Friday, September 29, 2006

Ten Things I Have Learned This Sailing Season.

It finally hit me that there is only one more race left in the season. So naturally I began to look back at the season and evaluate how successful a season it was. From a standings point of view it sucked... We were killed again and again and again. True...Last year we had better overall standings, but I am looking at this year as an overall building year.

A regular crew is now established and working well together, we made huge changes to the deck layout and revolving crew, and we tried to sort out what our speed issues were. It was a year for large changes and experimentations. For this reason I am not going to get hung up on the standings. I know it takes time to build a fast and quality boat and crew and I definitely thing we are moving in all the right directions to be at the top of the fleet at some point in the near future.

Surfing around there were some other sites with threads of top things people have learned this year. The one that really stood out in my mind was Learn something new each time you get on the water, and teach it to everyone else. This person went on to say that on their boat it is not uncommon to have an impromptu seminar on the way out or at dock. I think this is an excellent way to have everyone on-board on the same page. So in that spirit here are 10 things I have learned this season!

10. In class regattas, coming in DFL is a great way to motivate the crew into not coming in DFL next regatta!

9. One Design racing is where it is at!

8. The J24 has a very narrow performance curve.

7. If you are slow on the water....Look inside the boat not at the boat.

6. Approaching each mark make sure you project where you and your competition will be at the 2 boat length circle before you get there, so you can work out your rounding strategy and have the rules work to your advantage instead of against you.

5. Know the rules before going into the room, and work out details of events with your crew as soon as you get back to dock.

4. No matter what the forecast is calling for it to blow... Assume it will be less and undertune slightly.

3. No matter how much you ask the crew to watch below you, it is ultimately the skips fault if you get in a collision.

2. To win consistently you will need to lose consistently then start making changes one at a time till you win.

1. Never trim ropes down on a boat (most importantly the halyards) when you have a hang over.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up

Here lies "Jack Be Nimble" USA3888. Had a bad spill at the J24 North Americans held at Rochester New York on September 24th, 2006. Great video of the salvage here. It is more of a combination of stills set to appropriate music, a few small video clips interlaced as well. USA3888 was not the only unfortunate incident that day. Look closely at some of the photos of the race in this album and you will see another boat suffered the same fate.

I have never had the pleasure of broaching on a spinnaker run. I would actually like to... and think I should plan with the crew to practice a broach and recovery from the broach just to make sure we are all on the same page and know how to recognize it when it happens and the steps each person should take to depower the boat and avoid the broach (while maintaining speed of course). I came across a great point that may be overlooked when broaching. If the spinnaker happens to fill up with water, if the sheets and guy are not blown in time and the boat gets smacked down with a full spinnaker, it will be almost impossible to right the boat. Here are a few articles for reference on broaching.

Broaching Causes and Cures
Prevention is the best cure to broaching, but there are corrective actions should it occur
by Roger Marshall
Marshall's Marine Review

Some good tips here at the end of this article in 48° North

Here are some images of broaches.

I also found this great series of images of a broach and recovery from an article on sailing anarchy

At least it is comforting to know that even if things go really awry, the boat can be salvaged. Another important tip! If it comes time for the boat to slip under the water and you are in a deep lake...tie one of the halyards or sheets to a pdf (inflated of course) so you can find the boat the next day after the hangover wears off and the salvage crew has been hired!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Shape Your Groove Thang

Looking back at the last few races, I feel like the groove has been there. The boat seems to slice through the waves effortlessly, angle of heel is consistent and within the limit of 10 degrees, there is slight leehelm but I am not fighting the helm. I am trying to define or pinpoint what it is, exactly, that makes up this groove. I guess what is more important or what I really need to know is "when I am not in the groove, how do I get there?"

I think my off season attention will be focused on the three things that have made the most impact the last few races. Primarily tuning, traveler and trim (TX3) pretty much in that order. My first observation overall is the basin regatta versus the frostbite series.

In comparison the winds were similar, brisk and steady with some nice puffs. So pretty much a level field there. The overall results of the race were pretty dramatic. We were confirmed with DFL in throughout the regatta. But (still to be confirmed), last few races we seemed to be at the front with the fleet leaders and the pack that we usually finished with were well back.

A conclusion can be drawn here... Our boatspeed has found its groove. So what was it? I will try to analyze that and form some concrete theory. There has been some discussion aboard since CORK about the shape of our jib(s) when racing. The view from aft of the fleet presented us with a somewhat unflattering viewpoint of other boats in the fleet but gave us a chance to study their jib shape. The consensus from aboard was that the fleet seemed to have a more fuller shaped jib, in particular our crew seemed to observe that the angle where clew and jib lead enter the cars was very much flatter on our boat and not enough shape.

We adjusted the cars forward (all the way) to see if we could replicate the shape. When that did not work we barber-hauled the jib to try and force the shape. We seemed to pick up speed but I disagree that this was the primary reason for the increase in speed over the last few races. We used the barber haul method during the regatta and still had the same poor boat speed issues.

