Get Ready for Spring Sailing!


We are just over a week away from the start of our Spring Sailing Season.  Take a moment now to make sure you are ready for the season by doing the following:

If you take care of these things now, you’re all set to enjoy the season.  See you on the water soon!

2015 Spring Series #2

Today was an awesome day on the water and the weather gave us exactly the opposite from last weekend.  The breeze was out of the east/south east and was blowing around 16 most of the day.  As is typical of an east wind, the conditions were quite puffy and shifty.  The race committee set us up a triangle course and was able to get 5 races off (3 T2s and 2 O2s).  The conditions gave us some nice long reaching legs that were quite fast at times.  We had 3 Albacores, 2 Buccaneers, and 6 Lightnings and decided at the skippers meeting to just have everyone start together which provided fun races and competitive starts.

2015 Spring Series 2 – Albacores

2015 Spring Series 2 – Buccaneers

2015 Spring Series 2 – Lightnings

2015 Spring Series #1

The opening day of PRSA’s 2015 Spring Series arrived clear, blue and still: the river was glass smooth and only faint wisps of breeze out of the north were all that remained of the frontal winds from the day before. Race Committee PRO Jim Graham pulled everyone together for the skippers’ meeting at ten and announced a one hour delay, noting that we all had to be off the water for the PRSA BBQ scheduled to begin at 3PM. Four Lightnings were present– Frank Gallagher, Nabeel Alsalam, Bob Astrove, and Lindsay Bach– along with groups of three or four each of Albacores, Buccaneers and Interlake Scows. So everyone milled about for an hour or so when Jim came walking through the clusters of sailors blowing his whistle, announcing another one hour delay. About halfway through the second hour, Jim decided we should all splash and the RC would tow the boats up to the course. This took about about three quarters of an hour during which time the the scows dropped out. The wind was still mostly absent though the forecast was calling for the breeze to come up out of the South sometime around one o’clock. So the fleet drifted and bobbed for about another three-quarters of an hour in the luxurious sunshine until a faint southerly breeze of about 3 mph began to fill in, right on schedule, a little after 1:00 PM.

The race committee started the first race on a W2 course with the windward buoy set about 300 yards down river, just off the new runway extension at the airport. It was slow going but at least we were going. Frank, Nabeel and Bob crossed the starting line followed by Lindsay. Rounding the weather mark, Lindsay managed to slip ahead of Bob on the downwind leg. Given that the southerly wind was only about 2-3 mph — barely enough to overcome the push of the incoming tide– the RC decided to shorten the course and finish after one lap. The positions established after the first weather mark held for the rest of the race with Frank in the lead followed by Nabeel, Lindsay and Bob. Frank crossed first about three boat lengths ahead of Nabeel, and as a measure of how light it was, Nabeel crossed about 2 minutes later.

After the first race, the Lightnings drifted around for another half an hour or so as the wind continued to slacken and the rest of the fleet struggled to finish. It was not exactly certain that the RC would hold another race as it was nearly 2 PM. However, fresh wind began to appear down by the Wilson Bridge and soon made its way up river, coming in finally at about 6-8 mph. The RC repositioned the weather mark a little further east out in the river and started the second race on the W2 course. The pin end was strongly favored but positions among the four boats were spread along the short line at the start. The fleet tacked away soon after the start towards the airport and Frank got out in front with Nabeel in second, followed by Bob and Lindsay — positions that remained unchanged throughout the race. After the finish, the fleet had a fine sail back to the marina followed by the PRSA BBQ

2015 Spring Series 1 – Albacores
2015 Spring Series 1 – Buccaneers

2015 Spring Series 1 – Lightnings

Laser Frostbite Series #17

Yesterday was a great day on the river!
A squirrelly Northwesterly kept things interesting and definitely made it a challenge to stay in phase and keep your ass out of the water.  At several points the breeze was way left at the start, but it was hard to know if/how long that was going to hold so I usually split the difference and went for a hole in the middle of the line and tacked on the first shift.  Most races that got me to the windward mark in good stead.  Make or break moments for me most of the time, however, had to do with boat handling unfortunately.  At several points I gave up a lead or lost boats by getting stuck in irons fumbling to release the vang, capsizing, or incurring totally unnecessary fouls.  My key takeaway from yesterday, minimize mistakes.
The race committee did a great job setting a course that split the different between the oscillations in wind direction and getting races off in short order.
Congrats to Eric Petersen for a remarkably consistent performance yesterday (all 1sts I believe) and on his overall win for the season!  We also owe Eric a huge thanks for all that he does as Fleet Captain and Farley for doing the scores and updating the website!

Laser Frostbite Series #15

Great day on the water. I had a lot of fun and it seemed like most people did too. The wind was good, 8-12 by my estimate, and it was titanic status with icebergs all over the course.

