Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hands On: Ronstan Trapeze Harnesses

Last week our Ronstan rep Ben sent us a few of the brand new trapeze harnesses Ronstan has just come out with. There are two models - the standard(left above) and the race(right). They're not ground breaking but these are well built harnesses at a pretty decent price. I tried both harnesses on here in the shop (we have a trap wire mounted to the rope rack). They're both comfortable and both have a pretty standard spreader bar arangemnet with webbing straps adjusted with buckles. The leg and shoulder straps have plastic buckles while the spreader bar itself has stainless climbing harness style buckles.

The standard harness is pretty much just that. It retails for $149 and has the basic adjustments - waist, legs & shoulders. The inside of the shoulder straps is made of a mesh covered foam that should make it more comfortable for warm weather sailing. It has a foam padded lumbar support that is adjustable via Velcro. The price point puts this model level with most of the other entry level harnesses on the market. They all share similar features such as unpadded leg straps and a minimum amount of adjustments. This Ronstan does have a bit more flash to it's appearance if that sort of thing is meaningful to the buyer. It doesn't really do a whole lot of things better than it's competitors but it isn't missing anything they have either.

The race harness is certainly the standout. At a retail of $199 it is at the low end of the price range for a mid-level harness. A few small improvements over the standard model go a long way and in my opinion make this well worth the extra $50. The race model adds padded leg straps, back stiffeners & lower back support straps. Having more back support goes a long way in making this harness more comfortable. The straps above the spreader bar on the wides suck the lower back in tighter and lend a huge amount of support compared to the standard model. Having a stiffer back panel helps a ton also. My lower back was a little sore when I tried these on from a breezy day of Laser sailing the day before. The standard harness didn't help that any but as soon as a cinched down the lower back adjustments on the race harness I immediately felt the additional support. This is a really excellent harness and it's certainly worth the extra $50 above the standard model. It is also cheaper than the other harnesses we have that offer comperable support.

These two new harnesses from Ronstan are welcome additions to the trapeze harness market. The standard model doesn't really offer anything new besides another choice in the entry-level range. I think if you're on a budget and you like how it looks than go for it - otherwise there are other options and a few of them are cheaper. The race harness is an excellent offering that lends it's wearer great support for long days out on the wire. If you want a solid harness without having to break open your kids piggy bank than I think this is the one to get. Trap harnesses will always be a very personal choice and if possible I certainly recommend trying a couple on before picking the one you're going to spend your sailing days in.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Guest Commentary

You may have caught Mike Carter's guest commentary about his "Why I Sail Moment" a couple of weeks ago.

Well, this inspired our elder statesman of Customer Service, Steve Mazur, to put together a similar post.

What it lacks in word count, it certainly makes up for in accuracy; heck, it's almost prophetic.

Okay, it's not quite Confucius, but it does have a calming effect that brings a peace of sorts and helps you find your center -- or I'm falling asleep and need some coffee.

One of the two.

Let's say it's the first part, since I'm trying to cut back on caffeine...

I'm rambling.

Take it away, Steve!

Why I Sail...
Steve Mazur

Sometimes going to weather for half the day just doesn't cut it, and going downwind isn't much better.

Every now and then you've got to crack off, head on a reach and get your mind right...

Steve, skippering his Hobie 16, getting his mind right...

Monday, December 29, 2008

Hands On: LaserPerformance XD Laser Tiller & Extension

We've been sending out our first shipments of the new LaserPerformance XD Laser tiller and tiller extension over the past week, making it the perfect time for a review.

(Note: For those of you not familiar with the relatively new XD tag being used with Lasers, it refers to LaserPerformance's most tricked out racing package. LP is now selling Standard, Race and XD models of the Laser -- all three have the same hull, spars and blades, but everything else is customized depending on the level of sailing you're planning on.)

The XD tiller/extension combo has been shipping with new XD Lasers for most of the year, but this is the first time they're available as stand alone products. I took the opportunity to take some pictures and check out how these two innovative products stand up against the rest of the tiller and extension offerings for Laser sailors.

My initial first impression is that the tiller is a bit flashy. You immediately get the feeling that Xzibit paid a visit to the LP factory and "pimped their ride".

Looks aside it's very stiff and doesn't sacrifice weight savings to achieve this - it weighs in a mere 0.1 oz heavier than the popular Acme Carbon Laser Tiller. The XD Tiller achieves this with its unique shape: the main body of the tiller is arched and this arch is mirrored on the underside. It's difficult to see in our pictures, but a cross section of the tiller is shaped like an upside-down U.

The result is a super light, super stiff tiller. This isn't without a downside, as it has a taller profile than the Acme or many other available carbon tillers. As you can see in the picture to the right, the XD's profile is almost twice that of the Acme, which is the thinnest tiller we currently have. The XD's profile is about the same as the standard black aluminum tube that has come standard on the Laser in the past.

The tiller extension is a relatively standard 48" (actually measures more like 49") straight carbon affair. It is 24mm in diameter, which is comparable to the Acme Fatso Jr. Unlike the Fatso the universal doesn't swivel but it is attached with a fairly standard looking pin & shrink wrap arrangement, so replacement should be much easier.

