Last year I wrote a post summing up our first season sailing performance. Now, a couple of months into our second season, I think it’s clear that we’ve already found a better gear! In this post, I’ll share some data from a two-day solo sail I did this week.

Turku – Åland – Turku

My plan was to leave early in the morning and sail from Turku to the Åland archipelago. Then stay the night there, and return the following day.

The weather forecasts offered a decent amount of wind (18-19 knots, gusting to 20+), and I was really excited to get out there and learn more about sailing our boat. It was the same route we did last year, with the whole family and some inconvenient consequences. This time around, however, I was set on making it a less stressful event.

At a bit after 5 am, after just a few hours of (restless) sleep and a quick breakfast, I untied the docking lines, and set off.

Sun rising behind the clouds and the Turku harbour. 5:45 am.

Close Reaching There

I had planned to use the crossover sail for the first half of the trip, but as I was hoisting it, the wind quickly increased and moved a bit forward. So, what was halfway up, came back down, and I rolled out the jib instead.

I started out with a full main and a full jib, and when I reached the short offshore part (the yellow dot), I had to put in the first reef.

The apparent wind angle was on the beam until the offshore passage. After that, a bit less than close-hauled (close reachish) until the very end, when I actually had to tack a couple of times (oh, humanity!).

Blue = boat speed, orange = wind speed.

Looking at the picture, it’s cool that for at lot of the trip, the speed was well over 7 knots, hitting above 8 regularly. The average speed for the whole trip (about 54 nautical miles) was 7.1 knots. Max speed, with a 6 second average, was 9.2 knots, and dropping down to a 3 second average, a cool 9.6 knots! Whee!

Next, the polar diagram.

Red line, s/y Charlotte max speeds, dashed black line the Hanse 388 spinnaker polar speeds.

If this blog was an audio book, this is where I’d but fireworks and cheering sounds. Just look at the polars! For most of the upwind part, my top speed was faster than Hanse’s polar speeds! That was a first.

Off the wind, I was slower, but I was using a jib and their speeds are for a spinnaker.

Broad Reaching Back

The trip back was mostly downwind, with a full main and the crossover sail hoisted.

Just after sunrise. Crossover (code zero) flying and the going is easy!

During the last hour of the trip, I was going so close to dead downwind (between 150-160 degrees) that I furled the crossover and sailed with the mainsail only. (And reached 7 knots with just one sail!)

Here’s the data.

Boat speed in blue, true wind speed orange.

Once again, pretty long stints in speeds between 7-8 knots. The average for the whole 54 miles was a bit less, 6.7 knots. The 6s max speed 8.8 knots.

This polar diagram is as great as the other one! With just the crossover and a sufficient amount of wind, I achieved the Hanse 388 spinnaker polar speeds! Well, for part of the wind angles anyway.

Amazing, but I do feel the need to insert a short disclaimer here: calculating precise true wind speeds and angles using the currently available instruments isn’t that reliable. The images and diagrams do to try to paint a real and honest picture, but sometimes they might be less accurate than they seem. (On the positive side, there are no tidal currents in Finland, so that helps a bit.)

What is visible in the visualizations, though, is what I felt in real life: the boat is a lot faster than last season.

But why?

Some Theories of Speed

I thought about it for a while, and here’s what my intuition says about why the boat feels so much faster now.

The first, and by far the most dominant reason: the barnacle colony on the bottom is gone! The boat yard did a great job with the bottom and the new antifouling is beautiful. The base layer is Jotun Vinyl Primer, and on top of that Jotun Megayacht (😍) Imperial Antifouling.

The second reason: using an outboard lead (crossover sheet) for the jib when reaching. It’s amazing how much easier it is to get the jib decently shaped with two sheets attached. With just the basic self-tacking sheet, when not going tightly upwind, the sheet point is helplessly in the wrong place.

Here’s a short video where you can see the two sheets being used.

Thirdly, weight, and weight placement matters. Last season, with the whole family (and dog) aboard, the boat was heavier. And we were all over the place, not really focusing on balancing anything.

When I filmed the video above I had to move down to leeward from the windward side, and it felt like even this small shift of one human body affected the way the boat behaved noticeably.

Maybe we’ll pay more attention to that. Or maybe not. Speed won’t be priority #1 for us. Less heeling, on the other hand, might be nice.

So, a clean bottom, sail trim and weight matters. Pretty elementary stuff, some might say!

Solo Sailing

The whole trip was very enjoyable but quite exhausting. I set off at sunrise both mornings and was almost nonstop stuck behind the steering wheel for eight hours each day.

This brings me to one unresolved issue, and one final thought.

The unresolved issue is one I have with the autopilot. For some reason or setting or whatnot, it was really hard to go from hand steering to the autopilot whenever the boat was heeling and there was some pressure on the steering. When I pressed the ‘auto’ button, the pilot inevitably decided to round up into the wind. It lost it! Slowly and surely.

I found one temporary workaround, though. When I pressed the -10 degrees button right after ‘auto’, it sometimes kept its stuff together. (And I have a couple of other ideas as well, that I will try when I get a chance.)

The final thought— it’s really nice and stress-free to sail alone. But it’s also very lonely. It is a good way to learn more about the boat, but it’s not at all why I bought it.

“When the air temperature is at least fifteen degrees, I’ll join you,” Charlotte, known for freezing a lot, said to me with a smile.

Yes!

Patiently,
the never-ending,
always-changing
spirit of the sea
is waiting.

And then,
it will breathe its good life into all.

At anchor in the Åland archipelago. That was nice too.