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Race to Learn

Race to Learn
by Traci O'Dea

Captain Colin Rathbun won the Pete Sheals Memorial Match Race (for the fourth time) along with his crew Nick Cunha, Chris Brockbank and Seamus Ryder. But each of the guys seems more focused on learning than winning.

The Skipper: Colin Rathbun
“Whenever there is an event he can go to, he goes not to win but to learn. That is his approach,” said crewmate Nick Cunha. “Last year, I think he got a glimpse of the potential not only for him but for sailing as a spor t in the VI. By being one of the more intermediate match racers and going against professional sailors and holding his own, he realized what had to be done to improve, and now he is doing it.”

Colin, as usual, gave credit to his crew for winning the race. “I know we had the best crew work out there,” he said. “The first couple of races, we were catching up a lot because everything was happening like clockwork. We didn’t have any issues that would slow us down. It was just a really good team. We lost the first three star ts and then came back. Great race. Great venue.”

The Sidekick: Nick Cunha

When I asked the always positive Nick Cunha about match racing versus fleet racing, he said, “I like that in match racing the boats used are generally very well matched so you rely more on skill—a duel. There are different ways to attack and defend. Always to sail to your strengths,” Nick said. “It is a great way to present sailing as a spor t because it is exciting to par ticipants and spectators alike. It is also a bit more refined than fleet racing so it can serve as a nice break from the lunacy associated with fleet racing.” Nick star ted sailing when he arrived in the BVI four years ago, and Colin took him out. He is still learning, even though he always seems to be on the winning team. “I don't think there is a sailor on the planet that knows everything, even though some may think they do. It's like any sport–the materials, technique and conditions will always change so must the seamen.”

The Kid: Chris Brockbank
Whenever anyone mentions Chris Brockbank in a sailing conversation, the phrase “glued to the foredeck” is always repeated. “You can’t throw him off the bow,” Colin said. Chris encourages others to learn the spor t at the Royal British Virgin Islands Yacht Club where he teaches youth sailing. Though he loves to sail, his affinity for spinnaker trim might be because the ostentatious sail is nicknamed a kite. Chris was the youngest competitor at the inaugural BVI Kite Jam last year, and I overheard one of the old school BVI kiters say, “Chris makes it look easy. I’ve been doing this for ten years, and he just picked it up one day and put us all to shame.”

The Newbie: Seamus Ryder
What did Seamus Ryder bring to the table? “Positivity, cool confidence and some 1990s neon wraparound shades,” said Nick. “He won a race for us. In one of our races, we were just ahead of another boat. As we approached the leeward mark for a rounding, there was a windward mark change on the next leg. As we headed off in the direction of the previous windward mark, Seamus pointed out that there was a mark change that none of us had noticed because we were busy prepping and dousing the kite. Without Seamus, we could have potentially lost the race.”

This was Seamus’s first match racing event. “If I were asked about match racing at the start of the summer, I would have replied ‘ask someone else,” he said, but he learned a lot match racing with Colin. “I love how after two round robins and 10 flights of match racing, the next race is just as impor tant as the last ten, and the boat in last is just as dangerous as the boat in first; it all comes down to the next race…There's no hiding. You either win or you lose.” Seamus summed it all up a few days after the race: “I hope to never stop learning, and that I am constantly improving, because I think that's why the best are the best. The day you stop learning is the day you've lost the race. Even then you're probably learning. I have learned a lot from losing.”.

Photo by Traci O'Dea.


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