Thursday, April 17, 2014

2014 - An Off Year

I have decided to go slow this year. My work and personal life have taken much of my free time. My weekend time will be more valuable to me than it used to be. And yes, this means it is more valuable than sailing time.

As a result, my planned regattas consist of the local Keuka regatta in late August, and possibly nothing else. I will have to play each weekend by ear.

This time of year is normally when I go through some serious withdrawal, where I need to get out on the water. The Florida circuit regattas are a good fix. But I will not be seeing any Spring regattas.

Knowing that the Summer is light, I'm not having as much of a problem not sailing now. It's not like I'm prepping for an upcoming season. In fact I have had no desire to collect my boat from storage yet.

I wonder if this is what everyone experiences before retirement? I have no plans to retire from sailing. If my circumstances change I'm back in full force.


So for now, I watch, maybe teach a little, maybe sail a little. Who knows.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Crew

I weigh about 220 pounds. An MC-Scow weighs 420 pounds. So I was just over half the weight of the boat. E-Scows run 650 pounds of crew for 965 pounds of boat (2/3 the boat weight). And that varies by boat and wind. So how much weight is good for how much wind?

The way I sail the MC, I start depowring the sail at about 12 mph of wind. By 15 I'm pretty well depowered. By 18 I'm in full feathering mode finding the narrowest of sailing grooves to keep the speed up. I'm pretty good at depowering and still keeping up the speed. Against anyone else in similar weight ranges I'm okay.

What if I had another 100 pound person for 320 pounds? Or what if I was 140 pounds (ha!)? Well the depower numbers all shift by about 1 mph of wind for every 15-20 pounds. This isn't by any scientific method, just from observations. So the 140 pound person depowers at 8-9 mph, and the 300 pound team at 15-16.

What I saw at the Blue Chip was that I was near full depower as soon as race 2, and crewed teams simply walked away from me. I was out pointing them but at a severe speed cost. Essentially I was feathering up while they were driving away.

This video shows Allison Price (2025) tacking onto my hip at the start. Within the 1:20 of the video she has walked over and away from me by about 10-12 boat lengths. Multiply this over three windward legs and the advantage is obvious. And she probably only had about 75-80 pounds more on the boat than I did. Allison went on to win the race.


video


There is no getting around it. Crew weight is a massive variable in the MC-Scow fleet. The ability to change it from race to race can be a HUGE advantage. And therefor the inability to change it is a huge disadvantage. 

Different fleets handle this differently. Some require crew weights to be within a certain range, or up to a certain max for all racing. E-Scows require that the crew compliment remain constant for a regatta. So who you sail race 1 with is who you finish the last race with.

MC-Scows have no rules around this at all, no max, no minimum, no limits on changes. At Blue Chips, many people found crew, arranged ahead of time, forced their wives to sail for the first time in years, retired on boat to combine both skippers into the other boat with one as crew, etc. Of the starters of race 3, I think all but 4 had crew. And those 4 finished in the bottom 5 boats.

I was in a jam. I was offered crew, but at the cost of someone else's race. I believe they ere willing to give up crew to be very nice. I couldn't do that. So I really had no crew options. 

I knew it was going to blow. I knew I needed crew. But I had no option to bring anyone with me. And then what if I did? That person would have sailed 3 of 6 races, and sat on shore bored stiff unable to even see the racecourse all day Sunday. Nine hours drive each way, having to share a hotel room with Farty von Snore (me), and only sailing three races is a hard ask to make. 

So I did the best I could. I suspect it cost me 7-12 total points, or 2-3 overall places. 

Is that fair? Do locals with support boats and crew have a distinct advantage over visitors? What can be done about it?

I don't know why the fleet has no rules. I can only assume it is because MC-Scows are an old man boat. Adding and taking away crew allows 70-year-olds to compete. Should the rules be different based on age group? What's fair?

Here are some optons:

1) Under 50 must keep their starting compliment for the regatta, Masters can change each day but must remain with that configuration for the whole day, and Grand Master and up have unlimited changes?

