Solo news 6 Mar
I don’t know how many of you went to the Dinghy Exhibition but there were four superb Solos there. The Class Association stand had Charlie Cumbly’s new Boon (5202) – my new boat should be fairly similar although I will have one or two strings in different places, a beautiful JP wooden boat. Close by was the Speed stand which had their new Epoxy boat – will be interesting to see how those go (new builder I believe not related to the previous Speed), and the Winder stand which had their latest. Gear-wise the new thing seems to be having the traveller with a two sided adjustment that alters both sides rather than each side having its own line. It’s a lot of string, but they lead the traveller lines down through pulleys on the thwart then forward and join them together. Then there is a two sided adjustment much like outhaul than comes back to cleats on the side of the thwart or side tank. This avoids cleats on top of the thwart (more comfortable to sit there in light weather) and makes the traveller adjustable from either side so you don’t need to set each side separately. As I said it is a lot of string but I think I will go for it. Don’t have my new number yet but it will be in the 5200’s. Amazing how many new boats are being build now. 4859 remains on the market but I have had several enquiries.
Sunday was my last day for a bit – skiing at the weekend and travel home will wipe out the following Sunday – I think that means I could still be caught in the overall – the o-league system favours people making a late charge. The Winter series is also very close for the podium slots with Tony, Malcolm and Paul vying for positions in both the overall and winter series. (See web site for details).
So, Sunday’s racing... North Easterly or Easterly with a some fairly strong patches – generally varying from just holding fully powered to over-powered. The start was considerably port biased (a feature of the day). I had planned to start port end on port. With just five solos for the pursuit start I thought I could find a gap. Approaching the line I realised that Roy had timed it right and there was no way I could clear him but there was a gap behind so I eased sheets to duck behind – unfortunately I accelerated so much as I bore away that I got the timing all wrong and was over the line. I returned only to see Malcolm still approaching the line behind me (somehow he had ‘lost’ a minute in the pre-start timing). Up the first beat I knew that the wind seemed to be lifting on the left, and I really didn’t want to approach mark 3 along the bank on starboard because the windward shore is always bad in an easterly (light and very patchy due to the trees). It was quite windy at the start (that also messed up my timing as the wind had increased), so I was in de-powering mode – that is extra Cunningham, plate to slightly above leading edge vertical (raked back a bit) and traveller eased a few inches. The boat felt quick and responsive so I concentrated on keeping it flat hiking fairly hard as I knew I had to quickly recover the ground lost at the start. Initially I headed left on Starboard tack, but came back on a header after about 100 yards. I was now the left most boat with everyone on port. Soon after that Paul tacked over and just crossed ahead of me on starboard, I felt that going left had paid and that I had made up much of what I had lost on the start. I continued a bit longer then took a small header to close with Paul – we both looked to be ahead of the boats that had stayed right. This time rather than try to cross Paul (I was now on starboard), because we were close to the lay line I tacked in his lee bow even though I had right of way. The logic here is that if I made him duck me and he was then able to lay the mark he would be ahead. By tacking in his lee bow (slightly ahead but to leeward) I would gain the benefit of his lee bow (tends to draw you up – effectively my sail would be working like a genoa to his main) and if I could work up to be able to tack at the mark I would be ahead. Rather than trying to point I concentrated on speed – the idea being that going fast would probably keep me high and if I could pull ahead I could make room to tack. The wind started to get very patchy as we approached 2 – I felt as if I gained in the patchiness – as the wind went lighter I was adjusting the sail a lot trying to keep the boat moving, and avoiding hard tiller movements. Even if apparently headed a lot I chose to initially coast and very gently bear away because it was more likely to be an absence of wind making it feel like a header. Similar when the wind came back (and seemed to free) I initially eased sheet to gain speed and then gently luffed back up to close hauled. By doing this I seemed to ease out ahead of Paul so that by the time I tacked for the mark I had gained twenty yards or so. As the wind went lighter I also pulled the traveller back to almost centre and slightly eased kicker, sheet tension and Cunningham. Paul Elvstom always advised ‘trim for the lulls’. I call it being able to quickly change gear, from over powered and de-powering, to fully powered, to lighter, or from tactically working for height to freeing off for speed. It’s amazing how much you can gain in the last 50 yards to a mark if you can react to the conditions.
The reach from 3 to 2 was strange – you had to go low to avoid the calm by the bank, but when you went low sometimes you found yourself unable to make the mark! Again I think it was absence of wind rather than actual headers, but the effect on the sails is still the same. Massive changes from almost beam reach to full sheeted in. As I rounded three I had a really good gust and I was able to run deep with the gust most of the way to 9. The gusts were clearly tracking slightly right to left so the trick was to look for a gust, luff slightly if necessary to get in the gust, but then sail very deep to ride the gust as long as possible. That good first run gave me a reasonable lead and put me right on the tail of the Feva who I overtook at the start of the beat by driving through his lee as he aggressively rounded the mark. Thereafter from my side it was an issue of keeping concentration because I suspected that the fast boys would appear towards the end of the race and I mustn’t relax. I think Paul and Malcolm were having their usual tussle with Malcolm making up the time he lost at the start to overtake Paul.
As I had suspected Peter Curtis in the RS200 came flying up as the time limit was nearing so that I started the beat with under ten minutes to go but Peter only about 100 yards back. For the first half of the beat we both stayed on port with Peter closing on me but both sailing the same course. Now we had the Grand Prix issue – you can catch someone but can you pass them? The Committee boat and safety boat started running parallel to us to make a moving line ready for the time limit. With only a few minutes to go Peter was on my tail. He couldn’t drive over me because I could point as high as he could so he tacked off. I tacked to cover but because he had been almost exactly line astern I couldn’t blanket him and he was clearly going faster. I found a slight header and tacked, then tacked back on the next shift so we now were closing with me on starboard and Peter on port. Well, he very nearly made it, but I would have hit him about two foot from the stern. Of course I didn’t hit him and of course he did the right thing and did circles. Two more tacks put me right by the mark and the gun went as I rounded the mark with Peter still just behind. So many times these pursuit races end up with just a few boat lengths between the first few boats – I am sure there were places I could have gained (or rather not lost) several boat lengths and I’m sure Peter felt the same.
Class results (pursuit place)
1 (1) Gareth
2 (4) Malcolm
3 (5) Paul
4 (8) Roy
Overall it is really close... two races still to go (and alas I’m away for both)
I think potentially any of Malcolm, Paul, Tony, Roy, Chris or Mervyn could still make or be denied the podium in the winter series with two good results. In the Overall with the o-league system there is still everything to play for. With a big turnout there could be lots of points on offer. I don’t think anyone is safe (yes Paul with two wins and good turnout I think you could still catch me...) and for the minor places there is loads of scope for change.
I’m away for two weeks – could I ask whoever wins to write up their view of the race – what they did and more importantly why they did what they did right or wrong / how the set the boat up / lessons learned etc. Hopefully I’ll be able to edit and send on, if not there will be a bumper set when I get back.
Forecast for Sunday looks good
See you in a few weeks! (In case anyone is interested, 4859 is still on the market – see solo class association web site)