Solo news 3 May
A small but extremely competitive fleet this week for a fairly windy Pursuit race. I think a lot of people were away over bank holiday weekend, helping with the Junior Level 2 course, or put off by the weather which did start wet but soon cleared to give a sunny but squally day.
The race itself just had four solos - Gareth, Andy, Paul and Mark with Tim on duty, so fresh from a series of good results on the Thames Valley circuit it was time for Paul to pit himself against the fleet and a great chance for Andy to declare his colours.
Off the start it was quite even with Mark showing well up the first beat swapping places with Andy and Gareth. If I recall right the course was 6, 2, 4, X (near 8), 1 giving beat, run, beat/fetch, long reach, short run. A good mix of all points of sailing with a good southwesterly wind varying general around force 3-4 but with the odd stinger gist and a few lulls. I think the forecast had something like 12 gust 24 so showing how blustery it was.
Up the first beat very close the order at the top mark was Mark, Andy, Gareth with very little between then Paul not far behind. The first key moment was rounding the mark - Mark threw in a gybe heading more towards mark 1 than mark 2, Andy followed but Gareth bore away to a run but stayed on starboard. Mark and Andy looked to be tracking too far to the left while Gareth was on the straight line and in a gust. Quick reversal of places with Gareth leading at the leeward mark followed by Andy and Paul close on Mark’s tail This really set the tone for the race, Gareth loosely covering up the beats but trying to stay on the favoured tack as much as possible and generally creeping away downwind. Andy pulling away to a clear second and Paul ultimately clear of Mark. I think Mark and Paul swapped places a few times but Mark faded a bit towards the end – not surprising as he hasn’t sailed much recently.
Overall in the pursuit Peter Curtis in his 300 just sneaked through in the last minute - maybe if Gareth hadn't taken on some water in a bad tack on the last beat he might have held on but the pursuit ended very close as it often seems to.
So - key points from Sunday: check the headings on each leg before the start. I rounded the windward mark knowing that I had checked before the start and it was not a gybe. I also seemed to have a slight edge on downwind speed - Kicker well eased - the top of the sail was going quite well forward, plate just enough down to steer, downhaul off, and outhaul tight (can't get flow over the sail so stretch it wide - also helps the sail go further out because the battens bind less on the shrouds). I had the kicker eased off just to the point where the boat starts to go unstable - the boat was definitely getting twitchy but just finely balanced – I added a fraction back on in the bigger gusts later in the race. Then I concentrated on riding down the gusts and trying to get in and stay in wind lanes. Weight reasonably forward unless a big gust that could allow planning. Windward heel to minimise drag. Mark mentioned that he accidentally sailed the first run with the downhaul (Cunningham) still on and was very slow on that leg. Relaxing the sail for the run makes a noticeable difference.
There were only two real passing lanes on the course - the run or the beat - but when the wind was up the reach was really good fun. So - good workout and fitness definitely helps in an hour and quarter race - Andy is clearly on the pace – and with Evan, Rob and Tim all showing similar boat-speed the front of the fleet is getting pretty crowded. Well done Tim and Paul at recent Opens - it's really good to have our fleet showing at the front of the circuit.
Our own Open is coming up - Saturday May 30 - let's see if we can get the whole fleet out.
That's all I've got for now
See you next week