Volvo Ocean Race: Struck by Tragedy Again

A veteran and highly respected sailor, John Fisher, was lost at sea on March 27 during the Volvo Ocean Race’s long, dangerous leg in the Southern Ocean.  He was knocked overboard by the mainsheet during an accidental jibe.  And, he was not tethered to the boat at the time.


This was the second overboard accident on the same boat, Scallywag, in this event.  The other sailor also wasn’t tethered, and was not wearing a life jacket.  The conditions were much calmer so they got him back aboard safely in 7 minutes.

Things often happen in twos in both the Volvo and Clipper Races.  And, the deaths are starting to pile up.


So, why wasn’t he clipped in?  Why couldn’t they rescue him?  Why do race organizers send the sailors on a long dangerous leg in the southern Ocean, where one of our own graduates at NY Sailing Center was washed overboard but pulled back by his tether during a Clipper Race?  Why do they go?

Well, we know that part.  People drawn to participate in such events are always going to go wherever the challenge occurs.  The other questions are all worth discussing.  And, I’m not seeing or hearing discussions on what I see as the prime issues raised by these accidents.

Scallywag sending up some serious water, which when it comes over the boat and at the sailors, can easily sweep them off their feet – and the boat if they’re not tethered in. Note the rudder coming out of the water: twin rudders like this are the norm for most ocean racing classes, including the Mini 6.5 meter. Our Beneteau First 21 sloops are remarkably similar in profile, and also have twin rudders.

First: Why are people not ALWAYS wearing PFD’s (life jackets) AND secured to the boat with a tether?  First one: duh.  Should require no discussion.   These boats are going fast, often, if not typically, over 20 knots.  They’re sailing in open ocean waters with waves and swells.  Even in relatively calm conditions, it takes time to turn around, and at speeds of 15-25 knots (and we’ve seen posts that they go over 30 but I’m not convinced as of yet), the boat gets away from the person in the water quickly.  The waters are often cold.  People should always have a PFD on.

Second: Why are people not ALWAYS secured to the boat with a tether?  It’s a critical last line of defense.  John Fisher wasn’t clipped in.  He unclipped to go forward to do some task that he or they felt was important enough at the time to go forward for.  He might have been about to clip back in to another jackline (security line or webbing that the personal tether attaches to).  If that was the case, why aren’t the boats rigged to allow “make before break,” as they say with combined battery switches?  Many boats have that when it’s not practical to rig a continuous jackline.  Perhaps this boat was and it was user error.  Wasn’t there; hasn’t been posted; don’t know.

If Mr. Fisher was tethered in, he probably would have survived.  Because he was not, he had little chance of being recovered at all, and even less alive.  I’m seeing arguments in different forums where one sailor will criticize decisions on board as well as the entire event as organized and ruled by race management.  The flip side sees sailors calling these shameless, bitter, angry rants that show that the first sailor doesn’t know what they’re talking about, and defends the personal liberties and sense of adventure of the people on the water.

And, the person who just died.

But the basics are patently obvious so I won’t further belabor them here.  I just wish that the defenders of the race and the participants  – and the dead – would get their head out of this perspective and see the bloody obvious, and discuss something they’re not, and should be given their experience with this kind of extreme sailing, to wit…

THIRD: Here’s something that’s less obvious.  The gear sometimes fails.  That wasn’t the case here.  However, in both the Volvo and Clipper races, and in other races and non-race passages, tethering systems have broken and sailors were in the water with the boat sailing away.  The faster these boats go, the more shock load is put on the connections when they come taught.  At 20-25 knots, I can’t even imagine what the PSI load would be based on the average weight of a sailor plus water resistance with safety and survival equipment.  Occasionally, it’s not enough.

I hear and read about different types of connections – which are stronger, which are more practical, how to balance the dual needs (including how to not flay ones knuckles on the gear aboard the boat).

What I’m not hearing about is this: shock absorption.  If the tethers were rigged with something elastic to gradually absorb the shock load, the load on the components would be less severe upon ultimate impact.  That could only help.  Of course, it might make the tether more awkward.  I suppose it could, indirectly, lead to a greater risk of fouling onboard and actually causing someone to get twisted, off balance, and go overboard in the first place.  I’m not going to pretend I’ve worked this all out.

