Sunday, May 26, 2013

Tips from the Winter Concluded

I have been milking this content from my winter training sessions for all its worth in these blogs, but to be fair it has elevated my game significantly.  In the first three regattas of the BC Circuit I have finnished 4th, 3rd and 2nd for an overall 2nd place current ranking on the circuit one point behind my RVicYC training partner (and formerly my athlete) Max Gallant.  At Kitten Cup I lost to him on a tie breaker after he moved up by one point upon winning a protest and at COSA I beat him on a quadruple tie breaker, so we are pretty well matched.  His strong performances have qualified him to represent BC this summer in Sherbrooke, Quebec at the Canada Summer Games.  On a segue, I would like to plug his campeign for the under 21 world championships.  He and Nick Smith have been selling 50/50 tickets, baking lemon loaf and trying their hardest to pay for their trip to Balatonfured, Hungary.  In a strange twist, I randomly traveled right by where there regatta venue will be when I was journeying from Slovenia to Finland after I graduated from U of A.  I have dug up a couple pictures of the area near where they will be sailing.  If you look closely you can tell how windy it was!

Have a look at Max and Nick's funding websites:

While I am promoting my training partners I should mention Matt Turner who just won an Amazing Kids award (click here to see why).  Matt has been sailing very well this season as well.  He won both of the BC Circuit events at which Max and I tied but with an unfortunate Spring Dinghies result he is trailing Max and I by a few points.  Good job Royal Vic!
Mark Rounding Tips

Sheeting speed: sheet out faster at the windward mark roundings and sheet in faster at the leeward mark roundings.  Don’t sheet in so much that you luff or stall (respectively) but enough to make sure that you are not fighting your centre of effort.  That is to say when you are heading up the power in your sail should be just behind your centreboard causing your boat to pivot into the wind and when you bear off the power should be just in front of the centreboard to help the boat pivot off the wind.

Don’t overdo the heel on your mark roundings.  In fact try overdoing your heel on the mark roundings and pay attention to the flow over your boat and foils and to your speed at the mark and out of the mark.  Then try again and reduce your heel in your roundings until they feel smooth and fast.  

What I think a lot of racers do is to heel the boat a long way for an impressive pivot at the mark without the need of the rudder, and it feels good because you are not using the rudder, but the sharpness of the turn itself is killing the speed out of the mark.  If you start with heel and flatten out the boat slightly as you turn with a wider radius you can feel the extra apparent wind on the sail.   

The gunwale should only barely touch the water and you should be at full speed much faster.  Doing the mark rounding properly will likely mean that you don’t turn as sharply as you may have been so you have to think more tactically about your entry and path around the mark.

Have your controls set before the mark: Cunningham, outhaul and coarse vang adjustment.  This is also done by marking your control lines.

In the past I have commented that marking your control lines is not a good way of learning, because when you focus on your marks rather than on how the sail shape looks you don't develop as good of an idea of how the sail works.  Also, if you change equipement it can be confusing (an older sail or a bent spar will throw off your settings).  However I have slowly come around to appreciate sail markings.  They don't let you fine tune, that is done by feel and visually, but marking your control lines allows you to set your course adjustments before you are actually on the new point of sail that you are anticipating.



Upwind we have chronically tight outhauls in Alberta.  Loosen the outhaul until it feels wrong, not just feels different, but feels so wrong that it slows you down.  Only then snug it back up until the problem is fixed.  You can often loosen the outhaul until you see the bag in the sail being visibly pulled backwards or until you start feeling weather helm from the outhaul.  At this point, tighten the outhaul slightly to get rid of the problem.  Try it out, speed tune with it, see what works, how much outhaul is actually too much outhaul.

The theory behind having a tighter outhaul in light wind is that if a foil is too curved at low velocities the fluid will not be able to follow the sharp curve and will stall out (go turbulent).  What we have been doing wrong in Alberta is anticipating that effect and tightening the outhaul too early (as the wind starts to die) and too much overall.  I am fighting the urge to write a number here, but I think that is the problem.  Don't memorize what depth your outhaul should be, try different things and try to figure out how it changes the feel of the boat and then what feels the best (or what works best while speed tuning or fun racing).


We tend to use too much vang upwind in light wind.  Keep a completely loose vang.  It should not be drooping but almost all the tension should be taken by the mainsheet (having a newer sail and straightening your spars will also help power up your boat).  This helps you avoid depowering unnecessarily.

Since I wrote this point in my log book a few months ago I have refined it.  I think that it is true that unnecessarily tightening the vang upwind in light wind, say 6 knots and flat water, costs you power and so gives you a lower top speed.  However I believe that what I used to do: flattening the sail slightly with the vang or mainsheet upwind, lets you point slightly higher (as long as you don't pinch).  So the velocity made good to the windward mark is better with the fuller sail (speed mode).  But if you need to hold your lane above someone or keep your height on a persistant lift, or cross someone or make a layline etcetera, it is nice to know how to sacrifice a bit of velocity made good for a tactical gain.

I think that this speaks to a larger point as you keep learning more and more in sailing.  Often when one technique or style comes into fashion it is best to remember the old technique or style and then if you know their relative merits and drawbacks you can use them tactically!  For example years ago in Alberta, everyone was excited about the wide radius tacks because of how much ground there was to gain upwind.  Gradually it went out of style because we remebered that it is also important to keep a bit of forward momentum instead of converting it all to height.  But if you have undershot the windward mark by a boatlength and need a double tack, there is nothing like an old wide radius tack to climb to windward becaus you don't want to come out of the tack with blistering speed as you are going right back into a second tack.

Check out how David Wright Rigs his boat!!


Summary of Winter Training Tips

In typical Alberta conditions: 3-12 knots and flat water, sail with a dead flat boat, a baggy outhaul and a loose vang.  It’s powerful stuff.

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