I had the pleasure of competing in the 2010 Laser Masters Midwinters at the Martin County US Sailing Center this past (three day) weekend. The racing for the 60-boat fleet was held on the Indian River Lagoon, which forms part of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. We saw the full spectrum of conditions from 30 knots and square waves the first day, 15-18 knots the second day, and 5-6 knots the final day. Regardless of the strength and direction of the wind, you could count on massive and unpredictable shifts and gusts (or puffs) which made the racing extremely challenging.
I was eager to rejoin the Masters racing after spending the past couple of months sailing with the top Laser sailors and competing in the Rolex Miami OCR the week before. I knew the atmosphere would be more laid back but no less competitive, since the current Masters National Champion, Peter Vessella, would be attending, as was Brett Davis the 2009 Midwinter Champion.
The Masters regattas have the feel of a party; friends coming back together not just to enjoy the racing, but also each other's company. It is a welcoming group whether you are a veteran returning to the class or a newbie who never sailed a Laser before. The celebration is also about doing something we love at an age when we're expected to be winding down. The first day, without hesitation, the committee ran three races in 20-30 knot winds and big waves that rivaled the fiercest San Francisco Bay conditions. Nobody complained, and even with a fair number of swimmers (myself included), everyone survived and had many war stories to relive at that night's dinner and no doubt at future regattas.
The regatta turned into a three way battle between myself, Peter Vessella (both representing St Francis Yacht Club), and Peter Shope representing Sail Newport. Going into the last race in a dying breeze, I managed to eke out a 3-point lead. I was able to keep Peter behind me with a loose cover although my 9th place finish equaled my worst race throw out. This meant I came up one point short of victory.
The big lesson for the week was keeping better track of points. Specifically, I needed to be more aware of the throw-out situation going into the last race. Up the last beat, Peter trailed and sailed to the opposite side of the course from me. I had to decide if I should cover him or stick to sailing my race to finish well. I sailed a couple of headers to keep him in check and lost three boats approaching the finish line to a 15 degree shift. I should have recognized this sooner and focused on covering my closest competitors rather than trying to keep Peter back.
The Principal Race Officer had the quote of the regatta. He said, "It was great not being considered "grandpa" by the competitors." My take on the difference between the The Rolex Miami OCR and the Laser Masters Mid Winters was - Old Guys Rule!
Full results: results