On day 2 of the Mid Atlantic ILCA Championship at Norfolk Yacht & Country Club there was no sign of any wind at 9am so we postponed ashore for an hour and a half. Most of the fleet sat around telling stories and talking about various mostly masters sailing topics. When it became clear the wind was filling and AP was going to be lifted, the discussion was taken to the floor where everyone started stretching and discussing the best way to keep various body parts limber for light air sailing.

Waiting for wind on the sailing center patio.
Waiting for wind on the sailing center patio.

Out on the race course we had a little more wind than yesterday and the wind was a little East of North putting the windward leg of the course just west of the Lafayette River channel. I knew we’d have funny current again and I even studied the depth chart last night. We started the first race in 6 knots of wind and I managed to go the wrong way at every opportunity. Even when I did manage to pass someone, I still went the wrong way again and finished dead last.

The fleet ahead sailing downwind.
The fleet ahead sailing downwind.

In the 2nd race of the day, having gone the wrong way at every opportunity, I knew doing the exact opposite had to to be somewhat better. I had a second row start at the boat at the start, but I immediately tacked out and banged the right corner while most of the rest of the fleet preferred the middle left of the course. Not only did that get me out of the current that was dead on the nose up the course on port tack, but also got me some great lifts approaching the weather mark. I was launched and easily 20-30 boat lengths ahead of the fleet. This was a 3 lap race and for the rest of the race I favored the right and continued a loose cover on the guys behind me and took the bullet.

In the 3rd race, the fleet was on to me and my tactics, and there was no way I was getting away out to the right again. I had plenty of company and spent most of the race in a pack of boats 4-5-6. At one point I rounded inside and ahead of the pack of boats at a leeward mark, only to miss some shifts and get passed downwind to finish 6th.

Sailing downwind in the 2nd race of the day.
Sailing downwind in the 2nd race of the day.

The wind had continued to build and by the 4th race of the day we were seeing double digit speeds and were able to sit out and occasionally even do some hiking in the puffs. With more wind, the right side of the course and playing the current wasn’t so critical, and there were some lifts to catch in the middle of the course. Alex, Dave and Adam all played the middle left, while I came in from the right on the first beat and I followed them around the course in 4th for the first 2 laps. On the final beat I again banged the right while they all raced each other to the left. At this point we knew this was to be the last race and they were close on points, I was not going to get a top 3 finish no matter how we did. As we came into that top mark, I ended up about 8 boat lengths ahead of Dave and Alex. Downwind they both caught some power boat waves and surfed down to me. I protected the inside and made Dave go just far enough around me at the gate before the finish that I was able to just barely beat him over the line and take the gun.

Today’s racing felt a lot better than yesterdays and it was great winning a couple races which vaulted me up to fourth overall.

Scott, Britt, Mike M, Mike C, Craig, Jon, Dave, & Alex at the awards.
Scott, Britt, Mike M, Mike C, Craig, Jon, Dave, & Alex at the awards.

Thanks again to Duffy and everyone at NYCC for putting on a well-run event and making the most of the wind we had. It was a fun and competitive fleet and looking forward to the next event in Hampton in two week.

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ILCA Sailing near the Port of Norfolk
ILCA Sailing near the Port of Norfolk

Today was all going to plan until I got 2/3 of the way to Norfolk this morning and realized I didn’t pack my blade/line bag. I drove most of the way back to Richmond where Jess met me along 64 with the bag. I arrived at Norfolk Yacht & Country Club after the skippers meeting and just as the boats were starting to launch. 25 minutes later I was rigged and ready to launch and didn’t miss any sailing.

ILCA Between races during the NYCC Mid-Atlantic ILCA Championship
Between races

It was to be a very light air day. We sailed just out to where the Lafayette River meets the Elizabeth River with a NNW wind at 4-6 all day. There was little current when we started, but as the day went on it pushed us up course out the Elizabeth River and later pushed us across the course out of the Lafayette River.

I generally had good starts today, usually at the boat. Early in the day I favored the middle right of the course and later started banging the left corner as the current came across the course and helped fetch the mark along with lifts. Most of the day I was mid-fleet in our 9-boat fleet at the first weather mark.

The fleet ahead sailing downwind.

