Sorry for the lack of sailing entries in the last few days.  I have in fact been going sailing.  Midnight Rider competed for a day in Southern Bay Race Week, until a devastating tornado hit Hampton Yacht club the night after the first day of racing.  I sincerely hope repairs and the revitalization of their programs go smoothly.  My thoughts and support are with HYC members during this troubling time.

A big question from that is…how do you keep 420s on floating docks with masts up from blowing across the street in a tornado? I’m not sure it’s possible, but I will be making sure the CCS 420 are well attached to their cradles in the upcoming weeks as I prepare for Summer Camp.

Other sailing adventures of mine these past few days have included Hobie 14 sailing in some stiff breeze. Laser sailing in some stiff breeze and Laser sailing in some not stiff breeze.  Needless to say I was very wet for all the adventures.  I’ve been doing a lot of boat work lately on Lasers and have ordered more parts to finally get my frankenHobie 16 on the water.  So when they come in I hope to find the time to scream around the Rappahannock on that.

The goal of this entry is basically to link to some of my favorite sailing blogs!

http://www.impropercourse.com/  <– Great dual blog about high level laser sailing and newbie sailing.

http://propercourse.blogspot.com/ <– another great blog “cheat the nursing home, die on your laser”

http://scottyoungsailing.blogspot.com/ <– An amazing sailors who can jump in to about any boat and do an outstanding job.

That’s it for now! Hopefully I’ll get some Laser sailing in today.

Midnight Rider-Down the Bay Race-5/25/12-5/26/12

These past few days have seen some of the William and Mary Sailing Team undertake as a team one of the most grueling sailing competitions the Chesapeake Bay can offer.  John H. kindly offered his boat, Midnight Rider as an opportunity to get us on the water and making some of the decisions involved in distance racing.

We set off Wednesday from York River Yacht Club, on the Perrin River, on the York River for Annapolis, Maryland just south of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge (sans tunnel).  There was no breeze the entire way up so we motored and came up with nicknames and other long boat day activities.  At night it thunder-stormed and it rained on those keeping watch, while the others slept below…nice and dry.

Thursday John and his W&M Sailing team ducklings explored Annapolis after a 24 hour motor at 5 knots (1 cylinder Yanmar diesel).  We spend a ton of money on the calories we would use the next days.  Job hunts commenced, boat staring occurred, APS thoroughly raided without purchasing anything, much shellfish eaten.  We had a great time in Annapolis and rested and prepared for the  upcoming race.

Preparation: Wind forecasts from buoys down the bay predicted 5-10knots SSE and S breeze for Friday and Saturday with a few changes in velocity.  As well we recorded all the current velocities at certain locations along the route at  the NOAA stations.  This information proved valuable throughout the course of the race and should be recorded prior to the race along the entire race route at many different times.  This information seemed even more valuable prior to the race due to the expected light breezes in the forecast.  The wind forecast was also heavily considered though it varied widely throughout the course.

When considering an inshore or coastal distance race the wind forecast is highly important but should not always play the leading role in preliminary strategizing.  Many geographical and thermal effects take precedent over expected wind directions and velocities when considering a small coastal area.  The down the bay race is very long north to south but not so much east to west.  The boats were largely restricted to the channel due to draft limitations of some of the larger boats.  Cutting corners would be a very apparent reality and advantage for boats with shoal drafted keels if those restrictions were not in place.  Since the wind was mainly SE to S this restricted most boats from making enormous gains with the lack of leverage.  Large gains and losses were made though depending on the wind, though much of that was not foretold in the forecast.

Other preparation tasks included stacking sails in predicted order of usage and availability for easy access.  Also making sure gear and sleeping necessities were prepared.  Having the sailing instructions handy is another important preparation technique.

Studying the course is very important as indicated before in the context of current and wind (predicted geographical effects as well as predicted forecast).  It’s also very important to pre-plot all marks of the race into the GPS (whether handheld or a pseudo nav station thing).  Make sure when you plot and name the marks that you include in the name which way they should be rounded (to port or starboard).

Main Points of Learning Re-Cap:

The Start: The initial goal was to start between the two boats we knew we could make ground with to prevent losing our lane or being rolled.  The wind was shifting a good 15 degrees during the pre-start with the large shifts being to the left favoring the port end.

At 1:30 we’re running down the line on port (a clear lane to tack or gybe), with the fleet setting up far to the starboard side of the line.  The vision took hold of me, the opportunity to win the start, the dreaded skipper syndrome.  We tacked and ran down the line until 15 seconds by the pin when we tacked right under the port layline…the fleet still 2 deep on the boat side.  These are the reasons we didn’t win the start, despite the opportunity.

1. Keelboats don’t accelerate in light air like dinghies, where you can leave the tack faster than when you went in it (even though illegal).

2. There weren’t as many boat-lengths between us and them as I thought…due to this acceleration concept they were already trucking

3. Everybody had a lower rating than us, so went faster anyways. I was naive to think I could judge our speed against theirs.  My dingy senses took hold of me and I went for it.

The results: We didn’t have to duck all the boats! We crossed the ones that were spat back out of the lead which was good.

What I learned from the start:

1. Be conservative at the favored end, especially for the start of a distance race. No need to go for the gold.

2. When I’m more familiar with the competition and the line I can be more risky and really go for gold.

What I would have done in retrospect (sailboat racing is the king of retrospect): I would have started on starboard at the favored end.  I would have just made sure I was leeward of most boats and had plenty of room to put my bow down. I would have also forged out more of an acceleration lane.

