Tag Archives: Sailboat racing

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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2018-2019 Laser Frostbite Series #10

Today was a really nice day of racing.  The wind was up with a constant 10 gusting to 20 out of the south and the temperatures were around 45 degrees.  Sadly the sun did not come out which would have made it nicer.  Thanks to John and Jolie for doing RC.  They were able to get off 6 Olympic races and had a pretty square course.  Each race was running about 18 minutes.  Due to all the recent rain, we had a nice high river and the current was ripping out all day with it getting worse at the end of the day.

As for the sailing today, first off, the starts were pretty important.  We had several people over early which was probably due to the current.  With the current trying to push you over early and the boat side favored, I was starting on the pin end and beginning low and coming up to the line with speed.  This seemed to work for me pretty well.  Another thing that was a bit wild with the current was that at the windward mark the lay lines were not true.  I noticed a lot of people over standing the lay lines with the current.  On the sail to the jibe mark, a lot of people were sailing quite high which added some distance to the sail.  Several times I saw Nich staying low and gaining on a bunch of boats.  For finishes, I found that the pin end was much better to pick.  All of these 3 comments are to try and sail the shortest course which should be the goal!  A final comment is that with all the breeze today, it was important to have your vang on upwind so that you could get the sail in for block to block sheeting as well as let it out to dump power without losing height on your pointing.
Hope everyone had fun!

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2018-2019 Laser Frostbite Series #6

In a breach of tradition, I was asked to provide some thoughts on today’s racing.

I am not going to recount each race, but as we all know the breeze was light all day and the current was slack for the first race, but progressively got stronger heading down river (and upwind) making the beats short and the down wind legs seem much longer.  The pin end was favored to varying degrees throughout the day.

The upwind leg was short so it was imperative to get off the line quickly today as there was little opportunity to recover from a bad start (as a learned after flipping at the start…).

What worked for me today was to get a clear air start at or near the pin, get the boat moving as fast as possible and then look for an opportunity to tack to port and towards the windward mark.  Simple in concept, sometimes tougher in execution….

I think in the light conditions we had today it is critically important to constantly seek to find more power in the rig.  This means a loose outhaul (one to one and one half hands at the middle of the boom), loose Cunningham (or maybe just a tiny bit but not enough to remove wrinkles), and Vang slightly less than block to block tension (You want the mast to straighten when you ease the sheet for power).

I don’t think I ever was able to “two block” my sheet tension today, but generally had my sheet eased out between 6-18 inches depending on wind pressure.

The key to light air speed is to ease the sheet for power to get the boat moving.  As the sail powers up, you can then apply more weight on the rail, which translates force into your foils and increases boat speed.  As the speed builds, you can trim the main for greater efficiency.  The trick is not to let the boat stall after you trim in more closely.  After you trim in and you start to feel the boat lose power you have to immediately ease the sheet again to get more power.  Adjustments should be pretty subtle unless there is a big wind speed change.  I believe this cycle of easing for power, applying weight to the rail to increase speed, and then trimming as the boat accelerates is key to being fast in light conditions.

Similarly, I think the most important factor downwind was working to keep the boat powered up.  Whenever it got really light downwind I felt it was fast to either head up 15-20 degrees or sail aggressively by the Lee to increase flow across the sail.  Once the boat was moving well, then it was time to head more towards the mark.  I think I ended up gybing on every down wind leg because I sailed “hotter” angles and almost never dead down wind.

Hope a few folks find this helpful.  Thanks to all for sailing today and Happy New Year!

Keith

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2018-2019 Laser Frostbite Series #5

