DEBRIEF: Women’s Match Racing World Championship

Published on August 3rd, 2015

American women’s match racing team Epic Racing finished third at the recent ISAF Women’s Match Racing World Championship in Denmark. Scuttlebutt checks in with the Worlds team – Stephanie Roble, Meg Six, Jamie Haines, Elizabeth Shaw, and Janel Zarkowsky – for an update…

The Worlds was a very windy event. Did you need to adjust your strategy in those conditions?

Stephanie Roble, Epic Racing skipper:
It was a very very tricky event with the first 3 days (round robin stage) being in 20+ knots with gusts to 30 and EXTREMELY puffy and shifty. We had a couple rules of thumb that we stuck to and we felt they paid off.

1) Keeping the boat on its feet. The breeze was all over the place so I was very focused on driving UW and DW and dialing in with the trimmers on how the boat felt. Some of the puffs were so crazy DW, we were in full survival mode.
2) Protecting the right, especially off the start. You can hold a land forever with a windward start so that was super powerful. Pushing was important in the pre-start.
3) Being smart with boathandling. We have a call for when I am getting too close to other boats and putting us at risk (red zone). We received a penalty because I was too aggressive in the red zone and from there we had to back off. Other things like minimizing tacks & gybes.

Your team has roots in inland lake sailing. Did this background help?

Stephanie Roble, Epic Racing skipper:

Oh my gosh I felt like I was home on Lake Beulah in Wisconsin! I had Buddy Melges in my head the whole time repeating one of his tips: “keep the forestay at the same angle to the land.” Definitely a lot on the main trimmer Meg Six to keep the boat balanced with my driving, but Meg is from Lake Geneva (WI) and had a great feel for the changing conditions.

The toughest part about these conditions was deciding when to match race and when to fleet race. Most of the time we defaulted to fleet racing. If leading, we’d extend on the lift, but if trailing it was about tacking onto the lift before the leader.

Adapting to the boats is a big part of match race events. What was unique or particular about the Match 28 used at the Worlds?

Jamie Haines, Epic Racing trim:
We sailed the round robin in pretty extreme conditions, but when we went to the quarter finals the forecast was for 3-5 knots! We had no idea what the boats would be like and it was nerve wracking because we had to pick an opponent.

These boats had really small rudders and naturally sat bow down. So a big thing was getting weight back in turns and really unloading the boat before the maneuver happened. They spin on their keel really quickly so we could do really tight circles and maneuvers like steel balls happened a lot.

Since the boats don’t have a traveler, it was important to be able to de-power with the jib to not lose the entire main. We also had to adapt our setup depending if we were sailing with the big or little jib.

The boats proved to be super weight sensitive, even in big breeze, so it was really important to move as a unit. We could not hike hard enough in the breeze and downwind it was equally as important to watch our weight placement.

Any notable moment that could’ve gone differently to improve your result?

Megan Six, Epic Racing main trim:
This is a question that, as a team, we like to ask ourselves at the end of each day. This question primarily points to our races with Camilla Ulrikkeholm (DEN) in the semi-finals. We knew it was a “must win” right and there were a few little things that happened in the pre-starts that gave Urikkeholm and her girls the edge.

As we are well aware, the little things in the pre-start at this level can very easily turn into a big gain. That being said, throughout the week there was always improvement on the little and the big things from everyone on the team.

We feel that this factor set us apart, and was essential to our momentum that got us through to the semi-finals. It was also what we relied on when we had to rebound from our loss to Camilla and move forward to beat Anne-Claire Le Berre (FRA) in the Petit Final.

The Worlds were held in Middelfart. Do the locals know their city name can prompt a giggle?

Elizabeth Shaw, Epic Racing pit/offside trim:
I am 100% certain the people of Middelfart are aware of how the name of their town sounds to Americans, and the beauty of the world is that for every Middelfart, there is a Moldovian “Prut” River. Break out your Google translator to figure that one out!

The most wonderful part about our team is that regardless of our laser focus on the racing and the regatta, one of our teammates took the role of reminding us of how many lighthearted jokes could be made about the place and its name.

And of course it did blow in Middelfart, which can only be due to how there are about a trillion jokes that could be made about passing wind, but luckily the Scuttlebutt reader is intelligent enough to make those kinds of jokes on their own, so let’s just leave it at that…

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Epic Racing (from left): Jamie Haines, Elizabeth Shaw, Stephanie Roble, Janel Zarkowsky, and Meg Six.

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