Saturday, October 31, 2009

Stick a fork in it...

Seasons definiteley over!
We got one last great sail in on the 18th. Sunny, flat and breezy. We took the boat downtown and went past Navy Pier.

Then the inevitable terror of haulout/trailering the boat. I'm really thinking next year we might just sail the boat to the yard, and save me the nailbiting trailer chase.

Whats on the schedule for boatwork this winter? Jack! There are lots of jobs I can think of, like draining/sealing the deadwood, fairing the bottom, etc etc. but the boat is good enough for what we're doing with it next year, so I think I might just take the winter off 88 projects for once, and save a bunch of money and frostbitten fingers. Nationals next year is TBD, and depending on where they hold it we may or may not go, which could change this plan, but right now I think it's pretty light winter projects.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Seasons End

We had the last 2 series races yesterday; an absolutely perfect way to end a year of sailing. It was forecast to be light westerly, and we had me, Niki, Jacob and Katie. I was looking forward to it as I wanted our last racing to be better than the OCS recovery we had at the end of Nationals, and because the light air would give us some time to tune the boat better for that condition.

Race 1: We had the season wrapped up, so today was the day I was going to ask our regular crew to drive, as they're all great sailors and would do well on the helm. Jacob was the only one available, so he drove race 1. After some practice on the way out, he got a great start and looked good upwind. I was doing main/spin, which is my favorite crew job on a Shields. It gave me a good chance to play with the new mast shape, and I felt like we had it going well. This was one of those races thats pretty boring to write about, as Jacob won the start, extended on every leg and then won by a giant margin. The funny thing was we rounded our last windward mark just as some Etchells were sailing downwind near us, and we spent the entire mile leg being next to the same 3 etchells while they luffed and rolled each other. We actually finished nucleus of a blob of 6 etchells, who seemed to be using us as a pick! I think next time we'll just drop chute and let them by, although it was pretty fun to watch them all jockey for position around us.

Next race was more exciting, probably too much soo. I drove this one, and really pooched the start when 39 came up from leeward and seemed intent on keeping both of us away from the favored pin. 130 won the pin, but was over early and had to restart. We sailed up on the favored board for a couple minutes, only to watch it become unfavored fast as 130, who restarted launched ahead out on the right. We were about 4th at this point, and got tacked on by just about everyone before we escaped right. We looked great, and seemed to be leading, but were chagrined to see the rest of our fleet sail to the short mark when we kept going for the long one! We reached down to the short mark in last place, made a couple gains playing the shifts, and rounded midpack again, only to have the boat ahead have a terrible rounding, on which we owed them room and had to sail about 4 lengths off the wind. All the boats behind caught up again, and we were last yet again. We were quick enough upwind to play the shifts and take the lead again, then we thankfully went to the correct mark with 196 ducking us at the mark (they sailed an awesome race, but lost their lift at the end and couldn't quite make it), extended downwind and then again upwind to finish with a nice margin, and again with a bunch of etchells. We now know what the heck the "W5b" course is! ps its 2x short course, then finish upwind.

It was a really satisfying day. The first race Jacob horizoned the fleet, and the second we had about 3 last-to-first rallys which made for some excitement. More satisfying is we really learned a couple new gears for light air upwind, and I'm looking forward to applying them next year. 88 won the season handily.

A bit bittersweet going off the water for the last real race, but we left the club right away to celebrate our first wedding anniversary, and had an awesome night on the town! We've got a couple daysails planned, and at least one more beercan on the schedule. For winter we've got a couple neat tricks to put in place, so there should be a few more tech updates.

Thanks to the crew of 88, as well as all the friends of Peanut who made this season a ton of fun.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Photos from the Big Chair

Erik Schneider is our regular PRO for One Design Racing, also Shields Nationals. While running the show he also managed to find a couple photos of us. While is down, please enjoy his images.

This is an _awesome_ Shields photo from a couple weeks ago on one of our heavy air days.

This is warming up for Day 3 of Nationals. As much as the purple chute has grown on me, I'm still surprised by it's purpleness in photos.
88 getting ready to do what it apparently does best: go upwind in slop
Our crew from earlier this year: me, Brian, Jocelyn, Jacob and Niki

Monday, September 21, 2009

Shields Nationals recap

Sailing Nationals was great fun, and great racing. One of the defining moments came when we were standing around the cranes helping out of town boats haul out. People were poking around other boats, talking setup here and there, all the while people (including the champ) are leaping off the seawall. Everyone was just so friendly, it really showed what our fleet was all about.

We had a good time on 88, but it's only fair to acknowledge we didn't have as good a result as we'd expected. After having 2 really excellent seasons in which we won just about everything we sailed against everyone we could I felt like we'd be top 5 at least, but we ended up 7th overall. That said, as Niki and talk about the regatta I think we're both really happy with our first Nats. The experience of getting to race against some of the best boats in our class was really thrilling. I always felt like we just outside the pack of 3 or 4 front runners, and if we had done just a little bit better we would have been up high in the results.

Good times aside, I really like to learn something constructive from every day of sailing, and we picked up quite a bit from this event. Some of the things we could be doing better:

-Light air upwind speed. For whatever reason we felt slow most of the time in light air. Lots of factors could be at work here, but I think the biggest one is that we just haven't sailed enough light air races! This seasons been really windy, and much of 08 was as well. We felt very well prepared for big breeze, but knew we were a bit weak in the light stuff. Looking at photos from the event, our sail setup usually looks a bit different than the really fast guys. We tend to have less headstay sag, and far more main leech return down low. One interesting thing from a measurement point of view, is that the boats that are at max partner aft/max step forward tended to do better on the later days of the event, and the ones with more moderate step positions tended to do better in the light. This seems like a good reason to experiment with blocking the mast at the partners, something we've been thinking about all season but only really tried once.

-Light air tactics on big courses. In Chicago we're used to the RC adjusting course length depending on wind strength. In big breeze we might do 4-5 mile courses, and in light air it's usually under 4. All of our races were started, and usually ended up around 6 miles. That means that on a 1.5m windward leg, you can had boats separated by up to that same mile and a half! Saying it pays to pick a side is an understatement. In the really light air stuff-like thursdays first race- the favored side was a huge advantage, but changed leg to leg! We tend to be a boat that plays the shifts, and usually ends up going up the middle of the course on the favored tack. After racing we realized we'd been tacking way too much, and some of the tacks were probably due to velocity headers more than actual shifts. Seems like patience is another thing we need in light air.

-laylines. We had 5 or 6 bad layline calls in which we saw boats sail right by us. Part of my usual upwind strategy is to have a really close top third of the beat where we come in in port late enough to really nail the tacking angles, which we didn't end up doing this regatta. Adding to that was all the extra boats around! Even if you called a good layline, you had to anticipate the traffic better as a good layline goes bad once a boat stacks up above or ahead of you.

Those were the couple big shortcomings on 88 I feel. Once the breeze was a little bit up on Saturday, we had 1 good race (2nd) in which we could power the boat up and punch through chop well, at the same time we could play the shifts the way the compass called.

There are far more good things to come out of this event than bad though, and in keeping with the great time we had there are areas we did really well in.

-Starts. Usually my weakest part of the leg, this turned out to be a really high point for us. Part of it was the out of town boats are used to starting in fleets this big, so they tend to go for their own best start instead of trying to mess with whoever happens to be to windward (the OCS we had in race 7 was actually when a Chicago boat sailed under us and took us up). The other part was picking our spot early, and coming in with lots of speed, but still taking big luffs when we needed to. I found myself really looking forward to the starts this regatta, and think it was a good confidence builder for the future.

-It never really blew over 12 or so even on the "windy" last day, but anytime the breeze was up a bit over 6kts I felt really fast both upwind and down. This makes a lot of sense, as most of our teams experience is in bigger breeze.

-Our team really kept it together when things looked bad. In my 10 years of Shields racing, I've been on the fleet3 season winning boat every year, so we've always been confident going into Nationals, and sometimes things go badly early and everyone melts down a bit. This weekend we certainly got tense, but never really lost control. I was really proud of Niki on the bow, as she kept the attitude on the boat light, and kept us working hard to get back what we might have lost. Everyone on 88 is a really good sailor, but they're on the boat because of attitude as well.

-Sponsoring this event with Chicago Yacht Rigging as title sponsor was really rewarding! We got great feedback from people who checked out our boat, and people seemed to really appreciate our involvement. I'd really like to be involved with future National events, as it's a great feeling to do something big for the class.

