Indian River Blues – Going Up Slow

Sailing in the Pineapple Capital of the World

I wrote an overall account of the regatta I attended in Florida earlier this month at RS Aero Florida State Championship 2019. This post is more about my own personal performance in the event – the good, the bad and the ugly – and what, if anything, I learned from the experience.

But first let me share the most important thing I learned at the Florida States. The town of Jensen Beach, home of the US Sailing Center of Martin County who hosted the regatta, used to be the Pineapple Capital of the World, at one time shipping over 1 million boxes of pineapples each year during the June and July season. Not many people know that.


Anyway. Back to sailing.

We sailed five races on Saturday in a south-easterly breeze and three on Sunday in a westerly. Someone estimated the wind strengths as varying from 6 to 12 mph on both days. At my previous regatta in Florida, the Sanford Sailfest in December (see Annoyingly Quick) most of the sailors were sailing RS Aero 7 rigs and I did surprisingly well. At Jensen Beach last weekend, 10 of the 25 boat fleet, including myself, were in 9 rigs. The 9 rig fleet included the top three sailors from Sanford, and four other very fast sailors. I finished 7th out of 10 in the 9 rigs and 13th out of 25 overall on handicap behind five 7 rigs and a 5 rigs. Indeed, in some races I was even finishing behind a few 7 rigs on the water (before handicap adjustment.) 

Looking on the bright side, both days of the regatta were warm and sunny, I did complete all the races, I didn’t ache all over after racing, and I did finish exactly in mid-fleet overall. Perhaps that ought to be good enough for an old dude racing against people mainly a lot younger than myself. (And I had a superb Pineapple-Upside-Down-Cake in the Pineapple Capital of the World which doesn’t happen every day.)  

But after doing so well in Sanford, I must admit I was somewhat disappointed that I was much slower than the leading six  sailors in the 9 rigs (two of whom were the same sailors I had been beating in some races in Sanford when we are all in 7 rigs.)  In a couple of races I arrived at the first windward mark with the leading group of 9s, but I lost them on the second beat. And in most of the races I wasn’t even keeping up with the leading 9s on the first beat. Am I doing something wrong when sailing a 9 rig that I get right when sailing a 7 rig? 

This post is starting to depress me. Let’s have another picture to break the monotony. Here is the course we sailed, exactly as it appeared in the Sailing Instructions.

Got it? No, me neither. But the nice man who was the Principal Race Officer explained it all every well at the skippers’ meeting and, as far as I know, none of the Aero sailors got lost on the course or got their 2C/3 confused with their D+120.

Anyway, back to the sailing. What was I doing wrong?

My starts were generally OK. In fact it’s pretty easy to get a good start when you are sailing a 9 rig if you happen to line up next to 5 or 7 rigs. It’s not fair really. There was one race when the overall regatta winner, Marc Jacobi, snuck in beside me and blew me away, but at least I had the consolation that I must have been in the correct part of the line if he was picking the same spot. (At my age you have to find your positive strokes where you can.)

My reaches and runs weren’t terrible. At times I was blowing past some of the 7 rig sailors who had been impertinent enough to get ahead of me at the windward mark. At other times I wasn’t, which on second thoughts is terrible, really.

But I figure that the area I need to improve most is my beats. Realistically, if I arrive at the first windward mark in the middle of the pack, I am probably going to finish in the middle of the pack, give or take a few places. If I want to finish in the top five I need to be up there with the top five after the first beat.

So what do I need to do?

1. I may have a boat speed problem upwind in a 9 rig. Perhaps I should do some one-on-one training against good 9 rig sailors to figure out whether changes to my sail trim or boat-handling technique are needed?

2. I may not have been picking up the shifts well. In fact, I confess I was hardly thinking about shifts at all. On our little lake at my home club the shifts are usually so huge that they are easy to spot. For sailing on more open water perhaps I should be using a compass? In fact, I think I deserve one of those fancy electronic ones with nice big numbers for my aging eyes. 

Any other suggestions?

Thanks for reading all the way to the end. Here is your reward. A video of day 2 from the Pineapple Capital of the World.


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