Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Another Look at Wind

Took another look at some of the forecast. Seems as though we may get 10 knots tonight with a dying breeze around 9:00 and rain coming in. This all looks great on paper. Will see how it turns out!

The course layout for this wind is a direct windward leeward course for (origin mark:2) 1:2:1:2. If the winds shift the way they are predicted to we should start on starboard and maintain the starboard lifted tack as all the way up the leg. Which also means we should be on port tack for the downwind. This means we should gybe over soon after rounding the mark.

Spring Series 2006 Race 4 preparation Stage 3 (race day)

It is 12:22 pm local time. Rain is coming in from North East right now. There is little wind. Preparing for light to no wind tactics tonight. Will post the race or lack of race tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Spring Series 2006 Race 4 preparation Stage 2

The jetstream has changed from what I expected but not in the direction I had anticipated. Still can't get a handle on the weather yet. Think I will have to wait till tomorrow and see what develops. accuweather extended detailed forecast is calling for 11 knot winds, whereas some of the other sources are calling for less than 10 knots which usually means 0-5 knots.

I will check back later tonight to see if any of the forecasts have changed.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Spring Series 2006 Race 4 preparation Stage 1

So far it is not looking good for Wednesday night. The official forecast:

South winds less than 10 knots becoming southeast. Chance of showers and thunderstorms. Waves 1 foot or less.
Wednesday Night
Southeast winds less than 10 knots becoming south. Showers likely with a chance of thunderstorms.

Quick peak at the accuweather forecast shows a pretty slow moving low pressure front moving across the Canada. The 48 hr shows a small budge over 48 hours. I should know a little more tomorrow. will check to see if the front has progressed further than expected. If it has there is hope that the wind might pick up at least enough to race.

The best scenario here is if the jetstream takes a nose dive. The front will come closer to Lake Ontario and should pick the winds up.

I can always be optimistic!

Good news is the boat GPS is now functional so now I can download races and overlay and analyze the data more accurately. I have been relying on my mental picture of the races to create the data for my maps and race result diagrams. I was pretty accurate when I downloaded race 3 and compared it to the posted version. General course sailed (with the exception of one, maybe 2 tacks or gybes, was on the money. What was really apparent was the huge lift and wind change before rounding mark 4. The revised exported GPS data is here and the original analysis is here for comparison. Another neat bit of visual data was the massive pre-race jockey for position data that is collected and displayed from the GPS. Very neat to see.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Spring Series 2006 Race 3 Race Results

Just finished the race results and analysis for last night. Added a few more graphs and changed some of the data around to work a bit better and more concise.

An excellent effort by all crew. This was the first race of the season and with a crew that had not raced together yet. I will mention the mantra that I tried to express last night. Sailboat races are won by the crew that makes the least mistakes. All crew...Even skippers...Make mistakes. The key is quick recovery. Last night we made more mistakes then the winning boats, but overall we had a super race. Excellent start and awesome first leg. If the course was not shortened and the wind held we may have been able to make some more ground and place better...But there is always next week!

I think I have refined my pre-race data gathering sources. I am finding Wunderground as an invaluable source.

Biggest issue last night was knowing where the mark is or the next mark. I found that we spent the majority of the legs with everyone in the boat straining to try and find sight of the mark. It was not a course that is sailed often. From what I am piecing together (local knowledge gathering) the course usually occurs late summer and early spring races. Lucky if the course is run twice in a year.

The solution to the problem is to create a "plot the mark" day and go for a pleasure cruise and plot the marks into the handheld GPS. This, albeit the easy way out, is a backup solution. I will create a version of the on-board laminated course that includes relative bearings to each mark from each mark. This will quickly get us a rough bearing to follow instead of blindly following the pack and hoping to catch site of the mark.

Couple of technology challenges last night. New equipment, mast position altered and some minor modifications on the boat over the winter coupled with having to shake off the off-season dust made it challenging. Good to be back on the water.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Spring Series 2006 Race 3 preparation Stage 3 (Update)

Winds are starting to back to South. Wide view of weather system shows south winds coming in From Buffalo across the lake. It is amazing to have all this data available at a glance. I will however need to get wireless connection at the boat so I can track this data on race days.

The bluffs are very protected and I can barely get a phone signal. The club however does offer a wireless connection.

Looking at this larger system I can see why now that when the winds are forecast from the South that sometimes they end up as West Southwest. Looks like a South wind can channel along the lake and the shoreline landscape seems to effect the wind and cause it to turn direction.

Wunderground stationmaps are a wonderful thing.

