Sunday, December 06, 2009

2.4mR US Nationals and Open Worlds

Here is a wonderful report from Jenny Davey who was in Florida for the recent 2.4mR Big Show. Not only does she tell us the details of the regatta, but also gives us some insight on a class of boat unknown to Montreal sailors until now. My apologies for getting it online late. The job for money has been getting in the way! Thank you so much Jenny!
Ralph, Montreal Sailing
I've just returned from the 2.4mR US Nationals and Open Worlds held at the Edison Sailing Center in Fort Myers, Florida, November October 28 – November 6. I drove down with some boats and a couple of my PCYC/AQVA pals: Scott Lutes (Martin 16-turned-2.4mR sailor) and fellow coach Matt Palardy. Scott bought his 2.4 this spring after getting hooked when he chartered one at last winter’s Miami OCRs. We met up in Ft Myers with some of our good friends from the Nepean Sailing Club: Aaron Wong-Sing and Christine Lavallee (both Martin-to-2.4 converts) and Peter Wood, (long time NSC AbleSail volunteer and recently interim Exec Director of the CYA) who all keep their boats in Ottawa. AQVA has a great relationship with the Nepean program, and we look forward to developing the 2.4 fleet in the Montreal-Ottawa valley.

A quick intro to the 2.4mR, for those not familiar: The 2.4mR is the Paralympic single-handed boat and the class that brought Canada its first-ever sailing Gold, thanks to Nova Scotia’s Paul Tingley in Beijing! The 2.4mR, which evolved from the Mini-12, is a small (4.16m LOA) keel boat with a main and jib that uses a whisker pole on the downwind. It is in fact a construction class boat, but with essentially one class designer - Sweden’s Peter Norlin - it is often mistaken as a one-design.

The Martin graduates quickly learned that a start line with 45 aggressive 2.4mRs is very different from a start of 10 or even 20 Martin 16s. Scott, Aaron and Christine all learned a LOT - as did our 'veteran', Peter – but his years in many other fleets did serve him well in tight situations. The fleet was deep - take note that this was the ‘Open’ Worlds, meaning that sailors with disabilities and able-bodied athletes competed alongside each other on the same start line. I would guess the breakdown was about 60/40 able-bodied to disabled, including several Paralypmic medalists, as well as world, country and class champions from a variety of boats, accessible and otherwise.

Racing in Fort Myers was tricky. The US Nationals consisted of three days of light, shifty winds and temperatures that hit the mid-30s each day, burning into the low 40s with humidity factored in. The Caloosahatchee River is shallow – one boat actually ran aground on their way home from the racing area one day – with winds that swirl every which way depending on the temperature, sea breeze, and the clash of Gulf and Coastal weather systems. The compass pretty much hit 0-360 and everything in between while we there. Throw in the tides on top of it all, and sailboat racing gets interesting!

Scott had several strong races in the US Nationals: 13, 18 and 19 (on 39 boats) to finish 28th overall. Aaron and Christine were 34 and 35 respectively. We’re all learning quickly that some more work needs to be done to make each boat more ‘sailable’ by making adjustments to the layout inside the cockpit and some of the rigging systems in play so each sailor’s boat is perfectly tuned to their unique abilities. Imagine taking virtually every control you have on a Shark, cramming them all onto one slim dashboard in front of you, and you basically have the inside of a 2.4. This is already a lot to handle, especially at starts and roundings, so if you then imagine any sort of limitation – say decreased trunk stability, or diminished strength arm strength if you reach above chest level, it quickly becomes apparent how a carefully planned, intuitive layout is critical. However, we learned a lot by peeking into other boats and asking lots of questions!

The Worlds were more difficult all around for everyone: More boats, more intensity and more consecutive days of racing in extreme heat (yes, we were even bitching about the heat and sun after a few days). The whole fleet was more aggressive, sometimes with 2 or 3 Generals in a row, and the Black Flag soon became a fairly common sight. It gradually became more evident who was in really peak physical and mental condition as the days wore on - many of the top finishers were carded and/or full-time athletes. The last couple of days were really windy, ending with steady 18 knots gusting 20-25 on the final day. After 11 races, the event was won by USA Paralympian John Rufs, followed by fellow American Carl Horrocks, with Canada’s Paul Tingley rounding out the top 3. From our crew, Scott finished 36th on 44, Peter 32, Christine 39 and Aaron 41 (he couldn't race the last day due to equipment breakdown). Christine may have been the big winner though, as she came out of the event with a new boat, bought from none other than designer Peter Norlin himself!

A few interesting notes on who was in the top 10:

  • 5 athletes with disabilities (4 who ride wheelchairs) 
  • 5 able-bodied
  • A female sailor
  • 3 Top-5 Beijing ‘08 finishers
  • A 75-year old sailor
  • A 27-year old 49er campaigner
  • 5 countries represented (3 Canadian finishers!)

I got the chance to work with Paralympic coach Craig Guthrie (who coached Paul Beijing) and I learned a lot myself. The Canadian Sailing Team crew of Craig, Paul, Bruce Millar were great to our rookie gang and helped us each and every day. Craig even came over to our house to spend an evening discussing goal-setting, rig tuning, and tactics (in exchange for access to our washing machine and some dinner!).
I'm really proud of our gang and look forward seeing how they fare at the Miami OCRs in January.


PS. If you’re at PCYC (or even Nepean) be sure to look around for these guys and ask to check out their cool little boats!