Sunday, 30 December 2012

Sailing Goals for 2013

There are several reasons as to why I love sailing as a sport, but one of the main ones is simply the process of acquiring new skills.  I like to be able to set out objectives and work out how to achieve them.  These objectives are never results based, as I can't control the performance of other sailors.  But I can try to improve my own skills.  As an aside, one of the reasons that I don't windsurf so much any more is that I'd started to top out on the learning curve, I wasn't going to get much better (plus the number of tweaks to my ankles through learning to Vulcan made me think that injury was a serious possibility - you need to be young and bendy to do that stuff!).

So here are the themes for 2013:

1.  Heavy wind sailing, specifically downwind.
Lots to do here, but watch this space for a Steve Cockerill critique.  Anything up to a Force 4/5 is fine, but I can't wait to be able to look forward to a wavy downwind leg in a F5+.  Until last week I thought the problem with this particular objective is that you need strong winds to practice - not so says Mr C, 10-12 knots is adequate!

2. Fitness.
Several races over the past three months have highlighted a lack of fitness.  If I were to do a Nationals now I'd be uncompetitive after the first race.  So a focus on fitness through 2013 is definitely on the cards.  I might even have to join Mike and Claire in circuit training.

3.  Fleet racing.
When I first bought the 300, the general plan was to spend 2 years learning to sail the boat, and then try some open meetings.  The 2 years are up, and I'm getting on OK with the boat in most conditions, so time to get fleet racing.  The objective will be to learn more about the boat and to work out what needs to change to improve position in fleet.  No objectives on fleet position, I can only influence my own performance, not that of other sailors.

4.  Coaching
Seek help in improving technique wherever possible.

These need to translate into a plan but I've not done that yet, other than to mark the 300 Winter Championships on the 2013 calendar (if its not on the calendar, it doesn't happen in our house).  And to get a pass out on New Years day for a sail out of Slipper if anyone fancies it.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

A Yuletide Windsurf

 Too windy to go 300ing today, so I thought I'd go windsurfing instead - it has been a while since I've been out on a board, and there was a good breeze running this morning.

High tide was at 10:30, I got to the foreshore at about 09:45 to find none of my windsurfing brethren in attendance.  This was a problem, it is not good practice to go out solo in a force 7, equipment failure would mean that you are in cold water with some distance to get to shore, and potentially no one knows your plight.  Fortunately another three sailors rocked up at 10:00, after prevarication for 5 mins on rig and board sizes we set out.

A bit too much West in the wind to be a classic harbour sailing day, but good fun nevertheless.  Very gusty winds and some fearsome squalls.  As well as hip flexors, I have discovered flexors in my forearms and shins (in many ways, windsurfing is like riding a bike - if you don't go for a while you can remember how to do it, but lose the fitness in key muscles).

I mounted the GoPro to the boom, not great footage as the camera angle was too high and frankly straightline blasting on a windsurfer makes for boring film.  But I attached a couple of clips for those interested.

First a view gybes, the flat water behind Fowley island made for easy gybing just so long as you avoided the grass patches.

A duck gybe and helitack:

And finally a gracefull dismount.  If a trick doesn't work out, the best thing to do is pretend that you were going to stop anyway, in this case to adjust harness lines.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

More on the 4th Dimension

Some video footage from the practice yesterday.  First up, here are the tracks at the start of the session.

The wind direction was Wf2-3, the track at the bottom is a beat from Rockwood to Dunes, the track at the top is a run from Dunes to Astra.  The downwind track is full of zigzags, each of which is a transition from a broad reach to by-the-lee, or vice versa.

Here are the tracks when Andy suggested a few laps between Cambermet and Rockwood.

A few laps turned into a few dozen, neither of us was willing to give up.  Not sure that this was good practice, but it was certainly good fun (and learnt something about the tide aswell - it pays to lee bow the tide rather than tack to get out of the tide in that area).

Anyway, back to the point of the practice - learning the transitions for 4th Dimension downwind sailing.  Here is the first section of downwind with lots of transitions.

Points of interest:
- The outhaul tightens as the boom moves out, this is no good.  Not sure whether to modify the existing boom or wait for the new carbon one.
- I wonder if I'm sheeting out too far when going by-the-lee, creating too much windward heel.
- Moving from by-the-lee to broad reaching needs loads of main sheet, otherwise its a swim.  Looks like a load of practice in stronger winds.
- I wonder about the optimal rate of turn.  Steve says that the transitions should increase speed, mine feel like they slow the boat down.

And some video showing latest progress upwind.

The interesting thing with upwind sailing is that it takes full concentration at the moment, and often I'm forgetting to sheet out with the tiller hand or lapsing on windward heel.  I'm going to try even shorter straps as I'm still slumping at times.  On the positive side I appear to have located my stomach muscles, quads and hip flexors.  They nearly prevented me getting out of bed this morning, this straight leg hiking is hard work.

Andy was sailing so well in the 300 today, impressive to think that its only his second time out.  Upwind we were matched for boat speed, and he looked very comfortable in the boat.  But I thought readers would appreciate an opportunity to see Andy cooling off after all that upwind work.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Mark and Andy explore the 4th Dimension

The forecast for the next week or so looks better for windsurfing than sailing, so when an opportunity came up to get out today I was keen.  Dave is away, Hugh is working, Glen is working, Mike is working, but Andy G decided to take a days holiday to come 300 sailing.

