Category Archives: 2017

Fall Series #2 – Sept 26, 2017

I am reposting this writeup from Geoff Bishop who finished in 3rd place in the Lightning class. Geoff was sailing with his daughter, Gigi, and son Quentin.  This is only their 3rd time out on the Lightning.

Sit still and try to keep moving!  It was a fun day on the river but once again not much wind.  Sailing out to the course I was pleasantly surprised by a steady breeze but in the end the forecast for light and variable winds held true.  The race committee did a phenomenal job setting the marks and a square start line despite early engine problems.  Trying to recall the light air sailing lessons we learned last week, our strategy was simply to keep the boat moving.  We did our best to start the day’s only race on starboard with speed and footed nicely up the left side of the course.  When waves from boat traffic in the channel came by we footed even more in order to keep our boat moving through the chop.  Taking those waves head on in this light air would have been deadly.  Then the wind died and a breeze filled in on the right side of the course!  The boats that went right were heroes!  In retrospect the more dependable wind was probably coming down the Anacostia – on the right side of the course –  and I made a point of staying right on the next upwind leg.  The rest of the race seems a bit of a blur as we sat bobbing up and down, drifting under the blazing sun.  Somewhere along the way I recalled the saying: “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.”  This thought came to mind right about the time Shadowfax came scooting by us downwind with the spinnaker pulling and passing boats right and left.  With patience and perseverance we coaxed our boat forward and on the last downwind leg found a little breath of wind coming off the airport side of the river that we used to generate some momentum around the pin and into the final stretch.  The final leg of our race reminded me of rubber duckies floating in a bathtub.  We were near a group of about four lightnings just bobbing ever closer to the finish line – and in particular the leeward pin as the current was at least as strong as any “wind.”  By sheer luck we bobbed just ahead of Frank and Marianne (we had traded places back and forth with them most of the race) for a third place finish.  Not exactly lightning speed, but we’ll take it.  Thank you to all who participated –most of the classes had a great turnout – and thank you to the race committee who graciously let us go in early to enjoy the rest of our afternoon on shore


PRSA President’s Cup: Light Winds Didn’t Stop Us From Having Fun!

We didn’t have much breeze for the 2017 PRSA President’s Cup, but that didn’t stop us from having fun!  With 50 boats in 6 classes registered we were all ready to race on Saturday morning.  Mother Nature had other plans.  However, we did get to go racing on Sunday, and among other highlights we were happy to welcome a couple of new sailors — John and Amanda — first spotted sailing a Thistle on Saturday but convinced to sail an Albacore on Sunday, thanks to Barney.  As it turns out, they beat Barney at his own game! 🙂

It turned out to be a great regatta with good fun had by all.  Keep reading for some of my observations from aboard Lightning #14592 and, by all means, please add your own observations as comments on this post!  Scores are here and you can view the great photos from Lindsay Bach here.

Continue reading PRSA President’s Cup: Light Winds Didn’t Stop Us From Having Fun!

Fall Series #1 – Sept 10, 2017

Great day to kick off the falls series. The sun was warm, the air was dry, the breeze was from the northeast (sort of) and varied from none at all to as much as 10 mph. The current was strong. The RC set up a triangle and signalled 3 O-2s and 1 W-3.

Shadowfax won the day in the Lightning fleet, but certainly not all the races. I took away three lessons that you might find interesting:

Judging the time to the line.
The start line was very pin favored and the current was ripping down the line against a traditional starboard tack approach. On Shadowfax, we decided to start the races on port at the pin. I knew the main threat would be from Bobby Astrove coming down the line on starboard. So we had to judge how long it would take him and us to get to the pin. Tom Hutton, in the middle, helped judge that time and called it. We crossed him once and ducked him twice but had a good start every time. In addition, it was clear that most of the other boats starting on port were getting to the line far too early and having to bear off down the line thereby losing a lot for every second early that got there. It is well worth practicing deciding how long it will take to get to the line and learning how to speed up or slow down to get there at the right time.

