Tag Archives: Sailboat racing

2020-2021 Laser Frostbite Series #4

I was afraid going into the last race yesterday that this might be my fate.

Well actually I was pretty pleased.

Arriving at the dock at 11, it looked the westerly breeze had nearly died. As we got out to the race course, the northerly shift arrived and started filling in. In the first 2 1/2 races, the right side was strongly favored. In the first three races I got out to the right early, and was at or near the front at the first mark each race.  The wind started shifting left in the middle of the third race and several boats who took the chance did well.

The wind shifted fairly strongly to the left at the end of the race, leaving the starting pin strongly favored. So I worked hard to get port tack starts for the last three races. In races 4 and 6 I missed the front hole, and had to cross some sterns. I was actually over early in race 4, and went around the pin, but was able to find a nice lane and clear air. In race 5, I was right on the line, and only “let” Tom pass me at the last leward mark. I still haven’t figured out how to do everything one needs to do down there.

Best thing on the day for me was being able to see where the wind was and get there.  Worst thing is still that leward mark rounding.

Thanks to Farley for doing RC solo.

John Van Voorhis

2020-2021 Laser Frostbit Series #4

2020-2021 Laser Frostbite Series #2

Thanks to Jim Klein for providing a seamless solo RC experience.

For series #1 and #2, we’ve had a healthy turnout (22 sailors for series #2).  I want to start off with one of the reasons why I enjoy sailing so much. The sport, and especially our club, is filled with a great group of people with varied experiences. Sailor’s ages range from teenagers to grandparents, and couples or parents and children are often found on the racecourse. This past weekend really captured that for me. I loved finishing each race on Sunday and watching various clusters of boats form to congratulate one another and discuss where things went right or wrong. I never feel like I’m sailing alone and rarely harbor the types of feelings you would traditionally associate with the word “competitors.” To me, at its best, sailing feels like a team sport. The real rivalry is proving which one design fleet is best :p
It has been great seeing more and more female helms join us for the Frostbite series. We’ve had pretty strong weekends with 7 female helms this past Sunday. Congratulations to Laura for securing first place both weekends. Thanks to everyone that has come out in the past even if you lost time or interest, or simply found frostbiting not to your liking. If anyone wanted to like frostbiting, but didn’t please reach out. We’d love to have you and help you have a good time.
On to the sailing.
Starts
Since I had not been in a boat for a while, I found myself more focused on enjoying the experience. I don’t think I checked the course or the line once the entire day. Instead, I tried to find any spot on the line. While I didn’t always have speed off of the line, I at least managed to be front row which is crucial for the first upwind leg.
Upwind
There seemed to be puffs rolling down the right side of the course, but I often found myself on the left (particularly for the first leg after the start). I think that is because I often rely on boat speed (tack as little as I can) and prefer coming in from the left to avoid the dreaded layline parade. For the mk 2 sail, I find the most important sail setting to be the mainsheet. I constantly adjust it searching for where I feel the most boat speed.
Downwind
It was an interesting day downwind. With puffs generally coming down the west side of the river, the fleet really spread out across the width of the Potomac. I believe my downwind legs really helped my positioning for the day. In the light breeze, it was important to drive deep over to the western side (inside lane) to catch the puffs. Overall, it was a longer sailing distance but boat speed more than made up for it. However, the lighter the wind got it was also just as important to look upwind to see where the next puffs would come from. There were several instances where I abandoned the western side and made my way back towards the center as I saw where future puffs would likely track.
Later on in the day, there were a few downwind legs where the breeze evened out a bit. Some of the leaders were still fighting each other for an inside lane and to reach the puffs on the western shore. I was able to pick off a few places by sailing dead downwind to the mark when the puffs hit, while others sailed that longer distance. For the mk 2 sail really focus on removing any cunningham from the sail (unless you need it to depower). That means uncleat and pull the entire purchase up the mast to remove any tension.
Two last pieces of advice. Don’t ignore Jim Graham on the right side of the course upwind and protest those that foul you. Otherwise, you too will earn the coveted third place writeup!

