Thursday, June 26, 2014

Hard Lesson in light fluky air.

The Good Neighbours race June 24th was one of those races where you get bounced around in light, wacky winds.

Our team managed a good start not straying far from the start line in the last minute. The countdown of the last 20 seconds were spent holding a nice clear lane right at the line. Nastier situation for #324. They got caught out on course side before the start, and struggled too late in the light air to get behind the line before the gun. The wind was negligible from the north shore. We found a stream of light ripples on the water and followed it up and clear of the struggling fleet. We didn't even glance at the compass, sticking with wherever we could keep the boat moving.

When the stream of light moving air disappeared on the starboard tack, we switched to port, to hopefully use the current to bring us a little closer. Encore Une Fois which had been ahead on the left chose to stay the starboard course but ran out of gas. The current was pretty much the only thing working for us, but it helped. When we tacked back onto port, we found ourselves on a long lay line to the windward mark and the lead boat.

At the mark, we rounded first, with Yin & Yang asking for room at the mark. They were most certainly entitled, but we managed to squeeze around just clear and ahead. To round ahead, unfortunately required a less than optimal angle out the other side. The breeze had shifted, and we had to launch the spinnaker while moving too far off the optimal course. Yin & Yang managed to flip on to port more quickly than we could jibe our chute. Aaack, they took the clear windward advantage and walked away. The horrible part was not just losing the lead, but the parade of Sharks and other faster boats were then able to all move past us on the windward side. My mistake was not responding by accepting our fate and getting clear away. Instead of soaking to leeward for clear air, I opted to try and fight my way to windward. But with the wind now skewed in direction from the left side, the spinnaker would just collapse in the disturbed air. We got blanketed by boat after boat, and we could not move into a clear gap in the traffic. We got spanked for the error.

Painful lesson re-learned. Sometime the less optimal direction, sailing away on the longer course is still the best course available. Sailing farther, but moving more quickly, would have still meant losing to some competitors, but still beating others who sailed ahead. The tough part is, little time is afforded for making such tactical decisions. Don't be stubborn and unaccepting of your situation. React, or get chewed up and spat out the ass end of the fleet!

We rounded the leeward mark wounded badly, but struggled back into striking position on the final leg to the finish of three boats. Another big shift of the fluky wind came under cloud cover, and this time we were not slow to react. A quick jibe switched our position from behind to windward, and we nipped three boats at the finish. Team Ambitious finished 6th. Yin &Yang sailed brilliantly to win. Ketchup with George and Tof on board sailed from no air on the first leg to a magnificent recovery and third place, second Shark. In between Ben Waring sailed his Grampian into second place. Great to see Ben and crew breaking up the usual standings!

Tonight, we are expecting another light breeze moving from the north shore side, so it might be another crazy race.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Sailing from Montreal #4 with the complete family

When I started the year, I wanted to write about different sailing experiences around Montreal.  Some may argue that this one is too close to #2.  After all, I was on the same boat, with the same skipper.

Pointe-Claire Yacht Club is located in the heart of the Pointe-Claire village, a historical Francophone enclave in an English speaking suburb of Montreal.

When the engine didn't start, there was no panic.  After all, we are in Pointe-Claire, and there are fewer rules here than at Beaconsfield Yacht Club where sailing out of the harbor is frowned upon.  Sailing in and out of harbor is seen here as good seamanship.

What makes the difference this time is the crew.  My whole family is on board George's Shark, with Agnès the prettiest foredeck to grace Ketchup in years. George's son is also on board.

With a crew of 6, we could have sailed two Sharks.  What makes the experience bearable is that the older kids were captivated by tablet games inside the cabin.  With too many feet in the cockpit, releasing sheets gets risky, and sails go down painfully slowly.

George sailed masterfully well and shared the helm for the last run of the race with his son.  We finished second in our class, but the Tanzer 22 that passed us doesn't count, according to this boat owner.  We're really against the other Sharks.  There were at least 9 other Sharks on the race course, the most active boat on the lake.

Thanks George for the great sail and I'll miss you for the next few weeks.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

La voile à Montréal #3 Coeur de Marin à La Prairie

Écrire cette série sur la voile à Montréal me permet de découvrir de nouveaux endroits pour naviguer.  Le bassin à côté du Quai de La Prairie me rappelle les meilleurs endroits où naviguer en région Parisienne.  Il y a des centaines de dériveurs à l'étang de Saint-Quentin en Yvelines, sur le bassin de Moisson-Lavacourt, ou encore plusieurs dizaines au Yacht Club de Paris à côté des Mureaux.  Tous ces endroits où naviguer sont en banlieue parisienne, à moins d'une heure du centre de Paris à minuit.  Le dimanche soir, il y a beaucoup de circulation et rentrer de ces endroits peut prendre plus de deux heures.

Revenons à Montréal.  Samedi le 7 juin, ce plan d'eau n'accueillait qu'un seul voilier, et plusieurs chaloupes de pêche.  Les navires commerciaux passent tout près dans le chenal séparé du plan d'eau par quelques îles. Yves Plante accueille tous les visiteurs intéressés par Coeur de Marin pour une journée de promotion.

