UW Singlehanders take on College Nationals

UW Singlehanders take on College Nationals

The UW Sailing team sent singlehanders Erik Skeel and Laura Smit to Nationals in Florida. They’ll bring back some hard-earned experience to this very fun, very active team. Go Dawgs! Here’s Erik Skeel’s report: 

Laura Smit and Erik Skeel

Each year in September, college sailors from Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia compete in Lasers to qualify for college sailing singlehanded nationals. This year the qualifying regatta was held at Shilshole. After one day of good racing Laura Smit from University of Washington was leading the woman’s fleet in radials, and I held first place in the men’s fleet in the full rig by just one point. In typical Northwest fashion the second day of the regatta refused to have enough wind to race. The Radial Fleet didn’t get off any races so Laura earned the woman’s berth to nationals. One race was completed in the men’s fleet, but it bumped me to second, leaving University of British Columbia in first. UBC decided not to go to nationals despite earning the berth, so I found myself booking plane tickets to Florida for nationals.

Singlehanded Nationals was held the first weekend of November, so as Seattle was getting covered in snow, Laura and I were flying to sunny Florida. Laser Performance outfitted all 18 sailors in each fleet with brand new Laser hulls, spars, rigging, and Mark II sails for the full rigs. To the other sailors from schools such as Stanford, Yale, and College of Charleston, this probably was not far from what they usually raced with, but I was blown away; I’d never even sailed with a Mark II sail. It quickly became clear that I was one of the only sailors without a paid varsity coach and I think I was the only sailor in the men’s fleet without a coach present who could offer support and advice on the water. The atmosphere was a stark contrast to the college sailing I was used to in the Pacific Northwest, but I tried not to let that discourage me.

Report time was 9:00am on Saturday, but everyone was already rigged by then and soon after began launching for a 10:00am start. The wind was a solid 5-8 knots in the morning until it dropped around 2:00. Racing was tough, but I had expected that as I was competing against the best college sailors in the nation. After all, among those in the regatta was 2016 Olympian Stefano Peschiera and others who will probably campaign for the Olympics. Due to the lack of wind in the previous afternoon, the first warning on Sunday was 9:00am. The wind, though slightly weaker than the previous morning, was shiftier, making for more variable scores among the competitors. With one day of racing under my belt, I had a better idea of how to approach such a competitive start and how to fight for clear air while still playing the shifts and sailing a strategic path. There was no room for error with such a talented fleet. If I ever missed a shift, took a risk that didn’t pay, or lost too much speed on a maneuver, I’d find myself suddenly fighting not to get last. Despite the incredible competition from sailors who had much better training and resources than me, when I sailed my best I was able to hang with the best sailors. On Sunday I had a couple races where I rounded the first mark in the top five. It was an honor to represent the Northwest college district at nationals. Men’s Results. Women’s Results.

Erik Skeel, University of Washington Sailing Team

Bruce’s Round the County Delivery Brief

Seems like everyone not already up in the Islands, is going to leave on Friday, which should work just fine. Tides will not be great however what wind there is will be from the SE.

As you can see from the surface charts there is a weak low-pressure system off the coast that is moving to the SE with an attached frontal system. This will dissipate on Friday and will result in unstable conditions for the Race over the weekend.

For delivery on Friday, if you’re leaving from Seattle, expect 10-15 knots from the SE which will lighten to 5-10 from the SE by noon or about the time you’ll be crossing the Straits. If your mast is short enough you can go up the inside and through the Swinomish Slough, just be careful of the shallow spots in the Slough.

Tides at Bush Point

0606      Max Flood            2.76 knts

1118      Slack

1406      Max Ebb                 1.57 knts

1648      Slack

1918      Max Flood            1.35 knts

Tides at Rosario Straits

0430      Slack

0712      Max Flood            2.06 knts

1112      Slack

1430      Max Ebb                 1.44 knts

1824      Slack

1918      Max Flood            .25 knts

Preliminary Race forecast

Who can forget two years ago when we had a downwind start and Crossfire made it from the starting line to Alden Point in 45 minutes. It won’t be that good this year but it will be similar. Remember to follow the SI’s and report your time at the Alden Point because from Alden Point to the finish could get very light and flukey.

I’ll have more on Friday.

RTC Youth Sailing Challenge – Final Leg Starts Now!

RTC Youth Sailing Challenge – Final Leg Starts Now!

The Round the County Race was, in my opinion, already the best big boat race in the Northwest. Race organizers just made it even better. As part of this year’s race, there’s a fundraising program (and competition!) to benefit junior sailing in the region.

