Monday, July 31, 2023

2023 RS Aero World Championship - It's been awhile!

I've not posted here in quite awhile. In Sep 2021, to correct irregular heatbeat (afib), had atrial ablation surgery. That went horribly wrong and nearly died in Oct 2021. While emergency doctors tried to repair holes in the heart and esophagus caused by the initial botched procedure, I suffered a stroke and heart attack, and was unable to walk or use my left arm (the gory details here). Spent most of 2022 recovering. 

Pills I now take everyday.
 Finally got back into a dinghy again in Aug 2022, with distant hopes of eventually competing in the 2023 RS Aero Worlds in Calasetta, Sardinia (Italy). Several mishaps along the way, multiple hospital stays and emergency room visits, a defibrillator implant, an upset mother on the West Coast, etc... but nonetheless managed to make it to Italy!

Arrived a few days early at the regatta site, and managed to experience the insane heat that gripped most of Europe during that time: several days above 90 degrees, just miserable. Did manage to get out on the water a few times, had decent speed against UK sailor Chris Hatton and Irishman Roy Van Maanan.

Rugged Calasetta shoreline and nice breeze

What follows are copies of social media posts made at the time. In chronological order:

25 July    I've been in Calasetta, Sardinia since 20 July. It's a quaint, small town by the sea that has been searingly HOT so far. The town's main piazza (stone, naturally) really heats up during the day - I avoid it at all costs, despite street performers and a generally bustling vibe once the sun goes down. There seem to be few foreigners in this town of 3,000, beside sailors preparing for the World Championship.

Narrow stone streets

Have been staying at a B-and-B run by a delightful guy from Roma who has been be very accommodating, doing laundry, making nice breakfasts (including lovely buttery croissants) and providing historical perspective on the people and culture of this part of the world. The place is uphill from the sailing center, which is tiring for me after a day of sailing, but I just chug up at a slow and steady pace. Breaking up the climb is the town's gelateria, so there's that...
Today was the final day of practice before the 5-day World Championship commences, and the wind was HOWLING out of the NW, providing some respite from the heat but also making launching of boats a challenge. There is one, one-boat-wide ramp from which to launch 140 boats! About 50 of us went out for the practice race in 20-25 knots of breeze and a steep, choppy sea. It was glorious sailing, boats planing madly downwind on big rollers! I took it easy, just went out for an hour to do a little upwind tuning with fellow American Dieter Cruetz. Was happy to have good speed against this very fit 16-year old, who is the reigning Aero 5 World Champion (now sailing, like me, the new 6 rig here).
This is the first Worlds where the 6 is sailed. I've only raced against 2 other 6 rigs at home, so the first few races should be very interesting to see how the fleet shakes out. Avoiding capsizes will be a major feat in the steep waves - fingers crossed! 
OK, time to head to the opening ceremony. Arrevederci for now from Italia!
26 July    Marc's overseas regatta breakfast: muesli with milk, croissant, 2 eggs, and green smoothie. Kale isn't in season here, so smoothie consists of cabbage, carrot, celery, banana and a few organic walnuts.
Our Italian host can't understand eggs for breakfast, nor can he get past the consistency of the smoothie (which is a bit...grainy due to his weak blender).
This, plus some locally grown cherries, Galatea peaches (incredibly sweet and fragrant!), a few energy bars, and several bottles of water with electrolytes will keep me going through the racing day. Immediately following will be a sandwich, more fluid, then dinner a bit later in the evening.
Sail 4466. Too much vang for this windy reach on Day 1.
3 races, I was first to the first 2 marks in R1, and was in solid 3rd when judge flagged me, for what I have NO idea. Lost 7 boats doing exonerating 720 degree turn. 5th in R2, then had breakdown that took a lot of time/energy to fix before R3 and had a stinker. In 5th overall right now.
Heeling too much rounding top mark behind Rhett
 Very tired, don't have much in reserve these days. Will get to bed early and recharge. I'm sail #4466.
Barely hiking but still flying along in champagne conditions.
 27 July    Day 2, three more races. Was in 7th on the last run of the first race when the jury AGAIN flagged me for rocking! Right after completing my 720 degree penalty turn, the boat quickly rolled to windward and capsized. 
Since my return to sailing last August, I've capsized only two other times. In both cases I needed outside assistance to right and get back into the boat. So here I was, boat turtled at the Worlds. Eventually got the boat upright and yanked myself back aboard. It was exhausting and took forever. Went from 7th to 31st. F*CK!
Had a bad start in the second race of the day but picked my way through and ended up 10th. Got rolled again in the third start but plugged away for a 9th. I've dropped to 10th in the overall standings.
I'm really ticked off at this jury. The wind is strong and the waves are chaotic, making it very difficult to avoid the boat rolling downwind. It's ridiculous the calls they are making. 
If I am flagged again in future races, I'll be automatically disqualified from those races We've three more days of racing to complete. It's incredibly frustrating.
I can't hike hard enough to put the bow down and sail fast upwind. This makes it hard to get off the starting line well. Fortunately, I have a high mode that allows me to pinch people off once we get going. Planing reaching again requires flat-out hiking, which I can't do effectively. Ironically, when not being flagged by the jury I'm reasonably fast going dead downwind.
Tonight was the regatta dinner at a nearby restaurant. Tons of seafood (which I generally don't like and prefer to avoid during regattas). It'll be just my luck to get food poisoning...
Apologies for the whinging. Tomorrow's another day. Supposed to be very light wind and hot. Goody goody.
Signed, Pissed-Off Marc
28 July    One race sailed yesterday. Had a pretty nice start at the starboard end (pic shows me, sail 4466, owning the boat), but had to do a clearing tack that ended up lifting almost the whole way to the starboard layline. Rounded top mark in the top 10, Worked up to 6th, but lost two boats on the final run to end up 8th. At least the jury didn't flag me (again)!
Setting up a great start at the boat. Sail 4466.
Still in 10th Overall, but pulled a bit ahead of the chasing pack. More light-ish wind in the forecast for tomorrow.

