Wednesday, August 31, 2005

One Foot at a Time

Footing can be an effective way to keep your position and speed up during a header that you are unable to tack to the lift on. When you encounter a header, ease the main off a couple of inches and your alter your course 5 degrees. This will give you more speed and take advantage of the shift.

To realize your gains you must tack over to the lifted tack. Always try to stay on the lifted tack as it moves you closer to the mark.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Tracking The Shifts

The low tech method for tracking wind shifts (see "Left Is Lower"), can help you predict the wind shifts in an oscillating breeze or persistent shift. This early detection can give you an advantage to your competitors.

In an oscillating breeze the wind shifts from one side of the course and will shift back again at a somewhat regular interval. It is important to stay in phase with these shifts. By the low tech method you can determine by how many degrees the wind shift will be and you will be able to determine if you are on a header (the wind shift that pushes you farther from the mark) and how much that header will cause you to fall off from the mark. Tracking the phase of the wind shifts will allow you to stay on the lifted tack longer (the wind shift that takes you closer to the mark).

By continually tacking to stay on the lifted tack you will reach the mark faster. Each header you encounter pushes you farther away from the mark. Tack a few boatlengths into the header to be sure it is a stable header. Foot off a few degrees and dig the bow in to the water (gaining speed for the tack) then tack over and catch the lift.

Tracking the wind shifts with the low tech method will enable you to recognize a persistent wind shift (the wind continually tracks to one side of the course) and play the shifts wisely. Winds shifts if played well can gain tactical and pointing gains on your competitors.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Wicked Wind

Just checked the forecast for Wednesday practice runs. We are in for quite a wild ride.

East winds to 30 knots backing to northwest. Showers. Waves building to 5 to 7 feet.

Wednesday Night
Northwest winds decreasing to 15 to 20 knots then becoming west. Showers likely. Waves 4 to 6 feet.

Left is Lower

We currently use a low tech method of tracking windshifts on Gray Jay. It consists of writing in pencil on the exterior of the hull where the trimmer can reach and the tactitian and helmsman can see.

It consists of a table with the headings P, T, and S. Respectively Port tack, True wind and Starboard tack. The concept is to head dead into the wind and mark your compass heading under "T" for True wind. Fall off to a Starboard tack and when close hauled, mark down your compass heading under "S" for Starboard. Repeat the same thing for the Port tack and mark your heading under "P"

Continue to mark these headings as you do your practice runs up the course. As you mark your new headings under the appropriate columns bear in mind that when reading the compass if the number is lower the wind is shifting left. As you write your new numbers if the heading number is lower than the previous heading then offset the number (or shift it to the left from the previous number) to the left. If your current heading is higher than the previous number then offset the number to the right.

As you take heading readings and write them down with the offsets you may start to notice a pattern emerge. You will visually be able to see if the wind is shifting to the left (indicated by numbers continually offsetting to the left) or the reverse trend.

This method is invaluable for playing and tracking wind shifts on the course during a race.

wind shifts

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Who Goes Where

I have re-organized the crew and assigned new tasks to each member based on a 4 man crew. This is the first version of the crew positions and responsibilities. I will be using this as a basis and revising it throughout the Frostbite Series of Races in preparation for next years season.

position:on bow on downwind, upwind on rail tacks on rail

  • start of race: calling boats (sail numbers)

  • upwind: on rail for ballast, help with boom vang, cunnignham outhaul and jib halyard tension

  • mark rounding: setting spinnaker pole, raising spinnaker halyard

  • downwind: gybing spinnaker pole and pole takedown and dropping spinnaker halyard

  • all other times: ballast on rail or mid boat.

Tactitian and Tailer
position:in companionway at start, upwind on rail downwind on rail when not adjusting

  • start of race: flag identification and time start. track boats in our division and formulate strategy for upwind

  • upwind: tail for trimmer on tacks, assist with main traveller on tacks call to mark wind data to trimmer, look and call puffs, analyze wind shifts based on trimmer data and formulate strategy for upwind and downwind tactics

  • mark rounding: call course and mark rounding, check for overlap of other boats and determine our position and rights of way

  • Downwind: pre-feed spinnaker, twing adjustments release boom vang and cunningham and outhaul, Jib halyard release

  • haul in spinnaker on douse

position: in the pit and on rail when not trimming

  • start of race: assist in tacks and gybes, mark wind data

  • upwind: tacking and trimming of jib/Genoa

  • downwind: trim spinnaker

position: just above traveller

  • start of race call the tacks and gybes

  • upwind: helm and trim main, consult with tactician

  • downwind helm and trim ,main consult with tactician

gray jay at dock

Gray Jay at the dock and rigged for Summer Series 8 race.

