Saturday, September 5, 2009

Last Day

Light winds caused an anticlimatic end to an exciting regatta on St. Margaret's Bay. The race committee attempted to get races off but abandoned two attempts after big oscillating windshifts caused one side of the course or another to be favored.

Scott Ferguson from Rhode Island was first, Arnoud Hummel from The Netherlands was second, with Andy Pimental and Mark Bear (both from Rhode Island) tied for third, Pimental winning the tiebreaker because of his two 1st place finishes to Bear's best finish of a 2nd. I ended up 11th overall. If I hadn't missed the hiking strap yesterday and held my 4th place in that race, would have been 9th. Woulda, coulda, shoulda... :)

Will write more later. Have to load up the boat then drive into Halifax (about 20 miles away) for the closing dinner.

I want to thank all of you who emailed or commented on this blog during the event. Hope all found it at least a little entertaining!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Day 5 - 2nd day of Gold Fleet racing

Last night I was thrilled to be a last-minute invitee for lobster dinner put on by LauraLee and Bill Symes and their housemates, cooked to perfection by Chef and Grand Master sailor Alain Vincey from France. Today the Symeses celebrate their 10th anniversary. From what I can see, they'll be together for at least another 10 years--congrats you two!

Today was another gorgeous one on St. Margaret's Bay. About the same wind strength as yesterday.

Determined to have a more successful day, I got out earlier and did two 4-minute splits with Aussie sailor Stewart Casey. Both times, the left side paid off handsomely. The current was running with the wind. I was also flying downwind on the sails back to the start line.

Unlike yesterday I formulated a firm plan for the upwind legs, and fortunately it wasn't very difficult in light of the research: go left. Hard.

The first attempt at a start was a general recall, nice for me as I had a terrible start near the right side of the line. On the second go-around I started about 1/4 up from the left end of the line. Because of the current pushing us back there was a big sag in the line of boats--taking advantage of that, I got off clean and fast and motored out to the left. A few boats crossed me well up the leg but I kept going left and rounded the top mark in 4th. Gained a ton on the downwind leg and rounded right behind the two boats ahead. Regatta leader Scott Ferguson in 2nd and I went left, a fast Dutch guy in 1st to the right. For awhile the Dutch dude looked good out right, but then the right collapsed and Scott and I were launched (way out in front).

Scott had me by a pretty big margin at the top mark and blasted off on the reach. We stayed about the same distance apart on that leg, with him about 20 lengths ahead. By the next mark that had been reduced by half, and on the next reach I surfed right up to his butt. We had a little chat and took a moment to steal a quick look back at the fleet well behind before getting back to racing each other. He had a slightly wide rounding and I squeaked inside him with speed and immediately tacked to split with him. We had a little tacking duel and he pipped me at the line by maybe 3 seconds after over an hour of racing. After finishing Scott jokingly asked why I made him work so hard for the win instead of just taking it easy. :)

By now most sailors knew how favored the left was, so that end of the start line was more hotly contested. Nevertheless, I got another great start and only made two tacks the whole first leg to round in the top group. Another successful run and I was fourth. My upwind speed wasn't super, but I knew as long as I could hold my own upwind I could turn on the afterburners downwind. I held onto 4th all the way before disaster struck: on the final tack to the mark I missed the hiking strap and flew ass-over-teakettle off the boat, which then tacked over and flipped onto me! By the time I got the boat back up and around the mark I'd lost tons of distance and boats, but managed to reel in a few to finish 13th.

So, today was a tale of what might have been. I made some progress on boats ahead in overall standing, and moved from 15th to 11th out of 83. Tomorrow we will likely have two more races, and if I sail like I did today (sans capsize), I have a good chance at squeaking into the Top 10. Fingers crossed!

Regatta leader Scott Ferguson's secret weapon: Rascal Ferguson, who, it is said, feeds him vital strategic and meteorological information before Scott leaves the shoreline. As can plainly be seen here, Rascal is in full command...

Laser as lounge chair:

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Day 4 - 1st Races in Gold Fleet

It was a day of champagne sailing on St. Margaret's Bay. A nice 8-12 knot breeze and chop on top of larger rollers greeted us after another long sail out to the racecourse.

I was a little scattered again this morning, not reading the weather forecast, thinking I'd forgotten a few things when they were actually with me, etc... Got to the course a smidge late, but early enough to do one split with regatta leader Scott Ferguson and Mark Bear, both from Rhode Island. After 4 minutes of sailing right, Mark and I came out ahead of Scott by about 5 boatlengths. Then we sailed downwind, and I dialed into the waves nicely to lead back to the starting line.

