Sunset Harbor Challenge 10/20/12 Ocala Sailing Club

Sunset Harbor Challenge 10/20/12 Ocala Sailing Club

Rigging and Talking

Rigging on the beach

Please Note that there are in fact three pages to this post, I wouldn’t want you to miss anything!

Ocala Sailing Club’s third annual Sunset Harbor Challenge certainly got the challenge part right.Thirty boats registered including ten boats from LMSA. Nearly ten miles of the most consistent inconsistencies I may have ever witnessed. I have heard that Ted Turner said something along the lines of “If you have not adjusted your sails in the last thirty seconds you are out of trim”. At this year’s Sunset Harbor Challenge thirty seconds would have allowed ten such opportunities to be out of trim.

We have come to expect these kinds of shifts when the wind is very light but in this case there was pretty good wind nearly the entire time. The other factor that made it unique was the amount of wind shear. Basically wind shear for a sailboat refers to the fact that the wind changes as the altitude changes, or the wind at the top of the mast is different than the wind at the spreaders which is different than the wind at the boom level.  Wind shear variations on Lake Weir at this event were extreme.

If you are interested, there are some good explanations here., I especially liked this statement, “Wind shear in an atmospheric layer that is clear, but unstable, can result in clear air turbulence.”  Based on the evidence provided on Lake Weir, I suggest this might be understated. Several good photos were taken and posted on Face Book at the link below., I am sure more photos will become available in the near future.

Lake Weir has been a large influence on my sailing history.  My family started sailing on Lake Weir in the late 1980’s on a Mirage 5.5 named Hydromania when Ocala Sailing Club was a splinter group of the Ocala Beer and Rafting Society. My oldest son sailed on Lake Weir in his car seat when he was less than one and later rolled around in the V-berth while his mom jumped off the foredeck during a spinnaker douse. (She may have a slightly different perspective on that event). OSC provided the model for the LMSA Christmas gift exchange, which has become one of our premier social events. Ed Simms, Paul Straub, David Mooring, and John Hult are just a few of our long time friends from OSC and there are stories to be told about each. Unfortunately the current membership of OSC is so nice and friendly that it is difficult for me to impart my normally sarcastic and unruly descriptions.  Wait a minute, Paul is still a member, I guess there is always an opportunity. Jan Schumacher is a member of OSC that I just met this weekend, but she is currently one of my very favorites because she subscribed to my website and I didn’t even have to beg!

Sunset Harbor Challenge

Jan has the camera, Paul is in the yellow shirt

At the ramp there are trees, large unforgiving but delightful shading oaks. Some things change slowly like the trees at the ramp. These trees are more than willing to shed leaves, limbs, Spanish moss, and broken mast parts on the deck of the unsuspecting, uninitiated, and uninformed. I believe everyone escaped this weekend with nothing more than leaves and moss.

Mike McKeown from the Crescent City Yacht Club and I have figured out different but equally effective techniques to avoid sailing our own boats. I take so long getting my own boat working and then whine about not having any input for an article that many of my friends have invited me to sail with them over the past months (thank you very much). Mike threatens to sail a Walker Bay 10 in the planing class so people loan him other boats to sail to avoid infinitely long handicap calculations. Mike’s ride for the Sunset Harbor challenge turned out to be a Sunfish provided by Ed Simms, which needed a little cleaning, and since I had mooched a ride myself on Andy and Diane Forrest’s Show Meit felt noble to help Mike clean and launch the fish.

Before the start

Trim Mike! go for the line!

San Juan 21 Spinnaker Test

San Juan 21 Spinnaker Test or The Box of Kittens meets Giant Ball of Kite String

I have been very fortunate this week in that I have managed to go sailing three days in row. Tuesday I help Matt Homan launch his Catalina and we went out to watch and coach  Andy Forrest as he practiced sailing Matt’s Laser. Wednesday was the Rum Race as described in the previous post “Rum Race 10/10/12”. Thursday was different, we had real wind.

Steve Siegfried has been working to get his San Juan 21 rigged for racing with a spinnaker, see the pictures in “Rum Race 10/03/12”, and while the rigging has been nearly ready it has been difficult to get weather, boat, schedule, and participants in the same place at the same time. This afternoon we managed. We got on the water around five and sailed up wind to find an imaginary windward mark to use as the impetus for launching the newly rigged spinnaker. Sure enough, there was one.

