Monday, September 13, 2010

2010 Laser Masters Worlds - Day One

I'm currently competing in the Laser Masters Worlds, which are being held in the UK at the Hayling Island Yacht Club at the eastern end of the Solent. It is an amazing place to sail with a huge dinghy club, exceptional organization and race committee, and world class sailing conditions. I've been here for the better part of a week training with a couple of former training partners from my Finn campaign, Wolfgang Gertz and Michael Nissen, both from Germany.

The most amazing thing about this area is the tide, which is enormous, and the powerful current. There are treacherous shelves and bars underneath the high water, all of which are exposed when the water rushes out. Cruising sailboats and powerboats are moored all along the sides of the channels, and most are laying on the hard, totally stranded and dry in the thick mud, when the water leaves. Locals here are extremely cautious about navigating the harbor, and very respectful of the tide! Most of our training was based on when we could go out with the tide and return in the coming ebb. This meant most days we couldn't/didn't sail until late in the day, usually returning at sunset. The tide was also accentuated by the new moon a few days ago. The tides this week are not as big as last week, so we can get to the course and back in reasonably favorable current.

high tide: no bars exposed

low tide (that's me down by the water's edge)

Today was on the windy side with the breeze starting out strong and increasing during the two races. The building ebb tide made for powerful, full ocean-like conditions. Upwind was full on power hiking with cockpit-filling square waves. The runs were epic with many options on how to: 1) best surf the monster waves; 2) avoid becoming a submariner at the bottom of the bigger sets; 3) stay upright. The best approach on a day like today is to "go for it" on the runs. Having the confidence to do it is a big factor. Otherwise backing off means over trimming to prevent a death roll, meaning you will likely end up "chicken winged" and at some point, either spinning out or capsizing to leeward and/or burying the bow and filling the cockpit, which compounds all of the above.

Epic conditions and confusion around the leeward gate

I was happy with my speed today but suffered from being rusty from not being in the Laser over the past six months. The first race I was fighting it out with Scott Ferguson, last year's Masters world champion, for third place, when I capsized at the jibe mark and lost three places to finish seventh. My second race start was really bad and sailing throughout the fleet to finish inside the top ten was a good result.

Arnoud Hummel from the Netherlands busted out two bullets today to take the early lead over Scott Ferguson. see results.

Tomorrow forecast is for 20-30 knots and if it holds racing may be postponed due to the massive seas that will likely accompany the high winds.

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