Tag: Racing

Women’s Racing

I was running a little late, so were others.  At nearly 6pm Carol was gathering everyone to decide on boats.  Wind looked great to me for the 420’s, that was my vote, but Carol was cautioning everyone that over the last hour winds had been gusting to 30mph at the MIT dock and that a number of high-school sailors had capsized and had trouble righting the boats.  It was enough to make people shy away from the 420s.  In fairness, the water is still chilly and a capsize wouldn’t be fun whether you could right the boat easily or not.

We sailed the Ideal 18’s.  We had five of these and over 20 women racers so that meant four people to a boat and a couple of people sitting out on the committee boat.  I got the tiller.  On my boat, to start with anyway, was Laura, Jasmine, and Tessa.  Laura is experienced with women’s racing and was valuable in the front of the boat, both at helping Jasmine and Tessa and at being an extra set of eyes for me, saving us from disasters more than once.  The jib is pretty easy on the Ideal but I think Jasmine with just a green rating was learning from it.  This is my point that you learn at a rate in proportion to the wind.  With the strong wind, even the little self-tacking jib of the Ideal was giving lots of feedback.  I let Tessa trim the main the whole time.  She had some experience in bigger boats and so seemed totally unfazed at the boat heeling which was really good.

Lessons.  Hmm, first lesson is to eat something before.  Racing runs right across dinner time, and you can run out of energy.  Today I had missed lunch and so grabbed a snack on the way to CBI.  It made a huge difference.  I felt better and hand more energy.

Another thing that went well was once on a final leg to the finish.  We rounded the leeward mark pretty far behind other boats and looking for anything to try, I saw darker water on the left side and tacked over for it.  Sure enough, the stronger wind was there.  I sailed in it for a bit on starboard, then tacked in it on lay for the finish.  Amazingly we crossed two boats just before the line.  The first boat we crossed was complaining loudly about port-starboard but we got across without them having to alter course.

A thing that didn’t go well also involved a boat complaining.  Approaching the leeward mark, the boat behind hailed overlap.  This surprised me, I turned and looked and sure enough they were no where close to overlap.  But in that second or two when I was turning and looking, we came up on the mark and there was no longer time to prepare my crew for a tight tactical rounding.  We went wide of the mark and the other boat went inside to pass us.  Now, it’s possible to fluster someone by yelling.  Doing so deliberately in attempt to gain advantage might even be considered not fair sailing.  But that’s not what was going on here.  I wasn’t flustered, all that happened was I was delayed for a second.  When I watch racing on the internet, I think I see the professional sailors do this to each other.  They will hail or otherwise posture in some way that consumes some time or attention of the other boat.  Every second spent evaluating the immediate situation is a second unavailable for planning the next situation.  I think the best defenses are to have that next situation planned as early as possible, be aware of the current situation as much as possible, and possibly anticipate noise from the other boat so that if it comes you can dismiss it faster.

After racing I had a little sip of coke left, I drank a bottle of water, then another bottle of water with a cookie and was feeling okay.  I have to give a lot of credit to Tessa for doing the work of pulling the main sheet for me.  Otherwise I would have been demolished tired.

95F, CBI wind records show 10kts gusting to 20, starting WSW but then backing to SSW.  This wind shift was most apparent on the third leg of our triangle course as it turned the reach into a run.  In earlier races we jibed around the reach mark then reached to the leeward mark.  In later races we jibed but then had trouble fetching.  In a couple of races we had to throw in an extra pair of jibes.  In one race I avoided the extra jibes by sailing past the reach mark so that we could fetch the leeward mark with a single jibe.

Oh, and we didn’t even win a single race but we sure had fun.



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.

Women get competitive

It was Thursday Women’s Racing.  We had wind, lots of sailors, and competition!  A year ago women’s racing at CBI was kind of in a phase of building, or rebuilding.  A week ago I commented on how well everyone was sailing.  Tonight everyone was eager to step up the game and get more competitive.  There was more close maneuvering and more pushing on the racing rules.

