Tag: Yellow Flag


Not feeling well I’d been away from sailing for while more.  Forecast for Saturday was perfectly pleasant.  Forecast for Sunday was hot and windy.  I elected to sail Saturday and skip Sunday.  As I often do, I first asked at the dockhouse if anyone was waiting for instruction.  No one was so I took the day for myself with a Laser.  The Laser might be seen by some as physical or challenging but for me it’s like home.  It’s similar in size to the Butterfly that I learned on as a teen and while a little faster and more responsive has a similar feel.  My Sonar red test last year was hard.  The problem was that I didn’t really have much time in the Sonar or even any similar boats.  My closest experience of any significance was in the Rhodes 19s on harbor trips in the past, but really it wasn’t that much experience and anyway the Sonar is different enough, and the sailing different enough, that I’m not sure how well the experience translates.  My Laser red test on the other hand was ridiculously easy.  While I have very few hours in the Laser, it’s similar enough to the Butterfly that sailing it comes as second nature.

So the problem this day was that it was too nice.  I sailed to the Mass Ave bridge once, then even though I was feeling some warning signs of pain, I set off to do it again.  Half way there the pain was worse.  This is just pain from using muscles that were very sadly out of shape.  I continued.  I was sad when I got to the bridge that I had to turn around.  I sailed the length of my perimeter fence and headed back.  Then on the way there was the test course.  One quick circuit of the test course before I conceded and headed in.

The biggest lesson for the day was that rule 42 stinks.  That’s the “propulsion” rule: “…only the wind and water…to propel the boat.”  Recently I’d watched with amazement some Finn races under flag Oscar — which allows them to use “kinetics” to propel the boat, in variance of rule 42.  Most interesting was the rocking and pumping downwind.  I tried it.  I had seen that while sailors would pump at different times, most would coordinate a pump with a roll to leeward.  I found that without pumping, the sail tended to be strongly full on the roll to windward but would often go slack right when the boom was coming closest to the water.  So, it’s pretty simple and easy to pull the sheet at that time to keep the sail full and re-ease it as the boat rolls back to windward.  Wow that worked well.  The boat was going nicely, then I stopped the kinetics and it was like sailing into a hole.  Most surprising was that this particular technique didn’t take much extra strength or effort.  It doesn’t take much effort to get the boat rolling.  Then if the sheeting is done when the sail is nearly slack, that doesn’t take much strength.  This is different than what you read on the internet.  You read that it’s physical and requires strong athletes.  Hmm, maybe some techniques are physical but this one isn’t.  How does it work?  All you read on the internet is that the sailors are “pumping” with their strength and “rowing” with the sail.  I think something really different might be going on:  the rolling is increasing apparent wind and the pumping is simply trimming to cycle of the apparent wind.  Not too hard and very fun.

Oh, but just sailing I think was overexertion for me.  I won’t detail it all but writing 24 hours later here I’m still in pain.

Weather:  82F, partly cloudy, Wind WSW (straight down the basin) at 10 gusting to 20 mph. This is by MIT data since the CBI weather station seems down.  MIT gives speed in mph while CBI always said knots.  Flag stayed yellow all day even though the wind picked up a little more later in the afternoon.  MIT showed gust to 25 for a while but I might have been off the water by then.  Either way the Laser was planing nicely off the wind in the stronger gusts.  I had some great rides on beam reach.

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.

Informal Instruction

April 11, 90F.  That’s right, look! it really happened, according to the CBI weather station, anyway.  Forecast as the day approached was upper 70’s, then mid 80’s, then look what happened.  Even better, while the forecast was sun, by 5:30 when I got to the dock, it was mostly overcast, so there was less glare, less risk of sunburn.  I put sunscreen on my face anyway, which has noticeably flushed with color lately, but left it off my pasty white shoulders.  Sailing stories to come, but first this photo from the pedestrian bridge as I walked from the Charles MGH T station:

Routine Sailing Catastrophe

RSC stands for “Routine Sailing Catastrophe” or more importantly “Rudder, Sail, Centerboard.”   That’s the sequence to remember when you run aground!  You can see here that the sailors have dropped their sail.  Let’s hope they also pulled out the rudder and set it the bottom of the boat, and raised the centerboard.  An important observation though is “routine!”  The sailors are calm because here to rescue them are highly trained and experienced CBI staff Alex and Martin in a CBI launch.  Oh, I think there might be a report for the sailors to file when they arrive back at the dock, but their “RSC” should have prevented damage and kept this run-aground “routine.”

On the dock, I expected lots of new members eager to sail.  It was highly likely I would find someone interested in informal instruction.  That was kind of my plan.  The minute I waked in the door though, there were the racers.  “Sonia!  will you race with us?”  “Uh, well, I might… I don’t know…”  Omg, I might not have communicated yet how much I love racing and so how pulled I was, but my head was all set up for informal instruction.  I wanted to give it it first priority.  I walked straight to the dock house to ask (and share my photo with Alex.)  There weren’t actually any cards in the queue then, but by the time I was ready to sail, Alex had someone for me.  It was V.J., actually one of the students in Alex’s shore school I sat in on last week.

Yellow flag, and as you saw if you followed the link earlier, 8 kts, gusting to 20 from the south.  V.J. was great, I think he had a good time in spite of me leading us into a couple of very close calls.  I was explaining at one point how sailing is part intellectual — diagrams on the white board and sequences of steps — but part muscle memory — like most sports.  V.J. related immediately.  He is a musician, and said piano playing is just like that.  At some point your fingers just move on their own.

So, um, close calls, yeah.  It would have been so embarrassing to fill out a capsize report.  Worse, V.J. was wearing very nice leather shoes.  I think they got a little wet but hopefully weren’t ruined as they certainly would have been in a capsize.  He was also wearing prescription glasses, who knows, maybe as expensive as the shoes.  I tried to reinforce as a final lesson for the day the importance of a croakie ($5 at the front desk), and a change of clothes, just in case you end up sailing with a reckless instructor.

Technically, my mistakes were carelessness with weight placement.  You can only present or stress so many concepts on a first sail.  I didn’t put that much emphasis on weight because I’m heavy enough I can move my weight around and mostly control things and other concepts just seemed more important.  But then I can’t resist picking the biggest gusts to demonstrate a gybe, and V.J.’s on the wrong side of the boat because I haven’t bothered to remind him of what to do, and I have just b a r e l y enough weight to avoid disaster.

Another close call was docking.  I was letting him dock (how exciting, docking on your first sail!) because conditions were ideal for a first docking, but still his first approach was a little fast so I took the tiller to steer us around for another try.  Problem was, in snatching the tiller and main and having him scoot forward for a moment, the main had wrapped around the tiller and was fighting me to steer us into the island.  Fortunately I had just enough strength to pull against the main and not be that person in the photo at top.  Anyway, on the second try V.J. docked perfectly.  I hope he was excited as I was.

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.