Recently, I've had a few requests for some rigging photos. So I took some pictures of my boat and different control lines to give you guys an idea of how I set my boat up. Check out the pictures and explanations in the photo album. I use the Colie Sails' "Mojo" system, which I find to work really well.
I welcome any comments or new ideas if you think you have a better way!
Today was the last day of racing in Hyeres...and it was CRAZY. We went down to the yacht club at our normal time today and, again, sat on shore postponed for a while to wait for breeze. At about 12 o'clock, a nice breeze filled and we were quickly sent out to our course. Once we got there, we sat through many general recalls, abandoned races, and postponements before we started racing. The reason we did this was because our course was between two fighting breezes and, to make matters worse, was right behind a big mountain! To say it was shifty would be an understatement!
Our race finally started at about 2:30. Get this, when we started our first race boats were overlaying the windward mark on starboard from the committee boat AND overlaying the windward mark from the pin on port! Brad Funk, the other American Laser sailor, had an awesome start on port at the pin in his own personal puff. Luther Carpenter, our coach, made the observation that 20 seconds into the race Brad already had a 2 minute lead on the fleet! He really timed it well!
I, however, did not time it well. I was in the middle of the line trying to get to the pin end when the gun went off. While Brad had his own puff, I had my own personal wind vaccuum; I sat with the boom in the middle of the boat trying to get to some pressure! Needless to say, the first race didn't go that well. I ended up 42nd!
After laughing off the first race, I quickly got ready for the final race of the regatta. The next race was quite shifty like the first. I had a good start in the middle of the line and played the middle right. At different points on the beat, I was anywhere from 3rd to 25th! I rounded in the mid teens and picked off a few boats throughout the rest of the race to get to 14th. It was another crazy race!
So overall, I was 5th in silver fleet, or 52nd overall. This regatta was particularly tough to swallow. I definitely sailed well at times, but I had too many bad breaks. One thing I want to focus on is the need to balance sailing conservatively with taking some more risks. In a strong fleet like the laser class, that balance is really important. But it's so hard to find! When do you take a risk and dig in deeper to your side and when do you conservatively play the shifts and try to pick off boats one at a time? That's one skill that can always be improved.
Overall, my European trip has been really rewarding. I've been here for exactly one month, and I've sailed in two really competitive regattas against some of the best sailors in the world. I've had some good training sessions and awesome bike rides. And I've been able to travel through Spain and France with some close friends. It's been a great experience.
The plan now is to come home on Saturday and relax for a bit. I'll be umpiring some college regattas and getting ready for the next World Cup Event in Medemblik, Netherlands, in the middle of May.
I had two awesome races today on the penultimate day of the Semaine Olympique Regatta in Hyeres, France! The conditions today were very similar to yesterday: we went down to the sailing center and waited around for breeze in the morning, and, after a short postponement, we went out and sailed two races in 5-7 knots and flat water.
Today also marked the first day of the fleet splits. After a mediocre qualifying series, I sailed in silver fleet today. Fortunately, silver fleet is still quite competitive with a handful of Olympians and other top sailors, so the fleet is still pretty good.
The first race I had a really good start in the middle-boat third of the starting line. After sailing for a few hundred yards on starboard, I tacked and headed right for some nice right pressure. I pretty quickly established myself in the lead pack and was 4th at the weather mark. I passed one boat on the downwind leg and a second boat shortly after the leeward mark. The top of the second beat got quite shifty, and I was able to play some shifts and close the gap on the lead boat. I rounded the last windward mark and reach mark in second, but was able to sail around the leader half way down the last run. I rounded the leeward mark in first and reached in for a great first race win!
The second race was just as sweet. I got a good start a little closer to the committee boat and sailed in a big lift and pressure almost out to the port tack layline. I played a few shifts at the top and rounded third. I was able to pass the second place boat on the first downwind, and again, played some shifts really well to close the gap on the leader by the last windward mark. I followed the leader across the reach, and we raced for the final mark. About 75% of the way down I was pretty sure that I wasn't going to catch him, but right at the end I got some nice pressure and rode a good by-the-lee angle into the mark and in front! I rounded the mark again in first and reached to the finish line for another win!
I was really excited about the racing today. While I'm obviously bummed that I didn't make gold fleet, I'm trying to get some good practice in the silver fleet racing and two first place finishes feels good. What I was even more pleased with was how I won the races. I didn't do it by taking big risks and going for horizon jobs. I was able to sail conservatively and chip away at the people ahead of me when the time was right. That truly is the end goal: having good starts, sailing conservatively, and then waiting for the opportunities to present themselves to pass the boats in front of you. So I was pleased with my decision making today.
Two more races are scheduled for tomorrow, the last day of sailing for my month long trip to Europe. Results
Today was the third day of racing--and the final day of qualifying-- at the Semaine Olympique Regatta in Hyeres, France. We headed down to the sailing center at 10 AM again, but there was not a breath of air on the water. We sat in the boat park and waited until just after noon for a 5-7 knot breeze to fill in from the west.
I was in Blue fleet today, which meant that I was the second start and sailed an inner loop. The breeze was pretty steady as far as velocity was concerned, but it oscillated pretty consistently and was very shifty at the top of our beat (our weather mark was, again, just off shore). Racing today was tough, as everyone in the fleet was going pretty much the same speed; if you couldn't get off the line well and sail your own race, you were left to be dictated by others in the fleet.
The first race of the day went really well. The committee boat and right hand side of the course were both pretty favored, so there was a lot of pressure to start near the boat and quickly tack. I executed my first beat game plan perfectly: I got a good start a little bit down from the committee boat to avoid the congestion, tacked into a nice lane, and headed to the right looking for a good angle to come back to the mark. I concentrated on sailing the boat really flat today in the flat water and light conditions and, coupled with a good sail setup, it helped my speed and pointing relative to the fleet. I rounded the weather mark in first and extended a little on the downwind. On the second beat I was able to hedge my nearest competitors away from the right hand side and made a comfortable lead for myself at the next mark. I had a little bit of a scare on the last downwind when the breeze died and the fleet spread out behind me, but I was able to get to the leeward mark in first and reach in for a win. It felt good to pull off a wire-to-wire win in the tough fleet and tricky conditions!
Race two was sailed in very similar conditions. This time, though, I didn't have as good a start and was forced to survive in some pretty tight lanes. Just like in the first race, there was a premium on being able to sail your own race, and I never really got out enough to do my own thing. The mark roundings in the second race were ridiculously crowded too. At both leeward marks, boats 5th-40th arrived right at once! I missed a few opportunities to pass big packs of boats and settled for a 24th in the race.
I moved up another 30 spots today, but unfortunately ran out of qualifying days to get into gold fleet. For the rest of the regatta I will be in silver fleet. While I'm obviously bummed out that I won't be racing in gold, there are still going to be good things to take away from the last two days. Silver fleet is going to be pretty tough since many good sailors also had a rough qualifying series and didn't make the cut. For example, American Brad Funk, Tom Slingsby (reigning 2x world champion), and a few other Olympians join me in silver. So hopefully we'll get a few more good races to work on some things and take away some lessons.
Two more days of racing are left and the forecast is calling for more light air. Results can be found here.
Day two of the Semaine Olympique Regatta in Hyeres, France, wasn't much better than the first day. We started on time today in more light air and choppy conditions. The breeze was pretty patchy, and to make things worse, it was raining so it was tough to read. I was in red fleet again, which meant that I started third.
In the first race, I had a bad start at the boat and headed right searching for a clean lane. At times I looked ok coming back to the middle, but at the top of the beat the left came in and I struggled to make it back to the mark. I picked up a few boats over the course of the race, but was never able to put together a big rally. I finished 26th in the first race.
The second race was sailed in similar conditions. I had a pretty good start near the boat end of the line and tacked towards the right. I quickly established myself in the top group, but had a little bit of bad luck with my positioning and got pin-balled around a little bit. I worked the middle of the course, but both sides got pressure late and converged ahead of everyone in the middle. At the windward mark, I was in about 25th place. On the first downwind, I was able to catch a few boats. I rounded the leeward mark and headed out to the left. About half way up, the breeze shifted about 30 degrees left, and I began to wind up off the fleet. I was hoping I would get a little pay back for all the bad luck I've been having! It turns out I wasn't quite risky enough. A few of the guys I let get further left of me got their own personal puff and reached into the weather mark in a comfortable top 5 position. And many of the guys who were ahead of me were just able to maintain their lead. I still made some gains, rounding the weather mark in about 14th. I held my position for the rest of the race and finished 14th in race 2.