Longtime racer Bob Brunius is the driver behind the Youth Sailing Challenge. He’s seen what some support can do for junior sailing. As much as the Orcas Island YC would like to support youth sailing, there really needed to be a separate entity capable of receiving 501c3 tax deductible donations to provide meaningful support to youth sailing. “In our region we set up Sail Orcas, and were able to hired the very talented coach Hannah Tuson-Turner part time. That has really helped our program. Orcas’ girl’s team went to the championship in California and our team racing group went to the nationals. It’s really building, as is youth sailing in the Northwest.”

So, what about the Youth Challenge? Well, if you go to this link, you’ll find a short description, a link to donate (choosing the specific program – if any – to which you want to contribute and choosing under which boat you want to contribute). There’s also a link to “Challenge Standings.” Challenge Standings? Hey, why not make a race of it. It’s kinda like boats meeting on the water…..

Currently Wild Rumpus is leading, followed by Crazy Salsa and Brunius’ Time Bandit. Hey, a lot can change on the final leg of a race, and the gun doesn’t sound on this challenge until Sunday night at 2000 hrs.

Here’s the link to the program. Donate!

Kids LOVE Lasers

So, while you’re prepping for, sailing in or putting the boat to bed from RTC, think about the exciting and enthusiastic youth sailing that is emerging all over this region. They’re the RTC sailors of the future, Olympic representatives etc. If you haven’t seen the high school sailing scene lately, you’re missing out. It’s really exciting. Also, more funds means more access for a lot of young sailors who might not have the chance otherwise.

And don’t forget, Bruce Hedrick is going to come up with delivery and race weather outlooks for RTC over the next two days. Check back often.

And the Survey Says….

The response to the post and survey I put out there October 19 was excellent. Now it’s time to start doing something with the results!

It’s no surprise, you Northwest sailors LOVE sailboat racing. 250 of you took the saving handicapping racing survey, and over half (!) came through with additional written comments and suggestions. So, not only do you love it, you’re interested in getting more boats out there!

Blog posts obviously aren’t the solution. Ideas and action are.

But before any of this, listening is always a good idea. Reading through 24 pages of single-spaced comments may seem intimidating to Joe and Jill Racer want to do, but I think race organizers, handicappers and yacht club officials might find it interesting and a great well of ideas. Very well worth the read. There are some rambles, but there’s truth in those as well. (A glass of wine or a beer might help wash it all down. Not all of it will be easy to take for race officials and handicappers. As one commentator said at the end of his rant “I have more but my drink is empty now.” So it’s fair, if they’re drinking when writing, you can drink while reading.) I taken out names unless they have an official role (YC Commodore, owner of a business etc.) and in a couple places edited a little to keep us clear of personal attacks and on course for solutions.

Following are the survey results. No, they’re not rigorously scientific but some trends are certainly clear. Please share with your club or event organizers.

While the results and the comments are all here, if you have a Google account you can go over the results as Google presents them here. That provides better access to the precise survey data. Note that the comments pdf includes comments from the blog and emails I received, which are not on the survey.

In a subsequent post I’m going to come up with a hit list of actions (in light of this survey) that sailish.com can take, as well as yacht clubs, race organizers and racers.

Click on any image to enlarge.

As far as who took the survey, there was a bit of encouraging news. I was afraid it would all be “old folk,” but a full 40% of respondents were between 18-49. Sadly, but not surprisingly women made up only 12%. Most were skippers, most were very experienced and only 14% sailed dinghies. The audience was predominantly from the Central Sound, though we had input from all over, even out of the area. The big pie chart here is racer’s attitude toward the sport – i.e. whether or not it’s lack of participation is a big concern. The resounding answer was yes, to varying degrees, including a sizeable portion (12.7%) who feel “I love racing so much I can’t stop thinking about it.”

Legend for results:

Here’s where we’re hopefully starting to get some valuable and surprising data. The usual suspects, cost and handicapping issues, were certainly there but perhaps not to the degree one might expect. Rules, physical demands and the seriousness of racing were all non-factors. The clearest message from this graphic, and one echoed in the comments, is that getting and maintaining a crew is a major issue. Not surprisingly, few people found something better to do than racing sailboats.

As we go into the meat of the survey by asking them what would get them on the water, clear trends seem to emerge. More casual events, a better handicapping system, more shorthanded classes, new courses, an organized season championship and better socializing arrangements are desired. Late afternoon/early evening racing on weekends intrigued a few people. (Several people commented that Sunday – instead of Saturday – racing would be better) There are a lot of racers who want to split the lightweight sport boats from the heavier boats. The graphic that really caught my eye is that many people wanted a more welcoming atmosphere.

The really good news with all of this is that the things people want are truly achievable. A more welcoming atmosphere, new courses and an organized season championship are all doable.

