Interview with 2015 Zenda University Champion Geoff Moehl by Eric Hood
23 March 2015
EH: We are connecting with 2015 Zenda University MC Scow Champion Geoff Moehl. So Geoff we first want to congratulate you on your win after 9 fast races and 17 practice starts. Way to go!!! Zenda University has been one of our most popular training events over the years, you have been several times yourself. Can you share with the MC Community what keeps bringing you back to a serious training event like this each year?
GM: Thanks, Eric, your comments are most kind.
I missed my first Zenda U because I thought it was for new sailors and the perceived cost. Then reality set in standing on the beach regretting not being out there with all the guys clearly having a blast.
Thinking about the cost, the expense to learn how to sail better gets small when compared to the investment already made in the boat and equipment. And really, what complicated things do we take on in life without the benefit of formal training? Not long division, Drivers' Ed, or running a nuclear reactor. It is just an expense of doing well sooner and to avoid a blow up, only this school of applied learning is also so much fun. It has the bang for the buck. And out on the race course when you think of something from class, try it, and it works, ahh...
What keeps bringing me back each year is the variety. The class has similar format but the content is not the same, it changes to meet the needs of the sailors. Different instructors provide new insights. Also we are on a different level from last time and are ready to learn more. The class itself has refined, the loud hailers are louder, and I am just surprised at the neat new stuff learned, as well as reemphasizing forgotten things. The more you learn, the more you don’t know.
EH: One thing that Team Zenda noticed about you this year and really in years past too is you really seem to be focused, you seem to be smiling, laughing all the time. It feels like there is some special to your approach. Can you share a little bit how you prepare for this event and of course the big event the Midwinter Championship that follows Zenda University?
GM: It is just so great to be out on the water in a training and practice situation. If something goes right like pushing to a good start or finding clear air or building good speed, so much the better. And when things are not working out, instead of slogging along doing the same thing and expecting different results, the instructors are there to provide instant fixes. This year my preparation was more focused. In previous regattas I noticed my scores would get worse as the regatta progressed and I got more tired and discouraged while perhaps the other sailors got in their groove.
I also lost a lot of strength being inactive last year and so I joined LA Fitness and added a personal training program. While I have a long way to go, I already feel better in the boat and stamina is up. A few weeks ago I could not have handled the heavy air races. This time I was at least able to stay out there. But, best laid plans, at two weeks before regatta I got the flu and still had a non-contagious cough so I was so extra happy just to have made it out here. I felt the strength I built up before the flu pulling me through the regatta.
I was considering a new sail. Jim looked at it at Zenda, still OK, but I remind myself the times I do poorly are not the sail, so better to get a new skipper. At Zenda?
EH: Okay this is a big question but I know you are a ferocious note taker and you seriously consider everything that is taught at Zenda University each year. What would be your top 10 take-aways for your season and level of sailing? Just bullet point them and if possible rank order them for us.
• I think it is about finding your individual needs and fixing them, like a golfer learning from a swing coach.
• Learn from mistakes. At Zenda I learned how short the timing is of a heavy air pin end start next to Jack Kern.
• Analyze and learn from mistakes Sooner. During the Midwinters Saturday practice starts, Pomerleau and I were doing the committee boat end. I did not pick up on my timing mistake in three attempts.
• Rounding the offset with a downwind plan and getting on that heading now.
• How to sail by the lee came in so handy by avoiding gybes in the heavy air downwind. Memorable moment was that microburst. The water turned light green and flattened out. Telltales went abeam. My MC never went so fast I was sure it would blow up.
• Setting up for the start. Did not think of this until just now. Before the heavy air start I set the gears for the conditions but during the start isn’t there is way less in the close quarters. So preplanning the gear is slow no go.
• Big takeaway from Zenda U. Anticipate. Like: Vang Cunningham and outhaul off before the windward mark to enable a fast offset leg, a focus on the traffic and on the start of the run instead of rounding the offset and getting run over while fumbling with the control lines.
• I new it would be humble pie in the Midwinters and I was not disappointed. Focus is number one but starting next to Rob Seidelmann so many times and continuously focusing on his speed and statuesque nature may not be what “head out of the boat focus” means. Better to drive my boat, and not crash into any one. See 1,2 3. And 10. For me there much more to learn about the psychology change from Zenda to the Big Dance.
• Still looking for the answer to big fleet nerves.
• Takeaway suggestion from Zenda: Look for where the top sailors are starting and consider how it is working for them. I should try this.
EH: So we have heard about the why and what is important to you with the training event, which is awesome!! Now as the 2015 Zenda University Champion please enjoy this platform. Please share with us what is important to you going forward in sailing for you, our class and sport.
GM: Lets look at why so many were not able to participate in the higher wind races and also some gear failures.
• Practice and confidence: If one is a new sailor it sure makes sense not to be out there with so much traffic until your boat handling skills are sufficient. How about an article on the website of tips from the experts on heavy air techniques.
• Rig: We could also use an article on the web site on rig inspection tips on what to look for to inspect your rig to keep the mast up.
• In a related comment: Just before the Midwinters, Richard Blake found looseness in the gooseneck fitting where it attaches to the mast. I checked the screws and mine were 1 1/2 turns out. Analysis is that the clamping force is only on the horizontal center and vertical midline such that tightening the screws still left a wobble that leads to loosening again. A die grinder applied to those interference areas put the clamping force nicely on the outer edge evenly and it is now tight with no screw-loosening wobble.
• I imagine some of the big sailors with the 30-inch biceps are probably irritated that the mainsheet is not 1:1. After a Midwinters Saturday when we went out and then came in due to too much wind, I could not go out again. The biceps were shot even with the 5:1. It took two years to come up with my solution for the sailor who needs it, a dual ratio Harken mainsheet system. 6:1 for the heavy air and smooth adjustments, 3:1 for the start, mark roundings, Crazy Ivans, and 720’s. Works for me.
• Also how about an article for the web site on spreader settings from our expert Jack Kern who set all the spreaders for the masters.
• Comfort in boat. I was slipping and even new shoes still slipped. I felt the floor in back of the traveler. The non-skid was worn smooth. Installed a square of that cushion foam and now back to no skid with a new level of cushion comfort.
• (Can you tell I love the engineering)
• Sport: US Sailing is why we sail without chaos and deserves our support and involvement.
• It is pretty obvious we need to go back to the original black flag rule. Making the rules more user friendly with exceptions has the hazard of missing the massive amount of experience that went into the writing of the original rule.
EH: Thank you so much for your time Champ!! Again, from Team Zenda and I know all of your competitors at Zenda University congratulations Geoff. Well done my friend!!!!
• Friend: That says it all…