September 11, 2014

Viper 640 North American's | A Different Perspective

Photo Credit:  Joy Sailing
Viper 640 NA’s were held in near perfect conditions in Long Beach and hosted by Alamitos Bay Yacht Club (ABYC).  Tim Carter, local Viper leader, rallied the troops and set up a hugely successful event that left everyone smiling ear to ear.  The wind was epic and 34 boats marched around the racecourse hitting speeds of 15+kts. 

Usually we hear about the top end of the fleet but this year I would like to tell our story from the middle of the pack.
Photo Credit: Joy Sailing

Photo Credit: Joy Sailing

Craig Walker purchased a Viper 640 last year and has been working hard to get his sailing skills sharpened.  When I signed on with him he told me he was a newbie.  Newbie to driving and racing a boat.  Our team also included long time West Coast Big Boat Sailor Daniel Milefchik.  Dan actually drove the first day because Craig had to work… someone has to support this sport!

Our goal was to be competitive, learn, not make too many mistakes and have a great time.  Craig was eager to get moving on Thursday and showed up after 10am (This is late!).  He must have had a late night flight and needed the rest because it was game on.  Big wind and waves greeted us on the outside course and we set up our boat for the conditions.  This was Craig’s first race of the NA’s for him and we talked about being conservative.  This is a good tactic in a large fleet when the driver is not super comfortable at trying to cross boats on a full plane!  After a few tacks clearing our air we headed out in our own little lane and hit the right side of the course.  Much to our surprise a top ten mark rounding was in store for us!.

We held on with some good tactics and after a close finish with fellow friends on Locomotion we managed to hold on for a 10th place.  This would end up being our best result of the regatta and a highlight. 
Photo Credit: Joy Sailing | Team FNG Flying!

I learned a few things about managing myself in the situations that arose.  The more calm I was, the more calm Craig was.  Which was also true on the opposite end.   I had my moments when my emotions got the better of me, usually at a leeward mark rounding when we were coming in on port doing 13kts.  With 35 boats zipping around the course it was important to keep Craig comfortable.  Avoiding port laylines and ensuring we were in commanding positions became crucial.  It is amazing how much better we did when we sailed away from the riff-raff. 

The final day came and with three races left we had a goal to be in the top 20 and beat the boats around us.  Craig was getting better with every tack and Dan was doing a really good job of talking to him about speed and shifting gears.  This made it easier for me to keep my head out of the boat.  One thing that worked well was being a little over layline at the weather mark.  The final day saw a lot of boats trying to push the laylines which resulted in collisions and people hitting the mark.  We would pass 5-7 boats by coming in high with speed and going over everyone. 

Photo Credit: Joy Sailing | Locomotion getting hooked on a mark
Let’s talk about the wind for a minute.  20-25kts of wind every day makes for some exciting and almost dangerous downwind legs.  We were cautious in setting and used the blow through gybes to keep us safe.  We only had a few crashes and were able to get out of those situations rather quickly with a release of the spinnaker halyard.  It is very intense doing 14kts into a leeward mark so you need to have your you know what together. 
Photo Credit: Joy Sailing

Photo Credit: Joy Sailing

In the end we had an amazing time.   We all learned and we all had fun which is what this sport is about… right?

Keith Magnussen