Tricky Westerly on Day One of US Nats

By clay - Posted on 07 August 2009

Today was the first day of the US National Championships at the Brant Beach Yacht Club in NJ.  We had four races in a very tricky westerly breeze ranging from about 10-16.  There are 105 Lasers competing, along with 150 Radials and 35 4.7s, so the course was pretty crowded at times.  We sailed an outer loop course the whole day.

In the first race, the pin was really favored.  After a general recall where I had a beautiful pin start (that always happens, right?), I had a little raft up problem at the pin and had a very late and bad start.  I bee-lined it to the left corner and rode some nice pressure in to the weather mark in about 35th place.  I was able to rally throughout the whole race, passing a few boats on each leg to salvage a respectable 7th.

In the second race, I had a great start near the middle boat in good pressure and on a lift.  I rode the lift all the way to the port tack layline and tacked in a lefty back to the windward mark.  Rob Crane did the same and the two of us had a pretty sizeable lead at the first mark.  We rounded the leeward mark in 1st and 2nd, and I split from Rob and headed right.  At times I looked pretty good, but in the end, I struggled to get back to the mark.  When we rounded, Rob remained in 1st, I was in 2nd, but Thomas Barrows (ISV) and Greg Clunies (CAN) had closed the gap and were right behind us.  We had an intense four person downwind battle, and I was just able to sneak in front at the leeward mark and lead into the finish.  Race two ended with a 1st!

The third race featured another rally.  Before the start, I looked upwind and saw the fleet before us with a big lefty.  Most of the good guys were at the pin too, so I decided to start near the pin.  That was not the right call...  Shortly after the start, there was a big sheer to the right and everyone at the pin was hurting.  The righty held for the length of the beat, and I found myself in about 30th at the windward mark.  Again, I went to work and picked off a few boats on each leg and came back to 5th in the race.

In the final race, I had a good start in the middle of the line and headed straight to the left again.  There was a group of us who were playing the top left and I ended up 3rd at the windward mark behind Peter Hurley and Rob Crane.  Josh Junior, from NZL, and Kyle Rogachenko were also right in the mix.  We went downwind and a big puff filled low, sending Kyle and Josh ahead of me right before the mark.  I played the middle a little too much on the last beat which was not very rewarding, but I found myself in 3rd at the windward mark behind Peter Hurley and Roy Weber this time.  On the downwind, Josh got a puff and got me again, and I reached in for a 4th place finish.

Overall, I had a 7-1-5-4.  I'm pretty sure I'm winning overall, but the results aren't up on the website yet.  I think that Josh Junior is a close second.  Today was a day where it could have been very easy to sail a throwout, so I'm pretty pleased with my ability to rally for single digit finishes.  With 100+ boats on the course, and very sheery and shifty wind, it was often dangerous to get too much leverage out to the side.  But it was a good day.

Two more days of sailing.  Stay tuned for updates.

Results will be here, probably later tonight.

E-Scow Easterns

By clay - Posted on 06 August 2009

This past Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday was the E-Scow Eastern Championship co-hosted by Mantoloking Yacht Club and Bay Head Yacht Club.  I was crewing for Russ Lucas along with Andy Goetting and Leigh Kempton on these very fast, 28 foot asymmetrical spinnaker boats.  We had eight races over the past three days with a very competitive 34 boat fleet.  Just to show how competitive the racing was, in the eight races, there were six different race winners!

The first day, we had two races in a 3-8 knot shifty South-Easterly breeze.  The first race was a little tricky, as there was more pressure on the left, but a significantly better angle on the right hand side.  We won the left, but could only get to the windward mark in 15th place.  After a few good runs we clawed up as high as 4th place, but we played some shifts wrong towards the end of the race and lost a pack of about 5 boats right at the finish to sail our throwout in Race One, a 12th.  The next race went a lot better.  The breeze was gradually shifting right as the day was going on, so we wanted to win the boat and head right.  We did just that and had a comfortable lead throughout the race, taking the bullet.  A 12-1 left us in 6th place after the first day.

