Monday, October 24, 2011

Back to the races!

Don't worry, I don't narrate the whole thing!

A little light-air "action" at Race 5 of the 6-race Fall Dinghy. The race committee had deliberately set a very short course and we were doing very short races on that very short course, mostly simple 3-leg windward-leeward-windward things. However, despite all of that, one of those races took us a full half-hour 'cause the wind just died almost completely and I think that it was during that race that I got a little silly with the camera & started not just taking pictures (which I'd figured I could do with the forecast calling for winds of 5 kts or less), but videotaping. Of course then once the wind picked up I felt duty-bound to get a little of the better action, too, and then I think the last race I put the camera away & focused on sailing.

For all I'm making a little fun of conditions here, I was actually glad I went - it was actually a lot more interesting than I ever imagined trying to figure out how to get the boat to go in such light air. Like, I figured out pretty fast that the standard seating arrangement where you sit on one side of the cockpit and the boom sticks out over the other side wasn't going to work because the wind wasn't strong enough to beat out gravity and the sail would just flop over to the side you were sitting on. I ended sailing most of the races kneeling or crouching in the cockpit (and boy are my legs sore today). The wind was also ridiculously shifty, "W-L-W" was a purely theoretical conjecture, one single leg could be w-l-w-l-w-l-w with the shifts only detectable through a lazy spin of your wind indicator, which you had to watch like a hawk. Our poor race committee carefully set up the course based on their observations only to watch it go all to heck on the first leg of the first race (we were all able to sail pretty much straight to the windward mark); they attempted a reset for Race 2 & then after that they just gave up 'cause there just wasn't any point, the wind was just all over the place all afternoon.

There was a Flying Fickle Finger of Fate effect that was definitely in play, really funny to watch - you'd have everybody basically drifting and then suddenly, with no apparent commotion of the water to give away where it was coming from, an errant microzephyr would suddenly start one boat gently into motion while the rest continued. There was one point (not recorded because I was actually paying attention to my sailing at that moment) when there was a group of 3 sunfish driftng together - Oscar, me, and Chris, in that order. Suddenly Chris started moving. Passed me & a minute later I started moving too. Oscar said "Hey!" as I sailed past him chasing Chris & I said "Oh, this'll get to you in a minute", but it never did. Weird stuff!

Anyways, it was all much more interesting than I'd expected, albeit with a few moments where we were all laughing at the moments of complete stillness - and I'm glad to report that the end result of the day was that this was my best day of dinghy racing yet - of course it's not too hard to raise the bar when it was lying on the ground in the first place, but I was SO terrible last year, I couldn't watch the better sailors to see what they were doing because they would be at the far end of the course. All I wanted out of this year's racing was to at least be more or less up with the pack. Well, we had a fleet of 5 sunfish and I came in 3rd overall oops, make that 4th...misread the the end of the day. There may be hope for me yet!

Looking forward to next Sunday - will be interesting to see what the Wind Gods send, the series this year has tended towards extremes - this weekend was no wind, weekend before was gusts to 25. I'd love to see if my "improvement" holds up in a LITTLE more wind, will be keeping my fingers crossed for good conditions.

And yes, of COURSE I took some pictures.
Start of the day - Race Committee drops off a tow. It's something of a point of pride among the Sebago sailors that we like to get ourselves under the bridge, but on a day where it's going to take up racing time, the RC boat was offering tows & most of us were taking them, just in the interest of getting going. We actually got in 6 races, but if the wind hadn't picked up as nicely as it did halfway through Race 5, that probably would've been it.

Kaki sailing Lark. I am a total sucker for the blue-sky-with-peppermint-sail shot.

Downwind leg, in theory if not in actuality.

Upwind leg, again, at least that was what it was supposed to be although the sails would say otherwise, right? Kaki & Oscar finishing.

Gorgeous day to be on the race committee - especially once they gave up on worrying about the course and those theoretical concepts of "upwind" and "downwind" & just settled down to enjoy the day. And our Principal Race Officer made us scones!

OK, so still not quite midfleet - when you have a fleet of 5 I think "midfleet" is 3rd place. But I was definitely not whimpering in everyone else's dust like I was last year (and I might even have done better if I hadn't distracted myself with trying to tape).


O Docker said...

Wow! How did you arrange the police escort back to the club?

Tillerman said...

Well done! Extreme light air sailing can be fun too if you approach it with the right attitude.

A few tips...

1) In very light winds it is better to have a wind indicator made of light yarn or tape hanging from a support, rather than the traditional wind vane type.

2) To overcome that gravity problem it sometimes is better to sit on the "wrong" side of the boat and heel the boat to leeward. Keeps the boom on the right side and gravity helps the sail make a good shape.

3) Sit well forward. As far as you can.

4) Be still in the boat. Every little movement shakes the rig and stops the air flowing over the sail.

5) Look for those zephyrs. On very flat water they are easy to see. Sail towards them even if it's a big diversion from the direct course. It will be worth it.

6) When all else fails... laugh and get out the video camera.

Buck said...

I loved the narration! The most enjoyable things to watch are the ones where the participants are having a great time. Thanks for taking the time to do this!

bonnie said...

O Docker, I cannot reveal the trade secrets of the Sebago Canoe Club. And thanks, Buck. I don't think I've ever heard quite as much laughter on a sail - that was half the fun.

Tillerman, thanks for the pointers! I had noticed one of our better Sunfish sailors taping a masthead fly to the top of his mast while we were rigging, and I'd also seen Jim (one of our sailing co-chairs & a very good sailor who wins a lot) sitting on the "wrong" side. Should've known there was a reason for that - anything Jim does, there usually is.

3 I was doing upwind - you do that downwind too in light air? I wasn't as far back downwind as I usually would be ('cause there was such a good chance that in 10 seconds the wind would switch 170 degrees & I didn't want to be bouncing back and forth too much).

4 The one time my boat was most noticeably the one that began to move while everyone else sat, I think I actually froze, thinking "Wow...whatever is making this work right now, I don't want to mess it up". Holly (the other sailing co-chair) noticed that, said I'd done just the right thing. She didn't mention the sail-flow thing but I think I'll remember that & do more of the staying-quiet thing next time - I wasn't even counting because I was concentrating so hard but Holly said I passed about 5 other boats before I lost it. In fact that was probably a race where I would've been last if I hadn't gotten that little lift.

6 - WOW. I'm so glad that that's an approved technique for light air! :D