Until You Get It Right (Intermission)

Why is this man smiling? Because, despite it all, he's having the time of his life. Rerigging for radio at Redd's Pond. The San Francisco damage doesn't show from this distance. Bill Bithell photo.

After Action Report: San Francisco

Arrived in good order on Tuesday. Set out to tune on Wednesday. Wind was high; one always overestimates, but I would say a solid 15 mph with gusts to 20 or more. Hit the side of the pond under spinnaker and dismasted the first time. Rest of the day spent re-rigging.

Thursday more of the same. Very hard to tune under these conditions. None of the locals were sailing, because all their boats (including the loaners) were pre-tuned. Hit the side on a reach and dismasted the second time. Again, a day lost to repairs.

Friday. Still windy. First run out, on the beat, failed to tack at start. Trotted around the lee end of the lake (aka Cardiac Cove) and turned her. Trotting back, a ferocious gust hit. I was sure she would take a knockdown; instead, she went rail down, rose up on the plane and rocketed into the boards. Dismasted, split the deadwood, and was filling with water when I got there. Off to Franciscan Hobbies of fond memory for epoxy and glass cloth, and another day and most of an evening lost to repairs, during the course of which she fell off the table with no (further) injury. Boat now named "MIss BandAid."

Saturday. A tuning day masquerading as a race day. Still managed to score 7 points.

Sunday. Less wind, boat behaving nicely despite being seriously out of alignment. Scored 12 points.

Scoring: 19 points put me 12th. 9th through 12th separated by a handful of points. I lost two beats by less than a boat length, which would have put me in the single digits. I was quite satisfied with the results, all things considered. The high wind experience was a good taste of next year at Fleetwood.


Mostly a social event for me, as I had optimized the boat (I thought) for SF. Marblehead runs on a system where all the boats launch at once, and the time spent turning and re-trimming is part of the race. I sailed to see how she would do, and she did OK. Mostly served to beat her up more against the multitude of rocks in Redd's Pond.

My Albuquerque sailing mate Joe Frasier sailed her in the R/C event. The sluggish turning because of the full skeg really hurt.

Lessons Learned

Overall reliability: OK. Never missed a heat in either event.

Boat Speed: No problem here. Stayed with and beat some very well-regarded boats (intermittently).

Vane: Fine. The new ball bearing design never had a glitch; in fact, in a total of over 40 heats at SF and Marblehead, she never went out of control.

Rig: Omitting the backstay was a mistake; we could never get the jib flat enough, and probably contributed to the dismasting, as did the 65 lb. test stays -- now running 90 lb. sharkproof deep sea fishing leader, like the SF guys do. Will have to rethink how to swap in the radio gear.

Radio: The drop -in gear worked flawlessly. Will build a removable/replaceable skeg next time, which should also help sort out the trim problem (see below).

Fittings: OK, with a couple of minor exceptions. The use of lexan hard points where the fittings attached worked great. The Bithell-style hook turnbuckles are neat, except if you lose a shroud (whithout a safety line) they drop in the pond. I lost two.

Hull: Canoe hull strength was fine; not a single crack or split seam despite all the flogging she took. From the looks of the damage, the first couple of hard smacks cracked the deadwood, and water seeped in and softened the mahogany, which crushed under the crosspin at the final crash.

Trim: Still something of a mystery. She trims out under radio to just about exactly the design mast position (23" aft of stem), but under vane she won't carry lee helm even with the mast full forward. (You can't carry heavy weather helm with a Ballantyne vane because it will tack prematurely). This puts the mast 16" aft of the stem. The SF "Rip Tides," running under Braine, have their masts at 20". The large vane feather moves the geometric center of effort aft 4", so this may have something to do with it. I clearly have a lot to learn here.

Next Steps

Hull 7, for Fleetwood next year. Engineer a much stronger fin to hull attachment method.

Patch up and rig Miss BandAid for radio only. Do a lot of trim testing to get proper rudder/skeg configuration, running with with the van feather mounted. Minor mods to rig and and vane, including a jib radial. [August 2001: Sold it to make space for Hull 7]

Click Here to see the start of Hull 7.