This past weekend, Saplings Chris, Jon, Madeline, and Seth hauled Oakcliff’s Lasers up to Niantic, CT to compete in Niantic Bay Yacht Club’s Annual Laser Regatta. The regatta was a perfect fit for the Oakcliff crew. It worked nicely into an open slot in the schedule and offered a good low-key opportunity for Chris and Jon to sail their first Laser regatta as well as a refreshing return to dinghies for all after a summer filled with big boat sailing. The group was hoping for decent wind on the eastern end of Long Island Sound, a fleet in the 20’s, and plenty of fun. The event pulled through on all accounts.
A southeast breeze built to 12-15 kts in the early afternoon, varying in velocity with oscillations and shifts frequent enough to keep things interesting and offering plenty of passing lanes up and down-wind. This would prove important in the first race as Jon and Seth (187343 and 196160 in the below image) had dubious starts to the series, at best. Having sailed downwind under postponement for some tuning, they found themselves struggling to get back to the line on time for the start. What resulted was the less-than-brilliant second-row port-tack start, which was, of course, captured on film, as shown.
Seth managed to get back to 2nd place at the end of the long 2-lap course (though he owes considerable thanks to Madeline for enlightening him to the fact that the race was twice around) and Jon a respectable 14th in the 24-boat fleet. Madeline put in a great first race performance with a 3rd.
Having not raced dinghies for the better part of three months, it was interesting to evaluate those lessons learned in match racing and on larger boats at Oakcliff which could be applied just as well to small-boat racing. Dawn often can be heard to say how match racing experience can be very helpful in all other formats of sailing, and most of the Oakcliff crew found that to be true this weekend. A good example is several top-mark meets where places were gained or saved in forcing boats approaching on port to tack off early or duck you by aiming down at them on starboard and then luffing up only as they tacked.
In the end, the Saplings represented Oakcliff very well with Seth, Chris, Madeline, and Jon placing 1st, 6th, 8th, and 12th of 24, respectively. The improvement in the first-timers’ skills was evident in the scorecard with Jon and Chris both achieving top-three finishes in the second half of the regatta. After racing, Niantic hosted a great barbecue for which the sailors were extremely thankful. The Oakcliff crew also took up the great responsibility, upon NBYC’s request, of seeing off the remainder of the beer supply; again, they did not disappoint.