ILCA-NA Laser District 3

I attended the Master Worlds between October 2nd and 12th in Hyeres France. Initially I had not intended on competing at this event, largely due to the high charter boat cost. However, as luck would have it (and help from Jack Pearce and Andy Roy), I somehow managed to enter the regatta with about 45 days to get ready. Needless to say, 45 days is insufficient time to get ready but I have always wanted to sail in Hyeres (back to the 1990s when I competed at a much higher level) so I made a very late and hasty decision to go.

Some things that set the worlds apart from North American events or local events is the scale. There were upwards of 500 boats entered for the event and the boat park was full. On the first morning I was in Hyeres I made sure I was one of the first to get prepared for measurement. If you do the math - 500 boats to get measured over 2 days at each taking at least 20 minutes... well you get the point. I was in and out of measurement in about 10 a.m. and this included the time it took me to remove and re-stick one of my sail numbers that was allegedly not close enough to the leech. Funny thing was, I followed the Laser manual to a tee when I put the numbers on and never did see a rule requiring that the number be no more than 12 cm from the leech. The same principle holds true for the return of the charter boat. Tip: take boat to get in line and de-rig while waiting. I was complete in about 20 minutes while some people had still not checked their boats in until after 7 p.m. in the dark and after prize giving.

We got out for practice early afternoon on the first practice day. Unfortunately, the winds were light but we had some good boat speed testing. I tuned with Andy, Al Clark and Philippe. Some other sailors eventually joined in. Al was blazing fast in the light stuff. The next day was similar in that winds were light. We had the practice race, which I would encourage to do, as it helps you get a feel for the competition as well as gives you time to get your charter boat set up the way you want it.

The first two days of the regatta were sailed in light air (not characteristic for Hyeres). We managed to get 2 races in over both days with starts late afternoon. This was a good call by the race committee as when I first got on the water I thought they were nuts, but the wind gradually filled and slowly died out over the racing. My scores were not great (15, 8) but I knew would improve. The first race I rounded the top mark in 5th, was sailing fast on the run and as luck would have it, pressure filled from the windward side and I watched about 5 boats from behind literally sail around me. The next beat I played the right side and left was favoured. I ended up holding in the 15th spot the rest of the way. My scores the rest of the series were somewhat scattered (6, 13, UFD, 5,7,9,11,5,9,5). The letters really hurt my ultimate placing. I had a 6th that race (would have had a 6,5 on Day 3). I was feeling pretty good when I got off the water and with the dreaded UFD hanging over my head and already scoring a 15, I got chicken on the start line the rest of the series.

For me, the most important takeaway from Hyeres is the level of fitness that the top 4 boats had in my fleet. When the breeze was up, I could hang with them for the first half of the beat but not the whole race. Given the wind conditions, I had no hope of placing better than 5th. Harsh - yes. True - absolutely. For Kingston, I committed to myself that I will be in much better shape so I can at least sail the race with these guys.

The second takeaway for me was modernizing my lines. Dave Hillmyer from Sarasota and Andy gave me a couple of blocks to help my Cunningham release downwind. What a difference! Up to then, I sailed with a prehistoric 3:1 purchase system that I had to reach forward to release. When I was rounding the top mark in big waves and breeze, I was missing the first set of waves at the expense of fidgeting with my Cunningham. Just plain silly so will be updating that system right away. I may even upgrade my vang for next year. This takeaway is probably limited to me as I don't think there are many dinosaurs from the 1990s still using the old systems.

The third takeaway was to stay mentally upbeat even if things go bad early. The worlds is a long event with a 12 race series. Lots can, and usually does, happen during the week. I was not pleased with my first race but I knew I was sailing fast just wasn't catching any breaks that day. Andy also had a crap first day (almost a DFL) and then came out guns a blazing for the rest of the series. The importance of taking one race at a time is critical. I was pretty down after I got the UFD in Race 5 but some words of wisdom from Al Clark helped put everything in perspective. "Got 7 races to go Ray, you'll be fine". Well, he wasn't that far off.

Final takeaway is that one good turn doesn't always get another. My experience at this regatta is that you have to be very careful when encountering port/starboard upwind crossings. I usually hail the port tack boat to cross if I know he is going to slam dunk me. Don't expect the same treatment in return. The memories of some European nations in this regard is very limited. When in doubt tack or you could be in a protest situation or doing spins.

Overall, the greatest thing about the Master's events is the friendships you make and the new people you meet. The Albertans did it right, they rented a house up in the old town of Hyeres and invited all of the Canadians for dinner on the penultimate night. We had a great time and it was sure appreciated by all.

Looking forward to Kingston already.

Ray DaviesRay Davies sails out of Water Rats Sailing Club.