Shawnee Yacht Club
Mark Marling's Race Blog


Orlando Webb regatta 2019 race report:

It has been awhile since I've written a regatta report. But then, It's been awhile since I did really well at a regatta. So here goes.

I arrived at Lake Lotawana Missouri Saturday about 8:00. Just enough time to launch the boat before the 9:00 shippers meeting. Met with some old friends and made some new ones. Thirty one boats were registered. Skippers hailed form New York, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Kansas and Missouri. A few of the locals are regulars on the midwinter circuit so there was a pretty good field of competitors.

Saturday's wind was from the West which isn't ideal on this L shaped lake with the E/W arm being the short one. Velocity ranged from my being in the middle of the boat to on the rail with the traveler eased a couple inches. Puffs coming down the lake but sometimes out of the coves. Keep looking for the dark water.

The left end of the line was favored as well as the left side of the course. Broke off the start line on port just below my sailmaker Bill. Fun fun. His presence makes me really concentrate on going fast just because he built my sail. We battled it out and somehow I prevailed. Second race was pretty much a duplicate of the first, then we broke for lunch of boxed Subway meals.

The first afternoon race was to be a short one as there was a possibility of thunderstorms popping up and the RC was going to try for two races. I went into the top mark about third but had to tack against a big starboard shift/puff and tacked back within three boat lengths the mark. After I cleared the mob I paid the penalty under great encouragement from Bob Jr. (Hint, the boat doesn't spin very well with the boards up.) Recovering in the short race wasn't to be so I finished eighth. Sure enough, a massive looking thunderhead popped up so we called it a day. Results after the first day found Bill leading me by two points with JP, Spencer, and Danny a few more points back.

Sitting around after the days activities MaryAnn passed around what I thought was a jar of peanuts the way everybody was downing them. It was ibuprofen.

Sunday dawned with a lighter wind, forecast to be from the North and possibly shifting Eastward. We were now racing on the longer arm of the lake but only using half of it so we could get in two short races. Bill and I were one/two going into the top mark until Spencer (local ace) came out of nowhere to round first. He did the same thing again on the second lap. But somehow I won with Bill second. He is still one point ahead. Just before the start a quick but short blast came in from the East, then went back to the North. The stronger wind was from the left, so that is where I went. Mistake, as the wind oscillated East for the first leg putting me in a big hole with Bill sitting on top of the fleet. I fought back up to finish fifth but Bill won the regatta with no races worse than third. Mr consistency.

More people should go to this regatta. The competition is always great. For $80 I received the registration, a BBQ dinner, two lunches, two brunches, and really nice polo shirt. Lotawna also provides free housing on the lake with club members. Gary, the regatta chair, had a wonderful crew of, I'm guessing, more than thirty. Accolades to the great PRO crew. (An experienced and competent crew led by Lisa. All very cute but protected by a rather large bouncer driving the RC boat.) Launch committee. Lunch committee. Spectator committee. "Refreshment" committee. Trophy committee. Scoring committee. Thanks to all. What a wonderful regatta that once again lived up to its reputation.

Mark. MC 1772

Cold water survival


This is a good time of year to bring the 1 - 10 - 1 rule for cold water survival front and center again.

"It is impossible to get hypothermic in cold water unless you are wearing flotation, because without flotation – you won't live long enough to become hypothermic."

The rule
* 1 minute to get panic and breathing under control
* 10 minutes of physical ability to save yourself
* 1 hour of consciousness left

and that is with a life jacket on. It is a good rule to remember. Here is a good video by the USCG Auxiliary

Cold water Boot Camp: The 1 - 10- 1 rule 

According to the experts, 40% of the cold water drownings occur within 6 feet of a dock or boat. 

The guy I found yesterday was only a few yards from the SYC main dock and probably would still be alive if he has been wearing a life jacket. 

Defining Moment


What is the "Defining Moment" in a yacht race?

Everything you do before this moment is preparation for it. Everything after it is in response to it. Understanding the importance of it gives meaning and direction to what you should be doing on the water. I've told you before about leverage, about the advantage of being on the correct tack, and about leading into the shift. The first shift after the start is the "defining moment" because it has all these. And it is the first shift.
Why should you look at the weather map?
Why should you be on the water early?
Why should you check out the lake geography?
Why should you check out the starting line bias?
Why must you have a great start?
All so you can lead into the first shift.
Hit the first shift first and everyone else is playing catch up. As you will be if its not you.
OK you missed it. Now what?
Get on the correct tack.
Get in the power.
Try to leverage for the next shift.
Hope the leader makes a mistake.

Three lessons plus one


A guest blog from our newest member.

