Lake Yosemite Regatta
May 20th and 22nd several Richmond Yacht Club sailors drove to Merced for the Lake Yosemite Sailing Association (LYSA) Annual Regatta. Lake Yosemite is a small lake surrounded a county park, located adjacent to the new UC Merced university campus. It costs $6 to launch and stay all weekend. Steve Cameron brought his K6 sportboat and Mark Werder his Melges 15. I sailed ILCAs with Chris Simenstad, Laird Henkel, Stephen Aguilar and a good local sailor in a crummy club boat with rainbow sail.
It had been four years since LYSA had been able to hold their annual event due first to COVID and then low-water drought conditions. Regardless, they really put on a great, fun weekend. I set up my tent on the lawn surrounding the clubhouse. We sailed four races Saturday with a lunch break after Race One. Lunch provided in the clubhouse for $15. Great barbecue Saturday evening, and one long race Sunday; just a friendly, sociable club working hard to deliver a fun weekend.
The sailing happened in high-80’s temperatures with five to 14 knots of wind. The breeze was constantly shifting and changing pressure. This required gear shifting with the cunningham and mainsheet, heading for parts of the lake where pressure could be found, and keeping the boat moving in the lulls.
Well, sailing in small lakes, rivers, estuaries, ponds and other unusual bodies of water is a discrete skillset in ILCA Dinghy sailing. There are certain folks, often hailing from the Midwest, who excel in lake-sailing stuff. The British do too, and they of course regularly kick ass on us Yanks.
One Northern California legend who loved this kind of sailing was Jim Warfield, a genius-level sailor in light, flukey, strange wind conditions. He was a talented 505, Snipe and El Toro sailor who said, “When the going gets weird, the weird get going.” Warfield owned an orange 505 named “Orangegasm” that came to an unfortunate demise on an Albany mudflat.
According to the legend, “Warf” needed some cash, and the Five-Oh had gotten old and soft. So, along with an anonymous helper, he towed Orangegasm out to the vicinity of the Berkeley Circle, filled it full of rocks, and sank it.
The insurance company was not amused when the muddy 505, having shed its rocky ballast, washed up on a local beach. Light-air wizards can be unique individuals, but I digress...
Tiny lake sailing involves two levels: the level I call “modeling” and the level I call “execution.”
Modeling is observing the “things in the wind” such as trees, buildings, hills and other objects that block wind for about eight times their height. Look at the water. Look at flags. Try to figure out what is going on. Does the left or right side have more pressure? Is there a lift along that shore? After sailing a bit, you try to develop a theory about why the wind is acting as it is. Are the gusts fanning out? Are they always lifts on Starboard? Which side of the lake has more wind?
Execution is taking that “database” and collection of “theories” you’ve built by sailing up and down the course, then reacting to what’s going on now. Sail into this header a bit because you’re going into the band of pressure that is always in this spot, or reach off to get the boat moving in a big lull. Changing gears in lakes is something that can happen constantly.
At Lake Yosemite it was sheet two-blocked, hike hard, cunningham on for ten seconds, then back in the boat, sheet out, ease c-ham and try to keep the speed...
Last weekend, on the first beat I saw more wind on the left, along the shore by the tower, so I tended to play shifts along that side. Laird was clued in to that too. His only problem was that he decided to switch to the ILCA 6 rig after lunch. Big mistake.
This low-key, flat-water lake regatta is one to put on your calendar for next year.