Category Archives: Uncategorized

TBC Sailing hull speed learning etc

We have had a spell of dreadful weather, which is very unlike our usual serene Septembers here  on the South Coast of Norway. Yesterday though was one such day with light airs, blue skies and a sharp sunshine so typical here either end of the summer.

So we jumped at the chance of grabbing a practice sail and seeing pretty much literally, where the wind would take us, in the 12 sq meter classic design. 

Upon reflection the sail made me think of three things – hull and keel speed, spinnaker work and learning to re-learn.

On the Subject of Sailing Badly in Light Airs in Classic Boats

The 12 sq meter design is indeed a mini twelve mR designed as a training boat for youth of the wealthy on Oslo Fjord. It soon however became a favourite day boat of adults looking for an easily crewed regatta machine. King Olav had an early  ‘Fram’ 12 kvm indeed as a young man. On some of my previous outings in these elegant classics, much prettier it has to be said that most all of the UK’s one design day sailers, I have sailed very badly. Or been made to feel like my sailing skills were somehow thrown out of the window.

Coming back to the class after some spats and a very poor nationals in 2010 (the boat had mussels on the keel and when I first inspected her sails, GAFFER tape fixes on the spinnaker! ) I took these former failures as a challenge to learn the boat and prepare a decent example, and crew, for racing.

The burning light in the revitalisation of the class as a one-design with  our local centre of gravity, has been the boat builder and all round craftsman in wood, Petter Halvorsen. He like others before gave me a recent ‘heads up’ that the 12 kvm (kvadrat meter = sq. m) was so different that I  should throw out all I have learned in the Melges and a long line of boats, and rather learn the arts of keeping her moving.  

However there are certain principles of science at stake here, rather than leaving it all down to art. The boat may be very different in design from the modern regatta machines,  or the RORC tonne rule derived OD boats I sailed mostly before, but Scotty will tell you, a 12 kvm cannae defy the laws of physics, Jim.

Wave Goodbye to your Logs, and Say Hello to your Waves 


Universal Basic Income- The Craziest of all Ideas,  Which May Actually Work?

Universal Basic Income invokes shock and horror amongst the conservative chattering classes and skilled labour alike. Paying people to do “nothing”, it is crazy and lazy! Or is it? When billionaires, libertarian leaders and astute politicians start promoting the idea, then we have to inform ourselves!

From Luddites to Blairites

Society is changing in the way it relates to economic activity. This sea-change of new technology replacing human tasks,  is allegedly going to accelerate beyond the rate at which new human based jobs and livelihoods will be created. We are about to robotise menial and manual jobs such as shop service and public service /freight driving, while also  on the more skilled end of human mental activity,  let algorythms do the work of highly skilled accountants, scientists and even lawyers.

The great advance in computing is here, we can finally emulate the human brain in many activities, and in some, like motorway driving, outperform humans.

When transport workers and accountants get their redundancy notices, will there be a great cry of  ‘ crush the machines’ as the Luddites of the first industrial revolution demanded?

Will there be rather a slower transition, as the relatively expensive technology is rolled out in the larger firms first? Or will this be a rapid transition aided by the departure of the old school baby boomer management structures, who are largely reaching retirement age and taking their philosophies with them into senility (?).

Blairite- Wallmart economics – the UBI is already here anyway, yet complex and expensive to adminsiter ? ……………………………………………………………………..

Industrial Revolutions Revolve The Work Force

Why should this new industrial revolution reduce the number of workers when all other industrial revolutions and major innovations  have actually lead to new wealth-creation and more jobs ?

In truth some jobs and professions have died away – take the 1960s typing pool- a hand written letter or shorhand dictat was taken to the ( girls) of the typing pool and returned to the originator often some days later. These typing pool employees needed to read,  spell and type at 40 to 60 words a minute. They were whiped out within a ten year period, and even secretaries were removed from middle to upper management, just the reserve of VPs and the CEO. A cultural shift occured in the 1980s. The PC, spellchecker and there after the e-mail killed off these jobs.

The thing is that in that case women were emancipating themselves, and these menial jobs were no real loss to them. Computing also lead to new opportunities in data capture (punching in) and customer or supplier interaction. There were new needs for manual interpretation and interaction with databases and communication systems.  They were getting educated, trained and advancing their own careers. There was a counter current which neutralised much of the change.

I was sayinhg to a friend just today, when we were young would be ever believe that two small start up companies foom the 1970 Apple and Microsoft would be bigger than GE, GM and the tourist infustry? Or that a social platform, a replacement for mail and telephone, would become the highest value company listed on the NY stock exchange?

So we also see then possibilities here for this kind of redirection. Also that human activity in a technological society tends towards higher value per person- both monetary and by value to society.

The reason that previous industrial revolutions driven by technology have lead to growth in standard of living and wealth is that on the one hand there are new tools delivered, while on the other there are new opportunies in the end product or service. With new tools we increase worker productivity, enhance often quality and reliability in the product, and enable new possibilities, often not envisaged when the new tool or process was first developed.

So for example the steam engine lead to the internal combustion engine, while the combination of the steam turbine and the turbo charger lead to the jet engine, which in its’ end applicaton shrunk the world for us.

