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:

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. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Final beercan 2011

The crew of 88 got together for one last go round, and it was a really nice night to bundle up and sail with friends.  We didn't do
any match racing, or beat up on the phrf boats, but did do 2 laps pretty much in the dark.

Because I'm me,  we rigged up an 6:1 adjustable jib tack to play with the cut clew jib.  Turns out not all is lost, we just have to run the tack pretty high when we're running lots of rake.  I think the magic number is going to be around 7.5", which seems crazy but the jib actually sets up ok. Compared to the first tryout the sail looks a lot better, before the tighest we could get the leech was about 15deg open!

Andy, Katie and Jacob.

We have one more race on october 8th (!) which is the final day of RYF racing.  Hoping to get another shot at racing with the recut jib and we'll see how it flies.

Monday, September 26, 2011

C series day 2 (can't win em all)

C Series 3 and 4 this weekend, under strange and occasionally terrifying conditions.  The good news is we clinched the season (up until the end of the first race there was the unlikely chance that CYC would get 3 races per day for the rest of the year, and if we DNF'd all we could lose first) The bad news is I almost had a perfect season driving, and we got two 2nd places to a very well sailed 196.

The weather was pretty sketchy, not in terms of wind but due to storms.  On the way out to the course we saw lightning to the west, north and south, as well as multiple waterspouts (!) several miles away.  Wind was around 5kts, but with considerable chop.

Day got off to a bad start waiting around for the storms to stay or go, and it made things a bit tense on the boat.  We had some trouble getting tuned up, as we made the call to not change from our beercan main before sailing, as well as having had the clew of the jib recut (heard e coast boats do this to get keep the 2:1 from 2 blocking)  Never did get the main feeling right, and I think we messed up the jib by making the change. Oops.

First start was almost great, as we'd won the pin on port tack, and looked good until I asked to make sure we were crossing and heard "yes" "no" and "!" all at the same time so crash tacked only to realize we tacked directly in front of the boat we were concerned about.  One thing I need to get better at is coming back from tough spots, and even though we were leading the race at this point I have to say I was pretty rattled and had visions of fiberglass repair in my head from that point on.  We regained the lead briefly, but lost it again to 196 who sailed incredibly fast and didn't do anything dumb.

Second race we started poorly, and pretty much followed 196 around to watch them win by a very comfy margin.  They did great, and really moved up and downwind.

Learned a couple things.  Most relate to preparation/planning and attitude.  We have the most fun when we push ourselves the hardest.  Doing things like slacking on the bottom (hasn't been cleaned since July) and racing with the wrong main and an untested recut are out of character for us, and it made the day kind of frustrating.  Some people seem to do best when they stop caring and race "for fun", ie not to win, but I don't think that works for our group.  Lesson learned there!  One more race day and one more beercan, so can go out again to close off the season properly.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Peanut goes PHRF

While we were planning another match racing beercan,  the wind (it was 15-20) the start (another downwind) and the crew (we had 5, and despite best attempts cannot divide by Andy) combined to make it seem fun to go play PHRF and start with the big boats in Spin 1.

A nice bearaway start saw us mixed in with Eagle and Norboy, who quickly left us behind.  We had GPS running, and (in knots, har har) it turns out we go 5-7kts downwind in this, and around 5.5kts upwind.  We did 2 laps, and it was a gorgeous night;  clear sky, not too cold, all the planes in the sky lining up overhead.  Really pleasant sailing, and it turns out our PHRF rating IS as ridiculous as we thought as we beat the next boat by 4min corrected (and a few big boats over the line as well)

Above is a Dave Sincox shot of the lonely little Shields out for one of the last races of 2011

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sheldon Clark Win

Today we sailed 3 races with 3 wins to take the Sheldon Clark regatta, as well as the Nutting Cup (hee hee) which is a combined score from the Memorial Day (1) regatta and todays SC.

It was originally another ho-hum forecast, but last night and today it got bumped to 15-20kt with 2-4 chop.  I was both excited and nervous about this.  We've always been fast with more breeze, and big breeze is fun, but we hadn't have much practice at all in it, so would be going in a little rusty compared to the other teams who had big air for the Verve Cup last month.

Lots of good racing today, with us, 45, 196 and 150 out.  Although it was only 4 boats, they were the top 3 boats from the season, and Kevin, who's always fast.  We did well at starts and had decent speed, but we all were a little clumsy at boathandling, especially downwind.

Tuning was 48" on the headstay, 800 uppers, around 250 lowers.  We felt fast in the first race (~18kts with monster waves) but felt a bit sluggish once the breeze dropped to below 15 I found the boat hard to drive, wanting power.  I think I should have gone to 48.5 on the headstay, even with the chop, as the main was plenty deep at 48", and I could have used more helm/rake.  It was me, Jacob, Katie and Niki at ~600lbs total.

Jacob had the GoPro camera out, so I'm really hoping to have some cool video from today.  Some of the waves were real monsters!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Battle of the ratchet blocks update

After a summer of sailing with 1 Harken Ratchamatic and 1 Ronstan Orbit ratchet, we've got lots of feedback on both designs.

It's been a really light summer for racing, so both blocks didn't really see much in the way of wear, but they both look about the same as when installed.  This includes Ronstans dyneema link soft attachment.

Holding power: the Ronstan is defintiely grippier on our 8mm New England Flightline spin sheets, in fact it's a little bit too grippy in really light air, which is our principle problem with it.  The Ronstan is switchable, so in theory we could turn off the rathet, but in practice we did that once, although it disengaged my accident at least one time.  The rest of time, the ratchet engages with too little load, and holds on too tight. This was moderately annoying in light air gybes, but caused a few very slow takedowns when the rathet would grip the sheet while we were trying for a port douse.

