Which boat shall we sail today..?

We teach newbies how to sail on two types in two locations. These sailboats are very different, yet both deliver top notch learn to sail lessons.

One of our Beneteau First 21 sloops as seen on the cover of our new learn to sail textbook.

Which boat to play on today? Depends where you sail with us.

There are several types of boats we use at our City Island home branch, where we’ve been sailing on and off forever and uninterrupted since 1996. For learn-to-sail courses, it’s the Beneteau First 21.0 sloop. It’s a very modern design – light weight and responsive, maneuverable, ergonomic, and with twin rudders. Designed and built by the world’s oldest and largest maker of sailboats, it’s the only sailboat design ever endorsed by a national sailing school organization.

ASA did a collab with Beneteau and their modified version became the ASA First Trainer (and subsequently the ASA First 22). Same body (hull), keel, rudders, sailplan, etc. Only real difference was to make a smaller cabin and longer cockpit to better reflect sailing classes. (Wouldn’t really benefit us much, as we’re one of the few schools to limit learn-to-sail classes to 3 students per boat.)

Sail an Ensign; see an Ensign. Or, many; they’re out and about all the time! From our Sheepshead Bay location this summer.

Fast forward to 2022, when we re-wound to a boat designed 60 years earlier: the Pearson Ensign, from venerable naval architect Carl Alberg. it’s what they sail at the Miramar Yacht Club. That’s in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, and that’s where our second branch is. There are almost 20 Ensigns at this Club, but also many other daysailers and cruising designs. The Club has been around since the 1930’s and was incorporated in the ’40’s. And now, we’re at both “Bookends of the Boroughs.”

The Ensign is very different from the Beneteau. Traditional full keel, rather than a fin or long swing keel (the latter of which the Beneteau sports). Single rudder than hangs off the back of the keel, rather than a modern spade rudder. No real cabin; just a small ‘cuddy’ with room for two diagonal berths and sail storage. Low to the water; a little wet when it gets wild on the waterway with wind and chop. Very long, deep bench seats in wood (the Beneteau has excellent ones as well but fiberglass). Very large mainsail; two sizes of jib/genoa. (Beneteau has a fairly even distribution between main and 110 genoa, to which we add a storm ‘jiblet’ courtesy of the classic Rhodes 19 class, as well… we had two from the past and they worked. The Ensign has seen a resurgence in popularity whereas most of its contemporaries and next-gens have faded into obscurity. It’s also in the American Sailboat Hall of Fame, along with the Tartan Ten. And, Miramar YC has its own Tartan Ten as well as Ensign!

Saturday, September 24: aboard an Ensign off Breezy Point near Sheepshead Bay. Day 3, Start Sailing course (ASA 101).

We were the 2nd school to use the Beneteau 21 for learn to sail. A few other schools have been using the Ensign in recent years, and who knows how many did over the decades. They both work extremely well for the purpose, despite the large differences in their designs.

We do strictly sail in our Start Sailing course (ASA 101, learn to sail / Basic Keelboat). No motors – except on the launch that drives you the short distance to your moored sailboat. Then, we keep it real. No brakes; no reverse. You get to use forward (trim in the sails and angle the boat properly). You also get to go into neutral (make the sails flap like flags, or luff, but easing the sails and angling the boat enough into the wind). That’s it! Do those things with the right timing, and you glide to a near or complete stop at the mooring ball.

Simple. Also, simply difficult. It takes only a shot or two to start to understand it, but it takes a lot of practice to get consistently good at it. Expect to have many of your stops wind up short, or to happen well after you want them to. Don’t worry – you’re surrounded by something soft: water! And, yes – boats. But we teach you how to start moving again on demand.

Blueprint of the Beneteau First 21.0 sloop including the largely irrelevant cabin configuration. Note the long, high-aspect keel.

One concern we had before trying out Sheepshead Bay was the proximity of the moorings to each other (on the tight side), and the narrow nature of the small Bay. We also wondered if the current in Rockaway Inlet, just outside of the enclosed Bay, would be too much at times. Not so, said the Commodore, David, who sails both an Ensign and a Cheoy Lee 35. The Ensigns overwhelmingly sail off & on, and also out & in. This entire season, I saw an Ensign under power only once or twice: one time the main was up and drawing and I wasn’t sure if the electric motor was also in play.

