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.

September 19, 2010

Institutionalize 2010 Improvements-

  • Continue to use the Start sequence strategies used in BBS (
    • 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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Practicing starts…

I found a nice little write up on practicing starts that I sent to Timothy, but decided that I should save this on the ships log to recall later.  Unfortunately, I didn’t make a note of the author.  But I thought the routines he described makes sense, so I posted here with some minor edits and formatting to make it clearer…  Later, when I have some time to spare, I might make some diagrams to illustrate the maneuvers…

There are 4 primary things you want to accomplish in a start:

  • Start NEAR the favored end of the line
  • Start On Time
  • Start with 110%+ of upwind target boat speed
  • Start with clear air to leeward.

We can get into why but these 4 goals drive everything else. Now at starting lines, things happen fast, because boats are near each other and sailing TOWARDS each other, so the SITUATION is complex. That means your reactions need to follow KISS – Keep It Simple…Stupid! That does mean practice (and I’ll get to the exercises below) but it also means following a couple of general guidelines:
  • Zero is an Even Number… What that means is that if you have identified which area of the starting line you want to start in, in the milling about before the start, you want to be NEAR that area on even clock numbers and away from that area on “odd” numbers” And if you get out of phase on that, adjust your sailing around so that you get back in synch
  • Try to use THE SAME TYPE of approach for each segment of the line.  i.e. use the same technique ALWAYS for the Starboard end. For the Port End be consistent in your technique and same applies for the middle. that doesn’t mean all three have to be the same, but it does mean you keep a consistent pattern for each of those three.
  • Your boat needs AT LEAST 15 seconds of reaching power to get to 110% of upwind speed. your goal then is to make sure that your ‘space on the line’ allows you to do that.
  • A moving boat can adjust its position, a sitting boat is a target.
  • Stay within 5 boatlengths of the line ALWAYS during the sequence.
  • NEVER GYBE within 2 minutes of the start…ALWAYS TACK. Gybes stall the foils and the sails and make you a sitting duck for too long.
  • Always count down the time in steady increments.

Now each of these “rules” gets broken sometimes in the hurly burly of a start, but if you TRY to follow them, you will get ever improving and CONSISTENT starts. Now to practice starts you need 3 people on your boat – no more (4 if your main is so big you need a main trimmer). You need Driver, Jib trim, Bowman and optional main. You can add your tactian if you want, but your tactician should NOT be telling you how to start. its too confusing. I’ve tried coaching green drivers through starts, and it invariably is a cluster.

So then there are two sets of drills you can do – Single boat and Double boat. run ALL of these drills with 2 minutes LESS on your clock than your club’s normal starting sequence. That way when you get to actual racing you will feel like you have loads of spare time to get set up.

You have Three Commands: Power, Back, LUFF.

Your trimmer must respond IMMEDIATELY to these commands. Your trimmer should also call the time in either 10 or 15 second increments, counting down the last 15 seconds. But the intervals need to be consistent, and the trimmer should PAUSE before answering the time to stay in cadence… why?  because a cadence gets YOU in a rhythm. Random intervals knock you out.

Your Bow is responsible for calling two things: Distance to the line and the LAST THREE DIGITS of any boat hidden by your genoa that is on converging course.  The way the bow shows the distance to the line is by holding out fingers behind their back if you are below the line. A balled fist means ON the line.  If you are ABOVE the line then the hand comes up and shows fingers. this way the fingers are in a consistent place, AND when you get up in the competition – THEY can’t see them

Single Boat Drills:

Hover Drill

Find a mark – any mark. AT the “start” of your sequence, be at the mark reaching at full speed. Your goal is to sail at full speed UNTIL 1 minute to go at which point you want to be Fully stopped with your bow as close to the mark as you dare. for the next minute, you will luff you sails. You are allowed to pump them or back them periodically, but your goal is to hover as close to the mark as you can for a full minute. the first time you try this, you will probably last about 10 seconds. The longer you can do this, the better your downspeed boat handling.

The trick to this drill is to be CLOSE to “Head To wind” but not quite. and to have lots of slack in the main sheet and use ALL the parts of the mainsheet for trimming by grabbing the sheets as close to the boom as feasible.

