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.


PeconicPuffin said...

Kicking a sail into's only ever worked for me in zero-pressure situations...try it when I really need it and into the drink!

Looks and sounds like a thrilling event regardless.

Erik Loots said...

This might sound stupid to you, but do you also windsurf under the bridge you see at the photo...

Would be something special I guess to cross a bridge