One welcome suprise was that the grip on the tiller extension is fantastic. It has an almost sandpaper like texture, but it's not so aggressive that it would be uncomfortable for extended use on a long day of racing.

Overall, I think these new XD products are a solid offering from the US Laser manufacturer. The tiller is not my favorite - partially due to its cosmetics, but mostly due to its height compared to the Acme. The design of the XD will slightly hinder your ability to suck the traveler down tight. If there is a positive to the design, the arch shape should allow the traveler block to slide across better than most, but I don't know if that makes up for the extra height. At $232 it's also a bit steeper than the Acme at $205 (pending '09 price changes).

I do think the tiller extension is great - excellent grip and stiffness. At $97 it's $5 cheaper than the Acme 48" Jr. so that's a pretty good deal. I could easily see this extension become the standard across the board for racers especially since it has the built in advantage of coming with new XD boats.

Available at APS by following this link.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Stern Scoop is on Hiatus

From the Editors
Rob, James and Chris

Seeing as APS will be closed until January 2nd of a brand spankin' new 2009, we're going to take a couple of days off from the blog ourselves to spend a little time with our families and, honestly, slack off on a couch and relax.

We'll be back on the 29th with a limited edition of the Scoop (we've got a couple of things queued up for some fancy, hi-tech auto posting) and we'll roll back into full posts with new video come the new year. Speaking of video, we've drastically improved our resources on that end, so we should start cranking out some pretty good stuff soon. You know, once we break down and actually read the instructions on how to use all this stuff.

But before we take off for a much needed break, we do want to pass along a message from the entire gang here at APS.

As the year ends, we can't help getting sentimental and looking back on 2008. We didn't want to the year to end without letting every one of you who have shopped with us via the internet, over the phone or in our shop know that we really do appreciate your business. And for those of you who don't shop with us -- what the *!@# are you waiting for??? Just kidding... but seriously, buy something.

Okay, getting back to the point -- we're well aware that there are other companies out there doing the same song and dance. We try to do it better than them every day, because this isn't just a job to most of us; as corny as it sounds, this is a labor of love.

We're here because we like working with fellow sailors, solving their problems and fulfilling their boat's/crew's needs -- this is the lifestyle that we've chosen for ourselves, and we're aware that it's because of your continued patronage of our company that we get to do this every day.

So, simply put: thank you.

We look forward to working with everyone in 2009, helping you get to the podium or just to go out on a Wednesday night and have some fun with friends.

Happy Holidays and Sincere Wishes for a Safe, Prosperous 2009 from the Whole Gang at APS!

Kyle, Jaja, Rob, Harriet, James, Chris, Mike C., Warren, Riess, John M., Aaron, Steve, John L., Jarrett, Arianne, Lynn, Annie, Joanie, Rob M., Mike L., Zack, Mike K., Ian, Tucker (the Dog) and Macie (also, the Dog).

We're a touching group, aren't we? Wait, that doesn't sound right...

Umm, cheers!

Local Interclub Frostbite Report

Of all the types of winter sailing to get involved in, the IC (interclub) also referred to as a sailing bathtub by some, has most likely become the best way to challenge your dinghy boat handling and knowledge of those close contact rules in Annapolis. The local fleet here team races the boats every other Saturday from late November into March. Every winter, the fleet takes their boats out for a three hour spin in the Severn River, not far from the club. To the tourist and non-sailors alike, it probably seems to appear more like some sort of insane ritual, in some ways that is true. Many of the ICer’s like to take that last sail up Ego Alley before heading in to the dock just to get that reaction and of course to spark up some interest. It’s great, getting a few gasps, ohh’s and ahh’s from the spectators whom are sipping their hot chocolate while taking a quick break from the holiday shopping or whatever it is that they do downtown in the daytime, I’m not sure.

Overall, team racing the boats has added that extra level of competition, skill development and of course fun compared to the plain ordinary around the buoy races they have conducted in the past. Don’t get me wrong; sailing around buoys is fun too. But team racing the boats is a gratifying mix up from summer racing. And possibly the most important reason, at least for the crew like me, is all that tacking. It helps to keep your mind off the frigid temperatures and your body in motion to stay warmer. This winter the fleet hopes to get four teams out on the water for the bi-weekly Saturday races. They also plan to have a few team race guest speakers come out and give a brief informational lesson before racing. They hold an after sail critique in the warm club house to help further the fleet's skills and understanding. The IC is actually a great boat to practice team racing in. It’s a simple design (not a whole lot of rigging to tweak with while you’re out and about), just one sail to trim, and it holds two sailors per boat. So you’ve got that extra eye to report on another team’s thought of whipping out a sneaky move.

Arianne is the Recieving Manager here at APS. She's responsible for checking in every product that we order in and making sure it gets put out on the shelf or shipping right back out to our customers. She's a regular crew with some of the local IC and Snipe sailors as well as a part time belly dancer.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Update: Race for the Chops

For the life of me, I'll never understand why a segment about facial hair is so popular, but it is -- and since I'm a man who's too weak not to give the people what they want, here we go.