29 July    Day 4. Took a long 7.5 hours on the water to complete two races. We started in a southerly that plummeted as the day went on. I had a decent race going around the top 10 and was terrified of being called yet again by the on-the-water jury. They literally followed me for several minutes upwind; I was still as a stone. Downwind the same. Had a good leeward mark rounding and was climbing to windward of the guy ahead when the whistles started. The jury asserted that I rocked the boat while rounding the leeward mark.
As this was my third "infraction" for the event, I was forced to retire from the race. To say I was pissed is an understatement. It was a long, very hot wait to see if the race could be completed within the one-hour time limit. When the breeze completely shut off, it was abandoned, but not before the jury meted out several more Rule 42 infractions to other competitors. 
The jury here is out of control. A Top 5 competitor who was behind me on the leeward leg and rounding sought me out after the race and volunteered he didn't see ANYTHING wrong with my sailing. The wind at the time of the supposed infraction was maybe 2 knots. It was uncomfortable, awkward conditions where it was easy to upset the balance of the boat. Ridiculous calls by the jury. ANYWAY...
There was a several-hour wait for sailable conditions. A southerly once again teased the race committee to attempt a start, but huge windshifts meant the course needed to be shifted, and by the time that happened the wind shut off again. Eventually, a northwesterly breeze filled-in, prompting the committee to move the racecourse several miles to the north and east.
Because the prior race attempt was abandoned, my disqualification was made moot. I now had to calm down and produce. The wind was a bit light for a NWer. In the first race I had an OK start but lost in little ways around the course and ended up 11th.
Had a great start in the second race, and pointing really high, held my lane to the left corner, to eventually tack, loosely lee-bowing regatta leader Rhett Gowans. Rhett did a great job living on my windward hip as I sailed as fast as possible back to the middle. I made good progress on boats to leeward while maintaining height, but a slight right shift in the final eighth of the beat allowed several boats from the right side to round ahead. Went right on the second beat and lost some, but gained ground on the first reach and a few places on the run to end up 9th.
In all, it was a "maintenance" day, just held ground. Actually dropped one place overall, to 11th, as a local who was behind me going into the day won both races to lead me by one point. 
30 July    Today was the finale. First start at 11:30, and the race committee was motivated to get 3 races completed in the forecasted building breeze out of the NW. I was up until nearly 1am arranging showings for clients back home (a Realtor is always on the job!). Woke up agitated at 5:45am and couldn't fall back to sleep. 
Now that the regatta is over, I can admit I was concerned I wouldn't be able to sail three races. Actually laid down for 15 minutes at the club and was moving very slowly rigging up, just exhausted. 
Fortunately the wind wasn't very strong early in the day, making my high mode upwind particularly effective off the line. I started reasonably well in all three races and had steady finishes of 9,9,12, while several others near me in the standings had more inconsistent days. 
In the end, wound up in 10th place, moving up one place overall from the prior day and only 2 points out of 9th. Was also the top old (over 55) guy. As I always said to my high school sailors: every point counts. Think back to prior regattas where final finishes were decided by just a few points. Heck, I blew 2 places on the final leg to the finish in the first race of the last day! 
It was lovely to see so many friends and make new ones as well. I feel so lucky to be able to still do what I love, even if it's at a diminished level. 
Congratulations to Rhett Gowans on another commanding performance. I'd be remiss to not also mention the incredibly mature regatta sailed by 16-year old Dieter Creitz in Second Overall. Watch out for that one in the coming years... 
Top Old Dudes: Kazuyoshi Nakao (2nd), Me, Roy Van Maanan (3rd)
Final Results, 2 points out of 9th