A little context for this training session.  I dropped Steve Cockerill a note with the capsize video from last weekend, and spoke with him on Tuesday morning.  He pointed out that I was trying to keep the hull under the mast and sailing dead downwind, and that I couldn't hope to keep upright with that approach in a boat as unstable as the 300.  Really I think he was saying "why on earth are you sailing like that if you have watched my video.  What are you doing."  But he was kind in his appraisal and suggested that I re-evaluate my whole approach to downwind sailing.

So my objectives for the session:

1.  To try the whole 4th dimension thing, focussing on transitions.  I have been avidly re-watching the Rooster Downwind DVD, and also reading up on the 4th Dimension article on the Rooster website.
2.  To try sailing downwind with no kicker at all (the set up required for the 4th Dimension approach)
3.  To keep going with the upwind training, ie:
   - More windward heel
   - Straight leg hiking
   - Releasing sheet with the tiller hand, sheeting with the forward hand
   - Frying pan grip on tacks.

Andy's objectives for the session were:

1.   Beat Mark to every buoy in the harbour.

But I made him sail by-the-lee by mandating it as an SI for our little course.  There would be no better training partner for tuning than Andrew, he always wants to sail as fast as possible and finish first.  I understand this is also the case in skiing and mountain biking!

So learning from todays session:

Transitioning to By-the-Lee
- Initiating the transition is straightforward enough, sheet out and lean the boat to windward, and then bear away hard.
- Knowing when and how best to stop the transition is not so straightforward, I would often get to a point of gybing.  After a little practice you get more orientated, and start to recognise the 'flicking' of the leech when you are close to gybing.

Transitioning from by-the-lee to a broad reach
- You have to turn more than you think, 90 degrees or so in the f2-3 we were sailing in.
- You have to sheet in loads if you want to keep upright when leveling the boat on the new broad reach.
- Sheeting in when coming up isn't difficult, I thought this would be a problem but it was OK.

- Points to consult with Steve:
(i) Is the approach appropriate to all wind strengths?  In the light stuff I wondered if it was quickest.
(ii) Boom angle to the centreline. I felt as if I might letting the sail too far out when transitioning to BTL.
(iii) Speed of transition and stopping prior to gybing.

I'll post the video from todays session, Andy will be pleased to hear that his cooling swim was captured nicely on film.

Monday, 17 December 2012

H&H 12 Photos

Many thanks to Noel and Claire Coussens who took some very nice photos of the H&H12 race yesterday.   You can see them all here.  I particularly like the photo for the start of the second race :

We can see the Laser 2000 and Fireball are clearly over the line, they were marked as BFD by the Race Officer.  But closer inspection shows a little naughtyness behind the Laser 2000.  The photo highlights how difficult it is for the race officer to make a judgement on boats that are covered by an early starter, in the split second of the start gun - it took me 5 minutes with a magnifying glass on the 2000's transom to decide who I thought could be over.

Tom Tredray had an excellent start in his Laser, just to windward of the 2000.  He clearly had room to bear away and accelerate, exactly on the line at the gun, and clearly moving at speed. 

Never thought I'd say this, but look at all the room by the hut end of the line!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

300 Race Log - 16th December

Date: 16th December

Venue : ESSC
Race : Handicap race, 75 minutes
Conditions: S-SW F1-3
Tide : 45 minutes after start
Result : 1st of 33, 1st 300 of 4

- The whole race today was about the start, if you could get away cleanly from the line you were going to be fine.  I was reading Mark Rushalls book 'RYA Tactics', in which he outlines several ways to try and start if the line is bias to the pin end.  One way is to approach the main bunch (all approaching on Starboard) on port, and tack under the first boat.  I tried it twice today (sorry Andy, you led the pack twice!) and it is not easy in a congested line but seems to work.  The trick appears to be to tack in such a way that the boat leading the starboard pack can't duck you or sail over you.  Anyway food for thought.
- Pretty good boatspeed all the way round, but felt a little slow upwind at times.  That said, there were some light patches.
- Tactically OK, got most of the tide decisions right.

Points for reflection.
- I dropped Steve Cockerill a line earlier in the week asking for guidance about sail set up for broad reaching in light airs. He responded with some advice on setting the sail according to the draft in the top batten of the sail.  Good advice, it takes more vang than you would think, but I could hold the ISOs on a broad reach and thats not happened before.
- I radically shortened the toestraps.  Felt very strange at first, and found it very difficult to hook into the straps on the new side of a tack.  Once I got used to it they were great, I can't really describe why but it sort of feels like you are more locked into the boat.  Still not found my hip flexors though.

So that's it for racing for a while.  We have the Shiver on the 29th, and then the Chiller series starts on the 13th January (but only two races a month).  Its time to start practicing again, the emphasis recently has been too much on racing.  Do let me know if anyone fancies some sailing over Xmas and the first week of January, practicing solo is great but much more fun with others :-)

Lighter and brighter for Hare and Hounds 12

More on the theme of weather forecasters getting it wrong.  The Inshore Waters forecast gave a F5-7 SW for the 24 hour period from 06:00 Sunday morning.  At the club at 11:00 we were greeted by a very pleasant F2-3 SSW, bright sunshine and warm too.  After the wind yesterday, I would say that the change was welcomed by the majority of the fleet.

