This month Soph & I made the trip down to Mounts Bay for the Nationals, which had an epic turnout of 96 boats in the fleet.
Day one was spent mostly waiting for the wind to fill in as it swung around and finally came in with a shifty north-westerly force 2. It was tough racing with big shifts and a lot of chop which made it very difficult to find a rhythm. It took us the day to get used to gate starts. Getting shut out in the 1st race and recording a 28th, and pulling back in the 2nd race to 9th.
Day 2 came with a bit more wind and marginal planing conditions. This made for big gains down wind. After having been caught out on the first race by a gust bringing a few teams through from behind, we pulled off the greatest of escapes accompanied. Rounding the last windward mark in the 60s, we gybed on the shift, caught a nice gust and charged our way up to 16th, a definite counter the way the event was heading.
￼Day 3 was written off. No wind around the bay meant that the race officer cancelled early which meant that the remaining days would have 3 races each.
Day 4 came around with more light and shifty winds. We had a better day as well claiming 3 top tens and being the gate boat, which was a nice experience. It was a good boost to see that even in the marginal conditions we had good pace which we were worried about.
Day 5 was the last day and with it all to play for. We were only a few points off 5th. However, due to 1st world issues, I had to shoot home for impending exams, however my brother Jack selflessly stepped in to an all expenses paid trip to Cornwall to compete the last 3 races. The day didn't quite go to plan but we managed to finish up in 14th, just off our aim of top 10.
A couple of big lessons learnt.
It's a waiting game, all about patience. The first couple of starts were a bit rocky, often accelerating too early or picking to start next to someone who were too keen to pinch off the person above. Generally the rule is, if you believe you are faster than the gate boat then you start early. However, this week stepped up a new gear, you need to time the shifts. On the Wednesday we finally got to grips on this, but it is not something you often practice. As you all start on starboard ducking the gate boat, if you start early you are generally expecting a left hander to come in and I felt like we got better at planning out the strategy and therefore trying to plan where we think the next shift will come in.
There was a good video made by one of the sailors of how not quite to do it:
This is what it the game maker/breaker in 200 sailing. Downwind then gains can be huge! The difference in angles to get on to the plain are huge but the gains are just as big. However, this means equally the losses by getting it wrong can cost you. We found the key is not to go hard to early. It can get all about going fast but it is the VMG that counts. We have been working on finding the gear, how hard do you hike? how much do you pump? how soon do you bear away? The answer is that there isn't one exact answer, just have to get out and try it. We thought this was an area we can work on but luckily one of our club mates found this one of their strengths so we will definitely work against them on that.
Upwind in a slop:
This was and is particularly tricky, however we seemed to manage it quite well later in the week. The key thing for me to try and do was not over use the kicker and to not over sheet the main. Especially when coming out the start the last thing you want to do is to lose height or speed. Keep the leach working and if possible, slightly fanning in the chop. Key thing for the crew is to be super light on their toes. If the boat comes over on top of you it is death. Soph was very good at making sure the boat didn't roll on top of us, you just go sideways.
We are reasonably happy with this result as had I managed to do the whole event we would have been close to reaching our goal, we haven't done enough events this year to warrant much better, but it is a good building block for Hayling Island next year.