(Apologies for the late posting of the article - the email was Ok but the web site was feeling poorly last week)
If you haven’t already confirmed that you can do the RS200 open duty please let me know – if you cannot come also let me know!
I will draw up a list of who’s doing what!
So – back to sailing…
While I was away sunning myself in the alps (wall to wall sunshine in Verbier and a lot warmer than sailing last Sunday) others were sailing. The results are I think all up to date again and the new web site looks very smart. Turnout on the water was thin last week but the Solo corner of the clubhouse looked well occupied – conditions would have been marginal or too strong for some. Mike Lipscombe and Peter Halliday did sail with Mike commenting that it was a bit on the edge.
Our handicap has been cut again by the RYA but only by a couple of points to 1148. That really isn’t going to make much difference – 2 seconds in 1150 seconds That’s two seconds in 19 minutes or about 6 seconds in an hour. While we do sometimes have races won and lost by those margins it isn’t going to make much difference! Looking at the RYA site you can see that the Solo was the second most popular class by the number of race results submitted to the RYA (only laser had more).
Richard Barker (our new Sailing Secretary) is planning some changes to the programme. Firstly we will be allowing (and encouraging) coaching on Saturdays during the race. The aim is to make the Saturday races more ‘training races’. If you would like advice/coaching you will indicate this by putting red ribbons on your shrouds – we don’t want to be giving advice to people who don’t want it, but for newcomers to racing it should help. Also in the Anniversary series we will be looking to change the starts to a Gold Fleet and a Silver Fleet rather than a fast and slow by handicap. The aim is that the faster sailors (probably scratch and band 1) will start first giving a second start for the Silver Fleet to allow the newer sailors a change to get close to the line and not be intimidated by all the hot shots. details to be announced at the working party.
Back to basics part three (I think it’s three anyway)
We’ve covered the start and the windward leg. So new we need to think about the next areas:
Downwind and mark rounding especially the leeward mark (any mark where you will be beating to windward after the mark).
So you got to the windward mark still in the fleet… what do we do at the first mark.
First we have to let the sail out. Reaching we will trim the sail to match the wind. We are no longer trying to shorten our course by pointing close to the wind, the shortest course is simply a straight line between the marks. We will add some refinement to that later but basically we have to keep adjusting the sail to match changes in wind angle. I see a lot of people who alter course upwind when headed or lifted by wind changes but who never alter their sails when reaching. We have to keep adjusting the sail to match changes in the wind. I take the mainsheet from the last pulley on the boom (or in lighter weather from the first pulley) to get a better feel and more direct purchase than through the jammer. What we are aiming for is still all tell-tales horizontal (as you get to a broad reach this is not possible as the sail may be right out). The biggest thing is to let the sail out enough to keep the tell tails setting – to keep a flow of air over the sail until if possible. (Once you are sailing almost downwind that isn’t possible because you can’t let the sail out any further. Watch out for wind shifts that mean you need to sheet in a bit and similarly make sure you sheet out if the sail starts to stall. It is a continuous fine tuning.
Raise the centreboard to about ½ up. Sit forward unless there is enough wind to start surfing.
Sail shape… we want maximum power on the reach (we’re assuming sensible winds or you wouldn’t be sailing) so we don’t need the sail flattened like we had it going upwind. Release the Cunningham if you had needed it to de-power upwind. Release some outhaul to allow the foot to expand to maximum depth – if we had a hand of depth before we want about double that now). If you had the kicker tight upwind ease it – watch the leach (back edge) of the sail where you should have ribbons or wool roughly near each batten. What you want is all the ribbons streaming at the same time. Too much kicker and the top of the sail will be too tight, too little and the sail will twist excessively and the top won’t set. Look up at the sail and try altering the kicker. You should see how the twist changes.