Dear all,
This is my fourth season doing the frostbite series, but my first 3rd place write-up. It goes to show that it is indeed possible to gradually improve over time!
Sunday was one of those day where it was  miserable on land, but turned out to be perfectly OK once we got on the water. Huge thanks goes to the RC team (Keith, Jim, and Jeff) for simply getting on with making the RC boat ready, and thereby  nudging the rest of us into drysuits (before rigging!), and then subsequently running 6 windward-leeward races on a well laid-out course. The wind was around 12 knots coming out of the North; it swung slightly towards west as the afternoon progressed.  The tide was very strong and running out throughout racing.
I think there were two key things for me today.
First (as always..) the start is key, and I focus a lot to be on the line at start. I try always to check to see what end is advantageous (today it was mostly the pin-end, I thought), but my main priority is to hit the line on time. As it happened, in several races today I managed both to be on time and in the right end (it will probably be a while before that happens again). The pin-end also had the advantage (I think) that it put you on the left side of the course where I thought the tide was slightly lighter.  One more thing that I try to do is to force myself to ONLY focus on sailing fast for the first 2 minutes after start (at least when I am on starboard and am in a free lane)—I tend to lose a lot if I look after other boats immediately after the start.
Second, I try not to make too many mistakes. I find it often better to be quite conservative, especially when the wind is up. For example, today I was generally very careful to have ample room at the windward mark—when the tide is as strong as today, it’s a killer to try to pinch around the mark.  Similarly at the leeward mark I didn’t mind too much giving up the inside lane in favor of having more room to make a good jibe and hit the upward leg at a good angle. Overall, I made only one serious mistake today (when I—against my better judgment— picked a fight with Len at the windward mark and ended up hitting it..).
Last, let me just say that I really appreciate all the advice that many of the more experienced members of the fleet so generously share. There are a 1,000 things to learn, and it is really helpful to get some tips!
Claus

2018-2019 Laser Frostbite Series #4

Hi all,

Sunday the wind was great and picked up throughout the day, which I really liked as I had to hike. During the races I played a lot with my controls (Vang, down haul, and out haul) to try and find my perfect set up. The pin end of the start line was very favored and it was almost not possible to sail from the committee boat to the pin, but I liked this as it was challenging to get a good spot on the line, while also being able to keep it and get off of the line with speed. During the first few races I tended to go up on the port side of the course all the way to right below the lay line and then to tack over, but as the wind increased it shifted a bit and the starboard side of the coarse was favored in the last two or three races. I am never very aware of the current  (which I should probably be) but throughout the day it was going out. I am definitely going to wear like 6 pairs of socks next Sunday, because my feet were frozen.

See you all on Sunday

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2018-2019 Laser Frostbite Series #3

Frostbite Series #2 and #3 have been great conditions, good turnout, and fun racing. I regret missing the first weekend. As always, a thank you to our underpaid Race Committee. I was initially skeptical of the leeward gate setup, but variety is the spice of life (it was fun)! Conditions were mostly steady from the south, but became light in race 14 (I think). The last couple races we started to see some significant starboard tack lifts with boats stacking up near the committee boat and puffs from the western shore. A flooding current wasn’t as aggressive as last week’s ebb current, but still worth accounting for during mark roundings.

Tactically, I don’t think I had a favorite side; sometimes I went left, sometimes right. I generally tried to be on the line, have clear air, and not mess with other boats. At least two starts, I severely mistimed and was deep off the line. I immediately tacked out from the fleet to get clear air and play catch up. I find that I perform my best when I sail my own race and concentrate on speed, shifts, and sailing where I want to sail. Sometimes that meant an aggressive duck rather than leebowing a starboard tack boat (to avoid boxing myself in or wasting concentration on fighting the one boat next to me versus the fleet at large). My best race, was when the wind lightened up (again, I think race 14). I eased the mainsheet, probably about 10-inches block-block and focused on weight/boat flatness, keeping the boat powered up, and tacking on shifts. Due to the leeward gate, the fleet seemed to split pretty early just after the windward mark so I found the runs a little less stressful than normal. For finishes, it seemed like boats that rounded the easternmost leeward gate and finished near the pin tended to net better and I lost several places even when I was ahead going into the gate by finishing near the boat.
Lastly, I’d like to thank my corporate sponsors, Intensity sails for their MKII practice sail (just kidding, but I will thank them nonetheless). I have only used the MKII sail these past two weekends, but I have really enjoyed it. I am not going to outright say it is a faster sail design, but I think I can make the boat sail faster because it seems to look/perform more like other sailboats I’ve sailed. Again, I’m not saying you can buy your way to speed, but I am giddy when looking up at a pretty sail while racing (maybe its all about the right emotional attitude). Anheuser-Busch, what can I say, other than Len wants everyone to drink the free Bud light he’s been offering.

