Tag: Red Flag

Red flag challenge

The theme for WR today was “challenge”. The idea was to pick some way to challenge yourself. But then the wind turned out red flag and the wind itself was quite a challenge. Previewing the forecast, I had already decided my challenge would be to fly the spinnaker in the stronger wind. Most of my spinnaker practice/experiments this summer have been under green flag so I wanted the challenge of trying it with more wind.

It turned out you had to look fast or you would have missed my spinnaker. I only got one run with it. It was the first race. As I’ve done a few times, my plan was to try the first hoist poleless. And it worked! I had actually rigged everything right the first time, I pulled the tack to the forestay, then the sail went up and filled and pulled nicely. We (I had Robin at the helm) jibed at the jibe mark and I floated the spinnaker across easily. I was a little slow with the drop but I thought to do a windward drop so I would be all set up for the next hoist and everything had worked!

Sadly, the hoist in the next race didn’t go so well. The sail went up half way and twisted badly. A number of things were wrong. This time I neglected to pull the tack around ahead of the hoist. If I had, I likely would have noticed that it had snagged on the snap shackle of the jib tack, which of course kept the sail from going up all the way. It was a mess, and I never got things sorted out again.

Sailing and racing was pretty intense with the red flag wind and the extremely short WR courses.



Remnants of the storm, remnants of the summer sun. Eight of us showed up in time for racing in the red flag conditions, 7 mph gusting to 20 by MIT’s records. It was kind of disappointing that the wind wasn’t stronger. The gusts weren’t even that close together. I was sailing with Wei Yun and it was her first time on a 420. After three races we hadn’t even hit a plane yet, so I took the little break between races to bear off in a gust and see if I could get the boat out of the water. Not at first, but then yes. “Oh it’s like we’re flying!” exclaimed Wei Yun.

I think races today were mostly won on boat handling. A few times I fell behind from sloppy tactics but then was able to catch up again simply by holding a nice close hauled course. It was fun sailing but way too rushed. The equinox is tomorrow and sunset today was 6:42, which meant we were supposed to be in at 6:12. I think it was like 5:20 when were were signing out boats, so really, we shouldn’t have had any time on the water all. We squeezed 4 1/2 races though and we can all claim we sailed the hurricane — remnants.

Heave to

Labor Day! Sunny, warm, with wind fresh and steady. WSW 10 kts gusting to 16, yellow flag when we got there around 11:30, but a couple of stronger gusts came through as we were getting ferried to a Sonar and the flag went red. Red these days at CBI pretty much means keelboats reef. Oh darn, I wasn’t going to have to work as hard. With the wind, the Sonar handles just fine without the jib so we cast off the mooring with main only and had no problems getting underway and out the cut. In fact I was a little tense at first, not having been on a Sonar under red flag in a while. After a couple of tacks though, and seeing that the “gusts” today were relatively gentle, I took a breath and relaxed.

We beat to windward. I coached Stacy on sheeting the jib hard before it fills on the new tack because without a winch handle it’s about impossible to sheet when it’s full. I practiced sheeting with the traveler and before we knew it we were at the Mass Ave bridge. I coached Stacy on the bear away. We went though it and were flying downwind. Broad reach, my favorite way to go downwind was fun, but in the stronger wind I wanted to practice DDW, Dead Down Wind. I bore off more and Stacy was able to fly the jib opposite the main in wing-and-wing or “milkmaid” configuration. We did some jibes, we slalomed through kayaks, and beat back to the bridge.

On this second run, I thought I’d try something new, “heave to.” I explained it Stacy, we tacked, I gave the boat a moment to lose its headway and was able to bungee the tiller to leeward with the bungee that holds it centered while the boat is moored. The boat was lying hove-to nicely, I scooted forward on the bench and kicked back. It was like having a blanket in the park except it was a boat on the water. Actually I liked watching how the boat responded to gusts and lulls. After a while Stacy and I traded sides of the boat and I got the other perspective on how the boat was maintaining a stable heading through gusts and lulls. Eventually, after drifting maybe half the length of the basin hove to, I had Stacy bring the jib across as I bore off to broad reach and trimmed the main. We were up to speed in seconds.

We sailed around at east end of the basin for a while, kind of stalling because we had decided to go in after two laps but it was so nice out there! Actually, as we had suspected, the flag was back at yellow. Really there had just been a couple of gusts that justified the red flag. I decided to try one more little technique before we went in, we’d shake out the reef. I headed up, pulled the reef ties as the boom came in, and tacked us over to heave to again. Cunningham off, vang off, reef line off, then hoist the main. Main halyard on the cleat, cunningham on, vang on, then out of heave to and we pulled the trigger! It was fast and easy. The boat was noticeably faster with the full main, but we were done. One more tack and through the cut.


