Words of Wisdom
“Don’t think, just do.” That was the advice given to improve my mental game by multiple world champion Keith Wilkins. This advice was surprisingly easy to follow last Sunday, January 1. The combination of sleep deprivation and “dehydration” made thinking out of the question, so all I could do was, well,…do. The breeze was very unstable on Sunday, so the key was really being able to stay in the middle of the course (in the “cone”) so you could tack to take advantage of the shifts. In the first race I ignored my previous word of wisdom and started right at the favored boat end of the line. It worked out OK, however, because I could hold my lane long enough to get to the middle, and then was able to tack on the first big header. I quickly realized that it was really shifty, and the shifts didn’t last very long. So all I did was tack on the headers to keep pointed toward the mark. I made a point to consolidate on every gain, by tacking to cross the boats on my hip whenever I could do it. This opened up a nice lead. The second race I started towards the pin, which had been reset to be slightly favored. The danger with pin starts is that you can sometimes get “pinned” (bad pun) by the boats on your hip. Indeed I was, and I ended up being forced too far into the left corner. I recovered somewhat by sailing a long port tack hitch to get me back into the middle of the cone, below the mark. Then I could again take advantage of the small, rapid shifts to get back in the hunt. In the third race, I did follow Ferg’s advice, and had a very nice start in the middle of the line. I looked over my shoulder and saw that I could cross all the boats on my hip, so I tacked to do so. I sailed on port into the next header and tacked back, now far above all the boats that had continued on starboard. Man, I felt like Stuart Walker! In the final race I had a good start at the pin, and fortunately was able to tack fairly promptly — which was key since the breeze had gone back left, skewing the beat quite a bit. I worried about the next big righty doing me in, but fortunately it turned out not to be a one-tack beat, and I could still make some hay by tacking on the little flicks that went right. Only Scott Milnes made out by sailing into the right corner. So, the keys to upwind success in very unstable wind (like Sunday, and typical when the breeze is light) are to (1) stay in the cone, (2) consolidate by tacking whenever you can cross. To execute, you need to get a decent start and hold a lane until you want to tack, rather than when you are forced to tack. Holding a lane on Sunday required that you keep the boat very powered up. Be alert to start easing stuff, like the cunningham, vang, and outhaul, whenever the breeze gets soft. Needless to say, try to resist the temptation to allow the boat to heel when it goes light — it feels good, but it is not fast. And , of course, don’t think too much.
Ed seems to have a pretty repeatable pattern to frostbite racing.
• Check the course before the start to determine the start, current and favored end
• Check and re-check line sight from outside or just inside the windward end
• Determine where you want to go and where you need to start to get there
• Set up in time to ensure you will have a spot in the front row
• Do whatever you can to defend your hole
• Start bow-out on the guy next to you
• Go fast to get into the front row (in heavy air this means HIKE)
• Make sure you play the little shifts – you need to take the lifts while not pinching
• Once in the front row execute on your plan – making sure you have a breeze lane
• If you can force people to go the wrong way while allowing yourself to go the right way, do so
• Constantly adjust your controls to maximize speed and pointing – vang on for puffs, off in lulls – same with the cunningham
• Sail the boat flat and make sure the board is down
• Set yourself up to get the next big puff and get the inside overlap where possible
• Don’t heel to windward on the reach – it is slow
• Keep your fore-aft trim correct, forward in the lulls, back in the gusts
• Don’t fall asleep and let people roll you to windward.
• Pay attention to your telltales – there are major opportunities to gain by correct trim
• Sail with your weight as close to the middle of the boat as possible – this balances the boat for rhythmic movement
• Use your wind indicator and telltales to be sure you are either reaching or by the lee – dead downwind is painfully slow
• By the lee – ease your vang to free the leech and unbend the mast promoting reverse flow
• Reaching up – snug the vang and bend the mast to promote regular flow
• If you get out of control put the board down a bit and snug the vang a bit
• Round the leeward mark that is upwind of the other all else being equal
• Don’t overstand the finish line – tack when you get to the layline of the downwind end
I’m sure there are tons more little tricks that Ed could share with us, but these are some of the things I have noticed over time.
After a mediocre beginning to the day, I suddenly entered “the zone”, where everything seemed to go my way. I’m not sure how to get into “the zone”, but it sure is nice when you’re there.