2019-2020 Laser Frostbite Series #14

It was a beautiful is exasperating day on the water on Sunday.  Wind from literally every direction.  Long spans with little to no wind followed by brief interludes of decent breeze.  But, it was warmish and sunny and a nice day to be on the water.  Other than having replaced my toe rails and downhaul line (it had been the same color as my boom vang, which wasn’t so smart) the week before, I have no idea what I did differently this week that landed me in third place.  In any event, I tried to concentrate on the things that have consistently plagued me this season, which was particularly important given the tight line and relatively short upwind leg.  First, I focused on getting a decent start without trying to be first (the week before I was over early 3 or 4 times). Second, I concentrated on making fewer unforced errors, such as hitting marks, tacking before looking around carefully, and tacking with the vang so tight it’s nearly impossible to get underneath the boom smoothly.  On that last point, I did do a much better job loosening control lines at mark roundings and while tacking, netting a few boat lengths here and there.  Third, I imitated those who were always in front of me, figuring they were in front for a reason, other than the one race where we basically drifted aimlessly around the course.  Finally, I made a cheat sheet based on tips Keith Davids sent around last year, which I try to follow somewhat religiously, particularly using the vang more aggressively.  Copying his tips below for those who don’t have them.
Cheers,
Brian

– boom Vang tension upwind.  A number of folks are sailing with loose Vang tension upwind.  Even when it is relatively light air I suggest you keep at least a snug Vang.  In really light air I actually put on a good bit of Vang to induce bend in the mast to flatten the sail.  As the wind builds from around 4-6 knots I I will loosen it a bit but the Vang will never have slack in it.  As the winds builds beyond that I will continually add more Vang to flatten the sail.

– traveler block  A number of folks were sailing upwind with their traveler block too far inboard.  Often that is a sign that your traveler line is too loose.  If I see my traveler block is not all the way outboard I will ease my sail a few inches to encourage it to get further out before trimming it right back in.

– boom angle downwind.  Sailing by the Lee is really fast in a laser, but a lot of people sail with their boom too far out.  Remember that your leech falls off far beyond your boom angle, so if your boom is eased beyond 90 degrees, let’s say it’s hypothetically 110 degrees, your leach is probably somewhere around 125 degrees.  In light air having the boom beyond 90 is okay, but not way beyond (unless you are purposely trying to move across the wind for a tactical situation).  As the wind builds, you want to bring the main back in to 90 degrees and when it is windy, in a lot more than that.  Did you flip (or almost flip) recently when a gust came down the course from behind?  That could be a clue that you are sailing with the main too far out.  It is hard to tell when your main is at 90 degrees, but what I find helpful is a mark or piece of tape on my mainsheet that tells me when the boom is at 90.  I use that as a reference to adjust from.  The other critical adjustment downwind is Vang tension.  A good way to tell if you have your Vang tension right downwind is to watch the leach of your sail.  You want a lively leach, meaning it should bounce a bit when you hit waves or when you get puffs.  If it is too rigid you have to much vang.  If it is falling off to leeward and never bouncing back, you have it too loose.

– turning the boat around the weather mark.  Getting quickly away from the weather mark is a big help when you are next to other boats.  Many people lean in as they come to the mark to ease their Vang, outhaul, and Cunningham.  The trouble is that leaning in causes the boat to heal to leeward, which makes the boat want to head up not down.  To compensate, most people will use their rudder to steer the boat down, which creates huge amounts of drag (slow).  A better approach is to ease your control lines before getting to the mark (Vang is most important). As you get to the mark hike out and lean back, which will shift the center of lateral resistance and cause your boat to turn sharply downwind. Due this as you ease your sheet and you will escape quickly from the mark.

2019-2020 Laser Frostbite Series #14

2019-2020 Laser Frostbite Series #12

The forecast and the actual weather didn’t line up at all which makes me leery. The weather called for light winds from the west switching to stronger from the south. When I got to the marina winds were light and shifty but coming from the north by the time we got on the water. The first two races were in the light and shifty stuff with a very strong down river current. RC wisely got the races off without worrying about a perfect course. For the first races I was focused on managing current rather than wind and this seemed to help some. I would head offset to the mark to counteract the current. In the very light wind, when it’s too light for tell-tails and wind vanes, I use a wet finger to determine where the wind is coming from. Then I setup the sail so it looks correct relative to where I think the wind is coming from. I steer to try to make sure I’m not pinching, as speed takes a while to build and there isn’t enough wind to show pinching in the sail. After the second race the wind died completely and it looked like wind would fill from the south. As the wind came in RC did a quick course reset and we got in 3 more races with a nice breeze. The current was still strong and was now pushing boats over the line. I was OCS in the last two races, and I managed to force Nich with me in the last race. Factoring in the current would have helped me here. In the medium breeze I’m keeping the boat very flat and looking for clear air on the favored tack. I focus on pointing and keeping my speed up. I did manage to factor in current for the windward mark layline and picked up a few boats the overstood. Overall it was a nice and sunny day, great to be out on the water. We also had Richie come out for the first time so welcome to him. Thanks again to John and Mike for doing RC!

