prepared were you and your team for the event?
Though we don’t sail in the big breeze too much in Toronto, we still like it. On Thursday, in the waves, we had very good upwind speed. We did our best to check over the boat as much as possible in order to avoid any major breakdowns. In a no-drop series one breakdown can ruin your regatta.
What would you say was the biggest contribution to your win?
Though the last NA's that we won was a light-air event, we do like the breeze and that is what we mostly got in Larchmont. Sailing on the same race course the weekend before in Mandate Headstay Sag the MBYC Fall Series certainly made us feel more comfortable with Long Island Sound.
Gauging your performance from your last regatta win, you are fast. What advantages did you have at this event with the given conditions?
One advantage that we have in breeze and waves is that we have five crew hiking as I steer and play the mainsheet fine tune. If we are in heavy traffic or need to duck someone, Rod Wilmer is legs in with the mainsheet course tune in his hands. The J/105 has a big rudder and if the boat is not at the right heel angle, the rudder can be a real brake. Sometimes I wonder if J/105 helmsmen tell the mainsheet trimmer quickly enough when there is too much pull on the tiller. One degree of excess heel loads up the rudder significantly.
Tell us about your rig tuning.
Our tuning sheet has a range of 5 turns on the uppers, 14 turns on the D2s and 4 turns on the D1s. We rarely get up to the top level, though we did in the last race on Sunday. In light air we start with a good leeward sag in the mast and then slowly take it out as the wind comes up. On the weekend I thought our forestay was bouncing around too much. Ideally we would have kicked the mast butt forward or shortened the forestay more than we did but we haven’t figured out yet how to do that quickly and easily.
What were your crew assignments?
For Larchmont we had Fraser Howell on the bow, my son Evert McLaughlin at mast and looking around, John Millen looking around upwind and flying the kite downwind, Graham Hicks trimming the jib and my boat partner Rod Wilmer on the mainsheet, anytime I wasn’t, and giving me boat on boat information.
What would you say would be something you’d change on your boat for future events?
The NA's was the first regatta that we started to play around with the forestay length, though we didn’t do it that much. In the light air race on Friday we eased the forestay a bit and it felt quite good. We had a big lead 2/3 down the last run when they called it off, but I suppose that was mostly due to positioning. On the weekend we shortened the forestay but probably not nearly enough. Next year I see myself adding a new column to my tuning spreadsheet for different forestay lengths.
Mandate Headstay Sag
Mandate Wing on Wing
Winning team inventory: CM-1 Main, L-3 Jib, Mi-4 Jib and A2-2 Spin
2ND PLACE “GOOD TRADE” WITH BRUCE STONE
What conditions did your team experience in Larchmont for the North Americans?
Day one gave us 14-20 kts with lots of ENE waves . Light and variable 0-5 pulsing from SW on day two. 18-25 from NW with rain on day three. Eighteen to 30+ from NW on day four with dry air and bright crisp blue skies.
How prepared were you and your team for these conditions and the boat?
By way of background, we’ve owned and raced J/105 #116 "Arbitrage" in San Francisco since 1999. Over the years we have also have chartered 18 other J/105s for our favorite regattas like Storm Trysail Block Island Race Week,NYYC Annual Regatta and NYYC Race Week, American YC Spring and Fall Series, and the North Americans wherever they happen to be. With them coming back to the East Coast in Fall 2016, we bought J/105 #96 "Good Trade" in Rhode Island in December and spent a few months getting it into shape in Bristol: removing years of bottom paint and applying VC Offshore; repairing worn halyard sheaves, running rigging, and vang and gooseneck attachment points; replacing mainsheet blocks and updating the outhaul to 12:1; and we removed and rebedded all deck hardware, handrails and fittings as everything leaked! The sail inventory was dated so we bought a North AP main (CM-1), RAW Medium AP jib, and AP AirX Spinnaker. Given the boat was new to us, we had an extra tag per fleet rules so transferred a used North HA jib from our other boat, anticipating heavy winds in the fall. With new sails and a freshly prepared boat, I’d say we were ready for the conditions.
To refresh our familiarity with Western Long Island Sound, we brought the boat to the Larchmont area for the two weekends of AYC Fall Series (which we won) and then Manhasset Bay Fall Series (where we finished second) so those six days of racing in the area off of Larchmont helped us tune up. However, they were generally light to medium air days and we actually drew upon our SF Bay experience for the heavy air NAs.
What was the biggest contributor to your success at the regatta?
Good teamwork, anticipating shifts, and positioning ourselves to stay in the best pressure on the course both upwind and downwind. We managed to get a few really great starts and were willing to tack and take a lot of sterns to recover quickly from bad starts.
We hear from your competitors that you were quite fast in the big waves. Tell us about your technique.
Since we cross-sheet, my tactician/mainsheet trimmer Nicole Breault also trims jib upwind and can ease the jib as well as the main when needed, such as needing to foot when hitting a wave-set or when a major gust rolls through. She also calls anticipated lifts and knocks and we try to be proactive at the helm rather than reactive in dealing with them. For instance there were brief lulls where it was best to stay high and coast through to the next pulse of big breeze instead of bearing off, while other times we needed to bear off and dig deep enough into the knock so we knew we were really going to make gains by tacking. When being tacked on, we often eased sails and footed through the wind shadow to avoid being ping-ponged into an unfavorable direction.
Can you let us know how you and your team were setting up the boat, using our standard tuning numbers?
For Larchmont, we used the basic North AP tuning guide for pre-scrimp boats and made slight modifications (when in San Francisco we use the HA settings). For example, our mast step is an 1/8th inch further forward and D2’s are slightly looser than on the Loos gauge. This is specific to our boat and our mast. Each boat needs to experiment because the partners are in different places, headstay lengths vary, and masts are different vintages.
Tell us about your team positions.
We think of our team as two bow people, two trimmers and two managers in the afterguard. The bow people sort themselves out as to who is best at hoisting halyards and who wants to take the spin out to the pointy end during sets. One of them jibes the spinnaker while the other helps tractor it and usually looks backward providing wind input to the spin trimmer and always has a hand on the vang except when dropping below to squirrel the kite. In a lengthy regatta they often trade off these jobs. In this regatta, our bow people were Bill Higgins (from San Francisco) and Christina Mayor (from New Jersey).
We have a pit person, Stu Johnstone (from Newport) and a jib/spin trimmer Marc Acheson (from San Francisco). Stu focused on calling wind pressure and direction to keep us positioned optimally.
My wife, Nicole Breault, handled main/tactics and I drove. She knows the area: aside from racing at Yale, where she was three-time All American, her first regatta at Larchmont YC was at the age of 12 crewing for her brother Mike in Blue Jays. Two years later, she crewed for Bill Healy when they won the Blue Jay NA’s at Larchmont. She came back to these waters in 2009 as my main/tactician on a much bigger boat (J/105 Power Play) and we won the NA’s at American YC with Terry McLaughlin, this year’s winner, just behind us. This year the results were reversed, with us (in J/105 Good Trade) finishing second behind Terry in J/105 Mandate. Both boats used the same North sail inventory.
What are some things you and your team could do better to get even faster?
A main correlation when we win is getting good starts and being able to tack on the first shift. After that, we generally have enough boat speed to stay in the top few boats. Nevertheless, the regatta winner, Mandate, sailed flatter than us and that’s something we’ll study and potentially improve upon in our set-up and technique in 2017.
Good Trade Upwind
Good Trade Winning the Pin
Second place inventory: CM-1 Main, Mi-4 Jib, HA-4 Jib and A2-2 Spin
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