May 31, 2016 Practice Debrief

What a great day for a practice, and awesome to have ten boats out there! We got through all four drills though we were a tiny bit rushed in some aspects.  It’s crucial to get going on time in the evening, and if you can let me know you’re coming by signing up (online, by email to me, or via comment on this blog) that’s a huge help.  Letting me know if you’re late is also a help.

We had a good debrief, and I’m going to see how much I can remember and transcribe here.  Also look for a post next week about sailing the merc: basic speed and boat handling tips which will cover the reach, the wing, and more.

  1. we did not discuss the ease-hike-trim maneuver, an important method to keep your boat moving fast through puffs. While using crew weight is the preferred method for flattening the boat over a period of time, it often is not quickly adjustable enough to handle sudden gusts. Consequently, the best system is to initially ease the main in the puff to keep the boat flat, and then to trim back in as the crew and skipper come to weather, maintaining an even heel throughout the ups and downs. Feathering up in the puff can also help minimize heel while making use of the additional power to gain some height temporarily.  In any case, it is equally important that the main is trimmed back in, crew sits in, and the heading is back down to close-hauled before the puff is gone. Maintaining a constant heel is the goal here, and it’s probably the biggest difference between the faster and slower boats on a typical day in a Mercury.
  2. related: we spoke with several teams about being sure the crew was sliding to leeward when the lulls came through, as well as after the boat rounded the windward mark.  Because it is crucial to have the skipper SITTING to weather in almost all situations, the crew’s weight placement (and the communication between sailors about this weight placement) is paramount. With the skipper to weather, they can more effectively see the telltales, under the boom (for other boats, etc.), shifts and puffs upwind, and the trim of both sails — all while being in a good spot to trim main, adjust heel, and steer the boat. I think this is possibly the most important thing you can do to get better (and more comfortable) sailing a dinghy.
  3. in the first drill, rounding the leeward mark in particular (but truly any time you change direction) focus needs to be on the steering of the boat, both with the rudder as well as with sail and weight trim. By trimming just a little early as you round the mark, that should help you head up both by adding heel, and adding pressure aft of the COLR.
  4. the opposite is true at the weather mark, where easing the main aggressively will help flatten the boat (or even heel a little to windward) as well as decrease pressure aft of the COLR, allowing the boat to bear away easily.
  5. we discussed the room-to-tack rule, rule 20.  It is a good idea to read through this rule.  It only applies to close-hauled boats, and only between boats on the same tack. The hailing boat must give the hailed boat “time to respond”.  The hailed boat must respond in one of two ways “as soon as possible” or “immediately”. If room to tack already exists, the hail is not required, but the windward (hailed) boat can simply reply with “You Tack”. Lastly, this hail does not exonerate you of your requirement to follow the other rules (P/S, etc.)
  6. Last thing is for a few of you to focus more on the tell-tales.

Lastly, a HUGE thank you to Dana for his help out there.  We couldn’t have given half as much feedback as we did without him, or really run the last drill either.  Made for a great practice.