Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Messing about in Boat

After the Mayor's cup on Saturday I thought it would be fun to play around with the start/finish pin, so I hovered nearby until I was sure that all the boats were off the course, and then I tried different approaches to "recover" the pin.

The first few attempts were a standard MOB recovery. Sail off for a few seconds, then tack around and approach on a close-hauled course, stalling the boat out as the pin came alongside. I found that using this approach, I usually stalled out early, and stopped the boat when the pin was just off the bow, then drift away from it.

After this I tried coming up on the pin on a broad reach, and releasing the sails as I came alongside. This way, I could Vane the boat away from the pin or toward it by releasing one sail or the other (release the main, and the jib would push the front of the boat away from the wind, release the jib and the main would do the opposite) Using this technique, I could get really close to the pin, but control was pretty poor, although the drift was slow enough that I could snag the pin with a boat hook.

My last attempts were coming at the pin with the wind behind me. Using this approach, it was only possible to dump wind from the jib by allowing it to blow out in front of the boat, and the main would keep driving the boat forward. I could sheet the main on centre, but it still wanted to catch the wind somewhat, and this technique was really poor.

It was a good way to spend half an hour, and let me see the way different things on the boat worked under different circumstances. I felt it was time well spent. By the time I was done, playing , the boat was a mess of lines and sails, but I didn't much care since I had the pin on board and was headed to my slip. I sailed into the harbour entrance, dropped the sails in a heap, and slid toward my slip.

Someone called from the main dock that I was trailing lines, which I appreciated and I cleaned things up before starting the outboard and motoring into my spot. On the way I called out to have some skilled help bring me in since I had no fenders out.

I was surprised by the reaction when I reached the slip. One of the more advanced racers in the marina confronted me with:

"What the f*&k was that s$#tshow out there? You trying to embarrass the lot of us?"


"That was a f*%^ing disgrace. You should be out of the f&^$%ing club"

Apparently I had endangered lives and embarrassed the club by messing about beyond the break wall and then coming in under sail. This sailor thought I was lucky not to have hit another boat. I was more than a little taken aback.

When I pointed out that in returning to the marina I never lost way, and had complete control of the boat all the way in, and no boats had come or gone from the marina since the race, the other sailor had no response, but the whole reaction really surprised me.

In my opinion, the very best place to learn your boat is within sight of the marina. If I had endangered anyone that particular afternoon, the only person that would have been affected was myself. If I ever get stuck out there with an engine failure, I now know I can sail into the harbour. If I lose a crew overboard, I know what points of sail to approach from and how my particular boat will react. I know how long I can hold the nose of the boat on a point before she will fall off, and how quickly I can pull the tight circle to get back to a point after falling off it.

If I am an embarrassment to the club, so be it. I think I'm a better sailor for taking the time to mess about.

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