Skipper Interview Series

Have you wondered how the top DF skippers manage to put in consistent performances time after time?

What do they do that I don’t?

What can I learn from them?

Well, wonder no more, we have the answers. Below you’ll find the first in a series of top worldwide DF skippers. We set DF ICA Chairman on a mission to find out what makes the world’s top DF skippers so good. Is it a diet of cheese and red wine? Is is getting your boat setup just so?

Read on to find out what makes them tick.

Interview No.2 – Jonas Samson

Jonas is a great asset to radio sailing in Sweden, he motivates other skippers to come and get involved, wherever in the world that might be. He’s usually at the pointy end of whatever fleet he sails in. So what makes him good? Let’s find out.

Background

Phil

Reaching top level takes years of racing and practice. Where and how did you learn? Did you sail large yacht?

Jonas

  • I did sail large boats, from Optimist (some years 1985-1992 windsurfing OD) to 35 footers. Close to zero hours holiday sailing 🙂 
  • No more big boat racing for me, I have found my thing in RC racing!
  • I practice RC sailing frequently because I think that thumb feeling and distance practice is gone if not practiced all the time.

Phil

Congratulations on your 4th place at the recent UK DF95 National Champs. What have been some of your big regatta wins in either RC or yachting?

Jonas

  • Thanks, I guess I need more practice in big fleets to be able to reach podium, so here we go, all bigger events – I will be there 😊
  • Some national podiums in bigger boats,
  • top 10 at Windsurfing Worlds,
  • some national podiums RC + 5th DF95 Globals 2018.
    Aiming higher 🙂

Phil

Can you pass on any learnings from your recent IOM Masterclass in Croatia?

Jonas

  • The Croatians with IOM Master Z gave me insights of things, some of us already knew, down to the smallest detail. Zvonko delivered secrets in a fun and describing way, showing video from 2017 in France and 2019 in Brazil the IOM Worlds, focusing on his boat and what he thought in each part of the races, start, first upwind, first rounding, first downwind. Why he tacked where he did and why he positioned where he did. Very informative and transparent.
  • We also learned that training by your self is a good thing, when you meet up with more than 2 boats you will always race – less training.
  • Of course, he led us through rig trim and what to do in what conditions and what the change was supposed to give the rig. 

Phil

Tell us a bit about how DFs are managed in Sweden, How many Clubs, classes sailed?

Jonas

  • We have a new system, due to many active boats (DF65) regional rankings and national rankings devided.
    DF95 same weekend as IOM-ranking (Saturday-Sunday events)
  • Number of clubs I don’t know, but several spread geographically.
  • DF65 is the biggest class in number of boats in Sweden, then IOM and at third place the great boat DF95 – hopefully DF95 will grow 😊

Phil

Why did you buy the DF and what do you like about the boat?

Jonas

  • To be honest I was fooled into this RC-sailing stuff 😊 by my dear friend Michael Collberg.
    Started 2016 with a DF65 out of the box, DF95 a few weeks before Globals November 2018 and then IOM 2019.
  • I think the 65 is the best “welcome to RC-sailing” boat, low price, easy to put together, HUGE number of active great sailors, big fleets and active class. I think the 95 is a better sailboat overall and maybe easier to sail up to its potential. When racing internationally the 95 is the bigger class compared to the 65.

Racing

Phil

Do you have a pre- race plan for boat preparation, course research or routine that you follow?

Jonas

  • Sure, don’t we all? 🙂 I have come to regattas without checking my materials, resulting in DNF or DNS, that’s not the way to go, so… 
  • I prepare material some days before arriving to a regatta, checking batteries and electronics. I check all knots and change sheets if necessary. DF95/DF65 I change the rubber tensioner frequently. I make sure my boats are 100% dry.
  • If possible, I ask locals of patterns, and I check forecasts and ask again. 

Phil

What are your best tips for setting up the boat before a race, including any key measurements you use?

Jonas

  • The DF-classes I stopped measuring some years ago. I set present rig with only one goal – 100% neutral steering upwind. I work with sheeting angles of the jib and main twist. Remember its small boats so small adjustments give huge effects! 1 mm somewhere could be much. ¼ turn on the kicker is much….
  • I’m new into IOM so until I can do above with confidence I still measure – the feeling when sailing upwind is more important than the exact mm everywhere.

Phil

What do you look for when you arrive at the course?

Jonas

  • This is an interesting question. My first thing when I have put the boat in the water is to stand leeward on the pontoon both up and downwind, to check patterns in gusts or angles of the wind. If waves I check where and if I get hammered on one tack and take that to memory bank. 
  • I also try to team up with a similar sailor to check corners of the race area. I go left, the other boat goes right and we meet up at area of top mark to check which corner paid off best. Same at downwind, one boat goes starboard the other port tack, jibe at middle and meet at the bottom mark area to check, discuss gusts and angle – memory bank.

