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Q&A with Etchells World Champion, Skip Dieball

Posted on December 19, 2015

2015 Etchells World Champions, Team Aratas

The 2015 Etchells World Championships were held at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club on November 1-7. Tight racing and big breeze were the highlights of the week. 3 of the top 5 boats were from the US.

Skip Dieball and his team aboard stayed up front all week and managed a great win over 2nd place Steve Benjamin. Bill Wiggins sat down with Skip Dieball for a quick Q&A of the week.

BW: Congrats to you guys. Like me, a number of folks were watching on the tracker. What was it like racing that last race knowing it was do or die for the title?

SD: Thanks! We get asked a lot about the last race, but the way this entire event played out was pretty surreal. We started with some good races, then had a bit of a meltdown in Race 5. We were tired, hungry and we weren’t sailing to our abilities. We took a step back and reminded ourselves that we were in contention, sailing fast and needed to not press the course or ourselves too hard. The next day, we went 1,1. From there, we just kept sailing fast and avoided big mistakes. The last race went down without a lot of tension on board. We knew what we had to do and ultimately did it. We stuck to our plan and it played out great. Steve Benjamin’s team sailed an incredible last 3 races to push us to the end. To answer your question, pulling 3 boats on the last beat to win definitely was something to remember.

BW: What did you guys do to consistently sail fast?

SD: Not fully knowing the venue, we really spent a lot of time in the pre-worlds event and in our practice sessions to learn the venue. In the pre-event seminar, the locals outlined the typical weather patterns and what we learned is that it typically blows hard for about a week and then there is a day or two of down pressure. As it played out, the race days weren’t impacted too much by the down pressure. Mostly we were in breeze and we had a good routine in dialing in our settings. From there, we just trusted how we had the boat set up and sailed fast.

BW: What are the most important things you’ve learned from this event?

SD: The importance of a new electric bilge pump! Seriously, those things are worth it so much. We also learned that events like this are VERY LONG. We had a great time for the stretch we were in Hong Kong by not getting too burned out. A nice daily routine worked well to keep us sharp.

BW: If you could have changed anything in preparation for this event, what would you change?

SD: I’m not sure we would have changed anything. We had a few things we planned to do and we did them. First we hired North Design Services to do our 2-boat testing. That event allowed us to focus on the speed of each of our boats and send the boat we had the most confidence in. The second decision that I think worked well was training at NCYC rather than sending a boat to San Diego. The proximity of our training was probably the biggest upside. Though we would have loved to have gone to San Diego, it just didn’t fit our collective schedules. As it turned out, the tiller time I had at NCYC was critical as the short/steep chop helped me get ready for Hong Kong where between the HUGE SWELL was the same type of chop.

BW: What are some of your biggest obstacles going into this event?

SD: Time. Easily it was time. We are all very busy and we all wished we had more time in the boat during the summer months prior to shipping the boat. That said, we did what we could with our schedules.

BW: Other than practicing and racing in Etchells events, what other training did you and your team do prior to this event?

SD: Both Jeff Eiber and I decided to race the Lightning Worlds in Buffalo. I think that type of high-stakes sailing helped us mentally prepare for the Etchells Worlds. Jeff sailed with our coach, David Dellenbaugh. I sailed with Jody Starck. In the end, both our teams finished in the top 5. Great results, but even better exposure to a long, grueling event. I also dabbled a bit in IRC (big boat) and sailing with my kids in the Interlake. Both were very fun and kept me thinking about race course stuff.

BW: In this event, what specific on-the-water situation was the most memorable?

SD: I won’t forget our 1,1 day. That doesn’t happen and we were on fire. Every decision was correct and the boat was dialed in. Truly a great feeling.

BW: This was a long event, how did you manage the long term?

SD: There are two things that I think when answering this one. First was the day-to-day management of time. The other is how we handled the event(s). Regarding the day-to-day, it helps doing trips like this with your friends. Jon, Jeff and Jeff’s wife, Keven, were great travel partners. We had a great balance of sight seeing while focusing on the work at hand. We had some friends over from Singapore in the middle of the trip that helped as well. Tom Starck and Kathryn Maloney brought a fun element at a point where we needed some fun. Regarding the events, it is important that the routine doesn’t get stale, but fits the plan. We balanced this part pretty well from our practices to race days. We always gave ourselves time on each end of the day to prep or review.

BW: Did your strategic approach change as the event went on?

SD: Not much. When we were leading after the 2nd day, we knew we were going fast and that we needed to sail our event one race at a time. We, typically, were conservative on the starts, but implemented our strategy quite well. This leads me to our Race 5. We got a 13th, which felt like a 43rd. We didn’t do what we set out to do and ultimately had others dictating what we did in that race. That was frustrating and we made a nice adjustment in our approach and it worked.

BW: Any good stories from the prize-giving?

SD: Plenty, but not sure I’ll share anything specific to protect the innocent! Actually, when the World Championship cup made its way to the Royal Hong Kong YC bar, that’s when the fun started. I will not forget that part for the rest of my life!

BW: How do you think this event will effect your future one-design and PHRF sailing?

SD: Great question. Winning the Etchells Worlds has the phone rigging with plenty of sailing offers, but aside from that, I am pretty sure that 2016 will be filled with a lot of the same type of sailing I did in 2015. I’ll focus on a number of Offshore and traditional One Design classes for North Sails, while balancing family sailing on the RUDIE, our N/M 3/4t.

BW: Whats next for you? In the Etchells? In other classes?

SD: I’m going to sail the Etchells Jag Series with Jon & Jeff. We are going to ship a boat to Cowes for the Etchells Worlds. Beyond that, I will be focused on family sailing. As I’ve said many times, a family that sails together sails forever. I’m very keen to share my love of sailing with my kids, while not pushing too hard.

BW: How does sailing in the Etchells Class equate to other classes or PHRF sailing?

SD: Every class and every boat has their nuances. I think the Etchells teaches you a lot about set up above the rails. Correlating the fore/aft controls to make the sail plan work is very important and the Etchells has the tools to do a lot of moving of forestay, mast butt, lever, etc. How this goes into other classes and PHRF sailing, I guess I can look at a set up and within a few minutes have a mental game plan of what to adjust to get the sails to set up better. Pretty cool to be able to do that, no matter the boat. Certainly not every class has the adjustments, but there’s always a way to get the set up right.


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