Racer's Clinic
Originally Held March 27, 2004 at St. Francis Yacht Club
+ Rules Clinic August 11, 2004, at St. Francis Yacht Club
+Sail Trim Clinic April 17, 2005 at Golden Gate Yacht Club
+Rules Clinic April 23, 2005 at Encinal Yacht Club
+Sail Trim Clinic April 8, 2006 at Golden Gate Yacht Club
+Sail Trim Clinic April 14, 2007 at Golden Gate Yacht Club
+Sail Trim Clinic April 26, 2008 at Encinal Yacht Club
+Sail Trim Clinic April 4, 2009 at Golden Gate Yacht Club

This event has been so well received that we have added this page to our permanent menu as a Racers' Clinics and it will include links to the handouts that were presented and will be augmented from time to time with additional material designed to help people sail and race Islanders (and other boats!) safer, faster and with more fun. So, enjoy reading about a few great days in Islander history, and let it help you for days and years to come.

3/28/04 Race Clinic

8/11/04 Rules Clinic

4/17/05 Sail Trim Clinic at Golden Gate YC

4/23/05 Rules Clinic at Encinal YC

4/8/06 Sail Trim Clinic at Golden Gate YC

4/14/07 Sail Trim Clinic at Golden Gate YC

4/26/08 Cruise & Sail Trim Clinic at Encinal YC

4/4/09 Sail Trim Clinic at Golden Gate YC

3/28/04 Race Clinic

Another great racing event for the astounding Islander 36 fleet. Peter Szasz (Midnight Sun), Barry Stompe (Tom Cat), Rick Van Mell (Vanishing Animal) & Race Captain Joseph Krensavage (Mustang) pulled off one terrific Race Clinic of classroom, dockside and on-the-water education for over 60 Islander skippers and crew.

Peter had arranged for the fleet to use the Golden Gate Room at St. Francis Yacht Club for our classroom, and at 0930 it was ready to go with eight big round tables with boat names and the crew handouts laid in place. Hot coffee steamed on the sideboard while Louisa Szasz and Sylvia Stompe checked folks in and handed out their name tags - everything was first class.

Standing at the lectern in front of the great stone fireplace, Peter started off with introductions of the boats and coaches present. There were 8 boats tied to the dock with an additional 9 Islander skippers sailing aboard as crew. Then add the 6 Islander skippers who were the coaches, and a total of 23 Islanders were represented. John Mangan, Turning Point, received a special welcome for coming the greatest distance - from San Antonio, Texas! Including the crews a grand total of 65 folks enjoyed the day.

The coaches included Islander fleet champions Peter Szasz (Midnight Sun), Lou Zevanov (Diana), Jim Robinson (Pilot), Don Schumacher (Blue Streak), plus Barry Stompe (Tom Cat), and Rick Van Mell (Vanishing Animal). In addition, we were honored to have world-class coaches Rod Hagebols from Grand Prix Sailing, Pete McCormack from North Sails, Chris Boome of Barient Winch fame, and Kimball Livingston, Senior West Coast Editor for Sail Magazine. That's a ton of really heavy-weight experience to pass along to the fleet - at a conservative average of 25 years of experience each, that's over 250 YEARS of accumulated wisdom! You should check out the complete Attendee List.

Coaching began with a run-through of some of the things that make a difference in setting up your boat to sail fast. Peter started out with one of the obvious biggies - having a clean bottom. It's not the fancy, $$$$$$ paint job that matters in our fleet racing, but getting the slime off really makes a difference. Your options are as simple as a brush on the end of a stick (Ok, long, curved stick), to diving down and scrubbing by hand - or hiring someone else to do that.

Another easy check is your weight distribution. Don't carry excessive amounts of weight at either end of the boat. 300' of chain in the bow locker will hurt performance as the boat will tend to hobby-horse in the slightest wave. Ditto for weight in the stern lazzerettes. Even excess sails can be left ashore on race day to lighten things up. You don't necessarily want to put your crew on a diet, but collectively they account for half a ton of weight or more. Keep them amidships whenever possible, and on the rail when needed to hold the boat flatter. Remember to stay in conformance with class rules and don't try to strip out the furniture!!!!