The wind was about twelve knots out of the northeast, plenty of white caps, and a couple feet of chop. Relatively rough day on Lake Monroe, it really is just a wide place in the swamp. Pounding upwind, we began to go through the motions.

First we set up for a port rounding, coming into the imaginary mark on starboard. We launch out of the cabin off the port side, from behind the shrouds.

Second, but not too early, set the pole making sure that we will make the mark and that some imaginary inside overlapper is not going to force us to tack. The pole should be about level, perpendicular to the mast, resting against the forestay, the tweaker for the guy is tight, for the sheet is slack .

Third, set the pile of spinnaker on the deck behind the shrouds and hold it there. We do this to avoid those bolts and screws that are sticking out into the cabin from the freshly installed hardware, you know the ones that have little signs on them that say “TEAR SPINNAKER HERE”.

Fourth, pre-feed the foot out toward the pole as much as possible with the guy, this can go a long way toward avoiding that incredibly photogenic hour glass shape. Ideally the third and fourth step happen between the time that bow overlaps the windward mark and before the transom passes it.

Fifth, as the helmsman bears away the spinnaker is raised, the guy is pulled tight moving the pole back until it is perpendicular to the wind for the perfect predetermined course. The pole arrives at that position precisely at the time the mark on the spinnaker halyard arrives at the cleat, and the sheet is hauled in resulting in that whiplash inducing acceleration that happens every time we do this.

Sixth, minor adjustments may be required to optimize performance. Simple.

We managed to get it working in something under twenty-five boat lengths. Our course had been west-southwest, a little higher than a broad reach. To test our mettle, we came up a little, easing the pole forward and trimming the mains’l. This created several opportunities to bear away and put the boat back under the spinnaker. Regularly surfing and enjoying some real live San Juan 21 haul-ass, it soon became apparent that a douse was imminent as was the need to purchase some good ratchet blocks.

First, bear away and get a little cover for the chute behind the main.

Second, grab the sheet in front of the tweaker.

Third, blow the guy and gather up the foot.

Fourth, ease the halyard and pull the chute down neatly into the cabin/bag.

To shorten the story, let’s say we did this and headed back up in a building breeze. At the northeast end of the lake we devised a plan to take a stab at the Rum Race course, from our position that would require a standard set and two jibes which I estimated would take eighteen minutes, thereby allowing us to start at 6:15. Here we go.

The set was reasonable, not exactly picture perfect but fine for only the second time on the boat. Jibing was less than elegant, the pole got twisted so that the guy would not run through it and the pole end was bound up in the mast ring, tweakers had not been adjusted so the twist of the sheet was amplified. Sailing low made it possible to relieve some pressure and turn things around, literally. Sailing low also put us below the rhumb line to the mark and late for the second jibe. This jibe went slightly better except that the pole went back against the stays, and without a foreguy/pole downhaul (we were only using tweakers) moving it forward was a manual operation. At this point we were at the start mark (the flag on the PVC pole) albeit six lengths to leeward and a minute earlier than planned. Hey, we were practicing, we figured we were close enough.

As the wind strength had increased, it had shifted forward so we were flying the kite in about fifteen knots on a beam reach.  I am not sure exactly about the sequence of the following events but the spin halyard slipped, the tweaker released, the pole went vertical and snapped the ring off the mast, just about the time we crossed the channel into thin water a couple of hundred yards from the seawall. It felt like we doing twelve knots, speed perception increases dramatically, the closer you get to running into concrete. Steve and I calmly discussed alternative methods of getting the kite down and where to put the pole, and in spite of that, managed to get under control enough stow the spinnaker and head up away from the seawall and miss Alligator Island right there in front of the treatment plant. We made it back to the ramp with only a few popped pop rivets from the mast ring, and a bent pole end. The mighty Box of Kittens had survived her initial spinnaker trial and we celebrated with rum and pineapple.



Rum Race 10/03/12

Black Jack going slow

Photo courtesy of Christine Barber and Targeting Pro

Rum Race 10/03/12

This phone message from the crew of Black Jack Pete is an accurate summary of the Rum Race of October 3, 2012. It inspired me to create the verse that follows.

