It’s soooooo easy to get cool videos from the Volvo Round the World Race that it’s tempting to do it all the time. I’ll succumb this time, ’cause there are two particularly interesting ones.
First off, we have the man overboard recovery adventure onboard Scallywag en route to their taking the lead in the current leg. These things happen, but one would think the bowman should have at least a life jacket on. Even with the best sailors in the world. Thoughts?
The second video, also from the Volvo Race, shows just how far media coverage has come with drones. Thousands of miles from shore, we get these shots of Mapfre trying to get back into the hunt. Not much to be said, except wow. I expect we’ll be seeing more drone videos coming for our PNW races. Don’t forget to share them here!
It’s not a Northwest story, or even a U.S. story, but I wish it were. The British-based Yachting Journalists Association just named its Yachtsman and Young Sailor of the Year Awards. Alex Thompson was named Yachtsman of the Year, and anyone who follows singlehanded round the world racing or pays attention to Hugo Boss advertising, is already familiar with the charismatic British sailor.
Lesser known is Montel Fagan-Jordan, Young Sailor of the Year. His story is truly impressive, and I hope that someday I get the opportunity to meet and interview him. He represents the Grieg City Academy, where 50 different “first languages” are spoken and 70% are considered “disadvantaged.” Fagan-Jordan gave around 50 talks to raise money for the purchase and outfitting of the old Frers-designed Scaramouche. He and his shipmates learned to sail that old IOR beast, and did it well enough to finish in the top half of the Fastnet Race. Along the way they had help from Whitbread Round the World Race veteran Lawrie Smith and the local marine industry pitched in with equipment. But Fagan-Jordan was the driving force.
Yachting Monthly (from which I borrowed some of these photos) did an excellent piece on Fagan-Jordan and the Grieg City Academy effort. If you want an uplifting story,read on. At this time particularly, when the U.S. president (and ostensibly 1/3rd of the country) revels in insulting the underprivileged in word and deed and insulating wealthy Americans from the poor, it’s good to see that in some parts of the world individuals like Fagan-Jordan can achieve great things in something like sailing, and that their communities are happy to rally around them.
Following is the Yachting Journalist Association press release.
YJA Young Sailor of the Year, 2017
The 2017 YJA Young Sailor of the Year Award goes to 17-year-old Montel Fagan-Jordan from Tottenham, London in recognition of his leadership in first raising the money to restore the 1980s classic American Admiral’s Cup yacht Scaramouche, then leading a crew of fellow students from the Greig Academy in Tottenham to compete in last year’s 605 mile Fastnet Race.
Nominated by his school teacher, Jon Holt says of Montel: “This was unique yachting project in which a multi-cultural crew spent three years undertaking more than 50 fund-raising talks to buy and restore the famous Gérman Frers designed yacht. Montel is able to helm almost any yacht. Not only was he the driving force behind Scaramouche — raising most of the money himself, but then developed as the helmsman, after receiving tuition from David Beford and Lawrie Smith. In 2017 he entered the Etchells 22 class Gertrude Cup and finished 4th overall before steering the Lloyds X55 class yacht Lutine during Cowes Week. He steered Scaramouche for most of the Fastnet Race.
Given that Scaramaouche is an old yacht, which rolls madly, his ability to hold a course for four hours in the dark, surfing down wind without broaching was amazing. Scaramouche may have finished 142 out of 368, but as a school team in an old yacht, they more than proved their point.”
Apparently the sailish.com racers were too busy racing to take any video from the Duwamish Head Race on Saturday (good for you!). But that doesn’t mean it’s not a Wet Wednesday. So, for a change of pace, check out a couple interesting non-racing videos.
My friend Andy Cross of Threesheetsnw is wintering ashore in Alaska right now with his wife Jill and sons Magnus and Porter while his Grand Soleil 39 Yahtzee gets some attention. But here’s his video of part of his cruise to Alaska. I particularly like the idea of sitting on the foredeck reading to the boys. Perfect.
By the way, Andy will be giving presentations at the Seattle Boat Show; “An Unconventional Route to SE Alaska and Beyond” on February 2 and “Living the Dream: How to Get Your Boating and Cruising Stories Published” on February 3. I’m sure both will be good.
