|Al Clark -(left) and Steve Cockerill (right) - competitive in both a Radial and full rig|
How do you choose between a Radial and a full rig when you want to compete at the highest level for your age group and you want a shot at winning?
Two sailors from Sydney showed that you can't choose a rig by your weight. Brendan Casey was at least 180 pounds (81 kg) when he twice won the Open Radial Worlds and Peter Heywood was 150 pounds (68 kg) when he came 5th in the Standard Master Worlds. Each sailor was way outside the recommended weight for their rig, and yet both were extremely competitive as the results show.
So, what does this mean? For me, it's simple: you practice against the people who give you the most competition - if the locals sail in full-rigs, then you will look for ways to join them, and if they sail Radials then you'll consider Radials.
But for the big events (for me a Worlds), you need to take more into consideration: your weight, height, the expected conditions, health, conditioning and which rig you've been practicing and competing in.
It was clear at the Oman Worlds that many of the Masters and Open sailors including Robert Scheidt had lost weight in preparation for the expected light conditions. And in windy venues, many of the tops sailors will arrive with extra weight.
I put on 10 pounds in preparation for Chile and was 185 pounds (83 kg). It was one of the first times I ever felt in control of the boat in a breeze. I was only passed once upwind in the entire 11 race series. When you are light and sailing in waves in a breeze, you tend to get knocked around going up and down waves but with the extra weight that doesn't happen as much. Mark Bethwaite's comment was that between the prior Worlds and the Chile Worlds, the difference was that I had learned to sail in a breeze. For me, the extra weight made a huge difference.
I showed up light in Halifax weighing just 168 pounds (76 kg) unable to put on weight after a change of diet. While very competitive in the light stuff, in the heavy breeze, I was suffering. The front row tended to be even and I would finish within 30 seconds of the front row but that usually meant 5th to 7th place. I was fit and had trained hard for Halifax but just couldn't hang with the front row. The only time I had speed and led was in the light stuff but it was mainly a windy series so my finish position was 6th. For me, being that light put me at least 10 seconds per upwind leg off the pace of the front row. Frustrating to lose ground to the front row every upwind leg.
Some sailors like Al Clark and Steve Cockerill are fortunate to have the choice of being able to switch from one rig to another based on the expected conditions since they get the opportunity to practice against good competition in both rigs. For others, the decision is harder.
If I look back at the conditions in Oman and my lack of practice in a Radial, my decision to sail a Radial was wrong. But if I look at my health issues at the time (shoulder, vision), it was the right decision.
So for the major events, it's clear to me that each person has to make his or her own decision, then enjoy the ride, and learn from the experience.