So far the racing hasn't been going that well. One look at the scores will tell you difficult the breeze is. It's been pretty light, very choppy, and very patchy out there. If there's one lesson I've learned about Hyeres so far, it's that it pays to be a little greedy. I think my mistakes have come from being too conservative at times. For the rest of the regatta I'm going to focus on being aggressive at the start and working my side of the course hard before consolidating in front of people. We'll see how it turns out.
One more day of qualifying left before the split into Gold-Silver-Bronze fleets. Hopefully I can move up a little with two good races tomorrow.
Today was the first day of racing at the Semaine Olympique Regatta in Hyeres, France, and it was a rough one! I got to the sailing center a little early to finish up some work on my bailer (there was a little lip on my bailer, so coach Luther Carpenter and I sanded it down and siliconed it on to the boat! Fast!). Fortunately there wasn't much breeze in the morning, so we weren't too rushed. We ended up sitting on shore until about 12:15 when the AP flag came down and we were sent out. The cool thing about this venue is that there are a bunch of cafes and bakeries lining the boat park. So any time spent on shore is pretty comfortable!
There are 150 boats here, and we were divided into three fleets for qualifying. I was in Red fleet today, which means that I was the third start. At 1:15, the Yellow fleet started there 1st sequence. After five general recalls, they finally got a light air, drifter race in! Blue and Red fleets sat and watched. We sat around for a few hours as the breeze dropped out completely and shifted hard right and off-shore.
At 4:45 Blue fleet started it's first race, and at about 5:10, my fleet finally got under way! I knew that the patchy, 1-4 knot breeze was going to be quite shifty, so I wanted to get a good start and then be pretty conservative on the beat. I ended up having an awesome start towards the boat end of the line and played the middle right-hand side of the course up the beat. I was in the top group with three other guys. Just before the mark, a big lefty streak came down and a few boats passed me, but I was still in 8th at the windward mark. I stayed in 8th on the reach leg and actually caught up to a solid 5th place on the downwind leg. About 80% down the run though, the breeze around me died and shifted around, allowing all the boats behind and to leeward to ride some pressure into the leeward mark. Boats placed 5th-40th arrived all at once!
After the chaotic mark rounding, I came out of the leeward mark in about 25th place. The next beat was a port tack parade to the windward mark. On the final downwind, I just missed passing a group of about 8 boats by about 2 feet at the mark. I gybed on the outside of the group and headed towards the finish in 29th place.
It was a tough first race, especially because I thought I had a great start and sailed a good, conservative first beat. I stuck to my plan, and for the most part, it panned out well. It was frustrating, but I guess that's sailboat racing sometimes!
So after race 1, the race committee decided that we had to have our 2nd scheduled race of the day. Just after 7 PM, we finally started our 2nd race! Well, starting is all I did because I started over the line. We had one general recall under a black flag start, and my number was posted on the board as being black-flagged and disqualified from the race. I guess the only consellation was that I could head in and didn't have to wait until 9 PM to get ashore, but it was a bummer.
So it was a tough start to my regatta. The good news is that with 9 races, we get 2 drops. So I'm not completely out of it. The potentially troublesome news is that there will be a fleet split after 6 races, so I need to have some good finishes the next couple of days to ensure that I get into gold fleet! Tomorrow it's supposed to rain and be light air again. We have a 12 o'clock start with 2 more races planned.
Results can be found here, but they don't look pretty....
I arrived in Hyeres yesterday afternoon for the Semaine Olympique Regatta that starts on Sunday. After my regatta ended in Palma, I stayed for a few extra days with Nick Thompson (GBR) and James Espey (IRL) to cycle and take a few days off from sailing. The cycling was awesome. I have more respect than ever for professional cyclists. Imagine climbing up mountains for over an hour with no flat spots or downhills portions! Then, just when I was relieved to get to the top, I have to cruise downhill at 35 mph (squeezing the breaks the whole time) around windy roads. It was intense, but very good for me.
On Tuesday night, the three of us loaded all of our gear, boats, bikes, and clothes into the van and took the 12 AM overnight ferry from Palma to Barcelona. Once in Barcelona, we drove the 7 hours to Hyeres. The drive was pretty scenic and uneventful--apart from being pulled over asked for all of our papers as we crossed the border from Spain into France.
