Racing can be frustrating

The first Down Harbour race of the new season, these races start outside the Club house on the Lane Cove river with the course going to Manley, Lady Bay, Neilson Park or one of the islands closer to the Bridge, dependant on wind. The divisions have this year been reorganised into two divisions for yachts and a third for etchells and sports boats, we have been put into division 1.

Ann was unable to race, neither were the rest of the crew who are still off traveling, so it was Michael and Mark from Agrovation, myself and thanks to John we also were able to borrow Jim from Hasta la Vista, the wind was forecast to drop from knots in the mid teens and backing to the south, just perfect for a full rig with the light weight no. 1, also a great oppurtunity for the assymetric spinnaker and that’s the way we set up the boat.

After a good start we were able to get out of Humbug on one tack, I might lay claim to being able to pick the lift along the Hunters Hill shore but in reality we were in the right place at the right time, the wind held at around 12 to 15 knots all the way to Fort Denison, and we were able to get a substantial  distance ahead of the fleet, with the exception of the Young 40 “Flashback” which was dissapearing into the distance. The further east we went the more the wind filled in reaching low 20s at times, my concern for the health of the light weight number one was tempered with continual high 8s of boat speed.

We were fortunate that the wind eased and backed a bit which made the work back to Shark Island just about manageable, a reef would probably have given us a bit more speed and control. We rounded the YA mark at Shark Island with a lead of around 1000 to 1500 metres on the rest of the fleet.

Adjacent to Braddleys Head we decided to take advantage of the softening winds and favorable angle to fly the Assy, now I have to say that as a foredeckie I make a pretty good helmsman, being the only one with any assymetric it was obvious to relinquish the wheel to Mick and venture forward of the mast, a pretty slow hoist followed. We pretty well held our lead to just east of the bridge where we fell into on gigantic hole, very little wind up ahead and the rest of the fleet catching up to us quickly on a freshening easterly, racing can really be frustrating at times.

It was about this time that I should have remembered that there was only one person on board with experience with assymetricals, that was me and I was on the foredeck. A couple of not so smooth gybes and we were at the back of a group of boats, then came the first of the subsequent frustrations, we lost a huge lead to the vagaries of the wind, only to accelerate away again when we got the spinnaker sorted and all of us were in the same conditions, those that have raced through Humbug (a stretch of about 500 meters of water at the junction of the Lane Cove an Paramatta rivers so called because of the fickle winds present at most times) will know full well where our last frustration came from.

Any day on the water is a good day, made even better by being part of a fabulous group of sailors at Greewich Flying Squadron, now all we have to do is find out where we pay for a premium subscription to the wind!

A Brand New Season

The 2017 – 18 sailing season started today on  beautiful Sydney spring day, the light winds motivated the starters to display an AP for about 30 minutes, long enough for a nice easterly to fill in with wind speeds in the 5 to 10 knot range. This season we have been moved up into division 1. Division 1 is dominated with Etchells and some of the faster boats in the Saturday fleet. There should be more boats in this fleet, but I guess that getting crew on Saturdays can be problematic for many. We were lucky today to have Graham, who normally is not available on Saturdays and Mick off Agrovation. The regular Saturday crew all seemed to be off doing something like travelling with family or in the UK preparing to swim the English Channel (Go Chris!).

We had a great start and were able to stay with the faster Etchells on the work to the Goat is.  Buoy. With only 4 on board I decided against using a symmetrical spinnaker and the runs were too square to use a assymetric. Suffice to say were not able to hold our position againt the boats flying their colourful bits. Performance wise that was the story of our race, catch up on the works then lose out on the runs. Our final result was not too bad considereing.

All that aside it was a great day on  the water made even more enjoyable with a convivial ssession on the “Deck of knowledge” with the crews of most of the competing boats.


Airlie Beach Race Week 2017

Ann and I have been arrived back in Sydney from Airlie Beach last week and we are still trying to re-acclimatise, not that we can whinge too much about the winter weather here, it’s just that the weather in the Whitsundays at this time of the year is so damned good!

