27 July 2008

Bunnies and Beer

This is about sailing, really it is. Light turnout for Fleet 76 Friday Racing this past week. Only enough folks in town to fill three Vanguards; so, rather than trying to field a proper race committee, I offered up my Megabyte as bunny for rabbit starts. It worked out pretty well, actually, and I got some good practice sailing high and fast trying to hold off the pursuing 15 footers. After a nice moderate and warm breeze to get things started, the wind really began to freshen. A few quick, just for fun reaches across the straight with everybody hollerin', "wahoo," and it was time to head for the parking lot for the beers.

All in all, a very nice way to end the work week.

14 July 2008

HeyItWasGreat, NoReallyItWas.

David and Megabyte are taking the drive
Today to the mountains, will arrive by five
Expectations are high on Huntington Lake
To generate content for Heyitwasgreat.
But, how great can it be when you finish mid-fleet?
How great can it be when you suck wind every beat?
When your head hurts from the high altitude,
When campsite neighbors are so loud, how rude!
How great can it be when a Laser beats you in the end
(Intend no offense to Tillerman and friends.)
When your mom gashes a hand on the bear box,
When your daughter barfs peaches on her white socks.
So, how great can it be?
Just perfect actually.

Well, at first, I felt that I would have to skip the heyitwasgreat writing project on account of my somewhat disappointing race results at the High Sierra Regatta this past weekend. After all, how could finishing dead-mid-fleet be great? So, it wasn't great the way I had hoped, or maybe it was the way I had hoped: family, friends, learning, sailing on new water!!

It's been 36 years since the family made the trek from the Bay Area south to Huntington Lake for the High Sierra Regatta, and this time I was the dad racing the boat. My mom came along, too, with Bill, and had lots of good stories to tell of things I'd long since forgotten. "Did you know that after rounding the weather mark, I would always pour a cup of tea for your Dad for the long run back down the lake?" I wondered if it was just an English thing (the boat was named 'Limey too' after all) or if it was a gesture to psych out the other Mercury Class competitors. The trip was also made special by cousins Rod and Dody with Garret and Addy making the drive up the hill from Fresno to join us for a night of camping. Rod left me the most touching blog comment on Monday. Made me cry all my racing woes away and remember how great it all was. Thanks for that, Rod.

Of course it was also great to race against Dean and Charles again and Mack and Craig for the first time. In fact, the whole Folsom crowd was something special from incredible shore-side support (wading out in the cold lake to help launch and retrieve us), hosting parties before and after racing, and swapping stories of what works and what doesn't on this lake--apparently, I got those two mixed up. And, hey, I even recognized Benicia sailing bud, Murray, half way down the run. Had a nice little chat as I sailed by.

Family and friends, that was great. So, what did I learn? My starts still suck; my tacks still suck; I can't read windshifts; my tactics are naive; and that all leads to being a hell of a long way behind after a 3-mile beat to the first mark. The good news is that I was pretty dang fast downwind. That practice steering the boat with body movement is paying off.

But what about the drive? Well, this is what TK shared with us:
If you want to be a really great sailor, you have to get off your home lake and travel the boat . . . The rival lake that always cleaned our clocks in the regional regattas had sailors who traveled all the time! I had the drive, but what I needed to do was drive!! White line fever!!! And I did. I hit the road and regattad more than almost anyone in the class. Frustrations. Growing pains. Always another lake to figure out . . . And then it crystallized. All of a sudden everything got easier. Starting in big fleets. Figuring out the breeze and the local lake effects. Staying with the really fast guys. And I started to win. Even a lot.
It was and will be a drive worth taking. Thanks everybody for a great weekend!

06 July 2008

Progress Report

Well, next weekend is the next big regatta on the racing calendar--The High Sierra Regatta. A few weeks back, I reflected on lessons learned at Whiskeytown and set a few training goals. So, how has it been going? Well, time will tell come Sunday afternoon, but here's how the preparation has gone:
  • Racing tactics: I've been skimming through all my racing books studying, especially, upwind tactics. The good news is that Mssrs. Walker, Bavier, Elvstrom, and Pinaud all say basically the same thing. Of course, it only matters if I can remember their advice and put the principles into practice on the racecourse . . .
  • Downwind speed: I got two good downwind practice sessions in. One in moderately heavy air and the other in fluky light air. I learned to ease up on the heavy tiller grip and let the helm go neutral, steering the boat with my body, and not trying to fight the waves. It all felt fast, but we'll see how it goes relative to the other boats this weekend.
  • Tacking: My first practice session was too windy to focus much on roll tacking mechanics. instead, I worked on driving the boat to weather in a steep chop. Good thing this boat has bailers as I just about filled the cockpit a couple of times punching through green water (slow). In the second two practice sails, I managed to get the mainsheet handling figured out with a good ease as the boom crossed over setting up for a nice pump out of the tack. Still cant get the boat roll to feel right.
  • Getting in better shape: This has not gone well. Maybe the added ballast will come in handy if it blows hard at the lake, but if I'm not strong enough to put it to use, it'll more likely just slow me down. Dang. Forget all the lame excuses, I just need to get focused on making better choices to improve and sustain my health and strength.
Well, enough on the prep work, the exciting part lies ahead. I'm really looking forward to returning to Huntington Lake. It was 25 years ago that I raced a Thistle there and almost 40 that I watched from the shore as my dad raced his Mercury. It'll be my kids watching the dad race this time. If I win, they'll be excited. If I don't, I'll get the opportunity to explain to this new generation that there is more to sailboat racing than winning. I like to think my dad won the Mercury class, but honestly, I can't remember, and I know he (we) went back year after year regardless.

Wish me luck.