Bill Stange and the “Wetsnail 32”

Hula
This old brochure shot dates the Columbia back to cross-cut chutes and square-topped staysails.

We’ve got some really good sailors in the Northwest. Bill Stange stands out to me because he can take an unlikely boat and do great things without a boatload of pros or a boatload of Kevlar doilies. Over the last few years his Columbia 26 Tuesday has cleaned up on many a race, leaving more than a few heads shaking. “Who still races a Columbia 26?” one might ask. There might be some others, but Bill Stange is the only one I can find.

If you think a Columbia 26 is an unlikely choice, consider Stange’s Westsail 32. The Westsail 32 traces its origins to a Colin Archer type pilot boat as adapted by William Aitkin with deck modifications by Bill Crealock. At 20,000 lbs. the Westsail is a lot more than big-boned, she’s “massive.” But Stange has re-taught many of us an important lesson: Yep, it may be hard to get heavy displacement moving, but it’s also hard to stop it. Oh yeah, and waterline matters.

There’s another important lesson here. One can race just about anything. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Bill was kind enough to write about his recent Edmonds YC Foul Weather Bluff win. Here’s Bill:

     So you want to find out what it was like racing the Westsail 32?

     18 miles of fun was had, that’s for sure. The race started with a dead run from Edmonds to The Scatchet Head buoy. Interestingly, there was no “short course” for the slower rated boats to sail, as the race committee sent everybody on the same course. We expected that we would be passed soon after the start by the much faster boats starting after us. We started our 20,000 pound 32-footer in the second start. Under spinnaker, we quickly got past the first starters who were not flying spinnakers, and we were leading the fleet (first surprise of the day!) None of the boats starting after us seemed to be getting much closer on the run, so we rounded the Scatchet Head buoy in first place, (second surprise of the day!) followed closely by the always well sailed Bingo. OK enough of this Westsail leading the fleet stuff, right? Well, our third surprise of the day was that we actually stretched our lead on the second leg to Pilot Point, and had a fairly comfortable lead. Leading the fleet on the way back to Edmonds, we were finally passed by Dragonfly and then the TP 52s. They were fun to watch as they blasted by, but we were now doing our own healthy 6.5 knots right towards the finish line! We received the shot gun blast and later the bullet glass trophy for first to finish in class. We also corrected out to win our class by about two minutes over Gay Morris’ fast Shark Fayaway.  The final surprise of the day was when they announced that the first place overall winner was our beloved “Wetsnail” 32 Hula!!!

     So… was it the rating? (ed. note 239) or the different wind conditions for different starts?  …or can a Westsail really sail?  All I can tell you is that it was really fun to be next to some sailboat skippers as they looked down their noses at our lowly Westsail when they slowly realized they couldn’t keep up.   

     Ratings aside, there were 65 total boats in the race, and 30 of them lost to a Westsail 32 on elapsed time. Ouch!

     -Bill and Darlene Stange

 Westsail 32 HULA

PS we still own Tuesday the Columbia 26 and keep her on Lake Union.

Going for the Bot End of the Line in PSSC Big Boats

Going for the Bot End of the Line in PSSC Big Boats
The MarkSetBot

The story for this year’s Big Boat Pacific Coast Sailing Championship (PSSC), put on by CYC Seattle last weekend, has a lot more to do with mark sets than mark roundings. Principal Race Officer Charley Rathkopf was beta testing the MarkSetBot. Robot marks? Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.

This self-propelled floating mark can be instructed via computer through the web, to hold a GPS position. It’s electric trolling motor, autopilot and cell phone work together. “Once you get it in the water and all connected, it worked great” Rathkopf reported. There are still some kinks to work out, but hey, that’s what beta testing is all about.

This wasn’t just Rathkopf’s doing. CYC members Bob Combie and Hans Spiller were instrumental in getting the club selected as a tester, and getting the Midwest product on Northwest waters.

Rathkopf reports that the bot could change position very quickly when directed, but didn’t have enough battery power to get itself back to Shilshole after a full day of holding position on the water.

Another beta tester had claimed they really needed a bot like this because “we have to set marks in 100 feet of water!” I’m sure their heads shook in disbelief when they heard Puget Sound marks are set conventionally, and successfully, in many times that depth.