One thing that influenced my sailing on Sunday was the winter Olympics. I was impressed by how such tiny mistakes in the giant slalom, like catching too much air, could cost the skier the few milliseconds that separated victory from defeat. Our finishes in frostbiting are also often separated by only a few hundred milliseconds, so I tried to be particularly conscious of how fast the boat was going and making continual adjustments to stay at maximum speed. In the first two races this paid off nicely downwind. In both races I started near the pin and got pushed too far to the left side of the course, particularly bad with the windward mark skewed so far to the right. I rounded in about 15th place in both races. In race 1 the downwind leg was a broad reach on starboard. I tried to emulate Scott Milnes, who is very fast on reaches, by making sure the boat didn’t heel to weather. To do that without too much weather helm, you need to pull the board up quite a bit. I sailed high and fast and was able to catch quite a few boats. In the second race, my comeback was to sail lower than the parade of boats in front of me, that were lined up along an arc to the right (everyone trying to reach over the boat in front). There was nice pressure on the left, and again I passed a bunch of boats. Nevertheless, the day was not off to a great start, with two 7th place finishes.
Then I entered “the zone”. The windward mark was moved dead upwind, just below Fort Adams, and the starting line was squared. I thought that because the beat was going to be short, and the wind very shifty off the shore, I wanted to start in a position where I had the freedom to tack when I wanted — that meant the boat end. Fortunately the boat end was not too crowded, and I was able to get very good starts the rest of the day. Then the trick was to hold on until the first header, tack, and stay on the lifted tack to the mark. I continued to stay focused on boat speed upwind, and continuously adjusted the vang, cunningham, and outhaul. We all pull this stuff on wind the breeze comes on, but often forget how important it is to ease it all in the lulls.
Another factor was the current, which changed about 1:45 PM so it was going left to right when looking upwind. That meant you had a “current lift” on starboard tack. The important thing to avoid under these conditions is over-standing the windward mark to starboard. When that happens, you’re not only sailing extra distance, but you’re going against the current to get back down to the mark. I made out in a couple races by tacking just inside of the first boat on the starboard layline. I relied on the current lift to get around the mark successfully. Risky, perhaps, but it worked great in the second half of the day.
Well, I thought Steve was just kidding when he asked me to write the WOW, but I guess he wasn’t so I will give it a try. The thing that has probably helped my sailing the most, besides time in the boat, is doing strength training during the week. I go to the gym twice a week and lift weights. I also walk, bike, or run almost every day. This has helped me to get my head out of the boat and look around the course.
Pre-race last Sunday PJ, Larry, and I were rigging up and before we launched we took a little time to go look at the harbor and see what the breeze was doing. It looked like a beautiful day so I peeled off a layer and went with my farmer john wetsuit, rash guard, light capaline shirt, and spray top. Dressing as light as possible without freezing is key to being able to move effectively.
I thought I had good speed upwind last Sunday but was slow downwind, which is strange for me because I usually feel like I am fast downwind. Looking up the course there was a big puff on the left. After getting hosed by the incoming tide in the first race I moved up the line far enough to keep from getting tangled up with the boats trying to nail the pin end. The tide was pushing away from the line and the guys at the pin were struggling to get over the line and playing bumper boats. Only one boat can win the pin. From there I hiked as hard as I could until I reached the puff and then tacked, ending up near the port tack layline almost every time. One race I was actually a little past the layline but I just kept the boat close hauled and
moving fast while the tide was pushing me down to the mark. I was able to sneak in front of Ed and round the weather mark in first….Ed then pummeled me off the breeze. There were some major lulls and puffs on the course and shifting gears in these is critical. When the breeze died down I took the vang off and eased the cunningham, then put them right back on just before the puff hits. Downwind I made a few mistakes. I tried to just follow Ed but he was in different breeze and slightly different waves and just sailed away from me, lesson learned. I was also told post race that I wasn’t getting into the right spot on the waves and was easing my mainsheet out too much(past 90), I am going to mark it this week to keep that from happening again.
I have found that trying to follow someone else doesn’t work for me, I have to just make a plan before the start and stick to it. I had to do some clearing tacks off the line a few times but I tacked back as soon as a lane opened up to the side I wanted to be on. I too am humbled by being asked to write this column and no, I wasn’t alive when Dave Gray started sailing in Newport. This is my last season as a non-master and I hope with old age comes a little more wisdom.
