February 29, 2012

On-site Worlds Training Log

by Doug

2-28 Arrived in Brisbane and was picked up at the airport by Peter, my long-time Aussie friend who I used to sail with in the 70's. The 16 hour Qantas flight from Dallas was uneventful and I felt no jetlag. Peter and Alison live on a peninsula overlooking the bay where we will be competing. It's a fabulous place that feels like a 5 star hotel. They have graciously insisted that I stay with them for the Worlds.

Peter recently bought a yellow Laser for $200. Actually, he got a second boat and a trailer thrown in for the $200. The Laser has not been sailed for at least a decade. The hull is heavy and the fiberglass has tiny holes, plus the blades are horrible - a slow boat for sure. And just what I need to really have to work hard to keep up with the others.

2-29 Put Old Yeller together at the club with the radial sail I traded a sail for at Fort Worth Boat Club. It has some yellow dog stains so it matches the hull. None of the controls worked well but I wanted to get on the water to play in the 12-15 sea breeze.

The racing area is in shallow water protected by islands, so there are no ocean swells. There can be a strong tide and this, with the sea breeze, results in 2-3 foot waves that are close together and hard to catch - more like lake sailing than open water sailing. Downwind speed will be the most important factor. I played with 3 other radials, feeling good upwind but my timing and boat handling in the waves downwind was not good.

At about the time I planned to come in Wolfgang Gerz GER had joined us and asked if he could go upwind with me. I thought, yeah, two time world champion in a new worlds full rig against me in a 25-year-old $200 radial. I agreed so he and I went on a long upwind together and then downwind back to the club. He insisted we do it a second time.

For reasons I cannot explain, I was faster than Wolfgang upwind - he was moving through the water better with a tight vang and foot (for the conditions) but I was out pointing him. Also, his body movement was back and forth in the traditional Laser-in-waves motion, while mine was more in and out focusing on pressure on the leach to power up over the waves.

On a run with a bigger sail he had a slight advantage catching the waves, and he was much faster on the reach back in. So, I still have a lot of work to do preparing for the Aussie Laser Masters on the 5th and then the Worlds start on the 11th. I'll be sailing Old Yeller in the Aussie Masters and then will have a new charter for the Worlds.

Old Yeller's Rudder
3-1 Went for a 2.5 hour sail in 12-18 and joined 6 other Lasers, all but one were Radials. Old Yeller was taking on water so I really had to work keeping up. Port tack upwind was good, starboard still needs work, and downwind is still a problem. The 90 degree turn carving demonstrated by Luke Lawrence was not working at all for me. Rather, the best people were sailing almost straight downwind with minor adjustments with the waves that are close together because it is so shallow. The Radials then went in.

So, I practiced with Wolfgang and he started jibing every 30 seconds and looked really good doing it. I decided to do the same. At the end of the run, I went up alone and did it again. The result was I felt much more in control with the waves, so that will be one of my main drills.

The weather pattern so far has been light in the morning and then building with the afternoon sea breeze. Click twice on Brisbane to get the marine forecast which has been accurate so far http://www.bom.gov.au/marine/wind.shtml

3-2 The breeze never really filled in so I did some work on Old Yeller, adding $100 in parts and increasing her value by 50%. In my 1-hour sail at the end of the day, the waves were lumpy for the 5-10 wind speed, making it difficult to focus on my favorite way of sailing to windward (heeling to windward to get more lift out of the centerboard). I've had this problem before sailing in larger areas where the waves develop their own pattern. Downwind there was not much to learn because there was no one else to play with.

The other boats are starting to arrive and 150 have been registered for the Aussie Nationals that start on Monday. So far, my boat is the only one that is not white. Got to watch out for the OCS's.

On Saturday there is the usual club races with 15-20 forecast. Old Yeller can hardly wait.

3-3 About 10 full rigs and 25 radials showed up for the regular Saturday club race in spite of the rain. The rain stopped and the wind picked up to 15-25 as forecast. It was pin-favored and I started near there in a sea of white boats. Good upwind speed in spite of having no bailer and water in the cockpit most of the time. Rounded second behind radial former world champion Greg Adams (AUS). Spent most of the run trying to clear the cockpit of water instead of catching waves, and felt slow for the rest of the race finishing 4th after Greg dropped out with a bent mast.

In the second start I hovered near the boat waiting for everyone to drift out of the way, but they did not and held their position well. So, had a second row start and could not hold my lane and had to tack away. The rest of the race was all about water management both inside the hull and in the cockpit. Also, the rivets of the top section broke and it started to collapse into the bottom section, resulting in a big crease in the sail. The fleet passed me and I finished second to last.

Old Yeller has taught me the importance of sailing both upwind and downwind doing everything to keep the cockpit clear of water. That will be her last lesson to me because she is being retired from service and I'll have a new charter for the Aussie Nationals that start on Monday. To keep things interesting, I'll still use my old sail.