Downwind was very slow and difficult. Often the wind was going opposite the current and it was very hard to feel how the boat was going. Most races I lost boats downwind except for the last race where I went right downwind and went around everyone and rounded the leeward mark first. Alex would get me on the windward leg making my best finish a 2nd and a great way to end the day.

Sailing in light air last weekend definitely helped. What I wasn’t used to, was light-air sailing with traffic and I made a good number of mistakes around other boats and lost some places in the process. That includes some close finishes. I did a good job to not make many tactical mistakes and my boat speed was reasonable given the hunting-for-wind conditions.

On the tow in.
On the tow in

Following the 5th race of the day the wind completely shut off as some storms approached the area and we were towed in. After racing we hung out at the club sharing sailing stories over hot dogs and hamburgers.

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We managed to have a five boat ILCA fleet that came together at the last minute. We sailed in Godfrey Bay along with ten Melges 15, three Windmills, 7 Hampton One Designs and a few San Juan 21 and a international Canoe. 29 Flying Scots sailed their Atlantic Coast Championship on another course.

Melges 15 start of race 1.

Out on the race course we waited while 3 fleets started ahead of us and had wind in the low teens out of the North. It was pretty shifty and at the time of our start there was an almost 10 degree favor at the pin and Craig took advantage of that port tacking our fleet at the pin. Craig played the shifts well and stayed well enough ahead at the pin with me behind and Trip just behind me. On the 2nd upwind to the finish I was able to pick some shifts and catch up to Craig, but once we got out to the lay line there weren’t any passing lanes and I had to settle for finishing just behind him.

Looking back on the fleet as we come downwind in race 2.

For the second race, since there were 5 of us and 3 Windmills we were all started together. By now the wind had dropped a bit and was very shifty with some big holes. We watched the Melges 15s start ahead of us and some boats caught puffs and took off while others missed it entirely and bobbed around near the start. Some of the boats were quickly 1/3 of the leg ahead before even covering 1/2 of the leg. I watched where the wind was and where it was coming from at our start and i was able to string together some puffs to get launched. The Windmills all went way left while the ILCA fleet was all over. By the top mark I was 1/3 of a leg ahead and I just sailed conservatively – covering the fleet and giving up some ground, but also keeping myself between everyone else and the finish the rest of the way around. Trip finished behind me with Craig behind him.

The 3rd race still had some pretty big shifts, but without the massive holes of the prior race. Craig and I split a bit and he caught some better shifts and led by 10 boat lengths or so at the weather mark. I also had some Windmill rounding traffic to contend with. Downwind we got a 70 degree shift from the right turning it into a reach for just a couple of minutes. It got to me first and by the time Craig got it I was well ahead and then just played a loose cover on the upwind to finish 1st. Craig was second with Bill 3rd.

At the start of the 4th race Craig and I both went for the boat and Craig got between me and the boat and ended up fouling me and having to do turns. The wind had picked back up to where were comfortably hiking with some de-powering at times. I focused on picking shifts and was able to extend my lead and then did another loose cover on the fleet to hold my position. Craig finished 2nd followed by Trip. This race was also fun to see with the Windmills. They seemed to generally point higher and sail faster upwind. In the prior two races in lighter air they started with us and finished well ahead of us. In this race they started with us and I finished just a boat length behind their leader.

Jon, Jess, Tim, Karly

In the evening after racing Jess and I came to the part by boat and got to have dinner and see friends and hang out.

Floating around on Sunday without any wind.

Sunday’s forecast was for light air and it delivered. We ghosted out to the course on time hoping for it to fill and floated around for an hour and a half. By around 11 nothing had filled and the clouds burned off and it started to get hot. The fleet started making their way to shore and a short time later the RC agreed and abandoned for the day. Sad we didn’t get another day of racing and the wind eventually did fill, but by then we were on to awards.

Trip, Jon and Craig at the awards. Photo by Paul Almany.

Thanks to Mark and team running the event and Jim R and his team for running races on our course.

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The third and final day of the ILCA Nationals at Brant Beach Yacht Club saw enough wind to sail us to the course only to postpone us once we got there. An hour later the sea breeze would fill in with 7-8 out of the south to enable us to go racing.

