April 28, 2012

Starting Tips

by Pam
Scott Young is a very talented sailor in Austin, TX.  He has won the Mallory Cup (US Men's National Championship) a record breaking 6 times (2 as crew and 4 as skipper).  He has an extraordinary talent for jumping on just about any boat with little to no time in the boat and rising to the top. 

I asked him if he would share some of his starting techniques to go with the video we recently posted: Scott Young Starting Video.  He reminded me that he's already written two articles on his blog on that exact subject:

The Start....Tips for Better Starting
In the sport of sailboat racing, the start is clearly the most important aspect of the race. The start generally separates the men from the boys (or women from the girls) and hopefully YOU from the rest of the fleet. Those who position themselves with clear air, good speed and put their boat at the favored end of the starting line greatly improves their chances for a successful race. [Read More]

Starting Tips II

And here is a link to a video from 2006 of Scott starting at the pin.  As you can see, he's been very good at this for many years now.

April 27, 2012

Great Heavy-Weather Video!

By Doug
Great coverage from the medal race at the Olympic Worldcup 2012 at Hyères France. Click on Laser - Day 6.

April 26, 2012

Wednesday Night Lessons - 1

by Pam
While in Australia, we learned that some clubs are teaching beginning sailors a little differently than they have in years past. They now put them in a bigger boat that will accommodate the student and coach, and as a result, the kids are learning at an accelerated rate because they are getting instant feedback.

Last night was on the breezy side and I wasn’t up for an experience of struggling with the boat so Doug and I sailed double-handed in a full rig. Two things happen when we do this. One, I’m instantly at ease which means I can focus on feeling the boat and the wind and I am able to pay better attention to what is being taught. Two, I learn the boat’s edges because, without even trying, Doug is constantly demonstrating what a balanced boat looks and feels like.

So, I learned a few basics things that were noteworthy:

First, Doug taught me to recognize waves going downwind and where and how to jump on and off. We were heavy and flattened most of them but it did give me something to practice on my own. The jump on and off point were actually different than what I thought. Doug is now learning how to jump waves, so it would seem the whole wave technique is something that continues to evolve. And of course, my definition of waves is totally different than his.

Second, Doug took the helm and we sailed downwind with the boat perfectly balanced and he demonstrated that once the boat is balanced going downwind, that if you let out the main and do nothing else, the boat immediately tries to tip. Main in, balanced. Main out, tippy. Good to know. I hit the tippy stage before most people and now I know how to stop it. And apparently, Tom Slingsby actually sails downwind with his main in more than most but, of course, his angle is such that he’s sometimes on the verge of a gybe. Still, it tells me that by choosing to sail conservatively with the main in, I’ll be more balanced and probably not losing too much speed.

Third, Doug centered his weight on the boat which simulated the feel of sailing a radial upwind and I was able to take the helm, hike and sail the boat by myself. I learned that I will rarely sail with the boat block to block since there is only a small wind range where it will be possible at my weight. I’ve often struggled with getting the main in since I simply don’t have the strength. He showed me how to luff up quickly, bring the main in, then pull the vang on HARD, then ease the main sheet so that it goes straight out (not up). There is a huge difference in pulling the main in when the vang is on hard versus not. Then I’m able to play the main to keep the boat moving through the water instead of feathering.

April 24, 2012

2011 ISAF World Championships - Laser Gold Medal Race

by Pam
When Doug was in Brisbane at the Master Worlds, a copy of the Gold Medal Race of the Laser World Championships was being passed around with the condition that it couldn't be made public and was for personal use only.  We had a request from a sailor in Ireland for a copy of that video but given US copyright laws decided to do some research.  Turns out the entire video was uploaded three weeks ago and has only been viewed a little over 500 times.  It appears the copy we have has been cleaned up but the video online is raw which Doug likes better.  Here it is. Enjoy!

April 23, 2012

Sailing Upwind in Choppy Conditions

Waves. They are our friend downwind and our enemy upwind. They add another layer of technical skills and it’s little wonder that waves separate the fleet very quickly. Anytime you are sailing far enough from shore, or in a sea breeze, we are exposed to waves. The size of the waves often determines the type of rig set-up. Although the Laser has a simple rig, we still have the ability to pull a particular shape into the sail. For example, in flatter water, we may want a flattish sail that is set up for low drag and to control whatever the wind strength is. However, in choppy water, we want a sail that is more forgiving to changes in steering angles, but still has enough ‘torque’ to push through waves upwind. The sail will look (and feel) very different for 8 knots flat water compared to 8 knots choppy water. So here is a clue straight away…..ask yourself, are you setting the sail for flat water or for choppy water? Well now you have to have a definition of “choppy water”.

