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post #1 of 24 Old 05-17-2011 Thread Starter
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First time single-hand race

I thought I'd share my latest debacle, 'cause I'm honest like that.

I signed up for a 17.5nm singlehand race that started in my river. I'm not a huge fan of solo racing, but this one was so convenient and people are always screaming for participation in organized sailing events that I really had no excuse not to participate.

I spent a lot of time reviewing the NOR, and programming the 2 possible routes into my GPS. (I used OpenCPN to build the route and input it into the GPS which was easy and convenient)

The race was from the West River, out into the Chesapeake, around some gov't marks, and back. Breezes had been from the S and SE for a few days, building up a 2-3' wave with a very short period, waves from due South. (Read: a crappy chop)

The forecast was for a gray day with 10-15kt breezes from the SE. As I sat at the dock before the race, the breeze seemed to get much stronger, so I pussed out and bent on my 100% jib.

The synopsis is basically this:

The breeze moderated, so the small headsail absolutely killed me. I didn't have enough drive to power through the chop and I wasn't comfortable going forward on the upwind leg out in the Bay to change it out.

The next mistake I made, was to foot way off to SW to take the waves on the forward quarter, instead of directly on the bow because the chop was grinding me down to 3kts. I gained boat speed by footing, but failed to check my VMG. If I had, I would have seen that I would have been faster by just slogging through it. I was tacking through about 150 degrees in an attempt to keep the waves on the quarter and maintain boat speed. This was absolutely wrong.

After a seeming eternity, I rounded the windward mark. I set the autopilot and launched the asymmetrical spinnaker (slightly small cruising chute). This was pretty much the only part of the race that went well. I made about 7kts SOG/6.5kts STW with 10-12 kts of wind at my back.

I rounded the mark at Thomas Pt. Lighthouse and attempted to carry the spinnaker back to the West River. It worked well for a while, being on the edge of usable point of sail for the asymm but the wind shifted to the S from SE and began slowing me down. I was slow to observe this and douse the spinnaker.

While dousing, the autopilot failed due to a loose power connection and the boat did an unplanned gybe with me at the mast. One of my traveller blocks blew apart. I wasted more precious time sailing slightly off course and out of trim while I repaired the block.

Finally back on course, jib up, I sailed upwind the rest of the way to the finish line in a strengthening breeze. My 130% genoa still would have been more appropriate.

My final huge mistake was that there were two red balls near the finish line and I crossed the wrong one and wasted time tacking upwind to get to it. I should have kept the NOR in the cockpit in a plastic document sleeve.

I did cross the correct finish line but it hardly mattered, I was super-last.

I had a lot of good strategy, but my execution was poor. I err on the side of caution so much, that I stepped down in headsail size when I shouldn't have. I need to get more familiar with the features on my GPS, and understand that boat speed isn't everything if you're driving way off course. Keep the NOR in the cockpit.

So there ya have it.

1981 Tartan 33 #168
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post #2 of 24 Old 05-17-2011
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If your not first your last. Sounds like good times.
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post #3 of 24 Old 05-17-2011
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Nice write-up, bubbles. On the bright side, you know what NOT to do next time.
And you got a day on the water- nothing beats that.

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post #4 of 24 Old 05-17-2011
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Nice write up bubble. Sucky race...but nice write up. Heh-heh. Actually, it sounds like you know exactly what went wrong. I bet you're not last next time.

The whole good strategy/poor execution sums up my entire scholastic career. So I feel your pain.

3 weeks until my first off-shore race. Count on a write up.

S/V Dawn Treader - 1989 Hunter Legend 40
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post #5 of 24 Old 05-17-2011 Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by smackdaddy View Post
Nice write up bubble. Sucky race...but nice write up. Heh-heh. Actually, it sounds like you know exactly what went wrong. I bet you're not last next time.

The whole good strategy/poor execution sums up my entire scholastic career. So I feel your pain.

