Thursday, July 22, 2010

US Nationals - Day 3


What a day - a bit of everything, which is just why racing is a lot like life in general. The RC announced that we'd do a noon start for long distance, then run slalom at 3. That was met with a healthy sense of skepticism on the beach, as the fog was deeply entrenched and the breeze was light. Sure enough, though, with the onset of the ebb the sky cleared quite a bit and the wind picked up, and we had a sequence scheduled for 12:30. After two general recalls caused by much of the fleet over early (hey guys - lay off the coffee in the morning, will ya?!), the black flag went up, John Craig read the sailors the riot act, and around 1 we rolled got off a good start. The course was a short upwind to a windward mark off Presidio Shoals, a downwind through a gate off Point Blunt and down to a leeward mark off Treasure Island, then the upwind back through the gate and finishing in front of the St. Francis clubhouse.

I got excellent port starts each time, including the third one that counted, so I was stoked. I made it to the windward mark in something like 7th or 8th - stoked again. The picture above, one of many taken and made available - again - by Shawn Davis (go by pictures - the guy is great, and he's providing a real service to our little community!), shows me going upwind off one of those starts. The downwind was a bit rough, as the breeze was light, and since we had to pass inside the stationary mark off the St. Francis, jibing out into the better breeze was not an option. I lost maybe a place on the way to the club, but was in excellent position and feeling pretty good about things. Then I jibed, and I was pumping to pop the cams, one of them did pop a bit too much - right off the mast. This was the one that had popped off the mast in my crash yesterday, and in all the bustle to repair the board I neglected to check it.

If you look closely, you can see the lip of the cam body bent out of shape and the roller on that side pushed inside - subtle, but enough to make the cam pop when jibing the sail with the outhaul all the way released. I tried to use my foot to nudge it back into place while planing out of my jibe - and of course ended up swimming. I tried the same thing again after the next jibe, with the same result. By now, we were in the rough water between Alcatraz and the city front, and while I was doing OK on starboard (with the cam to leeward, the sail was plenty bagged out), I was losing angle and speed on port. Not good, but I figured that swimming to fix it was even slower, especially since with the outhaul off, it was likely to pop again. Between swimming after my mis-begotten cam repair stunts and my slow/high line on port, I ended up losing a bunch of places - it seemed like the whole fleet was going by me. At the leeward mark, when pushing back up, I noticed that I was way off the angle of the guys in front of me - whom I'd easily outpointed earlier. Plus on port, the sail was off-balance with the cam to windward in the sleeve - making the ride through the steep chop off IT even more uncomfortable. At this point, I'd had it - I dropped the sail, cranked on the outhaul, opened the sleeve zip and, after a fair amount of grunting and cursing, got the cam back on the mast - where it happily stayed until the end of the race, assisted by outhaul tension. The rest of the upwind was great - I picked up something like seven or eight boards - mostly through good speed and angle, but also three at the end by calling an aggressive layline to the finish (with a good assist by the ebb).

I ended up somewhere in 20th or 21st - which dropped me down to 18th in the formula standings (the long distance counted for two heats). At the top of the fleet, Phil McGain apparently owned this one.

And then we actually did start a slalom competition. The fleet was divided into groups of around 8 sailors each; each groups will sail five heats to qualify sailors for the final round, which will then run another five heats. Things got a little flukey, with the southerly off the hills messing with the westerly flow through the gate close to shore where the course was laid. This was OK for the first round of heats, though, and when things got way too light, the RC pulled the plug, with the qualifying rounds to continue tomorrow. My heat went off with decent pressure; I was on 8.2 and my 42 fin, which gave me good speed. Combined with a clean start, I got to the first mark in first, with CRad and Tyson Poor giving chase. Things were getting light, and I had to pump like crazy out of the next three jibes to stay ahead. Then, just before the fourth jibe mark, we hit a big hole. Tyson was right behind me, setting up higher. I tried to push up to make sure he didn't sneak inside me, but didn't have the power to make the happen, with the small-ish fin smearing off. So I had to take the jibe wider, and he did his catlike smooth jibing thing too get to the inside, then simply out-accelerated me and carried it into the finish for the bullet. He definitely earned that one - kudos to him.

