Everybody is an expert sailor?

Moderator: GreenLake

Everybody is an expert sailor?

Postby GreenLake » Wed Jun 10, 2020 2:21 pm

One thing I've always found curious is that this forum (like many similar ones) is heavily dedicated to all matters of boat maintenance or questions how to rig the boat. But very few people actually discuss how to sail, or how to sail better.

Is everybody simply an expert sailor?

At the same time, anybody who's sailed for a while will tell me, that it's an ongoing learning process. So it can't be that everyone here is already an expert.

Or is there something else that makes this a difficult topic for a forum?

We've had a spate of people new to the DS and (in some cases) new, or relatively new to sailing, but not one had question about seamanship or boat handling.

In my offline reading, boat maintenance is not well represented. Lot's more books on sail trim, sailing technique, reading the wind and so on.
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Re: Everybody is an expert sailor?

Postby tomodda » Thu Jun 11, 2020 12:58 pm

I suspect that folks either think that they know what they are doing, or are too embarrassed to ask. But forums are a funny thing, you've been moderating this one (thank you!) to have seen it all.

In the interests of starting the ball rolling, I'll shoot a general question - when I'm sailing solo, which means that I'm at the tiller, I can never see my jib tell-tales. No matter where I place them. I'm usually sitting some 3 feet back from the cuddy edge, about even with the rear of the centerboard. So I keep the jib trimmed "by feel", but I'd sure like to see my telltales. I've put on some Avrel Gentry-style "tufts" right by the forestay on my bottom telltale. I can see them, but they are very sensitive and more for super-fine trimming/tuning.

Is this just me? Should I get a longer tiller extension and sit further forward? Get a mainsail with a window in it? Grow a longer neck? Or just not worry about it? When I'm "crewing" my own boat, it's a whole different story, I sit by the cuddy and drive my helmsman crazy - "Puff! Head up a tad.. header, go down..." etc. Great fun (for me, not him!).

Inquisitively,

Tom
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Re: Everybody is an expert sailor?

Postby GreenLake » Thu Jun 11, 2020 2:29 pm

Tom, good question. It's a familiar problem. When I sail with crew, I'm the last to sit on the rail, the only place from where I could see those tell tales. They are perfect for those days when both of us hike out, but not on the lighter wind days. Having the crew report on the telltales isn't quite the same thing as being able to see them for myself. By the way, I'm a big believer in having a small clear window in the jib where the telltales are placed: it's rare that I can see the leeward telltale through the sailcloth. The sun seems to always be on the wrong side of the sail for that.

I suspect you may be sitting too far back when soloing. In my experience the DS likes to squat at the slightest provocation, and that long cockpit invites you to sit far back, but then you are dragging your transom.

Could you get someone to spot you, say, at the dock, to help you find the fore-aft balance?

What size tiller extension to you use?
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Re: Everybody is an expert sailor?

Postby GreenLake » Fri Jun 12, 2020 4:07 am

Took the boat out, shortly after the previous post. If not sitting on the rail, I can see the telltales when I lean forward so my head is about the thwart position.

I usually sit with both legs just abaft the thwart. All depends a bit on wind. Had light wind today and found it awkward to find a sitting position that gave reasonable sideways balance. I don't have a tiller extension I could use while sitting on a thwart, which would have been ideal otherwise. So I half knelt, half wedged myself against seat and thwart.

Sometimes I needed to heel the boat to leeward, so I sat (almost) on the leeward bench. Other times I had enough wind to almost sit on the windward bench. Sometimes, I place my feet on the opposite side, or sit with my feet on the far side of the CB trunk. Whatever seems to balance the boat (and gets me a head start getting to windward in a gust).

In really light airs, the DS profits from reduction of wetted surface by heeling it decisively to leeward. Other times, a small heel to leeward is needed to get gravity to help with sail shape. The rest of the time, the DS is faster if sailed flat, but I like a just enough heel to "feel" the balance. Wish I had another boat to try things against; my impression is that the improved feel helps me steer better, but if it's too much and slows down the boat, it would just be a "feel-good" move.

Only for a few moments did I have wind today to sit on the rail and even hike a bit. Tracking telltales isn't an issue then, neither is feel: you can sense right away if you're sailing out of the correct wind angle.
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Re: Everybody is an expert sailor?

Postby lemsteraak » Sat Jun 13, 2020 4:08 pm

Greenlake, yes, I think you are right about heeling in light airs. It also helps to keep the sails full. We had a really experienced sailor who borrowed one of our boats and raced with us. He really heeled the boat over and it worked well. He told me that it also had to do with the mast "rake" and the sails were more efficient at an angle.

This brings up the point. The best way to learn is to get in with a group and ask questions. I just found out that the way I hold the tiller and mainsheet was wrong. I had my hands backwards and now am trying to develop muscle memory so this new way feel more natural. Once I get this down, then I'm told that it makes it easier to roll tack.
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Re: Everybody is an expert sailor?