Downwind Series


February 20, 2012

Masters Week - The Rest of the Story

by Pam
I’m privy to the goings on behind the scenes of Doug’s sailing and it would be a shame not to share it because it’s often amusing.

He left for a two week road trip to Florida for three regattas. It was to be a trip of inconvenience. Roughing it. Winging it. Toughen him up and get him in adapt and overcome mode. So he was sleeping in the car and making do.

2/11/12 - end of day 1 of Florida Laser Masters Championship - Doug calls, breathless, talking a mile a minute. Says it’s cold, 40s maybe, blowing 20 to 30, and he’s been tipping all day. He thinks he might be nervous because he looked down at the start and noticed his legs were shaking. He’s barefoot and wearing shorts. Yeah, sounds like nerves to me.

Second call after de-rigging and he’s driving, looking for food. Says he’s getting old. He hit a wall in the third race. Ran out of energy. He’d only had a muffin for breakfast and they didn’t stop for lunch and sailed until 3:30 p.m. Now he’s at the grocery store and wants to know what he should buy to keep on the boat to keep from hitting that wall again. He still hasn’t eaten all day. By the time he reaches the checkout counter he’s downed 3 chocolate milks and a bagel. His sense of humor still intact, I hear him ask for a discount since there is food missing from the packages.

I ask how John’s is doing. Early 40s, the picture of health and vitality. Doug says he’s walking funny and bailed on the last race. I check the scores. Looks like lots of people didn’t sail the last race. This is good. Doug hung in there.

2/14/12 - end of Midweek Madness - Doug calls, better results than the last regatta. But his gloves are wearing out and have worn all the way through in several places. Says there are no stores around to get more. He’ll just have to make do.

2/15/12 - end of the practice day with Luke Lawrence - Doug calls, learned a lot, feels like an amateur learning to sail for the first time. His hands are in bad shape. Skin coming off, blistered badly and he can barely move his fingers. I hang up do some checking online and shoot him the address of West Marine less than five minutes away. I call him and tell him to drop everything and go.

He calls later, two new pairs of gloves in hand and he’s searching for food. He stops at Subway and I hear him order two foot longs. Healthy appetite.

2/19/12 - end of the Laser Masters Midwinters East - Doug calls, he’s won the event and is headed home. Says he had a Jesus moment and walked on water. Actually, he tipped on a sandbar at a mark rounding and stood up in knee deep water, much to the surprise of the on-looking committee.

So, I sent a 61 year old man off on this trip and back comes a guy that seems to be impervious to cold or discomfort, the appetite of a horse and who has consistently improved his performance throughout the trip. It would seem that inconvenience does indeed yield results. He arrived home looking like hell but somehow … younger than when he left.

February 18, 2012

2012 Florida Masters Midwinters East

by Doug

Day 1 - what I learned (wind speed 3-8, 57 competitors)
  • Know who is beside you in case you need redress for an incorrect OCS (race 1)
  • Start: be patient, even with a so-so lane, hold it as long as possible
  • First windward leg: play the pressure, angles, shifts in that order
  • Other windward legs: play the competition, pressure, angles, shifts in that order
Downwind: At all costs, stay out of dirty air, watch the pressure and switch sides if necessary

Highlight of the day:  Just before the finish line of the second race, having two dolphins surface right in front of me

Day 2 - With the OCS experience yesterday (called over when in the second row), decided to play it safe on the starts, especially with the pin being favored with an aggressive fleet. Favorite, Peter Shope, went for the pin and was OCS for the second time in the series. Lesson learned: mid-line starts are not exciting but with the lead, they're a better option.

In race 3 never really punched out, pointing was average to good, rounded 6th and finished 3rd. Race 4 got caught in a header at the mark, rounded 15th and finished 4th. Lesson learned: it's hard to come through the fleet with so many rock stars, but being patient and playing the angles does work most of the time.

We need 2 more races to get a throw-out. Currently have a 1, 1, 3, and 4. Lesson learned: I can afford to be more aggressive on the final day.

Day 3 - 15-20 with gusts to maybe 30.  Two races.  Finishes 4 and 10 (tipped on a sandbar). 

February 17, 2012

Coaching with Luke Lawrence

by Doug
Luke Lawrence is an awesome sailor and coach. During our "rest" day, 6 of us had a downwind clinic where we were towed about 3 miles upwind and then sailed back downwind several times. It was blowing 12-15 with 1 foot waves. There was so much to learn that I had trouble remembering it all. Here are the highlights:

  • Above 15, strap everything as tight as possible including the vang
  • When tired hiking, move strap up the foot to work the abs more to give your legs a rest
  • Not too much vang or foot
  • Depower with the Cunningham
  • For stability, jam your windward foot under the front of the strap
  • Adjust the vang so that the leach flicks (mine has been too tight), time this to accelerate
  • 90 degree turns unless straight for jumping a wave
  • Transitioning when bearing off, let the boat bear off on its own with your weight and slide forward, knees up
  • Transitioning when heading up, sheet in early and hard, turn sharply, slide back, knees straight

February 14, 2012

Lessons Learned - 2012 Florida Laser Masters Midweek Madness

by Doug

Midweek Madness was held at the beautiful US Sailing Center at Jensen Beach. The sun was hot and the wind was lighter - about 10-14 both days.

