Sunday, July 30, 2017

2017 RS Aero World Championship - Day 5

I write this a day after Day 5. It's all been a bit of whirlwind, but am sitting in the Rennes airport about to embark on a few days of relaxation, so there's time to finish out the regatta report.

Going into the final day of racing I was in enviable position. We had 12 races completed, and a third throw-out would kick in at 13. The only possible scenario where I wouldn't win overall is if the race committee got four races in and I didn't sail at least one of them and get a 5th. The outcome wasn't likely (we'd "only" managed to sail 3 per day for the prior 4 days), but I wasn't willing to risk losing it all by not going out. Not that I wasn't tempted...

I'd been up until 1:30am doing a price analysis for a client (my "real" job is selling residential real estate in Connecticut) and writing Day 4's blog. On top of that, Day 5's racing was to start two hours earlier than usual. Of course I awoke well before the alarm, meaning I'd only had 5.5 hours of sleep. To say I was dragging is an understatement!

It seems many other competitors weren't thrilled by the early start time either, as the boat park was surprisingly devoid of the usual pre-race bustle. Four days of brisk racing (and, I've heard, nighttime partying) was taking its toll on the fleet...

The forecast was for a southwesterly flow at about the same velocity as the prior four days. Gerard Vos from the Netherlands hooked up his GoPro to the back of my Aero using an ingenious suction mounting system, explained how to start the camera and I was off. First thing that happened? A wave bounced the boat up then DOWN, causing the daggerboard to hit the concrete ramp with an expensive-sounding CRUNCH! "There goes the security deposit" I thought while sailing out the harbor and once more into the choppy bay.

Pre-race homework was done again, but with little gusto. The breeze seemed a bit lighter than usual, but then built up to the normal 12 or so by the start, eventually building to 15+. My goals were to sail clean, stay close to 2nd place Liam Willis of GBR, and get 'er done. The race committee signaled a triple-quadrilateral course, same as the first day--lots of downwind sailing ahead!

The port side of the line was favored and the cool kids were down there. Liam lept out furthest to leeward. I had Madhavan Thirumalai (USA) just to leeward of me, who was doing a fine job of sailing high initially. I put the boat into Jacobi-patented HiMode and worked up off his hip, and when far enough to windward put the bow down a bit and moved slightly forward.

We'd started in a lift, but after a minute or two the breeze moved slightly left. Liam took the opportunity to cross the fleet, but I thought it a bit premature. Sailed another minute or so on starboard before flicking over in more pressure and angle for a long sail back to the middle. Liam had a *lot* of leverage off to the right, but the lefty was holding. About 2/3 up the beat he tacked back to the middle and it looked like I might have him, but then the lefty began a slow collapse and the angles tilted to Liam's favor--it was going to be close! When we finally met near the top I did a sloppy duck (rudder was fully stalled out--scary!) and went for the starboard tack layline. In what had now become a starboard-tack lift, I tacked on the layline. Liam had to do two tacks to get up to me, eating a header on port to do so, and fell 5 boatlengths back as I flew around Mark 1 in first.

Ahead on the first reach were tail-enders of the 7 fleet. I went low, thinking I could sail through them and not disturb, but they were surprisingly quick and ended up affecting MY speed, especially in the latter third of the leg. This allowed the fast-reaching Liam to gain quite a bit of ground and eventually pass me near Mark 2. He slowed waaay down just before/during the rounding, and I got right on his transom. We both gybed onto port, and I surfed low to Mark 4, while he sailed his typical, slightly-higher reaching course.

Did you notice anything? Yeah, Mark 4. The next mark was supposed to be *3.* We were still sailing like it was a triangle course! About 1/4 down the leg we both realized the error and gybed back out to 3. I actually had a very nice angle to the mark and extended, finally passing those pesky 7s. Also managed to sail low and fast to the next mark and pulled out to a tidy 7 length lead after rounding Mark 4.

