29 June 2011

2011 NOOD

2011 Nukin’ NOODs: I guess this is becoming the West Coast Weta’s annual big air regatta. Excellent conditions all weekend on the city front.

From the Surfing Pikachu log:
  • Race 1: Forestay lashing came loose during prestart. Five minutes late for start after returning to beach to tension rig. Damn. Jumped in late and passed two boats—saved 3 points. 10th place.
  • Race 2: Over early at start (got aggressive with John and he got me back pushing me over the line.) Good recovery and found new lane. Still managed to drive back to the front and round top mark first. Still managed to suck downwind. 3rd place.
  • Race 3: Port tacked the fleet with 8 boatlength lead! Woohoo! But wait, why does this feel so weird. Caught way too far left in emerging flood current down city front. Ack! Stupid. Dropped back to about mid fleet by weather mark. Luckily found a gap through the F18 fleet stack-up on the starboard layline and got through cleanly while other boats ahead tangled up and aborted. Good job getting back into it. That’s a consistent lesson in these bots. Don’t ever give up—things can/do change fast. 3rd.
Day one done: sitting 4th at front of 2nd cluster—that 10th was a killer.
  • Race 4: Wow, what a great, close race. I had a great start just to leeward of Davo and managed to climb up and out front. Too tentative with my tacks to go when I wanted, though, and had to wait for him to go. Would have been better to get to the right first (favorable current and pressure) and then come up from below again. Had a great duel with Dave downwind—some of my best speed all weekend—probably because I was sailing his line and not mine. Kept my focus on Davo (not a bad thing) and gybed off to right with him. We both let Bruce bang the left corner and he nipped us at the finish. Dang—he was the one I should have covered! This was overall a great race at the front. Top four were within shouting distance and the lead had changed several times. 3rd.
  • Race 5: Another great start and first beat. Dave is so much more confident downwind, though. He just works right on past while I worry about what’s happening. Still, with three upwind legs I might have been able to get him back, but hit the leeward mark while trying to round tight inside of him--did my doughnut. Should have just rounded cleanly, tacked out first, and then climbed up from leeward position. 2nd.
Final standing: 4th.

Weekend Notes
  • Great starts and upwind speed (and height.) I can use this as a tactical weapon taking up leeward positions and climbing out of them.
  • With starts and upwind speed, first at top mark in 3 of 4 races (that I started on time!) Then, gave it up all three times. Damn!
  • Downwind speed was improved at times (good trim, I think) but still my major weakness. Need to train hard so that I’m as fast downwind as I am upwind.
  • Pushed the boat upwind pretty hard keeping the power on in the rough stuff more than I dared before. Still need to get better focus on maintaining groove and worry less about stuffing the boat. I was hesitant to put the bow down and just drive. Feel the “hump hump” and go!
  • When it was really honking in last race, I was able to sail really deep from rumble seat position and still keep the boat planing. That was cool.
Results -- Pictures -- More pictures

More later . . .

19 June 2011

11 June 2011

What Practice Looks Like

Watching Gordon gain on me downwind every race at Whiskeytown (and overhaul me twice) made my Weta weakness pretty clear--I'm sleepy-dog-slow downwind. Up until this point, I've been picking up tips here and there from the vets in the class and basically just winging it when it's time to put the wind abaft the beam. Some days I hang in there, others I'm clearly the slow one.

My old Megabyte buddy, Dean E. (who won the Banshee fleet at Whiskeytown--nice going!) sent me a nice email the other day. He noted how much fun the Weta looked and commented on how hard it must be to learn how to sail downwind after coming from the Megabyte. I hadn't really thought that much about it before, but his note really got me thinking. Maybe I was carrying over some good but now wrong habits. In the Megabyte, I'd worked hard to refine my downwind speed--had to in order to keep up with lighter weight sailors. I learned just how to optimize the vang, how to trim the boat for zero helm pressure (no brakes), how to feel just the right mainsail trim--how to rip down a lake dead downwind. The Weta on the other hand doesn't even have a vang, has two extra hulls with three sails to trim, and it definitely don't do dead downwind.

With the West Coast Championships coming up in two weeks (at the SF NOOD), I figured I'd better figure this out. Armed with some tips gleaned from catamaran sailors, I set off for some practice in the Carquinez Strait. Without a benchmark available, I can't say whether any of it worked, but I can say that I gained greater awareness of how the helm, sails, and wind angles interact. Awareness is good. It's a first step to identifying and dropping old habits and discovering new ones.

06 June 2011

04 June 2011

Family Class

As shared in this log previously, I've found the Weta to be a remarkably versatile boat. One weekend I can be bashing around the buoys on the bay pulling the strings for three sails singlehandedly and the next coasting across a lake with two kids belly down on the tramps leaving hand wakes behind. Is it a one-up racer or a family day sailor? This past Memorial Day weekend, four Weta families converged on Whiskeytown to demonstrate that it just might be a family racer.

In an effort to promote more family involvement, the Whiskeytown Memorial Regatta was designated a Weta "Family Class" event. The regatta itself is already family friendly with camping, a beach to play at, and a BBQ dinner Saturday night. Adding to that, we experimented with our class-within-a-class format. The Family Class would be dynamically defined as those boats which sailed with crew but did not otherwise win one of the regular class trophies for the regatta. Basically we'd go two layers deeper with awards to encourage skippers to take on extra ballast, er, I mean family or friends. Well, I guess word got out that the Family Class awards (provided by our man, Dave, at WetaWest--thanks!!) were better than the regatta wall plaques, and everybody showed up with crew! I even think Gordon and Stephen might have been sandbagging so as not to remove themselves from contention for the WetaWest goodies.

