Monday, January 31, 2011
"If the surf was up, I didn't go to school," says Annapolis sailor Juliet Thompson. A native of Queensland, Australia, she says, " I attribute my many years on my surfboard on the waves to my never getting seasick," she says and laughs. "But, they say that means you haven't met your conditions yet."
Following years of earning degrees-an undergraduate degree in biochemistry and post-graduate work in education, special education, and psychology-raising a family, and moving from Australia to Washington, DC, and back, Thompson moved to Annapolis for a teaching job 1993. She joined the Annapolis Rowing Club and met a friend who invited her to go sailing on an E-Scow. A subsequent invitation to race log canoes led to a sailing-crazy life. "I would row from 6 to 8am. and then rush to be on a sailboat by 9 a.m. It was all for a need to get out on the water. I eventually had to give up rowing."
Thompson learned how to work the bow and did so for a few years on the Pearson Flyer Blaze Star and then on the Tripp 26 Captain Tripp. Her offshore experiences include a few Annapolis to Newport Races and the Marblehead Halifax and Annapolis to Bermuda Races. For more than five years, she volunteered on summer afternoons for the Naval Academy Sailing Squadron and became a volunteer coordinator. She also earned a USCG captain's license.
About six years ago, Thompson got into a race committee work "in a big way," she says. "I love the variables. The challenge of running a good race is huge. You have to weigh things like how long the mark boat will take, wind, currents, types and numbers of boats, skill levels...You have to know your race committee and understand how they work and more. It's been amazing working with the likes of Chip Thayer and Wayne Bretsch." What should racers know about committee work? " I think people should try it. It's not just the variables of decision making. When you're on race committee, you're part of a team, just like sailing, but you're also a spectator. You're watching everyone start and do mark roundings. You can listen to them and tell who's dialed in. You will see how the race committee makes their decisions, and then you can anticipate their decisions and use it to your advantage when your racing yourself."
When she's not doing race committee or sailing on the Cal 36 Diamond in the Rough, Thompson teaches forensic and environmental science at Bowie High School and works on the addition to her home in the Historic District of Annapolis.
SpinSheet: When was the last time you fell overboard?
I was on the J/105 Mojo coming into Back Creek. We saw some newspaper floating in the creek, and I went down to get it and slipped headfirst overboard. One crew grabbed one of my feet and one the other, but they were moving in opposite directions! Needless to say, we had to work together at that point.
Do you have a good crash story?
I was a scorer one time at the Screwpile Regatta with the Hampton Roads group. Five boats were finishing, and one peeled off and headed for the committee boat. They caused some pretty serious damage, and the race committee hit the deck for protection. I managed to keep hitting the button and finished all the boats in the yacht scoring program in the middle of it.
Who are your sailing buddies?
The Diamond in the Rough crew are the best guys I know: Jim Mumper, Jim Urban, Bob DeYoung, Mike Binnix, Ken Binnix, Russ Till, Bob Mumper, Bill Reibold and Chris and Julie Troxell.
Do you have any sailing or non-sailing book recommendations?
The Proving Ground by G. Bruce Knect about the Sydney Hobart Race and Poplar Island: My Memories as a Boy by Peter K. Bailey.
You're taking a road trip. What's on your playlist?
Bruce Springsteen "Born to Run" is good driving music, also Bryan Ferry and Janice Joplin.
What do you do on Saturday in the off-season?
I'm building a two-story addition on the back of my house. My daughter and I ripped off the roof and came out all sooty looking like coal miners. It's been going on for so long , people ask me,"Are you still working on that?"
What three pieces of sailing gear could you not live without?
Dubarry boots for offshore sailing, a hockey puck for race committee work, and what I call my picnic basket, a cooler I bought in Australia, which I fill with cups, coke, Mount Gay rum and ice.
What advice would you give a young racing sailor?
Always make sure you are having fun. You can get wrapped up in competition and lose sight of that. You also don't have to stay on a boat you don't like. Once you get on a fun boat with the right combination of people, they become like family.
If money were no object, what kind of boat would you buy?
A 51-foot Swan with a dark hull called Jezebel. I can picture this boat. It's beautiful I'm on the radio coming into port announcing, "Jezebel has intentions of coming in."
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
A single 'tooth' acts as an easy locking/unlocking mechanism that automaticly secures the handle to the winch socket when placing. Holmatro's improved grab-bar running along the inner half-length of its top surface allows a sailor to quickly disengage the patent pending locking mechanism by doing just that - grabbing the bar. This action actuates the mechanism to unlock the handle in a natural way. No thinking, just grabbing. The handle comes equipt with derlin ball bearings to help the palm grip the winch for more efficient turns.
