Category Archives: Lasers

2019-2020 Laser Frostbite Series #5

During the skippers meeting 11 competitors were left staring across the river with a light 5 kt westerly. That didn’t last long. The average throughout the day was likely between 12 to 16 kts, although we did experience some lulls throughout portions of the racing. The largest gusts were roughly 21 kts, which was likely during the first race (I’m gonna claim that’s the gust I deathrolled on). Race Committee efficiently ran a total of 5 races, and even swiftly reset the course roughly midway through once the wind clocked around more northwest. High tide was roughly 10:10 am and low tide was scheduled for 4:35 pm.
Core Strategy
I’m not sure I had any tactical revelations for the day regarding shifts or tide. Instead, I had two main focuses for the day, typically starting as close to the committee boat as possible and boat control. By starting near the boat, I was trying to place myself in a position to sail on my own without interacting with the fleet. If I got away clean great, if not, then I could quickly tack onto port and sail towards the right side of the course without frequently tacking to avoid other boats. By limiting my tacks (only tacking on substantial shifts), I plodded along and often found myself within the top 4 at the first windward rounding. One windward leg I found myself sailing behind, but pointing slightly higher than Nabeel. A header came, Nabeel didnt tack on it, and I thought Aha I can pass him on this shift if I play my cards right. I tacked (too slowly) and began to feel myself stall in danger of getting stuck in irons. I quickly re-tacked back onto port. I was now twice as far away from Nabeel. Back to limiting my tacks. The wind strength and the number of competitors around me influenced my downwind strategy. I focused first on maintaining boat control (as I have struggled with frequent death rolls in the past) and if I felt comfortable would then consider sailing more aggressively or fight for inside rounding mark room.
Boat Handling / Sails
I focused on staying upright (which meant sailing more conservatively) and rounding the windward and leeward marks as quickly and directly as possible. Several races I either secured or picked up a boat or two based on my roundings. So what exactly were my key focuses for boat handling? When approaching the windward mark upwind the main focus was to uncleat the vang. A tight vang effectively acts like a close-hauled mainsheet and the vang must be eased in order to round the windward mark and immediately head downwind. Once around the mark, the greatest attention was to adjust the mainsail leach position based on the wind strength. If wind strength was up, the mainsheet was tightened to prevent the boom from being greater than 90 degrees out from the stern. The vang was often cranked back on immediately after rounding such that the top batten was also no more than 90 degrees out from the stern. My understanding is that deathrolling often happens when the force applied to the sail goes forward of the mast. Mainsheet and vang tension help prevent the wind force from overextending forward of the boat. If there was a lull, I would ease the cunningham and also ease the vang (while keeping a watchful eye for gusts behind me). There were several leeward roundings where I was able to maintain boat control slightly better than others and round inside and higher than a boat ahead of me. I think I ended up easing my vang setting just a little for the leeward mark gybes which may have allowed me to dump some power if I needed to (again, an eased mainsheet with a tight vang will have similar effects as a tight mainsheet).
Nich
Additional Thoughts from  Nabeel:
Upwind:
When the gusts hit, I cannot hike the boat flat.   I need to ease the mainsheet.   If the vang is loose when I ease the mainsheet the sail gets full and there is still too much for me to handle.
So very tight vang and be prepared to ease the mainsheet when that gust hits.  Looking ahead for the gusts coming is much better than staring at the telltales.
By the way, if my block on the traveller is rising up and in from the edge of the boat, then I probably don’t have the traveller tightened hard enough.  I know have a new low-profile tiller so the traveler can be tight and the block cross easily during tacks.  Love it.  One less distraction.
Tacking:
To avoid going into irons, I need to go through the tack faster (before that big wave stops me cold), so push that tiller faster, ease the mainsheet more, and try to get the boat back up to speed quickly, i.e. get to a hiked out position on the new windward side and trimming on the mainsheet pronto.
Windward mark:
Before bearing off, ease the vang most of the way, maybe not all the way.  Otherwise, the sail will be way too powerful when going from beating to reaching.
I tell myself to get the boat going fast on a broad reach first and only then bear off for the leeward mark.  If I try to bear off before going fast, the wind hits the sail too hard and bam, I’ve death rolled.  Done that many times.
Downwind:
If the boat is rocking and rolling, I know I’m sailing dead downwind.  I need to harden up some or bear off more to by-the-lee.   Slightly reaching or by-the-lee puts pressure on the centerboard and stops that rocking and rolling.
Don’t sail with the mainsail out at 90 degrees like I would do on a lighter wind day.  Keep it in some.  Say 75-80 degrees.
If I feel a lot of pull on the tiller, something is wrong, the boat is out of balance.  More or less vang.  More or less mainsheet.   Eventually, the pressure goes way, the boat takes off and I know I am doing it right.  Sweet.  Make mental note of settings for next downwind.
I use those cleats on the side of the cockpit to make sure my sail doesn’t go out while I fool with the vang or move my weight around.  I hear the pros don’t use them, but I can’t believe I’ve sailed this boat so long without them.
Leeward mark:
If I need to gybe, I need to start trimming the mainsheet before I start my turn.  That way, the main will gybe sooner and I’ll have less mainsheet to pull in after rounding.
On my to-learn-soon list for the leeward mark:
Switch hands on the tiller without letting go, i.e. behind the back.  Letting go for even a half second and the boat can round up and hit the mark.   Did it on Sunday and gave up a 1st place to that dastardly Tom Hutton.
Starts:
I only need the last 5 seconds that the Ollie counts down to get up to full speed.   So I get into position with a loose vang.  When that last 5 seconds begins I pull hard on the vang, trim, hike, and go.   A loose vang is important during pre-start maneuvering. Otherwise, the boat doesn’t turn easily and takes off when you don’t want it to.
Cunningham:
Pulling hard on the cunningham is a good way to depower the sail on a high wind day.   That is how people can sail the Laser in 30 knots.  But on a day with the wind going up and down, that doesn’t work (for me).   Plus it give me yet another task to take care of after the windward mark and before the leeward mark which distracts me from more the important ones.  So I set and forget.
Outhaul:
I think this is the least important adjustment on the Laser.  So when the sailing is challenging, I set and forget.

