Inport racing, preparing for fishing nets, making progress!

Heading off tomorrow to Dubai with an early start at 7 am. Last year some of the most iconic photos came from a dawn start out of Abu Dhabi. The forecast is for light, upwind reaching, with some upwind work. The models are a bit mixed about how far to go offshore, but there are fishing nets and waypoints to handle so that will be determinative. Last year we had to navigate through the fishing nets at night, and it was a very difficult! Ugh. It is a shelf and miles of fishing nets… Allegedly, if you flatten the boat it will eventually “pop” up over the nets and get through, but while racing there last year felt like running aground and in one case we definitely didn’t get off, and had to have the local fisherman help us. Cutting nets away is a crime so this is serious business.

satt2014_home 2

Today was inport racing. Light and weird helicopter puffs off the skyscrapers made it difficult. We had good starts, but sometimes didn’t take the immediate risk to grab a temporary puff. In the end we did alright, but not great. The Omani women had fun, and today’s big lesson was learning about the importance of weight movement on the boats. I wish we had had more time to train before dropping them into racing, because it is hard to learn while in the middle of a race. Explanations get shorter, time and opportunity for trial and error get small, and focus on more specifics limits the big picture learning.

Tonight, two of the women missed the briefing (that we always have) for the next leg. I was pretty displeased, as our briefings are a basic requirement. It was puzzling and uncharacteristic of these two women. They tracked me down in my room late tonight to say how sorry they were. They had gone out, and ran into bad traffic (happens here), and couldn’t get back. They felt so bad; they weren’t going to be able to sleep without speaking to me. I appreciated that – we all muck up – and I have felt bad like that too. With a stern warning, we are good to go tomorrow. If that’s the worst of it, I think we can deal!

Today we were on the podium to receive our prize for 3rd place overall in the race. With many legs to go, its anyone’s game. It was absolutely fantastic to be able to have our team on the podium, and let the Omani women feel their rightful place to be in the mix with the best. Everyone deserves to know that feeling, although not without some sacrifice and hard work.

Click to track the race from the Sailing Arabia The Tour website!

Click to track the race from the Sailing Arabia The Tour website!

Training while racing: Leg 1 from Bahrain to Qatar

Bahrain to Qatar – 4th place!

After finishing fourth on the first leg from Bahrain we stopped here in Doha Qatar for a day of in-port racing just outside the Pearl Marina. 8-12 knots of wind gave us great training for our novice crew. I see a noticeable progression in the Omani women’s skills. Our 3rd place finish in race 2 was a great confidence boost to the team – thanks to a great start and good wind/strategy calls. We moved Raham, the young woman from the Oman Navy, up to helping at mast and floater position, and she is really enjoying the increased physicality of those jobs. She had previously been on main. Being a novice at both sailing and English proved a big challenge for everyone, as the main position is integral to the communication flow on board. Like any team, each position requires different skills and delivers unique attributes to the success formula, so figuring out who fits best into each role takes time. Ideally this would have been done far in advance during practice sessions. But with last minute team changes we are on a steep learning curve in the midst of competition.


Pearl Marina, Doha - Qatar

Pearl Marina, Doha – Qatar

Next leg – The longest from Doha Qatar to Abu Dhabi

The wind for our next leg looks stable and manageable. It should be a quick run. We will be under spinnaker with wind behind us the entire way, except for the short upwind leg with a turning mark. The route is filled with many navigational hazards such as oil fields, islands and shallows. Liz Baylis, our experienced navigator, will have her hands full plotting waypoints and keeping her eyes peeled for unlit marks – an increased challenge when racing under spinnaker. The current routing puts us into port early morning, around 6 am. This will give us a needed rest day in Abu Dhabi.

Getting into a Groove

As the event progresses and we continue to tune our boat, our team is starting to settle in and find a rhythm. I hope the progression continues for us. The other team competitors have commented to me on how well we are sailing, and it feels good to have them recognize the potential in our novice young women. Currently we are on the heels of the Dutch team, chasing them for third overall, with a lot of racing left to go. We have developed a great relationship with this team. In Bahrain, their navigator was very helpful with some of our electronic problems, and when their batteries died (no engine) after the finish of the first leg we threw them a tow line until a power boat came by to take over the job. This is a great part of the culture of sailing – although we are competitors, we are friends, allies and have each other’s backs.

Today we head off on the longest leg of the SATT – 160 nautical miles from Doha to Abu Dhabi.

Ok – off we go… wish us luck!


Delay of start allows much needed prep/training time!

The first leg from Bahrain to Qatar of Sailing Arabia The Tour (SATT) 2014 was delayed. Katie Pettibone shares how she and her crew used the additional time before the race began:

More race delays = More time to train

Well, I didn’t envision on this chilly and windy night writing a blog from – well- Bahrain. Here we are though, and as an aside it is the right call, delayed on our leg from Bahrain to Qatar. The Race Committee boat was finally allowed out of customs and was put into the water this evening. As it had a bunch of needed safety gear and it is our escort vessel, it was the right call. We took advantage of the day as well to get a new boat GPS because we had been having electrical problems. Additionally, taking this new crew out on a windy sleigh ride in what will be a race during daylight hours instead of a cold night is simply much more enticing! I am really looking forward to heading south down to Doha and the warmer climes. Maybe living in California has softened me, but I do like my warmth!