The Race:


As you read in Scott’s blog we made our way out of the harbor and were solidly in 4th place for our division only behind boats with lower ratings than us.  This was great! What a good start.  Now we just have to stay ahead of those behind.  Shouldn’t be too hard.

Until…we passed a mark on the wrong side…it took us 20 minutes to re-round it and that had significant consequences in our overall strategy (stay ahead of those behind and stay out of the current during flood and in it during ebb).  This had a significant impact on our performance because when we went back to round correctly (and untie our string) there was close to zero breeze and this persisted for an hour after we rounded it.  We were out in the channel because of the ebbing tide and we knew the tide was going to switch within the hour so we didn’t want to be caught in the channel when it started to flood, especially near Sharpe’s Island where the flood tide is allegedly quite brutal.  So we dove off towards the west, to escape the adverse current.  We didn’t sail off the rhumb because we couldn’t lay the mark at that time.  The wind was southerly at that time.

We dove off towards the right towards Chesapeake Beach to escape the adverse current when the wind filled in from the South East.

The wind filled in from the left or SE and we were located on the right in very low velocities. We got the breeze last and everybody ahead or to the left was able to extend.

So we got the breeze last and were on the wrong side of it.  Needless to say things would have been a lot different if we didn’t have to round that mark, but that’s sailing. We cast our dice, placed our bets (with the light winds and currents) and did the best we could considering our position.  From that point on we were playing catch up.  Those who got the breeze first were able to extend and stay extended, this was apparent in the results, with PHRF A boats finishing 6 hours in front of the rest.

The Sail Plan:

When do you change headsails? Our Soverel 33 does performs very well with the 155 in anything under 10 knots, but at what point should you change headsails, and/or reef the main? The upwind polars in 10 knots of breeze with a 145 headsail up is a velocity of 6.25 knots at 47 degrees from true wind.

When you’re overpowered on your headsail you have to lower the traveler on the main (dumps air/heeling force by changing the angle of attack for the main without losing leech tension).  Being overpowered occasionally is alright, but knowing when to reduce sail area is crucial because the more the traveler has to be lowered so the boat can keep its feet, the less pointing the boat will have.  You don’t lose immediate pointing ability, but leeway is incurred over distance.  This is especially crucial during long distance races when spending a long time on one tack or another.

Once the wind ramped up we were slow to go for the headsail change.  It’s really satisfying once you change the headsail and the boat is keeping it’s feet and you’re closer to your VMG for the wind speed.

When to reef the main is another good question.  When do you reef? Not when you’ll be going downwind in the near future and not until you’ve made a headsail change.  Reefing the main upwind is good because it lower the center of effort on the rig, rendering a more stable sail plan.

What I need and every boat needs is a good set of indicators showing when to go for the headsail change and when to go for the reef.  I think we were at least 2 hours slow on our headsail change and were quite overpowered for that time.  This increased leeway adds up every foot that’s sailed, so as soon as you think you might be overpowered get things set up for the change.

Changing back is just as important, while you might not lose any pointing you will certainly lose speed so be aggressive.  If you have an able crew who is able to do quick and effective peels, make sure to take advantage of that with a proactive and aggressive sail changing plan.

I want to wrap this up with some of my most important questions. I’ll even try to answer a couple of them.

Questions:

Should a reduce in sail area follow #1, to #2, to #3, to #3 and reefed main? Or should the main be reefed somewhere along the way?
In a round the buoys race I prefer to not reef the main at all, but in distance racing it would be nice to have an established plan for wind and wave conditions.

The question of sailing the rhumb line (including current corrections), when 30nm out do you sail straight to the mark or above it (to put money in the bank), or do you dive out of the current (or into it), or do you sail towards the breeze? Or do you just sail straight to the mark?
I know the answer to this question is ‘it depends’, but what exactly does it depend on? I would say breeze velocity, current velocity, and expected weather, but mostly in small coastal distance races, I would say it depends on where the fleet is.  If you’re ahead get the breeze first, but most importantly just stay ahead of those behind and in building breeze you’ll extend and in dying breeze you’ll compress.

Short list of things I learned:

- Focus counts over long distance
– Push it at night and you will gain boats
– Keep longer watches at night so drivers can get into the groove and stay there
– Discussing the strategic gameplan with everybody before and during the race to keep the overall vision in mind

Overall mood: Great! We didn’t finish as well as I hoped but we sailed very well, there were only a few big mistakes, but the rest was outstanding!

Midnight Rider soon after the start. Photo Credit to John Deutsch.

For the days leading up to the race, it was all I could do to keep from thinking about it. 120 nautical miles from Annapolis to Hampton. Not to mention the short hundred nautical miles to get to the starting line. It was my first long distance race and for the entire crew (minus the skipper), our first time sailing Down the Bay. Needless to say, we were all a bit apprehensive and rather unsure of what to expect.

