Thanks to Tom Hutton who gave up a day of sailing on a sunny day to give us the opportunity to race on the last day the frostbite season. The NNW to NNE light to nearly non-existent breeze and a strong ebb tide made for challenging starts and windward legs on the four one lap and one two lap races.
Today we had light turnout and light shifty wind. For those that chose not to come, I think it was the wrong decision. It was a super nice day with temps around 50 and abundent sunshine. The wind ended up coming from every direction and was mostly between 1 and 5. Jim and Melissa did an excellent job running the races and changed the course 3 times to try and account for the shifts. It ended up playing out that 3 of the 5 races were reaching races. The other two started of with the wind coming from the windward mark but shifting during the race. I found with the light air, it was helpful to sit on top of the dagger board most of the day. Also starting well was helpful. While my position was fine for the starts, the people that came to the line with speed tended to be the ones in front. Something that is important to remember the when the start line is parallel to the wind with the pin to windward is that starting at the pin can get you pinched out by the leeward boats that can head you up.
The race committee (thanks Nabeel and Francisco) smartly kept the marks in place for the second race but renamed the marks from leeward to windward, and windward to leeward, so you might call that a shifty day. In the second race i started on port on the right end of the line while the fleet sailed on starboard on the left end of the line, and in a very light wind once around the course, maintained a lead and won. On such a light shifty day the key for me to keeping the boat moving was watching the windward boats for indications of possible shifts, and sometimes powering up by bearing off on short term headers instead of tacking.
Today the wind was rather shifty and it picked up and died down a lot. For me it was pretty challenging to tack in the wind shifts as the occurred mostly in the lighter wind. I feel that the most important aspect to keep in mind on a day like today would be to have clean air to keep your speed. Before going out I thought there was going to be a lot of wind, but most of it died down before the first race. I placed third in the first few races, which I think is mainly because I tacked out of dirty wind and I was able to somewhat control the wind shifts. In the last race however, and I’m pretty sure many can relate, the wind was way to light and I had difficulties getting off the start line. I can’t recall what sides were favored in which races, because it was so shifty, but I feel that in general the left side was favored to most people. In the last race when the wind died down, the course was a reach in both directions, which I actually liked as we didn’t have to adjust to shifts as much. I had a lot of fun on the water and the races were pretty competitive.
Thanks for John Van Voorhis and Cliff Bartlett for doing the RC today and working diligently to square the line and give us a nice mix of Olympic and WL courses and they even used the flags!! 🙂 Also a big thanks to John for offering to help me launch and retrieve the 19’ boat when I had RC last week.
I hope no one reading this is hoping for a lot of technical insight as to shifts, persistent or otherwise, I’m pretty sure I would not know one from the other. Overall my mantra is to slog it out as best I can, keep the boat flat and hike as much as my body will allow me, and of course try not to make any mistakes or cut things too close.
This is the best I know:
First, I benefited greatly from having ½ the fleet coming late to the start of race 1. That gave me a big boost in the day’s score. Being on time paid off for me.
When the start line is square (as it was in most races today), I find I sometimes do better coming in on port and searching for a hole about 15-30 seconds from the start. You have to be really quick though with your tack, because there is little time and space between the starboard tackers. So it’s a little risky. In one case, however, it really paid off because I was able to stay on port by threading the needle as they say, and in that particular race ( I forget which one) a port tack was favored. In that last few seconds before the start you really do need to head down off the wind and power up, and accelerate so that you are up at full speed when the gun goes off. That seems to be the only way to have a good race. So if you are going to concentrate and be on your game, these first 10 or 20 seconds after the gun goes off are the most critical.
I had my cunningham very tight, outhaul about 2” off the boom at mid point, and the vang ¾ on. The tight cunningham helped me when the puffs came so as to not be overpowered. I pretty much tried not to sail out to the lay lines too much as a shift in wind could easily gain you several boats if you tack quick enough on the header. As it was very quirky and puffy, I did my best to ‘ease-hike-trim’ whenever I could, and a few times I could really feel it working, and I was gaining on other boats. As for when I would tack, that pretty much was determined by my looking at the luff of my sail, and when it started to collapse in (ie a header), I would throw in a tack.
On the reaches, I would pull my board up ½ and ease the cunningham off all the way and then adjust the vang to as to get the best sail shape I could get. My cunningham does not seem to come off unless I go to the mast and pull on the slack of the line, so I found myself doing that a lot today.
Cunningham all the way off, board up 1/2 , outhaul about 2” off the boom at mid point, and the vang adjusted until I saw a good sail shape, which oddly, meant putting on quite a bit of vang. I was worried about death rolling in the puffs, and managed to stay flat by looking back all the time for the darkness in the water, and then when it hit, I would use aggressive mainsheet trimming to dampen out the oscillations. But when the wind comes from the west like that, it can cause a lot of deathrolling. So on days when it’s windier, if I feel I might deathroll, I quickly sail off on a reach and pop up on a plane and do the best I can that way. Better to be up on a plane, sail a little longer, and then gybe when you feel in control (or even chicken-tack if it’s really windy). Nothing is slower than going for an unwanted swim.
