Sunday, 31 March 2013

Easter Sunday Sailing

Today was the first of many '3 race series' in the new season.  Each of the three races is about 30 mins in length, over a triangle/sausage/triangle course.  The great thing about the format is the focus on starting, boat handling, mark rounding and boat on boat tactics, and the compact close nature of the racing.  For these races the RO elected to set a course with starboard roundings, which gave another dimension to the racing, especially at the windward mark.

We had about 15 boats on the water, in a very gusty f3-4 easterley.  The course was set on the edge of a tidal channel which made the starts interesting.  Some highlights:

- Andy and Vicky were well frothed, and I think contenders for the series.  The races are relatively short and I've no idea as to the differences on corrected time, but if I were a betting man I'd slip a fiver on their ISO (at 2:1, they weren't miles in front).  There was a rather unfortunate tea-bagging incident after one of the starts - Vicky wasn't very pleased - which forced a tack onto port under the rest of the fleet.  Transpires that it was the way to go, and they popped out of the windward mark in the lead! Fortune favours the brave (or in this case, those who can't cleat their main).

- Matt and Gael led the 400s round the course in all races, albeit with a few notable incidents.  The first was a rather brash and agressive bearaway on the line onto an unsuspecting but well cntrolled 300, fortunately the excellent seamanship of the 300 prevented maritime disaster (well gelcoat damage, which in OCD-land constitutes maritime disaster).   And a near-capsize on the 1 minute gun of a start, after a gybe.  Made me wish I'd mounted the camera to the boat.

- Mike and Emma had a mixed day on the water.  Emma had had a 'spa day' for her birthday on  Saturday, which apparently involved drinking Bacardi till 03:00.  Apparently this was not the best prep for a feast of hoists and drops, and excessive crew-work.  But who knew that spa days could be such fun, I may well put one on the birthday list.  Or maybe we should go for one in Minorca.

- Good to see Dave Valentine and Simon Robinson back on the water in their Lasers.  I managed to completely stall my boat on the line right in front of Dave, cocking up both of our starts.  But fortunately Dave was very gentlemanly appeared quite sanguine about the whole thing.  And we were general recalled, hurrah.

- Training-partner-Claire was back out in her 4.7.  I suspect another heavy night on the white wine (perhaps she was on a spa day?), there was some rather tetchy commentary about more alledged inaccuracies in Slipper Musings earlier in the week.  But the excessive drinking did not appear to be slowing down her boat, she was mixing her 4.7 up with the standard rigs at many points in the race.

Wind looks to be up for tomorrow, but what do these forecasters know.  I predict a balmy f3-4.

300 Race Log : 31st March

Date: 31th March
Venue : ESC
Race : 3 race series, approx 20-30 mins each
Tide : 1 hour after the start
Conditions : E f3-4, flat water
Result : 2nd of 15 boats

- Got into the mix of the starts with mixed results.  Excellent starts on races 1 and 2, three poor starts on race 3 (two general recalls and one black flag).  Need to have a think about where I was going wrong on the poor starts, but I'm pretty sure that starting sandwiched between two faster boats wasn't helpful.  Much happier with the port-tack approach than judging a starboard approach for 1min+.
- Really pleased with offwind and downwind speed, I was able to keep the boat planing when going dead downwind using angles, very pleasing.
- Generally OK with boat handling and mark roundings (there was lots of that today).  Made the practice worthwhile.

Points for reflection:
- If I'm going to keep getting into tight spots on the start, I need to practice close quarter handling and learn what the boat will tolerate.  Not easy, but something I've not put much time into practicing yet.
- In the first race the majority of 200 fleet and a 400 went up the right hand side of the beat and clearly made good gains on the overall fleet.  The Merlin and ISO did the same in race 2, with the same result.  Yet despite recognising this I kept plugging the left hand side, largely because the start dictated this (I couldn't tack).  Far better would have been to hold back and ensure an ability to get onto port quickly.    Speaking with Matt after the race we wondered whether there was a persistent shift due to the geography of the land alongside the channel.
- Not pleased with speed upwind.  Spent too long sailing with max vang/downhaul in stupid winds, and appear to have lost the touch with medium winds, both in terms of rig setup and technique - needs practice.

