Rolex Big Boat Series 2010 – notes…

Things to remember on the 2010 Rolex Big Boat Series at St. Francis Yacht Club:

We were very competitive going into the RBBS with the division breaks, our main competitor going in was Tupelo Honey, but there were also other boats that could be a threat  such as Hawkeye, who had (Bill Colombo) from Doyle Sails aboard and a J-109, Electra,  from Southern California sailed by Harry Pattison of  Elliot Pattison Sails. Going into the third day of racing, 3 boats tied for first place.  Unfortunately for us, Saturday was a light wind day and we were somewhat under canvased to be able to race effectively despite having great starts off the line.  It took us out of contention for the podium finish, but overall we were definitely a threat to any of the podium finishers.  This log is to itemize some of the key points and lessons from this year’s BBS efforts…

  • Light air advice from Harry Pattison on Electra:  loosen shrouds and head stay to induce sag in head sail and mast should sag in the middle to widen the slot.  After suffering the slows on Saturday’s light-air races where we got 2 fifth place finishes and knocked us off as contenders for a podium finish, we loosen the headstay and sailed fat and fast on the last race of the series.  But Sunday’s condition was not exactly like Saturday, there was a little more wind, so I’m not sure that we have the light air speed problem solved yet.  Nonetheless, our speed using the Doyle jib was very good and we gained in every leg to yield  6:07 elapse time and 3:17 on corrected time ahead over our nearest competitor, Electra.  The light air is definitely a weak point that will need to be shored up before next year.  One way to mitigate this would be to evaluate whether we should enter with a rating that is with the 125% jib and to sail the pre-season races with the 125% to see what the impact would be using the 125% all the time.  Yes, there will be times where we do not need the 125%, but if we can sail without a huge penalty with the 125%, it may be worth it.  Certainly during the year, it would be good to test that hypothesis.

  • Even in late ebb turning to slack this year, it was still advantageous to hug the city front rather than heading north of Alcatraz to catch any residual ebb from the North Bay. This was something of a surprise on Saturday (the light air day) when Hawkeye hug the shore, while Bodacious played the middle of the channel between Alcatraz and the City Front, and we took a flyer out to the north of Alcatraz because we didn’t have the speed and point.  Hawkeye gain considerable distance to Bodacious by hugging the City Front.  Two things I was surprised by this move:  1.) this was light air condition, I would have thought the wind would be blocked closer into the shore, 2.) usually, when it’s slack, the flood comes into shore first then spreading out to mid bay. Timing of this is tough to predict – need to observe this from previous race and monitor closely.
  • The tide charts that were sold for $200.00 were dubious investments.  While it presents to have the current mapped out in detail, in the final analysis, it is a 2 dimensional interpolation and subject to the same flaws as any simulation data.  The best indicators are still visual clues you get as you sail by.  The greatest opportunities is when the tide change direction at different parts of the bay at different times.  Oh…to capture that knowledge on record somehow is difficult.
  • Starts were dialed in this year. The trick is to stay 1-2 boat length below and start pressing for speed 10 seconds before the gun and build speed to 110% so at the gun you can out-point and out-maneuver your opponents that few seconds at the start. Once you have them in your grasp, you have options: you can gas them by pinching up when you have breeze, you can foot off and get more speed to favorable currents… etc.

The one significant skill-set we acquired this year aboard IE is that we can out-point most boats in our fleet with the Pineapple 100% jib in winds above 12+ knots.  The jib is hauled inboard with the barber hauler and the main strapped in tight or travel to weather to induce weather helm, the helmsman drives the boat alternately for speed by pressing and then luff up whenever there’s a puff or pressure.  We find consistently the boat can point 2-5 degrees higher than normal and was able to cause the entire fleet to peel off to weather of us because they could not keep up the pointing.  This was an effective counter to Tupelo’s previous uncontested pointing superiority and we did not see Tupelo attempt to climb to leeward of us as in previous years.

This trimming technique is also a departure from the way the jib was trimmed in previous races and is a potentially contentious point as to how the boat should be sailed. I have trouble grasping the logic in having the jib trimmer setting jib trim independently from the boat’s tactical considerations.  When we are in a tactical situation, every little advantage must be played at the right time to yield a positive result.  It does no good when we are being lee bowed to have the jib trimmer to ease sails – the helmsman has two options, 1.) press down to get the jib drawing maximum, but closing the gap between the leeward boat and us, or 2.) continue to point high and luff the jib, thereby loosing speed while maintaining height.  The helmsman is responding to the jib trimmer for course and direction, it should be the other way around.  The first disconnect I have with this method is when we want to point up, the current practice is to have the helmsman head up, the jib now luffing slightly, then the jib trimmer brings the jib in to flow.  My take is that while the jib is luffing, we are actually not deriving maximum speed from the jib – why would this be an effective manuever?  Contrast that with the move where the trimmer trims in the jib WHILE the helmsman slowly heads up – this allows maximum drive from the jib…  It’s a very slight difference to be sure, but in most tactical situations on a race, it’s these subtle moves that makes the biggest difference between a successful maneuver and an unsuccessful one.

GOALS FOR 2010-2011 SAILING CAMPAIGN
September 19, 2010

Institutionalize 2010 Improvements-

  • Continue to use the Start sequence strategies used in BBS (http://shipslog.sightinc.com/practice-starting).
    • Start NEAR the favored end of the line … even number towards; odd numbers away …
    • Start On Time.
    • Start with 110%+ of upwind target boat speed … 15 seconds to power up
    • Start with clear air to leeward.
  • Expand Starting repertoire
    • Practice Power, Back, Luff techniques.
    • Practice Hover/Go drills.
    • Consider two-boat drills suggested by Robert’s e-mail.
  • Practice Upwind trim modes-
    • Point, Speed, Power modes & settings.
  • Practice maintaining speed on Tacks & Gybes (record transition speeds & times to full speed)
    • Create a Log/Table/Matrix for settings.

