Gavin Brady was tactician on the winning boat at the Melges 32 East Coast Championship and he gives us a look at how it went.
Over three days of racing we had a full range on conditions which is always a good test for each team to see how they handle the change in conditions each day. The most notable change from the winter in Florida was the flat water in Long Island Sound versus the step chop in Miami and Key West. As always, flat water makes life easy but provides less passing lanes upwind and downwind.
What I enjoy about the 32 class is the passing lanes around the race course versus other displacement one designs. Once you spend some time in the class you find out very quickly that the speed comes from practice and good sailing not who has the biggest check book. This can be good for some teams but frustrating for others that cannot buy their way to the top. We spend the whole time on Q working on ways to make life simple and work on the basics around the race course. From my prospective the gains in the 32 are changing modes as the situation changes much like sailing a laser or some other small boats. The challenge on the 32 is getting the whole boat to change modes at the same time and the boat really rewards this type of sailing. It was a nice reward to win the event but on the drive back home to Maryland I was thinking about all the things we could done better and the points we left on the race course. Everything on the list was about tactics and crew work and not much to do with new sails and keel jobs and new boats etc. I have a feeling our list of things to do better is much the same as the boats that finished further down the fleet. Our result came from the same team sailing together in Florida and doing the little things right more often than others over the three days.
The big excitement came in the last race when out of the blue the boat that was in second just two points behind came after us in the pre-start. My mistake thinking this would not happen and we were caught completely off guard. In true form, we let them know what we thought of about coming after us with 4 minutes to go but this got our heads into the game which was now match racing not fleet racing. I am not sure how to match race around other boats in a fleet race and I have never seen it work out for the aggressor as there are no umpires and other boats get in the way. This was no exception and we slipped off the line ahead as the aggressor was stuck head to wind and started 50 seconds after the start. I am not sure the other boat made the wrong choice (as they did catch us sleeping) but match racing in a M32 in 20 knots of wind in 30 degree shifts and no umpires in a fleet race is a big under taking. (I only say this as I have been on both sides of that outcome).