Monday, 27 May 2013

300 Log: No result, but an excellent race

Date: 25th May
Venue : Slipper
Race : Down Harbour Handicap race, 2 hours
Tide : Flooding
Conditions : F0-4 N, mostly flat water apart from the main harbour bay, which had chop from all directions
Result : Would have been 1st of 20, and 1st 300, but for forgetting to sign on (again!)

Fresh back from Minorca Sailing, my lovely wife gave me an immediate pass out for a local race, I am blessed.  12 mile course from Emsworth down to the Itchenor channel, and back via Sandy Point.  Downwind start and first leg made for interesting tactics - very difficult to nudge out in front when covered by the fleet (who are getting the gusts first).  Very variable wind strength, I had 5 minutes near SW Pilsey in absolutely no wind, getting bounced around by the chop.

- Good start.  Started just behind Matt on starboard at the pin end, and was first boat to gybe to port (for clean air).  Managed to eek out a small lead in the first mile of the run, just enough to stop getting covered by the fleet, and then stretched to a reasonable lead by the half way point.
- Pleased with downwind speed.  Set up the boat for maximum instability (no vang, leech slightly in front of the mast), and really concentrated on finding gusts and catching small chop.  One dicey moment in a gust, but that's the price you pay for having the leech in front of the mast!
- Pleased with reaching speed, although the wind was at that marginal point where I think being a lightweight helped with early planning.  Going high in the lulls and low in the gusts gave a substantial lead by East Head (mostly lost in the dead wind zone by SW Pilsey on the return).
- It appears that a week full time sailing has helped with fitness, no problem with the final 2.5 beat straight leg hiking most of the way.
- Nicely relaxed and focussed (Claire has stopped me using the SOA terminology)

Points for reflection:
- Upwind speed not great, thought Dave took a substantial amount out of me on the return passage.  Went out for a practice session today and concentrated on upwind speed, convinced I should be footing more, but need a bit of boat-on-boat to confirm.
- Must start remembering to sign on!

But all in all a good race, a rare win over Dave which is always heartening as it demonstrates a little progress and improvement.

Practice session today was good, managed 4 fully planning gybes which is a first.  A bit scary as the boat needs to be properly gunning to keep the speed through the turn.  Finally I see why people compare the 300 gybe to a windsurfer, there is a similarity.  Next sailing at TISC, can't wait!

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Some thoughts on the RS100

The majority of my time at Minorca Sailing was spent either sailing the RS100 or windsurfing (we had strong winds nearly all week, the windsurfing was excellent).  I'd been thinking about the RS100 as an additional boat to the 300, and thought I might post up a bit of a review.

- Really nice boat to hike.  The profile of the sidedecks make straight leg hiking relatively easy and comfortable (compared to the 300 anyway).
- Accessible as a first time single handed asymmetric dinghy.  My baptism was a couple of days of f5, and the boat isn't too much of a handful.  The exception is gybing, it takes a little time to get the process and timing sorted out.  Have to be really careful not to come out too high, the gybing strop helps gybe the main early.
- Beautiful to sail downwind, the boat feels light, balanced and fast.  Easily keeps up with faster boats, and seemed to sail deeper.  Great fun.
- Well thought out and easily adjusted controls.
- Seems to perform well to handicap, but that was on a windward/leeward course.  RTC sailing might well be different, you really need dead downwind legs.

- Not a great boat to sail upwind, felt slow and lethargic (even when permanently footing).  Given that 60% of racing is upwind, this is the one point that I think would stop me buying a 100 - its just not fun beating, as compared to the 300 anyway.
- The boat is underpowered on reaches, until you can fly the kite.  No surprises there.

Not a boat for me for club racing, I'd get too frustrated with the upwind performance.  But if I wanted to do a circuit, then maybe - I imagine the class racing is good. 

I sailed the 300 yesterday for a race around Chichester harbour, finished sailing with a huge smile, I'll be sticking with the 3 for the moment. 

Monday, 20 May 2013

We arrived at Minorca Sailing late on Friday, first time I've been here and wasn't quite sure what to expect. Ses.Salines is a very relaxed village, nice low rise buildings and villas, and all the locals very friendly. The hotel we are staying in is perfect for a holiday like this - friendly, good showers, and every room has a balcony to dry wet kit.

