28 August 2009

"One More Night"

Today is the second last day of the worlds, and we are flying out tomorrow night at midnight. One race today, later start at 1.30pm due to reduced wind, and one race tomorrow.

Yesterday was a light day, with racing not starring until 1.30pm and boats having to be towed out to the starting area-- it's a long tow!

The first race was one of our best, and the second race was one of our worst, full of unforced errors by the skipper (that would be me). Due to the light wind and the fact that our dacron jib has been repaired with a piece of webbing on the leech, we took our new, never-before-used, mylar jib. Very sexy.

Race 1 started in about 10 knots with a 1.5 mile beat. I don't recall what our plan was, but we ended up blowing the start and had to tack and clear to the right, taking a lot of sterns. We must have been sailing pretty well as we ended up lifting above the rabbit. I think we had much improved boatspeed against the fleet, and we were working very hard to keep moving fast without giving up too much leeward distance. Certainly the new jib helped... We rounded in a big middle pack, managed to successfully set the kite & execute our maneuvers, and even could figure out the lifted tack. Short of calling the favored end wrong on the reaching finish & giving up one boat, we had a great race and finished 40th. Imagine if we had a front row start... w.r.t. the finish, we finish through a gate to leeward and then reach on port to the finish. We followed the fleet up to the windward end of the line, but it would have been faster to reach straight to the middle -- less distance & faster speed too.

Gareth and I worked well as a team that race, no doubt the fact that we were not physically at our limits really helped. Gareth was really great at giving info so we could cut through the fleet on port at the start.

For the second race, I managed to blow that start as well. Still setting up too early but not pulling the trigger until it's too late & other boats are giving us bad air. Mike Martin setup to leeward of us, reminds me of the old adage, if you don't know who the marshmallow is, it's you... For those who don't know, the marshmallow is the bad/slow sailor you like to start next to who makes it easy to sail past/over/under/faster than into clear air.

The plan for this race was go right for reduced flood current. In retrospect this was wrong, the play was go for velocity which by now was finally starting to increase, and the pattern is that it gets strongest between Alcatraz & Treasure Island first... that is the left. So we rounded in the bottom third, with a not very great run... In fact there was a huge hole at the leeward gate & I managed to do a very bad mark rounding, forced outside, and giving up 10 boats or so. We did work left here, out of necessity, but that meant we went up the port layline through the boats reaching down. Awesome. Managed to touch a boat at the jibe, so that was a 720. More boats passed. I think we may have salvaged something on the beat, again coming up through the port layline with boats bearing down on us with spinnakers up -- awesome again. This time I miced on the offset mark while setting up controls for the down wind (ram off, trap twings off, vang off, board up a touch), and we touched the offset mark. So... 360, see you other boats later. All the time the breeze was slowly building, and I was getting a little bit tired & making bad decisions. For the last beat, it had filled right in to 15-18, and although I had dropped the rig back a bit on the run in anticipation, it wasn't quite enough. Gareth made the call for us to drop back more, which was a great idea, as we were now zooming along, and this helped us catch some tail-end boats from the right due to good speed.

Unfortunately, with the tide I mis-called the layline for the finish, had to throw in an extra two tacks. Twice. The second time I tacked right in front of a ducking port-tacker and fouled him. This was as he was trying to duck us & cross another starboard tacker, who was fouled. We crossed the line, jibed for the 720, capsized, finished the 720, and refinished, losing about another 6 boats, Total cluster. Total circles that race: 5. Awesome. And, the third boat insisted on protesting the second boat (the one I fouled), so they had to protest us, which meant hanging around at the club until 8pm and missing dinner with our hosts. The protest was thrown out because we did the 720s. Feeling bad about my shitty sailing, I gave the guys I fouled some rum. They are young guys who will know what to do with it.

My one main lesson from that race is to not try to make aggressive shortcuts when the downsides are so big with a large fleet. Instead, focus on getting a good lane for yourself, and setting up well ahead of time for roundings & finished. Net result, 79 or something stupid like that.

27 August 2009

Worlds Race Day 4: preview

Today is worlds race day 4, the last 2-race day on which to attempt to achieve our goal of finishing both races.

Yesterday was the lay-day, where all we did was relax & rest, didn't even look at the boat. Sarah and I planned to head out over the Golden Gate bridge & see some natural beauty, etc., so long as it wasn't windy & it was warm.