But all in all, Good Racing, its all about having fun on the water and everyone seemed to enjoy the racing today.  Lots of smiles on the shore.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

300 Race Log : 30th March

Date: 30th March
Venue : ESC
Race : 50 minute handicap
Tide : 30 mins after the start
Conditions : NE f3-5, some wind-over-tide chop but nothing significant
Result : 2nd of 15 boats

- My strategy at the startline is usually to let others fight for the prime position, and start a quarter of the way down from the favoured end.  Not so this season, I've decided to try and improve starting by being closer to the favoured end, preferably in prime position.  If I cock up a race or two as a result, so be it.  Todays start was mixed.  I approached on port with 30 secs to go, and tacked in front of the assembled fleet.  Andy and Vicky got under me just before the gun and sailed through my dirty air which was impressive.  But I'm happy with the new approach.
- OK speed on all points of sailing, and good compass work upwind.  Again really pleased with speed dead downwind, managed some more planing by-the-lee today which is always heartening. 
- Good gybes today, no dropping of sheet yay.
- Pleased to be able to find patches of wind downwind, head is starting to get more out of the boat.

Points for reflection:
- Shouldn't have let Andy get under me on the start.  But theres always next time.
- Going to have to practice the 'changing gears' thing in the next practice session.  Far to passive and reactive, and its not good for boat speed.

But all in all another Good Race, most enjoyable.  More of the same tomorrow!

Met Office 2, Windguru 0

Another local race at the club today, almost the same conditions as yesterday - maybe a little lighter and slightly more northerly.  Met Office was bang on the money, Windguru is going to have to improve soon or I'm cancelling my subscription!  We had the same course as yesterday, albeit with a single lap this time.

One of the more interesting aspects of a Northerly wind direction is the start line.  The wind was shifting through 60 degrees in the 5 minutes before the start gun, with a strong bias towards the pin end.  Also of interest, the ODM was two or three boat lengths behind the line, meaning you could get to the ODM with 30 seconds or so to go.

I thought it was going to be 'fenders out' at the ODM, but in the end there was only three or four boats really pushing for the prime spot by the pin.  Those boats ended up pulling out a decent lead in a short space of time - the start really matters with that line bias.

Some highlights:

- The wind picked up just after the start, and Andy and Vicky planed away downwind after a good start, never to be seen again.  No results yet, but I think they probably won by a minute or so on corrected time. 

- Great to see Paul and Caroline back on the water in their 200, there looked to be a few 200s out and Paul and Caroline looked to have a decent lead.

Another lonely race for me, the only 300 on the water with no other boats nearby.  But it was a lovely day in the harbour, and decent F3-5 breeze, and the season is finally underway.

300 Race Log: RNLI Pursuit Race

Date: 29th March
Venue : ESC
Race : 1.5hr pursuit race
Tide : 30 mins after the start
Conditions : ENE f4-5, some small chop but mostly flat water 
Result : 2nd of 12ish boats, 2nd 300 of 2

- Good offwind speed, certainly taking boat lengths out of Dave when running.
- Very pleased with stability when running, sailing angles.  Managed a 200m planing by-the-lee leg, which was exciting.
- Pleased with overall result.

Points for reflection:
- Average start.  Started under Dave with my nose in front, and managed to get ahead by 1m or so by the windard mark.  But it was a starboard rounding so all for nought!  Should have been more aggressive on the startline to keep the inside berth.
- Didn't feel fast upwind.  Think I was trying to pinch too much, and maybe not focussed on windward heel and changing gear for the gusts/lulls.  Didn't lose huge amounts to other boats, but felt slow anyway.  Will concentrate on this over the weekend.
- Felt fast on reaches, but not as fast as Dave.  I've decided not to worry about this, Dave has 20kg-ish on me and can set up a much more powerful rig on the reaches. 
- Some dodgy gybes.  Dropped the mainsheet twice, which is always Not Good.  I may try some stickier gloves in the summer.
- Didn't feel I got the most out of the compass today, big shifts but no discernible pattern (to me at least).

Overall, I would say this was a Good Race.  Dave came 2nd in the 300 nationals last year, and is an excellent benchmark for progress.  Given the windstrength, to finish within 40 secs is fine, and is indicative of improvement. 

More of the same today, where are the rest of you ESC/Slipper sailors?

