Monday, March 19, 2012

2012 Laser Master Worlds Day 6: "In & Out, Heart-Brrrreak!"

(Apologies for the delay in getting this out... our flight home from Sydney yesterday was canceled putting us on a bit of an expedition to get home...)

Back when I was in grad school one of the things we did was watch the Los Angeles Laker games on TV. This was back in Chick Hearn's hey-day and he was famous for many of his "Chickisms", like "its in the refrigerator, the door closed, the eggs are cooling, the butter's getting hard and the Jello's jigglin!" when one team had the game put away, or "no harm, no foul, no blood, no ambulance, no stitches..." when the referees did not call an obvious foul, etc. The Chickism that applies here is definitely "In & Out, Heart-brrrreak!" for when the ball seemingly goes in the basket but catches the rim and is thrown back out.

Anyway... the forecast for the final day had not been promising the entire week and so it was no surprise to arrive at the boat park Saturday morning and find only a hint of breeze out of the South. There was some discussion overheard amongst some Race Committee volunteers that there was a good chance of no racing due to too little wind. In addition to that, we were scheduled to start at 10:00 am which I figured was way too early to allow for any help from the development (if any) of a seabreeze. Still, you want these things settled on the water so we all went about our morning rituals and prepared for what we thought would be a very long and hot day on the water.

The PRO, as he did all week long, made a great call to send us out early in the hopes of getting going on the set start times (the Radials were 30 minutes later than us). I launched at 9:00 am ready with extra water to drift around for a few hours but was surprised to see a steady, and ever so slightly building, 5-6 knot breeze from just a bit to the right of Southeast. With this breeze there was no reason to not start on time and, indeed, right on the appointed hour the RC started the sequence for the Green Fleet, then the Red fleet and then began the sequence for our race.

I would not say that light wind sailing is one of my strong points so my thinking was that I needed to get a good start and try to get into the lead group early, then try to not bleed too many boats to the finish. It looked to me like slightly more pressure to the left but a definite current advantage on the right. The line was pretty square but there was a slight bias to the pin end so I decided to try to start down from the middle, try to work just a bit to the left and then go right. I got a great start just below the main pack and was actually working out well when I picked up some weed causing me to drop back a bit. I cleared the weed but and got going again but now it was too late to able to work to a position to tack and cross the group I was in before we were all the way left. I figured I better take the medicine early and tacked over, took 2-3 sterns and managed to pop out in a nice lane. As I went all the way to the right I had just enough more pressure than those below me going right to move forward on them, and we had just enough favor going right that the boats who had continued to the left were now falling in behind me. The result was that I was first to the weather mark! I managed to hold that position down the reach and the run to go through the gate still in first, but with Andre Martinie and Wolfgang Gerz only just behind. At the gate I made a crucial error, I rounded the right gate but was momentarily disoriented - there was such a big shift to the left right here that I was pointing at the tip of a different island and for just a crucial few seconds thought I was massively lifted. By the time I recognized the error and the need to tack it was too late, Wolfgang had managed to get just inside of me and was in a position to prevent me from tacking. It was clear his strategy was to simply take me out of the race. We went left for a bit until I decided it was worse to sail off the course than to try to battle back with him going the right direction, I tacked but it was too late, I was now back in the teens with Andre now solidly in first. We continued around the track, in customary form Wolfgang worked his way back up through the fleet to finish with what I thought might have been a top five, while I was approaching the finish line in tenth or so... and then I saw on the notice board that I had been identified as OCS in that race!

Ok, that was a tough race but I was determined to not let it get to my head. Andre had won that race, so gained on me for second place, Malcolm had a great race as well and was moving up from fourth. The way the points were setting up, I only needed to have a good finish, like top five, in one of the two remaining races to lock down second overall for the regatta. I figured I had better focus on getting that done in this next race and not worry about the overall title until the final race. The wind was up a couple of knots from the first race, still light air by my standards but I had seen in the first race that my speed was better than I expected so it was all about getting a good start and getting clean lanes going to the right side to get into the front group.