The Harken's auto engagement is adjsutable, but we left it in whatever the stock setting is and had no issues with the holding power.

If we were in a heavy air venue, maybe it would be different, but for now I think the Harken is the better choice for spinnaker sheets on the boat.

We're going to swap the Ronstan ratchet into our 2:1 jib sheet system for another comparison.  I think it may fare better there, as it does have more "grip" and the extra snagginess will be less of an issue on the jib since its both higher load and less travel.


Another really fun night of competition and practice between 88's crew.

We borrowed 63 a little tentatively tonight, as the forecast was for 15-30kts out of the NE complete with small craft advisory.  When we got rigged and sailing it was actually a wonderful night, around 8-12 but with some odd angle large swell.

A downwind start had me completely lost as to the right call, but Jacob had no problems.  We were caught out above the line, and Jacob sailed from course side @ 1:30 or so, luffed us up and had his pick of timing as to when to start.  In talking with him after it's clear what to do now: Jacobs plan was to sit on starboard, below and outside the pin layline, then sail up and enter clean.  After he saw us high of the line though, it was an easy call to sail up and sit below us.  Quite a learning move for me, and Jacob executing perfectly.

Downwind I was looking forward to practicing the wingonwing sailing, and I felt we were a touch faster downwind doing it, but not by enough to pass on the .6mi downwind leg which was mostly stbd.  Seeing this, we gybed and went to a 2 sail reach, and then gybed back about 10 lengths separated as Jacob matched our gybe but not our angle.  I was hoping that coming back with waves (due to the odd angle) would be faster. It worked (barely) as we came back with a piece of 63 who was still on port and low, and were able to force them to gybe into a nice fat overlap.  We held them to port layline, and the second that Jacob went up for separation we gybed and led in easily.

After the bottom mark we tacked to match Jacob, and couldn't quite hold on to our good position and had to tack away, but it was into much better pressure and angle and we had a huge lead by the top mark.

We switched drivers and put Katie on helm, and had a nice downwind run included a circle to clsoe things up.

On the upwind we gave it away a bit with too many tacks, and ultimately leebowed 63 badly, and they were able to sail us past the finigh so that we had to go gybing.  It was textbook good sailing by 63 once the boats were close.

I really got a lot of of this night, picking up good starting and boat on boat tactics. I feel that the boats are relatively even in heavy air, even though we have 88 better tuned for the light (according to a month agos) racing.  I might have the edge driving and trimming up, and Jacob is better on tactics, starting and position.  Good recipe for improvement, as I think we're both learning and getting better, as we race hard on beercans but still want to keep things close so we get lots of action.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

C Series 1 and 2

It had been quite a while since we'd taken Peanut out, so much so that when we got out to the boat we found it was struggling to do its submarine impression: the waterline was completely submerged and the floorboards were floating!  A long slow bail out, and then a long slow trip out to the race course.  There was bout 4kts out of the SE, but for some reason we were racing 5 mi off shore, so starts didn't hapeen until 1130ish.

We had 4 boats to race against with 130, 196 and 67, so they combined us with the luders.  We wanted to get right asap, so we were going to start at the hopefully less crowded boat and tack, but then had 67 below and a luders parked right in front of us, ack!  We got free, go to the right but ended up following 130 around, who really stuck it to us for the first 2 legs. Heading into the leeward mark, we saw them sticking it super low downwind, with a very difficult turn ahead of them, so took the chute down early and set up outside, only to shoot between them and the mark as they couldn't quite pull off "wide the tight"

Next race I wanted to try a port tack start, but 130 was right at the pin, so we had to duck, then leebowed (Jacob thinks rather closely) another Luders!  It was  a bizarre race, as for the longest time it was us, then the red luders, then the shields fleet, then more luders.  Guess they're  quick in light air?  Halfway through the race the boats other owner Niki wanted to drive so we switched and I went on the bow.  It's really nice up there, and I spaced out a bit staring at the sky, while Niki learned about sheet pressure with Jacob.

We now have 12 points,  with second place @ 36.

Hoping to have some cool multimedia from Jacob, as we're trying a GoPro camera with a GPS overlay from Jacobs crappy phone.

In the meantime, heres the happy crew of 88, at least half of which is a tad hungover. Video below,  I wish you could hear commentary on the "holy cow we have to leebow a luders?"

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Field Trip pt 2

Had more breeze for Sunday, with a different crew. Aaron drove, I did middle and we had Doug B up front. It was 15-20 NE, with nice big waves. Results were better, and nothing broke.

First race we got a pretty decent start, got out towards the front of the pack and then picked off the 2 boats nearby, then covered to hang on to the win. Best part of the day was surfing downwind, as huge pumps on the spin sheet was getting us on waves for 5-10 seconds at a time. Lot of work but lots of fun! Got to watch Aaron drive the boat and picked up a better feel for the ETchells in air upwind.

Second race we started ok, but the wind was down a bit, which meant we were on the wrong jib upwind, and couldn't surf as well downwind, especially the 2nd run. I picked the wrong side on the 2nd beat, which cost us 2 boats, and since the surfing was less effective we only got 1 back downwind for a 5th.

Lots of lessons learned from the weekend, and I had a really good time.

1) Not that this was news, but make sure the boats ready to go when the breeze comes up! This includes preventative maintenance (6yr old outhaul with short ugly splices) and setup (tape all shackles when i ndoubt!)

2) Sail selection is key on this boat. I thought Aaron was crazy when he made us turnaround and head back in to the harbor with 20 mins before the first start to change jibs, but we had great speed in race 4 with the heavy. In the other 2 races (1 and 5) we had the heavy up when the breeze was in the mid/low teens and were slower. Part of that was my new-driverishness in race 1, but Aaron was slower in r5 too.