Saturday, January 4, 2020

2019 RS Aero Worlds - Day 3/Wrap-Up

The 2019 RS Aero World Championship ended yesterday, with no races sailed on the first and fifth days due to high winds. Nonetheless, we sailed 11 excellent races in 3 days, in winds ranging from 6-20+ knots.
In the 7 fleet, 23-year old Rhett Gowans was wicked fast and smart the whole regatta. He really hit his stride in the last days, getting increasingly fast upwind while retaining his downwind superiority. Rhett handily won the last 7(!) races of the event.

Nice lead on Gowans (3050) and the fleet on Day 3
I was fortunate to place second to Rhett. Was a touch faster upwind in strong breeze, generally competitive reaching (when not affected by nearby wakes), but couldn't keep up with Rhett's blistering pace on the runs, especially in stronger winds. The lack of downwind boatspeed (compared to Rhett--the two of us were a notch above the rest of the fleet), combined with poor first beats (after generally good starts) in the latter days, meant climbing back through the fleet was my mission, not challenging Rhett for the front.
Even with this lead, Gowans was able to catch up and
extend 6 boatlengths on the following run!
Gowans downwind. Very active in the boat!

Going upwind w/Peter Barton (3087) and Michael O'Brien (2500) in pursuit. I should have shoulders open and straighter legs (not fit enough).

Ballsy port-tack approach to second weather mark. Just made it ahead of the 2 closest boats!

C'mon Marc, HIKE! Boat heeling too much here.
 19-year old Noah Rees from GBR came in with Top 10 aspirations and ended up placing 3rd overall. Quite quick at times upwind and down, strong and fit, we expect several more podium finishes from the ever-improving Noah in future!
Winners of 2019 RS Aero Worlds awards in the 5, 7 and 9 fleets.
I placed 2nd Overall, 1st Master (55+) in the 7 fleet.
The youngest competitor (15 year-old Aussie Ollie Beretta) with one of the oldest.

Now it's time for rest. I'm in a dark room away from the sun, doing laundry on a rare rainy day and enjoying a bit of solitude and relaxation.

HUGE thanks to SailStar ( and Tomas Sandström (corporate sponsor of this effort), and all those who contributed to my gofundme campaign. Additional thanks to Andrew Giles and his lovely partner Elaine for allowing me to stay with them during the event and being such pleasant companions this past week.

Sailing photos by Christopher Visick

Thursday, January 2, 2020

2019 RS Aero Worlds - Day 2

Jan 2, 2020
Black Rock, Victoria AUS

So, first day of racing in the new year! Got to the club early to effect repairs suffered the previous day of racing (many thanks to Sammy Issacs-Johnson for splicing the lines!). Three races sailed today.

