Singles on Sailboats (SOS) Spring Training Presentation

March 14, 2010

Today I spoke to two groups of more than 50 folks at the Singles On Sailboats Spring Training.  This is the third year that I have done this program and I really enjoy doing it every spring.  I get to try out some new things and the feedback is great!

Here is a slide show of the material presented.  I will be doing voiced over slide shows of the segments this week, so stay tuned!

Upwind “Dirty Air” Slideshow

February 18, 2010

What a long, strange trip it’s been.

February 17, 2010


St. Pete NOOD Regatta

After 47 days on the road; a trip of racing, teaching, coaching, team building and more is over.  For at least three days.  I am back off to the British Virgin Islands on Friday.  No rest for the wicked.

Most recently I coached and raced in the 2010 St. Petersburg NOOD Regatta. This is one of my favorite events because of the venue and because I think the NOOD series is well managed.  Sure, you can gripe about a few things; but on the whole these are some of the best events in the country.

Over the next few days I’ll be posting thoughts and commentary about lessons learned at this event.  These events are so much fun and challenging because as a coach I am trying to balance my need to both teach my clients new skills and coach my clients’ skill to a higher level, and then try to compete.  That is no easy task when there are more than a dozen other boats trying to beat you on the race course, and you just met your team a few days before.  But we try to cover all that.

Every time I am reminded of the fact that it is exceedingly hard to do all that in the heat of battle.  But, at the same time there are no other programs, that I do, where clients get that full excitement and experience.  I think it comes down to being able to  articulate exactly what are reasonable expectations for each event and each client.  That clients can expect to improve every day and learn experientially.  I guess what I am saying is; we put learning first.

On top of all that, I like to think of the final debrief I do with my clients as the start of our racing relationships rather than the end.  So I write.  I write down my lessons learned, what I think they team improved on and areas where I think they can improve.  Here is the first email to my St. Pete team, taken from an email sent to my them this morning:

Well the aches and pains are really starting to set in.  And the “I wish I was still racing” blues are definitely in full effect.

One of the first things I like to do after these events is review the pictures that the photographers take.  First it is fun, but second there are lots of analysis that we can do about sail shapes, body weight positioning and more.  Here is the link to Tim Wilkes’ site that has several pics of our boat from the St. Petersburg NOOD regatta.  Fortunately, there is a series of images from one of the upwind legs with Christe (a good boat to gauge off of).  There is also a decent series of our lighter air downwind set up on Day Two.

Take a look and let me know if you see anything interesting.  I know I did.  There are some pretty neat shots there, and Tim is a great guy.  So buy a pic while you are at it.

Much much much more to come.


You’re sick of hangin’ around and you’d like to travel;
Get tired of travelin’ and you want to settle down.
I guess they can’t revoke your soul for tryin’,
Get out of the door and light out and look all around.

Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me;
Other times I can barely see.
Lately it occurs to me, What a long, strange trip it’s been.

Truckin’, I’m a goin’ home. Whoa whoa baby, back where I belong,
Back home, sit down and patch my bones, and get back truckin’ on.

Key West Race Week – Part Two – A Response!

December 27, 2009

Thanks to everyone for the great responses!  There were some great offline conversations and the responses I’ve included some of those conversations below.  I’ve also included two images.  The first is The First Cross Visualization and the second is representative of what where I think the windward danger zones are.

NOTE:  There was an error is the original visualization.  Our heading is not 055M, but rather 305M.  That makes a big difference in the thought process.  The good thing is that most folks either realized I had made the mistake (the compass makes more sense if you are just ADDING *sigh*) or made an in interesting conclusion that was a good conversation starter.

In the last visualization I asked seven questions;

1)  Should we change our set up?  2)  What information can each person (helm, spin trimmer, bow) communicate in this situation to help the boat make the right call?  3)  What should the two forward positions be concentrating on?  4)  Should we tack?  5)  Why or why not?  6)  In the event that we decide not to tack, if we are in a close crossing situation with another boat, what should we call them across or make them tack?  7)  If we do tack, where should we tack?

I think the following conversations should help illuminate most of these questions (responses from readers are italicized)

I do not see a reason to change setup. Btw, what are all the items considered in this category?

I would agree.  The differences in the angles is probably due to the left shift that we’ve gotten, and the boats to leeward of us have gotten even more of.  Speed and angle the same – so let’s make a note of what our settings are so that if we do make changes we can always come back to our “base” and at the very least match the other boats.

Items in the set up category would be Angle of attack, draft, twist for both sails as well as crew weight position.

I’m expecting everyone to update me on shifts, puffs, waves, traffic, other boat performance above, below and ahead or behind.