Nevertheless, we did our research. Isaac Clark, recent graduate and past commodore of William and Mary’s sailing team, even purchased a book of tides to assist us with the complex current systems flowing throughout the bay (of course this was forgotten amongst the pre-race anxiety). The forecast was not promising. 5-10 miles per hour from the South with a chance of isolated thunderstorms – aka no wind unless you’re lucky enough to find yourself in a squall. And for once the predictions were correct! Skipper Jon Haracivet quickly made sure we understood that the trip up would be in ‘delivery mode’ and the trip back would be ‘race mode’. What that meant was the sail up (I am hesitant to even call it a ‘sail’) would consist of plenty of napping, lounging, comfort, and unfortunately, lots of diesel fuel. Our headsail saw the occasional puff before nightfall but our main remained fast asleep throughout the day as we slogged along at four and a half knots.

The beautiful sunset was slowly enveloped by building storm clouds that stretched from the southern sky to the northern. Thankfully, along with these clouds came some breeze and we finally found an excuse to hoist the main. We inched up to about 6 knots as we watched the storm grow behind us and the distant lightning move from the back of our minds to a pressing matter. The iPhone was pulled out to check the Doppler and sure enough there was a storm system running alongside the bay. While nobody really voiced their concerns, we all were wondering what exactly it would mean for us if the “isolated thunderstorm” decided to isolate itself above our mast. Our fearless skipper woke just long enough to tell us we ought to drop the main before the storm arrived but not long enough to sooth our growing anxiety. His lack of concern was reassuring as long as you ignored the fact that he had fought in Vietnam and quite certainly had a different notion of what exactly it meant to be in a perilous position. So with danger lurking, me and the rest of the crew decided it was a good time to head below and curl up for a slumber. Isaac was left at the helm with his gps, charts, and some binoculars. I told him to let me know if he needed anything and was lulled to sleep by the not-so-subtle rhythmic pounding of our good ol’ diesel washing machine.

The next 7 hours went by in a jiff – for me at least. In fact I don’t even remember what I dreamt in those pleasant hours. Strangely, Isaac has a different recollection of what went on. He talks of enduring pouring rain and stormy seas but I still have no evidence of this except for his soaking clothes and the occasional drop of water leaking through the deck that would wake me in the night. When I finally rose and emerged from below, the sun was warming the decks and we were only a few hours away from Annapolis. I had meant to be awake for the sunrise but did not regret getting the extra sleep. We thumped our way past Thomas Point and finally into Annapolis Yacht Club in time for a healthy breakfast at Chick & Ruth’s.

Thomas Point Lighthouse – Our last way point before Annapolis

We spent the day perusing the sailor’s paradise that is Annapolis and struggled to avoid emptying our already struggling college student bank accounts. (Some with more success than others) After a luxurious day of 3 meals, some booze, and plenty of opportunities to use the crapper, we fell asleep wondering what the next two days had in store.

The first thing I noticed was that the breeze had picked up. Thank God. As much as I enjoyed the leisurely trip up the bay, I was certainly ready to get some actual sailing in. As soon as we were off the dock we had our main sail up. We had all mentally switched to ‘race mode’ as we anxiously awaited the starting signal. For some reason I always imagined that as races get bigger and longer they have equally more impressive race committee boats. After all, the ones in the Volvo Ocean Race always look so official. When someone pointed to a sailboat no larger than twenty some feet and told me that was the race committee, I was a little disappointed. Upon reflection, it may have been the only part of the race that disappointed me. Anyhow, a halfway-decent line was set and we had our plan; mid-line on starboard with clean air. Unfortunately, as any sailor knows, things rarely go as planned. As we tacked onto port to make our run across the line, a Navy boat came cruising in forcing us to tack back and delay our approach. When we were clear we went back over and came across the pin about 5 boat lengths to leeward with about two minutes to go. Directly to our stern was one of the boats we had discussed pre-start that we wanted to avoid starting next to. A Farr 400 with a PHRF rating of -18 (compared to our modest 90). Isaac, who was driving, did a good job to keep weather clear and in fear that the Farr would roll right over us, we tacked short of where we planned to with around a minute to the start. This meant we wouldn’t be starting mid-line and in fact, room was running out for us to make the start at all. So we fell off onto a reach giving us room to tack over in hopes of port tacking the fleet. If I have learned anything from dinghy sailing I have learned that you only try to port tack the fleet when you are absolutely sure you can do it. Needless to say, we were unsuccessful. We found ourselves ducking several boats (8 others started with us) before tacking back on to starboard and heading out into the bay.

Preparation – The team huddles to discuss strategy before the start.

So the start was not so hot, but our position quickly improved. Going out left proved to pay off early on as we picked off several boats when we crossed back over them. But there was a lot of racing ahead of us. The wind varied from 5 to 10 knots throughout the morning and early afternoon. Our plan was to stay out of the current during flood tide and in the current during ebb tide. It was simple but effective. Hours seemed to fly by as we transitioned from super-concentrated dinghy style racing to a more relaxed focus that was more appropriate for the situation. We were also growing more and more comfortable with the boat and its intricacies. (Due to the lack of wind we hadn’t even tacked the boat once on the way up.) Well after we had settled into the groove and our foredeck expert Alex “Wern Dog” Werner had taken the helm a hail came over the VHS.
“Midnight Rider this is Solstice, come in.”
“Solstice this is Midnight Rider, go ahead.”
“Hey Jon, this is Jim, give me a call on my cell phone when you get a chance.” Jim Bordeaux was the skipper of Solstice, a J-40 that sailed out of the York River like us. They were currently about a half a mile behind us along with a couple other of our competitors. Over cell phone, they politely informed us that we had in fact left a mark to starboard that we were required to leave to port. Sharpes Island Mark 80 – A red channel marker that was about a quarter of a mile behind us. After a frantic search for the SIs we swung the boat around and all of a sudden we were going downwind. At this point the higher power above decided it would be a good time for the breeze to die and make us all too conscious of the ebbing tide we had worked so hard to get into. Downwind, in no breeze, in adverse current, going the exact opposite direction of where we wanted to be going. We sat there miserable as we watched the rest of the fleet pass us by, undoubtedly wondering if the hot sun had gotten to our heads.

