June 12, 2018 Practice Briefing

We had a great evening on the water two weeks ago. The light wind allowed us to focus on rolling our tacks and gybes. I REALLY appreciated everyone being on time (dressed and rigging at 6pm). It made the practice much more successful because we could meet as a group ahead of time.

Today we have a really nice day with quite a bit of breeze (some sailors may choose/be encouraged to reef). The focus will be on heavier air sailing, as well as some starting practice. For the heavy air sailing, the goal is to maintain a constant heel angle. This applies upwind and downwind (all the time, not just heavy air) and allows you to sail straight with minimal tiller movement. Use your sails, weight, and heading to control your power level (and thus your heeling moment).

Given a steady course and tilt, in a shift or a puff, you can apply a small change in the heel, along with rudder movement and sail adjustment to head up, bear away, etc.  That means when we get a gust or lift, we’re easing the jib slightly, letting the boat heel to leeward a touch, and the tiller go below centerline, all of which help the boat head up. Anticipate the close-hauled course and bring your trim back in as you approach it. The opposite items apply in a lull or header (generally).

To begin the day, we’ll have a long starting line, and we’ll collect everyone there. I’d like each boat in turn to sail across the line on close hauled, and raise your arm all the way in the air when you think your bow is on the line. I will give a sound signal when in fact you are so you can test your judgement. Also take this time to do a time-check on the start line. We’ll run that same drill 2-3 times with each skipper (switching helms part way through).

After the start test drill, we’ll run some practice starts, and sail up to the Mass Ave bridge. Tack on the whistle (but mostly we’ll be sailing straight to practice that constant angle thing.) You can tack extra if you want/need to in order to stay with the group, avoid boats, or just for practice. Out of the tacks, try to get the boat flat and on course right away. Good tacks in this breeze are about getting through the wind quickly, and then moving fast again.

We’ll run the same drill downwind, but all of the maneuvers should be less aggressive and more focused on keeping the boat steady, especially as a puff approaches. One whistle is gybe, and two is go from a reach to a wing or vice-versa.

Towards the end of the day, we’ll add a small gate in the middle of the line, which is restricted to only a couple of specified boats. Other than that, it’s a regular starting sequence. We may also do some “mystery” starts, where I can blow 20 seconds any time after 30 seconds (right away or a minute later). This encourages you to hold your spot even on a windy day. Do this by “limping” on a pinched course so that you have steerage but are moving very slowly, and making minimal upwind headway.

See you all soon. Cheers, Niko