This weekend we opened the 2012 season at the U. S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. I traveled with Villanova’s Will Joumas to participate in the MAISA South Laser Event in an attempt to qualify for the Carl Van Duyne Trophy.
When I first arrived in Annapolis I was a little worried about the lack of laser sailing I did over the past summer. I tried hard to sail during my summer in New York but unfortunately I was limited to a few sessions of remote control laser racing in Central Park. While my fellow r/c racers would argue… I feel few things compare to actual time in the boat.
On Saturday morning, after a stop at Naval Bagels to fuel up, I rigged the Navy Laser in all its 6-to-1 vang glory and set out to the course in a building 8 knot Southerly. While the first few practice jibes were a little rough, I quickly regained a level of comfort in the boat and was able to post: 9, 3, 9, 5, 4, 5 before lunch. In the afternoon I really tried to focus on my downwind speed (an issue I had in the morning) as the breeze built. By the time we started the seventh race the breeze was up to approx. 15 knots as a huge cold front began to move in on the fleet. I was feeling strong and fast. At one point I was OCS but went back and was able to claw my way back to 8th overall. My finishes for the afternoon were: 4, 3, 8, 3.
At approximately 4PM the sky turned black and the call was made to return to shore to try and beat the approaching storm. I was feeling good after a strong last race and began reaching in alongside ODU’s Collin Leon. As we passed Severn Sailing Association, Collin and I speculated as to whether we would get in before the storm hit. I was pretty sure we would be okay but as we approached the Naval Academy seawall- I was wrong.
With the entire full-rig fleet and most of the radials still on the water we were hit with a 40-knot squall that some would only describe as “gnarly.” The temperature drop was amazing. Soon after we reached the Naval Academy seawall the lights turned off and we were blasted with violent shots of cool air. When the storm hit, it hit with force. I watched as every single radial was knocked over in front of me. Before I knew what happened my laser flipped and my favorite kaenon hat was gone to the wind. I was left perched on the side of the laser with one foot on the daggerboard and the other on the hiking strap. There I stayed for about 10 minutes trying to prevent the boat from turtling or righting itself in the 40+ knots of breeze. I learned that when it’s going nuts the best thing to do with a laser is lay the rig down and just try and ride out the storm. At points the rain was so intense I could not see Collin who was only 20 ft away! As soon as the breeze dropped down to 25-30 knots I righted the laser and finished the sail in. Thankfully everyone was ok as the Midshipmen did a great job keeping tabs on the flipped fleet throughout the squall. It was quite the end to my first day back in the boat!
On Sunday, my quads were happy to see 5-7 knots from the West. The beautiful September weather was very different from the overcast skies of the day before. Unfortunately, the nice weather brought out a lot of pleasure boat traffic so conditions were light and extra choppy on the Severn River. In the first race, I was surprisingly quick downwind. I had a mediocre start but was able to pick a few shifts and get back in the hunt. I rounded the windward mark for the second time in third and was able to pass two top sailors to win the first race of the day- it felt great. Unfortunately, this celebration was short-lived. I posted: 8, 6 before the wind completely shut off and a race was abandoned due to a lack of wind.
After an extended lunch / wind postponement, we went back out to give it one last go. I really struggled in the light breeze and boat chop. It wasn’t necessarily a speed issue; rather I just could not make a good tactical decision in the trying conditions to save my life. There was one point when I lost 7 boats on the downwind after rounding the second windward mark in 3rd and going to a side that I thought had more wind; it was extremely difficult sailing. In the end I finished 10, 10, 6 to complete the regatta.
I ended up 5th overall with a considerable margin to the 6th place finisher, George Prieto. Georgetown’s Chris Barnard took top honors at the regatta. The top six move finishers move on to the Carl Van Duyne so I’m excited to get to the next step in the singlehanded nationals qualification process.
Full Results: http://scores.collegesailing.org/f12/laser-south/
Next week we will be at OCC trying to qualify for War Memorial Trophy!
-Mike Russom, Captain