Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Jib Musings

Two races for the price of one in this episode.

Race 1 - Bank Holiday Pursuit Race - M, B, C, Y, K, OL, J, H, S

This one was really great. It was proper windy, but not stupidly so, and a bit sunny at times too. Rig at 22'6", medium kite. We had a big advantage at the start because we knew the far end of the line was 'S', whereas a lot of other people assumed it was the orange buoy. 'S' was about twice as far from the committee boat as the orange item, plus further upwind, and we were all alone up there when the gun went, so charged across the line on port tack for an instant 30 secs advantage over Pete & Rohanna who were at the orange mark and apparently going backwards. We then carried on charging upwind, and the boat felt just fabulous. The windier it was, the faster we went, with gentle easing of the main in the gusts and none of the usual windy-day moments where you have to pinch up to avoid putting the boom in the water and the boat slows down.

By the top mark (M), we were almost up with the Fred which started 3 minutes ahead of us, although we didn't gain much on the next few legs which were a slightly-too-close-for-the-kite reach to B, an-almost-run to C, and a close-reach back to K via Y (which was a totally pointless mark, being dead in line with C-K).

Then a little broad reach past OL to J, and a dead run down to H before hooning back past S to start the next lap.

Now it was somewhere around this point that I noticed that the jib-bars were right out, which was the reason for the fabulous boat-speed up the beat. You doubtless all know that when it is windy we move our jib-bars out and up, but in my case the movement out is generally a grudging 2" affair, and the bars don't go any higher on my boat than their usual position.

So if you take any wisdom away from this, let it be that you can make your life a lot easier in windy conditions by moving the jib-bars right out. And up too, if you have that option. You don't point so well when they are out, which probably makes 'up' the preferred solution, but it's all better than just struggling along on the verge of capsizing. And when you've got the boat going nicely, try moving the bars back in a bit (that's what I did).

Anyhoo, by the top of the next beat we were in amongst the Lasers, and after that I was expecting Solos, but they never materialised so perhaps they'd all given up by this time. We were passed by a Dart 15 on the way to H, and stayed with him all the way up the next beat, there being surprisingly little difference in speed between us. If we'd had any decent 3-sail reaches we might have seen him off, but there weren't, so we didn't. Ho hum.

So we finished 2nd to the Dart, with another Dart somewhere behind us in 3rd place. More importantly, we had a great time!

Pete & Rohanna survive the close reach to K in fine style.
Photo courtesy of Paul Roe

Race 2 - Sunday 2nd June - P, Y, M, C, X, K, OL, Red (near J)

This one was all over the place, varying from a very tasty F3 to a rather feeble F1. The course was great though, particularly the beat from M to C. We had beaten Peter & Mike (and everyone else) in the morning, and were keen to see if we could do it again.

The line was port-biassed, so we came in on port and joined the pack as they sauntered down the line with 20 seconds to go, tacking below them and parking up - the committee boat was at the port end of the line and we didn't want to get too close to that. Helen and Paul promptly charged past us and (finding the same issue), managed to be entirely over the line when the gun went. We made a decent start ahead of the rest of the fleet, but instantly found Peter & Mike were climbing over the top of us, pointing about 15 degrees higher. I have found this to be a real bugger - there's nothing you can do about boats that can point higher than you whilst going just as fast, except get ahead and then sit on their wind.

In this case that wasn't going to happen. We tacked onto port, were clearly going to have to duck Peter & Mike, they tacked on our wind, and a mere 60 seconds into the race we were looking a bit stuffed.

Then it got interesting, with some sizeable windshifts coming down the lake. You don't want this if you are sitting on another boat's wind, as you have to stand on until they decide to tack, by which time you've lost ground. So we made the most of the shifts, tacking instantly they arrived, and then tacking back when the other boat made the tack to cover. And it kind of worked, after a bit of tacking Peter & Mike headed off on starboard into a nice patch of wind, while we went the other way on port. We both then found a bit of a lift on port, which meant that we could lay the windward mark just nicely while they were way above it, and the nice patch of wind came and found us so we zoomed up to the mark (P) and a nice healthy lead. The rest of the fleet had gone right, and although they'd avoided any tacking matches, the lift on port had not done them any favours when they tried to come back across on starboard.

Anyhoo, we sailed round the rest of the lap, Y, M, C, X, K, OL, Red, and were still in the lead at the end of it. But we had a bit of a dodgy bit on the next beat to S, when the wind headed us as the prelude to a nice patch of pressure, and we tacked, and suddenly we were sitting in no wind and being headed again. So we tacked back, but as a result Peter & Mike were on our transoms again. Then a bit further on port, where Paul helpfully told me that there was nothing below us on starboard "except a Solo, but it's OK, it's pink" (presumably pink boats are so non-threatening that you can safely ignore them). Then onto starboard ahead of Pink Solo, round P, Y, M, and off up the decidedly tricky beat to C.

About halfway up this beat, we found ourselves on starboard crossing marginally ahead of P&M, so executed a smart tack onto their wind, on the basis that it would be rude not to. Peter put their boat into super-pointing mode and just sailed up out of the cover and continued to point about 20 degrees higher than we could manage even after he'd got it into clear air. We were deeply impressed by this, partly due to the angle of pointiness, but mostly due to the fact that while it was going on, we were going about twice as fast as they were. By the time they gave up and tacked off we'd pulled out about 30 seconds lead, and when we tacked and got a juicy lift and some pressure, that extended to over a minute.

Even I can't easily lose that kind of lead, so we all sailed round in splendid isolation for a bit longer (rather dull, a bit like handicap racing), and then the race finished.

I have a theory that you can point too high, particularly in the light and fluffy stuff. When there's not much pressure to be had, trying to squeeze it through a narrow jib slot can be a bad idea. The jury is out on this particular occasion - it could have been that we had a personal gust and nothing else. But you have to wonder when two otherwise very equal boats manage such a large variation in boat speed whilst going in the same direction in the same bit of the lake.

Windy weather - jib bars up and out. Right out, get settled, then bring them back in gradually until it stops feeling fast.

Light airs - jib bars also up and out, but not so far. 'Out' to widen the slot, 'up' to counteract the tendency for the weight of the jib to pull the clew down and close the top of the slot.

Anything inbetween - jib bars in their normal positions, assuming you know where that is.

Obviously - it goes without saying that if you go faster than me, you already know better and can ignore all this.

Thus endeth the lesson for today.

Karen and Colin demonstrate how to tackle the run in light airs - weight well forward, good sunglasses.
Photo courtesy of Malcolm Lewin

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