Tuesday, August 15, 2006


This blog is now sailing to a new virtual space. For a while now, I've been thinking of having a dedicated web space for my sailing related activities. Now, that I am getting more and more involved in match racing and sailing with a team, this idea became more relavant. So, I spend quite a few hours in front of the computer for the last month and created THE HOME OF SOYER SAILING TEAM.

I wish I could have spent all this time sailing instead of web-designing, but let me tell you... working on sailing related stuff is as good as it gets when you don't have a chance to sail. Anyways, I hope you will continue to check this blog on its new location, where we will also have a chance to have much more stuff such as pictures, technical articles, race calendars and so on.

Friday, July 07, 2006


Team work starts with communication. In order to execute perfect manevours everybody on the boat has to be able to communicate with short, precise, and cool commands. This is a little tricky when the racing gets thight and the team is international. At last weekends regatta we had an Italian bowman, Franco. While he was very capable, he was a little confused as we discussed most of the time in Turkish, and then switched to English from time to time, and then even some other times I tried to communicate with him in Italian! That's where the fun started.
One of the things that we had to tell Franco was when to take the spi pole out and get ready for the drop. To make the communication for this easier I asked Burcu (she speaks fluent Italian) what spi-pole is called in Italian: tangone. So, I thought when we were ready I tell him simply "tangone" and he starts with the procedure. So far, so good. But, during the hectic of the first race, and when we were approaching the downwind mark, I called to Franco: "stanza". He looked back at me, doing nothing. I called one more time: "stanza". He still didn't do anything. Now, we were really getting close to the mark, needed a very good rounding, and I was getting overly excited. I yelled my lungs out: "stanzzaaaa !!!"....now Burcu interfered as well, and finally Franco got going and the spi dropped just in time, as we rounded the mark.
We could only talk about the event, when racing was over and we were back in the marina. Suddenly, I realized that "stanza" did not mean spi-pole at all! I asked Burcu what the hell I was yelling at Franco. She said "room". We all started laughing. Especially from Franco's point of view, the situation was absurd. You go to a regatta with a bunch of guys you see for the first time in your life, and then in the middle of all the heat, the helmsmann starts to yell at you, "room, room, roooommm!"....the poor guy was really confused. He told Burcu that he even thought about yelling back at me his room number at the hotel !!!
Next day, things went just fine even though I still mixed up "stanza" and "tangone" from time to time...but now, Franco knew better.

Trofeo Igienstudio

Last weekend we were in Ancona, ITA for a Grade 4 event. Finally a competition for our strength. After being beaten up badly in the last two Grade 3 events I went, finishing this regatta at a respectable 3rd place brought the morale back. Although it was again a "put-together-at-last-minute" team (composed of my brother Cagatay, long time sailing friend and opponent from old times Burcu and her colleague Franco), we had quite fun and fought close battles on the course.
Racing was done on J24's. Although this is a very old design and the boat is very uncomfy and slow then modern boats like Blu24 or Ton28, I found it quite suitable for match racing. The boat is quite slow making the pre-start tactics especially important. Further, once one has the control over the opponent, it is rather difficult for the latter to get away with a quick roll tack or gybe.
After struggling during the first two races (especially with in-boat communication) we got hold of things and executed pretty good pre-start combinations in the remaining races. In the end we won 5 out of 6 races. This was still not enough to get to the finals though. Due to low winds on the first day, the committe could not finish round robin in time and had to cancel semi-finals. This meant that winners of the two round robing groups qualified for finals, while 2nd placed teams qualified for the petite final.
The decisive race for us was the last one of the round robin. Both we and our oppenent had a 3-0 record up until then, meaning that the winner would be the 1st of the group. It was a nice split start but we were on the left. So, at the first cross they were starboard, and we tacked right to the front and leeward. The judge tought it was too close of a tack: we got a penalty. Up the beat it was very close and we were able to pull through on the first downwind. The second round we extended our lead a little and were about 3-4 boat lengths in front at the beginning of last beat. I thought we try to extend the lead a little more and take the penalty at the finish line. Then, at the start of the downwind leg, it seemed that they were really close and that we would not be able to take the penalty and still be ahead. I don't know if this thought was correct and they were really near or I panicked too much, but with a quick change of mind I decided to slow down the boat and try to create a penalty situation. Slowing down the boat worked fine but they just sailed down to leeward of us and gave us no chance of creating a penalty situation. So, it ended with them taking the finish and moving to the final.
On retrorespect, I could immediately tell how stupid the whole strategy was. The right thing would have been to take the penalty on the last beat, at the starboard layline. Then we could get a chance at having a starboard-port situation with them, and even if they crossed ahead of us, they would overshoot the mark and we would get very close for the last downwind. Actually the situation was perfectly set for such strategy, as we had them on the left side of the course on the last beat. That one should opt for this strategy when the situation allows is, was the lesson well learned and made this event another valuable experience ! Hopefully, a time will come when I have experienced so many of such sitauation that the decisions will fall naturally...

