The UW Sailing team sent singlehanders Erik Skeel and Laura Smit to Nationals in Florida. They’ll bring back some hard-earned experience to this very fun, very active team. Go Dawgs! Here’s Erik Skeel’s report:
Each year in September, college sailors from Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia compete in Lasers to qualify for college sailing singlehanded nationals. This year the qualifying regatta was held at Shilshole. After one day of good racing Laura Smit from University of Washington was leading the woman’s fleet in radials, and I held first place in the men’s fleet in the full rig by just one point. In typical Northwest fashion the second day of the regatta refused to have enough wind to race. The Radial Fleet didn’t get off any races so Laura earned the woman’s berth to nationals. One race was completed in the men’s fleet, but it bumped me to second, leaving University of British Columbia in first. UBC decided not to go to nationals despite earning the berth, so I found myself booking plane tickets to Florida for nationals.
Singlehanded Nationals was held the first weekend of November, so as Seattle was getting covered in snow, Laura and I were flying to sunny Florida. Laser Performance outfitted all 18 sailors in each fleet with brand new Laser hulls, spars, rigging, and Mark II sails for the full rigs. To the other sailors from schools such as Stanford, Yale, and College of Charleston, this probably was not far from what they usually raced with, but I was blown away; I’d never even sailed with a Mark II sail. It quickly became clear that I was one of the only sailors without a paid varsity coach and I think I was the only sailor in the men’s fleet without a coach present who could offer support and advice on the water. The atmosphere was a stark contrast to the college sailing I was used to in the Pacific Northwest, but I tried not to let that discourage me.
Report time was 9:00am on Saturday, but everyone was already rigged by then and soon after began launching for a 10:00am start. The wind was a solid 5-8 knots in the morning until it dropped around 2:00. Racing was tough, but I had expected that as I was competing against the best college sailors in the nation. After all, among those in the regatta was 2016 Olympian Stefano Peschiera and others who will probably campaign for the Olympics. Due to the lack of wind in the previous afternoon, the first warning on Sunday was 9:00am. The wind, though slightly weaker than the previous morning, was shiftier, making for more variable scores among the competitors. With one day of racing under my belt, I had a better idea of how to approach such a competitive start and how to fight for clear air while still playing the shifts and sailing a strategic path. There was no room for error with such a talented fleet. If I ever missed a shift, took a risk that didn’t pay, or lost too much speed on a maneuver, I’d find myself suddenly fighting not to get last. Despite the incredible competition from sailors who had much better training and resources than me, when I sailed my best I was able to hang with the best sailors. On Sunday I had a couple races where I rounded the first mark in the top five. It was an honor to represent the Northwest college district at nationals. Men’s Results. Women’s Results.
There may be nothing as worthwhile as messing about in boats, unless it’s specifically racing the Laser Master Worlds. For the 300+ “mature” (35 years old +) sailors, it’s a chance to enjoy sailboat racing in one of its purest forms, against an international crowd who are as interested in having an enjoyable regatta as winning it. It’s a long, tough regatta for a sailor of any age and the quality of racing is quite extraordinary.
Pacific Northwest Lasers outdid themselves this year in Split, Croatia. Bill Symes (Portland) won the Great Grand Master Radial, Al Clark (Vancouver) in the Grand Master Standard Rigand Deirdre Webster (Portland) in the Women’s 75+ all won their divisions. But more than victory on the water, the event and venue were by all reports tremendous. Bill and Al both sent in reports, and we’re lucky to have them. Reading Coach Al’s piece really gives an insight into the racing aspect end of things, especially the psychology, within the lead group.
Championships aside, Greg Jackson, who raced in the Great Grandmaster full rig division, had every bit as much fun if he was “making the top half of the fleet possible.” See a little video below.
These photos by Duje Petric were all lifted from the event’s Facebook site. To scroll through all those excellent photo galleries is to see a lot of fit “mature” sailors having a lot of fun with one of the world’s simplest, yet most challenging, boats. Click on any photo to enlarge.
Report from Al Clark
2017 has been busy for me with my full time position at Royal Vancouver YC as their head coach. Duties included coaching our Laser/Radial high school aged sailors. Also I coached 29’ers at their Midwinters in March and Worlds in August. I particularly enjoyed these high level events with some very talented sailors. I love to learn about new boats and get all the pieces together to help them go fast the right way.
The third component has been coaching some of our Race Team alumni, Kyle Martin in his Finn (Miami OCR and Sailing World Cup Final) and Isabella Bertold (Delta Lloyd and Worlds in Holland) .
I watched and competed in about 17 regattas, 8 major events in 2017. So I would say I saw plenty of high level sailing and have come up with ideas over the years how to get to the front of the fleet.
