Thursday, March 12, 2009

Interview: Skip Dieball

I managed to get Skip Dieball of Quantum Sails One Design out of Toledo, OH to sit down for an interview after Thistle Midwinters East to talk about how his regatta went. He's an all around great guy and sails regularly in the Thistle, Lightning, and tons of other classes.

Stern Scoop (SS): Congrats on the third place – were you happy with your regatta overall?

Skip Dieball (SD): Thanks. When you come into a regatta like MWE, you want to do as well as you can. Certainly we were hoping to win this event, but finishing in the top 5 was our secondary goal and we are happy with how the event played out.


SS: That OCS in the second race made it tough for you guys – what happened there?

SD: I’ve got tons of excuses! Actually, it was one of those races where there wasn’t a clear line sight and we got tangled with some boats. Jordan Gourash (Middle), Ryanne Gallagher (Forward) and I had a conversation on the way in whether we felt we might have been OCS. My response was, “…who knows…”. You are essentially racing the boats next to you inside of 20 seconds. Without a clear line sight, the risk goes up. It is a bummer that it happened. It seems to be a chronic problem for many at MWE. This isn’t my first MWE with an OCS, unfortunately.


SS: Did the OCS make you more conservative on later starts? Obviously a second one would have made it tough to stay in the top 5 – what did you do to minimize risk but still get off the line well?

SD: I don’t think it changed our “approach” to the starts at all. We still tried to get clear and safe line sights and tried to throttle back, but only a little. In a few of the starts, we were actually 2nd row and had to clear out right away…I guess that’s the other extreme, which I had hoped we would try to avoid! We’ve got this rule on our boat that we complement each other on a nice start. Sometimes the “nice start” has a sarcastic tone to it!!!


SS: How did you handle getting the OCS early in the regatta in terms of your mental attitude?

SD: In years past I would have been bummed out…and this time I guess I was to a certain degree. In a no-throwout series can carrying all those points….we were able to stay out a little later at night and we might have been more relaxed. I think Jordan, Ryanne and I did a nice job of keeping it all in perspective. We said we could go for the “moral victory”, but a friend once said, “…I freakin’ hate moral victories…”.


SS: You were sailing a borrowed boat for the regatta – what cool rigging tricks do you have on your boat that you missed having?

SD: We were fortunate to charter Paul Abdullah’s #3985 GMW. It is one of the fastest Thistles around, so when we discussed the opportunity to charter, I was pretty sure we would be stepping into a perfect boat. When I rig out my boat, I try to keep everything simple. There wasn’t anything I missed that I have on my boat, other than my super sweet ZHIK hiking straps. Oh, and my centerboard uphaul system allows me to play the board on a more gross tune than the GMW drum.


SS: What’s your favorite Wet Willie’s drink flavor?

SD: I’m a little abnormal in that I enjoy the “Call me a cab” first, then the “Attitude Adjustment” second. There is no 3rd drink! We’ve seen too many casualties over the years and it is a proven fact that after 3, you are typically a no-show for the prize-giving. Footnote: for those that don’t know, it is somewhat of a tradition that the Thistle clan goes to Wet Willie’s in St. Pete prior to the banquet. There have been a number of entertaining acceptance speeches over the years!

Editor's Note: For those who haven't been Wet Willie's is a bar in St. Pete that specializes in drinks that basically combine Slurpee's with excessive amounts of alcohol.


SS: What attracts performance sailors like Van Cleef, Fisher and yourself to an old-school boat like the Thistle? What's next, T. Hutch at the Alberg 30 Worlds?

SD: Certainly the boats are cool. Going fast is fun and the boats reward you, if you sail them correctly. I can’t speak for those old(er) guys, but I enjoy the racing about as much as I enjoy the camaraderie. The Thistle has been around for a very long time and has certainly held its own against other boats in the same category! As for the Alberg and Terry’s involvement...


SS: Speaking of “old school” do you like wood? ... or glass?

SD: I’m on my 8th Thistle (3731, 3908, 1027, 3839, 3844, 3995, 1049, 1234). Each boat has its own mystique. I am a huge fan of new GMWs and will again sail one. But for now, I’m in a woody state of mind. My dad and I have rehabbed a few and the project is really a lot of fun and the boats do perform. I am a bit nostalgic and like to see older boats compete with newer boats…but these woodies require a bit of maintenance. My dad’s boat shop is like a Nascar Garage! Fortunately he’s got the time, skill and patience to handle a woody project; traits that seemed to have slipped my gene pool!


SS: Without making either of us sound like creepy old men - we’ve noticed you often have attractive and talented collegiate sailors crewing for you – do you have any tips on recruiting crew for those of us stuck sailing with old dudes?

SD: I think the term is “Creeper”. Though I have friends that have been called Creeper, fortunately I have not. It is really an amazing coincidence that my crew have been young college sailors. When I recruit crew I prioritize the way Larry MacDonald taught me: Fun, Skill, Size. It has worked out, for sure. I am not the most medium guy around, so size sometimes creeps up the list. The next event is the Orange Peel. I will, without a doubt, have the best looking team as my wife will be onboard for the first time in a while! As far as advice, make sure who you choose as a teammate is fun first. Total Thistle crew weight should be 450-500lbs.


SS: What are your thoughts about One Design sailing in this tough economy – do you think we might see more sailors move towards the reduced expense of OD boats like the Thistle and away from their custom PHRF rocket sleds?

SD: This is a serious question that has been tossed around at the Class Admin and US SAILING level. I think there are two opportunities that will come of this economy. One is that localized fleet racing should go up. Folks will do the stay-vacation thing more and more, which only helps at the club level. Fleets need to plan fun stuff to take advantage. The other opportunity is that we could get the Big Boat folks. Certainly classes like the Thistle, Lightning, Scot, etc. have very active classifieds with boats available at all prices. Stepping into an OD boat from something like a PHRF sled takes a little bit of a transition and their expectations should reflect this…if not, they’ll get frustrated quickly and no one wins. That is where the fleet stalwarts need to step in, identify and help!


SS: What’s your favorite piece of gear / foulies to wear?

SD: Hands down, MUSTO MPX. I’ve got the Dry Top, Salopettes, Shorts. Amazing stuff!


SS: Do friends let friends sail PHRF?

SD: Yeah, but few admit to it. At my home club (North Cape Yacht Club), we have an active PHRF group. I find a lot of my 1D friends doing the beer can night races. I get a kick out of sailing the T10 on a PHRF night. My dad drives, my brother is responsible for the pizza and I’m responsible for the beverage and music. We then fill in the primary spots as we go and emphasize fun. You can pack a lot of people on a T10 and usually we do. We keep it completely FUN. Too many PHRF programs treat beer can nights as the Americas Cup. Fun, unfortunately, is not the focus, but it absolutely should be!


SS: What other big regattas to you have planned for this year?

SD: It is a full schedule this year. I’ll sail major events in Thistle, Lightning, Interlake, J24, J22, Beneteau 36.7, T10….there might be a few surprise events this year, if the schedule works out.


SS: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us Skip.


We hope to make interviews with both top sailors and the rest us mere mortals as well a regular feature here at the Stern Scoop. If there's someone you think we have to talk to or questions we need to ask, let us know.

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