In the first race I won the boat and went hard right. As I was coming across for a while it looked like I was going to cross the entire fleet. While I was spectating I missed a shift and found myself getting passed on both sides and rounded mid-fleet. I hung around there for the rest of the race and finished mid 20’s.

By the second race we were sailing in about 10 knots in the same sea breeze direction. I had a good start again near the boat, but didn’t have the speed or the lead I did in the last one. I ended up towards the bottom of the fleet and struggled at times to keep the boat moving or change gears smoothly. At the bottom of the course we were often near the 4.7s and their parent boats and coach boats created a lot of wakes following them around which all seemed to converge on us as we sailed to the finish.

By the 3rd race the sea breeze was blowing in the mid teens. Enough to be depowering, but not enough to be overpowered with everything depowered. This time I started at the pin, I didn’t stay there long as most of the fleet went right and I went with them. I had reasonable speed upwind and rounded mid fleet. I continued to struggle on the reaches. Another finish in the high 20s and another day with a ton of sea weed.

I finished 32nd overall with all of my finishes between 23 and 34. It was good to be back in the boat at a big event, and also shows what happens when I race without a lot of practice beforehand.

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Starting the day under postponement
Starting the day under postponement

Day 2 at the ILCA US Nationals at Brant beach and we postponed ashore for an hour and a half until the wind started to come in. Out on the course we had lightish air – 6 or 7 knots. The RC tried to get a couple starts, but ultimately needed to reset the course again for where the wind settled in. Some rain-looking clouds came over just before the start, but didn’t drop anything. There were storms in the region but far enough away not to impact our racing.

First race didn’t have a good start and was quickly shot out the back. Sailed in dirty air upwind most of the leg and had about a dozen boats still behind me. Downwind I tried not to lose too many spots and picked up a couple spots on the 2nd upwind. On the reach to the bottom mark before the finish I was leeward boat and was fouled by a boat to weather and his mainsheet ended up taking my weather vane off and I had to sail the rest of the day with out it. I protested the boat on the water and after we got in. I ended up winning the protest and the other boat was thrown out of that race.

Second start went even worse than the first, I hit some waves just as I was about to go for the start and my vang fell out. I fixed it in a few seconds, but by then I was too late to be in the front row and ended up tacking behind everyone and got very far right in mostly clear air. I rounded mid fleet and did my usual lose boats on the downwind and pick up a few upwind and still managed to lose a few on the reach and finished mid-30s.

Putting the vang back in 20 seconds before the start of the race.
Putting the vang back in 20 seconds before the start of the race.

The wind continued to pick up and the 3rd race was in closer to 15-17 knots of breeze. I had an OK start and rounded the first mark just below mid-fleet. The wind eased as the race went on. I went right on the second upwind and picked up a few spots for another finish in the low 30’s.

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Brant Beach Yacht Club RC Boat before the first race.
Brant Beach Yacht Club RC Boat before the first race.

Friday was day one at the ILCA National Championship at Brant Beach Yacht Club and we found ourselves with more wind than was forecast which is always welcome. Being out of the SSE it was windy enough to be hiking yet fully powered up, if not a little overpowered without having to de-power or feature to keep the boat up.

Just at the start of the first race
Just at the start of the first race

I was sailing in the 49 boat ILCA 7 class in only my 3rd day in the boat this year – and it showed. I stunk up the first race and just never got comfortable in the maneuvers. It didn’t help that I was also sailing with a brand new sail. The last time I did that was 6 years ago and lets just say I’ve forgotten how to tune a sail that isn’t blown out.

Eventually by the second race I figured out how to point and go fast again upwind despite being slow on the reaches. For most of the races I focused on starting in clear air and generally being on the right side of the course. Some times I was more successful at this than others. I tried not to make any big mistakes. Seaweed would be an issue all day. We weren’t sailing fast enough to keep it from clumping on the blades.

Late in the day the current started to come down the course and started favoring the left upwind. I finished very consistently around 30th. Two more days to go.

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Brant Beach Yacht Club would host the 2021 ILCA Masters Atlantic Coast Championship on what would be a rather windy August weekend. I started well in the first race, had a reasonable first leg in the middle to upper part of the 30 boat standard fleet. Downwind I got the flipsies and ended up towards the back of the fleet. The second race went much the same and after flipping too many times I called it a day and skipped the final race.