Race 5
Light-ish wind for the start of this one. Had a great start at the boat, but missed a few shifts and rounded in 5th behind Noah Rees (GBR), Andy Mack (USA), Michael O'Brien (AUS) and Rhett Gowans (AUS). Rhett got around Michael on the first reach but I stupidly tried to go low and got caught behind Michael, who wasn't going terribly well. Rhett sped off and caught Noah on the run to pull out to a big lead. I gained a ton on the first run to round third, then climbed to second by the second weather mark and held to the finish.
Gaining, but not enough. Chasing Gowans AUS 3050,
leading Rees (GBR 3070) at leeward gate on smokey Day 2.


Race 6
The breeze built a bit for this one. Had a ripping start at the pin end of the line and leapt two boatlengths ahead of the fleet within 30 seconds. Easily crossed the fleet and led at the top and reach marks, but Rhett once again turned on the afterburners and was leading by the leeward gate. I gained upwind and by the middle of the leg was overlapped with Rhett, but he played the shifts a bit better on the upper half and had a 3 length lead by the second weather mark, from which he extended on the run to easily take the race.

Race 7
Had a good start at the starboard end but couldn't get the boat to settle down; it just felt cranky and slow. Rhett led at the top mark and extended for another decisive win. I ground down people on the runs and beats to score another 2nd place finish, but frankly didn't have much gas in the tank for this one.

Obviously, Rhett's flying downwind, steering big angles to catch waves. I'm doing the same, but not as loosely and confidently, and it shows. Also, I didn't get a good night's rest before, so didn't have the energy needed for three big races. Totally my fault.

Gotta stay high on reaches and away from others' wakes. There's no way to pass if stuck on another boat's quarter-wake.

Tomorrow we're scheduled to do 4 races, so it's early to bed for this guy. Let's see what the day brings!

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019 RS Aero Worlds - Day 1

December 31, 2019
Black Rock (Melbourne) AUS

Yesterday was supposed to be the first day of racing, but 110 degree, 25-40+ knot Northerly winds put the kibosh on racing. Today we partially made up for the lost day by sailing 4 races in a glorious 12-20+ knot Southerly.

Did my usual pre-race current check, which gave me the confidence to get a great start at the boat end of the line. Led at the first and second marks, extending well away from everyone. Then, while pulling on the outhaul before rounding the outside gate, the small dyneema whipping twine holding the ends of the outhaul together snapped! I had to luff up (stopping the boat), grab the line before it completely pulled out of the blocks, tie a quick knot, then round the mark! This allowed Aussie Rhett Gowans to close within three lengths at the gate!

Sailing upwind I was quick, but half-way up the leg there was a loud BANG; my upper downhaul block had exploded! It was incredibly difficult sailing the boat upwind with no downhaul and Rhett got even closer. Despite being hobbled I played a few shifts well and extended on him before the run, where he is wicked fast. Managed to hold him off down the run, but he was close on my tail. The next leg was a flat-out hiking reach with the boat planing fast. Could've used some downhaul on that (and the final short upwind to the finish), but managed to hold off Rhett for a bullet.

We were well ahead of the rest of the fleet, giving me just enough time to jury rig the downhaul and outhaul, get a quick drink, and set-up for the next race.

Another great tussle with Rhett. I got 360 degree video of the whole race, posting to my YouTube channel now (

Had another solid start at the boat (after doing a quick step-up 20 seconds before to gain some clean air), then tacked on a header shortly thereafter. That shift took me and a few others waaay right, over 4 minutes on port! It was nerve-wracking to be heading so far right (in the Southern Hemisphere, winds generally shift LEFT) but I saw good wind pressure ahead. Dug into that pressure, the compass dropped, I tacked on layline, then was looking down on the entire fleet well behind to the left. Rhett had started further left but tacked to cover me, which allowed him to get a bit of the right shift also, and he rounded 2nd.

Held him off on the reach and most of the run, but that wiley Aussie snuck by on a few waves near the leeward gate. I noted he was sailing quite high and slow after rounding, so footed off with speed and quickly blew through his wind shadow. A little lefty, tacked and he tacked to leeward and ahead. With good pace I moved forward on him, then tacked on a few shifts and was in the lead!

