Another winter of Laser frostbiting is over already. I was just getting into my stride and now it's done. What happened?
I missed the first two weeks of the frostbiting season in October with family commitments and then on week 3 I did my race committee duty for the fall season. As I wrote here, Tillerman's Second Rule of Frostbite Race Committee is, "Always volunteer to do race committee at the warmest end of the season." It was a crisp October day with a brisk northerly breeze gusting to over 20 knots at times. The guy in charge of race committee motivated his team beforehand by telling us, "You're gonna be cold. You're gonna be miserable. If you have a drysuit, wear it." So I did and wrote in my blog about what I wore. Then a chance remark after sailing from one of the sailors afterwards prompted me to blog about thumb cramps.
So it wasn't until week 4 that I was actually able to enjoy some racing. What a day! 60 degrees and a gusty north-westerly at 10 to 15 knots. After 4 weeks with no sailing I was psyched up and rarin' to go. Over 50 boats out and amazingly I'm leading the first race when... bang... disaster strikes. God hates me.
The fifth week of the season we hosted a regatta (open to sailors from other clubs) on the Saturday and there was no racing on the Sunday. We had a magnificent turnout for the regatta, almost 60 boats, but the winds were light, not conditions I enjoy, and I finished midfleet after bagging the final race. Even so there were a few moments that provided bloggable material from the day, including a contentious mark rounding.
Week 6 was a perfect day for sailing. Almost 60 Lasers. 10-12 knots. Sunshine. 60 degrees. And surfable waves. I found lots to blog about including conversations in the boat park, advice from an expert, and how Tillerman always finds new ways to screw up when he is doing well in a race.
Week 7 was yet another superb day for sailing. Sunny day, not a cloud in the sky. About 55 degrees. And a nice solid breeze from the southwest that had us hiking hard upwind and planing on the reaches. 47 sailors with big smiles. At last it felt like I was getting into my stride in dealing with the crowds in such a large fleet on short courses. The day was not without incident however including one start that was a tad too good and a curious rules incident.
I missed week 8 but it was still one of the happiest days of my life.
I also missed week 9 because it was snowing and I wasn't willing to risk the 80 mile drive to the club in a snowstorm. Even so, 29 sailors raced. Apparently the snow changed to freezing rain by the time they went out sailing. I used to be nuts, too.
I did make week 10 even though there was still snow on the ground and I had to chip frozen snow and ice off my boat before racing. This week really felt like frostbiting. Following advice from Litoralis I tried some squirrel starts and learned ten ways that they can go wrong. Even when I did pull of that perfect squirrel start some other idiot managed to ruin my race. I think by this time the ice was affecting my brain because later I made two more dumb mistakes.
What a day of learning experiences. What a season!
The fleet always takes a break in January and February and the spring season of Laser frostbiting started on the second Sunday in March. It was raining. The winds were light. The current was strong. But it was good to be actually sailing again.
Week 2 of the spring season started with 10 knots of wind and just a few light snow flurries but by the end of the day it was blowing a good 25 knots in the gusts. I had one race where I was first at the windward mark and I managed to finish in the top ten overall for the day - quite an achievement for me in this fleet. I had a blast but learned that I still need to work on my heavy air skills, that my stamina has its limits, and that I need to work on awareness of wind and wave and current. I also learned of a new use for KY Jelly.
I missed the third week of the season because of a long-standing commitment to do some racing rules education at my other sailing club. I had not realized that this would clash with the frostbiting season when I agreed to give the talk. But we had some fun, burning some socks, and then discussing rule 42.
Day 4 of the Spring Series was a busy weekend at the club. As well as the racing on Sunday, we had Dave Dellenbaugh giving a talk on Top Ten Tactical Tips on Saturday; and Steve Cockerill of Boat Whisperer fame teaching us about boat-handling after Sunday racing. The arrival of spring motivated me to step up my exercise program in the preceding week and I may have done too much because I only managed to sail five out of eight races, while trying to work on my powers of observation. But I did pull off at least one good start.
I missed week 5 (visiting cutest granddaughter in the world again). And week 6, though a glorious day for sailing, wasn't one of my better days so I was able to wrote about excuses for sailing poorly. But I did manage to finish all the races, unlike week 4.
Then there was week 7. Rain. 5-18 knots. Continuous rain. 48 degrees. Continuous heavy rain. 19 idiots sailed (including me). Did I mention it was raining? Like torrential downpour all afternoon long? Somebody pointed out that a significant percentage of the sailors were Brits. Hey - this is a typical English summer's day for us. I actually enjoyed it in a masochistic kind of way.
I did my spring race committee duty in week 8 - a warm, sunny, light wind day. Perfect for doing race committee. Awful for racing. I wrote about Tillerman's Three Rules of Frostbite Race Committee.
Week 9 was lightish wind, sunny and warm, a beautiful May spring day - not really frostbiting conditions at all, and not conditions that suit me, but I did have my moments. And that was it. Week 10 is Mothers Day and I'm missing the last day of the season to sail a Laser regatta in Massachusetts with my son. At least that was the plan until the organizers cancelled the regatta because of rain in the forecast. What? After this frostbite season I'm an expert at sailing in the rain. I'm a sailing-in-the-rain god. Oh well - nothing I can do about it now.
I started frostbiting at this club around five years ago so that I could get some practice in the winter and didn't feel so clumsy in the boat every spring when I started sailing again after a winter of idleness. Over the years it has become much more than that. Except for major regattas it's the most competitive fleet in which I sail. Every week there is a major learning experience.
This winter I've learned about physical fitness, boat preparation, wind and current strategy, boatspeed, tactics (especially at the start, and windward and leeward marks), using waves downwind -- not to mention sailing in rain.
But there's still so much to learn. That's the beauty of Laser racing.
That's why I'm a grandfather who sails a Laser.