We might not be climbing up the leader board but I think we have been making good progress this week, it’s just difficult to see that from the outside I guess. But I’m starting to understand more about the handling of these boats and appreciating how tricky they are. One of the big lessons is timing.
The difference with an AC45 and say a modern sportsboat is that any mistakes get amplified. Normally if you have a bad gybe you might lose a couple of boat lengths, but in an AC45 it could cost you around five or even ten boat lengths. That’s where you see the biggest differences on the race course and it comes down largely to boat handling, in particular at my end of the boat.
I’m still learning where to put the boat and when, to help the guys make things happen. I felt things went much better today than yesterday and I felt happier that I was making some progress. One example is the weather mark rounding and the point at which we deploy the gennaker. That might sound obvious and a simple thing to sort out, but at the speeds that we’re traveling at the apparent wind speed is so much higher than on a conventional boat and the wind angle is changing so quickly that the timing is crucial. Get it right and the sail snaps into action immediately and you’re off like you’ve hit the turbo button. Get it just slightly wrong and the crew spend the next 30 seconds grinding in the gennaker while your competition drags out more distance on you.
In some ways it’s similar to tacking a big overlapping headsail on a heavy displacement boat. Get it wrong and you’re grinding forever, going slowly and burning out your crew. Get the timing and technique right and it all looks easy.
Among the many things I’ve learned this week it’s become crystal clear that sailing these boats efficiently is so much about technique.
The trouble is that in a race like today when we were making step by step progress in boat handling and timing, it only takes a small incident to wipe out any of the progress we’d made.
A good example of that was in the second race when we got caught up with Artemis Red. They had wrongly identified the leeward mark and were about to round it the wrong way and were calling rights on us. For a few seconds there was a fair bit of confusion on their part and we ended up having to take avoiding action, which nearly saw us collide with one of the Luna Rossa boats. It was all pretty close and a perfect example of how quickly things can go badly wrong when you’re traveling at high speed, even though it’s not your fault.
Yes I’d love to be posting better results, I’m a competitive guy but we have to be realistic. Sometimes you have to backwards to go forwards and while I don’t think we are going backwards, I appreciate sometimes it might look like that we’re not making progress.
But as we get to the end of this week I’m happy that we’ve been able to start learning the basics which gives us a good footing on which to start developing our own techniques.
Thanks for the support - Ben
Tomorrow is Sunday August 26 – Super Sunday! Format:
Match Racing final 1 × 30 minute fleet race Match Racing Final Port Stbd Start Match Racing Final US-S US-C 1145 Sunday Fleet Racing Start Fleet Race 7 1215
Weather forecast Skies could be slow to clear Sunday with Southwest winds in the 9-14 knot range forecast for race time at 11:45. Winds should build throughout the race period to 12-17 knots.
AC World Series San Francisco – Fleet Racing Championship Provisional Results 1. ORACLE TEAM USA SPITHILL 61 2. Energy Team 48 3. Team Korea 45 4. Luna Rossa Piranha 45 5. Artemis Racing White 39 6. Luna Rossa Swordfish 35 7. Emirates Team New Zealand 35 8. ORACLE TEAM USA COUTTS 35 9. Artemis Racing Red 28 10. J.P. Morgan BAR 26 11. China Team 9
J.P. Morgan BAR Crew: Simeon Tienpont (bow) Matt Mitchell (runner) Ben Ainslie (helm) Kyle Langford (wing trimmer) Simon Daubney (headsail trimmer) by Jo Grindley