This weekend’s range of wind speed in the ocean provided an awesome opportunity to focus on the finer points of sailing in lumpy conditions.
Apparent Wind Sailing
Light and lumpy conditions place a premium on understanding apparent wind, and adjusting the three main factors of boat speed - sails, weight, and steering - accordingly. Check out this presentation on apparent wind sailing to help wrap your head around how it affects your technique around a race course, and then check out this video of Ryan and Wells making it happen up the channel inside of the channel at CalYC (skip ahead to :38 seconds to find them).
In particular, remember, “In and ease; trim and squeeze.” We always want to be moving weight in and easing the sheet when we sail into lulls in side force conditions, and then clicking the sheet on and squeezing the boat flat with our weight when pressure hits. This ensures that the boat stays as powered as possible without stalling. An easy way to think about it is that you always want to be sneaking the sheet in until you’re about to stall, and then easing and restarting the process.
If any of this doesn’t make sense, or if there are any conflicting ideas that you’re struggling with, be sure to ask! This is an indication that you have something important to learn, so don’t assume that you should understand - reach out for help and get to the bottom of the answer.
A really good drill to practice this technique is the heeled to windward drill, where you try to keep your windward rail just skimming the water, first by playing the mainsheet, and then by holding a more static mainsheet, and moving weight.
Rig Development: Finding The Last 10%
For all of the teams this weekend - even those of you who have been in the boat for a long time - technique is still the number one focus that will make us faster and more consistent as a group, but in parallel to developing better, more consistent technique, each team should be thinking about how to optimize our boats to eek out an extra .1 knots of boat speed before the worlds. Two measurements that we looked at over the weekend were batten stiffness, and rig stiffness.
Click here for the measurement spreadsheet
We’ll talk more about how to interpret the results of our testing in the future, but the important take away from doing these measurements this weekend, is that finding an edge in equipment requires a very specific process. Step one is to collect as much data as possible. We need to measure lots of rigs, battens, and anything else that we’re hoping to compare later on down the road. These numbers will start to give us a picture of what “normal” looks like, and from here, we can start to standardize equipment. Step two is just that; standardizing equipment. We want to get everyone as close as possible to the same gear so that when we make changes we have a baseline to measure from. Finally, we make changes on one or two boats to see if there is an improvement. We will use GPS tracks and analysis software to help evaluate speed tests, and eventually come to a conclusion as to what gear combos produce the fastest setups.
On one hand, think of this part of the game as “free” speed - it doesn’t require you to master any techniques, or make the right decisions; it just requires that you put in the time. On the other hand, it is a long process and we want you guys to be mainly focused on improving your technique over the course of the next few months, so for now, let us worry about it and you guys focus on practicing as effectively as possible!
The goal of this training group right now is to step up our level of sailing before the Worlds this summer, and a big part of that is starting to get stronger and fitter in a way that compliments your sailing. It sounds like several of you have a few activities that you do outside of sailing for fitness already which is great, but I highly recommend tracking your performance on a few simple exercises so that you can understand how you are progressing. Mike Kuschner at Sailing Performance Training put together our workout this weekend, and if you guys ever see him around the Bay, you should definitely pick his brain on what it takes to compete at the pro level from a fitness perspective. Give his instagram some love, here.
Please register for the October SoCal Skiff Squad Clinic before September 30th to avoid late registration fees.