Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Racing 8-23/best 4th place ever

Finally had more Shields series racing this last weekend. I say finally since it seems like our season has been chopped up with all the other events we've had going on, cancelled races etc. Our fleet has still had pretty good participation all year, but I think if we had a more cohesive schedule we could gain full numbers. Shouldn't say too much about that, as thats the kind of thing that gets you volunteered for fleet captain.

Favorite thing about racing this weekend was the short 1mile courses. This was to allow for a 3rd race (making up B1) and it was loads more fun! I would be all about doing 1 mile races as regular racing, and would actually be for 3 race days but I imagine I'm the only one.

Last weekend of racing had, guess what, good breeze out of the south-west! Never thought I'd see that more than once or twice a summer, but it's been our standard condition this year. Onboard it was Niki-bow, Jocelyn-pit/compass/jib grinder, Jacob-jib, Josh-main/spin and I drove as usual.
Races 1 and 2 were good; decent starts, sound tactics, 2 firsts. Had new sails aboard but upwind boatspeed still seemed a bit off. I think this was a headstay lenght issue. I tightened it up to ~47.5", and generally felt stuck all day, despite backing it off to 48". I think in future I'm going to err on too loose until I get decent repeatable numbers for this boat.
Race 3 started the same way, but then we F'd up! We were on port, looked to be crossing 63, who had 196 just to weather of them. As we crossed 196 they hailed protest, which is where things got interesting. I thought we were clean, Josh was 100% sure of it, but we did our circles anyway which dropped us back to 6th. I later heard from the boat to leeward that they thought 196 had ducked, and 150 said they definitely saw a duck, so I'm glad we circled despite thinking we were clear. Reasons being:
a)other boats saw a duck
b)even if they didn't duck/didn't have to duck, it's still a trip to the protest room, and one we'd likely lose
c)at the end of the day I feel like we retained the mutual respect that is so important in this fleet.

"C" is the important one to me (although losing bar/food time in the room sucks) as it seems like our fleet is the last place I sail that still has super friendly competition, where people err on the side of caution when it comes to these situation. My feeling is that it would take only a couple incidents (protests, disagreements over rules) to push our fleet into the "offensive rules" mindset, like so many other fleets. I definitely don't want to be the guy that starts that slide, and if it means eating circles, thats a small price to pay.

We ended up clawing our way back up, and being behind gave us some opportunity to compare boatspeed with the other fast boats. Having been there, I think our advantage is in upwind boathandling, and compass course. This would explain the feeling of being fast when we're not near other boats, and feeling same-speed/slow when we're next to someone on the same board. The upwind finish was truly excellent, as we (88, 196, 63, 150) all seemed to have the lead in the last 3rd of the race, and it was full of crossings, leebows and slam tacks. It would have been nice to get another bullet, but 4th in that tight pack was satisfying for its own reasons.

To get back to this blogs techinical bent there are 2 small rigging changes I'll discuss in the next time around. New jib halyard, more or less identical to the last one but made with white cover instead of black. This is all so that we can have a preset mark for hoisting the jib, which is often a problem. Helping to standardize our jib halyard settings is a new tack strop I've come up with. Hard to explain without a photo (forthcoming) but it's one piece of line, with which you can hold the jib tight to the forestay and also down to the tack shackle, without any kind of knots. It's all in the goal of getting repeatable settings.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Verve Cup Inshore

Superb race weekend. This weekend was Chicago Yacht Clubs Verve Cup, for one designs (now called the CYC Verve Cup Inshore Regatta), and for the Shields, it's historically been the most prized win, second to the season championship. For us, it marked our first big win, as we won not only the Shields class, but the overall Verve Cup Inshore!

Really exciting racing, and it's great to win stuff, but the crew made this one especially cool for me. Bam M came out from the east coast to sail with us, which meant we finally met in person! I spend like an hour a day on the phone with him, buying stuff and talking shop, but we've never met in person. Excellent sailor and it was just as pleasant to hang around in person as online and on the phone. Got John S out to sail with us, finally, which meant a lot to me, since he's one that got me started racing! Have learned a lot from him, and am hoping to continue to do so when he comes sailing with us again (nudge nudge). Brian Shaw was out again, which is fun for me since I'm getting to pass on stuff I've learned to the new(er) guy. Niki was going to sail 1 day with us, but it didn't quite work out. She still managed to win the regatta backpack prize somehow.

Racing: Tough!

Saturday was breezy from the west, and got in 3 looong races. Lots of attrition in our fleet brought the numbers down to 3 at the end of the day. Very rough to see Shields going in with broken booms, and in one case a shredded spinnaker hanging off the masthead. My starts continue to be a problem with this boat, but we were able to get speed and tactics on our side to win all 3, with 150 taking 2nds. We had a spectacular dial up in the 3rd race, where 150 took us head to (and beyond) the wind, and I consider us both shockingly lucky there was no contact. All still friends and the end of the day, but I think we both need some start line work this fall in dinghies!

Sunday was high teens from the northeast and some really big waves! I think there were a few 6' waves out there, and it was a challenge to keep the boat dry. We had a lousy start, and were 2nd to 63 for much of the beat. We engaged them in a tacking duel, and were able to grind away a a lot of their lead. Our boathandling all weekend was perfect, and it showed up mostly in our sets, but it was nice to see the crew work so elegantly highlighted. We called a better layline, and went on to lead the rest of the race. Downwind surfs were very exciting, and we had some nice sustained waves where I swear it was 15 seconds. The boat didn't break, and I was happy when the race committee called it a day after the first race.

Sailing was so great this weekend, as we had chemistry, attitude and skill on our side. I won't get gushy, but everyone sailed perfect on our boat. It was really cool to get the overall regatta prize, which I think we got since we had the lowest overall score, 4 points. The regatta itself was really well done. Very easy to enjoy the sailing with good RC and nice shoreside management.

This regatta marks our first overall win, and I'm really happy to be looking at a cool trophy, reflecting on a great weekend. Buying this boat was a great idea Niki!