Friday, May 29, 2009

A Sneak Peak Behind the Curtain…

APS' Rigging Department produces a tremendous amount of custom running and standing rigging on a year-round basis. Many of the splices, tapers and cover techniques we use have been developed in-house through years of development and testing.

Thanks to partners like Yale Cordage, we're able to test some of our creations on their equipment to create the strongest, most durable product (they blow things up for us on their computer controlled, hydraulic ram and give us data on the results).

With boats outfitting for the season, activity in our Rigging Department is really hitting its peak right now. With that in mind, I thought you might enjoy a quick look at our rigging department and some of the tools and techniques we use.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Harken RigTune Pro

The Harken Rigtune Pro is a innovative take on the traditional Loos Gauge from the good folks at Harken. Introduced in the fall of '07 it's not brand new but now's a great time to pick one up if you're in the market since they're on sale for $280 until the 30th so get 'em while they're hot.

What makes this one so special and why does it cost so much? Well those are both fair questions. The Rigtune has a digital readout in kgs which allows it to be much more accurate than the standard Loos gauges which give you a number that you then compare to a scale. If you've used them you know that the scale is usually in 3-5 number increments so if you're in between you just have to give it your best guess.

With the Rigtune you get a specific result each time. The readout is in kilograms so if your tuning numbers are in pounds you'll need to do some converting which isn't too hard but it is an extra step. The unit has only two button - on and off so just because it's digital does mean it's hard to use.

Operating the Rigtune Pro is very easy. You turn it on and then hold down the on button for 3 seconds (that's according to the instructions, it seemed to require more like 4-5 for me) to zero it out. You place it on the wire and then just push down the arm shown on the left in the top picture until it's tight. That's all there is to it.

The Rigtune is good for 2.5 to 5mm wire (3/32" - 3/16"). I tested it on both 3/32" and 3/16" and found that it worked fine. On the 3/32" I tested it lined pretty much right up with the Loos gauge I tested. On the 3/16 wire the Rigtune actually showed a much higher tension than the Loos did - I expect this might demonstrate some of the inherent problems with the Loos in that it's very difficult for the springs to be accurate over the full range of the gauge.

I spoke with our Harken distributor who has tested the Rigtune thouroughly with a load cell. He says they found it to be accurate within .02% - which is pretty good and more than likely less than the tolerance of the load cell. He said if they load up several different sizes of wire to the same tension the Rigtune will read exactly the same for each one. You'd be hard pressed to get the same results from the Loos I think.

One thing I did notice with the Rigtune is that if I left it on the rig for a couple minutes the number went down over time - on the J22's 3/16" shroud it dropped about 10-11 kgs over 2 minutes. When I zeroed it out again it started back at the original number again. I've got a call into Harken about that to find out whether it's normal or if there was a problem with my unit.

Overall the Rigtune is a really neat piece of technology. Rig tensions have never been measured with this kind of accuracy before. It will handle pretty much any dinghy all the way up to J/22s, J/24s and Etchells. If you're looking to get detailed and definitely repeatable rig tension numbers this is definitely the tool for you. If you haven't tuned your rig more than twice this year it's not gonna be worth the investment but if you check & adjust it often I think it will give you numbers that are more accurate than the Loos and it will continue to be accurate for a longer period of time.

Harken have a video on their website put together by one of their guys in the UK with a really good explanation of how to use the Rigtune.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Let's Get Ready to Huuummmbbbllle!

When Warren asked me to skipper a J/22 with him and Aaron in the Santa Maria Cup Pro-Am fleet race today, I stupidly said yes.

I say "stupidly" because while my skills driving a J/22 have improved, I still suck out loud compared to these women. We're talking about racing against ten of the best women sailors in the world, along with some local industry pros who won't be pushovers either. If we don't get pummled, it will likely be a combination of good luck and Warren/Aaron bailing me out with some great crewwork. And if we do get pummled, it's all their fault...

The breeze will be on; when I woke up this morning, it was up around 33 knots. I thought Mother Nature was going to bail me out -- no dice though, as the wind has dropped into the low 20's / high teens. Should still make for some fun racing though, with short courses planned...

My goals for the day are simple -- don't break Warren's boat, don't hit anyone, don't finish DFL and get the Aussie girls to talk to me because I'm a total sucker for their accent.

We'll have a wrap-up tomorrow -- hopefully though, no pictures or video.

Ego Saving Update:
They just cancelled the event due to too much breeze. Which was actually sad because I thought it was starting to look nicer out there and I had been called a pansey by enough folks here at APS that I was actually ready to sail. I also didn't want to work any more today...

It makes sense though; no point in risking damage to the boats before the match racing starts - the locals can get schooled by the ladies some other time.

Rob's theory was that they were just scared to sail us -- one of those moments where we were scared of them and they were scared of us, just like this one (you can stop it after the 0:47 mark) and probably with the same results (aka - not succeeding and doing something dumb in the process):

Friday, May 22, 2009

First Look: New Laser Traveler & Boom Blocks from Harken

If you're a Laser sailor you've probably heard rumors about new traveler blocks for a while now. The class authorized new blocks manufactured by Harken a little while ago but we're only just now getting confirmation that they're in the manufacturing process.

