Summer distance racing rewind

Published on September 30th, 2021

As we reflect on summer and all of the awesome regattas we were able to participate in, it’s hard not to see a few big lessons learned staring you in the face. Offshore sailing tends to do that; it shows us our strengths and weaknesses in a short period of time.

In this report by Quantum Sails, they asked a few of their members for their perspectives on the various races this summer and what they learned, with Wally Cross recounting the 2021 Port Huron-to-Mac Race and what helped his TP52 Heartbreaker team earn the overall win of the 204nm course.

Success in sailing offshore is not the result of one big move, but many good small moves. The best result will come from making sure you’ve considered as much as you can beforehand and making the most of what comes your way during the race. My secret is a detailed checklist that is broken down into four categories: a few months out, a few weeks out, race day, and during the race.

A few months out, make sure your boat is well prepared to win. Take care of any equipment needs such as instruments, sails, safety gear, touching up the bottom, keel, and rudder. One week prior to the race is like an actual race for me. For the Port Huron race this year, I looked up weather patterns, considered sail inventory, worked out provisions to keep the team performing, and built a system for crew shifts to ensure fast sailing and ample rest.

On race day, our weather research provided clues of an aggressive wind shift from south to west some distance up the lake. Based on the forecast, we were able to choose more close-hauled sails and knew we would be storing them for a long port tack up Lake Huron. We were well prepared for the challenges on the course: sail changes in big weather systems, staying hydrated and fueled, staying warm and as dry as possible, shifting all positions each hour to stay fresh, checking in on the position of our competitors regularly, and making constant trim and steering adjustments based on polars and target speeds and angles.

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