Saturday, June 24, 2017

Missed Days, Challenging sailing, gear breakage

Shields 88 hit the course after 4 missed races today.  It was a very challenging day, but we felt better at the end of it and have improved as a team.

The conditions were tricky, as it was anywhere from 12-25kts of breeze out of an usual direction at WNW.   We were tuned to our tight setting at "1" which translates to 48.25" on the North tuning guide swing forestay lenght. The first race was in 12-18kts, the second and third had fairly wild puffs with shifts up into the 20's.

The second race was... interesting.  We led the first leg after a bad start, had a bad douse on the downwind and then elected not to go chute up on the second downwind as we had about 10 boat lengths of lead. This was due to not getting chute down cleanly after the first run, and having lost a spin sheet under the boat.  We had hoped to hold off Shields 63 who was in second, but they went chute up (only boat, good for them) and managed to claw away at our lead, passing us in the last third of the run. We considered luffing them out to clear our air but didn't, which was a mistake.  We regrouped for race 3, ran a new spin sheet and won with a nice margin.

The second race was a lesson in compounding errors. A bad douse led to not having a chute, which led to a bad run, which led to a loss. Additionally, sailing without a chute caused some significant gear breakage which has been unusual for us. Sailing dead downwind with a jib is slower than with a chute, so the loads are higher. Additionally, we sailed fairly sloppy and forgot to the basics that come with a downwind leg ( ease upwind controls). If we had eased the jib halyard, backstay, cunningham, outhaul for the run,we  probably would have won as we only lost by about 2 lengths, but we also would have prevented some breakage that made us sail more conservatively and could have been worse.  We sailed the run with the cunningham still on, which took all the load off the booms tack pin. That let the boom rotate on the run, which twisted apart the gooseneck's stainless strap fitting.
As you can see, the toggle has twisted apart and begun to crack. This was pretty spooky to find right before the 3rd race, but seemed OK to sail on so long as we kept the torque off the toggle. We resolved to use no cunningham, limit manouvers and put up the chute on the run.  This saved the part until we could get back to the mooring. Every time we go jib only on the run I always regret it, and this time it cost us in metal! We will fix this break up, perhaps with  a solid piece or better yet will just sail clean and take care of the boat.

We tried 2:1 on the gross tune mainsheet, and believe we have found the upper limit. We were actually able to trim it in, but the problem was in easing as the load was quite high, so it took lots of effort to release the cleat. I had trouble with this at the top mark roundings.  I think for 15kts and over we'll go back to 4:1.

We got a 1, 2, 1 for the day, which has us in second place.  Full team next weekend so hoping for big air again to stretch the boat's legs a bit.

Zen thought from today; we believe we had the oldest sail invenory on the course, with our newest sail being our 2012 main, and our oldest being the 2008 chute.  If you're going to beat up your gear, at least it should be old gear!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

First race of 2017

The 2017 season seemed to come as a surprise to us, as the boat wasn't in the water in time for the first race. Fortuitously, the legendary Peanut luck held and racing was blown out that day. We used the new tow vehicle to bring the boat to the harbor last week, and stepped the rig in time for todays racing.

It was a pretty sunny day, if a little bit cold and light.  We saw between 3-9kts or so all day from the NE, which made for great warmup conditions.  There were only 3 boats out, us 67 and 45, but the speeds were close all day.

First race we won the boat with everyone mixed in together, and got lucky on a few shifts to finish well ahead. Second race the wind had dropped so we were actually late to the start by a few seconds, but less-late than the rest. 3rd race we thought we had 67 dead to rights and OCS'd, but let them get away at the last second to start on top of us, with 45 on our WW hip.  We tacked and ducked 45, trying to get into phase but succeeded only in being as out of phase as was possible.  We picked up a lucky puff near the top of the course, and snuck into second. After the rounding, 67 was ahead by about 4 boatlengths, so we played patient and tried to affect their air while waiting for the right time to gybe. We'd worked it out that we wanted to gybe first, so as soon as their bowman stood up,  we were mid turn.  We planted on them, and rolled with some extra pressure, extending for the lead.

We tried some new tuning and setup tricks today!

