Tuesday, December 29, 2009
On the second full day of our recent stay at Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda I won the Sunday Laser Regatta.
First regatta I had sailed since the New England Laser Masters in September 2008 (I think). First regatta I had won since my famous victory in July 2008 (I think). But it wasn't really a big deal. Come to think of it, none of my rare regatta wins are actually very big deals. This is how it went down...
I signed up for the Laser regatta the day before just to make sure I would get a boat. On my previous visits to BEYC there had always been a good turnout for the Sunday Laser races. You never know who will be there. Previous time I was at BEYC there was some dude who flew over in his helicopter from Tortola just to sail in the BEYC Laser regatta and beat Tillerman.
However, at the skippers' meeting it became apparent that there were going to be about ten boats sailing in the Hobie cat regatta (a mixture of Waves and Getaways) and just me and one other dude racing against each other in Lasers.
As the race officer explained the incredibly complicated "butterfly" course I sized up the other Laser dude. His name was Robert and he had an accent I couldn't quite place. A good 20 years younger than me. Suntanned. Fit. Looked like he spent a good amount of time each week in the gym. Definitely had that air of a fast Laser sailor. Hmmm. Wonder who he is?
Wait. Robert? Late 30's? Accent? Big fit dude? Oh no! It can't be him can it? As I said, you never know who will show up at BEYC.
Well it turned out that Robert must have been a pretty experienced sailor because he aced all the keelboat races on Sunday afternoon. But his accent wasn't Brazilian. It was Wisconsinite (aka Cheeseheadian). Easy to confuse the two, I know. And luckily for me it seemed he hadn't spent a whole lot of time sailing Lasers.
The first race was sailed in very light winds. About the only time in ten days at BEYC that it was light. I stood up in my boat and tried to look like I was checking out the breeze. Seemed to me that there was more pressure on the right side of the course but then my eyes aren't as good as they used to be so I could have been mistaken. All the cats and the two Lasers were starting together so I really wanted to have clear air too. I set up for a start near the starboard end of the line and, by some fluke, won that end of the line with good speed and clear air.
After a minute or two I was ahead and to windward of the whole fleet so I resisted the temptation to tack off for the possibly illusory stronger wind out in the right corner of the course. I just stayed between the opposition and the windward mark, arrived there with a healthy lead and extended it around the track. Race 1 to the Tillerman.
The first cat sailor across the finish line after me sailed up to congratulate me and asked where I had learned to sail so fast in light airs. "Oh, I spent about twenty years of summer Sunday mornings drifting around on inland lakes in New Jersey. Must have picked up the knack there," I said with what I hoped was the appropriate mix of modesty and casual confidence.
For the second race the conditions were totally different. The wind had strengthened considerably and had gone way left. Now the left end of the line was very favored. I watched how the fleet was setting up. All the cats and Robert seemed to be hanging out at the starboard end of the line so I thought, "What the hell. I'll try for a port tack start at the left end of the line."
Well, it turned out that everyone started on port tack because the wind had gone so far left that we were all laying the windward mark. But at least I was to windward of all the cats unlike poor Robert who was in the middle of a pack of cats and all their bad air. One Wave and one Getaway and I got away cleanly ahead of the fleet. The Wave was flying his windward hull and really motoring and he did beat me around the first mark.
At the second mark I gybed and headed up, only to discover one drawback I had forgotten about the Classic Laser. My traveler blocks weren't taped together and they collapsed and jammed. In my haste to free them I managed to detach them from each other. By the time I had connected them again the Getaway had passed me. And that's how we finished, me behind two cats but comfortably ahead of Robert.
So that's how I won the only Laser regatta I entered in 2009. Not a big deal really.
The Regatta Party and Prize-giving were scheduled for 5pm. Free beer was promised. The party would go on until all the beer was drunk, we were told.
Hmmm. Wonder what my prize will be?