March 13, 2012

2012 Laser Master World Championships (Brisbane, Australia)

by Doug
Radial Results
Standard Results
Day 1: Light from the southeast, short, choppy waves with the sea breeze of 14-16 kicking in just before the start. Put on my hiking pants and was able to unload my light air mainsheet.

Race 1: Wearing the head-cam, started near the pin in clean air and went left as in all of the races in the Aussie Nationals last week. The new sail was looking great but the boat felt different - the lift from the centerboard was not as good. Looking over my shoulder, the fleet above me was also going left with Michael Keeton (NZL, last week's Nationals winner) punching out. When I looked again a minute later, the entire fleet had tacked and was going right. I had missed something. Tacked and seemed to be even with the front row at times in the shifts, but fell back a little when clearing weeds. At the mark, things were tight and I rounded 4th. On the top reach, could not get things going and the leaders stretched out with Michael in front, and this continued on the run. Felt a little faster using a looser rig but tighter main as suggested by Brett and held on to 5th by the bottom gate. On the next beat went right and rounded still in 4th but the leaders were still stretching out. Not good. Felt very distracted with too much going on. On the final run, was passed by Lyndall Patterson (AUS) who is the only girl to ever win a Laser Worlds against the boys - just an awesome sailor who lives and practices here in Brisbane. Held on to 5th and did not feel at all competitive, having been beaten by the sailors who are the ones to beat. Too many distractions, did not really fee like I got the boat going.

Race 2: Took the hat cam off and decided to get more aggressive with a boat-favored starting line. Started in clean air at the boat (see below) and the fleet went left and then the leaders tacked on a knock when I did. Did not get all of the shifts and boats on the left and right came in evenly. On the starboard tack layline was just below Michael Keeton (NZL) and above Lyndall Patterson (AUS) when the mainsheet slipped out of my hand and I lost my lane. So I put in 2 tacks to get clear air and rounded 4th again in a still tight group. On the top reach, the boats stretched out but not as much as in the first race, but was rolled at the mark by Michael Pridham (GBR) when I lost track of where he was. On the long run was able to stay with the leaders who went a bit to the right and definitely felt more competitive. By the bottom gate, Lyndall who had stayed left had more pressure and passed everyone to take the lead. She took the right gate and I took the left with Adam French (AUS) who had better speed upwind. This was a problem because I was able to hang with him in these conditions upwind last week at the Nationals. The boats that took the right gate and went left had less pressure than those on my side. On the starboard tack layline Michael tacked right on top of me and I thought crap, this is not good. And then he tacked away and I later learned that he was heading for the wrong mark. Rounded 3rd with 4 boats right behind me including Bruce Martinson (USA, 2nd at the last Worlds). On the run, we were sailing by the lee in about 15 and for the first time was able to hold my position by using some of the things that Brett had taught me, including bearing off on big waves and then heading up in the pressure trying to jump waves. I later learned from Brett that the waves were not really jumpable but it was definitely working because I was able catch Pete Thomas (NZL) and stay just ahead of the now 5 boats right behind. Rounded in second just ahead of the 2 Kiwis and 3 others and was able to hold even on the bottom reach. Coming into the mark, went high forcing the Kiwis to round outside me. Michael tacked and I covered Pete going right to have starboard on the finish line which was 100 yards away. Finished second in a much more satisfying race.

What did not work:
  • Did not have a speed advantage upwind as I did in the Nationals last week.
  • Felt very distracted with too much going on. Was lucky more than smart in the shifts.
What worked:
  • Two good starts.
  • Think that I may have finally figured out these waves on the run.
So, in third place with 5 more days to go. Day 1 with a picture at the bottom of me (195708) starting in the second race. Adam French (198128) and Michael Keeton (198110) also got away cleanly.

Day 2: A carbon copy of day 1 - a breezy, choppy 14-16 from the south (the prevailing wind never comes from this direction!)

