Saturday, April 23, 2011

Kristen Lane: In Love with the 29XX

SailBlast caught up with Kristen Lane, recent winner of the Melges 24 Championship at Charleston Race Week. The following is Part 2 of an interview with Lane (see Part 1 at Lane and her Melges 24 team of tactician Charlie McKee, Willem Van Waay, Johnny Goldsberry and Matt Pistay will race the Melges 24 Worlds in Corpus Christi starting May 12.

After that, Lane is looking forward to spending time in a boat relatively new to her that she’s very excited about - the 29erXX. Lane got introduced to the 29er when she started sailing with Charlie McKee in Annapolis over two years ago and has been playing on it since. Last December in Sydney, Australia she met Julian Bethwaite, designer of the 49er and 29er, who got her into the XX. She recently sailed the 29er World Championship in Argentina but her heart’s really in the XX, which she describes as a ‘souped up, turbo version' of the 29er.

Said Lane, “It’s a double trapeze boat, it’s very fun and the best way to describe it would be an attempt to make something like the 49er but for two smaller people.”

Beyond that, Lane continues to be a big fan of match racing on the Bay now teaching clinics to PROs, and of team racing which is becoming popular at clubs on the Bay.

SailBlast: Why the 29XX?

Lane: I sailed the XX in Sydney for three weeks straight, every possible day that I could, it’s such a performance boat and a blast to sail. I returned from that trip completely in love with the boat and haven’t been in my normal 29er rig since - I’m a XX 29er sailor now (LOL)! Seriously, I want to focus on that boat, I have some regattas picked out here in the US and am returning to Sydney in the winter again for longer and looking forward to connecting with good local sailors there to get some coaching and become more skilled.

SailBlast: What do you like about sailing in Sydney?

Lane: Sydney is a fantastic place for skiff sailing. As a sailing culture, I think the US is behind if you look at where we focus on what young people are sailing and what types of boats we put even adults in to improve their racing skills. We have this myopic focus on slow “tactical” boats whereas I find it really interesting that the country of Australia is a country of sailors who have been raised on fast-moving boats - they’re some of the strongest, tactical sailors in the world, strategically good at what they do and because they sail fast boats the tactics become even more challenging. When you look at who the America’s Cup teams have up the mast calling strategy, many are skiff sailors.

SailBlast: Could skiffs be a better platform from which to teach sailing?

Lane: As an adult who learned to sail as an adult, I believe strongly in the same attitude that the Australians seem to have - make it exciting and fun - and it should be looked at for adults who want to learn and get better. Sure, I might be a little more aggressive than maybe the average girl who learned to sail six years ago but I just feel like the skiff is a wonderful platform because not only do you go fast, you have to learn how to use your body weight and understand the dynamics of a boat moving at that speed. Because the boat is going so fast, the loads on all of the sheets are minimal so for a small person you couldn’t really ask for a better set up. It’s thrilling, it’s educational, it’s easy. Kind of like the Melges 24 because it’s one of the easier keel boats to drive for the driver.

SailBlast: Tell us about the match racing clinic you just held for PROs at St FYC?

Lane: The St FYC has recently made a large investment in a fleet of club J22s, which has been extremely well received by our membership. People are coming out to participate in team racing, learning how to team race, and also coming out to sail in match race regattas. If you like match racing, as I do, then you’ll know that there are really not a lot of regattas to go to, or there hasn’t been. With this investment by the St FYC, there are now four or five match racing regattas on the schedule just at St FYC alone this year. Match racing is exploding on the Bay and other clubs are beginning to get involved and wanting to host regattas. St FYC has even made arrangements to charter out their new boats to other clubs to help encourage more clubs to hold match regattas. That means that we now need PROS who haven’t match raced to understand what competitors are thinking during a match race and what the elements of the race course do to the tasks involved during a match race.

SailBlast: What are you exactly teaching?

Lane: I go through what I’m thinking as I prepare for a match race - from putting a team together, showing up on the water, prepare for a race - it was interesting to share the competitor side of match racing with PROs. What I find mostly with PROs is you can almost say that they are a certain personality type - excellent with the details, they understand the rules very well and they understand fleet racing. Some of the concepts of match racing in terms of the intensity of the fight that exists in a match race or the potential for such is not on their radar because it doesn’t have any place in their fleet racing mindset so it was great. We had 11 attendees, we met for 2 ½ hours and went through all of the different plays that I’m thinking about when I’m match racing, what the course should look like and why it’s important to have this type of racecourse so that competitors can have that kind of battle on the water.

SailBlast: And the obvious question, is this interest because the Cup will be on the Bay?

Lane: I do agree that in part there’s an interest because the Cup is coming here. One of the amazing benefits of the Larry Ellison selecting San Francisco as the venue for AC 34 is this entire population of sailors has now an interest in match racing. I’ve been interested in match racing on the Bay for a few years now - Peter (husband) and I do our mid-week-come-learn-to-match-race-with-Kristen every summer in Tiburon. That’s been going on for two years so I know there are some hardcore sailors interested in match racing. But when you consider the impact of the process of selecting San Francisco and now the planning for the America’s Cup has had on the number of people this process has reached - there are people just coming down to the city front, even walking in the door at the St FYC to see what it’s all about. Yes, people want to learn about match racing. We now have this fantastic vehicle for piquing people’s interest.

The truth is, that you know and I know that fleet racing is a little boring. If you’re setting the marks and or officiating a fleet race, it’s all very boring but in match racing pretty much everybody is playing the sport. People sailing the boats are clearly having an athletic time in match racing but the umpires are also actively engaged in the game as the race is going on, as is the PRO and race committee evaluating what the course is doing and how the competitors are racing and if adjustments need to be made. It’s a much more active form of sailing. As people become interested whether it’s because of the America’s Cup or the St FYCs brand new fleet of J22s that are always out on the city front racing and match racing, they’re going to want to try it so I think we’re going to see an increase in a interest in a more competitive form of sailing. I couldn’t be more excited.

SailBlast: You mentioned team racing taking off at the club level?

Lane: As a sport I think it’s thrilling. It’s definitely practice that makes the sport perfect. If match racing is turning the volume up on fleet racing, then team racing is drinking five Red Bulls and adding six other friends to the party. It’s a fantastic form of sailing. The St FYC team - members are stepping forward to train other members of the club and there’s more of a regular practice session developing.

It is also a perfect seque for youth sailing - if you look at the success of the St FYC J22s, you’ll notice immediately that the members who are rushing to train in the boat and represent the club are the younger members because team racing is and has been a staple within college sailing in America for years. Everybody talks about saving sailing and what to do with these people after they get out of college. Plugging into the St FYC J22 boat program and training for and representing the club is like going from their sailing team at USC or Stanford, moving to San Francisco to get a real job and now they’re on the St FYC team. I have to credit the leadership at St FYC who decided that this was a good thing to do. They did so hoping to reach that audience, that 20-32 years of age - it’s working and it’s great.

Photo 1: Mar del Plata, Argentina, 29er World Championship 2011
Photo 2: Classic Sydney Harbor in the 29erXX

No comments:

Post a Comment