Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New Item: Henri Lloyd Featherweight Polo's and Crew Shirts

I'd like to take this opportunity to clear a few things up:
1) Olympic badminton rules say that the birdie has to have exactly fourteen feathers.
2) 0.000000033% of the US population chokes to death each year on ballpoint pens.
3) Calling the new Henri Lloyd shirts "featherweight" might be a stretch.

That's not to say that HL's new Fast-Dri shirts are going to hang on you like a suit of armor a la King Arthur. Far from it -- they're light, breathable and quick to dry out. They are made from a durable material that has a ton of stretch built into it so the shirt moves with you quite nicely. It protects you like you're wearing SPF 30 sunblock and has this silver ion anti-microbial thing going on to keep the stank down when you sweat (in his defense, James claims he doesn't sweat -- he "glistens", whatever the heck that means). They're good shirts that have a little bit of fashion built into them, if you're into that sort of thing.


I grabbed the "polo" (we'll get to why I put that in quotation marks in a minute) and went down to the shop to do some comparisons. Due to the construction material and numerous seams, the weight of the Featherweight Polo & Crew is actually higher than Henri Lloyd's own Atmosphere shirt, Musto's Tech shirts or Patagonia's Capilene 1 and 2. It should be noted though that the extra weight is actually kind of nice in the long-sleeve crew shirt if you're looking for a multi-season shirt for the spring and fall.

I do like the build and feel of the crew shirts more than I like the "polo". I keep putting quotation marks around polo because it's really a zip neck shirt that you can fold the collar down on -- so while it can look like a polo shirt, I'm not sure that the name is a 100% accurate.

Back to the positives: they're available in both Unisex/Men's and Women's sizes. Also, these shirts are really versatile for crew gear -- they can be dye sublimated (only on the white ones), screened, embroidered or have vinyl heat applied. The Henri Lloyd logo is annoyingly sitting on the left chest instead of somewhere better for team gear like... well, anywhere but the left chest. Seriously, why are clothing manufacturer's intent on screwing shirts up for big team gear buys by putting their logo in the most annoying places?

End of story: I like the crew shirts. They've got this great stretch characteristic that really sets them apart from others in the category. The polo -- it's a miss with me for aesthetic reasons only. I'm not a huge fan of the zip neck and I don't particularly care for the way the collar folds down. But the performance of the Henri Lloyd Featherweight line is good and it should last through almost anything you can put it through.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

McLube One Drop - It Works Wonders!

New from McLube is the McLube OneDrop Ball Bearing Conditioner. I know what you're thinking, why on earth would I want conditioner for my traveler car? This isn't like the Herbal Essence you have in your shower at home though - McLube designed this to specifically lubricate and clean the ball bearings in your traveler cars or battcars.

I'm sure most everyone already knows about McLube's main product in the sailing market - their SailKote that I think we all just know as McLube. It's great stuff and definitely helps the outhaul on my Laser slide better, mainsails slide up mast tracks more smoothly and all sorts of other useful things. What you might not know is that it's not very good for your traveler cars or blocks.

SailKote will eventually eat away at the plastic in blocks, causing them to perform worse over time rather than better, even if their short term performance improves. Particuarly in regards to traveler cars - if you spray them with SailKote you can actually make the too smooth. Basically SailKote will reduce the friction so much that the ball bearings in the car won't spin and over time that causes flat spots on the balls where they've been hitting the track. Once that happens no amount of SailKote is going to make the car run smoothly.

This is where OneDrop comes in - use it on your traveler cars and battcars instead of SailKote and you will prolong the life of your hardware and help your cars run more smoothly.

How do you use it? You'll want to clean off the car and the bearings first. On the package it's suggest you could just squirt soapy water into the car and run it back and forth on the track but it's really going to be better to remove the car from the track and even to remove the ball bearings and clean them separately. At least at the start of the season it's a great idea to take it all apart, inspect the bearings and replace any that aren't up to par (have any flat spots or show excessive wear).

After cleaning the car you can reassemble it and apply a drop of the OneDrop, slide the car back and forth to coat all the bearings and than remove any excess. Depending on the size and condition of your car you may in fact need more than one drop, but I figure they just thought the name was catchy.

Check out McLube's OneDrop when you're getting your boat back up to shape this season and want to make sure it stays that way all summer long.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Annapolis NOOD's

Photos in this post are courtesy Peter Howson Photography (

For those of us who aren't crazy enough to go frostbiting (and nobody can blame you for opting out of a period of sailing named after the death of skin tissue), the start of the sailing season in Annapolis is usually kicked off by the NOOD's.