Time and Distance Drill

Start as with the hover drill. But now your goal is to be At the mark, at 110% of target upwind speed, coming up to close hauled at ZERO. Sail until 1:30 from the start. Now rag the sails and coast. NO ADJUSTMENT ALLOWED. At 30 seconds to go, sheet in and make for the mark – once you sheet in, no slowing down is allowed. First few times you try this you will be completely off. Learn to adjust. Now the easy approach for this is coming in from STB. For a more advanced version of this drill, Sail off to the port of the mark and come back on port. coast through the tack once you let the sails go and see if you can still hit the mark.

The trick to this drill is to use a CONSISTENT APPROACH Pattern (notice the reinforcement of my earlier comment). this will get you used to CONSISTENTLY being where you need to be for a given wind condition, and give you an idea of how long your boat takes to accellerate

Sheet In and Go Drill

Start as with the Hover Drill. But now your goal is to hover exactly at the mark from 45 seconds to zero. this will teach you how to accelerate when you are almost pinched off and how to transition from Hover to closehauled without your trimmer dragging your bow down with the Jib. Sail at full tilt until 45 seconds. at 45 seconds you need to be stopped with your bow as close to the bouy as possible. Hover for 30 seconds. At 15 seconds sheet in, but keep your bow “below the line”. The goal is to be “close hauled” at zero as close to the mark as feasibly and still with good speed.
the trick to this drill is that your jib trimmer has to start trimming in the jib gently so that he doesn’t pull the boat down with the Genoa while the foils are still stalled. And you need to get the main on quickly
OK, get good at those drills and you will be in the top 1/3 of your fleet’s starters. But you still will lose out to “Mr Starting Line” as he comes and plants his boat immediately to leeward of you. So you need to learn how to defend “your hole” (the space to leeward of you on the starting line that you are going to use to accellerate into). and you need to learn how to ATTACK Mr Hover (the guy who gets to the start line with 1 minute to go and then hovers there).

2 Boat Drills

This requires 2 boats, and there are 2 drills with each boat having a different assignment. the “target” is always the boat on STB. This boat on STB ALWAYS starts out in Hover Mode – ie near the Mark, stopped with sails ragged.

Port Attack/Defend Drill

In this drill the Target boat gets 30 seconds to get into “hover mode”. The ‘attacker’ starts out on port 10 boatlengths away. the “Target’s” goal is to drive the defender either behind him, or far enough to leeward of him on the line that the Target can accellerate for at least 15 seconds prior to the start.

The Attacker’s goal is to tack underneath the “target” and get close enough that if the “target” sheets in before the attacker has started to bear away, contact would occur. The Attacker does this by sailing towards the Target from port, tacking below- completeing the tack with ragged sails, and then luffing as close to the Target as possible without fouling the Target.

The Target defends by… pulling the bow down from “almost head to wind” quickly by having the jib trimmer drum the jib on hard for a few seconds (but ONLY a few seconds) to start the rotation. the sails BOTH get luffed completely as the bow is pointed STRAIGHT AT the bow of the Attacker. Remember this “bow to bow” change of course has to be done while the attacker is at least 3BL away, but you don’t want to do it until they are about 5 BL away because otherwise you burn too much distance to leeward.  Once ‘bow to bow’ the Attacker cannot tack closer than your bow. As soon as the attacker starts to tack, dump the helm to leeward to push the bow up, and grab all parts of the main and sheet it in PAST MIDSHIPS. this will cause the boat to weather vane. Now its important to release the main as soon as the boat starts to turn, otherwise you will get too much speed and push your bow across the line OR WORSE, force yourself into a tack.  THIS is the mechanism for protecting your leeward hole from attackers from Port.

Both boats hover until time to start and try to beat the other boat over the line at speed. If Target TIES Attacker, then Target wins. If Attacker pins out Target, Attacker wins. Reverse roles every 3 tries.