Sailing wise we have had an interesting mix of weather. Saturday started with a force 6/7 and horizontal rain, it felt like the winter weather had followed us from England! But by 10:00 the rain and disappeared, and we were left with a nice f5, maybe 6 in the gusts. Mike and I went windsurfing for the morning, and when the wind moderated slightly in the afternoon decided to get started on the single handed assymetrics, me in a 100, mike in a Musto Skiff. Much learning and much swimming. Sunday was supposed to be a lighter wind day, and in the morning it was. We had a session on tacking and gybing the assymetrics, surprising difficult, you must don't have enough hands. But we are improving slowly.

Claire, Noel and Mandy are all in the laser groups, with training and racing everyday. Claire has decided to master the radial rig in stronger winds, and has impressive bruises to show for the experience. Noel and Mandy have been out in some very strong wind and are certainly improving.

Of course, sailing in strong winds is not without risk, mike nearly broke his little toe.
You might think that is is due to some horrendous capsize in his Musto Skiff. Not the case. Details are sketchy, but it is something to do with an altercation with the bidet in his en suite.

And just to prove how gusty the offshore wind is, check out this video of Claire's knock down at the windward mark.

No wind this morning, hence the post. But plenty expected for Tuesday and Wednesday, the plan is to set a speed record for a tandem windsurf board in Fornells bay. Stand by for medical reports

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Blow, blow, thou winter wind ....

"Blow, blow, thou winter wind
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude."
That's right, you come to this blog and you get a taste of the gentler arts, as well as some ramblings about sailing.  It's poetry for this post, but next time I might post a video of my free-form-jazz-exploratory-dance.  And the Shakespeare is appropriate because despite it being May, we still seem to be getting the cold winds associated with earlier months in the year.
Business as usual at Slipper today, with 20 boats on the water for a local harbour handicap race.   F4/5 SW, and a 1 hour round the cans.  Some performances to report:

- In the battle of the ISOs, Andy and Ed edge Mike and Emma.  Andy made the brave decision hoist at the final mark, and managed to shave the corner of Thorney Island without going aground.  I have to say that I lost concentration at that point in the race, as I was so convinced that Ed was going to be making a trip around the forestay.  But he didn't and they went on the win the race by a good margin.  Slightly disappointed not to see any luffing into mud banks etc.
- Now then, is that a Laser Radial in third place, ahead of Merlins and 200s?  Excellent result for Sam Tweedle, first Laser variant and a fine display of sailing skills.  After I finished I decided on a bit of practice and caught up with Sam as he was running down to the finish line - he was absolutely on it, planing down the short chop and showing great boat speed.  So Lasers can win at the club, but it takes time and perseverance to succeed.
- Great to see Gareth and Abi back in their 200, albeit with a little dip before the start.  But that's forgivable, the wind piped up to a F6 for a short while.  Lots of smiles after the race.

That's it for club racing for me for a while, because it is only 5 days to Minorca! 

300 Log : A mixed race at Slipper

Date: 12th May
Venue : Slipper
Race : Handicap race, 1 hour
Tide : Flooding very slightly
Conditions : F4/5 SW, relatively flat water though
Result : Would have been 3rd of 20, but for the catalogue of errors below

Two reasons for me to sign off as RTD today:
1.  Passed a passing mark on the wrong side.  There was a cruiser busily anchoring 5m from the mark, I was so busy explaining why he might be best served by moving that I missed the mark myself.  Barbara and Johnny tried to hail me to return, but I thought they were whooping in delight at the fine conditions.
2.  Managed to capsize onto a mark (foot caught on footstrap mid tack), righted the boat but neglected to complete a turn.  Only remembered that I should have done so when someone commented after the race that they were surprised my sail stayed intact as it hit the buoy.
3.  Helping all the Juniors get their boats out of the water just before the race and forgot to sign on!

But the sailing was OK.

- Really pleased with upwind speed.  Tiny bit faster than the Merlin, still in touch with the ISOs.  Definitely pays to sail a little freer in those winds, it feels like close reaching upwind rather than beating.  As soon as you bear off just a few degrees, the boat livens up.
- Good downwind speed, and no dramas.  Quite happy to sniff out the stronger bands of wind and not close to tipping it in.