This ‘revolution’ is not the first time we have seen a quantum leap which displaces human labour. It is ironic yet illustrative that the terms ‘calculator’ and ‘computer’ both were used to describe professions in the 19 th Century. These tasks were done wholly by people. As tools, they allow us all access to accounting, engineering, drawing, image manipulatiin and communication. Yes they seem to just replace manual tasks, but they allow more people to access the skills and utilise the mathematics and technology.

Robots take over an entire human in a similar way as mechanical and then electronic calculators did. They displace a human from a menial task, or enhance the precision and repeatability of a skilled job. However the latter leads to even larger efficiency gains.ibduastrial welding and operational Robot and electronic guided machine tool manufacture became a major industry, and programming and maintaining them the new skill on the ground, while the companies engaging them could grow and offer higher value in the market. Which meant people could do new things, better things and often quality became more affordable.

Many highly informed pundits though, forsee a near future where millions of people will be economically displaced. In the USA they say that 3 million driving jobs will disappear. But in what time span? Do we need a UBI to smooth the transition and pick up those older or less literate workers who have difficulty in new professions? or does it happen slowly and natural wasteage  (retirement and career exits) balances the disruptor ?

Lowering Barriers to Micro Industrialisation?

There is another barrier which is being overcome here with the super robot and algorythmic decision maker. The barrier to entry for new competitors.

These new ‘super’ robots are going to be affordable in aqusition and service- that is the reason many pundits think  adoption is going to be so wide scale and hence displace so many human jobs. So although they add costs they take away human costs, and are in theory more productive than a single human.

Now if you imagine a robot or computing system able to do the job of ten people, yet the cost per unit is less than a single year for an employee, then small businesses can compete with bigger businesses in producting niche products or innovations in local markets.   SME’s can be close to their local customer or ‘pyscically proximal’ global customers. That is to say they can react rapidly to evolving needs and tailor products and services to that niche, or deliver a local product quickly. SME can offer that high degree of tailoring to customer, while also offering higher quality or perhaps even a cheaper version of a product than the main stream ‘value added’ offering.

We see this to some extent with the somewhat over hyped 3/D printing technologies. It can mean that a very cheap, local product can be made, or that a very high quality product can be made with high precision. New products not envisaged can be rapidly prototyped and come to the world as solid entities. Furthermore new service opportiunities, remembering the jet engine, can be rapidly created, tailored and disseminated. This means that new entrepreneurial activity is enabled with a focus on creativity and solving problems, two things humans still by in large out rank the CPU many fold.

What About the Trailer Park? 

On the other hand then, what jobs are left for the unskilled, non-entrpreneurial section of society? Already they are economically margunalised and often as active in the black economy than the taxed one. They wont be designing, fixing or reprogramming the robots which habe taken their joibs. Is the new robot and algorythm technology going to be too large a crash across too large a section of the economy, jobs market and social strata that we  will create destitution en masse fro, what is called the Precariat today – the precarious proletariat?  Will social-mobility halt up as young adults can no longer work their way into and through college and university?

 Ellon Musk and Mark Zuckenberg certainly do believe that we are on  the brink of a sea change which is inevitable,  but which will make human economic activity redundant in so many sectors and professions such that society will be profoundly disrupted by inequality and abject poverty. 

Further market mechanism critique tbc lost in draft crash DO NOT RESTORE next time

Also a new bit on the ‘hipster and home sale begging’  future, which is already here. Offering high price on products which are only of slight better quality, “begging” from friends and relying on trainsient styles and fashions.

 Where are the Social Democratic and Socialist Left on UBI ?

From the traditional left wing perspective, UBI is admitting defeat to market mechanisms over promoting living wages and engaging more of the workforce in useful jobs which better society.It is a simple sticking plaster over the ills of capitalism.

In effect we came to this capitulation in the UK with the Blairites and Gordon Brown’s policies of making work pay, a form of gauranteed minimum income with flexibility for working part-time, mediated via benefits and tax credits. This was a major economic blunder in light of allowing weak labour laws to continue from the Thatcher era, permittting a culture of the lowest common denominator in employment , the zero hours contract, and the precarious temporary nature of working in the consumer service sector in particular.  In turn these policies have reduced tax revenues from ordinary unskilled and semi skilled workers  while increasing benefit payments in the periods they find their temporary contracts end, or their hours cut. Even average income workers with families can find they recieve more in tax credits and benefits than they pay in income tax in the UK.

The hope as with all political policy, was that economic growth would eventurally take more of these people out of benefits and make them into net tax payers, an essential element in any modern economy with an ageing population.  The means of promoting economic growth are Neo Liberal, promoting flexibility in the labour market and deregulation. This is the biggest critique of the decade of Labour Blairite power- that they gave up fighting for workers rights, bar the minimum wage, and caved into the concepts which would eventually lower the standard of living for many of their own voters, plunging them into the part time/ temporary economy.

Even in the USA there is a form for UBI for part time workers which keeps Walmart supplied with cheap, disposable staff, and they can avoid all the ‘on costs’ associated to full time, permanent staff such as pensions or health care contributions. They found the lowest common denominator and kept policy in place via lobbying such that public money still supported their profits, while social un rest due to abject poverty were kept at bay due to welfare top ups and medicare for the poorest.