Repeat After Me

The old adage "practice makes perfect" could not say it better. Every operation on the boat, whether it is a tack, gybe, hoist or douse follows a specific tempo and order. Repeating these steps and developing a personal system and order that works for you is vitally important. What is even more important is forcing yourself to stick to that system each and every time a task is done.

For example: The trimmer, as soon as hearing the call to "prepare to tack" takes the lazy genoa sheet and puts one wrap around the lazy winch, next moves the winch handle into position and then adjusts his grip on the sheets, always with the same hand on the same sheets. Once the system becomes intuitive after repetition the trimmer no longer needs to think about what to do. The order of operation is second nature, allowing him/her to concentrate on the trim of the sail or other important factors to increase boat speed or pointing.

Once each crew position has mastered individual tasks the boat as a whole must master a the tempo of who executes which task in which order each and every time. This will ensure that every tack and gybe, hoist and douse will be smooth and on tempo with the helm and race.

Friday, August 26, 2005

First Windward Approach

The first windward mark is a crucial point in the race. You can gain lost ground, or maintain and protect your lead. Our biggest problems have been hoisting and flying the spinnaker rounding the first mark. It is important when training a new crew to make adjustments to solid techniques that make the overall process of rounding the mark work.

The J World course instructs it's trainees to set the pole and gybe in a way that is most the most efficient with the least amount of movement on the boat. After running dry runs at the dock setting the pole and on water drills I was able to comprehend the reasoning behind the technique.

What I found when trying to apply these techniques on Gray Jay was that while they were sound techniques they were not easily mastered by the crew. Recently we had guest crew aboard for the last few races of the summer series. Each guest crew had different techniques for setting and hoisting the spinnaker. One revised technique is setting the guy into the pole prior to leaving dock. This way it is set and the foredeck can concentrate on pre-feed and hoisting. The second adjustment to our standard set up is just after we tack to starboard on the layline the pole is made and the topping lift attached. Just as we make the turn to round the mark the topping lift is raised and the pole is set. These adjustments to techniques have made a huge difference in our roundings.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Gybe Talking

In preparation for rounding the upwind mark there are two ways to set the spinnaker based on your mark rounding and downwind strategy, commonly referred to as spinnaker sets. The most common is the "bear-away set". The bear-away set is the easier of the two to execute. The bear-away set is as the name infers, bearing away around the mark and hoisting the spinnaker on the port side as you start rounding the mark. The advantage of the bear-away set (particularly in the J24 and fleet racing) is that it allows you the opportunity to head higher into clear wind after the mark to maintain speed.

The bear-away set is the only set we have executed during our 9 races this season. In race 8 we wanted to stay on the inside after rounding the upwind mark and the gybe-set would have been the optimal tactic. The wind was tracking to the right and this would have been the better gybe to be on but not having practiced this move at all I was reluctant to make the call.

The gybe-set consists of executing a bear-away spinnaker set but immediately gybing around the mark heading to the left of the course. This is considered the toughest sailing maneuver to pull off. The spinnaker set on a bear-away set can be tricky enough without adding a gybe to the mix.

One way to make the gybe-set more effective is to hoist the spinnaker without the pole and fly the chute on it's own. While making the gybe, ease the spinnaker to the starboard side and then make the pole.

In preparation for the up and coming regatta we will be perfecting both sets on the water.

Looking Back Is a Nice Way to be Looking

Hopefully this sight...looking back at our competition...will become a more frequent occurance. My special thanks to the crew of Gray Jay During the Summer Series for an excellent Job! You have come a long way in a few months. I still recall the days we would shadow the fleet and try and try to lauch the spinnaker!

Very happy with the way this series worked out. Let's try for a first or second (I would settle for third) in the frostbite series.

Summer Series Race 8 Results

Based on the wind data available I predicted the winds to be out of NNE (30 deg true). Actual race winds were blowing SSE approx (170 to 210 deg true). Not sure why there would be such a difference in the wind direction from middle lake. Will need to find some other way of verifying wind direction. Possibly see if I can access the city centre airport to get wind data.

