April 25, 2017

Foiling in Conroe

By Doug
Pedro traveled from Sydney via Dallas to the first annual Texas Aero Championships. So Pam and I drove down to Conroe Yacht Club with him to get some foil mentoring, and Pam got some great videos. As you’ll see, CYC was an ideal place for this. Many thanks to KO Sailing for providing some excellent Aeros to play with. This was my first experience in an Aero which I'll write about in my next post.


This was actually the Laser foiling kit with a prototype Aero centerboard insert. So you can foil on both the Laser and Aero with the same kit. For more info, contact Pedro.

February 17, 2017

Peter Vessella sailing upwind in a breeze

by Doug
The Florida Masters Midweek Madness was a two day event that started light on the first day but then got breezy on the second. Peter Vessella (USA) won the event with finishes in the breeze of 4, 1, 1, 1 against a competitive fleet. Here, he explains his starts, upwind strategy, Mark II setup, and how he adjusted his controls. There's a lot to be learned from  Peter's simple explanation.


February 13, 2017

Drop Race Strategy

By Doug
A good regatta strategy is sailing consistently to preserve your drop race as long as possible. In this way, you can use it for tactical reasons later on in the regatta. This certainly was not what happened at the 2013 Canadian Master Championships when I got a 29 in my first race (hate those 90 degree persistent shifts!) This appalling start really limited my strategy for the rest of the regatta.

A better example was the recent Rock the Ice event. After the first day I was in first place with 10 points and a 2 as my drop. My main competition had 15 points with a 4 as his drop, so a real difference of 3 points.


The next day would be light and Griffin is a great sailor with several advantages – sailing regularly on this lake, being 20 pounds lighter, and having the Mk II sail which I’m convinced is faster in these conditions. In fact, at times he had much better upwind speed.

In the next race at the windward mark, Griffin rounded just in front of me with the rest of the fleet just behind. Here were my options for the downwind leg:
  • If we finished in that order, my lead would be just 2 points with 2 more races to go, and this finish would equal my drop.
  • But if anyone behind passed me, then a 3 or worse would mean that this would have to be my drop.
  • The only way for this to not be a drop was by beating Griffin which would increase my lead to 4, but this seemed unlikely in these conditions.
It looked like this race would be my drop, so I decided to make the most of it. I covered Griffin going downwind, he defended, we sailed off to the left, and we lost many places. We played games on the next beat and final run, and Griffin finished with a 4 to my 6. 


He had to count his score while I was able to drop mine, so instead of my lead being reduced to 2, it was increased to 5 - a nice cushion. This made the rest of the event easier so I could sail my own race.


Note to self: play it safe (one way described here), preserve your drop race, and use it in the second half when needed.

February 06, 2017

Stay in the Football

By Doug

Over Super Bowl weekend, we had the inaugural Rock the Ice Regatta that attracted a small but competitive fleet. It seems appropriate that we can use a football metaphor to describe the racing.

Steve Bourdow is a great sailor and coach, and would say that when sailing upwind you need to stay inside the football (translation – don’t bang the corners). The first day’s racing was a textbook example of why this works.

In each of the six races I found myself in the lead with my main competition sailing to either the right or left corners. If you want to beat that person, you have to go with them, but there’s always the risk of losing to the rest of the fleet – winning the battle but losing the war. Even when someone on the edge was in more pressure, I resisted the temptation and gave up the lead.


This strategy paid off – four of the six races were won by one one of my main competitors banging a corner while I settled for sailing in between what looked good and the rest of the fleet. As a result, I had four seconds in those races. This ‘percentage sailing’ paid off – at the end of the day I had 10 points while my two main competitors were less consistent and had 15 and 25 points (results here).

After the racing, I told the juniors that if you want to win the occasional race, bang the corner. But if you want to win the occasional regatta, stay in the football.

January 02, 2017

2016 - Those Who Inspired Us

By Doug
Sydney gets our vote for the best New Year's fireworks.
I keep reading that people who appreciate things live longer, happier lives, so since 2010 I've kept an appreciation journal. At the end of each year, Pam and I look back and write about the people who have inspired us that year, so here goes.

Before the Master Worlds, I trained at the International Sailing Academy. The guys that run this all-inclusive clinic do an outstanding job in every way.  It's a worthy part of any training program.

The Worlds this year were actually three back-to-back events for the open, radial, and full rigs. Linda, Andy, and their team put on what many are calling best Laser Worlds ever. They kindly shared how they did it.

Tillerman writes what I have called the gold standard for sailing blogs. He's done this for years and has been a long-time supporter of our little blog. In spite of going over to the dark side to sail an Aero, his blog is an asset to the Laser world.

Rule 42 problems come and go, and 2016 saw a few juniors (and their coaches) permitting and even encouraging this behavior. Griffin Or is the new district secretary for Texas and he has decided that 2017 will have less rocking and rolling. It's not the most popular thing to do, but the right thing to do.

Pam and I were thrilled to be made honorary members of the Double Bay Sailing Club in Sydney - the best Laser fleet on the planet. Members currently include the current Youth World Champion and the current Great Grand Master World Champion. And there's a ton of really good sailors in between. Like the Black Pope, who provided us with our new profile picture.

There's a current shortage of Laser parts and sails in North America. I was told by a dealer this week that they've been waiting for sails since April, and another dealer told me that he's had to buy a new Laser to cannibalize it for it's parts. Whether you support Bruce Kirby or not (we still do), we appreciate the game he created and we miss the good old days when the designer, builder and class all worked together.

As Masters continue to sail way beyond the originally targeted age group, health and insurance is becoming more and more important. Pam signed me up for accident insurance that actually paid her whenever I got hurt, so in 2016 I was actually a profit center. Bob Blakey (NZL) and three others had health issues at the Master Worlds and could not compete.  And then there was Pedro...

Peter Stephenson (AUS), the lovable Foiling Laser Guy, had chest pains at the Worlds and was taken to a local clinic where he flat lined and died for three and a half minutes. The doctors were able to revive him with what the Aussies call a Packer Whacker. Being reborn in Mexico, his name is now Pedro and he's alive, well and back in Sydney. We can all learn from his warning signs that he described here.

The 2017 Worlds will be in Split, Croatia. Pam and I will be staying with a friend on Lake Garda to train with others including defending GGM Champion Mark Bethwaite (AUS).  Pam will be joining me to see Italy for the first rime - it should be a blast.

In 2016, we lost many good sailors. We also lost one of the best sailors - Paul Elvstrøm. Such a classy guy, and such a strong supporter of fair sailing.

People often leave comments which we appreciate. Some are critical from which we try to learn, while others just make us feel good, like one from Joshep who commented on how our articles inspire him. We appreciate all of the comments, especially ones like that. Joshep also referenced a blog that has lots of good content and graphics for those new to our sport. Definitely worth a look.

Finally, we admire all of our fellow masters who show up to race year after year. Some measure success by getting a top five result, others by not tipping, and others by not getting hurt. In our view, just showing up makes you a winner.
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