Friday, 18 July 2014

Cheque Book Sailing

Race 1 - P, K, Y, M, X, T, J, Gate

A great forecast, sunshine and 12-14mph wind, and 11 Fireballs took to the water. Pete Slack was guesting in the front of Bob's boat, which may or may not have been good for him, but was certainly very nice for us. Pete B's new boat, 'Old Shed', was making its first outing, all shiny paintwork and lovely stuff.

I can't remember much about the detail of the race, except that I was using my usual jib (an Alverbanks item I found in my shed), and we were consistently outpaced by Peter and Mike going upwind. Offwind we pulled back, generally getting onto their transom by the end of the lap, only to lose out upwind again. There were no decent reaches, and the only interesting bit of this race was on the leg from T to J. Peter & Mike had a decent lead but had become trapped in the lee of a Solo, and even with the kite up were plodding towards J at Solo-speed, ie not very much. We caught a decent gust and hooned up to them, whereupon I had to decide what to do next.

a) Go above the Solo, possibly get luffed for my trouble, possibly capsize, definitely end up high of the mark and facing a tricky kite drop.

b) Go below them both and stop dead

c) Go in-between, which is a stupid idea

So I went for (c) and inserted the boat carefully between the Solo upwind and the Fireball below. Pete said "windward boat", I called for "water for two" (the Solo being inside at the mark). I had a gentle go at luffing the Solo, but he didn't respond, so we just sailed on to the mark and went round 3 abreast. Peter later mentioned that there had been contact between his boat and my boom, which I hadn't noticed, but whether it occurred inside or outside the 3-boat-length zone I have no idea.

There are some interesting rules in play in these situations. The leeward boat (Peter & Mike) can luff, but has to allow the middle boat (me) room and opportunity to take avoiding action. The middle boat can luff the windward boat, in spite of having gained an overlap from astern, because the leeward boat is luffing him, and above the lay-line is now his proper course. The windward boat (the Solo) is probably not expecting this, and is anyway thinking that water at the mark will protect him, which it will as soon as he gets into the zone.

Anyway, after going round the mark we dived across the finish line ahead of Peter & Mike, cheers cheers, only it wasn't the end of the race, and they sailed away from us again and won easily at the end of the following lap.

Back on shore, 'Old Shed' was getting new trapeze height adjusting rope, due to the original stuff not cleating.

Lunch time, and Jon (Edge Sails) announced that the new jib was waiting for me to pick it up from the shop. We did this, unrolled it lovingly on the bank, and then spotted that it was a Pico mainsail or similar, ok, roll it up again, go back and get the proper thing.

The new jib (once we eventually found it) was a lovely thing to behold, so we couldn't resist chucking it onto the boat and doing the 2nd race with it. My feeling was that any jib-shaped thing is about as good as any other, after all there's not much potential for cleverness in a Fireball jib, you either make it a bit fuller or a bit flatter, how much difference can it make?

Well as it turns out, quite a lot. The new jib not only looked lovely, it also allowed us to point as high as anything and everything, whilst still going pretty fast. We came off the start-line a bit late but doing a fair impression of a scalded cat, and then tweaked it in a bit for a bit of extra pointing. Peter and Mike still beat us round the windward mark, but they never did the disappearing thing upwind again, and we spent a couple of laps chasing them round the course, including the long and highly enjoyable 3-sail reach from B to T, which was bloody epic every time. Really really good!

Then at the start of the last lap, we found a really nice lifting wind-bend, followed it after P&M tacked off, and re-emerged nicely in front of them at the top of the beat. Remarkably we held the lead all the way round the rest of the lap, but they had a bit of a surge at the end and we crossed the finish line for a photo finish, with us in front by a whisker. Very nice, very satisfying!

On shore again, 'Old Shed' had apparently had a very satisfying few minutes of racing before the block of wood to which the mainsheet jammer was fixed had popped off. This is the joy of cascamite glue, it goes powdery after about 25 years and stops fulfilling its function. The rest of that particular boat is doubtless glued with epoxy resin and will last forever, but this is a good object lesson in the perils attendant with buying old wooden boats. Anything pre 13,500 or thereabouts might very well have used cascamite glue, and anything built with cascamite will fall to bits eventually.

Jibs again - new jibs are not cheap, summat like £350 list price (if anyone actually pays that), and they only last 6 months to a year before they start to look manky. Hence my reliance on stuff I can find in my shed, which all looks manky but at least comes for free.

There is doubtless a bit more evaluation of the Edge jib to come, but it currently looks every bit as good as the P&B or North item in the hands of the average club sailor (ie, me). And the best bit - it's a whole lot cheaper.

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