Race 4 Snowflake 2013
As we prepared for race 4, the current was just still running upwind in the channel and starting to turn at the edges. We opted for a safe starboard end start. We had a transit (edge of tree line) which was pretty much on it, but I find starting at the starboard end gives me a reasonable feel for the line. I was keen to win the pole position next to the committee boat, but after noticing that Martin and Vicky Jones in their Merlin were having issues at the start with their outhaul, it would have been a little hard to luff them, so we opted for a place under the RS200, but it made it important to pull the trigger early to pop out at the start. Weird how the camera makes boats on the extreme of the course look a long way ahead, we actually rounded first, just in front of the Fireball. Its also apparent that I am always sheeting really hard on the mainsheet to hold some leach tension. Blisters on the hands and hard work to control the leach, it has been our general worry that the mast is too soft, despite our spreaders being pretty far forward (reducing mast bend and sail luff curve starvation) and out (to stop sideways mast bend).
Ever since loosing a race at the Belgium Europe Open 25 years ago, I have been keen to protect the inside on the run in the last third of the leg. Perhaps I should have had confidence and not responded the Fireball's move to the inside. I am still not sure of the angles for the fastest downwind yet in the Merlin. We must find a way to keep our kite filling through the gybes. I am sure some marks on the sheets will help. They are just not led back to the helm in the Merlin so there's lots for the crew to do, or is there another way I can help?
Although a Fireball is 10 points quicker than a Merlin, once the wind picks up, they are a planing machine in planing conditions and there is not much that can be done to hold them back in a Merlin which has been optimised for displacement sailing.
Dave Hayes showed us that he had superior boatspeed to windward and took us on the last lap. It was worth it just to look at his rig from behind. I had my boom squeezed in hard always looking for leach closure, and he had his over the corner! After comparing our spreader set up I finally decided that our mast was too soft fore and aft, specially in the top. Found out today that our mast has the wrong 'bendy' track on so we now await what a stiff track will do to the mast. I will also fit a 2:1 on the main halyard to reduce mast compression. Fingers crossed we will have a set up where I can ease the mainsheet and still have some leach closure. This change might see my boom off the middle a bit more in future and another set of problems to deal with like too much power in the strong winds and luff curve issues in the light - -nice challenge.