Sunday, September 27, 2009

Seasons End

We had the last 2 series races yesterday; an absolutely perfect way to end a year of sailing. It was forecast to be light westerly, and we had me, Niki, Jacob and Katie. I was looking forward to it as I wanted our last racing to be better than the OCS recovery we had at the end of Nationals, and because the light air would give us some time to tune the boat better for that condition.

Race 1: We had the season wrapped up, so today was the day I was going to ask our regular crew to drive, as they're all great sailors and would do well on the helm. Jacob was the only one available, so he drove race 1. After some practice on the way out, he got a great start and looked good upwind. I was doing main/spin, which is my favorite crew job on a Shields. It gave me a good chance to play with the new mast shape, and I felt like we had it going well. This was one of those races thats pretty boring to write about, as Jacob won the start, extended on every leg and then won by a giant margin. The funny thing was we rounded our last windward mark just as some Etchells were sailing downwind near us, and we spent the entire mile leg being next to the same 3 etchells while they luffed and rolled each other. We actually finished nucleus of a blob of 6 etchells, who seemed to be using us as a pick! I think next time we'll just drop chute and let them by, although it was pretty fun to watch them all jockey for position around us.

Next race was more exciting, probably too much soo. I drove this one, and really pooched the start when 39 came up from leeward and seemed intent on keeping both of us away from the favored pin. 130 won the pin, but was over early and had to restart. We sailed up on the favored board for a couple minutes, only to watch it become unfavored fast as 130, who restarted launched ahead out on the right. We were about 4th at this point, and got tacked on by just about everyone before we escaped right. We looked great, and seemed to be leading, but were chagrined to see the rest of our fleet sail to the short mark when we kept going for the long one! We reached down to the short mark in last place, made a couple gains playing the shifts, and rounded midpack again, only to have the boat ahead have a terrible rounding, on which we owed them room and had to sail about 4 lengths off the wind. All the boats behind caught up again, and we were last yet again. We were quick enough upwind to play the shifts and take the lead again, then we thankfully went to the correct mark with 196 ducking us at the mark (they sailed an awesome race, but lost their lift at the end and couldn't quite make it), extended downwind and then again upwind to finish with a nice margin, and again with a bunch of etchells. We now know what the heck the "W5b" course is! ps its 2x short course, then finish upwind.

It was a really satisfying day. The first race Jacob horizoned the fleet, and the second we had about 3 last-to-first rallys which made for some excitement. More satisfying is we really learned a couple new gears for light air upwind, and I'm looking forward to applying them next year. 88 won the season handily.

A bit bittersweet going off the water for the last real race, but we left the club right away to celebrate our first wedding anniversary, and had an awesome night on the town! We've got a couple daysails planned, and at least one more beercan on the schedule. For winter we've got a couple neat tricks to put in place, so there should be a few more tech updates.

Thanks to the crew of 88, as well as all the friends of Peanut who made this season a ton of fun.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Photos from the Big Chair

Erik Schneider is our regular PRO for One Design Racing, also Shields Nationals. While running the show he also managed to find a couple photos of us. While is down, please enjoy his images.

This is an _awesome_ Shields photo from a couple weeks ago on one of our heavy air days.

This is warming up for Day 3 of Nationals. As much as the purple chute has grown on me, I'm still surprised by it's purpleness in photos.
88 getting ready to do what it apparently does best: go upwind in slop
Our crew from earlier this year: me, Brian, Jocelyn, Jacob and Niki

Monday, September 21, 2009

Shields Nationals recap

Sailing Nationals was great fun, and great racing. One of the defining moments came when we were standing around the cranes helping out of town boats haul out. People were poking around other boats, talking setup here and there, all the while people (including the champ) are leaping off the seawall. Everyone was just so friendly, it really showed what our fleet was all about.

We had a good time on 88, but it's only fair to acknowledge we didn't have as good a result as we'd expected. After having 2 really excellent seasons in which we won just about everything we sailed against everyone we could I felt like we'd be top 5 at least, but we ended up 7th overall. That said, as Niki and talk about the regatta I think we're both really happy with our first Nats. The experience of getting to race against some of the best boats in our class was really thrilling. I always felt like we just outside the pack of 3 or 4 front runners, and if we had done just a little bit better we would have been up high in the results.