DATELINE: Annapolis, MD

The Race for the Chops is getting exciting as this race is really starting clear up.

James is clear ahead right now, having opened up a 67nm lead over the 2nd place boat -- me. There was a time when James and I were neck and neck, but with a couple of smart moves (aka, really dumb moves by me) he made solid gains and never looked back. Both of our boats are essentially on autopilot at this point in the race, blast reaching their way into Singapore with the Code 0's up. Unless something drastic changes at the 5:00pm wind update, neither one of us should have to adjust anything again.

Behind us, the race for the final podium spot is pretty tight between Warren and Aaron. To his credit, Warren clawed his way back from a last place suckfest in the middle of this race to hold a 9nm advantage in the race for third place -- well done, Warren! To his skippering credit, Aaron ignored navigating for awhile and sat his boat almost head to wind for like 18 hours... but he too has been able to recover nicely.

But, with all due respect, screw the guys who are doing well. This whole ordeal has always been about the possibility of one of our staff growing completely absurd facial hair should they finish in last place, and that's what we're going to focus on.

And we're proud to report that Ian from the Storefront is in a fantastic position to be our facial hair aficionado when all is said and done. But Mike from Fulfillment is doing his part to draw this race out as long as possible. Both of these skippers are using carefully choreographed systems of poor navigation and awful sail combinations, leading observers to wonder if he doesn't want to grow the dreaded mutton chops.

With this stunning display of unskillful maneuvering, it really is anyone's game. Don't count out Jarrett -- not because of any skill reasons, but because he's queued up for a vacation during the holidays and will be away from a computer -- the countdown is on for him. Can he make the final turn and pointing his mighty vessel down the strait, for a last push towards the promised land of the finish line (giggity...)? Or will he end up on the rocks, watching his dreams shatter and his beard selectively grow???

I don't know about you -- but I'm excited to see how this ends!

Standings via Distance to Finish
1st Place: Stern Scoop Editor, James (DTF: 67nm)
2nd Place: Stern Scoop Editor, Chris (DTF: 131nm)
3rd Place: Aaron from Customer Service (DTF: 257nm)
4th Place: Warren from Customer Service (DTF: 266nm)
5th Place: Jarrett from Rigging (DTF: 354nm)
6th Place: Mike from Fulfillment (DTF: ~395nm)
7th Place: Ian from the Storefront (DTF: 411nm)

"Why Is Rob On There?" Update
You may remember that Rob started a boat about 2/3 of the way through the race to get the feel for things before the next leg. Well, we put him on the map, just for giggles, to show that even he can't screw up being placed in the perfect position. Well, that's not true... he parked the boat for like a day and a half because "I couldn't get an internet connection" all weekend. So I guess he did hose it up -- bravo, sir.

Monday, December 22, 2008

First Look: Spinlock Race Tether

When our Spinlock rep was in the shop last week we also got to take a look at the new Race Tether. Spinlock recently started offering a range of tethers (you know the things that keep you connected to the boat when it's trying to toss you off in the middle of the Southern Ocean) and now they're coming out with the Race line. They're made of thinner webbing that's still plenty strong enough to do the job and sport a lighter weight buckle at the boat end of the tether. Spinlock says they're 28% lighter than the standard version.

There are three varieties; a straight webbing single clip, a stretchy webbing single clip (pictured above) & a 2 clip Y with one stretchy and one straight leg. We only got to check out the one shown above. Spinlock tethers use a fairly standard safety clip to prevent accidental opening but are unique in offering only a luggage tag style harness connection shown to the right. Basically their argument is that if you're getting dragged by the boat you won't be able to release a clip anyways (that's pretty true, you need at least a small amount of slack in the line that probably won't be forthcoming) so you might as well have a 100% secure connection. Obviously a knife needs to be carried to cut yourself away in the event that happens.

The tether seems pretty cool. They're expected to be out this spring but I don't know what they're going to cost yet. I think if any small amount of extra weight savings is important to you, than these are the tethers for your boat. If you're not as keen on weight savings than I don't know that these offer much over the standard version - but they sure do look faster.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention here that jacklines should be set up so the aft termination is at least as far forward from the stern as the length of your tether at max stretch - in the event you are washed down the entire length of the boat this will prevent you from ending up in the water

Click here to learn how Spinlock Race Tethers compare to other tethers on the market.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Update: The Race for the Chops

Okay, okay... enough with the e-mails. I'll post another instalment in the critically acclaimed series, The Race for the Chops.

Again, it's been an exciting 48 hours in the RFTC. As we rapidly approach the turning mark at Palau We (that island off the northern coast of Indonesia -- just take Rt. 25 North until it stops, for you Indonesian locals...) and prepare to turn down the Malacca Straits, the picture is getting a little clearer.

For about 24 hours, the pack was pretty tight, with five of the seven enterants all withing spitting distance of each other. But things quickly spread out and tactical advantages were won and lost.

Ian and Warren are still fighting it out for the facial hair podium, although the official standings don't really bear that out. In fact, the news by the standings is pretty bad for me -- I'm only one place away from the mutton chops. I'm comforted though by the lack of logic in the standings, as they're simply calculated by Distance to the Finish. Because of this, I think I'm okay... I think.

