Happy New Year everyone
Sunday 29 Dec
Wasn't that just a perfect winter sailing day. Blue skies from east to west, enough wind to power up but not enough to cause problems and another great turnout - Solos again providing the biggest fleet.
Sundays race results:
Which means overall for the Autumn series the results are:
Gareth, Paul, Tony P, Roy, Mike L, Peter C, Mervyn, Mark, Ian, Dave C, Ben, Tony S, Peter H, Frank, Malcolm, Andrew Bickel, Lloyd
17 sailors sailed at least one race.
I was impressed to see plenty of boats out long enough before the start to properly assess the wind and the start line. However even with that I think there is lots of room to improve our starting - it was almost a beat down the line on starboard so it was clearly pin (left, outside) end. Although that made ideal conditions for attempting a port tack flyer, with quite a short line I was slightly worried that there would be nine other boats coming down the line to shut me out. It looked as if Roy and Tony P had the same idea but they both seemed rather early - that isn't necessarily bad - if early on port you can sail down the line a bit and tack under a starboard tack boat then harden up to still take the pin. However you all left a huge gap for me to take the pin end on port and easily cross the fleet. Roy just below me also crossed clear and we both tacked left. Tony tacked under the starboard boats but sadly failed to make the pin - it really was very biased so he had to start with a 360. Meanwhile Roy and I headed left - I knew that the forecast was the wind slowly backing from WSW towards SW and eventually S so my basic strategy was to head left expecting to be very slowly headed and then tack for the mark and be lifted towards it. Add to that some local knowledge that it usually pays to come into mark 8 on port because you usually get lifted as you approach though of course you have to be careful on the final approach being on port. I don't quite know why we get that lift into eight on port but it’s right more often than not and I had a strong preference to go left. Roy seemed to have the same idea - we both tacked a couple of bigger shifts but worked left while much of the fleet seemed to be heading for the clubhouse side. For once the strategy really paid so that Gareth and Roy rounded the windward mark with a substantial lead over the fleet. That largely determined the first two places - so long as neither of us made a massive mistake we had a cushion from the fleet and were likely to be a whole gust cycle clear on the runs so not risking the fleet riding up on us.
Closing in on the windward mark it can get crowded…
Meanwhile behind us it got quite close at the windward mark and that’s where experience clearly showed. Tony was working his way back into contention while Ian who sailed 90% of the first beat really well found himself out manoeuvred close to the mark. It looked as if he was coming in from the left in contention for third or fourth but there were two boats approaching on starboard. What should he do? Tack below them or duck them. Tacking below is only sensible if he can both make the mark after the tack and not be totalled blanketed by their sails. That really means only do it if you can almost cross ahead. Tack under when not slightly ahead and you are in dirty wind (blocked by their sails) and you probably won’t be able to accelerate out of the tack and will likely not make the mark. If you can tack in front (lee bow) still in clear air you might be able to squeeze up to the mark, but be sure you can make the mark after the tack. Tack alongside and you will probably get rolled over and blanketed and not make the mark - then you will be trying to tack with no speed and with the next group of boats approaching on starboard. - Not good as Ian discovered. (Take heart from being right there in the mix at the end of the beat – next time I’m sure Ian will consolidate his position.) Much better to take the small loss and duck the starboard tackers and tack onto starboard just behind and to windward of them - you accelerate as you bear away so you don't lose much with a decent tack and you remain in clear air so you can accelerate out of the tack – remember to ease sheet as you bear away under them and back in as you harden up again – go about a boat length beyond them unless they are easily making the mark (or you put them in your lee bow and risk them driving up after you tack). If the original starboard tackers get headed you might even have them trapped unable to make the mark.
Judging which approach to take is not simple and takes experience. I remember when I first sailed at the club (in a scorpion in those days) we had one sailor who was more used to big fleets (he had sailed at the top level in firefly nationals for several years) and close to the mark he always seemed to gain. More experienced at when to tack, when to duck and probably planning a lot further ahead. I think it’s the ability to read ahead how the situation will develop that makes the difference and I don't know how to teach that experience. Practice helps but a lot is 'head outside the boat' - with a two person boat the crew can call the tactics or where other boats are approaching but in a single hander we have to do it all an still sail efficiently. That’s probably the difference – these days I can sail at 95% efficiency while mainly thinking about tactical situations and other boats. Close to the mark I'm thinking mostly about where everyone else will be and how my position will interact and what I will do if they get a header or lift or gust while sailing my own boat on mental auto-pilot.
Personal handicap results
The winter personal handicap is proving quite interesting. This week Roy (Div 1) with an excellent second overall took the personal honours with Dave Clark (Div 2) taking second from Gareth (Premiership) followed by Ian P and Tony S from Div 2. Not a good week for the Championship with Tony P and Mike L bringing up the rear. Medium winds make it harder to pull out large gaps, but what these results are showing is how the overall standard of the fleet is creeping up and how Dave C, Ian, Tony S and Ben are pushing each other and threatening the middle order.
Personal results so far (these will run through the whole winter season) after 5 races has a three way tie at the top between Roy, Mervyn and Peter C
Happy new year