Thursday, November 24, 2011

Berkeley Midwinters GPS Race Track

Thank you Sergey from Libra - quoting him below



This is the last Saturday race and the following boats are presented in the replay. 


Wi – Wile E. Coyote – control boat

Li - Libra – control boat

Gr - Great White – replay performance is scratchy due to the slow GPS track (GPS capture rate 1 point per 20 sec)

El – Elise - replay performance is scratchy due to the slow GPS track (GPS capture race rate 1 point per 20 sec) and replay had started 10 into the race

Pe – Peaches

Op – Opa! – replay started 70 min into the race.



What is available now:


-          Track color coding based on the boat speed.

-          Distance and time difference monitoring between two control boats (there are two algorithms we are testing VMG based and Tack – wind direction recognition based on the tacking angle) – the second one is generally more reliable. 

-          Vector visualization – current heading and speed vs. initial (for the tack) heading and average (for the tack) speed vs. VMG and bearing (heading to the mark).

-          Track auto segmentation and tack / jib recognition.  Along each track you will see small white dots (they are clickable) – these are the points where the heading of the boat had been changed 10° or more compare to the initial heading for the segment.

-          Google earth 3D animation, zooming, panning etc.

-          Replay speed control.

-          Race course mapping – Layline, rhumb line, start line etc.'


We can totally see the slow tacks on this! Pretty amazing...and our boat speed compared to that of the other boats that were in the same wind as we were (comparable)

We can also see the last tactical move right by the finish line with Opa! (the synchronization is off, eg the GPS sampling is not correct, so it looks like one boat stops while the other one moves forward...not quite the case...


Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Real Great Pumpkin

It is for entrepreneurs...

Should I trade Elise in for this


Thanks Jim!

Bubble bath for Elise

Photo courtesy of Serge

Berkeley Midwinters - some notes

It was a really interesting race, and the results were a mixed fleet which makes the game very compelling for everyone in the fleet - there is no clear winner of the series right now.

Remember that I like to race because a) it is exciting, things are happening and for 'safe' adrenaline junkies it is a cool thing and b) it makes me a better sailor. There is no way I would pay attention to the tiniest detail if I was just cruising around.

A lot of people ask me how a race where the 'race vehicle' move at 3 miles an hour could be exciting. Then you put them on a boat, in 5 knot winds and in the middle of a race where there are 5 boats rounding a mark in very close quarters, with hulls within inches of each other and all of the sudden their opinion changes to 'you guys are suicidal'. 

Obvoously, it is not. A lot of people sail recreationally, a lot of people race their boats and there are far fewer sailing accidents than skiing accidents, and the great majority of accidents or rather incidents, happen in boats get in and out of their slips.

What thing that I like about racing sailboats is the complexity of the sport. It is not just about skills, it is not just about tactics, it is not just about crew work, it is just about your competitors, it is not just about variation in the weather pattern or currents. It is about all of that.

Saturday's race was a good example of that. It is a 'round the buoy' race, one design (eg there was a start for the Express 27s and we were all racing against similar boats in a manner that was governed by class rules, in order to make the racing as equitable as possible). During these races, you don't want to be the Swiss Army knife racer that you need to be offshore, you need to be the laser-sharp razor...

There are several factors that make you win a race, and they are really equally important if you want to have a chance of winning, or of placing.

