The BUTTON FLY program predated Andrew’s Paralympic campaign, where he competed for a spot to represent the USA in the Rio Olympics. Andrew has since chosen the J/70 Class because there are a lot of boats that compete and he finds it to be sporty and manageable for him and his wife, Melissa.
Andrew truly has the best of both worlds sailing with his Corinthian team Button Fly, and having fun with the ones he cares about most. This is truly what it’s all about. Without Corinthians, the sport of sailing wouldn’t be what it is today.
We caught up with Andrew and Melissa after their big win to share their excitement and passion for sailing and find out what it means to them.
CH: Melissa and Andy, congratulations on your 1st Corinthian Division win at the 2017 J/70 Midwinters. It was a tricky regatta featuring nearly every condition. What were some of the keys to helping you to the victory lane?
AF: Thanks. The J/70 is a very competitive fleet. Due to the crazy conditions during some races, luck played its part more than usual. That said, our team has sailed the J/70 together for over two years and has put in quite a bit of time training and learning what makes this boat go fast.
CH: The Button Fly program started a few years back when Andy was on the US Paralympic Team competing for a spot to represent the USA in Rio. Why did you guys decide to get into the J/70 at that point in your sailing career and do a “defacto” two-boat campaign?
AF: The Button Fly program predated my Paralympic campaign, going back to bigger boat racing. The J/70 is a downsize for us. Melissa and I love racing together. We looked at other Classes of boats but decided on the J/70 due to its popularity and a good balance of sportiness without being overly athletic. Managing a four-person team is far easier, and the fleet is big enough that there are usually plenty of boats at the regattas for great competition. I had the luxury of having enough time to spend time doing both.
CH: Melissa, you have been the one constant on your program as a key crew member. What makes J/70 sailing so much fun for you and how has it helped your sailing?
MF: I sail the boat with my husband. Evolving to the smaller, four-person program has been a great learning experience in that everyone plays a bigger role in getting the boat around the race course. In addition to loving the racing, the social aspects of the Class make going to regattas special.
CH: It seems every team has a style and adjusts their program to maximize their strengths, so when you are working on tuning and trimming style, how much do you deviate from the “standard” tuning guide settings and performance articles you read? Are there any things you have found that work with your team that stands out as a performance “game changer?
AF: Our program is somewhat unusual, in that I have disabilities that we need to work around. We spend a bit of time figuring what we need to do to minimize my weaknesses, and practicing the weakest ones. Our boat tuning is very close to standard; however, we’re very conscious of thinking forward to our set up for expected conditions. For example, before one race at Midwinters, we noticed that the wind vs. tide current made it appear that there was more breeze up the course than there was, so we adjusted our rig accordingly. In the end, the biggest “game changer” is quality practice.
CH: A few years back, you guys dedicated yourselves to sailing Corinthian and have really locked into a great team with the Burke brothers on board. Tell us how that came together and what Steve and Shawn have brought to the Button Fly team.
AF: Steve and Shawn have sailed with us for over 10 years. They both have been racing their whole lives, and, while their careers don’t involve sailing, they view racing as their primary pastime. Melissa and I are lucky to have them want to sail with us. In addition to being good sailors, the consistent time we’ve put in sailing the J/70 together has really allowed us to develop our race course dance and improve.
CH: If you could share any advice for other Corinthian teams to move up in the standings, what would you tell them?
AF: It’s far tougher to field a good Corinthian team than one with pros. By definition, they have more to juggle to be able to make the events, so once you find your guys, treat them well. Consistency is key.
CH: USA 501 has become a staple at many of the J/70 circuit events. What is on your calendar for the rest of 2017 and what are the long term plans?
AF: We (went to) Miami for the Bacardi Cup, then Charleston is on our way back to the Northeast. Our goal is to peak for the North Americans this fall at our home club in Rye, NY! Add to Flipboard Magazine.