APS'ers were all over the place at the NOOD's this weekend -- in fact, I'm told it was a little lonely at the shop on Friday with so many of us out there. We had someone on all four circles with sailors in the J/22, J/24, Melges 24, Beneteau 36.7 and Farr 40 fleets.

Warren Richter, Aaron Freeman and Stern Scoop editor James McKenna were in the J/22 fleet on Warren's boat Tangler, finishing 8th out of 37 boats. Aaron did bow on Friday and James tagged in on Saturday and Sunday so we could have plenty of James' bearded incoherent muttering covering the numerous NOOD related onslaughts of our storefront. Gene Peters was the meat in the APS affiliated sandwich on Tangler, helping guide the boat to five top-15 finishes in eight races -- this includes a self proclaimed "horizon job" by Warren in the fourth race, which they won.

Assistant rigger Jarrett Hering was in the J/24 fleet on Millenium Falcon. Jarrett and the MF team have been gearing up for the J/24 Worlds that start up at the end of this week here in Annapolis, so they were a little disappointed with their 31st place finish out of 52 boats. Jarrett's analysis was annoyingly positive though, reflecting on a couple of rough spots during the races by knocking on a wooden table and saying "At least we got it all out of our system before the World's". Look for a World's preview and wrap-up from Jarrett as the regatta decends in full on our quaint little city.

Storefront guru Ian Coleman was once again with team Wild Child in the Melges 24 class, tying for third with a fellow Annapolis M/24 Gannet. Unfortunately, Gannet was one of the few boats that got in the way of the Italian freight train, UKA UKA Racing, scoring a bullet in the second race and taking the tiebreaker from Wild Child. Ian was pretty positive about the weekend, saying that it was good fun and that the team was coming together nicely. I kind of prodded him about where Wild Child might have lost out on a crucial point to get them on the podium and he responded that "the current was huge so we always worked on having a good plan going into each race -- we got away from the plan a couple of times and picked up an 11th and 13th that really hurt". As for UKA UKA -- "They are very, very, very fast... and good. They were super flat upwind, dynamic with their body positioning -- they got the boat on a plane fast and were able to rock the jib along with the kite when the wind picked up".

Our marketing guy Rob Beach was on the Farr 40 Yellow Jacket -- there's actually a growing Farr 40 class here on the Chesapeake and it was great to see six boats line up. Yellow Jacket also struggled a bit during this regatta, trying to find their happy place over the first couple of days. They found their groove at the end of the regatta though, winning the last race of the series.

And finally, I was aboard the Beneteau 36.7 Ka'io. We finished in a tie for first, but our two first place finishes fell short of the three that the boys on Pegasus put together on the first day. We went into the last day with a one point advantage on Pegasus, knowing that we had to keep them behind us -- one of those bottom of the ninth, two outs, bases loaded kind of deals. We had a great start at the boat and were in a nice position to cover them all the way up the first beat. We rounded two positions ahead at the windward mark and started downwind with a nice gap -- they clawed in the shifty conditions and started reeling us in slowly, putting us in an awkward position at the leeward gate. We left our cover of them at the rounding, choosing the left gate while they went to the right -- the right was right and we never got in front of them again. Congratulations to them for a great series...

Overall, it was a great weekend with some very challenging conditions -- par for the course here in Annapolis. There isn't much downtime for some of us though... Jarrett will be back on the J/24 for the World's at the end of the week and James, Aaron and MAYBE yours truly will be jumping into their Lasers for the ACC's. Or I might go play golf... who knows.

Friday, April 24, 2009

RYA Laser Handbook

With Laser NA's being held here at Severn Sailing Association this year we're all in a Laser mood here at the shop. Well, I guess it might just be me since I'm going to sail them but I think Chris might hop in his boat for the first time in a couple years. Aaron in customer service will also be out.I figured this would be a good time to talk about one of the newer Laser books we have, the RYA Laser Handbook.

Lasers are arguably the most easily accessible one design class out there, and certainly one of the most popular. Laser regattas regularly get 50 boat turnouts all across the country with big events well into the 100s. I've heard Master's Worlds being held in Nova Scotia this year might be over 600 boats (they've already got over 330 registered & it's in August). When was the last time you sailed against 600 boats?

Since the Laser is so easy to hop into there's lots of folks out there looking for advice, tips and how to guides and there's a lot of them to be found. We carry a whole bunch of Laser books and a number of CDs and DVDs as well.

For racing Laser sailors I think the RYA handbook is one of the best books out there. It's up to date with the modern rigging packages as well as the most current sailing techniques. It was put together by Paul Goodison - the Laser Gold Medal winner in the 2008 Olympics from Great Britain so I think it's a good bet he knows what he's talking about.

