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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John Pitcher Regatta 040508

Wednesday before the regatta, I found out there’s a race on Saturday.  Since Keith and I had made arrangement to work on the boat a bit, I didn’t round up any crew for the race.  At the last moment, we couldn’t resist the temptation of racing the boat against the competition, so we did the minimal tasks such as adjusting the shrouds between skipper’s meeting and the starting time and rig the boat for non-spinnaker race.  We are afterall, an ISO-9000 boat and need to test all repairs to make sure all of our repair is verified, right? The course was #8, which is a figure 8 course of Z-A-4-C-8-Z with Mark A and 4 to round on starboard and Mark C and 8 to round to port.  It’s mostly a reaching course, so there’s not much to think about for strategic decisions:  Given the waning flood, we head inshore a bit to get on the inside track then tack to the windward mark. From there, we crack off the sail for a close/beam reach to Channel Marker #4 and round to Mark C; From C, we gybe and do a run/broad reach to Channel Marker #8 hence to finish.  

We had a good start, just a few seconds late and we were leeward to Paradigm but since we can point higher, it’s not a bad position since we can control our own destiny.  Indeed we started to climb up on Paradigm and after a bit, Paradigm tacked away while we continued for another 100 yards then tack to cover her.  However, during the next tack we didn’t seem to have as much speed and pointing ability that Paradigm was able crossed ahead.  We followed Paradigm around Mark A and head for Channel Marker #4.  Paradigm decided to head high inshore to avoid the current, but given we thought the current is near slack, we kept to the rhumb line and made some gains, but lost a bit when the wind got lighter and being caught in Paradigm’s wind shadow. As we approached Channel Marker #4, there were two fishing boats stationed by the channel marker.  One of them was actually tied to the ladder of the channel marker.  We had to round the mark, but given Paradigm rounded first, she chose to go between the two fishing boats and raised a lot of angry words from both fishing boats. We followed suit and created more antagonism from the two fishing boats.  Ironically, one of the fishing boat was named “Anger Management“!  It seems, the owner of that boat needs more work on his anger management as his cussing certainly didn’t seem to be under management as we thread across his stern and the other fishing boat’s bow.  As we left a trail of wake and insults, I can only chuckle at the thought of the other seven boats that are following our tracks and wonder if this is an unscripted part of his treatment for anger management as there’s nothing he can do except to vent as the rest of the fleet follow the prescribed race course.

After that little levity, we set a rhumb line course to Mark C and at this point we neither gained nor lost distance to Paradigm.  At Mark C, we gybed the main and winged out the jib to run DDW until we had to head up a bit to make the Channel Marker #8.  Once rounded channel marker 8, I took over the helm for a bit to get a feel for the boat in the increased wind range now blowing at 20 knots.  The boat felt pretty good, but I still think we need to have more weather helm so we can steer by feel rather than by sight.  We’ve overstood marks consistently and I believe it’s due to the fact that we are focused on steering because of the lack of feedback from the helm.  In the short leg that we had before the finish line, we climbed ahead of Paradigm but failed to pay attention to the layline and tacked after Paradigm had tacked which gave them the shot gun finish and us the horn.  Despite the second place finish, it was a fun race and I was plenty sore from having to do both the jib trim and the main sail after a long absence from crewing.