Yesterday, I took part in a Sweet-16 boat race at Lake Quivira in Kansas City.  It was beautiful weather with a moderate-to-fresh breeze on a lovely lake under a clear sky. Our hosts were fantastic and the race committee from the National Sweet-Sixteen Sailing Association was impressively organized.  My goal for this, my first event away from my home port, was to watch the other sailors, do what they did, and not tip the boat.  Instead, on the third leg of the first race, I capsized and turtled my boat with the top of the mast in the muddy bottom of the lake.  So, it was not a “successful” race, but it was a memorable one and one that taught me some valuable, basic, novice lessons.  Thinking about the experience, I have come up with three things that I will now do differently:
  1. From now on I will always wear my life vest.  This lesson is about the best use of my energy. When my boat went over, I didn’t have my life vest on.  On my way around the stern to get to the centerboard, the tiller unshipped and I caught it, and then could not do anything other than hold on to the boat and tiller to keep myself afloat until the rescue boat arrived.  Once it arrived, I fetched my vest out from under the boat and struggled to get it on.  I never felt in danger of drowning, but I spent a lot of energy keeping myself afloat that I could have used for dealing with the situation. One of the committee members had to get in the water and do the lion’s share of the work of getting the boat upright.  If I had had a life vest on, I would have expended much less energy staying afloat and navigating in the water.  By the time boat was upright, I was completely exhausted and still had to bale a boat full of water. Life vests keep you afloat so you don’t have to tread water.  Even if the situation is not life-threatening, there is no reason not to take advantage of the vest.
  2. From now on I will always tie down my rudder.  Rudders on S16s are held in place by gravity. Unlike my own boat, the borrowed boat I was using for the race did not have a hole through the pintle for a cotter pin.  Instead, it relied on a small latch above the top pintle.  When I hit the water, I knew what I had to do.  I first checked that my crew was ok and then dashed around the stern to the bottom of the boat to grab the centerboard and lever the boat back upright.  But that latch above the rudder’s pintle opened and the rudder dropped.  Instead of getting to the centerboard, I had to catch my rudder.  I knew that a turtled boat is eventually recoverable but a rudder on the bottom of the lake is not. As I grabbed it, got it under control, and steadied myself, I watch helplessly as the boat completed its roll and the centerboard dropped back into the centerboard trunk.  Never again.  I’m not even relying on the cotter pin on my own boat.  I am going to learn the best way to tie the rudder to the boat so I don’t have to deal with it no matter what.
  3. I need to be stronger.  As I say, it takes a lot of energy to deal with a capsized boat, including pulling myself around, pulling myself up, levering the boat on the centerboard, baling the water, and fixing the rigging.  Once the centerboard was down, someone had to go under boat to pivot it back up.  I simply did not have the strength do all that.  I don’t need to be a bodybuilder but, at the minimum, I need to be able to pull the weight of my body up by my arms.  So today I rigged a pull-up bar and am starting a light strength-training regimen.
But you may be scratching your head that these are my top three lessons and not one of them deals with not tipping my boat over.  I have two responses to that: firstly, sailboats tip over.  It is an event that has happened to most experienced sailors.  While it can be dangerous, it is typically just an embarrassing inconvenience. However, the reason I tipped over is something I need to address.  I arrived that morning with the goal of just watching and learning.   But that goal had shifted dangerously at the time I capsized. I was last in line in the race but was within a hair’s-breadth of maybe overtaking a friend of mine in the next boat ahead of me. We were sailing with a 10-15 knot wind on our beam, all of us leaning back on the rail.   In that moment, with that goal, I did not let off the mainsail sheet when I should have, which was ridiculous.

I was the most novice sailor on the lake.  I had never sailed under those conditions. My two sons were crewing and had no previous experience crewing a S16--they had only crewed boats with one sail and two daggerboards. Each tack and jibe was a lesson in coordination and patience.  It was entirely appropriate that I be last in line and I should have been focussed entirely on managing the fundamentals.  If I had simply finished last, everyone would have patted me on the back, congratulated me on finishing under difficult conditions, and I would have learned a lot.  As it was, I let ego get the best of me.

So, I am more experienced for the experience.  I did get to enjoy a beautiful race, even if mostly as a spectator, and it was a great social event.  My sons performed well both in and out of the water and they are safe.  I really enjoyed our time together and I hope I'll be able to coax them back into a boat soon.  I thank God that we are all unharmed.  Next time on the water, I'll have my vest on, my rudder secure, I'll be stronger, and I'll focus on simply doing the best that I can.

Jason Gilbert

There I was when---


---when I learned "this" about sailing. This is my progression of learnings about sailing and sailboat racing. Yours will be different but I've found these things important to me in my growth as a sailboat racer. They are listed in order of my discovery. One of my favorite stories is of the guy who bought a boat, got a tutor and won an Olympic bronze medal in only three years. Being self taught, I've taken much longer and have no gigantic wins to show for it. There are no secrets. Sometimes we don't see things and sometimes we won't acknowledge that our way is wrong. So here goes.

When i learned about the importance of balancing the boat? I don't really know but I remember moving the mast forward on my first C scow 5 inches in 1963. Right off the below deck support. Had to move it back about an inch but the balance wasn't quite as good. Your rudder is a brake, balance the helm.

When I learned the importance of being on the correct tack for the wind you are in. Maybe late 60s on Lake Shawnee beating toward the South on the East side of the lake and seeing club champ Jolly Walker on the West side. We were both pointing at the windward mark but on different tacks. It clicked that one heading was always better no matter which tack you are on. Sometimes a lot better. Often you can see boats going across the lake when, if they tacked, they would be progressing directly toward the mark. Racing is a geometry game.

When I learned that a good start was critical. Pewaukee Wisconsin with a fleet of 105 C scows. On the correct tack all the time but finished about 75th. The next two years I devoted myself exclusively to learning how to get a good start. First boats off the line have first choice of where to go, full strength wind, undisturbed wind direction, and no waves from other boats to climb. Late starters ( EVEN BY A FEW INCHES) get the leftovers. THE START IS HALF THE RACE. The MOST IMPORTANT 10 minutes BY FAR.

