Monday, June 29, 2009

Racing 6 26

Upside: Really pretty day for sailing
Downside: We no sail so good 4-4

Had the first really great weather for Shields racing last Saturday, SE breeze at around 10kts, sunny and pleasant. We had me, Brian Shaw, John Ponsetto and Niki.

Turned out to be an off day for everyone, mostly me! Couldn't get a good feel for the boat all day, didn't start races well and made some bad calls on which way to go. Our roundings, usually excellent, were pretty fugly. Good day for the fleet though, as lots of other boats had days at the top, and everyone was pretty close in speed. I don't really want to relive the whole day, but the lessons learned are:

tack less
be more flexible when conditions don't match the expected
blocking behind the mast is really bad in chop, really really bad!
repack rudder, as the feels a bit dead right now

We did lousy, but the next day had the best distance race of all time, when we sailed with Challenge (Kevin from 150's dads boat) from Waukegan to Chicago. Solid 25+out of the the WNW, the boat was solid as a rock, and we saw tons of carnage with other boats (much of which I am fixing today!) Also, Chicago Yacht Rigging rigged boats took wins in 5 sections, and were in the top 3 in all but one!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Beercan, practice, match race, beercan

I received a polite email that more or less said "I know you've been sailing, wheres the blog?", and yes, I have been a bit lazy about updating the goings-on of Shields 88. It's quite cool to get emails re the blog, always nice to know someone reads this stuff!

So. June 17 beercan. Me, Niki, John Ponsetto, Steve Schwartz (of 90) and Nik's sister Katie. Tried mixing it up in positions with John driving, Niki on jib, Kate on main and Steve on the bow, so pretty much the opposite of everyones usual spot on a boat! It was great fun, we put down a case of beer, but there was very little wind. We started about 5 minutes late to the start, with the 10s, and were first Shields over the line, with Robin just behind and leeward after we tacked. They had great speed, and Jessica rolled us to leeward! Not bad for a new owner. We stayed right in the dying breeze and got ahead when they tacked inshore, rounded first, but then the breeze really crapped out and we got a tow from our friends on Challenge. It was a fun night, especially since everyone got to try a different spot on the boat. I think Niki likes our 2:1 system, which after a _lot_ of tinkering is nearing perfection.

June 22nd practice. We had me, Niki, Brian Sabina and Jocelyn out for this one. Interesting note is that the crib weather station is completely full of it. It was reporting 17-20 kts when we were sailing, and I really doubt we had any puffs over 4kts. A very frustrating night as we only had about 10 minutes of sailable breeze. We did practice 2 roll tacks, so I guess it was worthwhile for that!

June 23rd Match racing on Tom28's. Had a great time sailing the Olympic Day exhibition sailing on Chicago Match Race Centers Tom28's. Sailed REALLY close to North Avenue Beach (in fact the umpires gave us a penalty for entering the swim area!) and picked up a bunch of tricks. I did bow all night, which is not my best position, but had fun with it. We got off 8 races, I think we won 5, but it all blends together. Picked up a couple neat tricks, mostly about head to wind sailing. In dial ups (at starts and luffs) the driver had me backing the jib hard by grabbing the clew, in order to do hard turns down when bearing away. To keep things secret, I would watch his hands for a point, and back the jib that way. It was a really effective tool for an aggressive turn down. Also picked up a neat trick of presetting the pole to leeward before the final tack to an upwind layline. It works if the downhaul is off (the Tom28s dont have one) and you keep the topping lift really high, so that it doesn't foul the jib. We will incorporate both of these things into 88's bag o' tricks. The little bit of sailing I do with CMRC is really bringing my boat on boat game up, and I feel its helping my Shields sailing. While really attacking is generally a small part of our sailing (and should be less so at Nationals) it's great stuff to experience, so that when it comes up in a race the reaction is instant.