This shot, again by Shawn Davis, was the first jibe after the start during practice before the racing. You can see that it's getting suspiciously flat there on the inside. I was scurrying around getting gear ready after my heat, testing out a bigger fin to see if it was controllable in the puffs (didn't want to be caught again unable to push up to jockey for position at the mark), so I didn't witness much of the other heats. Notable result of the day, however, was Fiona Wylde getting a second in the women's heat - nice going and an excellent performance, especially when you remember that she's only 13 years old. Did I mention that I'm really proud of our Gorge juniors?
Tomorrow will probably bring at least one or two course races early, and the hopefully a bit more slalom. There's also supposed to be a freestyle competition, which should make for great entertainment - the level of the assembled freestylers is pretty amazing and should make for great viewing, even if I can never figure out what those tricks are.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

US Nationals - Day 2

Wow, I'm tuckered out. Tough day at the office, but also some really fun and challenging racing. We started a bit late as there seemed to be trouble with the windward mark; that kind of thing is pretty commonplace in racing, but at the St. Francis, it's notable, if only because it pretty much never happens. These guys have running races down to a science, and after that little glitch, everything was back to the usual precision. The delay gave the breeze some more time to fill in, so by the time heat 1 got under way, I was glad I was on my 9.1.

I had another good port start; a bit further down the line than I would have liked, but the starboard starters were charging down the line and really pushing it, so I looked for a gap near the boat, found one, got clean air, and was off. Being low didn't bother me, as the ebb was stronger outside. Then the gun sounded again and the general recall flag went up -or so I thought. Instead, that was the flag for the individual recall, and as I was slowly tacking and getting ready to head back, I realized that everyone else was still charging. Oops - that probably cost me something like a dozen places, as now I got stuck in the dirty air of the guys who had done their homework and knew their flags. Oh well, another lesson.

As I was making my way to the windward mark, I was slowly working my way back up through the fleet. At the mark, I was coming in pretty hot just as MacRae was pinching up to it after having called a pretty tight layline. As I was going by him, I thought I had enough space, but then I got hit with a puff as I was passing him, my fin lifted me out of the water, and I got launched over the bars, taking MacRae out in the process. What a bummer - taking anyone out is because of a stupid mistake is bad enough, but doing that to a friend and teammate is even worse. Luckily, nobody got hurt, no gear was broken, so we got back on our boards and went on. He was definitely extremely gracious and forgiving about the whole thing. The picture below shows the moment just as I'm about to go over the bars, with the clew of my booms then getting tangled up in MacRae's rig. Bummer. With all that, race 1 ended up with in 20th place. Not really what I had in mind, but better than a DNF (which could have easily happened given that incident at the mark).

That picture, by the way, is another one of Shawn Davis' shots. The guy does great work, and he spends hours on the boat to get these pictures of us (I'm getting seasick watching the boats bob around like that, plus it's *cold* out there). So if you're racing this event, or you're sailing at Crissy Field, be sure to check Shawn's site and be extra sure to buy any shots you really like - support your local sports photographer!

Race 2 saw a bit more breeze, and while overall the ebb was decreasing, there was a lot of lumpy water around - classic Crissy Field voodoo chop. After a general recall (for real this time) I got another good port start with clean air and made it to the windward mark in the top 10 - needless to say, I was stoked. On the way down, Steve Sylvester was chasing me, and at some point we came up on a ferry boat. He went low, I went high - and then realized what he was doing - while I was bouncing around on the steep side of the wake, he got the smooth side and left me in the dust. Yep, experience is not a disadvantage in this sport. I reeled in a couple of people on the second upwind, then was forced to foot off at the leeward mark due to traffic at the rounding, leaving the door open for a couple others to get me. In the end, it was 12th, with a reversal of yesterday's photo finish with Eric (he got me then, I got him today). This was more like it.

Then came a long break, as the RC had to wait for two large container ships to come through the eastern shipping lane on their way to Oakland. Man, those things are big! The breeze had picked up another notch, but now it was starting to flood at the start line and over much of the course. I ended up starting on port and having to duck almost the whole fleet, but got clean air again. I made a decent layline call, overstanding just enough to be comfortable that I would avoid having to double tack in the flood and came into the mark hot. I passed Fernando Martinez at the mark, as he had under-stood the mark and was struggling around it. Accelerating down the course, I did a quick tally and found that I was definitely in the top 10 - yeah. And then I got a huge puff just as I hit some steep/short chop and went over the handlebars - hard. David Well, who was following, reported feet pointing straight up, and just before I hit the water I heard the sickening crunching sound of carbon getting smashed by a hard object - my mast split the nose of my board open (the impact actually knocked one of the cams off the mast - never had that happen before). No injuries, though, so that was lucky; I retired from the race and hustled back to shore for a quick combat repair, but the RC called racing for the day after that heat - good thing, because I had only applied the first layer of super-glue and glass when it would have been time to get back out.

