Saturday, May 29, 2010

SYSCO Spring Series, Race 5, May 27,2010

Great start. Everyone in the crew knew the time to the start. Bill made up a page with the starting times and flags. He wants to work on it some more. There were a few flags he left off. I gave Bill my watch that has a count down timer. We were close to the committee boat when they started the start sequence. The race starts were delayed due to the late arrival of the committee boat. But we caught the start of timing accurately and was able to keep track of the starts much better than last race.

The race was just double the first of the series, C-2-C-2-C. We have been running down the middle of the river on these races. We discovered earlier that staying in the middle was the way to get to the windward mark the fastest. It worked until the problem happened. First we rounded up because we were over powered. The track shows a bright green round up between to faster blue sections. Then the real problem happened when we were to tack to the mark. Aventura's head sail's leech hem unravelled at the spreader. The leech line caught the spreader and the sail hung so that it would not come across. We tried to tack again after getting out of irons and regaining speed. It hung again. Finally we had to head down wind to clear the sail from the spreader. By then the rest of the fleet had caught us. Second Half rounded the windward mark first.

We approached the mark on port tack. We had room between boats. We went into a broad reach across the river to the Oregon side. Then put up the pole for a little while. We took the pole down and lost ground on Second Half. We rounded the down wind mark and went into a port close hauled tack. We went to the middle of the river again.

We did better on this tacking through the wind because we did not play around. We dipped down wind to free the sail immediately. That seemed to work, but it made for a much slower going through the wind. The boat was handling great otherwise. The crew worked as a team. We tacked at B mark to the port, again using the downwind dip. On this port tack we made the pylons west of the concrete wall. As we came to our starboard tack the Hunter 34 tacked in front of us establishing her line. We had to yield mark room.

We rounded the last windward mark together and set our pole to port. We ran downwind, up river together until the finish line. We placed second in this race.

We finished second in the series in finishes and second in the series for PHRF handicapping.

I called the sail loft Friday. He said he could get it sown by the next race if I bring the sail in on Tuesday. I am. I hope he can. Otherwise I will sail with my other Neil Pride head sail. It is probably a faster sail, anyway.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

SYSCO Spring Series Race 4, May 20, 2010

This race was from 14-A-U-A-U-14. When the race was posted the winds were 6 to 8 knots out of the East. But when the race started, they were 3 to 4 knots out of the east. So it took forever to get by the committee boat without hitting others. The fast fleet was still trying to start when our start went. But that was compounded by our not knowing the starting time. I did not pick up the count when I should and really did not pick it up at all. We finally started when I realized there were no more flags flying on the committee boat. Not good.

Early sailing helps sort out the wind direction sometimes. I had the chart running from the slip and noted that one the port tack we crossed the river while on the starboard tack we went up the river. So the thing to do was to start on the starboard tack. But we waited too long as stated in the above paragraph. We crossed the start line a full 5 to 7 minutes after the start. This was better than some of the bigger boats who were still trying to start when we finally broke free. It took is six short tacks to start.

When we finally started we took a longer tack to the center of the river until the mark was well abaft the beam before tacking back to port. We had to look for the mark, which was not there. It had drifted downstream and only got back to almost its proper place when we needed it. Poncho reset it. They also indicated that it was the mark. Again we had to do two short tacks because the wind shift kept backing us.

When we made our first windward mark, we were playing with Vim again. They do seem to get in our way a lot. Looking at our track it shows that the wind was shifting southerly as the evening progressed. We used a long port tack to gain up river distance and waited until the mark was again well abaft beam before tacking to it. But with the wind shifting slightly more we tacked too soon and had to do a starboard tack to the mark which again we misjudged or were scared by the shoalling shore. We tacked at 10 foot depth. We did not quite make the mark and had to do two short tacks again.

The run downwind to Mark U was quick and fun. The crew put up the pole and we zoomed down to the mark. By the time we got to U the wind was falling and still shifting south. We rounded the mark and went into a port tack and started straight for the mark. The wind kept shifting and falling. Until we put out the anchor. This is the second race in a row we have had to use that tactic. I don't like it, but I would rather to that than drift downstream and loose valuable ground when the wind dies. The wind died due to the rain squall that hit us. So we sat for 10 minutes. The wind picked up and we sailed some more. Then the wind died again. Again we anchored. But this time it was for only a few minutes. My crew was working pretty hard hauling anchor. We started sailing some more. Very slowly. Making less than two knots over the ground.