3 weeks until my first off-shore race. Count on a write up.
Really?? Excellent man, I can't wait to hear about it.

Some of my mistakes, I knew right away. Some of it was pointed out to me by more experienced friends who sail very well.

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post #6 of 24 Old 05-17-2011
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Bubble,

Another thing you can do when the waves are built up, is when the waves are calmer, sail more up wind, when you get those three big ones, sail slightly off, ie work you way up wind depending upon sea state.

Like all things great and small, even if you get a first across like I did last in last wednesday nights race, we still learned some things, did some things great, really wrong, but it were better than my best day working!

I'm still hoping to come up with a ST2000 one of these days to make it so I can SH reasonably easy vs the rope style hold the tiller there!

Marty

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post #7 of 24 Old 05-17-2011
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Still and all, not a bad day and like all of us there's always something to learn!

Nicely told!

Ron

1984 Fast/Nicholson 345 "FastForward"

".. there is much you could do at sea with common sense.. and very little you could do without it.."
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Bubble,

Another thing you can do when the waves are built up, is when the waves are calmer, sail more up wind, when you get those three big ones, sail slightly off, ie work you way up wind depending upon sea state.

Like all things great and small, even if you get a first across like I did last in last wednesday nights race, we still learned some things, did some things great, really wrong, but it were better than my best day working!

I'm still hoping to come up with a ST2000 one of these days to make it so I can SH reasonably easy vs the rope style hold the tiller there!

Marty
Heh, the pattern was kind of the opposite of what you describe. Pound, pound, pound, pound, lull, Pound some more.

Oh, something else I did wrong but forgot to mention-

After a while, I found myself sailing closer to shore and the water was getting shallow (compared to where I was previously). This made the waves even steeper and closer together which was just worse. I made the decision to tack out to deeper water and things got noticably "less bad". But still bad.

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post #9 of 24 Old 05-17-2011
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Nice write up. I have always enjoyed single and double-handed racing. I see it as a way of learning what works and what does not work since I mostly daysail and cruise single or double handed. The cool thing about short-handed racing is that there seems to be lessons learned every race.

The fact that you simply got around the course flew the chute, and came away with a clearer understanding of what you did right and wrong, I would suggest that it actually sounds like you did very well for a first attempt at a single-handed race.

I would not feel even slightly badly about your finish. It is hard to beat owners who single-handedly race with any frequency, since they know how their boats behave short-handed and will often have a sail inventory and deck layout which is specifically optimized for that purpose. But also, those were tricky conditions; conditions in which most of us who race our boats get used to making sail choices based on crew weight on the rail and a mainsail trimmer playing the traveller in the gusts and lulls. With crew, we know precisely which sails we would select for any particular condition and make sail changes on the downwind legs. But single-handed you ideally make the right choice at the dock. But of course, without experience with racing in those conditions, it is hard to make the right choice for the conditions, especially on a masthead rigged boat where headsail selection is so critical and you don't have the luxury of using mast bend to quickly power up and down.

Thank you for sharing your experience. I respectfully suggest that these kinds of insightful write ups are very helpful to others.

Respectfully,
Jeff


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post #10 of 24 Old 05-17-2011
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Not knowing the area, another that makes waves steep and short, is tides. Were you close to shore with current and waves opposite ea other? where farther out the current was not as bad? Not sure if there are current charts at different part of the tide ranges like I can find for here in Puget Sound north into BC or not, but another something to help you prep a potential course too.

Also, try to find out as I did the other day, a better understanding of how the wind will clock around in your area. For me, if a southerly is going on, the east shore for a bit will clock out of the SE, giving one a bit better tacking angle for going south, along with the waves in my case, will usually be a bit less. Maybe there is an old phart that can give you some pointers this way too. Helped me a bit last wed, altho not as good as I hoped, but we still did pretty good. dispite grounding, getting knocked down putting up the spin, broken vang rivets.............

Marty

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