I think you are asking for the right information, but I would suggest that you assign information to individuals so that the information you want/need at any given time is always available and you know who to go to for it.  If all of the info is up for grabs I find that teams can very easily distract themselves with one thing and the other information gets lost or isn’t available when you need it.  I think I said it before, but I have my bow person talking about how we are doing performance wise on the boats to windward, as well as helping track heading info and big picture strategy.  Then my spinnaker trimmer (next position back) is calling puffs and lulls as well as waves.  What naturally occurs is the puff and lull info is communicated more easily to the helm due to being closer.

Unless we see something desirable to leeward or we get lifted I would tack a few boats above the last to cross to stay with the pack and have clean air.

Interesting.  To get lifted here would be a really bad thing.  After 8 minutes we are pretty far to the left hand side of the course.

In the diagram to the right, you can see that in the corners we are LOOKING for reasons to tack away from the layline.

Also, we were expecting there to be a left shift – a header.   So a lift here, as we near the layline would mean that when we tack (and we WILL need to tack) we will be sailing on a header and all those boats that went right (or we forced to the right) would be gaining – and probably gaining big due to the leverage we built.

But I DO like where you are going with the stay with the pack with clear air thinking.  Now what gets important is how do we stay connected with with this fleet.

This is a long race.  We want to stay in contact with the majority, pick off boats one by one, and limit our risk.  The left shift has come in.  We see it on our compass, and we see it in the fact that the majority of the competition is cashing in on the shift.  So in order for us to gain on the boats that are slightly ahead of us, we would need to realize MORE left shift beyond the competition.  Nothing that has been presented (which we could interpret as nothing that we KNOW) says that there is more shift to the left.  In fact 3/4′s of the pack we are racing think there’s little left to tap in the left.  So I think there are a lot of factors that are screaming tack.  But tack BEFORE the fleet crosses us rather than after.

Where are we on the course?  After eight minutes we’ve probably sailed pretty far into the left hand side of the course.  In fact, we’ve probably sailed about 4800 feet.  In the simplest (and often the best) tactical thinking you want to sail the tack that takes you closer to the mark.  At this point the other tack is pointed more directly at the mark.  Simple racing principle – sail AT the next mark.

By allowing the majority of the fleet to cross us here, we put ourselves closer to the layline than our competition.  Generally, we want to herd our competition towards the laylines and save the middle for ourselves in order to keep our options open.  So if we duck here, then we are allowing the competition to sail to the middle while we sail to the edge.  Simple racing principle – avoid the laylines.

By ducking, we’ve conceded to the other boats that they are ahead.  We’ve committed to going away from the other boats in an effort to get ahead of them.  So now we are gambling and every second we separate we are building risk.  Conversely if we tack, we stay with our competition, if later, we decide that the edge really holds the pot of gold; we can head to it later.  Simple racing principle – stick with the competition.

Monitor and adjust – We are luck to have the bulk of the fleet going the way we want and just a couple of boats going the other way.  It is early, in the race, so this is one of those great opportunities to see who gets paid in this situation without risking our own bacon.  By watching where the other two boats end up at the weather mark we can make an informed decision on the next weather leg.

So with all of that added up, I’d say that we tack.

Also, one of the questions was if we are going to tack, where should do it?  Well, I would argue that this is a time to execute the safe leeward tack.  In other words we want to tack ahead and to leeward of the boats to the left.  We want to maintain a clear air “lane” and maintain the ability to tack back if we choose to.  We also don’t want to tack so early that there is a lane between us and the fleet we are sticking with.  That’s just too attractive to the boats we might have to duck who are coming out of the right hand corner.

OK, more to come this week.

Sail Trim and Balance at the Singles on Sailboats Spring Training

March 13, 2009

Saturday, March 14th I will be working with the Singles on Sailboats (SOS) sailing club.  SOS’s Spring Training is an annual event where members of the the club – they have more than 700 members – get together at Broadneck High School in Annapolis for a day of information sharing and socializing.

SOS serves sailors in MD, DC, VA, DE, and PA.  What is even more amazing is that they put on this and other events throughout the year and they are an entirely volunteer run effort.

Tomorrow, I am scheduled to speak to two groups.  First I will be discussing fundamental sail trim and boat balance to a group of about 70 people.  Following that session I am discussing spinnaker handling and some more advanced sail trim and balance topics.

I always look forward to this lecture topic, because I think there are great opportunities for “Aha!” moments.  We’ll be discussing what each sail control does to the sail, how wind strength and sea state effect what shape is desired, how to deal with older sails and how sailors can develop their own “quick chart” to ensure that they are “in the balpark” with their sail set-ups.  Oh yeah, and I bet we have a little bit of fun in the process too.

Start Sailing Now

January 30, 2009

SpinSheet, has created a program called Start Sailing Now to help new sailors meet other sailors and try the sport with minimal investment. Molly Winans, editor of the noble monthly, is giving a talk tomorrow at the West River Sailing Club in Galesville at 1 p.m.

The theme is “Bring a Friend into Sailing.” It’s free and open to the public.  Get details here!

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