Good evening, Frost biters!
As Kaitlyn had promised us, we got a nice day on the river with light to medium wind from a (by Potomac standards) stable northerly direction. The results are attached thanks to Farley – both for today and the totals. Below are a few highlights.
Eva gave the tip of the week of the year: When you’ve capsized enough times, find your way back to shore. Last time we sailed, for me that number was one.
With the strong current and medium wind, be aggressive on the start line. If you find yourself too close to the line, all you need to do is head to wind for a moment, you’re back where you need to be, and there’s enough wind to get going again. Today’s conditions really provided a safe environment for practicing getting a front row spot.
As my mother has told me for fifty years, dress appropriately. I thought with the mild temperature today, I’d skip a layer, and I ended up being a bit cold. A warm torso keeps your fingers warm, and more importantly, I think I had poor focus today partly because I was cold.
The current in the Potomac remains an enigma to me. Today’s current was strong, so it mattered. Current runs strong where the water is deep, so logic would suggest staying on the left side (west) upwind and on the left side (east) on the downwind. I think this tended to be true, but certainly not always. If someone has cracked the code of the Potomac currents, please let us know.
As you can see from the totals, we’ve had just 26 races, with hopefully more than that ahead of us, so everyone has a good chance for a good spot by the end of the season. Hope to see many of you next week.
Sunday was a nice day. The air was warmer than it had been the previous week, and the sun was shining. Everything was perfect, except for the wind. While on shore at the start of the day, the wind felt sporty but manageable. I was running a radial sail. The airport reported 13 knots from the south at noon. When sailing out, it was clear that conditions had changed drastically since then. Significant breeze to plane was found in the lagoon, however the area of the course was experiencing a very weak wind from the south. This was very quickly replaced by a very strong wind from the northwest. At 1, the airport recorded 15 knots gusting to 27. The course was set and racing began.
The first race I was OCS, and decided to tack to port and duck the line. I stayed on port for a long while and found a large right shift. This was noticeable throughout the day, the wind was oscillating between weaker wind from the west and strong puffs from the northwest. I made most of my ground back up on the right side and rounded the weather mark mid-fleet. The downwind was a lot of fun in full planing conditions, and most of the boats that I saw doing well stuck close to the rhumb line. Almost no boats gybed more than once. I maintained position for this downwind and had a fairly good mark rounding that put me in pretty clean air. I made a mistake in staying too far to the right on the second upwind and lost a boat or two. I saw one or two boats capsized near the windward mark. The final downwind leg was very similar to the first, except near the end I hit a puff wrong and auto gybed. I managed to stay upright and finished the race somewhere in mid fleet.
By the time of the second race, the wind had increased greatly. At 2, the airport recorded eighteen knots gusting 28. I put on all the controls as tight as I could except for the vang, which was in block to block position. I was late to the start, so tacked out early again. By this time, I was not really trying to be in the optimal spot on the course. My tacks and gybes are not very good, especially not in wind like that, so I did my best to play it safe and minimize the risk of capsizing by minimizing the number of tacks and gybes. I did not tack again until the layline, and ended up overstood due to another right shift. Still, I rounded in the top half of the fleet. The downwind was a survival leg. I saw at least two boats flip and when I pulled up my centerboard a little I immediately began to oscillate. I left the vang on for stability and because I wasn’t sure I could get it back for the upwind. While the wind was challenging, the waves were relatively small and there was sufficient power to go over them without much worry. This was when things started to get crazy. Almost half the fleet capsized at some point. I autogybed downwind and spun out, but managed to dry capsize and get moving relatively quickly. By the time I got to the second upwind mark rounding, most of the fleet was sailing in. I dropped one place on the final downwind but managed to stay upright.
By race 3, only six boats were left on the course. The wind had now increased to 30 knot gusts and sustained winds over 20. I was on time to the line, but hit some waves wrong and lost my lane. Again, I tacked out early and tacked back at the layline. I set a rule for myself, two tacks or one gybe were allowed per leg. Even if I didn’t capsize, my tacks often ended with the boat heeled over like crazy and side slipping. I rounded the weather mark in fourth. Race committee had set a triangle course, so the downwind was a lot of fun and very simple. I tried to stay a little low on the first reach to get the puffs that would come from the right. On the second reach, I would sail to the mark or maybe a little high for the pressure. On these reaches, the boat began to hum and I had to fight the tiller to keep going in a straight line. I left all controls on because I didn’t think I could adjust them safely while being ready for the puffs. On the finish leg, I caught a boat that had capsized right before the finish.
Race 4 started similarly. I was late due to a bad tack and again hit the right corner. While definitely not optimal, this strategy was pretty close and got me to the windward mark with no complications. I rounded in fourth with lots of space between me and third. On the first reach, all three boats in front of me flipped. They got up before I reached them, but I closed almost all of the distance. A massive puff was chasing me the entire first reach, and I barely gybed before it hit. I had to hold the tiller with both hands on that reach to keep from spinning up and out. When I got to the lee mark, I had passed a boat. I let the boat round up, but lost control and flipped. I dry capsized, but had been overtaken and got fourth in the race.