Race 3: committee boat favored and I decided to go for it. Adam French (AUS) tried to also start at the committee boat but drifted sideways and I got between him and the boat. Worked to windward of him but he was able to hold his lane - the mark of a very good, patient sailor. Played the shifts and rounded the first mark in first place with Michael Keeton (NZL) right behind. Held on the top reach with and then did everything I could with what Brett taught me last week to stay with Michael on the run, but he pulled ahead by better carving and surfing. Was pleased to hold off the others. On the second work held on with several right behind - upwind speed was good. On the second run decided to go left to set up for room at the bottom mark. The power of sailing by the lee is the most just before you jibe and, sure enough, I accidently jibed on a wave. So here I am, a rookie Brett-Beyer-student-downwind-starboard-tack-sailor on the wrong tack surrounded by some of the best Aussie/Kiwi sailors in these conditions. I had zero muscle memory, my timing was off, I did not recognize which wave patterns to go for, and I felt slooooooow. Should have jibed back again as Adam French (AUS), Jeff Loosremore (AUS), and Pete Thomas (NZL) passed me - damn! Was just behind the 3 at the bottom mark and thought I had caught Pete but he got the last wave, so I rounded just behind. Tried to roll Pete on the screaming bottom reach but he again caught the last wave, so I again rounded still behind the three. On the short final beat they continued right so I tacked, waited 30 seconds and the tacked again. The plan was to duck them and then tack back towards the finish line with a starboard tack advantage. It worked beautifully and I would have beaten Adam and Pete, except the pin end of the finish line was drifting, the line was not square, and they got their bows in just before me. While going from 1st to 5th may sound like a disappointment, it's just awesome to be able to play at this level with these awesome sailors in their favorite conditions.

Race 4: pin favored but decided to play it safe by starting in the middle of the short starting line. The fleet went left and I led coming in on the port tack layline with Bruce Martinson (USA, 2nd in last year's Worlds) just below and looking good. Michael Keeton (NZL) came in from the right to round just ahead of me. The top reach was uneventful and I was able to hold my position on the run carving and jumping waves on starboard tack - yeah! Took the right gate with Michael to go left and worked on top of him, and then he suggested we tack. When we did, Adam and Bruce, who had taken the other gate, were clearly ahead in more pressure. Had speed problems (weeds) and Michael rolled me. There was a gap between me and 5th so I left the group and played the shifts to the left. This worked and I caught up. On the final run, Bruce and I worked the waves and I was ahead until the bottom when he caught a beauty, and rounded just ahead. He took off on the bottom reach so I finished 4th.

What did not work:
  • Should have played to my strength and got back on starboard tack downwind.
  • Really messed up by not checking the angle of the finish line and lost 2 points.
What worked:
  • All starts have been good, great upwind speed all day.
  • Getting better downwind.
  • Conditioning was good.
Adam French has won the Radial Master Worlds 3 times and is leading in this one. Being able to play with these guys in conditions they know best is enormously satisfying. Now, if we could only get conditions that are my specialty... light and fluky, like Dallas-area lakes.

Day 3: Another carbon copy day - a breezy, choppy 15-20 from the south.

Race 5: the line was square but seemed a bit shorter. Started about 1/3 of the way down with an Aussie below who turned out to be a pincher off the line. Could not foot through the steep waves and tried to hang on as long as possible in my lane with Bruce Martinson (USA) and Michael Keeton (NZL) above me. Michael has an extra gear in these conditions and started to foot and roll us. Held on as long as possible and then tacked into clear air and the leaders went right. Rounded third behind Michael and Adam French (AUS). Held on to the reach and run and second beat. Watching Michael going upwind, he foots more than most when going through big waves, taking him a much further distance but it obviously works as he stretched his lead. Was passed on the second run by Jeff Loosremore (AUS) who played the left and seemed to have more pressure. Was able to hold off Pete Thomas (NZL) who was also gaining at the bottom of the run and also the bottom reach. On the final short beat, he tacked and I covered to beat him by 2 boat lengths. Finished 4th, a good race compared to the next.

Race 6: pin favored, started in clean air in the bottom 1/3 with everyone going left before the fleet split up. Continued left as the tide was flooding left to right which I figured would make the port tack layline faster. At the windward mark led coming in from the left but was headed and a row of boats came in from the right. Rounded about 8th. Tried to get into the passing lane on the reach but was passed by a boat near the mark when the wind let up and he had a hotter angle. On the run felt slow, took on water over the bow in the short, steep waves, had issues with weeds that were hard to clear, and just could not get the boat going. On the next beat went left and then right and missed a few shifts - everything felt forced and out of sync. The second run was equally bad and it was like I had forgotten how to sail. Finished 9th and am glad to know which race I will be dropping. Adam won and has set up a real battle with Michael.

What did not work:
  • Still have not got it all together in the waves in the run (see below about Slingsby).
  • Had my head up my butt for most of the second race.
What worked:
  • Holding my lane off an average start worked well.
  • Conditioning was good but was totally out of gas by the end of the second race.
So, we have a rest day which I need, not to rest but to get a change in the weather pattern. The normal conditions for this time of year are 8-14 from the northeast, not these stronger conditions that we have had from the south. The Kiwis and Aussies are amongst the best sailors in the world in this because this is what they get most of the time. It would be great to mix up the conditions a little.