2) Under 50 has a combined crew weight limit of 250, Masters 300, Grand Masters and up 350. The idea is to limit the ability to improve with the addition of crew since the add may be slight for fat guys like me. But lightweights and old guys can pick up enough weight to compete. It is a playing field leveler.

3) Total boat weight (crew plus boat) must be between 620 and 720. Water bladders on either side of the boat behind the board wells or lead on the keel under the deck will be used to bring the boat up to minimum. The impact of this is that lightweight skippers lose the light air advantage. But the argument can be made that immovable ballast is a penalty. The 200-pound person is fully mobile while the 140-pound person and 60 pounds of water is not. It's not a good plan. The 150-pound person would have to find competent 50-pound crew to be competitive.

4) Finish with what you start with - no changes within the regatta. You need to decide if you are willing to sail light in a blow or heavy in light air. I suspect this would lead to very few crew for a mixed forecast regatta. Is that unfair to the elderly? Juniors?

There is no easy right answer. But if I had to choose, I'd go with option 1, since I'm about to become a Master myself.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Blue Chip Results Graphs

Final scores here.

Overall place by race:

By overall score:

Blue Chips 2013

What a simply great event. Spring Lake has been putting on this event for something like 95 years, since Happy Fox was a boy. This was my second trip to the event. The first time there was interesting to say the least.

The Mystery Guest was Michael Kiss, Melges 20 repeat National and European Champion. He had his wife along for crew. One of the biggest challenges for anyone jumping on these boats is remembering to switch the boards. I reminded Michael once and saw him from afar with the wrong board down more than once. Still he seemed to have a lot of fun even though he didn't fair too well.

This Blue Chip I had no excuses. Ranked third nationally and planning to get out of MC-Scows, it was my duty to go get my ass handed to me by those much better than me. And I can dutifully report that I did.

The week before the event I was working in Columbus, Ohio. The boat was right outside my hotel window. I spent the week occasionally looking at it. But I wasn't getting nervous like I usually do before regattas. It was almost surreal. It may also be because I saw the forecast and ate like a pig all week to pack on a few extra pounds...always a nice time.

The consensus forecast all week was getting more ominous. Early in the week it called for Saturday winds of 10-15. By Friday the Saturday forecast was 15-20 with gusts to 25 and highs in the low 60's. I made sure I had enough pain killers and warm clothes and headed for Spring Lake.

Saturday lived up to the forecast, but it took until lunch to get really bad.

Race 1 was a tough one for the star-studded race committee. They eventually sent us to the Red course on the picture below. The green arrow is the club.

With the 5-12 mph wind really trying to go left and the shore being in the course, it was definitely interesting. The wind was way left at the start. I started mid line on port got a nice right shift and was sitting in about 5th place. I tacked to port on another shift, in phase. I needed a bit more left to clear the point. I got some, a bit more, maybe with the point curl I can make it...I ran aground, had to tack lost boats etc. But my boards are now nice and polished.

I rounded the top mark at the back of the lead pack, worked my way around inside there a bit and finished 7th. The names at the top were who I would have expected: Jamie Kimball, Cam McNeil, Andy Molesta, Brien Fox, Ted Keller, all people I strive to sail as well as.

Race 2 brought us back to the orange course, and the wind was up to 10-15 consistently with some heavy puffs. Most people who had crew picked them up. I think the first start was recalled. And I really don't remember where I was in the second start. I know none of my starts were very good so we'll say second row. In fact I think I rounded the top mark about 15th. I found good shifts and sailed through the "B" fleet to find myself almost crossing the gap back to the "A" fleet. I finished 8th, very respectable. In fact it was my best sail of the weekend tactically. I just started pretty far behind.

Lunch. We watched the wind build.


After lunch the RC blew a horn and left the dock, and nobody else did. With about 7 minutes before the start I was second off the dock. Eight boats chose not to sail. One was due to a mild concussion, a few were to combine people into two-man boats, and a few used their common sense and avoided the chaos that was to follow. Of the 17 boats that sailed, at least 12 had crew. 

