Junior Big-Boat Sailing

Next time you are out sailing in your Wednesday beer can race, try this exercise. Do a head count of how many young sailors (read High School) you see: on your boat and on the competition. Chances are it might look like this: a couple of youngsters sitting in the back more or less watching with perhaps the owner’s son on the bow….Who is doing the mast, sewer, trimming, mainsheet, navigating? Steering even…..Probably not a 15 year old. For those of us who pay attention to these things there is a dearth of young sailors present on yachts.  Nick Hayes’ book and the related stories not withstanding this situation is common across the country. It is undergoing a widespread and increasingly rapid change though.

Living next to Newport RI I have been involved the past couple of years with a variety of  activities of greater or lesser formality that focus on introducing high school sailors to the art, science, adventure, seamanship and the rest of the related skills necessary to be competent around a big boat.

The baseline assumption is that guys of  my age, late 50’s that grew up hanging around big boats and sailing on same with their dads, or their dad’s mates, and so absorbed “Seamanship” at an early age, are a declining cohort of sailors. This kind of experience exists for far fewer kids these days for all sorts of societal reasons I will ignore in this story. In my own case I fortunately had several mentors in my youth and by age 18 I appeared sufficiently competent to the skipper of a half-tonner to be invited to sail with him in the Hobart race. An adventure I can still recall in full Panavision and Technicolor, including being scared to death for about 20 minutes the first time I saw 60 knots of wind and 25 foot cresting seas in Bass Straight despite having to take my trick steering, but then feeling ecstatic and proud to find we had placed third overall & won our class.

When I took on the role of High School sailing coach when our son entered High School one thing that puzzled me was that, for our school at any rate, H.S. sailing lasts about 10 weeks-Mid March to Memorial Day, and then stops. This struck me as a supreme waste of resources and energy because the kids and parents are seriously invested in dry suits, and related gear and they sail 3-5 afternoons a week sometimes up to half a dozen races. Then it just turns off, like a light switch. In the summer following my first year coaching I made it a point to keep in touch with my team members and their parents, sending emails to them regarding appropriate sailing schools and programs to buff up their skills, interesting regattas and other events to keep sailing in the forefront for longer than 10 weeks. In the summer of 2010 I was involved in either the creation organizing and/or promotion of the following three events.

Storm Trysail Club Junior Safety at sea Seminars:
15 years ago Rich DuMoulin, a prominent Long Is Sound sailor developed the idea of a one day seminar to train juniors in the basic skills necessary for safe handling and crewing on a “Big Boat”. This seminar is mandatory for all crew in the Beach Point Overnight an overnight race on the Sound on big boats comprising an all teen crew with one adult owner’s rep. and a club program instructor. The Jr.SAS emphasis on hands on activity including many more MOB drills than any adult crew has contributed to one documented lifesaving event and the awarding of a Hansen Medal to the Larchmont Junior crew for recovering a 14 year old who went overboard.

The Jr. SAS is a one day program starts with a morning of instruction on what to think about on a bigger boat: What to look for about deck layouts, halyards, reefing arrangements, how to operate a winch, load and unload lines, deal with the handle and so on. A personal and up close inspection of the interior, the equipment, hardware layout, MOB protocols and drills, E.P.I.R.B’s, correct VHF use, reefing, heaving too and related seamanship skills.  The afternoon is a dedicated practice of the morning’s instruction including MOB drills reefing, sail changing and boat handling. This is accomplished aboard boats supplied by willing volunteer owners in the region. There is also a session with a life raft, flares and for the 2011 Newport seminar the local USCG station, Caste Hill, made a 45 footer available and discussed the Coast Guard role in SAR and related activities with the 30 participants. The final event of the day is a speaker, typically someone with pretty salty boots, discussing their experiences in the field.

