January 29, 2013

Road Trip

by Pam

And Doug is off to the races ... I'll be checking the scores the whole time so I might as well post the links and schedule for easy reference.

Feb. 2-4 – Masters Midwinters
Port Charlotte Beach Park
4500 Harbor Boulevard
Port Charlotte, FL 33952

Feb. 6-7 – Midweek Madness
          US Sailing Center, Martin County
          1955 NE Indian River Drive
          Jensen Beach, FL 34957
          Registrants / Results

Feb. 9-10 – Florida Masters
          Palm Beach Sailing Club
          4600 N. Flagler Dr.
          West Palm Beach, FL 33407
          Registrants /  Results

January 28, 2013

Preparing for a Regional Regatta

By Doug
For me, there are local events, regional events, and then the Worlds. Here's how I prepare for a regional event, in this case the Master Midwinters East.

This is going to be held at Port Charlotte Florida, a place I had to find on the map. It's a salt water inland bay that should not have any big waves and should feel more like lake sailing than open-water sailing. The weather there has been sunny with temperatures in the 70's. The wind can come from any direction and is rarely above 10 mph. So it could feel like one of our lakes in Dallas.

I like to give my body a rest between Worlds and with the Oman Worlds still 10 months away, I'm pretty much out of shape. I've spent a little time on my hiking bench but have been taking it easy as Pam and I recover from a touch of the flu. I'm not concerned about being out of shape because of the light winds forecast. Weighing 170 pounds should not be a problem.

What is much more important is preparing mentally. This will be my first event since November and there will definitely be some rust. To offset this, I like to walk through what the races might feel like. If it's like last year, the starts will be tight, there will be lots of speed off the line, and it will pay to keep  an eye on all parts of the fleet as it splits up. Having  a good first day is important as it will set the tone for the rest of the regatta, something that happened last year.

Of course, it's great being able to check out the Website to see all of the people who have registered. It looks like there will be at least as many people as the 57 we had last year. And the competition will be good, with Buzzy Heausler, Andy Roy, Mike Matan, John MacCausland, Peter Shope, and a bunch of other really fast people showing up. The pin is going to be crowded!

No one has won this event back-to-back since Ian Lineberger first won it in 2000. Perhaps this will change this year. But that's not why I'm going. It's a great event with awesome people who will help me get back into shape as the long preparation starts for the Oman Worlds. For me, this is the real goal and the Master Midwinters is my first step for preparing for this awesome event.

That, and of course having the privilege of seeing friends and sailing with some of the coolest people anywhere.

January 16, 2013

2012 - Those Who Inspired Me

By Doug
As I look back at 2012 there are many people who inspired me. They're very much the reason why I love our sport. Starting at the Midwinters, Peter Shope showed us all how you can weigh 175 pounds and still be really competitive in a breeze.

During Midweek Madness, Peter arranged a clinic by Luke Lawrence who showed how much there is to gain with great downwind technique - something that became really clear at the Brisbane Master Worlds.

Of course, the Worlds have tons of great inspirational people and most of them have signed up again for the Oman Worlds in November. But two stand out: Brett Beyer is the best coach I have ever met, and Lyndall Patterson is the only woman to ever win a Laser Worlds against the men. I've known Lyndall for almost 40 years and she has always been awesome.

For the entire time that we were in Brisbane a lone 470 would go out and practice every day, even when there was not enough wind for a race. It was of course Malcolm Page and Mathew Belcher. At the London Olympics, it was no surprise who won gold.

After the Worlds, we caught up with Julian Bethwaite in Sydney. He's doing some amazing things that we can all benefit from. On our last day, I was proud to introduce Pam to Frank Bethwaite who was such an inspiration to me when I first arrived in Sydney as a 20-year-old kid.

Closer to home, Fred's Easter Regatta is the best event in Texas. Great price, competition, food, and all of those bunny prizes!

