Tuesday, September 8, 2009

2009 Laser Master Worlds - Day 6

As everyone knows by now, there was no racing on the final day. This was predictable from the morning in the boat park - the gradient wind was North at 5-10 knots and it was already quite warm by the time we arrived, around 10:00 am. The forecast was for warm temperatures inland so one would expect a seabreeze to try to form, which would fight with the offshore gradient with the most likely result of unstable conditions.

The fleet embarked at the standard time and headed to their respective race areas. It was clear the race committee was betting on a seabreeze as they set up in the same place as the previous two days. For a short time it looked like it would happen as a very light onshore flow helped us get out to the racing area. However, shortly after noon this started to die again and we could see the offshore breeze up against the shoreline. The Race Committee decided to pull up and take us back to where we had sailed the final day of qualifiers (Tuesday) and as they set up the conditions seemed remarkably similar, with some puffs moving down with enough punch to actually hike out.

It was clear that for the final day the Race Committee was going to hold to a high standard. They set up the course and got the Apprentices off but a fair right shift came through right after the start and some boats were just shy of the layline to the weather mark, so the RC abandoned the race. Shortly after the conditions began to deteriorate further, principally getting much lighter with much more pronounced shifts. The RC shifted the course around to get better aligned with this breeze and then attempted to start the Apprentices again, but were forced to postpone when the wind died at the start line.

By now it was well after 3:00 pm and the handwriting was becoming clearer. As I recall the RC made one more futile attempt to restart the Apprentices, postponing again just before the start gun and then went into a wait mode. At this point the fleet started to generally head in the direction of the harbor and at around 3:50 the RC agreed and abandoned for the day.

This was one of those days when it was frustrating not to race, but would have been equally frustrating to race. In my case, I would have needed a very good race and the second throwout, along with some help from some people in front of me, to make the top ten. Possible but, for me, difficult in what are clearly not my conditions. So, I end 14th overall which is not where I was planning to finish but was certainly an improvement over where I was standing after the qualification round!

Now that I'm back in California I'll try to put together the general critique of my performance and figure out where we go from here.

On the plus side, it turns out I beat my weight goal by quite a bit... I was planning to sail at 195 lbs which required losing some 15 pounds over the last six months. This morning's weigh in had me at 190 lbs!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

2009 Laser Master Worlds - Day 5

Yet another interesting day on St Margaret's Bay! As we sailed out the seabreeze was filling in for what looked like a carbon copy of the previous day - same wind angle, around the same velocity, clear skies, etc. The RC set up in what looked like exactly the same location and posted 190 for the course, just what we had the day before. So, remembering the lessons from the previous day, it was hard to think anything other than go right.

Peter Vessella and tuned up a bit and then did a series of timed split tacks. Interestingly, the person going left, whoever that was, came out ahead by a fair bit. Hmmm.... Given the day before, what does this mean?

We lined up for the first start and it was clear and a group of the sailors at the top of the standings were lined up near the pin looking like they were going left. I started midline, maybe down toward the pin a touch and started the front row grind. Boats above me peeled off one at a time to go right, some below passed behind to go right. In no time there was a group of five or so that started near the pin going left, then pretty much the entire rest of the fleet going right. I flipped over to take a look and the boats to leeward did not look like they were poking out. I sailed up to a bit more pressure then flipped back over to the left to chase after the group of five. They started tacking out of the left corner and were clearly launched. I tacked up under them and the view from the window showed that the entire fleet was now well behind. I got around in sixth, right behind Tim Landt and started chasing after Scott, Arnoud, Marc, Mark and Tim. The run was uneventful, as near as I can tell the order was preserved at the gate. Left was clearly the thing to do, I set up to go left and followed the pack. Then an amazing thing happened... Arnoud tacked and headed right! That could well have been the regatta, he was effectively never seen again and sailed a throwout. I short tacked the left corner and was able to pick up Tim Landt by the weather mark to round fourth. Again, steady on the reach and run, though Jan Scholten made a big charge. I held him off on the reach and then was able to stay comfortably ahead for the finish. So, fourth for my second best finish of the series.

For the second race the breeze was now a solid 15 knots and we were into that range where you need to hike hard but not de-power anything. The previous race showed everyone that the left was the place to be so this time there was quite a crowd at the pin end. If the breeze was going to be in the full hiking range then my strategy was to start up by the boat and try to stay clean up high, this way I could have the option to tack if necessary, but could also avoid the pinch fest that was bound to happen down at the pin. I executed poorly and soon found myself pinched off by one of those proverbial "pinch through the waves" people. After a short game of ping-pong I managed to poke through the line on port tack going right. Interestingly, the compass said I was in a big left shift, the weather mark was just off the bow and I could see Jan and Vann below also heading right on a good angle. The option was to tack onto a header back into the left corner, and into the peleton, or hold on the lifted tack and look for a shift at the top. Given the length of time we needed to sail to the mark this seem like a high probability move so I decided to stick with this, following Jan and Vann out to the right. Sure enough, up near the layline we got a nice pressure line which nicely headed us, we rolled into tacks and there we were back in the top ten. I was low of the layline (on purpose) and ran into a little bit of traffic coming in from the left, in the final approach Andy Pimental ducked me and went up to the layline, I went to around 4 boat lengths from the port layline and tacked back. Sure enough, Andy was spot on the layline and I wasn't crossing, so needed to plant a nice lee bow, which I did. This looked good for about 10 seconds when the last port crossing boat tacked right on top of me. Oops... I was able to slow, then tack behind Andy, cross Vann barely and tack above him to get around in something like 9-10.

While I was flailing around on my approach, Jan, who had crossed me by about 2 boat lengths on the first tack from the right, sailed up to round in 4-5th. Big lesson here, stay out of traffic!

The run did not go well, I sailed to0 far to the right (looking downwind), Vann, Andy, etc., sailed more to the left and held a nice puff down the course. In no time I was back in the peleton fighting for clear air. I rounded the gate back in the teens, then cleared out to the right. I made a couple of attempts to get back to the left but everyone wanted to go left so when they would clear they would bounce me out. On the final bounce I realized I was to the left side of the course, in solid breeze and maybe a little bit lifted. So, I held port tack on out towards the starboard layline. This tack was tough to sail, the wave angle was such that we were sailing almost straight into the waves so it required a lot of effort to keep moving. Focusing on speed here paid off and I was able to get back into the top ten again by the weather mark, back to close behind Vann. This time the reach and run went much better, with a significant gain on David Wells courtesy of a yellow flag given him by the judges. Andy Roy was blazing on the run to round right behind me, I was able to hold him off on the lower reach. At the leeward mark there was quite a crowd, with Terrry Neilson followed closely by David Wells, followed by me, followed by Andy and then Steve Cockerill. I cleared to the left sailing hard through the chop, then came back under the port layline to the boat end of the finish. David Wells elected to not use his starboard on me and tacked to leeward, basically giving me the lead on a slow tack. Terry was just crossing so I did the short duck. Then it got tricky, Vann was crossing up ahead, the pin was favored for the finish but if I tacked on the pin end layline then I'd be in Vann's bad air while, on the other hand, if I let Terry go I would lose him. So, I tacked short of the pin layline and forced Terry to leebow me which he did fairly effectively, then started to pinch to force me to tack. At this point I figured it was better to not lose David than force the issue with Terry so I tacked and lee bowed David. So, this race was an eighth.

