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

Please follow and like us:

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.
Please follow and like us:

Kids Trip, BVI: it’s a Wrap

Our inaugural Kid/Parent trip is in the books, and it was a resounding success. We’d been planning to do this for awhile.  It’s always nice when a trip exceeds your expectations, and that’s what happened. Now, we’re thinking of an annual Kid/Parent flotilla during the Presidents’ Week.

Meet the First Families… (Note: click any pic for full size/res – can click twice on lap/desktops)

The afternoon sun had us all squinting but it’s all good. Just about to depart!

Both Moms were graduates of our adult learn-to-sail program and continued sailing with us.  One had already gone on to get her own 27 footer locally in the northeast.  All the kids had some exposure to sailing, and were mostly the same age, so it was a good fit.  We scheduled a slightly shorter week than normal for logistical reasons and at the end of it, we were hearing,.. ” I don’t want to leave.”  That’s a good trip.

While it was mostly oriented at the kids, in this case aged 10-12, the difference between a kids’ itinerary and one for adults is mostly details. The allure of the watery and warm environment, swimming and snorkeling, and some hiking and sight seeing works for all.

Grins are good. Running along the north shore of Tortola en route to Jost Van Dyke.

We managed to get in a fairly typical itinerary of islands and anchorages, even including Anegada as the winds were relatively calm. Jumping in from the swim platform seemed to rank highest in customer satisfaction.  Snorkeling and running around like banshees on the beach placed and showed respectably.  One medium hike and one that was arguably a little too long went over surprisingly well.

Marine sightings included one dolphin, several large sea turtles, more large tarpon than usual, a spotted eagle ray that came flying out of the water like a bat out of hell chasing bait fish, a fairly curious ‘cuda (just for the Captain who was off on a snorkeling flyer), and numerous colorful and oddly shaped reef fish found by several of the kids and adults

Winds were light this time, and we didn’t have to reef once.  We saw others with reduced sail plans on occasion but we didn’t see the need, even with kids.  The boat just didn’t heel much.  When it was ‘sailing for the sake of sailing,’ the kids were fond of pointing out when the boat speed dipped below a few knots, and when it made more sense, we occasionally motor sailed to keep it moving.


Day One: mid-afternoon departure, after receiving the boat at noon, so lucky to get to an anchorage at all and happy to punch it under power.   Went to Marina Cay, a good jumping off point for other anchorages. Great shake-down snorkel for all, all of whom were brand new to it with one exception.

Captain Casual, trying to not be Captain Obvious (as in not over coaching, as she got it right away). First leg of trip, less than half an hour out.

Day Two: off to Anegada.  Forecast seemed to favor it, and once we poked our nose out past the main islands, it was confirmed in real time. This was one of the best sails of the trip, never needing to motor to keep up a good cruising speed.  All who wanted to steer got plenty of time. Some ocean swells, but nothing we couldn’t handle from a comfort standpoint.

Made lunch and then took an open-air taxi ride to Loblolly Bay and Beach on the north shore, one of several great spots.  Across the inland pond we were able to see part of the resident pink flamingo colony of the island.  Far away, but they were there.  Snorkeling, scrubbing energy on the beach, tightrope and hammock games, and a little ice cream didn’t hurt.

Apres snorkel ice cream. Loblolly Beach, Anegada.

Day Three: Virgin Gorda.  not enough wind to justify trying to sail back so we motored and made the time pass with games and snacks. Moored up at Saba Rock, then the kids did what they do best: jump off the boat for awhile.  The Captain organized a day trip for the group to The Baths, the famous boulder formations at the other end of Virgin Gorda.  They had a blast while the Captain caught up on correspondence, scoped out a new snorkeling spot, and shot some pool with pepperoni pizza for sustenance.

Not a typical scene anywhere – except at The Baths on Virgin Gorda. This is just one of many spectacular pools amongst the boulders.

Day Four: on to Jost Van Dyke.  Combo of sailing and motoring to get the miles under the keel, but it was a fun ride.  Gentle ocean swells at times and otherwise flat.  First, we moored off Sandy Cay and did a dinghy drop of passengers to play and explore the small island, which was donated by Rockefeller in 2008.  It’s a delightful swim over a sandy bottom to get ashore, then one can take a short scenic hike to the top and back down the other side for great vistas and getting the wiggles out.  Huge hermit crabs are scattered around the trail here.

Much taller than it looks, little Sandy Cay is a great day stop. Swim in from your moored or well anchored yacht; hike up the trail to the top and back around the other side.

We anchored off Little Jost Van Dyke for the evening, affording more diving maneuvers (mostly cannonballs) off the swim platform before we did a group trip to he Bubbly Pool, a moderate walk from the dinghy dock.  This is a small beach almost completely enclosed with lava formations and rocks, through which the open Caribbean surf rolls in from time to time making a foamy whirlpool of things.  Very fun and relaxing; well worth the walk.

The Bubbly Pool, Jost Van Dyke. Waves break through the rocks and tumble in, creating a foamy, refreshing bubble bath.

Day Five: more snorkeling and swimming before weighing anchor and setting sail for Norman Island, our last anchorage of the trip.  We sailed most of the way, furling up before negotiating Thatch Cut at the west end of Tortola, and then enjoying our first real beat of the trip with several tacks thrown in as we zig-zagged along St. John.

After mooring in the Bight at Norman, we dinghied in for the long hike to Money Bay towards the other end of Norman.  One kid/parent turned back after making a good show of it and played at the main beach, including a kayak rental.  The rest of us trudged on and made it to Money Bay for a secluded snorkeling expedition followed by lunch and a more downhill return.  Followed, of course, by ice cream and virgin daiquiris…

One of the scenic overlooks on the Norman Island hike.

Next up: snorkeling at the Caves off the headland of the Bight.  Excellent visibility this time; not many schools of fish but plenty of large parrot fish, a few trumpets, and other individual and paired sightings.  Followed, of course, but scores of jumps off the back of the boat once we returned.

Rinse & repeat. And repeat. This never got old for them.

What didn’t we do?  The Willy T, appropriately.  There’s always the March 18-25 trip (still room for two more people…).


Kids & Parents in the BVI.  it was meant to be, and will be again next year.  Many of you have asked about this; we’ve been preparing for it; and now it’s a reality that we’ll keep exploring with you in the BVI and elsewhere.

See some more pics and clips from this and other trips on our Instagram!

Please follow and like us:

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 

Please follow and like us:

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.)

Please follow and like us:

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…

Please follow and like us:

“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.

Please follow and like us:

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…

Please follow and like us:

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.

Please follow and like us: