Board Member karin mckinnell leidel is only female helmswoman in superyacht regatta

Board Member karin mckinnell leidel is only female helmswoman in superyacht regatta


This past weekend, a crew of 19 brought the storied sailboat Arcadia, a 69 foot McCurdy and Rhodes sloop, back to Newport for the 30th Anniversary of her commissioning.  We were going up to spectate the two day super yacht regatta called the Candy Store Cup to see some of the biggest and most beautiful boats in the world.  Why spectate, you ask?  Arcadia was considered too small.

As luck would have it, a few last minute spots opened and Arcadia was invited to join the fleet of 12 as the oldest boat by 9 years, Well diversified at 47% women crew and driven by the only female helmsman in the Regatta.  It was an unforgettable experience.

Day 1 was off to a great start with the best starting line prowess of the 12 boats in a pursuit race format. We immediately sailed right out of the gates and into the rocks, at least that is what it looked like.  The water is so deep off the shores of Newport, we could get so close to the rocky shoreline that you could have thrown a tennis ball and hit it.  There is a huge mental game involved in sailing where it takes courage to trust your navigator and hold your course when your instincts as a driver are screaming at you to do otherwise.  It was a wonderful lesson.  In the end, we used that established trust a few times during the day to get around the course.  One mark rounding was so close, the entire crew cheered as the boats’ wake pushed the mark away and we aggressively turned around it to avoid a touch on the rebound.  We were one of only four boats that completed the full 19 nautical miles of racing that day.  It was hard fought and exhilarating.  Lesson learned: trust is the foundation of a powerful team.

Day 2 proved to be even more exciting.  We had a frustrating start, as the 40 meter keep away rule meant we had to follow behind the preceding yacht’s late start with our own late start.  We could not close the gap.  Each mark thereafter was a fight to get to, but we kept picking the competitors off.  One downwind leg was so intense we were on the verge of blowing out our spinnaker the entire way.    The degree of concentration and communication between Molly Peterson, on spin trim and I as driver was vigorous the rest of the boat nearly silent as we all understood what was on the line.  It felt like David and Goliath as we were surrounded by behemoth super yachts including the 499 ton, Zenji.  Speaking of behemoths, if the racing wasn’t intense enough, on another leg, my bowman and Oakcliff graduate, Justin Corso, was prepping the spinnaker then jumped up and screamed WHALE! In the middle of our most critical tack of the day.   (Both the Whale and Arcadia were unharmed.)  Lesson learned: no matter what you are freaking out about, give the driver a direction!    

We may have missed a trophy by under a minute after racing 33 nautical miles over 2 days, but we still won in my eyes.  Every person on Arcadia worked as hard as they could this weekend, perhaps doing what they didn’t think was possible.  We are an amateur racing team and this weekend was an incredible example of how teams can magnify an individual effort but only under the guidance of someone truly exceptional.  Our Regatta captain, Bam Miller, was our coach and backstop that gave us all the courage to do our best and more.  Lessons learned: Doing more than you think possible just goes to show, it matters who is teaching and leading you.

I am proud to be an Oakcliff Sailing board member where they are professionals at building high performance racing teams.  Perhaps I should enroll my team in Oakcliff’s private coaching sessions so that we can be even more prepared for next year’s Candy Store Cup.  Maybe you should consider doing the same.