Tag: Green Flag

Two weeks later

After two weeks of rest I couldn’t resist the nice weather.  6pm, sunny 80F, W wind 6kts gusting to 12.  They were just replacing the yellow flag with green.  As I was opening my locker I heard calls on the PA system, first for crew for a Sonar, then for informal instruction.  I took the time I needed to get ready then walked to the dockhouse.  “Sonia!  What are you doing?”  It was Fan, who I met just once earlier this year in women’s racing.  “Um, I don’t know, I just got here…”  “Would you sail with me on a Sonar?”  Oh this was perfect.  I had been apprehensive about doing too much work.  Sitting on a Sonar should be easy.  Fan had just completed the keelboat class over the weekend and was eager to practice.

So, it should have been easy.  That was my plan.  But I can’t resist hand trimming the jib, especially when it’s gusty.  Then there was a Merc run aground on the Boston side where there’s poor visibility from the dockhouse.  No launch seemed to be coming.  I said we should lower our sail half way.  In contrast to the little Mercury against the shore, we would be highly visible.  It would be work though.  We sailed to mid river.  I looked one last time and there was still no launch.  Sail down half way.  Launch coming right away.  Sail back up.  More sailing.  Mooring at 7:30.

One thing I left in my locker was my gloves.  It was just green flag but my hands are so sore.

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!


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.

Early-Season Mistake

An early-season mistake is a silly mistake, one that you have no excuse for except that it’s early in the season.  A mistake like skying a halyard.  Wait, wa, how?  If you sail Mercuries at Community Boating, you learn to hold on to the halyard shackle unless it’s securely fastened.  That’s enough to learn because the other end of the halyard has a stopper knot.  In the big world outside of Mercuries though, halyards don’t always have such training wheels and you might need to keep track of both ends.  This is probably especially true of spinnaker halyards.

Elena and Renee were planning spinnaker practice on an Ideal 18 and invited me when I appeared at the dockhouse with a Mercury sail in my arms.  I convinced them I needed practice rigging the spinnaker and proved it when I skyed the halyard right away.  Well, I’m sure it wasn’t the practice Elena and Renee had in mind, but was definitely the kind of lesson to lesson to get out of the way in early-season practice rather than rigging before a race.

Ideal 18, green flag, about 2 kts gusting to 8 from the SE, more or less.

Omg, racing

Omg, racing on my second day of sailing this year!  The weather forecast was nice for today but rainy for the next couple of days so it was worth a little extra effort to get out and sail a second day in a row.  My kind of weak plan was to practice some of the CBI-approved techniques from shore school yesterday.  It was a weak plan because of course I easily change my mind if there’s anything else interesting.  I learned shortly after arriving that the regular Monday high-performance racers were planning to race in Sonars.  Oh, now that was interesting.

It get’s more interesting.  Me being rated on the Sonars, I ended up with the tiller in my hand.  I had fantastic crew and even more fantastic guest crew for one race and we managed to do okay.

One situation was much like case 15 of the World Sailing Case Book.  That case shows two boats but we were third of three boats approaching the mark on port.  By the case book, we should have been able to hold our course and keep the other two boats from tacking.  Problem was, the first boat started to luff and I could imagine them getting tangled with each other and me with nowhere to go.  I chickened out and bore off below both of them.  Sure enough, one ended up doing a penalty turn, one was slowed in their rounding, and I came out okay going wide around the whole mess.

Racing was between about 6 and 7 pm, green flag, 56F, wind NE 3 – 8 and veering E over the hour.  I wasn’t learning my lesson with the wind shifts.  It happened more than once that I was lured left by nice breeze only to have it lift a little and leave me downwind.  If was picking up on this I could have tried staying right more on the beats.

First sail, 2017

And first post for this journal.  The year I learned to sail (long ago) I kept a journal where I logged every time I sailed.  I logged the time, the weather, where I sailed, what I did, anything interesting, and what I learned.  I plan to do something similar this year.

So, it was today, April 2, 2017, and I sailed a Cape Cod Mercury at Community Boating (CBI) for…oh, I didn’t look at the time, but surely no more than an hour.  That was time to sail a beat between the nav buoys, sail the length of the basin, stop and adjust the outhaul along the way, and sail a circuit of the practice course on the way back in.  It felt really nice to be on the water again.  I sailed between about 3 and 4 pm (I think).  It was green flag, mostly sunny, air 56F, NNW wind 6 mph with gusts to 12.

Probably the most interesting I noted was how well the boat moved through the water, having a clean and freshly painted bottom.  As the boats sit in the water over the summer they build up a coat of moss, river sludge, and even a few barnacles, all of which makes them increasingly sluggish.

After sailing I sat in on a shore school class.  My goal was to get a more complete idea of what is taught in shore school so that when I talk with new sailors or sail with them I can avoid confusing them with conflicting information.  The students were amazing I thought, remaining attentive through the long class and asking good questions.

Then for the end of the day, a couple of pics.

Sun getting low
Last boat in