Eight hardy sailors ventured out Sunday, 30 October 2011 for a good hard day of frostbiting. A gusty, phasing Northerly swept the fleet to the racecourse and allowed 5 races to be sailed in velocities ranging from 10-25 knots.
Because the wind was phasing, I found it very important to get onto the lifted tack as soon as possible, to stay in synch with the shifts. The phases usually didn't last an entire leg, so banging a corner definitely didn't work. At the beginning of the day the breeze was forecasted to go a bit right, and I had success working that side of the fleet. In addition, the tide was still rising early in the day, so being right meant one got a little bit of current help on starboard toward the top of the beat (the weather mark was set near the channel).
We did a number of Harry Andersons, and in the beginning the first reaches were very broad. This, and the puffy conditions, made it very challenging to keep speed up the whole leg. The second reaches were full on blasts--I found having the right amount of vang (tighter than one might think) was very helpful, and when the breeze was full on I tightened the downhaul a bit to keep the draft forward.
The sea state were very choppy/lumpy upwind. For the really big swells I scooted back to the center of my hiking strap, hiked, sheeted out and sailed fast. For lesser sets of bumps, I found keeping my feet forward but hiking diagonally back was enough to keep the bow up, and in the flatter sections made sure to scoot forward to the usual place.
With the breeze so up and down, it was important to keep changing gears, easing vang and even downhaul to stay powered up. I think a lot of us, myself included, tend to keep everything really tight in lulls, kinda dreading pulling everything back on when breeze goes back on. That may be easy, but it's not fast.
Finally, a word about clothing choice. In the locker room most guys were going with wetsuits and spray/dry tops. That day I couldn't find my fleece gear and used three rash guards under a shelled jacket. It wasn't enough, especially after capsizing, and it took EVERYTHING I had to recover from a double capsize because of a super-tight vang going upwind. My basic suggestion is to dress WARMER than you think you'll need, since it's better to be too hot than hypothermic. You can darn well bet I'll be putting on the drysuit (or at least a few layers of fleece under a spray/dry top) next time I'm looking at 20+ knots on the water!
Hope to see you all at the Frostbiting Invitational regatta this coming Saturday! Contact Joe the Fleet Captain at 203-912-6855. or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org