Detroit —Talk about making a comeback.
Bernida, the first boat to win the Bayview Port Huron to Mackinac Race in 1925, will sail this year’s 88th event starting July 14.
Bought last autumn by Grosse Pointe Park’s Al Declercq, the boat is a 32-foot R-class sloop with an open cockpit. There is no cabin for the crew. In terms of size, it’s significantly smaller than other boats in the field.
“It’s only 48 hours, who the heck cares?” said Declercq, who has entered two races this year with Bernida and won both. “It might be nice, it might be ugly, but when it’s rough out there, no boats are comfortable. We’ll just be a little less comfortable than the rest of them.”
Bernida was built approximately 92 years ago and won the 1927 Mackinac race, as well. It raced years later, but essentially was lost until a sailing enthusiast found it in Frankfort in 1995 in shabby condition.
Several owners later, Roman Barnwell of Mackinac Island restored it with the help of island residents.
Declercq, who owns sailmaker Doyle Detroit and has over 50,000 miles of racing experience, purchased the boat from Barnwell after that restoration.
“It was sailable but wasn’t race-ready,” Declercq said. “We had to make everything stronger and update a number of things and now we’ll go sail the race.”
Bernida will have to work a little harder this year, about six/tenths of a mile longer. The finish line is near Windermere Point rather than Mission Point.
A small minority in the field have said currents and lack of wind in the Windermere Point area could make for a slow finish.
“That’s part of sailboat racing,” race chairman Greg Thomas said. “We float for hours in this race. It might be there, it might be somewhere else.”
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Grand Slam Match Racing Series 2012 qualifying events start this weekend in Chicago and Oyster Bay, New York. After last year’s successful debut, organizers from the Chicago Match Race Center (CMRC), Bayview YC (BYC), Manhasset Bay YC (MBYC) and Oakcliff Sailing have expanded their international slate of teams to compete in this year’s Grand Slam Match Racing Series.
In all, teams from eight countries will be represented in this year’s series of four consecutive ISAF Open Grade 2 events: Australia, Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, US Virgin Islands, and throughout the US.
‘What began last year as a series to promote the growth of match racing in the US has grown to be a major international series,’ said Oakcliff Sailing’s Executive Director Dawn Riley. ‘The requests for invitations for our event have come in early and hot, with only a few spots remaining.’
The four events of this year’s Grand Slam are held over four consecutive weeks to allow invited overseas teams the best opportunity to optimize their travel costs in one US trip. The schedule is as follows: CMRC’s Chicago Grade 2 Invitational, held over August 17-19 at Chicago’s iconic venue for stadium sailing, Navy Pier, on TOM 28′s; BYC’s Detroit Cup, held in Ultimate 20′s with racing in front of the clubhouse on the Detroit River over August 23-26; the oldest event of the series, MBYC’s Knickerbocker Cup, will be held in Oakcliff’s Swedish Match 40′s in Long Island’s Manhasset Bay over August 29 – September 2; and the Oakcliff International, held over September 5-9.
Besides winning valuable Grade 2 points for the ISAF World Match Race Ranking List, the winning team of the series this year will be determined by scoring the best three of four events. That team will then receive an invitation to the oldest Grade 1 match racing event in the US, Long Beach YC’s Congressional Cup, to be held in March 2013.
‘The Grand Slam series is a valuable addition to our match racing program,’ says CMRC Director Tod Reynolds, ‘because it gives us many overseas entries we’d normally find hard to attract to a Grade 2 event. It also gives a great opportunity to attract new teams to CMRC from qualifying events around the US.’ The Chicago Grade 2 Invitational has two qualifiers: the Oakcliff Spring Clinegatta held this weekend over May 19-20, and the Governor’s Cup youth event hosted by Balboa YC in Newport Beach, CA over July 18-21.
BYC’s Detroit Cup will once again have the Grade 3 Bayview Spring Invitational held over June 9 -10 as its qualifier, and the winner of the main event will get an invitation to the Argo Group Gold Cup in October, an event on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour. According to BYC Fleet and Regatta Director Debi Schoenherr, defending champion Jordan Reece (AUS) will be returning to defend his title this year. ‘We will also partner with Detroit’s Big Brothers/Big Sisters program again to provide racing with the pro skippers for one hour on Saturday,’ says Schoenherr. ‘This was a huge success last year and you should have seen their faces as they took photos wearing [2008 US Olympian] Anna Tunnicliffe’s Gold Medal!’
This year the Knickerbocker Cup will be celebrating its 30th anniversary since its founding by America’s Cup 12 meter syndicate member Ed DuMoulin, who was an early proponent of growing match race sailing in the US and abroad. The event thus has a long heritage in providing international match race sailing, and this year will feature a celebrity pro-am race aboard the Swedish Match 40′s used here and at Oakcliff, as well as a charity benefit for nearby St Francis Hospital. In winning the US Match Racing Championship, Dave Perry has already qualified for an invitation, and the winner will, like the Detroit Cup, also receive an invitation to the Argo Group Gold Cup. The racing schedule was interrupted last year by Hurricane Irene, ‘so we look forward to having more racing this year,’ says Knickerbocker Cup Principal Race Officer Sue Miller.
And the final event in the series, Oakcliff Sailing’s Oakcliff International, will feature more match race sailing in the Swedish Match 40′s, this time further east on Long Island in Oyster Bay, NY. Invitations are extended to the winners of the following three qualifying events: Oakcliff’s Spring Grade 3 Invitational held this weekend over May 19-20, CMRC’s June Grade 2 event held at Chicago’s Navy Pier over June 1-3, or the Oakcliff Summer Invitational held over July 28-31.
