Three boats from Seattle destined for Worlds in Australia spent two weekends training out of cascade locks. Conditions ranged from one morning of 10 kts, to 4 days of 18-25 kts.
Participants were Frank and Pat, Kris and Jamie, and Steve and Alan.
Pat and I were the real beginners at sailing in big breeze. But with plenty of coaching and swimming, by the end, we had learned enough to get around the race course even in some pretty extreme conditions. Joe and I worked on a summary of how to sail in big breeze in the gorge. If anyone can help me get it up on the website (along with some haikus) please help me out. There are also some videos I put together. You can find them here: http://www.youtube.com/fflanner
SetupMax rake is 8000mm or 26'3”. Shroud tension should be 33-35 or more on the new loos gauge. Lowers should be applied until bottom of mast through bottom spreader is perfectly straight or possibly slightly inverted. This can only be seen by tipping the boat and sighting down the mast with uppers off. Uppers were less tensioned than I expected and were noticeably loose once cunningham and vang were applied.
The board should be up 8-12”. Sail with lots of luff tension on main and jib. Jib should be very flat on the bottom when fully trimmed and twisty up to the top. The jib sheet should NOT max out. Jib traveller should be all the way off. Vang is cranked for upwind. Letting is off downwind is good, but not much of an ease is needed. If it is too soft, the main leech can get bouncy.
The boat must be completely flat throughout the tack. When the boat is flat, going into the tack it is more forgiving of mistakes. If the boat is not flat, do not initiate a tack. Ease the jib slightly into tack to make coming out more forgiving. Ease it just enough that the boat does not blow over coming out of the tack. Crew goes in slowly to middle, easing main into tack. If the crew goes in too quickly, the boat will heel to leeward which will force the bow up, create windage and slow down the tack. After ducking under boom, crew goes out more quickly to wire, with even bigger ease of main. Helm does a two part turn. A slow turn up to head to wind, then a pause, then a quick turn down to new board. Helm switches hands, gets weight on the rack (either feet or ass) and grabs the wire.
Both helm and crew must move their weight forward during the tack or the boat will really stop during the maneuver. Both should stand tall through maneuver, ducking only to get under boom. Stay on your feet; do not sit or kneel. This means more agility and the ability to repond to unplanned events.
If the boat heels to leeward as boat heads up, expect a very slow tack. Crew must concentrate on getting boat flat, easing main and not rushing onto the wire. If boat heels to new leeward side as boat is passing head to wind, crew must sprint to the wire, not worrying about the main. Helm can grab the main and hand it to the crew once the boat is upright again. Coming out of the tack, the helm should focus on sailing the boat on the jib and getting the boat moving forward again.
If the boat heels to weather on the new tack, crew must sense whether pulling on the main sheet will send the boat head to wind or rectify the situation. Crew should be prepared to counteract weather heel with body weight which is why it is imperative that they stay on their feet throughout the maneuver.
Speed is most important factor going into gybe. If boat slows down, start over. It is difficult keeping the speed up into the maneuver and teams need to practice the pre-gybe to ensure they are moving really fast into the gybe. Flat boat throughout gybe is even more important than tack. Be prepared to abandon sails and save the boat from flipping. As the crew comes in for the gybe, the bow can be pushed down into a wave, slowing the boat. It helps to take some foil off to avoid this.
Helm comes off wire, unclips sitting on rack, ready to go. Crew hikes extra hard and trims for max speed. Helm says he is ready and confirms that the crew is too. Crew comes in and positions themselves over the center of the boat. Helm drives a gentle carve, keeping boat under crew and mast. Helm should concentrate on switching hands, maintaining a steady carve and keeping boat under sails. Main needs to be eased through maneuver. If necessary, helm can drop main during maneuver so long as they have the sheet on the new jibe to pull against if they experience lee helm.
Crew comes in with a big trim of kite on old leeward side, gets under boom, then trims kite to new side as kite backwinds into the jib. Do not bring around until kite is pushing against the jib. Make sure jib is not too far out, or kite has trouble crossing. When done properly, the kite will blow through to the other side and will not roll over the luff. This keeps the kite flat and gives the helm something predictable to drive against. Crew overtrims on the new side, only releasing to normal trim once everyone is on the wire and in the straps. Helm should beat the crew across the boat. The clew of the kite should never get more than one or two feet in front of the forestay.
The Safety Gybe
It's all the same, but don't bring the kite around to the new side until you finish your coffee and cigarette. It is surprising how long you can maintain stability with the kite oversheeted (all the way to the block) on the weather side. Remember to have the main eased to increase speed and stability while enjoying your coffee.
Foil off before the bearaway. You may need to ease some vang, but not too much (see below). Ease sails some to keep boat moving fast, or boat will be too slow. Weight as far back as possible, helm in the back strap, crew in a strap, ideally. When boat is flat, bear away aggressively with big ease of both sails. Once low enough, helm indicates he has control and crew comes in for hoist. Helm should get boat deep for hoist with main way out. Crew hoists, oversheets kite, gets on wire, then proceeds once helm confirms he has control.
Head deep going into takedown with big ease of main. Being deep and maintaining speed makes for a better maneuver. Main out makes the boat faster and safer. Crew comes in, stands on spin sheet and takes kite in. To head up, crew takes main, trims and heads onto wire as helm heads up aggressively, trimming jib after the turn. If it is really howling, you may have to turn boat up with both sails all the way out, standing as far back as possible with the foil off. Once the boat comes off its wheelie, jib is trimmed to avoid lee helm, main is trimmed and foil is put on for upwind.
Going fast is easy. Controlling the boat is the hard part. Be gentle with movement of tiller. If boat is bouncing in the chop, there are several ways to control this. Overtrim the main to shut down the leech, which tends to bounce. Overtrimming the kite will slow the boat, but not if you are reaching too high. Breathing or blowing the kite completely may be the only alternative while reaching, but better to bear off some and overtrim. Crew should aggressively trim kite to course and ease in puffs to allow helm to bear off. Sailing with a little heel will present more buoyancy to the waves, reducing the bounce, making the boat more stable. Probably best not to ease the vang too much, as it encourages the bounce.
Foil on until you feel the buoyancy in the bow pushing back. The boat takes off when you do this. Burying the bow is slow, so find the line between too much and not enough. The tricks above also allow more foil.
Flat jib at the bottom, open at the top. More luff tension than you might expect on both sails. Main cunno is a key control as it flattens main and bends topmast. This is a good safety thing downwind too. Centerboard should be up 8-12”. Sail the boat flat with main eased to do so. The crew is driving the boat as much as the helm, so watch the telltales; it is easy to sail with too little mainsheet and just reach around. If the helm is pressing on the jib to keep power or if they feel lee helm, ask crew for main on. Communicate about your mode- high or fast. Work together to achieve it.
Foil on hard unless really plowing into chop and everyone is all the way back. Then it comes off only a tiny bit. If boat feels squirrelly upwind, it may mean not enough leech tension, so crank the vang. The boat is often driving off the jib and the main leech is steering the boat via the mainsheet. If boat feels bound up, your jib is probably too tight, your shroud tension is too loose, your jib luff tension is too loose or your board is not up high enough.
Puff and lull control is largely via the mainsheet. In fact, it seems that heading down in a lull and up in a puff often exacerbates the windward/leeward heel, rather than alleviates it. With high boat speed and high acceleration/deceleration, normal sailing response isn't always correct. If the crew is too slow responding, the helm has no choice but the steer through it, leading to a loss of speed or point.