Notes From The Winners

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From Bob Terry - Southampton Yacht Club, August 7, 2010 - Second race of the season with the wonderful folks at Southampton YC. The main reason I came in first place is that the sailors that usually beat me didn't show up!

The forecast called for 8 knot winds that would be veering (going clockwise around the compass), so I anticipated that the right side would be favored going upwind. It was! I kept my starts toward the right side so I would be free to tack, pinching the boats off that were on my hip when necessary to get to the right. After the first couple of races, some of the boats hit the right corner hard, a definite mistake as the wind was rythmically shifting and required an ability to tack freely to stay on the lifted tack. Not an option if you get to the layline early! I made tactical moves only to pursue the strategy of going to right side upwind, which got me to the windward mark first in all of the six races.

Downwind was a matter of keeping a clear lane, Mike Duran did the same and caught me on the first two races by sailing his own race & maximizing boat speed. Jack Kratz was moving fast, so I was careful not to slow him down - he was able to block Mike for me! My mantra - tactics must always be executed to further a strategy.

All in all, I noted the favored side, played the shifts, kept my lanes clear, covered the competition at the end and just kept to a conservative strategy. Southampton YC is a great venue, lets get some more boats there next season!


From Blake Marriner - Sebago Canoe Club Annual Regatta, 5/16/09, Brooklyn, NY - I had the pleasure to meet “Team Sebago” (Holly, Tracy and Chris) last year at one of the Dinghy Shop regattas and listened to them describe their club and sailing area. I was really intrigued and made a mental note to make sure to attend if they hosted a Laser regatta there, so when I saw it on the D8 calendar this year, I was psyched. For some reason, visions of a childhood long past watching planes take off and land, the chance to race somewhere new and different (Jamaica Bay in Brooklyn no less!) and help them promote Laser sailing at their club was too good to pass up.

 I’m here to tell you, do not miss sailing here if they host an event again! The location of the club and the racing area are very cool and the members of the club went out of their way to make us feel welcome. The fog made watching jet airliners a non-event, but perhaps that helped me concentrate on the racing, and there was plenty of that thanks to Jim and his RC team. (I will admit to watching the people riding horses on the beach though) Folks, we even had spectators out, cheering us on at the leeward mark, which gave the racing a bit of that NY Marathon feel to it.

We got in 8 races in about 3 hours of sailing, a mix of W/L (multiple laps)  and a couple of T/W/L with nice long reaching legs. The conditions were really fun, a mix of everything – flat water, waves, current changes and breeze from about 8-14 kts, and oh yeah, the occasional fog bank. I thought the keys for me were:

I felt whoever got off the line either in a controlling position or clear ahead, would be able to “ride herd” on the rest of the fleet up to the windward mark. I think the fall and spring frostbiting at Cedar Point in CT may give me a bit of an advantage in the early spring D8 events, as I’m coming off a full season of racing while others are just shaking the winter rust off, so I felt really good coming off the line – I made sure I was accelerating 5 seconds before the gun and at the favorite end of the line.

I also focused on boat handling, making sure turns were smooth which can help avoid losing a boatlength here and there.

Upwind, on the first beats I was most concerned with holding my lane, on the rest of the beats I was focused more on going fast thru the water which meant keeping the bow down. On the runs, when the breeze was up, there were waves that you could surf, so I spent a good bit of time sailing by the lee on stbd or turning up a bit to a reach to catch or stay on each wave. The long reaches also provided some surfing and planes, the key there was once you accelerated to make sure you moved back in the boat to pop the bow out and let the flat surface aft help keep you on plane – I saw a few bows that never really popped clear, which helped remind me and I’m sure helped me avoid getting passed.

As we de-rigged back on land, the aroma of burgers and dogs cooking on a charcoal grill wafted thru the air – are you kidding me, we’re getting fed too? A perfect ending to a great day, chowing down on some tasty grub before saying our good byes and hitting the road. I sure hope Sebago does this again next year, I can’t wait to go back, I still have to watch the jets. Seriously, I hope everyone makes the effort to come next time, and spreads the word, this really is a great place to spend time messing about in boats.


