Saturday, March 21, 2015

Good Choice

One of the reasons dinghy sailing is the best sport in the world is the mix of physical and mental.

Which means that occasionally sailors with less boat speed (like me) can profit from a good tactical choice.  I don't mean precision mathematical analysis such as described by Ian of Laser Salience and others -  there are frankly too many other things on the water that get my attention before I can think about such precision.  But sometimes a little observation pays off.

In yesterday's race, the outgoing tide was quite a factor and everyone had to pay attention to it.  I was in a pack of 4 behind the leader and as we rounded the gybe mark to go to the leeward mark against the current, we all stayed far right, against the seawall and outside the channel, hoping the adverse current would be less there.   Since all of us went basically the same route, we really didn't know if it was the best route or not.

On the next leg, I saw the boats slightly ahead of me who went closest to the wall were struggling a bit and so I went a bit further out, even though I was closer to the channel.  I was not struggling as much. Obviously the presence of the seawall was reinforcing the adverse current next to it.

On the final leg, coming again to the gybe mark, with the current even stronger, I thought I still might risk going much further out. As we rounded, one of my friends immediately rounded up and headed for the middle of the channel in a straight line to the leeward mark. That removed any doubt and I did likewise.  When we got to the leeward mark we were at least 100 meters ahead of the other two who had been slightly ahead of us. It was amazing.

As for the race, however, I was OCS and hadn't realised it. But still fun and good practice with a satisfying feeling at the end.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Nifty Gybe

I happened to watch a video of Andrew Scrivan of XDLaser Sailing in light wind and noticed a gybing technique I have never seen before, although maybe some of you veterans have.

At about 7:28 you see him gybe by putting the tiller extension back under the falls from the boom end block and pulling them toward him, leaning back and grabbing them, pulling the boom over to gybe.

Nifty, although I can't see it happening in anything but light winds.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Stick your Neck Out

Keep your head outside the boat - how many times have I heard this advice ?  I don't know, but whatever the number is, it is many more times than I have actually listened to the advice. 

One thing that prevents me from heeding the advice is being distracted by concentrating on doing something that I hope will help with boat speed.  There are lots of things I need to do better to get some better boat speed and each time I try one, I am keeping my head in the boat. 

And, on some level, I am sure that getting my head out of the boat makes me feel like I am sticking my neck out.  Doing something concrete and immediate to help my situation instead of looking at the bigger picture and looking for strategic possibilities seems "safer", although, of course a good strategic choice will make up for a lot of mistakes in boat speed details.

Practically the only time I find myself able to keep my head out fairly regularly is during light winds when doing boat speed things is relatively easy - mainly keeping weight forward and being slow and deliberate in movements, with no waves to avoid upwind or surf downwind.

This was the case in our races this weekend - light air, which died completely at the end of the last race, giving us an opportunity to practice our sculling, rocking, paddling skills to get back in. At any rate, I managed to do several things right outside the boat. I kept a good lookout for puffs and several times gained by spotting some.  In the second race, I noticed that the Committee boat was not lying head to wind, indicating that the tide was stronger than I thought it should be.  I tacked earlier and with the help of the tide, managed to fetch the upwind mark while others stood further out.

The best was in the last race. On the last beat I saw some puffs far out on the right and went to get them. I stayed in them as long as I could, even though I realised I would be over the lay line.  It paid off - I came to the finish line a bit below close hauled, but managed to slide in ahead of a couple of boats that had lead me to the leeward mark and then stayed in the middle. I must admit that it felt good.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Details add up

Yesterday, I actually won a race at our club. If I analyse things closely, I suspect that one factor may have been the fact that our two best sailors were not there. But nevertheless, it was nice.

Winds were quite light with an outgoing tide. So, I paid close attention to where I thought the tide would be either a positive or negative factor.

In the first race I had a very bad start because about a minute before the start it did a simple gybe and my sheet looped around the boom, which took about 30 seconds to undo which meant I was late to the start.  But luck was with me - the outgoing tide was not properly calculated by most of the fleet and a good number were OCS, resulting in a general recall.

On the restart I had a good start midline with clear air. Top mark I was in top 3 and then 2 reaches and rounded the bottom mark in same position. Then I followed the leader to right, not having properly thought about the leg before rounding the bottom mark - the start line was to be a gate on the upwind leg but the Committee Boat had moved to the upwind mark and been replaced by a RIB. So apparently the leading boat forgot about the gate and went way right. I started following obliviously but then noticed the 3rd boat of our little pack heading back left and I suddenly realised my brain had not been in gear.  So I went back and eventually finished second (the leader never went back and missed the gate entirely which was noted at great length over post-race beers).

The second race was a good start.  In both races I did a transit of the line with a building on shore and parked near the line (back a bit to take account of the tide) and did a trigger pull about 12 seconds before the start after checking to leeward.  It worked. Then, since the winds were light I paid a lot of attention to the things one is supposed to - sitting well forward in runs and broad reaches, minimising movements, slight leeward heel upwind when very light wind and, most importantly, really looking for puffs and pressure.  And of course, keeping the boat perfectly flat when a bit of breeze developed.  And, having plenty of time and no strong winds to contend with, doing all mark roundings deliberately and carefully.   All of this paid off and I was pleased to have rolled more than one boat.

I had the impression that I sailed more intelligently than I usually do and I am sure that a major reason was the light wind. First, as a relatively lightweight sailor for a standard rig (77 kg) in higher winds, light winds are better for me.  In addition, the light winds prevented distractions of dealing with higher wind.  Just a week before I went out in winds 15-20 and practiced gybing around marks but I kept making the mistaking of gybing too close to the mark and coming up too quickly, resulting in the boom hitting the water and then a swim.  I knew better but was, I think, trying to "improve" by being quicker around the mark.  Of course I was doing just the opposite.
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