After eternity, we rounded the damn mark and turned back upwind. The light wind lasted a couple hours and just as I was finding a comfortable way to nap on the leeward rail, it began to fill in again from the left. It picked up to a moderate pace around 12 knots and the big genoa powered up and heeled us over. On one of our tacks, Isaac was grinding in the big jib when all of a sudden a loud snap rang out and it was luffing in the wind. Immediately we realized the sheet had snapped so we tacked back over and retied the broken sheet to the clew. Luckily nobody was hurt and we responded to this ‘detonation situation’ very quickly. I meant to keep the broken sheet as a souvenir and a reminder of the dangerous nature of the sport. With so much tension on the rig and on the lines at all times, it is amazing that there are not more injuries. I think from then on Isaac hesitated just slightly every time he wanted to get that extra inch out of the jib sheet – but then went ahead and got it anyways. After all, inches are everything when it comes to speed. A little while later as the breeze continued to build we decided to throw up the smaller headsail (my first headsail change on Midnight Rider) and later on we even reefed the main to keep the boat on its feet.

Before long the sun fell and we all admired the beautiful sunset off our starboard quarter. Red sky at night, sailors delight. The moonless sky lit up above our heads. I swear I haven’t seen so many stars since I lived in Colorado years ago. It was absolutely breathtaking. Hours passed and the breeze lightened to a comfortable 5-10. We took the reef out and threw up the genny (my first nighttime headsail change) and cruised off through the night. Isaac, Alex, and Efe Brock each took 90 minute shifts at the helm paired up with myself, Jarrell Raper, and Amanda Johnson. We are all current or graduated William and Mary students but our long college nights pale in comparison to the exhaustioning night that we were about to endure. Sleeping on the boat was difficult (for most of us, Werner seemed to thrive in the discomfort). It felt like whenever I managed to fall asleep, the boat would tack and I would slide off my makeshift bed of sail bags and lifejackets only to lie uncomfortably for another 30 minutes until I was summoned to the deck.

My graveyard shift ran from about 12:30 to 2 am and it was actually rather peaceful. Efe was at the helm and we grew into a comfortable rhythm, Flashlight on tell tales, wind vane, off. Check GPS, check for approaching lights to leeward, to windward, behind us. Admire stars, look for satellites. Repeat. Around two I woke Isaac from his only true slumber of the trip (I almost felt bad) and found myself down again on the leeward rail. Jarrell and I remarked on how things grew funnier and funnier as we grew more and more exhausted. “Like sleepovers when we were little,” he said. “This is nothing like a sleepover,” Isaac responded. All three of us laughed. I don’t know why.

When the wind picked up and I was once again allowed onto the windward side, I curled up and finally discovered that the place to sleep was on deck, not below. I thought to myself before falling asleep, this way I’ll get to see the sunrise. Around 6:30 I was awoken. We were tacking. After roughly 5 hours on the same port tack it was time. As I emerged from my groggy sleep I realized that the sun had risen. I had missed it again, damnit. On the bright side, we were once again in the hunt. There were about 5 boats in sight and a couple of them were within a reasonable distance. After more than 20 hours and nearly a hundred miles of racing, we were within several hundred yards of other boats.

The wind was a steady 8-10 and the air began to warm up. I shed my layers and grabbed my adored Brazil hat for good luck. As people emerged from below deck we returned to our places on the windward rail and Isaac took the helm once again to finish what he had started. Midday rolled around and the first talks of the “last mark” began to come up. We discussed in great detail which dot on the horizon “must be the mark.” It seemed that whenever we had come to a conclusion we would spot another dot and change our minds. Isaac threw in a remark about his lack of concern over which one was it when we were still so far away. Nevertheless, Efe made it his goal to determine which blip was the right blip and to convince us so. I was more focused on the fact that we were catching up to almost every boat I could see. In fact, whether it was Isaac’s driving or the excellent jib skirters, we were cruisin’. Every time we crossed it seemed we had made football fields on the boats ahead of us. When we finally approached the layline we had passed 3 different boats. One of these passing moves entailed rolling right over the top of a J-105 who shared the same PHRF rating as us. Always satisfying.

The final mark approached. After that it was just a reach to the finish line. About 5 minutes in front of us was a Sabre 426 by the name of Nanuq that we watched round the channel marker and begin to raise its spinnaker. Wait a minute, spinnaker? Shit. After more than 24 hours of upwind sailing we hadn’t even thought about a spinnaker (except for that brief moment when we were going backwards…). Recklessly I dove down below and hauled the chute out onto the foredeck. We scrambled to connect the sheets as Isaac counted down the boat lengths until rounding. As we hit zero we realized that something was wrong. It took us a couple of minutes to sort out the mess but finally the sheets were rigged correctly and I yanked up the halyard. Boom, deployed. The tension on board settled down as we were all busy working the boat to the finish line, only about 10 miles away.

