29 September 2008

sail trim for beginners

The following holds for Albacores and Lasers unless specifically aimed at one of the two.

  1. Fine tuning of sails is not very important for pleasure sailing and even not very important in racing unless you are at the top of the fleet. Just make sure that every line is attached, especially the halyards should be well-secured, the outhaul should hold well and that's it.
  2. The most important sail control are of course the sheets and before you think about tuning, make sure that you always sheet perfectly, watch your tell-tales and play the sheet to find the point where the sail draws best. Especially in light winds where the wind is coming from many different directions at different times, it's more important to catch that wind than to tune the boat.
    Also, depowering the boat in high winds is done first of all by letting out the sheets. Only when the sail starts backwinding a lot will the pleasure sailor need other means of depowering.
  3. Most people see the boom-vang (or kicker) as a means of depowering the boat upwind, but that's actually only one of its job and maybe not the most important one. It is true that vang is only needed as the wind increases, but it is entirely false that vang is only needed upwind. And here's why: as the wind increases, it pushes the middle and upper half of the sail forward, thus lifting up the boom (especially when the sheet is not close-hauled!). This twist in the sail means that the upper part is let out far more than the lower part and consequently at least one the two parts is not drawing well (either the lower part is choked or, more likely, the upper part is spilling air). Since the twist of the sail changes with every little puff and maybe also with waves, this makes the boat very hard to control. It feels like you have to correct sheeting, steering and hiking all the time. Unstable. That's where the vang comes in: you pull the boom down until the top batten in the sail is parallel to the boom again, not twisted out at the leech. In this position the sail has optimal shape, draws perfectly (as long as you sheet it correctly, of course), the boat becomes stable again and you go actually faster than using no vang! That's one of the most important lessons I have learned this year!
Pleasure sailing in not too light to medium winds (Laser and Albacore):
  1. (Albacore only) Before you even hoist the mainsail: make sure both sides of the rig tension are cleated and put enough tension to stop the shrouts from flapping loosely. This is important to hold the mast in place for raising the main and for sailing!
    Once you are out sailing upwind or on a reach, you can recheck if the leeward-shroud is still flapping and then tighten the rig tension. But be aware that the windward shrout bears all the tension from the mast and the power of the sails, so it is natural that the leeward shrout is rather loose and this should be left that way! Just make sure, it is not flapping.
  2. (Albacore only) If you know what a mast-ram and prebend are, check that they are loose! Racers sometimes forget to undo them and that's not good for the boat.
  3. Albacore: Set the outhaul with a little tension on it, cleat it, and forget about it.
    Laser: Set the outhaul so that the largest draft at the boom is about one hand deep (i.e. your hand between the boom and sail). Cleat it and forget about it.
  4. On the Albacore many people don't even attach the cunningham. On the Laser you always want to attach it, so that the pulley system stays in place and does not fall off. But you don't put any tension on it. (Well, you could, but too much tension is definitely worse than none at all.)
  5. Make sure the boom vang is cleated on both sides, but don't put any tension on it. Having tension on the vang can be a problem when letting out the sail for reaches and runs and can also lead to capsizes, so don't use it unless you need to and make sure you release it when you go to a lower point of sail (reach or run).
As you can see this is very easy and pleasure sailing in medium wind does not need any adjustments for point-of-sail, other than than sheeting your sails.
Another trick worth mentioning: raise your centerboard halfway when approaching the dock. This makes it safer in case you sail towards too shallow waters, and it also allows any weeds to run of the board instead of getting stuck in the boardcase when you raise it at standstill.