Ed Adams and the “Wind Jet”
1. Sunday’s weather seemed a little abnormal for Fleet 413. In those sort of situations, how do you sort out the sailing venue? What’s things are most important to figure out before the first race?
I checked the tidal current prediction (mostly slack) and the wind prediction (light/moderate northerly veering and dying)and temperature forecast(mid 50s) that morning (don’t want to overdress).
Typically, in this weather scenario, the left side has the pressure until the wind direction gets right of Goat Island, then the favored side flips to the right. But on Sunday, there was a cruise ship anchored upwind of Fort Adams–essentially a tall island between Goat and Rose– so the situation was unique.
A lot of guys get out early to sail an entire practice beat before racing. I usually leave the beach later (to stay warm), find someone to sail against on the way out (to check my settings) and then spend what little time I have checking the line. The guys practicing upwind give you a pretty good read on the range of shifts and pressure, which is nice of them.
The wind trended right all day, and so was furthest left in the first race. When wind has to flow around a tall obstruction (mountains, hills, or in this case, a cruise ship) it accelerates around the sides and leaves a hole downwind. The acceleration is called a wind jet. The taller the object, or the more stable the air, the more pronouced the jet.
In the first race, with the wind direction left, that hole behind the ship was lying close to the left corner of the course, and the wind jet off the right side of the ship was lying over the middle of our course.
But the pin was favored and port was the long tack. I started at the pin with Dave Moffet and everyone tacked almost immediately. Despite having a nice jump, everyone to leeward of me started to gain bearing, with more pressure, as I was too close to the hole. I just managed to round the first mark in the lead and overlapped with Dave. We jibed fairly early, afraid of the right side (facing downwind), only to watch as Ralph Kinder, alone, sailed down that side, around the fleet, to win the race easily. The wind direction had veered enough to shift the wind jet to Ralph’s side.
The next race, with the wind jet now lying over the left side (facing uwpind)it was an all-left game. That same side was hugely favored both upwind and downwind….meaning it was all pressure. When the same side is favored up and down, it’s pressure. When opposites sides are favored up and down, it’s current.
This second race was twice around. On the long second beat, every tack to the right, even a very short tack, was a noticeably loss. The only trick was how to fit into the port layline parade to the weather mark, and it was there that I finally got back into the race.
In the final race, the wind had veered even further right and softened more. Now the wind jet had shifted off the course, and a new jet was forming to downwind of Goat Island, leaking right pressure onto the right side of the course. There was now a hole downwind of Goat Island lying across the left side of the course.
Andy Pimental, myself and PJ tacked early off the weather end of the line to arrive in the top 3 at the weather mark. We all jibed on the rounding, but lucky (for me) Andy flipped on the jibe and then plugged up the works behind me so I had an easy win.
2. Sunday’s breeze was light, shifty, and variable in terms of windspeed. In these conditions, it seems like the ability to accelerate is key. How did you set up your sail so you were able to get through the lulls and build speed after altering course for a big windshift?
Nothing new about sail setup. I would refer to Moose’s words of wisdom on light air trim. He is really fast for his size in these conditions, and I just follow his advice.
But I do see that most people pinch in light air. Sure, you need to be able to sail high to hold your lane. But when there is no one on your lee bow, you’re lifted and/or on the long tack, let her rip.
3. Downwind in really light air can get really dull. But there are huge gains to be made for those who stay on their toes. What are two or three things that you focus on when going downwind in those really light conditions?
People fail to realize how long it takes to get moving if you let the boat stop. There is a correct angle to sail on the run for any given wind and wave condition, and if you are off angle, you can stop.
I spend a lot of time looking at the boats around me: -is someone in the same wind, sailing at a different angle making ground? If they’re gaining, match their angle. -is someone sailing at the same angle, gaining ground? If so, they have more wind. Get to that wind (heat up or jibe).
4. Anything else to add that really contributed to your success on Sunday?
Expecting to do poorly. After my dismal performance at the BBR, I would have been happy with any finish in the top 10. High expectations tend cloud your decisions and make it hard to sail conservatively.
I didn’t have a great day last Sunday, though it was a beautiful day to be on the water. The clew fitting on the end of my boom gave out midway through the first race and I missed the next 3 starts while I went in to
make repairs. I did make it back out and completed the last 2 races, albeit not in spectacular fashion.