The start was made more interesting by some 40+ foot Titanic of a ship plowing through the middle of the line with 2 minutes to go. But nobody got sunk. With a minute to go I was right of the boat on starboard. I thought I would idle down to mid line and start easy, just trying to stay upright. At full luff I slid all the way to the pin. I won the pin, but of course the line was heavily boat favored. Everyone with crew took off. I had to wait not only for them to get ahead, but far enough ahead that I could control the boat in the turbulent 20+ wind. I dialed in and stuck to long tacks. I rounded and remained about 10th the entire race. My body lasted 4 of the 5 legs. I lost 3 boats at the finish totally due to my inability to straighten my arms, trim, tack, or hike. By the finish I was spent. 13th place was only 4 ahead of last. But I was first or second of the boats without crew. So I'll be proud enough of that.

more impressive was Allison Price winning race 2 with her father Pete Price as crew. Allison went on to be 9th overall, top female, and top junior.

On the way back to the start I got headed for shore in a blast. I jibed by reaching up and grabbing the mainsheet by the boom and pulling it across. The top of the sail popped across, lifted the boom, looped the mainsheet around my hand and snapped it shut like a bear trap. The crush made a crunch. I luffed up and fell into the boat. Immediately I thought it was broken. I couldn't move it at all. I was in trouble. I waited a minute before grabbing the radio. In that time the "stinger" pain came. It wasn't numb any longer. It was coming back to life. I worked it for a couple minutes, found I could get my fingertips together. So I sailed on. By the start I was about 50% with that hand. No gripping strength but I had the ability to grab and hold the tiller and sheet with no pressure. And the white skin had turned red and other colors. I had blood flow.


Race 4 was more of the same. I had run out of bottled water in race 3. By half way up the first leg both thighs cramped up with Charlie Horses. Then my left arm which I was over using curled into a pretzel with cramps. I had to crack off and wait a minute, losing valuable distance. I was in the top 10 and picking the shifts well. Downwind was a welcome relief. The rest of the race was a constant effort to not cramp, relax, let the muscles recover. I sailed in 20+ cleated, just feathering the tiller, a slow way to go. I had hope though. I was still ahead of a bunch of boats with crew including Chris Craig. I think I rounded the last mark 7th. In the end I lost a handful of boats in the last half of the last leg, including Chris Craig. I just couldn't control the boat any longer. I finished 11th.


Many other people had problems. Pete Comfort and his wife had mainsheet issues in race 3, then death rolled in race 4. Easily half a dozen others capsized. Some retired, some continued on (assistance rule was waived). My boat is none the better for the day. I need to order a new goose neck, and my sail lost quite a bit of life.

Dinner was a welcome respite with prime rib and rum. Very nice.

Day 2 started with no wind. I was relieved as my hand felt like I had a glove on it that was 2 sizes too small. The breeze was all over the place. The RC sent us to the yellow course on the map. Left was favored but right has more air. I stayed middle to ensure I would not get either advantage. but I cleared my air, stayed cleanish, and rounded in about 6th. I picked up a couple boats downwind and rounded the bottom mark about 4th or 5th. I picked course left gate coming out on starboard. But left put you up under the lee of the shore. I needed to get right but there was a giant fleet of downwind boats to get through. I got stuck too far left and ended up losing maybe 6 or 7 boats right away. I spent the rest of the race in the crowd trying to find clean air. I lost more boats finishing 11th. Yes my hand hurt but I just stunk up the place decision wise. I deserved the 11th. But I was 5 places ahead of Chris Craig putting me 1 point ahead overall. One more mission to accomplish - beat Chris.

Race 6 was almost exactly the same, except Chris had a great start, rounded 2nd and was off. If I had 1/2 a boat length more I would have rounded 5th. Instead I had to duck and rounded 10th. I picked up one or two each of the next 2 legs and found myself once again bridging the gap to the "A" fleet. I rounded the last mark opposite gate from Chris Craig, maybe 2 boat lengths behind him. Bu the split was wrong. I had to quick tack twice to avoid people, then found myself on the wrong side. In the end I lost all the gains I made and more finishing 10th. 

So 2 good races, 2 races where I desperately needed crew (or two), a two light medium races where I stunk. Yup. That's about right. 

Final results are here. Eighth place overall was reflective of my abilities in these conditions. 

