Rast Dominates Melges 24 Worlds

When asked, no sailor on the harbour could remember a world championship victory with a massive lead like the one Christopher Rast and his crew put on the score board at the Melges 24 World Championship in Middelfart, Denmark.
Posted in Uncategorised

Duncan Hood

Episode #110 is Duncan Hood, a long-time sailor and technically an Annapolis resident for more than two decades, but who’s traveled the world teaching instructors how to teach sailing.

Duncan works ASA and years ago got asked to travel to China to help start a sailing school in the south, near the border with North Korea, and his story of that misadventure makes up a good chunk of the middle of this episode. It’s a riveting tale!

FOURTH OF JULY CRUISE: The Father-Daughter Variation

Lucy navigating

For reasons we need not go into this year’s father-daughter cruise fell on the July 4th weekend rather than on Father’s Day. Our big breakthrough this time out was that Lucy got interested in navigation, courtesy of the Navionics app on my iPad. This on day two of the cruise, when we were tediously motoring most of the way from Cliff Island in Casco Bay to Popham Beach at the mouth of the Kennebec River, our traditional July 4th destination.

After Lucy asked for the hundredth time, “How long until we get there?” I just handed her the iPad and said: “Here, you figure it out.”

After a quick two-minute tutorial from yours truly on the app’s basic features, Lucy was fully engrossed. Soon, rather than constantly asking when we were going to get there, she was constantly telling me when we were going to get there (see photo up top, which was taken during the brief 15-minute period during which we were sailing on this leg of the cruise).

This in child-rearing circles is known as Major Progress.

Day one of the cruise, Friday, was very brief, just a quick evening sail from Portland to Cliff Island after I picked up Lucy from horse camp.

Climbing mast

Cliff Is. sunset

We arrived in time for Lucy to practice scaling the mast and to receive some random guests from another boat (perfect strangers who were attracted by Lunacy‘s no-nonsense industrial-strength demeanor). We also got to see a very crisp sunset.

I will not describe Saturday’s tedious motoring in any detail, except to note there was four hours of it (minus the 15 minutes under sail). We arrived at Popham with large appetites (and a depleted iPad battery) and immediately went ashore to Percy’s store to enjoy an enormous lunch of chicken tenders, fried clams, and French fries. We then hooked up with our old friends, the sprawling Meinen/Thompson clan, who immediately lured us across the river for an enormous dinner.

Lucy’s dinner, I am embarrassed to say, consisted of three servings of pie–strawberry rhubarb, sour cherry, and mixed berry, in that order.

I have written of Popham before at some length (you can see examples here, here, and here) so will spare you any geographic description. Instead I thought you might like to consider the topic of turbulence. The Kennebec is easily the fastest river in Maine, and I spent a good part of Sunday morning while Lucy was sleeping off her pie sitting in the cockpit contemplating the ferocity of the outgoing tide.

Popham from boat

Whirlpool

Tide line

Upriver

The patterns in the water were infinitely various with all manner of ripples, upwellings, whirlpools, eddies, rip lines, and counter-eddies appearing and disappearing at random intervals.

I have long believed that turbulence is the Essence of Existence, the Ultimate Reality, the One True God.

Cannibal galaxy

Anyone who has had to cope with children (or cannibal galaxies) will appreciate this.

One reason I was watching the tide so closely was I wanted to be sure we caught the very last of the ebb to escape the river mouth. I hoped we might leave late enough to have some hope of sailing on the in-filling sea breeze all or most of the way back to Portland, with as little motoring as possible.

We were very sick of motoring.

Kayaks

Pond and Seguin

And so it was. Very shortly after elements of the Meinen/Thompson clan descended on us in kayaks to bid us farewell, we eased out the river mouth twixt Pond and Seguin islands under power, and as soon as we were abeam of Seguin (the more distant island in the photo there, three miles out from Popham) we were in just barely enough west wind to sail slowly a bit west of south straight offshore.

We did this for almost two hours. Then the wind shifted southwest and started building as the sea breeze came on. We tacked over once we were sure of it, and then had a marvelous afternoon sailing closehauled on just one board directly west all the way back to Portland.