When I learned to be on the correct side of the shift. Lake Lotawana crossing tacks with Jerry Huse, a multi time national champ. We went left, Jerry went right (when two boats cross one of you is always wrong). The wind went right and we dropped to about 20th. We stayed on the left half of the lake expecting the wind to come back. It did and we moved up to about 10th. Then we stayed on the right side waiting for the next shift. It came and we moved up to about 5th. (*1) Further gains were harder to come by as the big boys don't make as many mistakes. If you can lead into the shift you make monster gains. Racing is a geometry game. By the way, the boats ahead are great wind direction indicators. Use them to position yourself for the wind when it will get to you. Sail toward the expected shift. Don't wait for it, go to it!

Some where in the 70s we became meticulous about matching the sail to the mast and balancing the boat. And we became fast. You can be a little sloppy in your decisions if you know the boat is fast. Actually, when you know the boat is fast, you can get your head out of the boat and make better decisions because Racing a geometry game.

When I learned to consolidate. Actually. looking back, I should have learned this much sooner. It finally sank in while reading Buddy Melges' book. When you have a temporary gain because the wind has temporarily shifted your way, take your gain by tacking toward or crossing the other boats. The first and most important time to do this is usually within 5 minutes of the start. This move solidifies you among the race leaders. Anytime you have a gain (these are usually temporary) pocket it by consolidating. Often you don't cross, but you should always close the gap if behind. Racing is a geometry game.

When I learned about steering in waves. I havent' learned this yet. I still have trouble going upwind in big waves but seem to do OK going down wind.

The winners win because they do the correct things. If someone is consistently beating you they are doing something right and you are doing something wrong. Find out what it is and correct it.

Sailing is a geometry game. But you have to go fast.

(*1) Great tip for sailing on Lake Lotawana. Since the lake is so narrow, you can't hold one tack until the wind shifts, so stay on that half of the lake until the wind shifts then go to the other side for the next shift. Left shift, left half. Right shift, right half. This assumes you know how the wind is phasing. If you suddenly find yourself down the tubes, you were on the wrong side of the lake for the shift. Now you know the phasing and what to do about it.

Why you should sail the tack pointing closer to the mark


Theoretically it is the same distance from A to the mark But after four minutes the boat sailing the tack pointing closer to the mark actually is closer. When the wind shifts (not IF) our boat sailing away from the mark is stuck in left field while the boat that sailed the close tack has magically moved way up. She may look faster but it was geometry. Keep your bow on the tack pointing closer to the mark.

Orlando Webb Memorial MC Regatta 2015 Report


Seldom does one get to relive some of the great memories from their youth. I got to do just that last week at the MC regatta on Lake Lotawana.

I first raced on Lake Lotawana as a skipper in 1964. Neighborhood friend Fred Magerkurth crewed for me. We sailed against about 40 other C scows in ridiculously high winds. 80% of the fleet was unable to finish all the races. Our first Lotawana regatta win was in the late 70s, forty years ago. Our last Lotawana regatta win was, drum roll please, this year. Yea! What a trip.

The conditions were perfect for us. Winds were forecast to be 15 gusting to 20 out of the North. At about 14 MPH with just me on the boat, I have all the controls maxed out. Winds above that and I'm going into survival mode. Adding a second crew makes the boat comfortable to about 20 MPH. Choosing to use my Guss sail, which is slightly flatter, put us right in the sweet spot on boat performance. We balanced the helm by adjusting the boards up slightly, dropped the traveler maybe three inches and kept the boat nearly flat. Using the "ease hike sheet" technique we were able to keep the boat powered up and had great speed and drive.

Next important item was getting a good start. I like to be at the pin end with about 2 minutes to go. Sailing on Port tack against the hord of Starboard tack boats gives me great flexibility in finding a hole to start in. This worked well in five of the six races. In the third race the fleet was just all jumbled up with no hole developing and nobody really moving up towards the line in some sort of dash to start. We didn't start poorly but it wasn't our finest start. The start of the last race was really interesting. I was going to be early and was starting to look for some way to bail out. Looking left there was no one there! I turned back down and then back up. Had great speed and came off the line with an easy boat length lead that soon grew to three or four. If you roll off the starting line well, there are only a half dozen boats to race. Just like at Lake Shawnee.

So now you are rolling off the line what do you do? Half or more of the fleet will be killing themselves with backwind or poor positions. Wait a while and most will drop back leaving only a hand full of boats to deal with. Remember, it's a geometary game. The lead boats are usually taking the long tack first. Now it is consolidate consolidate consolidate. Every time the angles favor you consolidate. At Lake Lotawana with its lots of gusts and shifts, there are many opportunities to consolidate. Or be consolidated on if you are not looking.

One last thing. Leverage. When boats are separated laterally on the course, a small shift has a great effect. In the fourth race we were in second place with some gap back to the rest of the fleet. Because we could afford to lose some space we placed our boat well to the side needing only a slight shift to move us past the lead boat. We got it and won. That all sounds great but there were several times when I shouldn't have let others get out to the side on me and it cost me some places. There are times when I need to be conservative.

Another "one last thing". Lotawna runs a great regatta. It takes a LOT effort to put on a high class regatta like the Orlando Webb Memorial. Competitor housing, registration, scorekeeping, race committee, rescue and safety, communications, food and beverage, entertainment, treasury, building and grounds. Great job by a well oiled team.

Lotawana Fall Regatta Report


Here is my race report from the Lake Lotawana Fall C Scow regatta. The wind forecast for Saturday was for winds building into the upper teens with gusts into the low twentys. We were sailing a boat we had never seen before and had only sailed a "C"scow one other time in the last dozen years. That is my excuse for going slow. Like I always say "sailboat races are a geometry game, but you have to go fast".

