Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Laser Master Worlds - Day 5

So, two out of three good races yesterday (and the middle one was *terrific* but I was yellow-flagged again while in second and therefore forced to retire). Going into today was in a three-way tie for 4th with Aussie Brad Taylor and Benoit Meesemacker from France. Ari Barshi from the Dominican Republic was in 3rd 12 points ahead, but looking vulnerable after his 12, 22, 7 finishes yesterday. Lots on the line, with two races today deciding everything!

Race 11
Another meh start at the boat, requiring me to tack fairly soon onto port. Not a good situation because the left was very favored. Rounded in the 20s, gained some on the run then bee-lined it to the left corner on the second beat. Gained a few places, but more importantly, a lot of distance on the boats ahead, allowing me to catch a few more on the run, then one last boat on the final reach to land in...13th. Again.

Taylor had a decent race in 10th, Meesemacker was one of the boats I caught on the run and ended up 15th. Barshi had a solid 3rd place, so 4th overall was the best I could hope for, with one race to go and 3 points to gain on Taylor.

Race 12
A decent start at the boat allowed me to hold my lane a bit longer than usual, but Ari Barshi, who started about 3 boats further down the line, had great speed and point and I fell down into his line. This is an extremely tough place to stay, as the disturbed wind and waves from the boat ahead make it hard to keep the boat going. That said, I seemed to be staying pretty close to Barshi, and I was determined to do everything I could to not tack for as long as possible.

Somehow I managed to hang on til just shy of the port layline and tacked, with Barshi flicking over a boatlength or two later. Managed to round the top mark in 3rd behind Barshi and regatta leader Brett Beyer from Australia. From that point it was just trying to not catch the eyes of the judges on the two downwind legs before once again bee-lining it to the left corner. Barshi tacked back to the middle to cover Beyer and some of the fleet and I was able to pass him, but Beyer caught a nice right shift in the top quarter of the leg and moved into first about 7 lengths ahead of me.

The competitor in me wanted to hunt Beyer down, but Rational Marc understood he couldn't afford another yellow flag from the jury. I behaved myself and consolidated the second place, holding it comfortably to the finish. A quick look back revealed my two closest competitors for 4th overall were well back--I'd done it!

Looking Back
The fellows ahead sailed beautifully and deserved their finishes. Brett Beyer was in a class by himself, Peter Hurley of NYC sailed smart and fast for 2nd, and Ari Barshi put it together when he had to for a solid 3rd place showing,

My (first?) cube!
While I'm a bit disappointed to place 4th, it's a bit of a miracle it happened considering the three 13th place finishes I had to carry. I also won a "cube" (for placing in the Top 5 at a World Championship), an honor that had eluded me for over 30 years of Laser sailing, so that was fun.

Obviously starts were an issue, specifically being too conservative. Not helping boldness on the line was getting two yellow flags from the jury--I couldn't afford to be too aggressive and risk being over early. Like so many of us, I can look back at the event and think of places where a boat was lost here, and length there, and those losses made big differences--ramping up the intensity on the racecourse is needed. Watch out for the Terminator at the next regatta.

Finally, I'd like to thank Guy Rittger for letting me borrow his nice fast hull for this event!

Final results: http://www.cork.org/past-results/results2015/MASTERS/STD.html (scroll down to "Standard Master Fleet")

all photos courtesy of www.sailingshot.com

Friday, July 17, 2015

Laser Master Worlds - Day 4

The forecast called for 10-20 knots out of the South, but that wasn't looking likely at 9 this morning, as a light easterly was blowing through the boat park. The overcast skies weren't promising for a southerly change either, but nonetheless it came through, allowing the race committee to get three races off before a light rain descended on the boat park.

OK, I'm just too tired to write. Short story (for now): I have my mojo back. Wasn't keeping the boat powered up enough before. Great starts, great speed upwind and down, saw scores of 3, Retired, 1 for the day. In the second race I was in 2nd grinding down 1st on the run and the jury yellow-flagged me, saying the boat was rocking. I didn't think so, but because this was my second "offense" of the event, I was forced to retire. Would've been 1st or 2nd in that one for sure. Shoulda, woulda, coulda...

