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.