The main purpose for the visit up north was to crew on Helen and Jeff Shipsey’s Elan 37 “Sunrise” in the Airlie Beach Race Week regatta. This is somewhat of a tradition for us and

Sunrise Elan 37
Sunrise posing with her new sails, Hanna Point (North Molle Is.) in the background.

is the 12th time in 13 years that we have done so. There was one year that Helen and Jeff had the temerity to travel overseas during the Regatta! It is always a pleasure to visit Airlie Beach, not only to see Helen and Jeff but also to catch up with a number of people we now count as friends in the area.

Helen and Jeff first entered “Sunrise” in this regatta in 2005 only a few months after taking delivery of her, prior to this year their best result was a second in their division, having just written that it is obvious that this year was the most successful yet with a victory in the Cruising Non-Spinnaker division. While we always race to win, both on G-whizz and most other boats that we crew on, we are aware that when racing under the PHS handicap system it can be a bit of a lottery, as your first race handicap can set you up for the series, or put you behind the 8 ball.

Handicappers do the best job they can, especially recognising the difficulties in finding a relative performance base for such mixed fleets, with boats that they have very little knowledge of. I am not about to criticise the handicappers as that would imply that I could do a better job! There a number of theories about winning a PHS regatta, many of which say that you manage your performance as you go through the regatta, we have a simpler theory, sail the boat as well as you can and try to sail it better each day, we can get an idea of this by looking our performances on scratch, and in this regatta we just kept getting better, our scratch results for the 5 races that were started were 8, 7, 4, 3, 3. With finish times that were always getting closer to the top boats. By comparison the handicap results were 6, 1, 1 , 1, 3.

Sunrise Elan 37
The crew and the trophy. Stuart Harris Commodore WSC, Ann, Jeff, Helen, Harry, Graeme, Jill and the Pantaenius rep.

While we are all stoked with our win in the division, it was not until the evening of the presentation that we found out that we were also the best performing local boat, another trophy for Helen and Jeff’s mantle and lots of goodies thanks to Pantaenius insurance, Captain Morgan Rum (yummy) and Great Northern Brewery.

There was also a bit of sadness, Airlie Beach really got hammered by cyclone Debbie back in May (does Debbie really deserve to have a capital?) As a result the local boat entries in this year’s regatta were a little lower than normal, there is still some visible damage to the area, mostly evident in the still recovering vegetation and the number of retail businesses that are yet to re-open pending repairs to their properties (I really feel for these small business people, I cannot imagine what they must be going through), the Marina suffered pretty badly, but is now almost back to full capacity. It is also sad to see all the bruised boats sitting in their pens. All credit to the Town, it is still as welcoming as ever and will very soon be back to full operation, get up there have a great time and drop a few dollars into the local economy. For next year if you own a boat and are considering any of the Whitsunday’s regattas, put Airlie Beach on you list it is a fun and friendly regatta, and you can do it while living on the mainland.

What could have been

The day was full of promise; the weather prediction was promising, winds – it doesn’t matter what the speed forecast was, there was a forecast for wind, very unusual for West Harbour Winter Series where we are more used to abandonments due to a lack of air movement. As a bonus the temperature was predicted to be above average for this time of the year.

The morning didn’t start well with Rob calling in sick, which would have left us with three, no big deal but with 16 to 20 knots predicted a crew of at least four would make life easier, so a call went out to Michael, who fortunately was available to join Chris, Ann and myself.

The next issue was sail selection, the wind was predicted to max out in the high teens at about start time, the prediction was for it to slowly abate as the afternoon went on. Not long before the start it became apparent that we would be starting in about 15 knots, with most of the race being reaches, the logical choice was the number 1 light and put up with the extra power on the short works. My choice was influenced by a more pragmatic outlook, the number 1 heavy is more suited to the maximum expected winds, is nearly 10 years old and is really approaching the end of its useful life, the number 1 light is a lot newer, is not really suited to the expected maximums, my thoughts were that I would cry less if the heavy was damaged than if the light was damaged, number 1 heavy it was.