Am in a three-way tie for 4th place going into the last day of racing tomorrow, but my bullet in the last race has me ahead of the others. Fingers crossed for tomorrow!

Results: http://www.cork.org/past-results/results2015/MASTERS/STD.html (scroll down to "Standard Masters Fleet")

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Laser Master Worlds - Day 3

A puffy northwesterly breeze pumped through Kingston all night, rocking the camper like it was a boat out at anchor. By 11am the wind had dropped substantially, and continued dropping through the course of two races from near 20 knots down to perhaps 10, with tremendous pressure variation around the course. Lots of opportunities, for advancement, and loss...

Race 6
Had a meh start about 1/4 way down from the committee boat. In the oscillating breeze it was important to get in-phase with the shifts right away, and because of my poor start I wasn't able to do so. Things actually didn't look too bad until right near the weather mark, when a right shift came through while I was off to the left.

Rounded the top mark in the 20s, with a large clump of boats ahead and just a few behind. The breeze was in a right shift, and the clump ahead sailed high to protect themselves from each other, which took them closer to a headland to windward as well as away from the mark. Sensing an opportunity, I sailed low toward the mark in decent pressure. This is often a scary thing, because logic would say the boats to windward will get any new wind first, even if they are sailing extra distance. I was also concerned about the wind possibly going left, which would allow them to reach down over the top.

All that just inspired me to work every little puff and wave as best as I could. It seemed things would work out, because the fleet above wasn't moving forward on me--they had sailed all that extra distance without any noticeable advantage! In the latter half of the leg I resisted the urge to reach up to the mark early, staying far enough to leeward to avoid dirty air while the peloton above started slowing each other down on the now-broad reach to the mark. A few nice waves and the odd puff of wind and I'd taken a huge bite out of their lead, jumping from the 20s to nearly the top 10!

In my zeal to go fast on the reach I didn't spend enough time thinking about how to attack the run. The breeze was still in a right phase (looking upwind), which meant I should have sailed dead-downwind, course high/right of the leeward mark in anticipation of the next shift (a leftie), which I could then ride back to the middle and the leeward marks. Instead, I sailed by-the-lee toward the leeward gate, falling out of the pressure and allowing the boats to the right of me to sail ahead, then get the left pressure first. Silly boy.

The next beat is a blur at this point. The wind was shifting about 20 degrees either side of median, requiring one to be patient and not tack right away when headed off the high (10 degrees off 20 degrees up is still 10 degrees high!). There were so, so many opportunities to gain, but many people either banged one side or the other, or tacked too often or early. I was with the latter camp, but managed to pretty much hold my own to the top mark.

On the next run I let myself get sandwiched by American Scott Ferguson to my left and Benoit Meesemacker from France on the right. Between their two wakes, there was no way I was going to move forward, but Scott found some clean waves and gained a solid 10 boatlengths. I held on for a 13th.

Race 7
Finally a halfway-decent start! Held my lane for a bit but had a Canadian guy basically reach over the top of me about a minute after the start. That wasn't so bad, but had two Americans to windward who just *wouldn't* tack in the first shift so we got a bit out of phase and again I was in the 20s at the top mark in a right phase.

Remembering the prior race, I again went low on the first reach, with Benoit from France just a smidge to windward of me doing the same. The wind started moving forward as we went down the leg, and darned if we didn't end up smelling like roses, he rounding in 4th or 5th and me right behind!

Again I dove down to the inside, but because of the left phase this was the right place to be. I was on starboard and a Kiwi sailor was slightly to the left of me port. We were moving up on the guys to our right, with little glimpses of the impending right shift offering a promising latter half of the leg.

