Monday, August 23, 2010

Some blog

Some blog, haven’t updated it all summer..too busy working, sailing and racing. Need to make more of an effort. Right now I’m motoring up to Newport for a double handed distance race and long weekend in Newport. Since there’s no wind and water is flat and promised myself to limit con calls I thought I’d compose an entry.

I definitely have a good work life balance! So far this year I’ve race at KWRW, CRW (sort of – see earlier blog entry), AYC spring, OffSoundings spring, frostbiting Lasers and Etchells, Wed nite racing and other misc events. Distance races include Block Island Race, Mudhead overnight, New England Solo/Twin and Ida Lewis Distance race is tomorrow. In a couple weeks the Vineyeard race (275nm) and a couple events in Chicago including J/105 North Americans.

Today is my 68th day on the water this year, which is ahead of last year’s pace. No podiums finishes this year though – can’t understand that as we definitely better sailors than last year and boat prep is not an issue, but they have been some tactical mistakes on the course but I’d like to think as we’re doing bigger events the competition is stronger. Or maybe I need a newer mainsail…No worries we’re having far more fun this year than last!

Loving the distance racing much more than windward leeward course. So much more thinking and seamanship involved. J/105 is great double handed platform too. We can easily fly the largest headsail and spinnaker in pretty much all conditions.Still like big fleet one-desing, that why I continue to crew on “Creative Destruction” it’s just that there aren’t that many such events available in my area.

Kinda too cool (didn’t want to don wetsuit) and more importantly too dark to scrub bottom this morning, I’ll do that in Newport as I should have a few hours before the skipper’s meeting where I’ll meet Eric. I’m sure we’ll head over to Zelda’s, an excellent sailors pub, for a pint or two of Guiness and some food. Forecast for this race is looking light, three course are in the SIs, a 177nm, 150nm and 104nm courses. Hoping for the shorter course to ensure we’ll have soe time to enjoy Newport night life on Sat. This’ll be the second distance race/long weekend (Thurs-Sun) in Newport in 3 weeks, really love that town. I’d move there given half a chance.

That’s it for now, really need a brighter laptop screen for blogging underway in full sun. Thanks to whoever left the SPF 70 on board! And I promise to blog more frequently

Thursday, June 3, 2010

BI Race

BI Race
OK been awhile since last blog entry, very busy with work, life and racing on my boats and other peoples boats. A couplef olks asked me why no recent entries so that motivated me to write this entry: Wow the BI Race took a lot of time both to pre, deliver boat and the actual race. Weird, I was most concerned about the big items but the little things really crunched the time window. Big stuff included storm sails, new halyards, code zero life raft, and IRC cert. Little stuff are just far too numerous to mention. Then the logistics of getting boat to Stamford about 65nm away – that’s a 12hr delivery. Delivery was boring mostly motoring, but we left late so double handed partner could come along instead of taking train so we missed flood. Got interesting near the end with t-storms up ahead on the blackberry radar so put into Stratford. Nice wide channel and good restaurant and excellent diner 5 minute walk away next morning, cast off 0900 and 3hrs later at the Cows for the start.

After speaking with other boats we had short 45min postponement waiting for breeze and then we started. Hoisted code zero right away as wind was light, but switched to class kite when it became apparent we weren’t keep up with the two other J105s. 16 boats were doublehanding. Played shifts for awhile and caught up to the others then it grew dark. Running lights on and then battery 2 low voltage alarm came on. Ran engine an hour but it would not charge. Lost sight of J105 Jaded off our beam running close to shore, contrary to what our current charts would indicate as optimum. Gumption the third J105 got past us at we made Plum Gut and we trailed them for literally hours on towards Block Island. After the Gut we started sleep rotation 2hrs on 2 hrs off. When I awoke we had lost sight of anyone in our class. All night we sailed without instruments as we were keeping Battery 1 in reserve so we could start engine. Executed a nice light air single hand gybe 5 nm from 1BI and nailed the layline. Once around Block began long beat back to Stamford via Fisher’s Island sound. Forecast and tides were very ugly and given electric problems and my partner’s domestic concerns we decided to withdraw and peel off to home just a few miles away rather than endure 65nm beat in light headwinds against foul current. Not happy with decision afterwards but at the time it seemed more reasonable to enjoy the rest of the Memorial Day weekend as there was no way to hold time over the bigger faster boats in the class. It turned out many boats had same idea or were later forced into withdrawing as over half the boats, including all the J105s in our class withdrew. Still believe RC should’ve sent the fleet on the short (130nm) course. At least we didn’t have to do another 12 hour delivery home from the finish worrying about the batteries!