Your mast is a less obvious source of speed (or slow!) If it is raked to one side you'll have different performance on each tack, and the fore and aft rake will greatly influence weather helm. Tension on your backstay (and thus your headstay) is also critical. Generally, upwind you want the headstay tight to improve pointing ability and flatten the main a bit with a little bend (on an Islander!) in the mast. This will also give a little increased weather helm. Reverse the situation downwind - let the tension off the backstay to help the boat track in a straight line. There's a more complete description of setting up your rigging on our Maintenance Page under Rig Tuning.

Moving on to crew responsibilities, Peter outlined typical crew tasks. Noting that "the toughest adjustment is the nut on the end of the tiller", his primary advice to the person on the helm is "Steer, Steer, Steer". An important thing the helm should not be doing is directing the crew or looking around. That chore falls to the Tactician who might also be the Main Trimmer. By keeping an eye on wind, water and the competition, the Tactician has an "outside the boat" focus which provides feedback to the helm and crew for any adjustments needed. The Trimmer and Tailer form a team to handle the jib sheets to cast off and trim in a smooth, efficient manner. Rounding out the crew are the Mast and Foredeck positions. The person at the Mast typically handles halyard tension and spinnaker pole adjustments, and also the outhaul and cunningham on the main if they are not led back to the cockpit. If they are, the Main Trimmer handles those along with the traveler and mainsheet. An excellent source for learning and understanding the inter-relationships among these control lines can be found in North Sail's U Trim book - there is a link to it at the end of The Model Skipper Handout (North Sails), or you can find it through the link to North University: http://www.northu.com. Focusing on the bow, the Foredeck person typically calls other boat traffic and distance to the line during a start, then handles the spinnaker pole, jib sheets if going wing-and-wing, and the spinnaker. An expanded list of responsibilities if available in the Crew Tasks Handout.

Barry Stompe then took the floor and went through the general starting procedures. "Getting there early," he pointed out is really important. That's the time to check out the wind and water, review the race instructions, and make an educated guess on the course the committee will select. Using that information, develop a strategy for which side of the course you want to be on, determine which legs will be beats, reaches or runs and how you want your sail control lines set for those legs. Focusing on the starting area, sight down the starting line to a landmark, if possible, so the Foredeck crew can tell exactly when the bow of the boat gets to the line. Check if the starting line is square to the course and wind, and which end is favored. Integrate this information into your strategy about which side of the course you want to be on. When sailing on the Bay, current is one of the most critical factors, and it should play a major part in your decisions. When our Measurer Paul Tara, also a Fleet Champion, covered this topic at the January race meeting, he took it a step farther and advised watching the weather for several days, and mentally sailing the race several times before race day.

Watch the classes that start in front of you to see how their leaders played the starting line and if it is similar to your plan. Set up your sails for the first leg, then focus on getting a good start. That good start is on the line with the gun, going fast, with clear air and the ability to get to the side of the course you want. Barry suggested being on the line where you want to start 3 minutes before the start, then reach away for a little less than a minute and a half before gybing or tacking for your final run. Picking the right spot among the boats already headed for the line is critical. You want to particularly avoid converging at the committee boat with another boat to leeward that can sail closer to the wind and "squeeze" you into the committee boat or force you over the line early. Remember that you have no rights to put your bow between the boat to leeward and the committee boat at the start. If you try, you're likely to hear loud calls of, "NO ROOM". If you find yourself in this unfriendly position, remember you are obligated to stay clear and the way to do that is to go head to wind and tack - then make a circle and return in the first available opening.

At 1045 all 60+ folks walked down to the dock where Peter demonstrated a number of the set-up and crew moves we'd talked about all morning. Rigging the spinnaker pole before the race speeds up getting the jib out to windward, (or the spinnaker set). Key to doing this with minimum windage and interference with tacking the jib is being able to lower the mast-end of the spinnaker pole all the way down to the cabintop with the outer end of the pole sticking out at the bow next to the tack fitting. An endless control line for the butt end is one way to make hoisting the pole quick and simple when you get to the weather mark. Attaching the pole lift before the race also saves time. This requires a longer pole lift so it can be attached to the outer end or bridle, then run back to the mast along the pole and tied with a piece of yarn or hooked under a winch or cleat to hold it until you reach the weather mark. Put a piece of tape or mark on both the control line and the pole lift so you will know exactly how far to pull it without having to look around. Adding a foreguy helps keep the pole from bouncing, and is useful when you are gybing.