Neo-Liberals. The Weirdest Proponents of UBI

Neo Liberalism has some common sense in its often otherwise twisted philosophy. That of the existential individual. Really the modern labour movements and neo-socialists do not have much of the collectivist policy left when it comes to outdated concepts like the command economy. Here the two actually meet , full circle if you like, the extreme ends finally tieing in a bizarre consensus on UBI.

Neo Liberalists knew all along that they would need to have welfare in western economies in practice, because capitalism is inevitably a ‘trickle up’ affair which leads to social unrest. Policy makers under reagan and bush administrations made high profile cuts to social budgets, while in fact the budget for welfare increased and more employers started to use staff on a part time/ temporary basis. But in turn they have woken up in their key national economies, the US and the UK, to the huge structure in place to keep people sruviving – the “precariat” , the precarious position of the proletariat. The means of delivering and policing social welfare are hugely costly and labour intensive.

Also on the libertarian side, there is the element of personal freedom being constricted by government schemes which have rules and boundaries as to what economic or educational activities claimants can or cannot engage in before they lose their benefits or  have to apply for other types of benefit.  For willing participants, it is argued that it renders them under the wing of the nanny state, with an expectation that the government scheme will fix things for them. They will get personal improvement via the governments’ action, via the beaurocracy.

Here then UBI has ‘small government’ appeal to Libertarians

On the liberal, neo-socialist side, we have then support for a basic standard of living, and as mentioned for the Blairite position, a capitulation to the way the market has evolved. A light administered ‘living wage’ which would cover an elementary costs of survival without means testing, just via computer based tax and registration comparisons, has great appeal because on the one hand it feeds people, while on the other it denies employers access to what is tantamount to slave labour- there is no compulsion from government to take work and live precariously, in and out of those expensive welfare systems.

From the ‘socialist side’ UBI delivered via efficient computing systems can be viewed as the final step to liberating the workforce from slavery. This being in that jobs are no longer viable when they barely cover subsistance, from low pay to zero hours contracts,  and ‘maggies farm’ economics where by employment hot spots reduce wages to the same for skilled workers. Capital then has to develop more attractive packages for workers and allow them to work home office for example.

Social services ….

Cold Turkey for Welfare ?

Many arch neo liberalists and conservatives advocate the removal or all state welfare, for much the same reasons UBI is arguably flawed. Yet we have the reality here,not a possibility, that zero welfare leads to social unrest. Violence, crime, malnutrition, mafiaosa and emmigration. That is what happened before in history, and there is no difference today. There are no great charitable mechanisms, no mass food bank. There are guns, there are terrorist recruiters

Who then decides if you qualify for UBI? At what stage to you have to exit UBI or is there a transition, as a gauranteed minimum income which would potentially be more beaurocraticto administer. Do many actively choose to be UBI or is it something you have thrust upon you by default or culture? There is this element in the concept that it is a kind of default dialogue, that you would normally be unemployed or disabled or that your line of work makes you ill. Who says then you cannot qualify for UBI?

UBI is easier to administer than current systems because it is a simple payment. Opportunity for fraud are of course there, but with a stricter capture of identity electronically then it can be mediated automatically without any human staff. It is linked to income tax and declarations of sickness or unemployment, which can be fed into the system automatically. A field day for criminals? Well attempting to register a false identity becomes a bigger crime than it is today, as does identity theft.  police time is freed from petty crime conducted by subsistance marginalised peoples in order to feed or entertain themselves, to catching organised criminals and violent gangs.

Picking up on the last points from previous section then we see that a minimum gauranteed income would reduce beaurocracy and increase personal freedom. However what are the down sides of injecting this money at the lower end of the unskilled and semi skilled workforce ?


Lost draf critique of Neo Liberalism lord in the castle feudalism, barricaded utopia, bread line, violent social unrest and revolution

Economic Criticisms of UBI

The main argument against UBI from main stream centre right economists is that it renders people lazy. There is no compulsion to work for the basics of life, so many millions will choose this route and become state dependents. However this position is a fact of life in the two major Neo Liberal economies, the US and the UK already. Otherwise there would be social unrest when large numbers of people cannot put bread on their table and cover the cost of their rents.

There is a cultural counter agrument to conservative thinking of the ‘lazy bones society’- people want more than their basic subsistance, and strive for more. If you take away striving for basic survival then you find the large majority strive for more. It was always the intention of Blairite Brownite top up benefits to let people get more work experience and take up work, with the hope that many would be locked into the pay economy and not the benefits economy. This was not the case in reality over th elast two decades, as employers could reduce their costs by removing down time via zero hours contracts and seasonal employment, while still maintaining a willing (or often compelled) work force at this low cost.

Conservatives would then argue that this has to be paid for by taxes. Yes that is obvious. However how much does western society pay now and how inefficient are the state mechanisms for administering this? Proponents  also point to the drop in crime and the improvement to health because the poorest can come out of malnutirtion, those suffering back problems or stress from office jobs can choose a new lifestyle, prople can choose more time for sport and exercise.