As of this writing, late July ‘12, there are seven Junior Safety at Sea seminars this summer spread between Annapolis and Boston. I was an instructor at one in Larchmont last week in rain and 20 kts. of easterly and there were pushing 200 kids present

The original seminar held at Larchmont Yacht Club has become the default program for such training, has recently partnered with U.S.S.A. to promote the seminars around the country and today has instructed over 4,000 junior sailors in these vital skills. Other events in the same genre include:
•    STC has allowed IRC and PHRF boats to carry one (or if the boat is over 45’ LOA two)”free” junior, under 14, with no impact on head count, weight or rating at the STC produced Block Island Week.
•    The Stamford YC Vineyard Race and STC Block Island Race now also have a trophy for youth crewed boats, based on the Ida Lewis Distance race initiative (see below)
•    Junior Safety at Sea Seminars are now held in Annapolis, Raritan NJ, Larchmont, Shelter Is., Stonington, Newport RI. & Boston.
•    American Yacht Club allows the addition of one crew up to 14 years old in a boat’s roster in their fall regatta with NO (handicap) penalty for head count or weight.

Separately but in a related vein-Getting young sailors experience in “Big Boats” -the Storm Trysail Foundation and Club last October hosted the Intercollegiate Offshore Regatta, perhaps the 6th such event hosted by the Foundation and the Club. This event attracted 47 teams from 39 colleges across the US and Canada.

Ida Lewis Distance Race:
Here in Newport the Ida Lewis Distance Race introduced in the Youth Club Challenge Class for the 2010 distance race. The idea was to offer a class that encouraged the mustering of a high school crew so as to generate a body of young sailors with overnight yacht sailing/racing/seamanship experience. The basic parameters for entry were: PHRF ratings & more than 50% of the crew to be between 14-19 years of age. The balance of the crew to be made up of adults with the instructions (although not incorporated in any formal race documentation) that the kids do the work and the adults mentor. The boats sailed the 150 mile course zigging and zagging around Block Island sound with the longest leg being perhaps 30 miles, so basically an overnight passage, with lots of navigation and sail handling.

In the 2011 edition of the event, one 70 footer, “Gracie”, took 12 juniors for the race. Each adult had 3 juniors under their care and the juniors basically ran the boat with the adults watching. One young lady who left her call to Gracie too late ended up as the lone junior on a 4 man crew aboard the Class 40 Toothface and was still glowing 3 days later when I interviewed her.

Sail for Hope:
The third regatta was the Sail for Hope regatta, a regular fixture on the NBYA calendar since the first event was held in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. For the 2010 edition of this 20 mile race around Jamestown Island I gathered 12 of my high school sailing team members and loaded them aboard the N-M/Cookson 80 footer Falcon 2000. With a dozen high school sailors and half a dozen adults in the leadership roles in each part of the boat, again the kids were instructed in the tasks for each position and the adults supervised.

By the end of this race most of the kids had performed in at least a couple of positions and anyone who wanted to, had the opportunity to steer.

This series of Big Boat training was repeated in Newport in 2011 with the addition of an extra opportunity. Several of the Falcon Crew from 2011 expressed interest in doing more big boat sailing so I emailed a collection of the sailors I knew locally and offered to provide a youth sailor for the crew if they would accept the responsibility of mentoring them. Several on the locals stepped up to the plate and I was able to place 3-4 of the high school kids on local boats.

Behind the scenes, the management at the Storm Trysail Club and its Foundation is moving forward on several fronts including developing a simple-to-duplicate program to make it easy for other yacht clubs to host Junior Safety at Sea seminars in their local regions.

Mentoring of junior sailors need not only happen in a racing environment. In fact it is possible that a superior experience may come from more low key activities. Deliveries are a great way to get to do a bit of everything and there is often more time for instruction and mentoring than in the heat of a race which of course we all want to win. In fact I posted here on a delivery I did with several of “my” Prout Kids a few weeks ago. The following week we were treated to a day sail on another J boat, the performance 30 footer J-92s owned by another local who shares the idea of coaching and mentoring kids for big boats. We sailed around the America’s Cup cats on their moorings and then over to Newport Shipyard to have  a look at the 70 foot MOD trimarians preparing to race transatlantic. The kids were stoked, to borrow a surfing term. We went on to sail up the bay set a kite and sail back, with everyone getting a chance to steer and trim.

