Thursday, 10 June 2010

Embarassing in Any Language

Since our start to the first Race in the Lagoon City Regatta was so poor, I got to thinking of ways to improve performance. The glaring issue was that when we gybed, the battens in the foresail got hung up on the forestay, hourglassing the sail (OK, that will sound cryptic to non-sailors - sorry). I wondered why we had the battens up there and made some calls.

Battens are put in a sail to stiffen a section of it, and flatten out the shape of the sail. They are flat sticks that fit into pockets of the sail, and can be tensioned so they have just a tiny amount of curvature to them.

I was sure that the battens were in the luff (leading edge of the sail), and couldn't figure out why a sail would have been built that way. A sail is supposed to have a shape like an airplane's wing:

With battens at the front of the "wing" shape, the sail would be forced flat at the spot where it is supposed to be the most rounded, negating its shape. Also, the battens tended to get hung up on the forestay, and when you tried to unwind them after the inevitable hourglassing, the battens would just flex, refusing to be pulled back in place.

I started asking around to see if anyone had seen this before. I asked everyone at Lagoon City, then tried the crowd at my home club, posting the question our club's email board. After that I asked at the Catalina Forums and emailed a local sailmaker. Finally in desperation I phoned 3 separate offices of the people who built the sails hoping they would have an answer for why I had sails with such a crappy design.

The sailmakers suggested that I go to the boat and take pictures to send them. I thought that sounded like a good idea, so off to the boat I went, camera in hand. The sail was hoisted the camera pointed out - and the battens were in the leech (trailing edge, flat part of the sail) where you would expect them to be.

The sail was wrapped be cause the sailor was doing a poor job, not because of the design at all. D'oh!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Iris takes flight.

After winning race 2 at Lagoon, I dropped off my crew, had a bite to eat, and turned iris toward home. As I left Lagoon City, the sky cleared and the sun came out making for very pleasant sailing conditions. I was barely past the breakwall when I killed the outboard and hoisted sail. Iris took the wind in and carried on homeward. It was a great day for a sail.

With the sails up I was clipping along at 4 to 5 knots and almost asleep. The boat was sailing herself as though she knew exactly where to go and what our goals were. I had more to eat, and fixed little things here and there, and enjoyed the ride.

As we sailed, the wind grew stronger and Iris showed more and more eagerness to get home. About two-thirds of the way across the lake we were cruising at hull speed, and the wind was growing stronger as we broad reached along.

By easing the main, I took advantage of the freshening wind and our speed climbed from 5 to 6 knots, and eventually we were sitting at hull speed. I angled off the wind a little and felt a surge under the boat and a shudder. Iris was surfing.

In the past I have only ever surfed canoes, so my frame of reference in the gnarly world of the surfer dude is very limited. After my exhilarating trip from Crates to JP this spring I had asked the guys on the Catalina forum about surfing our sailboats, and they described what to do – bring the boat to hull speed on a wave, ease a little downwind, pump the sails, and ride the waves. It was what I was doing right now.

By surfing you overcome the laws of physics that hold a sailboat to a given hull speed. You no longer push the bow wave of the boat, but rather ride on top of it. While surfing I watched Iris go from 6 knots to 7, then with coaxing to 7.5. It took a load of work and careful helming to get to 8 knots, but by then I had a handle on the angle to hold the helm at, and the way to set the sails, so I was able to climb up to 8 knots. Sustaining the boat at 8 knots was tricky. The waves want to move the boat around and the helm has less control, but it was do-able. In fact so was 8.5 knots, but I maxed out at 9.2.

9.2 knots in a sailboat that is designed to go only 6.3. I was pushing my boat at 146% of its design speed, and it was comfortable doing it. Some of the guys on the Catalina forums have reported speeds in excess of 10 knots in the right conditions. I need to try that.

I surfed the boat all the way from Georgina Island into JP harbour, and dropped the sails in the outer harbour, then eased Iris into her slip and packed up. Somehow it often seems like the trip home is the best sail of the weekend for me.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Day 2 of Lagoon, and things start to click…

So after my first day of racing, I was determined not to let things get messed up on day 2. Around the clubhouse in the morning there were murmers of concern with the weather patterns. Winds were supposed to bein the high 20’s gusting to th e30’s. Wind was forecast, It was a damp cold outside that numbed your fingers fast. Some people abandoned the race, preferring the safety of a car ride home, and some went out and re-evaluated their boats to make sure they were up for the task.

I decided to risk the race, but not my kid. If stupid is going to hurt someone it should be me. Chuck rode home with SWMBO and buddy, and I settled in to singlehand in the storm that was brewing. On the dock I set a reef in the main and hanked on our 110% - the same sail as the day before. Then was offered crew, an experienced sailor without a boat to ride on. It sounded great. We got everything set, started the outboard, and headed to Lake Simcoe.