Points for reflection:
- 2x capsizes.  First involved catching footstrap elastic on a tack, second involved falling over in the midst of a gybe.  Both silly, but not a great cause for concern.  Need new hiking boots.  And a better sense of balance.
Mediocre start.  Managed to get a good space to leeward, but too shy of the line and didn't really make good use of the space.  Stopped the Merlin from climbing over me, but I reckon if I'd been on the line I could have made life difficult for the ISOs.

But a pleasant enough sail, what better way to finish the weekend.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

A Phantom comes to Slipper

Today there was a 'blue riband' race in the Slipper calendar - the Pine Out of Harbour trophy race.  It involves a jaunt out of the harbour into Hayling bay, and then back to the club.  Probably 15 miles, taking in the challenges of the harbour entrance and mixing it up with the Glyn Charles pursuit race being run out of TISC.  The forecast was for 25 knots, but more importantly the recent gales have created significant waves that would make for very difficult conditions in the bay.  So I gave it a miss, but a couple of Slipper boats joined the ESC fleet.  Andy Gould was in full frothed-up mode, and came back from Sicily specifically for the event.  He said (and I'm in no way making this up for the purpose of blogging, this is absolutely accurate): "Having been on the cruiser in the med for a couple of weeks, I was getting concerned that I was losing competitive instinct.  My froth levels had decreased from cappuccino to skimmed-milk-latte, hence a return to the UK for a race.   I'm currently at full-drinking-chocolate-with-whipped-cream, levels have never been higher".  Very high SOA. Good to see Andy and Vicky back for a short while, but such a shame that they will not make Minorca in their cruiser.

Andy and Emma P got back in one piece albeit looking slightly shell shocked, John and Simon in their Stratos got as far as the harbour entrance before deciding to retire, I think there was a 420 out from Slipper but I didn't see it finish.

Given the decision not to race, the alternatives were windsurfing, or sailing locally in the harbour.  To be honest I would have preferred windsurfing, but Matt J had been pestering me with text messages to go sailing, as he wanted to try his new Phantom.  After weeks of indecision between a 300 and a Phantom, the Phantom was purchased on the basis that it is a better carrier of weight.  Training-partner-Claire and Noel were also out for a sail, in matching Lasers.

Interesting sailing in 20-25 knots.  The upwind speed of the 300 and Phantom was remarkably similar, the 300 quicker on a close reach, the Phantom certainly quicker on a beam reach, and edging it on a broad reach.  The Phantom was a lot more stable when the wind got up.  The Phantom handicap is 1012 with the 300 at 995, so great to have another single hander in the fold.  Anyway, we left the water with one very enthused Matt, which can only be good for future training sessions.

The wind should abate a little for tomorrows race, hurrah.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

No racing tonight, but a very pleasant alternative

It's gusting to 40 knots in the harbour tonight so I didn't go down for the evening race at TISC, it was sure to be cancelled.  But with a dog to be exercised, and a lack of rain, I decided that tonight would be the first fishing trip of the year.

When we have been sailing over the last week, there have been a lot of terns in the harbour feeding on small fry in the margins and channels.  Where there are feeding birds, there are also likely to be predatory fish underneath. Also, with the rise in water temperature the crabs are moulting their winter shells in preparation for growth in spring and summer - fish love a peeler crab.  Usually all of this activity seems to happen in early April, but this year has been cold and so we have a later start.

Bass are the fish that come into the harbour for both crab and fry, and usually the larger bass can be found early in the season.  So I thought I'd spend a quiet hour seeing whether there were any about.

To cut a long story short, several nibbles and one good take that resulted in a landed fish.

Cook is on steroids at the moment for an itchy skin complaint, and they make him ravenously hungry.  I know that look on his face, its a "it looks edible and I think I can eat it, but will I get told off?" look.  Yes you will get told off Cook, paws off.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

A weekend of two halves

Last Friday, Mrs R decided that it was time to book her ticket for the New York marathon in November, and she extravagantly lashed out on travel plans.  As a supportive husband I welcome this expenditure from our limited family purse, funds spent on sport is A Good Use Of Money.  But opportunities to justify 'maintenance' expenses on boats are rare, and I made haste to order a new boom and sail for my boat whilst Mrs R was caught up in the excitement of the NY trip.

My friend Rich K works at LDC, and was able to bring the boom and sail to the club at 08:00 Saturday morning, which was great as it saved carriage costs.  So as well as the opportunistic purchase, I was able to swing an early morning sailing session out of Thorney.

