Saturday, December 7, 2013

Oman Last Days

The Laser Masters in Oman are over and I am just thrilled at having been a part of it. It was great. If any of you have a chance to do one of these, grab it.

Fifth race day

The fifth race day was almost another carbon copy of the previous day, but with an even longer AP.  In fact, both the Grand Masters and Great Grand Masters Standard fleets got in only one race.  Once again, the unruly youngsters had general recalls which slowed things down.

In our only race I had a decent start and clean air. I tacked right once again and most of the fleet did likewise.  But I was having trouble dealing with the chop today - not sure why, since it was no worse than other days.  But my boat speed was decidedly off - I think I was not keeping the boat flat enough.

I watched Mark Bethwaite and could see that his settings were about the same as mine but that he was keeping the boat very flat. He kept his bum over the side constantly but was not hiking his trunk much.  He was not block to block, but not far from it.  Very little obvious body movement.  No doubt a lot of subtle stuff.

Final race day

Very light winds. Since we had to start the last race no later than 3 PM, we were sent out even though there was still not enough wind to race. We hung around for about an hour and finally go going, with the windward mark moved closer and managed to get in one race.

I got a good start and with the light winds was able to concentrate on keeping the boat flat. I did some sheeting in and out over the small waves and it helped. I rounded the top mark ahead of a couple of boats and had a decent downwind. One of the boats got slightly ahead of me, but I managed to overtake him before the leeward mark. From then on, I managed to finish ahead of 2 boats which meant I finished the regatta next to last - hooray,  I was not last! I was very pleased, but also realised how much work I have to improve for the first week next October in Hy√®res.

Then socialising in the evening after the awards ceremony.  The photo above with Neil, a new Aussie friend - both on the water and off.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Oman Race Day 4

It is like Groundhog Day here for the weather.  Everyday the same as before. So, once again relatively light winds building during the afternoon with a bit of sloppy chop.

Today we had the longest AP and just barely finished 2 races before dark.  It didn't help that the youngsters in the Grand Master Class were not properly disciplined and had a general recall, further delaying things.

The first race I got a decent start at the Committee Boat - there was a gap near it and sailed into it and accelerated to the start line. But I was too close to another boat and was getting dirty air so I tacked immediately.  I was 4th to the first mark, feeling quite good that I had held on that far.  Downwind I lost a couple of spots to boats that had gone further left.

Near the top of the next windward mark I got rolled by 2 boats - not sure what I was doing wrong, but I think I was pinching a bit. Anyhow, I got to the last downwind mark in a cluster with 2 other boats and we battled it out for avoiding last place.  I rounded behind the other 2 but almost touching their sterns and we then headed for the finish. I was lucky in that one of them (as he told me later) initially headed for the wrong mark and was quite a bit behind.  I battled the other one and almost caught him, finishing just a few seconds behind.

The second race was better - once again I had a large gap at the Committee Boat and this time I took full advantage, accelerating along the line, listening to the countdown on the Committee Boat and rounding up just at the signal.  I wish I could do all starts that way.

The chop was getting sloppier and it was harder to work through the waves. I am getting a bit better each day in dealing with the waves, but clearly a lot of work to do.  At the top mark I was about 7th or 8th but we were all fairly close.  Going downwind, I caught a few good waves but didn't pass anyone.  By then I was starting to get tired - and I assume the others were also.  But I put some effort into the next upwind and it paid off. I gained a spot and was pleased to discover the top mark was the finish line. I rounded ahead of 2 boats, making for a good end of the day.

Sailing back into port just as the sun was setting, I had a nice chat with the fellow I had nipped at the line - an Aussie who has been coming to these events for many years and just another example of the great camaraderie one finds.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Oman Race Day 3 - Mainsheet Misery

A very nice day with the wind about the same as yesterday but without the swell. So, just right for me.

The first race went relatively well - I actually beat someone.  I got a relatively poor start, getting sandwiched between two boats on the line and drawing lots of dirty air. I tacked away as soon as I could and went right. I was the next to last at the top mark but it was fairly closely bunched and I was not more than about 30 seconds behind the lead (Bethwaite, who else?). And, I am glad to report that I did indeed round the offset mark before heading downwind.

There was no swell, but the chop was fairly messy, with little waves. I tried to negotiate them as best I could and I am getting a bit better at it, but it is clear there is lots of work ahead.

Downwind, I managed to catch a few waves, mainly by bearing off to sail by the lee. I didn't pass anyone, but didn't lose any spots either.  I finished second to last, but almost caught 2 other boats who finished a few seconds ahead of me. So, I was pleased.

The second race started well, with a clean start with good air. The chop was steady and I was working the sheet quite a bit. We were on the second beat and I was in the last group but was holding my own. Then halfway up the second beat I noticed that the covering on the  main sheet had been worn through and the inner core was now in direct contact with the blocks. I was wondering if it would hold for the rest of the race. But the mainsheet gremlin had other tricks up his sleeve.  About 2/3 up the second beat I tacked and noticed the mainsheet was twisted around the block. OK, I thought, just untangle it and get on with things.  But I couldn't untangle it - a loop had passed through the block and was stuck very tight. I tugged everywhere and it wouldn't budge. Finally, I signalled to a safety boat to come over and they tugged on it also, even using a screwdriver, but to no avail. Finally, we just cut the mainsheet and I limped back into port.