The handicapping issue? Well, that’s one of the things we’ll pick up in a future post.

Grand Prix Wraps up the Season with a Whisper

Grand Prix Wraps up the Season with a Whisper
Crossfire’s Race 1 Track

As Bruce Hedrick predicted, the best (and nearly only) Grand Prix races were on Friday. The Seattle Yacht Club race committee got off two good races, but didn’t find enough wind for racing Saturday and only one light affair on Sunday.

Crossfire’s Race 2 Track

That said, the racers enjoyed a dock postponement which was a chance for nap or catching up with old friends and foes. Some sailors just went around and enjoyed the fall sunshine while others enjoyed it on the water.

In the final ORC results, Glory corrected on Crossfire by a bit over a minute in the final race to get the victory. In the one design and PHRF classesMoose Unknown bested the usual suspects in the J/105 class and the Uno added another walkaway class win in Class 4.

Crossfire’s Race 3 Track

The J/80s finished with a three-way tie for first, which was broken in Jolly Green‘s favor. And Charlie Macaulay won the “big” PHRF class 2 with Absolutely. More on that in a minute.

Jarred Swalwell of the Aphrodite 101 Elixir wasn’t sure what to expect in Class 4 before the series began. As he explained it beforehand, “The SYC Grand Prix Class 4 is a real curiosity. Lined up by size, each boat is about half the displacement of the next including: a modern cruiser racer, the family man’s meter boat circa 1978, the very first ultralight, a sport boat, and a dinghy which I think weighs in at 948 lbs. Yikes.” Uno certainly answered those expectations, as she usually does. She won Sunday’s race by 42 minutes. That all said, Swalwell had a great time throughout the weekend, even when the race was cancelled:

Well, unfortunately Bruce was nearly spot on with the forecast this weekend. Friday turned out to be a bit more wind than predicted I think, maybe closer to the high end of 10 knots. We had two great races and given what happened with the rest of the weekend maybe should have gotten off a third. Saturday was a series of postponements with the RC making the calls from the CYC dock (or bar?). The wind picked up just a tiny bit after noon so we shoved off the dock to enjoy a spectacular day on the water, particularly for the end of October. We coasted out to the middle of the sound, then up past Meadow Point, and as the evening breeze filled in we sailed Elixir back into her guest slip at around 5:30. There were a few boats out there with us, but it seemed that the bulk of the GP participants missed out on an excellent, if a bit relaxing, day on the water despite there being no races. Sunday was definitely a trying day on the water with several tests of patience. After floating in the fog for a bit on postponement, the northerly seemed to start to fill and the RC called a distance race, which for most of us was up to Meadow Point then down around Blakely Rock and back. Classes 1-3 started on a fairly decent breeze that slowly eased as the rest of us started. If there were a few more tenths of a knot of current I don’t know that we would have made the Meadow Point Buoy. After that it felt like we were chasing the edges of puffs all the way down and back up until it completely shut down for a spell in front of a fog bank sitting just to the North of Shilshole.  Boats that had made it to the eastern shore early seemed to ride a shore breeze back up and did quite well… we were not among them. We got the gun as the last across (several other boats retired), but as consolation received compliments from the RC for the show we put on with spinnaker against the Olympics and a beautiful late fall PNW sunset. BTW, did the delivery back home to Edmonds this morning in perfect 7-12 knots of northerly breeze… of course.

Jarred’s wife and Elixir’s co-owner Megan Kogut echoed the positive vibes from the weekend. “I thought the Grand Prix weekend was great.” She also added that she wished the Race Committee would have given it a try later in the day on Saturday or at least come when there was enough wind to be play around in. She said “We got to the CYC clubhouse at sunset and no one who was racing that day was still there. I think the RC could have done more to create a sense of enjoyment of the day and community rather than encourage people to go to the bar at 2 pm. It was fun on Sunday in the fog with all of the boats waiting for the wind to kick up, and I would have liked more of that on Saturday.”

(Those of us who bolt home at the moment we can should maybe take note!)

Jarred and Kogut ended up with one notable feather in their caps, a third place, winning the tie-breaker with Vela Volta.

And then there was Charlie Macaulay and the smooth running Absolutely. Since acquiring the Farr 39, Macaulay has been racing a lot, and winning nearly as much. His happy crew notched another victory, this time over Ace and Wicked Wahine, which were only a point apart in second and third. Here’s Charlie:

It was a great weekend and we sailed pretty well (except for a few light air frustration calls by me on Sunday that, luckily, didn’t hurt us too bad).

