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Solo news 1 May

  • Still waiting for a few people to respond that they want to stay on the list so I have not pruned the list yet… Thanks to those who have responded and some corrected email addresses.

    Saturday we had a great training day with Ross Harvey even though it was a bit too windy for some… I think we all learned a lot and were impressed by the new Boatyard at Beer solo.  Details of that are on - very impressed with how easily all the gear worked and the overall package looked nicely built and well thought out. The theory is that the hull started from a similar shape to Winder 2 or Speed but the refined the bow slightly and worked on the internal layout. Certainly it felt fast in a blow.

    Sunday we had a decent turnout with Rob making his debut in 5180 and showing he isn’t far off the pace – and Wed he showed even more so that he will be a threat to the front of the fleet leading at the windward mark and second on handicap at the end.

    So, what did we learn on Saturday.  We learned a lot about sail shape going upwind and the two different ways to control the leech (upper back of the sail in particular). The solo has a well rounded leech (compare to say laser which is almost straight) so keeping the top of the sail setting needs down force on the boom. This can come from Kicker or Mainsheet.  The ‘old school’ way of reducing power in a blow is to ease the traveller while keeping lots of main sheet tension on. (For the purpose of this we’ll ignore the other controls important though they are).   The ‘new’ alternative is to centre the traveller,  but use LOTS of kicker to keep the boom down and ease the sheet slightly. Each has its merits – what we want is a progressive reduction in power while keeping the sail shape good so let’s compare.


    Using the ‘new’ method requires a very strong kicker – 16:1 purchase recommended, and it needs a mast that won’t bend too much low down – the kicker pushes the boom forwards a lot – the force is diagonal on the boom. ‘Old-school’ mainsheet tension from an eased traveller on the other hand pulls more or less straight down. That tends to bend the lower mast less and may be the right solution with a more flexible mast. It does mean more tension on the sheet so is much harder work to set if you play the sheet much.

    Now think what happens in a gust. With the ‘new’ method we ease the sheet and the boom does not rise. the sail shape stays because there wasn’t so much down-force from the sheet and the power comes off very progressively as the whole sail moves out a bit.  With the old school (if kicker not also tight) the top of the sail drops off very quickly as the sheet is eased – this does reduce knock down but it is extremely hard to not overcorrect because the top suddenly falls away. So – which is best – well that depends on the mast and probably the sail. if you use traveller down I would still pull the kicker just tight when sheeted right in. The boom will still go up a bit when you ease in a gust but not so much. The difficulty with the ’new’ style is knowing just how hard to sheet in and how much kicker to use. I think it is harder to judge.  What do I do – I used to be solidly old-school but now I’m experimenting. No conclusions yet – I think both work. The sheet pressure is definitely less new-style so there is less effort playing the sheet a bit more in the gusts.

    Either way you need a LOT of tension to keep the upper back of the sail  setting efficiently and you won’t be able to point close to the wind if you don’t.

    What else did we learn – Ross reminded us that if you ease as a gust strikes you must pull the sheet back in again as you luff slightly or as the immediate gust passes. We also were reminded that the Solo has a very large centreboard compared to the size of the boat and you have to lift a lot before you really reduce the drag much. Upwind when it is windy you need to lift it significantly to balance the boat – you are not reducing the area much but angling it backwards to make the boat more balanced.

    Cross-wind and downwind when it is very windy you have to move your weight back to get the wide front part of the hull out of the water, and you need to lift the plate quite a lot before it really has much effect. Both of those I wasn’t doing enough and changing I think helped me overtake Paul on Sunday on a close reach. (I didn’t tell him till afterwards what I was doing different).

    Sunday afternoon Paul and I swapped boats to see whether where we were relative to each other on different points of sailing changed – is it things we are doing or more fundamentals in the way the boat or basic rig is set up. Conclusion I think is that we stayed much the same relatively so it is what we are doing with the rig and how we are sailing more than basics of mast/sail and hull.

    Hope to see you all on the water at the weekend – forecast is fairly light.