One final thought, it pays to look up at your sail shape as often as you can. I am doing this now more than I used to in the past ( I think Len mentioned that once or twice to me). So in going downwind, again for some reason it seemed like I had to put on vang for a nice shape, and I know most people ease their vangs going downwind, so I don’t quite know what caused that. Maybe it’s the new sail that has not yet broken in.
Our Laser frostbite season has started. We race on Sundays on the Potomac River from November 19 to March 18, and we wrap up our season with the Capital City Regatta on March 24-25. Skippers meeting is at 12PM with the first start at 12:30PM. No races are started after 3:30PM. Come out and join us!
Sunday March 19, 2017. Good weather for the last day of frostbiting. It was sunny but cool with winds in the 10-15 mph range from the northwest. We got in 5 races, all olympic course, and I did well in all but the last one.
My general start tactic on a heavier wind day is what I think of as a drift start. I hang out past the committee boat on the right side of the course. With about 30 second to go I power up and head for somewhere on the line. When a bunch of boats bunch up at the committee boat there is enough wind to get to leeward of them and make it to the line on time. If the boat end folks are early they will head down the line and leave a nice window. This worked well today on most races and I was competitive to the windward mark.
On the course I used my normal heavy wind tactics namely, tight vang, medium outhaul and Cunningham, then lots of hiking. I ease my outhaul 100% at the windward mark to give more power downwind and I ease the vang to about 50%. The eased vang I find (and have heard) helps to bear away. The triangle legs of the olympic were great and I think I reached a plane on most downwind legs. This is super fun and I was able to make up some ground if I caught a puff.
I did have issues keeping my mainsheet running clean. I had a few issues on the course because of this. Twice I had the sheet wrapped around a foot causing me to tack rather than duck a starboard boat. I also had a serious knot at one of the windward roundings that I had to undo before I could bear away. Mainsheet discipline will be something for me to work on for windier days. Still a fun last day, I’m looking forward to Cap City next week!
Sunday turned out to be one of the first actual frostbite days this season. The breeze was predicted to be from the west at 10-16 with a high of 42. It was pretty close to that. The breeze was super shifty and puffy. Rarely do you see it on the river come from every direction. During the races the breeze was mostly swinging between the north and south. Big thanks to race committee for running the races, especially to James Jacob for bringing is own boat down and giving us a mark boat to try and fix the course each race.
The wind prediction the night before called for 0 wind gusting to 1 mph. The morning of this looked to be a very accurate prediction. We talked a bit about should we go out or shouldn’t we, who needs more races to qualify (I do), and other light wind things. We were leaning towards heading home when Will as RC says “we’ll just race in the cove!”
The first race in the cove was a bit more off the docks than in the cover proper but the course was not terrible. I got exactly the start I wanted, at the pin end trying to port tack the fleet. It was 0% successful. Not only did I not beat anyone off the line but everyone passed in front of me without my needing to duck. The once around was a bit slow and very little tacking was required but it worked. I finished like I started but all sailing is fun. Toward the end the wind looked better so we picked up and headed into the river.
In the river the wind was a flunky as you would expect for a light-wind-from-the-west kind of day. I have one rule I follow for light wind starts which is don’t get too far from the line. This worked reasonably well and I managed to stay closer to the front of the fleet. Light wind is not my favorite and I tend not to do so well. I’m attributing getting 3rd place on luck, which I will of course gladly take.
My favorite part about this cold and still day, aside from the racing, was sitting between the races. If you maneuver your boat so you are in the sun you can let the sun heat you up and get much warmer, almost toasty. It was slightly silly and pleasant. Definitely a nice day to be out on the river.
Last Sunday was a replay of the previous weekend. The parking lot banter was that I would just repost previous week’s write-up. Lots o’ sun, shifty winds, blah, blah, blah. Déjà vu all over again. But you couldn’t just sit on deck with an umbrella drink if you wanted to keep the boat moving and stay out of the water. Looking upwind to find the next line of wind and getting to it and/or being ready for it was a big part of the game.
I found myself continuously adjusting the shape and trim of the sail, both up and downwind, primarily using the vang, cunningham and sheet. I find it easier to trim the MK2 main because it simply looks more like a modern cloth sail when trimmed well. Working with the vang and the cunningham to create a nice foil shape was a constant challenge in the 1-15 knot wind we were dealing with Sunday. Downwind I relied on my masthead wind indicator to pick up the 45 degree shifts. Upwind I used the indicator in the lulls and the luff of the sail to adjust to the changing apparent wind.
Since the tide was really low we had to sail to weather with our boards up a few inches. There may have been some downwind capsizes caused by the board grounding and tripping over the centerboard. But at least it’s easy to right a boat that’s capsized in 3 feet of water.
It’s hard to believe that our Capital City regatta is only four weekends away on 3/25-26.