Monday, June 29, 2009

Weekend Yachting

Working at APS is sort of like crewing on a boat during an intense regatta. We're flying all over the place trying to get our jobs done, working in close proximity (occasionally leading to a sharp elbow or comment) and trying not to fall off. And when it's all over at the end of the day, we go out and have a beer or twelve together...

Last Friday was a great example of this, as five of us went to a local outdoor speakeasy to relax and have some laughs. At some point, Aaron asked me if I was going to sail the next day in the Severn Sailing Association's Summer Laser Series. Now, you might think that sounds like an innocent question... it's not. It's really a punchline to the three year joke that is my Laser's forced hibernation, brought out whenever anyone at APS plans on sailing or when the day ends with a "y".

Normally, I answer with some variation of "Yeah, the shore crew is working 24/7 to get the boat ready. We're looking at a Spring of 2011 launch...". This time was different though -- filled with courage, determination and a lethal combination of Jim Beam and Red Stripe, I said I'd do it. And, in a move picked up from ESPN's ridiculous coverage of the World Series of Poker, I came over the top and raised the stakes by putting a friendly wager down that I'd beat him the next day.

The next morning, we both showed up here at APS and brought our boats over to SSA. Having slept the majority of my courage off, I was setting more realistic goals for the day -- namely, not making a fool of myself. After purchasing a new mainsheet (the original having been lost to a friend needing to tie a surfboard to the roof of their car) and a clew strap (just hate using Spectra), I took my time rigging the boat and was one of the last people to the race course.

James, my fellow Stern Scoop editor, lost his crew at the last moment for his Jet 14 and decided to sail Laser's instead. It was a smart career move, as the day was perfectly suited to his wiry/emaciated frame, with breeze somewhere in the 6-8 knot range with a moderate chop being kicked up by the powerboaters.

Panoramic photo of skippers meeting by Jon Deutsch @ www.jdeutsch.com

As we got within a minute of the first race, I realized that my hiking strap was 97% untied; by stopping to fix it, I was able get a fantastic start with clean air at the boat. Unfortunately, this was because I was right in the neighborhood of 20-25 seconds late. James and Aaron both had decent starts and I immediately tacked off to the right to find clean air and pressure. Coming into the first windward mark, I'd salvaged some dignity and rounded in fifth or sixth -- I managed to make some gains downwind (without succumbing to the numerous death roll opportunities) and held on to those gains for the rest of the race, finishing behind James for a third with Aaron pulling a seventh.

The next race got interesting early for me... not so much for James. James was launched and I'm pretty sure that he beat me by like a month and a half. Aaron and I were mixed up with a number of other boats though, clawing for the finish line to take eigth (me) and ninth (Aaron).

Going into that last race, James was sitting in a tie for first with three points and Aaron and I had no idea where we stood. James got a good start again and rounded with the other first place Laser-er about 129 boatlengths clear of everyone else... Aaron was in good shape, rounding third or fourth, and I was probably in seventh or eigth.

I was able to make some decent gains downwind and rounded a boat behind Aaron at the leeward mark -- he was still in a good controlling position and actually tacked where I wanted to go. Unfortunately (for him), the wind was fickle where he tacked and I found some pressure off to the right. I was able to get around him to sneak into third -- a position I held until the last 200 yards of the final upwind leg (heading to the finish line) when the wind COMPLETELY died. Aaron was able to tap into his years of fickle breeze sailing in New Jersey to get over the line before me. I'm told James got second, but I didn't really see it since the curvature of the earth hindered my ability to see that far away.

So, when it was all said and done, James finished the day in a strong second place with five points after three races. The shock of the day came when I showed up in third place and Aaron showed up in fourth, giving APS a 2, 3, 4 with 24 boats competing.

For his part, James was a terrible winner, pitching a fit because he thought we'd finished deeper and he'd have something to hold over our heads. This was after Aaron and I graciously congratulated him on owning us on the race course -- and really, finishing behind him like we did doesn't do his performance justice. Weight differences aside, James smoked us... I don't know about Aaron, but I was able to catch up a little downwind, but he was gone upwind.

I actually had a great time; I'll probably do the other two events in the Summer Series just because it was really fun racing. The folks at SSA were great hosts -- very friendly and helpful.

And thanks to Aaron, who will graciously be subsidizing my lunch for the next three days...

PS - the pictures of SSA and James aren't really recent. The picture of the Red Stripe is certainly more timely...

3 comments:

  1. What mainsheet replacement does an APS Laser sailor buy for his own boat?

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  2. I went with Excel Fusion 75 (http://www.apsltd.com/c-1610-excelfusion75-marlow.aspx) for the mainsheet.

    I really liked the feel of the line, which is important in a boat like the Laser where you always have the mainsheet in hand, under load.

    Overall, I was happy with it the first time out -- I did get one rats nest going around a windward mark that I'd rank as pretty epic, but one hockle a day isn't bad. I'm looking forward to using it a few more times before I give it a full thumbs up.

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  3. I recently picked up 1/4" Paraloc Marlin for my mainsheet. The 1/4" is fairly oversized so it feels at least as big as the standard 7mm Rooster rope.

    I like it so far - it definitely has a softer hand to it compared to the Rooster which I like. Sailing without gloves is much more comfortable.

    As far as hockling it's been very good so far, but I haven't used it enough to say it's the right thing for sure.

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