SQUEAKING AHEAD OF COMPETITORS
Tuesday June 10, 2014
Once again, another beautiful Santa Cruz evening with a steady 10 knot wind from the northwest with no hint of it lessening through the evening. We chose course 4: Start-Wharf,Gov,Finish with a 6:10 start time. We had 12 boats out for the evening. On Pair a Dice, we knew a port tack start was preferred, but with this many boats we opted for a starboard Tack start. It’s better to have the right of way at the line.
We were a little early to the start and had to stall, but were able to speed up for the finals seconds to the start. After the start, we all tacked toward wharf trying to take advantage of all headers and lifts. Pair a Dice was moving rather sluggishly: we could not get the boat up to speed and could not achieve the weather helm we like to sail with when we go to weather. Homer told us over dinner that we probably had kelp on the keel which we had checked but could not see. Ultimately Homer in Blue Ribbon was the first to round Wharf with Diver Down and Pacific Spirit right behind them with Pair A Dice trailing further behind.
As we rounded Wharf, we had our work cut out for us, with three stiff competitors enjoying a substantial lead over us. Fortunately, Diver Down and Pacific Spirit were involved with each other and both boats headed toward the end of the wharf. On Pair A Dice, we set the pole and headed directly toward Gov. This angle of sail kept us in the wind, while both Diver Down and Pacific Spirit seemed to sail into a hole at the end of the wharf. By the time we rounded Gov, we were just ahead of Pacific Spirit and heading toward start, still trying to reel Blue Ribbon in. While Diver Down and Pacific Spirit were entangled, we kept our lead and were able to round Start behind Blue Ribbon. Diver Down and Pacific Spirit rounded right behind us. It was great looking over the course and seeing many other boats battling it out in their respective races. This is the essence of our Tuesday nights: whether fighting for first, third, fifth or seventh, we are all attempting to get enough boat speed to squeak ahead of our competitors.
Secrets to squeaking ahead of competitors:
So you are attempting to keep ahead of a competitor or overtake a competitor. What are the little secrets to getting that little more speed to squeak ahead of a competitor? Some of it is preparation ahead of time: bottom clean? boat as light as possible? Folding prop? Boat properly equipped with proper sail inventory for current conditions? Has your keel and rudder been faired? If you have prepared ahead of time, you can possibly out sail your competition by using some other tricks: is your sail trim perfect? Is weight displaced appropriately on your boat? (get crew out of the cockpit!), Is there a way to divorce yourself from a pesky competitor to get clear air by sailing dramatically higher or lower? (this is best attempted if you can catch your competitor off guard). Are you using waves to your advantage? (this can be a huge advantage in Santa Cruz: using waves to your advantage!). Can you get to more advantageous wind than your competitor? The tricks go on and on only waiting for your observation and discovery.
A book could be written on each of the items mentioned in the last paragraph and I will attempt to delve into these topics in the future. For now, I will only say that a clean bottom is essential to speed. This does not require a diver to clean your boat each week. You can keep your boat bottom clean by using various devices that are inexpensive and easy to make. Often crewmembers arrive at different times. Earlier arrivers can work to get the boat ready which means cleaning the bottom. At least you can use a deck brush to clean the waterline and rudder which is better than nothing!
See you next Tuesday,
Barry L. Keeler
Sailing Pair A Dice