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Some analysis after three races

We are off to a great start for the 2017 season!

It has been fantastic to be out on the water again, and now that nearly all of us have sailed a race or two or three, I can see the rhythms coming back, so I took a look at my notes from the end of last season.  At that time, I jotted down a few priorities for this year:

  1. Improve starting.
  2. Upwind pointing and boat speed
  3. Better PHRF rating
  4. Faster downwind angles and jibes
  5. Tactics and Strategy

Let’s take them one at a time.

  1. Starting.
    • So far: a mixed bag.
    • Next steps: This is going to take practice and repetition so that we get our timing right and our position relative to the rest of the fleet.  Fun!
  2. Upwind.
    • So far: This is off to a great start.  Thanks to the shorter forestay, we are definitely pointing higher, the boat is balanced better with just a touch of weather helm.  It feels like the net result is that we are able to sail a shorter course to the windward mark without any loss in boat speed.
    • Next steps:
      • Rig tuning. On Tuesday, with looser shrouds, and a bit of backstay we were able to trim away the backwinding at the luff of the mainsail and gain speed.  On Thursday, in similar wind with tighter shrouds we couldn’t trim it away with the backstay without losing speed.
      • Sail trim.  Let’s keep tweaking with our eyes on the speed meter!  The iRegatta app should let us know if we have reached our speed potential.
      • New #1 and #2 Genoas will arrive soon!  I’m sure they’ll have a better shape, with a flatter exit angle that creates less drag.  Maybe this will reduce some of the backwinding we’re experiencing on the mainsail. (The old #1 scoops inward at the leech)
      • Use the polar table feedback in the iRegatta app to optimize Course Made Good (aka VMC), the net speed to the windward mark.  We may be pointing too high or too low for the given wind conditions.
  3. PHRF rating.
    • We got 3 seconds better than last year.  Probably all we’ll be able to get
  4. Downwind.
    • So far:
      • We are still able to hoist faster than anyone else in our fleet, and are dousing with more and more confidence, closer to the mark and other boats.
      • Jibes are coming along quickly, and we’ll get to confidence in all kinds of wind conditions with just more practice.
    • Next steps:
      • Choose our sailing angles to get to the leeward mark as fast as possible.  The polar table feedback in iRegatta should help with that.
  5. Tactics & Strategy
    • So far:  Not so good!  I’ve been making some classic mistakes
      • Splitting from the fleet early in the race.  Sure, if they are all wrong about where the better wind is, we’ll get better wind.  But what are the odds that they are all wrong?  And the downside of staying with them?  Not much at all.  We should only split from the fleet late in the race, when the passing opportunities are limited.  Just need to maintain clear air.
      • Painting the corners, and setting up on the layline from a long way off.  It’s better to sail up the middle of the course to better judge the laylines, and minimize the downside of overstanding.
      • Missing laylines
      • Getting Greedy!
    • Next steps:
      • Have a modest upwind goal of rounding the weather mark close to the fleet, and use the downwind leg to gain/overtake
      • Save the bigger risks for the last leg.

Boiling it all down, I think there are three things to focus on:

  1. Rig Tuning.  I’ll keep tinkering until we like it. Might take all season!
  2. Sailing angles & Speed.  When we have a full crew, let’s start using the app for real time feedback.
  3. Tactics & Strategy. Remind me to stay with the pack, and save the risks for later in the race 🙂

But the most important part we’ve always done well: LAUGH!

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