Solo News 17 Jan 2010


17 Jan
The results are on the web site (Open Series and extracted club results). In the open series the top three are
Gareth Griffiths
Rob Wilder
Arthur Phillips
Gareth and Rob have opened up a slight gap, but with Feb and March open days still to come the series is still very open.
Joe Maclaughlin, Mike Wilkie, Malcolm Barnes, Tony Penfold and Peter Halliday are still in the hunt – they just need some more races to count.
In the club series the late winter and overall are also very close. Gareth and Arthur are tied in the overall and have established a reasonable lead over Mervyn in third. As always with the O-league system there is still everything to play for because you can catch up points very quickly. In the late winter Arthur has a one point lead, but we’re only three races into the series so plenty of time for you to all qualify for the series.
11 boats on the line was a good turnout (but we can do even better) on a great sailing day. This was the third of our open series and we welcomed Rob and Joe from Tamesis (sick note from Mike Wilkie – hope you are feeling better soon). Sunday was an ideal day for winter sailing, not too cold, enough wind to be interesting but not too much for anyone to sail.
The racing was extremely close with Gareth, Rob, Joe and Arthur swapping places at the front and close competition right down the fleet. Unfortunately in the morning race neither of the downwind legs was a true run so most of the action took place on the beats. A bit of local knowledge seemed to help as for some reason it usually pays to approach mark 8 on port (from the left) with that wind direction. Of course you still have to work the shifts, but it seems to more often pay to come in from the left at that mark. That gives the danger of approaching the windward mark on port tack and finding no room (and very few rights if you tack under someone close to the mark). As I’ve found out at a few open meetings, it’s great for the leader, but for those just behind it can be really tricky if there is a large fleet coming in on starboard.
The close formations continued in the back to back races with regular place swapping and this time a true run so downwind tactics became important. In the first B2B I managed to pull up from third at the windward mark to lead at the end of the run (I think local knowledge of the angle to the next mark helped a bit but I seemed to have good boat speed downwind). Fast downwind in lightish conditions means following the shifts to keep the angles good (gybe if the wind shifts that way) with very little kicker and no (or almost no) plate (but remember to lower it for the gybe). The tight racing continued through both races with rarely more than 20 yards between the first three or four boats. On the last beat in the second race I started clear but made some bad tacks to allow Rob to trap me into a sail-on (he was slightly behind but to windward of me both on starboard so I couldn’t tack for the mark). By the time I could tack we had over-stood the mark and Rob was ahead, but Joe had slipped the leash and was clear ahead of both of us to take a well sailed victory. Very hard to cover two boats who are splitting tacks – now that I can think about it, on that beat I got panicked into tacking too much. I should have concentrated on sailing fast and made sure that each shift was stable before tacking. It is so tempting to see a shift and immediately tack only for the shift to have gone by the time you complete the tack. You have to judge if it is a real shift or just a brief variation. Two bad tacks can cost you a lot more than a few seconds on the wrong shift to see if it is stable.
With eleven Solos on the line for the morning race it made the start line a bit more crowded than usual – good practice for boat control while sailing slowly. To start well you have to be able to control the boat’s speed, sometimes holding the boat almost stopped without getting stuck, and be able to smoothly accelerate in a straight line. This is not easy, and I saw a couple of people struggling to avoid getting stuck in irons (head to wind) when manoeuvring before the start. The trick is to only have half plate down until the final approach, not to have much kicker on, and watch the heel. The problem is that when you have the main very eased (to go very slowly), the only part of the sail filling is the back and it is to the side of the boat. That moves the force from the sail back a lot and a bit sideways so it tends to twist the boat towards the wind (boat wants to luff to head to wind). When almost stopped the rudder has little effect so you can easily find yourself stuck. By raising the plate you swing it back which helps a lot, by having the kicker slacker you don’t hook the leech of the main so much. Finally you have to use the heel of the boat, to bear away (or avoid luffing) pull the boat over to windward. By combining these techniques you can sail very slowly if you need to. Then with about 5 seconds to go (more in light winds) you can accelerate into a gap to hit the line at full speed. Ideally you whip the plate down at the last minute as you power up, and set the kicker  to wherever you have it for beating (I have mine just tight when fully sheeted in) and power off the line at full speed.