During my solo sail, I was able to link up with Kiwi off the shore of Etobicoke Yacht Club to get a good view of his new Jeanneau 410 — a very impressive ship!
On Wednesday, I got up well before dawn so that I could be through the 5am lift bridge in time for the beginning of Nautical Twilight (about an hour before sunrise). I sailed (and sometimes motored) as far as I could before turning around and returning through the 10pm lift bridge just after the end of Nautical Twilight.
It was a magical day, with spectular predawn light and an unforgettable sunrise. Here are some highlight photos.
This has been another great GHYRA campaign for PERSPECTIVE. Here are the highlights:
Indeed, we took the road less traveled for three of the last four races and each time it paid off in spades.
Final result: Third overall in our fleet. Encore! Encore!
The run from the Burlington lift bridge to PCYC is 19 nautical miles. With a typical breeze, one could count on a pleasant three to five hour journey, depending on wind direction. But light wind can make this leg feel like Homer’s Odyssey — during the Susan Hood, a very similar leg (CCIW spider to PCYC) took us 8 hours!
But twice now, sailing with Rick Culver, we’ve done the trip in 2.5 hours.
The first time, the Monday after the Susan Hood, three of us (Lazy Sheet, Rick and me) were sailing upwind with the #3 on a close reach. That meant an average speed of 7.6 knots upwind, and a peak speed of 8.1 knots — planing upwind!
Yesterday, the wind was just aft of the beam, and Rick and I only set the headsail (our old #1), leaving the mainsail neatly packed away. Once again our average speed was 7.6 knots (downwind this time), with a peak speed of 9.1 knots. Wit a bit of wave on the water, we could get PERSPECTIVE riding the gusts and waves for long stretches. It’s amazing how smooth and creamy the helm feels when the boat pops up onto a plane.
Here’s an aside about hull speed and planing. A displacement boat (monohull that sits in the water), has a maximum speed that is defined by its length. This is the boat’s hull speed. Bigger boats have higher hull speeds. For a 10m boat (PERSPECTIVE) our hull speed is 7.6 knots. For a Viper 830 (8.3m), the hull speed is 7.0 knots. But light boats, like the Viper are able to lift up out of the water and begin to plane like a surfboard. Once a boat is planing, there is no longer a speed limit, and the boat can go much faster than its hull speed. PERSPECTIVE is quite a bit heavier, than a Viper so she needs more force to rise out of the water, but she can. Every time we’ve sailed faster than 7.6 knots, we’ve been planing. And when we do, because the physics of surfing along the surface of the water are so much different that the physics of pushing water out of the way, the experience on the helm is also very different. When the boat rises up, the forces on the tiller become very light, the sound of the wake changes to a shhhhhh sound, and the smile on the helmsman face gets wider and wider.
So coming back to our two quick trips to PCYC this year, I notice that our average speed 7.6 knots is exactly our hull speed, which means to me that we were planing half the time!
Rick will be joining us on the Lake Ontario 300 this summer. If he brings planing conditions with him for that race, we’ll have to give him a nickname, like “surfer dude”.
“Trim to the verge of stall” was our instructors answer for nearly every question. And the reason always seemed to be because that would keep the keel working for us underwater.
Connecting those dots was sometimes clear and sometimes well over our heads, but we each took away some gems from our day at Lakeshore Yacht Club in Etobicoke. Representing PERSPECTIVE were Kiwi, Four Hands, Twisted (do we still call Bert that? I favour MacGyver :-)) and myself. Total attendence was around 40 racing enthusiasts and our instructor was expert, engaging and mixed up his slides with animations, videos, whiteboard sketches and some fun stories.
But most importantly, he reminded us it is HARD to get it all right, and even the pros don’t get it right all the time. His funny stories about situations on board showed us that even the best of the best find themselves perplexed by situations that are very familiar to us. But like the racing tactics we studied this winter, if we start to get things right more often than before (and more often than our competition), we will come out ahead!
So, what did I learn today?
Trim to the verge of stall
We do this with the spinnaker all the time (easing until it just starts to curl). We should do this with the jib and the main. For the mainsail, the tell-tales sneak behind the main about 30% of the time (more at the top). For the jib, we should install leech tell-tales too, so that we can do the same for the foresail. In this mode, we are getting the maximum lift/drag ratio from our sailplan.
