Friday, December 30, 2005

Boats I'd Like to Sail - Swift Solo

Thanks to Hold Fast for pointing me to another boat I'd like to sail. I have previously posted about the RS700 and the Musto Skiff which are commercially made fiberglass skiffs. The Swift Solo is an S-glass / carbon Kevlar construction with a cedar core (instead of foam) and carbon spars. It has a self tacking / self sheeting jib and a self launching spinnaker and pole. The boat can be made as a kit and the results are beautiful.

Comparison to the RS700 and Musto Skiff

Note: there are some errors in the above chart. the spars for the Musto
are all carbon, the racks are not adjustable, and the sail area is slightly off.

The unusual thing about the Swift Solo is that it has a jib. Julian Bethwaite comments on this on the class webpage:
"Having a jib on a single-hander combined with the main/jib sheeting system keeps the boat balanced across a wide wind range; it also has excellent windward performance. It needs a softer mast to take full advantage of the sheeting feature, but even as it is rigged now, when bearing away in a puff the boat responds immediately and impressively! Most single-handers can't respond like this.

A second advantage to sloop-rigging is that it lowers the rig plan compared with cat-rigging. This allows the 24 1/2 er to perform well without wings because the rig aspect is more moderate (compared with a boat having racks and a cat rig setup) therefore the boat is easier to sail through gust/lull wind variations. You won't get dumped in the water when the wind drops and it is easier to respond to sudden wind changes. The moderate sail plan has low drag and goes upwind surprisingly fast. I easily stayed in front of a 5o5 going to weather.

The spinnaker is big-possibly too big-but it works and is very manageable. It is possible to sail low and fast downwind.

Some other pluses:
1. Gunwale angles set up well so no need for foot loops.
2. Very positive steering
3. High boom so easy to tack
4. Main sheet, effectively 1:1 so easy and simple trim
5. Great feeling going upwind
6. Feels comfortable to get low on the wire.
7. No vices in bearing away.

Some minuses:
1. Hull a bit full 3ft back from bow
2. Top of mast too stiff
3. Main sheet is stiff
4. Footrails not high enough

In conclusion, this is a very good design! This boat would be great for sailing by yourself whenever you want. It gives good skiff feel and would teach great boat handling." - Julian Bethwaite

I think the Swift Solo would be a fun boat to sail but I'm not sure that I could build it myself; although I am an engineer by training I have never built anything like this. I do have a section of basement that is wired as a large home workshop but I have none of the tools. I bet my brother, who is really an engineer and has composites experience, could help me build one though. The boat looks like quite a complicated beast to sail, but it goes fast and there are boats in the US and Canada.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Another Day at the Office for the Hugo Boss Team

The Hugo Boss team started the Sydney-Hobart Race wearing black suits. Not bad...although I wonder if Sherry Fowler thinks it's appropriate. They'll need to switch to foul weather gear when they push the boat like Alex Thompson has in the past.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Interesting Sailing Related Links: CBI Cam

To follow up on my earlier post about the CBI Wind website, here's a link to the CBI Cam. There's not much to see right now because the river is frozen and the camera looks like it is not doing too well in the cold weather.

Google Earth - Sailing Regattas from Space

Tillerman posted about a regatta in San Francisco that he found using Google Earth.
I thought I'd post some images for people who don't have the Google Earth software.

Maybe someone (are you out there EVK4?) can identify the regatta and the type of boat.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Interesting Sailing Related Links: CBI Wind

I became aware of the CBI Wind website while sailing in college. It was a great resource for figuring out the latest wind conditions on the Charles River. The site is maintained by Eric Wile who is an MIT alumnus who works in the Lincoln lab. He also wrote a program that solves those annoying Sudoku puzzles.

The wind on the Charles is tricky to say the least, although there was a definite advantage when sailing home regattas on the river.

The most consistent wind direction was a westerly (coming down the river basin) and the most shifty was a southerly (over Boston's Back Bay). There would also be a big hole extending part of the way across the river in a northerly caused by MIT's Green Building.

An interesting side note - the Google Map satellite photo of the Charles shows the BU team on the river during a practice:

And also the storm drain outlet that is underneath BU's rotation dock:

The Charles River is actually remarkably clean, despite the horror stories you may have heard about it. The Charles River Watershed Association checks the water quality and it is often safe enough for swimming. For example, in June and July of 2005 the river basin (top right) had less than the allowed 126 colony forming units of e. coli per 100 milliliters of water (safe for swimming):

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Fireside Studying

It snowed this morning which always makes me feel happy. Snow makes the world look clean and neat, at least for a little while. Usually I would have given in to the urge to spend some time outside, but today I settled for shoveling the driveway and going to get a haircut. With my one week old daughter E. to take care of and law school finals looming I had good reason to stay inside.
So I made a fire, sat on my couch, put my feet up, and read about Professional Responsibility. The afternoon would have been more satisfying if I had been reading something meatier like Property or Constitutional Law, but as the Stones say, "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well you just might find, you get what you need." Being able to take a break from studying to soothe E. to sleep was just what I needed to make this afternoon pretty great.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Olympic Team Racing

The ISAF recently announced the new format for Olympic Sailing.
The big difference is the Medal Race on the last day. Only the top ten boats advance to the Medal Race and all boats advancing to the medal race are required to compete. The Medal Race cannot be discarded and race scores are doubled (2 points for first, 4 points for second, and so on). The score from the medal race is added to the series score to determine the final scores. There will be an on the water jury for the Medal Race, so all protests will be decided on the water.