The great equalizer will be the weekend; who will stay on top of things? Who will navigate the tricky straits the best? It's entirely possible that race leader and Scoop Editor James McKenna could find himself in a hole while the rest of the groups sails around him -- no place, or face, is safe right now. It should be noted though that out of over 108,000 enteries, James is currently in 415th place.

Of the seven entries, mine is the only that probably doesn't have to tack again to make it around Palau We. James, Aaron and Jarrett are all fairly close, but will have to throw a hitch in to clear the point -- calling the layline properly will be crucial. Mike seems to be in a solid position, poised to make a run, but in a great place to cover the two laggers.

Yes, it's Ian and Warren that are really in trouble -- Ian's bold move to the south never paid dividends, nor did Warren's. Now they both need to find a way to claw back to the north and hope for some help in the straits.

Stay tuned! It's going to be exciting... or miserable, depending on who finishes where!

Standings via Distance to Finish
1st Place: Stern Scoop Editor, James (DTF: 792nm)
2nd Place: Jarrett from Rigging (DTF: 821nm)
3rd Place: Aaron from Customer Service (DTF: 833nm)
4th Place: Warren from Customer Service (DTF: 866nm)
5th Place: Mike from Fulfillment (DTF: 871nm)
6th Place: Stern Scoop Editor, Chris (DTF: 872nm)
7th Place: Ian from the Storefront (DTF: 896nm)

Lollygagging Update: Stern Scoop Editor Rob has jumped in at the tail end of the fleet. He's actually just getting a hang of it for the next leg to China, but we're seeing if he can beat either Ian or Warren.

Also, if you have interesting ideas for the stakes of the next leg that Rob will be part of, please let us know!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

First Look: Spinlock ZR Jammer

One of the US Spinlock reps stopped by the shop the other day and brought a demo model of the new Spinlock ZR Jammer. It's not the final product but it looks like it's pretty close. Basically this is a fairly high load (upwards of 1500 kg or 3300lbs) relatively inexpensive jammer made of reinforced plastic and designed for 10-14mm lines.

You use the switch on the right of the above photo to change from locked mode (down position) to ready to release mode (up position). The ZR is a true jammer - meaning that unlike with a clutch in order to release it you have to load the line up on a winch and tension it before the jaws will open. This makes it great for furled sail halyards or applications where an open/close style clutch is impractical due to space constraints.

The above photo shows the parts of the jammer taken apart. That's all there is - the body, the jammers, the open/close mechanism & one allen head screw to attach them together. The body is a solid & substantial feeling piece. It is the angle of the body that forces the jammers together as they slide forward (left to right in the photo). It's all pretty straight forward - very easy to use and maintain.

All in all this is a pretty well thought out product. The rep said they were working on tweaking the locking up/down switch (it was a little sticky on this demo model). It feels solid and the design is very simple - which to me means it's less likely for a part of it to break. It's supposed to be out sometime in March - it's hard to say if they will meet that deadline but expect to see this out sometime this spring. One application I think this is well suited for is for boats like a C&C 115 that have problems with halyards slipping in the clutch that don't want to spend the money on something like an XX that's heavier and more expensive than the new ZR.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Race for the Chops -- Update

Continuing our wildly popular series, The Race for the Chops, there's been quite the shakeup in the standings thanks to a restart of the race.

To quickly recap: Seven of APS' staff are taking part in the Virtual VOR (, with the person that finishes last in Singapore having to grow mutton chops for a month. At 0500EST yesterday, the race was restarted with everyone getting brought back to a point just SE of Sri Lanka due to a problem with the rules of the game.

Nobody was happier about the restart than Ian, our Storefront Asst., who was ridiculously deep after not adjusting the course of his boat for an entire weekend. Ian has taken full advantage of the second chance, sitting in fourth right now, two spots off the facial hair podium.

And while it's still anyone's race with a long distance to go, Stern Scoop editor James is pretty firmly in first right now, having made a determined play to the north. Barring a major collapse, it would seem that James is pretty safe at this point.

The same cannot be said for my entry, having made an early move to the south that might have actually panned out had I not been a total wuss, opting at about 11pm last night to consolidate back to my competition. While it has put me back into the pack with three other boats, I'm ashamed that I didn't have the fortitute to stick with my plan and go for the gold. To be honest though, I'm pretty mortified at the possibility of paying homage to the most popular look of the 1870's...

Luckily for me though, Warren in Customer Service has dug a bit of a hole off to the west, although he's cruising along in some great breeze and should get back into this thing pretty quickly. That being said, he currently has the Mutton Chop Trophy sitting at his desk as a constant reminder of what he "faces" (get it) should he stay in his current place.