To be honest, if it had not been for the boom/sail I might have given it a miss.  20-25 knots, cold, wind against tide, and gusty.  But sure in the knowledge that I would feel fulfilled after a sail I went out, and as ever once out it was fine (there is something about the flapping of sails on the shore that develops a high s-o-a).

Richard and Tom were out in their 800 and planed away up harbour, no chance of keeping close in a hiking boat.  I stayed in the main Itchenor channel and practiced bearing away to by-the-lee in the steep chop and gusts.  No 300 insights to report, but I did have a great sail and a rather surprising lack of capsizes.

Sailing back to Cambermet, I spied Richard and Tom having an almighty wipe out on a gybe, it looked painful even from a distance.  On returning to the club, it transpired that they had broken some lines on the spinnaker pole and could not fly the kite.  But Tom did say to me afterwards (and I am in no way making this up for the purposes of blogging, this quote is absolutely verbatim): "To be honest Mark, it was a bit much for us today.  Richard didn't have enough product in his hair to deal with the salt water, and I'd chipped a nail, so we decided to come in". 

Summer came back to the harbour on Sunday, and I went for a sail with Claire and Matt in the evening sun and dying sea breeze.  Never seen so many cruisers moored off Pilsea Island, the array of food aromas was marvellous.  Slightly surprised by the number of boats who moored bang in the middle of the channel.  None of the cruisers invited us aboard for a beer, but maybe that's because we weren't sailing Lasers (where I understand beer is the drink of default).

No sailing Monday through very light winds, so I decided to varnish my mast.

9 days to Minorca.

300 Log : More racing and practicing at TISC

Another great race in the harbour, the evening sailing at TISC is fantastic this year.

Date: 2nd May April
Venue :TISC
Race : Handicap race, 1 hour
Tide : Ebbing moderately  for the duration of the race
Conditions : Southerly f2/3
Result :3rd of 18, 2nd of 4 300's

Another lovely evening race out of TISC, really enjoying the sailing there this year.  The ability to sail at all states of tide is great (already sailing this coming Thursday on a spring low will be interesting).

Four of my 300 brethren made it onto the water, so we had a fleet within a fleet.  Dave Acres was sailing, and remains the benchmark for progress.  Once again he beat me, but only by 15 seconds over an hour, and I did have opportunities to win (that I squandered!).  So close racing and a reasonable result.  LOS = 8/10.

- Learnt more about the start line at TISC.  Starting at the club end can be hazardous because of the steeply shelving mud banks.  I went hard aground about 30 secs before the start, and started 30 seconds late.  This gave a great opportunity to get practice sailing back through the fleet, see how I changed a negative to positive there.
- First time for a while since I have sailed against Dave A and was pleased with relative downwind speed, certainly took a reasonable chunk out of his lead on the downwind leg.
- Reasonable upwind legs, although I felt I wasn't getting the best out of the compass on the first beat.  Second beat much better, easier to pick the shifts. 
- Claire has mandated that I stop blogging about states of psychological arousal, she finds it distasteful.  But it was nice and low.

Points for reflection:
- Spent ages working upwind to get past Dave, and then threw it all away by overstanding the final mark.  In retrospect I should have covered for the final third of the beat.   No opportunity to pass on the final leg - the tide kept us pinned to the bank.  So another race where a single mistake defined the outcome, this is becoming a habit!
- When the wind is light enough for us both to be sitting in the boat (ie, not hiking), there is very little difference in boat speed irrespective of body weight difference.  When I'm able to get hiking first, that's when being lighter in the boat helps, and that advantage stays until we are both hiking.  That window is about 2 or 3 knots.

So once again it is down to consistency.  That said, at the same point 2 years ago Dave was taking 2-4 minutes in every hour out of me, so in terms of overall progress in the boat I should be pleased.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

300 carbon boom

Photos to support the post I've made on the 300 group board.  Won't be of interest to non-300 sailors I'm afraid!

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

300 log: More evening racing at TISC

Date: 30th April
Venue :TISC
Race : Handicap race, 1.5 hours
Tide : Ebbing hard for the duration of the race
Conditions : Initially SE F2/3 (for 20 minutes), dying to nothing (for 1 hour), then NE F2/3 (for 10 minutes)
Result : Probably 1st of 12ish boats, 1st of 4 300s.

