Wednesday 14 August 2013

OPB, Faster Edition: Fat Boy Goes Racing

    "They deftly maneuver and muscle for rank..."

      I am no athlete.
      Short, wide, built for comfort, not speed, I am comfortable, not competitive.

      Which also describes my boat.

       Racing hasn't really been on my radar since Sailing School, over three decades of summers ago.

       Until recently.

       Andy stupidly graciously allowed me to crew aboard Cyclone this season.  I  had often heard that racing is the best way to improve your sailing skills, and I wanted to see if it was, indeed, true.


        "So," the Astute Reader asks, "if you suddenly have the desire to race, why not run Whiskeyjack on Wednesday nights?"

        Great question.

        To answer requires some uncomfortable soul-baring honesty:

        I'm not a race skipper.  I don't have the depth of acquaintance to be able to build a team, since anyone I know who is interested in racing is already racing on somebody else's boat.  I can run a business, and hire and fire and train employees but I don't have the cat-herding patience to ensure that unpaid volunteer crew shows up for practices and races, and I am extremely ungood (as my family will testify) at diplomacy and massaging egos.

       And I yell from time to time.

       From an equipment standpoint, our faithful doughty galleon Whiskeyjack has a layout that is entirely unsuited for racing.  A racing crew requires grinders on the foresail winches, a mainsail handler, a mastperson to handle sail changes and reefing, and a bowman.  With winches behind the helm and mainsheet right in front, and ruler-narrow side decks and high cockpit coamings, she is a great boat for single handing, but the real estate is just too small and too awkward to race.  I would never force any grinder to work through an entire race with my not- insubstantial (yet attractive) ass in their face.

       Further, racing is hard on a boat- stuff breaks.  Racing also leads one to continue to improve the boat's speed, which means buying new and better and fancier sails and new and better and fancier gear in addition to fixing the stuff that breaks and that would put a dent in the rum and red wine budget.
       So, I figured I'd break stuff on someone else's boat.  I'm selfless like that.

         I am also a lazy sailor- pounding through chop in big wind- that's work.  I like to shirk work.

       THAT is one of the big reasons why I want to race on Other People's Boats- it forces me to work, to head out into conditions, on purpose, that would normally keep me on the dock, and find the fun in big weather, big heel, wet sailing.

       The crew on Cyclone is... varied.  Ranging from teens to retirees, from novices to old salts, dinghy sailors to boatless, avid racers to dabblers, it is a collision of attitudes and experience that shouldn't work.

        But does.

        Most races.

        Largely thanks to the man at the helm.

       The skipper doesn't just run the boat, he sets the tone for the boat.  Andy has demonstrated a deft touch, commanding without screaming, getting the best out of everyone on the boat, celebrating the smooth tacks and taking responsibility for tactical errors.


   We don't have matching shirts and logo'd foulies...

       And sometimes, it can be cold and miserable...


   But it's fun.

      I am picking up new skills, and have a better knowledge of tweaking sail trim, sheeting angle, outhaul adjustment and a myriad of other sailing arcana.  It has also reinforced that stuff that I believe I am already doing right, I really am doing right.

     It has also given me the opportunity to see, up close, how different types of boats and hull forms perform.

Our fleet is varied, from semi-hardcore racing boats like Mylar sail'd J boats to run-what-you-brung cruisers

    A Nonsuch can be far more competitve than she looks.  Here's Shaibu running the pack:

     A Goman Express 30 is deceptive racer-cruiser, quickish and high-pointing:

      A Cal 31, still competitive:

And juts a pretty, pretty boat:

  A Tanzer 22:  Maybe the best value in a racing boat today.  Under $5K will get you a great little boat with an active fleet that is quick and safe and a weekender to boot.

  It's a colourful fleet...

  Note that the colourful boats have matching shirts.  I'm not sure what that means, but it might mean something.

    So, how is Cyclone standing, more than halfway through the season?

    Errr... we are improving every race.

     And we're having fun.

"Talk the Dock!"


  1. I didn't see you mention how beverages are handled while racing. I can see that gimbaled cup holders and snack holders would be a necessity. A tackable snack bowl would also be a necessity. Anyway racing is fun, especially when you have a skipper who actually knows what he's doing.
    While sailing at what we thought was a good clip in Hamilton harbour we were hunted down and passed by a Nonsuch with ease. They are deceptively fast.
    I think during the winter we should figure out how to increase the sail area and incorporate 1 or more hydrofoils on Whiskeyjack so as to silence the naysayers next year.

  2. As a Nonsuch sailor, I appreciate the shout out to my peeps. Great writing, I enjoy the humor! Fair winds mate.