The winds were light and variable off the start. We managed to get the windward advantage (but did start one minute late). The line was at an angle to the wind that made reaching back and forth on the line an impossibility. Staying true to the pre-race strategy we tacked over early (right after crossing the line) and headed for clean air. The right side of the course was the correct side to be on and the starboard was the preferred tack.

On the upwind leg we held managed to catch up with the other J24 who started just ahead of us but to leeward. We maintained our speed and pointing. Most of the fleet stayed on port tack after the start and tried to cross on starboard tack just leeward of the windward mark. A few boats had difficulty as the wind continued to dissipate and were forced to tack to starboard to adjust for the layline. We continued out to be sure we could make the mark. One boat in our fleet tried to sneak in two boat lengths from the mark on a port the hopes they could quickly tack around knowing we would have to give them bouy room. As it turned out the wind dropped and they hit the mark.

We launched the spinnaker and rounded very successfully. The foredeck practiced the new techniques that were demonstrated from the last few races and all seemed to deploy smoothly. Downwind tactic was to stay middle and not get too high. We kept true to this. We were close on the stern of the other J24 in the club and felt good about that. The wind totally stalled the last little bit of the leg and once again we were luffing hopelessly. We kept alert and played every minute hint of wind and tried to keep the spinnaker as full as possible.

We crossed the line after a series of quick short gybes and managed a 4th place (Just behind our competition) This was the last race in the Summer Series. I have no indication of how we faired overall. Will post the results as they are available.

Next up is the Open Regatta. We managed to acquire a spinnaker-on-loan from the competition and they have offered to

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Tuning Up for Race 8

Based on the current weather data (prior to the race) the rig was tuned to the North Sails guide San Diego guide Uppers were set at 24 Lowers 21. In hind site with a dying breeze expected I should have tuned for lighter winds. Seems that our pointing was good and speed was good as well so I am not sure whether the tuning has more of an effect in heavier winds vs. lighter winds. This is a future topic of discussion and research.

According to the tuning guide the mast position should be 111 5/8" from the third bolt on that holds the chainplate at the bow. Our measurement was 111". Speaking to the competition, he informed me this was not the critical measurement. Apparently there is the J-dimension that we want to explore. It is the pivot point of the mast (just where the mast exits the hull...The boot area). They measure and correct this pivot point from the bow and then move the base of the mast forward on the I-beam to increase the rake of the mast giving them better sail shape on main and better pointing ability. They are engineer's so I will give them the benefit of doubt.

They have offered to come and help take measurements of headstay, rake, mast position the hopes of determining our pointing problem by process of elimination. We should be tuned and ready for the upcoming Regatta. September 10, 11, 2005.

Race Preparation Step 5: Race 8

Bouy Data

Checked the wind direction history for the NE bouy in Lake Ontario. The current wind direction is N( 10 deg true). Looking at the history data it shows 4 hour trends for wind shifts. Consistent with this trend I expect the wind to start shifting to NE at 12:00 pm. If the pattern stays consistent it should also shift around 4 and 8 pm which means the wind should shift on the 2nd upwind leg and the second downwind leg towards the finish.

Coaurse Prediction

Based on the info available at 12:08 pm I am estimating the course to be 3:2:3:2, based on an overall wind shift at race time to NNE( 30 deg true).

Race Preparation Step 4: Race 8

Another weather check. Seems like I might have been correct about the dying breeze. The new forecast shows a change from the previous:

North winds 10 knots or less becoming northeast 5 to 10 knots. Waves 2 feet or less.

Light and variable winds. Waves 1 foot or less.

So overall strategy will be play safe on the downwind legs and stay close to the line or mark. Play middle of course. That way if the breeze does die down we might be in a better position. On the upwind I think the strategy should be the it conservative and don't get too far from the middle of the course. WIll be checking bouy data and trends before I leave for the dock.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Race Preparation Step 3: Race 8

Checking the jetstream. Seems that the system is fairly stable. Looks like the weather they are predicting will hold. I will check again in the morning.

