Steve Tylecote's Q&A
What advice would you give to prepare to win the 2015 Team Racing Worlds at Rutland?
Practice hard, talk tactics in the pub and make sure you all respect each other – if you don’t the team work will not work. Find yourself a nice base camp to sail at and to discuss things.
What key points in a race should team racers start to focus on?
Starting – the races are not very long – the start is key. Practice alone, in twos, threes, fours or sixes.
Boat handling is key – knowing the move is one thing but you need to be able to do it well.
Boat speed – don’t forget, if in doubt sail fast.
Understand the combinations. Understand what your team needs to focus on. Also understand what the opposition will be trying to do – it makes avoiding the mistakes easier. One way of doing this is to identify the real focus of the race: for example in a 1st and 3rd combination the boat in 1st wants to control the opposition in 2nd before they in turn attack your team mate in 3rd. Promote your team mate to 2nd as quickly as possible and try to open a gap to stabilize the race in your favour.
How do you control your opposition at the start?
I prefer to be close to leeward of an opposition boat off the start so that I can accelerate and pull forward on them. Having done that I will use the speed to climb slightly onto their sailing line and sheet the main on a tiny bit and balance the boat upright or slightly to windward. The opposition boat will now quickly drop back. As soon as I have controlled that one boat satisfactorily, it is important to have the overview of the race and to sail as fast as possible up the beat as positions in the front of the race are of course very valuable in securing a race win for your team.
When is it important to lead the opposition into the start?
In lighter wind, it is good to try and lead in to make sure you can control the approach to the line and have clear air.
What is the hardest manoeuvre in team racing?
Any against my wife!! I think the toughest challenge is having to try and deal with boats catching up with you on a gust when you are going down a run. You want to sail fast, protect the inside at the next mark and try to get in a good position to slow them down perhaps with a luff, or catching them whilst you are on starboard. This may involve gybing a couple of times to be in clear air, with good boat on boat ‘rights’ but protecting the route to the mark - and keeping very calm whilst really you are quite exposed.
What do you expect from a crew when they are trimming the jib on a Firefly?
Absolute obsession and concentration. An ability to trim for an infinite number of conditions and to remain calm regardless of the number of instructions issued from the back end. A readiness for the next manoeuvre at all times. I think the best crews are looking for signs from the helm in terms of body movement as a trigger to prepare for something.
How can a helm change the shape of the jib for speed or height?
You ask a technical one here Kit. When the mainsheet is sheeted tighter the jib luff also gets tighter so reducing luff sag and potentially increasing power and pointing. Mostly, however, a medium tension will be fast and the crew on the jib sheet will be the main control of shape. I think in light to medium conditions that mainsheet tension becomes more important. It is quite easy to feel this in the boat and see the impact on the leech shapes. We will do a video giving some simple tips in this area. It really is nothing to worry about as a Firefly is a simple boat. It is just the mast is thin enough that (like a Laser) the mast bends quite a lot when you sheet on the mainsheet harder.
How did you create such powerful team racing tactics?
I was lucky to be down at Spinnaker Sailing Club, UK, with a group of similarly minded people. We enjoyed giving each other a hard time on the water and enjoyed finding tactical opportunities through the shore discussions. Greg and Tiggy Ansell were instrumental in this process opening their house up every Sunday evening to a bunch of students who liked roast chicken and talking tactics. We did loads of practice and we tried new things, we had fun getting away with things and we appreciated each other’s skills. Umpiring was a fairly new aspect to the sport and was giving far more clarity to tactics on the water and we exploited that change very well, developing moves and approaches and executing them well. Having a lot of girls around in the process helped too!
What points of a team race do you like to reflect on afterwards?
I especially like to reflect on the approach to risk. For example, if we tried a really difficult move at the finish and it worked that’s great but subtle covering on the first beat may also have been important – and far less risky. Sometimes it is good to discuss things that worked as it is a positive approach rather than to focus on a mistake. The move that worked might have been very high risk; was there an easier way to get the same result?
If anyone in the team has any confusion about something in the race, it might be possible to address that if there is time before the next race. However, having come off the water from a race or two, the first things are to acknowledge your opposition, to check how long have you got before the next race, what about toilet trips, food and water - and then, if wanted, a longer tactical discussion but early focus on the next race is very important.
Do you see and remember 100 % of a team race?
Not at all- which can be quite frustrating for my team mates. I believe you can only keep so much in your mind at once and if you are filling it up with the last maneuver you aren’t focusing on the next. That is when video footage and feedback at a later stage from umpires and spectators can really help. Also crews are pretty good at remembering what I thought at the time and that helps the discussion. Often once we start talking around the course I get flashbacks and can think of things I wanted to change.
What difficulties did you experience on your journey to winning?
Team selection is always difficult and controversial. Being team captain means you have to make the hard decisions. Make them, communicate them, stick by them, and defend them. Doing the right thing for the team’s success is not always the right thing for the individuals and it is never nice dropping people from a team. Driving for success is sometimes a selfish business.
Sorting yourself out after a run of losses is also very important and takes real strength.
What emotions have you experienced losing a team racing match as a captain of the team and as a competitor?
The emotions differ depending on the time in the event. If it is in the early rounds then my preference is to forget about it. No point in dwelling on what went wrong unless there was a specific which can be addressed before the next race. I believe there is no point in discussing stuff whilst emotions are high – too many teams try to over analyze at an event and it can lead to a downward spiral.
Losing in the semifinals of a big regatta that you hoped to win is gutting. However, at the Worlds it is critical that you pull yourself out of this and get the Bronze. My worst loss was against the GBR 2nd team in Miami in 1998. Our 2 teams had dominated the round robin event finishing 1st and 2nd in the full round robin. We had to meet in the quarters. I was against the 2 other helms from our winning team in 1995 – we lost – I was gutted with the result – but we had enjoyed the overall campaign. I can’t say I really feel differently if I am captain or not.
How does it feel to win a gold medal at a Team Racing World Championships?
A very special moment to share with a team. Enjoying the journey all the way through the campaign and event is very important. I am fiercely competitive but I do appreciate that the psychology of sport is not all about winning…but it is nice.
If you have never team raced before take a look at our promotional video clip from the Wilson Trophy to give you a feel of the event:
There are more in-depth views from competitors and officials:
West Kirby Commodore - Making International team racing a successful part of your club program.
Paul Campbell-James, helm of Luna Rossa.