Tag: 420

WR Chaos

Lots of 420s on the line tonight! As if our usual mix of sailing and racing skills isn’t chaotic enough, tonight we had breakdowns, reaching starts after a 60 degree wind shift, general recalls, and way too many collisions.

First, the breakdown was a main halyard that came loose, dropping both the main and halyard and ending sailing for the unfortunate boat (not mine.) In the debrief after racing, there was frustrated discussion about the incident, but it’s hard to just talk about how to tie a knot. Knot tying is much better demonstrated. I had my camera with me tonight so I grabbed a rigging sail and snapped some pics. There are two sequences here, demonstrating two different ways to hitch a halyard to the head of 420 mainsail.

This first sequence demonstrates the hitch I see somewhat more often. As in the upper left frame, pass the free end of the halyard through the cringle in the head plate. Lower left: pass the free end through again, making a round turn. Upper center: tie a stopper knot in the free end. A barrel knot is shown here, with my favorite way of tying it. It’s just a double overhand knot. Lower center: when you snug the double overhand knot, you can shape it into this barrel shape. Right: snug the stopper knot against head plate, pulling all slack through the round turn into the standing part of the halyard.

This can be varied in a number of ways. You can substitute a different stopper knot for the barrel knot. I like a figure eight knot. Stay away from single overhand knots — they jam badly. If the halyard diameter is small compared to the head cringle, you might want an extra round turn. If it is large, you might not even be able to do one round turn.

The sequence below shows another variation, actually my favorite way.

UL: Rather than putting the free end through the cringle, start by just tying a stopper knot in the free end. LL: Make a bight (a loop that doesn’t cross over itself) and push the bight through the cringle. UR: pass the free end with the stopper knot over the top of the head plate and down through the bight. LR: snug everyting tight.

The advantage I like with this variation is that for the first step of tying the stopper knot, you only need to be working with the halyard; there is no need to also be holding the sail. This makes for less time that you have to be juggling the sail in one hand and the halyard in the other. A slight disadvantage can come if the halyard line is stiff or thick or both. It can be hard to squeeze the bight through the cringle. If so, you have to abandon this variation and fall back on the first one.

Finally it’s worth pointing out that an advantage of either of these hitches over almost any other is that the hitch takes no space between the head cringle and the halyard sheave. They allow the sail to be hoisted to the maximum possible height.

So, racing. I had Andrea crewing for me, which was a delight because she was eager to roll with whatever crazy things I wanted to try. When the wind veered right strongly, It was clear we had a reaching start on starboard and that we were likely to lay the first mark from the start. It was almost like an America’s Cup start! Also watching many of these in the Extreme Sailing Series, I knew that the windward (boat) end of the line wasn’t necessarily best. You would think so, because it’s so heavily favored to windward, but if you can still lay the first mark from anywhere on the line, it’s not that much of an advantage. Sometimes the leeward end is best for securing inside rights at the mark, but then sometimes the middle of the line offers a winning compromise of speed and position. I expected the boat end to be crowded and targeted the middle of the line just hoping for clear air. It was fun to see how it worked out! I did get my clear start but turned out I had to sail close hauled to fetch the mark and the boats that started to windward of me were able to reach with better speed.

Also with Andrea I was trying to experiment with down-speed maneuvering in the prestart. I failed miserably at this a couple of times, calling my starts terrible, which Andrea thought was a little harsh. I was doing better in a latter race, killing almost all of the prestart while drifting slowly behind the line. I was pointing out to Andrea that I had the boat basically in safety position, with the tiller all the way down and the sails luffing, and that to accelerate we would just trim the sails and straighten the tiller. It sort of worked, but not quite. In safety position the boat still makes leeway. That means it’s moving, if slowly. I think there are better techniques. I was hypothesizing with Andrea that they would involve more active crew work, backing and trimming the jib slightly by hand to keep the boat closer to head to wind, and working with the skipper to either make slight headway or allow the boat to back in irons.

So, um safety position got us in trouble another time. I wanted to demonstrate something at the mast and so put the boat in safety position so I could leave the tiller and go forward. This was done, on starboard, for what it’s worth; we were both looking down in the bottom of the boat when there was a loud thunk. We looked up startled to see that we had just T-boned a Mercury on port. It was slow, of course, but still: proper lookout total fail.

I had more collisions! I tried to shut out some barging boats at a start and one barged in anyway. I cried protest. Carol just cried as our brand new 420s bumped against the committee boat. Later I hit a mark. I did my circle, but you know, it’s wear and tear.

And it wasn’t just me. There were a number of other stories of collisions today. Carol was dismayed to say the least.

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!”

Guest on a 420

Saturday, Fourth of July weekend, winds were forecast to be gentler in the morning before getting gusty in the afternoon.  I was talking about sailing and my roommate Stacy wanted to come with.  We did make it before noon, 10:30 ish, and the dock was relatively calm, with a couple of the usual classes going on.  We took out an Ideal.  Stacy liked that there was no centerboard trunk and that there was enough wind to heel the boat.  She liked sitting on the low side so she could put her hands in the water.  I obliged, sailing with the rail near the water as much as possible.  Traffic on the water picked up as the day went on.  All the usual duck boats and Charles river cruises, more than usual recreational power boats, a couple of police boats for the fireworks barges, CBI sailboats, kayaks, and more and more kayaks.  It got interesting at times threading the Ideal through the traffic.  After a while I suggested we were done for the day but then Stacy asked about the 420s.  She had heard me talk about them.  She wanted to know what they were like.  We took the Ideal in.  We drank some water.