The RYA handbook has a lot of the little tips and tricks people use for rigging, tweaking and fixing their boat. It has some workout suggestions and some diagrams and instructions for on the water drills to practice boathandling and other skills.

Most of the book is devoted to Goodison talking about how to setup and handle the boat in varying conditions. He covers upwind and downwind across the wind range with great pictures illustrating how much vang you should have, what hiking positions work best and all sorts of other skills. The pictures are all full color and very well pieced together to show how he moves through different actions.

Overall I think this is a really good book for people who want to get into racing a Laser. Whether you've been racing for a couple weeks or a couple years I think a lot of people would benefit from reading the RYA Laser Handbook.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hands On: Dave Perry's 100 Best Racing Rules Quizzes

I don't know how it seems to turn out that I end up reviewing the books around here seeing as I can barely read, but sure enough a copy of Dave Perry's 100 Best Racing Rules Quizzes was on my desk to read through and write a little diddy about.

Just like the title of the movie Titanic gives away the ending of the movie, 100 Best Racing Rules Quizzes is made up of 100 rules quizzes. Shocking, right? Perry's quizzes routinely showed up in Sailing World (formerly American Sailor) and he took the best of those and others that he did to complete this book -- those quizes have been tweaked and updated for the new 2009-2012 rules.

This book is a great companion to Perry's other book -- Understanding the Racing Rules of Sailing -- or after you've done a good review of the rulebook. Alternately, you could use also use it before reviewing this material to see where you're weak... if you're anything like me, that would be basically everywhere. In fact, in the preface of the book, Perry encourages you to have the rulebook on-hand, pointing out that "the best judges will open their rulebook during a protest hearing to be sure they get it right".

The quizzes are broken into "chapters", based on parts of the rulebook. For example, Quizzes 1-5 are about the Introduction, Definitions and rules of Part 1 of the rulebook and Quizzes 6-29 are about the rules of Part 2, Section A and Section B of the rulebook. When it's necessary there are detailed illustrations provided to explain each situation.

The point of the quizzes seems to be illustrating relatively common situations that we can all easily see ourselves in. Most of the quizzes have multiple layers to them, meaning that there are numerous rules that apply to the situation being described. While looking some of the quizzes over, you may find yourself doing what I did, taking notes on a peice of paper to keep all of the events straight.

There is a section at the end that was relatively interesting -- how to prepare a protest and a defense. It's a ten page section of the book that goes through everything from lining up your witnesses properly to the way you hold the models when you're in the room explaining what happened. It's a great way to get yourself mentally prepped because getting tossed from a race is the worst feeling in the world, especially when you know that you were probably right but the other guy was better during the hearing.

Overall, this is a great book to help test out your knowledge and get yourself ready for anything the race course or protest room might throw at you.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Be Current NOOD Tide Chart

This weekend is the Annapolis NOOD Regatta and it's looking like the weather is going to cooperate and we'll have some actual spring temps (and hopefully some wind) for the races. For those who've raced on the Chesapeake Bay before you'll know that while we don't have the ripping current of Newport or San Fran we do have tides and sometimes they can be a little weird. Perhaps more importantly when you're sailing in 5 kts of breeze a 1 kt current is fairly meaningful.

One thing that can help Bay locals and folks from out of town this weekend is the Be Current tide chart. We carry a bunch of these tide charts for different areas that contain tide direction and strength information but we have some that are specially printed for the NOOD containing time of day references.

It's relatively basic information but especially if you haven't sailed on the Bay before I think it's helpful. The course where the J22s and J24s usual sail can have some unusual current effects due to the shallower water in Whitehall Bay.

We expect to get some more of these tide charts for J24 Worlds so look out for those next week. The next few weeks in Annapolis should be exciting with lots of great racing going on and I'm sure plenty of parties as well.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Charleston Race Week, Wrap-Up

Warren, Ian and I are back in the shop after a great Charleston Race Week -- a little tired after a solid weekend of sailing but in quick recovery mode for the Annapolis NOOD's starting this weekend.

Hopefully, those of you who were there found Warren, Ian and I on Saturday night when we were handing out over 150 sailing calendars -- thanks to everyone who had great things to say about APS and shame on all of you for not offering a drink to any of us in exchange.

When we weren't on land handing out free stuff, getting in line for a tasty rum drink or taking in the sights of CooterFest 2009 (it's an unfortunatley named turtle festival that was the theme of the Charleston River Dogs game that I went to Wednesday night -- the 5th inning "Catch a Cooter in Your Pants" contest was a little on the nose though), we were actually out on the water racing.

