Sailing Away and Cruising to the Jackpot: Hitting it Big on the Cruise

By clay - Posted on 08 December 2013

In this day and age, yachts and sailboats are seen as symbols of luxury, a sign of an adventurous life away from the mind-numbing confines of the urban jungle. Surrounded by unpredictable currents and framed by the expansive sky, captains and helmsmen learn to respect the whims of the air and the sea. Meanwhile, there could be any number of memorable events happening inside a true luxury yacht. Even the World Poker Tour, another prestigious international sporting event, regularly makes use of special tournament yachts to add variety to its televised poker shows. Of course, yachts and sailboats have a rich and storied competitive sporting history. (Indeed, the word “yacht” itself is ultimately derived from the obscure Dutch root word “jaghen”, which means to “hunt, chase, or pursue”.) Racing yachts and sailboats are inevitably smaller, lighter and faster than their more finely appointed luxury brethren. Every part of a racing yacht – from the rudders and the crossbeams, to the wing mast and the foresail – is geared towards one goal: consistent optimal performance.

 

Yacht racing and sailing has enjoyed immense popularity from an enthusiastic fanbase that spans pretty much the entire globe. The consistently high level of competition that can be seen at yacht races often result in breathtaking performances. The unique allure of a world-class sailing event has definitely attracted a wide variety of top-notch companies that are more than willing to pounce on a fantastic opportunity to market their brands. As part of a concerted effort to penetrate the burgeoning German online gambling market, the UK-based poker and casino juggernaut Betfair has entered into a strategic partnership with the city of Kiel located in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein (widely regarded as one of the most liberal and progressive states in Germany) back in December 2011. This made the popular online gambling firm the title sponsor for Kiel Week in June 2012. Kiel Week regularly attracts 5,000 sailors, 2,000 ships and around three million visitors every year, making it the largest annual sailing event in the world. Additionally, Betfair was also the title sponsor of the then-inaugural Multi One Design (MOD) 70 European Tour 2012 event, an international trimaran racing series that spans almost 5,000 miles over five offshore stages.

Ultimately, a yacht is a vessel that brings the captain closer to far-flung places and scenes, accompanied by the breeze and the waves and a sense of adventure.

Day Seven of the Laser Worlds

By clay - Posted on 23 November 2013

Not much to report today.  We showed up for racing, but there was a very light offshore breeze that we needed to die before the sea breeze could fill in.  With a 3 PM cutoff, we were pressed for time.  At 12:30, the AP flag came down and the RC sent us out to try to get in one or maybe two races.

After drifting around for a while, the RC tried to start a race a few times, but the breeze was pretty unstable and shifty to set anything up.  Right at 2:55, the Gold fleet was able to get their race off!  Silver fleet attempted a start right afterwards, but we had a general recall and, therefore, had to abandon for the day.

In the Gold fleet, Robert Scheidt started in the middle of the line and picked his way up the first beat to be winning at mark one. He lead the whole way around and won pretty comfotably to take the victory.  The man is incredible.  He is 40 years old, and I'm pretty sure this is his 9th Laser World Championship.

From my own perspective, the thing that makes Scheidt incredible is that from the second he leaves the dock until the second his boat is on land, he is working the boat 100%.  All other sailors, myself included, will casually sail out.  Not him.  He's roll-tacking his way out of the harbor like it's the last race of the Olympics.  He's very thorough and disciplined in his approach to each race, testing, checking the line, getting a line sight, watching other fleets.  He does his homework, and it shows.  In my opinion (and many others), the Laser Worlds is the hardest regatta in the world, and this man is at the top of the fleet.

Personally, this regatta was a bit of a disappointment.  While mentally and tactically, I think I'm on par with where I was a few years ago, physically I am not where I need to be.  Boat handling and big fleet management also need to be improved.  It's always tough when you're a little slower because you can never sail your own race.  Where you tack is based on someone else.  Which way you go is dictated by where you can find clear air, etc.  I never felt like I could really get in the front and just sail.  I was always reacting to my situation instead of being in control of my own destiny.  Though this result could have been expected, it's still a little hard to swallow.

Now it's time to pack and head to the airport for the long trip home.  I'll fly Muscat to Dubai, Dubai to JFK.  Then it's back to work at the shop.

