It's the first race of the Buzzards Bay Championship. After a wait for the sea breeze to settle in it's blowing the proverbial medium-sized dogs off rusty chains. White caps and waves.
Crank-down-the-sail-controls and hike-as-hard-as-you-can weather. What's that? Umpteen knots? I dunno.
I'm psyched up. I have my new sail. And son #1 (reputed heavy air fat-boy fast-guy) is racing with a new sail too. I actually worked out this week (at least once) so I'm at the peak of my form.
It's a long start line so it's easy to find a gap and reach off for speed at the gun. Bang. I'm off. Sheet on. Hike from my toes. Ugh -- torque the boat over the first wave. Ugh -- and the second one. Man this feels good. I'm driving over the boat to leeward and have the bow well ahead of the boat to windward. Ugh -- torque over another wave and it's looking good. Have a clear lane and freedom to tack. Life is good.
Working hard all the way up the beat. My quads are screaming but I'm hanging in there with kids a third of my age. Geeze 0.8nm is a long way.
Closing in on the windward mark I cross the guy who won the regatta last year and round in the top five. Wow. I'm not as slow as I thought I was.
But then there's a whole line of boats coming in on port tack and I can't bear away immediately on to the run. (Excellent article by Dick Rose on this situation in the June Sailing World magazine, by the way.) I lose a few boats on the run and son #1 almost catches me. Can't hike as hard on the second beat but I still score a top ten finish in a fleet of over twenty boats and win the Tillerman family duel. Not too shabby Grandad.
So what did I learn?
a) The new sail made a huge difference. As a Laser sail ages the differences from week to week are so small as to be almost unnoticeable. But they add up. I could feel how much better I was punching through the waves upwind compared to my dismal performance at Hyannis.
b) If I hike hard and work the boat aggressively through the waves I'm faster than most upwind.
c) Fitness counts. I can't work that hard for more than about ten minutes in any given race. George was right. Need to get fitter. Wonder what would work best, thinking about it, blogging about it, or actually dusting off the hiking bench?