Good times aside, I really like to learn something constructive from every day of sailing, and we picked up quite a bit from this event. Some of the things we could be doing better:

-Light air upwind speed. For whatever reason we felt slow most of the time in light air. Lots of factors could be at work here, but I think the biggest one is that we just haven't sailed enough light air races! This seasons been really windy, and much of 08 was as well. We felt very well prepared for big breeze, but knew we were a bit weak in the light stuff. Looking at photos from the event, our sail setup usually looks a bit different than the really fast guys. We tend to have less headstay sag, and far more main leech return down low. One interesting thing from a measurement point of view, is that the boats that are at max partner aft/max step forward tended to do better on the later days of the event, and the ones with more moderate step positions tended to do better in the light. This seems like a good reason to experiment with blocking the mast at the partners, something we've been thinking about all season but only really tried once.

-Light air tactics on big courses. In Chicago we're used to the RC adjusting course length depending on wind strength. In big breeze we might do 4-5 mile courses, and in light air it's usually under 4. All of our races were started, and usually ended up around 6 miles. That means that on a 1.5m windward leg, you can had boats separated by up to that same mile and a half! Saying it pays to pick a side is an understatement. In the really light air stuff-like thursdays first race- the favored side was a huge advantage, but changed leg to leg! We tend to be a boat that plays the shifts, and usually ends up going up the middle of the course on the favored tack. After racing we realized we'd been tacking way too much, and some of the tacks were probably due to velocity headers more than actual shifts. Seems like patience is another thing we need in light air.

-laylines. We had 5 or 6 bad layline calls in which we saw boats sail right by us. Part of my usual upwind strategy is to have a really close top third of the beat where we come in in port late enough to really nail the tacking angles, which we didn't end up doing this regatta. Adding to that was all the extra boats around! Even if you called a good layline, you had to anticipate the traffic better as a good layline goes bad once a boat stacks up above or ahead of you.

Those were the couple big shortcomings on 88 I feel. Once the breeze was a little bit up on Saturday, we had 1 good race (2nd) in which we could power the boat up and punch through chop well, at the same time we could play the shifts the way the compass called.

There are far more good things to come out of this event than bad though, and in keeping with the great time we had there are areas we did really well in.

-Starts. Usually my weakest part of the leg, this turned out to be a really high point for us. Part of it was the out of town boats are used to starting in fleets this big, so they tend to go for their own best start instead of trying to mess with whoever happens to be to windward (the OCS we had in race 7 was actually when a Chicago boat sailed under us and took us up). The other part was picking our spot early, and coming in with lots of speed, but still taking big luffs when we needed to. I found myself really looking forward to the starts this regatta, and think it was a good confidence builder for the future.

-It never really blew over 12 or so even on the "windy" last day, but anytime the breeze was up a bit over 6kts I felt really fast both upwind and down. This makes a lot of sense, as most of our teams experience is in bigger breeze.

-Our team really kept it together when things looked bad. In my 10 years of Shields racing, I've been on the fleet3 season winning boat every year, so we've always been confident going into Nationals, and sometimes things go badly early and everyone melts down a bit. This weekend we certainly got tense, but never really lost control. I was really proud of Niki on the bow, as she kept the attitude on the boat light, and kept us working hard to get back what we might have lost. Everyone on 88 is a really good sailor, but they're on the boat because of attitude as well.

-Sponsoring this event with Chicago Yacht Rigging as title sponsor was really rewarding! We got great feedback from people who checked out our boat, and people seemed to really appreciate our involvement. I'd really like to be involved with future National events, as it's a great feeling to do something big for the class.

-Boathandling was great. We never really had bad moves all week, and I feel like we'd gain with every tack on other boats. A couple new tricks appeared on our boat, probably my favorite was how Jocelyn and Brian are working the main in tacks: Brian does a big traveler up to initiate the tack, at the same time Jocelyn is pulling like mad on the fine tune mainsheet. This gives us a lot of weather helm fast, which means I use less rudder as the boat turns up. After the tack, Jocelyn eases the fine tune mainsheet to the pretack postion, plus a bit, so we have a nice ease to sail down on after the tack. Downwind was really great too! We were using our weight really well, and Bam is awesome about timing (and throwing) the main through. Likewise Niki really nailed the gybes this week, and I always felt that we could put the boat wherever we wanted, regardless of how tough the move might be.

