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.