A Three-hour Tour
And in the following video that Cliff Mass unearthed, the passengers on the Norwegian cruise ship Breakaway recorded an extraordinary passage from the Bahamas to New York over New Years. As Mass is quick to point out, the meteorologists clearly predicted this storm and the captain decided to sail right into the most dangerous part anyway. As some commentators pointed out, other than some serious discomfort to the 4000 passengers, some wet floors and no doubt some water damage, it wasn’t a disaster. As top-heavy as those cruise ships look, apparently they have sufficient stability. Go figure.
My take on it is that the captain has to factor in the real possibility of breakdowns. It’s all nothing more serious than mal de mer until there’s some kind of breakdown. Lose an engine or have an electronics meltdown in this stuff and all off a sudden it’s a different situation entirely.
It was an auspicious start to racing in 2018. Three Tree Point YC’s Duwamish Head Race, which has had it’s weather/finishing/shortened difficulties over the years came through with a fine day of racing last Saturday. It was a fast race, especially for the big boats, but there wasn’t a lot of a maneuvering and a limited number of tactical decisions to be made.
A strong current was pushing boats over the line, but soon the fleet was flying along the West Seattle waterfront beaches. The boats gave the Saturday morning walkers at Alki a bit of show as they headed to, and then from, the Duwamish Head Light. A medium air reach across Puget Sound was straightforward.
After rounding Blakely Rock, the larger boats that managed to stay west enjoyed a more westerly angle and came into the finish without tacking. Any of those that footed off found they needed to tack up around Three Tree Point Point. Many of the later, smaller boats had more of a beat.
The fast race combined with the time on distance scoring skewed some of the results, with the advantage going to the slower-rated boats. Keep reading to get a report from Image in the middle of the fleet. Results here.
Here are some of Jan Anderson’s photos. See more and buy them here.
The newest (and oldest) of the Northwest’s three-boat TP 52 “fleet” is Steve Johnson’s Mist (formerly Braveheart and Valkyrie). Johnson put many miles under his old White Cloud‘s keel, and wanted a new challenge. A TP 52 is certainly that.
The Duwamish Head race was part of that learning curve. Mist was over early at the start (“I’m not used to a boat jumping up to 12 knots that fast,” Johnson explained) and then had to chase Crossfire around the course the rest of the way. And the way the time on distance handicaps worked out both boats found themselves down in the standings.
At this point in the Mist program, that hardly matters. “Sooner or later we’ll learn how to sail it to its rating,” Johnson says. Right now he’s still adjusting to the TP52 speeds. One of the adjustments is the challenge for driving the beast – it demands laser-focus. As Johnson puts it, “there’s not a lot of forgiveness.” Another adjustment Johnson has to make is the flat out speed. “It changes your perception of how big Puget Sound is.” Indeed.
The team, basically the same White Cloud crew with some additions, is learning jib trim with the in-hauler set as close as 5° off center line, which is about 2 degrees less than White Cloud. The current crop of TPs on the Mediterranean are set at about 4.5 degrees.
One of the more interesting aspects of a TP52 program is access to sails. Johnson hopes to set up “a relationship” with a Med TP program to have access to their “old” sails that might have as little as a few short hours of use. Mist‘s inventory was already pretty good thanks to one of those relationships with Sled.
Mist is in relatively good condition, but there have been some annoying breakdowns including a broken outhaul in Round the County. Built as a late first-generation/early second-generation TP52 as Braveheart, the stout boat was built for ocean racing with ring frames and a sturdy rig. But as with any boat, there’s maintenance and modifications to be made. One of the first things on Johnson’s list is to set the galley up with a foot pump to fill water bottles from the water tank, as opposed to lugging aboard (and disposing of) water bottled in plastic. Environmentalism is in, folks.
Currently the long range plan is to do the usual Northwest races with an eye toward the Van Isle 360 in a year and a half.
Alert reader Marc-Andrea Klimaschewski chimed in with his own Duwamish Head Story, specifically PHRF-7. Sounds like the class had a close race and there was a happy crew aboard Image. Here’s Marc:
PHRF-7 had a fantastic race last weekend. Having 6 boats with similar ratings out gave the Image crew a really nice benchmark and allowed us get a good read on our boat speed.