-Boathandling was great. We never really had bad moves all week, and I feel like we'd gain with every tack on other boats. A couple new tricks appeared on our boat, probably my favorite was how Jocelyn and Brian are working the main in tacks: Brian does a big traveler up to initiate the tack, at the same time Jocelyn is pulling like mad on the fine tune mainsheet. This gives us a lot of weather helm fast, which means I use less rudder as the boat turns up. After the tack, Jocelyn eases the fine tune mainsheet to the pretack postion, plus a bit, so we have a nice ease to sail down on after the tack. Downwind was really great too! We were using our weight really well, and Bam is awesome about timing (and throwing) the main through. Likewise Niki really nailed the gybes this week, and I always felt that we could put the boat wherever we wanted, regardless of how tough the move might be.

The tougher thing to describe was how thrilling the event was, to be getting such quality racing with so many boats in. I love sailing in Chicago, but our races are usually fairly straightforward; get ok start, sail course fast, and watch out for 1 or 2 boats who are near us. Racing 18 boats is only twice the number, but probably 10x the fun!

As an event it was a great success, and it was wonderful to meet so many enthusiastic Shields sailors. I think I met nearly everyone there, and they had nothing but nice things to say about CYC's runnign the event. A lot of that is due to Kevin from 150, who not only put together a great event, but managed to have the best Chicago finish is over 30 years, with a hard fought 2nd, only one point out of first! Great job Yankee Girl!

HL Devore won the event, and he's one of those guys who you're cheering for even if he plants a tack in your face. He's the outgoing (in more ways than one) class president, and has done a nice job for the class, and really deserved this win.

Perhaps the best part about the event was as soon as it was over, both Niki and I started talking about how to do the next one, as we're really hungry for more racing of this level.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Shields Nats done

Will write something better later, but Nats is over. It was a wonderful event, with great racing and camraderie. HL Devore, who is a larger than life character and super nice guy, won and we're really happy for him. 88 didn't do as well as we'd like but still had a great time. The last day was definitely the best, as we had a little more breeze and 88 got a 2nd, followed immediately by an OCS where we came back to 9th.

Big thing is I wanted to get info on the _awesome_ photos taken by Marc Anderson, his site is here:

Check them out!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Shields Nationals day 2

More light breeze for the first race today, about 5kts out of the northeast, again with a big favor to one side. Better wind second race at 8-12. We're still not having a great regatta with another 6 and an 8 to put us 8th overall. Our issue seem to be light air speed. Kind of wishing we'd saved the $ on the awlgrip for a bottom job lately! Once the breeze is up we're as good as anyone, but under 5kts we're a bit pokey. Have to say our crew work has been excellent, everyones really spot on. Surprisingly our starts, which were our concern going in have been great so far (knock wood!) Saw Robin Monk (past nat champ from newport) really pick it up after a disappointing day yesterday with 2 bullets.

Looking forward to today, as we've got better breeze forecast, and theres a lot of close races that should get worked out. We've got some close points with other boats, but will be just trying to get some improved finishes. While the regatta isn't going as well as we'd like, it's great racing and we're having fun in our first nats.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Shields Nats Day 1

Day 1 is done, the racing is very high quality but the wind is a bit less cooperative! 3 races today, started racing in about 3 kts, which over 1.5mile legs takes a _long_ time. The first race took about half the day, with lots of shifts from around 90 to 40. We got ourselves in trouble by tacking a bit too much trying to stay in phase, where it seemed like the leading boats picked a side early and stuck to it. Not saying we should have done that, especially as the good side was different each leg! Felt a lot like rolling the dice for race 1, and we ended up 13th!

Race 2 was a bit more breeze (around 5kts) and we did a little bit better coming in 6th. This was another tough one, as I felt like everytime we tacked the wind went the other way. During the season I felt like we had a lot of little gifts, where we'd tack and get a surprise lift, today I think was the payback as we got a bit of the flip side.

Race 3 the wind filled in a bit more at about 6-8 kts, and we had a better one again, seeming to be around 3rd much of the race. The last leg we rounded 4th, but managed to give away 2 spots in the last 200'. Ouch!

Tomorrow is forecast more of the same in the AM but building up a bit in the afternoon. I feel our speed is fine, boathandling is fine, and think we just need to tighten up our tactics to improve.

Monday, September 14, 2009

New boats in town

3 boats arrived today from the east coast. Pics to follow tomorrow.

White Rabbit #238 has changed colors to a light gray, a shade lighter than Peanut. Apparently it's picked up a nickname of "gray hare." Neat. Really striking; gray hull, gray bottom paint, no bootstripe. Very much a ghost boat, hope we don't have foggy days as it should photo well (if you can find it!)

Syrinx #239 belongs to Bill Berry, who's won 2x Nat's in the last 3 years, and come in second a ton of times. It has the most perfect bottom/keel I've ever seen. If you touch the surface, your skin tingles a bit. They've done some neat stuff with their mainsheet, going 2:1 gross tune and 4:1 fine. This means they can trim and turn really damn quick, but have to use the fine tune in lighter airs than we do. I considered this for 88, but kind of chickened out as it's a pretty big main for 2:1, and our main trimmer is my size.

Freedom #255 has got to be one of the prettiest Shields around. Flag Blue (I think), gold stripe, waterline and red bottom. Just looks classic. Makes me want to don an ascot. Actually I don't actually know what an ascot is, but it seems like something one wears when one has a postcard quality yacht.

Saw 239 and 150 go out for a sail in about 5 kts. Looked fun! I'm really itching to sail, which I guess is the point of taking a bunch of time off from the boat before the big event. Mark P from 63 was joking about us not sailing for a while being like the way athletes rest before a big event. I didn't want to say anything then, but thats exactly the point!

By the way, here are all the photos from our powerboat adventure (thanks CMRC, happy to make that trade anytime!) And I do mean ALL the photos, as in 471 of them. Highlights would be the start photos and the fog photos. We also zipped over to the big boat course and captured 88 crew Katie A finishing 1st in the J105's. Go K.

Helped out 130 today as they made a couple last minute changes, such as our spinnaker sheet ratchets and 2:1 jib sheeting. I sailed with that family for years and really have high hopes for them at Nat's. They've been pretty damn fast when they have the whole team together this year, so they should do well. Kevin on 150 has a great team too, with Ryan coming into town, and when those two get together it's usually rocket fast. I really feel like fleet 3 has grown a lot the last 3 years or so, so we should do well as a group at Nats.

More updates tomorrow as I measure the boats and meet more teams, this is really exciting to have Nationals in our pond!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Prep day

Nationals starts in 3 days holy cow! Although the last 2 years of racing have been the best of my life, we did after all buy 88 with the purpose of racing a Nat's in our backyard, and it's finally here. Getting very excited, the boats in good shape, the team is great and I feel ready. Ready especially after today, as Niki and I spent several hours on the dirtiest (and slimiest, don't forget the slime) parts of the boat.

First we stripped all of the non essential gear (and beercans) off the boat. Bam keeps telling me that my boat is "cluttered" so I keep cutting lines shorter and taking more gear off. Hopefully it's uncluttered now, as I have no idea what else could possibly come off the boat! Then we gave the boat the most thorough wash of its life (it gleams!) and pulled it over to the crane.
I really like this shot, as the boats just look so weird out of the water! Once the boat was out we gave it a good scrub and sand, followed by some Harken Hullkote. I really don't know if the hullkote does anything on a bottom as rough as ours, or over VC17, but it sure made us feel fast while we got washer-womans elbow putting it on!
A recurring theme in this blog is that my wife rocks, as it was her idea to buy the boat, but I think getting covered in algae and bottom paint may be a new high (low?) for us. This was actually kind of fun, and it's nice knowing the boat is as prepped as it possibly can be.

See, our boat really does get cleaned!

Protest update: The protest from C3 was reopened, and in the end 88, 150, 90, and 63 were DSQ'd. I'm 100% sure that we were never properly protested, and that we weren't signaled a course change. I trust everyone in our fleet, and have no problem believing that they sailed the course they were given, but we didn't get that course. I submitted my testimony by email (mistake) and didn't go to the reopened hearing. The markset boat driver claims he was on station, sounding horns, and had someone jumping up and down on the bow waving (what?) and that we are a dark boat with a purple/pink/purple spinnaker (thats actually a Luders 16.) I've always been fascinated by the wide variations in how people can see the same event (like a protest, or a car accident.) Our season result is still safe, but I was a bit bummed to hear that we were DSQ'd, as we're sure the RC made a mistake, and that what the markset boat driver said was incorrect. 2 lessons here, one is if you care about the rules, go to the protest hearing! Two is that protests are ugly, and can end in ways that make no sense, so it's best to not get into them in the first place, although thats kind of irrelevant here since we sailed that race right, led every mark and still got a 12. I guess a third lesson is that it's best to let these things go and get on with your life! I had a really fun day with Niki, and at least I can look back on that race fondly, as we did sail well and had a good time.

