SailZing.com Contributor Henry Chesnutt (Lake Harriet Yacht Club) chatted with MC Scow Champion Bill Colburn after he won a Lake Harriet Yacht Club Championship race recently in “harrowing and gusty conditions”. Bill is a four time ILYA MC Champ from 2008-2011.
Henry: Bill, your successful race today began with a fantastic start. What was going on in your head the 10 minutes before the signal that resulted in such an effective start?
Bill: Well, I had a line sight, that I used at the start. It felt like the line was favored to the right. Everyone was jammed up over there, and we didn’t want to be in that traffic, so we started just to the left of the crowd, which ended up being about the middle of the line. I was able to lock in on the sight, with Maureen giving me a clear countdown, and trimmed in and got to full speed quickly at the gun. We tried not to be worried or flustered by traffic, which was a big thing at nationals in Texas this year too. Pretend that you’re starting alone and get a good start. Before the start we had seen left gusts coming down the lake, so I wasn’t worried at all about winning the right end of the line. Not too long after the start the first left came in, and we were able to tack into a good position at that point.
H: The rest of the race you pretty much held and extended your lead the whole way, with Ryan Grosch chasing your tail. What was going through your head to make sure Ryan didn’t get around you?
B: I might add that we barely had a lead around the first windward mark. Mary Maloney’s boat was coming in fast from the right side, and we were slow from the left. We tacked just in front and underneath her, with about 100 yards to go to the mark. At that point the right shift strengthened and we were able to make the mark. That was luck. If the wind had gone left again, as it often does, we would have been in trouble, with no safe place to tack, and Ryan coming in strong from even further to the right.
Today was gusty to the point it didn’t feel very safe because the gusts were so strong, the lulls so weak, and every once in a while a gust would be a major shift. We were trying to stay in control.
We had five windward legs, and I tried to not cover Ryan until the end. It seemed there were more rights than lefts, so the key for us was to find good lefts to notch back over [to course right]. We’d cruise along on starboard until we were definitely knocked, notch over for a little bit, then get back on starboard. It seemed that if you found a good left you would gain on everyone, if you didn’t find a good left, you would lose on everyone.
Ryan is so good it’s very tricky to not worry about him and sail your own race. That’s what I try to do; sail my own race but be aware of where he is.
H: You mentioned the puffs earlier, what are your strategies for dealing with such up and down conditions?
B: [Chuckle] I try to communicate well with my wife so that we’re hiked out when we need to be hiked out, and so that she’s aware that the next puff might be a knock and we might need to tack quickly. We only had one tack that was out of control where we tacked before she was ready because the shift was too big. I try to avoid those and predict when it might happen. I also try not to tack before we’re into the breeze, sometimes it seems like it’s going to be a knock and then it isn’t. I try to make sure it’s a full-on knock before we tack.
H: Alright, thanks for your time Bill!
B: Yes, fun racing!