This essay was originally written by me for the J-105 class newsletter with a view to getting more J-105 owners to take up the D-H aspect of racing, on a boat almost perfect for it.
One of the easiest boats on the planet to sail double-handed is notable by its absence from the fastest growing slice of keelboat racing: double-handed.
Regular readers will know of my interest, nay passion, for short handed sailing, often double handed. D-H “racing” is much closer to “normal” sailing than fully crewed racing for the simple reason that double-handed is how almost everyone who is not involved in some kind of race actually sails their boat. D-H “racing” uses all the same skills and knowledge, preparation and equipment used for “cruising” and it is the shortest line between cruising and racing. Look around at the boats out sailing anywhere on any given weekend and everyone not racing is sailing with one or two people even on some quite large boats.
The really good news is that for many double-handed races a J-105 needs to merely register and show up. Only the offshore or longer races require more equipment than normal. There are many day and overnight races that a well prepared and outfitted J-105 can enter with very little in the way of extra equipment except, most reasonably, jack lines.
J-105’s have competed in the Bermuda 1-2: Solo to Bermuda from Newport and then DH back to Newport. I have done three Marblehead to Halifax races and several other races and DH and Solo passages on Jaded. A few years ago a J-105 won the Fastnet overall while sailing in the Double Handed Class and one has come second in the IRC class in the 2009 O.S.T.A.R single-handed race. The skipper was 18.
If additional sailing gear is required, say smaller headsails, then it is pretty easy to install a Solent stay on the 105. AND it can be done in such a way as to not take the boat out of class for OD events. Other components like a good self steering autopilot are universal anyway.
D-H racing is a great way to enjoy such a fun boat as the 105, earn something new and frankly have a blast without all the phone calls, beers and sandwiches.
D-H racing has all of the elements of racing that we are used to in crewed events, and more than one person has observed that many crewed races are, largely, D-H in execution until one gets to the corners.
Sail handling, tactics, navigation & steering are all the same with D-H racing but all require that elusive component required when operating a boat—seamanship. Both of you get to do everything but you have to think a few more moves ahead than when sailing crewed. If nothing else it gives a two man crew a different view of what happens forward of the traveler.
I have nothing against racing with a full crew. I have done it my whole life. BUT the existence we all live these days bears on all our decisions and trying to round up the crew on Friday night for a Saturday race, has frustrated more than one owner to either abandon racing all together or more frequently take up Double handed.
I count at least 7 groups around the country focusing on double-handed racing. Just on Long Island Sound alone in May and early June there are three regattas with D-H classes, all sailed on the western Sound and so easily within reach of the local 105 fleet. The boats must conform to the local YRA safety regs, which are precisely those that a J-105 has to meet for day racing on Long Island Sound.
For the more adventurous, I count over 20 races between Long Island Sound and Maine that have D-H classes.
So, come on people, get more value from your boat—sail more often. What better way to learn some new stuff and lower the cost per hour of sailing? Oh, it is a ton of fun and the camaraderie is fantastic.