2019-2020 Laser Frostbite Series #12

2019-2020 Laser Frostbite Series #10

Sunday was once again some great sailing on the Potomac. Wind from the west resulted in some shifty wind with strong gusts. The current was really running down the river which made the starts interesting. I tried to start near the boat since it was upcurrent and I felt like there was a larger margin of error if you were to mess up the start (you can always tack away). The line was sometimes favored towards the pin but I was usually able to get off the line pretty well when starting at the boat and was able to round top 5 even in the shifty conditions. The wind was building throughout the day but the most challenging aspect for me was the heavy airplane traffic causing a bunch of sudden shifts and downwash right at the windward mark. The current at the windward mark was also strong causing a lot of people including myself to misjudge the laylines. The race committee set a long triangle leg which turned into some screaming reaches in races 4 and 5. The fastest speed recorded for me was 8.8 knots. Tom and I were both tracking our boats using RaceQs. You can check out the replay here at this link.
raceQs

raceQs

 Its nice to walkthrough your races and rethink your tactical decisions. For instance I saw two situations where people were coerced to tack at the finishline by a starboard tacker not fetching the finish. When viewed from above and in hindsight it is easier to see that the right move is to take the starboard tackers stern and lead them towards the finish line on port while they still have to make an extra tack. I’d love see more people use this app in our fleet. Stop by before sailing if you are interested and I can walk you through how it works and might even have an extra phone available.

2019-2020 Laser Frostbite Series #6

While the prediction was for no wind, we had a nice steady southerly all day.  It might have gusted up to 8, but never went really light.  Also not very shifty.  I think I managed to get on the wrong side of whatever shifts there were however.

7 boats out and we got in 5 races.  There was an issue with the 17, but Len and company switched to the 19, and the races got under way before 1pm.
Today was a day where a lot of positions changed because of the current, which was flooding the whole time.  It didn’t seem too strong, but it made the weather mark quite tricky.  It also made for some great opportunities at the start.
The starting line was fairly short  since there were only seven boats and it was pretty square. The first race I managed to start last or second to last because I completely misjudged how far the current was pushing me.  All the rest of the starts I managed to be at the boat with speed at the gun, because everyone else pushed away from the line by the current.  In the race I managed to place second in (2d or 3rd race) I think I started nearly two boat lengths ahead of the next boat because I was trimmed and on the line.  Definitely easier to do that when the fleet is small.
The other place the current played a big role was at the weather mark.  You really couldn’t set up too far down the lay line because of the current.  I think most of the time the leaders ended up coming in on port and tacking inside of ten boat lengths.  Every time I lined up from farther out I had to pinch, shoot or double tack to make the mark.
It was a beautiful, sunny day with a low, but steady breeze. It was a great way to finish my 2019 sailing year.