Anyways, with about 1,200+ miles left, here are the standings:
1st Place - Scoop Editor, James (DTF: 1,264nm)
2nd Place - Aaron from Customer Service (DTF: 1,270nm)
3rd Place - Scoop Editor, Chris (DTF: 1,273nm)
4th Place - Ian from the Storefront (DTF: 1,273nm)
5th Place - Jarrett, our Running Rigger (DTF: 1,274nm)
6th Place - Mike from Fullfilment (DTF: 1,287nm)
7th Place - Warren from Customer Service (DTF: 1,339nm)

Our Running Rigger

Hello, my name is Jarrett, and I am a run-aholic. This was never more true than Saturday November 22, 2008 when I successfully completed the JFK-50 mile ultra-marathon in 10 hours, 39 minutes and 10 seconds. Other than being an avid sailor and racer in the Annapolis area, I am striving to feed my obsession for endurance running. The JFK-50 miler was by far the most excruciating physical activity I have done. I've been addicted to the outdoors ever since I can remember and I've run numerous trail marathons, 50-kilometer (31 miles) runs, marathon distance and various trail races over the years. You've probably even seen me around Annapolis on my daily training runs.

The JFK-50 starts at 7:00 am near Hagerstown, MD. The course is comprised of the 16 miles on a particularly hilly section of the Appalachian Trail, a 26 mile section on the flat C&O canal toe path and a final 8 miles of rolling hills. The AT section is actually quite fun with new terrain on the narrow single track section with rocks galore. The C&O section is a slow, daunting and grueling path that gave me plenty of time to contemplate just how insane I was to start this epic journey. Time passes and so do the miles, there are numerous aid stations that become a real pleasure. Stocked with PB&J sandwiches, cookies, candy, and of course Gatorade; these heavenly stations are a source for calories and a snap back to reality that this is more than just a race. As I make it to mile 42 and come off the toe path, I realize that I've come this far and even though the pain is excruciating, there is no stopping now, not with only 8 miles left. HA!! … those last 8 miles are an eternity all to themselves. "Rolling hills" is an understatement as every incline feeling like I am summiting a 14,000 ft Colorado peak. The finish is in town and a welcomed sight with announcer and crowd cheering on the runners who have donned reflective vests; I crossed the line at 5:40 pm. Yes, that's right, I saw the sun rise and set all while running.

This run is a true test of grit and determination. Pace is slow and it's a battle just to keep going. I was not the only crazy person out there as I shared those 50 miles with 1000 other runners and none more important than my fiancé Meredith. She is a running goddess with many marathons under her race belt. We endured the pain together running side-by-side the entire way. Each of us knew that if the other weren't there, we wouldn't have finished.

Knowing just how intense the JFK-50 is and how crazy you have to be to even think about running it, I am seriously considering doing this again next year. The physical and emotional turmoil, weeks of recovery, the endless hours and miles of training have me wanting more. My name is Jarrett and I'm a run-aholic.

Jarrett is the assistant rigger here at the shop so he's responsible for a lot of the custom rigging that goes out from eye splices to life lines. He's a stand-up guy and apparently also insane. Seriously though, the following Monday in the office he was asked if he would do the race again and he responded with an immediate yes. If that's not crazy I don't know what is.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Book Suggestions

It's December and with that flip of the calendar many of you will be putting away your sailing gear to turn your attention to holiday parties, finding the right gift and not looking fat in that winter parka (we suggest vertical stripes).

And while it would be easy to replace the time you normally spent on-the-water with football games, snow tires and your family (you know, trivial things...), I'd humbly submit that you should carve out an hour per weekend to work on the mental side of our sport. Sailing is as much (if not more) a mental sport than it is physical -- which is a scary thought when you see some of the characters that show up to a regatta party.

Heck, an hour is easy to find in the grand scheme of things; who needs to watch a bunch of retired, brain-damaged football players talk for two hours on a pre-game show anyways? That time though, put towards a brushing up on tactics or the rules, will definitely translate into numerous seconds or even minutes on the race course. And as many of us all too painfully know, seconds can be the difference between giving or getting the congratulations at the end of a regatta.

I say all of this knowing all too well one truth about books about tactics and rules -- they are unbelievably, undeniably and unimaginably boring. Seriously, there isn't an insomniac in the Northern Hemisphere that Stuart Walker's "Advanced Racing Tactics" can't render comatose. But seeing as Dr. Walker has forgotten more about sailing than almost any of us can hope to ever know, the learning (however mind-numbing it may be) is a necessary evil to success in our sport.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be taking a closer look at some of the books, CD's and DVD's available that can help give you a mental edge on the water. It only seemed logical that the starting point should be to take a look at understanding the rules of racing, seeing as the 2005-2008 rules are set to expire at the end of this month.

Obviously, having a new rule book is going to be a must. For those of you who are members of US Sailing (and hopefully you are), you'll be getting a copy of the 2009-2012 Racing Rules of Sailing in the mail. For those of you who aren't members, we'll have them available shortly here at the shop.

By the way, for those of you that always have your rule book with you on the water, I highly suggest getting some one-gallon Ziploc Freezer Bags to throw it in. The bag is plenty big for the book, while allowing room for a cell phone and wallet as well. For something that is supposed to last three years in a marine environment, the book is pretty flimsy, so you'll have to take care of it.

