Tag Archives: SLSailing

Shadow Boxing

Wind shadow is a powerful tactical weapon in sailboat racing. A skipper that successfully maneuvers between the wind and an opponent can effectively ‘blanket’ the downwind boat by stealing the air.

In real life, the magnitude and extent of the shadow a boat can cast depends on a number of variables, but a shadow’s effective range is usually three-to-five times the mast height.

How does this translate in SL Sailing? What’s the shadow magnitude and how wide is the blanket? It’s hard to get accurate, practically useful numbers for different boats, so this past week I’ve been playing around with the 1.12 upgrade for Trudeau ONE, collecting data on the wind shadow effect. (Huge thanks to Bunnie Mills and Chaos Mandelbrot for their help with this).

I thought some race-aholics might want to see the numbers!

The image above shows one easy way to collect shadow data. Two boats catch racewind (in this case 9.0 m/s from compass North, no variance). They drop sails and sit stationary in the water, with the windward boat on a beam reach heading. The leeward, ‘shadowed’ boat then moves to a series of stationary downwind coordinates to measure the intensity of the shadow and check the resulting effect on wind speed.

Since all the measurements are for ‘stationary’ positions, there is no lag effect and the findings are easy to reproduce.

The HUDs for several Trudeau boats give numerical readouts for shadow intensity; they indicate the fractional WS effect from 0.00 to 1.00. On the charts posted here I’ll express those numbers as a percentage of the max Shadow effect. With the windsetter blowing at 9.0 m/s, the chart above shows that the boat’s wind is inversely related to the percentage of WS effect. With WS= 100%, the wind¬† powering the boat is cut from 9.0 to 3.6 m/s, a 71% shadow-reduction.

That’s pretty consistent with other boats in the Trudeau fleet, going all the way back to when wind shadow was introduced to the Trudeau line in the TWENTY.

The curve above shows the drop-off of shadow intensity with increasing distance between two boats. To get these measurements, the boats were overlapped and the shadowed boat was progressively moved further leeward. The image above shows an example of the setup, with a separation distance of 50 meters.

The resulting curve shows that T-ONE throws a maximum intensity blanket that extends over one boat length leeward (14m). At 20m separation, the shadow effect drops to 75%; it then continues to decline with increasing distance but is still present at 50m.

These findings seem well-consistent with the real-life predictions for the boat, and are confirmed by the wind speed changes on the shadowed boat with increasing lee distance, as shown above.

I admit I haven’t looked at Trudeau Shadow very closely for many months… but the numbers I got this past week are pretty encouraging. Two years ago a very large fleet of beta testers played ‘sailboat sandbox‘ with Trudeau TWENTY, trying to come up with just-right shadow parameters. When the boat launched, I was convinced a windward skipper could use shadow to keep any lee challenger at bay… but only if they were experts at it and knew what they were doing.

Conversely, I was pretty sure an excellent leeward skipper had all the tools needed to trash the best laid plans of some overconfident, windward Shadow-Maven. ūüôā

(HEY, just like REAL-LIFE!)

Trudeau ONE¬† fits right in that tradition, but with far more intelligence and subtlety. ūüôā

Passing Data

OKOKOK… I know the above numbers-and-graphs stuff is boring, and for most sailors it’s all probably pretty obvious, anyway. But…

I’ve been trying to think of a way to represent the racing-important data in a way that would provide the real numbers but might also make quick sense to a skipper who wants to know the best way to beat a shadowing boat. I’m trying to figure out a way to say “Please don’t believe me, look at the real numbers, come up with your own tactics.

I’m still working on it, but here’s what I think.

The chart below is a 2D-grid. It shows red lines that indicate shadow measurements for a boat trying to pass a shadowing boat on a course set to leeward separations of 2, 7, 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 meters. This is what happens in real life; you want to pass that boat; you need to know when the shadow kicks in, and how to beat it.

(Conversely, if you are the windward shadow-commander, you need to know the best way to put an iron lock on that upstart pretender trying to sneak up on you….)

The 'bow' of the red boat rectangle is facing Left above.

