Road To The Cup – Week 12

Let’s first pause to remember the legendary Joe Duplin, who passed away on August 7th at the age of 82 (obit here).  I don’t know quite where to start.  Joe was a lot of things to a lot of people – US Navy vet, Star world champion, Rolex Yachtsman of the Year, Olympic sailing coach, MIT & Tufts sailing coach, tireless sailing advocate, partner and mentor to Greg Dolan, and dad to Rhodes sailor Angela Hickey.  We extend our sincerest condolences to Angela and her family, to Greg and to everyone else Joe touched.  Our thoughts are with you.


So where to start?  Maybe I should just share what Joe meant to me.  I first met him when he and Greg Dolan started Winthrop Marine back in the late 90s.  I was looking for someone to work on my boat and had boiled the decision down to a couple of choices.  Thankfully I went with Greg & Joe, and what I got from them was a whole lot more than a fair bottom and straight keel. They straightened me out too.  These guys were different.  Half measures were completely unacceptable to Joe – just not worth the time.  “Either do it or don’t do it, but don’t do it half-assed.”  And that no nonsense, take-no-prisoners approach permeated everything he and Greg did, including letting me know exactly what they thought about my on-the-water performance just about every week for several years.


Joe was tough.  I was never lucky enough to have him as a formal coach, but he scared the hell out of me anyway.  If there was no blood in the bilge, I couldn’t possibly be trying hard enough.  Descriptions of stupid mistakes were usually met with a downcast eye-roll and disgusted headshake while he walked away muttering under his breath.  “Babe, babe, babe…. how many times do I have to tell you?”  I dreaded letting him down.  But sometimes he was even tougher after a good day, as he’d lay into me about the 5 in my 1-1-5.  “What happened?  What was the mistake?  You’re not going to do that thing again, are you?”


And for me, that was Joe’s real gift.  He made you want to be better, not necessarily by pushing you, but simply by expecting it.  If Joe Duplin expects me to be better, than I must be capable of being better, right?  And how great is that?  What better measure of a person could there possible be than the innate ability to engender in others belief in themselves?


I haven’t seen Joe for a few years, but there is an enduring part of him that will always be with me.  “Just point at the mark and go babe.  It’s not that complicated.”  Thanks Joe, for everything.



Just three boats showed up this week to do beer can battle, and thankfully, John Casler was one of them and he provides us his usual synopsis.  “Pre-start, the wind varied from 5 to nil, and came in at times from just about all points of the compass, but seemed to be coming more up harbor than not.  The RC had no choice but to set a short course, out to 21 (“1MH”) and back, twice around.  We only finished half of that.


“At the start, 1775 [Team Casler] and 1398 (Anne Sousa) battled for the lead heading out.  3021, “Shake Your Bouy”, Jay Wager and Kevin Burke, lagged.  By the time we reached the harbor mouth, our ‘run’ had become a beat in very light and fickle air.  1398 was further south and well ahead while it was a run.  On the beat, however, the lead changed depending on the angle as the wind shifted and died, died and shifted.  The race was resolved, though, when 1398 continued on toward mark 19 (“1”) which is further out.  1775 barely drifted past 1MH and held the lead on the final leg in.  As a total curiosity, the flags and pennants high on the big boats in for the weekend were showing the wind out of the West, off the Fort and The Barnacle.  Also the moored boats were pointing that way, as was the flag at CYC.  It should have been a starboard tack beam reach back.  At the height of a Rhodes 19 main, however, there was a separate and perceptible zephyr from the direction of the lighthouse and CYC, and we ghosted in on a port tack reach.


“This all was fascinating enough that it attracted a spectator fleet consisting of a large yacht with Governor Baker and dozens of admirers dressed business casual as well as a mean looking State Police patrol boat escort.  Presumably they were impressed.”


Well, thanks John.  Sounds like a thriller.  Certainly worth missing the Pats preseason opener for.  Comparisons to paint drying come to mind, though it’s a first for these pages that we managed to work in the Governor’s name.  Well done, and of course, congratulations to all.  Congratulations also for identifying the mystery boat 3021.  Now if you would, please get us their email addresses so we can get them registered.


