Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wake Skating

When I was researching the Teva Gnar shoe to write the review I put up earlier I came across some promotional material from Teva including some videos they filmed. There were a couple different ones highlighting different portions of the shoe and they were fairly well done, but the guy kept saying that one of the things the shoe was good for was wake skating.

I didn't think much about it at first since I figured he was either making it up or he had meant to say wake boarding. I googled it though and it turns out that wake skating is actually something people do and its pretty much what you'd think - its a dude with a board with grip tape on it and no bindings getting pulled behind a ski boat. I guess those guys who water ski off the back of Farr 40s on top of the floor boards were on to something - and they should all go get some Teva Gnars so they can really show off their stuff during the next postponement.

Here's some Australians telling us what wake skating is all about:

Monday, March 30, 2009

Totally Gnarly

Teva came out with a brand new water/boat shoe this year - the Teva Gnar. It's a skateboard style shoe with a thick tongue and collar. Though it might look like the sweet Vans kicks you used to wear back in high school (or maybe your kids did, depending on how old you are) the Gnar sports high tech fabrics that make is a terrific lightweight and supportive sailing shoe.

The Gnar has lightweight mesh side panels for quick water drainage and ventilation. There are also small drain holes on both sides of the toe box - they might be too small to let much water out but they should help a little. The tongue and collar are made of non water absorbing EVA foam as is the footbed to keep the shoe lightweight and dry.

The Gnar also features some of the latest in cutting edge sailing technology - camo. That's right, you won't have to worry about people seeing you hanging out over by the pin and ruining your "it would have been perfect if that one guy hadn't been there" port tack start with these shoes on. No one will see you coming with the green and black color scheme with camo mesh side panels.

Seriously though, they might look a little silly but Ian who works in our storefront assures me that all the cool kids are wearing camo. He got a pair of these shoes and he says they're great. Ian thinks they offer the best support out of any sailing shoe available. The thick collar and tongue feel a little unusual at first if it's a fit you're not used to but they give great foot support not often found in sailing shoes.

The sole of the Gnar is made from Teva's SSR rubber. They've been using this rubber for a while now and it's pretty good stuff. I think it would be pretty grippy but Ian hasn't had a chance to wear them sailing yet so I don't have any first hand feedback. The diamond patterned portion of the sole is a moderately soft rubber and the dotted portions in the toe and heel are a very gummy, sticky feeling rubber for extra grip.

Overall I think the Teva Gnar is a fresh look for the sailing market and it hasn't skimped on the necessary features to get there. It has the things you need - it's fast drying, lightweight, supportive and grippy. Does everyone want a skateboard shoe that they can go sailing in? Probably not, but I know there's several guys here at the shop who told me they thought the Gnar was "sweet looking, dude." I'm sure some people won't like the look but most probably fall in the as long as it works category and this shoe definitely does.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Madness of March

It's that time of year again, time for office employees everywhere to spend their entire lunch hour arguing about how their team has the best chance to make it all the way to the big dance. Here at APS, we're not immune to the mystical allure of filling out a bunch of lines on a bracket with haphazard guesses based on little to no actual data.

A number of the guys here at the shop have joined a group of like minded competitive individuals, 162 of them to be exact. This is a pretty big group so the winner stands to get a lot of... congratulatory remarks.

APS is holding it's own pretty well so far, which is good because we have a bit of a tradition to uphold. Last year in the same group Chris finished in 3rd place and Rob took 3rd the year before that.

Right now Rob's girlfriend Meredith is winning going into tonight's games. Warren is 2nd and Chris is 10th. I'm holding down a strong 16th but Rob (52), Jarrett (54) and Mike (96) aren't doing so well right now.

It all could change tonight though - it's time to put up or shut up, where your bracket is either made or broken, go time and a number of other hilarious things "that guy" who is way too into it says all day long for these few short weeks. We've got one of those too but I wouldn't want to point fingers (hint it's Warren).

It's probably up to Warren to maintain the APS 3rd place streak another year. He took Pitt to win it so we'll see how that goes for him. All of my hopes rest with UConn so go Huskies.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Smile...you're in the APS catalog!

We often get questions about the photos we use both on our site and in our catalog. Every year after the new catalogs drop I find myself fielding a fair amount of phone calls and emails from people wanting to know where they came from, who took them, and how they can get a copy. Occasionally, I even get a not so happy person threatening legal action for use of their "likelihood" or some such. It seems not everyone realizes that being in the APS catalog is the pinnacle of most sailor's modeling careers...boy are those fun phone calls to get! In any case, back to the matter at hand...where do the images come from? How do you get a copy? How does one get chosen to be in the catalog?

APS works almost exclusively with our favorite sailing photographers at Photoboat. If you've done a regatta on the East coast of the US you've probably seen or almost run over Daniela and/or Allen zipping around in their 11' ribs snapping photos.

