I've known for a while that there's a Laser fleet on Duxbury Bay in Massachusetts.
Some of my friends sail there.
I know the guy who is the fleet captain there. He's one of those enthusiastic, tireless cheerleader types who is always encouraging new people to come and sail with his fleet, the kind of person that every fleet needs in that role. He has been trying to persuade me to come and sail at Duxbury for a couple of years now and I have even half-promised to do so on one or two occasions, but never actually did follow through.
But on Sunday, the day before Hurricane Sandy was due to arrive on the coast, I did go and race with the Duxbury Bay Laser Fleet.
The wind was already building from the north-east in advance of the hurricane and by the time we launched it was blowing force 4-5, gusting to 6 on occasions (on the Tillerfort Scale.) We raced short windward-leeward courses until it was decided that we had had enough. I was able to hang in as part of the top three in every race, but never actually won. The closest I came was on the last race when we did a downwind finish and I was dueling with the guy who was winning most of the races all the way down the final run, and I was ahead with about 10 yards to go, but he got a mystery puff that missed me and he beat my inches. A fitting end to the day's racing.
I felt like I was getting good starts, and the race officer confirmed afterwards that I was dangerously close to being OCS at times. Great! I wasn't pointing as well as the two guys who beat me though. Maybe it's time to retire my old sail that I've been using for practice and frostbiting for (too many) years now.
It was one of those days where it was key to keep the long pointy thing aiming at the sky. Most of the fleet had some problems in that area. I managed to avoid capsizing but some of my boat-handling skills could have used some improvement, specifically...
- I was coming out of some tacks heeling too much or sailing too slow or desperately trying to avoid a capsize.
- When rounding the windward mark in a big gust I was often heading off on a broad reach instead of turning down towards the leeward mark.
- I went back to my old habit of kicking the sheet around the cockpit in tacks instead of leaving it neatly piled at the front.
That's OK. Gives me a few more things to practice.
After racing some of us went off for burgers and beer at a local tavern. Good bunch of guys with some interesting sailing backgrounds.
I think I will go and race at Duxbury again.
Life is good.