And then we did.  We went back out on a 420.  So much for gentle sailing.  It was after noon and the flag had gone to yellow.  Stacy’s knowledge of sailing is mostly what she has picked up from me carrying on about the Extreme Sailing Series and other such stuff I follow on the internet.  Then, without going into too much detail, neither Stacy and I are ideal physically for a 420.  Oh, lets add to the navigation challenges I just described the challenges of a skittish boat, inexperienced crew, and increasing wind.  Ha.  Oh, and me starting to get tired.  We sailed a little.  Up to the fireworks exclusion zone, then a bear away.  We pretended we were Alinghi in the Extreme Sailing Series.  Well, I did.  We had a couple of nice gusts where we planed for a little while.  Imagine that, a little heavy to be on a 420, a CBI guest, but riding a plane, for a couple of gusts anyway.  We got our experience, and I seem to have got on and off the water without hurting myself.

As we got back to the dock they were just going to red flag.  I looked back over the water and there were three capsizes going on.  We left in search of something cold to drink.

Properly Initiated

Again I’m writing late, but I’m pretty sure it was the 15th that I sailed with Women’s Racing again.  Molly asked if I would sail with her and I said yes! that I wanted to hear about the capsize.  We raced 420s, although interestingly a few lasers raced with us.  Flag was green but Carol was cautioning that conditions were gusty and more like yellow or red.  CBI records show wind at the dock about 7kts gusting to 15 from the SSW.  I helmed the first race.  The pin looked strongly favored and I was jabbering about it to Molly as I almost ran out of time getting there before the start.  Two of our more favored teams had staked out positions there and I had to go around them and start third.  Focusing more determinedly on sailing, Molly and I managed to round the first mark in first though.  I turned to Molly and said, “so, tell all about the capsize.”  On the downwind, the fluky winds coming off the Boston side weren’t keeping the sail full.  I made weak and distracted efforts at refilling it but I was mostly listening to the capsize story.  Before I knew it, the fleet was on us and blanketing us.  They completely rolled over us and we rounded the second mark behind many boats.

I encouraged Molly to helm the second race.  She was tentative but of course had no problems.  On the last leg though, I happened to notice I had been bleeding.  Blood was soaked into my hiking strap and smeared all over the boat.  It looked much worse than it turned out to be.  Using the first aid kit on the committee boat, I determined that I had only superficial scrapes, almost certainly from kneeling on the fresh non-skid on the floor of the brand-new 420.  I sat out the remaining races.  Really this was best for me anyway because my back was still sore from Laser sailing.  Lesson for the day:  Do not kneel with bare knees and scoot around on fresh non-skid, especially if you have soft tender skin, and your skin is wet, and you are overweight.  You will tear up your skin and it will be a mess.


What a difference a week makes!  Just last week the women racers were a little too wary of the cold water to race in 420s but today we were all ready.  We had a few sailors new to the 420 so I started a rigging walk-through.  Thankfully Loren showed up to rescue me and finish the walk-through.

I sailed with Laura which was great because I’m not sure I ever sailed a 420 with her.  I think we may have sailed on a keelboat, but that’s not quite the same.  A 420, with just two people on a small and light boat, really encourages closer teamwork.

After racing people like to talk about the rules.  The rules are on the internet: http://www.sailing.org/documents/racingrules/.  Read.  18.3 is in there.  I also recommend the case and call books:  http://www.sailing.org/documents/caseandcall/.

Green Flag, 58F, NE wind 3kts gusting to 7.  It was enough for a first day of the season in 420s.

More, April 30:  I’m watching the replay of the Extreme Sailing Series and for the start of race 6 in Qingdao, the line is heavily favored to port, almost exactly like our line for women’s racing this day.  Let’s see how the pros do it, and what worked for them.  At 20 seconds before the start, the Chinese Team Extreme has plans to run up the line on starboard, using right of way to get to the favored end at the gun.  Seems reasonable, but not to anyone else.  Everyone else is planning a port start close to the favored end.  At the gun (2:11:58 in the playback) we see Alinghi is downwind of everyone, seemingly the in the least favored position on the line.  But wait, the commentator just said they were “the best off the line”?  When the SAP placings go on the screen a few seconds later (2:12:21) we are reassured that Team Extreme won the start with their starboard tack strategy and that Alinghi is down in 5th, only ahead of boats that were caught out and late for the start.  Pause right there and look at the boat speeds though.  Alingi is ripping and Team Extreme is wallowing.  The commentators are talking about their ideas of the starboard side of the course having more pressure.  Is it really that much difference of wind or is a lot of Alinghi’s strategy just maintaining headway and clear air?  At 2:12:52, less than a minute into the race, SAP numbers show Alinghi in first.