We were late getting to the starting line for the first race (Saturday AM), arriving at the boat end as the one minute gun fired. We moved on down the line toward the pin, behind the second or third row of boats. The starting gun went and we still were behind the fleet and not yet at the pin. We continued on and then crossed the line on port at the pin, maybe 15 seconds late. The wind shifted left and we were suddenly in 1st place. Rounded the weather mark third and dropped nine more boats by the finish. The Lee's Summit airport reported winds over twenty, gusting to 33 MPH. Fred and I were a just a little light at 320 lbs.

We were not able to find a third crew for the second and third races so we withdrew before the start. Five others chose not to race either. We decided we didn't need to beat ourselves up and risk breaking borrowed equipment so we joined the Lotawana Homes Tour in progress.

Fourth race (Sunday AM) had a heavily favored right end with a predominately one tack (starboard) beat. The fleet set up early and we were able to sneak in next to the eventual regatta winner at the boat end. Lead off the starting line, rounded 3rd, dropped 3 more boat and finished 6th.

Last race, Same set up as race 4. The fleet set up late and we got squeezed out at the boat end. Circled around and started last. Our choices were to follow the fleet or take a short tack away from the mark and hope for some leverage and a shift. We worked the right side and picked up a few boats upwind. Picked up a few more down wind. Picked up a few more upwind. Finished 9th.

Saturday we never could get the helm to lighten up in the high winds even with the "hair cut" sail. When you are fighting the boat you are not making correct decisions.

Sunday the boat felt much better with the light-medium sail. We over rotated the mast and the helm was much lighter. One major problem tho, the rudder was continually trailing a string of bubbles. Looked like a motor boats exhaust. If it was my boat I'd spend some major time finding out just what caused that and fix it. The rudder doesn't have as much effect in air as it does in water.


MC Scow Invitational Regatta report


Just a quickie regatta report about the MC invitational regatta held last weekend at Lake Okoboji, and then some thoughts on what worked and what didn't.

The wind on Friday was, well, windy.  Saturday had no wind and was raining (no sailing) and Sunday had winds of 5-8 MPH.
We broke our goose neck before the first race and missed it and the second race.  Repaired in time for the third race we had a port start on the left end.  The recall was sounded and the VHF said recall so we turned back.  Some spectators informed us that it was not a general recall and the race was still on, so we resumed racing.  (The boat we beat at the start finished second.)  We had some other equipment issues with the port board being stuck up and finished near last.  Fourth race (first race Sunday) I snuck into the start line and stole someone's great start.  Fun!  Rounding 3rd-4th at all marks but finishing 7th.  Last race I knew my start was toast so I bailed out early.  Starting down the line taking a port tack into clear air (but not much velocity) I salvaged a mid fleet start.  Working the shifts, consolidating, and staying in the stronger wind, I was able to recover to finish 8th.  That is about where I expected to finish for the regatta, so I'm not too disappointed.

OK.  Here is what worked.  These are things you have to do.  1) Get clear air at the start, ASAP.  2) Stay in the dark water.  3) Sail on the tack with the advantageous angles against your competitors.  If in doubt of your advantage, be on the tack that will take you closer to the mark.  4) Consolidate any gains you may have before you loose your advantage.  5) Go low on the runs when you can.  6) Power up to slice thru the severe motor boat chop.

Here is what didn't work.  1) Tacking up the middle trying to play the angles against both sides.  I should have picked the side to attack that had the regatta leaders on it.  The fleet tends to split going upwind on a WL course with a mile beat on big water.  Go with the long tack or favored side and stick to it.  Don't be chasing from side to side.  2) I like to tack and then wait for the strong wind to come to me.  Bad move in light wind as the boat is slow and it may take a while for the wind to get to you.

Fun, fun!

Common Situations That Will Happen Many Times Each Race


I repeat "COMMON SITUATIONS".  "HAPPEN MANY TIMES EACH RACE".  Please let this sink in!

You are beating up the right side of the lake on port tack.  Tony is beating up the left side of the lake, also on port tack, but he is pointing higher than you.
a) curse your bad luck
b) hope the wind will soon change in your favor
c) hope Tony tips over
d) tack

Similar situation but you are pointing higher than Tony.
a) congratulate yourself on being so smart
b) hope this lasts
c) hope Tony doesn't notice
d) tack

The answer in the first case is d) tack.  Tony is making out on you to the tune of maybe one boat length in five sailed.  You best cut your loss and go get in Tony's wind.

The answer in the second case is c) hope Tony doesn't notice.  If he does notice, he will tack and then he will be gaining the one length in five mentioned above.

You have got to watch the angles you and your competitors are sailing. 
Somebody is ALWAYS gaining and someone is ALWAYS losing.
It is a game of distance, not speed.

Two boats are crossing on opposite tacks.  One of you is going the correct way and the other IS NOT. This is always true.
Who is going the correct way?
a) Tony
b) whoever is pointing closest to the mark.

In the third case, the boat pointing closest to the mark is 1) closing the distance to the mark for an equivalent time sailed, and 2) is less effected by any change in wind direction.

Sailing is a geometry game.

Mark's MC Tuning Theory


Entering my third year of sailing the MC, I think I've deciphered how you are supposed to tune it up. I reserve the right to change my mind without notice. Here goes.

Low wind. That is not enough wind to bend the mast. The straight mast makes the sail have too much curve at the luff (you can't point) and too tight a leach (cupping to windward choking the boat). Here is how I try to overcome these defects. Slightly over tighten the outhaul to open the lower leach, and move the traveler out so the boom is on the aft corner. These adjustments will make the leach parallel to the centerline of the boat.

