August 27, 2015

A Gold Medal Performance

By Doug
Bruce in Australia was reading some old posts and sent us comments and questions. These along with my comments (in italics) are reprinted with his permission:  

I've been reading a few of your older posts and was wondering if you could do an analysis of Lijia Xu's extraordinary medal race in the last Olympics? One thing that worked for her, that didn't work in the men's race, was the right side on the beats. In one of the aerial shots there are Lasers way in the background. We can assume that these were the men waiting to start their race. It is interesting that the right side did not work for the men.

She ducked the fleet soon after the start and went right. Was this because she was bailing out and struggling to hold her lane? Usually if you are quick, you stick close to the leaders and match them. For a medal race, she was really taking a risk I thought, but was she? I watched the video again and recall reading that her coach had told her to go right. If that was correct, the risk was not following her coach's instructions.

Her downwind penalty. This rule can be very subjective sometimes. What is your take on her penalty? Was she really breaking Rule 42 at the time? Did she change her style after the penalty? She was still fast! I could not see anything bad, but at 19:00 you could see the judge boat closing in. The announcers said that this was the first yellow flag they had seen so the fleet must have been clean. The call was really picky in my opinion. Thankfully, it did not affect the final results.

After her penalty, she makes ground incredibly quickly to regain the lead. How did she do that in such a competitive fleet? She was lighter than the other leaders, but she also seemed to have picked up some pressure by sailing between NED and GBR. Some call this the 'venturi effect.'

At 20:11, CHI is in the middle perhaps gaining from the 'venturi effect?'
She wanted to go around the right gate but did not have the inside, so she luffed hard and bore away to gain the lead and the mark position. That's not quite how I saw it. She was between NED and GBR about to round the left (or right) gate in second place. At 20:23 GBR tried to cut inside and took CHI's wind, and CHI would have slowed down. So CHI defended by luffing sharply and regained the lead. Great move.

What I find interesting is that the leaders chose the right gate to go left which did not work on the first beat.

When GBR tried to go inside CHI, GBR gave up getting room at the left gate. So why did CHI not simply head for that gate to round and then go right as planned? Luffing two boats, rounding the right gate, and then tacking seemed a lot riskier. And why did GBR give up the left gate?

Would that happen at the front of the fleet in a Masters Worlds? It's very competitive at the front of the fleet. I would not be surprised to see exactly the same moves.

She then gets ballsy and goes right again up the beat. Why didn't she cover? Great question. At 21:27 she tacks away.

Rather than stay with the leaders, CHI does a risky cross to go right on her own.
The factors at that moment:
     ● Cover her competition by continuing left, or
     ● Protect against the boats that were going to the favored right, or
     ● Follow her coach's instructions.

My guess this that she chose the latter, even though it was dangerous because she could easily have fouled NED by tacking. Even on the third beat while in the lead, CHI again chose to go right.

Anything else that for you is significant about her race and what she and her competitors may have been doing differently? Watching the race again, I was impressed by how smooth CHI looked going upwind. The others, especially NED, seemed to be wrestling with their boats.

This was an impressive race because there was a virtual 4-way tie for the gold medal in this medal race. Here's what we can all learn from this gold medal performance:
     ● Have a plan and if you're confident with your speed, stick to it.
     ● Be in shape. CHI did not seem to be breathing at all hard.
     ● Courses now have downwind finishes, so downwind speed rules.

Final comments from Bruce: One thing I had never considered when CHI gained so much so quickly after her penalty was the possibility of the venturi effect. Wow, if that was what it was, it was very powerful. Sure she was the lightweight of the fleet at 60kg but I couldn't imagine her weight making that much of a difference so quickly.

As you say, XU looked so smooth upwind and I also put that down to supreme fitness. She seems quite tallish too, so had great leverage from consistent and seemingly effortless straight leg hiking.

The race was super instructive in so many respects.

August 15, 2015

Kingston Starting

By Doug
People email us updates and questions. Pam and I appreciate this and many of our posts have started with updates and questions like "how do you use your compass?"  I used to give courses for HP in Australia and learned then that one of the best ways to learn is actually by teaching. So, please feel free to contact us using the link in the right column.

We received this from Rod in Brisbane (reprinted with his permission):

I tried your “approach on port and find a hole to tack into” technique in the last two races on Sunday, RQYS. It worked really well, for some reason it seemed a lot easier to see the obvious midline sag and be able to tack in front of the starboard tackers all luffing each other.