As good as the CYC crews have become at setting marks in deep water, and they are amazing, as a Laser sailor I’m all in favor of something that speeds up the process. It gets cold out there sitting around wet waiting for the line to be reset!

All the photos in this post (and many others) are by Jan Anderson. I’d like to make a personal plea to you owners and crews to go to her web site and order (yes, pay for) photos. She works very hard at her craft and gives us all the chance to relive our races time and again. Click any photo to enlarge.

Of course there was excellent racing in light breezes all weekend. In the J/105 class, Erik Kristen and More Jubilee won the series without winning a single race. In the Melges 24 class it was Kevin Welch’s top shelf MiKEY program with the clear win. Worm Lund and Snappy Tom won three of the races to seal the victory, and in the 8-boat J/80 Crazy Ivan won handily.

A grand total of 22 boats raced in handicap classes. Classes 1 and 2 had three, count ’em three, boats apiece. Class 3 had seven boats and a modest rating range. Nine boats sailed in Class 7 with a rating range of 126 seconds/mile. Glory and Wicked Wahine won classes 1 and 2 while Bat out of Hell won Class 3 and Here and Now took Class 7.

It’s worth noting that the one design classes appear strong. The 10-boat Melges 24 fleet seems quite solid, as does the J/105 class. The San Juan 24 and J/80 classes appear to be strengthening.

Bruce’s Briefs 13, 14, and 15 Oct 2017, CYC’s Big Boat PSSC

Bruce’s Briefs 13, 14, and 15 Oct 2017, CYC’s Big Boat PSSC

Get out and enjoy the weekend! Beautiful day today and it looks like it will hold for the weekend. Perhaps the most interesting feature this week is Hurricane Ophelia as it continues to build with some models showing the British Isles taking a direct hit.

Ophelia

Then there’s the tornado outside of Portland turning over some small planes. The great thing about the weather is that it’s never boring.

Today’s chart shows a setup most Vic-Maui, Pacific Cup, and TransPac sailors dream about; a nice and round 1041 MB high-pressure system with almost perfect spacing in the isobars. The only problem is that weak low-pressure system sitting over the Pacific Northwest. This will result in some atmospheric instability and generally light conditions over the Salish Sea.

For PSSC this will mean a pretty nice southerly over the Shilshole area and about 8-15 knots until late in the afternoon when the breeze will start to drop and shift more to the southeast. Sunday the breeze will fill in from the north at about 8-10 knots and should hold for the day. All in all, pretty perfect conditions for a regatta.

The tides will cooperate as well which will make the racing very interesting. These are the tidal currents at West Point.

Saturday

0948      Max Flood            .97 knts

1254      Slack

1424      Max Ebb                 .3 knts

1748      Slack

Sunday

0536      Slack

1100      Max Flood            1.02 knts

1348      Slack

1524      Max Ebb                 .27 knts

1854      Slack

With the southerly and a flood tide for the start of racing on Saturday you can expect a southeasterly shift along the shore north of Meadow Point and along the breakwater off of Shilshole. Even with a flood tide, there will still be an advantage to going left off the start line and minimizing the number of tacks to the weather mark. Chances are it will also pay to do a starboard pole set at the weather mark and hold that until you start to get lifted as you sail north. After the bottom mark, the direction you go will depend on how far to the west the mark is, where your competition goes and how far the wind is to south or south-west. If the mark is way to the west than you may not be able to go far enough to the east to get back into the south-easterly. If this is the case then it’s back to basic’s, stay between your competition and the finish. On the run north be sure to have someone check the flags on the committee boat and see which end of the line is favored and if one side of the course is favored.

The northerly on Sunday will make things even trickier as there may still be a slight north-easterly component in the morning. If the sky is clear over the downtown area and it can heat up sooner, this will bring the wind around to northwest sooner. Again, keep your head out of the boat and watch which way the smart guys are going.

Good luck and have a great weekend.

