Alamitos Bay Yacht Club is host to one of the largest annual small boat regattas on the West Coast, the annual Turkey Day Regatta. I remember doing this regatta as a youth in Lasers in freezing cold weather in 30kts of breeze and knew the conditions would dictate the event. Local Viper rep Tim Carter has been asking for a clinic for sometime and Turkey Day seemed like the perfect time to get something going. It has been a fun and successful year racing the Viper for myself and it was now time to give something back to the fleet.
Phillip Toth , whom recently started working at the Ullman Newport Loft, and I set forth a plan to host a Turkey Day Tune Up on the Friday leading up to the regatta. I focused on tuning and technique and Phil brought his expertise from his Olympic campaign to line out some boat handling and starting technique drills.
We had a great 8 boat turnout and Nor Cal guys Drew Harper and Garett Greenhalgh came down to sail with some brand new viper owners. This was a huge step in the right direction for the West Coast Viper fleet as having a seasoned veteran in your boat is priceless for jumpstarting the learning process. Gladstone’s Restaurant in Long Beach graciously let me borrow their 24ft RIB so we had a styling coach boat.
Wind was the only issue as we started out the day in the parking lot rigging the boats as a group. We rolled out Jim Sears’ Viper ‘FNG’ and used it as a template. We have spent a ton of time in 2011-2012 optimizing the set up and making the boat as easy and comfortable to sail (and hike out) as possible. This was invaluable as I was constantly taking questions and using the boat to demonstrate techniques and give feedback to our tuning theories.
The clinic was then moved to the classroom as we shifted gears and got prepared for the afternoon of sailing. I went over a crew distribution and regatta preparation outline that I put together to give teams an idea of how we run the ‘FNG.’ From here we spoke about the physical aspects of racing a Viper and how important each position is. Phil then took over and detailed the practice drills we would attempt. We decided to focus on boat handling and starting.
Unfortunately the wind never really exceeded 5-6 kts so we were somewhat limited. A few hours of being in the boats, some practice starts and on the water instruction gave the teams some immediate insight into where the strengths and weaknesses lied. The day concluded with a debrief that consisted of pizza and beer! Questions were asked and answered and we did our best to motivate the teams to do one thing.. Practice!!! The problem with sailing is that not enough people practice and do not get the extra time in the boat that it requires to move your program to the next level. There is no substitution for experience and both Phil and myself saw huge improvements in all the boats over the course of the day. This extra day of practice fed directly into the weekend and made the competition a little fiercer between the boats.
The weekend regatta was sailed and the 10 boats that showed up gave a great spectacle of racing. It also gave me a chance to drive around on the coach boat and look at techniques, rig tune and sail shape. The best thing about sailing any boat is that there is always room to learn more. I think you will see me motoring around the course observing a little more this year as I try to expand on everything learned from 2012 and incorporate that into 2013 as we strive to go faster and sail better.
Ullman Sails Newport Beach