On the final port tack to the 2nd weather mark I sailed into a header and accidentally dropped the mainsheet. Spectators said the mast was almost horizontal as my body completely dumped into the water, the boat nearly capsizing on top of me! I quickly reached up, grabbed several handfuls of mainsheet and was JUST able to get the boat back upright! A bit of drama, a few boatlengths lost, lots of energy expended, but the lead was intact.

Once again Rhett gained significantly on the run, but I had a better leeward mark rounding and blasted off on the final reach. His boom hit the water and he sailed a bit high, allowing me to pull out to a 5-boatlength lead that held to the finish.

All 80 boats sailed back to the club for lunch (which felt quite civilized to this hard-core racer), then went back out for 2pm start of the next two races.

Race 3
The battle with Rhett resumed, culminating in an exciting final leg. Near the finish he crossed me on port, then tacked over. I was *just* able to lay the finish line without tacking, pipping him by maybe 2 feet after 40 minutes of racing. Exhilarating stuff!

Race 4
The breeze built to a solid 16-20+ for this one. I got too tricky, tacking too often on the first beat. Peter Barton (GBR) was launched, zooming to the front on leg one and extending from there. Noah Rees (GBR) did quite well to round 2nd, I was 3rd with Rhett breathing down my neck in 4th. Another firehose reach and positions didn't change, then I caught Noah on the run.

Sailing close to shore in the Southerly, there is an area where the wind drops right off. I sailed into this area while Rhett and Noah stayed high and in the breeze. By the time I woke up they had worked ahead, then I tacked too frequently in the latter half of the leg, trying to take advantage of shifts to catch up and moved back instead.

Rhett was dealing with his own problem: the boom vang fitting had pulled out of his mast! It was tolerable upwind, but on the run it looked all sorts of ugly. He did a masterful job hanging onto second. I got a bit closer to Noah by the leeward mark, then he rounded up accidentally, allowing me to squeak into third. Eyes set on Rhett now, with a short reach and beat to the finish. I got within a boatlength at the finish--Rhett really earned that 2nd place!

So, 4 races done. 1,1,1,3 puts me in front, Rhett has 2,2,2,2 and Noah 3,4,3,4. A nice start, but there are three more days of racing to come!

Sunday, December 29, 2019

2019 RS Aero Worlds - T-Minus 1 Day

Black Rock Yacht Club, Melbourne AUS

Practice race today before the World Championship starts tomorrow. I was the first to leave the dock about an hour before racing was to start, along with Aussie Michael O'Brien. We sailed upwind for awhile in lumpy hiking conditions then turned back to the committee boat; my speed was fine both ways. Then did the same with American Andy Mack as the breeze started to die. By the time we got back to the committee boat the breeze had almost completely shut off, making it difficult for those who left later to even get to the race course. The committee postponed racing about 40 minutes until the breeze started to fill back in from the same southerly direction.

While waiting for the wind I did some current readings and, contradictory to what locals swore, found there was quite a bit of current running. Tucked that bit of info into my head for planning the start.

The 9 fleet got off first, evenly spread along the start line. It looked like boats that were to the left crossed ahead of boats that started further right, so I decided to favor left.

It took two tries for the 7s to get going. On the first attempt Andy Mack won the pin (left) end of the line and I was the next boat up. Boats just to windward of us looked very solid, but were probably part of the large portion of the fleet over early, inspiring the race committee to bring everyone back for a second attempt.

This time it was Michael O'Brien who won the pin, with me just to windward and Aussie Rhett Gowans to windward of me. The breeze was still a bit light and the water very lumpy/choppy, placing a premium on keeping the boat moving by not slamming into the waves. There was JUST enough breeze for me to keep the boat going, and as Rhett (who is about 15 lbs lighter) started to move forward on me, I was tempted to tack away.

A younger me might have done it out of panic/frustration, but current me looked at the compass, noted we were still a bit lifted on starboard, and resisted the urge. Yes, Rhett was gaining a little, but tacking onto a header would have cost more than just surviving where I was.

