Winter Training Report: 2005

By Peter Duncan

Winter Training Report: 2005

On January 28-29-30, fifteen Albacore sailors from US and Canada met in Sarasota for the first winter training session. It was a great time with ideal conditions (lots of wind and temps in the 70’s). We had six very competitive boats (6434, 6701, 7933, 7966, 7981 and 8026) on the water with various combinations of Sobstad, Racer-X, North, KSL and Quantum sails. We logged about 12-15 hours of on the water speed tuning and supplemented that with 2 hours of video review and countless hours of boat work and discussions ashore.

Participants included: Chris Gorton, Henry Pedro, David Byron, Joanna Beaver, Bob and Jill Robinson, Barney Harris, Adam Nicholson, Monty Monteiro and Sonja McAuley, Carol Robinson, Andie and Rob Overholt, and Peter Duncan. Milton Thrasher and George Ulrich came down to join the lunch discussions and take a few pictures. Mike Lutus (who is a new owner and rebuilding 7101) spent two days chasing us around the bay capturing over 4 hours of great video.

Here is what we learned about sailing Albacores

  • Jumping into other boats is always good for getting rid of the head in the boat syndrome where you are tweaking lines or just sailing along on automatic helm, you need to be and keep in a super drive mode. – Chris
  • I need to keep my main sheet in more in heavy air and steer up instead to flatten the boat, and I need to fix my vang so I can depower more in heavy air. – Joanna
  • Some steps to depowering in windy (Friday) conditions. David dropped the pins down one, eased the forestay and pulled on as much vang as he could pull. As long as I could get under the boom, he was trying to rake the mast. He would have liked to drop the pins another hole if he could – Monty
  • Equal performance from interchanging new Quantum and Sobstad jibs on 6434- thanks Monty for lending me your new sail – Peter
  • Sailing wing on wing and dipping the jib in the water while surfing and death-rolling is slow and can bend a jib stick to near failure – Henry
  • Move weight back in the boat while going upwind. I believe that this is to keep the bow from digging and is to be used once the boat is up to hull speed – Monty
  • Reaching Techniques. Though we didn’t reach too much, both Henry and David tried to show me how high we should be sailing downwind to keep up an a plane and to surf waves – Monty
  • Tacking. Pull the slack out of the windward jibsheet prior to tacking and work on grabbing the new sheet close to the block as I cross the boat – Sonja
  • Sail selection was a wide variety, North, Quantum, Racer X, Sobstad, nowhere can you gain so much sail information in a single day. Open leech main sails with flatter foots and longer luff jibs that liked harder sheeting were the way of the newer cuts. – Chris
  • Sheeting the jib. Both Henry and David sheeted the jib much harder we ever did in breeze. David had the cars all the way to the back (96″ minus 2″ from transom) and sheeted the jib very hard on Friday – Monty
  • Sheeting Jib. Looking at the shape of the foot to gauge how hard to sheet to jib instead of looking a tape-mark on the sheets – Sonja
  • High aspect jibs (Quantum or Sobstad) are sensitive to fairlead position and luff sag. These can be modified to set steering groove and pointing ability. Locating jib car 100-102 inches ahead of transom and 12 inches off centerline with 1-2″ luff sag seemed optimal for pointing gear with high aspect jib in 6-10 knots of wind on flat water. – Peter
  • Anticipating Problems. Probably an issue internal to our boat, but I am becoming more aware of potential problems in the boat as I gets more time in. These problems could be a knotted sheet, the jibstick catching on a tack or when to dump the jibsheet. – Sonja
  • It was a great weekend of sailing and boat speed. I would recommend it to anyone. – Adam
  • Throughout the sessions I learned to quickly adapt to completely different boat / sail / setup / crew combinations. With time not in our favour this rapid adaptation to different setups became invaluable as a prerequisite to learning how to sail upwind effectively and perform against a training partner. This skill of adaptation is undoubtedly invaluable on the race course (even with familiar equipment) in ever changing competitive surroundings. I know I will be able to adapt quickly to changing conditions and be able to make sail and boat adjustments more effectively. “Gear Changes” are valuable tools to being competitive. – Henry
  • Being under extreme pressure to perform can make a person act more quickly than the thought processes required to make the correct decisions. This certainly leads to errors and can hurt performance. During these sessions I learned patience. Patience to not over-drive the boat, not to over-adjust the sails and patience to collect the required data for decision making. This led to me finding the groove more quickly than before and recognizing when I was out of the groove. Getting back into the groove and holding the boat in the “zone” came more and more quickly as the sessions wore on. Different setups and boat/sail/crew combinations required slightly different driving styles. The combination of rapid adaptability and patience will make me a better sailor this season. – Henry
  • Four key points came from our weekend in Sarasota:
    1. How to install a new mast
    2. How to splice a new vang
    3. Minimal rudder is faster than “working” the boat through sets of waves
    4. I need new sails! – Bob and Jill
  • I need more practice. Others can drive Mega Woof faster than I do. – Peter
  • I learned that in spite of all my work, practice, and boat tuning that Chris Gorton and Henry Pedro sailing a borrowed boat with toasted sails are faster than David Byron and I in 6701 with new sails ..but better to find this out now than in England. – Barney
  • Staying in and keeping a driving lane happens when you sail for 5 minutes with 2 other boats separated by only 3 boatlengths, and that is the best practice benefit there is. – Chris
  • Effort required to keep the boat pointing. I have a tendency to tradeoff height for speed, however there may be times where it is required to go the other way. I found Sunday’s drills to most enjoyable and it was a shame that we left so early. However, enjoyment and level of effort were mutually exclusive as I found that it required a lot of effort to keep up the boat speed and pointing with Barney and Chris. The lesson learned was that there was a level of effort at which I could keep up with Barney and Chris in Sunday’s conditions. I just have to start expending that level of effort more often. – Monty
  • This was a great weekend. Three solid days of practice with up to six boats on the water in ideal conditions made learning easy. There was always intense pressure to perform and my mind was taxed constantly to the point that I was physically exhausted at the end of each day. – Henry