One of the great gripes one hears around the bar after a race is the difficulty of finding reliable competent crew with which to man ones club racer. If such sailors were to cast their eyes about and offer to take some of the juniors out, the son of a crew member, kids from the local High School sailing team community sailing program, then they would have a hand in solving the problem they are discussing. They are likely to give the kids a huge experience that, in my case had a life changing impact on them. The kids might even have the skills to get on a boat for the Bermuda Race and be scared to death for 20 minutes as the boat enters the Gulfstream.

J-109 & Beneteau 36.7

During my afternoon stroll along the foreshore of Fort Adams yesterday I noticed the Alofsin Basin was filling up with boats preparing to sail in the New York Yacht Club Race week. There were two brands of boats: J 109’s and Beneteau 36.7’s. While I was waiting under a tent for a thunder storm to roll by, I was gazing at each build of boat and was struck by some of the differences and some of the similarities.

Given that the boats are more or less the same size, with the same general purpose and are Name Brands, after the blow subsided, I wandered around the docks and took these pictures of some of the details and I record my thoughts on same.

The 109 is of course a sprit boat thus it does not need a fore guy for the pole whereas the Beneteau is set up for symmetrical kites.

foredeck of J109

The J109 has a relatively uncluttered foredeck, with no (visible) rigging for the pole/sprit, although the tack line has to lead somewhere and the hatch is set aft on the cabin.

Foredek of Beneteau

The Beneteau has the hatch on the foredeck and this boat uses a double ended foreguy leading aft on either side of the spar.

The J109 is nominally mast head with only about 18″ above of mast above the top of the headstay connection. This is typically for the spinnaker sock to live. The Beneteau is more of a fractional rig, with perhaps 3-4 feet (by eyeball) of spar above the jib-stay/mast connection. These two seemingly slight differences lead to different backstay adjustment systems.

Back stay takle on Beneteau

The Beneteau has a multi-part tackle for backstay adjustment. It is very cunningly lead forward to either side of the binnacle thence to cleats that the mainsheet trimmer can adjust from his regular perch. It seems like the BS position might give a hand hold to a swimmer returning aboard too. And there is space on top of the rudder post for placing a life raft should one sail where one is needed.

Beneteau backstay adjuetment rigging.

The two ends of the tackle are led forward to the base of the binnacle then up to matching cam cleats and so positioned that the main sheet trimmer can easily adjust them from his normal perch-thus not disturbing anything. At least on this boat.

The J-109 has a more or less conventional integral hydraulic adjustment. Similar to the J 105 so the closest person to adjust it is thus the guy steering.

Hyd BS adj on J109

The J109 has a hydraulic adjuster operated by the driver, probably.

BS adjustment for the J109

The integral hydraulic adjuster for the J-109 is positioned behind the driver. It too can be used as a hand hold by returning swimmers. There is ample space aft of the helmsman for placing a raft too as circumstances dictate.

Both boats have double spreader rigs.On the J109, the D2’s, are continuous and so terminate at the deck.

Chainplates or J109

The D2’s on the 109 are adjustable from the deck, a convenient feature for sailing (racing) in disparate locations, so it is easy to adjust the rig settings for light, medium or hard air.

The black wrappings are not the usual black electrical tape but rather cotter pins attached to Velcro so the pins can be pulled instantly with no tools and the rig adjusted, quickly, between races even, if the crew is up to it.

On the Beneteau though, the rigging is dis-contiuous and so the terminals for the rigging are aloft making between races adjustment a bit more of a chore. The deck terminal looks like this.

Chainplates on the beneteau

Beneteau 36.7 chainplate terminals are on deck and so require a crew member to go aloft to adjust the rigging, but this leaves a smother, cleaner bottom end of the rigging on deck. This boat uses another trick of race boats. The elimination of the cotter pins altogether by tying the two barrel screws together.

Not only are the boats from different builders and have different ideas about spinnakers but they also use different hardware.

Halyard blocks at the Beneteau mast collar

The Lewmar blocks at the base of the Beneteau spar are connected with shackles. While this makes easy to get them on and off, it does leave open the possibility of the blocks falling over during operations. I have seen halyards get hockles (kinks) this way and also chafed thru the plastic sides of one block when it fell over. Contemplate also the molded in non-skid tred on the Beneteau.