Allen and Daniela use their own customized RIBs to zoom around the race course while photographing most events. They are harnessed in from the bow and hold on to a long tiller extension (reportedly made from a Laser top section complete with blue plastic caps). This enables the photographers to put themselves exactly where they want to be to get the right shot, without getting in the way or creating a large wake. Working exclusively with small inflatables and sometimes miles from shore they dart around the race course in pursuit of the kind of intense sailing shots at almost unreal proximity.

All other images we use are either vendor provided (just a few this year) or taken by ourselves...which James and I really get a kick out of doing too.

So, how do you get into the catalog? You can try bribes but James claims he can't be bought. I, on the other hand, would suggest you put a smile on your face and keep an eye out for the Photoboat gang at your next event. What? Did you think I was going to say I could be bought? I'm too expensive so I think you should just check out Photoboat's blog to keep up to date with which events they're planning on going to this year or to read a bit more about the fun lives they lead on the other end of the lens.

Boat photographers Allen and Daniela provide the finest sailing regatta and boating photography anywhere, with specialties in commercial advertising photos, marine art prints, private yacht assignments and on-the-water event photography. They are based in Connecticut and regularly travel to Newport, Annapolis, Miami, Key West and other sailing hotspots. If you're looking for a photographer or to get yourself a copy of an image you've seen in our catalog we encourage you to check out Photoboat.com!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

New Website!!! New Website!!!


As we've hinted at a few times, APS' website has gotten a serious paint job. Actually it goes a little deeper than that -- we dropped in a new carbon rig, got brand new sails, extended the keel, went hi-tech with the lines and tossed all the extra weight overboard. Sure, it hurt our PHRF rating, but it was worth it...

For well over six months, James and I have been working on a new website for APS. It's been a massive undertaking -- we had to get it done on top of our day-to-day responsibilities and integrate a decade of functionality from our existing site and make it all work with our order taking software.

There aren't many times that I'll be nice to James here on the blog; it's not our thing. But we couldn't have gotten this done without his help, so for that -- thanks for not screwing it up, James.

Now that the mushy stuff is out of the way, let's take a look at the new site and what we've got for you.

Customer Accounts
Yep -- you can store your billing and shipping address, save a shopping cart, create a wish list, see all of your previous orders, see the status of a pending order and create a wish list or gift registry.

Wish List/Gift Registry
Personally, I think that one of the cooler functions that we've added is are the Wish List and the Gift Registry. FYI: you'll need a customer account for either of these features.

While you're cruising our site you can create a wish list of items for the future - whether you're just not ready to purchase now or need permission from your "better half", this function saves any item of interest in one place for you. Simply click on an item like you're going to order it and hit the "Add to Wish List" button instead of the "Add to Cart" button.

The Gift Registry is similar, but this gives you a link that you can share with others and they can purchase the items for you. This is great for birthdays, anniversary's or any other occasion. It's also great for boat owners or crew to put together a list of needed items.

Better Searches
The size of our site only continues to grow -- with that in mind, it became necessary to improve the search function of our site. We've made it easier to execute searches and, mercifully, our search function actually allows you to hit the back button and come back to it...

No More Timeouts!!!
Yep, no more timeouts... well, that's technically not true. There is one, but it's way longer and much less annoying. If you've ever gotten one, you know what I mean. If you haven't, ignore this because it TOTALLY wasn't a problem on the last site.

Improved Checkout
It's cleaner, shipping is calculated now and it's easier to use. We measure the gains on this part of the site in light years... because we're dorks.

Cleaner Design with More Flexibility
At the end of the day, this is the most important part. Our old site, which did really well by us, was impossible to change sometimes. This one is incredibly flexible and we'll be able to do all sorts of cool stuff with it.

So head on over to apsltd.com and check it out... feel free to buy something if you want to help offset the buttload of the boss' money that I spent.

But the birth of a new website means the death of our old one. Over the two plus years that I've had this job, I nicknamed the old site Aquarius because of the aqua color scheme. Yeah, it doesn't make much sense, but whatever... deal with it. While it lives on for a little while, behind the scenes on a server in case we ever need it for some reason, our old website will likely never be seen again. It's weird getting sentimental for an inanimate object like a website, but I'm a little sad to see it go.

So, in the words of Jim Lovell on Apollo 13 as they jettisoned the lunar module "Aquarius" that served them well:
"Goodbye, Aquarius, and thank you...".

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Sailing is Strong with this One

Every spring in Annapolis, there is a regatta named Star Wars that's basically a champion of champions sort of event for all the previous years CBYRA high point winners. This year it's being held in J/80s and takes place in a couple weeks.

My esteemed co-blogger Chris sailed this past year with Art, the high point winner for the Beneteau 36.7 class. Chris asked me to sail the event with them and Dave, another crew of theirs. None of us had sailed on a J/80 before so we wanted to get some practice in beforehand. Warren here at the shop has done lots of J/80 sailing so we brought him out with us to give us some pointers on how to make it go fast.

