Friday, July 22, 2011

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Last Practice Before Annual Pilgrimage to the Gorge

Tonight was the last night of practice before my annual pilgrimage to the Columbia River Gorge... today saw a max flood of 2.8 knots at 2:40 pm, going to slack at around 6:00 pm and onto max ebb of 3 knots at 8:30 pm. I was in the water at 4:15 pm and it was definitely already starting to turn along the shoreline, with no apparent advantage to being on the shore versus 100 yards or so out. We did have a nice breeze tonight:
Even more impressive were the waves that were building along with the ebb, they were huge by City Front standard and made for some fantastic downwind runs. Its really an amazing feeling when you're hiking out of the back of the cockpit flying down the steep front of a wave looking for a place to put the bow that won't end up being 3' under water (see this video for an example of how that can end) - and then you find the perfect escape!

Anyway, because I needed to pack up for tomorrow's trip north I was back on the dock at 6:00 pm... wishing I was still out on the water...

The trip north is to participate in the US Sailing Singlehanded Championship (the O'Day trophy). This is meant to be a nice test event in a windy venue against some really top competition. Of course, the real truth is that all Lasers sailors MUST sail in the Gorge at least once each Summer and this is my opportunity!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

First day for 4.7 charter boat allocations

Today was the first day for early allocation of charter boats for the 4.7 Worlds. It appears that a number of competitors from around the world have arrived already to take advantage of this! When I arrived this afternoon around 4:00 pm there were already almost 20 4.7s out racing in front of the club:

Ok, so the photo doesn't do justice but it was pretty cool to see this many 4.7s out sailing in San Francisco!

I sailed today with Wolfgang Gerz and Scott Ferguson doing the standard Ft Mason to Anita and back loop. Today we had max flood (at the bridge) of 3.2 knots at 2:00 pm, going slack at 5:21 pm and then to a max ebb of 3 knots at 8:00 pm. We were sailing around 4:45 so during the time we were sailing it was definitely early ebb on the shoreline. Coupled with the slight southwest bend to the wind, the winning strategy was to hang to right side on the bottom of the course, then play shifts from middle to the mark. The gust range was a full 10 knots... we were always hiking but definitely playing the vang constantly and adjusting the cunningham/outhaul depending on how low the lull went.

Its definitely interesting when practicing with sailors of the caliber of Scott and Wolfgang, there is no room for error even in practice. Stop focusing for just one moment and they are gone, especially downwind. And you don't seem to ever get back what you lose to them!

Well, I'm learning a lot, that's for sure. I hope it translates into a good position in the Master Worlds!

Monday, July 18, 2011

T-minus three weeks and counting

The Techno Junior, Youth and Master Worlds start today and the St Francis Yacht Club is crawling with something like 200+ board sailors, young and old, from all over the world. Add in about 20-30 Laser sailors, young and old, here to train for the 4.7 and Master Worlds, then 140 brand new Lasers and its starting to get a bit crowded!

Yesterday was a 3 hour training sessions with Peter Vessella, Wolfgang Gerz, Christy Usher, Kurt Wessells, Walt Spevak, Christine Neville and Dimitri Despierres. Most of us were on the water at 1:00 pm, right at max flood at the Golden Gate. We sailed until around 4:00 pm which was around the time of slack water at the bridge and since we did the "standard" Fort Mason to Anita loop (mostly), and were along the shore, we effectively sailed the early ebb. Very interesting!

Our wind yesterday looked like this:

But otherwise the weather was pretty boring:

Anyway, big lesson yesterday is to watch the early ebb - at first it pays to be right up along the shore but as the ebb extends away from the shore there becomes a point there its no longer strongest right on the beach. However, ever more critical, as always, is to pay attention to the wind - the shifts always win out over the smallish changes in current (right now) and, worse, you can land in a big hole if too close to the rocks.

My strategy this year is to spend less time working on straight line speed and more time "racing". So we do rabbit starts at the Fort Mason buoy, race to Anita and then back to Fort Mason. Over and over again its being proven to me that being a bit faster upwind means nothing, as we approach Anita there can be some big wind shifts and if played correctly they can erase any gain on pure boat speed. Second - with the ebb its a downwind race but you still need to stay in the puffs and not wallow in the holes that can develop. We'll see if my strategy ultimately pays off or if I end up outsmarting myself on what I expect is going to happen...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

First wave of Lasers attack the St Francis Yacht Club

The LaserPerformance charter boats arrived this past week and there are now 140 brand new Lasers, hull numbers all in the 200100 range, lined up on the green behind the club!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Which San Francisco will we get for the Master Worlds?