Postby GreenLake » Sat Jun 13, 2020 5:08 pm

What were you doing wrong and what are you doing now when holding tiller and sheet? Can you describe how you do a roll tack? It's one thing I haven't mastered, so please share.
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Re: Everybody is an expert sailor?

Postby lemsteraak » Sun Jun 14, 2020 2:16 am

I was a self educated sailor so I never learned the proper way. Turns out you hold the tiller extension like a microphone and the main sheet the same way. This way you can go hand over hand when taking up the main rounding a mark. It is fast, just feels odd. Same way tacking you just switch hands, well there is a point where you need to hold both in one hand. My friend's point is to feel really comfortable and smooth tacking. Hopefully soon I'll be ready to learn roll tacking.

I have a story about asking question of the old heads. In San Francisco years ago I fell in with a group of sailors. They had been racing against each other since the 50's, truly, they were on the third generation, same boats. Took me a few years to learn to keep up. One informal rule they had, and I think it is one reason for the group's longevity is you could ask anyone a question and they had to honestly answer. You had to be very specific in your question but the answers were amazing. I was in a tacking duel with an old head up the cityfront. We would look for current relief in the shallow water, and sometimes there were back eddies and all sorts of strange currents. I sailed out toward deep water and better wind and when I came back, the old head had three boat lengths over me. How did he know where to tack? So, I asked him how did he know where the tideline was? The point where the main current kicked in, He said he couldn't see it, his little buddies told him. Buddies? He was referring to the Pelicans, they would fly along single file right at the tide line because that is where good things were churned up. I bought him a beer for that one.
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Re: Everybody is an expert sailor?

Postby GreenLake » Sun Jun 14, 2020 4:37 pm

Great story.

I'm "self-educated" as well. Just took a boat out one day "how hard can it be?" and made it out and back. Working things out for myself gives me a different level of understanding, but you can get some strange ideas or into some strange habits. Eventually, I met with a group of experienced sailors and by that time I was ready to listen.

Local knowledge is a great thing. On one of the lakes here, an East wind is an indicator of a coming big shift in wind direction. Not something I would have guessed.

About asking questions: that's the way you learn, and, especially, if you are learning on your own, that's the way to get ahead. Let's see if we can get more people to chime in with some questions.

When tacking, I'm still struggling with the tiller extension. Some days it's no problem, other days, I end up with it being too long to fit under the boom.
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Re: Everybody is an expert sailor?

Postby GreenLake » Mon Jun 15, 2020 2:07 pm

Here's a question to which I don't know the answer: when would you ever want the CB to be further forward than vertical? Rumor has it, in light winds heading up, but I can't puzzle out why that should be so.
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Re: Everybody is an expert sailor?

Postby tomodda » Mon Jun 15, 2020 4:23 pm

GL:

How do you get your CB further forward than vertical? I thought it was vertical when CB handle is all the way down on the bilge (which is where i usually have it). I suppose that pushing the CB further forward than vertical would throw the Center of Lateral Resistance forward an inch or two, giving a tad more weather helm. But you can do that anyway simply by sitting yourself a bit further forward. Anyway, yes, I see the post from 2015 where "Tim Webb" mentions it. Must be a DS2 thing, because I tested lowering/raising the CB handle and watching CB angles on my DS1 when I had it over on it's side for painting. Handle all the way down = CB vertical.

In other news, you asked me how long my tiller extension is. 22 inches, but it hinges about 2 inches back from the tip of the tiller. Anyway, seems that it could be longer, I'll whip something up and test. Yes, I could spend money and get an extendable "fancy" one, but for now a nicely turned bit of hardwood will be finer.

Also, as long as we're writing about "old heads" and local knowledge, I'll tell you a story from my father. He skippered a boat in the 1961 South American Lightning Championships in Rio de Janeiro, Guanabara Bay. The last race of the series was out to the offshore harbour entrance buoy and back, which meant sailing past the famous Sugarloaf Mountain (Pao de Acucar). The entire fleet gave it a wide berth to stay out of the wind shadow - it rises 1300 feet straight out of the sea, one big cliff. But one guy - Erik Schmidt, local. from Rio - cut inside the fleet, right along the mountainside. My father followed him (he wasn't anywhere near the point lead anyway). There was a backeddy! - the wind curling over the top of Sugarloaf and completely 180 degrees from the wind out in the middle of the channel! Needless to say, Erik Schmidt won the race and the regatta. Dad came in second for that race, so some pride regained, I suppose. And to top it off, the guys in the committee boat had an actual cannon for the finish gun. Shooting blanks of course, but they forgot to take the ramrod out after tamping down the charge... they put it right thru Erik's mainsail, nearly taking his head off to cap off the race! Fun times had by all :) Anyway, local knowledge is HUGE, although most of the time all I want to know is "Where's that damn channel?!?"
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Re: Everybody is an expert sailor?