It seems very utopian, unrealistic. Surely it would be overly tempting to turn on, tune in and sign up? The question the leaders of the new technological industries pose, is what are we going to do with all the people who do not have the ever higher level of skill and education required to run their businesses and utilise or service their technology?  Is the alternative not dystopian, where human life and effort is not valued in terms of say 20 / 30% of the working popuilation?


The Libertarian Rentier Economy Is the Reason UBI Could Fail

UBI also applies to handicapped people and when you are sick. So it sounds like a win win all round. Back up here though, we are like the Affordable Care Act, injecting large amounts of money into the economic system.

Here we come to the doyen concept of Neo Liberalism, the unfettered predominance and power of the rentier economy. The natural law for the powerful, the rich to extract more from our very existences rather than our productive output. Our housing, our transport, our water, our power, our basic staples and basic shopping. Trickle up, and when it concerns housing, often a torrent.

With no social housing policy or rent controls, UBI is an irresistable inflationary surge. In fact the rentiers themselves may libby for UBI as a means to flow more value in rent and asset worth up to them, in the way Walmart support welfare ‘rights’. Also it could lead to a new credit bubble if individuals lever their new secure income against consumer credit.
UBI becomes then self defeating it would seem, as its value is inevitably erroded by inflation, with no counter acting productivity gains?

Also would we see the spread of ‘internships’ where to gain skills ornexperience it is expected that you live on UBI?  Would we see a further displacement of labour in other sectors due to the availability of bored UBI’ers ? Would we see more work become part time and tenuous as employers learn to use those on UBI ?


more on the basics are covered and game theory

Market mechanistic theory would however also produce counter arguments to the erosion of the value of a UBI by inflation. Because a UBI is not tied to living in one place. Suddenly people in high rent areas can move to lower priced areas which they can afford. They also have time to build their own housing, and gain training to do so. People in work struggeling to make ends meett can vote with their feet and opt of UBI, reducing their income, but then also moving away from the over priced metropolitan and sunrise valley areas. So there are different countering market mechanisms to the possibilty for run away inflation. It gives a kind of ultimatum to capital – make employment pay or we will leave employment. Make jobs interesting and fulfilling or we will fulfill ourselves and find new economic activity from a base line of UBI.

Existentialism to the Rescue of UBI ?

To counter the inflation-anullation argument against UBI, we can see that people are no longer trapped in using their time to simply survive. They become more mobile. If rents go up in one area,they need not worry about moving to a cheap non metropolitan area. Or they may use their time to buildn their own house, and even lobby, organise and build housing in their communities. Free from beaurocratic demands to take low value work, they can take education and work practice in skilled trades while still feeding and housing themselves.

Today in most all western societies a black and white model of work and welfare has developed. You are either in work and trying to make ends meet, sometimes forced to accept what you can, or you are out of work on benefits.You are not allowed to keep benefits and work as you choose or as it becomes available.  Gordon Brown’s ‘make work always pay’ hss lead to more margjnalisation not less, it has locked millions into precarious personal economics and state dependency.

Here we also can consider what is happening with Face Book’s income and more specifically where it is coming from. By in large the corporates have not been hugely active on FB compared to Google and TV. When was the last time you saw a Coca Cola Advert on FB? Or had a ‘push post’ from General Electric without you Liking their profile?  Facebook have related to the media that much of their 8 billion dollar advertising spend comes from small enterprises. To them FB is cheap, less than ten dollars per thousand or more reach to views, and less than 20 dollars per conversion to sale,  or  per new  potentially loyal customer. The business is granular and below the radar of ‘anti corporate’ negaitve sentiment. If Fb are being candid, then we are not being spammed by the grey suits, we are being wooed by hipsters and spinster start ups on our FB newsfeeds.


Individual bargaining….lost in draft fail crash. Black mail, pay to play. game theory


Futurology on robots making robots automation removing capital control, excessive gross marhing for staff and profit removed,  Utopia behind the barricades


We have nboth utopian and dystopian visions, but the facts are in front of uis. Major western economies already have mechanisms of UBI for marginal workforce, disabled and chronically sick. Robotisation is going to replace thousands of unskilled/semiskilled and automation of more cranial operator tasks with software utilsing algorythms

Workfare policies becoming the norm for UBI and really getting back to slavery. Libertarian ppiint of view that it is then the govern,ment who are directing what people do at work, or perhaps employers as mentioned take up UBI instead of ordinary employees at minimal cost with an element of compulsion, and a lose lose for government tax returns as tax paying employees are displaced.

Market mechnisms or government could be replaced:  cost per service affordable vs tax and inefficient  or the need for major service management neo liberal compulsory compet tendering removed and competiton being for the mechatronics, the computer systems, which eventually enter dminishing returns



Armchair Virtual Cruising West Coast Scotland

Aye the nachts are faur drawin’ in like.

You can of course choose to pick you weather and have short days or dare I say, sail a little at night and really test your mettle, but the season for most is drawing to a close. 

If I were to pop in a boat in the Glesga Fair in 2018 then where would I go cruising? 

Torridon, Sheildaig of all Places …A Possible Destination en Virtual Route??

There is a long standing lust from racing days to actually spend time dropping hooks and sinking pints, or swinging on the chain with an anchor dram in hand in the wilderness along the coast lines and to the isles I have often hurtled past with eyes mostly fixed on spinnaker luff or genoa tell=tales. 

