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A thermal Williams-Comstock recording model was developed to predict the transition length in a longitudinal heat-assisted magnetic recording system. In this paper, we compare the results from the model to experimentally determined transition lengths from a dual-sided heat-assisted magnetic recording spin stand. We found both experimentally and theoretically that there exists an optimal alignment between the thermal profile and the magnetic head, which minimizes the transition length. By properly optimizing the write current and laser power, it was possible to record transitions shorter then those attainable with conventional longitudinal recording.