Interestingly, Jan finished first in this race with his approach to the first weather mark rounding key to getting into the top group after the first beat.

At this point I sit in 14th overall, with points close enough to fantasize about moving up a few places. With one more race we gain another throwout which allows me (barring a disaster in the remaining races) to drop the 18th in the first race of the series. Interestingly, the scoring rules allow you to use both discards in the qualifying series, but only one discard can be used in the finals. This is going to be bad for some sailors, especially people like Mark Bear who will be forced to drop a 4th and keep a race in the teens. So, if we get another race, it will be interesting to see how the results get shuffled.

On the bad side, the weather forecast for the final day's racing has a light northerly... same direction as tuesday but with lots less velocity. As I type this the skies are overcast and the wind does not look promising.

Friday, September 4, 2009

2009 Laser Master Worlds - Day 4

Go West, old man, go west!

(Note: today's report is a bit brief, last night was Alain Vincey's lobster feed at our house and it was quite the affair! We're a bit slow to rise this morning...)

Today the seabreeze returned with the promise for the masters to finally experience what we all came here for - fresh breezes from the South-Southwest and nice waves for surfing downwind. Ok, the start time had been moved up an hour and it was a bit light on the sail out but the breeze was definitely going to come in.

The local folklore for St Margaret's Bay is that when sailing on the left (when looking upwind), or east, side of the bay that the left side is favored. Attached is a diagram that was worked up by the weather guy for the US Sailing Team which gives an explanation, basically you should see more pressure to the left and, if you go far enough, a left shift. More importantly, you go left because the locals tell you that's what you are meant to do. Always a good reason.

At the start of our race the seabreeze was still filling and at this stage was a bit unsettled, with definite light patches in between zones of 10-12 knots. When looking upwind it did appear that the breeze was more solid on the right so the strategy for the first beat was to go right to the pressure, then get to the left at the top, then think about going left on the second beat (once again in the inner).

That would have been a great plan to execute. Sadly, a number of other boats didn't share my plan and I executed one of those starts that was in the front row with clear air but pinned under a guy on my hip so I couldn't tack and I wasn't close enough to pinch him off. So, left we go... finally he tacks (with most of the fleet now to the right of us and I immediately roll into a tack and a big wave, putting me back so now another boat on starboard forces me back to the left. Argh! This time I work forward on him and roll into a tack again, but, yet again, in no time a pair of boats force me back. ARRGGGHH! Ok, finally sorted out and going right near the port tack layline with, now, boats crossing and going left. I sail off to what is left of the right layline and pick up a big fraction of those boats, hold steady on first run, then go right on the second beat and get back into the low teens. The top reach is a bit broad for me, I struggle a bit there and lose distance to boats in front but hang tough for run. On the bottom reach I dive low on a wave (mistake), Ari and Mark Bear roll over the top. At the leeward mark we round in a tight group with me outside of Ari and Mark and Vann Wilson. I elect to tack back to the left on the final beat and get clear, Ari is focussed on Mark and lets me get by to finish 12th. Well, ok, a lot of the top people have much worse races so I'm not alone in figuring that wasn't how I saw that one playing out.

For the next start the breeze is over 15 knots and after really spending a lot of time looking upwind its clear the pressure is solid and it looks darker to the left. I think that this is it, if there is a race to go left this must be it. The start line has an ever slight bias to the pin end so I decide to start down there, which isn't too hard since everyone is fighting for the boat end. Ok, this start is a recall but a good practice run because I didn't count on the rather extended anchor line on the pin boat. Line up again, same scenario and and get the pin end fully hiked with even a touch of vang on. At three minutes I look up to evaluate and things look good. As expected, Peter Conde has poked out from a mid line start and we are both extending from the front line of boats. Back to focussing on speed, then next evaluation at 5 minutes... hmmm.... not quite looking as good anymore, some boats that went right and are coming back and starting to look a bit better. At six minutes I figure I better get out of the left corner and avoid complete disaster and am glad I did. As I work up from about 100 yards shy of the port tack layline its pretty ugly with respect to the boats that went right and I finally get to the weather mark in the 20's. Ugh. Lesson learned, "Go West!" is the mantra. Second beat I go right with two short tacks left to consolidate a bit. A surprising number of boats head left and disappear into a black hole and by the end of the second beat I'm in the top ten, rounding ahead of Scott Ferguson and Rudy Ratsep. The top reach is again unfriendly to me, Scott and Rudy go by but I get back to them just at the mark. On the run I am happily running down the waves at full speed and totally forget the marks are will to the left of the angle of the waves... this mistake spots Scott about 50 yards and he is uncatchable. Rudy and I stay close with John Bertrand making gains and rounding right behind us. On final reach positions remain unchanged and as we start the second beat Rudy is one boat length ahead, John one behind. I tack off to the left again, coming back in the middle to keep close to Rudy. He and I trade a few tacks on the upwind, but its pretty much over when I try to plant a tight leebow but get hit, again, by a wave to put me back. As it goes, we have ignored John who one tacks to final beat to just get us at the finish.

So... finish 11th in this race. And, again, a number of the top boats have bad (for them) races. At the top, Scott has his worst day with a 3-7, Arnoud his best with a 1-1 (and the last a horizon job), Andrew Pimental goes 4-2 and Mark Bear hangs tough with a 14-5. What's tough in this event is that you can only drop one race from the finals, rolling double digits at the top is not a good thing!

At this point I'm standing in 16th. It looks like we get a seabreeze again today, though its not predicted to be as strong. With yesterday's experience my guess is that the right side of the course will be highly populated.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

2009 Masters' Worlds - Day Three

The favorite morning pastime of the group I'm staying with is to divine what the weather will be for the day. We dutifully scan the local and marine forecasts, use the predictwind.com info provided by ILCA, check magicseaweed.com, etc. Its not entirely obvious that this does us any good...

For day three the forecast was for wind from the Northwest at 10-15 knots swinging to the Northeast and "diminishing" by the end of the afternoon, all under bright sunny skies. We sailed out to the day's racing area (in yet another new location) with a fresh Northerly in the 15-20 range. What does all of this mean? As the day progressed, the land heated acting to "diminish" the velocity and, as explained to me, the added "turbulence" over the land caused the remaining breeze to become very puffy and shifty on the race course. To compound all of this, the race committee elected to set up the course with the weather mark very close to the shore and under a small hill. The result was two breezes, one coming in from the left, one from the right with a large transition zone between them, slowly moving back and forth up the middle of our weather leg (I was in the "red" fleet again, sailing the innner loop).