Correct 2010 Shortfalls-

  • • Establish light wind sailing techniques-
    • Main & headsail trim settings.
    • Record optimum Sail vertical & horizontal setting at different wind speeds.
    • Crew weight distribution in helping boat heel.
  • • Team discipline (micro-management/ communication, etc.)
    • Establish a common vocabulary amongst crew.
  • Translate past experiences on other boats to an IE specific vocabulary.
  • Expand team’s overall understanding of how IE handles-
    • Enhance tapemarkings for various trim settings-
  • spreaders, forestay, barber haulers, mainsheet, etc.
  • Change/rotate positions at practices/ beercans/ winter series.
  • Sailing without electronics.

Milestone Goals-
• Determine which key races are to be pegged towards the accomplishing of which goals.

Create SMART Goals for each of the goals listed above-
(Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely)

San Francisco Bay Entrance (Golden Gate), California Current

16 September 2010 – 20 September 2010
San Francisco Bay Entrance (Golden Gate), California Current   37.8167° N, 122.4833° W

  • 2010-09-16  09:41 PDT  -0.00 knots  Slack, Ebb Begins
  • 2010-09-16  12:10 PDT  -1.27 knots  Max Ebb
  • 2010-09-16  15:19 PDT   0.00 knots  Slack, Flood Begins
  • 2010-09-16  15:40 PDT   Moonrise
  • 2010-09-16  18:07 PDT   1.70 knots  Max Flood
  • 2010-09-17  07:39 PDT   2.84 knots  Max Flood
  • 2010-09-17  10:39 PDT  -0.00 knots  Slack, Ebb Begins
  • 2010-09-17  13:47 PDT  -1.53 knots  Max Ebb
  • 2010-09-17  16:17 PDT   Moonrise
  • 2010-09-17  16:26 PDT   0.00 knots  Slack, Flood Begins
  • 2010-09-18  08:30 PDT   3.00 knots  Max Flood
  • 2010-09-18  11:26 PDT  -0.00 knots  Slack, Ebb Begins
  • 2010-09-18  14:37 PDT  -1.89 knots  Max Ebb
  • 2010-09-18  16:49 PDT   Moonrise
  • 2010-09-18  17:21 PDT   0.01 knots  Slack, Flood Begins
  • 2010-09-19  09:12 PDT   3.13 knots  Max Flood
  • 2010-09-19  12:05 PDT  -0.01 knots  Slack, Ebb Begins
  • 2010-09-19  15:09 PDT  -2.26 knots  Max Ebb
  • 2010-09-19  17:17 PDT   Moonrise
  • 2010-09-19  18:08 PDT   0.01 knots  Slack, Flood Begins

RACE #1

IRC D
1 USA 28908 Tupelo Honey Elan 40 Gerard Sheridan 1.031 16/Sep/10 – 13:32:53 0:01:37:53 0:01:40:55 1 1
2 USA 28423 Inspired Environments Beneteau, Farr, First 40.7 Timothy Ballard 1.046 16/Sep/10 – 13:31:35 0:01:36:35 0:01:41:01 2 2
3 USA 50444 Hawkeye IMX-38 Frank Morrow 1.031 16/Sep/10 – 13:33:23 0:01:38:23 0:01:41:25 3 3
4 USA 56385 Electra J 109 Thomas Brott 1.018 16/Sep/10 – 13:35:15 0:01:40:15 0:01:42:03 4 5
5 USA 385 Kuai Sabre 386 Daniel Thielman 1.020 16/Sep/10 – 13:36:02 0:01:41:02 0:01:43:03 5 9
6 USA 41001 Bodacious Farr 40 1 Ton John Clauser 1.029 16/Sep/10 – 13:35:23 0:01:40:23 0:01:43:17 6 10
7 USA 38023 Ohana Beneteau 45f5 Steve Hocking 1.053 16/Sep/10 – 13:36:14 0:01:41:14 0:01:46:35 7 18

RACE#2

IRC D
1 USA 50444 Hawkeye IMX-38 Frank Morrow 1.031 16/Sep/10 – 16:27:41 0:01:32:41 0:01:35:33 1 1
2 USA 41001 Bodacious Farr 40 1 Ton John Clauser 1.029 16/Sep/10 – 16:29:55 0:01:34:55 0:01:37:40 2 2
3 USA 28423 Inspired Environments Beneteau, Farr, First 40.7 Timothy Ballard 1.046 16/Sep/10 – 16:28:30 0:01:33:30 0:01:37:48 3 3
4 USA 28908 Tupelo Honey Elan 40 Gerard Sheridan 1.031 16/Sep/10 – 16:32:42 0:01:37:42 0:01:40:43 4 4
5 USA 385 Kuai Sabre 386 Daniel Thielman 1.020 16/Sep/10 – 16:38:06 0:01:43:06 0:01:45:09 5 5
6 USA 38023 Ohana Beneteau 45f5 Steve Hocking 1.053 16/Sep/10 – 16:38:50 0:01:43:50 0:01:49:20 6 6
7 USA 56385 Electra J 109 Thomas Brott DNF 1.018 8 22

RACE#3

IRC D
1 USA 56385 Electra J 109 Thomas Brott 1.018 17/Sep/10 – 16:48:53 0:01:51:53 0:01:53:53 1 1
2 USA 28423 Inspired Environments Beneteau, Farr, First 40.7 Timothy Ballard 1.046 17/Sep/10 – 16:46:30 0:01:49:30 0:01:54:32 2 2
3 USA 41001 Bodacious Farr 40 1 Ton John Clauser 1.029 17/Sep/10 – 16:49:20 0:01:52:20 0:01:55:35 3 3
4 USA 28908 Tupelo Honey Elan 40 Gerard Sheridan 1.031 17/Sep/10 – 16:51:13 0:01:54:13 0:01:57:45 4 4
5 USA 385 Kuai Sabre 386 Daniel Thielman 1.020 17/Sep/10 – 16:53:13 0:01:56:13 0:01:58:32 5 5
6 USA 50444 Hawkeye IMX-38 Frank Morrow 1.031 17/Sep/10 – 16:52:04 0:01:55:04 0:01:58:38 6 6
7 USA 38023 Ohana Beneteau 45f5 Steve Hocking 1.053 17/Sep/10 – 17:00:35 0:02:03:35 0:02:10:07 7 7