So it didn't exactly go fast - we practiced this past Saturday in about 5+ knots of wind. The J/80 actually moves a lot better than I expected in the light stuff, especially downwind, so it wasn't all that bad. Of course, now that we've practiced in nothing, it'll be super breezy on race day...but that's how it goes.

Here's another shot of our APS crew getting their game faces on.

Friday, March 20, 2009

New Catalog?

While I write this our very own catalog creation expert Rob is uploading the final copy of our 2009 catalog to the printer. In just a few short weeks (I'm told sometime in mid April) they will be arriving at your doorsteps.

Pictured above is our main cover - a shot of Terry Hutchinson and crew during Melges 24 NA's here in Annapolis last fall. Loyal Stern Scoop readers out there might notice the similarity with our header picture here on the Scoop that was obviously taken at the same event. The giant APS logo in the spinnaker might have something to do with why we like it so much.

The '09 catalog is the result of a whole ton of work on the part of Rob as well as Mike, Jaja, Kyle and myself. I mentioned a while ago we're adding a number of new one designs and all sorts of new products and clothes. There's also another big change that I'm still not allowed to tell you about but it's pretty cool.

Now that we've finished that project we're hoping to put together a bunch of video gear reviews for the Scoop and the main website so look for that in the next month or so.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Would You Like Some Cardboard With Your Tape?

We're all about reusing boxes here at APS. If you've ordered from us in the past, chances are that you might have gotten a recycled box from us -- this holds especially true on larger orders because we can reuse the boxes from our vendors.

However, there is a point at which "keeping it green" goes wrong. For instance, if a factory has to rachet up production to respond the nationwide tape shortage you create by shoring a box up (see image below), it's probably time to let that box die.

When I got this photo from Arianne, APS's Receiving Manager, the only rational explaination that I could come up with was that the box was air dropped without a parachute from 30,000ft and it contained a grizzly bear that shoots bees from its mouth.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Chesapeake Racer Profile: David Flynn

Spinsheet is a sailing magazine based out of Annapolis (about three blocks away from APS, actually) that covers racing and cruising on the Chesapeake and across parts of the Mid-Atlantic.

Each month, APS sponsors the "Chesapeake Racer Profile" in Spinsheet -- this profile focuses on a local sailor who actively races or promotes the sport of sailboat racing in the area. Past profiles have featured locals like unknown sailor Terry Hutchinson, world-class Race Officer Sandy Grosvenor and local junior sailors who won the Sears Cup for Annapolis Yacht Club.

This month, we're featuring David Flynn. For more than a decade, he worked for Scott Allen, initially as Horizon, then as Doyle Sailmakers. In 1993, Flynn joined Sobstad, soon-to-splinter into Quantum Sail Design, as marketing director, a position he held until becoming special projects director recently.

As for his resume -- well, it's pretty impressive. Flynn has competed in every major regatta on the Chesapeake and has wins at Block Island Race Week, Key West Race Week, Newport to Bermuda and Annapolis to Newport under his belt. He has been part of winning teams at five SORCs, a TransAt and a Fastnet. Oh yeah, he has also won North American Championships in One Design 35s, One Design 48s, Mumm 30s, J/44s and J/30s, among others.

Kind of impressive, no? Read the rest of his profile here at our website*.

* - The Chesapeake Racer Profile changes every month -- if you click on the link above and it brings you to a different sailor, read about them. After that, click here to find the profile you were looking for.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Autopilot On

On the off chance that I take some time off, Rob is there to ensure that the website is still covered.

For instance, as I was walking through one of the 7,129 terminals at JFK International a few months ago (I'm from Rhode Island -- naturally, everything looks absurdly large to me), Rob sent this picture to my BlackBerry to assure me that even a dummy could do my job.

The manequin actually made less mistakes... I had to fight to get my job back when I got back to the country. And the elastic bands are there because Rob was shooting the manequin with them -- I could feel the love.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Get Your Mind Right: North U. Trim

We contacted Bill Gladstone, the BMOC over at North U., a few weeks back to see if we could get a copies of their books/CD's for our Customer Service guys to take a look at. He was nice enough to send out the Trim and Tactics books and CD's. Seemed only natural that we should give them a peek here as well...

We're going to start with North U.'s Trim manual, which rolls in at a solid 208 pages. Of course, it could probably be twice that size and still not touch on all of the available information about sail trim. But I do have to say, I was kind of blown away by the completeness of this book - it's broken into four parts, which I'm going to touch on and review individually.

Part I: Introduction (3 Chapters)
Okay, so this book is kind of like a freight train -- the first two chapters start off a little slow and basic. Initially, my fear was that this would be the trend for the entire book. Things do start to pick up from there though, hitting on everything from lift generated by the keel to sail depth and draft position in the third chapter. At worst, it's a worthy refresher course that most racers will blow through quickly.