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Team

You know, every good robbery movie starts with the assembly of the team. You need a guy to drive the escape car, a guy to get insider info, a guy to blow the steel case, a guy to...
After almost a year on the match race circuit and now finally in the top 100th of the rankings, I reached the conclusion that a match racing career should start with the team assembly just like in these movies. You need to find a good tactician, a good trimmer, a great bowman, additioanal people to substitute, a guy to help you with pre-start, a guy to...
As people always talk about skippers in match racing, people tend to overrate these guys. You always hear of Russell Coutts' and Peter Gilmours, but hardly from their team. The fact is that match racing is a complete team game, and a good skipper is just a small bit of the big picture. Surely the skipper has a special role, as he's the one who assembles the team, and who makes the decisions while racing. But from a sailing point of view, it is equally important that the skipper drives the boat smoothly, or makes a nice pre-start move, and that the bowman sets the pole exactly at the right time, or the trimmer gives the exact right shape to the sails as required by the conditions. Sailing with quite a few different people by now, I came to realize that crew's tend to feel like they are secondary to the success and that it's the skipper that counts. This feeling is especially common with people who skippered themselves before. This is exactly the wrong attitude in a winning team. There, each member of the team knows that their performance is essential for winning. It doesn't matter if your hand is on the tiller, or on the winch arm, it is how each of these hands work together in harmony!
As in the perfect rubbery, the prize should be shared among all members of the team. Although media's attention might be on the skipper and although the rankings by ISAF features only the skipper, team members should be able to claim a victory (or whatever position they achieved) as their own. Skippers on the other hand should always remember that although in the limelight, their name would mean nothing without the teammembers.
I think it is a fitting way to finish this post by celebrating the entry of my name in the top 100 with all those who have sailed with me so far on the match racing circuit: Christian Sprecher, Lukas Ziltener, Alp Alpagut, Kaya Dinar, Arda Baykal, Onursal Soyer, Cagatay Soyer, Oguz Ayan, Anna Michelazzi, Stefano Michelazzi, Anette Soyer. THANK YOU!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Westfalen Cup

We sailed at the Westfalen Cup over this weekend, with my brothers. This was a Grade 3 event organized by the Hogel Sport, and was sailed on the Ruhr river close to Dortmund. Although the location was not ideal for sailing, it was a nice spot for match racing with the river offering a great oppurtunitity for the spectatators to be literally in the action. Probably because of this reason, the event was well attended with 5 teams from top 40! This was quite a surprise for us, as we thought that we could use this event for some relaxed training and get some easy points. Training it was, but there was no chance of getting easy points!

There were a total of 12 teams, 8 invited and 4 qualified. The lowest ranked team among the invited ones was 165th, the highest 29th. Round robins were sailed in two grops, each 6 teams. Of the 5 mathces we sailed, we won 2 against qualified teams, and lost the other 3 against invited ones. All our losses were pretty close, and were all results of poor pre-starts. The pre-starts were especially difficult at this event, as the space was very thight and the wind quite fluky. One side of the line was sitting in the wind blanket and it was very difficult to enter from this side. In one race, we couldn't reach the line from this side in time, and the blue boat came to us with wind and blocked us from entry. We got a penalty for late entry, but could later give them a penalty from a port/starboard situation. Then, at the last minute we got them in a nice position, where we could lock them underneath us, but I missed the oppurtunity! Too bad that one realizes these situations, afterwards on shore.

Finishing the round robin 4th in our group, we could race for the 7/8 position on the last day. Interestingly, our opponent was the best ranked team at the event! Apparently they got their share of bad luck in these though conditions and ended up 4th in their group as well. In the "best of 3" competition, we lost 2-0 against them! Although we were quite confident that we could give them a hard fight, we got two unfortunate penalties in both matches. One for late entry (again a trick of the wind), and once for hitting the sidebars on the river! As I was trying to cushion our hit on the sidebars, the jury thought that I was pushing the boat forward in the light air conditions! A decision, we completely disagreed...but you gotta live with it.