Seemed like the left payed well but I was able to make gains going right too.

Tried to keep the boat as powered as I could and didn’t feel the need to depower except for at the end when I was tired. If you’re not on the heavier side, I think depowering was needed. But don’t forget to start with some power in the sail off the line and be adjusting in the lulls. I also adjusted the sail controls for the reach and downwind right before the weather mark. This helped get up to speed faster and get ahead if I was with someone at the rounding.

I tried the straight downwind strategy and bigger broad reaches. Each had its advantage. I didn’t like the reach approach when I had to sail very high to induce the plane. I think I just sailed too much extra distance and vmg went to those sailing on dead downwind heading.

See everyone next week. Let’s hope for even more wind!

2014-2015 Laser Frostbite Series 15

2014-2015 Laser Frostbite Series Totals

Laser Frostbite Series #11

There was perfect weather today but not much wind. The track never went over 5 knots and at some points the graph drops to zero. On the water the wind was light and oscillating but the race committee did a good job setting up the course for the conditions. We always had enough water to sail in thanks in part to a high tide. Sailing on the lagoon I only noticed current when we finally sailed in by the docks as the tide flowed out through the channel.
One thing I think I did pretty well today was the starts. I watched this youtube video a couple weeks ago about Starting Strategy with Peter Isler ( It is over an hour long but I think it has really good information. What Isler advocates is not trying to fight for the very best spot but instead going for a ‘good enough’ spot where there is less competition. On the first start of the day I approached the line on port tack and almost the entire fleet was to the right of the boat gunning for the best start possible. I tacked to starboard a couple of boat lengths down and got a decent start even though I set up a little early and didn’t defend my hole as well as I could have.
The second race people spread out on the line a little more and I was able to find a hole from a port tack approach much nearer to the boat. I tacked out to the right side quickly but I never got my boat going the way I wanted and Jim Graham went from sitting on my hip to sailing higher and faster to the point were I could read the word ‘Toucan’. I tend to pinch a lot in general and I think that on these light wind days if you don’t get up to speed first before trying to pinch you’ll forever be stuck in 1st gear going lower and slower. Moral of the story: make sure to foot a little after the start or after a tack before trying to pinch in light air.
On the third race the wind went far left just before the start. The fleet was still mostly collected around the boat and there were only about three people eyeing the pin end. After some match racing luffing and tactics against Eric Petersen I was able to tack on to the pin lay line on starboard right before the start and accelerate with clear air. After the start I looked for the earliest opportunity to tack back and try to center myself on the course and consolidate my gains in case the wind decided to fill in with more velocity on the other side. Being in the lead with clear air it is much easier to play the shifts and capitalize on your lead on the upwind legs and that is what I was able to to. I always tried to steer a little towards where I thought the next puff was coming from and keeping between the person behind me and the next mark.
Winning the start on the third race gave me the confidence to try and win the boat on the last race. I was able to do it by setting up at the right time (~30 sec before the start), sitting on the lay line to the RC boat almost head to wind with my nose about two feet from the end of the committee boat and then accelerating at the right time at a little less than 10 seconds. Even with winning the boat I still had someone to leeward of me so I couldn’t bear off as much as I maybe normally would have in this light air. By the time we got to the windward mark Farley Will was able to tack inside of me by over half a boat length. He started mid-line that race and I bet he didn’t have anyone to leeward of him which may prove Peter Isler’s strategy.

Laser Frostbite Series #10

The forecast was for 5mph wind, increasing to 7-8mph, however this did not hold as the wind died out during the second race.
During the first leg of the first race, Len was first to catch a big shift and took off on everyone.  The rest of us battled it out for 2nd.
The second race was very light wind with increasing current.  Everyone needed to be patient and those with good light wind boat speed finished well.
The third race was a windward – leward once around, with wind only on the west side of the course.  Adam had a great start at the boat end, then tacked into the wind.  However, he got stuck in a hole and others caught up.
We finished the day with a great parking lot birthday party for Kevin, who is approaching Grand Master status on the Laser Masters tour.
On days like this, I try to:
  • keep the boat moving – at the start and by not pinching upwind
  • actively look around to figure out where the wind is
  • keep my weight forward – upwind and downwind
  • roll tack
Thanks to Dan and Nich for doing RC!

Laser Frostbite Series #9

Awesome day on the water! Great job to the RC for fitting in several quality races.

The wind was very up and down, and then back up and down again, and then way right, and then left, and then…. we’ll you get the point. Fluky day and very important to be on the favored side of a shift, could make or loose half of the fleet on a couple of occasions.
The downwinds were a little tricky for me, tried hard to stay in a lane with clear air and work my way to the inside. Lots of pinwheel roundings.
Tide was very high when we first started, so I can only assume it was going out as we raced – it had more effect when the wind was light. I didn’t rly pay much attention to it when the wind was up.
The starts were pretty aggressive with the boat being way favored a couple times with a lot of people pushing to win the boat.
Great day on the water, looking forward to more wind!

