Thursday, July 29, 2010

Race Results

We finished late, but finished. Our official finish time was Tuesday at 04:07:10. We were the last boat in the cruising division to finish but corrected above one section 2 and one section 1 boat. We were 15 of 16 finishing boats (18 started) in Section 2 and 35 of 37 (40 started) in the cruising division.

With the radar/genoa problems we had we lost about 5 hours. We lost another couple of hours with spinnaker problems, solved by removing the dousing sock. If we had those 7 hours back we would've finished top 3 in Cruising 2 and top 5 in the division. Such is racing.

The crew is happy with outcome. We sailed well and executed maneuvers (i.e. reefing) without excessive stress. We had a strategy and executed to it. The weather was beautiful and we had some of the best sailing on Donnybrook I've ever experienced. There is nothing like being on a broad reach at 7+ knots with a flat boat and no waves. Cooking below was as smooth as cooking at dock!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Race's Last Sunset

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Mac Race Day 4

I write this 15 miles southeast of Gray's Reef. We are reaching under Big Blue and will gybe shortly for the approach.
We decided to pass west of the Manitou's because of the wind direction. With the light southwest wind and our poor down wind performance, we wanted to keep moving and avoid previous race's mistakes of getting stuck too far east. We also didn't want to have wind blocked by the island.
It was slow sailing around Fox Island. Jake, Megan, Dan and I swam as Mike sailed at 2 knots and Roxray napped.

We sailed north through the night then gybed east at Fox Island. It has been a beautiful spinnaker reach.
If winds hold we should finish around 3:00 AM.

Megan counted 35 boats around us.

Mac Race Days 2 and 3

Friday night was rain, 6 hours work. Jake, Megan, and Roxray's watch was during the rain. They kept the boat sailing well and we continued excellent progress.
Saturday we continuned our strategy of sailing north as soon as possible until the wind shift to northwesterlies. We wanted to broad reach across Lake Michigan, Donnybrook's fastest point of sail.
The wind shifted mid afternoon. It looked like our strategy was perfect until it continued to shift to the northeast. We were beating into winds in the high teens. We settled into a single reef in the main and genoa and sailing about 60 degrees vs. Our desired 30 degrees. We made good speed, low to mid 6 knots.
The wind subsided and we removed the reefs. We continued at 6-7 knots, tacking a few times to find the best angle for VMG and sea state.
During one of the tacks, during a spectacular sunrise, the genoa tore! Thanks to Roxray's quick thinking we raised the storm jib to continue forward progress, this time at 3-4 knots. As the wind subsided we sailed at 1/3 the speed we were capable of.
When the wind neared zero we decided to drop the genoa to investigate. There is a 3 foot tear at radar level. We made plans for Megan to patch with the sail repair kit on-board.
While looking for the cause we found the radome had dislodged and the metal shelf made a very sharp edge which sliced the sail! Jake went up the mast and found only one of 4 screws was holding it in and that was only finger tight.
Jake went up the mast and found only 1 of 4 screws. We went through spare parts and found, mysteriously, the 3 missing bolts! Our theory is the yacht yard failed to install 3 of the bolts. Jakes assessment was that if installed properly there was no way for the bolts to work lose, The ramaining acrew had the washer and lock washer in place but it wan't tight.
The wind picked up and we continued under "Big Blue", our Michigan Spinnaker.
We cointinued at 6+ knots to the Manitous and sunset when the wind dropped. We opted to go ouside the Manitous and, as of Monday morning, passed between North Manitou island and Fox Island.
Our ground support tells us we're 10-20 miles behind the main section 2 fleet,. I estimate we lost 15-20 miles due to the torn genoa. If the forecast is accurate we'll be sailing the rest of the race with Big Blue anyway.

Mac Race Day 1

This is a rewrite of my original message. It was lost in posting.

The race started under idea conditions for Donnybrook! Jake, Megan, Roxray, Dan, Mike, and I left dock around 1:00 after an 11:30 boat call. Winds were perfect for Donnybrook, southwest in the mid teens.

We started with a broad reach and sailed north at hull speed or faster for the first 3+ hours, with a maximum of 8.5 knots.

Late evening we witnessed one of the most awesome sights any of us had seen: a wall cloud form and race over the top of us. We furled the genoa and put in a double reef. Winds were relatively mild but it reinforced our healthy respect for mother nature.

The rest of the night was spent watching amd guessing where the thunderstorns would be. We got rain but missed any direct hits.

The lightning we had was the most incredible I've ever seen. A line of thunderstorns was horizon to horizon south of us--the same storns that caused the flooding in Chicago.

During storms we had several bolts directly overhead splintering out like spider webs. I saw at least one bolt hit the water several miles away. It seemed to leave an orange glow where it stfuck.

This was an incredible start to the race.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mac Practice Sail

Saturday was an ideal day for our Mac practice sail. I was worried about winds being too light with the forecast--south winds 6 knots becoming variable. Instead, we ended up with south winds in the teens, building to nearly 20, then some sustained 30 knot winds with gusts over 40 in a thunderstorm. Over the 6 hours on the water we experienced about everything the Mac offers except for dead calm.