MAst collar on J109

The J109 mast blocks are secured to the deck/collar ring by short studs (the spare one on the left holds 2 halyards) thus keeping them vertical at all times. The non skid seems to be painted on on this boat. Interesting the differences in the mast collars since the spars both come from the same company even though they may have different brand names.

The Genoa lead cars are both ball bearing adjustable, but on the 109 the tackle was 4:1

Harken lead adjuster on J109

This particular J109 has a 4:1 tackle for moving the car. The care tows forward to the right in the picture.

The Beneteau has a 3:1

Lewmar adjusters on the Beneteau

For whatever reasons this Beneteau has a 3:1 tackle, towing forward, to the left, in this image.

The mainsheet travelers are also different.

J109 cockpit

On the 109 the mainsheet traveler is about knee height, recessed into the cockpit seats.

And on the Beneteau, it straddles the cockpit higher up.

Mainsheet traveler position on Benetau

The traveler on the Beneteau is placed on the coamings, making it, I imagine, a bit harder to scramble over to steer, swim or get to the back of the bus.

I found these details interesting. I hope you did too.

Rodger Martin Yacht Design and Junior Sailing

If you are a sailor one of the many great aspects of living in Newport RI, is the wide variety of sailing one can do, sometimes on one day. In this sense Newport is almost exactly like where I grew up sailing in Sydney, Australia, where opportunities for energetic kids to sail on all sorts of boats were legion. It was like being in a candy store for kids like me.

I was reminded of this history a couple of days ago by two teenage sailors who were at Sail Newport. One had been practicing in his Laser and the other had been practicing in a J-22 with his team preparing for the Sears Cup eliminations regatta.

I was at Sail Newport about 5:00 to help a mate of mine launch and sail his brand new boat in the local Tuesday night races.

No, we are not talking your basic new from brokerage or dealership new boat here.

Something completely different. The long story will be another post but in short, an earlier boat had been sunk and so they recovered as much gear as they could from it including rig and sails and commissioned Rodger Martin Yacht Design, in Newport, to build them an up-dated version of the boat they lost (a Kiwi 35) underneath the equipment they salvaged. Mark, one of the owners, and some of the core guys in his crew spent the next 6 years building a very nice, very fast 32 foot local PHRF rocket ship in a shed behind Mark’s house. A couple of weeks ago she came out of the shed and was delivered to Sail Newport, for the fitting of the racks and stepping of the mast.

Bella arrives at Sail Newport preparatory to the fitting of the racks and stepping of the spars.

Some of the “home made” details look like this:

Port view of Bella

The two holes are for the insertion of the racks. There is a third one out of picture. The keel is a lifting one. The little dots along the side deck are for the netting lashing for the racks.


Retractable bow sprit pn Bella

The 10 foot bowsprit retracts into the forward part of the boat. All carbon parts including tube were “home made” too….


View of the cockpit on Bella

The cockpit is purely day sailing functional. The aft hatch gives access to the back of the bus, the box hatch forward hides the engine, forward and a cooler, aft. Mainsail control lines exit at the box in front of the compass

Detail of the Rudder system

The rudder blade (missing)  is adjustable up and down and fore and aft. The tiller is home made, in Carbon.

Thus Bella was put in the water at Sail Newport for the first time.

She looked like this waiting for sails.

Bella in the water

6 years in the making, The Good Yacht Bella floats quietly at Sail Newport waiting for sails

We went out that (Saturday) afternoon for a sail to see what was going to happen, only broke a couple of things and managed to get her up on a plane back into the narrows of Castle Hill in not much wind. (No meters yet so no speeds…)

Newport being Newport we passed a boat we knew full of mates including Roy Guay race chair of the Bermuda 1-2, who took a few pictures,  like this one.

