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Winter Series Session 7: Starting, part A

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:

  1. Clear Air
  2. Well-timed start near the favoured end of the line
  3. Freedom to sail to the preferred side of the course

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?

Collecting Data

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:

  1. Leeward:  (Starboard-tack start just to leeward of the fleet):
    1. Pros:
      • Freedom to continue in clear air toward the left-side of the course.
      • Choose our own spot away from traffic.
    2. Cons:
      • Can’t tack onto port in a header or to get to the right side of the course.
    3. When to do this:
      • Boat end favoured
      • Pin end favoured
      • Left-hand side of the course favoured
      • Oscillations minor/unlikely
  2. Windward: (Starboard-tack start just to windward of the fleet):
    1. Pros:
      • Freedom to tack
    2. Cons:
      • Backwinded
      • Tricky and crowded
    3. When to do this:
      • Boat end favoured
      • Freedom to tack is important
  3. Port-tack start
    1. Pros
      • Really Macho
      • Yeehaw!!!
      • Clear air
    2. Cons
      • Tricky
      • May have to duck much of the fleet
    3. When to do this
      • Pin end favoured
      • Right side of course advantageous
      • Moderate air

The standard technique

Okay, now we know where to start.  How do we get there?  Walker advises that we

  1. Choose where we want to start
  2. Draw an imaginary layline to that position (use something on shore as a range)
  3. Identify a position along that layline approx 100m from the start line
  4. Note: 100m at 6 knots takes about 30 seconds to sail once powered up after a tack
  5. Sail a base leg on port to that position, arriving there about 45 seconds from the start
  6. Tack and go for it!

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!

Winter Series Session 6: The Weather Mark

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:

  1. We’ll be sailing in the bad air backwinded off the boats ahead
  2. Since many of those boats are from slower fleets, we’ll effectively be slowed down to their speed.
  3. Our pointing ability will also be compromised.
  4. And judging the layline from a distance is tricky.  Odds are we’ll either miss it, or overstand. Neither are good.
  5. If there is a knock, we’ll have to put in two extra tacks in quick succession (emergency tacks)
  6. If there is a lift, we won’t get much benefit from it, aside from being able to crack off sheets a bit.

Instead, he advocates that we stay 100m+ below the layline for our approach, and then join the parade about 100m+ from the mark

  1. That’s far enough to have clear air, so we can sail fast and high
  2. If there is a lift, we get the full benefit
  3. If there is a knock, well, we were planning to make two tacks anyway
  4. We’ll nail the layline from a much closer position.

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):

  1. How do we want to exit the rounding?
    1. If we want a bear-away set, it is worthwhile to push through to windward so that we have clear air when we hoist
    2. If we want to jibe-set, the inside position is better
  2. Are we sailing in light air?
    1. Push through to windward no matter what.  Accelerating after the tack will take all the clear air we can get
  3. Are we still pretty far from the mark?
    1. Push through.

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.


Winter Series Session 5: Oscillating Wind Shifts

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 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!

Fun Facts:

  • On windy days, the oscillations are biggest (20 degrees!) and most frequent (every two minutes)
  • In moderate wind, expect 2-3 shifts in a beat
  • Have a look at other boats to see how the wind is affecting them.  If we are all on the same tack, we’ll feel more ‘side by side’ when on a lifted tack, and more ‘one behind another’ when headed….time to tack!
  • Oh, and boats on opposite tacks might tell us what wind is coming next.  Treat it like a persistent shift.  If they are lifted and we aren’t, tack now, and tack back when the header comes.

Offshore Installations

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?)


What I learned from playing SailRacer too many times

Spurred on by Alvin’s world record, and stranded indoors by big wind outside, I played Sailracer a shameful 26 times this afternoon.  No, I did not beat Alvin’s record, but I did figure out how to beat the computer three times out of four.

To get there, I tried four different strategies, and the last one unlocked a very important comment that Walker makes in his boat — where to position ourselves relative to the competition as we ride the lifts up the ladder rungs.