Learned a lot prepping for first IRC race and first Cat 3 race on my own boat. We raced 110nm before retiring so it was a good 2.5 days on the water. Will need to asses electrical situation, possibly upgrading alternator and replacing both batteries before another long distance race. But never again I will withdraw unless we’re in imminent danger – can’t stand the giving up feeling afterwards!

Here are some photo-boat pics:

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Storm sails

Just acquired storm sails for "Dark 'n Stormy". The immediate driver for this was the BI Race next month, although I've been optimizing her for distance racing for past couple years. The 185nm BI Race is an ISAF Cat 3 race so to comply I needed at least a storm jib as my mainsail double reef points would satisfy ISAF regs (I think). So I posted an advert on and the next day I rec'd email from the owner of "Enerj' in Marblehead, MA. He bought that J/105 in Annapolis last year and rather than just sail it home to Marblehead, he entered the Annapolis-Newport Race. That's a Cat 2 race so he acquired storm sails (and other safety gear) for that race that he wished to sell. I had just gotten a $900 plus tax quote for new storm jib, so when he said $1000 for an unused storm jib, a storm trysail and an ATN Gale sail I was definitely interested. Meanwhile I finally found a buyer in Australia for an excellent Airx symmetrical spinnaker from my Catalina 320 that's been sitting in my shed for 3 years. So for a total outlay of $196, (shipping a sail to Australia ain't cheap) my boat is far better equipped for heavy weather and can now satisfy ISAF regs for Cat 1, 2, 3 races. Bring it on!

Brought these sails to the boat last night to try 'em out. It was blowing even more than predicted... 20-30kts and gusting even higher. But didn't leave the dock as it was too damn cold and not especially prudent to seek out these conditions for the very first sail of the season. So we took our time inspecting each sail, and figuring out sheeting arrangements etc.. learning a few things along the way. Carefully packed away each sail with their sheets and did other stuff to ready boat for the season.

Above is a pic of the trysail, sheeting aft to the spinnaker blocks then to the primaries. Actually had to fly a trysail for 36 hours in the 2008 Newport-Bermuda Race on a J/44 when the headboard parted from a brand new carbon fiber main, but that boat had a separate track for the trysail. Hoisting a trysail on J/105 in big breeze wouldn't be easy...think it would be best just to remove the main completely...hope to never have to do that...but can certainly envision using the storm jib occasionally... oh yeah now I have to peel off the sail numbers and apply mine...another little item for the to-do list!

Here's the other pic I took last night while walking out to my slip..marina workers working on the docks...jealous they get to work outside while I'm stuck in an office...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Urban Sailing

Sailed in NYC harbor on Sunday...practice day for next two weekends’ AYC Spring Series in Rye, NY . “Urban sailing” was the term we coined to describe our reaction to this venue. After a 3hr+ drive to southern most tip of the island of Manhattan, near Battery Park, we parked and quickly located North Cove Marina about a block from the WTC ground zero site, which we visited after sailing, after beer, after sushi. Cute, well protected little marina, in front of hugely tall buildings with restaurants, bars, office towers, apartment buildings and people and tourists biking, jogging, walking, taking pictures. Nice! But slips are expensive here, around $14k/season! for a J/105… location, location, location, I guess…but where do they dry out their spinnakers??

Driving down we were hoping to catch a glance of the Statue of Liberty that day. Little did we know we’d be sailing right in front of her and Ellis Island all afternoon. Interesting harbor traffic, cruise ships, barges, tugs, and ferries. From what we were told, traffic was very light compared to Wed night racing where dodging commuter water taxis, ferries and heavy commercial traffic is the norm. The locals also reported lots of current challenges as Hudson and East rivers merge there, with tidal influences and skyscrapers doing funky things with the breeze.
Really a strange experience sailing in urban environment. While I’m glad Big Applers have access to the sea, I much prefer the more peaceful, natural home waters convergence of Long Island Sound, Fisher’s Island Sound and Block Island Sound.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Frustration @ CRW

Charleston Race Week is a major event, even bigger than Key West this year and when offered a ride on a Viper, one of the hot new sport boat classes, we (me and my sailing buddy Eric) eagerly accepted. Originally, the boat was to be ready to support two weekends of practice off Noank to prepare for this big regatta. Two other Vipers from our yacht club were also planning to attend so it sounded like we would have a blast racing in a big fleet in the warm waters of Charleston Harbor.

But one thing led to another with the boat and trailer and in the end we found ourselves relegated to just a couple hours of light air sailing practice in the Mystic River - and that was with a borrowed rig - for what turned out to be a medium to heavy air event.