2019-2020 Laser Frostbite Series #4

Race Committee set up a windward leeward course (I believe all 2 lap races) and ran a total of 6 races. Although we had a total of 18 competitors for the day, we had as few as 7 and as many 17 scored competitors in any given race. I’ve perceived the wind strength to be fairly steady in the 8 to 11 knots range, primarily southish. Low tide was at 11:20 am and (in my view) was influential in the early races. With high tide scheduled for 5:40 pm, I observed substantial current flowing north (upriver) for the first 3 or 4 races.
Upwind
My first several starts I was too far from the line and had to work my way up the fleet during the first windward leg. For the first race most of the fleet went left/east and I was able to consolidate by going right/west. I think I experienced far less current by being further away from the channel along the eastern shore. Upwind I focused on boat speed by continuously easing/sheeting my mainsheet to determine what my pointing angle would be. I took boat speed over pointing and was able to steadily progress out of my mediocre starts, particularly on the full upwind leg (after the first leeward rounding). This ranged from 2-block to probably 4 to 6 inches of ease between the blocks. I didn’t feel the need for vang and primarily only used it if I was having trouble keeping the boom on the corner of the boat. Cunningham was typically tightened to help reduced any significant wrinkles and I eased the outhaul if I felt sluggish in any chop/waves. If I was ever directly behind someone I either tacked for clear air and headed to a side of the coarse with less boats or if a shift dictated that I should continue sailing with a pack I performed two quick tacks just to get out from underneath someone (most often shortly after rounding the leeward mark). Due to the current flowing north, I think more and more sailors chose to go right/east as the day went on. However, current began to die down the last race or two and the wind had several significant shifts to the right/southwest. I think many people got caught going too far right, especially after the first leeward rounding and ending up overstanding the windward mark and sailing a longer distance.
Downwind
I tended to sail fairly straight to the leeward mark, but definitely attempted to fend off boats astern of me by sailing by the lee hoping I could avoid providing mark room to inside overlapped boats. I saw Len sail both extremely by the lee, carving hard to the west to secure the inside lane and rounding rights, as well as passing folks on the outside. Tyler also had a great leeward run by sailing by the lee and getting an inside lane. Since current was substantially flowing north I would have thought the outside lane / east would have paid. As soon as I rounded the windward mark, in addition to pulling the board up, I eased cunningham and outhaul. And I mean make sure the cunningham is all the way off (after uncleating the line, I would physically pull any tension out of the purchase and slide the sail up the mast). My experience is that there should be zero cunningham for any reaching or downwind sailing using the Mk 2 sails. I suppose you could use some if you are hanging on for dear life. I would also tweak the vang so that the top batten was roughly parallel to the boom.
Spiritual Enlightenment
One of my worst races I fouled Nabeel at the windward mark. My last race, I felt like I finally got a descent start with clear air (especially after Len graciously took a detour), and I got a second. So yeah, do good not evil.
Nich