Ian was aboard the Melges 24 Wild Child, taking 8th in a very competitive 31 boat fleet. After their throwout, the Wild Child team never dipped below 10th in any race. When asked for a comment or two from the circle, Ian was quoted as saying: "I'm busy, leave me alone... I'll write something when I get a chance".

On the outer Offshore circle, Warren and I were battling it out in PHRF C on the Beneteau 10M L'Outrage and the Donovan 27 Remedy respectively. The first day brought stiff winds and relatively confused seas, bringing my weak ass stomach to the back of the boat a couple of times. No pictures of that, mercifully.

The boys on L'Outrage love the heavy stuff and they jumped out to an early lead with a strong 2, 1, 1 on the first day -- Remedy struggles a bit in the breeze and we clawed our way to a 4, 5, 6 to sit in 5th place at the end of day one.

The second day was moving day for us as the breeze came down to about 8-10 knots -- we captured a 1, 2 in some really fun racing as five or six boats were all in it right up until the finish of each race. Warren and L'Outrage kind of got hosed after winning the first race of the day when the Race Committee ended up throwing that race out due to the conditions. After that, they pulled down a 4 and a 3 to end the day a point out of first place behind the J/29 Seefest.

The last day was also fun with a nice 12-15 knot breeze and close racing. Almost everyone screwed up the start of the first race, either getting boxed out like we did or getting a jump on the race before they should like L'Outrage. When all was said and done, we clawed back for a 2nd place finish while L'Outrage held their ground and remained a point back for the top of the podium.

While we basically had third place wrapped up, it was the ol' bottom of the ninth, two outs for Warren -- and they hit a home run walking away from the fleet for a first place finish. Unfortunately, nobody else could get between them and the J/29 and L'Outrage finished a tough but hard-fought second.

Overall, it was a great regatta with some really good competition. They had to drag me kicking and screaming onto the plane back to rainy Annapolis yesterday -- I'm officially announcing to the powers-that-be that I'll be happy to take the lead and start APS Charleston as soon as possible. I'm not sure that I can give much of a justification beyond loads of nice people, attractive women and cheap beer, but I'll come up with something...

Friday, April 17, 2009

How Does Three Days Constitute a Week?

I like Annapolis...

I love Charleston.

Really, what’s not to love? It’s a beautiful city bursting with southern hospitality and warm weather. It's also home to a great regatta in Charleston Race Week.

I’m down here with the Donovan 27 Remedy out of Annapolis, competing in one of the PHRF classes. I say "one of the PHRF classes" because there are like four or five and I didn't pay any attention to which letter or number it is -- all I know is that we'll have a two hour motor out to the course tomorrow and I'll be asleep on the #4 down below for that entire time.

Warren from our Customer Service Department is competing in the same mystery class aboard the Beneteau 10M L’Outrage and Ian from our Storefront is aboard Henry Filter’s Melges 24 (Wild Child, I think).

Warren and Ian both went out and practiced today while our bowman, the world famous con-artist Jon Downey, and I worked on getting the boat ready all day. As it turns out, if you don't use a winch for six months they tend to seize up. Chalk that one up to the ol' experience pool.

Anyways, look for the three of us at the regatta party tonight to snag a free 2009 Dr. Crash and Ultimate Sailing calendar courtesy of our fantastic employers (yes, I’m up for my yearly review soon). We’ll be the one’s wearing the white APS polo shirts with the backpacks of calendars – come on up, introduce yourself, demand a free calendar, bring us a drink or three and we’ll hook you up with some date tracking goodness.

Since I’m writing this before racing starts, I don’t have much in the way of exciting content for you. We’ll have a full recap on Monday from all three boats... well, it may not be a full recap since chances are that we’ll all be exhausted and at least one of us might still be hungover (cough, cough, Ian…) but we’ll put together something that’s interesting.

Here's a couple of pictures from the party tonight because, well, I have nothing else... have a great weekend and here's hoping that Warren's boat goes way slower than ours.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hands On: Musto Evolution Jackets

This year Musto has vastly expanded their Evolution line of products. They've added to the shorts and pants offered last year to include a range of jackets as well as some lightweight technical shirts. Today we're looking at the Evolution Lite Jacket, Evolution Softshell and Evolution Jacket (pictured left to right above).

Musto is pulling out all the stops with this Evolution gear - it's all really nice stuff made with premium fabrics. The full line includes several Polartec fleece jackets as well as these Gore-Tex hard shells. All the jackets come in a very chic black with subtle trim features - no flashy reflective patches or excessive brand logos.