Current conditions in middle of lake (information from bouy 45012 in middle Lake Ontario)

Conditions at 45012 as of
(8:50 pm EDT on 08/23/2005)
0050 GMT on 08/24/2005:

Wind Direction (WDIR): NW ( 320 deg true )
Wind Speed (WSPD): 7.8 kts
Wind Gust (GST): 9.7 kts
Wave Height (WVHT): 1.3 ft
Dominant Wave Period (DPD): 3 sec
Average Period (APD): 3.1 sec
Mean Wave Direction (MWDIR): W ( 265 deg true )
Atmospheric Pressure (PRES): 30.08 in
Pressure Tendency (PTDY): +0.02 in ( Rising )
Air Temperature (ATMP): 70.2 °F
Water Temperature (WTMP): 72.7 °F

The overall wind gust graph for a five day period shows decreasing gusts over the past few days. The wind direction chart for 5 days suggest that the wind will come around to the NE by afternoon which is consistent with the forecast.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Each time I try and research deck layouts it seems that everyone has a different take on the subject. Our specific layout was modified from the original base layout to (in theory) make it easier to cruise with two people. It is not an optimum deck layout for racing. There are things that need to be changed. Our backstay is definitely too low. It consistently gets caught on the tiller when it is slack. The backstay needs to be shortened which will help remove the obstruction from the tiller.

The major difference between the deck layout of Gray Jay and others is the winch position. Most other J's that I have seen have the winches positioned farther forward than ours. This makes it much simpler for the trimmer. Currently our trimmer needs to be jammed against the traveler to get the winches ahead of him. I have inspected the interior of the companionway and can't see where any holes have been filled, so I am assuming these are a factory mount. I am currently searching for a good deck layout online. Resources are somewhat scarce. Seems everyone has a different take on what is the best deck layout.

Race Preparation Step 2: Race 8

Checking the weather again to see if there are any changes in the overall wind direction forecasts. Seems like there might be a dying breeze on the horizon. Winds in afternoon now predicted to diminish in afternoon to 10 kts and 10kts in evening. Could mean another tough finish. I think it would pay off to play the downwind legs tighter to the line and gybe more often to keep from getting caught too far out on either end of the course.

Back To The Basics

Was looking through my bookmarks and came across this primer. Great concise info from Sailnet on race course basics. I will include this as one of the links in the sidebar as well. Stay tuned, I will be going over my whole collection of bookmarks shortly and posting the best of them.

If you have not already taken a peek...check out the posey yacht simulator (link is in the sidebar) and the Virtual skipper 3 program. Both programs have a demo version for download and are fully functional. Virtual skipper is more of a boat handling and small fleet, skill testing game and Posey Yachts tactical simulator deals more with overall race strategy and has quick keys set up for tacking, running and gybing to allow you to concentrate on the overall strategy.

Race Preparation Step 1: Race 8

The race is tomorrow. Starting my preparation a little late, but the weather system has been unchanged for a few days now. The overall weather has been cooler temperatures than we have had recently. Clouds are cumulus overall and quite heavy coverage for most of the days. Winds have been gusty and fairly stong. The Jetstream over the last few weeks has brought cool winds from the north down.

Wunderground predicts the folloiwing for course conditions. So far they have been fairly accurate.

Northeast winds 5 to 15 knots. Waves 1 to 3 feet subsiding to 2 feet or less.

Wednesday Night
Northeast winds 5 to 15 knots diminishing to 10 knots or less. Waves 2 feet or less.

The Weather Network also predicts the same wind direction but the wind speed is less. This might be due to the weather stations being inland. The wind would slow down and swirl more due to inland geographical differences (like buildings, trees, valleys etc.) where as on the open water it can travel clean and unchanged.

Environment Canada Satellite image shows no signficant weather ahead.

I will be working under the assumption of 10 - 15 kntwinds North East.

My first thought is that if the true wind angle is less than 50° then the course will be the race course will be set as 3:2:3:2 otherwise if the true wind favours East the course will be 3:1:3:1.

Monday, August 22, 2005

In Search of the Perfect Shape

While aboard our boat in race 7, the our on-loan tactitian/foredeck person remarked (rather unfavourably) on the shape of our spinnaker. He insists that it is not a J/24 spinnaker. His comments were based on the odd pear shape that the spinnaker seems to have.