The wind was howling and whitecaps were here and there as we left the breakwall to face Lake Simcoe. Once the sails were set, I left the outboard down to give us a little drag and be sure we weren’t being too far overpowered. Iris bit into the wind, and we were sailing along very nicely. Soon we were in the start sequence, and keeping an eye on our competition. The clock ticked away, and the flying sail fleet took off – all piss and vinegar as they crashed through the waves, slicing the foam and tossing it aside. It was our turn.

I got Iris into a nice spot on the line, circles a few times and kept an eye on the clock. With 30 seconds to go we were approaching the line nicely. 10, 9, 8, 7 CRAP! The wrong flag was up – we were exactly on time to cross the line by my stopwatch, but a minute early by the committee boat. Somehow we had the wrong horn for the pre-start signal. I tacked away, lost too much momentum, and ended up in irons, once again agonizing as the entire fleet sailed past us.

Eventually I got Iris aimed back at the course, and as with the day before we worked to catch up with the fleet.

The course today was “2 triangles and a sausage”. This means that there would be 3 windward legs, 4 reaching legs, and 1 running leg. The 110% sail had performed really well in the windward leg the day before, and I had tweaked a few things for better reaching performance. The running leg was a crapshoot, but I figured that if I crossed my fingers just right it might work out. We put on our game faces and set to work.

My crew was amazing. He timed the crossing of the jib so that it never got caught in the forestay – not even once. And he wasn’t afraid to go forward to tweak things when needed. We outpointed most of the fleet, had very few early tacks, and apart from a couple of my strategies that could have been better, the race went really well.

We did direct battle throughout the race with Icarus, eventually finishing ahead of her. With Second wind we weren’t quite as lucky – we swapped tacks a couple times, and had a good lead on her to the finish, but I tacked early on our final approach giving her the advantage, and letting her slip by in the last minute of the race. Tobasco was a similar story. We had one crossing with her only feet off our bow, and then matched pace. For most of the race she was within range for us, then on the final reach and run we left her far behind. Somehow though, she outpointed us and got to the line ahead of us by about 3 minutes.

In the end we beat all of these guys on our handicap, and came in first in our division though – a far cry better than any of our previous Lagoon City showings. Things are feeling pretty darned good right now!

LSIS Race 2 Stats:
Distance Covered: XX.X Statute Miles (Slip to Slip) - Tracklog incomplete
Time on course: 2:24:40
Corrected time: 2:07:10
Time out of 1st Place (Corrected Time): 0:00:00
Iris was on course 0% longer than the first place boat.

Monday, 7 June 2010

After his nap:

(This from a 2 year old with slightly low vocabulary skills for his age)

Buddy: "Is Daddy Home?"

Mama: "No, Daddy's at the boat."

Buddy: "Daddy boat?"

Mama: "yes, Daddy's Boat."

Buddy: "Boat Water?" (translation: The boat is in the water?)

Mama: "Yes, the boat is in the water."

Buddy: "Go to Daddy's Boat."

Huh. I guess we're driving up for the post-race party then eh?

Lagoon City is in the books for 2010

On Friday after work, Chuck and I headed up to Iris as fast as we could after our chores were done and SWMBO was hugged. Loaded up the boat, and pointed her at Lagoon City. We left JP at 18:33 (Chuck has that engraved on her brain for some reason) and after motoring without event all the way across the lake, we pulled in to LCYC at 21:15 just as the sky turned dusky. We were treated to a slip with power right in front of the clubhouse, and greeted by friends.

As the darkness quickly closed in on the club, we barbecued some dinner, and visited friends. Everything was great, and we quickly settled in to the Yachtie Life (food, drink, and weather reports). After catching up on everyone’s winter it was time for bed, and we retired to Iris for the night.

The mosquitoes were awful but we did our best to get some sleep despite them, then were up bright and early for scrambled eggs and sausages, race registration, and the skipper’s meeting.

The first race was to be the Thorah Island distance race. (You can see last year’s report here: ) In our first 2 attempts of this race our record stood at “couldn’t reach the finish line” and “came in so far behind the last place boat that a special standing had to be declared.” If previous performance was an indicator, I didn’t expect much out of this attempt, but then hope springs eternal, and I had had that incredible sail bring in the boat home from launch. Maybe this year would be different. At least that was what I kept telling myself as we nosed our way out to the start line.

The sail selection for the race was dead simple. With strong winds blowing spray off the tops of the waves, tree branches whipping back and forth and rain in the forecast, everyone was going down a sail size. We hanked on our 110% jib without question. There is just one problem with this sail – I had never used it before, and it has battens in its leading edge. I didn’t think much of that at the time, but would soon learn about flying a headsail with battens.

As we did our pre-start dance the boat was handling well considering the wind, and my crew (Chuck) was doing a great job of helping out where needed. Then someone sailed by and told me I had a twist in the foresail. I looked up from under the main, and sure enough – the jib was hour glassed I ran forward to tug it free, and the battens just flexed, not letting the sail untwist itself. No problem, I ran back to the cockpit, gybed the boat and as we went around the wind, it pushed the sail back around the forestay, untwisting it.