At the Gulf Coast Championships, Greg Martinez was a pleasure to sail with. He was quick upwind and had fantastic speed downwind. Sooooo much speed! This event was followed by the Laser Nationals where only 16 full-rigs signed up. I decided to sail a Radial with 45 sailors who were mostly in their teens. They were exceptionally talented and much better than I was at that age. They were polite ('please sir, can we start now?' when I was late pulling the trigger), had great parental support, and were really fast downwind. The standout was World Youth Champion Erika Reineke who was fun to watch. She was the fastest person downwind. Again, sooooo much speed! But the best part was that the fleet was clean, not like a lot of college sailors that we see.

Another person who inspired me was Bruce Kirby who called us after reading one of Pam's articles. I do not know what I'd be doing without his Laser design but I'm sure it would not be as much fun. Or as challenging. Or with the same amazing people from around the world. 

In District 15, the Houston sailors are revving up participation and inspiring others to travel again. Here in Dallas, Greg Wallace is new to Lasers and made it to every single circuit event. Dallas sailor Eddie Lockey was my crew at the US Sailing Championship of Champions event and proved that excellent crew work is no match for a brain-dead skipper trying to learn how to sail a C-Scow.

It would be unthinkable to not mention Tillerman whose blog is the gold standard for all other sailing blogs. Every time we're looking for a new idea, we get one from him or one of his readers.

And then of course there's Brad Salzmann whose story inspires me every time I read it. To count Brad as a friend just makes it even more special.

Finally, I'm constantly inspired by people who take the time to promote our sport, by those who travel to regattas, who reach outside their comfort zone, and by all the newcomers young and old.

What an amazing year! What an awesome sport! And what amazing people! There were so many more who I could mention. I'm really looking forward to see what 2013 has in store for us.

January 02, 2013

Deck Cleats

By Doug 
We received a question asking my opinion about the use of deck cleats.  This is a good question.  For the longest time, I felt that deck cleats were for people who did not have the strength to sail Lasers. Besides, they get in the way when you move around in light conditions. And as one of only four basic controls, why would you not continuously want to play the main? But I now have cleats for two reasons:
  • In light conditions, I use a really thin main sheet that makes it much easier to play the main when sailing on a run. Plus, the main sheet weighs less and is less likely to drop and drag in the water. But, a thin main sheet easily gets tangled into knots. If you round the weather mark and cannot let out the main, you'll get passed by many of the boats that you worked so hard to pass. When approaching the windward mark, I cleat the main and then run the rest through my two hands (one free, one steering) to make sure there are no knots. If there is, then I've got a chance to untangle the mess before rounding.
  • The second reason is from something that I found by accident in race 3 at the 2009 Master Worlds. This is how I described it in my journal that evening: Started mid-line with a good lane. Punched out with excellent starboard tack speed - one of my weaknesses I've been working on. Doing something I've never done before - cleating the main and focusing on steering. It was light and coming off the starting line on starboard tack, I cleated the main, grabbed the grab rail with my right hand, and locked my arm to make my entire body rigid to then press down while steering the boat. I'd never tried this before and for those conditions, it worked really well.
I never use cleats when hiking because, for me, having something to hang on to seems to make hiking a little more comfortable. For the same reason, I do not have a main sheet on my hiking bench because I want it to be uncomfortable to make the training a little more intense.

Looking at the videos from the London Olympics, some sailors had cleats and some did not.
Tom Slingsby plays the main constantly and appears to not have them.
My recollection is that all the charter boats at the Worlds come with cleats.  I noticed from the videos and pictures at the Olympics that some had them and some did not. 

For light sailors, like Pam, cleats are almost essential.  She uses the cleats while hiking and when the wind is up, she pulls the main sheet in through the cleat.  This not only give her hands a break but it becomes like a third hand for her.  Also, because she is light, she will almost never be so far forward that she bumps into them.  So for a light sailor, there is no down side to having them if they always keep a hand on the main to be able to release it quickly.

If you're installing them, use this diagram from the Laser Class Handbook to locate the wooden backing plate so that your cleats are properly secured.

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