Phil

During the countdown sequence, what do you think about and how do you approach a congested start line?

Jonas

  • I try to determine the best side of the line, checking angles and gust directions. Very often I’m at my favoured spot, then my second choice turn up to hold my position…and stay out of trouble! A meter or two away from the invasion of boats is better than in the middle and get entangled. 
  • Depending on my game plan first tack I try to be on favoured side but keep an escape plan in my pocket, if I need to tack be sure to have the space.

Phil

What is your first leg strategy? The first mark rounding is quite often congested, so what strategies do you use to come out of the first mark in good condition?

Jonas

  • This is the most important thing, I think. Stay out of trouble, add distance at top mark.
  • In a funny way, many sailors think that their boat will have up wind angle of 10-15 degrees last 5 meters 🙂
  • Don’t tack from port in leeward, duck the starboard boats and add a meter or two. This will give you the best boat speed in the last 5 meters in the field and you often gain 5-6 places due to a clear first rounding. 

Phil

In many of the photos you are not always first to the top mark. How do you work through the fleet to get near the front? Do you prefer to point high or go for more speed?

Jonas

  • If shifty – gusty, play those shifts and gusts the best you can.
  • If stable wind, go for speed, point a few degrees lower and work p-mix to optimise your boat speed.
  • When in a lift, work that lift 100% point, point point…until the shift turns back, then speed, speed, speed until next change in the wind. Decide if tack or speed (depends on where you are approaching marks and competitors) 

Phil

Do you take many risks and go on a flyer to make up ground?

Jonas

  • Well, when early start and collision – 360, then I’m dead last. Change of game plan, where will next gust appear? I go in that direction with maximum speed. In this case I forget to race the fleet. I race as if I was the only boat on the course, if on favoured tack but in bad air, I keep going in that bad air.

Phil

Most of us have great difficulty with depth of vision and judging marks at a distance. Do you have any tricks to keep clear of the marks that are quite a distance away?

Jonas

  • Yes, I do :)…. Bottom gate, (if they are equal) I choose that mark where I can use the sun throwing a shade from my sails on mark. Then I know I can round it clear.
  • Top mark, I try to approach so my boat is in between myself and the mark, so I know I’m clear.

Phil

Do you have a different steering strategy for each rig and wind/wave conditions?

Jonas

  • As said above i set trim to 100% neutral helm, this is harder in higher wind and higher waves, but doable 🙂 this is something you can add hours in training by yourself. Bottom line would be BOAT SPEED.

Phil

Do you change the default program on your Tx from the factory settings, and if so, what works best for you?

Jonas

  • Yes, DF95 and IOM I use p-mix a lot. I also got help to change rudder speed. (I’m not an RC guy) 🙂

(Phil… P-Mix is the use of the switches to change sensitivity for steering and sail winch control. Search the excellent manual written by David Flakelar)

Phil

The great majority of our members sail for fun. It’s great for mental health, camaraderie and to support our older members who may be less mobile, seeking new friends/network etc. Do you have any tips to help make sailing more fun?

Jonas

  • At local pond, use time on water to have fun, don’t always publish results, don’t always do races. When training and fleet is, say 10 boats, start and first upwind, then training is over, do this over and over again and share information.
  • In practice, don’t be so rule intensive, especially if there are new sailors. Help those who need it with sail trim to get the boat going, if there is a collision, discuss the whys and hows instead of screaming PROTEST, DO YOUR TURNS!
  • Make sure that after sailing is finished, discuss with the less knowledge sailors, check their boat and rig. Make sure they come next time. Bring coffee and chairs 🙂

Phil

We are also fostering youth programs to get younger people off keyboards and into sailing. Do you have any tips to help our member nations develop programs in their countries?

Jonas

  • Make sure that new into RC sailing try first time with a correct boat, good balance and well sailing boat. This will make the experience so much better.

Interview No. 1 – Mark Golison

Mark has a very long history in the big boat world with many many regatta wins to his name over the years and he is also a strong and consistent skipper in the radio sailing world. He is entered in the 2021 UK DF95 Nationals and could challenge John Tushingham for the title after their battle at the 2018 Globals went down to the wire.

Find out what Mark had to say to Phil below.

Background

Phil
Reaching top level takes years of racing and practice. Where and how did you learn? Do/did you sail large yacht?

Mark
Yes, 56 years for me! I started in 8 foot Naples Sabots at 6 years old. Other dinghies I sailed were Lasers, FJ’s, Snipes and FD’s. Small keelboats included Cal 20, Santana 20, J-24, and Melges 24. Throughout much of this time I raced our family’s big boats, starting with a 41 foot gaff rigged schooner, then moving on to an Islander 36, IOR Choate/Peterson 44. I also sailed on countless other keelboats from 20 feet to 70 feet.