As we lined up to start the boat end was pretty fairly favored. The Green Fleet had almost all bunched at the committee boat, the red fleet was more spread out but mostly in the upper half of the line. We were in a right shift so it looked like both fleets had started high on the line but were not rushing to tack off to the right, mostly carrying on towards the left. So my plan was to start a few boats down from the committee boat, drag race left until there was a good solid lane back to the right. And I was also determined to not let the OCS make me gun shy on the start. At the starting gun I managed to get a good jump just to leeward of the group starting right at the boat and began the drag race left. As we were going left it looked like the right was showing a bit more pressure so as the boats above me peeled away to the right I also went that way, as it turns out just a bit early and when I arrived at the mark I was in a fairly tight bunch of about 5-6 boats. With a good lane on the reach I picked off a few, then managed to pass a few more on the run to round the bottom gate in the top three. This time I took the left gate following Malcolm going right, with Mark Bethwaite and Wolfgang taking the right gate going left. I kept this for a few hundred yards and once the main part of the fleet had cleared the middle tacked back to the right in a bit of a shift to close the gap on Mark a bit and to cross ahead of Wolfgang. I tacked up on Mark's hip and followed him to the right. At the windward mark Mark had pulled ahead a bit, Malcolm was still in second, I was third, Wolfgang fourth and Rob Lowndes just behind. On the run and reach positions remained unchanged and we headed up the mini-beat with Wolfgang just behind me and Rob just behind him. Wolfgang tacked to keep clear of me, I tacked figuring I tack on him on his final approach to the finish line and Rob continued right. It worked exactly as I hoped, Wolfgang tacked on the finish line layline, I planted him just to windward, I crossed Rob to finish third and Wolfgang fell back to finished fifth behind Rob! I started my happy dance that not only did I secure second overall for the regatta but was now tied on points for first!

Well, that lasted about 20 seconds as Rob sailed over and said he'd been OCS so Wolfgang was fourth, not fifth. Ok, second secured and one point behind Wolfgang for first.

So, here it was, the final race would determine the outcome of the regatta - just like it should be. The way the points stood, Wolfgang owned the throwouts but I owned the tie breaker so if I beat Wolfgang in the race, and I finished third or better in the race then I would win. I needed a good race here and I could not afford to get tangled up with Wolfgang in any pre-start nonsense.

Well... ok, I did make one slight miscalculation before the race began... I did forget that I owned the tie breaker so I thought I needed a boat between us to win... my thinking at the time was that I needed to win the race with Wolfgang no better than third.

For the final race of the regatta the wind had puffed up to maybe 9-10 knots so that I was just starting to think about hiking, but pretty much off the toe rail and not in the hiking strap. The wind was definitely showing a bit of a left shift and the pin end was pretty clearly favored. I got a great line up to leeward as the boats set up for the start and got a great jump off the line near the pin as the starting gun went off. I sailed over until I was sure I could cross the first boat, rolled into a tack, made the first boat, then the entire fleet and was off to the right in a left shift. I was in great shape going across when I ran into a soft patch and started to fade a bit. Pressure looked left so I tacked over to stay in touch with the group to the left. Indeed, Mark Bethwaite (the boat I had just crossed out of the start) had better pressure and it was clear he was going to cross so when I felt like I was close enough I tacked under and we made our final approach to the mark. At the rounding it was Mark, then me and then about 4 boat lengths back or so the main pack, with Wolfgang in what looked like 10th. On the reach he sailed through half of that, by the run he was up to fourth or fifth and on the run he and Andre Martinie closed to a close third and fourth. I took the left gate, Mark the right, I continued right until the bulk of the fleet had cleared the mark and then tacked to go left. Mark came out from the left still ahead, but I was still ahead of Wolfgang. At this stage of the beat, and in the 8 knots or so of wind, Wolfgang had a slight speed advantage so it was clear I was not going to beat him simply by covering, I needed to get some distance by staying in phase with the shifts. And I was still thinking I needed to pass Mark...

