youth of today
Midwest Melges rock star Sam Rogers checks in from Samba Pa Ti (complete with ‘Slap Shot’ references) at the Melges 32 Nationals in Harbor Springs, MI, currently in third, tied on points with Joe Woods’ ‘Red’, with 18 year-old Ryan Devos on Volpe leading. Keep an eye on Sammy’s 42 Marine site for dailies throughout the event.
There is a big difference between talking about a gameplan and what you would like to do on the start and first beat, and the actual execution of it. On day 1 of the Melges 32 US Nationals on the Samba, we had talked about starting at the boat end and getting to the right side of the course, but found ourselves taking the conservative route, starting somewhere near the middle of the line, and subsequently mid-fleet at the top mark. All it took was one look at the Harbor Springs local boat Volpe, with tactician Ed Baird, that started late at the boat in all 3 races, tacked right and were in the top 3 at the first top mark to figure out that the right was paying big, and you had better get over there fast if you wanted to do well.
PRO Bruce Gollison and his team did a great job of getting the fleet assembled for an on-time start at 10:30 under blue skies and a 10-12 kt Westerly. Being from the midwest, it is nice to finally get some of the people who I sail with and against into fly-over country so they can get an idea of how beautiful the Midwest can be. Harbor Springs in particular is a great place for racing as it provides a huge sailing area with challenging breeze, and a town setting that makes you feel like you are filming the sequel to “Pleasantville”.
The fleet was eager to get rolling in Race 1 and with 4-5 boats over early piled up at the boat end, it was not rocket science that the right side was favored, but just a matter of who could get off cleanly. After a mid-line start and getting bounced to the left side of the course, we managed to keep the speed on, hang-on to a mid-fleet top rounding and grind our way back to a 5th place throughout the race. Red would go onto win the race after getting off the starting line cleanly at the boat end and leading pin to pin, followed by Ramrod and Full Throttle.
Race 2 set up with a bit more of a port favored line, and after another clean start, we found ourselves once again crossing behind the boats on the right, and in particular, RED who got flicked onto port shortly after the gun went, found a clean lane on the right side and were able to lead by the top mark. The breeze lightened significantly after the start and with a lot of teams swapping to the light jibs on the downwind, it was a matter of who could change gears and keep the speed on. After battling back again from a mid-fleet first mark, the Samba did a nice job of keeping the pedal down, and really trying to execute our gameplan of getting to the right by living in bad lanes and tough situations just to get there. Once to the right side, there was clearly more velocity and huge gains would be made for those who could touch into it early. Red again would go on to win, followed by Volpe, Full Throttle and Samba in 4th.
The last race of the day, the breeze had freshened, and instead of going for the safe route, we decided to put on the foil and mix it up at the boat end of the line which was very popular. John did a great job of carving out a nice hole and we managed to get off the boat end cleanly, tack immediately, hold our lane with Volpe to leeward until the layline, tack, and lead at the first weather mark. Mmmm…I wish we could have made it as easy in the first 2 races. With 2 gybe sets and a battle of who could get closer to shore first, we were able to hold off a solid charge from Volpe, Heartbreaker and Tirade, a fresh Melges 32 team from New Zealand sailing their first event who will be very tough once they get a few races under their belts.
Overall, a picture perfect day for sailing in Harbor Springs with plenty of chutes and ladders. Tomorrow I have a feeling we will be much more steadfast in following our game plan…and paying much closer attention to where the locals are headed. Day 1 full results here. 10:30 am warning for race 4 with very light breeze forecast. Wish us luck!