Solo News 9 Jan 2011

 

Sorry we’re a bit late this week... too much happening at home!

 

Results from Sunday:

 

Race 1

Gareth

Malcolm

Tony

Paul

Mike L

Martin

Richard

Dave C

 

Race 2

Gareth

Tony

Malcolm

Paul

Mike L

 

Race 3

Gareth

Tony

Malcolm

Paul

 

Competition is definitely getting tougher! That’s two weeks in a row where in the class race the lead has changed on the last beat.  I could also see several close races down the fleet.

 

So, let’s talk about tactics on the beat when you are in front...

It is always a challenge – do you go the way you think is best, or do you cover the boat behind. Cover too hard and you will pull him closer to you becasue you will be tacking when he wants not when you want.  We need to consider several things. Do we tack as well as the boat behind us – if he tacks better than we do then we must avoid a tacking duel. If we tack better than he does then we can be confident that we can keep him behind even if that is quite close.  Next we have to think beyond the beat itself – are we confident that if we are ahead at te end of the beat we will still be ahead downwind.  If we believe we are gaining upwind, but losing downwind we can’t afford to cover too tightly. If we are worried that the boat behind is slightly quicker upwind but we have the edge downwind then we can definitely cover hard because we are confident downwind.  What a lot to think about...

 

So – how do we cover. The basic cover is to stay between the mark and the boat behind. That means he has to sail through the wind blocked by your sails to pass you, and that just doesn’t happen.  Sticking slavishly to this means that you tack when he tacks. That tends to slow you down because you are no longer tacking the shifts correctly, so we now consider ‘loose cover’ – that means aiming to keep between him and the mark, but still take advantage of shifts – just bias your beat to the same side – avoid extremes so basically go the same side as the boat behind but still play the shifts where appropriate.  Finally we have the problem when there are two boats behind who look like going in opposite directions. This is where ‘herding’ comes into play.  The trick is to watch the third place to see which way he goes and then try to force the boat in second to go the same way. You do this by covering hard – block his wind if he goes the opposite way, but allow him clear to leeward – alongside you but several lengths to leeward – if he goes the right way.  If he tacks to the wrong side you tack hard on his wind. If he tacks the way you want him to go don’t block his wind, just follow slightly later so you are still covering for major bias on one side of the beat but you aren’t blocking him. 

 

Putting that in the context of Sunday’s first race Malcom got the end of the first beat almost perfect and overtook Gareth establishing about a 50 yard lead. Downwind Gareth and Tony crept back a bit, but by the leeward mark Malcolm was still definitely clear. He rounded up at 2 (beat to 8) but didn’t tack. Gareth came in tacked almost immediately (tried to round up efficiently and then smoothly straight into a tack). Tony came round behind Gareth and followed – he rounded up for a couple of lengths to get clear wind and followed Gareth.  Meanwhile Malcolm continued on port heading up the bank.   It turns out there was more wind in the middle (there often is) so when Gareth tacked on a slight header after a couple of minutes he was able to clear Malcolm who had less wind and a slightly unfavourable direction.  What should Malcolm have done?

 

In a steady wind the general rule is to sail for half the distance you lead by, then tack.  Then you watch the next boat as it rounds. If she does not tack, you tack back (OK you did two extra tacks, so you have to tack reasonably well). You are now between them and the mark on the same tack, ahead and to windward, in a good covering position.  You can alter the exact tack position slightly if you get any good shifts. You start on the tack you think is correct, but then you look for a slight header to cover (perhaps taking a smaller shift than you would normally tack on). If you don’t get the header you still tack to cover before the second boat reached the mark. If you are more certain that you are going the right way you can wait until they round to see if they come the same way – if they tack then you must tack. If you were right, you already have a gained on them and you consolidate the gain. If you were wrong you will at least avoid being overtaken but you are taking a slight risk in not covering.  If you don’t tack at all and they go the other way you either move a lot further ahead or they overtake you. In a handicap or pursuit race maybe you trust your judgement because you are racing all the other boats – in a fleet race your goal is to finish ahead of the other Solos – it’s just as good to be one length ahead as one hundred  lengths ahead.

 

I’ll be giving you all a chance this week as I won’t be in my boat. If anyone is interested my boat will go on the market at the end of the month! (New boat due in April).

 

Regards

 

Gareth

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