Saturday, May 17, 2008

June 2008 Racing Column for the Mainsheet

The annual NOOD (National Offshore One-Design) regatta was held in Annapolis over the last weekend in April this year. The Albergs had a nice turn out with seven boats making an appearance on the course. Many years, the wind lightens up and we loose a day of racing. Not so this time: our fleet completed 8 races over three days. By Sunday night I feel like I need to take two days off before going back to work. I was exhausted!

The great thing about having so many races is that it gives you the chance to make up for mistakes. If you really mess up a spinnaker douse in one race, you're not out for the series. It also gives you enough time on the course that you're almost always exposed to a variety of conditions. That was the case in this regatta. The first two days of the NOOD were very similar: light to medium air (5-10 kts.) out of the north with a powerful current developing throughout the day. The third day, however, the wind really picked up (15-20 kts.) and made for quite a different scene. Solid crew work became extremely important, and if you didn't change the way your boat was set up from the day before, you were going to be slow.

There are two things I'll never forget about this regatta. The first is watching Lanny Helms and his crew aboard Windswept drive away from the fleet the last day of racing. It was incredible to watch that boat go. He had two great starts that second day and took off, never to be caught. I pressed him at the award ceremony as to how he had her set up to make her go so fast, but it seemed difficult for him to talk he was smiling so much. Way to go Lanny!

The second thing I'll never forget is Brian Palmer crewing for me and doing foredeck. Brian is not my regular foredeck; I was supposed to have my cousin on board Sunday doing foredeck and he's been doing that for over 20 years. Brian, however, is exactly the kind of crew every skipper loves: he'll do whatever he's asked--no questions asked! Brian does foredeck for us about twice per year, usually because someone had to bail at the last minute. (Which is what happened in this case.) He's a trooper for trying to re-learn the whole process on the way out to the race course.

With 15-20 kts. blowing, we weren't sure we wanted to fly the chute, but if you're not in the lead it's hard not to at least give it a try, so we did. One thing you should know is that I do my boat maintenance by crisis; if she's sinking, or something is broken that will cost us in a race, then it gets fixed. Otherwise, find a work-around! Apparently one area that I need to improve is the spinnaker halyard shackle. The pin is bent and if you don't PRESS it in--even thought it may be latched--it will pop lose. Brian had unfortunately not received this memo and I didn't communicate it in my review of the process.

The call for the spinnaker to go up on the second leg of the first race was made, and my other crew, Ray Meyer, gave it all he had. It was his first weekend on LinGin, so maybe he thought our spinnaker was ULTRA light weight, or maybe it all happened just so fast... Regardless of why or how, within a second or two we had the spinnaker halyard at the top of the mast. Not just part of the way, but ALL the way.

We finished up that race and knew that we would only have about 15 minutes between races. (As Race Committee, you have to hustle to get in 8 races in three days.) The seas were big when we headed out and had only grown throughout the morning. Thankfully Brian has done some rock climbing in his past, because he agreed to hop in the bosun's chair and be pulled up the mast to retrieve the halyard. You'll have to ask him yourself about how the trip was, but I know that most of the fleet watched the feat closely--it was exciting! We had a lot of questions at the party after the race about our Spiderman. Let's just say that the bumps you and I feel at deck level are nothing compared to what one feels at the top of the mast!

At the end of the racing LinGin carried the day, but just narrowly. T.C. Williams on Argo had a great third day and really gave us a scare, coming in a close second. Jonathan Adams teamed up with Larry Morris to co-skipper Laughing Gull for this regatta and they made a great team. They were extremely consistent throughout the regatta and came in third. Lanny was not far behind Jonathan and Larry.

I am really pleased with the competitiveness of all the boats in our fleet. Albergs are a great boat to race! Please come join us sometime.

Two final thoughts:
  1. Have you considered joining us for the races in Canada this June? It's June 14-15 in Toronto and I can promise that you'll have a great time and make new friends. Please contact me if you're even just thinking about it.
  2. Albergs are racing in Wednesday race series on both the Severn and the Magothy rivers. If you've been thinking about getting your boat out, but have some questions, please drop me a line. I'm happy to help get you out on the water.
I look forward to seeing you all on the water. Tim Williams

Thursday, May 08, 2008

LinGin Wins First WNR

Crew: Scott, Chris, Xa, Nicole (friend of Chris) and Tim
Wind: 10-15kts out of the south

We had a beautiful night of sailing this week. It was great to see Brian Palmer out skippering L'Esprit in her first WNR!

We had a good solid start and quickly jumped ahead of Argo by a couple boat lengths. Our course took us almost out of R2 at the mouth of the Severn on a fairly steady reach. At one point the wind lightened, and Argo started to catch up. We eased the backstay and the jib halyard. We also eased the outhaul and fattened up the main. We went to 8 to 10" off the spreader for the jib and lo and behold, we started to move on Argo. We shifted gears! Excellent!

We took a hitch before rounding the windward mark to get out of a lot of spinnakers. We just barely crossed L'Esprit on port. (Whew!) I think it's clear that Brian has plenty of speed with that new bottom and those new sails. (Not to mention the crack crew--his parents!)

After that it we had a great spin set with Scott on the foredeck. We led the fleet in until we rounded the green can at the entrance to the harbor. We got caught behind and below a Catalina as we rounded. He came up and slowed down more quickly that we did. We were too close to shoot above him and had to plow below him. That killed our speed and Argo charged by us to windward.

