America’s Landsailing Cup: Speeds that pucker you up

Published on March 24th, 2015

by Eric Sorensen
As a wet boat racer for 40+ years I was intrigued by the simplicity of landsailing, and when the Landsailing World Championship came to Smith Creek Playa in Nevada for July of 2014, I went. One had to be a bit nuts to think going to a desert in Nevada in the middle of July would be fun. But that experience set the hook.

Duncan Harrison, editor of Dirt Boat Magazine, has now reeled me in to America’s premier landsailing event – America’s Landsailing Cup 2015 – this week on March 21-28. As one of the top Manta Twin class racers, he bought a used boat and loaned it to me for the week and gave me amazing coaching and tips to go fast.

There are five classes of dirt boats racing with speeds on the big boats already hitting 80 mph in 29 knot winds. The largest class is the Manta Twin with 36 boats registered. There is even an enterprise renting non-race boats if you just want to go out and sail fast on the playa.

The race course for the America’s Landsailing Cup is in California but just. It is held at Lake Ivanpah, which is contiguous to the border town of Primm, NV. This town is basically a casino and shopping mall construct with the only store in town at a camp ground for RVs. However, one can get a room and ignore the bells and clanging in the smoky casino.

My early first day impression had 25 knot puffs, dirt in the air, and speed that puckers you up. Thirty minutes was a good workout. Love the shower in my room at the end of the day! I was covered in grit and grinning from ear to ear.

It is likely I will be slow in the first race. My goal is to not crash into the desert or anyone else and finish the race. After that race we will see how competitive I can get. For starts, everyone lines up sitting still on the starting line which is a string on the dirt, pointing more or less 90 degrees to the wind. On ‘go’ we all sheet in and foot off for speed, hardening up as we accelerate.

We race toward a weather mark, and as tacks are slow, conventional wisdom is to overstand the mark. When you reach off a bit the speed just HONKS on in the heavy air!

When rounding the weather mark and heading ‘down’ in a broad reach the boats just take off! The back tires jump sideways with the push and steering with your feet gets second nature very quickly. Flying a weather wheel is very normal but a bit tough to get used to.

Right of way is easy. Boats on your right have the right of way. Forget port and starboard tacks. Mark rounding will get crowded in the large Manta Twin class. This is thinking in fast-think mode as the race lap only take 10-15 minutes. These races are tougher on the body than I had thought they would be. I was pretty tuckered out as were most of the racers.

I was advised to be careful of boats that don’t have sail numbers as they may just be out for some casual fun and not really know how to race. Good tip!

We had a race in conditions my mentor Duncan described as “somewhere between death and survivable.” He congratulated me on my finish … my baptism by fire. I was DFL except beating the dude who flipped over. Other boats had speeds over 55 mph downwind, and since no one moved away from me on the downwind leg, I am claiming to be in the 50 mph club. Cra cra!

I changed my starting technique, now stacking up behind some of the boats at the favored end of the line. It was helpful to see them in front of me so I could point parallel with them and keep the good speed. I was middle of the fleet at the first mark and then had a run in the mid to upper 30 mph range but lost the laminar flow at the bottom mark. Must remember to overstand the mark more. Once the flow is gone the advice is to go to weather to reacquire it and then bear off and go fast!

More to come…

Here are the ABC’s of landsailing: CLICK HERE

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