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Conversations within the sport of sailing - Pete Levesque
It is often said how sailing is unique as a sport, where the opportunity is readiliy available to compete against the very best in the sport. Occassionally we get the chance to chat with them too.
(April 30, 2009) Pete Levesque and his Silver Panda team has won the past two team racing world championships, so when past J/24 world champ Chris Larson said in Scuttlebutt that he considered Pete as one of the sleepers to win next week’s J/24 Worlds in Annapolis, we checked in with Pete for an update:
When did you get the idea to do the Worlds, and what has been the path since then?
The desire to compete at the J/24 Worlds started when Caroline (wife) and I moved to Rhode Island, (Tiverton) in March 2008 and began working at Hall Spars. The local Newport J/24 fleet is very active and strong so we thought that if we could compete locally then we would probably be competitive at any J/24 regatta. We've been in the boat for almost a year and so far that has proved to be the case. The path to the worlds has been a calendar full of events. Nationals, Newport Regatta, Noroton, Mid-winters, East Coasts, Annapolis NOOD and every summertime Thursday night in Newport. It's been a great experience and I can understand why this boat is still popular after 30+ years.
You nearly won the Annapolis NOOD, widely used as the final tune-up event for the J/24 Worlds. What did you learn from that event that will help you in the Worlds?
At the NOOD we were able to verify the results of the work we put in this winter. We wanted to make sure we were fast, that we had picked the correct genoa for ourselves and that our rig was doing what we had expected. But, most of all we wanted to know what else we needed to work on to get better. As we cross things off of the J/24 boat-specific learning curve list, we find that we need to improve ourselves the most.
Do you find your team racing experience to be an asset on the course?
Yes. Team racing has given me a great deal of confidence on the starting line and in tight situations. I am probably more willing to bail out of a mediocre starting situation with 20 or 30 seconds left than most other drivers. I think am also more aggressive at mark roundings too as I think team racing has given me a very deep knowledge of the rules. It might have hurt us in the NOOD since I was so eager to stay near then second place overall Chris Larson. We missed a big shift and both of our boats rounded very deep. I must have had a team racing flashback and thought we needed to gap the last pair. My mistake!
Who is sailing with you?
On the bow is Nate Frizzell. Caroline (Mrs.) Levesque is second back and helps with the pit and strings. Ryan Scott is in the middle and serves as our battle tank commander. Ted Chwalk is next back on the rail and trims genoa and spinnaker. I am in the back holding the idiot stick. I trust the guys on the rail to get us around the course while I concentrate on trying to stay fast. The roles Ted and Nate play are bigger than their on-the-water duties. They take care of and baby Mookie when she's in the shed and prep her at and before events. Mookie might be the only J/24 ever with two boat captains and it shows when you see how well taken care of she is.
Mookie (US 2934) is a rather famous boat. Care to share her history?
The boat is owned by Ryan Scott's family. Ryan is a rigger here at Hall Spars. He, Ted and Nate had been sailing together for a few seasons on Thursdays, but nothing serious. I had known about Mookie since I was a kid in Maine and it came up and crushed in our Downeast regatta. So when I saw a chance to drive it, I jumped on it. As for the history of the boat, Mookie won the worlds in 1992 with Kenny Read. It's a fast boat and has won many other regattas over the years so we are lucky to have it to use.
The New York Yacht Club team (aka Silver Pandas) after winning the 2009 Team Race World Championship. From left: Liz Hall, Pete Levesque, Amanda Callahan, Colin Merrick, Lisa Keith, and Clay Bischoff
J/24 2009 Worlds website: http://www.j24worldchampionship2009.com
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