5 Dec results (pursuit place)
1. Gareth Griffiths(1)
2. Peter Cottrell (5)
3. Mervyn Cinnamon (7)
4. Roy Poole (14)
5. Dave Clarke (15)
Next week is the second in our ‘open series’ hopefully we’ll get a few external attendees, but there will be a prize for the day if we can get a reasonable turnout. Dave Lawton has the lead in the mini-series at the moment virtue of braving the conditions last month, but with discards we’ll all be able to give him some competition. The series is free to club members – if you know any solos at other local clubs please encourage them to attend.
Sunday showed us the gentle side of winter – temperate cool but above freezing, no frozen ropes or centreboards and a pleasant if a bit shifty light northerly. Being a Pursuit race in the morning the start line was quite un-crowded with just five solos. Before the start I had been checking the line about every two minutes and it was varying from even to significantly port end. I made my final check just after the two minute gun and realised that we were back in the port end conditions (watched the Feva start port end and he looked good on port from the port end). So I decided to get to the far end and withy not many boats reckoned it was worth port end on port (with more boats I’d aim to come down the line on starboard).
One important thing with a shifty wind is to start in phase with the shifts. Because it had clearly headed significantly on starboard we’d expect the next major shift to be the other way so we want to start on port (the lifted tack) to be ready for the next shift when we tack onto starboard. As it turned out no-one else seemed to have spotted the port bias and I cleared the fleet by a comfortable margin with most people tacking onto port soon after the start. Because I had started on port I got the best gain from the first shift. After that it was a case of picking shifts and pressure – trying to be on the right side of shifts but also looking for wind on the water to get speed. If you are in a gust that moves you from sitting to central or to leeward to almost on the side-deck you probably double your boat-speed. In stronger winds the effect isn’t as marked because the boat will only go so fast so shifts are more important than pressure, in light winds pressure is more important than shifts. That means finding the next patch of wind is a higher priority than playing the shifts, but if you can do both it’s fantastic. Pretty much you watch the big picture to see if you can spot an area of wind coming, if so try to position to get into it as soon as you can. If not then continue to play the shifts.
Peter Cottrell did a good job up the first beat pulling a decent gap on Mervyn and ending up close on my tail – pretty much the gap that I got off the start line. Downwind we stayed quite close, maybe I sneaked a boat length or two away but nothing much until the second beat. Here it is important to know where you pointed last time round to recognise which shift pattern you are in as you round. Before the start I make lots of passes at the start line to check the wind on the line and also I practice rounding up round the last mark onto a beat and noting where I’m pointing. (Some people use a compass, I just use landmarks inland because it encourages me to be looking for wind patches.) That gives me a benchmark to tell if I’m on a lift as I round up or in a header and should tack. As I rounded up on port tack I was fairly sure I was headed compared to the start so I immediately tacked onto starboard and was rewarded after a minute or so with a nice header to tack on. Those two fairly short tacks in phase with the wind lifted me clear of Peter. After that, apart from working past the Feva, I just had to make sure I didn’t lose concentration. That’s so easy to do – it’s quite hard to keep concentrating all race, but one of the things I love about sailing is that it takes you away from everything else. While I’m on the water I don’t think about anything else, I just concentrate on the race trying to keep the big picture in mind –
· Where is the next patch of wind?
Upwind I’m looking for dark patches upwind on either side of the beat.
· Which way do I want to go up the start of the beat?
Which tack is lifted this time...
· Do I want to approach the windward mark from one side or the other?
(In this case I wanted to come in on port because I reckoned the starboard approach to F
was in wind shadow from the clubhouse/bank).
· Do I need to gybe or change course to follow a shift downwind?
I have to keep looking at tell tales or mast head wind indicator (mast head is
more accurate, tell tales get affected by the flow round the sail)
· Is there a gust coming from behind downwind – can I position myself to catch it sooner?
That’s apart from “Are the sails set perfectly?”... In a shifting wind there are always things to think about but you have to keep scanning for the overall position and wind patches as well as sailing as fast as you can in the wind you have.
At the end of the Pursuit I was still reasonably clear with Peter Curtis (RS200) comfortably second. Mervyn crept past Peter and stayed ahead for a couple of laps but he was unable to break away. Both of them were within a whisker of taking the Feva – they seemed to catch him quite quickly but not be able to pass and pull away – perhaps they were watching each other too closely. Right at the end Peter reversed the position to take 5th overall with Mervyn 7th. The Pursuit ended with a many boats really close for the minor places (that’s how a pursuit should end) with Kevin Pearson (Laser) 3rd, James Curtis (Feva 4th) and Julie Harrison (RS200) 6th and Rob Pettit (Laser) 8th all with a few lengths of each other. Gaining 20 yards probably would have made the difference from eight to third. As the adverts say ‘every little helps’ gain one yard per tack, two yards per mark rounding and you’ve got the difference. In most cases no-one really goes much faster, but they react better to changes and manoeuvre quicker and more precisely.
Given the temperature a few days previously it was a great to have a gentle sail. We are lucky that with our deep water we don’t often get iced up. Hope that isn’t tempting fate... It’s a while to go but temperatures look milder for the weekend.
See you Sunday