Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Temptress Perspective of Race 4 Series 2

I am writing because I saw your writeup of Race 4 series 2, and love Tactical discussion and banter. While I agree with a lot of what you were looking at I thought I would let you know how we pulled our Houdini.
Thanks to a non-yeilding windward boat (at the start, again…) we were forced into a bad position straight away. With Wrinkles hell bent to bury us (wonder why?) The best we could do was waterline out with them to BP and watch you and Emo take the early lead. You guys did a great job protecting the right and sure enough we had to tack away from what I thought to be the favored side of the course. The wind had been trending right all afternoon, but we had noticed before the start that the velocity positive shifts were back to the left, closer to the forecast direction and strength. We believed we were experiencing a thermal mixing, and that one breeze or the other would win out before a true dying trend ensued.
With the tide ebbing we were comfortable with an initial tack out left. The ebb flow off of Castle Pinkney is extremely strong during that stage of ebb, and the direction vs our course provided a lee bow effect showing big left. The problem for Emo was that what shows on the water does not necessarily tell the story. We were watching breeze right of median and holding on to a nice open lane assisted mainly by the current. At the first cross, despite the chunk we were able to take out of Emo and Hdoo’s lead it was Emo who took a close cover and forced back out left. We still were looking at a right trend and didn’t mind spending time on starboard! But right about then we saw puff showing on the left upper and part of the course, so out towards pressure we go.
I have seen boat after boat try to master the eddies and swirls East of NOAA and play the beach route. Willy does it like it is his job to do it, current going in or out. Sometimes I see the thermal puffs come rollin’ on, and when he shoots the moon with his layline it is sometimes brilliant. I however have favored the stronger rips between the anchorage bouy and our perennial mark. Tremendous water comes rushing off the mid harbor flat during late Ebb, causing SOG’s and COG’s to dance the night away. However, going back the KISS tactics model I choose to stay “close in the cone,” or limit the number of lanes outside of your projected laylines by tacking more often near the mark and not steaking one side or the other. Get the LAST shift will win at the WM as long as you are “in the time zone” of the corner bangers.
So we choose a stbd approach about ten lanes short of layline and put the blinders on David and made him steer to SOG/COG instead of watch the tell tales (drives helmsmen nuts, there is no feel and visual feedback is bad.) We crossed the near current line to the ebb rip near the top of the flats and saw SOG spike to 8.2. With boatspeed fighting to stay at 6.0 we felt pretty good. A nice big lefty to tack on helped heaps, coupled with the drop in velocity to the right- direction or not.
The first run is really where we got all our time. The beat was nice because we were able to play some games with Emo, acting pissed about being forced back to the left and watching current help increase for us as well as pressure. The lefty hit in earnest at T-now on the port tack line as we rounded the mark and with the right kite (we carry 3 VMG’s) and used the puff to get up on the flats. We had to do so crossing the most adverse of currents, but as we learned at CRW in the last race that area is one of extremes. 70 Seconds later we were across the next line and watched SOG jump from 4.2 to 5.7. There was another ridge of current less than ten boatlengths away, but every time we bumped it we would drop .5 or so OTB. The COG was also a big help. A couple of times we would see our course deviate by 20 degrees W, probably casued by the forementioned runoffs from the harbor flats. We would just reach right through them and in 60 seconds or so we would see the COG come back into line, and keep the SOG up as well. But by Hdoo and Emo staying (not necessarily in better or worse current- just different) in the channel and sailing more rhumbline they failed to hold onto the lefty as it tends to die towards the JI shore. As our AWA/AWS delta would shrink we would head up and power through the lulls. Emo and Hdoo had a good opportunity for a tight cover in the last downwind exchange after middle ground when we came back shy of the rhumbline. But looking back at the current now ripping off the lee shore of CP we gybed back out for the leebow current (upwind and down, as it turned out.) We were able to stay in the AWA range of the med. VMG and use the COG offset to make bearing on the mark. Hdoo and Emo played back to the JI shore side of rhumbline, we got velocity and current help (call it a shift to the crew, they feel better when I do that rather than explaining all the spaghetti soup) and added 60-80 seconds on the last exchange alone.
The second beat was a bit different than the first. We used simple corralling to keep Emo (and in effect you guys) herding right towards the lulls (and lifts) near the shore. Once we had you committed we loose covered EMo up the beat and repeated our DW technique. It was a little different, and a different angle (more right) so we changed to the light VMG. Good thing we did--- we did overstand the last DW layline and needed a very flat sail indeed to get there. But while doing so we held on to the proverbial “last puff” and were able to ride a strong puff to finish, rich get richer.
I find it fascinating looking at the thought processes of other boats, and in examining what we did right or wrong tactically. I have learned a couple of key tactical lessons in Charleston’s predominantly cat 2 (Walker) conditions. First is usually what you said- get a good start and be first to BP. That helps. But it is not the be all! Identifying while on that leg the first, second, and likely third shift will help anyone to link-em together. Simply choosing a side doesn’t work consistently enough here due to the changes in current speed and direction in the same places at the same stage in ebb or flood! I also learned through competing with the Melges boat to boat that downwind you have to, have to, have to VMG your way around the course. There are too many gains for being “over here or over there” to sail the VMG rhumblines. We fight the trends daily to not pinch near the WM and not foot into the LM.

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