Saturday opened overcast and chilly with decent breeze from the West. Three boats made it out for the first start, Gordon with Fiance Heather, Stephan with daughter Maya, and I with son Iain. Just in time for race 3 Yann with wife and daughter, Karen and Isabella, would hit the start line after making the long drive up from the Bay Area. Day one was a challenging introduction to lake sailing. Race two, in particular, sandwiched in between one race in a relatively stable Westerly and a third in a fluky Easterly, was particularly crazy. With the morning Westerly holding a little longer than usual, the race committee sent us off to mark #9 again. I managed to find the quickest route through the shifts and puffs, and Iain and I had a good lead at the weather mark. A gybe-set into a fortuitous Northerly puff and we were on our way to being gone. Stephan and Maya followed us out to the middle of the lake where the pressure had been good on the windward beat while Gordon and Heather, needing something different to get back into it, went looking for advantages down the South edge of the lake. Should we cover? Nah, they are way too far back. Stephan is the one to worry about.

Well, wouldn't you know, midway down the leeward leg the typical midday wind swap started. At Whiskeytown, this means the wind pretty much stops and then restarts with little puffs from every which direction before settling in from the opposite direction. Gordon stuck with his bet down the South edge and was rewarded with a wind that carried him nearly all the way to the mark on a single gybe. Meanwhile, Stephan and I struggled to crawl out of the huge hole that was now the center of the lake. Gordon just scooted on by and was soon as far ahead as he had been behind just minutes before. Nice move! The dominant wind would swap two more time before this race was over, however, and Iain and I hung in there chasing each shift and puff. We eventually pulled up about even one third of the way up the last leg ducking Gordon and Heather, now closehauled again, on the last gasp of Westerly. After ducking, Iain and I went looking for wind in the middle while Gordon went back to the South which had paid earlier. At this time we noticed the keel boat class cutting back across in breeze from their leeward mark on the opposite side of the lake. We crawled out to their wind in wing and wing desperation mode (very slow in this boat, but serviceable), gybed when we got to the fresh wind, and reached right down the layline to the finish as poor Gordon sat helplessly waiting for the next wind gift on his side of the lake.

By race three, the wind was now pretty steady from the East, and the fourth Weta had emerged--Yann sailing with family three-up. Woohoo! Gordon, determined to not get snookered again, sailed a very clean race with unbeatable boat speed off the wind. He consistently sailed lower and faster than us. Very fast--I wish I knew how he does that! Iain and I made some gains on the final beat attempting to inject some prenuptial discord with a flurry of tacks, but Gordon and fiance applied a very effective loose cover to maintain the order of things. With day one finished, we held a one point lead over Gordon and Heather.

The forecast thunderstorm finally arrived as we were packing up the boat for the night, my wife and daughter returned to the lake in a hail storm after an afternoon horseback ride in the sun just a few miles south, crews huddled in cars as the storm blew through, and eventually skies cleared just in time for the BBQ. Nice.

Sunday proved warmer with only patchy clouds in a blue sky, but considerably windier with strong gusts stirring up white caps over the short fetch from Western shore to race start line. With Saturday being just Iain's third time in the boat, he was a bit apprehensive about going out in these conditions. With a throwout coming, should we go to six races, I suggested we give it a try for the first two races and then retire early for some fun back on the beach with sister, Nana, and Granddad (yeah, we had the full entourage with us!) Iain bravely accepted this plan, pulled on his extra foul weather gear, and climbed aboard. Once out in the middle of the lake, we hardened-up onto the wind for a taste. With strong gusts coming in as random 20 to 30 degree shifts it was a rough and noisy ride. Iain held back the tears, but was clearly not ready for this just yet. "I want to go in," he said. "Are you sure?" "Yes." "OK, hang on. I'll crack things off and we'll work our way back nice and easy." "Dad?" "Yeah, Iain?" "I'm sorry I chickened out on you." "You didn't chicken out, Iain. You made a good choice. It's getting a little wild out here."

I dropped Iain off at the dock and he scampered off with a friend while I returned to the course in time for our start. Without crew, I was now officially expelled from the Family Class and, without the extra weight, considerably faster than the others. The big gusts and shifts made upwind work this day considerably more difficult than on Sunday. It was particularly hard to find and stay in the groove for fear of being caught by a blast unprepared--made me, and I suspect the others, very tentative about going bow down for speed.

So, how'd it all turn out? For a first appearance at Whiskeytown by the Weta fleet, I think it went great. Spirits were high despite less than ideal weather, a relatively long drive, and some equipment failures. And what about the Family Class? Well the Wishkeytown Sailing Club, being as generous as they are, gave us our own class with just four boats and went three deep with the trophies! So, Yann, Karen, and Isabella, who managed to get just one race in between late arrival and boat breakages takes the first ever Family Class win! And, thanks to Dave's generosity we had plenty of WetaWest swag to go around. Full results here.

Video summary coming soon. Stay tuned.