Check out some highlights from my training camps this summer/fall in Kingston, Ontario, and San Francisco, CA.
I've just returned home after three fantastic weeks of training in San Francisco. The camp was a huge success, and I can't emphasize enough how smoothly everything ran. I owe a huge thanks to our coach, Mike Kalin, for working with us everyday. Not only was it convenient to work with Mike--he lives about 100 yards from the yacht club, we had debriefs at his house everyday, and he had access to a coach boat and other resources in the area--but he is also the USSTAG Laser coach. He always gives thoughtful insight, provides us with great video and photos, and works hard to make sure our day is productive; any amount of time I can spend with Mike is worth it.
A second 'thank you' has to go to the Richmond Yacht Club. They welcomed our eight person Laser team (as well as three Radial sailors and a handful of 49ers) with open arms. We were able to keep our boats right on the dock next to the ramp, have access to the shower and locker room facilities, and make use of classrooms, tide maps, and their parking lot. We couldn't have had as successful of a trip as we did without their generous support, and Richmond Yacht Club was the perfect venue for training in the Berkeley Circle everyday.
Sailing through the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Photo Credit: Mike Kalin
The purpose of this trip to San Francisco was to get in as much heavy air sailing this month as possible in preparation for the World Championship in Perth, Australia, in December. While there, I trained for 13 out of 16 days in breeze that ranged from 15-25 knots. By the end of the camp, 15 knots now seems like a light air day! We were able to take advantage of the long reach out to the course by splitting it up into three lengthy segments. With three reaches out and three reaches back in everyday, my reaching skills certainly improved. We also did plenty of upwind grinding, long downwinds (including two downwind runs where we towed outside of the Golden Gate bridge before turning around and sailing downwind back in a strong ebb tide!), and plenty of boathandling drills.
While out there, I was also able to meet up with Tracy Usher, the President of the North American Laser Class Association. For those who don't know, the Laser class is currently in the process of coming out with a new sail and composite top section. Tracy had prototypes of both at his disposal and allowed us to try them out for a few days.
Sailing Upwind with the new Laser sail. Photo Credit: Mike Kalin
In my opinion, both the sail and the new top section are "no brainers" for the long-term success of the Laser. The sail is made from 4.5 ounce cloth (an upgrade from the 3.8 ounce cloth that we currently have) and is radial cut. It has a bigger window at the bottom to make vision on the course easier. It's also much more aesthetically pleasing. (ie there are no ugly wrinkles between the joint of the top/bottom section and the end of the boom.) We tested two sails while out there: one new one and one that had over 150 days of sailing on it! It was incredible to see that the new sail and the old one both looked and performed similarly. Most importantly, though, I think the sail was very comparable speed wise to the old one. It'd be interesting to try it more in a variety of conditions, but in general it was pretty even in the conditions we were training in.
Reaching Drill with the new Laser sail. Click on the photo for a larger view and to see the radial cut in more detail. Photo Credit: Mike Kalin
The top section is amazing. It weighs the same as a current top section and has the same bend characteristics, but is made of carbon fiber instead of aluminum. Everything is the same except that it does not bend at the end of the day! When this top section becomes approved, you will no longer see people trying to straighten their mast after a windy day, people won't have to twist their spars precisely to line up the rivets (there are no rivets with the carbon fiber spar because the collar is epoxied on), and you won't have to purchase a new top section every other regatta! During our training, we rotated the spar around to a few different sailors to try out, and they all said that they didn't notice any difference in performance. More importantly, our coach said that he couldn't even tell who had the spar and who didn't when looking at our rigs on the water. This thing is LEGIT!
It was really cool to be a part of the testing period for both the sail and the top section. I'm not sure what the time frame for either is (the dispute between Laser Performance and Global Sailing needs to be resolved first), but for sure neither will be released for use on the international circuit before the Olympics. Look for them to come out right after the Olympics or in 2013. I'm excited though!
Overall, the camp was a huge success. I definitely think my heavy air sailing improved, and I'm hoping that I can bring some of these skills to Perth with me this December. In the meantime, I'm home for a couple of weeks for some downtime. Next weekend I head up to Newport, RI, for my brother's wedding which should be exciting. Then I head to another four-day boot camp in Colorado Springs before going to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, for the Pan American Games! It should be an exciting fall.
Stay tuned for some video highlights from my training the last two months!