Jamie Kimball, Ted Keller, and Cam McNeil had quite the fight down to the last race. Cam got caught out and Jamie just beat Ted to take the title. 

I'll post videos and pictures in the next couple days or weeks. I think I have most of 5 races on GoPro. Plenty more to come from this regatta.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Time for a Break

This has been a good year for my sailing. I went to Midwinters and did well, much better than I expected. I then went to Hoovers and did very poorly nearly damaging other people's boats. I'll conveniently forget that regatta any day now. That was followed up with a win at Saratoga, then a win at home at Keuka. 

In local club sailing I won the season with a few good strong races plus just showing up. 

But sailing is one aspect of my life, of all our lives, assuming you sail too. Many years ago I had an E-Scow. I was unable to keep it in competitive shape. Marriage, house(s), kids, other hobbies all competed for funds and time. With the priorities I chose, I could not afford the sails, the regatta, the boat upgrades, etc. I purchased a good boat that was quick for its day. But it was never in great shape, just good. The speed loss off the line was significant. I could not compete in any boat speed race. Finishing mid fleet at regattas was not going to work for me. The frustration was too much. So I stopped driving and I switched to crewing.

Years later, the kids are teens, time frees up, priorities change and I can somewhat afford the sport again. And the MC-Scow falls into the club as the perfect one-man affordable boat. Boat 2470 has been good to me. It certainly is a solid fast boat. I will miss it.

But as I turn 50, I have a very clear view of my near future priorities. I choose to spend my free time and funds on other things for the next year or so. I will be selling MC Scow 2470 to hopefully a good home. I will get another boat in the future. I strongly suspect it will be an MC-Scow but who knows. Maybe it will be a hot catamaran, or an E-Scow.

But now I embark on some new projects. Opening up my weekend time will allow me to chase some new dreams. I won't leave sailing forever. I won't drop my memberships. And I may borrow the occasional boat to have some fun. But I am out of the regatta business for awhile. The MC fleet both locally and nationally is full of great friends. I won't just walk away from them. 

The timing is intentional. I did not want to post my boat for sale after tanking in the Blue Chips. I wanted to do it before so it would not be seen as a rash move of a pouting 49-year-old. Yes I will still pout. But the decision is regardless of this year's performance, good or bad. 

It is not goodbye.

I will be back.

It just may take me awhile.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Blind Squirrel

The regatta results are posted. And the rankings are recalculated with the Keuka regatta included. Apparently even a blind squirrel gets a nut sometimes. This proves the rankings calculation is somehow really whacked. 

Regatta:
Rankings:

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Good Starts, Great Finishes

In 2007 I borrowed an MC-Scow and sailed the Keuka Nor'Easterns regatta and won it. There were 12 boats, 9 from Keuka, Todd Perrigo, Craig Seager, and Will Hendershot. There were 5 races. I remember overstanding the last windward mark badly and having to come from behind in the last race to get third and win the regatta.

That experience got me interested in the MC. It sailed like a laser, which I knew well enough. It was a good win. But it did not seem like I worked too hard to do it. It was nice but not too earth shattering.

So a couple years pass and I decide to buy a boat. I go to Florida, buy a boat, plan to jump into the Train Wreck regatta and win it just for fun. Well maybe I wasn't that ambitious, but I expected it to be pretty straight forward.

It was a 2 race regatta and I had a 10, 20 for a 13th place.

Okay, not so easy. I'm not that good.

I spent all summer practicing boat handling, boat speed, just getting time in the boat. I bought a GoPro camera and evaluated my handling. I read a lot. I asked questions. Most of all I reviewed to myself each race to see what I could have done differently. Constant learning.

The Nor'Easterns came at the end of August. At the first mark I was battling Rob Seidelmann for the lead. I never got it. I finished 3rd behind him and Skip Moorhouse. But I had shown myself I could race near the top, maybe get into the lead. I was on a very high high. I believed I could be successful.

A few weeks later I took second in the Cowan regatta behind Chris Craig. 2010 ended.

Then I borrowed a boat and got 9th in the 2011 Train Wreck. Then I get second to Ted Keller in Hoover, third at the Horse Race. Then the whole reason I got into the game is upon me, the Nor'Easterns followed by the Nationals at Keuka are next. I drop a turd of a regatta on the Nor'Easterns and finish 5th, 23 points out of the lead.