By the way, in the first race Bobby could not get to the pin on starboard and at the gun he was roughly midway and tacked immediately. In at least, two of the following three races, he approached the line from above the committee boat and executed a beautiful dip start near the pin. Dip starts are risky because 1) leeward boats may not let you dip and 2) because you may not get yourself all the way below the line and get called OCS. So it take good judgement of what the other boats can do in the conditions and of where you are relative to the line.

When in doubt sail the long tack to the mark.
The wind was spotty and shifty and so it was difficult to decide whether to go off to the right and try to get a puff coming down the Anacostia or go left and toward that puff coming down from the north. We found that if we simply sailed the tack that was lifting us to the mark, we did very well. So although it always pays to look for the breeze and try to get there, when in doubt simply sail the longer tack toward the mark.

Related to this lesson was a case of bad luck for us or good strategy by John Van Voorhis. John was on starboard maybe 10 boat lengths from the windward mark but not fetching by a couple of boat lengths . We were approaching him on port. Our plan was to duck him, tack onto starboard on the layline and force him to duck us as we approached and rounded the mark. Good in theory, but just after we tacked the wind shifted left. Now we were headed and not fetching the mark.  He tacked to the lifted port tack and made the pin many boat lengths ahead of us. He was sailing the long tack to the mark and waited for a good shift. We sailed the short tack and had little choice of what to do when the shift came.

Where to point when the wind dies.
We were ahead of John Van Voorhis approaching the leeward mark when the wind went very soft. I kept steering at an increasingly hot angle trying to keep the spinnaker full. Not only did that not work because the wind simply wasn’t there, but I was going further away from the mark. In contrast, John Van Voorhis just pointed to the mark and the strong current I mentioned above took him past us. When there is current, consider simply using it when the wind dies.


Spring Series 2017 – Final Results

Below are the official cumulative results for the 2017 Spring Series scored according to the NOR.   Think of each day as a race with your standing at the end of the day as your finish in the race.  If you did race committee that day, your score is the average of all the days you did sail.  If you neither sailed nor did RC, your score is simply a blank. To qualify you need to have sailed or done race committee 4 days (50% of days your fleet sailed). Your score is the average of your best 4 days.

A big thanks to Tom Hutton for doing the Sundays scores.

2017 Spring Series – Albacores
2017 Spring Series – Buccaneers
2017 Spring Series – I-20
2017 Spring Series – Lightnings
2017 Spring Series – Multi-Hulls

Spring Series #8 – June 11

It was a familiar day on the river.   The morning started with a nice northerly breeze, became increasingly unstable and then died, and finally picked back up again from the south.    The tide was ebbing the whole time and the current got stronger and stronger.

When the wind was northerly, it was easy to see the patches of stronger wind and there were 20+ degree shifts only part of which could have been due to velocity changes.  So the classic strategy of connecting the puffs or trying to sail in stronger and lifted breeze as much as possible consumed our attention and was successful in race 1 and most of race 2.

However, as the wind started to die and become unstable we made a classic mistake.   We rounded the windward mark for the last downwind leg in the lead.  The wind had shifted right and the wind looked better in the middle of the river so we gybed to port immediately.   The fleet behind us did not gybe as quickly and so we were the furthest right (looking upwind).   As the wind died we had to sail hotter to keep the boat moving, thereby moving further right. Initially, I was happy with our speed, but I ignored the fact that I was giving the fleet behind more and more leverage to catch up if the wind shifted even further right — a header (and downwind headers are good, especially for boats on the outside of the header, just the opposite from upwind).  And that is exactly what happened.   Despite the header, I was too far to the right of the course and had to gybe and come back on the unfavored starboard gybe while my competitors sailed deeper and directly to the mark on the favored port gybe.   One boat (Aaron) passed us and another (Will Summers) arrived at the mark at the same time.

Lesson:  When the wind is unpredictable and you are in the lead, cover the boats behind, i.e. stay in the middle of the course to take away their leverage and minimize any potential gains they can make from a wind shift.  Plus that puts you in the position to adjust your course right or left to take advantage of a finger of wind coming down the river.

