Monday, 23 January 2012


Well it was just a bit too windy to sail today, and I've got a cold, so I took the path of least resistance and stayed ashore. This turned out to be a good plan, as the wind picked up from intermittently stupid  on the Beaufort scale to full time stupid by mid morning, so it wouldn't have ended well.

So I spent an hour or so chatting with the rest of the DWSC Fireball posse, went for a mooch along the shore (where I was 'papped' by Malcolm)...

and then went home.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Brass monkeys

Once again it was not as windy as Windguru had led us to believe it would be. Really, what is the point of a weather forecast if it's going to keep revising its opinion right up until the day you're interested in, at which point it might be accurate but it's not a 'forecast' any more, more a confirmation of what you can see out of the window.

And it was cold too, the coldest sailing day thus far this winter. Not a patch on other days in other winters I know, but still enough that Mo and Holly had to put off launching until they'd poured warm water over their centreboard to persuade it to come out and play nicely. Ours stuck a bit too, but I stood on it until it gave in.

With the benefit of hindsight I probably ought to have taken a watch with me. Start one was a classic case of turning up at the back of the queue for the line. There was a clear starboard bias, so there were a lot of boats between us and where we wanted to be. We rapidly re-planned and decided to go below them all and aim for clear air nearer to the pin end, but somebody came up below us and boxed us in. With boats ahead and below, we threw in a quick couple of tacks to get up to the committee boat, but it was all a bit too late and we started the race with no speed at all.

The race was great though. We were last round the windward mark but the course was really good, with beam reaches offering some 3-sail trapezing excitement, and a long dead run where a number of places were won and lost. In fact, that dead run was the highlight of the day. On the first lap it propelled Bob & Paul up onto Mo & Holly's transom and took us nicely past Paul & Nick. On the 2nd lap we were shaping up for attacking Mo & Holly when we were ambushed from behind by Helen & Paul and Paul & Nick, losing a place. Then on the 3rd lap we went low and Mo & Holly went high, and we popped out right behind them at D and very well placed to get them on the last beat (although we entirely failed to do this, ho hum). So we ended up 2nd in that one, and everyone agreed it was a cracking race and a very good course. 

Amusing sight of the day was provided by a Fred which ran aground on the spit protruding from the little island. When we caught the centreboard on that same thing earlier in the race, we stood on the leeward deck to get the (fixed) rudder blade clear of the shallow bit, and carried on as normal. When the Fred ran aground there the instinctive reaction appeared to be to order the crew into the water to manhandle the thing off. That's proper sailing, that is ;-)

For start two (still sans watch) I figured I'd get there a bit earlier this time, so tacked in front of the queue for the line and parked up. But we couldn't accurately time the moment to get going again, plus Helen and Paul had come up beneath us so we couldn't bear off to get the boat moving. So we were right on the line when the gun went, but swamped by other boats and not actually moving. So once again we started with no speed at all. Regrettably we pulled a bit of a blinder on the first beat though and came out second at the windward mark (X) anyway. We then chased Paul and Nick down the broad reach to 'D' and got past them on the gybe while they were discovering that you couldn't fly the kite to 'K'.

We then spent the entire race watching the boats behind us having a great time all luffing each other up, making mad attempts at getting water at the marks, infringing the rules and doing 720s and 360s as a result. Plus this course sucked quite badly, biassed beat, no dead run, and a hideous fetch from D to K where the only tactical options were to luff up like mad and stuff anyone behind you, or go really low and catch your centreboard on Musborough. So we won that one, John & Quentin claimed 2nd place, and Mo & Holly (still clawing their way back up the fleet after doing a 720 earlier) got 3rd, although they had to fight to keep it on the way to K on the last lap.

My fingers were cold by this time, and it was notable that the cover was still heavy with frost even after being left out in the sun all day.

