Wasn’t Sunday just a perfect sailing day (well for everyone except Mike L, but he was going very well before he lost it on the run).
Forecast looking like light winds again this week so should be good for everyone (hoping it isn’t actually flat calm). Forecast keeps changing slightly so as always best to plan to sail anywayJ
10 boats on the start with two more on duty and close racing throughout the fleet. The results are on the web site (though as I write this IO can’t seem to access the site) – I have started the next Personal handicap series – the summer PH goes to Ian Peace by a whisker – Roy and Ben were very close – a few more races and they might have taken the win. The trophy is with Paul, but will be back soon and we’ll present it in the clubhouse. The whole idea of PH is to show how everyone is improving and recognise the progress. I’ve followed the style of the Anniversary and Wed series with nominal handicaps in 5% bands – I’ve called these Premiership, Championship, Div 1, Div 2 and Conference. I’m only counting races with a reasonable turnout and winds such that all can sail – when the senior team decide it’s too much it doesn’t count. (Also it doesn’t count if the RO doesn’t record finish times, but hopefully I’ll keep reminding them).
What Sunday shows is that in slightly steadier medium winds the actual difference in boat speed is less. The Personal results are really quite close:
Paul won the last PH under the previous system (many thanks to peter C who ran this for years) and so gained promotion to the Premiership (he’s also going very quickly in his new machine – that coaching session with Matt Howard looks like it has taken root). I think this also shows how much our Div 2 has improved (remember some of these only got promoted from the Conference after the summer and TryRace) – If you want to know which division you are in all you have to do is sail… At the moment it’s just Paul, Gareth and Mark in the premiership but who knows, there might be promotion and relegation after Christmas…
Looking at those results – 30 seconds separates 1-5 and only just over 2 minutes separates 1-9. It is hard for Premiership players to win because they have only a small margin of improvement and in medium conditions that’s especially hard – I predict in the extremes, light or heavy the premier players will dominate because there are more opportunities to gain or lose. The main purpose for this (apart from just being good fun) is to help Div 1 and 2 see how they are progressing and encourage them to gain promotion. Just watching the leeward mark rounding from the committee boat I could see room for improvement. Remember you should be on course, sail in and beating as you pass the mark, not just starting to round up or two lengths below the mark. As you get faster at sheeting in you can turn quicker and nearer to the mark – being able to sheet in with both hands helps – Imagine we are rounding up on port tack. Our left hand is on the sheet and our right hand has the tiller extension in front of our body. First pull with left hand ending with the taking the sheet under right hand index finger (with the tiller extension gripped by the other three finger) with right hand away from body. Now rotate the tiller ext. without moving the tiller swinging the extension towards your body (and of course pulling in the mainsheet) as you reach for another handful with the left hand and so on. With practice you can sheet in twice as fast. Of course you are also starting to sit out and watching where you are steering – did I say it is easy… but watch Paul (best roundups I saw) or Tony (almost as good). Similarly Peter and Mervyn made good roundups though not quite as fast with the sheet (didn’t look to see if one hand or two). Even with one hand you can round up quite quickly – Dave C gained a lot on Ben and Ian by making a better leeward mark rounding – Ben then used his weight to drive the boat harder upwind and overtake Dave again. Great to see more confidence in everyone driving the boats harder upwind.
Now last week I said I would talk more about reaching and downwind in strong winds. The key is to keep the boat under the mast… not just being funny, that’s how you steer downwind (the opposite of beating) . If the mast leans away from you, turn the boat away from you to put the hull back under the mast. If the boat leans towards you turn the boat towards you to put the hull under the mast. So why does this work… The more downwind you point the less the wind pushes the rig away from you and the more it just pushes forwards. So, if you get a big gust on a reach you do the Opposite to beating. You bear away to run away from the wind a bit easing sheet a little as you do it. This has two effects – moving the hull to leeward (bearing away) brings the hull back under the mast and also reduces the knockdown because the force from the sail is now more forward and less sideways. The boat will accelerate and then with extra speed you can creep back up onto course or wait for a small lull to sail higher.
On a run the boat is precariously balanced. Start to turn hard in either direction and the boat will turn faster and fall over. Start to luff and the boom hits the water – that stops the sail easing and slows you down which adds extra pressure on the sail. The boat is heeled which makes it want to luff, turning when heeled throws the rig further over (centrifugal force) … We call this a broach. If we bear away further the force of the sail starts to pull the mast to windward (on top of us) which unbalances the rig and makes the boat turn further downwind … same result in the other direction, the boat comes very rapidly on top of you – typically capsizing with the boom sticking up in the air. A classic weather roll.
So… how do we keep the boat balanced if it is basically unstable. Well, the hull has a bit of stability which works well in light conditions, but once the wind gets up we must make the sail and steering do the work for us. If the boat starts to heel away from us (usually means the wind has shifted to more of a reach) we can bear away a bit to reduce the force. If the boat starts to come on top of us (usually means we have gone slightly by the lee) we can luff a bit to bring the forces back ion balance. Again that’s what I mean by keeping the boat under the mast – you have to do this QUICKLY before the heel becomes excessive and overrules and rudder movement. The second thing we can do is to adjust the sail to change the angle of force – if the boat starts to weather roll sheet in (quickly) it helps if you have the sheet from the boom by the way but in really strong winds that might not be possible. As you sheet in you make the sail generate side force which corrects the weather roll. The other control is the kicker – if it is too slack the top of the sail angles forwards pushing the mast to windward – that can be good in light weather to square the top of the sail but too much in a strong wind will cause a weather roll. Too much kicker though will tighten the leech making the boat want to luff and also will mean the boom hits the water more easily. In very strong winds running I’m always playing the mainsheet just a small amount to keep the boat in control, ease out a bit induces a weather roll, sheet in too much induces a broach – just right and the boat sails itself – of course as each gust and wind shift happens you have to preserve the balance. Finally too much centreboard down will tend to make the boat trip over – broaching easily, too little will allow the boat to weather roll easily and make it impossible to steer out of the roll. So … steer the hull under the rig, balance the rig with the sheet and centreboard about a quarter down to a third down when it’s really windy. Simples Eh?