The first day of the US Laser Masters National Championships was held on Buzzards Bay last Friday. We sailed four races in around 10-12 knots at the start of the day building to 15-20 knots by the end of the afternoon. The cream of American old geezer Laser sailors was there... and me. The sun shone, the race committee work was superb, and I had an excuse to clock up my 41st day of sailing this year.
In the first race I pulled off a squirrel start at the committee boat, a little late but good enough to be able to find a clear lane heading right. They always say head right on Buzzards Bay, don't they? A couple of the top guys were with me so I was confident in my decision in spite of the other fifty seven sailors heading left. Anyway we banged the right corner, and I rounded the first mark in the usual mayhem of sixty boats all trying to occupy the space available for ten. Nothing terrible happened in the rest of the race and I was crossing tacks with that guy all round the track. I finished in the mid 30s but a couple of places behind that guy. 0 and 1.
In the second race a lot of terrible things happened...
In retrospect it probably wasn't a great decision to line up on the start line between two of the best sailors in the fleet because, as I should have predicted, after the start I was squeezed out the back like the proverbial lemon pip. Isn't there a proverb about lemon pips? No? Oh well, you know what I mean. Needless to say I was already way down the fleet.
Then, in spite of my recent improvements in mainsheet management, I discovered after rounding the first windward mark in a respectable (for me) position that my sheet had tied itself into a triple buntline carrick bend double surgeon's clinch knot and I was unable to bear away. I actually had to luff up to undo the mess and after untying aforementioned knot I was still faced with a double fisherman's alpine butterfly rolling hitch in the bloody rope. Needless to say I lost a few places.
Then, coming in to the leeward mark, I was really smart and actually did what the book says, and attempted to slow down so that I could round right on the transom of the inside boat of a pack of boats approaching the mark. Unfortunately the skippers of the boats inside me had read the same book and were also slowing down. Among much pushing of booms, oversheeting, and unintentional double gybes, a whole mass of boats rounded in a slow pinwheel instead of the usual fast pinwheel, with me on the outside of course. Hmmm. The book didn't cover this situation. Needless to say I lost a few more places, and finished in the 40s.
That guy beat me again. 0 and 2.
In the third race I remembered the discussion about being aggressive in What Would Ben Do? and made an aggressive start in the front row at the favored end of the line. I was looking good but unfortunately I was not aggressive enough at the windward mark and had to duck a lot of starboard tackers on the layline. I saw the guy who I can only describe as the Ben Ainslie of Laser Great Grandmasters overtake me by waiting longer before entering the starboard tack parade, tacking under some starboard tackers near the mark, and (even after doing his 360) gaining some good distance on me. Hmmm. There's a learning experience for you.
The other learning experience was when due to inattention on the run I dug the bow into a back of a wave and watched it go down, down, down into the deeps. I really thought I might break the mast or the mast-step as the bow plowed towards the ocean depths and the pressure in the rig kept building. Eventually the bow surfaced again but not before the cockpit was full of water. Slow, slow, slow, but I did finish in the low 30s.
And I did beat that guy. 1 and 2.
By now I was pretty tired and was seriously wondering whether to call it a day. However I thought I would at least do the start of the fourth race for practice and then decide whether to continue. I had my best start of the day and so chose to keep going. However, I was definitely pleased when the RC shortened the course after a 3-leg WLW course instead of the 5-leg races we had been doing all day. Even the young kids under 45 said they were happy about that call too. Turned out that it was my best race of the day, with a finish in the mid-20s.
And I did beat that guy again. 2 and 2.
Then home for lamb chops and salad with Tillerwoman, Cutest Granddaughter in the World, Tiller-Son#1, and Tiller-Daughter-in-Law who had all come to see us for the weekend. I checked the results for the races on the web and saw that I was leading that guy by a few points. Woo hoo.
Apparently Cutest Granddaughter in the World had been asking where I was. When told that I was sailing she had said, "Grandad is my best friend."
Life is good.