The clock ticked away, and finally we were into the heat of the pre-start. With less than 2 minutes to go, I noticed that the sail was once again twisted around the forestay. No problem, I would sail the start, then find a good spot to gybe again.

The clock ticked down, I was hot and early on the line. Needed to pull a donut and burn speed. If I went through 360° clockwise, I would open up space on the line for another boat to squeeze me out. To go counterclockwise would protect my position, counterclockwise it was. I warned Chuck to hold on and that we were going to spin around, and then we went. Around the boat spun. The main snapped across the centre of the boat, the jib wrapped itself around the forestay a second time. Crap. A double hourglass, no way to undo it, and the fleet bearing down on us from behind. To make matters worse we were still early on the line.

I held a straight course, and went over the line early. The fleet parted around us, and continued up the course. I turned iris toward the end of the line, spun her around to untwist the foresail, and then restarted the race, giving myself a 2:30 penalty before the race even started. I was both the first and last boat to start the race.

With much hard work, Chuck and I made our way to the windward mark. It was a long slog, and we did our best to stay as close to the wind as possible, outpointing as many boats as we could all the way. Slowly we caught up to the back of the fleet. We passed Gryphon (who we later found out had torn a sail and was forced to retire from the race) and we passed another boat whose name I don’t know. Then with much hard work we caught up to and passed Icarus. Almost at the windward mark we were hot on the tail of Second Wind.

In order to pass Second Wind, I thought I would push them off the mark, and pass inside. I pinched up Iris, and approached the mark, wedging myself in between Second Wind. Then the wind shifted and we were low on the mark. The boat lost speed. Then it lost more, and then we were drifting sideways as the wind howled through the rigging. The boat refused to turn. The jib back winded, wrapped itself around the forestay, and laughed at me.

It was only after Second Wind and Icarus had rounded the mark that we were able to sort things out. The other boat we had passed was close behind as we finally rounded the mark, and made a beeline for Thorah Island, trying to hunt down Icarus and Second Wind.

As we rounded the back of Thorah, I took a long route, not wanting to be caught in the shallows that surround Thorah Island as the waves crashed around us. I knew I could take a shorter and faster inside route, but that would risk hitting bottom in the troughs of the waves that were all around us. The other boat that was chasing us elected to take the riskier shallow water route, and I kept a close eye on them as they slowly caught up to us. I was demoralized, but kept on sailing. Eventually, the unknown boat tacked out from the island, an dI thought they had lost their stomach for sailing in the shallows, then just as suddenly, they turned 180° and were headed straight towards the island in some very shallow water. I was worried, but there was nothing I could do for them without risking my own boat.

That was about when I heard a call on the VHF – a distressed vessel calling for the coastguard to lend assistance. I was worried that the distressed vessel was the one behind us. Listening on the conversation, I realized that it was unlikely the two boats were the same one, but for the rest of the race I spent as much time looking behind as ahead, and hoping all would turn out well.

After the race, the skipper told us that his furler had jammed, and he had to free it, no emergency at all. I was relieved.

We plodded along for the rest of the race. I was grumpy. I had a bad start followed by a bad mark rounding and generally felt like the race could have gone much better. We finished, tidied up the boat, and headed to the clubhouse. At the Yacht club, SWMBO was waiting with Buddy, so that was nice, but I had to tell her I wasn’t an ubersailor, and tell her how bad the race was. Then I drank too much beer and complained loudly to everyone about how poorly things had gone.

Mid whining, I felt a hand on my back. It was Icarus’ skipper. He leaned over and whispered in my ear – "you took second."

I guess it wasn’t such a bad race after all!

Sunday Racing to follow...

LSIS Race 1 Stats:
Distance Covered: XX.X Statute Miles (Slip to Slip) - Tracklog incomplete
Time on course: 3:49:21
Corrected time: 3:21:36
Time out of 1st Place (Corrected Time): 0:15:23
Iris was on course 8.26% longer than the first place boat.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Work Night.

Tonight I head up to the boat after a little yard work. It isn't scheduled to be a fun night on board though.

I really need to scrub the decks. At the marina where the keel repairs were done, they left the boat parked under the eaves of a building with a barn swallow problem. There are a lot of stains to be worked out. I have ammonia and other cleaners on board, I hope that at least one of them works. Then I have non-skid cleaner to hit the non-skid with after that.

Inside the boat, I have to go through all the cubbies and drawers and remove the extra stuff in them. For the winter we just pulled all the drawers out and stored them in the basement. Full. That means I have about 4 spatulas, a dozen spice jars with a variety of spices, 8 sets of tongs, and who-knows-what-else stuffed into the galley drawers. Most of the rest of the boat is cleaned out. I mean, sure, I have the A-Frame for raising the mast, and all the tools for rigging her still aboard, and 2 full sets of sails, a billion life jackets and too many fenders, a spare fuel tank, and a dozen rotted docklines, but I think that's all reasonable. Or not.

I wonder how much of this "stuff" I can fit into the Volvo.