Today was the first day of the Laser North American Championship at Branch Beach Yacht Club on Long Beach Island in New Jersey. BBYC has a great beach and facility and does a great job running big Laser regattas and I enjoy coming back. I was hear last year for 2018 US Masters Nationals and I sailed the 2011 North American Championship here too.
There are 3 fleets here – about 18 boats in the smallest rig the 4.7, 80 in the mid-size Radial rig and I’m in the 40-boat Standard Rig fleet. This is a VERY competitive fleet. Only 15 of the sailors are ‘masters’ – over 35- years old and many of them are in high school and are here with coaches and spend the summer going to various regattas and training. There are quite a few sailors from Canada and even a few that made the trip from Ecuador, Barbados, Puerto Rico and a few others.
After checking in this morning and getting my sail inspected and the usual skippers meeting they took us out to the middle of the bay – an easy 30-min reach from the club in the ~12 knots of breeze out of the south under mostly sunny skies with just some small waves. After some practice and a 20-minute postponement we were ready for the first race.
The first race was a clean start for the fleet – I was near the boat and had a fantastic start right on the line and in clear air. My boat speed up the first leg wasn’t quite as fast as I had hoped for. The wind at 12-14 with some higher gusts meant hiking most of the time. On the reach and runs I was able to hold my own. Near the end on the run I flipped and lost a few boats although I was able to pick a couple back up on the reach as I started to improve my speed there.
I had forgotten about the seaweed here – last year it was mostly a non-issue and today I had to remember my weed clearing techniques.
For the second race the wind picked up another couple knots out of the same direction and we now had consistent white caps. I had another fantastic start near the boat and like the last race I was right under Leo – the 2nd place boat – who had no trouble driving over me (pictured above). I don’t think I improved my speed upwind, but I was able to sail a little more consistently and not slow down for adjustments.
On the reaches I started to get the boat moving relative to the folks around me and I was consistently able to pick off a few boats reaching. I helped that we were finishing with the 4.7s and when they reached, they sailed high and some of the Standards went with them, and I was able to sail the rhumb line keeping the boat planing and making up more distance. This ended up as my best race – with about a dozen boats behind me. Yes – it’s the kind of race where I’m counting how many boats are behind me – ie 12 boats behind means I finished mid to high 20’s.
In the 3rd race we had another knot of wind – I had a terrible start at the boat where I got trapped behind it in irons while the fleet sailed away and so I started well behind everyone. I still managed to not be last at the windward mark and did pick off a few more boats. Another downwind capsize gave away some spots, but at least I was getting more comfortable in the higher winds.
As soon as we crossed the finish line there were storms to the North West of us and they sent us in for the day.
All in all it wasn’t a terrible day of sailing – I finished about how I expected given how little Laser sailing I had done this year and the fact that I weigh 8-10 pounds less than I did a year ago when I sailed here. I think that lead to the capsizes – where I’m used to throwing my weight over to keep the boat flat, only I don’t have as much to throw and underestimated the effort needed to avoid a capsize.
After sailing I beached the boat and quickly got into my running clothes to do a 4-mile run around the neighborhood before the storm came through. Eventually the storm rolled through just as we were heading over to the club for dinner. It was great catching up with some friends and sailors I haven’t seen for a few year and sharing stories of regattas past.