It must be pretty challenging doing this in a Worlds-level event though with so many on the line. Do you only do it if it’s a longer than usual line? Do you try to time it to tack onto starboard then just go go go, or tack with still time to luff and defend etc? 

Each location calls for it's own starting strategy. For me, these were the factors at Kingston:
  • The more competitive the fleet, the more risky the port-tack approach. With a world's fleet, it's more difficult at the favored end of the line where the best sailors are because there's a chance that the person you tack below is good at defending and can shut you out.
  • With the prevailing wind from the southwest, there were no line sights looking at the committee boat, so this was another reason favoring a starboard tack approach.
  • There was some current that flowed from right to left. This made starting at the pin very tricky and, in my opinion, too risky. It also made starting at the committee boat really hard because there were others trying to get into the same spot, especially a really good fellow from NZL who was great at judging the current.
  • But starting at the committee boat had one big advantage - being able to escape from a bad start by tacking away and then back again as necessary.
  • But it was a go-left course and the best starts tended to be near the pin which was usually favored.
  • But it's hard to judge the wind on port or in the middle of the line.
  • And I like to circle the committee boat every 2 minutes to get compass readings before making a last-minute decision of where to start.
 Putting this all together, this is what worked well for 14 of the 17 starts that we had in Kingston:
  • Keep making wind readings at the committee boat, leaving all options open as long as possible.
  • If committee boat-favored, try to be right at the boat and go left, but tack into clean air if needed (we have no pictures of this from Kingston, so the following Pam took at the Hyères Master Worlds - I'm 195708):

A warning: if you look closely, there was a platform at the back of this committee boat. As it rocked up and down, this platform went up in the air and then crashed down under the water. I was less than a meter away and it could have damaged both my charter and me. Starting at the committee boat can be scary!

  • If pin-favored, sail down the line watching the line sight staying on top of the sag. When 2/3 of the way down dip below a few boats and then pull the trigger a little before the others.
Like this when it works, blue top on the right.

It’s the great guys such as yourself, Beyer, Bethwaite et al who get there early, and use your experience to experiment for the conditions, pace one another, and reassert that edge in speed, who usually do well. I guess this is a psychological advantage as much as a real speed advantage?

It's both, and it's not surprising that the best people arrive early to practice. This is especially important for people like me who do not have training partners back home. But the best part is being able to practice with the best master sailors in the world. 

PS With your meticulous and fascinating race-by-race observations, I still think your blog is far and away the best Laser blog ever, if not the best sailing blog ever!

Pam and I like to share what we learn and really appreciate when it helps others.

July 24, 2015

2015 Laser Master World Championships (Kingston, Canada)

by Doug
These are my Worlds race journals.  I send daily updates home to friends during the events and often receive good advice each day but I also find them to be a useful analysis tool when preparing for the next event.  I’m making them public so that others might also learn something from them.
After 22 hours of on-the-water practice with Mark Bethwaite (AUS), the competition starts today. Two in our fleet have won this before, three have been runner up, and several others have had a top five result. Should be a blast.

Day 1

The World Championship is divided by age into fleets and the youngest in each tend to have an advantage. So when a person goes from, say the Masters (45-54) to Grand Masters (55-64), they are usually the ones to watch.

I'm sailing in the Grand Masters fleet and there are several excellent sailors who have recently joined us, most notably is Peter Shope (USA) who came third in the Master Worlds last year. My money is on him to win this year. Being just 4 months shy of my 65th birthday, I'm probably the oldest in the fleet and after today, certainly feel it.

Talking to the various coaches and people who know the area, going left on the course is popular but the Open World Championships was won last week by a fellow who played the middle right. And the storm breeze comes from the north, so it's cold and very unpredictable.

Race 1: The breeze was from the usual southwest and ranged from 10-15 knots. This would not normally be considered a strong breeze, but with 50 miles to build the waves were larger and choppier than you would expect. The wind shifted to the right before the start and I wanted to start at the committee boat but misjudged the current in each of the 2 general recalls. Under a black flag, we got away with me squeezing between a Brit and the committee boat. With good height, I was able to hold my lane but Peter Shope and Andy Roy (CAN, second in last year's Worlds) below me had better speed. Near the port tack layline, they tacked and crossed me. At the mark, two more came in from the right so I rounded a close 5th.

