Friday, September 30, 2005

Last Race Weather Check

Wunderground forecasts:

South winds 10 knots or less becoming east. Waves 1 foot or less.

Weather Network forecasts:
SE 5 km/h winds 0% P.O.P

The satellite shows no major cloud cover coming this way yet. Thinking that in light of the last two rig tuning disasters I will average the weather forecasts for the day and plan on tuning to that and double check when in the channel out to the basin.

Hopefully the race on Sunday will be a good one to finish off the season. I hope everyone aboard enjoys themselves despite what happens in the race.

Visiting Davys' Locker

Always on the constant search for information related to racing, and the J/24. I came across this link and decided it was worth a good read. I had heard about the problems with the lazarette's (aft lockers on the topside deck), being unsecured and opening during a broach and sinking the J/24. The accounts and interviews with the owner/skipper here really make you aware of just how freak storms or wind gusts can broach a boat quickly and lead to a visit to Davy Jones Locker.

These are some action pics of the unthinkable for the boat "Quicksilver".

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Stay Tuned

I've been working for the last little while on creating a flash base for animations so I can visually display tactical approaches and demonstrate some of the things that I have been reading and brushing up on. I will try to post as often as I can.

Once the animation base is complete posts will be quicker. I think the way I will approach the next phase of the blog is to start focusing on one starts, or mark roundings and dedicate a number of posts and animations to that specific topic.

To start organizing the archives I will add the flash animation files to the sidebar under topic headings.

Hope you will enjoy and learn from them as much as I will. Stay tuned and thanks for reading the blog!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Rules as Tools

Using the rules of racing to your advantage is a great tactical edge. There are situations you will encounter or opportunities that will begin to form on the course as the race progresses that you can take advantage of or defend against if you know what you can and can't do. At first you need to be aware of the basic rules. You don't need to know to be a lawyer on the water but know enough to help you in key situations such as mark roundings and start and finish lines. Knowing when to use the leeward boat rule pays off...particularly near a mark or at the finish line when it can make the difference between you or your competitor crossing the line first.

I have been preparing for my winter hibernation away from the boat and pulled out the posey yacht tactics simulator. I was leading the pack to the finish line when a competitor used the leeward boat rule and forced me to tack. I ended up 6th instead of 1st.

There are a few basic rules that will help defend and strengthen tactics your tactics. The most basic rule of navigation "the starboard tack right of way" rule can play to your advantage if used in a tactical situation.

Try to look at the rules not as rules but as tools to form strategies with. Check out posey yachts simulators as well. The demo versions are free and fully functional (except they time out after awhile) I have other simulators on the sidebar (that also have free demo versions). Virtual Sailor is one of my favourites realistic sail and racing simulators.

Look for the link to the rules pdf for 2005 -2008 in the sidebar as well.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Now This is Racing!

Found this clip on a site called "The Wetass Chronicles". It is for the BT Global Challenge. It is a must see! And you will understand why it was posted! Enough it!

Winter is Close at Hand

Fall is definitely in the air today and thought how close it is to haul out. Looking around for some ways to satisfy my racing cravings through the winter months. Came across this site The Daily Sail. Some fantastic pictures and great articles...not to mention lots of links to great gear and gadgets. This is a definite read when the snow starts falling.

Sacrifice to the Wind gods

Just stepped outside and noticed that the wind was howling by, trees were bending! Checked the local conditions and the wind is at 15.1 kts. One day too late! Need to get in touch with the wind gods...they need to update the calendar to include Sundays...seems as though they went from Saturday to Monday. Perhaps a small sacrifice is in order?

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Surprise, Surprise.

Forecast can often be wrong. Today was a perfect example...again. Winds were forecasted 15-20 knots. When I took my first outside weather check before heading down to the boat there were very light winds and haze or fog; A definite indication of no wind movement.

I had undertuned the rig in the last race and was determined not to undertune this time. So given the indicated 20 kt winds I maxed out the tension. What I thought would be building winds over the course of the day turned out to be dying winds. Halfway through the first downwind leg the wind dropped off completely.

The overall race was good, except for a few surprises along the way. The first surprise was the wind, the second came at the start. The fleet was unusually thin today and the Race Committee condensed the 3rd and 4th divisions together. I am not sure how the RC communicated to the fleet that the divisions were condensed. It could have been the VHF but we did not have any relevant chatter on the radio prior to the race. I have some emails out to confirm the process and see it does not catch us by surprise again.

