30 September 2010

How Slow is Fast?

2.2 knots, 2.3, 2.1, this is boring. Maybe I'll just unroll the gennaker, screacher, reacher (what the heck's the right name for this sail anyway?) and scoot off towards the Benicia Bridge. 3.7, 3.8, 3.9, ah that's better. Hmmm, I wonder how high I can go with this thing? Up, up, sheet in a bit more, up, up, up. 3.2, 3.3, 3.1, not bad.

On a light air day, a 50% increase in speed sure feels good, but is it? It appeared that I was making better progress up river, and I was certainly sailing "to windward" albeit with some pretty fat tacking angles. I swapped back and forth a few times, low and fast, high and slow. Subsequent informal analysis of the GPS tracks revealed anywhere from a 10 to 25 degree disadvantage in sailing angles with the big sail set, most often at the wide end of that range. Plots suggest that if I can keep it in the 10 to 15 degree range this just might be the fast way upwind in super light air. Of course, I'll need some better data collection to confirm this. I'll have to see if I can get my GPS to project a waypoint way upwind and then monitor VMG. Gennaker, screacher, reacher? Hmmm, maybe it's a "code zero". Sailors and their terminology . . .

22 September 2010

One Plus Twelve Equals Five

Davo, our delightfully active, fleet promoting, local distributor, managed to get the Wetas invited to the Richmond Yacht Club Multihull Invitational last weekend. That might not sound weird, but in many ways, the Weta is more like the skiffs racing next weekend at the Big Dinghy regatta than like the catamarans duking it our for the Area G berth at the Alter Cup. Anyway, we went. We looked good. We raced hard. And, we may have just poached some Hobie sailors over to the Weta fleet, too. Seemed to be an awful lot of interest in our speedy little singlehanders.

On Saturday with very moderate conditions on the bay, 5 to 10 maybe 12, efficient boat handling and sound tactics seemed to rule the day. This was a nice switch, albeit less exciting, from the just-hang-on-and-bang-the-corners strategy at the 25 knot NOODs. I had decent starts, mostly remembered to keep the bow down (hard to correct years of the pinching habit), and made some decent tactical decisions to record a 3-1-1 for the day. Race two was particularly interesting tactically. The usual strategy here on Southampton Shoal is to work the South side of the course both upwind and downwind to escape Angel Island's wind shadow, and that was certainly the case in race one (I know because I broke that rule on the first downwind leg and gave up two or three places.) But for race two, the wind had started to let up. Was this just a temporary ease or the sign of a change on the way? Bob, Dave, and one other guy got excellent starts at the favored end left of me and opened up a good lead. Unfortunately for Bob, he hadn't noticed that with the let up in wind pressure the race committee had significantly shortened the first beat, and he overshot the layline with the other two speedsters in tow. I tacked early and got to the mark first. That's when the weirdness started. Within about two boatlengths of the starboard layline, the wind suddenly clocked right about 30 degrees. This wasn't just some random shift. It was a whole new wind. All I could think of was, "get around that mark as fast as possible and do a gybe-set." So, that's exactly what I did. Gordon rounded close astern and must have thought I was nuts shooting off to the North as he setup to lead the parade down the South side. Well, on that new wind with the 30 degree advantaged course I was quickly out of sight. At the leeward gate, I must have been nearly half a mile ahead of the rest of the fleet who had all gone the "right" way. Unfortunately, Saturday was the end of the fun as I had other commitments to attend to on Sunday. Three DNCs at 12 points each dropped me back to 5th for the regatta.

What's really cool about this is that 5th was top half. In the Megabyte, 5th (if we were lucky enough to have that many boats) would have been last. I love my new boat, and apparently a bunch of other people love it, too. It's great to be part of a growing fleet.

10 September 2010

Spoil 'em Early

It was a typical Summer day on San Francisco Bay. Sunny, low 70's. A gentle breeze blowing in the Gate, bending around Angel Island. Just a wisp of fog cutting through the towers in the financial district. Delightful. Typical. Hah!

I finally got my neighbor our for a sail on Lapras last week. I didn't realize he'd never been on a sailboat before, and I wouldn't have known if he hadn't told me so. He did great. I passed him the helm just a couple minutes after hoisting the main. Within about four sizable oscillations he found the correct tuning constants, and we were soon gliding down Potrero Reach headed for the open bay. Once clear of the breakwater we came up hard on the wind for Angel Island. Time to break out the beer and sandwiches. Thirty minutes later we were leisurely trading tacks with a couple of other cruisers through Raccoon Straits. Delightful. Did I already say that?

Typical? I tried to convince my nooby crew that all of this was not normal. For a Summer day on the bay in a relatively tender and pudgy boat we ought be spilling our beer, losing our sandwiches, ducking the spray, avoiding Raccoon. Of course, as I had no evidence he didn't believe me.

He loved it. I think he'll be getting a boat soon.