RACE#4

IRC D
1 USA 56385 Electra J 109 Thomas Brott 1.018 17/Sep/10 – 16:48:53 0:01:51:53 0:01:53:53 1 1
2 USA 28423 Inspired Environments Beneteau, Farr, First 40.7 Timothy Ballard 1.046 17/Sep/10 – 16:46:30 0:01:49:30 0:01:54:32 2 2
3 USA 41001 Bodacious Farr 40 1 Ton John Clauser 1.029 17/Sep/10 – 16:49:20 0:01:52:20 0:01:55:35 3 3
4 USA 28908 Tupelo Honey Elan 40 Gerard Sheridan 1.031 17/Sep/10 – 16:51:13 0:01:54:13 0:01:57:45 4 4
5 USA 385 Kuai Sabre 386 Daniel Thielman 1.020 17/Sep/10 – 16:53:13 0:01:56:13 0:01:58:32 5 5
6 USA 50444 Hawkeye IMX-38 Frank Morrow 1.031 17/Sep/10 – 16:52:04 0:01:55:04 0:01:58:38 6 6
7 USA 38023 Ohana Beneteau 45f5 Steve Hocking 1.053 17/Sep/10 – 17:00:35 0:02:03:35 0:02:10:07 7 7

RACE#5

1 USA 28908 Tupelo Honey Elan 40 Gerard Sheridan 1.031 18/Sep/10 – 14:23:16 0:01:16:16 0:01:18:37 1 3
2 USA 56385 Electra J 109 Thomas Brott 1.018 18/Sep/10 – 14:24:35 0:01:17:35 0:01:18:58 2 5
3 USA 50444 Hawkeye IMX-38 Frank Morrow 1.031 18/Sep/10 – 14:24:48 0:01:17:48 0:01:20:12 3 6
4 USA 41001 Bodacious Farr 40 1 Ton John Clauser 1.029 18/Sep/10 – 14:25:36 0:01:18:36 0:01:20:52 4 9
5 USA 28423 Inspired Environments Beneteau, Farr, First 40.7 Timothy Ballard 1.046 18/Sep/10 – 14:25:59 0:01:18:59 0:01:22:36 5 13
6 USA 385 Kuai Sabre 386 Daniel Thielman 1.020 18/Sep/10 – 14:30:00 0:01:23:00 0:01:24:39 6 15
7 USA 38023 Ohana Beneteau 45f5 Steve Hocking 1.053 18/Sep/10 – 14:29:38 0:01:22:38 0:01:27:00 7 17

RACE#6

IRC D
1 USA 56385 Electra J 109 Thomas Brott 1.018 18/Sep/10 – 17:40:31 0:02:12:31 0:02:14:54 1 7
2 USA 28908 Tupelo Honey Elan 40 Gerard Sheridan 1.031 18/Sep/10 – 17:40:11 0:02:12:11 0:02:16:16 2 8
3 USA 50444 Hawkeye IMX-38 Frank Morrow 1.031 18/Sep/10 – 17:45:47 0:02:17:47 0:02:22:03 3 9
4 USA 41001 Bodacious Farr 40 1 Ton John Clauser 1.029 18/Sep/10 – 17:48:07 0:02:20:07 0:02:24:10 4 10
5 USA 28423 Inspired Environments Beneteau, Farr, First 40.7 Timothy Ballard 1.046 18/Sep/10 – 17:51:40 0:02:23:40 0:02:30:16 5 11
6 USA 385 Kuai Sabre 386 Daniel Thielman 1.020 18/Sep/10 – 17:55:51 0:02:27:51 0:02:30:48 6 12
7 USA 38023 Ohana Beneteau 45f5 Steve Hocking 1.053 18/Sep/10 – 17:59:35 0:02:31:35 0:02:39:37 7 17

RACE #7

IRC D
1 USA 28423 Inspired Environments Beneteau, Farr, First 40.7 Timothy Ballard 1.046 19/Sep/10 – 14:30:21 0:01:45:21 0:01:50:11 1 1
2 USA 56385 Electra J 109 Thomas Brott 1.018 19/Sep/10 – 14:36:28 0:01:51:28 0:01:53:28 2 2
3 USA 50444 Hawkeye IMX-38 Frank Morrow 1.031 19/Sep/10 – 14:36:05 0:01:51:05 0:01:54:31 3 3
4 USA 41001 Bodacious Farr 40 1 Ton John Clauser 1.029 19/Sep/10 – 14:38:05 0:01:53:05 0:01:56:21 4 4
5 USA 28908 Tupelo Honey Elan 40 Gerard Sheridan 1.031 19/Sep/10 – 14:41:20 0:01:56:20 0:01:59:56 5 5
6 USA 38023 Ohana Beneteau 45f5 Steve Hocking 1.053 19/Sep/10 – 14:39:35 0:01:54:35 0:02:00:39 6 6
7 USA 385 Kuai Sabre 386 Daniel Thielman 1.020 19/Sep/10 – 14:47:55 0:02:02:55 0:02:05:22 7 7

StFYC: Aldo Alessio Perpetual Trophy Regatta

Aldo Alessio Perpetual Trophy Regatta – Friday, 07/30/2010:

2010-07-30  10:52 PDT   0.00 knots  Slack, Flood Begins
2010-07-30  13:54 PDT   2.94 knots  Max Flood
2010-07-30  17:06 PDT  -0.00 knots  Slack, Ebb Begins

The first race of the Aldo Alessio is an ocean race. The RC set up the starting area just west of Treasure Island and set a course for the SF lightship Buoy then to Blossom Rock and to the finish. Winds at the start was steady at 8-12 knots. Given the start time of 11:00, our start will be at slack with maximum flood occurring at 1354 at 2.9 knots at the Gate. Given it’s late ebb/early flood, we can anticipate the current to flow from the north bay into south bay as the early flood will meet resistance from the river current and divert the initial flood to the south bay. So we opted to start at the committee boat end with intentions to tack to port and head over towards Angel Island. Our main competitor, Tupelo Honey, started towards the left side of the line presumably thinking that they will try to use the current shadow of Alcatraz to buffer them from the current, but it was definitely not the right move and ultimately, they tacked over to port but they missed the opportunity and is now playing catch up. By the time we approached northeastern point of Alcatraz, we were climbing up on them without having to point the boat very high. The current on our leebow helped push us higher and kept our speed up. We made a few more tacks mostly to stay windward and westward of our competitors and to consolidate our gains as we tack out the gate.