On the logistics of on the water training

  • A 15 minute “chalk talk” on land before launching to be sure everyone knows the plan for the day, and the contingency plan when things change makes for the best use of the time on the water – Peter
  • One can not effectively talk while on the water. A whistle seemed to be a good way to get attention on the water over long distances. – Barney
  • Splitting into smaller groups of 2 or 3 worked well – Barney
  • Setting up to go upwind with 3 boats is ideal, 4 is too many and 2 is too few. Try being the windward, leeward and the middle boat at times. Crew observations are vital to keeping up or pulling ahead, the driver needs to focus completely on keeping the boat moving and varying forward speed with a pointing gear and back again. – Chris
  • Need one person to be on the water organizer. After each tuning run that person assigns the pairings and sets the next meeting point to keep things moving smoothly so you get the most out of the time on the water – Peter
  • It is difficult to convey the concept of a gate start to people who have never seen one especially on the water. Must go over on land before heading out! – Barney
  • Must convey the imperative need to keep all boats close enough for good tuning – but not on each other’s air. The moment that one boat in a group of two or three interferes with the air of another, all learning stops and the tuning session morfs into a boat scenic boat ride. Its critical to keep the air clear and maximize the productive tuning. – Barney
  • I noticed on a few occasions that we would become separated on a reach – we would tend to stretch out. I would attempt to close things up with the other boats by shooting head to wind and stopping, and allowing the other boats to sail closer. Many times the other boats would mimic our action and shoot head to wind for some reason, hampering our efforts to stay together. – Barney
  • When sailing up wind in hiking conditions and trying to slow down, if one simply eases the sheets the boat will not really slow down – one must reduce righting moment by getting both the crew and driver off the rail for the boat to stop. – Barney
  • You can’t get started too early in the day. Be organized and ready to go as soon as the wind fills in. Save the boat work for later when the wind poops out.

– Peter

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