For the first part of the first race the puffs still had enough in them to get out and hiking, but the lulls were back to sitting in. I started at the boat end having channeled the wind gods long enough to guess a right shift coming just about when the start gun went off. I worked off the right side (where the pressure was), taking a few hitches left to get across most of the fleet (see, I can learn from past mistakes!), and, after a few "oops" and "aha's" made it around the first mark in the top group. The leader, by lots, was John McCausland, who, early in the beat, had been sailing to the right on port when I was taking a hitch left. It was clear he didn't see me, so I started to duck him (no issues, I didn't want him tacking on me) when he suddenly realized I was there and tried to turn down to duck me. Ok, we both end in crash tacks, he goes left and gets launched! Well, unfortunately for him, no lead is big enough in these conditions and he ultimately finished 5th in the race, having gotten skunked at the end of the second beat.

The reach and run were uneventful with the fleet actually fairly well packed. Most of the leaders go for the left gate mark because its close and people appear to want to favor the right on the next beat. Having sailed a bit low, I'm in a better position to go for the right gate which is a bit more upwind and has a lot less traffic. As soon as I get around I start to get that sinking feeling that this does not look right, we are headed and its light, so I tack. Unfortunately, Steve Cockerill also tacks about 8 boat lengths ahead in my lane but I figure I better stick here because the left looks weak right now and the guys to leeward going right are looking pretty punched. This turns out to be one of those accidental good decisions, somehow we are in some sort of breeze "seam", with more pressure than the guys to the right and walking away from the boats going left. Pretty soon most of the guys to the right are bailing out and crossing behind us, so now Steve is in top 3-4 and I'm very close behind.

That was the first half of the second beat. The second half started to show how the rest of the day would go. Basically, as you approached the weather mark the puffs started to become more random, the would appear on the water above you but might never move down to you. In San Francisco, when we sail on the City Front, we get shifty and puffy stuff, but I'm used to seeing the puff moving down the water, not staying stationary. Needless to say, its a struggle to figure out how to deal with this and I manage to leak a few boats on both the right and the left spending far too much time in the middle. So, around the weather mark in teens, down the reach, run and final reach passing a few boats, close in on Vann Wilson and the Argentinian on the final beat but not enough to pass and end 8th. Given the conditions, I'm more than happy with that result!

As we set up for the second start the wind was backing off even more. There was still the occasional puff that had us hiking but it was definitely light in the transition area. As we lined up for the start it looked, to me, that there was more pressure to the left and nothing to the right. This with about 3 minutes to go... So, I started to favor the pin end. With a minute to go I was lined up with Andy Roy to leeward when the wind started to evaporate and in no time I was too close to Andy to be able to do anything. With 25 seconds to go I'm doing everything to try to get moving but to no avail. Gun goes off, I'm dead in the water, unable to really drive off with Andy shooting out to leeward. This puts me now behind the line of the front row so am also unable to tack. Then I'm behind the front row and now there is really no wind and I'm in full park. There is no more helpless feeling than watching the entire fleet sail away. As they say, in the event of a loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead bins...

Interestingly, John Bertrand (and one or two other boats) is also in full park mode, having failed to clear out on port tack and having to spin a couple of circles. With the entire fleet now on port tack in a lift, all heading to the right, John takes off to the left. Waaaaay out there, on the other side of the known world, is a wind line and his going for it. I'm not brave enough to follow all the way, I tack back and figure I'll hunker in for the fight. When next seen, John Bertrand is reaching, on full plane, into the weather mark on a massive private puff, arriving in second place, which he holds to the finish. I guess you don't become a world champion or an Olympic medalist by being conservative in situations like this!

Fortunately for anyone reading this the rest of the race is a blur, consisting mostly of several shots at getting back into the teens only to be thwarted by the above mentioned inability to predict the next puff. An example would be Air Barshi and I crossing each other (me ahead) on the second beat with Ari ultimately finishing 15th. And I would admit that after getting skunked badly on the final 100 yards to the weather mark (losing at least 10 boats in the process), I became rather deflated and might have slipped into cruise mode to the finish. So, my worst race of the regatta, a 32nd and now my discard.

So, the first half of the regatta is now over. I'm standing 21st overall with two single digit races, an acceptable 14th and two discards. Getting to the podium is mathematically possible but will require the remaining six races to a) all be sailed, b) with finishes in top 3, c) some luck with the leaders having some bad races, and d) even more luck with the weather cooperating and bringing back the seabreeze, and the stronger the better. The forecast for Thursday and Friday is promising for the seabreeze so I'm going to be optimistic that its still possible climb back. However, my guess is that I'm going to need to be prepared for some more light air sailing.

This year marks my eighth Masters' Worlds. Only one, Fortaleza, featured the same conditions everyday - breeze from the same direction ranging from 15-20 to 20-25 everyday. All other events have featured a range in conditions, with some light days and some breezier days, some shifty puffy days, some steady days, etc. The winners of the Master Worlds have to be good all around sailors, able to sail fast in light, medium and heavy air while mastering what the weather throws at them. Towards that end, the current leaders of my fleet, and in particular Scott Ferguson and Arnoud Hummel, are showing everyone why they should be at the top. If the breeze does come in, based on the second race of the series, I think Arnoud has a speed advantage upwind but I bet Scott will find a way to stay right with him (hit to Scott: put the bow down and hike a tiny bit harder!). So it will be very interesting to see how this plays out! And, of course, none of this is meant to slight any of the other sailors in the top group, for example Andy Roy, Andy Pimental, Steve Cockerill, Ari Barshi, Peter Vessella, etc. It just seems that for this event that Scott and Arnoud are going to be the two fighting it out in the end.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

2009 Masters' Worlds, day two

In summary: ugh!

Regatta organizers always work hard to control what they can but they are helpless when it comes to the weather. In the two weeks I've been here its pretty obvious that St Margaret's Bay will take any excuse to supply a nice southwest seabreeze... except for this week!

We sailed out to the starting area in a light southery with hopes for it to build by race time. Unfortunately, a westerly gradient was pushing in and around 1:00 pm started to appear on the horizon. The RC did start the apprentices in the southerly breeze (190) but by the time it was our turn the wind has started to turn. So, after a bit of a delay they picked up everything and moved over about mile and a half to get closer to the western shore (presumably better sailing in a westerly). They set up for a breeze direction of 245 and by the time the course was set up we had 5-8 knots with some shifts.

The big question was how to play the first beat. Right took you to the shore directly and it looked like way up there was a bit more pressure. Left took you parallel to the shore but there did also seem to be wind out there with a hint of a big left angle in it. The middle didn't look promising. The apprentices started and it seemed most were favoring the left but by the time we were to go it wasn't yet obvious.

