Sunday, 23 June 2013

Windy Junior Training at Slipper

Today the older Juniors took to the water for some training in a testing force 6.  Some of the adults were out racing and clearly finding the conditions a challenge, I noticed the legend that is training-partner-Claire coming back with a liberal coating of Sweare Deep mud at the top of her 4.7 rig!

Anyway, here is a little vid of the juniors ripping it up in the Little Deep area. 


Some highlights:

- Note how controlled Josiah and Finley are in the Teras, whilst beam reaching to the training area.  Nice flat boats and good technique. 
- The Toppers can be a real handful in the stronger winds, and they are difficult to tack in the choppy waters.  But Finley, Amber and Jessica did fantastically well, and at times were outrunning the ribs!
- The Feva is being sailed nice and flat, those guys are hiking to the max.  No lack of effort in that boat, going nicely quick.
- Lots of capsizes, but that's to be expected when sailing in such testing conditions. 

Well done to all those who went out, and thanks to Jemma-the-cameragirl today.  Hopefully we'll get more footage of the other sailors next week!

Saturday, 22 June 2013

The first starts for our FNO junior sailors

Every week in the sailing season, our club runs three training sessions for the juniors in the club - Friday Night Oppies (FNO), Sunday Morning Oppies (SMO) and Sunday on the Tides.  Overall there is about 120 juniors in training, and a huge number of volunteers who instruct, provide patrol boat cover, and perform many other jobs to make it happen. 

This year, I'm the SI for FNO fleet, and also instruct the 'Start Racing at Slipper' group.  These are children who have passed their RYA Stage 2 and are looking to get involved in some racing with their peers at the Junior Regatta in a couple of weeks.  This week, we looked at starting, and I promised to put a video of their starts online.  So here is the first one, this is the first ever start for these sailors and they did fantastically well.

After lots of practice, here is the last start of the day.  Check out the competition at the pin end of the line, when Haribo's are involved those sailors are epic.

This group clearly has talent, when one of them becomes the next Ben Ainslie this footage will be gold dust.

Friday, 21 June 2013

More evening racing at TISC

As we were taking our boats down the slipway to launch I was heartened to hear some of the other sailors  discussing aspects of sailing psychology prior to the race:

Hugh : "Honestly Tim, I can't get my arousal levels high enough for a light wind race.  I feel like I'm disadvantaged from the start, despite trying all the techniques outlined in the excellent book by Derbyshire et al. Perhaps I need to develop some meditation techniques.".
Tim : "Its difficult in the 100 as well Hugh.  Arousal levels are disappointingly low until I get the kite up downwind, and then I find the levels so high that they are difficult to manage."

It is good to know that my musings here are relevant to other sailors in the fleet, although I think training-partner-Claire will not be happy.

So Thursday night we had a shifty F1-2 SW that looked that it could die at any moment.  The RO set a short course, the first leg being a beat/close reach against the full flood of the tide.  At the start the fleet split into two along each side of the channel, and the first lesson of the day was learnt - it pays to start at the pin end of the line.  The guys that started there were definitely advantaged.

Bryan and Sarah are relatively new to their 400, but had an excellent race to finish second overall.  A healthy lead over the first leg was nearly relinquished with an early tack into the tide an East Head, but they held their nerve and were first 400 home, showing good boat speed offwind. Tim had a great start in his 100, but fell slightly behind on the upwind legs.  Once the kite was up he tore home and scored a creditable 3rd place (not really the conditions for the 100 handicap I suspect).  For the slower boats like the 2000's it was a difficult race due to the flooding tide - beating against the tide in light winds gives no chance on handicap.

I thought twice about sailing because of the light winds, but I'm glad I did - as repeated so often on this blog, there is no better way to survive a working week than evening sailing.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Evening racing at Slipper

After the intense racing at the weekend, it was good to get back to Slipper for a quiet evening race. Or so I thought, a F4-6 offshore NE and 18 other boats made for less than quiet racing!