The Pearson Ensign. Note the full keel and attached rudder.

Head to head comparison…

Beneteau pros: super responsive; light on the helm; mainsail easy to handle; lifelines going around the boat give a good sense of security going forward.

Ensign: super stable; has great momentum; very predictable response; huge cockpit helpful for groups; wide foredeck offsets lack of lifelines.

They’re both excellent for sailing off and back onto moorings, and for teaching people how to sail a boat. Which one will we use today? The one that’s where you want to sail!

“The Hudson River is always a dangerous place to operate.” We’re not on it.

Those aren’t our words, but we could well have spoken them ourselves – and they also apply to the East River and NY Harbor. And it’s why we would never have you learn how to sail there.

There was a fatal accident on the Hudson recently, near the Intrepid aircraft carrier and museum. An adult woman and a child died when a motorboat overturned. NY Waterways (ferries) were on scene quickly rescuing other passengers.

On any very busy waterway, there will be an occasional accident, and more rarely, a tragedy such as this. But, some places are just less suitable for recreational boating, and all the more so for beginners. The Hudson River, where a number of sailing school/clubs operate, is one of those.

So are the East River and New York Harbor where the rivers join it.

The quote in the title? Words spoken by Inspector Anthony Russo of the New York City Harbor Unit after the accident. Three other people were critically injured in the accident.

One accident by itself doesn’t make an area inherently dangerous. It’s the potential for other accidents, or how much effort goes into preventing them, that matters. In these areas, one contends with…

  • strong currents
  • narrow waterways
  • erratic windshifts
  • high speed commuter ferries
  • cruise shiops
  • huge medium-speed ferries
  • any number of other large commercial vessels

Plus, the water is basically so dirty that you can often smell it as you get within half a block or so. Ugh.

So, why learn to sail there? Because you can?

There’s a guy who, as of 2018, regularly swam in the Hudson about two blocks from where I live. He was featured in the NY Times; link below (photo here). Note the off-color water. He swims there to promote that one can, and to increase awareness and access. But..? Because one can? Should one?

Intrepid swimmer on the Hudson. Chang W. Lee, NY Times, photo.

There are so many other places people can safely and enjoyably swim – and sail. Some of them are in NYC. Some off them are further away, but accessible by public transit and car.

The Hudson, East River, and NY Harbor offer no benefits to sailing – or learning how to sail – other than potential proximity to ones work or home. But why have a short commute to a crap-ass location? And, we’re talking literally – there’s sewage being pumped into these waters! Sure, much or maybe most of it is treated. But, there are frequent overflows of untreated sewage. Still smells. Not sanitary.

On the other hand, our Brooklyn and Bronx locations at Sheepshead Bay and City Island have swimmable waters with public beaches – and lifeguards – nearby. And, fish. And, birds. And the waters are hospitable to sailing and learning how to do it. Our locations have five yacht clubs with mostly (overwhelmingly) sailboats in their fleets. Hudson? East River? NY Harbor? None. Nor do they have college sailing teams. Ours do.

If you have to hold your nose to go to the waters, or are afraid to get them in your eyes, or if you read too often about accidents on them in the news, or if public officials say they’re basically dangerous… Why? Just, why? Ride the subway or your car a little longer (if at all), and enjoy the sights, smells, and success of sailing where NYC ends and sanity begins!

And now, all about the Kookaburra who Could…

“It’s like the Autobahn!” And not in a good way.

That’s Jennifer Connelley’s take on trying to learn how to sail a boat in New York Harbor in preparation for “Top Gun: Maverick.”

IN THAT PIC: still grab from the sailing scene in the flick. Jennifer Connelly, driver (at the helm).

We taught David Letterman how to sail back when Late Night was actually Late Morning. A looooong time ago. (This was during Dad’s school; I worked sweeping up for child’s pay.) Of course, when Ted Turner was on Late Night not that long ago, David didn’t work in any Q&A about sailing despite Ted being one of the best. I was disappointed. I half expected him to say, “You know, I took a sailing course. It was on City Island. New York Sailing School, I think it was.” Didn’t happen.