Laser Frostbite Series #6

When we first got out I was psyched to see the wind from the South at about 10-12 knots.  As someone on the taller/heavier side I like it when the wind is up and, in my experience on the river, Southerlies tend to be stable both in velocity and direction.  Apparently, though, that was not the Southerly we had today.  The first two races saw big shifts at the start and then the breeze died off for the second two.  The first race it went way right making a boat end start critical.  The second race it went way left.  The puffs, it seemed, were coming in predominately from the right and tended to be right shifts, so I gambled with a midline start and headed right.  Whatever I may have gained from being on the right, however, did not make up for missing the first big shift and not being at the pin.  As the wind dropped off for the last two races finding the breeze became the overriding consideration and it seemed almost as likely to be on the left as the right.  We had an ebb tide for most of the day, but the current seemed negligible.  Justin did a great job as RC finding us enough water to sail in and getting the races off.
Great to get out on Laser again and to see so many new faces.  Looking forward to next Sunday.
Jason Ipe

2014-2015 Laser Frostbite Series 6

2014-2015 Laser Frostbite Series – Cumulative (Through 1/4/15)

2015 Hangover Regatta

On January 1, 1974, about the time of one of the first Hangover Regattas, the Potomac River Laser Fleet was comprised very similarly to today’s fleet, with the British Naval Attaché as our fleet captain, Turkish diplomates, Lightning sailors, 470 sailors, Jet 14 sailors and numerous high school sailors. Mark Bear and I were two of those high school sailors. With the guidance of Peter Syverson the Potomac boasted one of the first Laser fleets. There was one important difference, however. In 1974 Northern Virginia had yet to experience its huge building boom. The Sailing Marina was uniformly 14 feet in depth across the cove to the airport rip rap. We regularly held huge events in the cove including such deep water boats as Stars.Today, much of Arlington and Falls Church have washed down Four Mile Run into our cove and center of the river. Nabeel, our RC chair, citing the extreme low tide, wisely elected to head north to avoid the shallow conditions downstream from the marina. As we headed for the race course both old timers such as Mark and Michael, and even fleet regulars such as Dan and myself( I am almost a regular), found themselves glued to the bottom just inside the last day mark. Fortunately, I was able to spring free just in time to make the two minute horn. I was able to convince Nabeel to postpone to accommodate our less fortunate fleet members.

Once we all assembled at the race course we found a surprisingly nice place to race. The tide conditions we very simple, with the flood quite pronounced on the left, channel side of the course, while quite benign on the right, landing pier side of the course. The cove gave the breeze a much better fetch than we experience either racing inside or in the more recent Marina Towers race area. The breeze seemed to fit Sail Flow’s forecast almost perfectly at 7-18 with about 60-65% of the larger shots coming with a fair amount of west and far fewer coming from 180. The line was rather long and seemed to be square to pin biased all day. My strategy for the day was simple, find a relatively clear spot on the line where I could always be in phase, and hopefully working right. In the first race that strategy seemed to pan out until one of those 35% probability lefties scrambled the weather mark rounding. I believe Mark and Len escaped most unscathed. The lesson learned for the day was, while favoring a side, given the puffy nature of the breeze, I was never going to sail to either layline again.
As the day progressed, I generally found the right and middle of the start appealing, despite the pin bias, so that I might be one of the first to take advantage of the relatively few truly lifted port tack beats. I tried to anticipate the starboard gusts, remaining content to sail around the entire”catspaw” of the right hand blast to avoid that fate of race one. In general, I found most boats playing the right sailed far too close to the pier and lost huge amounts as they sailed back to the mark in reduced pressure or a slight knock. Every so often sailing hard to one or another side paid off as Eric will attest in the last race.
Downwind, I concentrated on a technique that I have watched my son, Alex employ very effectively all fall. At all costs, I sailed to the big blasts. Once in the blast I attempted to position my boat so that I sailed as close to rhumbline as possible. In one instance I rode the blast a tad too far, crashing on my jibe just to leeward of the leeward mark.
Lessons learned:
1. In a puffy westerly/southwesterly tack early–attempting to gain too much from a shift might backfire
2. If the phases of the shifts are not lasting for an entire leg do not “own” one side or the other
3. Always seek pressure downwind.
4. Appreciate the awesome volunteers that make our sport great.
Thanks to everyone who missed sailing to run races yesterday and all year. Happy New Year!
James L. Jacob
And a special thanks to Carl Schaefer for taking photos.