Someone left a comment here a few days ago to the effect that how ever many days you have bad experiences when sailing, sooner or later you will have "One of Those Days". He or she was right. On Saturday I had One of Those Days.
My son and I hitched up our Lasers and headed out early for the First Annual Sunfish/Laser Regatta at the lake club near his home. The weather was cloudy and damp, the winds were light and patchy, but it was a cool event. The host club was very friendly and there was a mellow laid-back atmosphere to the whole day.
There was plenty of friendly banter between all the sailors, both on and off the water. I entered into the spirit by joshing in every race with one of the young guys in the Laser fleet there...
"I'll follow you. You seem to know where you're going."
"Man you're a genius. Wish I could do roll-gybes like that."
"You let me down. That was the wrong side of the beat. You're a bad influence. I'm going to keep away from you."
Then when my son was leading a race I shouted at the top of my voice, "Gooooooooo Fat Boy!" (My son was probably the heaviest sailor there.) The other sailors laughed. Not sure if he really appreciated it though.
Then when he was leading in another race, "Man, just look at how fast that kid is. I taught him everything he knows."
There were seven races. A mix of Gold Cup courses and courses with various numbers of windward-leeward laps... with a downwind finish in every race. I hate downwind finishes. I can never seem to catch anyone on a run; but if I am ahead I am always worrying that a puff from behind will push the competition back down to me. As I crossed the finish line in one race I joked to the PRO, "These downwind finishes are excruciating."
"Even when you're winning?" he asked.
"Especially when I'm winning."
There was a good mix of sailors in the fifteen boat fleet. All ages, including a bunch of kids from the local high school team, a couple of females, and at least one sailor older than me. The toughest competition was from a high school kid who was super-fast in the light air and must have weighed about 90lbs less than me, a college kid, a guy about my age who has been sailing some of the other local regattas with me, the coach of the high school team, and my son who was lying in second place in the rankings at lunch time. Nobody was consistently at the front. Even the race winners had some bad races. So it was tough to keep track of what everyone's score was.
God, I made some awful mistakes...
There was one race where the wind went hard left just before the start and I was at the wrong end of the line, not even on the line, with two boats to windward of me and a dozen boats ahead nearer the pin all giving me bad air. But somehow I eventually managed to find a lane and start weaving my way through the fleet.
And on the run in the first race I went to the wrong side of the course and watched half a dozen boats pass me on the other side. But I did have the sense to gybe over and get on the left side of the course to avoid being on the outside of one of those painful pinwheel roundings.
Upwind I tried to sail towards the pressure. Stay in the puffs. Connect the dots. It didn't always work out perfectly but usually I rounded in the leading group.
On the courses that had reaches I usually managed to separate from the boats near me by heading up for the puffs coming off the nearby shore and then riding them down.
My runs weren't great but by the end of the day I had realised that I had to look behind, work out which side was going to get a puff, and then aggressively head over there.
It was very reminiscent of all those days I spent racing in my Sunfish on New Jersey lakes. You just had to keep your head out of the boat all the time and watch the water like a hawk for every hint of where the wind was and where it would be next.
As I said, it turned out to be One of Those Days. By some fluke I managed to win four of the seven races and, along with a third and a fourth and a throwout seventh place, that was good enough to win the regatta. First time I've won a Laser regatta in over three years. My last win was The Regatta in 2005 of which I was the co-founder. (But it doesn't really count if you hold a regatta just so you can win it, does it?)
So it was pretty cool to score a win on the last day of the sixth decade of my life. What better birthday present could there be? Definitely One of Those Days.