My first reaction was that the spinnaker was most likely a cruising chute. And since it was inherited with the boat I have little information on the sailmaker and or reasoning behind the shape. A little more research has left me even more unsure. From what I can gather it may well be a J/24 spinnaker. I read some posts which indicated that in 2000 the class rules for spinnakers only set one measurement (maximum centre width) which apparently spawned these odd pear shaped beasts. The foot of the sail can be as wide as the sailmaker seems fit to make.

I have begun to dig a little deeper into the matter but can not find much information on these odd-shaped sails and whether they perform better than the tri- radial spinnakers or not. I assume the basic premise of the wider foot is that it will help stabalize the boat. Most designs I have seen are wide top shoulders and a straight leech.

The Sobstad website does not seem to shed any light on the subject. There were a few other sites that I did investigate in regards to overall spinnaker design and funcition

I did however find a link to what I think is a rigging and or sailmaker shop that refers to the J/24 and identifies the design rationale for the full radial sail. It sounds very similar to the one that is in our inventory:

Full Radial Spinnaker

The Full Radial represents the latest thinking in running spinnaker design. The J/24 class rules specify only one spinnaker maximum width, in the middle of the sail. Above and below this girth the spinnaker can be as wide as the sailmaker can make it. This often results in odd shaped spinnakers with a "pear" shape. These sails can often be difficult to fly especially for less experience trimmers.

To design the Full Radial we took our own ideas about fast J/24 spinnakers and talked to the best designers North Sails has, many of which have been deeply involved with the build up to the America's Cup. What resulted is an easy to fly sail with maximum projected area in the bottom sections. The Full Radial's even shape makes it easy to fly even in the most difficult conditions.

I need to take a closer look at the sail and see if there are any identifying marks (other than the sobstad marked spinnaker bag that it came in) on the sail that will help me get to the bottom of this quandry. In the mean time our competition has graciously offered us their spare spinnaker to test fly. Should be an interesting test. I think the best way to benchmark the sails is to flake both of them and fly them in the same outing to see if there is a huge difference. Stay tuned.

Clean Air Is King

I have been reading "Championship Sailing" By Gary Jobson. An excellent resource for tactics and strategy for upwind and downwind. Many of his tactics are built around getting clean air, tacking sterns to find open water. In the last 2 races we tacked over quite early off the start and headed out to clean air. This does pay off. This is something I will be concentrating on in the upcoming Wednesday race.

The overall strategy will be based on getting that clean windward start and tacking over to maintain clean air. The boats from the next start tend to roll over us even when we have the windward advantage on our division. Tacking farther over should allow us to cover loosley while clearing our air.

The J24 does not do well at all in blanketed wind or bad air from nearby boats.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Atkins for Race Boats

Cabin cushions, anchor, port-a-potty. antenna on mast, smaller windex, lighter sheets, crew baggage, large metal gas can, excess sail inventory, miscellaneous unused lines (except emergency lines), battery charger. All these things need to go! The competition is definitely faster and one reason is they are lighter. I need to assess each item on the boat...large or small and determine if it is absolutely necessary. I estimate I can get rid of a couple hundred pounds easily.

The crew has informed me that the cooler and beer must stay! Can't lose the icebox...but will limit it to one bag of ice per race!

How Far We've Come

This clip was taken on the July 13th race by one of the crew. It was the second upwind leg on the course. Winds were gusty about 15 kts gusting to 20 kts. This was our first official race. You can see the fleet in the background. We were well behind the pack at this point but still managed to grab a 6th place. Not bad for first attempt. If you look at the race notes and compare with the current format race notes you will see that the mark placement differs. It wasn't until I plotted the actual course and mark bearings that I realized I had them wrong. The overall structure of the race is correct. I will eventually re-create this race with the current template for accuracy.

Weather Or Not

Just finished posting my weather links that I use for pre-race strategy. So far seems to be the most accurate. The National Data Bouy Center is a great resource for data. You can dial up the specific bouy and get wind trends, gust trends and direction trends for each bouy. Forecasting the weather on race days usually starts 2 days before the race.

I usually start with a quick 5 day forecast and see what is going on. Then I do a quick check to see what the cloud cover is doing by checking Environment Canada satellite feed. I watch the local forecast on the Weather network and try to get a glimpse of the jet stream and see what the trend is. From there it is on to the National Data Bouy Center where I start collecting data and analyzing it up until I leave the office for the boat.

