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!

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