Times have changed and the sport of sailing has indeed felt that change in many ways. Technological advancement has given us great tools like colorful chart plotters and EPIRBs, but it has also facilitated a mentality and attention span that runs obverse to the time and patience sailing requires. The double-edged blade of phones giveth and taketh away and they seem to be takething away the ancestral element of sailing which substantially changes the dynamic of how we sail and who with.
However, to be sure, there are other factors, perhaps even challenges, that need to be considered when we think about how to get out sailing on a regular basis in this day and age. On the top of the list are the economic realities. Thirty years ago sailing was frankly, a cheaper activity to pursue. Boats were generally smaller, slips were less expensive, systems and accoutrements were more basic and slightly less comfortable. All of this added up to something more accessible, but fear not, modern sailors have moved with the times and figured out other ways to make it happen. Here are a few ways to continue sailing without the intimidating burdens of flat-out ownership.
There might be nothing in the world that packs as many life lessons as the activity of sailing. It teaches teamwork, engineering, history, patience, oceanography, ecology…all in one fell swoop. Because of this, we believe every kid should learn to sail and here’s the top five reasons why. Feel free to add your own.
Although we understand not all sailors are racers, we do like to keep up with the America’s Cup because it’s not only sailing’s preeminent event it also always carries trickle down ramifications for technological advancements for all of us.
The big news this week is Patrizio Bertelli, team principal of Challenger Luna Rossa, has stated, on the record, that the 36th America’s Cup will be sailed in foiling monohulls. By the way, we predicted that in a piece right after the last Cup concluded – that has nothing to do with the content of this story but sometimes bragging just happens.
There is a serious storm barreling along on its way to Florida right now, and while things can often change when it comes to storm tracking, sailboat owners need to be ready. It’s currently a Category 5, the highest there is on the hurricane scale – the New York Times said: “The eye of the storm was bigger than some Caribbean islands.”. Hurricane Irma has already ravaged the British Virgin Islands and some other Caribbean islands causing massive destruction and loss of life…
Here’s a short list of perhaps the more important and maybe commonly overlooked precautionary ideas to keep in mind in trying to protect the boat – of course once you’re done all you can do you should probably get out of dodge!
Dramatic Tidal Shifts With these storms come severe tidal surges. If the boat is in the water (which could be a problem) it’s important to inspect the piling it’s tied to and assess if the tides could rise above its height. A short piling could be the reason your boat goes on a voyage without you or gets punctured by the piling itself. But for a major storm a boat tied in its slip is iffy. The slip and harbor location/setup have to be just right. Wide solidly built slips and heavy tall pilings stand a chance but anything else could be a serious crapshoot. We’ve all seen the pictures.
Check those knots and lines No matter what you decide to do to protect the boat, a storm like this is going to require lots of line and knots. Spend a couple of bucks in increasing the size of the lines you’ll be using to lash everything down and make sure the chosen knot is something dependable. Also, diversify the attachment points whenever possible. You don’t want to tie every line to a scant few attachment points only to find out it’s that and not any of your knots of lines that fails. And beware of small cleats – the bigger the better and, if possible, inspect the backing plates.
Chaffing Chaffing is one of those things, in a normal world, where sailor’s opinions differ. Some have chaffing protection all over the place and some have none at all. If you’re in the latter constituency you might want to switch teams for a minute, at least until this storm passes through. In the violence of a hurricane chaffing happens in a very accelerated and amplified way. The kind of turbulence the boat will experience can act like a saw for a poorly placed holding line with no chafe protection. So sacrifice that crappy old green garden hose that would never coil up right and give it a new life protecting your lines from chaffing.
Minimize Windage Don’t be lazy when it comes to removing anything that can increase windage or just get blown away and destroyed. Remove dodgers/canvas (including frames), headsails, and antennas – stow anything loose (of course) remembering that little snaps will not be sufficient. Tape shut anything that could open up and remove any electronics that look precarious.
Don’t forget about the inside If the boat is in the water, it’s going to be rocking around in an insane way so make sure there is nothing that can fly around and cause damage. Close all sink and head sea cocks and make sure that cockpit scuppers are completely clear.
If you’ve experienced a hurricane, feel free to share your experiences and suggestions below…
One of the cool things about sailing is that there are these age-old traditions just humming along in the background. There is the particular language that continues to be passed along. There are superstitions that are fading in terms of adherence but they too are also passed along like folklore. Then there is the naming of boats, which is still just as important as it ever was. Boats have names and this gives us compassion and a human-like respect for them. A name may act as a heartfelt living memorial for a deceased loved one or, on the other hand, maybe a message to all that you won the boat in a poker game. Either way, the boat will have a name because thems the rules.
Mike Rice is an eight time recipient of the American Sailing Association’s Outstanding Instructor honor and has been teaching sailing at his sailing school, Puget Sound Sailing Institute, for over 30-years. Rice is at the top tier of sailing instruction and weighed in with his views on sailing safety.
ASA: How much emphasis do you place on the safety element when teaching sailing? Do you approach it in a subtle way or more forcefully? Rice: Our priority has always been that safety is the first issue we discuss – it’s really the most important issue. In my mind, when you’re safe, you are having fun and preparing people well is the key to being safe. And when you get into things like offshore sailing at night where there are harnesses, tethers, jacklines – these kinds of things; safety then becomes an even larger issue.