My training for this year’s Worlds (Vacation time for me with my wife Sharon ) was very minimal. I wasn’t sure I had the mental energy to attend but signed up believing that when the time came I would be excited to race.
I did sail a local regatta in early July in Radials and then sailed the US Nationals in Lake Tahoe later that month. I kept in decent shape at my Crossfit gym and riding my bike .
On water training prior to to worlds was a few days in early September, and then it was on the plane to Croatia with the idea of sailing at the site. I had chartered a private boat and was able to start practicing Sunday September 17th, so with the practice race on the Saturday the 23rd, I had the week to work up to race trim.
I bought a carbon top section and had a new sail, and added my own hiking strap and compass (I use the compass quite a bit these days) . Generally I was quite happy with the boat (I really like the new boats from LP) and the gear by the end of the week.
I have marks for my vang, outhaul and cunningham. I find that when I feel the boat is fast with certain adjustments I make a note of it and try to keep that in mind. An example is I had 2 distinct marks on my vang for puffs and lulls in the 6-10 its we sailed a lot in. My outhaul marks are for upwind, a 1-5 scale on my deck.
The practice race (I sailed one lap) went well and I had decided to start near the favoured end then go on the first shift. Andy Roy was first off the pin then tacked , Peter Vessella was fast off the boat and I trailed both of them at the weather mark. I was in about 6th by the end of the run . Generally happy with my execution. The breeze was about 6 knots .
One of the factors for this event became clear after the practice race . The sail out to the race course was going to be about an hour and a half each day with at least an hour sail in . The wind didn’t happen till about noon each day (if it happened at all) so we were going to have long days on the water with lots of waiting . As a coach I am used to this .
The silver lining for me is that all the sailing out then in gave me plenty of time in the boat and I know that as I get the “feel” back I can be very quick in moderate wind in the Standard rig.
I was training whenever I wasn’t racing . Also entering the harbour each day there was no wind so I had a chance to work on roll tacks and gybes.
The first two days of the regatta (Sunday and Monday) we had no wind so there was a lot of catching up with old friends . Monday was cancelled early so after chatting with some of the guys I was walking home and noticed there wad a late afternoon breeze so I went sailing for a few hours . I really like sailing everyday when I’m at these events , even for a short time.
The Tuesday we had a decent sea breeze (12 knots) by the time racing started and many of the favourites were near the pin at go. Andy Roy was smokin’ fast in this start and I made up my mind to stay with him. This ended up being a recall. In the next start I was motivated to go hard near the pin again and was near Andy and a number of other favourites. I realized that my speed was good and my height also . I arrived first to the weather mark then sailed too conservatively on the run and rounded third . I fought through the race and was better on the final run , I had a 5 boat length lead down the final reach. Unfortunately I picked up a bag on my rudder and was passed by 2 boats .
Race two I made adjustments and again was pleased with my speed. I won this race with a good gap and felt, as I sailed in that this was one of my best sailed first days at a master’s worlds (nerves had been an issue) My self talk was to execute the game plan without fear. Keep the “what ifs” at bay. Examples are don’t go to the lay line to early and have faith in the decision your making .
Wednesday was slightly lighter wind but again 2 good races. I was a little too conservative in race one but was generally happy with a 4th , Andy won that race. The next race was Andy leading again at the top mark, I snuck into 2nd on the rounding and I sailed smarter on the run and rounded close behind Andy going out to the right. I hung with him (happy with my height) then decided to carry on after Andy tacked , this got me into the lead, I extended down the reach and won race 4 .
So after 2 days Andy Roy ,Tomas Nordqvist, Peter Vessella , Wolfgang Gerz and Nick Harrison were all sailing well and the battle was on for the Championship .
Wednesday there was no racing
Thursday brought again little wind and lots of waiting on the water with one race. This turned into a pivotal race. I started near the pin even though my compass was saying square line, even a bit boat favoured. I never came back from this and with plenty of scrambling ended 10th. Andy sailed a nice race and could have led but a big righty came in late up the first beat, so Tomas won this race . So now we have a close battle for the podium with others ready to pounce.
I decided that generally this race was one that I left the game plan and that I would ignore it and focus on the good races I had sailed .
Friday there was no racing , we actually had a breeze come up but ended up being to unstable and with the 175 Standards, we needed 2 hours to get in before sunset, pressure was building. There were a number of sailors that thought I had it won because the forecast for the last day was poor and no racing after 3.
