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kb 24

Our favorite Army vet sportboat chick updates us on her escapades

With the advent of some of the most advanced yacht racing in the world during the 33rd America’s Cup, I decided to start my 2010 sailing year quite a few steps back from the huge multihull monsters. If you guys remember, I had quite the ride in 2009. From sailing with Quantum Racing in the 2009 Audi MedCup to gaining a lot of sportboat experience on Pete Hunter’s Wairere, and the many other exciting opportunities I had (including working with Sailing Anarchy during the Melges 24 Worlds in Annapolis – holler at your girl), I came out of 2009 with some definitive objectives. There were definitely a few times when I found that I was in over my head, but I persisted to pitch myself into every opportunity without abandon because I just have too much pride to do it any other way. The truth is that I discovered a newfound competitive edge in sailing last year, but I was struggling to keep up with it. And since I have a severe problem with not being really good at the things I like to do, I decided to start 2010 by retraining in technical knowledge. Here’s how: J24 one-design racing.

I knowwwwwwww. I know. Believe me, I know. Everyone proclaims to hate J24 sailing, but listen to what I have to say. See, I raced on Paul Van Ravenswaay’s Millennium Falcon (#5350) from Annapolis in the J24 Midwinters at Davis Island Yacht Club, and also in the St. Pete NOODs the following weekend. We pretty much raced that J24 for 9 days straight, and it was excellent training. Yes, I got really bruised. Yes, I was really freaking cold. Yes, I’m pretty sure my organs began to liquefy. But it’s all good. I had an opportunity to race in a competitive one-design fleet, so I took it. And let me tell you about the competition:

The J24 fleet in Tampa and St. Pete was laden with some of the top guys in the class and even the industry, which proved to be tough racing. As a relative newcomer to the class, I didn’t have as much to offer as guys like Charlie Enright, Tim Healy, Will Welles, Tony Parker, Chris Snow, or Chuck Allen, but they were all nonetheless encouraging and the fleet as a whole created a great environment for one-design sailing. I also have to mention Brian and Kat Malone for acting as both hosts and competitors, and I would like to congratulate Charlie Enright and crew for winning the 2010 Midwinters. In the end, it was the perfect event for honing skills, opening my season, challenging the crew, and getting out of the snow-covered North. 

After getting used to the boat and the crew (Paul Van Ravenswaay, Mike Zinkgraf, Eric Haneberg, Jarrett Hering – a great group from Annapolis), I really started to learn more and get a little more aggressive in my role. I wanted to contribute to the team, but I also was completely out of my sportboat comfort zone. See, the J24 has this thing called a “cabin-top” to crawl over during tacks, and that alone was a pretty big feat. I honestly think I’ve low-crawled through Army infiltration courses that had more clearance than the J24.  Once or twice, I actually had to be pulled across by my crew, which was a pretty big blow to my ego. I even think at one point I screamed like a little girl when I found myself caught on leeward with no chance of pulling myself to the other side. That was hilarious. But, I can adapt and overcome what I have to, so what I once said about TP-52 sailing also applies to the J24; “A boat is a boat, and I can do at least that much.” I figured it out.

Here is another way to learn something on the water:  While rounding the top mark, get hit really hard on your port side by the bow of a leeward J24. It’ll put a nice chunk of a hole in your hull, and you’ll have to figure something out about your boat, and quick! This happened to us at the NOOD regatta, and we had to retire from the race to address the puncture wound. Thankfully the hole was nicely above the waterline, so Eric made some quick work with the duct tape, and we were able to compete in the last 2 races of the day. We hauled the boat out afterwards, and Mike did an overnight fiberglass job to get us back out on the water.  Honestly, we probably should have all left our fenders on, especially those last 2 days. There was a lot of bumper-boat action out there. J24 sailors are a scrappy bunch, eh? At times, I came out of a race feeling like we had been in a bar fight. It was aggressive, and I liked it that way. (By the way, no hard feelings to the boat that hit us, considering they actually sailed very well otherwise. We all know that accidents happen, and we all know that it’s a part of the learning process. Adapt and overcome , you know.) Oh, and props to Tim Healy for the overall win of the St. Pete NOOD regatta.

So, now I am exhausted, dehydrated, and bruised, but I’m also a lot more proficient and I had a lot of fun. A racer CANNOT move to upper levels of sailing without learning the basics first. Just don’t do it. I had to learn how to shoot a rifle before I could learn how to shoot a grenade launcher, and I wore an expert marksman badge in both at one point. It’s not different in sailing. J24 racing is a great way to sharpen skills. Next step: BOR 90 … ??? Haha, just kidding. But I do think I’ll step into the world of multihulls soon. Ben Moon is making those A-Cats sound too damn fun. (Congrats to him on his A-Cat Midwinters win, by the way.)

PS – I loved Genny Tulloch’s write-ups for the America’s Cup. Meredith’s pictures, Petey’s videos, John Casey’s perspective, Aaron Siegler’s production expertise, Alan’s leadership of the coverage, the interviews, and the OTWA Cocktail Hours are awesome. I’m still going through it all, so you guys should also check out the coverage HERE. We actually watched the first AC33 race at St Pete Yacht Club during our postponement, which was better than watching the terrible weather. And, go USA!

Much love,
Katie Burns