After a port tack approach to the start line we held a position to windward of the fleet, reaching a little longer with the #3 jib up. We were the last boat to set our spinnaker which allowed the J/29s to pull away but we managed to stay close to Les Chevaux Blacs and Folie a Deux. Once we were certain we could lay Alki beach the kite came up and we had a nice reach down. About a third of the way to Alki, Absolutely and a bit later String Theory passed us to windward and we got a good look at Crossfire flying towards Alki. With the wind moving slightly more behind us, we moved the our A-kite from being bow tacked to the spinnaker pole and squared it back a little which required us to set up the reaching strut – that’s the fun of being the old school boat in the fleet. At Alki Pt, we were a tad late to jibe towards the Duwamish head mark (partially due to our pole magic) which cost us some precious boat lengths and moved us back to last place in the fleet.
After ducking the yellow trimaran Ruf Duck the broad reach towards the Duwamish head mark went without a hitch. We were a little late getting the #1 on deck and set up so we had to round the mark bald headed which got us stuck in dirty air. As soon as we noticed we would not be able to lay Blakely Rock, we did two tacks putting us to windward of the rear end of the fleet which really helped with boat speed. We reached Blakely Rock together with Folie a Deux, tacked to starboard right with them and a 20 minute drag race ensued. We managed to sail slightly higher and slightly faster than them, eventually passing them and forcing them to foot toward the middle of the course to find clear air. Shortly after this, we had a prime spot for watching the orca pod (ed. note – how cool is that?!) that was moving north.
We needed to put in two additional tacks before the finish line, probably due to the wind dying down temporarily but spirits were high, especially when we sighted Les Chevaux Blancs and Folie a Deux behind us.
All in all, the entire crew of Image enjoyed the race a whole lot. After spending more than two years building crew and skills as well as slowly converting the boat from a full on cruising boat (featuring her original 1982 sails) it seemed like to work was paying off and we got some good boat on boat action.
It’s absolutely great that readers chime in from all parts of the fleet, in particular from older boats that are enjoying the racing every bit as much as the boats with 5-degree sheeting angles! Keep sending your stories, videos and photos and I’ll keep posting them.
Andrew Nelson is one of many people truly committed to raising the level of youth sailing in the Pacific Northwest. This article first appeared on the US Sailing website, but I want to make sure the PNW sailing community at large is in touch with the youth programs in the area. It’s vibrant. Most importantly, it’s fun for the kids and provides the life-lessons we all value so much. And, by the way, the sailors these efforts are creating are having great success on the race course as well.
If you’re involved with an organization promoting youth sailing in the area, send any and all materials, reports etc. and I’ll help get the word out. Parents are planning their kids’ summer activities, and sailing should certainly be on the list!
Thanks to Andrew for all he does, and allowing us to share this piece.
By Andrew Nelson
In fall of 2014, I began managing the Northwest Youth Racing Circuit, which is a collection of seven summer regattas in Washington and Oregon. At that time, the NWYRC had just finished another underwhelming year. Many regattas were sparsely attended and fleet sizes were routinely in the single digits. This was true even among popular youth classes like the Opti.
It had gotten to the point that only two or three teams were regularly participating in the series. Before this decline, the NWYRC had produced talented sailors like U.S. Olympian Helena Scutt and U.S. Singlehanded Champions Hanne Weaver and Derick Vranizan, to name a few. After leaving our circuit, these sailors all went on to have success at the national and international level, but not without first doing time in the back half of their local fleet.
Since 2014, we’ve nearly doubled NWYRC regatta attendance. Our total size this summer was over 620 sailors, with 145 sailors participating in our summer series finale. That regatta included a talented 38 boat Laser Radial fleet, which had at least a dozen skippers who were capable of winning a race. Among those racing regularly in that fleet were three top-ten finishers from the Junior Women’s Singlehanded Championships, including Leiter Cup winner Abbie Carlson. There’s still plenty of work to do in our region, but I believe this turnaround was at least partly attributable to the following strategies.
Grow the Middle
If we really want to push the top sailors, we need to focus our efforts on coaching those mid-fleeters and getting them out to regattas regularly. It’s easy to get fixated on only working with the top sailors, but what those high-performers really need are more boats challenging them on the start line and making them pay for their mistakes on the race course. If we can elevate the caliber of the average sailor, then these local regattas will start to take on that “big regatta” feel. This better prepares our top sailors for success at the national level.