Fast forward to earlier this week, and actress Jennifer Connelly appeared on A Late Show With Stephen Colbert. (We link to that below.) I didn’t realize there was a sailing scene in the flick, but Connelly did and decided to prepare for it. She took sailing lessons in several locations in preparation, as she had no background with it.

IN THAT PIC: JC driving and Tom Cruise bringing up the rear. Apparently, he wasn’t satisfied with the pace of things off San Diego so they did some sailing out of San Francisco- a renowned heavy wind region. This was there.

Being from NYC (Brooklyn), she did a course in NYC and did what too many people do: she did it in NY Harbor, as accessed by the East and Hudson Rivers. Train wreck conditions, but maybe they saved 15′ on their commute!

“I was taking lessons in the Harbor, which was interesting…”

“That’s busy!” (Colbert)

“It’s kinda like learning to drive on the Autobahn, you know? I don’t recommend it as a first way to sail.”

Jennifer Connelly

We link to the full clip below. As mentioned above, she took lessons in a variety of areas, so this wasn’t an isolated perspective.

Sailing in NY Harbor and the Rivers is difficult with challenges that are not the good kind…

  • Currents strong enough to stop a boat in its GPS track;
  • Lots of random commercial traffic including high-speed ferries, barges, and cruise ships;
  • Narrow waterways and, where they open up, with large obstructions;
  • Confused winds with shears from geography and high-rise buildings.
IN THAT PIC: a rather large Norwegian Cruise Lines ship about to block out the W hotel in Jersey City as seen from the shore of lower Manhattan.

This isn’t a recipe for success. Expert sailors can have a lot of trouble there. Why try to learn how in such an environment? The perception is that it’s close and convenient. It might be quicker; depends where you live, and your actual commute time. (Two schools that sail in NY Harbor are located in New Jersey, including one with Manhattan in its name. There is one in Brooklyn.) More importantly is the education and skillset you get. If you can’t skipper the boat after the course, you didn’t sail in a good location and/or get enough training.

IN THAT PIC: the same Norwegian cruise ship about to totally dwarf the rather large classic sailing vessel. It’s a schooner rig, normally only found on larger vessels.

We don’t go there, literally or figuratively. There’s a reason Columbia and Fordham Universities have had their sailing teams practice out of City Island for so long. (Columbia moved recently, but only about a mile or two as the bird flies). There’s a reason why there are 3 ASA sailing schools on City Island, and also three yacht clubs that are almost all sailboats (used to be four before Hurricane Sandy closed one down).

It’s the beginning of Long Island Sound, and the beginning of a proper sailing foundation. And, one never outgrows it!

Here’s the link to the Colbert segment with Jennifer Connelly:

Olympic Sailing Update

August 15, 2016 (edited on the 16th)

US Sailing, our country’s organization for sailboat racing, announced yesterday that things were looking good for Team US on the Olympic sailing front.  “Five sailors are in the top 10.”

That’s lame!  Guess we suck at sailing this time…

Well, it’s lame for us in the historical scheme of things.  We have tended to be the country to beat.  But the rest of the world is getting more competitive in the sport, which is a good thing.

There are numerous sailing classes for both men and women in the Olympics.  They range from the RS:X sailboard (‘windsurfer’) to the Star class double handed keelboat.  Most boats are boardboats.  Right now only the Star class has a keel.

( – aside: there was a Star fleet at the Stuyvesant Yacht Club on City Island for decades.  They dry-sailed them.  This writer got on one for a few races a long time ago when a skipper needed a crew.  That’s some hard-core boat!  But like many pedigree platforms, it can be sailed on a more casual than Olympic basis and still be enjoyable.)

So; who’s good from the good ‘ol USA..

Womens 470: Annie Haeger and Briana Provancha, currently in second place!..

470 women

Finn: Caleb Paine, 4th place, 5 points out of Bronze so could medal…

finn cp

Kudos to Great Britain’s Giles Scott, who has already clinched the gold.  The medal race is on Tuesday, limited to the top 10 contenders, so this is definitely worth watching.  Easier to follow than the whole fleet.  Cheer Caleb Paine on to Bronze!