The next beat was a long port-tack procession to the right in a very steady, slight lefty. 17-year-old Liam showed tremendous maturity staying on the favored tack, keeping the pressure on instead of taking a flyer to the left. Others tried it and fell well back.

Feeling so drained, I was happy to not have a lot of tacking to do. LOL We stayed in similar positions for the next lap around the quadrilateral, and I managed to pull away by sailing lower yet maintaining pace on the slightly broad, and therefore technical, second reaches.

On the final quad, after rounding Mark 2, I got sideways to a wave and the boat tipped WAAAAY over to windward. It was trying its hardest to capsize, and even though tired I fought like crazy,
A little drama!
letting the sheet way out and leaning as far over the port side as possible to fend off the inevitable (Liam confessed later this was the break he had been hoping for!) Somehow I managed to avoid flipping, turned the boat back up to dead downwind and furiously pulled in the sheet again to stabilize the boat. I'd lost some distance, but still had a comfortable lead at the finish. I'd won the race, and the World Championship!!

My hero, with added burden on back
Liam generously offered his congratulations, as did 3rd place finisher Greg Bartlett. I mentioned that I was heading in early, and they were somewhat surprised.

It can be considered bad form to not sail all races in a regatta when one doesn't technically need to. Kinda like "I've won, I'm done here" mindset. I had an entirely different reason for skipping the last two (beside being exhausted): my training partner and friend Madhavan Thirumalai had offered to take my sailing gear back to the US so I could continue my European adventure without lugging around another piece of luggage. I wanted to have my gear clean and dry so it would be of as little bother as possible. As it was, Madhavan had quite the backpack to take with him--thank you buddy!

Have to say, it was nice arriving at the ramp without a lot of traffic. De-rigged and washed the boat, then just chilled until the fleet's return. We loaded up the charter boats onto a huge trailer, and I had enough time to head back to the room for a shower (the club's drain had a nasty clog that was stinking up the place--bleh!).

My name will be the first on it!
The award presentation was festive! After we took photos, the stretching gang (a number of young sailors and I) got together one last time, then we retreated to the tents where regatta sponsor Ron Abuelo was pouring delicious rum drinks. Melissa and David Solnick invited a few of us to their place for dinner, where Melissa and Doug DuBois put together a delicious spread.

At 11pm International Class Manager Peter Barton, Junior from RS and I ventured into town to join fellow Aero sailors at a local bar, where the partying was well underway! Legal drinking age in France is 16, and several of the kids were taking full advantage... lol It was a joyful, celebratory evening with new friends and old. The very first RS Aero World Championship had gone off with little incident, 96 sailors enjoying superb conditions, excellent race committee work, and fabulous camaraderie!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

2017 RS Aero World Championship - Day 4

This morning the sun was out and the wind appeared to be lighter, with a forecast calling for no more than 15 knots steadily out of the West. A respite from the big breeze we have had for the last three days seemed to be in order!

My goals for the day were to not do anything rash. Conservative starts, loosely cover my main competitor (Liam Willis from GBR) if ahead, and fight like hell if behind.

Did my usual pre-race tide-check ritual, this time joined by aspiring junior sailor Chris from GBR who was quite quick downwind on his Aero 7. Did one 3-minute split (not the usual two) with Liam (the right paid handsomely), and worked with a few people getting their upwind settings right. Once it was set I got the compass bearing for the starting line, so prep was almost complete. In spite of the forecast, the breeze had built to a solid 13 or so by the 1pm start time, and as in previous days, continued to climb.

I love my Aero, but one thing it does not like to do, at 85 lbs all-up, is stay head-to-wind in choppy conditions. This makes getting accurate wind readings before the start difficult, especially with a digital compass that has built-in dampening.

