Wednesday, July 13, 2011

July 13 - Day 5 Racing at Europeans

Today was another long day with 3 races. We were once again the first team(s) off the ramp and out to the race course. We tuned up with the Russians in 6-8 knots and then headed down to the Race Committee. We were still really early, so we went back upwind for a bit to try and find some trends in the wind shifts (no trends, really random!) than back down. We were third start so settled down to wait our turn and watched the multiple and strange clouds move around the sky. At one point there was a solid line of black clouds down the course that were billowing more black stuff out the bottom; which was fun to watch and try and predict what it would do to the wind.

They got off the Men's Silver fleet okay, but the Gold fleet had a general recall and then a huge left shift came down and they had to re-set the line, and then another general, and then more shifting wind.... you get the idea. They ended up having to re-set the entire course and move the Race Committee so we didn't get our first race of the day started until after 1 pm. The general trend today was we didn't have great starts and the wind shifts were super random and the pressure was up and down. We struggled to put it all together. As we crossed the finish line on the second race, the Jury boat called us over and asked us where our life jackets were. We pulled them out from under the spinnaker bag and they instructed us to put them on. We did so, and then they came back and told us they were protesting us in that race for not wearing them. This was ridiculous, as the rules state you are only required to wear them when the RC is flying flag "Y" which they were not.

During the start sequence another boat failed to keep clear of us and we had to avoid them; so we hailed protest. The thing about starting is it's easier the better you are - because no one wants to start near the World Champions, so they always have lots of room. Or the really good teams look for weaker teams (us) to start beside. Not that I'm complaining, but at this particular instant we were just fed up with working really hard on our starts and constantly getting messed up by other boats not respecting the rules; and perhaps a tad grumpy about being yelled at by the Jury.  Our start ended up being okay, but not great. Again we struggled to figure out the shifty/puffy conditions and were a tad distracted by all the protesting. So all in all not a great day, although we didn't make any huge mistakes and had some solid mark roundings and reach legs.

Once off the water we filed our protest and prepared to sit around and wait for the hearings. Both protests ended up going really well. We won the protest about the start incident and we had the other protest dismissed due to ambiguity in the wording of the sailing instructions. Now to re-focus on tomorrow. Since we had three races today we have only one race scheduled for tomorrow. The forecast is for very light conditions so hopefully we don't wait around too long and we get in a solid race!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

July 12 - Day 4 of Racing at Europeans

Well we've had some interesting weather conditions over the past two days. Yesterday the forecast was for the wind to die in the early afternoon and it did. We had one race in med-light conditions. We were doing okay until the last two legs when a combination of small errors and the fact that our centreboard bolt was leaking and we were basically sinking pushed us to the back of the fleet. We then drifted around in almost no wind and watch the agonizingly slow progression of the men's fleet finishing their race. The Race Committee then postponed us on shore so we headed in. The wind came back up a little bit later in the afternoon so the Race Committee abandoned our races and sent the men back out so they could finish their qualifying series.

This morning we woke up at 3 am to a thunderstorm with lightning and pouring rain. It continued to rain until about 8 am and then was off and on. The storm was in the weather forecast, but wasn't supposed to come through until 2 pm; so it shifted the whole forecast ahead. We got down to the boatpark and it was grey and cloudy and rainy and there was no wind. The forecast was to clear and for the wind to build from the South. They postponed us on shore at 10.30 (right after we got changed!) but only for about 45 minutes. We went out and tuned up and the breeze was already picking up. We had three races in some mixed conditions. With the wind from a little more to the south, our race course was forced to be smaller due to the islands in the way. As a result the race committee chose to have us race the Outer 3 course - three windward/leeward legs instead of the standard two. The wind was up and down in pressure and the waves were quite choppy, which made it challenging to keep the boat at full speed all the time.

We were fast whenever the pressure was up but then struggled with our speed when the wind eased off. The wind was filling from the left but then small black clouds would drift overhead and bring in a right shift. As the day progressed the wind shifted more and more left, skewing our race course so now the island was pretty much in our course. Also because the course was so short, the Race Committee barely had time to reset the marks before the leaders were onto the next leg of the course. At one point in the third race there was some confusion as one of our leeward gate marks was actually still in a motor boat.

The first race we had several general recalls and then we nailed the start, it was awesome. The second race we were holding our spot and then at 15 seconds a wave hit the bow and we were stopped dead, so as a result we were late off the starting line. The third race our start would have been perfect except our Russian training partners stuck their bow in below us at about 30 seconds to go! Overall the starts were much better today which was great. Our racing was also better, we had some really good mark roundings (also a few really bad ones) and made good decisions. We consistently finished ahead of 4 or 5 boats.

Now it is sunny again and the forecast for tomorrow is for sun and 12-15 knots. We will probably have 3 races again tomorrow.

