On Sunday last weekend, the second day of the New England Masters our course area was to the north of the Newport Pell Bridge again but over near the Jamestown shore. The wind was a lot lighter and coming off that shore, so I expected it to be quite shifty.
As I sailed out to the course I contemplated how lucky we were that Newport had NOT won the rights to host the 34th America's Cup. With all that lollapalooza going on there would be no way that Fort Adams would also be hosting the New England Laser Masters this weekend.
In most races the majority of the fleet went left on the first beat and a smaller group went right. I have no idea why. It's hard enough for me to devise my own race strategy never mind trying to read the minds of my fellow sailors.
I have been reading Doug's posts over on Improper Course about Sailing in the Middle of the Fleet and based on his words of wisdom I decided that my strategy would be to get clear air as soon as I could after the start and then sail the shifts and the pressure. Have clear air with freedom to tack and just sail my own race. This usually involved getting an OK-ish start, failing to maintain my lane for very long, and then tacking on to port to find a clear lane.
In the first race this didn't work particularly well giving me a result in the high 20's, but in the second race it worked like a charm. I sailed up the middle of the course always trying to sail the lifted tack and keeping in the areas of stronger pressure. I was reassured to see one of the regatta leaders playing the same game with me. And I rounded the first mark in a group of 8 or 10 boats who had a good lead on the rest of the pack.
Downwind I kept my eyes open for which side of the run seemed to have more pressure and headed over there when I saw one side was favored. Didn't make any stupid mistakes on the final beat and crossed the finish line in 6th place! Not too shabby in a 48 boat fleet.
The wind freshened considerably in the third race, the wind went further right at some point, the tide was ripping at the windward mark but other than that I don't really remember much about the last three races. Probably a good thing, looking at the results.
After racing we all mellowed out over chowdah and beer and told each other outrageous exaggerations and downright lies about our experiences during the regatta - as per usual. And when they announced the results it turned out that third place (the lowest award) for the Great Grandmasters (the oldest age group) went to... the old bald guy with the English accent who had been telling those unbelievable stories about getting trapped in the dead zone on the bridge abutment.
Well, I guess it was better than a slap in the face with a wet kipper.