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Afterthought

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.