I certainly have no great insight on what happened on the water. All I can do is restate that obvious that Friday afternoon was one of the great sailing days of the year.  Sun, breeze, relatively warm, and great competition.  What more could anyone ask for?

The great work the folks at SYC do to put this regatta together should be emphasized. The regatta chair, Regan Edwards, did a fabulous job putting everything together – even cooking pizzas at CYC on Saturday.  SYC really does this one right – and all those skippers and crew who didn’t come out missed a fabulous event! Hopefully, they’ll reconsider next year and enter the regatta and make it even better.

And if I hear anyone complain again about the high entry fee, I’m gonna lose it. There’s no better way to thank your crew for a great season of sailing than by sailing in this regatta and which also buys them all dinner and beer for two nights!

Now there’s a skipper who’s thinking about his crew! Congratulations to Charlie, Jarred and Megan, SYC and everyone who raced on Puget Sound through the summer and fall seasons.

Glory 

And to those of you wondering where the survey results are, they’re coming this week. 250 of you sailors took the survey and about half of you came up with original comments and ideas. They’re so fun to read and they show just how much we love racing. I’m going to go through them, clean them up and post them along with the survey results. I’m confident that this will be a springboard for discussion and ideas, hopefully increasing participation and making the sport better for everyone.

Survey and Big Race Week News!

Survey and Big Race Week News!

The response to last week’s handicap racing survey have come in very strong, despite the fact it looks like I messed up (checked the wrong box) and made it available only to those with gmail accounts. So, for those of you who pointed out the difficulties to me (and those who just haven’t gotten round it yet) please take the survey! And get all the Northwest racers you know to do so as well. Some yacht clubs are already clamoring for the info, and the more responses the more relevant the info will be.

So far, about 200 people have responded to the survey. More importantly, it has people talking in positive ways, both in the comments section of the survey and on the waterfront. The response, and ideas being generated, blow me away. We sure do love our sport. I’ll give it a couple more days, then publish all the results, everyone’s comments and some of my own thoughts.

In the meantime….. One very interesting comment along with big news (from the blog) came from Schelleen Rathkopf, who has made some exciting changes to Whidbey Island Race Week and is unafraid to make more! Here’s Schelleen:

Thank you for opening up this conversation. It’s a topic being kicked around at most yacht and sailing clubs around the country as racing numbers continue to decline. Many of us remember participating at Whidbey Island Race Week, PSSC and PSSR back in the day when there were always over 100 PHRF boats (with many new rookies in the mix). At Race Week, we’ve definitely seen a decline in PHRF and a rise in OD participation, but have remained steady around 60 boats for the past few years now, (despite efforts to build participation by enhancing the post-race experience and making the event more family friendly.)

What I think it comes down to is time and money: People only have so much vacation (and personal) time and there is significantly more demands on people’s discretionary incomes – especially in Seattle.

Race Weeks across the country are all but gone. Many that are still afloat and attracting new sailors have adopted a shorter format that includes weekend dates. This is why we have shifted Race Week to a 4-day race event for 2018 that will run Thursday through Sunday in an effort to make it easier for people to participate. In addition to shifting from 5 days of racing M-F to 4 days of racing Th-Su, here are some other features in store for Whidbey Island Race Week in 2018: 

1. In addition to PHRF and OD racing options, we’re introducing a NFS/Jam Performance Cruising Class for people who want just one casual distance race per day. We’re hoping this attracts our cruising friends and people new to racing who want to be a part of the Race Week experience.

2.  We’ll be presenting the First Annual Molly Kool Cup trophy that will be a perpetual overall award available only to women skippers. 

3. We’re inviting sailors to tell us what THEY want to do. If 6 or more boats commit and come to us with a fleet idea (ie: fleet championships, a double handed class, etc), we’ll work with our PRO and Race Committee to give the fleet their own start. 

So, we keep tweaking things in an effort to build participation and are hoping that some of the changes above bring new players to the sport. I’ll be really interested to see the results of your survey and appreciate all the great work you do to enhance the local sailing community.

–Schelleen Rathkopf, Whidbey Island Race Week

How Can We Save Handicap Racing in the Northwest? Take the Survey

How Can We Save Handicap Racing in the Northwest? Take the Survey

Several months ago I got a call from my friend Andy Schwenk. Andy rolls up his sleeves and spends a lot of time increasing racing participation from “within.” He’s active in Anacortes Yacht Club, the Santa Cruz 27 fleet and, much to the point, as Secretary/Treasurer for PHRF-NW. In the unlikely event you don’t know Andy, he makes his living rigging boats with his Northwest Rigging, so he’s got a vested interest in seeing the sport thrive.

But spend five minutes talking to him and you won’t doubt that it’s not all about business: He’s a true believer in the sport. Many “in the industry” are.

