Wednesday, May 27, 2020

J/Newsletter- May 27th, 2020

sunset in Chile
While many have experienced "the good, the bad, and the ugly" over the past few week of pandemic life, there are more and more "rays of hope" that are burning brightly as we peer into the future for the opportunity to go sailing again...

Remember John Masefield's Sea Fever...the call is stronger than ever as we experience varying forms of "cabin fever" and the northern hemisphere is now well into late spring with temps into the 70s-plus..

"I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking...."

Officially, all USA states are "open"; most importantly, waterways and harbors and marinas for sailors!

In Europe, the same is generally true. Sweden, was always "open", doh! When is the first regatta in Marstrand or Stockholm- Midsummer Gotland Runt Race? Mid-summer June 21st- the Baltic Sea? The world wants that experience- sun 24 hours a day sailing!

We see some positive examples in America providing that glimmer of hope. In San Diego, California, we see the first efforts at getting that "new normal" moving forward again on the water.

Thankfully, in Newport we see that activities are opening up at Fort Adams State Park, that not inconsequential enormous peninsula of land that forms the western parts of Newport Harbor. That also means SAIL NEWPORT has been able to open sailing for its members sailing on J/22s on Narragansett Bay. Imagine that... the freedom to sail with "family" or "double-handed" anywhere your heart's desire.

There is no question that John Masefield's poem "Sea Fever" is an inspiration to us all, imagining of far away places we wish we could be right now!

Sailing on San Diego Bay
Re-define Normal and Enjoy It!

(San Diego, CA)- Last weekend on San Diego Bay, thirty-nine boats participated in the first race to be held since early March in all of southern California. Remarkably, the announcement had come out only three days earlier, and the strong response had everything to do with a smart plan and an eager audience.

As an active commercial and military port, the challenge with hosting events inside San Diego Bay is securing permission. However, amid this pandemic health crisis, optics are a challenge, too. For starters, the harbor is in plain view of government offices and an impatient population in downtown San Diego. To do this race, the boxes needed to be checked.

But, with strong relationships, and a track record for doing what they say, the Cortez Racing Association was able to work with the San Diego Harbor Police and U.S. Coast Guard to get their understanding and permission and created the CRA "Race Your Household I" event.  The hope is that it will evolve into a series all summer long!

As for the plan, it was shorthanded classes and same household crew, using government marks and a bare-bones race committee.

It was also about Corinthian spirit to cooperate and appreciate, and with Chamber of Commerce post-card sailing conditions, it laid the groundwork for future events.

Answering the call in the Singlehanded, Doublehanded, and Family Crew (3 or more) classes were an amazing cross-section of J/Teams enthusiastically heading "down to the sea again".  Those crews included Rudy Hasl's J/145 PALAEMON with family crew of Philip, Melanie, and Harris Hasl); Christina Seidel's J/24 CYGNET 2 (with family crew of Susan, Ella, and Holly Seidel); Bill & Robert Quealey's J/105 J-RABBIT SLIM; and Tim Lynch & Sandy Vissman's J/30 RUFFIAN.

In the end, winning the 3 or More Class was the Hasl family on their J/145 PALAEMON, while the Lynch & Vissman duo on their J/30 RUFFIAN sailed home to take the silver.

"Thank you's" to Race Committee Chair Colleen Cooke and Fleet Captain Rich Chambers! And, congratulations to the class winners, who will receive a $25.00 gift certificate from Fiddler's Green- compliments of owner Steve Rock! You have to LOVE Steve and his crew at Fiddler's Green, truly amazing people! :)

Said Scuttlebutt's Craig Leweck, "I have said this before, but for those harbors waiting to return to their normal competition schedule, you will be waiting too long. The season is on, people want to use their boats, and there are ways to do it. While major sports leagues struggle to return to their normal, we can re-define ours and still have a great time. We sure did!"

Stay tuned for Race Your Household II, tentatively scheduled for Saturday, June 6!  Thanks for contribution by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News   Learn more about the Cortez Racing Association racing schedule here.