Then, it happened. The jury boat zoomed up, a dreaded whistle and a yellow flag was pointed at me--according to them, I had done some illegal movements and was required to do a 720 degree circle to exonerate myself! I still have no idea what they saw, but there is no arguing with the jury. I gybed to initiate my 720, then tacked. Right as I was bearing away from the tack the breeze went very still and the boat capsized to weather! Got it up, but of course it capsized again. Another recovery, then completion of the 720 and I was back in the 40s. To add further insult to injury, I lost my favorite warm hat!

I'm ashamed to admit I was cussing a blue streak throughout all this, down the remainder of the run and at the rounding. Then I settled down and got to work, playing shifts pretty much up the middle. I didn't feel especially great about the leg, but looking around I had pulled forward quite a bit on guys who went further right or left of me on the leg. Just how well I'd done was revealed at the weather mark--I was now definitely in the top half, maybe even top 20!

Again I worked the shifts downwind, staying to the left of boats ahead. I picked off a few who sailed high initially, then set my sights on Harvard sailing coach Bern Noack about 30 boatlengths ahead. By the leeward mark I'd more than halved the distance between us, and was happy to see him and a group ahead sail high on the final reach in light pressure. Sailing low (rhumb line, actually), I got a nice left puff that brought me right up to Bern's transom, and within a few lengths of 2 boats just in front of Bern--game on!

I quickly flicked onto starboard to get back to the left shift, with Bern tacking immediately to cover. We sailed for a short time then he tacked off along with the other two guys, leaving me alone on the left. Further up the course, the leaders were looking very high on port near the finish line so I was hopeful, but at the last moment the right filled in slightly, allowing the other two guys to cross. Still there was Bern, hiking hard on starboard. I tacked to leeward and ahead, hiked my aSS off but it wasn't quite enough--Bern got me by about 4 feet. It had been a miraculous recovery, but still the worst race my series: a third consecutive 13th finish. Ugh.

So... At this point I'm in 5th, but with a second throwout (that is soon to come into play) I would be in 8th or so. A few solid top 5 finishes would be a nice end to the event, and would allow me to remain where I am. Let's see how it goes!

(No racing on Thursday, next report on Friday's racing before the Saturday finale!)

Results: http://www.cork.org/past-results/results2015/MASTERS/STD.html (scroll down to "Standard Masters Fleet")

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Laser Master Worlds - Day 2

Windy and wet, the second day of racing at the Laser Master Worlds was challenging to say the least. The race committee, keen to make up for yesterday's lack of wind, banged off three races in breeze that started in the teens and tapered off to single digits by the last leg of the last race.

I received some devastating personal news around midnight and had a lot of trouble focusing and getting into my normal sailing groove for racing. This slight lack of cohesion showed in my decision-making and overall demeanor for the day, which I'm not proud of.

In Race 3 I had a clean start about 3 boatlengths up from the pin. A Canadian guy started right at the pin and motored out, while I fell out of the breeze briefly and fell back. Arriving at the top mark in the teens and noticing how high the fleet ahead was sailing on the reach, I took a calculated gamble and went low. The gamble paid off, allowing me to pass or get inside overlap on nearly 10 boats!

The runs were very interesting. With the wind being so streaky on the water, it was important to ride pressure directly downwind for as long as possible, saving by-the-lee for light patches and to maintain clear air on boats behind. This is a lot easier when one is in the top 5 or so, because there is less traffic to manage. Brett Beyer showed the fleet his transom, playing those shifts downwind beautifully to extend away. I spent too much time by-the-lee trying to hold off boats that were trying to pass on the left and got out of phase, only hooking back into the pressure toward the leeward mark.

Hiking hard
Once again the gate was heavily favored to the right looking downwind, and I sucked it up and did the percentage move of rounding that gate in 6th or so, even though I was coming in from the left. Was right behind Ari Barshi and saw him hit the mark as he rounded. Poor Ari did his spin and I jumped into 5th. The shifts were interesting upwind but I didn't catch anyone until the next run, moving up into 4th, which I was to hold for the remainder of the race.