The week between Nor'Easterns and Nationals was hard. There was a lot of self doubt.

Race 1 in the Nationals I get a 21st. It was a nice breeze too. I was second row at the start and never recovered. In race 2 I finished 11th. It was a good finish. But I now was pretty convinced my MC career would be like my E-Scow career, mid fleet.

Race 3 was different. The breeze was up. I had a good start and did well. I finished 2nd. It was by far my best race since purchasing the boat. I was extremely proud. But again it did not seem like an accomplishment. It seemed like a fluke, the perpetuation of inconsistency, the next wave in the ups and downs of my results.

The next day was the crap race where it was prematurely ended at the end of leg 2. I won that, not that it mattered. It was by definition a fluke.

Then I went to the 2011 Blue Chips. Saturday morning I finished 19th ans 23rd putting me firmly in last place. Sometime during lunch I decided to quit. I would pack up, leave the regatta, sell the boat, and accept my status as a never-was, never would. I had no business being anywhere around that list of entrants.

Believe it or not the only reason I sailed was because I had absolutely nothing to lose, nothing to care about. I had removed all goals. I had zero ambition. But Chris Lopez egged me on. We were going to battle to not be last. He was a nice kid so I played along.

My race 3 start was  typical, second row. I bailed out to the right toward the club thinking I would just dock. Then the wind came right. I tacked and layed the top mark. I went on to battle Eric Hood for the lead winning the race in the end. Last to first, emotional low to high.

I stayed, finished 10th overall with 3 more mid-fleet finishes. On the drive home I had quite the conversation with myself about why I sail, what I get out of it, and if it is worth it. Of course I had no answers. Time for a year off, local regattas only.

2012 perpetuated the losing streak. 14th at Hoovers, 2nd to Pete Comfort at Fenton, and 2nd to Scott "Chuck" Norris at Keuka, 

That brings us to this year, 2013. I decided to do the Midwinters. My goal was top 20 out of 70+. I wanted to visit my Dad, see his new house, meet up with some friends in Eustis and enjoy the trip. I had a couple extra days at Eustis planned to work on the boat, sail, and relax. They didn't happen. I had an hour at my Dad's and the boat was not ready to go until the night before the first race. I went out with no expectations.

At the start I went head down, protected my lane and just concentrated. When I looked up I was in contention. When the dust settled, I had won the race. Then I was over early and come back to a 28. Race 3 I pull a comeback to pick up 10 boats on the last leg to get a 5th. Then race 4 is not so good with a 19th. In the end I finish 6th overall.

At Hoover I messed up my equipment: bent mast, wrong sail. I also hit everything that moved and got dizzy doing circles. I finished 10th.The pendulum swings.

Then at Saratoga it swings way back. By the end of race 4 consistency has put Zack Clayton and I tied. I controlled the race enough to beat Zack to win the regatta. Finally, years after winning that first Keuka regatta I win one. It felt really good. It was a goal achieved.

Then comes the Keuka regatta last weekend. We had 28 boats. I went out and dropped three bullets and a third place to win the regatta by 15 points. How did I do so well? For the first time ever I had all good starts. Then I concentrated and put to test all the learnings from the past three years, and it took them all. Race 1 was light and shifty. Races 2 and 3 were moderate. And race 4 was moderate to heavy air. It was a lot of work. It was A LOT of work. I never led until late in races, sometimes the last tack. I had to work for every place. I was just successful in not having a bad race while those around me had at least one.  But more importantly, now I have two wins in a row. The pendulum did not swing. I am putting together some good races, and minimizing the bad races. This win feels big. It feels like I finally know what I'm doing...maybe.

It is Tuesday after the win and I am still riding the high. I wonder how long it will last. I wonder when the pendulum swings back. I wonder when I will next fell like selling the boat and finding a nice comfortable hammock. I wonder if I will get any better - seriously. I really am not that good. I am overweight and out of shape. I can name 10 MC sailors far and away better than me. How will I fair when sailing against them? We'll see.