Tuesday, September 20, 2016

2016 Houston Open One-Design Regatta (HOOD) - RS Aero

Houston Yacht Club was the gracious host of the 2016 HOOD (Houston Open One-Design) Regatta, September 17-18 in Shoreacres, TX. 10 Aeros entered to contest 6 races in light, variable and extremely hot (90+ degree!) conditions. RS delivered the demo trailer from New England for this, the first of three Texas events on the 2016 North American Aero Tour. A number of people came over to talk about the boats and possible fleets in Corpus Christi, Austin and elsewhere--the curiosity and positive energy were great to see! We also had a few people try the boat out and come back grinning.

Mark McNamara and Rod Favela were busy selling boats and fulfilling family obligations so couldn't sail the weekend. Mark did get down to the club Sunday to watch races on his RIB, field sale inquiries and help load up the trailer.

Mike Lindstrom sailed his brand new boat in its first regatta. While still getting acquainted with his new steed, Mike already knew it was more fun to sail than a certain other boat he'd sailed for the prior 4 years. Had some good conversations with Mike, look forward to seeing him at more regattas!
Local sailor Ash Beatty missed a few races on Saturday, but schooled us all in the last race with a runaway win. An acorn who didn't fall far from the tree, his 50+ years of local restaurant knowledge led me to enjoy a delicious dinner of shrimp and grits--definitely something one doesn't see on the menu in New England!

Ryan Murphy is a recent graduate who is determined to not be one of those millennials who stops sailing after college. Sailing a 7 rig on one of the charter boats, she handled the boat like a champ, and at the trophy presentation told me she couldn't wait to turn her sailing friends onto the boat.

A hugely pleasant surprise was the appearance of the Keeldude himself, Fred Schroth. A Thursday chat on Facebook inspired Fred to drop everything and make the four hour drive from Austin to Galveston Bay to try the Aero. Conditions weren't the most conducive to enjoyment for a fellow on the other side of 200 lbs, but Fred was his usual, ebullient self, regaling us with tales of derring-do acquired over decades of sailing.

Jon Larson is a fit lad who works for KO Sailing. He quickly found pace and was duking it out for top positions in Sunday's races, only to be let down by dying breeze downwind that let others sneak ahead. In more steady, moderate conditions, this guy's a threat. A focused, no-nonsense guy who did yeoman's work loading the trailer up in 95 degree heat--thanks Jon.

Someone forgot to tell Jamie Gilman that 7 rigs are supposed to be slower than 9s. Without that knowledge, he proceeded to battle for the lead in a number of races on-the-water, winning one on handicap on his way to Third Overall. Another knowledgeable KO Sailing employee who also helped with the trailer and fielded a number of inquiries throughout the weekend.

Clearly, Hank Saurage is a fine sailor who is used to sailing in light, variable conditions. In Race 1 he snaked ahead of me upwind on a left shift and walked away to a 2+ minute margin of victory. In Race 2 I covered him the entire race before breaking off toward the finish line about a quarter of the leg from the finish. Hank worked up a bit to windward and rode a building breeze over the top for another win. I was quietly cussing a blue streak, but had to admit the guy outsailed me.

The shift Hank played marked the arrival of a more typical, Southerly breeze that built to about 7 knots. This wind was less patchy, allowing the committee to set two more races which I was fortunate to win. After such a long day, Aero sailors were happy to retreat to Houston Yacht Club's air conditioned bar for some much needed refreshment before a yummy chicken dinner!

Going into Sunday's first race Hank and I were tied on points with 2 firsts and 2 seconds. Race 5 started in a 5 knot Northerly, in which I managed to get a good start and pinch off Hank to lead at the top mark and first gate. Having learned my lesson about giving Hank *any* leverage, I stuck to him like glue, and STILL he snuck ahead on the second beat. Lucky for me, a bigger boat got between us near the top mark, allowing me to stay ahead. While Hank and I were duking it out off to the right, Jamie Gilman tacked onto starboard after the leeward mark and sailed well left before hooking into a shift that brought him right up to Hank and me by the top mark, a 20+ boatlength gain on the one leg! I managed to leg out a bit on the final run but it wasn't enough to save time on Jamie, with Hank coming in third.

As cloud cover built up over the racecourse the wind began its retreat--if the committee was to get another race off, it would be the last of the day. With no throwouts, it seemed that between Hank and me, whoever came out ahead in Race 6 would win the regatta. Game on!