We followed the “big boys” to Yellow bluff and taken the lifts often occur there – although it was a bit shifty. We took a final tuck into horseshoe Cove then poked our bow out of the north tower of GGB. I wasn’t quite sure where the most favorable current would be but I wasn’t sure that tucking into the Marin headlands would necessarily be the best call, but someone called for a tack and we tacked inshore for a while and found adverse current, so we tacked back out and I decided to head toward the middle of the GGB span and play the right side of the channel. This way we can stay between Tupelo and Point Bonita – given Tupelo is in the same current, at least our position is protected.  When we reached Point Diablo on the Marin side, we sailed into Bonita Cove and found favorable current and we stayed within the cove and gained significant distance from Tupelo.

We tacked out of Bonita Cove close to the light house on starboard tack towards the middle part of the SF entrance.  By this time, the building flood is becoming obvious as there was a definite current line arcing across the entire mouth of the entrance, spanning from Point Bonita to Mile Rock.  We crossed the current line but found that we were not making much headway due to a combination of light air and confusing chop.  In the mean time, Tupelo and Hawkeye are making steady progress in closing in on us and heading to Point Bonita.  I called for a tack to cover but for unknown reasons, our speed continue to drop and our speed fell to 5.5 knots and will not come up.  By the time we crossed Point Bonita to the beam, Tupelo and Hawkeye were both ahead of us.  We gave up nearly 2 miles of distance in that move to the center of the entrance.  Note for the future ocean race:  in early flood, it is still a good idea to hug close to Point Bonita and head north to avoid the flood.  Furthermore, the counter current indicated on current chart is more evident on the eastern cove between Point Diablo and Lime Point (the North Tower of GGB). Despite the fact that we lost ground, I realized that we need to position ourselves north of our competition as when the wind fills, it will fill from the north and we want to be on the inside of the lift as well as getting the pressure sooner.  Indeed, after half an hour of the light stuff, the wind pressure build and we were off to the races again, we did get the wind a little sooner than Tupelo and Hawkeye, and we were on the inside of the lift.  This puts us in good covering position as we did not have to worry about pointing high but merely staying above our competition.

By the time we reached the lightship, we regained our lead by a hundred yards or more.  We set the chute and headed back towards the bay.  During the rounding we sighted a large deep draft vessel taking on pilot, so rather than crossing the channel right away, I instructed the crew to trim the spinnaker to an optimal reach angle without chocking the leach then letting the helmsman to drive to the luff of the chute.  I also request the twinger to be fully released so we are not choking the chute and avoid over trimming the sail, but the trimmer kept bringing it down on the context that it helps the luff to be stable and kept adjusting the luff. The problem with this is that the helmsman never get to settle down to feel the boat’s balance and finding that optimal speed groove while pointing as high as possible on the chute.

On trimming on a spinnaker reach: I believe there is almost always an optimal sail trim when the boat practically sails itself  – it’s not about how the sails look, but how the sails interact with each other and the balance to boat as a whole.  It requires a sensitive touch on the helm and consistent feedback to the crew to dial it in.  In the case of tight beam reach with a chute, it’s about getting the boat to sail hight while balanced.  Generally, the pole should be over-trimmed by 5-10 degrees (approx 2-5 ft from the headstay), keep the twinger loose so the lead is effectively as far back as possible (similar to moving the jib block back so there is plenty of twist and the air is spilled off the top of the sail), then leave it to the helmsman to drive to the sail trim.  Generally it’s about the helmsman finding that groove first and then let the boat sail itself with minor guidance from the helm.  We want to spill the air off the top of the spinnaker on a reach because it generates heel very quickly so we want to minimize that.  We want the helmsman to sail the boat as high as possible on a spinnaker reach, so we set it up like sailing a jib – the helmsman sail by the trim of the jib.   In hindsight, I think this is a common misperception of sailors who do not spend much time at the helm and are not able to feel the balance of the entire boat – they trim simply on the basis of sail shape, not boat balance.  In the end, it’s about the “feel of the helm”, not how the sail looks – sometimes, it doesn’t matter how the sail looks, but how the boat feels (think mainsail in strong wind, think jib luff in light wind).

We continued sailing on a beam reach north of the channel until the deep draft vessel passed us.  Our desired approach is to arrive at the southern part of the entrance near Mile Rock since the wind will shift westerly as the topography of the entrance to SF bay will funnel the wind into the bay itself.  This way, we can have a nice broad reach angle while working the currents in the deeper channel.  We executed to that pretty much as text book and increased our lead to Tupelo and Hawkeye to the next mark to Blossom Rock then hug the shoreline to the finish line.  Unfortunately, we did not gain enough grounds from the light bucket to the finish and we finished 7th out of 10 boats entered.  In our post race review, the crew voiced concerns about disagreements in the pit that I have to take charge more on suggestions and feedback from the cockpit.

31 Sa 0213 2.2F 0509 0805 3.0E 1121 1430 2.6F 1738 2036 3.2E
1 Su 0020 0303 2.0F 0605 0851 2.4E 1151 1510 2.3F 1813 2124 3.2E

Tupelo Honey played the cone of Alcatraz with a twist. After reaching the southern end of Alcatraz, most boats typically sail across to the SF shore, given that is the shortest distance between the two points. Once in a while, a few boats would tack to the west of Alcatraz point to get a little more relief just before crossing the flood. In this race, Tupelo continued on port to sail west of Alcatraz to ply the water in front of Alcatraz until they reached the northwest end of the island. I suppose the theory being that the flood current encounters Alcatraz will both split the current and presents a back pressure where there’s less current – think of this as the bow wave effect.