Without knowing precisely where the wind is, one has a difficult time discerning minute differences between the ends of a very long starting line. The line was set at 185 degrees; the wind would have to be at 275 to be square (185+90=275). The highest number I got on the compass head-to-wind was 255, but it didn't have time to overcome dampening to go higher. A 20 degree favor to the left would be obvious, but I wasn't seeing it. In fact, it seemed the *boat* was favored a bit, so I initially headed to that end. However, my main competition (Liam) was gunning for the left side of the line, so (in conservative mode) I boogied down there to stay close, ultimately starting about 1/4 of the way up from the pin.

Sure enough, we got a bit of a left shift just before the start, and the pin paid handsomely. Liam soon tacked over and crossed the fleet, clearly tickled at his fine reading of things. I bumped along for another minute then tacked over in what seemed to be a little left shift and, with eyes on Liam, followed him out to the right.

Christer Bath (SWE) had no such competitive worries and just sailed shifts on the left to gain a commanding lead at the first mark! Matt Thursfeld (GBR) was in second and Toby Freeland (GBR) was in third. I rounded a distant fourth and got to work, gaining a good chunk on the first reach, then passing Toby and gaining heaps on Matt on the second. Rounding the leeward mark, the order was Christer, Matt, me and Toby, with Liam breathing down Toby's neck about 12 lengths back.

I had great height after the rounding and quickly got over Matt and was gaining rapidly on Christer. Sneaky bugger that he is, Liam tacked over to the left and got a bit more pressure and tacked back, trying to duplicate Christer's feat on the first beat. I could see he was pointing very high and going fast up there on port, so I tacked over to cover. It was soon clear I wouldn't be able to cross, so I tacked ahead and 7 boatlengths to leeward. Even that short hitch left paid, as Christer and Matt were now well to leeward on port but not in the same pressure. We stayed on port a long time, and I was able to leg out a bit on Liam, then tacked on the layline and just managed to cross him on starboard. He ducked on port and kept sailing another 4 or 5 boatlengths before tacking onto starboard for the mark.

I had called the starboard layline correctly except for one thing: the tail end of the 7 fleet. Several of them were to weather of me, and eventually started reaching down and taking my air. This, combined with the tide running with the wind, meant I now could no longer lay the mark, so I had to do two additional tacks. Liam, a bit further up, was in clean air and scooted around the mark a solid 10 boatlengths ahead!

Liam dove low on the run and I followed, letting the 7s sail a more direct, but slow, course to the leeward mark. I was better able to take advantage of a few swells that came through and reeled him in. If the leg had been another 50 meters longer I might have caught Liam, but as it was I rounded directly behind for the reach home. Liam went high, so I, with nothing to lose, went low. Liam was able to work over and ahead of a 7 in front of him while I was affected by its wind shadow, giving Liam the win by 3 or 4 lengths. What a battle!

The breeze was now quite solid. I had a good start and covering the left side of the fleet, had a good first leg. This race, unlike days before, had lots of tacking opportunities and Matt Thursfeld made the best of them, rounding close behind me in second. Catching a quick glance back on the firehose first reach, I noted that Liam was in 4th or 5th, well back. Whew. ;)

I pulled out a bit on Matt on the reaches and subsequent upwind leg, but he gained almost all of it back by calling the starboard tack layline perfectly (I, not wanting to yet-again be messed up by the 7s, overstood a bit). This time, the tide had changed and was going upwind, allowing him to sneak up where I was previously unable to do so.

I still rounded ahead and blasted off on the run, putting 20+ boatlengths on him before the leeward mark. A quick reach to the finish and another bullet was on the scorecard. Matt cruised in 2nd, while Liam yanked himself all the way up to 3rd.

The starboard end was favored for this start, and I got a great one right at the boat. There definitely were shifts to be played this leg and I favored left, but Liam came booming out of the right for a big lead at the first mark.

Factoring in the right shift, I went low on the first reach compared to Liam and gained a bit, then sailed higher than him on the second. He had trouble working up to the leeward mark in the latter 1/4 of the leg while I planed in from above. Liam was still ahead, but only by 5 boatlengths or so.

