Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Sitting Down

I have had very few real sailing lessons and no doubt learned much more slowly and with many more bad habits than I would otherwise.

Yesterday, I had a lesson with Owen Bowerman, a young visitor from the UK who is on the Team GBR Podium Potential squad.

I was hoping to get some coaching on upwind wave techniques, which I struggle with, but the wind was too light, so we did roll tacks instead.

And I discovered that I had completely misunderstood what they are all about. I had thought the only reason for the roll is to set up the action of bringing the boat down flat and getting some movement. But I realized that the roll is just as much about bringing the boat around through the tack.

Owen identified several things I was doing wrong. First, I was sitting too far back and in the light winds I should start the tack sitting up next to the mainsheet.  Second, I was rushing the tack too much, using too much tiller too quickly, instead of a smooth curve with more leeward weight shift.

Third, my roll was not timed well with the boat’s turn.  So, after shifting my weight to leeward onto the balls of my feet and initiating the tack and sheeting in a bit, I learned to sit down quickly as the boat went head to wind, rolling the boat.  This made all the difference.   

Still lots of work to do, but I feel I understand what it is about now.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Wall of Wind

Sailing in the UAE means we can almost always count on a land breeze from the south in the morning and sea breeze from the north filling in during the early afternoon – a large desert ensures that.
Last weekend it was a bit different – with a strong southerly wind continuing until about 2 pm and then weakening a bit, but still southerly at the time our race started a bit after 3 pm.  So, the race officer set a course accordingly with everything backward compared to our normal windward/leeward directions.   In addition, he set the gybe mark so that we went to it from the leeward mark instead of the windwark mark.

We started in mild winds which were weakening by the minute.  We managed to get around the windward mark and started down only to see the sea turn absolutely flat and hardly a breath of wind anywhere.  Boring, frustrating.   I managed to pass a couple of boats by letting the boom out past 90 degrees and heeling to leeward, occasionally catching a wisp of air by the lee.  But boring.  
Then, our top Kiwi sailor (who amazingly enough was actually behind me) said – “look up by the bridge” and I did and saw a dark patch all across the bay descending toward us.  Hooray – salvation.  This meant the course would be upside down, but who cared – we would be racing.  Those of us who saw the wind coming managed to tack agonizingly slowly to be prepared for its arrival.   Then it arrived – just like a solid wall bearing down on us – we were ghosting along at 1 knot at most then in a solid 13 or so, instantly – and it kept up that way the rest of the afternoon, building even a bit more, with gusts close to 20.  Woohoo – great fun !  And since the course was not the usual windward/leeward and had several reaches, it was a blast.   And I even did well, reveling in the screaming reaches and very glad to be on the water.
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