Thursday, April 03, 2008

Start Me Up

Fri Mar 28

The second day of Kurt Taulbee's Laser seminar in Clearwater was all about starting. I thought I had heard or read all there was to know about starting preparation and tactics, but Kurt's briefing before we went sailing touched on a couple of areas that I either had not heard before or had forgotten...
  • best time to hold up the boat to weather
  • some subtle differences between pin-favored and boat-favored starts.
As always the best part of the day was the actual drills...

Bow on Buoy. Sounds easy. Just hold the bow of your boat next to a buoy for as long as you can. But I had all sorts of problems doing it today. I think it was the combination of very light winds and a significant current that was messing me up. As Kurt explained the whole point of the drill was to learn instinctively how the boat will react to heading up, backing the sail, sculling down, heeling the boat either way, slow tacks etc. etc. so you know exactly what to do to place and hold the boat where you want in a real start. Hmmm. Definitely something that I need to practice more on my home waters.

Blast Off. This was a drill I had not seen before. Kurt set a very short start line with a third buoy about a boat's length to leeward of the starboard end of the line. The idea was for us to approach the line from the right one by one, then bear off and accelerate around the "extra" buoy, and then hit the line at full speed, close-hauled. The tricky part was to know where to pull the trigger in relation to whether the wind was shifted left or right.

Long Line. Starts in the middle of a very long line using transits to judge where the line was. As I discovered, it's one thing to know when you're on the line; somewhat more difficult is to judge how far to wait below the line to have enough room to accelerate. I was originally setting up way too high and being over early but improved the more times we did the drill.

Surprise Starts. Ha ha. One of the evil sailing instructor's devilish weapons. I used to use this when I taught sailing and the kids hated it. Basically you have to be setting up just below the line at the 3-minute signal but the actual start can be any time after the 1-minute signal. Any time! Maybe only 10 seconds after the 1-minute signal. Maybe 4 minutes after. That's the surprise.

So there we were luffing on the line waiting for the start. We all drifted down towards the pin. Eventually we had to duck down, gybe, and head back towards the other end of the line to find a gap. What I learned from this drill is that I have to bail out because I am too close to the pin earlier than I thought I did. It's all on video. You don't want to see the gory details. Honest.

And then we did a few short races.

As on the first day, the most valuable part of the seminar was the individual feedback that Kurt gave me, which today was supplemented by video of my pathetic attempts at the drills that we reviewed on the following morning.

Among other things I learned...
  • I need to have my sail flatter for upwind sailing in light airs. Much flatter.

  • When bearing away to a tight reach before the start I need to be careful not let the sail stall.

  • My big rolls in light air start are good (and legal). Woo hoo. At least I got something right.

  • I need to remember to return to the "forward position" in the cockpit after every maneuver... especially while waiting on the start line.

  • If leading at the windward mark on a short course, I must not let another boat get inside (left) of me.

  • When sailing upwind in light air, I learned a better technique for "locking" the tiller.
Then off to the Island Way Grill with Tillerwoman and the other two students on the course to enjoy the sunset, soft-shell crabs, blackened snapper, and a bottle of Pinot Noir. Life is good.


Anonymous said...

What is this "better technique for locking the tiller"? I have heard of locking at against your legs and using the deck behind your body.

Anonymous said...

Kurt explained three different ways of doing this, the two you mentioned and another one that he says he invented. And in the two ways you described he gave me some tips on how to do them slightly differently (and supposedly more effectively) than I was doing before.

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