Part II: Upwind Performance (5 Chapters)
This is where you start to hit the real meat and taters of the book and the freight train really starts to pick up some speed.

The first chapter of this part is actually a really smart addition to the book that could have been overlooked in favor of just getting into the nuts and bolts of upwind headsail and main trim. It goes over the elements of a good tack for everyone on the boat (driver, tactician, etc) and hits on related topics like proper execution of reefing, headsail changes and ducking. This is a chapter that is taken for granted as common knowledge, but a very nice review to help keep it in your mind.

Over the next 34 pages, you get a complete and thoughtfully worded run-through of genoa trim and main trim. I say thoughtfully worded because these are sections that you could easily get crazy technical with, but the book keeps it clear and easily to follow. The following two chapters nicely compliment the preceding trim chapters by addressing the importance of upwind helmsmanship by the skipper (super important) and giving additional pointers for various conditions (light/moderate/heavy air) and situations (i.e.: you're pointing well but lack speed).

Part III: Downwind Performance (5 Chapters)
I'm not going to lie, I was taking some notes in this section -- I've long believed that the spinnaker legs and downwind sailing is the great equalizer at most events. Boats that have their acts together make huge gains on the downwind legs; those boats that don't tend to get passed like they're standing still, waiting at a bus stop (only with more yelling...).

This part starts out with downwind boat handling, going over everything from setting up a symmetrical kite to jibes, takedowns and peels -- this is a great chapter for "newer" crews. The next chapter does the same thing, but for the asymmetrical kite.

From there, it gets into the actual trim of the spinnaker -- again, it's a comprehensive look at performance and various modes of trim that incorporates not just the trimmer, but the crew and driver as well. I can't think of a boat that I've sailed on in the past four years that wouldn't have benefited from reading these sections; and no, I'm not rocking out at the MedCup but I'm not sailing with total hacks either. The last chapter again gets into the driving of the boat downwind... that's right skippers, proper trim doesn't just fall onto the guys in front of you.

Part IV: Special Topics (4 Chapters)
The last chapters are good reminders to most of us that everyone seems to know but they rarely execute -- proper boat prep, rig tune and how to use your instruments correctly. The boat prep section is pretty short, so allow me to provide a brief synopsis: GET ALL OF THE USELESS CRAP OFF THE BOAT.

Overall, I thought this book was very good. It is definitely an easier read that the other option out there (Stuart Walker's Manual of Sail Trim, which is fantastic but painful), with nice illustrations to really drive points home. There are sections that are basic, as this manual provides a ground up approach to sail trim. However, the way it pulls together all of the positions on the boat, especially the skipper, and lays out step by step instructions for success really make this a manual that everyone short of the pro level can learn from. And for $25.00, it doesn't get much better (and there are a bunch of "Cat 3's" who need to look at this too... you know who you are).

As for the Trim CD (there's actually two of them), the layout is VERY similar to the book and is more a companion than anything else. Much of the same material is covered and it includes narration, animation, video and additional pictures to reinforce topics. If you're a more of a visual learner, this is a great option and you could certainly get it by itself. Only complaint -- it is a little dated and probably in need of sprucing up. However, all of the information is still relevant, so don't let the older pictures and images scare you away.

If you're going to choose the book or CD, go for the book -- it's a little more complete and went through a revision back in 2007. If you just hate reading, the CD is a great option. If you can get both, even better...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Interview: Skip Dieball

I managed to get Skip Dieball of Quantum Sails One Design out of Toledo, OH to sit down for an interview after Thistle Midwinters East to talk about how his regatta went. He's an all around great guy and sails regularly in the Thistle, Lightning, and tons of other classes.

Stern Scoop (SS): Congrats on the third place – were you happy with your regatta overall?

Skip Dieball (SD): Thanks. When you come into a regatta like MWE, you want to do as well as you can. Certainly we were hoping to win this event, but finishing in the top 5 was our secondary goal and we are happy with how the event played out.

SS: That OCS in the second race made it tough for you guys – what happened there?

SD: I’ve got tons of excuses! Actually, it was one of those races where there wasn’t a clear line sight and we got tangled with some boats. Jordan Gourash (Middle), Ryanne Gallagher (Forward) and I had a conversation on the way in whether we felt we might have been OCS. My response was, “…who knows…”. You are essentially racing the boats next to you inside of 20 seconds. Without a clear line sight, the risk goes up. It is a bummer that it happened. It seems to be a chronic problem for many at MWE. This isn’t my first MWE with an OCS, unfortunately.

SS: Did the OCS make you more conservative on later starts? Obviously a second one would have made it tough to stay in the top 5 – what did you do to minimize risk but still get off the line well?

SD: I don’t think it changed our “approach” to the starts at all. We still tried to get clear and safe line sights and tried to throttle back, but only a little. In a few of the starts, we were actually 2nd row and had to clear out right away…I guess that’s the other extreme, which I had hoped we would try to avoid! We’ve got this rule on our boat that we complement each other on a nice start. Sometimes the “nice start” has a sarcastic tone to it!!!