I think the definition of chop is when going upwind, that the waves either make you change direction (by slapping the bow away) or slowing you down (by slamming into the bow). Either of these situations is damaging to speed and height and we now have to steer more aggressively around the waves. But now the rig must accommodate this extra steering range. It must be broadened in its ability to be efficient both when (momentarily) high and low. How? Add more depth to the entry. That is Cunningham. Most people are reluctant to use this as we associate it with depowering on a windy day. This is true. So we need to apply just enough Cunningham to add entry depth, and no more. Similarly, we use soft vang to achieve the same result. A straighter mast also means a deeper entry so we make sure we are not too hard on the vang in winds less than say 12 knots. With a softer vang, we now have full control of sail shape with mainsheet tension alone. It becomes very simple. In bigger waves, ease a touch of sheet. This straightens the mast, adds depth and power and relaxes the leech a little. Perfect for finding that extra punch in bigger waves on lighter wind days. As the wind strength increases, just add more and more downhaul and vang in equal portions.

It is not easy to quantify the above amounts, but is intended to give you a guide as to what you should be focusing on for best rig set up to match the wave conditions. It is not appropriate to produce a similar guide for downwind as waves are largely sailed in a technical way where sail shape is not the major factor.

Now that the rig matches the wave conditions, all that is left is to steer correctly. I can hear you asking the question now, but this is best left to another time!!

April 21, 2012

Laser Cheat Sheet

by Doug
When I was 20 and living in my native Montreal, I bought myself an unusual $1,800 present - a one-way ticket to Sydney. Yes, I was restless and yes, that's what it cost back in 1971. One of my goals was to crew on one of Sydney's famous 18-footer skiffs. But the skipper that I was introduced to talked me out of it. He said, "For every hour on the water, you'll have to spend three hours working on the boat." I asked, "What would you do if you were me?" He paused and then said, "I'd call a gentleman by the name of Frank Bethwaite."
2012 with Frank in North Sydney
Thus began a 40-year friendship with the most remarkable man that I have ever met. Frank was the father of the NS-14, a very simple but wicked fast development class with a small sail and no trapeze. Yet it planed upwind. Every high-performance dinghy in the world can trace its roots back to the NS-14 and, of course, Frank's son Julian went on to design several classes including the 49'er.
2012 Pam with Julian at Bethwaite Design
So at the ripe old age of 20, I became the race secretary of the NS-14 association and a protégé of Frank Bethwaite... talk about luck!!!

1971 Frank and Julian sailing their NS-14

[I took this picture in at Northbridge SC. There's an interesting story behind it that helps explain why jibs are so efficient, and will be the subject of another post. Frank used this picture in his first book High Performance Sailing.] In spite of its high performance, the NS-14 was actually designed for husband and wife crews. So one of the challenges was finding a simple way to set up the controls. Frank had a brilliant solution. For the three wind settings (light, medium, and fresh) he had "datum marks" of one, two, and three red dots on all of the controls. Every NS-14 Frank built had these so that anyone could set up the sails perfectly every time.

Fast forward 38 years and Pam is interested in learning how to race a Laser. We would talk for hours and she would always say, "Make it simpler." So I would write things down - how to set up the controls, the strategy for starting, playing the competition, etc. But it seemed that every time we talked about it, she would say, "Make it simpler." The result is the cheat sheet in the right column which I laminate and give out at clinics. Much of what I know is here.  The purpose of the cheat sheet is to allow anyone to set the controls correctly for all lake conditions and simply focus on boat handling and tactics.  The controls should be the easiest part of sailing a Laser.

A disclaimer: The settings I recommend are basic and have served me well when sailing on lakes in Dallas.  There may be variances that others use that work but these settings should be competitive enough to keep you at the front of the fleet.  Major events like world championships tend to be in open-water and these settings are different.  Coincidently, Brett Beyer has written about this in Frank's upcoming book and he has generously agreed to give his perspective of settings in a future post. Describing my cheat sheet will take several posts - we'll start with the three columns that, not surprisingly, can be traced back to Frank's datum marks.

