Teamwork Featured in Spinsheet Magazine

March 7, 2010

This winter I sailed the Fort Lauderdale to Key West Race with the J122 Teamwork . We were fortunate to win the event. Below is an article from Spinsheet Magazine about the race and our early morning efforts to help another competitor who was in distress. Thanks to Molly Winans and the whole Spinsheet crew for another great article.

Upwind “Dirty Air” Slideshow

February 18, 2010

What a long, strange trip it’s been.

February 17, 2010


St. Pete NOOD Regatta

After 47 days on the road; a trip of racing, teaching, coaching, team building and more is over.  For at least three days.  I am back off to the British Virgin Islands on Friday.  No rest for the wicked.

Most recently I coached and raced in the 2010 St. Petersburg NOOD Regatta. This is one of my favorite events because of the venue and because I think the NOOD series is well managed.  Sure, you can gripe about a few things; but on the whole these are some of the best events in the country.

Over the next few days I’ll be posting thoughts and commentary about lessons learned at this event.  These events are so much fun and challenging because as a coach I am trying to balance my need to both teach my clients new skills and coach my clients’ skill to a higher level, and then try to compete.  That is no easy task when there are more than a dozen other boats trying to beat you on the race course, and you just met your team a few days before.  But we try to cover all that.

Every time I am reminded of the fact that it is exceedingly hard to do all that in the heat of battle.  But, at the same time there are no other programs, that I do, where clients get that full excitement and experience.  I think it comes down to being able to  articulate exactly what are reasonable expectations for each event and each client.  That clients can expect to improve every day and learn experientially.  I guess what I am saying is; we put learning first.

On top of all that, I like to think of the final debrief I do with my clients as the start of our racing relationships rather than the end.  So I write.  I write down my lessons learned, what I think they team improved on and areas where I think they can improve.  Here is the first email to my St. Pete team, taken from an email sent to my them this morning:

Well the aches and pains are really starting to set in.  And the “I wish I was still racing” blues are definitely in full effect.

One of the first things I like to do after these events is review the pictures that the photographers take.  First it is fun, but second there are lots of analysis that we can do about sail shapes, body weight positioning and more.  Here is the link to Tim Wilkes’ site that has several pics of our boat from the St. Petersburg NOOD regatta.  Fortunately, there is a series of images from one of the upwind legs with Christe (a good boat to gauge off of).  There is also a decent series of our lighter air downwind set up on Day Two.

Take a look and let me know if you see anything interesting.  I know I did.  There are some pretty neat shots there, and Tim is a great guy.  So buy a pic while you are at it.

Much much much more to come.


You’re sick of hangin’ around and you’d like to travel;
Get tired of travelin’ and you want to settle down.
I guess they can’t revoke your soul for tryin’,
Get out of the door and light out and look all around.

Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me;
Other times I can barely see.
Lately it occurs to me, What a long, strange trip it’s been.

Truckin’, I’m a goin’ home. Whoa whoa baby, back where I belong,
Back home, sit down and patch my bones, and get back truckin’ on.

Key West Race Week – Part Four – A Response

December 28, 2009



Most of the responses to this visualization said that this was an easy one, but you should have known it couldn’t be that easy. In order to keep frivolous fouls in check, the rules are written to make both the protested and protesting boats clear a few hurdles.

Starboard certainly had to avoid contact (Rule 14) which violates Rule 10 (On Opposite Tacks).  But what is important (and becoming seemingly more so) is how Starboard goes about protesting.  Recently it seems that more and more PC’s are working hard to disallow protests before they get to the protest room by being STRICT about the procedural steps.  So that brings us to the:

What do we do?

1)  Hail “PROTEST”.  This needs to be immediate, polite and clear.  We should also be VERY clear on who is going to be talking to the other boats on the course.  Generally, I would suggest that I’m in the best position to do so, but I am certainly open to discussing this.  “Do your turns!”, “Hey, you SOOO fouled us!”, “What the f*&(@@%@^&!!!!! are you thinking!?” are NOT acceptable, and don’t need to even be mentioned (although they often are.)  Just a clear “PROTEST” and the boat name or sail number will do.

2)  Immediately Fly Flag and fly until we’ve finished.  This seems to be the favorite “out” of the protest committees these days.  We’ve got about 10 seconds to get the flag displayed.  It also pays to have some sort of time mark for when we did it.  So, I carry a protest flag in my PFD, in addition to the flag on the backstay/stern rail/etc.  We can always pull the more permanent flag when time allows.

Interestingly, this year I acted as the arbitration officer for several big boat events.  Often I was told that they flew the flag as soon as the person who was sent to fetch it from the nav table got on deck.  Not good enough.  I was told once that they flew it about a minute after the incident, once it was clear that everyone was OK.  ISAF says you can do better than that.  There was only one incident this year that, I witnessed, where a PC (arbitrator actually) said to another party “well, did you KNOW you being protested?”  When the answer was yes, we moved forward in spite of some questions about the flag.  Point is, we’ll be flying it and leaving it flying from as soon after the incident as possible.