Brazilian hometown favorite Robert Scheidt was doing very well in the Laser class.  He was second for awhile in the standings, but disappointing finishes in later races dropped him down.  Scheidt is one of the winningest sailors in Olympic history, with 5 Olympic Medals in the sport.  He’s taken two gold, two silver, and a bronze, and these are spread out over two totally different classes: the singlehanded Laser dinghy, and the doublehanded Star keelboat.  That’s very impressive in my log book.  In fact, I can’t think of a better Olympic sailing record.  Super kudos!

And then there’s his wife! Gintarė Scheidt (Gintarė Volungevičiūtė-Scheidt) represents Lithuania in sailing.  The two met at a training event and later got married.  Gintaré was Lithuania’s standard bearer for the opening ceremonies.  The two live with their children in Italy.


So… if we’re not exactly the standard setters this time, which countries are sailing more consistently?

Britain, and France.  They’re solidly in the top ten in almost every event.  As mentioned, Giles Scott had the Finn Gold wrapped up before the final race.  France medaled in both mens and women’s RS:X sailboard events, so that’s impressive.


Want to watch replays and be ready to stream live when racing resumes (probably on midday, Tuesday August 16)?  Here you go…

http://stream.nbcolympics.com/sailing-day-8

(update: NBC’s replay links are currently just saying “Coverage has concluded” for days 10 and 11.  Lame.  But maybe that’ll sort itself out.)

This is the link for racing on Sunday.  Monday saw poor conditions with a lot of cancellations, and the replay seems to not be available for anything they did air.  But you can edit the number “8” in your browser and substitute anything smaller, and you’ll get the replays for that day’s racing.  Very hard to find otherwise.  Footage is excellent.  It’s mostly real video, with occasional graphic race course overlays.  Sometimes they give real-time graphic renditions of the fleet instead.

You’ll probably have to sign in with your cable provider the first time but then be good to go.


Want results and schedules?

https://www.rio2016.com/en/sailing-schedule-and-results

Shortly after it says Schedule and Results in bold, you’ll see a list of all the sailing classes for men, women, and the one mixed class – the Nacra catamaran.  There you can choose the class whose standings you want to see.  Or, further down, you can browse by calendar date for individual race results or to see what’s coming up when starting Tuesday the 16th.

https://www.olympic.org/sailing

The Olympics home page for sailing, in case you like that better.  Variety & options…

“A school has no name…”

…or is it no location?  Or too many, so a school is confused about where it is?

Do two (or three) wrongs make a right (location)?

Wonder what percentage of you get the GoT reference of this post’s title. (If you don’t get GoT, let us know and we’ll bring you up to speed.)

Hint…

GoT final scene
Wings over water – on sailboats and soaring dragons. Final scene of season six finale, Game of Thrones.

WTF am I talking about?  Sailing schools who are geographically challenged and are either so confused they don’t know where they are – or want you to be so you sign up for their school at one of their dubious digs.

Example: a school is named after a geographic location.  An island.  They had to move from that island to a neighboring state.  They still reference teaching at that original island in their blurb on the ASA School’s page. But a girl has to cross a river to get to them.  (oops; there’s another GOT reference…)

Another example: a school has three locations, none far from the others (and all in our state).  One moved across the bay it’s located in.  Map page still shows it where it isn’t.  At least it’s the right bay.   One is entirely new.  It’s listed on the ASA page as being in a particular Bay, where they say the sailing is Great.  But a school is not in this bay.  It is in another, far away, and the sailing is not in this tiny bay.  A school sails in an inlet on an ocean. (And a school cannot hide from that ocean’s swells.)

What do we care?  We like good old fashioned, straight up honest advertising.  Plus, we’re very proud of our location.  It’s extremely accessible from so many places, both by public transit and car.  The area is insanely good for teaching sailing and just enjoying a day sail or a cruise.

Some schools have multiple locations.  Some locations have multiple schools.  Tiny little City Island, barely a mile and a half long, has historically been home to two sailing schools – sometimes just one, and for a time, three.  Plus, it has two college sailing teams.  Both those universities have campuses on Manhattan.  But, they sail out of City Island.  Finally – we have three yacht clubs on the Island and the vast majority of their members’ toys are sailboats.

We have had opportunities to add a satellite location at the “bay on the ocean,” on the Hudson, etc.  We have always declined.  Not worth having a location slightly more convenient to Manhattanites, or to spread ourselves around hoping to capture another demographic, just to take clients’ money and give them a piss-poor education and experience that, if they even learn properly from, they’ll soon outgrow.

