I wanted to express a couple of quick thoughts about the Wequaquet Regionals while they are still fresh in my head. I will briefly discus some tactical stuff and expand on it in later WOWS. More importantly, I want to talk about some of the things that went on off the water.
While Driving to The Cape, for the clinic, on the Friday, I began to think about an overall strategy for the regatta. We knew the fleet was going to be very strong and the breeze was going to be decent and from the Northeast, a direction I had not seen before on the lake. My plan was to try to do three things- Be patient, be observant, and let others make mistakes. I will try to explain these.
I think I have lost this regatta in the first race, more times than I can count. It always happens the same way- I round the last leeward mark close behind someone ( maybe 3rd or 4th) and try to pass them by doing something stupid, like tacking off the favored tack, and end up losing the two boats behind me. Of course, in the final standings, I end up 2 points behind the winner! This time, I rounded the leeward mark right behind Drew Buttner. He stayed on the lifted tack and sailed towards an incoming righty. Although it took patience to follow Drew, it was the right thing to do, as Amanda, Ken and Eric were close behind. It actually felt good to follow the plan and it put me into the right frame of mind for the rest of the regatta.
Eric had a really good day on Sat. He said he was seeing the shifts coming clearly and using one shift to get to the next. This is the key to sailing in a shifty breeze. Great Chess players are able to see many moves in advance; Grandmasters sometimes see 7-8 moves ahead. We are more fortunate. We only need to be able to see two moves ahead. While it is fairly easy to see a shift or puff coming, it is the one following it that we must set up for. For example, if you are on port tack and the second shift looks like it is coming from the left, you probably should tack as soon as the first header hits you, thus positioning yourself for the second one. However, if the pressure looks stronger to the right (behind the first shift) sail deeper into the shift, or if it is a fan puff, put the bow down a little and sail up the right side of the shift. Combining this with proper fleet positioning leads to consistently good results!
Patience again played a big role in race 3. I tacked shortly after rounding the leeward mark and found myself on a big lift. The problem was that the wind kept going right and the boats to windward were lifting over me. The lift seemed to last forever, but we were less than half way to the weather mark. Some of the sailors around me felt the breeze was persistently shifting to the right and tacked to get into it. This was mistake, as there was no reason to think it was persistent. It was not the sea breeze direction, nor was there any indication of a weather change. I remember thinking- Be patient, there is a long way to go! While the breeze kept going right, it was definitely getting lighter and the boats above us were starting to have less pressure; another sign it was not persistent. Finally, as I neared the Port layline, the breeze died. Now is the time to be really observant! A new wind line appeared from the left and I used the old Stuart Walker tactic of sailing past the layline (in this situation) to get to the new breeze first. I reached into the mark ahead of the boats previously to windward and was able to hold them off to the finish.
We were really lucky to have sailing legend Dave Dellenbaugh race with us over the weekend. Dave writes a great sailing magazine called “Speed and Smarts”. It is always great to sail against someone like this, because you can learn so much from them. The biggest thing I learned from him is that he practices what he preaches! Every sailing tactics book tells you to check the starting line, get line sights, etc. The truth is, most of us are not that diligent about doing so; maybe because we get lazy or nervous. Not Dave; he constantly checks the line, gets and verifies his line sights and vigilantly looks upwind for clues. For this reason, he is an excellent starter and always jumped out into the front row. I am definitely going to try to work harder at this in the future. He also put a great move on me downwind, but I will talk about this, and more in-depth tactical stuff, at a later time.
What I really want to talk about is what a great weekend it was! WLYC did an awesome job of organizing the event. Besides great racing and hospitality, they had special events for the kids and the adults. This is exactly what the class, and all of sailing for that matter, needs. It seems like people prefer venues that do not require long sails out to the race course, have shorter course races and have shore side get-togethers. Other venues, such as Massapoag YC have used this formula and they have become very popular over the last few years. These events make it nice for families and thus, are well attended.
It seems like we need to show others what this class is all about! I am sure that with the state of the economy, people are looking to sail without spending lots of money, and time working on their boats. Events like this should encourage others to come out and sail Sunfish. As far as racing sailors go, we need to show how competitive this class is. Even at the local level, this class is strong. When people like Alan Beckwith and Brian McGuiness don’t even make the top ten at a regional event, you know we have a good fleet. We also need to encourage juniors and less experienced sailors to show up and sail, by being helpful and perhaps having a separate score for them. All of this can be shown, with pictures and stories on our awesome new website!
Finally, I want to thank WLYC for dedicating the 50th anniversary of the event to Len Ruby! I also want to send out a huge thank you to Drew Staniar, Eric and the Sunfish class for the wedding toast to Gisele and I at the awards ceremony! It meant a lot to both of us, and Gisele could not wait to tell her family in Rio all about it.
Want to stay connected with the Sunfish Class? Join our mailing list and we'll periodically send out Class news and featured news articles.