Poncho came out about this time. And went to Cepheron, who was upstream from us. They must have told them they were shortening the course, because they turned around and headed for the finish line. Poncho then came to us and told us that as soon as Cepheron went by we could head for the finish line. She did. We did, too.

Upon reviewing the race, we agreed that our timing the start needs work. I did a horrible job this time. We were too far from the committee boat to watch the flags without binoculars. I was the only one aboard responsible to the timing of the start. I had done OK for the three previous starts but this time I lost track of time. So we decided to designate another crew to keep track of the start time. This will leave me more time to consider strategy.

The race start timing is simple for one race but we have 5 starts. The first signal is at 6:30 and is the 5 minute warning for the first start, which could be any of the five starts. The start is identified by a number pennant which is raised at the 5 minute warning. The start order is determined by the race committee on the committee boat. It could be any of the five starts. They even could combine starts if they wish. It's all in the signaling of the flags. Our fifth start is a yellow-blue pennant. The usual order is 1 to 5. The next warning is the 4 minute warning and the preparatory flag is raised. At one minute before the start the horn blows and the preparatory flag is dropped. The start number flag is lowered at the start time. The next start flag is raised at this time. The cycle starts over again. The preparatory flag is raised at the 4 minute warning and dropped at the one minute warning. This progresses until all starts are completed.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Thursday, May 14, 2010, No Race.

We did assemble at the boat, or at least one of the crew, Bill, and myself sailed Thursday. The day was warm. The wind light out of the NNW at 5 knots. This is the perfect wind to try my spinnaker for the first time since I had the boat.

Finding all the lines and connecting them was the first challenge.The second challenge was to implement them. We motored out of the marina, as usual. We decided to raise the main. I figured it would be nice to have to shadow the spinnaker when we had to take it down and raise it.

Two years ago in the rain an early spring sail with Steve Poland was the only other experience I have with a spinnaker. I took pictures and tried to pay attention, but the only thing I remember was trim the sail so the luff (which ever edge is the furthest upwind) just stops curling in. That's about all we did all the way up past buoy 14 and almost to buoy 18.

It only took me 6 years to fly the spinnaker. We bought the boat in 2004. The sail sat in my garage all this time. I think I will leave it on the boat. But I must get lighter sheets for it. The down haul for the spinnaker needs a block to attach to the padeye before the mast.

While rummaging for the lines, I found two lines with blocks tied to one end. The blocks are small one inch diameter blocks. The line attached is 3/8" diameter of about 20 feet in length. I wonder what they were made up for?

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Thursday, May 6, 2010, SYSCO Spring Series

This was the longest non-race I have every been in. There was a first in this race for our boat and probably for the fleet. We anchored. The winds were light and variable, but mostly from the north west. Our race was C-2-B-C. This was a change from the straight down river to the windward mark and back to the finish. We actually had a triangle course.

We were about ten seconds early on the start and went over, but all we had to do was tuck back behind the start line and continue on. The track shows the dip. We stayed mainly in the deep center of the river on the windward leg. By dipping back behind the line, the pack caught up to us and we essentially started in the middle of the pack. The winds faded near the windward mark. The "fast" fleet ahead of us were slowly drifting downstream while valiantly trying to sail upstream. This sort of gave us a clue that the wind was very weak. We essentially drifted round the mark, but at least in first position.

We anchored when we realized we were not going upstream to hold our position as best we could. We sat there only about 5-10 minutes, then the breeze came back. We headed over to the Oregon side to take advantage of the shallow water current and to get away from the pack.

The downwind leg was sailed essentially wing on wing, but instead of setting the spinnaker pole the crew chose to use the boat hook to hold out the sail. This allowed us to go to a broad reach when the shifts of the wind direction allowed us. We played with Bill Sanborn's Upstart for a while. But along toward the committee boat the wind died. At the end we were being over taken by Vim our "arch rival". The closer we got to the finish line the lighter the wind became. Until we were within 3 boat lengths of the line and the wind died entirely. The sun was almost down. It was the time of dusk when wind dies and the world holds its breath. We anchored for the second time in this "race". We sat. There was a breath of air after about 15 minutes and we tried to sail only to loose ground. We anchored again. About 9:25 or 2 1/2 hours after the start of the race, the race committee called the race. If either Vim or Aventura had finished the race we would have been the only finishers and the race would count. But since no one finished in our fleet, the race does not count.

