44 full rig Lasers. 15 races over 2 days. Wide range of ages from kids to grizzled old grandmasters (like me.) Both genders. Lots of new faces I've not seen on the local regatta circuit before.
Sunny warm weather.
Wind. Oh yes, we had wind. Let the pictures tell the story.
I learned a lot over the two days.
1. I currently don't have the stamina to sail 15 races in 2 days in winds occasionally gusting over 20mph. I actually sailed in only 4 races on Saturday and 3 on Sunday. On each day I sailed as hard as I could until I was getting so tired that I knew that I would start to make (even more) stupid mistakes and that I wouldn't be enjoying it any more. So I said my goodbyes to the race committee and sailed back to the beach. Maybe it's partly mental, but it's mainly physical. Hey, I'm "pushing seventy" as my Dad was fond of saying when he was about my age. I do it for fun and when it's starting to be "not fun" on any given day it's time to quit.
My attitude to regatta racing is basically the same as it was in the summer of 2012 which I summed up in a blog post titled Sailing Philosophy with Crappy Chart. If I sail more multi-day regattas and sail more races each time (and eat more spinach) I'm sure I will get fitter and eventually end up completing all the races. If I don't, I won't. I yam what I yam.
2. There is no practice for racing in large fleets that compares to actually racing in large fleets. I've done a lot of sailing, mainly with one partner or in small fleets, over the past few weeks, but I still felt very rusty on the first day at Newport. On Saturday my starts were poor, I made bad strategic decisions, and my mark rounding tactics were mediocre. In the 44 boat fleet I had several finishes in the low 30s and one in the mid 20s. Not good…
I was having fun. And my competitive juices were flowing. I really felt that if I could get my act together I could place a lot higher. It seemed that there were about half a dozen boats at the back of the fleet that I could easily beat and then a large group of 12-15 boats ahead of me… but not far ahead. Maybe it was an optical illusion but it seemed that I only needed to make a small improvement in my starts or my boat speed or my tactics at marks and I would be able to pass that big clump of boats in front of me and break into the top 20. Maybe.
And in the first two races on Sunday that was exactly what happened. I think I was just more comfortable with sailing in a regatta with a largish fleet again. I wasn't consciously doing anything very different but I seemed to be finding a clear lane to the favored side of the course soon after the start, I was thinking ahead about which sides of the downwind legs I wanted to sail, and I wasn't totally screwing up every mark rounding. I was beating some of the sailors who had been consistently ahead of me on Saturday. And it felt good. I scored a 16 and a 21 in the first two races. Much better than Saturday. (Although it must be said that attrition of the fleet due to breakages, capsizes, too much Bacardi on Saturday night, and over eagerness on black flag starts was also a factor in boosting my scores.)
And in the third race on Sunday, I managed to kick it up another notch. I was really warmed up now and had good boat speed upwind and downwind. All that practice at Little Compton over the past three weeks was paying off. I nailed the starboard tack lay line perfectly on the first beat and rounded the mark way up in the fleet. I was catching good rides on the waves on the first reach and managed to hang close to the leaders. It felt weird but I felt like I was sailing better because I was surrounded by better company than I had been hanging out with in the earlier races. Be that as it may, I held off a challenge on the second reach and extended my lead over that boat on the final beat, hiking like a demon and working the boat hard through the waves. I thought I had finished just outside the top ten but it turned out that there were four boats who had been black-flagged in front of me so I actually scored a 7th.
Wow. I was mentally and physically drained, and I figured that I would call it a day and end the regatta on a high note, so that I could revel in the memory of that race for a few weeks and motivate myself for the next regatta.
I sailed back to Fort Adams and derigged my boat. There weren't many people around so I stretched out on my back on the grass in the sunshine and stared at the sky for a few minutes and just reflected on the joy of sailing in the waves and the wind and the sunshine and what a great weekend it had been.
3. In other good news, I think I have a new That Guy.
4. Today, my back hurts.