On the second day of racing, we had three races in a building seabreeze.  The breeze probably topped off at about 16 knots in the second race.  We started the day with a great start and were leading at the windward mark.  The top five were really close though and everyone spread out on the downwind leg.  The top five changed positions a lot and we had a great last few gybes to snipe 2nd at the finish line.  Another solid race!  In the second race of the day, we were late pulling the trigger and had a miserable start near the boat.  We picked off boats on every leg, but could only get back to 8th place in the race.

The final race of the second day was the most exciting.  We had a good start near the pin and played the middle left on the first beat.  We rounded the weather mark in about 5th place.  We were cruising downwind and started catching up to the leaders.  At the leeward mark we were right back in the hunt and headed left again up the 2nd beat.  We rounded the mark in 2nd place, right in the mix with the top 5 boats.  On the downwind, we started to pull away from the fleet and looked to have a good lead about 75% of the way down.  At that point, I noticed that our forestay pin was not in and our forestay was not attached to the boat!  This means that we would have a hard time sailing upwind, and there was a good chance our mast could fall down!  So with the asymmetrical spinnaker up (and going quite fast) we sent Andy up to the front of the boat with a pin to try to put it in.  It was really tough, especially while bouncing around in 15 knots of wind and the pressure of getting the job done before the mark.  We did a really early take down to slow ourselves down and Andy JUST got the pin in as we were rounding the leeward mark.  But he did not get a ring ding on the pin, and we began to fear that the pin would fall out if we tacked!  So after some quick thinking, we decided to send Leigh up to the bow of the boat to put a ring ding in the pin!  It was sketchy at best, but Leigh got the job done!  After all the hoop-la, we found ourselves in 4th place and hung on to finish in the same position.  But it very easily could have been a bullet and it very easily could have been a DNF.  It was one of the best 4th place finishes I'll have!

The final day we had three races.  After a great start, we won the first one pretty handidly and cut the lead to a single point.  The second race didn't go as well.  We had a bad start near the pin and after a very short windward leg  where everyone rounded at the same time, we found ourselves in 2nd to last at the mark.  We had some great downwind legs to salvage a 9th place.  Going into the last race, we were in 3rd place and could do no worse.  We still had a shot at winning, but we had to be 1st or 2nd in the race and have Bobby Koar, the leader heading into the last race, use his throwout.  We also had to beat Carl Horrocks, who was in 2nd going into the last race.  We had a great start and looked to be in the top group.  We rounded in the top five and were there the whole race.  Bobby was deep, which was encouraging, but Carl was in 1st or 2nd for the race.  We scrambled to try to get in front of Carl, but we couldn't catch him  In the end, Carl took the regatta, Bobby Koar was 2nd, and we finished 3rd.

I had a great time sailing E-Scows the past few days.  They are really fun, fast boats, and it's great to do something in addition to my laser sailing.  But it's right back to laser sailing for me; the US Nationals are at Brant Beach Yacht Club and start tomorrow!  Check back for updates!

Escow Results can be found here:  Results

More Team Racing

By clay - Posted on 27 July 2009

This past weekend I sailed the Larchmont Yacht Club Team Race in Vanguard 15s.  Elyse Dolbec crewed for me again, but my other usual teammates were busy, so I teamed up with Clay Bischoff and Jane DeLashmutt in one boat and Joel Hanneman and Alexa Shuler in the second boat.  There were fifteen competitive teams at the event, so there was a lot of potential for a great event.  Unfortunately though, Long Island Sound lived up to its typical summer reputation, and we were only able to sail on Saturday.

We were able to get 10 races in on Saturday, and we only lost one race to "Team Extreme" (composed of Stu McNay, Zach Brown, and Thomas Barrows).  With a 9-1 record, we were tied for 2nd with the Larchmont YC team of Cardwell Potts, Danny Pletsch, and John Baxter heading into Sunday.  We didn't face the Larchmont Team, though, so there was no way to break the tie.  And because we didn't finish the entire round, the event was not officially a regatta.  It's hard to even say we were "tied for second" since we still had some tough races left, other teams had "easier" races left, etc.

