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...


Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Wee' Shields

Well this is neat!  Friend of the class Tod Johnstone has created a sailing RC model Shields.  We stayed with Tod in 2010 for Nationals in Mystic, and really enjoyed it.  He's a modelmaker-among other things-with a shed full of great ship models and other neat toys.

The new Shields model should be available next summer, and he's created a sign up page for it: http://www.mysticmodelyachts.com/Shields_One_Design.php

So cool!

Monday, October 10, 2011

End of 2011 racing season

Racing's over for the year, but what a great way to go out.  We had 3 races Saturday, and it was the best day of the whole year.  About 75 degrees on the water, generally on the light side, but sunny and flat and comfortable.


We really wanted to come out strong after the previous race day, and did a lot to prepare.  Last week we did quite a few things wrong, and a big one was how our jib was setting up.  Since we started sailing with more rake this year it's been great for speed and heigh in light air, but we've been running out of jib sheet when fully trimmed.  Lots of east coast boats have had their clews raised to compensate for this, so I tried it as well.  Turns out I marked the new location totally wrong, so all last week our recut jib couldn't get enough leech tension no matter what we did. Instead of cutting it again I decided to play with tack height instead.  So Niki and I went out thursday for a sail check, mostly to look at the new Quantum jib just to see it, and to figure out what tack heights work for what rake with the North jib.  We did a couple hours of pleasure sailing/sail tested and came up with 3 tack shackle loops for different rakes.  The tack loops are soft shackles that go from a small d shackle on the deck up to the sail, so our actually tack height is plus 1"

Rake    Tack Loop
48"       5"
49.25"  7"
50.5"     8"

Below is the Q jib  (3 races) and the North Jib @3 years.  I like both sails.  The N jib is obviously a bit blown out, but I think even new it's a bit fuller than the q.  The q can be sheeted harder, looks a lot flatter and is lighter weight than the North.  Our sail test day let us go into race day with the old North jib still feeling fast. 

  

For Saturday we had Andy H stepping into the main/spin position,  Doug B joining us for the first time on jib, and the return of hangover Jocelyn to pit/compass, and Niki up front.  Everyone did awesome considering that it's been years since we've had Jocelyn out and it was Andy's second time in the #2 spot. 

We did a bit of an experiment with rake, and sailed at 50.5" the whole day.  It worked really well, and even in the big puffs (which were big) the boat was still able to depower.  I think I'm going to try more rake in breeze next year to see how it goes.  So long as it's not choppy I think you can get away with it.

Race 1 we led all the way around the track until... the incident.   We were holding a 10-15 length lead, and seemed pretty untouchable since both 150 and 196 were dead asten, and we were practically fetiching the mark on the 2nd upwind.  Then this amazing shift and new breeze came through, and all of a suddent we were pointing 20deg high of the mark, and sailing in about 18kts.  We were just blasting along, extending on the other guys, and watching them luff each other behind us.  Then I said words I promise never to say again "This is definitlely going to hold, forget about covering and putting some in the bank, lets just blast at the mark"  We did just that, and were full hiked just flying along, when all of a sudden things got ugly.  First the breeze dropped, and we all flopped to the low side.  Then the breeze went left 90 degrees relative to the other guys, who all of a sudden looked pretty good.  We did about 4 tacks in a light and shifting breeze, struggling to make the mark while the 2nd and 3rd place boats just flew along.  We all reached the mark at about the same time, and I called for a gybe set (mistake 2).  We had a horrible set, which is not surprising considering that even Niki and I have done exactly one gybe set this year, and no one else had done one on the boat, ever.  We botched is, and were third around the mark.  We were able to pass 150 who set up too low to carry the chute, but watch 196 sail high right into new pressure under jib alone, while we eventually had to drop the chute and play catch up.  They made a great call going jib only, and we finished 2nd.  It was a well sailed race, but I really learned a lot about decision making:  no matter what stay focused on covering, and go blast reaching on your own time!

Race 2 I honestly can't remember much of, but we won.

Race 3 was a tough one, and we started weakly, and the top 3 boats stayed really close.  With trying to beat 196 to take the C series, and having 150 out, it was incredible racing, and we really had lots of tough calls and close crosses.  One of my favorite moments was rounding the last weather mark, of the last race, of the last day.  We had 150 just ahead, and 196 just behind.  We set a little bit lower than Kevin, and were able  to slide down inside. Meanwhile 196 is going low and trying to do the same thing to us.  Andy did a stellar job keepign the boat moving, and Doug was spot on keeping the main alive.  Niki was finding tiny, and I mean like 10' wide, puffs for us to sail to, and Jocelyn was keeping our air clear and making sure we stayed close to both boats.  I don't think I've ever moved the tiller less on a run, and we worked weight hard.  Any of the 3 boats could have won that race, and it was a crazy nailbiter all the way until the the final gybe, where we slid through Garys bad air into a great left shift with a puff and extended for that oh-so-sweet final gun.  I was really proud of my team that day, and we had a great last day out.