By Joe Berkeley
The Newport Laser fleet will never trust the weatherman again. On a day that was forecast to have light winds and pleasant temperatures, the Northerly breeze picked up and the temperature dropped.
Christine Neville, fleet 413’s Olympic hopeful was just back from racing Lasers in Australia, where the weather was considerably warmer. She wasn’t properly dressed and turned a couple of different hues of blue. Even Dan Neri, who is always prepared for everything, said, “It was cold. Colder than I was prepared for.”
None of that slowed Peter Shope down. Last year’s fleet champion, the reigning US Masters National Champion and a Fleet 413 co-captain, Shope won the day.
Second place finisher Steve Kirkpatrick said, “Peter sails super flat upwind, flatter than everyone else in the fleet. In Lasers, the harder you hike, the flatter you sail, the faster you go.”
In third place overall, two-time Rolex Yachtsman of the Year and former Star World Champion, Ed Adams had some sage advice to offer fleet members regarding how to stay warm. Adams believes that a wetsuit is suitable for temperatures down to 40 degrees. Below that, he recommends a dry suit.
After sailing, cold sailors had a heated debate about how to keep hands warm. Adams believes there are two approaches. The first is neoprene gloves. But he insists that the sailor don the gloves on shore, and stick them, with hands inside, into some hot water.
That way, the gloves are insulated with a layer of warm water on the inside. That is adequate for most days.
But if you really want to keep your hands warm, Adams layers a combination of cross country ski glove liners with heavy duty, oversized, rubber, dishwashing-style gloves used for fiberglass boat building in industrial settings. The gloves are donned before putting on a dry suit, so there is a waterproof seal between glove and suit. That way, your hands never get wet.
A very fit 58 years old, Adams enjoys the competition and the camaraderie of fleet 413. He also noted that sailing the Laser forces him to stay in shape. Because of the physical demands of the Laser, he is motivated to ride his road bike and go to the gym.
Speaking of fitness, Karen Hanson, a personal trainer and finish carpenter from Newport, came out to join fleet 413. She enjoyed the sailing, the people and brought her two dogs, Keaby and Molly to the IYAC bar to hobnob after sailing.
While leaning against the bar, Dan Neri offered up a piece of advice worth repeating. He said when the tide is coming into Newport harbor it travels past Fort Adams toward the beach. But it reverses directions and runs from Ida Lewis back up toward Goat Island. By tacking to the right on an incoming tide in a Northerly, you can get a benefit boats on the left miss. Neri believes this is a secret that David Gray and Ted Hood know well.
While 31 boats in the fleet were racing, one boat was doing some research and development. At the request of Race Committee Moose McClintock, Dwight Escalera tested a new fat head sail that has more square footage up high. The boom is also higher which makes it easier to tack. Note: If there are any typos in this correspondence, the fleet scribe struck himself in the head with the boom today during a tack and takes no responsibility for any typos.
Ethan Bixby, a friend of Moose’s, built the sail. Dwight found that he had to sail lower upwind, but had good speed when he did. Downwind, he almost buried the bow a couple of times, but noted that his boat is not optimized for this sail, as his traveller was too short and the sail really wants to be sheeted mid boom. According to Moose, the sail was invented to get people out on the water who have a Laser sitting under their deck and just can’t deal with the indignities of scurrying beneath the boom.
In other news, the fleet has acquired a scale to weigh boats. Nine-time world champion Peter Seidenberg, fleet co-captain Jack McVicker and Will Donaldson have teamed up to build a rig such that competitors can now weigh their boats. Class rules state that the hull, without equipment, shall weigh 130 pounds, with a tolerance. Now, sailors can pull their boat into the Dr. Robin Wallace sailing center, attach the hull to a recycled boom vang purchase system, and find out exactly what their hull weighs.
The weight of their person and the weight of their hull are very personal issues for dinghy sailors. Even the most brazen braggart came become quite taciturn when confronted with a public weighing, as it is a moment to beam with pride or cower with shame. Thus far, most boats have weighed in 125-135 pound range. One boat was 160 pounds. Names withheld to protect the portly.
Joe Berkeley is a freelance writer and a member of Fleet 413. His work is at joeberkeley.com