I kept to the routine and sailed out to the race course Saturday. I will say that the long waits and the broken up regatta between races was difficult and I was pleased that I entered the final race with a positive mind set. I was determined to be on my front foot going hard, same as all the races that I did well in
We had one race with a late moderate sea breeze that was enough for me to be in the hiking strap (always good). I had a midline start that turned into a decent rounding at the weather mark (5th ). I passed Tomas on the run and headed left in 4th with the two leaders well ahead . Tacking on the shifts up the beat (many were going left) , I gained and was close in 3rd with a good gap to the rest of the fleet.
Andy and Tomas now had their own battle going on and I only had to keep my head. I ended 2nd in the race and was relieved that I had not let myself down by sailing poorly, but had risen to the occasion. Andy did what he had to with Tomas ending 2nd overall, Tomas 3rd .
My post mortem for the event is that the psychological aspects of competing are of utmost importance. There are a number of factors that helped me succeed – boat speed and height (when needed), executing quality starts, solid lane sailing tactics on the first beat, aggressive tactics on the run, hitting shifts on the second beat (and remembering that what seemed to work on the first beat doesn’t always work on the 2nd) , pushing hard to the finish .
It was amazing how much nicer it is to have a countryman and friend (Andy Roy) nearby on the race course when I wasn’t sure about a strategy. We fed off each other in terms of confidence, discussing tactics etc. at the end of each day.
Looking forward to the Worlds in Ireland next September
Report from Bill Symes
My wife LauraLee and I have just returned to planet earth from one of the most dramatic sailing venues I’ve experienced in more than half a century of sailing, the Croatian coast. Split, Croatia’s second largest city and site of the 2017 Laser Standard Men’s and Masters World Championships, rises up from the remains of a 3rd century Roman emperor’s palace against a towering backdrop of granite cliffs, facing a cobalt sea and a string of islands surrounded, even in October, by swarms of white sails. Very cool.
We arrived as the guys from the just completed Standard Men’s Worlds (that’s the one for the younger, fitter, full-time sailing crowd) were leaving town, and the city was gearing up for the onslaught of 350 Laser “masters” (minimum age: 35; maximum age: unlimited), their significant others and assorted entourages. We were greeted with a gala opening ceremony on the city’s waterfront promenade – the Riva – complete with welcome speeches by the mayor and various local and Laser Class grandees, live performances by folkloric singers, a really loud audio visual spectacle, and vast quantities of food and beverage (the first of many).
Unfortunately, the wind in Split turned out to be somewhat less robust than the hospitality. We settled into a daily routine of waiting all morning for the offshore breeze to die, then waiting all afternoon for the sea breeze to fill in. The first two days it never did. Racing finally got underway on day three, with each fleet completing three races in light-moderate conditions. The pecking order quickly emerged, with the usual suspects topping the leader board in most divisions.
In the 62-boat Radial Great Grandmasters fleet (65+), I ended the day with finishes of 4-1-16, leaving me in third place behind a couple of Australians, current world champion Rob Lowndes and former world champion Kerry Waraker. Day four produced enough wind for two more races and 4-1 finishes for me. More importantly, I was able to drop the 16th, which boosted me into second, two points shy of the lead. The next day, on a dying breeze and shortened course, I managed a third bullet and moved into a two-point lead.
The forecast for the next couple of days was for no wind and, sure enough, after drifting around for 3 hours on day six, we were sent in without a race. Now the regatta was mine to lose; another abandoned race on the final day would not have been an entirely bad thing. But the race committee was determined, and they sent us out at noon to wait on the water while they prayed for wind. Their prayers were answered at 2:55 pm, five minutes before the deadline for last warning gun. We took off in an 8-knot breeze, and despite my initial anxiety and a mediocre start, the momentum was now on my side, and I was able to work through the fleet and take the race and the championship.
Laser Masters Worlds is like an annual reunion with several hundred of your best sailing buddies, always in some wonderful place you’d have never thought to visit were it not for this event. For masters, the après sailing revelry is just as important as the on-the-water action. Not that the racing isn’t serious business; the field always includes former world champions and Olympic medalists, and the competition at the front of the fleet is intense. There’s a bumper sticker for Laser masters that says “Cheat the nursing home. Die on your Laser,” and these guys are living it. I can’t think of a better way to go.
(For a full regatta report and results, go to laserinternational.org. For Laser geeks interested in the more technical aspects of the racing, check out an upcoming article in Doug Peckover’s blog Improper Course.)
Greg Jackson may not have been in any of those podium pictures, but I can guarantee he had as good a time as anyone there. Here’s a little video of him talking about the event for a non-sailing crowd. Well worth a chuckle or two.