Screecher closehauled

Instruments

And I do mean closehauled. Here you see the screecher flying at its tightest angle in what I consider its maximum working breeze.

Eventually the wind got strong enough we had to switch to the working headsails (yankee and staysail), and as it strengthened it steadily shifted south, so that we were just able to clear Halfway Rock (with schooner in background)…

Halfway Rock

…and past Junk of Pork before slipping through Whitehead Passage into Portland Harbor…

Portland Harbor

…where we found still more schooners.

It was perfect.

Just absolutely perfect.

UPDATE: Just received this titillating photo of the post-dinner festivities from our host Mr. W Kurt (Meinen):

group photo

Posted in Uncategorised

FOURTH OF JULY CRUISE: The Father-Daughter Variation

Lucy navigating

For reasons we need not go into this year’s father-daughter cruise fell on the July 4th weekend rather than on Father’s Day. Our big breakthrough this time out was that Lucy got interested in navigation, courtesy of the Navionics app on my iPad. This on day two of the cruise, when we were tediously motoring most of the way from Cliff Island in Casco Bay to Popham Beach at the mouth of the Kennebec River, our traditional July 4th destination.

After Lucy asked for the hundredth time, “How long until we get there?” I just handed her the iPad and said: “Here, you figure it out.”

After a quick two-minute tutorial from yours truly on the app’s basic features, Lucy was fully engrossed. Soon, rather than constantly asking when we were going to get there, she was constantly telling me when we were going to get there (see photo up top, which was taken during the brief 15-minute period during which we were sailing on this leg of the cruise).

This in child-rearing circles is known as Major Progress.

Day one of the cruise, Friday, was very brief, just a quick evening sail from Portland to Cliff Island after I picked up Lucy from horse camp.

Climbing mast

Cliff Is. sunset

We arrived in time for Lucy to practice scaling the mast and to receive some random guests from another boat (perfect strangers who were attracted by Lunacy‘s no-nonsense industrial-strength demeanor). We also got to see a very crisp sunset.

I will not describe Saturday’s tedious motoring in any detail, except to note there was four hours of it (minus the 15 minutes under sail). We arrived at Popham with large appetites (and a depleted iPad battery) and immediately went ashore to Percy’s store to enjoy an enormous lunch of chicken tenders, fried clams, and French fries. We then hooked up with our old friends, the sprawling Meinen/Thompson clan, who immediately lured us across the river for an enormous dinner.

Lucy’s dinner, I am embarrassed to say, consisted of three servings of pie–strawberry rhubarb, sour cherry, and mixed berry, in that order.

I have written of Popham before at some length (you can see examples here, here, and here) so will spare you any geographic description. Instead I thought you might like to consider the topic of turbulence. The Kennebec is easily the fastest river in Maine, and I spent a good part of Sunday morning while Lucy was sleeping off her pie sitting in the cockpit contemplating the ferocity of the outgoing tide.

Popham from boat

Whirlpool

Tide line

Upriver

The patterns in the water were infinitely various with all manner of ripples, upwellings, whirlpools, eddies, rip lines, and counter-eddies appearing and disappearing at random intervals.

I have long believed that turbulence is the Essence of Existence, the Ultimate Reality, the One True God.

Cannibal galaxy

Anyone who has had to cope with children (or cannibal galaxies) will appreciate this.

One reason I was watching the tide so closely was I wanted to be sure we caught the very last of the ebb to escape the river mouth. I hoped we might leave late enough to have some hope of sailing on the in-filling sea breeze all or most of the way back to Portland, with as little motoring as possible.

We were very sick of motoring.

Kayaks

Pond and Seguin

And so it was. Very shortly after elements of the Meinen/Thompson clan descended on us in kayaks to bid us farewell, we eased out the river mouth twixt Pond and Seguin islands under power, and as soon as we were abeam of Seguin (the more distant island in the photo there, three miles out from Popham) we were in just barely enough west wind to sail slowly a bit west of south straight offshore.