Take a look at the 20m line above. It gives you the percent WS effect as you approach on a parallel course 20m leeward of the shadow boat.

When you are 25m away from ‘overlap’¬† (roughly a 50¬į angle from the shadowing boat), an 8% wind shadow kicks in. Don’t kid yourself, 8% is a lot, and in the next second when you hit 45¬į on that 20m course, it’s going to double to 15%. You can read the numbers above, and see the distance you’re going to need to cover to get past that Windward hammer. You got the momentum for that big jump? ūüôā

I’ve looked at Trudeau wind shadow for two years, but I learned a few new things this week by collecting the numbers above. Maybe I’m slow, but perchance you missed them too. ūüôā Here are the two big items that might help win a race:

  • I’m not sure why, but it looks very consistent and very clear that Trudeau Shadow angles backwards given the setup I described above. A boat traveling a parallel, 20m leeward course will see 15% shadow when they are 20m aft of ‘mast abeam.’ When they are 20m ahead, they only get 3% shadow. Factor that in, someplace… ūüôā
  • Trudeau shadow radiates downwind as a cone, and it’s extremely narrow right next to the windward boat. With a minimal, 2m boat separation the shadow only affects the passing boat for 5 meters (it’s pretty much a 100% sledgehammer there, though)! A lee boat with mega-guts and deep-seated momentum should be able to cross its fingers, close its eyes and blast past by snuggling very close to the shadow-boat while holding its breath. (GRIN!! Good Luck on That, You Try it First! Let Me Know!)

OMG; that’s enough numbers for today! Go sailing!

SL-VT Round Five Part Two: Glorfindel and Carmen!

On July 10-11 NYC hosted Round Five of the SL-VT Qualifying series to chose two more skippers for the upcoming SL-VT grid-wide finals in August.

I’ve already reported on the first two races. Let’s catch up with Race Three!

Race Three: Glorfindel Arrow and Carmen Foden

The moment the Clock began it’s countdown, Carmen pulled out her boxing gloves and began sparring with Glorfindel; believe me,¬† Glorf gave as good as he got.

Maybe boxing isn’t the best analogy here, though; the skill, timing, and humor of the Match Race three-minute, pre-start two-step is more like a Tango. While watching Carmen and Glorf weave back and forth, Amythest Wingtips called it “the dance of love,” and wow, I think Amy got it right. ūüôā

Anywayz, Glorfindel and Carmen traded some pretty fancy kisses behind the raceline for two and a half minutes, as the duo moved inexorably closer to the Start.

Here’s what the spectators heard in those final seconds:

[2010/07/11 9:09] ::: SLSA Raceline: 30 SECONDS to the start
[2010/07/11 9:09] ::: Carmen Foden: lee
[2010/07/11 9:09] ::: SLSA Raceline: 20 SECONDS to the start
[2010/07/11 9:09] Elizabet Foxtrot: she’s puching
[2010/07/11 9:10] ::: SLSA Raceline: 15 SECONDS to the start
[2010/07/11 9:10] ::: SLSA Raceline: Glorfindel Arrow is over early! Go around the buoy and recross !
[2010/07/11 9:10] ::: SLSA Raceline: 10
[2010/07/11 9:10] ::: SLSA Raceline: 9
[2010/07/11 9:10] ::: SLSA Raceline: 8
[2010/07/11 9:10] Elizabet Foxtrot: got him
[2010/07/11 9:10] ::: SLSA Raceline: 7
[2010/07/11 9:10] ::: Carmen Foden: protest
[2010/07/11 9:10] ::: SLSA Raceline: 6
[2010/07/11 9:10] ::: SLSA Raceline: 5
[2010/07/11 9:10] ::: SLSA Raceline: 4
[2010/07/11 9:10] ::: SLSA Raceline: 3
[2010/07/11 9:10] ::: SLSA Raceline: 2
[2010/07/11 9:10] ::: SLSA Raceline: 1
[2010/07/11 9:10] ::: SLSA Raceline: RACE STARTED

[2010/07/11 9:12]  Angus Firethorn: Dont you guys think thats a little dirty forcing him over the line like that??
[2010/07/11 9:12]¬† Gemma Vuckovic: nope …
[2010/07/11 9:12]¬† diamond Marchant: all is fair in love and sailing…
[2010/07/11 9:13]  don Berithos: this is the Vuitton. All gloves are off!

