Saturday, September 29, 2012


Without a doubt, the level of our local fleet continues to rise every season.
It was all too evident in the last Friday night race of season when 3 of us tied for 1st place after 5 races. In the 12 + years Ive been racing windsurfers at the St. Francis- I dont ever think I've seen this happen.
Out of 5 races, we had 4 separate sailors with bullets!
It goes to show that no matter what- not only does every race count, but every decision you make on the course counts
And with the way the racing rules for sailing are (appendix b for windsurfers)- even your throw outs count when you're tied at the end of a series.

The lesson- race the series like there was no throw out!

Race 1 started with the fog and flood tide coming in strong along the city front course.
The RC from the race deck called for Course A- a quick windward leeward with 3 laylines to call in less than 6 min. The twilight series is a small sprint course that require calling exact laylines and sharp board handling skills. 5 races are run with sailors able to discard their worst scores.
13 races in the season. You can miss 2 and you have to do RC 1 time in the season.

Somewhat reluctantly I rigged for the gusts with my Avanti 10.0 and 67cm kashy.
The night before I was practicing on the course and got knocked down pretty hard a few times with some big southerly puffs at X.

I knew right from the first beat I was in trouble as I got rolled, not able to keep a lane with my medium size fin. 30 seconds into the race, I had to duck CRad's stern and go for speed. Meanwhile Eric was killing it - calling his laylines perfectly and getting the first bullet in a 14-16k breeze followed closely by CRad, Soheil and Al and myself in 5th.

A quick regroup.
I moved my boom up, my harness lines back and let about a 1/4-1/2" of downhaul off to get more power into the rig for the 2nd race.
This time around, I was able to get a clear lane off the start and immediately move into what I call my 'low end gears.' By holding the uphaul with my front hand and standing the rig upright, I was able to keep more pressure on the fin and drive the board. The technique works well with the starboard 167 as the board doesn't require a lot of power from the fin, but rather a more efficient technique from the sailor.

In fact, the board gets too over powered most of the time when there is breeze and a smaller fin is usually better to keep things under control.

Al was able to get a good inside start and B and reached the top mark just ahead. As we gybed out to get better air past Anita rock, I was starting to gain but knew the big move would be to call the layline for the leeward mark. On a short course, you can make big gains by calling the laylines better than your competitors. With the flood tide coming in strong, it also gave me a reason to understand and use the flood to carry down the extra distance. Al kept going as I gybed away but soon realized I hadnt gone far enough- even with the flood tide to help me.
I had 2 more gybes to make right around the leeward mark just as Soheil was coming in strong from the outside. I managed to keep him just behind me all the way to the seawall where I called for room to tack and we both headed up the last 1 minute beat to the finish line.
Im not sure Ive ever been in a closer finish as we were dead even going across the finish line just pinching up enough to make it around the A buoy and through the finish line.
I got the nod from the race deck letting me know I had won that battle but Soheil was far from finished.
Race 3- I kept the same strategy and went for speed off the line starting just below the pack at B but getting a good jump and immediately going the one hand on uphaul mode. I was blazing upwind even with a 67cm fin in 12-15k. The key to racing with smaller fins, I found- is to always keep the fin lit up by heeling the board to leeward and creating additional lift. Its harder to do when you're in a pack of boards with not much room to breath so getting clear air is essential to making it work. A smaller fin is usually faster if you can keep it lit.
 Shown above-uphaul technique to rail the board!

I kept my lead, called my laylines and got the bullet not taking any unnecessary risks up the final beat. When your in the lead, a more conservative approach works best.

By the time race 4 came around the flood tide had increased to 2-3 knots and the fog was as thick as mud. I went for the same thing that was working before- a conservative start in the middle of the line but a good lane with clear air. I ran down the line sailing over a few sailors gaining speed and dipped back down. With the flood tide, you can always count on the fleet being a few board lengths back from the line and can usually find a mid line sag. Eric came out just in front of me as we reached the windward mark in front of the rest of the pack after over standing the top mark and coming in strong as the flood was pushing us down. Im not sure how but Eric was able to gybe and get going leaving me struggling as the starboard tack fleet sailed right over the top of me leaving me with nothing but dirty air.
Here is where the 10.7 might have been a better choice.
In formula sailing you always want to be powered at your maximum.
Once you fall off a plane- game over :/
The sooner you can get back up to speed- the better.

As I got going again I lost track of the leeward mark in the fog and sailed way past it, almost having to sail back upwind to get to it. Meanwhile Soheil closed the gap and was right on my tail as we rounded X.
This time, I went all the way into the wall while he tacked early. There was just enough of a wind bubble on by the seawall that it took me a few seconds to get going again and Soheil took 2nd in front of me calling the perfect layline to the finish line.
Race 5 was almost a repeat of race 4 but in the last min there were no puffs coming down the inside of the course.  The best thing to do in a light wind start is to get going early to be able to plane off the line. I got off the line well, starting to pump and get going almost 30 sends before the gun. I used the speed to head down the line as the rest of the fleet stayed parked at B on the inside. With a good lead, all I had to do was call my laylines right and Id be golden.

Seems simple enough!
Try calling a layline in a 3k flood tide and a dying breeze!
I sailed past the layline and counted to 10 and even gave myself an extra 10 seconds for safety as I was ahead. The angles in formula windsurfing as such that you can look over your back shoulder when sailing upwind and if you can see the mark, you should be able to make it. When sailing upwind on a windward beat, I always keep track of the windward mark and start thinking about tacking when I look over my front should and the mark just goes out of my view.  With a ebb tide, you can tack a bit sooner as the ebb will carry you upwind. With a flood tide you need to sail past the laylines to compensate for the ground you will lose due to the flood.
I just made it around sneaking past Anita and gybed back out to the breeze outside. The downwind layline was even trickier as I lost sight of it again in the fog and had to do a double gybe to get back on course. This was enough to let Soheil back into the game as we rounded the leeward mark pretty close. I had the lead but anything was possible with just one last move to make.
This time, I made the call and tacked before I reached the light air on the inside.
Soheil kept going.
I just about had the finish line laid when I got to a lull and failed to keep the board moving and with the flood tide going strong, it pushed down enough to where I had to double tack the finish while Soheil took his first bullet of the night.
That was enough for Soheil to take his 1st regatta win of the season, breaking the 3 way tie between Eric & myself.
The big lesson tonight was calling your laylines.
It can make you into a hero or a zero.

Aweome performance by all and another great season of racing at the St.FYC.

The RC has invited us to race in the fall dinghy regatta on October 22-23 so 1 more race to look forward to this year!

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