However, the day was a lot like our sailing days: we got around the corner from where we are staying and clutch failed on the 20-year old Jeep we are borrowing. Can't blame the truck, we've been driving it pretty hard over the hills the past 10 days. So... the first half of our day off was spent hanging out with the tow-truck driver, a very nice guy who gave us a guided tour of the city.

Eventually we rented a new car (silver Dodge Charger, now we ride in super-style), and made it out to Sausalito for a relaxed lunch, followed by a walk in the Muir Woods. Stunning redwoods, I recommend it if you ever get the chance & desire to commune with nature a bit. We topped the day off with drunks & burgers at the St. Francis with my shore team who were doing the Wednesday night racing there.

What's on for today? According to Sailflow, not too much wind until later in the day, so we will likely have problems with boat speed & will need to work hard to keep the boat moving & pointing. It actually helps to have other boats around as they 'keep us honest' & motivated.

Other issue is the start. Early on I was setting up to early & being jammed up above the gate launch, with much maneuvering to try & slip in behind. Recently I have been setting up with a good hole, but not going early enough & boats are swooping down over the top of me. I think I need to punch out more and reach down under the gate launch to achieve max speed.

We will also seek continuous improvement on downwind crew work -- we are finally getting the kite up quickly thanks to new halyard setup (5th time lucky), and I will work on steering & keeping the boat stable during hoists, jibes, and douses.

I've learned to put more board up & let off a lot more vang on the downwind to avoid being overpowered & to stay in control. But, I feel I may be doing too much of it as we are not as powered up as much of the time as I would like. Like everything else, not too much, not too little, juuuuust right!

That leaves tactics & strategy -- going the right way -- which we have undoubtedly not been paying attention to here. Maybe if it's less crazy today I will get some of the numbers to make sense.

Wish us luck!

26 August 2009

Worlds Lay Day

Today is the lay day. That means no racing and a break.

My main goal today is to relax, not see the boat, and spend time with Sarah who flew out here last night. We hit the sack early, slept 10 hours. Left Gareth at the club drinking with other sailors. He's earned it!

Today's blog post is in multimedia format, brought to you by by Sail Groove and Marine Media Alliance.

This below video is me taking about how yesterday went.

Sailing Videos on Sailgroove

The basic theme is that we are essentially last, the exact details will depend on how many races we actually finish. But, no major damages.

24 August 2009

Worlds Day Whatever: Worlds Race Day 1

Today was worlds race day 1. We have yet to meet our goal of finishing both races on a two-race day, but are getting further down that course on the second day before wiping out for good.

It's been a few days since I last blogged, here's what happened.

3rd and last day of NAs: not good. Flips, bad starts, slowness, strong words, etc. Plus, not being able to finish the last race. But we've moved on...

Next two days: free. Gareth off to SoCal to see friends, I was domestic: paperwork for worlds, housekeeping, saw a movie, etc. Went sailing with my friends Jeff & Danielle. You'd think I'd be done with that, but it was easy: hardest part was keeping one hand on the boat and one hand on my beer. It was a Friday night beercan race out of San Francisco Yacht Club, which is, oddly enough not in San Francisco: it's on the other side of the bay. Very beautiful place, if you get a chance to visit or sail there.

I thought I'd give a short picture essay of what's been happening.

Even though we have eaten a lot of food like this:


we've seen a lot of this:


That's the centreboard & bottom of the boat. Note the Sharpie marker for size comparison. Now imagine 2 x 200+ pound guys on it righting the boat. Scary. Because the blade is so high aspect ratio, it needs speed to work. If not, you just stall and go really slow. So the key is to bear off even if you think it's the wrong thing to do: you will go faster, the blde will work REALLY WELL, and you will magically start pointing higher and going faster.

At least we haven't done something like this:


or this:


There are several masts broken like that, including Mike Martin who won the NAs and race 1 of the worlds. So no-one is immune, but we are working on staying safe & sound ourselves. Between today and the first day of the NAs there are probably no more spare masts left in the boat park.

The good news is that there is only one race tomorrow, at 2pm. The bad news is that there is only one race tomorrow, at 2pm. The wind builds all day, until by 2 it's cranking pretty hard. So we will get to head out in the thick of it.