For this reason, I spend most of my time at regattas working with those mid-fleeters who come from smaller teams or who might not have a coach at all. It’s also very rewarding because their improvement is more rapid and more easily observable. These mid-fleeters improve a ton simply by sailing against those top skippers, so keeping the best sailors engaged with your local series is also part of the equation.
Remember to Have Fun
This is the essence of what sailboat racing is all about, right? Sure, we want races to be well-run and safe, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Having an ice cream sundae bar during awards, giving out regatta pajamas instead of regatta t-shirts, providing on site camping, and letting competitors request a song for the regatta playlist (and then playing it on the water) are all examples of how hosts keep sailors (and parents) coming back.
Kids are pretty good at having fun and making friends. As adults, we sometimes need a reminder of what youth sports are all about. We’ve had exceptional hosts and volunteers at all of our regattas. A good host or volunteer understands the importance of a positive and welcoming regatta culture; a culture that allows for fun.
One thing I’m very proud of is our region’s spirit of cooperation. We work hard to keep regatta costs down, share coaches and coach boats, and provide charters boats when at all possible. This is especially true for development fleets like Opti Green Fleet where hosts waived the charter fee and set the entry price at $20. For those novice racers, it’s literally as easy as showing up to the regatta with your PFD.
In the FJ fleet, there’s lots of sharing of sailors and boats in an effort to get as many on the water as possible. This all takes plenty of coordination between coaches, parents, and hosts, but with 300 miles between our two furthest regatta venues we have to work together. There’s no alternative. A self-serving attitude doesn’t help our sport, and it certainly won’t help increase participation or competitiveness.
About the Author:
Youth Sailing Director
The Sailing Foundation
Bio from the Sailing Foundation website:
Andrew has spent most of his life in the Northwest and on the water. He grew up racing locally on a Cal 40 with his dad and then got into dinghy sailing during his high school and college years. A career in sailing wasn’t on his radar when he graduated with an education endorsement from Western Washington University, but he knew he wanted to work with youth. After spending a couple of summers coaching in Southern California, he was hired as the Junior Sailing Director at Encinal Yacht Club in the Bay Area. Being a junior sailing director allowed him to combine his passion of sailing and working with youth. It also allowed him to be part of a very successful model, where youth and high school sailing is highly organized and competitive.
While we were all digesting our figgy pudding, the boys Down Under were, as usual, spending their Boxing Day racing from Sydney to Hobart. There are plenty of accounts and footage of the race. The biggest “moment” in the race came after the start. The video below should open at that moment (but you can start the video at an earlier spot if you want to watch the whole start). Here Wild Oats (aka WOXI) is on port and Comanche is on starboard. The ensuing protest saw WOXI penalized an hour and her line honors passed to Comanche.
Fewer of you may have seen the following footage taken onboard Comanche on day 2. It shows boatspeed (yawn-30 knots) and course. Be sure to go full screen with this video and use your cursor to pan around. It’s not quite reality but it’s the closest thing a lot of us are going to get to 30 knots on Comanche.
NOTE: Bruce Hedrick will put on his swami hat and gaze into his crystal weather ball on Friday with a post for the Duwamish Head race! I’m really hoping one or more of you alert readers comes up with a Wet Wednesday video from an exciting Duwamish race. (Hopefully it’s wet from below and not above) If you’ve got something, just email me.
OK, we’ve looked at action items to stave off the decline in PNW handicap racing. Now it’s time to look at the elephant in the bathtub, handicapping itself. Though a small part of the October 19 survey, handicapping itself probably generated the most direct, and certainly most vehement, comments.
I’m not going to argue whether or not PHRF offers accurate handicapping. That’s a black hole. Instead, I’m going to talk about how PHRF is perceived, what I feel its role should be and how ORC Club might fit into the picture.
For many in the PNW, PHRF = Handicapping. That’s the only system many, if not most, have sailed under. Assessing performance, rather than measuring boats, is appealing. It’s been the dominant handicapping system around here since the 1980s. When something else pops into the picture, e.g. IMS or IRC, problems are found, there’s no critical mass and they fade away amid the mantra of “PHRF may not be perfect but it’s the best thing going.” And then people hear horror stories about the IOR days when boats would be out-designed yearly, and resign themselves to PHRF.
