AYC Sailors Place 3rd at Thistle Nationals

By: Ben Doane
Photos: Tina Deptula
The 2012 Thistle Nationals were held in San Diego at Mission Bay Yacht Club July 30 thru August 3. Two teams from Arizona Yacht Club made the trip to San Diego, Jason Rziha, Dan Perrine, and Antonia Johnson(3521) and Ben Doane, Trey Harlow, and Dennis Martinelli (3994).
Both teams were at MBYC the weekend of July 21 and 22 to compete in the Pacific Coast Championships. There were 21 boats registered and the wind was 6-12 kts. both days. We had 3 races each day for a total of 6. 3994 finished in 12th (Results). Our team had never raced together and it was a good way to practice. We were happy to get the cobwebs and major mistakes out of the way before Nationals. The boats stayed in San Diego while most of the sailors went home. My family and I stayed in San Diego and had fun visiting the city for the week. All week long the wind was 10-15 kts. and I was hopeful that it would stick around for the next week but, it didn’t.
The Thistle Class has very specific bylaws that direct the Nationals regatta (Bordes System). There were 60 boats registered that were split into 4 groups. There are two starts each race with 2 groups racing each other. Each group races the others thru 3 initial races before the fleet is split in half into Championship and President’s Divisions. The courses are also tightly controlled, they have to be a triangle, windward, leeward, finish (AYC’s Olympic) 5.6 to 7.3 nm in length.
Team 3994 was excited to get the racing underway. We felt we could do better than the last weekend. We wanted to focus on starts, strategy, and not making big mistakes. We wanted to have 1st row starts, play the middle of the course, and be consistent.
 Monday was 2 races in 6-12 kts. We had decent starts, 1 OCS that we had to go back and exonerate ourselves. We tried to play the middle of the course but, it was hard to find lanes to tack and found ourselves farther on the corner than we wanted to be. We stayed in the middle of the pack with a 17 and 15. We were just outside the cut and if we had a good race the next day we could make it.
Tuesday we went out for one race in about 8-12kts. We had another OK start and felt like the boat was moving ok but, ended with a 19. This was the last race before the cut and with that finish we would be in the President’s Division. 3994 had 51 points and the cut was made at 47. We were disappointed that we did not do better and make the cut but, tomorrow was another day and we start with zero points.
Wednesday, there were 2 races in 5-10 kts. We had MUCH better starts in the middle of the line for both races and came off the line in great position. We had pretty clear air and could work our strategy. We were pretty conservative and played the middle. We gave up a few boats that made out on the corners but, we had good boat speed and finished the day with a 4th and a 2nd. The wind was light and the boat felt bad but everyone else had to deal with the same conditions. Even though we had a heavy crew we found we did better in light wind (thanks Lake Pleasant).
Thursday was a little lighter than Wednesday, closer to 5-8 kts. We had a good start in the middle of the line with clear air and we were off. We led at every mark by several boat-lengths. The last downwind we started losing ground to one of the boats and rounded 2 boat-lengths ahead.  After a tacking duel we ended up in 2nd at the finish by a boat-length. We were pretty disappointed we lost the lead but, realized we finished the best race we had all week.  We were in 2nd place overall with 8 pts. 1st place had 5 pts and 3rd place had 10 pts.
Friday was 5-10 kts. with one race to go. The start was very crowded with several general recalls and a black flag eventually to get us going. This was one of the worst starts we had all week. We were buried in the middle of the line, no clear lanes to tack.  The one thing we knew was that the race was long enough we could make it back. At the windward mark we were 20 something, passed a few on the reaches and headed back upwind. We clawed our way back to the top half of the fleet upwind and finished with a 9th place.

After a great week sailing in the Nationals 3994 finished the regatta in 3rd place in the President’s Division (Results).  Every day, after the split, we climbed in the standings except the last day when we went down one place. When we could, we used our strategy, overall we had good starts, and we were pretty consistent. I was very happy with our regatta. MBYC hosted a great event and we had a great time racing.
Thank you Trey Harlow and Dennis Martinelli for a great week sailing and Stephanie Doane and Nina Harlow for watching the kids all week.