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 :).