Photo Credit to Kaitlyn Lucey
Photo Credit to Kaitlyn Lucey
Thanks to Jim Klein for providing a seamless solo RC experience.
Third Place Write Up (Jim Klein) 11/22/2020
Thank you Tom Hutton doing the RC for us on this first week of our frostbite series. Despite being alone in the RC boat you managed to give us Olympic, WL and Triangle races to keep things interesting, as well as maintaining a square start line.
My boat was set up the following way:
Vang: On fairly tight upwind, but not so tight that I had to worry about hitting my head on the boom during tacks. Offwind pretty far off, but always cleated down. You don’t want to have the vang completely loose or else the whole sail structure is loose, moves around too much, and generally sucks up energy of the boat rocking back and forth. Rather, you want that rocking energy to be translated to forward motion. Think rigidity in the whole boat/mast/sail structure.
Outhaul: About 4” off the boom at mid point.
Cunningham: Off and completely loose.
Mainsheet: Two blocked upwind during the windier times, else about 5” between the aft blocks.
Starts: No one side was favored enough to attempt starting on that particular side. I felt it was more important just to have good speed at the gun. I would often try to start on port and in the last 20 seconds or so, look for a hole in the fleet so I could tack and be on starboard tack at the gun. But this did not always work out so well; in one race, I could not find any hole and had to let the entire fleet cross the line before I squeezed in finally at the boat end. Interestingly, that was the one race where I went out way to the right (on port tack) and somehow got some favorable wind so that I could pass just about the whole fleet by the windward mark. That was more luck than planning. The first 15 seconds after the gun are critical for you to get out in front as much as you can. This is no time to be playing with sail controls, but rather to be focused completely on getting ahead of those around you.
Upwind: In the first several races I had a helmet on (and covid mask), and it was preventing me from feeling the wind shifts. Then I took all those off and did better because I could feel the wind better with my head and face. I would tack pretty often when I detected a wind shift. I tried to be careful never to let the mast come beyond 90 degrees to the water. That meant moving around a lot on the boat.
Downwind: I tried to keep air flowing over my sail, even if that meant sailing in more of an “S” shape path rather than a straight line to the mark. That means, when the wind dies off, try to head up a bit from a run to a broad reach, and focus on keeping the air attached to your sail and telltales flying back. Then if the wind would come back in strength, I would again go back to a dead run. In some cases, it was very advantageous to sail by the lee. I also tried as much as possible to get my weight all the way forward and to heel the boat so the sail sticks up in the air as much as possible.
Writeup to Come
– boom Vang tension upwind. A number of folks are sailing with loose Vang tension upwind. Even when it is relatively light air I suggest you keep at least a snug Vang. In really light air I actually put on a good bit of Vang to induce bend in the mast to flatten the sail. As the wind builds from around 4-6 knots I I will loosen it a bit but the Vang will never have slack in it. As the winds builds beyond that I will continually add more Vang to flatten the sail.
– traveler block A number of folks were sailing upwind with their traveler block too far inboard. Often that is a sign that your traveler line is too loose. If I see my traveler block is not all the way outboard I will ease my sail a few inches to encourage it to get further out before trimming it right back in.
– boom angle downwind. Sailing by the Lee is really fast in a laser, but a lot of people sail with their boom too far out. Remember that your leech falls off far beyond your boom angle, so if your boom is eased beyond 90 degrees, let’s say it’s hypothetically 110 degrees, your leach is probably somewhere around 125 degrees. In light air having the boom beyond 90 is okay, but not way beyond (unless you are purposely trying to move across the wind for a tactical situation). As the wind builds, you want to bring the main back in to 90 degrees and when it is windy, in a lot more than that. Did you flip (or almost flip) recently when a gust came down the course from behind? That could be a clue that you are sailing with the main too far out. It is hard to tell when your main is at 90 degrees, but what I find helpful is a mark or piece of tape on my mainsheet that tells me when the boom is at 90. I use that as a reference to adjust from. The other critical adjustment downwind is Vang tension. A good way to tell if you have your Vang tension right downwind is to watch the leach of your sail. You want a lively leach, meaning it should bounce a bit when you hit waves or when you get puffs. If it is too rigid you have to much vang. If it is falling off to leeward and never bouncing back, you have it too loose.
– turning the boat around the weather mark. Getting quickly away from the weather mark is a big help when you are next to other boats. Many people lean in as they come to the mark to ease their Vang, outhaul, and Cunningham. The trouble is that leaning in causes the boat to heal to leeward, which makes the boat want to head up not down. To compensate, most people will use their rudder to steer the boat down, which creates huge amounts of drag (slow). A better approach is to ease your control lines before getting to the mark (Vang is most important). As you get to the mark hike out and lean back, which will shift the center of lateral resistance and cause your boat to turn sharply downwind. Due this as you ease your sheet and you will escape quickly from the mark.
The forecast and the actual weather didn’t line up at all which makes me leery. The weather called for light winds from the west switching to stronger from the south. When I got to the marina winds were light and shifty but coming from the north by the time we got on the water. The first two races were in the light and shifty stuff with a very strong down river current. RC wisely got the races off without worrying about a perfect course. For the first races I was focused on managing current rather than wind and this seemed to help some. I would head offset to the mark to counteract the current. In the very light wind, when it’s too light for tell-tails and wind vanes, I use a wet finger to determine where the wind is coming from. Then I setup the sail so it looks correct relative to where I think the wind is coming from. I steer to try to make sure I’m not pinching, as speed takes a while to build and there isn’t enough wind to show pinching in the sail. After the second race the wind died completely and it looked like wind would fill from the south. As the wind came in RC did a quick course reset and we got in 3 more races with a nice breeze. The current was still strong and was now pushing boats over the line. I was OCS in the last two races, and I managed to force Nich with me in the last race. Factoring in the current would have helped me here. In the medium breeze I’m keeping the boat very flat and looking for clear air on the favored tack. I focus on pointing and keeping my speed up. I did manage to factor in current for the windward mark layline and picked up a few boats the overstood. Overall it was a nice and sunny day, great to be out on the water. We also had Richie come out for the first time so welcome to him. Thanks again to John and Mike for doing RC!