These new blocks will be available as a set containing the traveler blocks and both boom blocks as well as rivets to attach the boom blocks with. The set will sell for $97 (that's what we've been told by Laser Performance).

The boom blocks are pretty straight forward but they should hold up a lot better than the original Laser boom blocks and they look pretty sharp. The traveler blocks are a definite improvement. They are a one piece block so you no longer have to deal with the S-hook and trying to fit the shrink wrap over them and they'll never come apart on you.

Check out this Scuttlebutt piece for more information about the history of this development.

We've been told by Laser Performance that they "anticipate having these available from their warehouse 6/24." If they hold to that schedule we should be able to start shipping them out to APS customers around July 1st. I certainly wouldn't go so far as to promise that date will hold but we're taking pre-orders now and will ship the blocks out the same day we get them in.

Look for more details on these blocks in the next few weeks here at the Stern Scoop - I'm hoping to be able to do some testing with the blocks on my boat once we get a sample that I'm told will be arriving next week.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Hands On: SEA Short & Pant Hikers

New this year from SEA are their Waist-Lock Hiking Shorts and Pants. They're a great addition to an already very complete lineup of hiking shorts, droop suits and wetsuit shorts and pants from Sail Equipment Australia. The SEA gear is well made and nowadays is towards the lower end of the hiker price range so it's a great option for lots of sailors.

I talk to a lot of customers in our shop who hate wearing full hiking suits during the summer months because they feel they're too hot. Here in Annapolis it's easy to understand why and I'm sure down in Florida it's even worse. The new shorts and pants let you stay a bit cooler without sacrificing the comfort and extra hiking power you get from having battened pads.

These shorts and pant hikers are made from SEA's Airprene material, which is basically neoprene with a bunch of little holes punched in it. It helps keep you cooler than full neoprene hikers.

Ok, so they're not as hot, that's great right but a little sweat won't kill you so what else makes these hikers so great? SEA's new hikers feature their Waist-Lock system which solves the perennial problem with non-suspender style hiking pants - they're not always falling off you.

Most hiking shorts and pants have some sort of draw string or Velcro waist that usually does an ok job as long as in between races and downwind you spend some time pulling the shorts back up. The SEA Waist-Lock system keeps your hikers in place all day long so you can hike hard.

The Waist-Lock system works using 4 separate Velcro tabs. Two on either side of your hips that cross and lock together & to the hikers in the front. Then two more tabs wrap around from your back and lock onto the other tabs. This system keeps the waist of the hikers snug all the way around regardless of how much you move around in the boat.

All in all these are a great addition to the hiking options out there, especially for those folks who don't like to wear the full suspenders style. I predict they'll be the hottest new summer fashion for Laser sailors on the Florida circuit.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New at APS - Airplanes?

Did you try to call us between 2:30 and 3pm eastern standard time today and wonder what we were doing not answering the phones? This afternoon at APS we had a special staff training session in performance jet aircraft.

We think this is really going to be the next evolution in sailboat racing - water and wind are really our limiting factors here so we're taking to the air and strapping jet engines on our backs. Hydroptere has nothing on the speed records we'll be setting.

Really though it's the Naval Academy's commissioning week and the Blue Angels had a flight demonstration today. Kyle was nice enough to let everyone take a break for a little while and go watch the show.

It's really pretty awesome to watch so we hope you'll forgive us for not answering the phones for a little while. Here are some shots we took of the show so you can see what we mean.

Here are some of the boys from the shop watching, including the Stern Scoops very own Chris with the video camera.

Second First Look: Musto LPX

We took a look at Musto's LPX line a few months ago and we're revisiting it again. It's not that we've run out of ideas for The Stern Scoop, but we were working with sample versions of the LPX at the time of that first review. This left us with details that weren't 100% clear about the materials, look, feel, etc. that the final product would have. There was also a slew of piss poor grammatical errors on my part that rendered that initial post practically unreadable...

Fast forwarding to the present day: my writing skills have only marginally improved but our knowledge about LPX has grown by leaps and bounds. We've got the real deal stuff in-stock here at APS and the boss-man (Kyle) snagged some to wear around in the interest of giving us an in-depth review. Well, that and he wanted to look cool by being the only one in Annapolis to have this spiffy new gear.

In the interest of sparing you the unnecessary rigors of reading, we've gone ahead and filmed Kyle's review -- so kick back, put your feet up and enjoy:

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

It's All About the Jackson's...

No, not Michael, Tito or LaToya... Andrew.

Andrew Jackson, the 7th President of the United States, graces the face of a twenty dollar bill... and while Puffy and Biggie would argue that it's all about the Benjamin's, we're a little more pragmatic and realize that most of us are pretty psyched when we're rolling with four Washington's, two Lincoln's and maybe a Jackson in our wallets. Incidentally, James has this little blue pouch hanging out of his wallet with what looks like a Greek helmet logo and an expiration date circa 1997 -- but that's neither here nor there...

Anyways, the point of this is to bring two things to your attention that might save you a little money. The first is our Winch Sale here at APS and the other is free online NOAA charts at Google Maps.

APS' Super Duper Waaaaaay Cool Winch Sale
Winches are the workhorse of your boat when you really think about it. The sails, lines, rudder, keel, etc. get all of the glory -- but it's the winch that does the real work on the boat. If your winches are making some noises that rebuilds haven't helped, have some damage from many years of faithful service or it's just time to get some new ones on-board, we've put together a great deal for you.

