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.