I was high overhead, watching the action from the next sim. That’s a great place to get the overview, but I missed the the details… and I admit the details in this race were critical. Luckily there was a full house watching the race, and I had a chance to chat with Amythest Wingtips, who won Round Two of SL-VT. She was watching from the spectator box over the Startline, and presumably checking out her future competition. Here’s our conversation:

___

[9:18:13] Jane Fossett: In the third race Glorf was over early… and Angus (Firethorn) commented that Carmen forced him over.
[9:19:08] Amythest Wingtips: She did
[9:19:23] Jane Fossett: How’d she do that?… Sumo Wrestling?
[9:19:55] Amythest Wingtips: He was next to her on the port side, she moved to port [towards the line],  forcing him to cross.
He had 3 choices:

1. Cross the line early,

2. Hit her, or

3. Stop and let her go first.
[9:20:31] Jane Fossett: Beautiful! Elizabet’s comment now makes sense; Elizabet said Carmen ‘
puched.’
I actually didnt think Carmen ‘
puked;’ so you agree she ‘
pushed’ Glorf.
[9:22:09] Amythest Wingtips: Lol; [Carmen] moved over, closer to the line, but since [Glorfindel] was already there,
he had to move across the line to not hit her.
So in a sense it was pushing, although they never really touched.
[9:22:57] Jane Fossett: that’s the whole idea; I love it.

___

After he was ‘pushed over,’ Glorfindel quickly turned and recrossed the line, still ahead of Carmen. Unfortunately in the heat of the moment, he forgot to go around one of the Startline buoys. Following the race,¬† the judges determined Glorf was DSQ.

When I interviewed Glorfindel afterward, he most graciously admitted committing a silly error in not rounding a Start buoy, and acknowledged Carmen had adroitly pushed him over the line, using the rules to force him into the situation. (What a gentleman!)

However,¬† rather remarkably, Glorf attributed his Start line duel defeat to a poor tactical decision he made a few chess moves earlier that laid the scenario, allowing Carmen to put him in ‘Check.’

Wow. Think about that. I talk to many sailors about race outcomes… they usually say ” NN cheated, or in a gangster-tone they comment “I Wuz Robbed.” ūüôā
That wasn’t Glorf and Carmen… they were playing chess… they were thinking ahead… and omgThey were Match Racing. WOOTS!

Yesterday I commented that Sunday’s races brought this competition to an entirely new level. Carmen and Glorfindel proved that in spades in Race Three. Even before the Start gun sounded, they had moved far beyond a simple boat race; they were playing chess… dueling, having fun, and planning several moves ahead.

I was originally going to bypass discussing this race at all, since it ended with a start line rules decision; the race was over before it began. But… OMG, look what actually happened.:-)

Carmen played pre-start tactics as well as I’ve EVER seen them done in real life, let alone SL. And Glorfindel? He saw it coming and danced with her toe-to-toe.

It’s a level of match sailing I haven’t seen for three years, since Armchair, M1sha, and Hans faced-off in Tako Cup 2007.

Thank you, THANK-YOU, Glorfindel and Carmen!

____

Phew! Tomorrow I’ll add the final three races!

________

Cetaceans Capture CLASSIC Cup

Cetaceans Capture CLASSIC Cup

by Jane Fossett and Naeve Rosinni

RACE FOUR

Following NYC-Narwhal’s rather remarkable win in Race Three,¬†The 2009 J-CLASSIC Finals Championship became a toss-up for the top three teams. Naeve Rossini summarized the situation for the throng of spectators perched atop balloon platforms around the racecourse:

“As we go into the final race, the standings look like this: Waypoint is in the lead with 5 points overall, Narwhal¬†and Eureka tied with 7 and Second Chance in fourth with 11 points. With one discard, the order is Waypoint, Narwhal, Eureka and Second Chance.
This race WILL decide the winner of the J-Classic 2009!
A win by either Waypoint or Narwhal will declare a clear winner. A Eureka win could result in a 2 or 3-way tie.”