First up let me congratulate the race officer on a fine choice of course.  6.5 miles with a full mix of upwind, downwind and reaches.  The start was interesting, when we first went out I thought the line was relatively unbiased, but by the first start the wind had backed and certainly favoured the pin end.  So at least half the fleet decided to aim for the pin, the result being that most of the fleet were pushed over.  The Race Officer hurrumphed in his hut and flourished the black flag for the subsequent start, the fleet was a little better behaved, but still two boats over before the gun. It was tight at the pin end, the tide made it difficult to round the ODM.

Todays race was as much about tide as anything else.  It was heavily flooding as we started and determined the tactics of the race.  For example, the timing of the crossing from the Thorney shore to both Northney and Tye was critical - too early and you end up in very light wind by Hayling in lots of tide, too late and you sail further than you need.  Another point regarding tide was on the final leg from Northney to the line.  I was surprised to see the tide still flooding in the main channel at 20 minutes past high water, there were gains to be made in sticking to the channel until Fowley, then it seemed to turn.

Some highlights from the results:

- After a bit of a dodgy start, John Townsend and Barbara Langford sail through the fleet to take 2nd place in their Merlin.  Its very difficult to come through boats in that light breeze.
- Ben Davis starts up the inboard motor in his Finn and storms to 3rd place, that Finn is really quick in the lighter airs (and beautifully finished, worth a look if you haven't seen the boat up close)
- Andy and Vicky place first ISO and take the Sunday Series, excellent results across a wide variety of conditions.
- Paul and Caroline Fisk place 4th in their 200, they are consistently quick in all weather.
- Tom Tredray places first Laser by a good margin, with Max Jones in second place.
- Finally, a mention to Paul and Andrew in their Toppers, who finished some way behind the main fleet, that's perseverance. Fortunately they got back before the F8 squall crossed the harbour!

There is another set of photos from the racing today, I've not received them yet to look in again soon.

And the 300 log will follow once I've taken the dog for a walk and had a nap.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Sam Tweedle muses on Hare and Hounds 11

Sam placed really well yesterday, being the first Laser on corrected time.  As well as giving the other Lasers a good pasting (and me for that matter), he now shows that he can write a nicely articulate piece of musing:

"Today (H&H11) was my first go in a radial in a blow, which could have gone either way! It certainly felt good to be planing again after outgrowing the 4.7. I was pleasantly surprised at how manageable a Laser can be, even when you’re a bit on the small side, if you’re not afraid to temporarily ease the main when hitting the gusts upwind. The key to this is loads of kicker; otherwise the main will power up as the boom rises. 

 I found that keeping a constant angle of heel worked wonders when heading upwind, however I should have stopped hugging the Thorney shore a bit sooner so I didn’t overshoot Sweare Deep, the windward mark. The close reach underneath Hayling was quite difficult to keep the boat flat with the gusty conditions and having to leave the kicker off to stop the boom dragging. I’d imagine that I need to grow and get fitter to be able to ‘ninja hike’ for the majority of the leg, but I’d be interested to hear if anybody’s got any tips for close reaching. Downwind, I noticed that doing transitions, where you sail broad reaches and by the lee, instead of directly downwind, made the boat much more stable, and quicker than sailing the shorter route, but I’d like to know whether that was the case from everybody else’s perceptions. 

PS. Thanks to the race team and safety boat crews.

I feel your pain on the close reaches Sam, Rick Kennedy and I used to lament the ability of the larger sailors to thrash us on a reach in any sort of wind.  And sailing by the lee seems to be the way to go, my capsizde video shows what happened to me when trying to sail a deep broad reach!

Yet another photo from H&H11

This time from the start hut, at the gun.  Note the race winners giving themselves a mountain to climb (I presume slightly early?)

Otherwise very orderly.  Can all these photo be preventing the fleet from pushing the line so much ? Or was it the 5.0m tide keeping everyone back ?

Dave Valentine also provides the following from the race box

" An interesting course - yes and exactly what the race team - Stuart, Mary, Me and Toby aka Hooter Boy, were looking for!  After much discussion, between the proposed J, the RO was looking at India, which would give some extra distance though in the winds, doable, taking on the Marker loop. And as planned, if the wind did live up to forecast, then we could shorten at Sweare Deep.

Informing the PB's, we were also advised that Marker may not be there ! Back to the drawing board.
So we ran through a few other courses on the maps, and were looking for a race that could challenge all, and enable others to keep up with the asy's and pesky's. So L was selected and approved by all in the hut. With the added benefit that we could shorten if necessary as they came back through the Line - sorry to those that missed that bit on the course cards and passed the ODM on a different side. We did try to get the patrols to you, and one did, when they had to go and check on some looking at their hulls closely.

Anyway, race underway, good clean start - yes we were prepped.  The Fireball showed a new method of starting giving themselves an extra challenge of facing the wrong way at the gun though still making up for it at the finish! Nice! Watch out for the start gun photo !!

The added bonus of the course was that it gave the Race Hut some real spectator sailing - and boy did we get it ! A couple of boats showing how to throw their boats around and get them up again, some time and time again - there's practising and there's practising !!??

