Monday, September 10, 2012

New England Laser Masters 2012 - Day 1


This weekend I sailed in my favorite event, the New England Laser Masters.

There are all sorts of reasons why I enjoy this regatta so much..

It's sailed out of Third Beach Newport (not actually in Newport) one of the Top 9 Sailing Destinations on the Planet.

It's a great chance to meet up with old sailing friends and make some new ones.They have a draw for all sorts of goodies from sponsors. More than one goodie per competitor. There was even a practice sail up for grabs this year.

The prizes are embroidered towels. Much better than plaques or silver cups. I even won a towel for Second Grandmaster once. I am the only man in the world who dries his man parts with a towel that is embroidered with the words "Second Grandmaster N.E. Laser Masters 2008."

But it's really all about the sailing, right?

On Saturday the wind was honking out of the south and there were huge swells rolling in from Rhode Island Sound. Classic Third Beach conditions. Several sailors chose to race with the smaller Radial rigs. I haven't bought a Radial rig yet. Some days I regret that decision.

The first race was one of those old-fashioned "Olympic" courses, or "triangle-sausage" as we used to call them in England. I couldn't see the windward mark from the start line. Probably not because the RC had put it over the horizon. More likely because of my poor eyesight. Or the waves. But maybe not.

I must admit I didn't work very hard on the first beat. I had that poor attitude that I wrote about in What I Learned From Running Marathons - "Take it easy. It's going to be a long day. Pace yourself. Don't go all out too early."

Good strategy for running marathons. Bad strategy for racing the best masters sailors in New England. As a result I arrived at the windward mark (not quite over the horizon) with the tail-enders. Which means there were almost 40 boats in front of me.

But the first reach was superb. I was catching rides on waves all the way to the gybe mark and passing a gazillion boats. Well, to be truthful, at least a few other tail-enders. Woo hoo!

I gybed without capsizing. Woo hoo!

The second reach was miserable. I couldn't surf on any waves and most of the boats I had passed on the first reach were passing me.

Why? I glanced at the rudder. Uh oh. Weed! I cleated the sheet and reached over the transom to clear the weed. I always feel that it's a little risky to sail a Laser on a screaming reach for too long while leaning over the back of the boat with your head in the weeds (almost literally.) So I try not to do it too long.

I pulled up the daggerboard and dropped it down again to clear any weeds off that.

Still I was going slow and I could feel on the tiller that there was still something on the rudder. I cleated the sheet again and went over the transom to clear more weeds off. Did I say weeds? This time it felt like there was a small tree hooked on the rudder.

By the time I reached the leeward mark I was with the tail-enders again.

I was still slow up the second beat. I glanced under the boat at the daggerboard. More frigging weed! I pulled up the daggerboard. Again. I wasn't much faster.

The run was fun but I didn't gain much distance on the boats around me. Shit!

I rounded the leeward mark. I was angry. This is not me. I know I don't deserve to be at the front of this fleet but I don't deserve to be almost last either.

I switched gears. I hiked harder and put the bow down. Aaaaah. Yes, I remember now. This is how you are supposed to sail a Laser in 15 knots. I passed the two boats closest to me. I looked back occasionally and saw the sad little faces of their skippers disappearing further into the distance. Children can be so cruel at my age.

I crossed the finish line ahead of about 5 boats. Not good. But better than DFL.

I resolved to do better in the second race, a simple one-lap windward leeward. The wind had picked up a bit more. I did a bit better than the first race on the beat but the run was the highlight of the weekend. Crazy downhill ride. Catching waves. Overtaking waves. I was in the zone. Focused on the waves around me. Pumping.  Carving back and forth to find the best rides. Boats around me were capsizing. Boats in front of me were capsizing. Boats behind me were capsizing.  Woo hoo! Children of my age can be so cruel.

I finished in the high 20's in that race.

But I was knackered as we say in real English.

I started the third race. But I wasn't having fun. So I quit part way up the beat, in line with my new philosophy as outlined in Sailing Philosophy with Crappy Chart, to sail until I reach the end of the Fatigue Phase and before entering the Exhaustion Phase.

I sailed over to the committee boat to tell them I was going in.

The race officer asked me if I wanted a beer "for the ride."

I laughed and declined. I haven't yet worked out how to drink beer while sailing a Laser on a broad reach in 15-20 knots.

There were 4 more races. The tide turned so that it was running against the wind. More people quit before the end. The guy who ultimately won the regatta reported that his legs felt like "Jell-O" at the end of Saturday's racing. I don't think that that is necessarily a good feeling.

Coming soon. A post on day 2. And a rambling post on what I learned about myself at this regatta.

Life is good.

I think I'll take a nap now.


Baydog said...

"I haven't yet worked out how to drink beer while sailing a Laser on a broad reach in 15-20 knots."

Dude, it's just like driving a c.....

Just use your aft foot to keep the tiller from roun ding itself up, while holding the can with one hand and the tab with the other. Take a large tug on that beer, cause you don't know for sure if there'll be another one before you death roll on the way home.

Baydog said...


Tillerman said...

I am in awe of both your Laser sailing and beer drinking prowess Baydog. Can you also nibble on some Krowicki's white corn while you are doing all that?

Lindy said...

I feel for ya; this past weekend at Seabrook with 15-18 knts, bad chop and just could not get the boat to go. Too much heal and no matter what I did could not keep it flat. Surfed down wind until I submarined for a good five seconds without going over. Finished first race last and remembered your post about having fun and I wasn't. So to the dock I went. I know I need to sail in those conditions to get better but screw that; I was ready for an ice cold Red Stripe...

Tillerman said...

LOL Lindy. I hope I haven't started a trend of more and more people quitting Laser races because of what they read on my blog.

Sam Chapin said...

Heel the boat over to look for the weeds on centerboard and rudder. Pull the centerboard up to clear them there AND THEN CHECK THE RUDDER AGAIN. They tend to flow back and catch on rudder.

Tillerman said...

Duh! Never thought of that Sam. Of course weed cleared from the daggerboard might then catch on the rudder, and that may have been part of the problem on Saturday. Thanks. I learn so much from my readers.

Lindy said...

Not to worry, I rarely quit a regatta but this was just a local club event and I just was not having any fun. It's way too easy to think we're better than we really are and be too serious about the whole game. Besides, I just got back from Austin watching Doug blaze away from us all which really boosted my ego. Acctually, staying in site of him (which I did) is a major accomplishment for me.

I sailed a couple of regattas last year and about five this year on a Laser; prior to that about ten total in my lifetime on cats and cruisers. I feel pretty good about my pace so far but I feel a learning curve slow-down in my future. Time will tell.

Unknown said...

I was in a Sunfish regatta the same day. I took firsts in two races because I was the only one to successfully make it around the course.

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