Spring Sailing, Managing Mainsails and Rudderless Racing
by Alex Dotsch
Today was the first time we had sailed in the Spring Series (though it was the second race), because last week Mark and I had been OOD.
It was a very sunny day in the morning with a shifty, northerly wind. If you have never been to Welsh Harp, then I can tell you that a northerly wind is not fun, because it crosses the lake at its shortest point, making it difficult to set a good course.
We spent the morning training a bit, doing some tacks and gybes for about an hour. I wanted to test out the mainsail controls (the kicker, cunningham and outhaul) to see exactly what effect they had on the sails.
I started by pulling on the kicker and noticed some striations in the luff of the sail and a reduction of sail twist. This is because the kicker pulls the boom down and into the mast, which bends more and stretches the sail. This will reduce the power in the sail, because there is less lift being generated.
I next pulled on the cunningham, which pulled the luff of the sail down and visibly moved the centre of effort of the mainsail forward, such that the curve of the sail appeared closer to the mast than before. This will reduce heeling and weather helm when the wind is strong, as the centre of effort moves in line with the centreboard, which stabilises the forces on the boat.
Finally, I pulled on the outhaul, which flattened the sail, giving it a smaller profile. This will reduce lift, but will also reduce drag. In moderate to strong winds, on a beat or close haul, you want to pull on as much outhaul as possible to reduce the drag. In light winds, you want to let it out a bit to increase the lift of the sail, although this also increases drag, but since the boat is not moving very much, there is not a lot of headwind and so there is not so much drag. When reaching or running in any wind strength, the outhaul should be let out completely to maximise the drag in the sail, so that the wind pushes the sail and so the boat, forward.
In the afternoon, the wind began to pick up and dark grey clouds rolled in from the west. The wind began to have a bit of easterly in it, which was very good, because it meant we could start using the full length of the Harp.
Today was the London Duck, which is a student run team racing event that attracts dozens of sailors to the Harp. They had taken over part of the lake, the widest part, which meant, the GP14 Saturday Afternoon racers were left with the worst bit. They also took the committee boat and so we had to use a smaller boat, with a feeble horn.
It was very difficult to hear and so when the race sequence began, not many people new what was going on. Luckily my hand was on the buzzer and we got it bang on.
The first race, Mark sailed and we had an okay start. The line was a little port biased and we started around the middle.
Unfortunately, the rudder fell of just as the gun went off and Mark spent a few frantic seconds putting it back on. Luckily we eventually got under way before causing any damage.
The course was a beat, a fetch, a beat and a broad reach. Usually fetches cause uproar in club racing, since they mean that tactics cannot be used and everyone ends up following the leader. However, this time, we did manage to overtake some people by beating a bit and then reaching. This allowed us to take their wind (wind shadowing) and overtake them.
We ended up winning the first race. I came first in my race, because of a single tack after the start at the pin end and doing a port flier (crossing the whole fleet on port). For the rest of the race I was in front. Finally in the third race we came a close second and had there been 100 more yards before the finish line, we would have overtaken the lead boat on the inside.
It was good day’s sailing and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Next week, Mark and I are going to a Regional Open on Sunday, instead of the regular Saturday club race, so it will be very interesting day and I am very much looking forward to it.
Till next week!