The downhill run with the wind almost behind gave some great photo shots - Mr Tyler should have some good ones ! and certainly challenging a few - moored boats for example, with several taking the clean run towards the Ems shore to stay clear, others choosing to mix it with the yotties. Lasers just straight through - though we must have had too many light and ultra light days as several were giving up half way round. Too windy said some (really ?!), boat broke before helm said others, round 1 was great then tiring etc etc

So thanks for the spectacle, the race hut was a buzz of noise and enjoyment (no laughter at any swimmers - honest guv!) - just ask Mary how excited she got about the event !!

More practice needed in higher winds we think, and good to see some positions change throughout the fleet. Well done all who got a clear round ! and well done to those who went swimming"

Some H&H11 photos

Again from Claire and Noel in the patrol boat.  Not too many photos as they were busy for the second half of the race!

H&H11 Start Line Videos

.... courtesy of Claire and Noel in patrol boat!  First, the lead up and start:

and then the fleet slogging up to Sweare Deep (or Shepherd in the case of Dave and I!):

Some nice starts at the pin end there.

Its died a little! No it hasn't!

** Blog update. You should be able to make comments now, without having a Google Id or any of that nonsense. So start making comments or I'll think that nobody has an interest and stop posting!**

So an interesting race at Slipper today, with 35 boats on the water for the penultimate Hare and Hounds race.  20 finished, 15 retired.

Prior to the start, the wind had been moderating nicely to a F4-5.  Vicky Gould was almost looking forward to sailing, Hugh and I were surveying the scene and concluding that it looked perfect.  With the wind due to moderate through the course of the day it seemed ideal conditions, albeit a little cold.  What do these forecasters know:

We started at 11:55, by 12:05 we had a somewhat gusty F5-6 for the upwind/downwind legs, and a F2-6 gusty wind for the reaching legs.  You may be getting the impression that I wasn't impressed by the conditions and you would be right!

An interesting choice of course saw the fleet sailing up and down the channel twice, with much angst sailing through the moored boats to Echo.  Anyway, some highlights of the day:

- Hugh Watson and Steve Chesney win the race by nearly two minutes in their Fireball, sailing really quick upwind.  Great to see a conventionally spinnakered boat winning a race.
- Dave Acres shows great resilience to place 2nd in his 300.  Dave capsized at the end of the first run, but ploughed through the fleet in the windy 2nd lap, taking Hugh Kennedy before Echo.  Great sailing, and good to see one of my 300 brethren in the top 3.
- Andy and Vicky Gould capsize for the first time in five years.  So it must have been windy.
- Sam Tweedle places first Laser in his Radial, beating all but one of the Lasers over the water.
- Paul and Caroline Fisk keep placing solid results in all conditions, this time a 4th place.
- Special mention to John and Simon in the Laser Stratos.  Fortunately for the rest of the fleet they missed the line at the end of the first lap (along with RS 400s 689 and 792), otherwise they would have placed 5th overall.

So that concludes the Hare and Hounds Saturday series, good sailing in a mix of conditions.

300 Race Log - 15th December

Date: 15th December

Venue : ESSC
Race : Handicap race, 60 minutes
Conditions: SW F4-6
Tide : 45 minutes after start
Result :  Retired!

An interesting race of two halves.  The first lap was great, the second lap was not so good.  Anyway, we stick to the usual format of positives and points for reflection.

- Good start.  Mid line with speed, clear air.  Very mindful of both the race box and patrol boats trying to catch me OCS!
- Great upwind boat speed on the first leg to Sweare Deep.  Tried sailing with lots more windward heel and straight legs and it had two outcomes:
    1. Held Dave Acres upwind in a Force 5.  First time that has happened.
    2. Absolutely knackered by Sweare Deep.  Straight leg hiking and continually playing the main is just so tiring.
-  Had two excellent gybes at Shepherd, and a good first leg downwind.

Points for reflection:
-  The wind to Walsh and back was really gusty, and the boat never felt settled.  Dave and Hugh looked to be having much better legs, and took loads out of me.
-  Very tired (and a bit cold) after the first lap, and didn't have good boatspeed upwind.  I'm tempted to say that a few more kilos would have been helpful, but to be honest it comes down to fitness.
-  Capsized about 2/3rds of the way from Shepherd to Echo on the second lap, got the mast stuck in the mud and got very cold and tired.  As a result capsized several more times on the way back in (does anyone else find that a single capsize seems to be the instigator of more ?).  I was concerned that the GoPro had run out of battery by the point at which I capsized, but readers of the blog will be delighted to learn that it had just enough juice to get the critical moment on film.

By happy circumstance, the video was very well positioned to capture sheeting angle (look at the bolt fixing the boom to the mast), wind direction and rudder movements.  So here is my little analyse of what went wrong:

* Start of the video is pretty good, sailing by the lee and stable.
* At the start of the capsize sequence (at about 1:45) I'm not sailing by the lee, the wind has moved and its a broad reach
* The boat is heeled to windward (1:47), and I decide for reasons unknown to sheet out!  So two reasons for the boat to to get the message that skewing to leeward is exactly what I want it to do!
* Steering is quite neutral, I'm not trying to steer the boat under the mast, but also not bearing away to get by the lee and stabilise.
* Game over by 1:48.

