Sunday, September 14, 2008

Not Throwing in the Towel

New England Laser Masters 2008. What a regatta!

Light airs on Saturday with only two races completed. Driving rain and waves and almost too much wind on Sunday when we managed four races. Sailing out of Third Beach Newport, home of the US Olympic Trials for Lasers and Radials last fall. I've written about Third Beach before. Suffice to say it provides one of the best wave sailing locations for dinghies on the entire east coast, with only a short sail from the beach to the race area.

My boat speed in both the light stuff and the heavy stuff seemed pretty good compared to the usual suspects that I battle in these regattas. Of course I didn't make the best use of this advantage as a result of numerous mental errors, boat-handling mistakes, and sheer stupidity.

Race 1: Great start, clear lane, going fast. In the groove. All set to round the windward mark in the top ten (in a fleet of over fifty boats). I don't want to spend too long in light air being gassed by a crowd of boats on the starboard tack layline approaching the mark. So I approach on port tack about five boat-lengths below the mark. There's a gap in the line of starboard tackers. I go for it. That Guy T-bones me about six inches in front of my transom. (I almost crossed him). Damn. My fault. I do my 720 losing a ton of boats in the process. Even worse I've lost my concentration. I sail a terrible run. End up about thirtieth.

Race 2: Light air from the opposite direction after waiting all day for the wind to settle in. Can't remember what happened. Probably just as well.

Race 3: (Second day.) Driving rain, big waves, big wind. I do the squirrel thing, head right in clear air, going fast. This time I don't screw up and finish around tenth. Woo hoo. Maybe this will be a good regatta for me.

Race 4: Even more wind. Doing OK though, until I round the windward mark and discover that my mainsheet has tied itself into
a triple buntline carrick bend double surgeon's clinch knot inside a double fisherman's alpine butterfly rolling hitch and so I am unable to sheet out and bear away. Hmmm. Deja vu all over again. I luff up and undo the bloody knot. Then I capsize. Then I capsize again immediately. A lot of my friends sail past me while I'm having all this fun and they don't even say, "Hi!" Eventually I get the sharp end pointing downwind and set off on one of the scariest downwind legs of my life. There are boats capsized all over the place. There's a guy drifting around with a broken mast. Somehow I finish.

I'm totally exhausted. I'm thinking of calling it a day. I learn later that the race officer is also wondering whether to abandon racing for the day. He asks the regatta chairman (who is racing himself) and our esteemed chairman recommends one more race but with an even longer course. Is this guy nuts? The race officer then decides to run two more races. Hmmm.

Race 5: I start the fifth race anyway. I'm thinking that I will definitely skip the last race. That can be my throwout. Halfway up the first beat my arms start cramping up. Oh geeze. I actually cleat the mainsheet for a while. Just before the windward mark I bang my head hard with the boom. This is getting silly. I'm so tired I'm in danger of causing myself or someone else serious injury. I'm definitely going to skip the last race.

I have a serious talk with myself after the fifth race.

Me#1: There's no point in doing the last race. It's unlikely to have any major impact on your overall score. And who cares about the score anyway?

Me#2: But I'll feel better about myself if I hang in there and finish every race.

Me#1: That's just crazy. You're tired and starting to make stupid mistakes.

Me#2: Yes I'm tired. But that's not why I'm making stupid mistakes. I've been making stupid mistakes all weekend.

Me#1: What are you trying to prove?

Me#2:
I don't know. I just hate to throw in the towel.

Race 6: I start the last race. What was I thinking? It's all a blur now but I was still fast compared to the usual suspects. I finish the last race. At least I achieved something this weekend.

As I derig the boat back at the beach I mull over what I learned at this regatta. Definitely some stuff I can work on. Lost places several times through misjudging the layline to the windward mark or the favored end of the finish line. That's something I can practice on my own. Also noticed that I wasn't pointing as well as the competition when I cranked on too much downhaul. I'm thinking of what else I might have learned when someone says the results have been posted.

I head over to the board. Whaaaaat? I can't believe the results.

In these Laser Masters regattas, there is an overall scoring for the fleet, but most of the awards are for places within age groups. I am in the 55-65 age group which should be known as "old geezers who should be toddling round a golf course and knocking little ball into little holes with a stick instead of beating up their bodies trying to sail a young man's boat like a Laser" but instead is euphemistically known as Grandmasters.