So, a sailor who sails consistently to a series lead of less than 21 points over the previous 11 races could lose a medal by having a bad medal race. I think this changes the fundamental requirement of consistency over the range of conditions and situations in the regatta, in favor of a one race sail-off in what could be different conditions, in an artificially smaller fleet, with jury decisions made on the water. The ISAF seems to be under pressure from the IOC to change the format of Olympic sailing to make it more exciting for the media. I wonder if other sports are having the same problems...maybe the Olympic marathon could be decided by a 100 meter sprint between the top ten finishers on the day following the marathon finish.

I think a better solution would be to add an Olympic Team Racing event. My suggestion would be for teams to be composed of the sailors already qualified in other classes and for the event to be sailed in identical boats (i.e. Vanguard 15s). (Only countries with enough sailors qualified in enough classes would be able to form team racing teams.) Top sailors from each country would team up to race with sailors from other classes in an exciting conclusion to the sailing events. The 49er and 470 sailors would probably remain together as partners, but perhaps the Laser skipper and one of the Yngling sailors would form the third boat in the team. A team race format could be TV friendly and explained in terms that casual viewers could understand.

Team racing is becoming well known worldwide. The 2005 ISAF Team Racing World Championships were held in Newport in October. Teams were from Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Great Britain, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, United States and the USVI. The event was won by Team WHishbone - Tim FALLON (N. Falmouth, Mass.), Karen RENZULLI (Needham, Mass), Mark IVEY (Hungtington Beach, Calif.), Matt LINDBLAD (Newport, R.I.), Tim WADLOW (Beverly, Mass.), and Ery LARGAY (Osterville, Mass.).

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Squirrel Starts

"Even a blind squirrel gets a nut sometimes."

Tillerman recently discussed his efforts at being more aggressive at the start. He talks about two techniques: "You can hold station on the line trying to stay in position just below the line while protecting the gap to leeward as best you can. Or you can be a "shark". A shark cruises along behind the line of boats holding station until he sees a good gap then scoots into the hole at the last minute. A shark can approach the hole on port tack in which case he has to tack into it. Or he can be a starboard tack shark. In the drills, JK had us practice all three options -- hold station, port tack shark and starboard tack shark."

In college, one of the guys on our team had a reputation for another type of start that became known as a "squirrel start". It's not really anything new, but he had the technique down to a science. He would line up at the starboard end of the line just downwind and outside the committee boat about one minute before the start. As the boats on the line started to accelerate for the start an opening would typically open up just to leeward of the committee boat. The key would be to time the approach so as to reach the line at full speed right where the hole had appeared. Obviously this technique could be disastrous alot of the time, so there was a certain amount of skill involved in deciding if the placement of the rest of the fleet was optimal for attempting the start. When it worked it had a similar result as port-tacking the fleet from the pin end of the line; he would be ahead and to windward of the fleet in clear air. When it didn't work there would be alot of yelling and protests. In college regatta size fleets (~18 boats) with short courses the squirrel start was very effective.

I have used the "squirrel start" technique quite effectively in my own sailing although in bigger fleets and in bigger boats the risk involved often outweighs the potential rewards. If you are in "shark" mode and there is no good hole somewhere in the favored half of the line then it can be worth a try.

The times when it seems to be worth it are:
- in a fleet of less experienced sailors
- in boats that don't accelerate without considerable sideslipping
- when the committee boat doesn't create an enormous wind shadow
- when the boat end is weakly favored (or is about to be favored just after the start)
- when you want to go right anyway (even if you are the second row right at the committee boat there can be an advantage in being able to tack away immediately after the start)
- in heavy air
- in small fleets with short start lines

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Boats I'd Like to Sail: RS700

The RS700 is another singlehanded skiff with a spinnaker. This one has what the manufacturer calls a "performance equalisation system" using adjustable width wings to adjust for the weight of the sailor.

Again, it looks like this like the R700 is only sailed in Europe...but it looks like fun.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Boats I'd Like to Sail - Musto Skiff

I decided to start a series of posts on boats I'd like to sail. First up is the Musto Skiff:

The Musto Skiff is a single-handed skiff with a gennaker but it seems to only be sailed in Europe so since I like actually having other boats to race against it's unlikely I'll ever sail one. It looks like a ton of fun to sail though.

Baby Dream

I don't usually remember dreams, but last night I had a dream about a baby. This is probably not that unusual considering my wife is due to have a baby any day now. All I can remember of the dream is picking up my baby and realizing that someone (I distinctly remember thinking it was someone from my wife's family) had put the baby's diaper on wrong and there was poop all over the baby's back. I also remember the little girl clinging to me and feeling such love for her.

Running again

I was inspired by Tillerman's post from last Friday and went for a run today. I ran and walked for about 30 minutes but I definitely felt out of shape. I used to enjoy running but that was back in high school. I ran on the cross country team for one fall season (after injuring myself playing soccer) and then ran the 2-mile on the track team in the spring. I once ran the 2-mile in 11:02.
Then I went to college, drank too much beer and pretty much stopped running.