We made two mistakes before the start, the first was that I had no clear strategy for the start which meant we missed the start by about 45 seconds. The second was that although the course map was on display in the cockpit, none of us paid it real attention.

We decided against spinnakers, as did the majority of the fleet, and worked our way into a reasonable postion towards the top of the fleet,  there was some very close action on the run down to Goat island, what could have developed into a dangerous  situation was averted by all the skippers abiding by the rules an displaying good seamanship, thank you John on Hasta la Vista and Julian on Mind over Matter, thanks also to about 3 other boats and skippers that I did not identify.

After getting around Goat Island we set about making the best of our pointing ability and solidifying our position in the top two or three, after negotiating some anchored fishing boats and sundry pleasure boats we were well ahead of the field, looking  back we witnessed a lot of the fleet sailing into a hole near Manns point, after a brief period of congratulating ourselves on how smart we were Ann looked at the course map,  which was on clear display in the cockpit for all to see,  and declared we have got to go around that mark. A quick tack that took Mick and Chris by surprise and almost sent Ann overboard we were off to the Manns Point mark rejoining at the back of the field.

Another lap of Spectacle, Schnapper and Goat Islands we were able to get to second place, John Veale on Hasta la Vista sailed the last couple of miles really well and were able to pass us on the final loop around Cockatoo Island in very light air.

We were extremely happy with our third on scratch, but what could have been if I thought more about a start strategy and did not miss it by some 45 seconds, if we (should I say me) read the bloody  course sheet and did not miss the Manns point mark meaning we sailed 1000 to 1500 meters more than necessary. Still that’s yacht racing, we still had a most enjoyable day and as usual the comeraderie on the Deck of Knowledge post race was at its usual convivial best.

G-whizz as Art – Again

Some time ago Chris Low, one of our regular crew members took a photo of G-whizz on the Greenwich Flying Squadron pontoon. He then sent the photo to a friend of his in London, I think just to say look at what I’m doing while you’re over there enjoying a wonderful London Winter.

Carla, Chris’s friend, apparently has a habit of looking at a photo and then doing a painting from the image. have a look at what she did with that original photo of G-whizz, we think it to be pretty good.

A huge thankyou to both Chris and Carla.

G-whizz Elan 340
A painting of G-whizz on the GFS pontoon by Carla.

A Race East of the Bridge

One of our crew is quite involved with the Blues Point Yacht Club , he suggested that we compete as a casual entry in the last race of their Autumn series. (I think that they may name their series after the season in  which the series commences, not the season the series in run in). For a number of reasons only Graham Dicker was able to join us for this race, G-whizz is easy  to handle 3 up, but with the wind predicted to get up in the high teens a bit of weight on the rail may have been preferable. It also made another decision easy, we were unsure if this was a Spinnaker event (It was) or not, but 3 up meant that the colourful sails would be staying in their bags.

BPYC run their events at the eastern end of the harbour, starting and finishing at the Naval buoys adjacent to Clarke Island, their courses mostly involve Yachting NSW (Is that Sailing NSW?) rounding marks, with the possibility of Fort Denison and Athol No.4 buoy thrown in. It was a pleasure to race in that area again and made a nice change of scenery. Saturday’s race involved a run/broad reach down to Cannae point, then a work back around the Shark Island mark a loop around Fort Denison and back to the finish via the Athol No. 4 buoy.

Another pleasing aspect of these races are that they are pursuit starts, we were given a generous handicap of 21 minutes, although not generous enough for us to achieve a podium finish, which was a bit disappointing as we later found out they have pretty reasonable prizes. A novel approach, and one that I think adds to the race is that they also measure each boats starting performance, actual start time versus allocated start time. We finished mid field at 11 seconds late. I found it difficult to judge our start without the presence of other boats around us. I wanted to hit the line with speed so instead of running down the line and gybing at the start, I attacked it square on (to the line not the wind), we were getting there too quickly so we threw a quick 360, it would have been far better to run down the line and gybe.

