Last week I spent four days at a Laser clinic run by Kurt Taulbee of SailFit in Clearwater Beach, Florida. The trip was organized by the soon to be famous Massapoag Mashers Sailing Team of which I am proud to be an honorary member. Five of us Mashers attended the clinic, along with some random Finn sailor who had seen the error of his ways and switched to a Laser.
Thursday was devoted to working on tacks and gybes and mark roundings, all of which god knows I need to improve. Kurt followed each of us in his motor boat and filmed us on his video camera and gave us much helpful feedback. I thought I was doing OK roll tacks until he came up behind me with his camera and on the third tack of mine that he filmed I somehow got the tiller extension tangled up with my feet or the toe-strap or the sheet or all of the above and I capsized on camera much to the amusement of the other Mashers at the video debrief session later... Clumsy!
Friday was a glorious sunny day with 10-14 knots of breeze and we sailed out on the Gulf of Mexico instead of the more sheltered waters of Clearwater Bay. The topics of the day were starting and upwind and downwind boatspeed in waves, all of which god knows I need to improve. For some reason I had one of those rare days when I had the right mental attitude conducive to sailing fast, a bit like the races I wrote about at Cannabinoid Moment and Lawn Mower Guy. After a slow start when a couple of the other Mashers "won" some of the drills I seemed to get in the groove and was sharp on the starts, fast on the reaches, powerful on the beats, and swift downwind (except for that occasion when I got confused about the course we were sailing... and that other occasion when I somehow failed to see the leeward mark.) All in all it was one of the most enjoyable sailing days I have ever had. If I had to think of one word to sum up my mental attitude for the day it would be... Aggressive!
On Saturday the wind picked up to 18-24 knots and gusting higher. Kurt originally proposed a plan for the day involving more starting practice and even a slalom course. But then I guess he realized he was dealing with the Massapoag Mashers and not some elite youth squad so he revised the plan to something that amounted to "let's just see if we can sail upwind and downwind for a while with the pointy thing aiming at the sky most of the time." (My quote not his.) Some of my friends switched to Radial rigs. Some of my friends bailed out of the drills before the end of the session. All of us spent some time with the pointy thing aiming at the bottom of Clearwater Bay instead of the sky. I didn't feel that I sailed at all well but Kurt was kind enough to say that I was looking good upwind... before he told me several things I should be doing differently to be sailing properly upwind. Then we did some reaches and gybes where I was not even looking good and I managed to do two more capsizes for the camera much to the further amusement of the other Mashers at the video debrief later, where Kurt was able to explain exactly what I was doing wrong to cause me to capsize while gybing.
Eventually there were only two of us left on the water, and the other guy was sailing a Radial so I felt it was a moral victory for me. The only Full Rig sailor to survive Day 3 of the Massapoag Mashers Spring Break 2012 - Mashers Gone Wild. If I had to choose one word to sum up my mental attitude for the day it would be... Terror!
A cold front passed through the area early on Sunday morning, the wind shifted to the north, and by 10 am it was blowing at 28-30 knots gusting to 35. Kurt arrived at the sailing center and informed us, with a smile, that he was working on the "theory" that we wouldn't be sailing that day. So we started watching some video of sailors much better than us, sailing in winds much heavier than we would ever sail in, doing much more stylish wipeouts than we would ever achieve.
There was an Optimist Regatta at the sailing center that weekend. The Opti kids rigged their boats and prepared to sail. A couple of 420s went out for a few minutes. One of the 420s returned with its mainsail in shreds. All the Opti Moms and Dads looked at the shredded 420 sail and remembered how many hundreds of dollars they had paid for little Johnny's Opti racing sail, and a few minutes later the Opti Regatta was miraculously abandoned.
So the Mashers stayed inside and watched more video and listed to Kurt explaining in theory the techniques for heavy air Laser sailing which god knows I need to improve but which was much more comfortable (and a lot drier) than actually doing heavy air Laser sailing. After a few hours of such stimulating and comfortable discussion we packed up the boats and said thank you and goodbye to Kurt and collected our wives including the beautiful Tillerwoman and went off to a nearby waterhole for a late lunch and a few beers. Chilling!