When you buy a boat, you're really buying three for the price of one, but only one of them has to be fast. For the one that you sail in light air, you have to be smart. Speed without smarts means you'll go quickly the wrong way. For medium conditions, you need absolute speed so you need to be fast. For above a certain wind strength (15 for me), boatspeed goes out the window and its all about conditioning, so you need to be fit. Setting up and racing a Laser is all about being smart, being fast, and being fit.

Your weight determines your strength and weakness. If you do not weigh much, you need to be smart and win the light races. If you're weight is average, you have a chance of winning in all conditions but you'll need boatspeed. If you're heavy, you had better be in shape.

I do not know of any single person who is the fastest in all conditions, so it's best to perfect your own conditions and then be reasonably competitive in the others. For example, a race in Laser world championships will not start in very light conditions (darn!) so I need to be really fast in medium conditions and hopefully fit enough to hang on in windy conditions. My finishes in a 72-boat fleet at the 1999 Master Worlds made this really clear - in conditions under 15 they were 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 3 but over 15 were 7, 8, 9, 10, 10. I have worked hard to improve my heavy-air sailing but sailors from countries that produce great heavy-weather sailors (AUS, NZL) are now getting really fast in the lighter conditions, as we saw recently in Brisbane. Laser sailing will continue to evolve.

In another post, we'll look at setting up the controls before the start and then going upwind.

April 20, 2012

Wednesday Night Mentoring

All summer, every Wednesday evening around 6ish in Lasers on White Rock Lake, but not on the Laser course.  They're "racing."

Everyone is welcome, no conditions or restrictions.  We'll work on whatever you want to work on.  Pam wants to work on boat handling so that's where we'll start but if there is something else you want to work on, just name it.

We'll also be practicing something that is unsafe on virtually all other lakes - night sailing. It will help you get a better feeling for your boat, such as how to get more lift from your centerboard ... very fast!

Look for sail number 195708.  That's the mentor.  And no matter what that girl sailing 149482 says, don't listen to her.  How she manages to stay upright most of the time is a combination of mystery and miracle. 

April 13, 2012

Starting Video

by Pam
This is a video of several of Scott Young's starts at the 2011 Easter Laser Regatta.  Impressive!

April 12, 2012

2011 Easter Laser Regatta

by Pam
About a year late but ... here is some raw video footage from the 2011 Easter Laser Regatta taken last year where there were gusts of 30+.  I actually have footage of the Radials and 4.7 but it might take another year before I get to that.

April 09, 2012

2012 Easter Laser Regatta

by Pam

The Easter Regatta is the kickoff circuit stop for Laser District 15. Somehow, this event seems to set the tone of my sailing for the entire year. Last year it was super windy. I bailed and Doug sailed and that scenario repeated itself many times throughout the year with it being a light year of sailing for me. As a result, this was my first time back at the helm solo in the Laser since the week before last Easter.

I had a very simple goal of actually sailing in the regatta and trying to start and finish every race and stay upright. Being a light female presents a dilemma. I have a choice of sailing with my age (full rig) or sailing with my size (radial or 4.7). Sailing with my size means a mostly junior fleet. Unappealing because youth has many advantages ... they don’t feel pain, they don’t get tired, and they don’t have enough sense to know when they are in over their heads. Sailing with my age group has many advantages for me but if the wind picks up like it did last year, a girl my size simply can’t get a full rig to go upwind and downwind is sheer terror with pitch poling being very likely. Luckily, the wind was in my range this year so my choice of a full rig was a simple one. For future reference, I did hear a wind forecast interpretation from Fred that was fairly enlightening. 0 to 5 means no wind. Anything with 15 as the top end, means they don’t have a clue and anything can happen. Anything with 15 to something more means windier than shit.

So, by lunch time on Saturday, I had tried to hang Norm and had also come to the realization that, being the only female sailing a full rig, I’d already won top woman. There was a passing thought of calling it a regatta and taking a nap but my goal was to sail each race and the Norm thing was bugging me. I was so rusty that when I was coming into the leeward mark and Norm was coming away on a collision course with me, I looked at him and immediately said to myself, starboard leeward. And somehow after saying it to myself, I decided I was starboard leeward instead of him. Two legs later when I did it again with a junior the light went on and I realized my brain was malfunctioning. Quite obviously, my light year of sailing was showing.