And once again it was a great demonstration of how easily the OD can go from hero to zero with the course in these light conditions. It probably didn't help that the best beat from 'C' would have been to 'T', but 'T' is still lying outside the bosuns' hut. Plus they couldn't move the committee boat elsewhere because the engine didn't work - sometimes you just can't win. Still, the rule of thumb remains, long beats, short beam reaches and long dead runs in anything under 10mph is a recipe for success. Anything else, frankly, isn't.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

2012 starts well

After a week of gales, today was a bit of a let-down, with only 7-10 knots of wind. On the other hand at least we were able to sail, plus it was mild and occasionally sunny. During the previous week Gordon's boat had been blown over on top of Helen's, so we examined both for damage and found surprisingly little - just a bent shroud plate and a few scrapes in the cover and the pro grip. I expounded my theory on the value of tying the boats down at the transom using a stake in the ground and a rope round the pintle, and then we went sailing.

The good weather had lured a few more people out, and we had 7 boats competing for the first race. The start was about halfway up the beat for some reason, and quite close to the shore. And the Musborough shoal was pretty close too, but it all kind of worked anyway. Off we went, and having made a bit of a poor start were rapidly spat out the back door and ended up last round the windward mark (A). There followed a beam reach to B which was eminently kiteable, so we bunged it up and rapidly overtook Badders - largely because he had put one of his twinning line cleats on back to front and was therefore unable to cleat the twinner. Gybe at B, where we overtook JT, and another nice close sort of a reach off to M. The wind picked up a bit en-route, so that was pretty good fun, then a gybe at M and another beam reach to Y. We might have got past Pete/Rachel there (I forget), but the real gains came on the leg from Y to X, a dead run. For some reason everyone ahead of us went off on a broad reach towards S, so we just sailed a dead run and overtook 2 or 3 boats as a result. Colin and Karen could have thrown a big spanner in our works when they gybed and came back across, as they were on starboard and we were on port, but they very generously left us alone and we were able to claim water at the mark at X.

We then had a nice 3-sail reach to J, then a beat up through OL and all the way back to A. With the wind picking up nicely by this time, we set about chasing down Mo/Holly. It was an interesting beat as you couldn't go left due to the presence of the shore, and you couldn't go right due to Musborough, so up the middle was the only option. This rather limited the potential gains, but it kept the racing nice and tight and it didn't stop us from gaining a shed load on Mo and Holly either. We finally got them as we rounded the mark, and after that it was just a case of sailing round in the ever-increasing breeze and not screwing up too badly. Correctly spotting which legs were ok for the kite became the critical factor, so there was plenty of hoisting, bagging and gybing action, and it was all good. At the end we hit the finish line a little way ahead of Mo and Holly, but more importantly we'd all had a really great race.

The afternoon was less good. The wind had dropped and gone a bit more Northerly, but by the time the race got under-way it was due Westerly again and the beat was heavily biassed as a result. And too short. And the reaches were all a bit close and there was no dead run worth mentioning. So it was less of a race and more of a spinnaker gybe and close reach training exercise, which we eventually won, but definitely nothing like as much fun as the morning race.

There's a real skill to setting a course in marginal airs like today, and as has been demonstrated, it's a fine line between success and failure. Rules of thumb are:

Nice long beat
Short beam reaches
At least one decent length run
No broad reaches at all

If the wind picks up a bit then the beam reaches become very tactical for a spinnaker boat, as you have to decide whether or not you can carry the kite down all of the leg, or part of it, or whether it's better to 2-sail it. If the wind doesn't pick up then at least the reaches are short and they keep the dead run away from the beat. Non-kite boats also prefer a beam reach to a broad reach in marginal conditions, but they'll be primarily looking for a decent run to strut their tactical stuff.

Today's AM race had 4 beam(ish) reaches, a long beat and a medium length dead run, possibly a bit too reachy for some boats but with the extra bit of wind it worked well for us. Really well. In contrast, the PM race had 4 beam(ish) reaches, a smaller beat and a tiny run, and the wind was lighter, and it came across as definitely too reachy and a bit dull. The actual difference between the two courses was pretty minimal, but the perceived difference was huge.

It's always nice to see your advice being taken seriously, so I applaud Helen and Paul's decision to bang in a stake under the transom of their boat. Although, with the benefit of hindsight, they should perhaps have moved the boat further away from the arc of the sledgehammer before they started...