It's all about Nat's from here on out, as our season is secured. Pray for big breeze!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Aft bulkhead holes fix

A Shields sank in Edgartown this summer, so the national class is asking fleet measurers to crack down on perforations in the bulkheads. One of the many things required on the Nationals entry measurement form is checking these out so they comply with this rule:

Perforations - Bulkheads
Perforations in the fore and aft bulkheads are permitted. Such perforations shall be made watertight while racing. One or two small holes not to exceed 3/8 inch in diameter may be drilled as close as possible to the top of the aft bulkhead to accommodate lines for trimming the backstay. (See Specifications 7.2, 10.1)

About half our fleet is in some small violation of this rule, and I let everyone know by email that some boats would have to fix this. Within about 5 minutes much of our fleet had gotten in touch with me by phone or email, kinda freaking out. Here are some fix tips:

First step when in violation of this rule is do not freak out and call me!

Second step is fix the holes. Old holes are easy, you can either fill them with epoxy, or close the hole up with a bolt and washer on each side of the bulkhead. 88 has a combination of these fixes.

The big stainless washed is covering the 1/2" hole left by the original backstay line. There is a 1/4" bolt holding the washers in place, with a nut on the back. Make this tight and put sealant below the washers.

The smaller hole between the 2 blocks has been filled and sealed with epoxy. The super easy way to do this is to wash out the hole with acetone, put tape on the front face of the bulkhead, then pack it with very thick epoxy or aggressive sealant from the back of the bulkhead. Let it dry, then tear the tape.

The holes where the line goes through are about 5/16" so we're fine there. If your line holes are larger you can make a gasket out of 1/8" plastic or G10, drill a 3/8" hole through it, glue it in place and clamp. Once dry, run your line through. Or, you can do the epoxy trick above, and then redrill your line hole.

Third step is really, really don't freak out and call me all at once.

Here are photos of how boats are in violation:

Shields 88 2009 Setup photos

Bam took some good snaps of our setup from last week, and I thought I'd put them here. The boat is setup to its "final" version, for 2009 anyway! All of this seems to work pretty well, and is better than the traditional gear.

Our console area took a lot of tweaking (not all the extra holes in the wood!) but it seems to work well now. The cleats on risers are for the 2:1 jib sheets, and the angle is critical so that the trimmer can sheet from the windward rail. The topper and downhaul are in the center, with extreme angle fairleads so that the lines can be cleated or released from anywhere on the boat. The vang is on a pennant so that the cleat is up in the air, and easier to release in "oh s%#t!" situations. That was Bam's idea. The cunningham is 2:1 through the sail cringle, and another 2:1 to a cleat, which is mounted to the mast by way of 2 metal slugs. The jib halyard setup works pretty well, and is a lot easier to get to than the stock way.

Above is our 2:1 jib sheets in action. They're really nice, and one person can tack the jib really quickly, and be able to trim it in solo in light and moderate air. Critical is the load sensing ratchets (do _not_ try to use regular ones) and the low profile ti-lite blocks, which let you sheet in all the way. Only funny thing about this is that the jib trimmer has to be ahead of the pit person upwind. It would be perfect for a 4 person team!

Our main trimmer area hasn't changed much at all, just new line on the twings. I really like this setup for both spin sheets and main controls. Note one of the most important 88 tricks in the bag on the shelf there; a baggie of Advil! I think we're probably the hardest hikers in the fleet, and it makes for speed in the big air and waves. And it helps certain members of the crew who have reputations for showing up hungover.

The mainsheet gross and fine tune seemed to work out really well. I like the ratchet 90% of the time, the only concern is at windward mark roundings. One thing we're going to start trying is having our 3rd crew trim the finetune hard in tacks, and then release once we're through the tack. One little extra oomph upwind, and then an easy ease to power up.

Beercan 9-2

Just about the nicest night for a beercan we've had yet. 70 degrees, about 4-6kts out of the northeast. We had 150, 88, 90, and 45 out to play. On our boat we had Niki on bow/jib, me on spin/main and Jacob drove. It was a reach/beat on port to the first mark, with the start being so boat favored as to be uncrossable on starboard. We got caught outside the pin and started behind 150, which is where we stay all night! We did roll 90 which was nice. Jacob did a great job on helm and we seemed pretty quick, but just couldn't reel in the blue boat. Finishing order was 150, 88, 90, 45. Got some cool photos:

Monday, August 31, 2009

Speed Testing photos

Sunday, August 30, 2009


It kind of dawned on me yesterday that our season is nearly over. Shields fleet 3 has only 1 more day of series racing, which always seems like not nearly enough time on the water. Thats kind of sad, but the good news is Peanut locked up the season championship yesterday with 3 races to spare. We currently have 18 points, dropping our two 4's, 150 is second with 44 dropping 2 12's, and 130 in third with 47 dropping a 9 and an 8.

I started the day pretty nervous, as all the forecasts seemed to be saying things like 20-25kts, and even called for a 7 ft waves at one point. 7 feet?! I've sailed in that only a couple times and it's tough for the RC to stay put, much less Shields to move around. If racing was called it's not exactly the end of the world, except our crew was travelling pretty far! Brian Shaw came in from Urbana, which is a couple hours away, and Bam came in from New York! We had a backup plan (see the submarine at Science and Industry museum) but it would still suck to fly into town for less than 24hrs, to race, and spend the day on shore. All was fine in the end, and the forecast was quite a bit lighter than 25kts. The pumping station met cam said 23, but I don't think I ever felt more than 16. The waves were big and weird, but not more than 4 feet.

First race started with a man overboard, which thankfully was resolved quickly and safely enough to be kind of funny. We tacked onto starboard with about 45 seconds to go, and in the tack Brian did a backflip out of the boat! He held on to the mainsheet, slid back behind the boat, and all I had to do was give a tiny luff to slow down and he was back on board, and got right into position. The front 3 crew were kind of yelling at me for going slow, and didn't even notice he had been in the water until someone said something like "why are you all wet??" Heh. Ok. We had clear air all the way, but got a bit right of phase and 63 and 150 looked good out left. Luckily we were just enough ahead that we converged at the mark and both boats had to duck us lest they foul by tacking inside 3 lengths (they would have had to leebow us which is a dicey move inside the zone) We only gybed once on the whole run, and exteneded a bit. At the leeward mark we were expecting a course change, but didn't see a boat with flags besides the RC boat. This later turned into a protest, as the first four boats that rounded (88, 150, 63 and 90) all didn't see a change flag/boat, but the next 4 say they did. I believe them that they did, but hope they believe me that we were looking, and didnt! We rounded the original windward mark in 1st, and finished first. The protest pretty much sucked as we didn't even hear it until 530, when it happened I didn't even have to say a word though, as it was thrown out as invalid (the protesting boat needs to fly a flag, and inform the protested boats as soon as possible) but I will say it was kind of nice to hang out with the other sailors for a while as everyone usually takes off after 1 drink. Upside to everything! If the jury had heard it, I think they probably would have thrown out the race as the leading group of boats all believed in the original course, and the trailing group said they saw a course change. It was argued that the SI's allow for a change of course without a signal, but reading that rule show it isn't relevant, as it only allows for changes of 5 degrees or less, and even then will use the original mark, which is the one we rounded anyway. I'm not certain, but I believe that mark only really allows for a slight reset of course for things like mark drift or an obstruction requiring a move of the mark. Not a situation anyone is really happy with, but i suppose it's interesting to see how the mechanics of how protests work (or don't)

Next race we made a mistake again going right, and probably tacked too much the first beat. We rounded in 3rd behind 63 and 150, and made tiny gains but not enough to catch up. Rounded the leeward mark in 3rd again, and got left but was covered by 63, while 150 continued right. We escaped 63's cover by tacking while they were working on the spinnaker pole, which is definitely a nice little trick to remember for later. With clear air we headed for the mark, and got the gift of all gifts, as a 20 degree lefty came through, but only for us and 63, and we took 150 lead away. On the run though, while we were chasing down 63, 150 got ahead of all of us by going to the good side of the course again! One design racings pretty sweet sometimes with all the lead changes. We stuck it out and got left of them again, and while 150 and 63 fought it out we passed both, but then got passed again about 50 feet from the finish by 63, we were second followed by 150. An exciting race for all, and it's nice to see the 63 crew gelling for nationals.

