Sunday, 10 February 2013

Another windy Chiller

Stupid windy sailing, days like today are for windsurfing.  The forecast for the whole week showed very pleasant conditions with the exception of a day of wind starting at 09:30 on Sunday morning, and for once the forecasts were correct.  SSE F4-6ish, start time of 1000, and a little consternation in the assembled fleet on the shore.

A race of two halves for me today.  I missed the start (thought the 1 minute gun was actually the 5 minute gun, managed to synchronise my watch exactly on the start hurrah) and had to settle into Dave Acre's dirty wind for the first 200m or so.  Gradually made a little ground to windward, and seemed to be clawing back Dave.  The first beat was maybe 1.5 miles or so, and I was pleased to keep up with Dave.  We then had a beam/broad reach for a mile or so to Stocker, during which waves started to build and made life interesting.  Andy/Simon decided to wear round the Stocker channel marker in their ISO, closely followed by more wearing round by Matt/Claire in their 400.  Andy was especially keen that I point out how scared he was of gybing in the moderately challenging conditions.  I wasn't too far behind Dave and noticed that he was having problems in the waves, it transpired that his rudder downhaul had broken and he couldn't keep the blade down, so he retired (I thought he was struggling to cope with the waves having taken an upwind line, not the case!!).

At this point I was leading the 300s, and not a million miles off the ISO/400 - that concluded the good half of the race.

The next leg was a beamish reach to Rockhill.  Hugh and I started together on this leg, and he took miles out of me, he looked really comfortable all the way down the reach.  I was having to sheet in and out loads all the way down to keep the boat on its feet.  No dramas, but didn't feel at all fast, to be honest I think a bit of weight in the boat is useful for the reaches, and I'm lacking in that.  A short close reach to Sandhead and then we started downhill to the finish line

Given all the practice I've been doing recently, you would have thought it would translate into a more controlled experience downwind. Not so!  A couple of capsizes, and I didn't really feel controlled down the full leg.  I noted that both Hugh and Mark were sheeted well in and looked very stable.  The bizarre thing is that the chop/wind was no more difficult than recent practice sessions, but time on the water hasn't translated into race performance, which is a disappointment.

All in all, pleased to get round the course in challenging conditions, didn't feel tired at the end of the race, but very hacked off with downwind performance and the race as a whole.  One to forget.

We are off to Brazil for a holiday now, so no musings for a couple of weeks.  Regular readers need not worry, I've not given up on the 300 quite yet, but am looking forward to a break.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Another cheeky Friday morning sail

08:30 starts aren't the most popular down at TISC.  The guards at the checkpoint to the island raised an eyebrow when I signed into the sailing club, and I had to remove ice from pools on my cover.  Claire was taking no chances, and turned up with enough layers to clothe a family of four.  That said, I look at some of the sailing blogs written in the US, and those guys are sailing in subzero temperatures for months.  So nothing to complain about here. 

In fact the opposite - a beautiful day, sunny, a F2-4 NW, and no other boats on the water other than a Moth sailing out of HISC and a trawler working the Sandy Point channel.  We launched and made our way down the channel to East Head, and spent an hour or so playing in the chop in the channel.  No training objectives, just a lovely day on the water.

Claire was trying to make up for her rather unkind 'cack handed' comments from our previous sailing session.  "Those look like excellent gybes", she said, and "Doesn't the 300 look so much more elegant than that rather brash Moth over there" (she didn't really say that, but we were both thinking it).  Anyway it was nice to hear some encouragement from my newly-reinstated-but-still-on-probation-training-partner.

No Steve Cockerill today, he is dealing with snow in Japanese airports and purchase orders, and knows that I'll give him a pasting in the lighter winds ;-).

Monday, 4 February 2013

Cack handed backwards facing tacks

It all looked a little OTT on Sunday morning, Cambermet was showing 22-28 knots and after two days of sailing I thought we would end up having a rest day.  However, at 14:00 the wind died and Claire dropped a text asking if I fancied a sail at TISC.  Truth be told, I wasn't terribly keen but Claire's enthusiasm was such that I felt duty bound to get down to the club for a 1430 start!

Conditions could not have been more different from the previous day - f2/3 WSW, and no chop at all.  The wind was offshore at the club, we launched and made our way round to the Itchenor channel.  Lots of tide, must have been 2+ knts running in the main channel.

My objectives for the day: (i) try the backwards facing tacking some more, (ii) 360/720s, and (iii) see what difference mainsheet tension makes in a f2. 

I thought I was doing OK on the backwards tacking front, but when we came in ex-training-partner-Claire give an independent assessment of my technique - "It just looks really cack-handed" she said, devaluing my progress in a single short sentence.  Sniff.

I'm in two minds about tacking facing backwards.  On the one hand (or mind) the boat feels smoother and seems to keep more momentum through the turn.  On the other, if I look at foot placement, my feet stay further forward if I tack facing forward, does this not mean that my weight is further forward ?