We did this for almost two hours. Then the wind shifted southwest and started building as the sea breeze came on. We tacked over once we were sure of it, and then had a marvelous afternoon sailing closehauled on just one board directly west all the way back to Portland.

Screecher closehauled

Instruments

And I do mean closehauled. Here you see the screecher flying at its tightest angle in what I consider its maximum working breeze.

Eventually the wind got strong enough we had to switch to the working headsails (yankee and staysail), and as it strengthened it steadily shifted south, so that we were just able to clear Halfway Rock (with schooner in background)…

Halfway Rock

…and past Junk of Pork before slipping through Whitehead Passage into Portland Harbor…

Portland Harbor

…where we found still more schooners.

It was perfect.

Just absolutely perfect.

Posted in Uncategorised

Well Matched

If it’s not enough of a challenge to tackle a new Olympic class, Maggie Shea and Debbie Capozzi have double the challenge ahead of them: If they’re able to make it to the 2016 Olympics in Rio, they’ll have been sailing together for just two years, having partnered up nearly halfway through the quad. They’re competing against teams that have sailed together for double (or more) of that time, competed in dozens more regattas, and have more experience on the water in the new 49erFX.

But their easy banter—and their on-water results—fails to reveal growing pains in adjusting to their new dynamic on the technical boat. They finished 20th in the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Weymouth, England in June, and they’re next headed to 49erFX European Championship in Portugal in early July.

Capozzi, until the end of April 2015, was campaigning the 49erFX with former Olympian Molly Vandemoer. Vandemoer announced her retirement from Olympic campaigning in an April 11th Facebook post, thanking her former sailing partners for 12 years of successful campaigning, including Anna Tuncliffe, Allison Jolly, and Capozzi. When the announcement came, Shea stepped in.

"I've always looked up to Molly and learned a lot sailing against her in the past," says Shea. "She's an awesome competitor and I have really big shoes to fill."

“Due to some unfortunate injuries and scheduling problems with others, the opportunity arose for Maggie and I to start sailing together,” says Capozzi. “So far, we’ve really enjoyed it; we think there’s a lot of potential. Yes, we’re a new team, but it doesn’t feel like we’re a new team. It feels like the chemistry already works. We’re really excited about it, we’re making big strides, and we’re just having fun every day.”

Of course, as is the norm in the small world of high-level competitive sailing, the two aren’t total strangers. “We actually both started sailing the 49erFX around the same time, and worked together a lot in the beginning,” says Shea. “We learned a lot of the same methodology and theories in the beginning, so it was easy for us to come together. It clicked because we’re in a similar place on our learning curve in a new class.”

Shea, who had previously spent the majority of her time focused on match racing, both as an athlete and as the Event Director at the Chicago Match Race Center, has been enjoying the change of pace that the new Olympic class brings. “It’s really technical, but it’s fun for us to get in a new boat and start at square one,” says Shea. “It’s such a high performance boat that it’s really challenging and rewarding. Things happen faster, but it’s easier to adjust to. The basics still apply. Once you adjust your tactics a little bit, its all the same game.”

Adds Capozzi, “The adjustment to a high performance boat, with an asymmetrical spinnaker, is a challenge. Once you can get past the boat handling and the sailing of a faster boat, its just fleet racing. Sailboat racing is still sailboat racing. You still need to tack on the shifts, you still need to get a good start, sail in clean air. There’s not much different, it’s just a different style of boat instead.”

The duo are well-balanced: Capozzi has the experience, having been to two Olympics (2008 on the Yngling and 2012 on the Elliot 6m), and Shea is fresh and energetic in a highly physical boat.

“Maggie keeps the energy going, especially during a race,” says Capozzi. “Her job as crew is 20 times harder than my job is, but at the end of the day she could probably still beat me going for a run. It’s a really cool balance that we have going.”

Shea echoes her partner’s sentiments: “In the short period of time I’ve been racing with Debbie I’ve learned a lot from her. Her experience shines and teaches me how to keep getting better and pushing every single day. My campaign has been shorter and not at the level that Debbie has reached in the past, so I’ve been able to learn a lot from her in that respect, which is awesome.”