We sailed on port for a fair while, Liam a little lower, me a bit higher (hoping to get more left hand shift). Instead, the breeze went slightly right, so I tacked over. Liam tacked to cover, I tacked back, he tacked back, then I tacked left again. This time, he didn't cover. I had a so-so 232 angle--not great, but not enough to tack on. I stayed and stayed on starboard, seeing as high as 245 and as low as 232, but never the 230 I knew I needed to come back on.

By now I was getting quite far left, and very separated from the fleet. I had to make this work. A few things gave me hope: the 7s ahead on port were slightly lifted, and a puff was coming toward me from directly in front of my bow. As it hit I saw the magical 230. I dug in a few boatlengths, then flicked back onto port and a long sail back to the middle of the course.

The angle wasn't stellar, but it wasn't awful either. I just worked the boat really hard in the chop, going into point mode if the compass fell and footing slightly in the minute lifts. Liam had tacked back to starboard and was looking strong, but a few left puffs put me back in the game. This was going to be close!

As mentioned before, Liam was on starboard. It was clear he wouldn't lay the mark, and to weather of him was a clump of 7s that, if not laying the mark, were darn close. I had a decision to make: duck Liam, or tack to leeward and ahead, thereby staying closer to him.

I chose the latter. If I'd ducked him, I would have sailed into the wakes and dirty air of those 7s, and then would have needed to overstand the mark. By tacking to leeward I stayed close to my competition (conservative). We both had to do two tacks to get around the mark. I gained a little more in that last short section, but had some trouble bearing off onto the run and sailed a bit of distance to the right. At that point, Liam had a 10+ boatlength lead.

It hurt, but I sailed the extra distance by-the-lee to get to the left where Liam was. The waves were cleaner and I started to surf. I noticed Liam's vang and outhaul were still quite tight, while mine were both loose, giving me huge power that made catching waves easier. Liam strongly protected his left hand side. I noticed he was reacting to my boat position and that gave me hope: he's worried. He's paying attention to me, perhaps to the detriment of his wave-catching.

Sure enough, I kept gaining. By now I was close enough where my wind shadow could have an effect. We were zigging and zagging on the waves, often going in opposite directions, but each time we "met" in the middle, I'd momentarily affect his wind.

Soon, I was abeam of him. Still he protected the left looking downwind, even though we were well left of the leeward mark. I figured it was one of a few things: a) he didn't have a good handle on the gybing angle to the mark; b) he didn't know where the mark was. Whatever the reason, I was happy to capitalize, eventually heading up to a very broad reach that my super-full sail was able to accommodate. His flatter, more vanged sail couldn't compete, and I pulled ahead by a number of lengths by the leeward mark. Another quick reach to the finish, and I'd added my 9th first-place finish to the scorecard!

The RC is starting two hours earlier tomorrow (1st race at 11am), with no race allowed to start after 3pm. Unless we sail four races tomorrow, I have the regatta sewn up. After 13 races we get a third throw-out. My scores right now are good enough that I could skip 3 races and still win. BUT, if 4 are sailed, I'd have to count one DNS (number of race finishers + 1), which would give Liam the lead. SO, sail tomorrow we will, for the title of RS Aero 9 World Champion!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

2017 RS Aero World Championship - Day 3

Less sun, more rain, a bit less breeze for Day 3 of the RS Aero World Championship in Carnac, France. Wind was forecast to gently go from W to WSW and build as the day went on. Courses were Triangle-Windward-Leeward-reaching finish.

5-10 degrees of port-end bias to the starting line, and a fair bit of tide running with the wind. I set up to be the leeward-most boat, with 2nd Place Liam Willis just to windward. About 20 seconds before the gun I realized I wasn't going to lay the pin, so I bailed out early (NOTE: HIGH SCHOOL SAILORS), gybed around then found a small hole to tack back into. Liam *just* made it around the pin boat (actually hitting its anchor line) so my bailing was a smart move, but it did allow Liam to leg out and tack across the fleet about a minute after the start.