So, final synopsis of our situation is:

* Sometimes we can go fast upwind, enough to be in the top half pack, when there are boats around to keep us focused and honest and we aren't too tired

* We have good starts 2/3 of the time

* We have a lot of downwind work to do. At least we have decided to remove the spinnaker halyard/ram puller concoction, and I can actually pull up the chute right away. That eliminates a lot of time in the 'death zone': running downwind in waves with the tiller between my knees.

* This event is physically grueling.

* We are having fun, even if we feel like we've been in a salt-water washing machine

20 August 2009

Worlds Day 4: NAs race day 2, it went better

We started the day by trying to sleep in a little better, have a relaxed breakfast, and then drive down to the club and not faff around with anything on the boat (since theoretically we did all that the day before).

OK, but:

- Ran into someone Gareth used to sail with in Bermuda, while eating breakfast in the coffee shop. Small world, but had to cut it short.

- Took a slightly different route, got stuck on one-ways going the wrong way from the club, and there was traffic since we were later.

It all worked out in the end, it turns out we had plenty of time, but I was a bit stressed -- all my carefully worked out plans were for nought!

I just had to faff around a bit worrying about tides & my mast ram calibration.

One the way out we realized that one of the turning blocks for the spinnaker halyard was melted away to just the pin on the sheave -- this was actually a replacement for the original block which had too much friction. And I thought I was just being a wimp, but in reality I was melting up all that plastic. We were able to rig it to not use that block, and the spinnaker was much easier to pull up.

My main goal today was to be in the right gear when the wind came up & get a good start. in the first race, we didn't get a good start, but were able to tack and clear behind some sterns. There was a bit of a righty and this worked for us, plus with a lane we got up to the mark in the middle somewhere. Where we really lost ground was downwind: hoisting & jibing the kite, sailing fast with it, etc. I am still too slow and being tired after the beat only makes it worse... Apparently though we finished 36th, which is 12 better than the first race yesterday. As Gareth says, keep this up and we will be winning in 3 races!

On the second race we got a great start: punched way out and sailing next to some of the big guys for a little while. "Looking like heroes". Although we had great lane and speed, you could see that it was still not enough -- basically some boats around us were cracked off more and cooking past us, while I was not depowered enough. I did find out that our board is not calibrated right, so we probably had it too far down going upwind -- sounds like it should be down while going upwind, but as you get over-powered you crack the board up a few inches as you rake back. We also put in a flattening reef, which is a line about 8-12 inches up above the clew, which keeps the boom out of your heads & the water when it gets a little crazy. We did get to the mark in a big pack, lots of traffic (30-40 boats worth), and bounced around trying to get through to the layline. There were some sterns we should have taken. The lesson there is all about traffic management & picking your route well ahead of time.

Then I got my tiller extension stuck to leeward on the hoist & capsized. So we packed it in and went to the beach rather than sail around in last for another hour. Good thing we did, because the trap twings popped out due to the spinnaker faffing around the mast in the water, and the spinnaker had several large rips in it (first day out too...). We had to sail in half of the way hiking out. Not so fast.

Boatwork at end of day:

- replace spinnaker/ram turning block -- we are now using an all-metal wire block with ball bearings, this one ought to last, third time lucky, right?

- pop out trap lines & replace them (Gareth working diligently on that now)

- mark CB positions

- get sails to sailmaker for repair tonight

- bolt in pole fork end that broke at BBR and was lashed in there

Outstanding boatwork before worlds:

- put trap lines back on

- replace junky spinnaker sheet turning blocks

Tomorrow we'll finish both races!

19 August 2009

Worlds Day 4: NAs race day 2, morning preview

Just got up, it's cold, foggy, and windy outside. We are staying way up on the top of a hill in SF, so it's different here from the beach. Key items for this morning: big breakfast (I was hungry sailing out to the course yesterday...).
Think I mislabeled the mast ram numbers, so will need to fix those to make sense.

By the way, good news is that yesterday we actually took some ropes & blocks off of the boat. Always nice to simplify some things...

Key kit here seems to be carbon. Large number of the people have carbon booms & poles. Many have a double-pole system. Key with that is it's not just two poles, one on each side: you have separate guys & sheets, and the guys are pre-wired into the pole with an eye, so there is no putting the guy into the fork. The crew only has to whale on the pole launcher line to put the pole out after the jibe (after letting the old one in before the jibe...)

