Thursday, April 21, 2011

Prepping for a Windy Melges 24 Worlds

Kristen Lane and her team Brickhouse (tactician Charlie McKee, Willem Van Waay, Johnny Goldsberry and Matt Pistay) won the Melges 24 Charleston Race Week Championship last weekend. In just a few weeks she’ll be taking on many of the same teams in the Melges 24 World Championships in Corpus Christi, Texas (May 12-21). Lane, who lives in Tiburon, Calif., turns 40 in just a few weeks and has fast become one of the country’s top match racers - particularly impressive given that she only first stepped foot on a sailboat in her late 20’s.

Lane talked to SailBlast about winning in Charleston in one of the country’s most competitive fleets, what she expects to face in Corpus, as well as some other fun things she’s taking on to fill her dance card these days. The following is part 1 of a 2-part interview with Lane:

SailBlast: What did you do particularly well that helped you in Charleston?

Lane: We knew going into it that the Nationals were going to be bigger in terms of numbers than what the World Championships is going to be (for whatever reason there’s only 30+ boats registered for Corpus), so we knew it was going to be a fun challenge from the fleet management side. We went out and sailed the boat like we had been sailing it in all the regattas leading up to it. We’d been working with a coach in Miami before this event so everyone on the team felt like we were progressing every time we went sailing and we felt that way at the regatta too. We put that all together, executed it and it all worked out. The tactics were very challenging so it helped that we had made a lot of really good decisions. It all came together, it wasn’t any super formula, everything was just firing on all cylinders.

SailBlast: You’ve sailed Charleston before - was that a benefit?

Lane: I’ve done quite a bit of racing in Charleston so knew what to expect. It’s very challenging. Charleston is one of those places where you just cannot sail the shifts, you have to know where to put your boat on the racecourse - it makes all the difference in the world. The more boats you pack onto the racecourse the harder it is to fight for that piece of real estate that you need to keep the boat going in the fast lane for the currents. But we love sailing there. The weather is fantastic, the time from getting from your perfect dock to the racecourse is five minutes. It’s a perfect venue for the 24 on the inshore course.

SailBlast: What’s the competition looking like for Corpus?

Lane: I have a tremendous amount of respect for what Bora Gulari has done with his new boat not having been in the boat for long. He’s very fast. We were definitely chasing him around the racecourse more times than not. He’s one of the fastest US boats, if not the fastest. He’s definitely at the top of the list in terms of who is fast. One of the strongest US teams is Full Throttle - they’re the nicest guys out there on the racecourse as well as being the toughest competitors. I love racing against them. I’d probably put those two at the top, but it’s always great to spar with my teammates (LOL). Peter (my husband) and I have been working a lot training on our two boats. He oftentimes is faster than me and that pushes me to work harder.

SailBlast: Do you feel prepared going into the Worlds?

Lane: (LOL) It’s going to be really windy but I do. I’m more excited than anything because I just want to have one of those regattas where by the time you leave the dock you’re like, “Okay, here comes the breeze,” and you just sail the boat as fast as you can. They’re thrilling days of sailing and I’m looking forward to returning to that - I don’t know that it’s even possible to find a venue in America that could really prepare you for Corpus. It’s a really unique combination - everyone who is rolling into town for the Worlds, not matter how prepared they are, is going to have to go through some pains in the beginning. We’re doing our first training session there next week. It’ll be great to get back and roll through all the crew work in the very heavy air and revisit how that changes what I do on the helm. I’m excited for the challenge, the adrenalin and the experience of sailing the boat at top speeds and to compete against some of the best drivers in the world.

SailBlast: Let’s talk about the conditions in Corpus and the speeds you’ll be expecting.

Lane: When we were in Corpus last year, the light air days which were the race days ended up being 22 to 25 knots. A normal wind day there is 25 knots and it’s not unusual to have 30-35. The wind in Corpus is not thermal and it never turns off. You can walk out your door at midnight and it’s still 35 knots. It’s very warm, the Bay is on the shallow side and the chop is super steep. I expect we’ll race between 25-35 knots. Last year our top speed downwind was just over 22 knots - that was on one of the windy practice days. One of the impediments to sailing in Corpus is the chop so there’s always techniques and adjusting sail shape etc., whatever your program is for dealing with the chop. So, upwind we’re at about 6 knots but when we turn downwind we’ll be well into 20 knots no problem. The boats are right at home in those conditions - you certainly have to know how to handle them and because otherwise you’ll break things.

SailBlast: How long have you been racing the Melges 24?

Lane: We got our first boat in 2007 and raced the 2007 Worlds in Santa Cruz, my first Melges 24 Worlds. We also raced the Annapolis Worlds in 2009. Peter sails USA 63 which is the boat I had been using up until last October when I bought my new boat USA 812. I wouldn’t say there’s a performance difference in the new boat but I do think that as the boats are sailed year after year, it’s nice to have something that’s fresh. I think both of our boats are in superb shape and I’m extremely happy with them. Johnny Goldsberry (from Sausalito, Calif.) is in charge of maintaining our boats and is responsible for helping me with them for the Worlds and he’s done a fantastic job as our boat captain and on our sailing team for the past three years.

* Part 2 - Lane talks about her new passion, the 29er XX, teaching match racing to PROs, and team racing. Stay tuned.

Race Pics: Sara Proctor/ Sailfastphoto


  1. Inspiring story: to master such a large, highly competitive fleet after sailing only 11 years. Not many women at the top of that fleet. Shows what focus, commitment, drive and talent can do.

  2. I'm sure that Michelle meant to use the actual name of the regatta in reference to this rapidly growing spring event in the Holy City. It's no longer Charleston Race Week, but now Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week.

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