Northwest Interscholastic Sailing Association Singlehanded Championships
It wasn’t the breeziest of regattas, but the high school singlehanded championships were sailed over the weekend off Shilshole Bay Marina in Seattle. The winners were Grant Gridley in the Radial class and Owen Timms in the full rig class. University sailors got their own Radial and full rig fleets. Congratulations to all who participated. BTW, I’m pleased to report that the Seattle Laser Fleet provided a number of boats in support of this event.
Here’s the report from the NWISA:
Saturday, September 23:
Competitors from around the Northwest were greeted by a light southerly on Saturday morning. This proved to be quite stable and peaked around 8 knots by noon. The breeze then began to fade, and by 3pm it had shut off completely. We were fortunate to complete 6 radial and 7 full rig races in that time, alternating between double lap windward/leewards and trapezoid courses. The 20 boat Laser Radial fleet especially was very competitive. This resulted in at least 8 general recalls (we lost count) and most of the later starts under I-flag.
Sunday, September 24:
The forecast for Sunday looked bleak, and after a shore postponement competitors left the dock at 11am to try racing in a fragile northerly. The breeze was just strong enough to start a Radial race, and it maintained a 3-4 knot average until most competitors had finished. After it fizzled out, competitors waited around on the water for another hour and a half before the Race Committee called racing for the day. NWISA is excited to send representatives Owen Timms and Per Black in the Full Rig and Grant Gridley and Abbie Carlson in the Laser Radial to St. Petersburg, FL later this fall. They will do a terrific job representing our conference. Big thanks to all the volunteers and race officials this weekend. The regatta was well run and made the most of our limited racing windows.
It was a small but mighty fleet of Lasers at Bellingham Yacht Club’s Dale Jepsen One Design regatta this year. Jorge Yanez, the winner of the DJOD last year and the winner of the Laser Radial Masters Nationals event in the Gorge this year was there; the winner and runner up from 2015, Sascha Smutny and Doug Honey were there; and Perham Black, fresh off his win at the Bellingham Youth Regatta was there. The top of the 9-boat fleet was so evenly matched that places changed at nearly every mark rounding.
Mike Johnson lead the regatta after two races with a first and a third for four points, followed closely by Yanex and Black with five points each. Yanez jumped out after that with two firsts in races 3 and 4, establishing a five point lead on Black. Undeterred, Black went hard right on the last beat of the last race, jumping past several boats and winning the race. Yanez finished 4th to save the regatta win by one point. If he had been 5th, the tie breaker would have gone to Black.
Third place went to Mike Johnson with only 4 points separating third through sixth places. It is for this kind of tight racing, often overlapped with other boats at every mark rounding and multiple boats arriving at the finish together, that we keep showing up. There were no protests, no starting line abuses, and only a few capsizes. Racers compared their ideas after each race were clearly glad to be lucky enough to be having fun among friends.
Regatta chair Mike Poulos, race officer Jonathan Knowles and their terrific volunteers, did a great job under difficult circumstances to choreograph five well-run and fair races. All races occurred on Sunday due to no wind on Saturday. Saturday had been the regatta organizer’s nightmare. Just enough wind to leave shore that went flat at the first warning, and then came back up 10 minutes after all boats got back to the parking lot. So on Sunday, everyone was elated to see a sunny 8 to 12 knot southeasterly materialize from the glassy bay – less than an hour before the first warning. The breeze held nicely right up through the last race and then died.
It is interesting to note that only three participants at the event this year were also at the event last year. Some could say we lost the others but the positive perspective says we gained several new people. Let’s build on that momentum and have some great events this fall. We could have a start at Corinthian’s PSSC (October 7-8) and Turkey Bowl (November 18-19). Would it be crazy to imagine 15 Laser’s on the starting line?
Ed. Note: I’d love to post something on the FJ and 505 fleets, so if anyone wants to share some words or photos, send them along and I’ll get them in. Also, thanks to Jay for the Laser report. No, indeed, 15 Lasers is not too many to expect for for PSSC and Turkey Bowl, especially if the great young sailors show up. Maybe both full rig and Radial fleets? Note this video from the Junior Olympic Regatta.
While Hanne Weaver’s US Singlehanded Championship win might be an eye-opener to some, it comes as no surprise to those of us in the Seattle Laser Fleet. Like so many exceptional sailors before her, she started sailing Lasers at a young age when simply holding the boat down was a challenge. Gradually, persistently, she worked at the skill independently and with coaching until she climbed to the top of the junior rankings. Now she’s headed to the Netherlands as part of the US Sailing team where she’ll get to do battle with some of the world’s best women dinghy sailors at the Laser Radial Women’s Worlds .
I got to steal a few minutes of Weaver’s time to chat about the US Singlehanded Championship, sailed in conjunction with the US Laser Nationals.