Will try for pix today.

Worlds Day 3, NAs race day 1: Shotness

Shot. Busted. Beat. Done.

Two races scheduled for today starting at noon.

Results here , live & replay tracking here.

First race was 2 hours long, started in 12-16kts and ended up at 20-25, maybe more. We were totally busted. Finished the race in a bit of survival mode, looked at each other, had a snack, and evaluated the situation. I suggested to Gareth that we at least sail down and start the next race and see how we go. He looked at me like I was crazy, so we went in. Which was in and of itself a 45 minute beat in what seemed to us to be building wind for 2/3 of the time. I felt bad for skipping the second race but there were already 15 or more boats on the beach by the time we arrived. In fact, out of maybe 60 starters in the fleet, only 25 either started or finished the second race. There were several broken or bent masts, and probably a few broken spirits.

We were 49th. No capsizes, no swearing, no injuries, and nothing serious to be fixed on the boat. Other than too many ropes that have to be managed. Plus we got a hot shower and a beer when we got back while others were slogging away on the race course.

Here's how it went down:

* Our biggest problem was fitness and gear shifting when the wind built. We tuned up before the race in about 12-14 knots or so, and although the start was lousy, managed to get a lane and get going. The plan was to go right as that's the pro-forma thing to do here, but although we felt reasonably fast (esp. given our inexperience), we wound up on the outside of a left shift and rounded not very well. As the wind built I never changed the rake, which is the main gear change for more wind. As a result we were super over powered, beating ourselves up & getting tired, and not going fast. Plus, I think we did not have the board up enough. As far as numbers & tactics go, yeah, we weren't doing that for about half of the race.

* Second was hoists. There is no getting around the fact that I do not pull up the spinnaker very fast. This is slow on mark roundings. You don't want to be wallowing around going downwind trying to hoist the kite, it's much better to have the crew on the wire and try to pass some boats. Realized sailing out (super beautiful scenic sail past Alcatraz, by the way) that if you hit the spin halyard cleat with your foot the wrong way, it uncleats. So I need to observe foot placement discipline.

* Second beat we picked up a nice left shift and passed maybe 10-15 boats, but had a really hard time hoisting and staying high enough on the reach to the jibe mark. Short answer: lift up the board! When wire-running downwind, want board down to keep crew on wire as you try to slide low, but trying to hit the reach mark were just totally overpowered. And the main hits the spin sheets so can't go out.

* Jibing, I am not rotating the spinnaker enough, plus I need to do something with the sheet so it doesn't wrap on the end of the boom. Very slow & dangerous...

* Third beat, is when I started envisioning the cold beer & hot shower back on land. This is when we were just done by being overpowered.

* Apparently there was a run after that. My memory is not so clear... Very interesting criss-crossing other boats both down wind and upwind while reaching along. That would be a spectacular collision.

* Slog to the finish, trying to hike but not doing a very good job of it. Not sure why I didn't feel the need to depower -- some complex about not wanting to put my head in the boat and adjust it. Not like I can see anything else anyway going upwind, so what's the problem?

* Goals for tonight: after taco bar and beer at the club, we are sacked out. Gareth is already asleep.

* Goals for tomorrow: less time messing around with boat, get out there, get numbers for the beats, stay 'in-tune', pull up spinnaker quickly, rotate well on jibes, and have a good start. How hard could it be?

Apparently this was an average day. At least we are getting what we came for!

18 August 2009

Worlds day 2: boatwork...

Today's main problems to solve were threefold:

1. Buy a paddle.

2. Bolt on extra lead and have it inspected by a measurer.

3. Go sailing.

The third was not achieved and we didn't leave the boat park until 8pm. We started the day helping Adam move some heavy pipes, etc., because we needed to go to his office to pick up boat parts like McLube and mylar tape and blocks for the shrouds, that were being delivered there. Then we went to buy a paddle. Next thing you know it's 11.30 and we are at a West Marine down by the airport. Now we were truly stuck in the vortex...

We didn't get back to the dinghy park until 1.30pm, after lunch and picking up my shades from the apartment. Gareth went to work McLubing and mylaring and generally making my boat look like we know what we are doing. I worked on drilling holes in the lead, drilling holes in boat, and joining the two with screws. This took a long time due to the trickiness of getting the nuts on the bolts. This also required taking out the mast, and once that happened, it was clear we weren't going sailing. Disappointing.