The tougher thing to describe was how thrilling the event was, to be getting such quality racing with so many boats in. I love sailing in Chicago, but our races are usually fairly straightforward; get ok start, sail course fast, and watch out for 1 or 2 boats who are near us. Racing 18 boats is only twice the number, but probably 10x the fun!

As an event it was a great success, and it was wonderful to meet so many enthusiastic Shields sailors. I think I met nearly everyone there, and they had nothing but nice things to say about CYC's runnign the event. A lot of that is due to Kevin from 150, who not only put together a great event, but managed to have the best Chicago finish is over 30 years, with a hard fought 2nd, only one point out of first! Great job Yankee Girl!

HL Devore won the event, and he's one of those guys who you're cheering for even if he plants a tack in your face. He's the outgoing (in more ways than one) class president, and has done a nice job for the class, and really deserved this win.

Perhaps the best part about the event was as soon as it was over, both Niki and I started talking about how to do the next one, as we're really hungry for more racing of this level.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Shields Nats done

Will write something better later, but Nats is over. It was a wonderful event, with great racing and camraderie. HL Devore, who is a larger than life character and super nice guy, won and we're really happy for him. 88 didn't do as well as we'd like but still had a great time. The last day was definitely the best, as we had a little more breeze and 88 got a 2nd, followed immediately by an OCS where we came back to 9th.

Big thing is I wanted to get info on the _awesome_ photos taken by Marc Anderson, his site is here:

Check them out!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Shields Nationals day 2

More light breeze for the first race today, about 5kts out of the northeast, again with a big favor to one side. Better wind second race at 8-12. We're still not having a great regatta with another 6 and an 8 to put us 8th overall. Our issue seem to be light air speed. Kind of wishing we'd saved the $ on the awlgrip for a bottom job lately! Once the breeze is up we're as good as anyone, but under 5kts we're a bit pokey. Have to say our crew work has been excellent, everyones really spot on. Surprisingly our starts, which were our concern going in have been great so far (knock wood!) Saw Robin Monk (past nat champ from newport) really pick it up after a disappointing day yesterday with 2 bullets.

Looking forward to today, as we've got better breeze forecast, and theres a lot of close races that should get worked out. We've got some close points with other boats, but will be just trying to get some improved finishes. While the regatta isn't going as well as we'd like, it's great racing and we're having fun in our first nats.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Shields Nats Day 1

Day 1 is done, the racing is very high quality but the wind is a bit less cooperative! 3 races today, started racing in about 3 kts, which over 1.5mile legs takes a _long_ time. The first race took about half the day, with lots of shifts from around 90 to 40. We got ourselves in trouble by tacking a bit too much trying to stay in phase, where it seemed like the leading boats picked a side early and stuck to it. Not saying we should have done that, especially as the good side was different each leg! Felt a lot like rolling the dice for race 1, and we ended up 13th!

Race 2 was a bit more breeze (around 5kts) and we did a little bit better coming in 6th. This was another tough one, as I felt like everytime we tacked the wind went the other way. During the season I felt like we had a lot of little gifts, where we'd tack and get a surprise lift, today I think was the payback as we got a bit of the flip side.

Race 3 the wind filled in a bit more at about 6-8 kts, and we had a better one again, seeming to be around 3rd much of the race. The last leg we rounded 4th, but managed to give away 2 spots in the last 200'. Ouch!

Tomorrow is forecast more of the same in the AM but building up a bit in the afternoon. I feel our speed is fine, boathandling is fine, and think we just need to tighten up our tactics to improve.

Monday, September 14, 2009

New boats in town

3 boats arrived today from the east coast. Pics to follow tomorrow.

White Rabbit #238 has changed colors to a light gray, a shade lighter than Peanut. Apparently it's picked up a nickname of "gray hare." Neat. Really striking; gray hull, gray bottom paint, no bootstripe. Very much a ghost boat, hope we don't have foggy days as it should photo well (if you can find it!)