We went with a very long forestay. Our "3" setting on our marked turnbuckle is somewhere in the 50" range. Additionally, we tried a single 1/4" shim behind the mast to affect forestay sag and mast bend. We had tried this in the past with no noticable result, but it felt fast today. 

The most exciting change was going from 4:1 to 2:1 on the mainsheet. We were unsure of this change when we made it, as the Shields has a very large boom and main, and 2:1 is Laser mainsheet purchase, but it worked out well. The benefits were the speed at which we  could trim, and the lessened drag on the sheet. With only 3 on the boat today I was doing my own main at the leeward mark, and trimming half as much sheet made the turn really fast! Also, doing the main downwind was very easy as the drag as so low you could ease the sheet and actually have the boom go out. Jacob liked the feel upwind as well, so we will do this again on light air days.  The downside of course is that if the breeze comes up the main trimmer is going to have a serious workout on their hands (ha) but we're going to try this again until we find the point where 2:1 is not enough.  Plus we have the internal fine tune to take some load off if needed. I really think 3:1/6:1 would be ideal, but class rules say the mainsheet(s) have to be on the boom, which eliminates the cool deck level fine tune I would like.

A great day on the water and it was fun to be back. We've got some 1d racing coming up, plus some beercan handicap and cruising to do, so will update soon. We're going to have a furling assym on board for the beercans, which will certainly be weird.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Quick notes on light air trim and forestay sag

After last weeks light air racing we got a lot of bar chatter about headstay sag and main shape in light air,  a few notes below.

Headstay sag is determined mostly by your headstay length, but is also affected by backstay and mainsheet tension. Headstay sag is nice for 2 reasons in light air:
-Additional power is generated because the extra sag makes the jib deeper, more depth means more differential between high pressure (windward side of jib) and low pressure (leeward side of jib) and more differential means more pull!
-Better pointing can be achieved by having the luff of the jib set off to leeward, which means that the angle of attack (the angle of the jib to the wind) is wider, which lets you sail higher.

How much sag is right?  The Shields is damn slow in light air, so anything to make power and helm is good, but how do you know how much is right?

-By the numbers, I think about 12" of sag in the light and flat stuff seems right
-By the feel of the boat, the sag should be enough that the jib looks round up front, but not enough so that the rig shakes around in waves (or worse, the rig shakes when not in waves!)  If you rig is bouncing around a lot,  you may be overdoing it.
-By jib trim, if you sag too much, you may find that the jib leech telltales will stall unless you're sheeted way out. The jib leech telltale is a critical thing to watch here, and if you have to ease that sail out beyond the spreader tip to get the telltale flying,  it means that the jib luff has sagged so far to leeward that bringing the sheet in closes the leech off well before you're trimmed properly. This is bad. 

On our boat,  in the super light air, we were sheeting the jib so that the leech of the jib was between the spreader tip and about 4" in.  It's important to ease out when coming out of tacks, or when hitting chop, or pretty much anytime the boat felt slow.  In race 2 we were locked up with 67 pretty much the whole race. We didn't feel straight line fast, but we were consistently ableto make gains because we were constantly changing sheet trims when conditions would change.  It helps to have a spare body looking ahead, and if they see a puff, or waves, or a light spot to call out "ease sheets, in 3, 2, 1, ease" and the commensurately calling for the sheets to be trimmed back to normal mode once the boat is back up to full speed.  

Headstay sag is great for the jib but it also affects the main.  The first few years we had the boat we struggled in light air, and it took a long time to find out why.  We had a good jib shape, but always tended to keep the backstay totally slack, after all, you don't need backstay in light air right?  It took quite a lot of experimentation before we realized you need to make the main shape right, and in light air the mainsheet alone won't do it.  

The light air main shape is wrong when you have appropriate sag in the jib, but the mainsail top leech telltales just won't fly.  The solution to this appears to be ease the sheet until the top telltale is streaming about half the time.  Of course, when you do this the top of the main opens way up, and  you lose quite a lot of power and pointing ability.  Additionally, easing the mainsheet can make the headstay sag too much.  