The winner of Race Four would decide¬†who took home the J-Classic Cup… Oli’s Cup.¬†

For the fourth time in a row, when the gun went off all boats chose a starboard start. Chaos Mandelbrot was again at the helm of NYC-Narwhal,¬†but he was apparently still cranked after the thrill of Race Three and ¬†jumped the gun too soon. Narwhal¬†went “Over Early” by a full two seconds. Eureka (00:07),¬†Second Chance (00:11),¬†and All-Stars (00:17) maintained their focus and all had good starts.

Chaos immediately 360‘d around the East end of the raceline¬† to recross, but believed that any chance¬†to win had just gone up in smoke.¬†NYC-Narwhal¬†wasn’t ready to throw in the towel however; they had come too far and were having too much fun to give up just because they were going to lose. As shown by the yellow arrow in image below,¬†the Narwhal¬†crew¬† cooked up a desperate strategy to restart on¬†a port¬†tack, placing¬†them almost exactly a full tack behind the other three vessels.

If you look more closely at the top picture below, you see that Eureka has the height moving toward the windward mark and Second Chance is lee but ahead of  WYC-All Stars and closely overlapped.

After both boats tacked port, WYC¬†and TrYC¬†continued their overlap duel for position all the way across the Southern Sugar Reef Latitudes. However, As waypoint and Second Chance reached the far end of their port tack, Team All Stars’ skipper Massy Johin¬†crashed off-line and the WYC boat went on the rocks, grounded! Toraba¬†Magic lept into action, taking control of the helm and redirecting the boat back into deep water.

In the¬†top image above the¬†location of the first mark is indicated¬†by¬†a yellow arrow. Eureka is closing on it by pinching from starboard,¬†while¬†Second Chance¬†is coming in on port. NYC is¬†on close haul with a far more efficient wind angle than Eureka but several boat lengths astern. Eureka then stalled¬†as it set up to take the turn at the mark, caught in TrYC’s¬†strong windshadow¬†as Trapez¬†cut across Eureka’s bow to fetch the mark. Narwhal¬†grabbed this opportunity, and within a few seconds NYC barreled past Eureka, capturing the second-place position (shown in last image above).

Approaching Race Rock, TrYC was the undisputed leader, with several boat-lengths separating the Second Chance boat from NYC-Narwhal. Eureka and All-Stars vied for the three-four spots. 

The image above shows TrYC brief moments after taking th tun at Race Rock, and about to enter Hay Harbor Channel. NYC is off the port aft quarter and setting the spinnaker pole.

A non-sailor then briefly jumped aboard the Second Chance  in the waters around Race Rock; this likely brought the TrYC boat to a momentary full stop, allowing Narwhal to roar past as it entered Hay Harbor Channel on a slightly more Easterly course. NYC took full advantage of the open water and clean air, building an impressive lead as they rounded Fishers Island and began the home trip through Schooner Run. Entering Anchor Cove  Channel, NYC was also briefly boarded by the griefer. Narwhal came to a dead stop, but then quickly regained momentum before the remaining fleet could close in.

Eureka got within¬†a few boat lengths¬†of ¬†NYC’s stern,¬†earning the second position. Immediately behind Eureka, however, All-Stars was staging a remarkable comeback performance. Given the short course distance and the field of outstanding sailors, WYC’s¬†crash in Sugar Reef should have taken them¬†completely out of competition, but their great teamwork and remarkable sailing skill brought them back into the fight. As WYC¬†reached the entrance to Anchor Cove Channel, they fell windward and overlapped with TrYC¬†and then played that tactical position to advantage, pulling well ahead of Second Chance as the boats turned downwind into Plum Gut. WYC¬†slowly gained on Eureka as well, but both Eureka and NYC held their own, completing the short windward- leeward loop of Quoddy¬†Head with flawless efficiency. Narwhal hit the finish line in First Place with a¬†commanding, thirty-second¬†lead over Eureka, with All-Stars and Second Chance falling into the third and fourth positions.

