Friday, July 30, 2004

2004 US Nationals- SF

Tuesday Day 1 - started out slow this morning while the wind was still building but by the end of the 4th race I was feeling in form. I made several small mistakes that set me back but at the finish of Day 1, I am sitting in 15th. My goal is top 10 so I've got a few more guys to knock off before it's all over.
Race 1- I got out early to see that the right side of the course was favored but seemed to forget about it when I started at the pin end and headed off on starboard. I was the most leeward boat and got off and footed to the left side but the best thing to do was to tack midway up the beat and head back towards the mark. There was defiantly more pressure on the right so it paid off to do one tack and start on port. Jean did exactly this and seemed to beat me by just a few seconds in both races I met him. We are doing a qualification series where the 80 formula boards in the fleet are split up in 4 groups and race each other 3 times before the top of the fleet breaks off to the gold group and the bottom half, the silver fleet.
Downwind, I continued towards the beach and did one gybe to the leeward mark. Back upwind, it was kind of a parade towards the right side but as I found myself in the middle of the fleet and had a bit more speed so I was footing through the fleet and going for speed. Overall finish 8.
Race 2- Since I figured the right side was favored, I decided to try to get to the right side early by starting on port and get there as fast as I could…well me and the other 10 guys that started on port. I got taken down by the guy to windward of me who dropped his rig right in front of me. It was playing catch up from there and I ended up placing 10th well behind by usual pace.
Race 3 - Better start on starboard. Off the line clean and upwind well, holding my lane when it got windy. I was feeling a little underpowered in the light stuff especially with the new fin I put in that was geared more towards higher winds. At the leeward mark, I came together for the rounding with Chenda and Andreas who wounded inside and outside of me respectively. I was able to squeeze out from the middle and get ahead of them both for the upwind finish to finish again in 8th.
Race 4- The best start yet… off the line with speed and clear air. I tacked over immediately 30 seconds after the start and was in good position at the top mark in the top 6. Downwind I kept my position and worked my way up to the top mark again with everybody heading to the right side. It was here that we began to split as Jean got a nice lift from behind me and was able to fetch the windward mark and me having to double tack. Just as I began to round, and head off, I sheeted out and let my boom hit the mark- sending me flying over the front of the board. I had some decent downwind speed but where I caught up was in the final leg where I passed Chris Radkowski for another 8th place.
Overall, consistent, but still making a few mistakes that set me back. At least 3 more days of course racing. Tomorrows forecast looks for the same!

Day 2 Race 1- Not as much advantage to the right side as yesterday but I found myself being one of the first guys to tack over to get to the right side after starting on starboard. I put myself in decent position in the top 8 at the windward mark and managed to catch a few sailors on the next downwind and upwind legs. It's a matter of persistence and you take every inch you can get, Usually at this level, you have to wait for the guy in front of you to make a mistake. I was really pushing hard on the downwind, being the first to gybe at the layline and pumping hard as I got closer to the mark, rounding a head of a few close competitors. It was a lot of grinding upwind as I fount my way to the right side again and managed to keep my position of 6th to the finish.
Race 2- last qualifying race. I got another decent start ½ way down the line and fought to the left side of the course. Again, I was quick to tack and duck a few starboard tackers to get over to the left. Top mark I was 8th or 9th with some catching up to do. Downwind , I was going as deep as possible but a little slower as to avoid running out of room on starboard tack as we sailed towards the stfyc. At the leeward mark, I rounded just behind a group of sailors but fortunately 3 of them tacked giving me a clear lane to the right side. This really paid off as I followed Percy to the corner and caught the 3 guys going left. Bill Weir was hot on my tail downwind, catching up but I managed to hold him off till the finish line where I finished another 6th behind Percy.
Race 3- Gold Fleet! A lot different race here with no slackers and easy middle group. This level up here was tight. A group of 10 of us were packed tight at every mark rounding and little was given up. I did manage to have decent upwind once I got clear air and get better angle to get past Yugi on the last upwind leg. Downwind, I think we were all wound on our 10.0's and happy to hear that there would only be 1 gold fleet race today. I ended up 17th with room to improve. Still looking for a top 10 finish in the gold fleet to keep the points down, At the moment, my biggest competitors are Al, David Wells, and Jean Rathle! Look out!

Day 3
2 races today in windy conditions. I started off with 10.0 and 66 cm techtonics fin and was going well the first race but by the time the second race came, I was down to my 9.0 and 64 cm debocheit r14 fin. There is a lot of action in the gold fleet, some very close sailing just behind the top group of pros. I have been getting off the line a little slower than I wanted to and catching up to the point where I am sailing with the same group of sailors. I usually only get a chance to pass someone if they make a mistake and I can capitalize on in, otherwise, we're all sailing with such similar speeds, that its really hard to pass somebody.
I made some significant gains upwind, the second upwind leg of the first race y really climbing out from the leeward gate. I slowed down to let a group of sailors just in front of me take a wide rounding and then snuck in there, fully ready to climb up. I really gained a lot over the course of the 5 min upwind leg, working hard and hiking out. Overall I finished 16th.
The second race was really wound up and there wasn't much tactical decisions involved except to stay on your board! I was picking people off as they fell in front of me. The game plan for me was to sail as conservative as possible, holding my position around the course. It's a tough race between Al and I as we are tied with points again today and it looks like Friday will be a long distance race and it counts as 2 races. A good opportunity to move up.