Andy’s concerned. “How can we get more PHRF participation?” he asked. As PHRF treasurer, he was concerned because the number of rated boats has been waning dramatically and has been for a long time. More importantly, the number of sailboats actually leaving the dock to race around here has been nosediving.

Is there a problem?

Yes. If you doubt that, take a look at this past spring’s PSSR (CYC Seattle) registration list. Fifty boats. Twenty eight were in one-design classes, leaving 22 racing PHRF. All that positive spin in the world is not going to change that. PSSC a couple weeks ago had better one-design participation, but two of the handicap classes were three boats each, and one of the other two classes had a rating spread of 126 seconds/mile!

To those of you who have come to sailboat racing lately (bless you by the way), you may be wondering what’s the big deal. There are boats out there, clubs are finding ways to get races off and people are having a good time. But for those of us looking through the rose-tinted and somewhat smoky glasses of the 1970s and 80s, what we see out there now is a shell of what was. Yes, I know that was 40 years ago. But even 20 years ago we’d see ~130 boats.

We old-timers KNOW it’s just a lot more fun with more boats. And more boats also means the sport is sustainable.

Compare the Blakely Rock Races of the late 1970s with todays’. Imagine 300+ boats instead of 60. Imagine re-measuring and re-rating right up until the night before the race. At the beginning of the season, new boats would be on hand in nearly every class, every year. Imagine the number of crew involved as the benefits of stacking the rail became apparent as the boats became lighter.

It was energized.

To many in those days, racing was everything. Now it’s something people squeeze in between hundreds of other obligations. Scaring up even a bare bones crew is often a steep challenge.

And when clubs around the country are desperately trying to maintain solvency, and PHRF certificates drop in numbers, it IS a problem.

Are there positive signs?

You bet there are positive signs.

First of all, handicap is not dead elsewhere. In England, the Fastnet registration limit was reached in a matter of minutes. The Chicago-Mackinac race has about 330 boats, most of which race handicap. Racing is still cool for a lot of people. In our own area the biggest handicap events are races like Round the County, Race to the Straits and Blakely Rock Benefit. Swiftsure still has a healthy entry list but it’s been declining markedly. Southern Straits seems to be holding its numbers.

The ORC racing is a really bright spot. Several years ago many owners in the Puget Sound Big Boat Fleet took serious issue with changes in the PHRF-NW handicaps, and decided to institute the IRC rule at the top end of the fleet. This worked for a while, but not completely. In the meantime the ORC rule was taking root in Vancouver. In the end, the IRC fleet has embraced ORC. This has been cause for great celebration. Racers from both sides of the border can now race against each other without having to deal with any PHRF-NW vs PHRF-BC differences and politics. Moreover, as a measurement system used worldwide, there are no local influences that can be perceived as prejudicial.

At the casual end of the spectrum, one positive sign is the rise of fun races. Obviously, Seattle’s Duck Dodge is the original and greatest fun race, but there are others. Elliott Bay Marina’s Downtown Sailing Series provides nearly 100 crews with free racing, hot dogs and beer. At Charleston they had two “pursuit” classes, where I assume handicaps were figured in the starting times, and only one race per day was sailed.

But there are others that aren’t too casual or too serious. Sloop Tavern YC’s Race to the Straits and Blakely Rock Benefit Regatta are well attended but for many sailors are more about participation than competition. If you turn up with a headsail that would be better utilized as a tent, you don’t feel like you’re out of place. You’re out there and everybody is happy to see you out there.

Finally, the increasing activity in some one-design fleets like the J/105s, Santa Cruz 27s et. al., shows there’s still interest in keelboat racing.

Better Racing, Better Boats and Oldies but Goodies

The quality of racing, both handicap and one-design, has improved at the top end of sport. Certainly the level of proficiency in a national J/70 regatta is huge. If you look at the serious big boat programs nationally and internationally, the degree of professionalism is amazing. Pro level sailors are paid well, and as some have pointed out to me, well worth it when amateurs might not have the chops to sail the new high-powered beasts or even stay safe.

There’s a rise in adventure races, the most prominent being the R2AK. While not exactly adventure races, the Van Isle 360 and Round the County are nothing like out-and-back or windward-leewards. On the international scene, the Golden Globe Race next year will feature 30 sailors in small, full-keel throwback boats racing non-stop around the world.

Another positive sign is the boats themselves. At that high-octane end of the spectrum, the race boats are ridiculously cool. The TP 52s are really great boats. Just watch Smoke , Glory, Kinetic and Mist (nee Valkyrie) speed past. And take the Fast 40 sportboats that haven’t quite made it to the Northwest like the Melges 40, Carkeek 40 etc.

