Tuesday, 21 February 2012

A game of two halves

So after weeks of too much cold and not enough wind, we finally had a Sunday which offered a sensible F3 and an almost sensible 4-5 deg C. Typically this was a Sunday that Poorly Paul had booked off, so I was doing front-ballast duty in Paul Anthony's boat.

Now it should be said upfront that I'm an excellent crew in a F1, I can roll-tack and do all the tactical stuff and I'm fairly light with it. But my performance curve degrades in inverse proportion to the square of the windspeed, so by the time the boat starts planing I'm definitely a bit of a liability.

So, after a so-so start down at J, it was no great surprise that we were last at the windward mark (D). A close reach to 'B' gave me a chance to show how badly I can fly the kite while trapezing, but we discussed de-powering tricks on the way and arrived with the kite in the aussie-drop configuration without losing any more ground. A dead run to 'M', where we gained a bit due to the boats ahead having a minor battle, then a nice 3-sail reach down the shore to OL. Kite down, and off to 'H' on a slightly pointless close reach, where we overtook somebody for no obvious reason. Then a rubbish gybe where they overtook us back, followed by a leg back to 'J' and start again.

The next lap was vaguely similar and saw us trailing around at the rear again, but on the 3rd lap we managed to overtake Colin and Karen on the beat (I think) and weren't too far behind JT and Quentin on the reach to B and the run down to M. We nearly got past them on the outside at M, but they got themselves onto our wind and spat us out the back. We all had our kites up for this final leg to the finish, and somehow we managed to point a bit higher, gained some ground to windward, then picked up a tasty lump of wind and charged straight past them and over the line for 2nd place. Woohooo!

It's perhaps worth mentioning that Badders and JR had shown the entire fleet a clean pair of heels some time ago and were already ashore by this stage, but hey, 2nd place is fine, and I have to say that I really enjoyed myself too.

Then lunch, and being not just a useless crew but by now a knackered useless crew, we decided to swap places for the afternoon. And it was...


Rubbish start, rubbish first beat to 'D', OK reach to 'B', then a vaguely interesting leg to 'K', and we might still have caught up if we hadn't capsized while getting the kite down at OL. But we did, and after that it was pretty much game over. And we managed to lose some more time when one of the spinnaker sheets lost its twinner bobble, and then I ran us aground on the titchy island (now submerged), and it was all just awful.

One positive observation to come out of this then: the capsize was totally unnecessary. It happened because when Paul stowed the pole on the boom, the far end stuck down a bit, and the spinnaker sheet promptly flicked itself over the end of the pole, thereby stopping him getting the kite into the bag. Spinnaker poles ought to park themselves along the boom, completely parallel, maybe even a bit lower at the mast end. Then the far end doesn't stick down and catch yours truly on the head when gybing or pick up bits of flappy sheet and make you capsize.

The parking angle of the pole on the boom is dictated by the height of the pole uphaul fixing on the mast. This fixing point is invariably too high, resulting in the mast end of the pole being too high when parked. Obviously you can drop the pole a bit when you stow it, but that's just another distraction.

So here's what you do. Set the pole on the mast and get it at the right height for reaching - that's what we do most of. Now stow it on the boom. If the mast-end of the pole is above the height of the gooseneck then you have a problem. You need to lower the block on the mast which carries the pole uphaul, but you probably can't directly adjust this without moving the sheave block, which involves hacking flipping great holes in the mast, and that's a rubbish idea. So what you do is to position a little running pulley block lower down on the mast, to give the same effect without the metalwork.

This works for single and double ended poles BTW. You'll need to use a bit of trial and error to get the new pulley block at the right height, aim to get it roughly in the right place with about 8cm of string, then you can fine tune it by adjusting the length of the string. The principle is that wherever you put it you'll find that it causes the pole to set higher than it normally would have done. So you lower the pole a bit to get it to the right height when it's deployed, leading to it sitting lower on the boom when it's parked.

Et voila, no more stupid capsizes, at least not ones caused by pole-parking issues anyway.

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