Overall, it was a hectic but incredibly exciting day. I capsized more times than I can count on the way in and on the course. Race committee did an excellent job balancing rescuing boats and maintaining the course. I don’t think that I was sailing at peak in terms of boatspeed from hiking or strategy, but getting around the course with as little capsizes as possible was far more important. I don’t think there was a single boat that didn’t flip at some point. I was very surprised by my third place, but I think that I was consistent throughout the day and did well as a result. My starts were often not quite where I wanted them to be, but the general conditions and small fleet size reduced the importance of the start significantly.
It was wonderful to see so many sailors, friends, and family members at our 2023 Annual Genera Meeting & Awards Ceremony at Port City Brewing! In case you missed it, here is the agenda handout and racing results summary. Huge thanks to Melissa for her work in organizing the event, and to all who pitched in for setup, cleanup, and other tasks in between to make our AGM a success. Here are a few key highlights:
- The high point of the evening had to be, in my opinion, our opportunity to recognize Jim and Susan Graham for Honorary Membership (for life) in PRSA in recognition, per our PRSA Bylaws (Article III, Section D) of “…meritorious serve to PRSA, the sport of yachting, or for outstanding performance of seamanship.” This was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the Grahams, who emphasized that they are by no means done with sailing or supporting PRSA (and for that we are immensely grateful!).
- Recognition of series award winners and perpetual trophy awardees (see posted summary)
- Recognition and thanks to our outgoing PRSA ExCom Members and Volunteers (Stew Harris, Vice Commodore; Kyra Tallon, Secretary; Melissa Morgan, Social Chair) along with congratulations and thanks to those who stepped forward to fill various roles (Dave Coughlin, Vice Commodore; Melissa Morgan, Secretary; Natalie Rehberger, Social Chair; Josh Seely and John Van Voorhis, Website Development).
Looking ahead, we are still seeking a few volunteers to help with some 2024 initiatives: reviewing our membership & dues structure and heading up sustainability initiatives (huge thanks to Stas for taking this on in addition to his Fleet Captain role through 2023!). Let me know if you might be interested.
Hello PRSA Sailors! A quick reminder that your 2024 dues are due now! You can pay your dues and/or check your dues status here: https://potomacriversailing.org/dues-rc-duty/. Dues must be paid on or prior to January 15!
The full terms of our dues are set out in our PRSA Bylaws (https://potomacriversailing.org/about-prsa/prsa-bylaws/ — see Article III, Section 3). Paying dues on time is important for you, but also for your fleets! Per the PRSA Bylaws, a fleet needs at least five or more paid members (active, junior, or life) by January 15 to qualify as an active one-design fleet for the year. Being an active fleet, per the Bylaws definition means, among other things, that your fleet will have a fleet representative on the PRSA Executive Committee and that boats in your fleet will be scored as a Fleet in your racing series (https://potomacriversailing.org/about-prsa/prsa-bylaws/, Article VIII, Section 1) . Long story short, make sure that you’ve paid your 2024 dues! (Note that the information in the “Payment Received” column doesn’t update instantaneously when you renew. When you pay your dues, you will receive an email confirmation, so make sure to look for that email confirmation of your renewal and payment).
PRSA Frostbite Lasers – November 26, 2023
By Dave Coughlin
Race 1: Conditions West at 0 to 1.5 knots, current just started flooding from south.
At Start it was apparent the pin was much closer to the windward mark. I set up near the pin and circled around watching where other players were setting up. I was successful at winning the pin and tacking to Port at 5 seconds until the gun. With the wind coming from left corner, I was most left boat and worked on not moving around to disturb the air flow, sitting on centerboard with aft leg behind mainsheet block, main was eased considerably to gain speed after start and create apparent wind, outhaul was 3 inches further out in center of boom of my widespread hand than usual. (Thumb to finger pinky spread full apart is my general rule of thumb) This is my standard and very technical distance (LOL) to evaluate location of outhaul. As boat speed and apparent wind increased, I gently trimmed the outhaul to increase point. On starboard the current caused an artificial header but more velocity. AKA, lee bowing the current. After the start I focused on as few tacks as possible to maintain speed. Prior to every tack I eased outhaul, came out of tack wide and started to build speed. 3 tacks total on this first beat. Rounded in first with a 7-boat length lead. Sailed high to get a better angle to the west breeze. This was not a great move but needed to maintain speed. Farley and Lloyd caught me in a following puff from behind and were able to sail lower. They had the puff I did not while the wind shifted to northeast, boats heading stayed the same but tacked from Starboard to Port. Since I sailed high initially, I was a sitting duck for the west downwind puff and the 150-degree shift to Northeast, they caught me, and I could not defend.
After leeward mark rounding it was a starboard tack fetch to finish with a more NNE direct, a tight reach. I was third and I always try to sail consistently and be top 3 every race.
Race 2: North at 2-4, current stronger from south.
Initial start was General Recalled. Boat was very favored but after Recall I did not want to be shut out so I decided to be conservative and start 1/3 down the line, avoiding the current induced pile up at the boat end. Thinking just get off the line and see what happens. Farley was closest to the RC boat and Lloyd was between both of us. We were the only three with boat speed to get free of the pack or off the starting line.
