Thanks to Keith and Magda for running our races last week. Keith found a good spot for us to sail in, just out in the river due East from WSM, and a little north of our regular ‘power plant’ spot.
The wind was roughly out of the south, but also somewhat shifty. As I was one of the first boats to get out in the river before the races, I probably should have been trying to figure out if the MD or the VA side had better wind, but I was not really paying attention. Lesson learned: I guess if you get out early you should try to figure these things out. The tide was running out all day and was significant (low tide at 4 PM that day).
We only raced two races, as the wind died almost completely by the end of the second race. For the first race, I estimate we had about 4 kts steady. The second race was maybe between 4 and 1 kt. I’ll just sum up information for both races together below:
I set up my outhaul so that at max draft, my sail was about 3” from the boom, my cunningham was completely off, and my vang was left pretty much untouched and was on maybe about 1/3. Before each race, I raised my centerboard to clear any grasses, and I also checked my rudder as it too would pick up twigs. Also, on downwind legs I tended to raise the c/b all the way once to clear it. If you pick up stuff on your rudder, you will feel it in a slight vibration of the tiller. Any plant life stuck to your blades will really slow you down, so be vigilant. I thought the start line was pretty square so I set up to start in the middle of the line which gives me more options. At the last 15 seconds or so before the start, I keep up boat speed so that if someone comes in and attempts to get on my lee side, I can sail down hard and prevent him/her from getting that overlap. I was surprised at how much room I had in the middle of the start line for both races. So coming off the start line I felt like I had good speed. From that point, (as was taught to me from Erich Hesse) it is vitally important that you focus on speed and getting those first few feet out in front of everyone else. (In other words, this is not the time to take a break.) This is the time to really focus all your attention on sailing as fast as you can to get in clear air. Now, as this was a light air day, and my body weight is lower than most, I had a big advantage, and I knew if I could just not make any mistakes, I’d come out ok, as was the case. On heavier air days, I usually way behind the heavier people.
Upwind, I just look for which side I thought the wind was stronger, and I kept in mind that as the current was going south, the laylines for the windward mark would be shifted a boatlength or so to the north. So I tacked onto the starboard layline a bit earlier than if there had been no current. This put me right at the windward mark and I did not end up sailing any extra distance. As for mainsheet, mostly I had about 8” between the traveler and aft boom blocks, but when the wind really died, I let it out even more in an attempt to keep the boatspeed up.
Downwind, I just looked behind me and tried not to sail in dirty air from the boats behind me. Oddly, I was still able to pretty much sail the rhumb line and still get pretty clean air. The boats ahead of me tended to go way left to protect anyone from getting an inside overlap on them prior to the downwind mark, so I let them go left and just kept to the rhumb line. Remember as the current was going south, to give the downwind mark extra room or else you’d be swept into it by the current.
In both downwind and upwind sailing, I tried my best to keep my weight very far forward in the boat, even at some times sitting ahead of the centerboard. Maybe that is too extreme, I don’t know.
Hope I have not left anything out. First time for me in 8 years to do the 3rd place write up.
The forecast was fairly accurate with some rain before racing and overcast the rest of the day and moderate winds at 9 and below. It made for a good day to race on the river. Jim Graham, pro for the day, said not to dawdle on shore as he was going to start races at 12:30 when 6 boats were on the line. Good decision. I dawdled and heard the 3 minute gun when I was 3.5minutes from the committee boat. Being late, I started at the pin and headed right as everyone else had gone way left. The wind seemed to be a little stronger on the right most of the day and in the first race I played right and caught a few boats. I just sailed on the lifts and puffs as they came in most cases was further right than the majority of the fleet. Downwind was slow and I kept left while some competitors went right and caught more wind. I tried to minimize my usual mistakes, didn’t foul anyone, made clean if not fast rounding’s and didn’t get into squabbles with other lasers.
During the races I sailed on my own and didn’t pay particular attention to the rest of the fleet. This helped me keep focus but was a mistake in the 3rd race when 2 boats caught me 40 yards from the finish. In that race I fell behind but got a burst of air on the right and hiked out of the first time and reached into the mark as I had overstood.
Lessons learned: be on time, minimize mistakes, good starts, clear air. As we get more lasers racing the hardest part seems to be getting the lasers docked and up the ramp. Thanks everyone for helping each other !! And good race committee work as well !!
For more details here is Cary Comer’s observations. Welcome back Cary !
According to the powers that be, I may have come in third place…or, I may have come in close enough such that a few shaved points may have bestowed this responsibility upon me. Regardless of how it came to be, here’s my take on today. Given this was my first time out in about a year, I was mostly focused on two basic things: stay dry; and, come home in one piece (those that know me are aware that these are both challenging).
Today was generally a damp, light day. Winds were consistently between 5 and 8mph from the north. We sailed out in the river, almost due east of the ramps. There was no traffic on the river aside from the steady flow of aircraft landing at DCA. The current was moving pretty fast as high tide was at 10:30. Jim and Nic got off four races before calling the day as some weather threatened from the north.
Starts were relatively straight-forward today, as there was plenty of space on the line, the ends were relatively square and there was not much fighting over positioning. I really wanted to have clear air and stay out of the current heading upwind, so tended to mind my own business and focused on starting down by the pin. It was important to keep a hole to leeward to allow for acceleration in the last five seconds before the gun, which I was moderately successful in keeping for two of the four starts. Over the course of the day with the breeze tending to fill more so on the right, the pin didn’t really pay off much, so by the last race, I started right at the boat.
Going upwind, clear air seemed critical–when I didn’t have a clean angle, I would tack out and come back when I had a better lane. For a couple of the beats, the breeze would shift way off to the right allowing us to sail way above the mark at times, but you had to stay aware to make sure your trim was right as the breeze bounced around. Another interesting thing about the beats was the windward mark rounding–given the current and the light breeze, it was easy to get caught pinching up to the mark and losing speed particularly as things got congested. I saw a few people coming in from the left have to tack out at the last minute to avoid this bottleneck. Lastly, with the breeze shifting, I got greedy trying to cross someone on starboard as I was getting headed, and ended up fouling him. That was a blessing in disguise: I did my turns, went back out to the left for some clear air, and made out much better than I had been prior to the foul.
Downwind was a different story, as this was not a strength for me today. I’d like to blame the Thanksgiving over-eating for my dragging performance there, but it’s probably more a combination of bad decision-making, poor boat-handling, and being heavier than I once was. I tried a number of different approaches like heading to the boat-side of the leg to ride the current (which didn’t pay off) as well as sailing by the lee whenever I could (also didn’t pay off). All the while, I wasn’t really looking upwind enough to see the puffs and how others were setting up, and this cost me a lot of time in all races.
Leeward mark roundings were a great opportunity to make up distance today, as the short races allowed for a lot of congestion here. The current was pulling people way south of the mark as they made their way through their turns, so starting my turn wide and early helped me stay tight to the mark and gave me speed coming out of the rounding. More times than not, I was able to sneak inside of a boat or two, as well as have a better angle coming into the beat and some clear air to work with.
Thanks to all for a fun afternoon–I hope to see everyone out there again soon. Maybe even next Sunday–I may surprise you.
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!
- 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
Awesome day on the water! Great job to the RC for fitting in several quality races.
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.
Laser Frostbite Fleet,
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….