Pleasure sailing in winds above ten knots (Laser and Albacore):
  1. First of all, with more wind, boat handling becomes more important: hike well, let the sail out, steer, all independently without one messing the other up! A Bronze class is a good way to train this, as is going out with an Old Salt in higher winds.
  2. Second of all, you want some boom-vang upwind and on reaches as explained above. Make sure that the top batten is more-or-less parallel to the boom. As long as the wind is really high, it is okay to leave some vang on even on a run. You don't need to adjust it all the time. Rather play your sheets!
  3. Third, if you are going upwind and have to let a lot of sheet out, even if hiking fully, it is time to depower the boat. Here's what I do:
  • First of all, check that the rig tension is set as explained above, since you need more in higher winds. This is important to keep the boat together and resist the wind. (Yes, it also changes the shape of the mast, but that's another story and it's why you don't put on too much.)
  • I assume that you already have some vang on to remove twist in your sail. Now you can put on more and look at which effect it has on your sail: the top half of the sail should become flatter and the mast bend slightly backwards. Removing draft in the top of the sail removes heeling moment and makes hiking easier. But don't overdo it: even with so much vang on, you still can't sheet your sail in all the way (and you don't need to in order to move forward and stay on course).
  • When it gets more windy, you can also put some cunningham on to remove the wrinkles that you probably have at the luff of the sail (but don't put more, since it changes the shape of the sail).
  • Also, you can tighten the outhaul which makes the bottom part of the sail flatter. But remember that the bottom part of the sail is more important in high winds, since it has less leverage to pull the boat over! As long as the wind is not too strong, don't put too much outhaul on. (Note: outhaul is much more effect on the Laser than on the Albacore!)
  • As long as you don't overdo the depowering by flattening the sail, it might even make you go a little faster, since it reduces drag. Remember that you are sailing as close against the wind as you can get and it is obviously better to present the wind with less surface on which to push you backwards.
Vang versus sheet upwind (Laser and Albacore):
  • Especially on a Laser you will notice that pulling your sheet in tight will also bring your boom down by a lot. If you don't have any vang set, you will see that the vang gets a lot of loose in it by pulling the sheet tight. In the Albacore this effect is less pronounced in medium to high winds with no vang on. Especially on a Laser you will notice how the shape of you sail changes just by trimming the sheet between close hauled and very tight (where the pulley on the boom almost touches the pulley on the transom). You can see that this bends your mast and flattens the upper half of the sail. But now, when you want to let the sheet out in a puff, this will first let the boom go up and then out, which is not quite what you want to depower. Therefore, as one rule to set your vang on the Laser: pull the sheet all the way in and then pull the vang just to take all the loose out. As a result, the vang will hold the boom down and you can use the sheet purely to let the sail out and pull it back in. As a nice side-effect, the boom-vang will prevent the transom-pully from lifting up from the hull.
Personally, I think that one would be quite good in racing trimming just those things and not more, as long as boat-handling, tactics (esp. the start) and strategy is right. Unfortunately, however, I am also am those tempted to tinker with all those controls all the time.

sailing plans

From fall 2006 to summer 2007 I obtained a German motor boat license and a cruising certificate for yachts on sea shore. I had no idea that I would not use this certificate at all this year and go into an entirely different direction. Yacht-sailing was made easy for me, because I had previous experience on dinghies. But when I joining the St. James Town Sailing Club, my first deed was to capsize the dinghy that I planned to be tested on and then volunteering to take a beginner's class all over.
This season I spent many, many days at the sailing club. In the beginning of the year I was often not even sailing, because I was not certified yet or the wind was too strong for me to try it. With Albacores, Lasers, Catamarans and many different kinds of races and other activities, the club really never gets boring and there's lots of things that I didn't try yet at all or want to do lots more next year. In order to do as many things as possible, being reasonably prepared for each one and still leaving some time for my work and studies, I want to make a coarse plan of all the things to do.