The other surprise was the finish. Usually a shortened race ends at the next pin. The committee boat, during the bobbing show that was taking place, pulled anchor and dropped anchor at what appeared to be mark number 1 which was the next upwind mark. Turns out it was halfway up the leg and another boat (from the fleet) was the pin. It created quite a bit of confusion. I recall hearing loud shouting mixed with horns from the boats ahead but I was not ready for the configuration of the line. On the final approach I took the opportunity to pass 2 boats to the windward assuming the committee boat I was heading for was the mark with the pin just beside it. The leeward boats squeezed me up to high and I was forced to duck and foot to keep speed and pass to leeward. I then had to make a correcting tack to get me high enough to cross the line when I realized the pin was the other boat.

All in all a good race but would have liked a bit more wind.(see race notes).

Thursday, September 22, 2005

On your Mark...Get Set...Go

The start is a crucial time in the race. Getting a good start position, timing and clean wind can be the key to reaching the mark first. Here are a few techniques that can help improve your starts.

Reaching Up and Down the Line
On a true windward leeward course the pins are perpendicular to the wind. On these set courses a great start technique is to reach back and forth down the line, plan to come up to a hole in the line or make a hole and tighten up as the countdown reaches zero. The reaching technique allows you to keep maximum speed and relatively close position to the starting line.

Broad Reach and Tack
Another tactic is sailing away from the line on a broad reach and tacking back to close haul to cross the line. The mechanics behind this start are that the distance sailed on a close haul is the same as a broad reach which enables you to time the start precisely. If you sail on a broad reach from the line at two minutes and tack back at one minute and 10 seconds from the start (allowing 10 seconds for tack time) you should end up at the line exactly at the start.

In Between
An aggressive tactic is always keep your competition between you and the committee boat. This tactic ensures you always have the windward advantage on the start. Be careful not to get pinched up from a leeward boat and always have and exit strategy in place in case you get too close to the committee boat and must bail to avoid collision.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Summer Series Results

The sailwave results are in for the 2005 Summer Series with complete times and corrected times. They are available below in pdf format along with the final overall series results. We managed to finish 5th overall in division which is a great finish! Looking forward to the spring series of 2006.

Smooth Move

Over the series this year I have been able to work on my tacks and jibes creating a smoother tack and avoiding oversteering, which I had been doing early in the season. I combined several techniques that I have either read about or have been instructed on to arrive at my technique. Not to say it is the best but it does seem to work for me.

One of the key pieces of information that helped me orient myself at the till was to follow these simple guidelines:

  • the helmsman always faces the sails to windward

  • Tacking: move the tiller first then move yourself (to the windward side) after the tack is complete

  • Jibing: move yourself (to the windward side) first then move the tiller to jibe

With these simple general rules the helmsman never has to think about whether they are pushing the tiller away from them to make a turn or pulling the till towards. By following these simple techniques the tiller is always pushed away from the helmsman no matter whether it is a tack or a jibe.

When tacking, ease the helm slowly and smoothly, as the turn progresses push the tiller faster but maintain a smooth sweep. This reduces drag and loss of speed during the tack. When the boat is head to wind start returning the tiller to centreline. The return action should be quicker than the release action but still a smooth motion. The timing on the return takes a little practice but the return timing will determine whether you land on your close-hauled course or not.

When Jibing, follow a smooth continuous speed motion with the tiller (whether in heavy winds or light winds, this action is always the same). The difference in light versus heavy winds is the main sheet. In lighter winds the helmsman can, once crossing the true wind, grab the mainsheet and coax it to the new side and continue the jibe. In heavier winds as you begin the jibe sheet in the main continually to help with the turn and to centreline the main. The main should be sheeted in to centreline as you reach dead downwind, as you cross the wind, ease the main out on the new side to maintain speed.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Frostbite Stings

Very painful race on Sunday (see race notes). Good wind though, and learned a few important lessons and confirmed a few theories, so all was not lost.

Primarily as noted in an earlier post, we need to practice the windward takedown and other drills that are not normally used but very useful tactically if the crew know how to do them properly.

I also confirmed that on heavier wind days the angle of the spinnaker is better at 50-60 degrees instead of closer to the head stay. I pointed the boat closer to the mark and did not reach as much. Overall I will be more aware of my pointing on downwind legs and make sure I am not sacrificing speed for distance.

Another major lesson is check conditions as we reach the channel and if re-tuning the rig is necessary do it before the sails are up. The forecast was for extremely light winds. At dock there was hardly any wind movement. I tuned the rig as light as I could anticipating less than 5 knt winds. Turned out to be gusty ant 10-13 knots.