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J/70s sailing off Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
J/70 Mexico Regatta Report

(Valle de Bravo, Mexico)- The new year had started off well for "nuestros amigos" in Mexico. The 2020 Mexican J/70 Circuit blasted off with a lot of enthusiasm and families and teams looking forward to a winter/spring regatta series across the country in some of the more famous "watering holes" in Mexico.

Here is the brief report from Mexican J/70 Fleet Captain Ignacio Perez Morett, just before the world went off the cliff and into the abyss of the pandemic.

"We started this year with the first two J/70 Mexico regattas in 2020. The first regatta was held in Valle de Bravo at the La Peña Sailing Club, over the January 11th to 12th weekend, with the participation of six boats.

The top of our leaderboard had some of our most exceptional sailors. Winning was Hector Guzman's ESCIPION, followed by Diego Reyes' RAGTIME in second and Roberto Escalante's LAMPUGA bringing home the bronze.

Our second regatta was sailed off Puerto Vallarta on January 18th to 19th on the famous Bahia de Banderas, famous for being one of the world's most beautiful places to sail, with its highly reliable 10 to 18 kts seabreeze that builds like clockwork from 11:30 am onwards.

In this regatta, we had eight boats participating. Wow! I can tell you from my personal experience, the competition was getting significantly better over last year! The leaderboard was comprised of Fernando Pérez Ontiveros' BLACK MAMBA taking class honors, with José Luis Pérez Morett's AMIGO earning the silver, and Eduardo Cano's CHILCANO holding the bronze medal."

Like many other J/70 sailors around the world, they are anxious to get out sailing again in a socially responsible way-- perhaps, a Doublehanded J/70 World Championship, anyone? Anywhere? Serious!? Why not!? Simple to organize, BTW.

Editor's note- "Having done over 100 Around Conanicut Island circumnavigations (yes, that does include my J/World days in Newport), I can honestly say one of the most satisfying and enjoyable were my last two double-handed around the island races.  Ironically, the first was a complete lark.

A good friend at Ida Lewis Yacht Club- Dan Faria- offered his Shields 30 ft. classic, beautiful, day sailor to do the race. Of course, we took him up on his offer, as it was the first (of three) Round Jamestown races that summer- Cafe Zelda's version is always the first. It was a blast. Spectacular day in Newport. Sunny, a gentle seabreeze blowing out of the south/ southwest.

Our principal competitor was a green Shields from Jamestown with SIX guys aboard, about average weight just a bit north of 250 lbs (our best guess, they looked like NFL offensive linemen). Most importantly, when asked what was in the Igloo Cooler in the middle of their cockpit before the start, they simply replied "beer". LOL. As is the tradition of the Round Island race (a day race, thank God), the partying had started early, like pre-noon.  So, after the start, they were first to the weather mark. We were not surprised.

However, the several mile downwind run from Beavertail Light to the top end of Jimmie-town proved to be their undoing. One wonders why!? LOL. A few missed shifts, a missing beer over the side, and they were done. Never saw them again... we simply gybed the Shields downwind, 470-style with tiller between my legs, handling both spinnaker sheets, while Julia gybed the spinnaker pole standing at the mast... a bit difficult sometimes, of course. Conversation during each gybe was, as you might imagine, along the lines of "What the hell honey, ease the sheets and bear off for God's sakes"...and, some other choice expletives hurled in the skipper's general direction.

The subsequent round island race was on a J/70. It was a "no dramas" circumnavigation. Fast. A blast. Perfect day. We had a scream as it reminded us of sailing in dinghies, like 470s, Hobie 16s, and International 14s. Upwind was simple, since the jib on a J/70 is easy to trim by anyone- young, small, old, man or woman. Downwind, gybing all day long was a complete "no-brainer". Having reflected on our Shields experience the previous year, it was laughably easier and more enjoyable. Change tacks, change gybes? Simple. Let go one sheet, pull the other, all day long.  Perhaps a consideration for the near future for J/70 events? And, true for offshore sailors, as well! Think J/88s, J/99s, J/105s, J/111s, J/121s, J/122s, truly the simplest, easiest boats to sail offshore double-handed, ever.  For more J/70 and J/70 Class sailing information.