As we made the final approach to the top mark I ended more on the left side, Wolfgang a bit on the right and, initially, I thought I had gained. Unfortunately, a bit of a right shift came in and the gap narrowed considerably - I was going to cross him by only a bit more than a boat length. I figured here my move was to tack in front of him, so at the right spot I turned in the boat. I went through the standard roll tack where you stay more or less on the port side of the boat as the main comes across and fills on the new close hauled course, then, as the boat is rolling to leeward, transferred across to the starboard side, rotating to get my rear on the rail, flattening the boat and trimmed in to build speed (and being careful to stay within Rule 42) and started focusing on the waves ahead. All of the sudden I feel a slight bump on my rudder as Wolfgang has altered his course to windward and hit me! Ok, more on this later.

At the weather mark I round ahead by a couple of boat lengths but have a nice little puff that I am able to take down to drive hard by the lee for some distance. Wolfgang stays high and I think does not have the pressure I have so I am able to gain some distance. At the leeward mark Mark Bethwaite is too far ahead to catch and sails on to easily win the race. I round ahead of Wolfgang and manage to stay ahead on the bottom reach to round the final leeward mark a few boat lengths ahead. Wolfgang tacks off and I follow shortly just to stay in touch, then we both tack over to go for the finish line with me in second and Wolfgang in third.

As it stands at the finish, I've now tied Wolfgang on points but have first place because I own the tie breaker! Well, ok, I must admit that while on the water I'm still a bit confused and am assuming Wolfgang has won because he was right behind me at the finish but, as we sail in I'm very happy about having had a great day in conditions that I don't normally perform well in.

Once on shore I get sorted out about the tie break situation and realize that I have won the regatta. However, and understandably, Wolfgang files a protest regarding the contact on the water since if he can get me DSQ'ed in the race then he will win. As we go into the jury room I'm confident that it will be at best disallowed, at worst he will be disqualified because I am sure the contact occurred far too long after the tack was completed for me to be at fault.

For the non-sailors out there think of driving on the freeway when a slower car changes into your lane in front of you. If they do this too close and you hit them then its their fault for not giving you time to slow down. On the other hand, if they do so far ahead and you hit them then its your fault for running into them from behind. Obviously, there is a gray area where the car ahead may have changed into the lane too soon -or- you may not have taken action to avoid a collision soon enough. That's where the details of "facts found" get to be important...

Unfortunately for me the key "fact found" by the jury was that they determine, from the testimony given, that the contact was "simultaneous" with the completion of the tack. Their conclusion, then, is that I broke rule 15 of the Racing Rules of Sailing which requires me to initially give the other boat room to keep clear. The result, then, is that I'm disqualified from the final race and Wolfgang moves up to second in that race.


Losing on a protest is definitely an "in & out, heart-brrreak!" kind of moment but it is a part of the way the sailing game is played. In the end, I finished second overall, securing that with a race to spare, against a tough fleet and in conditions I'm not normally known for sailing well in. As well, Wolfgang sailed extremely consistently the entire week only finishing out of the top four in one race. In the end we were separated by only five points and if I'm honest with myself I can (and have in these writeups) identify several situations in the regatta where I gave him more than enough points to overcome that deficit. Anyway, I did come home with a coveted Laser Cube and am definitely happy to have broken my seemingly endless string of finishing just out of the money at the Master Worlds. But there is still one finish position that has eluded me, definitely leaving me with some unfinished business in the world of Laser Masters Sailing... so I'll be there again in 2013 in Oman!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Day 5: The Sea Jellies go into hiding

I've been informed that the politically correct word is "Sea Jellies". It seems they get highly offended to be called fish. I apologize to all Sea Jellies for implying that they are fish. Please come back (and replace all that sea weed you put in your place)!

It does seem the jellies have gone off to some new location where they don't get bonked on the head quite so often. But in their place is TONS of sea weed and, worse, eel grass. Racing has become partly an exercise in clearing your blades which can be quite distracting while we're actually trying to race.

Day 5 was a beautiful day, it started with sunny skies and the puffy tropical clouds that tell you it will be a good day. Forecast was for about 10-12 knots and in the boat park in the morning that's what it looked like. To make up for the lost racing on Day 4 we were going for three races with the first start at 10:30 am (like in the morning), so it was off the dock at 9:30 to make the start on time. Out on the course we had a good 12 knots, just enough to get over the side and perfect conditions for virtually everyone in the fleet.