Weaver got to the Lake Tahoe Regatta site a couple days early to get used to the venue and attend a clinic, and immediately saw Tahoe’s unique challenges. “The wind would come in from the west, then spread out across the lake,” she explained. “You have to keep your head out of the boat.” She also learned about the shelf along the edge of the lake where the depth drops steeply. The race committee would set the marks in the shallow areas, so time learning about playing those shores was very helpful. Other than that, the usual regatta routines apply, including teaming up with a competitor to do split tacks before the start.
There was wind the first two days of the regatta, then a no wind/no sailing day. It looked there might be no racing on the fourth and final day of racing, but the wind filled just in time for the PRO to get in a sixth and final race. She sailed into a hole that final race, but won the regatta comfortably on the strength of her first five races.
While she won the US Women’s Singlehanded Championship, her performance also put her second overall the Radial fleet, behind Chase Carraway.
I’m used to seeing “Camp Hanne” at Cascade Locks on the Gorge, with her family setting up a tremendous campsite to provide amazing regatta support. At Tahoe, she was on her own with no individual coaches or parents hanging around. She did, however, have a great place to stay. “I met someone while training in Belize last winter, and he had relatives with a place right on the Lake.” She even had her little guest house to call home for the regatta.
There are many keys to Hanne’s success. Certainly, talent is one of those. From the very beginning that was obvious. And, of course, sailing Lasers at that level requires extreme tenacity and the ability to shrug off bad regattas.
No sailors get to this level without support and coaching. In addition to her parents, Weaver is member of both the Seattle Yacht Club and Royal Vancouver Yacht Club. While she’s not currently a part of either sailing team (aah, right, she’s on the US Sailing Team….) she certainly benefited from both programs.
A big part of Laser sailing is the physical aspect, and Weaver has paid a lot of attention to that over the years. These days, she’s following a program designed specially for her by none other than Anna Tunnicliffe, the Olympic Gold Medalist. Weaver follows the program and then reports on how it’s going online where Tunnicliffe reviews and makes adjustments to the plan. Renowned for her fitness, and a top CrossFit competitor, Tunnicliffe is a great resource.
While less of Weaver’s sailing is in the Pacific Northwest these days, she’s still out there on Puget Sound. In the coming days she’ll head from her job at West Marine at Shilshole Bay Marina in Seattle directly to the docks where she’ll log in some time in the waters where she got her start years ago. “Seattle is great for sailing. The cold water makes us tough.” That said, she’s now at a point where she has to go to where the competition is. And this month, it’s the Netherlands.
Weaver is yet another young Pacific Northwest sailor setting an amazing tone for other Northwest sailors, young and old, men and women, to follow. She’s taking on a big challenge, sticking with it, and accepting the available help. Through it all, she remains a classy competitor and fun to talk to.
Let’s see, Abbie Carlson wins the Leiter Cup (just like Hanne Weaver did a couple years ago) and now Weaver wins the US Singlehanded Women’s Championship! Go PNW! This just came out. I’ll try to get Hanne to give us the lowdown and find some really good photos. In the meantime let us all congratulate our amazing young women sailors!
Please share this, not just with your sailing friends, but your non-sailing friends. The Pacific Northwest remains a hotbed of outstanding dinghy sailors, both men and women. Any young people who are into racing can gain some motivation from these recent successes, and any young person thinking about an exciting and challenging life-long sport should take note! –KMH
LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (July 24, 2017) – Following four days of exciting racing in the sparkling waters of Lake Tahoe, Marek Zaleski (Norwalk, Conn.) became the 2017 U.S. Singlehanded Men’s Champion and Hanne Weaver (Seattle, Wash.) became the 2017 U.S. Singlehanded Women’s Champion on Sunday. Held in conjunction with the Laser Class U.S. National Championships and hosted by the Tahoe Yacht Club, the fleets were comprised of experienced and proven singlehanded sailors and an influx of new talented young men and women.
Zaleski’s performance was good enough to claim the overall title out of 43 boats in the Full Rig fleet for the Laser Class U.S. National Championship. Although Jake Vickers was a game competitor all week, Zaleski won five of the seven races and was the clear-cut top performer.
U.S. Singlehanded Men’s Championship: Final Results – Top 5
1. Marek Zaleski, Noroton Yacht Club, 1-5-1-1-1-1-- ; 10
“The altitude and the water quality are two things that are different about this venue,” explained Zaleski. “I’m glad I got here early, because I was struggling when working out on my bike and the water is so clear, the Lasers float a little lower in the water, not a huge difference, but it’s noticeable.”
