Thursday, June 29, 2006

It's a match race...

Last night was our first Wednesday evening series race. Things did not look promising as a thunderstorm rolled through from 5:15 till about 6:15, but the skies started to clear and we were able to rig the boat without getting wet. The crew for the evening consisted of 8 of the 10 Mac race crew, so it was also a great chance to work together.

Conditions were very soft with 5-9 knots of breeze that shifted through about 80 degrees in direction during the race.

The other J-35 JUBILATE DEO (JD) came out to race too and we turned it into a matchrace!!! JD dropped a bundle on some new sails and has brought 2 or 3 very experienced sailors on-board. During the Spring Series they showed significant improvement over past years. It would be a good test!

The start was a tight reach on starboard tack. We positioned ourselves closer to the line than JD and stalled until about 20 seconds to go. We turned down to head for the line about 5 seconds before they did and even though we were both late to the line, we crossed about 4 boatlengths in the lead.

The initial sail selection was the screecher and we had a great set, which extended the lead another boatlength. However as we worked out towards the East mark the wind shifted 70 degrees so we ended up sailing almost by the lee. JD was able to close to within 1 boatlength at the turning mark, having carried an AP chute. A good clean windward douse helped our cause, but we had to contend with NATURAL HIGH who took away our high lane. JD however opted to sail low and fast, so we matched their course and showed superior boatspeed at a slightly higher angle.

It soon became apparent that we would need to tack to South mark, so we waited to see what JD would do. About a 1/4 mile from the layline they tacked.... we tacked..... they tacked again.... we covered.... 4 tacks later, JD was 6 boatlengths further back than when they started!!!! We came up to the layline and tacked on the perfect layline. The True Wind Angle read 46-47 degrees all the way to the mark. JD tacked on the same line and had to pinch up badly to make the mark. Another 2 boatlengths further into the lead.

The last leg was a 75-80 degree TWA reach. We worked the trim really hard, adding a 'bullshitter' (barberhauler) and crossed the line still about 6 boatlengths in the lead.

Yeah team.... Shawn and Bill on the primaries, Dennis on the main, Jim navigating and hotbox, Bob and Heather at the mast and Carol at the bow.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Sailors do have a heart....

This past weekend TIME MACHINE participated in the Sail for Hope regatta, a fund raising event that benefits the American Cancer Society. Four of the regular crew, Bill H., Bob C., Jim S. and the skipper welcomed our sponsors from Schroder IT on board and had a wonderful afternoon out on the water.

Conditions were perfect. Not a cloud in the sky. Low humidity. A gentle 6-8 knot breeze and calm seas.

The race was a blast. Being short handed, we had to improvise and make the best of things. The course was W-S-N-W and the breeze was from the SouthEast. We had a great start and quickly moved out in front of the fleet in clear air, beating towards the South Mark. RED CLOUD was able to remain fairly close and probably saved her time on this first leg. Coming around the mark the wind angle was a bit too tight to carry the chute, but after about 10 minutes it shifted a bit aft and we set BIG RED. The lead on the trailing boats got bigger! As we approached the North mark we needed to jibe, so Bob took the helm and the skipper went forward to do the bow, ALONE. It was an adventure, but Bill kept the chute full and we soon settled down for a very close reach to the finish.

As we approached the finish the breeze helped out by moving slightly aft and freshening. The Race Committee reported that we were "really steaming along". Getting the cannon was an awesome feeling and then waiting around to see if we saved out time on the other boats was fun.

Our sponsors had a great time and were able to be part of the awards ceremony, where they presented TIME MACHINE with the blue flag we had earn together.

Monday, June 19, 2006

So what's up with this whole IRC thing?

We still don't have our application in to the IRC for our rating for the MAC. It's getting to be really last minute..... Last week, I took a day and a half to run the boat up to BYC and back, solo, in order to get the weighing portion of the measurement completed. It was a huge effort and actually a potentially risky venture. Fortunately the weather co-operated really well.

I know of at least 3 boats from the Lake Erie region who would normally participate in the Mac Race, who are not and all of them cite the new IRC requirements as the reason. I must admit that TIME MACHINE came withing a knat's eyelash of punting on the event.

I find myself asking, "why do we have to do this"? It's a rating, it's never going to be fair, it's always going to be the source of complaints.

PHRF or IRC or AMERICAP or Time-on-Time or ..... NONE OF IT IS FAIR! Anyone who thinks that it can be fair, I have a message for you.... Get over it and race one design!

So why put ourselves through all the pain and expense of IRC? I suspect that it's an attempt to remove the responsibility for being the 'bad guy who sets the rating' from the local sailors. Now we can ALL sit around at the Pink Pony and bitch about our ratings and we can be secure in the knowledge that we aren't bad mouthing one of our local sailors. Is this really worth the aggrevation? I think NOT.

Go back to where I started, ratings are not fair.... so don't bad mouth the people who set the ratings, which means you don't need to worry about your neighbor, which means you don't have to send huge checks to the UK and spend your days hustling up and down the river!!! Simple.

Now that's embarrassing!

It's the first big distance race of the season. Getting a full crew has been difficult. However, we muster 8 people and are ready to go.

We get a decent start to things, but quickly conditions change from a light air mode to a heavy air beat. As we work to adjust to the new conditions, a call comes up from the cabin...

"Skipper, the PC is not charging and the house bank is reading only 10.2 Volts"!!! It's about 2 hours into the race. We have drawn about 6 Ah from the 105 Ah battery. This can't be happening..... and yet it is!