Syrinx #239 belongs to Bill Berry, who's won 2x Nat's in the last 3 years, and come in second a ton of times. It has the most perfect bottom/keel I've ever seen. If you touch the surface, your skin tingles a bit. They've done some neat stuff with their mainsheet, going 2:1 gross tune and 4:1 fine. This means they can trim and turn really damn quick, but have to use the fine tune in lighter airs than we do. I considered this for 88, but kind of chickened out as it's a pretty big main for 2:1, and our main trimmer is my size.

Freedom #255 has got to be one of the prettiest Shields around. Flag Blue (I think), gold stripe, waterline and red bottom. Just looks classic. Makes me want to don an ascot. Actually I don't actually know what an ascot is, but it seems like something one wears when one has a postcard quality yacht.

Saw 239 and 150 go out for a sail in about 5 kts. Looked fun! I'm really itching to sail, which I guess is the point of taking a bunch of time off from the boat before the big event. Mark P from 63 was joking about us not sailing for a while being like the way athletes rest before a big event. I didn't want to say anything then, but thats exactly the point!

By the way, here are all the photos from our powerboat adventure (thanks CMRC, happy to make that trade anytime!) And I do mean ALL the photos, as in 471 of them. Highlights would be the start photos and the fog photos. We also zipped over to the big boat course and captured 88 crew Katie A finishing 1st in the J105's. Go K.

Helped out 130 today as they made a couple last minute changes, such as our spinnaker sheet ratchets and 2:1 jib sheeting. I sailed with that family for years and really have high hopes for them at Nat's. They've been pretty damn fast when they have the whole team together this year, so they should do well. Kevin on 150 has a great team too, with Ryan coming into town, and when those two get together it's usually rocket fast. I really feel like fleet 3 has grown a lot the last 3 years or so, so we should do well as a group at Nats.

More updates tomorrow as I measure the boats and meet more teams, this is really exciting to have Nationals in our pond!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Prep day

Nationals starts in 3 days holy cow! Although the last 2 years of racing have been the best of my life, we did after all buy 88 with the purpose of racing a Nat's in our backyard, and it's finally here. Getting very excited, the boats in good shape, the team is great and I feel ready. Ready especially after today, as Niki and I spent several hours on the dirtiest (and slimiest, don't forget the slime) parts of the boat.

First we stripped all of the non essential gear (and beercans) off the boat. Bam keeps telling me that my boat is "cluttered" so I keep cutting lines shorter and taking more gear off. Hopefully it's uncluttered now, as I have no idea what else could possibly come off the boat! Then we gave the boat the most thorough wash of its life (it gleams!) and pulled it over to the crane.
I really like this shot, as the boats just look so weird out of the water! Once the boat was out we gave it a good scrub and sand, followed by some Harken Hullkote. I really don't know if the hullkote does anything on a bottom as rough as ours, or over VC17, but it sure made us feel fast while we got washer-womans elbow putting it on!
A recurring theme in this blog is that my wife rocks, as it was her idea to buy the boat, but I think getting covered in algae and bottom paint may be a new high (low?) for us. This was actually kind of fun, and it's nice knowing the boat is as prepped as it possibly can be.

See, our boat really does get cleaned!

Protest update: The protest from C3 was reopened, and in the end 88, 150, 90, and 63 were DSQ'd. I'm 100% sure that we were never properly protested, and that we weren't signaled a course change. I trust everyone in our fleet, and have no problem believing that they sailed the course they were given, but we didn't get that course. I submitted my testimony by email (mistake) and didn't go to the reopened hearing. The markset boat driver claims he was on station, sounding horns, and had someone jumping up and down on the bow waving (what?) and that we are a dark boat with a purple/pink/purple spinnaker (thats actually a Luders 16.) I've always been fascinated by the wide variations in how people can see the same event (like a protest, or a car accident.) Our season result is still safe, but I was a bit bummed to hear that we were DSQ'd, as we're sure the RC made a mistake, and that what the markset boat driver said was incorrect. 2 lessons here, one is if you care about the rules, go to the protest hearing! Two is that protests are ugly, and can end in ways that make no sense, so it's best to not get into them in the first place, although thats kind of irrelevant here since we sailed that race right, led every mark and still got a 12. I guess a third lesson is that it's best to let these things go and get on with your life! I had a really fun day with Niki, and at least I can look back on that race fondly, as we did sail well and had a good time.