So I had meaty information to work with. Right was fast upwind. It would have been wise to protect that side. But instead of coming up with a game plan for the race based on that info, I just kinda milled around before the start. I ended up starting at the very LEFT end of the line (it was favored by a handsome 10 degrees). My centerboard and rudder both hit the committee boat's anchor line, but I managed to clear without touching the boat and booked off to the left side with a fast Aussie just upwind of me. The wind stayed and stayed at the same heading, not justifying a tack. Unfortunately, the boats to our right were sailing closer to the mark and moving ahead--obviously, they were in more breeze.

I just couldn't bring myself to bite the bullet and get over there, and got ping-ponged coming out of the left side, doing about 8 too many tacks before Class President, 200 lb Tracy "Reach-around-the-Course" Usher motored over the top of me on a crucial port tack shift, causing me to tack away and get out of phase. It was UGGGLY at the first mark, with maybe 10 boats behind.

Must say: I sailed a brilliant run, gaining about 30 boatlengths on the next leg and surfing within striking distance of a big clump of boats. But I was so amped up working the boat off the wind that I didn't process the lesson learned from the prior upwind leg and again went LEFT! Again it sucked and I lost a ton of boats and boatlengths. Gained some on the first reach, again had superb speed on the run but CAPSIZED, then had a really fast last reach that netted about 5 boats before the final upwind leg to the finish.

This time I stayed to the right, not so much because I had learned anything from the race but because there were good waves to work over there and I was really concerned about minimizing tacks in the lumpy conditions. Managed to catch a boat or two right at the finish but was still only 22nd.

Now, the second race. This time the line was a bit right favored, and I had a SUPERB start right at the boat and motored out at the head of the fleet. A number of boats tacked and crossed behind, but I stubbornly hung on, thinking I was doing great on the boats to the left of me and not seeing any huge shift to tack in.

So, ended up out left AGAIN, lost a number of boats and got ping-ponged AGAIN, then, on another critical port tack had Mr. "Reach-Around-The-Course" force me back left AGAIN and lost oodles. Was fast again on the run, went left yet AGAIN after seeing local hotshot Andy Roy going that way, and figuring it HAD to work this time but not having any real justification for that hope. Of course it stank, I lost tons and rounded deep at the second top mark.

Had a fair reach, another fast run (pulled out nearly 20 lengths on a guy I rounded right with!), held my own on the reach, then had a terrific rounding and caught a guy before tacking a smidge too soon but still catching a few boats at the finish. Another 22nd.

I can't really complain; all the bad "luck" that befell me was my own doing. I failed to recognize that conditions were different from other days. I failed to take the information I had before the start and formulate a game plan. And I got myself into similar situations with the same boats and reaped the same results.

They say the definition of "insanity" is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Today I was insane. lol

So, I totally know what I did wrong. I also know I have my downwind mojo back in a BIG way, and that I can start and sail fast at the very front of the fleet. Now it's time to just get the boat pointing in the right direction and letting things happen!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Rest day - Misc thoughts

It was a beautiful, warm, cloudless day, with probably the best sailing conditions I've witnessed in over two weeks here. Naturally, this was the lay day.

Went for lunch with Aussie siblings Alison & Stuart Casey, as well as top Canadian sailor David Wright, to a nearby lobster shack right at the bay's edge. The husband-wife owners were just delightful, very enthusiastic about their work and eager to share information. They showed us all different sizes of live lobsters in their tanks (including a huge 12+ pounder that was just for show) before boiling up some beauties for us to eat in the afternoon sun. The crustaceans were delicious, the company convivial, and the setting rustic but fitting--I even got a kiss from the proprietress when leaving! (pics to follow if I can get them from Alison)

After lunch Alison & Stu went for massages, so Dave went his way and I did some work stuff and talked with North American Laser Class President Tracy Usher about the state of the class and future plans, including a really nice looking radial sail for the full rig! Also had a great talk about sailing and life with Grand Master sailor Rob Cosi, who's built like no-one's business and currently has 3 bullets (first place finishes) in his class.

In the early evening the club had a little mussel bake for competitors which was poorly attended, meaning more mussels for those who came! Later, a jazz duo performed, followed by a band of middle-aged guys who rocked the place for over 4 hours while sailors and locals talked, drank and had fun. American sailor Michelle Davis and I loosened up the crowd by bumping and grinding to "Disco Inferno," and soon more and more couples hit the dance floor, carrying the dancing torch til the end of the evening.

People here seem very...content. They love it here. It shows in their attitudes toward others, their enthusiasm for the area's history, beauty & concern for its continued care. People toot horns and wave to each other when driving by. I grew up out west, so have some idea about friendly locals, but this is a whole other level. It's refreshing, and I kept thinking to myself "this would be a nice place for a family to vacation." Not whiz-bang exciting, just beautiful, peaceful and relaxing.

Sending a bit of Nova Scotia good cheer your way! Marc

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

3rd Day - final day of qualifying

Hello from Halifax (Glen Haven, actually).