“Help, I’ve been becalmed and I can’t get back. If you get this message in the morning I am probably still out here. We’re in the Bermuda triangle of the three anchored boats and we can’t get out.”

Andy Laser sailing

Andy is headed for Lake Monroe’s Bermuda triangle.

Actually the triangle was in Lake Monroe in Sanford Florida, and, only a few hundred yards from shore. I also know for a fact that they were towed in about the same time we made it in, and no lives were endangered.


Rum Race 10/03/12 – Slow Fun is Better Than No Fun

To race this weekend is the plan, and not to be an also ran

Wednesday night we’d race for rum, and test the boat for things to come.

Added tweakers, sheets, a pole, cut the tiller and filled a hole,

Just to learn what we forgot, we set the chute in the parking lot                          .

When the kite was in the air the wind came in from who knows where.

The kite was quickly highly loaded, we doused before the mast exploded.


We set the chute in the parking lot.

It needs more cleats and turning blocks, but not tonight, we left the docks.

The wind was light, the temp was fine when we crossed the starting line

Tom and Pete were right behind but missed the button to start the time

They went back, we followed suit, it’s a lot more fun with two.

This time clocks were started ticking, Timex, you know, takes a

The mighty Box of Kittens roared, we even remembered to lower the board.

The left, the current, now clear ahead, but out in front the wind was dead.

The Viper and the 29er were soon out there where the wind was lighter,

we kept up well for a pretty good while, behind was Fisk that made me smile.

Eventually the wind just died, once again the forecast lied.

Hour and a half and still no mark, by now the time was half past dark.

The 29er was even slow, we offered a line, they did not say no.

The Kittens little motor purred (actually it rattles like a dumpster full of aluminum)

Just enough fuel to reach the channel, drop the tow and find the paddle.

Later at the bar for scoring, we all agreed, it was almost boring.

The Viper finished in 1:42, the other eight did ultimately make it off the lake.


Patrick’s video provides a great summary also, especially about two minutes in…


Jager Race 09/30/12

Jager Race 093012

The Weather Channel said the temperature was going to be 82 degrees with a “feels like” of 97.5.  I think the “feels like” use to be something called the heat index. I was not particularly inspired by the maximum wind prediction of 4 knots either. Curiosity overcame apprehension, and I know that a day spent sailing gets added on to your life. To the lake it is.

As long as I keep procrastinating about fixing my own boat, I have an excuse to sail on someone else’s boat. Circumstance has allowed me to sail on several different vessels in the past few months and it has been quite educational. This past Sunday I had the opportunity to sail with Kristen and Mike Padgett on their newly acquired San Juan 21. A variety of somewhat predictable but unavoidable issues that come with sailing a “new” boat prevented us from making the start of the Jager race. We did get on the water along with nine other boats.

Three other San Juans, Ole Yeller, Dat Dang Boat, and John’s Juan, did make the start. Show Me and Kermit and Panacea filled out the multidimensional Precision fleet, 23 feet, 21 feet, and 18 feet.  Free Spirit, the Catalina 27, Wile-E, the 29erXX, and Grounds for Divorce, the Mac 26M added the diversity that we commonly enjoy.

Typical outboard anomalies forced us to sail out of the marina, and the racers were well on their way to the second mark by then. We chose to join the fleet at the second mark, landing right in the middle. To ensure we did not interfere with the actual racers we made efforts to stay well clear.  Not racing allows a unique opportunity to observe. Brent, sailing the 29erXX, was out front, but not nearly far enough. No reflections on Ron, but Maryann’s shoes are difficult to fill. Fisk and Paulie were riding the windward rail on Ole Yeller as were Andy and Diane on Show Me. John’s Juan and Free Spirit had just rounded the second mark and were climbing upwind also.  Dat Dang Boat had found it necessary to withdraw. We crossed the Precision 21 and 18 as we sailed a modified reverse course.