Steer to see the inside genoa tell-tale lifting
Yep, just like we learned this winter, but Geoff suggested we add more tell-tales to the sail, one behind the other to get a sense of how close we are to the edge of stall.
How to set the outhaul
In 2017 we sailed with the main backwinded a lot by the genoa. During 2018, we got this mostly under control by flattening the main through the outhaul, backstay and mainsheet. But that leaves the question: have we done enough? have we over-done it?
Geoff explained that when the mainsail has too much depth, it becomes impossible to trim the main to avoid simultaneously luffing at the luff and stalling at the leech. (yup, we had that for sure in 2017). The best spot for the outhaul is when you can stall the mainsail right at the point where the luff of the mainsail begins to quiver.
How to depower the sailplan
There’s a well-defined sequence to this.
It’s amazing how all the sail controls are connected. Obviously, in a gust, we need to respond quickly with the traveler or sheet, but our ultimate goal should be to rebalance the boat with the above steps 1, 2, 3 so that gusts aren’t as disruptive and we keep the keel working to push up upwind.
How to depower even more
In bigger wind, we need to go even further, because steps 1, 2, 3 will eventually lead us to a situation where the genoa is backwinding the mainsail, the gusts are turning the mainsail inside out, and we can’t point high any more. (Yes, this is very familiar on PERSPECTIVE.) The solution is:
4. crack the jib in high winds. Yes, we will feather more, and the genoa will be luffing, but in this situation, the trailing edge of the mainsail will be drawing, and the power delivered to the boat will be better balanced around the keel.
And wait, there’s more…
But I think this was already enough! Let’s go sailing and try it out 🙂
Last week we focused on three objectives for starting (clear air, well-timed near the favoured end, and freedom to tack) and the standard approach for starting. This week we looked at variants of the standard aproach and other starting ideas, but quickly reverted back to think through what it would really take on board to execute the standard approach well. Simple answer: practice! But we can help ourselves by trying to be systematic. There’s really a lot for us to be taking in and using for decision making, so we came up with a scheme like this.
Who does what
There are basically three phases.
Here’s an idea about how to achieve all of that. We’ll have to try it out to see if it works.
|Who||Before the 5 minute gun||After the five minute gun||Approaching the line|
|Bowman||Enter line into compass||Monitor overlap||Monitor overlap/Call the line|
|Mastman||Enter line and course/marks into iPad||Traffic||Traffic|
|Pit||Record headings & TWD||Record headings & TWD||Call out time & distance|
|Foresail||Watch other starts||Maneuvers||Sail Trim/Manage boat speed|
|Mainsail||Record headings||Maneuvers||Sail Trim/Manage boat speed|
|Helm||Traffic||Drive/consult with tactician||Drive/make decisions and call for|
|Tactician||Plan the race||Find the favoured end. Plan the start||Position of other boats/Call Burn-down|
Sometimes we need to slow down. The easiest way is to spill one of the sails!
We’ve got our head in the wrong game. Most of the time, our approach to starting has been to tangle with boats going for the boat end of the line as if we are in a match race. Sure, it’s exciting and really fun to push someone over the line, or pinch them off at the committee boat, but the risks are high, and even if we are successful, we find ourselves in a starboard tack parade of bad air, unable to tack.
Walker suggest we put our head into a different game, with three goals:
Basically, we should only pay enough attention to the other boats to make sure we have the tactical position we want. That makes sense, but what position do we want?
This depends on the wind: ODSSSIC. If a persistent shift is expected, we know we want to sail on the headed tack early in the leg. Our start should give us the flexibility to do that. And if the wind is oscillating, we need to be able to tack to take advantage of the shifts. We’ll know this by collecting data before the start. True wind angles, compass readings on close-hauled headings, what’s happening in the sky, what’s happening to other fleets.
We also want to know which end of the line is favoured. Starting near it can put us a few boat-lengths ahead. In oscillating winds, the favoured end can change from one fleet to another, so we need to monitor closely.
Where to start
By collecting data, we should know which side of the course we want to sail on, and which side of the line is favoured. Now we have three choices:
The standard technique
Okay, now we know where to start. How do we get there? Walker advises that we
Of course, we have to watch for traffic, execute a great tack and keep our eyes on time and distance to make sure we aren’t early. Getting this right will take practice. And it will take technology!
