Thursday, February 18, 2010


Sunday morning 8:44 am. I posted as my Facebook status "33 degrees and 18 knots forecast for 1pm. Perfect weather for sailing." Hah!

One of my Facebook "friends" responded, "Please be careful, Old Man!"

Not long after 11 am I left the house and headed down to Newport for another afternoon of Laser frostbite racing. As I left the house my wife kissed me and said, "Please be careful!"

Careful? I am a Laser frostbite sailor. I have a drysuit and know how to use it. I can handle 33 degrees and 18 knots. Hah!

How wrong I was.

I arrived at the start line as the first race was already in the starting sequence. That was good. I had to duck behind the whole fleet on port tack thereby achieving the first two objectives I learned last time I went frostbiting: avoid the crowded part of the start line and sail the beat in clear air. I remembered the third lesson about avoiding the pile-up at the windward mark too, and by overstanding the layline a tad was able to cruise past all the bozos luffing to get round the mark, and crashing into the luffers on port tack, and failing to lay the mark, and capsizing at the mark etc. etc.

I rounded the mark and looked back at the usual mayhem and felt a smug sense of satisfaction that I knew what I was doing. Hah!

How wrong I was.

The windward mark was set quite close into the dock wall at Fort Adams and the gusty westerly wind coming over the fort was.... ummm... interesting. As I was hit by random gusts on the downwind leg I struggled to retain control and keep the long tall stick thingie pointing roughly at the sky. I've discovered after many years of Laser sailing that this tends to be faster than the alternative.

After a couple of hairy planes I realized I was getting a bit too far to the right, so I gybed and headed for the left-hand gate mark. Hmmm. Somehow, while I was struggling to keep the long tall stick thingie pointing at the sky, all those "bozos" who had been playing silly buggers at the windward mark had got past me. The fourth lesson from last time about covering the opposition on the final beat was now somewhat irrelevant, but I hung in there and finished in touch with the other tailenders but still in DFL.

Oh well. I was just warming up in that race, I will do better in the second race, I thought. Hah!

How wrong I was.

Similar beat. General mayhem at the windward mark with me being super smart by overstanding the layline and cruising past the mess. I set off towards the gybe mark on what was actually a run and.... whoah.... death-rolled. How did that happen? I have no idea.

By the time I had composed myself, and had a relaxing swim (first time in Narragansett Bay in February - most refreshing), and righted the boat, and climbed back in the boat, and got my bearings as to which way the pointy end was now pointing.... there was only one boat behind me. I think it was some dude who started the race about five minutes late.

Oh well, I thought, at least I can beat him. So I sailed the rest of the course. The dude behind me retired at the gybe mark so I was last finisher again, and to add insult to injury, the race committee had actually started the sequence for the next race before I finished. Well, I guess it was cold, and nobody wants to hang around for some bozo who is miles behind the fleet. (Me.)

OK. Time to get serious. No more capsizes. I can handle these conditions. Hah!

How wrong I was.

In the third race I capsized to leeward in a gust just before the gybe mark. How did that happen? I have no idea.

This time after the usual routine of swimming around (second time in Narragansett Bay in February - most refreshing etc. etc.) I decided to take a breather and not bother to finish the race. Save some energy. I noticed that my nemesis the other guy was heading back to the launch area along with a couple of other sailors. What's that all about? It's only 18 knots. I can handle this. Hah!

How wrong I was.

I approached the start area for the fourth race and looked upwind. Yikes. The sea was a mass of whitecaps and streaking foam. I saw later when the RC posted the results that they recorded the windspeed for the afternoon as 15-30 knots. Hmmm. I guess I was looking at one of the 30 knot gusts.

I remembered my wife's last words to me. "Please be careful!" I wimped out and sailed back to the beach.

As I drove home I was disappointed and angry with myself. Why had I given up so early? Why didn't I tough it out? I can handle 30 knots. Or I used to be able to. What's the matter with me?

I think it would take at least two more posts for me to cover all the Excuses as to Why I Sailed so Badly on Sunday, and What The Hell I'm Going To Do About It.


The O'Sheas said...

You're really not making a good case for me getting into the Lasers anytime soon, amigo.

Tillerman said...

"Only dead fish go with the flow."

The O'Sheas said...

Are you quoting my jr. high football coach?

Tillerman said...

No, I'm quoting a famous American politician who used this quote to explain why quitting her job half-way through her term was not really quitting her job half-way through her term. I thought it useful to help my readers understand why quitting the racing half-way through the afternoon was not really quitting the racing half-way through the afternoon.

TK said...

Look for the progress here Tillerman!
Your effort to 'leave a little more meat on the bone' at the windward mark and overstand a touch is working well. Now on to ironing out the downwind. Keep after it.

Sam Chapin said...

Practice makes perfect and you got a half a practice in. Good work!

The O'Sheas said...

I'm starting my deadfish imitation right now. I recommend you do the same. Sail downwind like a deadfish, because Palin said not too.

EscapeVelocity said...

I was sailing a centerboard boat in 30+ last weekend (not really by plan). Before jibing, I dropped the main. Your problem is that you are sailing a boat where you can't do that.

The O'Sheas said...

Is that how you do it? I have been letting the main out and then pulling it back in when I'm around. There's always a crazy tipping moment. I should drop it? Huh.

Carol Anne said...

Of course, that poster is interesting too, if one looks at where the arrow labeled "trunk" is pointed, and then one also notes that that injuries to that part of the anatomy are second only to fingers.

On the Laser, I know you've already nearly chopped off a finger.

JP said...

Think of the plus side - you've made a lot of sailors that go for regular swims feel a lot better :)

On the other hand still not yet convinced that its the right time of year to do so.

Ross A said...

Great post - I enjoy reading your blog!

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