The J-105 was about a hundred yards behind us at this point and it was a beam reach. J-105s love beam reaches. They have an asymmetrical spinnaker perfectly designed for sailing them. We had a symmetrical chute that would much rather sail downwind. For a while we fought to fend them off, pointing as high as we could to keep our air clean. But a few miles in, we realized it was fruitless. They would either pass us directly to windward and shadow us completely, or we could bear down, let them by and hope to make time on the next boat behind them. So we chose the latter. It was hard to watch them cruise past us after working so hard to overtake them on the windward leg. Isaac complained about the PHRF system and we all agreed that at this point we would much rather be sailing One Design.

The last hour we laughed and talked about the pleasantries that awaited us onshore. The food, Chipotle maybe? The toilet, most of us didn’t really need to go, after all we had left the snacks in the car and had hardly eaten anything since leaving. The Slurpees! Yes, I definitely wanted a Slurpee. We notified the race committee when we were about a mile out. The chute flew majestically above us as we cruised past a channel marker. The VHS rang out telling us we had finished. We hadn’t even realized. On shore we spotted a red umbrella with someone sitting beneath it. That was the finish line, we had done it. As Stuart Streuli, an avid long distance sailor and author in Sailing World puts it, “On the official record there are two classes of boats that compete in a distance race: those that finish and those that do not.” We had finished, and the results hardly even mattered. The truth is we didn’t do half bad. Out of the 35 boats that started, we came in 15th. We had lost to the J-105 along with 6 other boats in the PHRF A class, beating only one in corrected time. But none of that really matters to me. It was the experience, the sense of accomplishment, and the camaraderie that I won’t soon forget.

I guess the next step for me now is to find another distance race to compete in. This was my first, and hopefully the first of many. Strangely I long for that exhausted feeling (which I a am still recovering from) along with the euphoric sense of accomplishment. My hunger for more won’t allow me to stay off the water for long and after all, I still have a sunrise to catch.

Casting Off – The crew lines up for a final goodbye before leaving the dock. (From left: Skipper John Haricivet, Isaac Clark, Jarrell Raper, Amanda Johnson, Alex “Wern Dog” Werner, Efe Brock, Scott Guinn)

Ow. I’m beat up, but I’ve learned a lot.  It was another blustering day in the Chesapeake Bay, this time in Fishing Bay near Deltaville, VA.  I was sailing on the J/109 Afterthought for the final races of their spring series.

At the start of the day this was a very close series for Afterthought being in 1st place overall by 1 point in front of the other J/109 Double Eagle.  Our main goal was to stay in front of Double Eagle to make sure the series stayed in the bag.

The J/109 (10.9 meters) has an asymmetrical spinnaker which makes many of the jobs change a bit.  I was doing jib trim for these races and it was pretty tough.  I’m not used to jib trim, but I gave it all I had and did an ok job by the end.  Endurance is a big factor in jib trim, as well as body position relative to the winch.

The wind was up again today ranging between 15-25knots.  We opted for the #2, which turned out to be a huge help on the on downwinds and a little bit of a hindrance on the upwinds.  We were on our ear occasionally though the skipper and main trimmer did an excellent job of keeping our feet.  The other J/109, Double Eagle, opted for their #3.  This provided an excellent comparison to see how the different headsails would fair in the breeze.  Lets take a look at the racing area.

Racing area. 1st Race was a W3, with the next as a W2. No gate. Rounding to Port. Image courtesy of windalert.com

Lets do another left vs. right side comparison.  This would be a major considering factor providing we were just trying to beat one boat, but it still mattered then.

Right:
+/- Steadier Breeze
– More unfavorable current
– Larger waves

Left:
+/- Punctuated breeze (large velocity changes and shifts)
+ less unfavorable current
+ smaller waves

The farther up the course left took us closer to land in some really funky breeze, often with a few big shorelifts.  I think the ideal strategic gameplan would be:

To go left immediately after the start- for the smaller waves and potential shorelifts
Tack ~3/4 of the distance to the port layline and ride port pretty far into the upper middle to avoid the really unstable breeze close to the shore, but to still take advantages of the left side positives.
Then tack a short tack back to startboard if needs be, but because it was so unstable near the mark a short layline would have been preferable…maybe 3-5 boat lengths depending on traffic.

Recap:

We won the first race! We just worked hard and loose covered Double Eagle and took it home. The 1st downwind we put up the chute and Double Eagle went wing on with their jib.  We were losing ground to Double Eagle with our chute up but we made sure to douse early to avoid a detonation at the mark and it worked well and we maintained our lead. The next downwind we went wing on and just stayed between Double Eagle and the mark.  Jib trimming was tough.  The biggest thing I can say is communication, endurance, preparation, and hiking.  I’ll go over the procedure quickly. We’re on starboard tack, upwind trimming all the way in.

1. Right after the tack to starboard and rough trim completed, everybody on the rail except for the fine tune trimming, then jump to rail and hike hard.
2.  Immediately once on the rail, turn around (legs still out on the rail), pre-wrap the starboard winch (4 wraps, self-tailor and winch handle in) and make sure all the slack is out for the lazy jib sheet.
3. Now hike hard…encourage everybody to hike in puffs
4. When you’re ready for a tack get to the winch and just do it…don’t stop you lose your momentum and it’s harder to get going again…then spryly get to the rail. Then rinse and repeat.