A school has an ethic.

Watch Live Feeds of Olympic Sailing in Rio

Live footage begins today on NBC…

http://www.nbcolympics.com/live-stream-schedule/sailing

Today, at noon, we have Laser racing.  Awesome little boat that is one of the most important classes in the history of the sport.  Well worth checking this out, and also sailing one yourself at some point.  Most America’s Cup skippers in recent history were winners in Lasers at some point.

The Dockmaster's collection of Laser racing awards
The Dockmaster’s collection of Laser racing awards

The medals above are NOT from the Olympics.  They are from the local/regional level in Long Island Sound/NYC.  But they are so kewl.  That’s the boat as profiled on each medallion.  Check out the live coverage or recaps as the Rio Olympiad rolls along and you’ll see why this boat rules.

Thanks, Bruce Kirby, for designing it.

Design Review: Beneteau First 21.0

We recently came across this review of our learn-to-sail boat, the Beneteau First 21.0.  It’s sometimes called the First 210.  Many Europeans call it the Baby Ben.

Beneteau First 21.0 sloop sailing fast upwind.
One of our Beneteau First 21.0 sloops at New York Sailing Center.

It’s the smallest sailboat made by the largest (and oldest) sailboat manufacturer in the world.  It’s two and a half editions, or generations, or models old depending on how one defines that.  Started with the First 21.0; became the First 20.  (Boat didn’t shrink.)  Then, Beneteau and ASA (American Sailing Association) teamed up to produce a slightly modified version – that’s the “half” to which I refer – called the ASA Trainer or First 22.  (Again, the boat didn’t grow.)  The chief difference on this one is that they made a smaller cabin and larger cockpit.

asa first 22 pair
A pair of ASA First 22 sloops duking it out somewhere. Note sail number: “20,” same on both, leftover from Beneteau’s standard production model – the First 20.  They’re all the same size boat.

But, all versions have these things in common:

  • Hull.  (Boat body)  The size and shape are the same.
  • Keel.  (The fin that stops the boat from going sideways and from flipping over.)
  • Rudders.  (Steering fins.)  Yes, plural.  There are two.
  • Rig.  The spars (poles that hold the sails up, out, etc), and basic sailplan, are the same except for the squared-off top of the mainsail on the newer boats.

Bob Perry, a highly esteemed naval architect and author, with a regular column on design in Sailing magazine, penned this article some time ago. Here are his words, and some pics we saw fit to slip in…

Perry on Design: the Beneteau First 21.0.

(Bob’s prose appears below in quotes.  Any editorial notes I couldn’t resist are indented in parentheses as I’ve done here.)

“Let’s go small and look at a trailerable boat. This one is from the board of Group Finot and built by Beneteau. It is a very different approach, abandoning tradition and going after speed and convenience with modern design features.

ben blueprint
ABOVE: Blueprint of the Beneteau First 21.0, showing the swing keel in both extremes of its range. This is a ‘high aspect’ design: the sails and the keel (foils) are tall up and down, and short fore and aft.

“The benefit of this type of boat is the ability to move easily to exotic or semi-exotic locations for regattas. The 210 will make a great daysailer or a camp-style cruiser. While trailerable sailboats are seldom examples of refined design, the First 210 shows design innovation aimed at sparkling performance and eye appeal. This boat is also unsinkable.

ben trailer
Keel fully retracted, a First 21.0 on its trailer and ready to roll.

“With an LOA of 21 feet, the First 210 shows a modern, round bilge hull form with a very broad transom to give it dinghylike proportions. Look carefully at the plan view, deck layout or interior. Note the location of maximum beam. In most modern designs the maximum beam is located at or around station six. If you use the same system of establishing stations and break the 210’s DWL into 10 segments, you will find the max beam around station nine! There is even a curious little hook in the deck line right at station nine. The result of this shape is extreme maximization of the small volume available in 21 feet and a wide platform aft to optimize the righting moment effect of crew weight.