2019-2020 Laser Frostbite Series #1

It was a good turn out of Lasers for the first week of the Frostbite season. The weather was a little colder and windier than what we have been used to for the start of the season the past couple of years. Around 42 degrees with 12-14 knots of wind. It warmed up as the day went on and the water is not yet super cold creating a really nice day of sailing.
Current was flowing with the wind direction which cut down on the chop. It also made it much easier to keep position at the start by keeping people below the line while stopped. I started most races by parking about a boat length below the line and then accelerating around 10 seconds. The line was setup to be slightly boat favored so I started most of the races a couple of boat lengths down the line from the RC boat concentrating on speed and making sure I was “punched out” from the people around me. I tried not to be involved in any battles for the absolute best starting spot (by the RC boat). On the first beat I generally sailed a long first beat to allow the fleet to shake out if I had clear air. I blew one start and had to tack out early but quickly came back to sail the favored tack early.
We sailed Olympic Courses all day. The legs weren’t super long so I concentrated on using the leg to set up a pass or protect my position on the mark rounding. The were some small waves to surf on the downwind legs but nothing too major. The wind was fairly steady so I didn’t notice the fleet bunching up much on the downwind legs which we usually see a lot of on the Potomac.
On the upwind to the finish the pin end was favored almost every race but I didn’t see a lot of people trying to finish there. I was able to pass a boat by finishing at the pin when they opted to finish at the boat. Perhaps people were paying too much attention to the puffs or shifts rather than trying to sail the shortest course on the last leg.

2018-2019 Laser Frostbite Series #17

Sunday was another great day on the water – sunny and warm with a nice southerly(ish) breeze and lots of boats on the line, which was awesome. Tom and his buddy were able to get in a bunch races and the course was Olympic which added some nice variety to our usual windward/leewards.
One hiccough was that the battery was dead on the automatic countdown timer and the committee boat horn was not particularly loud, so you really needed to be near the committee boat to catch the sequence start and timing updates. The first upwind leg was relatively short and it felt like a bit of a sprint to the windward mark. In hindsight, I probably could have under-stood the mark a bit (especially when I was on the starboard layline for 7-10+ boat lengths) and allowed the tide to push me up to the mark – ended up over-standing a bit more often than I would have liked. Reaches were fun and I enjoyed not always jibing at the jibe mark and instead going by the lee for most or all of many 2nd reach legs. It was a little challenging to not hit the leeward mark because of the ebbing tide.
During the 2nd upwind, I generally played the shifts and that worked pretty well – did not strongly favor one side over the other, although perhaps ended up more left than right, but still pretty centered. Upwind, I focused a lot on hiking hard and keeping my weigh forward and the boat as flat as possible. Vang was generally 2-blocked, with some play in the cunningham and outhaul. During the run, generally made sure that keep the vang loose enough for the leech to flab a bit, but still kept looking upwind regularly to make sure a giant puff wasn’t imminent. Tried to stay out of the wind shadows of others, pay attention to any shifts, and surf any waves that seemed appropriate.
Overall, it was a really fun afternoon. Thanks to everyone who showed up and to Tom and his friend for running races!
Laura

2018-2019 Laser Frostbite Series #16

It was a beautiful day on the river.  Sunny and warm with intermittent good wind.  Although I finished in roughly the same place I do most Sundays (that is, near the back with a rare strong race), today worked in my favor as there were only 5 or 6 boats, leaving me with my first 3rd place finish. The wind was flukey, very light at times followed by a strong steady breeze.  The wind kept shifting at the beginning, making it nearly impossible to set a windward-leeward course.  In fact, the first race turned into reaches both ways.  After the first race, the wind held relatively steady – in direction if not speed, allowing us to get in lots of races.  With a small fleet, it was much easier for those of us new to Laser racing to be aggressive at the start and at the marks – instead of being out strategized by lots of boats, there was only one or two to content with at each rounding.  The shifty wind favored those with good tactics and a good sense of the river winds – boats well ahead often lost considerable ground to others on a different tact, seemingly at random but clearly not since the top two boats consistently finished 1-2.  The winds also, at times, left the fleet bobbing in the water for a few minutes before picking up again (I’m guessing the windier parts of the day were above 10 knots if not more). As a new racer, I found the smaller fleet a great opportunity to work on sail trim, starts and mark roundings.  Other than to note a number of us have been talking about finding times this spring and summer to sail, not much else to report other than to thank the race committee and to encourage people to come out for the last few weekends of the series.