The starts were tight and I OCS'd one race. While it lost a good finish, it tells me that I'm pushing it, which is good.

As with most races, the first windward leg is the most important. People winning the races tended to bang a corner and then hang on to the lead. With the conditions, I was more conservative and played the frequent shifts up the middle. My boatspeed was not as good as it should have been in these medium conditions. Lesson learned: need to get a better feel for the boat - it's not yet an extension of my body.

The racing was really tight and the mark roundings were crowded. I got greedy at one windward mark, could not make it, and lost 2 places. Being more conservative, I ducked 4 boats at another windward mark and could not catch them on the run. I'm re-learning that mark roundings are an art more than a science.

The end of the course was a gate and then little hook. In race 4 I came in on port sailing hard by-the-lee in a gust and was able to ask 2 others for room. All I had to do was head up and finish, but I could not transition onto the reach and tipped. The boat right behind hit my rudder and it came off. Getting the boat up and rudder on cost 10 places. Got to work on my boat handling.

The waves were smaller and not really a factor upwind, although Peter Vessella was able to catch some of them downwind. He was the only person doing this. I'm not sure I learned anything from this.

During the chalk talk at the end of the first day, there was a discussion on ways to play the boom vang that I had not heard before. Otto Strandvig from Denmark (6'2", 210 pounds, 5th at the last Worlds) sails in medium wind with his vang super tight, with the boom block below the traveler block. It's the first time I've heard of a heavy person with a vang that tight in any condition. The other part of the discussion was how much people play their vang both upwind and on the runs - perhaps 15-20 times per leg. Lesson learned: still lots to learn, got to experiment more with this critical control.

Today is a day of practice with the top sailors here and a coach. Then we head off to the 3-day Master Midwinters.

February 13, 2012

Ode to a Sailor

by Pam
It’s Valentine’s Day
and my sailor's away.
On, Cupid! On, Donner and ...
er ... oops, wrong red holiday.
I’m just not myself
when my sailor’s away.
But don’t pity me,
for I wouldn’t have it
any other way.
Road trips and regattas,
not chocolates and flowers.
While most women are being adored,
I'll be checking the computer
to see how he scored.
Good news or bad,
either way is okay.
So long as he calls
at the end of the day.
I simply wouldn’t have it
any other way!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Lessons Learned - 2012 Florida Laser Masters Championship

by Doug
For some reason, I have always tanked in the Laser events proceeding my best finishes at the world championships. So when I told Pam about my horrible finish at the Florida Masters (9th), she said "great!" She knows me so well. Here's what I learned.

The conditions were windy - nothing less than 15 and gusts over 30, and cold (45-50). I can honestly say that it's been a long time since I have felt so overpowered. On some of the runs I just spun out to avoid tipping. No one else was doing this and one person actually asked "why were you stopping?" It would be easy to say that at 170 pounds it was my lack of weight, but Peter Shope won it easily with 5 bullets and he weighs 175. Peter also won the famous heavy weather slalom at the worlds last year in San Francisco, so there goes my excuse. It was my lack of training in these conditions. Peter told me that he has been training a lot in these conditions and it really showed. So, lesson learned: if you're not putting in the time, you better put on the weight.

My starts were good for the first 4 of 6 races, and my positions at the first mark after the long beats were a respectful 3, 2, 4, and 4. Being light, I should have blasted downwind and at least held my position but I could not. Lessons learned: watching the lanes behind are important even in a breeze. Learn to balance the power in the hard gusts to keep a neutral helm (very difficult).

As the event wore on and my body wore out, my positions at the first mark got worse. Lesson learned: there is no substitute for time in the boat (duh).

In the last 2 races, I was out of gas. I prefer to sail on an empty stomach, but this did not serve me well. Lesson learned: got to find out a way to get on-the-water-nutrition that is easy to digest.

I tipped more than anyone. In race 5, my mast got stuck in the sand and by the time I was up again I was DFL. And tired. And cold. Lesson leaned: got to practice tipping and getting back up again quickly.

My light air speed has always been good - I have to practice what I am not good at which is exactly the opposite of what human nature tells us to do. The next event is called Midweek Madness, then the Master Midwinters, then the Australian Masters, and then the Worlds in Brisbane. As I told Peter, I have a lot to work on.

February 12, 2012

2012 Florida Laser Masters Championship

by Pam
ICLA Write-up

Big regattas prior to sailing in the Master Worlds are Doug's wake-up call.  It's sort of like his groundhog day.  Traditionally, if he's done well, he doesn't do well in the Worlds but if he does poorly, he does very well in the Worlds. 
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