I arrived in Holland several days before the start of the SPA regatta to get tuned up with the racers who have been on the circuit for the last few months. It was apparent, that my speed was a bit off from the start but I hopefully after a few days, I would be able to find my speed.
Wednesday May 21st: 8-14 knots with small chop, wind offshore, oscillating closer to shore at the windward mark. Puffs were coming in from both sides so it was a gamble either direction up the first beat, I choose a conservative start at the pin and went to the left side but took a hitch back to find a clear lane. I was feeling really good on port and was able to climb on boards below me but when I tacked back to starboard, my pointing was completely off. Later I determined that it was the mast that was giving me problems and that I was sailing it somewhat differently than before. There were several large shifts at the top of the beat which I got caught on the wrong side of and had to tack 2 more times to fetch the mark. Downwind I was track forward most of the time with some of the lighter sailors getting their tracks back and passing me. Back upwind I held my position, sailing to the right middle. On the top reach I was also able to hold my own but blew the gybe and let the 2 guys close on my tail pass me. Downwind I worked hard and caught one but on the last fetch to the finish line he caught a puff from behind and went track back to edge me out.
Race 2: I started ½ way down the line and immediately tacked over to find a lane with a few boards on my leeward hip. I was able to get good speed and actually climb on the guys but again when I tacked back I had no angle whatsoever. Something really felt wrong with my mast and my rig on starboard tack. I tacked back to port hoping that the right side would be favored. Luckily it was and I made out well rounding in the top 10. Downwind though was another story as I struggled track forward while the majority of the fleet was track back and passing me in great numbers. Upwind I went to right side but it didn’t pay off as much as first time but I was able to hold my position relative to the rest of the fleet. Another slow downwind and I finished 24th.
Day 2: Lighter winds but just as shifty at the top of the course. I tried adjusting my mast but never really felt in the groove in the light stuff.
Race 3 I was over early. Not what I needed at this point in the regatta. My pointing off the line was really suffering. Once I got to the top mark I saw my number on the board with the other 7 boards that were over early and immediately dropped out. I was able to observe the rest of the race and really see how the top guys in the fleet are working hard the entire race. Even the bigger guys were able to get their track back and stay planning the entire downwind.
Race 4: Despite the mental imaging of getting off the line and having a good first leg, I managed to find myself on the wrong side of the course again. The right side was not the way to go. Downwind I really worked hard and was able to pass a few people. This was about the only good point of the race but I will take what I can if it means I am learning something along the way.
Day 3: first race 12-15 knots, shifty offshore breeze. I was really slow off the line and got worked out to the left side. I made a really big mistake and overstood the windward mark, thinking I was going to the other fleets mark. I think I lost 5 or 6 boards this way but never really got the chance to get back in the game. The only really good feeling I had today was off the start in race 6. I was able to squeeze out 2 guys immediately after the start and maintain a lane to the left. Unfortunately I was getting sandwiched in by footer above me and a pincher below me. I had to tack to get clear and thus missed the last 2 shifts up the beat.
Saturday May 24th: no racing due to light wind.
Sunday May 25th: probably the most important thing you can do at a regatta is to read the race instructions. I managed to get out to the course later and miss my start by 2 min. I decided it would be best to race and see how many boards I could catch. I did get a few and but learned the biggest lesson on my own with failing to get the correct start time.
Overall, I made some stupid mistakes in this regatta and never really felt like I was in the game. It is really important to train with the fastest guys in the fleet weeks before. Nonetheless I did manage to learn some things and will be better prepared for the next major regatta.