First Laser Sail of 2013

I have been a bit busy playing on big boats recently to sail a Laser and so have missed the start of the Icebreaker series in 2013. 3 races in fact. Hoping to rectify that today I ventured down to the club to see if I remembered how to rig a Laser. The sun was shining and the sky was blue – it looked almost like summer out of the window.

The wind forecast was for 16 knots of breeze, gusting 25 knots, from the south. The wind direction was important as with a southerly breeze, the sea state is flat and the wind is warm; from the north, in these wind speeds the sea would be decidedly ‘lumpy’. And cold. The were quite a few sailors looking a bit nervous before rigging their boats, but all decided it was too nice a day to miss sailing.

There had been a change to the sailing instructions since I last raced – all boats now had to display a bow number on the port side to aid the recording of finishing positions. The battery crew have difficulty reading the Laser sail numbers when there are up to 60 Lasers racing at a time and the top of the fleet is very close. My finishing position of late has not been high enough to trouble the battery, but with the amendment stating that boats not displaying a bow number would not be given a finish, I duely attached the numbers.

Having not sailed a dinghy for two months, my race plan for the day was to sail the course and keep the boat upright. Usually I would be one of the first to launch, but as there were some big gusts coming through and lots of boats capsizing on launching I was procrastinating and was one of the last to leave the shore. There was another Laser sailor launching at the same time, who kindly tied the tiller onto the rudder for me as I was holding both boats.

After launching, it was a fast reach to the other side of the bay where the committee boat was stationed. I gybed to avoid sailing the Laser on a dead run – I wanted to stay dry and minimize the chances of a capsize before the race started. CLUNK. The mainsheet blocks caught on the tiller. After trying to pull the blocks over the tiller without success I took a closer look. Lesson 1 for today – if you don’t rig your boat, check how it has been rigged; someone may rig your tiller underneath the traveller. A few minutes later, the tiller was rigged correctly and I had made it to the start line with about a minute to spare.

My start line strategy – to start behind everyone and keep out of everyone elses way. The Laser I have borrowed is rigged very differently to how mine was rigged previously; I need to go out on a day when there is no racing and sort it out properly. I actually managed to get a reasonable start next to the committee boat and then tacked away from the fleet and headed to clearer space in the centre of the bay. There was no tacking on the shifts, just one tack to take me back to the mark. Expecting to be at the back of the fleet, I was surprised to find my self about to round the mark mid-fleet. Do you ever find the times you aren’t trying are the times you actually do better? Strange.

After rounding and avoiding three upturned Lasers, there was a screaming reach back across the bay followed by another beat back up towards the turning mark. This area of the bay is always really shifty, and today was no exception. I was hiked out hard in a strong gust when the wind died away. To nothing. I was still hiked out, and now the Laser was starting to come over on top of me. Not good. And right in front of the battery and any spectator on the shore.

What followed was a bit of a stand off between me and the Laser. The Laser was quite happily sat head to wind; I was still over the side, praying for a gust to help me back up into the boat. After what seemed like an age, the Laser wasn’t budging. So, it was up to me to drop myself down into the water – it was either that or wait until the Laser decided to roll over on top of me. At least this way, the Laser was still upright and I could provide some more entertainment for the battery crew. Again. I’m surprised I didn’t get a mark out of ten for artistic impression.

Remember my comment before that I wasn’t planning on racing hard? I have a little bit of a competitive streak (just a little one, honest) and after this unplanned entry into the water, I decided I should at least try and catch up the Lasers that had passed me while I was involved in the standoff. What followed was a really fast reach, when I managed to overtake one full rig Laser and catch up two Radial rigs. Woo hoo!

The rest of the race passed off without incident; I managed to avoid the lobster pots in the bay and I didn’t even finish last! Looking at the results in the club bar later on, I realised that I got a better result for NOT sailing two weeks ago than I got today. And that todays result equalled that of last week – when I didn’t race either. Maybe next week I should go back to not sailing – it seems to be the way to improve my results at the moment!

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