I am still conflicted about using the boat hook as a whisker pole. It is good because it allows quick changes of the head sail down wind. The spinnaker pole is just too unwieldy for quick changes. It is good in a blow, but takes two to set it with any speed. Next item for the boat is a whisker pole.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Thursday, April 29th SYSCO Spring Series Race

This was one for the story books. A couple of misadventures that make for great tales for cruising and racing budies happened this evening. At least we made it out of the slip without problems. I did forget to check for water in the exhaust, but we did by the end of the fairway and there was plenty. We actually arrived at the boat 10 minutes early and Bill was waiting in the cockpit. We got the boat ready in short order, ate our sandwiches and was off by 5:30.

The wind was about 11 knots. The river was rough and since we have not had that much experience with this level of wind we sailed. We actually went upstream under main only and was doing hull speed. We were all bundled in jackets and I always insist on everyone wearing PFDs. We were so early Poncho and the committee boat was not even out yet.

After a practice rounding of 14, we decided to reef the main. I know, racers don't reef, but tonight since we had time and we needed the experience, we reefed. We actually started with reefed main and head sail only unfurled to 100%. It is a 135 sail, so that means the head sail's clew was just back to the mast. She sailed well. We were still doing hull speed.

The committee boat showed and we went by it once under main only, but it was before the come-by-me flag was up. We circled around when the come-by-me came out and discovered our course, C-2-C-B-C. The race committee added a leeward mark and another windward mark to our race from last week.

Since we were going to 2 which is more to the Washington side of the river, I discarded the port tack start and joined the crowd on starboard tack start. The crowd would probably hug the mark away from the committee boat. They did, but we were behind them. We watched a couple of the lead boats being forced to turn around and restart. They were forced above the mark. They almost looked like they were rounding up, but upon reflection, they were forced above the mark due to leeward boats forcing them above it.

The wind was calming down, but we still had our reefed main. We let out the head sail. We tacked to port. The wind was calming even more now. The white caps were gone. So we shook our our reefed main. Tacked to starboard at the Washington shore. We waited until the concrete wall on the Washington shore was abeam until we tacked to port again. We were crossed by Vim. I just had to ask him how he did it? His boat is a fast little one.

About that time, a tug with 4 barges coming upriver from I-5 bridge tooted its horn. Most of the fleet was heading to the first windward mark and right in its way upriver. More toots. We decided discretion is the better part of racing a tug. Sail boats are bad enough. So I told the crew we were going to do two short tacks. This would mean instead of approaching the windward mark on starboard tack with rights, we would approach the mark on port tack without any rights. But it worked out. We were second around the mark. The tug and barges were part of my strategy. They worked for us. (right!?!?!). I am going to ask a tug to come through each race about that time. The tug will make the race more interesting.

We rounded the mark and went to a starboard broad reach over to the Oregon shore like the big boys do in their races. This takes advantage of the lesser current in the shallow waters. We turned and put up the pole to port when the line with C mark was right for wing on wing. I might go a little more over to the Oregon side next time. Looking at the plot of the course I turned early.

We rounded the leeward mark without incident and went to a starboard tack. We stayed on the starboard tack for a short time and went to port tack staying in the deeper water and thus the favoring current. Again looking a plot of our race, it looks like a port tack at the mark, staying on that until the mark was abeam would have given us better current. I don't remember the wind at this time. We tacked to starboard tack when the mark was abeam, but the wind had headed us and we tacked early. Thus we had to add two short tacks, again. The crew must like them. On the final coming about of the evening, one of the crew stepped on the tiller splitting it. As long as it stayed in the rudder head I could steer.

We rounded the windward mark and had problems broaching. The tiller could not be raised high enough to keep the main from dragging us around on the jib. We put the pole out to port again. I managed to keep the tiller in place. This set us up for a protest from Vim.

Vim was leeward and to starboard. I was busy keeping the tiller in place, when I hear a hale saying "We are leeward. Give me room." By this time I had overtaken Vim. He was overlapped and had rights. If I steered to port my head sail would have been out of shape. I had the room. So far no results have been posted so I don't know if Vim filed a protest.

By then I had lost all track of the race, being very busy with the tiller situation. We crossed the line in second place behind Second Half. But just barely. We traded places with him from the last race. I finished first last race next to the committee boat. He finished first this race next to the committee boat. I was the one by the mark this time.

After the race I started the motor and the crew stowed the sails. We made it back to the slip without mishap. This was really a good race. Especially for the story value.

Here's the plot of the race. It looks like they moved the finish marker and committee boat a little between the start and the finish.