In other exciting news, we were awarded one of the 470 class association solidarity grants which pays our registration for this event (400 Euro). Thanks so much to the 470 Class for their support!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Day 2 of Racing at Europeans

Jen here,

A great day for us here in Helsinki!  We had two races in really nice conditions, about 12-15 knots from the west.  Today was definitely a new day from yesterday, and our focus was very much on achieving a good clean start, holding our lane after the start, and then keeping things simple ie. tack on the shifts, go to the favoured side of the course, keep our manoeuvres clean.  I'm happy to report that for the most part, we did just that.  Our starts in both races were clean and we enjoyed clear air off the line.  Unfortunately in the first race we thought we'd caught a shift and so started at the starboard end of the start line...but the breeze shifted back and we were on the wrong side!  However, we ground back five boats throughout the first race and then found that we'd gained five more positions due to boats that had been disqualified on the black flag at the start.
Second race we started at the favoured end of the line with full speed and clear air.  We managed to squeeze out four boats in the first minute of the race and continued to focus on clean and accurate sailing.  This simple plan seems to have worked out for us, because when we finished the race I looked back to see how many boats we were ahead of...and for the first time there were too many spinnakers to count!  I think the best part of today's racing was the feeling that we're actually starting to implement some of the things that we've accomplished in training. Here's hoping that we can do the same tomorrow.  The forecast for tomorrow is light again...only four or five knots, so it will be another test of focus for sure.

But now it's time for bed!


Saturday, July 9, 2011

July 9 - Day 1 of Racing at Europeans

It was a very long start to the regatta today! Our start time was originally scheduled for 10.55 am. So if you work backwards and want to be on the race course an hour early, and it takes half an hour to get there, and you need an hour on shore before launching and it takes half an hour to get to the harbour.... you end up getting up at 6.30 am. Then you arrive at the harbour and it turns out they changed the start time to 11.55 but didn't put it on the website. Then there is no wind so you sit on shore postponed until the wind fills in at 3.30 pm and go racing for 4 hours (because the sun never goes down this far north) and don't get home until 10 pm. Needless to say we are a bit tired this evening!

The racing did not go great for us. The conditions were light with choppy waves and big oscillations in the breeze. The first race we had an okay start right at the Committee Boat and tacked out and headed right. Unfortunately the wind decided to slowly shift 40 degrees left, so there wasn't much we could do about that. The second upwind we went the correct way but over-stood the layline. The second race we thought we made good decisions but then we were enlightened by our coach! I guess this is why we pay him the big bucks. We started at the pin and headed left. We thought our start was decent and that left was the way to go. It did come back right at the top but we managed not to over-stand the layline this time. Both downwinds our angle seemed really good and we thought we should pass boats but we had forgotten about the current farther out on the left that was helping out those boats.

So we learned lots of things about our race course today that we can take into our racing tomorrow. We were originally scheduled to race on a course about 2 miles farther away but they changed the course area on Thursday, so we hadn't had a chance to train on the new course before the event. While the new course area is closer, it is also full of un-marked rocks! Never mind just avoiding them, it is rather annoying to have a small island come between you and your ideal tactical race when you have to go around it.

Anyways, it is early days yet in this event as we have 13 races scheduled! 2 more races tomorrow starting at 11.55 am if there is wind!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Day 7- Helsinki

Jen here,
Well the boat is all snugged down and ready for racing which begins the day after tomorrow.  Quatich (our boat) has been checked over, polished, bolts tightened, and decalled up with sponsor stickers for the event.
We had our last day of training today with just Bunny, as our Russian training partners prefer to take their lay day on the penultimate training day before the event.  We worked on starts, tuning, and some boat handling in light breeze and you know, for a short 1 1/2 hour session in light air, it was fantastic and very productive.  We managed to work through a couple of little tricky bits which were hanging up larger manoeuvres, and it felt really good to sort those items out.
It's been hot again in Helsinki (remember my first post? Haha! I told you it would be hot didn't I!) and as we waited for wind I was sort of overcome with irony.  Of all our training and events so far this season, Finland has been the warmest and it's the furthest north!  In England I usually wore two sweaters and a jacket. In Holland I think there was one "shorts worthy" day but the duration of the event was definitely what I would call tepid.  Now that we're in the land of the midnight sun, it's sunscreen, water by the litre, and the lightest wetsuit you can find.  So funny now that I think of it.
Big news on the 470 course...the race committee has moved our course to the same spot that the Laser Radials are using this week.  That means it's only about 2 miles to the course rather than 4.  It's going to be nice being that much closer, although really it's still a 30 minute tow out to the course and an upwind sail back for 2 miles.  The one downside is that we hear rumours of reefs in the middle of the course.  Apparently some of the Radials this week were planning their strategy around which bits of rock they'd sail around.  Well, here's hoping it all goes well!