So on this little bucket list there are the places of family folklore I think I have blogged on before- the Treshnish, Tinker’s hole, Polldhorain. Then there is intertwined with this the Malt’s Cruise of course and the Ceilidh as a tie-date.

Which Hook Nooks Have I Raced Past ? (erm, literally…)

 But this all reeks of AWBs (average white bands, sorry boats!) queing to get into the anchorages and wobbling off the various new pontoons as if they just got off the bus at Anderston Terminal. In the Glesga Fair this all really doesnt appeal, and is far better accomplished in May and June, with an exemption say for a trip to Islay to do the distilleries there with the perty at the end, having raided Tallisker  along the way earlier.

Far better in the ‘Faur’ to get the heck out of these lower latitudes and sail north. 

In my mind’s eye there is a kind of blind spot for Harris, Benbecula, Barra. It is Terra Non Cognitosurrounded by Aqua Nova. There are the frightful Minches and the Mightly Atlantic beyond. Oh The Crinan Canal for me……those great ocean breakers would gie me the shakers. More than a blind spot, like a fog of fear out there. And completely unnecessarily. I once helmed an Impala out to Coll from Arisaig after being storm bound there for two days. The sea was NW and fairly monsterous at times, ‘specially on account of it being a beam reach. Nearing Coll they got steeper and a green mountain appeared I decided to take on the bow. That my friends was the Atlantic hitting shallower water and possibly adverse tide! So fright be taken! Been there and got the t-shirt.

The Fantastic Fantasy Cruise

So My cruise ? Clyde mooring or marina on the Friday afternoon before the fair saturday, provisioned well for four days with ‘hard-tack’ for five more. Ailsa Craig and Sanda to Port on an ebb tide I hope, and sailing through the night to breakfast and sleep at Gigha. A tootle around the island and a decision make it anouther night watch or two out past Dubh Artaig and Skerryvore weather permitting. 

This is some challenging sailing. Firstly the Sound of Jura on the right tide, then the course and caution with the weater and sea state out past all the ‘Bad Boghas’ – the rocks and skerries off Iona and Tiree. There after? Well perhaps Barra weather being clement, and a fine anchor spot in Castle Bay. Bound the be ahead of the Bavarians who are mostly trying to get into Caladh or Ardrishaig Sea Lock by now. No, this is not a floating caravan tour super market to super market. 

With good conditions and a flood tide in the Sea of the Hebrides and the Minches, then why not relax with less sail on a broad reach and eat and make merry on board. OFten when racing we do that of course, and when not racing it was usually delivering with hard tack and UHT milk before and after you came on watch. A cruise this as you see, for two experienced skippers and two good deck hands at least!

Now up to the filet of the tour. The Shiant Isles. I had no idea that the Minch between Skye and Harris was so nasty yet contains a major traffic lane for shipping taking a short cut, including the odd super tanker and oil rig! It is quite narrow compared to the Minch proper of course, but rocky too. And with the ‘charmed , blessed, enchanted’ islands of the Shiant archipeligo. A kind of poor man’s St. Kilda, and I admit to my ignorance, I had no idea such a pearl existed until a few days ago. A text would have sufficed and in fact I am somewhat bothered that images are already in my head from t’internet of this wonderful little world. 

From there in a NW or SW I would actually scoot over to another group of Charming Islands, the Summer Isles at Achiltibuie and enjoy a dinner at the famous hotel bar there, if not on the lawn kissed by sunshine.  In a Westerly, and lots of it, more tempting to head to the east coast of Harris and Lewis and explore there. 

From though the Summer Isles, a replenishment at Ullapool. Ole’s Pool has always been a land crab favourite of my, and featured along with the Five Sisters of Kintail in my fairwell to Caledonia. From the Viking’s bay, round then to Torridon, because that is where the photo above was taken. My dad, a whole lifetime ago, exploring and ‘staying ahead of the racing rabble’ 

There after Plockton was also a family kind of place on the map and then over to Talisker Destillery while we are here. The sound of sleet and then Arnisdale and maybe, maybe Hourn heid another spot on the 1970s tournerihng my dad did. 

The ‘small isles’ themselves and Loch Nevis are the matter of a different cruise than tonights, one which involves hill walking boots. So I am afradi now it all gets tawdry and failing the need to take in Arisaig – a difficult entrance that keeps many away from its eateries, PO, shop and walks to the sands of Morar., then it is on to Tob’ to share stories in the Mish’. 

I feel now civilisation would beckon, and small Isles with Iona is as said a nother tour altogether. No Mulling around this time, Terra Habilis, Oban beckons and a chance to change crew, milk the coo, shower and eat and be merry at a finer establishment, or budget dwindling, chippy and the North Pier. Poldohrain then for old times sake and an easy next day to then choose the tide well to Crinan. Canal for a day of ‘chust sublimeness’ before back to Caladh to gloat over the local small timers. An icecream at Roth’y and a bag of chips for the final afternoons tootle over to normality, humdrumness, land lubbing. 
Over Ambitious?