2018-2019 Laser Frostbite Series #2

Another day of fantastic conditions for the 2018-2019 season – something we’ll find hard to recall in February.  Fleet captain and PRO Tom Hutton with Helper Jacob Donkersloot did a great job in setting a nicely-sized, well-positioned course and rolling through an interesting ‘variety pack’ of races – four Olympics, one triangle and a windward-leeward.
Light westerly winds were forecast, but the actual winds during racing were similar to the week before – steady 6-10 knots oscillating around due south, with some pronounced short puffs.  I think this had some thermal aspect as DC heated up in the afternoon sun, with a reversion to lighter westerlies as soon as the sun started to dip at the end of racing.
Plenty of current this time – full ebb tide during racing combined with post-rain flow of river.  This led to some tricky starts (including a few generals) and close-shave leeward mark roundings but fewer tactical angles than I expected – the overall flow seemed somewhat even across the whole course?  Still, the current put a strong imperative on clear air on the downwind leg – I think this accounted for the frequent bunching of a pack behind the leaders in clear air who seemed to consistently break out on either side.
Like last weekend, neither side seemed consistently favored upwind.  I usually started at the pin for clear air and tactical room for error re the current.  I also originally thought the DC side would have deeper water and so stronger favorable current – but didn’t seem to play out that way.  Starting mid-line and up the middle probably would have paid more consistently – but you need to reliably achieve a good start and I’m not there yet.
Light-air reaches are unusual in weekend racing – but they turned out to be very interesting.  As always, it’s hard to make dramatic gains in the ‘parade’ but incremental advance & hold was possible.  I found it wasn’t always worth trying to get the inside at the reach mark – a few times going on the outside of the pack and staying low and by-the-lee seemed to pay.  Perhaps the current helped in that case?  Anyway, I’m going to put more thought into reaches in future – some subtle stuff going on there.
For most of the races, the downwind leg was after boats had separated on previous legs – but I noticed there was a lot of bunching, I’m guessing from the interaction of wind shadows and adverse current.  Like last weekend, I found going for clear air right after the windward mark was key, followed by always playing one side or other, by-the-lee or slightly hotter (never DDW).  The little wavelets that arose from wind vs. current could occasionally add a vague simulacrum of surfing if you could catch ‘em.  Perhaps not actually effective for racing but fun-ish – yeah, I’m easily amused.

2018-2019 Laser Frostbite Series #1

Very pleasant conditions for 2018-2019 season kick-off.  Many thanks to PRO Todd Blekicki and Helper Tyler Phillips for setting a well-positioned course and efficiently rolling through 5 races.
As more-or-less promised in the forecast, winds were steady 5-9 knots velocity with direction oscillating tightly around due south.  Tide was incoming, but I didn’t see much current effect during racing – maybe post-rain/snow flow of the river cancelled that out?  Also, the course was generally between the two channels so that helped.
With a square well-sized line, steady breeze and no big current effect, neither side seemed especially favored on the upwind leg.  The slight oscillations in direction and pressure cycled fast enough to cancel out.  All of which led to close bunching at the first upwind mark and a lot of, ah, ‘intricate’ boat maneuvering.  Good way to knock off some rules and boat handling rust, no?
In these conditions for upwind, a mid-line start is ideal but clear air is absolutely critical.  If you’re not a great starter (e.g. me), the pin seemed to work out as a way to stay clear and focus on boat speed.  But the risk there is coming back in and having to face an ugly wall of starboard tackers.  So I decided in the last race to ‘practice’ a mid-line start and – predictably – it was less than ideal.  Useful lesson for this frequent occurrence is to bite the bullet and get to clear air as quickly as possible.
Downwind for all the races seemed to offer some subtle tactical gains.  You could play the slight oscillations and stay out of the wind shadows by alternating between by-the-lee on the VA side and a little hotter to the MD side depending on the puff-of-the-moment.  That worked out well for me in the first four races but in the last I took it too far to the MD side when I saw the VA side looked crushed (momentarily as it turned out) and lost several spots.  Know when to fold em’, eh?

Goofy Conditions, Good Competition for PRSA Fall Series #7

The conditions were a bit all of the place on Sunday, with an easterly breeze that swung as far south as due south and as far north as due north, with times in between when it would shut off altogether.  Depending upon the shifts, you could enter a mark rounding first and come out last (or vice-versa), or pick up (or lose) the whole fleet on one shift.  Nonetheless, PRO Farley Will and his RC crew did a good job getting us four races in some sunny conditions before we all headed back to shore to enjoy beverages and a BBQ.  It could have been far worse for a late fall afternoon of racing!  Scores are posted below, and you can see some great photos from Lindsay Bach here.

Albacore Fall 7

Buccaneer Fall 7

I-20 Fall 7

Lightning Fall 7

Multihull Fall 7