Anyway, at that point we decided we could epoxy, so we screwed in new turning blocks for my shrouds, the old ones were the wrong type installed the wrong way, and when we took them off, little ball bearings went all over my boat, since they were all busted up. So glad to be changing that before those blow up 3 miles downwind of the beach.

Importantly, Gareth also redid the chafe guard on his trap twings, the 'old' one (i.e. has 90 minutes of sailing on it) had chafed through already... So this was good, it means he is less likely to fall off of the boat tomorrow.

Had dinner with the two Danish guys next to us in the boat park, and now we are beat.

Tomorrow is going to be crazy.

I haven't had a chance yet to study the tides or even really get the local knowledge.

Not to mention get used to sailing in heavy air.

Wish us luck!

p.s. It's cold here! Jeans & jacket & hat all day.

17 August 2009

Worlds Day 2: now we are sailing (and measuring)

The plan for today was simple: show up early, do some minor boatwork, measure in (as much as possible, given I don't have a class registration sticker or measurement certificate), and go sailing in the afternoon.

Mostly, that's what happened, although running around for the measurement was a bit stressful. Probably didn't help that we started the day off going the wrong way down a street -- that's why that guy was beeping at me! The coffee just hadn't kicked in yet.

We got the club shortly after 8, popped out the rig, put on transom flaps (poor man's style with plastic & tape, not the carbon fibre ones everyone else has), chafe-proofed the trapeze lines -- they are basically day-glow string that is as strong as wire -- and put the sails in line for measurement. I also sent Gareth off down the beach with the boat for it to be weighed and have the spars measured.




We are sailing off a beach next to the club, which is OK, but it's basically wide open to the public, and a 10-minute walk from the club.

Anyway, the boat was 2 kilos underweight (with 10 in it already!), so we have 2 kilos of lead we need to bolt on tomorrow. Also, we are missing a paddle, so add that to the shopping list tomorrow morning.

By the time we got through all that, put the boat in its correct spot by the beach, and got the rig in, it was time for lunch. More boatwork, Gareth tweaking the spin halyard blocks, I was busy putting shock cord on my mainsheet, taping on the tuning guide, etc.

So by 4 we were ready to go sailing -- by now it was super windy with the classic SF Bay wind pattern ramped up to max, and we were both a little nervous. Would something blow up? Would we be able to handle it? How many times would we flip, etc.

We did not get off to a great start, sitting on the beach with the sails up but no vang or cunningham attached. We were tweaking that with my new 3DL mylar main flapping away at full speed, adding years to its life -- that wasn't pleasant. But we launched without any incidents.

It was sweet. Because the tide was coming in with the wind, the water was quite flat, and after going upwind for a bit, we popped the chute and jammed downwind. It was like riding in a limo -- hardly any waves, and moving quickly. I think we even managed a jibe or two without incident.

Of course, between the tide & reaching under the kite, it didn't take long before we needed to head back upwind. Which took about 80% of our sailing time... We were raked about 3/4 of the way back, and spent most of the time with the main out to the corner, or with the top totally inverted. But the boat was flying upwind, and I was working on not pinching, and not being afraid to let out the main to stay flat. Of course, it always feels good by yourself, so the test will be when we are lined up against other boats.

We capsized twice -- once on a tack where I didn't get the main out, and also on a spinnaker hoist. Trying to steer the boat between my knees as it accelerates down waves, while hoisting the kite, is obviously a technique I will need to learn the finer points on.

We only were out for an hour, as the fog seemed like it was coming in, and we didn't want to beat ourselves up too much, but that sail made up for all the other BS. Enjoying a frosty one at the club bar after, we could watch the sun set behind the Golden Gate bridge. Magnificent.

Tomorrow: shopping, picking up boat parts, boat work, a sail, and a relaxing night!

16 August 2009

Worlds: Day 1

Today was the first full day in SF. The plan was: unload truck, stick mast in & do some simple rig work, buy wetsuits, and go sailing. Along the way we would find the measurer and get that sorted out.