Friday, 29 March 2013

Met Office 1, Windguru 0

The first race of the new season at Slipper today, the RNLI Pursuit race.  The Met Office was forecasting f5-6 occasionally 7, Windguru was forecasting f3-4.  The actual conditions were somewhere between the two, a NE f3-5.  Not a huge turnout for the first race of the year in the local Emsworth harbour, but there were a few mitigating factors : (i) it is still very cold, (ii) the NE wind direction is always full of holes, (iii) ESSC have their cruiser lift-in over the next few days, (iv) ESC is having lots of building work done meaning the bar is not acessible after racing (Dave Acres looking especially forlorn), and (v) did I mention the cold.

Anyhoo we ended up with 12ish boats on the water, with everything from a Laser 4.7 (training-partner-Claire) to a pair of ISOs.  The RO set course that spanned our full sailing area, with a good mix of upwind, offwind and downwind legs.  Of course the asymmetrics all complained about the 250m of beam reaching on the 6 mile course, but my 300 brethren and I are used to this, and accept it with the stoic manner for which we are famed.

Some highlights:

- Claire was the first boat to start, and lead the race for a decent period.  Flat straight leg hiking upwind was noted by more than one boat (well me and Matt).
- Dave Acres wins the race in his 300, despite an early dip on the first run.  Excellent pace upwind, and very fast on the powered up reaches.
- Mike and Emma again put the new Rooster sails through their paces and finish third (I think).  Amazing speed on close reaches, and I would say very close to planing upwind on the return to the club.  The leech on those sails was very open, wonder if a little more mast ram would help give more power.
- Great to see Andy and Vicky emerging from their winter hibernation in full competitive froth in their ISO.  Some bimbling going on in the boat park when I left, no doubt looking for more speed tomorrow.

More racing tomorrow.  And Sunday and Monday.  What a great Easter weekend.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

An unexpected boat name

Some more unexpected fallout from the curry on Monday. Long time ISO crew Vicky had said that she had been pondering a name for my boat for the last two years, and had finally come up with something suitable.  And applied it when I was out the house earlier in the week.

That's right, 'OCD'.  I discovered the new name when I took the cover off the boat to remove dirty wax on the non-non-slip, and replace with some nice new clean wax - the irony of the new boat name was not lost on me!  I don't expect the foredeck decals to last beyond the weekend, but might sneak some slightly smaller lettering on the transom.

The only problem here is that I haven't had a chance to use my favourite boat name (from an SA thread) - 'Shoot Low, They're Riding Chickens'.  Maybe next time.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Some corrections from Sundays racing

Emma P had a birthday on Monday, so we went for a curry in Westbourne (not just Emma and I, there were lots of others).  Training-partner-Claire was there and had made good progress through a bottle of wine by 20:00, and in slurred speech described my race report as 'riddled with inaccuracies'.  She demanded that I print some updates to the analysis of Sundays race, and when in that state is not one to be messed with.  So some corrections/additions as follows:

- Claire was the first Laser on corrected time, beating the other Lasers by over a minute.  So we can conclude that all the practice must be paying dividends, thats a great result especially given that the 4.7 was punching against the tide for longer than the rest of the Laser fleet.
- Matt and Gael did not give the rest of the fleet a pasting, despite being in the lead for the majority of the race.  Mike and Emma had a storming final leg, and edged the win on corrected time.  Those new ISO sails are awesome, I do wonder if they could plane upwind?

On a completed separate note, I've just published an entry to the Rooster Blog on the psychology of sailing.  I'm fully expecting grief from the fleet at the RNLI pursuit race on Friday.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

300 Log: Chiller 6

Date: 24th March
Venue : TISC
Race : 50 minute handicap
Tide : 30 mins after the start
Conditions : NE f4-6, some chop but nothing significant 
Result : Probably 3rd of 12ish boats

Another reasonable race, there was a spike of 20-25 knots at the start which was interesting, but otherwise a pleasant force 4-5.  Not a good course for the 300, the reaches were all either too tight or (much worse) too broad.  But thats fine, its all good practice.

