Islander 36 Association

Racers' Lessons Learned

Thanks to Peter Szasz & Chris Boome on Midnight Sun and 2004 Fleet Captain Joseph Krensavage, this page captures reflections and lessons learned from various racers. It is a way of sharing those "Ah Hah..." moments we all get after a race that we wished we had experienced on the race course. We'll be inviting racers from the front, middle and back of the fleet to share their thoughts for the benefit of all.

Maybe we should just call this the "Bar Page" - as if we were all at the same bar after the race telling each other why we won or lost - got lucky - or fouled up! Just think of all the rationalizations for why we went left instead of right, tacked instead of holding on, or banged a corner in search of greater glory!

September 11, 2004, HDA - Islands Tour, Pilot, 3rd, Jim Robinson

Hello Joseph and Fellow Racers:

Just to take a moment to let you know that Joseph had a magnificent start on the fleet this past Saturday. The line was clearly favoring the pin end, but it takes some strength of fortitude to port tack a fleet of 17 to 20 boats that are 36ft in length. This fleet has been filling the line recently as well I might add....there really hasn't been much of a second line when the gun goes off, so to attempt such a thing was really fun to see. Anyway, Joseph and the guys on Windwalker hit the line perfectly - at the pin end, on a port tack, right at the gun. It was a beautiful thing as they were able to cross in front of the entire fleet of starboard tack boats. I saw the whole thing - as I was trapped behind both Mustang and Wind Walker.

I would also like to congratulate Midnight Sun as I think, by their win this past weekend, have locked in the Season Championship for 2004.

In parting a couple of thoughts about this past race. It was really fun in spite of being seriously out sailed (once again) by Tom Cat. It was great to see all the boats on the line at the start. It was great to see the lead bounce back and forth few times during the race and it was basically anyone's race until the wind filled in from the left side of the course instead of the where I and bunch of others thought it was going to continue from. Midnight Sun took a chance staying where they did - it really paid off.

I'm not sure we can make the next two race day as my son (and grinder extraordinaire), Woody, has a surf contest down in Southern California the same weekend.

Ah season.

We're in for the Nationals however.

I look forward to sailing with all of you in the future.

Warm regards to all,

August 28, 2004, South Bay, Midnight Sun, 1st, Peter Szasz (Skippered by regurlar crew Chris Boome)

We started too far down to the port end of the line. The committee boat was favored, but Peter told me I had better not scratch the red paint on Midnight Sun and Diana was behind us and to leeward about a minute before the start so we had to get going a bit early to get over her. The good thing was that we had nobody to leeward so we had a clear lane...the bad thing was that the beat was short and Windwalker had a really good start to weather.

We were going fast in the light beat with flat water, we had the jib very powered up with a little pucker in the luff and the backstay on just enough to keep the headstay fairly straight. Since the class lobbied for such a short course, the first beat was pretty critical and we probably made a mistake by deciding to tack to port and take Windwalker's stern rather than go bit further and try to get in front of her. Windwalker did a nice job of tacking to port just after we dipped her stern so that we were pinned on port tack until she decided to tack for the final approach to the buoy. Since she overstood a bit, this allowed Pilot to sneak just inside of us at the 1st mark closely followed by a Diana and a bunch of other boats.

Since we were reaching into the mark and we were able to roll over Pilot as we rounded the mark. It was at this point that we made the tactical decision that decided the outcome of the race. The course was a very broad reach/run to a jibe mark about a mile away and we had to decide whether to go above Windwalker (with Pilot right on our stern and the rest of the fleet close behind)...we chose to sail very low (actually by the lee) to get clear air to leeward of the boats behind. The thinking was that if we gave up a little distance but were able get clear air, we would avoid all the boats from behind coming up and trying to take our air during the whole leg.

This strategy worked well, and we were able to round the wing mark first. One other choice we had to make on this leg was whether to go above or below some Santana 22's that had started ahead of us. Since the last thing we wanted to do was get headed up into the wind shadow of the whole Is 36 fleet above us by some macho Santana 22 sailor, we decided to sail below the Santanas which seemed like the safest thing to do. Their wind shadow was nothing compared to the disaster that could have happened if they decided to luff us into the Islander 36 fleet.

After the wing mark, the only thing to decide was which of the several marks out there was actually ours...we split the difference and gave up a little distance just to be sure.

The rest of the race was pretty much follow the leader because the ebb tide made the windward legs 95% starboard tack.