But, it needs to be done.  I propose that either…

  1. The tech be improved with a method of shock absorption if feasible;
  2. The boats be mandated to stay below a specified top speed.  The faster they’re going, the more risk, as it’s caused by increasing wind (which, in open water, is soon accompanied by larger waves).  It’s easy to track; the boats are accurately tracked by satellite at all times.

The Southern Ocean is a brutal area to sail.  Perhaps the race should minimize time and distance spent sailing here, or avoid it altogether.  That’s been bandied about on various forums.  Regardless, the obvious safety measures of always wearing PFD’s and always being clipped in must be mandated (if not already), and observed.  And, as people WILL be tossed, knocked, or washed overboard anyway, the equipment must be improved or the boats slowed down.  Or, both.  We can have high quality racing and have much better safety as well.

But first: people are still not always wearing PFD’s or tethering themselves.

Who wouldn’t agree with the need for starting with that?


Here’s an article on the tragedy that has the most detail we’ve been able to find…

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/volvo-ocean-race-sailor-wasnt-tethered-when-he-was-knocked-overboard-timeline/article38353153/


Here’s the Volvo Ocean Race’s photo gallery of John Fisher…

https://www.volvooceanrace.com/en/photo/11417_John-Fisher.html

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We Started Sailing!

Well, yeah – we went out on that super warm day in February, but that doesn’t count.  We officially kicked off our 2018 sailing season on March 31 and Easter Sunday, April 1.  No foolin!  On both days we chose our Pearson 10M, Kilroy Was Here.  (Our Pearson 26, Second Wind, was an option as well.)

The Longest Season in the NortheastSM – another way we give you MORE.

Anywho, Saturday saw light and variable breezes to start out, including a little motionless hang time.  It’s all good in the Sound and its surrounding bays and harbors… there’s little current, and very predictable commercial traffic.  Soon, enough wind picks up to sail meaningfully, even as little as 5 knots.  (Don’t try that in NY Harbor and the Rivers.)

See the trimaran between the boys? It was our only sailing company the whole weekend. it seemed to appear from Manhasset Bay, a quick sail even for a monohull from City Island or vice versa. Kept photo bombing us!

Later, the southwesterly picked up just like a summer sea breeze, but cooler of course.  We made it to Stepping Stones Lighthouse, our modest goal, before that and rode it almost to Fort Totten off Little Neck Bay.

Sailing wing on wing up the Sound as we cruise back toward Stepping Stone Lighthouse on Saturday. Open Long Island Sound is behind and to the right.

We passed the light again, then decided that was plenty of fun and rode the building breeze back in to get docked up.  This was a Club sail with two members present- Adam (graduate of several of our courses who went on to bareboat in the BVI based on that), and Piers, a recent learn-to-sail graduate who’s going to take 105 next weekend and 103 & 104 as the season progresses.

The wind picked up nicely after reaching the light on Saturday and we flew back north before turning into Eastchester Bay to berth the boat.

Easter Sunday was a teen outing put together by a long-standing client and friend of the Sailing Center, Jim, who has a small daysailor of his own.  The young adults had a blast, all taking turns steering, and eventually letting Jim have a shot.

Teen trip on Easter Sunday! One more hiding out of sight somewhere, plus the Dad of two who put it together. Stepping Stones starting to look familiar back there?

We did the true City Island-style Lighthouse Loop!   Okay – technically, not – we didn’t go around Stepping Stones.  Not worth it; tricky passage and waste of distance and time.  But we went just past it and turned and looped alongside.  Good enough.  Then, we went very close to Gangway Rock, cutting between it and it’s very nearby gong buoy.  How  close?  THIS close…

Gangway Rock Light, off Manhasset Neck. Gorgeous picnic spot – there’s a deeply curved bight with a beach that locals call Half Moon Bay. That’s an osprey flying in the photo. Almost always a next on the lights near City Island, making for numerous birdwatching (and listening) options.