What was different in both instances was tuning and traveler primarily and trim both of the main and jib. The other issue that has been bellowed out so many times by the crew is "we can't point as high as the other boats". While I agree in some instances that we are being out-pointed, usually from my point of view it is a smaller lighter boat that can point higher then us, in general our pointing has improved. I compensate sometimes, particularly in the past when we have had poor boat speed, by footing off trying to gain more speed and not loose as much ground. Lately with the new trim (mainsail and traveler adjustments) it seems that our pointing is very good. Some of the crew agrees with me and some do not but that is an altogether different issue we will only be resolved next season when we come up against the J24 fleet.

So I have definitely narrowed it down to the three basic elements that I think are the reason for improved boatspeed. Over the next little while I will try to break them down and analyze each one in more detail to see what theories I can extract.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Frostbite Race 2

During the race on Sunday the boat slipped into the groove easily. Waves were about 2 metres, and wind was steady 12-15 knots and gusting to 20-25 knots. I followed my plan and untertuned the rig as I have done in the past few races. I followed the same formula for trim as the last two races as well, working the traveler as the puffs came up and keeping the boom centred.

On one of the long legs the boat helm was so light it reminded me of a dinghy. I hiked out as if I was on a sunfish and tried to really feel the boat. On the upwind leg we did very well, right behind the first and second boats at the mark. (The last 3 races we have been with the usual leaders which means we are progressing forward). The downwind was a good leg. The fifth position called out the waves from behind so we could surf the surge and take advantage of the additional momentum that the waves could provide. A good technique that gained us some ground on the leader.

Overall we finished well in the pack. Most likely a 3rd (will see what the PHRF corrections yield) and how much time we need to give the second place boat.

It was very evident yesterday that the crew was operating as a crew. Communication was good, tactics were well thought out, trim was smooth and teamwork is at a maximum. The crew is very eager to take it to the next level. I think we are ready to kick it up a notch.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Frostbite Race 1

Sunday was the start of the Frostbite series. My tact for this series is to focus on trim, tuning and traveler, and try and nail down the optimum combination of the three.

Sunday called for 8 knots of wind. First thing I did was tune for 1-5 knots, not 6-10 knots as suggested in the guide. Turns out the winds were 4 knots pretty consistent with gusts up to 10 knots. So in theory the tuning was dead on.

The traveler, cranked to windward and mainsheet sheeted in tight and loosened to centerline when the gusts came up a little. The top batten for the most part was a slight bit to windward as well as the boom was slightly above centerline for the majority of the time.

Once or twice I adjusted the traveler a half inch or max inch off the windward side to see if the adjustment gave any more power.

Outhaul was on about 1.5" from the black band giving us a nice flat sail and the cunningham was on just enough to take out most of the wrinkles.

the results:

So far this seems to be a good combination. We made some good tactical moves on Sunday which may give us at minimum a 3rd place. We were second in fleet on-the-water and far enough behind some of the usuals to beat them on corrected time.

The results will not be in till next week but I know we did well. The boat was fast and felt very much in the groove. The last leg I may have made the wrong call on the spinnaker run. We were reaching with the spinnaker (almost a beam reach). The wind started creeping forward to a close. I could see the leader just ahead of us was having difficulty with his spinnaker as well on this tack so I pulled the spinnaker in and put up the jib. We lost some time against the others behind us and the leader in front. Once I found the trim and the wind settled we managed to pick up speed.

Next time I may wait till we are sure the spinnaker is at it's limits before dousing. It may give us the little extra we need to come in second.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Apology Accepted

My last post was rather pointed and targeted at an advertising campaign that was targeting comments on sailing blogs. I really disapprove of this tactic and decided to root out the culprit. I received this email in my email today apologizing for the intrusion. The writer sounds sincere and I accept his apology on my readers behalf.

I did not want to have to use monitored comments on by blog. To me that would be an insult to my readers. Here is the message I received.

It was brought to my attention this afternoon that my name is currently mud in the online sail boating community, and as much as I hate to say it, it is probably with good cause.

After learning of the upset from you and one other gentleman, I discovered that my assistant had taken the term “sailing” and – er – ran with it, resulting in the ‘ouch’ that has occurred. Please let me say that there was no intention to offend anyone, and absolutely no intention whatsoever to have my article on this subject labeled as ‘spam’, though I can certainly see how it could have been perceived this way.

This was an error on my part and I am currently rechecking the distribution that this article was to go to. This is my first writing venture into the boating arena and my first in posting to blogs. Again, I apologize for the error.

I am taking this very seriously and be assured it will not happen again.