(We’ve always called this boat a big dinghy with a keel on it.  A dinghy is a sailboat that can flip over and requires the crew’s weight on the rail to hold it down.  The Beneteau First 21.0 is very sensitive to crew weight, and reacts immediately to changes – but it won’t flip over if the crew fails to react.  That makes it ideal for learning and training.)

ben 20 birdseye
Bird’s eye of the Beneteau First 20 plan. Note how wide the back, or transom, of the boat is and also the twin rudders on the back. All this is the same configuration as the First 21.0.

“The extremely high-aspect-ratio centerboard (ed. note: it’s a ballasted swing keel, not a centerboard or centerboard keel) is housed in an odd shaped nacelle below the hull for a board-up draft of 2 feet, 3 inches. Almost every appendage is a candidate for “ellipticalization” these days, and I find it interesting that the designers have ended this board in a sharp point. In profile, the rudder looks ridiculously small until you realize that there are in fact two rudders. They are canted outboard at 15 degrees. With this extreme distribution of beam aft a normal rudder would pull almost clear of the water at high degrees of heel. With the two rudders, when the boat is heeled one of the rudders will still be at an effective working angle with the water. This is a slick way of reducing the required draft of the rudders. Note that the draft of the twin rudders is the same as the draft of the board housing. The rudders are linked through the member at the top of the open transom.

ben 20 sailing
A First 20 in fine form upwind. Note the rudder barely touching the water. The other one is all the way in and fairly straight, meaning it works well. When a sailboat leans to the side, its rudder loses some effectiveness and this twin rudder design reduces that.

(The design was great by itself, but what puts it over the top is the twin rudders.  Sailboats lean to the side naturally, as shown in the pic above. The more they lean, however, the less effective their rudder (steering fin) becomes.  It loses its bite on the water, so it has to be held to one side to go straight.  This creates drag and further reduces its effectiveness.  But the twin rudders on the First 21.0, each one angled outward, become straight when the boat heels a normal amount, and when the boat heels too much, the rudder angle isn’t bad. This makes for a forgiving feel that allows students to learn from mistakes rather than be confused or overwhelmed by them.  And that makes them better able to sail any boat afterward.)

“There are no overhangs on this little packet. The bow profile shows a hint of concavity to allow some flare into the forward sections. There is also a tiny amount of tumblehome in the midsection with a moderate BWL.

“The shrouds are taken to the deck edge allowing a small jib to be sheeted inside. The mainsheet sheets to a single attachment point on the cockpit sole. All halyards lead aft to jammers within easy reach of the helm. The spar is deck stepped with a hinged step. The interior is a one piece GRP molding with small sink and one burner stove. The portable head is under the V-berth. The small interior space is divided by a trunk that carries that top of the swing keel. A hinged leaf table is attached to this trunk. The four berths are all adult sized.

“On deck, the swim ladder and outboard bracket fit neatly between the twin rudders. The two cockpit lockers contain a space specifically for the outboard fuel tank. The bubblelike desk is striking and set off by a varnished mahogany toerail.

asa first 22 1 boat 1 couple
Closer view of the newer ASA First 22. Larger cockpit, smaller cabin, and Stars n Stripes graphics are the key differences between the original First 21.0 and this version.

“The First 210 appears to combine careful styling with performance and safety. The general approach to this design is similar to the Mini-Transatlantic Class, but the boat is not as radical in proportions as a true mini-transat racer. Beneteau’s tooling of molded parts is as good as any in the business and their approach to finish and style is perhaps the best in the business. These aspects combine to ensure that the little 210 will be a standout.”

(“Mini-transat” refers to the Mini 6.5 class boat: 6.5 meters, basically the same as the first 21.0.  It’s a serious racer.  How serious?  They are raced singlehanded across the Atlantic – with spinnaker.  No shit. They have twin rudders like the Beneteaus.  This class is also raced doublehanded for some regattas.)

ben b & w spinn
Black & white is so timeless! Here’s a great shot of the First 21.0 flying along while flying a kite (spinnaker). Note the simple, spacious cockpit, balancing well with the open deck space making it easy to go forward to moor, anchor, rig a non-furling jib (which is best for learning to sail), etc.

We love this boat, and while they’re fewer and farther between, and much more expensive to buy than the boats more commonly used in sailing schools (J-24’s and Sonars come to mind), they’re worth it as they just work better for teaching.