FINAL RESULTS

Day Six of the Laser Worlds

By clay - Posted on 22 November 2013

Long day in Oman today.  We headed down to the boats at our normal time after some massive massive storms last night.  Everything was still soaking wet and there was a dying off-shore breeze.  The RC postponed us right at 10:00 AM, indicating that they were going to wait on shore for the breeze to die and swing around.  But then about 10 minutes later they took the postponement down and sent us out.  So we sailed to the race course in a dying, very light breeze.  As soon as we got there, the course glassed over and we sat under postponement for about an hour out there.

So after the hour, the RC decided to send us in to wait on shore.  As soon as they postponed and sent us in, the breeze filled.  But because the flag was up, we had to go into shore and pull our boats out for 10 minutes before returning to the course.  Kind of a waste of time.

We finally got back out to the race course in a 5-10 knot breeze with a lot of chop.  After Gold fleet started, we got our start away under a black flag.  I had a great start near the pin, and when I looked over my shoulder, all the boats in the middle of the line looked headed, but about 15-20 boat at the boat were in their own puff and were pointed really high.  I didn't want to tack over underneath them, so I continued to the left and played the middle left up the beat.  Well, turns out I should have tacked and crossed because the right was so favored.  As I was coming in from the left, boats were actually reaching down to the windward mark. I rounded pretty deep and passed a few towards the end of the race to get a score in the mid-30s

Because we are behind in the schedule, the RC wanted to get one more race off before the sun went down.  We started our second race in a very light and dying breeze with a LOT of chop.  It was pretty sloppy out there.  Again, I had another solid start near the pin, but this time decided to cross the group above me and consolidate in front of the fleet.  Well turns out that was the wrong play in this race.  As I got into the middle of the course, the breeze just died and died and both sides had the last remaining pressure and sailed around me.  I was deep, which was frustrating after a decent start.  I tried to catch up some on the downwind, but it was short and light.  On the next upwind I made some gains, but at this point the breeze was getting so light and sketchy that the RC shortened the course and finished us at the weather mark.  I salvaged a high 20s.

So pretty long, frustrating day here in Oman.  I feel like I can do no right this week!

One more day tomorrow to finish the event, then it's a long journey home.

RESULTS

Day Five of the Laser Worlds

By clay - Posted on 21 November 2013

Today was the fifth day at the Laser Worlds, and also the first day of Finals.  After a mediocre qualifying series, I'm sailing the rest of the regatta in silver fleet.  When we walked down in the morning, the water was glassed over.  We rigged and got in the shade, waiting for the breeze to fill.  After an hour postponement, the breeze started to fill, and the RC sent us out.  We postponed a little more on shore, waiting for the breeze to stabilize, before Gold fleet got their first race off. 

Watching the Gold fleet, the right hand side of the course looked pretty good.  The guys that got starts near the boat and quickly flopped to port were leading half way up the beat.  So I wanted to start near the favored boat end of the line.

We had one start and I was near the boat, but it was a general recall.  Then the black flag went up, and we had another start.  I had a pretty good start near the boat again, and made sure to stay covered.  It was a good thing because we had another general recall.  This time the RC was able to pick out ten boats that were over and disqualify them from the upcoming race.  I was fortunately safe.  Then we had another start and general recall.  I was a little nervous after this start, but the RC only got three boats this time and I made it out ok.

At this point, I still liked the right side of the course, but it was looking more and more like a square line or even pin favored.  I lined up near the boat, but with about a minute to go, decided to slide towards the middle.  The start went off and a big lefty shift came through.  People at the pin flopped to port and I tacked below them, crossing everyone at the boat and heading out to the right.  As we kept sailing, the breeze just sheared further to the left the whole time.  I got to the starboard tack layline still on a big left angle and had to eat a bad header the whole way back.  Anyone that got to the left of me was ahead.  I rounded in about 30th place. I passed a boat or two on the first downwind, but by that point it was a parade to the left side of the course again.  I think I got a few more boats on the next beat, but at this point it looked like a huge storm was coming in the distance and was pulling the breeze further and further left.  So we had a tight reach to the outer loop, a broad reach to the leeward mark, and a dead downwind leg to the final mark.  At the point, the RC shortened the race as the breeze was getting sketchy and there was lightning and thunder coming.  I think I ended up in the mid-twenties at the finish. 

The RC promptly sent us in, so we're on shore now, done for the day.  Rumor has it that there's a big storm coming tonight, so we tied our boats down and the hotel was putting sandbags in front of some doors. 

Oman gets 3 inches of rain annually, and so far we have seen at least three days where it's rained this week.  Pretty crazy.

I'm sure they will try to go for three races tomorrow to get back on schedule.

