O As a tactician alongside Evan Aras and Sam Rogers on board Oivind Lorentzen III’S Nine at the 161-boat Audi J/ 70 World Championship in Sardinia, Italy, our pre-regatta plan was simple enough: With a four-fleet qualifying series to determine gold and silver fleets, the goal was to avoid any “majors” and make it into gold fleet. That meant sailing clean, low-density starts, and conservative tactics and boathandling. Most important, though, it meant no letters in our score line, which would be a one-way ticket to the silver fleet. If we could average fewer than 60 points over three races, we’d be through to gold fleet, with our scorecard resetting.
But the mistral came whistling in, and for the first two days of scheduled qualifying races, it pumped through Sardinia’s legendary Bomb Alley. The race committee held everyone onshore, where our daily
One tactician’s thoughts on battling in the biggest world championship fleet.
crew discussion turned from gold-fleet aspirations to silver-fleet avoidance because the entire regatta would now be decided over three days. Every race would count. There would be no clean slate in the championship series, so the strategy shifted overnight to a more aggressive approach knowing that we needed a few keeper scores to achieve a top-20 overall finish. Throw in a black flag on every start, and the margin for error was razor thin.
In the first day’s three qualifying races, we executed our game plan of starting near the favored end but not at it, using conservative pings at both ends. Mark roundings were chaotic, with at least a dozen boats piling into the marks at once under the watchful eye of the umpires. One minor slip-up would be costly. With comparable speed and sailing well enough, we advanced, standing in 18th place
Once into the gold fleet, however, the level of racing ratcheted up even higher, and our strategy changed once again: Lane management trumped playing the windshifts. If we were lucky enough to find a lane and keep it, we were most likely going to be in the lead pack. If we were ever forced to tack off the starting line, it likely meant an unwel- come trip to the peloton, where clean air was rare and breaking free was impossible.
After two tough final races, we fell short of our goal of finishing in the top 20. Looking back, our biggest areas for improvement would be our starting line communication and perfecting our final acceleration. Even in a big fleet, it comes down to beating the boat above and below you to survive in a lane off the starting line. Our final day was a tough reminder even average boatspeed at a World Championship can make for a long series, even if it is only three days.
The world champions — Peter Duncan, Willem van Waay, Victor Diaz de Leon and Jud Smith finished with a score line of 3-1-1-2-13, an amazing feat of consistency.