If it were easy, everybody would do it
Published on September 21st, 2023
Hard is what makes it great, and in this report by Joshua Bone, he shares the details behind his recent campaign:
In mid-October 2022, the phone rang. It was Ryan Foley. We hadn’t talked in years; life happens, career moves, marriages, babies. It was great to reconnect. My name had popped up in a conversation and he learned of my sobriety at that time, I of his.
Over the next couple of months, we stayed in contact about trying to bring the Beneteau First 36.7 Tried & True back from the grave. I told him I would be happy to partner up so long as we shared the same goals. He wanted to win the 2023 Beneteau First 36.7 North Americans in Chicago, IL. I wanted to have a shot at it too. Close enough.
We started discussing the crew dynamics a bit more in December as well as making the all- important choice in sails. The fleet had grown up a bit in Chicago and we knew that in order to be competitive, we would need to have a good sail program. We put our faith and trust in John Baxter, Perry Lewis, and the Chicago North Sails team. That was the best early choice we made.
Attempting to partner from the cold of Minnesota while having a very busy winter spring business travel schedule was fairly difficult. The boat was also not conveniently located for much pre-season work to get done. The teak turned out great, but much of the performance related areas were not addressed, many of them until two weeks before the North Americans.
We had secured a core group of four that would remain on the racing team regardless of the events. We attempted to compete in the Chicago Sailing World Regatta (June 9-11). It was a bit of a mess for all of us on board as it was the first time the boat had been on the start line in eight years.
We did improve a bit on the first day so we knew then that we made the right choice in sails. We were unable to continue the regatta on day two after a crew member had a medical emergency onboard, requiring ambulatory services and an ER trip. Ryan and I followed our team member to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in the back of a Chicago PD squad car; not the best way to start the season.
The North Americans would be on September 7-10, and July proved to be a busy month for the both of us. The boat did a tune up event before I came back down for the Chicago Yacht Club Verve Offshore Regatta on August 11-13. We had a very different team, including adding an experienced bow person, Rod Salazar, to the mix.
Day 1 of Verve was a bit of a fire drill, and while we had speed, we really needed a lot of communication help which improved as the day went on. We also broke the genoa halyard, topping lift, and somehow managed to lose both genoa sheets at the same time (all in Race 1); complete yard sale.
The next day went a bit better for us as Alex Honke joined. He was amazing at calling the breeze and letting me know where the pressure was up the course, evident with a 1, 2, 3 score line on the day.
We were joined by John Heaton on the final day, who is a powerhouse in the J/70 Class and has been fortunate to sail and/or be coached by the best talent out there. He’s also a former B36.7 Owner/Driver. It was great to have him join us.
We got a terrible override while in second in the first race on this day, snapped the main halyard in the last race, but somehow managed to keep our lead and win that one. We ended up third overall in Verve, just one point out of second place, with Soulshine dominating the event.
I learned years ago that if you are not able to practice much on a boat before a championship event, that you should take the same or similar role on other boats regardless of type, even if your normal role is to drive or do bow. I did a tactics-only role on a local J/24 here on Lake Minnetonka, sailing with Mike and Monica Myers for an early regatta as well as a regular fleet race.
Two weeks before NAs, I trimmed on another J/24 and did tactics/strategy for Bill Allen (Olympic Gold Medalist/6-time E-Scow National Champion) at the Inshore Verve Cup (August 25-27) in some bumpy conditions off Belmont.
It’s also important to have some down time to get centered. My family made the trip down and I was able to spend quality time with them in our Second City, the side effect was six-pound weight gain, so there was work to do.
Before and after, often during those B36.7 events we would take a pause to assess what we were doing right, focus on replicating that, and looking for areas of improvement. I spent twice the time conversing (mostly listening) with John Baxter about getting the most from the sail plan, tuning and crew placement than we did actually practicing.
Ryan had the boat hauled out about a week after the Verve to get some repair work done on the bottom of the boat. The shore team worked very hard to get the boat looking like a race boat again. The team at Skyway Yacht Works were more than accommodating to us as we were often working on top of them in a race against the clock.
