J-22 North American and World Champion Terry Flynn is a third generation sail maker from Annapolis, Maryland. It was there he developed a great foundation for both cruising and racing.
Flynn grew up around sailors and naturally fell into sail making and has never looked back. He has worked his way up through the ranks, doing everything from bench work to design during his 37 year career. Flynn races all over the country and has been with Quantum Sails since the beginning. He draws from his experiences to make sails that help customers improve their racing results or simply get more enjoyment out of their boats.
GCM: What are three of the most important on the water, pre-race activities you do when you get to a regatta?
TF: First, I think the most important thing you can do is sail more. Time in the boat is always good. Second, on race day get to the race area early enough to sail an entire beat before the race. I will get someone out there before the regatta to use as a pace boat. We will go out together, line up, test speed and talk about conditions, rig settings and what they think may happen during the day with the wind. This helps both boats.
The last and most important thing is to have a good plan for the first beat. Take into account what you learned in practice along with wind patterns, potential shifts and history of the area.
GCM: There is a lot going on in a sailboat race. How do you block out all the distractions and concentrate on making the boat go fast?
TF: I sail on a lot of different boats, some as a driver and some as crew. As the driver it is important to have a member of the crew to do the tactics so I can keep my head down and concentrate. Sailing with people who are good helps a ton. As part of the crew I try to keep the helmsman aware of what’s going on around the race course. The best tacticians constantly talk about what they see and are thinking so everyone knows and can get involved.
GCM: What is a good way to practice starting in big fleets?
TF: Try not to get overwhelmed by the total number of boats at the regatta. Starting is more about controlling the boats around you. We try to split the line into thirds for areas to start in. Keep in mind that if you want to go right the first beat you may not want to start on the left side of the line, even if it is favored. Giving up a little at the beginning but going the way you want is usually a better plan.
GCM: Who was the biggest influence on you in your sailing career?
TF: I guess my dad to start with. Sailing with him as a kid I learned the value of preparation for both crew and boats. He was also very supportive, well, now that I think about it maybe he wasn’t. I can remember early on at a regatta I was in the back of the fleet and got hit a couple of times. He sat me down and reminded me that since I was in back with them I deserved everything I got. I went through the junior program at Severn Sailing in Annapolis. Frank Lawson was the head instructor and on days that it was too windy to race he would send almost everyone home. He kept a few of us and we would go race the 420s. We got used to sailing in everything and the more we did it the more comfortable we got.
GCM: In a race when two boats cross going upwind one is on the lifted tack. How does this play into your overall strategy going up the beat?
TF: Wow, that’s a hard one. When two boats are crossing we discuss a few things.
Do we want to be on this tack? Are we lifted or headed? Is it taking us to the side of the course we want? Is the other boat seeing anything different where he is going?
If the answer is you want to keep going now you need to protect your lane. If you think the crossing boat is going to tack on your wind bear off a few lengths before you cross. This may force him to tack early and give you a little more room. If you have the right of way, Starboard tack you may wave him across even if it means you have to duck him. It is quicker than two tacks and going the wrong way.
If you decide you don’t want to be on this tack make sure you have clear wind in the new lane. If there are other boats around think about it you want to tack on their wind or give them a clean lane. Remember tacking on someone will usually drive them away from you and make it harder to keep track of. If it is early in the race of regatta it is not a bad think to keep everyone friendly and give him some slack. Most of the time the good will comes back later on. Later in the race start to clamp down harder on the boats so we don’t lose any points.
Terry lives in La Porte and works for Quantum Sails in Seabrook.