Well all this may seem a little over ambitious, but you have to put this in perspective of what my own father could achieve in the the two weeks of the Glasgow Fair, and what good lifers curcumnavigating get up to. Cruising in Scotland runs the risk on one hand, of getting too pussified with pontoons and close to shore sponsored moorings in every village. However it can be argued that this will take the hoi palloi away from the auld favourite wee hooks, expecially as inclement summer monsoon conditions seem to be the norm for late may through to mid august! 

Gigha to Shiants non stop will seem down right deranged to some readers who are used to the joys of island hopping and getting places before dark and before the tide changes. But in years of old, going back to the Vikings, sailors had to get where they were going before the storms of the equinox were upon them. 

No this trip needs planning, and it is not for the sea sick prone wife you may have, or kids under 9 years old. It is a challenge and full exposure to nature’s elements. Tides need to be taken into account with wind, motoring for battery charges and progress to tidal gates thought of, bolt holes and escape plans if the barometerr drops like a stone, a knowledge of shipping and fishing movements, a watch for whales and dropped cargo too. 

Spinnakers – An Introduction for Cruisers and New Racing Sailors

Away from the race course in sailing, you don’t often see spinnakers being flown in anger. You maybe see the odd bow pinned assymetric cruising shoot  hoisted, with it’s rolled condom of a ‘snuffer’ aloft, but in general a trip doon-the-watter when there is no regatta activity reveals a petty few spinnaker scenes . Such a loss to sailing ! I mean they not only make you go faster but they most often look rather pretty !


On the Windward-Leeward or round the Nav’ Cans, you can often see an interesting range of spinnaker skills and abilities, and sometimes they do catch out the best of them! Spinnaker work for racing or for cruising demands practice and a crew who have the knowledge to get the best out of the spinnaker, but more importantly get out of trouble if somethings goes wrong or the wind suddenly gets sqaully.

Let me presume that you have perhaps done some spinnaker work or are buying a new boat.

Why Bother With Those Fancy Coloured Sails?

Aren’t they just hassle?

The thing about spinnakers is that they really boost the speed over the water, and they add a lot of interest to what could be a rather mundane tour down wind in 6 knots of breeze on a day just ambling around otherwise, when perhaps you start thinking about the ‘donkey’. For the helmsman they can be easier to steer to than a poled-out genoa, and for a sharp eyed crew, they can be flown in a relaxed manner, one eye on the gusts behind. However they can present a lot of challenges and at either end of the scale, drifting vespers or gale building, they can be more than just a handful, and ruin your day if you aren’t sharp.

I can think of many days crusing earlier in life when we just idled along on a run or broad reach with a lazy genoa not wanting to help matters much, when in fact with a little training and an attentive helm, you can enjoy extra speed and interest in your passages with the wind ab’aft.

Getting Started?

There are two very good starting points for a boat owner looking to get into spinnaker work, and the first is to indeed, pole out your jib or genoa with a whisker pole as they are called, or a redundant spinnaker pole if it is the right length. This gives you a good idea of goose-winging on a broad reach and as you bear away to a run, how the boat handles. Also you can practice gybes, by either end to ending or dip poling. This is a very place to begin training up a crew, because the pole has to go over and then the boom goes over, and then the helm has to do the same correction to avoid a broach, especially when running afore the wind in a rolling sea.

The second approach is to down-size! Our first option here is to get a tour out in a racing dinghy or day sailing boat, then get trained up by a willing and communicative helm’, and maybe race a little as reserve crew – that will sharpen you up and as a helm yourself, you should appreciate the limitations of the crew’s actual speed of work, and be able to look for signs that things are going wrong or slower than you may like.

The other side of downsizing is using a smaller spinnaker – for example in a big wind, the Beneteau 36.7 class here elected to allow the use of a small, inside forestay spinnaker, hoisted ont he reserve jib halyard. The spnnaker is about the size of a Sonata’s for reference. It looks a bit odd, and often gets a cleavage round the forestay, but it works in force 6 better than a jib and much safer than the full spinnaker. If you haven’t two jib halyards then you could experiment in light airs by taking the jib down first and hoisting the small spinnaker on the one halyard.

To Assy’ Or Not To Assy’?

Assymetric spinnakers and their close relatives, the bolt roped Gennaker*, have been a boon to modern sailing. Without their develiopment in classes like the Int 14 and 18 foot skiffs, we quite probably would have seen a  decline in racing if you ask me. They add a lot of excitement in light displacement boats, while also simplifying spinnaker work in any boat quite a lot simpler.

M32 with Gennaker at speed! (c) 2017 Author

(Gennakers are actually a light sail like a spinnaker, but with a ‘bolt rope’ ie line in their luff such that they are held near the centre line and most often can be used higher on the wind than an Assymetric Spinnaker. It can be debated that all ‘Code Zero’ topsails are Gennakers. Some people call Assy’s Gennakers, but don’t bother correcting them unless they carry both types of sail )

It is a little ironic and lost on more than a few, that this latter day ‘high tech’ phenomenom actually is so very similar to the days pre spinnaker, when large sails were hoisted from wooden bowsprits, often with a pole to help them protrude out on the leeward side, or allow goosewinging. Even the ‘balloon’ sails of the 12mRs and J-class boats were still an aerofoil section, and that changed when spinnakers came in, with their symmetrical, deep bell shape.