Next stop is Nationals, and after having the nat's crew together yesterday I feel pretty good going into it. We're taking the next couple regattas (fall, and Sheldon Clark) off to do other things, but after Nat's theres one more day of series racing. I really feel like this has been the best season of Shields racing I've ever had. In a nationals year everyone steps up their game, and it's showed in super close racing. We've had a good time, and enjoyed having the boat ready a lot earlier than last year! Lots of great crew has come together and I think it's been a ton of fun. Thanks guys!


Notes on tune: We were at 48" on the headstay, which seems to be a decent compromise between getting sag in the light and flat spots and being able to tighten it up. The big tune trick I think is in the lowers. We were pretty slack on lowers, which is on purpose to put sag in the mast, which powers up the boat some. My big idea on tuning this boat is to power it up until you cant hike it flat. It's great but requires a lot of effort from the crew. They don't seem to mind me calling hike all day though. Driving wise I was pretty bow down, and never let the windward telltale lift, preferring to be punching through waves rather than pinching over them. The funny thing is that while our bow might point lower, we can climb higher than all the other boats. Thats one lesson that I read all the time but is still hard to do all the time: go fast to go high, which means keeping the bow down to get the boat up. Still weird to me but it works.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A bad day on the water beats a good day on land...

...but a great day on the water is pretty sweet! I had a really lousy week; lots of little disasters, getting sick and tough hours at work, but that all went away when we got sailing!

Day started well when I found a diver who could wash 88's bottom Saturday morning. We've been really lax about it this year, and haven't cleaned it since June. Diving was not something I was looking forward to as I've had a cold all week, but a friend on the dock happened to hire a diver who didn't mind one more boat. Nice!

Crew was tricky as we had a late cancellation putting us at 4, which is certainly sailable but a little light. At dinner the night before we recruited Katie, Niki's sister, and then in the morning Mike Gillam (spelled right?) was looking for a ride as 90 was taking the day off. All of a sudden we're at six! I've wanted to try 6 for a while, as it turns out it's crowded but fast (more later)

The forecast was for 15-20 out of the north, which meant waves, so we were set up the same way we were Monday; straight mast, moderate sag in the headstay. As the day went on, we actually powered the boat up more, and we were probably about 200lbs on the lowers. Seems weird until you remember that we had 6 people, all hiking hard. I'm learning it's really important to keep putting more power in the boat until you can't hike it away anymore. All day sails were set pretty well: jib was a hole foward, but eased to the spreader tip except in the flat. The main was set with a good bit of twist, but was played all day. The breeze was down to 8kts at one point, but the RC was reported 20's at the end of the last race. The waves started at 2-4 but on the last race I really think there were a couple 6 footers. Going upwind meant there were some huge slams, but man was downwind _awesome!_

First race we attempted to start at the boat, but got shut out by 150 and had to gybe around. Woops! 130 led the way, followed by 150 then us at the top mark. We were able to pass them up when they had a certain incident. I won't say what happened, but they were offering to sell people shrimp at the bar later... The next upwind leg we made big gains on 130 by playing the last third of the beat real close. I like doing that as it's hard to call laylines in big waves, and lots of other boats overstand or end up doing extra tacks. Downwind we were pretty close to them, and might have caught them if we had gybed on them towards the end, but another brainfade on my part and they finished just ahead. Good racing with 130 and 150 on that one, and it really looks like people are getting psyched up for Nationals.

There was a goofy aborted start where the wind dropped to like 8kts, went left 40 degrees, and we were all starting on port aimed right at the mark! Glad they stopped that one....

Next start was us at the pin, which had been favored up until the last 2 minutes before a right shift came in. Lucky for us 150 took 196 and 130 over the line, and they all had to restart. We made a mistake by not covering all the way right, and ended up in 2nd to 150. The next run turned into a reach, and we were able to make up ground on them by keeping the boat flatter and using the waves a bit better. With 6 on the boat I had Katie be our wave-tician, and we worked out a great dialouge on when to surf, it was really helpful having someone eyes-back saying "your stern will lift in 3, 2, 1" and then we'd put the bow down and really get some wave help. 150 had a bad rounding and we were able to halve the distance between us, then we got left of them, and when we crossed again upwind we leebowed, sent them right, and the next cross we were about 5 lengths ahead. We were the only boat to fly the kite on the run, and exteneded for a very satisfying win. Again, waves were key on the run.
our big crowd
Sailing with 6: this was a big help, as we were able to get 5 bodies (I can only kind of half hike) hiking hard, and it gave us some crushing upwind speed. Other boats were depowered to deal with the breeze and we could keep the bow down with full sails and were really fast. Oddly, we werent the heaviest crewed boat, at around 910 (other 5 crew boats had more), but having more bodies means the same weight is more effectively hiked. Sailing with 6 is a clear advantage in breeze, but I'd like to try it in the light to see if it hurts. My thoughts on this are that 6 should probably be illegal, as it is so much better in breeze, but it's crowded and I think isn't in keeping with the character of the boat.

Really fun day of sailing, learned a lot and had great racing with good competition. We now have 19pts for the season, and I think second has 47. Next week should be good as we've got Bam coming back to town for some Nationals crew sailing. Looking forward to it!

Mark Passis (63) and Steve Schwartz (90) were out on Marks lovely new powerboat, and they got some great snaps on the Shields fleet on the last run, here they are:

The purple spinnakers have really grown on me...
150 going jib and main, new Q sails
Great shot of 130. Usually waves that feel huge on the water look tiny in pics, but not this day!

A neat shot, we were fully powered up going ddw with lots of wave help
196 going upwind. I like this photo with the e22, 196 center and the backdrop of Shields. I think they could power up a bit and go trav up.
Pretty, but wheres the hull?

Monday, August 17, 2009

What happened to the last month?

88 at the Verve, thanks Richard Winters!

We have in fact been racing and sailing for the last month, it's just been pretty hectic with work/travel/actual sailing to spent much time writing about sailing! Here's a run down of the last couple Shields 88 events:

July 29th Beercan: This was a good one as it was only Niki myself and Brian. Shields were originally sailed with 3, and I feel it's more fun for everyone as all the crew roles are busier. We had about 8kts out of the SE, and 90 and 150 to sail against. We had a good start at the boat, with 150 a couple lengths down and 90 left of them. We covered 150 going right, and stacked up under the stbd layline, with them to windward and behind and 90 sneaking inside. 90 had only 2 sailors and 1 guest, so they had even more to do, but they did it will, at least until the leeward mark when we were able to pass them in the douse. We held on for the win, but could have been thrown out on a violation of beer rules (you must drink 1 per leg on beercans) but thankfully the organizing commitees and judges (all Todd H) shot that down pretty quick.

Niki and I went to Michigan for the Harbor Springs UGotta Regatta (I think thats the name, it's not quite clear) and had an absolute blast! We were sailing on Inferno, a local Farr 40. It is both cool, and a little worriseome, when a big boat asks me to be tactician. Cool, as it's definitely my favorite spot on the boat, worriesome because that means theres no one better! The long and short is we had fun, but our patchwork crew did not exactly rock the big breeze we had for 2 days. The first day was nice, as it was around 10kts, and we were always close, and were sailing about the same level as Heartbreaker, which is a pretty good local 40. Also... interesting... was Niki finally got to see some sailing manouvers that until now had been mostly theory for her, such as broaches (one for about 3 minutes) and shrimping (my first as well) LTYC is a great club, and I can't wait to get back up there as the regatta, the sailing and the people are all excellent. And I made the local paper!
Beercan August 5th

My dad got me started on sailing a looong time ago, and was excited when I got active in racing about 10 years back. Nevertheless, no matter how hard I tried I could never get him interested in racing until we got our own boat, when he came out, drove an entire beercan and had a ton of fun. Nevermind that we were the only Shields sailing, he won a race and was happy, at least until he found out he left before he could collect his prize (rum). So it is only natural that we do it again, this time with other boats.

My dad and his friend Marco (who used to sail together in the 70's and 80's, and also who both worked on the woodwork on 88) came out prepared with beers and enough snacks to feed us for a Mac race. I drove the start, Marco drove upwind, and my dad drove down. We had some close racing with 130 and 67, but ended up getting across the line first. Go old guys!

After that we treated them to CYC's excellent beercan dinner, a couple beers, and yes my dad got to take home the rum. Nights like that really make boat ownership worthwhile.