SS: How did you handle getting the OCS early in the regatta in terms of your mental attitude?

SD: In years past I would have been bummed out…and this time I guess I was to a certain degree. In a no-throwout series can carrying all those points….we were able to stay out a little later at night and we might have been more relaxed. I think Jordan, Ryanne and I did a nice job of keeping it all in perspective. We said we could go for the “moral victory”, but a friend once said, “…I freakin’ hate moral victories…”.

SS: You were sailing a borrowed boat for the regatta – what cool rigging tricks do you have on your boat that you missed having?

SD: We were fortunate to charter Paul Abdullah’s #3985 GMW. It is one of the fastest Thistles around, so when we discussed the opportunity to charter, I was pretty sure we would be stepping into a perfect boat. When I rig out my boat, I try to keep everything simple. There wasn’t anything I missed that I have on my boat, other than my super sweet ZHIK hiking straps. Oh, and my centerboard uphaul system allows me to play the board on a more gross tune than the GMW drum.

SS: What’s your favorite Wet Willie’s drink flavor?

SD: I’m a little abnormal in that I enjoy the “Call me a cab” first, then the “Attitude Adjustment” second. There is no 3rd drink! We’ve seen too many casualties over the years and it is a proven fact that after 3, you are typically a no-show for the prize-giving. Footnote: for those that don’t know, it is somewhat of a tradition that the Thistle clan goes to Wet Willie’s in St. Pete prior to the banquet. There have been a number of entertaining acceptance speeches over the years!

Editor's Note: For those who haven't been Wet Willie's is a bar in St. Pete that specializes in drinks that basically combine Slurpee's with excessive amounts of alcohol.

SS: What attracts performance sailors like Van Cleef, Fisher and yourself to an old-school boat like the Thistle? What's next, T. Hutch at the Alberg 30 Worlds?

SD: Certainly the boats are cool. Going fast is fun and the boats reward you, if you sail them correctly. I can’t speak for those old(er) guys, but I enjoy the racing about as much as I enjoy the camaraderie. The Thistle has been around for a very long time and has certainly held its own against other boats in the same category! As for the Alberg and Terry’s involvement...

SS: Speaking of “old school” do you like wood? ... or glass?

SD: I’m on my 8th Thistle (3731, 3908, 1027, 3839, 3844, 3995, 1049, 1234). Each boat has its own mystique. I am a huge fan of new GMWs and will again sail one. But for now, I’m in a woody state of mind. My dad and I have rehabbed a few and the project is really a lot of fun and the boats do perform. I am a bit nostalgic and like to see older boats compete with newer boats…but these woodies require a bit of maintenance. My dad’s boat shop is like a Nascar Garage! Fortunately he’s got the time, skill and patience to handle a woody project; traits that seemed to have slipped my gene pool!

SS: Without making either of us sound like creepy old men - we’ve noticed you often have attractive and talented collegiate sailors crewing for you – do you have any tips on recruiting crew for those of us stuck sailing with old dudes?

SD: I think the term is “Creeper”. Though I have friends that have been called Creeper, fortunately I have not. It is really an amazing coincidence that my crew have been young college sailors. When I recruit crew I prioritize the way Larry MacDonald taught me: Fun, Skill, Size. It has worked out, for sure. I am not the most medium guy around, so size sometimes creeps up the list. The next event is the Orange Peel. I will, without a doubt, have the best looking team as my wife will be onboard for the first time in a while! As far as advice, make sure who you choose as a teammate is fun first. Total Thistle crew weight should be 450-500lbs.

SS: What are your thoughts about One Design sailing in this tough economy – do you think we might see more sailors move towards the reduced expense of OD boats like the Thistle and away from their custom PHRF rocket sleds?

SD: This is a serious question that has been tossed around at the Class Admin and US SAILING level. I think there are two opportunities that will come of this economy. One is that localized fleet racing should go up. Folks will do the stay-vacation thing more and more, which only helps at the club level. Fleets need to plan fun stuff to take advantage. The other opportunity is that we could get the Big Boat folks. Certainly classes like the Thistle, Lightning, Scot, etc. have very active classifieds with boats available at all prices. Stepping into an OD boat from something like a PHRF sled takes a little bit of a transition and their expectations should reflect this…if not, they’ll get frustrated quickly and no one wins. That is where the fleet stalwarts need to step in, identify and help!

SS: What’s your favorite piece of gear / foulies to wear?

SD: Hands down, MUSTO MPX. I’ve got the Dry Top, Salopettes, Shorts. Amazing stuff!

SS: Do friends let friends sail PHRF?

