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.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sailing May 14th

Really nice night on the water. Warm, breezy, comfy, beer, grapes, chips. Excellent.

Wind started around 16 kts, dropped to around 8 by the end. Some thoughts on Shields 88 upgrades:

2:1 jib sheets. Very happy to see how these work. The girls could trim in all the way even in the puffs. I tried it and loved it too. Think for super-breezy days we'll take it to the winch.

Jocelyn doesn't hate the console mounted topper. Yay!

Jocelyn II (the Tacktick Micro Compass) works really well. Everyone on the boat can see it well, and it seems to react very quickly. Mount is cool.

New cunningham is great. Pivoting exit block means it can be led anywhere, and it's just about the simplest lowest profile system possible. Even at 4:1 Niki can pull it all the way to the boom.

Mainsheet finetune. Really nailed this one out of the box. Girl-friendly main trim! May remove the stopper ball, as it beans people in the face, but otherwise all is well.

New mast. Way bendier. Kind of like it. We'll see how it works in the big breeze, but see a lot more tunability than our old one .

Color coded settings: forestay is now calibrated to 3 gross tune colors, with numbers in between. Backstay is now marked. "pull it to blue" Why didn't I do this last year?

Hope we see weather like last night again, it was perfect!

Monday, May 4, 2009

88 rigging for 2009


A couple new upgrades on the boat this year in addition to the things seen on these pages in the past. First, here's a photo Niki panorama'd while we were following Skip and our (illegal, rusty, terrifying) trailers on launch day.

Not new, but never discussed is our "pulpit". This is just a piece of bungee run from the top of the headstay swage, to either teak toerail. It does 2 things:
-when the spinnaker pole is stored on deck (racing upwind) the back end is clipped to to the stbd upper shroud, which leaves the front end free to move around. The bungee keeps the pole tip from falling over. Some teams clip the pole to the lower (further aft) shroud, so that the upper shroud chainplate keeps it in place. This is dumb because: if the pole does get overboard it bends the pole in half, or worse, tears/bends/breaks the chainplate. Happened to a boat in our fleet 3 years ago.
-the bungee also keeps the hanks on the jib from sliding down over the swage fitting and jamming when the jib is doused. This sucks when you're rounding a leeward mark and the jib won't go all the way up!

The blue line is our jib halyard. 5/32" vectran core, with tylaska spool shackle. It's a bit bigger than it needs to be, but is very low stretch. The shackles great, light and have had zero problems.

The red line is our downhaul, which we wrap over the mooring line cleat and then attach to the headstay to take the slack out.
This shows the toggles I had to add to our shrouds. Ugh. On one hand, they're ugly, but on the other hand it would be silly to replace shrouds with less than 25 days of use.

Also visible is some of the rare non-Harken gear on the boat: Holt Allen snatch blocks for the twings. The twings run through the deck to an upright lead block which is epoxied in place, then back to the traveler/backstay control box.
Here you see our take on 2:1 jib sheeting. It takes some explaining if you haven't sailed an Etchells, Soling or other type keelboat. The shackle near the mast gets clipped to the clew of the sail. It has 2 40mm carbo blocks on it. The sheet (continuous) is deadended on the car, runs to the clew block, down to the car block (another 40mm Carbo Ti-Lite), then sideways to the athwartship tracks, to an 57mm Autoratchet, then to cleats mounted on angled risers on the console. It would be better, and easier, to just replace the jib winches with the rathchets, but the class rules don't allow it. Unfortunately they don't allow a fine-tune either, which would be wicked cool and easy on the trimmer.

I'm holding off really pushing this to our fleet until we see how it works. I think it'll be great, but the Shields jib is near the top of what I consider "hand tensionable" with 2:1 and big breeze. At 25kts, our jib sheet should have around 350lbs of load, with a 2:1 that's at least 175lbs on the sheet, way more than a person can trim alone. In that much breeze I think we'll probably go to the winch. In 15kts though, the 2:1 sheet load is more like 65lbs, which is managable for sure. Depending on how it works I think we'll probably use the 2:1 with ratchets until big breeze, then run it to the winch, possibly going back to 1:1 for that. Here's a couple new things:
-neat Harken sticker
-Tacktick Micro Compass, yay! I really like this thing. Custom cat themed mount.
-4:1 cunningham. The bowman (Niki) complained when I talked about moving the cunningham to an aft led remote cleat (not enough to do upwind apparently) , but I had already sold our old cunningham to Shields 45, so had to come up with something. Heres a neat system that is compact, leads to side easier, and is 4:1 so the bowman gets a workout. No more complaining about not having enough to do.
-In lieu of using a triangle plate for the vang, or just tying the cascade on, I use a split tail cascade line, which takes the 2:1 to both sides of the bottom fiddle block. The split tail prevents chafe and is less weight/junk than the tri plate. Proud of this idea as I've never seen it elsewhere and it works great! Right now we're trying it with soft shackles, but Niki doesn't like them and they're a bit bulky. I may go to a regular lashing for the attachment.
The console and coaming. Note the continuous jib sheet (gray) and the risers for angling it up a bit. The angle is set so that the jib trimmer (3rd spot) can control the line from their spot on the rail. The blue line exiting the coaming is the topping lift, now exiting belowdecks. This saves an exit in the side of the mast, and also means the 3rd spot can raise the topping lift while the 4th spot is in the boat helping the spinnaker out, and vice versa on the drop. Red line in the middle is downhaul.

Our jib halyard on the clutch worked well last year, and should be better this year since I peened the winch drums for more grip.

Will be nice to have the cockpit step back, as last year we just lashed the compass on, which blocked it.

Thats it for now, hoping to go sail this week! Also recently completed were some sail fixes, handled by North Sails midwest. They replaced our old mains window, which was taped together, and also fixed the new mans bolt rope problem. According to the tech at North, when tension was released from the rope, it shot inside the sail 14"! Jeez.


Boats wet!

Skip Schink of 39 did us a huge favor this weekend and pulled our boat down to the harbor for us, so we were able to get in nice and early. Boats all set up and looks great! Haven't had time for blog or photos unfortunately, but here's a summary of whats new this year.

-new mast
-new boom
-white rubrail
-snazzy blue stripe
-underdeck topping lift
-new cunningham
-tacktick micro compass
-36 grit scratches removed from bottom
-bottom wetsanded

All went well save the fact that our new mast is just a bit longer than the old. I knew about this going in and elected to hold off making new rigging until I was sure exactly how much longer it would be on the water. So now, our rigging all ends in toggles (ugh.) I've checked in with the anyone besides me who would be too offended by this and we're all a go, at least until Nats.

So very good to have the boat in the water; now we just have to go sailing sometime!