A big thank you to Yates Dowell, Ben Arthur, and Marc Carre who stepped up on Thursday to join Melissa Morgan and save us from having no one to run the races.

That is the last of the Spring Series but next Sunday there will be a fun Distance Race which is open to all.




2017 Spring Series #7 – June 4

What a beautiful day for racing!

The winds were from the south between 10 and 15 mph.   They oscillated between 180 and 200.   Later in the day, they’d occasionally drop down below 10 but then new breeze would roll up the river.

There were 8 Lightnings on the line.  Aaron and I had very close racing with us edging him out by a point at the end of the day.   On this type of day with moderate & steady breeze and flat water all the boats are very similar in speed.  It is very hard to pass and so the start is more important than usual.

Our strategy was to start near the boat so that we’d have the freedom to tack away.  The one time we started down the line, we had a very good start but not good enough to cross the fleet on port.  Will & Aaron had us pinned.  We eventually tacked and swerved hard to duck Will but Aaron had already tacked and led the pack to the windward mark.  Nothing we did would reel him in.

After rounding the leeward mark, if we were leading the strategy for staying in the lead was to sail on port all the way to the airport. Simple.   (The airport is generally the better side to be on, maybe because of less chop or maybe because the land funnels the wind a bit there.  Don’t really know why.)  If we were not the lead boat, we had to fight to keep from sailing into the bad air of the lead boat and look for a small header or better breeze on the left before tacking.  Then we had to be on the lookout for another header to get back toward the airport. Not so simple but we made it work once.

Downwind we worked hard to get inside rights at the mark.  Usually this meant sailing as deep as possible without sailing by the lee.  If the spinnaker trimmer is curling the luff, I’m by the lee if the spinnaker clew is to windward of the forestay.  For speed downwind, we tried to keep our weight forward to keep the water flowing smoothly off our transom, healed slightly to windward to give the spinnaker as much air as possible, and the board almost all the way up into the trunk to give the boat some leeward helm.   But none of that beats getting a good puff!

Fun close racing!

Thanks to Jeff Neurator, Heather Howard, Chris Porter, and Yates for giving us 4 great races.  Heather also took some great pics from the signal boat (thanks Heather!).  And thanks to Tom Hutton for getting the scores calculated not just for today but for the whole Spring Series.


PRSA Spring Regatta May 27-28

Thirty seven boats sailed in the PRSA Spring Regatta.


The regatta started slowly with no wind on Saturday morning.   The PRO wisely 🙂 made the decision to postpone ashore so that the sailors did not have to bob around in the sun.   We were teased with a bit of wind right along the marina shoreline but it was glassy further out on the river.  As the hours passed nothing came in.   A couple of sailors ventured out onto the river and made great headway with the current but struggled to get back against it.

The cove had a bit of breeze and so the lower course PRO, Geof Fuller, gave the Penguins (3) and Lasers (2)  5 races.

Any attempt at upper course racing was abandoned at 1:30.  Many of the sailors were drinking beer by that time anyway.

The Lebanese Tavern brought the food just before 5.  Great stuff.  The rain came but two pop up tents protected most of the sailors as they munched and drank.


It began as a cool cloudy day with a 7-8 mph east breeze.  The current was an hour into its ebb cycle as the races began.   The PRO (me, Nabeel) set up  O-2 courses:  triangle, windward-leeward, finish upwind.  With five classes in four starts, it was busy.  After the Flying Scots started race 3 and the Multi-Hulls/Lightnings started race 4,  some rain came and killed most of the wind.  After rounding the windward mark, those sailors did everything they could to keep from being swept down river by the strengthening ebb current.   The RC shortened course at the leeward mark and everybody rode the current back to the marina.


Congratulations to Lisa-Marie Lane in the Lightning class for winning her first regatta and getting her name engraved on the Katherine Hearst award for the woman beating the most boats in the regatta.

