Monday, November 17, 2008

No Place In Particular

So the regatta debut of the New Stuff was greeted with near universal yawns and some derision, but proved extremely worthwhile nonetheless. I knew going in that it would be a tall order to make it around the course, period, but hey: it was the California State Championships, and I was the fifth boat. Gotta support the fleet, and in the words of the omnipresent Nige "If I made something like that I wouldn't give a damn if it was done or not - I'd want to see how it went against some other Moths!"

As things turned out it was all hopelessly anticlimactic. I rolled into Coronado in plenty of time to make the start but there was basically no wind until 1pm, when a breath of air lured us out to the course, dying progressively on the way there. It flirted with us for a few runs on foils, only to wheeze out in the lulls to something requiring a power boat to start.  

Speaking of which, I believe the San Diego yachties may be able to lay claim to something called a RIB start, where in pathetically sad conditions the wing of a moth is put on the RIB, which accelerates to foiling speed, at which point the helm jumps on the now-foiling Moth and bears away. In something like 5 knots of breeze it is possible to get some impressively good rides this way - or have fun trying. 

In any event, I foiled around a bit - not terribly well, but well enough given the fact that I had never been able to get up in those conditions previously in any reliable way. I did foil by Charlie at close quarters, and had the presence of mind to tell him he saw it Here first, but then I did also spend my fair share of time living up to his expectations of utter and complete failure, head down over the daggerboard trunk, fiddling with lines. In fairness to myself I should say that the 30 knots of breeze last Sunday put paid to my shake-down cruise, and that the boat was not in proper sailing configuration prior to Saturday's festivities. But that would sound like an excuse, which we all know would be lame and entirely uncalled for. Long story short the wind died and we lowrided/were towed back in.

Sunday dawned hot with a forecast high of 93 degrees, which if you subtract 32, multiply by five, and divide by nine will give you a number in something called "C" which apparently means something to someone somewhere other than the US. Here we don't go in for all that hype - our system works just fine for us and we all know what each other mean, even if arcane formulae are somehow required to keep it all feng shui with Lord Kelvin.

I rigged a little thingy to give me less drag and more lift at lowish pre-foiling speeds. Saturday it was just a pitiful bit of line rigged to the old bungy cleat on my tramp, which as you may recall from your own boat is a one-trick pony: if you're not on starboard, forget about it. A double-ended solution was in order, and after pinging Charlie about it on the tow back in, a plan was hatched involving some Spinlock cleats and a fair amount of cash. Call it my fair share of economic stimulus. It wasn't that dear and is definitely sexy - just wish they would make those cleats from something lighter than whatever they are made of.

Thus equipped I missed the 1pm launch by 30 minutes or so and had a good drift/capsize/adjust repeat session out to the bridge, where the wind was eminently foilable. By this point Charlie, Hans and Jack were far down the bay sailing races. My effort to arrive on the scene was hampered by some setup issues which resulted in my warping around and stacking for another hour or so, after which I was rewarded with a sailable boat in a manner not entirely unlike a Genie materializing from a lamp:

"Three wishes? OK, well first, please make the 2:1 on the negative anti-bungee thingy behave itself, and put it in phase with something, preferably the wand there on the bow - yes the thing hanging down." ALAKAZAM! Done. 

Next: "Please make the boat stop imitating a submarine." AS YOU WISH BLAMMO - done. 

"Now speed this whole program up!" Done. 

"Ridiculously excellent! Now, make my wand stop throwing showers of spray every which way like a firehose! What? I'm out of wishes? Well, I suppose I can live with that for today."

I ran around enough to figure out that starboard tack seems extremely quick and port is misbehaving - I've no idea why but it must be something with the asymmetricity of my wand paddle and its unique Coriolis-like ability to slingshot streams of piss ten feet in any given direction +/- 90 degrees of the main velocity vector in non-Newtonian fashion. Last night I watched the stupid video on SA of the little prop-driven wind cart pushing itself up a treadmill, and started wondering whether my wand was violating any laws of thermodynamics by throwing spray so far out in front of the boat at 14 knots. Who knows? It seems more efficient at making waterworks than actuating my wand, but the visual effect is really spectacular, and it will be a sad day when I cut that thing off. You really can't take your eyes off it. I think Charlie's comment was "an incredible amount of spray". Pyrrhic victory.

Never did make the race course. By the time I was sorted they were coming back in. I felt bad and good at the same time - bad because I had missed the races (Charlie won, 2 races to one each for Jack (GO JACK) and Hans (who will no doubt be out for revenge in Australia in a few weeks' time). 

I could not help feeling really good also though, because this little project just seems to pay back in spades every little bit of effort I put into it. It may never be fully competitive, but it is just so satisfying to see a problem, conceive a solution, implement it, trial it and actually have it WORK that after a few rounds, one is irretrievably hooked on the process. 

Of course, having cut up your only Moth is a pretty good incentive to continue down the road less traveled. I could buy another boat, and would love to race more, but I am simply having too much fun with this to quit. 

Twenty years from now, odds are I will be just another guy who tried something kooky that didn't work. But my inner Yoda keeps whispering: "What if WORKS it does? What THEN will you be? Mmmmm?" Delusional. Yes, I know, like Luke in the cave in Empire Strikes Back, conversing with his father, not liking what he sees, and jetting off to the Degaba System without completing his training. Only cost him a hand in the end.

An old girlfriend once said that she always thought it better to regret things she had done rather than things she had not. I suppose I am far enough from the beaten track to not be satisfied with simply sailing a foiler, and even though it is costing me some racing experience, the amount of personal growth my own project provides just seems to dwarf whatever I might otherwise accomplish in regatta terms. Hans, having seen the boat working to weather from astern for a minute or so, made the comment closest to my own thoughts: THAT THING FOILED! THAT'S AWESOME!

Not perfect, not refined, not competitive, not reliable and completely unproven, but awesome nonetheless.


Bora Gulari said...

I think the first power launches were belcher, brownie and I last dec in melbourne.

A couple pictures of your action would be nice.

Karl said...

Ah well it was the first I'd heard of launching from a boat; I don't think those guys have been mothing in AUS yet so it would appear to be an independent invention thing - rather like the Moth itself.

There was some sketchy towline stuff going on also but that was less successful.

Sorry for the dearth of photos; sort of like those auto magazines where next year's model is shown going around a track in stealth mode with a funky paint job and fake fenders - surely you're accustomed to that phenomenon in Detroit?