3) Upwind the Etchells feels very similar to our boat when setup. Downwind is a different beast. In big breeze/waves on the Shields, the key is trim and drive the boat to keep it DDW and not rocking/broaching. The Etchells really wants to be sailed up and down waves in order to go fast. It was completely possible to go from a length behind to a length ahead in 3 waves if handled properly. I would need to go practice this driving, but really got into it crewing and had a blast pulling the boat over waves.

I really had a blast, and looking back picked up a lot of good info about the boat. If I could do it again, we would have gone practicing friday night with Aaron as opposed to dogsitting the insomniac dog from hell. I also would have preffered to switch my day of helming for Sunday, as crewing on the boat gave lots of insight into helming the boat. Although we really missed having the Shields out in the nice conditions, I had a really good time and look forward to trying again someday.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Field Trip! Verve Cup Inshore on an Etchells

88s regular crew was unavailable for the Verve, so initially I wasn't going to sail, but then our friend Aaron was completely short crew for his Etchells, so he went with him.

He'd said I could drive, which was exciting, as we had a good time last time we sailed his boat in 09. Somehow we convinced Niki to take some time off from work to sail sat, and sunday Aarons partner Dan was going to come out.

Saturday was a unique experience, with a number of firsts. Not first places, just firsts.

First, I got as close to a big collision as I've ever been. In a borrowed boat. In the first prestart.... There was a j24 sailing through the start, and we luffed over him to avoid, and then found ourselves aimed square at Russ's Etchells. The boat didn't turn up as fast as I thought it would, so I did kind of a crash bearaway, and we came about 4" from Russ' backstay. Glad Aaron was there!

We got a pretty late start after that, but legged out right, and looked ok for a while. Apparently we had the wrong jib up, with our heavy jib up instead of the medium which would have been appropriate, but the boat was actually ok to drive. We rounded around 5th, but then slid a bit downwind. The Etchells is a LOT more sensitive to angle downwind i nwaves, as a tiny bit of steering means surfing a wave or falling through it. The Shields is more about keeping the rig over the boat than hunting waves, so it was a useful experience. Aaron said the jib makes a big difference here, but I'd say not being used to the boat was bigger. It took me until the second beat to figure out how to cross the boat properly! The interesting thing is it needs a LOT more helm to turn than our boat (remember the prestart?) so you actually step in front of the tiller, as theres lots of room when it's hard over. We finished 7th or 8th in that race, and switched jibs for the next race.

Another lousy start on my part, then about 4 minutes after the start we heard a loud bang, and our outhaul broke. We continued to sail the upwind, and despite having no outhaul, plus Aaron on the stern trying to rig something, we rounded midpack. The next upwind wasn't as good, and realizing we were last, we retired from the race to fix the outhaul.

Aarons approach was pretty bold for this, but it did work. We dropped all sails, removed the main from the boom, opened up the boom, upended it and shook like crazy, in order to get the internal outhaul pennant towards the end of the boom. Once we could see it I used a batten and leatherman to snag the bit of outhaul remaining, which we were able to thread through the sheave and get working. At this point we'd drifted about a mile, but luckily were right on top of the RC, and felt like nauseous heroes for getting it fixed. We were into the prestart, so went for our jib, only to hear another, softer pop as the jib halyard shackle let go with the jib halfway up. Niki think the flogging while drifting, as well as the halyard wrapping around the headstay, must have caused it to pop free. On our boat we're used to spool shackles, but I think on boats with the RWO/Racelite/whatevers you need to be religious about taping everything.

THinking the halyard hadn't completely skyed, I made it up to the spreader before getting yelled at to come down. We thought about rigging a little safety line with the spin halyard to make it up, but at 2:55 in the prestart this seemed unlikely to get us racing in time. We sailed in, fixed the boat, and had a bunch of free drinks. Have to say the Verve Inshore people did a great job with the regatta to date, and I've never seen so many racers around after sailing.

Today I'm doing bow, having made a bit of a disgrace as a helm. Still had a good time, and looking forward to Team Fireplace doing better today with Aaron, Dan S and myself.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Beercanning with Shields Fleet 88

Beercans this year have mostly been a solo cruise around the course for us, as our fleet has been really disappointing in terms of getting out to sail and practice. Not saying it hasn't been fun, but it's a bit rough to see all the other boats out and not one other Shields. We've worked on tuning, and boathandling, and goofing around, and even considered starting with the PHRF boats (it would our Shields, rating 174,vs a farr 40 (-12) and a Sydney 38 (27)

The last 2 weeks have been great fun though, and thats because we've split our crew, and borrowed boats to do some Shields match racing. Mark loaned us 63, and last week Jacob and Andy took it out to race against Niki and I. A downwind start made for and interesting luff by Jacob, that we got over just in time to lead around the course. The consensus is that 88 was much faster upwind, and 63 was a bit higher. This gives us some data to retune 63 next time it's light.

Last night we mixed it up with me, Niki and Brian on 63, and Jacob, Katie and Andy on 88. Quite windy, around 10 gusting to 20 something, so we did jib and main only. Another downwind start, which I felt we won by being at the dw end of the line, but Jacob on 88 showed much better downwind speed through being able to keep the jib winged out, a skill I don't quite have down yet. After 10 years of racing Shields, it's great to find new tricks to work on! They rounded ahead by about 4 lengths, but split tacks with us, and we were able to get clear air and be inside on a shift. 63 seemed faster upwind in this condition, and we got a nice little lead, only to have to duck a t10 right into the opposite shift, in which they crossed us and layed the mark. They held on to win the race by a bunch. It was really good racing, and very good practice as we picked up a couple bits of info.

