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!

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