Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Dinghies vs Others

I have started crewing on a Farr 30 which is a great boat, but I come home sometimes reflecting on the experience.  Admittedly, part of my reflections are due to being a novice and trying to learn how to do bowman duties and feeling pretty clumsy about it all. But, even so, I often come back to the same basic question - are keelboats really sailboats?

Of course they are under any definition you care to come up with, but I can't avoid the feeling that dinghy sailing is so much more  - something.  There is a visceral difference between keelboats and dinghies.

In dinghies you are constantly up close and personal with sailing. You are closer to the water and wind and your body is an integral part of controlling the boat.  I would never say you are really in control all the time because that would really be tempting the wind gods who know better, but let's just say that your physical presence is so much more directly integrated into the process.

On a keelboat, you have plenty to learn and think about but there are long stretches where, after a particular maneuver you go sit on the weather rail and have a nice chat with another member of the crew.  When the skipper decides to bear away and pop the kite, there is a bit of concentrated fussing about and with any luck it goes up untwisted with the head and clews in the right places and opens up beautifully. Then all quiet for a while until a gybe comes to befuddle the new bowman.  I managed to  do one thanks to an experienced hand talking the me through every little step and we avoided catastrophe.

I enjoy sailing keelboats and appreciate the social/team aspect very much - and, of course, there is so much to learn about the boat and trim. But I just can't help feeling there is something more basic and authentic about dinghies.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

VM Not so good?

I have gone practice sailing several times with a friend who has about the same level of Laser skills as me and we have good sessions - doing windward-leewards around buoys, some reaches out to the channel to be abused by the current and wind holes, etc.

But what I cannot understand is that most of the time during these practice sessions I sail better then him  - pointing higher,  better mark roundings, flatter boat, fewer capsizes, etc.  - but when it comes to race day he does better.  Last weekend, we had 4 short races and I beat him in the first race, the second race I was ahead but touched a mark and he passed me as I was taking my penalty, and then he beat me in the 3rd and 4th race even though I made no big mistakes.  And the prior weekend we split 2 races.

So, what gives? Is he relaxing during practice?  Am I choking in the races? Except for touching the mark last week, I had no dramatic mistakes.  Admittedly in one race I went more right and he went more left on a beat and crossed ahead of me, so I guess that could count as a mistake. But the first and second places in the race also went right, so it seems like boat handling/speed could have been my problem or maybe he caught a nice lift.

I have been concentrating on pointing better in races by anticipating the puffs and staying as close to the wind and flat as possible with hiking and small turns using body weight and small rudder movements where necessary. It has definitely helped and I can see that I am pointing as high as our top sailors, but I wonder if I am pinching a bit and letting overall VMG suffer.  My leeward telltales stream nicely but sometimes my windward ones flop around.

I found a good article on VMG and, even though it involves trigonometry, I will try to read and understand it.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Dolphin's Fault

Everyone of my Laser capsizes has been entirely my own fault, due to poorly performed gybes or tacks.

How nice it would to be able to honestly say that I capsized through no fault of my own - like this sailor:

Thursday, August 1, 2013


I practiced for an hour today and came back refreshed, invigorated and even a bit inspired. It was an hour that reminded why I feel the way I do about sailing.

Nothing really dramatic happened - the wind just like it was the other day when I was struggling, but this time I did the same exercises and made no big mistakes.  It just felt good. I felt strong and in control (well, most of the time).

And I did a couple of exhilarating beam reaches just for the sheer pleasure of it and the boat responded - some might say the warbling and high-pitched hum were just the self-bailer and a vibrating foil or sheet - but I am convinced the boat was singing.
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