Interview with Charlie Ogletree

2001 S20 Class Champion

 by Roberto Cordero

How do you feel about winning the national championship? –Ecstatic! We made winning the Nationals  a goal of ours at the beginning of the year and it feels great to accomplish our goal. Mike and I finished second to Tom Schock in 1997, the last time we sailed Nationals, and we wanted to win this year.

 

First of all, would you introduce your crew at this event? Tell us about their backgrounds. –John Papadopoulos: John is a Schock dealer in Newport Beach, CA. He is my partner in the boat and is very excited about the Santana 20 Class. John began sailing only seven years ago. Since then he has practiced and worked harder than almost anyone I know. His hard work has been rewarded with a Lido 14 and Santana 20 National Championship.                                               

Mike Pinckney, aka “Buddha”: Mike is a resident of Costa Mesa, CA. He has been racing sailboats and Santana 20’s since he was a junior sailor. He won the Governor’s Cup as a kid. Mike is an Inter-Collegiate All-American, Inter-Collegiate National Champion, Schock 35 National Champion and a Santana 20 National Champion.  Mike is always competitive whether skippering or crewing. Mike is my tactician and is one of the best sailors I have sailed with at boat positioning and tactics. He excels when the wind and the race gets tricky. This makes him one of the best lake sailors and light air sailors I have raced with.

 

What is racing like in the Santana 20 Class compared to the other classes that you race in?-The Santana 20 Class is very competitive. The boats are all very even and there are sailors who have been racing the Santana 20 a very long time. This makes it very tough because they know the boat very well, better than I do. Whenever I come up with a new idea, they probably have already tried it. Because of this, I had to focus on making sure our boat was as perfectly prepared as possible, our sails were as fast as possible and our boat handling was good. Once this was done, we just had to execute our game plan.

 The Santana 20 Class has excellent sailors and very fair and tough racing. This is the only Nationals I have raced with zero protests. That is a direct reflection of the people of the class. That is why so many sailors remain loyal to the Santana 20. It is fun, friendly, fair and competitive.

 

What was the most challenging aspect of this year's National Championship?- Dealing with the Midges, algae and leeches. No, just kidding!!! The conditions were very consistent and the right side of the course was favored so the most challenging aspect was getting a good start and being able to hold a lane going towards the favored side. This became of paramount importance and placed a huge emphasis on the first beat. We focused on that part of our game plan and it worked well for us each race.

 

How much time did you spend practicing for the Nationals? –Last fall the three of us decided to sail the Santana 20 together. John had never raced a spinnaker boat, let alone do foredeck. So we practiced this winter on boat handling. We sailed three regattas this spring and continued to practice boat handling off and on. Before the three regattas we would speed tune with Bruce Golison to make sure our speed was in the game. The week before Nationals we sailed three evenings in Newport Beach focusing on boat handling. When we arrived in Klamath Falls we speed tuned for two days with Bruce Golison and continued our boat handling. We raced part of both practice races just to “check in”.  We were ready when the regatta started.

 

You used a new Santana 20 for this event. Did you have to make changes from the factory delivered model that you think helped you in racing or crew work?- Yes we made changes. As I mentioned above, John is a Schock dealer in Newport Beach. His goal as a dealer is to take the standard Schock product and tweak it to make it perfect and race ready. John is a perfectionist as most good sailors are. He would like to see the customers receive a boat that is ready to win a National Championship the first time it sails. John used our boat as the guinea pig for this plan and our boat is now excellent. It is very fast, crew friendly and looks nice. I recommend calling John if anyone has any rigging questions.

 

Given the conditions at Klamath Falls, what 'go fast' techniques or settings worked for you, that could help other Santana 20 sailors? We heard that the conditions were pretty consistent throughout. If so, how did you trim your sails? –The regatta was sailed in flat water and very consistent wind conditions. This meant that everyone had similar speed. Since the right side was favored, the boats with the best start and the best speed would come out on top. We learned this lesson in Race One. We got a good start, had good speed, but average height (pointing ability). After sailing the whole race and then looking at the rig we decided that the loose “ocean rig” would not work on the flat water. We tightened the upper, lower and aft lower shrouds quite a bit. We sheeted the mainsail and genoa tighter and I used more backstay than normal for eight to ten knots of wind. I also changed my steering  slightly.  I began focusing on pointing instead of forward speed. I tried to keep the genoa telltales straight back or mostly the windward one flying. The leeward telltale never stalled the rest of the regatta.

These changes were huge. We then became one of the fastest and highest pointing boats. We became so confident in our speed and pointing that we changed our regatta strategy. We started in the middle of the line every race, waited for the windward boats to tack, and then we would tack. We had enough speed to hold our lane to the right side and then lead the boats out of the right towards the windward mark. This worked for us every race and it showed in our consistency. We never had a bad race or bad start. Speed allows you this luxury.

 

We also heard from others that the races were less of tactical since everyone headed to the right side of the course. Could you explain to the rest of us who weren't there why this was the case? – The right side was heavily favored every race except the last race. This makes it “less tactical” because everyone knows where to go on the first beat. On the other hand, it also makes the regatta much harder. It puts a premium on starting, boat speed, and consistency. Because there were not a lot of wind shifts, there were not many chances to recover from mistakes. This type of sailing is not necessarily less tactical; it just requires a different type of tactics to do well. 

Back to your question of why the right side was so favored. It was mainly more wind velocity. As the boats sailed towards the right side on port tack, they actually got lifted the entire way till they tacked to starboard. The boats to leeward on port got lifted more than the windward boats. After the tack to starboard, boats were headed, but in good wind velocity. The starboard lift did not come till the boats got near the point of land. The wind then funneled and shifted right between the point of land and the island. This all makes since the wind was bending more perpendicular to the land which produced the port lift or left shift that everyone saw on their compasses. The boats leeward and ahead, closer to land, got more of the port lift. Once they tacked to starboard, they were still in the left shift, which meant a starboard header.  Once the boats got closer to open water, the point of land, the wind shifted right and the gap between the point and the island increased the velocity with a funneling effect.

 Any other regatta trade secrets that you are able to reveal now that racing is over?- Nothing too magical. As I said above, our key to success was boat preparation, fast sails, and consistency in our starting, tactics and boat speed. When a regatta such as this one is sailed on a lake with only six races and no discards, minimizing mistakes becomes of utmost importance.  That is the biggest “secret” or piece of advice I have. Clean, consistent starts, good speed, conservative tactics and good boat handling may not win races, but will definitely win regattas. I learned that from Dave Ullman, the master of winning regattas, not individual races. If you look at our results this regatta compared to the others, you will see just that.

 

Are you going to continue racing Santana 20's in the future? –Yes. As I mentioned earlier, the Santana 20 is a fun boat and the class is excellent. There are a lot of fun boats out there, but not many have the camaraderie of the Santana 20 Class. I look forward to seeing everyone again and working with the class any way I can. Please feel free to call or e-mail me at Ullman Sails and I will be happy to talk Santana 20’s with you.