Though I have expressed my gratitude to each of them individually, I’ll mention again here how much I appreciated Carter Holiday sacrificing his position in race 1 to make sure I was ok and to Ted for swinging by in the RC boat to check on me. I was able to do a jury rig and get myself in.
One lesson learned that may be worthy of passing along to the fleet as a reminder; we are all responsible for the condition of our gear. If I had done a more thorough inspection of my rig before going out I probably would have noticed the potential failure. Between work obligations, My RC date and the Fleet’s week off I hadn’t sailed in a few weeks. All the more reason for a close check, especially with Sunday’s conditions. We can also take some time as we de-rig at the end of the day. That way, if some maintenance is needed we can come prepared to get it done before going out the next time.
Sorry if I got carried away with my own guilt-trip. Just needed to get that off my chest. This Sunday sounds dicey but hey, you never know. Looking forward to the next opportunity to redeem myself!
Cheers and smooth sailing,
I think Mark Bears “in the zone” has visited me for the last couple of weeks. Sometimes it doesn’t seem to matter what you do, it just works. For the day I was caught on the wrong side of the coarse just once but it was a long race and I was able to catch up. One race I thought I was over early, restarted went right in bad air the whole way then tacked back to the middle and got wound up to the mark rounding in second. The whole day was like that.
I’ve been working hard to lose some weight for the snipe midwinter circuit, now I’ am down to 190. Working out 6 days a week for the last 6 weeks I feel pretty good. In the puffy, shifty conditions of Sunday I think that’s the biggest factor.
One thing from the previous week that finally dawned on me was at the first mark roundings. I could never figure out how the people that sailed really high then bore off would always catch us so quick. I tried it and realized how the leaders sailed into the bad air of the 40 boats trying to round the windward mark. I came back form bad first beats in two races and saved myself from any bad scores.
That’s all I got.
The Moose Whisperer
Let me start by saying, as I did at the awards, that no one is as surprised as I am that I had a good day. The last time I wrote one of these WOW’s was when Dan asked me to do it so the “mid-fleet guys” like me could get a perspective. As I’ve gotten older I have come to accept that my best days of Lasering are behind me but I approached this day a little differently than most because I knew there would be big and talented fleet and also because my boss was going to be sailing and if I didn’t show some ability he would start questioning my time off for personal sailing.
The biggest difference in my preparation was my sail, I bought a new one before the season started with the intention of using it if I went to any class regattas the next year or two. I have been using the “ITA” for most of the season and I think it’s a really good sail, I was sailing much faster this year than the last couple (though my season results sure don’t show it) and I think the sail has a lot to do with it. The biggest difference with the new sail is there is much more return in the leech since it hasn’t stretched. This return allowed me (for once) to hold lanes because I had a little bit more power in the back of the sail. In fact, whenever I felt like I needed height I eased the sheet about 6”, the sail powered up immediately and in several instances I was able to pinch with the same speed into wind shear lines that lifted me off the boats to leeward and kept me in the breeze, this was an eye opener for me. Ed once told me that you should never use a new sail on a windy day since the leech would go immediately, I was freaked that I was trashing the sail the first race but after the breeze calmed a bit in the second race I realized the value of the new sail was immense and my speed and pointing reinforced it.