The boat was splashed again six days before the start of the North Americans. We worked through lots of systems on the boat to ensure all was in working order. Nick Chadwick did an impeccable job on new running rigging; he’s been a staple in the Chicago scene for decades and has been instrumental in supporting the B36.7 locally. We had the boat race ready at the Columbia Yacht Club docks three days before the start of North Americans.
North American’s Team:
Ryan had split his time between the 36.7 and Great Lakes 52 Mockingbird throughout the summer. One thing that was clear to us from the previous events was that we needed to have a team that had worked together in the past, especially in the pit, mast, and bow areas. We were fortunate to have the stars align and get some talented guys from the Mockingbird team onboard.
We also had some comm issues in the downwind pressure relay that were addressed with the addition of a guy I have known for some time. This created another dynamic change as three of those four roles were being filled by people who had never raced 36.7s before.
Then on Wednesday, the day before the start of North Americans, we received word that our wind caller needed to have surgery at the start of the event and would be out. This meant a shift in some duties for a few crew members and a dialing of the rolodex. It honestly worked out well as the replacement we got was in the form of a boy whom I have seen grow in to an awesome young man with a 7-foot wingspan, purpose-built for the free-fly extension.
Rounding out the back of the bus were a core four whom had sailed a decade or more on 36.7s locally in Chicago.
Ryan Foley – Owner / Helm
Jeff Gabbard – Genoa / Downwind Breeze
Greg Schmidt – Guys
Jon Monson – Main Start /Spinnaker / Upwind Breeze
Michael Boucher – Pit / Mode Caller/ Differential Caller / Downwind strategy accessor
Seamus Scot – Wingspan / Squirrel / Mast back up
Kevin Abbink – Mast / Computer
Jason Aardema – Bow / Mister Fix-It
Joshua Bone – Start Talker/ Main Upwind/ tactics / Weather-Wind-Strategy
I think it was 2008 or 2009 when I first had the honor of sailing with Jeff Gabbard. He’s the type of guy any team would be lucky to have, the guy you would want in a fox hole next you and the guy you’d want training you on a technical mountain bike track.
North American’s Practice and Meals Out:
We were able to get out on the water Tuesday with the team for a sail check and a few up and downs in a 16-30 knot southwesterly. We did a full team practice on Wednesday following the inspection in 14-25 knots.
Fortunately, we were able to get an extra day of practice as the opening day of the regatta was abandoned in the early afternoon. This gave us another two hours to get things dialed in as well as working on marking repeatable settings. It also allowed us to run a double GoPro setup for post-practice analysis following dinner.
Chicago is a food town, and we did it right. The rental home on the West side played a huge part in bringing the team together.
Tuesday: Pho 777 Uptown
Wednesday: Chicago Yacht Club
Thursday: Home cooked meal at Campbell House
Friday: Hopleaf Andersonville
Saturday: Miku Sushi Lincoln Square
Sunday: Small Cheval
Monday: Le Colonial Gold Coast
The North Americans:
Day 1: No Racing
Day 2: 16-25 knots from 005 to 055, waves 4-5 feet, chop in troughs, 7-10 second frequency. We were the first boat off the dock each day. Sailing area somewhat predictable with early cumulus build over the city signifying a left pressure side as well as left side until clouds lifted, then right a bit later in the day.
We had a decent start in the first race and had reasonably good pace against some very strong teams; it felt good to get that first win of the event. The second race saw us OCS at the pin and we sailed very deep in the fleet, tied for last at the first weather mark in blade (#3) wind conditions. We did a sail change to the #1 on the run as I felt it would help us point a bit higher in the chop even while on the edge of the #1 in 22 knots of wind. It worked and we were able to grind down a few more boats to finish eighth in the 13-boat fleet. Soulshine were launched and took a strong bullet in that one. Game on!
