Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Olympic-Grade Folly (or the Cluster$@#&* that is ISAF...)

So this funny thing happened on the way to Rio...

A couple years ago, kiteracing became organized to the point where it was starting to look like a real contender for a berth in the Olympics. And boy did those kiteracers lobby. In fact, they did a great job putting on events that showcased the sport, all while the performance level of what they were doing on the course was getting downright amazing.

And then this year, ISAF gave them the nod - but did so at the expense of windsurfing. The decision making process was hosed in so many ways (practice your google-fu if you're not familiar with the whole sordid tale - it's quite entertaining in a watching-a-train-wreck-sort-of-way...). Nothing new under the sun, there - just remember how equipment selection for the windsurfing classes has gone down ever since the 84 Games (Ostermann Windglider, anyone? RS:X? I rest my case...). And then, they reversed themselves, reinstating windsurfing (good decision) and dropping kiting (bad decision). ISAF has always prioritized politics over the good of the sport or the good of the athletes in this, so why should that be different now?

Because you'd think these guys (it's mostly guys on the committees, actually, but that's a different story) would be smarter than that. Because we all know that if the goal is to make the Olympics a showcase for how exciting sailing can be, Finns and Lasers won't do the job. When windsurfing got in, it was young, in flux, exciting, sexy. The cool new thing. A beach sport in terms of cost and accessibility, co-opted by yachting as a ticket to stay relevant. When they moved kiting into the line-up, it was the same reasoning.

And the reasoning is sound - you need something cool and exciting and fast that has the potential to make for good TV to keep sailing in the Games. And so ISAF, in their infinite wisdom, decided that they needed a token board sport. Yes, kiteracing as it's currently practiced is WAY more exciting for a broad TV audience than RS:X racing. But I'd argue that high-performance windsurfing, using box rule classes with a strict 8-knot wind minimum (either slalom or Formula) is just as exciting. And they're both way more awesome than above-mentioned Finns and Lasers, or 470's.

So why not get both kites and windsurfers into the Games and sacrifice the Finn, for example? Most of the old guys on the committees used to be Finn sailors, and the boards are not really considered sailing classes by the yachting establishment. Which is probably why they hosed Olympic windsurfing so badly in the first place.

Case in point - the athlete in the picture above is Nikola Girke, who placed 10th in London. An incredible athlete in her third Games (470 in 04, RS:X in 08 and 12), she had podium-level speed and angle in the pre-Games events in the same waters, the same conditions, against the same competitors when using her own gear just like those competitors. In the Games, due to bad equipment (you can't bring your own to keep it "fair" in this strict OD class - but the quality control sucks so there's huge luck of the draw element) she had to overcome a huge handicap to make it into the medals race and 10th overall.

So that's ISAF in a nutshell for you - that's how these clowns run an Olympic regatta. Imagine, for a moment, Usain Bolt being told he can't use his own shoes. Or Lindsey Vonn being issued supposedly OD skis just to find out that hers are a bit off on flex. Pretty unimaginable, eh? You could look at this and argue that these idiots managed to ruin one of the coolest sports in the known universe. So perhaps the kiters are better off - who knows what they would have had to acquiesce to in ISAF's quest to turn them into proper sailors?

Why does this all have me so pissed off? Well for one, ISAF is jerking around the athletes. Both windsurfing and kiteracing are not big dollar sports. These guys and gals devote tremendous life energy to it. And are then getting used as pawns by a bunch of clowns in blue blazers. And in the process, they've managed to pit windsurf and kite racers against each other, too.

The campaign to get windsurfing back into the Games pointed out a lot of valid weak points for kiteracing as a viable class (no real path for youth other than through other boats or boards - you just don't hook your 6-year-old up to a traction kite...; too little woment's participation; some logistical issues). The kiters can learn from that and grow their sport - as they've been doing for a while. Don't kid yourself - kiteracing is cool, and it's here to stay.

The kiters, in the meantime, pointed out some rather attractive elements of their class (growth, still on the steep part of the learning curve and getting faster every season, attractive to sponsors and spectators), as well as some (well known) weak spots for RS:X.

