|Derek Pickell, the 2013 Junior National Sabot Champion|
By Len Bose
August 15, 2013 | 1:56 p.m.
I'm not going to lie — I took advantage of being the Daily Pilot's harbor columnist and called up this year's winner of the Junior Sabot Nationals, Derek Pickell. My intentions were solely personal in an effort to improve my own sailing ability. What I came away with was a number of good ideas on how to win a big regatta and better sail our harbor.
About nine days ago, Derek qualified for gold fleet in this year's Junior Sabot Nationals, sailed in Mission Bay, San Diego. For a complete review of the race, be sure to read Daily Pilot writer David Carrillo Penaloza's article in last Sunday's sports page titled "Pickell captures Sabot crown." This is a rather large title to place on your resume, and it does not come very easily. What I was looking for was how he got the "W" and what advice I could take away from this interview.
I congratulated Derek, who is 15, on his win and asked him which names of past winners got his attention when he picked up the trophy. "Jon Pinckney and Mark Gaudio," he said. "Over my career, I have noticed their names on most of the perpetual trophies I have competed for." Derek has also become the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club's third member to have won this event, which dates back to 1948; the two other BCYC members were Pinckney and Bill Ward.
Derek has had two Phoenix Sabots from the time he was a beginner until now and explained that the most difficult time for him was when he advanced from beginning sabots to C3s. "I was out on the harbor alone, new to the sport and lots of big boats all around me" he explained, with still a touch of anxiety in his voice. I asked him what advice he would give the C3 sailor who is struggling to make it into C2s. "Try not to focus on the other boats," he said. "Stay on the right point of sail and trim your sail properly. Stay away from the giant clumps of boats that gather around marks. You can spend minutes mixed up in those clumps."
Derek went on to tell me that what helped him the most was to listen to his coaches and watch his fellow competitors. He is not a superstitious sailor and does not have a lucky hat or shirt. "I prefer to rely on myself and not become dependent on a object," he said. I laughed at loud at this point, knowing how superstitious I am and that his coach, Gaudio, is the same way.
Trying to obtain as much information from the champ as I could, I asked if he had any secrets to sailing Newport Harbor. "There is always the 'Lido Lift' if the wind is blowing down the channel," he explained with confidence. "Always anticipate that a large boat will go through the course at some point in the race and make sure to show up a half-hour before the race starts and take a look around the harbor."
In a number of recent interviews, Derek was quoted as saying, "In sabot racing, you only want to think and plan 100 feet forward at a time so that you don't overwhelm yourself with tactics and anticipation." The quote continued, but I wanted to get a better understanding of what he meant about 100 feet forward. Derek called it "kind of like in chess — the players that are trying to look seven moves ahead and spend so much time on what might happen in the future. Because sabots are such a small boat, there are so many variables you don't want to get to distracted. I try to stay focused on what is right in front of me and what is going on in my own boat."
Derek sails on the Corona del Mar High School varsity sailing team and plans on sailing in college. I asked him if he has been following the America's Cup. "I will definitely watch it," he said. "What amazes to me is the amount of articles in magazines. It's becoming more intense and thrilling. I will be watching it live."
Another pair of champions was crowned last weekend: Katie and David Levey are BCYC champions. I tied Gaudio for second and lost the tie-breaker and ended up in third. In the Family Championships, the Kerrigan family took home the gold.
Time to head out on my Harbor 20 and work on my boat speed and mark roundings.
LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist.