The picture says it all! Â Midsummer 2016 was an absolutely glorious night to be on the water. Â Thanks to The Cunning Ham for this shot.
And it was a surprising night! Â Wind forecasts were calling for very big wind (up to 20 knots plus gusts even higher). Â At the dock we debated which headsail to put up, and decided to motor out to the start area and see what was developing. Â It was windy, but not intimidating, maybe 12 knots with gusts. Â If we knew the wind would drop, we would have set out with our #1 genoa. Â But one last look at the forecast warned of bigger wind ahead, so we changed sails on the water (a new trick), and installed the old #3.
At the start of the race, this seemed like the right choice — we were perfectly balanced, pointing just as high as the J35s and sailing just as fast. Â What a revelation! Â What a confirmation! Â (I had become nearly convinced that our trouble pointing with the new #3 is due to its excess luff curve — up to 5″ — compared to the luff hollow — about 2.5″ — in the old #3. Â Now I’m convinced). Â This also confirms that we’ve learned a lot about how to tune the rig so that we could keep the mainsail powered up in big wind.
So, we were off to a great start, charging along the line toward the pin end, crossing near the favoured end with clear air and full boat speed. Â What a great night to race on the bay!
And then the wind started to drop, and so did our boat speed, and well before the approach to the windward mark it became clear that we had been tricked by the weather forecast, had set the wrong headsail, as one by one the rest of the fleet overtook us. Â Alack!
What to do?
First, I began to compose my Christmas wish list to Santa for a #2 jib. Â I better be a good boy!
Second, GilÂ recognized that the wind had shifted, and we needed to set our spinnaker onÂ port (pole on starboard), which meant a jibe-set, rather than the more usual bear-away set. Â Yep, we got that right! Â It took a wee bit longer, but we were sailing in the right direction the entire time, whereas a bear-away set followed by a jibe would have taken us well off course.
Then,Â Kiwi’s experience kicked in. Â We decided to change our headsail during the downwind leg, so rather than furling it, we dropped it to the deck. Â Once we were on course with our Spinnker filled, the lads swapped sails once again and we were ready to fly the #1 on the next upwind leg. Â Good practice, great learning. Â Next, we’ll need to work out how to do that while sailing upwind — it is technically possible, but might need some adjustments in the gear.
Back to the race — it quickly became a drifter with shifty wind that eventually rotated forward so that we decided to drop the spinnaker midway through the leg, and sail upwindÂ to the “leeward” mark with the #1 genoa. Â We were still behind our fleet, but not by much.
Once we rounded — and what a beautiful scene — the wind seemed to fill a bit, and we were moving along fine when we heard that the race had been abandoned — there was zero wind up at the finish line.
So, we got some free lessons tonight:
- We point just as high as the J35s when we have the right headsail for the conditions
- With the smaller headsail, and a fully powered main, we don’t give up much speed when the wind is strong.
- We have learned how to anticipate the need for a jibe set and execute it.
- We have learned how to change the headsail on the downwind leg
- And you can’t trust the wind forecast!
Afterwards, Nonsuch had a great spread of snacks, a bit of rain began to fall, so we crammed down below, joined by Squirrel, so there were seven of us in the cabin. Â Kiwi improvised a seat on the ottoman (aka spinnaker). Â I can hear it already: Â “Hoist the Ottoman!” Â That would certainly startle the competition at the windward mark 🙂