June 24th beercan. It was me, Niki and Brian Shaw. Had 3 Shields out in another light air night. It was sailable at around 3-8kts, and beautiful to be off land as it's been a scorching week of weather here. Brian drove, I did main/spin and Niki did bow. We started about halfway down the boat, with 45 winning the boat, and 67 behind. Had a long stbd leg, with 45 holding us off. Once we tacked it seemd like they were going to faceplant a tack on us, so we bore off a bit to get some speed, and then once they tacked took a nice big bite to windward to clear air. This was pretty effectice, and Brian drove great to maintain clear air all the way to layline. The trim setup for this was a pretty tiny ease of main and jib, and then a slow trim up/turn up, where we held high (pinching) and then a slow ease on main, turn down, then ease on jib. Brian was able to roll 45, get a controlling spot on their hip, then tack for lay. We had a decent set, but 45 got on top of us, so it was some tricky sailing to extend out to leeward, and Brian drove great again to extend. We heard horns from the RC, which we though was a shorten course, making that leg the finish, but it turned out to be just a shorten course for the next leg. We realized this as we were sailing past the RC boat towards the harbor, but did a quick drop, tack, gybe and round. This was good as we got a chance to try what seems to be the toughest drop of the Shields for us; jib up, pole down, chute down on port while the pole comes down on stbd . This is tricky as the bow has to flip the pole up behind the jib leech, then down up to our bungee pulpit and on the deck. Niki nailed this one, and it looked good! 45 bailed to the harbod, as did 67, so we had a default win and gave the rum to Brian. Really fun night. I wish the class rules limited weight so that we could sail with 3 all the time, as it's the most fun for Shields sailing.

Last night we sailed with full tension on the shrouds, and the headstay set at 48, but put 1/2" shim behind the mast. It gave us plenty of headstay sag, and with the addition of a tiny bit of backstay resulted in a nice light air main shape, without taking the sag out of the jib. I like this trick, and will do it in the future, but I REALLY need to come up with a better way to change shims. It's very hard to get the fitted shim in behind the mast, as the vang bail is in the way.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Racing 6-13

Since summer is usually pretty busy for me, getting the schedule filled early is really important for sailing 88. The one weekend that was giving me trouble since March was this last Saturday, as despite having a pretty deep crew pool I could only get 2 people. Up until thursday I was pretty worried as we were still short. Well, sometimes you get lucky!

Since it was me and the 2 Brians (Shaw and Sabina) we could definitely sail the boat and get it around the course, but we'd be underweight and would definitely be slower in sets/gybes/douses which are usually our strength. Early this week I took a longshot and asked Jennifer Wilson and Bill Hardesty if they "uh, felt like sailing on our Shields?" and was thrilled when they both signed on. I know them through doing rigging work for the Convexity boats and the Chicago Match Race Center. Both are sailing at a high level (they're last years Etchells world champs) and in addition to sailing the boats, Bill is coaching the entire CMRC organization and developing their program!

Having a pretty stacked boat I was a bit chagrined when we spent much of the morning in postponement due to weather and problems with the RC boat. Luckily both situations cleared up and we got out on the water just in time to spend some more time hanging around and enjoying our standard Shields weather: cold, rainy with NE winds and big sloppy waves.

We got 2 races off, with 2 very hard fought wins. Both were decent enough starts, with very close pace between the 9 Shields coming off the line. Kevin was really flying, and we seemed to be a bit underpowered in the lighter air for the first race and most of the second. It's amazing that every time we get a bit faster, so does 150 and I think we're both sailing at a pretty high level these days. Seems like we know each others tricks and it's always 1 or 2 decisions/mistakes/shifts that makes the difference.

The first race we seemed pretty deep at first and only clawed back on the strength of a couple shifts and a little extra downwind speed. The last leg of race 1 had us, 150 and 90 all starting the run pretty close. We chased 150 out to the left and barely rolled them, then went back right to force 90 to gybe out, then returned to 150 where we finished slightly ahead, followed by Kevin, then Bo. Second race was also looking a bit grim for much of it, with us following Kevin around a bit. On the 2nd upwind leg we took a hitch left when Bill noticed the cloud pattern had changed (more later) and a nice little lefty, coupled with some extra pressure (we seemed to go faster upwind in the puffs, where Kevin was quicker in the lighter stuff. We got ahead on the lefty, enjoying the breeze, and continued to extend for the finish. We ended the A series with 7 points to Kevins 8, although without drops we'd be tied! Although Nationals is obviously everyones goal, we're all certainly getting some thrilling racing for the regular Saturday races.