It seems a shame that there aren’t more modern cruiser racers out there. Really good dual purpose boats have been coming out the last couple of decades. J/Boats has the formula pretty well figured out for a boat that can both race and cruise, but so do several European builders like Beneteau, Wauquiez, X-Yachts and Dehler, to name a few. There are plenty of really nice options out there with both more comfort and more speed than was possible a couple of decades ago.

And used boats? Oh my. There are so many good used boats out there that are comfy and competitive it can boggle the mind. And with some sweat equity or cash infusion they could become absolute queens.

Around the world there’s a lot of enthusiasm still for the classics. Around here the 6-meters have a nice pocket of activity, while internationally the J/Class is back in force. 12-Meters are still some of the most beautiful creatures on the water and several lead active and pampered lives on the east coast. And, in what has to be the weirdest trend, in Europe the old IOR quarter-tonners and half-tonners are getting complete overhauls and optimizations costing many times their initial cost and being raced very actively and competitively.

Let’s Change the Culture

So, there ARE positive signs. But the fact remains not enough boats are racing handicap in the Northwest. Will writing about it help? I don’t know. Ignoring the obvious and putting positive spin on everything isn’t helping. Jumping into online forums in places like Sailing Anarchy can be very interesting and informative, but I’m not sure they move us toward solutions. 

I have some ideas about what’s wrong, and I’m sure you have even better ideas, which is why I’ve put together a little survey to see what you think are the problems. It’s not controlled or scientific, but hopefully it can provide some insight which I’ll share with the yacht clubs and race organizers. If you have something more to contribute than a few sentences, email me about presenting them as a separate post.

Click Here to take the Survey.

I’ve tried to make it quick and easy, yet cover the big stuff. A couple of notes – there is a big PHRF meeting this Sunday and Andy was hoping to get some preliminary numbers from this survey to initiate discussion at the meeting. So sending it before Sunday would be helpful to him – I’ll get those numbers to him. Also, please forward this post or the survey link to the racers you know, even the ones that don’t race anymore. (We want to get them back in the fold, right?)

Also, I’ve set up a sailish.com forum to talk about these things as the relate specifically to the Northwest. There’s a signup process that I hope isn’t too burdensome.

Cruiser-racer handicap sailboat racing is one of the coolest things we can do. It gets us outside. We can play on a team with folks of the opposite gender. We can include our kids a lot of the time. We can challenge ourselves mentally and physically on an ever-changing playing field. It allows us to use an older boat that might otherwise be just growing a furry bottom.

It’s a shame more people aren’t racing. Let’s see if we can change that in the Northwest.

Northwest Laser Masters Take on (and win!) Laser Worlds

Northwest Laser Masters Take on (and win!) Laser Worlds

There may be nothing as worthwhile as messing about in boats, unless it’s specifically racing the Laser Master Worlds. For the 300+ “mature” (35 years old +) sailors, it’s a chance to enjoy sailboat racing in one of its purest forms, against an international crowd who are as interested in having an enjoyable regatta as winning it. It’s a long, tough regatta for a sailor of any age and the quality of racing is quite extraordinary.

Pacific Northwest Lasers outdid themselves this year in Split, Croatia. Bill Symes (Portland) won the Great Grand Master Radial, Al Clark (Vancouver) in the Grand Master Standard Rigand Deirdre Webster (Portland) in the Women’s 75+ all won their divisions. But more than victory on the water, the event and venue were by all reports tremendous. Bill and Al both sent in reports, and we’re lucky to have them. Reading Coach Al’s piece really gives an insight into the racing aspect end of things, especially the psychology, within the lead group.

Championships aside, Greg Jackson, who raced in the Great Grandmaster full rig division, had every bit as much fun if he was “making the top half of the fleet possible.” See a little video below.

These photos by Duje Petric were all lifted from the event’s Facebook site. To scroll through all those excellent photo galleries is to see a lot of fit “mature” sailors having a lot of fun with one of the world’s simplest, yet most challenging, boats. Click on any photo to enlarge.

Report from Al Clark

2017 has been busy for me with my full time position at Royal Vancouver YC as their head coach. Duties included coaching our Laser/Radial high school aged sailors. Also I coached 29’ers at their Midwinters in March and Worlds in August. I particularly enjoyed these high level events with some very talented sailors. I love to learn about new boats and get all the pieces together to help them go fast the right way.

The third component has been coaching some of our Race Team alumni, Kyle Martin in his Finn (Miami OCR and Sailing World Cup Final) and Isabella Bertold (Delta Lloyd and Worlds in Holland) .