Although an early over, a crash, and two griefing¬†episodes complicated Race Four, none of the competing boats raised a protest or petitioned for redress when they were polled at the finish line. Head Judge Soro¬†Dagostino then declared this last race of the 2009 J-CLASSIC Regatta “closed” and valid.

In a rather remarkable display of heart, humor, and flat-out relentless sailing determination, NYC- Narwhal came back from a clumsy Start error to capture the win in Race Four… and earn Oli’s Cup in the process.

Congratulations to Nomad Zamani, Chaos Mandebrot and Glorfindel Arrow!!

Myrrh Massiel awarding the Finals Trophies at Fishers Island Yacht Club

J-CLASSIC FINALS III: Rise of the Cetaceans

When we last left off in this tale of the J-CLASSIC Finals, the NYC-Narwhal¬†crew of Nomad Zamani, Chaos Mandelbrot, and Glorfindel¬†Arrow was in a rather sorry state. It was Half-Time; four races were scheduled, and two were on the scoreboard, but those numbers did not look good for Narwhal. In the first two races, Waypoint All-Stars had repeatedly outmaneuvered NYC, and Eureka proved incredibly fast compared to NYC’s whale-boat entry.

However, the absolute¬†worst thing of all for NYC was that¬†their Ace Starting Pitcher, Nomad Zamani, had crashed-out twice in the last race. Narwhal had used-up it’s only discard in the¬† crash,¬†so¬†NYC¬†was up now against the wall; Team NYC¬†knew that one more bang-up¬† like that would be lethal, and surely mean an early end to their hubristic playoff hopes. Although back in the locker room, Nomad was still having connection problems and limping badly¬†when Race Director Hay Ah sounded the horn¬†to field a team for the¬†third contest…

Nomad weighed the odds and made the call. During half-time he huddled and laid out the facts.

Nomad¬†said¬†it was too risky for¬†him to skipper the next race, given his tenuous link with Second Reality; he would just crash again.¬†Nonetheless, he exhorted his NYC¬†crew not¬†to give up, but to fight on… “and win one for the Gipper!”

Narwhal Skipper Chaos Mandelbrot

Sometimes fate moves in strange ways. Amidst the din of wind and wave and the clang of rigging all about them, the members of Team NYC thought Nomad said “Win one with the Flipper.” All eyes fell on Chaos Mandelbrot.

Chaos Mandelbrot¬†looked up, swallowed hard, and uttered the immortal words: “WHO ME??”¬† He protested it was too early to race in his timezone and he hadn’t brushed his teeth, but Chaos was game-to-go. He put down the beer he was drinking, tightened his PFD, and¬†waddled over to take the helm as Narwhal’s Relief Skipper.

The last two races used a new chart that took better  advantage of the extensive sailing water throughout the sailors Cove Estate. It began with an upwind beat to the orange mark in Sugar Reef, then switched to a three-sim long reach to Race Rock Light. From there the course ran through Hay Harbor channel down to the open waters of Schooner Run. The return trip from there to Plum Gut next involved a tricky, narrow squeeze through Anchor Cove, followed by a short detour south around the small island in Quoddy Head. The course was nothing too complicated, and the competition skippers had certainly sailed similar charts many times before. Nonetheless it would take a good deal of skill, and probably some good luck to take first place sailing against this fleet.

However, when the gun went off, Waypoint was ready, and took the advantage!

Massy Johin was once again at the helm, and his WYC All-Stars crew started in the lead with the best time of the day: 00:02. NYC was considerably further windward but started a full ten seconds later, followed by Eureka and then Second Chance.

The next picture (on the right) shows a view of the fleet from high above the spectator blimp taken¬†after the fleet made its first tack; all the boats¬†were now on port. On the left of the image¬†you can see¬†Waypoint leading Eureka, and the¬†right side shows Narwhal far in the distance in front of Second Chance.¬†¬†NYC is¬†the ‘lowest’ of the four boats as they proceed to the mark.

When he did not win the start, Chaos kept a cool head and took a lesson from¬†WYC’s¬†tactics in Race One. Finding himself ¬†hehind, Chaos deliberately tacked early, sailing away¬†from the pack.