Brian

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2018-2019 Laser Frostbite Series #15

What lovely warm day of racing we had. Today was my third day out this season and my first where I did not feel like I was in survival mode, so I really appreciated that – this is also my first third-place write-up. The course was relatively short, so even with twice around and we got in a lot of races, which was great. Overall, it was a quite puffy and shifty day that required a lot of paying attention (wow, pin favored now, OK!) and for me, a lot of shifting gears.
Especially at the start of the day, the ebbing tide made it easy to be over the line early and our first start ended in a general recall. After that, I had some decent starts and some less optimal ones, but found that it was possible to move up by focusing on keeping the boat moving and sometimes sucking it up and fighting for a tiny lane on the lifted/mark-pointing tack (especially in some of those early races) instead of bailing for clear air but a header/heading away from the mark.  Also, later in the afternoon, it seemed windier than it was due to the chop – so while I was tempted to haul in my outhaul upwind, I found that by leaving it a little loose (3/4 shaka?) it helped me keep boatspeed up and power over the waves.
Downwind, I was perpetually switiching up the vang depending on how windy it was – and how windy it might be in the next minute or so – it was a real balance between speed in the lulls (less vang) and then cranking it on (perhaps even a bit much at times) to feel solid and avoid death rolling. I can’t remember when I last played with the vang so much downwind. Another challenge downwind was to be mindful of the mark location – I found myself wanting (expecting?) it to be further east than it was and lost a few boats one race because I went too far outside the rhumb line and folks passed me inside.
Hoping for another couple of warm days like yesterday for the remainder of the season. Thank you to our race committee for helping us pack in the races and to everyone who showed up to sail!
Laura

2018-2019 Laser Frostbite Series #14

Checking my email this morning I discovered a message from Will.  The third place writeup has befallen unto me.  I came away Sunday feeling pretty good about the racing.  I thought that I was in the top half every race, but I didn’t expect the third.  Wow.
Unfortunately, I don’t remember that much.  Maybe that’s not a bad thing.  Usually people say that I write too much.  This is going to be short.
The first lesson learned is not to get discouraged by the weather forecast.  Sunday promised snow when I woke up.  Should I even head to the marina?  That was my big debate with myself for the day.  Turned out to be one of my most successful days in quite a while.
The second lesson is to try to relax and don’t forget the basics.  I managed to get good starts in every race.  I kept testing the middle of the line at the three minute horn with my bow upwind.  The wind kept shifting left and the port end was favored in most races.  I then reached down to the committee boat side and found my spot with about a minute to go.  The line was just long enough that I could dip down a few times and start close hauled right at the gun.  For some reason the favored end wasn’t that crowded.  When I saw another boat coming up under me I luffed my sail and let him take the pin.  I was then satisfied to get off the line second.  Usually, the line was so favored that it was difficult for more than one boat to do that.   I think I managed to find a groove where I managed to dip down just enough to maintain good rights but not so far down that I lost all speed pinching up to make the pin.
The wind was shifty, but I didn’t worry too much about always being on the favored tack.  If you get off the line fairly well, you want to avoid disasters.  Don’t sail up to the windward mark on port into a line of starboard tackers.  A couple of times I lost a few boats playing it safe that way, but with a short course and a big fleet it’s more important to avoid the big mistakes.
Once or twice I managed to round the windward mark first.  Where the hell is the leeward mark.  I wish I had checked that before the race!  I ended up taking a course too far to the left in a couple of races.  That cost me a couple of spots.
I guess I took it one race at a time, wiping my memory after each finish getting ready for the next.  It was great fun.  Thanks to everyone for coming!
Bob Bear

2018-2019 Laser Frostbite Series #13

Today was looking a little iffy when we woke up this morning.  With a pending gale warning starting at 3, we were not too sure what the weather was going to have in store for us.  Nabeel and Kevin were on race committee and were optimistic to get some races in before the gale came.  We decided that we would go out and race until the wind shifted to the west which would be when the big breeze would come in.

We ended up getting 5 races in without the wind ever getting too crazy.  With the sun out and the temperature getting close to 60 as well as breeze in the upper teens and low twenties I doubt anyone was cold today.  We did triangles for the first 4 races and finished with windward leeward for the last race.  There was lots of capsizing, I do not think anyone made it through the day without at least one.  The breeze was mostly out of the south but there were some small shifts that had to be looked for,  The first 2 races had the most breeze and then everything kind of moderated out to something in the mid teens.

With a south breeze, a flooded river, and changing high to low tide, the long upwind leg didnt take too long due to the current.  The triangle courses didn’t allow much to happen tactically outside of sailing fast, keeping the boat moving, and not capsizing (or if you did capsize have a quick recovery).  But the downwinds were pretty fun with some nice waves to surf.  But the waves were fairly choppy and I found it best to move your weight forward and backward in the boat.  This was both to keep the boat on the wave as well as not dive your bow into the wave in front of you.

