Sunday at the US Laser Masters saw more wind as it built through the day. We went out on schedule and sailed the first race in similar wind to yesterday in the 8 knot range as the wind bounced around between 200 and 220 before finally settling in at 210. I had another bad start and had to pick my way through the fleet to finish 26.
By the 2nd race of the day, the wind had built to the mid-teens. I cramped up on the first downwind, wasn’t practiced enough in the wind and waves and ended up with a case of the flipsies. I sailed a little more conservatively downwind after that and kept the boat upright, but would finish 39th.
In the 3rd race of the day and 7th total race the wind was a bit steadier in the 15-20 knot range, I had a good start, but struggled getting the boat dialed in and sailing fast in the stronger breeze. Part of it was being out of shape and the other part of it is probably doing 90% of my sailing in the 5-12 knot range over the past couple years and not having enough time in the boat in those conditions. I would go on to finish 41st.
By the 4th and final race of the regatta the wind was the same, I was a little more comfortable in the boat and making it go in the wind. I sailed conservatively until the very last leg – I passed two boats on the short reach, had the inside track on the pin when a gust hit and I started to round up into the pin boat. I did all I could to dump mainsheet while rotating the boat around just enough so that as I tipped over to windward my mast fell just to leeward of the pin boat. I hadn’t hit anything, I cross the finish line and I even found I could stand up. I righted the boat and sailed in exhausted.
Back on shore we packed up and the awards ceremony was held. I finished 24th overall and received the award for the top Apprentice.
Eric, Mike and everyone at Brant Beach Yacht Club put on a great regatta all the way around. I had a great time visiting with all of the sailors there and enjoyed 3 days of sailing. I’ll be back next year when Brant Beach hosts the open North American Championship Regatta in July.
Saturday’s forecast at the US Laser Masters called for more wind even though it wasn’t looking promising in the morning. We went out anyway and it built to 5-10 out of the south.
In the first race I had a great start and won the pin. I worked left and found more pressure. At the first mark I was 7th out of 67 boats. I tried not to loose too many boats downwind and held my own upwind. I ended up 13th.
For the second race I had a terrible start and parked it on the line while the fleet sailed away. I was in the 40’s at the top mark. I went low downwind and picked up some boats and on the 2nd beat I picked some shifts up the middle right of the course and passed some more boats. I caught another boat or two downwind and finished 20th.
The 3rd race saw me with another terrible start – this time at the boat end. I had a lot of trouble finding clear air and was towards the back of the pack at the first weather mark. Unlike the last race, there weren’t as many passing lanes and I managed a 35th.
By the 4th race I was tired of sailing in dirty air and determined to get a good start. My start wasn’t just good, it was fantastic and I sailed hard to hold my line upwind and stay in the front row. I found my speed to be on par with anyone around me and as we worked our way out to the middle left of the course I found myself crossing fewer and fewer boats and having all the clear air I desired. I was in 3rd at the top mark and sailed just as well if not better downwind by going high and passed another boat by the gate. Upwind I sailed fast, picked shifts, and found myself in 2nd again but to a different leader at the top mark. Downwind I sailed fast but conservatively so as not to do anything stupid. I again went a little high of the guys chasing just to ensure I had clear air. When we came back together, one boat slipped by and I was able to finish in 3rd. It was pretty amazing to hang with some great sailors and gave me a thirst to try and do more of that tomorrow.
That got me to 15th overall after 4 races with more planned tomorrow. In masters scoring, my handicap as an Apprentice Master (35-35) means 3 points is added to each race finish. Older sailors get fewer handicap points. That evening I enjoyed another dinner at the club restaurant while we watched the sun set over the water and retired early to rest up for more wind promised tomorrow.
I got a late start out of Richmond on Thursday night and finished the 2nd half of the drive this morning arriving at Brant Beach Yacht Club 45 minutes before the skippers meeting. We ended up being postponed on shore another 45 minutes before finally leaving around 12:30.
We would go out and float around another 2 1/2 hours without any wind really filling in. I tried making a GoPro video that made it look as if we really were sailing fast. Kind of glad I did – I took some underwater video and only after reviewing it later did I realize how bad the weeds really were despite not looking bad on the surface. Also note how shallow the bay is.
