Category Archives: Lasers

2015/2016 Frostbite Series #9

The wind for our Sunday, January 17 frostbite racing was just enough to overcome the current – which wasn’t running all that much. Frank and Bill ran two WL races and then mercifully released us to walk our boats back to the dock. I was a shame the wind didn’t cooperate since we had 23 boats drifting around.

As with any light air race, having clear air and getting off the line in the first row were critical. Once out on the course it was important to account for the current when determining the laylines. Since the wind zephyrs were coming from assorted directions it was best to stay near the middle of the course. I overcame a significantly poor start in the 1st race just by drifting up the middle.

The rule of thumb I follow is to flatten the sail in very light winds, similar to heavy winds. I had my outhaul on pretty tight, a little vang on, and the boat heeled to leeward to help get some shape in the sail. When going to weather the boom was just outboard of the transom and my body weight forward. Staying very attentive to the sail and adjusting course to meet the zephyrs and apparent wind changes was a full time job.

The inconsistent wind caused the second race to be a reach back and forth. With the current running at right angle to the course you had to decide how much above (up wind, up current) the mark you wanted to sail to get the best VMG and/or not have to tack and sail up current to make it around the mark. It is difficult to decide just how far above the mark to sail in this situation, but recognizing you have a problem is the first step.

A few weeks ago Jacob’s write-up was a sincere note of encouragement to the sailors who are just launching their frostbite programs. I would like to echo his message and thank everyone for contributing to the pleasant atmosphere we enjoy. Our fleet is now as vibrant as it has ever been in the decade I’ve been sailing at PRSA.

-Len

2015_2016 PRSA Laser Frostbite Series 9

2015/2016 Frostbite Series #8

Sunday, 1/10/16 was 55 degrees and sunny – an excellent day for racing on (and in) the Potomac. The wind was SSW 15+ knots with gusts in the very high 20s. The tide was ebbing pretty hard most of the day. Adam and Jamie, along with their lovely supervisors, ran four first-rate W2 races for 15 boats.

The random gusts that pumped down the course all day provided much entertainment. It was fun trying to harness them downwind and equally fun watching and participating in the mass capsize events. After one capsize I sat on the hull for a while and delighted in the spectacle of a fleet running downwind in way more wind than it needed. There were a lot of strong wind veins that played downwind – if you looked for and got under them. I found staying on starboard tack downwind and sailing by-the-lee to be the most stable. There were instances when I was fighting the wind with the sheet and the rudder to keep the bow from being blown down wind. In the lulls I worked to the east and tried to ride waves. I had expected decent size waves given the opposing tide and wind but was disappointed. Locking into the cockpit with the legs was beneficial when the breeze was on.

There were relatively few boats OCS given that the current was pushing the boats upwind at the start. I worked hard, with moderate success, to leave enough room for acceleration. On 3 of the starts it was under 5 seconds before I pulled the trigger in order to allow for the breeze and current.

The upwind tactical challenge for me was finding a good port lift to take to the airport side of the course. The wind shifts were short lived and I had trouble getting underneath any lift. My sense was that they were just moving too fast. Occasionally I was able to sail upwind in a vein to avoid the relative lulls. I avoided cleating the mainsheet, playing the well vanged main and working the rudder to keep the boat flat and moving in the unstable wind conditions. James and Eric were very careful to cover their closest competitor to stay in similar wind.

My boat handling killed me all day long. The self-inflicted errors that resulted in 2 capsizes included; not clearing the sheet of tangles before rounding the top mark, and over-tightening the vang before the leeward rounding then sticking the boom in the water. Basic heavy air tacking technique also cost me points. I was struggling to come out of the tacks lower than in moderate breeze and build speed before sheeting the main.

By 3:30 the wind had clocked around to WNW with some nice 35+ gusts, we were glad to be on our asphalt beach; telling lies and watching the airplanes fight the cross winds to get back on the ground.