Spring Series 2006 Race 3 preparation Stage 2 (Race Day)

Following the forecast looks like the wind will shift with backing winds to the South around Midnight. Westerly prevailing. So possible dying breeze and persistent shift to South during the race.

Southwest winds always mean it's a toss up at as to which bouy we start at. I am going to lay my money on starting at 2 and a course of 3:2:3:2 for today. We'll see how it goes.

Will be tracking the wind today till the time I leave. Hope to get out early and do some tests with the new compass and get some practice in.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Spring Series 2006 Race 3 preparation Stage 1

Official Wunderground weather report for Wednesday race night is as follows:

West winds 5 to 15 knots becoming southwest and diminishing to 10 knots or less. Waves 1 to 3 feet subsiding to 2 feet or less.

Wednesday Night
Southwest winds 10 knots or less becoming south. Waves 1 foot or less.

Last few days there has been a nasty low that has been driving in the cool North winds into our area. From the satellite shot, it looks as though there will be a high in the area which will calm things down somewhat. I am putting initial money on about 10 knots. I checked the almanac for the last 5 years. Temperatures are pretty normal for that day and same as what the forecast calls for. The interesting thing is that gusts for this day are pegged at 35 km/h to 54 km/h. So given the last few days I will not dismiss gusty conditions. Will post the tracking of the high tomorrow to see where the jetstream is taking it. It could change quickly to a NW wind condition and gusty if the systems do not move quickly. Tomorrow should be a good indicator of weather for the race. Will have my brother in law on-board who has not raced yet. Think he will enjoy it. It will officially be our first race of the season and only one or two max races left in the spring series so I think I will concentrate on summer series as our main races this year, along with regattas and CORK.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Frostbite is Right!

It is the long weekend and nothing better than to check the forecast and see that it calls for a partly sunny day with winds blowing like stink. Call whatever crew is available (being a holiday weekend and all...And most people are snug in their cottages, and head down to the boat.

Forecast is calling for winds NW 25 knots increasing to 30 by noon then diminishing to 20 knots in the afternoon. Nice wind! We reached the dock and it was howling. Winds were as predicted about 30 knots. I put on the usual marine forecast as we were hanking on the blade jib and getting ready to ride the whitecaps. The winds seemed pretty harsh for the shelter of the club. We ventured out into the channel to start our awesome day of sailing when as we rounded the corner we got hit from a freezing blast of air that was probably hitting the 40 knot range. The boat (without any sails) heeled as if we were under full sail in a 20 knot wind!

That was my first clue! We got out into the mouth and looked at the waves, all the while the weather forecaster was repeating in French then English that the winds were gusting up to 75 km/hr (38 knots). At this point I still thought we were good. I have been out a few times now in 30+ knots and the boat was great.

Just after clearing the lighthouse I decided to head to wind and put up the blade jib to test the crew resolve and how the boat would handle in the gusty conditions. (being fresh from off-season and all sometimes it is best to work up to the 30+ knot winds). The gusts were hitting so hard that I could not even head-to-wind to raise the sail, not to mention the cold North winds were just biting cold. 10 minutes into the motor out I thought my fingers were going to fall off from frostbite.

That was my cue to tell the crew we were heading back to drink in the warmth and comfort of the bar. I did not hear any complaints.

Quick peak at the weather for Wednesday race looks really good. Sunshine, 18 degrees (Celsius). No wind indicators yet but from the long range patterns it looks as though it might be somewhere in the 18-25 kmph area. Will be updating daily to see if I can formulate a plan.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Spring Series Race 2... Rained Out

I got down at the boat at 2:00 pm. Started my prep. Skies were still relatively clear; there was some cloud cover coming in but nothing to worry about. Had one of the crew help me up the mast to fix the broken windex. Back to the dock and waited for more crew before we started hanking on the sails and flaking the spinnaker.

Huge downpour started about 4:30 and lasted till about 6:50 (race time) lightning all around. I kept watching the wind. The storm was coming from the Northwest, but all the forecast predicted Southwest winds. To the Southwest....clear skies. So I waited and Waited. Finally we got the word the race was cancelled.

The crew was anxious to get on the water and at least have a go at a sail if there was no race. I was cautious because of the lightning. It had stopped raining for a good 1/2 hr. The skies looked good from the wind direction and now I could see a little bit of wind on the water so decided to go out.

Within 1/2 hour of getting on the water the winds picked up to about 15 knots...skies cleared and the winds continued to increase to about 25 knots. We did some drills around Mark 1 and called it a night after having an awesome sail.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Spring Series 2006 Race 2 preparation Stage 3 (race day)

Environment Canada Marine Forecast:
Wind southwest 10 to 15 knots increasing to 15 to 20 this afternoon then diminishing to 10 to 15 this evening. Mist patches. Scattered showers developing near noon. Risk of an afternoon or evening thunderstorm. Waves less than 1 metre building to near 1 late this afternoon. Outlook..Moderate to strong southwesterlies.