Medium wind. Any wind that lets the sail assume its designed shape. The mast will bend, and we can trim all the sail controls too much or too little. Here is what I do. Pull the outhaul and downhaul until there are no wrinkles coming of the spars. Trim the traveler and main sheet to make the leach parallel to the boat centerline. Too lose and you are not using all the power, too tight and you are choking the sail. You will be continually adjusting the leach tension with the main sheet.

Heavy wind. You are over powered. Now you are on the rail and having trouble keeping the angle of heel to less than 20 degrees. The sail has more wind than the boat can use. Reduce power by over stretching the controls. Outhaul to open the lower leach. Downhaul to open the upper leach. Vang to over bend the mast, flattening the lower front part of the sail. Ease the main sheet to twist off the top of the sail (controlling the angle of heel). The main sheet is now your primary control of the angle of heel.

In all conditions. Align the sail to the wind. (Your indication is the sail tell tails.)
Maintain 15-20 degrees of heel. (Leeward board should be nearly vertical.)
Balance the helm by raising/lowering the boards. (The indicator is the tiller position.)
Ease/Hike/Sheet in the puffs. Even little ones. (Accelerate the boat, don't point.)

Thoughts on the Orlando Webb MC Scow Regatta at Lake Lotawana


With 44 boats on a narrow 1/4 mile wide lake, getting a good start was critical. Maybe I should say that getting an excellent start was imperative. With the lake only 1300 feet wide and the starting line only 700 feet long (44 boats @16ft) using the 5,4,1 go start sequence, there wasn't much time or room to maneuver for a good line position. Normally I like to be at the pin end on port tack sailing against the grain. This allows me to pick a good spot and then tack into it. If the fleet is setting up early, I will go behind them for my position. If the fleet is setting up late, I will tack in front of them. I usually try to avoid the ends of the line even if they are favored because of the jam ups. Only one boat will get the ideal start. My start somewhat farther down the line is "safe" but still puts me in with the lead group that gets away clean. So, here is what I did. I've read about others using this technique but I never tried it myself.
I positioned myself near the center of the line and about 50 yards ahead of it. I was then free to look up the lake for puffs and back at the line to see how the fleet was setting up. Paula Martin, the race chairman, always sets up true starting lines so I didn't have to worry about line bias, just where I wanted to be after the starting gun. Paula also had the 1 minute rule in effect, so if you were on the course side of the start after 1 minute to go you had to round the ends, greatly ruining any chance for a good start. At about 2 minutes to go, I would judge where I wanted to start and how the fleet was setting up. Then crossing the line in reverse with about 1:30 remaining, I would tack into my hole and position myself for the gun.

Another thing I like to do is to sight from the committee boat flag across the pin flag and get a transit sight on shore. That way, when I'm nearing the start line I can sight across the pin to the shore transit to see if I'm over the start line. Couldn't do this with so many boats and such a long line. Here is what I did. Point your bow at the pin. Standing in the center of your boat facing forward, look between your legs over the rudder. If your rudder is behind the committee flag, you are not over the line. Feels stupid but it works.

Regatta results: Danny Ziegler was fast (1st), Jeff Surles was smart (2nd) and good starts kept me in the game (3rd).

BTW: for some interesting aerial views, google Jim Martin Lake Lotawana on you tube. Neat videos taken from his drone camera. Look for me on 1068.

Things to look for when trying to improve upwind boat speed


 Part 1:   Bend the wind.  The wind should be intercepted by the sail and bent to exit along the center line of the boat.  Basically, the leach of the sail should nearly parallel the center line of the boat.  If the leach is "open", the wind will not be bent as much as it could be and you will not be getting full power from it.  If the leach is "closed", the wind may be bent to much windward with the aft section of the sail actually slowing the boat down.  The problem is that the top might be "open" and the bottom might be "closed". 

 The top is controlled by the main sheet tension and the bottom is controlled by the out haul and traveler.  A too tight main sheet might hook the upper leach to weather.  Too loose and you will not be getting all the power out of the top of your sail.  Your indicator is the ribbon flying off the top batten.  It should flow most of the time, maybe 50%.  100% flow means that your sail needs to be sheeted in more.  0% means that you have sheeted in too much.  Every little puff will change the flow.  Constantly be adjusting your main sheet.

 Too little out haul will hook the lower leach to weather.  This will create more power but also will increase weather helm.  Sometimes when the sail looks good you may need to let the traveler out slightly so the sail won't cup so much to windward.  This assumes that you have pulled the out haul to remove all the vertical wrinkles along the boom.

 Part 2:  Balance the boat.  Your rudder is a brake.  It should follow the boat.  Your indicator is the angle the tiller makes with the center line of the boat.  It should never be more than 2 inches off center.  Cocking the boards up or down will adjust the pressure on the rudder.  You should be able to steer with thumb and first finger.  The other thing that affects the helm is the angle of heel.  The MC scow must be kept nearly flat.  Some say 15-20 degrees angle of heel.  Definitely keep the rail out of the water and the lee board nearly vertical.  Lets assume you have a 45 degree heel.  Your rudder is now lifting the stern out of the water instead of turning the boat.  Big, big, drag.  Keep the boat nearly flat.

 Finally, when a puff hits, you may have to ease the sheet a little.  But don't let the boat heel.

How to Properly Pass Thru a Puff


The normal reaction to a puff while going upwind is to luff into it while keeping the sails strapped in tight. (It is what I have been practicing since I was 10 years old.) The theory is that you can make some distance to windward because you are pointing higher. The big downside of this is that (1)the boat looses speed as it turns, and (2)the sail loses power while operating at the much smaller angle of attack. Then you have to (3)regain the speed you lost by easing the sheet a little and bearing off a little after the puff passes. You can loose a lot of speed for little or no gain to windward.