  • Good boat speed/sail trim/smooth driving - pretty obvious. If you are slow in a race, you are not very competitive. Boat speed comes with several things but in light air, I would say active trimming using every single line and control for both head and mainsail constantly, smooth weight management, little tiller movement, strong and unrelentless mental focus on part of everyone, ability to spot wind pockets, current lulls and try to get clean air as much as possible are strong component of that. And a boat as light as possible.
  • Good tactics - even if your boat speed is fantastic, if you consistently miss laylines, take 5 times as many tacks as the other boats, sail right by a mark, end up fighting current when the other boats are in current relief, if you end up in the wind shadow of everyone, probably won't be doing super well.
  • Fast maneuvers: this takes the entire team - and it is why sailing is such a team sport. A good driver will not win a race against a boat with a good driver and a great team. The former will lose out to the latter on every maneuver. The maneuvers also depend on a good driver of course - 
  • Fast setup:  obviously, if you have a really fast crew member who could move from side to side very fast but if you put a couple of walls for this person to jump over; he or she will be significantly slowed down. Likewise, making sure that the set up of boats reduces friction for every maneuvres will be helpful. Lines should have little friction, important controls should be readily accessible and easy to adjust - from wherever the crew would be best placed from a weight perspective. An example of this is that on Elise, we adjust the backstay right on the mainsheet post, so the driver does not have to move at all. The lines for the main sheet, the traveler and the backstay, the three things that the driver constantly needs to adjust for the mainsail are all in the same area and accessible from the high side.
  • Great teamwork: on a sailboat, and in a race, everyone has a very specific job to do. In certain emergency situation, a crew member may ask for help but otherwise, it is important for everyone to stick to their job and be excellent at it. It frees up the others' attention so they can focus on their own jobs. Because a lot of jobs are synchronous (for instance between the foredeck and the back of the boat, people are working on the same line, just opposite ends of it, so they must work together) so learning to work with the others make a big difference. The best crew have been practicing and racing together for a long time.
  • Good starts: on a long distance offshore race, or long distance single-handed race, not starting first is not such a deal breaker. In a super fast regatta where tenth of seconds matter getting a bad start can have desastrous consequences. It may not cost you placing, if you can slowly make up for it and if you are given a long course, but it probably costs you first place in most cases.


Team positions:

Helm/Main Trim: Nat

Trim 1 (sheet downwind, jib trim upwind): Mark

Trim 2 (pole downwind; jib release upwind): Kathy

Pit/Tactics: Nathan


Our course was: Upwind Start - Windward Mark - Leeward Mark - Windward Mark - Leeward Mark - Upwind Finish

Well on Saturday, the wind was light to medium. The most we saw was 8 to 10 knots, and it went as light as 1 knot of wind. There was some light current. There were crowded mark roundings, tactical plays between boats trying to blanket each other (a sail is a moving wall and if you are on the other side of the wall, the wind doesn't look as great...) and wind shifts of over 30 degrees. One minute, sailing upwind, you would be heading toward the mark, the next you would be sailing away from the mark, on the exact same point of sail.

At some point the wind picked up and clocked west, so the boats that were able to take advantage of this early on did very well for themselves.


This is the view from the driver, which focuses a lot on sails and obviously driving the boat, so very limited view, the tactician would be the one with the most comprehensive view of the race.

Even at the start, the team has very specific roles:

The tactician decides where the boat should be positioned on the line and gives that input to the driver who will then do whatever he or she can to achieve that. It is a very busy area, so it is not always possible and timing is critical to hit the line fully powered up and it takes team work.

Trim 2 or pit tends to be the time keeper (and one is the backup of the other) - there is a countdown sequence to the start and it is crucial that the driver know how much time is left at any time.

Foredeck tends to call for traffic behind the jib (so the driver does not have to focus on the low side) and distance to the line close to the start, so the driver knows whether it needs to slow down the boat or accelerate.

Trim 1 trims, tacks or gybes the headsail, as the boats moves in all directions and keeps turning around during that time, this requires constant attention.

Elise had an ok start. We were on time to the line but in really bad air, and no easy way to tack out of the pack for a few seconds, so we lost to a couple of boats. We tacked at the first opportunity to get ourselves clean air and open up our tactical options. Stuck in-between boats is not only slow but quite limiting in terms of movements :)

The line was super long, you could have fitted a fleet twice as numerous on it. However, given the position of the windward mark and the big swooping wind shifts, one end was favored for a few seconds, then the other side of the line became strongly favored. Not really knowing which end would be favored when the gun goes off and given the time it would take to go from one end of the line to the other, we had decided to start midline. The problem is that 50% of the fleet started above us and really close to us, stealing our wind. We'd hoipe they'd be much closer to the end of the line, but they obviously made the same reasoning.


First Upwind

It took us a while to get the right sail trim to get the boat speed up, but a couple of good tactical calls around wind shifts and good sail trim got us going pretty good and we picked up a few boats on the first upwind. We tacked a little too early for the mark and had to make one extra tack.

Our tacks were not very good in the first upwind. Both driver (over steering) and trimmers (not trimming in fast enough and backwinding the genoa) contributed to that. It got better and better throughout the race and we talked things through while racing and we ended up with the perfect tack seconds from the finish. More about this later.