  • First of all, I want to get certification as a sailing instructor. As far as I heard, the chances of getting a job the same season of getting the certification are pretty slim, but I still want to do it for the future. I think it's a more interesting job than TA'ing Computer Science and I also want to do some of the prerequisites anyway.
  • Second, I will get the motor boat license (PCOC) and the Toronto Port license, which I need for being an instructor and also for helping out running races.
  • Third, I will of course do the bronze IV course that our club will offer in May. I think that people who did this course have definitely become better sailors! (Also, it's a prereq. for being an instructor.)
  • Forth, I want to crew as many races of the Friday Night series as possible and be an awesome crew for our awesome helms (and have it reflected in my final standings). I might skip one race to volunteer for the race committee on a Friday Night.
  • Fifth, I want to learn my about boat repair and repair more of the damages that I make (haha! of course my goal for next season is not to make any damage) and also work more on general boat maintenance and evolution of rigging. In this spirit I will probably be Boat Captain of one of J-Town's Lasers.
    One thing I already planned for this season (and might still be doing, since Lasers race longer in Fall) is to check out how our friends the Waterrats rig their lasers and write a small J-Town Laser Rigging Manual, based on the photos that I already made, the new information gained from the rats and some modifications that I am currently trying out.
  • Sixth, I want to become better in the Laser, so that I have more control when sailing the boat (and maybe not be last in some of the races), although I don't plan to race the Laser lots. It's more of a boat for going out and exploring sailing by myself. Excellent, for example for studying wind conditions and doing drills by myself.
  • Seventh, I want to work out to get a little more strength in my back and shoulders. This is not just for sailing, since I should generally improve my posture to walk around more healthily and not hurt my back sitting in front of a computer all day.
  • Eighth, I want to crew some races with my friend Tim Smith and especially sail the New Helms Regatta with him, where we will probably be quite competitive (even though I insist on helming some of those races).
  • Ninth, I want to do some of the local regattas, crewing for one of the Old Salt helms or switch-up pairing with another new helm sailor. Especially the RCYC or OHCC regattas would be interesting since they are out on the lake!
  • Tenth, I want to help out with at least one of races/regattas run by J-Town either as race committee or for the food part.
  • Eleventh, I want to help organize the Amazing Race for Albacore White Sailors. Since it was so much fun and I can't participate as a competitor, I will be there as a "player of the house". Harr!
  • Twelfth, I want to do a little bit of catamaran sailing, just enough to get certified as a skipper and go out from time to time to try out this kind of boat. The cat is wonderful for sailing a bit farther away from our small harbour, since it is fast enough to go there and back in almost no time.
  • Thirteenth, and so far last, I want to take part in one out-of-town event such as the Ontario Champs, Canadians or East-Coast Championships. I wouldn't even mind leasing one of the funny east-coast Albacores for sailing it! I would like to crew this event for somebody more experienced and want to train my crewing and strategic skills next season, so I am no embarrassment for whoever takes me out. :-)
Wow, this list is longer than I thought it would be. But I think, it's easy to do by using time more efficiently. This year I spent quite a bit of time, reading and thinking about sailing and I hope I get more sailing next year, by being at the club at the right time for events or for good wind and being less hesitating!
I am looking forward to sail with friends I made this season, by myself, with other experienced sailors and also with new white sailors who will join the club next year.

formal wind-down

As the sailing season draws to an end, I want to reflect on a couple of things, first of all of course so I don't forget them until next season, but also to clear up my mind and see that everything I know is more or less consistent.
First of all, I'd like to mention some of my most remarkable racing results in temporal order:
  1. Last place in the J-Town Laser Regatta. I think that Laser racing is quite a bit harder than the Albacore and even though I have improved a bit during the last weeks, I would probably still be last in any given Laser race. (Also of course, because most Laser racers sail their own boats and have lots more training.)
  2. Seventh place in the New Helm's Albacore Regatta, helming/crewing with Tim Smith. This result is really good, given that many participants had lots of crewing experience in races and also more helming experience than we did. Even more remarkable is Jaclyn and Patrick's fifth place, since they also started racing only this year. Excellent!
  3. Second place in the Amazing Race for Albacore White Sailors, helming/crewing with Marius from Westwood. This was not too hard, since only few people in the race had racing experience and we had an advantage from knowing all the marks and rigging our boat quickly, being the first boat on the water. (Starting gun was on land, with unrigged boat.) Even more interesting was that my friend Tim Smith and his partner Thomas (also from Westwood, I think), won the first place. That's a good omen for teaming up next year! And even more interesting is that our friend Jaclyn was crewing at the Canadian Championships at the time of our little White Sail race. That's also a good omen for having excellent competition in next year's season!
  4. Second-to-last place in Klinger's Around the Island Race helming/crewing for Norm Woo. This was certainly one of the most fun events of the year, not only because it took us to waters we never sailed before! Since the race course goes all around the airplane landing water on the west side of Toronto Island, we are actually pretty close to Ontario place. Also we had wonderful wind and the right clothing for the little drizzle and rain that happened half-way through the race. I admit being a little disappoint with our bad placement (given that many other boats without or with only little racing experience were sailing), but we had so much fun and adventure that it completely made up for that. With one capsize and turtle and another almost capsize that took us ten minutes of bailing, we certainly learnt a lot on that day! It is a pity that my friend Anna could not make it that day and sail with me. :-(
  5. Fifth crew overall in the Albacore Fall Series, crewing for Ken Yamasaki twice and Mary Neumann once (two races on each day, so it was four overall with Ken). This is a wonderful result and certainly most of this success is just from showing up, since only few people made it to all four races and had the chance to drop two of them. (Another one who always showed up was Lynn Pashley and she won the first place for crew overall. Congrats!) In my race with Mary I learned what happens when I forget to put the centerboard back down at the downwind mark. We drifted gently into another boat and did a very fast 720 which set us back from place 2 to 7. Thanks, Mary! Seven is still an excellent result and I hope that I have learned that lesson forever. :-)
  6. Finally, one result that I am most proud of is Yesterday's placement with Ken Yamasaki in the two last Fall Series' races. In the first race, our main halyard came loose, the pole-line fell of and my hiking strap came uncleeted, with me almost falling out of the boat. We had to retie the halyard during the race and tie it around the horn cleat. Our pole came off, because Ken didn't tie it with a bowline to the jib; another lesson learnt, even for an Old Salt! We had lots of fun, flying our jib on runs and reaches by hand and in spite of all this came in 10th in the first race (where the halyard slipped) and third in the second race (still flying the jib by hand). This result is so wonderful for me, because it was for the first time that I ran most of the sail controls by myself, playing the vang in puffs without needing orders and retrimming the rig tension for every leg. My ability to do this is to large part due to Mary who explains all the trimming every time we race together. Also, sailing around the island the day before helped a lot, since I ran all the controls for Norm. I used to be a bit shy doing this in races, because I didn't want to distract the skipper, but now I have the confidence of doing the job without being asked. :-)
Expecially this last result is a wonderful ending for this season and an optimistic look-out to crewing next season's Friday Nights and crewing/helming a couple of races (and maybe regattas) with my friend Tim!

