Why is that man getting a new boat... he’s quite quick enough in the one he has, but it will be great to see another new boat in our fleet in due course - especially as it looks as if the current boat will stay in the fleet.
Another great turnout with eleven boats on the line – with a slightly unusual wind direction. We aren’t so used to northerly. I had checked the forecast which suggested the wind would go more NE towards midday rather than the way it seemed to be shifting more NW. I’d done a trial beat and there seemed to be a decent route into the windward mark from the right, and I was worried that going left might put you into the lee of the clubhouse. Off the start it looked very pin (outer end) headed on starboard, so I aimed to start on port (port end on port) reckoning that the next shift would be the other way. I ducked Mark who had the pin end well controlled but was able to cross the rest of the fleet.
Now it was a case of shifts v progressive changes or wind bends. I tried to work the shifts to the right, Mark went a long way left. Well, only one would be best. If it turned out that the wind was progressively going left (or there was a steady wind bend and he was heading towards the inside of the bend) Mark would gain. If the wind shifted back I would gain. This time Mark got an absolute flyer. He had the best start and fairly aggressively chose the best side of the beat to have a substantial lead by the windward mark. My side of the course looked good initially and I crossed ahead of the rest of the fleet a couple of times, but it ended up horrible! On the final approach to the mark I was being headed so Paul and Roy coming in from further left were being freed and had overtaken me. It is amazing how much you can lose in the last 100 yards of a beat by being on the wrong shift. Down the reaches I made a small gain and was able to just overlap Paul at the leeward mark but I made a bad tack (my in-haul wasn’t cleated on the far side so I decided to tack and fix but I rushed it and didn’t make a good tack). Again I tried to work the shifts but they were too short to pay and I lost further ground again on the right side. This lap Mervyn had taken the far left side flyer (and none of us seemed to be watching/realising) so he came in ahead of Paul and Roy – after two laps of getting it wrong I was finally starting to believe that the left side did pay!
Downwind I managed to overlap Roy and this time decided that it clearly did pay to go left and to a degree ignore the shifts just concentrating on boat speed. Now (finally) I was going the right way and not messing myself up by trying to tack short lived fluctuations. By the time I came into ‘F’ (on port this time) I had pulled through and established a gap from the Paul/Roy/Mervyn battle – of course Mark was still over the horizon fighting the middle of the laser pack and wisely playing it safe up the beats not hitting any extremes. Funnily enough I now remember a north wind last year when I lost ground until I stopped trying to tack brief changes and just concentrated on sailing.
Meanwhile Paul, Mervyn and Roy continued to have a great tussle finally finishing in that order but with less than 30 seconds between them.
So, what lessons to learn... don’t believe the forecast too literally! If the shifts are very short even with good tacks you lose more than you gain. If there is a general wind bend or progressive shift. that tends to outweigh short term gains from shifts. In hindsight think in practice there was a fairly consistent wind bend which I hadn’t spotted before the start.
Setup-wise in those conditions we’re between the light weather and heavy so we are looking for power from the sail. We want the maximum drive and there is enough wind to keep a good airflow with the boom is sheeted in further than in any other condition. In very light we have the sail flat but very light sheet tension to keep airflow. In heavy weather we’re pulling Cunningham on and kicker on to bend the mast and hold the boom down but easing traveller or sheet to dump power and keep flat. In these middle conditions we’re looking for power from the sail. We’re also looking to point fairly high because it is now starting to be hard to make the boat a lot faster – contrast that with very light wind when all our efforts are on boat speed because you can double your speed in a gust. For me in middle conditions that’s traveller still just 2” down but now starting to add a bit more mainsheet tension bringing the boom almost to the inside of the tanks rather than over the corner of the transom.. No real tension on the Cunningham yet (just taking any creases out), inhaul tight (if you just have the tack pinned or tied tight to the mast that’s fine), outhaul not quite as tight as light weather. Then concentrate on keeping flat and sail neither lifting nor stalling following the shifts. Weight well forward, I straddle the thwart until I’m on the side tank then as I start to hike I am just behind (right against) the thwart. Downwind, running I sit on the thwart with at least one leg in front, kicker very slack running until the wind comes up enough to start triggering instability. Reaching if we can start to plane I’m behind the thwart, straddling if not hiking.
So, on to the B2B races. Here CJ was a tad mean on the start line length. It was quite crowded on the line. With faster boats around us keeping a line of clear air is quite tricky but I found a nice lane slightly right (first mark now X with a much shorter beat) and had a good clean run in to the mark. Mark had gone slightly left also going well coming in just in front of me but barely making the mark. I came in fast behind him and stayed high. Mark went low, which in a class race would probably have been best, but not in a B2B handicap race. I was able to use the stern waves of the RS200’s and a laser or two just in front of us so I was able to keep the boat travelling much faster and pulled quickly past Mark and stayed with the ‘fast boats’. In the B2B races if you get a good start it is often frustrating when the fast boats roll over you despite your good start, but downwind you can get a really good tow from the waves if you are still close to them at the windward mark. Sit a bit further forward and try to ‘keep the boat going downhill’ – that means watching the waves and trying to keep the boat being pushed by the wave but not burying in the wave in front. If you look like burying steer to slide along the wave rather than slowing down, if you get a big gust try to hop onto the next wave. You will need to sheet in as the boat accelerates on the wave because the apparent wind changes due to the faster forward motion. If you lose one wave ease sheets to stop the sail stalling as the boat slows, and try to drive hard onto the following wave. One pump to catch a wave is legal. It’s often possible to stay on a faster boat’s wake the whole way down a leg. By the way, if you sail on the sea the technique is similar, working the waves to surf makes a massive difference to downwind speed (we don’t have the unlimited pumping that the Finn class does, just one per wave to initiate planing or surfing allowed – the key is word here is initiate you mustn’t pump to sustain surfing).
Results are on the web – in the Personal series this week Division 1 scored heavily with Mervyn, Roy and Peter filling the podium. Maybe if Mark hadn’t been affected by the lasers he could have stretched a bit more and claimed the personal as well, but equally I’m sure the fight between Paul, Mervyn and Roy must have slowed them down a bit.
Sunday looks like another sailing day for everyone – light winds again (if you believe the forecast mid-week can tell the weekend correctly).