Starting on Wednesday, May 13th until Tuesday, June 9th, you can take advantage of the following deal:

Lewmar Winches: 20% off APS' price*
(36% off Lewmar's list price).

Harken Winches: 10% off APS' price*
(32.5% off Harken's list price).

Andersen Winches: 10% off APS' price*
(37% off Andersen's list price).
* - percentage "off APS' price" refers to APS' published price.

That's it -- it's pretty straightforward: buy a winch, we'll discount it for you even more than we normally do. And don't let the discounts throw you either... these aren't knockoff winches like that watch you got from "Honest Leroy" on the corner of 5th and Madison that doesn't have any even numbers on the face and the brand name is spelled "ROLL-X". These are the real deal...

For all of the details for this sale (including the "fine print"), click here.

Google Maps and NOAA Charts Had an Online Baby

So, this isn't a secret, but if you haven't seen it before, it is pretty cool. Google Maps is one of the better online maps available (in my opinion) and someone did a mashup of Google Maps' interface and NOAA marine charts. As you continue zooming in on an area, it continues to overlay more and more detailed NOAA charts.

While it might not stop you from going out and spending the Jackson's on some charts, maybe it will. At the very least, it's fun to mess around with and it is totally free.

Take a look:

Friday, May 15, 2009

J/24 Worlds, Day #5: A Regatta Wrap-up from our Racing Rigger

I know, some of you are probably thinking that the J/24 World's finished up last Friday... you're just now doing a recap?

Yeah, we are... it's a little busy around here, what with getting orders out and about 19.4 million rigging orders stacked up. We figured that sitting Jarrett down to do a recap of the J/24 World's instead of doing a Hi-Tech Eyesplice on a jib halyard for a Farr 30 was misallocation of his time.

But being the nice guy that he is, he stayed late last night (Thursday Night Racing was called off due to an Annapolis hurricane of 25 knots) and banged out a few hundred words.

Thanks to all of the teams that came into the shop during the J/24 World's -- it was very cool seeing all of the international teams, hearing the different languages, etc. that came to our little part of the mid-Atlantic just to sail a regatta.

Without further gilding the lily, here's Jarrett's wrap-up of Day #5 and the entire event.

Well the last day of the J/24 Worlds started off early with the intentions of getting in a few more races. We (Millennium Falcon - USA 5350) would have been happy to get off just one more race and to throw out that 80[ZFP] from earlier in the week, but the Race Committee got some wind to work with and squeezed in three great races to finish off an incredible World's experience.

The breeze was pretty steady throughout Day #5, with a few light spots and small shifts. We nailed the first start and rounded the windward mark somewhere in the 30's. Things went okay downwind and we rounded the leeward gates without gaining or losing any boats. We really worked the upwind leg, catching a few boats, and had a great mark rounding to get our way into the high 20's. We kept pushing it downwind to the finish, feeling good about our mid-20's finish.

Race #2 and Race #3 did not go as well for us. We didn't get the starts we wanted and finding clear air was tough. We lived in dirty air the rest of the day and it showed with a 50's and a 70's finish. A small highlight was even though we were deep, we had good company at certain points -- the Italians on Fiamme Gialle, Chris Larson on National Sailing Hall of Fame was deep in one race, and some other top-10 boats got in their bad races too.

The real kick in the balls was when we got back to the pier to realize that our first race we were scored Black Flag. F%&K! The race committee that was calling our numbers had broadcasted the BFP on the wrong channel and there were many boats that sailed the entire race even though we were all BFP. Well, doesn't that just suck! I was hoping to a better finish to the regatta, but in the end I have very high remarks for the entire event.

Five VERY tough days of sailing made this regatta quite a challenge (and lead to a bunch of free time to try and wakeboard off a 2HP engine, as seen below). Every facet of each sailor was tested. Light air sailing was a huge factor, playing the shifts and currents, making it imperative to be up to speed on Bay conditions. Tough competition made it even harder to get an advantage on the race course.

I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge during the event; I learned all about crew dynamics during a 5-day regatta, that these really were the BEST J/24 sailors in the world, that starts and clear air play a gigantic role in your results and that even in tough times with crazy tough competition, it was still an amazing regatta.

AYC did a great job hosting this event. It would have been nicer to have the SLAM truck parked a little less in the way, maybe less hay and more gravel in the drinking tent (kinda felt like a barn party), but all-in-all they did a fantastic job dealing with 400+ crazed J/24 sailors. The AYC sponsored Race Committee, Sandy Grosvenor and all the volunteers did an incredible job too.

The 2009 J/24 World Championships were everything that I thought they were going to be... except for the breeze. It would have been real nice to have 10-12 each day, maybe one light day and a day where it was nuking in the 30's.

Ok, I've lost my motivation to keep writing... it was awesome, I would do it again and next time I hope we do better!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

First Look: Lewmar Lite Touch Winch Handle

In the pantheon of sexy gear reviews, winch handles rank somewhere around biodegradable toilet paper and that fish shaped zinc you hang off the side of the boat...

