It’s Wed today and the storms of the weekend have passed – last night’s trysail was able to run as usual with a good breeze to make everything work well but not so much that the new beginners couldn’t cope (with a bit of instructor help). Nice to see Lorraine out enjoying the breeze and looking from a distance – I was quite busy instructing in another - going very well. Tues evening is a good time to practice when there is no racing, you don’t have to be part of Trysail, any member can sail during trysail though obviously the main priority of the trysail team will be their sailors. Some of the gusts had some real power in them so it shows how practice pays off as you become more comfortable in stronger conditions. That said, Sunday’s ‘stronger conditions’ were in an altogether different league. The forecast was 20+ mph with gusts 30-35 mph. It was classic ‘line squall’ weather. You could see a line of cloud approaching and knew that under each line would be severe wind squalls.
The first beat from 1 to 7 saw three solos battling in string wind. Gareth took the start with CJ and Paul in close company. It was apparent up that beat that Gareth and CJ had more boat speed and seemed to effectively point a fraction higher than Paul. CJ stuck close to Gareth for the first beat and was still close at the end of the lap, up the second beat Gareth made some gains in the shifts and squalls at the end of the beat to break away while CJ had a comfortable lead over Paul. Unfortunately CJ lost concentration at the end of a lap and missed out a mark. The course was slightly odd, something like 7, 4, X, 2, 1 – beat to 7, broad reach/run to 4, close reach to X, run 2 and then a beat/fetch on port depending on which lap past 1 and back to 7. Because you were beating to 1 it was easy to forget that you did have to go round 1 on the way to 7. It is quite easy once you are close hauled to think you are heading for the windward mark when in fact you had to go right initially to pass the right side of 1. This brings me to the next point – it is hard to concentrate for a whole race especially once you begin to get a bit tired, and, if you are concentrating too much on sailing the boat you forget where you are supposed to be going or where other boats are....
In the try-sail this week we were doing ‘the 5 essentials’ - Course, Sails, Balance (keeping flat, not heeling), Trim (sitting in the right place front/back - fore and aft positioning, beginners usually sit too far back so they get tied up in the tiller when they tack) and centreboard. Sailing well requires you to keep doing LOTS of things – concentrate on any one item and the rest go to pot. – I enjoy watching the air crash investigation programs on TV and quite often problems arise when a crew focus too much on one problem and forget to keep scanning all the other instruments and so lose the big picture of what’s happening. In a less dramatic fashion the same happens when sailing. You must keep checking lots of things. Where am I going, do I want to tack soon, what do I think the wind is doing ahead of me (or is there a gust coming from behind on the run), what are other boats doing - while at the same time keeping the boat sailing fast. At the same time we’re also thinking about the sail setting – has the wind strength changed, do we need more power (or are we overpowered). Wind strength changes upwind for me mean am I over/under-sheeted, Kicker, Cunningham, Traveller, Outhaul, Inhaul (usually inhaul is fairly tight anyway upwind), Centreboard. It is important to have each control calibrated (that might just be knowing the position of a pulley against a fixed place on the boat) so you can quickly reproduce settings and you don’t have to work them out each time (already too many things to think about). When we first start racing it’s all about just sailing the boat efficiently concentrating on the 5 essentials, as we move to the next level each of those essentials have multiple items (no longer just plate right down upwind, now we’re thinking about the wind strength and fine tuning so that in very strong winds the plate comes up a bit to reduce weather helm, and the sail setting is more than just mainsheet but also all the other sail controls, balance isn’t just keeping flat but how much to heel to windward on the run and so on). As soon as we forget to keep checking all our inputs we start to make mistakes, usually just small things like forgetting to ease the Cunningham at the end of the beat (one of my favourite things to forget) but sometimes more critical things like which mark are we going to.
Tony Penfold sent me an amusing account of his recent race at Hayling Island...
Force 4+ NW
Very pleased to be 4th round first windward mark as at least 6 vg Soloists including No 2 in nationals etc.
Held on to place quite well as just 5th at start of last 3rd lap. Did suggest to committee boat that perhaps we could finish! but no luck so carried on up long beat against tide... but as spring tide now rushing out miss-judged windward mark which is in tide by about 2 boat lengths..tacked onto port, had to dodge behind 2 Flying Fifteens tacked back missed it again and lost two more places! Then hit bottom mark trying to protect my position now down to 8th. Reach across tide avoiding Winner bank with ‘exciting’ standing waves, gybed, not concentrating, capsized and landed up to my waist standing on the winner bank with tide roaring past! Got boat up, jumped in reached off to next buoy and cleared water out of boat but by now last...so finished 13th with one retirement behind me!.
A great sail! the water was warmer than I expected.
He end with ... Don't worry the Solo open is held in the Bay a lot less tide and no sand banks in the course but choppy..!
Moral – as they say ‘it isn’t over till the fat lady sings’ (and she’s back in the clubhouse...) It is VERY easy to lose concentration when you get tired after several laps. Sailing is a stamina sport with periods of high energy (reaching in waves and beating against the tide etc) Fitness really pays – you see the top sailors going just as hard on the last lap as the first. However it is good to know that Tony’s basic boat speed is good – it helps us gauge our standard. As you get tired you start concentrating on something like hiking hard and forget where you are going...