Hyeres is pretty nice. I'm staying at a house with some fellow Americans, so it's nice to have some company. The house is gorgeous and right on the water; it's only a 10 minute walk to the sailing site too. Last night, Stu McNay's mom, Beth, made a fabulous home-cooked meal for all of us! It was delicious and certainly what I needed.
The plan is to sail today and tomorrow, and then I'll probably take Saturday off. The regatta starts on Sunday, and just like in Palma, we will have qualifying on Sunday-Monday-Tuesday, followed by Gold/Silver fleet races on Wednesday-Thursday, and a medal race on Friday.
We finally got some good breeze on the final day of racing at the Princess Sophia Trophy in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. We showed up to the club for a 12 o'clock start time, but were initially postponed because of a lack of breeze. We sat on shore for about an hour, but shortly headed out in a dying seabreeze. Once out there, the breeze died to nearly nothing, but the wind quickly shifted to the North-west and built to 6-16 knots for three races.
The first race was sailed in a very shifty 8-12 knots of breeze. We were pretty close to shore again, and the weather mark was only a few hundred yards off of some buildings. I had an ok start and tacked to the right in a good lane. For our first race, there were quite a few big winding right shifts, but there was some steadier, more consistent breeze on the left. When I was working my way back from the middle right, there were times when I would lift off of the fleet and looked like I could be in the top five. But the last shift into the mark was a big lefty that didn't help much. I rounded in about 30th place and stayed about there for the entire race, finishing 31st.
The second race was sailed in a solid 15 knots of breeze and big chop. The breeze had swung a little left, so it was more stable. I had a good start at the favored committee boat end of the line. I quickly tacked right and sailed for a few hundred yards. I got a big header and pressure, tacked, and looked great as I was crossing most of the fleet heading back to the center of the course! A few boats and I rode some nice pressure all the way up the course, and we jumped out to a nice lead. I was in 3rd place at the weather mark. Kristian Ruth, from Norway, was able to slip by on the first downwind. But I was able to separate from him and play a few shifts to pass him back on the next beat. I extended a little on the downwind and held on for a very satisfying 3rd place finish!
For the final race, the breeze died a little and shifted back right to a more offshore direction. The windward mark was all the way in close to shore, which made it really shifty at the top of the windward leg! I wanted to play the left side, as it seemed like there would be some more pressure there. Just like the first race, there were times when I looked great coming into the mark and times when it didn't look so good. When I finally got to the mark, I was in about 25th place. I caught a few boats initially, but sailed a poor final beat. I was pretty out of phase for most of it and fell back to 26th place at the finish.
Overall, it was an ok day. After my 31-3-26 I moved up to 17th place, a mere 2 pts from 15th. Gold fleet is pretty tough, and one look at how inconsistent the scores are will reveal just that. I was particularly pleased with my 3rd place finish. It's good to know that I can hang with the top guys if I get in the top group. Now I just need to do that more often!
Sailing in Palma has been a great experience. I had some good training beforehand, and I learned a few things from racing against this fleet. Every time I go out I figure out more and more things I can do better. It's all part of the process of improving overall, so I'm really glad I was able to spend two weeks here.
The plan now is to stay in Palma for a few days to ride our bikes in the mountains nearby. It should be some awesome riding, and I'm looking forward to taking a few days off from sailing for some cross-training. On Monday night, I'm going to drive to Hyeres, France, with James Espey, an Irish sailor. Our next regatta starts on the 18th!
Final Results can be found here: Results
It was a long fourth day at the Princess Sophia Trophy today. We arrived at our normal time to have our US team meeting and discuss the weather. Overnight, we had had a huge rain/wind storm come through, and we thought that we would get some of that breeze today. Also, all of the forecasts that we read called for 15-20 knots of breeze and rain. So we were all a little shocked when we arrived to the club and there was no breeze!
We sat around the boat park waiting for the breeze to come in. At about 2:30, the Race Committee decided to send us out in what looked like a nice and building breeze. About 10 minutes off the beach, I saw some boats in front of me start turning around and reaching quickly back to shore. Motor boats started screaming by and pointing to the sky. There was a really cool funnel cloud right near us! It's my understanding that a funnel cloud is basically a tornado that doesn't touch down on ground. And if a funnel cloud touches down on water it's a waterspout. Regardless, there was a big black cloud with kind of a tail hanging off of it (funnel cloud part) coming right towards us! With that, I tacked around and raced back to shore quickly too! It was a mad dash to get all of our boats out of the water at the same time. Some people took advantage of the big surf and were riding their lasers in towards the beach for entertainment as they were waiting for the masses to get their boats out! It was an exciting 15 minutes!