I actually started this because I wanted to write about next year's plans and about things that I learned about sail trim. So please look forward to my next two posts!

16 September 2008

floss it! erste Erfahrungen mit Zahnseide

Hallo Leute und insbesondere liebe Mutti!

nachdem ich ja in meinen ersten Tagen, Wochen, und Monaten zumeist mit Kanada enttäuscht war, weil ich all die schlechten Sachen zuerst gesehen habe. Undichte Fenster und brüchige U-Bahn-Stationen....

Aber als positiv denkender Mensch soll man ja die guten Sachen beider Welten (Heimat und Ferne) verbinden. Hier also ein Bericht über eine Sache, die ich in Nordamerika gut finde. Oder zumindest mal ausprobieren möchte: Zahnseide. Haha, wie spanned, nicht war?

Also, beim letzten Zahnarztbesuch, der ja sehr teuer war, bekam ich eine Rolle Zahnseide geschenkt und einen Zahnseidenspannstab ("floss pick"). Heute habe es beides zum ersten Mal ausprobiert und dabei circa eine Stunde vor dem Spiegel verbracht. Ich denke, dass ich dabei ziemlich erfolgreich war: ich kann mit meinen Fingern und er Zahnseide die Zwischenräume bis zum vierten und fünften Zahn gut reinigen (obere und untere Zähne). Zwischen dem fünften und sechsten Zahn wird es etwas schwierig: unten, weil mir die Finger nass werden und dann die Zahnseide aus den Fingern rutscht; und oben ist es schwierig, weil die Zähne so weit hinten sind. Mit dem floss pick kann ich aber auch die Lücke 5/6 und die Lücke 6/7 prima reinigen. Nummer sieben ist ja jeweils mein letzter Zahn, weil die Weißheitszähne alle weg sind.

Zwischen manchen Zähnen habe ich auch ein paar Speisereste gefunden, so dass ich mein kleines Erfolgerlebnis beim Flossen hatte. Ha, ha! Mal schauen, wie schnell ich es beim nächsten Mal schaffe. Erstmal muss ich mir neue floss sticks kaufen, weil die sind nur zu einmal-Benutzung. Die Zahnseide hingegen sollte 'ne Weile reichen.

Mal schauen, wie lange ich das Flossing durchhalte. Leider ist ja der Erfolg des ganzen schwer messbar. Aber wir tun ja alle unser bestes, nicht war?