But at the end of the day, while I'm bummed that we couldn't finish the event, these regattas are mostly used for good practice.  While team racing may not directly correlate to my Laser fleet racing, there are many good lessons and situations that can be taken from team racing to help my Laser sailing.  And sailing with new teammates also helps to have a different perspective on the races.  So all in all, it was a fun and beneficial weekend of team racing, despite the fact that we couldn't sail on Sunday.

This upcoming weekend starts some E-Scow racing that I'm really looking forward to.  The UpBay regatta is on Saturday at the Toms River Yacht Club, followed by the Eastern Championships on Mon-Tues-Wed of next week co-hosted by Bay Head Yacht Club and Mantoloking Yacht Club.  I'm really excited to jump onboard with Russ Lucas and his new boat and get back into E-Scow sailing!

Pictures Added

By clay - Posted on 21 July 2009

Just a note that I added some pictures of the St. Margaret's Bay Sailing Center--the venue for this year's Laser World Championships--in the "Photos" tab.  There's a lot of construction going on as the club prepares for the Senior Worlds and Master Worlds starting in the middle of August.  It'll be interesting to see where they store all of the boats!

V15 Team Racing

By clay - Posted on 20 July 2009

I made it back from Nova Scotia on Thursday after a long 17 hour drive.  I wasn't home for long though!  On Friday morning, I umpired the Barclay Cup Opti Team Race at Little Egg Harbor Yacht Club.  It was a pretty uneventful regatta from a judge's standpoint (a good thing), but it was cool to see how enthusiastic and excited the young teams were to be team racing.

That night, I drove up to Toms River to load my Vanguard 15 on my car for my own team racing regatta.  Friday night, I headed up to Wianno Yacht Club for the Midsumma V15 Team Race.  The regatta was really well run and proved once again why I love sailing on the cape.  There was great breeze for the whole event (probably 12-18 knots), the club was very hospitable with food and drinks for after sailing and a great team of volunteers to run the regatta smoothly, and of course there was some good competition.

For the event, I sailed with my normal team racing team, the "Cantab Tall Boyz."  I skipper one boat with my crew, Elyse Dolbec.  Kyle Kovacs and Christina Dahlman were on the second boat.  And Sean Doyle and his wife, Susan Doyle, were in the third.  We sailed 25 races over the two days against 11 other teams.  Overall, I think we were either third or fourth.  The results were still being sorted out as we left.  Silver Panda--Colin Merrick, Pete Levesque, and Tim Wadlow-- proved once again why they are the team to beat, winning the regatta pretty handidly.  But Team Extreme--made up of Stu McNay, Zach Brown, and Justin Law--were very competitive too to take second.  Our team made the final four, which we were pretty happy about, but we were definitely a little rusty compared to the other top teams.  We also had a bit of handicap when Kyle broke his tiller universal for a few races before getting a new one.  That didn't help.  But overall, it was a really fun weekend.

I find it pretty important to take a break every now and then from laser sailing to do some other type of sailing.  Team racing is a great way to do just that.  For one thing, I was sailing a two person boat, but also part of a larger team.  It was also a different type of sailing (sailing as a team, instead of just racing the fleet) which highlights different strategies than I would use when racing by myself.  It's a nice change of pace.

This upcoming weekend is the Larchmont Team Race in V15s again.  Then the following week I'll be sailing the E-Scow UpBay regatta and the Eastern E-Scow Easterns with Russ Lucas from Bay Head.  It should be a fun two weeks before I hop back in the laser for the US Nationals at Brant Beach and then our World Championships in Nova Scotia at the end of August.

