Friday unwind

I was at CBI Friday after work but undecided on what to do with the evening. I wasn’t sure I wanted the workout of informal racing. I had thought on and off of a little practice in a Laser, but the water quality has been poor lately. I was sitting on the dock watching others eagerly rig boats when I was invited to sail on a Sonar with Kate, Pam, and Susan. It took me less than a second to accept this easy option. Susan took the tiller and mainsheet first. Kate and Pam declined repeated invitations to take the helm but of course I couldn’t resist.

Wind was a little puffy, 6 gusting to 14 but from the south, which seems to make it a little erratic as it comes over the Boston side. The flag was yellow most of the time. They had red up momentarily earlier in the afternoon when one 30 knot gust came through but that seemed isolated. I think it might have dropped to green at the very end of the day.

I paid attention to a couple of recently learned lessons. We pulled the main almost to the top of the mast but not hard. A little cunningham tension brought the tack close to the boom then. I was explaining to Kate how I had had trouble with the top batten with the sail too high. She laughed and pointed to the tack and said “learn.” I also watched the cast off from the mooring. From a mooring in the middle of the field, Susan at the helm had Kate simply cast off whenever she was ready. We were in irons head to wind but starting to fall off. Susan, with much more experience than I, right away called for the jib to be unfurled as she explained that the boat wouldn’t start going without it. Just the lesson I had embarrassingly learned recently.

Sailing was perfect but I forgot until the last tack in that I had brought my camera. When I remembered, Kate was eager to grab it and snap a few pictures. Here’s me at the helm of the Sonar with Friday racing in the background and the Cambridge shoreline behind.


Spinnaker practice

I showed up for Tuesday WR practice but I’d missed the memo that it was cancelled for the day.  Fortunately who did I run into right away but Adam Minoprio Trina!  Her plan, with light air and WR cancelled, was an SUP but she quickly agreed to join me in a plan of spinnaker practice instead.  Just after leaving the dock I realized I had forgotten the pole, but once last year I liked practicing some sets without a pole so it seemed fine to continue without the pole today rather than go back for it.

Wind was just about right for beginner level spinnaker practice.  SE wind was 3 kts gusting to 8 according to the CBI log.  Mostly it was enough wind to fill the chute and let us experiment with trimming but not so much as to present challenging loads.  Only a few times were we frustrated that the wind wasn’t enough to hold the chute up.  On the other end, we had a couple of very nice rides in the gusts.  Only once did I luff the spinnaker because we were having difficulty with the strength of a gust.

Our technique was always to drop the jib before hoisting the spinnaker.  My goal was to simplify things, so there would be less to deal with and also to make it easier to see the spinnaker.  But I think having the jib down probably helped keep the spinnaker full, especially with the light air and especially without a pole.  It usually flew real well without the pole, both running and broad reaching.  On a run it would fly stably out in front of the boat.  On a reach the guy would sit hard against the forestay and it worked to pull the tack right up close to the forestay.  I think having a pole would have helped when the wind would go light and the chute would droop.   Also a few times the chute got twisted and I think the pole might have helped avoid a few of those twists.

Anyway, we got in a few nice runs.  We traded off practicing the different roles of helm and foredeck, and mostly just logged some experience time.  And, I thought it was fun!  I don’t have that much experience with spinnakers and my past experiences have been a mix of small successes and confusion.  Today was relatively easygoing.

Day sail

Sailing two days in a row!  Wind today was much easier, mostly green flag with a touch of yellow so I thought it shouldn’t be too much work.  Also I was sailing mostly to give the roommates a boat ride and so theoretically I shouldn’t have to work too hard.  In the sunny afternoon, all of the keel Mercs were out.  I chose us a roomy Rhodes 19 instead.  We sailed, we horsed around, and then Stacy got quiet after a while.  She was suffering in the sun.  We came in and I sent her straight to the water fountain.  I tried to keep an eye on her as she slowly staggered down the length of the dock.  She made it.  I found her later in a chair in the shade.  Sun and heat can be dangerous, even for a short period of time on a small body of water.


Wind was forecast to be yellow with gusts to red and the flag turned out just like that.  I took out a centerboard Merc mailsail only since I didn’t want to do all the work of the jib.  I planned to focus on not over-exerting myself for the day.  Cast off from the dock was actually a disaster.  There was a little gust and I was letting the boom into the space of the next boat to let the sail luff.  The dock staff started to push me out but of course the boom snagged in their rigging.  I pulled it in and we retried.  “Ready?”  “yes”  and they pushed me straight back again.  The problem this time was that I wasn’t holding the tiller.  The rudder went hard over the boat stopped and just blew up against that next boat over.   I drifted back past their stern and tried to continue sailing backwards, but no, in a replay of the run-aground last week, the boat fell off and ran back into the dock.  Bleh.