Wunderground Forecast:
This Afternoon | Southwest winds 10 knots or less becoming west. Showers with a chance of thunderstorms. Waves 2 feet or less.
Tonight | Southwest winds 10 knots or less becoming south. Chance of thunderstorms through early evening. Chance of showers. Waves 1 foot or less.

Looking at tthe forecast I think I can gain an advantage if I can grab the persistent shift to South. From the data so far looks like it will either be a 2:3:2:3 or 1:3:1:3 race either way I think we are starting at marker number 3.

Will have full details of the race to follow tomorrow or shortly after..

Monday, May 15, 2006

Spring Series 2006 Race 2 preparation Stage 2

The winds have been fairly steady and blowing nicely. My second weather check looks pretty ugly for Wednesday.... Reports 60% chance of rain and winds W. 15km/h. Accuweather reports "Clouds and sunshine with a shower; breezy. Winds from the WSW at 16 kph." I need to find out which forecaster is more accurate this year. Last year there were way too many differences in the basic forecast.

The mast is now up and tuned. We moved the mast to back to the J-dimension of 111 5/16th inch measurement (from the North sails tunign guide). Once completed we to k the boat out and tested everything under load and all seemed fine. Gray Jay survived the first winter in my hands. Nice to know! It is nice to know that each one of my ziploc baggies with written instructions was empty and there were none left over!! I hate spare parts!

All is good. The windex was damaged during the mast hoisting and the new traveller has been ordered. I don't think it will be in before Wednesday but hopefully it will.

I will check wind again and see if there is a better forecast tomorrow.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Spring Series 2006 Race 2 preparation Stage 1

First race of the season for Gray Jay and her crew. Initial look at the weather indicates that Wednesday will be wet. 60% chance oof light rain. High of 14° and low of 8°. Initial forecast indiucates SW 10km/h.

Light winds and rain. Yesterday the wind was forecast out of East. Same speed. The weather is pretty unsettled right now. Will check back tomorrow and see what new information is available.

Have the crew going down to put the mast up tomorrow am and out for a warm up sail. Weather should be ok. Rain is expected.

Will fly the new spinnaker and see what kind of shape it has.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Homesick Sailboat Racing Blues

let me start by saying this post is in no way a complaint. Right now I am enjoying the sunshine (constant I might add) of Scottsdale Arizona. When I left Toronto it was 50 ish (Fahrenheit). We have had 90 degree weather all week. I have had a great time. I was fortunate enough to do something many people will never do so I took advantage of the opportunity. My brother (owner of gray Jay) just purchased a formula Atlantic race car and was down at the track in Arizona testing and getting it up to speed. My son has a need for speed at 3 years old and the best person to help him with that would be my brother whose passion is speed and racing cars.

So while at the track he asked me if I wanted to take the on-track driving course and take the formula Mazda our for a whirl around the track. Who was I to say no! I am not one to turn down an opportunity like that so I agreed whole heartily. Since we were kids we raced something, snowmobiles, bikes, whatever...competition has always been a key ingredient in our family genetic composition.

I completed the on-track course with a gentleman (and I do mean gentleman) by the name of Will Hartje who was my instructor for the day. We drove a street car (BMW M3) for the first two on-track sessions to find the line of the course which is the key to speed. He pushed me to take some chances that probably would not have had the confidence to do if I were alone in the car. The final on-course was in the formula Mazda where I was alone. My sailboat racing experience helped me mentally prepare for the track and focus on what had to be done. I went out and had a blast. I did not fairly give the car a good work out but I did enjoy every moment in the car. If I were to do it again I would practice with a standard months in advance. My weakest point of the entire track experience was my shifting. It does not help driving kids around in an SUV for so many years!.

Anyway the purpose of the post was to say that even though it was a fantastic experience I still think about the Wednesday race that I will miss while I travel home. I am eagerly looking forward to putting the mast up this coming weekend and getting Gray jay back out on the water on Saturday.

Will whom I spoke about earlier is interestingly enough a huge sailor in my books. I was fortunate enough to speak at length with him at my brothers house after the days events. I will hopefully be able to do a number of interviews with him on tactics and racing in general. His experience is overwhelming. He really knows his stuff and whatever I post of his I am sure will be of value to my readers.

A huge thank you to my brother for all this week and making my passions a reality. Without his generosity and recognition of my passions I would not be the skip on Gray Jay.