Nationals Day #1 – brief report
Today was the first day of Nationals with 52 competitors traveling from as far as North Carolina, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Florida, and New York. Black Lake is located in Northern Michigan and the lake is large. The day had big winds with gusts to 20 at the start of the day and the temperatures hovered at the upper teens. Snow was whipping around and the pitted ice made sailing pretty exciting. T and I arrived early on Sunday and managed to practice both days. Given the limited sailing back east, it was nice to have two solid days on the ice before the racing began.
I squeaked into the gold fleet after finishing 12th in the qualifying race. For me, today was about sailing with confidence in big wind which has always made me very nervous. I started with my heavy 90 degree inserts and my flatter sail. I surprised myself with solid starts by sitting more back in my boat and hiking a bit until I was two blocked. I made good lay line decisions both upwind and downwind, and my mark roundings especially at the leeward mark were at good speeds but always in control. In one race I had a great start and rounded the top mark in 5th place just behind T, but what I am learning in the gold fleet is that these really experienced gold fleet sailors just ZOOM-ZOOM away while I watch from behind and wonder why?! It must come down to better and constant sail trim both upwind and downwind. T said he is constantly playing his sail. I tend to lock in and let her ride.
By the 3rd race I felt I could sail a bit faster so I switched to my 95 degree inserts. The wind was fading a bit and that was causing big slow-downs when hitting the drifts. That really helped a lot in my other races. Yes, my finishes are still at the bottom of the fleet. But given the very challenging wind and ice conditions I definitely sailed the fastest I have ever gone in my boat and I had a lot of confidence at those speeds. Last year, I remember being terrified in big wind. Today, frankly, it was a total rush.