- Practice is needed in F5-6 winds.  Analyse like this can be helpful but nothing beats practice.  And I've done precious little in the stronger winds.  The trouble is getting out to practice when there is some safety cover around.
- I think I may have been letting the boom get too close to perpendicular on the runs, destabilising the boat.
Time for a nap.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The Chiller series at TISC

Sailing the Chiller series at Thorney Island SC is always great fun.  It is very different to the Hare and Hounds series at Slipper.  The racing has a very relaxed feel, the start line spans the full Thorney channel (and so doesn't have the congested feel of the Slipper start line), and you get to see parts of the harbour that we only usually visit on down harbour races from Slipper.   Tactically it is very different - the tide and back eddies play a big role in getting round the track, and long standing TISC members have a distinct advantage in this respect! 

You can leave boats at TISC for the series free of charge.  Its a great way to start the New Year, Slipper members are welcomed with open arms!  More details below.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Chris loves it when I bring sailing stuff in the house

The problem with cold weather is that epoxy is too viscous to mix and takes too long to cure.  The minimum working temperature is 15 degrees or so, and its 5 outside at the moment.  But I'm worried about the point loading that the vang puts on the 300 mast, and need to make a protector for the carbon, and can't wait till April. 

So creative ways have to be found to get curing epoxy to a warm environment, in this case involving the catflap in the back door.  The long suffering Chris loves it when I bring sailing stuff into the house, this arrangement didn't take any negotiation at all.  The dog isn't too happy either, he likes to use the catflap to ensure there is no shenanigans going on the back garden.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Training Day with Dave and Andy

Dave Acres and I spoke during the week, and loosely agreed on some 300 training at TISC on Saturday.  After a couple of club whiskeys on Friday night, Andy Gould announced his intention of joining the 300 fleet for one day only, borrowing Mikes boat. 

Saturday morning arrives, bright sunshine, but not much wind - f2 on Cambermet and forecast to die.  Dave and I were debating whether lugging the boats to TISC would be worthwhile, but Andy's enthusiasm to give the 300 a go tipped the balance and we arrived at TISC at 1300.  Not much wind, but certainly enough to sail.

Dave and I got all technical before launching, mounting calibration strips on the mast and boom for vang and outhaul.  After the lighter wind H&H races, I was interested in understanding rig set up for light wind broad reaches, and we needed some basis to compare changes.

The video was mounted on Andy's boat today, to record the joy of discovering the 300.  So thankfully no footage of me looking like my grandmother.  Key points of learning from today:

- Tried the technique of moving to a 'frying pan' grip prior to tacking.  Feels very odd, but can see the benefits - there is no faffing about when you get to the new side, and it is easier to hike harder with your arm behind your back.  The other thing it demonstrated was another defect in tacking, in that I put a hand on the floor to steady myself as I move across the boat, better footwork can stop that.
- More vang appears to be quicker on a broad reach in light winds.  The leech of the sail opens and the top leech telltale starts to fly consistently.  Boat on boat it seemed to make a difference.
- There are three set of taletells on the luff of the sail, to date I've usually focused on the bottom set.  I noticed today that the bottom set are less reliable than the top two, so I'll be using those from now on.
- Tried lots of windward heel in a light wind.  Gives a neutral rudder but its difficult and needs full concentration.  Managed to sail about 200m upwind without touching the rudder, which was satisfying.
- Dave's boat has an additional bolt through the boom jaws, to strengthen the fix to the mast.  It also acts as a mount for an outhaul block, and stops the outhaul tightening as the boom goes out.  No prizes for guessing what will be on my job list for tomorrow morning!
- The whole target speed thing needs more work.  My tendency to pinch in all situations is slow.  Sailing upwind with Dave today, I decided to try footing and choose to sail below Dave through his dirty wind.  Imagine the surprise when I hardened up and found I was able to sail under Dave and up and over with little difficulty.   Dave shared my surprise and was really pleased.

A great day on the water, we had a couple of hours and learnt more than racing for a full series.

Andy looked very assured in the boat, certainly more so than my first foray in a 3.  Upwind he had the whole windward heel thing going on, and good speed.  The Laptop is struggling with Andy's video, but rest assured that I'll do my best to get it youtubed tomorrow at some point!  Welcome to the pesky fleet Andy!

Friday, 7 December 2012

The Boat Whisperer : A Video Critique

Steve Cockerill (of Rooster Sailing fame) keeps an interesting blog on the Rooster website here.  A couple of weeks back, he posted an article comparing and contrasting club, open and squad sailing, and at the end of the article invited readers to send in video samples of their sailing to be subject to a critique.  Now Steve has a rather impressive sailing CV, including multiple RS300 national titles, and this year he won the Laser Master Radial Worlds and Laser Radial national championship.  Its not often that you get the chance to get input from a coach with this record, and I thought the opportunity too good to miss.

I saw this article after the Hare and Hounds 7 race, and after a bit of deliberation decided to submit a couple of videos to Steve for to take a view.  He was kind enough to respond, and has now published his critique on the Rooster website.