In the real world, outside of ISAF's screwed up world of politics, the two sports are learning from each other and pushing each other forward. The kiteracers took a lot of stuff that was developed in Formula and slalom windsurfing and adapted it to make their kit faster. Windsurfers are learning from the kiters (hey, A2 just set a new record above 50 knots and looked a lot smoother and in control - so we're still seeing progress there, for example even though the kiters jumped ahead in that race). And guys like Dorian and Zac were only weeks into their kiting careers when they showed up at the kite worlds after winning and placing 10th in the RS:X in London and then placed mid fleet. Clearly, some of those skills must transfer.

There's been enough windsurfers vs. kiters BS. Both sports are way to cool to let themselves be ruined by ISAF idiocy. I don't know if there's a path into the Games outside of ISAF. Maybe not. The irony in all this would be that the board classes can keep ISAF relevant, but only if ISAF can resist the urge to be complete idiots about it. Too bad that seems to be so hard to accomplish...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Full on

Day 2 of the Costa Brava PWA slalom event. When you hear people like Dunkerbeck and Albeau mention that it was crazy, you can pretty much figure it was. Crazy, in fact, might be a charitable description. And yet these guys are charging. Well, some of them. It's nice to see pros getting bounced out of jibes like the rest of us when things go ballistic.

Albeau killed it, by the way, just like he did the day before (when it was merely blowing really hard). I like his understated commentary at the end, where he nonchalantly explains that he "managed some good starts, good control, and good jibing", hence winning both eliminations. In some of the footage, you can see that while world class sailors around him are bouncing out of their turns and barely holding it together, he's charging.

It's neat to see Albeau and Dunkerbeck duking it out on the tour this year. These guys are the ultimate power sailors. There was an article in Windsurfing Mag last year bitching about how guys in their late 30's/early 40's squatting at the top of the rankings don't make racing all that inspirational or aspirational for young sailors. BS - they're the freaking silver back gorillas of the sport, and any young gun trying to take over will have to be prepared for a pretty full-on battle. At least that's my interpretation (and the fact that I'm 41 and racing in a local fleet dominated by someone a few years older would surely not introduce any bias...)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Slalom object lessons

Go ahead, watch that video - it's good stuff. What you're seeing there is a fairly ho-hum PWA slalom race, right? Relatively big gear, and the camera being way up and away from the action, together with the distortion that and the long lens produce, makes it look less than exciting (side note - when will the PWA actually figure out that for less than a couple grand, they can put gopro cams on the buoys and a bunch of the boards and really produce some awesome content that shows why slalom racing gets your pulse to race at 180+? Oh well, I digress...)

While it's less than compelling viewing for the non-racing public, for racers, this thing is gold. Let's take it in order:

The Start
Albeau and Angulo near the pin, Dunkerbeck and Dagan closer to the boat, but all are hitting the line at speed. Angulo is just a wee bit ahead of Albeau, actually looks like he might have been the first to have crossed the line; he's fast, so he should be able to completely control Albeau - luff him up a bit, get to the mark ahead of him. Dunkerbeck takes advantage of the fact he's not fighting anyone (Dagan is not a threat to him), so he rolls them both. As they're coming into the first mark, he's basically won the race - proving again that a good start is crucial. There's a bit of a gamble - his line was a bit longer (the pin is usually a bit closer to the first mark, otherwise everyone would bunch up at the boat). It wasn't super windy, so he could translate the little bit of upwind advantage into speed (that, and as mentioned he didn't have to worry about a competitor close by, just focusing on going fast - which he did very well, to no one's surprise...)

First Jibe
Dunkerbeck reaps the rewards of being first at the mark - he picks a clean line, has undisturbed air and water, and gets to exit at speed, consolidating his lead. Look at Albeau and Angulo jibing behind him - these guys are world class, but their exits aren't anywhere near as fast. That's because they have to deal with disturbed air and water, as well as having to pick a line not optimized for acceleration after the transition but for competitive positioning. Albeau looks almost like he's going to roll Angulo - but he doesn't; instead, he pushes up on Dagan, takes a higher line, and gets the inside on the jibe. That positioning, along with a cleaner exit and somewhat more effective pumping allows him to roll Angulo after the jibe. Yes, there's a bunch more reaching and jibing - but at this point, the top 2 are decided.