 

 

Puget Sound Sailing Championships – Moore 24s, J/24s and Dinghies Get a Full Weekend of Racing

Puget Sound Sailing Championships – Moore 24s, J/24s and Dinghies Get a Full Weekend of Racing

Corinthian (Seattle) YC’s PSSR Regatta started off last weekend with the small boat edition, and Puget Sound delivered with just enough wind for two good days of racing. With nine races sailed (eight for the J/24s), the winners all had to earn their way to the top. The PRO for the event, Egor Klevak, did an excellent job of keeping things moving along the entire weekend. Melissa Davies did a great job of drumming up participation, which was up substantially from 2016 across the board.

This year the seven Moore 24s were switched from the “large boat” half of the event (to be sailed this coming weekend) to the small boat event. That, combined with the 12-boat J/24 class meant that everyone had to stay alert in the starting area to avoid those unpleasant big boat/small boat interactions. It also meant the inevitable couple of incidents while one fleet was going through the start line while another fleet was starting. There’s just not a lot of room to get through a line when the J/24s are jockeying for position. Everyone stayed on their toes and it all worked.

Here are some of Jan Anderson’s photos. Click to enlarge. There are lots more here, and I know she’d love you to see them.

Saturday’s predicted light southerly held ’til mid afternoon, when a northerly blew down on the fleet with some gusty breezes, and the existing race was abandoned for some classes. Rather than saying enough racing for the day, Klevak reoriented the course and sent everyone for one final race of the day in a waning wind. It meant that by the end of the day a full five races had been sailed and a good regatta already was achieved. And it meant some very, very tired sailors.

And it appeared that that had been a wise move with a glassy Puget Sound the next morning. But as the land heated up, the northerly once again turned on and four more solid races were sailed. The strong currents of the weekend caused much consternation and some surprises. In the last race, for some classes, better wind actually trumped the ripping flood while heading upwind. As the crews gathered in the CYC clubhouse, the TV showed the Seahawks managing to hold onto a win. What a weekend!

Ben Braden and crew won the Moores, young Lucas Lafitte put his stamp on the J/24 fleet, Dave Watt won the small Star class and Kirk and Katia Smith stood atop the Snipe class. Results here.

Both the RS Aeros and Lasers had very good fleets, each with 11 boats on the line. Dalton Bergan managed to win the RS Aero, despite going with the smaller “7” rig on the first day. Second was Todd Willsie, the very first RS Aero owner in the region and third was Bergan’s father in law Carl Buchan, who may have regretted matching Dalton’s “7” rig the first day. Youth was the theme for the Laser class as Blake Bentzen won with a very consistent performance, with strong performances by Stasi Burzycki, Luke Gibbens, Kit Stoll and Perham Black (only the second day, but was he ever fast).

Big Little Duel in Foulweather Bluff Race

Big Little Duel in Foulweather Bluff Race

By all accounts this year’s Edmonds YC Foulweather Bluff Race last Saturday wasn’t the most tactically intriguing, but it was a good chance for a clash of the Titans, namely Gay Morris’ Shark 24 Fayaway and Bill Stange’s Westsail 32 (yes, Westsail 32) Hula. See below for the blow by blow account.

Crossfire’s Track

While the big boats didn’t figure in the overall podium standings, they of course had a great race among themselves with Glory coming out on top of Crossfire and Smoke. According to Nigel Barron of Crossfire, the key moment was shortly after the start when Crossfire and and Smoke gybed to get north while Glory headed across the Sound. “That was the move,” Barron reported, “As you can see, three gybes and no tacks for the race. Not a lot of passing lanes.” Crossfire‘s track at left.

Other notable performances were put in by Kiwi Express which edged Here and Now by under a minute, Jaded which won the 7-boat J/105 class and Bat Out Of Hell which beat the Flying Tiger Anarchy by only 30 seconds.

Jan and Skip Anderson (and the pooch Mocha) were on hand to catch the smiles and the start. Please go to her FWB gallery and enjoy the photos. Here are some. Click to enlarge.

But the real battle of the day took place in Class 2, and it would be hard to find three more different boats in a cruiser racer class. Fittingly, they ended up 1st, 2nd and 4th overall among the monohulls. (Yeah, the catamaran Dragonfly corrected time was in there too but she’s really in a class of her own) I’ll let my friend Gay Morris of the Shark 24 Fayaway (2200lbs) describe his battle with the Perry Quarter Tonner Bingo (4000 lbs?) and Bill Stange’s Westsail 32 Hula (19500 lbs):

Clash of the Titans

Foulweather Bluff 2017 was a very memorable sail for us on the little Shark 24, Fayaway. The race was quick, basically a run and two close reaches. It was not a very challenging course. We started well at the west end of the line and reached west. The tide was ebbing and the 5-6 knot southerly was showing signs of increasing. Soon after the start I looked down and saw the Westsail 32 Hula sailing very well. She had speed on us.

