|enlightenment in a Lightning: What Nick Seraphinoff
learned while sailing with the champs
----- Original Message -----
From: Jim A
To: Nick Seraphinoff
Sent: Thursday, July 22, 2004 11:21 AM
I thank you for the kind words. I don't have any problems with anything you have said. It is actually nice to hear someone else's observations and to put into words some things that I do instinctively instead of thinking about.
I would love to sail a Wayfarer. The problem with Sept. 11 & 12 is that's the Lightning regatta at my home club, Pontiac Yacht Club. So at the moment I think I should plan on sailing at my home club. I will let you know if my plans change as I think it would be very fun. I need to sail in some different boats more often as you always learn something new by sailing different boats. So keep me in mind and I really enjoyed sailing and spending some time with you over the weekend.
A Ride With The Champs!!!
Recently my home club, the Tawas Bay Yacht Club hosted a Lightning regatta and Jim Allen and his sister, Jane, of Lightning fame were absolutely desperate for crew. The local competitors’ answer was to offer me up to fill a spot in the center of their boat. (I wonder if this was part of a diabolical plan perpetrated by the local Lightning sailors). I am a club racer who has risen to the high side of mediocre due to 36 years of racing, but I’m sure no one bothered to tell them this. For me it was going to be a great opportunity to see why some people do their “horizon” jobs while the rest of us wallow along in the pack.
I didn’t, of course, see any great magical secrets, but there were a lot of subtle differences that helped them win the regatta despite weaknesses in the center of the boat.
The first surprise was boat speed and pointing. I never saw them go markedly faster or point a lot higher than anyone. At times, with changes in the wind, Jim would ask Jane to make small changes in the jib halyard tension as well as the jib cunningham. My perception was that the changes were more to insure that they didn’t go slow rather than a search for superior speed. Of course they either won the starts or were never in what I would call a bad position at the start.
The biggest difference to my methods I saw going upwind was looking for wind. To Jim and Jane, looking for good wind was just as important as the shifts. I actually saw them stay on a headed tack for brief periods of time to sail into a better wind ahead. This almost always paid off for them. A lot of the search for good wind velocity was done by Jane as she was constantly feeding information to Jim. Of course she spent even more time studying the wind and looking for better velocity off the wind which paid off just as much as the search when going upwind.
On Saturday it was quite windy, which was good for all three of us, and they led at every mark and won all four races. Therefore their attitude was quite relaxed and I didn’t see the fierce competitors I had expected. However, in lighter winds on Sunday, they did not lead all the time and you could really see the competitive nature begin to emerge. The intensity level rose a few points even though the regatta was won by the fifth race. This was a small regatta and I could feel that their intensity would rise dramatically with the size and importance of the regatta.
Finally, I did not find it surprising that no one ever raised their voice on the boat. There was one time that Jim was sending some pretty frantic instructions to me to help me get the chute flying. But if the fleet was closing in on you and your spinnaker looked like a parachute caught in a tree with the jumper hanging from the cords, you too would send pretty frantic instructions to the guy who is supposed to have it flying.