The solution is more backstay, which sounds wrong for light air, but is the only way to get the main right sometimes.  Add a little backstay, until you can get the main top telltale flying, with the boom within a few inches of centerline, and the top batten angle not too open.  Once the main looks good, double check headstay sag.  If the sag is too little, you have have to loosen your headstay a bit, but often times the crazy sag we sail with can handle a little backstay tension without making the jib luff too straight. The shape of the main will change as the mast bends, generally making it flatter. We all know we want flat main for big breeze, but a flat main for very light air can be fast as well, as it's a low drag shape that will get you your best upwind speed. 

The above is good for straightline speed, but what about tacks?  When we tack the boat in light air, we do a few things to help get it up to speed fast.
-We coordinate our weight so that when starting the tack, we're all in the middle, and when coming out of a tack everyone is to leeward, sometimes hiking hard, to help the boat heel to leeward and get airflow back over the sails.
-We have both jib sheet and mainsheet eased after the tack starts, so that when we come out on the other board, both sails are eased out to help build speed. After 10-20 seconds we'll trim slowly back in to a true upwind course. This is usually about 2" eased on the jib, and about 4" eased on the main. 
-We ease the backstay as well, to make the main deeper, which helps build power faster.   Once we're up to speed and starting to trim the sheets back in, we'll trim the backstay as well to make the main flatter and help the top telltale fly. 
-The helm comes out of tacks a few degrees low of course,  to build speed faster

When chatting after racing last week, both 196 and 130 were interested in better main shape to match a saggy jib.  The thing to try out next light air weekend is adding a little backstay to the main to get the shape flatter and make it easier to trim. Bonus points for matching that to the headstay sag!  Additionally in light air being vigilant with trim is even more important, and every time the wind lulls or puffs, or the boat is about to hit waves, trim should be adjsuted.  

Monday, August 20, 2012

End B Series, field trips

The 88 blog has been neglected as of late, but I have gotten the chance to do lots of fun sailing including a few field trips on other boats.

2 weeks ago I got to helm a T10, Mutiny, for the beercan in about 15-20kts NE with big waves.  It was successful as we consumed far more beer than any other TTen, won the race, and even had a quick COB recovery with 20 seconds to go in the prestart. I always like getting to drive other boats, so thanks John!

Last wednesday we continued our PHRF shenanigans when we put a T10 chute on 88.  It worked out great!  It's about 7' taller than the Shields chute, so the foot gets a bit wet if there are waves over several inches, but it was quite quick and we ended up doing 7kts in about 9kts of breeze, mostly DDW.  Highly recommended, although you should have a contingency plan in case you run over the foot; ours was yelling, until it flew again.  Generally successful, although they didn't score us since we're not sure what our rating would be.  I'd really like to try sheeting a 25-30' boats genoa, and maybe a fathead main.

On Friday I tried the "other" cat themed boat in Belmont harbor, the VO70 Il Mostro. They're good customers of mine, and I've been itching to get out sailing on it all year, but the few times they've gone out to knock around I've been busy at work.  The boat is just magnificent, and really fun to sail. Docking in and out is a little hairy, and the fact that it takes 6 grinders 10 minutes to get the main up might deter beercans, but it has definitely become my second favorite boat.  Here are a few pics. 

 The bow could host a medium sized gathering quite comfortably! Love the 3d leads, so simple, but so powerful!
Some CYR work on the backstays.  There are lots of back and checkstays.

Ha! How many kids get to drive a VO70?

Thats a lot of main.  The highlight was driving of course, and feeling the effect of the keel.  With about half of full cant the boat was doing 9kts on a close reach in 6kts of breeze.  Once we dialed it back to around 12deg keel, it felt like a normal boat; lots of heel and great feel upwind.  With the keel canted to 40, the feel went dead and the boat felt fast but without feel. It took a while to realisze what the sensation was, and I finally realized it was more like driving a big powerboat!

