Another great day for Laser frostbiting in Newport last Sunday. (Yes dear reader, you are quite correct, that picture up there wasn't taken in Newport but in another famous New England sailing town.) The navigation marks in Newport weren't quite as bad as that on Sunday, but all of the mooring buoys in the harbor had a healthy coating of ice. The balls had cute little caps of ice and most of the sticks were so heavy with ice they were lying on their sides. The deck of my Laser was covered in ice by the middle of the afternoon too. The temperature was in the 20's, wind chill was in the teens, and the wind was out of the NW at 10 knots plus or minus. Marvelous day for sailing!
I think we had about 30 boats at the start of the afternoon, though a few less when we called it a day shortly after 3pm. Even though I am really enjoying the frostbiting this year I am beginning to think that the cold is affecting my brain. I keep making the same stupid mistakes. Here are just four of them...
- Try and start in the most crowded part of the start line. Yes, I know that the boat end is favored right now but so do 25 other guys and they are all trying to start in the same spot as I am. The one race that I had the sense to find a quieter place a bit further down the line I had one of my best finishes.
- Sail in another boat's bad air. Sure the course is crowded but why don't I check before I tack that I'm not going to be putting myself three boatlengths astern of some other boat on the same tack, forcing me to gasp for air for a minute or two while I slip slowly backwards relative to the other boat all the time wondering if two tacks to clear my air would lose me even more distance? I lost count of the number of times I did this on Sunday.
- Approach the windward mark on the port tack layline in a large fleet on a small course. I did this even though I should have known that I would find it impossible to find somewhere to tack and round the mark cleanly. I only did it in one race on Sunday but why do I find it so hard to remember this? I wrote about it years ago at Duck. I wrote about how it doesn't work in Tacticat either. Geeze I even wrote about it a couple of weeks ago. This week it got really ugly... I'd rather not talk about it. Sorry everyone.
- If there are a bunch of other boats behind me on the short final beat, make sure I go the other side of the course from them. Duh. What was I thinking? I rounded the leeward mark in 4th place (woo hoo!) and forgot to look which way the pack behind me went, so I didn't cover them. I ended up with one of those persistent lifts out on the right side of the course, sailing a great circle course and never quite laying the finish line while six boats who went left sailed the inside of the lift and passed me before the finish. Ugh.
Still, it was fun. I must admit that the NW wind is a mystery to me. I don't seem to be able to figure out how to play the shifts, or which side of the course is favored at all. I expect the race winner will write some Words of Wisdom in a day or two that will make it all clear to me. Then next week we will have different wind conditions and I will be puzzled and confused all over again.