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.
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.
The plan for the day was two sails, first a sail with Stacy then the advanced 420 class. Stacy likes the Ideal 18 but not the extra time it takes to get ferried to and from the mooring field. We took a keel Merc today, and because we pulled off that spinnaker escapade on a Rhodes 19 recently, I grabbed a spinnaker and pole. Wind was shifty, mostly W but from SW to N and from 3 to 10 kts. It was green flag, but some of the gusts were fresh.
We beat to the Mass Ave bridge, as before, well almost, but the wind died to nothing. It was close enough to tack and set the spinnaker. Starboard jibe was the short jibe toward the Boston side though, we jibed to port for the long jibe down the length of the basin. Stacy’s work on the foredeck was well, functional, but I wanted to do or demonstrate something, we don’t remember what, and so I had her take the helm while I took the spinnaker. Just about then though, the wind happened to be coming up to one of its gusts. I struggled to organize the spinnaker but I knew that most important would be for Stacy to maintain a steady course. With every heel of the boat it would try to round up and I would shout at Stacy to keep steering. It was all sloppy and we were on the edge of control, but we rode this strong gust all the way down the basin. I called it a success. It was cool. We doused, beat back to windward and this time took the easy way down under just main and jib. Until that is, there was a Sonar next to us and I couldn’t resist the challenge. I hoisted the spin one more time. It pulled well and we we accelerated. Hard to say how the speed compared to the Sonar though. They went off on a different course.
On the dock again, there was just enough time to walk down the street and get a slice of pizza. With the inconsistent wind, I wasn’t sure the 3:00 advanced 420 class would be possible, but at 2:45 the wind looked good so I said goodbye to Stacy and went to check in. I was still the only person signed up, but Kate was on the dock and signed up at the last minute. Like the advanced Sonar class I had recently, this was valuable for lots of little tips and advice on rigging, and boat handling. Kate and I were both interested in flying the spinnaker on the 420 so that was one focus. We also worked on roll tacks.
After class, Kate and worked on roll tacks more, until we were both out of breath, maybe 10 minutes. We then turned to more recreational sailing and drifted around the basin soaking up the sun.
I met Kathryn for sailing after work. Perhaps because we hadn’t sailed together in a while, we were a little out of sync I’m afraid. She needed to unwind after a stressful day at work; I couldn’t notice because I was hopped up on an extra afternoon coffee. Should we sail a 49er or a Nacra, huh, huh? Ah Sonia, how about a keel Merc? I need something more relaxing. Okay, but we’ll take a spinnaker! I didn’t give her a choice this time.
We got in two nice spinnaker runs down the length of the basin. Well, nice because they weren’t disastrous, but I’m still so low on my spinnaker learning curve. Our sets were worst. The sail always went up twisted and wrapped around things. Once it was up we both did okay trimming it, and managed to fumble through some jibes. The takedowns were fine. It’s good to keep practicing in this green flag wind. Twists and tangles can be teased out without too much drama.
We had time for one last run but I was coming to my senses finally and calming down. We did this run just wing-and-wing, which turned out interesting enough in the variable and shifty wind that was actually up a little bit. Wind for the evening was 4 kts gusting to 12 shifting between S and SW, but I think it was closer to 12 for this last run.
I had someone on my boat last year, from the Netherlands maybe — I don’t remember for sure now — that used the term “milkmaid” instead of wing-and-wing. The term makes the analogy to two pails of milk carried on a shoulder yoke. I loved the term, although I’m afraid some might consider it sexist or stereotyped at least.
Last year I took the three-part series of “Learn to Race” classes. While I learned race decades ago, I had no one to teach me. I learned to sail and to race just by doing. I really appreciate now having some more formal instruction. To follow up the classes, there was a series of on-water racing clinics, but I didn’t have the chance to do these last year. There was a clinic scheduled today though and I just showed up and asked if I could join. Also there was Trina, and having sailed together a few times recently it was natural that we sailed in a boat together for the clinic. We traded off rolls as usual and had a great time.
Wind was red flag but just barely. 8 kts gusting to 16 from the west for a while, but dropping somewhate part way through the clinic. We sailed a centerboard Mercury and had no problems with the wind strength.
We practiced, we debriefed, and then Stacy met me for a quick sail in an Ideal 18. She is now hooked on red flag sailing but sadly the flag had gone to yellow. Here’s a pic from the Longfellow on our way to Mead Hall after sailing.
Tuesday is Elena’s somewhat unofficial women’s racing practice day. She apparently had some distractions and the reminder notice went out late but a few us us still showed up. Well, just four actually, Trina, Molly, Fan, and me. We agreed to sail Mercuries with jibs, two to a boat, so we just had two boats. As an alternative to just sailing around, I suggested we race a windward-leeward course between the Coast Guard navigation buoys with a gate start. A gate start, AKA rabbit start, uses a single starting buoy and a boat designated the “rabbit” to sail near it on port tack. The fleet (or other boat in our case) starts by sailing behind the rabbit, between the the buoy and the rabbit. Boats must avoid the rabbit so Rule 10, port-starboard right of way, doesn’t apply until the rabbit tacks.
For us, the goal was a way for us to start a race without starting signals or a race committee. It worked! Sort of. We got in six races, we traded off skippering, I think each of us won at least one race, and I think we all had fun.
The sort of part was that our starts were all comically bad. None as neat as my little diagram above. I had only read about gate starts before and had never actually done one, so it was a first for me as well as the others. It turns out that gate starts need good boat handling skills, including down-speed skills and good judgement about time and distance. We, me included, were falling a little short in these areas and our starts were a little sloppy.
Once we got races underway however, we had good windward-leeward racing. Races were mostly won by finding good wind pressure and avoiding holes. But also reading some shifts and just sailing well. Wind was SSE 1 kt with gusts to 4 according to the CBI weather log. I think it was actually a little better than that, but it was light with puffs and lulls.
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.