Here what really happened:
  • Guys showed up early to unload the truck, so it was done by the time I showed up at 10am.
  • Gareth was a little late from a party last night, but since the truck was unloaded I told him to take his time.
  • Futz around with covers and tools and moving stuff to the storage container.
  • Measure the rig & black bands, am found by the measurer, he will want to do it all again anyway.
  • Chat with arriving 505 sailors. Gareth knows everybody. Or at least they know him from when he was living in the container at his previous worlds.
  • Put the mast in, forget the forestay, tip the boat over and install it.
  • Pack up tools & sails & car.
  • Eat lunch.
  • It is now 2pm, not sure how that happened.
  • Spend an hour getting lost in SF trying to find the surf shop. At least is very pretty and beautiful weather
  • Find surf shop, all their suits are very expensive.
  • Find another surf shop, basically by luck on our way back to the club. I buy the cheapest thing that fits, but Gareth likes what he has relative to what's on sale -- they are only selling full-body suits with long arms.
  • Back to the club, it is now 4.30pm, we have n hour to work on the boat before heading back to meet our hosts and get keys, find the place we are staying, etc.
  • In one hour manage to stick on the mast ram calibration scale. Obviously this involved lots of talking to other 505 sailors about various topics, such as "what does this rope do"...
  • Back to where we are staying, clean up, find grocery store, eat food, write blog posts, and realize body is telling me it's 2am in the real world...

The boat: BER 9005

As far as I can tell, this boat, BER 9005, is one of the newest 505s in the world. There may be one or two that have more recent sail numbers. Doug Hagan was rigging up USA 9004 across the parking lot from me today.

It's built by Rondar, out of glass & carbon & foam & gosh knows what else they put in them these days. I didn't think I was buying a carbon boat, but apparently they all have that in them these days.

It has the key feature of being brand-new and watertight. Remember that new-car smell? It's like that. When I open up the inspection ports to the buoyancy tanks, dust comes out... That's how watertight it is. Let's hope it stays that way for a long time.

It's a launcher boat -- pretty much all new ones are.

Generally, I've got very simple systems for the 505. I wanted to start with where my last boat left off, and not add a system unless I knew what I was going to do with it.
  • Single aluminum pole & aluminum boom. Lots of guys have carbon booms & poles, which are now allowed under the class rules, some are trying double poles. I figured, I'd never sailed with double poles, why start now, and why pay the extra expense for carbon when I will never be able to really fix it right in Bermuda & the boat is wicked underweight anyway.
  • Standard endless spinnaker sheets. A few teams are using lazy guys & sheets, so there isn't a twing, but instead a separately adjustable guy attached near the shrouds. I do have guy adjusters, a purchase on the guy turning block at the back of the boat, allowing me to pull the guy off the forestay even under load, without having to retie the jibing knots in the spinnaker.
  • Superspar M2 mast.
  • Ram-up is rigged to pull the bottom of the mast forward when the spinnaker halyard is pulled tight; this helps prevent mast inversion under heavy pressure from the kite (since the spin halyard exit is about 80-100cm above the hounds). This of course is also the system that the spinnaker halyard is getting jammed in. if it keeps acting up, I am going to knock it in the head. I can pull ram-up on myself, thank you very much.
  • High aspect ratio Waterat blades, carbon tiller. The blades are wicked narrow compared to what I used to have. I think they are less forgiving about stalling & pinching the boat, and need speed to work well. But when they do, they really work. Hopefully I will get my driving technique in gear for them.
  • North 3DL main & Jib. I used to have Norths on my old boat, and am comfortable with the sailmaker, etc. Although many teams are using Glaser sails.
  • Fixed jib track with manual adjustments -- no continuous adjustments or in-out sideways adjustments. That's just something else for me to get wrong right now.
  • Most things are rigged with very small carbo blocks, and thin dyneema or vectran or similar line.
  • 20 kilos of corrector weights... maybe I could afford to beef up some of that rigging...
  • Mo
I think that's it. Very simple compared with what some of these guys are running. Hopefully much more info about that kind of stuff later one.

Message from our sponsors

I'd like to take this post to thank some of the people who made this crazy project possible, either directly or indirectly.

- All the 505ers who answered my emails about boats etc., especially Jesse Falsone whose email tipped me over the edge into buying a new boat.

- Tyler Moore for agreeing to do the rigging. As was said to me at BBR by someone, "rigging boats isn't the easiest way to make money".

- John Wyles for organizing the truck to SF.