Andy, the owner, worked himself silly for weeks and weeks before the event to prepare, enlisting the help of many others, doing everything from replacing the trailer axle to making hotel reservations. This list of things to do was long and this was Andy’s first big travel event and until two days before the event our departure was in question. Biggest issue was the mast. He had bought a new carbon rig last fall from the manufacturer in the UK, but it was re-allocated to another boat at Miami earlier this year when another competitor was dismasted. So we left Mystic without a rig, expecting to borrow another mast from the New England dealer also down in Charleston for the week.

The boat needed a cover to travel 1800 miles roundtrip so we made one Monday night using donated materials, lines and duct tape. We thought it was a pretty good job but we’re stopping constantly to apply more duct tape as highway speeds did a number on our handiwork. This really slowed down progress - we left Mystic an hour late 0500 on Wed, got into Charleston around midnight, checked into hotel and crashed.

Thursday: Practice Day- well that was the plan. Up early, drove to launch, dropped off boat, and then drove 1/2hr away to find the mast. That went quicker than expected, but then we were off to Northern Tool to get a new dolly for the trailer and other supplies. Finally back to boat, but while rigging our hopes of quick assembly and practice in some real breeze quickly faded. Think we spent a good 8 hours rigging, dealing with multiple issues fitting Andy’s rigging with borrowed mast, spreaders needing extra holes drilled, getting the correct size turnbuckles measurements had to be taken, etc.

Then, once the mast was up we had to bring it down to reverse the Windex and take a forgotten forestay length measurement. Then we noticed the spinnaker halyard, which lacked a figure eight knot, was inadvertently pulled up through the mast on the last raise, which meant we had to take down the rig again, pull apart the mast sections and reeve a new halyard which required a trip to the hardware store for some thin, stiff wire, wasting yet more time. Frustrating and especially jealous watching other Vipers quickly rig and launch (which was kind of tricky, check out this video). Three times we stepped the mast that day. We learned more about the Viper mast than we ever cared to know! Finally ready for sailing but by then it was too late in the late in the day to launch and sail boat to the race venue, move the car and get in some practice. So we decided to get up early on Friday to just launch and sail directly to race course, practicing on the way and worry about retrieving the car later.

Friday, Race day! After more boat prep work we were finally ready to launch. There was one Viper ahead of us on the ramp. Wind was blowing strongly directly onto the dock and tide was low and still falling. We assisted the other Viper for almost 45 min but they could not get out. So we flagged down the ZHIK RIB launching as a spectator boat. The deal was the RIB would tow them out and come back for us. Tow worked fine for them but then the RIB took off forgetting all about us still pinned to the dock. Wasted more time waiting for another powerboat to launch and positioning himself for a tow. Andy finally had to jump aboard the powerboat to direct the operation of towing us and another Viper also anxious to get out to the race course. That done, the sails were up and we were sailing finally! Life is good (or at least better)!

Except we missed any real practice and Race 1 due to the launching delay. Blowing mid-to-upper teens with higher gusts so we played the start of Race 2 conservative and the first upwind was ok until we snagged the windward mark on a rounding. What else could go wrong??? Way too windy to fly a kite as we felt overpowered with the GNAV (backwards vang) not working well but did manage to finish 25th out of 26 Vipers racing. Working on the GNAV between races we ran soft aground (that’s what else could go wrong) but a crash boat pulled us off quick enough in time for Race 3. Going upwind trimming main on hard we heard a loud bang and determined the outhaul broke. That coupled with an ineffective GNAV left us no way to flatten main so we were constantly overpowered and IMHO a safety risk. So we retired for the day, sailed back to the dock and spent remainder of the day repairing outhaul and resolving GNAV purchase issues.

Saturday: Up early, no boat issues to deal with, so we tuned rig and headed out to race course early to practice… things are looking up! Spinnaker sets and douses, while not troublefree, were passable. Winds picked again to mid teens and above. Feeling more comfortable with the boat, our start was only a little more aggressive that yesterday but tactics saw us fall to back of the fleet by the end of the race, again besting only one boat in Race 5.

During the last run Andy noticed slop in the rudder, probably a results of our two or three broaches - glad a real expert advised Eric to blow the spin halyard 6-10 feet when that happens! Upon inspection he saw the pintles attachment pulling out. Heaved to, removed rudder and tightened up bolts but this again took time causing us to miss Race 6. Loaded up the rudder upwind and downwind to test then reentered for Race 7. Halfway through the upwind leg, the attachment began to pull out again and we withdrew this time from the day (and the regatta) and sailed back to the dock. Had issues docking within strong current and ended up in a different slip. Andy repaired the rudder enough to sail back the mile or so to the ramp but instead took a tow to the launch ramp, so we hauled, disassembled and fought off the no-see-ums again, then showered, had couple drinks at the party then off to dinner with the two other Viper crews from our club. Excellent food and of course more Viper related conversations. One of those crews went on to 3rd place finish, the other turned in a solid mid-fleet performance and we brought us the rear so I guess one could say the Mudheads covered all bases!

