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Reporting: St Francis Spring Dinghy a Weta angle

Added by miranda934 on Mar 20, 2013 - 01:31 AM

The weather pattern in SF switched from winter (cold/no wind) to spring (cold/wind) just in time for the Spring Dinghy at the St Francis YC last weekend. There were 9 Wetas racing, tucked in between Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge, doing windward leewards with a starboard roundings and offsets to help cope with the tide. With a strong ebb on both days, it was classic SF racing!  Just to weather of Alcatraz, there is some ebb tide relief behind the island and this is generally where we started our races.  Just after the start we’d barrel off on starboard tack to the stronger ebb.  Once you hit the tide line it was like sailing into a river where the short, sharp chop would build.  Once in the strong ebb, we’d do our best to maximize boat speed and let the ebb pull us to weather.  Downwind we’d look for a path with less ebb (not likely) and then surf our Wetas downwind in the strongest breeze we could find. That was the plan anyway!

The racing was full of position changes with strong presence from Bob Shirley (Ventura, CA) Gordon Lyon (SF), Jim Saarman (SF), Paul Marston (Ventura CA), Mark Simmel (SF), Jonathan Weston (SF).  Over the course of the weekend every Weta sailor made gains by sailing fast, choosing different sides of the race course, or just sailing smarter than others.  It was competitive racing all along. Top finishers for the race were; Jonathan Weston (1st), David Berntsen (me – 2nd), Bob Shirley (3rd). This is Jonathan Westons second year sailing Wetas,  he has a successful racing history with Laser’s and after a short retirement is making a sailing comeback on the Weta.   Bob Shirley is a very strong sailor and all around waterman, a lifelong surfer in So Cal, he knows how to make a boat move through the waves.  Dave Berntsen (me) we’ll I’m happy to be out sailing with a great group of guys. 

The first race I had a lacklustre start and managed to chase Bob and Jonathan around the race course first lap.  At the first leeward mark rounding there were Gordon, Mark, Jim, Paul and I rounding together.  I got around first in this pack (still behind Bob and Jonathan) and had my focus on catching up when my freaking kite started to unfurl because of a bad furl.  All I could do was bear away, deploy the kite and then furl again before going to weather.  I tried this and – failed.  Had to bear away again before it furled correctly and I was able to start racing again, but lost my position from 3rd to 7th.  After the race I determined that my kite halyard was too loose, which made furling problematic.  I tugged on the halyard and furling worked for the rest of the regatta.  

I had an interesting weather rounding with Bob Shirley in the second race.  It was pretty windy and rough waves.  I was barrelling to the mark on port tack and Bob tacked to starboard layline ahead of me but came out of the tack a bit slow and was over standing the mark.  I followed with a quick tack to starboard and powered up quickly to catch him at the mark.  Bob was directly in front of me by less than a boat length and I directly behind.  We both bore away together and my boat was just a few feet behind his hull and we were both bearing away and powered up.  I’m sure my prod was overlapping his leeward tramp and I was just hoping that he did not slow down or else I would have run him over.  I’m surprised we never made contact, or I would have been screwed (penalty)!  We both unfurled and then separated.  My new Ronstan continuous furler gave me the edge in the deploy and I pulled ahead. Super fun.

There’s no slacking off to keep up with the faster Weta sailors.  In order to do well in the regatta I needed to make no mistakes on Sunday and/or Jonathan had to do really badly.  Bob Shirley was only one point behind me so I needed to beat him consistently on Sunday as well.

Day two of racing was an interesting start.  The skies were clear and the bay completely glassy at 10:00 AM.  The previous day there it was breezy by 9:00 AM, so we were not sure if there was going to be any racing on Sunday.  At best all we could do is set up our rigs for light air sailing.  I walked over to Jonathans boat and noticed that he was increasing the shroud length to pull the mast forward.  My set up from Saturday was to shackle my shrouds to the ama (using shackles like the one on the jib or halyard) which raked the mast for windier conditions.  I figured, if Jonathon was going to power up his rig, I’d have to do so also.  After some adjustments at the dock my mast was vertical, with no rake.  After measuring Jonathans rig after the race, his rake was set at the same setting as mine.  Okay – a level playing field.  I set my rig tension light so there would be some head stay sag, to power up the jib for the expected light air conditions for Sunday.

So off we go to the starting line about 1 mile from the StFYC harbour.  Once we got there,  the wind started to fill in and I’m thinking, okay, I just set up my rig for light air and it’s going to blow 15-18 again!  There was no time to reset the rig rake so I hove to and crawled to the foredeck so I could get some more rig tension (which shortens the head stay and pulls the rig ever further forward), but I needed the tension to stiffen up the head stay and prep the boat for some bumpy sailing.  So for the rest of the day my challenge was to maximize boat speed and height with a rig setting that I was not used to using.  As the wind picked up I tightened up the jib and cranked on the main using just enough Cunningham to flatten the main without dumping all the leach tension in the top of the sail.  With the rig further forward, the bow definitely pressed into the water and the boat pitched forward cutting through waves.  Once I figured out the groove, I was able to get upwind pretty quick but not as fast as JW and Bob in the first and second races.

Downwind I chased Jonathon (a few times) and figured out that driving deep and keeping the boat flat and sailing/surfing the waves was not fast.  At the same time, Jonathon would be sailing higher angles, faster, longer distance, but would get downwind faster than me.  Bugger.   So I modified my downwind strategy by sailing higher, but just high enough to engage the leeward ama so that it was pressing down in the water enough to get some righting moment.  This increased flow over the daggerboard and at this point the boat would accelerate (apparent wind) increasing and everything clicked into place.  The trick was to find the line where there was flow over the blade and then surf the waves but not so long that the boat slowed down.  So downwind, sail higher and faster and engage the leeward ama and dagger board .  I was sitting aft with legs straight, feet braced in the cockpit floor (under super important hiking strap so I don’t fall off the back of the boat), butt over the rear aka tube.  With this new strategy, I could catch up to and pass Jonathon and Bob.

Last race I was fast downwind, so was Jonathan, but I was gaining on him.  On the last downwind leg, JW went on a flyer to the right into a strong ebb and waves and I figured that the ebb would be lighter on the other side of the course, so I jibed to the middle of the bay, where it was still windy.  This paid off as after we both jibed back we were one jibe from the finish and our positions were tight.  I was on starboard and JW was on port and we were going to pass very close.  I called out, “starboard” and JW luffed up as I had right of way and then bada boom, JW’s leeward ama hit my weather ama on the last 1” of the hull.  I sailed off to win the last race and JW did his penalty.  
Bob Shirley sailed super strong races and is definitely fast on his Weta. New to the Weta fleet, Paul Marston from Ventura (Pierpont Performance Sailing) picked up the boat super fast and is a competitive racer both up and down wind.  Sunday Paul double handed with Jared Brockway and with the combined weight on the rail were motoring to weather with the top of the fleet.
Gordon Lyon, Jim Saarman and Mark Simmel had competitive races and pushed their boats hard through the challenging conditions. Fun racing,  great group of guys, a lot of tactics in a dynamic and  always changing race course, strategy on boat setup and another good weekend of sailing.
Thanks to the StFYC for running a great regatta, providing food and free beer afterwards! For those reading that that will be at the FL Nationals next week, make sure you introduce yourselves to Jonathon Weston (big Kahuna) and Paul Marston who will be attending the regatta as West Coast Representatives!  Wish I could attend, but have family to attend to.  Next nationals will be in CA in 2014, so we’ll meet then


Jonathon Weston – 1
David Berntsen – 2
Bob Shirley – 3
Mark Simmel – 4
Gordon Lyon – 5


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