As we neared port tack layline, the compass showed a smidge of left starting to creep in. I tacked quickly and took Rhett's stern by about a boatlength. He tacked a bit ahead and to windward, and bore WAY off to try to blow over the top of me--the game was ON! Again experience helped: instead of looking to see where Rhett was, I concentrated on getting the boat through the bumps by watching the water ahead (the noise of Rhett's boat going through the water told me where he was anyway). It was nip-and-tuck for a few long minutes, but I gradually pulled ahead, rounding the top mark first by a few boatlengths, with Michael close astern of Rhett.

The first reach was solidly on the beam, and I blasted away from the top mark hiking hard on a plane. I sailed a little bit low initially in a good puff, thinking I would use the ups to maintain speed in lulls. That worked well and I extended slightly by the wing mark, but spent too much time/effort trying to catch a wave after rounding and slowed way down, allowing Rhett to come roaring up from behind and pass.

Rhett and I had a good battle down the run, but he extended by a few lengths to lead at the leeward mark. We both rounded, then decided to withdraw from the race and sail in--no sense using up our energy on a race that didn't count. We had pulled ahead to a solid 10 length lead over the next few boats, with the rest of the fleet quite a ways behind.

Rhett is relentless, strong and knows his home waters well. It looks like the racing will be quite tight for the actual event!

Tomorrow the temperature is supposed to hit 109 degrees(!!), with a strong gusty northerly wind blowing down from the country's barren interior. Quite different conditions from today's southerly seabreeze--we'll see how things go!

Saturday, December 28, 2019

2019 RS Aero Worlds - T-Minus 2 Days

Didn't sail today, but did get in some boat work and socializing.

There are people from all over the World of course, with new sailors from several new countries, like Japan. It was nice catching up with the small but potent US contingent: Derek Bottles from Seattle and Andy Mack from Salmon Falls, OR (the Gorge). Had several people ask various questions, and worked with a rigging specialist from the UK on a secret project that actually ended up no panning out. Oh well...

Tomorrow is the practice race. My goals: get proper tide and wind readings early, formulate a game plan, then execute. Simple stuff, but I've been a bit lax lately about that kind of stuff, and with the TIGHT competition expected, solid regatta prep will be useful.

Sorry for no pics, will try to get some tomorrow.

Friday, December 27, 2019

2019 RS Aero Worlds - T-Minus 3 Days

27 Dec 2019, Black Rock (Melbourne), AUS
Today we were assigned charter boats by the efficient Liam Willis of RS. I jiggered with a few things to make them to my liking, then went out for a quick sail with Brit Noah Rees, Australian National Champ Rhett Gowans, and Jens Roehrssen from Germany. It wasn't as windy as we've seen over the last few days: still hiking breeze, but not enough (for me at least) to start depowering with vang. This is a tough condition to sail in because the boat is fully powered up, making steering around choppy waves very physical, especially when bearing off a bit.

We did a few rabbit starts upwind, then did a couple of long runs back to the harbour. The wind was quite streaky, where a boat just a boatlength or two to windward could be in different wind than you, so outright speed comparisons were difficult to make. I felt generally good with my height, speed was OK, but at times Gowans put the bow down and was quite quick. On the last beat my downhaul strop broke with a loud BANG that the others heard several boatlengths away! A few minutes doing up a jury rig and I was ready to go again, but we were quite far away from the club so decided to sail back.

On the run to the club, Gowans was again fast on his home waters, playing the choppy waves well. Rees seemed to be going well, ever so slightly slower but he wasn't pleased. I found it absolutely vital to catch the few big wave sets that came through, otherwise one was boatlengths behind. Additionally, it was important to stay well clear of slower boats' wakes downwind (standard stuff, but never hurts to re-visit). A little disconcerting was pace toward the end of the day, when the breeze lightened and it was harder to keep up. Being 15-20 lbs heavier than others kinda does that, so here's hoping for a windy regatta!

It was only about an hour's sail for me, a quick check-out of the boat and some of the faster competition. This will be my first international event in a 7 (mid-size) rig, so it will be interesting to see how it goes. Tomorrow will get the boat measured/inspected, then MAYBE another quick sail. The next day will be a practice race at 2pm, then actual racing starts at 1pm. Excitement is building, as people are starting to trickle in from around the world. It has been nice to see old friends and make new ones.Can't wait to start racing!