-as tuned, 63 is slower upwind in the light, and faster and considerably higher in the heavy. We're going to change tune and switch up drivers and see if we can't get both boats going faster next time.

-talking to Jacob the trick to winging is to push higher until the jib backs, whereas I naturally go lower to fill being used to the chute. Kind of a "duh" moment after we talked about it, but in both races so far I've driven a lot worse downwind than J. I really want to try this some more, as you never know what can happen so that you'll have to sail kiteless.

-One difference everyone has commented on is the jib sheets. 88 has 2:1 sheeting, cleated on the console. 63 has the traditional winches on the side deck. We all agree that we're used to 2:1, and prefer it, but my thinking is that (assuming enough time with both) the winch setup is faster to tack in heavy, and probably advantaged in over 15kts, and the 2:1 is better in the ligheter pressure, as you can can ease and trim the sheet due to the purchase and position. I definitely have no plans to swtich back to winches.

Next week I think I'm sailing in a neat interfleet event in Chicago Yacht Clubs Sonars, but after that I'm really looking forward to more of the "inhouse" racing for 88. We now have 3 potential drivers with Brian around, and 4 loaner boats, so this could get to be pretty good racing!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

End B Series

We finished the B series with another win today, had a great time doing it.

Started ~8kts, racing was between 4 and 12 I'd say. We had the 08 main and the 09 jib and spin. Tuned to almost slack on lowers, and 50" headstay, just to see if it would work. It did and we felt quite fast. The headstay length is a bit of an experiment, and it wasn't slow, not sure if it's any faster than a shorter length though. Keep in mind that number works for us only because we're max step fwd and max partner aft. The other experiment was in me trimming traveler upwind on the last leg. I was doing it mostly to have something to hold on to while hiking, but in trimming and easing it I found it actually was ok to balance the helm with. May try that again sometime, although probably not without some breathing space in case I stuff it up!

We wanted to be 1/3rd off the boat, and got that start. I feel a lot more confident living in tough spots @ starts this year, and today was good practice. 196 started right below us and a touch advanced, but we had better speed, and in fact pressed with traveler down to roll over and pop out ahead.

First beat was huge shifts, and we did a mostly good job staying on top of it. Rounded first in good breeze, only to watch the boats behind (130, 196) fall into a huge hole at the mark. Neat!

Extended to finish ahead by a nice big margin.

We now have 10 pts to 2nd's 34, with only the c series to go.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

week 2 B Series

Today was a lot of waiting around: we finally started at 245ish, just 15 minutes before the time limit.

Conditions 3-6kts NE at around 40-70degrees. Due to the wait we lost 2 boats to attrition and it was just 88, 45, 196 and 67

It was really the ideal kind of race to have count for results, but not too exciting. We won the pin on a very long start line, tacked to cross the fleet, and then extended for the rest of the race. Boats finished exactly as well as they started.

We had our 08 main, and 09 jib up. The newer north jib is actually pretty nice, but not as flat or sheetable as the quantum jib, but still fast.

Headstay continued our longer trend, and was at 49.75, with only enough backstay upwind to keep it steady. Shim was 1/2" aft. Main was nice and open, flying 50-75% on the top tell. 2nd beat we sailed with a much looser outhaul, and it added a lot of power and helm.

Jib was 2 blocked most of the day, with the headstay we had that means it was about 0-2" in from the spreader tip.

We now have 9 pts, which is a pretty big lead with the season half done.

Next week the Shields fleet pulls out a keg after racing!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

B Series 1 2 3

Good day racing yesterday, nice variety of conditions, good competition and had a good time.

Me, Katie on main spin, Andy on jib/pit, Niki on bow.

Morning started kinda irritating with a slow start out of the harbor, and a tow that had tacking angles, but we finally got out into some sailable breeze, about 4kts @100deg.

We were tuned similar to the last race, with a headstay at 49.5, lowers slack, uppers 800 and a 1/2" shim aft.

Got the most perfect start ever... almost. We were going super fast right at the pin end, but were OCS as our time didn't match the RC; first we were late, then we were early. Big bearaway and gybe to port and we were off. Caught a nice righty about 5 minutes in and were back to 3rd, behind 196 and 150. Lost a little ground working out speed, but then saw both lead boats continue right past our (short) mark! We rounded the proper mark with 45 just behind, and led the rest of the race as the breeze built up to around 5kts. This weekend saw the return of 150, and looking back we saw them go way out of their way to round the short mark correctly, even though 196 kept sailing without rounding anything. Both boats ended up doign the right thing, as 150 rounded and 196 RAF'd when both me and Sam from 45 talked to them about it. Have to say hats off to my crew, as when we saw the lead boats go for the long mark I was really second guessing the "S" we saw on the course board, but they stood their ground against a nervous skipper and it saved the day for us.

There were a few key shifts this day, and we kept missing them at the start, as we got a nice boat end start, only to realize that in the 5 minutes since the warning it had gone left some, and we were crossed by 150 who started port. We rounded right behind them and did an aggressive bearawy to set up just behind, but much lower than they were. We were really even on speed, but set up inside so that we could gybe on them, roll and round inside and ahead. We legged out a bit on the upwind and then held on to win the race. It's been good to have Kevin back racing, as even with some dog sails he's going REALLY quick, and it's made for good tuning and racing.

Missed another key shift at the start of the 3rd race, which started in around 8kts, but was able to pull out a bit and barely cross Kevin. We extended upwind and down, and won the race, finishing in a huge (for 2011) 14kts or so. We'd changed tune a bit for race 3, having shortended headstay to 49" and added 1/2 turn to the lowers, and gone to a 1/4" shim behind the mast.

