Family fun sailing

For the past few months I have been coaching a fellow, Don Dwyer, in Branford CT (USA) in order that he and his very green crew could participate in Block Island Race Week. It has been a fascinating prices with lots of great moments.

He sent a team email letter out on Monday, which I reproduce here.



And I mean Team in every sense of the word, Amber Waves flew home under spinnaker Saturday ending a 6 month journey that by all accounts was a resounding success.  In our third season of sailing we accomplished something that quite a few people questioned was possible.  We met or exceeded every goal I set out, to be safe, to be inclusive, to have a ball, and to be as competitive as we could be.  Of the many highlights that will feed our dinner table discussions for years two stood out for me.

Tuesday’s race in 20-30 knots of wind was described by others as “brutal”, “carnage” and “epic”.  Ken Read, one of America’s most accomplished and famous sailors congratulated the Storm Trysail Club’s Race Committee for having the courage to hold the Round the Island Race in such difficult conditions.  He said racing in those conditions would provide memories for a lifetime.  I felt we sailed extremely well and I never felt we were outmatched by the conditions.  I was concerned that after 5 hours of sailing we would be met by thunderstorms near the finish and that we didn’t have the experience to deal with a major equipment malfunction.  But we were still sailing for the same amount of time as the leaders in the race in the toughest conditions of the day.  I will remember that day of sailing forever.  If you haven’t seen the article Joe Cooper wrote about us check out the WindCheck post on us.

Winning the start on Friday was one of the greatest thrills in my sporting life.  We knew we couldn’t compete with the bigger, faster yachts or the more experienced crews over the course of the race.  But nobody told us we couldn’t beat them to the line.  We hit the line hard on the wind, going as fast as Amber Waves will go with a lot of yachts half a boat length behind us.  What made this even more incredible that 20 minutes before the race I wasn’t sure we were going to make it to the race.  The seamanship displayed by Sherb and Pat was off the charts.  When the sheath of the main halyard gave way  they re-rigged our running rigging and got us back to the starting area with 10 minutes to spare which allowed us to mix it up with our competitors.  That was the kind of cool, calm, quick behavior we will need when we move up to blue water ocean racing.

On the competitive side, I think we did great.  We beat at least one other boat on 3 of the 4 days we raced and we were ahead of some when we retired on Tuesday.  The one day we came in last can be attributed mostly to splitting from the fleet.  My bad.  But all in all I think we sailed up to our ability every day and never stopped searching for more speed.  We will continue to improve.

I want to thank all of you for your commitment to the project.  On the sailing side, the core of sailors that showed up for practices, drilled, tacked and gybed till they were exhausted made it possible for us to take anyone that showed up out racing.  On the non-sailing side, everyone pitched in.  We ate incredibly well, had a clean home every day, everyone got shuttled where they needed to be and no one was never not on time.  That effort made life so much better for Jan and me.  So thank you everyone.  In particular I want to thank:

Joe Cooper.  It is the understatement of all time to say we could not have accomplished this without your leadership and guidance.  The only way I will ever be able to adequately repay you is to spread the word that other sailors with limited experience seek out the kind of instruction we got.  Thank you.

Wills and Zach.  They sailed every day, did both deliveries and basically never stopped working.  And did all that without being asked.  We had no idea when these two fine young men came on the boat they would play such an integral part in our success or have such an impact on our enjoyment of the week.  If I ever hear anyone bitch about the next generation I will point to these two.

My darling wife, Jan.  The Boat Mom took care of everyone from the initial idea to the last drive home.  There was nothing we did that Jan didn’t touch, run, or organize.  I adore you.

So what’s next?  Golf.  For a little while.  Amber Waves is likely down for a week or more.  The old girl took a beating out there.  We will resume Wednesday night Around the Buoys racing as soon as able and there may be a couple more shorter regattas but we will let this one sink one for a while before making any decisions.  Don’t worry I will be in touch……



Don Dwyer



Sailing coaching and sailing systems consulting

If you are reading this website you are most likely a sailor. It is a great activity and can be very satisfying, but for many folks, especially those who came to sailing later in life, there are some things that can make a nice day on the bay, well, not so nice. Ring a bell?

  • Do you avoid using your cruising spinnaker, or shun the idea of one because it is “too complicated”?
  • Would an easier way to set, trim, and lower your cruising spinnaker add value to the day’s downwind sail back from say Block Island, for those of you in the NE?
  • Do your headsail sheets always get caught in the shrouds thus slowing down the tack and making for a big grind by the “grinders”—aka your spouse, partner, non sailing buddies or the kids?
  • Have you dreamed of making a longer passage, regardless of destination, something that pushes your comfort zone pretty hard, but  just cannot get all the details, equipment, and systems coordinated?
  • Would you like to improve your anchoring, mooring, and docking skills?
  • Do you race, or want to race but have difficulty training and organizing crew?

If, like many weekend sailors, these are just a few of the small (or large?) tensions experienced while sailing, relax. There are solutions to all of them.

All you need is someone who can identify the problem and show you ways to solve it. Someone with skill across a wide range of boats locations and scenarios. Someone professional. In short, someone like me.

Solving Your Sailing Challenges

I have worked with clients to solve their sailing challenges and enhance their enjoyment of sailing. During countless hours on the water with clients — both new sailors and experienced boat owners — I have:

  • Created more efficient deck layouts &  improved sail trimming tools
  • Coached couples and Bermuda race crews on spinnaker flying and more efficient ways of tacking
  • Organized crews, both racing and cruising and coached them in more efficient operation on board
  • Developed fast, simple, and relatively inexpensive ways to set small sails under a large, light, and full 150% roller headsail, which as we all know is not much good in 20 knots, is it?
  • Increased clients’ understanding of sail shape, and their skill in manipulating sails
  • Consulted on upgrading hardware — both the equipment and creating the techniques to make better use of the hardware (rather than merely adding some new shiny widget in the hope that all will be better)
  • Coached clients on faster and easier reefing methods

It makes sense to try and maximize the “Fun Factor” (AKA VALUE) of each day (hour) on the boat, especially in the Northeast where we only get half as much time as balmier climes.

Call so we can discuss the following services to improve the value of your sailing hours:
1.    An on-site review of your boat and its deck layout and equipment with you including an extensive interview to prepare a list of things to make sailing easier
2.    Managing the upgrades with your yard or rigger in the event you want to proceed with my recommendations
3.    Onboard coaching for cruising, such as ways to set and douse the cruising spinnaker, answers to sail trim techniques and integrating the techniques into the system
4.    Offer racing coaching on strategies & crew work & related organizing
5.    Consulting on preparing a boat for an offshore passage

I look forward to your call.
Cell: 401 965 6006