I started near the pin which was nicely favored and should have tacked to a) cross the fleet and get in front early, and b) stay in phase. Well, I dearly wanted to tack... but I hesitated because I wasn't quite sure if I could clear one boat and, of course, as time went on I clearly couldn't so the opportunity was lost and he rode me out to the left. I guess I figured that was ok, the original game plan was to favor the left side (for more pressure) anyway. Unfortunately, we were sailing through a major light spot. Worse, almost the entire fleet was now going right in a relative left shift. After another minute the guy on my hip tacked, I did too and for about 30 seconds we looked great with the fleet nicely tucked in the window. Then it became apparent that a right shift, with pressure, was coming down the course, the entire fleet was tacking and going to cross by miles. There was no tacking back, there was still a huge hole to the left and I had to settle for now being in the high 30's with the leaders launched. Ugh!

I spent the rest of the first beat paying quite a bit more attention, in particular staying with the lifts and puffs as much as possible. This got me back into the 20's by the weather mark. I had a good run, passing a few more boats and worked the same logic for the next beat to get into the low teens with the possibility of maybe breaking into single digits. But the next run was not so kind and I was only able to hold position to finish 14th.

As this race finished, good old St Margaret's Bay brought in the seabreeze and, as it does here, the initial pulse was in the 15 knot range. Finally some hiking! But, no, it was not to be... we did start a second race but the wind quickly faded and by halfway up the first beat we were looking at 5-8 knots and chop... Thankfully the race was abandoned on the final downwind leg when there was a fleet inversion (ie the last place boats became the first place boats). So, I'll spare the details other than to mention that I was not having a good race here either.

So, three races in the books, two with double digits. Not what I was hoping for. My speed in the light stuff is mediocre, I don't think good enough to win a race in under 8 knots, but should be good enough to stay in the top 10. So, bad decisions are putting me way behind early and without better speed its very difficult to get back to the lead pack, much less the leaders.

Today is nominally the final day of "qualifying" before we split into gold and silver. The current results are posted at this link and right now I'm sitting in 19th and, hopefully, barring a disasterous day today, I should make the gold fleet. Forecast today is for light offshore, not exactly my stuff but we get what we get!

What I would give for a breeze where I could do some hiking!

Monday, August 31, 2009

2009 Master Worlds Day One

In my opinion, the most important thing about the first day of the Master Worlds is to get off the water without an opening day disaster. I wish I could report success here...

We sailed out to the starting area in a weak westerly, down to near zero a few times on the way out, a couple periods of sailing two-blocked. The good news was that, contrary to expectations, it was a beautiful day with the clouds quickly parting and the warm sun shining down. Once out to the starting area, Peter Vessella and I did the usual stuff - side by side speed tuning, then split tacks to see if a side was favored, etc. But it was clear the breeze was dying and, if patient, money said a seabreeze would fill. And, sure enough, around 2:30 the line was apparent and the RC picked everything up and shifted back into the middle of the bay. By the time the RC was setup the breeze was in, with 12-15 knots and some higher patches. Well, of course, this was the initial pulse and, true to form, it backed off a bit for the first race.

In these conditions, and with our location, the mantra was to favor the left side of the course as it should have more pressure. This works 90% of the time... I lined up and started near the pin which was slightly favored. In the full hiking breeze I (finally!) had good speed off the line and a glance over my shoulder showed that, as expected, only two or three boats up the line were going to be issues. But then the breeze softened and shifted ever so slightly to the right. I kept going thinking I was just sailing through a slight hole but things just kept getting worse so I finally decided to bite the bullet and tack out. Things just went further downhill from there with the boats having gone right now significanttly ahead and finding a lane difficult. By the time I got to the weather mark I was very deep... not how I imagined the first race would go. I started working on getting back as many boats as I could but in the end it was pretty hopeless and I ended with an opening race 18th. Ugh.

Next race the breeze seemed steadier. This time I decided to start at the the RC boat end to better protect the right. At the start there was an Italian sailor to leeward who was working hard to pinch me off but I was able to get slightly forward on him, then put the bow down and was off to the races. In short order therre were about 4 boats poked out on the front row all going significantly faster than the rest of the fleet. While I thought my speed was great I was experiencing again the new problem of good speed but not as good point so I could see that I was slowly coming down to the line of the guys to leeward. Scott Ferguson was the first of that group to tack (after about 3 minutes on starboard) and he passed behind, Vann tacked a bit later and it was clear he would also be behind so I tacked ahead and well to leeward to not screw him up, putting me parallel to Scott. After about 3 minutes on port I rolled Scott and had moved forward on Vann, and could see the Dutch guy in my window. So, I kept going on port figuring I had everyone covered. Scott went way to the left, along with Andy Pimental, and it was clear they were making a move there. So, about 50 yards shy of the starboard layline I tacked to get back over to them, just crossing Scott, who I decided to face plant as we were making the last approach to the weather mark. So, first to weather mark, then to the run. Scott worked to the left, I got a bit too far to the right and he managed to make enough distance on my to have an inside for the port gate which, unfortunately, heavily favored. So, Scott rounds first, I follow him around and then tack to go left. The Dutch guy and Andy are next, the go a bit further on port but then both also tack. Scott goes right. This race its clear the left is working so I'm going left but then decide to hedge my bets a bit and tack. I cross the Dutch guy by a healthy amount but he keeps going left. As I'm sailing up I can see the guys on the right are fading away and when the Jan tacks I can see he has lost a lot. So, tack back to the left. The Dutch guy has come back right and he has gained a lot and manages to cross me, but lets me keep going. I get to the port tack layline, tack over, he is coming back now too but I'll probably just cross so he tacks to leeward and I'm slightly faster so am able to round first at the top mark. I hold him off on the reach and we go down the run with both of us on starboard and he is slightly better at working the waves this jibe and slowly starts to move forward. Finally, I jibe to port, the "right" jibe and start to gaini back but too late and he rounds about a boat length ahead. On the reach we both open up considerably on Andy Pimental, giving some room to try to make a move on the final beat. We went into a tacking duel and I think I was slowly gaining but then dropped the tiller extension on a tack. At this point Andy had gotten close again so best to protect second. So, great race Arnoud Hummel (winner in Roses) and very encouraged to see that when hiking the boat speed is not the issue.

So... confidence very high if I can hike. Need to pay better attention in the light stuff. And, as expected, it is going to be a very tough series. Certainly cannot afford any more 18's!!!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

2009 Laser Masters' World Championship Eve

It would seem that Halifax gets a hurricane every sunday during the season... "Danny" comes through this evening, not clear what will happen tomorrow though since its been downgraded to a tropical depression there is still hope for sailing. Monday and Tuesday may be problematic but there does appear to be hope for a return to "normal" by the end of the week.

As is usual, there is a tremendous change going from the Senior to Master Worlds... first the number of competitors nearly doubles, secondly the beer is much more obvious. The best part is the chance to run around and see all the people you only see once per year.

I've moved into my new regatta accommodations in a really nice waterfront home that is a mere five minutes driving to the sailing site. In our house, in addition to myself, we have Bill and LauraLee Symes, Rob and Marilyn Hodson, John Purdy, Don Hall and the wild Frenchman from Virginia, Alain Vincey. Defiinitely a great group and we're feeling pretty relaxed as Danny has already started dumping rain on us!