Hank started a bit to windward of me at the boat and tacked off right away. I tacked a little later, then tacked too soon for the new right shift and stopped dead. Realizing the error I tried to tack again and got caught in irons, and while trying to get out of *that* my tiller extension came off. All this while Hank merrily sailed away, with Jon, Jamie and the rest in hot pursuit.

I managed to chip away and gain a bit upwind, and think Hank and Jon had to make two tacks right at the windward mark which helped. I was really focused on trying to catch Jon and Hank, who were sailing on starboard downwind, closely overlapped. As I gained they both said I was being too aggressive with my body movements--they didn't protest, but let me know their displeasure. Annoyed but acknowledging the situation, I overtrimmed my main until I was astern of them then resumed racing. Concentrating very hard (to now stay still as much as on where the wind was) I managed to pull out a bit of a lead on these two, and thinking my overtrimming earlier might not have been enough, I also did a 720 before rounding. To our far right, wiley local Ash Beatty let us contend with each other while he caught some pressure that pulled him waaaay out front!

Following Ash, I headed up around the favored left gate and headed left. Soon after rounding Jon split right as did Hank, and Ash and I tacked to cover. Jon went well right and got a big shift, Hank got into it too and took off. Ash had enough of a lead that he easily had those two, but I lost them. Then I hit the weather mark while trying to get around before a J70 and had to do a spin!

Jon and Hank were once again right next to each other on the run, this time with a J24 to leeward. I rounded the final, offset mark 10-12 boatlengths astern of them, but with a clear lane was able to sail by-the-lee directly after rounding. From there I played every little puff and shift, reaching up when possible to get closer to Hank and Jon, going by-the-lee in the really light stuff to maintain pace, and sticking the boat dead down in minute puffs. Because of the J24 to leeward, Hank and Jon didn't have those options and were stuck sailing a slow angle, allowing me to eventually pull ahead on this long run to the finish, with Ash still way out in front. Exciting stuff!

PosSail NoRigRatingHelmClubR1R2R3R4R5R6Pts
145RS Aero 987.3Marc JacobiCedar Point YC CT22112210
278RS Aero 987.3Hank SauragePelican YC Louisiana11223312
31RS Aero 789.5Jamie GilmanLYC43431520
46RS Aero 987.3Jon LarsonHouston YC35345424
51111RS Aero 987.3Fred SchrothAustin YC64557734
65RS Aero 789.5Ryan MurphyTexas77664636
71625RS Aero 987.3Ash BeattyMISA56DNFDNS6140
81766RS Aero 987.3Mike LindstromConroe YC88778DNF49
91621RS Aero 987.3Mark McNamaraSeabrook YCDNCDNCDNCDNCDNCDNC66
109RS Aero 987.3Rod FavelaRush Creek YCDNCDNCDNCDNCDNCDNC66

Saturday, August 13, 2016

2016 RS Aero US National Championship - Day 1

Champagne sailing for the first day of the RS Aero US National Championship at Cascade Locks, OR. Wind started out at a moderate 10 knots and ultimately built to about 22 in the puffs, with very hot temps (high-80s/low-90s) warm, fresh water to sail in and beautiful sunsets--paradise!

4 races were sailed today, with all three rig sizes (9, 7 and 5) starting together but scored separately. Sailing a 9, I won Race 1 handily, and while not leading at every mark, did have very good running and (especially) reaching speed, which allowed me to pull ahead of Dan Falk from Seattle, WA and the rest of the fleet. Unfortunately, I'd been over early at the start, which nullified my result. Not a great way to begin a regatta!

In Race 2 I again rounded the first mark in the top 4 or so and ground my way to the top. The breeze was increasing, and the 7 (mid-size) rig sailors were coming into their own upwind, especially International Class Manager Peter Barton from the UK. It seems the 7, which has a much more flexible rig than the 9, can't point as high but sails faster forward upwind. Makes for interesting tactics, especially for 7s that are to windward of 9s off the start line and trying to hold their lanes...

By Race 3 the wind really starting to pump up. I was having a good race, planing by-the-lee into 2nd behind Dan Falk on the first run and gaining rapidly when a big gust came through. My bow dug into Dan's wake and went down down DOWN, with water almost to the daggerboard trunk before the transom flew up into the air, rudder completely out of the water and throwing me off the boat! It took a while to get the boat back upright and moving again, but after a solid upwind leg I turned on the jets downwind and zoomed up into 4th overall and second 9 rig. Dan Falk sailed fast and steady for second overall (to Barton) and the 9-rig win.