The Evolution Jacket is a bomber style jacket with a Gore-Tex outer shell and a thick Polartec fleece lining. It's very Tom Cruise but cooler because it's got Gore-Tex - I'm sure even Top Gun pilots didn't get schwag this nice.

To the right is the fleece lining along with the Musto collar detailing. The more smooth faced sleeve lining is in the lower left of the picture - the facing helps keep under layers from binding as you move and it works but it doesn't have that soft fleecy feeling which is a shame.

The Evolution Lite Jacket is one of the first jackets in the marine market to use the Gore-Tex Paclite fabric. Extremely lightweight while remaining fully waterproof Paclite makes this jacket perfect protection from spring showers and summer thunderstorms.

The Evolution Soft Shell is the cream of the Evolution crop - it's made from Gore-Tex soft shell fabric and features a fuzzy backing. Musto refers to it is a flannel facing on the inside - which is a good description except that it makes me think of a heavy flannel shirt which this isn't. Basically it looks similar to in inside of most Gore-Tex jackets but instead of being smooth it has a fuzzy, fleece like feel to it.

I don't think the jacket would be all that much warmer than traditional Gore-Tex but it feels a bit lighter and more flexible than say an MPX jacket. It's certainly not a replacement for a mid-layer fleece piece like the Evolution Jacket might be. The Soft Shell also has some nice additional features to keep you dry. Shown at the left there's both an exterior and interior flap at the zipper to keep out water - the outer flap is done very nicely. It covers just enough but doesn't require velcro like a heavier jacket because the zipper is water resistant.

Overall the Evolution jackets from Musto are pretty sleek stuff. They're not your average jacket and of course they're not found for your average jacket price either. This is good gear that carries both the Musto and Gore-Tex brands quality reputation behind it. It has a unique style in the boating world and I think that style and quality will appeal to people. Besides, black goes with everything and you know it's so hard to find something that will coordinate well with those docksiders.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

It's all ball bearings these days...

Imagine yourself tuning up pre-start going to weather in about 20 knots. You find yourself a tad slower and lower than your partner and want to make a rig adjustment. Ok, what next? Stop the boat? Go downwind? Swear because you can't find the tools that are supposed to always be in the same port sheet bag only this time they aren't? Finally, find the tools then bash your knuckles about while hoping you're turning the "right" direction only to realize you're in the 5 min sequence and your tuning partner is gone? If you sail competitive one design keel boats chances are you've experienced this. Enter Brolga turnbuckles, a breakthrough in quick rig adjustment - just grab the knurled cap and start twisting/adjusting. No tools, no fuss.

With a top swage stud that rides on a race of ball bearings inside the knurled cap the adjuster body is allowed to rotate freely and not twist your shroud. As it's important that your wire remain stationary while the adjuster spins we recommend using Dyform wire with it's stiff anti-twist properties to aid in preventing shroud rotation while making the adjustment. Once you have finished your adjustments simply screw the knurled lock nut into place. With a calibrated scale etched into the side you'll be able to gauge relative tension and keep track of numbers. If you're a detail oriented person keeping track of these numbers in a log will go a long way to replicating that feeling when you know you're in the sweet spot for a given condition.

Don't let us lead you astray thinking these are something really new though. In fact, they're not. They've been around for a little while and are actually now in their second generation. The current models are the upgraded MkII that include knurled cap, larger ball bearings, larger diameter adjusting screw (was 8mm, now 10mm)which is manufactured from Nitronic 60 stainless steel good for its anti-galling qualities. But new or not, to ensure easy adjustments on each race day you will need to lubricate the adjusting screw thread plus clearance gap between the swaging shaft and top round bearing housing with lanolin spray. Between events it's wise to lube them up with some lanloin paste but be careful not overdo it. Paste is great but it can also trap dirt which has the nasty habit of working against you in the lubrication department.

While we don't think the Brolga turnbuckles are for everyone (in fact, some classes specifically ban them) we think they're a pretty neat concept and great for certain applications. So where do we see these being used the most? Predominantly in the Etchells class and other classes where adjusting your rigging during racing is allowed. Back in 2006 Jud Smith used these and won the Etchells worlds. Now we're not saying if you drop the coin on these you'll win the worlds too (Jud is an extremely talented sailor) but we are saying if you want to be prepared like the champions you might want to consider them.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Taking One for the Company

The following was written by APS' President, Kyle. I shed many a tear for him for taking on this assignment -- and by many, I mean zero.

Well look who got the dirty job...


The sacrificial lamb.