SD: Yeah, but few admit to it. At my home club (North Cape Yacht Club), we have an active PHRF group. I find a lot of my 1D friends doing the beer can night races. I get a kick out of sailing the T10 on a PHRF night. My dad drives, my brother is responsible for the pizza and I’m responsible for the beverage and music. We then fill in the primary spots as we go and emphasize fun. You can pack a lot of people on a T10 and usually we do. We keep it completely FUN. Too many PHRF programs treat beer can nights as the Americas Cup. Fun, unfortunately, is not the focus, but it absolutely should be!

SS: What other big regattas to you have planned for this year?

SD: It is a full schedule this year. I’ll sail major events in Thistle, Lightning, Interlake, J24, J22, Beneteau 36.7, T10….there might be a few surprise events this year, if the schedule works out.

SS: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us Skip.

We hope to make interviews with both top sailors and the rest us mere mortals as well a regular feature here at the Stern Scoop. If there's someone you think we have to talk to or questions we need to ask, let us know.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Well, There's Your Problem Right There...

Ever wonder what it looks like when a spool breaks?

They say a picture is worth a 1,000 words... well, I'm pretty sure that Ian only said one word, and decorum doesn't allow us to repeat it here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Decoration Tech Tuesday: Silk Screening

You're probably familiar with silk screening... it's been widely used for about a century now, so this isn't really a technology that's sneaking up on anyone.

Granted, things have come along a bit since the old days -- the inks are better, durability is waaay better and we no longer have to worry about the plague. Yeah, I have no idea what that last one has to do with decoration either...

Screen printing is THE best option for large batches of decoration. If you're looking to do 75+ shirts, shorts or wizard robes (like James did a few weeks ago for his Dungeons and Dragons club of Greater DC), you won't find a better, more economical method of doing so.

So, with that, the boss-man checks in one last time with a video on Silk Screening.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Thistle MWE Wrapup

I'm back at work today after my week off in Florida - it's nice to be back but it was tough to leave the warm sunny weather. I had a great time at Thistle Midwinters East and definitely hope to do the regatta again in the future.

We ended up 15th overall - we'd like to have gotten into the top 10 and felt like we had the boat speed to be there but didn't make enough of the right calls. A couple of deep starts in the later races made it tough to get back in touch with the lead pack and we had trouble figuring out what the northerly breeze was going to do next.

It was a very competitive regatta and the Thistle fleet is full of great sailors so we're very happy with how we finished. The 44 boat fleet was pretty deep and it was definitely tough to climb back if you made a mistake. The level of racing in the class is very high.

Greg Fisher won the regatta handily with very consistent racing. He sailed a great regatta with five bullets in the nine races held during the week. As always he handled his win gracefully with thank you's to everyone - even the folks who threw him in the pool Friday afternoon (unfortunately I didn't have the camera with me for that).

The Thistle is a great class even if it isn't the most comfortable boat I've ever sailed on (hopefully the bruises on my knees and shins will go away soon). The St. Pete Yacht Club is an awesome place to sail too - great RC and hospitality. I met a lot of cool people too - overall Thistle MWE was a great time.

Ian Checks In From Bacardi Cup

Just as James gets back from the Thistle Midwinters (a report from him coming up later), Ian headed south with skipper Ben Fransen for the Bacardi Cup.

This 82nd edition of the Bacardi Cup has brought 62 Star's down to sunny Miami. Incidentally, I discovered that the easiest job in the United States right now must be "Weatherman in Miami", given the forecast this week:

Anyways, known far and wide for his unique literary style, Ian checked in last night after the first race. If any major newspapers out there would like to pick this up for printing, just let us know and we'll be happy to put you in touch with the wordsmith himself.

"Good start at the boat.

Sailed well first beat.

Rounded top 15.

OCS posted at windward mark.

In early.

At bar.

More tomorow."

Friday, March 6, 2009

Video Blog: Rebuilding a Spinlock Clutch

I'm sure that you look around this blog and figure that there's a lot of planning that goes into our choices for reviews, videos, etc. For the most part, that's true -- we do plan a couple of weeks out and are constantly building a list of ideas.

But if you picked up on the foreshadowing I laid down, you'll know that this post isn't one of those times. I went down and asked Ian if he wanted to do another video about taking something apart...
"What do you want to do it on?"
Ian looks around, sees clutches - "How about I take apart a clutch."
And thus, an idea was born...

In this Stern Scoop Production, Ian takes apart a Spinlock XTS clutch. You'll see how easily these come apart and how it's not any harder to rebuild them. If your clutch stops working properly, it's relatively easy to get in there and figure out what's on the fritz. You can find any replacement part that you might need for a Spinlock clutch here.

It's also useful to know how to take one of these Spinlock clutches apart if you're thinking about reducing the size of your halyard, to save some weight aloft. As cordage continues to get stronger and more advanced, diameters can be reduced while still handling the same load. If you do reduce the size of your halyard, you may need to work on your clutch to ensure that it continues to properly hold your line.

