The Last Saturday race before Christmas started in what was forecast to be a building but not too strong Nor’ Easter, we were, as is becoming bit of a pattern on Saturdays short crewed so my initial thought was to go very conservative with the sail selection, especially as we were to be joined by Maria and Scott who are brand new members of GFS and have had very little sailing experience, Chris our hard working Membership Secretary introduced Maria and Scott to us, while describing them as keen but green, after having them on board for a couple of hours I can say that their keenness will mean they will not be green for long.
As it turned out we sailed with a not too conservative sail plan. I rigged the single line first reef, (in the light winds that we normally experience during the Wednesday twilights, we normally take the reef lines off the sail to get a better air flow across the bottom quarter of the sail) and hoisted “Reg” our heavy weight number one. I’ll digress a bit, there are those that understand our sail identification nomenclature, and those that don’t, the former are definitely in the minority. Our head sail wardrobe consists of “Wes”, “Reg”, “Bas” and “Tom”, there is also a rules compliant heavy weather sail, he does not have a name but is known simply as the number 4 that apart from inspections and compliance measurement has never been out of the bag, Ann and I hope that he never has to come out in anger.
Wes is a light weight Genoa of around 145% overlap, flaked and tied up in his bag he only weighs about 12 kg. “Wes” is an absolute weapon in under 7 knots but an uncontrollable monster over 11 knots. “Wes” is an acronym of “Wednesday Evening Special”.
Reg (Short for Regular #1) is a little bit smaller and quite a bit heavier, cut a bit flatter and while a very good sail in light air he really tops out at about 15 knots but can also handle wind of up to 20 knots, or more, with the assistance of a reef. although in these pressures he does need a main sheet trimmer and head sail trimmer that are right on their game. “Reg” is getting to the end of his life but like the old soldier he is, he always delivers when called on.
Bas is our #3 jib and his name is an acronym of “Big Air Sail” we normally call on “Bas” in winds over 15 knots, while in lighter wind he is not that much slower to windward than the Genoas, his sheeting angles mean that we can point a bit higher, although in the lighter airs he just suffers from a lack of area when the wind gets much further aft than about 80 degrees.
Tom is our Rolling Furling Genoa he is used exclusively for cruising, while his pointing ability is obviously not as good as the racing sails, he does not suffer too much in performance when shortened on the furler. “Tom” the cruising sail, get it? I thought it witty but I think I am on my own.
Back to yesterday’s race, there were only six starters in our division, three Etchells, a Robinson 950, a Dehler 32 and ourselves. we attacked the committee boat at the start and were able to cross the line right on the gun, I had a nagging feeling that we may have been a bit over but a furtive look back at the starers revealed a thumbs up. Mal. on Blue Chip, the Robinson 950, was trying to push me over but he was about, thank goodness, five seconds too late. Again the words of Michael Groves (The owner and skipper of Agrovation, and champion dinghy sailor) were ringing in my ears, some time ago when he was crewing on G-whizz, in a similar situation he just kept saying “Hold your nerve Grah! Hold your nerve!”
On the work down to the Goat Island Buoy we seemed to be lacking speed in comparisin to the others, the wind was in the 14’s and 15’s with the occasional gust to 20 that convinced me that we were well and truly on the upper edge of the rig, I considered a reef but for some reason decided a against it, we were not in total control some of the time and I found it almost impossible to “get into the groove”. We were fortunate that John (Hasta la Vista) did not fly a spinnaker on the first run back to Clarkes Point, so we were still sort of in the game for the second work, this time around Goat Island. On this work although the wind was much the same we were a little more competative, while still not up to the speed I would expect, we were in better control, it was as if we were as a crew were re-learning how to sail in these conditions.
The next run was from Goat Island to Schnapper Island and while the three Etchells and Blue Chip who had been using Spinnakers were well in front, Hasta la Vista was still in sight, close enough in fact that when they had a “whoopsee” when gybing their spinnaker we were able to take advantage and lead them around Schnapper Island. The broadreach across to Spectacle Island was bit of a game of cat and mouse with us trying to keep Hasta la Vista behind and to leeward.
On the final work back to Goat Island I tried a few different things, running the jib cars a few inches forward meant that “Reg’s” leach was a bit tighter and his foot a bit more open, tightening the main leach by sheeting on a bit harder but with the traveler way down to leeward and easing the back stay a bit. Some of these actions are contrary to normal thinking when you have a bit too much power, but they worked a treat and we were able point about 10 degrees higher and go about a knot faster. I suspect that I out thought myself at the start and sheeted the boat too flat, at moments like this it reminds me that she really does like to be a little “Loose” The result was that we were able to round Goat Island a long way ahead of Hasta la Vista and even though they ran their spinnaker on the long run back to Humbug they were not able to catch us.
Ann really worked hard on the head sail winches and was not out of bed long when we got home after a very convivial Christmas get together with some of the other crews on the”Deck of Knowledge“, Rob is really starting to get the hang of the main sheet, and yesterday’s conditions were pretty trying, Maria and Scott were given a job each and they performed them well, they will I’m sure make pretty good sailors pretty quickly. Our result while not great was very satisfying, and as is normally the case whenever I sail I learn something new or are reminded of something that I may have forgotten.