First Windward Mark rounding

First mark rounding was in a busy area, we were the inside boat - our sets were consistentlyg ood. Our spinnaker was up way before that of the other boats rounding at the same time as did.

First Downwind

Good downwind speed and we put some serious distance between us and the other boats who also avoided the (restricted) start/finish line on the pin end. The other boats including Wile E Coyote who rounded the line the other way actually had to sail more distance and lost ground to the boats on our side of the course.

We also sailed a fast route, sailing our polars AND because of the wind shifts, we did not have to gybe enough. 

We were getting ready for a mexican douse (the boat gybes at the mark and goes up on the other tack, so the pole needs to be removed in order to allow for the gybe and the spinnaker is taken down as the boat gybes - a pretty cool maneuvers and a variant on a windward douse)

Good and fast rounding and back upwind OK.

Second upwind

Our rounding was good and we went back up. We ended up in a lull even though we could see the wind line. We didn't quite sail into it and continue on our way to the mark. the wind shifted by over 30 degrees and we cracked down because beating up close-haul would take us way past the wrong side of the mark (all roundings were to port). 

Good boat speed overall but our tacks were still slow, it took a long time for the genoa to be trimmed back in hence for the boat to point again at full speed. We were losing ground to the other boats whenever we tacked and they were not.

The driving was better during the tacks after the driver paid attention to the tiller much more - no more oversteering which had been an issue during the first upwind.

Second windward mark rounding

There were 10 boats within the mark zone (a circle three boat-length big around the mark) and all at various stages of rounding. The downwind boats had right of way and were getting to the mark on port (like all the other ones, because of the wind shift, we all got caught in) - Elise had to avoid three downwind boats - there was only a narrow corridor in which to do that, so we had to alter course and point much closer to the wind, about 30 degrees away from the mark.

I made a mistake then, I was driving on the high side and could not see the mark - so when the crew shouted 'head down', I didn't put two and two together and only went down a few degrees.

Nathan, our tactician, eg the one I listened to, repeated 'head down like you MEAN IT' - I poked my head down, saw the mark and quickly adjusted - we just made the mark as the inside boat, rounded really close to it and got in right in front of Strega.

We overtook several boats during that rounding.

Second windward mark rounding

We were close to Wetsu and Strega - with both of them wanting to sail higher than we were to take our wind. We were also sailing faster than Elan and went up to take their stern and cover them to windward. We luffed up Strega (the leeward boat has right of way and by sailing a high angle, we are preventing a boat to pass up on the high side. Ultimately this was not taking us any closer to the downwind mark so we gave up.


Wile E Coyote has just rounded the mark and decided to tack around the mark. They were heading our way. We were both on starboard tack (the 'right of way' tack, just a convention really, just like someone decides which side of the street you need to drive on) - however they were leeward of us, and therefore had right of way. (this is common sense, the boat that risks being blanketed by the other has less maneuvrability hence right of way as is less able to move out of the way)  - we waited until the last minute to see if we could cross in front of them, when it became obvious that it would not be possible, the driver had to make a call and gybe the main, turn the boat dead downwind boat to avoid them, and immediately afterward, gybed back to go back to the mark. This cost us one place as Strega nicely passed up at that time, as we were getting our boat speed back up.


Last upwind - to finish

After we recovered from the forced gybe (nothing we could have done, we just had no rights, so our tactical choice at that time was pretty limited ;-)), we had lost one position to Strega and lost ground to Wetsu and Opa!

We sailed too far to the right of the course on the way to the finish and did not catch the new wind before Opa! did, Strega also got to the other side of the course, and so did Wile E Coyote. They all gained a lot of ground on us. Our boat speed was good though, and sail trim upwind had become really good.

We would not be able to pass Strega again, but we could still have a go at Opa!, we were basically within the same distance to the line, but on different courses.

We were on starboard and they were on port. The only way we could win was to cross in front of them (we were actually ahead so we could do this, and even if we had been exactly at the same distance, they would have had to give way to us as the port tacker), then tack right on top of them and follow them to the finish line. By sailing right next to them we would apply a constant wind blanket and assuming the same sail trim, we would have a faster boat speed. 

The tactical call was made very clear to the driver and to the crew, as well as the importance to have a great tack.