Spinlock makes it easy to accomplish this, as you simply need to replace the cam -- you'll see how easy that is in Ian's video. Remember, for max performance from your clutch, always try and be at the top end of its max line diameter.

For instance, the XTS clutch handles two line sizes: 1/4" - 5/16" and 5/16" - 9/16". If you had a 5/16" halyard that you were buying a clutch for, you'd want to use the 1/4" - 5/16" clutch. The image to the left illustrates this for you -- each color represents a different model of Spinlock clutch... as the diameter of the line goes up, so does the holding power of the clutch. Simple concept, but important when spec'ing things out.

Other than that, the video pretty much speaks for itself. Of course, if you have any questions about what Ian does, feel free to drop them in the comment link below and we'll get back to you with an answer.

And yes, the two mannequins over Ian's right shoulder are suggestively posed (unintentionally, we promise -- we're not that bored around here); as such, this video is rated PG.

[switches to Ed McMahon voice]
So, heeeeeeeeeeeerrrrreeee'ssss Ian:

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Thistle MWE

I guess Chris has been really stressing out with me down here in sunny Florida for the week - I hope none of you will hold it against him if he's cracking under the pressure of trying to run this blog without me. It's hard work and I don't envy him for doing it all himself.

But back to Florida... We just finished day 3 of racing here at Thistle Midwinters East in St. Petersburg. It's been a difficult regatta so far - pretty shifty conditions the first two days and today got pretty light. We've been sailing well but had a couple deep finishes today that set us back in the standings.

The regatta has been awesome - the Thistlers are a great bunch of sailors and it's a really competitive fleet. Almost everyone has been up and down, Greg Fisher is winning so far in relatively dominant fashion with much more consistent results than most.

The starts have been tough and we haven't executed as well there as we'd like. There've been a lot of OCS's in the fleet which is hard to come back from in this no throw-out regatta. Thankfully our score sheet is alphabet soup free but we've had two races where we had to duck back to clear and then claw our way back into the race as best as we could.

The water in Tampa Bay isn't too warm and it's been in the high 50s low 60s for the first few days of the regatta so we've been pretty geared up. Here's my skipper Joe and fellow crew Mattie standing in front of our boat before racing today with all our gear laid out to dry.

It's been great sailing down here, and it's not too bad to be out of the office for 10 days either. Hopefully they'll have shoveled all the snow out of the way by the time I get back.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Gear Review: SLAM Hissar Shorts

This morning, I went to the 7-11 near my house to grab a couple of drinks and a muffin -- the total came to $7.47. I proceeded to immediately have a J.D. from Scrubs moment, 100% zoning out and imagining that I was on a 747 headed anywhere 1,500 miles south of here. Just like that, I had pictured myself in shorts on aqua blue water, sailing in a warm breeze with some sort of tropical drink. Sometime around Megan Fox coming up from below deck with another drink, the 70-ish year old guy behind the counter told me I was "all set" in between drags on his cowboy killers, bringing me back to the land of blowing snow and stupid cold.

When I got to the office, I was greeted with an email from Rob that our Hot New Item this week was going to be SLAM's Hissar Shorts in a new Khaki color. While I never got a good look at the shorts I was wearing in my daydream, I figured it was some sort of sign that I should do a review of them on the blog this week. Or that I should give Megan a call, because I hear she's single now -- but I digress...

The Hissar isn't a new short really, only the Khaki color is. I guess it would have been too much trouble for Rob to find an item that was actually new... his days are so filled thanks to his constant bitching about the Volvo Ocean Race Game (the Magellan of Marketing is about 400 miles behind James and 600 behind me) and providing blog contributions like "James Isn't Here So I'll Call Him Waldo" or "My Poetry Sucks and I'm Utterly Incapable of Driving My Car in Snow". But I digress, again...

The Hissar has come along a bit if you hold it up against the first offering -- we've watched this product evolve a bit and, in general, there has been a little bump up in the quality. We're seeing a little more bar stitching for durability and improved sewing on the adjustable waist tabs for a better fit.

One of the first things you notice with these shorts it that they're light -- like a Size 34 is about 7oz. The material used is a pretty unique brushed Nylon; the exterior of the short has a really soft feel that my informal poll of four APS'ers either loved or hated. The interior of the short has a more traditional techy fabric feel, so even if you're not a huge fan of the exterior softness, it's not something that you'll feel all that often.

The seat is reinforced for non-skid protection with a more rugged layer that feels/looks a little like heavy spinnaker cloth, but stronger (see image below). It has two side pockets that are a full hand deep -- the right pocket has a smaller, velcro closing pocket for a knife or anything of similar size that you don't want falling out. There is a right leg cargo pocket that has a zipper for secure storage -- there are also drainage holes in the pocket if it's open and you catch a wave.

The fit is a little "Euro", which is American for saying clothing is cut narrower and we're not as skinny as our European counterparts. I'm normally on the edge of 32" in shorts and pants, but the 34" were much more comfortable for range of movement and fit (I should admit that I like clothing a little loose; not Dalai Lama flowing robes loose, but allowing for a little air movement). So, if you're like me, you might consider going up a size.