Carol thought we were wimps to pick Ideal 18s over 420s, but it was chilly out there and most of us didn’t want to risk getting wet.  Temp was 53F dropping to 50 over the hour from 6pm to 7.  Wind recorded at the dock was 4kts gusting to 8 but perhaps from a direction (east) with a wind shadow.  Out on the water it was certainly more, perhaps twice that.  Wind started out E but backed to NE over the hour.

The wind shift, unnoticed by most of us, meat that the pin end of the line became increasingly favored.  I think there was a failed port tack start in one race, and then a successful one in a later race when the port end was more favored.

I sailed with Debbie and Kathryn, we traded off the tiller and each got to sail a couple of races.  I was called over early in my first race and didn’t handle it well.  I started steering back and forth a little trying to figure out how I was going to have room to turn back.  It was hard because there was traffic behind me and on either side.  My mistake was not just slamming on the brakes as hard as I could to let people pass me.  It was long enough back to line that we never caught the fleet again and scored a DFL as Debbie said.

Another costly mistake (not me at the tiller this time) was a leeward mark.  We were gaining on the boat in front of us but hadn’t quite caught them when the boat ahead called back to us “no overlap at the zone” or words to that effect.  The mistake was then sailing into an overlap.  The lesson is, well, don’t do that.  If you’re going faster, then steer to the outside as sharply as you have to avoid sailing into an inside overlap.  If for some reason you can’t do that immediately, then work on making it possible as soon as possible.  Again, slam on the brakes if you have to.  You can’t live there for long and you’ve got less than three boat lengths of sailing to do something about it.

Women’s Racing 2017

Women’s Racing happens on Thursday evenings at CBI, and yes, okay, we did meet last week but stayed indoors due to cold, rain, snow, thunder, and lightning.  Carol made a party out it with a bag of chips and a this harrowing youtube video of a sailboat being tossed under the Redondo Beach Pier by the surf.  Tonight was the first night we got into boats though.  While we had a few women with proper wetsuits, many of us (like me) did not have suitable clothes for 420’s on 50F water..  After an agonizing decision between Mercuries or Ideal 18s, we finally filled five Ideal 18’s and raced five races in somewhat chilly yellow flag conditions.

I sailed with Trina and Dorothy.  Both had raced with us a time or two last year but given the conditions I helmed all the races.  (I hate hogging the tiller by the way.  I would most like to let others build their skippering experience but this wasn’t a good night for it.)  I was happy to see that our fleet of five was usually fairly close in all of the races.  It was good to see that we had good boat handling competence on all the boats.  Special thanks go to Robin for running race committee for us.

Racing rules were followed with somewhat less competence, but I’ll describe one interesting situation were there was contact rounding the jibe mark of the port triangle course.  We were overlapped inside.  The other boat, sail 13, but let’s call it L3, had been holding us high before the zone just to make things difficult for us so we were approaching on a run.  I actually had in mind keeping the rounding “seamanlike” and was trying to round relatively directly.  Still, when we jibed, our boom fell against L3’s shroud and L3 later did a penalty turn.  Were they clearly wrong?  I’m not so sure.  I can imagine a number of possible arguments that my rounding was not sufficiently seamanlike or that I could have anticipated the contact and did not give L3 room to keep clear.

Our boat was last to get a ferry from the mooring back to the dock so the three of us missed most of the debrief.  We were assured that we made fun of though.  Carol was showing a — paperweight — that was an America³ memento with a piece of rope inside.  I don’t quite remember the whole story, but the significance for women’s racing is that the America³ foundation was sponsoring an all-women’s team for the 1992 America’s Cup.  See for example youtube (since I’m posting youtube links.)  I didn’t even know.  All I knew about America³ was cuben fiber, but when I mentioned that I just got “Sonia, don’t be an idiot” looks from people.  So I didn’t think to say anything at the time, but somewhat related, in professional women’s sailing there was Jo Aleh competing in the WMRT this week.