Here is a better way. You just skip the luffing up, then the heading down, Go straight to just easing the sheet. This works in both light and heavy winds.

When a puff hits, do this:
¦ The sheet hand moves to leeward. (To depower the top of the sail.)
¦ The tiller hand moves very slightly to leeward. (Maybe 2") (Because all puffs lift slightly.)
¦ The body moves to windward. (To balance the boat.)

The boat will (1)not loose its speed by turning and (2)the sail will increase its drive while (3)reducing healing.

The basic routine is that, to stop the boat's healing, your two hands will start moving in the same direction as the masthead is moving, while your body will start moving in the other direction. Don't be surprised that once you have the feel for it, only relatively small hand movements will be necessary to keep the boat moving steadily and upright through a puff.

Try this in lighter winds to become used to it. Make the boat roll back and forth when you want it to. Move both hands simultaneously to leeward to make the boat roll more upright, and vice versa. Use small movements until you get the feel for it.

When you encounter puffs in really strong winds, stay hiked out, but do not luff into the gusts. Maintain your heading, and ease the sheet to keep the boat upright. The biggest difference between sailing in light winds, and in strong winds, is that in the lighter winds, the body moves while the sheet movement needed is small, while in the stronger winds, the body is already at full hike and the sheet movement needed becomes much greater. Try it, you'll like it!

When to "hold" and when to "fold"


If someone told you how you could gain one boat length on your competition every five seconds, would you be interested? What could you possibly do to have such boat speed? The answer isn't with boat speed – it's just not possible in one-design classes. The answer is in playing the angles.

The wind blowing to your boat is seldom from the same direction as it is blowing to another boat. Because the angle is different, the course made good is different. Boats on the same tack are frequently on converging or diverging courses. (Opposite tacks, too. You just have to factor in the 90 degree tacking angle.) When you see the different courses, one of you is making "ground" on the other. A five degree course difference is about equal to a five percent speed difference. The actual speed differences between fast boat and slow boat are less that that. The wind direction in Kansas moves thru about twenty degrees. Imagine the "speed" difference that can make if you are diverging by 20 degrees!

Get your head out of the boat – look around to watch the course the boats make because they are constantly changing. What is their angle in relation to yours? You can see what the wind is doing to your boat in relation to those you're sailing against. Observing the angles tell you if you should "hold" or "fold" (tack).



Boy did we have fun Sunday! Well, some of us did. It might have been frustrating for some others. There was a major foul up at the start of the second race. Port end favored. Chuck hit the mark. Chuck hit Tony. I almost hit them both. Looked like it should be a general recall. The starting horn going off. All of us were wondering what was going on, just milling around in a state of confusion. Finally, it started looking like the race was proceeding without us. (The horns were for the next fleet.) "Racing" to catch up with Zach, who lead around the first mark. Down wind Tony and I were able to catch Zach, with Chuck close behind. I would lead. Tony would lead. Zach would lead. An epic battle!. It looked like Tony would round first but I was inside him, with Zach inside me. Chuck was closing up fast. Here Zach made a mistake by not heading up to protect his wind. I passed him to windward and passed him back to Tony who passed
him back to Chuck. End of Zach. End of race.
In the third race, Tony broke free and picked all the shifts correctly. I picked about half of them. Tony lead around the last mark and took the long tack toward the finish. Game over as it was a one leg tack to the finish. I followed dutifully behind. EXCEPT, that right at the finish, the wind shifted strongly to the right lifting me up almost even with Tony. At the finish line, I gambled with a sharp luff and nosed out Tony. This has never worked for me before and may never work again. Tony must be really frustrated about that one.


Sailing Instruction for Zach B.


You can learn three important things from a simple "head to wind" at the starting line.  Here is the procedure.
Go head to wind at the starting line with your boom down the center line and your sails flapping.  First, as you coast to a stop, look left and right along your traveler.  One end should be aimed below the committee boat or the buoy.  That is the "favored" end of the line, and it is easy to see by how much.  Now, look straight forward along the center line of your boat.  You should notice two more important things.  One is, which side of the windward mark your boat is pointing to.  Say, for example, that it points to the left of the mark.  This tells you that the left (port) tack is the "long" tack.  Second, you should notice which side of the course has the stronger wind.  This tells you where you need to go for max power.  Now you know all the factors necessary to determine your race strategy.  Which end is favored,  which tack is the most favorable and which side is favored and.  Now all you have to do is make a plan and execute it. 

Wednesday Evening "Race" Report


I usually think of a race as a speed event. The wind didn't blow today and the forecast was for no wind this evening so I told my grandson there wouldn't be any races today. But I went to the club for the fellowship anyway. Well Chuck and Doug showed up as did Don the race committee. So, inspite of no wind, we decided to try for a "race".

With about 30 seconds until the start, Chuck and Doug were coming in on starboard. I tacked in front of Chuck hoping to slow him down and take the start. Couldn't do it so I was about 5 seconds early. The HUGE advantage of winning the start is that you have first choice of which tack to be on and where to go for the best wind. Chuck had first choice and chose well. Doug had second choice and chose to follow Chuck. I had third choice. The windward mark was sitting in a calm spot with the breeze on both sides of it. I gambled the right side was as good as the left and so went that way. Not only was I wrong, but I had both boards up and so made no progress at all. Increasing my deficit, I rounded a distant third.