Good day for our scoreline looks good at 8pts to 196 in second with 27 (counting the RAF) but more importantly a perfect day of weather, with lots of good competition. Need more days like today!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Small breeze big fun a series 3 and 4

Today was a lousy weather day: no breeze in AM, peaked at like 8kts, but still a great day for sailing. We won both races, and more importantly had a hoot and learned a lot as a team.

Had me driving, niki at bow, kate on main/spin and andy on jib.

First race we got a good start, but didn;t quite have upwind speed down, and rounded 4th. Took advantage of a giant righty and gybed after rounding, passing 3 boats nearly instantly. Ended up rounding 1st at bottom, and held on to lead.

Tune wise we felt fast: had new Quantum jib up, which is super flat and awesome in light/flat conditions. Couldn't really get main working though, and it was tough to fly top telltale without easing main too far or pulling on too much backstay, so after first race I added a whole toggle (2") to headstay, and then shortened it just a bit (for a total length of 50.25.

Started next race at what was the favored boat end, only to see a huge left drop in and make us last. We tacked out, and realized an incredible speed and height advantage. The extra rake meant the mast had more bend to it, and the main finally (after years and a recut) looked good. We extended and extended and finished with the crew mixup that had me on bow, Katie driving, Niki trimming and Andy on tactics.

Learned a lot today;

Cleaned the bottom, and even though it's only june we had serious agriculture going on down there. I hadn't cleaned it all year, and I think it made a big diff.

our max legal partners and step really need more headstay than I thought. We were inches longer than usual and it was insanely fast upwind. Had 50.25 on headstay, and a 1/4" shim behind mast and could do no wrong.

With people in new positions we worked on trim a lot, and found some fast settings, especially for tacking. Andy was easing the jib after tacks well outside the spreader, and then doing very slow (depending on breeze) trims as speed built. Same thing on main, as Katie realyl got the hang of tackign the boat.

Downwind I really like the "top/middle/bottom" type of communication, and we felt quite fast doing it.

We now have 5 points, and are in first, with second having 11.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A series 2

Bizarre, strange, weird day of racing! Super light and shifty, and I think we only led the race for a combined 400', but at least they were the right 400' and we won the days only race.

We started one race, which turned into a reach to the mark and was thankfully abandoned. The second start was squared up a bit, and we got a good position but slow start, and had to bail out to the right. At this point it was the "windiest" at around 6kts, and we felt good out right until one of the days many shifts came through, and put us behind 196 and 45 at the top mark, with 63 just behind. We gybed out from 63 and happened in some lucky patches of puff and angle and passed 45, and in doing a few more gybes over the top of 196, I think we actually passed them for a bit, but then overdid it and overstood stbd layline a bit, and rounded behind 196, and ahead of 45 (who gave us room although they didn't have to) Then things got weirder, as despite rounding 4 lengths behind (but with a tighter rounding) we got wound up hard inside 196, and actually went from straight astern to 2 lengths ahead. 130, who came from nowhere to get inside of us after the rounding, then charge on by on the inside, while 196 had lots of pace outside, and then we were in third. (!??) 196 tacked and crossed us to go inside, while we continued out right with 130. This proved good, as when we tacked back we crossed both 196 and 249, who had apparently come from way deep to be close to the leaders. Once we approached stbd layline we tacked, and got tacked on by 130. Then things got weirder, as the breeze dropped to nil on the water, with a tiny bit up top. In essentially zero kts, we were all stacked up on the stbd layline (130, 88, 196,149) to what was now a shortened windward finish. We made fwd progress of about 4'/min for a while, until there was a tiny bit of breeze to work with. We ended up passing 130 incredible slowly, and ghosted over the finish line within about 30 seconds of what we figured the time limit to be. Quite intense racing, despite the snails pace, especially watching the RC boat guys watch the line, while one of them frantically looked at the GPS for timing. Today gave me a huge headache, but points is points! The finish order was us, 196, 130, 45, 249, 67, 63

We had me, Niki, Shawn O and Andy H on board today, which worked pretty well. I wish we'd had more time to practice in the AM as we had Andy in a new spot today, and Shawn usually sails big boats. Every one did great though, and I picked up some important skills for the super light air.

Tune: we were underpowered all day, which was no surprise, but I'm wishing I'd tuned for a flatter main, either with shims or headstay, as we had lots of trouble getting the main to look decent and fly the tells.

Trick of the day: when we were drifting at the finish, we were able to pass and extend by doing the following:

being really patient with everything! it's a frustrating stupid condition, but you have to stay cool

not steering! we figured out how aggressive the trimmers had to be, and how minimal I had to be. We were trying to beat/reach in 0.01 kts, with lots of chop, so the boat wants to turn in the wrong direction most of the time. The solution is to keep the tiller more or less centered, and do huge eases/trims on both sails to change heading. We passed 130, probably, going twice as fast (still slow) by doing this, and didn't get hurt the way some boats did (there were boats doing 360's, and tacking, all while ttrying to go straight)

downwind: we experimented a lot with how hot of an angle to exit gybes on, and really found a sweet spot. Shawn's also really good at communication in terms of sheet load/angle so we were able to keep the boat going faster and lower than everyone else. I think I've settled on how I like to get feedback from the spin trimmer: using top/middle/bottom to express where the boats heading relative to the sheet load works well for me.
weight low: in every way. We had Niki underdeck and forward (under the spin for fly relief) and everyone else was in full hike... to leeward.

The racing wasn't by any means great, but it was still a really intense day on the water, and fun. I think 5 different boats led the race about 8 or 9 times!

This week we're hoping to finally beercan, and are setting up some competition in an Etchells skipper who's borrowing a shields to take friends out with. neat!