But winches are the workhorses of a sailboat -- your ability to manipulate them quickly and efficiently is usually one of the key aspects of success on the water. With that kinda cheesy rationalization in mind, we're taking a look at Lewmar's new Lite Touch Winch Handle.

The Lite Touch was first introduced to you here on the Stern Scoop back in November, 2008 as a tongue-firmly-in-cheek coming attraction. Now that we've had a chance to hold one in our hands and mess around with the "lite touch" button, we're revisiting it with some more info.

The Lite Touch is a composite (read: not metal) handle, making it noticeably lighter than Lewmar's One Touch handle. I like the One Touch and have used it on a couple of boats -- I've never found the weight to be an issue, but if you're really a pound here and a pound there kind of person, this is your pony.

It has Lewmar's PowerGrip handle -- which is a fancy marketing way of saying that it has a regular spinning collar grip, but they paid some engineer 120K to slap on that yellow knob to let you get a second hand on top to really bear down. That isn't to say that it's not a handy feature, but it's not all that unique as Dax and Harken also have a similar version.

Different from the One Touch is the manner in which you lock-in and disengage the handle lock from the winch. Again, I like the One Touch handles because you can disengage the lock and pull it out of the winch by grabbing virtually anywhere on the handle. The Lite Touch has the same locking mechanism, but the trigger to disengage it is relatively small in comparison and not as easy to disengage from a force perspective.

So yeah, I don't particularly like the Lite Touch button to disengage the lock -- I'll point out that this is just my humble opinion from years of working with winch handles. I felt like it forces you to turn your wrist sort of unnaturally and cant your arm up to disengage it. A standard thumb switch keeps your hand level along the handle with a natural turning motion on your arm.

Honestly though, it's sort of a personal preference thing -- at the end of the day, you're going to use it three or four times and get a good feel for how to quickly/comfortably disengage it.

Oh, the handle also floats... for what that's worth. In a pure racing situation, the chances that you'll stop racing to go pick up a handle that's barely floating along the top of the water (provided you can actually see it) are pretty slim, right? But, if you ever go cruising or take the kids out with you, it's a nice feature to have -- it's amazing how easily kids help to prop up the marine industry by "Ooops!"ing something over the side.

I didn't find any real problems with the Lite Touch -- it's a sturdy, light composite handle with a unique disengaging mechanism. It's pretty tough to screw up a winch handle at this point and Lewmar certainly hasn't missed the mark with this one. I think this is one of those "come to the shop if you live near Annapolis" or "find a guy with one to take it for a test drive" kind of handles because people are probably going to really love it or kinda not love it at all.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

M. R. Dux

Some of you may be familiar with Dynex Dux 75, a heat set Dyneema line made by a company in Iceland named Hampidjan. It's been in the sailing market for a little while now - primarily seeing use in high tech halyards and sheets on boats like Farr 40s and the like. We've offered it in 7, 9 and 11mm in the past but this year we have it available in 5mm as well.

What's so special about Dynex Dux? Dynex is made from SK-75 Dyneema that is then heat set which is a process where the line is heated up and then stretched out on rollers and then cooled down while still stretched out. This process significantly increases the breaking strength (20-43% stronger than non heat set SK-75) and minimizes creep.

If you have never seen Dynex Dux it looks very similar to the other Dyneema products we offer - it's gray and it's a 12 strand single braid. When you feel it though the difference of the heat set is immediately apparent. It's very stiff - it holds it's shape unless you give it a firm bend in which case it tends to hold that bend. This is due to the heat setting process - all of the fibers are lined up and compacted together.

Hampidjan basically makes supplies for commercial fishing and other deep water applications. The sizes of Dynex Dux that we carry are the start of the size range they offer - the Dux for instance is available up to 51mm (about 2 inches) with a breaking strength of 242 tons. 51mm is actually a fairly small line for these guys who make other Dynex SK-75 products for uses such as marine geological seismic surveys and measure all of their breaking loads in tons.

So in short these guys know what they're doing when it comes to making strong lines built to hold up to a lot more than a bunch of sailors can throw at it. Below is a comparison of the breaking strengths of Dynex Dux to the other Dyneema SK-75 lines we carry.

Tensile Strength
Dynex Dux 75Amsteel BlueYale Ultrex 12

As you can see the Dynex Dux is significantly stronger than traditional SK-75 Dyneema. It's lower creep makes it a viable solution for upwind halyards, backstays or runners. The addition of the 5mm size makes these advantages more accessible to smaller boats than previously.

Dynex Dux is a fiber that we're still learning all the uses of. I think over the next year we will offer more of our one design rigging options available in Dynex Dux where it's appropriate. Things like J24 or J22 halyards and maybe Melges 24 main halyards would be a natural use of the newer 5mm size with a cover installed over it. Give us a call if you think you have a use for this fiber on your boat and look for more ideas in the future to take advantage of it's unique properties.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Fear and Loathing in Boston

A chilly and drizzly morning dawned as the city of Boston awoke this past Saturday morning to news of two T trains colliding late the night before after the Sox game. But, down on Fan Pier the beehive that was the Volvo Village was abuzz with the activity and energy level of a small mud wasp nest. Arriving early and before the official opening Kyle and I slithered our way past rented security guards checking credentials, turning back those without them and yet somehow missing us shuffling by as the old "act like you own the place" worked yet again. Inside the village teams were preparing for the days racing and media crew hustled about presumably filing stories about "Life at the Extreme" Boston. Celebrating our small victory of entrance and desperately wanting to associate with the dangers of "The Race" Kyle and I decided it was time to put on our Hunter S. Thompson face masks and get some gonzo material for The Stern Scoop.

