Author Topic: First experience on the boat  (Read 1880 times)

TimPorter

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First experience on the boat
« on: June 01, 2016, 08:42:37 AM »
Against my better judgement, I agreed (with my wife) to post the following write up on my first time sailing my U20:

Today was my first day sailing the new-to-me Ultimate 20, Mighty Mouse.  Although I have been sailing for a lot of years, I really don’t feel that I am all that experienced.  Most of my sailing over the past 10 years has been in dinghies (Jet 14s and Flying Scots).  The last “big boat” I owned was a Merit 25, more than 10 years ago.  Having only sailed boats with symmetrical spinnakers, I knew it would be a learning experience sailing a boat as sporty as the U20 with the asymmetrical.  Little did I know that I would learn so much during my first time on the boat.  My crew had even less experience than I, my wife having only sailed less than a handful of times and my 15 year old daughter, who has been crewing on the Jet 14 for a few years. 

When we were driving up to the yacht club, the water looked very low.  My concern for the low water level on Lake Norman proved to be unfounded however as we were able to quickly prepared and launched the boat.  The lake looked like glass so I attached the outboard.  It has an older 3.5 HP motor.  After five minutes of trying to start it, I realized I needed to open the fuel line…  Three more pulls and it started.  We were off on our trek down the lake to the starting area.  My wife looked miserable, as we headed south directly into the now building breeze.  I gave her my foulies to protect her from the wind.  She perked up a little now that she wasn’t shivering so much.  We arrived to the course with plenty of time to spare. 

After checking in, I wanted to put up the spinnaker to ensure I had all the corners correct.  I crossed my fingers that I had secured the tack line to the tack and the sheets to the clew.  I slowly walked my crew through the process of putting up the spinnaker.  “Pull the blue line.” “Pull the red and white...wait not that one...the other red and white one.” We got the sail up and amazingly enough I got all the corners correct!!  My daughter took the tiller, so I could double check the sail.  By this point, the five minute warning had been sounded and we were still sailing away from the start.  I took the tiller back and walked them through taking the sail down.  We started back towards the starting line with just the main up.  I noticed that our jib wouldn’t roll up all the way.  I gave my daughter the tiller and went forward to diagnose the issue.  It was simple enough to solve, but somehow during the process my daughter got her large mane of hair caught in one of the mainsheet blocks.  Through laughter and tears, my wife and daughter found a way to get her hair out and I was able to fix the roller furling system. 

We unfurl the sail and have just enough time to tack onto starboard and head for the line.  As the gun goes off, we are five boat lengths below the line and in the shadow of a 30 foot J-boat.  I tack onto port to clear my air.  I am obviously going the wrong direction, but at least I have clear air.  I round the first mark in fourth place...just in front of a big S2 9.1.  We are now on a tight reach to our next mark.  The S2 grinds us down with their 155 Genoa and overtakes us.  The other boats in my class are larger boats and they “waterline” us to the second mark.  As we are getting to the second mark, we are discussing putting the spinnaker up.  Ideally, we would do a jibe set, but we have a new skipper and new crew.  We take the conservative route and do a bear-away set and quickly jibe.  It is another drag race back to the finish, on a broad reach.  The wind is slowly, but steadily, building for the entire race.  We finish a few minutes behind the other boats in our class and correct out to a 4th behind a J70, J88, and J95.  We missed 3rd by only 12 seconds…

The second race of the day is where things got very interesting.  I am sure for people with more experience, the day would have gone flawlessly, but being new to the boat with a fairly novice crew made it an exciting experience.  I estimate that the wind was blowing between 10-15 knots, with gusts higher.  The course was, again, mostly a reaching course.  This made it difficult to compete with the larger boats.  I had a slightly better start, but still stuck myself right behind another big boat.  I tacked away and rounded the first mark in 4th, but I was able to stay much closer to the leading boats.  On the reach, the other boats steadily pulled away.  We were quite powered up and I did all I could to depower and flatten the sails.  I used my traveler.  I tighten the vang.  I ease the vang.  Sheet the jib really tight, then a little looser. I twist the main.  I finally just tried to feather up.  In hindsight, I wish I would have started the feathering sooner.  Once we got everything as flat as we could by sheeting in hard, vang, tight trim on the jib and then feathering, the ride was great. I read that in the U20 you want to keep the flow over the jib.  While that is probably true when it blows this much, feathering seemed to work much better. 

