Solo News 4 October 2010
First a big thank-you to all the fleet who turned out to run the laser Open meeting. A great team effort and my thanks to everyone. The entry numbers were up and I think everyone got up the ramp in good time for the first race, marks, laid, start line well patrolled and coordinated - we got two good races before lunch, results available very quickly (great teamwork in the kitchen and bar) two more races before the rain closed in and the wind died. Everyone had a good day’s racing despite the weather closing in, and got down the ramp without accident or excessive delay. Everything cleaned up by 5pm. Great job everyone.
Well, as they say, if you want to know what the weather is doing look out of the window. On Saturday the forecast for Sunday showed 2 mph for 10:00. On Sunday morning as I looked out of my window the trees were bent double and dogs were blowing off their leads. The club however seemed to be in post open meeting siesta with a very thin turnout for the Pursuit race (though given the conditions a decent turnout of the senior members in the bar). Perhaps everyone was watching the rain at Celtic manor.
I had been expecting to reset the boat to light weather settings, in practice I looked at the water and went for full heavy weather – that’s mast heel right forward and forestay off another notch. Basically just add more rake until you can only just get under the boom.
Just two solos (even that was more than any other class). Paul unfortunately got confused by the personal handicap pursuit start the week before and tried to take a personal handicap in the regular series – he started two minutes ahead... either that or the glue fumes from his boat building might be affecting him...
Nonetheless it was a pursuit so I set off in pursuit... Going up the beat it was obvious that the gusts were shifting – sometimes you could point 5 degrees above the mark, then be pushed 20 degrees below. What’s more some of the gusts had a lot of power in them. That meant that on the run you really had to be on the lookout for 25 degree shifts – enough to force an unexpected gybe. Paul had elected to gybe onto port tack at the start of the run so was creeping out to the left heading for the bank left of mark nine. My wind indicator (new hawk, much more accurate than the flag) was showing me a dead run or marginally on starboard so I went for the straight line with no gybe, bearing away to below the mark when the shifts allowed and coming back to just above when the shifts made me – very important to keep low when you can or you get pulled above the mark and have to make extra gybes that you might prefer to not make.
Anyway I could see Paul going left but trying to not get too far off line and I was thinking he’s got to be getting a bit by the lee and he might have to gybe in gust... sure enough he was hit by another gust, went for the gybe to get back on course for the mark, broached and sampled the water temperature (still quite warm). What I did notice as he went over was that his centreboard looked almost right down. I never sail runs with the plate right down or even mostly down. Paul’s might have been slightly off full down but it was almost perpendicular to the hull – quite noticeable as the boat went on its side (you can tell how closely I was watching). I sail runs with the plate up in very light weather and mostly up in windy weather. The problem with the plate down is that it generates weather helm when you are offwind. That means that immediately after the gybe it is much harder to stop the boat turning into the wind and broaching. What happens is the boom hits the stops suddenly putting load on and trying to turn the boat towards the wind. That tends to make the boat heel which make the boat turn which makes the boat heel ... splash. With the plate mostly up (say ¾ up – just enough sticking out to make steering easy and not be too tippy) the boat is better balanced and also can slip sideways a bit as the load comes on to absorb the shock of the gybe rather than ‘tripping up’ over the plate.
Too much kicker on has the same effect as too much plate down. Too little kicker has the opposite effect, a tendency to weather roll - the opposite of a broach – (heel to windward, makes you turn downwind, makes you heel more to windward ending in the classic capsize with the boom sticking up in the air).
Heavy weather running is all about keeping the boat balanced, slight windward heel but not as much as in light weather, not much plate but enough to comfortably steer, kicker eased so the top of the main is starting to angle forwards but not so excessively much that the boat weather rolls. Then it is a case of keeping the boat under the mast – literally – if the boat heels slightly to leeward you bear away to put the hull back under the mast, if the boat starts to heel to windward you luff a bit to put the hull back under the mast. Of course both these need to be done quickly with small corrections before the broach or weather roll get out of hand. Combine these with a bit of mainsheet adjustment – ease out more until the boat want the start a weather roll, pull back in to stop the roll. If the boat heels to leeward ease a bit more sheet as you beat away again. It is a balancing act. Keeping the boat upright is critical and it is easy to overcorrect – much like controlling a skid in a car if you catch it quickly and don’t overcorrect you can drift and correct. If you do nothing you spin out, if you over-correct you have to over-correct again and it all goes pear shaped.
In the Back to Back races after the long pursuit there were just the two solos (Gareth and Paul) ready to play. Since there was no handicap to worry about we played at match raced – America’s cup style starts trying to use the rules to force the other to be away from the line. All good fun, in the second Paul escaped my pre-start blocking with a great gybe to get below me and turn the tables. Confident boat handling in strong winds. Then we close covered up the beat making far more tacks than we would normally do. Tacking duals in force 5-6 are tiring! In the second race Paul even made a successful dummy tack – that is he started the tack, saw me react and then pulled out letting me tack away. In those windy conditions being able to tack confidently and quickly is just as important as it is in light weather. Confident boat handling in those conditions comes from lots of practice together with a good understanding of all the controls. The boat has to be well balanced.
On a heavy weather tack the emphasis is on how quickly you can get the power on again after the tack. With my boom very low, maximum rake and lots of kicker I start from sitting out, sit up (just sat on the deck rather than leaning out), easy a foot or two of main, helm down and bend very low to get my head under the boom as it comes over the plate case. I usually feel the boom brush my lifejacket, then I have to get over the boat as fast as possible because until the boom goes over my back I can’t move. I realise that I literally jump over the plate case to hit the new windward side as quickly as possible and start to get the power on. Any delay and the boat comes to a stop and you can get in irons (stuck head to wind) or you have to turn excessively to avoid stopping in irons. Having the plate up a bit (at least to trailing edge vertical, then when overpowered another 10 degrees or so avoids too much weather helm and makes the boat so much easier to steer.
In the series with just the two boats, not much change. Gareth has crept a little further ahead and Paul has crept slightly closer to Mervyn. All still to play for in the final weeks. In the Saturday series Paul has moved into lead. With lower turnouts for the last week (the week before the lasers) several people are only just getting enough races to count. The Sailing Committee agreed recently to reduce the penalty for DNC to max entries for any race plus one rather than max entries for the series plus 1. This allows you to count a DNC and not be excessively penalised. If anyone has not told me when they did a Sat duty let me know. I can only give the OOD points when I know who’s on!
See you on the water. Early days given last Sunday’s weather, but the forecast at the moment is fun a nice day!