I've been in San Francisco for over a week now, and the training has been unbelievable. There are eight of us here: myself, Charlie Buckingham (USA), Chris Dold (CAN), Lee Pakhill (CAN), Tom Ramshaw (CAN), Juan Maegli (GUA), Cy Thompson (ISV), and Andy Maloney (NZL). We've got a great set up sailing out of Richmond Yacht Club. First of all, our coach, Mike Kalin, lives about one minute away from the club, so we've been able to have debriefs there daily. Sailing out of Richmond has been easy too: we're able to keep our boats right on the dock, it's warm and sunny, and there are great showers and facilities at our disposal. We're also a short reach out to the Berkeley Circle where it blows 20 knots everyday. Everything has been fantastic.
Upwind sailing in San Francisco Bay. Photo Credit: Mike Kalin
A typical day so far has us waking up at about 8 AM. We have breakfast and some of us either go for a light bike ride or send some emails. After making food for the day and packing up our gear, we head over to Mike's house to debrief the previous day. We watch some videos, look at some still pictures, and make a plan for the upcoming day. At noon, we head down to the club to rig and dress. At 1 PM we launch in the building sea breeze. After a series of reaches out to the Berkeley Circle area we start the day with a boat-handling drill. Then we do some windsprints for an hour upwind to Alcatraz Island before turning downwind. Once downwind, we usually do a few races or more drills before reaching back in. After packing up at the yacht club, it's home for a snack and then a trip to the gym for a couple hours. Finally, it's dinner and unwinding before going to bed.
Today, we mixed up our routine a bit and left the dock early to tow upwind to the Golden Gate Bridge. We timed it well with the ebb tide and were able to make great progress upwind. This set the stage for an awesome downwind sail back all the way to Richmond. It was so good, we're doing it again tomorrow.
So far this camp has been a great experience, and I'm looking forward to another week and a half of training out here.
After coming home from Canada last week, I took a few days off from sailing before trying to come to San Francisco on Sunday. Unfortunately Hurricane Irene interrupted my travel plans, and I couldn't fly out of Newark until Wednesday! But I finally made it to San Francisco, and I'm here training for the next few weeks.
Joining me in San Francisco is a great group of seven other international sailors. We've decided to train here in hopes of getting some big breeze practice to prepare for our World Championships in windy Perth, Australia, later this year. So far, San Francisco has lived up to the hype with 20+ knots every day this week!
Stay tuned for more updates from training, including some pictures and a video!
Today was the fifth and final day of racing at CORK. I headed down to the club this morning and was met with breeze in the mid-twenties and big waves. The conditions looked sailable, but with a lot of fleets and a concern over the amount of safety boats, the call was to cancel racing for the day and the regatta.
What was interesting though was that while waiting for the call on racing, a notice was put on the Official Notice Board asking both Rob Crane and me to come see the Jury Desk immediately. After presenting myself to the Jury Desk, I was quickly ushered into the Jury room in front of the panel of Judges who heard my redress hearing from the first day. They were all very friendly, and said that they had been thinking about my redress case and have decided to re-open my hearing. They conceded that in my original hearing I had testified that I did not think that I was over, I started at the pin (on a very long line), and I did not hear a sound signal after the start that is required with an individual recall flag. Despite the fact that this was not my main intention of filing for redress (I was trying to get redress because I was called over by a hovering, unanchored pin boat) they said that they could award redress in the interest of the competitors effected. Simply put, they decided to reinstate me in race two!
I was pretty surprised to be called in and given redress a few days later. I must give a lot of credit to both the Protest Committee and the PRO, who, in consultation, decided that it was wrong to give redress to some sailors and not others. Everyone involved was a class act, and it was great to see the Jury change a decision after some more deliberation.
I ended up 2nd in the reinstated race, and because of that, I leap-frogged Rob Crane in the overall results to move into 3rd overall. With no sailing today, I took the bronze medal at CORK.
Hats off to both Andy Maloney (NZL) and Chris Dold (CAN) for sailing very consistent and great regattas. These guys were fast out there. I'm going to try to match some of their speed in the next few weeks as we head to San Francisco, California, with a handful of other training partners for three solid weeks of big breeze sailing. I'm really looking forward to the trip out west, and I'm hopeful that three weeks of training on San Francisco Bay will pay dividends in Perth later this year.
