Solo News 29 July 2012

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After missing a weekend and a Wed it was nice to be back in the boat again – I was definitely feeling withdrawal symptoms. Sunday gave us a gentle breeze and a decent turnout (given lots of people now on holiday or watching the Olympics).  We decided to shorten the pursuit to 60 minutes and get the Back to Back races in a soon as we could so that we could all watch the medal races for the Star and Finn.

 

The wind started very light – with the pursuit rounding to minute intervals Chris in the Streaker had a minute start on us but the wind played fickle and he had barely cleared the line. In fact it looked as if it might be a fast boat benefit as by the first mark the N12 had overtaken all of us and there was an RS200 on our heels. However in light winds strange things can happen and one thing Solos do well is to ghost along in faint breezes.  Down the second leg (which also became a beat) I had a close dual with the N12 sometimes getting ahead, sometimes behind, to end right on his tail, but strangely we both pulled away from the supposedly faster boats who started the leg just behind.  This continued for the rest of the pursuit with the N12 slowly eking out a lead but the leading Solos staying clear of the chasing pack.

 

Extracted Solo results

1.       Gareth

2.       Paul

3.       Peter C

4.       Mervyn

5.       Frank

6.       CJ

 

In those very light conditions I find I have to stand up because it’s the only way I can get my weight in the right place upwind. I can’t get forward enough and to leeward enough any other way.  I straddle the thwart with both feet on the leeward side and the mainsheet either from the last boom pulley (really drifting conditions) or from the pulley of the main jammer (but not through the cleat). I’m effectively pulling the mainsheet vertically so taking it through the jammer doesn’t run freely enough.  On the rig I take off quite a lot of rake bringing the mast heel back one hole and then compensating for that by tightening forestay and slackening shrouds, outhaul moderately tight (fairly flat sail so it doesn’t stall too easily) slack Cunningham, very gentle kicker and traveller a couple of inches down (not a long way out, just a little avoids the temptation to over-sheet). Upwind the plate goes right down so the leading edge is angled forwards. (These are the only condition I have the plate like this because taking the rake off has effectively moved the rig forwards) The goal is boat-speed – I don’t care about pointing until I can get speed. If a puff comes I ease sheets, let the boat accelerate and only then slowly sheet in and luff back to fully close hauled. Boom is about over the outside edge of the transom/side tanks, someone beyond.  Watching the wind and tell tales almost all the time and trimming the sail to catch each tiny puff (but keeping an eye out for the bigger picture of where the next puff is coming from or if the wind in filling in on one side of the course). If the wind comes up to starting to sit out I bring the plate more vertical, increase sheet tension and a touch more kicker and start to point a bit higher.

 

For those watching Ben Ainslie sail downwind (or the 470’s) remember we do NOT have the free pumping rule! The Finn class now allows unlimited pumping downwind in over 10 knots of wind with a similar (not sure of the wind speed) rule in the 470s. We remain bound by the standard rule 42.  Watching the lasers they do make ONE pump to INITIATE surfing on a wave but only one, but on the sea you get lots of waves. Fascinating for inland sailors to watch the wave sailing techniques and just how broad they go – often sailing well by the lee to stay on a wave a few seconds longer. We don’t get waves that big on the barn but on windy days downwind it still pays to look at the waves and ease the boat through gaps. Similarly catching the stern wave of a faster boat can give you a great tow along a leg allowing you to surf with them after they overtake you.

 

Last news I mentioned the quote “Cross ‘em if you can, don’t let them cross you”. In the second Back to Back race last Sunday this again showed its value.  Off the start I was at the outside end going left with Dave Baldwin’s Vareo just above me.  The wind had picked up to just nicely sitting on the side deck but still slightly underpowered. I couldn’t foot away from Dave and I couldn’t get up into his lee bow.  After a while I was getting worried that we were going too far left so I tacked behind him to close with the fleet a bit. A couple of tacks later and I’d obviously lost out – now coming back on starboard I would have been twenty yards behind and right in the pack. On the grounds of ‘don’t let them cross you’ I figured I was now on the less favoured tack and so tacked well to leeward but marginally ahead (probably 30 yards to leeward but only one or two lengths ahead so well behind in real terms).  I continued going right (port tack) waiting for the wind to shift back which it duly did allowing me to then tack onto starboard and cross the fleet. If I hadn’t tacked to leeward (don’t let ‘em cross you) I would have passed behind and consolidated my loss. By getting back on the lifted tack (that’s why they would have crossed me) I was able to wait for the next header and then I could cross them.  It’s a simple adage that tries to get you in phase with the wind shifts. If you are on a lift and can cross the fleet do it to get between them and the next mark.  If you can’t, tack before them (looks like they were lifted) to get back in phase with the shifts and with luck the next shift will be the other way and you can cross. The only time this doesn’t work is if there is a wind bend or progressive shift rather than the wind varying to and fro round a basic direction. Inland we generally have shifts, on the sea approaching land (or where there are tides) apparent wind bends are much more common.  We tack a lot more inland than they do on the sea which is why I keep saying ‘practice tacking’.

 

Wed series is almost over – last week next week – and summer has barely started (weather-wise).  Let’s hope for an Indian summer.

 

See you soon

 

Gareth

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