Verve Aug 8 and 9th: We had quite the mixed up crew for the Verve, on day 1 it was me, Niki, Brian Shaw, Bob Willis (Jacobs friend and 3rd at Olympic windsurf trials!) and John Schwartz (our friend from 130) Day one we sailed pretty well, but let 130 get ahead on the last run so we finished 2, 1. Day 2 was match race between us and 63, who did well enough to snatch the lead from us on the first run while we put holes in our chute, but we took it right back at the round to finish that days only race in 1st, for the Shields class win. It was pretty windy, but it was a good chance to get more comfortable in breeze. Unfortunately a lot of our fleet couldn't be there or broke stuff so turnout was low. Still fun times.

Aug 12 beercan: It was me, Brian Shaw and Mike, and my friend Jon who just got back from Afghanistan. Pretty good time for having no other boats out, although we ran out of beer, but we made it back in before a mutiny (not the T10) could occur. I think Jon would have protected me though, as he doesnt drink and would probably enjoy showing off his army talents.

Practice August 17th; Awesome! It was us and 130 doing upwind speed tuning, with Bill Hardesty of Chicago Match Race Center taking photos and coaching from a chase boat. The weather was fluky, light and rainy, but we still got a lot out of this session. Most notably:

1) our sails were generall setting up fuller than 130, which gave us an edge powering up out of tacks, and in waves, but 130 was faster once at speed.
-this looks to be mostly due to backstay tension, and prebend. 88 is at the extreme end of the Shields mast step rule, meaning we're at max rake/minimum prebend. The rake is fast in heavy air, and the lack of prebend is good in chop, and once its windy enough so the boat is powered we've got enough backstay on to open up the leech of the main.
-The solution for us is something we tried a while back, but didn't like in chop, and that is to add prebend via chocks behind the mast. I feel like I have a good idea how this will work out for us, and look forward to a flat, light day to try it
2) at the tuning guide numbers, our mast sets up funny. In light air I'm usually 2 turns off of the tuning guide tension on lowers, which is so slack as to not register on the tuning guide. I've gone as much as 500 lbs (plus 1 turn off base) in heavy air. I make these calls based on how the mast sights when going upwind, and I think it works well. At the tuning guide setting for lowers, 300, we have a bow to windward between panels 1 and 2, which aint good. Seeing photos (and getting someone like Bill to consider it) confirms that we're on the right track with our mast tuning.
3) active bodies in tacks and gybes are really helpful. on 88 we use our weight to initiate and power through tacks and gybes, and when Bill had us do a 360 and a couple tacks you could really see the difference. Our fuller sails helped, but I think this was the biggest difference between us and them.
4)He who keeps the boat moving in light air wins! We should all know this one by now, but I always find a reminder helpful.

I think we all learned a lot from our first multiboat practice session, and look forward to next week when we'll be doing tacking and gybing drills, and some _very_ short course racing. It was really nice of Bill to come out and share his skills. I'll be seeing him again tomorrow for match racing practice at CMRC. It's free right now, and if you're racing in Chicago you really need to try it. The eye-opening I got the first time I did it got me thinking that this is going to be my own next big kick as a sailor, as it's a lot different than fleet racing. Anything less than perfection in boathandling will cost you, and you experience more boat vs boat action in one practice race than you might in a whole season! I'll try and get some photos and good notes for the blog tomorrow.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Racing July 25

Memorable day of racing yesterday for all kinds of reasons: strange wind phenomenon, intense racing, and the strangest start I've ever seen.

We had myself, Niki, B Shaw, Jocelyn and Bam for crew, and the forecast was SCA with 15-25kt winds out of the northwest. Getting a late start (someone needs a new alarm clock) saw us sailing out into considerably less. Once the race started it was blowing around 6 kts out of the NE. We won the pin end with plenty of speed, with 90 and 130 just to windward. As the breeze dropped we continued left with 90, while 196, 45, 39 and 63 going right, while 130 went up the middle. The breeze completely died, and we were left with no steerage or way, gently bobbing around with 90 alarming close doing the same. We watched with them as the breeze (kinda) filled in right after about 30 painful minutes. Thankfully the RC abandoned the race, which was good to see as we were almost downwind of the start at that point!

The RC hung kept us out for quite a long time (thank you) while we waited for wind. This is where it got strange, as we had some solid NE come to us for about 5 minutes, then an hours pause with 0 followed by strong SE, and all the while there were whitecaps a mile inshore with busting NW wind! The RC saw that, and dragged the course in shore a bit and we got off one heck of a good race in 10-15 NW. We had an ok start, being able to roll a couple boats on our way down the line, but fell into 90 off the line, and had to tack over and go right. We were _really_ in phase and extended on the fleet to win. Since it was 3pm, we started heading for harbor, followed by the rest of the fleet. Once we were about a mile or so in, we heard the other boats retiring, and all of a sudden started thinking about the fact that the E22's seemed to be racing. We turned back and did full steam towards the start to confirm that all the other Shields were heading in, only to see 130 gearing up with the whole line to themselves!

We didn't quite make it in time, being about 15 boatlengths away when the gun went off. It was looking pretty grim as we'd given them a huge lead, but unbelieveably we heard a second gun; they were OCS! They turned back to restart, rounded up on port just as we turned up on starboard, and right away we had a port/starboard, with them leebowing us. We ground them down, and thus began one of the longest strangest races I've ever sailing. For 5 long legs we had tacking and gybing duels as the breeze and waves continued to build. . On the first run we decided jibs were a safer choice than spins, during which I yelled for the first time ever on the boat. Luckily the crew didnt seem offended, and instead they seem somewhat amused. Ok, whatever. We extended every leg, but 130 kept pushing us hard. After a while we started not tacking to cover, instead letting them get bow out, just to try and keep them from tacking, as the boats were getting really beat up. Towards the end we were seeing some mid 20's puffs.

Crazy sail in, with plenty of those massive westerly puffs to keep it interesting. I played jib on the way in, and using the 2:1 sheets could play it, but only with lots of effort. I think in over 20 we'll use the winches, but the ratchets work very well below that. I really think we've nailed the 2:1 jib sheeting setup, and will now offer it as a package through CYR.

Notes on speed:

The boat felt pretty good with around 850 uppers and 40o something lowers. The headstay was at 48.75, and the boat was always powered up. In the first abandoned races, we were loose lowers, which felt fast.

Helpful in the big breeze was having 2 different modes, normal (jib sheeted about 3" inside spreader tip) and "roll-em" mode, with the jib at the spreader tip and the traveler down. This was very useful to slide down at and over boats to leeward.

We tried the spinnaker projection trick, pulling the pole back by hand while easing the guy 2-3'. It did seem quick, but didn't really get much of a chance to test it.

Great day, we're all pretty damn sore though.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

No racing July 12 argh!

Was all set for B3 and B4 races, and was really looking forward to racing yesterday. We had new jib, new main and spin on boat, I'd retuned earlier in the week and had fixed the helm issue (which means the boats sinking slowly, but drives great!) the forecasts were all over the place, but sailing out to the course was done in a light NE breeze and really pretty skies. Once we got out the wind died, and we drifted around watching the gradient breeze battle the thermal. Finally at about 1 o'clock, s SE breeze started up at 6-8 kts, and we were all excited to go race!

Heard signals from RC boat, so started sailing over that way only to see abandon race flags go up. Disbelief on 88, and really disappointing to see them blow off a day of racing just as the wind comes in. They offered to tow us in because of "no wind" but by that point there was plenty of it and we beat the towed boats into the harbor!

I guess we can only talk about what might have been. Kevin was out with a brand new Quantum jib, and both teams were looking forward to tuning it up against the north. In morning practice we felt fast and tight on crew work, which was a nice change from the last day of racing. Tried an interesting experiment and loosened the lowers until they were sloppy on both sides while sailing upwind. Surprisingly the mast sagged only the barest amount to leeward, but it seemed like a good change as the boat developed helm in 4-5kts, which is unusual. Would love to experiment with this more.

Hopefully we'll go out to tune up some time this week, as John S from 130 (and occasionally 88) is interested. Will try some settings and see what goes fast.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Racing 6 26

Upside: Really pretty day for sailing
Downside: We no sail so good 4-4

Had the first really great weather for Shields racing last Saturday, SE breeze at around 10kts, sunny and pleasant. We had me, Brian Shaw, John Ponsetto and Niki.

Turned out to be an off day for everyone, mostly me! Couldn't get a good feel for the boat all day, didn't start races well and made some bad calls on which way to go. Our roundings, usually excellent, were pretty fugly. Good day for the fleet though, as lots of other boats had days at the top, and everyone was pretty close in speed. I don't really want to relive the whole day, but the lessons learned are:

tack less
be more flexible when conditions don't match the expected
blocking behind the mast is really bad in chop, really really bad!
repack rudder, as the feels a bit dead right now

We did lousy, but the next day had the best distance race of all time, when we sailed with Challenge (Kevin from 150's dads boat) from Waukegan to Chicago. Solid 25+out of the the WNW, the boat was solid as a rock, and we saw tons of carnage with other boats (much of which I am fixing today!) Also, Chicago Yacht Rigging rigged boats took wins in 5 sections, and were in the top 3 in all but one!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Beercan, practice, match race, beercan

I received a polite email that more or less said "I know you've been sailing, wheres the blog?", and yes, I have been a bit lazy about updating the goings-on of Shields 88. It's quite cool to get emails re the blog, always nice to know someone reads this stuff!