2nd race. The start was insane! I almost lost my legs on the rail…We were the cream in the Oreo, but not our fault. Circles were done by others.  It was AWESOME! But Double Eagle, late to the start, avoided this mess and went out from under it all.  They took starboard tack out to the left, while we were forced to head right into the big rollers (which were sporadic and important NOT to tack in).

Then bad things happened with the jib. One of the jib sheets snapped when trimming after a tack.  The tack back took us away from the mark, but we had to get it re-run.  After that had gotten fixed we had a huge override on the winch and it loaded up so the jib couldn’t go in anymore and it couldn’t go out.  We had to tack back…while we were in the tack we cut the line.  This took awhile to get fixed. We were running out of jib sheet at this point and certainly losing boats. We ended up coming in third barely…but enough to hold off Double Eagle for the series!

FBYC Spring Series Scores: PHRF A. Image courtesy of fbyc.net

Race 9 and 10 were those completed today.

Overall

What I learned:
1. Keep your focus…focus harder when you get tired (mental endurance is important)
2. Pace yourself when it doesn’t count…like before the 1st warning.
3. Always pay attention to the sail when you’re trimming it. (it didn’t have a problem with it but it is a common mistake)
4. Communication and coordination save seconds.  As things change around focus on what jobs are being left undone
5. Encouragement is important…
6. Anticipation and communication of future maneuvers will help solidify ideas and processes into the brain before the action is happening.
7. Working hard counts.
8. How to best manage technical difficulties and detonation situations

What I need to work on:
1. Keep the focus! Get into a good system and stay in it, but don’t forget to think critically about the system when you have time to shave of seconds.
2. Keep your head out of the boat every chance you get to anticipate future moves.
3. Really hike out more when I can.
4. Really just keep at it and keep my eyes open, especially how my actions affect the pointy end folks.

Overall mood: Accomplished and exhausted.  I did something supremely rewarding that was very difficult.

Well race is done and has been won…by somebody else.  That’s ok though, that’s really not the point at all of this article.  I’m going to focus on a general re-cap…some common wind patterns…and most of all crew work.

First off I’ll debrief on my preparations from last night.  They didn’t help much…in terms of the course,   current strategy, or wind strategy.  What it did help with was being completely prepared on the race course for what the overall wind patterns of the day were going to be as well as the tide patterns.  It also really helped to set a couple small goals for myself.  I really got to focus hard on those goals and put them to work.

These were my goals.

My personal goals:

Don’t screw up the spinnaker set or douse
Hike as hard a possible…but with enough energy for the spin maneuvers
Be a good team member!
and of course to SURF THE WAVESS

The first goal I failed at.  Not in a crippling way but in a delay way…which could be considered crippling.  We’ll get to this soon enough.

The second goal I succeeded at.  I paced myself when everybody was on the rail, but in important times (big air) or when we were about to tack or just finished a tack I would hike as hard as possible to help out a bit.

The third goal I  succeeded at, I really had a great time and that was because of the positive mental attitude that everybody had towards racing today, which was very important considering we were shorthanded.

Fourth goal, also a success…there was a point where I was the human pole for the jib going downwind and I pumped it on waves…it almost felt like a 420…almost.

Another great thing about being prepared was that I arrived at the dock ready to go.  From the moment I got on the boat I was preparing everything I could to save seconds which add up to minutes of the race course.  I checked and double checked until we got on the race course and started testing.

Anyways here is a general recap of what happened and what I learned…

First the wind!

It was pretty breezy as predicted….and it slowly died off as predicted…courtesy of windalert.com

As I mentioned before the course preparation was pretty much worthless.  That’s because it was too lumpy on the bay for some of the boats…including the RC boat.  So after the RC went and checked the racing was moved inside the harbor…which I did not prepare for.  This was a pretty big overlook on my part.  It wouldn’t have been too hard to check out the alternate courses, but I was pretty bent on big waves and didn’t even think about it. Be more thorough!

Map of Hampton Roads Harbor. Wind direction indicated by red arrow. The strength anywhere between 15-25knts refer to wind graph above.

 

The course changed to essentially a W5 in the harbor with port tack being the long tack.  Here is where I should have thought to look at the alternate course beforehand.

Generally when the wind comes obliquely off a shoreline it tends to knock the tack that takes you closer to the shore and therefore lift the other tack.  It’s often referred to a the shore lift.  So in this case starboard tack would take you closer to shore and you would get knocked and knocked and when you had gone far enough you could tack and you’d get lifted.  It should be treated like a static persistent shift, as in one that does not come down the course, but resides in one area.

Another good reason to go in shore relates to current information.  As the tide ebbs (in this case flows from bottom left to  middle/upper right) and the wind goes against the current, as it did in this case.  It builds up large waves (constructive interference).  Large waves slow boats down, but there was more current in the center!  In a case like today’s it was super windy and current was not too much of a factor except in it’s role with the waves.  So let’s do a left vs. right comparison for the upwind.

Left:
+ shorelift
+ smaller waves
– less favorable current
+/- fluky conditions

Right:
+ more favorable current
+ steadier
– no shorelift
– big waves

Now in a less windy day the current might make all the difference in Hampton Roads, but it was a very  windy day and current became less of a factor.  That shorelift really made a world of difference as boats that went to it were lifted up to the mark, while boats that approached mostly on starboard were generally knocked the closer the got to the windward mark.