‘It’s very exciting to see the interest in open match racing in the US continue to grow,’ says Dave Perry, Chairman of the US Sailing Match Racing Committee. ‘Last year’s Grand Slam generated so much interest, it’s not surprising to have such a strong turnout from the overseas teams, where the series is acting not only to bolster their rankings points, but also prepare them for higher-grade events, such as those on the World Tour.’
One of the easiest ways to lose a sailboat race is to not communicate clearly. Whether its with other boats on the course, as we talked about in Week 11, or within your own boat, any words between sailors should be concise, effective and with the other sailor’s interest in mind. Because I’ve talked about communication with other boats so much I’m going to focus on internal communication within one boat for this week’s rule.
From 420s to 100 footers, the effectiveness of our communication with one and other can be critical to the outcome of our day on the racecourse. Effective communication on the boat can be summed up in three easy steps:
1. Plan out the action and discuss what words to use
This first step is the most important and takes lots of practice. When you’re racing with just one other person, communication can be limited to very few actual words, because you learn how to trust and then anticipate your teammate’s moves, capabilities, and pattern recognition. Through practice, we learn what to look for and what to listen for from our teammates. We also have the opportunity to ask questions and reassess our communication style if need be.
For instance, in the star boat, i knew it would take my crew 4 seconds to be fully prepared to gybe in more than 10 knots of breeze, and 2 seconds in less than 10 knots of breeze. I would have to adjust my communication style for when I wanted to gybe depending on the breeze. If I just yelled out “Gybing” and threw the helm over, then Ian might not be in the correct position to do his job correctly and we might have a bad gybe. Instead, I would say “Standby to Gybe,” thus ensuring that Ian was ready for my call. Then I could say: “Ok, Gybing,” and allow him his time to get properly set up. Ironically, without getting the initial attention of your teammate, the maneuver might actually take more time than if you just yell out “gybing.” The conversation up to that point would also be indicating that a gybe was coming up. We would probably be talking about our options, our course heading to the next mark, our lane choice, or the breeze on the race course. As we talked about it, then the entire team knows we’re getting ready to gybe.
In a boat with lots of role-players that tactical conversation doesn’t always get heard all around the boat. It doesn’t always need to, but it always helps to review the decision with the team before it happens. Even if the anticipatory call is: “Be ready for a maneuver here!” then the team can clean up their stations and listen carefully for the tactician or the skipper’s next call.
2. Be consistent
Lots of practice and discussion of our communication points will enable us to be consistent from maneuver to maneuver. Anybody that races with me on small boats knows that I tend to chatter quietly about what I’m seeing, feeling and thinking. Sometimes that can be confusing, but I am very careful to use simple words when we’re going to make an actual maneuver. On big boats I use those same simple words even though I’m generally very quiet and in more of an observant mode. Whenever we’re about to make a maneuver, I will ask my teammates to be ready and listen up by saying: “Standby.” That word means very simply: keep doing what you’re doing, don’t move around and give away to anybody else that we’re getting ready to maneuver, but make sure that you know what you’re next move will be, and LISTEN for the next call. Often I will have reviewed our plan before I ask the team to Standby. We might be setting the spinnaker, or dousing at a leeward mark, or getting ready for a tack, or getting ready for a gybe, but regardless, the first call of the maneuver is “Standby.”
The only thing that my team is allowed to do when I say “Standby” besides listen is to respond: “HOLD!” if they can’t make the maneuver. There are a thousand reasons to say “HOLD!” Maybe the spinnaker sheets are tangled and need a quick fix. Maybe there is some traffic on the course that they know I can’t see. Maybe there is an override on a winch that won’t come out. This simple moment between: “Standby” and “Go” allows the entire team to check their stations and be mentally prepared for the maneuver. This brief glance can save your race.
After the “Standby” call is made, the next word is to execute the maneuver. “Tacking…” or “Gybing…” or “Hoist!” but always with the same words every time. If you say “Helm’s Alee,” then say that every time. Don’t say “Tacking,” then “Helm’s Alee,” then “Ready about,” then “Arriba!” Just keep it simple and keep it consistent. Your team relies on your words.
3. Use names
Lastly, when we’re communicating within teams, it is important to use names when making assignments. This is my biggest pet peeve when I’m racing with big boat teams. Skippers and tacticians like to yell out, in the middle of a bear-away: “Ease the vang!” What good does that do? If Bob (who’s job it was to ease the vang) hadn’t already remembered to do so, why will he think you’re talking to him? If the Robert, next to Bob on the rail hears it and realizes that Bob forgot, he might drop what he was supposed to do and reach for the vang. Now, both Robert and Bob are not doing their assigned jobs.
This does take time and patience for every sailor to understand every job assignment on the boat, but it pays off in spades when you see a job that needs doing and you can assign the right person to do the job. When the skipper says: “Hey Bob, ease the vang” he’ll reach right for it. If the skipper yells: “Ease the vang” nobody might reach for it.
Communication on sailboats is always a work in progress, but hopefully this is a good start. Planning our words carefully so nobody is confused when you say “Put the bow down” to the skipper, and the bow man responds by going down below. Using the same calls and timing for each maneuver alleviates much of this confusion as well and helps everybody else organize their maneuver checklists as well. Using names clears up mistaken assignments and guarantees everybody is happier at the end of the day, unless you were calling Robert: Bob, instead of the other way around. That might get confusing