In short, Steve has identified several points that I could never hope to pick up myself :

- Shortcomings in sheeting.  Basically I use my tiller hand as a clamp for the sheet and use my forward hand for all sheeting in and out.  To put it more simply I'm not sheeting hand-over-hand, and this is making responses to wind changes too slow, effecting boat trim.
- A mix of good and droopy hiking style, with advice to shorten straps. 
- Not enough consistent windward heel with too much flat/leeward heel for too long.  I thought I was OK in this respect, but the evidence is that there is much room for improvement.
- Faults in tacking technique, including an overhand grip on the tiller on entry.  Options to tack facing backwards (although I've actually tried this and find in disorientating, but maybe with practice?)
- Questions around positioning of bodyweight fore/aft as the boat picks up speed.  The 300 doesn't have a 'hump' between displacement and planing, my experience is that it moves seamlessly between the two.  So there isn't a 'I must move back because I'm planing' transition that I see in some boats.  Understanding when to start trimming fore/aft is something I've not really thought about, apart from the obvious times when the nose is starting to bury in chop.
- Steve assumes that I have stomach muscles and things called hip flexors and quads.  Which I haven't but probably need.

From a wider perspective, the feedback has me thinking about how we go about continually improving.  I've practiced a lot over the past two seasons (more than I've raced, improvement in skills is more important than position in handicap races to me), but got to a sort of plateau where it is getting increasingly difficult to pick out the areas that need focus.  Most other sports have coaching as an integral aspect of the sport, yet sailing at the club level is far more focused on racing.  Steve's analysis has given a new set of training objective for the next 3-6 months, and as a result I now feel energised for the season ahead.  It starts with some partner training with Dave Acres at TISC tomorrow afternoon if anyone fancies it. 

Interestingly Steve points out that the 300 may have potential to be highlighted as a handicap bandit - not news to me Steve, I get more than my fair share of that particular feedback ;-) !

Many thanks to Steve for taking the time to give such constructive feedback, very much appreciated and has given a lift to my sailing.

Monday, 3 December 2012

The very last 300 video

That's it now, this is the last one, no exceptions.  Unless someone wants to have the setup mounted to their boat for the next H&H, and share the findings with the class ?

This is the footage from the H&H10 race yesterday, from the first mark at Wickor (I could sense Andrew Gould getting all frothy about sharing 'his starting secrets', and so picked a section from the middle of the race ;-) ).

So here is my analysis:
1.  The boat is not flat, and that's slow.  It is very cramped at the front of the cockpit by the mast, and the natural inclination is to let the boat heel to leeward to make a bit of space for the upper body.  Not fast! 
2.  Boat handling is at best mixed.
3.  Did I mention about the boat not being flat.

No prizes for what I'm going to be practising over the next couple of weeks (possibly at TISC next weekend if anyone fancies it).

Guest Contribution : Andy Gould muses on H&H10

A contribution from ISO 1037, a.k.a. Andrew Gould!
" The interesting thing about the incident at the hut end of the line between Max and Dave is I tried the same trick in the first race I ever helmed, aged 11 at Langstone sailing club. Barged in with no rights and hit Martin Price in his Laser. Richard Lewis came up afterwards and told me to retire or else.  I remain mentally scarred ever since. Anyhow, now Mark has given away the secret knowledge that the other end is in fact closer and out of the tide, and a better angle when the wind is in the west, I assume we can expect the crowd to move down to that end. Darn! 

Started behind Mark and Dave Acres in their RS300s, for which there are no excuses. Did the approach too late, so ended up trying to luff up Dave, who correctly pointed out that you can’t just poke your nose in to leeward and start luffing, you have to give the windward boat time to keep clear. That was the first mistake that cost us the race. However there was a gap to windward of Dave which was blanketed by the Fireball and would have been the perfect place to hide at the start, as Mark did: probably OCS but unspottable. [Ed comment: Rubbish]

Then it was a procession to Wickor, wind shifted first to the south , then a big shift to the right at Wickor. Mark tacked off. Normally this is fatal as there is a lee-bow effect if you continue on starboard. However, as the shift to the west had been forecast,t so he’d be on the inside of the bend and there was more wind, it just about paid off. 

We were overtaken by Mike and Emma on the first beat, mainly because there was more wind on the right. Should have tacked to cover them but being in the same team and all that, (yeah really) decided not to.

Got past Mark and Mike on the next run, as could see them stuck in a hole near Northney, so gybed out into more wind in the channel. Gained 100 yds or so.  Next beat was better, again more wind on the right.

When the shorten course flag was up at NEH, caught us by surprise and we slotted in an unnecessary gybe, which probably cost us 30s or so.  Still had a good lead, but got to 200 yds of the finish and the wind just died. Rather like watching paint dry, if it wasn’t so stressful. Had to sit there and watch that pesky RS300 catch up again with slightly more wind from behind. 

Not a bad race, but the start could have been better!"

Some interesting H&H10 photos ....

Not sure who took them (but thanks whoever you are), they are on the ESC Facebook page here

Look at the amount of space at the bottom end of the line in photo 17, you can just make out the bow of my 300 behind the OCS Fireball (who wasn't covering an OCS on my part in any way for the avoidance of doubt!!).  Andy Gould and I discussed this after the race :

- The bottom end of the line is closer to the first mark
- There is less tide
- You can sail a 'hotter' angle off the line and punch out early
- You have more options and freedom to sail high or low for the first 100m
- You are far less likely to get stuffed in traffic.