- Good start.  The tide was ebbing hard and taking the fleet over the line, so good time on distance was required.  I practiced the start at least 15 times, and got off the line 1st by a couple of boat lengths.
- Good speed all round the course.  Spent lots of time tweaking to get the top tell tale flying on all points of sail, surprising amount of vang required.
- Good read of the tide to find the best route round the course, and sneak around buoys laid in adverse tide (if you didn't make it, you were done for the race).
- Very low state of arousal, which is good because the whole arousal thing is getting a little wearing.

Points for reflection:
- Missed East Head when in first (navigation in this part of the harbour is not my strong suit), and lost 6 boats as a result.  But in a way this was good news, as it meant I had to work back through the fleet, and that's good practice!
- Could definitely have used a wind indicator at the top of the mast when the wind dropped below 2 knots. Frank Bethwaite writes about using a balanced feather, I wonder how you make one.

So an interesting race, it is just nice to get out midweek.  Finishing a race in the dark was novel.  Next race Thursday!

300 Log: Reflections on the Bough Beech open meeting

So a quick post for the positives and reflections of the open meeting last weekend

Date: 27/28 April
Venue :Bough Beech SC
Event: 300 Open Meeting, 7 races of approx 45 minutes each
Tide : No tide.  Its a lake.
Conditions : Saturday, N f3/4, Sunday SW f1/3.  Very shifty, at times with 50 degree shifts.
Result : 3,4,7,1,2,3,5.  4th overall, 3 points separating 2nd from 4th, but 1st some way ahead.

- Great downwind boat speed.  Could count on being faster downwind than most other boats, very useful tactically and very pleasing that the winter practice has paid off.  Only person standing up downwind, which surprised me.  Seemed to sail by-the-lee more than most.  Put it in once when the tiller extension got caught in the outhaul (breaking the extension), but that is a one off and hopefully will not be repeated.
- OK boat speed upwind.  I thought my lack of weight would be an issue when the wind increased, but didn't feel like it was much of a factor.  A couple of boats had an edge on me, but shifts and tactics were far more important.
- Reasonable starts.  4 good starts, 1 OCS, 1 average start, 1 poor start.  Happy with pin end starts, need to get much better at time on distance for starboard end starts, and sorting out starboard end laylines etc.  To much pin ending at the club line, thats the problem! 
- Its good to have the first open out of the way, and a reasonable result.  If nothing else, I've found lots of areas that need practice, which is encouraging.

Points for reflection
- Too 'highly aroused'.  On Saturday my best race was the final one of the day, when I was mentally tired.  Didn't try to think too much and just on with it, and seemed to do better as a result.  On Sunday, my best race was when I was called back for being OCS, started in last and as a result all expectation on result was lifted.  Came through the fleet to get 3rd (nearly 2nd).  Not sure why I was wound up, perhaps putting all of this stuff public on a blog isn't helping!
- Mixed boat handling.  Very noticeable that the event winner had much smoother boat handling, especially on mark roundings.  I lost count of the number of times I worked hard to get an inside overlap and then lost a place through a poor rounding.  But at least it is something that can be worked on easily.
- Mixed decision making on strategy.  There were times when I knew the right thing to do, but got carried away with tactical situations.  For example on the Saturday it always paid to go left on the run (more wind), but I went right twice to protect wind and lost multiple boats in the process.  Big picture would have been better.
- Never got to grips with the wind.  It was all over the place and difficult to read, and very different to the sailing I'm used to.  Started to improve by reading the wind on water, and looking at other boats/flags (many thanks for the tip Tim!), but never had it dialled.  Will be consulting Steve C in due course, as to the best approach for shifty lake winds.
- More mixed decision making on tactics.  There were a couple of boat-on-boat decisions that were rash.  For example, I tried to nip inside Martin (481) on a downwind leg whilst overpowered on a broad reach - it was always a 30/70 idea, and would have been far better to hang back and wait for a better opportunity.  Ended up with the leech in front of the mast, skewing to windward and fouling the boat I was trying to overtake - not good for either me or my 300 brethren.
- Still need to get sorted on changing gears.  Being pent up leads to tight sheeting and over-pointing, not fast!

So a good deal to reflect on, and some new areas to practice.  Can't wait for the next open, most likely in June.