Thursday, September 13, 2007

Third Beach Newport

Last weekend I had the pleasure of sailing in the New England Laser Masters at Third Beach, Newport. What a place! What a regatta! What a great crowd of sailors! I've sailed this regatta a few times, once before at this location, and I have to say it's one of my favorite events on the calendar.

Third Beach and the Sakonnet River are practically my home sailing grounds these days. If I were to sail south a few miles from the bay in front of my window as I type, I would be off Third Beach. Visitors from less favored locations such as Long Island Sound were green with envy. The waves. The relatively reliable winds. The ease of launching and quick access to the race area. What could be better?

Third Beach is also the location of the US Olympic Trials for the Laser and Laser Radial classes next month. Some of the Olympic hopefuls are already training there, including Andrew Campbell who posted on his blog on Monday Postcards from Newport: Life on Third Beach.

Andrew noted the positive aspects of the site...
The sailing area is close to the beach. Ten minutes after pushing off the beach and you are in the racing area. The southwesterlies and southerly seabreezes produce three to five foot waves and plenty of breeze. The cold northerlies that will be here as autumn sets in will also give us wind with less exposure to the Atlantic Ocean, but good sailing conditions.

but also mentioned some other issues (such as no running water to hose boats off after sailing) and how he and his training partners are dealing with them.

This ain't no swanky yacht club, or even a purpose-built dinghy sailing center. It's just a parking lot and a launch ramp at a public beach.

And then in today's Scuttlebutt newsletter, a dude called Ted Beir wrote a note to the editor after reading Andrew's blog and being shocked, shocked, shocked...

After reading Andrew Campbell's description of the Laser Olympic Trials venue in Newport, I was appalled. Is this all the better we can do for our Olympic sailors? Surely with the fine yacht clubs and sailing schools there, US Sailing can find a venue for training and trials with better facilities than an abandoned tourist parking lot and beach. Shame, shame! I bet the Brits have better for their preparation events.

So who's right? I guess it all depends on your point of view. Personally I don't need all the accouterments of "fine yacht clubs" to rate a sailing venue as world-class. The five key factors for me are...

Wind. Third Beach is at the southern end of Rhode Island where the Sakonnet River opens to Rhode Island Sound so if there is a sea breeze you will get it here first.

Waves. The beauty of Third Beach is that the racing area has waves and, depending on the wind direction and strength and how far you want to sail south, you can choose how lumpy you want your water to be. But you will find more bumps here than almost anywhere on the sheltered bays in Rhode Island, or almost any of the other dinghy sailing venues on the east cost of the US for that matter.

Easy access to the sailing area. With all due respect to such venues as the Hyannis Yacht Club and Sail Newport, the regattas I did there this year involved as much as an hour's sailing to reach the race area. Not so much time for real fun.

Parking for the car near to the boat and a short distance from there to the launch. Don't even get me started again about New Bedford.

Ease of launching. A short ramp, a wide beach and a sheltered bay. What more could you ask for? Colt State Park in Bristol is pretty good but the ramps there are almost unusable in a strong westerly.

All the rest is fluff. Maybe Lasers sailors are weird. Or maybe I'm weird. But yacht club lounges, showers, restaurants, bars, trophy cases... I can do without. However, a freshwater hose would be nice.

What about you? What should there be at your ideal sailing location?

8 comments:

Team Gherkin said...

Sounds lovely... lots of space and easy access! Who's complaining! Better than paying for someone's White Elephant Clubhouse as well. Thanx for your blog. Our season over here in Australia is already underway. Hope to bump into you at Terrigal next year, for the Masters :)
Cyalayta
Mal :)

Tillerman said...

Hey - an Aussie blogging friend going to Terrigal. That's great. See you there Mal.

EVK4 said...

I prefer wind and flat water not that I've ever seen such conditions. I've never owned a boat that planes or really even surfs so I don't have the use for the waves that you do. Would you equate dinghy sailing to mogul skiing in that likes-bumpy-stuff regard?

And, to answer your question, I 100% agree with you that the necessary components are all out on the water not on land.

SteerRollDash said...

Can't agree with you here Tillerman. Having seen the British Olympic team's facilities at Weymouth academy I think any professional sailor would opt for what amounts to practically everything you've detailed in your blog plus up to date comfortable and extensive onshore facilities.
As someone who just wants to turn up and sail, I agree with your priorities, but professional sailors want to win medals and when your competitors are practising or trialling in conditions that are far less stressful than you it can't be any good for your morale.

Tillerman said...

Good point steerrolldash. If you could have showers and a fish and chip shop right on the beach too, it would be perfect.

But as for the morale impact... The guys and gals who are already training at Third Beach (weeks ahead of the actual US Olympic Trials) will have a major real and morale advantage of those that show up the day before the trials. Once the US Laser and Laser Radial team members are selected they can then go off and train wherever they like so they can try and beat the Brits in China!

Carol Anne said...

Tillerman, you have your priorities straight. What counts most is the conditions on the water.

However, it would be nice if the US Sailing/Olympic folks could see fit to treat the sailing athletes with at least a little more respect. So many of the other Olympic sports have training facilities in Colorado Springs, with state-of-the-art facilities and the added advantage of training at high altitude. (It's a pity there's not anyplace to get practice in waves at a high altitude.)

If the US Sailing folks don't see fit to arrange nicer facilities, it would still be good to have a garden hose to rinse the salt water off at the end of the day.

Oh, dear. My brain is now churning out bizarre ideas for how to make waves on a high-mountain lake, so Laser sailors could train at high altitude and not have to worry about rinsing the salt water off. I had already thought of paying the operator of a big powerboat gas money to do zigzags in front of the sailors, but that's just chop, not waves. Then I thought of installing big wave-making panels, like the ones in surf pools at waterparks, but bigger. Most mountain lakes are human-made reservoirs, and so they have dams that make great structures upon which to mount the wave-making apparatus.

Okay, so such a scheme might make a lot of fishermen and environmentalists angry. But, hey, we'd be the only Olympic team training in real waves at high altitude.

Tillerman said...

If what we read about Quindao is true then I don't think our Olympic sailors need to worry about waves. Intensive practice in 3-4 knots will be more the order of the day I think.

Tim said...

I think this is the most important point! The trials should be in conditions that best simulate those expected at the actual event.

As lasers are quick to rig I guess the usual club facilities are not that important. But the good thing about a club house is the opportunity to enjoy the company of your fellow sailors and discussing the days sailing over a pint!

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