Race 4 I had an even better start at the pin end of the line in a dying breeze. Managed to leg-out nicely on the boats to windward, got what I thought was a header and tacked to cross. Booming out of the right was Brett Beyer, really flying in pressure on starboard. I eventually came into the top mark on port in the Top 5, but had a guy hit my transom directly from behind about a second or two after my tack to starboard. He didn't seem to mind so much, but another guy saw the incident and made a big fuss. I thought I was in the right (tack was complete, guy behind could have headed up and still not have been above close-hauled), but I didn't want to risk a DSQ in the protest room so did a painful 720. That put me back into the teens from which I crawled back to 9th, even after a capsize near the second leeward mark (from which I recovered very quickly, losing distance but no boats).

Leeward mark rounding
with my Easter bonnet on. :)
Race 5 I started at the favored starboard end. Peter Hurley was slightly below me and had a terrific start. I held my lane for a little while, but was eventually forced to tack over. Peter and I stayed to the right of the fleet and were looking good as a light rain shower fell on us, but then the left started filling in and he was better able to get over to that side, rounding in the Top 5. I limped in in the 20s. Went low again on the reach but that didn't work as well as before as the breeze was dying. Stayed in that position until the last run, where I managed to work the shifts downwind to round *just* ahead of a big clump of boats inside. It was still my worst finish of the regatta to date, a 13th.

As a result of the day, I've slipped to 4th out of 50. Looks like we'll have a windy, shifty northerly for the next day of racing--let's see how that goes!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

2015 Laser Master Worlds - First Day

It was a rather hazy morning for the first day of racing at the 2015 Laser Master World Championship in Kingston, ON. Some wondered if the wind would reach its predicted 12-14 knot strength as a result, but few were complaining about lack of wind after the first two races were sailed in solid hiking conditions.

Before the first race I sailed the entire first leg of the course, doing timed splits (one boat goes left for three minutes, the other right, then they sail back in the middle and see who comes out ahead) with some Canadian sailors. The results were inconclusive: first time the left prevailed, then the right.

I'm competing in the Master (45-54 yr) Full Rig division, with 50 competitors duking it out. Here in Kingston the general consensus is to go left upwind in the prevailing southwesterly breeze, but the race committee made the right side of the starting line irresistibly favored for both starts, so I was there along with many others in the fleet.

In Race 1 I was a bit late accelerating for the start and had a few boats pass me right away. Was able to tack off onto port quickly however, and seemed to pick the right time to tack back onto starboard for the looong sail to the left for the last quarter of the leg. Ari Barshi from the Dominican Republic came out of the left and rounded the top mark first, with me tight on his heels. We had a good duel down the first reach during which I was able to close to within a boatlength by the next mark. Ari stayed to the left looking downwind, protecting that favored side and preventing me from passing on the next leg, but we both extended on the fleet behind us down that run.

Ari (DOM) leading me
(194582) on second reach.
We stayed very tight together for the next upwind leg, but I had the mainsheet wrapped around my feet and couldn't bear away around the next mark well and Ari was gone, extending to a handsome lead he wouldn't relinquish. I held on for second ahead of a hard-charging Brett Beyer (multiple Master World Champ from Australia).

Shockingly, my next start was even worse, but again I was able to tack fairly quickly onto port and picked a decent shift to get back in touch with the fleet. Brett Beyer came in from the left and was 1st at the weather mark, a Canadian was in 2nd and I was 3rd. Zoomed up and almost caught the Canadian on the first reach, then sailed a bit too far left on the run. I gained fore-and-aft relative to the Canadian, but had to round the left mark at the leeward gate, taking me away from the favored left side.