- My good friends Kenny and Suzanne in Boston, for cooking me dinner and agreeing to store the boat in the driveway for a few weeks. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but they live in Brookline, so it's probably illegal...

- My SF shore crew, Adam & Alicia, Danielle & Jeff, for helping me organize housing & logistics, making me pancakes, and loaning me vehicles.

- My employer -- somehow they pay me enough money that I could buy a new boat, while also giving me enough vacation that I can come to SF for two weeks. Not sure how that works...

- And everyone else who has put up with me talking smack about this recently. You know you're just jealous.

BBR Retrospective

Last weekend we did a 'warmup' at the Buzzard's Bay Regatta, out of New Bedford. In many ways this regatta soothed my nerves a bit, because I had never taken the covers off of the boat. So there was a lot of uncertainty.

We drove down there (about 75 minutes south of Boston) on Thursday night with the boat behind a U-Haul pickup truck, dropped the boat off at the club, and went to stay with our hosts. The first race was scheduled to start at 10.30am the next morning, so I was a little worried it wasn't going to happen for us.

Up bright and early, we miraculously were able to get parking right next door to the club. Even more miraculously, we were able to get the mast in the boat and all the lines just about connected, and the mast rake calibrated in time to make it out for the first race.

Let me tell you, this is no mean feat. There have been days in Bermuda where we haven't been able to get 8119 off the dock in two hours, with fussing and messing with strings. This is a testimony to the guys (Tyler Moore and Peter Alarie) who rigged the boat, that it went so seamlessly.

The only problems were, the job cloth was missing, and the centreboard downhaul.

Of course, halfway out to the race course we figured out there was a downhaul for the CB, and on the second day w figured out that the jib halyard was adjustable with a handy cleat. So those weren't problems after all...

The goals of this event were three-fold:

1. Get the boat to a place where it could be trucked to the worlds

2. Make sure all the pieces of the boat fit together

3. Practice sailing together in a regatta.

Goal 1 was wildly successful, the boat is now in SF.

Goal 2 was also successful, pretty much everything worked, although there are a few nits, for example our spinnaker halyard jams sometimes, and the spinnaker doesn't like to come out of the tube. I chalk most of that up to the fine tuning that you can only do after you have been sailing a bit -- knowing what chafes on what, and where you need to spray the McLube, and so on.

Goal 3 was successful, in that we practiced together, but illustrated we have a lot to learn. On a pure boat-handling basis, we are far above where I was the first time I sailed a 505, and far better than where we started, but we need to work on communication & synchronization in the boat -- that can only come with time.

On a boat-speed basis, given that we have a brand new boat & brand-new sails, I was a bit disappointed -- we could keep up with most of the people at least some of the time (we even passed a boat downwind once, new for me), but in some clinch situations, couldn't keep the bow up while maintaining speed, etc. Basically, we need to 'find our gears' -- for the wind condition, be dialed in, not overpowered, & driving correctly (e.g. I am still in the habit of trying to point when the boat needs to go fast and then height will come). We also need to work on what to do, say, to switch to point mode at the start. This was inevitable given that we have never tuned up against another boat before, not the least the new one.

That leaves the skipper factor. None of our starts were stellar, many were poor. It's been a while since I drove in a sailboat race, and it's clear that my concentration level needs to kick up a notch. I'd be good on the first beat, e.g. in phase, with a plan, but then spinnaker trouble would blow it all out of my head, and halfway up the second beat I'd be thinking -- "WHY are you going this way, when the whole fleet is going the other way, and you just passed three boats by going the other way..."

So overall, it went exactly as I expected, although not as well as I had dreamed it might...

Gareth was a great team-mate, really good at helping put the boat together and figuring out what goes where. The weather was good, the beer was cold, and nothing really broke (except the mirror on the U-Haul truck).

So I call the event a success...

14 August 2009

This is not an Optimist Regatta

This is not an Optimist Regatta -- and by that I am not referring to my well-known sunny personality.

There will be no yummy mummy to pack our lunch in the morning. No daddy to put the boat in the water for us. And no famous sailor to debrief us at the end of the day. Unless you count Danielle & Adam, veterans of the International One-Design fleet around the world, now based in SF... But I am bringing rum & ginger beer, with which I hope to coax tips out of some of my fellow sailors. Luckily, the 505 fleet is known for being generous & gregarious... There will be a 1-hour sail out to the race course across the San Francisco Bay, and a 1.5-2 hour sail back upwind, when it's windy at the end of the day.

