Sunday, December 30, 2012

Pulling Over

I was out practicing gybes recently and doing them rather badly, catching the transom too often and even lassoing the boom a couple of times with a half hitch.   I tried to break the gybe down into steps I  had learned and methodically do them right.  But somehow the mainsheet kept ending up in places it had no business being. I was sure I was sheeting it in at the right time - just as the wind starts to push the clew over. I was holding the sheet near the block and raising my hand quickly - but it didn't seem to be enough, so I tried a couple of other things. First, I tried what one of my Australian friends had suggested - hooking the sheet near the boom with a finger as it comes over, drawing it down to take out the slack.  But that wasn't very satisfactory. Then I thought maybe I was being a bit timid in raising my hand sufficiently - worrying about the boom coming over and not taking out enough slack. So I tried pulling sideways instead of up and it worked quite well. I was able to pull without thinking of where the boom was and also by pulling to the side I was not interfering with crossing over.

So, for now, I will be be making lateral moves and pulling over.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Was Dinghy

We have read a lot about the travails of the Laser, its trademark, its baby-pram owner, etc.  The blogosphere  is abuzz with speculation about what might happen to the name, the brand, the Olympic status, even the boat itself.

I have it on good authority that a serious contender to replace the Laser is a radical new dinghy from the UK that actually traces its origins centuries ago.

The exact design is not yet unveiled, but reports are that a festive announcement/launch is planned very soon so that people can take it for a spin during the upcoming holiday season.

Amidst all the tightly guarded secrecy, I have only been able to glean one small nugget of information - the name is rumored to be the "Was".  A strange name, but perhaps we will learn more soon about its origins.

In any case, I look forward to its arrival and during my holiday plans I definitely plan to go Was Sailing.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Good and Bad

We had our Monthly Mug race yesterday and overall it was positive for me, but with a reminder of how easy it is to forget some basics.

I had a very good start. The wind was light and so I remembered not to stray far from the start line.  More importantly, I made a point of studying the wind patches on the first beat, even standing up a couple of times to get a better view.   About 5 minutes prior to the start, I saw a large hole below and slightly to the right of the windward mark. So, I decided to start at the pin end and to stay on starboard tack as long as the wind held up on the left side, completely avoiding the hole. But by about 2 minutes to go, I saw that the hole had shrunk drastically and the left side was not so clearly an advantage. I decided that neither side was particularly favoured although the remnants of the hole on the right could still be a factor.  While some of the others were waiting further back -  too far back - I was able to get a nice start almost at full speed at the pin end.

The wind on the left side remained fairly consistent and I also saw that the  double handed class that had started 5 minutes before us was getting some nice pressure to the left of the windward mark, so I stayed left.   It worked nicely and I was able to round the windward mark in first place. Then we went under a large highway bridge which we do not normally do, and rounded a another mark further to windward on the other side of the bridge. I was doing very well, paying close attention to the puffs, tacking to stay in the pressure.  Coming back on a run under the bridge I ran into the evil troll living under the bridge and was stopped dead in his black hole with no wind, and strange eddies just downwind of the bridge.   Several boats behind me saw my predicament and managed to jibe away, merrily sailing around me.  I slipped into fifth place.

On the last beat I made a basic mistake - despite how many times I have observed (and even blogged) that tide trumps wind every time, I went left into better breeze but against the tide in the channel - which I thought was not yet strong enough to pay its due.  Unfortunately the laws of nature did not change to accommodate my mistake and I paid the price.  A boat that had been at least 50 meters behind had gone right to shallower water and when we crossed had caught up and looked as he would pip me at the finish line. However, at least I ended the day by doing something right.  I was overlapped slightly to windward of him, both of us on starboard, pointing (and occasionally pinching) as high as we could to just make the finish line.  I realized that the tide would push us both just below the finish line, so about 50 meters from the finish line I quickly tacked on to port for about 20 meters and then tacked quickly back. My colleague delayed too long and was pushed below the finish line and made a desperate tack onto port - only to find me coming across on starboard, informing him at high volume that I was doing so.  He tried tacking to cross the line, but went into irons with the tide pushing him back below the line - and finished several minutes behind me.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Several of us drove to Dubai yesterday to compete in our annual Team racing regatta with the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club (which they usually win by embarassing margins).  But it was finally cancelled because of very squally conditions (lightning, thunder, gusts to 35 knots) which is quite rare for the Emirates.  So we drove back to Abu Dhabi and by then the weather had settled into blustery conditions and I took out a Laser to practice, doing a number of gybes - and only lassoing the boom once.  I did however perform a new trick - somehow the knotted end of the mainsheet reached up to the boom and caught near the outhaul.

I was lucky in having one of our best sailors also out practicing and he gave me some great tips.

In practicing beating in the blustery conditions it was easy to be overpowered in the gusts and I was dealing with it by putting on lots of outhaul and cunningham, hiking hard and easing the main sheet so it was often not even close to block to block.  He  suggested I first let off just a bit of outhaul and pull even tighter on the cunningham in order to get the power lower on the sail where it would have less leverage than higher up.  I did this and it worked.  He said in a keelboat one would also tighten the backstay.

Then he said I should concentrate on keeping the mainsheet block to block and deal with the gusts by heading up just a bit and only let off the mainsheet if absolutely necessary.  I did this and for a short while I was even outpointing him - that felt good, even if it didn't last.

I had also discovered a week before that pushing the tiller away can be effective to avoid a capsize as the boat rounds up quickly.  The natural inclination when one feels the boat rounding into a sure capsize is to pull the tiller in a vain attempt to bear off, but all this does is push the transom up and accelerate the turn - resulting in a dunking. On reflection I think this was a point made in one of the Boat Whisperer videos, but I didn't understand it at the time.  At any rate, when I started rounding up too quickly I found that if I just give a quick little push away of the tiller it flattens the boat quickly and I usually manage to recover.

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