Monday, May 25, 2009

Ender Qualifies for the D-Cup!!!

The team goal for every regatta is the same, move on to the next round. Maintain that "control" mentality and just move on to the next round, the races you need to win, do whatever you need to do, it doesn't have to be pretty, we just want to move on. The scale of that type of thinking can be expanded from just trying to move out of the first round, to making it to the finals of a regatta, to winning entire regattas as they qualify you for a larger event. This was the case for Ender Racing in the BYC Grade3 Invitational. The winner of the event got an invitation to the Detroit Cup, a Grade2 event featuring some of the best match racers in the world. However, even though there was a lot on the line for this event and we were up against many talented sailors, the thought process was still the same....move on to the next round.

The Ender racing team consisted of myself, Mike Rehe, and Paul Haulsey. We knew we were up against a pretty stacked fleet (Sally Barkow, Chris VanTol, Adam Hollerbach, Peter Wickwire, etc.) but I felt like we would have some recent match race experience to draw on, at least early in the regatta. Even though I didnt drive the regatta the previous weekend, crewing for Kevin did get my head into the game and thinking about the strategy. On top of that, this was the first event on the Ender schedule, it had been on our minds for several we were as focused as ever to get this campaign underway.

So it was no suprise that we came out of the gates like we did. S#!t hot! Actually, it was more of me fouling people on the starting line, and Paul and Mike standing on their heads to keep us in the I guess you could say that I was the "s#!t," and they were the "hot." Three times on the first day we had to clear a penalty downwind at the finish line. We pulled it off three times, but Paul kept asking me to not let that happen again....he felt like I was taking "years off [his] life."....I told him to take it easy, Leprechauns live forever.

After several grueling races we found ourselves undefeted at the end of the day and the end of the Round Robin. The regatta though, was far from over. We were in the final four, as was Sally Barkow; but the scores were so close that the last flight of the day was needed to determine the final two spots. With Adam and Chris on land, they watched as four teams determined their fate in the regatta. The first race was a favorable outcome for Adam, he was it was CVT's turn. We all watched as the final race switched leaders, back and forth, and finally the underdog won the race, letting Chris, John, and Thad breath a little easier...they were in. Its funny... it wasn't pretty, and they needed a little help in the end; but Team Vantol did what they had to do to move on. Even though they were not having their best regatta on the first day, the good teams find a way to hang on.

The finals were set: Ender Racing, Team7 (Barkow), Adam Hollerbach, and VanTol Match Race. One vs Four, Two vs Three. Sunday would shape up to be a good day.

Sunday morning was a perfect Detroit spring sailing day. The sun was intense but the air was chilled; thankfully we had some consistent breeze coming right up the river from the south. We started where we left off....with superb boat-handling and my confidence growing after every start. The racing was tight, as expected, especially because the breeze was still settling down and the shifts and puffs were coming out of nowhere...err...everywhere. It was tough. We led around the first mark and sailed toward shore, Adam followed by ten boatlengths, jybed and sailed around us...needless to say the language on our boat was not polite. The funny thing is though, that the Detroit river is a tricky place to sail...and with the roles reversed at the next windward mark, Adam made the same decision I did...he continued straight. We followed by about ten lengths, jybed, and passed him. Hmmmm....I still think, even knowing what I know now, that I would have stayed straight also. Oh well. The second race wasnt as close as we controlled off the line, got our bow into the breeze/shift first, made sure to jybe EARLY, and extended our lead during the whole race. Two up, two down; at this point we hadn't lost a race...but we knew our time would come against some very good competition.

Chris, John, and Thad managed to take care of Sally in three close races and the final pairing was set. We entered from Starboard and managed to pin CVT against the protection marks. From there we held him until the gun went off and we were downspeed, we peeled off first and had a 20 boatlength lead almost immdiately. 1-0, Ender Racing.
The second race was slightly more frustrating. The race committe had to postpone as the breeze went hard left and got lighter, and more squirly. It finally came back and we started the next sequence....but the writing was on the wall....the breeze was getting more fickle and less predicatable. During the final four minutes the breeze went, again, hard left, so we tried to set up for a pin end start....our strategy paid off at first as we won the pin with Chris back about four lengths and just off our line to windward. All of a sudden he sailed into something that we didnt get...or even see! He was in his own personal puff sailing 20deg higher in 5kts more breeze....he sailed around us in the blink of an eye. As soon as we recognized the situation we did everything we could to minimize the damamge but it was too late, Chris was ahead by ten lengths rounding the first mark. Race over. 1-1.

People keep telling me that the third and final race was one of the best match races they have seen in a while. I wish I was sitting on shore with them, because I didnt get that feeling. I was stuck in a spinning vortex to hell; throwing everything I could at VanTol and getting thwarted at every turn by either Belle Isle, mother nature, or John's text-book positioning. I left a little piece of me out on that race course that just not sure if it was my dignity, or my hair-line. Either way, the third race was one of the most frustrating and emotionally draining races I have sailed (I think Chris would agree)....and for some reason I always have these type of races against the VanTols.

Like an idiot I fouled Chris during the prestart trying to "heard" him in a certain direction...he was being stubborn and I was being impatient. We started about even but Chris was on the correct side of the next shift and he rounded the first mark right ahead. A quick jybe put us in a windward postion and we were able to get over the top of him but we were slightly above layline. Just high of the two boat circle both boats jybed and got rid of our kites...we rounded on the inside and had the slight advantage up the last beat....that is, with a penalty to do. We did our turn up the beat and followed Chris into the windward mark. The breeze shifted hard left again and totally died, pulling chris down river and giving us a chance to get back into the race. From there it was just a crap-shoot....who got the puff first, who got the puff longer. VanTol sailed away and deeper with pressure, then died out. We got a puff and sailed right at the the end we finished overlapped....Ender losing by three feet. After all that...three feet.

VanTol wins 2-1. It was a bitter-sweet day for Ender racing. Remember, our goal is always to move on; and while we lost the regatta, we lost to the only person we were allowed to and still get an invite to the Detroit Cup. See, VanTol is already in the Detroit Cup on his ISAF ranking, so then the invite moves down to the second place boat. So even though we lost only two races and we couldn't do what we needed to win; we still did what we needed to move on. Congrats to Chris, John, and Thad....every beginning match racer out there remember, these guys won the bare minimum races to make it to the final four; then got taken to three races in each round of the finals to win. It wasnt pretty, they just did what they needed to do. Any team can win when they're on a hot streak; its the good teams that can hang on while everything goes pear-shaped....and still give themselves a shot at the end.

I just have to say that I think Ender Racing Team got stronger with the addition of Paul Haulsey. Both he and Mike sailed flawlessly and consistently....and really put us in a position to win every race. This was great learning experience and this team will be every bit up to the challenge of the Detroit Cup.

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