There is no getting around the fact that, in the big picture, we are woefully under-prepared. We have practiced, but less than 20 times, and Bermuda in June & August is not known for its wind. We have a new boat, but we have already broken the end of the spinnaker pole. And, as for fitness, did I mention that I am recently recovered from a slipped disc? No big deal, I have a bottle of Advil & a heating pad.

Hence our first team motto is 'In over our heads'. And the second one is 'More money than sense' -- at least concerning me...

So why are we doing this?

To be honest, despite all the stress in dealing with the logistics, and the pressure of the racecourse, it all is worth it once you are planing upwind with a neutral tiller, cutting through the water. Or you turn the top mark, pop the chute, and start whooping as the boat skips down the waves, spray in the skipper's face. And who can pass up a chance to sail for 2 weeks in San Francsico Bay in 505s, the cadillac of dinghies?

Why Nicotine Patch?

Why Team Nicotine Patch? It helps to know that the first boat (7839) was christened 'Cigarette Girl' by me, outside of my friend's (first) wedding reception in Larchmont, in the process breaking a champagne glass she probably had to pay for (sorry!). Why Cigarette Girl? Well, it's not a very good story, but it does involve a frenchman and women selling cigarettes on the back of sailboats. I can't remember why...

So Nicotine Patch is the name proposed to me by Howard, who, I believe, is the first person I have ever stepped into a 505 with. The hope is that the patch will help me get over all the problems of the original cigarette...

In the beginning...

In the beginning, there was grad school. And the realization that sailing Lasers was really not going to be the way forward, at least as far as meeting fun people and having a good time goes.

A little research, and then there was BER 8739. I acquired this boat from Ted Ferrarone. Judging by his 505 trading activity over the past few years, I think it marks the beginning of his role as a "fleet enabler", providing liquidity to the 505 trading pool. I raced that boat actively in the summer of 2002, with Alex Mevay (fellow MIT Sailing alum, and future mini-Transat racer, to give an idea of the sort of company I keep), putting many miles on the Saturn in the New England / Canada area, and even hitting Florida twice for the mid-winters with unsuspecting friends as crew.

Grad school finally intervened, and the boat was stored in the bat cave for a few years whiel I graduated. When I moved back to Bermuda for some reason I decided to take that boat with me. Thanks to the help of a good friend, a little mis-communication, and the trade of a used Saturn to my brother-in-law for driving my boat to NJ, the boat arrived in Bermuda. It ended costing me more to ship the boat than to buy it, but at least it got its own container. Except for the mast. Which got run over by a forklift. And of course, was uninsured. That boat is still in my garage, with the deck half-stripped, and lots of new epoxy after the shroud tackle ripped out of the boat...

Not much happened in Bermuda with me and 505s, I was busy doing other things, but once I caught onto the idea of the 2009 worlds last year, I decided to by BER 8119 -- no more wooden foredeck, 'modern' bow launcher, etc. That was good until I ripped out 8119's shroud tackle as well. Turns out his boat had other problems as well, leaving me with two 505s in the yard.

Fast forward to March 2009. At this point I was crewless, my then crew having decided to move to New Zealand to learn how to make wine (can't blame him really...), and injured with a slipped disk, thanks to a Viper regatta in Miami.

So, will it all work out? Stay tuned...

505 Worlds 2009: Team Nicotine Patch -- "In over our heads".

I am sitting in Miami Airport, on a 4 hour layover on my way to San Francisco for the 2009 505 World Championships. The next two weeks marks the end of about 18 months of talking smack, day-dreaming, and generally doing a lot of stressing out (actually, my normal situation) to get to this event.

What did it take to get to this stage?

Crew? check. One Gareth Williams, rugby player, two-time 505 worlds crew, secret weapon.
Boat? check. One brand new Rondar, only sailed 3 days, BER 9005.
Sails? check. One set North kevlar/mylar 3DLs and spinnaker.
Tools? Ummm. Three screwdrivers, two pliers, and a leatherman. Does that count? I have duct tape and dyneema rope too...
Knowledge of what we are doing? That's why I brought Gareth.
Friends with houses in San Francisco? check. Re-check at the end of two weeks...

This is the first of a series of blog posts detailing our adventure. Stay tuned...