Thursday, August 18, 2005

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.

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