The team executed the PERFECT tack. We tacked on a heart beat and we were powered up within a second - we did NOT lose ground to Opa! who was still sailing upwind at full speed. This was the key to the success of this maneuvre to beat Opa! to the line.

By sailing exactly next to them, we would limit their tactical movements and would sail in the exact same wind and current conditions.
Their only option was to luff us up (eg force us into the wind as they were the leeward boat), the problem was that given the wind direction, if they had done that, they would also slow down because we would still be blanketed them and they were pushing us closer to the line, compared to their trajectory.

They tried to sail down, and I followed them down. They tried to sail up and I followed them up - we were still a good 20 degrees off the close haul point of sail.

This is a typical duel tactic, often applied during the America's Cup. If you are ahead of the other boat, you take no chances. You just copy exactly what they do, tack when they tack, gybe when they gybe and because the boats are actually really close to each other after the start, by doing so, you ensure that you are sailing in the exact same conditions, you keep covering them and they can never really catch up. Except if you mess up :)

Elise won by 1 second and a third of a boat length.

That was some great sailing - from the first tactical call to the crossing of the line.

So close call at the Finish and a fun tactical move that required some real skill to execute well. We finished mid fleet. We probably could have finished ahead of Strega were it not for the little fooling around at the last downwind mark.

All in all, we can improve a lot our tacks and some of our downwind sail trim - we can also improve the decisiveness of our tactical calls, so they don't sound like a question to the driver.

Fun day with a beautiful weather!!


Berkeley Midwinters - Race 1 Results

A bullet for Great White!! Go Rachel!! 

The key to the race seems to be the Westerly that filled in in the afternoon, the first boats catching it were the first boats to finish.

Sail No     Skipper             Boat Name               Boat             

 48            Rachel Fogel       Great White                 1   

 28009       Steve Lake          Elan                          2   


18364       John Rivlin          Peaches                    3    

113           Marcia Schnapp  Libra                         4    

18394       Ron Kell             Abigail Morgan           5    

28137      Zachery               Motorcycle Irene          6   


11              Dan Pruzan         Wile E Coyote              7   

28031        Donald Carroll    Take Five                   8   

77                Larry Levit          Strega                      9   

101          Nathalie Criou      Elise                      10   

18070       Peggy Lidster      Opa!                       11   

28050      Ray Lotto           El Raton                   12   

29            Ross Groelz        Eagle                      13   

70            Phil Krasner        Wetsu                     14   

0             Steven Katzman   Dianne                  15   

28059      Jim Gibbs          Moonlight                  16   

14           Ray Wilson         Luffing Outloud           17  


Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Star of the Day

Photos courtesy of Serge


Elise Boat Work - The Project Managers

Elise is a very lean organization. We only had two project managers for three engineers.

How about that connection cleaning job Serge?
Good job on the solar panel Nathan. Keep it up.
Busy with office stuff
Inspecting a job
 Looking good Mark

Solar Panel

OK - it's just between you and me now
I see what the problem is
Yep, got it
Hey Nathan, did I tell you about the turning block?

Elise Therapy


Lying on Elise's couch, while you can see one half of the bottom of the therapist sitting on the cooler

M - So I had this relationship problem with a turning block, then with a screw nut. I dropped one of the block bearings into the nut. Doctor are you listening?

The block project


Nathalie: OK, so the block project is a block replacement project. You see the block you have in your hands needs to replace the broken block that is sitting on the cabin top


Mark - OK, replacing the broken block

Mark - OK I am done. The new block is now also broken and with its content all over the cabin top. I did just what you asked.

Connection Project

Serge's project was to clean up all electrical connections on the boat.


OK, let's take a look at this project

Hmm, that looks pretty complicated. Big mess here.
Better off taking a nap

Photos courtesy of Serge's camera


It is threatening to rain, so we will make an offering to the Wind God to ask Him to blow these dark clouds away.

[[posterous-content:pid___0]]Kathy is all set to go. Note that she carries the offering in the little pouches by her side.[[posterous-content:pid___3]]The altar boys are getting ready[[posterous-content:pid___1]]Kathy - let's hope it'll work[[posterous-content:pid___4]]Kathy is reaching the top of the Wind offering TotemFirst Kathy kneels down to show respect to the Wind God
[[posterous-content:pid___5]]Kathy has reached the top of the Wind Totem[[posterous-content:pid___6]]Kathy ' please Wind God, accept our humble offering
[[posterous-content:pid___8]]And it is working!! The sky looks so much friendlier[[posterous-content:pid___2]]

So the altar boys are getting ready to bring Kathy down

Photos courtesy of Serge's camera


ps: we were just replacing the little windmill of the anenometer...