We sail on hoping that we can maintain at least the 10.2 V, but when the sun sets and we are forced to turn on the navigation lights, all the instrumentation shuts down. Faced with the prospect of beating for 27 miles in the middle of the fleet with no navigation lights and no instruments, we retire.

The really embarrassing part is that we had 4 electrical engineers on-board. However, you can't fix a sealed battery.

Looking back on it, it's another lesson in how boat preparations need to be perfect, right down to the last coulomb in the battery. Any one thing can put the entire program at risk.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Fixing problems is always a good thing!

TIME MACHINE's first sail of the season was not without some problems. Even before we left the dock, the PC would not talk to the Ockam's. This meant that programming the course and using the instruments to help determine VMCs was out of the question. More importantly, it was a chance to practice working with the software before the Mills. Even if the PC link was OK, we would still not have had any good data because the KVH compass was not reading correctly. Then I noticed that the Depth Sounder was not powered up and the cockpit VHF radio remote did not work.

So we sailed the race the old fashioned way. Magnetic compass, GPS and seat of the pants.... but this the story about fixing stuff!

First the PC link... I had remembered that the PC needs to be fully booted before plugging in the USB serial cable. Something about loading the driver. I tried it and voila... data all over the screen!

Second the depth sounder... A quick call to Ockam and they told me to look at the fuse and to verify that I was getting about 9Volts on the BNC center conductor. After removing the interface box, I was able to show that the fuse was OK. However there was no 9 Volts on the center conductor. It was in the cable, and in the TEE, but not in the box.... HUMM! A visual inspection of the bulkhead BNC connector showed that the center core of the connector had pushed up into the box, making it impossible for the pin from the TEE to contact the socket in the bulkhead core. AN OPEN CIRCUIT!. I pushed the core back down and voila, depth readings!

Third the radio... At Jim's suggestion I took the radio off it's mount to check and see if I could plug the remote directly into the back of the VHF. There was the connector without the cable attached. It must have rattled off during the trucking from Muskegon. Plug in the cable, plug in the remote in the cockpit, turn it all on and voila... fishermen talking in the cockpit.

Fourth the fluxgate compass.... I checked the calibration quality and it was fine (892) I then checked the offset. it was set to 16 degrees!!!! That's just about how far off the thing was reading. Must have been that the buttons got pushed and it got adjusted by someone's back as they leaned against the coach-roof. I adjusted the offset back to 4 degrees where it belongs and voila.... the fluxgate compass is reading correctly.

The last item of the evening was to find the meat-hook that torn a hole in BIG RED. Right there at the attachement point of the upper port life-line to the bow pulpit, a split ring that had not been taped!

All in all, a pretty productive evening.


Monday, June 05, 2006

First sail of the 2006 season...

Here it is, the first weekend in June and TIME MACHINE is headed out for her first sail of the season. It's the Commodore Perry Race, a 24 mile zig-zag across the Western Lake Erie basin. Conditions at the start are gloomy and wet as the last of the rain showers soaks the fleet. The start is a port-tack reach in 5-8 knots. We time it perfectly and end up with clear air at the front of the fleet. By the time we reach the center mark, it's clear that something is wrong with the heading that is coming from the Sailcomp. We are well low of the rumbline and it's time to sail a bit higher angle to fetch the East mark.

We round in 3rd place and have trouble figuring out which board we will be on for the next leg. After moving the bag and pole back and forth 3 times, BIG RED is unleashed and we power down to the South mark, pulling away from KICKS. The rounding is a mess as we foul the jib sheets in the spinnaker gear, but after things settle down, we are off on a close reach. By now we are sailing on the old magnetic compass and the GPS.

The winds have been 8-10 knots with 20 degree shifts in the puffs. The backstay is going constantly.... ease and then pump, ease and then pump. The sound of the jib sheet cracking off the winch mingles with the burble of the water against the hull. The skies are getting lighter and it looks like the sun will be out soon.

Another close reach to the Monroe outer marker is in order. We take the low course, banking on a lift in-shore. It almost doesn't happen, but in the last 0.5 mile we get a nice lift right to the mark. KICKS took a high angle and was able to sail around us on the better angle.... who knew!

The run to the North Mark turns into a full blooded reach with BIG RED pulling well. Winds are now up to near 15 knots and we seeing boatspeeds of 7.4 to 7.6. A douse at the North mark and another close reach to the East mark and it's one last run to the finish. As we close on the finish we sneak up next to VEGAS and use our momentum to coast over the line just ahead of them as the wind drops to 3 knots with 5 boat lengths to go.

A quick check behind us shows that we finished well ahead of the other J/35 in the fleet.

The crew for this great day of sailing is..
Bill Hewett
Heather Hewett
Dennis Maurer
Jim Schlee
Bob Corzine
Fred Berutti
Eric Hilbert
Denny Hilbert
Robert Gordenker

How to get a slow start to the season....

1) Spend 14.52 hours per day at work from the end of February until the end of May.
2) Don't come down the the club to work on the boat at all.
3) Have the crew rescue your bacon by coming down to pull the cover and the framework off, so that the boat can be moved off the club grounds before the deadline
4) Take on a major repair (bulkhead delamination) with no time to work on it.
5) Make a huge mess spreading dust all through the boat
6) Assemble the mast on the hottest and most humid day in recent memory.

And when that's all done... enter a 24 mile race as the shakedown cruise!!!!