Northerly starts at the club always involve a short 40m beat to the first mark, and it is always a starboard rounding.  The short beat means that the majority of the fleet all converge on the mark within 20 seconds or so, and port/starboard and 'no tacking in my water' rules come sharply into focus.  Of course this invariably means that many sailors are letting others know of their position vis-a-vis the rules, and I'd be surprised if the shouts coming from the Stratos couldn't be heard in Southampton!

Some excellent performances:

- Sam Tweedle won the race in his Radial, and very well deserved.  He dominated the pin end at the start, had great speed all round the course and took the win by 5 seconds on corrected time.  I get the impression that this may be a common result in times ahead, the rest of us need to up our game!
- Matt Johnston was out in his Phantom, and despite an absolutely appalling start worked his way into second place on corrected time.   Good to see Matt getting to grips with the boat, but needs to work on cruiser avoidance.  And being near the line at the start.  ;-).
- Stalwart of the Laser fleet John Fifield was in attendence and placed 4th, despite a quick dip at a windward mark.  Excellent result.
- John Excel and Patrick Bapty powered their way to 5th place in their Stratos, with an impressive start and first beat, and good offwind speed.  And a thorough knowledge and enforcement of the rules approaching windward starboard rounding!
- A great result for Helen Weekes in her 4.7 placing 7th overall - it was very windy down at Sweare Deep and Helen was flying on the reaches.
- And finally a quick mention for the dream team of Alex and Barnaby Thorsby who made a guest appearance in their 400.  Spinnaker problems meant that they lost time mid-race, but otherwise that boat was flat and fast.  And full of performance improving pretzels.

My race was mixed, good start and first leg but managed to capsize just after the first windward mark in a particularly spiky gust.  But remembered to NEGU and made it through the fleet to finish 3rd on corrected time, just behind Matt and Sam.  Very close racing with Matt, the boats are very similar speeds, apart from dead downwind where the 300 has an edge (something I suspect will change as Matt gets more time in the boat). 

There is no substitute for club racing midweek, we are so fortunate.  Maybe time to join the social sailors this evening for a quick practice session if anyone fancies it.

Monday, 17 June 2013

RS300 Sprints at Rutland :

This weekend I traveled to Rutland SC for my second 300 event of the year: the Sprints.

The format for the Sprints is unusual.  The first day is all about seeding for the second day.  The sailors are split into fleets of 6-8 boats, and sail two rounds of 4 races each.  The results are used to determine the fleets for the second day (Gold and Silver), and do not count towards the finals.

The racing is full on, with lots of short intense races.  As soon as a race completes, there is a short respite of 5-10 minutes before the preparatory signal for the start of the next race.  The race course is very busy, this weekend we had 21 RS200s, 15 RS400s, 16 RS300s and 3 RS100s all on the same track.  Lots of interesting encounters with the other fleets, and confused chop everywhere.

Saturday was properly windy, f5-6 for the most part but with the occasional squall beyond that.  Some of the 300 fleet found the conditions too much, and opted to sit out some of the racing.  The final race of the morning saw an enormous squall hit on the final run, certainly too much for me (but persevered to finish 4th in the race).  Somewhat battered, we came in for lunch and the wind die to a very pleasant f3 and sunshine!  But as is often the way with these things, as soon as we got back on the water the wind piped back up to similar levels to the morning, and we ground out another 4 races.  Everyone was thankful to get to the pub in the evening.

Sunday was better weather-wise.  A very shifty F3-4, bright sunshine, beautiful conditions.  6 races back to back with 10 mins between.

So the objective for Saturday was to qualify for the 'Gold' fleet, by finishing in the top 4 of the fleet.  Managed this OK, finishing 4th in my fleet.  Given the windy conditions I was pleased, and frankly just happy to get round the course in one piece.