Time and Distance
Fortunately, we have that technology. The iRegatta app has a starting mode with a burn-down indicator that will glow red when we are early, and “green means go”. We just gotta start using this tech!
I love a good parade! Many fond memories. Top of the list was the electric light parade at Disney World. But If I’m honest, I have to admit the last few I attended with my kids were becoming a bit old. Especially waiting curbside in the December slush for Santa Clause.
So I was really glad when Walker recommended that we avoid joining the Starboard-tack parade too early on the approach to the weather mark. There are several good reasons:
Instead, he advocates that we stay 100m+ below the layline for our approach, and then join the parade about 100m+ from the mark
This is great advice and should be worth a few boat-lengths. A couple of tricky things we need to consider to take advantage of this option
Joining the parade
When we join the parade, we have to choose whether to lee-bow a boat on the layline by tacking just to leeward of them, or to push through to the windward side. The main considerations (in rank order):
But in moderate air, when we are near the mark and want a jibe-set, we should go for the lee bow. When we do that, we have to pay attention to the rules, particularly if there is a neighbouring boat that calls for room to tack. That’ll be exciting!
Putting in a good hoist
Yes, I am guilty of joining the parade early. But it has been primarily because I have wanted to allow the crew ample time to set the pole. For this reason, in high wind, I think it is still best for us to join the parade early so that we can have a good secure pole in place before the hoist. A nice tidy bear away will always be more important than some backwinding on the layline in these conditions. But in moderate wind and light air, we will be just fine hoisting without the pole and setting it after the kite is flying. We’ll just need to practice that.
So a few weeks ago I made a claim that we could gain 100 seconds in an average race by using oscillating wind shifts to our advantage. The theory is clear: when the wind is oscillating, we can shorten the course significantly by “tacking on the headers” to always be sailing on the lifted tack. In the past, only the helmsman has been noticing knocks and lifts, but we have not really been keeping track of whether we are sailing in wind that is lifted or knocked relative to the median wind. And that is the key.
This was hammered home by repeatedly playing the SailRacer.net wind game. It always tacked when the wind direction swept through the median direction (and even kept a rolling average of the median wind direction). Great, it works on the computer — how to make it work on the water?
Well, turns out this is what the compass is for. Go figure! I still remember the way Doug Folsetter’s shoulders slumped during leg one of the 2017 GHYRA when he asked where our compass was. (actually, it was when I confessed that we didn’t have one). He asked how we tracked the headers and lifts? As usual, I didn’t know what Doug was talking about and mumbled something noncommittal in response. He was too much of a gentleman to press the point. But now I know what he was getting at!
With the boat trimmed, and steering to the tell-tales, the helmsman responds to the shifts in the wind by steering, and the heading of the boat varies. The compass can show us clearly if we have deviated significantly from the original heading on any given tack. In fact, the Velocitek uses the first 20 seconds or so after tacking to detect when we are in the groove and then begins to track deviations from that heading. There are bars at the top that show if we have shifted 5, 10, 15 degrees or more.
Good, that will tell us how the wind changed since we tacked. But surely we can do better than that!
Yes, we can. First, we should follow Walker’s advice and write down these headings before the race and during the race. That will give us an idea of the range of oscillations on each tack so we can make live decisions.
But we can do even better than that. Our iRegatta app on the ipad tracks the TWD (True Wind Direction) as a function of time, updating it every 30 seconds and plotting a nice Wind History graph so we can see how much it has been varying on any given night and whether it is currently veered or backed relative to the median wind. Bingo!
So now we know: pay attention to how the wind direction changes, tack on the headers (ie: when the TWD oscillates through the median wind), watch the compass, write down headings, and check the Wind History every once in a while. 100 seconds, here we come!
Getting ready to tackle Category 3 Monohull Offshore races like the Susan Hood and LO300 involves quite a bit of gear, but the biggest projects were to install a fixed compass and radio (with masthead antenna). Yesterday David led team RADIO (with Lazy Sheet as trusty assistant) and Gil lead team COMPASS (while I handed him tools and ran the vacuum cleaner). Before drilling a 4.5″ hole in the boat, Gil and I spent over an hour measuring, thinking, planning. Then in 90 seconds….presto! Here are some snaps of a chilly day in the boat yard.
(Have I mentioned that PERSPECTIVE has the best crew on the bay?)