Improving not winning

Joining a new club gets you thinking about classes etc. The largest single handed fleet are probably the Solos but this Sunday there where two plastic Streakers. I re-looked at the top crew weights for the top five helms over the last few years. The average is still coming out at that magical 73kg that it was a while back. That said there are a handful up at 80kg odd and a 105kg. The class recommendation is 63 to 83kg. So at 85kg I am over but still in the ball park. I have a theory that in importance it goes boat handling, crew weight and then the boat. I have still work to do on boat handling.

I concluded than rather than consider a change of class the Streaker is still the best class and loosing a bit of weight and getting fitter will keep me sailing to an older age than acceptance of the weight and changing class.

The Solos are a bit slower than the Streaker as are Radials which gives me a good number of boats about the same speed. The plan is therefore to focus on two or three things each race to improve and benchmark my improvement with the other boats.

I have also started getting serious about my weight, targeting about 1kg a week which is achievable with a 1000 calorie deficit each day. I have lost 3kg in the first 25days of the year. I have now started using the Fitbit to log it all and this is my first 3 days

Yes it a bit tough but not too tough, the weekends are always the issue.

Back in 2017 I got down to 78kg with the highest this Christmas 88kg and a five year average of 83kg.

I am enjoying the racing and as it now possible all year hopefully I will be more focused and not suffer the winter slump.


Off boom sheeting

Our new club seams to be predominantly light winds and shifty conditions. I haven’t normally enjoyed this type of sailing but enjoyed it on Sunday and seeing how some sailors just got their boat moving. I am also over the suggested Streaker weight. I feel being heavier sitting well forward in the light stuff helps. To do this I have extended the tiller extension, the longer tiller extension required me to move the boom block forward to allow the tiller extension to pass forward and this got me thinking.

I generally can get quite comfortable sitting on the thwart, leaning forward on the side tank, I play the main from the boom. I have found the main sheet and ratchet block get in the way. If there is a slight increase in pressure the transition from boom sheeting to sheeting through the ratchet block is messy. In the process some mainsheet always slips out an I am sure I loose all the flow over the sail.

I have now experimented with removing the ratchet block from the thwart and mounting it on the boom, performance Skiff style. I have taken the boat out in F2/3 conditions and have to say I like it. I can sit/lie comfortably and respond to gusts and lulls easily and very smoothly.

One other advantage is I can keep my weight forward in the tack, in the past with the mainsheet in the way I think I have been depressing the stern too much. I seamed to keep more speed through the tack with boom sheeting.

Obviously the main has less control over the leech, but I felt that with careful attention to the kicker the sail was the shape I wanted. It was also possible on purpose to over sheet and bring the boom too far inboard, this however was very easy to see and I don’t think it is something you would do in reality.

I have checked the rules and don’t see anything preventing me from doing this.

I posted a version of the above on the Streaker FB page and got a few comments from a few sailors and it was all positive. Looking forward to more testing and doing a few races with this setup.

In the South

Well we have moved, done Christmas and New Year, I have had one sail in very light winds, first race boat wasn’t set up right and second was doing OK and then just stopped.

Tried to go again for a potter and well, not a lot of wind

Went for a bit of a cycle along the Kennet and Avon, some good canoeing to be had. Need to figure out how to enter and exit the canoe from a half meter ‘dock’

Part of the reason for my poor light wind performance may well be being well over weight for the Streaker, has been a bad year health wise and well things have slipped. Anyway new year etc etc, been out to find my new burn route. Back up north I had a route which was about the same as a spin class. Been out today, and this is one of many I could take from the house feels spot on. Ninety percent on tracks, glorious countryside, kite souring above me so fitness and nature.

TP03 – the last one…..

Still sketching and a few years later I designed another concept that would work. Essentially a mirror of TP02, two sails and one board. The board was mounted so it could move fore and aft along the side of the main hull. Two balanced lug sails on free standing masts, all built onto the TP02 platform.