Last night was not only a beautiful night here but also the traditional ILCA-NA Masters' party. We had quite a turnout, though not all the competitors made it. Still, the group that made it are all pictured below:

The Canadian contingent pulled a suprise on my by giving me a team shirt at the event:

I must say, I was quite speechless by their gesture and was only able to mutter a "thank you". Quite a surprise and I can assure you very much appreciated by me! The plan is to wear the Canadian team shirt to the opening ceremonies (which Danny has postponed until Tuesday) and my US team shirt at the awards (where, of course, I intend to be on the podium!).

2009 Laser Senior World Championship Recap

What was I thinking?

7 days of racing against the top sailors in the world. Have to be a great experience, right? Short answer: it was fantastic... but...

To remind everyone, the Laser Senior Worlds Championship is "the" Laser Worlds and the very best sailors in the world are racing. The top guys train full time and travel the world for the major events and all the top guys know each other pretty well (in contrast to a Master Worlds where we see each other once per year at best). Bottom line: they are very, very fast.

The first day of qualifying had me in the "yellow" fleet (hey! I'm in gold!) which was the first start of the day. As it turned out, this was the one "normal" day for entire event with a southwest seabreeze rolling in the 10-15 knot range (so, full hike a good fraction of the time, but definitely some soft periods out there). There were also some nice waves generated from the long fetch of the bay, though they were at a slight angle to the wind making it slightly more difficult on port tack over starboard. Anyway, the first start was my wake up call, I was in the front row but the really good guys had just enough more height that my lane got narrower and narrower as we sailed on starboard. My lane got shut off a bit shy of the layline, I rolled into a tack and thought I had a nice lane going to the mark. As I approached the weather mark I was in a position where, if played right, I could get around ahead of the pack. Unfortunately, I elected to tack on the layline, got faced by a few boats which dropped me into a position where I couldn't tack back into now what was a major stack up of boats. As I finally get to the weather mark a British boat tacks right in front of me (and where he thought he as going was a complete mystery) and to avoid hitting him I have to duck, which means I hit the mark. So... a 360 later and I'm now in back. And in this fleet there is no getting that back.

Welcome to the 2009 Laser Senior Worlds! Day one lesson: left side has more pressure - go left.

Ok, next race is a bit better and it looks like if I get myself in gear it might be possible to get into the silver fleet.

As an aside, the photographer for the Laser Worlds, Capizzono.com, is first rate and he even took some pictures of me! From Day one, here is a photo of me on the reach leg:

Day two is a frustrating day in many respects. We sail out to start on time but today we have fog and we end up reaching around in a nice breeze waiting for the fog to lift. Finally it thins enough to see the weather mark and we start racing. On this day I'm in the red fleet (last start), we have the second start sailing the outer. We start and the fog rolls back making it hard to see the marks again. Also, in contrast to day one, it looks like the boats on the right are making out big time. Still, I did end up with my best score in the qualifying (aided somewhat by a fair number of bfd's). By the time we finish its late and the RC sends us in... but with the good result I am not thinking it should be possible to make silver.

The next morning we find out that some sailors in the blue fleet filed for redress over the fog visibility and managed to get their race thrown out. So, the previous day's blue fleet needs to resail this race before we can then have our hopefully 3 races for qualifying (to get back on schedule). All except that fleet are held ashore while the one fleet goes out to race, but once again the fog acts to wreak havoc on good plans. The previous day's blue fleet is held at the entrance to the harbor until the RC finally finds a section of the bay where there is no fog. They go out and race and we are called off the beach. So, we sail through the fog in 15-18 knots and great waves only to break out on the other side of the bay in less wind and chop. Ugh! Today's racing was interesting, we are so far over that now the western shoreline is close and there is a persistent shift if you sail to the right. But if you go left you may be sailing in more pressure. First race I go left for the pressure, the boats on the right win big time. Second beat I go right and all looks ok until the wind softens considerably and boats on the left go by. Not good, and a dismal result.

The next race is only slightly better... this time its clear the the left side has more pressure, I get off the line cleanly about 4 boats up from the pin on a square line. We sail out for about 5 minutes and I look over my shoulder and see that I can a) tack and let a few boats cross, b) stay where I am where I'm starting to get shut out. I tack and things are looking good, I just need to get across one boat in a pack of 4 and I'm good - so too big to duck, I don't want to tack if I can avoid it (since we are near the layline) and if I can just cross I'm in top 10. As I apporach I yell the proverbial "Cross?" and my ears say I'm hearing a "go". Well, it doesn't make sense to hear that since it is a big duck for the boat I have to cross and, indeed, Tim Pitts is really saying "no!" Too late, I try to tack but I foul Tim rather badly and so I immedidately spin into a 720. Race over, I roll another 40's. In retrospect, even though I fouled Tim he round the first mark in twelfth, then broke his tiller extension later on the run. So... "what if?"

Qualifying is over, and I'm in bronze but in something like 6th for the fleet. So, its conceivable to at least finish near the top of my fleet.

The next day is lost to Bill. Not much to say here, my first hurricane and I wasn't impressed. Spent the day at the house we were staying out mostly talking to Eric Johnson (Clay's dad) about sailing.

Monday is the first day of "finals" and we hit the water but the aftermath of the hurricane is to leave us with no wind. After floating around most of the day the race committee makes a valiant effort to start a race. Its notable because Mike Leigh is flagged with 5 seconds to the start and at 1 second left they postpone, then send us all to shore. Oops!

Tuesday is our first real day in the finals and once again we have to sail far to the western side of the bay in order to stay clear of the fog. The breeze is from the southwest but is much lighter, at times painfully light (5 knots or so) and, occasionally, at the top end around 12 knots. This is not my stuff for sure, espeecially with the chop on top of it and it takes full concentration to keep boat speed up, meaning I'm not paying attention to the breeze much. In contrast to the other days, today the breeze has not only pressure differences but also small oscillations and I'm just not sailing them well. The second race Ii get myself in a bit better gear and have a race where I'm in the teens, until I managed to get rolled by a wave on the bottom reach and capsize, losing 12 boats. Very frustrating how poorly I'm sailing! As we set up for the final race, the breeze has filled and looks to be pushing 15 knots! Just as the we line up for the start it drops and, suddenly, nearly shuts off on the right side of the course. For the first time today I sail with my head out of the boat and play off the last of the breeze on the left to round in the top ten at the first mark. Then I stop looking around... at the gate I take a short hitch to the right to get a clear lane, then head left. I start to realize that the boats I had left cross me on my short hitch right and now going backwards in the window. Yup, a glance over the shoulder indicates the boats that went right are not well ahead. So, a lesson on how to turn a good race into a bad one: stop paying attention!

