Light Winds Fiasco Again! 

I do enjoy sailing classic boats. I do enjoy the challenges of light airs. I do not enjoy the combination !

It’s almost a decade since my last light airs fiasco, which lasted several days during a nationals for aforementioned day sailer classics. The only things I took away from that was point your boat at perpertrators on the start line until they then get out of the way, instead of expecdting r 14 to come into play, push it to the wire and shout. Then also get off the start line on time, at speed  and dont make manoevres until you have really good speed and really clean air.  Most of all, take the mussel farm off the keel !

Okay so the latter two applied tonight. I hadnt scrubbed the boat and it has lain in the water all summer, the owner using it occiasionally. So a very frustrating night ensued with the typical autumnal slow motion racing these boats play out on the Fjord. Painful. Furstrating. Cringe worthy. Boat speed was not up to much, and technique between speed and pointing did not employ the quarter wave instrument I blogged on last, but more heel and feel, which was, not a very good indicator. 

Postiives. Well I really did put the boat in a confident position for the start, only to be about a minute late because I had two watches with me, one on roughly five and one of four. The four went, but I had switched my attention to the former, and it was out by a wide margin. So a very good position in terms of wind max versus tide min was just thrown away. Plus side I managed to calculate burn time in quite a compressed period between class 1 start and our OD start. Also had time to checkthe tide, and it was coming ‘in’ . More on that later.

Other positives, which may be hard to find. Well the tacks and gybes weren’t bad, not at all prof’ , but not stupid. After a bit of speed on out of two tacks I noted they were both 90′, which is as good as it gets. Other positives, my crew is a spritely 75 year old who puts most all men 20 years his junior to shame in alertness and joie de vivre. He did well and he helmed and  gybed in the spinnaker work 

What went wrong ??  BTW we canned the race as did half the fleet as the wind went from vespers to baby’s breaths after 7.15 pm with the sun going down quickly.

Firstly that start, I mean a nice line to come out and probably would have been making speed and rolling people, but it took us at least another 45 seconds to crosss after the gun and then we were a little burried. Ah but the idiots on the other side of the line, they had missed the bias AND had to fight the tide. Well they all but one went ahead having had a nice fast start in breeze and picking up the convergence on the LHS islands. The fought some tide through the main gap. But I had read the coastal shape wrong. There was far more tide coming in from the south western ‘funnel’ than the  ‘hav gapet’. In fact there was 1.5 knots on the buoy I would say. The windward mark was both in fickle winds and that much tide, and we were sailing perhaps 3 – 4 knts boat speed, meant that I read the whole game plan wrong and have to go back to the drawing board. 

It isnt that hard to sail within visual distance of the start commitee when you know it is about to happen. We were too far away to see the flags in the shadow . Toots though yep, shoulld have been more alert. But one other sure fire way of knowing you are wrong on the sequence is that boats are higher than you. I had a sinking feeling only when I saw the class flag was down and heard the peep, which was a little late. Shit,. that is why all the boaties where near the lineee-oh. So if you see this, and I have a few times, then get up there and start aggressively, or tack immediately to port to cut your losses and attempt to get over the line on the IDM / near to boat as possible in your own track over the boats which started there. Track is a functiion of time remember. Boats make leeway as well as starting at an angle to the line, so you can get a lane on stb by getting up to the boat end, and it will be in private wind as long as there are no early double tackers off the line

The boat has horrid tell tales., light ribbons which flicker. Ok they maybe dont stick like ‘wool’ but in this wind you want something which either flies or drops, not flickers. Also I didnt have the head of the main up to the black band, so was breaking class rules anyway. So here we go then, weedy hull and possibly mussel bound keel foot, main not high, jib cars wrong, tell tales not nice….we have easy things to fix or which will work in more wind. 

