SA’er “US772” checks in (with some editing help) from the Landsailing Worlds sailed last week in the heart of the Nevada desert in Smith Creek. More photos from Walter Carrels here, and you can add your own report or ask the new Champ questions in the thread.
I just got back from the event – about a 16-hour haul for me from Montana. I’m an avid iceboater up here, and I get to land sail a few times a year at the America’s Landsailing Cup and the HolyGale, both in Nevada. A new class called the 5.6 International Mini has emerged recently; catching on like wildfire all over the world. I decided to join the fray, and I’ve been preparing for Worlds for a while now. The Mini class is a brilliant class with only 3 rules: 1) 4.8×8 inch tires or the equivalent in size; 2) a round mast section; and 3) the boat must fit inside a 5.6-meter long rope that wraps around the wheels as they touch the ground. This very open rule means unlimited sail size and almost complete freedom in design. So if you’re a big or little person, you still have a chance.
I build all my equipment from scratch, and with my experience from bigger dirt boats, I decided to take a different approach to the design that what was previously out there. I made mine more like a bigger Class 3 dirtboat than a stick framed mini, concentrating on aerodynamics and function rather than the typical lightweight approach. My mini weighs twice as much as most; about 150 lbs. My sheeting system is a winch and drum system, and I used 1/8” spectra and, rather than the typical Harken stuff, I made my own blocks with the rollers off a sliding glass door. My traveler is also a homegrown device that allows you to pull it to weather; I made it with skateboard bearings from the local skate shop.
The framework of the boat started with a conduit bender I bought at Home Depot. The tubing bender’s radius set the tone for the whole boat and the size of round tubing I could use. The fuselage is also based off of the front wheel. I decided to go very aero on the front wheel, which is buried inside the fuselage. Everything gets complicated when you do that. After the framework comes the aluminum sheeting.
For the sail package, I worked with Bruce Peterson at Sailworks. I had him do a few tweaks on the normal sail designs to suit my needs. I completed the mini last fall, converting it to an iceboat and sailing it for hundreds of miles and many many hours on hard water to get some practice for the event. I broke the boat 4 times prior to the Worlds, believing it’s good to sail hard and find the weak spots. A few weeks before the event, I made a few more changes that really paid off for the conditions at the Smith Creek.
The Minis race first two-and-a-half days at Worlds. The rest of the classes race the remaining days. The weather was awful! 95 to 100 degrees no wind for the first day. I’ve been racing dirtboats since 1980 and sometimes I still get sick to my stomach pre-race, and this was the most stressful racing I’ve ever done. I was going up against the European and prior World Champion, and there were about a half dozen others that would be really tough to beat. Most, if not all their boats, are a factory boat or a partial factory boat that I’m assuming are sponsored or partially sponsored by the manufacturer. In fact, the French get paid by their government if they win or place at a World Championship! The sport is very popular in Europe compared to the US. There are even landsailing schools in France. They are usually dominate competitions. Fortunately, I have been watching those guys on the internet over the years so I knew what to expect.
Not much wind but plenty of heat. We sat around from 10 am to about 7pm waiting for wind and listening to briefing after briefing every hour or so. It was tough to be filled with pre-race nerves while staving off dehydration. I got a ripping headache from the heat and felt lethargic most of the afternoon. They started one race which I led most of the way around, only to turn about to find 3 Euros pushing like jackrabbits toward the next mark while I’m trying to sail. The race was black flagged due to lack of wind. Racing cancelled at 7pm, and of course, the wind arrives at 7:10.
10 am race briefing. I feel much better this morning. My brother, Scott, is a cyclist, and he’s helping me stay healthy by pumping me full of all kinds of fluids and go-fast cycling supplements throughout the day. I win the first race, but it’s black flagged due to the three quarters of the fleet not being able to sail. In the second race, I come in just behind the former World Champion from Germany. In the third race, three boats are over early when I hit the line at speed on the right side of the course. I stay in third but end up in first due to others’ mistakes. In the next race, the wind one-eighties, so the coarse is reversed. It’s a short coarse with 4 to 5 marks wrapped around camp so spectators can view easily. I’m used to a windward leeward iceboat type coarse, but my boat, even tough it’s heavy, does very well on the short circuit. I’ve got the sail set up for low end performance, and I do most of my passing going downwind. The lighter the wind the better I do.
You can see defeat in the eyes of a few that were expected to be favorites. Just after midday a thunderstorm is brewing in the distance. We see the dust from afar coming our way. I tip my boat over to secure it and other follow suit. The wind and dust hit and I can only see about 4 feet in front of me. We lay on our sails getting pelted by the lake bed getting ripped off itself. It feels like hail, and lasts about 40 minutes. Sven the German World champion gets off his sail after the storm and can’t find his boat. It got loose with no mast or sail and blew down the dry lake 2 miles away. The gps revealed a top speed of 32 miles per hour with no rig.
With the dust came rain, which caked mud clods onto everything. It took a while to get things cleaner again, and since the storm sucked all the wind away with it, we’ve got time. The next race I am in second following the leader about 3 feet behind, and we’re both clearly tired from the heat. He starts rounding one of the marks the wrong way, and I follow until just before the mark I get yelled at by a French pilot bearing down on me so we don’t collide head on around the mark. Collision averted, I round properly only to be fouled by the previous leader. I am rattled and sail the wrong way again. At the last second, I looked over my shoulder to see 3 boats sail the proper course so I quickly jibe down to the mark in hot pursuit. In the end I clawed back a few spots after my stupidity. 2 more races and 3 more black flagged races later I’m leading the mini class by one point! That night I collect 1 daily first award and another award for leading the class for the first day. I’m stoked and surprised at my success, to say the least!
I’m even more nervous than before since I’m now in the lead, and I have a huge target on my back. The 2-minute sailing start could easily do you in, as 40 plus boats are wizzing around at 25 miles per hour jockeying for the windward pin at speed. One of the US guys get t-boned in the prestart. The French boats front wheel ends up in the Americans lap, badly cutting his knee with the front fork. Most of the French are really getting good at their starts, while I am not. I hold back a bit so as not to foul anyone or get in a wreck, of which there are plenty. I find the windward pin area is pretty clogged up. I choose the middle. I find I can claw my way back to the top if there are enough laps with in the 10 minute timed race. We race for 10 minutes who ever is in the lead after 10 minute wins. That usually translates into 3 to 4 laps. The first races goes well for me, and I come in second. In another race, I’m way ahead in the lead, only to sail into a hole and watch the fleet go around me on the left. The race is eventually black flagged due to lack of wind. One more black flagged race. In the next race I get a bad start and end up in fifth place, and adding up numbers from the placements the night before, I think I’m still in first. The second place boat the day before is mid fleet. The third place guy yesterday is now second, and my biggest threat.
The cut off is 1 pm, and at 12:30, I just want the time to run out. The wind doesn’t, and I’m in third place when the next race is abandoned. As I’m pushing back to the camp, I throw my helmet sky-high, knowing I’m the World Champ. The Race Committee doesn’t agree, and they decide to hold a race at 1:06 PM. “Someone shoot me with a gun,” I think to myself, feeling screwed over. I’m in tenth shortly after the new final race starts, and I hope I can pass enough boats. I pass four before the weather mark and turn downwind. The wind dies, the race is black-flagged, and I become the 2014 5.6 International Mini World Champion!
Later that week I raced in class 2 and ended up in fourth place, while my nephew Will raced class 3 and helped the USA get the team medals for that class. A huge thanks to FISLY and NALSA for organizing an awesome event, and a bigger thanks to my family who kept me healthy during the racing.
-John Eisenlohr, US772