Training Update

By clay - Posted on 14 July 2009

I've had a few more days of training up here at the St. Margaret's Bay Sailing Center, and so far the bay has continued to provide great breeze.  We've had a solid 12-15 knots and big chop for most of the sailing.  The sailing has been very productive too.  What I really appreciate is that we all sit down in the morning and discuss our goals for the day.  We've had one day of long upwind speed work, a day of short "medal race" type races, a day with lots of reaching practice, a day of starts, and tomorrow we're planning to tow upwind for a few hours and do a long downwind.  We've really focused on different aspects of sailing and when we're done with this camp, hopefully we'll improve overall in everything.

Tomorrow is my last day of sailing here, and then Thursday I'm going to drive back to NJ.  I'm going to umpire the Barclay Cup Team Race for Optimists at Little Egg Harbor Yacht Club on Friday, and then I'm going to turn around and head up to Wianno Yacht Club on the Cape for the V15 Midsummas Team Race.  I'm really looking forward to sailing a different type of boat (and also a different type of sailing:  team racing vs. fleet racing).  It should be a good change of pace.

Training Going Well

By clay - Posted on 10 July 2009

I've sailed for four days here in St. Margaret's Bay, and so far the training has been going really well.  The last two days we've had the typical "bay breeze," where the warming day temperatures facilitate the building breeze.  As we've sailed out, the breeze has steadily built from about 10 knots to a steady 14-15 knots.  The bay has been pretty choppy too, making for some tricky upwind steering but some awesome downwind rides!

The temperatures have been rather cold here, mostly in the 60s.  And the water is still quite chilly too, so wearing a lot of gear is the norm.

I'm learning a lot and working hard with the top Canadians and two top British sailors.  It's been really helpful to watch the Brits sail and try to pick up what they are doing differently.  It's been great to sail with such a talented group.

We've continued our gym sessions in the morning, coupled with our spins/stretching and lengthy video debriefs at night.  The days are very long!  This clinic is definitely a grind, and we're not even half way done yet!  But hopefully this proves to be worthwhile practice for our world championships later this summer!

Stay tuned for more updates.


Back in Nova Scotia

By clay - Posted on 07 July 2009

I arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, yesterday after a much needed week off from sailing.  I spent the week between the Laser North Americans and my trip up to Halifax split between hanging out in Gloucester with my former training partner Ben Richardson, and in Quincy, MA, with my girlfriend and her family for the 4th of July.

Yesterday morning, I left Boston at 6 AM and drove the 13 hours to Halifax.  Today was the first day of our 10 day camp.  We arrived at the St. Margaret's Bay Sailing Center at about 10 AM to unload, do some boat work, and get organized before the camp began.  At 2 PM we launched and sailed the 30 minutes out of the cove and into St. Margaret's Bay.  We did some reaches and downwind drills on the way out and jumped into some short course drills.  At the end, we had one longer race before sailing upwind all the way in to the club.

The plan for the camp is shaping up pretty well.  One of our goals is to make sure that we optimize our training to prepare for the worlds.  With that, we're going to try to launch at 12:30 daily and start our drills at 1 PM because that's what time the first race is at the Worlds.  We're also going to try to sail as close to the race area as possible.  We're going to do a gym session in the morning followed by a light cool-down spin after sailing.

For the sailing, there will be one group comprised of the top six Canadians, Nick Thompson (GBR), Paul Goodison (GBR and Olympic Gold Medalist in Beijing) and myself.  Then there will be a second group comprised of about 6 other good Canadian sailors.  We'll do drills for the first half of the practice in our groups, and then we'll all come together for some longer races at the end of the day.  This will allow us to focus on specific goals and drills, yet also get some good racing in with a bigger fleet.  I'm excited to get going.

I took a few pictures of the club and the surrounding area, but have to wait until I get home to get my camera cord to upload the pictures.  The club is coming along nicely, but there is still a lot of work to do before the worlds starts.  There are many workers there every daily, chipping away at the lengthy to-do list before the event starts.  One concern that people are having is where all the boats will be stored.  The club is on a giant hill and it doesn't seem to be ideal for storing boats overnight.

