Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hands On: Stohlquist Wedge-e PFD

Many of the best designed and most reliable life vests on the market for the sailor are not made for specifically for sailing. PFD's from companies that make products for rafting, river running, and kayaking tend to be options we have to choose from. Lucky for us the many of the same principles that drive the whitewater designers (mobility, adjustable form fit, lightweight...)  also apply to our sport. The Stohlquist Wedge-e is a great example of an paddling company designing a multi-sport vest that sailors can get into.  

Putting the vest on for the first time I immediately notice the fit: very trim and contoured with the top of the collar stopping in the middle chest. I can roll my neck all the way around and not touch the shoulder straps or back and front collar. The Wedge-e has a compressive feel and is lighter than I expected. The buoyancy foam is not segmented so it bends around the shape of your torso, I like this feature because it allows for more compression under a pinny or rash guard. The zippering system aids in wrapping the vest comfortably around your body. I also noticed how thick the neoprene shoulder straps are so that they protect your skin from the adjustable webbing and for a more comfortable fit.

The BAD:
Mesh. Mesh is used under the side adjustment straps and as a front pocket. Mesh netting is great for allowing air flow and draining water, BUT mesh also has an uncanny ability to catch things: pins, rings, crabs, screws. This is a small issue, but something to be wary of in tight spaces. Also some may find this style to be too snug for their liking, as noted in the GOOD section, it has a form fitting and compressive cut. Again only a minor complaint.

Overall I feel like this will prove to be a great dinghy vest. Acres of mobility combined with a contoured snug fit produces a comfortable and athletic sailing PFD. Price point is also key, at well under $100 the Wedge-e is a steal. Even with the close fit there is a decent amount of adjustable space to work with. I have been wearing the Wedge-e the whole time I wrote this blog and forgot it was on.  If you are looking for a low-profile, contour fit PFD this summer the Wedge-e is right up your ally.

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Closer Look at the KB1 Series from Gill

Following up on our recent post about the visit from Gill, I wanted to highlight an item that drew the most attention from the crew here at APS: The KB1 Racer series.
This new well priced line consists of a Smock, Jacket and Salopettes. 

Gill categorizes their apparel in to a “Dot System”.  They use these grades of 1 through 5 dots to explain the uses of their gear. 1 Dot is a light onshore or midlayer, it provides a waterproof layer with moderate breathability, 5 Dot is an Ultra high performance three layer, fully waterproof, with ultra breathability.

Gill labels the KB1 gear is a 4 Dot level. Best for offshore and ocean use for multiple days, with high breathability, and three layer hydrophobic fabric. What that means is ‘versatility’.  For many of us the types of boats and events we sail on and in vary greatly. Some weekends could be spent out on a Lightning taking spray and zipping around the cans, another week you could find yourself on a J/35 sitting in a wash coming over the bow.  Having gear that will stand up the elements but also allow the dynamic movement needed for athletic boats is vital for comfort and results.

These are some of the features that piqued the interest of our staff:

The material is the first thing that many notice about the KB1 series. It is softer than traditional 3-layer shell material, and is more supple. Gill engineered their own material in house to allow the freedom of movement they wanted to provide. Both of the tops and the Salopettes are made of this 3-layer breathable material.

Placement of the stretch panel on the Salopettes is also unlike any other pant. They placed the elastic material on the back of the pant to allow optimum flexibility the legs to stay in place when bending and crouching.  After trying it on and bending into as many positions I thought possible, I feel like it works as well as having elastic shoulder straps. The real benefit I found is when in a standing position the top area fits much closer and does not hang or sway in a way that elastic shoulders sometimes do. 

The protective areas are much more pliable and have a greater freedom of motion to them than many traditional non-scuff materials.  These wear pads are ample and provide coverage to protect the seat, knees, and shins.  The memory of feeling the water seep in a hole I burnt with the non-skid at the beginning of an overnight race trained me always check out the wear pad areas first.  

Another feature that you might be seeing more of is the hidden cuff adjuster. For the KB1 Gill moved the extra material of the cuff adjuster strap inside of the jacket sleeve and pant cuff rather than have it on the outside. It gives the jacket a more trimmed down and sleek look though I cannot remember the last time I had my cuff adjustor caught on anything.
The Smock has some extra features that they left off the Jacket. The neck of the pull over Smock has a spray top style PU seal to keep water from going down down your back and chest. At the bottom of the smock there is an adjustable waist that can be sealed off as well. 
Overall the feature that I find most appealing about the KB1 range is the versatility for the price. You can wear these in nearly every type of sailing. They have great range of motion and are lightweight enough for buoy racing, but provide a strong layer of protection that can handle offshore weather and seas. I would recommend these for sailors that spend a lot of time on keel boats that also do coastal and offshore racing.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Visit From Gill

Everyone at APS was up bright and early this Wednesday morning and ready for school as the guys from Gill stopped by to get us up to date on the very latest in apparel and technology.  Our commitment to being the most knowledgeable source for sailing apparel and hardware drove us to the makeshift classroom provided very graciously by the shipping department. 

