Well what can I say about the anniversary team pursuit that hasn’t already been said… What a great day – glorious weather, if somewhat light winds, good food, John Smith’s commentary, a course that I think really worked well, and Island barn won – not just the sailing team but the whole club. All the people who helped, sailed supported it was a great day and great advert for our club. I have to say that listening to John Smith’s commentary it seemed a lot easier from the bank than it was on the water! I don’t think I have sailed so hard but gone so slowly. Very light weather demands total concentration because changes in wind strength and direction are proportionally so much bigger. The wind strength more than doubles in a ‘gust’ so making the most of them is critical.
Well done Team Solo (IBRSC Premier on the results) fully earning bragging rights over the two Island Barn Laser teams.
We welcomed back Rob Wilder (in his beautiful new wooden boat) and Joe McLaughlin (in a Boon like mine) - two Tamesis Solos who sailed with us winter 2007 and who regularly place highly on the Open Meeting circuit. I’m hoping Rob and Joe will join us again this winter (probably after Christmas). This meant we had a strong Solo turnout, but not so many that we slowed each other down. In a large pursuit race you have to keep the big picture in mind. You are trying to win the pursuit race not just trying to beat the other Solos near you.
Overall results for the Solos:
1st Gareth Griffiths
4th Rob Wilder (Tamesis)
5th Joe McLaughlin (Tamesis)
9th Arthur Phillips
14th Dave Strachen
18th Dave Thorpe (thanks for lending your boat Mervyn)
36th Malcolm Barnes (Malcolm had a DNF but 13th in the second race thanks to the generous loan of 3996 – would you lend your boat to someone who just broke his centreboard in no wind?)
From my side I set the boat onto its light weather settings – that is mast heel back two slots and tighten the forestay so that it is just coming tight with the mast at the back of the gate. Shrouds just coming tight with the mast at the front of the gate, then fully chocked. In other words mast much more upright with the forestay supporting the rig but slack shrouds to help downwind.
I also went to my stern sheeting method so that I can sit in the middle with the sheet coming direct from the boom. This gives me very easy control and I don’t have to come back round the mainsheet to tack. Don’t k now if I’ll start a trend with this sheeting system but I like it for below force 2.
In very light weather I’m generally sitting on the thwart with one foot either side. Kicker adjusted to try and keep the airflow over the sail smooth – watching the streamers on the leech of the sail to try and get all flying. In that light weather a sensitive wind indicator and leech streamers are essential – many times I got indication of new wind from the wind indicator even before the sail responded allowing me to alter sheeting much quicker than those around me. Sometimes only the wind indicator and leech streamers could tell me if I had the sheet right – the conventional telltales were not setting. For example at the start of the second race I was about half way down the line starting with as much speed as I could get. (Never let the boat stop in almost no wind, it takes ages to get back to speed) I rounded up onto the wind but just ahead was the Feva who had started a couple of minutes earlier. I saw the wind shifting so that the puffs were coming on a reach although the lulls were still a beat. Every puff I could ease sheets a lot and gain speed, then sheet back in for a lull before repeating. The result was that I footed straight through the lee of the Feva who stayed sheeted in – every puff his sail stalled so he didn’t accelerate properly. The same I think was happening to the solo to windward of the Feva because I was able to foot faster in the puffs. I think I was re-trimming each puff for a reach quicker than and so got more out of the shifting gust (if you can call a waft of force ½ a gust). The key thing in very light weather is keep the boat moving – in a puff it is literally possible to double your boat speed. Until the wind picks up don’t even think about pointing high, just get the boat moving fast and then if required very slowly luff to get back to close hauled. Because in a lull the wind always seems to come from straight ahead (boat moving faster than the wind) don’t be too keen to bear away hard. Glide on through the lull a bit before very gently bearing away if required. Often as the boat slows back down to the lighter wind speed you will find that you don’t in fact need to bear away at all. Any use of the rudder must be ever so gentle to avoid destroying your speed. If the wind picks up so you are starting to sit to windward you can think about pointing higher and once you are sitting out (but not yet overpowered) definitely look to point higher, but when the wind is really light so you are sitting in the middle or to leeward go for boat speed first.
I was watching the Toppers on Saturday – the front of the fleet completed one lap when the back had barely completed the first leg – this was because the leaders reacted to every tiny fluctuation in the wind whereas the back set the sails for where they expected the wind to be (so most of the time they were wrong, missing helpful shifts and usually being over-sheeted) They didn’t go quickly when there was some wind and didn’t know where to go when the wind switched off. We watched one poor Topper get within about fifteen feet of the finish only to miss a wind shift and sail almost straight sideways getting further away so that five minutes and three tacks later she was more like twenty yards from the finish line. Fortunately the wind stabilised a bit and she got going again, but someone more alert to the wind shifts would have gained over five minutes.
Light weather sailing demands patience and great concentration and sensitive instruments like wind indicator and leech streamers, but it can be just (well almost) as rewarding as blasting along in a blow – we are very lucky to sail a class that is good in light weather and also fun to sail in a blow.