Writers wanted

14 03 2011

Hi guys,

So, I’m on the look out for new writers for the blog. Currently we average over 10k visits per month without even trying, so it’s about time that I put some more effort into it.

If you’d like to write articles for V49R, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you. Anything from kit reviews, racing reports, news updates from your sailing team, tips and advice, or anything else relevant to a sailing audience will be welcome.

Thanks,

Ryan

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10 tips for helping your helm: 29er and 49er

18 10 2010

Sailing 49ers and 29ers at the best of times isn’t easy. Once it becomes more of a second nature after a few years in the boat, it becomes difficult to remeber the struggle we all went through in the first few months of starting out. As a crew, I’ve often taken it for granted where my role starts and finishes and where the helm takes over. It can be easy to get set in your ways and always focus on improving the big things (boat speed, tactics, etc) and ignore a lot of little things that can make every one’s life easier. Therefore, I thought I’d start a series of posts that look at ways of making your partner’s life easier (and therfore the boat faster). Today, I’ll look at it from the crew point of view.

What is it that crews can do to make their helm’s job that little bit easier?

Pre-start

1: Food: Eating properly is essential between races to keep the team focussed and alert. However, helming a 49er in big breezes whilst trying to peel a banana, open a drink or unwrap a powerbar can be tough. Therefore, do your mate a favour and unwrap it for him. Sometimes a few little things can make all the difference.

2: Timing: Simple really. Even if the helm does his own time keeping, having a watch counting down will enable you to call out the time to the start when your driver gets into a flap.

3: Balance: When trhowing the boat around on the start line, it can be surprisingly easy as a crew to just let the helm get on with it and to keep your head down. However, this is rarely helpful. Keep your head up, call out boats moving into your blind spot (depending on how your helm stands this can vary. For us, it’s on the stern leeward quarter as justin faces forward) and help to keep the boat flat. For example, when we throw it into reverse (backing the main and stuffing the bow into the breeze) the boat will always heel heavily to windward. sure, the helm would normally have to keep this flat, but it makes so much sense for the crew to throw their weight around to flatten it off.

4: Standing up: I see far too many crews sitting down and taking it easy pre start whilst the helm fights to keep the boat flat. Whilst you need to get your weight as far forward as possible when you’re parked, you should never stay static when you are manouvering. Therefore, always stay on your feet, ready to react when the boat needs to be flatter. However, be sure to get back to your crouching by the mast position when you park up again.

During the race:

5: Communication: Be sure to give as much feedback as the helm needs. It’s easy to go quiet and to lose focus on those long upwind legs in light winds, but this is never going to be fast. Whilst your helm is driving the boat and focussing on the telltales, be sure to keep your head up to spot the breeze and to track the rest of the fleet.

6: Safety gybes: In the breeze, gybing a 49er or 29er is tough for the helm so be sure to make it easy for them. Always try to be obvious with your movements, don’t rush and try not to change your routine. You need to keep as many things the same as possible, as suddenly changing the speed you cross the boat or your routine is a total nightmare for the helm who is already trying to work out how he’s going to keep his hair dry. When it’s really windy, the number one reason for capsizing is from the power coming on too quickly after the boom comes across. If the spinnaker blows forward of the luff you know you have issues, so a safety gybe (pinning the old spinnaker sheet in until the boom has crossed) is a great way to give your helm some time to find his feet on the new side and to prevent the power from piling on too early.

7: High hoists: When it’s breezy, try to help the helm out by keeping one foot on the wing (especially if he;s only a little lad). Doing this helps to keep the boat flat and allows him to maintain enough control to steer around the waves

8: Being a spare pair of hands: I know it sounds simple, but you see a lot of helms struggling to untangle ropes, hook on, uncleat the jib if it’s locked in, or do anything else that’s tricky with one hand. Always keep an eye on him, as his number one role is steering in a straight line so fiddling with ropes in counter-intuative. If he looks like he has an issue, help him out.

9: Bear aways: During a windy bear away the helm has a lot on. Therefore, you need to make his life as easy as possible. By taking the mainsheet, you effectively have the hardest job during the turn; to manage the power to stop the bow driving in. When it’s properly sketchy, you’ll end up easing armfuls of mainsheet to completet the turn. However, far too many crews then just ditch the fully eased main onto their helm and run in to sort the kite out. This is a huge error, as your mate is now standing all by himself (billy no mates) trying to sort his life out. With only one hand (which is very often holding onto the handle), how is he supposed to pull 2 meters of mainsheet into the boat? To make his life easier, be sure to drag the mainshett back in again by about an armful before handing it across. It really does make a world of difference.