It was a beautiful day and the raft up idea was nice, but it did seem like asking for a one hour race course was going too far towards the raft up priority.


August 28, 2004, South Bay, Zenith, 9th, Art Fowler

Here are some interesting statistics on the finish of Saturday's South Bay Race.

(All times refer to minutes:seconds). 17 boats started - all finished. Boats finished, roughly, in three groups. first six within 1:58; next seven within 1:37: final four within 1:45. Gap between first and second group 1:41, between second and third 2:38. Difference in elapsed time from winner to last place 9:39.

Average ground speed of winner 4.87 knots; of last place finisher 4.14 - roughly three quarters of a knot.

A total of six boats beat the boat following them by 11 seconds or less. Closest finish: 1 second (Tenacious over Mischief). I don't care where you are in the pecking order - that's an exciting finish. Other close ones were 4, 5, two at 10, and one at 11 seconds - that's just more excitement.

Oh, by the way, did anybody have as much trouble as we did trying to locate the pin on the finish line. According to the print out of my track it shows, without a doubt, that the pin was the only mark placed by the BVBC Race committee that wasn't dragged seaward by the ebb tide and that includes marker 31. Perhaps an anchor alarm commonly found on today's GPS receivers would be in order for the BVBC. We certainly have seen some interesting circumstances involving our R/C's this year.

August 14, 2004, Berkeley Circle Midnight Sun, 1st, Peter Szasz and Pilot 4th, Jim Robinson

From: Robinson, James W(Mill Valley XSI 27G) []
Sent: Monday, August 16, 2004 9:34 AM
To: Peter Szasz
Subject: Islander 36 Race

Nice job. I sure get tired of looking at your transom. I thought common knowledge is "go right" in the Berkeley Circle. You guys killed us on the first leg going left. I think I was 8th or 9th going around the windward mark the first time.

We finished 4th on the day. I'm putting my dodger back on after watching Diana.

See you,


From: Peter Szasz []
Sent: Thursday, August 17, 2004 1:58 PM
To: Robinson, James W(Mill Valley XSI 27G)
Subject: RE: Islander 36 Race
Hi Jim,

Maybe I should put different pictures on our transom - Any suggestions?

We read the wind at 205, 210 at the start, which is a bit south of the norm.

In these conditions, the puffs seem to be lifting on port tack if you go far enough to the left, and miss the header (lift after the tack) on the right.

We missed a couple shifts early and Dianna got ahead, but they were coming in on a starboard header, so we managed to sneak front of them at the first mark. The Zevanoves sailed a great race.

It was good to be out and sailing with you all again.

I will miss the next race; will be cruising on Puget Sound, but my crew Chris will probably take the boat to keep the attendance up and the points down - (he is a goooooood sailor). Please be kind to him.


August 14, 2004, Berkeley Circle Midnight Sun, 1st, Peter Szasz (by Chris Boome)

Aboard Midnight Sun:

On the way down to the starting line it was much more overcast than normal and we noticed shifts to the south which kind of made us re-think the normal "go right" strategy for the Berkeley Circle.

At the start we had clear air and could hold our lane for as long as we wanted. We actually wanted to tack on to port a bit earlier than we finally did, but were held out by another boat. As more of the fleet tacked to port, we started "itching" to go and finally just tacked, not sure if we could clear the boat to weather on starboard...but as soon as it was apparent that we were going to pass in front of them, they also tacked.

We did not have the best speed the first leg and for a while, the boats that had tacked to port first were ahead of us, so, rather than lock opurselves into a 3rd or 4th place at the weather mark, we tacked back to starboard and sailed most of the way to the port tack layline. Fortunately, we did get a little shift back to the south that put us around the mark with a small lead.

The run down to the leeward mark was interesting because as we got lower on the circle, the wind had more holes in it and more change of direction.

We got a lift (shift to the south) as we were about 7 mins from the leeward mark and decided to gybe on it...this produced a BIG gain over the people who stayed on port tack all the way to the mark (sailing dead down wind or by the lee)...don't forget that the wind shifts the same while we are sailing upwind or downwind! By gybing on to the favored tack downwind you can get a lot more speed, which is essential because the boats are all underpowered without a spinnaker.

After the leeward mark, the wind was picking up and it became a "normal" Berkeley Circle day...go right but don't overstand. We had the marks in our GPS so we had a very good feel for where the layline was, even though we could not see the bouys on the circle. This was especially helpful on the second upwind leg.