Ok, last day of the regatta, I'm determined to finish with a bang. Once again we are delayed onshore, but then sent out to sail through great breeze in the fog. We get to the "clear" starting area where the fog has come in, so the RC picks up and moves even further to the right, nearly on the shore over at the west end of the bay. We still have good breeze, probably in the 12-15 range, certainly enough for me to hike. However, Bill did quite a bit of churning and the race area is strewn with tons of seaweed, to the point where it was impossible to sail for any distance without having to clear your centerboard... and, as it turns out, rudder. I am sure the right is the way to go this race and the options are: 1) start at slightly favored pin, leg out and tack to cross as soon as possible, 2) fight it out at the boat and go right. I go for the first because I'm sure my speed will be good in this fleet. At the start, all is going according to plan as I am second boat up from pin, with Cam Cullman at pin and I roll him almost immediately. Within 1 minute all the boats starting near me are dust and I'm close to being able to cross the pack that started in the middle. I clear my centerboard and figure all is well, but start to realize that I'm no longer making distance on the pack in the middle. Now I'm stuck and we end up on the port layline before tacking... as Ii start to watch boats sailing away from me I realize that its not my centerboard that is the problem, its the rudder and I've got a big clump of stuff wedged a the top of the rudder where I can't feel it. So, clear the rudder and finally moving again. Unfortunatelly, damage is done and I'm back in the 30's - again! Anyway, I now work much harder at keeping both blades clear, play off the right on the second beat and come charging back as much as possible to finish 15th - the best finish of the regatta. A good finish but yet another "what if?" race...

All of the above may seem rather negative but, in the end, I'm just trying to give a critique of each race as I remember them. At the end of the day, the main lessons are:
1) The top guys are far more fit and far more practiced than I can ever hope to be. Over any particular time I can match their speed in bursts, but they maintain their speed a much higher fraction of the time than I. They work the waves better, the effect of this is to maintain their heght better so that I eventually fall into them.

2) I'm a much better downwind sailor that I've ever been. The top guys are still faster but its not longer several hundred yards. In fact, in one race where the bronze fleet rounded the weather mark with the top of the gold fleet, I managed to hold speed with a Swedish guy and round inside at the leeward mark. However, the above mantra still holds, they are fitter and train more so they, in general, execute better and I still have enough short periods going a bit slower to lose ground to them.

3) I have to control the "what if?" factor much better than I was this event. In particular, I believe that if I had been paying a lot more attention during the races I could have made the silver fleet.

4) It was good training for the Master Worlds in terms of reminding me where the top end of the fleet should be. However, it was not good psychologically to get kicked aorund so much and I have been spending the days off remindinig myself that, at best, there are 2-3 Apprentices here that could concievably make gold fleet.

Most importantly, I did get a great chance to see up close the technique of the top Laser sailors in the world which I think can help me sail faster in the future.

Ok, on to the Master Worlds!!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

2009 Laser Senior Worlds - the day before the racing

I've managed to get settled into Halifax now... having arrived late Monday evening and spending Tuesday getting the boat, getting through registration/measurement, etc. I did go for a quick sail with the US Sailing Team guys yesterday where we did a few quick line ups and some practice starts, and couple of really short downwinds, etc. A good number of the practice starts were in a group of about 60, or so, and its always hard to tell anything from these informal line ups as often half the fleet is over the line. Anyway, I'm think it is looking about like I expected, I can match my speed with the top guys for periods of time, but probably will not be able to match for the entire race. Still, am cautiously optimistic that I can make top half of event, so top half of Silver fleet by end of regatta.

Today I'm hanging at the house with the guys I'm staying with. They've been doing a lot of sailing so want to take a day off to rest up and I figure I'm not going to learn anything new by going out today. As near as I can tell, the breeze the next few days will be "standard" and, depending on exactly where they race us, there will be a slight left favor to the course. And it does appear to be a lot like Monterey in this range.

One interesting thing: it appears that Hurricane Bill is headed more or less right at us. Its still days away, probably not really affecting us until sunday or monday, but will probably bring strong winds to the middle of the regatta. Well, hopefully it exits quickly and lets the sailing return to "normal" for the Masters'!

2009 Masters' US Championship

The 2009 Masters' US Championhip was sailed in Monterey on August 13-16. I grew up in Monterey, in fact I cut my teeth in a Laser in Monterey so I did figure I had a bit of an edge in the local knowledge department. Still, I moved away permanently in the mid-80's and really haven't done a lot of sailing there in the past 10 years... fortunately, the sailing conditions haven't changed much!

Friday was an interesting day, in the category of "its never like this." Well, obviously, it can be like that but it is rare. The racing area in Monterey is the ocean next to the Monterey Peninsula, which consists of a large hill near the harbor. The "normal" seabreeze comes in to the bay running more or less parallel to the peninsula and is very steady, with a persistent shift as you sail to the left (towards the land). As the day progresses the wind also slowly clocks to the left and as it does this you start to get puffs coming down the hillside which can make for large left hand shifts. The entire day on Friday was this latter condition on steroids with unpredictable puffs rolling off the hills packing a 20+ knot punch to them. After saying all of this I can only add that Friday was the day to not have a disaster and I managed to roll a second in each of the three races while all the other players landed a race in the teens or twenties. As Ted Newland (former UCI Water Polo Coach) always said: "I'd rather be lucky than good!"

Friday's sailing had its sobering moment as well. Lake Tahoe area sailor Tony Dahlman suffered a stroke during the first race. Fortunately, a crash boat was nearby and they acted quickly, got Tony out of the water and raced him to the Coast Guard station and to a waiting ambulance where he was then rushed to the Community Hospital. Unfortunately, Tony suffered a massive stroke and didn't make it. A real reminder to all of us of just how fragile our existence can be... but also a moment of "I hope when it happens to me that I can be doing what I love one moment and have it over quickly..."

The weather for the weekend was a little bit affected by the "Lockheed fire" in the Santa Cruz mountains. Saturday saw the fog burn off early but before the seabreeze kicked in there was a heavy layer of smoke hanging over the bay. Still, Saturday was the classic Monterey day: the fog burned off to leave bright sunshine, the seabreeze started filling in before 11:00 am and by race time we were in the mid-teens with a beautiful ocean swell running. In these conditions thinking is not necessary, you start near the pin and sail left. You go to the layline, then you keep going. You go past the layline and you keep going. You go until you can't stand it anymore before you tack. And you get to the weather mark first. The runs were spectacular surfing down the waves. Great stuff! Well, the left side is the place to be but truth is there are some little shifts over there that can be used if you keep an open mind going. Anyway, I won the first race following that with a fourth and then a third to come off the water with a solid series lead... but still three races to go.

The last day was another kind of classic Monterey day... in this one the fog takes its time burning off and the seabreeze doesn't come in as strong. We started an hour earlier and when the gun went off we were sailing in a light seabreeze, in the 5-8 knot range. This is definitely not my forte though my real problem for this race was not making good lane decisions in the traffic. I rounded the first mark deep in the fleet, managed to take an outside lane on the run to get back to the leading pack of a dozen boats and then sailed a better second beat to pass a few more boats. I held steady on the final run to take a ninth. Fortunately for me the boat in second place was not far ahead and didn't gain many points.

