I played Tiller Club roulette again and this time got paired with Jen (a different Jen than I sailed with last month in WR.) Jen had already rigged a boat so I was crewing in the morning. Wind was very light and variable seemingly adding a huge element of luck. Leoni complained at one point something like “there’s nothing to learn on a day like this.” Yet, a few sailors (like Jen) were still doing consistently well, placing in the top few places in each race. The lesson from that is that there is something out there that these top sailors have learned. We might not know what. It might be obscure or subtle. But there definitely must be something out there to learn.
Jen offered me the helm after the lunch break and I readily accepted, making us co-skippers for the day. One squishy spot I got into was a pinwheel at a leeward mark. I wish I had counted the boats involved because I don’t remember exactly, but I was about to be trapped pretty far on the outside of a number of boats, with still more boats beyond me. At the last instant possible, I fishtailed out and then back in so I could cross the sterns of the boats inside of me. Jen’s eyes went wide as she said “you have no rights over any of these boats!” True, but they appeared all well rafted up side by side and I was gambling that none of them would be able to break formation for a while. Again, I wish I had paid more attention. In that situation I really should have counted boats and checked sail numbers to see whom exactly I owed mark room. Eventually (this was all happening in super slow motion because of the lack of wind) a boat did appear to the outside of me. It was Leoni, and I didn’t know exactly where she came from. I waited to see if she demanded mark room but she didn’t, and was possibly giving me mark room. I couldn’t quite tell if she could have come up more or not. I asked her later if I fouled her at the mark but the thought hadn’t entered her mind.
Two weeks ago It worked out well to just show up for Tiller Club racing and get paired up with someone in the morning. I tried the same this morning but failed. We had an odd number of people and I perhaps wasn’t aggressive enough to secure a partner. Shanghaiing an unsuspecting crew on the dock wasn’t an option either as it was not a good day for sailing and no one was foolish enough to be there without previous plans. Eventually though, someone was looking for informal instruction so I adjusted my expectations for day to take them out.
It was Courtney’s first time in a sailboat ever! I apologized repeatedly for the wind, explaining that she would learn more and different things on a day with more wind. In my preparation for racing though, I had a pretty good handle on what little wind there was and we were able to make enough sense out it to sail anyway.
Oh wait, how bad of day for sailing? How little wind? The water was like glass and the tell tales hung straight down most of the time. One of the best wind indicators was the steam coming off the power plant across the river. Wind was actually North, and you could see this steam angling South as it rose. Forecast was for a sea breeze to fill in from the East at some point. I was chatting with Charlie (Z.) and he was cautioning that this time of year the sea breeze is less predictable. The ocean is warm this time of year, so there is less difference between the sun-heated land and and already warm ocean, he explained. Nevertheless, shortly after we talked, the first little Easterly zephyr came across the dock. More followed as the day went on.
This level of understanding was what Courtney and I needed to make a successful day out of the light wind. Like the racers, we were able to set the sails for the wind we expected, even though not always having clear feedback from the boat. We skirted the course, talked about the basics of sailing, and also enjoyed front row seats for the racing. A number of subtleties weren’t lost on her. “Why do they use that extra sail?” “Why are they wearing gloves?” “Why do both people make the boat lean?” Roll tacking. It goes like this… “That was scary!” She’ll do well.
By afternoon the Easterly sea breeze filled in nicely. Wind was light before that, but at least 5 mph with gusts to 15 from the East although the flag stayed green. Sonars were all taken so Stacy and I took an Ideal 18 with a spinnaker. Stacy’s been on the boat enough this summer that I kind of gave her the tiller without thinking, ordering “here, you sail” while I played with the spinnaker.
The first hoist went badly as I had not double checked that the halyard was rigged clear of everything else. The sail went up halfway and then stopped much to the amusement of Elena, on another boat, probably with UAP crew. She hooted and hollered as I brought it back down, detangled, and rehoisted. I hailed “love you!” back to her and Stacy and I sailed off, now with the spin nicely set.
We got in I think about 2 1/2 nice runs down the length of the basin, with a number of jibes thrown in for practice. One jibe didn’t go well, with the sail tangling around the forestay. Here I had to grab the tiller back from Stacy to expedite a jibe back to get it untangled. I was describing it later to Justin and he suggested jibing with both twings on to keep the sail a little more in control. I’ll have to experiment with that another day.