Cameras rolling we aimed our lenses at the hallowed containers of Puma which were stacked like teetering Jenga blocks about to topple. On the inside things looked fairly normal with piles of Puma merch here and there awaiting sailors with wallets swollen and ready to be emptied on the gear necessary to show their support of the hometown team. What we didn't at first notice was that not only was there Puma gear piled high there were also PR people watching our every move for not long after we were being stopped for filming. "Excuse me, who are you with and what are you filming," a pleasant lady queried? "We're with the Stern Scoop, is this not a reasonable place to film", we asked? Upon realizing the magnitude of our relative importance she kindly directed us toward the media trailers and suggested we attain proper credentials. Racing the clock before we were required to meet and board the fine catamaran Freedom, our day's spectating Puma sponsored platform, we put on our most happy looking faces and cruised over to the trailer to get our credentials. Credentials in hand we were released by the Media czar and it was time to make our way to the appropriately named Freedom.

Having been kindly invited to Boston by Puma and their US sailing market distributor, Ronstan, we had spent the day prior meeting with and discussing Puma's 2010 offering with Anja, Christian, and Finn who are (in order) Puma's product line manager for sailing, sailing business unit manager, and the US' head brand agent for sailing. Unfortunately, I can't tell or show you at this time what they've got planned once the Volvo is over but rest assured it looks like they've got a very nice gear offering put together for us sailors and we've been promised they've got some very creative things put together for continuing to support the sport going forward which has us curious and very excited. No doubt though, a company as innovative and as committed to sports as Puma will surely come up with something special as their foray into the sailing world continues. But enough about that, time to get back to the story... It was time to get on the boat to watch the day's races and those of us that had been up all night were in no mood for coffee and donuts, we wanted strong drink. We are, after all, the absolute cream of the national sporting press sailing blogs.*

With the appropriate rations requisitioned and transferred to the covert transfer and carry containers we were prepared to take in the days races. Inappropriately, Kyle and I didn't get the "wear your Puma shoes" memo and for that we apologize. (Editor's note for the purposes of requisitioning proper footwear for next time/shameless plea for "Tim" gear: Gents, Kyle wears a size 12.5 and I wear a size 11.5).

As I'm sure by now everyone's read all that was written about the racing itself I probably don't need to tell you about how exciting it was to watch the races so I'm going to leave the story there. I do however want to send a public thanks to the guys at Ronstan and Puma for having us along for the day. Gracious hosts and great partners to work with in the industry we always appreciate getting to spend time with them and others who share our passion for this sport and industry. Thanks guys, our trip was great. It was a classic affirmation of everything right and true in the national character. A gross physical salute to the fantastic possibilities of life in this country. But only for those with true grit.* As always, stay tuned to the Stern Scoop for more of that. In the next day or so we're going to post that video we were taking.

*(Editor's note #2: I'm really not that sarcastic, really. Some lines were lifted and adapted for this article from IMDB and the movie adaptation of the book, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.)

Friday, May 8, 2009

J/24 Worlds -- Day #4: Four Days, Four Races

On behalf of Annapolis... we're sorry.

Seriously, the conditions for this regatta have been a little weak, even by Annapolis standards. The wind doesn't normally pull a Kaiser Soze until it gets a bit warmer...

I've heard positive reviews of Annapolis Yacht Club and mostly positive reviews about the Race Committee -- but there are some dejected looks wandering into the shop after racing every day due to the conditions.

Our racing rigger, Jarrett Hering, continues to check in after racing and his tone remains surprisingly positive. He and the folks on Millenium Falcon (USA 5350) are hoping to get at least two races in today, earning that magical throwout that everyone would like to have. To that end, the RC is making it a gallon-o'-coffee morning by aiming to get racing going by 9:30am. Hopefully the wind flies towards the top end of the forecast, which is calling for South winds at just 5 - 10 knots.

Here's the on-course perspective:

Things looked good early with decent breeze on our way to the rendezvous. Clearer skies with patchy sun, a respectable 9-12 kts and the current was slightly more tame.

After a couple of General Recalls (being shut out and third row, we were thankful for those) the Race Committee threw up the Black Flag and we got a race off. We had a great hole to work with and clear air. With Larson, Parker and Welles right around us, we worked to leg out to the left for the current while keeping tabs on the right. We got up to the windward mark about mid-fleet.

Downwind it was playing the shifts, finding pressure under clouds and being in the right current. We picked up a few boats downhill and at the first leeward rounding we went back to the left.

Keeping our lane and not getting ping-ponged helped us pick up a few more boats as we pushed uphill. We rounded the top mark in the 30's and came back down, this time to the finish thanks to a change in the SI's that allowed for a shortening of the races. Our trimmer worked the kite in waves, kept clear air, soaked in pressure and we picked up a couple more boats.

We ended up with a 23 for today's race. It's a real moral boost to be consistent and pick up boats on each leg. We're happy to be holding our own and getting better as the racing goes on. The black flag really hurt some racers and threw a wrench into the leaderboard.