What, in your mind, is the most important safety tip/concept that you instill in new sailors? Rice: To always be aware – to be conscious about what’s going on all around, especially the wind and the water. We teach students to look at the water to tell us what the wind is doing – to predict gusts, also to be mindful of the boom, how to walk on the boat – things like that. Awareness is crucial to not being caught off guard.
Are there some students where fear is something you have to address and if so, how do you negotiate that fear? Rice: Absolutely. We encourage them to express those kinds of feelings and then we deal with them. Their fear is real. I find most fears are a lack of knowledge and/or a lack of control. So if we have a student who is just petrified when the boat heels just 5-degrees, the first thing I’ll do is to put them on the mainsheet and say, “you’re in control of how much we heel.” After being in control for a while, typically, these kinds of students begin to lose that fear.
Have you ever had to manage an emergency at sea with students on board? Rice: Yes – we were out in the Tobago Cays in the middle of nowhere when a hose blew and we began taking on water. The pumps were keeping up so it actually turned out to be a great teaching opportunity. I went through the possible causes of the problem one by one until we determined it was a blown hose and we closed the through-hull.
We’ve also had a dismasting once, we had a below-the-water-line cockpit drain on a small boat blow… but with all of these things the key is to be calm. They are looking at you, so if you’re calm then they’re okay with it. And that same idea goes for being a skipper. If something unforeseeable happens, the skipper needs to stay cool-headed and, in all likelihood, the crew will act similarly.
Any other important thoughts about safety you want to pass on? Rice: Just to remember that if someone were to fall off the boat without a PFD in cold water, they will quickly lose the ability to swim. A lot of people don’t realize that in that event, all the blood starts rushing to their core and their body’s become very compromised. Wear that PFD!
There are many different types of sailor. The two largest groups are surely “The Racer” and the “The Cruiser” and while there is a lot of cross-over there are some clear distinctions that separate the two…
Generally speaking sailors are an opinionated bunch but, as a baseline, are okay with any boat you choose because at the end of the day, you’re still sailing and that’s a good thing. Oh, except for one boat – the MacGregor 26M. That boat can start a fight. What do you mean? It’s just a little day sailor with twin rudders, retractable keel for easy tailoring and a relatively spacious cuddy cabin, perfect for overnighting – how on earth could that annoy anyone? We’ll get into it, it does.
Another America’s Cup is in the history books and although the actual Cup itself might not have been as exciting as the Louis Vuitton World Series competition with its capsizing, collisions and man overboard, the entire event was pretty impressive. And now, with a new Defender at the helm, the all-consuming, burning question is asked: “What now?”
On the AC site it read: “When Emirates Team New Zealand sped through the finishing line on Monday afternoon in Bermuda to win the 35th America’s Cup, the team also crossed a starting line of sorts – this time for the 36th America’s Cup.” Going on to state: “The moment Peter Burling steered the New Zealand boat across the line to win the America’s Cup, the RNZYS accepted a challenge from Luna Rossa’s Circolo della Vela Sicillia (CVS) for the 36th America’s Cup.”
That is the first installment of the many answers to the “what now” question and it’s definitely a big one – the “who” if you will. Luna Rossa has been part of other America’s Cups and many are glad to see them back in the game. For those who don’t know, the way it works now is that these two teams will huddle together and map out all the logistics, including the rules and boats, for the next event.
“We need to put in place an exciting event that takes a lot of what has happened here, because there is a lot of good that’s happened here…”
Emirates Team CEO Grant Dalton
Hmmm. Is Dalton hinting that the race will once again be run in high-speed foiling catamarans? Hard to say but it’s probably safe to assume it will be another cutting edge style event. To the dismay of hard-core traditionalists, the smart money isn’t on the 36th America’s Cup being held on J-class yachts. However, there is talk, maybe rumor is a better word, of the Cup possibly returning to monohulls. Some have speculated that perhaps a foiling mono that employs much of the speed and excitement the cats have generated would keep the interest peaked and the technology moving forward. Not too long ago Beneteau announced its plan to race a fleet of foiling monos for the famous Le Figaro singlehanded race in 2019 and the legendary Volvo Ocean Race announced it will use “foil assisted” monos in 2017-18 edition. It certainly seems in the realm of reality that organizers would seize the opportunity to both push the envelope further and placate monohull purists, which there are many.
Of the criticisms of the 35th AC, this notion of meat over mastery has to be on the top of the list. Boiled down there were only a couple of men on the boat actually sailing – the rest of the crew simply generated energy, on bicycles no less! For sailing purists nothing was as disappointing as seeing exercise bicycles installed on flying boats and calling it sailing. But this is the interesting element of the America’s Cup event – rules are written specifically for the contest and design teams get to the business of cracking codes and solving engineering puzzles.
It’s still a rumor but definitely an interesting notion. Beyond the boat design, the new AC Defenders are also expecting more teams to participate. In a recent interview on New Zealand radio Peter Burling & Blair Turk said they anticipated most or all of the 35th teams would be back with expectation of more teams. It would stand to reason that the Kiwi team would concentrate on making the next AC as affordable as possible since they struggled firsthand with what was called an “extremely strict budget.”
For now, while the Challenger and Defender spitball what will become, we sailing fans can blab to each other what we think is best (post your thoughts below!). It’s fun for a while but anticipation gets old. Soon we will see the whats and wheres, only to no doubt be answered with some resounding “whys??!!?”