The temperature was pretty cold today.  I'd say most of the day was in the high 50s and low 60s.  The water is still very cold, and doesn't seem like it's warmed up since June.  Today, the breeze was light and out of the Northeast, not a typical direction here, but will supposedly shift to the South (more of a seabreeze direction) later this week.


Final Day Report

By clay - Posted on 29 June 2009

Yesterday was the conclusion of the 2009 Laser North Americans at the Buffalo Canoe Club.  We sailed (rocked) out for two races in a drizzling rain to be met by a 6-8 knot southerly on the course.  After a LONG rock out , most of which was in fear that I would miss the start, I got to the course just as the Prep flag went up.  Fortunately, the committee went into postponement right before the start to square up the course and give the rest of the fleet a chance to get out.

Going into the last day, Lee Parkhill had the overall lead with 19 pts, I had 22 pts, two people had 27, and two people had 29.  With a seventh as my worst race so far, I decided to put a little pressure on Lee at the start.  I thought that the left was becoming more and more favored as we waited, so I tailed Lee and forced him towards the right side of the line.  I started below all of the top guys, headed out left.  Unfortunately, I didn't have that great of a start and was forced to hitch right to find a clear lane.  At the top mark, Chris Dold and Dave Wright, the two guys who had 29 points were in 1st and 2nd comfortably.  I rounded in about 15th place.  Bernie Luttmer and Luke Ramsey, the guys with 27 points, and Lee, the regatta leader, were behind me.  But right at the top of the beat, Lee got his second yellow flag from the judges which means he had to drop out of the race!  Things just got more interesting!

I had a great rally, catching up to about 7th at the leeward mark, 5th at the windward mark, and 4th at the finish, for a solid race.  Chris and Dave were first and second, and Luke and Bernie were 6th and 7th.

Going into the final race, the scores looked like this:

Clay     26

Lee      28

Chris    30

Dave    31

Luke    33

Bernie  34


It was all very close.  Since I still had my 7th as my worst race, the worst I could be was 4th.  But the points were too close with Lee, Chris, and Dave to focus on only one boat; I had to have a good race!

After a long delay to let the other fleets start, we got ready for our last race of the regatta in a lighter 6 knots and choppy conditions.  We also sailed an Inner loop trapezoid for the first time.  The pin was pretty favored, and I was set up below all of the top guys at the pin with about 30 seconds to go.  Just then, another sailor came in to leeward of me between my boat and the pin.  I didn't think too much of it because I was still set up to leeward of the competition and figured I could hold this guy off.  But unfortunately, the sailor decided to be a little too aggressive at the start, and he left at about 10 seconds!  After the start (which he was over early, btw), I was left struggling to maintain my lane.

I quickly footed off to get some breathing room, but by the time I had a clean lane, we were nearly at the layline.  I tacked back and of course got tacked on by Bernie and someone else.  I made it to the weather mark in about 8th place, but Chris, Dave, and Lee were all in the top five!  I took too big of a risk and went low by myself on the first downwind and lost too much distance.  At the bottom mark I was in about 12th place and those guys were headed to the left.  I saw a little pressure on the right, and didn't want to merely follow them around the course, so I headed right.

Some nice pressure came off the right and for a few minutes, I looked like I was right back in the race!  But at the top of the course, the breeze backed left again and those guys crossed in front of me.  I was 6th in the race and pretty far behind the three boats I needed to beat.  I again took a risk on the downwind to catch up and lost a little, and I wound up 8th in the race.

In the end, Chris Dold won the race, Dave was 2nd, and Lee was third.  The final scores were:

Chris 31

Lee 31

Clay 33

Dave 33


So I ended up 3rd in the regatta.  While I was bummed that I had the opportunity to win and didn't capitalize, it was a great event and a good learning opportunity.  Chris sailed really well, winning the last four races, to take the title.  And Lee had a great event too, but was a little unlucky with yellow flags.  All in all, it was a very competitive event and the top guys were all swapping positions with each other!