RESULTS

Day Four of the Laser Worlds

By clay - Posted on 20 November 2013

Today was the fourth and final day of qualifying at the Laser Worlds here in Oman.  The breeze was very light today --more what we expected for the event--blowing about 5 knots with a little bit of chop out of due North.  I was in yellow and started first, sailing the outer trapezoid.

In the first race, I had a great start 2-3 boats up from the pin.  The wind was light, and a handful of us were able to tack and cross most of the fleet.  My lane wasn't that great, but I hung in there to get in front of most of the fleet, and then I headed back left for more pressure.  The left was better, and I was in a great spot.  About 2/3 of the way upwind, it looked like I was in about 5th place.  As we sailed further up, guys that were on my hip to the left just lifted off of me, and I was able to do the same on the guys that I was ahead of.  So I stayed in about 5th, but the order changed around.  Right at the top, I should have lead a group in from port, but crossed them and loose covered.  Right at the mark, there was a small righty and those couple boats just got in front of me.  So I ended up rounding in 9th.  I stayed in 9th on the reach and run, and rounded the leeward mark, headed back to the left, in 9th.  The next beat got a little tricky.  At first, I lifted off of the guys right in front of me and looked to be in about 6th.  At that point, one of the guys ahead of me got nervous and came over and tacked on me, forcing me to the right.  When I came back towards the group, the breeze went back left, and I lost a few.  Then further up the beat, I hedged myself a little to the left of the group, and a big righty came through, bringing a couple guys from the high teens into the top ten.  I was saved at the end by a left, but was coming into the weather mark in the 9-13 range.  Right at the mark, I thought I could just tack in front of a pack of three boats, but I fouled in doing so.  I did a quick 720 and sailed the rest of the race in 13th place.  Not a bad first race, but could have been a bit better.

Needing another solid race to have any shot at Gold fleet, I was determined to be aggressive at the start.  The breeze was hard to read on the water, but I still thought the left side of the course would be good.  We had a start and I was the pin boat with a great lane. General Recall!  I was bummed.  In the next start, I was lined up to be the pin-most boat again, but at the last second someone came in and sniped me.  I had an ok start, but quickly fell directly behind the guy.  I ended up putting my bow down and getting some space to leeward, heading hard for the left hand side.  Well as I did that, the people that started further up the line all began to wind up.  There was a big righty that put a lot of sailors in front of me, and despite my best efforts, I could not find anything from the left to bring back across.  I rounded the top mark in about 45th place and bounced around 5-10 boats from there for the rest of the race.  I finished in 40th place, which was not good enough to get into Gold fleet.

Very tricky day on the water today.  The breeze was hard to read, and everyone was sailing fast.  The difference between 1st and 45th at the windward mark in the last race was about 20 boat lengths, that's how close the racing was!  But when you're in 45th, it's tough sailing with bad air, narrow lanes, and scrappy sailors.

Tomorrow is the first day of finals, and I'll be sailing the rest of the regatta in Silver fleet.  Kind of a bummer, but I'll make the most of it.

RESULTS

Day Three of the Laser Worlds

By clay - Posted on 19 November 2013

Tough day three in Oman for the Laser Worlds.  I headed down at 9:30 for an 11 AM start.  The breeze was out of the right direction, and quickly built to 12-15 knots, so we were off for an on-time start.

I was in yellow fleet today, sailing the outer loop.  After only getting one race in yesterday, the plan was to go for three races today to get back on schedule.

In the first race, I had a good start near the pin and played the middle left.  I was in a decent position, probably in the top 15, but I was a little out of phase at the top and rounded in about 25th.  Towards the end of the top reach, I was in the same position when the judges swooped in and yellow flagged me for the second time.  I was pretty frustrated and had to withdraw from the race.  After sailing, I found the two judges who flagged me, and their explanation was that I while I was on a plane, I pumped my sail.  My argument is that I was moving faster and my apparent wind was moving forward, which means that I needed to trim my sail, but they said it was a pump, not a trim.  So it goes.

So after watching the rest of the first race, I got ready for the second one.  At the start of the second race, I ended up in a tight lane without a great spot.  I tacked out and headed towards the right.  I got pin-balled around a bit on the right and ended up rounding in the 30s.  I went low on the reach to close a little distance, and then had a decent run.  On the next beat, I played the right and caught a few more boats, but I had a mediocre downwind and gave my gains back.  I ended up finishing 29th in the race.