Citroën 2CV, or “Deux Chevaux” in case you were wondering.

They were flying their beautiful pink kite just perfectly and inching ahead all the time. One of the Shark’s weaknesses is downwind in light air. Even with Fayaway‘s penalty spinnaker and double penalty main we could just not keep pace. I told my crew we were being out horse-powered, like a Deux Chevaux against a big Buick. The Quarter Tonner Bingo was going very well too.

Once out west of the Possession Bar most of us gybed toward Scatchet Head. The winds went lighter, maybe 3-4 knots. I remember hearing a train going by Meadowdale and told my crew that we should get an easterly shift. We did and had a good reach for the mark, staying high because of the ebbing tide. Bingo was first around, having sailed a very nice run. Hula was right on their tail a half mile ahead of us.

The reach to Pilot Point was a straight away close reach and the wind built up to 12 knots from the south. Hula moved out again nicely, using her greater waterline.

At the rounding Hula lost a little by going inshore before tacking. Fayaway tacked at the mark and headed east right away. The winds built to about 15. The Shark loves a breeze. They do not point high but do go very fast for their rating. For a light boat they do not slow down in the chop like so many boats do. We eased sheets slightly, hiked hard and went fast, passing four boats on this last leg.  Ahead of us Hula went fast and munched through the chop easily. We did gain a couple minutes on the last leg but Hula was too far out there. I guess we ran out of runway. A few more miles and we would have corrected on her. Hula corrected to first overall and Fayaway second overall, about two minutes behind. Bill Stange is an excellent sailor and his crew did a perfect job. It is always a pleasure racing against him no matter what boats are involved. – Gay Morris

And Then There’s This – Take Note Race Organizers!

And we have to include this nice note from John Wolfe of CYC Edmonds:

Dear Kurt,

We Corinthians in Edmonds thank you as editor and Bruce Hedrick as contributor for the spot on forecast which made it easier for our race committee to run a shorter course for the faster boats in last Saturday’s FWB race.

NOAA’s forecast had us all licking our lips for much better than average wind but Bruce Hedrick’s forecast reeled us back to the reality that you have to sail with the wind you have.

Thanks! John Wolfe CYCE

Race Organizers: Bruce has kindly been offering up his weather outlooks and racers and committees respond! The Briefs engage sailors and get everybody thinking about this puzzle that is the Salish sea. Ours, after all, is as much a intellectual sport as it is a boatspeed challenge. And while even a Bruce Brief forecast isn’t always spot on, it helps everyone make better decisions. Please get in touch with me about your event and I’ll beg Bruce to put his thinking cap on for your race – then help me spread the word that the Brief exists. Thanks! -KMH

 

 

Bruce’s Brief for PSSC Small Boats – check out the double ebb Sunday!

Bruce’s Brief for PSSC Small Boats – check out the double ebb Sunday!

For the CYC’s Small Boat Series off of Shilshole, it doesn’t look much better on Saturday when you’ll have light and variable breeze. Sunday, however, looks MUCH better with 15-20 knots of northerly in the morning and then dropping off to 5-10 knots of northerly in the afternoon.

Tides will be more interesting for the Shilshole venue especially on Sunday. And no, that is not a typo on Sunday with ebbs back to back.

0742      Max Ebb                 .47 knots

1242      Slack

1536      Max Flood            .95 knots

1806      Slack

 

Sunday

0830      Max Ebb                 .44 knots

1224      Max Ebb                 .12 knots

1342      Slack

1618      Max Flood            .87 knots

 

The tactics for Saturday and Sunday will be highly dependent on where the start line is set. On Sunday if the RC is closer to the breakwater, in the morning think of Thursday evening racing in the summer. On Sunday afternoon think of morning racing in the summer, in other words, more of a slight northeasterly component.