In retrospect, it would have been better to have sucked it up and gone for the right mark at the gate. I immediately lost three boats who went around that mark and was only able to reel in one of them. Ari Barshi made the most of the jumble, sailing from 6th to 2nd on the upwind and eventually passing Beyer on the second run. Beyer placed 2nd and Peter Hurley, another benefactor of the leeward mark, ended up 3rd. I held onto 5th and considered myself lucky--my greed in going right on that upwind leg could have easily resulted in more boats lost.

So, some lessons learned: Get off the start line better. Play the percentages upwind and let other people be the ones to make mistakes. It's a long regatta, plenty to be gained by being consistent, not brilliant!

Results here: http://www.cork.org/past-results/results2015/MASTERS/STD.html  (I'm in the Red/Master Division)

SECOND DAY (Monday): Not enough wind, no races!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

One Day to Go!

Went out yesterday for a few hours with top US sailors Scott Ferguson, Dan Neri and Lynne Shore, plus Dominicans Ari Barshi and Jorge Abreau for some speed tuning and general course exploration. Overall I was pleased with upwind speed/point, and downwind was moving very well.

The groove upwind is very, very narrow, and hitting one wave wrong results in instant penalty against such fast, smart sailors. The wind is quite inconsistent around the course, with streaks of wind hitting some competitors and not others--if we race in similar conditions, it'll be nerve-wracking out there!

I'm now fully settled into my regatta routine. Breakfast consists of half a container of grain cereal, half a container of almond or coconut milk, berries, a banana, a handful of walnuts, an apple, and a few supplements (multi, glucosamine, lysine, calcium, and a few Vitamin I (ibuprofen). It's a lot to choke down first thing in the morning!

The practice race will be at 2 today. No-doubt everybody will be over early, trying to get out in front and (hopefully) stay there. It will be interesting to see how aggressive the fleet will be around the course and how my speed looks in racing conditions!

This old guy can still hike! :)
Just got back from the practice race. Wind was maybe 10-12 knots out of the southeast. Had a good start and led around around the first 3 marks of the course, amassing a 20 second lead over the second boat before retiring (it's bad luck to win the practice race). Good for the fleet to see my transom before the big event... ;)

Nice lead on the first reach of the practice race (194582)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Breeze up, a good hard thrash, and the first use of my secret weapon

As is typical for me at an event, I awoke at 7 and went to check emails. Ended up having a long chat with Top-level coach and devastatingly fast Master sailor Brett Beyer from Australia. I was so engrossed I lost track of time and didn't get back to the truck until the first of the Gold Fleet sailors were hitting the water! Wolfed down breakfast (no easy task--it's a lot of food), then quickly rigged and headed out.

Managed to get to the start area just as Gold Fleet was going into sequence. I "started" 4 minutes before them off the right side of the line and sailed the whole beat. Was happy to be 2 min 30 sec ahead of the lead boats, especially since I was still a bit unsettled and even stopped briefly on the way up. Watched their reaching leg (man they're fast), then headed back to the start line for Bronze Fleet's start. This time I started 4 minutes ahead but at the port end of the line and generally worked that side of the beat, ending up almost exactly 4 minutes ahead. The wind was rather streaky but pretty easy to see on the water, at least where I was without any traffic! This time I sailed the reach and run as well (so far ahead of the fleet they weren't affected) before doing a few mark roundings and calling it a day.

Upon arriving at the dock, was pleased to see the new mast stayed nice and straight after a day of hard work, even a capsize. I did a little boat work, then a quick shower and some errands before spending an hour with my secret weapon for this event (which shall remain a secret for now!).

Tomorrow I'll try to take pics of some sailors as they rig up their boats. It's like the United Nations here, over 50 countries represented! :)

As promised, a few snaps. Laser sailors at the World level are pretty darn fit!
I'd hate to be to leeward of this guy
upwind in a big breeze--look at those legs!
Nah, he doesn't work out. ;)
Happy for a friend's good
finishes on the last day.

Monday, July 6, 2015

A wasted day. Or was it...?

Today was to be the first day of post-qualification racing at the regular World Championship, but after many hours of waiting on this balmy, rather humid day, no sailing was done.

