Happy new year everyone!
We just completed what might have been the closest ever solo series at the club - going into the last race the top four could all win - if they won the race. How fitting then that the final positions in the last race exactly reflect the first four in the series... Scores are on the web. (Let me know of any mistakes or omissions.)
Some stats on the series:
18 boats sailed at least one race
12 boats counted at least 4 results (so qualified without using any DNC)
For a winter series when some weeks the winds were distinctly challenging I think that shows the strength in depth that we are now seeing. The mid fleet is tightening up with Ian and Ben pushing each other to start threatening the senior fleet and Dave and Tony upgrading as well.
So,... lots to look forward to in 2015 - we hope t get started on the under clubhouse work to make storage space early in January and then the upstairs re-org and refurb as soon after as we can. With more boats on the water and more new sailors from both the Adult and Children's programs coming through into regular club sailing our challenge is to continue to attract new members into our fleet. The more sailors we have the better we will all get.
My plans remain the same - I will sail both Solo and Aero, and I will continue to run coaching on Tuesday evenings.
Sunday's last race though shorter than usual showed again that making a good start and good first beat is important - those few feet gained off the line quickly multiply each time you are cross another boat and even briefly affect their wind with your sails. The line was definitely biased to port and more so than the average - by that I mean I had been checking the direction in the 10 minutes or so before the start and at the gun we were at the most port end it had been. In other words, at the start port tack was the lifted tack. I was nearest the port end so had the advantage of line bias but I needed to tack to get onto the lifted tack. Fortunately I was able to just tack ad clear the fleet to get into the shifts and start to work my way up the beat in phase with the shifts. Upwind knowing that only a win could take the series (and the same applied to Paul, Mike and Rob) I couldn't cover anyone too hard and risk someone else leapfrogging to the front. Several times I only just crossed either Paul or Mike (didn't see Rob - suspect he was hitting one of the corners while we worked the shifts up the middle). After that my main aim was to play fairly safe relying on the fleet behind interfering with each other enough that I didn't need to take any chances - the second beat I worked the shifts up the middle rather than risking either side. The finish took me by surprise as I was trying to work past a couple of lasers and hadn't noticed the S flag - with a very angled line that could have been fatal! Must have been tricky for the RO to decide whether to shorten as the speeds were varying a lot - from my side I was slightly relieved as I was getting slowed by being between two lasers and the fleet closed up on wind from behind on the run.
Further back there was another really close finish with Ben, Mervyn and Ian within a few seconds of each other.
Great series in the scratch event, but what about the personal? This will run on till the end of the winter as we only count results when conditions are suitable for everyone to sail. Ian currently leads from a posse of Premiership players (who don't actually qualify for the series) but there's all to play for with the series not completing until the end of March.
So this week's topic is starting and deciding what first tack to take.
I think we all know that the favoured end of the line is the one further upwind, but there are two problems - how do we tell, and the wind keeps shifting.
Which end to start?
Lots of ways to tell which end of the line is upwind - I use a variety. Simple one is to sail up and down the line. One way you will need to sheet in more than the other. The end you are heading to with the sail further in is upwind. Another way it to slowly tack in the middle of the line. Use the sail to tell you when you are head to wind look across the boat and see which end of the line is ahead of you (ie more upwind).
Which way to go?
That's the easy part - the hard part is now figuring out what to do on your first tack. Assuming you aren't going for a port tack flyer do you stand on and go left or do you look for an opportunity to tack and go right. This is where it gets much harder... really you need to decide if the wind is steady (rare) shifty or progressive. On Sunday we had good examples of both patterns. In the morning the wind was shifting back and forth - lots of test short beats before the start lets you confirm this and see the range the wind is going through. If it is shifting back and forth you simply want to be on the lifted tack as soon as possible after the start - the tricky part is that if the line has gone very port end that means that starboard tack (going down the line) is the headed tack so you really want to be on port. The problem is that you may be slightly ahead but not enough to cross the fleet - being able to tack really well helps - I may have mentioned that once or twice before... In the morning I was able to hit the line at speed and be a bit further down the line than everyone else which just gave me enough room to tack. I didn't stay on port very long because the shift went back and I switched back to starboard but that brief lifted port tack gave me enough to cross the fleet and have a clear first beat. In the afternoon however the wind was progressively heading so that you really wanted to stay on starboard let the header develop even more before tacking on port to make the windward mark (actually tacking before the lay line as you anticipated further lifts).
Can't say I got the PM starts right - In the first Peter Curtis and I both aimed for a port tack start but realized there was no room so ducked a few boats to find a gap. That sent us out on port which definitely didn't pay although we were able to use some smaller shifts to minimize the loss. In the second start (they had moved the line twice to make it possible to cross on starboard) I was trying to be the pin end on starboard but I couldn't sail the Aero slow enough and was just a few seconds early. Spun round looking for a gap but there was no chance and I had to crash tack back onto starboard and still couldn't make the pin so made a second loop before starting... Right idea but poor execution.
I wish you all fair winds a good sailing for 2015
"The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails."
-William Arthur Ward