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.

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