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Author Topic: Reflections on West Coast Race  (Read 2921 times)
Adrian
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« on: July 23, 2008, 11:56:21 AM »

There has been excellent coverage of the W Coast Mini race on the SA Forum that has raised the profile of minis in North America.  I thought that with the race over a thread on the Association site might be helpful to answer questions & talk about the event  within the smaller Minista community.  So please post any questions you may have & I hope Craig, Andy, John & myself will be able to respond to them if they are specific about the race and others will contribute to any discussions on specific topics.

One topic I want to raise is the level of skill needed to sail a Mini.  On Leo's site you will find the statement that 'anyone' can sail a Mini.  It is a forgiving, responsive, safe boat that meets its purpose very well - to race SH offshore.  Generally speaking I think this is true.  Among the W coast competitors I  had the least sailing & racing experience.  What I learned from my first race is that experience in the conditions we raced in is very important to one's ability to race the boat.

There were several conditions under which I could not steer - when I could not see the horizon, in big waves & dead downwind.  One additional personal variable related to the sailing conditions, is one's level of tiredness & physical exhaustion.  Andy, my skipper, is right that endurance counts for more than strength & strength is needed far less than skill & good judgment.  However, there were a couple of times when strength & fitness were needed - in a broach, with the deck at 95 degrees one does need to be able to support one's body weight with one arm on the lifelines and pump the tiller to get the boat back up with the other arm.  Antidote did give me a lot of confidence in these conditions.  With the gear below stacked & secured & no flying objects in the cockpit she seemed to jump upright, shake off the water & be back sailing fast on track within seconds.  Handling a broach is best learned in daylight hours, not too far from port or assistance.  Planned training pays off - do not wait to learn as you race!

Mental exhaustion does bring problems.  Focusing on instruments at night eventually results in one being unable to "read/understand/respond to" the data.  At times I was unable to distinguish port from starboard - exactly like a person taking their first dinghy sailing lesson. Watching the Windex is a 'pain in the neck' literally after a while & when big seas can be heard approaching I found looking up at the top of the mast can result in paying too much attention to the wind & insufficient to the waves.

The Mini needs quick forceful hands on the tiller and fast responses to sail trim.  I learned that crew age & fitness are important and unfortunately for the senior Ministas, youth have a big advantage here. You cannot turn back the clock but older guys, such as myself, need to resolve to be the fittest 50 or 60 year old that he or she can be. 

Andy Abel has several thousand miles of Mini sailing under his belt & I was fortunate to experience my first bad weather with him aboard.  Andy knows the Zero's capabilities very well and never struggled to keep the boat sailing well.  I learned there are no shortcuts to the benefits of experience.  In perfect conditions a Zero is relatively easy to sail, in challenging conditions you need lots of miles at sea to sail safely & fast. If you have a Mini and not too many sea-miles you might wish to give Andy, or another experienced Mini skipper a call & hire them to give you & your crew some focused, in-depth training.  Remember these guys have paid a lot to get their experience & many of them are professionally qualified & they merit a professional fee for their time.

Boat preparation is also a big topic to tackle in a future post ...

Looking forward to reading your comments, suggestions, experiences & questions ...

Adrian
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CAN415
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« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2008, 04:18:20 PM »

Do tell regarding boat preperations!

Duncan
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kokopelli
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« Reply #2 on: August 14, 2008, 10:33:54 AM »

 Grin Grin Shocked Now, that was funny!!!  Grin Grin Wink
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Adrian
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« Reply #3 on: August 14, 2008, 05:18:26 PM »

Do tell regarding boat preperations!

Duncan


This is the point of entry for Duncan to jump into the forum and talk about boat preparation. 

We had planned that Duncan would sail leg 1 of the race and given the short time frame and my absence from Victoria, he would assume responsibility for preparing the boat.

While I had done the bottom of my cruising boats it largely consisted of scraping off the gunk & old bottom paint, filling dents & dings on the keel, replacing the zincs & lathering lots of new bottom paint on.
So it was a new experience for me to be under the Mini on Duncan's front lawn dry sanding the hull.  Duncan  filled hollows, the keel hull joint and faired the fin for several days before we delivered the boat to get an epoxy coat sprayed on.  With several coats applied we were back to sanding in the shop & then back to Duncan's front lawn for more sanding until the dull grey coat had a smooth finish & a shine visitors were invited to touch & admire.  We even posted pics on the forum site!