Monday, June 6, 2011

A series 1

Jacob and Kate took the boat out this weekend, as Niki and I were out of town. Below is Jacobs report:

A crew of three took Peanut for a ride in the first A race of the series. After a few last minute cancellations, Katie, Ian, and I worked out the crew work so that Katie trimmed main upwind and ran the bow downwind, Ian trimmed jib and spin, and I held onto the tiller and trimmed main around the corners. This setup worked pretty well and everyone had something to do throughout the race.

We sailed out in a solid westerly at around 10 knots, but when we reached the course, the breeze was already dwindling. The Race Committee tried to start a race in marginal conditions, but changed their mind after a few minutes into the sequence. I took a half turn off the lowers and two turns off the headstay when it looked like we were going to sail in the super light conditions. We waited under AP until a northerly filled in. I changed the rig back to base settings after it filled in.

The new breeze initially filled at around 10 knots, but got lighter as our start approached. The boat end was favored and that's where I wanted to start, but I was focusing on keeping boat speed up in the pre-start for the light air and Mike pushed me down the line a bit. We had a good start about a quarter of the way down from the boat, but Sam had a good start at the boat. Lu had a down-speed start and split off the the right side after the start. The rest of the fleet continued to the left. We had a boat speed problem on the first beat in the light air. I noticed a lot of weather helm, especially for the little breeze we had. We could have trimmed the jib harder to correct this, which we did on the second beat. I think that sailing the boat flatter would have been interesting to try. Sam was able to roll over the top of us to a significant lead. The breeze clocked right slightly, so Lu rounded between Sam and us. Lu pulled away from us slightly on the downwind and the breeze started to build back up to around 10 knots. On the second beat, we trimmed our jib harder and set out for the right side of the course. We didn't seem to have a boat speed disadvantage this time, which was probably a combination of jib trim and increased wind speed. Sam played the right side and Lu went left initially. In our first cross with Lu, we might have gained slightly, but he continued out right, past the layline and we were able to tack slightly in front of him as we reached the starboard layline. He trailed us closely on the the downwind and some interesting traffic with an approaching T10 made for a close finish, but we were able to finish second. Sam won the race with a comfortable lead.

With an imminent thunderstorm, the Race Committee decided to send the Shields fleet back to the harbor after the first race.

I think that our weaknesses were a less than ideal tuning setup for 3-7 knots and the battery on the compass was dead, so the shifts were tricky to pick up. I thought that our strengths were in the second half of the race. We were more competitive in terms of boat speed and capitalized on a tactical opportunity to pass a boat. All in all, we had a pretty fun day of racing.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Race

It's been a slow spring on Shields 88; even though she's been in the water since April our total sailing days have hovered right around the zero (0) mark until this weekend. We finally made it out for our first sail, which was the Memorial Day Regatta.

It was a pretty gray day, temps in the low 60's and aforecast that called for anything from 0-18kts out of... somewhere. For crew it was Niki, me, Katie, Craig C and Dave A.

On the way out we sailed past CMRC's first regatta, in which Jacob was winning me a bet by placing in the top half in their first regatta. A friend in the Etchells fleet owes me some candy, thanks J! We set a kite, which quickly drained of the several gallons of water it'd accumulated in the spring storms (it's good to sit in the back)

First race it was blowing around 12kts out of the S, and the RC adjusted the line with a bit of a postponement for the J111's. Thats right J111's! We now have what is truly a huge spread of speeds on our 1d circle, with J111's, 105's B367's, T10's as well as the usual one designs. It's a bit of an experiment, and I have to say the first experience wasn't as bad as it could be. We'll see how it goes as the season moves on.

For our start we wanted the boat, and for some reason I thought Lu Han driving 196 was going to engage us a bit, so we were pretty aggressive opening a hole between 63 and 45. The white boat ended up at the pin and we won the boat pretty handily, with 45 tucked in right behind. Our speed was _really_ good in the light stuff we usually struggle in, and I'm hoping that the latest fix to our problem child 08 main is doing the trick. As we approached the top mark the wind dropped to around 5kts, and we noticed the RC boat spinning around the offset mark. As we rounded and set it seemed like they had a mark missing flag, which we debated for a couple minutes until we noticed every other boat behind us going around the RC boat as if they were a mark. D'oh! We dropped kite and sailed back to round the RC, seeing our big lead turn into 4th place as the wind dropped out.

Our plan was to pick off Lu in 3rd, and then work on the other 2 boats. We heated up for some speed, and when they matched our angle gybed over the top of them and pulled away with their air. 63 was next, but while they matched our angle and speed I think they had eyes on us and not on the GIANT J111 kite that ended up stealing all their air. With only 45 left we played the up/down game with them, staying hot when they were low, then soaking down to them when they went up. We got over them just as another J111 took their air. It was instant death to have a j111 over you, so doing whatever it took to get away from them was the name of the game. We were pretty pleased to have recovered from such a giant mistake and clawed back into 1st for the bullet.

Next race was called off at the top mark. While its never fun to abandon a race you're winning the RC made the absolute right call as the rain came in about 2 minutes later with some giant shifts, fog and a weird inversion layer which had us smelling diesel despite not having any motor boats within a mile! Weird day weather wise.

Really pleased to be sailing again, as we've been super busy with house stuff, plus my spring rush at work.

A couple notes on tune:

new headstay this year which should allow for easier calibration. We started at ~49", then lengthened to 49.5. Both were fast. Uppers were 800 lowers 300. Main recut flies the top tell a lot easier, which pays in light air, have to see if we're too open in chop and breeze.

