Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Sunshine Open

It was a dark and stormy night....

The laser fleet sat around on shore on Saturday as a major low pressure system moved up the east coast spawning tornados, heavy winds and rain then reconvened at SSA for an evening of good food, massages, and music.

Outside, we all watched the lightening and thunder over the bay, the strong southerly sending waves crashing high above the USNA seawall and the rising tide pushing the water over our seawall and into our boat storage lot.

At about 7 PM, Dave Sliom, our fleet captain, took the mike and offered an emotional toast to his father who passed away recently. He talked about his father's love of sailing and how Dave learned to appreciate the beauty of our sport through his shared experiences racing with his father. He said he always called his Dad after racing to talk about how it went and what he could have done better.

At the instant we raised our glasses to Dave's dad's memory, the sun came out and flooded the clubhouse with light. We looked out across the harbor filled with whitecaps and saw this view, captured forever by Jon Deutch:

The next day dawned bright and sunny, but with a promise of lots of wind, this time from the west. A few hardy souls led by Dave, ventured out for 4 good races. Dave, undoubtedly with a little more help from his dad, came away with the win in the Radial fleet. I sailed the best series of my laser career to finish right behind Dave.

A weekend to remember. Here's to Dave's dad!

My friend and one of my heros

I first met Stuart Walker shortly after Judy and I moved to Annapolis in the fall of 1968. We had been racing a Rhodes Bantam actively and those International 14s on the floats at SSA looked a little like our boat so we started asking about them. This led to a long and lasting friendship with Stuart and Francis and some of my fondest sailing memories as a member of the International 14 class.

I crewed for Stuart many times over the years on both International 14s and Solings and competed against him in 14s. He is indeed a legend in the sport I love and he inspires me to keep trying to get better and compete harder in my Laser.

Click here to read more about this great man and his career and watch a short video interview.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sailing with Bob Verdugo

My good friend Bob Verdugo passed away suddenly and tragically last weekend.

We worked together and sailed together for many years. Here we are double-handing my J22 in a good breeze off Annapolis. We were "in-the-zone" together that day, hardly talking, just sailing, picking the shifts, focused intensly on what we were doing and planning silently what each of us had to do next, knowing that any little mishap would probably lead to disaster. A true team. I can't remember how we finished that day, but we beat a lot of boats and were extremely pleased at the way we sailed.

Bob and I haven't sailed together recently as I sold the J22 when he changed careers and went into real estate, effectively ending his ability to take weekends off, and my other regular, Dan Buan, needed to spend weekends with his growing family.

I miss those days on the water with good friends working as a team and I can't believe any of us will never get to sail or do anything else with Bob again.

Bob was a very good man, a good friend, and a great crew. Our sympathies go out to his family in this difficult time.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

It's Almost All Good

The Chesapeake Bay Laser Masters Championships at the Fishing Bay Yacht Club in Deltaville, VA easily made my all-time top ten regatta list. The venue, hospitality, the gourmet dinner, and the weather made for a memorable autumn weekend.

A big, shifty breeze (20-30 knots) on Saturday made the radial/full rig decision easy for all but a few of us. Peter Seidenberg, the iron man of Laser sailing put up his radial only to discover it had no numbers. His only option was to race with his full rig. He is small in stature and 72 years old, but he sure knows how to sail a Laser in a breeze. With many of us struggling to keep upright and moving in the right direction, he finished third in the first race out in the open river in survival conditions. When the RC mercifully moved us into the more sheltered Fishing Bay for the next three races on Saturday, he went 7, 4, 5 in extremly gusty, shifty conditions. He went on to edge out James Jacob for second overall. Amazing performance! Also amazing was John Bertrand. Seven bullets in challanging conditions. Always goiing fast in the right direction. Too good!

My perfomance was not so amazing. First race out in the river I managed to finish and remain upright, thanks to a couple chicken gybes. I was pleased with my 15th. I and a lot of other folks would have been happy to stay on the beach, enjoying the sunshine, but the New England contigent, led the charge to go back on the water.

The RC moved the course in close to shore where those who chose to battled 30 degree shifts and 30 knot blasts for three more races. JR Futcher wanted to go, but the RC wouldn't let her, as she had broken her outhaul, capsized, and couldn't rescue herself as the boat was unmanagable with the sail bunched up near the mast. Moral of the story, alway check everything before you leave the dock and take a spare bit of line with you, especially in a breeze.
Another moral. Before you forbid someone to race, the RC should make sure they know all the facts. JR was in an untenable situation and needed to be recsued, but after a simple repair was clearly able to race safely.

I had a miserable time inshore, autotacking and capsizing way too many times. But I finished all three races, against my better judgement, a small victory.

Sunday was a spectaular day to race. Wind had gone left to SW, 8-14 knots. Four races in full-hiking conditions. My first race of the day, an 18th, was not memorable. The next race, I battled Roger Link, a good friend and former 14er, who I can never seem to beat, all around the course. Coming up the last beat to the finish I was on port, on his weather hip, about even but slowly gaining, when a righty put him ahead coming back on starboard. I again finished behind him in a bang-bang finish. At least I'm getting closer!

Third race I caught the damn mainsheet over the transom on my tack into my spot on the line, lost control and rammed into the poor boat to leeward. There went my hole and my race. After starting I waited too long to do turns, so sailed the race out of harms way and withdrew after finishing. So much for my goal of avoiding the big mistake. One more race to make amends.

In the last race of the day, I got a good mid-line start, blew off the guy to weather, caught the first shift, a header, and found myself up with the leaders at the first weather mark. Finally ahead of Roger and more amazingly, ahead of Peter the Great. I stayed with the top four and ahead of Peter, who was really fast downwind. So quiet in the boat, picking his way through the waves, sheeting in and out with every wave. A beautiful thing to watch. Held my 4th upwind by catching a few shifts, staying in the pressure, and nailing the starboard tack layline.