J/24 Champion- Travis Odenbach
Refine the plan, Improve the fun

(Rochester, NY)- While traveling will be curtailed in 2020, Quantum Sails’ Travis Odenbach still has some good suggestions in this report for the J/24 Class Newsletter on how to make regattas easier and more fun for everyone. Here are Travis' perspectives:

"I like to think back on past years and reflect on what worked and what didn’t work in regattas or with teams I sailed with. This process helps me improve and move forward in the year to come.

In a perfect world, we’d sail with the same people at every event. Our teams would become almost machine-like, and with little communication needed, prepare for a regatta. But the truth is, this is not a reality for most teams in the J/24 Class, so if you can’t sail with the same team every single regatta, what should you do?

In the J/24 Class, I’ve learned to create a list of 10 to 15 people with whom I can build a team. I look at weights, sailing ability, and, most importantly, compatibility. Making sure that everyone gets along and more or less thinks the same way will get you off to a good start and ensure you have a good time at the regatta.

Once you find a team of compatible people, then look at weight and skill level to decide who will be doing what on the boat. With your team identified, you can get down to the nuts and bolts of the program−the stuff that makes your team work and makes it easy for everyone to focus on sailing and having fun.

For years I arrived at regattas early to get the whole boat set up and launched by myself. By the time the actual regatta began, I was cranky, tired, and pretty much burned out. I started to realize there had to be a better way. Sure enough, there was.

Through good communication with my team, we started to spread out the jobs based on all kinds of skill levels, not just those that pertain to sailing. This was a big change to the program. Skills also include cleaning the boat, tuning the rig, shopping for food, and checking into the house, among others.

We started to pick our jobs in advance of the regattas. One person took care of food every day, two people rigged the boat, two others cleaned the boat and one person made sure the sails were ready to go. Everyone pitched in. Whether we were at a Worlds or a District regatta, the process became easier and the team stayed energized and excited to sail.

My tips to make your 2020 season easier and more fun:
  1. Find a team that is compatible with each other.
  2. Assign a job to each crew member, from cleaning the boat, organizing sails and rigging the boat to filling up water bottles and making sure the crew has food for the day.
  3. Try to arrive to the event as a team. After all, this is a chance to sail and spend time with friends. It also makes life so much easier.
In my opinion, sailing is the greatest team sport in the world. We all sail because we love it and want to improve. I truly believe that incorporating these tips will not only help your sailing season improve, but also make it more enjoyable. Remember to enjoy sailing for the reasons you got into the sport in the first place: friends, competition, and traveling!"  Thanks to USA J/24 Class and Scuttlebutt Sailing News.

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The Wet Wednesday, Throwback Thursday, Fabulous Friday boat?

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Perfect weather here in Torres del Paine, Chile
* The BIG SECRET About Weather?
Having known Peter Isler since his college sailing days at Yale University, sailing out of "Yick-Yick" (a.k.a. Yale Corinthian Yacht Club in Branford, CT), sailing the infamous "Snow & Satisfaction Regatta" (with famous sailors multiple-Olympic Champion Paul Elvstrom from Denmark), it is remarkable to see how he and fellow Yale Bulldogs sailing alumni from that era like Dave Perry, Stan Honey, Steve Benjamin, Jonathan McKee, amongst others, have grown and evolved in the sailing world as knowledgeable leaders, World Champions, Offshore Champions, and experts in various permutations of the sport.

Scuttlebutt recently had a chance to catch up with Peter, a world renowned sailor, educator, and two-time America’s Cup winning navigator. Peter had some ideas he wanted to share with fellow sailors around the world as we sit in front of our computer screens in this pandemic world dreaming, wishing, we could be flying down magnificent Pacific swells under spinnaker at sunset doing 25 kts down the face of a never-ending surf to forever....  We’ll let him explain…

"When was the last time a friend bragged about their latest “weather app du jour” that is the “best ever” for forecasting the wind in a particular location? It happens to me a lot. And most of the time, when I check out the app or website – it’s just a new-fangled “re-packaging” of a weather model that is freely available (often thanks to some nation’s taxpayer funding) in a host of places.