Played with weight a bit more in the light and choppy. Really like having leeward heel downwind in the super light and choppy, but the second theres enough breeze to sail flat I found it fast to have everyone low, amidships but spread out side to side.

Interesting note was watching 45, who managed to sail an entire beat in our bad air, but did so loosing only about 5 lengths from the start. No idea what the heck happened there but good on them for pulling it off! It was perhaps not the best tactics to do exactly what we did 10 seconds later every time, but there bad air ability is impressvie.

Hoping to sail wednesday, and get some baots out for tuning.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Boatyard Bash

The Shields fleet 3 boatyard bash is a yearly event that-in theory-has all the crews of the different boats coming together to work on the boats and share tools and knowloedge. In reality a few boats show up, get about 20 minutes of work done, all the while eating grilled foods and doing some day-drinking.

2011 was no exception, and 88's team embodied the spirit of the event: we did a little work, grabbed some Churros, and mostly stood around drinking and watching the river. Photos are below, but we did tackle some actual projects:

-Team Twing (Niki and Rick) fixed the port twing bracket (note drink holders in use)

-Team Halyard (Katie and Jacob) replaced our new spin halyard with our old one
-Team Underdeck Storage Soluations (Katie, appearing like a raccoon caught in camera flash)

-Blue Team (Doug) did something involving padeyes

-Team Breakfast (Andy) stood around and ate sausage and was mocked for this

Here are some other photos

Team Team misunderstanding the "asses on the rail" part of boating

Hey look another boat!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Happy National Peanut Month!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

2011 work, backstay, sheet blocks, twing, cupholder

It's not winter without a little boatwork, and Niki and I tackled some this weekend. Nothing really necessary but there were a couple little upgrades I wanted to try out.

While sailing etchells this winter and trimming spin, I realized that trimming for a fixed cheek block, no matter how good the angle, is kind of tough as you move around the cockpit, stand in the middle, or sit on the side. Our sheet ratchet arrangment was similar to the Etchells, so I started to feel kind of bad for our spin trimmer.
You can see in this photo that when installing the ratchet, we pretty much matched the angle of the original winch. This worked ok if you were sitting on the opposite rail, but was kind of the wrong angle for standing and trimming both sheets.

Lots of boats have free ratchets, mounted outboard, as opposed to our setup, and I wanted to try something like that. My first thought was to use pivoting lead "flip flop" blocks, but realized pretty quick that sitting on one of these the wrong way would be quite painful. The lowest profile setup seemed to be a free floating block instead.
I'm usually a pretty big harken fan, but decided that we'd give the newish Ronstan Orbit ratchets a try, and do so in a way that let us compare the two brands back to back. The thought is to use both and see which one we prefer, maybe switching sides mid season. So far, the thoughts are:
-Ronstan looks cooler, no doubt about it. I think Niki is sold already.
-The Ronstan dyneema link looks neat and has some good features, but is actually slower to attach than the regular headpost swivel. That said, it articulates in a really natural way as opposed to a locked swivel headpost. Really not sure which is better.
-Ronstan ratchet faces holds more load, Harken is a bit smoother. I've found that Ronstan ratchets hold better, but are a bit harder on line. Our spin sheets are polypro cover over dyneema, and 2 yrs old, so this will be a good test as the polypro will show wear fast.
-Ronstan has 3 modes, off, on, and auto. I'm really interested to try this out, as we usually switch our ratchets by day or when the wind changes.
-Harken has an adjustable load ratchet engagement. This is a pretty big plus, especially on a spin sheet.

Install was dead easy. We had an eyestrap in the right location, which is used for the cover, but it was stamped strap which was plenty strong for the tiny load of the sailcover, but a bit iffy for holding the loads from a turning block, so we swapped it out for a forged Harken strap instead. This did move the lead into the cockpit back a bit, but that was actually essential as part of one of todays other projects, which took the place of the old cheek blocks.

The old teak pads that held winches for 40 years, and cheek ratchets for 3, were not looking so good once the cheek blocks were removed. They had about 7 holes for fasteners, plus a big hold for the underdeck drive spindle for the winches. If we just removed them, we'd have a bunch of holes in the deck to fill, plus some paint, and then we'd be left with an odd shape in the nonskid where it went around the old pad. That all sounded like lots of work, and the hole in the pad gave me an flux-capacitor-caliber-idea. Beerholders!
3" hole saw in the right spot gave us a large enough opening for a 12oz can, amd some teak plugs made a (kinda) solution for all the old fastener holes. To hold the can in place, I used some Alpha Ropes K Mix blend cover, welded into a loop with a hot knife and tacked into place. This was essential for can holding while underway. We used some cut pieces of spectra sailcloth for a grippy and keeping-in-theme bottom liner.

A quick-heel test in the kitchen and it was deemed ready for the boat. Very excited to try out this new high performance addition to 88. It really has been a problem in the past, and I've found myself wedging beercans in all kinds of less effective places
-in between sheets (the can can crush)
-in the back of Jacobs lifejacket (he tends to move around)
-on the seat (stays upright about 3 seconds)
-in the spinnaker basket (you can guess where it goes)

When I was rebuilding 88 originally, I asked if we could swap out the clunky bronze casting for a ball bearing sheave and was told no, it wasn't legal. Turns out about half the Newport fleet had already done it, so right after I'd finished painting the boat it was grandfathered in (doh!) The old fitting has worked for us ok, as we milled a slot and put a ball bearing sheave into it, but I find that the wire wears out quite quickly, and we had a few busted strands on a 3 year old piece of wire, which is way too soon. Also, a ball bearing sheave would allow the use of rope as opposed to wire, which would be nice from a replacement point of view, and-this is a big deal-would be easier to mark for backstay settings. The tricky thing was the Harken 310 sheave I'd like to use is not at all watertight, so it would not be your friend in a bad broach or other sinking scenario. While I was at it, I also wanted to make it easier to change out the backstay pennant. Traditionally, you have to climb into the aft tank (a tiny, horrible place) and cut the wire, have someone push the new wire in from above while you try and thread it through the bronze casting, then do a nico press with about as much room to maneuver as the average glovebox.

