Obviously I expected that the really top boys and girls with the brand spanking new Ovington hulls and brand new sails would be quicker both in sheer boat speed and in boat handling, strategy and tactics. But what about the rest of the fleet?
The first race I learnt that whilst we point well and go quick enough upwind, some are clearly quicker but not by much. However the real shock came in the reaches. I thought we were going quick but about half a dozen went through us on the first lap like we were standing still. Was I doing something wrong? Was the set up wrong? It had to be something like that because my sails were bought second hand from last years champion and the rig is a standard SuperSpar M2 and the hull is down to weight and, according to some, a very quick boat.
I knew about raking the mast foward and letting off the leeward shroud level and of course we all know about easing the kicker and letting off some main sail clew out-haul. But in 20mph of wind I kind of thought is wasn't so important. How wrong could I be. Later I asked a few folk what the secret is and it seems that at least having the mast upright is a must, as is letting of the clew out-haul and the kicker. The leeward shroud lever is also a good idea especially if the reach is broad as it lets the mainsail take up a better shape.
So the next day we tried these progressively with each race and growing confidence and improving results. The wind was just a little less but the results were vastly improved. We were still losing out to the really quick guys but now we were overtaking others and our finishing higher up the fleet. Our confidence improved over the whole week, we thought through our mark rounding procedures (more on these on another post) and gradually improved our team work and boatspeed so that on the last day, with winds as strong as the first day, we stormed off wind. I can honestly say I have not sailed that fast since I crewed in 505s back in the late 70's. Acushla is one quick gal offwind when you trim her right.
Here is a very helpful clip on Youtube of sailing an Albacore offwind in a pretty descent breeze:
And another of an albacore on a broad reach with the jib poled to windward. In this one you can see how letting the leeward shroud tension off allows the boom to go right out the mainsail to take up a better shape.