Jibe 2 & 3
Second jibe shows again that winners make their own luck - Dunkerbeck is way ahead, gets to jibe without pressure, and consolidates his lead. Albeau is behind him, but solidly ahead of the three sailors duking it out behind him. He, too, gets to jibe free of pressure, which keeps him close to Dunkerbeck. Notice, however, that the three guys behind them are jockeying for position - look at Angulo weaving and getting off the gas a bit coming into the jibe. Not sure if that's a bobble (maybe induced by some stray chop) or an attempt to close the door on the guys behind, but that puts him and the other two even further behind. At this point, the guy who led at the start is a distant third. Look at the separation between the top 2 and the next three going into the third jibe - they're practically in a different race now. Even though Albeau hits a lull on exit, he has plenty of time to pump out of it keep way ahead of the pursuers (whilst Dunkerbeck again reaps the rewards of leadership in clean air way ahead - on entry into jibe 3, Albeau was in striking distance; upon exit, Dunkerbeck has just gotten himself the heat as long as he makes no mistakes).

Reach to Jibe 4 through Finish
It looks like the drama is over - Dunkerbeck and Albeau consolidate their 1-2 finish positions with flawless (and somewhat conservative) sailing - Albeau is too far off to challenge, so he's smart, not charging too hard. If Dunkerbeck falls, he'll get him; if not, he'll stay well ahead of the pursuers. Dunkerbeck knows that, so he just brings it home (look at his stance - he's not riding it on the ragged edge any longer).

Among the pursuers, though, the reach into jibe 4 is full of drama. Dagan attacks Angulo; Angulo takes him up, then dives down for speed to get some separation, then really takes him up going before going into the jibe. So Dagan is forced into a higher line, which he translates into an inside position at the mark. Given that the final reach is pretty far off the breeze, that shouldn't matter too much - except that Angulo isn't getting going very quickly.

At this point, though, the camera leaves these two to follow the leaders, missing something interesting. Only once the first two have finished does it pan back - revealing that Dagan has rolled Angulo. How the hell did that happen? Did Dagan capitalize on his lower weight to get going faster out of the lull at the mark? Did Angulo make some sort of mistake? Whatever it was - the guy who led off the line is now in fourth, and Dagan, who looked like despite a brilliant start he just didn't have the speed to hang with those three, just got himself a notch in his belt with a top three finish.

Dagan's performance in all of this is probably the most impressive - he's way lighter than the other three, and he looks like he's not quite as fast in a straight line (probably because of that). So he can't start at the pin - he'd get rolled by the big boys for sure. But starting higher up is not great for him either - being light, it's hard to translate that extra bit of angle into extra speed, so he's not likely to roll any of the big guys. If there'd been a big gust coming through on the first reach, the other three would have probably just put lots of distance on him; instead, he was able to hang with them. And then he just sailed a really nice, flawless, technically and tactically strong race. He kept pushing Angulo, putting on pressure, provoking mistakes, all the while staying clean himself. And at the end, he was rewarded for his persistence with an opening and took advantage of the opportunity.

Windsurfing is not a great spectator sport - it's too far away, it's hard to tell what's happening. This race is a perfect example of that - it's just not very compelling footage unless you are a racer and know what's going on. Imagine, however, that we had a video feed consisting not just of the camera high up on shore for the overall view, but also the above mentioned gopros, or perhaps handhelds on jet skis near the jibe marks, or panorama cams mounted on the marks. A few grand of equipment, two hours of editing (smells like a job for a windsurfing-addicted communications/broadcast student needing an internship project), and a bit of commentary by the sailors collected over a beer while watching the footage along the lines of "check out how he's pushing me up right there..." - presto, content compelling enough for prime time.

