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...).