The US Nationals/LOCR regatta was held at Fort Lauderdale YC, Jan 11-14 and several top sailors attended in preparation for the World Cup Series regatta in Miami on Jan 27th. The laser radial fleet had 89 boat registered, with 83 on the start line. Usually with such a large number of boats they are split into two fleets but in this regatta all the boats started at once. This means it is extremely important to get a good start so that you have clear air. If you slip back into the fleet it is difficult to recover. Since the start line was so long, there was a central boat which was part of the start line. This meant that you could get a clear lane by starting in the middle, just past this midline boat.
Fort Lauderdale Yacht Club
My coach was Jim Zellmer, who has coached me several times since my very first travel regatta at Clearwater Beach when I was 12. There were two other people in our team, Matthew King who I sailed with last year, and a new person, Morgan Smith. Fort Lauderdale is usually very windy so I decided not to use my brand-new sail and instead I used an older one I had used in Germany and for the Orange Bowl in Miami. Although it is still a new sail it just doesn’t feel nice.
Cameron heading out with the coach boat
The first day was not very windy and the start was delayed to wait for the wind direction to settle down. All the races at the regatta were much less windy than I expected. Sometimes at Fort Lauderdale there are days when it is really honking but other times it is too light for the boat to be powered up. In light conditions, if you make one mistake it is easy to start slipping backwards. You are in the dirty air, you have to deal with other boats and make extra tacks. Before you know it the lead boats are far ahead without you really making any mistakes. In light winds the earlier in the race you make a mistake the worse it is, and it is much more difficult to recover from than in heavier wind.
The second day was the windiest day, but it was still not very windy (12-15 knots). I had expected the winds to be very strong and was disappointed. I said to my friend “Man, I am so sad it is not super windy”. He was completely positive about the conditions which changed my mindset and made me feel much happier about the day.
Cameron playing around on tow
In the second race I had a perfect race, I started at the committee boat, right next to the Olympic people, and I was holding pace. Then a shift came and everyone was coming over towards me. I tacked to keep clear and as I was tacking, right in front of all of the good people, I did the worst tack I have ever done. I hit my head on the deck so hard that I had a lump later on, the sail luffed for half a second and I yelled out a curse word. I started sailing again and was relieved to find I had not actually lost that much from the tack, though it could have lost me the race. I got around the top mark in 4th and was blown away! Wow! My downwind was slow and it was a battle to lose as little as possible. Because it is an ocean venue you get the swell from winds far out at sea as well as the waves caused by the current conditions. This makes the wave pattern really confused and it is extremely difficult to surf well. I was 9th at the downwind rounding. I knew I had to do something different to regain the places so I went left instead of right which turned out to be completely the right move. I made huge gains on the upwind and rounded the top mark in third! I struggled to keep my place for the rest of the race and ended up fourth. The best thing about the race was that I actually passed people, it wasn’t that I had a lucky start and got ahead, I actively passed people.
Getting ready for the start
The third day was lighter again and I had an average day. In the third race everyone had the same game plan at the start which was to go as far left as possible. This meant no-one could turn back as there was no clear air so everyone ended up sailing past the layline which was crazy. I was reaching to the upwind mark which is not a good tactic. Reaching is not that much faster than going upwind and everyone on my side of the course lost out to the people on the other side.
Chaos at the windward mark
The last day was even lighter than the day before and we had to wait around before the first race to see if there would be enough wind at all. I had a fantastic start for the first race, but then there was a general recall because the midline boat and the pin boat had not had their flags co-ordinated so that was disappointing. My second start was not as great as the first one.
Waiting for wind
For the last race the wind was very light. During the race the wind completely shut off and it was crazy. The race started out normally and I was doing fine, but then I screwed up and was shot out the back of the pack. Since it was shifty it was critical to make good decisions and I made some really good decisions and got back to the front half of the fleet. At the bottom mark I lost everything. There was a very strong and weird current and since everyone was compacted at the bottom mark and the wind was super low everyone was messing with everyone else’s air. You could round, sail straight and then tack but then you would be clipped by the people who had just rounded and have to tack again. It was difficult to get away from the area so after going around the leeward mark everyone was in the same spot. The wind was dying and switching so it was very light and shifty. I recognised that it was going to die and switch to a sea breeze so I went way out to the corner where I thought the new wind would come in and it did. Lake sailing skills to the fore! I was going to be top ten at the top mark! Then the race was abandoned and the regatta was over. I placed 28th overall.
– We are so proud of Cameron and all of the hard work it takes to make it to this level. Not to mention the incredible support from Alison and Murray (Mum and Dad). Great work!