Tuesday, November 04, 2008

At Last

We moved to Rhode Island in May of 2007. There were several reasons for choosing this area to spend our retirement, but as an avid sailor a big factor for me was the closeness to opportunities for sailing, especially Laser sailing. The plan was to sail many of the New England Laser regattas in the summer and to race with the Newport Laser frostbite fleet in the winter.

It didn't quite work out as planned. Sure I sailed a lot of Laser regattas in the summers of 2007 and 2008. But a stupid injury to my back in October of last year prevented me from sailing at the start of the frostbite season in early November. By the time my back had healed we were in the middle of winter and I chickened out on joining in with the frostbiting for three reasons...
  • It was frigging cold

  • I had sailing trips planned to the Caribbean, Australia and Florida in the early months of this year which seemed more than enough to satisfy my sailing addiction

  • It was frigging cold.
But this winter is going to be different. I took care of my back, avoiding violent sports like putting my socks on too vigorously. And so on Sunday I sailed my first day with the Newport Laser fleet, 18 months after moving here partly for that specific purpose.

Man, what an eye opener. The wind was gusty and shifty with huge changes in wind direction and speed. The sailing area is pretty well surrounded by buildings on all four sides so I expect these conditions are pretty typical. By my own rough count there were over 60 Lasers racing, the start line was short, and the tide was pushing the fleet over the line. Every race had several general recalls before the fleet got away.

I have to say I was not on top of my game. My starts were awful. I struggled to keep in phase with the crazy shifts, and to change gears as the wind velocity went up and down. A minute or two into the first race I was capsized by some freak shift. This never happens to me. My starts and first beats were consistently awful but after that I was fast enough to pick off a few boats downwind and at most mark roundings.

So racing with this fleet is going to be great practice for me. Should sharpen up many aspects of my game including starts, big fleet strategy, dealing with shifts... and judging from some new aches and pains I was feeling on Monday it's also going to be great for my overall sailing fitness. Not to mention that it was actually a hell of a lot of fun too.

Can't wait for next Sunday.

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