Nick Pullen tops Laser fleet in 2nd week
1. Nick Pullen, 4 pts
2. Todd Jackson, 7 pts
3. Stan Eriksson, 11 pts
4. Buff Wendt, 11 pts
5. Rick Raduziner, 15 pts
6. Sean O’Toole, 17 pts
7. Garry “Kiwi” Moore, 19 pts
With much stronger winds for the second night of Laser racing and a few more boats appearing after the winter break, this past Monday night delivered some exciting conditions for the Lake Tahoe Laser Fleet.
New fleet member Bill Marshall started off with his first capsize. After being talked through how to right his boat by the nearest fellow sailor, Buff Wendt, Marshall was on his way to the starting line.
“While Bill has had experience with much larger boats, he’s a complete beginner to dinghies,” Wendt said. “The learning curve in wind is steep in a Laser, but he’s obviously a natural and determined as he was up and going with minimal instruction and quickly made his way in significant gusts to the starting line. I was impressed.”
Marshall had a slightly different perspective.
“I decided after capsizing in the brisk waters no less than 12 times, wearing only a shortie wetsuit, that I could eliminate my crossfit membership and just start my own capsize fit class,” he said. “It is a very physical boat, but I had a fantastic time blasting around in the breeze.”
In the first race, Nick Pullen had a comfortable lead with Stan Eriksson and Todd Jackson battling it out for second place.
After rounding the leeward mark and heading to the finish line, Eriksson and Jackson had a close crossing and in a puff, Eriksson was unable to bear away to give Jackson, who was the starboard and right of way boat, a clear crossing.
Wendt acted quickly, giving a wide berth to the situation and capitalizing on her competitor’s mistakes. However, her trajectory was more to the middle of the whole situation, and she ended up in irons trying to avoid hitting them.
“In a fleet like this where our racing is so tight, one minor mistake can either open an opportunity or cost you many places,” Wendt said. “It isn’t dull.”
The term “being in irons” is used when one’s boat is headed directly into the wind and therefore cannot go forward and is most likely going backwards. It is easy to do in a Laser in strong winds with the sail controls pulled on tightly and especially when one has very little time to react to the need to tack and avoid a collision.
Pullen took first, Wendt was second and Jackson third.
By the second race the winds were still blustery but starting to be less consistently strong, as usually happens on the typical night.
Raduziner had a brilliant start and pulled off a rare and clean port tack start.
Port tacking on a start is a dicey maneuver because the starboard tack boats have right of way. But if the wind directions are right, it can lead to a significant advantage. However, with the shifty winds, by the time the sailors were going up the last beat, the configuration was the same as the first race.
Pullen won again, while Eriksson, who is efficiently smooth in his maneuvers, finished second and Jackson third.
In the third race, Kiwi Moore had a nice start and was able to force a few of the leaders to tack away.
“I always consider it a good night when I’m in a position to call starboard on Nick Pullen,” Moore said. “Nothing gives me greater satisfaction, especially when it is windy.”
Moore’s satisfaction was justified as Pullen is a former Canadian national team member and Canadian national champion.
By the windward mark, by playing the shifts well, and with his consistent speed, Jackson had developed a significant lead.
Jackson sailed a smart race, covered Pullen and ultimately won the race to break Pullen’s winning streak.
Meanwhile, new fleet member Sean O’Toole, sailing his Laser that he bought with money from his paper route over 30 years ago, had begun to bring back his former teenage champion form.
From placing last in the first race, he was giving both Eriksson and Wendt some serious pressure and ultimately caught Wendt but not Eriksson.
Pullen placed first on the night with a low score of four points. Jackson was second with seven points, and Eriksson edged Wendt in a tiebreaker for third, as both finished with 11 points.
With a few more competitive sailors returning to the fleet in the next few weeks, the battle for the top three elusive spots is guaranteed to heat up.
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