The run was tough because some of the waves were hard to catch, and those in front were better at it than me. At the bottom mark, I chose the right gate but Peter Vessella (USA, former Worlds runner up) and Tim Law (GBR) got room on me. Still in 5th place but it was a really bad rounding.

The leaders had similar speed and played the shifts differently but the positions remained the same with some close racing. Then, at the second windward mark, I made a mistake.

Wolfgang Gerz (GER, former Finn World Champion) approached on starboard with several others on his hip. I tacked under hoping to get inside room at the mark, but there was more current from right to left than any of us had expected. I had to wait for them all to tack and rounded 10th. Ouch! I got greedy and it really cost me.

With the jury boats watching us closely, playing the waves aggressively to move up was too risky. The top reach, run, bottom reach, and beat to the finish were uneventful with no more changes in positions.

If I had ducked Wolfgang and the other boats, I would have had starboard tack advantage at the mark and probably would not have lost those positions. Good close racing, but getting greedy at the marks rarely pays.

Between races, I checked the position of the gate marks and they looked even. This would help in the next race.

Race 2: It was very tempting to start at the committee boat again, but it just felt better to be further down the line, so I started on Andy Roy's hip 2/3 of the way down the line. We both had a good lane, height, and speed and went left. Peter Shope, who won the first race, tacked behind us to go right. Andy tacked near the port tack layline, crossed me, and I tacked above him. At the mark, 2 boats above me rounded in front of Andy and me, so a 4th at the mark with a bunch of good sailors right behind, including Peter Shope.

On the run, Peter passed me and everyone else except Andy by being better with his wave selection. Trying to avoid the crowd at the right gate, I took the left gate in less traffic and started the second beat on port going right.

This was a little risky because the general opinion is that going left works better, and several positions were changed. I went the furthest right and came in to round just behind the leaders in 5th place.

The top reach and most of the run were uneventful, with the first 5 in a tight group. As we approached the bottom of the second run, I was right behind Lynne Shore (USA, Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year and Olympic Gold Medalist). Hoping to get room at the mark, I sailed right behind her, caught a wave, and hit her stern (this was not the plan). Lynn was as surprised as me, yelled 'Hey,' and I did my 720 penalty circles. Thankfully, I was just far enough ahead to hold onto 5th place. But a little inside Lynn and 4th would have been possible.

It goes without saying that being chicked by a women sailing in these conditions was impressive!

So, I'm in 6th place with a 10 and a 5. My mistakes prevented a 5 and a 4 which would have put me in 3rd place. Not bad as these are not my best conditions, but Peter Shope and Andy Roy are definitely the ones to watch.

Day 2

The good news is that we had less wind today, which I prefer.
The bad news is that the wind was not steady enough for racing... darn!
Three races are scheduled for tomorrow and it looks like we'll have more wind.

Day 3

The breeze was from the south and the forecast had it dropping from 15 to about 12. This turned out to be very accurate.

Race 3: The leaders lined up at the pin to go left so I joined them. Many hold back so it paid to pull the trigger a few seconds early.

A good start (blue top on the right) from
With a good lane and speed, I wanted to tack to go right, but there was a boat blocking my way, so I waited a few seconds and decided to go behind another two boats. This meant tacking and bearing off sharply, and I focused so hard on not hitting anyone that I forgot to move my feet. So when I went to hike out I missed the straps, fell out of the boat, and it tipped. There's a first! With the boat up, I went right behind the entire fleet to find a clear lane. DFL. That's the bad news.

The good news is that the shifts were easy to read, so I worked up from 55th to about 30th by the first mark. Catching small waves on the run and then more shifts on the beat moved me up to 20th at the second windward mark. The top reach, run, and bottom reach were a little crazy and I finished 13th. But Pam was on the finish line taking videos and I finished just behind seven others, so it was close to being a really good comeback.

Race 4: Started again near the pin and watched Peter Shope (USA) get hammered at the pin. The middle left seemed to have the best pressure which is where I played in the front row. Rounded about 10th. On the run, some went way right while others went way left. There were lanes in the middle and that worked for me.

On the next beat in the front row, it was great to be able to play the shifts without the usual traffic. At the end of the second beat, I rounded in 4th right behind Peter Vessella (USA). He was faster on the reach, run, and reach, and I found myself defending against several really fast downwind sailors. Was happy to finish 4th, while Peter Shope sailed a great race for the win.