I took it upon myself to take one for the team and head out on a miserable research assignment so no one else would have to. While everyone was dealing with freezing weather in Annapolis, I headed for the tropical horror of the Caribbean.

I was tasked with searching out one of APS' international customers, the Laser Training Center in Cabarette, Dominican Republic. Let me tell you, this place is the bomb. It is laid back, clean, professionally run and the equipment is all kept in like-new condition. You can rent one of their spankin' new Lasers or windsurfers, schedule some coaching, participate in clinics, just go sailing on your own or do what I did - keep the bartender company (yes, they have an "on campus" bar).

The field work for this documentary exhausting. I frequently had to find my way to a beach lounge or hammock, shaded by a palm tree, with the waiters bringing me beer so cold it was sometimes slushy. Did I mention that vendors would wander the beach and sell you snacks or offer massages? Yeah... anything to breath life back into my withered body.

I took some video (below) of the facility -- if you're ever in the neighborhood, I'd highly recommend stopping by. It's just a hop, skip and a 6-hour plane ride!

Friday, April 10, 2009

You've got mail...

Runny noses and pollen dust covering your car mean one thing around these parts, the APS catalog is hitting mailboxes. That's right, Spring is in full swing and USPS' finest have their satchels stuffed with the racing sailors best printed resource for gear. We've been hinting about its new properties and characteristics here for weeks but it's all over now. The secret is out and so is our 2009 catalog.

From Apparel to Vipers we've got tons of the latest new gear! Viper you say? Yep, we've added not one but SIX new classes including the Viper 640 to the one design offering. And Apparel? Oh boy, do we have some of that. This year we've added 16 more pages of it. That's 52 glorious color pages of the best and widest selection of apparel and team gear available anywhere. How about color pages? Yep, after many years of having the middle section in black and white and many requests to change it we've finally gone full color for all 168 pages. We're proud of what we've put together here this year and think you'll be pleased with our work.

So, do us a favor and pay us the ultimate compliment...keep this space reserved because our little buddy the catalog is on its way and ready to spend a year in a reading room near you.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Get Your Mind Right: North U. Tactics

I decided to write something because James has been complaining non-stop about being the only one to post anything this week... while I'm normally able to ignore his 14-year-old girlish whining (he even stomps his foot and holds his breath every now and then), it's getting pretty tiresome. Plus, he's sort of right -- a rare enough feat that I've decided to reward it with actually doing something.

After being pleasantly surprised by North U. Trim, I started into North U. Tactics with my expectations having been set just a bit higher. I was cautious because cramming a comprehensive review of sailing tactics into about 200 pages wasn't possible, right?

Well, no... not really. Then again, 95% of us don't really need a comprehensive review of sailing tactics. That book would end up being 1,600-pages and anyone who actually took the time to read it would die of old age or boredom.

With that boredom in mind, I was once again impressed with North U.'s approach and layout. Concepts are logically broken down, clearly illustrated and made as simple to understand as possible.

It starts off right at the beginning -- race prep. From there, it rolls into starting strategy and tactics, both of which are nice sections. From everything to the set of the line to the pitfalls of certain maneuvers during a start, a full understanding of what is reviewed here will serve you VERY well at the start. And since the race isn't necessarily won at the start, but it's most certainly lost there, it's certainly worth the read. There is even a section on "Offbeat Starts", for those Wednesday night races where you start with the kite up.

The largest section of the book is the next one, upwind strategy and tactics. The strategy section is a good read; it's a common sense review in some parts with some good info in certain places. There is some nice review of race prep, strategy for all types of wind conditions and even a little trigonometry lesson. While I didn't take a lot of notes in this section, I'm interested to see if I'm more organized next time I step on a boat to call the shots.

The upwind tactics section does some things I really liked. First, it puts numbers to how big missing a shift is -- we all know that missing a shift is pretty awful, but putting actual numbers to it really brings it home. From there it goes into breaking down the three stages of an upwind beat and how to play those three segments. Then you get into the fun part: tactical weapons. Not laser guided missiles, per se, but all of the maneuvers you can toss at an opponent to put them in a worse position or keep them behind you. There's an upwind rules section that's basic and gets into rules 18 & 19 and need to be updated for the new rules.

Chapter 9 is a reaching strategy chapter... but since everyone has done away with the reach leg, I'm skipping over it too. Sorry to all of the high school racers who still use a triangle/trapezoid.

Only one part of the race left: the downwind leg. I've had a lot of very smart people tell me that this is where huge gains can be made because it's deceivingly hard to sail a really good downwind leg. Again, we get into strategy before getting into tactics... and again, the use of illustrations really helps to send the concepts home.