Back on shore the sailors enjoyed a great dinner in the club house and watched the sunset as the club’s A-Cat Raven sailed by.
Friday was the final day of the Laser North American Championship at Brant Beach Yacht Club. We went out for a 10:30 start in what we knew would be a dying breeze. After one general recall I got a pretty good start in the middle of the line. I was in the top 20 around the first mark and held that to the downwind where I lost a few spots. On the second upwind I headed way out to the right, through the Radial Silver fleet that had just started, and found a lot better pressure putting me into the top 10 around that mark. On the final downwind and reach the wind died and a light sea breeze came in. I didn’t get far enough out to an edge and those who did were able to get around me. I finished 26 and that ended up being the only race of the day.
All in all it was a great week of sailing and I was able to learn some things and show myself that I’ve got what it takes to at least be a competitor in a regatta like this. Winning a race completed the week and was the highlight of my sailing year. I’ve got 3 annual regattas planned for the next 4 weekends and I’m looking forward to the smaller fleets and fun times that go with them.
Today started out with winds over 20 and gusts even higher. I sailed out to the course, but sailed right back in. With self-preservation in mind I was too afraid of one bad capsize and re-injuring my wrist and missing more sailing, so I thought it would be best to sit these conditions out.
I spent the day going for a run and catching up on some reading and email. I missed 3 races, but there 2 more left for tomorrow.
We sailed 3 more races at the Laser North American Championship today after a 2 1/2 hour postponement on the water. I won the second race of the day. During the first race – in which I only beat 4 boats – I figured out the wind/weather pattern and used that to my advantage in the second race. There were some dark clouds out to the left of the course and everyone was fighting for the pin and going left. I knew by the pattern a righty was coming and was very close to the boat end at the start and immediately went right.
The righty started coming in and before I knew it I was on the lay line. After I tacked it was pretty clear the fleet was well below me, but I wasn’t sure if it was going to go left and bring them back. At the windward mark I had about a 20-boat lead.
It was great being all by myself up front because that meant I could sail the rhumb line and fast. It felt like a 10-boat regatta where all I needed to do was not make any mistakes, go fast, and pay attention to the wind for any shifts. I extended my lead on the next 3 legs and had close to a 40-boat length lead, on the boats behind me, after the second upwind. By the last downwind the fast guys, like regatta leader Clay Johnson, had gotten back up to the front of the fleet and started to close in on me.
On the final upwind leg to the finish a rivet popped out of my gooseneck and fell to the deck. I just kept racing and crossed the finish in first. It was a relief I made it without falling apart or being caught and it was a thrill to win a race like that against such great competition.
As soon as I finished I set to work jury rigging my gooseneck to get me through the next race. In the 3rd race I played the shifts pretty well and kept myself in the front part of the pack putting me in 29th for the race.
I’m currently in 39th with 6 races down and 5 races to go. If I can finish half as well as I did in the second race today I should be able to stay in the top 40 and pick up some grand prix points.
This week the Laser North American Championship is getting underway at Brant Beach Yacht Club. I drove in yesterday evening and got the boat ready today and went for a short practice sail in 15+. I’ll be sailing in the Standard Rig fleet with about 72 boats. Another 142 boats will be sailing in the Radial fleet.
Follow updates throughout the regatta on the @LaserNAC twitter account – I’ll be contributing to the off-the-water updates.
Last weekend I was up in Brant Beach New Jersey for a Laser clinic. I can’t say I am a better sailor just from being there, but I did learn a lot of things I need to practice and apply to my sailing that I hope will make me a lot better in the future.
One of the tenets of the training was to use practice to find where the ‘edge’ is. Here’s plenty of footage of me ‘finding the edge’.
My mission to sail at one new club every year took me to Brant Beach Yacht Club the second weekend in August for the Laser Nationals. With 278 Lasers in 3 fleets this is the largest Laser event ever held in North America. I was one of 105 Lasers in the standard rig fleet.
The first day was a little out of my wind range and I had a tough time keeping the boat flat upwind. On the second day I was a little more competitive, but with 105 boats on a short line, the starts were brutal and I am definitely out of practice starting in a big fleet.
I can’t say I sailed my best regatta, but I had a good time and everyone at Brant Beach Yacht Club did a fantastic job hosting us.
Here are a handful of photos that I took while I was there with my camera phone.