The race committee is ever punctual and exactly on time they rolled into the Green Fleet start which got off without a hitch, then into the Red Fleet and then into our fleet. I started top middle of the line with the idea to drag out to the left a bit for what looked like more pressure, then back to the right to play off the end of the ebb tide (a problem with starting so early is that we are back into the end of the ebb!). Execution was going well until I picked up the first of many pieces of weed, finding and clearing put me back into a pack determined to hit the left corner. As we really got to the left I decided it was time to cut losses and tacked over, took two sterns, crossed two more boats and got sorted going right, just below the port tack layline. Waaaaaayyy over on the right I could see 4 or 5 boats heavily leveraged on the right and it was clear a good shift to the right was going to launch them. Fortunately it didn't shift big time right and in the end only a couple of boats were able to get across and I got around the mark in third. Rob Lowndes had a great lead already but the second place boat was close so I worked hard on the run to get by and rounded the gate in second. Up the second beat Rob kept a loose cover, I closed a little but he still rounded with a good lead. I managed to close on that slightly on the final run and then on the bottom reach sailed right up to round the final mark overlapped on the outside. I managed to work out just slightly, not really a lee bow but threatening and Rob elected to tack away early, not quite on layline. I tacked over and was not on top and on starboard and even laying the finish line! So I was able to take first in that race! Great way to start the day!

The next race the wind velocity started to drop a bit and it was not clear if left or right was going to pay. I started again in the upper half of the line and it felt like we were in a left shift so I tacked to go right. I sailed almost all the way across on port thinking a right would have to come but suddenly I started losing pressure. In the meantime, Andre Martinie had gone deep left and was coming back in big pressure and still a big left. I saw no option but to cut losses and get back so tacked... as it turns out just a bit too early. Slowly the right shift started to fill in, just in time to cross the main pack from the left but not in time to cross Andre who was about 3 boat lengths ahead. At the mark it was Andre, then me and then a pack of trailing boats. Position remained the same down the reach, but on the run the breeze started to lighten and I found myself falling back, losing a few boats. The next beat was not spectacular for me and I rounded the final mark in fourth, too far back to really make gains on the lead pack, but far enough ahead of the boats behind to finish fourth.

The final race of the day started in nice pressure, a bit of a right shift. The boat end was definitely favored and I started down about 5-6 boats and got off with a good jump. I held the lane going right and moved forward enough to be able to tack when I wanted. I waited until I knew that a left shift would put me near layline but not on it and tacked over, figuring that in the pressure I could speed away from boats that would be on my hip... All was going well until I picked up some more weed and struggled a bit to get it clear, by the time I was sorted out I realized there had been a major shift to the left and I was now in the teens! Fortunately the fleet rounding the mark was tightly packed AND those who had gone right off the start line were miles behind. On the reach I managed to pick up a few spots, on the run a few more and at the leeward gate was already back to 3rd or 4th. Rob Lowndes was once again leading by a significant margin. I played the puffs and shifts up the beat to get into second pretty solidly, but Rob did a masterful job of also staying in phase to maintain his lead going into the top mark. We sailed the run without any changes, he started the reach with about 15 boat lengths to burn - which he proceeded to do! I rounded the final pin about two boat lengths behind and in a nice right puff. I figured I had to try to pass him and the only move was to tack out to the left side of the short beat (literally 200 yards). With the right shift the pin end was also favored so I figured I would sail until a) Rob tacked, b) I was on layline to the pin. Rob tacked at what he thought was shy of the layline, I tacked back toward him and realized I could tack just to leeward, and ahead, which I did. With a little more pressure we were suddenly both laying the pin end and I was able to just nose him out at the finish for another first!

So, great day with a 1-4-1 scoreline. Wolfgang Gerz sailed a 3-3-4 to still be in control of the regatta but with one throwout I'm now only 2 points behind with three races to go. Andre had an OCS in the final race and has to use that for his throwout, this gives me an 11 point lead on him at this stage. Malcolm Courts is in fourth overall but is quite a ways back in points. The way the points stack up now, with even one mid-fleet finish I can't be worse than fourth.