Down wind. Usually in a dying wind the boats ahead just keep getting further ahead. I tried to stay in the "stronger" part of the wind and jibed back and forth from broad reach to broad reach. Somehow I managed to narrow the gap on the other two boats.

Doug passed Chuck and rounded first. He and Chuck took the longer tack first toward the finish line. Normally this is the smart move. I gambled with a short tack away from the finish line into the stronger wind and then tacked for the finish line. It actually paid off! I passed Chuck and crossed the line only a few seconds behind Doug.

Mistakes I've Made This Year (so far)


Going into the top mark at the Nationals this year, positioned in the top 10, I hit the mark (1). Re rounding instead of doing a 360(2) cost me about 20 boat places. I should have continued on, and then done a 360 penalty turn. Probably would have only cost maybe 5 places.

Not recognizing that the boat was slowing down in increasing wind. Because I was still able to hold it down and point high, I thought I was OK (Lottawana and Nationals). Probably cost me 4 to 8 boat lengths per mile. Trying to point high in light winds will also slow you down. The solution is to ease your sheet or traveler and bear off a little. In high wind also move your board back a little. Everything just works better if you have a little speed.

Going down wind and not remembering that the wind seems to travel in lanes. Some lanes are faster than others. If you are not in the fast lane, get there. One recent race (yesterday) I was passed by two boats who were in the fast lane. Then they moved over in front of me! I then moved over into the now vacant fast lane and was able to pass them back. If you can see the puffs, go get in them. Sometimes, even when you can't see the puffs, there is still a fast lane. If you see the other boats going faster, get over there.

OK, this one is a little tougher for me to diagnose. In light air, nearly laying the windward mark, boats are lifting out on your weather quarter. Do you hold on hoping their wind will fade? I usually do. Bad decision. One race at Lottawana cost me seven places, another cost me two places. Several races here at Shawnee this year I've lost places when this happened. The solution is to swallow your pride and cut your losses and go get into the better wind.

Miscellaneous thoughts:
When ever two boats cross upwind, one of them is going the wrong way.
If you don't know which tack is the correct tack, be on the tack pointing you closer to the mark.
The wind is seldom from a uniform direction.
If two boats are 100 yards apart, and the wind shifts 10 degrees, the gain (or loss) is a staggering 25 yards.
Keep checking the angles you are making with the angles of the other boats.
Always consolidate your gains when you can. Or cut your losses (don't hold on to a looser thinking it will come back).
It's a geometry game. (But you got to go fast.)



Just yesterday I read that "experience is the best teacher only if it's somebody else's experience". Well here goes. In my never ending quest to improve my sailing skills, I've spent a lot of time this month improving my capsizing ability. I've been over four different ways so far this month, the previously mentioned "slow roll over" and the "79 MPH slam dunk". Now just this week I've added two more ways to get wet. First is the quick tack where you can't get the main sheet uncleated and you get stuck under the boom. You just sort of back into the water buns first. The second method, practiced last evening, is a little more complicated. One of the ways to go fast is the "ease-hike sheet" method for dealing with puffs. When a puff hits, you quickly ease the sheet, hike hard, and then pull the sheet back in. All done very quickly. The problem arises when some how you accidentally loop the main sheet and pull the loop thru a block. Then, when you go to "ease-hike-sheet", you can't ease. You just tip over. One other problem with both of these methods is that you can't right the boat with the sail sheeted in and "cleated". You've got to get wet. Come on out! The water is fine.

Winds Today


Winds today were more normal. Not a drifter and not 79MPH. But they were shifty and gusty. Direction varied from the southwest to northwest and velocity from maybe 7 to about 20. The first race sailed to the SW had a very shifty puffy start. I crossed the line in fourth out of five boats. The shifts and puffs kept you guessing which tack to be on. By doing nothing I rounded the windward mark second behind Tony. I challenged a few times but couldn't get by. The second race, sailed to the NW had me in the lead until I turned over. I caught Tony and Chuck at the down wind mark in a big puff. Jibing wide, I crossed inside of them (they were too close to the mark before they jibed) to take the lead. I finished first but had touched the flag so give me a third. The last race had me in the lead until Tony blew by on the downwind. Going upwind, I thought I might be able to force him way past the lay line and beat him back to the finish. But it wasn't to be as Tony was able to tack and cross and lead to the finish. Maybe if I had tacked back sooner? Lots of close racing. Shift picking on the beat and puff chasing on the runs, overlapped mark roundings and side by side finishes. Many thanks to Mike Gorman and that cute babe he brought along as race committee.

Don Was Right


I've been thinking of a grabber headline for today's blog. I think this will be it. "Don Towle misses extreme wind forecast by 4 MPH." Remember when Don said that the wind seemed to be increasing exponentially and the next blow would be 75 MPH? Well, it happened! WIBW reported straight line winds of 60 MPH blowing down trees and snapping power lines. The newspaper reported semi trucks being blown over on highway 75. Forbes weather recorded gusts of 79 MPH!! DON MISSED HIS FORECAST BY 4 MPH. Of course the evening didn't start out that windy. The first and only race was in winds of about 5 MPH. Mark lead off the line but Tony drove over him to windward, winning the race. Don, with race committee of Adeline, granddaughter Marie, and my wife Linda, sounded the 3 minute horn for the second race. We didn't get to the 2 minute horn before the wind blew in. I saw that the wind was increasing but there were no white caps yet. Even so, I decided to put on my life jacket. Bam! The boat blew over throwing me into the water. Not even time to start climbing to the high side. I looked and Tony and Chuck had blown over too. This was not good. I was able to right the boat but it blew right back over. I got it up again, and again it blew over. The third time it just wasn't coming up. I looked up the lake and it was white. Tony turtled. Chuck turtled. I blew into the shore. The committee boat was rocking in 4 foot waves. Marie was crying and praying. Linda was having thoughts of being on the Whippoorwill at Lake Pomona. To cut this really short, everybody was rescued and boats were retrieved. Today's lesson? Listen to Don, and wear a life jacket.