And the final tip –

10: Don’t be a jerk: Yes, crews get victimised all the time.  Yes, I’ve been shouted at for helms dropping their tillers, hitting marks or forgetting their starting watches (never by JV by the way..). Yet, the final and almost most important tip is to not be “that guy”. Everyone has sailed with “that guy”, the one who always points the finger, decides who was at fault or just generally takes it far too serious. Being a crew, I think it’s essential to never try to get back at the helm for a mistake.  Helms are under a hell of a lot of pressure, and ultimately will take the blame for a bad series, so they are naturally defensive.  If something goes wrong, always be the guy who puts forward positive ideas for gaining those places back, don’t get stressed when thigns go wrong, always look forward to the next opportunity rather than back at missed ones.  On the water is not the place to argue out your differences, so be positive and talked about it later.  this is one of the biggest improvements any crew can make to their game.

And finally:

On a side note, I once had a helm shouting at me up the beat for “being too helpful”. As the Guns ‘n Roses song goes, “some men, you just can’t reach…”





Pictures from RS800 open at Datchet

13 04 2010

[tweetmeme source= “RyanV49er” only_single=false]
So it wasn’t the windiest event in the world, but it was the shiftiest. Anyway, here are a few pictures from the recent RS800 open meeting at Datchet:

Thanks to Barry Peters for taking the shots. More can be found here.





Sometimes, it’s just better to swear

12 04 2010

[tweetmeme source= “RyanV49er” only_single=false]
Just prior to the second race of the RS800 Datchet open meeting, we were sitting above the line waiting for the RS200s to finally get their act together.  Essentially, they were busy trying to work out how to start a race with at least a few boats behind the line at the gun, and furiously debating which 40 boats should have the privilege of starting with a minute still on the clock.  With us sitting around slowly getting sunburn, they finally decided how to do it (“if we are ALL over, then the race officer will just give up and let us carry on”) and managed to cross the startline cleanly (to a given factor of “clean”) to get on with their race.

It was during their start sequence that I heard what was possibly the worst worded comment from one of the 200 sailors. After a particularly bad trigger followed by the entire fleet rolling over the top of them, a 200 helm loudly proclaimed to his crew, in an accent that would get him into Eton:

“That was NOT conducive to our success!”

Sometimes, no matter how posh you are, no matter how much hell your wife/crew is going to give you, no matter how religious or “well brought up” you are, it really can be better to just swear. This IS sailing after all..

Anyway, I’ll leave you with this thought. When the clock gets down to one minute, you still need to be behind the line, no matter how innocent you look.

Anyone who points out that we were OCS on Saturday can just shut up…





Photos from the Nationals

20 10 2009

I’m STILL to finish the report for the 2009 nationals, but I thought I’d upload a few photos taken by Fotoboat.com

These were taken on the 1st day, in relatively flat water and around 20 knots of breeze.  On the Sunday the camera boats didn’t go out, so we have little record of the huge conditions that the fleet enjoyed.  Anyway, thanks to Fotoboat for the great coverage of the event. If you haven’t checked them out yet, jump over and see if they have a photo of you.

Top mark, 1st lap 1st race. We rolled the guys in front of us here during the hoist:

RS800 Nationals @ Tenby SC Aug 09 visser 49er racing

Getting ready to gybe after the first mark rounding. Backs need to be straighter really, but we were looking for depth so we weren’t pushing it too hard:

RS800 Nationals @ Tenby SC Aug 09 visser 49er racing

Bottom mark, ready to drop.

RS800 Nationals @ Tenby SC Aug 09 Visser 49er racing





Making it tough for yourself: In search of height

19 10 2009

During a training session this weekend at Oxford (in preparation for next week’s inlands), we decided to use the flat water to work on our upwind height.  Whilst sailing in chop forces you to keep your bow down to some extent, flat waters are a great opportunity to test your boat’s boundaries, to see how high you can push it and to then put these tests into practice.

In the 49er we quickly learnt that the crew tends to move the mainsheet more than is needed, and the helm tends to steer to the jib telltails. So, when the gust comes in, the mainsheet is eased and the boat stays on the same heading. What we tried to do was to go half and half, by ditching 6 inches of mainsheet and pushing the stick a little bit to head her up.  This is a great way to sail, but it takes practice to get right (and also a really good rig set up..).