Other than my sail, my other valuable preparation was mental. Ever since I was a little kid I’ve always gotten really excited the night before a big regatta, usually to the point of not being able to sleep. Sure enough, I awake about 2:00 AM on Sunday morning and mentally sailed about 30 races. I did a pile of check-ins in my mind, from what I had to do
1. before sailing: lots of fluids, fixed my bailer, ate a banana for potassium, minimal clothing (though I was going to wear my shorty wetsuit I ended up with my old, lightweight drysuit, it was colder than forecast), first on the water and a quick sail upwind and down to get sail adjustments correct, passed wind, relaxed and stretched a little (very little, I should do more)
2. in pre-start: get the big Ronstan watch on my mast set, multiple line sights from 2, 1.5, 1 and .5 lengths below the line, get my mainsheet organized in the back of the boat so I’d be able to ease at the weather mark (a huge problem for me), look up the beat for the first puff off the line, try to stay away from the big packs on the line
3. to first beat: pick a side and hike as hard as I could (about 30 seconds, usually) to get over the boats near me, then hang the 220 lbs. of beer guzzling granite over the side for the long haul, try to stay away from the laylines early and don’t be afraid to take a step up tack in a lift near the weather mark to converge with the fleet in clear air
4. to the run: the best lesson from the Steve Cockerell for me was watching the escape from the weather mark (PJ and I talked about how good Ed is at this when we were at the AC a couple weeks ago), I made sure my mainsheet was free to run instead of screwing around with it wrapped around my feet, this allowed me to get dead downwind immediately at speed. I gybed immediately to get on the headed tack if I had to and I was consciously sailing the angles much more than usual since the shifts were so big and
usually packing more breeze
5. to the final beat: I went around the left gate almost every time, it seemed to be more upwind and the right paid huge on the first shift every time, I sailed in bad air and a couple times cracked off and reached to leeward of the boats ahead of me to get to the shift
With all the mental preparation from a sleepless night and newfound speed in a new sail, I was able to sail with my head out of the boat for one of the few times this year. The first race I was trying to start at the boat and saw I’d get shut out as the breeze really kicked in and everyone surged to the line, I reached down until I found the girls side by side and started dead astern of them and blew by them in the first big puff after the start, I guess it’s payback for getting the crap kicked out of me by them in the light stuff. From there I went straight in a lift to the left side with lifting current, got headed and rounded second right behind Andy and ahead of Dave Moffet. It was perfect breeze for the Harry A. and the three of us extended on the reach, I got a little lost on where the leeward marks were at the boat rounding and let Dave get to my left where he kicked my ass but I held on for a third which I figured would be my best finish of the day (per usual).
I’m a little fuzzy on the next couple races except I know that I had three straight starts at the committee boat that allowed me to sail straight in a lift to the left side, I always took the first breezy header back to the right and tacked under the fleet coming back. This conservative approach (I knew if I started tacking a lot I’d flip) didn’t leave me leading much but I was always in the top couple at the weather mark and from there I was
actually pretty quick (for me) off the breeze so I could round the leeward gate doing well and I was picking off a couple more boats on the way to the finish. I guess Mark Bear would say I was in the zone.
The last race was actually the best race I sailed though it was my worst finish. I had no idea how I was doing for the day though Scott kept coming up and telling me I was doing great (it’s been a while since I did well so I’ve long since stopped after racing to see how everyone is doing, maybe this is a good thing). The pin looked very favored and I tried to get down there as fast as I could after getting a sight. nfortunately I realized at about 20 seconds I’d never make it to the first, second or third row and never get within 5 lengths of the pin so I gybed and started taking sterns. I found a very narrow lane that I could tack into under the storming right hand part of the fleet (the pin got flushed, go figure), I carried a lift to about 4 lengths from the mark when I got a little header, I stepped up and tacked just under the layline when another righty came in and got me around the mark around 10th. A quick gybe (again the Cockerell method, I was starting to death roll as I bore off and rather than fighting it I kept going right into a gybe) and I was on the headed tack with breeze and rolled about 4 boats, a gybe back halfway down the run and I was laying the right pin with pressure. As I said earlier, I had gone around the left hand pin every race and should have here but I figured the right hand was so far upwind that it would take a huge shift to lose anyone going the other way. So of course I lost two boats but what the heck……
Anyhow, it was a great day on the water. I am truly honored to be able to take home a generously donated (by last race winner Andy Burton) Laser half model that commemorates (for me) the value that Pete Milnes brought to this fleet. The huge new perpetual was beautiful (as was Edith in the picture taking), I think that only those of us that go back to the beginning of the fleet can truly appreciate the integrity and enthusiasm that is necessary to found and encourage a group as diverse and enthusiastic as ours. I hope to have more good days in the future though I’m pretty sure this was the perfect example of the blind squirrel finding a nut, it happens. But I’ll be out there next year, cranky as ever, and I expect you’ll all take some satisfaction in continuing Pete’s fleet.
Q: Can you tell us how you got first into sailing and then how you transitioned into the Laser?
A: I got introduced to sailing at age 14 through a brief period of crewing on my stepfather’s 10 sq. meters national racing dinghy in local regattas. This got me hooked to the sport for the rest of my life and got me involved in more extensive local and regional dinghy racing on a then-popular Snipe-like boat called “Pirat”; ocean racing and cruising on the Baltic Sea; a transatlantic crossing; and some keelboat racing on Lake Ontario. In 1969 I re-discovered my passion for dinghy sailing and started racing Finns. I
switched to the Laser in 1973 and sailed it exclusively and continuously ever since.