Today the correct answer was the left.  Rough Strategic outline for 1st upwind (the rest I don’t feel like I paid enough attention to…I was busy):

Start: be to the left of the other boats with clean air, but not to far down the line since boat was favored. Leeward and midline

First Minute after the start: work really hard to get the boat going and keeping it on it’s feet to get some separation from the other boats to be able to tack exactly when you want to.

Windward rounding: don’t gybe right away…take those starboard knocks close to shore and ride them down while you can

Lets just say we didn’t do that…but honestly that was not our top priority and there were technical difficulties…which is sailing right, I know but still I have to say it.

Recap:

Boat set up: Dacron main: 1 reef in upwind, #3 Jib: maybe like an 100%? maybe 90%?
symmetrical spinnaker and all the jazz that goes along with that. Super long aluminum pole made me use my muscles.  The spinnaker has been completely set up before our 5 minute warning.

 

Start: goes fine everything is all ready to go…we’re 10 seconds late this is partly my fault because 30 seconds earlier I said slow down a bit.  Sorry. I’m having a lot of trouble telling speeds and distances of big boats compared with the dinghy racing I did of yesteryear.  Hopefully I’ll get better at the before SBRW. We start windward and right of the pack, but still not a bad start.  The first minute after the start we’re having trouble pointing with Cyrano who is just below us so we must tack to get out of their air and also so we just don’t head down into them.  We’re the farthest right boat and clearly behind so we stick it out in the channel to the right…big wind and waves. Everybody hiking hard, doing the best we can.

Windward mark rounding: because of the breeze we opt to pole of the jib…I got to be human pole for a bit, fun! We also took the reef out.

Leeward mark rounding: Pole down gybe to port round, re-reef

2nd Upwind: something is dragging on our boat…we go head to wind so it can drop…it doesn’t drop/we have no idea what it is so we keep sailing. On the 2nd upwind I ask the skipper if we’re going to put a chute up because I want to make sure everything is ready.  They’re still deciding….so I get everything set up for the hoist just in case. Which is only the foreguy…

So on the layline ideally this should happen. (topping lift, foreguy (pole downhaul), sheets and halyard are ready to go during prestart, or on the way out to the course….basically once you know the course)
1. Pole up (guy has been in jaws since prestart)
2. Hatch open
3. Hoist

Well this is what actually happened.

1. Pole up: success (for now)
2. Hatch open (success)…wait one of the Tylaska shackles (not an actual shackle but a dyneema loop and the end of the sheet) fell of one of the clews…so I snag the clew redo it…angrily…then up it goes!! Except not for the final 10 ft. I don’t know why…I was furling up the jib…I still don’t know why but the back of the boat figured it out. So the spinnaker is up…I’m furling up the jib…but wait!! The pole just came off!! HOW!! WHY??! WHAT?!
3. The mast man muscles the pole around…the inboard jaw is stuck open! Why? THE TRIPLINE…is wrapped around the foreguy line from the pole…I spring to action. I take the foreguy off the pole, unwrap it, and put it back on…but not before things got wild the pole is crazed, the spinnaker is flying and swinging the outboard end of the pole against the forestay…great.  The foreguy goes on…we muscle the pole onto the mast…made. Rest. Shit. How did that get so screwed up? After all the double checking I had done.

1. I still don’t know why the shackle let go in the hatch…20 seconds there.
2. The pole foreguy/tripline conundrum: All the tripline or foreguy has to do is get inside of each other for things to go awry when the pole goes on the mast.  I had prepared it and prepared it.  All it need was a 90 degree turn to starboard for it to go up correctly.  I unfortunately did not relay this little tidbit of information to the mastman, but this little tidbit of information cost us at least a minute and could have been much worse.  Even if I did tell him that, the foreguy and/or tripline could have still been intertwined.  All the boat has to do is heel over and there you go, one over the other.  It HAS to be checked on the way from the shrouds to the mast to make sure that isn’t the case.  Whoever puts the pole up MUST do that.
3. Fixing the screw up: I was so dumb, I thought we could muscle the pole back on and we did.  But why  in the world would you take that risk when you can EASILY head farther downwind, freefly the chute and figure the pole out without it swinging around by your heads.  It should have come of the spinnaker and then fixed it. Then easily back on.  I was stupid not to think of that especially when safety is our #1 priority.

Well there you go. The first huge screw up. Not the last.

The douse…took longer than we thought because of miscommunication. The pole was to high and I couldn’t reach the guy to bring the foot in.  We should’ve ran through that maneuver first in greater detail.  We couldn’t bring the sheet in because of all the air in the chute.  But we got it doused in a timely enough manner.  An EXCELLENT thing that I’ve talked about before is that the skipper asked me how long I needed to douse it.  I thought that was great and in the end it worked out just fine.  Luckily the screw up here didn’t cost us any time because we had the chute up longer than we expected and we didn’t sail past our mark.  Normally I grab the foot by the guy and collect the foot from there, on Kingfisher that’s usually not the case because the pole is so long nobody can even reach the guy.  That’s a little kink communication would’ve solved.

The rest of the race was good no screw ups….until the dock, but that will be my secret.  Also the pre-feeder disappeared; where it went and how it went is really bugging me.

