Oh my goodness it’s Friday and I haven’t sent out the news...
Where to start – another windy week though not quite as much as the week before. Although we only had five boats on the water we could easily have had 10 if the weather had been suitable – hopefully those of us who ventured out gave enough entertainment to the senior team in the clubhouse.
From what I remember mostly it was in slightly overpowered mode going up to well overpowered. That means I couldn’t just sheet in where I would in force 2 and sit out with full sails. So, how do i reduce the power or re-balance my sitting out to the power in the rig. Initially of course I hike a bit harder, get my backside an extra inch or two outside the edge of the boat but brute force only goes so far. Then I ease a bit of traveller, add Cunningham, and sheet in harder. Seems counter-intuitive to sheet in harder when over powered but what we’re doing is easing the sail out with traveller but pulling down harder with sheet tension. You can use the kicker to pull down but that tends to bend the mast low down compared to sheet tension (and Cunningham) which pull more on the top of the mast (because the sheet is vertical compared to kicker which pulls into the boom). I have the kicker just tight so that it holds the boom when I have to briefly ease sheet in a gust. What we are doing is flattening the sail (also use more outhaul/inhaul to flatten the bottom of the sail) and freeing the leech – with the induced mast bend the top of the sail can twist a bit easing the upper part which has most leverage to tip you over. Some people try to get the twist by using less kicker and sheet to allow the twist, but that misses out the flatten the sail part and so IMO is not as good. Flattening the sail reduces the power a bit, freeing the leech reduces the power from the top of the sail more than the bottom to have less knock-down.
On Sunday though there were patches of less strong wind – important to keep the boat moving in these – it is very easy to just relax and not power up again. In a lull the first thing I do is ease the kicker a bit, then ease the mainsheet tension a bit and pull the traveller back up. Maybe fiddle with Cunningham but you’ve only got two hands! Really concentrate on keeping the boat moving through the lulls. If I get a big gust first step is ease sheet quickly to keep the boat flat, then work up the edge of the wind – luff a bit to spill a fraction of wind and sheet back in, if still overpowered think about de-powering more – traveller/Cunningham etc. – but KEEP THE BOAT FLAT and driving. Don’t dump so much sheet that you over correct, combine a small luff with a small ease and back in for the sheet. Keep the boat flat, then optimise the sail if the changed conditions persist.
I saw Paul and Ben having a great tussle – including some aggressive (but totally legal) use of the rules on the way into mark 9 by Paul making sure he stayed ahead of Andy. Having secured his place though he forget that F was the next mark... All good fun and both came off the water smiling from a good close race. That’s what I like to see.
For those new to sailing in a lot of wind tacking can be a big problem. You can ONLY tack if the boat is going fast enough to glide past head to wind and complete the turn. If you don’t have enough speed before the tack you don’t make it past head to wind and the boat comes back on the same tack. You MUST SIT OUT (hike) get speed on and then fully commit to the tack – make sure the boat gets right round onto the new tack. If you don’t the wind will slow the boat to a stop as you go head to wind and you won’t get round.
If you fail to tack you can find yourself ‘in irons’ meaning the sail is not drawing and if you try to pull it in the boat just heads up a bit and the sail flaps and you can’t get going and you can’t tack. You try rowing the tiller to make the boat bear away but every time you try to start moving again the boat just luffs up and stops. I think this is what happened to Andy before the start – I was a bit busy with the race so didn’t have to help enough on the water or see if there was a mechanical problem.
If in irons here’s what to do to get going. LIFT QUITE A LOT OF CENTREBOARD – doesn’t matter if you lift a lot, but leave just a bit down so you can still steer. Aim for about ¼ down to start with. Let the sail out. Heel the boat to windward – absolutely stop the boat heeling to leeward. With the plate up the boat will naturally slip sideways with the rudder acting more than the centreboard so the boat will turn itself cross wind. It can help to sit a bit further back (helps the wind blow the bow downwind). You have to get the boat properly side on to the wind before you try to get going again.
Once you have got the boat crosswind (because you have stopped trying to tack) SIT OUT (hike as hard as you are comfortable with but do get you bottom over the edge of the boat) and Sheet in QUICKLY. The boat will accelerate and the rudder will start to get water flowing past it so you can steer. Once you are moving well pull the board down to about ½ down (do this quickly easing sheet quick pull on the board and sit out again sheeting in so you keep the boat moving). When you are going fast gradually sheet in turning towards the wind hiking as hard as you are comfortable with - you should be using the toe straps or plate capping a bit with your bottom over the edge of the boat . When you get to sitting out and slightly upwind of abeam – don‘t have to get all the way to close hauled – smoothly push the tiller away and let the boat tack all the way through head to wind and well past. You can ease the sheet as the boat turns but do not ease sheet first or the boat will stop before you get round. Turning will spill wind – the ease of the sheets is to stop the sail filling too soon on the NEW tack. The danger is that you don’t get speed on quick enough on the new tack so you have to repeat the process on the new tack. You MUST get moving again quickly on the new tack, but at worst if you get the boat right round you can repeat the process to get moving on the new tack. With practice you will find it easy to get sitting out and power back on after the tack before the boat stops and the rudder becomes ineffective. The rudder only works if the boat is moving forwards (or with reverse effect if moving backwards). If you let the boat heel that exacerbates the turning effect because the sail is pushing the boat from a few feet to leeward. That twists the boat towards the wind. You have to sit out before (as) you sheet in so the boat stays flat. Let it heel and the boat will spin back head to wind before you have enough speed to hold it with the rudder.
In very strong winds do NOT put the plate right down. It just encourages the boat to pivot round the plate and get stuck. For the technically minded the problem is that when you start with the sail flapping and pull it in the first part that starts to work is the very back of the sail so you have a force pushing mostly sideway on the back of the boom. All that does is try to spin the boat round (back to head to wind). By lifting the centreboard you get two effects – less sideways resistance from the centreboard compared to the rudder (that’s why to get out of irons you lift a lot) but also the board angles back so when you are moving the side force from the centreboard is a bit further back which helps general steering is strong winds when the front of the sail might be ‘spilling wind’ – flapping at the front while the back continues to work. The centre of effort (net force from the sail) is further back so you need to make the resistance from the boards also move back to stop a turning effect.
I recommend just reaching to and fro to start with getting used to the feel of the boat in the strong winds, then starting to beat with the plate only two thirds down sloping well back if you look in the water. If you don’t have marks on the board or the case I suggest putting some marker pen lines on one or the other so you have reference points.
That brings me to another topic – repeatable settings. If the boat is going well how do you make sure you set it the same way next time! You need reference marks – they can be just things like noticing where a pulley sits or they can be marker pen lines on centreboard or mainsheet etc. If you don’t know exactly where something was it is very hard to tune and reproduce. Recently I realised that I didn’t have good enough reference points for my kicker so I used a marker pen on the fixed parts of the rope. Now I can see where the floating pulley sits compared to the fixed mark. Much easier to check and reproduce setting. You should have reference points or scales for every control – many can be just knowing where a pulley sits, but marker pen lines make it easier!
Enough rambling, the forecast for Sunday is a bit lighter so the seniors should be able to get some exercise! I’ve put the overall results up now (they are done with o-league) so a few good results and you can zoom up the table.