The free time allowed me to chat with some new acquaintances and reconnect with old ones. It is remarkable being around so many talented and dedicated athletes and coaches. Hard to believe I had in-depth conversations with 4 Olympic representatives (at least two who earned Silver or Gold medals)!

Today I also fitted my new upper mast section. The on-site rep was kind enough to grant me full access to a stack of nearly 20 brand new European sections. I selected three, weighed each with my digital cooking scale (delta between heaviest and lightest: less than 2 grams) then grabbed the heaviest/hopefully stiffest and left. At some point one just has to make a choice and hope for the best. I carefully wedded the new upper section to my existing lower, then cycled it through some gentle bending to let it work-harden. Hopefully it will reward this gentle breaking-in with many years of reliable, fast racing!

Full house, 158 boats
At this, the regular, or "Standard" World Championship, 158 sailors use brand new boats and masts supplied by the manufacturer. The only things sailors are allowed to bring are their own sails, tillers/extensions (to steer with) and control lines. Even with "only" 158 boats, the site is quite full. One wonders how the facility will accommodate 350+ Master sailors (most of whom will bring their own boats) later this week?

8 buck Canuc-Crocs!
I gave up on sailing a little early to hunt for a massage but not early enough: the massage school was closed when I got there, so I settled for some shopping instead. Prices were quite high (especially for organic fruit) but I did have one big score: a pair of knock-off Crocs for CND$8! It's nice to have a decent pair of footwear, as I'm doing a lot of walking.

Life is simple for me at regattas: eat, sail, eat, maybe a movie (tonight, the high-concept Magic Mike XXL--I must've been one of 3 guys in the theater, the rest were very appreciative ladies), then bed. Further "simplifying" life this time is having my phone not working in Canada: no calls, no texts, only email access via wifi to clients, family and friends back home. Was amazed how addicted I'd become to navigation and Google for answers and at first was a bit off-kilter, but have begun to figure out the town and feel much more at home.

Looking out the screen door of my truck, I see and hear leaves blowing in the trees. Tomorrow should be breezy, so off to bed I go for some much-need rest. Good night!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

2015 Laser Master Worlds - Kingston Ontario Canada - settling in

It's been quite a while since I last posted on this blog, but this is the perfect way to stay in touch during this event. It also forces me to put down my thoughts/impressions of the racing, which is always a good thing.

Big Red and a full trailer
Arrived in Canada very late last night towing 5 boats. "Big Red" (my trusty F250) acted up a little but got us to Kingston, where I promptly got lost and overshot the club by a few kilometers. Turned around then stopped at a Tim Hortons (donut/coffee shop) and was directed to the sailing center by a very tall, rather burly but helpful transexual cab driver with blond pigtails--Welcome to Kingston! :)

It's exciting being in Kingston again. Last time was back in 1998, hard to believe some competitors at the Laser Standard World Championship (which is going on now) were born right around that time. The boat park this morning was full of fit, serious-looking lads keen to make their marks on the last day of qualifying for Gold Fleet.

Saw a number old sailing acquaintances on the entry list and managed to catch up with a few of them before heading out with the competitors in the morning for some pre-race speed tuning. The SE breeze was rather light and the water was all chopped up, making for very challenging upwind sailing. The waves were at an angle to the swell, making downwind work interesting too. I came in after watching most of the first race in the dying breeze.

A funny aside: upon pulling my boat up the ramp I was rather annoyed at the lack of hoses to wash the boat off with. Found one, did a thorough rinse then realized: Lake Ontario is fresh water, so no need to rinse. DOH!

Tomorrow will be busy, as I try to find a replacement mast and hopefully my new sail will also arrive. Usually I don't like changing major equipment before an important event, but last week my mast broke at the Laser New England Masters Championship so I've no choice. We'll see how these two key pieces of gear play together over the next few days.

OK, off to do some shopping. Hope all are enjoying a nice holiday weekend!