JULY 3, 2018
HEADERS, LIFTS AND LIGHT WIND
As I was working during the day about a mile inland, I kept glancing out the window searching for a hint of wind. It sure looked like light or no wind all day long. I was pleasantly surprised when I came to the harbor to see a moderate northwest wind blowing. As we left the harbor, there seemed to be enough wind to have a race and there were about 10 boats out for the fun.
We set the buoy for the line and called for course W4: Start, Wharf, Gov, Fin. Dice set up to be Sheriff and as the clock ticked to zero, everyone was clear. We tacked around to starboard tack like the rest of the boats. As we sailed out, we thought we saw more wind outside but the direction of the wind was very shifty. The common knowledge in Santa Cruz is to sail inside for the lift inside. As we sailed further outside we could see that there was a wide angle between us indicating the inside boats were getting headed as we got lifted on our starboard tack. Indeed Race QS shows that Dice actually pulled ahead of Avatar briefly as they got headed inside, but there was a lot more race to go and headers Dice had to fight it’s way through.
At Wharf Avatar had extended their lead on us as they rounded just ahead of Nidaros II. Quite a bit later, Tusitala, Dice and Sea Bird rounded. By the time we got set up on our run to Gov, Avatar and Nidaros II were just about rounding Gov and headed for start/finish. Avatar finished in front (1:22:59) followed by Nidaros II (1:24:12) followed by Sea Bird (time unavailable). It was a very close finish between Pair A Dice and Tusitala, with Dice possibly a couple of feet ahead. Dice 1:32:55, Tusitala 1:32:57. All times are elapsed time and the course length was 3.07 nautical miles.
HEADERS AND LIFTS:
As wind direction varies from side to side, a lift allows you to sail closer toward your destination. A header forces you to sail further from your destination. There are oscillating shifts and Persistent shifts. On this night we were experiencing oscillating shifts. It goes without saying that you can gain incredible gains if you use shifts to your advantage. A header on one tack is a lift on the other. Generally you want to sail a little into a header before tacking so you don’t immediately sail back into a header on the other tack. Another good rule of thumb, pinch in the headers and fall off in the lifts to maximize speed. When you are getting lifted and other boats are getting headed, you can enjoy it, but don’t get too smug, your header is on it’s way.
It is amazing to study the two winners on this night and their tactics. The winner played the inside in what seemed to be lighter wind and possibly a little westerly current to help. The second place boat sailed straight outside almost “to the corner” before tacking over toward wharf. In the end, both boats finished 1st and second, so the difference between inside and outside was not that much.
What really is meaningful in these light conditions is the weight of the boat. All boats that finished in the lead were light weight boats. It only stands to reason that light wind propels lighter boats easier than heavy boats.
See you next Tuesday!
Barry L Keeler
Sailing Pair A Dice