Having Bill aboard was really good for 88. Obviously he's a great sailor and we learned a ton, but there's tmore to being a great tactician (he is very highly sought after for that spot) and he was lot of fun too. I was a bit nervous (and drove like it) that having a pro aboard would mean hyper intensity and lots of yelling, but he's pretty hilarious and both of our guests fit in well with our laidback boat.

A couple people from our fleet have been asking about what he was showing us, and it's only fair to share. There's no real rocket science ("he told us to push the red button under the floor boards and we gained 2kts") but like my friend John Kiener once said (referring to Kevin) "he just does the basics a bit better, and more often" So here's what I was able to pick up.

The single biggest thing I'll be doing differently is keeping the boat powered up longer, and hiking harder. I think we've gotten a bit lazy on the hiking on 88, and will benefit by keeping the boat flatter. The real eye opener was in the bit of breeze we had for the last upwind leg, when everyone hit the rail hard and was hiking off something. 2 things happened: the boat felt great and we really accelerated away from 150, and I was able to see all the waves a lot easier. We also started really rolling the boat hard in tacks, which seemed to be a bit faster.

Bill was trimming jib, and seemed to focus most on the jib leech telltale. On 88 we've gotten in a habit of just setting it to marks on the spreader tip. This usually works, and the marks give consistency, but looking back on my time as jib trimmer it was all about watching the telltale. Especially in light air, I think we'll be keeping more of an eye on that aspect of trim.

Clouds: we made a huge gain and won race 2 mostly because of a big left shift (I think we were getting paid back for the right shift we lost out on last week?) , which we sailed to because of a cloud moving across the course. The day had been pretty gray, but towards the end the sun came out, and as the overcast was breaking up it turned into clouds. One was moving across the course, and Bill made the call to sail away from it. This was mostly to avoid the "windsuck" that happens after a cloud passses, but in addition to the higher breeze, it came with a nice shift. Note to self: look up more.

Attacking downwind: we're usually pretty quick downwind, and make gains, but Saturdays got me thinking about other ways to pass besides boatspeed. It's impossible to write down for me, but I do have a much better feel for positioning relative to a boat ahead now. Will work on this more, especially in our upcoming practices with 150.

In terms of tune, we felt underpowered most of the day, and I think I need to refine my settings a bit. What worked last year with the old mast and main isn't quite as good this year. We'll be adding more rake, and depowering with lowers a bit earlier. Coupling a more powered up boat with increased use of weight should add a bit of boatspeed.

It could just be self consciousness about having a pro on board, but I felt like I was driving pretty badly most of the day, and going to a pinching mode to early in the wind range. Again, pushing the rail down harder will neutralize the helm some, and paying a little more attention to course wouldn't hurt either!

Once things at work ease up a bit, I'm going to be hitting up the CMRC again. They race 2 nights a week, with many races per outing, which means a lot more action! Also, once 88 and 150 start practicing together (after Kevins done running a Mackinac program and I'm a bit slower at work) I'm hoping to do some match racing between us, so we work through more of the neat situations. It's a great way to build skills and also tons of fun.

All in all, a really fun day of racing. I'm looking forward to sailing with the regulars again, both because I want to apply what we picked up last Saturday, and because we're turning into a pretty tight team.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Beercan June 11th

Had another fun beercan to the Wilson Crib and back. Unfortunately there were two many boats for a mass fleet start, as I really enjoyed the last one, but we did have another Shields to play with. We won the race by a good bit, but lost the rock/paper/scissors at the bar, so the rum was awarded to those miserable bastards on 45, so a pox on them. We had good crew tonight, with me, Niki, B Shaw and Jennifer W.

It was a fun night, I learned a few things, and relearned one big one. The lesson I should know by now is: although it annoys the wife, it's definitely better for me to be down at the boat early! 1) I make sure everythings led right, tuned etc 2) knowing everything is ready with the boat makes me sail better. Most times I have the boat rigged before we go out, but not last night and we had a couple little line/lead/gear issues that shouldn't have happened. This is probably just me being a control freak, but at least I can rationalize it, right?

