Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Race 6, Sebago Fall Race Series

A touch of fall in the air and the trees - it was like the weather gods were apologizing for their wintery little tantrum last weekend.

With the forecast calling for absolutely superb Fall weather, one of the Sebago dinghy racers had the brilliant idea that instead of a work-day, we should take advantage of the mild conditions to have a make-up day for Race 6, which had been cancelled last week due to high winds that Sunday's forecast showed (they never quite materialized at the threatened level, but when the water is cold, and people don't have drysuits, and your safety boat is a 13' Boston Whaler that is exactly the type of small craft to which the term "small craft advisory" refers, you don't gamble that the winds won't gust up to 33 kts, y'know?). Sunday the 6th? Hey! 58 degrees, winds 5 or less in the AM building to 7 to 9?

Well, shoot! Carpe diem and all that jazz. Let's go race some Sunfish!

And what a glorious day of Fall dinghy racing it was, too.

Between the Level 4 class that TQ & I taught back in September, providing kayak support for the challenging Ederle swim, and wrapping up the last 3 legs of the trip around Long Island (heck, I still owe you trip reports for the 3-day and the Red Hook to Canarsie one, don't I), I've had a totally kayakcentric fall. I was only able to sign up for the last 2 races of the 6-race series, so I was absolutely tickled to have Race 6 suddenly back in the picture. I'd felt like I'd gotten a lot out of the racing workshop David C. had run right before the beginning of the series & I wanted to see if it worked.

I'd come out of last season's races a bit dejected. People who've been reading this blog for a while might recall that I just SUCKED, I was pretty much "DFL" in every single race, by a painful distance, with the absolute nadir being a race in which I fought and fought and fought to get to the windward mark, getting there long after everybody else was long gone, made my tack and breathed a huge sigh of relief as I sheeted out for the run to the finish - only to see the committee boat pick up the last marker and leave. So my goals this year weren't extravagant - simply to stay up with the pack would be a marked improvement.

I'd definitely done a little better in light air, but I was very curious to see how I'd do in a little more.

Sunday the 30th would've been too much - as it ended up, the better sailors probably would've had a blast but I would've been in survival mode.

Out under the bridge
But this Sunday?

Mark on my tail
Oh my. Just couldn't have been nicer.

The wind was better than it was forecast to be - if the forecast had held, it would've been a slow trip out to the bay & maybe another light-air race or two, but it had already begin to build by the time we got to the club, it was probably in the promised 7 to 9 range by the time we were launching and iwindsurf.coms actuals for the afternoon ended up being slightly over 10 - solidly 11, maybe 12. Just about perfect for racing when it would really be better if people stayed rightside up (blasphemy, I know, but as I said, we have a tiny safety boat & only 3 of the 7 of us were in drysuits).

Holly the Sailing Co-Chair was our entire committee for the day & she ran 4 races with a nice mix of courses.

Race 1 was the sort I think Tillerman has at least once referred to as "a sausage" - a nice, straightforward course using a windward mark & a leeward mark. Starting line in the middle, 3 legs, upwind, downwind, upwind back to the start. Easy, right? Ha ha. I managed to completely blow it by following another sailor around the wrong mark - we were using a green can for our windward mark & Lee & I both got discombobulated at the start & took off for a much closer red nun. By the time I realized what I'd done, the pack was so far away I decided to scratch rather than make everybody sit around twiddling their thumbs waiting for me (Lee made the same call). Depressing part was up until the moment I realized what I did, I was thinking "OMG! I'm in second! This is unbelievable! How is this possible?". That didn't last too long. It did give me a good chance to grab a few pix - here are the leaders on the downwind leg, at the leeward mark, and heading for the finish:
Race 1 - downwind leg

Leeward mark

Heading for the finish
and that's Holly in our little committee boat, "Seagull".

I didn't take any more pictures until we were heading home because after that, I was quite busy racing, and unlike 2 weeks ago, the breeze was strong enough that you needed both hands for the boat!

Race 2 was a repeat of the course of Race 1. That one, I finished, but I was last. Still, not as painfully last as last year's lasts were...silver lining, right? Seriously, I blew Race 1 by basically lashing my legs to my tiller extension somewhere in the middle of a tack. I was told afterwards that I should've just kept going, but things were looped about in a way that I didn't feel too comfortable with: in the event a gust sent me over I wasn't sure how easy it was going to be to get loose. I kept sailing but got very sloppy while disentangling myself & everybody passed me.

Holly set up a fun race for Race 3 - she threw in an extra mark to make a big triangle, and she had us go clockwise so we were leaving the marks to starboard. I did OK, came in smack in the middle (4th out of 7) and pretty happy!

