2022 X Boat champion Owen Kohut and crew Ivar Eiseman won a hard-fought regatta at the senior X boat Inland Lake Yachting Association (ILYA) regatta at Clear Lake, IA. This is remarkable, since it is Owen’s first ILYA Champs senior fleet appearance. (He placed fourth in 2021 Junior X boat championship).
Owen graciously agreed to share his thoughts on questions we supplied.
Tell us what boats you have been sailing, other than the X boat.
In the ILYA, I also skip an M15 (4th Place, 2022 ILYA Champs) and crew on an E boat skipped by Grady Strothman.
For high school sailing, I sail both single and double-handed boats for Lake Forest High School, driving the 420 and the laser.
Which people have most influenced your sailing?
The two biggest influences would be my Lake Geneva coach Marek Valasek and my Lake Forest coach Will Howard. Recently, I’ve been working with Erik Bowers on my laser sailing as well.
Overall, I have found the inland to be an incredibly supportive community. My parents are not sailors, so I am a first-generation sailor. I’m so grateful to Richard Beers for introducing me to the sport when I was just 6 years old. My parents have been so amazing over the years supporting me and taking me to ongoing practices and regattas.
And I feel very fortunate and grateful for the support and insights I’ve received from some really accomplished sailors and friends, Peter Strothman and Chapman Petersen.
What important things have you improved on this year?
My boat speed is the biggest area of improvement. We have spent a lot of time on my boat speed in practices and my boat tactics in differing situations. This really helped in the X Inland – sailing on a lake that I had never been on before and having various starts…some in the front, others getting jammed up in the middle. Having a really strong X-boat fleet on my home lake really made a difference because we all push each other.
What did you focus on for success in this regatta?
I focused on using my speed as an advantage. I didn’t start in front in every race so my speed allowed me to catch boats and improve my standing in each race.
Sailing a bit more conservatively. I used to try to go from 10th to 1st and often taking these big risks didn’t pay off. I am still known for taking some risks, but I now look at moving up 1 or 2 boats per move on the course.
Discuss some key situations in the regatta that made a big difference.
Let me start with the last race. I was 2 points behind Sophie and Tilly Niemann and Finn Burdick was in the mix and leading the race. They are great sailors, so I had to watch where they were on the start and throughout the race. On the 2nd upwind a huge lefty with pressure on course left came in. I saw it and moved on it; no one else did, so I caught a bunch of boats.
In races three and four, I had good starts and I used boat speed to increase my lead and sailed my race, covering the fleet on the last beat. My focus here was just reading the wind and increasing speed.
Talk about your approach to trimming the mainsail in the X Boat.
My trim on the main sail looks very different depending on the wind conditions. When the breeze is light, I have all the settings off with the vang taught, my main relatively eased, and the leech open, not choking off the sail. In medium wind, where my crew and I are both sitting high side, my settings will be the same with maybe more vang depending on the feel. I will have my main slightly tighter with the leech tell tails flowing back. If I were to look up at the sail it would be deep for maximum power. In heavy wind where both me and my crew are hiking, I will have max vang, taught Cunningham, playing it in the pressure and outhaul according to the waves…deeper if there are larger waves and shallower if flatter water. My main trim will always be moving, keeping the boat as flat as possible.