Boat Work Day

Photos courtesy of Serge

Elise and her staff
Fall on the boat...captured and cleaned by Serge...

Lunch Break - Boat Work Day


Nat: oh my God, I got too many lunches


Nathan - may I point out that there are other people in this cabin?

So Serge got one of the lunches
So did Nathan and Mark 
and Nat and Kathy

French Lessons on Elise

Usually we have a lot of French lessons going on - examples of that would be

  • Get your friggin' ass up on the rail. Pardon my French

Mark - wait. the instructions are in French. Stupid NKE. 
Mark - What does it say?

Kathy - it's in French


Mark - OK, I give up

Kathy - cute


Photos courtesy of Serge

Boat Work Day

Mark, Kathy, Serge, Nathan and I did some work on the boat today - and achieved a lot

Photos to come

  • Got new bridle and tried it on
  • Fixed connection of the small solar panel
  • Fixed the windmill for the instrument anenometer
  • Cleaned up some of the electrical connections (the rest should be done this week) - eg connectors are sanded off to remove corrosion then we apply dielectric grease on the connection as we re-establish it. Sometimes connectors have to be replaced when they are beyond repair - make sure that heatshrunk water-tight connections are still water-tight or redo them
  • Did most of the (fixing autopilot Ray support on deck) - now needs to be drilled through so we can put the actual support piece when the epoxy dries up
  • Experimented + got the blocks and ran a line all around the boat to provide steering mechanism from any part of the boat for short-handed sailing
  • Replaced twing connection points to the toerail by shackles (instead of spectra lines as the line was chafing too much)
  • Check the rake of the boat and modify it
  • Check rig tune (both numbers and symmetry) - and it was all fine

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Great Pumpkin Post Race Fun - Sunday

Photos courtesy of Super Serge[[posterous-content:pid___0]] The art of rafting up[[posterous-content:pid___1]]Hanging out after the race. Even without cushions, Elise's deck can be pretty comfortable.[[posterous-content:pid___2]][[posterous-content:pid___3]][[posterous-content:pid___4]]Seasoning up[[posterous-content:pid___5]][[posterous-content:pid___6]][[posterous-content:pid___7]]Oysters! Courtesy of Kathy. There was an oyster bar! Delicious![[posterous-content:pid___8]][[posterous-content:pid___10]]A smiling Suzanne![[posterous-content:pid___11]]Roger passing the Pumpkin Pie[[posterous-content:pid___12]]And being happy :)[[posterous-content:pid___13]][[posterous-content:pid___14]][[posterous-content:pid___15]]And a smiling Kathy![[posterous-content:pid___16]]Bread and cheese...I wonder who did the shopping [[posterous-content:pid___17]][[posterous-content:pid___18]]The photographer...on Stink Eye

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Super Serge at work

Elise also got a new spinnaker pole sleeve for its boom making it much faster to move the pole in and out on sets and douses

Serge changed the most corroded terminal bus by the main battery

Photos courtesy of Serge

Great Pumpkin 2011 - Saturday Photos

Photos courtesy of Ultimate Yachtshots -


Nathan: helm

Nat: pit/tactics

Mark: trim 1

Suzanne: trim 2

Scott: foredeck

[[posterous-content:pid___0]][[posterous-content:pid___7]]Sailing a really hot angle with the spinnaker up as the wind got really light[[posterous-content:pid___6]][[posterous-content:pid___5]][[posterous-content:pid___4]]Elise passing a boat from leeward!!![[posterous-content:pid___3]]Great lighting :)[[posterous-content:pid___1]]The Moore 24 struggling to keep their kite full.


Apparently there is a Moore that beat all the Express 27 at the event, even though the Moores started 5 minutes after the Express. Here is a Moore in the middle of the Expresses :)

Well done!

Norcal Sailing writeup of Great Pumpkin

Nice writeup and pictures on Norcalsailing of the Great Pumpkin

From aloft!!