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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Jan 31, 2016-Vallarta Cup Wrap Up

john pounder - jldigitalmedia
Heading for the finish

There have been three more Vallarta Cup races. We won all three although one entire race was tossed out over a race instructions flap. That was race two.

Race three went our way from the beginning. The line was heavily favored to the pin end due to a wind shift in the last ten minutes before the start. We saw the shift and decided on a pin end start on port, even practiced it once. Even though our practice run should have showed the whole fleet what we were going to do most of our competition stuck to their normal bargy starts at the boat end. It cost them around a minute and a half. We crossed on port, sailed well, and led from start to finish.

Race four was also good for us. Another pin favored line and another start on port (the race committee hasn’t been able to put enough mark boats in the water to be able to shift the pin when they need to) although this time we weren’t alone. Four boats started out there and we were a bit slow out of the gate. Rounding the weather mark third we protected the right side expecting a shift back to the right, which came eventually, and we took advantage of a big lull in the middle of the long first reach to pull into the lead. Then we fought it out with Olas Lindas the rest of the way around, finished second behind them and corrected out to first by 7 minutes over our toughest competition, Olas Lindas, and 2 minutes over Brain Waves who got second. That’s when we popped the champagne corks.

The most excitement of the race however was the last half mile to the leeward mark down by Puerto Vallarta city front. We were leading Olas but they had wheels on us and were trying to pass. I told my crew we’d hold them off as long as possible, but we expected them to get by. They actually never did on that leg. Three times they tried. First they went below us but got stopped by our wind shadow. Then they tried to go over us but we sailed high and they gave that up. Another aborted attempt below us, with the same result as the first one, and finally they got really serious and came at us hot, attempting to take our wind and roll right over us. When they became overlapped they were very close and I saw that I could probably throw a luff at them enough to hold them off one more time. I turned to them and hailed, loudly, “Coming up, Coming up, Coming up!”. Then I pushed the helm down and carved a nice turn right up into the wind to block them, which the rules allow us to do. They responded with an equally sharp turn, as I knew they would. In fact I wouldn't have done this type of maneuver if I wasn't confident of their helmsman's skills but never the less I am sure she was a little startled by how far and how quickly I took them up. When their spinnaker brushed against our rig I turned our boat away and yelled, “You fouled us, do your 360". You know, they weren’t the only people who were shocked at my maneuver. The experienced hands on our boat knew what to expect, because we been quietly talking and expecting Olas to make a run at us, but the others hadn't caught on. Our tactical conversation was quiet and the boat steady, until I hailed “Coming up.” Then, in a second all hell broke loose and there we were, two 40+ foot race boats, side by side about 10 feet apart, and nearly head to wind, with spinnakers flying and mains flapping. Then I turned the boat down and it all got quiet again. What fun.

Olas sailed away to weather and we got to the leeward mark in front of them and I think they will never try to sail over us that close again.

It was all in good fun however, when we realized we would win on corrected time we withdrew the protest. Why risk getting disqualified in a protest hearing, and anyhow, the yacht club doesn’t like protest hearings. At the awards party Linda and her crew were smiling and gracious, a far cry from what they would have been if we forced them to go the table and spend an hour arguing about who was wrong and who was right.

wingssail image-deby mantis
Happy Crew

Now we have a month of Weds night beer can races before the Banderas Bay Regatta comes up in March. We hope to have some new sails by then.

Click here for more photos

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huancaxtle.

Jan 30, 2016-Building a Successful Racing Program

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Sex Sells

So far this year we have had excellent results on the race course. We’ve won most of the important races and we got first overall in the Bandaras Bay Blast and dominated the Vallarta Cup with four firsts out of four races, (although one of those races was completely thrown out and nobody was scored due to a race instruction foul up).

This has been thoroughly enjoyable for Judy and I and our crew is ecstatic about our success. After the last Vallarta Cup race we toasted our victory with champagne and arrived back at our dock with smiles that could not be contained.

There is a lot of luck at work in winning any sailboat race but in our case there was also a plan. We decided last year that we would focus on three things that we thought would improve our chances.

They were:

1. Upgrade the Crew

2. Upgrade the Sails

3. Work on the Rating Problem

By now, 2/3’s of the way through the season, we feel that the progress we’ve made on each of these three items have produced results. Let’s look at each one.

1. Upgrade the Crew.

Last year we had a team of mostly beginners and they became a good crew. With practice their boat handling skills became excellent but Judy and I spent too much of our attention watching every move they were making and further, they didn’t have the racing experience to be able help us with fine sail trim or tactics on the race course. Our sail trim was poor, and we missed a bunch of tactical calls and I was often distracted from my driving. This year we purposely set out to add some people with skill levels in those areas.

Our crew-finding challenge here in Mexico is complicated by the fact that we mostly use other cruising sailors as crew, most of whom have arrived here on their own sailboats, and who, while they tend to have good sailing skills, often want to go cruising on their own boats so we lose them after a while.

We were constantly alert for good sailors who planned to be around a while we when ran across one we asked if they wanted to sail with us for the season. Some did, some didn’t. Some couldn’t commit and just came once or twice and then moved on but others came and stuck. It has worked out well. We found some great people and we now have built a great team with several solid racing sailors among them. Our boat handling, as usual, is very good, our tactics are much better than before, we have good navigation, and we have good sail trim. One area however which has been more challenging has been finding a good bowman who can stay around. Our latest guy has been absolutely dynamite but he has work commitments so we are back looking for a permanent Bow Person. That’s where the poster you see at the top of this story came in.

But, in fact, the whole team has been pretty solid. It has exceeded our expectations and it has helped us win on the race course this year.

