CRW 2021

Flying Tigers at SCRW

flyingtiger1sBy Bill Wagner

Dave Smith began with the goal of getting more people into sailing. So he started a sailing school in Ontario, Canada and purchased a fleet of 10 Flying Tiger 7.5 meter sport boats to serve as training platforms.

The National One-Design Sailing Academy was originally designed as an adult training program that could eventually service numerous regions around Canada. Smith noted it has gone through several evolutions since being founded with a major development coming after Bill Gladstone administered an on-water clinic that was sold out.

“It dawned on me that we could do an extension of that idea by combining with big regattas,” Smith said.

And that explains how the Flying Tiger 7.5 class came to be part of Sperry Charleston Race Week beginning in 2018. Smith’s One-Design Sailing Academy has brought its “Regatta Experience” program to Charleston and provided 50 participants an opportunity to compete in one of the world’s most prestigious regattas.

“Charleston Race Week has proven very popular with our customers, evidenced by the fact we are sold out of slots this year,” Smith said. “It’s an incredible event on and off the water and a real bucket list item for a lot of sailors.”

Dieter Hugel has always wanted to do Sperry Charleston Race Week and seriously thought about traveling his Newport 41 from New Orleans for the classic mid-April regatta.

“I’d love to race here with my own boat, but it was just too cost prohibitive,” said Hugel, a member of the Corinthians Sailing Association based on Lake Pontchartrain. “I found out about this 1D sailing program and realized me and my crew could do Charleston for a lot cheaper.”

A total of five members of the Tigi Too club sailing team are here for team-building and bonding purposes, enjoying the splendid sailing conditions of Charleston Harbor while also getting valuable instruction from a professional coach provided by the National One-Design Sailing Academy.

“It’s a great experience for the crew and a ton of fun to be here in Charleston with the nightly parties and other activities,” Hugel said. “Having a knowledgeable coach reinforces some of the stuff we already knew, but has also helped us learn some new tricks and techniques.”

flyingtigers2sVeteran professional Geoff Becker, a former collegiate coach and multiple champion in various one-design classes, described his role on the Team Hugel boat as that of chaperone.

“We’re just trying to fine-tune some of the skills these sailors already possess,” Becker said. “I’m walking the group through each step in the process of a major regatta like this, beginning with onshore preparation.”

Some participants have come to Sperry Charleston Race Week as ready-made teams while others arrive as individuals and are grouped together on a boat. Paul Dewaele and his son Alex race an Olson 25 out of Ontario and are hoping the program can improve their performance.

“Every club racer wants to find ways to go faster and there is a lot of important information these coaches can impart while we’re out there practicing or racing,” Paul Dewaele said.

This particular “Regatta Experience” kicked off with two days of advance training designed to familiarize participants with the Flying Tiger 7.5 while providing a few rounds of instruction. Boston resident Averill Brumfield, a longtime Soling and Etchells sailor, is onboard the boat with the Dewaele father-son duo and is eager to glean a few techniques that will help him move up in the fleet back home.

“If I can take one or two good things away from this week that I can implement into my Soling program it will be well worth it,” Brumfield said. “I’m here to learn and have fun and I’ve been doing plenty of both the last couple days.”

Smith has arranged for the National One-Design Sailing Academy program to hold its group meetings aboard the USS Yorktown, the aircraft carrier berthed at Patriot Point just a short walk from Dock K where all the Flying Tigers are tied up. There is a morning briefing to discuss weather, boat setup and tactics then an afternoon de-briefing to review the day’s racing action.

Andreas Josenhans, a former Olympian and America’s Cup competitor, has been leading the twice-daily discussion sessions. Video is utilized to review good and bad occurrences on the race course.

“Our intent is not to be critical, but to find root causes that will help everybody. It’s all about developing correct habits,”Josenhans said. “This is a whole new approach for developing the skills needed to race today. I think it’s one heck of a program and incredibly cost-effective because the sailors just need to show up jump onboard a race-ready boat.”

Smith said the Flying Tiger is an ideal training platform because it features a wide-open 16-foot cockpit and is quite stable, but also boasts considerable sail area and is capable of planing.

“These boats are comfortable, safe and super-fast,” he said.

The National One-Design Sailing Academy has brought its “Regatta Experience” program to a variety of major regattas around the United States and Smith is seriously considering increasing the number of offerings.

“In three years of doing this we have never had a single complaint,” he said. “In fact, a lot of our customers have described the experience as life-changing.”