Here you see part of my crew. From left to right: Jake, our newest crew, Mike, Megan, and Roxray. Brian joined us for the dock-side briefing but had family obligations in the afternoon. Danny is in Florida until 7/20.

We left under clear skies with cumulus clouds building. Several developed rain. We dodged several and only had a few minutes of showers, until we saw this. We watched the rainfall build from a few wisps of rain to the black downpour you see here, to a large black downpour that completely obscured the skyline. This picture was taken from about 10 miles east of Belmont harbor and about 20 minutes before we got rained on. There were as many as 3 storms around us. We could track their movement on the radar as the rain echos were very clear.

This is another storm. When the sun shines on them they're beautiful, certainly not as scary as the previous picture, but just as powerful.

The "funnel cloud" to the right is a closeup of the center of the picture to the left. We could see it twist, grow and shrink.

All of us were admiring the rainbow and clouds. A white haze began to form on the water maybe a mile away. I was thinking it was fog and joked that it could be a "white squall." The worst to that point had passed.
Jake yelled "Very strong wind in 10 seconds!" We were focusing on this view to port but didn't see the wind coming toward our bow. We'd previously taken the main down but were caught with our genoa flying. It took three of us to bring in the genoa. Jake saw 39 knots on the hand held wind meter.

It looks like a rainbow with some wispy white clouds. From our experience we learned that we were seeing the downdraft of the storm spread out. It was menacing and black until the sun shone through turning it white. We let our guard down because it was amazing to look at.
The winds were dangerously strong. In fact a small sailboat, it looked like a J-22, washed against the wall at Montrose harbor.

After it passed we were rewarded by a spectacular sunset!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Seamanship and Safety Skills

The Chicago Yacht Club race to Mackinac Seamanship and Safety Skills Checklist for Prospective Competitors is an excellent list of skills any crusing or racing sailor should have.

If you have mastered the competencies listed, you are ready for about anything Lake Michigan can throw at you.

VMG Primer

A key to this year's Mac is to maximum VMG (Velocity Made Good). This means finding the fastest combination of boat speed and angle to the wind. We'll work on this during our next Beer Can race and during Saturday's practice sail.

This article, edited, from http://www.endeavourowners.com/dscsn/handling/perform.html, is a good description of VMG.

What is VMG?VMG is velocity-made-good, sometimes referred to as speed-made-good. Here is a simple example of VMG. Your boat is going at five knots, according to the knotmeter against a current of two knots. Your boat's VMG, or speed over the ground, is three knots. You turn the boat around and your knotmeter still reads five knots, but the current is now pushing you along at an extra two knots, so your VMG is seven knots.

Sail a mile or more to leeward. Set the GPS GOTO function to that mark. Scroll to the GPS screen that reads VMG. Now start beating toward the mark. Try various course angles, sheet tensions, and genoa lead and traveler settings, adjusting your sail trim to suit.

Dedicate a crewmember to monitoring the GPS, recording the course, sail trim, and wind speed, and the VMG resulting from each change. You will soon see which combination of course and sail trim results in your boat's best speed made good to weather in that particular wind/wave combination. Your speed potential will probably vary quite a bit with different wind/wave combinations and course angles. Does your boat do better while pinching or footing? Within a beat, pinching is sailing a little closer to the wind, while footing is sailing a little less close to the wind?

Do the same thing downwind, to find the best gybing angles for your boat and sail combination. Get a mile or two directly upwind of a GPS waypointed mark. Start sailing directly to that mark with your usual downwind sail combination. Note your speed, then come up 10 degrees and check the GPS for the change in VMG.

Even though you are sailing slightly away from the mark, the chances are your VMG has improved, meaning that you are moving more quickly toward your destination, even though you are traveling more distance and will have to gybe to make the mark. Come up some more and again note the change in VMG. Keep experimenting with VMG and make notes of what angles work best.

Reprinted from the America Online Sailing Forum Newsletter
GSTDPeterO is Peter O. Allen, Sr., a retired association executive from Rochester, New York. He has sailed and raced dinghies and various racer/cruisers for more than 30 years. He is a US Sailing Certified Club Race Officer. He and his wife currently sail Canto, a '68 Pearson Wanderer, as well as a Laser. He has been designated as the principal race officer for the Sunfish Pan Am Games Trials, to be held in Rochester July 9-11.

July 3 Sail

The 4th of July weekend was a perfect weekend for Donnybrook. Capt. Kyle, Conor, and Emmet had a guy's night on the boat Friday. Kyle went there straight after work. Before the boys arrived he was able to fix the radar using the parts Bob provided.

Karen fixed a fantastic dinner on the boat before leaving the boys for the night. Saturday Kyle was up early tuning the mast. When Conor and Emmet woke up, they helped to wash the boat.

Karen came by for breakfast at the club then Mike came by for our sail. We sailed under genoa alone. The weather was perfect for sailing, south west winds at 10-15 knots and flat seas. Away from shore it was 70 degrees and cloudless. On shore it was in the mid 80s.

We sailed about 10 miles northeast before sailing down to the playpen (anchorage off of Chicago Avenue). We anchored and swam before returning to Belmont. Overall we covered 25+ miles and were on the water for 7 hours, including and hour at anchor.

This picture shows how clear the sky was and the maze of lines that make up the lazy jacks.