Here are some pics from Saturday.  While it was just another series race, it was probably one of the best days I've had on the water.  We won both races, but the tricky conditions meant that we had lots of work to do.  Quite happy with my starts in both races, as we won the boat the first race, then the pin the other (while getting 196 and 130 ocs, yikes) but due to some pretty big shifts and holes didn't lead the first race until the last leg.  One of the best things we worked on was our wave spotting and trimming.  One crew would do nothing but watch waves upwind, and communicate the timing to the trimmers, who would ease jib sheet about .75" and mainsheet about 2", so we could twist the sails and power through.  It was devestatingly effective; at one point we were behind and to leeward of 63 coming in on port tack layline. Once we found flat spots we could pinch them off, then used the wave trimming to extend ahead and give them bad air.  This gained us at least 15 lengths in 5 minutes, and sealed the race in our favor.  Headstay was at 49.75. 

The good ship cat-shape, Joc, Katie, Niki, Andy

How we spent much of the race!  Here Andy trims main and spots waves and the rest trim jib and watch compass.

Our new main, easily the best one we've ever had.  Even  says USA for some reason!

Our 09 jib is still looking pretty sharp.

Our jib tack detail.  The "down" strop is a soft shackle with 3 balls, although we mostly use the middle one, the tightest setting is cool for beercans where we don't want to hike. The small "forward" shackle holds the jib tack forward, in line with the luff, and also locks the turnbuckle.  Our experimental Hayn calibrated turnbuckle has laser etched numbers. 

 If you absolutely must have overkill, I recommend a covered dyneema carbon dogbone for your Shields vang.
Valiant bowman. Probably calling breeze and air show info.

 Andy really got good fast at spin trim this year, we were blazing all day.
Katie doing Katie things on the way in. 
And oh HELL YEAH we found a frisbee. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Here are a few videos of racing from last Saturday.  We went 1-2 and the weekend was part of our Andrew Kerr clinic.  Have so many ntoes and videos, but no time to put them all up yet.  Top video is a douse with free fly, followed by our attempt at a VMG (vs wide-tight) rounding.  Below is a set.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Lump update 7-7-12

Been a bit (lot) crazy at work the last couple weeks, so have really had zero time to sail, much less write about it!

On 6-2 we had a new first for 88 (and not the good kind) as I was too sick to sail.  Really bummed about it, but we missed 3 windy races and I stayed in bed and had hallucinations. Yuck.

6-16 was a bit better, as we actually got the boat out sailing.  Lots of new crew with me, Andy on main, Phil B on jib,  Matt S on pit and good 'ol boy John K on the bow.  Day started lightish, and good crew work plus some wind insight from Phil put us in first (barely)  Second race the wind piped up and we had some rock and or roll on the downwinds,  leading us to eventually go jib and main for the win.

Next week we missed _another_ day of racing (luckily they only got 1 off in ligth and fluky conditions) but it was worth it as Niki and I headed out to Shields LIS districts in CT.  Crappy start to teh weekend with a cancelled flight, followed by 2 hrs waiting on standby, followed by getting to the airport at 4am to wait for 2 more standby flights, but we eventually made it to NY, ran to the car, ran to the power boat, towed Bam's Shields across the sound at dangerous speed, and found we'd missed 3 races already!  We got the boat put together (mostly during the start sequence for R4!) and won the pin, went flying out to the left, and then crossed the fleet looking like big damn heroes.  Naturally, we got a giant windshift and got swept back to last, then crawled to 4th.  Next race was better, and we got a 2nd before heading back to Seawanhaka YC (aka the nicest YC on earth) for some severe overindulgence in food (thanks NYYC shellfish bar!) and drink (Do not give Kristian rum and beer and vodka and wine, really. Don't)

Next day started pretty crappy when we barged and got luffed into the committee boat. ouch!  We got 4 more races in, which was quite fun and although we placed 5th for the event each race was quite close and challenging.  Had a great time in NY, thanks Bam and Karen!

Back in Chicago we sailed the Kennedy Cup, fleet 3's crew regatta. I was overjoyed when Andy drove the first race from prestart to finish, and we really got a lot better in our new roles. Especially enjoyed the final downwind.  I was trimming and we both got good at communicating pressure and angle, and closed up nearly 1/4 mile to the leaders.  Got a 4th, but it was great to give someone else a chance to drive!  Next start Jacob drove and got a stellar start at the pin, which we held for quite a while until the idiot bow (me) had a slow drop and 45 snuck ahead for the win.

