The Advanced Dinghy lessons this year have been uniformly great.
This week's was no exception - boat handling by Jonas Kellner, a club member who's been sailing for over 30 years and teaching sailing and racing for almost as long.
Someone asked Jonas before the class whether he'd be teaching racing tactics. He said that he could, but knowing the best tactic for a given situation is useless if you can't execute the maneuver. He'd be focusing on the latter.
We had a pre-sail briefing, where Jonas explained what we'd be doing. 8 exercises around a set of buoys in a line perpendicular to the wind (so basically beam reach). The first and last exercises were slalom course, where we were to keep as tight to each buoy as we could.
The intermediate exercises were ovals around the set of buoys (counter-clockwise in all cases). They were technical exercises, designed to improve boat handling skills:
1. Heel to windward as far as possible around the course, gunwhale in the water.
2. Heel to leeward as far as possible around the course, gunwhale in the water.
3. Drive the course with the skipper hiked out as far as possible.
4. Drive the course with the crew hiked out as far as possible.
5. Drive the course with the skipper changing sides (sitting down on the leeward side of the boat) and maintaining course.
6. Drive the course with the skipper alternately sheeting the main in hard and letting it go completely, maintaining course all the time.
The final slalom course was to see what we'd learned from the intermediate exercises.
In the pre-sail briefing, Jonas went through each exercised and asked what we expected would happen to the boat when we did it (e.g., heeling to windward). And how we could use this or counter-act it in a given situation.
We were in crews of 2, so we did the 8 exercises and then switched places and did them again.
Afterwards, Jonas debriefed us on what he saw and showed us near in a boat off the dock what he had wanted to see (and why).
He said you have 3 things to control the boat: sails, weight, and rudder. You have to use all three in synchrony. If you have crew, they become a part of the equation.
This is a theme in advanced dinghy sailing. The same thing applies when sailing rudderless (well, two of the three...). I found that my practice sailing rudderless made his exercises more intuitive. And it wove in nicely with Philippe's sail trim class for the gybe around the ultimate beam-reach mark: blow the gnav, but keep weight to windward to carve a tight turn (another rudderless technique, so the circles closes).
In his debrief, Jonas noted that if he were doing another workshop with us, he would work on upwind sailing. He didn't think we did it well enough (either we could have sailed higher or we sailed too high).
Let's schedule that one!
Jonas has shared his lesson notes with us here. Note that we didn't do all of the exercises outlined.