- Good start, first off the line and managed to keep clear air for the 1.5 mile first leg.
- Very pleasing downwind work today.  I've been reading more 'psychology of sailing' books, and they are universal in two recommendations : (i) sometimes its better to just trust your unconscious mind to sail the boat (rather than consciously trying to impose technique), and (ii) a way to do this is to focus on something else important.  So my approach today was to focus on angles and tide downwind, and just take it for granted that I had the skills required to sail.  The peculiar thing is that it seems to work.  The natural reaction is to find other reasons for the performance: perhaps the wind wasn't particularly strong, or the water state especially forgiving.  But it could just be that practice is starting to pay some dividends - green shoots of hope anyway.
- Gybing is getting to be less of a problem than it used to be.  The key rules are (i) gybe reach-to-reach, (ii) drop mainsheet to initiate, (iii) force the main across with a correction of the rudder, and (iv) don't faff changing hands on the new tack.  2x good gybes today, one dicey one where I lost the sheet mid-gybe (but survived without being close to capsize).
- Not tired at all following the race, may even go for a run later.

Points for reflection:
- I seemed to find a sweetspot for vang tension downwind today - '8' on my scale.  I'm starting to take the view that the rig is surprisingly sensitive to vang offwind.  The leech needs enough tension to stay behind the mast, but not so much that the boat always wants to round up.  A tricky balance.
- There were times today where I really should have been 'changing gear' in the gusts/lulls.  The instinct when it is gusty is to set up for the gusts, thereby minimising the chances of a disastrous capsize.  But the lulls today were significant.  Maybe a bit more head-out-the-boat would help.
- Loss of concentration.  Without a couple of boats in close proximity I found it difficult to keep focus, especially upwind and crosswind (there is plenty to focus on downwind!).  Not usually a problem, so just an observation really.

Overall, today was a Good Race, and I move the love-of-sailing measure to 7/10. 

The final Chiller

There was great excitement at the beginning of the week in our house, with the impending 300 Winter Championships at Aldenham scheduled for the weekend.  Mrs R could hardly contain herself, such was the anticipation of having a house and drive free of sailing kit for the weekend.  But it was not to be, the forecast was brutal, snow and road closures in the North hampering efforts the efforts of Northern brethren to attend, and temperatures of 0-1 degrees.  So the Winter Championships are postponed, and the next 300 event is late April, hopefully we will have more clement Spring weather by then.

Fortunately the last race in the Chiller series was scheduled for Sunday, albeit with an early 09:00 start time, so some sailing was to be had this weekend.  A surprisingly good turn out for the race, given the forecast f5-7NE and close to freezing air temperatures.  12(ish) intrepid boats made the start line and had a brisk jaunt into the harbour and back.  Some points of interest:

- Matt and Gael gave the rest of the fleet a pasting in their 400, managing to fly the kite on seemingly impossible tight reaches.  Matts approach of turning up the club 15 minutes before the starting gun appears to pay dividends (if I were crewing it would drive me mad).

- Mike and Emma were sporting their new set of Rooster sails on their ISO, and flying on the 2-sail tight reaches.  I followed them on the first leg and the main was blading to leeward really nicely, they were flat trapezing and going fast.

- Glen Grant had a storming first couple of legs, leading the Laser fleet by a good margin to Stocker.  Not sure how the Laser fleet finished, but excellent offwind boat speed from Glen.

- Rich and Tom Kennedy joined the fleet for the first time this year in their 800.  A difficult course for the 8, the first reaches down the channel were too tight for the kite, and looked to be very hard work.  I think I might have spotted a brief swim on the windward leg following a tack.  Rich claims to have pulled a muscle in his arm, fortunately Tom and I were on hand to tell him to man up.

- A lonely race in the 300, I was too slow to keep up with the ISO/400/800, and some way ahead of the Lasers.  At the start of the race my hands were too cold to grip the mainsheet, but they warmed up in time for me to luff Matt and Gael after the start, happy days.

So thats it for the Chiller series, an excellent start to the year.  Many thanks to Glen Grant and the RO/PB crews, none of the racing would happen without willing volunteers.  Next club racing is the RNLI pursuit race on Friday, followed by three days of racing over Easter.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Its looking fresh this weekend ....

... for the 300 Winters:

If anyone can advise of a good supplier of Frey Bentos pies in the Hampshire area, I'd be most grateful.

Monday, 18 March 2013

A welcome break from the norm

Completely different day on the water on Sunday.  After the somewhat terrifying 28 knot experience on Saturday, Sunday would not have been more of a contrast - we started in very light winds which built to a steady NW f2.

