It was another gorgeous day on July 25. We’ve sure had a string of them lately. The only problem was wind. If only we had the 12-14 knot seabreeze that showed up on Sunday, it would have been perfect. Saturday’s breeze was mostly in the range of 4 to 7 knots, I would say. The RC set a windward leg of 140 in the first race and 130 in the next two races. Tide was incoming all day.
On Chinook we seemed to have good speed. Our rig was at two settings below base, which is the range for 0-6 knots. At various times we thought maybe we should try another turn off the uppers to get more forestay sag, or another turn off the lowers to get a flatter main, or both, but we never executed on those ideas.
Our jib leads were at 4 holes showing between the front of the car and the screw at the front of the track in the first race, and 3 1/2 holes in the second two races. We were inhauled all day at 1 to 2 inches off the cabin top, aiming for 1 1/2 inches off.
Mike Kalin pointed out in the debrief that we seemed to be sheeting our main harder than most of the other boats, which might not be what you would normally want in light air. I guess that evolved from two things. First, I believe there is something about the J/70 boom where it often seems to be much closer to the driver than it really is. Our team is used to me always asking if the boom is on centerline, and they often say it is not quite there. On Saturday, I think we were almost always at centerline, and sometimes a little above. Second, I kept sheeting the main until it stalled, and it seemed like it was tolerating it pretty well. The main telltales were probably stalled 50% of the time. One problem we had in all three races was that we seemed to be slow off the line but competitive once we were on the open race course. In retrospect, the tight main sheeting might have been the reason we seemed slow off the line. Note to self: keep those telltales streaming in the first few minutes. Mike talked about the blocking and turbulence created by even a small fleet in these conditions, and I think that makes it even more important to stall less when you are near groups of other boats.
We were usually trying to get to the left side of the course, because of my impression that it usually fills in on that side first. In the first leg of the first race, we felt that was working 3/4 of the way up the beat, but then we got a 5 degree right shift at the top of the leg, and were beaten to the mark by several boats from our right. The rest of the day we felt left was better, except for the last leg of the day (which I’ll describe below). I think that Alden was correct, however, that the day was not so much an issue of picking a side, as it was finding the pressure and connecting the dots. In the first race, I think we caught some boats downwind by going further right (course left). Our thinking was that the inbound Marblehead current might help us on that side as long as the pressure was ok. We didn’t go that far right on subsequent downwind legs because port jibe seemed to be the long jibe and the pressure didn’t look good far right. In any event, we finished second in the first race behind Rascal, who had a big lead.
In the second race, we went pretty far left on the first leg again, and approached the mark exactly on the port tack layline. We thought we would cross Team Spring coming in from the right by a half to a full boat length. My first thought was to “pop through” and tack to windward of their line. But instead I got greedy and we tacked closely around the mark in front of them. This became an interesting rules situation. We clearly completed our tack, so there was no problem as a tacking boat not keeping clear under Rule 13. Also, we came out of our tack very low and bearing off around the mark so we would not foul Spring by forcing them above close hauled under Rule 18.3(a). However, Spring overtook us on the inside rather than the outside, obliging us to give them room under Rule 18.3(b). Since Spring hit the mark and we had not given her room, we did a circle. The circle was not well executed by me, as usually happens when things go south. Clearly the pop-through was the move to make! We finished that race third behind Spring and Africa.
In race 3 we went left again and arrived at the windward mark fairly close behind Rascal and Jumper. Although neither we nor Jumper probably wanted to, we ended up jibing simultaneously and we were close together for a period of time going down the leg on port jibe. We were concerned about our two boats slowing each other down, but we didn’t feel there would be good pressure if we jibed back to starboard. So we tried to go wing and wing to create some separation. Not a good move - it was way too light for wing and wing. We lost several boats and took forever to get rolling again. Approaching the leeward gate, there were three maybe even four boats going to the right gate facing downwind, so we split to the left gate. After we came around, we noticed that the other boats seemed like they might be going slowly at the right gate, perhaps because they were in a group. We also felt the pressure looked pretty good on port tack straight ahead on the right side, so we kept going that way and it kept improving. We finally got a header from 170 to 175, tacked in pressure and made a big gain to arrive at the windward mark just ahead of the boats on the left. We were able to hold off Rascal and Jumper downwind and survive for a first in the race.
Lessons for the day: learn how to get off the line with more speed in light air, either pop through or duck if you have a close crossing on the port tack layline at the windward mark, and don’t try wing and wing when it’s too light.
Huge thanks to Mike Kalin for his time and effort helping out the fleet!