Drill 2:

Attack from behind:

Shark Attack
setup the Target as before. Attacker instead starts 10 BL to STB (astern) of Target. But the goal is the same. Sail below Target’s stern and luff up under them as close as possible.  Attacker’s trick here is to delay the turn up as long as possible and use backwinding the jib to stop (but not tack).  This is the one place where your tactician can help you in the start. They can call “Shark coming”. But otherwise when the ‘shark’ is 3-5bl astern (depending on speed) helm calls “Power” until the bow starts down followed by “LUFF”. again the goal is to come parallel to the line with as little fwd speed as possible.
Now the Attacker will start yelling ‘come up’ quite a ways out (this is common practice by Mr Starting Line) but YOU don’t have to react UNTIL their bow overlaps your stern. THEN YOU MUST IMMEDIATELY BEGIN to come up. But Attacker must give you ROOM to ‘stay clear’ that means they have to give you room to pivot the stern of your boat.
what this means is that you put the helm down and sheet in the main (again with all parts agressively) to force the bow up AND THE STERN CLOCKWISE. Attacker MUST KEEP CLEAR of your swinging stern. Because if they don’t they have violated RRS 15 by failing to Give Room To keep Clear.
Now the trick here is that Target swings the stern faster the faster the attacker is moving. if the attacker is moving slowly, then you swing your stern a bit more slowly. the goal hear is to use the swinging stern to keep them from turning up towards the wind until their keep has passed well behind your stern. That way you are guaranteed they cannot get closer than 1/2 BL to you. and that’s enough to start accelleratig at 10 seconds.

Ok do those drills – ideally for 2 weekends prior to the start of your season, and you will see a marked improvement in your starts. I do the “single boat” drills in every new boat I go racing in. Because its the quickest way I have found to get yourself in tune with how the boat handles, and it also gets your crew in tune with how you start.

South Beach YC – IRC Invitational

August 21, 2001  Race 1:  RC called for a course one which is a simple windward and leeward sausage.

No time to do much except to follow the faster rated boats.  Short race. Shorter comments.  The only notable is that due to shifty winds, I overstood the windward mark, but also over estimated the current.  Nonetheless we finished second..

August 21, 2001  Race 2:  RC called for course 2 which is now a twice around windward and leeward….

We favored the right side of the line because of better pressure.  Tupelo went left but in lighter air.  Looking at the track, we were definitely in a persistent header by the time we were at the weather mark on the first leg.  On the other hand, look at the nice lift coming out of the leeward mark.   We still had that header towards the Bay Bridge.   Some of the fast boats with pro aboard did bang the corners pretty hard and pretty early.  Guess they were hoping to take advantage of the lift by the bridge.  Sure makes it hard to call the layline.

One nice tactical move we made in the third race is to cover Hawkeye as she approached us from port near the windward mark, since we were starboard, Hawkeye fell off to pass to our stern.  We tacked to port to cover immediately after they passed to cover them tightly, not so much because they were our primary competition but because I don’t want them to starboard tack on us if we cover them too loosely.  We effectively pinned them below us and allowed us to control when we want to tack to the layline.  It worked beautifully. By the time we reached the weather mark, they were two boat-length behind.  See photos:

Hawkeye approaching on port almost even with us.  I called for gear #1 build boat speed, so we pressed the boat down a bit.  This had the psychological effect of postponing decision on Hawkeye as they think they might make it and perhaps try to point a little higher which will cause them to lose speed.

Hawkeye realized that they cannot make it pass us, decided to pass to our stern.  We now set ourselves to gear 2:  best VMG mode, not to point too high and maintain speed so we have some reserved power to make tactical moves.

After Hawkeye passed to our stern, we tacked in less than one boat length to cover them fairly tightly.  Our primary objective here is to keep Hawkeye from tacking on starboard because if they tack, they would be tacking on to our wind shadow and we can tack on a close covering position again.  This prevented Hawkeye calling starboard on us and had to wait for us to tack to the lay line.  This also means they have to sail a slightly longer distance as they have to wait for us to tack then tack themselves.  The net result of this tactical maneuvering is that from dead even at the port and starboard point, we gained two boat-lengths in a span of five minutes by the time we rounded the mark!  Yeesss!

August 21, 2010: Race 3:  We finished first!.

August 22, 2010:  Race 4:  We finished 4th.   Race 5 was cancelled after wind died.

Overall results:  Second in series.

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.