The moderated conditions bought out some more sailors in the club.  Claire and I were joining by two other lasers - Brian in his full rig and Sarah might-be-coming-to-Minorca-but-not-quite-decided in her 4.7.  There was initially some talk about sailing round to Emsworth to say hello to the Safety Boat course being run, but given the light conditions we elected to stay in the Thorney channel and mess around.  Lots of boat handling, especially tacking, gybing and mark rounding.

Its months since I've sailed the 300 in light conditions, and I really enjoyed it.  Just enough wind to get fully hiking upwind, enough to plane offwind, and enough to make running interesting.  It reaffirmed my love of the boat.

Next weekend sees the 300 Winter Championships at Aldenham SC.  I've only done one 300 open meeting 18 months ago, so don't go into the racing with any sort of expectation.  The forecast weather is very changeable, with some sites predicting 20-30 knots, and others 5-8.  Either way, I look forward to meeting with my 300 brethren, but am slightly concerned about camping in my van given the nighttime temperatures!

Personal handicaps from the H&H series

There has been talk of personal handicaps at my clubs recently, I thought it would be interesting to look at the recent Hare and Hounds series and derive some PHs from the results.  Here is the method I used :

1.  For each race:
   - Calculate the average corrected time across all competitors
   - Work out the handicap that a competitor would have to use to be corrected to the average time.
2.  Average the personal handicaps across the 12 races in the series, to get a single PH for the series.
3.  Remove competitors who sailed less than 4 races.

And here are the results (crews names omitted to get on one page, sorry crews):

By way of example, if Andy Gould's ISO sailed off 809 - which lets face it is a reasonable handicap for the ISO - he would have finished (on average) mid-fleet for the H&H series. 

Having made these calculations, the question is whether they are actually useful or not.  The only practical use that I can see are :
  •  For an individual races, if these personal handicaps were used to calculate results, it would allow sailors to assess whether they had a good race relative to their previous performance.  Not an exact measure as the mix of boats in the fleet changes race by race, but a good indication.  And perhaps encouraging for those who aren't at the top of the results sheet.
  • Over time, if an individuals performance improves relative to the fleet, you would expect a decrease in personal handicap.  So for those racing regularly in handicap fleets, it might be a good way to see whether training pays off.
Be interested to hear if other clubs have implemented personal handicap schemes that have worked out.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Finding the top end

Another little practice session with reinstated training partner Claire yesterday.  Forecast a force 4-5 Southerly wind, quite cold, but looked lovely in the harbour.  We could see the Merlins heading out from CYC to the Stocker bank area for their open meeting, looked to bit on in the main channels so we decided to stay local.

I launched first into a solid f5 in the Thorney channel, not easy conditions to sail dead downwind, but doable.  Then the disaster of the day - as Claire was launching her centreboard fell into the water and was never seen again!  Fortunately she has a spare which means we can get out later on today.

Anyway the wind was due to drop, but not the case.  The wind built to 22-27 knots (according to Cambermet), which made for an interesting sail.  At the moment, I'm weighing in at 67kg, and I can confirm that 22-28 knots is the limit for my weight and sailing ability in the 300.  On a beam reach (with full kicker), sheeted nearly right out, I was almost fully hiking to correct the moment of the wind drag on the rig in the gusts!  Bearing away was as interesting experience, wish I had mounted the video camera on the boat.

Anyway, I made it back to the shore in one piece, and survive to tell the tale.  The 300 is my first foray into single handed sailing, and with 10m2 of sail it's a bit of a baptism by fire in stronger winds.  I wonder whether I might try a boat with a bit less, perhaps a Laser Radial.  Food for thought.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

300 Log : Chiller 5

Date: 10th March
Venue : TISC
Race : 50 minute handicap
Tide : 30 mins after the start
Conditions : ENE f4-5, well defined chop
Result : 3rd of 11 boats

Better race today.  I've been on antibiotics for the past few days, and wondered whether sailing was a good idea or not - turns out it was, I put it down to the rejuvenating sea air.

