PHRF Racing Part 3: The Race Memo

Story by James E. Schrager

Weather: Sunny, hot, 85 degrees, clouds and some rain moving in
Wind: NE, 18 - 21, gusting to 24-25 apparent
Seas: 3 - 5 footers
Crew: Max, Michael, Noah, Ray, Dad
Course: Beat, 80 degree reach, 65 degree reach carrera racing photos, July 2011 002_800x640

Although two legs out of the three favored us with reaches, we have proven that if we pick the wrong sail or make any mistakes, several other well-sailed boats can easily beat us. Headsail selection posed a dilemma, with the #3 the best sail for the beat and the #2 the sail for the close reaches. We selected the old, deep draft #2, which was tricky on the beat. The test of too much sail up in our boat has everything to do with helm. If the helmsman can get the boat to go where he wants, we don’t have too much headsail up. For most of the race, we could steer. Not always, but enough.
We had another very nice start, about a boat length away from the line, with our big rival, the Fox (Evelyn 32), next to us but to leeward. More troubling, Reddy (Capri 30 ULDB), was slightly behind but started to windward, and the often very fast heavy air boat, House (Jeanneau 37) was also to windward and climbing higher. I kept our boat rather high in the early part of the leg—giving up some speed, to make sure to put the troublesome Capri 30 well behind us. It worked, and he tried to stay high but eventually fell down into our dirty air and stayed there for the whole tack. House, back there and to windward as well, was a different matter. I was concerned about him saving his time as we give him 60 seconds a mile, and it was a three-mile course.

While Fox sailed with a very sharp looking #3 blade and hung with us, albeit to leeward, House started late and to windward—often a good combination, sailed very high, and tacked much sooner for the mark than we did. But by the first mark, House was nowhere to be found. He loves heavy air, so it may have been the big waves or the fact that he sailed too high. Still, be aware that we no longer rule the waves when the wind blows hard. House is always a threat in heavy air..|

We sailed to the layline to cover our big competition, Fox, and he had no choice but to eat our dirty air all the way to the mark. By covering him, even though we were ahead, we extended our lead—and this was with our #2 versus his #3, not the best match-up for us when beating in a stiff breeze.
We rounded the first mark clear ahead, where we always need to be, as the fastest-rated boat in our section, and set out on a close beam reach for the next mark. Ray drove and we pulled away slowly from everyone. Fox paid the price on this leg with her #3 but we did not horizon job them, just steadily pulled away. Ray hit more than eight knots on this leg with lots of sail up, but he had helm in a few gusts. Driving the boat required his full attention. The next leg was again a reach, but much closer, and the wind was piping up. We had a few wild moments with helm issues, but sailed fast all the way home.

One of the new tricks we used on this race was to move the lead for the #2 aft as the wind piped up. This is an important way to change gears. We have always known the “power position” for each sail, 11 holes from the rear of the track for the #2, but that’s only the starting point. In heavy air, we can de-power the genoa by pulling the car back, tightening the foot, and letting the sail twist off at the top.

We depower the main by pulling on the permanent backstay on our fractional rig and letting the leech twist off in the same manner. All the books mention this and it was effective today beating with a big sail. Jim Considine, of UK Sails Chicago, mentioned this tip to me earlier in the day. Depower the big sail for the beat leg and then use all that power for the reaching legs, a good lesson for us.

Ray said it all at the dinner table at Panera: “Is there anything we would have done differently if we could do it all over again?” Everyone agreed, not much. Solid start, good sail selection, thoughtful sail trim, good mark roundings, good sail handling. If we keep doing this, we’ll be in good shape for the series.

Find the full four-part series here.