-Len Guenther

2015_2016 PRSA Laser Frostbite Series 8

2016 Hangover Regatta

If you grow up sailing on a small creek, as I did, you are no stranger to shifty winds, land bends, dead spots and downdrafts. While the Potomac is a far cry wider and wilder than Beaver Dam Creek in Point Pleasant, N.J., it was no less fickle wind-wise on New Year’s Day for the Potomac River Sailing Association Hangover Regatta, which saw a very tight fleet of 30 boats, scrambling through an oscillating breeze that seemed to switch on and off at will.

All in all, conditions were, in my opinion at least, near ideal for a frostbite regatta (though many including me, were wishing the unseasonably warm weather of the week before had stuck around for a day longer) with a nice 8-knot breeze ushering the fleet out of the marina and past the runway of Reagan International Airport  and quickly building into fresher, sustained gusts.

As many of you may know, I usually sail on the Elizabeth River in Norfolk with the Hampton Roads Sailing posse.  Four of us, Charlie Brewer, Britt Drake, Grant Simmons and myself schlepped it up I-95 for the regatta and by the time I arrived at 10 a.m. Charlie and Britt had built a nice little firepit with some of the river driftwood down by the boat hoists and were keeping their hands warm by the crackling fire. The out-of-towners drew a bit of amusement, but at least it took the chill off.

And it was brisk: The weather station at Reagan International Airport recorded a mean temperature for the day of 37 degrees with a maximum in the partly sunny afternoon of 47 degrees. Winds were generally SSW at about 8 mph with a maximum recorded wind speed of 21 mph and a few gusts up to 24. (There were a fair number of upturned hulls during the day for those caught out by the blasts. I got caught trying to sail deep by the lee when one of those gusts caught me. My scramble up the deck was too late, but I didn’t get wet, so I am not counting it as an actual capsize even though I brought some souvenir Potomac River bottom mud home on the head of my sail.) Charlie said he got dipped twice, once going upwind when a gust came at him behind the sail. “normally you can just hang on and it will switch back and lift you up,” Charlie said. But not that time, apparently. I spent a lot of time looking ahead (upwind) and behind (downwind) to try to read the gusts from the angles and heal of other boats. It served me pretty well as I was able to prepare for a few major onslaughts of wind before they got to me.

Race Committee Chair Nabeel Alsalam set a perfect windward-leeward course with a leeward gate and a short-leg upwind finish. Races were run twice around the course and, given the conditions, lasted about 30 minutes each. A total of five races were run and the scoring included a throw-out. Starts were run in three minute sequences with a whistle countdown, so if you are like me and sail without a watch, you were not at any significant disadvantage. (We run with three minute starts down in Norfolk, too, and it seems to be a lot better for dinghy racing, even with bigger fleets. How hard is it to choose a spot on the line and set up in a Laser, after all. And less time to get cold. If the line length is about 30 seconds, two minutes is plenty of time to run a check and commit to a strategy, I think.)

Despite the very shifty gusts, the line was very square all day, with a slight committee boat bias. This was balanced out by a slightly favored left side of the course which seemed to pay off with a bit more pressure and for those boats that went deep enough into the corner, a huge lift to the windward mark along the western shore of the river.

And that seemed to be the challenge of the day: how to tap into the shifts and very localized pressure zones. Upwind, the pressure seemed to emerge from the right, but the better lifts seemed to favor the left. A key was not to get caught in the middle too early on the course.

In the first race, both Charlie and I joined the massive fight for a spot near the committee boat and got caught up in the air sponge of sails losing whatever advantage might have been gained by the line bias and losing options to tack out in the throng of boats. After seeing the left-side boats cash in, we both found ourselves switching plans, moving down to the center of the line below the scrum and able to blast out with a clean lane. This seemed to pay off in several races as the lift back to the mark seemed to be greater the deeper out you got.

Regatta winner Charlie Brewer had another idea which twice paid dividends for him (and burned him once, too.) He ducked the entire fleet on one start to go out far to the right to try to get to the pressure lines first. He was out nearly by his lonesome and it wasn’t looking good for awhile, until he came zooming into the top mark clear ahead of the fleet with only (I believe) Eric Peterson nearby. I have seen Charlie do this before in Norfolk and his thinking is, (correct me if I am wrong, Charlie) if you are in clear air and sailing fast rather than mixing it up in the crowd you are likely to do well. The shifty conditions certainly helped that strategy. If you were attentive to the breeze you could climb the ladder pretty fast. If not, there were a lot of snakes around.

