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!
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!
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.
+ smaller waves
– less favorable current
+/- fluky conditions
+ more favorable current
– 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.
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
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.
Afterthought at FBYC, Deltaville for their Spring series. J/109. Really looking forward to this one.
Goals for tomorrow:
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.