Race 5: The wind was dropping a little and had gone right, so I started at the committee boat at full speed with good height. But it was a general recall. Then the rain came in from the right and Bill Fuller (CAN) pointed out that the wind might go way right. For the second start it had gone left so I started near the pin between the leaders Peter Vessella and Peter Shope. We stayed close and worked our way left, as usual. As we approached the windward mark on port, the wind shifted 20 degrees to the right, hurting us and helping everyone on the starboard tack layline, including Bill. Rounded about 20th. On the run, both Peters sailed by the lee while I jibed, but our speeds were similar.

With the windshift, the left gate looked favored but crowded, so I took the right gate and immediately tacked. This worked really well and gained a few places. Protecting the right, I played a few more shifts. The reach, run, and reach were good and I worked up to 7th. Peter Shope sailed a great race to finish 3rd while Peter Vessella never recovered and finished 38th. I was that tough.

One of the ways I measure a race is the position at the first mark vs. the finish. On the first day, my 5, 4 ended with a 10, 5. Not very good. Today, my 30, 10, 20 ended with 13, 4, 7. So in that way, it was a pretty good day. Now, if only I can keep my feet under the straps!

Tomorrow is our lay day but with strong winds in the forecast, we'll be sailing again. I've dropped to 7th and would like to move up.

Day 4

Mark Bethwaite (AUS) and I have been training all week and we like to compare notes before the start of each race. Today was summed up by Mark when he said "my plan is not having a plan" meaning anything can happen and we have to keep our options open. The final day of the Open Worlds had similar conditions, and runner-up Philipp Buhl (GER) had finishes of 13, 48, and 1.

The breeze was cold from the north 10-20, but what made it difficult was that at the top of the course, there were 30 degree shifts. It rarely paid to play it safe up the middle and the compass was not your friend because you might be on a lift but the boat 100' behind you was on a much bigger lift... and in more pressure.

In each of today's races, I took the lead briefly and was also deep in the 20's. But so were many others.

Race 6: The line was pin favored with a good line site, so I started close to the pin on a header. Thinking it was possible to cross the fleet, I tacked onto port just as the wind shifted back right, so I had to put in another tack onto starboard. The boats below tacked on another header and crossed. Not finding a good lane, I continued on starboard and then tacked.

The fleet had split with about half going left on my side and the other going right. We continued in good pressure and a lift and at one point sailing on port I could not see a single boat in the window of my sail. I thought boy, are the ones on the right toast. As we approached the first mark, we were in a lull and they right came charging in on a lift with much more pressure. Rounded deep in the 20's... how quickly things change!

The run was strange because the waves were going left to right against the current and were easy to catch when in pressure. I took the left gate and played the pressure on the right as much as possible, but the left paid this time as I approached the windward mark for the second tine.

The top reach and run were mainly watching people and trying to stay in clean air to pass others. The finish was confusing because we had run into the fleet ahead. Finished 11th.

What was learned from this race? It's very much a lottery when percentage sailing works best. But this means sailing one option while protecting the other option. This did not work because the middle of the course had too many dead spots, so you really had to commit to one side and be prepared to play catch-up.

Race 7: Same line and line sight. Good start, called back. Under a black flag, same good start, called back. On the third start again under a black flag, got away near the pin in a good lane. Working to the left, played a few shifts with series leader Peter Shope (USA). This time, the final shift with pressure came from the left and we reached to the mark and I rounded in 3rd behind Gavin Dagley (GBR) and Peter.

Positions did not change on the run and was still in 3rd. The leaders took the left gate and went right. Playing the shifts and pressure with Peter Vessella (USA) put us into the middle and we got stuck in a hole. At the top mark, the pressure came in from the left and we rounded in the 20's. The top reach was crowded and it paid to stay low. The run was then very interesting. Andy Roy (USA) was just in front and he went high to the left while others went very low. It then became clear that some were heading to the inner gate on the left while others were headed to the proper outer gate on the right. I stayed in the middle looking upwind for more pressure. Looking upwind, it came from where Andy had been so I sailed off the course, got the pressure, and passed about 7 boat that were just 100' to my right.

Things got crowded at the bottom of the run as everyone converged and the bottom reach was interesting because people tried to get up into the passing lane. Defending by going high would have left the door open for those right behind, but a few good waves helped me protect my position. Finished 7th.

I'd really like to have a day with lighter conditions and tomorrow looks ideal, but they've made it our lay day and we will not race again until Friday when it gets windy again.

