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: (scroll down to "Standard Masters Fleet")

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