My Strategy along the way is to use the course map that I created (available on the post "The Course") and try to decide what the course will be for the race. I usually create a few different scenarios and plan a strategy based on both. I take into account the gusts, where I think the committee boat will set the line and the local geographical conditions that will affect the course based on the wind direction.

The best data to have is wind shift data. If you can predict the wind shift to one side of the course and recognize it with compass reading it could give you a huge opportunity on the course.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

My Way or the Highway

In Summer series race number 7, just as we were waiting for our final crew member to arrive, our competition (the other J24 at the club) arrived at the dock and asked if we wanted to swap a crew member for the race. Excellent opportunity for some of the crew (all of which are new to racing) to watch and learn I thought. I was fortunate to learn a number of things from this exercise. The lesson that stood out the most is; every crew and skipper has a different way to execute each task on the boat during a race.

Last week we were fortunate enough to have a different foredeck crew who was skipper and tactitian in his own right and had been racing for years. He had a different way to handle spinnaker, gybe and tacks. Each technique had its merits and was different from what I was practicing. I will be implementing some of the techniques on Gray Jay from each of the visiting crew. I think the proper tact to take when confronted with a technique that is different form your current practice is to carefully review each and every technique being presented, weigh it against your current methods and evaluate whether it is the right choice for you and your crew. but above all stay open welcome to critisism and alternative solutions. Don't be afraid to venture outside your safety zone and experiment with new ways of approaching a task. There is always something to learn from watching someone else, whether it is how to do, or not to do a specific task it is still valuable information.

Summer Series Race 7 Results

Very good race tonight. Winds were not what they were forecast. Forcasted NE to Easterlies. Winds ended up 180° due South. Our start position was good. The start line angle was a challenge. We started on the starboard tack, windward of the fleet at the committee boat (timing was right on) and ended up at the pin without making much headway up the course. The starts seem to be a strong point of our boat. Much credit can be given to the J World instructors and drills that I did when in the Keys. One complete day was spent on starts alone. 8 minute intervals for 4-5 hours. The line was far from square to the true wind. Fixed position marks are tougher courses for the J24. True windward leeward courses seem to be where the J24 really can shine.

We had our competition's foredeck and tactician onboard with us tonight (a gracious gesture from our rival who wants to see us step it up and help de-throne the 1-2 and 3 spot boats who seem to dominate at the moment). My primary focus was on sail trim and flying by the telltales, keeping my head in the boat and letting the tactician dictate strategy. As the crew develops and is more confident of their actions I will be able to concentrate on helm and boatspeed more. Today's upgrade was streamers for the leach of the main. We placed streamers just above the battens to help see what the air flow was doing off the main.

Our first upwind leg was strong. We made good distance early off the start. Keeping to the rule "Clean air is King" we tacked over earlier than I would have which paid off big. We ducked one or two sterns but managed to get into open water. Our rival J24 was behind but gained ground. (we graciously gave them one of our crew and guest which meant they were racing with 5 crew...thougth it was a fair trade!)

We encountered bad air further up and tacked again to starboard toward the middle of the course to find clean air. Our rival had tacked to port and threatened to leebow us a the same time one of the other division boats was tacked to port and heading our way. The other division boat (a C&C 30) got the better of us and forced us duck. We tacked as soon as clear but suffered for it.

At the top third of the windward leg we tacked to port to avoid the spinnakers that were around the mark and now heading downwind. Would have been a mistake to continue on starboard and risk getting shadowed from the appproaching fleet. We headed for the layline on port, and reached the layline in a fairly reasonable position. We made the layline and tacked to starboard. The wind was consistent across the course for the firs upwind and downwind leg.

The mark rounding was smooth with no snags on the spinnaker. Our tactitian/foredeck-on-loan set the pole well in advance and the relatively light winds made for a short pre-feed. A simple but effective tip that I picked up was getting the guy on the pole while we were still in dock. This makes total sense and a definite rule of thumb on the boat from now on. Pre-feed was done about 4 boatlengths out. The spinnaker was hoisted as we rounded the mark wide and smooth (heading out into clear air after the mark) so as soon as we were on the other side of the mark the spinnaker was flying.

We "flew hot" headed into the wind at a high angle on the downwind on the advice of the tactitian. We seemed to maintain boatspeed. On the whole we were still losing ground against the other J24 which by now was at least 10 boatlengths ahead.

