I don't know my knots.
No, not knots as in knots you tie. I know knots in that sense.
But I don't know knots as in wind speed. People are always asking me things like, "What do you think it was blowing today, 14? 17?" I have no idea. Top sailors always write on their blogs about how they were racing in 5-7 knots that freshened to 8-11 with gusts to 16. I wish I could do that. Sometimes I just make up numbers to make this seem more like a sailing blog which is written by someone who knows his knots. I do not. Knots are a mystery to me.
I think of wind speed in terms of how I have to sail my Laser upwind. A Tillerfort Wind Scale might be something like...
- Crouch in the cockpit
- Sit on the side deck
- Butt over the side.
- Straight leg hiking
- Tighten all the controls and hike as hard as I can
- OMG I think I'm going to lose it
- Lost it
These might roughly correspond to Beaufort wind forces 1 to 7 but I wouldn't guarantee it. And, of course, the Tillerfort scale is specific to an elderly, rather unfit, somewhat overweight, bozo sailor. A different sailor of a different weight would move through that scale at different real wind velocities from me. My son (who weighs a bit more than me) will be sitting on the side deck when I am hiking flat out.
Tuesday evening last week in Bristol it was blowing Force 4 on the Tillerfort Scale and we had six sailors out for some informal windward-leeward racing. I seem to recall that I won the first two races. No idea how. Must have got lucky. But after that brief moment of glory, I was generally finishing towards the back of the fleet. One reason was that I was definitely not going so fast upwind as some of my fellow racers.
Now granted, two of the fleet are among the best Masters sailors in the world and they had spent the weekend tuning up for Tuesday night by sailing in the Canadian Masters. I watched them and tried to work out what I was doing differently from them. After a while I began to suspect that they were keeping the boat consistently flat better than I was. I kept trying to fiddle with my sail controls to find that elusive groove and every time I did that the boat heeled. Every time a little puff hit I was slower to respond than these two guys and the boat heeled. All that heeling and flattening can't be good for the flow of water over the foils and the air over the sail, can it?
Anyway that's my theory. Not an excuse, a theory. Something to work on when I'm sailing on my own, searching for the groove.
We sailed for a couple of hours but then the younger members of the fleet were getting tired with all that hiking in Tillerfort Force 4 so we went in and had some beers. Life is good.