NOOD Regatta

The first race of the IRC season series took place in conjunction with Sailing World’s NOOD regatta.  WE had missed the beginning of the IRC racing season because of Timothy’s travels and our decision not to do any IRC Ocean races. So it was the first time all of us will be sailing together as a team even though most of us have sailed with each other at some point or the other, but in different roles and circumstances.  The crew consists of Chris at the bow, with Bret at the mast, Pete in pit, David Smith at mainsheet, Edda, Miha, and Joe are in the cockpit with Ted as the pit boss, Timothy as helmsman and yours truly as tactician.  After checking in and verified there’s no new amendments to the SI, we left the docks and went around the breakwater for some crew practice.  As typical when you put a new group together , it’s a little tentitive as crew work goes, it’s clear everyone knew how to do their job but the timing had to be worked out. We set the chute and practiced gybes a few times to get the crew motion choreography down.

The IRC fleet for the NOOD consists of the following seven boats:

1. Timothy Ballard
Inspired Environments 28423 IRC San Rafael, CA USA CYC
2. Brad Copper
TNT 43690 IRC Pt. Richmond, Ca. USA RYC
3. Frank Morrow
Hawkeye 50444 IRC San Francisco, CA USA US Naval Academy Sailing Squadron
4. Philippe Paturel
CIAO ! 975 IRC Halifax, NS CAN RNSYS
5. Michael (Tony) Pohl
Twisted 40046 IRC San Francisco, Ca USA ST Francis
6. Gerard Sheridan
Tupelo Honey 28908 IRC San Francisco, CA USA South Beach YC
7. Daniel Woolery
SOOZAL 60408 IRC Alamo, CA USA Richmond Yacht Club

Predicted current for the two days were:

26 June 2010 – 27 June 2010
San Francisco Bay Entrance (Golden Gate), California Current
37.8167° N, 122.4833° W
2010-06-26  05:49 PDT   Sunrise

  • 2010-06-26  11:45 PDT   4.00 knots  Max Flood
  • 2010-06-26  15:00 PDT  -0.00 knots  Slack, Ebb Begins
  • 2010-06-26  17:15 PDT  -2.07 knots  Max Ebb
  • 2010-06-27  12:21 PDT   3.88 knots  Max Flood
  • 2010-06-27  15:38 PDT  -0.01 knots  Slack, Ebb Begins
  • 2010-06-27  17:50 PDT  -2.14 knots  Max Ebb

While the number of competitors is small, nevertheless they represent formidable competition.  For instance, Soozal had competed in Key West in January of 2010 with first place finishes as well as competing in other venues.   Then again, it never hurts to have Robbie Haines as your tactician.  She also has a contingent of pro-sailors onboard like Project Manager Scott Easom and Matt Siddens trimming headsails, North Sails’ Pete McCormick on the main.  If you think about it,  Soozal is really a pro or at least a semi-pro sailed boat sailed by the owner.  The other formidable competition: TNT, a custom Tripp 43 is another well sailed boat that won the IRC division B at the 2009 Big Boat Series.  CIAO ! is a new boat, Archambault 40, campaigned by a local sailmaker Sylvain Barrielle (5 time America’s Cup crew and sails developer) to promote the boat and to create interest on the class, so we can assume they have a vested interest to get the best crew around to keep their marketing VP satisfied.  The boats that represents weekend-warrior status like us are Tupelo Honey and Hawkeye.  We generally sail a little better against Hawkeye on a consistent basis, but Tupelo Honey is a handful as Gerrard is a good windward driver and has regularly use the upwind leg to pass us despite his slower rating.  Until we can regularly beat him on the upwind leg, it’s going to keep Tupelo behind us by approximately 55 seconds each hour we sailed.

Read more…

The Great Vallejo Race, May 1, 2010


The Great Vallejo Race aboard TakeOff

The Great Vallejo Race aboard TakeOff

May 1, 2010 – Based on Julie’s request, Joan rounded up a pick up crew consisting of Trevor (Bowman), Caxton (mast), Julie (pit), Calvin & Keith (jib and spinnaker trim), and Shannon, Joan and I (alternating on main sheet and helm).  We met at the Alameda Marina at 0900 sharp and loaded up her Laser 28 with coolers filled with her famous bloody mary’s and margarita and half a dozen bottles of wine and champagne.  Add to this liquid cargo, and add the bags of food she had provisioned, you’d think we were provisioning for a trip to Hawaii, not Vallejo.  We started the motor and headed out the Oakland estuary with bloody mary’s on one hand and spring rolls on the other for breakfast.  We arrived at the starting area near the Berkeley circle about an hour before the race and hoisted the sails to get the crew settled and get used to the light wind conditions.

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BBS 2009 – Day 3, Race 6

Day 3, Race 6

Race six is a critical race.  If Tupelo wins this, it would be mathmatically impossible to knock them off first place as going into the sixth race, Tupelo had 5 points, we had 10 points, and the third place boat had 17 points. Our division started at 14:20 just a little after slack water (13:42 PDT) with possibility of early flood starting to fill into the South Bay. Usually the flood starts by a small counter current close to shore building up wider and stronger from the shoreline out.   Had this been clear in my mind, my tactical choice would have been to sail towards Alcatraz, but given it’s just at slack current,  I called to start on starboard and continued on starboard given it’s slack water.  Tupelo had also started on starboard, but was below us, buried in the middle of the fleet therefore they tacked to port soon after the start as did Bodacious.  What I had not realize at the time, is the left side is the more advantageous side because of the currents.  We continued to sail on starboard and soon noted that Tupelo had tacked over to starboard again to keep us in check.  Bodacious remained on port tack and is the only boat heading towards Alcatraz.  We reached the City Front, and begin trading tacks with Tupelo.  Tupelo was a formidable opponent in a tacking duel.  Her helmsman can tack cleanly and crisply without losing speed.  So with each tack, we were under Tupelo’s shadow as we worked our way up wind towards the weather mark.  In the mean time, Bodacious and Petard was beating to weather near Alcatraz and eating our lunch with the fleet at the City Front as we will soon find out…

