September 3, 2013
Conditions: Clear and sunny with steady breeze (10 knots) out of the south west
Course 4: start, wharf, gov and finish with a 6:10 start. Ten boats participating.
The breeze was consistent at 6 oclock with 10 minutes to go to the start. But as the clock ticked down, the wind was dissipating considerably and by the 6:10 start we were all drifting with no wind at all.
How to deal with this one? Suddenly the course chosen seemed way too long! Walter Cronkite, the newscaster was an avid sailor. He once admonished that if the wind is very light, to close your eyes and feel the wind direction on your face. Smokers can watch the direction of their smoke wafting through the air (the only advantage I have ever seen for the habit). Some people like to blow bubbles. THough this technique requires some preparation,it works very well because you can see what the wind is doing on all levels up the mast. On Pair a dice, we were stuck with the old "feel" technique, the problem was, we were all coming up with different directions for the wind. I was on the foredeck and felt like I was performing a pole dance that was a nightmare rather than a dream. Pole on port, then change to starboard, back to port, extended, retracted partially, pole between the shrouds and finally hold the pole in my hand pushing back. I was doing anything I could do to "catch the wind" with proper sail shape. Meanwhile the crew was scanning to see where the wind was going to form first. We noticed Chappy was moving Bellisima inside closer to the beach and we saw the wind forming in there, he quickly took the lead. The boats that made the most obvious move, going outside for the wind got caught with less wind. PAD was straddling between inside and outside and was the second boat to catch the wind forming by the beach. We finally had wind and were moving toward Wharf following Bellisima around and heading toward GOV. We slowly rolled Bellisima to windward and rounded GOV just ahead and we were off toward the finish mark, with Bellisima in hot pursuit. Chappy, who was single handing Bellisima, an Erickson 35, was doing an admirable job controlling his boat and trying to roll us, but we were able to round the finish buoy just ahead of him.
Light wind tactics:
I would say to use all means at your disposal, to determine the direction of the wind at all levels, clear to the tip of the mast. Sometimes, you can use the waves to help to propel you, going downwind make certain the mast is moving fore and aft rather than side to side if possible. This little concept keeps the foils working for forward momentum. Keep trying new things to see what will get the boat moving. In a race, you don't need to be going fast, you only need to go faster than the other boats! Smaller, lighter boats have a distinct advantage in these conditions.
The other crucial question is: Where will the wind form next? Look for wind on the water, what are the flags doing in every location? What are other boats doing in their location? Which way are the anchored boats pointing (assuming no current)? What are the birds doing? Stay away from circling birds, there is no wind under them! Birds sitting in the water normally sit facing the wind. Usually the boat that gets to the new wind first, is the one to take the lead.
See you out there next Tuesday!