After about an hour on shore waiting for the weather to clear up, the Race Committee sent us out again! We went out and started our only race of the day at about 5:15. I guess the most polite way to describe the race would be "sketchy." So this was the first race in gold fleet, which means that the competition is the hardest it can get. The race was only 35 minutes long in a puffy, very shifty 15-18 knot off-shore breeze. To make matters worse, there was some current going downwind which made starts and the windward mark a nightmare. The fleet was very uncivil; boats were hitting each other and blatently fouling all over. I saw one guy heading into the weather mark on starboard tack, about to round, when out of nowhere another guy on port t-boned him and flipped him over! There was lots of rail-rubbing and fouling.
I had a bad start but was able to grind back to about mid-fleet by the windward mark. At the windward mark, I was just shy of the layline but there was a boat on my hip pinning me from tacking. I turned around and said "hey we're not going to make the mark, let's tack out now before the mess at the mark!" To which he replied, "No way, man! We're going to make it!"
Yeah, we didn't make it.
At the mark there were about 20 boats piled up trying to get around. I had to gybe out and duck them all and get back in line. I lost quite a few boats! At the leeward mark, I had set myself up quite well to go the right hand gate mark, but didn't see another competitor who changed his mind at the last minute and decided to come to my mark. I ran into the side of his boat and fouled him. So I spun a 720 penalty in a big 18 knot puff (not fast). At this point, I was pretty far back in the fleet. I was able to grind away and catch about 20 boats to finish in 46th in the race, but it was a very frustrating finish. What bums me out most about sailing in Europe sometimes is the lack of respect for the rules. It almost seems unfair to me to spin for fouling and not have anyone else spin! But such is life.
I guess the big lesson for the day is to really be on top of the situation and "avoid the big mistakes." Today's short race was one where I could have been top 10 easily if I had not gotten into any trouble. So many times, especially in a stacked gold fleet race--the first of the final series--people push it a little too hard. Ducking that extra boat at the weather mark and getting a little room could pay huge dividends in the end. So assessing the race setup was the lesson of the day.
Tomorrow is the last day of races (except for the medal race day). Two races are scheduled, but we're all hoping that if the breeze is nice the Race Committee will do a third race. I'm currently in 23rd place, despite using my throwout today. Hopefully with a few good races tomorrow I can improve upon my position a little!
Here are the RESULTS.
No racing today on Day Three of the Princess Sophia Trophy!
We met down at the Yacht Club for our 10 AM briefing. At about 11:20, the Race Committee decided to send us out in a dying breeze. We went out and drifted around in light, unstable breeze and constant rain. After about 30 minutes, the RC sent us back in to wait on shore. We stayed on shore for about an hour while it poured rain and the breeze slowly built. At about 2:30, we were sent back out to try to get some races off, but as we got out there, the breeze shut off again. At 4 o'clock they made the call that we were done for the day!
Days like this can be pretty draining, even though there wasn't much sailing going on. The process of launching and coming in twice (and adding and removing wet sailing gear), along with trying to stay mentally ready to race at any moment can be tolling. But these days also offer good opportunities to catch up with friends and plan logisitics.
Perhaps the highlight of the day was the exciting tow in. Coach Luther "King of the Tow" Carpenter, towing Paige Railey and me, rallied from a slow start to nip the other US coach boat that was driven by Mitch Brindley. We were one of the first ones to the beach, and that's the race you want to win on a day where all 200+ Lasers are arriving at once to get out of the water.
The US team got together for a team dinner tonight at a tapas restaurant down the beach. It was good to talk to some sailors from other classes. The rain has been relentless here, and someone at dinner, while looking out the window at the POURING rain, commented that this has been the wetest regatta of his life. While out on the water, I saw two Polish sailors put their boats together. One capsized his boat on top of the other so that the sail was covering the other's cockpit, and then the two sailors sat underneath the sail to stay dry! It seems like everyone has had enough.
Big breeze and more rain are forecasted for tomorrow though. Since we have our four races required for the split, we will divide into Gold and Silver tomorrow. Gold fleet will become twice as hard as our qualifying races, and a couple good finishes can really move me up in the standings. Check back for another update!