So to wrap up: Big Lessons I took from this:

1. Continue double checking and triple checking: presetting up (even with the screw up) made all the difference in the world. must be done.
2. Time management: even with 5 people our time management was superb and we were where we need to be. I didn’t spend anymore time of the point end than I had to. The extra hiking power was essential today.
3. Especially when you’re undermanned make sure to communicate every maneuver in detail and make sure everybody knows where they’re going and when and then what to do after that and if you don’t know…THEN ASK!
4. Help the skipper develop and strategic gameplan if you have one in mind…it isn’t always the best thing to keep your mouth shut…communication is the learning ground make sure you use it.
5. Positive tech dinghy attitude at all costs. It’ll win you races and improve your places.
6. Make sure a “hiking captain” is appointed to help call breeze and encourage/whip the crew to hike out.
7. Work hard and don’t give up even when things go south.

Overall Mood: Happy, it went well and it felt great to be apart of a small group of people wanting to better themselves and being positive throughout the entire process.

Tomorrow:

Afterthought at FBYC, Deltaville for their Spring series.  J/109. Really looking forward to this one.

Wind alert’s predictions for the wind tomorrow. Between the red lines is when we’re sailing. HIKE!

Goals for tomorrow:

1. HIKE!
2. Don’t look like an idiot.
3. Communicate and learn, listen, watch.
4. Work as hard as possible
5. Think and act independently…anticipate and run through every possible move before it happens.

It’s been a good weekend so far. Lets keep it up.

-Crush out!

 

 

 

 

The wind is up and ready to go for tomorrows race.  We look like we’re going to be shorthanded two folks, but that’s ok!! We’ll survive…

My job tomorrow is bowman.  I want to know as early as possible what I’m going to set the boat up for, so I’m looking at the forecast and the course to see when the spinnaker has to go up and on what gybe it has to go up on so we can be ready to go before the gun.  This will be especially important tomorrow because we’ll be shorthanded.

We only have 5 total and Kingfisher likes to have 7 and preferably 8 on windy days which it will be!

Wind forecast tomorrow at Noon! Wo!

So I’m thinking…given the wind forecast will I even put the chute up? But THEN I look more closely at the course and corresponding nautical maps and LOOK!

The Start is not shown…it’s to the West. 1st leg Port tack weather…to bear away set on port…then a douse…jibe…round then reach back to the finish. Around 30 nm overall. Image courtesy of Windalert.com

Another one of my questions for tomorrow…As we head down for the jibe mark which way will we be swept by the current…and how much will that effect the course Kingfisher needs to run to lay the mark in a sorta straight line? I can imagine if the current is ebbing (from left to right) we might overstand the layline a lot and jibe with the chute up if we realize what’s happening to late.  We’ll lets take a gander.

Current Direction and Magnitude at 9am (The Start) http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/ofs/cbofs/currents_forecast.shtml

Looks like confused, switching current…lets see what it looks like at Noon. We should be half way through the race by now, at least.

Current direction and magnitude at 12pm (Middle of Race, at least) http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/ofs/cbofs/currents_forecast.shtml

Ebb has begun…We’re going to have to be very careful not to overstand. This will mean heading a bit  lower than the mark with the chute up prior to rounding the first mark. This shouldn’t be an issue because the wind is supposed to a 5 degree turn to the East anyways.

Current direction and magnitude at 3pm. (End of race). http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/ofs/cbofs/currents_forecast.shtml

The water is really screaming out of the bay now.  I don’t have a good close up for the mouth of the James River, which would be helpful, but you can be sure it’ll be very strong in the channel.  For the reach back it might be best to hug the Norfolk shoreline to stay out of the current. I guess we’ll see.

What I do know is that we’ve got to go over the tunnel of the Cheseapeake Bay Bridge which is going to put us right where we don’t want to be in terms of the current.  The question is what do we do after? Do we stick it out because it’s high winds and it’s a straighter course home? Or do we dive to shore for the current relief but have a longer course home?

If we’re in front we can closely watch the boats behind…and if we’re behind we can do something different to catch up. Sounds like a plan to me….but WAIT this is PHRF racing…so every second counts. Now I’m totally lost.  I guess it depends how far we are ahead.

My personal goals:

Don’t screw up the spinnaker set or douse
Hike as hard a possible…but with enough energy for the spin maneuvers
Be a good team member!
and of course to SURF THE WAVESS

Crush out.

This Saturday I’ll be heading down to HYC (Hampton Yacht Club) to rejoin the C&C 99 Kingfisher as bowman for the Cape Henry Cup.  This is basically a 30 nm distance race around the Southern Chesapeake Bay.  Should be fun though.

Looking to use some of the practice from the Wednesday for this regatta.  As soon as I get on the boat I’m going to be setting up things how I like them and communicating about the expected course and wind direction so I can be prepared as soon as possible.  As bowman I won’t be able to help out with strategy as much as I’d like, but I really need to focus on getting the mechanics down before I move on.

This Sunday I’ll be heading up to FBYC (Fishing Bay Yacht Club) to join the J/109 Afterthought for the FBYC spring series.  Hoping for some valuable experience on board this asymmetric chute boat.  Also hoping to make good some connections there so as to solidify my sailing future, especially a potential one design future. FBYC has a fleet of J105s.

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