The best feature of the Extreme Winch Handle is its one-hand release. The one-hand release is designed for when you're in the position of removing the winch handle, all you really have to do is press down with the palm of your hand as you grab it, and Wallah! - the winch handle is off in less than a second. No twisting or flicking any knobs, just a simple press of the palm. It's perfect for unexpected tacks and ideal for smaller boats with limited space.
In comparison to other winch handles, Holmotro's Extreme-Palm handle is more of a high performance racing winch handle for high loads on smaller vessels. Lewmar makes 2 similar One Touch winches that use a plunger pin and ball mechanism that automatically retract the locking mechanism when the handle is squeezed. The Dax OneTouch has a wider release button and is designed to meet the needs of a cruising sailor on boats where sail loads are not usually very high. All winches use the same one-touch design and feature ball bearing rotation in the grip. It's typically better to use a two-handed handle when dealing with larger sails and bigger loads. Although, this does depend on the size and design of the winch handle.
To see the Holmatro Extreme-Palm in action take a look at the short video below...
Friday, January 21, 2011
You hear it here first:
Laser Sailors in the US have long awaited the arrival of the GRP Laser blades, and they are finally here! In August 2010, APS did a write-up First Look on the new Laser Blades (Daggerboards and Rudders) -- and sadly, that enthusiastic post turned out to be just a teaser, tantalizing Laser folks everywhere who were in want of upgrading their beat daggerboards...you guys know who you are, and we know you recognize something cool when you see it!
Big Note: We have stock of the GRP Laser Epoxy Daggerboards and Rudders in limited supply so order soon!
We are STOKED about these new Laser blades! First of all, the class approved blades pull rank in strength over the old version thanks to an innovative composite manufacturing process they've mastered over at Laser Perfomance. Second, the new glossy, smooth finish is just so darn sleek and sexy. We'll add, Laser Performance designed the GRP Blades specifically to be significantly more durable than the older version - especially in the area of the trailing edges and tips where breakage was not uncommon. Thank you, Laser Performance.
How's that for some good news delivered on a Friday afternoon? Spread the word!
Thursday, January 20, 2011
At APS, we're trying to do what we can to adopt various sustainable business pratices. Reusing materials for shipping is easy and economical - and the difference in the recycling bins at the end of the day is visible. It's not out of the ordinary for a box arriving as a store delivery to find it's way out by the end of the day with your Ronstan Swivel Shackles and your midweight Pullover by Patagonia order.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
As the sun was setting around 7pm, our relatively calm sail turned a little more exciting when we blew up the kite on a gybe. It was the only masthead kite on board so a quick change to an asymmetric kite was in order. I will say, the timing worked out as our track was beginning to head further west. After settling in with the new kite, the sun dropped along with the temperature.
Capilene 1, Capilene 3, Nike fleece/spandex top, hoodie, fleece, and a TP2 jacket…and I was still cold!
With twenty different way points to take to starboard, it was a constant game of find-the-next-point with marks ranging from 100ft towers to small, lit buoys. We were certainly surprised to find an unlit buoy, quite close, in only about 3+ meters of water. (Meters, yes. We were on a Canadian boat.)
Luckily for us, the next three days got progressively warmer, and we were able to enjoy the island. With sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s, it was a welcomed change from the race temperatures. It was a great experience overall – although, a few more degrees would have been nice!
Congratulations to Mirage, a Hobie 33 for taking the overall trophy and of course, a thank you to the RC for a well-run event!
It happens every time there's going to be a crossing situation, a windward mark that's going to be tough to get around, or when that last little bit of speed is needed. It comes from somewhere in the back of the boat, where the instruction being given probably won’t apply to the person giving it -- "HIKE [EXPLITIVE(S) OF CHOICE]!!!"
And with that kind, well-thought out request, you impale yourself with even more force onto the 1/4” piece of wire or Spectra in front of you to squeeze every bit of juice from the sails and foils.
To outsiders, this practice must seem ridiculous – and I think 98% of us would agree that hiking, for lack of a better word, sucks. The remaining 2% of you are out of your damn minds.
Anyone who’s done it knows that serious hiking hurts. It leaves bruises and marks that conjure images of medieval torture or an alien abduction. It leaves you exhausted, never seems to end and rarely seems to be enough for the slave driver in the back of the boat. But hiking is a necessary evil of our sport and when the conditions warrant hiking, it’s the only way to get you around the course with any speed or success. And since we’re all out there to beat the other guy…
I often get the feeling that skippers/owners turn a blind eye to the discomfort of hiking and the subsequent benefits they can gain from more effectively moving their crew’s weight outboard. Worries about the weight of a backpack or getting every possible inch of a halyard stripped to minimize the weight aloft often trump the poorly taped on pool noodle or 15-year-old padding that covers their lifeline.
