Thursday, February 14, 2013
Every February, hordes of Laser Masters sailors invade Florida to participate in three regattas at three different locations over a week - the Laser Masters Midwinters East, Midweek Madness and the Florida Laser Masters. This year, the first regatta was won by John MacCausland and the next two by Andy Roy.
Doug of the Improper Course blog was there and did video interviews with the winners to share their "words of wisdom" on how they won each regatta (which were sailed in very different conditions from each other.) Doug's post of the three videos is at 2013 Master Madness.
Here is my summary of the key lessons from those interviews (in bold) - along with my own ill-informed ramblings on each lesson (not in bold.)
Master Midwinters East: flat water, light and shifty - John MacCausland.
1. In light, shifty, puffy conditions, especially on the first beat, "race the wind not the other competitors." Pay attention to the puffs and the shifts rather than the groups of boats.
Great advice. If I look back on my own (very rare) successful races against good competition in light air in recent years, they were achieved by following this advice to an extreme. If I think I can see what the wind is doing and have a good plan for the beat, and then I can go off and execute my plan and not even worry about where the other boats are, I can sometimes surprise myself (and everyone else.)
2. A rolled sail (no creases) looks faster than a folded sail (with all those ugly creases) in very light air. Maybe it isn't, but it sure looks better.
Most Laser sailors buy folded sails. They come with creases that look like they've been ironed in. Those creases can last for years. In anything but the lightest winds it probably doesn't matter much. Depending on whether you go with North or Hyde sails and where you buy them, you can buy a rolled sail with no creases for about $50-$65 more than a folded sail (i.e. about 10% more.)
Common sense would suggest that a smoother sail must be faster. Those ugly creases in a folded sail must disturb the airflow over the sail mustn't they? But common sense isn't always right. Is it worth it? I have no idea.
Midweek Madness: flat water, medium, patchy - Andy Roy.
3. Getting off the start line well is so important. Stay away from the ends unless they are really favored. Go for middle of line or third of the way from the favored end. Get a conservative line sight off transom of committee boat. Use that transit and the mid-line sag to sheet in a little earlier than the boats around you and punch out ahead of them.
Hmmm. Pretty conventional advice and exactly what Bill Brangiforte was saying in the words of wisdom from him that I posted a couple of weeks ago. So why don't I do it? Why don't most sailors do it? How is that the guys like Andy and Bill can make this work for them, when it sounds so simple that everyone could be doing it?
4. Downwind speed in flat water. Puffs were random, sometimes from the left of the course, sometimes from the right. So start off in the middle on the run, keep an eye out for the puffs, and when you see one, get on over to that side. Use the puff to work back down. Then start looking to see where the next puff is.
More great advice. I can remember the occasional day of lake sailing where I have been able to do this well and get a good result occasionally. It's too easy (and lazy) to assume that just because one side of the run seemed faster in the first race, then that pattern will apply all day. You need to keep looking behind you to see where the puffs are coming from. One coach told me that that is one reason you should always sit sideways in the boat on the run, so you can keep looking upwind more easily.
Florida Masters: windy, waves, like being in a big washing machine - Andy Roy.
5. Downwind speed in waves when there was no steady pattern to the waves. Get up some speed by sailing by the lee or on a broad reach and then pick a wave to go back on. Think like a surfer. Where is the best ride? Keep the boat going downhill. Think downhill. Down, down, down.
I did sail the Florida Masters at West Palm Beach a few years ago and I remember how big and crazy the waves were. It's one of the few locations on the east coast of the US where they actually sail Laser regattas out on the Atlantic Ocean as opposed to a more sheltered bay.
"Washing machine" waves are not my forte. I still have nightmares about Hayling Island in 2010! Andy's advice is easy to say, harder to execute. Last night I participated in a webinar on Laser Downwind Speed run by Coach Rulo from the Laser Centre at Cabarete, along with guest speaker Anna Tunnicliffe. Anna was giving very similar advice to what Andy was saying here, although in 90 minutes of webinar Rulo and Anna did manage to go into a lot more detail about downwind technique.
Hmmm. I feel another "words of wisdom" post coming on...
In the meantime, do check out Doug's original video interviews at 2013 Master Madness. John and Andy explain this stuff much better than I can.