Monday, June 30, 2014

Just for Fun?

I wonder if it is really possible to go out for a sail just for fun?

Ramadan is here now and that means reduced office hours and lots of opportunities for taking a sail.  So, I went out this afternoon for a sail. I was the only one out and I told myself it would be just for fun. So, I did a couple of long broad reaches, just for the fun of it and then went down a channel between two islands with high rises on them - just for the fun of it.

But then, I noticed a couple of channel markers with some incoming tide swirling around them and thought, that might be fun to do a few roundings.  So, I did a couple of gybes around each, reaching between them, trying to correctly judge the tidal effect in rounding (and getting a streak of green on my gunwale from misjudging one),  and then a few more and soon strung together about 10. Then I thought - I need to try tacking around them and before I knew it I had done a similar number of tacks.  So, the fun turned into practice roundings - which was fun.

So, I guess this means that for me fun includes at least some practice.  I don't consider myself an obsessive competitor or an A type personality, but without the bit of work/practice and feeling of slight improvement, I would have probably been bored.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Not my Day

When you capsize at the start line, you know it is not going to be a good race - and this proved true last weekend.

Nice wind - around 12 knots and a bit of incoming tide.  Nothing unusual.  During the thirty seconds before the start I was in a group of 3 or 4 boats approaching the start line on starboard. My leeward boat started to luff me a bit and I responded by turning up a bit and then, for some reason I still don't understand, I capsized to leeward onto my colleague.  I have tried at length to understand what could have caused it, but the best I can come up with is bad karma or goblins.

Muttering to myself that this can't be happening, I righted the boat after first grabbing my hat that was threatening to float away and set myself to trying to catch some boats.  I managed to pass a couple of newbies, but that was it.

I almost caught a couple of other boats but then I made a big tactical mistake (our top Kiwi sailor also made the same tactical mistake and lost his usual first place spot).  Basically, I thought I was being clever by using my local knowledge and following the notion that "Tide trumps all" by going to the right side away from the channel - which is the "accepted" smart move on most days.  But on this day, I too quickly used the accepted solution as a short cut and did not accurately assess the situation.  We normally have an afternoon seabreeze that is slightly west of North and that means that a beat will be directly into incoming tide.  Today however, the wind was 30+ degrees to the east of its normal direction and the leeward mark was further west than normal - which meant that after rounding the leeward mark one could fetch the upwind mark on a single starboard tack, with the incoming tide actually helping, by providing enough sideways push to bring the track directly to the mark. When I tacked away to port to get over to the shallower "safe" side, I was  sailing almost directly away from the windward mark if one considered the tidal effect.  Not a good way to win a race.

I spoke to the Kiwi afterward and we agreed we had each made a big (and not very glorious) mistake. So, lesson learned is to take nothing for granted and always think through tactics, especially if conditions are a bit different.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Always Think

Today's race did not cover me in glory.

A decent start and then I stayed not very far behind the lead pack. But eventually the top 2 or 3 drew away to a signifiant lead, as they tend to do. I was mid fleet and holding my own.

Then on the last leg I decided to go left and a fellow who had been shadowing me went right. As we started getting closer to the finish I realised with horror that he had opened a lead of at least a minute on me.  What to do?  Nothing other than accept the inevitable and try to figure out how to avoid it next time.

What did I did wrong and what did he do right?  I had out sailed him throughout the race, but in the last leg he went right and I went left - wrong. Was he lucky? Did he out smart me?  I don't know what he was thinking but on analysing things after the race I know for sure that I was not thinking.

In retrospect it was obvious to go to right and pick up the tide which had started to turn by then and get a boost from it.  And perhaps the pressure was better right, but whether it was or was not, the point is that I was not really thinking through the last leg - just reacting and going left because I saw the leaders do it on the prior time around that mark.  That is a poor excuse for tactics.  It may have worked for them before, but to blithely assume it was still good was stupid.  To follow without concluding it was a good idea was stupid.  I was concentrating on the boat handling and doing a decent time of it, but my head was clearly totally inside the boat.

So, lesson learned - never stop thinking. An error in judgement (or more precisely, no judgement)  such as mine will far outweigh any slight improvement in speed through boat handling.
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