And one final lesson is prepare the crew for all types of maneuvers. You never know when you will need them.

Do You Know the Way To San Jose?

The tactitian team, once off the start line needs to turn their full attention to the next mark."Where is it" is the primary concern, then "how to get there", and of vital importance "where we want to be after rounding the next mark". Well out from the approaching mark the decisions should be made as to when to tack onto the layline. The tactical team should be relaying key information and timing to the crew well in advance so everyone is ready. For example the tactical team should decide whether they will be doing a bear away set or a jibe set and letting the crew know "prepare to pre-feed in 4 boatlengths" and "prepare to hoist right at the mark".

Once the mark has been successfully rounded the immediate reaction from the tactical team should be "OK where is the next mark and how do we want to set up for it". This early thinking avoids much confusion and missed opportunities that happen when the mark is all of the sudden upon you and there is no strategy in place to round it. If possible once the overall course is established it is a good idea to have the tactical team confer and rough out a strategy for rounding all the marks in the course based on the wind and define a base strategy for the course for example: the port tack is favoured so lets go high.

Gray Jay is experiencing growing pains at the moment. We are at the point where strategy is important. We seem to be keeping up initially with our competitors but at key points such as mark roundings we find our strategy lacking which usually leads to botched hoists and roundings or hasty decisions.

Currently the tactical team on Gray Jay is the helmsman and Tactician. I think I may be expanding the team to include the trimmer and parse out specific tasks to each for key maneuvers in the race. I think this will help the flow of information and solidify the overall strategy once a plan is made.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Go Windward Young Man

During the Frostbite race one today we encountered a mark rounding on the downwind leg that I should have handled very differently. During our race preparation and practice we had always executed standard leeward takedowns of the spinnaker.

Today's race is a perfect example of when practicing for all scenarios pays off. Our port jibe to the leeward mark was right on the layline. The problem was that in order to execute a standard leeward takedown we needed to jibe over to a starboard jibe. Out of caution I held the port jibe till I was sure we could clear the mark when the spinnaker was down and we completed the second jibe back to the port. There were problems in the jibe which forced us to head way out from the mark putting us well behind the pack and by the time we were back on the port tack we had lost probably 2-3 minutes. Looking back now I think there are 2 ways I could have avoided this scenario easily. The first would have been head higher on the port jibe much earlier then jibe to starboard to takedown the spinnaker just before the mark and jibe around the mark to the port tack.

The second option, had I actually shared with the crew and had them practice, would have paid off huge in the end even if we encountered problems. Instead of the standard leeward takedown I should have called for a windward takedown. The windward douse is trickier and if not practiced could lead to twisted and tied up lines.

To execute the windward takedown the jib is raised while on a port jibe, the pole is taken off and stowed. When sailing with a crew of 5 the one crew becomes the human pole holding out the port sheet. The halyard is released halfway to drop the spinnaker to a point where it floats above the water. Once floating the trimmer releases the starboard sheet and sheets in on the port side with the bow man and human pole assisting the spinnaker as it is makes its way around the headstay and into the companionway. The person designated to gather the chute will need to get far out and retreive the spinnaker and ensure it comes into the companionway over the lifelines. Now the spinnaker is back on the port side ready for a standard hoist on a starboard tack around the next mark. be sure to have the bow man check the halyard and sheets to ensure they are on the right side of the stays.

I will definitely be adding this takedown approach to the practice drills for next season.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

A Sunday-light to Go

Looks like Sunday will be a light day on the water. I am hoping it is one of those days that does not follow the weather model. There is only three races left until the boat is out of the water. Trying to get as much water time as possible before the big sleep!

Winds for tomorrow look like 5km/hr starting out of the NW then shifting to 5 km/hr SW. 180 degree shift. Strategy for tormorrow will be based on a persistent shifting wind. The key will be getting an initial reading on the wind and quickly determining the course or what I think the course will be. I have to develop a database or chart that will determine the course based on the angle of wind. It is not difficult, just a little time consuming. Think it is a winter task!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch

I am starting to benefit from creating notes and diagrams based on my interpretation of the races. I can see some patterns starting to emerge that will eventually become an advantage in future races. Looking back at the recent regatta races and crunching the data it looks as though when we were on the lower part of the course we had better wind and seemed to gain ground.

