A coach who used to race against Robert Scheidt the one-time superstar of the Laser class once told me why Scheidt was so special...
It wasn't that he won every start, though he certainly won his share.
It wasn't that he always chose the right strategy for the first beat, though he often did.
No. The reason that Scheidt was so dominant in the Laser class in his day was that even when he had a bad start or went the wrong way on the first beat (or both) and as a result was way down in the middle of the pack after the first leg... he had the determination and the smarts and the skills to work his way through the fleet and still end up among the leaders by the end of the race.
Now read Clay Johnson's account of his racing this weekend at the Laser US Nationals at Brant Beach in Tricky Westerly on Day One of US Nats and Great Second Day. In four of the eight races sailed so far Clay didn't get things right at the start or on the first beat and rounded the first windward mark in around 35th, 30th, 15th and 20th places. Yet, every time, he recovered from his mediocre showing and, as a result, his scores for the eight races are 7,1,5,4,1,5,2,4.
Now I'm not saying that Johnson is the next Scheidt. I am saying that he is a damn fine Laser sailor and that his ability to recover from a bad start and sail up through the fleet is one of the keys to his success.
No other sailor at the Nationals has all single digit scores.
Indeed, every other sailor in the 103 boat fleet has at least three scores of double (or triple) digits.
Clay has a 21 point lead on his nearest rival, a lead which means that he doesn't even have to sail the final day of the regatta.
Congratulations to Clay on his first national championship. Watch this guy. We will be hearing a lot more about him in the coming years.