Moving nicely - in the wrong direction

Rich Carey
Tue 1 May 2018 17:10
07:14.686S 123:28.131W

There's only so much mileage I can get, from telling what film, series, or literary scribble is amusing me. So as not much else is happening on x86, here is some sailing scribble.

The wind is pointing almost exactly at the target and the swell is with the wind. I could almost sit on nine and three quarter degrees, drop the sails and drift right up to the Marquesas. The problem is that dead downwind is the slowest point of sail, even with the sails up it's still pretty much a drift. So - the plan, by way of some history:

I remember well, racing my Equipe longboard in the Army team in Germany. Upwind you'd be body twisted, leaning forward, to put maximum pressure on the mast - fast in winds like I have today. Across the wind and broad reach, you'd be board flat and sitting heavily in the harness, shifting weight back and forth to keep the board on the plain - fast in winds like I have today. Dead downwind, you'd have the sail triangled right in your face, and be a nervous wobbling wreck. On one side, if you dipped the clew you'd skid turn, if the mast went too far over on the other, the weight would take you down. At the top level (awesome racers all around you), your race was done if you made even the smallest balance error. But, at least you 'could' go dead downwind, with the sail like a giant flappy bedsheet, square on to the wind. At that time a guy called Bjorn Dunkerbeck was the 6 times world champion at both longboard racing and freestyle (waves). Longboard racing was/is around buoys, with the start directly downwind from the most upwind (1st) mark. This initial long upwind leg, had led development of the longboard for 10 years - long along the waterline, and slab sided so that you could angle the board along it's length with your weight, and use the sides to give yourself some extra grip on the water, as you clawed your way upwind. You also had a 'keel' (retractable daggerboard). By contrast, a 'shortboard' was thin (no slab sides), and had no daggerboard - its speciality was speed and maneuverability (so great in waves, and screaming along on a beam reach).
The two disciplines were so different that there were no 'competition rules' on the design of the board you used for either discipline - i.e. if you were going upwind racing you used the best longboard you could get, if you were in the waves, you had a 'sinker' (very short shortboard) - no rules required.

Then the fateful year. World championship race. Heaps of wind. 20 of the best in the world. were tacking and gybing back and forth about 200 meters back from the startline. 5 minutes on the countdown clock. Dunkerbeck was sitting on his longboard, when a friend of his sailed up on a beam reach on his (Dunkerbecks), short board, and dropped into the water next to him. They swapped boards!!
1 minute out, Dunkerbeck did a water start, and headed for the line. While the fleet crossed the line huddled together at about 30 degrees to the wind (clawing upwind), Dunkerboard crossed on his own at more like 45 degrees, considerably faster, but not pointing much towards the first mark (bouy). He then roared out to sea alone. At something like two miles (!) away from the fleet, he turned and blasted on the opposite tack for the mark, rounding it about two minutes in front of the fleet! On the downwind leg, he similarly shot off into obscurity, while the fleet wobbled their triangles down the course - Dunkerbeck rounded the downwind mark, 5 minutes in front of the fleet! An hour later, he was again world champion, and probably on on his third beer when the fleet dragged their sorry asses in and the 'first looser' coined the now well known expression 'WHAT THE FUCK"!

With a catamaran it's not the same, but there is point to my waffling. A catamaran's downwind woes, stem from a rearward leaning mast, and 'swept' back spreaders. Mono's have a backstay, we don't. With a backstay helping hold the mast up, you have much more freedom with sail position, and can let the mailsail out more to the sides when downwind ('sort of' like the Windsurfer, rotating its sail broadside to the wind). On a Cat, the amount you can let the sail out to the side (before it starts rubbing (very bad), on the swept back side stays), is absolutely pitiful. The solution is the spinnaker (Mono's and Cats), but they are tricky at the best of times, and single handed ... forget it mate! So I'm rather screwed.

My only course of action is the 'Dunkerbeck'. On the ARC I had the distinction of being 2nd of 200 across the start line (all those years of race starts), and of being at one stage the southern most boat in the fleet, and days later, one of the most northerly. This Pacific crossing is turning out to be similar. 3 days ago I was the most southerly at 11 degrees south, and today I'm likely to be at almost 6 degrees! Of course the ARC was officially a race, albeit a fun orientated one. Here it's different in that it's only time I'm racing, with this wide ocean keeping me from many a good cold pacific beer. So I'm trying to maximize my overall 'speed to target' by sailing quicker across the wind, but there is another reason - wear and tear. When the wind is light in a sail (when it's inefficiently sailing directly downwind), in swell, it flaps horribly, in fact the mainsail (mine is very heavy as it's strongly laminated), will often whiplash when the boat rolls with that 13th wave. It's EXTRemely painful to watch, hear, and feel!

There is yet another reason I've swerved from 11 to 6 degrees, and that's the weather. The trades have not been quite as good here as in the Atlantic. It was set to stay for most of the duration of my crossing, between 100-110 degree. this made it perfect sense to 'go low' (under the direct line to the target), turning very late in the passage and clawing my way back up to the target. However, the wind headed me (swung more onto my front), 4 days ago, and this drove we to a more southerly angle, well off target. Whenever the wind veers or you get headed, you have to swap tack if the change is prolonged, so I gybed north, and north I now am.

Live update: I hit 7:07S and as the wind is back to 100 degrees, I just hopped up and gybed. Now I'm headed slightly better at the target, but once again, I'm not hypnotized by the direct line, so will concentrate on wind angle and likely go well south of the direct line again. However, having climbed up to almost 6 degrees, I should be able to venture a little less south this time. If the wind holds as is, I may hit 10 degree somewhere close to the target in a weeks time. If the trades swing again, I'll start gybing more frequently (than once a week!).

All's good on x86, back on Port tack.

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