The book does get into downwind rules, mark roundings and tactics -- these get a little dicey with some of the rule changes, but used in tandem with these changes, you'll be fine.

The last couple of chapters are fast reads -- a review of basic rules, a quick weather review, tips for different fleets (mixed fleet and big fleet), distance racing and the Wally technique. The Wally, which I'd never heard of before, basically is a way of achieving the best VMG along the average wind direction instead of the true. I can't even come close to doing the concept justice, so read up on it if you're really interested.

Overall, North U. Tactics is a solid, easy to read resource. I'm not going to get behind their claim of being "The world's most comprehensive resource on modern sailboat racing tactics", but it's good. I don't think there is anyone reading this (I'm just assuming that T-Hutch, RC, etc. aren't reading this...) won't learn something and it's always good to have a refresher. North U's layout and images make it easy to crank through a chapter or two a night, which is the main reason I think it's useful. It's worth a read...

The CD by the same name is a good companion and useful on its own; it goes over almost all of the same material. It's a little older in terms picture quality, but for those of you that learn by hearing and seeing in action instead of reading, it's a nice alternative. Both, in tandem, would be good, but I think you can get away with just one or the other.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hands On: Atlantis Grand Prix Jacket & Vest

Atlantis is new for APS this year but I imagine many of you are familiar with their gear. They're sort of a reboot of a foulie company from a decade or so ago and they're back with a bunch of cool gear. They're also the official US Sailing team gear providers. Today we're taking a look at the Atlantis Grand Prix Softshells.

The Grand Prix line comes in a jacket and a vest, both are available in a silver, red and blue. They pretty much share all the same features save for the vest being conspicuous lacking in the sleeve department.

The Grand Prix gear is made from Atlantis' Rampage fabric which like most soft shell fabrics is a DWR coated polyester fabric with a bonded microfleece inside. The seams are not taped which means while the jacket will keep you dry in most conditions I wouldn't consider it waterproof.

It has a medium height collar with a built in elastic drawcord that you can pull tight to keep wind from getting in the neck. They've put the adjustment tab outside the collar at the back of the neck which is a nice touch. An elastic double cuff at the wrist of the jacket also helps to keep out the cold.

How does it stack up? The Atlantis Grand Prix is comparable in weight to the Gill softshell or the Henri Lloyd Transition. It should be a bit warmer than the Henri Lloyd Vapour jacket I reviewed last week but that has 4-way stretch while the Atlantis is only 2-way and the reduced stretch is noticeable. The Vapour also fit me a little better in that it had slightly longer sleeves in the size medium I wore than the Atlantis does. At 6ft 145 that's not an uncommon problem for me and I think for the average size person it wouldn't be an issue.

I like the Atlantis softshell. It definitely keeps out the wind and the microfleece inside is super soft. Overall I think it's a nice jacket but it doesn't really set itself apart. If you like how it looks I'd certainly get one. It's the only microfleece softshell that comes in a vest - which I think are great for layering pieces beneath a true hardshell jacket.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tech Tuesday: Carbon Tiller Extension Comparison

Tech Tuesday is our feature here at the Stern Scoop where we plan to highlight some of the more technical aspects of some of our products. From line specs to how to properly rebuild a winch we hope to provide some fodder for the tinkerers and engineer types out there.

Today we're starting with some detailed specs on carbon tiller extensions. We offer seven different types with rubber universals (there are some larger big boat extensions made of carbon as well from Forespar). From top to bottom we have the Acme Fatso, Acme Fatso Jr., JCD, Ronstan, Forespar Giant Stick, Forespar Big Stick and Holt Allen. I threw a quarter and a dollar bill in there for a size comparison.

We felt that the two most important measurable qualities of carbon tiller extensions were their stiffness and their weight. To that end we've crunched the numbers and come up with the following results. All the extensions measured were 48" or the closest length the manufacturer makes (+/- 1" or so). You can click on each product for more details like cost and diameter.

ProductWeight (oz)Deflection (inches)
Acme Fatso7.71/8" (Best)
Acme Fatso Jr.5.89/16"
Ronstan6.71 7/8"
Forespar Giant Stick6.95/32"
Forespar Big Stick7.57/16"
Holt Allen5.5 (Best)7/8"

We measured the weight of the extensions on a postal scale. To measure the deflection we supported them at both ends and hung a 26lb weight from the center point of the extensions. Kudos to Ian for developing this testing rig and doing all the deflection measurements.

While I think with more time and an engineering degree a more accurate testing process could be devised I think we've provided an accurate means by which to determine relative weight and stiffness for these extensions.