Got downwind in third, just ahead of Mike Schmidt, made a pretty good turn but not as good as Mike's. Meanwhile, Nick Place and Peter have gained a bunch and are close behind.

Coming to the finish on port, not yet on the layline, I see Peter coming out of the right corner. We approach each other, bow to bow. I decide to take his stern and take my chances coming back on starboard. I make a nice duck at high speed, get to the layline and tack. Peter has to tack to leeward, I finish about a half boat length ahead. It is every GGM's dream to beat the iron man and I finally did it!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Day 6 (Finally) and more

Sorry for my absence.

Day 6 of the 2009 Laser Masters Worlds in Halifax was totally frustrating, especially for Kim Couranz, Ted Morgan's wife. They both sailed in the same radial division and Kim couldn't seem to get her nose in front of Ted the entire regatta. Now she was not only ahead of Ted, but ahead of everybody! On the last leg of a very shifty, up and down race which found our division (and the other 3 that started ahead of us) turned inside out several times and we weren't even close to finishing.

The RC abandoned all 4 races, much to our glee and Kim's disappointment.

Bottom line for me was that my first Laser Masters Worlds exceeded my expectations. Beautiful venue, great sailing for the most part, and a lot of very fit old guys and gals which inspires me to keep going. I finished better than I thought I would, with a couple of top 10s.

The 2010 season has not been much to write about. A painful abcess on my back kept me off the water for a while, then the dreaded back spasms cost me another month. But things are looking up.

The Crab Claw Regatta a couple of weeks ago at SSA was a lot of fun. Due to great RC work, we got in 7 races, with Brady White dominating the fleet. He said he was constantly changing gears, sailing with his cunningham control in his hand. How many hands does he have? I finished barely in the top half, but had pretty good speed most of the time.

Looking back, I made at least 4 major mistakes that kept me in my usual spot in the standings:
  1. With an ebb tide pushing us up the weather leg, I sailed out to the right too far and badly overstood. We were moving up the leg a lot faster that I thought, and it is getting harder and harder to look over my shoulder at the mark, so I didn't until it was too late.

  2. I again misjudged the tide at a leeward mark and got spept into it among a large bunch of boats. The turn was very costly, as I lost at least 10 boats.

  3. After finally getting my nose in front of Roger Link, I tried to lee bow him as he approached the weather mark on starboard. I blew the tack, he rolled me, then we both had to tack to make the mark anyway, losing several more boats. Moral, never trust that your competitor on starboard is on the layline. Figure it out for yourself. A simple duck, and I would have beaten Roger and several others to the mark easily.

  4. So I thought I could cross Mike Heffernan on port approaching the starboard tack layline. Misjudged it badly, and had to do my turns. Lost gobs of boats. I had a good finish going, too. I guess Stuart Walker is right. We always find ways to finish where we think we deserve to finish.

Now we're off to the Chesapeake Bay Masters Championship in Fishing Bay, VA. My goal is to avoid major mistakes and to sail more like a "true competitor" and not so much like a "code competitor" as Stuart Walker defines the terms in his recent book "The Code of Competition". I recommend this book highly if you want to learn why you do many of the things you do on the race course.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Day 5

Another beautiful day on St. Margerets Bay. I'm getting spoiled. Seabreeze at 185, 14-18 kt. Temp about 70 F.

Tried the boat end again but there was a pack of boats there so got a mediocre start. Went right, but not much happening in the way of shifts. Made sure I stayed in the middle of the course and that I didn't overstand. Rounded OK, maybe 10th.

Downwind, I went to the right to get a lane. Turned out to be really slow sailing on a broad reach rather than by the lee, and I dropped a few boats. Didn't do much more than survive the rest of the race to finish 20th.

Second race, sailed my best race of the regatta. Rounded the top mark 4th after picking a couple shifts near the top, lost my usual few boats including Peter Seidenberg downwind when he came across my stern on port going REALLY FAST! Got everyone I lost back on the 2nd beat to round 4th again, then managed to hold on for a 10th.

Need to find a way to go faster downwind on the final day tomorrow.

Day 4

This was my best day of Laser sailing ever!
A 15-20 kt sea breeze greeted us for our early 12:00 start.
In the first race, I got a good boat end start when the early arrivals accelerated and left me a nice hole to sneak into. A shout out to my friend Bill Miles for giving the boat end tip. Going fast and high I sailed over a couple of boats before tacking away to the right. When I tacked back I was all alone and saw the top mark at about 2 o'clock, but still a long way away. I thiught I was looking good until I happened to see the fleet rounding a mark well to leeward. My top mark was the bottom mark of the full rig course set up well to weather of ours. Damn!

Bore off and rounded 2nd from last. Worked my butt off to get back to 30th, my worst finish so far.

Second race I watched Ted Morgan in the AM fleet bang the left corner and not pass many boats when he came back on port. Also, the breeze was at about 190 and the local scuttlebutt said the seabreeze was usually from the southwest. Seemed to me that there was a possibility for a righty. So I did another boat end start, this time a German boat wouldn't let me in so I was behind him and had to tack immediately to clear my air. I kept going until I was well to the right side, all alone. When I tacked, the compass showed I was lifted 10 degrees and the entire fleet was behind me! I rounded first (what a kick!) and was able to keep my lead to the leeward mark. After a mediocre rounding and a so so weather leg I lost a few boats. Had trouble holding off the to guys downwind, and faded to 7th. Got my top 10! Whooeee!

The blast reach back to the club was fabulous. What a day on the water! Radials rock!