by the numbers
After struggling through the Etchells North Americans just over a week ago in a tough fleet, the Pegasus team helmed by Dave Ullman is assessing the mistakes that landed them in 11th place overall. Dave told us last Saturday that he’s heading back to the drawing board – I asked him to elaborate and here’s what he said:
SA: What went wrong in the regatta?
DU: Our starts were bad. Six of the eight starts we didn’t get off the line. Automatically, you set yourself up for a battle upwind in bad air. It’s extremely difficult to keep pace with the top boats. Like any big fleet, it’s hard to battle from the back.
Six bad starts meant six races where we had to stage a comeback. And then in two races, we had to do circles. By getting penalties, we turned decent comebacks into bad races. In this fleet, you make one mistake and 10 boats go by.
SA: You said you’re headed back to the drawing board? In what respect?
DU: Heading into this event, we logged a number of hours on the water, focusing on straight line testing with typically 1-2 other boats. I think we need to change the way we practice. We need to emphasize racing and starting – some of the stuff that is so basic to sailboat racing. I also think we need more boats involved with our practice sessions.
SA: Let’s talk sails. evaluate where you think you are in terms of sail development. is there only so far one can realistically go in the e 22 class?
DU: In terms of sail development in the Etchells class, or in any one design class, there’s always more work to do. It’s an ongoing process, especially when you are trying to optimise sails for a particular venue. We’re seeing this with our competitors, who are making ongoing changes to their sails for the San Diego Worlds. For Ullman Sails, we’re right there in our sail development. Our process has been to refine a solid all-purpose design and test it with a number of fleets and conditions here and in Australia. Now it’s just a matter of optimising those designs for the San Diego conditions. We’re close. But there is always work to do.
SA: You’ve really done a lot of high performance boat sailing, and now you come to the etchells class. How much different is sailing in such a different boat in such a competitive class?
DU: It is extremely different. The small details are much more important – like starting and mark rounding – as the boats all go the same speed. In the Etchells fleet, starts are critical. If you get a bad one, you don’t come roaring back! It’s hard to recover from a bad start. It’s quite different from the Melges 24 where there’s big changes in positions because of boat speed. Here, position changes are due to tactics. And the top 20 North American boats are all very good, so tactics can be quite challenging.
SA: North has a near lock on this class, with we guess Dolye next. Is there an Ullman effort to break into this class and be in it for the long term?
DU: We’re actually getting back into the game here in North America – we have a long history of involvement in the class with DC and two previous worlds in Newport Beach. The upcoming San Diego Worlds is a good reason to ramp up our program again here. But we’ve had a considerable presence in the fleets in Australia for some time. My program in San Diego is just one piece of the puzzle. The Ullman Etchells program is a much broader, coordinated effort taking place in the U.S., Australia and soon to be in Europe.
SA: We’ll be watching!
DU: I know you will!