Too bad that the excess luggage charges apparently don't leave the PWA enough cash flow to make that investment. Perhaps a bake sale? Meanwhile, I'm getting amped to go racing next month.

Friday, May 6, 2011

There's just no substitute

There's that rush you get when you're planing along, flying the board on the fin. It's the purest form of sailing - your body an integral part of the system that converts wind power into velocity. The efficiency of modern windsurfing is staggering - in conditions like today's, on my formula gear, 10-12 knots of breeze are enough to propel you along at over twice the windspeed. And it feels easy and exhilarating, just cruising along.

With modern slalom gear, in 20-25 knots of breeze, speeds around 35 knots are doable in open water. That used to be world record territory for any sail powered craft back in the 80's - yet here we are going that fast any decent slalom session like the one I had last week. Talk about a rush.

Meanwhile, the freestylers are pushing the limits with tricks so intricate, I get dizzy watching, and the wave sailors are charging so hard, it's staggering. But for me, it's still purely about that sensation of power and motion.

I've been windsurfing since I was a kid. Back then, the sport was stand up sailing (hence that bumper sticker that's been around since the 70's). In those days, feeling the force of the wind transformed into (at the time, much slower) motion was pure magic - and it still is. Whether effortlessly cruising, or holding on for dear live on a speed run on the ragged edge of an epic wipeout - there's just no substitute...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Gotta love these guys...


As if a fully powered slalom session for lunch wasn't enough to put a big smile on my face, I was treated to a spectacular visit by a very playful pod of Harbor Porpoises (see image for what these little guys look like; photo by Erik Christensen via Wikimedia Commons). It's not rare to see porpoises in Puget Sound and Bellingham Bay. Usually, you spot one or two, sometimes a whole pod - but they usually go by in the distance. Today, as I kept going back and forth on the same 1/4 mile reach (trying to maximize my jibes - gotta practice when you get the chance...), however, a pod of six or seven of them were just hanging out playing in the same spot for almost twenty minutes. They'd go upwind, then turn around and surf the swell downwind, and once in a while they'd breach, usually when I got close.

I'm not one to anthropomorphize animals, but you can't tell me that these guys weren't out there having fun. They were playing, clearly enjoying the sheer thrill of velocity - and the similarity between that and what I was doing was pretty striking. I guess we water people all have a bit of marine mammal in us...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Rites of spring

The first flowers are poking their heads up; some trees are starting to bloom, and slowly but surely, temperatures are creeping upward here in Bellingham. The skiing on Baker is still great (the base on Pan Dome is 273 inches - which is considered a normal amount up there for this time of year...), and there still are powder days to be had - but it's becoming clear that spring is on its way, and daylight savings time only adds to the manic energy that takes over this place when the light returns with a vengeance and people start shedding layers.

Today, however, marked that very special rite of spring - the first session without a hood (or gloves for that matter). It was an honest 50 degrees out. Yes, feet are still kind of chilly (water temps are around 45-46F all winter long, not much colder than in the summer - unless there's a bunch of melt-water coming down the rivers...) - but all very doable. Makes a difference, too, in how you approach your sailing - when you're not wearing gloves and can get a real grip on the boom, and when you don't feel sort of isolated/muffled under a hood, you tend to sail more aggressively.

This tends to be a good time of year for sailing up here; lots of fronts moving through, not a lot of eel grass to worry about yet. A couple months of this should get me ready for Gorge racing season - can't wait!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

On life-affirming stupidity

I don't have any small b&j gear. I just don't get to sail it enough to make the investment. There's only one day or so every winter where I'll be out there on my small slalom board and 6.1, picking my way through the somewhat chaotic terrain on Bellingham Bay, and wishing I had a 4.2 Hucker and a jump board. For this winter, yesterday was that day.

The wind chart (courtesy http://nwwind.net/ - big shout-out to Mike Sumpter for this amazing service to the PNW wind tribe) pretty much tells the story (the Locust sensor is most representative of what's actually happening on the bay). Since it was ebbing, the water was stacking up pretty nicely, too. One of these days, I want to get Dale out here on a day like that - would be fun to see what he would do with those incredible port tack ramps.