The breeze shut off just after we finished and lots of the fleet actually had to drop the spin and finish upwind with the genoa. Clouds rolled in and two storm fronts converged for torrential downpours. We were hoping breeze would come with the rain, but no luck. Skies cleared, sun came out and the breeze shut off. No more races today.

Tonight (Thursday) is a fancy party at the Chesapeake Bay Beach Club for all the competitors and it looks to be a nice time. RC is putting up an ammendment for the first warning signal at 9:30 to try and take advantage of the early breeze for as many races as possible.

Hope for a few more races tomorrow (Friday) and a looking for a strong finish to this Worlds.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hands On: Taming the Spinnaker Beast DVD

James and I needed a break from writing... so we enlisted the help of Aaron Freeman in Customer Service, telling him to do a write up of the Taming the Spinnaker Beast DVD and then hanging up before he could argue.

His self-analysis of this post: "Kinda rambling but no more than James’s blog posts". Touche' sir.

Taming the Spinnaker Beast DVD
By Aaron Freeman
Customer Service

Well, the seasons have changed and I once again made the trip to New Jersey for the 48th annual Long John Regatta at Monmouth Boat Club in Red Bank, NJ.

Flying in the face of the regatta's name, the temperatures were abnormally high for the wearing of long johns. The wind conditions, however, were all too normal for the Navesink River -- on the one day of racing (Sunday's racing was cancelled due to a complete lack of wind), the wind started out at 0-10kts from the West and switched to 0-20 kts from the East.

The racing was tight and mark rounding’s were crowded in the Bristol (NASCAR reference) of Lightning racing. The challenging racing, however, is not the only great aspect of this regatta. The food was delicious, the camaraderie was warm, the kegs were flowing and the after party with indoor pool and hot tub was great! Thanks Commodore.

I could write this whole blog post about the Long John Regatta (and you should all go next year), but this blog post is actually about the Taming the Spinnaker Beast DVD.

My most recent experience trimming (or not trimming) kite in the varied wind conditions of the Navesink River prompted me to watch this fourth (and newest) video from the Lightning Class.

This video brings some very accomplished sailors, sailmakers and "Titans of the Lightning" into your living room. The running commentary and segways are informative and well done by Rick Bernstein and Skip Dieball, taking the time to highlight some of the finer points for sailors who may be new to the boat.

The boat shown sailing in the DVD is skippered by Jeff Linton with Bill Fastiggi in the middle and Amy Linton on the bow. This All-Star team demonstrates all aspects of properly trimming the spinnaker on a Lighting while sailing on location here in Annapolis, MD. The conditions shown in the DVD ranged from barely any breeze (1-2kts) thru about 12kts of breeze with various sea states (flat water to small swells).

Footage comes from two sources: an on-board camera and a chase boat. The on-board video shows the crew's footwork and weight placement while the chase boat adds views of the spinnaker, boat trim as a result of the weight placement, and the wind and water conditions around the boat.

One really nice feature is that the sailors on the boat are all mic'd up, so as you watch from the chase boat you can still hear the conversation on-board. Two of my favorite quotes by Jeff Linton are:
1) As he expertly carves the 19-footer through some short rollers: “It doesn’t matter where you steer as long as you are in the waves”.
2) At the end of the video, almost qualifying as a Yogi Bera-ism: “Never make a maneuver while making a maneuver”. Nice...

Almost everything about this video is great. The chapters of the DVD are logically separated and lessons can be taken from this video by everyone from newcomers to the Lightning to experienced racers. I would have given it a glowing recommendation if not for the $49.95 price tag -- not that the price makes the video less informative but that’s pretty high price tag for a DVD.

Local/junior fleets or someone really looking to step up their downwind game will find this to be a worthwhile purchase. I definitely picked up some great pointers and even learned a few unexpected pirate tricks from the videotaped parking lot chats with Tobi and Dan Moriarty.

Overall, this is a must watch video for any Lightning crew. So hey, tell Ol’ Captain Moneybags at the back of the boat to go out and get this for you!

J/24 Worlds -- Day #3: Off Like a Herd of Turtles

The J/24 Worlds have been tough... I can't imagine how frustrating these last two days have been for the competitors and the Race Committee.

Yesterday was one of those heartbreaking days on the Chesapeake -- juuuuuuust enough wind to reasonably sail a race but a week's worth of rain flowing down from the north turned the current into a raging monster. Punishment for mistakes was amplified and some really good sailors had some not so good results in the only race of day.

Things are looking up for the competitors today and tomorrow with decent breeze forecasted (there's technically a small craft advisory posted) -- the unsettled weather will continue to play a role though, given the radar picture at 11:30am.

The SI's were ammended to allow for shorter races in order to try and catch up a little. Here's hoping that they can get some quality racing in. As of 10 minutes ago, they still hadn't started a race though...

Here's the take on yesterday from Jarrett (our racing rigger) on board Millenium Falcon (USA 5350):

Shifty, light conditions for Day #3 at the J/24 Worlds. At the start we had 4-6 kts that were pretty consistant and a ripping current that had everyone wanting to to left. We got shut out early and tried to dig to the right with very little luck.