So. June 17 beercan. Me, Niki, John Ponsetto, Steve Schwartz (of 90) and Nik's sister Katie. Tried mixing it up in positions with John driving, Niki on jib, Kate on main and Steve on the bow, so pretty much the opposite of everyones usual spot on a boat! It was great fun, we put down a case of beer, but there was very little wind. We started about 5 minutes late to the start, with the 10s, and were first Shields over the line, with Robin just behind and leeward after we tacked. They had great speed, and Jessica rolled us to leeward! Not bad for a new owner. We stayed right in the dying breeze and got ahead when they tacked inshore, rounded first, but then the breeze really crapped out and we got a tow from our friends on Challenge. It was a fun night, especially since everyone got to try a different spot on the boat. I think Niki likes our 2:1 system, which after a _lot_ of tinkering is nearing perfection.

June 22nd practice. We had me, Niki, Brian Sabina and Jocelyn out for this one. Interesting note is that the crib weather station is completely full of it. It was reporting 17-20 kts when we were sailing, and I really doubt we had any puffs over 4kts. A very frustrating night as we only had about 10 minutes of sailable breeze. We did practice 2 roll tacks, so I guess it was worthwhile for that!

June 23rd Match racing on Tom28's. Had a great time sailing the Olympic Day exhibition sailing on Chicago Match Race Centers Tom28's. Sailed REALLY close to North Avenue Beach (in fact the umpires gave us a penalty for entering the swim area!) and picked up a bunch of tricks. I did bow all night, which is not my best position, but had fun with it. We got off 8 races, I think we won 5, but it all blends together. Picked up a couple neat tricks, mostly about head to wind sailing. In dial ups (at starts and luffs) the driver had me backing the jib hard by grabbing the clew, in order to do hard turns down when bearing away. To keep things secret, I would watch his hands for a point, and back the jib that way. It was a really effective tool for an aggressive turn down. Also picked up a neat trick of presetting the pole to leeward before the final tack to an upwind layline. It works if the downhaul is off (the Tom28s dont have one) and you keep the topping lift really high, so that it doesn't foul the jib. We will incorporate both of these things into 88's bag o' tricks. The little bit of sailing I do with CMRC is really bringing my boat on boat game up, and I feel its helping my Shields sailing. While really attacking is generally a small part of our sailing (and should be less so at Nationals) it's great stuff to experience, so that when it comes up in a race the reaction is instant.

June 24th beercan. It was me, Niki and Brian Shaw. Had 3 Shields out in another light air night. It was sailable at around 3-8kts, and beautiful to be off land as it's been a scorching week of weather here. Brian drove, I did main/spin and Niki did bow. We started about halfway down the boat, with 45 winning the boat, and 67 behind. Had a long stbd leg, with 45 holding us off. Once we tacked it seemd like they were going to faceplant a tack on us, so we bore off a bit to get some speed, and then once they tacked took a nice big bite to windward to clear air. This was pretty effectice, and Brian drove great to maintain clear air all the way to layline. The trim setup for this was a pretty tiny ease of main and jib, and then a slow trim up/turn up, where we held high (pinching) and then a slow ease on main, turn down, then ease on jib. Brian was able to roll 45, get a controlling spot on their hip, then tack for lay. We had a decent set, but 45 got on top of us, so it was some tricky sailing to extend out to leeward, and Brian drove great again to extend. We heard horns from the RC, which we though was a shorten course, making that leg the finish, but it turned out to be just a shorten course for the next leg. We realized this as we were sailing past the RC boat towards the harbor, but did a quick drop, tack, gybe and round. This was good as we got a chance to try what seems to be the toughest drop of the Shields for us; jib up, pole down, chute down on port while the pole comes down on stbd . This is tricky as the bow has to flip the pole up behind the jib leech, then down up to our bungee pulpit and on the deck. Niki nailed this one, and it looked good! 45 bailed to the harbod, as did 67, so we had a default win and gave the rum to Brian. Really fun night. I wish the class rules limited weight so that we could sail with 3 all the time, as it's the most fun for Shields sailing.

Last night we sailed with full tension on the shrouds, and the headstay set at 48, but put 1/2" shim behind the mast. It gave us plenty of headstay sag, and with the addition of a tiny bit of backstay resulted in a nice light air main shape, without taking the sag out of the jib. I like this trick, and will do it in the future, but I REALLY need to come up with a better way to change shims. It's very hard to get the fitted shim in behind the mast, as the vang bail is in the way.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Racing 6-13

Since summer is usually pretty busy for me, getting the schedule filled early is really important for sailing 88. The one weekend that was giving me trouble since March was this last Saturday, as despite having a pretty deep crew pool I could only get 2 people. Up until thursday I was pretty worried as we were still short. Well, sometimes you get lucky!

Since it was me and the 2 Brians (Shaw and Sabina) we could definitely sail the boat and get it around the course, but we'd be underweight and would definitely be slower in sets/gybes/douses which are usually our strength. Early this week I took a longshot and asked Jennifer Wilson and Bill Hardesty if they "uh, felt like sailing on our Shields?" and was thrilled when they both signed on. I know them through doing rigging work for the Convexity boats and the Chicago Match Race Center. Both are sailing at a high level (they're last years Etchells world champs) and in addition to sailing the boats, Bill is coaching the entire CMRC organization and developing their program!

Having a pretty stacked boat I was a bit chagrined when we spent much of the morning in postponement due to weather and problems with the RC boat. Luckily both situations cleared up and we got out on the water just in time to spend some more time hanging around and enjoying our standard Shields weather: cold, rainy with NE winds and big sloppy waves.

We got 2 races off, with 2 very hard fought wins. Both were decent enough starts, with very close pace between the 9 Shields coming off the line. Kevin was really flying, and we seemed to be a bit underpowered in the lighter air for the first race and most of the second. It's amazing that every time we get a bit faster, so does 150 and I think we're both sailing at a pretty high level these days. Seems like we know each others tricks and it's always 1 or 2 decisions/mistakes/shifts that makes the difference.

The first race we seemed pretty deep at first and only clawed back on the strength of a couple shifts and a little extra downwind speed. The last leg of race 1 had us, 150 and 90 all starting the run pretty close. We chased 150 out to the left and barely rolled them, then went back right to force 90 to gybe out, then returned to 150 where we finished slightly ahead, followed by Kevin, then Bo. Second race was also looking a bit grim for much of it, with us following Kevin around a bit. On the 2nd upwind leg we took a hitch left when Bill noticed the cloud pattern had changed (more later) and a nice little lefty, coupled with some extra pressure (we seemed to go faster upwind in the puffs, where Kevin was quicker in the lighter stuff. We got ahead on the lefty, enjoying the breeze, and continued to extend for the finish. We ended the A series with 7 points to Kevins 8, although without drops we'd be tied! Although Nationals is obviously everyones goal, we're all certainly getting some thrilling racing for the regular Saturday races.

Having Bill aboard was really good for 88. Obviously he's a great sailor and we learned a ton, but there's tmore to being a great tactician (he is very highly sought after for that spot) and he was lot of fun too. I was a bit nervous (and drove like it) that having a pro aboard would mean hyper intensity and lots of yelling, but he's pretty hilarious and both of our guests fit in well with our laidback boat.

A couple people from our fleet have been asking about what he was showing us, and it's only fair to share. There's no real rocket science ("he told us to push the red button under the floor boards and we gained 2kts") but like my friend John Kiener once said (referring to Kevin) "he just does the basics a bit better, and more often" So here's what I was able to pick up.

The single biggest thing I'll be doing differently is keeping the boat powered up longer, and hiking harder. I think we've gotten a bit lazy on the hiking on 88, and will benefit by keeping the boat flatter. The real eye opener was in the bit of breeze we had for the last upwind leg, when everyone hit the rail hard and was hiking off something. 2 things happened: the boat felt great and we really accelerated away from 150, and I was able to see all the waves a lot easier. We also started really rolling the boat hard in tacks, which seemed to be a bit faster.

