By: John Pearce, Youth Director, US Sailing
In early April Dieter Creitz and Conrad Miller, representing Seattle Yacht Club, finished third out of fifty one teams in the 2018 RS Feva Worlds hosted by Clearwater Community Sailing in Clearwater, Florida (complete results here). Despite the excellent finish, their path to the championship was far from conventional. They hadn’t raced an RS Feva before, and they had limited training time prior to the event. Dieter and Conrad, age 11 and 15 respectively, have significant racing experience in other classes, but untook the RS Feva Worlds as an “adventure and experiment”, according to SYC Race Coach Cameron Hoard. By drawing upon past experience, learning and improving throughout the regatta, and keeping a relaxed attitude, they secured a podium finish for the USA against a competitive international fleet.
Entering the regatta with little class-specific knowledge and a factory-provided charter boat, they first set out to optimize the boat set-up. Conrad, who was crewing, undertook the rigging improvements. “I just made it as comfortable as possible really. It was uncomfortable hiking at first, I was hiking off my shins because I’m taller than most people in this boat. So I re-rigged the hiking strap system to fit my height. I also changed some control line systems to make sure everything was working smoothly.” Conrad, who raced in the 2017 29er Worlds in California, also discovered that it was fast for him to trim the main from the crew position in heavy air, a technique familiar to any skiff sailor.
The team came out of the gates hot on day one with a 3, 1, 1 scoreline, taking an early lead in the regatta. Day two, was “a little bit of the reality check I thought we were going to get at some point” observed Coach Hoard. “12 – 1 – 11 – 2 on the day kept the lead overall but we were starting to see the British sailors show their confidence and experience in the boat”. Leading a World Championship mid-regatta is mentally challenging for any competitor, but the team maintained a relaxed attitude by focusing on the task at hand, and enjoying some indoor surfing after racing.
“Super Saturday” dawned with winds over 20 knots, a condition the team hadn’t yet had the opportunity to sail the Feva in. While they slipped to third in the overall standings, they made steady improvements in their downwind technique and enjoyed some wild rides. “The highlight of the regatta for me was definitely when we rounded the windward mark of the first race, and we put up the spinnaker and started going super-fast”, says Deiter. “I was just holding on for dear life, and there was an island on the racecourse so we needed to gybe. I still thought we could ‘send’ the gybes, so I sent it… and we capsized. But by the end of the day, I learned that you can’t send it like that and we had our gybes down perfectly. I’ve learned a lot more about flying spinnakers.”
For Conrad, the highlight was “winning the second race of the regatta, after coming into the regatta thinking we would be in the twenties or something. Getting third the first race, and winning the second race, and then winning the third race as well, was just awesome”. Conrad and Dieter both plan to return to singlehanded sailing this summer, but the experience of racing in a world championship, racing doublehanded, and adapting to a new boat has certainly prepared them for a bright future in the sport.