The run to Cannae varied continuously between a broad to beam reach, with winds varying between 5 to 15 knots, not too bad on a broad reach but a little concerning for the return work, we were had our No.1 light up that with an un-reefed main gets a bit hard to handle in anything over 12 knots. We lost quite a bit of time trying not to be in the restricted area surrounding a departing oil tanker, I was judging my potential clearance distance by referencing the Braddleys head safe water mark, only to watch the escort boat an the tanker leave the mark to starboard, the net result was that we went quite a distance off our best course for no reason.

Being a pursuit start we spent most of the race by ourselves until we got near Fort Denison, where we caught some of the boats ahead of us and were caught by the back marker. Probably a indication of reasonable handicapping. We got to play with the back marker for a while. We were in a position where we could of held him out for a while by covering his gybes, although it was pretty obvious that he would out drag us on the reach to the finish from the last mark. I decided not to enter into a match racing dual as I thought it inconsiderate especially if they were competing for a series place and had to put up with an interloping casual entry playing silly buggers.

The BPYC web site claims their club to be Sydney’s friendliest and most accessible yacht club. Their club rooms are the front bar of the Blues Point Hotel. After an enjoyable après race drink with some of competitors, I have to admit their claim  could be close to the truth. I think we’ll be back for more of this! Thanks Chris Winston for getting us involved.

Frustration on another beautiful day.

How can you get frustrated on such a beautiful day? Leaving the mooring I commented to David Edmiston (Passion X), Club Commodore and mooring neighbour, that I thought we may not have enough wind to get a race in, he was a bit more optimistic. It was another sensational winter’s day in Sydney, maxing out at about 18 degrees, and not cloud in the sky, light breeze, very crisp, very enjoyable.

The race officials announced course 2 short for this race 5, which is basically 2 laps of buoys located in the vicinity of Spectacle, Schnapper and Goat Islands with a loop around Cockatoo Island before the finish. In what I suspect was an attempt to set a squarish line the starters were close to the southern side of the Parramatta river not in the vicinity of an area between Greenwich and Clarkes point as per the course chart, trouble is not long before the start the very light breeze had backed from North West to South West. There was a huge bias on the committee boat end, so that’s obviously where we all wanted to be. The wind was wavering in the high 2 knot, low 3 knot area when Division 1 started. About 18 boats do not fit into an area about the size of a basketball court, much shouting and desperate fending, fortunately no real damage that I noticed. I did hear that the most bashed up boat was the committee boat. Having seen the Division 1 melee I decided to adjust our start plans and sail around the outside of the fleet then run down the line, we were a little early and ended up a bit too far down the line, Julian Tod in his Young 88 “Mind over Matter” had made the exact same decision, the two of us were beside each other for quite a while, being the leeward boat we had the opportunity to push him OCS, but being a nice guy (Actually I couldn’t see any advantage to us in doing so) I decided to let him go. we were able to slow enough to allow us to throw onto port tack just astern of him as the gun sounded. I did however enjoy the excellent glass of red that Julian offered me in appreciation later back on the “Deck of “Knowledge”.

On the tack towards Clarkes Point we were able to move ahead of most of the fleet with the exception of two J/70s, in fact by that stage we had also overtaken some of the division 1 fleet that I think had performed penalty turns subsequent to their entertaining start. As we sailed up the Parramatta River we won the wind shift lottery and now only had one J/70 ahead of us. The area around Pulpit Point was not so lucky for us, where we were now on the side of the river that only minutes before looked as if it had good pressure now had virtually zero. While we still in a very good position relative to the rest of the field, except for the pesky J/70s we found ourselves in no wind and the tide pushing us onto Pulpit Point. The only action I could take was to start the engine (Allowed in GFS Sailing instructions in such instances, provided no advantage is gained. I’m not too sure about the situation at Balmain Sailing Club though) and motor on a course that was away from the rocks and at 180 degrees to the mark for about 50 meters. after turning off the iron spinnaker we tacked towards the mark, now back with the rest of the field.