In slower boats there may be more reason to start near the hut, to keep clear wind.  But I would put money that a Laser starting at the pin end with speed would be in first place in fleet after 50m.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Another light wind Sunday race

The Sunday series this year has been a predominantly light wind affair, and the Hare and Hounds 10 race was no exception.   Race Officer Hugh Kennedy got the fleet away first time with 4 boats over, all returned with the exception of the Fireball of Hugh and Steve.

The fetch to Wickor was straightforward enough in a relatively stable f2, but thereafter it was very patchy in the Sweare Deep area, those who could find wind and keep in it made big gains.

Thankfully the Race Officer shortened the course at the end of the second upwind leg, and we all braved the shallows off Fowley Island in an attempt to minimise the distance sailed to the finish line.  Andy Gould was apparently in very close proximity to clumps of grass in 6" of water, but made it through unscathed (a miracle, given recent mudbank performance!).  Martin and Claire were not so fortunate in their Laser 4000 and lost their entire rudder assembly to the depths, not a good way to end a race.  That's a 'Bent Spreader' nomination right there.

The end of the race was interesting.  As the leaders approached Fowley, we could see a huge dead patch stretching all the way to the finish line with no 'islands' of wind in sight.  I was hopeful that the wind would fill in from the West, but it was not to be - a very fickle F0-1 all the way to the line, with the whole fleet concertinaing up from Ems.  Great that the majority of the fleet were able to finish despite the conditions, especially well done to Amber in her Topper, who crossed the finish line after an hour and a half - it takes real perseverance to keep going and refuse a lift home!

Some interesting results :

- The Dream Team post another great result - 10th place in their Magno.
- John Excell and Various Crews post an excellent 3rd place in the Laser Stratos.  Lots of speculation in the boat park as to the characteristics of the Stratos that make it such a light wind weapon.
- Paul and Caroline Fisk take 4th place in their RS200.  We saw the 200s finishing, excellent boat speed in the very light winds.
- Dave Acres deserves a special mention, for interrupting his own race in an attempt to retrieve the rudder assembly of the L4000.  An example to us all, excellent seamanship.

After the race, we had the first protest lodged for quite some years, concerning a start line incident between two Lasers.  More on this anon, I'll post the protest form and hopefully make the argument that protests and arbitration at a club level are a good thing!

300 Race Log - 1st/2nd December

Date: 1st December

Venue : ESSC
Race : Handicap race, 45 minutes
Conditions: W F2-4
Tide : 45 minutes after start
Result :  1st of 39 boats.  1st 300 of 3.

- Great start in space half way down the line, and managed to pop out into space.  Good first leg for the 300, maximum power and good speed.
- Good boat speed upwind and down.
- Tactically OK, but to be honest there wasn't that much to think about other than the start.

Points for reflection
- Really need to keep the boat flatter in lighter winds.  Watched the video from Sunday and concluded the same thing, every time the boat heels to leeward the speed decreases by 5-10%.
- Same and previous comments, the boat needs to be tuned, amazed by the difference that outhaul settings made to boat speed.
- Large variance in speed downwind, not sure if it was me or the patchy wind.

Date: 2nd December

Venue : ESSC
Race : Handicap race, 60 minutes
Conditions: W F0-2
Tide : 45 minutes after start
Result :  1st of 34 boats.  1st 300 of 2.

- Great start in space half way down the line.   I dread the day when more people try and start midline.
- Reasonable (but not great) boat speed upwind and down.
- Quite pleased tactically.  Decided the follow the mantra of 'find the pressure in light winds' and it seemed to work, even when tacking shortly after Wickor (which is completely contrary to the usual tidal wisdom).
- Felt quite good about a lighter wind race, don't usually like them and get frustrated (which only happened at the end this time in the F0).
- There was a point in the really light stuff where the boat was moving very well, the trouble is that I have no idea as to what was making the difference.

Points for reflection - as per Saturday, but at least its consistent.
- Really need to keep the boat flatter in lighter winds. 
- The boat needs to be tuned.
- Need to get out a practice in some really light winds.  We sail in them more than we would like!

Club racing : To protest or not to protest

Cause for great excitement in the Race Box on Sunday, when Slipper had the first protest lodged in a club race for a number of years.   After the Race Officer recovered from the astonishment of finding a protest form in the hut, it was duly completed by Max Jones shortly after the race.  The protest concerned an incident on the start line between two lasers, and alledged 'barging' at the hut end of the line.

In the event, the Laser being protested opted to retire, thereby negating the need for a hearing.  I spoke with a number of witnesses to the event - from both clubs - all of whom confirmed that retirement was perhaps the most attractive option (ie, we all think you would have lost Dave!).

UPDATE :  Some interesting photos of the start, that perhaps settle any discussion as to whether there was an infringement!

The incident raised a number of questions that merit wider discussion.  Should we encourage more protests in club racing?  Why don't we have more protests in club racing?  What about arbitration (as opposed to full protest)?

My personal view is that protests are a good thing, for the following reasons:

- Unless we have protests or arbitration at a club level, we can expect the same infringements to be made on a weekly basis, as there is no consequence for the sailors involved.    We have no referees or on-the-water umpires.