The results

First the data, then the insight.  By the way, for fun, I’ve nicknamed the computer “Top Gun”

Strategy Average distance ahead of Top Gun Average Time ahead of Top Gun Win Percentage
Sail the usual course we sailed last year -533m – 3 minutes 0%
Ride the lifts, but tack ten degrees late -100m – 30 seconds 33%
Ride the lifts, but treat the last shift as persistent – 98m – 30 minutes 14%
Build strategic leverage early, get ahead and then cover + 15m + 5 seconds 77%

The key insight:

To beat the computer, we need some leverage over them.   One form of leverage is advantageous, the other is disastrous.  The difference comes from our position relative to the competition.  If we take a little bit of an early loss (a boat-length or two) to position ourselves correctly, the next lift will benefit us more than the competition, and more than make up for the cost of positioning.

When heading toward the rhumbline, the outside boat (furthest from the rhumbline) benefits most from a lift.  When heading away from the rhumbline, the inside boat (nearer to the rhumbline) benefits most from a lift.  (Try it on sailracer, and you’ll see the effect).

To put this into action, tack a bit late on the tack we choose to build leverage.  We’ll fall behind but:

  • If we had been heading away from the rhumbline, after tacking we’ll be heading back toward the rhumbline in the advantageous outside position
  • If we had been heading toward the rhumbline, after tacking we’ll be heading away from the rhumbline in the advantageous inside position

The game plan:

  1. We use this technique early, to develop some strategic leverage
  2. As the lift continues, we gain back the distance lost and eventually get ahead
  3. Stay ahead of the competition by tacking on the headers to ride the lifts up the ladder rungs
  4. In the final third of the race, tack to cover so that we stay in front of the competition to the mark.  We might give up some of the lead we have developed, but avoid the pitfalls of getting caught on the opposite tack in a header.

Of course, this is much easier on the computer than on the water, but it gives us something to aim for.  Try it out on SailRacer and see if you can also begin to consistently beat Top Gun (ahem, I mean the computer).


Winter series session 4: To tack, or not to tack? That is the question

A bit of a lighter turnout last night as we focused on the critical question of when to tack.  There’s a heck of a lot of material in Walker’s book on the topic, and some of it is still a bit cryptic, so we focused on two particular areas: i) a game plan for the windward leg, and ii) what to do when someone else tries to trap us in their backwinded air: the dreaded lee bow.

Game Plan for the Windward Leg

During the windward leg, we have different considerations at different times.  For simplicity, I’ll divide it into four segments.  On a typical first upwind leg (about 20 minutes), each segment will be about 5 minutes long.  We begin this ‘game plan’ just after the start.

  1. Segment ONE: Climb the ladder rungs.
    • Treat changes in wind direction as oscillations, but be vigilant about evidence of the beginning of a progressive persistent wind shift
    • Emphasize short-term gain over long-term position on the course
    • Get onto the lifted tack as soon as possible, so that we are in phase with the oscillations for the leg
    • Seek out clear air, but don’t make an impulsive decision (see next section)
    • The next tack should be to consolidate a gain.  For example:
      • Tack on a header to sail the next lift — this will gain us ladder rungs and send us back toward the rhumb line and decrease our leverage
      • Tack before the next lift — this will reduce our leverage, which is important as we transition to the second segment
  2. Segment TWO: Position ourselves strategically.
    • Sail in clear air
    • Stay in phase with the oscillations as much as possible, while also…
    • Sail to the advantageous side of the course to take advantage of
      • More wind
      • Expected progressive persistent shift, if it materializes
    • Don’t get carried away with our theory — it might be wrong!
      • Tack back toward the rhumb line, especially if most of the fleet is on the opposite side of the course
  3. Segment THREE: Benefit from the strategic choices
    • Sail in clear air
    • Stay in phase with the oscillations as much as possible, while also…
    • Take advantage of any progressive persistent shift that is in progress
    • Avoid painting the corners
  4. Segment FOUR: Approach the layline
    • Sail in clear air
    • Cover the competitors behind us to consolidate that gain — don’t sacrifice this by chasing the boats ahead of us.
    • Anticipate the next oscillation — which will be the last one of the leg — and plan the approach to the weather mark
      • This may mean treating the next oscillation like a progressive persistent shift, in which case we should sail on the headed tack for a while before it starts.
    • Join the “starboard tack parade” on the layline only about 100m from the mark
      • This parade is full of bad air and there are no passing opportunities
      • This means we will have to get good at hoisting the spinnaker with very little prep time — maybe by setting the pole after the hoist