Now that you have the rule book, it's time to try and actually understand all of the bogus, practically Shakespearean language. The Racing Rules of Sailing are something of a tribute to lawyers and the fine work that they do, making anything totally unreadable and confusing. Enter rules guru Dave Perry, who finds a way to make sense out of the sometimes nonsensical.

Perry's "Understand the Rules of Racing" is a staple for many sailors. And why you ask? Well, take a look at the video below where I probably violate a slew of laws by actually opening up the book and showing parts of it, but it's for marketing and sort of educational purposes, so hopefully the team of attorney's that the publisher has on retainer decides this isn't worth their time:

Additionally, UK Sailmakers has a rules CD that is currently in the process of being updated for the 2009-2012 rules. This CD is packed with animated rules quizzes that are a great way to learn the rules involved in certain situations or to test the knowledge that you've picked up. If you want a taste of what the quizzes look like, click here to go to the UK Sails website: Rules Quiz #1.

So these are what I consider to be the best aids to understanding the rules of racing. We'll tackle a new topic next week; maybe tactics or weather... depends on how much homework I feel like doing.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Volvo Ocean Race - The Race for the Chops

Don't let the title fool you... I'm not talking about the real VOR. Personally, I think those guys are crazy, going around the world on a 70' rickety rocketship, eating freeze dried food with threats of fishing boats, nets, long lines, pirates and the Indonesian Navy.

Rather, I'm talking about the Volvo Ocean Race Game ( that a few of us here in the office are playing. Officially, the stakes are for bragging rights, although there is talk that the last person to finish in Singapore will have to grow out the ol' mutton chops for a solid month.

There are seven of us currently making our way from India, around Sri Lanka, through the scoring gate due north of Palau We and down to Singapore... and we're doing it from the comfort of our own couches at home (because, honest boss, we'd never waste company time on this...).

Right now, I hold a debatable lead over the rest of the group -- I say debatable because I've made a fairly risky/bold/heinously stupid move to hug Sri Lanka while the rest of the group is taking a more true to life approach by staying further offshore. I'd love to tell you that I have some master plan associated with this move, but I basically didn't plan on a wind shift and I was forced to head further north than I expected. Now, everyone else is moving at about twice my speed... so yeah, I'm basically banking on being able to break to the north before everyone else to save myself the humiliation of growing the most spotty and grotesque facial hair ever seen.

Taking a look at the current Rankings:
1st Place: Scoop editor, Chris (DTF = 1,478nm)
2nd Place: Scoop editor, James (DTF = 1,499nm)
3rd Place: Aaron from Customer Service (DTF = 1,524nm)
4th Place: Mike from Fulfillment (DTF = 1,531nm)
5th Place: Warren from Customer Service (DTF = 1,563nm)
6th Place: Jarret from Rigging (DTF = 1,576nm)
7th Place: Ian from the Storefront (DTF = 1,709nm)

Lucky for me, Ian was asleep at the helm this weekend, steering a due south course for the better part of 72 hours. Even though he has finally adjusted course and there's a ton of race left, all of the analysts agree that he's going to have to do some fancy (fake) sailing to avoid "winning" the Race for the Chops.

Unsexy Update: Due to the rules at the beginning of the race apparently being unclear about being able to cut between Sri Lanka and India, the folks running the VOR game are throwing up the ol' virtual 1st Substitute penant and are recalling the entire fleet. This was apparently due to the complaints of a bunch of people that must have more on the line than having to grow unweildy facial hair.

The Race for the Chops will be restarting tomorrow at 0500 Eastern, when Ian will get a second life and my somewhat safe feeling about not having absurd facial hair will evaporate.

Leukemia Cup Glory and School Girl Giggles

At our staff meetings, we've been encouraging our staff to contribute something to the blog, to explore other perspectives of sailing beyond new products. Well, that and Rob, James and I aren't nearly creative enough to write something new every day.

A gold star goes to one of APS' website and catalog production guys, Mike Carter, for actually paying attention in one of the meetings and putting something together.

Why We Sail

We are all guilty of it at some point in our sailing careers -- we get so wrapped up in the finding that right boat, the right race, the right crew, the right wind, the right race committee, and so on, that we lose track of why we are actually out on the water... to have fun! We are so focused on complaining about that bad start, bad RC call, some other boat’s foul, or some crew member’s mistake that we find ourselves going from regatta to regatta filled with negative energy and simply going through the motions. It is usually at this point that we say to ourselves, “Why am I doing this again?”

But, every now and then, the right thing does happen. The planets do line up, the wind sets in, the perfect crew is aboard, the RC sets up a good course and we have the sail of our lives! Sometimes that has nothing to do with the results, and other times you get that bullet as the whipped cream on top of that perfect sailing sundae. Either way, you have that day on the water that puts everything in perspective, reminds you why you sail, and why you love racing! It is simply... why we sail!