Sunday was more interesting.  The 'Gold' fleet was probably the most competitive fleet I've ever sailed in, the fleet (myself excepted!) are experienced and skillful 300 sailors who have placed well at a national level.  The race was determined by the start and first beat and I had my arse handed to me on almost every race!  Ended up scoring 8,7,4,6,4,6 and placing 7th overall with 35 points.  The shifty conditions made for a high scoring regatta, with 3rd to 8th separated by 10 points.

- Overall, the weekend reinforced the amount of practice and racing that I need to do!  The better sailors in the fleet were quicker and tactically more savvy.   Time to re-evaluate what is required from training I think. 
- The racing was very close, with all boats finishing a race within 30 seconds on some races.  So small increments in speed or tactics could make a significant difference in placing, which is heartening.
- I can forget the concerns about being one of the lighter guys in the fleet.  The difference to the fleet leaders was the similar in the strong and light winds. Technique is the dominant factor, not weight.
- Pleased with fitness, not tired today and probably sailing tonight if I can get a pass.

Points for reflection:
- Thought I was quick before the weekend - I'm not quick!  But not miles off the pace.  Tim Keen in particular had great pace and height upwind. Matt Sharman was just lightening downwind, and overtook me to leeward twice!
- Thought I was OK at starting before the weekend - I'm not!  The pin end was favoured for many starts, and I lost count of the number of times Steve Bolland got under me with 20 seconds to go.  Also, the other guys had better pace off the line.  Losing half a boat length on the line equated to 7 places as you were spat out the back of the fleet.
- Didn't get to grips with the shifty conditions.  But the top guys did, the top two were always in the leading pack.

Overall a bit of a learning experience, its the most intense and competitive sailing regatta I think I've done, thoroughly enjoyed the weekend and the company of the 300 fleet, they are a great bunch.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

300 Log: Never, ever give up

I read somewhere recently (I think it might have been Y&Y) of a sailor who had NEGU written on the boat, just as a reminder that anything can happen in a race and its not over till its over. 

On Saturday we had a race in an offshore f4-6, with big unpredictable gusts coming off the land.  I knew it would be a challenge when I was running to the start line, a particularly vicious offering just flattened the boat (despite trying to bear away with it etc, this was just a slam dunk in a micro second).  So I needed a bit of a dose of NEGU before getting to the start line, let alone during the race!

A lot of the 300 events are inland on lakes, so getting used to this type of conditions is to be welcomed, but I have to say its difficult to be positive whilst clearing salt water from the sinuses.

Date: 8th June
Venue : Slipper
Race : Handicap race, about an hour
Tide : Flooding
Conditions : F4-6 gusty NE, wind over tide chop.
Result : 3rd of 20

- Good start, especially as I was trying to fix elastic on the boat with 1.5 minutes to go.  Managed to be first off the line at the favoured end, and pulled out a small lead by the first windward mark.  Could tack without impeding the boats behind (it was a short leg with a port rounding, always interesting).
- Managed to stay in a positive state of mind despite a pretty awful first three legs.
- Downwind in the consistent strong wind in the channel was fast with no dicey moments.

Points for reflection:
- 2x capsizes on the first long downwind leg (approx. 2 miles), both when a strong heading gust hit the boat.  Tried the '4th dimension' bear away to fully by the lee but to no avail, the boat was in charge!  Not sure whether to be concerned or not,  be will try and find similar conditions for a practice day (maybe today actually).
- I knew the cockpit of the boat needed re-waxing before sailing and didn't make the time to do it.  Slipping all over the place in the boat.  Not good and avoidable.
- Will need to spend some time writing down the setting for the new boom, it feels a bit more sensitive to small adjustments given the reduced travel on the mast.

Jonny will have won the race in his Laser 2000 (not sure who was crewing, it wasn't Barbara), he sailed a very consistent race and I'd be surprised if he didn't have a huge winning margin on handicap.  There was also a well sailed 200 at the head of the fleet, who managed to fly the kite on some very marginal reaches, I suspect 2nd place and very well deserved. 