Responding to the Lee Bow

There is a distinct disadvantage to having a competitor just off our lee bow: we are wallowing in the backwinded air they create.  The impact is that we will sail slower and point lower than the boat ahead.  This is particularly bad when the boat ahead is a slower boat, since we won’t be able to sail any faster than them — we’ll be slower than our competitors.  Interestingly, there is a distinct advantage to being the boat ahead in this situation — that boat gets a lift relative to the entire fleet.  So there are two incentives for other boats to try to trap us in the lee bow position.  Of course, we have the same incentive to do this to others.

The circumstance arises in four situations on the race course:

  1. Just after the start: only the most leeward boat is in clear air.
  2. When we catch up to slower boats on the same tack as us
  3. A competitor attempts to tack onto our lee bow
  4. On the layline: “the starboard tack parade”

It’s best to avoid the situation completely, for example by avoiding the starboard tack parade on the layline, and by choosing when to tack so as to avoid catching up to slower boats on the same line.  We’ll also learn some starting strategies that avoid (or at least reduce) the chance of a lee bow situation.

When it can’t be avoided, it can always be anticipated.  We will be able to see the situation developing and have a chance to decide ahead of time whether we want to tack or keep heading in the same direction.  Specifically, we have four options:

  1. Roll over the competitor
    • When will it work: the competitor will finish their tack less than half a boat length ahead of us, and more than half a boat width to leeward
    • How to do it:
      • luff as soon as they start their tack
      • shift gears to Pointing Gear
      • once abeam and about a boat width to windward, settle back to Go-Gear
  2. Foot below the competitor
    • When will it work: Only try this when the competitor will finish their tack clear ahead, and only slightly to leeward of us AND one of the following is true:
      • we are on a strongly lifted tack (the next header will put them in our lee bow!)
      • we are able to accelerate faster than our competitor (planing boat in high wind/waves)
    • How to do it:
      • A soon as we will be able to clear their stern, shift to Starting/Footing Gear and swoop down tight to leeward
  3. Stay the course
    • When the competitor executes a really good Lee Bow maneuver, we won’t be able to roll over them or foot below them.  We have to decide whether to tack or not.
    • If staying on the current tack is consistent with our game plan, we should calm down, take a deep breath, look around, and plan thoughtfully when we want to escape from the lee bow.
    • We will lose about 4 boat lengths (assuming the boat ahead is as fast as we are), but this may be less than the cost of 2 tacks (which will cost somewhere between 2-4 boat-lengths each)
    • When we do tack away, we should do it because it will benefit us tactically.
  4. Tack
    • If our game plan would have us tacking away soon anyway, then we should avoid the lee bow situation by tacking before we lose speed.

The key is to be ready.  We’ll see the situation developing ahead of time, and decide ahead of time whether we should respond by tacking.  If not, then we need to be ready to shift gears as needed to either roll over them (pointing gear), or foot below them (starting/footing gear).


Winter Series Session 3: Recognizing the Persistent Shift

This week we focused a lot of our attention on trying to understand what makes the wind shift.  We started off with a look at the gradient wind, as shown on, and then focused on how the gradient wind makes it way to the surface under different conditions.  This led us to unpack Walker’s ODSSSIC factors (explained in Ch 3 of his book), and then we built on that to try to understand what to look for in order to anticipate that a persistent shift might develop during the race.  The notes are copied below, but the fun part was putting it together on the ping pong table — our makeshift Burlington Bay!

ODSSSIC Explained


  1. Walker’s “Advanced Race Tactics”, Ch3 p29
  2. “Wind Strategy” (Houghton & Campbell)
  3. “Annapolis book of seamanship” (Rousmaniere)

Contributors to wind variation:

  • Predictive of oscillating wind shifts for the race: O
  • Predictive of potential persistent wind shifts: DSSSI
  • C stands for Current: ignored in this discussion.

O: Oscillating.

Air flow is unstable and oscillating

Stable air is characterized by haze or flat, low clouds.  Unstable air is characterized by cumulus clouds (popcorn clouds) and good visibility.  Unstable air allows the exchange of gradient wind and surface wind: a dynamic process that includes variation in wind speed and angle:  oscillations!  (remember that surface air is always backed relative to the gradient wind due to friction – in the Northern Hemisphere).

D: Dying.

Will there be a change in wind strength, either increasing or Dying?

Typically at the end of the day, the land begins to cool and the air near the surface becomes more stable and the surface wind dies down.  As a wind dies at the surface it will also likely change direction persistently as the air becomes more stable.  Look for the wind to back as it dies (less gradient wind mixing in).

S: Sea Breeze.

Is a sea breeze likely to be an influence in the race?

First thing in the morning, a light gradient wind is likely, but as the land warms, a sea breeze will begin.  The effect is particularly strong when the gradient wind is from the land toward the sea.  The sea breeze blows in the opposite direction at the surface – from the sea to the land.  As such, it begins right near the shore and builds outward.  As it builds it expands further into the lake and gains strength.  The direction of the sea breeze begins as blowing directly onto shore, and as it builds the resultant wind will be a mixture of the sea breeze direction and the gradient wind direction.  Eventually, if the sea breeze overcomes the gradient wind, it will become strong and veer significantly until blowing at an angle 20 degrees to the shore.

As the sea breeze dies down in the day, the process is reversed.  It diminishes in strength, retreats to a smaller zone near the shore, and backs in direction (to blow directly onto the land) before dying out and being replaced by the gradient wind.

Sea Breeze Notes for Burlington Bay (based on theory):

  • The sea breeze effect needs kilometers of shoreline to take effect
  • As a result, the direction of “shore” on the bay and western end of Lake Ontario is essentially due west. This means a sea breeze can appear as an Easterly breeze in the bay.
  • Since a mature sea breeze is veered, we should be on the lookout for sea breeze effects when:
    • The gradient wind is out of the west
    • The surface wind in the middle of the day is out of the south-east (ie: a veered Easterly)
  • In the evening:
    • This SE wind will begin to lose strength and collapse toward shore
    • As it loses strength it will back toward the East
    • As it collapses into the bay, it will bring a dead zone with it. As the dead zone passes us, we will have a new breeze from the West (the gradient breeze)
    • The dead zone will spread up the middle of the bay, with the last gasps of Easterly wind near the shore
    • The new wind will spread up the middle of the bay, and appear as 180 degree change in wind direction.
  • In the morning
    • A light westerly breeze will be flowing
    • The wind will die down as the sea breeze fights against the gradient breeze, creating glassy patches.
    • We’ll see boats near the lift bridge sailing in a Westerly, while boats near western end of the bay will be sailing in a light Easterly breeze. Boats near the Burlington shore will have a light southerly breeze and boats near Hamilton will have a light northerly breeze – each edge of the bay will have a different wind direction!
    • The new breeze will spread toward out from shore and toward the bridge, strengthening as the new Easterly breeze replaces the gradient wind
    • Once it is formed it will start to veer quickly toward the South East.

S: Squall.

Could a squall appear?

From “Annapolis book of seamanship” (Rousmaniere):

Squalls often occur on exceptionally hot, humid afternoons.  They may be at the cutting edge of a new weather front, or they may be purely local in origin.  The calling card is a steep pile of dark, thick cumulonimbus clouds and, below it, ragged swirls – the kind that in a Hollywood film announces the arrival of witches and extraterrestrial beings.  When you see a black cloud approaching, take a moment to analyze it.  The sharper, darker, and lower the front edge of the cloud, the more trouble you can expect, so sail away from it if you have the chance.  Another cause for alarm is vertical turbulence between layers in the cloud as indicated by ragged scud….

…the squall may pass after an exciting half hour or so, leaving in its wake sunshine and decks scrubbed clean by hard rainfall.  There may be a fresh northwest wind or, then again, there may be a flat calm.

S: Shoreline.

Will the shoreline affect the wind during the race?

This is always the case on the bay!

I: Inversion.

Do we have conditions wherein an Inversion could break through?

Normally, the higher you go up in altitude, the cooler the air becomes.  An inversion is a situation where warm air is trapped above colder air.  This can be a stable situation when there isn’t much sunlight, but the sun can warm some of the lower air, which can rise and trigger a break-through where the warmer air from higher up comes streaming down below.

To identify these inversions look for smog close to the surface, foggy conditions, or a chilly dense marine layer.

Breakthroughs can be violent, including thunderstorms, hail or freezing rain.

Notes from Walker’s “Advanced Racing Tactics”, Chapter 29

  • Before the race
    • Acquire a feel for the wind – variations in strength and direction
    • Measure its oscillations
      • Track the compass headings for 20-30 minutes before the start
        • Is the wind stable and subject to minimal variations?
        • Is the wind stable and subject to progressive variation in a single direction
        • Is the wind unstable and subject to periodic oscillations
      • Measure long enough to
        • tell the difference between
          • a prolonged oscillation (rarely lasts more than 15 minutes)
          • a persistent shift
        • detect the full range of oscillations
      • If less time, measure continuous readings on a single tack
        • Wait for a header or lift
        • Tack to get the complementary heading
        • Take note of the compass headings of median wind, lifted tack and headed tack and tacking angle
      • If a continuous shift in one direction is observed over about 20 minutes, then presume a progressive persistent shift has begun
    • Look around
      • Sailboats on the horizon
      • Smoke from smokestacks
      • Dark lines on the water
      • Change in texture on the surface of the water
      • Other boats racing in the fleets ahead
    • During a race
      • Keep looking around
      • Keep logging compass headings on each tack
        • If a header or lift is significantly bigger than the ones before the race, it may be a persistent shift: get onto the headed tack!
      • Distinguish between completed persistent shift and a progressive one
        • If the wind speed doesn’t change much, then it’s probably over.
        • Usual cause is a change in wind, and the progressive shift is experienced while the new wind is gradually replacing the old wind. Cause could be:
          • Start or stop in a sea breeze
            • First thing in the morning: gradient wind
            • During morning: persistent shift as sea breeze builds – ultimate direction is blowing onto shore
            • During afternoon: we would be sailing in sea breeze
            • During the evening: persistent shift as sea breeze subsides – ultimate direction is gradient wind.
            • Note: the direction of “shore” on the bay and western end of Lake Ontario is essentially due west, until the last breaths of the sea breeze when the specific contours of shore in the Bay will matter. So, if an Easterly breeze is not due to the gradient wind direction, then expect it to subside (even reverse), as the evening progresses.  This new breeze will form first near the Eastern end of the bay, with some holes where the two breezes meet.  The sea breeze will linger longest near the shoreline.
          • Change in the degree of mixing of upper-level airflow (gradient wind) with surface wind (backed 15-40 degrees from gradient wind direction due to friction: 15 degrees on open sea, 40 degrees on land).
            • Triggered by an inversion breakthrough
          • A squall
          • A movement of the weather system itself
        • Most of these causes will initiate a progressive shift, but some can be short-lived and abrupt. It depends on how the new wind and old wind mix.
      • Assume it is progressive!
        • While it is progressing, act to take advantage of its further progression:
          • make sure we are on the headed tack
          • continue until near the layline,
          • then tack onto the progressively lifted tack to get to the mark
        • When it stops
          • Return to playing the oscillations, consider:
            • Where we are on the course
            • The direction of the new median wind
            • Most likely first oscillation will be in the opposite direction of the persistent shift.

