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Solo News Christmas Special 2011

  • Wow, just one week till Christmas! (when I started to write, but even closer now).


    OK Santa – here’s what we’d like for Christmas...


    Lots of Solo goodies...

    Gloves that don’t make you hands clumsy or tired but do keep them warm.

    A good sailing hat that’s warm, gives a bit of protection on unexpected tacks and gybes and stays on in all conditions.

    Ropes that don’t freeze

    Cleats that don’t slip (even when the rope is frozen)

    A splicing kit for continuous control lines that actually works...


    Oh well we can all dream...


    Sunday’s results:


    1. Gareth

    2. Tony

    3. Mark

    4. Mervyn

    5. Peter C

    6. Frank

    7. Dave C




    A fairly gentle breeze initially from SW but then more from the forecasted West. With several Solos on duty we still had a decent seven boats on the line. The start looked to be slightly starboard end and with the wind forecast more westerly than the SW at the start I was expecting it to free on Starboard. Off the line I was looking for speed rather than worrying about being in quite the ideal spot, driving through between Frank and Mark in the last few seconds to hit the line at speed. Peter Cottrell looked well placed just behind and to windward of me while Mark was below me and under much of the fleet. It was varying between just sitting out and sitting on the inside of the sidetank.  I concentrated on speed – keeping the boat moving quickly especially as each gust came making sure I kept the boat flat and accelerated before hardening up. It’s very easy to let the sail stall slightly as a gust hits because the gusts normally free slightly. In fact if a gust doesn’t  free slightly as it hits it’s really a slight header, whether it is enough to justify tacking depends on how well you tack but also tactically if you are looking to go right. Off the start once I had pulled away enough to be able to tack my plan was to position myself slightly right of the fleet. We had a long starboard tack towards mark seven, but with the wind slowly freeing I wanted to be slightly to the right, but not so far that I would end up over-standing.  I got a slight header so tacked and re-positioned to the right of the fleet who were all starboard. With the anticipated lift that meant I was on the inside of the curve. From memory at the first mark I was followed by Tony, Mervyn, Mark, Peter, Frank and Dave.  Tony seemed to be having a close race with Mervyn for a while but then pulled clear while Mark caught up with them and hounded Mervyn down the last run to slip past and claim third. From what I could see Dave nearly caught Frank but the order remained unchanged.


    In the B2B the pattern seemed to be that I struggled to shake Mark off for the first lap but pulled away on the second beat. I don’t really understand that except perhaps on the first lap we have all the faster boats still within sight making reading the shifts easier – boats just ahead give you a great view of what the wind will do next – you can often anticipate a lift or header, but by the second lap when the (well sailed) fast boats have pulled away. We then only have the less well sailed fast fleet (can you trust their reading of the wind) or even a large gap which means you have to be doing your own reading of the wind and water.  It could be that on the first beat I’m being affected more by the fast boats who are still close but by the second I have more clear air.  Don’t know, but it is an interesting pattern that seems to happen whether it is Mark or Paul or Tony chasing. Maybe there is a temptation when behind to hit the corners looking for a big gain risking a loss by not taking the smaller gains from shifts. Occasionally it pays but generally it doesn’t because the boat in front can keep loose cover while still taking the smaller shifts. Maybe I don’t sail as well on the first lap – I don’t really have an explanation but it has happened many times this season that I’ve struggled to stay just ahead of the next boat for a lap or two then suddenly broken clear.  Am I suddenly getting in the groove or is it just that it often takes a lap or two before any differences in boat speed or ability to spot a shift really kick in. I can’t see that it is just boat speed, I suspect that it is more catching a shift or two to make a gain.


    Some observations and a bit of maths... Let’s suppose we lose 1/2  length on a tack, so one length every two tacks. (I’d like to test that in some two boat trials). Question how long do you have to sail in a 5 degree header to lose one boat length?


    I’m hoping someone will check my maths here...

    If we assume that we tack through 90 degrees (makes the trigonometry easier) we can say that to get back to the same place missing a 5 degree header the extra distance is roughly the distance we sailed on the bad shift  * 0.87  tan(5) that means if we sail for about 11.5 boat lengths on a 5 degree header we have lost one boat length (or to put is another we we’ve made up the loss from making two extra tacks. Of course a 5 degree SHIFT means a 5 degree header on one tack and a 5 degree LIFT on the other so the effect of being on the wrong tack is doubled. That means we effectively gain a boat length for about every 6 lengths we sail by being on the right tack compared to someone on the wrong tack. If we have to tack more often than every 6 lengths we lose by tacking a 5 degree shift. If it’s a ten degree shift it would be almost twice the effect.  If you lose a whole length every tack though you have to double the time to make gains.


    OK ... so here’s my theory about the B2B – on the first beat I’m generally fairly concerned with trying to keep clear air from the ‘faster’ boats which means I have to hit the corners slightly more than normal. I can’t take as many of the smaller shifts because of tactical situations with other boats – either I can’t tack or by tacking I’d put myself right into the disturbed air of another boat and so lose more. This means first leg is often more of a straight drag race in a clear wind lane.  However by the second beat there is more room and hence more scope to sail my own race and take the smaller shifts.  Of course the sums above also are heavily influenced by how well you tack. Lose a bit more on each tack and you need a bigger shift to make up the difference, tack really well and you can gain with a smaller shift. Paul – Mark – Tony...  what’s your theory? It should indicate an area to work on because in a straight line I don’t think there isn’t much boat speed difference.


    It doesn’t matter where you are in the fleet you should always be looking at strengths and weaknesses – when and where do you gain or lose places. What areas do you need to work on?

    Is it basic speed on some point of sailing?

    Tacking better?

    Spotting shifts?

    Handling gusts?

    I’m reading a good book called “Be your own sailing coach”. It encourages you to analyse where your strengths and weaknesses are and how to address them. There’s a companion ‘Be your own tactics coach’. (Hint to Santa...) It’s certainly giving me some areas to think about. (Sometimes I think it should say are you thinking too much? – just concentrate on sailing the **** boat!) That’s what I love about sailing – I’ve only been doing it for about 50 years but I’m STILL LEARNING!


    Overall for the short series to Christmas... see the results page. Top three Gareth, Paul, Tony



    There are a lot more boats on the bank than we see on the water, I’d welcome any suggestions from people who haven’t sailed this series about what we could do to tempt them to participate more.  The Solo social area in the clubhouse is very welcoming (maybe it isn’t officially ours, but the nice dry seating area is definitely where the fleet tends to congregate).


    I’m hoping to get a coach/sailmaker to visit us sometime in the spring – is that something you would be interested in?


    H A V E  A  G R E A T   C H R I S T M A S


    See you in the New Year




    On duty, Paul, Roy, Mike L