2019-2020 Laser Frostbite Series #5

During the skippers meeting 11 competitors were left staring across the river with a light 5 kt westerly. That didn’t last long. The average throughout the day was likely between 12 to 16 kts, although we did experience some lulls throughout portions of the racing. The largest gusts were roughly 21 kts, which was likely during the first race (I’m gonna claim that’s the gust I deathrolled on). Race Committee efficiently ran a total of 5 races, and even swiftly reset the course roughly midway through once the wind clocked around more northwest. High tide was roughly 10:10 am and low tide was scheduled for 4:35 pm.
Core Strategy
I’m not sure I had any tactical revelations for the day regarding shifts or tide. Instead, I had two main focuses for the day, typically starting as close to the committee boat as possible and boat control. By starting near the boat, I was trying to place myself in a position to sail on my own without interacting with the fleet. If I got away clean great, if not, then I could quickly tack onto port and sail towards the right side of the course without frequently tacking to avoid other boats. By limiting my tacks (only tacking on substantial shifts), I plodded along and often found myself within the top 4 at the first windward rounding. One windward leg I found myself sailing behind, but pointing slightly higher than Nabeel. A header came, Nabeel didnt tack on it, and I thought Aha I can pass him on this shift if I play my cards right. I tacked (too slowly) and began to feel myself stall in danger of getting stuck in irons. I quickly re-tacked back onto port. I was now twice as far away from Nabeel. Back to limiting my tacks. The wind strength and the number of competitors around me influenced my downwind strategy. I focused first on maintaining boat control (as I have struggled with frequent death rolls in the past) and if I felt comfortable would then consider sailing more aggressively or fight for inside rounding mark room.
Boat Handling / Sails
I focused on staying upright (which meant sailing more conservatively) and rounding the windward and leeward marks as quickly and directly as possible. Several races I either secured or picked up a boat or two based on my roundings. So what exactly were my key focuses for boat handling? When approaching the windward mark upwind the main focus was to uncleat the vang. A tight vang effectively acts like a close-hauled mainsheet and the vang must be eased in order to round the windward mark and immediately head downwind. Once around the mark, the greatest attention was to adjust the mainsail leach position based on the wind strength. If wind strength was up, the mainsheet was tightened to prevent the boom from being greater than 90 degrees out from the stern. The vang was often cranked back on immediately after rounding such that the top batten was also no more than 90 degrees out from the stern. My understanding is that deathrolling often happens when the force applied to the sail goes forward of the mast. Mainsheet and vang tension help prevent the wind force from overextending forward of the boat. If there was a lull, I would ease the cunningham and also ease the vang (while keeping a watchful eye for gusts behind me). There were several leeward roundings where I was able to maintain boat control slightly better than others and round inside and higher than a boat ahead of me. I think I ended up easing my vang setting just a little for the leeward mark gybes which may have allowed me to dump some power if I needed to (again, an eased mainsheet with a tight vang will have similar effects as a tight mainsheet).
Nich
Additional Thoughts from  Nabeel:
Upwind:
When the gusts hit, I cannot hike the boat flat.   I need to ease the mainsheet.   If the vang is loose when I ease the mainsheet the sail gets full and there is still too much for me to handle.
So very tight vang and be prepared to ease the mainsheet when that gust hits.  Looking ahead for the gusts coming is much better than staring at the telltales.
By the way, if my block on the traveller is rising up and in from the edge of the boat, then I probably don’t have the traveller tightened hard enough.  I know have a new low-profile tiller so the traveler can be tight and the block cross easily during tacks.  Love it.  One less distraction.
Tacking:
To avoid going into irons, I need to go through the tack faster (before that big wave stops me cold), so push that tiller faster, ease the mainsheet more, and try to get the boat back up to speed quickly, i.e. get to a hiked out position on the new windward side and trimming on the mainsheet pronto.
Windward mark:
Before bearing off, ease the vang most of the way, maybe not all the way.  Otherwise, the sail will be way too powerful when going from beating to reaching.
I tell myself to get the boat going fast on a broad reach first and only then bear off for the leeward mark.  If I try to bear off before going fast, the wind hits the sail too hard and bam, I’ve death rolled.  Done that many times.
Downwind:
If the boat is rocking and rolling, I know I’m sailing dead downwind.  I need to harden up some or bear off more to by-the-lee.   Slightly reaching or by-the-lee puts pressure on the centerboard and stops that rocking and rolling.
Don’t sail with the mainsail out at 90 degrees like I would do on a lighter wind day.  Keep it in some.  Say 75-80 degrees.
If I feel a lot of pull on the tiller, something is wrong, the boat is out of balance.  More or less vang.  More or less mainsheet.   Eventually, the pressure goes way, the boat takes off and I know I am doing it right.  Sweet.  Make mental note of settings for next downwind.
I use those cleats on the side of the cockpit to make sure my sail doesn’t go out while I fool with the vang or move my weight around.  I hear the pros don’t use them, but I can’t believe I’ve sailed this boat so long without them.
Leeward mark:
If I need to gybe, I need to start trimming the mainsheet before I start my turn.  That way, the main will gybe sooner and I’ll have less mainsheet to pull in after rounding.
On my to-learn-soon list for the leeward mark:
Switch hands on the tiller without letting go, i.e. behind the back.  Letting go for even a half second and the boat can round up and hit the mark.   Did it on Sunday and gave up a 1st place to that dastardly Tom Hutton.
Starts:
I only need the last 5 seconds that the Ollie counts down to get up to full speed.   So I get into position with a loose vang.  When that last 5 seconds begins I pull hard on the vang, trim, hike, and go.   A loose vang is important during pre-start maneuvering. Otherwise, the boat doesn’t turn easily and takes off when you don’t want it to.
Cunningham:
Pulling hard on the cunningham is a good way to depower the sail on a high wind day.   That is how people can sail the Laser in 30 knots.  But on a day with the wind going up and down, that doesn’t work (for me).   Plus it give me yet another task to take care of after the windward mark and before the leeward mark which distracts me from more the important ones.  So I set and forget.
Outhaul:
I think this is the least important adjustment on the Laser.  So when the sailing is challenging, I set and forget.