Phil
What have been some of your other biggest regatta wins?

Mark
In non-RC boats they include: US College All-American, College Team Racing National Champ, College Singlehanded (Laser), Doublehanded (FJ) and Team Racing Pacific Coast Champs, 1st Overall Trans Pacific Yacht Race (Transpac), US Sailing Men’s Match Racing Champ, US Sailing Men’s Champ, Ficker Cup Champ (Match Racing), Cal 20 National Champ (3x), Melges 24 Pacific Coast Champ, Melges 24 National Champ (2nd)
In RC boats they include: DragonFlite National Champ (3x), IOM US National Champ, Canadian IOM National Champ, DragonForce National Champ. Many Regional IOM Champs.

Racing


Phil
Do you have a pre- race plan for boat preparation, course research or routine that you follow.

Mark
Since I don’t have a local IOM/DF fleet, I typically arrive 1 to 3 days (depending on distance) before regattas to acclimate to time zone changes, and to setup, work on, tune and sail the boat. I bring tools and have spare parts in case of a failure. If I am sailing in a location that I am unfamiliar with, I will talk to locals about any course tendencies to watch for. In general, I find a bit less local knowledge advantage in RC sailing compared to big boat venues, where the boats can get so much further apart.

Phil
What are your best tips for setting up the boat before a race?

Mark
I am all about balance. I tend to start out with base numbers, then tweak them as they feel right. These tweaks are based on the conditions. In San Diego, the wind was light/medium with very flat water, so I sailed with a bit more main leach tension than I normally would. Headstay tension, sheeting angles, leach twist and foot round are all important.

Phil
You seem to be able to read the wind at any course and chose the right race strategy. What do you look for when you arrive at the course?

Mark
Well it depends on the course and the conditions. In San Diego, there are a lot of shifts, but as important are the holes. If you are not careful, you can lose 10 boats while stuck in a hole. Of course, that is also an opportunity to pass when you’re behind! In some venues, you will want to look for current and/or areas of the course that seem to have more wind or consistent shifts from land effects. Other venues might have less shifts and your position relative to the fleet might be more important.

Phil
During the countdown sequence, what do you think about and how do you approach a congested start line.

Mark
I’m trying to determine the favoured end, by how much, the side of the course I want to end up on, and where the starting line is too congested. If the leeward end is favoured, is the first leg long enough so that you don’t get pinned to the left side. Where can I setup without having someone either on my lee bow or reaching over the top.

Phil
What is your first leg strategy. The first mark rounding is quite often congested, so what strategies do you use to come out of the first mark in good condition?

Mark
Stay clean! This is the worst part of the race to foul or be fouled. Go fast and avoid tacking multiple times. At the weather mark, be conservative (doesn’t always happen!). Get around clean and get away from the pack.

Phil
In many of the photos you are not always first to the top mark. How do you work through the fleet to get to the front? Do you prefer to point high or go for more speed?

Mark
Don’t panic, keep sailing smart and fast. Let other boats make mistakes and take advantage of them. Stay on the lifted tack. Downwind, get away from the pack a bit.

Phil
Do you take many risks and go on a flyer to make up ground?

Mark
“Calculated” risks and flyers. What are the downsides of the risk? What are the upsides. Are the next few boats behind you going with you? How early or late in the race is it? Are you in a position where the race will be a throw-out anyways? Odds that it will work? Lots to consider…

Phil
Most of us have great difficulty with depth of vision and judging marks at a distance. Do you have any tricks to keep clear of the marks that are quite a distance away.

Mark
I’m not the best person to ask…I have had plenty of mark rounding’s where I either turned inside the mark, hit the mark or took the mark super wide. I just try to do my best.

Phil
Do you have a different steering strategy for each rig and wind/wave conditions

Mark
Yes, particularly with the DF95. Because the boat is so light, there are some challenges controlling the boat in waves and wind. In smooth water I try to minimize rudder movement, partially carving my tacks. In light air and chop, or high winds, you must be careful to not hit a wave mid tack. With the lack of momentum, the boat will stop. So, I turn up a little slow at first, then throw the rudder hard over to make sure the bow gets through the wind and waves. Sheet out for speed then come back up on the wind.

Phil
Do you change the default program on your Tx from the factory settings, and if so, what works best for you?

Mark
No, except to adjust the end points. My new sail servo doesn’t seem to be as precise as my last one, so I might try setting up a switch to change the sheeted in position slightly.

So, there you have it, all of Mark’s secrets laid bare for you to use as you see fit! Tune in next time for another top DF skipper interview.