It was a good day to pack the camera. Wind was light, Stacy was with me, and there was interesting stuff to photograph. First, the Charles Basin Invitational Regatta was going on, hosted by the Tiller Club. This was a big regatta for Community Boating, with 30 boats registered and 27 on the starting line. The wind was a small disappointment. It was first forecast to be very light, then there was a chance of it filling in a little, but no, it didn’t come in time for racing. CBI showed 0 kts occasionally gusting to 1 with direction not registering. MIT showed 2 mph gusting to 4. I think truth was somewhere in between.
The racers left the dock before us and the leaders were already around the windward mark when I took this first photo. Interestingly the second photo shows four of them compressing on the downwind. Stacy and I didn’t continue to follow them to the leeward mark (a gate maybe?) but I think I heard race control shortening the course. Later I heard they sailed just three legs so this last photo should be as they were finishing.
Charles Basin Invitational
CBI Leeward mark
As has become routine, we had a spinnaker with us, on a keel Merc it was today. Wind had shifted from W to E (racers said it was a 120 degree shift) so with it now blowing away from the course (we didn’t know racing was over) we dropped the jib and hoisted the spinnaker. Sometimes it would fill, sometimes it wouldn’t. I had forgotten the pole again. Without the pole I could never get it to catch enough wind to fill on a run but most of the time it would stay filled pretty well on broad reach.
Blue, blue, blue
In the second photo above (captioned “no pole”) you can see that the spinnaker isn’t at its best without a pole but it’s at least full and pulling, with the luff lifted off the forestay. You can see we’re on broad reach by the “capillary” waves, the small ripples made by the wind immediately blowing on the water. I’ve been talking about these waves all summer, claiming that they’re one of the main ways I tell the direction of the wind. Unlike the shroud tell-tales, they tell the direction of the true wind. The images below show these waves better. The larger waves, maybe a foot across, are termed “gravity” waves. The capillary waves are the the little ones, maybe just an inch across.
The gravity waves build up over time as the wind blows, but the capillary waves form and dissipate minute by minute as the immediate wind changes.
Off the water, one more look back:
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.
After so much talk of racing with the tiller club, I finally managed it. I showed up Sunday morning, was designated a skipper right away, and got paired with Thomas for crew. Wind was light and variable, generally N, 0 to 5 kts.
In one race I thought the pin looked favored and was half-way reasonably executing a plan of closing on the pin on starboard when I saw that no one else was around me. Maybe I could even tack start on port! I lowered my course a little to gain speed for the tack, but then, oh no, there was one other boat coming in fast on port. Now I was too low to lay the pin on starboard anymore and I was afraid I wouldn’t have time to tack in front the port tacker so I ducked and tacked and followed him out to the fleet. Neither of us were crossing though. He bailed and tacked, I waited a second to get out of his shadow then I tacked. That extra second had let the fleet get too close though. I came out of my tack slow enough that not just one but two boats overran me and tapped me on either side, one to leeward and one to windward.
Well, shoot. If there’s contact there must be a foul. What was it? The leeward boat was protesting port-starboard but that wasn’t it. I was through my tack. I decided not to do circles. I was probably somehow wrong for tacking to close but it was all messy and unclear. In the end no one bothered to file a formal protest.
I think part of the mess was that I was slow coming out my tack. Tacking was a problem all day. Mercuries are notorious for being slow to tack but in a racing fleet you see your performance compared to others and our tacks were slow. I was happy with the way Thomas was backing the jib but I tried to talk about weight management to effect a bit of a roll tack. As long as we talked about it and reminded ourselves to do it, the roll helped quite a bit. We were coming out of tacks still slow but not completely stopped. Our rolls were small, not deep, and I don’t think the sail trim was well coordinated with the roll, but I think it still helped.
I finished mid-fleet in some races, last in the last race, and got 10th of 11 boats over all. The standing was a bit disappointing but mostly I was super happy that I could race, that I could race the whole day, that I had good crew and had fun.
I sailed with Patty, who was trying to work in as much sailing as possible before a trip out of town. Uncharacteristically for me, we sailed in the morning, when the sun and wind were best for the day. Wind was W at just 1 kt when it was slow but gusts were nice, to 6 kts. We got in some nice runs with the spinnaker. All my recent practice with spins, Patty’s steady hand on the tiller, a light blue spinnaker, and we looked good on the water. Sets, trimming, jibes, and takedowns all went pretty well. For the sets, I worked on having the spinnaker tack ready to be trimmed and then getting it pulled around to the pole first thing. The first takedown was a little rushed, and I was doing it to leeward. I got the clews in my hand but then let the halyard down faster than I could gather the sail and the spinnaker hit the water. The second takedown (with the spinnaker now dry again) went better. I tried it to windward this time. I eased the sheet, took down the pole, hauled the tack to windward and the rest of the sail followed easily.