#1 lesson for the day, do not attempt to leave home without having coffee. I won’t explain, but travel time to the dock was much longer than I had planned. Regardless, the racers were not on the water yet, had not started the skippers’ meeting, and in fact I was just in time for crew selection. Niko asked me to join him, with Robin and Aeron also crewing.
I wish I had specific interesting points of match racing rules or tactics to report on, but I really don’t. Niko had me trimming the main most of the day and I was pretty intensely focused on that. Robin and Aeron trimmed the jib. You might think that one person would be enough to trim a little jib on a 23ft boat, but there are problems. One is that in match racing, maneuvers are fast and frequent. Another is that the CBI winch handles have long rested on the bottom of the Charles and have not been replaced. The jib might be smallish for a keelboat, but rigged single purchase it’s nearly impossible to trim under load. In fact before today I was under the impression it was impossible, but no, these guys worked out that if one person sheets as hard as they can and the other person twists the winch with bare hands, it can still be trimmed under moderate load.
The system with two people on jib is not only to sheet harder, but to tack the jib faster. With four hands instead of two, the jib can be taken off the cleat, backwinded if neccessary, hauled to the new side, and trimmed again much faster. Faster if well choreographed, that is. The commentators for the match racing I watch on the internet talk a lot about crew choreography and it was so cool to see this first hand. Before the first race, we had enough time on the water for the skipper to direct some sequences and the crew to run through it a few times.
In addition to trimming jib, Robin was invaluable as lookout, always with “head out of the boat” scouting for wind changes, keeping an eagle eye on the competition and any non-race traffic. I usually fancy myself good at keeping lookout but this day I was no help whatsoever. My head was uncharacteristically “in the boat.”
For me on main, Niko reminded me of some Jib II lessons, not only for sail trim but heel as well. (Slightly more important for me because I was the heaviest person on the boat.) A first-order principle for crew is to follow the lead of the skipper with weight placement. If the skipper is hiking, he probably wants help. If he is crouching inboard, he would be more comfortable with crew weight to leeward. For maneuvers, the crew weight controls heel to promote turns. I know this stuff, I just don’t always do it naturally. Later in the day Niko was trying to coach me a little on roll tacking. This is something I really don’t have a good feel for yet. I can understand the general principles but I’m not good at it at all. I think it takes practice, and probably becomes most effective if you can develop a “feel” for it, a feel of how the rotation of the hull helps the boat through the water and how the rotation of the sails pumps forward through the air.
The next hard lesson, later in the day, was fatigue for me, both mental and physical. I was really fading at some point, losing concentration on the sheeting, losing awareness of what was going on the race, and not anticipating what was coming next. I noticed Niko having to say my name more often to get my attention. At one point I started to make a disastrously wrong move prompting a wild scream by the skipper. When I no longer had the strength to sheet the main, Niko took over for me without a word.
As a team we won some races but didn’t win prizes. Personally I won some good racing experience, lots of fun, and well, exhaustion.
Yellow flag, sunny with temp rising from upper 50s to mid 60s. Wind 7 gusting to 15kts, shifting between W and NW.