Sailing Once More …Challenges ? 

I feel enthused, lucky and even a bit pampered to beyond the point of priveleged. Last week sailing a 9mR against HRH and this week out in near perfect conditions for the Melges 24 fleet in Kristiansand.

Torridon is now restored to full glory and wonderful sailing ability by Gustav Mortensen

Not only that of course, but three weeks ago it was photo-opportunity deluxe as the M32 Scandinavian road show hit town and did some modern high speed action right alongside the steam-boat-quay. Perhaps something is telling me not to attempt my two year project back in Scotland after all….

Despite feeling in my full glory, roaring forties an’ all, and a class ‘ win’ in the 9mR – sole entry vs the 8mRs – our performance on the Kristiansand ‘estuary’ left something to be desired. Our heavy weight all up with 4 men was admittedly a little handicap on the long reaching leg across the bay on the ’round the rocks’ format, but helped with our boatspeed up wind no end. We just went the wrong way a couple of times.

I was a bit surprised to hear the helm , a physicist by trade, refer to the misfortune as lady-lucks bad cards, and the wind pattern a little random out there, while in the middle of a conversation with some boys who suspected a lift in towards ‘Bragdoy’ followed by a spritely tack to fall short of the wind shadow. It seems wind over land meeting sea is something which has escaped our chap otherwise so learn-ned in fluid dynamics.

I felt a little irritated at this attitude and also that he is a busy chap and sometimes doesnt quite bend an ear to suggestion. Taking the good in and not throwing the baby out with the salty bath water of last nights annual baptism, we did have a quite good start, slowing much all of the fleet up on the reaching start by being bloody minded enough to come in pointing high at the pin end! Tally Ho, hunt on! A  mediocre first hoist put us back in our place – three rusty melges sailor and a man with jeans on first time out in the wee white blighter. 

We didnt cover ourselves in glory on our gybe angles, but up wind we went quite well, gaining on the first beat back to the western side round another ‘not that close!’ rock as mark of the course. Second reach was deeper and longer this time, crossing our first path back to the same smelly old rock with a nasty ledge on the Dvergsnes side. We lost out a little on speed to our three manned lighter competition and a little more on gybe angles before then picking up on a good last gybe and angle into the mark. We were within spitting distance of two of the other three melges. 

On the last  beat they elected to use the hefty river Otra current to lee bow them up, while we took our chances with more wind further out, which had paid a little on the previous beat. However this beat was a lot longer and with the wind dropping a bit far more critical to get the shifts and lifts right. The leebow effect or lack of us tacking on a header meant the other boats had taken a big chunk ahead and only had a small pain of that lee of Bragdoy I mentioned, to take as they churned back to the finish line on the clubhouse side. We took in again on a couple of short tacks, but were about 4 minutes behind the best melges and five boat lengths behind the next last to us as tail end charlie. 

Finish Line using obvious geography here! Boats head home after a sausage and a beer

Our only take out then, or rather mine, is that the helm needs to learn more about wind angles and effects like land -turns left *N.Hemisphere, to then go right again as the wind leaves, and convergence/divergence with a parallel wind to coast.  We can train up on manoevres of course, but getting the game plan right up and down ‘hill’ in a boat like the Melges in paricular is a must learn, which we seem to not quite have got over to the helm. 

One puzzeling issue was our lack of height on the beat. We had speed and could eat into the dirt of other melges, but so much lower that it became a windshadow not worth sailing through. Melges have a very sensitive rig which needs to be adjusted for every 4 knts or so change in wind from the last race. During a typical evening race you can expect that type of fall, so we went from low and fast setting to just low and poor VMG as it died off with the sun’s inexorable path. The tell tales on the jib flew and told us only that the car needed to go forward? Or did we have luff sag from an over tension mast Cap shrouds? We had too much backstay on too, but when let loose it did little it did very little. We are left then most likely with a need to take in on the forestay, being an old bottle screw at the foot of the mast installation, That in turn will bring the mast forward and entail that heavy Cap Shroud loading will induce sag once again. Alternatively we render ourselves out of class

We tend to do better on short courses on average because we are good at getting off the start line and covering the fleet tactically. With little chance to stretch your legs and find a favoured side, we are then soon on the windward mark on the typical short WL courses they set for us in OD competitions here. However we have seen the best boats find a pace really up a gear, and this is now I think of it, on either extreme of the course, or 60 degree sensible cone on the beat, where they are finding either less current or a region of convergence. Sometimes a divergent zone can get the boat back down to perfectly powered up and not flogging or bubbling her main. A newer boat will go a bit faster but it looked like Party Girl just clicked up a gear and sailed away from us on a few beats, once we had good speed they just found better. 

The foils on the boat ‘fly’ in virtually no time at all once you are moving so I wonder if you need to achieve full hull speed before you can take the final little pinch to best VMG on final close hauled trim?  I would expect a new boat like Party Girl to creep ahead nicely due to her stiffness, but to lift her wee skirt and fly off on the beat ?

One of several ergonomic problems with the boat is that the crew all hike, and the helm is left sheeting the main and doing most of the leeside tactics and tell tale watchin themselves. We have to lean round to call lee side boats or telltales on the jib and it is awkward to see what the main is up to. That seems to suit some helmspersons of course I dont want to mention, but in reality it limits the flow of useful, most salient information back to a chap or chapette who may be a tinsy bit overloaded and come out with some office politics in the back of their minds. 

We take the positives- first day out and we were by in large nearly on the pace! A lovely night with some planing and a spurt of maybe 12 or 14 knts boat speed.