Overall, this was a good chance to get some training as we try to build a solid team with my brothers. Next month we'll race in Ancona, ITA at a Grade 4 event, on J24's. Hopefully, we will be able to carry on the momentum and sail more together...(without getting intimitated by our results :).

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Match Race Training

Although I definitely cannot train as much as I should (and would), here is something that I would definitely try out next time I'm going training. The drill, described below, is kindly provided by Fred, himself a keen dinghy and match-race sailor. I believe that he will put up a german version of this drill on his blog sometime soon.
"Take 7 sailors with good helming abilities, 2 boats of the same type and a Laser, small powerboat or else. Take one small buoy/mark with you. Lay a starting line with a fixed mark or your small craft. Man the sailing boats as following: 1 Helmsman, 1 Crew, 1 Umpire each. I had prepared: 2 protest flags on sticks. 2 table tennis rackets each for the umpires. One showed black/white and the other yellow/blue. Rule Incident with a protest flag from a competitor: umpires (sitting on the stern or standing up in the hatch of the boat) shows colour of the boat (either yellow or blue flagged on backstay) Umpires show different colours: No incident. Showing white: no incident and black: DSQ. Absolutely no contact between boats!You do a full starting routine (set clock and diving in) and short windward leg until one is clearly in front. You sail back to the starting line and swoop positions. Everyone should man the starting boat once in a full round robin. The starting boat is fitted with flags and a horn or whistle. The starter should write down the results on a list.
Afterwards have a good debriefing and a beer and I promise you. It will show results pretty soon. Smooth sailing."
I think sharing information on such drills, situations we meet on the match racing circuit, and tips and tricks will help all of us improve faster. So, let me know of any such material you want to share and I'll post them here.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Pre-Start Routines

There is no doubt about it. The pre-start is the most exciting and decisive part of a match race. Obviously bad team work might cost you the race even if you win the start, but still it is both a great feeling and great advantage to have a commanding position after the pre-start. Learning to get your pre-start right requires a lot of good timing, team work, boat handling, and strategic planning. Getting all this right will require you to collect a lot of memorial snapshots of pre-start situations as they happen to you. And, that will require you to sail a lot of match races :)
But here is a help for both you and me. I've been taking notes of interesting pre-start situtations I've been encountering so far, both to study them (possibly with others) and to put them right into my memorial collection. Starting with this one, I plan to post these here. Please contribute such experiences to me if you have any (either in words or sketches, or both).
The presented case is sort of a book-case that happened to me. I was the blue boat in this sketch and benefited from two big mistakes of my opponent to win the start. First mistake that yellow makes is to allow blue to get the windward advantage at position 2. From here on, blue is free to tack and get away from yellow towards the right side of the line. Here, the two boats start circling, a procedure that happens frequently in match racing as boats try to avoid and control each other at the same time. Now, comes the second mistake; yellow leaves the circling stage too early and shoots for the line. At the time she gets there it's too early for start. Blue, now comes from behind and has the chance to push yellow out of the line. Yellow, trying to avoid this has to sail away (run away from blue) and ends up far from the line at the starting gun, giving the lead to blue!
I called this a classic book-case, because it shows the difference between the mind set of a fleet racer and the match racer. In fleet racing, it is common to get to the line early to secure a nice spot. Now in match racing, there is no such thing as a nice spot on the line! The only nice spot that exists is the one where you have the control over your opponent...so forget about where you are on the line at start...even forget that you should be on the line at all! You just have to make sure that you block your opponent from starting! (that's if you can :)

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Rankings

The latest Open Match Race Rankings is released yesterday at the ISAF web site. There is a nice calculation behind these rankings. In a nutshell, it is the sum of your best four scores from the most recent two years. Each score is weighted by two factors, one based on the Grade of the event and the other based on the date. Scores from the most recent year (i.e. events occured within the last 365 days) are multiplied by 6, while events dating from 365-730 days are multiplied by 3. The grading factor is easier, it goes from 1 to 3.5 for Grade 5 to 1 respectively. So in the end the formula looks like this for each event: Score x Grade Factor x Year Factor. Given this formula, it's easy to see that during your first year it's quite important to have lots of races so that you can have at least 4 good scores under your belt. These will be multiplied by 6, giving you a boost in the rankings. For me, the numbers look not so bad so far.