Day 5

The breeze was steady from the south 10-15. There were shifts so the waves were a bit lumpy. It was an interesting day on the water. Mark and I talked again before the first start and his suggestion was to protect the right side of the course.

Race 8: Started at the committee boat, tacked, and went right while most of the fleet went left. At one point, we must have been half a mile apart where the smallest shifts can have a major effect. When we converged, the two groups were even and I rounded behind Gavin Dagley (AUS) and ahead of the pack. We were able to hold our positions on the run.

Gavin took the right gate and went left on the next beat, and I followed. Felt slow and out of phase and could not get a feel for the conditions. As those on the left approached the windward mark again, there was a large right shift and a parade of boats came in from the right. Rounded 20th, ouch. Made up a few places on the downwind legs to finish 9th.

Race 9: Wanted to start at the committee boat to have the best options on the first leg but got boxed in after a port tack boat tacked when I told him to cross. Missed a shift, never got into phase, and rounded in the 20's. Things did not improve much on the run and beat and was able to share my misery with Peter Vessella (USA) who was having a similar race. And then there was the second weather mark.

I was barely on the starboard tack layline with a bunch of boats right behind. The current took me below the mark so I tried to put in 2 quick tacks. They were not quick enough because I fouled the boat that had been on my hip, that fouled the boat on its hip, etc. At the end of the chain reaction, half a dozen Lasers were locked together, head to wind, going nowhere. Bringing out the Canadian in me, I said sorry about 5 times, bore off, and did my 720.

This put me deep in the 30's. With no drop race and with no desire to play the waves and risk being yellow-flagged, I took it easy for the rest of the race and finished 37th. I was reminded of the quotation from the American fight for independence "if this be treason, make the most of it."

Race 10: Thought to myself, I don't care how good the committee boat end looks, I'm starting near the pin. And it was a good start and lane. We went left, played a few shifts, and I rounded about 10th. The run was good with a few waves to catch and the next beat had good shifts. Except it seemed that the entire front row was having the same good fortune. Still in 10th at the top of the second beat, with series leader Peter Shope (USA) leading. He was not using a compass but had good speed and a very good feel for the shifts. The top reach was competitive and those who went low lost several places.

The run was the most interesting leg of the day. I wanted to go left but the boats behind did to, so I sailed back to the right to get a clear lane. About half way down the leg it I realized that Peter was not sailing high but to the gate of the inner course and not the correct outer course. There must have been better pressure on my right side and the waves easier to catch because at the bottom mark I took the lead just in front of Peter and Andy Roy (CAN). Peter tried the passing lane on the lower reach but the positions were unchanged.

Rounding the final bottom mark, Peter was just behind me and tacked. Andy and I continued on port. When I could lay the finish line, I tacked and Peter approached on port. He ducked me and I tacked to cover him. A few seconds later, our boats touched. My thought was that he too had tacked. With just a few feet from the line, I considered several options:
  1. The rule is that when 2 boats tack at the same time, the one the right is in the right. I was on the left and was in the wrong.
  2. But if Peter had tacked a moment later, he had not given me the room and opportunity to keep clear, so he was in the wrong.
  3. With 2 races to go and no bad races, Peter had deservedly won the championship. But if I protested him, it would have delayed the inevitable either by a few hours if he prevailed or by one day if I prevailed. Both seemed like a shitty thing to do.
So I did my 720, lost 6 places, and finished 7th.

When I described what happened to judges after the racing, they thought that I was probably wrong. But when Pam showed me a picture she took from the finishing boat, I had finished my tack before Peter started his.

This was a painful race because getting a bullet in this fleet is really hard. I do not regret my decision to take my penalty turns, but I do regret messing with a very good sailor rather than just heading for the finish line less than 100 feet away.

Tomorrow is our last day and I'm in 8th place 7 points out of 5th and a cube. 
PS: Pam got up at 3 am and wrote this on our blog. It includes a picture at the critical moment with Peter.

Day 6

We waited onshore for the breeze to pick up. I prefer to sail with minimal clothing because it helps to get a better feeling for the conditions. Pam took out my hiking pants just in case and I put them on before the first race because the wind was already building. It would not be in the 5-10 knot range that I prefer.

Race 11: The southwest sea breeze was building as indicated by the clouds to the north, so Mark and I agreed that it would be another 'protect the right' day. This seemed to work last week for the open worlds people, and watching the fleets ahead of us showed right paying even though most went left.

