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A Change for the Better

We made some adjustments to improve our upwind speed, and what do you know, we won the race!

January 20, 2011

One light-air race today. At least the water was a little smoother, and there were less weeds than previous days, so it was not so bad.

Onboard our Melges 24 Uka Uka, we felt a little bit slow upwind yesterday. It’s always hard to know how strongly to react in that situation. Historically, we have been pretty fast in those conditions, so there are a few possibilities: 1. Maybe we were not well positioned, and what seemed like bad speed was actually bad tactics. 2. Maybe the other guys have gotten faster. 3. Maybe some aspect of the rig set-up or trimming/weight technique was not right. Often, the truth is some combination of all three, which was probably the case for us.

Anyways, we tried three different changes today: we used softer battens, which give a little more shape in the main; we used more jib Cunningham, to put more knuckle in the front of the jib; and we decreased rake a little. For whatever reason, we did feel a little faster today, and after a good start, we managed to win the race. So now the problem we have is to understand which of the three changes were good ones! It could be they were all good, or maybe one was bad but the others made up for it. Not easy to separate the variables. If you have lots of time, which you rarely do, you can change one variable at a time and see the effect. But more typically, you try to combine some changes which you think are in the right direction, and try to analyze later which ones were good.

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The worst thing to do when you feel slow is overreact. It’s easy to convince yourself that you need to make some big changes. Generally this backfires, and you go even slower. In my experience, you are usually closer than you think, and often a few small changes are all you need.

One thing I love about Key West is the variety of trees. There are some beautiful old trees here, many more than two hundred years old. There’s a wide range of tropical species, but my personal favorite is the banyan tree, whose roots/trunk look like an upside down waterfall. There are some really big ones in people’s yards here. I wonder about all the things they have seen over their lifespan, and how short our time is here compared to theirs.

Complete coverage of 2011 Key West Race Week.

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