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.


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