After the second upwind leg, the wind had filled in and we just had a nice sail down to the leeward mark and back to the finish.

Chris Boome

June 5, 2004, Knox 2-Race Day, Midnight Sun, 2nd & 3rd, Peter Szasz

Some thoughts on the last races at Knox buoy.

The extremes of the variable conditions and the "challenges " provided by the race committee gave us plenty to talk about. The most valuable lesson learned again, (probably for the 100th time), that Point Blunt at Angel Island and it's buoy is a tricky place. It seems, that one must be close to that mark on the starboard tack in any condition; ebb or flood.

The following is Chris Boom's description of our less than perfect approach and rounding. The leeward mark was # 23 to the east of Angel Island... good wind all the way there, but we could see it was light if you went too far inside after rounding. We headed in to Angel Island (the only thing to do because of the flood tide) and tacked a bit short of being able to lay Pt. Blunt to stay in the wind...we could see this for a long time, we talked about the options.

The best thing for the tide was to take 2 extra tacks to get on the starboard layline. On the other hand, it was windy, we had a good lead and did not want to risk screwing up a tack etc...THIS WAS A BIG MISTAKE. We gave away 2/3 of our lead by not making those 2 tacks AND by being too conservative and sailing way past the layline to Blunt before tacking to port to clear the buoy." Being conservative when leading is OK, but one shall not ignore the fundamentals.


PS.: I for one would like to hear from Tom Cat (two firsts) and Pacific High for sure.

June 5, 2004, Knox 2-Race Day, Pacific High, 6th & 2nd, Harry Farrell

At Peter's request, I can summarize my lesson learned as, BE IN THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME.

You all know me well enough to know I didn't plan that "catch the wind first" maneuver. It came about as a result of attempting to play every false wind direction that seemed to hit the boat. I would say "I can feel it on my arm" its coming from the East, then south then southwest, then west then back to south again.

Every one of our sail adjustments (we had so many boom swings we probably created our own wind) eventually took us away from Yellowbluff and farther south east until we were able to catch the edge of the "slot" westerly.

By the time we arrived at Angel the wind had filled in enough for us to round the last mark and head for the finish line, which at first I couldn't find, then discovered it southeast of us. To me it seemed to be off the course, but then that was just the topper for a very strange race day.


June 5, 2004, Knox 2-Race Day, Tom Cat, 1st & 1st, Barry Stompe

Sorry it took so long, but, I haven't looked in my e-mail box for awhile. The Knox Races had a variety of challanges. I'm sorry we didn't take a hitch or two after the leward mark on the first race. We stayed out in the wind and flood waaaaaaay too long and let Pilot get by and almost Blue Streak.

When the wind got so light at the weather mark we were lucky enough to have a smoker on board. The smoke allowed us to see the faint changes in wind. If nobody on the boat smoked I would bring some incense or, better yet, start the BBQ.

Some sailing/racing friends just bought the Islander 36 Silver Cloud. We should be seeing them out at the races soon.

Fair winds,

May 15, 2004, City Front Race, Midnight Sun, 1st, Peter Szasz

We had a windy (18 to 30 knots), ebb tide race.

We left the harbor around 10:30 for the 12:00 strt, as we had a couple of new people on the boat and have not raced Midnight Sun in these conditions with the current sails before.

It took a while to get in sync with the conditions and set up the boat. We used our 125 jib, tacked to the deck instead to the furler, to lower the COE, with the leads well aft. With the foot trimmed to the shrouds, the leach was about 8 to 10 inches from the spreader. In other words, lots of twist. The rig was tight, trying to keep headstay sag to minimum. The main traveler was down about 2/3 from center, with lots of wang for a pretty tight leach.

Barry, on Tom Cat had a big jib, but looked like he had an army on the rail to keep the boat right side up and was very fast in winds bellow 20 kts. Even though we were very light on crew, as I had two no-shows, our set up seemed faster upwind in the 20+ range. The big jibs were faster downwind but not enough to make up for the trouble upwind.

There was a lot of confusion on our boat, as there was no rounding signal displayed with the course signal. The lead boats chose correctly to round the first mark to Strbrd. (just think of the mess trying to buttonhook and jibe back into the approaching starboard tackers if rounded to port) The rest of us followed. As there was no required rounding direction, the rest of the marks were rounded by the leaders in a "logical" direction. As far as I could tell all the rest of the boats followed.

