Sunday saw another great turnout with eleven boats racing despite me trialling the D-Zero. A close win for Mike Dray ahead of Rob, Paul and Tim. In the Personal results though the way that the fleet is closing up shows with the order being Ian, Frank, Dave C. Mervyn’s promotion from Div 1 to Championship (I must correct the description in the results) pushed him down to 9th.
Sunday’s forecast looks interesting at the moment – hopefully it will settle down a bit but the wind throughout the day at the moment shows as SSW, ENE, N, WSW, WNW, NW If it does all that in one day it will be interesting! At least the strength predicted is quite moderate – I think the best solution is to come down and see what it is really doing.
Downwind part 2 Running
So we made it down the reach trimming the sail a lot and following the gusts. Now we bear away onto a run...
Not much we can do with sail trimming because the boom is right out - we do need to make sure we can get it right out, but we must make sure it does go out. In some boats where the lower kicker attachment is not on the mast but comes from the track a few inches behind the mast you MUST ease kicker to let the boom right out because it tightens as the boom goes out. Running we can't let the boom out as far as we would like because the shrouds get in the way. Looser rigging really helps running but even so we can't get the boom right out, but we can let the top of the sail out further by easing more kicker. In light weather - remember we were talking about 6-10 kn you can pretty much let the kicker go as much as it will (needs to be very free running). Look up - if the top of the sail starts to go actually go forwards or if you feel the boat going very unstable (wanting to weather roll) consider putting a fraction of kicker back on.
OK that's the sail - now what else... We want the boat balanced and narrow on the waterline. With the boom right out the sail is a long way from the centre so the force from the sail is trying to twist the boat - trying to make it luff. We can counter this by heeling the boat to windward. That puts the sail more directly over the hull so pushes us straight. Heeling to windward also lets us make the waterline shape narrow. With our hull shape with relatively flat bottom panel and steeper sides when we heel to windward we lift a lot of the bottom out of the water and only add a little bit of the side. Also there is no side force so we need very little plate. Some people like to have the plate right up, I prefer to leave just a faction down (about 4-6 inches sticking out) to help directional stability. I also move forwards, straddling the thwart. Again we want the narrow front of the boat in the water not the wider back – remember we’re talking light conditions – I’ll deal with what to do in a blow later.
That's our basic setting, boom right out, kicker off, plate up, windward heel and weight forwards. Now we start sailing - we know the wind shifts a lot - we feel it beating and altered course or tacked headers and we trimmed the sails reaching. What do we do running... We follow the gusts - try to stay in the gusts. If the wind goes to a broad reach bear away a bit to follow the wind. If you go by the lee gybe to take advantage of the shift, but we don't want to steer by rudder, we steer more by weight - more windward heel to bear away, less or even fractional leeward heel to luff. I often practice steering downwind by having the tiller held central (elastic) and steering just by balance. It's a good habit to learn - if the start is on the far side of the reservoir I'll usually do some hands free sailing on the way to the start.
Finally we have to start thinking tactics as well. If there is a boat just in front of us we can try to blanket them, block their wind with our sail. Also think about the next mark, we'd rather be on the inside, so if there are no other reasons (like staying in a gust) I try to be on the inside - if just ahead of another boat I'll defend the inside if I have to move to avoid being blanketed. It doesn't matter if a boat gets alongside you on the outside if you can make a good inside mark rounding.
One word of warning - it isn't so easy to know when you are dead downwind. I look at shroud tell-tales but I know that they don't tell the truth. A dead run shows on the shrouds as about 10 degrees by the lee. (if you have a good masthead wind indicator it should tell the truth). You also have to look behind to see gusts coming - as usual try to position your boat to get in the track of a gust.
If you can do all that and do it right, you’ll be a downwind sailor…