3)  Get back to racing.  Following the incident we have done what we are required to do at this time.  There are a few things that we should do before too long, but right now we need to get back to racing ASAP.  Too many teams let an infraction, or the other team’s actions (or inaction) consume the conversation.  For the most part, it is time to forget about it and get back to racing.

4)  Write down time of hail and incident information.  Given how we are structuring our team work, I think that our forward person should be able to draft an incident report immediately after we start racing again.  This info is best to get down ASAP so that we can get on with the race and not worry about forgetting important info.

5)  Immediately after finishing, hail the RC to declare our intentions to protest.  While the SI’s for this race only request that we inform the RC that we intend to protest, some PC will take this request very seriously.  This past summer I was racing at an event where the arbitrator was questioning the validity of my protest because the PC didn’t have a record of my hail.  Fortunately, I had a witness (from another fleet) that was willing to testify (although it was never necessary).  So I also add that we should record the time of our hail and any other hails that we might hear.  Finally, we should continue to hail until the RC confirms our hail.  I hate being a chatty Cathy on the radio when racing, but it always is a bummer to loose a valid protest on something minor.

6)  We also should be looking for witnesses.  A witness that saw the incident will make our case MUCH stronger, and knowing who to find back at the dock will make the process MUCH easier.  Now is the time to do it.

7)  We should as a team review the incident report to confirm that we all agree with what happened and then get ready to race again.

If it seems like a lot – that’s because it is.  The key to winning in a protest situation is preparation, and I believe that begins at immediately following any incident.

How about those hails?

You are absolutely right, from a rules standpoint they have no meaning or bearing.  There is no required hail of “starboard” or “hold your course” in the rule book.  In fact in this situation starboard isn’t required to necessarily hold her course (and she didn’t she bore away) so the hails don’t change the situation.  That said, they hails are a good idea.  STARBOARD is making it clear to PORT that she doesn’t think the cross is going to happen.  PORT is declaring “I’m going for it.”  Communication on the course I think can improve the game that is played.  It is important though that the communication be clear and not be a distraction.  In this case – I think both hails helped; even if they weren’t necessary.

Now, what should THEY do?

Well, they fouled us.  It is pretty clear, so what they should do is take a penalty.

According to the SI’s they have the option of either doing a One-Turn Penalty, or taking a 20%.  They can do a tack and a gybe in the same direction or they can fly their yellow I flag and carrying on.

Upwind, I think the 20% penalty is worse than the one-turn penalty.  So, they need to sail clear of the other competitors (or make sure they are clear of them) and do a tack and gybe in the same direction.  A well executed one-turn penalty should be less of a penalty than the 20% would be.  So they would have been wise to have practiced that before the regatta started.  They should also start their one-turn penalty with a gybe, rather than a tack, use their sails and body weight to aggressively steer the boat through the turn and then get back to racing!

After the race is over, they should find the boat they fouled and make it clear that they they took their penalty.  If they DID take a 20% penalty it will be important that they inform the race committee and file within 90 minutes of the RC docking.

So they have plenty to fret about as well.

For some, all of this is more than they want to deal with, and either do not call protest, or don’t follow through with it.  I’m of the opinion that there are inadvertent that take place on the race course, and in order to have a fair game, we should enforce them.  I just go back to any other game I play – basketball, tennis, squash – if a friend fouls I call it.  If those fouls start to impact my game I work to improve.

Have a great day!


Protest Flag

Key West Race Week – Part Three – Sailing Instructions

December 27, 2009

I love the Sailing Instructions (SI’s).  I think I love the SI’s because by simply reading them you are often better prepared than many of your competitors.  I know this, cause on a few occasions I haven’t read them; and almost always been burned because of it did not read them, or read them well enough.

Now thanks to the internet many regattas pre-publish the SI’s and therefore there is NO excuse for not being armed with all the information you need to go racing.  Key West Race Week 2010, Presented by Nautica, is no different, and in my first reading I found a few things of interest that should be kept in mind while racing.


I find section 1.2 a little interesting, only because I don’t know what it means.  I’ve made the mistake in the past of saying, “Well if I don’t know it couldn’t be all that important.”  I’ll be doing some reading to learn more.

Changes to Sailing Instructions

Well, we know that someone will need to be tasked with checking the board at 0830 every morning to see if there are any changes or announcements.

As well, the RC will make an effort to announce changes on the water (3.2).  My experience is that what the RC will say is that the will be running the racing according to the notice posted.  Not much help if you didn’t send someone to check it out.

Signals Made Ashore

If the RC hoists the AP flag ashore, which they will announce at 0830 and/or at 0900, then racing cannot start before 90 minutes after AP comes down.  Usually it is 60, so this is a “good to know” note that may make the AP down scramble a little less severe.

Schedule of Races

The first start sequence in each circle is scheduled to begin at 1030.  The maximum number of races on each day is three.  WHEW!