Last weekend we had brilliant sunshine and could sail with, practically, only rashguards. The wind was steady from almost due west and the sailing was easy. Ah, what a difference a week makes!

This week the fog is back big time and then wind has swung to the hated (for me) SW direction. A small difference to many, but just enough to bring the wind down over the hills to the south of the Golden Gate Bridge - meaning big puffs and windshifts. I had a chance to hit the water last night, shoving off the dock around 6 pm and back in just before 8:00 pm. Any practice is good practice but mentally I just hate those long port tack upwinds straight into what appears to be an endless stream of short, steep chop coming right at you. Pound! Pound! POUND!!! Pound! The cockpit gets completely full of water, the boat always feels sluggish and, because the boat is moving slowly, in the gusts it always seems like I'm fighting the tiller and mainsheet to keep control.

But... I guess everyone else will have to deal with this too!

iWindSurf has one of their sensors located on the Anita Rock Pillar. This pillar is planted in the water about 200 yards off of Crissy Field and, in general, is a fair measure of the breeze one might expect to see at the weather mark of what will be the "south course" for the Master Worlds (and THE course for the 4.7 Worlds). Here is their summary of the wind yesterday:

Nominally racing will be in a window between 11:00 am and 5:00 pm or so. The things to note are: 1) the gust range (puff to lull) is about 10 knots, 2) the average is low-teens, 3) it is very shifty.

At the bottom of the course the wind will begin to even out (as one gets further from the hills above Crissy Field) and, in general, increase in velocity just a bit (solid mid-teens).

Anyway, fog is in now. What will we get for the Master Worlds?

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Worlds are coming!

You can always tell when a major event is about to happen in your home waters - people you don't know start showing up to go sailing on your pond! Such is the case for the two Worlds events in San Francisco this Summer, with just 3 weeks to go to the 4.7 Worlds and 4 weeks to go to the Master Worlds. This July 4th weekend saw up to 15 boats on the water at any one time, with almost a continuous stream of boats in and out of the harbor all day long.

This weekend saw the "good San Francisco" with little to no fog, relatively gentle breeze in the early part of the day building to upper teens by windsurfing hour (formerly cocktail hour, but around 4:00 pm). I managed to get out on the water 4 of the last 5 days and had some great practice sessions with some really really good sailors, like Russ Silvestri and, importantly, Scott Ferguson. Scott recently moved to the Bay Area just for THE regatta (ok, not THE regatta to me, but THE regatta to the rest of the world - ie the America's Cup). As Ed Adams told me in San Diego last month - Scott is pretty darn fast and when you couple that with his uncanny ability to never miss a wind shift its a pretty deadly combination. At least I know where the very tippy top of the curve is.

For my part it is the same old story... hang tough on the upwind, not quite up to speed on the downwind. I would not be too worried if the Master Worlds were on a flood... but, sadly, we're mostly on an ebb tide and at least the first half of the regatta will be a downwind speed guru's dream. If the wind will only stay steady above 20 knots then I think I'm in there, but San Francisco is not always quite as windy as the reputation and its the "light" spots that crush me.

Ok, the other big one is that the top sailors in the "Standard Masters" - and the list is long here with, besides Scott, (in order of country) Bretty Beyer, Al Clark, Andy Roy, Ari Barshi, Arnoud Hummel, Charlie Buckingham (the older one), Russ Silvestri (yeah, the Olympic guy), Villie Roberts and Vann Wilson - are all rocket ships on the run. And those are just the sailors I KNOW, there must be an equal number I don't know! At the end I still believe Brett Beyer is the gold standard here, he's won something like 8 of 10 tries in the Apprentice division. Anyway, I'm thinking this regatta is going to be won by the fastest downwind speedster.

So... how to get faster downwind in only 4 weeks? Number one on the list is to go from 210 lbs (Etchells weight!) to something like 195. Ok, well, this could be a problem... Number two on the list, sail on ebb tide as much as possible. Hmmmm.... next week is ebb phase but I have to spend 4 days in Santa Cruz for work - from around 8:00 am to 7:00 pm.

Ok, the trick in the next four weeks is to figure out how to get as much quality downwind time on the water as possible.

Stay tuned!