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WE'RE IN IT FOR THE LONGHAUL

14 February 2016

As with the U.S. Nationals held in late 2015, Team Hydra PR girl Lexi Petter contributed some amazing articles that tell the story of this very energetic team. Youthful and green on the grand-prix circuit, this tenacious team has found their place in the Melges 32 fleet. Lexi gets us started with what they have learned thus far at Gold Cup:

At Nationals in December none of us knew what the future had in store for the nine lucky enough to be selected for Project Sail Team Hydra. With that in mind, we pushed ourselves to the limit, hiking and trimming and hoisting and driving with something to prove. On shore, the team made sure to put in the extra effort to demonstrate our commitment to this incredible opportunity. It was important to us to show that nobody took anything for granted. 

People noticed. In January, my inbox rang with the news that not only would Hydra be competing in the Gold Cup, but we had committed to a series of regattas that would eventually lead up to Worlds in Newport. 

Team Hydra arrived at the Gold Cup ready to shake the collective rust we had accumulated in the two months since our last event. With Noah Blacker and Erika Reineke as our new crew, Hydra left the dock for our practice day early and ready to rumble. Everyone reconnected with their positions on the boat while introducing our two new Hydra members. 

During one race, Morgan expertly placed herself right in front of a boat and shut the door on three boats effectively with that move. Marty and the team congratulated her, but at that moment, a boat hit us on our port quarter. Cringing, we moved on toward the offset, the spinnaker hoist in mind. I appreciated our ability to so quickly reconvene and put our minds back in the game. 

That mentality translated to every part of the racecourse. We improved our starts immensely during the practice day. Our timing in our approaches became more routine, and the count down to the both the line and the start zoned in on perfection. Finally, the back of the boat and the front of the boat communicated cohesively. 

In the ensuing debriefs, our coaches first congratulated us ,and then reminded us of the big picture. Marty told Team Hydra that “we have to change our attitudes about this” because our end goal has changed. The mission has shifted from a single regatta to Worlds. Coach Farley leveled with us: “We have six months to do what other teams have done in six years.” We each weighed in on went well before Alex Post said in his classical quip, “Let’s send it.” 

The first day of racing was described in two ways. 

Most people said about our race, “From hero to zero and back to hero!” In my opinion, Farley said it best. From the coach boat he shouted and gestured back and forth, “Penthouse, outhouse, penthouse!!” It was true. We rounded the top mark in first after an excellent start, but after an unlucky jibe set, we watched the entire fleet rocket past us going downwind. Winding the fleet back in slowly but surely, Mitchel Kiss called great tactics to bring us back to the front. By the finish, we found ourselves back in a good position, crossing the line in fourth. Exhaling a collectively bated breath, we all exchanged high fives and cheered. 

The second race, unfortunately, went less than well. After a decent start, the team could not find its groove, and nearly everything felt out of sync. The disheartened attitude spread, and throughout the rest of the race, we did not recover. Our downwind speed suffered especially. During our debrief, Farley pointed out that “sailing downwind is a dance, and the trimmer is leading while the driver follows.” Tomorrow we will work to improve the communication between the trimmer and the driver. Often, pressure in the kite collapsed while we tried to fight too low for the boat. “Four to five degrees higher downwind” will serve us well, Farley lectured. 

The rig tune proved another challenge to us. Noah noted that “with the rig, we were pretty happy that it was in column, but we were trying to get the port side to the shape that we wanted.” Marty and Noah played with the rig tune relentlessly, but their efforts finally paid off. During our evening debrief on the second day, our coaches noted that our sail shape had improved. Noah continued, “It’s so much fun being new on the team. I’m really looking forward to seeing how we can make everything work.” 

I agree with Noah. It’s exciting to see what we can do. We’re in it for the long haul. 

 


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