Capozzi has the advantage of hindsight, with two top-ten finishes in her Olympic career. “The two Quads that I experienced, if you show up with the experience and sailing skill in place to be in the top ten, then it’s just about performing during that specific regatta and having a little bit of luck going your way, and you’re set. In the past, I've seen top teams that were expected to do well not perform, and others who capitalized on that opportunity.”

In a brand new class, it could be anyone’s game by the time Rio rolls around next summer. “There’s been so much development in this fleet,” says Shea. “In the first few regattas, the same people were winning race after race. Now, the average score of the top boats is much higher. The people who were really good in the first two years are now being caught. Our learning curve is so steep right now. We’ve made so much progress in the last two months that thinking about eight months from now is exciting. We’re just going to keep getting faster.”

Stop-start Transatlantic Race

Comanche, Rambler 88, Phaedo3 and Paradox, t

read more

Just Launched: Carbon Beauty

When Hanse Yachts founder Michael Schmidt sold his company a few years ago, it seemed the European boatbuilding community had lost one of its canniest operators. Not only did Schmidt build the company from a startup in a disused East German furniture factory to a multi-brand powerhouse at a time when many other builders were struggling, he is a true character and an innovator; witness how widely copied the trademark Hanse big mainsail/self-tacking jib combo has become.
With a boatbuilding background going back to the 1970s it was unlikely that Schmidt would stay away from the scene for too long, and sure enough, he is back with something completely different—a new line of sleek carbon-fiber bluewater cruisers designed by Italians, styled by a Brit and built in Germany.
In typical unabashed style, Schmidt asked Italy’s Brenta Design and British architect and designer Sir David Chipperfield to draw a boat fulfilling his criteria of beauty, simplicity, functionality and speed.

xquisite X5

Xquisite X5

The first boat, the 80ft Brenta 80 DC, is now in build in Greifswald, Germany, site of the Hanse yard. It offers three different deck plans, with interior layouts tailored around these. Electric and hydraulic power is used to make handling the powerful sailplan (consisting, naturally, of a large main and self-tacking jib) a push-button operation, and the boat will be set up to be sailed by two people. Lines are concealed in galleries below the deck and cabintop, whose profile is partly concealed by a raised bulwark topped by a solid stainless steel railing.
Brenta Design and Chipperfield are also working on a 100ft luxury cruiser for Schmidt, along with a powerboat. Could Schmidt’s foray into the luxury market be as successful as his production boat venture? Don’t bet against it.
The swooping lines of the Xquisite X5, a South African-built catamaran that’s new to the United States, stood out among the big cruising cats at the Strictly Sail show in Miami this past February. Company owner Tamas Hamor explained that the boat on show was really a sheep in wolf’s clothing; it was, in fact, the Dean Cat 5000, the last boat built by Dean before Hamor bought the yard and set about revamping (and renaming) the boat.

Astus 20.2

Astus 20.2

The next X5 will be a very different animal. Hamor sailed some 20,000 miles on his own Dean Cat and had an extensive list of changes he wanted to make. The hull and deck molds have been tweaked to improve sailing performance and ergonomics, there’s a new interior layout, and the build process has been brought right up to date with a resin-infusion system that will significantly cut weight. An extensive standard inventory will make the X5 one of the best-equipped luxury cats on the market. The first example of the new-look X5 will be shipped to Florida next year in time for the Miami show in February 2016.
I first saw the Astus 20.2 trimaran at a French boat show and admired its clean, functional design. It looked like a great daysailer, with its large cockpit, a small cuddy cabin where you can stow your gear out of the weather and even spend the night, and unsinkable construction.
When you want to tow or stow the boat, or just make it narrower to fit into a slip, the amas telescope inward to reduce beam from 14ft to under 8ft. Using a gin-pole variation, the delightfully named “Astucious System,” the rig can be raised or lowered by one person. Displacing less than 800lb, the boat can be towed by a small car and is capable of impressive speeds.
This nifty boat is now available in the United States via its new importer WindRider, which showed an example at Strictly Sail Miami in February. Others in the line include 18ft, 22ft and 24ft versions. Look out for an upcoming review of the 20.2 in SAIL.