Q: Having won numerous masters titles at the national and world level, what do you see as being the most important keys to improvement?
A: If one wants to improve one’s racing ability one has to be actively and continuously involved in racing the boat at least on a national level. Local and even regional racing is not enough. One needs to get exposed to top national and international sailors and copy their rigging and sailing style. Taking part in a clinic from time to time for some tune-up can also make a big difference.
Q: How does frostbiting fit into your improvement and training program?
A: He who rests, rusts. Frostbiting prevents the deterioration of the skills one may have acquired in the summer. If I were younger, I would be more enthusiastic about frostbiting. At 68, I’ve also lost the macho attitude. I like the camaraderie and competition, however, and show up when the weather is not too severe and when I’m in town and not sailing in some warm place like the Dominican Republic where I was recently or Florida where I will be shortly.
Q: As a lighter sailor and great grand master, how do you manage to do well in heavy air? In addition to sailing, do you have an exercise program?
A: Successful sailing in heavy air is not all about upwind speed, it’s also about down-wind speed and staying up-right. This is when experience comes in. When it really blows, boat handling takes priority over weight. I seldom arrive at the windward mark in first place, and it doesn’t worry me as long as I’m close. The new rigging has helped the lighter sailor, though, by allowing the sail to be de-powered more effectively. Physical strength and agility are a must to be a successful sailor in heavy air. I work out in my
basement gym periodically and go to yoga classes twice a week. I value the Laser as an incentive to stay fit. My interest in racing is supported by the many regional, national and international masters regattas that allow me to measure myself against my peers.
Q: Having sailed all over the world, are there a few places or major regattas that stand out as “must do” venues/regattas?
A: Masters sailing has taken me to some wonderful places. If I had to rate them, I would place Pattaya in Thailand ahead of Cancun followed by Fortaleza in Brazil.
Q: Recently you raved about Cabarete in the Dominican Republic, can you tell us about your experience?
A: I was there for 10 days taking part in a 4-day clinic and the 3-day Caribbean Midwinters. I went there because Jack Zinn and Peter Kavanaugh had raved about it from their previous year’s experience. Tim Landt, who owns a condo there, prodded me on as well. It is an awesome place located on the North coast of the island on a bay that is surrounded by a reef. The water is warm, the air is warm, the trade wind is strong and dependable. One can sail outside or inside the reef depending on the conditions. The sailing center is rudimentary but owned and manned by very enthusiastic sailors, led by Ari Barshi. Their numerous clinics throughout the year are conducted by a professional coach from Argentina. This was their 4th Caribbean Midwinters, and I can hardly wait to get back there for the next one. Our fleet was well
represented by John Bentley, Jack Zinn, Peter Kavanaugh, and Gary Orkney. Read more about Cabarete on the Web site “http://www.caribwind.com/“
Q: Lastly, we all appreciate the lasting contribution your Seitech Dollies have made to the sport. Are there any big issues you think that could help make another leap forward in the popularity of dinghy sailing in the US?
A: It has been a thrill to develop, manufacture and market the Seitech Dolly and I proudly acknowledge my contribution to the growth of dinghy sailing in general and Laser sailing in particular. I couldn’t have dreamed back in 1989 that the Seitech Dolly, one day, would be standard equipment for the Laser and other dinghies. Something like this doesn’t happen too often, and I don’t see anything of this magnitude on the horizon. Evolution won’t stop, though, and improvements will come in small steps. Anything that makes sailing the Laser easier, safer and more fun should be welcomed and embraced by the Class. I have sailed the boat for 33 years now and have seen numerous improvements. I would still like to see more. For instance, there should be 2 loops at the end of the hiking strap, one for the adjuster and one for the shock cord. Both in the same loop bind each other. There should be a “JC Strap”, like on the Finn, that holds the boom forward in light air down-wind sailing. When the boom was allowed to carry a sleeve to prevent bending and breaking, the upper mast should have received the same. The Class failed there. It took only half a step. All talk of a so-called carbon fiber mast should be terminated in favor of a sleeve. It would be an instant and inexpensive solution to the bending and breaking problem. Another change I’d
like to see is the introduction of unlimited kinetics in winds exceeding 15 mph similar to the Finn and 470 classes. It would be tremendous fun to sail the Laser to its potential. It is ridiculous to restrict the sailor to
steering only and one pump per wave. In Fortaleza, sailors were flagged in 6′ waves and 20 + knots of wind! Those are the changes I’d like to see short-term.
