Bill Brangiforte WOW: December 2010

Posted December 01, 2010

With the fall frostbite season now over, I thought it would be a good idea to review some lessons learned. The biggest thing that comes to mind for me is the effects of current. While tide plays a huge role on the Warren River, we sometimes play it blindly and get into trouble by ignoring the other important elements of the race. One day, Scott, Andy and I Short tacked up the Barrington side of the river, only to be passed by most of the fleet sailing into the teeth of the current, because they had better pressure. Since current also plays a huge role at many championship venues, such as Hyannis, Lewes and Charleston, let’s take a look at some current basics and some of my theories.

When sailing in a tidal area, start to plan your strategy on the way out to the starting line. Check the buoys and lobster pots on the way out. While every venue if different, there are some basic “truths” about sailing in current. Some of the basic current ” truths” are:

  1. The current is strongest in the middle of the cycle. During, approximately, the middle 2 hours of the cycle, current deserves a lot of attention. When it is really ripping, it may be the most important part of your plan.
  2. When the tide is adverse or going right to left upwind, avoid the pin end of the starting line. A few years back, while sailing a laser N.A.s in Hyannis, the tide was ripping down the line, (the com. Boat was pointing at the pin). Despite the fact that the fleet was highly skilled, almost everyone set up early and ended up being pushed toward the pin. When the gun went off, 60-70 boats were in a terrible mess at the leeward end. It took literally minutes for the dust to settle. By then, the few boats that started at the com. Boat were long gone! BTW, this is one of the times that it might be ok to try a barging start, as the tide pushes boats away from the com. Boat.
  3. When the tide is favorable or running left to right, avoid the boat end. This situation usually causes pile –ups at the boat end. Never try to barge in these conditions.
  4. When the tide is adverse upwind, the waves will probably be smaller, but the leg will take longer to sail. Get ready to hike for a longer period. When you approach the weather mark, try to overstand slightly (sometimes more than slightly). Remember- the Sunfish has a long boom, and it is attracted to marks!
  5. When the tide is with you, the waves will be bigger, but the leg will not take as long to sail. From a tactical standpoint, you can consider tacking below starboard tackers on the layline, as the favorable current will push you up to the mark, just remember, you must tack outside of 3 boatlengths or you could risk a foul. In Barrington, with the tide ripping from behind, you can tack below a group on the layline, then luff and slow everyone down enough to allow the tide to lift you to the mark (again, outside of 3 lengths).
  6. When the tide is flowing from one side, upwind, you will get a lift when as it pushes from leeward. This helps when planning your final approach to the weather mark.

Ok- here are some of my theories on sailing the Sunfish in current.

Upwind, when going against a strong tide, you should keep the bow down a little, to help the blades grip better. The leeward tell tale may need to be flowing for this to work. If you try to pinch, the boat is going to get slow and go sideways.

Downwind, the same is true. You need to keep the telltales flowing, by sailing angles. In light air, if you try to sail dead down against a strong tide the boat just stops. The lighter the breeze, the more severe the angles have to be. The good thing here is that in decent breeze, there are usually good waves, because the tide is against the breeze. This makes sailing angles even more effective.

Getting back to what I said in the beginning, there are times when the current takes a back seat to shifts and pressure. At the early and late stages of the tidal cycle, keep the tide in mind, but I still think the difference in the breeze across the course is more important.

With winter coming on, just a couple more thoughts.

First, I want to thank Barrington Y.C. for being out there in such cold conditions, running races for us and then providing such great hospitality after the races.

Second, I think this fleet has a lot of potential. Not only do we have some of the best Sunfish sailors in the country racing, if we are able to get Amanda, Colin, Tim and Karen racing at the same time, this will be one tough fleet! There is a good chance our fleet could dominate the N.As next year! (Yes, that is a challenge to everyone else!).

Third, I want to thank The Sunfish class members who initiated my nomination for the YOY. It is a true honor!

Merry Christmas to everyone!
Can’t wait till spring!
Bill



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