The bad news is that the forecast for Saturday is pretty bad... extremely light winds are forecast and there is some question of even sailing. Light air is not my forte but I have been sailing faster than I expected in the conditions we have had so far so I am going to remain optimistic that I can continue to move up!

Note: we leave for Sydney at zulu dawn on Sunday (here) so may not update last day's post until I'm back in California late Sunday night.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Day 4: Cloud chasing

Day 4 started with a promising look - a nice Southeast breeze blowing through the boat park and thoughts of another day hiking. But as launch time neared a massive black cloud began to loom ominously over the area and by the time we launched the wind had dropped to low single digits. We sailed out, the race committee fired off the start sequence at the appointed hour and sent the green fleet off on their first race and then rolled into the red fleet sequence. About halfway into that the first of many big wind shifts rolled through, forcing the race committee to abandon the green fleet race and postpone the red fleet. We then spent the next three hours variously drifting about, planing like made, dodging rain squalls, testing virtually every quadrant for wind direction, etc. until the race committee finally abandoned for the day.

The plan is to try to make up the missing races by running three races on days 5 and 6. The forecast for Friday is looking like they might pull that off, less promising for Saturday.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Day 3: Opportunity Lost?

Day 3 began as yet another beautiful day in Brisbane, mostly sunny, warm and a nice breeze blowing from the Southeast - what more could a sailor want?

While this was only the third day of the regatta, it is often the middle days where the regatta order gets set. Mindful of that I was determined to not let the Day 2 leaders get even more separation with my goal to remain in the hunt at the end of the day, and the first half of the event. Since my upwind speed in a hiking breeze appears to be quite good I was quite happy on the sail out to see that we would be pretty much full on hiking! So I was feeling confident that I could achieve that goal.

High tide today was for around 1:00 pm, just after our start, so it was expected that the right would not be current favored making the left side "open", at least on the first beat. With a square line I elected to start in the middle where the fleet seems to sag substantially making it possible to really get a good jump out in front. With a good start and good speed it did not take long to get into the top group and I was able to roll into the first left to go right. I determined to not sail to the wrong weather mark this race and held the port tack all the way across to pick up a nice right shift as I approached the weather mark, rounding first just in front of Andre Martinie and Jorge Abreu (who is clearly faster than anyone in full hiking going upwind). I had a good reach and run to even slightly extend a bit, rounded the left gate for the second beat, sailed about 100 yards to a nice right shift, tacked to starboard and suddenly had opened even more. This was looking like it was going to be a great race... but then it started to get soft and very shifty. The top half of the beat saw me spending lots of my lead and in the last 100 yards to the mark I fell back to just ahead of the chasing pack. Andre was making a strong charge and was in second, Rob Lowndes, who had a spectacular run to get into 3rd, was coming on strong and Wolfgang Gerz had recovered from far back to be just behind. At the weather mark we rounded effectively overlapped with me on top and I got pushed just enough to the right to find a massive hole. Wolfgang, rounding from behind, dove deep to the left and stayed in pressure. In no time he was even with Andre, sailing in more breeze, and soon took the overall lead. I spent the rest of the run trying to catch up and got onto Rob's stern by the final gate but could not capitalize on the last reach and final beat. I finished fourth which is a great finish in this regatta but I was definitely feeling like I had just lost a great opportunity to make a solid move up the leader board.

As we rolled into the next start sequence the breeze was at its peak, in the 15-18 knot range. I pretty much stuck to the game plan from the previous race, starting a bit further up the line and rolling into a tack onto port a bit sooner to get to the presumed current favored right side. While the breeze held velocity on the first beat there were some pronounced shifts and I ended up taking a few to make sure the guys out to the left did not get too much separation. Approaching the weather mark it was once again me rounding first with Jorge not far behind. I had another good first reach to maintain my gap, then a good first half to three quarters of the run to even open up a bit. Once again it started to get soft as we approached the leeward gate (it seems to be a feature of the outer loop) and I went for the left gate to sail on what seemed like a nice left shift heading right. However, a good fraction of the trailing pack took the right gate and were going left so I figured I better not let them separate and took a tack to the right. Nick Page carried on to the right while I kept pace with the boats going left. About halfway up the beat I decided to get back to the right while Nick had found a nice right shift all the way over there. I did have a good angle to the weather mark, and I remembered the previous race where I tacked way too many times on the final approach, so I decided to continue on and had to just duck Nick going back to the left and, it turns out, into oblivion. So, I managed to round the final mark still in first, still with a good lead and only a run, reach and short beat to finish. What could go wrong?