So I started at the boat, tacked, and went right. There was good pressure and the breeze stayed left. I thought that when the breeze goes right, the right side will pay as planned. Except it actually went further left. When we met the main fleet at the mark, the entire left fleet crossed and I rounded in the 40's. So much for trying to play weatherman.

The good news was that my drop race at this point was a 13, so I could take risks with playing waves downwind and the shifts upwind. The bad news is none of it salvaged another really bad race. Finished 32nd.

The lesson learned (again) was that the collective knowledge of the main fleet is usually better than individuals who roll the dice. Besides, boatspeed and percentage sailing are my strengths so I decided that my final race would be near the pin, in the crowd, and I would go with them.

Race 12: The pin was favored, crowded, and had all of the top sailors. We only had a few minutes to start before the 3:00 deadline and our PRO did and great job getting us away on time. Had an OK start between 2 of the top sailors, pointed with no vang or cunningham, and was able to hold as several of the top had to bail and tack behind the fleet (this was the risk of this plan, and these sailors had bad finishes).

So far, so good. By the time we got to the port tack layline, I was in second place in my group. With the wind increasing, rounded 5th behind a few who were just below. Went left on the run trying to protect my lane but the right seemed to have more pressure. Rounded the bottom gate in 8th, went a bit right to get clear air, and then followed the leaders left. Good speed with a little extra power as the waves built.

Rounded the top mark in 6th and held even on the top reach. On the final run, there were about a dozen just behind and it was hard to catch the waves, so I went way right to get my own pressure and passed one to get into 5th. Held on the bottom reach and final beat.

Final thoughts: Our fleet had a lot of good sailors and playing catch-up was hard most of the time. Living in Dallas, I don't have fast sailors to train with so I practice boatspeed. For me, the final race summed up the event - get decent starts, stay with the crowd, be patient, and try to use any boatspeed advantage.

One thing that my training partner Mark Bethwaite said was that each fleet gets harder as younger people join. The world championship was won by Peter Shope (USA) who was one of the youngest while I tied with Wolfgang Gerz (GER former Laser master champion and Finn Gold Cup winner) for 7th (he won the tiebreak). As the oldest person in the fleet, I'm happy to be in the top ten and look forward to joining the great grand masters at next year's world championship in Mexico.

Mark was able to successfully defend his GGM world championship after a bizarre series of events that I'm sure Pam will describe. We'll be in the same fleet next year which we both look forward to.

Kingston put on a great show - the town is great, the people are great, the organization was great, and of course meeting friends from around the world again was great. It was one of the best worlds we've had the pleasure of attending.

The final results for the Standard Grand Master Fleet are here.

July 18, 2015

Rule 13

by Pam
In Race 10 at the Kingston Laser Master Worlds, Doug found himself in first place coming into the finish line. Since he is about to turn 65 an age out of the Grand Master fleet, these moments don't come around too often and he wanted that hard earned first. Instead, less than 50 feet from the finish, he found himself involved in an incident with the GM winner, Peter Shope (who doesn't even have to sail the last day to win).

I stood there and watched Doug turn a 1st into a 7th as he did penalty turns just before finishing. I watched the incident and it sounded like Doug was in the wrong and when Doug did turns it made it look like Doug was in the wrong. Doug was fairly certain he wasn't in the wrong but there had been contact and no one called protest and there were finish and jury boats in the vicinity so Doug opted to spin since Peter had just won the regatta and the protest room was no way to finish things. 

Afterwards, as Doug was re-processing the incident, he became less certain he was right and I didn't help by continuing to tell him he was wrong. So, the incident was one of these things:

Doug is actually in this video and he's the boat that ducks, completes his tack while the other sailor is still completing his when there is contact. Yesterday, Doug was in the other position where Peter had ducked him and then tacked and contact occurred shortly thereafter. 

Peter '425 has just ducked Doug and Doug has just tacked to cover (hasn't even changed hands but the sail is full) and Peter is already getting ready to tack back to starboard (leg up and tiller getting ready to be jammed over).  Contact occurred when Doug didn't have room to tack back and keep clear
Doug was forced to tack back to starboard, contact occurred and Peter tacked back to port to get clear and is sorting himself out and Doug was headed for the finish line still in first place ... but he stopped to spin and moved to 7th
I think Doug did the right thing by spinning after there had been contact without a protest but I don't think he was in the wrong.  Since today is our anniversary, I'll give Doug the gift every man wants which is for his wife to say, "I'm sorry dear, you were right!"