We came into the windward mark fairly deep with the entire world stacked up and going painfully slow around the mark and to the offset. An early gybe got us to clean air, decent pressure and the favored side for current.

With two consistent downwind legs, we gained back on the boats that we lost by going the wrong way upwind on the first beat. There were a number of wind shifts during the race and the RC worked hard to get in a couple course changes too. Overall, we thought we caught more boats during the race, but I guess a 36 isn't too horrible when we rounded initially in the 70's.

The leaders going into Day #3 and past World Champs were deep in the fleet and it really opened things up in the standings. Happy to see fellow Annapolitain, Anthony Parker leading the regatta after today.

Tomorrows forecast is looking better with more breeze, a bit warmer and hopefully some sun. It's a whole new race after today and RC will push for as many races as they can. I accept the challenge... Bring it on!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Hands On: Atlantis Microburst Jacket & Vest

One of the coolest pieces in the Atlantis line this year is the Atlantis Microburst Jacket and Vest. It's got some heavy outdoor industry influences and is a lightweight and waterproof hard shell for protection against summer showers or some of that pesky spray that occasionally makes it's way back to the folks sitting in the cockpit.

I don't mean to say that the Microburst is a lightweight when it comes to being waterproof - it's made from Atlantis' VMG fabric which is a 2.5 layer waterproof nylon fabric with fully taped seams. The Microburst is also extremely lightweight making it one of the lightest jackets we have.

Both the jacket and vest are made from the same fabric and share most of the same characteristics. Both have a chin height collar that's lined with a thin microfleece and neither have a hood. The jacket has partially elastic cuffs with a velcro closure. The sleeve length on the jacket was a little longer than average on the size medium I tried on.

The Microburst jacket is also fairly unique in sailing gear in having pit zips. They allow for quick ventilation to keep you cool during those summer thunderstorms when the temps are still high. Both the jacket and vest feature long side pocket zippers that provide additional ventilation through the mesh pocket lining.

The lightweight and ample ventilation make this an excellent jacket for the summer whether your on or off the boat. If you want to stay dry without sweating to death during a thunderstorm on a warm day this is probably your best bet. When the temperature is in the high 90s there's only so much the fabric can do so being able to vent air directly is a big help.

I think the Microburst jacket and vest are a great lightweight set of gear. They certainly won't replace the need for a true spray top or foulie jacket but there are plenty of situations where that's not what you need. For most weeknight or buoy racing the Microburst is probably all you need - just enough to keep off the spray and rain.

What sets the Atlantis gear apart from the myriad of other jackets and vests in this category? It's definitely super lightweight - it's the first thing you notice when you pick it up. I think only the Patagonia Rain Shadow really competes in that respect. Like the Patagonia it's unlined while some others like the Henri Lloyd Breeze has a mesh lining. I think the Atlantis looks good and I'd definitely choose it over some of the heavier options in the category for wearing in the summer.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

J/24 Worlds -- Day #2: Great If You Had A Hangover, Terrible if You Wanted to Race

The confluence of stubborn weather patterns and the regatta being held in Annapolis led to zero racing on Day #2 of the J/24 Worlds.

On a day where three races were scheduled, it was flat calm here on the Chesapeake. It will be interesting to see if the Race Committee ammends the SI's regarding start/finish times to try and get back some of the racing time that was lost today.

PRO Sandy Grosvenor will have her hands full trying to squeeze races in given the latest marine forecast:

Note: Anytime you see "5 TO 10 KT." on this forecast, it's a freakin' crapshoot as to what might actually happen.



The persepective from our racing rigger, Jarrett Hering, aboard Millenium Falcon (USA 5350) was pretty bleak in review of Day #2:

"A few teaser breezes early on led to postponement by the RC. We all drifted around for a few hours in the ripping flooding current (you could almost surf off the wake from R2 buoy).

Watched 2kts - 4kts come and go a couple times but no luck. Back at the tent buying some sweet SLAM World's gear.

Hope for some breeze tomorrow... I hear a rumor that the sun may actually come out."

Good luck with that Jarrett -- the weather seems unsettled, at best. At least it might warm up a little sometime soon!

J/24 Worlds -- Day #1 from our Racing Rigger

When I woke up yesterday and looked out my bedroom window, the first thought that crossed my mind was "Wow, it would suck to have to sail in this weather...".

Apparently, I wasn't the only one with that thought as our store was PACKED with folks looking for base layers and other warm items when I got here around 8:30am.

But our "racing rigger", Jarrett Hering, isn't a pansy like me. He suited up, stared Mother Nature in the face without blinking and threw down in two races against some pretty talented competition at the J/24 Worlds. Okay... that was probably a little dramatic for the conditions. It's not like he was rounding Cape Horn in a 60-knot squall -- but it still sucked.

Anyways, good luck to Jarrett and the kids on USA 5350 today in what should be challenging conditions -- NE winds at 5-10 knots are forecasted.

In case you're not familiar with Annapolis, that forecast translated into Chesapeake Bay speak means: the wind will come from a cone extending 50-degrees in either direction of due North with pockets of sloppy disturbing hatred and loads of current (sounds familiar to a few nights at the Cougarfish, doesn't it?).

Oh, and being the trooper that he is, Jarrett got off the water and took some time to write-up his thoughts on Day #1 for us. Even more inspiring -- he typed it up on his phone... which is waaaay more dedication than anyone here at The Stern Scoop is used to seeing.