The aerofoil shape is the key to the performance of these sails, but also limits them to sailing on a broad reach and not a run, per se. However in faster boats, like say the Melges 24 I sail on or most any racing dinghy with assy’, you start to generate so much apparent wind that you can sail DDW (dead down wind) while actually aerodynamically you are sailing a broad reach, the wind having come forward with your movement. More on that later and how to trim spinnakers.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Decisions decisions then? Well in fact if your boat does not have a bowsprit or a long spinnaker pole then you will not get a great benefit from an “A-Sail”. The types of cruising chute as they are called which pin down the bow on the anchor roller, are limited to sailing quite high wind angles because they are in the shadow of the mainsail. Generally speaking this is a beam reach and forward to a tight reach that they work, where-as a protruding bow sprit boat will allow for broad reaching.

At the other extreme of assymetrics we have ultra light displacement , ie planing boats, which really benefit from having a long, often 1.5 to 2.5 m bowsprit. Here you can get planing on a reaching course and as the speed builds, bear away while sailing in fact a reach due to the apparent wind going forward. This can be done with a great deal of ease. I remember test sailing the ’39er’ on a windy day in mid summer and the sheet loads once we got plkaning were light, while the speed was phenomenal. Gybing is also a piece of cake, really just a bit more effort ( if any ) than gybing a large genoa – there is not pole work, and most often no need for anyone to go up on the foredeck.

Symmetrical spinnakers then have their drawbacks when it comes to higher speed and ease of sailing. Another example for comparison I can think of, is that our club bought a fleet of RS Fevas and I managed to rig most of them with spinnaker on the first day our youth sailed them. I said I didn’t think we would get our spinnakers up, but all those who had them rigged, got them up, and I don’t even think I showed them how it was done. Ok

Feva at Finnøya

RS Fevas at Finnøya , a super training boat for youth © 2010 Author

some were tacking round with them and making a mess, but there was no harm done. It was inuitive really, just a slight progression from using the jib. I don’t think the same gang in 420s would have mastered a single spinnaker hoist on their first day out! There is just so much more work for the crew and attention to detail for the helm. As the boat gets bigger you probably want to use lazy sheets and guys which add a great deal of security, but also more compelxity.

What are then if any, the drawbacks of assymetrics on a bowsprit? Well firstly they tend to have a larger sail area by design for the boat in order to give a real VMG benefit. That is to say, because the boat will spend more of its time reaching or broad reaching, it has to be more powerful than a normal spinnaker in order to make leeward progress faster. This is because you have to ‘tack down wind’ which means just gybing a lot more often to get down, using the lifts to gybe over on, instead of sailing pretty much DDW with a symmetrical. So that sail area can affect handicap adversely if you are thinking of ripping apart fibre glass and sticking in a ‘prodder’. Also it is a lot of sail area to manage during hoists and retreivals (take downs, douses) More on that in a future blog on advanced techniques.

 It is rather also a case of horses-for-courses. A symmetrical spinnaker has some drawbacks as we know, but if you sail mostly up and down Loch Fyne or the River


US 15 “Vim” 12mR (c) 2016 author

Crouch, then you could be well served by a sail which lends itself to stable, dead down wind running and thus good VMG. Despite the move to very many new racing boats being assymetric with bowsprit, one boat the RS Elite, if I am not wrong, was developed specifically with river sailing in mind where you do not want to be ‘tacking down wind’.

Take also the example above of a cruising assymetric chute as the opposite – if you sail mainly along a coast like the east of England’s with prevailing westerlies in low pressure weather, offshore, and prevailing on land sea breezes in warm weather, then a bow-pinned chute could be ideal and add say an extra 2.5 knts to your usual cruising speed on a beam reach up or down the coast.

As one compromise which can take you deeper in sailing an Assymentric, some time into keel boats donning prodders and A-sails, sail makers redesigned the sails to have the capability to roll far over the centre line to windward in their upper third, while retaining very good aerofoil shape when sheeted harder. This is then used for broad reaching and in medium winds, many sails allow you to release a meter or more of tack line which helps the sail ‘rotate’ around the front of the boat and catch more wind from behind. This can be a bit limited in what wind it works in- for example in the j109 (and possibly j105 and j97 too) it only ‘pays’ in down wind VMG to slip out the tack line and “dig deep” in a narrow band of wind, of around 7 to 11 knots true. Below this wind speed, there is not enough pressure for it to rotate and fly properly, and above this windspeed it tends to get a lot less stable for some complex reasons I won’t go into. In anycase North Sails and Quantum have optimised their sails for good VMG performance in 12 knots and more windm and in lighter winds than 7 kntos, ordinary spinnakers struggle to fly too and must be sailed higher.  You can in any case tolerate a little instability or slight collapses to squeeze through a narrow sound, or work through the lee side of a competitor. So there you have a get-out-of-jail-free card for assymetrics.