The next race saw a bit more breeze, probably more in the 8-10 knot range. I was confident this was the "bang the corner" race and had a great start at the pin... if the race were over after 30 seconds I would have won. However, in the "I've seen this a million times in Monterey" story line, the boats that started higher up held a little more pressure which enabled them to climb to weather on me and as I sailed to the left side I was slowly sinking away. I tacked to get out but was not barely in the top ten. The pack arrived en-masse at the weather mark and nobody was able to really extend on the run so the second beat was critical. I managed to stay in the pressure, while still getting to the left "in time" and was back to fourth by the weather mark with good separation to the boats behind. Again, positions held steady on the final run. The best news was the the second place boat, and the only threat in the regatta at this point, capsized on the final run and finished several places behind me meaning I now had the regata wrapped up on points.

The breeze felt like it was continuing to build and the last race looked like it was going to be just like those on Saturday. I had a so-so start at the boat end but couldn't make the lane work with Chuck Tripp below and pointing what felt like 5 degrees higher than me. I bailed out and that was the start of really going backwards. Instead of continuing to fill the breeze started to back off and the left side started to see the big left shifts rolling off the hill. The first boats to the left got launched. I made the classic Monterey mistake of trying to under tack the left side and sail at or just below the layline. Well, I know better, all the boats inside just rolled over the top and I rounded deep in the fleet. Still, the pack was close and we seemed to be in a hole and I was sure I could see a puff line rolling down the outside, so I took a big outside line with the idea of getting into the "new" breeze and rolling down to the mark around everyone. It worked to the extent that I may not have lost a lot of distance but I sure wasn't in first! Second beat I failed to learn from my first beat and rounded in a solid 12th. At this point I figured that the race was going to be my throwout and decided to cut the corner and head straight for the beach, so I took a DNF. Still, not the kind of race you want to have as your last in a big series.

The take away from this event is that the training has been paying off. Upwind boat speed in medium to strong breeze has always been my strong point. This year I made a real effort to change my style of downwind sailing and really work on improving my speed and that is really paying off as I don't appear to be fodder for the downwind speedsters anymore. Not the fastest by a long shot but not getting rolled by several hundred yards either. Another big area of gain is in boat handling which is probably reflective of the sheer number of hours sailed on San Francisco Bay this year.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

2009 Masters' Pacific Coast Championship

Here I am sailing on saturday! Chris Ray took some great photos, check them out at his website!

This was a two day event hosted by St Francis but sailed out of Treasure Island. On saturday we raced just off south end of the Berkeley Pier, on sunday further to the east into Emeryville. Saturday saw the most breeze with average around 20 knots and some gusts higher, sunday was more mid-teens. There were 26 boats registering, though by the end of saturday we probably had 22 actually racing.

The first race on saturday was clearly warmup for everyone. With the early flood tide, the right was favored for tide, but the left slightly favored for breeze. The fleet arrived at the first mark fairly close, I was around in first with a few boat length lead but in trying to make sure I didn't hit the weather mark I neglected to let the vang off, in trying to round the boom hit the water and I capsized. Fortunately, the fleet behind managed to entered in a mutual screwup so I only lost a few boats on the rounding. First run was back to round in third, managed to get back to top of fleet on second beat only to make another horrible rounding, hitting the mark, and let Peter Vessella and Peter Phelan back in. Then, sailed to the wrong finish line! Ok, third in that race, glad it was over!

Next three races I had great upwind speed and was able to win all three. Races 2 and 3 played off the right side, but by the last race the flood was no longer favoring the right and played off the left. Important thing from these races: good downwind speed in the big waves and strong breeze, so nobody catching me on the runs!

First race on sunday was in the 10-12 range. Mediocre start at the boat, follow Boomer to the right back in the pack. Peter comes in from left with nice lead, I round in 7 or 8. Manage to come back to around 4 at the leeward gate and then sail hard for second beat to get around in second and closing on Peter. Can't quite catch him on the run, finish second.

Good start in next race, lead all the way to win.

If I can beat Peter, or finish right behind him, can win the regatta without the fourth race. But... not so good start and have to clear out of traffic before trying to figure out where Peter is going. Get to weather mark with potential to be first around, coming in on port but can't cross Boomer. Figure a tight leebow will force him to tack since he "can't possibly" lay in the current.. but I don't execute and Boomer lays. I have to wait for him to go by, Peter and Peter round with me and inside and in no time I'm in fourth. On run I try to stay on Peter Vessella's wind to stay one place behind but get complacent and Peter slips away to pass Boomer. He is second, I'm fourth!

Technically, we are tied on points and I won the tie breaker but I figure I better race the last race. Fortunately, I get a good start and am able to get in front and not screw up and win race. So, take the series.

In general, very happy at this event with speed. Be very interesting to see how that works this weekend in Monterey and, of course, next week in Halifax!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Best angle downwind wrt to waves?

Chris Boome loaned me his "The Boat Whisperer - Downwind" DVD and I've been watching it in some detail. In general, I completely agree with the philosophy of not trying to "muscle" the boat, instead to listen to what it is saying and act accordingly. Well, I believe in it, but in the heat of battle I think one often reverts to unconscious action and since a kid I have always tried to "muscle" the boat (and in my old age that means throwing my stomach "muscle" at it!).

An interesting segment is on the angle to take with the waves. OK, the discussion is really the angle to take in waves in strong breeze where I'm guessing strong to Steve is mid-twenties and above (hey, strong to me too!). He advocates taking the by-the-lee angle running more or less parallel to the primary (largest) wave pattern.

In light to medium breeze I think one should assume the gybe that allows you to run by-the-lee going down the wave. In these conditions you are not likely to be running into the backs of the wave in front at high speed so this angle keeps you powered as you are surfing the the wave and helps to keep you on it longer. It is also easier to initiate the turn to windward since you aren't fighting the angle the wave wants the boat to take. Of course, at my weight (over 200 lbs) I can't turn as often as the pinners (anyone under 200 lbs) can, so sailing by the lee works to keep me moving fast longer than if I were trying to turn too much

But what about in strong breeze? Here running into the backs of the waves can be an issue. In this case I think you need to assume the gybe that has you square to broad reaching on the primary waves. In this much breeze you will, as Steve says, be primarily concerned with trying to avoid running into the backs of the waves in front of you and this gybe allows you more control over which direction you can go.

Still, I'm not sure that running by-the-lee parallel to the primary set is really the fastest... will have to try that today...

Yesterday we had a good ebb tide with breeze straight down the Golden Gate. Peter Vessella and I did two nice long runs from Anita Rock down to Blossom Rock. There must be a nice swell running off the coast, the waves in the bay were as big as I can remember seeing and the ebb pushed them up to make nice, steep runways for surfing. I hope we get that again today!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Can a Laser plane upwind?


I was reminded of this during yesterday's practice clinic run by Mike Kalin off the St Francis. He had us start the day with one of his favorite drills. He sets a very short windward-leeward with two marks and we do several sessions of three laps each. First lap is tack once and jibe once, second lap is tack three times and jibe once, last lap is tack five times and jibe once. The next set through is the same only now on the run you jibe three times. The buoys are purposely set so close together that you really don't have any time to set up for the maneuvers, which is the point I guess.

