2018 ILYA X Boat Champion Shares Race Course Notes

Chapman Petersen, of Lake Geneva Yacht Club, was the 2018 ILYA X boat champion in the senior fleet. In a 45-boat fleet, Chapman dominated, with a final total of nine points in a seven race-regatta (one throwout).

Chapman graciously agreed to share his thoughts on some specific questions prepared by SailZing.

Maintaining Consistency

SailZing: The conditions at Pewaukee for the Inland championships were tricky, with shifty and puffy winds. All of the top ten sailors, except you, had at least one race finish outside the top ten. What were the keys to your consistency in these conditions?

Chapman: On the starting line, we may stay near the middle of the line until about 2:30 left in the sequence. At that point, we are in a position to decision on which side of the starting line we want to be on.  You take more risk if you commit to either end too early.

Throughout any race where we may not be doing well, we are just as focused as when we are leading. This creates opportunities to pass boats – and every position gained (or lost) counts equally in the final standings!

Angle of Heel

SailZing: You sail the boat very flat, with very little heeling, even as a puff first hits. Many sailors heel up a bit and then react. What is your technique for anticipating and reacting to puffs? Do you have any specific practice techniques for developing this skill?

Chapman: My crew Jack Plummer and I always communicate amongst ourselves when we see a change in velocity coming. When we expect it, we have a better opportunity to slide out against the puff or scoot into the boat with a lull while the change in wind is happening. If we get an unexpected puff, we try and move our weight as fast as possible but sometimes the puff is just too big so I will ease the main out to keep the boat flat.  We are constantly adjusting sail trim as the wind is always changing in direction or apparent angle.

A great way to practice this is to get real close to the shore the wind is blowing from (on a windy day) and try to keep the boat flat, practicing these techniques with your crew – it is not easy but it will fine tune your skills!

Changing Gears

SailZing: Do you focus on changing “gears” (point mode, foot mode, etc.) as needed in the X boat? Describe how you approach that.

Chapman: There are many different scenarios, in a single race, where different “gears” are necessary and through experience in many regattas I have developed a sense on when it is a good time to foot, and when it is a good time to point.
A few examples:
  • In the oscillating conditions like we were typically experiencing over the ILYA Championship event, it was important to be in a mode for speed.  This helps us get to the next oscillation more quickly. When you do get your shift, on whatever side of the racecourse you are on, you can take that next lift over your competition.
  • On the west end (with a NW breeze), with small waves, it did not hurt too much to be in a point mode more often.
  • On the eastern race course, the waves were bigger and you had to keep the bow down (foot mode) to prevent getting rolled by your competitors to windward.


Picking a Side

SailZing: In the conditions we experienced on Pewaukee this week, it seemed like one side of the course normally paid off better than the other. Did you focus on picking a side? Or were you more focused on sailing the lifted tack and staying in pressure? Or both?

Chapman: Throughout the regatta, in every race, we never felt like there was a favored side or a side that constantly had more wind.  It was more important to know what phase of a shift we were in. When a left or a right wind phase would arrive on the racecourse, it would typically bring more wind with it.
As soon as we finish every race, we focus on checking the wind for the next race.  If on the starting line during the sequence there is a left shift, you will most likely want to start at the pin (left) end.  If I know that the lefty has only been there for a minute, the lefty will probably hold after the start, and you will want to be pin. If it has been a lefty for 9 minutes however, we would start mid-line.
The expectation needs to be if it has been a lefty for a long time, the right oscillation should come soon and in that case we would be in a good position to tack back from the right side and cross all the people fighting at the pin for a lefty, that may not have lasted long enough to help.

Crossing the Course

SailZing: Several times during the races, it appeared you recognized that the other side was paying off better and took a long tack, not necessarily lifted, to get to that side. That is hard for a lot of sailors to do. How do you decide if it’s worth it to cross the course?

Chapman: Patience is critical in oscillating conditions. Sometimes you found yourself on the wrong side of the course for a shift, but if you stayed patient, eventually the wind clocks back and you can make it back up to the top of the fleet. To make the critical decision, I look at about how many boats I would lose/gain if I tacked immediately versus waiting 3-5 minutes and then tacking.  Remember, the tacks themselves cost you some time and distance, so you need to incorporate that into making the decision to tack.


SailZing: You mentioned that you have developed patience during difficult conditions. Could you elaborate on that?

Chapman: Chasing shifts does not work unless you have a persistent shift, so it was important to not think about going to the side that was currently working but rather staying patient and waiting for your shift to come.  It “almost” always does! If you get antsy it typically doesn’t work out. It is typically worth being in bad air for some time to get to the correct side and sail the long tack over your competition.

Related Content:

Starting Strategy and Tactics: Where to Start
Sail the Lifted Tack – How and When?
Andy Burdick Race Course Notes for ILYA Invite Win

Sailors Helping Sailors

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