Out on the MRA Line, the forecast predicted a muggy, light easterly with a threat of thunderstorms in the afternoon.  The thunderstorms never materialized but the muggy 5-10 knot easterly was spot-on.  It wasn’t all that shifty so it was kind of get-a-good-start / boat speed type of day.  Left seemed to pay early when the tide was going out, and right seemed to be the play later after the tide turned.  Fifteen boats showed up, which was a reasonable turnout, considering.  The RC got in three, though at least two of us bailed on the 3rd to get a jump on packing up boats for Chicago.


Congratulations to Dave Nelson, who put on a clinic, rolling a 1-3-1 for 5 points.  Simply an outstanding day for him.  Taking 2nd with a 5-2-2 for 9 points was Eric Thornton, who very definitely had it going.  And finishing 3rd with a 10-1-4 for 15 points was Bill Heffernan, sailing with Yati Harsono.  Honorable mentions go to Team Pandapas in 4th with a line of of 2-4-DNS (12) for 18 and Team Frisch/Hourihan who took 5th with a 9-7-3- for 19 points.  Congratulations to all.


So, in Cup competition, not a lot of changes this week other than Dave Nelson jumping a place or two.  Though as I mentioned before, with Team Pendleton/Raisides out of town, a good turnout next Saturday will make the home stretch more of a contest.  The top-10 are list below.




Pendleton / Raisides




Larry Ehrhardt




Frisch / Hourihan




Team Pandapas




Team Lane / Heffernan




Dave Nelson




Team Fava / Nash




Team Taylor




Steve Uhl




Team Cormier / Dalton



Week 13 racing will include the Twilight on Thursday night and the third day of MRA Series 3 on Saturday.


Mail Bag

We got surprisingly little mail this week about Jim Taylor’s proposal to shorten Race Week to three days.  I thought that was going to be a real beehive whacker, but I guess August fatigue has set in.  What we did get was supportive, as in this from Alex Felton, “I agree on the shorten race week for purely selfish reasons in that I could use a day off after junior race week.”  We’ll talk more about this one after the season and see what the actual consensus is.


Elise Nash wrote in to update us on the Morgan Cup.  “It was a great weekend in Newport, with breeze in the mid-high teens both Friday and Saturday, followed by a dying northerly and then a sea breeze on Sunday.  I believe there were a total of 99 races run.  There were 10 teams total and the ‘deepest’ Morgan to date, according to the event organizers at NYYC.  Eastern YC finished 3rd, (beating every team at least once) with Beanie Eisner & Matt Hooks being the Fleet 5ers on that team.  CYC lost a three way tie breaker for 5th and ended up 7th. Fleet 5ers on that team were Evan Cooke and me, with credit to Joe Fava and Nat Taylor who qualified the CYC for the event by winning the Halloween Team Race last fall.   Commodore Brent Larlee also was in attendance.  Honorary/future Fleet 5ers also sailing were Chris Hufstader, Brent Larlee and Forbes Barber for CYC and Bill Lynn and Spencer Powers for EYC – and probably others I am forgetting.  [Below] is a great photo from NYYC of Evan, Forbes, Brent and me from Morgan Cup and also one of team EYC – who also included Tomas Hornos, another fleet 5er.






In response to our question about Twilight mystery skippers, we heard from skipper Ann Sousa.  “Hi Kim, While Sarah Sheldon is on the sidelines, the boat is being skippered by me.  The very enthusiastic crew members last week were Kelly Gifford and Jocelyn Cook, who are both new to sailing.  I grew up in Newport and came to sail for Salem State in the 90’s and am still in Salem.  First crewing for Rodger Drumm in the Sonar, I moved on to sail with the Sheldon’s when Rodger retired.  With the demise of the Sonar fleet, Sarah and I moved on to the Rhodes Fleet.  When not running my massage therapy business, I enjoy introducing others to the sport of sailing.  Not a mystery anymore!”  Well awesome Ann, thanks, and let’s make sure we see you guys at the next fleet party.


