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.

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