Then, on to Execution if the wind held and the teens steered well.  And both did their duty.  So, we went all the way around Execution and its red nun on the far side, and then tacked to head back to City Island Harbor and then around into our off-season slip for Kilroy on the Eastchester Bay side.  Lovely ride.

Approaching Execution Rock Lighthouse, Easter Sunday. Fun, easy and safe itinerary – out around the light and back! Have to look at the chart and see what marks the safe passage, but if you bother, it’s easy.

Did we mention the fun?..

Post faux-Titanico fun on Easter Sunday aboard Kilroy Was Here.

Want to get in on it?

Our Sailing Club has Skipper memberships for those of you who are ready to just go.  We also have Social/Crew memberships for those who are not.  Want to bridge the gap?  Of course, as a school, we have courses, clinics and even private instruction.  We have what you might need not just to skipper a day sailor in Long Island Sound, but to cruise the whole thing or charter a Bareboat yacht in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, or anywhere else charter companies exist for that.

Want to see some clips?  Here are two on Insta…

Saturday’s Club Sail

Easter Sunday Teen Sail

Want to learn more?  Here you go…

Sailing Club Memberships

Sailing Courses, Clinics & Privates

Instructional Sailing Vacations

 

 

 

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Turn Initiation: it’s not just for Skis and Snowboards anymore…

As we’re deep in the throes of a cold start to the winter – polar vortex/arctic blast kind of cold – thoughts are somewhat removed from sailing.  But not entirely.

While on the slopes enjoying fresh pow over the holidays, and warming back up to techniques shelved during the boating season, I was reminded of the concept of turn initiation.  Don’t ski or ride?  Don’t even sail yet?   No problem – we’ll break it all down and maybe even get you stoked in the process.

Looks like this rider either tried an abrupt start or ending her last turn that way. Wasn’t there; can’t be sure. But it looks like she made a zig-zag of quick pivot turns in a that are on the right in pic. Her edge and bottom of board are a brake right now. Good if she wanted to stop quickly. How does that translate to the rudder of a sailboat? Read on…

“Turn initiation” is the technique used to get a ski or snowboard to go from flat on the snow to beginning a turn to one side.  Anyone who can link turns on either kind of plank knows what I’m talking about.  It’s like this: we make certain motions to suggest to the equipment that we want to turn instead of going straight.  After it starts listening, we add more motion to shape and complete the turn to the extent we want.  Regardless of what kind of turn we make, we have to start it – and eventually end it.

Same with boats!  Techniques, and consequences for ignoring them, are different.  Thankfully for sailing, there are usual no real consequences.

If you ski or ride, but are beginner to intermediate, it’s time to think about this again as you begin your snow sliding season.   You experts out there don’t think much about it, but warm up your technique and self-critique as you get your form back each season.

These guys are about to go down a moderately steep trail at Killington in Vermont. Skiers have two planks. Duh. Translation to sailing? Twin rudders that can operate independently. Kewl!

Back to sailing and turning a boat.  Let’s leave special techniques like steering with sails, and with body weight, out of it and focus on the thing we all use all of the time: the rudder.  (Don’t even sail yet?  That’s the fin that we turn back in forth behind the boat to make the boat turn, like a paddle stuck in the water and angled to one side.  Makes the boat turn.)

At the most basic level, we angle the rudder to one side or the other when we want to turn a boat.  Some boats have a stick attached called a tiller, found on smaller boats and almost mandatory to learn with.  Once the boat is in the upper 20-foot range, and especially at around 30 feet, it tends to have a wheel instead.  As the rudder is angled more to one side, the pressure of the water hitting it pushes it back the other way, taking that end of the boat with it.  The boat pivots in the middle, and turns.  (The direction the fin aims is also where it want to go once it gets moving.)

So, to make a slight or narrow turn, the rudder does not need to angle much to the side.  To make a sharp or tight turn, the rudder needs to move pretty far over.   Turn initiation is really the rate of motion to get it started, so that the whole process works better.

On a board or skis, if we suddenly wrench the plank over to the side, we often catch an edge in the snow and catapult or slam.  No fun.  But if we get the edge to gently start engaging, and then add more edge and pressure, we can smoothly get the plank on its edge and into a turn.  Can’t usually skip steps: have to START the turn before shaping and completing it, before ending it.

I haven’t skied since I as a boy, but I’ve watched a lot of skiers.  Good skiers are graceful in their transitions.  I’m a pretty solid boarder – somewhere in the advanced range by objective standards I’ve come across. I’ve watched a lot of boarders too.  I won’t pretend I know how to turn skis.  But Im supposed to be expert at understanding how to turn a board, as I’m a certified instructor.  So, I’ll talk about boards.

“I PISS on snowboards and boarders!” That you?  That’s fine. We’ll just shred around you and share the slopes with others.

For most turns on a snowboard – and some experts say all – we initiate by twisting the front of the board slightly so one edge is pressing into the snow and the other starting to lift.  Think of holding the ends of an ice cream stick with your thumbs and forefingers.  Now, think of holding one end level, but rotating or twisting the other end slightly.  That’s the general idea.  In the air, this does nothing but flex the stick.  But on snow, one edge of that stick presses into the snow, and starts to take the rest with it to that side.

Of course, we add some at the other end, and make more of a turn.  And, release.  And, rinse and repeat, maybe mixing it up from time to time to not get bored.

How do we translate this to turning a sailboat?

Think of the rudder as the edge.  initiation is turning the rudder ever so slightly to suggest to the boat that it should stop going straight, and to pivot.  Once it listens, we gradually increase the rate of turn but angling the rudder more.  But at what rate?  And how far?

This is the beautiful part, elegant in its simplicity.

We slowly, steadily, move the tiller to the side.  One simple, steady motion.  Easy.  How far?  Until we like how much the boat is turning.  For how long?  Until we’re half way through the turn, at which point we reverse the motion at exactly the same rate.

What if we need the turn to happen quickly?  Well, there is no shortcut here unless we’re throwing the boat around with our body weight, and/or using sails to help turn the boat.  Again, let’s leave it at rudder only for this discussion.  (And even when we’re using other techniques, rudder action doesn’t change.)

Too many sailors just jam the rudder over hard when they want to make a quick and/or large turn, especially for tacking (crossing through the wind quickly and ‘catching’ it again on the other side).  Jamming it over skips the initiation.  Consequences?

Drag.  The rudder is now sideways to the water, creating lots braking resistance.  Imagine gliding along in a canoe or kayak, and suddenly jamming the paddle in the water off the back end, with the flat side perpendicular to the direction of travel.  Sea brakes!  Craft slows down.  Think of air brakes on a plane.  Overuse them at the wrong time, and the plane starts to drop.

Stalling.  Because it’s angled too aggressively to the flow of water, the water doesn’t flow around the far side of the rudder, and and bottlenecks against the near side.   Water flow around the rudder allows the rudder to take the back end of the boat with it in an arcing turn, and therefore makes the front go the other way, pivoting around the middle.  Stall the flow, and we stall the turn.  (This also increases “leeway,” both when turning and when trying to go straight, for those with more sailing savvy.  It’s why excessive rudder angle has to be dealt with one way or another when going straight.)

Sorry, only one color still had ink… On your left: outline of a sailboat and its rudder, shown twice – straight, and also cocked slightly to port (left). The curved lines and arrows show how the water would flow over it on both sides and allow good turn initiation. On your right: severe rudder angle typical of many sailors when they make a large turn, especially to tack (cross through the wind quickly). Arrows and squiggly lines show turbulence with little to no water flow.  This is what happens if you simply jam the tiller over.  What a drag…

It’s slightly counter-intuitive at first.  “I want to turn hard, so why not just turn the tiller/wheel hard?”  Doesn’t work that way.  You’ll get there sooner by starting slower.  A slow, steady, linear motion of the tiller (or wheel) gives you everything you need:

  1. Turn initiaiton.  Suggests to the boat what you want to do, and it gently begins.
  2. Shaping.  We turn the rudder enough to get the turn shape/speed we want.
  3. Completion.  So simple – half way through the arc of the turn, we just reverse what we did with the rudder at the same steady rate!

The tiller moves in a linear fashion, but the boat turns in a crescendo/decrescendo.  See?  We’re teaching to both logical learners and musical/rhythmic ones!   If we graph it out, we’ll see different patterns for the tiller and the boat…

On your left: graph of what the tiller motion is like – linear in speed.  On your right: the effect this has on both rudder angle and boat’s turn shape: good turn initiation, shaping, and completion. WooHOOO!

The more rudder angle, the greater the turn.  To get there, we simply move the tiller steadily to gradually increase rudder angle, and therefore the rate of turn.  Your boat will take over, and the rudder will follow.  When you feel that, you’ll know you got it right.

Then, you’ll be ready to shred!

Want to learn more about turning a sailboat?  See us at NY Sailing Center in the spring.  We start in April.

Want to learn how to snowboard?  Already ride, but want to improve or take it to the next level?  Our Director, Dockmaster and rambling Editor at Large, Captain Card, is a certified snowboard instructor who loves to teach.  Hit him up to discuss getting out on snow.  This can be as close as Mountain Creek, NJ (an hour from the GWB), as far as South/Central Vermont, or mid way at Hunter or Windham in the Castkills.

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Lighting up a Light House

A client of ours is originally from Canada, and two buddies and he did 103 and 104 with us one season before doing their first bareboat charter in the BVI.

Adam’s uncle got involved with a latent lighthouse in Ontario, Canada. He’s on the local preservation committee, and had been trying to get it lit back up. Apparently, it was a somewhat uphill battle as there were concerns about the light shining on shoreside homes at night and being intrusive.  The major’s office was involved and favored the light being back on, so that helped.
Here’s an excerpt from the original Notice to Mariners in 1917 that announced the construction of this light!..
For its return, the compromise was to aim the light across the bay at another peninsula rather than sweep across the shore or just aim 360 all around.  Our mission: confirm the exact bearing, and show/explain why we came up with the magic number.
(Truth be told, Adam was more than capable of doing this himself, having successfully taken and passed 103, 104 and 105 with us and then applied it in the BVI. But this had to come from us as the outside experts.)
Anywho, Adam enlisted us to be the alleged experts to plot the angle of the light and show how we’d done it.

Dividers (nautical drafting compass) set exactly on the two points; protractor triangle was laid carefully against them to be on the correct bearing. Then, triangle was carefully moved to a meridian of longitude to read the bearing in true degrees. This was converted to magnetic so bearings could be taken from either point in real time to confirm.
1. Get the right chart.  Adam took care of this: NOAA #14832, Upper Niagara River, ending in Lake Erie.

2. ID the light in question: “Light House,” on Point Abino.  No characteristics shown as it’s idle.

3. ID the exact spot the new light is supposed to be aimed at: SW corner of the peninsula across the bay at the other end of Crystal Beach.
4. Measure the bearing painstakingly several times with at least two methods and get a consistent answer: 61 degrees magnetic.

There you have it.  And thar she glows…

The light house at Point Abino, Ontario, with its beacon aimed back across the bay.
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10 Kayakers versus Ferry, Hudson River. And the winner is…

On August 30th, a group of 10 kayakers was basically run over by a NY Waterway ferry that was backing out of its Manhattan slip into the glare of the sun in the western sky.  Several were injured; two seriously.  It’s all under investigation of course.  Not many other facts have been reported so far and thus it’s hard to piece it all together.

The kayak company involved claims to not have had a collision before in its 20-year operating history.  But the incident does beg some questions…

  • Was the kayak group being reckless, passing close by an active ferry dock?
  • Did the ferry sound a proper signal and post a proper lookout?
  • Are New York Harbor and the Hudson & East Rivers even suitable environments for kayaks and stand-up paddleboards?

There’s been a large increase in kayak and even paddleboard activity around Manhattan recently. It’s cheap, easy access to the water.  But the water moves – fast.  There are strong currents that make real sailboats stand still against the skyline while sailing full tilt.  Then there’s the traffic.

“You have every single marine traffic situation that is known to man, every single day.  You have high speed ferries of different sizes that have different routes, you have pleasure craft, you have ocean liners, you have commercial dredges.  It all exists here.  You see kayak and paddleboard people on the Hudson River with a 3- or 4-knot current at dusk — it’s insane.”