Have a great weekend

 

Ed. Note, Thanks Bruce for thinking of us “little guys.” It looks like a solid turnout with a dozen J/24s, 11 Lasers, 11 RS Aeros, 7 Moore 24s, 4 Stars and a few other classes as well. Here’s to a competitive racing, even if it is a bit light!

Bruce’s Briefs 6, 7, & 8 Oct. Foulweather Bluff Race out of Edmonds

Bruce’s Briefs 6, 7, & 8 Oct. Foulweather Bluff Race out of Edmonds

Our very interesting year of weather continues after a spectacularly beautiful week of true Indian Summer conditions. As we know, it simply isn’t going to last however there is really nothing major league bad in the offing. That, however, is the bad news.

As you can see from the charts, we have a cold front that is rapidly approaching the Pacific Northwest and will blow through the area tonight. The baro is dropping and we are already seeing rain off the north coast on the Doppler. The other feature to note is the incredibly strong high-pressure system (1040MB) off the coast. This will drive a strong onshore flow down the Straits after the cold front passes. Unfortunately, this will create a convergence zone over the Race Course area for tomorrow. As is typical for a post-frontal scenario, the isobars will ease over the Upper Sound and lower part of Admiralty Inlet and while it may be cranking in the Straits, 25-30 knots from the West, the westerly won’t get much past the Marrowstone Light. While there will be enough southerly in the Race area to get the race started, it will tend to get lighter from noon on. The key to this race will be to finish early.

Running the polars for Crossfire, they should finish just after 1300 hours in a dying south-southeasterly followed closely by the TP-52’s. The rest of fleet may struggle a bit as the breeze will continue to drop. Other projected times are:

Beneteau First 40.7        1609

J-105                                          1648

Farr 1020                                1719

 

The tides will actually be a help. For Admiralty Inlet off Bush Point.

0712                                          Slack

1018      Max Ebb                 2.74 knots

1342                                          Slack

1612      Max Flood            1.75 knots

1842                                          Slack

 

This will be another race that will drive tacticians and navigators crazy as they struggle to keep their vessels in the best wind. The key here will be to keep your head out of the boat and watch which way the smart people are going. For the most part, on the way up to Scatchet Head, simply aim at the mark and sail your polars.

From Scatchet Head to Foulweather Bluff, you will want to stay in the ebb tide and stay out of Skunk Bay where it can get light in a southerly. With any kind of luck, you’ll get around FWB near slack water. Remember that the flood starts first coming down the west side of the Sound and around Point No Point, so watch your COG and SOG. Again, if you’re beating after the mark, stay out of Skunk Bay, there’s a reason why it’s called that….

From Pt No Pt to the finish, have your barber-haulers and light air sheets rigged and ready and aim for the finish. Given a choice between going due east or down the Sound on the west side, stay to the west. Just don’t overstand the finish and keep yourself between your competition and the finish line.

Remember, all of this presumes a long course. The committee has two other options if it looks like it’s going to be really light.

The rest of the weekend really looks OK with the only really breezy conditions being in the Straits. While we’ll tend to have a southerly over the Sound on Saturday, this will shift to a northerly on Sunday. In other words, Stay in Edmonds, enjoy the post-race activities and the sail home on Sunday.

Take a peek also at the surface chart for 10 October. If you were impressed with the 1040MB High, you’ll love the 1043MB monster that’s projected. It also shows another weak cold front coming over us. None of these will produce much rain however it will be getting cooler in the evenings.

Be Safe and enjoy the weekend.

 

Laser Worlds, J/24 Europeans Success for Northwest Sailors

Laser Worlds, J/24 Europeans Success for Northwest Sailors

It is so fun to applaud the success of Northwest racers when they go out in the world! Over the past week we can claim some more of that success, though to anyone who’s been paying attention it won’t come as surprise.

Bill Symes atop the podium.

Bill Symes of Portland won the Great Grandmaster aged (65+) Radial fleet in the Laser Master Worlds in Split, Croatia. He did it in convincing fashion, winning four of the seven races, including the last three. Those of us who get to race against Symes know how much he contributes to the sport, what great sportsman he is and how ridiculously consistently fast he is. He is extremely deserving of this win!