This was a shoe string project, sails made of Polytarp, seating platform a gate. But it worked. The sails could be trimmed independently so I could manoeuvre when stationary. The board was pulled to a set position, the forward sail cleated and by fine trim on the board position and aft sail steered.

This is the video of the last time he sailed, proas are Male

There are a lot more videos on the channel but this one is the highlights

Where I sail I was restricted in when I could sail (not when racing or training on) and to further develop the design I would have needed proper sails. I wasn’t sure how much life was left in the ‘disposable’ hulls so TP03 eventually went on the bonfire.

I think I can confidently say that I had successfully developed a working single handed proa and have now got the Proa itch out of my system.

TP2 – the second Proa

After 1987 I still sketched boats all the time. A few years later I was living in Sydney and while I could have been on the beach I was in the science museum sketching. I suddenly decided that it was time to get a proper career, go to university and become an engineer, I literally got the next flight home. TP1 had become all consuming so didn’t do a boat focused course but ‘Engineering Product Design’. It was a course to design consumers products, I loved it to bits and the jobs I eventually did.

Roll forward to about 2005 and I had a new design I was itching to build. This had a conventional European single Bermudan rig mounted in the middle of the main hull (vaka). It didn’t have a centre or dagger board but two rudders mounted near each bow / stern. These where linked and would rotate in opposite directions. This enables the CLR to move fore and aft and give you steering.

When in Weymouth I had been to various talks arranged by the Amateur Yacht Research Society. One in particular had stuck in my mind, it was my Dave Culp, an early pioneer in kite sailing. He had said that experimental boats should be disposable, built cheap, dirty and quickly. This way you are willing to scrap something and start again as you have little investment in it. As you can see TP2 is a very simple ply box type construction.

This was tested at Scaling Dam and….. well it worked. I could sail where I wanted to, shunt and was pretty much in control.

It was not perfect and had two issues

1) foils only work when moving so when stopped I had no control and would sometimes get back winded i.e. the ama to leeward. I did develop a way of getting the right way around by dipping the bow or stern and pulling the sail all in at the correct time and sequence.

2) the foils where quite low and dragged in the water at speed, easy to solve just a nuisance.

I was pleased that I had produced a working single handed proa and moved on to othe stuff…….

The Proa Obsession

It would be fair to say that I have spent a lot of my life obsessing over Proas. I had another blog that goes into this in much more detail

I thought I would put a summary here so it is all in one place.

A Proa, for those not in the know is a bit like a Catamaran but one hull is smaller than the other and this smaller hull (Outrigger or Ama) always stays to windward. They originate from the Pacific and theological give the most speed for the minimal amount of material. The issue is that because the ama is always to windward they can’t tack but must shunt – in this they reverse so the bow becomes the stern and the stern the bow. This therefore requires the sail, foils and rudder to be reversed, a complex operation.

I designed and built my first Proa in the Mid 1980s. I was young and naive, believing I had the next big thing so set up a business to do this. I thought I would be a millionaire a few years later and I had a business plan that showed it was a certainty.

It took ages to built, male plug, female mould and epoxy foam sandwich boat. A rather complex way to build your first boat particularly an experimental one. The rig was a high aspect ratio sort of lug rig with a yard that moved fore and aft. Steering was by shifting weight fore and aft, crew supported by trapeze. I tested this a Llyn Brenig in North Wales, I had teething issues but believed I was making progress……

In October 1987 I took part in the Speed Sailing Championships in Weymouth. This was the week of the ‘Great Storm’ and the weakness in the design became brutally obvious. I spend a lot of time in the water with very fast pencil thin windsurfers wizzing past my head. As an attempt to salvage something I had the sail cut in half to become a jib that could be pulled from bow to stern when shunting.

This could sail but was neither fast or in control. After a lot of redesign work I had a few concepts but I wasn’t convinced it would be commercially successful and decided to get a proper job.