“Don’t take our word for it!”  Everyone says they have the best boat.  But this is the only design ever endorsed for sailing instruction by a national sail training or sailing school organization such as ASA or US Sailing.

Here are a couple of related links…

America’s Cup and why Sailing the Hudson Still Sucks…

So, the America’s Cup came to New York earlier this season, and it was half empty.

The world’s best sailors and boats – and they couldn’t even get a series off on day one?  They lost half the weekend.  Was it sailable?  Eh….

I was at City Island.  We had a fine time.  But on the Hudson, they had strong enough currents to make it unsailable.  On Sunday, they were sometimes standing still after maneuvers.  Sure, the wind was a little light.  But not THAT light.

This is just one example.  It’s an historical conundrum.  Why do so many people (try to) learn to sail in NY Harbor and the Hudson, when pro sailors can’t figure it out?

  • Perceived proximity
  • Marketing hype
  • The ? factor (as in we just don’t get it)

Don’t take our word for it!  This shot, and the following article excerpts, sum it up nicely.  One of our instructors recently took this picture of a picture.  It was on the wall of another sailing school (down Mid-Atlantic way…)

krunch
Real? Photoshopped? Don’t know… but we know this scene has happened on numerous occasions with several schools in New York Harbor and the Hudson.

And now, back to the America’s Cup from earlier this summer…

Read the following article excerpts, or the whole article via link at bottom, and imagine trying to learn to sail or even enjoy new skills (if even acquired) in NY Harbor and the Hudson.

-from Extreme Sailing to Meet Extreme Conditions on Hudson by Cory Kilgannon (New York Times, May 5, 2016)

nb: we’ve inserted some editorial notes here and there, indented like this.

“Holding a world-class sailing race, part of the America’s Cup series, off Battery Park City may make for spectacular shoreline viewing, but it is not easy for organizers or racers, who may prefer a location farther offshore with easier winds to navigate and little interference from other boat traffic.”

“The race poses daunting logistical challenges. There is the harbor traffic — ferries, tugboats, barges and other large vessels that ply the Hudson — that must be diverted, along with a designated area for the more than 700 personal recreational boats expected to anchor for the event.”

…not to mention Circle Line, the Shark Speedboat Thrill Ride, various large booze cruise boats, etc.

“Then there is the rapid current of the Hudson River as well as effects on the wind by the tall buildings flanking the racecourse, both in Manhattan and on the other side of the river in Jersey City.”

The current is so strong that anyone who’s spent a little time sailing here has had their boat ‘in the groove,’ going full tilt, only to look at the shoreline and see that they’re just standing still.  All boats down there need engines to deal with this and usually get underway and stop under power.  Doesn’t teach how to do it under sail…

The wind sheers and downdrafts created by the buildings are neither pleasant nor productive.

“All of which complicates the task of timing the races to start precisely at 2 p.m. for live coverage of the regatta on Saturday and Sunday.  Races have been held near urban areas before, including in San Francisco and Gothenburg, Sweden, but they have never been staged this close to a downtown area.”

“Organizers have met for months with New York City officials and law enforcement agencies and other parties. Commercial shipping companies have agreed to work around the race times, and a separate lane will be established near the shoreline for ferries and other vessels.”

Sailing school activities (classes, club sails, and races), cruising boats visiting, sailing tours and charters, etc. don’t get this kind of special attention at all and must scurry out of the way of all the commercial traffic – which comes from every direction at once.

“For sailors, a major challenge will be the Hudson’s wind and current conditions. To adapt to the strong tidal current, which during the race will be running south with the outgoing tide, organizers are using heavier anchors and longer chains than usual to secure the race buoys, which are called marks.”

The strong current coupled with light winds wound up killing Saturday. Whole day lost.  (This is supposed to be a competition of the world’s best sailors on fast, high-tech boats capable of speeds over 40 knots.)

“As for the air, the canyon of high-rises in Manhattan’s financial district and in Jersey City could negatively affect the all-important wind that is the sailor’s fuel.”

“For sailors, a major challenge will be the Hudson’s wind and current conditions. To adapt to the strong tidal current, which during the race will be running south with the outgoing tide, organizers are using heavier anchors and longer chains than usual to secure the race buoys, which are called marks.”

“Practice races on Friday will be filmed for use in case conditions on Saturday or Sunday prevent the regatta.”

