Friday, October 07, 2005

Bang the Corner!

During a recent regatta we had a few first time sailors aboard who just couldn't wrap their heads around why we insisted on shouting out colourful phrases such as "more boom vang" or "I need outhaul, and cunningham....trim the jib, douse the spinnaker...not that halyard the jib halyard...bang the corner" instead of referring to things like normal people would like "pull the rope over the blue and white one next the the silver thingy"

I put myself in their position, new on a boat, and to sailing...and quickly realized how overwhelming it is when you have no idea what all the ropes and things are and what they do. Gradually the language becomes second nature. Here are a few colourful terms that might be useful during a race.

To sail all the way to one side of a race course in search of a strategic advantage.

Running backstay or checkstay block positioned so that it could hit the head of an inattentive member of the afterguard when not under load. Definitely a reference to former Cup winner Bill Koch and an unfortunate turn of events.

The ability to maintain speed to windward and behind a competitor while just on the edge of bad air.

A spinnaker douse in which the boat jibes, but the spinnaker is left flying on the new windward side, where it collapses against the jib as it is pulled down.

Hormone responsible for propensity to file protests.

For a more comprehensive list visit the Seattle Yacht Club and the article by Susan Kruller "Inside the SYC America?s Cup Challenge - What's In A Word? under "America?s Cup Sailing Jargon ? A Primer".

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Start | Starting Strategies : Taking the Pin

Many racers overlook the pin start on a starboard tack. When the RC side is very crowded and the wind is relatively square to the line making a pin start can get you clean air quicker then staying at the back of the pack waiting for your chance to duck sterns and tack to clean air.

Walking the line on a port reach and tacking over at the pin on the gun is a great starting tactic. If the port tack is favoured to the pin you may want to consider a port tack pin start. The Starboard start can get you ahead of the pack with clear room to foot and gain speed, or at least give you room to execute your tactical strategy without being sandwiched. Be sure to find your opportunity to cross the fleet if you can to realize your gain.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Start | Starting Strategies : Performance Racing Tactics

Excerpt from Sailing San Francisco Performance Racing Tactics dealing with starts, by Bill Gladstone.

"Starting strategy is a game of choices requiring a balance between overall strategic goals, line set, and crowding. You must consider the nature of each section of the line: the difficulty in tacking clear after a left end start, the tendency for crowding at the right end, and the ambiguity in calling the line during a mid-line start. When the advantage falls entirely to one end of the line you must consider the risks at the favored end as opposed to attempting a more conservative approach at some distance from the favored end. Once the strategic decision has been made on where to start, a tactical plan must be made to accomplish the strategic goal."

This is an in-depth look at forming strategy. Read the full article here

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Start | Starting Strategies : High and Outside

On the start line I like to try and do everything to get the windward position off the start. The few times we did not get the windward advantage we got killed by shadow from other boats. Clean air is king.

This animation demonstrates taking the high approach to head towards the right side of the course and dip in at the last minute to gain the windward advantage while competitors are reaching back and forth walking the line. It is risky due to the fact that you leave yourself open to being pinched near the committee boat but if timed correctly against your competitors tacks you can get in front and stay in front.

The timing of this maneuver is to be on your competitors leeward quarter and wait till they make the first tack to make your break high. Chances are if they if they break before the committee boat they will continue reaching till they get far enough out to make the final starboard run to the line.

The next few posts will explore some different starting techniques, positions and tactics.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Start | A Starting Point

This is the first in my hibernation series posts. I have been working on the animations for the start series and the first one should be ready in the next day or so.

I am beginning where every race the start line. There are advantages abound here if you know where to look. On Gray Jay the bowman has the task of calling out sail numbers to me, tack they are on and a relative bearing (based on the 12 hr clock). He has a clear view ahead and stern and can see both starboard and leeward as well. We have an understanding that I want to know where all the boats in the vicinity are...even if they are not an immediate concern.