All in all, it turned out to be a very nice day on the water and the high winds never really seemed to show up.  Just goes to show that the forecasts are not always right and its always worth coming down to the marina to at least see what is going on.

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2018-2019 Laser Frostbite Series #12.5

With a 2-year old now and another on the way, I haven’t been out for a Sunday frostbite in 2 winters. Sadly, this wasn’t a particular awesome day to come out. Regardless, it was good to get out, splash the boat, and see everyone. I didn’t finish in 3rd, but Farley and Len nominated me to do the write-up.
Here are some thoughts, in not much of an order:
* The wind was light, incredibly light. The river was best (maybe 6 – 8 knots) right when we launched and died throughout the afternoon to 0 (requiring some rocking & paddling to get home). It started south / southwest (power plant) and then moved to south / southwest (wastewater plant) about 1 hour into racing.
* Simply put, what becomes particularly key when conditions are this bad is that the delta between a puff and hole is huge in terms of percentage of boatspeed compared to when there’s a moderate amount of wind (i.e., compare a 7 knot puff vs 5 knot steady breeze to a 3 knot puff vs 1 knot steady breeze). On days like that in situations like ours (with such short races), it’s important to shake yourself free at the start (i.e, have lane or be able to tack), keep your head out of the boat, and to try to situate yourself to catch the next puff as it comes down the river. The boat leading at 2/3 up the windward beat will then likely win the race.
* Of course, keeping the boat moving in the light stuff is really tough. I’m honestly a bit better in breeze (who isn’t) and typically have ingrained that you always have to keep moving in the boat (shift forward, tweak sails constantly, sail the boat flatter / with more heel etc.). However, when it is really light, that strategy doesn’t work, especially downwind. Too much movement just disrupts flow on the sail and the foils. Downwind, it’s important to get situated and not move. Get the sail out past 90 degrees, get the board up, and heel the boat to windward. If nothing else, this at least keeps the main from falling back into center and keeps it ready to catch any puff. I find that leaning out a bit on the boat with both feet in the cockpit can be the most comfortable to remain perfectly still. You can then basically heel the boat over with just your shoulders or head.
* Upwind, lots of tacks (unless you’re particularly great at roll tacks), won’t really help. Frankly, sitting on a header for a short spell (just to keep the boat moving) can pay off vs. trying to catch any 10 degree shift. Today was one of those days where the best move was to pretty much keep the boat pointed upwind at the mark and adjust the sails around the direction of the breeze.
* Len assured me that he hadn’t seen any current flood this year given the high amounts of rain. The RC conveniently had noted that low tide was at 12:30. By the windward mark of the 3rd and final race, it was clear that the current was ripping upriver into DC. When current is that bad, keeping flow and the boat moving is pretty important (tacks just result in you going backwards).
* When the breeze is light and fluky, it’s important to stay awake between races and not drift off too far from the line / starting area. In either the 2nd or 3rd race, only a handful of boats were on the line.
Thanks,
Mike

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2018-2019 Laser Frostbite Series #12

Hello Sailors,

The wind turned out to be great last Sunday, with easy-but-not-light wind with manageable-but-still-fun puffs.  Thank you to the Race Committee, their windward-leeward courses work nicely and the line was plenty long. Today was my first new day with the Intensity version of the MKII sail.  It likely helped but boat speed but like others I think it will take some getting used to..
My first and last race were my worst and this was all related to the starts.  The first race I was over early then in the last race i got burred at the start. I’ve always found starts to be critical.  More important to be on the starting line with clear air than at the favored end.  If you can work out being on the favored end with clear air this is awesome, and I think this lead to one of my few bullets this season.
Downwind there was a great deal of bunching up leading to intense mark roundings.  After racing there was discussion that this is caused when the wind is medium with some gusts.  The boats behind can catch up with the gusts, then the boats in front are blocked and can’t pull away. Being bunched at the mark can lead to lots of confusion and rule arguing. If I’m outside with a large group I like to give extra room (more than required) to get separation both going around the mark and after.  Sometimes boats inside at these rounds will come off worse given the clump of boats they are now in after the mark.
Upwind it was mildly shifty so working the shifts and puffs was important, but so is pointing which is where I was trying to focus. Keeping the boat on the wind seemed to work
for me today. I also work hard to keep the boat flat in the puffs. Getting more than ~10 degrees of heel will really slow the boat down. I managed to pass someone when I kept the boat flat in a puff.
Lastly I want to remind everyone we are planning on racing this weekend.  We’ve got RC but we are still looking for a helper.
Tom

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