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

July 6 - Training and Measurement

We have been continuing to train here in Helsinki. Yesterday we sailed in really light wind and did some tuning and some small races. Today we had a longer session in more light wind. It has been cloudy for the past few days with gradient breeze, and the same was forecast for today but then we woke up to sun which pretty much killed the gradient. We had a really good session working on starts and racing. You know the session was productive when you find yourself mildly frustrated the entire time! Our starts improved greatly over the course of the day and we had good communication in the boat but we still need to work on it a lot. We tend to either get the timing right and accelerate poorly or mess up the timing but have a good acceleration. Obviously the ideal situation would be to arrive at the starting line at full speed at go! We did some small races again with several other boats and this was good until the end when we were sinking! We had loosened the centerboard bolt a bit because the centerboard was a bit stiff but we loosened it too much and the gap slowly let water into the boat. It was less of an issue earlier in the day as we could go fast enough to drain the boat but once the wind died down again we started filling up.

Once back on land we prepared the boat for measurement, always an enjoyable experience! Measurement is when they inspect the boat and equipment to ensure it meets the class rules. We had to do full measurement again, and our centerboard and spinnaker pole did not pass, even though they measured in fine last season. So we had to add 1 mm to the centerboard and take 1 mm off the spinnaker pole. Once this was done we got the sticker of approval.

It was a long day in the sun but a good one. We train again tomorrow and then take Friday off before racing starts on Saturday.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Day 2 of Training in Helsinki

Jen here,

Okay, remember when I said that we were supposed to have "light winds, warm conditions, and gee, I hope that we can get Erin on the wire!"  Well, I the wind gods were paying attention because yesterday had a 12-14 knots...and rain!  We sailed out to our race course, which is roughly four miles offshore, and once we got there, it occurred to me that I had no real concept of where our harbour was...particularly after we got a wind shift!  Fortunately, we had compass bearings and so had nothing to worry about.  The waves were beautiful out on the course, bigger and steeper than the ones that we had even in Weymouth last month, and it was great to work on surfing them downwind.
We worked for about three hours with our Russian training partners, Natasha and Diana, as well as our good Polish friends, Agnieszka and Yola. We warmed back into things with lots of upwind tuning and working on sailing the boat accurately for the choppy conditions in the harbour and then the rollers out at the course.
On the way in we worked on reaches, and things got a bit hairy.  Although is wasn't too windy, we were struggling with shifts in the breeze as we reached behind an island. Unfortunately we capsized and Erin got a pretty big scrape on her neck.  She landed on the boat and hit her neck on something, we think the shroud.  It was a disappointing way to end the day, and she came home and iced it for the evening.  I'm sure that  things will end on a more positive note today as there were definitely moments of shaking off the rest from two weeks away during yesterday's sail.  Looking forward to getting back out into the waves though!


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Arrived in Helsinki

Jen here,

After a few weeks of rest and recovery in Canada, we're back on the road. This time: Helsinki!  This is the ISAF Open Europeans, meaning that all Olympic classes are holding their European Championships at once.  The match racing has just wrapped up, and Lasers and Radials began racing today.  Yours truly will trained here for five days and then begin racing on July 9th.
So far Finland is very beautiful, and reminds me of a mix between Vancouver Island and the Northwest Territories.  It's got the islands and the rugged coastal feel of the west coast, but that northern energy that comes from being above the 60th parallel.  Trees are a bit smaller, days are...well...they don't end really at this time of year...the sun sort of just rotates around the edge of the horizon all day and all night.  But there is a distinct feeling of wanting to take it all in and soak in as much summer as possible before winter comes knocking on the door.  Bet you didn't know that I actually lived in Yellowknife as a kid?  This is perhaps why I feel an instant bond with Finland, it makes me feel like I'm back home up north for a bit.

Today we set up the boat and went for a short sail.  We had intended to go for longer, but the wind died off completely and there were some ominous looking thunder heads on shore.  Helsinki is in the midst of a heat wave at the moment, and daytime (okay who am I kidding, it's always daytime!) temperatures are frequently above 30 degrees.  This translates into little wind for us, and the forecast for the week appears to be light light light.  Do any of you remember our posts from last year in Holland though?  Good old Den Hague was extremely light for the weeks leading up to the World Championships and then blew the dog off the chain throughout the regatta.  You never know I guess, so we'll train to be ready for anything. To be honest, after five weeks of 18-25 knots in Holland and England this spring, I'm craving some more of that beautiful breeze, so my fingers are crossed that we'll be able to stretch out on the wire, hike hard, and "make the boat go fast" as coach Bunny would say.

Take care!