We raced 5 races on Saturday and there were 4 different race winners so the top spot was up for grabs but Sunday’s weather was predicted to be very light. By Sunday morning, I was acutely aware of the bones in my behind and was repeatedly reminded every time they came in contact with the tender tissue in my tushy. Goals be damned, I didn’t want to sail. But then I saw the results and I was actually ahead of a couple of guys from Dallas so my 100% certainty of not sailing came down to about 98%. And then Scott Young changed everything.

I was helping Doug rig his boat and he turns and says loud enough for Scott to hear, ‘decision time, are you sailing or not?’ Scott, hearing Doug, says to me ‘why wouldn’t you sail, it’s your wind?’ I had a whole laundry list of reasons not to sail. I had sailed with a migraine all day Saturday and I sprained my wrist on a malfunctioning vang and I have no patience for light air. It’s not my wind. But there stood Scott a few feet away, older than me, having faced many of the same health issues as me over the years and he’s looking all healthy and vibrant and alive. It was a pivotal and rather symbolic moment for me. Most people’s life expectancy far exceeds their health expectancy. The difference of those many years often comes down to moments just like these and the choices we make. That 72 year old great grand master world champion that I watched and admired so much in Australia just a few weeks prior didn’t get to that age and that state of health by sitting on shore. I didn’t have to say a word to Doug. He just headed for my boat and started rigging. A few minutes later I was indeed returning to the scene of the crime and playing human origami and folding myself back into the Laser for more. I moaned and groaned but by the end of the day, even though we floated for hours and didn’t race, I actually felt better than when I’d started.

I realized this weekend that I will turn 50 next year. Somehow, that doesn’t seem possible. At 61, Doug noticed that he was the oldest competitor in the regatta. Even though he was 4th overall, he was also the winner after applying age handicaps. Doug had a full physical today and his resting heart rate was 45. His doctor said he’s doing something very right. From what I’ve seen, he simply goes sailing when others sit on shore ... and I if I want to live as long as he does, I’d better get used to doing the same.

See you at the Nationals Scott ... after all, why wouldn’t you sail.

April 08, 2012

2012 Easter Laser Regatta Results

SailorRigSail #R1R2R3R4R5R6Total
1Doug KernFull181275244211348
2Chris AlexanderFull194532319131726
3Scott YoungFull195649126721852
4Doug PeckoverFull195708681552561
5Ravi SubramanianFull173228733862744
6Colin FeikFull173991862472721
7Jon LarsonFull1716015751293824
8John MillerFull201271111110343941
9Brad WinslettFull19588845714134325
10Eric FaustFull192923101686105046
11James McTurkFull1762211412121085632
12Fred SchrothFull1881091291419146859
13Mark UnicumeFull2012721910249117348
14David MorganFull18185416131613177550
15Forest AtkinsFull15783315221311167754
16Sebastien DuboisFull16424518182015128335
17Jonathan BakerFull1829019151126268739
18Bruce MooreFull16685417172118158851
19Samuel StrongFull17607421141916188817
20Pam NewtonFull14948213211820209248
21Norm GrailFull19030320201717199359
22Mike LindstromFull189827231923212110755
23Marshall WoodwonFull169516222315262611254
24Charlie DanielFull188169262422222211659
25Greg WallaceFull149083252625232312245
26Will SchwartzFullxx1597242526262612738
1William RomeoRadial17623822121816
2Alan RochardRadial194154115121017
3Haddon HughesRadial199144332441615
4Daniel KendrickRadial198005454331915
5Thomson Keen ButcherRadial175016543752416
6Max GuerrieroRadial199203686663214
7Marshall McCannRadial199338767573212
8Kate EastonRadial184626879884036
9Alanna StrongRadial158673998994452
1Meredith Morran4.7177033321251315
2Parker Hughes4.7182342117711713
3Ford McCann4.7199339243531712
4Macey McCann4.7175017672121814
5Lenox Dave Butcher4.7187697534642214
6Christine Kendrick4.7181864766462913
7Madeleine Butcher4.7199388885373111
8Reese Guerriero4.7201311459993613
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