We had a gorgeous day in Kingston today with sun, warm temperatures, and a 6 knot sea breeze building to almost 14 knots by the end of the day. The Race Committee took full advantage and efficiently ran four races to try to catch up to the schedule.
In the first race, I had a great start near the pin and played the middle left. The breeze was still in the building phase and was a bit unstable, so there was a lot of tacking on shifts up the beat. I was in the top five group and looking pretty good, but at the top a lasting right phase hurt me, and I rounded in a tight pack in 8th. I had a great downwind to catch up to the lead group and battled it out there for the rest of the race. Andy Maloney (NZL) went on to win the race with a good lead over Cy Thompson (ISV). Chris Dold (CAN) and I were pretty far ahead of 5th and duked it out for 3rd/4th. Chris held on at the last mark, and I settled for a 4th in the first race.
In the second race, I had a great start at the boat and played the right side of the course. I thought I was looking really good for a long time, but at the top I just had nothing to come back across with. I sailed a header for longer than I would have liked to get back in with the group and rounded in 3rd. At the bottom mark, Chris Dold, Rob Davis (CAN), Andy Maloney, and I were pretty separated from the group and were battling for the win. Andy sailed well to move into first, and I was able to sail some shifts well to pass Chris and Rob. Rob and I went back and forth on the last downwind, but I held the inside at the mark and finished in 2nd.
In the third race, it was more of the same shifty/puffy conditions. I had another good start and played the middle. I rounded in 4th place. I had a pretty good downwind leg to close the gap on the leaders, and on the next beat, I was able to get around Rob Crane (USA) by sailing some shifts well. Chris Dold sailed a great last run to stay ahead of Andy Maloney and put an end to him winning every race! I finished in 3rd.
Finally, in the last race, I had a good start near the boat and played the middle again. The last race was pretty fun because the top seven guys in the regatta were all very close and working hard to beat each other. I was in 3rd at the windward mark and about the same at the bottom. I was hedged to the right of the group on the next beat, and despite looking good early, the left filled hard and I caved at the top. I rounded in 5th and stayed there until the finish.
So it was a solid day results wise today. My speed felt mediocre, but it was a tricky day with a pretty unstable sea breeze and lots of seaweed on the course. Tomorrow is the last day of the event, and the forecast is for big breeze! Hopefully we get a few races in before the 2:30 PM cut-off time.
Reaching practice before the regatta. Photo credit: Evan Lewis
We sailed out in a 10-15 knot northwesterly today for a 1 PM start. In Kingston, the northwesterly breeze is a little offshore, and when the Race Committee put our mark tucked pretty nicely into a cove, I knew it would be shifty. In the first race, I had a pretty good start near the boat. I sailed out on starboard for about a minute and quickly tacked to port. My game plan was to go to the right side and take advantage of some big righties that I thought would be coming down the course. Pretty quickly after the start, the whole fleet tacked to port in a big left shift. There was more pressure out left and the guys who were all the way out on the side were looking good. I was still hopeful that the breeze would come back right, especially as we got closer to the windward mark, but it didn't. I was too far right in a very left favored windward leg.
At the first mark I rounded in the high 20s and picked off a few boats throughout the race. The RC didn't move the windward mark, and we essentially one tacked the next beat too, spending 90% of our time on port. At the end I was able to claw my way back to 8th in the race.
After waiting around for a while for the breeze to stabilize and the course to be readjusted, we finally got going on our second race. I had an awesome start near the boat and sailed the lifted tack to the left side of the course. Once there, I got headed and tacked back to cross the fleet. I had a pretty good sized lead at the top, and was able to extend a bit over the course of the race and win. It was nice to not have to rally so hard in a race for a change!
After the second race, the breeze became even more unstable as a huge line of clouds came over the course. We waited for a while and started a third race, but shortly after the start the breeze went hard right, and it started to pour. After the rain let up, the breeze died to nothing, and the Race Committee abandoned the race and sent us in for the day.
Two more days of sailing left up here in Canada. Tomorrow is supposed to be a nice sea breeze day, so hopefully we can get 4 races in.