The winds were very shifty and we had multiple opportunities to discuss sail trim and steering techniques. Off the wind we sailed a course and trimmed the sails as the wind shifted and changed velocity. Upwind, we set the sails and steered to the tell-tales, discussed tacking angles, and heel angle, and weather helm. It was a good review of fundamentals and provided a well received demonstration of how the “new” San Juan dealt with the mild to moderate conditions. At the scoring table I acquired a few of the highlights second hand from the competitors. Show me did manage to cross ahead of Ole Yeller, once, and any moments ahead of Ole Yeller are noteworthy. John’s Juan was actually raced with two sails. Extreme conditions have precluded that on some previous occasions. John was pleased with the acceleration his Juan exhibited in the variable breezes while dueling with Free Spirit. Wile-E only capsized once which is adequate for moderate celebration. Mike and Kristen and I cut some corners and dodge a few weeds to get into the marina, but docking was uneventful, all in all a successful first time out in the newest addition to SJ-21 Fleet 29.

Rum Race 09/26/12


Rum Race 09/26/12

Florida evenings in late September are some of Natures finest artistic creations. Last night’s weather for the Rum Race in Sanford was a master piece. The temperature was comfortable, like favorite chair comfortable. The northeast sea breeze, is the most predictable and consistent of any of the possible wind patterns on Lake Monroe. A little squall washed the dust out of the air just before the competitors began to gather at the starting area. I have lived here since 1976, evenings like this are a large part of why. Lucky thirteen was the number of boats, and I was there to run Black Jack Pete through the spinnaker drill that we avoided on Lake Crescent last weekend.

The plan? Hit the start at full speed, kite flying, stay clear, fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. Therefore, step one is get the spinnaker up. Actually there are a bunch of little steps that have to take place first. Can’t do anything until you get to the right place to do it. That place had to be upwind of the start line, just far enough to get the spinnaker up and pulling with maximum horsepower. In addition we had to; Hit the start at full speed, kite flying, stay clear, exactly at twenty minutes after six (eastern daylight savings time). Remember? The plan.

We think we are the right place. We raise the spinnaker pole. Time to add some sail area. I have found the most snag free way to get the kite up, out of the companionway bag, is to take the chute out and set it on the deck behind the leeward shrouds, then pull the halyard. While Pete did that I pulled the guy, to move the windward clew to the pole. Perfect, half a boat length to the mark,  Byron had already started so the timing must be right. Why are both clews at the end of the pole? Sheets crossed, figure eight, too late now, we got to go. Pete went forward and was amazing. He wrestled and fought until the kite submitted, tapped out, and filled, each clew and the head moving to its own corner. A quick glance behind revealed Show Me’s massive blanket directly upwind. Up we go,  almost into the bad air of Ole Yeller, but not quite, there is a thin line of  nearly clear air, we latched on.

My spinnaker trimming skills got a significant upgrade during a Jager Race, watching Steve Hayden. I learned that over-trimming is really unacceptable, worse than that, it is slow. I emphasized that to Pete, and I think he got it. We did well down wind. We were preceded at the turning mark by Patrick’s Viper and it’s pretty new jib.

Maryann’s 29erXX, and Richards Hobie 21, also rounded in front of us as we should be. Strangely they did not seem to be that far ahead. I think even Byron’s Force 5 rounded ahead of us, no problem, a mile and a half of upwind would take care of that. I was a little surprised that more boats did not tack quickly after rounding. The fundamentals that I know of say, sail the long tack first.  Upwind, there was a little problem with the jib, it seemed to be faster when stalled somewhat (leeward tells dancing). I don‘t know if it was over-trimmed, under-trimmed, or the draft was incorrect, or improperly positioned. I decided to focus on moving big butt out further, and it seemed to work. I did not really expect to make the finish line on one tack, so I took a bite to windward periodically and worked diligently at taking full advantage of every lift. The totally predictable condominium header landed on us just as I was working on getting to windward of one of the anchored powerboats/obstructions. We eased the sails, headed off and squirted out around the canoe/tender tethered to the back of the inconvenient cruiser. The lift needed to make the mark from that position was not available, so we short-tacked at the mark and finished in 00:35:22. Not bad, the Viper, the 29erXX, and the Hobie 21, had already finished, Show Me, and Monkey Butt were close behind.

We had sailed well, clocked a decent time, provided a decent spinnaker lesson for Black Jack Pete and had a really fun race. It was not until I pushed the scoring button on the Sailwave software that I realized we had won. That was cool. Then Ariel picked number 1 out of the box so we got the Rum also. This was a very good day.