I loved Mark Bethwaite's summary of things ... he said that the 'slam dunk' move never seems to work in dinghies. Save it for bigger boats. Doug has now been involved in two incidents and without video or picture evidence, there would always be a question as to who was right and who was wrong. The other thing Mark said was that next year Doug will be sailing in the GGM fleet and this incident would have just been minor and unavoidable contact and he could just sail on and all is forgiven. A good laugh was had by all and Doug realized he's ready and looking forward to aging out and joining the GGMs who are appreciative that they are still alive and having fun. Winning is fun but being healthy and fit has a higher priority.

Congratulations to Peter Shope on winning the GM World Championship.  He sailed exceptionally well and deserved to win. 

Update by Doug: I bumped into Peter at breakfast. He was trying to tack behind me to cover Andy Roy. Peter felt he was in the wrong and was going to do circles but did not when he saw me doing mine. Makes sense.

July 16, 2015

Kingston - Random Pictures

by Pam
Day 2 - prior to the Radial fire drill

The foiling Laser is here

Leader in the Apprentice fleet

Brett Beyer - leader in the Master fleet
Keep Reaching of Reaching Broadly
Roberto Bini (ITA) - Doug's gracious host in Italy recently

2015 Laser Master Worlds ...

by Pam
Doug is sending out his race journal by email to those who have asked to be copied. 

I'm volunteering on the finish line boat on the standard course. Volunteers received a couple of nifty hats, free lunches, invites and free tickets to all the evening events. They take good care of their volunteers but we're working for it to. We start early each morning with a volunteer meeting, then man the ramps and organize dollies and then we're off to set the finish line and take scores, then back to the ramps for any stragglers, followed by a de-brief at the end of the day. I only thought I was on vacation.  But, I like being close to the action with the opportunity to take pictures and videos.

Here are the ladies of the finish line ... Judy, Helen and Jill. Three very competent and fun women. Ian is our driver/mentor and we interrupt young Andrew from naps and video games to help with marks, anchors and finish line spotting.

Jeff Martin is the PRO for the radial fleet and a really cool Aussie named Hugh ? is the PRO for the standard fleet. The emphasis for the regatta every single day is safety. They have a contingency plan for just about every situation imaginable and every boat doubles as a safety boat and we've even been briefed on technique for getting helpless sailors out of the water ... turn them around, push them down hard and when their head goes under, they kick instinctively and their PFD also pops them up so that we can haul them in by the life jacket.  That was a new one for me.

Update: See comment below on problems with the rescue technique described above

Hugh does an incredible job of staying on top of everything on the standard course. If there is a straggler or a mixing of fleets, we know it before they get to us. We give him finish times and he adjusts starts times to keep the fleets just barely separated. There is alot of coordination going on throughout the racing to keep things moving smoothly.

Here are a few glimpses of the chaos on the finish line ... note the rocking of the boat ... we're writing, filming, calling all while trying to stay upright as the fleets come through.

Comment from Doug: you'll notice boats tipping just below the finish line. When a gust hits, it can be a sudden lift or a knock that will put you in the water. It's easy to misread when pushing it at the end end of a race.


July 12, 2015

Kingston, Ready to Go

By Doug
Pam and I arrived late Saturday and I've been practicing with Mark Bethwaite (AUS), defending Great Grand Master champion. Mark has been touring the east coast in his yacht. Pam had not seen it and I did not want her to be disappointed, so we sat and waited for Mark in this...

...before we joined him in this....

We're sailing out of the Kingston Portsmouth Harbor where the 1976 Olympics were held. Mark represented Australia in FD's, and his father Frank was the team meteorologist. Many of Kingston's conditions are documented in Frank's book High Performance Sailing.

We watched the open guys sail last week. My money was on Philipp Buhl (GER) who came second. To give you an idea of how tricky the conditions are, his finishes on the final day were 13, 48, and 1. Even a fellow who finished 50th won a race. With everyone gearing up for the Olympics, it was pretty amazing to watch.

One sailor we watched was Pavlos Kontides (CYP) who won silver at the last Olympics. He was great at starting at the favored pin but like others he had to count some bad races and finished 9th.

We're sailing at the northeast end of Lake Ontario and the breeze usually comes from the southwest, so there are good waves with the sea breeze (very unusual for a lake).

Pam again designed the Team USA shirts. Some people ordered this... 

...while most ordered this...