Other sources of insight:

Hot stuff!

We may need to change Bert’s nick-name to MacGyver!

He trundled out his old Forespar Mini-Galley marine stove (no longer working or on the market), removed the gimbal, bought a new Jetboil stove, and with a bit of old-fashioned tomfoolery…presto: a gimballed stove, custom mounting bracket, and dual purpose percolator/pot for coffee, tea, soup, freeze-dried food!

And wait, there’s more…(in the tone of a late night infomercial)…for a limited time, this one came with a starter kit of coffee, tea and all the fixings!

Thanks Bert…we’ll all be very grateful to you in the wee hours of a chilly night at sea!

Tell tales 2.0 — a deeper look

Last night the snowfall cancelled my plans (LMPA AGM), so I cozied up with some reading about fluid dynamics as applied to sailing.  Below are a couple of pages from “The Art and Science of Sails”, by Whidden & Levitt.  Years ago I would have been able to follow the math and do some of the computations, but those skills have atrophied like all muscles that aren’t exercised regularly.  Thank goodness this book has lots of pictures!

Have a look at figures 4.9 and 4.10, the last paragraph on page 79, and the part in the middle of page 80 that describes two upwind race modes for modern sailing boats.

Here’s a simple summary:

  • When the wind is light and the boat is not fully powered up, we should sail with both tell-tales flowing:
    • The extra lift is needed, even at the expense of additional drag.
    • We generate the extra lift with full deep sails, and power them up fully by steering a bit of a lower angle to get both tell tales streaming.
  • When the wind is moderate to high and the boat is fully powered up, we should sail with the inner tell-tale lifted
    • Now we have plenty of lift, but need to minimize drag.
    • We minimize drag by flattening the sails and steering a slightly higher angle with the inner tell tale lifting

The 210 second challenge

Two hundred and ten seconds.  That is the amount of time, on average, that separates us from Top Gun.  To come up with this figure, I reviewed the elapsed time in every race in 2018, leaving off the nights with blunders, or when we fell into a big hole. I don’t know about you, but 210 seconds was sounding like quite a lot until I did some thinking.  And after that thinking, I think I know where we can find 210 seconds on the race course.

Downwind:  I think we’re already as fast as Top Gun.  We are getting faster all the time, and our maneuvers will get more crisp with practice.  But I don’t think this is our major opportunity.

Upwind: This is where the opportunity lies. On an average race, we spend 36 minutes sailing upwind.  This means we need to find 9% improvement in our upwind sailing to draw even with Top Gun.  As we saw in the raceQs podcast, we can either sail faster or sail less distance.  I’m going to focus on sailing less distance.

  1. Pointing (100 seconds).  By pointing just 3 degrees higher, we’ll sail 5% less distance.  That’s half our goal right there!  How?
    • Clear air
    • More backstay
    • Trim and steer for “Go-Gear”
  2. Use the wind shifts (100 seconds).  We saw examples in the raceQs podcast where one boat sailed 10% less distance than another just by tacking on the headers.  Maybe that was an extreme case, but on average, it might be half as much: another 5%!
  3. Get a good start (10 seconds).  Sometimes we nail the start, but other times we are quite a bit late.  On average, I think we can get another 10 seconds from this.

So, with these improvements, we should be giving Top Gun a consistent run for their money!!! Winter series, anyone?

Incidentally, I applied the same analysis to our other common rivals.  On average, we are 90 seconds slower than Remarkable, 30 seconds faster than Sandpiper, and 60 seconds faster than Battlewagon.  Time to move up the fleet 🙂