Sunday, August 2, 2009

Best angle downwind wrt to waves?

Chris Boome loaned me his "The Boat Whisperer - Downwind" DVD and I've been watching it in some detail. In general, I completely agree with the philosophy of not trying to "muscle" the boat, instead to listen to what it is saying and act accordingly. Well, I believe in it, but in the heat of battle I think one often reverts to unconscious action and since a kid I have always tried to "muscle" the boat (and in my old age that means throwing my stomach "muscle" at it!).

An interesting segment is on the angle to take with the waves. OK, the discussion is really the angle to take in waves in strong breeze where I'm guessing strong to Steve is mid-twenties and above (hey, strong to me too!). He advocates taking the by-the-lee angle running more or less parallel to the primary (largest) wave pattern.

In light to medium breeze I think one should assume the gybe that allows you to run by-the-lee going down the wave. In these conditions you are not likely to be running into the backs of the wave in front at high speed so this angle keeps you powered as you are surfing the the wave and helps to keep you on it longer. It is also easier to initiate the turn to windward since you aren't fighting the angle the wave wants the boat to take. Of course, at my weight (over 200 lbs) I can't turn as often as the pinners (anyone under 200 lbs) can, so sailing by the lee works to keep me moving fast longer than if I were trying to turn too much

But what about in strong breeze? Here running into the backs of the waves can be an issue. In this case I think you need to assume the gybe that has you square to broad reaching on the primary waves. In this much breeze you will, as Steve says, be primarily concerned with trying to avoid running into the backs of the waves in front of you and this gybe allows you more control over which direction you can go.

Still, I'm not sure that running by-the-lee parallel to the primary set is really the fastest... will have to try that today...

Yesterday we had a good ebb tide with breeze straight down the Golden Gate. Peter Vessella and I did two nice long runs from Anita Rock down to Blossom Rock. There must be a nice swell running off the coast, the waves in the bay were as big as I can remember seeing and the ebb pushed them up to make nice, steep runways for surfing. I hope we get that again today!

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