I held onto starboard another minute before tacking myself, and so began the long drag race right. The slightly lighter wind meant less vang on, which meant the mainsheet loads were heavier/more tiring to play in the very bumpy conditions. At least I had good speed, and calling the layline perfectly, managed to round the top mark in first. Liam turned on the jets on the reach to be overlapped at the 2nd mark, but I had the inside overlap and rounded ahead. Another battle royale on the second reach, but Liam blew over the top and into the lead by 4 boatlengths at the leeward mark.

Another long slog to the starboard layline. I rounded slightly better than Liam and managed to work a bit to windward, pinching hard. I held, held, held for over 3/4 of the leg, but we got a slight header that allowed him to move forward, then tack to the windward mark. He had me by about 6 boatlengths, but was around a few 7 rigs that were also rounding.

I got around the mark cleanly and dove low on a wave, trying to get well to the side of the wakes of boats ahead. A few surfs and I'd halved the gap between us. Liam tried to get over to the left but didn't have the wind or waves to get there, and had boats in between. Meanwhile, I caught a very nice wave in pressure and moved abeam, then slowly ahead. A few more waves caught, a few more puffs, and I was 10 boatlengths ahead at the leeward mark. Liam gained some back on the final reach to the finish, but not enough, finishing 6 lengths back. What a nailbiter!

After the race I congratulated Liam on a race well-sailed. We discussed downwind set-up, and I noticed he had a bit more downhaul and had been sitting further aft on the reaches. Mental note made.

Had a good start about three boats up from the pin end of the line, again with Liam to windward and my training partner Madhavan Thirumalai to leeward. I put her into high mode and quickly flushed Liam out the back, forcing him to tack. Another minute later we got more pressure and a little nibble of lefty, so I tacked over to consolidate. The breeze was slowly going left and building as forecast, so it was another long port tack sail to the starboard layline. Again I called the layline pretty much spot-on, utilizing the high mode at times to ensure I'd get around the top mark. At the rounding I had a 10 boatlength lead and blasted down the reach.

With the left shift, the first reach leg was tighter than it had been the race before. I stayed high to compensate, blast reaching and really working hard to keep the boat flat. Liam and Matt Thursfield sailed low initially, then had to work back up which hurt. I zoomed off, rounded the reach mark and went low on what was now a broader second reach. Again the boats behind sailed more off rhumb line, this time higher, which necessitated working back down to the leeward mark in the last quarter of the leg. That put sealed to their fates: I rounded 20+ boatlengths ahead and pulled out to a decisive victory over the next 3 legs.

The race committee changed things up for the start, this time giving the starboard end a 5-10 degree favor. The tide by now had diminished significantly, so boats weren't sliding sideways quite as much on the line. Liam set up almost perfectly at the boat, but couldn't *quite* close the door. I slipped between him and the committee boat with 2 seconds to go and blasted off the line at full speed. Poor kid got spat right out the back and was forced to tack early. I extended on starboard for awhile then tacked over. Matt Thursfeld was having a great beat and was right there, but I managed to extend on port, then again called the layline perfectly to round well in front of Liam, who had to do two additional tacks near the mark. Huge lead, extended and finished a minute ahead in the end.

We're three days into the 5-day championship. My scores are 1,1,1,3,1,2,1,1,1. We get two drops, so I'm counting all 1st place finishes for a net score of 7. Liam is in 2nd with 14 net, and Greg Bartlett cemented his 3rd place overall standing with 3 thirds for the day and 19 points net overall.