Yet, according to the survey, more than half of the respondents feel that handicapping affects their participation at least a little. Twenty nine percent feel it’s a significant factor. The comments reveal some serious frustration, to put it mildly. So, a large percentage of PNW racers aren’t happy with PHRF. Some are downright ornery about it. And many others have just left the sport because of it.
At the national and international levels, US Sailing and World Sailing have abdicated their rightful roles on settling on one system. ORR in this country has not caught on and is expensive, and IRC and ORC are administered in England. So the solutions aren’t obvious and the unknown makes sailors twitchy.
And the idea that you can’t appeal your rating is scary to some. That’s interesting. To me the idea that my rating can be changed in some committee meeting is scary.
So we have PHRF. Its strengths are that it’s administered locally, and you can get your or your competitors’ rating changed if you lobby well enough. Those are also its greatest problems. There are dozens of local handicappers and arcane procedures to determine ratings. Consistency is a big problem, especially between PHRF-NW and PHRF-BC.
No matter what those ratings turn out to be, flexible numbers are going to be perceived by many as wrong, by either ignorance or politics. And the idea of being able to appeal your competitor’s ratings is just insane. No sailor I respect wants to appeal a competitor’s rating, no matter how wrong it is. The beer you’re sharing with another skipper just doesn’t taste as good when you’re wondering how he got that gift rating, or wondering if they’re going to drag you in front of some appeal committee in the future.
There is an apparent solution at hand. It’s the ORC measurement system which is being used successfully by the big boats in Puget Sound and in British Columbia, and in large numbers around the world. It’s cheaper than PHRF, professionally administered with the force of thousands of serious racers worldwide to keep it on track. ORC and IRC are now working together which bodes well for the future. Different wind conditions can be accommodated to help keep boats competitive in all conditions. For the first time in a long time, BC and WA big boat racers don’t have big crises over ratings when they want to race each other.
So here’s my solution. All the serious racers (of all sizes) shift to ORC. That’s where the racers who buy new sails often, train their crews and scrub their boat bottoms before each race, should race. If they want to optimize their rating, they can play with sail area or other factors, and it’s cut and dry. The yacht clubs and race organizers would have to adapt, but if they want racers, they would.
The folk who are new to racing, casual about it or have an oddball boat that doesn’t get a fair shake in ORC, can play the PHRF game. Without the pressure of the serious crowd, PHRF can streamline its processes and perhaps rethink how it’s administered. This is where the flexibility of PHRF could be really useful. A wide range of adjustments (many are already in pace) could be identified for cruising gear, old sails, novice skippers etc. Sure, there’s all sorts of room for controversy here, but remember the crowd is mainly out there to have fun and won’t get their foulies in a bundle if they don’t win. The foulies in a bundle crowd will be off sailing ORC.
What about those racers in between casual and serious? They would have to choose. Those who want to keep their boat in “casual” trim could opt for PHRF. Experienced sailors with old sails – well, they could race against the serious guys or go PHRF and just deal with the perceived inequities – their choice.
Let’s say you have a J/35, a boat that’s seen success under many handicapping systems. You still have the competitive spirit, but your sails are a bit tired and your crew isn’t trained up, and it’s tough to find enough rail meat to be truly competitive. It would still be fun to mix it up with the PHRF crowd, especially if you got some extra seconds per mile for your 1993 sails.
Let’s say you have so much fun doing that that you invest in some new sails and put a program together. You get an ORC rating, put your game face on, and play with that crowd.
Or use your old sails and novice crew for the casual races and your new sails and trained crew for the serious races. Right now the big boats have both ratings, one where there’s enough ORC boats for a class, one for when there’s not.
What about the sailor who hunts trophies in the PHRF fleet with new sails and a pro tactician? Who cares, let them embarrass themselves.
What about the boats that seem unduly penalized by ORC? I doubt there are many and they’ll get to choose.
It’s self-selection and it can work. As one of the survey respondents said, “Choose your poison.”
To start with, I’d suggest you get in touch with the folk you like to race against. Coordinate so you end up in the same fleet. Making those connections and decisions off the racecourse can only strengthen fleet morale and participation.
IMHO this would be better for all involved. PHRF could focus on the larger pools of new and casual racers while the more intense (but smaller) serious racing crowd could all focus on the racing instead of handicapping. Both systems could thrive. There would be some growing pains, and it may not work out. But it’s better than watching the sport fade.