Finally, with one race left I wanted to go more towards the left.  I had a decent start near the middle pin and sailed pretty far out to the left.  I thought I was going the right way, but I was not one of the top guys coming back from the far left.  As I sailed the long port tack back towards the mark, the breeze shifted a bit right, and I was in trouble.  I sailed a long header back to the mark and rounded near the back of the fleet.  Again I went low on the reach and closed some distance.  On the first run I was right in the pack, but I couldn't set myself up well at the bottom.  I had about 10 boats to my left and 10 boats to my right, and I was forced to take a wide rounding and get going towards the right.  Another couple of boat lengths further forward and I could have rounded clear ahead of both groups!  I played the middle right on the second beat and caught a few boats.  On the downwind, I caught a few and lost a few, and hung in there until the finish, ending up in 42nd.

So another tough day for me.  I think everyone is pretty surprised how much breeze we've been having, and it's clear that my fitness level isn't where it needs to be.  Not that I expected it to be there, but it's still pretty obvious to me that I've been out of the boat for a long time.

I'm a bit out of Gold fleet right now, so I'll try to have two good scores tomorrow and make a push to get into Gold.  Tomorrow's another day!

RESULTS

Day Two of the Laser Worlds

By clay - Posted on 18 November 2013

Today was a long day in Oman.  I headed down, dressed and ready to go racing at 9:30.  After rigging my boat, I was all set to launch in a light breeze at 10 AM, when the postponement flag went up.  Despite there being a light and building 5 -6 knot breeze, the RC kept us on shore until 12:45!  So all morning long I just sat in the shade, drank as much water as I could, and tried to rest, but it was frustrating to wait on shore in my gear when there was decent breeze.

So at 12:45 we sailed out for our first race.  I was in Blue fleet again and started second.  The Yellow fleet had five general recalls under a black flag and 10 people were disqualified before the race even started.  Finally, an hour after Yellow first tried to start, they got a start off.  At this point it was 3 PM and the breeze was building to a solid 14 knots with quite a bit of chop again. 

After one general recall, the Blue fleet finally got our start off.  I started in the middle of the line and had a decent start, but after a couple minutes of hiking hard, the guys (goons) above me started to get over me.  I tacked on what I thought was a nice lift, and took their sterns out towards the right.  As we got closer to the weather mark though, I looked ok coming out of the right, but just at the mark, the breeze went a bit left and a lot of the fleet was able to get in front of me.  I ended up rounding in the mid/high 30s, but things were pretty close.

I had a mediocre downwind spending a lot of the time just trying to find a clean lane, and rounded the bottom in about the same.  Our research said that if anything was going to happen, and when the breeze built later in the day, the breeze would go right.  So I took the course right gate and played the middle right.  But once again, the left proved better and I lost a few boats.  I had an ok reach, and just when I was trying to get in the groove on the downwind, I had a couple of rocks and felt the judges come in close to me again.  Not wanting to get a 2nd yellow flag and have to retire from the race, I toned it down a little, but ended up losing a few boats around me in the process.  I got around a couple on the final reach and limped into the finish in 38th place.

So I was a little bummed with my score, but I was psyched for another race when I noticed everyone started sailing in.  I guess with the sun going down, the RC didn't want to run a second race, so they sent us in.

So only one race today.  It was kind of a bummer to waste a good day of breeze and only come away with one race -- and a mediocre one at that.  I'm sure the RC will try to make up the race we missed, which means it will be another long day tomorrow. 

RESULTS

Welcome to the Most Competitive Regatta in the World

By clay - Posted on 17 November 2013

Today was the first day of the Laser World Championship in Mussanah, Oman.  The first start was scheduled for 11 AM, so I got dressed in my hotel room and walked down at about 9:30 to launch at 10 and test the course a bit.  I was in Blue fleet today which started second and sailed the inner loop.

When we got to the course, the breeze was pretty up and down, ranging from 6-12 knots.  Yellow fleet went into sequence right at 11 AM, but after a series of General Recalls, and a long postponement, they didn't get their race off until 12 AM.  At this point, the breeze had built to a solid 15 knots, where it stayed all day.  Small waves and chop were also a big factor today, and everyone was taking waves over the bow at some point.

