Solo news 2nd Jan
A new year – some changes – I will be asking a few members of the fleet to write the blog so we can get some different perspectives – I’ll still throw in my comments – this week the blog is by Paul with my editorial comments in Red.
Well here goes, my first post on the Solo news blog.
Gareth has hinted he would like input from fellow solo sailors on the blog. I think this is a good idea as we all see and think differently during racing, it is always a good idea to listen to new ideas and thoughts.
We all know, or should know where we are quick and slow around the course, so all of us should try to improve on our weaknesses, getting other comments can only help this.
Sunday was fairly typical of the sailing conditions we have had recently, a gentle 5 knot northerly wind. The race was the first 60 minute Pursuit race of the year. The course was a Beat to X, a close reach to 8, a very broad reach down to 6, a fetch across to 3 then a run down to 5. Unfortunately this course suited the asymmetric classes well and they caught up with us fairly quickly.
Pre start, it was clear the start line was committee boat biased, but with 2 minutes to go the wind swung around more to the West and it looked like the pin end on port tack was the way to go. Paul and Gareth spotted this and appeared to be the only ones that elected to sail down the line seconds before the start.
Paul and Gareth hit the line with speed and space while the rest of the fleet bunched up at the committee boat. The first beat saw Paul and Gareth swapping places with Gareth rounding X just before Paul. The rest of the fleet led by Peter, Mervin and Tony were about 150 yards behind.
(GKG) I’m not sure Paul’s right on where the rest of the fleet were, but this does illustrate that a different viewpoint might be more different than you expect. – My memory is that it had looked like a port end start but at about a minute to go I saw there was more wind to the right and the port end looked like it was in a calm patch so I switched and I started a few seconds late but with really good speed close to the (starboard) committee boat with Paul also going fast a few lengths down the line. I’m fairly sure that there were at least a couple of Solos perhaps three at the Port end. Paul and Gareth both went right early and found more wind – initially Paul crossed just ahead but after a few tacks Gareth slipped the leash – by half way up the beat the wind patch to the right had put Gareth and Paul significantly ahead of the fleet.
The very broad reach down to 6 was very close between Gareth and Paul. Paul covering Gareth and forcing him high. Gareth commented on the fact that we should not forget that it was a pursuit race and playing silly buggers would only slow us down! The rest of the fleet had bunched up closely behind and were taking a more direct route down to 6.
Lap 2 and the first of the RS fleet had caught the leading Solo’s at 8. Peter Cottrell had a problem with a tangled mainsheet jammer and let a very grateful Mervyn and Tony through. The mid fleet were now catching Gareth and Paul, with Tony and Mervyn splitting sides down to 6 left a tricky decision on which side to cover. The asymmetric fleet caught onto a nice puff but were too high to follow.
The reach across to 3 was very interesting for the leading Solo’s. Gareth followed closely by Paul had been passed by an RS 200, which slowed down by the covering Solo of Paul as we all approached 3. Paul managed to catch a very lucky puff and just managed to get an overlap at the last second. All three boats rounded the mark together with Gareth being pushed wide around the outside. Paul had to luff aggressively to keep the RS to leeward and managed to keep the RS behind.
All this excitement gave Tony his chance to close in on the leaders. Rounding 5 was getting very close to the end of the race. Paul elected to tack early with Gareth and Tony heading up and electing to go high. Right before the finish Paul got headed and tacked letting Tony slip past very close behind Gareth.
(GKG) I think Paul had worked so hard getting past that he briefly stopped concentrating and missed that there was more wind to the left where Gareth was gently covering Tony (being careful not to cover hard and start a tacking duel and slow down – just keeping directly ahead). Initially we just had a bit more wind and then a slight lift – enough to creep past. Tony was going very quickly given the space he had made up after the first leg.
The Topic for this week is sailing to windward.
This is one area which I am very weak and I need to improve on.
The Beat is one area which is vital to get right, big gains and losses can be gained from getting in right or wrong. Boat speed is going to be pretty equal throughout the fleet, so good tactics and decision making is vital.
Assuming we have no tide to contend with and a steady breeze. The obvious route to the windward mark is the quickest route. This sounds blindingly obvious but it can easily get overlooked when in race mode. If we had no wind shifts to contend with life would be very easy on the water and life would be very boring.
The question I keep asking myself is when and where do I place my tacks. We all know when we have sailed in to a header and it is so easy to panic and throw in a tack. But how do you know you have just made the correct move?
If the beat is quite long, it is important to get down the middle of the course. (GKG – not necessarily true – I agree you should avoid getting on the lay line too soon because then you can’t use shifts, but generally one side is better than the other) This gives you two options if you get headed or lifted. Never sail close to the lay line if you are outside 100 yards of the mark, always look for the lift to get you closer to where you want to be. One tip I use to determine that I am on the correct tack is to sight an imaginary line to the mark, if the mark is within that 45 degree angle you are on the correct tack. (GKG – that makes sure you go up the middle but it does not make sure you are on the right tack for a wind shift – if you are near the middle it can help you tell if you have been lifted but really you need to know ‘is it better direction than the average wind’ not just do I point neater the mark) If you are close to that angle and the opposite tack will bring you on a similar angle then this is less important. This can only be used when you are still some distance from reaching the mark.
It is also very easy to panic and put in a tack on a header only to be headed again on the opposite tack. This is a total disaster as you will either tack yet again or accept the header and lose ground. When you sail into a header it is good practice to count to 10, if you are still headed then tack onto the lift but not before you reach 10! (GKG – couldn’t agree more you often get brief lulls that feel like headers or very short duration shifts)
Sometimes sailing into a lift is not so easy to spot. Always pick a point on the horizon you can lay, imagine the wind picks up and you then have to start hiking hard to keep the boat flat. If you are still sailing the same course it is likely the wind has lifted on the opposite tack. As the wind picks up you can sail closer to the apparent wind. Now you have to decide if it is the correct time to put in a tack or stay at full speed.
Speaking to Tony Penfold after the race on Sunday when I gifted him with second place, he mentioned something that stuck into my mind. Tony stated he never tacks unless he has to. A Solo will sail close to around 4 Knotts flat out on a beat, when you put in a tack, even if it is a really good one the boat will slow to around 1 Knott. It takes quite some time to get back up to full speed again. So in theory, if you have a fairly stable wind direction the least amount of tacks you put in will get you to the mark the quickest. Again, this sounds obvious but it makes sense the less manoeuvres we put in the less likely we are to make a mistake. Keep it simple. Good advise Tony! (GKG – Tony takes more of the sea sailor’s approach where generally the wind is more constant but tide dictates you do better on one side of the course. You’ll see Tony far more often going almost to the lay line, while I will tend more to go up the middle tacking the shifts but biasing slightly one side or the other. My usual comment about being very good at tacking is important. In conditions like Sunday I don’t think I lose any ground when tacking – the roll tack ensures I don’t lose much boat speed and the brief coast directly upwind compensates for the slight slow-down turning the boat so I think it comes out even. I reckon I gained a couple of lengths on Paul early on the first beat by making more efficient tacks. You’ll also usually see Tony sailing slightly faster and freer (as you have to do in waves) while I sail slightly higher and slower as you can inland.)
See you all next week.
5046 Dunk and Disorderly.