It was a long day in Canada today, despite no racing. My day started with an 8:30 AM redress hearing for an alleged OCS in yesterday's second race. I went into the room with fellow American Rob Crane, and the two of us argued that we were unfairly called over early by a pin boat that was not anchored, but rather hovering above the start line (we were using a buoy as the pin end of the line). We first started by listening to the tape recording from the Race Committee. The tape from the Committee Boat end did not have us on there, and we listened to the tape from the pin end a few times. The pin boat recorded our numbers right before the gun, but our argument was confirmed. Shortly before the start, the pin boat recorder is heard saying, "I can't see the Committee boat, move up, move up, move up." Despite pretty solid evidence that the pin boat was moving around and not sighting the line properly, the Protest Committee denied us redress.
Shortly after we were denied redress, two Canadian sailors who were also OCS in the same race filed for redress claiming that the sound signal that should accompany an individual recall flag was not audible, and because of ISAF Case #31, they deserve redress. It was an interesting point, and I was actually unaware that such a case even existed. Robert Davis went in, presented this information, and was awarded redress. Lee Parkhill went in and walked out two minutes later with redress. Rob and I then tried the same thing, having already acknowledged in our first hearing that we didn't see the individual flag from the pin end of the line, nor did we hear a sound signal. Again, we felt pretty confident, but this time the Protest Committee decided they would not hear our case. Again, we were denied redress.
So it was a pretty frustrating morning. I do feel like we were wrongly called over, and it kind of rubs salt into the wounds to see two other sailors get redress and not us.
After all of that was done, we quickly rigged and launched for a 1 PM start. After being postponed on the water for half an hour, we finally got a race off. I had a good start at the boat and was playing the middle right when a few minutes into the race some lightning and thunder moved its way onto the course. We were quickly abandoned and sent in. On shore, the storm got closer and the breeze died, so the Race Committee abandoned us for the day without any races.
We'll try again tomorrow!
Today was the first day of CORK. The 47 Lasers were set for a 1 PM start today, and things looked promising with 10-12 knots of breeze and a short sail out to the course. We sailed double windward-leeward courses and had our own course, which was nice.
In the first race, the pin was ridiculously favored. I lined up 2nd up from the pin, but with a few seconds to go wasn't going to make it. I rafted up with about 3-4 other guys and two of us were yellow flagged for sculling. After a quick 720 penalty turn, I went out to the left and found myself in about 15th at the weather mark. I played catch up for the rest of the race, but could only manage to get back up to 9th at the finish.
After almost two hours of waiting around for the Race Committee to reposition the course, we finally got started with our second race in about 12-14 knots. Again, the pin was very biased. I had a great start near the pin and went almost all the way to the left. I tacked back early and crossed most of the fleet. Andy Maloney (NZL) and Alexander Heinzemann (CAN) went further left and wound up inside of me by the mark. I rounded in 3rd. Andy pulled away a bit, and I was in a battle for 2nd with a few other guys. I sailed a pretty good rest of the race to finish 2nd in the race.
Finally at 5 PM we started our last race of the day. At this point the breeze started to really drop off to about 6 knots. The Race Committee didn't shorten the course though, so our race was very long, almost 1.5 hours. I had a good start near the pin and headed hard to the left since that had been working all day. But the left wasn't that great and the leaders came out of the middle. I struggled to get back, rounding in the teens again. I had ok downwind speed, staying in the same spot, but catching up a lot of distance to get back in the mix by the leeward mark. I played the middle right on the next beat and caught up to 11th by the windward mark. I had a good downwind, passing a few boats, to finish in 8th.
So my scorecard read 9-2-8 on the day. Not a great start, but there are 15 races scheduled, so there's plenty of racing left. Also working against me is that I was scored as OCS'd in the second race today. A handful of boats were scored OCS (we all think--pretty confidently-- that there was a mistake on the RC's part) and we're all involved in a redress hearing tomorrow morning at 8:30 before sailing.
Hopefully that gets sorted, the Race Committee does a better job tomorrow, and we can bang off three solid races.
Tomorrow is the first day of the Canadian Olympic Regatta in Kingston (CORK) in Ontario, and I'm ready to race. I've been up here training with about 8-10 guys the past two weeks, and we've had some really productive practices. Kingston can have some great sea breezes in the summer, so most of our training has been in 80 degrees, sun, warm water, and a nice 15 knots with some waves. Doesn't get better than that!
For the regatta, the Race Committee has 15 races scheduled over five days. There are about 50 boats pre-registered at the point, so the fleet should be a pretty good size. I'm ready to get going!
Check back for updates on the racing.