We went to the docks and tacked and lucky for us, Argo had to take two tacks where they only wanted to take one. This gave us the advantage we needed as the winds were light and tacking was painfully slow. We crossed the finish line a short bit before them.

L'Esprit came in fourth (last) behind Argo and Second-2-Nun (Harry), but she didn't fly her chute, so I think it could have been quite a different finish had the been able to do so.

We had a great time and are looking forward to next week.


Thursday, May 01, 2008

LinGin Wins the NOOD

The 10th annual Sailing World NOOD Regatta took place this last weekend and LinGin’s crew had great success.

Day 1 & 2

Crew: Ray Meyer (“the new guy”), Glen, Scott, Mark (1st day), Brian (2nd day), David (2nd day) and Tim
Conditions: 5-10 kts. with little chop
Location: Approx. 1 mile south of the Hacketts Point can

The first two days of the NOOD were very similar: medium to light air with current building throughout the day. We had pretty good starts, working to get a spot on the line with speed in clear air. Early in the day going right into the deep water was an option had it been desired, but after the first race each day the current was such that the key to success was to go left to get in the shallow water and out of the current.

LinGin was pretty dialed-in for these conditions. We moved the jib cars up to the “I” hole on Mark’s suggestion. The idea was that the foot was extremely flat in our normal position, the “G” hole. It seemed to produce good results; we had good speed and could point well. Our backstay was on 4 which is moderately tight. Overall we sailed her with the sails pretty flat.

The second race of the first day we lost a place to Argo during our windward mark rounding. The current was coming on strong and we were coming into the mark on port. Argo came in on starboard. As we were closer to the mark, we were able to tack inside of Argo and feel we had a good chance of making the rounding. Since they were further out when they made their tack to the mark, they had to overstand a bit be sure the current didn’t push them out of reach of the mark.

Unfortunately for us, the wind was lightening and shortly after a relatively slow tack, we were rolled by a Cal and Argo, causing us to stall and drift toward the mark. There was a short moment when we thought we might hit the mark, but I was able spin the boat around back to port tack and we had to regain speed, overstand the mark and then tack again. Needless to say, Argo was quite a bit ahead by that time.

Had I to do it over again, I would have tried to swallow my pride and realize that ducking Argo and being 2 boat lengths behind was a far better position than 20 boat lengths behind. Ah…next time…hopefully.

We did end up needing a repair. The spinnaker pole track was bent significantly and I had to race down to Fawcett to get a replacement. Hopefully Scott will take it easy on this next one! ;-)

A neat side note is that Bill Wager, a sports writer for the Capital, picked up on our success and interviewed me after the second race. We appeared in an article the next day. Pretty cool!

Day 1: 1, 2, 1
Day 2: 1, 1, 1

Day 3

Crew: Ray Meyer (“a regular”), Brian and Tim
Conditions: 15-20 kts. with chop
Location: Approx. 1 mile south of the Hacketts Point can

Day three was a tough one for LinGin from the time we left the dock. A missed e-mail from my cousin, Chris, left us with only three on the crew and Brian valiantly filling in on foredeck—a position he doesn’t get much practice in.

After some discussion about No. 1 or No. 2 jib and main reefing we settled on a reefed main with the No. 1. After shaking the reef on the first downwind leg, we never put it back in. I was glad that we didn’t go with the No. 2.

Our first start was good; we were on the line with speed, but we were immediately rolled by Lanny Helms (#562, Windswept) and bunch of other boats. Uh oh. We were definitely not set up properly for the conditions. We spent the rest of the day changing settings to try to find our groove.

The first spinnaker set was a bit iffy with a number of configuration changes made before setting the chute about 2/3 the way down the leg. The second time around the snap shackle on the halyard came undone just as Ray went to hoist the sail. The result: the spinnaker halyard at the top of the mast and Brian scrambling to switch to the trusty whisker pole wing-in-wing configuration.

In between the first and second race, we took Brian up the mast. Now you have to keep in mind it’s blowing between 15 and 20 knots and there are significant seas. At boat level, we feel the waves, but 40 feet up the mast you REALLY feel the waves. Half way up Brian got bounced around a bit, but his rock climbing experienced paid off and he made it all the way to the top to retrieve the spin halyard. He definitely earned his sandwich this race! My hat is off to his willingness to make the climb—I never even had to ask.

The second race we suffered more speed and pointing problems. In the end we chased Argo up the last windward leg and tested some ideas out. Here are my thoughts:

  • Don’t be afraid to significantly bear off when there are seas out there. Towney did this once to us—I thought he was crazy to bear off 20 degrees rounding the leeward mark to go upwind. You’d think after being spanked by him at the top of that course that I would have learned my lesson. Next time, I will suck it up and bear off so I can plow LinGin through those waves. We went 8-10” off the spreader with the jib and seemed to be making ground on Argo on that last leg. (Too little too late to catch him, though.)

  • Lanny was smokin’ fast. Speaking with him after the race he talked about how loose his rig is. I think this may be key. Fast and fast in the slop. Next time I’ll try really loosening up the back stay and easing the jib halyard. We probably should have eased the outhaul too.

Last but not least, I can’t say enough good stuff about Ray. He’s a former Cal racer that now owns an Alberg with his wife. They are cruisers right now, but he’s a really good racer and I’m hoping that we can infect him with the racing bug. He’s planning to join us on Wednesdays this summer and I’m looking forward to it.

Day 3: 4, 3

I hope I see you all out on the water this summer. Come join us!


p.s. Thanks to Brian Palmer for all the great photos!