Stayed out to practice for an hour after the race as a penance for the two capsizes, lots of windy gybes and downwind work, very enjoyable.   No racing today, but some wind for a practice.  Then off to the next 300 event next weekend, lets hope some of this high pressure wind stays for the Sprints.

Friday, 7 June 2013

300 log: Champagne sailing at TISC

Date: 6th June
Venue : TISC
Race : Evening handicap race, about an hour
Tide : Flooding
Conditions : F4-5 gusty NE, flattish water in the Thorney channel, but reasonable chop in the main harbour (wind over tide).  Bow burying completely upwind.
Result : Might have sneaked 1st of about 12, 1st 300 of 3. And remembered to sign on!

Fantastic sailing conditions in the harbour today.  Bright sunshine, 15-20 knots, and a course that took in all points of sailing.

A couple of off-the-water cock ups marred an otherwise perfect sail.  Firstly I managed to scrap the back of the boat along the concrete pathway to the slip, more gel required.  Second I wrapped my newly varnished mast around the post that marks the end of the slip, giving the post a jaunty aspect in the process.  Third, my new boom survived less than 10 seconds on the water before getting scraped along the barnacles on the same post.  No lasting damage, but annoying nevertheless!

Very close race with Dave around the whole course tonight, separated by less than 10 boat lengths for the full race until he decided to go for an additional lap at the penultimate mark.  Of course, 300 sailors look after their own and I hailed him back to the course, but had sneaked out enough of a lead to keep ahead at the finish ;-)

- Very pleasing upwind speed.  Had a drag race of about 3/4 of the mile upwind from John Davis to East Head, lost nothing to Dave and might have even reeled him in by a few lengths. 
- Very pleased with the new gybing technique (new to me anyway, making space before a mark and going into gybes flat out on a broad reach).  5 or 6 gybes without incident in some breezy conditions.
-Good (but not exceptional) downwind speed.  Managed to get planing by the lee for the best part of 1/2 mile.  No dicey moments in some challenging chop.

Points for reflection:
- Downwind start.  Started out of the tide at the windward end of the line, first across the line.  Dave started mid-line, and took 10 lengths at out me in the first 500m.  The ability to go high/low and the cleaner wind in the middle of the line outweighed the tidal advantage. Interesting.
- Need to sort out settings for the new boom, hadn't realised the extent to which I depended on the graduation numbers on the old boom.

So another great evening sail out of TISC, makes working Friday's more tolerable.  Next race at Slipper on Saturday, training session with Matt on Sunday.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The new 300 boom

A post that I fear will only be of interest to 300 sailors!

I bought a new boom for the 300 a month ago, the class has moved to full carbon spars and updated the aluminum section boom.  Unfortunately the first fitting of the boom wasn't great, it transpired that holes had been drilled in the wrong place by the manufacturer, so I've been having a dialogue with LDC about the best way forward.  Anyway, I've been given carte blanche to drill holes in the boom to make it work, previously a problem as the boom came with a sticker saying "Drilling holes invalidates warranty". And LDC are discussing with Selden and looking at a replacement in the longer term.

So this is what I've done.  First the vang arms needed to be moved forward:

The bolt is now in the middle of the local reinforcement on the boom.  Relocating the bolt gave me cause for concern, due to the proximity of the old holes.  But I've maxed out the vang and it seems OK - there is a lot of carbon in that part of the boom.

Next I relocated the block that takes the vang and downhaul at the front of the boom. Rather than drill holes for a new eye, I ended up going with some rather precise brummel splicing to use dyneema to hold the block in place, thereby distributing the loads over the full cross section rather than two rivets.  The outhaul eye under the boom keeps the dyneema place.  The vang and downhaul control lines are aligned to the mast.  Also took the strops to the Frankenstein bolt as opposed to holes on the boom, again minimising local stresses on the boom.

This is the final set up :

Much less travel is required on the mast to get the same mast deflection, which will hopefully translate into more space under the boom.  Downside is that I'll have to work out new vang settings, but thats not such a hardship.

First outing on Thursday at TISC.