- Good downwind start, second off the line, overhauled Bryan quite quickly and settled into clear wind for the full leg.
- Good downwind legs.  In particular:
    - 150m of full on planing by-the-lee between Rockwood and Sandhead.
    - A near capsize to leeward saved by some strong rudder to head up.  Lost 10 seconds as a result (it takes time to get back up to speed and head down again) but better than 2 minutes on a capsize.
    - No dramas on the leg from Snowhill to Stocker.  First time thats happened for a while.
- Reasonable speed upwind, although I have to say that I was a little jaded and couldn't give it 100%.
- I replaced the toestraps on the boat yesterday, and one of the vang cleats.  Having perfectly orientated toestraps makes a huge difference, you can bang weight out on the new tack without faffing round looking for straps.

Points for reflection:
- One dodgy moment running.  I defaulted back to the steer-it-under-the-mast technique when heeled to leeward, and shoved the whole of the front of the boat under the water.  Far better would have been to accept a 10 second penalty and head up.
- Not a great gybe at Snowhill

All in all a good race.  I don't expect to beat ISOs and 400s in those conditions, so pleased with the results, love of sailing moves up to 6.5/10.  No more Chillers for me, the 300 Winter Championships are on the 23/24 March, I shall be dipping a toe in the waters of class racing.

There was talk of personalised handicaps at the club today, if I get time in the week I plan to develop some and publish here, based on the H&H and Chiller series.  So check back in if you are interested.

Another chilly Chiller

The penultimate race in the TISC Chiller series today.  Yesterday we had 10 degrees of warmth and a light breeze, today we had 4 degrees and a reasonable ENE breeze :

Our race started at 10:00, so we had 15-19 knots (f4-5, Cambermet is in the middle of the race course, so a good indicator of actual wind).  One key difference to recent outings in the harbour is that the water state was much calmer - the chop was reasonably well defined and no 'interference pattern' discernable.

We had 12ish boats on the water, and some good performances:

- Mike and Emma had a great race in their ISO, despite giving the fleet a 2 minute head start from the start line (a problem with the spinnaker and missed all the flags).  Their new set of Rooster sails looked really good, especially on the two sail reaches which are not the forte of the boat.  I predict a 2nd place, and well deserved.  Emma looked slightly tired at the end of the race, downwing sailing in chop is hard work for the crew,  esecially on the legs.

- Tim Weedon was out in the RS100 8.4.  Off the start, the reach was too fine for Tim to fly his kite, and he dropped slightly behind.  The second leg was a dead run, and Tim was flying downwind, must have taken 500m+ out of me in my 300.  The 100 looks great fun. I'm off to Minorca in May, hopefully I'll get the chance to try one there.

- Matt (despite being dismissed from the circle of trust) and Gael showed a clean pair of heels and led the race in their 400 until the final 100m or so when they were overhauled by Mike and Emma. 

- Ex-training-partner Claire and Helen looked in fine form in their Laser 4.7s.  The problem with a slower boat is that you end up hiking for longer in a race - those ladies have thighs of steel.

- Great to see the usual suspects in the Laser fleet.  Bryan had a grand start and was first off the line, but fleet stalwarts John and Patrick looked to have put in competitive performances.

Many thanks to RO Dave and those in the patrol boats, without volunteers none of our racing would take place.

Monday, 4 March 2013

More jaunts in Chichester Harbour

I really don't understand why more people are not on the water at this time of year - the clothing for sailing is really warm these days.  But there are a few more creeping out.  Claire and I had two good sails at the weekend, Saturday was warm, very light and fluky, Sunday was windy and cold.  So two contrasting days, but both excellent.  I noted some other craft on the water - a Moth and RS700 from HISC (was that Rob Dickinson?), two patrol boats out from Slipper for a Powerboat course, a pair of optimistic bass fisherman in a dory on Thorney channel, and a couple of cruisers.  So with Easter on the horizon maybe the harbour is starting to stir from its winter slumber.

Anyway, to the sailing.  Saturday was a bit light, all good for practicing roll tacks and gybes.  Also spent a lot of time playing with the rig set up for various forms of reach, but no great insights I'm afraid.  After a 2 week holiday and a 3 week absence from sailing, it was just good to get back on the water (even though it was 30 degrees in Brazil, and 3 degrees here).