- As a side note: many sailors set up too late on the start line and they don’t start to accelerate at 12-7 seconds, but at 3-2 or 0 second. On these short courses the start is everything. My advice is to train to be over early on a few starts, just by a second or 2. You get free of pack and clear air. If not on the line in front row at 30 seconds you will consistently become 2nd row. (This is an entirely separate article to discuss and train too, how many have practiced the start line interception with timing, how many sailors have a watch and count down?)
Within seconds after the start, I knew I was third again since Farley and Lloyd were inside the shift and seemed to have more breeze. I rounded the weather mark in third. After the Leeward mark rounding, both leaders went left on course, I headed towards the deep channel and hoped to gain current leverage, sending me to the right, only one other boat (Brain) went right. When I was the most right, I thought I looked good, pointed higher, more breeze and current push, since it was so light air, I think it was artificial breeze generated by the current push that made me look good. As I closed in on the starboard lay line, the puff or current push near the channel had ended. I lost another boat from the left and rounded fourth. Jibed immediately and worked inside (against the current), catching the boat I lost upwind. I rounded and finished third.
Items to speak too:
- Light air, sit on centerboard, straddling the main sheet but be on the lookout on port since it takes time to free yourself to tack.
- At weather mark rounding, if capable, I will trim main from the boom block and pull free mainsheet (as many feet as I can get out of ratchet block) from ratchet block, in heavy air a must, in light air not as aggressive since speed can be gained in coordinated ease to speed. This is needed in a jibe set rounding, this ease allows me to bring the bow down and then jibe.
- In light air, roll tack to the max and as flattening trim in main slowly and flatten slowly. The longer you can have the air flowing over sails and water pushing over blades the better. But remember the rules…you can’t exit the tack faster than you went into the tack. But you can get immediately up to speed and not have speed build delay.
Potomac treated us to a beautiful sunny day with everything from very light air to full hiking and, in true Potomac style, no shortage of wind shifts. Thanks to Brian and Paula for 6 great races. It was a tough day to lay the course … it was perfectly right many many times during the day, but often not for long.
It was great to welcome four new young laser sailors: Jonah, Leif, Logan, and Mason. We always appreciate newcomers and are happy that Morgan now can feel less alone in her age category. Jonah and Leif cautiously stayed in the cove, and we hope to have you on the course with us when you feel confident.
A couple of things worked well for me today:
- Be on the start line at the gun – especially when the pin is very favored. If you’re lucky, you can tack and get clear air. If you’re below the line, it’s very hard to get clear air – especially when boats have trouble clearing the pin and slow down while pinching – that really clogs the line.
- Maintain focus when the wind dies. Huge gains and losses are made during these most frustrating moments – I find my little hawk vane to be very helpful, and looking around the course at other boat helps. Yeah, it’s a game of luck, but you can shift the odds a bit by staying alert.
So, let’s get the 3rd place write ups going again with a small, suggested change. If the 3rd place sailor has written a 3rd place write up before, it passes to 2nd, if 2nd has written it before, it passes to 1st, then 4th, 5th, 6th etc. I know it’s a bit more complicated, but it would be good to give repeat authors the chance to opt out and to hear more voices.
Meanwhile, happy Thanksgiving and see you next Sunday!
- $35 per person (cash, check or PayPal); no charge for children 10 and under.
- Fantastic food from Lebanese Taverna followed by Melissa’s famous cookie bar dessert
- 2 drinks per person courtesy of PRSA; non-alcoholic beverages are also available (please note: no outside beverages).
- Officer Reports
- Awards: racing awards, perpetual awards, and a few special recognitions
- Election of Officers
- New business/discussion
- 1 drawing for a PRSA tote bag. Any member who donated to the PRSA Commodore’s Club is eligible and will automatically be entered.
- Silent auction for 1 PRSA tool bag and 1 PRSA tote bag.
- Navigate to – Homepage (landsend.com)
- From there pick out any item you would like to have the PRSA logo embroidered on. (Please note some items require a minimum purchase amount).
- Pick the color and size of the item you wish to purchase.
- Hit the Apply Logo button on the bottom left hand side of the website
- The Lands’ End website will allow you customize the logo and the location of the logo. (As of right now we only have one Logo but in the future we will add iterations of logos that will highlight classes and items that will present well on different fabrics and colors).
- Add the item to your cart. The price for the embroidery will be reflected there.
- If you have questions or run into problems, you contact Lands’ End: Contact Us | Lands’ End Business Uniforms (landsend.com) or 1-800-587-1541
- Founder’s Trophy: Promotion of PRSA in general; the highest recognition for service to PRSA.
- More Boats on the Water Trophy: Awarded for exceptional efforts leading to more boats racing through such activities as providing encouragement to timid sailors, helping get an old boat race-ready, creating a snow-ball by getting getting a critical mass of sailors to commit to racing, and so forth. Informally to be called the “More Boats on the Water” award.
- Yates Dowell III Award: Awarded for exceptional administrative service to PRSA