A good turnout of Solos for the Summer Special (including masters and veterans) with two full length races and the age adjusted handicaps. As the ‘senior fleet’ we are usually well represented in the vets! For those of you who aren’t familiar with this event we take the combined helm and crew age (double the helm for single-handers) and adjust the handicap up by 2 points for each year over 100, and down by three for each year under 100. There was some confusion about the results as the sheet describing this was out in the committee boat when Peter Curtis was working things out, but I’ll stick to the Solos. We had eight boats on the line in a decent breeze (Dave Clark opted for the B sail). With a mass start (and 37 boats on the line) a good first beat could make a massive difference. Gareth got away well keeping clear air up the first beat from the ‘faster’ boats to pull away from rest of the solo fleet. Quentin showed that he’s quickly coming to grips with a bit more wind established a safe second in the Solo fleet from Chris.
On Tuesday evening it was blowing quite hard so I was able to spend the evening coaching Andy on how to sail the solo in more wind. For those fairly new I’ll summarize what we covered.
· You have to get comfortable sitting out – that doesn’t mean you have to lean right back all the time, but it does mean you have to get your bottom over the edge of the boat – sit tall by all means – we can’t all do 100 sit ups and chest curls – but do get you weight as far out as is comfortable, then if you have the energy lean back in the gusts. That means that the angles start to work for you – the tiller extension is almost at right angles to the tiller so control is easy, you can pull the mainsheet more easily and use the cleat (or not if you prefer) but you can get full armfuls of rope and pull hard. Don’t sit on the inside of the side-tank!
· You do have to sheet in quite hard – it’s very easy to ease sheets in a gust and not pull it back in again. You end up fine reaching rather than beating.
· You have to luff slightly in a gust. As far as I’m concerned the primary way to react to a gust is to feather upwind. I showed Andy how it is possible to go upwind in blow with the main cleated – it isn’t the fastest but it is very possible. It is well worth practicing this if currently your only technique is playing the sheet. Best is a combination, but I for small shifts and gusts I play the tiller and only play the sheet in the really big gusts. By luffing in the gusts you change the angle of the sail just as effectively as easing the sheet, but you also make ground to windward. To start with you will probably tend to overcorrect – it’s a bit like correcting a skid in a car – early small corrections rather than late panic moves. You have to start luffing as you feel the extra power come onto the rig not once the heel has become excessive. The next four points all help this. (This technique applies to Solos, the bias between tiller and sheet swaps in high performance boats that can plane to windward)
· EYES OUT OF THE BOAT. Keep looking ahead and upwind to see when the next gust is coming (or in lighter winds where the next patch of wind is). Scan the sail to make sure you are still as close to the wind as you should be, but you shouldn’t be taken by surprise as a gust hits.
· Keep the boat FLAT – if you wait till you are heeling you can’t steer, the boat slows down and you are forced to make a big correction.
· Lift some plate so it is angling back slightly –especially if the boat feels hard to steer, it re-balances the boat for stronger winds.
· You can de-power the main by adding LOTS of Cunningham. Andy only had 2:1 purchase and that isn’t enough.
· Red tell-tales don’t show as well through conventional sailcloth – use a dark colour.
· Wind indicators on the front of a mast are useless running – tape on the shrouds are good but they will show you by the lee when you aren’t really because the wind gets deflected by the main. Masthead gives true wind in a run.
If we have suitable conditions on Tuesdays and I’m not needed to instruct beginners I plan to switch more to a coaching mode as the season progresses. If there are any particular aspect you would like to practice or discuss, let me know.
This Sunday is the Minima (Kingston) Open Meeting is anyone is interested, next week is W Oxford (Sat) and Frensham Pond (Sun). I probably won’t do all of them but I plan to do some. After that it is OUR Open Meeting –let’s have as many boats as we can on the water for our own meeting on Sat 9 July.