Tomorrow we'll most likely run long distance to Treasure Island and back, followed by another course race or possibly slalom (wouldn't that be cool...). Off to bed now - I'm pretty much wiped out. Instead of moving up from 14th (results here - Waterhound should have a report up soon, too), I've now slipped down to 16th. Tomorrow should bring three scores and another throwout - we'll see where that goes. I'm pretty happy with my speed, and my tactics on the course seem to be reasonably effective as well. Just have to cut down on the mishaps a bit ;)

US Nationals - Day 1


Nationals got off to a good start yesterday. Conditions were cold, foggy, and a bit gusty. Nice big fleet, including a great group of juniors. David Wells has excellent coverage at Waterhound (if you haven't checked out that site, you really should!), and Shawn Davis not only has his usual professional-grade pictures up for viewing and purchase, but also graciously makes them available for embedding (that's where that picture above came from).

I had an interesting day. Usually in big events, I get myself buried at the starts until I find a way to pick my way through the chaos later on. Yesterday, I had four excellent starts (all on port), but then had a bit of difficulty carrying that through the heat. Race 1 was an unmitigated disaster - after rounding the top mark in the top 10 (I was stoked!), I gambled on the Southerly coming off the shore for the downwind and then got stuck in a hole on the inside that was hard to see coming with the confused water state there; then I way overstood the windward mark on the second lap, ending up in 28th.

Race 2 got a little better; not quite so good out of the gates, having to dive under a bunch of guys pointing higher than me, and generally not really putting it together on the course, but moving up to 18th. Race 3 saw me in the top 10/12 until the first downwind mark. Then I made a bad call, trying to squeeze inside of Bodner. Not sure what possessed me, since he tends to point a bunch higher than me, so he probably would have climbed up and pinched me off anyway, so I should have just taken the wider lane and passed him. Instead, trying to squeeze by on the inside, he closed the door and the nose of my board made contact with his clew, and I had to do my spins to exonerate myself from fouling him. That dropped my back into 15th, but at least things seemed to be getting better.

In race 4, I changed down to my 9.1, and that made a huge difference. All of a sudden, things felt right, and my angle got a little better (I had been footing and going fast compared to the guys around me all day; now I was still going fast, but not losing quite as much angle anymore). I got another great start (helped partially by the easier handling of the smaller sail) and managed to just not make any real mistakes all race long. I was pretty stoked to finish 8th in this pretty heavily stacked fleet (that one actually came down to almost a photo finish; I was reeling in Eric Christiansen on the way to the line, and when we pushed into the finish, neither he nor I knew who'd taken it).

At this point, Paolo dos Reis, who came in second at the Worlds, is leading the event ahead of Phil McGain, who's looking lean and strong and seems unaffected by sailing a 5 year old board and not having done any formula racing or training for several years - quite an impressive performance. Wilhelm Schurman (reigning lightweight world champ) is rounding out the top 3. Seth Besse is putting in an impressive showing as well, placing fifth, right between visiting formula rock stars Aurelien and Fernando.

Our Gorge juniors are doing really well with the challenging conditions; their racing is just as competitive with each other as what's going on at the front of the fleet. Great group of kids, for sure. They sure have reason to be proud of themselves.

I'm sitting in 14th right now (4th Masters). Today's plan is looking for two more course races early, then a long distance race counting for two heats in the standings (it wouldn't be SF Bay without long distance). The RC has been doing an awesome job running the heats, keeping us out of the shipping traffic, and setting the course to be fair despite the serious shifts in wind direction. And the St. Francis Yacht Club has once again rolled out the red carpet (nothing quite like a sauna after a day on the bay...).

Monday, July 19, 2010

Wonder what the guy at the rental counter would have said...

You know it's regatta time when heavily overloaded rental cars start showing up at Crissy Field. Roof racks? We don't need no steeenkin' roof racks!