Now, weather models are good things– invaluable tools for meteorologists, but they are not created equally– and none of them are exactly right.

In the right hands, these models (the grist for the forecasting output of 99.9% of every weather app out there) can provide invaluable data that will result in good forecasts. But used blindly in their raw form (e.g. with the thumb swipe to the screen) – well, let’s say their batting average won’t get you into the Hall of Fame.

It’s kind of like self-medicating with hydroxy-chloroquine to prevent a coronavirus infection. You might do okay, but you would probably be better off if you enlisted a medical doctor to direct your treatment.

sunset and rainbow over Newport, RI
I studied meteorology in college, obtained a bachelor’s degree in that fine course of study, and I have raced sailboats professionally for most of my life. I have navigated boats to offshore course records in both hemispheres, on the Pacific and the Atlantic. So, I hope you may agree my weather savvy is above the median. And yes, I use weather apps (want to know my favorites? – hang on for a minute – the answer isn’t as simple as you may hope).

I use weather models regularly, but when there’s big money on the line, I do more than “swipe right” on my favorite app.

I appreciate important characteristics of different models– like their pedigree, resolution, initialization time and more– and that helps me be more discerning when looking at their output and, ultimately, assists me in making better decisions in my forecasting/tactics.

Don’t get me wrong– I love weather apps. And, I use them all the time.

For example, when it comes to deciding whether I can get one or two more good runs in on my windsurfer before a thunderstorm (still learning to kite– so probably wouldn’t cut it so close), there’s nothing like the amazing weather radar we have here in the US – available (repackaged) on just about every good weather app. And, before a long back-country horse ride when there’s rain threatening, I have my go-to apps.

But here’s fact of life #42 – Weather forecasts have their limitations. They have been the brunt of jokes about their inaccuracies for centuries and now that computers have gotten into the game– they, too, have had their share of spectacular failures. That’s when we come back to the batting average analogy.

When I’m really serious about getting the weather right, I work hard at it– burning the midnight oil– not relying on a single data source, app, or model. And, I don’t just look on my phone/computer. I do what sailors have been doing for centuries– looking at the sky, the present conditions, and I scan the horizon for clues. Because, it is the human side of the forecast process that the app-bound sailor misses out on– it is a big swing and a miss.

And, when I’m really serious about getting the weather right– I hire a professional. Ironically. You see, even if I’m better than most professional meteorologists at running weather routing software; they're probably better than me at the human side of the art and science of weather forecasting.  The part where you have to decide between all the different forecast outputs (by definition every one of them is always ‘wrong’ to a degree– never perfect.)

Weather professionals do it for a living and some are really good at what they do. They don’t have to get a good night sleep before the race, they don’t have to attend the skipper's meeting, or work on some last minute item on the boat’s to-do list, and they probably have a good internet connection to be able to send out a crew email/ Whatsapp when I’m still packing my sea bag.

For me, having an outside meteorologist providing a morning forecast before a big race is money well spent and allows me to better do my job.

All this brings me to a new endeavor– Marine Weather University. I’ve teamed up with my weather guru and long-time friend, Chris Bedford ( to create an online school to teach sailors about the weather. Chris is adroit at teaching the weather– he’s one of those people who have the ability to make complex subjects become understandable.

Marine Weather University is designed to help sailors go beyond their favorite weather app and build a foundation of knowledge that will make them smarter about the weather. Chris has designed the curriculum with that goal in mind. Classes are rolling out throughout the summer with the first launching in a live webinar on June 2.

Ultimately all classes will be online for 24/7 access. Students can sign up for single classes, but we encourage they take one of MWU’s two full courses (Fundamentals or Advanced) – where the classes are bundled together, in a curriculum designed by Chris– like a real university course.

Check it out – you will learn what are my favorite apps (and Chris’ too), but more importantly, you’ll learn about the weather the right way. You will be able to read the sky better, make the most of the data you have available, and understand the limitations and strengths of your weather information." Thanks for this contribution from Scuttlebutt Sailing News.   For more Marine Weather University information.
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