EXCLUSIVE MELGES 24 INTERVIEW: Kristen Lane
16 May 2008
Kristen Lane is a shining star in the Melges 24 fleet right now, not only because she one of the few lady helms, but also because of her growing list of achievements in the Melges 24 Class. Melges Performance Sailboats' Andy Burdick took time to speak with Kristen at the Annapolis NOODs.
Andy Burdick: Good Morning Kristen, thank you for taking the time to do a brief interview with the Melges 24 Class. We see your commitment to the sport and your enthusiasm while racing your Melges 24 and it intrigues many. How did you get involved with sailing?
Kristen Lane: My husband introduced me to sailing on our first date. I began crewing for him in races and I was immediately hooked. I crewed on a variety of boats for about 6 years. Three 3 years ago we bought "Brick House 539", our first Melges 24 and I have been addicted ever since. About one year ago we purchase our second boat "Brick House 623" and became a two-boat program.
AB: You travel to all of the major Melges 24 events. Recently you went from San Francisco to Florida to South Carolina then to Annapolis, Maryland and now on to Newport! The Melges 24 is certainly unique in that it is simple to move around, rig and launch � does this play a factor in your travels or is it simply that you want to attend all of the big regattas and improve in your sailing?
KL: Well, it's both. The boat's easy set up is key for us. It makes the idea of traveling cross-country seam doable. Once you get there, setting the boats up to go racing is pretty simple and we are able to get right to racing. But the level of competition at M24 events is what really keeps us coming back for more. On any weekend we can be racing against Olympic and/or world champions. It's really thrilling. This year we decided to try out the M24 Ranking Circuit and we are having a blast.
AB: You have an excellent crew and a great support group including your husband Peter who races his own Melges 24. With this type of 'surrounding' you must get a lot of informative input. Explain as to how this helps your racing once the starting gun goes off.
KL: Having a 2 boat team has been very beneficial to my learning curve. Generally we try to share information so both boats benefit from the knowledge. Of course both boats are set up similarly with equal sails. We always start a race day by splitting tacks for a timed run to learn the conditions on the course. We also share information about rig set up and mode before and between races. Although we sail with different sized teams (my boat has 5 people and Peter's has 4) we talk a lot about weight placement and feel. Peter has been extremely supportive of my sailing and he is my biggest fan, but once the gun goes off we are pretty much competitors. We have had some tight crosses and each of us has inadvertently tacked on each other� At the end of day we are all on the same team. We always debrief together and share the lessons learned.
AB: The World Championship in Santa Cruz, California was an incredible Melges 24 Regatta. A fabulous venue and exciting conditions. You sailed your boat very, very well there. What was your focus in those windy races? If you had to race that event again would you do anything different?
KL: OK, first off let me say to anyone that may be reading this � sailing a Melges 24 in Santa Cruz is a life change experience and everyone should do it. I was expecting wind, which as you know the regatta had plenty of each day. But that last day and the final race I will remember for the rest of my life. The wind was huge, the waves were big and the down wind rides were epic. I remember approaching the last windward mark and seeing a softball-sized bulge in the luff of the main sail and wondering if it was going to shred right before my eyes. As we rounded the windward mark and headed for the offset we popped up on a plane and quickly hit 13 kts. Once the chute went up it was a full adrenalin ride and we loved every minute of it. In the big breeze we played it conservatively at the start and approached late to whatever hole was created by boats drifting in 30+knots. Off the line it was all about going fast and minimizing the tacks. In Santa Cruz we figured out that in a very high wind range where the main is no longer working, keeping the boat sailing fast through the waves with the power in the jib is key. I also learned that in that very heavy wind range my lightweight can be a big advantage over my competition because I have 4 guys on the rail hiking as hard as they possibly can. Another thing I learned about those conditions is that my bicep muscle makes a pretty good mainsheet cleat � I played the main with just my arm strength and was pretty tired after that last race. That final race was our best race result of the event. Looking back I think having a Blast Reacher spinnaker would have been a good move. We were fine with the AP but I can say that in some of the Big Puffs on the last day we were getting pretty deep and having the ability to put the bow up a little would have been a lot more comfortable. I really hope the worlds make a return to Santa Cruz some day because I would love to try it again.
AB: You won a race at the recent Annapolis NOOD regatta. Was this a precursor of things to come with the 2009 World Championship being in Annapolis? I know your focus and attention must be toward that event. We could certainly see you winning a race in the Worlds � is that a goal that you and your team have?
KL: Winning a race at a Melges 24 regatta is an honor. I am really happy with the whole team�s performance there. Both boats will be headed back to Annapolis for the Worlds in '09. Looking ahead I can say my goal setting is simple. For me it is all about improvement of the process and in turn generating improved results. It's a little too early to be assessing specific results goals for a World Championship. But I can tell you I am going to be preparing and hopefully continuing to improve.
AB: What is the best part about the Melges 24?
KL: The people who race these boats are great competitors and the boats themselves are thrilling to sail. It's difficult to ask for anything more then that out of a boat.
AB: Thank you Kristen for meeting with us! We look forward to doing more racing with you in the near future.