The third and final race saw more oscillations as the clouds began to lift over the city and the right side started to do some work. Nomad was very strong in that race, honestly, they were the fastest boat on the course for the day. The three of us were fairly tight, sailing side by side at one point down the run, pegging the speedo at 11.98 knots. Soulshine went on to win by a few boat lengths and we did just enough to stay inside on the favored end of the finish line to squeak a point from Nomad.
Post race chat with North Sails on the #1 choice: It was mentioned that we were lightning fast and had the course been a ¼ longer we would have likely crawled into the top five. We were the only boat to use the #1 on the first day.
Soulshine crushed the day with a 2, 1, 1. Nomad had a great day as well, ending up in second on the day. We rounded out the top three. Also strong were Program, FOG, Eclipse, and V3 which all sailed fast that day and their scores did not reflect it. Painkiller had the most speed at the gun.
Chatting with Perry Lewis after sailing, I mentioned that they were the fastest boat when on one tack, and that the other tack/mode needed a bit of work. They seemed to resolve that on Day 3.
Day 3: 11-17 knots 025 to 070, left over chop, longer frequency on the wave set, waves 2 – 4 feet. First boat off the dock. Pre-race tuning/dial session with Nomad for a 1.5 nm up and down. Note: Each race got incrementally shorter by .1 nm which made starts the prime focus as the day progressed.
OCS mid-line race 1. Managed to do a better job of keeping the boat in phase and having more eyes outside the boat to take advantage of the oscillations, decent pressure, and somewhat clear air up the middle allowed us to crawl back from that and get fourth.
It took a bit of thought and more wind shots between races 1 and 2 to ensure we were starting at the proper end heading the correct way. A bit of confusing cloud cover stretched along the shores of south Lake Michigan, with higher cumulus forming above Chicago than was seen in NE Indiana, light whispy upper elevation stratus made it appear that the right would come in a bit more for the next couple of hours.
We hedged the pin end in Race 2, and boat end in Race 3 as those were the starting phases. After five boat lengths into the second race, we were able to tack to port and were nearly laying the mark halfway up the left-hand side. Wind began to move a bit right during the run and second beat but the wind was always left favored. In Race 3, we probably could have sent it a bit further right to make things easier on the team and minimize some tacking near the top of the course. We were right early, left late.
We managed to win by a fair amount in Race 2. Our win in Race 3 was much tighter with other boats seeing the right-side pressure and shift. FOG sailed a flawless first beat in Race 3, being the right most boat. Program was able to make some magic happen 3/4 of the way up the beat on the left-hand side and we put in two extra tacks. We had some good modes going on the run in Race 3 and were able to get clear of some traffic.
Heading into the fourth and final race of the day, the wind had built to 17 and we made the call to dial up the headstay 1.5 turns. During the prestart, a boat managed to snag the anchor line with three minutes to go at the pin end. The wind dropped during the delay to 14-16 knots and we didn’t have the time to get dialed back down.
Our pointing wasn’t great but we managed to sail in phase up the right. Erizo de Mar did a superior job and led wire to wire up the right side. The pin end was very crowded at the start of the race, Program controlled the fleet on the left side. We sailed a fairly conservative race and finished second.
This put us at the top of the fleet after Day 3 by 4 points, having gone 4, 1, 1, 2 on the day, thought the fastest boat on Day 3 was Nomad. Although our instruments failed in the fourth race, we saw 26 knots of boat speed on the Ockams with an apparent wind angle of -40. Joie de Vie sailed a great day; it was great to see such a hard-working team bounce back. Free Radical had a terrific second race as well.
Day 4: Final Day: 1 hour 45-minute delay until the breeze built from zero to 7 knots by the time we started. Odd Southerly inshore, cooler city temps under haze cover in the early morning, early cumulus build to the southeast, focused on the haze lifting over the city which typically indicates a right-side bias, especially given the fact that the RC had taken us further offshore under Lima. Flat water, light occasional rollers. Wind during the race was 7-11 knots, some holes bottoming at 5.5 knots. Wind Direction 085 – 140.
