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Sunday, February 14, 2016

Texas DragonForce Series #2, White Rock Lake...Observations

After our DragonForce RG-65 "PeckForce" had its spectacular near sinking in the first Texas DragonForce series of the year in Houston, it was time to try again yesterday in his home waters.

It was a beautiful day for sailing with sun and the temperature slowly rising to the high 60's and the winds building from about 8mph up to nearly 15mph, with plenty of drastic shifts in direction and velocity. Fortunately the wind steadied somewhat near the later part of the day and good racing ensued. As an aside, though the shifts were frustrating and difficult, I actually don't mind...that's why I sail rather than use a powerboat ;-) Besides, those that read the tricky weather well were rewarded...I had moments of both, and more than once sprinted to the first mark before struggling with a unexpected wind shift! At any rate with 18 boats and 12 races, it was a brisk day of sailing!

Nice day for a sail!

My day...PeckForce finished 6th of 18, which I am quite content with, and I generally had good starts and was in the hunt. I had a first, and nearly another, which was awarded to Mauricio by literally the length of the bow bumper, and generally avoided catastrophe. In a fleet this large, sometimes you can't help getting tangled in the pack, which started happening to me about mid-regatta...just when I started to think I would let myself get dragged down into the fleet I remembered my own advice...sail clear. There was a lot of traffic at the mark roundings, and the shifty weather lead to some real pile ups, but by remembering to sail clear I started overstanding the mark and just rounding around the got me back on track for the last few races, where I went from 13th and 12th to 1st and 2nd. I was happy with my sail trim, I have sails from Eric Rosenbaum, and they went quite well...they are the only non-stock thing on the boat as the PeckForce goes for simplicity; he uses the original radio gear and transmitter, along with 4AA batteries for power (lasted all day). In chatting with Eric (who won the day) I agreed with his observation that many boats were sailing to "tight", sails to flat, too much backstay, and to tightly sheeted in. Especially in the lighter air at the beginning of the regatta, I kept sheeting in lightly to build some speed, and slowly cranked in as I built up some momentum...seemed to work pretty well. Consistency is king, as always, and while I have improved there, I have a ways to go...Eric is a good example; Bob Piper almost won more races than Eric and Chuck LeMahieu combined (4 to 5), but finished third...Eric's steady performance, of not always winning, but never having a meltdown won the day...a good lesson to emulate!

Other Observations...this is a fun fleet, with widely disparate skill levels. Protests are mandatory in the Texas Series, you are protested, you turn, that's hearings, counterclaims, etc. Given the wide experience disparity, a brief "post action" after the regatta might be a good idea. Port-Starboard, Windward-Leeward and such are generally well understood, but the interplay of many rules at starts and mark rounding is challenging at times for the most experienced...perhaps a 10 minute "post-regatta" discussion, led by some old hands, would help educate folks and encourage fleet wide improvement. I think I finally got down the rules and tactics options regarding heading back up wind into the fleet on port and starboard (respectively) after a lead-bottomed dance with Bob Piper and careful explanation by Eric Rosenbaum...glad to have acquired some new knowledge! Another observation...the boats are quite similar in speed, which is good for a one-design class, and small and precise adjustment can still give some boats a bit of extra performance, as it should be. Lastly, as always the case with smaller boats...keep moving! Going anywhere is faster than luffing out.

The Series #3 Regatta is back to Houston, where I will try to build on this performance and avoid sinking again!

(All pictures below by Chuck LeMahieu and Theresa Gardner...the full series can be seen here.)

Even in deceptively flat water, the White Rock chop can wreak havoc on RG-65's, even a relatively heavy DF; Bud Garcia goes airborne here...

PeckForce powered up on the port tack...the shadows give a good clue to the generous amount of curve used.

Off to a nice start, high on the course near the pin.

Heavy traffic near the middle of the start line...choose a course carefully to avoid fouling or being over too early. 
Chuck's (#09) turn to go skyward, note #76 ahead on the downroll...

Heading for a finish under loose sail and in good company with Bob Piper (#465) and Eric Rosenbaum (#11) just ahead...

PeckForce heading downwind...I suspect I need to get his sail setting out a bit more on this track.

Tight traffic heading to the windward gate, Chuck on my starboard side.

Hip-to-hip with Mauricio's #71...carefully maneuvering required in these close quarters; I'm on starboard and leeward, but need to give him room to avoid and room on a starboard mark rounding.

This is where PeckForce took his bullet...passed Eric with more pressure on the last downwind leg, and split with Mauricio for the port mark on the gate, nice win!

Busy starts, and my best of the day...PeckForce is high and ahead, he will run down the starboard tack near the marks, back to port near the offsets while still ahead, and on to the layline and rounding ahead of the fleet.

PeckForce rounds the offset marks...

High traffic, looking to play the right shifts for the finish. 
Congrats to Eric and  #11 on a consistent day!

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