Got to SF yesterday, met up with the rest of the Gorge Cup fleet today. Good showing - five juniors (Fiona, Alyson, Ben, Jay, Alex), MacRae, Tavis. Bunch of Gorge freestylers down here for the Nationals as well; some of them might even do slalom. Went out today for a few runs with MacRae, Fiona and Alyson to shake out the legs. The girls were doing great despite the gusty/flukey conditions (the fog was well inside the bay today).

The fleet is pretty stacked with visiting rock stars and hot local sailors. Looks like at least 50 sailors. Racing starts tomorrow; Waterhound should be the best bet for good coverage.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Gorge Cup - DaKine Downwind Slalom

Excellent day of racing at the Event Site. We ran round robins (let's see, heat one is A-B, heat two is C-D, heat three is ADHD...), so everyone got to race a ton. The course was set really well with no super tight or broad leg. Conditions started out with raging high-wind slalom (I was lit on 6.2, Bruce and MacRae were on 5.4 and not lacking for power either).

Split into four fleets, we got two complete 6-heat rounds off. The wind got quite a bit sketchier then (I ended up using the 7.1 and the big board - which turned out to be a good decision), and we got four heats in the third round before we had to call it a day.

The juniors did great; Jay Watermeyer in particular showed that it's time to move up to the men's fleet (probably right after Nationals), but most impressive were the younger kids who really showed that they learned a lot yesterday at the clinic, and who were relentless despite the challenging conditions. These kids are definitely ready for Nationals.

Bruce won the day (yes, it's still his river). Jac LeRoux sailed very consistently, with good speed, good starts, and solid jibing and tactics to edge me out for second; I ended up in third, with MacRae breathing down my neck - very tight points standings between the three of us, reflecting the very fun, competitive racing.

Now off to SF for Nationals. I can sure use the rest day, even if it's spent on the road. So far, this little adventure is shaping up great.

Results and pictures should come up soon on the VMG Events site - I'll link from here when they're availalble.

Friday, July 16, 2010

2010 Sailworks Junior Clinic

What a great bunch of kids - Bruce put on his annual junior clinic today, shortened to one day due to this year's compressed racing schedule with Nationals in SF next week. It was cranking windy this morning, making for epic slalom conditions - and the kids just ate it up. Tons of jibing practice; with a kid-to-coach ratio around 2:1 or so, there was lots of opportunity to interact, and there was some marked improvement and lots of learning. After lunch, things slowed down a lot with the breeze becoming really patchy, so we were all glad we got out on the water early. These kids will all be racing in the Gorge Cup tomorrow, and unlike us coaches, they'll of course be fully recovered ;)

Kudos to Bruce for the time and effort he put into this - it's definitely a great service to the future of the sport. These kids rock - and most of them will be at Nationals next week. Can't wait to see them continuing to excel!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Just a little bit further...

Go ahead, click on that picture. That's BP, slogging out on his smallest slalom board (my guess is about 75 liters) and 5.4. And it's not an optical illusion - he really is in the water up to his butt. At this point, he's been at it for about 7 or 8 minutes, displaying good balance, a fair bit of determination, and good slogging technique. This was taken Sunday, and while there was a lot of moaning at New Beach (the launch to the west of the Event Site, which was closed to windsurfers for a charity kiteboarding and SUP event) because of how the wind had died, it was still going off up at the Hatchery; in fact, Bruce was on a full plane about one minute later in, and wasn't seen until riding a lucky puff back down from up there well over an hour later.

I sailed for about 4 hours on Saturday in multiple sessions on my 6.2, slowly growing my high-wind slalom cojones back (I was still a bit sketched out after breaking my ankle last summer in those conditions). The wind meter at Swell City read 20-40, and that about summarizes the conditions pretty well - up at the Red Nunn off the Hatchery, there was never a moment where I wouldn't plane, but there were plenty of moments of holding on for dear life. Slalom sailing in rough water and big winds can be character building, but it's a hell of a lot of fun. What's more, there were those sweet patches of smooth water for hero jibes right above Wells Island on the OR shore, as well as the occasional well-formed swell that would make for beautiful mach-speed broad reaches starboard tack from Wells Island all the way back to the launch.

All in all a great day of sailing; can't wait to do it again soon. Things are getting pretty jam-packed here in the next few weeks - junior clinic on Friday, Gorge Cup on Saturday, then Nationals in SF next week. Looks like summer is finally here ;)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Family picture


Good day of sailing in Hood River. Got a chance to use every piece of
slalom gear I own as conditions built during the day. Warm enough to
sail in boardshorts, too - gotta love the Gorge.