And since I'd already recut the deck for the old fitting, I'd have to make a cover plate, as the Harken sheave is a lot narrower than the old round piece. So I made a somewhat ugly HDPE cover piece with a recess routed in for the sheave underneath. Theres a 5/16" hole for the spliced 3/16" line, which should definitely make it as watertight as possible. I also made a backing plate with some threaded stacks of fiberglass, which means that once the assembly is installed and bonded underneath, I can remove the 2 screws from above and access the entire backstay pennant, all from above deck. If this doesn't seem like a big deal, you've never been in the aft tank of a Shields!

Niki and I did the install in about an hour with dry fits and bonding. The new backtstay pennant is a piece of 5mm SK90 I had lying around.

No, I did not feel we'd need the 10000lbs strength of SK90.
Yes I did pick it because its purple.

So now we've got an easy to remove pennant, a little less friction, and a markable backstay.

The last change we made was to move the twing cleat from it's location by the helmsman (Who is not great at remembering to work the twings in gybes) to a spot in the coaming where the previous owner has the backstay cleat. This puts it up by the jib and pitperson, who have free hands in the gybes.

So, a nice day to get some work done on the boat, but only reinforces the need to get on the water with the Shields ASAP. We are certainly looking forward to trying out the different ratchets for ourselves. I'm certain the beerholders will get some extensive shaking down as well.

Restarting blog, Nationals 2010 (very) post game wrapup

Restart! Apparently my trying to blog from my old blackberry at nationals looked (to Google) like someone trying to hack said blog, and it locked me out around day 1. Since unlocking it required a phone call, and Nationals, or at least our performance, wasn't really worth writing about, I'd left it dormant without thinking about it too much. Well, spring is right around the corner, we've got boat work coming up and some big plans for sailing this year, so it's time to get back online. Unlocking the blog was embarassingly easy, so look for a few updates over the next couple weeks on boatwork projects; including a backstay upgrade, some control line tweaks and the high performance combination of spectra sailcloth, kevlar rope cover and teak: all in the same object.

For now, heres what I wrote down from Nationals.

Race day 1:

OW OW OW. Well, at least we're consistent, with an 18, then an 18th place, and finally we finished 18th. Pretty light air and lots and lots of current definied the weather, and going slow in the wrong direction was our play today. We really really should have prcaticed as a team before the event, as it's taken all day to get our handling down and speed back, and even so we feel pretty slow. Had lots of exciting racing, but always found ourselves losing in the end. There was one finish in which we lost, within 100' of the line, the 5 boats we'd passed downwind. As Skip says, tomorrows moving day, and we really need to get out of the neighborhood.


Improvements were made, and we're getting aroudn the course better, going faster and starting well. First race was looking awesome, we were approaching the mark in about 4th, but overstood (thanks HL) on port layline. Had an ugly "room to tack" situation in which a leeward boat tacked and we had to crash tack, right at a boat we had already started to duck. At one point in the tack I kind of thoguht to myself" pick which boat to hit, because we're getting at least 1 collision here!" but amazingly we cleared. Less amazing was the gybe we had to do, followed by the reach away from the mark, followed by us rounding last. Ouch. In analyzign the situation, we've figured that the boat to leeward could have hailed for room to tack (as they say they did) but that since we were already ducking a boat together, they owed us room to keep ducking. That said, I guess the lack of collision is evidence that we had room, but man, it was inchhes. Finished a sullen 21st. Lets make that our drop! Second race less dramatic, with a similar gain on the left, followed by a top 5 rounding. Lost 2 boats over the course of the race to finish 7. Better, kinda.

Final day of racing.

Glorious day to sail LIS. Little more breeze, and we tend to go better when theres wind. First race we got a7th, which is about what we deserved. Race was pretty much decided one the first beat, and we finished around the same boats. Tough call to make on second race, as the marina said they might not be able to haul all the boats on Saturday, and Barb and Skip had to be back in Chicago monday. We ended up retring from racing and sailing in early to make sure we made it out. Had a really fun sail back in, down the river and past lots of neat boats and shorside scenery. Had a chance to reflect a bit. The regatta was initially very disappointing, mostly the first day when we pretty much sealed our fate with 3 bad results. The next day I kinda stopped thinking about it as a regatta, and just a series of races, which took the sting out a bit. Our preparation for this regatta and mindset just werent right. That coupled with some light air speed issues (as in, we're slow in light air) kept us from doing as well as we'd hoped. If I could do it again, we would definitley have done more practicing with the whole team together in Chicago, as we did too much figuring out on the first day. The light air issues are tougher to figure. While out there, we learned what the sailmakers are doing to their mains, essentially recutting the luffs a bit to better match the newer masts which have a forward bend at the hounds. This sounds like exactly what we need, to get that top telltale flying in the light without adding a ton of backstay. In the end it was a fun regatta, the highlights being some good competition and meeting some great people, notably our hosts who were a blast.

Well, that was nats in 2010. Looking back I had fun, especially once we got it through our heads that we were not going to do very well overall, and just went out and sailed.

Nats this year is in Seawanhaka, which was probably my favorite nats ever, about 10 years ago. We've got a lot to figure out if we're to go, but we've got some time yet. The crew seems interested, but along the way we've got the pull together a trailer, tow vehicle, and possibly some decent sails.