It's all about Nat's from here on out, as our season is secured. Pray for big breeze!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Aft bulkhead holes fix

A Shields sank in Edgartown this summer, so the national class is asking fleet measurers to crack down on perforations in the bulkheads. One of the many things required on the Nationals entry measurement form is checking these out so they comply with this rule:

Perforations - Bulkheads
Perforations in the fore and aft bulkheads are permitted. Such perforations shall be made watertight while racing. One or two small holes not to exceed 3/8 inch in diameter may be drilled as close as possible to the top of the aft bulkhead to accommodate lines for trimming the backstay. (See Specifications 7.2, 10.1)

About half our fleet is in some small violation of this rule, and I let everyone know by email that some boats would have to fix this. Within about 5 minutes much of our fleet had gotten in touch with me by phone or email, kinda freaking out. Here are some fix tips:

First step when in violation of this rule is do not freak out and call me!

Second step is fix the holes. Old holes are easy, you can either fill them with epoxy, or close the hole up with a bolt and washer on each side of the bulkhead. 88 has a combination of these fixes.

The big stainless washed is covering the 1/2" hole left by the original backstay line. There is a 1/4" bolt holding the washers in place, with a nut on the back. Make this tight and put sealant below the washers.

The smaller hole between the 2 blocks has been filled and sealed with epoxy. The super easy way to do this is to wash out the hole with acetone, put tape on the front face of the bulkhead, then pack it with very thick epoxy or aggressive sealant from the back of the bulkhead. Let it dry, then tear the tape.

The holes where the line goes through are about 5/16" so we're fine there. If your line holes are larger you can make a gasket out of 1/8" plastic or G10, drill a 3/8" hole through it, glue it in place and clamp. Once dry, run your line through. Or, you can do the epoxy trick above, and then redrill your line hole.

Third step is really, really don't freak out and call me all at once.

Here are photos of how boats are in violation:

Shields 88 2009 Setup photos

Bam took some good snaps of our setup from last week, and I thought I'd put them here. The boat is setup to its "final" version, for 2009 anyway! All of this seems to work pretty well, and is better than the traditional gear.

Our console area took a lot of tweaking (not all the extra holes in the wood!) but it seems to work well now. The cleats on risers are for the 2:1 jib sheets, and the angle is critical so that the trimmer can sheet from the windward rail. The topper and downhaul are in the center, with extreme angle fairleads so that the lines can be cleated or released from anywhere on the boat. The vang is on a pennant so that the cleat is up in the air, and easier to release in "oh s%#t!" situations. That was Bam's idea. The cunningham is 2:1 through the sail cringle, and another 2:1 to a cleat, which is mounted to the mast by way of 2 metal slugs. The jib halyard setup works pretty well, and is a lot easier to get to than the stock way.

Above is our 2:1 jib sheets in action. They're really nice, and one person can tack the jib really quickly, and be able to trim it in solo in light and moderate air. Critical is the load sensing ratchets (do _not_ try to use regular ones) and the low profile ti-lite blocks, which let you sheet in all the way. Only funny thing about this is that the jib trimmer has to be ahead of the pit person upwind. It would be perfect for a 4 person team!

Our main trimmer area hasn't changed much at all, just new line on the twings. I really like this setup for both spin sheets and main controls. Note one of the most important 88 tricks in the bag on the shelf there; a baggie of Advil! I think we're probably the hardest hikers in the fleet, and it makes for speed in the big air and waves. And it helps certain members of the crew who have reputations for showing up hungover.

The mainsheet gross and fine tune seemed to work out really well. I like the ratchet 90% of the time, the only concern is at windward mark roundings. One thing we're going to start trying is having our 3rd crew trim the finetune hard in tacks, and then release once we're through the tack. One little extra oomph upwind, and then an easy ease to power up.

Beercan 9-2

Just about the nicest night for a beercan we've had yet. 70 degrees, about 4-6kts out of the northeast. We had 150, 88, 90, and 45 out to play. On our boat we had Niki on bow/jib, me on spin/main and Jacob drove. It was a reach/beat on port to the first mark, with the start being so boat favored as to be uncrossable on starboard. We got caught outside the pin and started behind 150, which is where we stay all night! We did roll 90 which was nice. Jacob did a great job on helm and we seemed pretty quick, but just couldn't reel in the blue boat. Finishing order was 150, 88, 90, 45. Got some cool photos: