Category Archives: Lasers

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

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!

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.

Laser Frostbite Series #3

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….

Continue reading Laser Frostbite Series #3