Oh boy, what a day! With the wind coming from the North (off the land) it was SHIFTY and PUFFY out there, the kind of day where one could go from hero to zero and back in a matter of moments!

Before the start I tuned a bit with Apprentice (35-44 yr age group) sailor Peter Hurley from New York. We split tacks, he going left and me right, and after 4 minutes of sailing to our respective sides we tacked back to the middle of the course to see who would come out ahead (sailors typically do this to see if there are any big geographic elements, like tide or land influence on the wind, on either side of the course). I led him by nearly 30 lengths--a huge amount. Later I watched two other fine sailors do the same thing--that time the left paid huge. Obviously, there wasn't some big geographic favor to one side or the other, just darn shifty winds!

The first race I got away fairly clean from the right side of the start line but felt compelled to immediately tack to the right. Then I waited. And waited. And waited for a shift to come back on, all the while the boats to my left (which had tacked over like me, only a bit later) were in stronger breeze and pulling away. ZERO! Eventually I got a little hint of a right shift and came back to the middle. It wasn't as horrible as it could have been, and I worked a number of small shifts, thinking I did ok (HERO?) until I saw a guy who was behind me at the start come barreling in from the RIGHT (apparently, HE found something good to come back on). I rounded the top mark in the high teens. ZERO

The next leg was a very light air reach, scary to be sailing in traffic. The boats ahead ran into less wind and the fleet tightened up considerably by the time we got to the gybe mark. The run was fairly uneventful, and the next upwind leg was full of wind holes and huge shifts. With the wind tumbling down off the land, it would hit the water and fan out. When you got a shift you had to immediately tack over to be on the outside edge of the shift, which would then lift you up and up compared to those who dug deeper into the new breeze before tacking--it was classic, off-the-shore sailing. I rounded the top mark in about the same position I'd rounded the prior, but was closer to the boats ahead.

The next run was interesting. Most of the boats ahead sailed hard left looking downwind, way off the direct route (rhumb line) to the next mark. I didn't see them having enough of a speed difference to justify sailing so far off the rhumb line, so instead sailed a more direct course to the mark with decent speed. It was the right move: I had more breeze and a better angle to the next mark! The breeze built and I started surfing, while the boats to the left were busy playing with each other, slowing each other down. I wanted to work left to get inside for the next mark, but had to choose the right time, catching a nice wave in pressure to pull ahead of American Mark Bear just before the mark, rounding in the top 8 or so (HERO!). Held onto that for the reach, then caught a few more boats on the short beat to the finish to end up 5th--it was an exhilaring end to a gut-wrenching, terrifying race!

Had a nice start in the second race but the guy just below me got a smidge more breeze and pulled ahead, messing with my wind. Instead of being patient and waiting for the fleet to clear out a bit, I tacked away early. It was unfortunate, as there were a lot of boats and disturbed water I sailed into. After a few more clearing tacks I was well back in the fleet (ZERO)--time to get to work! Concentrating on keeping speed up and the boat pointing toward the mark, I worked a number of seemingly erratic shifts and rounded again in the high teens--quite the comeback. By the end of the next two legs I'd pulled all the way up to round just behind the top 5 or so at the leeward mark. HERO!

For the first half of the upwind leg I stayed on message, working the shifts as they came. It was so erratic out there--one could either be in 5th or 15th at any given time. The last half of the leg we had to contend with another fleet sailing downwind from the mark we were aiming for. Sailing through them wasn't a good idea, as they would take one's wind, so it was decision time: stay left like the majority of the leaders, or...?

I decided to go to the right of the pack coming downwind. I didn't really have a reason, just that I thought splitting with the leaders might give me a better chance to pass. I didn't see any better wind on the right. I had to sail in light winds to get over there. The wind angle wasn't particularly good either. In other words: the decision had no basis in sound reasoning and I paid the price, falling WAAAY back and losing a solid 10+ boats. ZERO! The fleet had figured out how to sail downwind so I couldn't split with them on that leg, and the reach was a follow-the-leader affair. I did manage to catch about 3 boats on the short final leg to finish 17th, my worst result so far in the event. Lesson re-learned: 1) do the percentage moves; 2) only make decisions based on EVIDENCE; and 3) be the Terminator (never give up)!

We're now halfway through the event, and qualifying is over. I have easily made it into the Gold Fleet: my finishes having me in a tie for 6th overall (6 points out of 2nd), and 6 more boats (including two former world champions) breathing down my neck within 6 points behind--it's close out there!

Tonight the club hosted a nice party and dinner. The sailors are a great group of people from around the world, and it's so nice seeing everyone chatting and making new friends.
Tomorrow is a lay (rest) day--I'll thoroughly check over the boat and all its fittings for any damage, then maybe do some laundry or sightseeing, then get in a hot soak or sauna somewhere before a nice meal and early night in bed.