Best regards,
Kris Nickerson

Thank you for your apology Kris. You might want to educate your assistant on using new media channels in a more proactive way. Consider creating a blog instead of invading them. It would open the product up to consumer feedback, both positive and negative, but could have an overall positive effect for brand loyalty and customer satisfaction and resolution. Some of the large producers have done this quite successfully.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Something Smells Fishy

OK so a little off topic but have to blast this company for poor advertising targeting and overall bad judgment when it comes to their marketing practices. Some people may say that any publicity is good publicity. But any company that leaves a bad taste in your mouth with their advertising would make most people re-consider brand loyalty when purchasing.

The company that manufactures Bayliner Discovery boats...Hold on let me emphasize it again "Bayliner Discovery" so that the search engines pick up this negative comment and propagate it throughout the web, has undertaken the "unique approach" of trying to disguise their advertising campaign as a web video log of adventure. Really. They also used this key phrase in the Comment/Advertisement that was left on my blog. "Bayliner Discovery doesn't shove boats and specs at you...".

Seems to me that their advertising agency or marketing department took a wrong turn somewhere. Being in the industry, I try to dissuade my customers from disguising their real intent. Clever advertising creates a sense of intrigue not of mistrust. What comes to mind immediately when I read this copy was, they do not have enough faith in their product to sell it on it's own merits, they need to rely on cheesy tricks and deception to create interest in their product. Makes me really think about who made the decisions to run this campaign and how competent they really are. And really makes me wonder whether I would trust anything this company has to say about it's product.

Oh and by the way...Their marketers missed the boat literally, on this one. They assumed that all sailors are powerboaters. If they did a little more targeted research before blasting away aimlessly they may have realized that this blog is about sailing! Thanks for listening to my rant!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Feeling Groovy

The Basin Regatta, although we did not do great form a point standing, was a good overall weekend of racing. On Saturday I experimented a little with trim, traveller, vang and outhaul looking for that groove. The winds were forecasted up to 10 knots so I tuned the rig to the base 10 knot numbers as specified in the tuning guide. On the upwind legs I centred the traveller, as suggested in another tuning guide and put no backstay and vang on and no cunningham and minimal outhaul. We did good in the downwind legs but I still did not feel the love on the upwind legs, and our results in the fleet suggested we had done better in other races. The boat was just not in the groove. I did not have a good balanced helm. It felt too much like I was fighting the boat.

On the Sunday I went back to another approach tried previously. I slightly undertuned the rig and went a tighter outhaul, and a bit more cunnignham and just a bit of vang. I also took the advice of yet another different tuning guide and moved the traveller all the way to windward until the crew was on the rail then dropped it 2" once the crew was on the rail. I used the backstay a little in the puffs (steady 10-12 knot winds with gusts of maybe 15 knots). The boat seemed to find the groove more easily. The boat felt fast and light. We had been having trouble with the jib shape and tried barberhauling the jib on the upwind as we had done in previous races with those wind conditions. It had an effect as well. I think the overall compounded effects were excellent on boatspeed. This might be a base starting point for boatspeed now. This Sunday is the first Frostbite race. The winds are usually 10 knots or above and steady which should give me a good constant for benchmarking the next few races.

Think I need to start keeping a log of tuning, trim, vang cunningham and outhaul tension and wind speed and gusts for the next few races to see what effects they have. '

Still need experimentation to find the right combinations under all the conditions but I definitely felt the groove much more this weekend then the last little while.

This weekend regatta was the first time I had been on the water consistently since Kingston and the collisions. Feel like I have my confidence back. Looking forward to the series. I have all the data to crunch and diagrams to plot of the weekend races and will have them up shortly.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Love This Sport

Scanning sailing blogs and came across this link on sailing anarchy. I have seen some of this footage in other videos but this is one of the better extreme racing videos I have seen. Enjoy! You tube has the video here. It is definitely worth a peek.

Are We Tacking Again? And Again? And Again?

The crew was enthusiastic about last nights practice. The newly appointed Crew Chief conducted an excellent run through of tips and observations he had picked up from crewing on another J (who is in the top section of the fleet!). A few items were directly related to boat and deck layout. For example the winches were higher (vertically) then ours. Seems as though most of the top boats have custom blocks under the winch base to raise it up. We have been having issues with cross sheeting lately and it is possible that this might correct some of the issues.

Other pointers and observations were technique oriented. Simple changes in how we do things. When I took the J-world course they taught consistent middle of the road techniques. Solid techniques. While everyone has different techniques it is worthwhile exploring different ones to see what impact they have on overall speed, handling etc.

We went out and practiced fundamental tacking last night. Trying to analyze each step of the process and refine it to the point where it is second nature. Regular practice is going to have to be a regimen we get into for next season. We will need to start early and be consistent to advance.

After the practice we went back tot he clubhouse and had a great discussion with a local sail loft. I am hoping to get him out on the boat in the next few weeks to see if he can evaluate our sail shape and offer suggestions on trim etc. Think it will be very useful.