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!