– Steve –
I talked with Steve about sailing getting blown out this past weekend. As we were talking he asked me to write the WOW from the last weekend of sailing.
Often on Mondays I talk to my brother about the previous weekends racing comparing notes. I usually tell him; “I could have not have done that well. Since Steve did not ask me to write the WOW”. Well as I write this I still do not know how I finished. I know I did not win but, I know it was one of my best days.
The last Sunday we raced it was cold, windy and puffy. My guess was it was blowing 15-18 with puffs in the twenties. Needless to say, it was a dry suit day which took a bit of adjustment getting dress. I have been able to wear my wetsuit every Sunday so far and I had to think about what to wear under my dry suit. I ended up wearing two layers of capelene on my legs. I wore a silk weight long sleeve shirt followed by a thin capelene shirt and vest. Luckily, I borrowed my wife’s breathable dry suit. It makes all the difference compared to my old dry suit. I started running behind so I quickly rigged up. I grabbed a windproof fleece hat and my knit Home Depot gloves.
We only had about fifteen boats so my goal for the day was top five. That would be tough since Scott, Mark, Ed and Andy were racing. Plus Will and my brother are no slouches in heavy air. I just made the first start and my day did not get off to a good one. I was very cold since and the Home Depot gloves made my hands feel like bricks. I manage to get around the course and finish outside of the top five. Not the way to end up in the top five for the day. The RC had to move the course so I just sat in my boat doing arm
circle until my hands warmed up. When they blew horns for the second race my hands warmed up a bit, but only just. I need to keep working on my glove options.
I needed to get a good finish to get my day back on track. Patients would be the key, just let other people make mistakes. In heavy air you are moving fast, especially on the reach legs but I think the key to my day was to not make fast decisions. Be patient I kept telling myself.
With about 5 seconds left in the start sequence of the second race, the breeze shifted hard left. The group of boats below me auto tacked. I saw what was happening and managed to get in a clean tack on the new left shift. Behind me on the line I left a large pile of boats that did not react fast enough. I rounded in the top five and maintained my place the rest of the race. I did not have to be too patient for this opportunity but it worked out ok.
In the next race I had a lousy start I had to tack out. I ended up rounding behind the top group. On the reach leg I was in a tight group but as soon as the first big puff came through the lanes started to open up. I tried working my way to the inside but I could not get an overlap. I thought boat inside of me he was concentrating too hard on keeping the overlap. I slowed down and tried to patient. The inside boat ended up too close to the mark and could not complete their jibe. I was able jibed into a clean lane all by
myself. I could not catch the front boats and nobody behind me had a clean jibe so they could not catch me. I think I ended up fifth.
In the next race being patients was just holding on. On the first reach leg the breeze dropped down to ten knots. At the jibe mark I had the inside overlap on a small group of boats. I jibed over in almost no breeze. I just did not exchange hands quick enough, so my tiller hand was behind my back. A huge puff hit me just as I completed my jibe. I started to plane down the reach leg driving with my arm behind my back. Luckily no one was around me. I knew if I tried to exchange my hand I would death roll. I just had to be patient. This time I had to be patient with myself and not with my competitors. Luckily the puff died before I reach the leeward mark and I was able to exchange my hands.
In the last race I got a good start but Scott and Moose were right above me. I wanted to tack but with the breeze I did not want to risk having a slow tack with Scott and Moose bearing down on Starboard. I told myself be patient. Luckily Scott’s patients ran out before mine. Scott tacked and could not clear Moose plus his mainsheet got stuck on Moose’s bow. Soon they were doing the Fleet 413 two step. I was able to tack into a clean lane going towards the mark. It was the last race of the day. I ended up fourth right behind Mark Bear and Ed just by being patient.
I did not win the day. But it was one of my best days of frostbiting. Plus it will be my highest finish of the year. The key was just to be a little more patient than the next guy.
It is an honor to be asked to contribute to this hallowed column, especially after a day in which wisdom played more of a role than brute force. A day when time on the planet might have meant at least as much as time in the boat. It is also probably my civic duty, having been sailing on Brenton Cove and Newport Harbor since 1965 and Lasers since 1974. How many of you were even born then? Some would say its about time for me.