Biggest mistake I see in new sailors is not letting the sail out enough. Watch the tell tales, but also watch the wind indicator (mast head and shroud streamers) to spot changes in wind direction. Watch for puffs showing on the water - they will probably allow you to ease sheet a bit. When the puff ends the boat will be coasting and the sail will show it needs to come in - the apparent wind direction (what you see and feel on the boat) changes because the boat is still moving fast. You will need to sheet in, then as the boat slows down and you start to feel the true wind direction again you will need to ease the sheets. Easy to see the need to sheet in (the sail flaps) but less easy to see you need to ease again as the boat slows.
A more advanced point is that you can usually stay in the puffs a bit longer by bearing away a bit more downwind while in the puff and pointing up a bit after the puff because the gusts themselves travel with the wind. This means even more adjusting the sheet – catch the puff, accelerate, ease sheets, bear away a little, end the puff sheet in angle back up a little.
Once the wind is coming from behind you the sail has to be right out. Now we don’t have any flow over the sail because it is just square to the wind so pulling the outhaul back out (ready for the next beat) is good. We just want a big triangle of sail.
Centreboard ¾ up – make sure you leave a bit still in the water or the boat becomes very unstable and hard to steer.
Sit forward (I straddle the thwart or sit on the thwart) and heel the boat to windward. you need strong elastic on the boom to bow to hold the boom right out. let the sail RIGHT OUT.
Ease the kicker as much as you can until/unless the boat starts to feel unstable. What you are doing is letting the top of the sail twist to a better angle than the bottom (the bottom is held by the shrouds). As it gets windier you will need a little more kicker to stop excessive twist which makes the boat unstable (tends to come over on top of you). What happens with very slack kicker in stronger winds is that the top of the sail twists forwards so the wind there heels the boat the ‘wrong way’.
If the boat does try to come over on top of you (a weather roll), sheet in and push the tiller away. Steer the hull back under the mast, but sheeting in is the most important because that makes the sail start to correct the roll. Consider tightening the kicker a bit more if this happens. If you have too much centreboard up (like right up) that will also feel the same. You need enough in the water to make the boat steer properly and dampen any rolling.
Why do we heel to windward? – multiple reasons. It puts less of the hull in the water we have steep sides to the boat and a flatter bottom. Heeling lifts half the bottom out of the water and only puts a bit of the side in. It makes a narrower shape in the water. Also it make the sail more over the boat rather than being out to the side which balances the forces better, and very marginally it makes the overall sail a fraction higher up where the wind is less slowed down by the water.
People just starting to sail lose a lot of ground rounding up to start a beat. First you need to be close to the mark, but it is close as you leave the mark not close as you approach the mark. Wide in, close out. The thing is you have to round up and you have to pull the sail in a lot. If you round up without pulling the sail in you stop. If you pull the sail in before you round up in any wind you will heel madly and you will stop the sail working well. That’s why it’s better to start bit wider (assuming no other boats in the way) and rounding up gradually so as you pass the mark you are already fully sheeting in and beating. Any ground you lose to windward has to be made up by tacking (effectively it doubles your loss) so a really good round-up is very important. Last weekend I was just behind a laser at the leeward mark, but he started close to the mark and as he rounded up after the mark he dropped away a bit. I started wider, rounded up to cut in really close to the mark at the end of my rounding. Job done – I was now a boat length to windward. This is an area where I see new racers lose 5-10 boat lengths in about 10 seconds. Other marks are less critical because you can still point where you need to go, but at the start of a beat against the wind and ground lost can’t be made up and you have to sail both tacks to make it back.
Rounding up I use both hands, one pull with the mainsheet hand drop the rope into the tiller hand and continue pulling by rotating the tiller extension while a grab the next armful with the sheet hand. That needs good coordination. If you just pull in with one hand it has to be fast.
We’ve covered the basic race. Start, windward leg, reaching, running and mark rounding.
It all boils down to two things:
· Make the boat go as fast as it can (sail set well)
· Point the boat in the best direction
· Make good manoeuvres – tacking, gybing and mark rounding
Once we start the summer I will be couching on most Tues evenings and some Saturdays. We will practice all these!