As I mentioned yesterday, there appear to be about a bazillion (physicist speak for an incomprehensibly large number) jelly fish in the water. I neglected to mention there is also a lot of weed floating about in the water. By the time we were on the final run the sun angle was such that I could not see anything in the water, just that there were waves. I knew there were jelly fish about, with the now familiar thud-thud-thud sound as I sailed through packs of them. But now something new, a GIANT chunk of really nasty sea weed grabbed onto my rudder not only putting on the brakes but also making steering difficult. Clearing weed off a Laser rudder on a run in 15 knots of wind is easy for the Olympic guys, less so for a Master sailor and even less so for one who has not been putting in the hours in the boat. So... what to do? Leaving it was not an option, I tried several times to sheet in, reach back and clear with my hand but could not quite execute before the boat starting rolling uncontrollably. Eventually I went into a big roll jibe and was able to shake it off the rudder when tipped but by now the chasing pack was getting closer, in particular Wolfgang Gerz who had managed to once again sail from oblivion to threaten winning the race!

Well, this was NOT going to happen this race, I got sorted, rounded the mark to the reach and turned on the jets. About 100 yards in front of me was the last sailor in the red fleet (starting just ahead of me) and by the leeward mark I was 4 boat lengths behind him, going to the final beat. He was obviously not comfortable with the breeze and I sailed right up to his stern before being forced to tack. Wolfgang held on to evenually sail through him but I think the damage was done and I finish first with Wolfgang far enough behind to not be a concern. Mark Bethwaite, recovering from two OCS's the day before, finished third, Malcolm Courts finished 5th. Andre had been in third but capsized at the final mark and ended 6th.

At the halfway point of the event, Wolfgang Gerz has a nice 6 point lead. He is sailing very consistently showing an uncanny ability to recover from poor positions early in the races. His line score of 4-6-1-2-1-2 is showing him to be the guy to beat.

On my side I have high confidence in my speed when the breeze is up but don't feel particularly spectacular in the lighter stuff. Still, my biggest problem in the regatta so far has been the execution errors - like hitting the mark in the first race to give away 2 points, to capsizing on the run, to sailing to the wrong mark. Yesterday I was more focused and mostly sailed well, except for the meltdown at the end of the second beat of the first race. Looking forward the current forecasts are not great for breeze, putting it into the 10-12 range for Thursday and Friday and making Saturday look outright sketchy. But it also appears that Wolfgang's worst races were in the lighter breeze of the first day as well, so the regatta is still not over!

Looking behind, Andre Martinie, after a several year vacation, is sailing fantastically well and is also still a threat to win the event. Malcolm Courts may well be the fastest sailor in the 10-12 range, and will certainly be a threat to move up, but will need a lot of help from Wolfgang to get to first. With 6 races to go and it does not seem like its too early to count positions, but there are two throwouts (if we get 10 races) and Wolfgang is currently throwing out a 6th - meaning he can have two disasters and still be at the top of the leaderboard.

Today (Wednesday here) is the lay day so most sailors are already off touring the Gold Coast and other local attractions. Unfortunately, this morning is raining fairly hard though that is supposed to clear soon so the day off should end up being great for everyone.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Did they tell you about the jelly fish?

Back when Peter Vessella was thinking about coming to the event he asked his Star crew, who is Aussie and has sailed here extensively, what to expect for the sailing. He said something like "its just like Biscayne Bay except there are lots of jelly fish". That assessment appears to be spot on. The sailing does remind me of racing in Miami. The number of jelly fish in the water is staggering and, unfortunately, there are patches where there is simply no avoiding them.