Sunday was a more interesting day, with plenty of wind and chop in the harbour.  The met office had predicted a F3-4, Windguru 17 knots, and we ended up with this:

Claire and I sailed from about 14:00 to 16:30, and started with a reach down the Thorney channel followed by a 1.5 mile run down to Marker.  I was keen to use the session to learn more about vang on a dead run.  Here are the findings:
1.  If you let lots of vang off, and let the main too far out, expect problems.  This isn't news - if the top batten gets in front of the mast it initiates windward heel.  If you accidently drop the mainsheet, its like having a button on a remote control that says "make the boat as unpredictable and scary as possible", which I managed twice.  In the end, when I was practicing with little vang I put a knot in the mainsheet that kept the boom at 75-80 degrees max.  Seemed to work.
2.  Lots of kicker on the run is OK when bearing away, but the leech gets very loaded when coming back to a broad reach and it is difficult to stop the transition (the boat wants to round up).
3.  There is a balance somewhere, but I'm still unsure of where it is.
Two capsizes, both to leeward when I was using lots of vang - so to be expected and I'm not unhappy with it.
At the end of the downwind leg I had gear failure and a long swim - I've posted the video to the Rooster site.
After the upwind work to the Thorney channel, I  started to play with rig setting for a broad reach.  Lots of vang, moderate downhaul and loose-ish outhaul seems to work, it concentrates the power low down and makes for a comfortable ride.  At least thats the theory, I shall be consulting the oracle at Rooster later this week.
Claire's sailing was looking great in her 4.7, working the boat upwind flat and fast.  Good to see Noel out on the water in his newly-qualified powerboat instructor capacity, fortunately I was able to self-rescue and didn't require his services!

Saturday, 2 March 2013

2013 Portsmouth Handicap numbers

[Update 04/03:  It has been bought to my attention that if you type "RYA Handicap" into Google, this blog post is third on the list of search results.  I have no idea why.  If you have made it here through that route, please don't expect great insight into the handicap system.  And none of the commentary in the following ramblings are sourced from the RYA, this is just a little blog for the sailors in Emsworth Slipper SC and TISC.  But welcome anyway, your views are giving me all time high stats!] 

The RYA publish revised handicap numbers every year, usually around the time of the Dinghy Show.  This years numbers were published last Friday, here.  There are some interesting changes for our little fleet at Slipper and TISC, which I summarise for the benefit of the esteemed readership.

ISO : Minus 2 points to 924
At last the RYA have seen the light and started to make a gradual transition to the obvious '900' handicap for the ISO, with a 2 point decrement this year.  The RYA made a last minute statement regarding the ISO (this is obviously from from a credible source in the RYA, and in no way manufactured by me for the purposes of blogging) : "The ISO handicap was on course for a significant reduction this year, but we had reports from a recent TISC race in which an ISO capsized twice in relatively benign conditions, and did some 'wearing round' in previous races.  As a consequence we are limiting the reduction to a mere 2 points for this well known handicap bandit".  So there you have it from the horses mouth, good to see the RYA on top of the detail of the yardstick process.

RS300 : Minus 5 points to 995
The first move in a number of years for the RS300 handicap, dropping five points to 995.  Again the RYA had specific commentary on the 300 : "We have been inundated with requests from certain south coast clubs to reduce the handicap on the RS300.  Whilst there appears to be little data to support such a move, we have had enough of answering the phones about this and have reduced the handicap by 5 points to get everyone off our backs.  We'll try to get it back up to 1000 next year when all the fuss has died down, apologies to all 300 sailors impacted."  We 300 sailors are a relaxed breed, and will adopt the new handicap with the stoicism which typifies the fleet.  A move of 5 points equates to 18 seconds in an hour, I'm not sure that would have changed many results last year.  Its fortunate that I've been capsizing so much, I like to think that in doing so I've made a small contribution to the class by stopping further reduction.

Laser : Plus 2 points to 1087. Radial: Plus 7 points to 1117. 4.7: Plus 5 points to 1180
The Laser family continues its inexorable rise in handicap, but to be honest it seems well justified.  Training partner Claire (or my 'sailing wife' as my real wife puts it) has announced her adoption of the the Radial rig as default choice for the season ahead, and was joyful at the rise in handicap.  It does seem odd that the Radial and Standard handicaps are so close given the relative size of sail, but I guess the statistics inform otherwise.

RS400: Down 1 point to 947
But the 400s should look on the bright side, the 300 handicap was reduced by 5!

In the end, none of this matters - it is the position within class that counts, not a handicap system that does account for wind strength, water state, tidal conditions and course.  That said, I do look forward to the f2 handicap races of the spring and summer, once we get this bout of windy winter races out the way.