“I am campaigning for the 2020 Olympics non-stop,” said Zaleski. “I have over 200 days on the water since I graduated last year and a lot of time in the gym working on my fitness. So, it’s nice to see good results and that my work is paying off.”
Weaver won the U.S. Singlehanded Women’s Championship by a 16 point margin over Charlotte Rose. She placed second overall to Chase Carraway out of 55 boats in the Laser Radial fleet.
U.S. Singlehanded Women’s Championship: Final Results – Top 5
“The wind and how it comes off the mountains and spreads out over the lake is the most challenging part of this sailing venue,” explained Weaver. “You really have to keep your head out of the boat.”
The race committee completed three races for the Lasers on Thursday and Friday and three races for the Laser Radials on Thursday and two on Friday. The conditions were similar both days with winds in the 6-10 knot range, primarily from 225° with violent shifts making it difficult to maintain “squareness’ on the inside-outside trapezoid course.
Lack of any breeze on Saturday forced the race committee to abandon all racing. Sunday looked like a repeat of Saturday, with a slightly better, yet inconsistent, forecast model. A 10 knot westerly burst through the racing area later in the afternoon. The shifts became radical and inconsistent resulting in a postponement and general recall before getting off the Lasers just seven minutes before the warning signal deadline. The wind was brisk resulting in a shorter than expected race duration for both fleets. They completed an important sixth race for the Radials (allowing for their discard) and a seventh race for the Lasers.
Sailors eligible for the U.S. Singlehanded Sailing Championships in the men’s Laser Full Rig and women’s Laser Radial Fleets must be U.S. citizens and at least turn 17 in the calendar year of 2017. These eligible sailors raced in their respective fleets as part of the Laser Nationals competition.
Prizes were awarded to competitors meeting the eligibility rules for the U.S. Singlehanded Championship:
George D. O’Day Trophy to the overall highest placing eligible male in the Laser Full Rig for the U.S. Singlehanded Men’s Championship.
Helen Willis Hanley Trophy to the overall highest placing eligible female in the Laser Radial for the U.S. Singlehanded Women’s Championship.
US Sailing medals were awarded to the top three positions in each fleet.
Peter J. Barrett Sportsmanship Trophy will be awarded and posted by Monday morning.
For complete results and standings and more information about the 2017 U.S. Singlehanded Sailing Championships, please visit the event website.
The 2017 U.S. Singlehanded Championships is sponsored by Gill North America and Hobie Polarized. This US Sailing National Championship is participating in the Sailors for the Sea’s Clean Regattas program.
“Someday, when we talk about windy regattas in the Gorge, this may not be the windiest one ever but it will definitely be in the conversation.” That assessment alone makes the Lasers Masters US Championships one for the ages.
That’s saying a lot when it comes from Bill Symes, who has sailed and organized as many Columbia River Gorge Association (CGRA) events as anyone. Symes also said it was the windiest conditions he had ever sailed in. Kaighn Smith, who made the trip from Portland, Maine, explained that in his neck of the woods “in those winds it’s just survival. Here guys are racing.”
The event was the Laser Masters U.S. Championship, so it wasn’t a bunch of strapping kids out there. Masters events start at age 35 and end at, well, who knows. In this event there were a large number of Great Grand Masters (65-74) and a “Legend” (75+).
Fleets were divided into the Standard (aka full) rig and the smaller Radial rig. There were 18 full rigs and 28 Radials, with serious international contenders in both fleets.
If anyone was on the fence as to which fleet to sail in, the choice was obvious. The wind looked to be in the 20s already when registration closed. After the usual Gorge warnings (“there’s no shame in coming in if it’s too much” and “don’t get in the way of commercial traffic, you may die”) about three quarters of the boats headed to the starting line. Over the course of the day boats limped in, some with shell-shocked skippers, others with broken parts. Nick Pullen, for instance, came in with what he thought was a broken rudder. It turned out to be a broken gudgeon. When does that happen? By the end of the third race there were only 8 full rigs and 10 Radials on the course.
All photos by Christy Usher of Christine Robin Photography. You can see all of them here. Thanks, Christy!
The leaders at the end of the first day carnage were no surprises, Charlie Buckingham in the full rigs and Bill Symes in the Radials.
The second day started much more sedately, in the low teens, which allowed several sailors to get back their Laser mojo. Just as things started to look like a normal regatta with just about everybody finishing and a good mix of finish places, the Gorge started “nukin’” again. The fourth and final race of the day was on a par with the day before, and once again the DNSs and DNFs started mounting. Epic stories abound. Bill Symes, after having an up and down day, was enjoying a great race when he broke his aluminum top mast section just yards from the finish.
