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Starting the season on the Podium

Published on June 24th, 2014

by Stephanie Roble, Epic Racing
Traveling to Ireland, my Women’s Match Racing Team, Epic Racing, had the honor of earning a bronze medal for the United States at the ISAF Women’s Match Racing World Championship (June 4-8). This was the first regatta on the five-event Women’s International Match Race Series, a professional sailing circuit for the world’s leading women match racing sailors.

With the first event of the year being the World Championship, there was a good bit of pressure. Obviously, our ultimate goal was to win. However, we had a few road blocks to factor in for success: the J/80 was a new boat for us, an unfamiliar venue, and a relatively new team. To some people, this may send their stress level through the roof. Although sometimes we felt like that, we came together as a team to overcome these factors and anything else that popped up before or during the event.

A big step in the right direction was coming to a mutual team understanding that we were going to be learning the entire time, especially about each other. That sounds pretty basic, but with the pressure of a World Championship on the line, everyone was a little wound up and it’s easy to get ahead of yourself. It was all about making little goals each race, each day and series.

As a new team, the four of us had to learn about how each person works under pressure and how they act emotionally. Our biggest strength as a team was not getting emotions involved. We pushed each other extremely hard and didn’t let anyone be a weak link.

The next thing we had to learn was the venue. Cork Harbor is a very unique place to sail! There is a lot of current and therefore local knowledge is key. We sailed right under Fort Sumter where it was very shifty and puffy, just like college sailing. Sometimes our race course was set up so that the bottom and top quarter were in shallow water and the middle of the course was in the channel. This made for very tricky current especially while it was changing from a flood to ebb and vice versa. We did everything we could to research the area between races and apply what we learned.

Finally, we had the large challenge of learning new boats. Fortunately we had two days of practice in J/80s before the event, thanks to J/World Annapolis. However, it was all in light air and the regatta was generally very breezy. Early on we did not have a good mode upwind in the breeze and had to experiment and learn as a team what worked well for us. Finally, during the semi-finals we found a great mode and went from just holding on upwind to crushing. Additionally, we constantly experimented with the rate of turn, heel angle, dial up maneuvers, etc.

All in all, our team of myself, Maggie Shea, Janel Zarkowsky and Lara Dallman-Weiss, did a superb job of joining forces to make this an amazing event for Epic Racing. We constantly went up the learning curve in all aspects, peaked at the right time and walked away from the event knowing we left everything on the water. It goes to show that making small goals is essential for conquering the big goal!

Along the way, little things pay off like being diligent with notes, productive with debriefs, using resources (thank you Dave Perry, Dave Dellenbaugh and Taylor Canfield!) for advice, and constantly pushing your teammates. When things were heated, we did an excellent job of resetting, respecting each other’s jobs/space. When things were going well, we capitalized and made gains. Match racing is truly a team effort: physically, mentally, strategically and tactically!

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The WIM Series events in 2014 are:
* June 3-8, ISAF Women’s Match Racing World Championship, Cork, Ireland.
* July 24-27, Women’s Match Race Golfe du Morbihan, Vannes, France.
* August 4-9, Lysekil Women’s Match, Lysekil, Sweden.
* September 23-28, Buddy Melges Challenge, Sheboygan, USA.
* October 11-16, Busan Cup Women’s International Match Race, Busan, Korea.
Event website:

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