Monday, May 22, 2006

Lake Weekend

Went down the lake to practice in my Laser. Must have been the first practice sail (as opposed to racing) for at least 6 months. What an awesome wind! As you can see from the chart, it was gusting between 20 and 25 knots and very shifty. I'd forgotten how shifty the winds can be on a lake after sailing on the sea all winter. At times the whole of the surface of the reservoir as far as the eye could see was covered in whitecaps. There must be over 100 boats in the boat park but the only people out sailing were me and a windsurfer. I was pumped.

I worked a little on every point of sail, especially reaching. Couldn't waste a wind like this. At times you could sail a screaming reach without coming off the plane from one side of the reservoir to the other. Big smile on Tillerman's face. On the run I was sailing faster than the waves which sounds fun but it's actually more fun when you have to work to catch a ride. Upwind it took me quite a lot of practice before I was even getting close to keeping the boat flat and driving fast in such shifty, gusty winds. Did a lot of practice gybes and only capsized once.

It was my first day of Laser racing at the lake club this year. I sometimes despair of the membership here; being lake sailors they don't have much experience in heavier winds and many of the sailors are even too timid to try. The Flying Scot fleet showed up, sat around muttering about the weather forecast for a while - 30 knot gusts were promised - and then they went home without even launching their flying sidewalks. The Jet 14s and the Lasers went out to race. In the early afternoon it wasn't as windy as Saturday but still fun.

I won the first race. A little squall with some rain came through in the second race and the wind started gusting to 20 knots. After practicing yesterday I was in my element. Yeehow. Won the second race.

Then the race committee signaled
Abandon and called off the third race. I sailed by the committee boat and made a cynical comment about, "What's the matter? Are you getting cold?" That sounds bad, but they're my friends. They know that I'm not really a sarcastic yahoo. (At least I hope so.)

Actually it can't have been much fun for them sitting out in the rain and wind but, hey, they're the race committee - they're supposed to suffer so we can have fun. We all take turns at the misery. Afterwards the race officer said that he thought all the Jet 14 fleet looked to be "out of control" and he was worried about their safety. So what? How are these guys going to learn to be "in control" if they don't push the envelope?

So we informally raced upwind back to the club in the rain. As we were packing the boats away the rain stopped, the sun came out and the wind moderated a little. Damn that race committee.


Fuff said...

So much for 'middle of the fleet'. Good result!

the warrior said...

I learned of your blog through Dreamers, Liars and Tellers of Tall Tales, you know, Ben, and I must say I find it pretty damn cool.

I was a competitive swimmer and to most people's surprise I have never been boating per say, never LASER, not even up on a water ski or two...

Safe journeys my friend!

Tim Coleman said...

It would seem the world was full of wind this weekend.

Nothing new there then.

Well done on your two 1st places. Satisfying isn't it?

Tough job being a race officer when its blowing hard (or little); if you call off a race you get criticized, if you go ahead with the race you get criticized.

Sometimes I think it is upto the skipper of each boat to decide if they will race or not but I would think that there comes a point where a responsible decision has to be made on behalf of the rescue boat crews and other race officials as to wether it is safe to race or not.

Tillerman said...

Of course you'r right Tim. But only one sailor capsized and he went in after the first race. Another couple who don't like the heavier air also retired after the first race. The remaining sailors were all very experienced, quite capable of handling the conditions and still wanted to race.

The other factor at this club is that it is in a state park and the park authorities have a warning light that comes on when winds exceed 25mph. When the light is on, all boaters (not just sailors) must return to land. So there is an automatic safety cutoff, so to speak, which saves the race committee the need to make a decision. The light was not flashing on Sunday - at least not while we were racing.

Tim Coleman said...

Oh well, no excuss then. Except maybe they were getting too cold!

A flashing light eh? Very Big brotherish.

Carol Anne said...

New Mexico state parks have flashing lights like that, too, but they're just considered advisory, not mandatory. Our race committee doesn't call off races just because the lights are flashing; the winds have to be stronger than that.

Fred said...

.... sounds familiar with the flashing lights. These things are also installed in the South of Germany on some Lakes. It´s about the squalls which could come down the mountains but rarely exceed 30kn. The good sailors and windsurfers are going out for practise. The tourists are coming in.
And hej, your firsts are just the beginning. The cream rises to the top Tillerman. Keep going!

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