Thursday, June 11, 2009

Snipe Class DVD: Tuning & Better Boat Handling

One of our Hot New Item's last week was the new Snipe DVD Tuning and Better Boat Handling. Thanks to a break in the action here at the office, I was able to sit down with this new offering from the class and see what it had to offer.

Produced by Greg Fisher and Rick Bernstein, this DVD also features class heavyweights (in stature, not girth):
- George Szabo from Quantum Sails
- Brian Bissel from North Sails
- Brian Janney
- Dave Hughes

This is a two-disc DVD, which is pretty cool -- it's a great value for its $49.95 price tag. Both George and Brian start the first DVD off by giving set-up tips and illustrations from their respective company's tuning guides. Depending on your preference of "Big Blue" or "Da Q", these compliment their published tuning guides nicely. In fact, you can probably learn a thing or two from the other guy, so you should watch both.

Next comes some tacking/gybing info, starting with a 7 minute on-land tutorial with Szabo and Janney. I liked this section because it allowed both skipper and crew to slowly go through their thought processes and movements. Janney's portion is a must-see for new crews, showing the proper coreography for tacking and gybing with great explainations of what he's doing.

The on-water portion of the tacking/gybing section is about 13 minutes -- they've mic'd up all four sailors for on-boat commentary and both Fisher and Bernstein provide some useful voice-over commentary while you continue to watch two of the better Snipe skippers/crews do their thing. This section was great, but a little dry in places -- sort of unavoidable to demonstrate proper technique and I do have the attention span of a 7-month-old puppy, so take that for... SQUIRREL!!!... what it's worth.

The last part of the first disc deals with navigating "the corners" -- aka, getting around marks. It's about six and a half minutes of on-the-water examples of good roundings, focusing on communication and fluid motions. It's a nice section to watch as a skipper/crew together -- you know, for a little bonding time without all of the yelling and swearing that's commonplace for anyone I happen to sail dinghies with (yes, it's always the crew's fault).

Disc 2 moves from technique to technical, dealing with stuff like shifting gears, boat handling, powering up/depowering the boat, etc. This is illustrated with more on-the-water video and voice-over commentary; everything that they talk about in the first two sections (upwind and then downwind) is good stuff. Some of the information in these sections is obvious, but just think about how often you don't go out and speed test before the start of a regatta or don't tweak this line or that line and you'll realize that you can never hear these things too many times.

The third section on the second disc is video of four or five races in light to moderate air that has on-board audio with George Szabo and his crew. He does a great job of describing EVERYTHING that he's doing -- after a little while, you start expecting hear personal commentary like "and there's a squiggly line in my eye", "I just swallowed a bug..." or "milk was a bad choice". It's a great illustration of the amount of communication that should take place during a race, the skipper and crew talking all the time about everything that's going on.

There's a final section which is just a goodbye/credits section -- nothing too special.

A nice little feature during the entire DVD is that at the beginning and end of each section, there is a hit list of the topics covered. The list at the beginning is like a table of contents and the list at the end of the section is basically a cheat sheet, running down the important points -- it's nice you're taking notes.

I was actually really happy with Tuning & Better Boat Handling -- it's definitely not a J.J. Abrams production with tons of cool explosions and special effects. But it is a fantastic resource for Snipe sailors that should really help the majority of racers out there looking to step their game up. You get about an hour and a half of video instruction and observation straight from your living room or computer from some of the bigshots in the class -- short of buying all of them a bunch of drinks during a big regatta, there's little chance that you're going to get anything close to that in real life. And trying to get technical knowledge from someone who's a little buzzed never comes out right anyways...

PS - If you're wondering why the screen captures look like their from a 1970's Instamatic Polaroid camera, it's because we had some trouble with the whole screen capture thing, so I took a photo of my screen. The actual quality is way higher...

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