From Ryan Schmitz - Dinghy Shop Regatta, 5-09-09 - Amityville, NY - Just to start I would like to thank Mr. Jim Koehler for hosting this weekend's district 8s regatta and Mr. Ted Cremer for helping as race committee and course setter.  I had a great time and I am sure that all other the sailors did as well.  I was one of four sailors, everyone of which I am sure was equally enthusiastic about the breeze or lack thereof.  Though the conditions called for more drifting than sailing at times I certainly learned a lot from both the practice and my opponents varying and insightful styles of sailing that I try to integrate into my own repertoire.  The light wind was surely a very large influence on the races on Saturday.  My weight advantage was a major factor that I am sure helped me to win.  Some of the tactics I employed were ones that I have learned both recently from Olympian and coach Ed Adams and our very own Lindsay Hewitt who's tutelage had no doubt helped me to win.  This weekend for me was all about position in the boat and sail shape.  I sat as far forward as I could with my knee holding my dagger board down in place to help against the powerful current.  In terms of sail shape I tried to keep my outhaul the standard hand length and my downhall completely dumped out to give myself the most power possible (which is not saying much in those conditions with rare exceptions).  Even my sail was let out some to keep the leech open, however my vang was completely strapped to keep sail bend (one of the helpful tricks I learned from coach Adams).  I also wrapped my back leg around the hiking strap in order to stay connected with the boat.  In doing this I feel like I can control the boat very easily with slight upper body motions to get the boat over a wave or roll someone off the start to take an early lead and control.  I feel that my weight and upwind performance are what really allowed me to win this weeken d.  I would also like to congratulate all the competitors on a great day of sailing for everyone, and I would like to point out for anyone who was not present that every single race was incredibly close and there was a very small point differential between competitors.  Thanks again to Mr. Koehler And Mr. Cremer and I hope to see you all out on the race course soon.

Ryan Schmitz


From Keith Hennessey - Dinghy Shop Regatta, 5-10-08 - Amityville, NY    Ted asked me to circulate my thoughts on the Saturday races. I thought the conditions were very tough but here goes...
This Saturday I was very focused on my starts and thought that generally I  had good starts. Almost every race, I approached on port and tacked over  with about 30 seconds to go into a hole between other boats. The committee boat was favored all day sometimes heavily. The second race which I won, I  was right at the boat with good speed off the line. Another race when I  was second to the windward mark I was right at the boat but behind another laser so I immediately tacked over once I could clear the committee boat. Then I tacked back to starboard quickly with clear air and felt that I was probably in second at that point. I thought that a number of the boats were waiting too long to sheet in and accelerate at the start and I focused on getting off the line quickly.

Upwind I really just tried to play the shifts which was very hard. The wind was all over the place and I really didn't see a consistent advantage 
to one side or the other.

Downwind, however I really thought it paid off to stay high because the current was pushing everyone away from the downwind mark. I also really 
worked the puffs, heading up in the lulls and heading down in the puffs which I thought made a real difference.



From Blake Marriner, Cedar Point YC - Dinghy Shop Regatta, 5-17-08 - Amityville, NY

Sailing downwind in breeze - I start planning a couple boat lengths before the windward mark, my priority is vang setting, tangle free mainsheet and correct jibe for the run (ie has the wind shifted significantly that it will force you to not be able to choose which jibe to sail). The vang setting is all about how comfortable you feel sailing downwind in breeze. The simple way to look at it is less vang tension = less comfort = faster but greater chance of swimming. I find that time in the boat let's you gradually work towards sailing downwind with less vang.

Once I'm moving downwind faster then the waves are moving, I pick my way thru the waves by looking for the smallest part of the wave that I'm approaching. I'm constantly looking left and right where I'm heading for that spot. It's not uncommon to have to change course 30 degrees or more away from the mark to get to that spot. The goal is to make these course changes without a lot of turning of the rudder, so being able to pull or push the boat with your legs and by heeling the boat will make a big difference. I bend my back leg under, so my calf is under my hiking strap (which is pulled tight) and the knee of that leg is wedged against the leeward side of the cockpit. To head down more, ease more mainsheet, heel the boat with body weight, and pull up with your back leg against the strap.
To head up, weight in (put pressure of your back knee , which should heel the boat to leeward, sheet in and head up. With this much course change, the
amount of sheeting in and out is a lot, as much as 8-10' of mainsheet.