My theory is that when the winds are from the NE at 80 degrees they funnel along the bluffs and create a wind tunnel effect increasing the velocity. I need see if this theory holds any water of course but the very act of analyzing the race and keeping a log is a very useful tool. From the data I have kept I can assume that on 3:1:3:1 courses it may be better to go to the left of the course on upwind and right on downwind for more wind.

Weather patterns and cycles tend to repeat so having a log of races can only help. It is a good exercise to objectively analyze your race and see where mistakes were made or where advantages were gained.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Downwind Angles

Looking back at the regatta notes I began to wonder if I sailed too high in the downwind legs. This prompted me to find out what the best sailing angles are for the downwind legs and flying the spinnaker.

A general rule of thumb is higher in the lighter winds and lower in the heavier winds. I have experienced the effect of sailing to close to Dead downwind. The J24 is extremely unstable. I was reaching during the regatta in 12-15 kt winds. The pole varied from 10-30 inches from the headstay (5 deg.-10 deg from the bow). My thinking is to develop some charts on spinnaker angles vs speed and windspeed. This should give me a benchmark for determining what is the best angles under different conditions. I found this article online, the author from Jworld which was helpful. This pdf from Boston Harbour Sailing School was also useful.

When I get the data together it will be posted. May not be till next season.

Regatta 2005 Comments

The wind gods looked down on us for the Basin Open Regatta of 2005. The Committee boat however was not in their favour. We were on the water for a 10:10 am start. Apparently the committee boat had issues with the radio. We assumed the course to be 3:1:3:1 as soon as we got out on the water. The fleet however seemed to be unsure and hung about towards marker number 2 for quite awhile. The go ahead was given around 11:45 for start. wind was brisk at about 13-15 knots consistely with gusts of probably 18 kts.

Our first race was a bust. Many little problems contributed to an overall loss of time that put us in the back of the pack for the finish. Tangled spinnaker, jib sheets that were caught under spinnaker pole. All in all one of the worst races this year.

However the second race was a triumphant least until the last leg. We took a low course off the start. Reviewing the race logs now I am assuming that ther was a wind increasing effect from the NE winds channeling along the bluffs. I will mentally be aware of this and test the theory on NE winds in the future. I know we managed a good reace but I do not have the results back yet.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

This Is My Best Side

Before the start you should know which side is the best side of the course to be on. Meaning which side has the best wind if the wind is patchy there are more gusts on one side because of geographical features or lack of features.

The other all important question is which tack is the best tack on the upwind. The answer is based on where the true wind is coming from. The best tack is the tack that will take you closest to the upwind mark. The best way to decide which is the best side is to head to wind and take a compass bearing of the true wind then find the compass bearing of the mark. If the true wind heading is higher than the mark bearing then the port tack is favoured, likewise if the true wind bearing is lower then the mark bearing then the starboard tack is favoured.

The favoured tack will bring you to the mark faster then the unfavoured tack. Be sure to watch for wind shifts or oscillating breezes which may change the favoured tack if the bearing of the true wind and mark are not far from each other.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Regatta Forecast

Another check of the weather systems and long range forecasts. The trend is now moving towards a bit more wind than I earlier anticipated. Forecast is as follows:

Light and variable winds becoming northeast less than 10 knots. Waves 1 foot or less.

Northeast winds 10 knots or less becoming southeast. Waves 2 feet or less.

South winds 5 to 10 knots becoming southwest. Waves 1 foot or less.

I will continue to monitor the current systems. My hope is that Saturday will yield 10-15 kts of wind and Sunday being the lesser will be up to 10 kts.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Regatta Long Range Forecast

Took a quick look at a few different sources to see what the initial forecast is for the weekend. Looks like winds might be around 10 knts. Initial thoughts are on prepping for light wind tactics for the race. I will continue to check to see if the jetstream changes. Looks like there is a large high to the North that will start filling in tomorrow. Hopefully will bring some good winds with it.

Will base the overall strategy on the forecast on Friday evening. Until then will work out some scenarios based on the current wind forecasts.

Take a Big Puff

The downwind leg is where you can gain lost ground in a race or maintain your lead. Even when you are behind in a race you can use your windshadow to effectively de-power your competition from behind and close the gap.

After rounding the mark, particularity in smaller boats, head higher and wider to get clean wind. The advantage to heading higher is the speed, the drawback is heading farther away from the downwind marker. To compensate for this the general strategy should be to head higher in puffs, gaining the speed and pointing lower towards the mark in the lulls.

