Following its first competitive outing, I spent a long time thinking subjectively about the performance of the Alternative design focussing on how it moves through the water in comparison to the top production boats. The design is perfect for the home build, with smooth curves for moulding and a strong monocoque design, meaning the hull is stiff and holds rig tension nicely. It has proved to be a very competitive package with a PG mast and Housemartin sails for club racing, winning at both Frensham and Emsworth and was 15th in the Vets at Lincoln which should have been a top 10 finish if I had kept my nose a bit cleaner.
I have found the design to be fast in a breeze on flat water, holds it line upwind perfectly, ie it is nicely balanced. However in a chop, I noticed a tendency for the boat to hobby horse slightly when the wind eases and because the boat is narrower than most production designs and the aft sections are quite rounded, it has a tendency to sit slightly lower in the water than the production boats. The other tendency is to nose dive more easily though I can counter that by running by the lee in squalls. Don't get me wrong here, all I am trying to discuss are the marginal differences that I have observed so far and they are only slight but in my estimation mean there is no edge to the speed of the production boats which I guess is not surprising..
On the first day of the veterans when there was a lightish breeze, it was very hard to break from the pack off the start line and just lacked a tiny edge over the production boats. That half a yard ahead or behind makes you a tactical genius or forces your tactics to be dictated by the pack. That makes a huge difference in fleet racing. It could be that a set of BG sails might give me a bit more horse power.
Originally my goal was to see how far up the fleet I could get in a home build. The plan has changed now as I can see the front of a competitive fleet and believe a competitive design will get me into the top five.
As luck would have it I came across someone who was selling their Britpop made by Robot Yachts. It had a few scratches but the boat is in perfect condition for racing so I took the plunge and bought it. The Alternative and Britpop have identical setups so I was able to transfer rigs and even use the same measuring stick for the rake. Add a new set of BG sails for top competitions and I have eliminated any excuse for poor performance. The boat also has a used set of BG sails which are in fab condition so I have plenty of opportunity to fine tune the package.
Today I launched the boat for racing at Frensham with the competition set up and bar 1 slip up I hit the front in every race. It was noticeable that once in the lead, the boat gradually pulled away. The sails looked fantastic on a PG mast with 12mm prebend. Now I just need a top competition to prove the package, oh and the small matter of my skill. I was all ready for the first ranking event at Coalhouse fort only that has been postponed. Disappointing but I clearly understand why and there will be plenty more event opportunities in the future. Our priority must be to protect all and stay safe against this COVID virus.
One observation racing at Frensham today was the need to be on the start line with speed in the right direction at the gun. It amazes me that there are always boats well behind the line. If you are a sharp shooter on the start, you can be ahead of the fleet from the moment the gun goes and you are free to go in your desired direction, fast and free.
Look out for Number 29.
Enjoy great sailing this summer.