I intended to race on Sunday, but upon arrival at the club it was clear that I had re-aggravated a foot injury from the prior weekend. With some travel and other activities I have coming up the next month, I didn’t want to put any of that in jeopardy and packed up the boat and headed home early.

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Sunday saw a bit more wind than we had the prior two days for ILCA Nationals. It was windy up in the river, it actually calmed down a bit once we were at the sailing area in the James. With the wind in the upper teens and the same head on current we had seen the prior two days, upwind was a slog.

In the first race of the day I actually moved the boat and picked some shifts fairly well to be really close to the top 10 at the top mark, only I miss-judged the lay line with the current and with no where to go with a pack of boats just above me, I ended up missing the mark and having to circle around and duck a bunch of boats to get back to the mark. From there I just held on and finished 28th.

In the 2nd race the wind was up another knot or two, same direction, same current. I was holding on around mid-fleet when I lost it downwind and death rolled. The current and wind made it hard to get the boat turned and righted so I lost a bunch of boats on that leg. I caught a few folks on the next two legs and finished 30th. Out of energy with the wind continuing to increase a bit, I decided I had enough fun for the weekend and skipped the last race.

Photo by Paul Almany

It was great to sail with some folks I hadn’t seen in quite a while and nice to be able to sail a big event much closer to home. Thanks to Norfolk Yacht and Country Club and ODU Sailing for all the effort they put into this event. Given the scheduling and re-scheduling of it over the past year, it was no easy feat.

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The wind and conditions for the 2nd day of ILCA Nationals was much like yesterday – out of the South West at 8-10. The big difference today was that it was much more steady and didn’t require any course or starting line changes.

In the first race I had a dismal start and got shot out the back. I made up some boats on the 2nd beat and managed to finish around mid-fleet.

Don Hahl
Don Hahl between races

In the 2nd race I started closer to the pin with clear air and worked my way out to the left. Unfortunately for me the right had better angles and was still mid-fleet at the top mark. I made up a few spots and finished 24th.

By the 3rd race the current had switched pushing us over the line and we had one general recall before getting a clean start. I didn’t have a stellar start, but finally felt like I was able to keep the boat moving and picked some shifts well to be around the top 10 at the top mark. I sailed conservatively to stay with those around me and lost a few boats here and there and ended up 17th. That was the first race all weekend that I felt like I was actually sailing how I wanted to and actually competing.

Saturday evening I met up with some folks from FBYC and we caught up over dinner on the water.

Harris River near Hampton VA

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Ready to Launch at Norfolk Yacht and Country Club

For the first day of the ILCA Nationals I launched from Norfolk Yacht and Country Club and we sailed out into the James River off Craney Island. This took close to an hour to sail to and is an area I’ve never sailed in when sailing out of NYCC or ODU.

We were sailing the ILCA trapezoid course with the split ILCA 6 (Radial) fleets sailing the outer course and the ILCA 7 (Standard) sailing the inner course. The current on the course would end up being a really big factor. At the beginning of the day the current was ebbing and with the wind out of the west – the wind lined up with the current so both were coming straight down the course. This helped keep us from being over early at the start, but also made it very tough to pick the layline right and not hit the mark.

Sailing in current is hard. Sailing in current when the wind is shifty is even harder. Just when I’d get the feel figured out and feel like the boat is starting to move, the wind would shift and I’d have to re-acclimate to the new wind direction.

First race had a terrible start, was really deep at the top mark. Went right downwind and caught a shift/pressure early and rode that around 8 or so boats that had gone more left. On the upwind I banged the same side (now left) and went around another 8 or so boats and on the final downwind I stuck to that same side and passed a few more boats. Each time catching the shifts just right and found myself finishing 10th.

postponed
Postponed off and on

We then spent over 2 hours waiting for the RC to set and reset the course to changing winds and for the Radial fleet to get a start. Eventually they got one only to have a 40-degree shift right at the start and about the time they were approaching the weather mark, the race abandoned only to have to return to start again.

By the time racing was started the current had switched directions and the chop picked up. I had two less exciting races mostly poking around mid fleet. We wouldn’t get to shore until after 6pm after spending nearly 9 hours on the water. I de-rigged and left to find dinner and cheap replacement watch for the one that had broken since last weekend.

No Quarter tucked in for the night.

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