- As a result of this particular  incident, I think there are a number of positive consequences - (i) Dave will hopefully modify his approach into a starting mark, (ii) all the sailors who read this will think twice about reaching into a starting mark, and (iii) protesting (or asking for arbitration) may be viewed as a more viable option for those who feel they have been infringed on the race course.

- They do not take as much time as people think, especially at this level (we aren't talking lawyers in the Americas Cup here).  It can not have taken Max more than 5 minutes to complete the form, and we had no problem finding experienced independent sailors to form a protest committee.

- Understanding the rules is a good thing, protests and arbitration help explore areas of rules that may not fully understood.

I have little sympathy with the view that 'its only club racing, and protests are completely over the top' (but I didn't feel you were in the right emotional place to have that discussion yesterday Dave!).  There has to be a consequence for breaking rules.

Having said all that, there are situations where protesting may not the most appropriate course of actions.  For example, my view is that more experienced sailors should provide a degree of lassitude with the less experienced racers in the fleet.  Our role is to encourage novice racers, not to shout rules and protests at them.

As a club, I think there are a couple of things we can do.  First, hold some rules training, Second, introduce arbitration as a alternative to protesting.  Third, make sure everyone understands the options available to them.  Something for Sailing Committee to discuss (if I'm on it next year anyway).

Comments welcome from all quarters, especially if you disagree!

More 300 video

In the end I ended up dropping Steve Cockerill a note with the previous videos, he is going to critique them and I'll post the results when he does.  If I like them.  But one thing he did suggest was mounting the camera in such a way as to get some horizon in the shot, something that I tried in the H&H9 race.

So good reasons to mount the camera on the bow with a view back:
- Much easier to see whether the boat is flat, and analyse boat handling
- Surprising easy to see the different vang/downhaul settings (I've bought the graduation strips yet to mount them), and their effect on speed/handling
- Can see Matt Johnston spitting feathers in his 400 about the 300 handicap

Reasons not to mount a camera on the bow:
- I look like a complete div, my tongue appears to have a life of its own
- Double chins are accentuated
- I appear to be taking an aspect of my grandmother (not a good thing)
- Can't see rudder movement

Anyway here is the video from Saturday starting about 1 minute from the gun (couldn't pick the gun out).

My lessons from the video:
1.  The boat isn't flat for the first minute or so after the start. 
2.  Tweaks to the vang really do make a difference to control, and its better to tweak earlier rather than later.
3.  At one point (not on the Youtube clip) I forgot to cleat the outhaul downwind and rounded to a beat on max outhaul - boat speed down by 2 knots.  So the boat is more sensitive to outhaul than I thought.
4.  Sailing for target speed when required (as opposed to pointing all the time) seems to work - less variance from max speed upwind as compared to the previous week.

This is probably the last 300 video, Chris has said that there is no more processing of files on her Laptop and I need to buy another!  Plus, it gets a bit samey after a while.

Slipper is blessed by the wind gods for H&H9

So we are all standing round in the dinghy park trying to get enthused about a 3-4knt wind (Emma P failing miserably), and the first properly cold air temperature of late season sailing.  Everyone launches, and with 10 minutes to the start a perfect f3-4 picks up from the West and holds for the whole race.  And I mean perfect in the sense that the assymetrics could not hold their kites to Shepherd, with the two ISOs opting to locate the mudbanks as pathfinders for the rest of the fleet as a result.

Its a difficult job as race officer to pick a course when the wind has yet to truly settle before the start of the race, but we ended up with a course that encompassed all points of sail but with no true beat unfortunately.

38 boats on the water today, a nicely disciplined start, lets hope the wind stays up for tomorrow.

Anyway some standout results from the racing:

- Great to see Matt and Gael back on the water in their RS400, placing joint second with Hugh and Steve in their Fireball.  The big question is whether Matt can be persuaded to sail again today, instead of messing round with a chain driven ancient car.
- Much to talk about in the Laser fleet, with the two 4.7s of Sarah Smith and Claire Coussens giving the rest of the Slipper fleet a pasting on handicap.  There were doubters on the shore who thought a Radial rig might be the better choice, they were wrong!  Especially good to see Sarah on the water after a little absence, welcome back.
- Tom Tredray and Sam Tweedle place 1st Laser and 1st Radial, I suspect Sam might be happier with his start this week (sorry for posting the video if you are reading this Sam!)
- John Excel and various crews show that its not all about tooling around in ridiculously light winds (not that I'm bitter), and places a creditable 8th in the Laser Stratos, points for Slipper and a great result.
- The Dream Team of James Mant and John Brook fire up the awesomeness (a word Oscar has recently introduced chez Riddington) of the Magno and posts an excellent 15th place. 
- Glen Grant continues to put the time into his RS300, but we all go through that period of a rather steep learning curve and its great to see Glen sticking with it (+ the close reaches make it worthwhile don't they?)

Only three races left in the H&H, with plenty of scope for changes in the fleet results.  On that front, the prizegiving will be scheduled in February, and there will be prizes for all fleets as well and the usual Saturday/Sunday series and club prize.  And a prize for the ISO that has found the most mudbanks through the course of the series - a closely run result, with Mike and Emma on 5 and Andrew and Vicky on 6 (one of which was due to a luff from Mike, the results committee is considering the implications).