Look what happened next¬†in the picture below. The first image shows Chaos as he reaches the end of his course¬† and makes a turn; his new course is a starboard right-of-way tack¬†that crosses directly in front of the rest of the fleet.¬†¬†Chaos timed it perfectly; the middle image shows Narwhal crossing right in front of All-Star’s path.¬†Massy now had no choice;¬†he pulled up short and¬†came about to starboard.

The lower image is a few moments later. It shows all three boats now sailing on starboard with the orange mark in the distance, two tacks¬†away. WYC¬†looks in the lead, but NYC¬†is¬†sailing windward and closer to the mark. Perhaps more important, in that position Narwhal has the “height” to take tactical control.

Watch what Narwhal does next.

As you can see in the first image below, since All-Stars was running parallel and ahead of Narwhal but on a lower course, they ran out of water and had to tack back to port again. The problem is that NYC was blocking them, and NYC was still on Starboard with Right-of-Way. Waypoint had plenty of room, but in order to avoid NYC, All-Stars had to fall off and go astern of Narwhal as shown in the middle image.

That extra few seconds and change in course heading proved disastrous for Narwhal’s¬†competition.¬†Remember, Eureka and Second Chance Were on the same heading and only moments behind the lead boats. In response to NYC’s blocking maneuver, All-Stars lost momentum and turned into the path of the oncoming boats, as shown in the middle image. I can imagine Alain and Trapez¬†shouting¬† a few unrepeatable¬†words as they desperately tried to execute last minute¬†hockey-stop turns. A collision was inevitable however; the WYC, Eureka, and Second Chance teams all broadsided each other and awkwardly sat in place for more than a few moments¬† as they sorted out locked rigging and disengaged their scraped hulls.

While all that was going on, Narwhal was out ahead with clean air and an unobstructed racecourse, moving in record time.

The image below shows the NYC team roaring through Anchor Cove Channel on their way to the final leg of the course. Unfortunately the other three boats continued in close quarters after their pile-up. They stayed overlapped and squabbling  for nearly the entire remainder of the race, losing time in the process.

The lower image below shows them¬†traveling three abreast in Anchor Cove. That must be a tribute to wonderful sailing; I didn’t think it was actually possible to fit three J-Class in that channel overlapped…

The final figure below shows Narwhal¬†working the¬†last leg back to the raceline, while the other three boats have just raised spinnaker¬†and are still¬†heading to the last waypoint. Narwhal went on to take Race Three’s First Place¬†in record time, finishing a full two minutes¬†ahead of WYC All-Stars,¬†the Runner-Up.

Nice work for a substitute skipper du jour, Chaos!

 

World Fizz Round Six: Reia Rules!

header round 6

A month and a half ago, World Fizz Cup 2009 kicked off with an initial series of qualifying races hosted by the major yacht clubs in Second Life. Since then, each week the sailors reconvene, the bar rises, skill level goes up… and the tension builds. June 13 and 14 was the sixth time the competition fleet met to lock horns, testing their endurance and their mettle to earn a spot in the World Fizz Cup 2009 Finals.

FYC09This week was the last match in the regular series, hosted by Max Starostin and Far East Yacht Club.

The race course was an interesting mix of classic and novel features that promised a good test of the qualifying skippers’ experience and skill. As you can see in the figure to the right, the race course begins with an upwind beat to the first mark. The tack points are restricted by the dock on the starboard side and an island to port. The fleet makes an acute turn around the¬†top mark (#1) and then sets a genniker course for the #2 reach buoy.¬† The route is confined by two islands that make this leg potentially tactically interesting.

The #2 mark also requires an acute change in direction, this time reaching to a small island (#3) before setting sights on the final, bottom mark (#4). From there it’s a short, but difficult upwind beat to the Finish. The course presented several challenges that were similar to the Schiffsratten races the week before.

FYC 2_003

The race¬† I am going to tell you about today¬†took place at 7:30am Sunday morning.¬†The 6:00am race was cancelled at the last moment due to under-enrollment and so several sailors moved up to the next slot, making the 7:30am race “a full dance card” with six boats competing. The skippers that showed up at 7:30 because of that turn of events might easily foreshadow the final race lineup.