Toward the end of the day, the river current began to sweep out along the eastern shore and played an interesting role at the bottom mark. Logic seemed to dictate that if you sailed to the left (going downwind) the outgoing tide would sweep you into the gates. But that led to a more direct downwind angle which actually turned out to be slower. (In my experience on the course) Those sailing deeper to the right, sailed hotter angles at the bottom and often got a little lift of speed near the gates that squirted them forward. It worked for me, anyway, once I cottoned on. The big key downwind, I found, was just to look aft for the pressure lines on the water and try to position in front of them well ahead of their arrival. Then, work the waves and gusts building speed ahead of the waves and soaking down once the pressure is full on.

Thanks again to Potomac River Sailing Association for hosting this event and inviting your friends from the south up to take part. It was a great time and the after-race brew and chew was a lot of fun. Hope to see you next year.

Robert Suhay

2016 Hangover Regatta

Regatta Photos (courtesy of Jim Lane)

2015/2016 Frostbite Series #6

All,

Today turned out to be a nice day.  Temperatures were close to 70 and the wind was 10 to 20 our of the south.  We had 9 boats make it out to the course and we ran 6 races all olympic courses that were running about 15 minutes each.

I think that there were a couple of important things sailing today with the top one being don’t capsize (though I think everyone did this at least once).  With the wind, the best way to sail fast was keeping the boat flat.  For the last 2 races, the wind built and the wind clocked left slightly.  When the wind shifted, the second leg of the triangle was definitely faster to sail by the lee.  You could tell this by watching Eric’s speed.  I chose not to do this however because of the shiftiness of the gusts and heaviness of the wind.  My opinion is that it was safer to not sail by the lee today on that leg.  Eric had one chicken gybe at the mark after doing this because of the puff that he was currently in.  The other important thing today was checking for stuff on your blades.  With all the rain there were a ton of leaves in the river and the blades were constantly building up.

The other important thing today was coming off the start line (as always).  With the brevity of the races though I think that starting well and keeping the boat flat and fast were about 90% of the racing.

Look forward to seeing everyone out next weekend or on the 1st.

Farley

2015_2016 PRSA Laser Frostbite Series 6

2015/2016 Laser Frostbite #5

PRSA Lasers,
 
Another pleasant Sunday on the Potomac. About 28 boats showed up which made for some interesting starts and mark roundings.  The wind (or lack thereof at 12:30) started south-southwest and as predicted, built slightly and went south during the 3rd race. In the 4th and 5th races, the wind oscillated between the south and south-southwest.
 
The RC set the course in the same spot as last weekend, just east of the marina. When everyone got out there, RC started us out with a kinetics practice race before the wind filled in, with just a windward mark and a downwind finish. In the extremely light air, this was a great time to practice roll tacking and gybing.
 
The Start: In races 1 and 2 (both windward-leeward 2x around), wind was light but manageable.  The boat was about a boat length high of the pin, which caused some congestion at the boat. I found that starting in the middle was just as effective because I could get off the line with speed and clear air. Fowl tide caused a sizeable line sag in the middle, also contributing to the opportunity for clear air at the start. Race 3 was pretty similar, but I got a little too anxious and was over early. The start line for race 4 was more square; clear air again was the key. For the 5th start, the wind had gone more south, making the pin more favored.
 
Upwind: My controls (outhaul, cunningham, and vang) for the whole day were pretty loose. There were 3 things I tried to focus on that translated into boat speed: 1) clear air—This is so important in a 28 boat fleet, 2) tell tails—I tried to always have both tell tales flowing back, no pinching! 3) heel—in the lightest air, a bit of leeward heel kept the boat moving, while in the relatively stronger breeze, keeping the boat flat worked. Playing the shifts was important as the afternoon went on. Most of the afternoon, there was enough breeze to almost two block the mainsheet and in the puffs (if you can call them puffs) I would two block to get an extra lift. One side of the course didn’t pay off consistently from race to race. Some legs I went right, others left. Focusing on boat speed, using the 3 points above, really made the big difference.
 