First, a tip of the cap to Mark for taking top honors for the day. Once again, we were shown the importance of consistency in taking the top spot. In the 4th race I allowed myself to get in a position on Mark’s lee bow on starboard approaching the finish line. We both needed a short hitch to port to cross the line and I was naively hoping that Mark would take pity on me and give me just enough room. First lesson of the day; there is no pity when you are even close to vying for the top!
Secondly, I’d like to thank the RC for a fine job and also for their patience in dealing with the finicky breeze so we could get in a full slate of 5 races. Carl and Paul diplomatically avoided the demands of some of the heavyweights for an early adjournment to the AC for beer and basketball.
Having recognized Mark for his relentless pursuit of the top, perhaps I can shed some light on where I failed in that respect on Sunday. A gaze to windward before the first start clearly indicated to me and several others that a boat end start and a quick exit to the right was the way to go, as the better pressure at the time seemed to be coming off the east side of Goat I. and out of the harbor. Scott Milnes and I took 1-2 off the start at the boat and duked it out up the right side. Scott had me well covered until I took one extra hitch toward the right lay line, got a nice lee bow effect from the substantial flood current sweeping around the south end of Goat I. and rounded 1st. The “funkiness” came into play when what had been
the better pressure on the east side upwind turned into a fairly narrow lane slightly right (west) of center on the downwind leg. Mark “zoned” into this lane and took the lead and the race.
Indications before the start of the 2nd race were that the boat end and the right (east) side would again be favored upwind. Now, being the nice easy going guy that I am, I hesitate to get involved in the bumper boats crowds when they form at the ends of the line with a minute to go. I like to come in with some speed a little to leeward of the lay line to the end and find a gap. Trouble with this tactic is that sometimes the gap is there and I look brilliant, as in the first start, and sometimes there is no gap until the 2nd or 3rd tier and I prove to be, well, less than brilliant. Such was the case in the 2nd race. Fortunately, for me, there is just as much pleasure in digging myself out of a 3rd tier start as there is holding on to 1st, which explains why perhaps I am not a more frequent contributor in this space. The pros and cons of all our various competitive attitudes in Fleet 413 could be the study of a future article. My 12th place finish in race 2 was actually a nice come-back as I was able to benefit from a timely left shift just before the finish and cross a cluster of about 5 boats approaching the line on starboard. No matter where you find yourself in the
fleet in any given race, there is always potential for a rewarding gain if you keep your mind in the hunt.
A strong finish in race 3 and my brief tussle with Mark at the finish of race 4 provided me with enough inspiration to go out and win race 5. I knew that if I could win the start I had a good chance of taking the race. The flood current on Sunday was producing an unusual effect in the form of a pronounced S’ly to SE’ly set over the windward half of the course. This provided an interesting option at the starting line. When Gary Jobson came in to coach for us at Kings Point in the fall of ’73, one of his first “chalk talks” was on the subject of starting in current, something we had to deal with a lot in most of the college sailing venues in the Mid-Atlantic and New England areas. He enlightened us to the fact that when the current
is opposing the line (pushing the fleet back) and the line is fairly square, there is almost always a belly of clear air and therefore a good lane from the middle of the line. Being able to capitalize on the “dip” in the middle of the line and get out in front with clear options requires a good sight on the range at each end of the line so you can approach with confidence knowing you are not going over. From my RC experience here with fleet 413, I have also seen that with a neutral or a fair current at the start it is often the boat attempting a middle of the line start that stands out to the RC and gets called over early. Anyway, the opposing current dip was there at the start of race 5 and it worked well for me. I had also sensed that
after the resurgence of the funky breeze, the left side was looking a little better than before. This sense can probably best be attributed to the now infamous “zone” or perhaps as Dick Sadler used to be able to quite convincingly mislead us into thinking you had to be tuned in to the Corriolus Force. Steve K. took the pin end, went well left and just missed out. Teresa and I went about 50% left and looked pretty good. I believe Ralph played just left of the middle, caught a nice shift near the top and rounded first. Those that went right were history. Go figure! On the downwind leg I was able to do what Mark had done to me in the first race and find that narrow lane of pressure which now had shifted back over to the left (east) side and propelled me into the lead to stay.
Such are the vagaries and pleasures of fleet 413 frostbiting that lure me back out every Sunday afternoon that I can possibly make it. If any of you have actually read this far and want to know more, I can provide further details and insight for a reasonable fee. See you next Sunday! Smooth sailing!