After that we set up to do the "hold your lane" drill. The idea is to do a rabbit start where every purposely starts close together, trying to emulate a real starting line situation. Then the idea is to sail as long as possible holding your lane. When someone finally gets shot out the back, they tack over to become the new rabbit and we line up again. Very good practice for off the start line and I know this drill has saved me a few times.

After that we set up to do real starts and short races. It is here that I was reminded that it is really possible to plane on a Laser upwind - if only for very short distances. Basically, out of the starts on a couple of occasions I was able to find wave sets where I could get the boat to plane off the backsides, for just short little bursts. But enough to be able to roll the boats to leeward on a couple of occasions.

I need to remember that for Halifax... all it takes is hiking harder than I do now...

Home, sweet home

A week in the Columbia River Gorge can spoil you, especially during a heat wave! The water was a lot warmer than San Francisco Bay, the air was probably 30 F warmer, it was sunny and we were sailing in fresh water.

I took tuesday off from practice and did a bike ride instead. Thursday was the first day back in the boat and it was classic SF: drippy fog, 25-30 knots and an ebb tide. On top of that, a HUGE swell was running offshore and the remnants were inside the bridge. Oh boy!

Aigle boots - check. Burka hikers - check. Spray top over life jacket over Patagonia water heater top - check. Ok, we're set to go!

Turn the corner at the end of the jetty, sheet in and slam into the first giant piece of chop with resulting douching of the face...


Practicing for the Master Worlds in St. Margaret's Bay. Better get used to it!

Besides, I love sailing in San Francisco in 25-30 knots on a big ebb tide. The runs are epic. Until you've done it there is not really any way for me to adequetely describe it.

Gorge Week 2009

Brief wrap-up for 2009 Gorge Week: warm, sunny, windy and sailed 8 of 9 days there!

Week started with D6 (see Sean Trew's photos - taken on saturday, including one of me taken right after recovering from my infamous capsize) which was two days and eight races. Saturday set the tone for most of the week, it was breeze on with average probably mid-twenties, some big holes but gusts into 30's (PRO claimed a gust to 40 but I'm dubious, hard to stay upright in that much wind). The breeze was angled slightly off the south shore and this highly favored the left side of the course as puffs from the shore would provide huge port tack lifts that the boats in the middle to right side of the course would never get. This seemed contrary to what you might think was right, going right put you in more current, but the differential to the shore was probably less than a knot, not enough to overcome the big lifts. So, start at pin, go as close to the trees as you dared before tacking. After the first race Derick did it every race and won the last two of the day. Well... I was winning the last race until I capsized at the last mark... Anyway, Sunday was the "light" day for the week, it seems, with average around 15. Wind was just a bit more straight down the river, enough so the lifts on the left were gone and now the go right strategy paid off. This was a little tricky, pin end was enough favored that it was worth starting there, but not enough to tack right away so boats starting in the middle got free faster. Anyway, Derick dominated the day, due to his superior downwind speed, to easily win the regatta. I managed to hold off Andrew Wong (who managed a timely capsize to aid my cause) to finish in third behind Ricardo Montemayor (also very speedy downwind).

Monday and Tuesday were spent training with Al Clark, Ricardo Montemayor, Kyle Martin in Standard rigs along with the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club's Radial Team (about 10 more boats). On monday we split from the Radials after some drills and did a couple of long runs down to the second red nun buoy - those guys are fast downwind - followed by long beats back (albeit current aided). Tuesday saw the return of full nuclear conditions, we spent most of the day doing short course racing with the Radials - a bit scary given the breeze (back to gusting into the 30's) and the close proximity of the boats but nothing more than lots of capsizes. Some reaching courses set up too, forgot how tricky the jibe can be!

Wednesday I tagged along with the Brendan Casey clinic on their sail to Hood River. While I have done a Blowout before, it was the wrong direction (a light easterly so we sailed from Hood River to Cascade Locks), this was an opportunity to go the right way and see what it was all about. Breeze was back into a "light" mode (15 knots with some gusts pushing 20) and it was a great chance to really work on downwind. Through "Swell City" I was really feeling the Laser motion - would have been nice if someone like Derick or Ricardo were along to see how I was doing.

Thursday was boat work and rest day. After 5 days of sailing in breeze it was time to go through the boat, plus I had ignored the bottom for well over a year so it was well past time for a full boat bath and bottom polish (it is amazing how dirt can cling to a hull!). No major damage found - all was good.

The PCC's started on Friday with an iffy forecast - possible offshore breeze developing and predictions of hot weather in Portland, usually not a good sign for wind at Cascade Locks. But iWindSurf was wrong all week, so why believe them now? We hit the water at the appointed hour in about 8-10 from the west (right direction) and, with the much bigger fleet (42 Standards compred to 24 at the D6's) proceeded to run through a series of general recalls while we waited for the wind to build. By the time we started the wind was a nice 15-18 and back into that slightly off the south shore mode that gave us the big left winders along the shore. Unfortunately, the RC had also decided that the only way to get 42 boats off the start line was to set a very pin favored start line... so, you had to start at the pin, sail to the left shore and tack. Well, if you were in the "group of 10" a the pin that was good enough. This fleet was tougher, with not only Derick and Ricardo but also Steve Bourdow (Silver Medal in '92 I think) , Peter Vessella, Mark Jux (from Argentina), Mike Kalin and Brendan Casey. Four races the first day, including two "Z" courses which, in my opinion, were too broad (reaches not tight enough) and not quite enough wind. But I think the pattern was set, it was clear that Derick, Brendan, Mike and Steve were the top four and it was going to be hard to break into that group. Downwind speed was the key. Saturday and Sunday were back to full nuclear conditions though I think much more unstable in the sense that it was very puffy and shifty and the holes were probably down below 10 knots. Hit one of those on the run and you were toast. On Saturday we sailed three, then to shore for "lunch" (big mistake) where everyone said "its too scary to go back out there!" Of course we did, and two "Z" courses later it was back to shore and off to the regatta dinner (which was fantastic and, even better, endless). Sunday was three races with the last on the "Z" course. This was probably my best day in the sense that I led at the first mark in races 1 and 3 and was 3rd at the first mark in race 2. In race 1 I had a good lead and found one of those infamous holes - so much for that race. Race two I only lost one boat to finish fourth and in the last I led until the final jibe mark of the "Z" course where Brendan passed me, and Derick just got by on the bottom reach. Still, finished essentially overlapped with them to take 3rd and finish sixth overall for the regatta (results still to be posted, but will eventually appear at this link).

SeanTrew came out to do photographs again on Saturday, here is a link to the pics.

Peter Vessella, sailing his first event since returning from a back injury finished 14th, but sat out some of saturday's races and had to eat a DNC, so probably would have been 10th. Even with a three week layoff he is still as fast upwind and faster downwind, so is still looking like one of the top favorites for the Master Worlds in Halifax.

Ok, back to practicing.