At this point the races at the top were clear. Ernesto Rodriguez was giving Buckingham everything he could handle in the full rig fleet, and Jorge Luis Yanez del Castillo of Vancouver, BC and Andrew Holdsworth of San Francisco were duking it out atop the Radials.
On Sunday the wind then decided two days weren’t enough. From the moment boats left the beach to that final push to the finish, the wind was the 20s and gusting into the 30s. It always seems windier in a Laser, but they were truly epic conditions, and it’s a testimony to the quality of the Lasers master sailors (and fitness) that they could compete in those conditions.
As in most masters regatta there were plenty of awards to go around. Rodriguez topped Buckingham by just a point for the full rig win. Del Castillo and Holdsworth traded firsts and seconds the entire second half of the regatta, but del Castillo had a clear victory in the end. There were awards for the various divisions in each fleet including apprentice (35-44), masters 45-54), grand masters (55-64) and great grandmasters (65-74) and the new category “Legend” (75+, won by Jay Winberg).
Upon being awarded the championship trophy, Rodrigeuz said “I came here hoping for a lot of wind, and I got more than I even really wanted!) It’s interesting that Rodriguez and del Castillo sailed together on the Cuban national team in years past.
Nick Pullen gave a moving speech about the origins of the Tony Dahlman Memorial Trophy (named after a most enthusiastic Laser sailor who passed away years ago doing what he loved – Laser sailing. For many of us, this sportsmanship award embodies what Laser sailing is about), after which it was awarded to mid-fleet finisher Simon Bell.
Any coverage of a Lasers Masters event would be incomplete without talking about the camaraderie. First of all, even in a national championship it’s an international event. With sailors from the Dominican Republic, Australia, England Canada and Israel, it felt a bit like a tiny Worlds. And from the moment one arrives at the site, through the racing and meals and while packing up the boats to leave, the mutual respect and support is superlative. Masters sailors know what skills and perseverance to sail the Laser. In conditions like there were for the 2017 Masters US Championships, that respect and fondness grow exponentially.
Ed. Note: You can read my more personal account of the event, and what I think I know about sailing on the Gorge, here. Whew.
Some press releases are just a lot more fun than others to repost. Seattle Yacht Club Sailing Director Brian Ledbetter clued us into this one. His Seattle Yacht Club race team, and Seattle sailors, continue to establish themselves as a force on the national scene. Brian’s quick to point out that this is the third time SYC women have won the Leiter Cup in recent years, including Hanne Weaver in 2012 and Talia Toland last year. Congratulations Abbie and the support network we know you have!
2017 U.S. Junior Women’s Singlehanded Championship Comes Down to Final Race
SHOREACRES, Texas (July 11, 2017) – The 2017 U.S. Junior Women’s Singlehanded Championship finished as one of most closely contested US Sailing National Championships in recent history on Tuesday. In the end, it was Abbie Carlson (Bellevue, Wash.) who earned first place honors and the Nancy Leiter Clagett Memorial Trophy following a strong showing over three days on Galveston Bay in the Laser Radial. She placed third at last year’s championship in Seattle. For the second straight year, a sailor representing the Seattle Yacht Club has won the Leiter Trophy.
Carlson trailed leader Grace Austin (Greenwich, Conn) by seven points through five races in a very competitive fleet. The first five races of the series were dominated by light wind, but just before the sixth race the seabreeze filled from the Southeast at 8 to 10 knots, providing the best sailing conditions of the week.
Carlson placed fourth in the final race, ahead of her rivals for the overall title. This, combined with the dropped score that came into effect upon the completion of six races, gave Carlson an 11-point turnaround and a four point win over Austin. Marianna Shand (Chula Vista, Calif.) finished third overall and posted the top results in Tuesday’s three races.
The top five sailors on the leaderboard at the conclusion of the championships were separated by only seven points. There were also six different race winners in six races. Due to insufficient wind and stormy conditions, only one race was conducted on Sunday and two races on Monday.
Final Standings – Top 5
1. Abbie Carlson, Seattle Yacht Club, 1--5-2-8-4- ; 20
2. Grace Austin, Belle Haven Club / LYC, 5-2-2-10-5-- ; 24
3. Marianna Shand, Mission Bay Yacht Club, 9--9-1-3-3- ; 25
4. AnaLucia Clarkson, Seattle Yacht Club, 13-1-3-3--6- ; 26
5. Anika Boicheff, St. Petersburg Yacht Club, 3-4--11-7-2- ; 27 Full Results
“Honestly, I was kind of surprised because everybody was so close in points, so I didn’t find out until I came in,” said Carlson. “It was hard to stay positive during all the postponements, but I stayed focused. It was really shifty today and it wasn’t what I was expecting. Overall, I thought my speed was pretty good on the upwinds and downwinds.”
