Laser Europeans 2015

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After a successful World Championships, and some R&R at home, it was back on the road again, this time to Aarhus, Denmark for the Laser European Championships. I flew in on July 16th, had a few days to settle in to the apartment, a day on the water, and measure in before racing started on July 19th.

Day one brought light to medium winds from the South. Race 1 I had a mediocre start at the pin end, but was able to escape nicely to the left side of the course with better pressure and round in 8th. From there I picked my way through the fleet, battle back and forth with the lead group, eventually finishing 6th in the race. It was a nice start to the event. The following race, I opted for a similar strategy, but was aware of storm clouds to the west that could bring a large, persistent right shift. I made my observation, but my analysis was wrong thinking the storm was still too far away to have an effect on the race, at least at the start. I started at the pin end, and sure enough, a 30-degree right shift persisted the entire beat. Fortunately I recognized it right away and took my losses early, and salvaged a mid-fleet finish in 29th.

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Day 2 brought more light to moderate winds, this time offshore from the west. Big shifts and pressure changes were across the course, which made for very tricky racing. This opened things up to spread out fleets as well as big opportunities for gains and losses. Race one I had a clean start, but was unable to take the first shift right away, which was essential in today’s conditions. I was behind the eight ball the entire first beat and rounded the top mark deep. I had a decent run to gain some places back, but really made my comeback on the second beat. I took the first shift right away, got advantageous leverage and rounded the top mark in 8th. However the final run got very fluky and patchy, making it very hard to commit to a plan, losing a few places to finish 14th. Race 2 of the day was much of the same story, having a decent start, but unable to tack and take the ideal first shift. Attempting to make big comebacks all around the course, eventually scratching my way to 22nd, but all for nothing as I was OCS and disqualified for the race.

Day 3 brought our first real big breeze of the event with winds ranging from 15-22 knots from the Southwest. Winds were shifty coming slightly offshore, but the waves coming up the bay from the south, creating a tricky wave skew. Both races I had pretty good starts and speed upwind, to round each first mark in 6th and 15th. However, my usual top downwind speed was not to be found, really struggling to adjust my technique to the wave skew. I consistently lost boats on the downwind, finishing 17th and 27th in the races.

Day 4 was the first day of gold fleet finals racing, the top 53 boats dueling it out. Winds backed off again, ranging from 5-12 knots from the southwest. Race 1 of the day I had a very poor start, getting hung up with the pin pack unable to lay the pin, and forced to sail tight, slow lanes, rounding the top mark nearly last. But I followed that up by finding my wheels again downwind, sailing down the middle, minimizing distance, and gained nearly 30 boats and break into the top half of the fleet. I continued making gains on the following beat and run, to comeback to a 18th place finish. Race 2 of the day I found myself in a similar position. I had a mediocre start in the middle, unable to escape to the sides where the best pressure developed. I rounded in the back of the fleet, but my speed in the light to medium winds flourished, continued to pass boats and finished 21st in the race.

Day 5, the strong southwest, shifty offshore wind returned ranging from 15-22 knots again. Both races I found myself in very similar positions as day 3, having good starts and decent speed upwind, but struggling very much to find my speed with the wave skew downwind, a skill that will be highlighted in my upcoming training in the fall. I would round the top marks in the top half, always found myself losing touch with the front groups downwind, and being caught up by the trailing boats, a very frustrating feeling. Finished the day with a disappointing 32-23.

The final day brought light winds from the south ranging from 5-10 knots. I had my usual good wheels across the course in these lighter winds, but struggled to find the rhythm of the shifts in the breeze. Race 1 I had a mediocre start, but escaped well to round the top mark in the top 15. I was making gains on the downwind and second beat, but eventually lost out again, not playing the final shift well, finishing in 23rd. Final race, was more of the same, but instead on the right hand side of the course, not anticipating a stronger left shift to come down, in the middle of the fleet from the beginning. Really struggled on the second beat to find the rhythm of the shifts again, and then compounded the problem being flagged for rule 42, doing a 720 turn, and dropped to 34th.

All in all, it was a tough event, finishing 33rd overall. However, it was still an expected result, racing in Europe in conditions that very much highlight my weaknesses, including tactical and strategic conditions in strong winds and learning to be fast in that wave skew. Additionally, it was emotionally hard for me to ramp up again and lock in to this event after just coming off such a great Worlds. But that is what the best in the world do. They are able to get up the next day and next week, reset, and bring their “A” game no matter what. This is a skill I will continue to develop with experience.

You can check out results here. http://www.sailing-aarhus.dk/oc2015/files/2015/06/Standard-Gold-overall.pdf

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