Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Curse of the White Towel

Last weekend I sailed in the Wickford Regatta.

Apparently, back in the day (whatever that means) the Wickford Regatta was the "premier springtime event on the East Coast." It says so on their website so it must be true. First held in 1972, it was one of the first Laser events in the world and in subsequent years 470s, 505s and Flying Dutchmen put the Wickford Regatta on the map.

It still is a pretty cool event. We had Lasers and 420s for regular folks like you and me. And sexier boats like Vipers and 505s and foiling Moths for people who are sexy enough to sail sexy boats.

I don't often have a chance to see sexy boats. It was the first time I had seen foiling Moths. I even got to see them actually foiling. It was an even more bizarre sight than they look on YouTube. I was tempted to try one until I noticed that all the Moth sailors were at least 8 inches shorter than me and at least 50 pounds lighter.


Anyway, the Wickford Regatta was revived last year and is now, once again, one of the premier springtime events on the East coast. Well, at least the premier springtime event in Wickford.

I was only mildly surprised to realize that this was the first "real" Laser regatta I had sailed since the weekend I won the towel in 2008. I never knew at the time that winning a towel would almost destroy my motivation for sailing. I sailed very little last year. No regattas at all. That towel is a curse. Where is that towel? I need to have a towel burning ceremony to exorcise the curse.

Anyway. (I think I said "anyway" already.) Anyway, because of the curse of the towel I didn't have very high expectations for my performance at Wickford. If I had bothered to write down my goals for the regatta (which I didn't) they would have been
  • have fun
  • meet some old friends
  • meet some new people
  • get familiar with racing Laser regattas again
  • work out what I need to work on
  • learn something useful
  • not win a towel
  • have fun.
It's not every time that I go to a regatta and achieve every single one of my goals. But this time I did.

There were some really good sailors near the front of the fleet. Really good as in a couple of current Laser Masters World Champions and a Cape Cod Frosty National Champion. As usual a bunch of fast kids (meaning anyone under 35.) Then a solid group of mid-fleet sailors. And, as expected, I was duking it out with the other tail-enders.

I didn't totally disgrace myself. I even beat that other guy in 4 out of 5 races on Saturday. He reads this blog so I had to mention that.

Unfortunately on Sunday there was no wind. We stayed around until lunchtime before everyone admitted that there wasn't going to be any wind, so we all went home.

Actually Sunday was better than it sounds. It meant that we all got to hang around together on the beach and talk about what sailors talk about. Laser sailing isn't inherently a very social sport when you are actually racing. But Laser sailors are interesting, friendly people (present company excepted.)

I caught up with some old friends. Spent a long time talking with a very interesting guy whom I had only known casually before. Picked the brains of some of the top sailors. Spent an inordinate amount of time with some other inquisitive souls examining how the regatta winner rigged his boat. Even measured his all-important downwind vang setting. How anal-retentive of me.

I think I have overcome the curse of the towel. The Wickford Regatta restored my passion for Laser racing. I've got the bug again. I'm scanning the district regatta schedule to work out what regattas I will race this summer. I'm making mental checklists of what I need to change on the boat and what I need to practice.

I'm back!


Sally McLean said...

Congratulations on your return to Lasers. My husband and I are both ex-laser sailors who plan to return eventually. Yacht sailing takes up alot of our time now but I miss the speed of dinghy sailing!! I al alos an ex moth sailor but I had scows not the foil type skiff moth which i think should be in a separate class!

MJ said...

Can you share his vang setting or is that top secret?

Sam Chapin said...

Maybe schedule the next regatta with no wind on Sunday. It sounded like that might have been the best part. I will try to put together a "howtosailthelaser" about going to regattas although I don't do that anymore.

Tillerman said...

MJ, it's looser than I was told to set it by a certain coach at CPYC a few years back; but tighter than what Brett Davis told me a couple of years ago. It makes the top of the leech go whumpity-whump without being too floppity-flop.

O Docker said...

"...whumpity-whump without being too floppity-flop..."

No wonder I wasn't any good on a Laser. I could never master all of the technical jargon.

Pat said...

So good to hear that you're not tossing the towel.

Fred said...

Don´t worry about your height and weight in terms of trying out the Moth. I have just met a couple of real men at the Moth Fest in Spain and I did not feel much out of line being 190cm tall and having abt. 85kg. The boat flies easy at about 7-8kn. If you get a chance try it but do not try from a shore. Needs someone with a RIB who is willing to let you go on to the Moth from the side of the RIB, somewhere out on the water. Than start with your moves. I am sure you will fly at your 1st or 2nd attempt... until you capsize due to the excitement...Do not want to pull you away from the Laser class but I should mention this to you: Came 2nd at our Moth regatta last weekend. And you know my age. Love the towel.

B.J. Porter said...

So if you are looking for something to do on Thursdays this summer we're trying to get a fleet together over in EG...

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