I watched and competed in about 17 regattas, 8 major events in 2017. So I would say I saw plenty of high level sailing and have come up with ideas over the years how to get to the front of the fleet.

My training for this year’s Worlds (Vacation time for me with my wife Sharon ) was very minimal. I wasn’t sure I had the mental energy to attend but signed up believing that when the time came I would be excited to race.

I did sail a local regatta in early July in Radials and then sailed the US Nationals in Lake Tahoe later that month. I kept in decent shape at my Crossfit gym and riding my bike .

On water training prior to to worlds was a few days in early September, and then it was on the plane to Croatia with the idea of sailing at the site. I had chartered a private boat and was able to start practicing Sunday September 17th, so with the practice race on the Saturday the 23rd, I had the week to work up to race trim.

I bought a carbon top section and had a new sail, and added my own hiking strap and compass (I use the compass quite a bit these days) . Generally I was quite happy with the boat (I really like the new boats from LP) and the gear by the end of the week.

I have marks for my vang, outhaul and cunningham. I find that when I feel the boat is fast with certain adjustments I make a note of it and try to keep that in mind. An example is I had 2 distinct marks on my vang for puffs and lulls in the 6-10 its we sailed a lot in. My outhaul marks are for upwind, a 1-5 scale on my deck.

The practice race (I sailed one lap) went well and I had decided to start near the favoured end then go on the first shift. Andy Roy was first off the pin then tacked , Peter Vessella was fast off the boat and I trailed both of them at the weather mark. I was in about 6th by the end of the run . Generally happy with my execution. The breeze was about 6 knots .

One of the factors for this event became clear after the practice race . The sail out to the race course was going to be about an hour and a half each day with at least an hour sail in . The wind didn’t happen till about noon each day (if it happened at all) so we were going to have long days on the water with lots of waiting . As a coach I am used to this .

The silver lining for me is that all the sailing out then in gave me plenty of time in the boat and I know that as I get the “feel” back I can be very quick in moderate wind in the Standard rig.

I was training whenever I wasn’t racing . Also entering the harbour each day there was no wind so I had a chance to work on roll tacks and gybes.

The first two days of the regatta (Sunday and Monday) we had no wind so there was a lot of catching up with old friends . Monday was cancelled early so after chatting with some of the guys I was walking home and noticed there wad a late afternoon breeze so I went sailing for a few hours . I really like sailing everyday when I’m at these events , even for a short time.

The Tuesday we had a decent sea breeze (12 knots) by the time racing started and many of the favourites were near the pin at go. Andy Roy was smokin’ fast in this start and I made up my mind to stay with him. This ended up being a recall. In the next start I was motivated to go hard near the pin again and was near Andy and a number of other favourites. I realized that my speed was good and my height also . I arrived first to the weather mark then sailed too conservatively on the run and rounded third . I fought through the race and was better on the final run , I had a 5 boat length lead down the final reach. Unfortunately I picked up a bag on my rudder and was passed by 2 boats .

Race two I made adjustments and again was pleased with my speed. I won this race with a good gap and felt, as I sailed in that this was one of my best sailed first days at a master’s worlds (nerves had been an issue) My self talk was to execute the game plan without fear. Keep the “what ifs” at bay. Examples are don’t go to the lay line to early and have faith in the decision your making .

Wednesday was slightly lighter wind but again 2 good races. I was a little too conservative in race one but was generally happy with a 4th , Andy won that race. The next race was Andy leading again at the top mark, I snuck into 2nd on the rounding and I sailed smarter on the run and rounded close behind Andy going out to the right. I hung with him (happy with my height) then decided to carry on after Andy tacked , this got me into the lead, I extended down the reach and won race 4 .

So after 2 days Andy Roy ,Tomas Nordqvist, Peter Vessella , Wolfgang Gerz and Nick Harrison were all sailing well and the battle was on for the Championship .

Wednesday there was no racing

Thursday brought again little wind and lots of waiting on the water with one race. This turned into a pivotal race. I started near the pin even though my compass was saying square line, even a bit boat favoured. I never came back from this and with plenty of scrambling ended 10th. Andy sailed a nice race and could have led but a big righty came in late up the first beat, so Tomas won this race . So now we have a close battle for the podium with others ready to pounce.

I decided that generally this race was one that I left the game plan and that I would ignore it and focus on the good races I had sailed .

Friday there was no racing , we actually had a breeze come up but ended up being to unstable and with the 175 Standards, we needed 2 hours to get in before sunset, pressure was building. There were a number of sailors that thought I had it won because the forecast for the last day was poor and no racing after 3.