So, taking stock of the first 3 days of racing, I am convinced more than ever what a great event this - the things I have learned so far from my friends and people I have just met is amazing. Admittedly, I have never taken a formal course and I am sure much of what I am learning is relatively standard for experienced Laser sailors, but for me it is really great.  And I am also realising how much our lack of open water sailing at our club in Abu Dhabi is a handicap to developing skills.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Oman Race Day 2

Another great day here in Oman.

The AP was up for a couple of hours during which I had nice chat with Doug of Improper Course. Finally the wind filled in a bit and we got in 2 races. Relatively light wind but some swells that made it interesting. I am not used to swells since our club in Abu Dhabi sails in a bay protected from the ocean.

In both Great Grand Master Standard races, I came in the same place as yesterday but today it was last place since the fellow I beat yesterday was not sailing.  But it was a lot of fun and a great learning experience.

In the first race, I had a mediocre start and then I pulled a really stupid stunt that made me instantly remember Jay Livingston's excellent post yesterday Why Race if You're Losing Badly?  In my concentration I rounded the first mark and headed off downwind, completely forgetting there was an offset mark about 50 meters away from the top mark.  I didn't even realise I had missed it until the same fellow who has luffed me up yesterday was kind enough to ask me near the downwind mark if I rounded both top marks. I immediately said yes, but as I thought more about it I realised I didn't.  So, even though I was in last place I informed the finish boat that I was DNF, having missed the second mark.

In the second race I got a very good start and went left with Mark Bethwaite and others. All day I was trying to use the technique he had told me about sheeting in and out with the waves and while I certainly need a lot more practice, I did feel several times what I think it is supposed to feel like - it keeps the boat moving smoothly and dampens the slamming of the waves.  I think one thing to keep in mind is to keep the heading constant and play the sheet - sometimes I was tending to round up and bear off a bit with the waves, but I realised that if I kept the heading steady it felt much more smooth.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Oman First Race Day

My first 2 races in a Worlds - what a great experience !

The wind was pretty light and the Great Grand Masters had their own starts - yesterday we were lumped together with the young folks in the Grand Masters.

In both starts I got away with no major issues. In the first race about half went right and half went left.  I went right but left paid off better. Coming to the downwind mark the race was shortened and I must admit that I was not sure what the flag meant telling us that a mark had been removed and were to proceed to the next mark - but there were plenty of boats ahead to follow.  Mark Bethwaite finished first. No big surprise there.

In the second race I decided to shadow Mark and see where he went and how his boat was tuned. He started at the pin end going left.  I was amazingly able to keep up with him for about half of the beat and then he turned on his motor or something and his transom got smaller and smaller.  Needless to say he won the second race.

I was doing a bit better, coming in ahead of 2 other boats until I made a stupid mistake - an Aussie was luffing me up and I tried to duck him and misjudged it, and bumped him. After taking my 720 I ended up in the same position as the first race - next to last.

And then the best part of the day followed as I was de-rigging my boat. Mark Bethwaite came by and recognised me and started chatting - totally down-to-earth and friendly.

I told him I was trying to figure out how his boat was tuned and that I couldn't see much difference in mine.  He told me that for beats in light winds he puts on the vang about 10 cm from block to block and then eases the main sheet in and out at each wave.  I will try that tomorrow, although I expect it takes years of practice to get right.

Oman - First Days

I arrived in Oman Wednesday evening and am starting to discover what a big regatta with top sailors is all about.

Since Thursday was Thanksgiving in the US the American contingent had organised a little get together complete with turkey and they were kind enough to invite me along.  In fact, it was Doug from Improper Course who extended the invitation and we had a nice chat after dinner.

And Pam, I can assure you that Doug's encounter with the Asian woman at the entrance to the restaurant was apparently resolved in a completely civilised way to the satisfaction of all and the woman in question will not be pressing charges.   She appears quite sanguine about it all. So, not to worry.

Friday we got our boats measured and then I was able to take advantage of the workshop here to have their very efficient workers repair some nicks in my foils and give the hull a work over.  Great service, although I am afraid they have removed one more excuse I was hoping to rely on to explain my results. But never mind.

Today was a practice race with the wind relatively light - around 8 or 9 knots.  And very shifty, with 20 degree shifts.

Our fleet (the Standard Grand Masters and Great Grand Masters) had 4 general recalls.  Which is just as well since my first 2 starts were not in a good position. Luckily by the 3rd try I got to the front and held a place.  In the race I made no major mistakes and was very pleased that I did not finish last - so, while not covered in glory, I was very happy to realise that my skill level is sufficient to at least be on the water in this type of event and even pass a few boats.

This evening was an Arabian evening with camels to ride and Omani headdresses for all.

Tomorrow the first 2 real races. Light winds predicted. Stay tuned.
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