Tonight was the last night to sail 420s in women’s racing. Sunset is getting too early and wetsuit restrictions are coming. But what fun wind we had! The flag was yellow. I called it dark yellow because of the many vigorous gusts of 15 to 20 mph. The gusts were exciting because wind was NNW, and so coming right over the buildings of MIT, which randomized them in strength and duration. Between the gusts wind was shifty, sometimes veering over 45 degrees to suddenly back the sails. Robin called these “autotacks” and encouraged not to fight them but to simply yield and tack.
It was really great to sail with Robin. Actually, I think I was a bit intimidated and was perhaps quieter than usual. Robin filled the space readily by feeding me continuous information and suggestions. One of my favorite things she would tell me was what she was doing with the jib. My experience is that crews will typically sheet the jib hard unless told otherwise. I have thought before that ideally the crew would sheet the jib hard but only as long as I was sailing close hauled. If by wind shift or course change I would fall below close hauled, the crew would automatically ease to keep the jib from stalling, but tell me that they were easing the jib. That would keep the boat moving and leave the decision to me on when and how to return to close hauled. Robin did exactly that. I loved it. Today this would happen sometimes from a wind shift, but sometimes because I wanted a different direction, or wanted more speed, or simply because I wasn’t paying attention. Regardless, Robin trimmed the jib for best boat speed and made sure that I was aware of what was going on.
We got in a few races, we managed to win at least one, and finished the day with a nice ride on a plane back to the cut. The final course was a single leg, a downwind start and finish at the cut. Technically we won that one too although I don’t think it counts because others seemed to be confused about the course. The line was skewed enough that the start was nearly a beam reach. I channeled my racers from the Extreme Sailing Series to target the middle of the line and try to get the time and distance right. Sadly we had no close competition but we did have this one nice big gust to finish the day and finish 420 racing for the year. Oh, there’s still women’s racing next week, just not in 420s. Plans are to be in Mercuries….
Remnants of the storm, remnants of the summer sun. Eight of us showed up in time for racing in the red flag conditions, 7 mph gusting to 20 by MIT’s records. It was kind of disappointing that the wind wasn’t stronger. The gusts weren’t even that close together. I was sailing with Wei Yun and it was her first time on a 420. After three races we hadn’t even hit a plane yet, so I took the little break between races to bear off in a gust and see if I could get the boat out of the water. Not at first, but then yes. “Oh it’s like we’re flying!” exclaimed Wei Yun.
I think races today were mostly won on boat handling. A few times I fell behind from sloppy tactics but then was able to catch up again simply by holding a nice close hauled course. It was fun sailing but way too rushed. The equinox is tomorrow and sunset today was 6:42, which meant we were supposed to be in at 6:12. I think it was like 5:20 when were were signing out boats, so really, we shouldn’t have had any time on the water all. We squeezed 4 1/2 races though and we can all claim we sailed the hurricane — remnants.
Crack went the lightning half-way through women’s racing tonight! The flag went from yellow to green just as we were getting ferried to the high perf dock but as still 5 kts gusting to 10 from the SW. We got in a few races before a little gust front came through with a gust to 20, and then the lightning and the frantic scramble to get all the boats in and all the people off the water.
Aside from the excitement with the weather, I sailed with Pam and took advantage of her skill to play with the spinnaker a little more. I tried a hoist without the pole and the spinnaker rigging was tangled. I detangled for the next race and the hoist, jibe, and takedown went just fine, although the 420 spin on broad reach just doesn’t hold enough wind to do much of anything without a pole. On the next race I rigged the pole. The spin set and takedown went just fine, and on one of our tiny little WR courses! We didn’t have anyone near enough to us to see if we were really faster. But then the last race was the one scrubbed for lighting and I flew the spin on the way back to the cut. Here we had traffic all around us and sure enough we were noticeably faster.
Nice wind, WSW 10 kts gusting to 15. I sailed with Jen again, in this wind even a little stronger than we had last Thursday. Elena set us a tiny little course, right in the middle of Mainsail class and right in front of the cut, and did an amazing job of running RC for most of us simultaneously with conducting a capsize practice for a couple more of us. We had a great time racing, careening around the wide-eyed Mailsail students, dodging the occasional keel boat passing through the cut, and just dealing with the wind. It was enough that Jen and I had at least one good planing reach, well you know planing as well we could with my weight in the boat.
One moment that a few people enjoyed was a pass at a leeward mark. Jen and I rounded the reach mark with another boat not too far behind. She let the boat head up a little after the jibe and I said something like oh good, you’ll have inside at the mark. Happy with that, she sailed for the mark and neither of us kept an eye on that boat behind us. Before we knew it, they rolled us to windward and got a big inside overlap before the zone. They passed us easily. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but of course the boat that passed us had a great time and Elena watching it all from the committee boat thought it was spectacular.