Race 4. Ah, Race 4... Decent breeze again, with Falk and Barton getting off the line well and ahead of me at the top mark. Again I was fast downwind, passing Barton and pulling within a boatlength of Falk by the leeward gate. Falk headed up around the unfavored starboard gate mark on port tack and I gybed around the port mark. My adrenaline was really pumping and I rolled the boat too hard, which caused the boat to flip over! With the current going upwind, it was a major scramble to get the boat upright and borne off before hitting the mark, but I was *just* able to do it. Of course, two or three boats managed to pass while I righted the ship, so David Brink and another boat were ahead on the long starboard tack to the Oregon shore. Managed to squeeze off Brink and pull a little bow-forward of the other boat, then we tacked over onto port at or very-near the layline. I managed to pull ahead of the other boat by the weather mark, with Falk, Jay Renahan and Barton 1-2-3 well ahead.

Falk had another super run and pulled out to a huge lead, with Renahan 2nd. Carlos Abisambra from Seattle and I managed to leap ahead of Barton by the bottom of the run, but once again I wiped out at the leeward gate! Carlos capsized trying to avoid me, allowing Barton to snake past us both. Carlos and I got our boats up quickly, but in the breezy conditions Barton and Renahan had sped off. I managed to round the final leeward mark within a boatlength of Barton and 7 lengths of Renahan after the two reaching legs, but Barton took a short hitch onto starboard soon after rounding the leeward mark, allowing him to get a bit of the left shift off the shore and an almost direct line to the favored committee boat side of the finish line on port to hold me off and close within a boatlength of Renahan.

So. 4 races done, 4 more schedule for tomorrow. With the throwout that will come after Race 5, I am one point behind Falk in the 9 class--certainly within striking distance. Need to sail a bit more conservatively, avoid the big mistakes and let my reaching speed do the talking. Let's see how prophetic that last sentence is tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

2016 RS Aero Atlantic Coast Championship

The inaugural RS Aero Atlantic Coast Championship (held in conjunction with the Newport Regatta, Newport RI) was a tremendously successful 3-day event, with 17 boats representing 7 states!

A clinic on Friday gave attendees a chance to get to know each other, share rigging/sailing tips, and dust off the cobwebs with practice starts and even a few practice races. This was followed by lunch (generously provided by RS Sailing's Todd Riccardi) then the Speed Run, for which we had a nice (if not record-enabling) 12-18 knots of wind. Max 10-second average was recorded by me in a 7 rig (13.5 knots, 14.2 peak), nearly 1/2 knot faster than my earlier run in the bigger 9 rig. Video of Judith Krimski & me: https://www.facebook.com/judith.krimski/videos/10209718704384017/
Sailing World Editor Dave Reed tearing it up: https://www.facebook.com/todd.riccardi/videos/10100504224552101/

If only we had that much breeze for the actual racing! Our circle was set in the lee of Goat Island, making for shifty, variable 5-10 knot wind and lots of tidal influence to challenge the fleet. We had five "9" rigs racing, which proved very fast in the light and variable conditions; most comments here will relate to my interactions with them.

Peter Shope (2015 Laser Grand Master World Champion), Christine Neville (2016 US Laser Olympic Aspirant) and Scott Pakenham proved to be quick studies, having no trouble beating yours truly to the first mark in most races. Christine and Peter generally had fine starts, while Scott played the shifts beautifully. I was a bit lax at the starts (those who read this blog can recognize the trend) and frequently had trouble going the way I wanted or taking full advantage of shifts as a result.

The Aero's incredible pointing ability, acceleration and speed when cracked off offers many tactical options not available on other boats. Shope loves to foot upwind, and in an oscillating breeze that was devastatingly fast. I had success at times using the Aero's high mode to hold lanes off the start and to stay in bands of pressure longer. 

There was plenty of experimentation going on downwind, with Christine most willing to sail higher angles in search of speed. The wind wasn't quite strong enough to plane while broad reaching, meaning those who stayed in pressure and pointed the boat more to the mark saw bigger gains. Peter was especially quick, gybing frequently and decisively going for bands of pressure and fast angles. I think many people gybed too soon after rounding the weather mark, keeping them in the lee of buildings to windward and boats on the starboard tack layline. I tried to soak down on starboard for a few lengths before gybing, and that generally went well.