We tried to sail in the middle of the "river" upwind, and hugging the shore down.( except for X, that had to be left to stbrd.) On the second downwind leg, we stayed close to shore all the way to the entrance to Pier 39 harbor. As local wisdom says "in the ebb tide: stay along the shore too long, than wait another 2 minutes before you jibe for #18 (Blossom Rock) buoy."

I hope this helps

May 1, 2004, Race to Vallejo, Mustang, 11th, Joseph Krensavage

Mistake #1: After rounding the windward mark, I sailed higher up than most other boats because the wind at the time was strong and I decided to sail a beam reach because I reasoned that with a strong breeze, the ebb current wasn't as much of a factor...then the breezed died and I was stuck in the ebb current and had to fall off to wing-on-wing to get out of the ebb as fast as possible. This caused me to wind up in the back of the pack, with only one or two boats behind me, and they weren't that far back, so I was essentially in last place.

Big gainer: From Pt. San Pablo to the Mare Island channel entrance I stayed close to shore (South) to avoid the ebb current in the channel and sail on a beam reach (true wind from the South/SW). I trust the calibration of my depth sounder (thank you, KKMI!) and sailed in 8-9 feet of water for about 10 miles. When my depth sounder read 2 feet or less, I fell off slightly, left. When it went over 3 feet I headed up slightly, right. The entire time I had someone announcing speed over ground via GPS, apparent wind speed and direction so the trimmers could fine tune their sail trim. This allowed me to pass about 7-8 boats that stayed out in deeper water. I finished in the middle of the pack and felt good about digging myself out of the hole I dug myself into. :-)

Peter, would you be so kind as to share with us how Midnight Sun won?

May 1, 2004, Race to Vallejo, Midnight Sun, 1st, Peter Szasz

Our pre race "strategy" discussions focused on the somewhat unusual day for San Francisco Bay, we reminded ourselves that while we have to be in the favorable, or at the least unfavorable current, we must place close attention to the wind.

Lots of wind checks before the start. With 5 min to go the pin end was favored, but a shift to the west suggested the comm. boat end. After a decent start (little slow off the line), the wind shifted back to the left allowing us to tack for the mark.

A good layline call with a little squeezing from the helm got us to the mark first. Not for long. As the boats behind us could see that we were running out of wind, they headed to the Richmond shore while they had still some pressure. So we went from 1st to 7th, to 2nd, to 5th, 2nd again etc. It seemed, that in the light going even with wing and wing, keeping the apparent wind around 120 gave us the best speed.

We noticed after the Richmond Bridge, that the top batten of the Main was sticking out a foot or so. Not wanting to break it at the next jibe, we hoisted the lightest crew member to remove it. (Obviously not me) We managed to pass two boats. Lesson; if you want to go fast downwind in light air, put about 170 lbs. on the top of the mast.

In the mixed fleet, with lots of spinnaker boats, we worked real hard to maintain a clear lane to sail in. Nearing the Brothers, we stayed a little bit out from the piers to insure clear air from behind and got lucky to receive a slight puff to manage to get by Diana.

From there we always headed to the new wind, stayed out of the bad current, heated it up in the lulls and covered Diana's moves to stay ahead.

May 1, 2004, Race to Vallejo, Four Cs, 15th, Julian Cohen

This was my first Vallejo race and I can state my learnings quite easily.

First, should have stayed with my initial strategy to follow one of the usual leaders. I quickly strayed from this and ended up with Joseph in the middle of the ebb.

Second, when you know you have screwed up, go back to your initial plan and follow someone who knows what they are doing. I chose to go my own way and while Joseph gained 7 or 8 boats, I lost at least that many. I sat in the middle of the channel and watched the parade pass me by.

All in all, a great experience and we had lots of fun!!!

May 1, 2004, Race to Vallejo, Freedom Won, 13th, John Melton

My first mistake was tacking away from the starting line after a reasonable start, presumably to get cleaner air. This caused me to require three tacks to get to the windward mark, while those that stayed on a starboard tack required only one tack.

My second biggest mistake was staying out in the channel instead of heading for the shollows. I was right with Julian.

I have some pluses that are related to moving most of my sail controls back into the cockpit, and mounting my whisker pole (four inches in diameter can't really be a whisker, can it?) up on the mast, very much as Peter has his set up, except my pole stows on the mast. This makes deployment of the pole much easier. Now all I have to do is figure out when to use which control, stay out of the current, and follow the fleet.

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