High-level coaching and skill development is a key component of this championship. Prior to racing, teams took part in a two-day clinic on Friday and Saturday led by a collection of top coaches from around the country.
“One of the things that sets the Leiter Trophy apart from other regattas is the clinic and the US Sailing provided coaches for all competitors,” said John Pearce, Youth Director of US Sailing. “It creates an atmosphere of collaboration and pushes the sailors to focus on building their skills while also striving for a great result in the Championship.”
“Our coaching staff comprised of Head Coach, Richard Feeny, and coaches Elizabeth Kratzig, Scott Ikle, Beka Schiff, and Hannah Tuson-Turner have worked with all of the sailors as a group throughout the event. During the on-shore postponement Monday, Elizabeth presented to the sailors about her career as a sailor, including her current work with the Magenta Project, and other opportunities for women in sailing. It really inspired the sailors to seek out big challenges and leadership roles within the sport.”
“I was really impressed with all the girls and the close racing, especially on the last day,” said Kratzig. “It’s an honor to be here as a coach, especially having participated in this event growing up and now to give something back towards women’s sailing and helping grow the knowledge and enthusiasm of the young female sailors is really exciting. This is a broad spectrum of sailors with varying experience. By bringing them all together it shows everybody that we have a strong contingency of women in sailing and we need to continue to build on that. This event is critical to their development as a sailor.”
For Twitter updates from the racecourse, results and standings, photos (to come later in the week), final report, and more information from the 2017 U.S. Junior Women’s Singlehanded Championship, please visit the event website.
Take part in the conversation on social media using #Leiter17.
Support of the U.S. Junior Women’s Singlehanded Championship as well as the clinics associated with the event is made possible by funds provided by the late C. Thomas Clagett, Jr. to perpetuate his unwavering dedication to junior women’s sailing. This support is intended to encourage young American women to enhance their sailing ability, with emphasis on sportsmanship, by providing the opportunity to compete in national-level competition with guidance from high-level coaching. Tom Clagett’s family continues to assist in fulfilling his vision
The U.S. Junior Women’s Championships Committee annually hosts two events: a Singlehanded and a Doublehanded championship. Both championships are open events.
The U.S. Junior Women’s Singlehanded Championship started in 1980.
The Nancy Leiter Clagett Memorial Trophy is the perpetual trophy presented to the winning sailor.
US Sailing Championship medals were awarded to competitors who finish first through fifth.
Trophies were awarded to competitors finishing in the top three places.
The C. Thomas Clagett Jr. Sportsmanship Prize was awarded to a sailor based on the results of the competitors’ ballots. *To be announced at awards ceremony Tuesday night.
Ed. Note: We’ll try to get the story straight from the winner’s mouth, plus hopefully some good photos.
The Columbia River Gorge is treating the Laser Masters Radial and Standard fleets to some epic conditions this weekend. On Friday winds were in the mid 20-knots with gusts in the 30s from the outset. It sent more than a few of us off the water early that day. Yesterday’s conditions started in the low teens and didn’t top 30 until the last race.
On the water in the 18-boat Standard rig class Ernesto Rodriguez and Charlie Buckingham are several points clear of Andrew Halliburton and there promises to be a good battle today in a building breeze. In the Radial class Jorge Luis Yanez del Castillo is leading Bill Symes, who broke his top mast section just yards from the finish in yesterday’s final race. Bill is fetching his carbon top section for today…..
When you think of it, everyone out there is a winner. Everyone’s over 35 by definition, and some are in their 70s! Lasers Masters sailing is some of the best racing anywhere. The skills to get a Laser around the course in those kinds of winds is remarkable and to be able to do it in one’s “mature” ages is a major accomplishment. The camaraderie ashore is exceptional.
There may be some things that are more fun than packing up and heading across the country to race against a bunch of really skilled strangers, but not many. And if you get to do this when you’re young, it’s even better.
That’s what a bunch of Seattle area Laser sailors did this past month when they travelled to Clearwater, Florida for the Laser Midwinters East. The story is best told in pictures. What you don’t see is the moms who made it happen. As Erin Timms explains, “I will tell you that the kids had a ball! And Kara (Carlson) and I are exhausted after feeding 5 teenagers for 6 days!!!!!”
I’m hoping to follow the exploits of all our young sailors (and get their reports too) as they pursue championships, new friendships and fun. Not pictured here, but definitely representing Seattle, were Talia Toland and Hanne Weaver who both finished in the top ten in the Radial class. Results here.