Solo News 24062009

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Slightly wider audience this week as I am including my ‘Learning to race' students as well as the Solo Fleet not because I'm trying to persuade anyone to change class, but some of the points in my blog section speak to things we were practicing or will be covering this week.

Great turnout from the fleet for the Anniversary race - I made it eleven Solos (compared to eight lasers). It's great to get these numbers out and I could see lots of good racing - certainly Arthur and Mike were having a great dual with Dave Strachen, Peter Cottrell  and Frank not far away. Behind them another close battle between Malcolm, Glen and Dave Lawton with Dave Clark a bit further back - looked to me as if the wind wasn't very kind to Dave on the first beat - he seemed to be stuck in a private hole. Don't worry Dave - read on and see the back to back races - it happens to all us sometimes. Great to see Eddie on the water again, and nice of him to retire early so the bar was open when the rest of us finishedJ Solo results extracted (Anniversary scratch/personal in parentheses):

1  4859 Gareth Griffiths (2/19)
2  4048 Arthur Phillips (3/11)
3  4647 Micheal Lipscome (5/12)
4  4073 Peter Cottrell (7/14)
5  3604 Dave Strachen (10/6)
6  3365 Frank Beanland (12/9)
7  3142 Malcolm Barnes (18/16)
8  xxxx Glen Cole (19/17)   I think using Merv's boat this week
9    978  David Lawton (20/10)
10 3861 Dave Clark (22/21)
DNF 3996 Eddie Holland (25/25)

The first beat for me was one of making a decent start and then trying to go up the middle but biasing towards the next patch of wind and watching the other boats ahead (fast fleet) for ideas on the next shift.  Right near the end of the beat I made a strategic tack left because there was a big dark patch on the water showing some wind which let me get away.  Downwind the strategy was get in a  puff and then ride it deep - going well below the mark at times to try and stay in the wind lane, then round up to keep speed and look for the next gust - particularly on mark 8 to 1 and also to a lesser extent on 1 to 4.  I could have used the course being one lap less as I struggled up the last beat. I ran into a light unfavourable shifty patch going from 6 to 8 and I thought it would come back to favour port tack with the wind coming from the bank - basically that meant I had to put in a starboard hitch in the old wind to get towards the bank , then when the wind came I ended up tacking back onto port and reaching to the mark. I can't see what else I could have done - if I'd stayed further from the bank it would have taken longer for the wind to reach me, but those behind of course just romped up on the new wind easily making the mark with a lot less tacking. Sometimes the best you can do is make sure you stay ahead and try to reduce the loss.  That beat brought Arthur and Michael back worryingly close, but fortunately I was able to sail cleanly down the last two legs while they had a private battle with each other and I think a stray laser.Overall I was surprised and pleased to be second on handicap with Arthur third because the dropping wind on the last lap had exaggerated the gaps ahead. Then we came to the back to back races.  First start - over the line at the gun so started I suppose 20 yards back. Now it is hard to find clear wind and I probably tried too hard to catch shifts - dead end result last at the windward mark except for a couple of toppers and it didn't get much better. I did close the gap a bit towards the end (only one lap race) but Arthur flew away - good start, clear air and sailing well I think he was actually first on the water with Dave Strachen in close attendance. I know I normally have reasonable boat speed but when you fall into a hole in the wind sometimes the fleet just sails away. You start off just a few boat lengths back, but if the wind switches off the fleet can sometimes sail away on the last of the old wind and you are suddenly half a leg behind.

Second back to back I was a bit more cautious off the line and didn't get the best start.  Arthur was again really in the zone, while I was fighting with lasers he was zooming off into the distance. Now I have to try and figure out if that was just my poor start - first race definitely was just my bad sailing, or whether the rigging changes I made (stern sheeting) contributed. In the morning race they seemed to help but the back to backs showed just how much a clear start means. When you are in what is suppose to be a slower boat getting clear air off the start can launch you ahead of slightly faster boats and in a short race make a huge difference. In theory the Solo has handicap 1152 to laser 1078 so they should gain about a minute and quarter in a twenty minute race.  That is not a massive amount - a good start, good tacks  and mark roundings can almost make up for that.