SFYC IRC Invitational Regatta 8/15-16 2009

After nearly 3 months in the yard from injuries suffered from a T-bone hit and run accident, a newly painted and repaired Inspired Environments emerged from the yard and ready for racing again.  The mast had been re-rigged with a new foil and a new turnbuckle has been added to the head stay to allow adjustment to rake.  This race will be a first test of the rig tune, sail assessment and crew practice to get her dialed in for the 2009 BBS and the IRC Nationals at St. Francis YC.  We arrived at Corinthian YC early and gathered on the balcony of the club watched for the arrival of IE from Sausalito.  At 09:45, Timothy docked the boat at the guest dock and we boarded her for the race/practice.


The race venue was defined as an area bound by Berkeley circle, Treasure Island and Bonita Point.  we followed the RC inflatable to the starting area near Berkeley Circle and prepared for the first race.  The starting line was set approximately 1-2 miles north of the old Berkeley Pier with the weather mark set near Harding rock.  In our division, there were 7 boats in competition:

  1. Soozal, a King 40;
  2. Tupelo Honey, Elan 40;
  3. Scorpio, Wylie 42;
  4. Hawkeye, IMX-38;
  5. Astra, Farr 40; and
  6. Aleta, 48 ft. IOR.
  7. Inspired Enviornments, Beneteau First 40.7

Race 1

First race: course: #2, comprised of windward – leeward twice around, finishing at leeward.  Of the fleet, we had to give Tupelo and Hawkeye time and the rest of the fleet was rated faster than us, so it made my tactician role a little easier as we don’t have to find the marks and allow us to judge what the currents and wind is doing to the faster boats and adjust only if I had other hunches that I’m fairly positive it will work out.

We started very conservatively as the new repair and paint job bill was close to $75K and Timothy isn’t too keen about risking the shiny new paint to scuffs and scratches.   We were about 10 seconds behind at the start.  The tide is slack and building to a max ebb around 12:18 PM.  Nearly all the boats in the fleet went left towards Alcatraz and we were all counting the ebb from the south bay flowing past Treasure Island to lee bow us as we sailed close-hauled towards Alcatraz.  As the boat is freshly painted both topside and bottom, we seemed faster comparing with our closest competitors.  We had good boat speed and pointing ability. I suspect the new bottom paint has more influence at this point rather than the new rigging since we still seem to be in flux about the rigging.  The new mast tune is far more bendy than pre-accident rig tune.  Our performance upwind on the first race seemed to hold our own and for a change, we were able to hold off Tupelo Honey on the upwind leg and make time on them.  So far so good.  The crew work was a little rusty as this is the first time we’ve crewed together for nearly three months.  Down wind, we seem to be able to gain some distance with respect to both Tupelo and Hawkeye.  These two boats are our closest competitors for BBS as our ratings are all very close, so part of my goal was to gauge our boat / crew performance against them.  We finished the race ahead of both boats by about a minute or more, but after correction, Hawkeye beat us by 22.1 seconds, we edge out Tupelo by 36 seconds.  Assessment:  Hawkeye is a light displacement boat and will be a threat in lighter wind conditions.

Race 2

Race 2 started within 15 minutes after the last boats finished on the Express 37 fleet. We hardly had a chance to eat our sandwiches and we didn’t get the time check for the 5 minute gun.  Fortunately, we were close to the Committee boat, and quickly raised the jib and start sailing.  The race committee chose Course 4, which calls for the first weather mark to Point Bonita then to the leeward mark, then finish near Little Harding.  We had another conservative start, but not in too bad of shape with respect to the fleet.  We continued to favored the left side of the course with the rest of the fleet, but Soozal decided to hit the right side hard all the way to Angel Island and was the only one that was bold enough to try that move.  At first it looked bad, but by the time the fleet converged, they were ahead, but it’s unclear to me that it is that favored.  I had consider going right as well but felt it was unnecessarily risky so early in the game and it doesn’t really jive with our intention of using this regatta as practice for the Big Boat Series and IRC Nationals.  By staying near our competitors, we get to gauge our speed and pointing ability against Tupelo and Hawkeye for the Big Boat Series.   Tupelo seemed to be more comfortable in the heavier wind condition than Hawkeye – Hawkeye struggled when the wind and chop picks up as they are a lighter displacement boat and their helmsman tends to point as oppose to press the boat to build speed and make it up in VMG.  Tupelo Honey, on the other hand, has always shown good composure in heavy air and chop given their heavier displacement – their helmsman seemed to have a better feel of the boat balance.

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