Al Clark of Vancouver has coached young Vancouver athletes for several years and has been taking aim at the Master Worlds for many years. He won this year’s Standard Grandmaster (55+) division in a hard-fought battle with fellow Canadian Andy Roy.

And then there’s Diedre Webster, also from Vancouver. She was third in the women’s Great Grandmaster (65+) fleet. But wait, she was the only 75+ woman in the fleet, so that pretty much makes her the winner (a hero) of that class!

I hope to get some first-person details to share in the not-so-distant future.

The Laser Masters Worlds is a truly amazing event. Every year, more than 300 “old folks” get together somewhere in the world to race these deceptively simple, physically brutal, little boats. You can hear swearing in several different languages as one side of the course gets hit by a bad shift. To sail a Laser in breeze at any age is a challenge, to do so when your’re 60, 70 or more is amazing! And at the top of these fleets, the level of skill and fitness is absolute tops.

The Master Worlds is my personally favorite regatta. The sportsmanship and camaraderie is tops, the international aspect is remarkable and racing is always top notch. I was particularly pleased to see the number of women racing at the Worlds this year. It seemed to be more than in years past.

Results.

 

J/24 European Championship

 

Whittemore’s Tundra Rose winning US Nationals earlier this year in Seattle.

Keith Whittemore loves sailing J/24s on Tuesdays on Lake Washington. He also loves sailing them in Europe. He’s had a great year, first winning the Nationals here in Seattle in May and last week winning the Europeans in Hungary last week with a remarkable comeback win.

According to Whittemore’s emails to his J/24 compatriots, it was light and shifty conditions. On day 2 (?) he had a rough day, having to fight back from a bad start to finish 7th, suffering a black flag DSQ for the second race of the day and then watching the last race (which he was winning) abandoned. Despite all that, he eventually was able to drop the DSQ and rack up three thirds in the last four races to claim victory. Results.

In the meantime, other Seattle J/24 racers were making their mark at the World Championships in Port Credit, Ontario. Mark Laura’s Baba Louie ended up 7th , Scott Milne with Tremendous Slouch finished 10th and Carl Sheath finished 30th in Suspence.

I’m hoping to share some insights from the competitors themselves in the coming days.

 

Bruce’s Briefs 29, 30 Sept & 1 Oct.

Bruce’s Briefs 29, 30 Sept & 1 Oct.

How propitious that the 2017 NWS Seattle Integrated Weather Team Workshop was yesterday and we got to preview what NWS is thinking about the upcoming winter and how they are going to convey this information. Love to see the Seattle office being a leader in this especially at a time when in spite of an increasingly complex weather scenario, the Trump administration wants to cut the budget of both NOAA and FEMA. As if the recent (and still unfinished) hurricane season hasn’t sent a clear enough message. Kurt is kicking my chair and telling me to get back on the job. (Ed. note: NO, he’s not!)

My, how things have changed over the last couple of weeks. We have gone from an ENSO neutral winter to a distinctly La Niña pattern which is really great news for skiers and the snowpack in the mountains. What is a La Niña pattern? In very simple terms it means that the temperature of the equatorial waters off of South America are significantly lower than normal. See the current SST anomaly chart. In an El Niño event, it’s the opposite, in other words significantly warmer than normal.

Click image to enlarge

So the real question is what does this mean for boaters? As you can see from the NWS Chart of Significant Winter Weather, in La Niña years we have the greatest chance of major wind storms and lowland snow events. If you ever needed an excuse to get your furled sails down and into the sailmaker for an off-season inspection, this should be it. Also, think about getting those winter mooring lines out and figuring out how to add some extra lines. I mentioned lowland snow events because those usually accompany below normal temperatures which means winterizing your boat for below freezing temperatures. Nothing worse than walking down to the boat to find only the bridge above water. Needless to say, we’ll give you a heads-up before any of those.

Right now there is no significant weather on the radar since the front passed through this morning. The rest of the weekend looks like a typically post-frontal situation with the possibility of a Puget Sound convergence zone developing in the northern Sound and over Admiralty inlet Saturday evening.So a bit of a breezy westerly in the eastern Straits that may extend down Admiralty Inlet Saturday afternoon. The Straits could see 15-25 while the north Sound could see 15-20. Sunday will be quieter with light air in the south Sound and a nice westerly/northwesterly in the eastern Straits and north Sound. Since it’s the Pacific Northwest there may be some spotty showers around.

