Well I think that wraps up the early winter series. Overall Gareth from Paul from Mervyn so no real surprises there. After the podium however we have Roy, from Peter C, from Mike L followed by Malcolm, Dave C and Dave L. 17 boats took part in the series which is pretty good, and if I can count right 10 boats qualified without counting a DNC. For the mathematically minded you'll see that we're now counting 1 + the biggest start in the series for DNC rather than 1 plus entrants which for this series gave 11 as DNC rather than 18. It means that a DNC no longer takes you right down the table, but as Mervyn came third with 11 points you still have to sail enough races to hit the podium.
Sunday was a day for the dedicated with several inches of snow on the ground. However I have to say that despite the ice in the boat (yes it was freezing the few drips in the boat from launching) and a few frozen blocks I was not at all cold during the race. There may have been only two Solos out but Paul and I had a pretty close dual in both the class race and the first Back to Back (I had to leave before the last race). The only tricky part was pulling the boat up the bank but many hands made light work. The duty team showed how in those conditions you don't need to do too much - shore start with one safety boat was plenty for the eight boats that ventured out. Rigging was slightly interesting as lumps of ice kept coming out of the mast onto me when I pulled the sail up.
We had a light north easterly - I left my boat stern sheeted from the centre of the transom (then along the boom to take from boom pulley). Paul had conventional centre sheet. It was clear that I could point consistently higher but Paul was going faster. On a long fetch from F to 2 it seemed I could just make the course but Paul (just behind) was forced to tack off. Then I would slowly climb back to windward and we ended up in the same position. I was going higher but Paul was going faster. Interesting contrast in technique. The gusts were freeing slightly so I was using them to accelerate but trying to point with the main well to the centre. I'm still not sure how much the stern sheet pays but it's fun to experiment. I think it is definitely better tacking in very light weather because you don't have to come back round the traveller but overall the jury's still out.
The close racing with only two boats illustrated that defending upwind has to be done with care. Several points to consider. The first is that trying to tack to cover someone who is passing really close behind is not a good idea. The danger of tacking when not at least a boat length clear water between is that by the time you complete the tack the other boat has pushed through the cover and is now in, or soon will be in, your lee bow. A boat just ahead but to leeward tends to get pulled pulled up to windward by the airflow round the sails. (Rather like a job working well with a mainsail behind it). The boat in the lee bow tends to point high and you have just handed over the advantage. Generally if you decide you want to tack in these situations (is the other boat on a lift which is why he’s now really close?) it is better to tack before the boat crosses behind you. That way you are ahead and to leeward. Assuming you are correct that you want to tack (because the other tack was lifted making the boat behind you closer) you are now on the favoured tack and ahead but to leeward. The next shift is likely to be a header (because you are lifted at the moment) at which point you can tack to more advantage.
The second point to consider is that tacking to cover when the boat behind tacks draws them closer. That’s because you are now tacking when he gets the wind shift, not when you get the shift. Yes you will stay ahead but you will draw him up to you. Better to try and stay with the shifts but keep ‘loose cover’ – try to stay roughly between him and the mark but don’t slavishly tack when he tacks. Have confidence that you are reading the shifts, but try avoid getting committed to one edge unless you are very sure. On the sea it is often better to hit the corners where there is a tidal advantage or a general wind bend, but inland you generally play the shifts rather more.
Happy Christmas to all - see you in the new year!