Obviously, things are looking promising, but there are two more days of racing to go. The net scores are quite close. One crazy day and the lead could evaporate, so no chances will be taken!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

2017 RS Aero World Championship - Day 2

Three more races in similar conditions to yesterday, but starting a bit lighter and perhaps not reaching quite as strong in the highs. Race committee set Triangle-Windward-Leeward-reach to finish courses instead of yesterday's quadrilaterals. The forecast was for the WNW wind to shift to the W early, then be basically steady.

Again I got out early and did the homework. Oddly, the current seemed to be similar across the course, unlike yesterday. Did two splits with young Liam Willis and came out of the left with a 5 boatlength lead, the right ahead by 10. Right sounds right, right?

Wrong! The race committee set the line with a 10 degree left-hand favor. I saw it on my compass in the pre-start, but still went for the boat and got what felt like a great start, only to watch Thomas SanddstrÖm (SWE, natch) crossing 8 boatlengths ahead coming out of the left after 5 minutes, with Greg (Quadzilla) Bartlett (GBR) and Matt Thursfield (GBR) well to windward of HIM. I tacked to join them on port and minimize the damage, then pulled out far enough before hitting the starboard tack layline to be able to tack and cross Thomas. Greg and Matt were ahead at the first mark, however. Somewhere over the next three legs I managed to catch Matt, only to capsize on the run.

It was stupid really: I pulled up my daggerboard to clear it of weed, but was a bit too enthusiastic and yanked the board right out of its slot! I managed to stay upright for a while and desperately tried to get the board back into the boat, which was gyrating like crazy in the unsettled seas. Finally a wave fell out and I flipped to windward, still holding onto the darn daggerboard! It was now a mad dash to get it back into the slot before the boat turned completely over; I was successful, which allowed me to right the boat and get going again. Unfortunately, the distance lost was too great and I had to settle for 3rd behind Quadzilla who ran away for the win, and Thursfield.

I *do* try to learn from mistakes...
Only now did I remember the forecast had said the breeze would go left! Again, the line was port-end biased, but this time I won the pin, and in 15-17 knots, pulled out to a big lead over the fleet before tacking and crossing. Huge lead at the top mark that extended to over 1.5 minutes at the finish.

This time the boat was favored and I had some company up there. Held my lane, then extended on the boats around to round the first mark 15 boatlengths ahead. Sailing down the reach the boat just didn't feel right, and sure enough, every time I looked back Liam Willis and Quadzilla were getting closer. Then I ran into a light patch of wind right near the mark and fell off a plane, which allowed the lads to roar up behind.

Managed to round Mark 2 with a 3 boatlength lead, but 3/4 of the way down the leg young Liam managed to sail over the top and into the lead! The tail end of the 7 fleet was also approaching the leeward mark on a run, and I managed to get Liam caught up with one of them while I peeled off to leeward to round the mark two boatlengths ahead (rather proud of that... grin). I extended again on the beat, nailing the starboard tack layline to the mark and rounded with a comfy 10 boatlength lead.

It was quite puffy and the waves were quite steep, with lots of weird waves bouncing around at different angles. I was going alright, but had a feeling there was weed on my daggerboard so lifted it up to clear it. No, I didn't yank it out of the boat. But, I did manage to pull it up right when a puff and odd wave hit at the same time, causing me to capsize yet again! It took a bit longer to get the boat up, more than enough time for 17-year old Liam to move into the lead, which he easily held to the finish. His first bullet in a World Championship!

Lucky for me, Liam's 6, 6 in Races 4 and 5 somewhat mitigated the pesky 1. He sits 8 points back, tied with Greg Bartlett at 14 points and Matt Thursfield 3 points behind them. I have a 1, 1, 1, 3, 1, 2, with the 3 as a throw-out for 6 points total.

I seem to have dominant upwind pace in over 15 knots of wind, and, despite the slows in the last race, am equal or faster downwind as well. Three more days of sailing to go, we'll see if the conditions change, or remain the same!