Sa formule : offrir à prix attrayant la location à plusieurs de son magnifique dériveur ketch.  Le bateau est agréable à la voile.  C'est un dériveur de 25 pieds, avec deux mats gréés en cat-boat. Une rame est suffisante pour le propulser lorsque le vent manque.

Les deux grand-voiles à corne lui permettent d'atteindre une belle vitesse avec un petit vent.  Le plus surprenant et agréable: louvoyer ne nécessite pas de manœuvres d'équiper.  Louvoyer, c'est remonter le vent à voile.  C'est souvent ardu car sur un sloop, il faut changer la voile d'avant de côté.  Sur ce bateau, la grand voile à l'avant est sur un chariot.  Elle ne possède même pas de bôme.  Les virements de bord sont silencieux grâce aux lattes et sans danger, grâce à l'absence de bôme.  Le wishbone de la voile d'artimon est à surveiller lorsqu'on s'assoit derrière le barreur, ce qui n'est pas recommandé de toute façon.

Yves expliquera aux futurs membres de son club comment sortir le bateau et devenir autonome.  L'objectif est de sortir le bateau avec au moins deux personnes et que chaque membre soit suffisamment formé pour sortir le bateau avec un novice.

Il y aura une expédition de voile-camping cet été, l'endroit sera convenu avec les membres intéressés.

Merci à Yves pour cette jolie avant-midi sur l'eau.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

La voile à Montréal #2 mardi soir après l'orage

Il est 15h30, George m'appelle:"Il fait nuit au centre-ville." Les orages sont violents et inondent la ville.  Nous décidons d'aller à Pointe-Claire tout de même et de mettre le bateau à l'eau.  Il sera plus rapide de partir la prochaine fois.  La pluie diminue vers 17h30 et à 18h, il ne pleut plus.  David nous demande si nous sortons tout de même, le lac semble bien calme. 

Nos rivaux

Nous décidons d'étirer notre objectif d'aller jusqu'au quai et nous nous rendons jusqu'au départ juste à temps pour partir.  Je terminerai l'installation des écoutes de spi à la fin du bord de près. 

La division 1 sous spi devant le Mont Royal dans la brume

Finalement, une super belle soirée de voile! Le Club de Yacht de Pointe-Claire est à 24 minutes du Centre Bell en voiture et à 45 minutes de 211 de la station de métro Lionel-Groulx.  Ce n'est pas trop difficile d'y être pour 18h.

David et George

Monday, June 02, 2014

Cruise When Ya Can't Race

It was supposed to be Beaconsfield Yacht Club's Commodore's Bowl. It is the first significant "Trophy" race of the season. This had me itching to go. Team Ambitious had left harbour well in advance of the start, carefully rigged, loaded lots of water, there was plenty of sun. I had replaced a faulty cleat the night before. All was well. Although the wind was light, the forecast was for 9 knots or more when a shift came in. The race is one of the tours around the lake winding around various permanent marks. It looked like potentially a perfect afternoon.

The light wind dropped to a wisp just before the start, I opted for the shoreside, hoping for a little little land effect. Encore Une Fois and Yin & Yang went out to the middle of the lake. Initially they got far ahead. Sawiki also was well ahead on that side. That made Isurus antsy. They had been not far off our stern and tacked out. Sticking to the shore in the end got frustrating when the wind would only occasionally inch the boat forward. Sudden Impulse hung in just to our port side. We did manage to move father ahead probably more by current than anything else. Then we managed to catch a little air sliding along the sails and move along. Hey, then we easily slipped through the water. Sudden Impulse finally had opted to tack out, but we moved nicely forward and a little ahead of the fleet on the other side who were still floundering. With a long race ahead, the RC seeing most of the fleet still stuck in the middle fired three shots of the air cannon, cancelling the race. Yeesh, 4 races so far this spring and not a single one completed! 

Displaying photo.JPG
Oh well, I started the Iron Genny and intentionally set it for a slow, quiet ride home, then pulled out chilled beer as a consolation prize. The sun was brilliant, the heat mild, and at least we were back on the water. Three races the wind died, the other race lightening flashed. Here we are the beginning of June and not a finish line crossed.
Still, it felt good to be back out there after a long, tough winter. How pleased I was to be puttering slowly because it extended our afternoon outing. Before we got back to harbour, a lovely, consistent breeze swept over us. The others ahead, almost at BYC, motored to harbour. We shut the motor off, and tacked back out for a very pleasant sail thank you. What a perfect wind for the crew to have some time on the tiller. The wind was strong enough to move along at a good pace, yet not strong enough to spill our beers. We crisscrossed the lake several times, enjoyed a second frosty beverage, spotted Sue and Dom's new CS 34, and merrily chatted away. What good fortune we had to stay out. I had been so focused on trying to race, execute good starts, sail hard, that I forgot how delightful an easy cruise can be. Good company, an easy sail, little traffic, and bright sun add up to a great start of the season after all. Happy sailing everyone.