I won, I won! It’s been a while since I won a race, it was fun to win a couple of times at WR. I raced with Jen, who wanted to crew at first. As she noted, we were both in our comfort zones. She was quite efficient in the front of the boat. I didn’t sail fantastically well or anything, but didn’t do any thing disastrously wrong either.
The course was a very small port triangle. In the first race I got an okay start, got around the windward mark first, then the leg to the supposed reach mark looked dead down wind. Not trusting to hold my lead, I jibed so I would be inside when we got to the leeward mark. Good thing as the boat behind me mostly caught up. I jibed again, my inside room was enough to get me started upwind first, and I held it to the line.
In the second race I was second around the first two marks but the boat in first looked slow, hugging the reach mark. I came in wide and was able to shoot up to a windward overlap just after rounding. I held the overlap to the zone and was able to make the pass at the leeward mark and hold on for another win.
After that, Jen and I switched — out of our comfort zones. I tried my best to handle the jib smoothly and manage my weight placement. I think we had two more complete races then. On one of the downwinds we were in second, I think, and Jen held a nice line that let me wing the jib effectively. It made a huge difference and we closed most of the distance to the boat in front. The course for the final race was windward mark and through the cut and Jen steered us to a second place finish.
Wind was yellow flag, SW 6 kts gusting to 12. Fun, fun, fun.
WR practice today was on capsize recovery. Three of us were eager and brave enough to show up for this practice. NWS forecast was for red flag but they let us down today and it was just yellow. Pretty good yellow though, 8 kts steady, gusts 15 to 20 from the south.
An interesting element was seeing different techniques that were needed for our different body weights (me being considerably heavier.) With me on the centerboard, I just have to pull a little with my hands and the boat comes right up. Trina and Molly, lighter, both had success with what we called the “koala bear hug.” That’s grabbing the end of the board your hands but then putting one foot up on either side of the board near the boat. “Hug” the board to lift your body out of the water and the boat comes up.
On the other side of the boat, all of us managed some form of the “scoop,” grabbing the top side of the boat as it comes up so that you get scooped up and into the boat. Again, me being heavier, I needed a little different technique. I had to refrain from tugging on the hiking straps until the boat was coming up and then lunge and grab on at the last instant. It worked, even with a very light koala on the other side.
The person on the top side can get scooped, but then it can be harder for the other person to get back on board. On my first try, coming over the windward side of the boat, I failed. I had my crew help me grab the hiking strap but then I still couldn’t manage to get my, um, life jacket over the rail. Next idea, the double scoop: I went to the leeward side of the boat and my crew heeled the boat to put the rail in the water. This worked! I grabbed the hiking straps, my crew leveled the boat, and I was scooped right in.
Thursday women’s racing is starting to get squeezed by the earlier sunsets. Still we have a nice crowd show up. I sailed with Patty, who has sailed with WR in the past, but this might have been her first WR this year. Learning that she is rated in the 420, I schemed to try a spinnaker during racing. This proved quite challenging on a number of fronts. Our courses are almost impossibly short for spinnaker sets, then there are my only-emergent skills, and Patty had never flown a spinnaker. In the first race I tried flying without the pole, to simplify things and save time. The hoist went okay, but I had trouble getting it to fill and fly out from the shadow of the jib and main. For the second race, I set the pole, then it was time to jibe the pole, then it was time was take it down. Good practice with the pole, but kind of pointless without the sail! There wasn’t ever time to actually hoist the sail. Third race, could I combine the two? No. We had sailed over the guy and it was under the boat. I didn’t think I could get it out while racing so I just left it until we finished. So there was a pretty big lesson for the day: Be careful during takedown to keep the guy (or sheet, whichever is around the forestay) on the bow and don’t let it fall off the bow down into the water. The boat will sail over it and it make a mess.
Another lesson for the day was how much the skipper suffers when the crew (me) isn’t paying enough attention. I was horribly negligent at keeping proper lookout, for example, leading to an ugly port-starboard situation with us on port crossing two starboard tackers. And I was offering next to nothing as tactician. Never mind watching the fleet and the wind, I even let us miss marks. That’s plural, I think.
One of the missed marks led to a highly entertaining moment. I had the spinnaker up and actually pulling well when the RC/coach hailed that we had rounded the wrong reach mark. “Heading up,” Patty called, and promptly spun us up to close hauled. “You can’t…” I was trying to protest, while Patty was still trying to sort out the course. “That mark?…” I reached back myself to pop the halyard off the cleat and complete a crash Kiwi drop. She could and she did. We found the right mark and all was good.
Well, Patty and I didn’t finish too well overall, but we both claimed to have had lots of fun. Wind 4 kts from the NW, but lots of gusts, to 12 kts, and coming in from both sides. Not sure but I think flag was yellow.