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.
Halyard in head cringle
Tying barrel knot
Snug barrel knot
Snug round turn
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.
Stopper through bight
Bight through cringle
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.