This allows me to keep track of where the competition is and what they are possibly setting up for during the pre-race chaos. My usual process for the start follows generally the same routine each time:

  • Formulate a starting position based on the wind direction and alignment to the pin (favoured end pin or RC)

  • Define a favoured tack based on wind up the course and near the pin and RC...the one that takes you closest to the pin

  • Assess what you approach line will be to your chosen spot and run the tack for a few minutes visually aligning yourself to the shore or other stationary objects

  • Get a Feel for the wind and boat speed on the favoured tack

  • Begin to work your way around the other boats keeping your competition in sight and always working to be the windward boat

  • Formulate a fall-back position based on clean air and clear passage in case you get squeezed or forced to abandon your initial strategy

  • As soon as you reach your intended run-for-the-line point double check your time and make a decision whether you need to maneuver to kill time or not. Do not give up your intended position if at all possible

  • At your trigger point make your charge for the line at full speed and protect your position all the way

Sunday, October 02, 2005

A Big Shout Out

Just want to thank the crew of Gray Jay for a fantastic season of racing. The crew really worked hard all year. We missed the Spring Series and really have only raced in the Summer and Frostbite series to date as a crew...but they are no longer a green crew. They have all individually performed brilliantly over the season.

We now have a solid foundation to start with for next season and now it can only get better. Looking forward to stepping it up a notch for Spring 2006.

As I said in my earlier posts...I will be continually updating the blog and refining my tactics and strategy over the winter. I am planning on a little holiday to a nice sunny island in a month and a bit. Plan to do some match racing and brush up on dinghy racing mano a mano.

Thanks again crew!

The Season Finale

Well the forecast was not exactly on the button again. Called for South 10 kt winds backing to East in the Afternoon. When we arrived the winds were around 3-5 kts at most and the wind was Northeast 60 deg. true. Not exactly what I was expecting on the way down but quickly changed gears and worked on a new tactic.

Tuned the rig for 6-9 kts and seems as though it was right on the money. Our race we figured now was a 3:1:3:1 race starting at 1. We were correct in our assumptions. Our pre race planning was good. Decided that windward boat at RC was where we wanted to start and port tack was favoured to the first mark. We tacked reached and jibed to achieve our starting position and it was on the money.

Our plan was to tack early and take the port tack to the layline. This strategy worked well. All in all the race was great. The crew truly worked well together and all the tacks and jibes were great. Launches were smooth and right on time. Excellent effort all around by the crew.

On the last downwind leg I made a call to jibe soon after rounding the mark on a bear-away set. The on the way up the wind seemed stronger on the high side. I felt it would be a good move to stay on the same side on the downwind since the wind was extremely patchy today.

Not sure if that call was the best, it was the slower jibe and we eventually jibed back to avoid our competition catching up to us any quicker. Seems they can all seem to sail more on a run than we can. Most likely the shadow of our main and their high spinnaker poles. Anyway we lost some ground on the final leg after a great overall race. Our finish was neck in neck with Miramachi (our division but we have to give them time).

All in all a fantastic last race for the season. Check out the race notes in the sidebar or download here.

Gathering Info for the Plan

Gathering final info before heading down to the course. Current Forecast from Wunderground is : Southeast winds 5 to 10 knots becoming east. Waves 1 foot or less. The National Data Bouy System is not reporting data from any of the bouys listed on the site. Will do a final check before leaving but "No data to report".

I was hoping to look at the wind and gust patterns from the South and East bouys to see if I could get a handle on the coming trends. No luck.

Radar shows some light precip south in the U.S. side of the lake but it seems to be moving NW and around the contour of the lake so I don't think precipitation will be a factor.

The Marine forecast is the same as Wunderground with the exception that they are noting winds will be 10 knots (no "or less" phrase), Satellite imagery shows little that would affect the overall wind to a large degree.

Setting the shroud tension for today for winds 6-9 knts. Gut feeling on the course is that the RC will set a triangle course today. This seems to be their usual pattern on days when wind is out of South Southeast. It falls right between to course options for windward leeward. I am a 35 minute drive to the club and the leaves on the trees are not moving at all.

Thinking the course will most likely be set for starting line at 1 and course 2:3:1:3:1 If the wind is 110° true near race time then the shift to East will have taken place and the course should be starting at 1 and 3:1:3:1 respectively.