Meanwhile, on my front lawn  I unpacked the mast & rigging in preparation for Serge of Mainstay Rigging to put everything together.  Again there was great attention to detail. The bolts for the spreader assembly were discarded because they were threaded all the way to the top, 'gaskets" (?) were cut for all places where dissimilar metals were attached, locktite was applied , halyard entry points were inspected, rivets were replaced, a lbracket was made for the led light, pins & rings were taped, spreader boots installed and eventually the mast was ready for delivery to the boat.  I guess the experienced readers will say 'so what's new?".  For me this was the first new boat & mast preparation I had experienced.

The solar panel, vhf, & gps were installed and all the electrical connections for the Navman pilot & wind instruments were made by Gunther of Victoria Marine Electric.  Again we selected someone whose work is first class and we knew details would not be ignored.

While all of these tasks are important there were a myriad of other tasks seemingly less important yet without attention they had the potential to cause problems or damage & threaten completion of the race.  It takes lots of sea-time on race boats & Minis in particular to know how to prevent the running backstay blocks hitting you between the eyes, keeping the solar panel secure yet adjustable, keeping the jib on the deck, launching the spi pole etc.  Each of these tasks required yards of bungy cord.  Below decks Duncan installed lines for carabiners on the wet bags, non-slip tape on the cabin floor & lee cloths for the water containers etc

One huge area of attention is to safety - ensuring all the safety gear is correctly installed from lashing the life-raft, installing the EPIRB, & having the ditch bags in place.  This is one aspect of preparation where Duncan was particularly attentive.

It is the level of detail in preparation that is so time consuming.  Originally we had thought 2 weeks of full time work was needed, it turned out to be 3 weeks with some very long days. My brief description does not do justice to the process and after splashing the boat I was away while the pros did their work so I can't comment on much of this work.  This is not always a good idea to leave the boat's preparation to others.  It is extremely important to know every aspect of the boat's equipment, fittings, gear installation and I must make sure that I focus on prep in the future,  and continue to seek ways of making her easier to handle, less likely to break, more resistant to chafe, more secure etc.

During the race nothing broke and we had only one small line that started to fray & jam a cleat on the runner. That is a testament to the preparation of the boat before the race and the work of Duncan, and others including Craig, Jan, John, Andy & Dave.

The description above does not do justice to the process and the time taken.

So Duncan, and others, please jump on board here if you wish and talk about the details. 

Readers please send your questions or comments by e-mail or posts here.

Clothing & personal gear will be an item for a future post ...

Adrian

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kokopelli
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« Reply #4 on: August 15, 2008, 11:55:16 AM »

When I heard that you were planning on racing a boat with only a few weeks of prep time I thought it could not be done.  While others may have been involved, hats off to Duncan for being instrumental for pulling that one of!

I can try to talk a little about my boat prep from the perspective of getting 2 different boats ready for a race like the B1-2.  One was the Olsen 29 for the 2001 race, the other my Mini ER TAPE for 2007.  Both approaches are very similar.  Most that know me will agree that I try to cover all contingencies and all eventualities long before the race starts.  Some will even call me anal when it comes to boat prep  (I can hear Katie A. snickering already). 

I break the process down into different stages:
1.   outfit the boat with the required equipment
2.   try to break the boat in training so that:
3.   I know what spare parts to carry based on 1&2
4.   minimize everything to save weight

1.   Boat outfitting:

First of, while I try, you just cannot do everything yourself.  I had to learn when to rely on friends, when to let them be and let them do their stuff.  Therefore, on my boats the electrical system installation for instruments and charging system, inclusive of all wiring has always been installed by Frank Gazioch, my longtime friend and crew.  You think I am anal, but he is absolutely obsessed with careful installation, solder, and ER Tape (yes, it has a purpose as an easy and reliable heat shrink substitute).  To date I have never had an electron issue!

I myself try to know every bolt and fitting in the boat.  I try to minimize the number and type of different fasteners and have reduced them to 2: 4 and 6 mm.  This way I only need to carry a few spare bolts and nylocks and know they will fit.  I am also able to more easily pirate bolts, washers, nuts from elsewhere if I should need to for repairs.  Early on I made the decision to keep everything metric so that I could minimize the number of tools on board.

I spent serious time on my hull bottom and by the start had it in near perfect condition.  Between fairing, applying the barrier coat and polishing the new antifouling I probably had more than 100 hrs just in the bottom prep.  This is one of those times when you get to find out who your true friends are…Time spent on the bottom truly pays of in the water. 

