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Solo News 6 Dec


    Pursuit race
    Another strange day’s weather. Raining hard when I got up, even harder as I drove to the club, but by the time we started it was ideal sailing conditions.
    I’m interested in your opinions – is 75 minutes too long for a winter pursuit. It works really well in the summer, but should we shorten to a 60 minute pursuit for the winter. We did that in November when it was really windy but this week we reverted to the full 75 minutes. My feeling is that we should use 60 minutes – what do you think. I’ve passed the idea to the sailing committee – please let me or Mike Curtis know your opinions.
    The Pursuit started in a nice force three and for the first couple of laps Arthur and I were having a really close race with the lead changing a several times. As we covered each other up the beats and positioned tactically on the runs we had to watch out for Mervyn who was never far away. The runs pretty much seemed to be ‘make sure you guard inside at the next mark’. After the run we had a nasty very shy reach from three to one. Very hard work trying to keep the boat flat and fast. You just have to work the sheet a lot to keep the boat flat. Unlike beating where you can luff slightly to spill wind, for speed on a close reach you have to do it all with the sheet. If the wind is a bit broader you bear away slightly in the gusts to go faster and run down wind with the gust and then luff back up in the lulls, but when the reach is really close to start with you daren’t give away much ground to leeward and bearing way doesn’t reduce the knockdown much. You just have to work the sheet to keep the boat flat but with as much power as possible. If you have speed you can get away with surprisingly little centerboard to help keep the boat balanced.
    After about three laps the wind came right back up to strength and I was able to pull away from Arthur while Mervyn and Peter C decided enough was enough and retired. In one massive gust downwind I had to gybe and somehow I must had had the tiller extension in the air because it went straight through the main as the boom came over. Really don’t quite know how I didn’t capsize but I did the last two laps with a big hole in the bottom panel.
    It’s funny how small changes can make a big difference. As you know my boat has just been mended (no more nasty gouges in the side where it blew of its trolley launching a couple of weeks ago) but as part of the refit I got a new mainsheet – I wanted it slightly longer as I was having to let the traveler out slightly to get the boom fully out on the run. The new rope is marginally thinner than the old and slightly more slippery. The result is that I kept dropping the sheet, having I slip through my hands or having it pop out of the cleat. For most of the first race I felt as if I was fighting the boat rather than being in tune with it. All the gear must work smoothly and easily so you can devote all your attention to the sailing and not to the gear. For the Back to Back races I swapped to my spare sail and put the old mainsheet back – much better, didn’t come out of the cleat at all.
    Alas - one more capsize to record – in the first B2B going down the run I started a weather roll and couldn’t catch the boat in time. For those who haven’t experienced this… you are sailing down the run with a decent wind sitting on the windward side, but not sitting out at all. Ideally you have a slight windward heel but nothing excessive. You then get a gust (perhaps the gust comes from slightly more downwind or puts you just by the lee – almost gybing) and the boat starts to come over on top of you. This now excessive windward heel spins the boat further downwind which make it heel even more, because you are on the low side of the boat you can’t shift you weight and things (very) rapidly spiral out of control with the boat capsized on top of you – typically with the boom sticking up out of the water. – How should you stop this – firstly it is a sign of too little kicker and/or too little centerboard – of course a fairly slack kicker and no plate is fastest on a run in light weather so you are reluctant to overdo them – but the remedy if you are quick enough is to drop some plate if it is right up, and sheet in rapidly while pushing the tiller away (trying to luff). Sheeting in make the sail generate some side force (or at least stops the top of the sail being beyond 90 degrees), pushing the tiller away counters the boat bearing away further, and getting some (more) plate down makes the rudder more effective and gives a bit more stability. Then as you recover add some more kicker. As I said – “if you are quick enough”. I wasn’t!
    I’m away next weekend (heading for the snow) but the forecast looks promising.
    Don’t forget the 20th is our next mini-open.

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