Race 4 was 5 legs, a sausage and a half I guess - up to the green can, down to our leeward buoy, back up to the line only then turn around the pin & back down for one more trip around leeward buoy. I pulled off a really good start on that one & might actually have come in in the front half of our little fleet except that first I managed to wrap the sheet around my neck during a tack, doing a totally unintentional 360 in the process of stopping my boat from strangling me, and later decided I must have fouled someone & done a 360 (found out later that it's a 720 you're supposed to do, but we compared notes afterwards & weren't entirely sure who fouled who, so I think a half-penalty was probably appropriate). Still came in 4th.

Sailboats & Traffic Jam

So, 1st race DNF, 2nd race 7th, 3rd & 4th a solid 4th...still lots to work on (line handling! tacking! reading wind shifts! racing rules! and maybe some more line handling!) but at least the basic UPWIND SAILING that I was doing SO badly last year seems to have improved.

Glad I got some good sails in here in the Fall -- will try for one or two more if the weather cooperates, but if it doesn't, I think I can be happy with the sailing I did do this fall.
End of a perfect day.


tillerman said...

Well done! That's great progress. And you are obviously enjoying the racing.

On that problem of getting the sheet caught around your neck in a tack, it's a common problem unless you have "sheethangers" to keep the sheet close to the boom. I'm guessing your boat didn't have them. They are perfectly legal under class rules. There'a a picture of what I mean here. But you don't have to buy them. It's easy to make something yourself.

I can't help you with that issue of lashing your legs to the tiller extension. Never seen that one before!

bonnie said...

Yeah, I was happy with how things went. I think my big sailing problem last year was an overreaction to my original big sailing problem, which was pinching - overreaction meant I was never really going upwind.

The sheet handling issues were mostly getting used to handling the extra sheet on a racing rig IN a race WITH actual wind (Ho. This wasn't the first time I used one, but the first time I raced with one was 2 weeks ago when nothing was happening in a hurry. Our more experienced sailors noticed that some of us were losing ground badly on our tacks because we were rushing them, jumping across the boat too soon & stalling things. I never stalled out completely (and in fact remember passing someone who'd gotten stuck in irons just as they rounded the leeward mark) but I think that I was probably in that group.

I may have been exaggerating slightly when I said I lashed my legs to the tiller - but it was a bit complicated, the sheet went over the tiller, under my legs, back over the tiller & then a couple of loops around my ankles. I was just picturing what that was going to do if I went over and it wasn't a pretty picture!

The club boats do all have "sheethangers" (which I now know to call "sheethangers" rather than "those little velcro loop thingies", thanks!). The around-the-neck loop was actually from the sheet in my hands - I think that what happened there was that my convertible PFD has a stiff little manual inflation tube that sticks up so that you can get to it and blow your PFD up if the canister fails. Unfortunately that also puts it in the perfect position to hook the sheet as you duck under the boom if I let the sheet get anywhere close to it. I'd noticed that on our Wednesday sail but that was the thing - when I wasn't racing, I was collected enough to notice it! Suspect I was doing one of those mad scrambles & the tube hooked the sheet, brought it along as I turned.

Hmmm...perhaps I should add "work on maintaining a calmer frame of mind during a race" to my list of things to work on.

bonnie said...

Oops -2nd paragraph - "(Ho" was supposed to be "(Holly mentioned that that might have been my issue when I was complaining about how much I was fumbling with the sheet)".

Our other sailing co-chair, Jim, couldn't be there (didn't need to 'cause he already won the Sunfish series - first place every race, can't fight with that!) but heard about my attempts to do myself harm with the sheet, suggested tying the end of the sheet to the aft end of the hiking strap.

Of course my other theory was that I was sailing "Blue", the boat he usually used, and that Blue was actually pissed off to find herself in the hands of such a duffer!

bonnie said...

PPS - And yes, I enjoyed it a lot more this year. Even ending up in last place is less painful when I'm ending up in last place because of some egregious & easily identifiable foul-up instead of just being mysteriously but pathetically slow!

tillerman said...

Tying the loose end of the sheet off somewhere does help to avoid tangles. This whole sheet management thing is more of a problem on the Laser because there's more sheet kicking around the cockpit. It's worth kicking the pile of sheet to somewhere where you feet won't get tangled up in it when you tack or gybe.

PeconicPuffin said...

Congratulations! Racing a sailing craft is a profoundly humiliating activity, so indeed in the early stages simply finishing is a great victory. My own first racing series I managed to DNF every heat.


bonnie said...

It does seem that there are somewhat higher dues to pay in sailing than kayaking...