In my first start, I lined up near the middle pin, but lost my hole to someone at the last minute and got destroyed off the start.  Lanes are so narrow in the Laser fleet, if you don't get a good start, life can be miserable.  Shortly after the start, I tacked and weaved my way through the fleet on port tack.  I found a pretty good lane and was in the middle pack heading right.  About half way up, Bruno Fontes (BRA) and Lee Parkhill (CAN) tacked to head back to the left, and my mistake on the first beat was not leebowing them and heading back with them.  I kept going right, but the left was better at the top.  I rounded in about 50th.  Brutal.

I had a mediocre first downwind, but managed to catch a few boats.  On the next beat, I stayed about the same, hedged a little to the right of the group again.  The reach was a parade, and on the downwind I finally got in the groove a little and passed about 5-6 boats.  I went over one more boat on the final reach and passed a boat or two on the final beat to finish in 37th.  Rough first race.

Knowing that I needed a better start to get in the mix, I slid down towards the pin for race two.  I had a great start about 10 boats up from the pin and legged it out to the left side of the course.  After a couple of minutes, I started to get pretty headed and flopped over to port with the fleet in my window.  Life was good!  I was in the top 4-5 for most of the beat, and I played the top well to round in 2nd place.  The top five was also a little bit ahead too, so I had some room to breathe.  About 2/3 of the way down the first beat, though, I was in about 3rd or 4th place when the jury sped up from behind and yellow flagged me, indicating that I had been rocking.  I may have been rocking a bit, but I can tell you it was not on purpose!  It was like sailing in a washing machine on the downwind and in 15 knots, I was trying keep the boat moving and upright.  So that was a bummer.  I did a quick 720, but I immediately fell into about 12th place.  The top 5 were pretty punched, and I was left in that scrappy group of sailors between 8th and 20th.  This is the hardest group to sail in because everyone is realy pushing hard to get into the top 10.  I played the left again, and looked to have held my own or even made gains, but I left a handful of boats get further left than me at the very top and lost a few.  I rounded in about 16th and held my own for the rest of the race, just on the backside of a big pack.  At the finish, I was 16th or so, but if I had another 50 yards, I would have been about 7th.  That's Laser sailing out there though, everyone is so close and going at it.

Two more races are scheduled for tomorrow, and I'm told the breeze should be pretty similar for another day or two before lightening up. 

RESULTS

Laser Worlds Start Tomorrow

By clay - Posted on 16 November 2013

Tomorrow is the first day of the Laser Worlds in Mussanah, Oman.  We will have seven days in a row of racing with two races scheduled each day.  The first four days will be qualifying with the fleet split into two groups followed by three days of Gold/Silver racing.  The fleet splits have already been posted, and I will be in Blue fleet starting second and sailing the inner loop tomorrow.

The fleet, like every international Laser event is stacked.  There is some serious talent here, and I'm looking forward to seeing how I stack up against the best in the world after so much time off.

The first race is at 11 AM.  Check back for a report tomorrow!

Made it to Oman!

By clay - Posted on 14 November 2013

After a long day of traveling, I finally made it to Oman.  I left JFK airport on Tuesday at 10:30 AM during some snow and after 12.5 hours of flying, I landed in Dubai.  The Dubai airport is pretty big, and it took all of my one hour layover to get to the other side of the airport and find my new gate.  I then took the one hour flight from Dubai to Muscat, Oman.  When I arrived in Muscat, I gathered my luggage and walked outside to find the free shuttle bus.  I couldn't find it, and after talking to someone, I realized I missed it by 10 minutes!  So my choices were to take a cab or wait for three hours for the next shuttle.  After all that traveling, all I wanted to do was settle in, so I opted for the cab.

We drove the 75 minutes from the airport out through desert to the hotel.  I had no idea where we were until all of a sudden there was the ocean.  The venue is pretty incredible.  There is a two building hotel/resort where everyone is staying.  Breakfast and dinner are inclusive, and the spreads are great with everything you could possibly want.  Before sailing, the play is to get dressed in your room, walk downstairs to your boat, rig and launch.  Then you're only a short 10 minute sail to the racing area.  Everything is so close and easy, this is really one of the best venues I've been to.

After arriving yesterday afternoon, I was able to get my charter boat and set that up.  Then I tried to stay awake as long as I could, but ended up crashing at 5:30!  I slept all the way to 7:30 in the morning, though, so I woke fresh with 14 hours of sleep.  Today was my first day on the water, and I did two sessions with the other US guys.  In the morning we went out in abut 5-7 knots and did some course testing, then we came in for lunch and went back out at 3:00 in 10-12 knots for more of the same.  It was a great way to get back into the boat.

Two more days of practicing before the event starts on Sunday.

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