I seem to be writing these later in the week so although the subject reflects Sundays date the contents – other than of course containing timeless pearls of wisdom – usually cover Sunday and Wed. – I’d love someone to write about Saturdays when I’m not usually there…
Sunday was a welcome return to some wind – generally the morning was force 3 but with a few gusts that were quite a bit stronger. For the Back to back races the wind increased significantly so that the final reach was a real screamer – fully hiked sitting a couple of feet back from usual – one foot in the back toe straps – almost being lifted off the deck by the spray. Fantastic!
Heavy weather setup…
Mast heel right forwards, forestay off another notch (beyond just tight at the back of the gate) if I expect to be overpowered (this lets the mast bend more easily and rake back a bit more). Effectively by moving the mast heel forwards with a fixed gate (some people just have it there all the time) I’m setting up for more rake that I use in light weather. Seems odd that moving the heel forwards moves the sail back but the gate is fixed so the mast above deck moves back.
Then, going upwind if I am overpowered (that means I’m fully hiked – backside well over the side if the boat) – traveller out a few inches, Cunningham on – I was showing Dave Clark on Tuesday just how much Cunningham I pull on – he was surprised at how hard I pulled, and I suspect that on the water I would pull harder - and how that opens up the top of the sail. Pretty much you can use the Cunningham as a power control, if overpowered and traveller already down a bit pull more Cunningham. What it does by pulling hard down on the front of the sail is to bend the mast – because the mast is tapered it bends more at the top which lets the top of the sail flatten more and lets the lets the leech fall away a bit (effectively starting to spill wind first from the top of sail). Some people sail with slacker kicker which lets the top of the sail fall off, but only if you don’t sheet in hard. In my opinion, having the sheet very tight (and then I take up the slack in the kicker so that if I have to spill wind the sail shape stay the same) but with lots of Cunningham gives a smoother flatter sail shape that is more efficient.
Sailing technique is to ‘trim for the lulls’ so we have maximum power that we can use, but then in the gusts luff a shade closer to the wind to spill a little from the front of the sail. Very important to lift the plate a bit – in really windy (force 5+) I only have about ¾ plate. The boat is going faster so the plate is more efficient, and critically lifting a centreboard (doesn’t work in dagger board classes) swings it back so the extra rake and partly spilled main (both of which mean the force from the sail is further back) is re-balanced. If you feel as if you are fighting the boat to keep it straight pulling hard on the tiller there is one of two things wrong. Either you are heeling too much – keep the boat flatter – or you need to lift some plate to re-balance the rig. Lifting the plate can make a huge difference in heavy weather to the feel of the boat.
Lunchtime on Sunday I showed Peter Renn how I can sail upwind even in windy shift conditions with the main jammed just by ‘luffing up the edge’ That means every time the wind heels the boat a bit more I luff up closer to the wind to spill a fraction from the main, when it lulls a bit I bear away to full fill the sail again. It is critical to do this quickly but with small corrections. Never let the boat heel, catch it just as it starts to heel and push it up a bit. You don’t wait till the boat comes flat before straightening out. You push up a fraction and check then a fraction more if needed. Very easy to overcorrect to start with – the technique needs practice – worth trying when you are not racing. (Of course if a really bug gust hits you may still need to ease the sheet briefly as you point up). I don’t advocate ONLY luffing up the edge, but it is a key skill to use in combination with playing the sheet in the big gusts.
Dave commented to me that he’s going much better when there is some wind because he keeps the boat flatter as a gust hits him – that’s critical – if the boat heels you’ll be hauling on the tiller to keep straight and putting the brakes on. The boat goes slowly and slips sideways a lot when heeled (the centreboard doesn’t work well when heeled and as the boat slows down it also doesn’t work as well). If you keep the boat flat by a combination of luffing up the edge and playing the sheet you can get the best of both worlds by going fast and high. Just playing the sheet tends to go fast but low. Just luffing the edge goes high but slow. A combination does both. It takes a lot of practice!
3. Dave Clark
4. Peter Halliday
5. Peter Renn
What a contrast on Wed – glorious sunshine but very little wind. Setting everything up again for light weather. Tightened the forestay a couple notches, slacked the shrouds a notch. Very gentle with the sheet tension and watch the water really hard for darker patches of wind. Only three Solos but great if rather slow motion racing. For the first lap I had to keep fighting off Tom who seemed to catch me downwind while I gained slightly on the reach with the beat fairly even. Paul was never very far behind and on the final lap Paul caught up Tom so I was able to slip away while they had their own race with no more than a length or so between for the best part of a (very slow) lap. On the last downwind leg Paul slipped to leeward of Tom and crept ahead on the angle of the finish by about two feet. (One second on the clock). Tom was trapped, both were on starboard with Paul to leeward so no opportunity to gybe off and the gusts (well faint zephyrs) seems to accelerate Paul marginally more than Tom. Jim’s write-up covers it pretty well.
See you Sunday