We were debating whether to put the spinnaker up on the return trip, as it seemed to be blowing a steady 15ish.  The other spinnaker boats seemed to be doing fine, so I decided to set the spinnaker (in hindsight they were all bigger, had more people, and had more people whoknew what they were doing).  We got the spinnaker up with no problems and quickly jumped up to 8 knots of boat speed.  The boat stayed between 8-10 knots and seemed pretty stable.  We had a government mark that we had to honor and afterward would have to come up about 20 degrees.  That 20 degrees made a big difference.  I had mycrew move back in the boat and we hit 11 knots.  I felt the boat getting overpowered and called for the spinnaker to be eased.  My daughter was commenting how she didn’t want to tip over, so I calmly said we were going over if she didn’t let out the sheet.  Well, with the load, it turned out to be a little too much for my daughter and she couldn’t get it out of the cleat.  We ended up horizontal and holding on so we didn’t fall into the 40 degree water.  I was amazed at how well the boat recovered; we popped back up, eased the sail a little, and we were off at 9+ knots again in a matter of seconds.  All the articles and books say to bare away when a puff hits; the lesson I learned is that you REALLY should bare away.  So, with the next set of puffs, I would aggressively bare away and all was good with the world.  After we settled down a little, I was aware enough to look around and discovered I was not really heading towards the finish; I was heading towards an island.  Knowing that I can’t lay the finish with the spinnaker up, I called for the douse.  As my daughter goes to pull it in, I make the mistake of telling my wife she needs to release the tack line (thinking slowly like we have the other times), she lets the tack line go completely.  The sail turns into a kite; the sheet loads up and my daughter looks to be playing the part of Mowgli from the Jungle Book.  Somehow she manages to not go flying off the boat, but at a glance she is suspended in the air facing the water one arm wrapped around the mainsheet, one leg on a stanchion, and the other arm holding on to the cabin top.  The puff eases up, my daughter recovers, and they manage to get the sail in the boat. We sail to the finish under main alone. 

The sail home was fairly fast; we were going 7+ knots under main alone.  We get the boat back to the dock and pack it up.  We end up 4th again and feel a strong sense of accomplishment at having made it through the day with no injuries-to person or boat.  I am not sure my wife will be coming out again soon, but my daughter and I are all smiles.  I have a lot more learning to do, but feel that we did well for our first time sailing the boat.

Glenn VanHeel

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Re: First experience on the boat
« Reply #1 on: June 01, 2016, 10:04:04 PM »
Nice! And welcome.
I didn't fall from heaven, I got kicked out of hell !!!

Jay Harland

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Re: First experience on the boat
« Reply #2 on: June 03, 2016, 11:00:05 AM »
Sounds about right.  The U20 is a very well behaved boat but it is a lot of power to weight.  For example, there was an article in Sailing World on the new C&C 30 so I read up about it a little and it is 4k#s and has just over twice the sail area - so a U20 is essentially double the power to displacement as the new "Grand Prix" C&C 30.  A J70 has 500# more displacement and just 26 square feet more upwind sail area and about the same downwind sail area.  With this much power, mistakes lead to broaches pretty quick.

One thing you did not mention is your crew weight.  When racing with your wife it is always advisable to describe your crew weight as a total between all the sailors; thus no specific details will be shared that will get you into trouble.  However, wife+daughter+you (unless someone is much bigger than average) you were probably sailing under 500#.   In the breeze you are describing, this will not be a problem on a downwind leg but broad reaching with the kite will be a big issue that far under weight.  You can unfurl the jib in that situation to blanket the kite and that will help a lot.  Then work to get as much twist as possible on the main.

Welcome to the class.

Jay
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TimPorter

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Re: First experience on the boat
« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2016, 12:11:17 PM »
Hadn't thought about using the jib to help, but that would have been a good idea.  We are a good bit under 500#.  We have gone out a few times in strong wind with a fourth and that has made a big difference on the upwind and reaching legs.  I have also learned to use the vang better, which has also made a big difference in my ability to control the boat. 

I still have A LOT to learn about the boat and I am enjoying every second of the process. 

TimPorter

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Re: First experience on the boat
« Reply #4 on: July 23, 2017, 04:38:40 PM »
What a difference a year makes.  I was out sailing in our local club series this past weekend in winds around 10+ knots.  I had a guy, that had some interest in the boat, crewing for me.  He had done a good bit of sailing but not on a sport boat and never on an asymmetric spin boat.   It was around fixed marks but we had a fairly long run.  We were averaging probably 7+ knots and easily hitting 9+.  All very calm with no real excitement.  At the end of the day we were on the dock talking and the gentleman said, "I felt like we were pretty close to getting on a plane there."  With a little smile I told him that we were planning a good bit of the run and told him the speeds we were hitting.  He was amazed at how smooth and calm everything was at those speeds. 

I am pretty sure that he was talking with his wife about how they could buy a U20 when he got home.  Such a great boat.  So much fun!