Day 4
2 races today- 1 long distance and 1 course race. The long distance race started in the middle of the bay and went upwind for approx 1 mile and then downwind through 2 gates and down to Tresure island and back. I wanted to get a good start so I could get out in front. I started with a lot of speed towards the pin end of the line just above Rob Hartman. My upwind performance hadn't felt so good up to this point so I was just hoping to get out in clear air and not get start grinding off the line right away. I made it to the top mark in decent condition- probably in the top 15 and had a big pack on my tail the entire ride downwind. My downwind board speed felt pretty good as I was not letting anyone pass me. I tried to stay in the flood as much as I could downwind but want exactly using the same strategy back upwind as I failed to cover the boards behind me and the split up the middle and the city front. I would get my upwind board speed and angle were off by 2-3%. Usually over the upwind leg of a course race, I could compensate by this but in a long distance race, I couldn't exactly hide form my biggest weakness. My first mistake upwind was staying out in the middle of the bay where the opposing flood was the strongest. David Wells, who rounded behind me caught up made the first move to the inside as Al and I sailed towards the middle. I was a little pre-occupied with Al as he was my nearest competitor. If he beat me by just one position, it would count as 2 as the long distance race counted twice in the overall score. David slipped ahead of us but put a loose enough cover on us to control us. Meanwhile several other sailors sailed to the inside and also made significant gains. I lost around 5 boards from the bottom leg and worst of all 3 of the slipped in between Al and I as he then gained 6 points on me rather than 2. I don't know if he was aware what he was doing but it worked out to his advantage and it ultimately put him in a position where he could relax a little bit.

We had a hour break in between the long distance race and the next course race so I took the opportunity to relax and gain some composure. I didn't quite relize the wind had picked up so much and when out on my 10.0 again. Once I got to the starting line, the wind was up to a steady 20-25k. I was a bit overpowered but the was one postponement as the wind shifted and they reset the line. Luckily it backed off some but I was well lit the entire race. I managed to get off the line in decent shape as I ducked the entire fleet on port and sailed to the right side with 4 or 5 other sailors. The guys who got off the line clean on starboard came into the mark a bit sooner than the right side but I was near the top group and held my own downwind as other sailors in front of me took themselves out by getting tossed downwind. I tried to sail as conservatively as possible as too hold my position in the fleet. This was the best move as I want making too many gains on the guys in front of me except when the made a mistake. The good thing was I was infront of Al, which put me 5 points behind him at the end of the day.
Day 5
Final day with one course race in the gold fleet. The wind was light and the water flat with a 2-3 knot flood tide coming in. I rigged my 11.0 and deb R12 70 cm fin for the best light wind performance. I went out to the course about 30 min before the star to get an idea of where the wind was as there was still a lot of holes around the course. My initial reaction was the there was more pressure on the left side near the shore. That was also where there was the most opposing current as well. The game plan was to stay in the pressure no matter what. I had probably the worst start of the regatta. I got stuck on the line as the first row took off and left me struggling to get going. I immediately tacked off and got a lane with a big group of boards going to the right side. We were getting knocked the whole time so I knew we were going to the right side. I was deep so I decided to just foot through as much of the traffic as possible. Both Al and I carried it out as do we really overstood the windward mark and would have speed coming down on it in the opposing current. We tacked at the same time but I was able to get a nose out and really bag my sail out and hike out so I made it to the mark in one while Al got some of my bad air and had to foot and double tack to make it. I didn't look back as I was with Jimmy Diaz and Steve Sylvester going downwind. I saw the leaders going around the bottom mark and going back to the inside towards the pressure. Steve and I kept going midway up the beat and tacked over together. There was defiantly more pressure over there but we really had to foot in the flood tide to get to it. Steve tacked early as to get out of the flood and I kept going as Mike Z and Rob Hartman were over there getting a nice lift off the shore on port. This paid off for me as I left Steve behind and was right behind Mike Z. He managed to go pretty deep and make the bottom mark in one fetch but I was forced to gybe around 2x to get around the leeward mark to the last upwind. He tack on what he thought was the layline and I followed but really should have learned my lesson the first upwind as I overstood and it really paid off. As was obvious we both had to double tack to make the finish line as did Diaz just in front of us. If I just would have waited a an extra 10 board lengths I could have made it in one tack and caught them both. Nonetheless it was my best race for a 10th place finish. This was 5 spots in front of Al which tied us overall but he won the tie breaker on better finishes. An important lesson to remember is that every point counts in a long regatta.

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