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Tupelo was trading tacks with us and hugging the shoreline as if there was a positive current near shore.  The real situation is probably either neutral current or with a small adverse current developing close to shore.  Because our knotmeter and GPS is not calibrated precisely as to be able to tell this definitively, we and the entire fleet with the exception of Bodacious and Petard were short tacking as if it had already flood across the entire bay.  This was brought to light when near Fort Mason Buoy, we traded tacks with Bodacious and Petard which usually is way behind because they are rated slower than us.  This means that if the race is finished now, they would correct out against us as well as Tupelo.  This sets up an interest challenge for the fleet leader, Tupelo.  While we are the closest threat to their standings, they have a string of first place finish that they do not want to blemish.  So instead of covering us exclusively as before, they are now trying to cover both boats.  And since we both realized that the current was not what we had expected we knew we had to reassess the current situation. There’s an axiom that your strength going up the ladder is also your weakness on your way down.  This came into play as we sailed up to the weather mark near the Golden Gate Bridge.

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BBS 2009 – Day 3, race 5

Day 3, Race 5

Sailing Weather Forecast • Rolex Big Boat Series • San Francisco Bay, CA • Issued 0700 LT 12 September 2009
WARNINGS AND ADVISORIES: A SMALL CRAFT ADVISORY is in effect from 1200 today through 2300 tonight. The National Weather Service expects winds of 15-25 kts with gusts of 25-30 kts in the bay, primarily north of the Bay Bridge and especially close to Angel Island. Please continue to monitor NOAA All Hazards Radio on your VHF for the latest warnings and advisories.

Tides:

  • 2009-09-12  10:51 PDT  -1.39 knots  Max Ebb
  • 2009-09-12  13:42 PDT   0.00 knots  Slack, Flood Begins
  • 2009-09-12  16:53 PDT   1.78 knots  Max Flood

Going into today’s race, we are now two third of the way into the regatta, and we are in solid second place.  In our morning debriefing, we talked about taking greater risks in today’s races in order to dislodge Tupelo Honey from their first place position.  We are in a good place to be aggressive as we have enough points ahead of the third place boats to be able to afford some risks.  We know that Tupelo Honey will be camping on us quite closely as we are the only threat to them at this point and we need to do everything we can to throw them off kilter if we were to have a chance to win a race.  Therefore, for the next three races, we need to sail with a contrarian point of view – if Tupelo goes to the right, we will find reasons to go left, if Tupelo rounds the left gate mark, we will round the right.

We started on the North Course Area at 11:55, we were about 10 seconds late to the line on the Committee Boat end as we wanted to head to the right side of the course. (GPS tracking)  We were just behind Kuai and tried to work up their hips to get clean air, but decided to head to the right early and tack over to the other tack as Hawkeye crossed over on port ahead of the fleet.  Tupelo Honey was on the other end of the line pinned behind several boats and had to wait until the boats above them tacked before they can tack over to port.  After a few more minutes, everyone is on a port tack heading towards Angel Island.  Boats that are in deeper channel has better current pushing them out to the weather mark, however, the boats on the left is positioned to be on the inside of a lift should that develops – which is right?  One thing is for sure following our strategy:  we are on the opposite side of the fleet with respect to Tupelo Honey.  We worked our way up from the leebow position to eventually climb forward and inline with Hawkeye.  When Hawkeye tack towards the weather mark, we waited a few seconds then tacked over as well, using Hawkeye as a blocker for us so we don’t have to watch out for port tackers and worry about them tacking under us or tacking ahead to leeward.   Tupelo managed to cross ahead of us by two to three boat-length  and rounded the weather mark ahead.   We followed suit rounding the weather mark behind Tupelo and set our chute for the downwind run.

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We camped close to Tupelo all the way down wind, gybing when they do, but always staying inside to make Tupelo sail a longer course and when they gybe, we are always ready to give them dirty air.  When we approach the leeward gate, we made a last pass at getting their air and then gybe to round the port mark to get away from their cover.We camped close to Tupelo all the way down wind, gybing when they do, but always staying inside to make Tupelo sail a longer course and when they gybe, we are always ready to give them dirty air.  When we approach the leeward gate, we made a last guesture at getting their air by luffing up to starboard for the last time on this leg then gybe to round the port mark to get away from their cover.  By reaching to the port gate, we had a nice speed going to the mark, we actually rounded the mark before Tupelo, even if the left gate mark was slightly down wind from the right gate mark.  The rest of the fleet split on the rounding as some followed Tupelo and the other followed us.  We sailed on port tack until we reached the deeper part of the channel and tacked to consolidate any gains.  When we crossed track with Tupelo, she was ahead by a couple of boat lengths. We sailed past Tupelo’s wake for a minute or so then tacked to port to keep them in sight.  In hind sight after reviewing our tracks on Tractrac archive, I realize that I should have continued to the left for much longer time to stay consistent with our strategy of contrarian tactics, because if we had continued to sail to the left, we could be on the inside of a possible lift and had far more leverage for the gain.  By tacking close to Tupelo, we negate such possibilities and the consolidating tack just satisfies our emotional need to keep the competition in sight and reduce risks.

