Monday, September 22, 2008

End of a great season

Very proud to say that Shields 88 won it's first season championship! The last 3 races were sailed on Saturday, and we came out on top with 26 points, with Yankee Girl having 32 and Insidious with 39.

All we had to do was finish 3rd or better in one race to win, but I was still pretty nervous going in, worrying about any number of ridiculous things that could screw it up. The day was really light air, and it was in doubt whether we'd actually sail, but the wind fillled in to about 8kts and we had a really pleasant sail. We got a somewhat disappointing 4-2-2, but it was enough to win the season, and today was one of the better days we've all sailed together. Boathandling was perfect, starts were good and if it wasn't for our upwind speed problem we'd have done much better.

That doesn't affect that this has been a great season for me, and getting the boat together has been incredibly satisfying. From the frantic launch and first races, to all the fun we've had on the course to the last fine day of sailing its been great. I've learned a lot about boats and racing, gotten to sail with great crew, taken friends and family out for cruising, and really watched Niki turn into a good bowman. One of my favorite moments of the season came in the last race Saturday. We were in 2nd heading to the downwind finish, with 196 about 3 lengths behind. They brought some new breeze in and were catching up quickly as we were closing on the finish. Out of nowhere Niki called a gybe and we went, only in the middle of the manouver did I realize that shes never, ever made a tactical call before! As we came out of the gybe, we settled into better pressure and gently pulled away to cross ahead of 196. She was the inspiration behind buying the boat in the first place, and I couldn't be happier with how we've done as a team with it.

So what next? We're going to keep the boat in the water for a little while to eke out the last bits of sailing fun for 08. It's going to be on the dock for our wedding next week, and then it gets loaned out (eek) to help a match racing team practice, and we're also going to try and do some practice ourselves. This winter I've got some plans for the boat, which I feel is operating at about 80% of its potential right now. Some future boatwork plans:

-new mast and boom. The mast was damaged back in July, and should probably be replaced. Since the new mast won't fit the old gooseneck I'm getting a new boom as well, and will use this opportunity to make "superboom" which will be lighter than the old one and have a couple trick features on it, like a mainsheet finetune and possibly a spin pole sleeve.
-bottom. The bottom was a rush job to make it into the water in time, and it shows! The keel repair held up great, but the lead/keel attachment is blistered and cracked, and the rudder is covered in blisters as well. Also we hit something (!) and theres a scrape along the leading edge of the boat from the waterline to the tip of the keel. No idea when that happened, but it's kind of messed up looking.
-going to rebed all the hardware and dry the deck out, possibly recoring a soft spot on the stbd side.
-who knows what else we'll come up with, but my goal is to get the boat perfected for next years nationals.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

pictures (non shields)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Shields racing 9/6/08

Kind of a tough day for Shields racing, but overall fun.

With all the heavy air we've had this year, Niki and Jocelyn have been hoping for a light day, and man did we get it this time! Super freaky conditions, with wind from 0-10kts, shifting back and forth all day. Made for tough racing, as being on the correct side of the shifts was key, but (to me at least) impossible to call.

We had a great crew out: Niki up front, Jocelyn in the pit, Brian Sa. in the middle, and Shawn O took a vacation from big boat racing to do main and spin. I was really excited about having this crew together, and was hoping for better racing conditions, but we still had fun and figured out a couple things about the boat.

The first race started in a huge right shift/lull, and the start was about 50 degrees boat favored. We won the boat with clear air, and had ok speed off the line. The wind did a little back and forth for the first third of the beat, and it was a bit of a nail-biter to stay on stbd heading right, as the shifts would sometimes put the right side (us) in front, and sometimes the left (everyone else.) it ended up that 150 and 88 were the front runners, and we swapped leads until the weather mark, with 150 in front. The downwind leg was pretty fun, as we got some light air downwind practice, and Niki really got the hang of reaching gybes. I felt we played the bottom part of the leg really well, taking 150's lead from about 8 to 1 boatlength, and rounding close behind. We decided to go left on the upwind, and 150 went right.

Tacking put us both on port (favored board) and we watched the wind shift back and forth, sometimes putting us in front, sometimes 150. Lots of wind shifts, but tough to play. Even though the breeze would make big (like 60 degree) shifts, playing them was kind of a dice roll, and this is where we lost out. We were tacking on most of them, and thats where we lost out. Very frustrating to get a 30 degree header, tack on it, and then get knocked 50 back on the other board! 150 won here, by just sticking it out and aiming at the mark. Additionally, 39 went all the way right, and picked up 4 boats (including us) and rounded the windward mark in 2nd behind 150, and ahead of us.

The last downwind had us mixed up with Etchells, which is good and bad. Good because it gives us more practice sailing next to lots of boats (like we'll be doing at Nationals) and bad because in this case we spent half the leg next to a boat that had us pinned! Again, it was good practice because we kept clear of them (leeard E22) and actually had pace on them (Shields must have a small advantage in 2-6kts for some reason) but bad because they ended up having us sail just a little higher than we should have been. Ended up getting ahead, gybing out but ultimately lost to 29 and 150.

The next race was called off, I believe due to the super light breeze. I would have preferred to get another race in, but can understand the call. The tricky part is that we now have 4 races left to sail, but only 1 series race day left. The SI's allow for makeup races to be sailed in the same series, but only 3 per day. That leaves one unaccounted for with no SI-legal way to make it up, so I'm not sure what the fleets going to do about that.

Really tricky day to sail, but ultimately good time. Happy to see our friend Kevin win one, and now he's tied with 196 for the season, at 34 points to our 22. Learned a couple hard lessons along the way, mostly about what to do in goofy light air (aim at the mark, be patient.) The crew mix was great, and I've been looking forward to it for a while.

Having Shawn on the boat helped us figure out a problem with our new main thats been dogging us for a while. We've had the new main up 3 times now including today, and every time we've felt a bit slow compared to usual. This was the first really light day, and it took Shawn about 5 seconds to figure out why our sail looked so funky up top (huge flat spot, with a big pinch at the front of the batten pocker) Our sail's cut for a tapered, or at least thinner top batten, and we've got all thick straight battens, which are probably fine for the other spots, but not the top batten. Got to track down a proper batten if we want to use the sail for the last race of the season.

One series race day left, with 3 races. I'm really feeling the end of summer now, wish we could frostbite the Shields!