Saturday, August 14, 2010

Long Tack

Laser sailors sail the long tack first.

Well, the smart ones do anyway. It's conventional racing advice, something to do with maximizing your chance of gains and minimizing your chance of losses based on probability theory, non-Euclidean geometry, and the collected wisdom of Stuart Walker, Paul Elvstrom and some guy who I met in a bar in Sydney. I never quite understood the logic but I guess it makes sense to keep the pointy end aiming more or less where you want to go (the windward mark) instead of further away from it.

The first day of BBR last weekend was very frustrating. I blew the first race due to sheer incompetence. See Plan. You stupid boy!

Then we hung around for a few hours as the wind died and shifted around pretty much all points of the compass. I did drop hints to the race committee from time to time that instead of drifting around aimlessly in Buzzards bay we could be ashore boosting the bar revenues of Beverly Yacht Club, or that maybe they could order us some pizza... but they wisely ignored me.

Eventually a lightish breeze settled in just west of south and they got the Vanguard 15s started. Just before our start the breeze went left by about 40 degrees and I confidently expected the start to be postponed... but I was wrong. The starting signal sounded, the whole fleet flopped on to port tack (we could barely lay the line on starboard) and we were off.

Hmmm. Well this was pretty clearly one of those "long tack" situations so I stayed on port. I guess the wind did square up a bit to the original direction but it still seemed to me that I was pointing closer to the mark on port tack. Plus it looked like more pressure ahead on the right while the boats on the left seemed to be in even worse air than us. And so it was that about ten of us (out of a fleet of nearly fifty) kept going and going and going to Cornersville.

Not long after we tacked on to starboard a tad below the layline a huge righty shift came in and we could reach in to the mark. Woo hoo, top ten at the first mark at BBR. The guys coming in from the left on a huge header didn't look like they were shouting, "Woo hoo!"

The wind eventually went so far right that the "run" was now a close reach. There seemed to be a lot of confusion down at the leeward gate. The Radials hadn't started yet and some were drifting around near the gate. There were some horns sounding. I couldn't see what flag was flying. Had the RC abandoned the race? It would not be surprising if they had.

But no. We were still racing and the RC was signalling a change of course to a new windward mark, roughly in the same direction as it was for the morning race. Somehow on the "run" and on the final beat I dropped a few places but I still finished comfortably in the top twenty, with what would turn out to be my best finish of the regatta.

If I had been a PHRF sailor I would probably have gone to Sailing Anarchy and written some long abusive post about the supposed sins of the Race Committee. But, thank god, I am not one of those mean, angry dudes. I am a laid-back easy-going Laser sailor. I assumed that our Race Committee felt that completing two races on a day when the winds weren't very cooperative was better for the sailors that only doing one race and blowing off the second one in a vain search for perfection. Thank you Race Committee. Good call.

Laser sailors, "Sail the long tack first!"


Baydog said...

Yes, the long tack first. I definitely get it. Okay, now that the comment pertaining to the post is out of the way, since I apparently am the poster child for irrelevant comments, what's with the change of profile pic? Am I finally waring:) off on you? Next image should be cornish pastries or toad in the whole, I think.
Maybe even rhubarb stalks. Love ya Captain

antolin said...

funny boss, I also read sailing anarchy and have the same opinion of angry dudes all the time..go figure...why can't we all get along?!

Tillerman said...

Baydog, yes the main reason for the new profile pic is because all these irrelevant comments are waring me down.

MJ said...

Good article about the long tack, and when not to take it here: The author is also an accomplished Sailx racer.

Tillerman said...

Thanks MJ. Isn't that the wonderful thing about sailing, even when there is a "rule" about how to go fast there are always exceptions?

Yes, that is a good article. I saw it a few days ago. In fact it's sort of an inspiration for this series of posts about BBR. I realized that I could illustrate Steve's "rules" with personal experiences from the BBR.

SoxSail said...

Loving this series, and I have to agree with both the tactic, and the "more races is good" sentiment. For anyone doing RC, get in heaps of races, even if they're imperfect. And when the breeze dies, set a course for the expected direction, or multiple upwind marks. You can just pull the wrong ones as you start the sequence.

Unknown said...

Don't panic - you must be sailing too much because your mains waring !!

I also sail a J24 as well as a laser, and I found that downwind its even more important to sail the long gybe first. Upwind, one way of looking at it is if you are close to the layine, a lift will take you about the layline, meaning you sailed too far, and a header will be painful - so its a lose-lose situation to be close to the laylines

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