Additional demonstrations included adjusting the backstay, and how to grab the jibsheet so you can pull the sheet across your body for longer pulls rather than just straight in to your chest. There are a number of good pictures below that show these points.

There wasn't time to review the Crew Training Handouts - which are intended as discussion prompters for your crew, but they are available on the menu above for your use.

After a nice buffet lunch back in the classroom, all of the boats were on the water by 1300 with their coaches aboard. Setting up halyards, sheet positions, and then tacking drills were the first order of business. Crews found all the "simple" instructions were more complex when another crew member was, for example, in the way getting on or off the rail. But after a number of tacks things began to settle into a routine. Rod Hagebols rode a RIB driven by Peter's son Robert Szasz to take pictures of sail trim and offer coaching suggestions as he went. Those pictures are indexed in our menu above. Though it seemed so simple to set the pole dockside, when out on the water it took a while for crews to get the hang of raising the inboard end of the pole to the right place on thmastst and then smoothly pulling up the lift to its mark to level the pole. Again, practice saw continuous improvement, particularly since many crew members were learning a new position. After an hour of that drill it was time for some practice starts.

We were honored to have Kimball Livingston, West coast Editor for Sail Magazine and author of Sailing The Bay, as our "Race Committee". From his vantage point on the St. Francis Race Deck, Kimball called out continuous 5 minute starting sequences on VHF channel 69. With input from the coaches, skippers got ever-better at reaching the line on time. Sure there was some "barging" going on, and some who were either early or tardy - but that's what the learning process is all about. Absolutely perfect 10-12 knot winds blew straight and true in from the Golden Gate with bright sunshine, 70 degree temperatures and a modest knot or so of flood current to keep it interesting. After almost 40 minutes and about 8 starts, the fleet was going to pair up for some "speed trials". But like the old saying, "A Race is any two boats in sight of each other", the last start turned into a mini race with most of the fleet beating upwind 1.2 miles to the Blackaller Buoy just inside the Goldend Gate Bridge, then running, wing-and-wing back down to the starting line. Gybing duels punctuated the learning experience!

All that learning, exercise and sunshine took its toll, and most of the fleet headed back to the St. Francis dock about 1530. Peter assembled the skippers & crews in the bar and had a drawing for a special prize - a four day personal coaching session donated by Rod Hagebols and Grand Prix Sailing Academy, worth $600 per day! Julian Cohen, Four Cs, was the lucky winner, but actually, everyone won.

So take some time to view the pictures, read the handouts and enjoy safer, fast sailing for years to come.

These pictures are compliments of Rick Van Mell, and Kimball Livingston, author of "Sailing The Bay". Additional pictures from Rod Hagebols of Grand Prix Sailing Academy and Robert Szasz can be found with the links in the menu above. Click on images to enlarge, click "Back" to return.

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Proud Islanders at St. Francis YC dock Our leader Peter (The Great) Szasz.... welcomes 60+ Islander skippers & crews
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The Zenith Table The Pacific High Table The Mustang Table
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The Spindrift Table Thre Four Cs Table Sylvia Stompe & Louisa Szasz run check-in
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The Freedom Won Table Barry Stompe leads the Starting lesson Peter starts the Boat Set-up review
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Carry your pole already attached Quick controls for the inner end Note the black tape on the pole lift
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Just snap the sheet in the jaws on a gybe Number the track holes Starboard side numbers (same as port!)
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Attentive Crowd #1 Attentive Crowd #2 Attentive Crowd #3
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Nicely Labeled stoppers Grab backwards to pull longer.... and get to the weather side too
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Don't forget to adjust the backstay too Lunch break before going sailing. Nice start guys!
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Talk about pretty! "Obstruction Room" coming up Putting tacking practice to work

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