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.