Day #1 at the J/24 Worlds
By: Jarrett Hering
Annapolis, MD

To say that today was wet would be a slight understatement. Cold, rainy, breeze up around 15 knots, precipitation, more rain, tough competition... and did I mention the rain?

Even though the weather was just north of miserable, the sailing was amazing. Multiple world champs were on the humongous start line (82 boats x 24ft = gigantic line) and finding a lane with clear air was nearly impossible. End up on the second or third row at the start and your looking at rounding in the 70's at the windward mark.

Breeze was pretty steady with a shift late in the second race that helped the left pay as it did most of the day upwind anyway. Playing current and tide is also typical for Chesapeake Bay sailing.

We had a decent first race. Got off the line and had clear air. Made good decisions downwind and ended up with a 19 for that race. Second race was tough. 3 general recalls and in that race we finished deep with a ZFP. Damn! Well there's LOTS more sailing this week and room for improvement.

Today I was geared up for the torrential downpours and stayed quite comfortable. I made some recent purchases and with my Musto MPX Gore-Tex Race Smock and matching Musto MPX Gore-Tex Sallopettes I stayed dry.

I also liked my Ronstan Sticky gloves, wool hat and my Rocky Gore-Tex socks -- all were an absolute necessity. I was all "gucci'd" out with my base layers too: Patagonia Capilene 1, Capilene 3 and Capilene 4 up on top with Capilene 2 leggings on the bottom. The only time that I got even a little chilly was on the ride back in after racing.

World's Day #1 is under our belt and I got a few of the newbie jitters out. Learned lots and looking forward to more tomorrow. I am however, NOT looking forward to my 7:30am appointment with the wetsuit and cold water to clean the bottom... Brrrrr.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Laser ACCs Wrapup

The Laser Atlantic Coast Champipnships for full rigs were held this past weekend at Severn Sailing Association here in Annapolis. We had a great turnout with 80 boats racing. Aaron from customer service and I competed in the event and we both had a great time.

We sailed 5 races over 2 days in varied conditions completing 2 on Saturday and 3 on Sunday. Saturday's conditions were light 4-8 kts with a strong flooding tide on the right side of the course. There were some shifts but the tide seemed to dominate the day with the right side paying off on most of the upwind legs.

Sunday was rainy and pretty chilly with temps in the high 50s / low 60s. The breeze started similar to Saturday but built to a steady 10-12 with gusts maybe up to 14/15 occasionally. There were definitely some shifts and the tide didn't seem to be as big a factor with the increase in velocity. The starting line was huge and a start at the wrong end was tough to come back from. After 3 races and a lot of general recalls in between it was a very long day.

The regatta was won by Evan Lewis of Canada with impressive results, a 17th being his drop race. The first woman was Ashley Love from SSA. Yours truly had a great day on Saturday but couldn't quite hang with the big boys on Sunday in the bigger breeze. It was pretty cool to be up there with the leaders for a little while at least.

It was really awesome to sail against so many boats and such good competition. Clear air was key and it was really tough to fight back from a bad start with so many boats out there. Aaron said the regatta was "Good food, good racin and good times."

For complete results and more info click here

Friday, May 1, 2009

J/24 World Championships -- The Foreign Invasion of Annapolis!

The 2009 J/24 World Championships are being held here in Annapolis, MD and our very own Jarrett Hering is going to be out there trying to bring it home for the red, white and blue (U-S-A! U-S-A!) against competitors from 17 other countries. Here's a little preview of the event -- we'll have more next week, along with a wrap-up when the regatta ends from Jarrett.

Jarrett Washing His Bottom...J/24 World Championships Preview
By Jarrett Hering
Annapolis, MD

They're unchaining me from APS Rigging Department for the next week and I'll be crew member aboard Millennium Falcon (USA 5350) for the 2009 J/24 World Championships.

I wanted to start off with a few things that have been happening prior to the Worlds. The word of 2009 for the crew of 5350 has been "training" and there has been lots of it. We've had successful 8hr. on-the-water coaching sessions, hours of chalk-talk and discussion about tactics, maneuvers, big fleet strategies, crew and just about everything else J/24.

Additionally, I've been preparing my body for the 5 days of strenuous competitive sailing at Worlds. I have been running, working out at the gym and sailing as much as possible to prepare. Gym routines that involve using weighted lines to increase grip strength, running and aerobic exercises to simulate the maneuvers that I go through while on the boat. I am taking this seriously and I look forward to the some extremely competitive sailing against the other top J/24 crews.

With Worlds starting only a few days from now we are using our time for some final boat prep, dropping the last few lbs. for crew weight and getting all of our ducks in a row. I know that something will come up, whether it be gear, boat, rigging, or whatever and preparing ahead of time is gonna make these last few days go smoothly.

There are 82 boats signed up and this Worlds is stacking up to be insane and intense. Annapolis Yacht Club is playing host and doing an incredible job thus far accommodating competitors from 18 different countries. On the schedule of events is an opening ceremony in Annapolis City Dock, tent parties each night, special events to show off what Annapolis has to offer and some really great sailing. I hope to give a few more updates as this Worlds progresses do stay tuned to the Stern Scoop.

USA 5350