High School Team Sailing Melges at HYC Hospice Cup

This weekend 4 of our High School Sailors will be competing on the Melges 24 at the Hampton Yacht Club Hospice Cup Regatta! This is the first opportunity the kids will have this year to step up to a bigger grand prix style racing platform by racing one design against some of the best adult sailors in the Southern Chesapeake Bay region.

Racing begins Saturday morning with a Skippers meeting at HYC at 930 am, but for Outer Banks kids it really begins with a few days of boat preparation and then an early 4-5 am departure from Hatteras Island, towing the boat to Hampton Virginia in time to setup the rig and launch. First start warning signal is scheduled for 11 am. It can take a little time for boats to get from the Club out into the Hampton River as they must navigate a ways out through barge and military traffic!…. yes, they must stay clear of the Air Craft Carriers !!!!

This type of racing is a bit more “Big Team” leadership oriented than the normal High School 420, which is a 2 person per boat team. The Melges 24 is normally sailed by 5-6 crew. This weekend we will be sailing with 6. Being their first big boat one design regatta, the Head Coach Jay Phillips and Colington Yacht Club Commodore, Geoff Grisham, will be accompanying the kids through the day of racing. Bigger boat racing teaches the kids some useful life skills, management and leadership. Some of the lessons we try to impress the kids with to be successful on the race course include:

  • Learn your Position, focus on your job, not others’, and do it well.
  • Be Prepared. Once out on the water there is no turning back.
  • Effective Communication, even when things are loud and distracting out on the water
  • Respect the chain of command on the boat. These boats have a leader called the Tactician.
  • Be Inclusive. Everyone has a job that is important no matter how small it may seem.
  • Have a Sense of Humor. Things frequently dont go as planned, if you let it get to you, its counterproductive to the team experience.
  • Set realistic expectations, but do set expectations.
  • Learn from those who have more experience.
  • Dont be afraid or too proud to copy the successful tactics and strategies that are working for others on the course.
  • Be a good sport and keep your chin up when you loose. In Sailing competition, its very difficult to always be the winner…. nearly impossible.
  • Hindsight the team performance after each race. There will be at least 5 races during the day, try to improve some each race! Not just in your finish placement, but in your teamwork, position, and understanding of whats going on around you.
  • Celebrate your successes and learn from your mistakes.

Yacht Racing, especially One Design Racing, is very challenging in so many ways. All the boats in a one design fleet are the same with only minor differences in the age and make of the sails and some rigging expertise and nuances. It can take a lifetime to be great at sailboat racing and even then there is no way to be perfect–the weather, water and wind hold too many surprises to be reigned in to perfection. Find a realistic competitor with similar skills and experience, and set an objective for the day to do well against that one team. For Outer Banks sailors this weekend, out on their first bigger boat regatta in a place with lots of distractions and current, its not likely they will beat the professionals on some of the boats who have a lifetime of competitive sailing experience, but they can earn some respect in several ways and even put the big boys/girls on notice. Even the most experienced sailors know they can loose to new talent simply because the nature of the sport.

So what makes a winning team? At Hatteras Sailing we coach all levels some fundamentals that are good for sailing and for living. It starts with practice and preparation. One of the harder technical skills involves understanding the racing rules which are quite complex and often deviate from the standard navigation regulation. One of the magic tricks that takes a lot of time on the water is understanding the wind–how it oscilates, shifts and changes in speed during each race and how to capitalize on your understanding of it. Lastly, its important to understand that a Regatta, which has numerous races, is sometimes like a war where you may loose some battles but eventually win the war. Frequently there will be teams that never get a 1st place, but average high throughout the course of the races, and in the end wind up with a lower score (i.e. in sailboat racing like golf its the cumulative low score that wins the regatta).

If you or your kids would like to learn more about sailing, please reach out to us at Hatteras Community Sailing! We are a non profit community based US SAILING acreditted junior and adult sailing program. Community sailing programs unlike Yacht Clubs are inclusive rather than exclusive. We are here to promote the sport and educate the community about boating and seamanship. On an island jutting out in the Ocean to the edge of the Gulf Stream, we can’t impress enough how important it is to be knowledgeable and skilled on the water. hatterassailing.org