The area North West of Spectacle Island was now a car (boat) park with what ever wind that was present was shifting around in an arc of about 100 degrees, There were boats flying spinnakers (just hanging) while others were close hauled with sails flapping gently, no one was able to get anything set. Looking around we could not see any evidence of any wind anywhere, looking ahead the Division 1 boats were hanging at different angles, so we decided that a cold beer back at the club was the best option. Starting the Volvo for the second time it was apparent that the best way to extract ourselves was in reverse, which is what we did, still with all sails up. Some of the comments we heard from other boats were amusing. “Hey look we’re passing G-whizz! Oh I think they’re going backwards”. “Well at least they’re moving!” “Set up the tables Graeme, we’ll see you back there soon”. Not long after getting the headsail down we heard on the radio that the race had been abandoned. At least my record is still clean, every race that I have pulled out of early because of wind shortages have been abandoned.

It was a bit frustrating, I thought that we did a really good job of avoiding the melee at the start, then using the wind that was available in the early part of the race to our advantage, the crew did a great job performing every tack to perfection, and moving their weight to the best positions without any direction. I really did feel, early on, that were in for a good finish.

I was left with a couple of observations and points to ponder:
I am sure that the raymarine wind instruments have trouble calculating true wind in pressure less than 2 knots and boat speed around 0.5 of a knot.
Picking wind shifts in such light air is a lottery, if you get a few right be prepared to get the next few wrong!, and consider what the tide will do to you when you get it wrong!
And geez doesn’t it get cold all of sudden when the sun goes down!

Another Great Winter’s Day

There are a number of items on this web site where we express the privilege that sailors enjoy in Sydney, that privilege is the ability to sail all year round. Today’s West Harbour Winter Series race was no exception, held in winds that ranged south to south westerly, about 5 to 11 knots, right in G-whizz’s sweet spot. With temperatures closing in on 20 degrees centigrade only the cooling southerly took the edge off another perfect day on Sydney Harbour.

While we were well positioned for the start, we were a little bit early. We were not alone, a number of boats leeward to us were in the same predicament, I was waiting to be pushed above the committee  boat, and after getting to the line about 20 seconds early I was waiting to be pushed over the line, however it  seemed as if we had some sort of force field around us, we were at the absolute bottom of the give way boat pecking order, but were given plenty of room to run down the line before hardening up on the start signal. The subsequent great start was more good luck than good management, but I’ll take that any day. In the light winds we were able to stay with the sports boats on the work towards the Balmain shore, it wasn’t until the down hill run after the Schnapper Island mark that a slow, but uneventful spinnaker hoist meant that we lost a bit to the faster of the sports boats.

The crew did a great job running the boat, with most spinnaker hoists and drops going smoothly, the only issue we did encounter was when the lightweight number one genoa jammed on a hoist. This has been an on-going issue that we seem only to avoid with judisciuos placement of two sail pre feeders. I forgot to tell Colin this, but the first instance of this problem was the only time it happened.

On the last run from the Spectacle Island mark to the Woolwich Dock mark the wind was backing and veering between 85 and 140 degees off the starboard bow at about 7 knots, we gambled on staying with the assymetric spinnaker.

G-whizz Elan 340
West Harbour Winter Series Race 3 2017. Pretty shy run with the Asymmetric. Photo Phil Hare

It was bit of an unnerving feeling to be the only boat in the race at that point to be flying a spinnaker, but we were also the fastest boat, it was also intersting to watch the reaction of some the crews in a group of about 8 boats (satisfyingly for me the group included some assymetrical equpped spots boats), as they scrambled to hoist spinnakers as the wind veered towards the south west, after we had sailed through them.

At the Woolwich dock mark, the last before the finish, we got caught in a group of division 3 an 4 boats, I thought it prudent not to fight for mark position and sail around the outside of them, a pretty good decision as the rounding was bit of a melee, unfortunately this also meant we were leewaed of a number of them and had to wait a long time to get into a position where we could tack and pick up the wind shift that would take us to the finish.

A satisfying result on another beautiful winter’s day on Sydney Harbour, we are privileged!