Bella off Castle Hill

Bella in light air off Castle Hill
Photo courtesy of Roy Guay

Under a small reaching kite on the first down wind leg of her first race she looks like this:

Bella sailing under medium kite

Bella sailing downwind with the medium kite during her first race.
Photo Courtesy of Rodger Martin Yacht Design

Back to the kids: Mark is as keen as I am on the idea of introducing teenagers to sailing on a “Big Boat”—basically something with a keel, winches, life lines etc. He invited me to spread the word for any kids interested in sailing on Bella on a casual basis. Several of the kids of my acquaintance (I coach a High School Sailing Team)  put their hands up. So last Tuesday the fellow who had been sailing his Laser, who had also put his hand up came with us for a first race. As we were getting ready to head out one of the Sail Newport staff came down the dock with the young fellow from the J-22 and asked if we needed any more bodies. Sure we said so we took off with six, more or less adults and two teenagers.

Skill and experience in a dinghy is actually a pretty good background for sailing Bella as you might imagine from the pictures.

This day the sea breeze was pretty fresh and so we all knew sailing her was going to be, well interesting at the very least. She is big enough and powerful enough so that I was able to use the opportunity to teach the kids a few things about sailing on bigger boats. One sailed as Pit/Halyards and the other as Mast Man. They both performed extremely well for first timers. Sailing around before the start, I instructed them in some basics like:

How to handle a line on a winch, the technique and co-ordination required between the three front positions (including bow man) the sequence for getting a kite up, jib down and gybing, then Jib up and kite down. Getting virtually the same instruction as kids get in the Storm Trysail Foundations Jr. Safety at Sea seminars, (where I volunteer) they performed very well.

And the adults?

Well we managed to break the start, foul up the running backstays on the roach & stall a couple of times coming out of tacks but on the other hand we all had a great time and the owners, builders and designers area all very pleased with the boat.

As for the kids? Well I dropped one of them off in town after sailing and his last words to me were:

Kids on racks on Bella

Two teenagers (the two aft bodies) snapped up as scratch crew sample life on the rack, as it were, on Bella, headin’ upwind.
Photo Courtesy of Rodger Martin Yacht Design

“Thanks, I had a great time!”

Precisely the point.


Sails-Mainsail, measuring-E dimension

In a previous post I discussed the “P” dimension and the parameters surrounding the correct luff length; This post discusses the “E” dimension.
The “E” dimension is the second dimension (the first being “P”) that the boat’s designer uses in order to arrive at a mainsail size that he wants, in order for the boat to do what the person who commissioned the boat wants to do.

The “E” is for the purposes of 99% of the folks reading this essay, the distance from the aft face of the mast, aft along the boom, with the boom at right angles to the mast, to the inside (forward) edge of a contrasting colored band at the aft end of the boom”. For the other 1%, there are some minute variations on this definition, under the ORR rule.

Again, like the P dimension, the E is NOT the foot length of the actual sail and it is NOT the actual boom length. The reason the P and the E are not the actual sail edge length has to to do with two primary issues. One is the hardware (on the mast and boom)  by which the sail is physically attached to the spars and two, in most cases there is a deduction for stretch that sailmakers take or apply to a sail when designing it. This deduction is commonly different for each edge too.
As for the “P” let’s start with the “Black Bands.”

Some of these bands look like this.

Black band on Caliber 40

Black band at the aft end of a Selden boom on a Caliber 40

And here (below) although the paint or black tape is wearing off in this picture:

Cal 36 Black band at the clew

Black band at the clew end of the boom, Cal 36

Notice too in the above picture  there is some space aft of the black band that “could” be used for sail outhaul. On the boom in the top picture the outhaul mechanism is fully extended, “two blocked”, as we might say, and the (bearing surface of the) shackle is just at the band.

And sometimes there is NO band. As here:

Sometimes there are no bands

Finding a boat without bands is pretty common, as on this Bristol 29-9

This next picture shows a detail than can be tricky:

Black band at the clew on a 30 footer

Black band at the clew on a 30 footer

Observe (in the above picture) just aft of the stainless fitting with the halyard attached, in the boom tunnel, there are a couple of unidentifiable fittings? These are the swages connecting the outhaul wire to the outhaul fitting. There is just enough room aft of the black band to apply some more tension before the swage gets sucked into the sheaves, like is happening on the  boom shown below.

