Whilst it was only friendly racing this Tuesday there were several observations to come from the day.
The Start - On the first start I was one of a few boats to be on the line and this is a trend I see often at club races. Quite a few skippers are asleep in the early races so if you get your boat on the line whatever the end, you will be ahead of most of the fleet. Focus on this next time you race and see how you do.
Once everyone had woken up after a couple of starts, it became a bit more crowded especially with a port bias line.
There was a tendency for all the boats to crowd the port end and a number were restricted from tacking early by the windward starboard boats. So on the next start on a port bias line, try starting to windward of the crowd and tack away early in clear air and water. Remember to sail fast once on port to get a nose in front of the fleet and you are free to go where you like.
Speed upwind - When sailing downwind the wind is behind your boat so there is little you can do to sail it slow unless you decide to run by the lee and not get the wind filling effectively in your jib, more on that later. When you go upwind you have all the opportunities in the world to sail your boat slowly. Sail too high and your boat will stall. Sail to low and you will lose ground to leeward as well as stall the airflow round the sails. The wind was quite shifty all day and a lot of boats caught out as the wind headed. The clue was in listening to the flapping sails every time the wind headed. Now if you get headed and the sails stay filling it will slow until you bear off. If the sails flap your boat will certainly stop.
Someone asked me why I was so fast to windward. There is no secret, I just sail slightly freer and pay close attention to the tell tales and keep them parallel as much as I can. I rarely let the windward tell tale lift. Several times I had boats point up from underneath mine which is fine for a short time until the wind shifts. By sailing free and fast I have greater apparent wind and if the wind heads I respond quickly and if I can see the header on the water, I will bear away before it hits or tack to take advantage on the lift on the other tack.
To set the boat up to sail slightly free, the inside edge of the main boom should be about 10-15 mm from the centre of the mainsheet post and have the jib boom pointing just inside the shroud. The BG web site will give you precise settings in mm. I have a Britpop so the settings on your boat may vary if you have another design but they should be pretty similar to what I described. When I first start sailing IOM's I always sheeted the main boom in the centre which looked great and was relatively fast but after I saw what the top sailors did I changed my setup. At the Nationals it was noticeable that Brad Gibson sailed lower than the other boats around him but he was always tracking faster.
Try the setup and when you sail upwind, concentrate like crazy on the tell tales and stop that windward tell tale lifting. Fast and free upwind is a skill worth developing.