On the basin, there was a test course set up and I started sailing a quick lap.  On my second lap I saw some other Mercuries converging on the course and a skiff nearby.  I hailed the skiff, “Am I in the middle of a class?”  “No, testing.  You’re the cheat sheet!”  It was funny but I sailed off to play around some other marks.  Then a run down to Mass Ave bridge and the beat back.  It was a nice sweet spot between going fast but not having to hike too hard or be overpowered.

I came in to rest, hang out on the dock a bit, and then go get some lunch.  After lunch I finally decided to try one more sail, this time in a Laser.  At the dockhouse the computer had somehow lost my red rating.  Yes I am quite sure I got my Laser red last year.  I remember my test well.  But whatever, I’m dressed for the capsize so sure, I’ll take a yellow test.  The test was uneventful.  My only regret after the test was that I didn’t do some fun or spectacular wet capsize.  A snap windward capsize on a run for example might be worth more spectator points than simply pulling in the sail at low speed stalled on beam reach.

After the test, one lap down to the Mass Ave bridge and back.  I tried my kinetic rolling and pumping technique that worked so well last time I sailed a Laser but didn’t have as much success with it.  Conditions were near planing without any kinetics so rolling the boat would sometimes roll it off the plane, being counterproductive.  Some other technique must be better.  I didn’t have the time to experiment.

On the beat back, in contrast to the Mercury sailing, I was overpowered and had to luff quite a bit of the sail.  I was overpowered sitting on the rail and not hiking very hard, that is.  I was wary of hurting myself like I did last time I sailed the Laser.  Anyway, it was fun, and in the end I didn’t hurt myself too much.

WR practice

A couple of weeks ago Elena restarted women’s racing practice on Tuesdays.  She ran a few of these practices last year and they were successes as practices for basic boat handling and mark rounding.  This year she is working up exercises for more specific racing skills.  I’m writing here a couple of days later but a memorable moment was when I was crewing for Trina and I coached her into a port flyer start.  We were SAP in this video starting one minute before the start (1:39:40 in the replay.)  Watch us downwind of the pin at 45 seconds before the start.  As we sailed off the left end at 30 seconds, Trina was asking for confirmation, “this way?”  “Yes, yes” I was saying.  “Should I tack?”  “Not yet, wait, wait, okay you can tack any time now.”  We were tacking just off the left of the pin.  At 10 seconds before the start watch in the video as we appear on port tack on the far side of all of the other boats.  Now, in real life, it wasn’t quite like this because the other women racers weren’t doing quite as good of job at being near the line at the start, so a camera looking up the line would have had a clearer view of us.  But still it was exciting.  Listen to commentator Niall Myant Best right after the start “and SAP Extreme with a port flyer start.  You do not see that in women’s racing often!”

Sonar Lessons

First though, a link relevant to last week’s post, When to communicate… an article at Sailing World, describes the situation I discussed with a boat on starboard and multiple boats on port.  (See the section “crowded situations.”)

Now, the first Sonar lesson:  don’t run aground.  Oh, I did.  It was almost comical but still horribly embarrassing.  It happened leaving the mooring.  Green flag, wind was East at 1kt gusting to 6 by the CBI dock.  That means blowing somewhat toward the island from the mooring.  I was starting from a mooring ball closest to the island.  That means very little room to maneuver, little room for retries if thing go wrong.  …  Almost any accident has multiple factors that lead to it.  A factor here was that I didn’t take measures to ensure that I would get off the mooring as reliably as possible and not need that retry.  A typical mooring cast off involves planning which tack you want, and either waiting for the boat to be heading in the right direction or backing a sail to get the boat heading in the right direction.  I typically don’t bother.  I just have my crew cast off and then I sail from however the boat happens to be headed.  Bad plan here.  I had my crew cast us off.  We happened to be stationary, head to wind.  This didn’t concern me a bit.  Close as we were to the island, there was plenty of room to back up and fall off on port.  I did.  The sail filled, and then … the boat made leeway.  More leeway, it wouldn’t start making headway, and wouldn’t do anything except round back up to windward.  Now I was starting to get concerned.  There was still a little room behind me.  I could try again, but no, not enough was different.  I needed the jib, which was furled.  Becoming a bit frantic, I had Stacy unfurl it.  She held the jib sheet the only way she knew, which of course was not backed.  I was shouting by then for her to let go of it.  … You know, shouting just hardly ever works.  It was too late.  I felt the keel nestle gently against the island.  I listened, watched, and waited a few seconds to see if maybe the boat would rotate against the island or begin to drift off the end of the island, but no, the light and steady wind was holding the boat in place.  In resignation I refurled the jib and dropped the main half way to signal the dockstaff for help.