Sabre 38 clew band and outhaul  mechanism

Sabre 38 clew band and outhaul mechanism. On this boat the swage is pulled right into the sheave with the shackle at the band. See how the swage is bending?

So to recap:

The E is NOT the sail’s foot length

It is NOT how long the Boom is

It is the distance from the aft face of the mast, aft, to the forward edge of a colored band on the boom.

It is not uncommon for there to not be a colored band particularly on “cruising ” boats rigs.

I will discuss the particulars of four other sail making details in a future post.

Tack Set Back, Tack Set UP, Reef ring set back & Clew set up

Junior sailing opportunities aboard “Big Boats”

For Junior Sailors, at least in the North East, there are a variety of options for participating in “Big Boat” activities in July and August 2012.

The six seminars, three distance races and one day regatta outlined below are presented to foster the instruction & development of an experience base for Junior Sailors aboard “Big Boats”, as distinct from the dinghies they usually sail.

Juniors in command of the J-111 Fleetwing

Junior sailors aboard J-111 Fleetwing steering and trimming during the 2011 Jr. SAS Seminar in Newport

Storm Trysail Foundation Junior Safety at Sea seminars.

The Foundation’s Junior SAS Seminars introduce High School sailors to the arts and sciences of sailing on a Big Boat. The one day course includes land based instruction combined with on the water practice. Seasoned offshore instructor/volunteers cover the major skills needed to participate as a crew on a big boat: Some of the primary topics of instruction include handling of lines with particular regard to use of winches, reefing and sail changing, safety related issues, basic operation of a VHF, including Mayday drills, Spinnaker operations, different crew positions and the skills required in these positions & MOB issues & drills.

In nearly 15 years of presenting these seminars the Storm Trysail Club and more recently it’s Foundation have instructed over 2,000 teenagers in the issues of Safety At Sea and Big Boat sailing. In 1996 such training led to a USSA documented recovery of a Man Overboard in a Junior race, for which the crew were awarded the Hansen Medal.

  • Friday 20 July at Larchmont YC
  • Thursday 26 July at Raritan Yacht Club, NJ
  • Thursday 2 August at Sail Newport, RI
  • Friday 3 August at Stonington CT. This seminar is co-sponsored by N.E.S.S. and Fishers Is. YC
  • Saturday 3 August at Boston Community Boating, MA
  • Wednesday 22 August Annapolis YC

Contact info and registration particulars here: http://www.stormtrysailfoundation.org

Click on Safety at Sea seminars on the left toolbar

Then there are three distance races & a day regatta in Big Boats for Junior’s

Kite on J 40 with Kids

Jr.SAS Seminars introduce Junior Sailors to the nuances of sailing under spinnaker sen here during the 2011 seminar in Newport,RI

Fishers Is. YC Overnight race:
10 August. Block Is. Sound. This race is a new event specifically created to provide a practical application of the skills that the graduates of the Jr. Safety at Sea seminar on the 3rd have learned. Participation in a Jr. SAS seminar is required.

Dorade Trophy and Beach Point Overnight
13, 14, & 15 August: These are 2 separate events for juniors in big boats on Long Is. Sound. The Dorade Trophy (yes THAT Dorade) is a day regatta organized by Stamford YC. Sound. The Beach Point Overnight is organized by Beach Point YC.  Info can be found Junior Sailing Association of Long Is. Sound website calendar by clicking on the link above. Participation in a JR. SAS seminar is required.

Ida Lewis Distance Race:
17 August: This race features a selection of courses around Rhode Island Sound. The Youth Challenge Class was created for boats where there are two adults (minimum) and at least 40% of the crew is comprised of sailors between 14 and 20. High School sailing teams are invited to mount a campaign incorporating members of their school sailing team. Junior sailors falling outside this age group are welcome to participate but are not counted in the boats 40% number, so yes the younger sibling can come too…

Junior Junior aboard Falcon 2000

Falcon 2000, a N/M, Cookson 80 foot IMS maxi, now de-tuned, was a center piece at the 2011 Jr. SAS seminar in Newport

Participation in a Junior SAS seminar is recommended but not required for the Ida Lewis Distance Race.
For more information please contact me, Joe Cooper @:

401 965 6006