Month: May 2017

Wind shadow

(The date of the post is a guess.  I’m writing this two or three weeks late because I haven’t been feeling well.)

I had arrived at the dock and I think I was doing my routine of watching for a bit while putting on sunscreen when they called on the loudspeaker for anyone that wanted a rigged sonar.  I was walking across the dock and dockstaff hailed me, “Sonia, want to take this Sonar?”  I laughed and called out “no, unless you find me crew.”  Sitting at a picnic table, Walter and Alice (I hope I’m remembering names right)  Overheard and came over to say they would like the Sonar if I would come with them.  Walter was Sonar rated but had some recent medical problems with his knee and wasn’t confident to sail with just one crew.  I agreed.  Then the dockhouse was calling for an informal instructor so we picked up…  Oh, now I have forgotten her name; one more crew.  We sailed.  Winds varied in strength.  I think wind was East, maybe ESE which made for a little wind shadow in front of the islands and on the Boston shore in general where the wind was hard to read.  Away from there it got a little breezy at times.  I don’t remember the flag.  Maybe yellow.

We came in and because I hadn’t sailed in a number of days I wanted to go back out.  Our informal student came back out with me.  Oh, I think I called her Alice by mistake.  I might have been a little flaky that day.  I don’t remember lessons for the day.  Funny how what I remember most was that wind shadow on the Boston side.

Oh, one more thing I just remembered was the tack of the sail was rigged in a way I don’t prefer.  There’s a downward pointing hook on the Sonar boom right at the gooseneck and some people put the tack cringle on this ring.  Problems are that the sail doesn’t go up as high, it leaves the foot of the sail baggy, and your only way to rig a cunningham then is through the reef cringle.  (But usually if someone has rigged the tack this way they have left the cunningham unrigged.)  Much better is to leave the tack loose while you pull the sail to the top of the mast with the halyard, then rig the cunningham through the tack cringle.  I really don’t know a good use for that hook.  I believe it is intended to be a reef hook, but when reefing I’ve never figured out how to fit the reef cringle on it.  Instead what works is to ignore that hook and re-rig the cunningham through the reef cringle.

Okay, and speaking of Sonar rigging, Isaac would like to remind Sonar sailors to take tension off the outhaul when unrigging to leave the boat at the mooring.  This is to keep from needlessly stretching the sails.

Women’s Racing

I was running a little late, so were others.  At nearly 6pm Carol was gathering everyone to decide on boats.  Wind looked great to me for the 420’s, that was my vote, but Carol was cautioning everyone that over the last hour winds had been gusting to 30mph at the MIT dock and that a number of high-school sailors had capsized and had trouble righting the boats.  It was enough to make people shy away from the 420s.  In fairness, the water is still chilly and a capsize wouldn’t be fun whether you could right the boat easily or not.

We sailed the Ideal 18’s.  We had five of these and over 20 women racers so that meant four people to a boat and a couple of people sitting out on the committee boat.  I got the tiller.  On my boat, to start with anyway, was Laura, Jasmine, and Tessa.  Laura is experienced with women’s racing and was valuable in the front of the boat, both at helping Jasmine and Tessa and at being an extra set of eyes for me, saving us from disasters more than once.  The jib is pretty easy on the Ideal but I think Jasmine with just a green rating was learning from it.  This is my point that you learn at a rate in proportion to the wind.  With the strong wind, even the little self-tacking jib of the Ideal was giving lots of feedback.  I let Tessa trim the main the whole time.  She had some experience in bigger boats and so seemed totally unfazed at the boat heeling which was really good.

Lessons.  Hmm, first lesson is to eat something before.  Racing runs right across dinner time, and you can run out of energy.  Today I had missed lunch and so grabbed a snack on the way to CBI.  It made a huge difference.  I felt better and hand more energy.

Another thing that went well was once on a final leg to the finish.  We rounded the leeward mark pretty far behind other boats and looking for anything to try, I saw darker water on the left side and tacked over for it.  Sure enough, the stronger wind was there.  I sailed in it for a bit on starboard, then tacked in it on lay for the finish.  Amazingly we crossed two boats just before the line.  The first boat we crossed was complaining loudly about port-starboard but we got across without them having to alter course.

A thing that didn’t go well also involved a boat complaining.  Approaching the leeward mark, the boat behind hailed overlap.  This surprised me, I turned and looked and sure enough they were no where close to overlap.  But in that second or two when I was turning and looking, we came up on the mark and there was no longer time to prepare my crew for a tight tactical rounding.  We went wide of the mark and the other boat went inside to pass us.  Now, it’s possible to fluster someone by yelling.  Doing so deliberately in attempt to gain advantage might even be considered not fair sailing.  But that’s not what was going on here.  I wasn’t flustered, all that happened was I was delayed for a second.  When I watch racing on the internet, I think I see the professional sailors do this to each other.  They will hail or otherwise posture in some way that consumes some time or attention of the other boat.  Every second spent evaluating the immediate situation is a second unavailable for planning the next situation.  I think the best defenses are to have that next situation planned as early as possible, be aware of the current situation as much as possible, and possibly anticipate noise from the other boat so that if it comes you can dismiss it faster.

