The following sequence shows Perfect Circle, rounding a top mark in first place during the 2005 Nationals in Long Beach, California. Click on each picture to see a larger version and get a better view of the action. This is excellent one design racing. When all the boats are the same, as opposed to being handicapped by time, they sail next to each other. This provides opportunities to steal air and use other strategies to get ahead of your competition. Also, if another boat is faster, you become motivated to look at you boat to see what you are doing wrong. Sailing one design makes the best racers. In this sequence of photos, even with many other boats out of frame, you have an opportunity to see what it is like to race in a good one design fleet. If you have been racing PHRF or some other handicapping system, you have probably never seen this many boats converging on a mark at the same time. Imaging 21 35' one design ocean racers starting and sailing together. In the old days, the Schock 35 fleet had 39 10,000 pound boats on the starting line at the same time. This type of racing is not for the timid.
Click on any image for a larger view.
Being first upwind allowed us to select the best layline to the top mark. You can see each of Ripple, Whiplash and Mako behind us having to sail further to a higher layline in order to stay out of our bad air. In this frame, you can see 10 boats fairly close to each other all converging on the top mark. This is great one design racing.
We are starting to turn around the top mark. You can see that the main has been let out to allow the boat to turn down. The jib is still in tight at this point as the main is more important. You can see Greg our mastman and Marty our bowman getting the pole in place and ready for a Spinnaker set.
In this frame, the boat is still turning around the top mark, the chute is being hoisted and is almost at full hoist. The jib has been let out, but not past the lifelines. By leaving the jib inboard of the lifelines, it makes it easier for the chute to be deployed out of our hatch bag, and when the jib is dropped once the chute is up, it will fall directly on deck making it easy to secure. The pole is at the headstay, and has not yet been pulled back, but will be shortly.
Perfect Circle is in front on the right side of this frame. Mako, on the left side of the frame, went to the right side of the course (left side of this picture) even though the left was favored hoping to pick up a wind shift and pass us (they didn't). This was the smart move because if they just stayed behind us, they would not have been able to catch us unless we made a mistake, which can occur even at this level of competition. Mako's lead in front of the rest of the boats was enough they felt assured they could preserve their second place finish. Look at all the boats in the middle of the frame and imagine how the disturbed air hurts the boats further downwind. Getting around the Top Mark first makes a huge difference for increasing your lead downwind.
Here is a picture of Perfect Circle getting ready to round the right hand leeward gate. You can see that the jib is almost up on port, and the chute is still drawing almost perfectly. You can also see the pole is not level. In this case we delayed our jibe to Starboard as long as possible in order to get the best position for our rounding, giving our team a lot to do in a small amount of time. So while the chute is not in Max Speed mode, the small amount of extra speed we could gain from the Spinnaker is insignificant compared to the large gains we received by having the best position on the mark. As we arrive at the leeward gate, the chute will start coming down, and will be brought in under the jib (port side) as we turn to starboard to go upwind. The pole will stay up and the jib and main brought in to close hauled as we continue our turn upwind. The crew will move to the high side as the Bowman and Mastman will gather the chute, and then the Bowman alone will stow the chute in the hatch bag in order to get weight off the bow. Then the Bowman, again alone, will stow the pole as quickly as possible and make the boat clear to tack. Keeping the weight off the bow is critical in order to obtain our best upwind speed. In this light air, we want to approach the bottom gate at 6.3 knots, and come out of our turn at 6.1 knots and hold that speed as we sail upwind. If the left side of the course is favored, the bow will delay clean up until we are firmly established upwind and at full speed. Boat speed is more important than the ability to tack in this case. If the right side of the course is favored, we still delay our cleanup until we can obtain full speed, as downspeed tacks are very costly, but as soon as we had full speed we would prepare to tack so we can go right. We also need to remember that if we go right, we will be sailing through the disturbed air of the rest of the fleet behind us as they sail downwind behind us. Something you have to deal with when you round first.