Sunday 22 September
Sorry the news has been a bit erratic recently…
Great turnout Sunday – 10 boats on the line for a light weather race despite a few obvious absences.
We all got a chance to see Paul's new Winder - very smart it looked too. I'll have to get the polish out as my boat is starting to look a bit scruffy in comparison.
Interesting start line – the wind had shifted so much that we could lay the first mark on port (certainly from the port end, probably from anywhere on the line). It looked as if most people realised the bias and were aiming at coming down the line then tacking. With the line that far biased it was almost impossible to lay the line on starboard (although despite that we had a couple of boats over the line – I didn’t see if they were trying to dip from above the line). I decided to go for a port end flyer – slightly harder than usual because with the committee boat at the port end you had to commit to making the gap round the back of the boat. Dave C also went for the same port end start but he was coming in broader, I was making sure I was almost beating at full speed to hit the port end. Tricky time on distance but it meant I could shut Dave out (he was windward boat and there is no ‘inside boat’ round a start mark – watch the way the Americas cup boat go for a hook…). It’s unusual to see ‘barging’ – coming in on a reach with no rights at the port end – usually you see that at the starboard end when one boat holds close hauled or even above to shut out anyone coming in late, but it is the same rule. I could see there was a good sized gap and the wind had gone so far round that I was sure I could cross the line ahead of any starboard tackers, and because I didn’t have to tack and had speed I was able to steal a couple of lengths right off the start.
The fleet remained quite close all the way up the fetch to mark 9 – it’s hard to gain a lot on a fetch – everyone is pretty much the same speed – the only gains come in shifts when you can either free off slightly for speed in a lift or creep out to windward to free off later. I aimed to stay just above most boats but on every big lift I’d ease sheets a bit and go for speed. Surprisingly the second leg was much the same but on starboard. Again we could just lay mark seven and in the lifts we could easily lay and ease sheets a shade. I set the boat for ‘fast and free’ – with my rig that’s not quite as much kicker or main sheet tension (we’re talking a couple of inches less sheet that’s all) with a little bit less outhaul/inhaul to give a shade more fullness in the sail, and the plate angled slightly back to remove weather helm and go for speed with the boat very flat. By way of contrast if I need to point high say in the last 20 yards to a mark I add more sheet tension and kicker, plate fully down and slight heel (don’t know why the heel helps but it does – it’s slower but lets you point high and perhaps avoid a double tack).
After mark 7 we had a broadish reach to A followed by a run to 4. I felt slow on the broad reach on most laps, Mervyn was very fast here on the first lap catching right up to me on the first reach – I thought maybe a puff came from behind but he just seemed fast downwind. On the run he continued to gain so I just made sure I would still be inside at 4. That’s where it started to get tricky because we had now caught the front lasers and with 4 to 7 still a fetch we had to decide whether to tack straight round 4 or stand on a shade to get clear air. I tried to tack quickly under the laser and foot through but it I was clearly not going to make it so I switched into pointing mode to try and get clear air. Mervyn went a bit further and threatened to roll me because he was now to windward (but behind) while I was in the laser’s wind shadow. Because it was an easy fetch I elected to just beat really hard and try to work up out of the laser’s shadow rather than tacking for clear air. If the leg had been a beat I would tacked. Fortunately I made it up into clear air still just ahead of Merv and then could free off again for speed. Only a few lengths ahead of Mervyn at 9 but on the reach to 7 I seemed to pull away a lot. The wind was very shifty and I was having to trim the sail all the time. Very hard to keep a smooth air flow with the direction changing a lot. I think that was the critical leg when I managed to get one puff ahead so downwind Mervyn didn’t get pulled back to me. Not sure what happened to him after than as Peter C sneaked up and overtook him, then at the end Roy did the same to finish with the same time. You do need to watch out for weed on the rudder at the moment there are a few floating patches – could have been something like that or just a bad shift. The fetch from 3 to 9 became a proper beat again on the third lap and the initial choices there made a big difference.
Which way to go at the start of a beat… That leg from 4 to 9 showed the difficulty. In a shifting wind (shifting back and forth) it is clear that you want to always be on the lifted tack so if you round the mark and can head higher than usual you stand on, if you are headed you tack and hopefully you spend most of the leg on the then lifted tack, repeating the ‘tack on headers’ until you reach the mark or the lay line. Sunday was a bit different because we had a progressive wind change – rather than a short lived shift we had a major change that was still developing. In this case because the wind was still going further round you start on the headed tack expecting it to gradually head even more before you tack. Effectively you are doing the same thing, because you expect it to head further you are relatively on the lifted tack. Hard to explain but you always want to be headed more before you tack. In shifts that’s because you are on the lifted tack so when it heads back you tack. In a progressive change starting on the tack that is being headed means that by the time you tack you have been headed more and you more than make it up after the tack. The trick is spotting which condition you are in. On Sunday we had a mix of both with our usual small shifts, but then a big progressive change on lap three. Getting the big change wrong cost some people about almost a third of a leg (watching the laser in front of me who got it right and the one just behind who got it wrong and completely lost touch.
Further down the fleet we continued to see some very good close racing with Roy closing to finish tied with Mervyn, Paul still finding his feet in the new machine, Dave C ahead of CJ (great result there) followed by Ben, Ian and Tony in close order.
Overall in the series Mervyn is still just ahead (I missed too many races) with Roy leading the personal handicap side- but both are still very close.
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