So what’s a crew to do? Well, we have three products here at APS that we know will take the sting out of sailing – hiking belts. Hiking belts provide a level of padding and protection from the lifelines that is really unmatched by any other product on the market. There are three options from two companies right now: the Skelly Hiking Belt and the Hutchinson Sports Leg Savers in a Max Padding and Brief Cut.
The Skelly Belt is a great option for hiking off of wire lifelines. The exterior of the belt is made up of 9-10 individual crescent-shaped segments of PVC, stacked side by side, that cup the wire as you press against it. By stacking the segments side by side, this allows the belt to more accurately conform to your waist. On the opposite side of the belt, they have put about a quarter-inch of padding to cushion your weight. The belt has an adjustable buckle for fit and two padded neoprene leg/crotch straps that keep the belt in place.
The belt really does a nice job of conforming to wire with the crescent shape of the exterior. Does a good job of spreading the load out on your mid-section as opposed to point loading everything. The construction is solid for hard wear – the waist buckle is beefy and the protective material on the outside is really quite durable. The design is compact and doesn’t limit mobility in any way.
The neoprene leg straps are a little narrow and can occasionally work themselves into an “uncomfortable” position for guys. A little more padding against on the interior would have been nice. Due to size, use appears to be limited to wire lifelines; while it would probably provide some protection on larger padded lifelines, it’s not ideal.
This is a great option for PHRF boats where wire lifelines are the norm; especially on the smaller boats where hiking really makes a huge difference. Any discomfort that comes from the leg straps or light padding is overshadowed ten-fold by the comfort of not hiking on a thin little piece of wire. If you order three or more of these belts at the same time, APS will take an additional 10% off the retail price.
The Hutchinson Sports Leg Savers offer a greater range of protection for hiking, making them ideal for more than just wire. These are great for boats like the Melges 24 that have wider lifelines for hiking, giving you no excuse but to have every ounce of weight on the rail.
There are two versions of Leg Savers – the Max Padding and the Brief, with the biggest difference being the overall size and coverage. As you can see on the image to the right, I’ve superimposed the Brief Leg Saver on top of the Max Padding option (I outlined the Brief in red to make it easier to see…). The Max Padding Leg Saver sits just a little lower above your waist but extends well down your legs compared to the Brief. It’s also just a hair or two wider.
Each puts right around 1-1/4” of padding between you and the lifeline. Each has a stretchy/elastic belt at the waist and leg straps that are Velcro adjustable – the width of the belt/straps on the Brief is 3” wide while the Max Padding’s measure in around 6”. The Max Padding has a built in knife sheath on the back of the belt; this isn’t standard on the Brief.
Both options have facilities to insert battens to give even more support. These battens are made of a high-strength plastic and sit in line with your legs – they are flexible enough to cup around the lifeline while still being stiff enough to help reduce fatigue.
To get the definitive word on the intended weight range and uses for the different sizes, I shot the creator of the Leg Savers, Brian Hutchinson, an email. Here are the highlights:
- I recommend the "Max" to sailors heavier than 65 kgs (approx. 143 lbs.) who sail on single-lifeline boats. This seems to be the weight that requires the extra padding that comes in the Max, and sailors of this weight or heavier are able move this padding around without much trouble.
- Sailors of double-lifeline boats and single lifeline sailors lighter than 65 kgs usually prefer the lighter "Brief" design for the mobility it allows and the aesthetically pleasing "Itallian cut". Sailors of double-lifeline boats tend to sit on the deck more and thus load the lifeline less. This, along with the lower clearance, begged for a smaller Leg-Saver design. Most of the larger crew (100 kg 220 lbs and above), tend to like the "Brief" design, too. For many of the big crew it is already a challenge to move from side to side, so they are mainly interested in protecting the skin.
- … if I anticipate a long slog to weather on the Mackinaw or Annapolis-Newport Race, I would certainly slip a pair of plastic battens in the front of my Leg-Savers.
Versatile design works for any type of forward hiking – can be used on virtually any boat. Lots of padding to really separate you from the lifeline. Battens definitely help to reduce fatigue and put something else between your body and contact points with the lifeline. Firm design, but pliable enough to conform and move with you as you bend, move around. Cordura outer surface provides plenty of long lasting protection for your investment in these hiking belts. Available in three sizes for different body types.
The Max Padding is a little cumbersome; admittedly, not so much that you won’t be able to perform a task, but you notice that it’s there when you’re moving around. Gets in the way of “the call of nature”. Both sizes can get a little bulky when you have full foulies on. Yeah, we're reaching a little for stuff to put here...
Once again, the good vastly outweighs the bad. The Hutchinson Sports Leg Savers make forward hiking incredibly easy on any boat, giving you a huge advantage over the competition. I’ll be honest, we struggled a little to find things to put in “The Bad” section for these hiking belts – they really do the job.
