Category Archives: 2015

2016 Spring Series #8 Wrap-Up

A handful of Lightnings and one hearty Buccaneer came out Sunday for what turned out to be a beautiful day of sailing.  The forecast was for high winds and possible thunderstorms, but despite a few gusts early in the and some grey clouds it ended up being a wonderful day on the water.  PRO Kyra Tallon and her crew got us 4 beautiful races in a steady southerly breeze.  The wind filled in over the course of the day such that the gusts diminished and the overall velocity became more consistent in the 12-15 range.  There were a few shifts on the day, notably a big lefty in race 3 that ran counter to the overall advantage one gained by sailing right (west) to find breeze and some shifts.  It was a great day to work on boat balance, trim, and downwind angles in a bit of breeze (but not too much).  Fun was had by all and we were back to the dock by 2:30 thanks to a high tide that allowed us to sail just outside the airport pier (though I did dig my centerboard into the mud a few times later in the day).  Overall it was a great way to round out the Spring Series racing!

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2015/2016 Frostbite Series #6


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.


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

2015/2016 Laser Frostbite Series #3


Great day on the water. Excellent temps and decent wind – I always want more of the latter. The best part of the day was doing about 30 roll gybes on the way in – Jamie and I had fun with that.
Starting: With 20-some boats racing, getting off the line clean becomes a little trickier. I kept seeing wind to the right – but it never seemed to pay off. Eric started at the pin and it worked very well for him. Important to be at the line at speed especially if you are in a crowded spot. I felt I started accelerating earlier and earlier as I was originally in the habit of 20-knots from 2 weeks ago.
Upwind: Keep the boat moving. Don’t pinch. Not something I did particularly well. The Laser needs flow over the foils to give you height. So putting the bow down and getting up to speed will actually allow you to sail higher in the long-run. Also keep the boat flat in Sunday’s conditions. I am in the camp of having a flat boat even a touch to windward – it’s harder to sail with less pressure on the rudder but will pay off. I saw a lot of people sailing with leeward heel and while I think the speed was decent, the height was not. I felt like I had average speed but a lot of point (in comparison) – caught several boats on the last leg just by keeping the boat perfectly flat and out-pointing  people that rounded in front of me and was able to lock them out on the right corner.
Downwind: The fastest course to the mark is not always the shortest. Make sure you are either a slight reach or by the lee – running is pretty slow. Also, look behind you all the time. Two reasons: the wind fills in from that direction so you can track where puffs are and you want to make sure you are in clear air. I did well downwind by going either inside or outside – either seemed to work so long as I had clear air.
See everyone next week!

2015/2016 Laser Frostbite Series #2

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.

2015-2016 PRSA Laser Frostbite Series 2

2015/2016 Laser Frostbite Series #1

As is our custom, the third place finisher on the day (me, in this case) provides a summary of the day and hints on how they were successful. Here is mine for Sunday:
It was definitely a wild start to the season with winds from the NNW in the 15-20 mph range with gusts into the 20s. We got off three races on an olympic course with 16 sailors racing, dwindling to 10 last race finishers.
Congrats to Young Guns, Adam and Jamie, who beat last year’s champion (me), Not-So-Young-Gun (Len) and everyone else!
A few things that I was foccusing on:
  • I started at the the pin end of the line, since it was favored in all races and was not crowded
  • Upwind:
    • I set up the sail with max. outhaul and cunningham in order to de-power the sail
    • I also used a lot of vang (bent boom) in order to allow me to ease the main if necc. while keeping the sail flat
  • Reaching and Downwind:
    • I eased the vang and cunningham and made sure the boat was flat before trying to round the windward mark and to make sure the the end of the boom didn’t dip into the water
    • I worked on keeping my weight back to plane and keeping my weight over my feet to make quick corrections to avert disaster
Many thanks to the race committee (Jim Klein and Richard Kaiser) for running the races and checking on struggling sailors!

2015 Fall Series #8

Today was a gorgeous day for the last day of the season.  We had a nice southerly ranging from 8-12.  The breeze was relatively steady.  We were able to get off 4 races each around 40 min log.

2015 Fall Series 8 – Albacores

2015 Fall Series 8 – Buccaneers

2015 Fall Series 8 – I20s

2015 Fall Series 8 – Lightnings

2015 Fall Series 8 – Multihulls

2015 Fall Series #7

Sunday was a tough day sailing.  The sail out to the course was nice with the exception of the super low tide.  Just prior to the first race starting, the wind shut off and gave a drifting race where we sailed the various wind lines that would come through the course.  After the first race, we drifted for a bit and it looked like the wind was going to fill in.  The wind only held for the first leg of the race.  Then it was a battle of finding the micro puffs that could not be seen on the water and fighting the incoming tide.  It was probably the most tidal current going up the river I have seen.  Thanks to Jeff for managing to get off 2 races.

2015 Fall Series 7 – Albacores

2015 Fall Series 7 – Lightnings

2015 Fall Series 7 – Multihulls

2015 Fall Series #5

Today was an interesting day on the water.  The first race was light air out of the west and the breeze ended up doing a 180 in the last bit of the race providing an additional windward rounding for us.  After drifting for a bit, the wind finally filled in with 5-10 from the north.  We were able to get 2/3 more races off for the classes.  These were quite nice.  And the wind picked up even more to about 15 on the sail home providing some fun planing conditions!

A brief thought on the sailing today was that the races were about 30 minutes long and in my opinion that makes having a good start worth about 30% of the race (which leads to being able to do what you want on the first upwind leg).  The starts today all had a pin favor that I believe proved to provide a good head start in all my races.

Kudos goes out to Frank and his team on RC for getting off races with the tricky conditions at the beginning of the day!


2015 Fall Series 5 – Albacores

2015 Fall Series 5 – Buccaneers

2015 Fall Series 5 – Lightnings

2015 Fall Series 5 – Multihulls