Solo News 16 Jan 2011

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Next week I will be away so I’d love a volunteer or two to write the BLOG. If you can send it to me (multiple contributors welcome) I’ll edit and post on the web site and email.

Finally some wind!
We’ve been due a decent blow for a while, winter traditionally gives us either cold and windless or very windy, but the latter has been missing recently. The senior team wisely elected to stay ashore and watch the carnage from the warmth and safety of the clubhouse so with Tony skiing, Malcolm away and Paul on duty we only had three boats on the water – Gareth in Paul’s boat, Richard and Chris.

The start was a bit port biased so I aimed to start on port at the port end – risky but with only three boats I thought it was worth a try. I managed to cross Richard and Chris and start up the beat. It is amazing how different two Solos can feel. I was struggling to make Paul’s boat feel more like mine. He has less rake but not all that much less – for some reason his mainsheet seems to need less effort to pull it in – I suspect that maybe his rig bends more easily. Mine comes in so far then you have to really pull quite hard to crank up the leech and flatten the sail. Paul’s mainsheet seems to come in quite easily although the sail seems to flatten out – maybe his mast bends more easily. I think he might have slightly fewer purchases on his kicker because it never seems to really come down as hard. (Mine has almost an excessive purchase but that makes it easy to adjust. There is a lot to be said for having the shortest possible length of the cord with the least purchase. That is, if you have a cascade system of pulleys that first part which goes from the mast heel over a pulley on the boom to a floating block should be relatively short, and made of a very high quality non stretch (Kevlar or similar). This is because that part of the system carries almost all the load so any stretch gets magnified.) Upwind I felt that the Paul’s boat dug in a bit more than mine but felt responsive. Well, I made it to the windward mark clear but not all that far ahead of Richard who had pulled out a decent gap from Chris who was struggling a bit. I think Richard finally got to use his long legs and leverage to good effect.  I think Chris found it a handful downwind and later decided to retire to the clubhouse.

Downwind  was where I really noticed the difference. In Paul’s boat you have to sit further back because it will nose dive if you don’t! Also, and I really don’t understand this one, it is very sensitive to easing the kicker – ease just a fraction and it starts to weather roll.  I normally ease quite a lot of kicker on the runs – not so much when it is blowing old boots but still a significant amount. I tried that in Paul’s boat and it was almost uncontrollable. I suspect Paul’s rig is softer and maybe his sail is a different cut. For the first downwind leg I was really struggling for control. In fact on the first (very windy) gybe I just couldn’t get the boat properly balanced going into the gybe – you know that feeling – I need to gybe soonmaybe the gust will die down a bitoh no it just got strongerI really need to gybe soon - the shore’s coming up fast. Oh well, I know I’m not set right but at least if I gybe I’ll be pointing the right way when I right the boat...  – and I was...  I had just picked the boat up and was bearing away back to the course when Richard gybed, he made the gybe but then caught a weather roll and folded into the water. Sadly for him he later broke the string on his kicker so sailed the last lap with no kicker – quite an impressive piece of sailing, but not as fast!  After that quick dip I had started to learn more what the boat was going to do – I think that’s the big lesson – if you are one step ahead of the boat all is relatively easy, but once the boat/conditions get ahead of you trouble looms. By keeping much more kicker on, and sitting much further back everything started to feel normal again and I felt that I was controlling the boat rather than being one step behind.

In the B2B races the wind really got up but I managed to get round without falling in. I think all the 200’s went in at some time, but my they were flying at times. Overall really interesting – my guess is that the deeper V in the front section on Paul’s boat which makes it very quick in light weather is also responsible for making it slightly harder to control in a blow.  However the longer I sailed in it the easier it became – I think, like most things, once you have confidence that you know what will happen next you can prepare.  I think the flatter section (and it is only a quite small difference, the Solo hull tolerances are not that great) under the mast (less rocker) on my boat makes it lift quicker.  In light weather though we know that Paul is very quick. It will be fascinating to see what Paul’s next hull is like. For those of you interested Paul has a web site and blog on his builds...
http://solo-builder.freewebspace.com/

 It will also be interesting to see if my new boat feels the same – there shouldn’t be much difference as the Boon shape hasn’t changed, but the trend seems to be to allow the mast heel to go even further forward to get even more rake. I’m not convinced for most inland sailing where efficient tacking is so critical. On the sea with long legs in a blow I can see it might help. I wish I knew what makes all the difference – probably a combination of lots of things – hull shape for sure, but also rig, foils etc.

Hope next week goes well. See in two weeks. (Alas it’s business not holiday!)  Andy Turner has bought 2052 and is joining the club – I think he hopes to come down next week – I know you will all welcome him and help him get on the water.

Gareth