Downwind: The fleet’s tendency is to work its way left, to protect the inside overlap. In light air, I have found that sailing a straighter line, close to the rhumb line, can be quicker. This worked in most downwind legs (last week and this week), as many racers sailed extra distance to the left. However, this strategy only works if you can create separation with the boats behind you. 3 points for boat speed downwind: 1) clear air—a little more difficult downwind but if you can create a little bit of separation from the boats behind you, clear air goes a long way, 2) sailing by the lee—typical sailing by the lee worked: windward heel, center board up, and sitting forward of the cockpit, 3) mainsail trim—I don’t let the main out past 90 degrees because this causes some wind to spill out of the top, though this is an area for debate. Also, as the wind built through the afternoon, I added just enough vang so that the leech (the leading edge when sailing by the lee) was tight and could catch the breeze.
 
Mark Roundings: Tide was big factor today. The flood was strong so over standing upwind worked. On the leeward roundings, if you were clear of other boats, a wide and tight rounding mitigated some of the tide. If you rounded with other boats, the tide generally pushed everyone low of the mark, leaving the door open for boats behind. As we discussed in the debrief, communication leading into the 3-boat length circle needs to be more prevalent. If you are entitled to room at the mark, let the boats around you know. If you are not entitled to room, slow down so that you don’t get pin-wheeled, you might get an opportunity to gain a boat or two if they get swept past the mark by the tide.
 
Thank you to the Race Committee for running 5 fun races and dealing with the light conditions. Thank you Eric for bringing the TV and DVD player to the debrief. Looking forward to watching The Boat Whisperer!
 
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

2015/2016 Laser Frostbite #4

Hello Everyone,

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.

2015_2016 PRSA Laser Frostbite Series 4

2016 PRSA Dues Are Now Due!

Now is the time to pay your PRSA dues for 2016!   As a reminder, the PRSA constitution was amended at our Annual General Meeting and Awards Banquet on November 21, 2015.  As a result, the annual PRSA membership year now runs from December 1 through November 30.  The 2016 membership year started December 1, and you have until January 15 2016 to pay your dues without late fee.  On or after January 15, 2016, a late fee of $25 will be added to the dues of returning members.  After you fill out the membership form you will be offered the option of paying via PayPal or sending a check to our PRSA Treasurer.

I want to emphasize that having our association members pay dues up front each year is of immense help to all of our PRSA volunteers.  We can better allocate expenditures over the year, organize RC requirements, set up scoring systems in advance, and more.  Your PRSA dues support boat and equipment maintenance, insurance, slip fees, and everything else that goes into allowing us to race each weekend.  Of course, skippers must be paid PRSA members in order to qualify for the Laser Frostbite Series and the Spring and Fall series racing series, and to be eligible to vote at the PRSA AGM.

As you pay your dues I would also encourage you to support the PRSA Commodore’s Club (a donation can be added to your 2016 membership payment).  Donation’s to the Commodores Club go directly to our fund for boat and equipment maintenance.  Whether big or small, any additional donation is a great help as we work on maintaining our equipment and conducting safe and fun racing each year. 

A big thank you to all of the members who have already paid their 2016 dues.  Many thanks, as well, to all of those who contributed to the PRSA Commodore’s Club in 2015 (see listing here: http://www.potomacriversailing.org/applications/membership/CommodoreClub.php) I’m already looking forward to the 2016 sailing season, and I hope that you are as well!

Capital City Laser Regatta 2015 – Results

Chris Bolton with the help of Lindsay Bach ran the line boat while Bill Kleysteuber & Frank Gallagher ran the mark boat.  The water was so low in the river from the previous two days of strong northerly winds that Chris was forced to set us up in the cove.  The wind was very patchy and  could switch 180 degrees between the windward and leeward mark.  The lead boat around the leeward mark often lossed that lead on the short beat to the finish as a result of big wind shifts that would lift the 2nd boat to the finish while leaving the lead boat stranded.

Len Guenther managed the conditions with patience and won the regatta.

Capital City Laser Regatta – Series Standing

Pictures from the mark boat by Lindsay Bach

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 windalert.com 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.

Continue reading Laser Frostbite Series #11