CONTACTS

Brenta 80 DC Michael Schmidt Yachtbau, msyachtbau.com

Xquisite X5 Xquisite Yachts, xquisiteyachts.com

Astus 20.2 WindRider, windrider.com

The Perfect Squall, A Navigator’s Perspective

“If you have the good fortune to be sailing on a sled, TP52 or faster, you can sail fast enough to stay in the accelerated wind in front of the squall for hours.” —Stan Honey

The Perfect Squall hits at 12 minutes after midnight. This may sound dramatic and dangerous, but squalls—and the resulting downwind rides—are a major attraction of the biennial Transpacific Yacht Race. I have the good fortune to navigate Dr. Philip and Sharon O’Niel’s TP52 Natalie J, a boat fast enough to allow us to hunt squalls, rather than avoid them, which you might do in a slower or doublehanded boat or for safety reasons.

We are 21 miles off the eastern tip of Molokai Island on starboard jibe, and on final approach to the Hawaiian Islands. Our Southern approach is a function of the need to be well to the south of a geographically large cut-off low that reduces the wind on the traditionally favored northern part of the racecourse. The squall appears as we enter the Molokai Channel, a natural wind funnel with a reputation for big wind and big swell, and a place where sailboats become gigantic surfboards hurtling down the waves in white-water, white-knuckle, adrenaline rides.

Throughout the latter part of race, once we entered the squall zone, I had “gone to school on the squalls” as Stan Honey advises in his well-known Transpac primer. The 2013 Transpac is a meteorologically turbulent year. We have lefty squalls (True Wind Direction backs inside of the squall as compared to the gradient breeze), righty squalls (TWD veers or clocks), long squalls, short squalls, non-squalls, scud clouds, misty rain showers, squall-like low clouds, and even cloud lines impersonating squalls. This article concerns only the final squall of our race, and is not intended to be representative of all squalls one might find on a race to Hawaii or any other race.

One of the mental and physical challenges of a Transpac is playing the squalls because of their race-changing impacts: (i) considerable gains are made by the brave few who do so consistently and correctly; (ii) safe results achieved for those that avoid them; or (iii) the penalty of sitting motionless for when you that get a squall wrong.

Courtesy Christopher Lewis

A pleasant, daytime squall, not the nighttime freight train type.

I first try to identify the clouds, and determine whether they’re useful: do they have increased breeze, and are we sailing an intercepting path? By intercepting, I mean can we catch the clouds or even sideswipe them, without getting caught behind them? Much the same way we might take bearings on competitors, I take multiple bearings over time with the hockey puck (“Puck it” as Chris Williams would say) on a target cloud (or both edges of a large or close cloud) to determine the relative positions and speeds of the cloud and my boat. This is both an art and science as you hone your skills at squall interpretation and engagement; recognizing fully that movement of squalls can be disorienting and deceptive, especially to a sleep-deprived crew.

We also have to realize not all squalls hit during daylight. Quite the opposite, in fact, as they tend to build energy during the heating of the day and release it at night. As a result, much time is spent peering into the darkness trying to interpret more than 50 shades of black or the lack of stars in certain sectors of the sky in order to identify and track squall clouds. Over time, I’ve developed a squall tracking form that helps me with this process and speeds post-race analysis. Fortunately through experience, perseverance, and some science, playing the clouds effectively will become more intuitive with rewarding competitive benefits.

Courtesy Christopher Lewis

An early evening squall just before nightfall.

As the perfect squall approaches in the 2013 Transpac, we have prevailing TWD breeze in the high 050s to mid-060s, but we know from an instructive earlier squall we’d likely have a righty. As a result, Bora Gulari, Natalie J’s tactician (a Rolex Yachtsman of the Year and two-time Moth World Champion) and I agree that, if the breeze veers to TWD 075 as the incoming squall approaches, we will jibe on it as it will likely continue to clock further. I step below to add some rain gear because I know it’s going to be wet. From the complete darkness of our TP52’s black carbon cabin, I can’t see the squall (or anything for that matter), but I can feel and hear the system announce its arrival.