Grip and diameter are a matter of personal preference. Obviously the thicker extensions performed better in our deflection test and tended to be heavier (although the Forespar is actually lighter). The Holt Allen and Ronstan's have foam grips and the JCD has basically a rope wound around the end which is then shrink wrapped. The Acme and Forespar extensions have a textured sandpaper like feel.

The picture above is of the Ronstan which obviously had a bit more bend than the others. The Ronstan is also the only tapered extension so that might be related to the bending.

Which one is the best? I think based on the numbers the Acme Fatso Jr. looks like the winner to be with the best combination of stiff and lightweight. I prefer the textured grip of the Acme and Forespar over the foam but again that's more of a personal preference. If you want a larger diameter to hold onto the Forespar Giant Stick is a great choice as well.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Star Wars II: The Wind Strikes Back

Much to Chris' chagrin I just couldn't resist another Star Wars reference for today's post. If you recall my last one Chris , Dave from UK Sails next door and I along with the owner of the 36.7 Chris sails on and another of their crew were supposed to sail in the CBYRA high point championship. The event was this past Saturday out of Eastport Yacht Club.

Unfortunately winds gusting upwards of 35kts and steady at 20-25 kept us off the water. No big deal you say? Well I don't totally disagree but the owners of the J/80s we were all going to borrow to sail the event didn't feel the same way and I don't blame them.

This is what it would have looked like if we'd gone sailing, and we'd used 420s instead.

And this is what it probably would have looked like if we'd let Chris drive.

These were some of the local high school kids who went out to show us up - their coaches promptly sent them back in after a couple of them flipped over but some of them looked like they were having a great time blasting around. Good on the kids for not backing down in the big breeze.

I'm told Warren and Aaron from the shop took out a J/80 and laid it over for a while using a chicken kite so I think the decision not to go was the right one. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of them sitting on the keel waiting for the boat to come back up.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Hands On: Henri Lloyd Vapour Jacket

New from Henri Lloyd this year is the Vapour Jacket - basically a lightweight, windproof and very water resistant soft shell jacket for those in between kind of days. And they spelled vapour with a totally unnecessary "u" because they're Brits so it's got that going for it too.

The Vapour Jacket is made from Henri Lloyd's Soft Shell AC fabric, so it's definitely windproof and it has a decent DWR coating to shed water. The seams are not taped though so it wouldn't be fair to call it waterproof, but it should shed light to moderate rain and spray as long as you're not getting drenched.

We have three soft shells from Henri Lloyd this year and the Vapour is somewhere in the middle from an insulation perspective. The Transition soft shell has a heavier fleece lining while the Octane Light jacket doesn't really have any fleece. The Vapour has a soft waffle-knit facing on the inside and should provide just enough warmth for those cool spring or fall days.

The Vapour is definitely made with active sailing in mind - it has an active cut (read slim) and is very stretchy especially across the shoulders, you can really feel the stretch when you reach forward and bend your elbows.

Unfortunately this jacket has the same stiff rubber Velcro closures at the wrist as the Shadow jacket I reviewed a while ago - they're less of a concern here since you won't be wearing this jacket in super wet conditions but it still would have been nice to see a more flexible fabric closure used.

The Henri Lloyd Vapour jacket is a pretty nice piece - I think it would be great for trimmers or drivers on a keelboat when you need some warmth but it's not freezing outside. The 2-way stretch fabric makes it easy to move around in which is a definite plus. I don't think it's the thing for the bowman on a wet and windy day - the lack of taped seams means if you're getting any substantial water thrown at you it'll find it's way through eventually. It's certainly a great jacket to wear around on shore - and it's definitely worth more cred at the yacht club than that North Face jacket you've been wearing.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

APS 1 : Worm 0

It's been hard to miss news about the Conficker computer worm lately -- Conficker is a computer virus that has a few nasty side effects and it was scheduled to E.T. it up and phone home today for instructions on what else it should be doing. This led to speculation that any number of things would happen, ranging from some annoying pop-ups on your screen to NORAD accidentally launching the US' arsenal of nukes.

We're big on computer security here at APS and wanted to make sure that we weren't going to fall victim to this worm, so we activated our virus protection software. We don't mess around with that sissy crap from Norton, Symmantec or AVG though...

Nope, we have something way more effective -- Aaron Anti-Virus, 0.23 BAC. We sent it out on a search and within minutes he found the worm, identified it and instantly destroyed it...

APS is currently selling copies of Aaron Anti-Virus, 0.23 BAC for $159.95 -- act now and we'll throw in a free "AAV Jersey Phrases Translation Package" so you can understand any reports he sends your way...