ILCA-NA Laser District 3
Ottawa Valley Laser Masters 2010

On the weekend of August 28th to 29th, I ventured to Ottawa, with seven of my club mates, for the Ottawa Valley Laser Masters regatta at the Lake Deschenes Sailing Club.

Close to 40 Lasers were on hand for the event, which included a number of Canadian and World Championship competitors from Ontario, Quebec and the USA. The venue on Shirley's Bay, on the Ottawa River, has a nice, modern clubhouse and a large grassy area around the club.

Boat launch is off the shoreline, which is made of rocks. This year the water was very low making launching a little delicate, there are large rocks off shore a few feet below the water level meaning you could not put your centreboard or rudder down until well clear of the shore. The river at this point is a couple miles across allowing for any number of course set-ups.

The weather for the weekend promised to be very hot and the wind was forecasted to be in the 8-10 knot (20kph) range. Saturday morning brought light winds and temperatures in the high 20's. The race committee, decided to send everyone out and wait for the wind to build.

The first race, which was going to be an upwind downwind, saw a general re-call, as many boats were over early. I being a novice in this class of field was about 15 seconds back of the line blanketed by 20 sails at the committee boat end. I was grateful for the restart, thinking to myself, don't get caught there again.

The next race was one of the strangest races this sailor has ever seen. A clean start was given, even though a timing error was seen, the race was started after only 4 minutes not the usual 5. As the race began, a number of boats got off on a port tack at the pin end, tacked over to starboard in front of the rest of fleet and made the upwind mark ahead of the rest, among those was me in 7th. I thought, this was great, but was my bubble going to burst. At the leeward mark the race committee put up the Charlie flag denoting a change in course. The committee moved the upwind mark slightly closer to another mark that was going to be used in case there was a reaching leg. This caused confusion as the first bunch of sailors sailed around 1 of the marks then some sailed off to the other mark. Finally, after 45 minutes of hard racing and only a short distance left to go the race was called off! Boy, was that frustrating.

The next race saw a clean start as half the fleet went right and half went left. I was somewhere near the middle of the line going to the left only to be behind when I realized that this is not good and tacked out to find clear air, too late, it was all over as I was left near the back. In this class of fleet it is really hard to make up ground but it is real easy to lose ground, make a couple of bad decisions and BAM, your way back. As the race progressed the fleet started to bunch up at the last leeward mark and it seemed like all the boats were converging at the same time. Chaos occurred, as some boats were pushed out and some were pulled in. I was unlucky enough to be pushed to the outside and left with no wind as we tried to round the mark. 28th place was the result, not what I had in mind. After that race the fleet was sent in for lunch, which consisted of cold cuts, salads and deserts, with lots of water; all had a good feast.

The afternoon racing started at about 2:00pm. As the wind from the southwest started to build along with the swell, the race committee decided on a Modified Olympic triangle course. Over the afternoon, 3 races were run as the wind built to 12-15 knots. The first 2 races were a blur for me as the temperatures headed into the low 30's. While my starts were OK and staying left on the first leg seemed to pay off, I was able to stay competitive.

The reaching legs were fun and I took my some club mates advice and stayed to the windward side to be able to keep my inside position at the mark. The up winds legs were tough slogging through 2-3 foot swells, certainly nothing like I was use too at my home club. On the downwind legs, I played it conservatively as not to death roll and having to take a DNF. We were told in the skippers meeting that the side of the course closest to the club was quite shallow. This meant that you could easily get your mast caught in the mud if you death rolled By the third race I was dehydrated enough that my forearms and thighs were cramping and I capped sized on one of the up wind legs. By the time I got shore, after the race I was exhausted. A 28th and 3-24th's were the order of the day for me. Not quite what I wanted but what I deserved.

By the end of the afternoon, all were pretty tired and looked forward to good meal. On Saturday night, a steak dinner was served up, with 1 twist; you cooked your own steak on the BBQ. Along with potatoes, salads, great deserts and cold drinks, the meal was great way to end the day.

Sunday dawned with almost no wind and temperatures in the high 20's as the fleet rigged on shore. At 10:30 we were sent out to the course to wait for the wind to arrive. The wind filled in around 11:45 and the race was started. Again, I was in the middle of the line as the wind seemed to fill in on the left side first and that side had the advantage. I kept going left even as many boats tacked over back to middle, I decided to live and die on the port layline. As the race progressed was able to stay in the front half of the fleet. Even on the next up wind leg, which I notoriously screw up, I was able to keep my position, until the very last down wind mark rounding. All I needed was 10 more seconds and I would have rounded no problem. As in an earlier race, the wind died at the front and the rest of the fleet caught up and again the all boats tried to go round the mark at once. The result was I was again pushed to the outside on the wrong tack and forced to round with no speed and was left at the back to ponder what might have been. Gee whiz... I think I deserved a better fate, but that's sailing, certainly no guarantees.

With 10 minutes to go before the cut off time for the last race to start of 1:00pm, the 5-minute count down for the next race was started. With the fleet itching to get started, a general recall was called, as many boats were over early (not me of course). With the time now being 12:58pm there would not be enough time to start another race and the fleet was sent in ending the regatta. A frustrating way to end the day, but a fair one. For me, it was the end of my first big out of town big regatta. I was a bit disappointed not to have scored better, but I did learn a couple of hard lessons, which I will keep with me. Thanks to the race organizers for putting on a great regatta and I think most of us will be back next year.

Here are the links to the results and a couple of videos:

Scott AveryScott Avery is a relative rookie to Laser sailing, having started in 2006. His favorite saying is, "I know, I know, got to keep the boat flat!" Scott writes a weekly race report for his home club, Sudbury Yacht Club.