Friday, 20 July 2018

Laser: crispy new sail

I had been saving up my pennies for a new sail for the Laser. Losing my Garmin watch did make me pause to consider diverting the savings towards a replacement for that, but in the end it felt too much like rewarding myself for being stupid enough to lose the watch in the first place, so at the minute I'm timing my starts using a batted old Optimum Time racing watch that I superglued back together, and filling in Calstar's log from her instruments, rather than the convenience of having the numbers on my wrist.

With all my other competing commitments, I only race the Laser locally at Frampton at the moment, and the club rules allow the use of replica sails for club racing. You can get replica sails for about a third of the price of an official class association sail, so not being sure of how much of a difference a new sail was really going to make, I took that option and bought a replica Mk2 Standard Mainsail from Rooster. My thinking was that if the difference was marginal, I wouldn't begrudge the money as much, whereas if the improvement was significant, I could then splash out on an official, approved sail later; that is, if I ever do start travelling with the boat to the various class Opens and the like, which remains a possibility for next year.

The difference made by the new sail was huge and immediate. With the blocked high pressure that's given us such a glorious summer over the last couple of months, conditions have been almost uniformly light to drifting, so aside from hiking through a few gusts, and an unexpectedly more lively Wednesday evening last week (no gloves, rope burn from the sheets), I've not had the chance to try the sail out in a proper blow.

But in light airs  the new sail has made the little boat nigh uncatchable. Aside from, that is, when her helm screws everything up with his poor decision making or lack of any tactical awareness. Which still happens often enough.

There is still plenty of weed blighting the water at Frampton, and I suspect it's put a number of racers off over the summer, which is unfortunate. However, it seems to be fading back a little now, and there are definite open patches and channels through the worst of it, once you get used to knowing where to find them. At the most optimistic, you could just argue it's added another tactical dimension to the racing.

Aside from not sailing through the worst patches, even if it means sailing further, the main trick is to keep your rudder lifted to 45 degrees so the weed slides off, and to clear the centreboard religiously at every opportunity, even if that means momentarily stalling and slipping to leeward when you're trying to beat upwind. It's quicker that dragging a jungle around with you beneath your waterline.

Not sure how the 45 degree rudder angle is going to work if we actually do get a proper blow come through however. The weed till now has, by and large, mostly been manageable because of the light conditions that have been prevailing.

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