There are some really good videos of downwind technique in the Laser the show what is really possible. Look for anything with Robert Scheidt or Ben Ainsle such as this one  and for really heavy air sailing, take a look at the Rooster Boat Whisper Downwind dvd, which has some really great techniques that work very well. Finally for a good discussion of vang tension, (as well as a host of other good tips on Laser sailing) get a copy of Paul Goodison's new book


From Blake Marriner, Southampton YC Regatta, 5-31-08 - Southampton, NY

Due to the fog and potential for t-storms, we sailed inside the creek at Southampton. The wind direction was perfect for the body of water, giving us pretty decent w/l courses, twice around. Given that the current was coming in, the wind was puffy and a little shifty, and relatively short courses, I geared up to put my focus on starts, boat handling and clear lanes to tack. Starting within a boat or two at the committee boat helped being able to control the boats to leeward, as there wasn’t quite enough runway on starboard tack to start to leeward of the group and foot out and cross on the first header.. (I tried that once and got hosed)

It helped to keep your head of the boat so you could see puffs and shifts coming. Sometimes that were easy to spot, other times it felt like they were dropping straight down from above and fanning out when they hit the water. This is where boat handling came in play, being able to throw in good tacks. One think I do in puffy/shifty short courses is tighten up my hiking strap so I’m a little faster in my ability to go from full hike into a tack. Rounding the windward mark, again it was important to have the vang off so you could turn down and get to the leeward mark as quickly as possible, as well as having the mainsheet ready to run. I was blowing the vang about a boat length from the mark. If I knew I would be rounding in a puff, I tried to approach on stbd tack from at least two boat lengths out so I would be a max upwind speed or slightly cracked off, as it’s much easier to turn down in a puff while you are moving fast, as the blades don’t stall out (which leads to rounding up)

Downwind, it was a startboard run, and I tried to protect the inside and keep my air clear. With the flat water, I wasn’t S turning much, but I did change course if I thought there was more puff left or right of where I was.  If I had the opportunity I approached the leeward mark so I made the jibe onto port from 2-4 lengths out so I could have a little faster mark rounding. The second upwind leg, it was important to realize if you were lifted or headed when you rounded the leeward mark. Before the start, I would sail by the pin end of the line, closehauled on port tack and get a ref point on shore – I then used that ref when rounding the mark during the race to easily determine if I was headed or lifted after the rounding.

It was a great day out on the water, but even better getting back on land and attacking the steak and salmon dinner that SYC graciously cooked for us. I have never been to any other regatta that offers such a great meal after racing, you owe it to yourself to come next year to enjoy the great racing and excellent food. Hope to see you there next year


From Bob Blanco, Cold Spring Harbor Beach Club Regatta, 5/31/08

Beach Club - North Shore No Wind Race Day.   This was a fluky, no wind day to sail with the southerly never overtaking the northerly. Heading upwind, against an incoming tide but and expecting wind to clock left was not looking too good 1/3 of the way up course.  I continually questioned staying left when fleet head right into shore for less current and wind shift.   I maintained my left side tack thinking wind would be out further from shore and began to see that my angle on the fleet was improving.  As luck would have it the wind shifted left favoring my tack and moving me to front of fleet.   Tough day to call and I could have just as easily ended up last if the wind did not clock left.    


Notes from Ted Cremer: Things learned in full rig:   Sailing Upwind in 25+ knots and chop

Upwind:   -as much downhaul as you can manage, both feet on the front of the cockpit and pull the grommet past the boom by having the lines pass on the port side of the boom. The goal is to flatten the top of the sail.   -Slight draft (width of your fist) with outhaul so you will have power to get through the waves which were 2 to 3 feet on average.   -Lots of vang. Start hicking hard, sheeted out like a foot, and then pull more on. You'll need to ease the vang going into the tacks and after you finish, vang back on...   - Sailing upwind, you're hardly ever two blocked, You want to crack off to the point that your helm eases some, bear off and then sail the boat as flat as possible. Big puffs hit, ease lots, but keep the boat flat as the boom can not hit the water or you'll capsize to leeward. When you get flat sections of water, hike as hard as you can, trim in and that is the time to try to work upwind. You should be planing upwind at that point and getting close to two blocked.   Check out this link of Brad Funk sailing at the midwinter's.... He starts near the pin and punches out... he has the logo at the rear of his sail.   I watch these guys hike and realize that you really need to be in shape!