Peter Hurley - E Scow National Champion Interview

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7 February 2011

Peter, congratulations on winning the prestigious E Scow National Championship. There are some really famous names on that championship trophy and now your name is front and center. The Melges Team really congratulates you.

Andy: We also want to thank you for using North Sails. These designs powered you to a championship level. The North E Scow sails have been FAST for many years but most of all they are easy to tune. Any secrets you want to share in regards to set up on the North Sails?

Peter: One of the things I love about my North sails is that I can take them out of the bag, throw them up and have complete confidence in my speed without too much setup. My jib and spinnaker were new but I was a bit concerned about my main, which had a few regattas on it. I was thinking of placing an order prior to the event to get a new main, but when I put it up earlier in the summer I thought it looked great. Our speed was fantastic, so I’m glad I didn’t change a thing. I must admit that tuning has never been my forte. But this summer I think I got it right, with a lot of help from Will Demand, and the boat just took off. I only raced twice prior to Nationals this past season and the boat was really moving well and that gave me a ton of confidence going into the event. I sailed with a tighter rig than I had in previous years and it definitely made a difference.

Andy: If there were to list 3 keys to you winning this regatta what would you write down?

Peter: 1. I’ve got to say the real key was my crew Glen Dickson and Park Benjamin. The dynamic we had on the boat during the regatta was something I hadn’t experienced on the E in the past. We had only sailed together once before earlier in the summer where we finished 2nd at the Up Bay regatta. We had planned on sailing that event with 4, but one of my crew overslept. Park had never done the boards and didn’t feel comfortable going out and doing both positions. Fortunately, he didn’t have a choice and acclimated to it right away. I felt great with 3 on the boat and decided to go with it for Nationals. However, I couldn’t get all three of us back together again for the rest of the summer and Glen couldn’t commit to Little Egg until a few weeks prior to the event. I think our finishes in the first two races boosted our confidence after rounding the first windward mark deep both races, and that carried through the regatta.

2. Not sailing the last day! I think if the drop had kicked in and the wind had been light that day anything could’ve happened. It was definitely the most stressful morning of my life. When the power went out at the club and we couldn’t get boats in the water I thought someone’s looking out for me. It was memorable to say the least.

3. Boatspeed would have to be #3 for me. I felt like we had jets all around the course, but especially downwind. I’ve never had my A-sail trimmed better than the way Park does it and the boat just felt like it was moving well the entire time. He likes a huge curl and I was able to dive a bit lower with speed most runs. Again, I think it goes back to confidence: knowing you are fast in a 70 boat fleet is a great feeling. And you look a lot smarter than you are if the boatspeed is there.

Andy: The new Asymmetrical Kite set up has proven to be more tactical downwind in the E scow. Wider angles at times, more speed and acceleration, easy maneuverability. What were you focused on downwind?

Peter: The first day downwind was just mayhem. There were big shifts, and we tried to concentrate on puffs and getting away from the pack. We were deep at both windward marks and our downwind speed that day made the difference for us in the regatta. We rounded the first mark of the first race in the low 20’s and finished 7th and the second race we rounded around 30th and finished 6th. Like I said before, there is something about being in sync with the way Park was trimming that made the boat just take off and Glen and I were able to concentrate on looking around and keeping track of our angle. That day was the most tactical downwind with the wind oscillating quite a bit. We were able to hit a few really nice shifts and puffs on each run, which turned out to be the difference for us in the regatta.

Andy: Great crew work is important on any sailboat. The E scow really requires some aggressive sailing. How did you prepare your team and what were their strengths on and off the water?

Peter: Oh boy, not much preparation for us! Park and I are contending with 2 little ones each at home and Glen was busy with Lasers and Flying Scots. After Up Bays, I wound up racing one BBYRA day with Park and practicing once with Glen, each time with a different third crew. So when we did get together we really had to make it count. At Nationals, I think our boat speed was fantastic and our boat handling sufficed, but our tactical ability and the way the three of us spoke about what was going on was the key. There was a mutual respect for everyone’s opinion on the boat and I felt confident we were making the right decisions the entire regatta. I did take one flyer against their wishes out of frustration on a final run when we were fairly deep that cost us about 7 boats. At the time I thought it would be our drop. Looking back, I would’ve had a complete conniption if we had lost one more boat on that run.

Andy: How was your approach to the Nationals? Relaxed or ultra focused on doing well in the event? Explain your time spent leading up to the regatta.

Peter: I was completely focused on doing well at the event. I think in all the years of E Scow sailing that I’ve done I’ve never had the boat moving the way it was last summer. That along with having Glen and Park on the boat gave me a ton of confidence going into the event and over the course of my sailing career I’ve outperformed myself at big regattas when the pressure was the greatest.

Andy: Rumor has it Little Egg Harbor has been a magical place for you. Explain what you love about Little Egg and how you felt you had a home court advantage.

Peter: Don’t know why Little Egg has been so good to me. I think I’ve had more sleepless nights in Beach Haven than any other place in the world. I won the ’89 Laser Radial NA’s there and later that summer they hosted the Laser Nationals as well and I found myself winning ½ way through the event in a stacked fleet. That time I fell apart down the stretch, but to this day I always feel like big things can happen for me in Little Egg. It’s been quite some time since those results, but I guess the magic is still there.

Andy: What were you listening to on your ipod during that championship weekend?

Peter: In 1995 at my first Laser Worlds I was introduced to sports psychology with the US Sailing Team. Still believe firmly in it and visualization, etc. I decided to concentrate a bit on what made me successful in the past and listen to my old friend, Bob Proctor. Don’t think I told anyone I was doing this stuff, but I did tell my crew I thought we had a good shot at winning prior to the event. Think it’s the only thing that kept me sane on Sunday morning.

Congratulations again! Really happy for you and your team. We look forward to seeing you on the E scow regatta circuit in 2011.