2013 ILYA Championship Regatta Report
Winning Skipper Erik Bowers Reports
We've just returned home from 3 fantastic days of sailing on Lake Okoboji, Iowa for the 2013 E Scow Inland Championship regatta. This event is one of the most prestigious regattas on the E Scow regatta circuit. I've been asked by several E Scow sailors to provide the M-11 Team Meatballs Championship perspective on the event.
First off, the racecourse had very similar conditions for all three days. It became extremely clear to me after the 2nd race in which we finished 19th that there was no being conservative and sailing shifts in the middle of the course, which is frequently possible on Lake Minnetonka. For whatever reason, geography or heating differences between land and water, there was always more breeze on the edges of the course with no real patterned oscillations. The winning strategy was to leverage early and own the edges with as few tacks as possible. Following our ugly race 2, we went pin end to win on the next start and commanded the left side, leading at the weather mark and finishing 2nd. After race 2, we also quit paying attention upwind to boats more than 10 boat lengths away, and focused on course position and breeze near the edges. With the exception of race 2, we always started within 5 boat lengths of the ends of the starting line. Out of 7 races total, we led 4 of the races at the weather mark with this style of first leg sailing. In the three leeward end starts, we finished 6,2,1 in races 1,3, and 4 respectively. In the three windward end starts, we finished 3,3,1 in races 5,6, and 7 respectively. The weather mark position for the first 2 days allowed both laylines of the course to look good right up to the very end of the beat. Going into the last race with 4 boats within 4 points, we kept the same strategy with starting and winning an edge of the course. We liked the right and stuck with it 100%, and that strategy paid BIG dividends, as we won the last race and the regatta by one point over Sam Rogers and Team M-42.
Sailing downwind was a bit different as well. Boats who could sail low and minimize gybes did really well. I thought Russ Lucas and the BH-8 team consistently sailed the lowest angle, and seemed to always do very well off the breeze. I never sat on the weather side of the boat downwind, preferring more to position the boat as well as possible, and then stick to the low side of the groove. In general, we also stayed away from the shores downwind because it can be really tough to come off of them with a decent angle when it's time to gybe back toward the gates. The end result of being more in the middle is less distance sailed, while getting enough of the pressure. I also tried to look really hard at how I wanted to sail the first part of the beat as we were approaching the gates.
Our tuning and upwind speed was excellent in all conditions, but especially when we were able to hike and put the vang on hard in 12mph+. We also kept the light settings for all the races, even the last one which had a bit more breeze. Our light settings are straight out of the Melges tuning guide. We never dropped the traveler or the jib leads, or changed the clewboard hole on the jib. Part of the reason we never dropped our traveler was that our crew weight is 650lbs with Mike, Maclean, and me. We also hike very hard in the pressure. I have very loose straps (ankles at the edge of the cockpit) and a near full Laser length tiller mounted in the center of the rudder crossbar. I'm accustomed to not seeing the bow upwind at all because Mike and Maclean obstruct the view when we are all hiking. This allows me more time to look upwind for the more breeze. When I look for the pressure/more breeze, I usually look 200-400 yards upwind in the direction of our apparent wind to see what breeze we will intercept as it comes down the course. When I'm not looking for pressure, I look a couple boat lengths in front of the bow at the water. When we're hiking, I almost never look at the telltales on the jib. I look at them more in under 10 when Mike and/or Maclean are in the boat. I was also footing aggressively through the motorboat chop to keep the boat going fast. I often came down 10 degrees just to power through motor boat chop because it's always easier to come back up with speed than to try to get the boat going fast again. The footing through the chop also fit nicely with our overall strategy to get out to the edges of the course. The end result was that our mode percentages upwind were 50% VMG, 40% speed/low mode, and 10% pointing. We only pointed when we were on an edge of the course coming back to the middle, and wanted to get a bit more of the outside pressure without having to tack. We were also quite generous on the laylines and frequently overstood the weather mark to avoid more tacks.
All in all, it was a tremendous 3 days of sailing against the best sailors in the E fleet! Keeping it positive.
All the Best,
Erik & Team Meatballs