A very wild day with the wind. We started with a north easterly breeze. For the first 45 minutes we were sailing in extremely light, flukey winds everything less than 5 knots. After that a number of storm clouds rolled in, shifting the breeze to the west and bringing an average 10 knot breeze with a gusty breeze right as the change came through.
The start of the race saw me falling back through the fleet on the first beat. Again bad tacking and spending to much time concentrating on the boat instead of what was going on around me lost many places and saw me falling into the second half of the fleet as the regular gusts caused the fleet to split in two. The wind was very unpredictable, and people got lucky on some of the edges of the course.
The downwind leg saw a number of us bunched together, trading places as the light breeze blew. By this stage the gap between ourselves and the leading group was quite considerable. By the time we were just leaving the narrows the lead boats were already nearing the rounding mark in front of the rowing clubs. Dark clouds were rolling in and the committee boat had warned that 30 knot breezes were predicted with the start of the front.
As the wind rolled in I was leading the back of boats that had been split from the lead pack. As the front rolled in the breeze was switching from an easterly to a westerly breeze, but was extremely unsettled. The frequent shifts were an advantage to anyone paying close attention to their wind indicator. I picked the shift going around, and picked when to tack onto port, giving me a 10+ boat length gap. As the front hit it was a matter of trying to get as much out of the boat as possible, but the difference between gusts and lulls was extreme.
The back group was lucky that the front runners were disadvantaged that they had to tack to the mark in front of the rowing sheds. Being further back we could stay closer to the shore and reach all the way to the mark. The front group was made up of a number of lighter sailors who were now struggling in the heavier breeze.
The breeze steadied after the front, and was now pretty much a soldiers course around the marks. The one place that a tactical advantage could be made was behind the island.
In the picture I have shown to strategies for getting around the wind shadow at the back of the island. The blue ‘straight through’ line is the most direct line but you are in the danger of getting caught out by the lack of wind directly behind the island. The green line skirts the main window shadow at the island and allows you to take a little bit more speed as you approach the island. The disadvantage of the green course is that you have to sail higher to the mark and risk having to tack as well. The blue line also has the advantage of getting an extra ‘power squirt’ from the wind that has been compressed by the island (black lines). There is a small distinct band of wind just as you come out from behind the island. To take advantage of this you must be ready to hike quickly and keep the boat flat, but it can pay off if you get it right.
So what is the right way, green or blue?? Of course ‘it depends’ is the answer. The stronger the wind, the deeper the wind shadow, and the more depth there is to the ‘black band’ of wind as you leave the shadow of the island. As a basic rule, in the stronger winds it pays off to go close to the wall near the road, and in lighter breeze it is possible to cut the corner and go closer to the island. During the race I made and loss ground going behind the island, personally I prefer to keep moving and go a little bit lower than most.