Saturday, March 27, 2010

Laser Midwinters West - Day 1

The Laser Midwinters West regatta is hosted by Richmond Yacht Club with the race course on the famous Berkeley Circle. Famous for it's high winds, short steep chop, and the numerous World Championships, Olympic Trials and many national championship regattas held there over the years. It might be considered sailing's version of golf's National Augusta, where they hold the Master's tournament each year.

view of San Francisco and Berkeley Circle from Richmond Yacht Club

With 54 Lasers and 50 Radials registered, the regatta promised great competition.

I am fortunate to have grown up in the San Francisco bay area and spent many days sailing and training on the "circle". I've learned many lessons on this venue in my early years sailing the Laser. One such lesson was the fastest way to round the reach mark was to have a controlled capsize instead of "trying" to gybe. It was less stressful knowing exactly what the drill was, going into it, instead of the option of either pitch poling or death rolling, both leading to a "yard sale" where you end up swimming after the boat and gear (that was another lesson - how to swim after your boat). Fortunately I have a better handle on heavy air gybing, but I still have that option if ever needed! Even when it is not blowing the racing conditions are spectacular.

The Spring and Fall in San Francisco tend to be milder which was the case today. The racing started late in the day when the westerly finally settled in. We sailed three races around a trapezoid course in a steady 10-12 knot westerly. It was a great day of sailing!

My goal for this regatta is to work on my starts and get faster downwind. My three race score today is a direct indication to how I started. I had a 5th, 2nd, and 13th. The third race was going to be a great start but in the last 10 seconds another competitor was ducking into my leeward side and I became too distracted with him and lost track of the time and ended up starting late. It was a black flag start and I was being extra careful not to be early but I also ended up stalling and blades which put me back in the third row (I was the only one in the third row by the way). The good news was that I stayed patient, found clear air and the favored side of the course. I had good speed downwind and pulled back a lot of places. Much better then I thought I would, ten seconds after the start.

The fleet is very competitive. Sean Kelly, an intercollegiate sailor from Cal Maritime is leading followed closely by Greg Martinez, who is a Radial sailor sailing in his first standard regatta. I'm currently in 5th and hope to have more good starts over the next two days.

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