I kept to the routine and sailed out to the race course Saturday. I will say that the long waits and the broken up regatta between races was difficult and I was pleased that I entered the final race with a positive mind set. I was determined to be on my front foot going hard, same as all the races that I did well in

We had one race with a late moderate sea breeze that was enough for me to be in the hiking strap (always good). I had a midline start that turned into a decent rounding at the weather mark (5th ). I passed Tomas on the run and headed left in 4th with the two leaders well ahead . Tacking on the shifts up the beat (many were going left) , I gained and was close in 3rd with a good gap to the rest of the fleet.

Andy and Tomas now had their own battle going on and I only had to keep my head. I ended 2nd in the race and was relieved that I had not let myself down by sailing poorly, but had risen to the occasion. Andy did what he had to with Tomas ending 2nd overall, Tomas 3rd .

My post mortem for the event is that the psychological aspects of competing are of utmost importance. There are a number of factors that helped me succeed – boat speed and height (when needed), executing quality starts, solid lane sailing tactics on the first beat, aggressive tactics on the run, hitting shifts on the second beat (and remembering that what seemed to work on the first beat doesn’t always work on the 2nd) , pushing hard to the finish .

It was amazing how much nicer it is to have a countryman and friend (Andy Roy) nearby on the race course when I wasn’t sure about a strategy. We fed off each other in terms of confidence, discussing tactics etc. at the end of each day.

Looking forward to the Worlds in Ireland next September

–Al Clark

Report from Bill Symes

My wife LauraLee and I have just returned to planet earth from one of the most dramatic sailing venues I’ve experienced in more than half a century of sailing, the Croatian coast. Split, Croatia’s second largest city and site of the 2017 Laser Standard Men’s and Masters World Championships, rises up from the remains of a 3rd century Roman emperor’s palace against a towering backdrop of granite cliffs, facing a cobalt sea and a string of islands surrounded, even in October, by swarms of white sails. Very cool.

We arrived as the guys from the just completed Standard Men’s Worlds (that’s the one for the younger, fitter, full-time sailing crowd) were leaving town, and the city was gearing up for the onslaught of 350 Laser “masters” (minimum age: 35; maximum age: unlimited), their significant others and assorted entourages. We were greeted with a gala opening ceremony on the city’s waterfront promenade – the Riva – complete with welcome speeches by the mayor and various local and Laser Class grandees, live performances by folkloric singers, a really loud audio visual spectacle, and vast quantities of food and beverage (the first of many).

Unfortunately, the wind in Split turned out to be somewhat less robust than the hospitality. We settled into a daily routine of waiting all morning for the offshore breeze to die, then waiting all afternoon for the sea breeze to fill in. The first two days it never did. Racing finally got underway on day three, with each fleet completing three races in light-moderate conditions. The pecking order quickly emerged, with the usual suspects topping the leader board in most divisions.

In the 62-boat Radial Great Grandmasters fleet (65+), I ended the day with finishes of 4-1-16, leaving me in third place behind a couple of Australians, current world champion Rob Lowndes and former world champion Kerry Waraker. Day four produced enough wind for two more races and 4-1 finishes for me. More importantly, I was able to drop the 16th, which boosted me into second, two points shy of the lead. The next day, on a dying breeze and shortened course, I managed a third bullet and moved into a two-point lead.

The forecast for the next couple of days was for no wind and, sure enough, after drifting around for 3 hours on day six, we were sent in without a race. Now the regatta was mine to lose; another abandoned race on the final day would not have been an entirely bad thing. But the race committee was determined, and they sent us out at noon to wait on the water while they prayed for wind. Their prayers were answered at 2:55 pm, five minutes before the deadline for last warning gun. We took off in an 8-knot breeze, and despite my initial anxiety and a mediocre start, the momentum was now on my side, and I was able to work through the fleet and take the race and the championship.

A couple of timeless bumper stickers.

Laser Masters Worlds is like an annual reunion with several hundred of your best sailing buddies, always in some wonderful place you’d have never thought to visit were it not for this event. For masters, the après sailing revelry is just as important as the on-the-water action. Not that the racing isn’t serious business; the field always includes former world champions and Olympic medalists, and the competition at the front of the fleet is intense. There’s a bumper sticker for Laser masters that says “Cheat the nursing home. Die on your Laser,” and these guys are living it. I can’t think of a better way to go.

(For a full regatta report and results, go to laserinternational.org. For Laser geeks interested in the more technical aspects of the racing, check out an upcoming article in Doug Peckover’s blog Improper Course.)

 

–Bill Symes

Greg Jackson may not have been in any of those podium pictures, but I can guarantee he had as good a time as anyone there. Here’s a little video of him talking about the event for a non-sailing crowd. Well worth a chuckle or two.

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.