In response to our two Twilight questions about the location of Williams Rock and how to wrap a jib, John Casler wrote this.  “Where is Williams Rock?  Between Peaches Point and Eagle Island, but closer to Peaches.  In the vicinity of Coney Ledge, Grays Rock, and Kettlebottom.  How do you wrap a jib?  Damned if I know.  First time in 40 summers of Twilight Racing.  We were both too busy trying to nurse the main safely through a jibe in the monster swells to see it happen.  A pain in the neck to undo, though.”  No doubt.  So, where is Kettlebottom?


We heard from Amar Patel of the Savannah Fleet, who you may remember joined us for Nationals last year and plans to travel to Chicago this week.  “Looking forward to this trip and competing in Nationals again this year.  We recently traded emails with Charlie and Jim after their NOOD Marblehead Race Week triumph.  Hopefully they’re available for autographs next week.”  Autographs!  Hmm.  Wait, I know.  Buy a pair of those matching sneakers and get them to sign those.


Finally, Ken Cormier, in doing his diligence for Nationals (which he is sailing on Team Mohotta with Shannon Lane and me), ran across an interesting article headlined “Reputed Testicle-Eating Fish with Human-Like Teeth Caught in Michigan.”  Here is a picture of the little beast.



Ouch, right?  Trying to be helpful, Ken shared that with all of the Fleet 5ers planning to travel to Chicago on Sunday morning, rightly wondering, “Who is cleaning the bottom of the boats next week?”  As you’d expect, that generated a series of animated response.  This from Charlie Pendleton, “Awe man… Come on.  Seriously?”  And from Shannon Lane, “I hope no one with testicles falls off the boat next week.  Just sayin…,” to which Ken replied, “No worries, Kim Charlie and I will hang on tight.”  And to that Charlie replied, “What about Jim?  Are you saying he has nothing to worry about?”  Well, okay then.  Not touching that!  The string ended with this from Jim Raisides, “It is getting ugly already.”


One final note – Because I will be in Chicago this week attempting to keep Team Pendleton/Raisides/Nash honest, and therefore otherwise occupied, there will be no Week 13 RTTC published next week.  My apologies.  See you in two weeks.  –kp (


Special Feature

We noticed this account of Race Week on Nat Taylor’s blog and were so taken by its depth and thoughtfulness that we thought it worth reprinting for you here.  It’s totally a must read.


Wrapping Up Third Place At Marblehead Race Week by Nat Taylor


This year’s 30 boat fleet was deep, gritty and determined and was met in lumpy light-medium conditions, making fleet and course awareness critical.  The “don’t give up an inch” rule of MRA sailing with flat-water, seabreeze, 15-20 boat was a recipe for disaster, and instead it was essential to stay keenly aware of “the big picture:” it was routinely advantageous tack quickly to port off the line and even take sterns, compared to avoiding a tack and trying to beat nearby boats; it was routinely advantageous to take sterns to get separated or keep a lane, compared to a lee bow; it was routinely advantageous get leveraged to a side, compared to staying in phase up the middle; it was routinely advantageous to sail the rhumb line, compared to staying between the fleet and the mark.  All of which meant unlearning MRA “truths.”


Above all else, clear air was the formula for success.  In many conditions and fleets, it’s essential to gain leverage on the boats around you which requires techniques like staying between them and the mark and battling for lanes and position, thus establishing your position ahead of those boats.  That was not the case this year and the gains that people made by getting out of the pack were enormous, even if it meant taking sterns or sailing a header.  We attribute this all the VMG.  If you were at all in the mix, you were inevitably pinching and sucking bad air, which meant that the gains from consolidating your lead on a few boats, sailing a lift, getting a puff or seeking out a current advantage where often counterbalanced (or worse!) by the boats that were sailing free simply because they were able to go so much faster.  This resulted in better VMG and gains, despite possible pitfalls of extra distance or less velocity, since they were counteracted by the advantage of “keeping things flowing.”


