Saturday, May 1, 2010

Tuning up

It's May, and the first Gorge Cup of the season is only three weeks away; good thing conditions have been pretty good lately, with remarkably good southerlies. And yes, that really is a 9.1 - after five seasons with a 9.9/10.8 formula quiver, I've relented and added a smaller size. After all, Nationals are in San Francisco this year, and those guys race formula well into conditions that would have us switch to slalom in the Gorge.

Early on in today's session, it was pretty marginal for the small sail, but after having it for well over a month, I was really looking for an excuse to finally try it. Turns out, besides being a real pleasure to sail, it has remarkably good low end. I had observed Bruce using his very effectively in patchy conditions before, but I had just chalked that up to his efficient sailing style. Maybe I need to reexamine my bigger-is-better credo.

And just as I was starting to feel a little chilly in my short-sleeved suit, I spotted my friend Dale McKinnon in a small runabout. Dale's a pretty inspiring local fixture, having rowed the Inside Passage at close to age 60 (see here and here for some background - she's also quite a character). Her current project, however, is to coach a guy from the Seattle area in preparation for a swim across the English Channel (he got really close on his first attempt, which was also coached by Dale) - and here he was, doing laps in Bellingham Bay (water around 48F, air a little cooler) in his speedos. I somehow felt pretty toasty after seeing that...


James Douglass said...

Cool sail. What do you reckon will be the wind speed where you switch from 9.8 to 9.1?

G-42 said...

that will probably take a bit of trial and error to really dial in. My current thinking is that the cutoff is somewhere around 20 knots as long as there are no big holes on the course, and the water is somewhat rough. If the breeze is flukey, then carrying a bigger sail will probably pay off (you gain more in the light air than you lose when powered up). Similarly, the penalty for carrying too big a sail is less severe in smooth water (such as the Event Site, compared to San Francisco Bay). In the past, though, I would have thought the small sail would only come into play in total survival conditions - and I don't think that applies anymore.

Needless to say, though, that in 20+ knots, conditions seem more suited to racing slalom than formula ;)