Class Flags/Stickers/Numbers

No numbers for the J80 class, but we will have event stickers to put on.


There will be leeward gates and windward offset marks.  They intend to set the windward offset between 150 and 200 feet from the weather mark, which means that for J80’s there is plenty of time (probably about 10 seconds) from the time we pass the weather mark to the offset that overlaps can be made or broken.


Windward and leeward marks are tetrahedrons.  The offset is an orange ball.

The Start

Any buoy attached to the committee boat should be considered part of the committee boat.

The line will be a line between flags on the two ends of the start line.  Meaning they will have line callers at both ends and they will be pretty good at calling OCSs.

Changing the next leg of the course

If the course to the windward leg has been changed, the new mark will be a yellow tetrahedron, unless it is the final leg.  In that case the course board will note the course to the finish.

The Finish

The finish line for downwind finishes will be on the opposite side of the committee boat.  Upwind it will be well above the weather mark.


You can, at the time of the incident, take a 20% by following rule 44.3.  You can also do a one-turn penalty, unless it was in the Zone.  Then it is the two turn penalty.

In my mind this means that downwind in big breeze you’ll fly your yellow flag for fouling.  Upwind – you will likely spin.  At the zone…you’re spinning.


Because we are moored at Stock Island our time limit for delivering a protest is 90 minutes from the time our signal boat docks.  Which I would guess is 45 minutes after we finish the last race.


There is arbitration – that’s a good thing.


No throw-outs for our classes.


We are required to conduct an Man OverBoard – that’s a person in the water rescue – procedure in order to comply with ISAF/KWRW regulations.  This is also a good idea – but I wonder who else will really do it. (we will)

Radio Communication

We are on channel 74.

OK – this is basically the “Spock” notes for the SI’s.  Meaning, when I read the SI’s my eyebrow did the Dr. Spock thing.  So I included it.  Let me know what you found that was interesting by posting a comment or sending me an email.

Key West Race Week – Part Two

December 21, 2009

Less than a month from now I will be pushing off from the dock at Old Island Harbor Marina on Stock Island. Just off of the Key West’s south shoreline the race committee will be waiting to start the 2010 Key West Race Week.

With only a few short weeks to go, I am continuing to try and get my clients as prepared as I can for what will certainly be an battle; both physically and mentally. Here is the most recent visualization email that I wrote my crew.

Team Willy T -

I shared my first visualization scenario with some of the other coaches and boats that I know are going to be headed to Key West this year. It was great to see the enthusiasm and range of answers. It will be even better to see it played out on the race course in a few weeks. There is snow, piled 20 inches high outside my door right now, so today I hope to have plenty of time to just sit back and think about our racing this January. Fire, cocktail and some racing thoughts.

As I mentioned before I am using past mistakes as the foundation for most of these visualizations. I have been coaching these programs for years now and simply digging into my “gripes” list of what we didn’t do is providing some rich material. I figure we’ll just keep going around the race course in our minds, so in the coming weeks you can expect visualizations in the following order:

Start – Done
First Windward Leg
First Windward Mark
Spinnaker Set and Escape
First Leeward Leg
Leeward Mark/Gate
Second Windward Leg
Second Spinnaker Set and Escape
Post Race Procedure
10 Minutes to our start

Visualization Scenario Number 2 (First windward leg)

Same race/same conditions

We are sailing along on starboard tack about 8 minutes into the first windward leg. Our COMPASS reads 305M. Our boat speed could improve relative to the other boats, but our pointing has been better than those boats to leeward of us, but we don’t really look to be doing as well as the boats on our windward hip – although our speed is still just fine. Should we change our set up? What information can each person (helm, spin trimmer, bow) communicate in this situation to help the boat make the right call? What should the two forward positions be concentrating on?

Of the eight boats that were to leeward of us, six have just tacked and are very likely to closely cross us. In other words, they are just slightly ahead. Two of the eight boat pack are continuing further into the left and the rest of the fleet (six boats) is to our right, apparently even or just behind us. Should we tack? Why or why not? In the event that we decide not to tack, if we are in a close crossing situation with another boat, what should we call them across or make them tack? If we do tack, where should we tack?

This scenario, I call it the first cross, is one that we will likely see every single race. How we handle this situation is often key to salvaging a top half of the fleet rounding from a bottom half of the fleet rounding. Can’t wait to hear what you have to say!

I have also CC’d the other members of the JWorld Racing Team staff so that they are up to speed on what we are doing. With luck, all of this will make us all more competitive on the race course.


ps – Here are the questions in order.

Should we change our set up?

What information can each person (helm, spin trimmer, bow) communicate in this situation to help the boat make the right call?

What should the two forward positions be concentrating on?

Should we tack?

Why or why not?

In the event that we decide not to tack, if we are in a close crossing situation with another boat, what should we call them across or make them tack?

If we do tack, where should we tack?

Got answers? Want to add your own visualization to the list. Post a comment or send an email!

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