Solo News 23 May


Sun 23 May
What a beautiful day – shame the wind wasn’t quite as nice as the weather! Very light winds for the class race, and again for the first back to back.
The start by mark eight had very little wind – the wind had seemed to have two directions fighting for control – one coming almost from the clubhouse bank, but another almost parallel to the clubhouse back coming down the back from mark 2 with most directions in between but a definite pattern of oscillation. So by the start the wind had almost dies but the two different directions made for wither a very port biased line that was almost impossible to start on starboard, or a slight starboard bias with the first mark (X) a reasonably true beat. Given these two directions it looked as if being to the left would make sense because if the wind swung back to left you could almost make the mark in one long port tack, but the wind never went correspondingly far right. If the left shift was happening you wanted to be on port almost making the mark or indeed sometimes even fine reaching direct to the mark, but on the other shift you would be lifted on starboard and so heading left.
The lasers had barely left gone 50 yards by the time we started some a lot less – eight solos. At the start I was the furthest down the line – I had been coming down the line on port but tacked back onto starboard just before the gun. We were in the right shift so starboard tack initially looked good, but I was expecting a massive left shift . Sure enough after only a few lengths (maybe 30 seconds) the left shift happened and I was able to tack onto port before the lasers near me had realised and clear most of the lasers in one move. After that the first leg was simple a case of total concentration trying to keep the sails and direction trimmed to a very variable wind. Total concentration watching wools on the shroud, masthead wind indicator, tell tales on the sail and leech streamers. The key in almost no wind is boat speed – don’t worry too much where you are pointing, keep the boat moving and the sail trimmed to match each zephyr. It isn’t easy and needs total concentration using all available wind indicators – don’t forget boats in front of you – if there is a fleet ahead see what is coming next by looking at them. In this case the handicap fleet had started first and could be used to make some guesses about which way the next shift might come – at least on the relatively upwind legs. Before the start it had been apparent that patches of wind seemed to start around mark 2 and drift out and towards eight.
I ended up having a great boat for boat race with the Commodore – in those conditions the Solo an d laser were well matched and we pulled out a huge lead over the fleet – nothing very clever in that we were just near X when one of the wind patches drifted in and we were able to get all the way up to one and then downwind to nine in the same patch while the fleet were still almost becalmed at 8. Eventually the race office shortened and we had the really odd finish of boats on different laps all being slowly pushed to a downwind blanket finish – Rob and I catching the leading handicap boats as well as the back of our own fleets. I think there were about 15 boats all converging on a very short finish line some on different laps. If you ever got stopped it was so hard to get the boat moving again before everyone filed past as Malcolm found near mark 9 on the last lap, but then he found a good wind lane to recover well at the finish.
  1. 4859    Gareth Griffiths
  2. 5046    Paul Playle
  3. 4073    Peter Cottrell
  4. 5071    Malcolm Barnes
  5. 3365    Frank Beanland
  6. 3861    Dave Clark
  7. 2042    Chris Smith
So, light weather techniques what do I do... – I stand the mast more upright – move the heel back two places from the heavy weather forward most position and tighten the forestay/slacken the shrouds to the usual just tight at opposite ends of the mast gate, then I put the chocks in front of the mast. Generally a more upright mast gives boat speed but no pointing ability – don’t really understand why but for very light winds boat speed is what you want. Get a small puff and you can go double the speed of a boat near you. Catching the puffs is everything, if you try to sheet in too hard and point high you just go slowly and the sail isn’t flexible to catch the puffs. Upwind the centreboard goes right down so the leading edge is pointing about 5 degrees forward – that matches the more upright rig which has effectively moved forwards. Then I take the sheet in hand so I can easy keep adjusting to each shift. As you know I switch to stern sheeting because that keeps the centre of the boat clear so I can sit where I want. Going upwind I sit on the thwart/traveller keeping the boat heeled to minimise the amount of the boat in the water (also help the sail shape but with fully battened sail that doesn’t make much difference). Keeping the centre of the boat open lets me easily tack without digging the stern in – very important to be able to roll tack smoothly and gently so the boat keeps moving as you take advantage of the shifts. You probably need to tack twice as often to respond to shifts so if you can be more efficient tacking that’s a lot of ground during the race. I’d be very interested if someone else wants to experiment with stern sheeting. I’m convinced in conditions like Sunday, but equally I’m sure it is slower once you get to sitting out. The tacking sequence is much as I described last week but slower and smoother – resist the temptation to turn the boat too sharply, use extra heel to help initiate the turn, sheet the main in a bit more as the turn starts (it will have been relatively loose compared to windier conditions) again helping push the back of the boat round. Slowly roll the boat upright and over to heel on the new tack – heel slightly more than you want so you can bring the boat back slightly more upright to pop the battens over on the new course. Do it right and you don’t lose any ground.
Downwind, heel to windward and again watch the wind like crazy. On what ‘should’ have been a run to mark eight I several times found myself beating as the wind shifted and got lighter . Of course if the wind goes lighter it will seem to shift forwards (effectively the boat is coasting through the air so the wind seems to come from in front) sheet in to follow the apparent shift, but remember the shift will probably go away as the next puff catches you. If you go by the lee, gybe to get the favoured side – much like tacking if you get a header upwind, gybe if the wind puts you by the lee. Solos just don’t seem to go well running by the lee – unlike lasers who can let their sail out beyond 90 degrees ours hits the shrouds and we don’t go well by the lee. The light weather gybe sequence is:
  1. Starting point, heeled to windward probably sitting on the thwart. Plate right up or almost right up (have a bit down if it is windy but faster running with no plate in very light conditions)
  2. Plate down a bit you need some stability during the gybe and so the roll at the end works.
  3. Boat is too tippy as you move round with no plate)
  4. Turn slightly more (very little if you are already by the lee) but make sure you don’t turn very much
  5. Pull the sail in to the centre passing under the boom roughly as it crosses the centre
  6. Let the sail mostly out on the new side – the end of the boom may dip into the water – don’t overdo it.
  7. Roll the boat over to the new windward side as you let the sail right out on the new gybe
  8. That should pop the battens over and drive you out of the gybe
  9. Lift the plate again and settle the boat heeling to windward

As with tacking, smoothness is the key. Don’t be aggressive with the rudder, most of the turning comes from using the heel of the boat. Again this is a very light weather gybe. In more wind, concentrate on keeping the boat flat and moving fast into the gybe rather than heeling lots to windward.