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BBS 2009 – Day 2, Race 4

Day 2, Race 4

Race 4 start was at 15:00 North Course Starting area.  At this time we are in a flood current with max flood at 15:44 PM.  The weather mark is a temporary buoy near Harding Rock, so there’s not much relief anywhere.  The only relief I can think of is to sail into the current relief behind Alcatraz.   We started on the committee boat side about mid line with Kuai just to leeward.  Tupelo was somewhat late to the line close to the pin end.  We tried to climb up on Kuai but it was slowing us down, we decided to tack to port to get clear air.  After sailing for a few minutes, our jib fairlead broke and we decided to tack back to starboard so we can repair the starboard fairlead without handicapping our speed and pointing.  In doing so, we were able to starboard tack Kuai and forced them to do an emergency tack back to starboard.  Once we had jury-rigged the starboard lead, it was a matter of finding the best time to tack back.  The opportunity presented itself when Petard was approaching on port tack.  We tacked in front of Petard, Kuai tacked with us which puts them in a covering position to Petard.  So now all the boats in the fleet is on port tack heading west towards Angel Island.  Bodacious and Hawkeye was the contrarian boats of the fleet, having started on the committee boat side and committed early towards Angel Island and is now leading the fleet as far as the GPS data is concerned.  However, these post race data does not take in account of the potential lifts and your position relative to the fleet.  I am hoping for being on the inside of the lifts we can expect as the wind bends around angel Island.  Concurrently, as soon as Bodacious and Hawkeye tacked to starboard,  their VMG fell off as their course sailed is parallel to the mark not towards it. As we converge, we moved up to the fleet and Bodacious and Hawkeye fell to the back of the fleet.  Petard in the meantime suffered some sort of breakdown and had to head down significantly for a few minutes before sailing on track.  So leading the charge to Harding are Topelo Honey, Inspired Environments, and Kuai.  Tupelo tacked early, we decided not to tack quite yet because it was too early to the layline at the same time I would like to get some separation between Tupelo and IE.  We tacked to starboard when I thought we are just shy of the mark, but I hoped there might be some favorable wind shifts that could lift us to the mark to save two tacks.  As it were, we did not get the lifts, but nor were we handicapped by that tack.


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BBS 2009 – Day2, Race 3

Day 2, Race 3:

Current at the IRC D start is suppose to be a waning ebb going into slack water around  12:21 PDT with max flood at  15:44 PDT @  1.88 knots.  Weather forecast: The forecast speeds in the wind table are again near the model consensus for conditions in the vicinity of Alcatraz. The model consensus is generally for maximum winds in the racing area between 15-20 kts from 1400-1700. There remain some divergent models with max wind speeds in the low 20s and others only in the mid teens but these have not performed well the past few days.

Today we start first at the City Front Starting area. (Tracks from GPS)  Given the starting line is rather short, I called for a traditional Committee Boat end start to keep it simple.  We had a good start, right on the line with good speed on a starboard tack.  Given it’s a waning ebb, our intent was to stay in the deeper waters of the South Bay taking advantage of any flow from the South Bay flowing towards the North Bay and then try to go north-west side of Alcatraz to catch the remaining part of the ebb current from the North Bay.  The main thing is to avoid close to SF shoreline in case there’s early flood eddies developing.  Most of the fleet followed suit with this type of plan with the exception of Bodacious who tried to go north first near Alcatraz.  Tupelo had started at the pin end with clear air and in looking at their tracks, it seems they had good consistent speed as well – in the crossing from Treasure Island to SF shore, Tupelo had gained over 100 meters over us and we had gained over 100 meters over the third place boat(s).  As a result, Tupelo Honey captured the lead early on the first beat and we are in second place.  As we approach the City Front, we watched Tupelo sailing closer to shore while we were further upwind and behind.  To encourage Tupelo to sail further into shore, we stayed on starboard until they tacked over and we did the same. We then sailed on port towards Alcatraz with Tupelo, but Tupelo tacked back to SF shore about half way across the channel, we decided to continue towards the north side of Alcatraz as there may still be some residual ebb current from the North Bay while it’s unlikely  there’s much ebb current at the City Front.

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This is beginning to look like a match race series rather than fleet racing as Tupelo Honey and Inspired Environments kept trading places with each other on the race course as I scoped them out via the hockey puck as we sometimes gain in bearings then lose it.  But the use of the hockey puck compass bearings is a great way of ascertaining whether my tactics works or not.  As I had hoped, by sailing out north of Alcatraz, we caught some ebb current and was able to reduce Topelo Honey’s lead from 110 meters to leading the fleet on occasions.  By the time we tack back towards City Front we were just ahead by half a boat length, Tupelo tack over to leeward to cover us tack for tack.  Approaching Chrissy Fields, we sailed close to shore to see if we can find some favorable windshifts but with Tupelo in close cover all the way to the weather mark, it would have been a huge header that would benefit us.  By the time we rounded the weather mark, we were right on their stern as we gybe out towards central bay for more pressure.  Tupelo gybed out to the north to get more pressure, we followed suit to cover, but trying to stay inside so we can sail a shorter distance while still give them some dirty air as they gybe back to the Fort Mason Mark.  In the mean time, Kuai and Bodacious and the rest of the fleet sailed a rhumb line towards Fort Mason, in looking at the tracks, they did not gain much by sailing a shorter course in lighter air.  By theory, they should have experience some early flood at this point, but either they didn’t sail close to shore enough or the wind pressure is too light compared to mid channel.  The positions of the fleet did not change much during this down wind leg and at this point, we are in second place and we have only to try to dislodge Tupelo in their first place as we are always within 1-5 boat-length away, while the third place boat is about 400 meters from us.   So as we approach the weather mark for the second time at around 1:15PM which is about three hours prior to Max Flood, I decided it’s time to split from Tupelo and see if we can find the early flood current inside close to shore.  So we did not gybe and let Tupelo head out to the central bay, while we aimed for Anita Rock to see if the early flood can help us.  As in all tactical decisions, there is no one answer:  On the inside course, we had lighter winds but perhaps a little early flood to help us along, sailing on the outside course, Tupelo had more pressure, but sailed a longer course and perhaps encountering some residual currents.  As the track archives showed, Tupelo sailed all the way to Alcatraz before they gybed to starboard, while we sailed a rhumb line to St. Francis Yacht Club then gybed to port for a nice broad reach for the finish near Treasure Island.  As Tupelo and IE converged near Blossom Rock, Tupelo was about 100 yards ahead and they gybed in front of us to keep between us and the finish line.  We were able to close in on Tupelo, but were not able to beat them across the finish line:  Tupelo finished 14 seconds ahead of us and corrected out to 1:41 ahead on handicap.  So another second place under the belt as we approach the mid point of the racing.