Sunday, race day, but not for us. Instead we put the cover back on, secured for traveling and made a more reasonable 16 hour drive home stopping only for food/gas, tolls and to pickup Fourth of July supplies south of the border.

So out of the 10 races across three days we started four races and completed only 2, ending the regatta in last place. Results here and some photo-boat pictures are here.

Summary: Don’t leave the driveway unless the boat and crew is proven to be race ready – that’s my biggest lesson learned from Charleston Race Week. Excellent weather and venue but frustration after frustration drove us to a last place finish. Boat preparation and time in type is key and cannot be overstated! Race 1 is no time to figure out crew coordination/communications either, this was mostly resolved by day 2, but should’ve been hammered out long before a major event like CRW.

Impression of the Viper: it’s really a dinghy with a lead assisted keel for adults. Wicked fast fun. Found it very ergonomic, except the spinnaker retrieval line seemed a bit undersized. Three person crew is fun, though we were about 50 pounds under weight for the conditions. I was mid which is physically demanding… trimming jib (and main when it’s blowing), setting, dousing and flying the kite and always trying to hike hard. Setup and take down and launching is annoyingly time consuming. I would require leaving it rigged for the season and using a crane to launch, but then I’d rather race then work on boats. Learned a lot about the class, and class politics, history, the manufacturers, support issues, etc.

Overall the Viper is a great sport boat and I would like to sail it enough to get proficient but think I’ll stick with my J/105 as my setup/maintenance to racing/fun ratio appears far lower. For us, CRW was a very long weekend but we did learn a lot, we did get exposed to almost heavy air downwind Viper excitement (love the rudder harmonics at speed!!!), met a lot of new folks, saw some old friends and enjoyed an excellent race venue. Would I return next year? Yes, but only via Delta airlines!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Go / No Go

Waiting on go/no go from Andy for CRW...I'm predicting a GO at the moment but then again I'm an optimist. Originally we hoped for 3 weekends of practice before trucking down to Charleston. Andy had so many issues with boat & trailer prep we were only able to get a couple light air sailing hours in yesterday.

We worked all Friday afternoon and Sat afternoon until dark but did finally get on the water with Dave Nickerson coaching us from his Sea Nymph until his engine died, then from the dock at Ram Island Yacht Club. After a quick sail, Dave swapped out with Andy so Eric and I could receive instruction from a most excellent sailor. He put us through all the evolutions, cool boat, accelerates fast, very sensitive like a big Laser. Then Andy swapped back in for more boat handling drills.

It was blowing only 6-8kts and it seemed like we were only on the water a couple hours. We can only think about Viper boat handling in heavier though we are scheduled to have one practice day down south. Forecast for CRW is mid-teens and with 31 boats on the line the mark roundings are going to be interesting, especially if we don't figure out what's wrong with our douses... current thinking is the knot vs grommet placement in our retrieval line if not correct..need go to Viper class website next and do some research...

Anyways, Andy has still alot to do, including installing a new axle, rewiring trailer lites, enlarging the plate for the keel bolts that holds the keel down in the event we capsize (one is mis-aligned), getting a travel cover made, packing up for a 14 hour drive, etc. before we can leave Wed 0400. And then hoping the new mast makes it to Charleston when we do. Confident he can complete all tasks. Learned a great deal about Viper rigging, tuning, adjustment etc over last couple days. Can't wait to sail a Viper in some breeze!

On another note, in between Viper stuff I was able to do finish prep on my J/105 so we'll be splashing later this week!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

man overboard

blowing pretty hard for my rookie Laser skills so instead did mid on an Etchells. 8 boats on the line in our class today. Cold but techwicks, fleece, bibs and spray top were just fine. Trimming spinnaker is physically demanding on days like this - winds steady 14-17kts and higher gusts. Excellent racing, but tough competition got maybe 1-2 boats per race.. After last leeward mark rounding in second to the last race the head stay parted, we finished then set to work looking to repair it for last race. Didn't secure it in time, missed the start of the last race so we doused jib and headed in. Nearing the docks I gathered lines, attached stern line and was making my way forward when we accidently gybed. I saw the boom coming but nothing I could do except go with it and into the water I went. PFD held head clear and I remember lifting my arms out of the water to stay warm. Held on the unattached bow line (actually a light air spin sheet) and waited for the boat to come about and pick me up. Cold! water temp around 40 but got picked up on first try. Sopping wet until we docked then I ran to the car, got naked in the parking lot and put on dry suit as it was the only dry clothes I had. Wish I was wearing it earlier! Warmed up quick enough with help of rum and hot soup. Another excellent day!