The next Sonar lesson was soon after we had been freed from island and had entered the basin.  The top batten was stuck on the backstay.  I had a terrible time freeing it.  In the first jibe, it stuck again.  The only thing I could think of that might help enough was lowering the mainsail a bit.  I had made sure when I rigged that I had the main hoisted to the top of the mast.  Now it seemed that full height was too much.  There were a few inches between the tack and the boom.  I eased the halyard those few inches and retightened the vang and cunningham.  Another jibe to see if it worked.  The batten stuck again but at least this time it took only a little push on the backstay to free it.  The “fix” seemed to be enough.

The air temperature was mid-70’s after a week of days near or over 90 and the day was wonderfully pleasant.  Our Sonar was in demand and we yielded it after an hour.  After rigging an Ideal 18 on a mooring, one in the middle of the mooring field this time, I wanted to try again at casting off in irons.  I failed!  I tried to have the Ideal 18 stationary and head to wind for the cast off, but I couldn’t hold it head to wind.  It fell off and began making headway immediately.  Experiment over, we just went sailing.  But was it just two random events or are the Sonar and the Ideal different in this way?  The Sonar jib is larger (relative to the main) than the Ideal.  So the jib of the Ideal may not make as much difference as it does on the Sonar.  That is, the Ideal may stay relatively well behaved without the jib, including naturally making headway under more conditions.  The Sonar may be more “crippled” without its jib, and may be more prone to making leeway, much as a Mercury is prone to making leeway under main only.  Just some ideas.  It will take more experience to confirm.

Anyway, we sailed a little more in the beautiful weather, without further incident.


Cool gray

Friday was a cool gray day for mid-July but the rain was passing south of us so it was fine TGIF sailing weather.  Stacy was eager to start the weekend early and I think we were at the dock before 5.  Friday of course also has informal racing and Stacy was intrigued enough to agree to some racing.  The RC, exasperated with the cat herding exercise of rounding up boats just started a sequence with potential racers scattered across the basin.  I actually managed to get us across the line first, within maybe 30 seconds of the starting signal.  RC cheered at the first participation.  My lead didn’t last long.  I wasn’t paying attention to wind direction and managed to let everyone by me before the first mark.  I recovered a couple of the positions before the finish.

It was fun.  Surely my first Friday informal race in a long time, maybe close to a year.  I was busily trying to explain things to Stacy and coach her on things like keeping the jib sheet from snagging on the spinnaker halyard cleat.  “You have to float it across” I kept saying.  Stacy was struggling at these obscure mystical concepts.  I was pointing out how another boat was maneuvering to pass us on the downwind.  She was still stuck on what “downwind” was.

In the second race I managed to foul another boat.  The situation starts similar to that of case 11 in the World Sailing Case Book.  I was PW in this diagram.


Case 11 discusses my right to hail for room pass S as an obstruction but I didn’t hail.  Racing involves lots of judgement, judging time and distance.  I was first thinking that PL and I would both be able to duck S.  I failed to properly judge that PL was able to sail high enough to just clear S’s stern and that there would be no room for me.  When I realized I was in trouble I decided to tack.  Unfortunately it was already too late.  I was tacking too close to S and he had to luff up to avoid me.

I had options for other things I could have done, if I had started earlier.  I could have hailed PL, I could have just slowed slightly to pass S after PL, or I could have tacked sooner to stay clear of S.

Anyway, that was enough racing fun for the day.  Stacy and I sailed away down to the Mass Ave bridge and back.  We heeled the boat for fun, to sit on the low side and put fingers in the water.  It turns out that’s work in a keel Merc on a green flag day.  I’m tired now.

Wind was light.  I was calling it light green flag, maybe “mint,” from the East and somewhat shifty, especially as it came over the trees from the Boston side.  It was my failure to pay attention to these wind shifts that set me back spectacularly in some of the racing.  The difference in wind speed recorded at the CBI dock and at the MIT dock is also telling.  With wind from the East, CBI was recording 0kts with gusts to 2 or 3, while MIT was recording 10mph with gusts to 15.  I think on the race course it was somewhere in between.