Anyway, the forecast for today had a bit more breeze from the standard Southeast direction and we were, in fact, already lightly hiking on the sail out to the start. After watching the Apprentice and Master fleets start it was clear the game plan was to go right soon after starting, but the line looked to give a slight pin end favor. I started towards the pin and with a good start was able to soon tack and cross the boats around me. Wolfgang Gerz had a great start in the upper half of the line and had already tacked to go right. In the 10-12 knots of wind he was flying and quickly established a good lead. And just to leeward of him was Malcolm. I started to realize I was slightly off the pace and starting to fall back into the pack and a quick look at the centerboard revealed a nice clump of weed. Once clear I was back in gear but by now Wolfgang and Malcolm were quite far ahead. As we neared the middle of course we got a nice right shift, I took that over to the left where it looked like there was more pressure anyway. From here on I started to play shifts towards the mark and really felt I was making big gains, especially since neither Wolfgang or Malcolm were tacking. I was now sitting left most boat in great position when I finally realized I was sailing to the wrong mark! With the sideways current the courses really appear to get skewed and its quite easy to end up sailing to wing mark as the "upwind" mark since the real weather mark looks to be way over to the side. Ok, reach into the weather mark now in the mid-teens, down the first reach and on to the run... I played off what would be the left side looking upwind and was making some great progress, having moved into 4th or 5th when yet another execution error struck - I capsized. Ok, get sorted out, back into the low teens for the next beat. This time pay better attention and climb back to around 4th. Another unspectacular run puts me in a pack at the last gate with Jorge Abreu on top of me on the reach. I can't get through to leeward and this opens the door for several boats to roll over the top of both of us. I think I finished 8th across the line but am saved by the fact that 3 boats in front of me are OCS, so I get a 5th!

At this point I'm realizing that I'm making lots of "execution errors" of the type you make when you have not been sailing a Laser much. Time to stop that!

Once again the race committee does not hesitate to roll into the second race. The breeze is now up nicely, the most I have seen since we have been here, probably solidly in the 15-18 range. I start at the pin in a big left shift and immediately tack to get launched out to the right side of the course. This time I pay attention to which buoy I am sailing to, I wait until solidly on the right side before playing a shift to get back right and just cross Jorge, the only other close boat and get to the windward mark first. Jorge understands the mark, has to shoot it and gets stuck so I end up with a nice lead down the reach. The rest of the race is spent staying between the fleet and the next mark and I'm able to cross the line first.

So, 5-1 for the day and I'm still sitting 4th overall on 11 points, 4 points out of first. With 8 races to go it is still an open regatta with nobody yet running away with it, though Wolfgang and Andre are counting some great finishes and are definitely quick in these conditions.

Results posted here.

Main regatta page here.

2012 Laser Masters Day One

In contrast to the previous days, Sunday began under increasingly overcast skies and the competitor's meeting was greeted with a good old fashioned semi-tropical downpour. As the squall exited, of course, there was no wind and the rest of the morning was spent debating the day's uniform. If light winds then drop the hiking pants? Or assume the forecast would hold and go with them? As launch time neared I went with the forecast and suited up.

As I sailed out there was certainly a fair bit of second guessing on that decision. I did the standard sail up, sail down, etc., to get the lay of the land, then stood by to watch the Apprentice fleet start in about 8 knots of wind. For their start the pin was definitely favored and it looked like the fleet was favoring the left side of the beat. Next were the Standard Masters who generated the first recall start of the regatta. Then the second. Then the third. This turned out to be quite beneficial as the sea breeze started to roll in with the velocity jumping into the low teens making the hiking pants decision a good one after all!

With the seabreeze coming in was a bit of a shift to the right making the course appear to be slightly skewed for the first beat. However, by now the ebb current was starting to run and it goes sideways, right to left, so it turned out to be a square beat. Lost opportunity #1: started just to leeward of the fleet and sailed too far left into deeper water and had to fight to get back to right. But managed to round in top group so still in the hunt! Breeze was still in low teens so the first reach and run were not spectacular for me but was happy to not be bleeding boats (good that Peter Vessella is not here!). On the outside of the trapezoid we were to the left (looking upwind) of the island at the top of the course and out of the main river. With more pressure those who went hard left made out and by the top mark the leaders changed, with Andre Martinie, after a 4 year vacation from Laser sailing, rounding hot on Malcolm Courts' tail. Breeze was now up to mid-teens and now there was a nice Berkeley Circle style chop and good surfing downwind. Andre proceeded to pass Malcolm on the run and go on to win easily. I went through the final gate in fourth with no threat from behind so just cruised down the reach. At the last leeward mark I noted the current and thought "it would sure be stupid to hit that mark"... they say when you are skiing in trees that if you look at the tree then you hit the tree and it must be something similar with marks as, sure enough, I managed to hit the mark. Execution of the 360 caused me to lose 2 boats and I finished 6th. Silly error that!

