First, as newcomer to the fleet – hello to everybody! I moved to DC late last year and – after seeing the fleet out one day having too much fun while I was driving by in slow traffic — I decided to get back into Lasers. Turns out, one of the best decisions I’ve made recently. Actually that’s not a high bar in my case, but still….
Now, since it seems I was ‘close enough’ to third place today, I was honored with the coveted write-up spot. Which, as I’m sitting down doing it, is actually pretty fun for what in effect sounded like a version of homework.
For me, the day was all about keeping the boat moving as consistently and roughly fast as possible – not fine-tuning – right from the start and all the way around. There was plenty of wind (especially in the first races) that was relatively steady both in terms of gusts and shifts, along with enough chop to notice. So not really a tactical racecourse today – I can imagine that when we sail in a north gusty-shifty breeze close to the marina in that little cove things get incredibly always-look-around-split-second-decision-type tactical. But out where we were today, with a wide empty river and airport to windward, I think focusing on boat speed and boat handling is what paid off.
For the starts, although the c-boat seemed favored or way-favored, I really just looked to launch off the line as fast as possible, more or less from the middle or even closer to the pin – wherever I could ‘launch and breathe’.
Upwind, I’m not that heavy Laser-wise (or any-wise I guess). Since, as Dirty Harry tells us, a man has got to know his limitations, in breeze today I start off with relatively tight outhaul and very, very tight Cunningham, and then (as soon as possible after the start-launch) nail down the vang hard as well. The de-powered set-up means that you keep things consistent and non-overwhelmed – calmer. But then it is absolutely, positively necessary to avoid pinching or trying to go up too high – boat speed with a depowered sail means keeping the momentum, even if the sheet is way out. Accept your limitations. Especially with the chop. And sand-bars (…well, maybe not the sand-bars…I obviously have no wisdom on that front). So in a way, with the sail way-trimmed, you have to stay way-loose on the helm.
At the top mark, there is one Commandment in today’s breeze: Thou shall get the vang eased, or thou will be cast most forcibly up or down upon the waters (I have been a sinner much in this…and have paid the price). Easing the Cunningham or lifting the board – nice to have, but not so important with all that windpower around – you can procrastinate. Focus on the vang. I think it is even worth aiming to hit the starboard lay-line with more runway than strictly necessary just to get it sorted more or less.
Downwind, I think the choice on offer today was often between by-the-lee and normal sailing – whichever would result in the fastest speed more/less to the mark. For me, by-the-lee always feels so strange to begin with (such violation of a fundamental big boat instinct) but once you get going, it is of course very stable and very fast. Leeward legs in breeze it’s pretty much a default setting. With the triangles today, more optional.
Finally, at the bottom mark – it seemed that getting the sheet in as quickly as possible and snapping the boat ‘round seemed to pay. Again, plenty of breeze means that you’ll be going relatively fast where you are pointed, so it is a priority to be heading the right way, as opposed to right angles to that. Sail controls and all the rest can wait – my boat is often a flapping, sheet-trailing, tangle-line, awkward-odd-hiking position mess as I go around but that’s ok (as long as no photogs around – I’d fear Eric’s GoPro if it faced astern…) I clean it up later…
Anyway, all FWIW. I better send this to Farley before the dog eats it in the traditional way. Great to join the fleet – I look forward to sailing with ya’all as much as possible!!
John Ryan 205405