Bill was trimming jib, and seemed to focus most on the jib leech telltale. On 88 we've gotten in a habit of just setting it to marks on the spreader tip. This usually works, and the marks give consistency, but looking back on my time as jib trimmer it was all about watching the telltale. Especially in light air, I think we'll be keeping more of an eye on that aspect of trim.

Clouds: we made a huge gain and won race 2 mostly because of a big left shift (I think we were getting paid back for the right shift we lost out on last week?) , which we sailed to because of a cloud moving across the course. The day had been pretty gray, but towards the end the sun came out, and as the overcast was breaking up it turned into clouds. One was moving across the course, and Bill made the call to sail away from it. This was mostly to avoid the "windsuck" that happens after a cloud passses, but in addition to the higher breeze, it came with a nice shift. Note to self: look up more.

Attacking downwind: we're usually pretty quick downwind, and make gains, but Saturdays got me thinking about other ways to pass besides boatspeed. It's impossible to write down for me, but I do have a much better feel for positioning relative to a boat ahead now. Will work on this more, especially in our upcoming practices with 150.

In terms of tune, we felt underpowered most of the day, and I think I need to refine my settings a bit. What worked last year with the old mast and main isn't quite as good this year. We'll be adding more rake, and depowering with lowers a bit earlier. Coupling a more powered up boat with increased use of weight should add a bit of boatspeed.

It could just be self consciousness about having a pro on board, but I felt like I was driving pretty badly most of the day, and going to a pinching mode to early in the wind range. Again, pushing the rail down harder will neutralize the helm some, and paying a little more attention to course wouldn't hurt either!

Once things at work ease up a bit, I'm going to be hitting up the CMRC again. They race 2 nights a week, with many races per outing, which means a lot more action! Also, once 88 and 150 start practicing together (after Kevins done running a Mackinac program and I'm a bit slower at work) I'm hoping to do some match racing between us, so we work through more of the neat situations. It's a great way to build skills and also tons of fun.

All in all, a really fun day of racing. I'm looking forward to sailing with the regulars again, both because I want to apply what we picked up last Saturday, and because we're turning into a pretty tight team.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Beercan June 11th

Had another fun beercan to the Wilson Crib and back. Unfortunately there were two many boats for a mass fleet start, as I really enjoyed the last one, but we did have another Shields to play with. We won the race by a good bit, but lost the rock/paper/scissors at the bar, so the rum was awarded to those miserable bastards on 45, so a pox on them. We had good crew tonight, with me, Niki, B Shaw and Jennifer W.

It was a fun night, I learned a few things, and relearned one big one. The lesson I should know by now is: although it annoys the wife, it's definitely better for me to be down at the boat early! 1) I make sure everythings led right, tuned etc 2) knowing everything is ready with the boat makes me sail better. Most times I have the boat rigged before we go out, but not last night and we had a couple little line/lead/gear issues that shouldn't have happened. This is probably just me being a control freak, but at least I can rationalize it, right?

Anyway, onto the new stuff. Last year was all about getting the gear right, this year I'm working more on crewwork/communication. One thing I picked up from a Dave Perry lecture was the notion of "speed loop" and "Tactical loop" as being 2 separate conversations with the driver over the course of a race. Brian Shaw and I usually make up the speed loop, mostly talking about helm feel upwind, and sheet pressure downwind. Last night we had Jennifer calling puffs (and she is very very good at that) and all of a sudden we had steady reliable info going into the speed loop, so that we had a little more preemptive trimming. It worked very well, except for the couple times her input and mine differed; not as contradiction but as different priorities. ie, she would say puff on (required an ease of traveler) just as I'd say traveler up (to climb a wave.) This was definitely the exception, and as a whole it was extremely effective, and opened my eyes to another way to manage info on the boat. In the future I'd like to get a set of eyes working on calling puffs upwind (Niki already does this downwind) and integrate that info into the speed loop.

Another interesting note from last night was the benefits of cross training on the boat (no Brian, you can't drive.) Jen is our bow for Saturday, and she's never really done that spot on a boat before (usually main trim or helm) so we had her doing the bow last night, with Niki on pit. Niki was able to talk through the gybes and sets, and it was beneficial for both. I'm really glad Jen asked for a couple practice gybes after the finish, as you could see her figuring out the nuances of the Shields (every now and then I forget that it's a weird weird boat) and it was cool to see Niki working through bow manoevers from another spot, as I think seeing it from back in the boat showed her quite a bit. I've always thought one of the best ways to improve skills you've already got is to teach someone else, as you always pick up a thing or two.

All in all a good night; comparatively warm (50's!) and good people always make it fun. Only black mark on last nights race was no taco's at CYC. WTF??? The Taco's are definitely the winner on the wed night menu. The offer a combination of quantity (3 tacos vs 1 burger) and versatility (both Niki and Jen do the Taco salad, which essentially means you fill up a plate with taco shells, meat and all of the condiments.) The lack of tacos last night, and possible lack of future tacos, means we'll have to make some adjustments in our tuning guide. Maybe a bratwurst substituion, or we take a flyer and head towards Broadway for sushi or mediterranean. I think we need to hire a coach to help us sort through issues like this.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

1, 2

Had some of the best Shields racing ever today, very challenging and close. A great day for the fleet as well, as we had 10 boats out racing despite the sloppy conditions.

First off though, yes, it was damn cold. According to someone on the RC boat, it was about 48 degrees. Add in the 10-15kt wind, and the waves over the bow and we were quite chilly. When I was handed a beer out of the cooler, it felt warm compared to the rest of my world!

Race 1 was about 10-12 kts, slight pin bias, with the breeze around 350. We started about a length off the pin with 150 tacking in below us. Not a whole lot of shifts in the first race, so we hung in for a while noting very little speed/height difference with the other boats around us. After some time on stbd we took a little hitch back in, which unfortunately cost us 150 who made good out left. It was a real battle for the top third of the beat, with us, 150 and 90 all in close contention. We ended up in a real odd hole and lost both boats in the last couple hundred feet. Kevin rounded cleanly ahead, and 90 tacked just below us on layline, but we were able to roll them to round second. Some nice trim and boathandling let us get to new breeze first and rolled 150 downwind. We rounded the bottom mark with a nice lead, and extended up and down to finish with a good delta over 150.

Second race we started pin again, and quickly ended up in an upwind match race with Kevin. We had a bit of speed on him, and were ahead enough to plant a leading leebow on him, but as it turned out that one move cost us the race, as he went back right and gained a couple lengths in the right shift. Pretty good racing when you can look back on one screw up and say it decided the race! Today showed that there's not a lot of speed difference between the boats, and that the boat that sails cleanest will probably win. We hung in there and kept attacking, but they held us off up and down to win by about 6-8 lengths. We had some fun match racing action when they luffed us a couple times before coming into the leeward mark. Pleased to see how quick our crew reacted, and that both the boats can play aggresive but clean. Also happy that despite the double luffs, we rounded a couple feet behind. If only we had been able to get right!

We used the newer main today, after checking it out on thursday. It's working fine after north midwest did their work to it, although we changed out to an even softer batten (actually the one from the old main since we forgot to bring the original!) and the sail looks even better. Hard to really feel tune today, since the waves were so big and sloppy, but we didn't feel slow. Headstay was around 48.5", with 350 on the lowers and 850 uppers.

Kevin's got 6 points to our 8, and theres one race left in the A series. Days like today really make having the boat worthwhile, as the racing is really intense and fun.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

2, 3

Really fun day to be racing Shields in Chicago!

We had 9 boats out for A1 and A2. RC got off a couple good races quickly, and the courses were pretty fair. Conditions Started in the middle teens out of the south and ended the raceday at about 8kts.

We had a great team today: me, Brian Shaw, Jocelyn, Jacob and Niki. It was good to try out the new gear on the boat, and although the day didn't go as well as we'd like it was so much fun to be racing that I think it was one of the better days on the water.

We got out early, and did some upwind/downwind sailing to shake off the cobwebs and check in on breeze. The forecast was for SW veering to NW during the day, so we made a plan to get right after the start. Bit of a pin favor so we tried to end up left on the line.

Start was ok, and we got the pin end, but the favor wasn't as dramatic as we'd hoped, and we got pinned out left by 90, and got stuck going left for much of the beat. We watched a couple shifts go back and forth before we were able to head right, and when we did it seemed like the right side had profited pretty well, with Kevin nicely ahead. Our tune wasn't exactly great for upwind, as the boat was underpowered, but seemed quick down. Rest of the race was spent trying to chase him down, and ended with a win for 150 and us in second. Very good racing, but today was just one of those days where you seem to be on the wrong side of every shift.

