Monday, June 19, 2006

Laser Sailing at Lake Whippersnapper

On Sunday my son and I raced in the Laser fleet at the small lake club near his home in southern Massachusetts. The winds were 5 to 10 knots out of the SSW though we heard that it was blowing smallish dogs off rusty chains on nearby Buzzards Bay and Cape Cod.

The course for the first race is a two lap windward leeward with a downwind finish. I pull off a decent start near the favored boat end of the line and start working the puffs and shifts up the beat. The Whippersnapper outfoxes me at this game and is leading the fleet at the first windward mark with me following him about seven to ten boatlengths behind. Downwind I can see a puff coming down the left side of the course so favor that side and pull level with him. But then the wind goes soft and shifts right and I execute an ugly gybe and he pulls ahead again. I finally get behind him and sit on his air -- didn't someone write some comments on a blog on how to do this? By the leeward mark I am right on his transom but choose not to pull any risky tricks at the mark rounding as the rest of the fleet has closed the gap in a gust from behind them.

Now the game is on. He covers me closely up the first part of the second beat. Before the races I had asked him who was good in the local fleet and he had pointed out one guy as the local light wind guru. Hmmm - I see that guy behind us digging in to the right side of the course. Does he know something? I look upwind and there is definitely more pressure on the right side but I need to escape this cover. I throw a double tack and the Whippersnapper falls for it it. Now I am heading right and he is heading left. I sail into the gust and it turns out to be a huge righty shift too. I finish the beat with a healthy lead over Local Wind Guru in second place, and hold the lead down the run to the finish.

The second race is a five leg windward leeward, three beats and two runs with an upwind finish near the club. Once again I start near the committee boat just to leeward of most of the fleet. There are some little puffs out to the left but there is also a no-go area on this side marked off with some white buoys. At first the wind is shifting right and the fleet is lifted inside me. But then I reach one of the puffs and it's a nice header so I tack. Still can't cross the fleet and there is more pressure up near the no-go area so I tack and head back left again. Into the gust just short of the first marker buoy, a bigger header, I tack back and cross the fleet. It's a close cross with the Whippersnapper. Tack or Cross? Cross. Thanks son.

I don't know if it is a question of better boatspeed or just having the freedom to play the shifts better from upfront, but from then on I just extend my lead around the course and end up winning the second race too, a healthy distance ahead of some kid with weightlifter's biceps.

After racing I can see that the club members don't quite know what to make of the Tillerman family. Last week the Whippersnapper blew them all away in heavy air. And this week he shows up with this decrepit old grizzled grandfather figure and he beats them too.

Biceps Kid comes over and starts chatting about where we usually sail and Whippersnapper fesses up to his college sailing background.

A woman who was on race committee walks by and tells me that I was so smooth and that my tacks were a pleasure to watch. Blushes. Geeze - I don't think a member of the opposite sex has ever described me as smooth before. I thank her and congratulate her for her excellent race committee work.

One of the Laser sailors walks by with a puzzled look on his face and mutters, "Where did you learn to sail like that?"

"Oh, I've been doing this for a while," I confess... modestly I hope.

Another member of the yacht club stops by. The commodore perhaps? "We're not inviting you here again," he jokes. At least I think he was joking.

Happy Father's Day. Indeed.


Zen said...

Nice T-man!

Anonymous said...

Good deal Till.

Let's get some shore support with pics and video. It would great to see some of the action. What can I say, I went to Architecture school. I need visual aids. ;)

Brooklyn Salt said...

"Decrepit old grizzled grandfather" kicks some serious ass around the marks. That will keep the kids thinking for a while.

Sounds like the best Father's Day on record.

Carol Anne said...


Fred said...

Yes, you have the tools (knowledge, experience, etc) to do it! Great sailing, smart moves and a nice report to read about. This one will build up some confidence to gain places in your local fleet. I´d like to invite you the the Schleswig Laserfleet Stadtmeisterschaft here at the end of September. Just a bunch of grown up guys doing it in the Laser once a year.

Tillerman said...

Thanks for the invite Fred. Don't think I'll be able to make it this year but I'll let you know if my plans change.

Anonymous said...

Yup, it was blowing even medium sized dogs off of rusty chains.

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