29 Sept 2013
A slightly thinner fleet this week - that seemed to be the case throughout all the fleets, partly because the wind was picking up I suspect. A deceptively strong ENE with a beat from 7 to 2 - a very unusual direction with the typical Easterly playfulness in the wind near 2 and on the leg from 2 to 4.
Impressively Dave Clark and John Carpenter from the senior fleet took to the water, but although he looked comfortable initially the gusty wind caught John out and he capsized and struggled to avoid the lee shore. Dave meanwhile worked hard to hold off Ian Peace having quite a close race from what I could see. At the front Gareth made a port end flyer - starting on port on the pin to cross the fleet and get away up the first leg. Paul Playle (that new boat does look very smart) is starting to get to grips with the new boat and sail having a good tussle with Peter Halliday for the first couple of laps but seeming to pull away as the race went on.
Really not a lot to say about the race other than how tricky the shifts were - I ended up making myself wait for the wind to settle after each shift before thinking about tacking. Too often I would tack on a shift only for the wind to revert almost before I had completed the tack. When the wind has holes in it better to coast for a length and see if it come back rather than rushing to tack.
The best racing happened in the Back to Back races where the wind had really come up. Not quite survival conditions but definitely well overpowered upwind and fast planning on the reaches. How do we reduce power to make the rig more efficient and stop having to fight it….
Upwind - mainly it's a lot of Cunningham to bend the mast and free the top of the sail, tighter outhaul to flatten the lower sail, traveller out a fraction and a lot of main sheet tension and for me more kicker. (I know some rigs don't work with lots of kicker, but the D+ seems to like it). Other big thing is to lift the plate a bit so that it angles back a few degrees (and progressively more as more overpowered), then with our nice flat sail and balanced boat we can work up the edge of the wind, luffing a fraction as a gust strikes and powering up in the lulls. If the wind eases you have to remember to ease the rig or the sail stalls out.
So the B2B races - with the extra wind Paul's new sail seems to really work. We had two really close races, I won the start in the first but was never able to get away - we sailed the whole race with rarely more than a couple of lengths between us - and we beat the lasers who managed a spectacular synchronized capsize just behind us at the gybe. One went right and fell in, one gybed left and went in while Paul and I sailed off into the distance. Second race got even better - this time the wind headed with about 45 seconds to the gun and I found myself stuck unable to break through into clear air starting below Paul and not in clear air with two lasers to windward so I couldn't tack. Not a good position, once the lasers tacked I tacked, Paul covered, I managed to free off into a clear air lane but Paul was in a controlling position and he gently covered me up the beat. So, reversal of race 1, I rounded the windward mark just behind Paul and chased him all the way round the first two laps. Sometimes I could get right on his tail, but never quite ahead. In fact for a while he pulled out a few boat lengths, but with the wind shifting a lot on the beats I managed to get back on his tail and at the last mark (round up from run to fast reach) I managed to make a slightly more aggressive round up and accelerate to get to windward and just creep past - except that wasn't the last leg. Neither of us had checked the number of laps - I mean you never do more than three laps in a B2B do you... except we realised no hooters and the laser just in front was still going so a hasty round up and switch the sail back to beating mode... but being just behind Paul was now to windward of me and had slipped past again. Really close beating with both boats in clear air working through some big gusts. Closing towards the windward mark I was ahead but to leeward on starboard - not far enough ahead to tack and cross and too close to tack and go behind. I eased sheets a bit to increase the lateral separation and give me enough room to tack and pass behind him. Theory was good - I should tack, bear away and plane past his stern so I would be travelling fast and have rights on the next tack - in practice I didn't make a great tack and didn't accelerate quite as much as I wanted fighting the boat a bit to pass behind Paul (really didn’t want to dent that shiny new hull). Now I was on port Paul still on starboard so my goal was to have right of way next tack coming in to the mark. It almost worked but Paul was just able to tack in front of me at the mark - the rules here are interesting, If you tack within three lengths you must not make another boat sail above close hauled. You can come in on port and tack into a gap but you mustn't make the boats coming in on starboard sail above close hauled if you tack inside the zone (three lengths). Paul's time to make a mistake as he dropped the mainsheet coming out of the tack... I thought I had got clear to leeward and would be able to get inside at the gybe but Paul recovered and rolled me right as we got to three lengths. OK - time to attack on the run, I gybed a bit harder and worked up to block Paul's wind. He luffed and I responded each time as we became overlapped - finally I worked a shade to windward and gybed onto starboard forcing Paul to gybe and was just able to maintain an inside overlap to what was now our second gybe mark. One final gybe and a fast reach to the finish. Fabulous close racing - on this form it won’t be long before Paul's ahead at the end sometimes but he'll have to get used to leading. It's a lot harder when you are at the front because if you defend hard you pull the follower up to you and if you sail you own race you don't have anyone in front to tell you what the wind will do next... It’s also a different mental game leading a race.
Overall the series is still REALLY CLOSE – in the scratch I’ve sneaked past Mervyn but the points are still very close and I’m sure I’ll miss at least one weekend before the end of the series. The Personal handicap is also getting very close with Ian Peace now overtaking Roy – there is as always an element of he who sails most often tends to score well because bad races can be discarded in the personal, and in the main series every race counts (but you score more points by beating other boats). I run the personal handicap whenever there are both a reasonable number of boats out and when I can remind the race officer to take the times, I exclude days when it blows old boots and only the hot-shots launch though our new fleet members are getting a lot braver and more skilled at copying with stronger winds. Not a perfect science but it is a good starting point. As to be expected the newer sailors starting in band 5 are starting to show that they are learning and are now in touch with the fleet and on the personal handicap starting to win. (They might find they earn promotion for the next series).
Time to start planning for our Open Meeting on Sat 19th. Can we break our record attendance? It doesn’t matter if you only want to do one or two races.
See you soon