After a year’s hiatus, Sail Newport’s Brooke E. Gonzalez Advanced Racing Clinic returned last weekend with three days of total immersion in all things dingy racing. This year’s edition has been broken up into two separate weekends, allowing the 130 sailors to spread out and fully utilize Sail Newport’s world-class facility.
Weekend One was for Lasers, 29ers, and International 420 classes, led by an amazing crew of coaches. Elizabeth Kratzig, Skip Whyte, and Lior Lavie led the 420s; Bern Noack, Anna Tobias, and Bill Ward had the Lasers; and Richard Feeney, Fred Strammer, and Taylor Martin took on the 29ers.
Friday began mid-morning to allow regional sailors to commute in that day. We had light to moderate conditions, and after some intros and briefings ashore, all three fleets immediately made their way out to the ocean to take advantage of the best conditions. The tides were perfect, acting as a helping escalator on both the way out and in. Knowing the next day’s wind forecast was a little sketchy, the coaches pushed hard on day 1, keeping all fleets out past 5 p.m. After debriefing the day with video analysis, a big dinner was provided on the porch outside the 11th Hour Great Room.
The forecast proved true for day 2, but we made the most of it. The 420s made their way back out to the ocean and took advantage of a 5 knot southerly in the morning. After lunch on the water, the breeze filled in that afternoon. The other two fleets stayed ashore for the morning, initially staying separate and tackling class-specific topics with chalk talks and more video. The 29er group got hands-on with splicing and fiberglass maintenance demos. After lunch, the two groups joined together and went through three separate stations of 15 minute “power talks” that took on broader topics in race prep, current, and recovering from mistakes. With the breeze filling in at 1 pm, everyone was eager to take to the water for another long session on the water.
Day three was a race day for all three fleets. The coaches chipped in with course management and finishing races while Clinic Director Nick Ewenson orchestrated from the RC boat with the help of Taylor Martin. Trapezoid courses were set for the 420s and Lasers, and the 29ers raced on a separate windward/leeward course. Everyone was busy.
We sailed north of the Newport Bridge in Potter Cove and had spectacular conditions, with the breeze building throughout the day. With uphill current, starting was no simple task, and the 420 and 29er coaches requested that black flag starts be used throughout the day. The focus for all was to stay in tune with the ever-changing conditions, using data collection to help guide decision-making. In the end, the 29ers got five races, while the Lasers and 420s got 4.
Winning races and regattas are great, but the ultimate prize at this event is the Brooke Emmens Gonzalez Award. It goes to the sailor or team who displays an “outstanding effort, desire and willingness to learn.” We usually nominate finalists in each class, and this year the finalists were Connor Bennet and Kenzo Peraire in the 420s and Charlie Leigh and Sophie Fisher in the 29er. This year’s overall winner was laser sailor Jackson McAliley from Miami, FL. The coaches noted Jackson’s great attitude on and off the water and his grit in the big breeze of the last day.
Sail Newport is so grateful to be able to offer this clinic again. This year, it was a massive effort for families to pull it off, as housing was on sailors and their families and chaperones were required. Thanks so much for participating! We need to make a special note of the work of the coaches as well, who always put in significant time for this clinic. We start early before the kids show up and end late after the sailors have left. So much collaboration is needed for the clinic to run smoothly, and we could not have had better examples of how great teams operate. Thank you again, coaches!
We now shift gears to this coming weekend, where we’ll have 30 Club 420 teams descending on Sail Newport. The second weekend is a new record for the clinic! We have a few coaches from last weekend returning, with a mix of veteran and new coaches rounding out the group. Once again, we aim to offer an experience that is fully immersive, collaborative, and a lot of fun!
Weekend Two of the 2021 Brooke E. Gonzalez Advanced Racing Clinic was a standalone Club 420 Clinic for 62 sailors from the U.S. and the Virgin Islands. Historically, the Club 420 Class at this event is always one of the most competitive, and this year was especially true with fast teams everywhere in the fleet. Like weekend 1, the sailors received coaching from some of the best, and with a high coach to sailor ratio, everyone had opportunities for individual attention. Returning to coach two clinics in a row were Skip Whyte and Anna Tobias, and rounding out the rest of the staff were Justin Assad, Matt Peter, Ken Legler, and Taylor Martin.
Mid-June delivered fine weather for the weekend, so we maximized time on the water. We formed three groups of 10 boats with two coaches each for the first few days. We focused on advanced boat handling and speed drills in these smaller groups. On both Friday and Saturday afternoons, groups combined for fleet training with starting drills and shorter races. On Sunday, everyone sailed together for a racing day.
Onshore, the entire clinic utilized Sail Newport’s new building as a home base where we met inside classrooms and on the deck for gatherings. These smaller group sessions made for great, productive conversations that were both class-specific and transferable to other types of racing. Like weekend 1, we used a shorter “Power Talk” format that allowed sailors to choose topics and coaches from which they wanted to learn. On Saturday night, after dinner, Skip Whyte led a discussion on the tactics and strategy of trapezoid course reaches; this was an area highlighted in the results of the clinic’s preliminary survey.
While we all were excited for the race day on the last day, the coaches stressed that methodical daily progression was the name of the game of the clinic. We gave awards to the top three finishers of the regatta but kept tabs on frontrunners for the clinic’s ultimate prize: The Brooke Gonzalez Award. Each year it is given to the sailors who display an “outstanding effort, desire and willingness to learn.” While most showed these qualities throughout, there was one clear winner in the eyes of the coaches. Austin, Texas-based sailors James Brock and Vivian Heitkoetter were eager to learn from both coaches and peers throughout the clinic. They were organized in their approach, got out on the water early, asked great questions, and did their drills in between their coach’s drills. They were super fun to work with and are very worthy recipients of the award.
A few special thanks to the Gonzalez Family for 19 years of supporting this clinic and the year-round staff at Sail Newport, who helped so much behind the scenes. We also thank Skip and Anna for coaching both weekends, Justin for his work in the lead-up to the clinic, and Ken for the great photos. Finally, we want to thank all parents and chaperones for making it happen! Cheers!