First I'd like to welcome Peter Cruise who raced on Saturday and if I read the results right had a very close race with Richard Wall-Budden - two seconds difference at the finish. I know Peter’s been down a few times, but this is the first time I’ve spotted him in a club race. I also see Dave Clark getting some good Saturday results. I really hope that the Saturday fleet continues to develop as a slightly gentler alternative to the longer Sunday morning race. The signs look good.
Sunday's start line was quite challenging because with the Committee boat not feeling well the RO set a shore start in front of the clubhouse with the inner distance very close to the shore. With the curve in the bank and the mark close to the shore it was very hard to plot a starboard end start because you had to almost run down to the line then round up and start - very hard to time because you couldn't sail gently on reach towards the line. The favoured end kept changing but mostly it was definitely starboard end although being so close to the shore the wind was a bit dubious, and it was hard to be right on the line because the inner distance was quite a way behind the line. Gareth elected to go for it, CJ decided to start further down but travelling fast. In the end Gareth crossed CJ but not by much. CJ cleared the rest of the fleet. With the Pursuit format Gareth and CJ soon pulled through the early starters and in the stronger winds pulled away from the rest of the solo fleet. The wind was very shifty with some laps 30-40 degrees different on the beat making for some tricky sailing. Instead of immediately tacking when headed you had to consider if you might shortly be lifted enough to make the mark. Mostly it was a long starboard tack from F to 7. Generally it paid to take the longer tack for most of the leg even though at times you were heading well below the mark because at other times you were lifted so much that you were above the mark. Then play the shifts towards the end of the leg if you needed to tack. Tacking earlier even on a shift often meant that you ended up over standing.
Results in the Pursuit race:
1 Gareth (1)
2 CJ (2)
3 Quentin (5)
4 Richard W-B (7)
5 Roy (9)
This week’s topic since we just had a race with strong shifty winds - reacting to gusts upwind and down. Pretty basic stuff, mostly for our newer members who start starting to sail in more challenging conditions.
The number one thing - KEEP THE BOAT FLAT and keep the boat moving - that really means that you have to do something as a gust hits, preferably knowing it is about to hit because you have been looking upwind watching the water for dark patches coming towards you. When beating close hauled that means looking ahead and slightly to windward - generally the gusts travel in the same direction as the wind. Crosswind again it means looking ahead and to windward because you will be crossing the path of the gusts. Downwind it means keeping an eye BEHIND for gusts coming. If you watch the water you will often see stripes of stronger wind and you can see how they travel across the reservoir. (Watch the water from the clubhouse on a windy day.) So, what do we do on each point of sailing when a big gust hits us.
On all points of sailing we can say 'Lean out harder if possible' but rarely is that enough to take the snatch out of a gust. It is almost always best to take some other action as well.
Beating against the wind:
Point up (luff - tiller briefly away from you) quickly but not very far, just nudge the boat closer to the wind so that the sail lifts slightly at the front. In a really big gust briefly ease the main. Keep the boat flat, don't wait till the boat is heeling because then it is hard to steer and easy to over correct. If you do ease the main it must be brief and you have to get it fully in again once the snatch of the gust is through (that will probably mean pointing a bit closer to the wind).
Close Reaching: (Almost beating but not quite)
This is the hardest - you just have to work the mainsheet. Luffing closer to the wind doesn’t spill any wind quickly enough and makes you heel more. Bearing away isn’t effective quickly enough (contrast with beam reach). Ease in gusts, sheet in again in lulls. It helps if the plate is raised (about 2/3 down on a very close reach, 1/2 if it gets broader). You have to learn to play the sheet while still leaning out (or at least sitting out). I take the sheet from the boom rather than the jammer because it gives a better angle of pull to reach quickly. Being able to use the tiller hand (long enough extension that it is comfortable in front of the body) to take another handful is sometimes important. Once the boat accelerates in a gust it gains some extra dynamic stability and you can usually sheet in again.
Beam reach: (directly cross wind)
Bear away (pull tiller towards you) and ease sheet. As you bear away with the wind the knock down force gets less - simply turning this way also helps keep the boat flat but you must ease the sheet as well because you are turning the boat more downwind. Failing to ease sheet will have the sail over sheeted and probably stalled (you won’t accelerate how you should). Once going faster you can point up again, but generally follow the gust down a bit to stay in the gust then luff up after the gust to get back on course.
Bear away (sail will already be almost right out) - by turning downwind you reduce the knockdown. Ease more main if not already right out. Once the boat is travelling faster you can usually point back to course if you want to (again following the gust for a while is usually desirable).
It depends which way the boat tries to go when the gust hits. The trick is to steer the hull under the rig so if the boat heels to leeward you bear away as on a broad reach (probably means the wind shifted to a broad reach). If the boat starts to heel to windward (towards you) luff (push the tiller away) and simultaneously sheet in. Keep glancing behind to see if any very big gusts are coming. On a run the kicking strap tension matters. Too much is slow and the boat heels to leeward in a gust. Too little and the top of the sail twists excessively and the boat rolls towards you (weather roll) ending with the classic capsize with the boom sticking up in the air.
My race setting Sunday were (almost) maximum rake because it was windy. Upwind, lots of kicker, Cunningham to depower, Lots of mainsheet tension, traveller eased quite a lot (up to about 6 inches). In the lulls ease kicker a bit, reduce mainsheet tension and pull traveller back to only an inch off centre. Centreboard slightly above trailing edge vertical - raised noticeably compared to light winds when leading edge is just ahead of vertical. If you look in the water you should be able to see the plate angles backwards in heavy weather, but angled slightly forwards (fully down) in light weather.
Round the windward mark, Raise plate (1/2 up for the reach), ease kicker - still some tension but letting the mast straighten, ease Cunningham (and in-haul if you have it) Ease outhaul if reaching.
Run, Raise plate to only leave enough to steer comfortably, Ease kicker until you feel the boat start to go unstable (until top of sail starts to twist excessively forwards).
Pre-round-up - Board down to beating setting, Outhaul out. Round-up - sheet tension on then kicker on (just tight with sheet fully in), In-haul on (if you have adjustable in-haul), Cunningham if overpowered.
... and round again.
Don’t be alarmed if you see me in a laser on Wed – I’m not abandoning you – Paul Wright-Anderson and I plan to swap boats for fun. Not sure if I will be there Sunday with the cycle race diversions.