In the upwind it is more beneficial to stay on the lifted tack, the reverse is true when heading downwind. Better gains will be realized by taking the headed tack on the downwind leg. In an oscillating breeze be sure to gybe when getting lifted to catch the header on the opposite tack.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Looking Good

The trimmer, if doing his/her job correctly, should have a sore neck by the end of the race, or have a great tan! In order to trim the spinnaker properly the trimmer must be constantly aware of the spinnaker curl on the luff of the sail. If the spinnaker is trimmed properly the top 1/3 of the luff edge will curl.

The trimmer and the helmsman must communicate constantly during the downwind legs. The trimmer continually informing the helmsman how the pressure on the sail feels. If the pressure is light, the helmsman goes higher to fill the sail and the trimmer adjusts the trim.

To maintain the curl the trimmer sheets in or eases the sheet. If the curl increase and the sail starts to stall, the trimmer sheets in, if the curl diminishes the sail needs to be eased.

The position of the curl on the sail can be adjusted by changing the pole height. If the curl breaks too high lower the pole, if it breaks too low, raise the pole. Maintain the optimum curl at the top third.

Gordy Bowers has a great article on spinnaker trim worth the read "How to Look At Your Spinnaker or Looking up means looking good"

Friday, September 02, 2005

Big Shoes to Fill

The tactician has one of the more difficult roles during a race. Before the race even begins the tactician should be developing a sense of where the true wind is, what it is doing. Paying close attention to developing trends if any, checking weather reports, local knowledge, and make comparisons based on the current conditions and forecasted conditions. And ultimately using this information to develop a primary and fallback strategy for the overall race. Then the tactitian must turn his/her attention to the all important starting strategy.

The tactitian should determine which side of the course is the favoured side, which side of the line is the favoured, which tack is favoured at the start and how the approach to the line will be executed. He or she will also determine how the mark will be rounded and the type of spinnaker set that will be used, call the puffs, keep a running tally on where the other boats are on the course and when in trouble know when to tack or gybe away to find clean air or when to use your boats wind shadow to your advantage.

During the upwind and downwind legs the tactitian must also be concentrating on the geographical features that affect the wind you are or will be sailing into, take into consideration currents, waves and wind shifts and monitor your progress against other boats. Constantly analyzing the compass heading plots to exploit any emerging trends or call the tacks on oscillating breezes to stay on the lifted tack or take advantage or persistent shifts.

And finally on the last downwind leg the tactitian should bring the boat home to cross the finish! A very tough position but very rewarding as well. My hats of to the tactitians of the world.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Windward Sheeting

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Windward sheeting for a trimmer allows him/her to benefit from viewing the genoa from a perfect vantage point in order to set the trim during a tack.

When windward sheeting the trimmer while in the pit, wraps the genoa sheet around the opposite winch, or the new windward side after the tack. If the boat is on a starboard tack the port genoa sheet would be wrapped around the starboard winch.

This process allows the trimmer to get low and close on the new genoa side and get a great look at the sail trim as he/she trims in on the new tack. Once the trimmer is satisfied with the trim they jump up on the starboard rail with the sheet in hand. The helmsman can then put the last few turns on the winch if necessary.

The trimmer can then keep the weight to the rail and ease or sheet the genoa when necessary. It is a little confusing at first if you are used to sheeting the normal way, but once you begin to windward sheet you will see how beneficial it is.

Remnants of Katrina

Practice day on the water with the crew to sharpen our game for the up-coming regatta. Very different weather today on the lake. The wind was 15-20 kts with sustained gusts of up to 35 kts. The wind was from the Northeast backing to Northwest. The wind was shifting through about 70-80 degrees.

The rig was tuned for 18-20 kts upper stays were 27 lowers stays 24. Rig tuning seemed to be good. Not sure if I should have tuned for gusts or not. Pointing was good and sail shape was good as well.

7 foot swells were coming in from the South while white caps and chop was coming in from the North. Made for a tricky time on the water. We put up the blade jib and the boat was quite stable. The backstay was cranked down as tight as I could.

There were only a few of us on the water last night. During one big puff the tiller extension broke. There were only 2 tiny screws holding it in. I will be drilling the holes right through the tiller and bolting them tight so it does not happen again.

We planned to do mark rounding drills and spinnaker sets but I decided it was too risky. The trimmer had not flown spinnaker yet and this was probably not the way to introduce him to it. The foredeck was new and gybing would have been tense under those conditions. Will re-schedule the drills for next Wednesday. All in all a nice sail though.