At one point we got into a 15 degree lift, which put us suddenly in contention to atleast smell the fleet but soon they were bearing down on us with kites up.  We were worse than stragglers. There was no way back, just saioling the shortest way paid with the main tide a little left in fact, on the way home, I had presumed right, but the gap for the sea, havgapet, was no longer giving much tide.  We came towards the harbour entrance half way to the leeward mark. Now had there been signs of wind filling in, I would have gybed the boat over at a good angle and come chundering down on the fleet. Nah.  Man Friday had his grown up second brood home, so we canned it at 7.20 odd, and just as well, it went harry flatters with only the real points chasers coming over the line. 
My main issue was that in fact I 

Now I could throw in the towel with this repeat performance. A lesser man would blame his boat and pull out his cheque book and offer the winner a good price for his boat for next season, grand down, spit on palm. But in fact the folk who won tonight were new beginners seven years ago, to the class. They were often last. But they kept on going, kept on correcting faults, kept on getting a little better. No huge budget if in fact any that is different to the top 20% of the fleet.  So I too will keep going and learn from my mistakes

Firstly the keel wont clean itself and must be in a state. Secondly get those jib cars right and get the right halyard-cunningham set up. Hoist the main right, you didnt see the band in the shadow this time. Measure the rake, and check that the mast is in column. When is the wet area least, is it in fact not bow down? Rather stern in a little rasing the fuller sections and shortening the water line, with a sharper entry that pays? Doubt it but worth asking about., 

There was my usual middle or third up the beat feeling in these boats that we were falling behind, had the boat going a little slow in the wrong place. But  boat speed is a lot to do with the keel so I can say that I just need to learn the wind and tide more and a clean keel, with an on time start, on speed and I can hold my lane at least and look at what the boats around me are doing  I chose on a wrong presumption and ended up the ONLY boat mid course. It suddenly started to pay in a lift when I was a little in tide shadow of Bjoernoya, but that lift was just the sign of the wind dieing on us, a last gasp from the heavens.

Ah yes, you have been there too. The latter half of the beat suddenly gets good, only to then have lots of boats sail away ahead of you! As soon as you feel you are really at speed and matchin other leach lines oe doing better, pang you are done for again. Well there is no secret here, it is just race logistics. In this case at the start we were burried behind many other boats. THe wind distubrance in 4 knots of breeze cannot be underestimated. You are being robbed of up to half or more of your wind within five boat lengths of other boats to windward or ahead. Then you pop out, mid field and you are suddenly a contender again., Only the fleet has gathered themselves on the layline to then create a wall against the wind as you sail nearer, and you fall back again. Or in this case, the fleet split looking to get out the big tide, and we got wind but firstly adverse tide not long after we did get going, and then the fleet coming in from either side to round. Sinking feeling again. Frustration,. Idiotic me. But sailing in your own wind is the key in this type of fleet in this type of wind, and knowing there was a massive tide channel near the mark was also key. 

Very frustrating but you know there are those key things to think about. The keel, the start. Not knowing what your mistakes are, that is my friend a bad position to be in. 

We used a lot of time to get over the start and then sat in shadow and boats tacked over in front of us disturbing the wind more. Then we ended up in the middle, the wrong place by in large. A 15 degree lift was good, but not nearly enough. OD is punishing when you have slow, rough foils and a bad start. 
Despite the boats being completely undercanvassed as a design, these are one design with a lot of local knowledge. There are good emprical ways of getting local knowledge and we were too late out as well to get up to the presumed weather mark area. There was twice the tide if not more on the weather mark than the pin end. I cant  judge which side paid, it looked like in fact mid line and tack back over paid, and rhs paid more than my presumed LHS, where boats sailed into a divergent, wind lift zone and used a back eddy, we only partly used. 

Where did I lose out would I say then and be a back end idiot? First and foremost, not preparing the boat and checking some details as discussed. Secondly not asking advice or sailing with a dab-hand in the class as crew. Thirdly not getting of the start line on time, in my own wind. Fourthly, not having the correct interpretation of tide, there was more left than right in fact! 
Apart from a good start sequence with the least nerves I have EVER had as a helm for some odd reason, probably sailing with Nick Willets a former Whitbread 60 man a few weeks ago, then I have a major positive to take out. I am prepared to learn, and learn in new ways, learn to learn!