Monday, July 24, 2017

2017 RS Aero World Championship - Day 1

Wow, what a way to start a World Championship! Left the beach at 11:45 in about 12 knots of breeze, which some swore built to 25 as the day went on. I would say it was about 17, maybe 20 in the puffs, quite steady in direction but with a lumpy sea state punctuated by occasional sets that were real boat stoppers upwind. It was a long, 5-hour day at the office to get in 3 races for all three fleets (5, 7 and 9 rigs).

The course sailed by the 9s was a triple quadralateral (windward-reach-run-reach x3), with each race taking the leaders about 45 minutes to complete. The reaches were fantastic: super fast, flat-out hiking and occasionally surfing the big sets down. The runs were challenging, especially when the water was chopped up by other boats, and several flipped while attempting to gybe from a run to a reach going around Mark 3.

I got out early to the racecourse to do a little reconnaissance: checking current at the right, middle and left sides of the course. Then, Ben Rolfe from the UK and I did two, 3-minute splits (sailing 3 minutes toward opposite sides of the course, then tacking back to the middle and seeing who came out ahead). Finally, I got compass readings for the start line and wind direction. From all this, I deduced the right side of the course was favored for the first (upwind) legs, and set myself up accordingly.

Got a clean start at the committee boat and quickly tacked onto port. Dug into the right until I got a bit of a header and tacked back. Greg (Quadzilla) Bartlett came booming in out of the left middle to lead at the first mark; I was in 2nd with Liam Willis (UK) in 3rd. Greg took off on the reach but was heading to the wrong mark; I yelled out to let him know and he was able to retain his lead at Mark 2, but I managed to get inside at Mark 3 and, with a fast gybe, was able to extend out to a nice lead at the finish. Liam snuck in ahead of Greg for 2nd.

The breeze was building and squirmed a smidge left as Race 2 went underway. For some reason several people started at the port (left) side of the line, even though the starboard side was at least 5 degrees favored. Again I got a fast start at the boat, tacked over fairly quickly, but this time dug, dug, dug into the right until the wind started edging right before tacking and crossing the fleet. Led handily at every mark, only to capsize while gybing at the last mark before the final leg to the finish! Luckily I was able to climb over the top and quickly right the boat in time to hold off the rapidly-closing Liam; then, sailing deeper but just as fast, pulled out to a 15 boatlength lead by the finish.

Quite lumpy for the start, and with starboard tack being favored, most of the fleet stayed on starboard for quite a long time before tacking compared to the prior 2 heats. This was my first time to be lined up with top sailors (remember, I'd tacked away quickly before), and I was pleased to note I had good pace and when needed, point. It seemed many were letting their boats heel (tip over) a bit more when puffs or bad wave sets came up, which caused them to slide sideways. I had to be very aggressive with the sheet to avoid a similar fate, but the work paid off with less sideslip and equal or better speed. Had some mixing with the 7 fleet as they started close to the leeward mark I was going around the leeward mark, which caused some interesting boat-on-boat interactions...

So, 3 races, 3 bullets. Not a bad way to start the regatta indeed! :) Forecast for tomorrow is much of the same, and it's past midnight, so time to sign off. Sleep well, wherever you are.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

2017 RS Aero World Championship - T-Minus 1 Day

Drizzly, grey skies in Carnac for the last day before Worlds. RC postponed ashore for an hour then sent the fleet out in a dying southwesterly for the practice race.

The forecast was for the breeze to go left until about 2, then go right and build. On the way out, staying left seemed to work, confirming the forecast. The breeze went a further 20 or so degrees left, forcing the committee to postpone our start while they shifted the course to compensate. Still, the start line was very left-favored.

Most of the 9s realized the left favor and started at that side of the line. I punched out early from the fleet and managed to tack and cross the fleet after a minute or so of sailing. The waves were quite confused and I was having a bit of trouble keeping going, allowing my training partner Madhavan Thirumalai to sail through to leeward. At one point it looked like he was really launched, but I managed to play a number of small shifts/puffs to squeak into the lead at the first mark.

