Monday, 10 January 2011

Observations of Simon Nelson prior to the AUS nationals

I found this report on the forum of Sailing Anarchy (December 30) (see Simon's article published today at SA's home page too)

Simon says:
.......... (first part erased)
The first thing to do is to seperate out Glenn's sailing from the boat. Luckily, with a fair number of DNA's, that is possible. We tried to make each downwind a race in itself, so we all hung around the top mark and headed off downwind as a bunch. There was one boat that got to the bottom consistantly ahead or up there that wasn't a DNA and that was Scott Anderson. However, his performance was more about local knowledge than speed. He would often disapear off in a completely different direction and come out in front.

However, the rest of us tended to stick together with tight gybing and trying to work each gust, and it was very variablke and puffy. You could easil sail an extra 50 metres and lose the gust. This is where Glenn was in his element and I suspect he would have been as good in almost any boat. Because of the way he made better use of every puff, it is hard to tell if the DNA has a speed problem downwind in light air. However, judging by all the other boats, I would say not but I think one would need more consistant conditions and some real lining up to be sure.

However, once hull up, the DNA's are quicker than straight boarded boats. I have no doubts about that. However, while it is quicker, the hullshape and boards don't change physics. You can still pitchpole the boat if you get it wrong. So, quicker than Flyers and Tools with straight boards but what about Flyers and Tools with curved boards. Well, I feel that my Flyer 1, with DNA boards in, is truly competitive downwind on flat water. Stevie Brewin asked me, on the basis of how my boat is going, whether I therefore think that the DNA is more about foils than hullshape. My view is that the DNA is a complete package - the hullshape, the curved boards and the platform stiffness. I would have liked to change boats with somebody to see just how good the DNA is, but didn't ask because I didn't want to be demoralised! here was a Tool with unknown curved boards in and that didn't seem to be able to keep up downwind.
I should add that I did a lot of experimenting with my boards. I have a large amount of adjustment - I can move the top of the board 35mm and as my hull depth isn't as great as the DNA, that gives me close to double the adjustment of the DNA. And I think the boat likes lots of angle of attack on the boards, more than the DNA's can carry. Darren Bundock also sails with max AoA and the only issue is upwind at speed you have to keep your weight forward or esle the bow simply climbs to an alarming angle. My last run yesterday was done with the foils set to the minimum AoA because it was fairly light and I was slow, reminding me of the issues I had downwind when I first got my boat (with straight boards).

We were not sailing with any GPS so it is hard to give any figures. In addition, it was so puffy and variable I am not sure how much it would have told us. Angles were determined as much by pressure and th need to either stay in it or get to it than anything else. And this seems to me to be the big thing of trapezing downwind. I got the impression that Glenn was using it as a tactical weapon, to get to where he wanted to be quicker in terms of when he saw gusts. I got the feeling that when there was no tactical reason why you needed to get to one particular spot, trapezing was of marginal benefit in terms of VMG.

Upwind is really interesting. I believe you can point as high as anybody with the DNA boards, but, by way of exampl, you cannot simply sart off in "high mode". Coming off the line next to Scott Anderson, who points as high if not higher than anybody, I was unable to live there and he sailed past. However, I then ducked his transom, got a bit of clean air, gained speed and flow over the boards and then climbed. Doing that I was able to come out from under him and end up dead in front of him. So you need a bit of runway, or at least I do. I believe that this is the same for the guys on the DNA's, although I would guess the top guys would get away with less runway than I need, so this will be a real issue for me at the nationals. If I can work a small gap, fine, but otherwise..........

However, I do think that the DNA's have an advantage upwind over straight c/b boats. (bold and uderscore added by me) Maybe I am kidding myslef that I can live with them, but if so some people are being too kind and polite! The real "moment" is upwind in about 18 knots when there is a groove that feels almost magical. Darren gets the same feeling. It is almost like the boat jumps in speed by 2 knots. I think it is the boards finding a sweet spot. I am unsure if others experience the same thing and I wish I had the skill, time and experience to find that spot more often and for longer.

So, to sum up, I am convinced that the DNA's are a significant step up from the Flyer/Tool designs, both up and down wind. If I had to buy a new boat today, it's a no brainer! However, only time will tell exactly what factors make the biggest difference. I personally am convinced they have got the radius of the curved boards more right than others. I am convinced the platform is stiffer than anything else even though I personally haven't seen some of the other platfroms and rely ion comments from Glenn and Stevie in this regard. Those 2 factors alone would make a huge difference, so it is hard for me to comment on hullshape. To be able to do that I would need to build a new Flyer, to the same standard as the DNA.

Of course, people might want to take all of this with a pinch of salt. I am new to the class and really know sweet FA compared with most. These are just my observations. Some of this could simply be that the top sailors are on DNA's. And just to make one thing clear. Some might feel after the nationals that my result supports the idea that I am delusional about the performance of my boat. Let me asure you I can judge speed in a straight line and therefore I know that wherever I finish next week will proably be more of a reflection of my inability and lack of experience than a reflection fo the boat's performance. And if do better than I think, it will be clear evidence the boat works! Whatever the result, I am having great time in A's and couldn't have wished to find a better group of people to go sailing against.

Very acurate observations of Simon and in line with my own. Good to have some input for an independent sailor.


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