Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Scoring Big on Day 1 by Mike Beuerlein

This was a very special year for Team Quiksilver and not just because this marked the third year in a row that we publicly spanked the Monkey Business team. This was a year we very much surpassed our team expectations and, unexpectedly, presented somewhat of a challenge to Team Two Wire; so much so that we didn’t know what to make of ourselves after the first day. So, I’ll give you a breakdown of the first day so that, next year, you can show us what to do with the remainder of the race.

We expected this year would be more of a challenge than last. Eight very strong and capable teams were entered in this year’s Great Texas 300. We rightly figured that we could finish anywhere from 2nd to 8th even if we sailed our best. We did not expect to challenge Team Two Wire for first even though we had finished second, just 30 minutes behind them last year. Since we’d been soundly beaten by every one of the entrants at least once at series regattas this year, we were also careful to not overplay our hand (or our impressive amount of boat preparation) so that, in the event Team Quiksilver were to fall behind, no one would give a second thought to covering us.

Still, Philippe had carefully studied the weather reports that indicated the wind
would build closer to shore on the first leg. After the start and as the rest of
the fleet majestically and testosteronely charged ahead in the first few hours,
jockeying mightily for the lead, Team Quiksilver tried mightily to soak it low to
stick to the rhumb line. As the rest of the fleet eventually spit us out the back,
it became easier and easier to stick to our original game plan of staying low,
keeping the speed up and, regularly, taking our medicine. It was, admittedly,
godawful painful to take regular doses of medicine. It seemed like we gybed
back away from the fleet 8 to 10 times, taking negative VMG and grumbling all
the while, but knowing we were putting money in the bank. Early on, we could
see our next closest to shore boat, Team Sailboat Shop, and we could tell we
were making serious time on them by being closer in. The boats farther out,
we began to disregard, since we were making such visible time on the next
boat closer in. And, because Team Quiksilver sails with a silver spinnaker, from
a distance we knew we were nearly invisible. So, we could observe our
competition but they could not see us. The wind was steadier closer in, not
only could we handle the larger waves and wind but we also got into breeze
that was 15 degrees more favorable (and probably 15% stronger) than our
competitors, such that we eventually came to (secretly, in our heart of hearts!)
acknowledge the hope to be truly challenging for the lead as we neared the

However, any distance sailor knows that competitors appear out of all points of
the compass as you near the finish line so we were keenly on the lookout for
the fleet as we approached but, strangely, there was absolutely no one around.
We hit the finish uneventfully to some discrete amount of hoopla as everyone
scanned the horizon for the favorites sure to be close behind. We had a beer
and some watermelon thoughtfully provided by our crew. We dropped the
sails. We put the boat away. We showered off. We had another beer.

Wait, sails finally appear on the horizon! We were beginning to wonder if we had sailed a proper course although, with the Great Texas 300, there really is no such thing as an improper course. Sure enough, the rest of the fleet came charging in as a pack, jostling and ramming one another in their haste to get ashore. Shannon Galway and Jonathan Atwood, who had elbowed and fought their way to the lead
after six hours of furious jockeying, looked like they’d seen a ghost as Team Quiksilver helped them pull their boats onto the beach!

It was a scene to warm the heart of perennial middle of, to back of the pack, finishers.

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