It’s the simple things you forget

Alternate Title: Look up, Look out and Loosen up!

This post is a little late coming, in fact it probably would not have been written at all if it were not for some personal reflection on my sailing exploits over the last few weeks. I have been accused on a number of occasions that I tend to over analyse things a bit. In my defence I would say that while the criticism is probably correct I have always wanted to know why things went wrong, and just as importantly why things went right. In the past two weeks a few, three things in particular have gone wrong. These errors were in the basics, which is probably why we forget to maintain the disciplines.

Look Up

When working with halyards it is important to look up to ensure that are running free of any interruption. On G-whizz we have one spinnaker halyard that exits the mast at the head, two headsail halyards that exit the mast just above the forestay (G-whizz is a 7/8 fractional rig) and just below the forestay the spinnaker pole topping lift exits the mast. It is a bit busy in that part of the mast but the relative positions of each line can be ascertained with a judicial and concentrated look up.

G-whizz Elan 340
Western Harbour Winter Series Race 1 2017. Photo Phil Hare.

We had to retire from the first Western Harbour Winter Series race when we were unable to drop the spinnaker. Phil Hare, GFS’s Sailing secretary sent me the accompanying photo of G-whizz passing Julian Todd’s Young 88 and DJ Holster’s Etchells (Just why these two boats are not flying spinnakers is uncertain). What got me thinking a bit more about this whole subject is that our assymertical spinnaker, a mast head spinnakter is  flying from the hounds! Any wonder we had trouble getting the expected power out of it.  We were unable to drop it at the leeward mark as the halyards were twisted with each other and the forestay. Necessitating a trip to the top of the mast by yours truly. It may not be the smartest to send the heaviest crew member (me) to the top, but I thought that if anything needed cutting up there it would probably be better if it was the owner making the decisions. It also provided some entertainment for the tourists enjoying a balmy Saturday afternoon at Berry’s Island reserve.

On reflection this incident started when I changed the headsail and furler rig from a racing configuration to the normal cruising set up after the Sail Port Stephens Regatta. The racing setup is achieved by removing the Seldon foil feeder fitting and dropping the upper furling drum to below the bolt rope feed position enabling  headsails to be changed on the fly, great for racing but not a necessity for cruising. I then raised and furled the Roller Furling Genoa for the trip back to Sydney. A process that I did by myself and completely screwed up. I DID NOT LOOK UP, and captured the Headsail Halyard between the headsail halyard and the forestay. This error was not corrected when the RFG was dropped and the racing #1 raised for the first Western Harbour Winter Series race. Again I think it was me that set all this up before leaving the mooring on the morning of the race. The error was compounded when the crew member who volunteered to be foredeckie for the day probably put another wrap of the halyard around the forestay while preparing for the spinnaker hoist. I am not going to be critical here as it was the first time that he had been foreword of the mast on G-whizz and probably the first time that he had rigged an asymmetrical spinnaker, and if he did look up was probably unsure as to what he was meant to be seeing, again my fault as I did not brief him well enough. This is not a criticism of anyone just an observation of the thing we can easily overlook.

Look out

In the same race we bent a mid ship’s life-line stanchion, what we are pretty sure happened, and the crew remember the “Twang” as the sheet flicked off the stanchion after afflicting quite a bend, is that the headsail trimmer did not notice that the headsail sheet had got caught on the stanchion and kept winching, looking at the winch and not the sheet or the headsail. The result was one quite bent stanchion. The moral of this one is to not concentrate our vision on what we are doing, but also be very aware of what we are affecting.

We may be grinding a winch but we are also moving quite a length of sheet and altering the shape of the headsail. Most of the operations we do on our sailing boats have “Down stream” repucussions, in fact why else would we be doing then? There are a few that come to mind that can have immiediate effect on the safety of the crew or the boat itself, these include:

Where people are working on the boom, flaking the mainsail, adjusting the sail cover/bag or lazy jacks, it is imperative that the person who may be tidying the mainsheet and adjusting the traveller is also looking out for their team mates potentially hanging from the boom. There are many examples of this and they can have results ranging from the embarrassing to the expensive, Having your nose buried in an electronic navigation devise and not looking out at your environment can have very expensive consequences.