Seraina Benelli, reia Setsuko, macro Nacht, ¬†joro Aya, Odysseus Yiyuan, and REVO Blitz rezzed boats on the far side of the line, turning Sunday morning into a multifaceted showdown that included the third, fourth, fifth, eighth, and 12th ranked contenders in the series so far. That meant FYC, perhaps somewhat unexpectedly, ended up¬†hosting an early morning race¬†that pitted sailors with¬†the greatest concentration of talent from any qualifying round against each other. And the stakes were high indeed: A shot at the Cup. It was immediately apparent to both the Fizz Cup Staff and the skippers that Sunday’s race¬†could prove to be the greatest challenge of the entire competition.

Of course we won’t know that “until the fat lady sings,” but¬†I can certainly confirm the Sunday morning fleet made a breathtaking performance and pushed the limits far beyond the prior qualifying round standards. Liv Leigh commented that the first¬†heat was probably the best Fizz Cup race she had ever seen. ¬†She may well be right; from what I saw, although the sizable fleet was plagued by lag at many points, their performance was truly extraordinary.

Let me tell you what happened.

Joro Aya cut the line first at 00:09; she then immediately¬†pivoted and took off on a port tack.¬†¬† As shown above, Ody, Macro, Seraina and REVO started close behind Joro, but all opted for a more traditional starboard tack first leg. Reia Setsuko started the race in the dead last position, a full 30 seconds behind the leader. In that desperate situation she chose a port tack start. It actually made perfect sense; in last place no one was going to call ‘right of way’ against her.

FYC 2_007

The image above shows the fleet a short while later. Ody still leads the four boats, and they are nearing the first tack point. Off in the distance you can see Joro’s pink sails; she’s already come about, and is¬†now on starboard tack as she¬†zig-zags to the first mark.
FYC 2_010

The four boats then all flip to port tack, and fall on a course that will intersect with Joro, with Reia still far in the distance.

FYC 2_013

Joro brilliantly played the upwind beat to this point. She chose to cut to port  at the beginning to get clean air without obstructions, and when she changed course to overlap with the fleet she ended up on a starboard tack that landed her squarely in front of Ody and Macro.  Joro had Right of Way, so both Ody and Macro needed to turn aside, losing position and momentum. Very nicely done, Joro!

FYC 2_014

But don’t count out Reia! As you can see above, she is following in the footsteps of Joro and gaining ground, threatening to block Seriana and REVO!

FYC 2_017

Joro now tacks again, and runs parallel to the other four boats. In the upper left can see the double-circle that marks the ‘zone’ at the first mark. All the boats will need to tack at least one more time to reach it. Although it looks like Ody and Macro are ahead in the image above, Joro is actually in a very good strategic position, ¬†since she is much further windword and can gain speed by falling off more than the other boats. By planning her position and timing her tack correctly, she can maintain a windward advantage after the next turn. That will give her the necessary speed to make it to the zone first, while fending off the other contenders with her shadow.
FYC 2_022a

It doesn’t quite work out that way, however. Ody, Macro, and Seraina prove extremely fast, and it’s Ody rather than Joro that times the tack correctly. In the first frame above, you can see that Ody’s already flipped over and picking up steam on starboard tack while Joro is still in mid-turn. Ody’s got the momentum, and slides around Joro’s aft quarter into the windward slot, erasing all Joro’s earlier advantage.

FYC 2_026

Remember though, these skippers are ‘the best of the best,’ and Joro’s not giving up that easily. She’s able to hold her own in the leeward position while remaining parallel and overlapped up to the mark. They entered the two boat length zone together, giving Joro Right of Way to round the mark inside Ody’s turn. As you can see above, this once again gives Joro a slight lead over Ody as she takes the turn past the buoy onto the reach leg, with Macro less than a boat length behind the two frontrunners.
FYC 2_029

A few seconds later the other three boats reach the mark, and REVO has the inside track. But look where Reia is! You recall she started in last place, a full 30 seconds behind Joro. Here, at the first mark, she’s not only caught up, she’s passed REVO and Seraina! ¬†I don’t know what vitamins she’s taking but that’s some incredible sailing!
FYC 2_031

The next section of the course is a broad reach that brings the boats through a channel between two islands on the way to the second mark. As you can see above, Joro and Ody continue their duel the entire way. Ody’s got control, however. He’s in the Windward position and slightly ahead. He can’t shadow Joro at this wind angle and Joro’s present position, but Joro can’t pass, either. As soon as she tries, she’ll fall under Ody’s windward boat blanket and lose momentum.

