PCCSC Men’s Single Handed Conference Champs hosted by USC in Long Beach
Finished 8th/9, full results: http://scores.collegesailing.org/f15/pccsc-men-singlehanded/full-scores/
On September 26-27, 2015, USC hosted the PCCSC Men’s Single Handed Conference Champs off the Belmont Pier in Long Beach. The event was raced in the popular single handed “Laser” with a full rig sail configuration. The Laser sailboat has three different sail plan options to allow sailors of varying weight ranges to compete. The full rig sail is the largest most powerful sail plan with an optimal sailor weight of 160-180 pounds. Weighing in at 130 pounds I was at a huge disadvantage if the breeze picked up. As a dinghy, the Laser sailboat has no weighted keel and the boat must be kept flat and upright using one’s weight which is extended over the sides through the act of hiking; hooking your feet under a central strap to increase the moment created by your weight which counteracts the force of the wind which drives the boat forward. Hiking a sailboat involves working multiple core muscles mostly concentrated in the abs and thighs. This process is very grueling especially over extended periods of time. As the wind increases, a sailor must hike harder and harder to fight the tipping force of the wind and keep the boat moving forward. A heavier sailor has the advantage of being able to keep the boat flatter in big breeze, leading to a large speed advantage over a light sailor who may struggle to hike hard enough to compensate a lack of weight.
Leading up to the event I had my eyes glued on the weather forecast, crossing my fingers for a very light air event. Facing a star-studded lineup of mostly Freshman from Stanford, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara City College, and Hawaii (all with several years of experience sailing Laser’s in high school), I knew that my fate at this event was directly linked to the strength of the wind. Unfortunately a deviation from the forecast led to the buildup of a fresh breeze of at least 13 knots on both days. This level of wind led me to be utterly overpowered in the Laser full rig for the majority of the races run throughout the weekend. Thankfully I had mentally prepared myself for the consequences of such a situation. I was undeterred by multiple last place finishes, being relatively at ease with my poor performance due to a high level of understanding and comfort with the predicament I found myself in. Staying calm and mentally cheerful despite the situation, I made huge inroads towards keeping my emotions in check and separate from my performance.
Thankfully at least a handful of races were run in under 8 knot conditions in the morning before the wind had a chance to build to its full strength. Luckily weight optimization works both ways, and these light air conditions allowed my light frame to stay fully powered up and flat out hiking to the max while my heavy competitors were forced to hunker inside the boat closer to the centerline. These conditions helped generate the highlight of my weekend; rocking a near perfect start, flying past my competitors with greater boat speed, and staying in synch with wind shifts upwind to round the top mark in 1st place. Although lack of practice in the laser and slightly rushed tactical mistakes dropped me to 5th place in that race, I proved my poor performance was mostly determined by the strength of the breeze, a variable outside my control. It just so happens the 5th place finish won me the tie-breaker that kept me out of last place leading me to finish 8th/9. Although I had envisioned a more optimistic outcome, I was incredibly content with my comeback in light air on Sunday that saw me reduce a large point deficit from a windy first day, and achieved the evolved goal of not finishing last. Most importantly I am very satisfied with the improved mental head space I am ready to carry into future events this 2015-2016 season.