Welcome to Manhattan, the Mecca of metropolitan Sailing!..   NOT.

Here’s a link to the entire article with a few pics.

America’s Cup: back across the Pond

 

IMG_5225
Looks like Team Oracle (USA) leads here, right? Wrong. Watch the video clip to see how Land Rover rolled right through this group and blew them away.  Use the link below to go to the AmCup site and get the app.

The cup action has moved to Portsmouth, England and is exciting as usual.  Local team Land Rover BAR, led by Sir Ben Ainslie, was in the lead after Saturday’s round of racing.  Ainslie is without a doubt one of the best sailboat racers in recent history, with Olympic medals and world championships under his belt in such tough classes as the Laser and Finn. Add foiling catamarans to the list, and his path to glory starts to resemble that of ‘The Great Dane’ – Paul Elvstrom.

Paul Elvstrøm 1960b.jpg
‘The Great Dane,’ Paul Elvstrom, in the 1960 Olympics in Rome. He’s in a Finn dinghy – the world’s hardest boat to sail. Period.

Elvstrom is arguably the most successful sailor in racing history.

Quick stats…

  • Sailed in 8 Olympiads
  • Won Gold Medals in 4 consecutive Olympiads, a feat duplicated by only 3 other athletes, including Ben Ainslie and Carl Lewis;
  • Medaled (1st, 2nd or 3rd) in 11 World Championships;
  • Did all this in 9 different classes of boat, running the full gamut: singlehanded dinghies, double handed dinghies, 2-man keelboats, 3-man keelboats, and catamarans.  Only thing he didn’t do was sailboards which became popular too late in his career.

Here is a list of racing classes he did all this in:

  • Firefly (singlehanded dinghy)
  • Finn (singlehanded dinshy)
  • Snipe (doublehanded dinghy)
  • 505 (doublehanded dinghy)
  • Flying Dutchman (doublehanded beast of a dinghy/boardboat)
  • Star (doublehanded keelboat)
  • 5.5 Metre (3-man keelboat)
  • Soling* (3-man keelboat)
  • Tornado (doublehanded catamaran)

*The Soling was a true pedigree racing class, but was also very commonly used in adult sailing school programs for a long time.  We used them in our first school.  Sweet ride, but not particularly comfortable or ergonomic for beginners.

On top of all that, he just missed an Olympic bronze medal by one place in the Tornado class catamaran in his 50’s with his teen daughter, Trina, crewing for him.  He also victored in numerous Pan-European Championships, including in the Dragon class keelboat which was very competitive back in the day.

On and off the race course, Elvstrom was developmental in many ways., ranging from sail and spar design and manufacturing to improvements in components (such as self bailing mechanisms), training techniques (his ground breaking hiking bench), and race organization (such as using gates, or two marks to pass between, for large fleets).  He wrote a few books too including Expert Dingy and Keelboat Racing.

Anyway, the times and boats were somewhat different, but all can agree that these are two of the greatest names in the sport of sailboat racing. Sir Ben Ainslie has the distinction of competing in the America’s Cup, the premier small fleet/match-racing event in the sport, and is doing a very good job.

CUPDATE: Ainslie and Team Land Rover (pictured below) won the Portsmouth regatta and have the America’s Cup trial series lead.  That makes them currently the boat to beat and if they maintain their lead, they challenge Team Oracle for the actual Cup.

IMG_5226
Team Land Rover foiling along during the July 23 action on the Solent. Note the stadium seating in background.

To watch previous races, both real-time with commentary and a variety of viewing angles, and really kewl virtual renditions, go to the official America’s Cup site and browse around or better still, get their app.  Racing resumes on Sunday (July 24).  Check it out…

https://www.americascup.com/en/home.html

All-female Learn-to-Sail this weekend

One more spot in Betsy’s boat for learn to sail, and the lucky enrollee will save $200!

Quick stats…

  • Our Start Sailing course (ASA 101/Basic Keelboat)
  • Saturday – Monday, July 2-4
  • 3 honest full days of instruction, almost all on-water
  • 2 half-day supervised practice sails scheduled later
  • ASA 101 Certification included
  • $595 (normally $795)

If you or a woman you know want to snag this spot, hit us up.