To give you a better look at these hiking belts in action, we got Ian out of the storefront and brought him over to Eastport Yacht Club to do some hiking on a Melges 24 and a PHRF boat with wire lifelines. If you’re thinking about these belts, it’s a must see – if you’re not thinking about these belts, Ian is a clown in a few spots and we made him hike off of bare wire at one point, still making it a must see.
A special thanks to Henry Filter (owner of “Wild Child”) and Greg Robinson (owner of “Incognito”) for letting us use their boats for the demonstration.
Leg Savers with the help and input of Melges sailors. By listening to those who use the product, it was determined that one main issue with the previous versions is lack of mobility when not hiking. While giving adequate support while you are in the hiking position, other activities on the boat became more difficult to accomplish. So, after looking into the best solution, Brian Hutchinson, the creator, designed the new Extreme Mobility Leg Savers. We will take an in depth look at these new features.
First, they feature contoured, shaped foam padding that more easily wraps around your thigh. With a plateu shape, it has the most padding in the center of your thigh with significantly less as you move to the outside.
The center of the padding also tapers as you move our from the center, measuring 3 inches at it's widest point and to 2 inches as you move vertically. Even with a smaller amount of padding, it still helps spread the impact of the padded lifeline across your abdomen without the extra bulk. With less padding you are still able to move around the boat without worrying about cumbersome padding on your inner thighs.
Next, the straps have also become less bulky. Stretchy, soft straps now make up the leg and waist adjustments.
Easily strap the Leg saver to yourself, securely and comfortably. No extra fabric to wrap around your leg like the last version. Quick adjustments can be made to find the perfect fit. Without the added fabric, it does not dig into your body, with a single 1-3/4 inch strap for both. Side view on the right shows you the new straps.
Finally, the inner face seems to be similar to the last versions but with a single piece of fabric that appears to be more durable at least in the sense that there are no seams to worry about ripping. It's soft and comfortable against the skin.
Overall, it seems to be a big improvement in mobility while keeping the same level of protection while hiking. When comparing them against the other two models, it falls in between for sizing, with a little longer protection than the low cut and a little less than the maximum protection. Simplier straps make taking it on and off and adjusting much easier. Finally the contoured padding makes moving around when you are not hiking much easier.
I certainly would not be caught on a Melges without a hiking belt and recommend if you don't like being bruised and uncomfortable, you do the same.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Monday, January 10, 2011
2011 has arrived and it’s time for me to finally write the blog post that the folks up in marketing have been after me to write since oh…2010. I was to write a product review in December but didn’t get a chance as we had a really busy holiday season. Thanks everyone!
Now that I processed the pile of returns here in customer service which accumulated during our week vacation, I am excited to tell everyone about my favorite shoes on our famous shoe wall.
Somehow the folks at SLAM have figured it out; how to make a full featured shoe weigh very little, fit comfortably, and provide perhaps the most important feature a sailing shoe can offer, GRIP. The sole is not a traditional razor cut but instead has “fins” of rubber. These fins are great on every type of deck that I have used them on from the LEGO style deck found on Beneteau’s, to the sanded decks found on many of the newer Farr boats. I end up on the bow of the boat quite a bit so grip is very important to me and this shoe is a winner.
Thanks for the review Aaron!
Friday, January 7, 2011
The Farr 30 main Halyard is a complicated piece of hardware to make. Tapering a wire and prepping the line for a splice is a tedious and lengthy process. Jarrett Herring, rigging enthusiast here at APS, takes us through the steps and processes involved in the creation of this tricky wire-to-rope transition in the above short video.
The Pre-Made Wire-to-Rope Halyard kits are made in advance for traditional halyards on dinghies and keelboats. This helps the whole order process move faster. Due to it's lengthy process, the cost tends to be a bit higher than other rigs. If you have a main halyard with corroded, meat hooked or just a worn out wire, there is a wonderful kit that we offer for the Farr 30- The Refurbished Main Halyard. It's a great way to keep a spare halyard around for less and with our January Rigging Sale in full swing, you can get a great deal on these and other rigging services!
Monday, January 3, 2011
The speed at which Jay Kehoe answers questions tips you off that he grew up right across the river from New York in Perth Amboy, NJ. At the age of eight, Kehoe started in a Chevron and Shell Oil-sponsored city sailing program on Dyer Dhow 12.5s. His grandfather, the only other sailor in the family, built him a pram, and for ten years, he competed on Lasers and Blue Jays in junior events and youth championships, as well as gaining tremendous big boat experience, such as sailing with Dennis Connor on Seymour Senet's Williwaw and doing such races as the Vineyard Race.