So it was a short session; sailing slalom gear in those conditions is a bit like taking a pair of downhill race skis through a mogul field. Not exactly fun, and you never really get to equilibrium. But it sure makes you feel alive. There's just something life-affirmingly stupid about this kind of thing - I still can't quite wipe that slightly crazed grin off my face...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

On deflating kites and the relative strengths of FW and slalom gear

The Lord of the Wind Showdown in Los Barrilles (Baja) got some pretty intense coverage. Lots going on, tons of good racing and freestyle/big air for both boards and kites. And, of course, a bit of friendly rivalry. David Wells of Waterhound summed it up as KP deflating the kites in the headline for his daily news digest (to which you should absolutely subscribe - it's a rather excellent daily dose of water-sports related news). Here's his write-up on it, and KP has a good report up as well.

The thing I find remarkable about this is that everyone seemed to be surprised that Kevin was able to hold off the kites downwind, whereas nobody really commented on the feat he pulled off in getting out from under them after the start and beating them to the windward mark. That held true both for the comments you heard from folks who were at the event, and on the local Pacific Northwest windsurfing newsgroup.

Conventional wisdom has it that kites suck upwind, but rock on a free downwind leg, going deeper and faster than anything else. But all last year, the kite racers have made tremendous strides in upwind performance. They've come to the point where in racing with the Bay Area formula fleet (probably the strongest amateur fleet you'll find in the US), they've proven that they can make it to the windward mark with the lead pack. Sure, they tend to foot compared to formula sailors, but with the edge they have in speed, they still put up very respectable VMG.

And it's been proven again and again that unless conditions are absolutely ballistic, FW beats big slalom gear going up - even modern big slalom gear. So you have some of the world's best kite racers on the most up to date gear. And then you have Kevin, who's easily their equal on the windsurfing side. He's riding a big slalom board and an 8.5 Ezzy Infinity. No disrespect to Dave Ezzy - but that sail is not really known as a course slalom upwind powerhouse. And still, Kevin pulls out from under the kiters after the start and beats them to the windward mark - that's an impressive performance, both for the rider and for the gear; it's amazing how versatile big slalom gear has become.

And then there's the downwind, and everyone seems to expect a massacre - but it doesn't happen. Kevin stays in front. Impossible, is it not? Except it isn't. Something funny happened in kite evolution in the last few years. Racing kite boards have become very wide with very fat tails, and they run very big fins - a trend similar to the evolution of formula boards. And downwind is all of a sudden a bit harder - I had several kiteracers tell me that in rough water, going downwind can be pretty character building. Yes, they are still way faster off the breeze than FW - but that's where another interesting thing has happened.

Big slalom gear has become an amazing downwind weapon - not just downwind as in downwind slalom (somewhat broad reaches), but downwind as in deep and fast on a free downwind leg. We've seen this in the Blowout, where Bruce started going out on his 8.2 and big slalom board three years ago. On the top half of the course, I was able to stay with him, even pull ahead once in a while on my 9.9 and FW board. In the corridor, when the breeze picked up a couple notches, it wasn't even close - he went just as deep as I did, but way faster.

I've tested this since then with others - and when you're fully powered on a big slalom board, and the water is somewhat rough, not only are you more comfortable than your buddy on FW - you're also making your way downwind a lot faster.

This all leads me to thinking about the SF Classic. That race has a couple small triangles on the top of the course, usually in lots of breeze under the bridge (with a weak spot on the inside mark where everyone is slogging for a bit). Then there's lots of broad and beam reaching all the way down to Berkeley. If you didn't care about placing well in the upwind Challenge that starts as a time trial with your finish in the Classic, if it was pretty windy, and if there were a big ebb helping you out with the upwind legs under the bridge, that race just might call out for big slalom gear. It would certainly be worth the experiment - and it would be a hoot as well, since all that reaching across the bay would actually be fun instead of being strictly character building. If I get a chance to come down for that this year and the conditions are right, I might just try that...

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 ;)