Six different boats won races and everyone was in the cheap seats at times, so it was critical to stay on “the grind.”  Our “best” finishes points-wise were a 1-2-2, but our “best” net (and more important/rewarding) finishes were 5-6, since in the latter set we ground back to pass between thirty and forty boats.  This was important, since adding just 15 points to our score line would have sent us back to seventh!  The keys to grinding back were mentality and execution, not drastically different strategy or big risks.  We (or at least I did) spent most of my mental effort dragging myself out of the “we’re f*cked” gutter, which is both incredibly challenging and absolutely essential.  However once you’re out, you can return to simple but effective execution of the basics.  We just avoided mistakes, avoided outsmarting ourselves and avoided huge risks — instead sailing for clear air, getting separation when we could and striving for a low, fast groove — and seized every opportunity to pick off boats.  In Race 7, we rounded W1 in front of just four boats.  On the run, we separated from the reaching pack by sailing the rhumbline and by the leeward mark we had already passed almost ten boats.  On the beat, we again took an early opportunity to separate and sailed in clear air around some more boats.  On the last run, we kept grinding and moved from sixth to fifth just 100 feet from the finish.  Textbook grind.


Starting with freedom, or the option to get onto port quickly and into clear air, was worth the cost of a tack and even the cost of taking a few sterns.  Several times I was shocked (and horrified!) to see boats that we had flushed coming back to cross us after only twenty or so boatlenghts of separation, despite the fact that we felt like were winning by continuing to hold a lane on starboard.  Since the fleet was so deep, lots of boats could effectively hold their lane on starboard by pinching, which collectively slowed everyone down and let the early tackers sail free.  Larry in particular seemed to make money with this strategy.


The complexities added by inconsistent chop, velocity, direction and current made communication particularly essential, and gentle (or not!) reminders about everything paid off on our boat.  Multiple times both of us got caught up in what was going on outside our boat, and temporarily but egregiously screwed up our baseline sail trim (a problem we’ve all but solved in most conditions with good marks.)  It was immensely helpful to have a second set of eyes take a moment to glance at the marks to ensure reasonable trim and make a comment, thus breaking our normal boundaries of trust where recommendations for changes in trim are discussions of subtleties.  We also had to keep up a constant back and forth about being full speed, since chop and traffic were so frequently slowing us down.  (As Jim Raisides put “nothing felt good.”)  Normally we look for cues like a change in heel angle to prompt adjustments, but instead to our cues from staying hyper-aware of relative velocity and angle compared to the boats around us.  Assessing that unquantifiable feeling of “full speed” is so nebulous, that it paid to just always talk about it, despite the possibility that it might be a distraction from other signals.


People seemed to forget that max VMG is usually dead downwind in heavy, slow boats with symmetrical kites, and instead reached all over the course.  After eleven races, I estimate that we passed 40 boats downwind due to our commitment to sailing near the rhumb line.  Our technique of max weight forward, max roll to weather and floating the kite head about six inches off the mast no doubt contributed to our gains, but we also sailed a ton less distance than those who reached.  Clear air was still a consideration, but it usually wasn’t a hard decision to choose the low road, if there were more than 1 or 2 boats to battle for clear air on the reaching road.


We believe crew weight was a huge factor and there seems to be some supporting data points.  Tipping the scales at almost 400 pounds, we sailed to a horizon job win in the breeziest race of the series.  Dave Nelson and Frankie Heart, who won the 2015 Nationals in similarly light-lumpy conditions, finished a disappointing ninth and we suspect it is no coincidence since they sailed the event with around 500 pounds of crew weight.  Joe and Elise, who must weigh around 250 pounds combined, had amazing speed all around the course.  So while everyone knows the importance of crew weight when it’s windy, I think they forget that 100 pounds of crew weight is around 10% of the total displacement in Rhodes 19 and since F=Ma… it follows that heavier boats are at a disadvantage in lumpy, light conditions when lots of acceleration is required.


Overall, it was an epic regatta.  Huge thanks to my Dad for enabling us battle and laugh through it together.  Another huge thanks to the race committee and all of the volunteers.  And huge congratulations to Jim and Charlie for sailing masterfully and earning a trip to the BVI!

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