The first reach was very light and difficult due to the sloppy seas. The jury boat came and observed us for nearly half the leg, which was a bit unnerving. Since this was only a practice race I asked if we were OK, to which the judge replied "barely!" Right on the line, that's where one wants to be! ;)

The breeze was really dying by the time we got to the reach mark, and further died on the second reach. About 2/3 to the leeward mark the race committee sent a RIB to tell us they were abandoning the race, and to head home. The shoreline wasn't really visible at that point, so I just aimed my boat in the approximate direction of home. Was close enough. :)

Opening ceremonies followed at 1800 hours. International Class Manager Peter Barton reeled off some impressive stats: 96 entries from 16 countries and 4 continents for this, the very FIRST, RS Aero World Championship. Am so stoked to be part of history in the making!

After awards had a lovely dinner with 5 other sailors. Now I'm back at the flat. Clothes and food for tomorrow are all laid out, I'm freshly showered and ready for bed. Big day tomorrow!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

2017 RS Aero World Championship, Carnac France – T-minus 2 Days

Carnac, on the Brittany Coast in the state of Bretange, is at about the latitude of my home in Connecticut. The weather so far, however, has been quite different from what I left, being rather cool (in the 60s-70s) and quite windy. I’m glad to have packed a light jacket at the last minute!

The days leading up to a big away event are about settling in and getting into the regatta routine. I woke up and made my (in?)famous green drink: greens (preferably kale), carrot, banana and a small handful of walnuts (that provide a bit of fat to help digest the greens). It sounds gross, but I’ve really come to love it and this, along with a boiled egg, are a healthy, surprisingly filling start to the day.

Aeros, Aeros, everywhere Aeros!
My little AirBNB is a 5 minute walk from the Yacht Club de Carnac, host site for the Worlds. The 96 Aeros have taken over a quarter of the club’s huge drystall area—it’s quite a sight! Today more teams from the UK, Germany, Sweden, Estonia and other countries rolled in, many with impressive multi-boat trailers. The boatpark was filled with sailors getting acquainted, renewing old friendships, and foreign languages. Pretty cool! 

I was still feeling a bit draggy after the long trip, so my goal for the day was to go out for a sail, but not push myself too hard. After a tasty lunch I joined young UK sailors Greg (Quadzilla) Bartlett and Liam Willis for a short sail, about an hour of reaching offshore, two windward-leewards, then reaching back home. It was blowing about 15 knots, maybe a touch more at first. I tried my new heavy air mode upwind and found there wasn’t quite enough breeze to pull it off: Liam directly to windward was going about my same height and speed, but Greg was pointing higher with much better VMG. I reset to my lighter wind setup and, even in the choppy water, had competitive speed through the water, now coupled with unbeatable height. Such a mode is very helpful off a crowded starting line!

Quadzilla Bartlett
Downwind I started behind the youngsters, experimenting by sailing very wide angles—it didn’t really work. It’s super important in the Aero to sail in clean waves while running and reaching, and during the short legs I didn’t have enough runway to get off to the side and work clean waves before having to head closer to rhumbline (and the other boats’ wakes) to go around the leeward mark.

Liam started ahead on the long reach home, with Greg in the middle and me astern. I managed to pass Greg to leeward and close-in on, but not quite catch, the slippery Liam. Actually, I was happy to stay close, seeing as I was forced to sail right in his wake. Though short, it was a productive session.

Measurers at work
After a quick shower I went to the measurement tent to have my boat and rigging looked at, with everything passing muster. I found a prime spot for my boat close to the launch ramp (we East Coasters like short commutes!), did a bit of fine tuning to the rigging, then joined fellow Connecticut sailor Madhavan Thirumalai for some shopping and dinner before walking home. A nice, relaxing day settling-in before tomorrow's coaching session and practice race!