Also back on the dock I was cornered by a few of my competitors to ask why I was “going wide” at the leeward mark.  In more than one race I had given up a place or two at the leeward mark.  Did I have some strategy?  Carol leaned in with a smirk and a raised eyebrow, “Yeah Sonia, what were you thinking?”  For reference, the wind had veered since the course was set and it was a long port tack from the leeward mark to the finish line.  I rationalized:  Well, in some races you couldn’t quite fetch the line from the mark so there was no need to tack immediately.  There might be an advantage to maintaining more speed during a roundup, and then doing a tack as a separate maneuver.  I backpedaled more then and said I was deliberately not sailing as hard or aggressively as I could, which was closer to the truth — which was that I was just being lazy and sloppy.  I think there’s  still a lesson here though.  How can just a little bit of relaxed sailing repeatedly cost a position or two?  Mostly by not doing the long tack first.  Rule of thumb: always do the long tack first.  Another way I’ve heard it said is that once you’re on the layline, only bad things can happen.  In this case with the mark close to the layline, the right thing to do would generally have been to tack hard right on the mark to start making progress toward the line as soon as possible.

Thank you Carol for promoting this blog to everyone.  Someone said pictures, so I grabbed my camera for this cheesy group photo of most (all?) of us that raced tonight.

CBI Women’s Racing April 13, 2017

Um, so, that’s me front row second from left, with the white stripes on the maroon sweatshirt.

Tiller club Sonar match racing

#1 lesson for the day, do not attempt to leave home without having coffee.  I won’t explain, but travel time to the dock was much longer than I had planned.  Regardless, the racers were not on the water yet, had not started the skippers’ meeting, and in fact I was just in time for crew selection.  Niko asked me to join him, with Robin and Aeron also crewing.

I wish I had specific interesting points of match racing rules or tactics to report on, but I really don’t.  Niko had me trimming the main most of the day and I was pretty intensely focused on that.  Robin and Aeron trimmed the jib.  You might think that one person would be enough to trim a little jib on a 23ft boat, but there are problems.  One is that in match racing, maneuvers are fast and frequent.  Another is that the CBI winch handles have long rested on the bottom of the Charles and have not been replaced.  The jib might be smallish for a keelboat, but rigged single purchase it’s nearly impossible to trim under load.  In fact before today I was under the impression it was impossible, but no, these guys worked out that if one person sheets as hard as they can and the other person twists the winch with bare hands, it can still be trimmed under moderate load.

The system with two people on jib is not only to sheet harder, but to tack the jib faster.  With four hands instead of two, the jib can be taken off the cleat, backwinded if neccessary, hauled to the new side, and trimmed again much faster.  Faster if well choreographed, that is.  The commentators for the match racing I watch on the internet talk a lot about crew choreography and it was so cool to see this first hand.  Before the first race, we had enough time on the water for the skipper to direct some sequences and the crew to run through it a few times.

In addition to trimming jib, Robin was invaluable as lookout, always with “head out of the boat” scouting for wind changes, keeping an eagle eye on the competition and any non-race traffic.  I usually fancy myself good at keeping lookout but this day I was no help whatsoever.  My head was uncharacteristically “in the boat.”

For me on main, Niko reminded me of some Jib II lessons, not only for sail trim but heel as well.  (Slightly more important for me because I was the heaviest person on the boat.)  A first-order principle for crew is to follow the lead of the skipper with weight placement.  If the skipper is hiking, he probably wants help.  If he is crouching inboard, he would be more comfortable with crew weight to leeward.  For maneuvers, the crew weight controls heel to promote turns.  I know this stuff, I just don’t always do it naturally.   Later in the day Niko was trying to coach me a little on roll tacking.  This is something I really don’t have a good feel for yet.  I can understand the general principles but I’m not good at it at all.  I think it takes practice, and probably becomes most effective if you can develop a “feel” for it, a feel of how the rotation of the hull helps the boat through the water and how the rotation of the sails pumps forward through the air.

The next hard lesson, later in the day, was fatigue for me, both mental and physical.  I was really fading at some point, losing concentration on the sheeting, losing awareness of what was going on the race, and not anticipating what was coming next.  I noticed Niko having to say my name more often to get my attention.  At one point I started to make a disastrously wrong move prompting a wild scream by the skipper.  When I no longer had the strength to sheet the main, Niko took over for me without a word.

As a team we won some races but didn’t win prizes.  Personally I won some good racing experience, lots of fun, and well, exhaustion.

Yellow flag, sunny with temp rising from upper 50s to mid 60s.  Wind 7 gusting to 15kts, shifting between W and NW.

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.