Next start will live in infamy for quite a while with me, and is a great lesson in where not to be. We wanted the boat, which was a bit favored, and after the previous race we wanted freedon to tack. We pretty much tried a barging start, but were caught out by 150 and 63, and 63 luffed us right over the line, but being good sports at least went with us so we were both OCS. Had a REALLY tough time getting clear of other boats to return, and it was a pretty ugly restart, with all the other boats being quite far ahead.

Times like that you really appreciate level headed people, and everyone on the boat stayed cool and was focused on taking boats back. We had changed tune (-1 turn lower, -.5" headstay) and the boat was quick upwind. Rounded 2nd to last (ugh) but managed to get a really nice set, set up inside the pack ahead, and played the patient/low road game downwind to round the bottom mark in 3rd. Our bottom mark rounding was pretty sweet, and I'll remember the perfect crewwork long after I forget our results today! We had an ok upwind, but really kept going the wrong way on shifts, and overstood the top mark, which put us in 5th for the last run. Managed to have a cleaner set than the boats around, and did a little drag race and cover to eke out a 3rd. It was a pretty thrilling 3rd though, as we were fighting the whole way, and watching the duel between 90 and 150 up ahead was cool, especially when they took each other so far right it seemed like we would catch up! No such luck, but a 3rd was very satisfying given our pooched start.

Kevin is in first place right now with 3, we're tied for 2nd with 5. This was one of those days where the racing is so close and fun that results (almost) don't matter, and it was great to have our fleet all engaged and trading punches like that. Incredibly challenging but fun day, and good on our fleet for being so competitve. Fun people on 88 as well, which made this a learning day instead of a beat-yourself-up for me.

Great to be back!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

First Race!

Damn it's good to be racing again!

We did our first wednedsay beercan race tonight, despite the lousy forecast. The weather was quite cold, down in the forties, but the wind was pretty light, at 4-10kts out of the northeast. Lots of chop made it pretty tricky to move the boat around, so it was definitely a challenging night.

Tonight was a great night to apply some theories on skill "loops" on the boat. Niki was handling the mechanics of the boat; sails, gear, and etc so that we were always ready for what was next. Jacob had the tactical end of things, and was always working on either wind, course or competition position, and Brian had the speed loop going, and we seemed pretty quick.

It was unique competition tonight, as we had no other Shields around, and total turnout for the beercan was about 14 boats (it was _real_ cold) so the RC gave us one start en masse. It worked out pretty good for ol' Peanut, and our plan for a conservative mid port start (it was big pin favored, and port tack beat as well) turned into a go-for-broke pin end start (we were 1 second away from not making the pin!) and a port-tack-the-fleet start. Quite thrilling to start a handicap race as the slowest boat, yet crossing all the fast guys! Competition was a number of 30-40' somethings, a couple T10s, 2 J105's and a Bene 40.7

Upwind was tricky, with big sloppy chop and little wind. Brian and I got the boat moving ok. For him this involved a lot of twist in both sails, but with pretty firm halyards. For me this was the Shields nightmare of sub-6kt breeze; just keep it moving! Jacob really came through for us tactically, as we had the rockstar start, and also kept in phase pretty well upwind despite the skewed leg. Along the way, we got rolled by the 40.7 (but it took half the beat!) and lost the 105 upwind, but gained them back in some short tacking at the top mark.

We rounded 3rd, which was quite cool, as we rate 176, and the boats ahead rate 96 and 42, and were within throwing distance. Downwind sailing was tricky, as it turned into a tight reach, which in a Shields usually means drop the spin and go whitesails only, yet it was so much fun to have the spin up we kept it going past the point of usefulness. We finished about 4 minutes behind the 40.7, 1 or so behind the 105, and barely got beat by a T10 at the end (they rate 126)

Peanut won her first thing tonight, and we got some rum for the corrected time win, which went to Jacob as a housewarming thingus. The new systems on the boat work really well, and the crew seems to like it all. New chute is extremely purple. Racing handicap was surprisingly fun, and I'd like to do it again. For a while I thought we could pull out line honors, but that's being a bit optimistic! More than a win though, it was great to be racing again, and some of the organizational/team ideas I had over winter seem to work well with our crew. More development on that later, but the long and short is we had a good night, with great people and fun racing; viva la beercan!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Boat work!

When you work in the marine industry, you quickly find that the boat that gets the shabbiest treatment when it needs it most is yours! I've been dying to work on 88 for a while, but have been incredibly busy (the good kind) at work and haven't wanted to miss anything.

Today, a crappy situation turned into a good one, but tomorrows going to suffer... I was all set to make up a bunch of rigging, but when I opened up the shipment, the rope I needed wasn't in there. Argh. It's getting overnighted to me for tomorrow, which means I'll be working until 7pm, but the upside is I was near our harbor, with no work I could possibly get done, which meant time for 88.

The big thing on my mind lately has been the fact that 88 was slowly sinking, and for 3 weeks I was too busy to fix it! The rudder packing nut leaked a bit last year, which turned into a LOT this year. Like 2 or 3 drops per second, which meant about 50 gallons in the boat today.

I was a bit paranoid about the fix, as all the advice I've heard has said that the boat has to get pulled to fix this, and that water would rush in when the nut was off. My plan was not to pull the boat, but rather to lift the transom the 4" neccesary to get the rudder head above the water using the crane at Belmont. Just for kicks, while working on other stuff, I tried pulling the nut off and seeing how much water came out. Turns on not much at all, so I just pulled off the rudder head, pulled out the old packing and put in some new fanct PTFE packing.

Here is the post without the rudder head. There is a packing nut (top) and a lock nut (bottom):
Here is the inside of the nut with 3 layers of new packing. The cuts in each row of packing are staggered so the gaps don't line up, and also bias cut on the ends in order to have more contact area and less leak.

Putting the head on was the hardest part! It's a tight fit, and there is a keyway, so I found it helpful to spread the head apart with a screwdriver. Your mileage may vary. Some Boeshield and WD40 helped ease the way too.

Last tricky bit was getting the bolt that holds the head tight in place. Duh, it turns out there is a slot machined in the rudder post to accept the cross bolt, which locks the head in place.

Seriously, this took like45 minutes once I got in there, and the helm feel is as good as ever (probably the top priority for me in Shields)

Also added some "millionaires tape" to the front of the mast where the jib sheet shackle hits it, and also where the covers zipper was chafing it. Also added tape to the front edges of the partner box, and wherever the sheets (or anything else) would snag. I already got other areas aloft, like the area around the main halyard sheave, the hounds (where the spin halyard could snag/chafe) etc. Millionairs tape is actually just PTFE tape with a silicone adhesive. Great stuff.
t st Also worked up a workable way to use a Harken Rigtune Pro with 7/32" wire. It's only specced to 5mm (3/16") wire, but I've held off getting one since our lowers (which we adjust most) are 5.5mm. It will in fact return accurate readings, but requires marking your own calibration spot on the arm, as the stock ones are nowhere near loose enough for use with 7/32". I've got it all set up, and use the Rigtune to generate a little "cheat sheet" on our boat, which quantifies in lbs how much each 1/2" turn of a turnbuckle actually is. Based on my experience last year, we're going to have a range of 1/2 turn + or - on the uppers, and 1-1/2 turns + or - on the lowers. Also marked our headstay in a couple ways. Our base is 48", which corresponds to middle of the middle tape on our turnbuckle. Based on conditions we vary that quite a bit, enough for 3 tape marks.

Cleaned up some other things, like cut off the long halyard tails, so that when main and jib are at their max eased position (jib on deck, main on boom on deck) there is 4' of tail sticking out. This should clean up the pit area, although Joc has never gotten in trouble before.

Added the worlds most ridiculous Shields main halyard: It's a Tylaska S5 spool shackle, onto 5mm Dynex Dux, spliced into a tail of 1/8" endura-12, with a polyester cover for the handled parts. This is MASSIVE overkill, as the Dynex breaks at 10k, and the most load I think a Shields main halyard would ever ever see is 1000lbs, and thats in conditions windier than we usually sail in. BUT. I'm doing a lot of work with Dux, and wanted to have a test piece to learn more about it. 5mm is the smallest size available to me, so it's what I was stuck with. It's already been helpful to see how this stuff splices, accepts cover, and interacts with other lines. It should also be a _zero_ stretch halyard, or as close as is possible in the real world. At the end of a couple years I'll break the dynex to see where/how it fails, and use that info in other things.

PS does anyone want to buy our old main halyard? It's a stripped 5/16" vectran halyard, blue/gold cover with bluish goldish core. Tylaska P4 on the end. First $125 takes it. Has one season of use, and should last for a long time yet.