After 22 hours of on-the-water practice with Mark, the competition starts today. Two in our fleet have won this before, three have been runner up, and several others have had a top five result. Should be a blast.

July 09, 2015

Kingston Happenings

by Pam
The Standard Men's Worlds is over with Nick Thompson winning the event. As he returned to shore there was a whooping and hollering and I turned to see him on the ramp, still sitting in his Laser, both up on the shoulders of the British Sailing Team as they carried him up the ramp to his dolly.  Fun to watch! 

There is such fantastic aerial, video, picture, and twitter coverage that it's a waste of time to try to convey anything that they haven't already beautifully covered.  From the shore, the event seems to be quite well run.  A public announcement system, alerts the shore when the "athletes" are headed in and they man the ramps and do a beautiful job of getting everyone off the water.  They also announce reminders for the athletes to check in upon returning to shore.  All things old Masters (and their shore crew) will really appreciate.

The Masters are beginning to arrive.  Al Clark showed up a couple of days ago with the mobile Royal Vancouver Yacht Club - 12 Lasers, one rib, all the dollies and spars and he also somehow produced a bicycle.  By far, the most impressive transportation on the lot.

Meanwhile, Doug has been training with Mark Bethwaite, putting Mark in the boat Doug will sail for the event but handicapping Mark with a wooden centerboard that Frank Bethwaite refinished for Doug a few decades ago.  Doug asked Mark to teach the boat everything he knows.  So, Mark has made all sorts of suggestions from screws to tell tales to going so far as to buy Doug a replacement hiking strap which Doug somehow failed to noticed was going to be problematic.

I'm always stunned and amazed by Doug's luck.  From having a multi-world champion tune his boat for him to this morning when he'd run out of clean short sleeved t-shirts and put on a long sleeved shirt.  I commented about how he was going to be hot in that and he said he didn't have a choice.  Five minutes after he left the room, he returned to get a jacket and said it was cold outside.  I believe I've heard he term "knocked into phase" which just sums up his life.

Oh, anyone that might be interested in a brand new rolled North sail (no numbers), please let us know.  We ended up with an extra one.  It isn't free, but you won't have to pay Canadian GST.

July 07, 2015

2015 Standard Laser Worlds - Day 6 Observations

by Pam
There was wind today and they had them out on the water early and got in three races.  The Masters are starting to arrive and are starting to hit the water practicing.  Doug was watching the gold fleet at what he thought was a respectable distance when a judge boat whistled at him, called his sail number and motioned for him to come within hail. To his relief they simply offered him an extra lunch which allowed him to stay on the water all day long. Really good practice.

As luck would have it, Doug just ran into Coach Rulo from the Dominican Republic while he was down cooking his dinner. Rulo is on his way to the Pan Am Games but had some interesting tips to pass on about the misconceptions on the favored side of the course in Kingston. One of his students had an impressive lead and won the 3rd race today in the gold fleet.

I'm so far from the action on the water but here are a couple of glimpses of the on the water action. This is the finish of the 3rd race in the gold fleet.

How Embarrassing!

by Pam
What happens when a hugger meets a cheeker? Oh, the embarrassment! I'm a hugger. If I know someone well, it's a full frontal bear hug and if I know them sort of well, it's a one armed side hug. Doug knows so many Aussies and I'm now getting to know them and when greeting them, I forget that they don't hug but instead do that proper cheek to cheek thing.  

The first time I met Julian Bethwaite, I ended up kissing him square on the mouth. I stood there thinking, I don't think that was supposed to happen but I guess we're friends now. I can't imagine what went through his head except that maybe Doug has a really friendly wife.

Mark Bethwaite has been so much easier. He's usually wet and coming off the water when I first see him and I don't hug wet sailors so the cheek thing comes naturally because that is sort of what I do when Doug is wet and coming off the water.

So, along comes a dry Brett Beyer a couple of days ago and except for a wet Mark, he's the first Aussie I'm greeting in Canada and I just absentmindedly go in for a one armed side hug and he goes in for a proper Aussie cheek kiss thing. Awkwaaard! Doug just stands there and later says that was painful to watch.  

Then to top things off, when we left for Canada my temperature controls had begun to go haywire and I randomly break out into a sweat and then start shivering from cold. Awkward moments, eating, stress and nothing at all seems to set off these sweaty moments. What a perfect time to meet all my Canadian in-laws, eh?  At least I know that no matter what I get wrong, they'll just apologize.
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