Raptor UK canoe sailing

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May 2009

Sunday was much calmer with single-digit wind strengths from the north-east and it was decided to hold a race consisting of two circuits anti-clockwise around a course marked out by four buoys. By a fluke I made a reasonable start this time and found myself on the first (upwind) leg sailing alongside DaveS, last year's group champion. I was happy to find that my windward performance matched that of his Fulmar on a port tack, however on rounding the first buoy and changing onto a starboard tack he started to pull away and I couldn't sail as close to the wind as him.

This is one disadvantage of the roller reefed sail, as the air flow on the leeward side of the sail while on a starboard tack is disrupted by the mast, as mentioned in my August 2008 comments. If I wanted to avoid this problem, I could ask Solway Dory to make me a 44 sq ft racing sail, which would not require reefing, but it's not that important to me at the moment.

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In the early afternoon there was a paddle-sailing race over a shortened (clockwise) three-leg course. All boats started with their sails furled/rigged down. We had to paddle across the lake to the first buoy and then rig up to sail the other two legs back to the starting line, where sails had to rigged down again and the process repeated on the second lap.

The Raptor excels in this type of race as it is very easy to paddle (due to its slim hull, light weight and pedal steering) and it's very quick to furl and unfurl the sail. I had my daggerboard half down for the first leg, which helped reduce my leeway compared to some of the others.

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Monday was again windy although less than Saturday, with 16-17 mph wind speeds and gusts of 36 mph forecast, this time from the NNE. I measured 23 mph on my wind gauge before setting off alone from the campsite beach, heading north. I felt much more confident now in these conditions and had no problems reaching the northern end of the lake in about 55 minutes (maximum speed: 7.6 knots). I didn't resort to gybing this time but did 'pedal' the rudder a lot to help me through the tacks (in both directions but mainly from port to starboard tack). The café was closed so I just relaxed in the sunshine for 45 minutes before making a quick run back to the campsite. This took 17 minutes with a maximum speed of 10.0 knots (without foil or daggerboard deployed), with the sail reefed as before (to the corner of the transparent panel). I was being cautious and didn't want to overload the mast, but probably could have broken my personal Raptor speed record by unfurling a little more sail. My tacking angles when beating to windward were similar to Saturday's:

From port to starboard tack: 118°, 135°, 121°, 119° Average: 123°
From starboard to port tack: 121°, 136°, 126°, 130° Average: 128°

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Overall, it was a great weekend. The challenging conditions of the last two meets have made me more confident on my Raptor.

After the Bala meet, I left my Raptor's main hull at Solway Dory in Cumbria for a couple of days as I wanted them to do a couple of jobs for me. The main one was to replace the two 6-inch RWO hatches (one in the cockpit and one in the foredeck) with 6-inch Hobie Twist-n-Seal hatches. I have had little confidence in the RWO hatches since a leak in the cockpit hatch nearly caused me to sink at the Luing meet last year. They should be fine for infrequent access but not when frequently opened and closed. The Hobie hatches, by contrast, appear to be very well made, sturdy and with (hopefully) fool-proof operation. They are bigger overall than the RWO ones, so Solway Dory had to build up the curved foredeck with glass fibre on each side to provide a level sealing surface for the new hatch. In the cockpit, they decided to cut the side of the hatches rather than build up this area. Hopefully this will still be water-tight. I asked them to mount one of the RWO hatches forward of the mast step, so that I can install buoyancy bags in this area. The bags won't require frequent access, so the RWO hatch there should be fine.

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