When Opportunity Knocks
You win some, you lose some, but when the right opportunity knocks, you have to be ready to pull the trigger and go!
Here’s a couple of minutes of video shot by Stuart Lindow from Texas’ Clear Lake Racing Association. It’s funny, you can talk all you want and draw all the diagrams you can think of; but there’s nothing like a real-time video that shows the before, during, and after of a situation.
In this clip is flock of J/22s approaching and rounding a leeward mark to port. Tom Meeh (USA 878) was way to the right of the pack about two minutes before the rounding. Foreseeing the multiple levels of overlapped inside boats that would eventually turn into a “wheel;” Tom gybed onto port, took a few sterns and hoped for an inside position going in. His crew work was pretty spotless as he threw in two quick gybes, but he ended-up deep in the pack. Biting his tongue, Tom was ready to bail out and take his lumps in the rounding…but he kept his options open. You never know, Murphy’s Law doesn’t always work against you.
STOP READING HERE…and watch the video. Watch it again, and then come back to finish this story.
As you’ll see, Tom is set-up towards the back of the fleet and then a few things happened that hurt others but helped him.
- The lead boat (David Bethancourt’s 1271 — with UK Sailmakers sails) had a late and slow spinnaker douse (stuff happens!)
- The lead two boats came in on starboard and pushed the wheel further to the right and below the mark, which opened a hole for Tom.
- The lead boats’ set-ups for wide and tight rounding turned into wide and slow roundings forcing overlapped outside boats to sail deeper or wider.
- Tom’s boat had excellent crew work dousing the chute quickly and early. Not knowing exactly what situations he would soon face; Tom was now ready for most options as his crew was set-up to trim in the rounding.
- He was approaching from the inside on a port tack so he could smoothly head up around the mark and not lose any speed during a gybe.
- The stroke of luck was when the third boat (SVK 665), approaching on starboard and clear astern of the second position boat, made a conservative, safe gybe and rounding leaving…yes…a hole!
- Tom, set-up for the rounding and with good boat speed, slipped into the hole, trimmed for the next leg…and found himself suddenly in third…having picked up five boats.
Well done Tom. Not that this could have been “planned” for; but by being ready for anything means you’re ready to capitalize on opportunities when they present themselves. His bail out plan was always to round outside the mark and try again.