Jonathan McKee: Nuggets of Knowledge

Published on January 22nd, 2015

Jonathan McKee is competing this week at Quantum Key West on Hamachi, a J/125 owned and driven by Greg Slyngstad. Jonathan is sharing his observations with Sailing World magazine. Here are a couple…

Being the small boat

In our class, we are the smallest boat and generally the slowest upwind. So the start and the first beat have been a tough challenge, and I suspect there are a few readers that have encountered a similar situation in their PHRF fleet. How do you race against bigger and faster boats, especially at the beginning of the race?

One option is to take the pin (the leeward end of the starting line). If you can achieve this, you will at least have clear air for a little while, until eventually one of the bigger boats runs you over and you have to tack. Another pretty good option is to start at the boat (the weather end) and tack. Then you will have clear air on port, at least for a while. This works particularly well if the weather end is favored, or if you like the right side of the course.

In any case, we decided it was better to not get too close to the line in the final two minutes, so you can approach any situation with speed, and not have to kill speed to avoid being early, leaving you easy prey for bigger boats coming in with speed. Except in very light air, it’s better to be the hunter than the prey!

Managing the vibe
We had a close upwind crossing with a boat, where we saw them from a long way away, and they saw us. But for some reason as we got closer, the tactician on the other boat started yelling like crazy. We tacked below then, and they tacked away. Two minutes later as we were approaching the top mark, we tacked underneath them, and the same guy started yelling about tacking too close, even though it seemed like a non-issue from my perspective.

This kind of loud and aggressive behavior drives me nuts, and is something I think we should try to reduce in our sport. Any time there is yelling, whether it is between boats or among a crew, the tension level rises for everyone, and the fun factor goes down. So, please try to use a civilized voice and use only the minimum of communication needed to convey your point. Yelling “Starboard” 10 times in a loud and aggravated voice is not helping anyone enjoy their sailing. And, trying to intimidate your competitor into doing a penalty turn is no better.

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