Gray Jay is not pointing high enough on upwind. This was remarked on and proven on the second upwind leg. Our downwind mark rounding was smooth as well. we had traffic around the bouy but navigated around the mark and took the inside windward position which helped us stay in clean air.

On the second upwind leg it was apparent that we were not pointing as high as we should have been. We were following a Tanzer 22 (whom I have sailed against for years when crewing on a Tanzer 26), and he was out pointing us quite a bit. On the second upwind leg we managed to stay in good position compared to the rest of the fleet and our division. At our second upwind mark rounding we again hit our layline successfully. We gave one of our division boats bouy room at the mark and stayed high to get the outside position after rounding the mark.

Our spinnaker hoist again was smooth and mark rounding without error. We found our heading on the downwind but struggled and had to go out quite a bit to get wind. The breeze was now dying and with the finish line in sight and about 15 boat lenghts away the fleet was stopped dead in its tracks. There absolutely no wind. The knotmeter slowly clicked down till it reached 0. A small current help push us a little towards the line and we frantically gybed back and forth to find even the smallest bit of wind to help. After a half our or so of nothing a small hint of a breeze was forming. The decision was made to douse the spinnaker and raise the jib. The breeze gradually filled in from our side of the course and we managed to do a couple quick tacks and cross the line at the pin end.

We managed a 5th in this race (our rival J24 finished 2nd...well done considering the extra crew we gave them and stealing their tactician!). Overall the best finish we have had yet. I need to start experimenting and researching our pointing problem and try to by process of elimination determine the cause. It could be the mast position, or extra weight, or the forestay length. I will be doing some measurements next week and start the hunting.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Pre-race Conditions

It's Wednesday and time for another race. I have just re-arranged crew assignments and eliminated one crew position. We are now sailing with a crew of 4. My hope is that with the re-assingments and weight reduction we can eek out a bit more speed. The forecast:

This Afternoon
Northwest winds 5 to 15 knots diminishing to 10 knots or less. Waves around 2 feet.

Northeast winds 10 knots or less becoming east and increasing to 5 to 15 knots. Waves 2 feet or less building to 2 to 3 feet.

There was a race similar to this a few weeks ago. Think the race committee set a triangle course. It was a good race. I will be posting previous races notes in pdf format for viewing while I get everything set up for the blog.

The course

This is the current course layout. To the North East are the bluffs. Probably up to 300 feet high. Wind shadow and swirling winds under certain conditions can make rounding the marks difficult at times. Good lesson learned is that local knowledge is very useful. I have started to see wind patterns and course strategies emerging from the little data I have managed to collect. The race committe does not set proper windward leeward courses. There is no reaching mark in these series.

The links to all the races completed in the series to date and my corresponding race notes and diagrams in pdf format are posted in the sidebar under Summer Series Races.

You will see the progression in the notes and diagrams as the system developed.

Welcome to the Skips Blog

I've been fascinated with water for as long as I can recall. A fascination that ultimately lead to a passion for sailing. Not sure what brought me to sailing. I know the root of my competitiveness is the result of 3 brothers and sports as a kid. I have been involved in racing keelboats for a number of years now. Not an expert...but striving to be one. Started crewing on a Tanzer 26 when the bug hit me. I managed to get a hold of a sunfish and began to teach myself to sail, all the while trying to absorb as much as possible from each and every Wednesday night club race.

It was the J-world advanced racing course (in the Florida Keys...fantastic!) that really made me realize I wanted to race boats seriously. And like everything I do seriously...I dive in and don't look back until I accomplish what I want.

This blog chronicles my research, races, experiments and thoughts while preparing for and racing the J24, "Gray Jay" in Lake Ontario. The boat is new to me this year. I am learning about her as I go. Trying to develop the "groove" and tweak every tenth of a knot out of her. My race in class racing and finish in the top 5. My timeline...3 years max. (I know a little optimistic but if you don't have a goal worth attaining you might as well go home!)

I wil be publishing all my race notes and diagrams. And if I have the time, some neat flash animations to give you (and me) a better understanding of each race. I have only raced 6 races in the Summer series with this boat so all is still new. Crew is being trained and developed. My crew this year consists of people who have interest in sailing but have never raced. It is a bit challenging at some points, but as I teach them I am learning. So I will get you up to date on the previous races in the next few days.