Having your nose buried in an electronic navigation devise and not looking out at your environment can have very expensive consequences.

There are innumerable other examples.

We have all got transfixed on the job we are doing at the expense of our awareness of what the down stream effects are, it is simple but easily forgotten. Again I am not critical of anyone but who can we honestly say that this is something they have not been guilty of?

Loosen up

Over the past few weeks I have been crewing on Michael Grove’s Jeanneau 379, “Agrovation” (Could this be the fastest 379 around? I’m sure Michael is sailing this thing way faster than its design parameters). Last week in light air Michael was getting frustrated that he could not get the boat up to speed, I was on the main and could sense his frustration.

Later on talking about the race and thinking about what we did, it was obvious that we had the boat tightened down too much. I had completely forgotten a rule drummed into me by some great sailors when I was learning – “When in doubt, Let it out”.

The crew on Agrovation that day were all very experienced sailors, most of them very accomplished dinghy (me excluded) sailors. We all forgot, keep it loose in the light!

When thinking about this it brought a few other recollections, I have experienced on many boats, trimmers that after they trim a sail they tighten it a bit more, almost as if there is something that says, well if we are going this fast with the sail pretty tight, we must go faster if it is a bit tighter. There will be many that don’t believe this, but keep a lookout and I’ll bet you’ll see it for your self at some stage.

Along the same lines, when we first took delivery of G-whizz, Rod Parry, the previous owner gave us the sage advise, sail her loose! Advise that some how found its way to the bottom of the filing cabinet we call our memory. Highlighted halfway through the twilight series last summer sailing season. We went from getting results in the bottom half of the fleet to achieving results near the top, the only difference was that we had a greater mix of females on the crew, without being sexist they lacked the testosterone of the opposite sex and were unable to get that final bit out of the winch. I probably state the obvious here, morevthan likely they used their brains and knew not to put that final bit into the winch. The looser halyards and regularly the looser sheeting gave us considerably more speed in the inevitable light twilight conditions.

Look up, look out and loosen up, the basics that we tend to forget when we try to overthink things.








Door handles tamed

I suspect that most sailboat owners have a deep affection for their boats, an affection so strong that certain undesirable characteristics of this maritime relationship are over looked, forgiven or just put up with because it’s part of the package. There must also be in some instances a characteristic that just needs to be put right, but in a sympathetic fashion.

One characteristic, that falls in the last category, with the Elan 340 are the door handles, these beautiful satin finished stainless steel items would do justice to an up market house, we are not too sure exactly why or how they found there way on to a 10 metre sailboat. These handles protrude from the door by more than five centimetres , weight about 350 grams each, and are more than just a nuisance, they can be dangerous. They were a characteristic that we could not put up with, but one that had to be rectified in a sympathetic fashion.

Like a lot of others we utilise the  V berth as a sail locker when racing, most of the time sails are removed and replaced via the forward hatch but on many occasions sails are passed through the saloon to and from the cockpit, inclement weather/sea conditions, loading or unloading before and after racing or after spinnaker repacking, inevitably the door handle would get tin the way.

From a personnel point of view these handles also posed a hazard, their shape and protrusion has caused a number of minor injuries, mostly bruising, but in a couple of instances something a little more  frightening.  Anyone familiar with the Elan 340, I suspect something that is in common with most modern sub 35 foot performance cruisers, would know that the room in the heads is a little restricted, when showering, the door handle can de quite a threat to bodily safety.

We have now replaced the beautiful Italian satin finished stainless steel Olivari handles with almost flush fitting circular units, also satin finished stainless steel, from a Chinese source. We hope that Elan will forgive us. Compare the handles in the following photographs.

Comparison: Original door handle and new flush (almost) handle.
Comparison: Original door handle and new flush (almost) handle.
Comparison: Original door handle and new flush (almost) handle.