Race Clinic Island YC
March 28, 2015

(If you like, you can skip down through the prose and go straight to the pictures below!)

Thirty-one people representing seventeen Islanders enjoyed a fun and informative Sail Trim Clinic at Island Yacht Club.

Saturday morning Kit Wiegman & Rick VanMell were helping Carlos Cadiente and Marcie Adams of Island Yacht Club set up the downstairs room for the Clinic, including coffee, donuts and cookies plus name tags and handouts. Our handouts included Crew Tasks Handout, How To Become A Super Crew, The Model Skipper Handout, Discussion & Training Quiz #1, Discussion & Training Quiz #2, Discussion & Training Quiz #3, and Crew Quiz Answers. The BAADS (Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors) I-36 Orion and Cal 30 Tashi arrived just after 1000 as the Clinic got under way. Here's the list of who was there for the fun and what boat they were aboard.

Boat (Crew)Skipper/CrewNotes/Own Boat
Serenity (5)Eric Mueller
Marc Mueller
Andrew VicGeja
Carlos CadienteHeidi Anne
Marcie AdamsIYC
Orion (6)Ed Bridges
JeanChas Morris
Aurora Baron
Nicky Paterson
Tom Allegretti
Kit WiegmanCassiopeia
Snowflower (5)Dan Tracy
Glen Melnik
Anya Paull
Jim Sooy
Steve SwansonZingara
Blaze (5)Chris Rossiter
Ralph KooCourageous
Brett ButterfieldIdle Eyes
Bill NorkZenith
Rick Van MellVanishing Animal
Tashi (5)Alex Hruzewicz
Shana Dean
Chris Naughton
Dylan Young
Vivian Snyder
Want to Crew:
(All put on boats)
Speaker + Clinic & Lunch Only
Kame RichardsPineapple Sails
Denis BushNatural High
John MeltonFreedom Won
Martha BlanchfieldLean Times
Victor BeltranLean Times

Race Chair Kit Wiegman kicked warmed up the audience shortly after 1000 by asking for questions attendees had while we got Orion & Tashi tied up and Kame Richards of Pineapple Sails arrived. Here are some highlights of Kame's presentation:

After Kame went around the room and asked each person about their sialing experience, he began his talk with one word: BALANCE. He pointed out that most of the time we are looking up at our sails and often forgetting that we have two foils below the water: the keel and the rudder. Both work just like the white things sticking up in the air and are just about as important.

He digressed a bit into the fact that each of these foils could be designed for a particular optimum speed - much like the wings on a glider are big and fat for slow speeds and lots of lift, and thin for a fighter for just enough lift at high speed. That's why teh new foiling America's Cup boats have different foils for different wind speeds. Since Islanders don't have that choice, the important thing is to keep them working at their best efficiency, and that's when the boat is BALANCED and moving at optimum speed for the current wind.

Since the rudder is the only moveable appendage, he focused there. If you have to hold the wheel a lot to keep the boat going in a straight line, it's not balanced. The tendency for theboat to turn up into the wind is "weather helm" and while a 2 -4 degree rudder angle might be close to perfect, getting beyond 5 degrees just slows the boat down. Further, each time you move the wheel or tiller you try to move a different amount of water and that translates to lower speed. So, he advised that all things being equal, the skipper who moves the wheel the least will beat the other skipper every time.

Heeling over also creates weather helm. In response to a question, Kame posited that 25 degrees of heel is too much, and maybe 20 is a little light. So reducingheel is important to speed.

So, how do you achieve BALANCE? Kame reminded us that all of our sails basically have three sides and three corners and they all work pretty much the same. With the tack of the sail essentially fixed, the head and the clew are the points for adjustment. As a sail is trimmed in, the most strain on the sail occurs along the leech which stretches (even though the cloth is strongest in the vertical direction) and makes the back edge of the sail bigger. That moves the point of greatest depth in the sail - measured from the luff to the leech - farther aft, and that in turn adds more power and more heeling force. To correct for this deepest point moving aft (the draft), tighten the halyard to strtetch the forward edge of the sail to compensate for the longer leech.