2. Upgrade the Sails

Our racing sails were getting pretty old (8 years) by the end of last season and we felt that we were lacking in pointing ability and speed. They were also falling apart. Buying new sails is costly and time consuming. To get ones which we could afford was even more difficult and more time consuming, if not impossible, but we set out to do just that and that effort is still underway. In the meantime we took the our main and genoa, the most important sails and the ones with the worst problems, to the sail loft and discussed some recuts with Mike Danielson at North Sales. Mike understood what we wanted to do and he made some minor changes which really improved the sails. He also cautioned us about the condition of the sails. “These have limited life left in them”, he said.

Well, the recuts worked some magic on the shape. On the race course they are fast and they have held together so far this season thanks to a bunch of PSA sail repair tape and lots of patches.

We are close to having some new sails on the way, but in the meantime we feel we have achieved our sail upgrade objective and it shows in the results.

3. Work on the Rating Problem

Last year, even when we sailed a good race, we could not correct out over the top boat, a relatively new production racer from Europe. We felt they had the wrong rating but since it was the only one in North America there were no other results to base any change upon. It could be that their consistent wins were just the result of excellent sailing.

We lobbied for nearly a year for a handicapper’s meeting and when it finally happened in December we got some relief; the rating was changed, not the 24 seconds I lobbied for, but 12 seconds, and it helps.

Other improvements:

Judy and Nick have nailed the navigation task and we no longer miss marks. It is hard to overestimate the importance of this.

Dick has been calling the laylines perfectly and that has solved a bugaboo from last year.

I have had some really good starts, I mean really good starts, which is always a key factor in any win.

And all of the excellent crew work has allowed me to focus on steering which has also improved this year as well. Judy helps a lot with this by constantly watching the tell tales and my steering and coaching me whenever I need it.

We have had “guest visits” by some really super sailors and each has left us with some tips which we have been happy to follow.

All in all, we are pretty pleased with how our program has advanced. We hope we can keep it up for the rest of the season.

Click here and here for photos of our crew.

catrina liana image

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huanacaxtle.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

January 11, 2016-Another Great Race!

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Crew Happy (composite photo)

We had another good race yesterday; we won overall on corrected time and beat our class by over four minutes, a great finish: First in class and first overall.

We know we can't do that every time, but it is nice when we do. For those of you who want to read the nitty gritty details, read below.

Otherwise, we are working hard to figure out a solution to our rapidly deteriorating sails and that will certainly be expensive, and we'll keep you up to date on that, and we thought we'd share with you photos of our Christmas Dinner, which was fun.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Turkey Dinner

Fred & Judy SV Wings, La Cruz Huancaxtle

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What a race!

It wasn't just a good race, it was a great race.

Like all the really great ones it started with a great start.

The line was short and the committee boat was favored and we came in on port looking for a spot but there wasn't one, just a crowd of other boats all barging on starboard and trying to find a spot up by the committee boat. We had to go onto starboard soon ourselves but I could see that if we tacked we'd be early. I told the crew "Jibing" and we jibed around to leeward of Nuevo Luna, the lead boat. When they looked at getting their bow under our quarter I ducked down and encouraged them to stay up, which they did, thankfully; that was the break we needed.

When they went for the line we came up under them.

Dick was counting down and he said 9 seconds. Nueva Luna was up on my hip going slow. I turned the boat down to gain some speed and stay away from the line and I saw the pin just ahead and then looked at Paul on the bow. He glanced at his watch and then down the line and I could clearly tell he didn't know where we were on the line. What to do?

Dick shouted GO! GO! I glanced over my shoulder and saw Nuevo Luna and three other boats between us and the committee boat and I knew we were safe; if we were early they couldn't see us. It was time to go and I turned for the line.

Somehow we poked our nose out in front of Nuevo Luna and I saw we were under their lee bow. I told Dick to grind in the main; I wanted to stuff some dirty air at them, and we used our speed to come up in front of them. It worked better than I hoped. We stuffed them up and they, in turn, dumped dirty air on the crowd to weather of them, which slowed the whole group, and then we bore off and went for speed.

So that was the start: in a couple of minutes we were clearly out in front and the whole pack was behind us and going slow and trying to get some air to breathe, but there wasn't any. I saw Olas Lindas, our real nemesis, way back and going nowhere. They tacked away.

We got to the weather mark first, easily, and turned for Punta Blanca, four miles away on starboard tack. The nearest boat was Bright Star, just astern, and then Olas Lindas who came out on our hip. We struggled to gain on Bright Star and Olas for a while and finally I said out loud, "I have to get the speed up, I am going to bear away until we hit 6 knots". The six knots came fast once I put the bow down and all of a sudden we started to point on Bright Star and foot on Olas Lindas. Magic! It was our wind.

There was a bunch of radio chatter about the next mark and its location and if it was even in place anymore but we stayed out of that conversation and Judy looked with the binoculars and I think we were the first boat to find it. It was deflated and was just a puddle of yellow in the water but anyhow we found it, rounded, and had a good set.

If we made any significant mistakes it was on that leg. I had the heading wrong and we sailed too high for half the leg. But as we got halfway down the leg and couldn't find the last mark Judy finally went below to check the chart.

"We're way above it, go down! " she said, which I did. So our course for that leg turned out to be a great circle route; very slow. Bright Star was way back but Olas Lindas was close and the extra we sailed distance allowed them gain. We held them off during the last half mile when we jibed twice to keep the speed up and they rounded the last mark about 30 seconds behind. Probably our mistake on that run prevented us from finishing ahead of them in the end but it didn't matter; they owed us six minutes and there was no way they could get that far ahead in the last mile and a half to the finish.

We jibed at the mark and then changed to the jib for the finish and came in one and a half minutes behind Olas Lindas, who were able to carry their kite all the way in.

So that was the win, we loved it.

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