CATALINA TUESDAY RACES
May 7, 2013
Matthew 20:16 says:"So the last shall be first, and the first last". How does this apply in the world of sailing and in particular Catalina Tuesdays?
Once again we had an awesome night with plenty of wind and from the Northwest this time. However there was an ominous fog bank obscuring Mile buoy. We finally decided on course 3 and gave the 27's a 2 minute head start. On this particular night we had 9 boats participating and most boats started on port with Pacific Spirit, Sailing Pair A Dice and Diver Down right on time at the line on starboard tack. Though Pair a Dice was following Pacific Spirit, it did not take Diver Down long to roll us to windward. For some reason pair a Dice was really bogging down and just couldn't get up to speed. As soon as we could clear Diver Down, we tacked over for clear air, once again further out than the port tack starters on a parallel course. We were noting our boat speed versus the wind we had and for some reason, we were about 0.3 knots slower than we should have been. This slowness bore itself out with every crossing: not once could we cross in front of any boat, every boat seemed to be going faster than us! Tacking on our normal lay line for the wharf rounding, we could not even round without another tack, consequently we were the last boat to round Wharf with all of the boats spread out in front of us. It was quite a sight seeing so many boats sailing wing on wing straight down wind. Even though we did close the gap a little, we never rolled a single boat downwind, even with our whisker pole extended to the max. It was quite a sight as we were closing in on Blacks to see Aeolian and Diver Down fighting it out for the lead. Finally we rounded Blacks as Aeolian crossed the line just ahead of Diver Down and Pair a Dice coming in DFL.
I am not much of a Biblical scholar, but I guess Mathew 20:16 offers some validity. In past years, Aeolian has routinely placed poorly in our Tuesday night races, but they seem to be the boat to beat this year. Sailing Pair A Dice has done very well in the past, but came in DFL on this night.
As we were motoring in the harbor, I glanced over the stern and saw something large and brown streaming behind the boat KELP! I put the boat in reverse and when the kelp passed by the prop, it nearly stalled the engine.
I frequently tell people: "If you are sailing with a dirty bottom, you are not racing, you are day sailing". Nothing against day sailing, it is very fun, but if you are racing, a clean bottom is essential. I go to great lengths to keep the bottom of my boat clean. Before many Yacht Club races, you always see the big boats backing down to clear the kelp and some boats even have windows in the hull to be able to see if the is kelp hung up anywhere. How is it that kelp or a dirty bottom can slow a boat down so much? Consider the importance of laminar flow over the bottom of the boat, versus the turbulence caused by scum or bulbs of kelp. In order for the keel and rudder to provide the lift they normally do, the less turbulence the better the lift. With all of the turbulence from the kelp, we were unable to round Wharf on our normal lay line. I propose it is much more than the drag of the kelp, it is the destruction of the lift normally provided by keel and rudder. I would guess that we would have been better dragging a bucket in the water behind the boat, than having the kelp preventing the laminar flow on the bottom foils.
There are many facets to winning sailboat races. Boat preparation, steady hand on the helm, a crew that can handle the sails efficiently, ability to read the wind and proper tactics. After this night, I found that a clean, unobstructed bottom is more crucial than anything else.
Hope to see you next Tuesday.
Sailing Pair A Dice