The breeze builds instantly, jumping to more than 20 knots. I feel my way in the dark for the cockpit and race up the stairs, re-adjusting my safety gear as I move. I glance at the 20/20 displays, seeing the TWD already at 078. Barely loud enough to be heard above the roar of the wind and rain, Bora is already shouting orders to prepare for the jibe; we are on the same page. As I sprint to the back of the boat I hear the calls, “Bow Ready,” “Trimmers Ready,” “Ready on the main,” and my own voice “Runners ready,” as I grab the runner tail. An instant later, I hear Bora calmly say, “Doc, find a wave and jibe.” Doc O’Neil carves the boat down a wave and we are off on the other jibe. After a couple thousand miles and countless jibes, jibing in 20-plus knots of breeze is no big thing, even with a shorthanded eight-person offshore crew.

The rain intensifies. The boat keeps trucking up and down the swell with boatspeed regularly hitting the mid-20s. The water sounds as if it’s hissing as it rushes under the transom, forming a rooster tail of wake. I wish my friends and family could experience this sensation. Successful teams are night fighters, making up time in such conditions. The Natalie J team feels connected and we know we are making serious tracks with Doc at the helm of his boat. “Slingshot engaged!” The breeze keeps heading and our ground track looks better and better.

The squall’s deluge washes away the pent up frustration that built earlier in the race when sometime during the first night with kite up, we cracked our bowsprit, subsequently discovering it at first light when the pole was observed to be unnaturally bouncing around. This is a big deal on a downwind race of more than 2,000-nautical miles, turning us into the only entrant of the “non-spinnaker pole division.” Even as we had crossed the ridge, we tried a repair, but it failed. Soon after we we’d discovered the crack and alternated between tacking the kite to the bow to using the compromised sprit, which worsened with each mile. Eventually, we’d given up on the bowsprit altogether. Meanwhile, we knew a top race result was slipping away.

Courtesy Christopher Lewis

Working on the broken sprit: Bora Gulari, Brian Torreson, and David Oswald (not shown).

But none of that frustration with the sprit matter as we surf wave after wave, propelled by the juiced winds of the squall. The angle of heel under our feet is as good as any of the ghostly red numbers indicated on the B&G displays. Water pours down the deck and washes out the back. Sounds like staccato gunfire erupts each time the kite is eased on the big winch drums, only to be wound back by our big muscle on the handles.

This is a big-money squall for us as the breeze goes all the way around to 105-degrees TWD and we have hit the shift perfectly by jibing onto port pole. Those who hadn’t bothered to jibe are lifted and shot out the side of the squall. Our track on both jibes is virtually a straight line pointing right at the finish line at Diamond Head, with extra breeze—perfect. Given the track of this particular squall, we play the port jibe for 50 magical minutes. As we near the edge of the squall, we jibe back onto starboard to roll into the squall for more fun. Given the relative path of the clouds and the short distance to our destination, we don’t spend much time on starboard pole. It’s obvious in all the darkness that our time playing is nearly over as it barreled along and lost its potency. After 10 minutes, we bounce back to port pole, and head west again to ensure an orderly exit out of the squall. By orderly, I don’t mean ‘safely’, but rather to not get caught behind the squall in the light wind mess that typically trails the squall.

As the clouds scamper away from us, the breeze begins to shift back to where it originally came from and we start to get lifted on port pole. Once we know the squall is past, we jibe back onto starboard pole with a header expected and resumed our track into Molokai Channel with the trade winds propelling us. Our little run-in with perfection, glorious though it was, is now over. No longer are we a rocketship playing a squall in our own little world, we are back to being a boat with a broken bowsprit on final approach to finish one of the world’s greatest ocean races.

Special thanks to Stan Honey, Scott Easom, Bora Gulari, and the owners and crew of the Natalie J.