New Year and Nor’Easters

Happy New Years everyone! Hope you welcomed 2012 with your friends, family or both and I wish you happiness and success for this year!
Gorgeous day in Sydney today and finally a Nor’Easter to break the southerly onslaught; a great way to kick of the new year!
Today was also the lay day for the NS14 Nationals – and it was well welcomed. Very ready to give the body (I have some awesome bruises) and the mind (after the light air and boat speed issues) a break!
Since my last post we have managed a mix bag of results. Basically, we are quick in the breeze, and slow in the light air no matter how hard we try!
On day two we managed a 12, and a 9 which should have been a 5/6 and a 5. Our speed was great, but we had a few mark rounding incidents: a dropped mainsheet at the bottom, and a 720 at the top in race 3 (my bad lay line root of the issue) and hitting the bottom mark after Chris got the tiller stuck in his lifejacket at the bottom in race four. Silly mistakes that we will no doubt look back on when it comes to the crunch on the last day! Things we can work on for next time include fitness (errors generally come when tired) and our approach into the top and bottom marks which can leave us in high risk maneouvres. The top guys continued to show us how it was done, and we were actually a part of the action prior to our errors (which all occured on the last laps of each race).
Day three, we tried our guts out and sailed really well, but came home with the worst result of the regatta so far. Was a lesson re-learned on how speed is the focus for a development class, rather than tactics as in one-desgin. Once you are at the top tactics come back into play, but without speed, you can do everything right and go nowhere!
With the start for race five basically off Cronulla Beach, it was a long sail to the course in “flopping” conditions. Chris had to have a swim before racing to try and shake some sea sickness that is to be expected in 2m swells and 8 knots of sick Sou’Easter. Finishing in 36 (basically doubling our score-card at that point), we had zero boat speed and height on pretty much the majority of the fleet. Coming into the regatta we knew we were off the pace in the light, but we didn’t know it was that much of an issue. As we don’t have the budget, we went with the 7m main and the 2.3m jib (you get 9.3m in the NS14 class to be distributed amongst the sails) that Chris already had from last season. We knew this would make us faster in the heavy and slower in the light without a jib to power through the waves, but  we have been working hard on our trim to make do with what we have. It  was clear very early in the race that we hadn’t done enough. People sailing over, and under you when you are mid-fleet is a pretty clear sign.
Back onshore, we started asking questions about fixing the speed in reply to all the questions from others that were based on “what happened to you guys?”. The biggest finding was diamond tension; we found that most who are using a CST mast are running double the diamond tension we have been… so out came the shifters and we cranked her up almost ten pounds. Can’t do things by halves!
On day four, the ESE breeze that was forecast by all models was replaced by a lovely little Nor’Easter. I actually got to sit on the side of the boat, and hiked at times! Thank goodness for diamond tension (even though we were so nervous introducing such a big change), and a higher jib to actually get some leech tension. Sitting on the side, let alone hiking was unheard of the day prior for me. We had a shocking start, and had to sail through the 59-boat fleet. At least we were able to, making big gains, especially downwind. There were boats around us that made bigger gains, so while we have sorted some of our speed issues, we have definitely not solved it! We have really been struggling to get off the start line due to speed, which is a major issue. We finished in 18, so had a 50 per cent improvement on the day before.
On investigation back onshore, we found that the first generation CST mast that we have is known to be soft (which is why there has been a breaking issue, as many wound the masts on so much). Most have been reinforced that haven’t broken, we may have to look into doing this. For now, with the forecast for the next few days, we are going to ease the tension back to make sure we can actually finish the regatta! No need to start the new year with that kind of bang!
Speaking of bangs, we will have to have the board repaired post-regatta after hitting a shark up the third work of day four… the impact has resulted in a big split in the board where it hit the back and top of the centreboard case. We have seen a surprising number of sharks, but never thought we would hit one!
We are incredibly lucky that we didn’t do more damage, but also that only one race was sailed on days three and four. We have more work to do, but at least we are having a go. It is incredibly frustrating when you sail so well and get nowhere on your competitors… something I am not used to being a one-design sailor. But it does make you work hard on understanding your rig to get the most out of your boat! Everyone is going to get so sick of me asking questions all the time, but I have to say that the guys at the top are all so open and willing to help, which is awesome. Everyone is so welcoming, and Chris and I both feel like we are learning so much, which is a motivator in itself.
All we need to do is have a few top tens and drop the light weather results and we may be able to achieve our goal of top ten. We are currently sitting in 12th overall. Bring on the New Year Nor’Easters!
Last night, as true sailors, we went straight from Cronulla to Birkenhead Point to jump on a yacht to go and watch some fireworks to welcome the New Year! It was amazing (thanks Chris and Deb!)!
Today we have rested, and fixed the board temporarily; Araldite is marvellous stuff. We are good to go!
I will report in post-regatta, but in the meantime, I am on Twitter frequently during the day. There are also results and multimedia available for you to check out.
With the Nor’Easters that are forecast for the next two days, it will hopefully be a great start to the New Year for California Times and a great end to the NS14 Nationals for Chris and I. Here’s hoping!

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