There are belt loops if you like; there are also side adjustment tabs on the waist, in case you forget the aforementioned belt. Our staff that have a pair all agree that they dry quickly, which is aided a bit by the DWR finish on the fabric. Light spray and wave action will initially bead off the material -- you'll probably need to reinvigorate the material at some point if you want that to continue.

Only concerns really are that you may not care for the feel of the material and since they're lighter, they are arguably at risk to rip easier. The last point is sort of a stretch though...

Overall, the SLAM Hissar Shorts are pretty nice; at a little over $50.00, they're well priced for a good pair of sailing shorts. Definitely worth a look.

Where's Waldo?

You may or may not have noticed that our posts aren't as good this week. Well, our fearless storefront leader, chief blogger and official statistician, James "Waldo" McKenna, has been out sailing Thistle Midwinters with our good customer Joe "James' only friend" McCorkell.

James, come home soon. The Stern Scoop's ratings are plummeting and Chris misses you desperately!

To check in on James, Joe, and Mattie click here:
Waldo and crew are in boat 3994

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Decoration Tech Tuesday: Heat Transfer

With James out of the office, I get to do the write up for Decoration Tech Tuesday this week. And after he took a good natured shot at me last week, I'm happy to fill in...

This week, we're taking a look at Heat Transfer technology. Like Kyle says below, this shouldn't be confused with the cheap t-shirts that you can get in the mall -- you know, like the ones James had made up for his roller disco team, the Funkadelic Care Bear Rollers... he doesn't like to talk about it though, ever since that fateful night when he got a little loose going into a high speed Hustle during the local Roller Disco and Grammar Jamboree. He ended up in the wall of the rink, taking out a group of nine-year olds there for a birthday party... it wasn't pretty.

That disturbing memory aside, heat transfer is a durable, crisp and inexpensive way to get some really slick team gear made up. Have a look at the options for heat transfer with APS' Prez, Kyle:

Monday, March 2, 2009

E-Scows and Vipers and Tigers, Oh My

Last week I mentioned that our 2009 catalog is in full-on production -- in fact, we've almost finished wrapping things up. Since you've taken the time out of your day to read our blog, we're guessing that you've probably seen it before. It's that 152 page digest of gear, parts and cordage with our bright orange logo on the front; it's probably on your boat or in that stack of magazines in the head.

Well, the middle of the catalog is where we have a whole bunch of pages devoted to one-design classes. We're always looking at new classes to work with so that we can offer custom rigging, specialty hardware, replacements/spares, etc.

This year we're adding 5 new classes to the catalog and website - no small feat and it's way more than we've added in a while. As the logo's above might have already given away we're adding the E-Scow, Viper 640, Beneteau 36.7, Beneteau 40.7 and the Flying Tiger 10M. These are all very cool classes that are growing quickly, but have maybe slipped below the radar of the folks who aren't sailing in them.

Beyond just offering up easy-to-order halyards and parts, we also compile an online photo gallery of well-rigged boats so you can see what other sailors are doing and formulate your own plans (within class rules, of course). Chris even travelled to Pensacola, FL to take a look at some Flying Tigers, since they have a pretty active fleet down there -- sure, his folks live there and APS got a little free labor out of him when he was there for Thanksgiving, but it sounds impressive that we went almost a 1,000 miles from Annapolis for good info, doesn't it?

I hope there's some folks out there who will be psyched to see our offerings for these new one-design classes. If you ever have any awesome ideas for things about these classes, give us a shout at Sail@apsltd.com. Sure, they won't make it in the catalog this year because Rob would stab anyone trying to add something at this point (the Bud Heavy in this picture was there to help calm the catalog beast) -- but maybe next year!

March...in like a lion

Opened the door,
March came with a roar

Digging her out
I could hear her pout.

Pushed by strangers feet
to the top of the street.

Traction control,
barely missed a pole.

The commute was a chafe
but the boats are all safe.

Work is not far,
except, in this car.

Editors Note: For those of you who placed orders with us this weekend we're working with a skeleton crew here today. Some orders scheduled for shipment may be delayed a day. My apologies also go to the UPS guy who cannot get to our loading dock at the moment. I made it all the way here but when I pulled in our lot I wiped out front and center. I promise next time I'll opt for the all wheel drive model.


Editor's Rant by Chris:
Just because you ponied up for the 4-Wheel drive package, you do not have the right to drive like an idiot or tailgate when it snows.

Conversely, if you have a car that weighs 79lbs, like the Mazda Miata that I watched auger into a snowbank this morning, you might want to rethink your brilliant master plan of going out on streets where there's 4-5" of standing snow. You'd be safer pulling a Wile E. Coyote, strapping yourself to a rocket and aiming it in the general direction of your office.