Think about it. Weigh in on it here – I’ll be happy to post differing (but respectful) views. Or just go get your ORC rating and talk to your club.
As I don’t have any local videos to show, this week’s Wet Wednesday video comes from the Indian Ocean courtesy of Webb Chiles. And instead of green water pouring aft for jaw dropping visual effects, we see how a cruiser in a 24′ boat handles big conditions. A couple of things to note: Chiles’ Moore 24 is often heralded as the original ultralight, and the fleet in Seattle is very active. Chiles, now in his 70s, is an unstoppable sailing adventurer whose exploits span several decades. The Moore fleet would be a great boat, and crowd, to race on and against. Secondly, as you’re watching this video, check out his sheet to tiller self-steering setup. No autopilot, no windvane, just smarts. If any alert reader can explain this setup or relate some experience with it, please contact me and I’ll put it up on sailish.com. If you have 4 minutes, it’s worth listening to Chiles describe crawling up on the foredeck at night in big conditions. “I certainly was aware that eternity was only inches away,” he says… Check out Chiles’ blog. Much more on Chiles’ adventures on Sailing Anarchy and the Moore 24 Class Association site. (Also, check out the post script following the video)
Post Script: A couple of alert readers have answered the call on this sheet-to-tiller approach:
I have absolutely no experience with such a setup, but I have read about it in the past, this was the best description I found, still somewhat confusing.
Scott Malone, who has cruised the Pacific as a child and both to Alaska and to and from New Zealand as skipper, called in his experience with the sheet-to-tiller system. Here’s Scott:
Oh boy this takes me back.
My father home-built a windvane before our big family Pacific cruise. On the way down the California coast, it wasn’t working and he pitched it overboard. So for the rest of the cruise, including ocean crossings, my sister and I were basically hand steering for all the day watches.
As a 10-year old I tried every imaginable sheet/tiller/bungee combination in an effort to get out of all that steering.
The sheet-to-the-windward side works, but depending on the boat not too well. Once you get it set up, if you head up and the sheet loads up, the boat bears off. If the sheet gets too slack, you head up. But you have to be in cruise mode. You’ll find yourself 25 degrees to low and just tell yourself ‘in 4 minutes we’ll be 25 degrees high so it’s all good.’
It seemed to work best broad reaching and didn’t work well at all beating. If you get way off course, for instance if your jib is luffing, there’s no way for the boat to find its way back to course.
Alert reader Justin Beals answered the call for video and came up with this one from Shilshole Bay YC’s Snowbird Race 2 last January in Seattle. It shows Justin and crew managing the Grand Soliel 40 Sadie Mae as an angry (and I’m guessing cold) squall rolled through. Racing in January? Yessiree! Please send in your videos – they don’t have to be recent, just wet. And don’t be afraid to tell more of the story that goes along with the video!
While it may be under many of our radars (yawn, another record….) it’s worth noting that François Gabart is about 2000 miles away from setting a new non-stop around the world record in the 100′ trimaran Macif. This footage is from a while ago, but shows pretty clearly what the state of the art is in record-setting boats is. Here’s Scuttlebutt’s post with much more detail.
Mike Powell, a professional photographer and damn fine big and small boat sailor, will be presenting UHURU 65 Degrees South or How I Learnt to Sail tonight at the Bellingham Yacht Club. It’s his tale of an epic cruise to the Antarctic. Powell’s also the BYC Youth Fleet Captain and suggests a $5 donation to the program. Mike is very entertaining, and an extremely talented photographer, so it would be a great way to spend a Wednesday evening. Here’s a description of the program:
In 2011 Mike Powell a landlubber with a camera went aboard his brothers boat UHURU, an Oyster 62, for two months and headed South from the Falkland Islands, across the Drake Passage to the Antarctic peninsula, around the Horn and up into Chilean Patagonia. During the trip the crew used all their toys, great sailing, scuba, ice climbing up mountains, skiing down them and fly fishing in Chile via horseback
This is the story that has been shown multiple times before, to multiple sailors and yacht clubs both in the USA and UK and featured on the cover of UK’s Yachting Magazine. If you missed it last time please come and watch it this time or come again.
Bellingham Yacht Club, Dec. 13th at 6.30pm. Suggested $5 donation at the door goes towards local youth sailing.