When I check out the overall scores I see I am in the top third of the fleet, about fifteen places better than last year. So that's good.

But then I scan down the positions of the guys in my age group, the Grandmasters. One guy who I thought was way ahead of me is scored with two OCS's and one BFD (in six races) so he's actually behind me. Tough luck on him. Two Grandmasters who were ahead of me last night packed up and went home early. And the real schocker is.... I'm Second Grandmaster.

I can't believe it. I've been doing one or two of these major Masters Regattas a year for the last twenty years and I think I've only placed in the top three once before.

I'm so pleased that I didn't throw in the towel.

The prizes for the top three in each age group are very smart. They are embroidered with the title of the regatta and the award winner's place and age group title.

It is actually a very useful item.

A big soft luxurious... towel.

15 comments:

Carol Anne said...

I love it.

Anonymous said...

Good man...

Glad to hear you hung in there.

Once won a 2wo day collegiate regatta on a tiebreaker. Had finished one heat on Saturday with my crew shivering inside the boat after a capsize half way through the race. A DNF would have changed the result.

Anonymous, Anonymous...
I'll keep posting as Anonymous.

AmyB said...

Congratulations! Love your description of race #4.

Brian said...

Gee, the conditions were tough, but really not extreme. I thought the biggest issue all day Sunday was the weed!

Random thoughts...

1) Staying upright saves energy. Whatever ever caused your dump, don't do it again.

2) Gordian knot - you should be able to shake these loose while still at least pointing to the mark. Slow and sketchy, but you're only oversheeted and hopefully more stable in breeze. Unless you can't sheet out at all, which means you're not setting up any sheet to run before the mark.

3) Breathe. Biggest thing to remember in strong winds/waves is to keep breathing deeply and regularly. You're a marathoner, sure you know how do this.

tillerman said...

Thank you brian. You don't think my readers don't know that I always exaggerate how extreme the conditions are? It makes for a more interesting story. Please don't spoil their illusions.

Oh yeah the weed was fun too. Especially when somebody else had a gob of weed on his rudder.

1. Thanks for the advice. If I knew the hell why I capsized I wouldn't have done it in the first place.

2. You could be right about the Gordian knot technique. But as I usually have to use 110% of my concentration to stay upright on a windy run I don't have any mental bandwidth left over for solving knotty problems at the same time. As I recall I discovered this particular knot while attempting to free up some sheet before the mark so I really couldn't ease very much at all.

3. Strangely enough I was doing a lot of deep breathing yesterday. I don't usually concentrate on breathing but in the latter races I was concentrating on taking deep breaths and counting them. It seemed to help. A bit like singing Wheels on the Bus but not as annoying to other sailors.

Fred said...

Congratulations!
Should have come to cheer you. Instead my bro and I hang around in Newport on the boatshow. OK, just a short stay. Not much time left and already back home now. You sure will be qualified for the Masters.

tillerman said...

Yeah sorry we didn't get to meet up Fred. I got sidetracked on Friday so never made it to the boat show, and then was sailing Sat/Sun of course. You wouldn't have had much fun standing on the beach in the rain cheering us on.

tillerman said...

Just got an email with the detailed results and they confirm what Anonymous was saying. If I had skipped the last race I would have dropped out of the top three in the Grandmaster rankings. No towel.

So it was worth hanging in there. Must remember this next time I am tempted to quit early.

Carol Anne said...

Zorro says don't quit. So don't quit.

Anonymous said...

Never give up...

You're braver than you believe,
and stronger than you seem,
and smarter than you think.
(said Christopher Robin to Pooh)

But when it really gets dangerous,
be safe and go home! (Anonymous)

Tillerman said...

If I don't even know how smart I am, how can I be smarter than I think?

Orang Puti said...

Great stuff!

Nothing like the surprise of exceeding your own expectations...

Christy ~ Central Air said...

Hip-hip-hooray, Grandmaster Flash!

David said...

Good for you, T-man. Way to hang in there! I hate not finishing regatta's,too.

Tim said...

Wow what a great weekend sail! A good result and a learning experiance too!

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