Series racing continued today, and we had some more revolving door crew, with me, Jocelyn P back from retirement,  Matt S on jib and pit, and Niki up front.  Was a bit nervous going into the day, as we'd not all sailed together and the forecast was for big NE breeze and waves with potential storms.  The crew really came together effectively, and we had a great time winning all 3 races.  Highlights were the incredible surfing on the runs.  We got the boat sorted enough that we'd cleat everything, and Niki would call waves at which point I'd pump the guy and we got quite effective at it,  as it was worth about 1/2 length every big wave.  Upwind was brutal, and we had lots of falls and near misses as the crew got battered in the chop.  Everyone has some serious bruising!

We're stitting in third for the season, which I find uncomfortable, but when we've actually made it out I feel we've sailed well in varied conditions with lots of different crew combinations.  Quite pleased to find we have lots of depth and can switch up positions and still be effective.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Peanut goes to the races

Wow,  definitely the busiest spring I've ever had, but we still made it out for the first day of RYF/1D/Wee Boat racing at CYC.  Great time had by most.

First, we did do a few repair/upgrades to 88 this winter.  First (and coolest) we finally have the name on the back, so no more tickets from Westrec (for that anyway).  Also, I really like the way it looks, and it was made by my cousin Paul so it's more work in the family to make it special.  For a while we just had the shape on the transom while setting up the letters, and Andy started calling us the "good ship Catshape" Which would be a fine stupid name for a boat someday.  Also added a couple small tricks, like a piece of Soft Deck material up on the bow for where the pole attacks the deck.  It came as part of a sample from our friends at SD Boatworks out west, it's neat stuff, look it up!   We also added some small stifeners under the deck, as ol' 88 has some flex in the side decks. They were a big bang for the buck upgrade, as the decks feel a lot better when hiking.  A few other things will be highlighted with photos as soon as I have some free time.

First race of the year was great, winds about 8-14kts.  We had Andy on the main,  Craig C on the jib/pit and Niki up front.  Very much chamber of commerce conditions, and it was super satisfying to be out on the water again as this spring has been all-work-all-the-time.

First start was dramatically pooched by me, but we got onto port right away and hit the first shift and crossed everyone, held on for the win.  We had great speed all day with an 08 jib, 09 spin and our brand new main!  I am very much in love with the shape of the main; don't think a sail has ever flown so well out of the box.  Curiously, it has a country code on it, which I think I must have input when we ordered, so we've been rolling around as "USA 88", presumably for the NATO conference in Chicago last weekend.  It's starting to grow on me, so I think we'll keep it!

Second start we nailed the pin extra fast, crossed everyone, finished strong.

Third start was just us and 196, so we played around with some match racing moves in the prestart.  If it's ever the 2 of us again, we should probably discuss how to handle pens, as we had them lined up a few times and didn't really feel like pulling the trigger.  I think maybe little "shields-only" flags or something, which then get settled at the bar after?  Anyway, they led off the start, and we were doing ok living on their hip until I got "experimental" which quickly saw us spat out the back. They led to the ww mark, and we  finally got on their air towards the end of the run, and I was feeling pretty good about getting around them as we split gate marks, but then.... 

Guess we've been pretty lucky to never drop the kite in the water in 4 years, but I think we made up for it Saturday!  Took a few minutes to clean up, and by then it was follow the leader around the course.  They nailed a really nice win with minutes to spare, so go 196!

Great day out there,  can't wait to do it again.

Wed night was nice, as we went out for some practice, getting people used to their new roles on the boat. Andy and I got in a good rhythm downwind on gybes and transitions for the spin, and we did some boathandling practice and I think our light air tacks are as good as they've ever been. 

The best part for me was at the end we had Jacob run some timing drills for me.  He'd announce 2 minutes, and the goal was to upwind on starboard next to the pin. First time was ok, and I was .5 lengths to leeward and about 4 seconds late.  Second time really identified one of my issues at starting, as we were both late and slow. Jacob gave me some good notes on it, and then the next one was full upwind speed+a ltitle extra from the reach in, on time, and close enough for Niki to almost slap the red buoy.  Great drill, and really productive hour on the water!  After that it was back to work!  Really looking forward to Mac week...