Sunday, 14 April 2013

How hard can it be to calibrate a tactical compass?

No racing this weekend as there were two open meetings at the local clubs - a Feva open on Saturday and a Tera open today.  I wondered if the Feva open was going to be held as the forecast for Saturday was brutal, but 16 boats made it to the start line and raced in gusty f4-6 conditions.  I thought some of the adult sailors  at the club would take the opportunity to come out training, especially given the bravado of the Slipper Laser fleet at the instructor-curry-evening on Friday. But no such luck, it appears that the Feva and Tera sailors are a more hardy and salty bunch than their parents!

Despite the lack of racing I was fortunate to be able to get out on the water over four consecutive days in a variety of conditions, from a very pleasant force 2 on Thursday to a rather less pleasant f5-6 on Saturday.  but spring is finally here, temperatures are up, the sun is out, and the promise of warmer days is finally with us.

Anyway, some observations from the sailing:

- One of the objectives for the early season is to get better at using a compass, and I thought I'd use the lighter winds on Thursday to sort out tacking angles - you need to get the tacking angle figure to set up a tactical compass.  How hard can that be, all you have to do is take a bearing on one tack, go about, take the bearing on the other tack, and subtract A from B.  The problems are that tacking angle varies by wind strength, tide appears to play some role (but I can't work out why, this isn't a GPS compass, its a Tacktick Micro), and also clearly pointing/footing modes vary the angle.  My angles appeared to range from 70 degrees (which clearly isn't right!) to 90.  In the end I found that the Yahoo 300 group has guidance  from good sailors that place tacking angle at 85 degree in light/medium winds and 90 in stronger winds.  The tactical analogue compasses used by Lasers have lines set to an 80 degree angle.  I've set mine to 85 and am going to force myself to forget about trying to refine it, other training will pay better dividends!

-  Friday was windy, and I chose to go windsurfing instead of sailing, 4.7m on an 85 litre board, happy days.  The lovely thing about windsurfing is that I view it as purely recreational and don't have any objectives etc, its just good fun and very relaxing.  And a great workout for the arms when you are out of practice, so contributes to the sailing in a small way.  One interesting point is that on a windsurfer I find myself far more attuned to the prediction of gusts/lulls - unless you can read the water you end up swimming, and can't get planing as quickly.  So I guess it is a skill that is naturally acquired as you learn and progress.  Strangely it doesn't seem to translate directly into a dinghy, I wonder whether this is because there is so much more happening in a boat, and also I suppose your head is closer to the water in a dinghy and maybe doesn't have the same visibility.

- Saturday was also windy, I had to give myself a stern talking to, as rain and a f5/6 is not the most motivating of conditions.  But I'm glad I went out, managed to practice a lot of upwind processes, lots of bear aways, and a fair amount of rather terrifying downwind work.  Managed to get through the session without capsizing, although there were a few close shaves:

That's not a controlled transition to by-the-lee, it is an uncontrolled entry to a buttock-clenching gybe! 

That's not the end of the gybe, it is in fact an advanced method of checking the daggerboard for weed.  I also thought the sea water would lubricate the clew strap on the boom.  However you look at it, the boat gets to be a bit of a handful in 25 knot gusts, but going out in these conditions makes anything less seem a lot easier, so worthwhile (so I keep telling myself, I imagine an impartial observer may take a different view).

- And finally today we had sunshine, a f4 decreasing to f2 clean southerly wind, 6 boats on the water for some impromptu upwind/downwind sailing, and an excellent time had by all.  Mike, Emma, Dave and Ed were all out testing with new Rooster ISO sails, that look superb.  They are quite roachy sails, and look very open in the top of the leech, but there were no problems with either pointing or speed.  I think Emma broke one of the job cleats on the ISO, more bimbling required!  I played about with rig settings and could just about match the ISOs for speed up wind, using a little downhaul and loosening the outhaul a bit.  Playing the vang in sketchy conditions seems to work as well, the boat feels dead in the lulls until you let just a little vang off.

Some possible evening sailing later this week, Matt J is still procrastinating on whether to buy a 300 and needs some more sessions to decide.  Looks breezy for Wednesday, lets hope his mast is insured.

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