Another tactic is to tighten the backstay which tightens the leading edge and both reduces heeling and allows a closer angle to the wind - or "pointing higher." How much to tighten? Kame suggested letting all of the tension off the backstay, then tying a strong string tight between the stern pushpit and the bow pulpit. Ideally then through a small block with a weight hanging on the end to keep it tight, or just pull it really tight and secure it. Then make a mark on the mast where the line crosses it. Now have someone start tightening the backstay while you watch the line and the mark like a hawk. At some point the line will move up above the mark on the mast or drop down below it (depending if the line is tensioned by a weight or just fixed, respectively. This happens because you are now bending the boat. Yes, actually changing the shape of the boat. Once this starts, any more tension on the backstay won't get the forestay straighter, it will just bend the boat more (until if breaks, if taken too far!!!!!) Once you see the line move from the mark, note the position of your backstay adjuster, and never take it up tighter than that. And remember, when doing this at the dock, the only load is the backstay adjuster, but when you're out in the breeze there are the added dynamic loads of bashing into a seaway. Use something like a wooden stick or a batten that is connected to a fixed part of the backstay and mark it where the moveable part can me compared to marks on the stick. That way you know when to stop!

If that's not enough and the boat is still fighting to go to weather (i.e. "out of balance") you can move the lead block aft which tightens the bottom of the sail and loosens the top of the sail allowing it to twist off and thus gets less force from the wind and reduces heeling. Again in response to a question, Kame suggesting that reefing is a bit of a last resort. It would be better to have chosen a smaller headsail and carry a full main, than to fight a big headsail and try to reef. [Kame agreed in a later discussion, that if you are racing without a spinnaker downwind, then it's probably better to carry a larger sail upwind and reef when all else fails.]

So now that we've talked a bit about how to trim the sail for various conditions, let's get back to balance. One of the most critical periods is during a tack. The idea is to get from going optimum speed on one tack to optimum speed on the other in the shortest time. Because both the underwater foils and the air foils are experiencing change at the same time, we need to adjust them appropriately for the speed of the boat. Turning the helm (think rudder) too fast overly slows the boat down and stalls the keel and rudder. the sails stop working for a time, then start again but at a much lower speed. Tacking the boat fast and immediately sheeting in the sails to where they were before the tack actually stalls the sails and the underwater foils because the fluids are now flowing slowly rather than quickly. So the trick is to tack far enough to get the boat moving again with the jib and main slightly eased until the speed begins to increase, then slowly come up one degree at a time while bringing both the main and the jib to their closest trim points.

Kame had lots of good stories to tell and even came back with a quick quip when asked if it was a good idea to recut old sails to have better performance. "Of course, buy new sails!" (Since he's sailmaker.) But seriously, while a sail can be reshaped by opening about every other seam and resewing panels back to where they were before they stretched, he pointed out that at today's labor rates, it's about $150 per seam and when you're done, you've still got a sail that's 5, 10 or more years old and much weaker than when it was new.

After our Island YC hosts laid out a fine spread, we enjoyed a quick and tasty make-your-own sandwich with turkey, ham and cheese, lettuce & tomato, plus salad and chips lunch. Then we assigned all those that wanted to get out on the water aboard Blaze, Orion, Snowflower, Serenity and Tashi. The bright sun with 10 knots of north northwesterlies coming down the Estuary made for perfect learning sailing. We sailed three short "races" from in front of Island YC up to mark #3 at Coast Guard Island, about a mile, then back. Perfect to practice adjusting sail shape, moving lead blocks, and let crew experience the things we'd talked about all morning.

We've got few pictures of the great Islanders on the water this time because your Webmaster was having way too much fun aboard Blaze staying in front of Kit aboard Orion all afteroon. 😊

Pictures by Rick Van Mell. Click on images to enlarge, click "Back" to return.

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A welcome from ...
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Island Yacht Club ...
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on the Svendsen's docks ...
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come on in ...
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Sign in here ...
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get your name tags ...
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Marcie shows off ...
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Members wall.
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Big bad John & Dennis ...
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tamed by Kit.
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Martha, Victor & Chris
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Kit kicks it off ...
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settling in ...
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almost there ...
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now we're ...
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paying attention ...
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to Kame ...
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right to the end.
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Moving dockside ...
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adjusting Cassiopeia ...
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the crowd watches ...
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Kame adjust the backstay ...
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looks great!
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Aurora on Orion
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Tashi arrives ...
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in slip ...
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Dylan gets himself ...
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Time to relax ...
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tell tales ...
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and say thanks.

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