Beautiful Sailing Conditions Today!


We had beautiful sailing conditions today! Winds out of the (mostly) north at maybe 4 to 12 MPH. Except for the start of the third race. Five boats raced. First race. Tony got off the line well and picked all the right shifts. Leaving me with the not as desirable second choice. Tony lead the whole first lap but on the second upwind he let me get off to the side. Mistake. If boats are 100 yards apart, and the wind shifts 10 degrees, the boat on the shift side will gain a whopping 25 yards! I only needed about 4 boat lengths to be back in the game. In the second race, we were all going up the left side of the lake while the wind was slowly shifting right. As Tony reached the shore he had to tack out against the shift. Next, Doug had to do the same. I, however got really lucky. As I neared the shore, the wind continued to shift lifting me all the way up to the mark on a single tack. For the start of the third race there was zero wind. Race committee Don Towle blew the three minute horn while I was sitting directly behind the committee boat. At the two minute horn, I was still there. At the one minute horn I was still there. We were all on a port reach looking at the black water coming down the lake when the race started. Tony hit the lay line first with me just below him. This put him in a vulnerable position because with a lift he would over stand and with a knock he would have to tack again. There was a lift and I was able to sneak inside of him and round first. Many people think sailing is all luck or man vs. nature or some other esoteric idea. It's a geometry game.

Weather Forecasts


The "accuweather" forecast for Sunday was winds of 5MPH with gusts of 8MPH. I think they misplaced the decimal point. Winds were more like .5 to .8 MPH. On the way out to the start of the first race, Chuck and Mark sailed a complete 360 degree circle while on the same tack. Tony lead off the line in the first race. Going into the windward mark he was on a port tack while Mark was on his stern on a starboard run.

Tony rounded first and then Mark couldn't lay the mark on port tack. Are you getting the drift of today’s races? Tony was the first to find a major hole so Mark won. In the second race, Chuck lead off the starting line an found the hole so Mark won again. Actually, condolences should go to the family of Brian Turnbull as he found a major major hole and was never seen again. Race committee Don Towle says that the wind on the high velocity days seems to be increasing factorily, so we should expect winds of 75 MPH for our next scheduled race. See you there!

More on Average Wind Velocity


Keeping up with our average wind velocity of 12 MPH, it blew 25-30 today, offsetting the Sunflower games of 1-2 MPH. Wind at the start today was maybe 10-12 but quickly grew to where there were major white caps at the #2 mark. Zach Bures (with Chuck Towle crewing) was just a little early at the start letting Mark and Tony get away clean. Tony took the favored lull on port to get to the west side of the lake. Mark was slow to catch on but quickly tacked to port to chase Tony. Tony tacked back to Starboard in the puff with Mark still on Port. Whenever two boats cross, one of them is going the wrong way, and it was me. So I tacked back to starboard in front of Tony. Barely laying the mark, I rounded in a major puff, screaming off toward the golf course. Looking back, I saw that Tony had capsized giving me some breathing room but I was still heading for the golf course. Discretion being the watchword and having some space between me and Zach, I chicken jibed. Tony capsized again. Zach and Chuck were screaming up behind but on the wrong jibe. Chuck, however, wasn't chicken and found a "lull" to jibe in. He made it! Rounding the downwind mark in the lead, I did one of those slow blow over capsizes. Chuck sailed by hollering that he was done. Since he had to pass the finish line on his way to the dock, he won. I was second and Tony third. Zach said that he had never had so much fun on a sailboat!

The weather bureau said the peak gusts Wednesday were 38 MPH. They didn't say what time of day but I think it must have been between 7:00 and 7:15 PM

Average Wind Velocity


I've figured out how Kansas gets its average wind of 12 MPH. It either blows 0 or it blows 24, average 12 MPH. According to the wind stats, the velocity at 3 PM was 18 gusting to 26. Before the start of the 1st race Brian Turnbull capsized. (Remember, he is the one who turtled last week.) His comment today was that the boats right much quicker if you can stand on the bottom board. About one minute before the start, Joe Santos capsized his 420 nearly on the starting line. Fortunately, he drifted clear. Unfortunately he flip-flopped it 3 times before his crew figured out to hang on the low side as it righted so it wouldn't flip the other way again. It was a time consuming lesson for Joe and he missed the first race. Tony and his crew Zach were off like a shot with Mark close behind. The extra weight really helped Tony. Mark happened to be on the right side when a shift came thru, letting him round first. Tony then stuck his boom in the water trying to jibe. Nice save, Tony! But the race was then out of his reach.

For the second race Brian and Andrew Meyer wisely headed to the dock. Tony and Mark both started well however the extra weight let Tony pull away easily. Mark needed an excuse to loose so he "let" his boat blow over. It was one of those slow speed deals where the boat just shudders to a stop in the puff, turns sideways and then just blows over, even with the sail completely out. Mark couldn't get his feet out of the straps and had a moment when he thought he was going head first into the sail, but it didn't happen. The race was over with Tony and Joe disappearing over the horizon.

Enough was enough and we were ready to call it a day.

Once again Don and Adeline Towle and assorted relatives were our race committee. Thanks guys