At Oxford sailing club, we decided to see how far we could push it. It was pretty gusty, and breezy enough to twin wire, so we started out aiming to ditch just 6 inches of sheet, and then moved onto just 4 inches, and then 2, constantly trying to find our limits.  It’s easy to say this before you hit the water, but in reality you always end up going back to your old methods without realising. Sometimes, making things extra difficult is a good way to learn more about your boat, so we decided to make this more difficult for ourselves by firstly marking the mainsheet (with tape) to the limit that Justin could ease the sheet, and then by giving him the very end of a shortened mainsheet (with a knot in) that would fully prevent him easing more than the allocated 6 inches. Sailing upwind in breezy conditions, Justin was holding the very end of the mainsheet tail, and was completely unable to let the sheet out more than a little bit, so was forced to keep us upright using steerage alone.

The effects were pretty interesting. Sure, everything was a bit more unstable when we hit variations in the wind, but once it stabilised we found we were sailing a good few degree higher through the gusts and using the tiller a lot more to alter our power.  We had to be quicker to bend our knees when the breeze dropped (due to our high angle, the boat was far more “on edge” so the slightest header would drop all power) but overall the exercise showed us how high we can push the boat before losing power and sailability.

Winter is definitely a time for testing new techniques, so why not get out there and try something a bit different?  Rake the rig right back, try a different gybing technique, get the crew to helm for a bit (a great way to learn more about each other’s roles), train with the rudder halfway up (teaches you to roll the boat more through tacks..), and just generally mix it up.





RS800 Nationals 2009 Day 1

16 09 2009

Tenby, South West Wales was the venue for the 2009 RS800 Nationals. With 4 days set aside for the competition, we hit the water on Saturday expecting a fairly long event and therefore aimed for consistency over the first day. An offshore, 18 knot breeze gave us a high paced blast out to the start line before we settled into our pre-start routine.

With clouds skidding across the sky, we sailed the beat twice to log some high and low numbers, before relaxing below the committee boat to watch the other sailors, trying to pick the guys who were looking fast and the guys who weren’t. Having decided on the boats we wanted to avoid on the line, we waited for the 5 minute gun before checking transits. With 3 minutes to go, we went for a final short beat to check numbers again, before dropping back to our midline starting position to line up. This is the same routine we always use, and we find that keeping it metronomic allows us to clear our heads pre-start and forget about any outside pressure.

We lined up for the first race mid-line, looking for a safe and consistent start. On 9 seconds, we sheeted in, hit the wire and got the bow down to roll the boat below and to punch ahead of the midline sag. With choppy waves rolling in, we shifted our weight back before working to take some height to allow us to attack the boat sitting to windward. 30 seconds later, we’ve squeezed up under their bow and have begun to lee bow them. Great, things are looking good. We sail the rest of the beat working the middle of the track, but lose out to the boats who started further right as they hook into more of a right shift. Rounding 6th, we pop the kite and roll the boat in 5th thanks to a quicker hoist. Twin wiring, we start working low in front of the boats trailing us, reach the gybe point and step across the boat to power on down to the leeward gate on port. Under pressure, we drop a little late around the left hand gate and have a bit of a poor rounding, forcing us to away from the right hand side back into the middle.

After clearing our lane, we go for a tack back, but pick the wrong patch of water and nail it into a wave. The wave knocks the tiller out of Justin’s hand, spinning us around and capsizing us through the tack. Damn. Anyway, we get the boat up and set off to catch some places up. With another good run we pull up to 16th by the finish.

Waiting in the line up for the second race, we noted the gusts rolling down over the course, and the large patches of light wind between them. This was going to be a race to keep your head out of the boat. Again, we decided that the quality of the fleet would make starting at the boat end a bit risky, so we lined up just under the main pack hoping to use or boat speed to get a good lane. This time we push the line a bit harder, and have to sheet in at around 4 seconds, but still manage to hold our lane and, after 30 seconds, start to impact on the boat below us. Similar to the first race, the waves are big aspects in upwind boats speed, and a number of times we pull ahead from reacting quickly to the steepest waves. With a clear lane, we tack onto port and start to attack the right hand side of the fleet. Crossing a few boats, we tack back on the right hand side of the course in a small header. A few boats have done well from starting from the boat end and heading out right. We end up rounding 8th, again roll the 7th boat as we hoist, and finish the run in 7th. With a nice final beat, we pull up a couple of places but lose out down the run to Spod and Filmour as they gybe early, hook into better pressure before beating us to the line.

So, after day 1 we finish in 8th position. Aside from the capsize we would have had a relatively good day, but we still have the feeling that we should have done a lot better..