North Sails NEWS
Images © Richard Johnson
WHAT WE LEARNED AT THE 2016 THISTLE NATIONALS
Tuning Tips from Mike Ingham
Eugene Yacht Club is a special place both on and off the water. We have raced the last two Nationals there, so we immediately signed up again this year, barely consulting our calendars. Everything else could take a back seat. When I’m asked what it is like, I say “The wind comes in like clockwork (no foulies required), the RC is spot on, the club members are gracious hosts, the camping is perfect, the scenery beautiful and there is never a drop of rain.” Fortunately, the 2016 Nationals lived up to those expectations.
We got all seven races off in Northerly winds 12-15 kts out of the north: the thermal direction. This is the long direction on the lake, so the legs were full Nationals length, meaning a lot of hiking. The water was relatively flat, and the shifts pretty big. The high end of the puffs blew into the low 20’s and the low end was light where we had to sit in. Tricky stuff! The reaches were full-on planing. It was good, fun racing! The challenge to going fast was shifting gears. Those who shifted well usually finished well. It was one of the keys to our win. Here are some of the things we did:
- Constantly looking out for puffs and lulls and communicating. Delia counted down the puffs and lulls: “puff in 3, 2, 1 puff on”, or just as important “big lull in 3, 2, 1, lull”. She was relentlessly observant.
- I was clear about what mode we were in. If it was marginally overpowering, I would say: “full hike” and I would balance the helm by easing just the right amount. But if it got lighter I would say; “I am fully trimmed” so Dan and Delia would know to balance the boat by moving their body weight and I would trim to the top telltale.
- Dan played the vang a lot with the increased wind. The more it blew, the more he would put it down to match my easing the mainsheet to keep the mast bent. He would make his best guess at where he thought it should be and then we would talk to fine tune it.
- Same with the jib. If I eased the main enough to get a big bubble up front, or even flog it, Dan would crack the jib just enough to get that bubble down a little. We found if we eased too much, we would lose height, so the ease was subtle.
- In the lulls, when we were in that mode where Dan and Delia balanced the boat, I was very careful to trim to the top mainsail telltale. It was easy to sheet too hard because having just come off a puff, I would trim in as it got lighter. So I kept looking up at that telltale and Dan would too. He would take a quick look every time the wind changed significantly and we would talk about how much trim was right. In the flat water, I could stall it a good amount and still keep the boat moving.
- We adjusted the cunningham and outhaul a little, but not much. Things happened quickly and getting the “big lines” (main sheet, jib sheet, vang) and boat balance right was more important than fine tuning of the “little lines” (like the cunningham).
Most of the fleet camped together, enjoying the perfect weather. The yacht club served dinner every evening. Afterward we hung out by the fire and “karate chop” sailed through the evenings. Then we started it all over again breakfast together in the morning. There was no reason to leave the grounds.
We all are looking forward to the Nationals in NY next year. Those making the trek: keep in mind that there are two other regattas in NY, one in late August and one the first weekend of September. Feel free to leave your boat at Rochester Canoe Club and stick around or fly back for those. Let me know in you’re interested and I will set you up! Learn more about North Sails’ fast Thistle designs.Learn more about North Sails fast Thistle designs.