You are never ready
The clock is ticking, and it is less than a week to the start of the Silverrudder challenge. Last two editions spoiled us with very mild conditions (although the last one maybe went even too far 🙂 so make sure that you prepare yourself for anything weather can throw at us.
This year we will take time to go through tactics and strategy the night before the start, but in the meantime here are some tips and tricks to help you get into the right mindset in the last days before the race.
If you didn’t so far, take 30min per day to sit down with charts of the racecourse, your sailing notes from previous sailings, google maps to get the geographical specifics and current weather forecast. Make a virtual run around the course with current forecast thinking about when will you eat, shit, change clothes, which sails would you be using, what would be safety considerations, how would you trim your boat… Divide the course into sections to get better orientation and make both clockwise and anticlockwise run since both are possible. If you don’t have routing software like Expedition, you can use target speeds and forecast and do the estimations sequentially for each section of the course. Don’t look only at the wind but also at the possible passing of frontal systems, temperature etc.
I would advise you that you make a bullet list for every important manoeuvre that you anticipate doing. A sample list could be:
– Gennaker hoist / drop / gybe
– In case of several front sails – change from each one to each one.
– Main reef / 2nd / 3rd
– Jib reef / change / tack
– Boarding the boat in case of falling overboard / keeping attached to the boat and moving around.Each one in light and heavy wind. For example:
Gennaker drop 27 or 24:
Throw the gennaker halyard and tack line in the water so it extends nicely behind the boat.
– Prepare the gennaker bag in the companionway.
– Bear away to about 160 TWA, so that gennaker is on a verge of collapsing behind the main.
– Overtrim the gennaker so it collapses (bear away a bit more in heavy wind) grab the sheet under the boom and grab the clew.
– Open the tack line and pull the foot to you until you hold at least 80% of it.
– Open the halyard and push the gennaker in the companionway.
– In case of anticipated quick re-hoist keep it there and re-hoist from the companionway.
– In case of sail change or longer upwind beat untie halyard, tack and the sheets, tie them together and pull them with the tack line to midbow so they are ready for the next hoist.
Make markings on every control rope (cunningham, outhaul, vang, jib controls) so you can quickly change gears without much thinking. Usually, you would have 2 marks for light and heavy wind and for both upwind and downwind. You should also mark full hoist positions of main and gennaker and fully extended position of tack line. Furthermore, it helps to have gennaker sheets marked for light/medium/heavy position when going as deep as possible. This helps a lot when gybing. There are many more marks you can make and don’t hesitate to make them. Being singlehanded is all about multitasking and many times that means that some basic settings are forgotten and affect boat speed dramatically.
In cruising there is a rule – reef the first time you think of it. That means that in case there is 15kt of wind gusting to 20kt and you normally would reef at 20kt in cruising you would already reef. In racing you reef when the lull wind speed reaches the reefing point. You have to fight through the gusts with easing the sheets, pinching on the helm… and remain fully powered in the lulls. On the front sails, it is more or less the same with a difference that getting caught with gennaker up in quickly building wind can end up being costly or even dangerous. Therefore be always aware of your surroundings and forecast to estimate whether you are dealing with a shorterm gusts or a building breeze. That said when going downwind always have the ropes ready and a game plan in place to be able to drop the gennaker in less than 30 seconds. On 18 that is not an issue at all but on 27 that is easily doable if your ropes are not tangled and you know exactly which steps to make. So back to point 1. and 2. – practice or at least visualise the manoeuvres so you are confident when going gets tough.
Keep the big picture
This one should probably be the first one since it all comes down to this. Being singlehanded means being understaffed. You have to keep doing mental triage on which actions or decisions are more important than others. Set the goal, for instance: to go round Fyn as quickly as possible safe enough that my life is not in danger. In this case, every decision you make must address this in a way: 1) is this elevating the danger to the point it is dangerous to my life? If not, 2) does it make me go round the island quicker. This applies to your boat setup, preparations, strategic and tactical decisions, trim options, the way you do the maneuvres… Generally, races like Silverrudder are won by people that make the least mistakes and all of us do plenty of them. So keep your head focused on the whatever goal you set for yourself and making sure you play it trough is the base to successful and satisfying race.
If anything pops to your head or you have some useful insights to add to this points please do share with the WhatsApp group.