2. Break the Boat
This is a seriously important stage in boat prep.  The boat needs to be proven.  During my training runs people at the YC always wondered why I was going out on days when the crewed boats stayed in port or races got canceled due to too much breeze.  My answer always was: “I have to break the boat”  You really need to know where the weak links are, to find out what shafes, flexes, pops of, or just makes funny sounds.  If something breaks, at least it did not break 500 miles from home in the middle of the night, and you have time to fix it right.  I also want to know what sounds the boat makes so that I know what to disregard, and what to start worrying about. Nothing is worse than to worry and second guess yourself about sounds when you are fatigued.  I try to do anything to keep the mind games at bay…  My Zero for example flexed pretty hard in the center hull  below the companionway entry.  I freaked out the first time in a seaway until Leo told me (he built the boat) not to worry about it.  Sometimes you just have to trust someone on a computer a few thousand miles away…

It also takes time to know where and how you need to store the equipment below.  Nothing is worse than not being able to find a critical tool or spare part after a wipe out in the middle of the night...

3. Spares
I already touched upon this.  All the spares I carried were able to cover multiple functions.  With careful planning I was able to fit all tools and parts for hull hardware, sails and rigging into one 12x16 inch Tupperware.  My electronic equipment like headlamp, handheld VHF, handheld GPS, and digital camera all used the same batteries.  I carried only 4 AA batteries as spares.  My one wrench and one set of pliers fit every nut and bolt on board.  The only thing I broke on the last B1-2 was my windward spin pole guy.  Of course this is one seriously loaded line under Code 0 reaching and it broke at night.  It was the only 10mm vectran line on board and therefore I did not have a spare.  Who would think 10mm vectran would break on a Mini!?  That night I used my spare spectra 6mm halyard and thickened it up by lacing a piece of 3 mm spectra through the center so that it would not slip on the clutch.  It worked until I had time in Bermuda for a proper replacement.  Point is, know what can and will break, and have a contingency to deal with it.  You need not have the exact replacement, but know your parts and pieces to be able to improvise.

4. Save weight:
After I thought I was all done I weighed everything on board and made a list of weights.  The goal was to cut weight by 5%.  I found lighter Tupperware containers, I stripped the outer insulation of cables, I replaced even more shackles with lashing, I cut anything non-structural and non safety related out of the structure of the boat, I changed the bronze jib hanks to soft webbing, I only carried one long spare batten, I left one splint at home since my splint for the outside of the spin pole fit perfectly for the inside of the boom,  I left the sea boots at home and replaced them with GoreTex socks, I left the sleeping bag, I left the only change of clothing (I had to wait a day after arrival for Holli to arrive at the finish with any clothes).  Anyhow, there is a lot I am forgetting, but you get the picture.


To feel truly prepared I take the better part of a year prior to the race start.  Your milage may vary.
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sausmusiii
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« Reply #5 on: August 15, 2008, 06:40:11 PM »

Jan,

You forgot to mention that you also give yourself a buzz cut to save the weight. ;-)

I would of done all the things that you did, but I got behind cutting the lawn, looking for bathrooms and taking the video camera to the shop due to water damage....

Sam
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Adrian
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« Reply #6 on: August 15, 2008, 10:55:19 PM »

Hi Jan,

Thanks for the details & advice,

One change I am considering, not to save weight but to make changing the jib easier for my arthritic hands, is replacing the bronze hanks with webbing & velcro.

Re the webbing hamks -

do they make lowering the jib any more difficult, did you need a downhaul?
is it easier, in terms of finger & hand dexterity on cold nights, to fasten & unfasten the webbing & velcro than to pull pistons open or twist the hanks (depending on the type used)?
do you have to be able to 'see' what you are doing as compared to 'feeling' which is a good factor for the bronze hanks.
has the webbing ever come free for any reason?
what length of webbing is in contact with the forestay & do you have one web hank replacing each bronze hank 1 for 1?

Have any sailmakers commented on webbing vs bronze hanks?  How widespread is this innovation among Minis & other classes?

Adrian

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kokopelli
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« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2008, 08:23:16 AM »

Soft hanks on jibs are not new and Tim certainly would know all about them.  Mine are nylon webbing about 15mm wide.  I never had an issue withany one coming off, nor any dificulty getting the sail down.  You have to make sure that they positively closed, or they could come undone, but that is operator error, not faulty equipment.  Once worn in a little they work just like  bronze hanks at a fraction of the weight.
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jsharkey
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« Reply #8 on: August 16, 2008, 03:15:06 PM »

I've got a soft hank design that works pretty well..... Grin
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kokopelli
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« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2008, 10:06:51 AM »

buy an ad... Grin

Congratulations and good luck with Komera.  Lucky dog!...
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