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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

ahmen. you got a witness.
f'getta 'bout #3 though, it's a team

8:42 PM  
Blogger the skip said...

Anonymous....#3 it is a team effort but if you are in a car and get in an accident is it everyone's fault in the car or in particular the driver for not avoiding?

8:28 AM  
Anonymous AdriftAtSea said...

I'd modify number seven to say look inside the boat first...the boat could be the problem...but far more likely is the captain and crew.

11:58 PM  
Blogger the skip said...

I agree Adrift at Sea...that was my general intention, your statement is what I had in mind when writing it but may have not been clear.

6:40 PM  
Anonymous ex 4906 said...

10. Coming in DFL is a good way to lose crew.

7. Boat speed is king. It will make you a brilliant tactician. To develop speed start with what is known and develop from there.

6. Approaching a mark decide on which tack or jibe is favored and execute the plan.

5. Know your rules before you go out on the water. Avoid the room since you will be rolling the dice eventhough you may be in the right.

4. Tune the boat for the conditions of the first beat. The boat that rounds the first mark in first usually wins the race.

Know your rig numbers so that you can quickly change the rig for changing conditions in between races.

3. The skipper cannot see through the genoa therefore crossing warnings is the responsibility of the foredeck. #3 and 4 crew members are responsible for tactics. Skipper and jib trimmer #1&2) are responsible for upwind boat speed.

2. To win consistently you need good boat speed, front row starts, flawless boat handling, and sound tactics. Boat speed comes from boat prep, starts and boat handling comes from lots of practice, tactics come from the logical mind of your tactician.

1. Winning is important. Giving your BEST effort is everything.

2:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

regarding #7 - don't forget to get over the side and check keel, rudder, etc. for drag! on a tack over a w/e round the islands regatta - we picked up an old lobster pot which took us a 1/4 mile to figure out. these things happen! quick work with a boat hook and knife gave us the 1.5 kts we had dropped inexplicably before.

8:54 AM  
Blogger the skip said...

ex 4906...thanks for commenting. Please do so more often. Always looking for sound advice.

10. I agree DFL is a good way to lose crew as well, but I have to feel in our case the crew is all new and eager to advance from the basement. They knew the competition going to the regattas and they kept an excellent attitude of "we are here to learn not win". They understand that once we all get in that groove we will start climbing out of the basement. Many things I have read say that a made crew is a good and loyal crew. All my crew have no pre-conceived notions of how things must be done so they are open to ideas and suggestions and adaptable. I think the next few years will be the test of holding onto crew.

7. Boat speed IS king. We are definitely working on breaking it down to understand why we are slow. Have had some success but still have issues. Will be researching over the off season to try and come up with a game plan for next season to systematically and technically assess where and why we are slow.

6.Good advice I never thought about it that way. I have been waiting till after the mark to formulate the plan. but makes more sense. I am still making many tactical decisions on the boat at the moment. Slowly passing off that responsibility to the crew. I may not be making the best decisions because I am focusing on boat speed.

5. I have been in the position of being in the room with the feeling that no matter how much I knew I was right there was no way I could win. So I agree, staying out of the room is a good takes away from social ltime after the race!

4. Do you tune on the way out or do you tune before you go out? I am assuming once you are out you sail the first beat a bit then adjust? Excellent point about first to the mark usually wins. Key is starts and first beat.

3. Have had a revolving crew door on the boat till we settled on the current crew. So now that we have some form of consistency we will begin clearly defining tasks to each position. This helps thanks.

2. Absolutely agree. we are entering the lots of practice phase and starting to get a handle on the boat tuning and set up and prep.

1. My crew always give their best effort everytime out. My thanks to them. Can't ask for more than that!

9:05 AM  
Blogger the skip said...

Anonymous...did not think of lobster pots! (not that we have them here in the great lakes ) but point well taken. Occasionally we do get fierce sweeds and gunk in the harbour that does get attached to the keel on the way out. Usually a quick reverse helps. Good telltale there is that if rudder is covered with crap the keel likely has it as well.

9:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boat speed is king. How new - old are your sails?

10:29 AM  
Blogger the skip said...

anonymous...Main and jib are over 10 years old, spinnaker is new. I know older sails contribute a good deal to boat speed. We have to, as a crew reach the point where that will make the difference (which will hopefully be in the next few years). I think the more important issue (at this time in our development as a team) is helping the crew understand trim, weight distribution, and timing basics that will form the fouondation. I have it in the agenda to look at new or used regatta sails in the next while...possibly early next season. We are still understanding the boat and getting familiar with it. Thanks for commenting!

10:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the most important repositories of information on moving up in the fleet is to look at the fleet leaders. Do they have newer sails with different cuts? Do they distribute crew weights differently? Do the tune the rig differently, use different sails, constitently choose different sides of the course?

You can't win by following the leader, but you can move up the fleet.

11:22 AM  
Blogger the skip said...

Anonymous... We did that very thing this year. It was our first year for OD regattas (second season with the boat). We learned a ton from the leaders in the fleet. It was definitely a learning year for us. We hit 4 OD regattas this year and knew we would get smoked in each one but we wanted to learn. We needed to understand what we were doing wrong and what to do right.

Overall it has been a massive learning curve year. Next season we will put more of what we learn into practice. Thanks for the advice and comments.

A fellow J24 at our club once remarked that he did not sail in J24 class events because of the cliques of the class but I have to strongly disagree with him. I found the J24 class nothing but helpful and enthusiastic about trying to help a newbie out.

12:08 PM  
Anonymous Spar Wars 3246 said...

Sails make a ton of difference. I found the main was most helpful being new. Jenny next, then spin, then Jib. Buy new unless you get in line to buy from the top boats. They change sometimes twice a year! A one year old regatta only main, gen or spin are usually around $900 ea. A ten year old main can't beat anyone. A 5 year old gen is whooped. Spinnaker needs to sound crisp. Otherwise you are pounding your head on a wall.

4:16 PM  
Blogger the skip said...

spar wars 3246....Have been looking on North Sails Site for used deals. I am just getting into the J24 fleet (1st year) Still getting to know the in's and outs and who is who. I have been checking around on the sites for lightly used sails. Any advice on North vs Quantum and cuts etc? I have not found very many resources on the net for sail cuts. Trying to digest the technical data regarding dynamics of sail design but still need those primers that help understand where to start from on the J.

One of our biggest problems is that we are at the wrong club. We are going to move the boat to the other side of the City to a Club where the J fleet is established. Our club has only one other J24, and as of late has been crewing on larger boats in the fleet.

One of our crew memebers went to crew for one of the J24's there to do some learning. His biggest advice was we are at the wrong club. Will be sitting down this off-season and working on the plan for next year both physical changes to boat and training etc..

Thank you for your comment. Any advice is good advice and always welcome. I will always be open to learning more. The point of this blog is to develop a comprehensive racing resource for anyone in need.

6:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I watched you guys in Kingston this year and based on that I have a few comments. First of all you need to be up closer to the line and mixing it up with all of the other boats starting. You consistently started late and at least a boat length or two behind everyone else. When you do this you get to sail in chopped up air and water which is slow.

You need new sails. There is no way that you can tell whether or not your boat is slow when you are using 10 year old sails. Get some new or newer sails and then decide whether the boat has any speed or not.

Flip your tiller over. It's upside down.

Lastly I wouldn't move to that other club yet. Get on the start line with new sails and learn how to win a start in a small fleet first. Do some OD regattas, don't be afraid to mix it up and see where you end up. By the end of next year you should be doing better and then I would consider moving to that other club.

6:29 AM  
Blogger the skip said...

anonymous...I agree our starts need work. Our regular club races we generally have excellent starts. Smaller fleet but the big difference is that the line is rarely perpendicular to the wind. One of the major reasons for changing clubs is to get better courses. We need the practice on true windward leeewards in order to get better. Day 2 of Kingston was bad for me. No confidence from the collision. We knew we were slow off the starts and wanted to try different strategies as well to see if we could compensate and get a better position.

Newer sails are in the works. Yeah looks like my tiller IS upside down. Inherited it and never questioned it. Will definitely change that one.

The general plan is to have one more season at this club and then move on. I think by the end of next season we should be finishing in the top 2 to 3 in our current fleet based on our progress this year. We will be doing many more OD regattas next year now that we have some experience at them. kind of intimidating your first season out. But now I, and the crew know what to expect and will be ready for the regattas next year. Thanks for the comments.

8:52 AM  
Blogger Tillerman said...

Great list. Just a few comments.

9. Right on. Did some handicap racing on my recent trip to Menorca but one design is my favorite too.

5. Dead right again. I have served on PCs where sailors clearly didn't know the rules and "convicted" themselves with their own description of the incident.

2. Between losing consistently and winning consistently comes that phase (which most of us never leave) of winning inconsistently.

9:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good luck next year skip. You should have a good chance of beating all the boats in your Basin fleet boat for boat every night if you keep working at it.

10:32 AM  

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