Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Tacking into Irons

Our race last Friday was in winds of around 15-17 knots which is more than we usually experience, but nothing that should have been too difficult.  And the wind was with the tide, so the waves were relatively small.

But, I had completely forgotten how important it is to avoid getting into irons when tacking - and I paid the price.

The first time was about 30 seconds before the start - I was coming in on port and meant to do a quick little tack into a big hole at the line.  But, with my mind apparently elsewhere, I did a slow tack right into a little wave and stopped dead. Not fun. Everyone else was heading toward the line and I was going backward.  Instead of trying to simply do the classic push-push, I panicked and did something stupid and capsized. I don't remember what I did, but no doubt I was concentrating on the other boats and, at least at the moment I tacked, I should have had my head IN the boat.   After righting the boat, I had the presence of mind to push the tiller over and back down, turning away from the wind and finally get going - but almost a minute behind everyone else.  

And it was not over.  After rounding a leeward mark with at least a modicum of dignity, I decided to tack and again some stupid thing happened - into irons.  At least I didn't capsize, and had the presence of mind to push-push right away. So, I didn't lose a lot of time - only a lot of self-respect.

Then, thanks to my friend's misfortune of a broken hiking strap, I avoided a potentially difficult gybe near another passing of the leeward mark.  The wind around the mark was getting particularly squirrely - it kind of funnels/bounces off some nearby buildings. I was thinking about how to gybe without a swim when he capsized about 40 meters in front of me and turtled.  With the wind strengthening, I was very quickly heading straight for him on starboard and I came up a bit to avoid him and the wind caught me and rounded me up quickly.  I said to myself - this is fate - I will just keep going and tack instead of gybing. And it worked.

By the end of the race, I did pass a couple of boats and a few retired, but overall it was a race to forget.  The next day the wind was about the same, so I went out and practiced tacking and gybing for an hour.  It was worth it getting back to basics.  

Now if I can just remember the importance of quick tacking next time we have some wind.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Tides are Like Pimples

I still struggle with tide tables and other calculations related to tides and currents. Now I have just learned that what we have always been taught about what causes tides is incorrect.

An interseting video that is part of a fascinating series of videos about physics explains What Physics Teachers Get Wrong About Tides.  The series is largely about quantum physics, but this video explains things only with Newtonian physics.

It starts out saying that the standard diagram we have all seen about how the moon (and to a lesser extent the sun) causes a bulge in the water on each side of the earth in line with it is correct, but the typical explanation is not correct.  The incorrect explanantion is that the moon pulls the water on each side as if it were taffy, whereas in reality the bulges come from the downward pressure of the tidal vector at ninety degrees to the bulges - like squeezing a pimple at the edges and forcing the fluid up in the middle.

How poetic.

Anyhow, the tides still work the way we know them to work and I still struggle with tide tables.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Brittany Storms

I just returned from a week in Brittany where the weather was unseasonably mild.  No storms, but it is not always like that.

Amazing video of storm waves in Brittany crashing against light houses - beautiful and  scary to watch.

By the way, this video is part of SailingNews TV - a good French sailing YouTube channel. Here is another one which opens and closes with some of the same lighthouses and some Volvo Groupama action.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Championship Rigging

The Sailing World Cup finals were held in Abu Dhabi recently and I had the chance to see all the top Laser sailors launch on the Medal Race day.

It was also quite interesting to see the clockwork precision with which a top-level regatta is run.  On the Medal Race day, each class was given a specific time to be ready for inspection and then launch. Sailors who were late by only 10 minutes were penalised by the Jury.

As the Laser sailors prepared for inspection, I looked at how each rigged their Lasers and while there were no great secrets learned, it was interesting to see the differences.

First, the outhauls - some had the small block at the back half of the boom (which is what I am used to) and others had it in the front part of the boom.  This is Pavlos Kontides with his outhaul block upfront.

Both Australians, Tom Burton and Matthew Wearn have theirs at the back.

The bungee cord attached to the clew. Some were straight to the jam cleat and others criss-crossed under the boom.  Sam Meech criss-crosses, as does Kontides.

But Robert Scheidt uses the straight technique.  And, speaking of the clew, note that Robert Scheidt uses just a bit of thin rope for the clew tie-down - none of that fancy Velcro stuff for him.

About half of the people used tape or string to hold the vang into the thing (whatever it is called) on the boom.

Both Kiwi boats - Michael Bullot and Sam Meechy - had several bands of tape around their booms between the mast and the vang connection (in addition to tape holding in the vang connection) to mark their outhaul position.  

Meechy had his outhaul block at the front part of the boom and could read its position against the tape. Bullot had his outhaul block at the back part of the boom and had put several bits of tape around the outhaul cord to measure against the tape on the boom.

On launching from the beach, the over-the-transom mount was the favored approach.  And everyone stood up to insert the centerboard, tidy up and generally survey the scene.  This is Tonci Stipanović about to insert the centerboard.

And Robert Scheidt remained the longest - standing until he was a good 200 m or more away from the shore. That is him in the middle boat, still standing, facing forward.  Unfortunately he was headed out for a terrible medal race - he was comfortably in second place and then sailed into a hole, dropping quickly to 9th place where he stayed until the finish.

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