Special note: I received a copy of two videos from the Perth World Championships. The first is a highlights video for all of the classes. The second is the entire Laser gold medal race with superb coverage of how 4-time World champion Tom Slingsby (AUS) sails. The part that surprised me the most was where his boom is when on a run - it's so far in that he is almost jibing much of the time. He's really powered up and sailing hard by the lee and pressing the soft leach out. I'll try to get permission to post these.

Day 4 - Lay Day

Day 5: light (yeah) variable (wohoo) winds that did not settle down enough for racing (bummer), so we came in after 3 hours on the water. The North Americans and Europeans were disappointed because these are the conditions that we do best in, while the Aussies and Kiwis were happy to not have to sail. We're switching to 3 races/day with more light winds in the forecast.

Day 6: 12 to 14 with bright sunshine all day. An absolutely beautiful day to be on the water. Three races were scheduled and we got them in.

Races 7 and 8: these races were almost identical - clear starts in the middle and charging off to the left to get into the flooding tide on the port tack layline. Rounded first in the first race and second in the second. So far, so good. Held on the top reaches and run (yeah!) and went left on the second work, but came in on a header in both races. Finished 4th in both races. Upwind and downwind speed was good in both but I missed some shifts on the second beat.

Race 9, first through fifth from the finishing line
Race 9: under a black flag, decided to go right, so I started beside the committee boat (scary) and got a great jump on the other boats. Tacked on the first header and went right this time on a long lift. At the starboard tack layline was headed and tacked again, and rounded just ahead of John Sprague (AUS) at the first mark. Held on the reach and then stretched on the run by trying something I had seen in the Slingsby video: boom way in, vang way off, and pivoting on top of waves to get the best angle to surf. The boat felt unstable but powered up. Rounded the bottom mark 20 seconds ahead. Went right again (duh) in phase and reached the top mark with a 25 second lead. Another good run stretched this to a minute. Tried different vang settings on the bottom reach and all felt good. Won by just over a minute.

What did not work:
  • Going left on the first 2 races when the leaders went right. With good upwind speed, why was I not covering the nearest boats? Bonehead!
What worked:
  • Good speed all day, finally feel the boat is moving competitively going downwind.
Three more races scheduled for tomorrow - need good finishes and others to make mistakes to move up. Should be fun.

Day 7: Well, we finally got it - a light 5-10 southerly that built to 12 with the final 3 races completed. The tide was more of a factor with the lighter breeze.

Bruce winning race 10, me second
Races 10 and 11: U.S. competitors did well today, with Bruce Martinson (USA, 2nd at the last Worlds) and me getting a 1, 1 and 2, 3 respectively in some great close racing. The big surprise was the heavy-weather expert Kiwis who also having a very good day, with Pete Thomas (NZL) scoring a 4, 4 and leader Mike Keeton (NZL) a 3, 6. I took out a pen and paper to keep track of the scores and knew it was going to be close as the breeze started to fill in.

Race 12: started near the pin and went left with Pete below me. Had problems with weeds and he pulled ahead and led at the first mark. I rounded in a crowd in 9th and could not catch up on the crowded reach and run. Recognizing the downwind wave patterns was much harder for me, so there's still lots of learn. The final beat was good and I moved up to 6th by playing the right shifts. Tried but could not catch Bruce, Mike, or Bruce Jones (NZL) on the run or bottom reach. Pete nipped Jeff Loosremore (AUS) on the finish line by less than a foot to win, while I came in on port, ducked Bruce, and then tacked to jam him out at the pin to gain one place to finish 5th. Really wanted to pass at least one more boat but could not.

Final standings: Mike won the Worlds with Adam French (AUS, 3-time world champion) coming second after 2 rough races. There was a 3-way tie for third between Pete, me and Jeff that was decided on the number of first place finishes, so we got 3, 4, and 5 respectively. Pete sailed really well and deserved his 3rd place, Jeff was really quick in all conditions, and I had the satisfaction of having the lowest drop race in the fleet (5th). It was one of the closest Worlds I have competed in and one of the best. Australia has and attracts some of the best sailors in the world and the competition is always fantastic.

One final thought: I like to stretch myself and try things that are almost impossible. I feel that it keeps me young and gives me a purpose. Along the way I meet people from around the world attempting the same crazy things. While winning a Worlds is fantastic, I have to admit that the journey is just as satisfying as the destination. As Lyndall said, it's not about the people you beat ... it's the people you meet.


  1. Great stuff Doug! Good luck with the rest of the races and have a safe trip home. Cant wait to see your videos.

  2. Very well done Doug! Great job sailing and reporting! Good luck tomorrow!

    Scott Young

  3. Fantastic results for you Doug. Congratulations.


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