Saturday, May 12, 2012

Getting Trimmed

We participated in team racing recently and it is only the second time I have done it. It is a great format – short courses and a very different mentality – it is only the team results that count and individual skill is less important.  We had 2 versus 2 and so all the complicated calculations about which combination of places were winners were thankfully reduced to the simple bottom line of whichever team has a last place finish loses.   Normally the tactics are what determine results, but of course the tactics matter very little if both members of one team lead from start to finish – and that is mostly what happened to me and my team member – a couple of young teenagers were consistently better sailors and skunked us.

But I did learn a couple of things so I am obliged to say that it was a good day, etc etc – although the truth is that being whipped easily by a couple of kids is not the best way to nourish one’s ego.  Never mind – back to what I learned and pretending to look positively and constructively at a good day on the water and being strengthened because the learning experience did not kill me – you get the drift.

The first thing was that since we sailed boats chosen at random I didn’t have my usual setup with wind-vane and telltales.  I missed having those tools (I am not suggesting the results would have been different, just saying I missed them).  But lacking the tools, I was much more sensitive to feeling the wind on my face and neck.  I was reminded of the story of one of the top sailors – was it Dennis Connor? – who always had his hair trimmed short before a race to better sense the wind.  For me, relying only on my senses did make me more aware of the wind instinctively, but I am not about to get rid of my wind-vane and telltales.  This last week, back in my usual boat, I tried a few times sensing the wind and then looking at the indicators and either my senses or the wind-vane was off.

The second was a very practical lesson in the rules.  One of the aforementioned young whippersnappers was starting by being stationary just behind the line in irons and bearing off a few seconds before the signal.  I was coming up from behind and politely suggested that inasmuch as she was the windward boat it was incumbent on her to move out of my way, to which she demurred.  Being a gentleman (and also suspecting she was right) I did not protest her and afterward took at look at the rules.  I was thinking because I was leeward I could luff her up and force her to move, but I forgot the word “overlapped” in Rule 11.  Just being leeward is not enough.  Her boat was pointed almost head to wind so I could not be overlapped – which is measured by a line abeam from the aftermost point of her hull – until I was almost head to wind myself.  So I was leeward, but not overlapped and Rule 11 did not apply.  ISAF Case 53 puts it simply “A boat clear ahead need not take any action to keep clear before being overlapped to leeward from clear astern.”

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