BBS 2009 – Day 1, Race 2

Race #2

We sailed back to Starting Area CF, the meteorological situation were:  winds 12-15 knots, currents: 2009-09-10  14:46 PDT   2.14 knots  Max Flood; 2009-09-10  17:26 PDT  -0.00 knots  Slack, Ebb Begins.  The second race for Division D started at 15:00 promptly so we were at max ebb current.  We were 15 seconds late to the line in the middle of the pack, Kuai, who started on the pin end had good speed off the line, catapulted out of the starting line and port tacked everyone at the starting line.  Kuai shows momentary brilliance in specific maneuvers but cannot sustain their drive to place well in the fleet.  They have a relatively new crew and it shows.  Back to the race, Tupelo Honey took over the lead for the fleet and tacked over to port once she felt she is in optimal tack line to Alcatraz, we follow suit soon there after.  The entire fleet except Petard headed for the cone of Alcatraz for tidal relief.  Once the fleet reached Alcatraz, each of them tack closer to the cone in order to stay out of the Alcatraz wind shadow but still remain in the tidal current shadow.  For some reason, Hawkeye and Bodacious bang the corner hard and sailed past Alcatraz into the north side of island where they must have encountered adverse flood current coming into the north channel – they lost considerable grounds after they tack back.  Our pointing and speed was not to par against Tupelo Honey, but at the same token, we were in much better position than the rest of the fleet that sail further to the north.  [ : : Tactical note: when deploying the Cone of Alcatraz, there’s no need to sail past the mid point of the Island as you get headed as well as becoming exposed to flood current coming into the north channel, which is purportedly stronger.]  As we approached Alcatraz, we experienced dramatic wind shifts and called to tack out to steadier pressure then made another hitch to windward of Alcatraz for a little more tidal relief before tacking to cross the channel to San Francisco shore.  Kuai for unexplained reason tacked twice on the southern cone edge and lost considerable grounds against Bodacious and Hawkeye and is now trailing the fleet.  Their tactics seemed a bit random.

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One thing to note regarding the crossing for the cone of Alcatraz is our tracks.  It appears from the crossing track, that the adverse current is primarily just by Alcatraz and the mid channel.  If you note our track getting a 15° lift to the west, it is not so much due to wind shift as much as lesser flood current once past the mid point of the channel.  This perhaps can be explained by the fact that by this time, the South Bay is pretty much reached high tide and has a standing wave characteristics, but the North Bay is still not reached high tide due to greater area and multiple tributaries that can absorb the current.  Suffice to say, this is a bit of detailed tactical knowledge that must be remembered and applied in the future.  When we approached the SF shore, Petard who crossed the channel right after the start and did not use the Cone of Alcatraz for the crossing is right up there with us – in other words, they did not lose much ground and can be said to even gained as they were rated slower than us but were near par with us much better than Kuai, Bodacious and Hawkeye.  This is another interesting finding for future reference during max flood situation while racing in City Front.

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BBS 2009 – day 1, race 1

Race#1

For the first race of the BBS, the race committee designated a course on the NC starting area for a double sausage with a final windward finish.  The weather mark was set just west of Angel Island with an offset mark and the leeward gate located just windward of the starting line.  Current was on a waning ebb going towards slack at 11:25 which means there’s more residual ebb current to the north and possible flood current close to SF shore.  The wind is around 12-15 knots but patchy in spots and it appears to be slightly lighter on the extreme right and left of the course, so the game plan is to start on starboard on the right side, then tack over to port before pressure drops and see if we can catch the remainder of the ebb in the north side.  I made the tactical call to start on the committee boat end on starboard to be conservative and not take chances so early in the series.  We had a tentative  start – about 30 seconds late to the starting line but the entire fleet was late to the starting line by 5-10 seconds.  Probably, everyone is a bit conservative at the first start of the race so the best start of the fleet was Hawkeye with only 3 seconds to the line, while Tupelo Honey was about 20 seconds to the line – all of us are having the first race jitters. (GPS Race Track)

Once we crossed the starting line, we were on pinned on the hip of Bodacious to leeward and Kuai to our windward quarter – not a particular brilliant start for the first race of the Rolex Big Boat Series regatta.   We manage to work our way upwind of Bodacious and clear of her air, then we work to climb out under the lee of Kuai’s turbulence.  After a few minutes of attentive pointing, we were able to climb up and position just ahead of Kuai and we tacked to port towards Angel Island.  We picked up a few lifts soon after tacking and improved our position over the fleet. Since most of the fleet is still sailing to the left, I called for a tack to cover and not to take a flyer quite so soon in the game.  Bodacious however decided to continue to the north and heading towards the lee of Angel Island’s Point Blunt.  When we approached Tupelo Honey on port, we were slightly ahead, therefore Tupelo Honey had to tack back to starboard to our lee and begin to climb up from leeward and give us turbulent air.  We tried to match pointing and speed but slowly, they were able to climb up closer and closer.  We tacked to gain clear air, but Tupelo Honey tacked as well to cover us.  While it’s too early for a match racing tactics at this stage of the regatta, it’s clear they wanted to keep us under their tab as potential threat.

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In the mean time, Bodacious is sailing by herself to the north of the fleet and picked up a few nice lifts to be the lead with a substantial distance of 150 yards at this point of the race.  Clearly the wind lifts near Point Blunt and even slightly after slack tide at the bridge, there’s still some residual ebb current still to be had.  But given Bodacious is on the outside of the lift, the rest of the fleet quickly caught up to his lead when we reached the lifted wind and we picked up a few nice shifts and our Skipper settled into a groove and we find ourselves in the lead heading towards the first windward mark with Tupelo Honey hot on our tail.  Bodacious, once leading by substantial margin rounded fourth.  (Tactician note:  inside position in an expected lift is sometimes more important than getting the lift earlier – particularly when there’s quite a bit of distance apart for leverage.)

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