Ody knows he has her trapped, too: The channel is looming ahead, and the reach mark is on the starboard side past the islands. Joro therefore has no option to fall futher leeward to find clean air. Joro’s only option here is to ‘feint’ by first dropping back momentarily, then swinging across Ody’s stern to power into the windward position.

Joro’s got the skill to do it; she’ racked up more consecutive wins than any skipper in the history of Fizz Cup. But in this race she’s up against Ody, who’s ranked third overall in the Fizz 2009 fleet, with 16 clean wins under his belt. Joro’s chance to pull a feint and snatch windward from Ody ¬†in this situation is, well… ¬†zero.
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The duel cost both skippers time and energy, however, and the remaining four sailors took the advantage. Flashing the skill they had all amply demonstrated in the prior heats of this series, Macro, Seraina, Reia and REVO all surged ahead to challenge the leaders. Although two minutes earlier the boats had been on opposite tacks and spread out over the width of the race course, now they were once again closely packed together as they flew through the channel, with Macro, Ody, Reia and Joro all vying for the lead.

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Macro and Reia edged ahead and caught the reach mark first, free of any overlap with Ody or Joro (see above). Reia had the inside, and played it for all it was worth, chiseling the turn and breaking out front.

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Macro then pulled a smart move. Although he was outside of Reia taking the turn, as shown above Macro swung hard around the mark to move to Reia’s opposite side, placing his boat windward of Reia’s aft quarter. On some other day, against some other skipper, Macro might use that advantage to steal the lead; but not this day, not this race. Reia had too much headway and Macro lost momentum in trade for the windward position.

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Reia wrestled free from Macro and broke into clean air. For the first time in the race, there was no one ahead and nothing holding her back. With barely a nod to her fans on the beach, she suddenly exploded into overdrive, stretching her lead so fast the rest of the pack appeared as though standing still.  Come to think of it, considering the lag, they may have been.

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This fight was still far from over, however. Ody and Jaro held the lead too long to let it go quite this easily. Macro held then off at the small island that served as the third mark, using it as an obstruction to keep Joro astern. Once in open water again, however, Joro made her move, attempting to pass windward of Macro.

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On a different point of sail, this might be an effective strategy. The leg from the island (#3) to the bottom mark (#4) is a beam reach, however. With that heading Joro could not shadow from behind, and Macro had multiple options to change course in order to keep Joro at bay.  Joro had the heart, and never gave up the fight, but this time her efforts proved futile. Macro progressively widened his lead.

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The image above shows how truly close the race still was at the bottom mark with just a short way to go to the finish. Reia maintained her lead, although Macro continued to close the gap all the way to the very end. ¬†As I mentioned above, Macro successfully pulled away from the rest of the fleet, guaranteeing his second-place finish. Joro, Ody, and Seraina however were still so tightly packed that all three boats were completely in the zone for the final marker at the same time. And don’t forget REVO! He was in the rear, but was the same distance behind the ‘gang of three’ in the middle as Reia was ahead. In other words, this was a tight, excellent fleet they were all in the game together throughout.

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Liv Leigh commented that many sailors think the FYC09 racecourse was ‘all about the start.’ In other words, if you win the start, you win the race. ¬†For short dinghy races that emphasize technical expertise, that’s often true.

However, Reia on Sunday showed us something else. She came from dead last place, she chose an alternate port-tack strategy, and she relentlessly inched her way forward. Her progress in the race wasn’t luck. It didn’t depend on the errors of others.

Reia won this race in the best possibly way. In this first heat Sunday morning, Reia just outsailed everybody.

What a great race! Woot!

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