Being pushed by such excellent sailors really helped me figure out some things. My big takeaway from Saturday was to sail with much less vang than I had in the past, both upwind and down. Of course, upwind in breeze some got dialed on, but the boat was just plain faster sailing with it a bit eased.

Later in the day the tide shifted, making the right side a bit less favored than it had been earlier. In one race this allowed me to claw back to 2nd from 5th or 6th at the first leeward mark. It definitely was a day to be decisive and patient, waiting for pressure and a shift before tacking!

It was also a long day, with 6 races being run by the RC and little time to regroup in between. Going into Sunday I led with 4 firsts and 2 seconds (6 points with throwout), Shope was in 2nd with 8, steady-as-she-goes Scott had 16 in 3rd with Christine only one point back. With an unlimited number of races to go and a second throwout looming at 12, it was anyone's regatta!

Sunday dawned a bit gloomy, with the wind more left than the previous day and definitely lighter. The course was now parallel with Goat Island, and there seemed to be a bit more pressure on the left upwind, especially in the earlier races.

Christine was on FIRE, having beautiful starts and fine boatspeed to lead at every mark in every race, sometimes by huge margins! Shope was OCS in Race 5 but rebounded annoyingly well to finish right behind me in 3rd. We had some very close racing, and from what I could see, the 7 rigs were TIGHT, often having 4 or 5 boats overlapped at the finish of a 30 minute race!

Christine's perfect Sunday scorecard allowed her to leapfrog Scott into 3rd, while I held onto 1st, 3 points clear of Peter. In the 7 rigs, Chuck Allen (collegiate all-American and North Sails rep) prevailed over Dave Reed and class stalwart Doug DuBois, who flew out from Park City UT to attend the event. Other notable travelers included Tony Corkell from Raleigh NC, Gregory Popp from Ormond Beach FL and Simeon Thomas from Colorado.

More info about the regatta and the boat on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/rsaeroclassnorthamerica/)
Class website: http://www.rsaerosailing.org

Thursday, May 26, 2016

RS Aero - Racing against 38 Lasers (including 2012 US Olympic Rep) with an Aero 7

Posted this on Facebook last November, but thought I'd share here as well. This day of racing convinced me to buy an Aero. That's me to the far left in the pic, tacking immediately after the start.

Race day!

38 Standard and Radial Lasers vs. 1 RS Aero 7 in 12-3 knots. NW breeze with big phases, holes and puffs; mostly WL courses, except one double-Harry Anderson (look it up). I was hobbled by a top batten that was too tight, making run-to-run gybes pretty much impossible in the light air and thus limiting tactical options downwind.

Since the rest of the fleet was racing "for real," I started at the unfavored boat end of the line in all but one race, tacking immediately to stay out of the way. Rarely was this the right way to go, but the Aero's quick acceleration and option of high or low modes meant I rarely rounded the weather mark out of the top 3. 

The Lasers seemed to go by-the-lee better than the Aero, which accelerated faster in puffs and favored less windward heel. The Aero seemed a bit more sticky in traffic but generally held its own on the runs. 

The committee set pretty broad first reaches on the one double Harry Anderson course, but the second reaches were on the beam and really showed off the Aero's light weight, excellent blades and superb acceleration. The poor Lasers didn't have a chance and I pulled out to a commanding lead, despite hitting very light winds on the final beat to the finish. 

Between races I let a few people try out the boat for a few minutes. Everyone enjoyed the boat's light responsiveness and comfy hiking position. 

On yeah: in my second time in the boat, starting at the unfavored end, racing against the 2012 US Laser Olympic rep and other fast locals, my on-the-water scoreline was 2-1-1-1-1-1.

Statement made!

RS Aero - first impressions

Actually wrote this on Facebook last November, but thought I'd share here as well.

Went out for a practice sail in the RS Aero 7 (there are 3 Aero rig choices: 5, 7 and 9) today in 5-10 knots and relatively flat water. Also sailing were two Lasers, one helmed by a very good local Laser sailor (Andrew Scrivan). Some observations:

Upwind I could foot or point at will, pulling away in either mode. In the lulls I could ease the vang, stay high and just VMG the hell out of them. In puffs it was hike hard, vang on, smidge downhaul, ease sheet and just accelerate away (or stay up and climb 3-5 degrees higher). The good Laser guy was sailing with the new radial-cut full sail and working very hard, sailing lower but not pulling forward. He mentioned that there was no way he was going to start above me in tomorrow's actual races...