Friday, 6 January 2012

Flying boats

But not in a good way. Following a day of very strong onshore winds, a number of boats were found to have made a bid for freedom.

You can see in this pic that the stake on the RHS of the boat has just pulled out of the ground. A tie-down point at the stern would have stopped this - just a loop of rope over the rudder pintle will do.

The wind had dropped below the point where boats were being lifted into the air when we arrived on the scene, but the pressure of the wind on the upturned hull was very noticeable. Particularly when I found myself carrying the transom of the errant boat whilst standing between it and the other one, trying to persuade it to go back onto the trolley.

Bad light stopped play before we got round to this little lot....

Pictures courtesy of Iain Christie.

Monday, 2 January 2012

New Years Day Pursuit Race

So while the elite of the Fireball world are all in Australia enjoying the sunshine, yours truly managed to get back into his boat for the first time in about a month. And in spite of it being very much not Australia, it was good.

WindGuru decreed that we'd have 20+ knots of wind, but like the bushes in the garden, it lied to us. What we ended up with was mild, no sunshine, and something between 7 and 12 knots of wind. This, if I'm honest, was not enough, especially when you'd been forced to miss the very windy Boxing Day pursuit a few days previously.

Still, we manfully rigged up and I re-rigged the spinnaker sheets that I had removed previously for fixing after they exploded last time out. Then I took them off and re-rigged them again. Then I did some swearing and did it yet again, finally getting it right. We then added the enormous kite to the end of said sheets and went for a sail.

The start line is a lonely place when you are a Fireball, as pretty much every other boat has started already by the time you get into the final few minutes. We decided to start on Port tack so we could go up the wall, so as luck would have it we had a good view of the yellow Moth crash-tacking in front of the rest of the fleet with about 5 secs to go. This caused a bit of consternation to those involved - I'm guessing that Moths go off at the same time as Fireballs, although it's never happened before so we weren't really expecting it.

Our first beat was rubbish - we went right and everything which went left came out ahead of us. Then we went left and lost out to those who went right. It might have been bad tactics or it might have been that the boat wasn't pointing, it's impossible to tell when you're on your own. So at the top of the beat at A we were 3rd fireball and then found that the kite wouldn't go up, in spite of it having worked fine on the way to the start. So I dropped the rig tension and that made it go up, just as the Moth went past us. Then a gybe at M and a very decent 3 sail reach to A where we overtook Badders & Jez and nearly got water on Pete & Rachel by virtue of staying out from the wall and being a bit jammy. But we had to go the long way round C to avoid Pete, and then Badders went over the top of both of us, and eventually we followed him as Pete was (a) going too slowly and (b) didn't seem to mind too much when we went for a windward pass.

Then we followed Badders all the way to H, the kite obliged by coming down sweetly, and we started up the beat to OL. we tacked out smartly from H, and next time we crossed Pete we were able to call Starboard, prompting him to tack under our bow and generally get in the way. So we went out again, and this time when we crossed we were clear ahead. Round OL with both boats close behind and a dead run to F where Pete S either overtook Badders or at least had a damn good shot at it. Then an interesting beat up past the island to X, and a nice 3-sail reach to D to start the next lap.

By this time we'd overtaken quite a lot of Lasers and had a Fred, a Laser 3000 and an RS200 firmly in our sights. But the wind was dropping and once again we didn't go too well up that beat, with the result that we didn't overtake any of them. A to M was a dead loss, but M to C provided us with some planing action. C to H bagged us a Fred, Laser 3000 and a Miracle, but there was so little wind by this stage that we could easily have lost out to any of them on the next beat to OL if we'd gone the wrong way.

Luckily we failed to screw up the beat, and only had to sail half of the run before the race finished, so managed to hang on to 2nd place overall. The RS200 ahead of us was Steve Irish, so no shame there, and I reckon we'd have beaten him too if the wind had held up. Ah well, it was a good sail over a really nice course, and a great start to the new year.