Final Report from Oakcliff Triple Crown Stage One

Final Report: Stage One of Oakcliff Triple Crown Delivers Opportunities to Measure Progress

The first stage of the Oakcliff Triple Crown Series has concluded with US Sailing Team athletes Stu McNay (Providence, R.I.) and Dave Huges (Miami, Fla.), and Carmen and Emma Cowles (Larchmont, N.Y.) comfortably taking first and second place, respectively.

The sailors were kept on their toes for the final day of racing thanks to the shifty and puffy conditions on Oyster Bay. McNay said, “We had two to seven knots and a lot of close racing out there. The course was tucked up under the land, so we had a lot of wind shifts. There was also a bit of current out there, so there were a lot of factors to consider, which made for fun racing.”

Despite the unstable conditions, the athletes managed to stay in front of the fleet. Carmen and Emma posted two more first-place finishes, while McNay and Hughes rounded out the final two races with a second and third-place finish.

This event was the first racing opportunity for the US Sailing Team athletes, since competing at the 2019 Hempel World Cup Series Miami, this past January. Coming into the event, all four athletes and their respective coaches were very much looking forward to using the event as a way to check in on the progress they have been working on in training.

Though the fleet isn’t as deep as the competition on the international level, McNay and Hughes’ coach, Thomas Barrows (Cambridge, Mass.) is pleased with how the event has gone for the team. “They and the Cowles definitely have the most experience in the fleet, so it can still be a bit of a two-boat battle at times, but its shifty and the current weird enough here that other boats are in the mix,” he said. “It’s also a good mindset change.”

Barrows was particularly interested in McNay and Hughes’ mindset this weekend. He continued, “A big thing we have worked on recently is communication and teamwork. It’s one thing to do that well in practice, it’s another in a racing environment, and that’s been going really well. That was a major goal of ours coming in.”

The Cowles twins likewise enjoyed using this event as an opportunity to evaluate what they have been working on in training.  Carmen is especially glad to see improvements in their ability to anticipate and prepare for different tactical situations as they unfold.

“I think something we’re both proud of is being able to recognize situations developing,” she said. “There were moments today where we made a mistake and were able to catch some second mistakes before losses got bigger. So we were still in the game.”

Emma added, “The first mistake isn’t always the one where you lose, it’s the second and every one after that.”

As the event will be a “Double Crown” this year, one more regatta remains in the series. Next weekend, October 2-4, the athletes will have another opportunity to put their training to the test on Oyster Bay.

US Sailing Team Results:

  • Stu McNay & Dave Hughes – 1st; 10 points
  • Carmen & Emma Cowles – 2nd; 14 points

View full results.

Updated: 9/27/2020

Day Two: Recap from Oakcliff Triple Crown Stage One

Two days and seven races into the first stage of the Oakcliff Triple Crown Series, the US Sailing team athletes are putting their months of training to work. So far, US Sailing Team athletes hold the first and second place positions with a comfortable lead.

US Sailing Team Results:

  • Stu McNay & Dave Hughes – 1st; 6 points
  • Carmen & Emma Cowles – 2nd; 12 points

View full results.

While day one of racing on Long Island Sound delivered light and deteriorating conditions, which only allowed for two faces for the 470s, today offered some more solid races with shifty breeze ranging from five to nine knots.

“We had a wide range of conditions today,” said Emma. “The breeze was coming off the land, so it was definitely quite shifty. It was all about playing the shifts and placing yourself in the pressure.”

To combat the constantly shifting direction, the Cowles twins focused on staying consistent, in touch with the shifts, and making sure they were keeping it simple just connecting the puffs.

“A big thing for us is just starting clear and learning, because any time we’re racing or training, we’re just collecting more experience,” said Carmen. “That’s kind of been our mojo since we were in 420s, just keep it clear, keep it simple, and keep learning.”

The conditions on Long Island are a pretty stark contrast to what the athletes have been facing during their training this summer. “The conditions are different in a lot of ways,” said Hughes. “Buzzards Bay, this time of year, usually has a really good seabreeze or a northerly that sticks around for a few days. The most noticeable difference is probably the sea state. Buzzards Bay is pretty choppy with a little bit of underlying swell, and Long Island Sound is quite flat.”