After racing I had a little sip of coke left, I drank a bottle of water, then another bottle of water with a cookie and was feeling okay.  I have to give a lot of credit to Tessa for doing the work of pulling the main sheet for me.  Otherwise I would have been demolished tired.

95F, CBI wind records show 10kts gusting to 20, starting WSW but then backing to SSW.  This wind shift was most apparent on the third leg of our triangle course as it turned the reach into a run.  In earlier races we jibed around the reach mark then reached to the leeward mark.  In later races we jibed but then had trouble fetching.  In a couple of races we had to throw in an extra pair of jibes.  In one race I avoided the extra jibes by sailing past the reach mark so that we could fetch the leeward mark with a single jibe.

Oh, and we didn’t even win a single race but we sure had fun.

 

Two weeks later

After two weeks of rest I couldn’t resist the nice weather.  6pm, sunny 80F, W wind 6kts gusting to 12.  They were just replacing the yellow flag with green.  As I was opening my locker I heard calls on the PA system, first for crew for a Sonar, then for informal instruction.  I took the time I needed to get ready then walked to the dockhouse.  “Sonia!  What are you doing?”  It was Fan, who I met just once earlier this year in women’s racing.  “Um, I don’t know, I just got here…”  “Would you sail with me on a Sonar?”  Oh this was perfect.  I had been apprehensive about doing too much work.  Sitting on a Sonar should be easy.  Fan had just completed the keelboat class over the weekend and was eager to practice.

So, it should have been easy.  That was my plan.  But I can’t resist hand trimming the jib, especially when it’s gusty.  Then there was a Merc run aground on the Boston side where there’s poor visibility from the dockhouse.  No launch seemed to be coming.  I said we should lower our sail half way.  In contrast to the little Mercury against the shore, we would be highly visible.  It would be work though.  We sailed to mid river.  I looked one last time and there was still no launch.  Sail down half way.  Launch coming right away.  Sail back up.  More sailing.  Mooring at 7:30.

One thing I left in my locker was my gloves.  It was just green flag but my hands are so sore.

Light air practice

I had decided to sail today, so I did.  Early forecasts showed likely strong gusts late in the day.  Early in the morning CBI had tweeted that there would be red test conditions in the afternoon.  But this is the Charles, so what really happened?  0 kts, gusting to 2.  I watched for a while after getting to the dock, then finally mustered the courage.

Centerboard Merc, mainsail only.  The idea was to practice roll tacking.  Supposedly you can gain speed on a roll tack and so can propel yourself even with no wind.  Is it really possible?  On a Mercury?  When you’re just learning and barely know what your’re doing?  And struggle a bit with difficulty moving around the boat?

It turned out yes!  Well, maybe not gain speed, but certainly not lose too much.  I was able to tack and come out of the tack with headway.  Any headway at all was good in that wind, but it seemed pretty much full headway.  This meant that I could tack again almost immediately and repeat and make progress to windward, even with glassy water and slack tell tales.

Start on close hauled course with headway, close hauled sail and a slight heel.  Sheet a little harder for extra weather helm and either let the tiller fall to leeward if it wants to or push it over if it doesn’t want to.  As the boat starts to spin, level it to take out that little bit of heel.  The boat doesn’t like to pass through the eye of the wind as well with any heel as it does flat so it must be flat before it gets to the eye of the wind.  As the sail luffs, let the sheet go slack and pass it behind your head, shore school style.  In the light air, push the boom out to keep it dead with the wind as the boat continues to spin under it.  As the boat approaches the new close hauled course, lean as much as possible to leeward for the roll.  With the sail exactly in line with the wind, it doesn’t back, it just slices straight to leeward.  Then center weight to roll back to vertical.  This is where the sail fills from rolling and propels the boat forward.  It’s at the verge of a luff while the boat is rolling even though it is eased pretty far.  Also as the boat returns to vertical, sheet the main back to close hauled trim so that the sail stays filled.  The tack should be complete to the new close hauled course, with headway, and with the sail trimmed close hauled.

That was my theory anyway, what I was attempting.  I was going through it super slow motion, muttering the steps I was taking, and it was awkward and sloppy.  Still it was kind of sort of working.  I would tack, check my wake, then tell myself “tacking in 3, 2, 1…”

Next, on another day, try with more wind, with things happening faster, with crew, and with rolling the boat much more.  And go back and review roll tacking videos on the internet and advice from others.

Finally worth mentioning, a problem with this light of wind was that it would stop completely and then come back in from a random direction.  I had problems getting downwind to practice tacking because I would run down wind, then have the wind come in from a new direction so that I wasn’t downwind anymore!