Ahhh, this was the very best kind of sailing. Â Warm summer air, glowing sunset after a bright sky, solid steady breeze with just enough gusts to keep tweaking…and half a dozen great guys enjoying it together. Â The race committee set a pretty long race for this time of year, so we got to savourÂ the sunset as we crossed the finish line, and then sushi at the dock from our very own samurai, Lazy-Sheet-oh-san.
Since “Chef”, our resident gourmand was away (yes, Neil, we have re-christened you :-)), Mark was out to make his, er, mark, in the culinary department, and we all got to enjoy his effort, complete with wasabi and soy sauce.
Oh, wait, this a race report, not a snack report…I better get back to business! Â But of course, it is simpler if you just watch the video, no? (Or if you prefer the subtitles, it would go something like this: Â start, tack, tack ,dip, tack, tack, hoist, jibe, jibe, jibe, douse, tack, tack, tack, tack, tack, tack, hoist, jibe, finish, woohoo!)
But to describe a race as a set of maneuvers would be to sell shortÂ the art of sculpting lines through the bay in a choreography of elephants. Â And that we cannot allow, so out with the words!
…ahem…here’s, er, how it, umm, went?
Kiwi was back on board, with his freshly broken hand all swollen and bandaged, and a new hair cut. Â I have to admit I didn’t recognize him, because I never knew he had ears. Â So, being all lame and shorn, he served as tactician on board, and that was a great asset during the start, since we found ourselves nearly climbing aboard Eclipse’s stern end. Â Lot’s of maneuvers got us great boat speed, crossing the line as the gun went off, with freedom to tack — textbook!. Â Finding ourselves with 41 foot Eclipse-and-its-acre-and-a-half-of-sail-area in our lee bow, we sensibly opted to tack quickly, enjoying clear air to the windward mark as we zigged while everyone else zagged. Â At the first crossing with Sandpiper, they were well ahead. Â At the second crossing we had made ground and had to dip them. Â By the windward mark, we were just behind Eclipse and Sandpiper, and managed an inside overlap on Battlewagon.
A gorgeous hoist saw us pull away from Battlewagon, and we took some delight in seeing their spinnaker hoisted sideways — especially as we made that same error last summer (we call it the “Red Green Maneuver”….but don’t mention it to Nonsuch — it’s still a tender topic for him). Â Could we reel in Sandpiper and Eclipse? Yes, almost, and no. Â But it was so much fun! Â We sailed a hotter course and practiced “heating and burning” down the course. Â Basically this means you steer the boat upwind, ease the guy to shift the pole foreward and trim in the spinnaker sheet, which gains a lot of speed, and then you undo it all a minute later to head further downwind, trading speed for VMG. Â When the speed gets too low, you repeat. Â It’s fun, and it really works. Â In fact, just five degrees difference in steering angle can make 10% difference in speed. Â We got it so that we were moving all these things in sync, and we gained on Sandpiper — caught right up to them in fact — and closed the gap on Eclipse significantly. Â And Battlewagon fell behind.
But I think we fiddled around a bit too much on this run. Â It was irresistible though! Â We pulled up right alongside Sandpiper and had to decide whether to stay in their bad air, or get around behind them to steal their air. Â We went for the latter in one really cool move, but then we pressed on away from them, swerving among traffic and putting in two extra jibes. Â It was great fun, but by the leeward mark, we had let them slip away. Â Maybe next time we’ll get on their air and stay put so they can’t get away and we have the inside lane for our douse.
(Oh, and, um, er, about our douse tonight, well, just blame the guy on the helm for waiting too late, forgetting entirely about the pole and saying “blow the halyard” when he meant “ease the halyard”. Â Yep, the sail got wet, and we rounded with the pole still up. Â Thanks to great reactions from Gadget, who bounded like a greyhound to the pointy end to haul the spinnaker on board, we didn’t really lose much time or distance at all).
Good thing there was another hoist — a great chance to dry the spinnaker! Â Up and down the track we enjoyed clean air, just a tad lighter so we could power up the mainsail fully and chase Eclipse (in vain) to the finish line. Â The bronze sun shone proudly upon the lads of the Tuesday table as they headed towardÂ their dockside feast, with hopes of another blue flag for their efforts.
Oh, and some statistics! Â Let’s not forget about the statistics! Â (How’s the pointing going, you ask? Â Why thanks for asking! I’m glad you brought it up!)
Tacking angles on the first upwind leg were in the 95 degree range. Â Compare that to 100+ when using the #1 in higher wind in the past. Â But, take note: on the second upwind leg, when we could power up the main more fully, the tacking angle dropped to about 88 degrees on average (we even had two tacks at 78 degrees). Â That means twoÂ important things:
- the new shroud settings are helping us sail less distance
- powering up the mainsail is critical to pointing. Next time, I want to try easing the headsail in these conditions so that we can keep the mainsail powered up. Â It will probably look like we aren’t pointing as high, but I think less leeway will more than compensate.
Jibe angles — yes, I have jibe angles! Â We had four jibes with four different jibe angles: Â 68, 46, 50, and 23 degrees. Â What to make of that? Â It depends on how hot we were sailing before the jibe. Â In the first case, we were sailing 146 degrees off the true wind before and after the jibe. Â In the last case, we were sailing very deep, just 168 degrees off the true wind before jibing. Â This is just a start of the downwind data collection…more to come.