Jerry Richards (Gill North America) was at the store with the updated Gill line and some useful data about how to layer correctly and why it's vital.
Jerry  had a many new items on hand, but the one that peaked the interest of the whole APS crew was the Keel Boat collection (KB1). The feel and flex of the material was one of the most interesting aspects of the range (Smock, Jacket, Trouser) along with the highly optimized cut and stretch made for movement.Gill also moved the traditional stretch material from the shoulder straps to the back of the Trouser to help improve flexibility when in a bending or crouching stance.

Another trend we are seeing from the industry is
less pockets: Why take away pockets? Gill and other companies have found that double layering breathable waterproof material will cause those areas to be less effective. Sloughing off a few pockets gives the material you just spent your hard earned dollars on a chance to do its job. These changes don't necessarily eliminate storage as they combine the typical hand-warmer pocket with the storage pockets giving them dual functionality. 

Proper dress is key to having a successful day on the course. Energy is constantly wasted by your body trying to keep warm in between races. Have a question about why your jacket isn't warm enough or what type of pants you need for overnight racing? Give our customer service number a call or pop into the store front and talk to the most knowledgeable staff around.
 Look for reviews of the KB1 collection and a piece on understanding proper layering soon.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

How to Install Your J/24 Spreader Thru-Bar Kit

Editors Note: Though this How-To is specifically for the J/24 Spreader Thru-Bar Kit the same principles apply to removing and replacing riveted parts on your mast or boom like a Spinnaker Mast Bail or Vang Bracket.

The J/24Spreader Thru-Bar kit is a great upgrade for those with older boats and original rigs.

The kit comes with all the parts you will need to complete the job and instructions on how to do the replacement.  The instructions are a great map to finishing the project but many of us (myself included) could use a visual representations of the steps. Follow below to install your kit.

1.    Open the package and make sure you have all of the parts. There should be: 2 Brackets, 1 Bar, and 16 rivets.

2.    Tools you will need: Drill with multiple bits, rubber mallet, pop-rivet gun, End Cutting Pliers, 3-in-1 Oil, paper towels, sharp flat head screw driver, metal file, a few hard thin nails.

3.    Clean the old rivets and bracket off with the paper towel and some water. Make sure there isn’t grime down in the rivet head.

  4.    Take a nail and the rubber mallet, place a nail in the rivet, strike it a few times and the pin should fall out (into the mast). Do this for all rivets.
  5.    If the rivet pins are not falling out with the nail and mallet go right to the drill. Find a drill bit that fits well into the rivet head. Oil the bit with 3-in-1 so it stays sharp. Apply pressure to the drill until the back pops out of the rivet. Then drill on an angle to knock off the back of the rivet.

  6.    Switch to a larger bit and repeat the process until the rivet begins to spin.

  7.    Take your flat head and place it underneath the rivet head. Strike the end of the screw driver with the mallet. This should begin to lift up a side of the rivet. Try to work your way around the rivet to make a nice lip.

  8.    Take the End Cutters and clamp on to the rivet. Rock the cutters back and forth until the rivet head shears off.

  9.    If you do not have cutters. Use the flat head screw driver as a chisel and work through the rivet until it shears off. This takes a lot of hammering but does work.
 10.   When all the rivets have been removed take the rubber mallet and strike the old bracket. It should pop off. Watch out it usually does go flying. 

  11.  Clean up the surface of the mast that was under the bracket if it is messy and drill out the rivet remains left in the holes.

   12.  Lay on the first new bracket. MAKE SURE THE NEW SLOT IS ON THE HIGHER SIDE.

   13. Take your new rivets and place them in each hole to make sure they fit. 
          If they don’t, find a drill bit and carefully 
          gauge out the old hole.

   14. Using the new rivets to keep the bracket steady, take your rivet gun and pop each one into place. 
     TIP: to avoid potential corrosion dip or coat each rivet in 
      LanoCoteDuralac, or Tef-Gel

  15. Your new brackets are on! Congrats. Now it’s time to 
         drill out the slot for your Thru-Bar.

  16.  Take your drill and find a bit that just fits in the bracket 
        slot. Drill through the mast. Drill next to each hole as you work your way down the slot.  You should leave a nice gap with some rounded edges.

  17.  Grab your metal file and start working the little bits down flush with bracket slot.
  18.  It should look like this ----->

  19. The Thru-Bar will be sung fitting, so do not try to file out the pre-cut slot.You may need the mallet to get it into place the first time. Tip:Wrap the middle of the bar in Teflon tape.

  20.There you have it, a new upgraded spreader system.