May 22, 2012

2012 Laser Gulf Coast Championship

by Doug

The 2012 Gulf Coast Championship was held at Houston's Texas Corinthian Yacht Club over the weekend. The forecast was for light winds but the weatherman got it wrong as we got 12-15 on Saturday and a little less wind on Sunday. 62 competitors travelled from as far away as Seattle and the Bahamas and, following a trend that we have seen overseas, the radial fleet had the largest turnout. Lots of practice in these conditions was evident as TCYC sailors won in all three fleets.

I sailed a full rig and watched Greg Martinez easily win with six bullets. After the first race, I overheard someone ask why Greg was not going really fast on the runs and I thought to myself, I thought he was. Well, the races that followed explained that comment as he just took off on each run to win the races by very large distances.

Greg is such a gentleman on an off the water and is so willing to share his knowledge. He allowed me to interview him about his downwind speed which I will post later because, being a grand master, I had a senior moment and left my life jacket behind which has my camera in the pocket. One thing Greg does is bear off at the top of a wave and press his knees way forward to push the bow down. In the marginal surfing conditions, it really worked. Greg told Scott Young about this after the first race and he also got it to work, but Scott did not share this with me until the end of the day.

Another thing that was interesting was the many shifts and how I would cross tacks with Scott. I had a compass and he did not and I was almost always on a lift. I kept saying to myself poor Scott, he's going the wrong way. Our speed was close and I was amazed how he would usually gain from these split tacks. How he does this in open water was impressive - perhaps he was playing the pressure which I was not.

Another gentleman in our fleet was Dave Ryden who provides us all with some great incentive. You see, Dave is competitive and he sails Laser 694 with an old rag of a sail. That's right, he sails a forty year old Laser and finished in the top ten! I noticed that when Dave was close to someone, that sailor usually hiked a little harder. No one wants to be beaten by a museum piece.

A new sailor from Dallas, Greg Wallace, has made it to every race in the circuit this year. He still has much to learn, but that kind of persistence is good to see.

The talent in the radial and 4.7 fleet was deep and was dominated by a bunch of young sailors. This is great news as this is the future of the Laser class. There are clearly several junior sailing programs that are working very well.

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