-Captain Frank Crescitelli, fishing charter captain (“Fin Chaser”) based in New York Harbor.  (As quoted in the NY Times article referenced below.)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (New York Sailing Center’s location on City Island, half the length of Manhattan away from it but light years away as far as the boating and sailing environment), we have the Touring Kayak Club near our moorings.  They launch from their own ramp in City Island Harbor.  Sometimes, I think they stray a bit far from their base, but the traffic conditions are far more manageable and predictable here.  Plus, currents can usually be swum against, so paddling against them is a cinch.

TKC is a private membership club that no one seems to know much about. The last time I checked, they were wait-listed.  At New York Sailing Center, we are planning to introduce kayaking and perhaps boardsailing (“windsurfing”) in 2017.

As for NY Harbor and the Rivers, it’s hard even for non-capsizing sailboats to manage all the logistics and stay safe on, much less enjoy, the waterways.  We keep hearing of collisions and capsizes – yes, capsizes with non-capsizing sailboats!  Why?  They push it.  They fly spinnakers without enough experience, training, or regard for weather.  So, they flip ’em.  And, sometimes sink ’em.  Seriously?  Yup, so just say no to SUP…

“It’s a super-accessible way to get exposure to the waterways, where there is a really undiscovered part of New York City; there’s a mystique to it. But if you’ve never experienced a 40-knot vessel coming at you with a kayak, that’s a problem.”

-Elias Vaisberg, who runs kayak fishing tours out of Staten Island.  (As quoted in NYT article referenced below.)

The quotes above were from the NY Times article about it on August 30 titled “Recreation and Commerce Collide on New York’s Crowded Waterways” by 

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Olympics: Bronze for USA, plus the Couple Who Sails Apart…

Caleb Paine was in fourth place going into the medal race in the Finn dinghy class on Tuesday.  He led at every mark and took the race – and took the Bronze medal in the process.

caleb bronze
Sailing equivalent of a victory lap. Caleb Paine celebrating after securing Bronze.

The Finn is a large singlehanded dinghy, used as the ‘heavyweight’ men’s singlehanded class.  It’s had a very long reign in Olympic sailing – uninterrupted since the 1952 Games. It’s arguably the hardest boat to sail well in the world.  It’s certainly the most brutal.

This was Paine’s first Olympic appearance.  He skipped college to pursue competitive sailing, and apparently it paid off.  Congratulations!


Two other Olympians who wound up with significant fourth place stats in their classes have a lot in common…

  • Sail the same boat (Laser)
  • Live in the same country (Italy)
  • Share blood relatives

Who are they?

Gintaré and Robert Scheidt…

scheidette 2012
Yes, her boat says 2012 – but she was indeed in the current 2016 Games too. This pic syncs well with the next one…

scheidt

So, they sail they same boat, although Gintaré’s rig is the Radial (smaller sail and bottom half of mast).  They represent different countries (Gintaré is originally from Lithuania).  They are married with children, and live together in Italy.  Gintaré was fourth in the medal race (7th overall), and Robert won the medal race which brought him to 4th overall. He won one of the earlier races but also had some poor outings.

Had he Bronzed, he would have won his 6th Olympic sailing medal in two classes – the Laser and the Star class doublehanded keelboat, which are as far apart as actual boats get in the Olympics.  Only the sailboard class (RS:X) is further removed from the Star.  Two Golds, two Silvers, and a Bronze – in two very different boats.  This writer can’t think of a better Olympic sailing record.  Elvström won 4 golds in two dinghies, the Firefly and the Finn, but I think Scheidt’s record is even more impressive.


Here’s hoping that the US women’s 470 team converts their 2nd place in overall standings into a podium finish.  To be continued…

Want to watch live and also get some replays?  Here are links to NBC’s streaming page for sailing.  Most prior days’ coverage are available but the last two weren’t last time we checked.

http://www.nbcolympics.com/sailing   (Main sailing page with news and schedules for streaming)

http://stream.nbcolympics.com/sailing-day-3  (First day of replays that are actually available on demand.  Edit the number to try the day you want.  Was working up through day 8 last time we checked and tech difficulties for days 1 & 2.)

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“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.

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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…

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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….

It 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.

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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

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