Friday was an amazing wind and wave day... I had a blast! With an average of 16-18mph winds and gusts to 25, it was traveler-to-the-side blasts and mostly mono-rig fun. With wind from the NW, launching the H18 from Brown's Ravine meant the waves had the whole width of the lake to build, so we were four-foot slammin'! I've not seen timing more important in whether a tack succeeds or fails -- I got slapped/stopped a few times when I didn't time my carve.
My normal and alternate crews got stuck at work, so I recruited a fella who had trailered his Laser to the water but forgot a key piece of equipment. I'm glad I did, the wind was awesome, but the waves were probably such that I should have stayed ashore instead of single-handing. Honestly, once I got away from shore, the wind *was* too much until I poured on the downhaul and outhaul, and could harness forward movement, instead of just dumping wind with the sheet.
My crew wasn't really familiar with Hobies -- he committed only to providing ballast, and following specific directions. I was out on the wings except for when I was crossing to tack. More experienced crew would probably have allowed better control and a more balanced set of sails, but Richard was game, and had a blast!
I managed to surf a couple of waves while angling back in on a downwind reach, but stopped messing with it after I plowed into a wave. It felt like I'd hit a wall, and I wasn't entirely certain the bows wouldn't just stay dug in while the sail kept driving... gotta love the volume up front in an H18, we would have been swimming for sure on an H16!
Folsom Lake doesn't get a lot of wind often, but it sure is fun when it does!
So... any pointers on steering across the face of steep waves with tight, regular, spacing?
Some of the wave drops on Friday were pretty incredible… mainsail-full-of-wind holding us on steady lean, with the boat racing forward on a beam reach. The waves were rolling mostly parallel with the direction of travel and amas, that left the windward hull W-A-Y outta the water as the waves rolled under, even with modest lean. The leeward hull and dagger would keep us in line and the sail would keep us driving, but when the windward hull hit the next rolling wave, the explosion of water and resulting deceleration was pretty wild.
On bigger waves like this, I started steering up to better straddle the landings, which was less violent. Heading up was certainly smoother, but didn't feel as fast (might have been overall, though, compared to the acceleration/deceleration alternation).
I'm recreationally sailing to have fun, not to make a mark or lay any certain course, other than to get back to the trailer at the end of the day, so I generally steer to create/maintain boatspeed with small adjustments to avoid stalling the foils. How does that change in bigger waves?
Randii (needs to pull out Berman for a re-read)
I used to sail Folsom Lake when I was out in the Sacramento area. Water levels vary a lot and there are a lot of different areas to sail. Browns Ravine is probably pretty full right now, and can be tricky to exit. I suspect water temperatures are a bit chilly still. With the NACRA I can pretty much bury the downwind hull and blast the front crossbar through the water in those waves and it will keep going. Folsom tends to setup with a wave interval that doesn't let an 18-foot boat crest a wave and drop in the trough, so it's all speed management based on what you feel. Definitely on a 3/4 and full reach there is a risk of being pitchpoled with any boat that has a flat top on the hull or not enough flotation.
NACRA 5.7 (1984 Sail 181)
We've been blessed with two very wet years... we're only a few feet down from full pool right now. Brown's Ravine is indeed quite full, and the Hobie Cove parking lot is completely underwater (I still launch from the shore). We have been getting even more rain in the hills, so the water is up even further than a few weeks ago! CDEC says 97%! We're currently about 2.5' short of the 466' full pool elevation, and we're on pace to beat the 2017 record (~464.12' on 7/6/17)... ACE is working on a 3.5' water level increase in the next few years, so we may find some new records soon. :)
The surface water is surprisingly warm, but there's a perceptible thermocline if you dive in middle-of-the-lake.
The problem I was having was less with the lee hull and more with the windward one... I'd plow that into the next wavefront and it was like hitting a (wet) wall. More practice is required, or better judgement to avoid that angle of attack. :p
It was an incredibly fun ride. I've read the description "fresh to frightening" and now have conditions to match (for me, at least). These were probably training-wheels conditions for AC folks, but my yardstick has different calibration.