While we are about the video, check this out from the windy session on Saturday.  Starting to get the hang of gybes and round ups in stronger wind (it doesn't look very windy on the video, but believe me it was!).  Please turn the audio off, I can't work out how to get rid of the exuberant "come on" after the second gybe, and it is an uncomfortable contrast to my usual self-deprecating demeanor.

Steve had a look at the gybing video, and was making positive noises for the first few seconds but then started harrumphing at the second half of the gybes.  More work needed apparently!

If the weather isn't too grim, I may be out on Friday/Saturday if anyone fancies it.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Colder and windier, but still a great day on the water

Out again with Claire today, definitely a bit windier, only the two of us on the water but great sailing.  I'm putting todays training in my 'Top 10 Sails of All Time' list, which I have yet to write, but its defo up there.

Before I get into the sailing, I've been sailing a lot with Claire recently and thought I'd give a brief synopsis as to why she is such a great training partner:

1.  If she says she is going sailing she is going sailing.  No messing around cancelling at the last minute.  Arrangements for a sail made in text messages of 15 words or less.
2.  Always on time, takes 10 minutes to rig, and 5 minutes to get changed.
3.  Never comes in early.
4.  Came in today with bloodied hands, awful blisters and no compliants.  Uses a 7mm Polilite mainsheet on her Laser (I'm at 9mm on the 300, ouch).
5.  Always happy, unless she hasn't been sailing for > 6 days.

All we need is for Claire to invest in a 300 and the partnership would be perfected.

Anyway, onto the sailing today.  Wind wise we had a f4-6 NNW blowing straight down the Thorney channel, and sailed for 2 hours or so right in front of the club.  The tide was still flooding as we sailed with very short steep wind-against-tide chop making downwind sailing very challenging.

For me it was a session of two halves.  At first we had a significant squall come down the channel (the 20-25 knt spike) - I had big problems with bearing off and getting downwind.  Two capsizes (one bad one to windward), very cold water and one slightly disheartened sailor.  Claire sailed back into the club and had a breather, definitely the sensible option.

At the end of the squall I started to experiment with more vang, just to see what a difference it made to bearing away and getting downwind.  Several observations:

- More vang seems to keep the nose up when bearing away, and in hateful chop thats a good thing.
- Everything seemed a lot more manageable when 'S' turning downwind.
- But there were some downsides:
   1. Not as quick (but quicker than being upsidedown)
   2. Much less tolerance to heeling when coming from BTL to BR - the boom catches the water.
   3. Gybing requires a bit of an exact approach.
   4. Sailing BTL, there is little warning before the boat gybes (no flicky noises, just a light sheet)
- But in general, the positives seemed to outweigh the negatives.
- ~15 gybes today all in hairy conditions, but all OK, thats good.

The second half of the session was just great.  Sunshine, wind, chop and a degree of control sailing downwind.  More of the same tomorrow apparently, where are all you Slipper and TISC sailors?  There enough of you reading this blog, come sailing!

Friday, 1 February 2013

A mosey around the harbour avec Claire

I was disappointed to miss racing last weekend, I had caught a cold and thought that sailing might not do me much good.  My sailing brethren were also disappointed and sent many messages of condolence ("What part of the Boat Whisperer video says to stay in bed ho ho ho" etc).

Anyway, it was a beautiful day today, a lovely f2-4 WNW, sunshine, and an early afternoon tide.  Not a day to be missed, and I went for a quick sail in the harbour with Claire "The Power" Coussens.  We mosied down the Thorney channel and went to have a look at the waves on the winner bank - after a period of sustained wind, it can get impressive.

The curious thing about sailing today was the water state.  Everywhere we sailed the water was confused with chop coming from multiple directions.  It seemed to sap the speed from the boat, and it was very difficult to keep feel in the helm.

From a training perspective, the day had three objectives - practice gybing, practice backwards tacking, and try a new stance downwind to make hand-over-hand sheeting easier.

So the points of learning:

- Gybing was much improved.  Watching the SC video of gybing, he places a foot on the kickbar on the new side before moving across the boat, and this forces a committed change of side.  When the boom starts moving across the boat he is already on the new side and immediately sits down and changes hands.  So I tried this technique and it seems to work, but definitely needs practice.  Sitting down requires a degree of confidence that the rig will have the power to keep you upright.  Must have put in 50 gybes, some better than others. Key to t he whole thing is committing to immediately sit down, not faffing about.  Also key is to gybe reach-to-reach, rather than sail down to a run and up the other side.
- Backwards tacking was OK, and when it works its really smooth, and there isn't the sound of water being pushed about that I associate with tacks.  But it all feels a bit odd and needs practice.  Not sure it is something for high winds, but maybe good for <12 knots.
- Hand-over-hand sheeting when standing is straightforward enough, you just need to keep the extension by your side and use your forefinger.

No video today, forgot to switch it on and didn't fancy going forward in the hateful chop.  More sailing tomorrow, going out from TISC again if anyone fancies it!