Postby GreenLake » Mon Jun 15, 2020 5:38 pm

tomodda wrote:How do you get your CB further forward than vertical? I thought it was vertical when CB handle is all the way down on the bilge (which is where i usually have it). I suppose that pushing the CB further forward than vertical would throw the Center of Lateral Resistance forward an inch or two, giving a tad more weather helm. But you can do that anyway simply by sitting yourself a bit further forward. Anyway, yes, I see the post from 2015 where "Tim Webb" mentions it. Must be a DS2 thing, because I tested lowering/raising the CB handle and watching CB angles on my DS1 when I had it over on it's side for painting. Handle all the way down = CB vertical."


It's easier on a DSII, but my CB lever is aligned (or mis-aligned) that I can also get the CB to go forward a bit on my DS1. Online I found a tuning guide for the Albacore, which claims that "it is increasingly common to rake the centerboard forward in flat water and light airs (<12kts)" (paraphrase). Unfortunately, no indication as to why this would be useful. Can you give a link to Tim's post?
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Re: Everybody is an expert sailor?

Postby GreenLake » Mon Jun 15, 2020 5:52 pm

tomodda wrote:...you asked me how long my tiller extension is. 22 inches, but it hinges about 2 inches back from the tip of the tiller. Anyway, seems that it could be longer, I'll whip something up and test. Yes, I could spend money and get an extendable "fancy" one, but for now a nicely turned bit of hardwood will be finer.


I don't think there's anything wrong with a fixed length one. I collapse mine mostly for stowing it on the tiller when not in use (so that the main sheet doesn't hook the grip which it does if not collapsed).

I used to have a 17"-29" one, but found that too short. Now I have 27" to 47", which is about right, perhaps, I don't quite need the longest setting most of the time. When extended fully, it doesn't pass under the boom, because it hits the mainsheet -- except if I move it a just the right time so it can be angled enough to fit. Still don't have that down, so some days it works w/o thinking about, and others it doesn't.
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Re: Everybody is an expert sailor?

Postby GreenLake » Mon Jun 15, 2020 5:58 pm

tomodda wrote:.. as long as we're writing about "old heads" and local knowledge, I'll tell you a story from my father. He skippered a boat in the 1961 South American Lightning Championships in Rio de Janeiro, Guanabara Bay. The last race of the series was out to the offshore harbour entrance buoy and back, which meant sailing past the famous Sugarloaf Mountain (Pao de Acucar). The entire fleet gave it a wide berth to stay out of the wind shadow - it rises 1300 feet straight out of the sea, one big cliff. But one guy - Erik Schmidt, local. from Rio - cut inside the fleet, right along the mountainside. My father followed him (he wasn't anywhere near the point lead anyway). There was a backeddy! - the wind curling over the top of Sugarloaf and completely 180 degrees from the wind out in the middle of the channel! Needless to say, Erik Schmidt won the race and the regatta. Dad came in second for that race, so some pride regained, I suppose. And to top it off, the guys in the committee boat had an actual cannon for the finish gun. Shooting blanks of course, but they forgot to take the ramrod out after tamping down the charge... they put it right thru Erik's mainsail, nearly taking his head off to cap off the race! Fun times had by all :) Anyway, local knowledge is HUGE, although most of the time all I want to know is "Where's that damn channel?!?"


Some local knowledge is really special, other times it's just applying the correct general principles. We have a downwind run on a lake where there are two opinions, one insists that it's advantageous to to into the middle of the lake for more wind, the other prefers to hug the shore (shorter distances and upwind of any other boats). Still not sure whether neither or both are right, or whether each has found the right conditions for their boat (neither is a DS).

Same in tidal waters when you have favorable currents but weaker winds near shore and more winds, but adverse currents further out. Probably again depends a bit on the boat (if not one-design) to know which one will work out.
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Re: Everybody is an expert sailor?

Postby tomodda » Mon Jun 15, 2020 6:58 pm

GL:

Thank you for your thoughts here. About "raking" the CB, it appears indeed to be purely for balancing the helm. Tim's post on this forum doesn't really say anything useful, but look here:

https://www.yachtsandyachting.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=5678&OB=ASC

and here:

https://interclub.org/help/sailingrigging-tips/ic-foils/ (corrected)

Summarizing, you can move the CLR by moving the CB, but you increase drag / lose lift. Of course, you could rake the mast for the same thing, but not all of our masts allow rake (I've got a tabernacle, for instance, so forget it). But these folks appear to be chasing after a totally neutral helm. I personally like a bit of weather helm, but I can see where a truly neutral helm may gain you a half-boat length on the weather leg of a one-design race. Something to play with, I guess.
Last edited by tomodda on Mon Jun 15, 2020 9:41 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Everybody is an expert sailor?

Postby GreenLake » Mon Jun 15, 2020 7:54 pm

Those two links go to the same place.

Still not sure discussion (at that one place both links go to) is adding much specifics, other than acknowledge the question exists.
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