Right now I'm in Gloucester, MA, for a few days before I spend the 4th of July weekend in Boston.  Monday morning I'm driving up to Nova Scotia for a 10 day training camp with the same Canadians and some top British sailors at our World's venue.

Final Results from the North Americans can be found here; you will have to scroll down to see them.

Day Three Report

By clay - Posted on 27 June 2009

We had four more races today, the second day of racing here at the North Americans.  Much like yesterday, the sailing was very tricky and frustrating at times.  We were sent out at 9 AM for a 10 AM start in a light Northerly offshore breeze.

The first race was perhaps the craziest.  I started at the committee boat and quickly tacked to go right.  Shortly after the start, the entire fleet tacks to port and can lay the windward mark!  The pressure caves a little on the left (that saved me!) and I was able to round the weather mark in about 15th.  At this point, the breeze died to almost zero and I went very high in search of new breeze.  I got the breeze first and rode over the fleet into 2nd place!  I was 2nd for most of the downwind, but two guys passed me right at the end, putting me 4th at the first leeward mark.  On the second beat, I played the left hand side and took advantage of some building pressure to move as high as 1st for a bit.  But at the end, the breeze backed to the right and Lee Parkhill, Thomas Barrows, and Evert McLaughlin came across my bow into the mark.  I was able to pick off Thomas and Evert on the downwind and even reel in Lee a bit, but on the final upwind, things got crazy again and Thomas and Evert passed me back by getting a big righty right at the finish.  I crossed the line in 4th, only a few boat lenghts from 1st.  While I was bummed to get a 4th when I spent most of the race in 2nd, it was a crazy race and could have gone a lot worse!

The breeze shifted a little left for the second race and there were hopes of a sea breeze building.  The race was sailed in mostly 4-6 knots though.  I had a great start towards the pin and won the left side, rounding in first place at the top mark.  I was first at the reach mark, but the fleet panned out behind me on the downwind and it got really light.  A few guys got me at the bottom and I rounded in 4th place.  I again headed to the left for the second beat, but lost two guys who went hard right.  I closed the distance on them on the downwind leg and was just able to nip Rob Crane and Luke Ramsey for 4th in the second race.

The third race was the breeziest of the day with about 10 knots.  I was yellow flagged by the judges with about 30 seconds before the start for sculling, and I did the fastest 720 of my career.  I then was able to sneak into a small hole and still get off the line cleanly.  I was very lucky.  I played the middle on the first beat, but lost a little bit hedging out to the left towards the top.  I rounded in 4th place and passed one boat for a solid 3rd place finish.

The final race was perhaps the most frustrating.  The race started at about 8-10 knots, and I sailed a great first beat to round in 1st place again.  What made things even sweeter was that a lot of the "players" were in the high teens at the top mark.  What a golden opportunity to put some points on people!  I sailed a mediocre downwind, but was still winning at the leeward mark.  I was even winning about half way up the second beat, but on the right side of the course, when the breeze started to die and go hard left.  Just when I thought I was going to put a lot of points on the other guys, I saw Bernie Luttmer and Lee Parkhill coming in hard from the left hand side.  They ended up getting me, and I could only salvage a 7th.

So it was a frustrating day, a day of missed opportunities.  I don't like to play the "I should have had a ____" game, because everyone can play that.  But it wouldn't have been unreasonable for me to have a 2-1-3-1 today.  The only consollation is that I'm still very much in contention for 1st place.  The scores haven't been posted, but I think that Lee Parkhill is three points ahead of me, and I'm about five points ahead of Bernie.  We have a 10 AM first start tomorrow, and we can't start a race after 1 PM, so with some good breeze we might be able to get two more races in.

Results should be posted here soon.  You may have to scroll down to the bottom of the page to see them (I had to when I tried looking).

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