Monday, August 6, 2018

2018 RS Aero World Championship - Day 1

Conditions for the first day of the 2018 RS Aero World Championship were almost exactly as predicted, with sunny skies and a weak NW breeze quickly swinging around to the SW at around 1030 and building to about 8 knots. It was a perfect start to the Worlds for its 205 competitors, and beautifully suited to the 48 9-rig boats in attendance.

My training partner Madhavan Thirumalai and I were the first boats off the ramp this morning. We were anxious to get acquainted with the racing area and do some upwind splits. "Splits" are when boats go off on opposite tacks for a few minutes (in our case, 3), then both boats tack back to the middle of the course. When the boats meet back in the middle, if one is ahead, that boat's side was the favored one.

Madhavan and I did three, 3-minute splits, with the right coming out ahead 2 out of 3 times. We also noted that the wind shifted about 7 degrees left over the time we did the splits. It was so nice having compass angles for both tacks figured out and written down on the deck, easy to see. I also did a few current checks by tossing my full water bottle next to a mark and seeing what direction, and how far, the bottle moved in 30 seconds. Current determined, sailing angles determined, a basic strategy for the first leg determined (go right), we were armed with meaty info with which to start our Worlds.

The 9s started last, which gave me about 25 minutes to watch the three other fleets going up their first windward leg. Contradicting the earlier split research, it seemed boats on the *left* side of the course seemed to be coming out ahead. Generally accepted local knowledge is that left pays in a southwesterly, so, given the left hand favor to the start line and the fleets above showing left favor, I abandoned my earlier plan to go right about 2 minutes before the start and went to the pin.

I was a bit too conservative off the start, with Aero legend Peter Barton to windward and two boats to leeward and ahead, all of whom left me in their dust after less than 30 seconds--yikes! I looked over my shoulder for a lane to bail out into, but if I went that way I'd have to duck behind nearly 2/3 of the fleet--unacceptable. Instead, I reached off to leeward of the leeward-most boat and concentrated on speed. I lost a tremendous amount of height reaching down, but was able to work forward enough to have clear air, on the liifted starboard tack, for a long sail to the left of the course. 

The wind was quite steady, with little tiny shots of starboard lift. Several boats that liked the right or had bad starts peeled off onto port, so there was quite a bit of separation between boats going right and left. Separation = leverage, leverage = risk, so, about half-way up the leg, several of the boats near me toward the left tacked back to stay in touch with the fleet going right.

I knew from the splits that the shifts were quite minor and slow to form. When boats to weather of me started consolidating right we were still in a right hand lift, so they were eating a bad port tack angle (and getting out of phase with the wind) to get right. The guy to windward of me was the last to peel back right, but I sailed for another 30-45 seconds into a nice little increase in pressure, tacking onto a new port-tack lift and hiking hard.

Within a minute I was bow-forward of the guy who tacked a few moments earlier, and the two of us were launched, nearly laying the weather mark in good pressure, lifted, and in more favorable current! I rounded the weather mark about 30 seconds ahead of the next boat and extended, winning the inner-trapezoid race by about 45 seconds.

After the race I had a badly-need slug of water, rested a bit, then re-checked the current near the start line. There was still current flowing roughly with the wind, a bit stronger at about 3/4 boatlength every 30 seconds.

No-doubt noticing the left side was favored, the Race Committee re-set the line to be right-side favored for the second start. Because I had such a good idea what the tide was doing, I was able to set up perfectly at the committee boat (right) end of the line, blasting off in a right shift with great speed at the gun.

As before, the wind was quite steady; I eventually tacked just below the port-tack layline on a slight left shift and was first by a handy margin at Mark 1. Had good speed downwind, then worked the left side on the second upwind, before blasting off on the final three reach-run-reach legs to the finish for another bullet.

SO, good start to the event. "Lightning" Liam Willis, second to me last year at the Worlds in France, finished 2, 3 today, definitely scoring keepers. The wind forecast now shows increasing wind throughout the week, so it will be interesting to see how things go in planing conditions.

After returning to shore and having a quick bite to eat, a group of us got together for stretching and massages. It felt good to get the kinks out! Madhavan and I decided to skip the scheduled Monday dinner in nearby Weymouth, instead grabbing Indian food on Portland Island and then walking home.

Racing starts at 1130 tomorrow, so I have to be at the club earlier than today. Time for bed!

Stone buildings on historic Portland Island, with
Chesil Beach and a beautiful sunset in the background.

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