We played a conservative start near the boat end as we wanted the ability to tack out to the right side. We were able to get right about a minute after the start and were sailing in the best pressure early in the race.
We tacked just short of starboard layline halfway up the beat and the righty just kept coming. This was good as it allowed Painkiller to tack a few lengths beneath us and they easily laid the windward mark, allowing us to stay with clear air. Big righty, early gybe. Halfway down the run it appeared that the gates were relatively even so we made the early call for a left turn, left gate.
When we got down there, it was clear the right gate was substantially more upwind, and RC had signaled a left side course change. There were three boats battling for third place in the event going into the last race and none of those boats wanted us to go the way they were going so we put in a handful of extra tacks which were costly. When we got to the top mark, Erizo de Mar was leading, Soulshine was in second and we were in sixth with Eclipse about 1.5 boat lengths behind us.
The wind did go left about halfway up the second beat, which created a bit of parade for the top seven boats. From there we decided to soak a bit more with our speed to try to prevent the three of four boats in front of us at that time from gybing. We couldn’t gybe either as Eclipse would have likely labelled and rolled us. It was a brain burner.
We only had a point to give in our current position but we knew we were sailing on the proper side in the better pressure. Painkiller sailed a great run and crossed us with good pace to sail to the boat favored end of the finish line picking up second. Soulshine finished third and we were sixth with Nomad (4th) and Program (5th) between us.
After crossing the line, I saw the Nancy flag up, and the regatta was over. After eight races with no discard, we won by one point over Soulshine!
My first call was to Bob Foley. I thanked him for his early work and dedication to the Chicago fleet, to our team and let him know that we had won before handing the phone to Ryan. I’m not going to lie. There was a lot of relief on the boat. Tears were flowing from some. In all the years of the Tried and True program, the boat had never won a North Americans. No Chicago boat had ever won it. It was a tough event and we did just enough to end up where we did in the end.
There are many people to thank.
Jill Gabbert, Isabel Gabbert, Stella Gabbert, Kristen & Bear Foley, Bob & Carol Foley, Marien Foley, Melissa Lumkes Veatch, Lee Peterson, Winn Soldani, Jay Lutz, Bill Allen, Mike and Monica Meyers, John Baxter, Perry Lewis, Andres Josenhans, Nick Chadwick, KrisEan MarEnzic, Steve and the Skyway Yacht Works team, North Sails Chicago, John Heaton, Mark Norris, Tim Shambrook, Kate Snow, Shore team members Alex Guirardi and Robert Doan, Chris Duhon, Janet Baxter, Kurt Thomsen, Joey Harris, Manu Gould Powers, Nick Turney, Bernard Soya, Mark Soya, Steve Prat, Robert Miller, Jeremy Kaufmann, Jen Hyla, Jarret Altmin, Danielle Altmin, Will Welles, Chris Foren, Luke Lawrence, Lars Hansen, Gordy Bowers, Joel Ronning, Marty Kuhlman, Kerry Klingler, Lou Sandoval and KYS, Steve Hunt, Ed Adams, Don Wilson, Mark W. Smith, Bryan Dyer, Chad Olness, Roger Harden, Dr. Yvette Erasmus, Dr. Lori Goodsell, Sue Newkirk, Kim Kranz and the Wild Unknown, Mark Ryan/John Mathews/Will Worthington and The Wildwood Community, ODEO-KOH, Bob Schneider, and last but not least, my late grandparents Robert and Nancy Pryor. They got me into sailing at a young age and put me in sailing lessons at Columbia Yacht Club; the 1000s of hours spent sailing in that corner of the lake paid off.
I’m very proud of the effort our whole team gave, for sacrifices they made and for the time their families gave in support. I am especially proud of Ryan Foley, not just for sailing but for the improvements he has made in his life and his dedication to helping others.
I am thankful for his partnership during not only the North Americans but also the season. This win from our team is dedicated to Lily Shambrook. She was with us.