For me, that day was October 25th, 2008 racing in the Baltimore Harbor Leukemia Cup. Not a major regatta, certainly no KWRW or Block Island, but this race will go down in the annals of Bay lore as one of those epic days of Chesapeake sailing. There was the requisite carnage, with several boats losing rigs, blowing out sails, and all that one would expect in such conditions. The forecast was calling for sustained winds of 15-20 knots out of the SE, and the weather did not fail to make good on and exceed our expectations. As we motored out to the Baltimore Lighthouse for the rendezvous on the brand new BC27 Problem Child, it was chilly and windy with the promised 20 knots blowing in, as called for from the SE. I was of course decked out in all my APS purchased gear…best of all being my Gill Extreme Gloves and Rocky Gore-Tex Socks. So, my hands and feet stayed warm and dry, even in that severe weather. We had a fantastic crew aboard and everyone was excited to see how evil genius Brian Jones’ newest creation would handle the big breeze. Problem Child had only recently made her debut at Annapolis Race Week, handily winning the regatta with 5 bullets and a 2nd against a very talented fleet of racers. Since Brian built her to race on the Chesapeake and to handle all that the Bay could muster, the pressure was on to prove that what she did so well in the light breeze would carry over to the big breeze and heavy chop as well. This was only her second regatta.

No one, including Brian was sure exactly how she would go. As we lined up for the sequence and began making our moves, the breeze kept building and building. We decided to be conservative, given the conditions and managed a respectable place on the line and a good start. But, as it turned out that was of little consequence, for as soon as we got her dialed in, off we went like a bat out of hell. It became obvious right away that it was not a matter of if we would lead the pack, but when. And we did not have to wait long, because by the time we had rounded the second mark we were solidly in the lead of our class, and soon after that we were ahead of all of the fleets, even those bigger and faster boats that started ahead of us. We kept looking around at one another wondering if this was really happening, but it was. We were flying! I was sitting about as far to stern as I could, and was calling the pressure as well as I could given the slop that was behind us and the then constant 25 knots of breeze. Calling puffs in those conditions was like picking out a mosquito in a swarm of gnats. But, with each call of “PUFF ON” we would get up and go even faster. And on it went for most of the remainder of the race…As we turned into the Patapsco River to make our final run into Baltimore, the wind had built to nearly 30 knots, with puffs considerably higher. It was around this point that I and the rest of the crew had our “WOW, this is why we frickin’ race!” moment.

We had quickly caught back up to the single A0 boat that had waterlined us on the previous “upwind” leg, and put her easily behind us. And there she stayed! As the wind continued to build over to 30 knots, our competition faded out of sight, and there we were all alone in first without even a glimpse of another boat off of our stern. As each new huge puff came in, we felt Problem Child grab and harness the breeze as we surged faster and faster, eventually topping out at just over 18 knots. I’m not ashamed to admit that at several points during this experience, I was downright scared. And judging by the looks on the rest of the crews faces, so were they! These were all very experienced big boat racers with blue water experience, and in some cases had been sailing at the highest levels of our sport. But, a funny thing happened as we were peaking out at max speed….someone started to giggle. Not a laugh mind you, but a silly, child-like giggle. The kind of giggle you once let out when you were sledding down that huge hill as a kid. Apparently, it was contagious. Because in seconds, everyone was giggling like school girls, and with that all our fear abated. As I looked around at the crew, we were all ear to ear smiles as we ripped along at 18 knots, slicing through or sailing off of waves, dodging tugs, barges, and clueless powerboats. And none of that mattered, or perhaps all of that mattered, as we were simply enjoying the very essence of sailing, harnessing our primal fear and excelling at something we all loved to do…sail. Yes, we did win the regatta, finishing an uncorrected 7 minutes ahead of the next boat across the line, but that was just the icing on the cake. And, yes there were a few mishaps and damage during the final leg, but they will forever just add to the legend and improve upon the endless retelling of the tale in sailor bars and regatta tents around the world, as such events always do...

As for me, I couldn’t wait to get out and sail again. I had once again become enamored with racing, and less concerned with the silly details that had before preoccupied my sailing mind. That day for me, defined why we sail!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Hands On: Velocitek Speedpuck

We're sending out our first shipments of the new Velocitek Speedpuck today. We posted some info about this brand new GPS speed/heading device a couple weeks ago but now we've got the real deal to work with. I opened up a box and took one outside so we could show everyone how it works.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Jet 14 Frostbiting

One of the boats that I race is a Jet 14. "What the hell is that?" most people wonder at this point. I usually describe it as either little Thistle or a Snipe with a spinnaker. Basically a two person dinghy with a kite - not a very large class but it's a fun group. I usually sail with my father and since it was his recently his birthday I figured I'd give him a shout out here on The Stern Scoop. So here's my dad with my Jet at the dock of Severn Sailing Association in Annapolis.

The Jets frostbite every other Saturday during the winter along with the local Interclub fleet. Last weekend we raced in a light 3-8 kt southerly. The air temp was in the mid 30s which made for a very nice day of racing. We had 8 boats out which made for some exciting starts on the short line. In this one your author on 1140 clearly dominated all the way.

Photo courtesy of Ted Reshetiloff

Editors note: I am forced to admit that there is some possibility that this picture was taken prior to the gun and I am in fact not dominating anything other than a solid OCS in this particular race.