Click images to enlarge

 

The charts for the weekend also provide some interesting reading in that the 500MB charts show the upper-level lows above the jet stream and a strong upper-level high below. The chart for next week (3 Oct) also shows the jet stream coming out of the Canadian Interior and back out to us. If this were later in December or early January this would be the kind of pattern that can bring snow to the Pacific Northwest.

Have a great weekend!

 

 

Sensory Deprivation on the Cockpit Floor in the Six Meter Worlds

Sensory Deprivation on the Cockpit Floor in the Six Meter Worlds

There’s no doubt that the 6-Meter Worlds in Vancouver September 15-21 was an extraordinary, red-carpet affair and not really weekend sailor fare. Boats and luminaries were shipped from Europe, boats resuscitated and re-wardrobed, pros were lined up for most of the boats. It’s not often there’s real-life royalty on the start line.

But what’s it like to sail a 6-Meter? I gave a shout to Alex Simanis of Ballard Sails who was main trimmer aboard Bob Cadranell’s Arunga.

“In my spot it was like sailing with sensory deprivation,” he explains. “I didn’t see any of the beats. I was sitting on the floor of the open cockpit tending the mainsheet, runners, traveller and the trim tab. As soon as we’re doing 5 knots you used the trim tab, just a little to make the keel a bit assymetrial going upwind. As the main trimmer you get kicked in the face a few times because you share the space the owner.”

Click on these Nancii Bernard photos to enlarge. I’d highly recommend going to her web site to see the rest of her photos – they provide a great feel for the sailing part of the regatta.

Some of the other things Simanis explained were that there was a real issue with the boats trying to sink themselves when they got going downwind. It was more than the meter-type hull settling deep into displacement mode, it was more like self-destruction. The wing keels on some boats are actually aimed to drive the boat into the water. “We took on a lot of the water – it came over the floorboards. We were pumping with the biggest Whale pump they make!”

And Simanis added that these boats can be handful when it blows. “It’s physical,” he says. The boats usually sail with five. “Twenty knots is about the limit for these boats,” he adds, “After that it just gets stupid.”

Arunga was in the modern class, but the “classic” class was equally competitive. The royalty (HM the King of Spain) won the classic classic race, and the Swiss boat Junior defended her title, but not without controversy. Chris Winnard, who happened to be sailing on Arunga, laid out some of the controversies in this Sailing Anarchy post.

Simanis agreed that things smelled, at the very least, fishy when the hot local Canadian New Sweden was given some questionable redress. “18 boats filed protests, and eventually they just rolled it into one protest with 18 witnesses,” Simanis explained. He added that the program Ben Mumford and Don Marten had put together didn’t really need any help – the boat was well sorted and fast. In the end the redress was not given.

Of course, high falutin or not, it’s still a sailboat race and everyone tries to come away learning a thing or two. The Arunga team, for instance, learned a fair bit about mast rake. They learned they needed a lot more than they’d been using, though in the end had to moderate the change just a bit. The whole “bow down” thing to maximize speed isn’t necessarily the thing to do, as the fast boats were all sheeting in hard and pointing on the beats.

While the real competition is in Europe, this region has a proud history, and present, with 6-Meters. There are several boats in Port Madison, and they often turn up for Seattle buoy races. Then there are the Vancouver boats. With all these boats tuned up after the Worlds, there may be a renewed interest in the class around here.

It would be a great game to play, because while they’re sailed boat for boat, every one is different and needs it’s own customization. Optimizing the boat is certainly a big part of the game. And underway, who wouldn’t like to on that good looking a boat going to weather?

Few if any boats are more beautiful than the narrow, low slung meter boats. I grew up watching some of the ex-America’s Cup 12-Meters like Heritage charging upwind unmolested through those nasty boat-stopping lake waves. It was as sight to behold. And if you spend some time looking at the photos and squint a bit, you can see a bit of the “old” Cup racing.

“I’m a sailor who believes in planing boats, but it’s cool to be sailing part of history,” Simanis says. Even if it means you miss seeing where you are on the race course during the beat.