Despite the differences, Hughes thinks that their time practicing in the breeze has delivered improvements in their light wind technique. “I’ve often found that when you work on your breeze technique, you seem to get better in light air, which seems to be counterintuitive but has proven to be quite true for us,” he said.

While the regatta has given McNay and Hughes the opportunity to measure improvements in their technique, the Cowles have been working on their ability to anticipate changes on the racecourse.

“Stu and Dave a really good boat to be training against. They’re going to be consistently making good decisions. So that has helped us,” said Carmen. “When you’re racing against a boat that’s really skilled, you need to be prepared for any decision they could make, so I think just being able to train with them a lot has helped us be more prepared in those decision making processes.”

“In our training together, we’ve been able to create some situations we see often on the racecourse, which has really helped us open our eyes to different scenarios we may have experienced already and shown us where we can improve. It’s nice to have another boat pushing you to improve your overall racing around the course,” Emma added.

Tomorrow, the sailors will have one more day of racing to close out the first stage of the series. The forecast looks solid for more racing, anticipating five to eight knots coming from the southwest, building and clocking west throughout the afternoon.

To view live results as they become available, click here.

Updated: 9/26/2020

Day One Results

US Sailing Team 470 Results:

  • Stu McNay & Dave Hughes – 1st
  • Carmen & Emma Cowles – 2nd

View full results.


Updated: 9/26/2020

US Sailing Team 470s Ready for the Racecourse

Friday, September 25, 2020 (OYSTER BAY, N.Y.) – This weekend, the US 470 Sailing Team will head to Oakcliff Sailing and Seawanhaka Yacht Club for the first stage of the 2020 Oakcliff Triple Crown Series. It has been nine months since the U.S. 470 sailors have positioned themselves on a starting line, and they look forward to experiencing the complete challenge of a well-fought regatta.

Athletes Stu McNay (Providence, R.I.) and Dave Hughes (Miami, Fla.) have been training alongside Carmen Cowles (Larchmont, N.Y.) and Emma Cowles (Larchmont, N.Y.) in Marion, Mass. After several months on the water without travel or competition, all four athletes are looking forward to measuring their progress on the racecourse.

One element the athletes are looking forward to is the opportunity to get back into the racing mindset. “The mental game of racing is different than when you’re practicing,” said Emma.

McNay agreed, “This is the first regatta we’ve done since January and there’s no substitute for the mental sharpness that you need going into an event. Our training has been fantastic, but it’s also put us in a training mindset, now to shift to regatta and performance mindset will allow us to solidify the technique we’ve been experimenting with.”

Carmen also appreciates that this weekend provides the opportunity to put their recent training to the test, “There’s quite a good show of numbers, so that’s great to get folks on the line and test our racing skills again. We’ve been practicing with two boats. With more on the line, it’s going to be good getting back in the rhythm of prestart routines and incorporating what we’ve been working on the past few months.”

This event will be the athletes first racing opportunity since social distancing measures have become the norm in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Oakcliff has maintained a “bubble” that will allow the sailors and regatta support members to operate relatively normally, thanks to restricting entry to individuals who have tested negative and quarantined properly.

Bubble or otherwise, the US Sailing Team athletes have made the best of the circumstances. “Day-to-day, you put on a mask, and it’s not the end of the world to do that. The biggest way the virus has impacted us is in our training. We’re not able to meet up with other teams and travel as frequently or freely as we normally would, but our training in the northeast has been really efficient, so we’re happy to keep that ball rolling,” Emma said.

McNay and Hughes likewise won’t be swayed by the safety protocol during racing. McNay attributed this to the level of adaptability that is necessary to succeed on the Olympic campaign trail. “Were always adaptable to what the situation requires, so we’re ready to be flexible with respect to the COVID-19 safety requirements.”

More than anything, the athletes are excited to get back on the racecourse. Both teams expressed their gratitude to Oakcliff and the Oyster Bay sailing community for the opportunity to race again.

“We’re really looking forward to the racing and we want to thank Hunt Lawrence, Oakcliff, Seawanhaka Yacht Club, Yevgeniy Burmatnov, and Oyster Bay,” said McNay. “There’s a lot of support coming to Olympic sailing from this community and we want to say thank you for that.”

To follow their return to racing, stay tuned to the US Sailing Team Instagram for live updates and US Sailing’s event coverage page for daily reports.

All results, entries, and more can be found on the Event Website.