The race committee is not one for wasting time on the water and they started the second race very soon after we finished the first - just enough time to wolf down a Cliff bar and drink some water. The breeze was still solid but up the course on the right side it looked like there were some big holes. I elected to start down the line and hang to the left a bit to go for what looked like good pressure. I got a good enough start, worked my way to the left and tacked in the pressure line. Then I noticed that the boats that started at the committee boat and tacked right away were sailing into a massive right shift and the top three on that side had tacked back and were simply launched! I did manage to get back to that side and get into that breeze arriving at the weather mark in the low teens. The rest of the race was spent chipping away at the remaining boats and by the final weather mark I was in shooting range of 2-3, in 5th or so. But the final run and reach were rather unspectacular and in the end I held fifth.

The lessons from the first day appear to be that in general there is a bit more pressure to the left but when the current gets going you need to sail to the right first, getting at least downwind of the weather mark (current adjusted) before thinking about bouncing off the right.

We'll see how that plays out tomorrow!

Currently standing in fourth, results are located here.

Sail World is doing the daily write up, the first day is here.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

2012 Laser Master Worlds - the regatta begins!

Yes, its true that the 2011 Laser Master Worlds was just last August, barely more than half a year ago, but its already time for the 2012 edition! The regatta is being hosted by the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron located in Manly, near Brisbane, Australia, which explains the timing as we at the end of their Summer.

Christy and I arrived on Wednesday afternoon, after a 15 hour flight from San Francisco to Sydney and then a short hour flight up to Brisbane from Sydney. No drama, as they say, but we were zonked on arrival and were in bed in short order.

On Thursday we got ourselves sorted out, got our boats, put them together and made it out for a short sail at the end of the day. Light winds but WARM! Finally, the semi-tropical worlds we have not seen since Fortaleza in 2005. First thing we noticed about sailing here was the massive number of jellyfish in the water. There are patches that are so thick you simply cannot avoid them. It is also very shallow here, much like the Berkeley Circle, so one does not want to capsize else risk returning to the dock with an unwanted badge of honor at the top of the mast.

On Friday we got ourselves through registration and measurement in relatively short order and then hid under the trees (in the shade) until we thought the wind had filled before hitting the water. Big moment for me was putting the blue band, not a red band, on the mast... just "aged in" to the Grandmaster division! Will definitely miss racing in the Standard Masters fleet but I'm looking forward to the Grandmasters, it is a good group of sailors here in Brisbane and several are definitely sharks in what is expected to be somewhat less breeze than we had in San Francisco.

Christy and I did try to get in some practice time on Friday but, unfortunately, we elected to launch right as the seabreeze was fighting a fair offshore and we ended up drifting around in the transition zone getting a bit overheated. So, not really much of a practice day.

Saturday saw more fiddling with the boat and then a short sail with Brad Taylor, a local sailor who is very fast (and, fortunately, not in my fleet). He gave me some nice pointers on the local knowledge and we had several good lineups to check speed, point, etc. Given the conditions, I came back to the dock pretty happy with my setup.

Evenings so far have been clear and beautiful, have seen the Southern Cross every night!

Today is the first day of racing and Christy and I are sitting here on the back deck of the RQYS enjoying the morning. The weather has decided to change from crystal clear sunshine to overcast with possibility of showers. But the wind forecast is to push 15 knots which sounds just fine to me (ok, I'd prefer 20...).

Competitor's meeting at 10:45, on the water by 11:30, racing starts for our circle at 12:30 and the Grandmasters should be racing by 1:00. Will try to file first day report tomorrow morning!