Tuesday, January 19, 2010
The weather in Newport on Sunday for Laser frostbiting was positively balmy. Well, positively balmy as compared to the previous week. The air temperature was 40 degrees F, the water temperature was 39 F, the winds were 7-10 knots from the ESE and the water was flat.
There was rain in the forecast and I hate getting rain all over my glasses because it makes me even more blind than I usually am. So I wore a light nylon peaked running cap under my winter sailing hat made out of Windstopper fleece with DWR finish and contoured ear band wraps with Elastane trim... the latter hat for warmth and the former hat in what would probably be a vain attempt to keep the rain off my glasses.
My start in the first race was typically awful so I tacked for clear air out to the right side of the fleet. There was a header so I tacked on it. About thirty seconds later there was another header so I tacked again. After a couple of minutes of this I was thinking, "Ahah. I know this. This is lake sailing. Flat water and lots of oscillating shifts. I've done this all my life."
Most of the talent seemed to be drag racing over on the left side of the course so as soon as I had made enough gains in the shifts I headed left to connect with the pack and cross as many of them as I could. I surprised myself by arriving at the windward mark somewhere in the top ten, which was a first for me in this fleet.
And that was pretty much the pattern for the first beat in all the races. I played the shifts in relatively little traffic on the middle right of the course and arrived at the first mark up with the leaders.
It was pretty obvious that it was going to be shifty if you thought about it because some dude had erected this huge mansion on a hill just upwind of our windward mark, totally messing up the wind on our race course. (See picture above, which was obviously not taken in January.) It was a pretty inconsiderate place to put a mansion if you ask me. I think it's something to do with some outfit called the New York Yacht Club, but why the New Yorkers have to have a clubhouse in our little state of Rhode Island is beyond me. Don't they have anywhere to go yachting in New York? In any case I didn't see any of them out yachting in front of their mansion on Sunday.
Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes. The windward mark.
So there was the usual mayhem at the windward mark when ten boats try and occupy the same bit of water that's only got room for three. Much shouting and luffing and even more shouting at the occasional port-tacker who decides it's a wise move to T-bone somebody and knock three boats on to the other tack and generally ruin about ten people's race. All in all it worked out reasonably OK for me; I got away cleanly from the mark in five of the seven races and only had to swear at a port tacker for ruining my race in two of the seven. (Oops, I forgot. I was one of those port tack party crasher guys last week.)
On the runs I generally tried to get out into clear air one side of the course or the other. It amazed me how many of my fellow mid-fleet sailors seemed to like sailing the rhumb line in a crowd of other boats. I'm sure it's faster to separate; or perhaps I'm just an antisocial bastard; or perhaps the guys in the crowd were telling each other dirty jokes? I dunno.
Anyway, having sailed outside the pack I usually arrived at the gate mark in a good position for an inside rounding that I only managed to almost screw up once. I've learned from bitter experience that it's best to call for rights at a leeward mark in plenty of time so that nobody is tempted to believe that they are clear ahead or have an inside overlap. I've always been good at shouting on the race course. I consider it one of my few strengths.
I even amazed myself by doing some pretty good classic leeward mark roundings, if I do say so myself, and often emerged on a higher track than the boat ahead of me. As a result I could sail the final beats to the finish line in clear air, and even pick off one or two boats that had rounded the other gate mark.
On the other hand, my tactics at the finish were generally dismal. Definitely something I have to work on. I know the theory, but in the heat of the moment I usually fail to appreciate which end of the line is favored and when best to tack or duck to maximize my chances against close opponents. So I think I usually dropped one or two (or three or four) places at the finish. Damn!
Halfway through the afternoon I was feeling so warm that I actually removed my winter sailing hat made out of Windstopper fleece with DWR finish and contoured ear band wraps with Elastane trim. My nemesis, the other guy, sailed over to me between races and we compared notes on our finishes and I was able to ruin his day by telling him that I already had several top ten finishes under my belt. Afterward I did wonder whether it was a good move to PO a guy who carries a six foot chain saw in the back of his truck. He could do some serious damage with that.
I was pretty pleased with my results for the afternoon. I made the top ten in five of the seven races (in a 23 boat fleet) even though apparently I was invisible to the race committee in one of my best finishes and was scored DNF. Oh well, never mind. It's not the results that count. It's the opportunity to get out in the fresh air on a (positively balmy) winter afternoon and do one of the things I love best: race my Laser.
Last week in my post about frostbiting, I Love Winter, I managed (unwittingly) to upset Edward W. Coyne, Anonymous, and the Chairman of the US Olympic Sailing Program. I wonder who will get pissed off about this post? Probably the Commodore of the New York Yacht Club...maybe all the sailors in New York state... quite likely Anonymous again (he's a very sensitive fellow)... and almost certainly the guy who holds all the patents on winter sailing hats made out of Windstopper fleece with DWR finish and contoured ear band wraps with Elastane trim. Hopefully not the guy with the six foot chainsaw.
Still no sign of Larry yet. I expect he's looking round for a good deal on a second-hand Laser.