Monday, December 8, 2008

APS Gets Ready For the Holidays

This is the first of a series of post I plan to do here on The Stern Scoop about the staff here at APS. Nothing too elaborate, but I want to give everyone out there a better idea of who we are here at the shop and where we work every day. I get customers in the store all the time who are surprised to learn that all of our shipping, receiving, rigging, marketing, web development & over the phone customer service all happens out of this one little shop.

Here at APS we like to get into the holiday spirit as best we can so I wanted to share a few pictures of how we've decorated this year. This is a shot from our storefront complete with a mannequin decked out in HPX driving through the Christmas trees.

And here is our APS Customer Service Team in our call center. From left to right we have Warren, Riess, John (taking an order), Aaron & Steve.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


The other day a friend of mine asked me about getting a pair of hikers for sailing his Thistle. We sell a number of different types of hikers and the price spread across the choices is fairly wide. "So which ones should I get?", he wanted to know. It's a pretty fair question I think. Hikers are something you don't "have" to get but they sure make life a lot more comfortable on a lot of boats. There are a lot of style choices here and it can be daunting trying to find the right hikers for someone. A lot of things depend on personal preferences; full leg coverage vs. above the knee or suspender style vs. shorts - in the end it's up to what people like best.

What are the choices? We have hikers from SEA (Sail Equipment Australia), Zhik, Magic Marine & Sailing Angles. The SEA pairs and the Zhiks seem to be a bit more popular than the other two so we'll focus on those. What do I consider to be hikers anyways? I think anything with a stiff batten-style pad on the back of the thigh qualifies as hikers. So not just extra neoprene padding but a plastic or otherwise reinforced patch that will stay stiff and support part of your weight as you hike out.

The SEA hikers are the workhorse of the options. They're relatively inexpensive but they're well made and have enough style choices to get the right thing for a customer's needs. The price range runs from $120.95 for the cheapest short neoprene hikers up to $174.95 for the 3/4 length Airprene pair. Basically the choices are to have the knees covered or not and to have neoprene or Airprene. Airprene is basically neoprene with a bunch of little holes in it so it's less hot than a solid neoprene suit. Note that I said less hot - you're still wearing a layer of neoprene over most of your body and if it's a hot day you're gonna be sweating. These things aren't magic. I have a pair of the short neoprene hikers that I wear on the Laser. I think if I had to do it over again I'd get the knees's not a big difference but it adds some extra warmth on those early spring / late fall days and keeps your knees from getting all banged up.

The downside to the SEA hikers is that the batten pockets are sewn on to the outside of the leg and are not movable. The edge of the pocket sometimes catches on the edge of the deck or cockpit as you slide in and out of the boat and that tends to eventually be a wear spot. It also means that if the wearer isn't quite the same size as the person the pants were sized to fit (professional laser sailor types - so pretty tall and strong guys) than the batten pocket might not line up where it should on your leg. Do these details matter? Yes but if you're not going to wear the hikers that much they probably don't outweigh the cost benefit of the SEAs.

Zhik offers by far the biggest variety of choices in hikers. They have everything from shorts to a full length farmer john suit available with hiking pads. Unlike other suits they do not have battens sewn into the suit but use the Zhik PowerPad system. The battens are on a seperate piece that slides into a pocket in a sleeve that then slides over the thigh & the suit pulls over top of that. This allows the user to position the pads where ever they want them and makes for a custom fit. They have 3/4 hikers that are fairly standard style-wise. The pant and short hikers are pretty cool - I've talked to a few customers that were really into getting the shorts for sailing in Florida. I also have a pair of the Superwarm skiff hikers that I plan to break out for the local Laser frostbite series next weekend. At $193 for the shorts and $299 for the 3/4 hikers they're not exactly cheap.

Are they worth it? To give a non-answer I think it depends. If you're going to sail your Laser all year round and do some big regattas and you wear your hikers every time you go out - they're probably worth it. If you want something different like a farmer john or pants than they're a great choice. But my friend who is just going to wear them for his Thistle and probably won't wear them unless it's a real windy day (although in the Thistle I'd probably wear them every day with that skinny rail). For him I recommended the SEA hikers - he probably doesn't need to spend the extra money on the Zhiks.

As for the rest of the hiker range the Magic Maine Energy Hikers are interesting because they're the only ones to have a pre-curved piece of batten material sewn into the suit. The batten pocket is also attached on the inside of the leg rather than the outside to prevent snagging. Sailing Angles offers some similar hikers as well as a farmer john style suit for colder weather sailing. These are certainly not the only brands out there either - there are plenty of other good hikers from companies like Rooster, Gill and others.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


"The effect of sailing is produced by a judicious arrangement of the sails to the direction of the wind." - William Falconer, Universal Dictionary of the Marine: 1769.

"Introducing the new J22 spin pole...easier to stow and now designed to fit in your sedan." - Rob Beach, (APS Marketing Dept) on the benefits of the outcome of the first photo.

Note: Like any good bowman does, prior to sailing that day Rob inspected his equipment. Finding a pole with stuck ends "Resourceful Rob" decided to "borrow" a pole from APS' owner Kyle who, fortunately for Rob, was too scared to go out.