A fruit punch flavor rockstar happened to be packed in my sailing bag today. Oh, it was just what I needed to hype me up for some red flag sailing after work!

Wind was S, 8 kts gusting to 20. Nothing special was happening so I asked at the dock house if anyone was waiting for informal instruction. There was one person who wanted practice in a Mercury, but then wait, there were two more. Could I take two more? Sure, but not in a Mercury. My willing green rated sailors agreed to a Rhodes 19, which I assured them was just like a big Mercury. I said it was roomy, like a family station wagon. “Like a Volvo?” one of my young informal instructees asked for clarification. Um, yeah. Just like a Volvo.

Per dock house white board we rigged the main reefed, and then because none of three were indicating confidence about the jib, I left it furled it on the foredeck. So we sailed, we practiced, we got in one lap up to the Mass Ave bridge and back and then it was time to go in. We never did end up hoisting the jib.

Race clinic

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.

Community Boating

Gusts over 20

W 10 kts gusting over 20. It sure seemed like the wind spent most of its time closer to 20 and I would have guessed the gusts were higher, but the CBI wind log shows it really wasn’t gusting much over 20. It was brisk and fun anyway. Stacy and I sailed an Ideal 18 a couple of laps down to the Mass Ave bridge and back.

We rigged reefed in the mooring field. It took a little creativity though as the reefing line was missing from the boom. I put the outhaul shackle on the reef clew and just tied the full clew to the end of the boom to keep the sail tidy. For this cast off from the mooring, I made sure it was as controlled as possible. We were starting from the corner by the kayak/windsurf/laser dock (the beach, I call it) with little room to maneuver and with the wind a little bit wild. I got the boat pointing away from the dock and had Stacy unfurl the jib right a way after she cast us off. The wind grabbed the jib and we were off.

As usual, Stacy wanted to sit on the low side to drag her fingers in the water. No, not today. When I told her she had to sit on the high side I got a look of disbelief and hurt. As we sailed through the cut and into the wind on the basin though, I think she understood. Seriously, it was a blast for both of us. She had some new lessons, about jib sheets under load, and about moving her weight from one side to the other in a tack or jibe. I think the wind might have been a little eye-opening.

For me, I really liked this red flag time in the Ideal 18. I don’t have much red flag experience in the boat so it was good to log an hour or so. With just the two of us, were were a little bit light for the wind strength. I liked playing the gusts to try to keep the sails as full as possible and keep the boat speed up as much as possible. A mantra for gusts is “ease, hike, trim.” Ease when the gust first hits, not only to limit heel, but because the apparent wind direction comes back. Then hike. As the boat accelerates, the apparent wind streams back again and the sails can be trimmed back in. Today in the Ideal, the hiking part was a little different. Stacy’s not much into hiking, I’m still trying to take things a little easy myself, and we’re in a keel boat where hiking counts less than it does on a dinghy. Interestingly though, ease-hike-trim works even with limited hiking. As a gust would hit, I tried to ease the main some but still allow the heel to come up somewhat — not so much that there would be excessive weather helm but enough that the keel would give some more righting moment. Then it worked to almost immediately sheet back in. The boat would accelerate as I sheeted and luffing would be minimal.

I encouraged Stacy to wear a headband to keep her hair out of her eyes, but I didn’t take my own advice at first. In the middle of our sail though the wind was coming up even more and I wanted to minimize distractions. It was time for a few minutes in safety position while I tied up my hair as well.

Hmm, a couple of other small lessons. One was that windsurfers can move through the water with some significant speed even with their sails in the water. I tend to think of them as being stationary when they hit the water but that’s not a safe assumption. One capsized a bit in front of us when we were on a run. There was other boat traffic I was avoiding and I planned on sailing by this capsized windsurfer, well, not terribly close but a little close. As we got closer though, the person was pulling his sail around in the water and the whole windsurfer rig moved significantly through the water to come against us as we passed.

Also I was a little sloppy with my jury rig tie on the main clew and at one point a loose end started to tangle in one of the mainsheet blocks. In the strong wind it was a little hectic to go head to wind and try to organize it a little better. Safety position doesn’t help if you need to do something at the end of the boom!

That was the day. I was a little sad I couldn’t do more. There was that Laser red test I would have liked to take, and calls from the dockhouse for crew for red tests in addition to the usual informal instruction. But one nice sail in the red flag wind was enough for the day.