Race Debrief from Another Slow Motion Regatta

Typical mellow September Weather, and rather dull sailing

Every is a learning experience and most of all I need to learn to learn again! We had a terrible start and as usual my boat speed is not great in light airs in these lovely looking little classics.  I really did grit my teeth a bit after misjuding the start and need to work up to it, wathcing the fleet take off infront. 

However there were a couple of very large positives, which surpassed most of the fleet’s.  Tidal strategy.

Tidal Strategy

According to the tide table it should have been a neap ebb so not much to speak about. But as with last week, there was a lot of tide in the channels, all be that 180 opposite to the flood last week. In contrast to getting last week’s wrong, thinking the main stream was dead ahead when it was from the western approach on the right, I got this weeks dead right.

There is a lot of water which can ebb through a 150 m gap so when we got up to a lobster pot in the Tjernoy sound, it was plain to see. 2 knts if not more. A river. Now this is exactly as predicted because this side has the deepest channel, a vee shape funneling the tide. On the chart you can see that the string of islets are a ridge and so you can keep in the shadow of the tide so to speak by tacking up a cone towards then, on the LHS. 

So after our appalling start we were suddenly back in contention, and overtook our first boat and stretched our lead on the boat trailing us. Tacking up to the islets we could see the boats in the RHS channel struggeling to stem the tide in the lulls, and making only slow progress in the ‘gusts’. Remember we are talking three or four knots boat speed ! So we were in touch with the fleet again, biting at their heels.

The only fly in the ointment here was they set a crazy long course for the evening, but that was just a challenge I suppose. There was enough wind to sail it in daylight, but it died as we came in and were almost becalmed a while after the race, luckily getting a tow in by a chap who has his motorboat next to the fleet’s dock.

My flaw then was not to have looked at the tide and wind north of the channel I discussed above, and towards the next ‘mountain top’ called Suga, where the windward mark lay. The land each side of the channel also funnels the wind and trains it a little, and I didnt predict this, there was a clearer shift pattern which I did not decipher in the short final beat, and lost out to the two closest boats. I seemed to be a little dead in the water and the boat wanted to wander up to the wind without any pressure on the helm, so maybe it does indeed have a wonky Vietnamese built rudder blade. 

Anyway, we had lost the spinnie halyard up the mast in our practice run to the presumed weather mark in the channel, so we poled out the jib on the run. and the reverse of the tidal strategy played in. For some reason the fleet chose to go RHS down wind, stage left that is, while I knew that the shortest route to the next mark was also in the fastest tide in the lhs channel. I suppose the fleet wanted a little sharper gybe angle to fill their kites, but it was the wrong side of the squint diamond and in less tide. So we caught up about 300 m on the fleet, us being a back marker due to a terrible start (again) and had two boats in our sights, one the founder of the fleet !

We did a nice rounding, overtaking the nearest boat ahead who was dead in the water due to the sloppy swell and a bad decision I guess to manoevre with a tack. Anyway we had a lovely rounding as I say, and tacked in over the shelf were there was less tide, and were pointing really nicely back in through the in sailing channel at Stangholmen. However boat speed seemed slow, and the guy behind tacked over and above us and suddenly was ahead ! It was tide once again, only a knot or so here, but he got a lot less going towards the island’s shore while we looked to be sailing nicely, but were behind.

Pain and Gain

Courses here are round the fixed cans, with the start line only somewhere near perpendicular for two of them when the wind is coming that way. So there is often a huge bias on the line, and last night you could barely sail starboard to cross it, the pin end being massively favoured. The course as mentioned was then a rough W/L and the shortest way was RHS of the race course. 

However as mentioned RHS also had the most tide, so on the beat up it, you had to use shadow and the small back eddies to get ahead. The shortest route is not then the quickest. But at some point you have to come out the tide-shadow and take your pain. They whom takes least pain gets most gain. Eventually everyone is ‘in the same boat’ stemming the tide for the windward mark or coming back up through the southern approach at Stangholmen. 

Sailing longer and making more tacks is a little counter intuitive to me, but aformentioned competition for the night, a grey hulled boat, used it to get a sudden 80 m advantage on us as I ventured too far out of the tide shadow at Tjernoy. Again he pulled the same trick coming back in through Stanghomen’s narrows, first creeping up the lighthouse side where it is shallow, and then darting over to the other island’s shore (Riholmen I think) while our lovely angle and long single tack beat ahead suddenly looked bad. 

TIde in this wind is king, and although it was out of its highest phase of flow by sunset, we stuck our nose too far in it on the last beat. Like my mate who used to sprint at the start of a hill climb and then hold me off, most irritatingly, the grey boat had done just that, taken himself up out of the tide just long enough to get ahead, and then experiencing the same pain with us only huffing at his transom. 

007, Petter Bond, sorry, Halvorsen and our main marker for the night, C126 . RHS you can see Tjernoya, where the fiendish tide runs on the RHS with little respite on the left

Starting with Starts

I have only made a handful of good starts as a helmsman, and they have been of  course decisive. No matter how badly I sail 12kvm, I won the first keel boat race I ever helmed from start to finish, and did so by a country and a nautical mile together! 

Most of my starts are appalling. Some starts have been messed up by other folk, usually could have made a protest and will do in future. So I need to start here, because the start is the sprint and without getting off in clean air, you may as well go home unless there is a wind shift predicted. 

So I am going to get out before the season’s last race and just practice on the four minute gun. also judging the bias on the line versus the tide. 

The things I get wrong are being out on the time, and too far back at 2 minutes to go, then getting stuck into a bad lane with dirty wind. Previously I also had just slow speed and was rolled over, sometimes being too close for the run in.

Burn time and a virtual start line transit 10 of fewer second behind the line are then the tools of the trade I wouild like to use.

Notes on Boat Prep for Next Time

1) Jib set up. Eye on sail in the fitting, cunningham also . Perhaps a new pin forward?

2) Get halyad down. It is about 4m up. take a hook thing and bind it on a stang

3) Bottom of keel and leading / trailing edges with a belt cleaner

4) Mast in section??