Congratulations to Marty Minot in the Albacores for winning that the largest class in the regatta.  It was also the Albacore Mid-Atlantic Championship and he also gets his named engraved on the Len E. Penso award for being the sailor over 50 to beat the most boats.


Thanks to the RC team for giving us races:

Lower course: Geof Fuller & Amy Krafft

Upper course: Nabeel Alsalam, Barney Harris, Jess Harrington, John Hart, and Magda Bugajska.

Thanks to the social team for the just as important food & drink:

Heather Howard and Melisa Morgan

Thanks to the protest committee for a quick and thoughtful resolution of one minor incident:

Aaron Boesenecker, John Van Voorhis, and Marty Minot.

Report from Marty & Jordan Minot:
PRSA Spring Regatta and Albacore Mid-Atlantic Championship 2017

The supposedly two-day Mid-Atlantic Championship at PRSA ended instead as a day on the beach followed by a quick succession of fluky, but competitive, races on Sunday.

Saturday’s forecast was for a very light day on the Potomac and, unfortunately this proved to be the case. Even the weatherman’s (or phone app’s) promise of a few knots in the afternoon didn’t materialize until very late in the day, too late to organize anything in the way of racing. With not enough breeze to even fight the current, no wind meant no racing for the first day.

An improved forecast for Sunday promised a second day. The morning started out very light but improved to a light breeze out of the ESE. With the air moving, the fleet and the Race Committee headed out at the appointed time, hoping to make up for our lackluster Saturday.

During the first race, the breeze that had been merely present came in stronger and was enough to have both skipper and crew sitting on the rail. Though the tide had been more or less slack when we launched, by the first gun the current was already ebbing briskly as we worked our way upwind. Relatively constant in direction, the breeze seemed fairly even across the course, with no one side highly favored. Watching the Buccaneers beat to the windward mark, it seemed that some of the boats on the right side of the course had a slight advantage, and this proved to be true for our race as well. The breeze held for the entire race, a relatively short Olympic course, and the fleet was close and competitive throughout.

By the second race, the breeze had fallen away somewhat and became a little streaky, with unpredictable puffs scattered over the course. Boats separated by just a few boat lengths would get different breezes—a fact that was especially frustrating to us as we watched Khin Thein cruise on a puff from the final leeward mark to snatch away the lead. If the decreased volume and increased flukiness of the wind did not dampen spirits, the few sprinkles of rain that had started to fall were not especially welcome.

Race three was much lighter still, but there was just enough wind to fight against the current, although the jib never seemed to fill completely. The evaporation of the breeze was accompanied by an increase in the rain, at times fairly heavy. The harder rain further worsened the wind, which fell to nearly nothing. This near-complete disappearance of the wind coincided with the fleet’s rounding of the final leeward mark. Our boat, which had a less-than perfect start, had climbed up the fleet in the downwind leg and were behind the main pack when the wind gave up. With the current pushing us to port of the mark, we slowly made our way around, using what little wind and momentum we had to get to leeward and starboard of the mark, finally letting the current help us around. One final puff helped edge most of the fleet upwind to the finish but quickly this too went away. The other classes, having just started a race, were not so lucky and stalled halfway through their first reach leg, ultimately finishing at the leeward mark. After waiting to see if the wind which had been so promising in the morning would return and seeing no signs, the race committee dismissed the fleet, most of which had been taken down the river by the current anyway.

Overall, it was a fun, if shorter, regatta with tight, competitive sailing and some really good Lebanese food for dinner Saturday. The Race Committee ran an impressive operation, managing to get the different fleets started and racing as quickly as possible so that we were able to make the most of what the wind would give us.

2017 Spring Series #5 – May 14

The RC (Jim Antonovich, Leigh Boyle and Yates Dowell) ran three races in the cove today with winds typically about 12 out of the NNW with frequent higher gusts.  The wind oscillated between W and N every few minutes all day.  We got off the course early before the really hard gusts came in.  A beautiful sunny day.

The Lightnings were at Leesylvania for their 33rd Doc Gilbert Potomac Cup Regatta


2017 Doc Gilbert Results – Lightnings