Sprint_Doha copy

Debriefing the unexpected breakdown

Jib tackWe took the chance to do some practice in today’s 20+ knots. While out sailing, the tack clip on our new jib blew up. It had been sadly underwicked (to small for the loads) so it was bound to happen and it turns out it did happen to another boat. We got into the dock and quickly fixed it with the help of our hard working shore crew so that we will be able to use it tomorrow. These things go with a loud bang and lots of flapping so it seems all more the dramatic than it is, but it was really good training for the Omani women. Learning that the boat cannot move without the main sail being eased and what to do when something unexpected happens was a good learning moment. After we got to the dock and had the jib being sorted, we talked through what had happened and going forward how to better handle the situation with some taking the jib down and others getting the new jib ready.

Equipping for the future

The act of handling, accessing and planning for the unexpected is a trait that sailing is particularly adept at honing and is why sailors do well in all areas of life. By the end of this race, these Omani women will be able to take this skill forward and use it in whatever industries or adventures they pursue.

Today’s task: Stay focused – One race at a time!

Katie Pettibone heads out for what may be the final day of racing…
Or not…

I am heading out to San Francisco Bay with the Omega/Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) America’s Cup VIP boat. There was a strong air of expectancy at the base this morning. A sense of anticipation, nervousness and of holding the collective breath. ETNZ is one race away from winning the America’s cup. This has been a work in progress since 2004 when they lost the cup to the Swiss. They almost won it back in 2007, but the Swiss prevailed with the Alinghi Team. For Oracle this must be excruciating. They now have a yacht that is closely matched with ETNZ, but they have a mountain to climb back. It really would be one the greatest comebacks if they prevailed.

AC Omega

As a sailor I know the teams are just focusing on doing the next thing in front of them – which is simply sail a boat race. Whether it is trimming a wing, looking for wind, grinding or turning a wheel- it’s all been practiced a million times. The tough part is to not get ahead of oneself, and think ahead. Just stay present.

I am hankering to get out there myself. And numerous people are saying to me ‘it may be time for another women’s team’. True. There are no women sailing in this one, and I have heard some male sailors say these boats are too physical. Not true. Although similar to 1995, we would probably have some design tweaks. Ultimately we simply need more teams. There are only four teams competing in the end, and I know a lot of great sailors who didn’t end up racing because there just weren’t enough positions. That will require some different choices by whomever defends the Cup.

Whatever happens today, it will be exciting. Wind predicted between 15-20, true wind speed. We have a strong ebb tide in the second race, which will drop the wind limits for racing, but hopefully we will get two races in. Of course if ETNZ wins the first race, the second won’t be needed. Stay tuned…

Hong Kong press covers Katie Pettibone on Omega/ETNZ America's Cup VIP boat.

Hong Kong press covers Katie Pettibone on Omega/ETNZ America’s Cup VIP boat.

AC: Katie’s perspective on New Zealand & Team Oracle

Watching the AC on my iPhone between legislative sessions 🙂

America’s Cup races 7 and 8 are today here in San Francisco. The weather is predicted to be windy. There is a max wind limit for racing of 23 knots that gets adjusted for tidal flow (tide out the bay lowers the wind limit while tide flooding in raises it because of waves effect). Racing so far has been exciting albeit one-sided with the New Zealand team dominating.

AC US & NZ flying

This past week was the end of the California state Legislature’s legislative session. Between monitoring floor sessions and talking to legislative staff in the Capitol, I would find a bench to sit and watch Americas cup racing own my iPhone. God bless technology! The same story played out though- Oracle racing coming up short again and again. Even a significant crew change (changing tactician American John Kostecki out and bringing in British Ben Ainslie) and some design tweaks have not helped to this point. Currently ETNZ is up 6 races to negative 1 of Oracle. Why negative for USA? Because they got caught cheating in the Americas cup World Series raced in the AC 45’s. Although some have complained that the two point penalty they incurred was draconian for racing in what some have characterized is a farm league, it was part and parcel of the Cup and Protocol designed by Oracle. As was the removal of any appeals process.

Oracle appears a bit faster downwind but ETNZ is faster upwind. Even when Oracle has led, ETNZ gets around them on leg three – the long upwind leg. Some mistakes in tactics by Oracle let ETNZ get by easier but its tough holding off a competitor that is faster. Unique to this Cup, the course is not being adjusted for wind changes which has resulted in skewed courses making it harder to find something to catch up or pass a team ahead. As a competitor I can tell you there is a certain horror you feel when you first realize that your boat is lacking a speed gear or is not as fast as your competitor. I saw that in Oracle in the first couple of races. After that realization there’s a certain resolution and examination of what the options are because not doing anything is NOT one of them. If you listen to the press conference of Oracle and ETNZ after Tuesday- Spithill (driver of Oracle) conveys that very clearly.

AC Orcale

There are two races today scheduled and two tomorrow. If Oracle does not pull a design rabbit out of the hat, then ETNZ could be winners of the Americas Cup tomorrow. I know that the sailors on both teams are trying to take it one race at a time because anything can and will happen. But for Oracle if the design team hasn’t come up with something, the sailors on Oracle are going to have to continue to look for Hail Mary passes. That’s a tough mindset to play from.