Running it was closer, as my technique was still adjusting. The Aero has a higher aspect ratio main that takes some getting used to, plus the boat is so much lighter. In the puffs I just accelerated away though. Overall, running I would call it about even or Aero slightly ahead. Impressive, considering this was my first time in the Aero and one of the two guys I was trialing against is *very* fast downwind and also a former Olympic campaigner. 

Reaching it wasn't close--the Aero blew them away. I was able to sail lower than the two Lasers and stay planing, which allowed me to head up in a lull approaching the leeward mark while they had to sail lower and slower on the final approach. After less than 2 minutes I'd pulled out a 4 BL advantage after starting 1 BL astern and passing them to leeward. 

Other observations: - the boat and rig are SO LIGHT pulling around on the dolly! - the blades are nice and quiet (no humming) - the boat accelerates (and decelerates) beautifully - it's more difficult to roll-tack because the hiking strap isn't as high off the deck (making it harder to really fly over to the other side with confidence) - the boom is quite high making it easy to get around without fear of getting conked in the head. - the mid-boom sheeting makes for effortless gybes and roundings - slow-speed sailing is challenging because the boat just stops when hit by waves. I found it easy to get into irons or knocked onto the other tack when maneuvering at low, pre-start-like speeds. - the halyard tail came off the mid-mast mushroom and slapped against the sail going upwind (minor niggle). It's really nice not having to step the mast every time, and dropping the sail with the halyard is a breeze at day's end. 

The vang on the boat I'm sailing seems to be missing one of the cascade portions so it's quite hard to pull the last bit on. The side-deck-led downhaul and outhaul were a bit fiddly, the shock cord wasn't really doing it's job on the downhaul tail and the outhaul wasn't easing out well when bearing off to a run (McLube-ing the hell out of everything might help). 

Overall, the boat was enjoyable, light and quite responsive. Imagine less-skilled sailors might have a bit of a learning curve getting used to such a light boat, but it rewards the effort. Great fun!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Laser Master Midweek Madness Regatta, Stuart FL - First Day

First day of Laser "Midweek Madness" regatta in Stuart FL. Another day of crazy oscillating winds but I'm definitely getting the hang of them (even if my scorecard doesn't show it).

Race One started in a light Northerly that ended up dying while many boats were on the second-to-last leg of the course. I had a solid Top 10 score, maybe even 7th or 6th, when the breeze shut off completely, then filled-in from behind. Ended up 16th out of 50-something boats. Cest la vie.

Race Two started after a long wait for the breeze to fill-in and settle down. Started well near the pin, rounded first mark in the top 10 and worked my way up. It really paid to foot and hike HARD in the lifts, keeping the boat going fast upwind to the next header before going into pinch point as the header first hit, then flipping over and tacking to cross boats to windward. I lost boatlengths trying to go low on the first reach, but found my downwind mojo to gain on the first run, then defend and extend on the second for a comfortable 2nd place finish.

Race Three was a repeat of Two, but I capsized at the second leeward mark (the wind slacked off *just* as I rolled to boat to gybe, causing the boat to over-roll and that was it). Lost two boats to that, ended up 4th.

In Race Four I had a superb start 5 or 6 boats up from the pin, rolled the boats to leeward and 15 seconds into the race the vang bail on my mast blew up, meaning I had no boom vang or downhaul adjustment in 8-20 knots of wind! Still managed to be in the top 10 at the first mark, didn't lose that much distance on the first reach and run, actually *gained* some distance on the second beat!

I was really amped up trying to keep the boat going in its paralyzed state, approaching the weather mark on port then tacking inside 4 or 5 boats that had overstood on starboard and were planing in in a huge puff. Right after tacking I noticed Star World Champion John McCausland had capsized right onto the windward mark and I now had nowhere to go, plowing into his sail between the mark and his hull. We stayed wadded up like that for awhile, I hit the mark, which got wrapped in my mainsheet. Ended up dragging the mark a nice long ways while trying to extricate the mainsheet, losing tons of boats and distance. At that point I retired.

SO... Despite being well down in the standings without a throwout, I feel quite good overall with how things went. Today looks like a different condition, with a light northerly predicted. Fingers crossed!