Anyway, onto the new stuff. Last year was all about getting the gear right, this year I'm working more on crewwork/communication. One thing I picked up from a Dave Perry lecture was the notion of "speed loop" and "Tactical loop" as being 2 separate conversations with the driver over the course of a race. Brian Shaw and I usually make up the speed loop, mostly talking about helm feel upwind, and sheet pressure downwind. Last night we had Jennifer calling puffs (and she is very very good at that) and all of a sudden we had steady reliable info going into the speed loop, so that we had a little more preemptive trimming. It worked very well, except for the couple times her input and mine differed; not as contradiction but as different priorities. ie, she would say puff on (required an ease of traveler) just as I'd say traveler up (to climb a wave.) This was definitely the exception, and as a whole it was extremely effective, and opened my eyes to another way to manage info on the boat. In the future I'd like to get a set of eyes working on calling puffs upwind (Niki already does this downwind) and integrate that info into the speed loop.

Another interesting note from last night was the benefits of cross training on the boat (no Brian, you can't drive.) Jen is our bow for Saturday, and she's never really done that spot on a boat before (usually main trim or helm) so we had her doing the bow last night, with Niki on pit. Niki was able to talk through the gybes and sets, and it was beneficial for both. I'm really glad Jen asked for a couple practice gybes after the finish, as you could see her figuring out the nuances of the Shields (every now and then I forget that it's a weird weird boat) and it was cool to see Niki working through bow manoevers from another spot, as I think seeing it from back in the boat showed her quite a bit. I've always thought one of the best ways to improve skills you've already got is to teach someone else, as you always pick up a thing or two.

All in all a good night; comparatively warm (50's!) and good people always make it fun. Only black mark on last nights race was no taco's at CYC. WTF??? The Taco's are definitely the winner on the wed night menu. The offer a combination of quantity (3 tacos vs 1 burger) and versatility (both Niki and Jen do the Taco salad, which essentially means you fill up a plate with taco shells, meat and all of the condiments.) The lack of tacos last night, and possible lack of future tacos, means we'll have to make some adjustments in our tuning guide. Maybe a bratwurst substituion, or we take a flyer and head towards Broadway for sushi or mediterranean. I think we need to hire a coach to help us sort through issues like this.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

1, 2

Had some of the best Shields racing ever today, very challenging and close. A great day for the fleet as well, as we had 10 boats out racing despite the sloppy conditions.

First off though, yes, it was damn cold. According to someone on the RC boat, it was about 48 degrees. Add in the 10-15kt wind, and the waves over the bow and we were quite chilly. When I was handed a beer out of the cooler, it felt warm compared to the rest of my world!

Race 1 was about 10-12 kts, slight pin bias, with the breeze around 350. We started about a length off the pin with 150 tacking in below us. Not a whole lot of shifts in the first race, so we hung in for a while noting very little speed/height difference with the other boats around us. After some time on stbd we took a little hitch back in, which unfortunately cost us 150 who made good out left. It was a real battle for the top third of the beat, with us, 150 and 90 all in close contention. We ended up in a real odd hole and lost both boats in the last couple hundred feet. Kevin rounded cleanly ahead, and 90 tacked just below us on layline, but we were able to roll them to round second. Some nice trim and boathandling let us get to new breeze first and rolled 150 downwind. We rounded the bottom mark with a nice lead, and extended up and down to finish with a good delta over 150.

Second race we started pin again, and quickly ended up in an upwind match race with Kevin. We had a bit of speed on him, and were ahead enough to plant a leading leebow on him, but as it turned out that one move cost us the race, as he went back right and gained a couple lengths in the right shift. Pretty good racing when you can look back on one screw up and say it decided the race! Today showed that there's not a lot of speed difference between the boats, and that the boat that sails cleanest will probably win. We hung in there and kept attacking, but they held us off up and down to win by about 6-8 lengths. We had some fun match racing action when they luffed us a couple times before coming into the leeward mark. Pleased to see how quick our crew reacted, and that both the boats can play aggresive but clean. Also happy that despite the double luffs, we rounded a couple feet behind. If only we had been able to get right!

We used the newer main today, after checking it out on thursday. It's working fine after north midwest did their work to it, although we changed out to an even softer batten (actually the one from the old main since we forgot to bring the original!) and the sail looks even better. Hard to really feel tune today, since the waves were so big and sloppy, but we didn't feel slow. Headstay was around 48.5", with 350 on the lowers and 850 uppers.

Kevin's got 6 points to our 8, and theres one race left in the A series. Days like today really make having the boat worthwhile, as the racing is really intense and fun.