Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Blind Squirrel

It is the third race of the second day of the district Laser championships. The sea breeze has kicked in with a vengeance and the race committee has signaled a windward-leeward two-lap course.

The Strategy. I figure I want the right side of the course for two reasons. First of all, when the sea breeze came in yesterday a couple of sailors made huge gains on the last beat of the last race by hitting the right corner. Secondly I think that if I start at the right end of the line and tack to port immediately I will have a clear lane.

The Start. I line up for a start at the right end of the line (actually a flag buoy because, unusually, the race committee has the line to starboard of the committee boat.) One of those A-list guys (also known as Laser Sailing Gods or LSGs) has the same idea. Of course he times it better than me and I cross the line a little after him but right next to the buoy. I immediately tack out to the right side of the course.

The Beat. After a while I look over my shoulder and see all the rest of the fleet still heading left in a group. Two thoughts...
  • Do they know something I don't?

  • At least some of them are going to be getting gassed and squeezed out by the others and even the ones in the front row are probably going to be doing extra tacks as they criss-cross up the course in a crowd. I figure that this will cost more than the few feet I gave up at the start.
I ignore my doubts about the strategy and focus on going fast fast fast out to Cornersville Population 1.

The Shift. I don't have a compass but am concentrating on where I am heading on the distant shoreline. Praying, praying, praying for a nice header. Then it comes. About 10 degrees or so, and with a separation from the rest of the fleet of several hundred yards by now, that is a significant gain. I keep going for a few seconds to make sure the shift is real, and then tack. I'm a few boatlengths below the starboard tack layline and am looking good compared to the other boats. I continue sailing fast in clear air towards the mark.

The Cross. After a few minutes I cross the LSG by several boatlengths. He shouts something like, "Well done." I shout back, "Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while."

The Rounding. I round the windward mark in first place. Woo hoo. Mid-fleet mediocrity, C-list sailor Tillerman rounds first in the District Champs.

Now I can die happy.

I know, I know, I know. Now you can all rain on my parade in the comments by telling me that
  • I got lucky with the shift.

  • I should have made a better start.

  • Banging the corner is rarely a sound strategy.

  • The fleet leaders were probably staying close to each other because of the points situation in the regatta. They let me take a flier because I was no threat to them.

And one of you is going to ask me what happened next in the race and why I didn't win it.

I don't care. I found my nut.


Anonymous said...

It is better to have found one nut than never to have found a nut at all - my old grandad always used to say!!

Well done.
I cen "feel" the happiness even just reading the account!

Christy ~ Central Air said...

Way to go! Okay - we must know... what happened next?!

Anonymous said...

Why spoil a good story with the truth, christy?

Unknown said...

What a nutty thing to do, but it worked.

Mal Kiely [Lancelots Pram] said...

Good on you! Gotta love picking a great shift like that, oh yes! And well written as always, matey. Thanks for the smiles.

Mal :)

Anonymous said...

well, i do remeber such situations in my old laser days. What a great feeling to cross all the LDG's! Let me guess: they are just faster than you downwind (which makes the "g" in lsg), gain those few centmetres on every wave, they jibe quicker and you got nervous with a win in sight. Then when at the leeward mark your lead shrunk to a few boatlengths, you went for the "other side" again in good hope (or was it desperation) and the shift came - but in the wrong direction. I guess you just made the top ten, right?! How good i can remeber this.......keep going!

regards from hambrg


Shopping City Chaplaincy said...

It would have been a complete poke inthe eye if the shift had gone the other way!
At least you had a plan and you stuck to it!

PeconicPuffin said...

First is first. Not one of the other sailors was able to put together a more effective plan and execute it. And to whatever extent luck may have assisted, remember every time luck held you back.

I very much enjoyed the tale, even though I don't understand half of it!

Anonymous said...

Don't feel bad puffin. I don't understand half of it either.

Anonymous said...

"I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it." Thomas Jefferson. You earned it TMan

Anonymous said...

Great comment Tommy.

I used to work with one of Britain's Olympic sailors and one day when we were discussing the role of luck in sailboat racing he said that he believed that good sailors make their own luck.

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