(c) 2010 Author 

Prepare Yourself Mentally : Fly Kite and KEEP CALM

I remember sailing a cumbraes event in a light displacement craft, and the helm calling ‘ Lets get this spinnaker up, I want to go like Rocket Fuel!! ” with a very demanding tone, small horns protruding from forehead. We had a partly inexperienced crew and it was a lumpy force 4-5. But on a broader reach outside the Cumbraes we hoisted it, only to be met a few minutes later by a squall which was measured at 47 knts! We broached and lost both guy and sheet off their blocks (which is why btw you shouldn’t tie stop-knots in spinnaker sheets ) , almost loosing the one total novice on board to the drink!

That was an example of bad planning, disregard for the conditions and total over ambition. You need the opposite : planning and of course training on spinnaker work as a pre-requisute. How will you hoist? Who will do what? What wind stregnth do we say ‘no thanks’ to? Where will I steer to in the hoist and the drop, and when do we best do these? Before or after gybes? On the dead run?

Sailing Schools will teach you to do bear-away hoists and only raise the spinnaker when you are broad reaching, and that is very good advice I would stick to for new beginners, The same is also true, but oft’ forgotten of take downs. Once the leeward mark, or headland to sail up round is within countable boat lengths it is really time to just get it down, and than should entail falling off onto a nice broad reach or run. The only real differences then between a normal and an A-sail then is that you are going to let the pole forward more than usual on a normal kite, and you are going to sail the boat deeper than usual with an A-sail. This is for a standard leeward side gather.

Windward side drops are quite easy, but a lot can go wrong. However I much prefer them because in racing you have two big plusses I will blog about in the next post. If you have your forepeak set up for sail storage and spinnaker retrieval then a windward side drop on either type of spinnaker is a good idea, as long as you can gather most of the spinnaker foot and mid-riff round the forestay before the boat starts to harden up.

Spinnakering Summary

Well you have maybe had a taste of some of the details, the nitty gritty, of spinnaker work. It is a tabu on some cruising boats almost. Banished from the wardrobe, the poor wee sack with its colourful, jolly prisoner kept in a loft until the boat is sold.

It just need’nt be that way at all! There is so much to gain from sailing with a spinnaker in the extra interest it adds to sailing alone, plus of course you may be making a good many more knots than without, or avoiding using the engine to get doon the Kyles.

Image Courtesay of friend

Yours truly trimming kite on the Melges 24




















The Secret Instrument on a Sail Boat

We have had a spell of dreadful weather, which is very unlike our usual serene Septembers here  on the South Coast of Norway. Yesterday though was more like a typical such day with light airs, blue skies and a sharp sunshine so typical here either end of the summer.

So we jumped at the chance of  a practice sail and seeing pretty much literally, where the wind would take us, in the 12 sq meter classic design. 

Upon reflection the sail made me think of three things – hull and keel speed, spinnaker work and learning to re-learn. Let us ponder upon the former.

On the Subject of Sailing Badly in Light Airs in Classic Boats

The 12 sq meter design is indeed a mini twelve mR designed as a training boat for youth of the wealthy on Oslo Fjord. It soon however became a favourite day boat of adults looking for an easily crewed regatta machine. King Olav had an early  ‘Fram’ 12 kvm indeed as a young man. On some of my previous outings in these elegant classics, much prettier it has to be said that most all of the UK’s one design day sailers, I have sailed very badly. Or been made to feel like my sailing skills were somehow thrown out of the window.

Coming back to the class after some spats and a very poor nationals in 2010 (the boat had mussels on the keel and when I first inspected her sails, GAFFER tape fixes on the spinnaker! ) I took these former failures as a challenge to learn the boat and prepare a decent example, and crew, for racing.

The burning light in the revitalisation of the class as a one-design with  our local centre of gravity, has been the boat builder and all round craftsman in wood, Petter Halvorsen. He like others before gave me a recent ‘heads up’ that the 12 kvm (kvadrat meter = sq. m) was so different that I  should throw out all I have learned in the Melges and a long line of boats, and rather learn the arts of keeping her moving.  

However there are certain principles of science at stake here, rather than leaving it all down to art. The boat may be very different in design from the modern regatta machines,  or the RORC tonne rule derived OD boats I sailed mostly before, but Scotty will tell you, a 12 kvm cannae defy the laws of physics, Jim.

Wave Goodbye to your Logs, and Say Hello to your Waves 

Now in likness to racing dinghies, the 12 kvm lacks any electronic instruments. You have of course a compass, a burgee or windex and the tell-tales to guide you in their analogue glory. However you also have another little known analogue instrument, your quarter wave.

Most of us learn about quarter waves when the advantages of planing vessels are being purported. Such a high performance sail or motor boat will ride up its’ own bow-wave and escape its quarter waver, leaving it as a vee long behind the transom. However the quarter wave departure is just as relevant to an 85 year old classic as it is to a modern carbon fibre dinghy.

To illustrate this I will actually use an odd source – the Tasar. Frank Bethwaite and Ian Bruce designed a production boat many years ahead of its time back in the 1970s, with a fancy wing mast and of note a very light hull which can plane not only ‘off’ wind, but given enough wind, on the beat too. The Tasar is the grandma’ of all the niner boats, whose design has then reduced that hull drag when climbing the bow wave in succession to the culmination in fact in the little known 39er/59er model which was so badly managed in commercialisation unfortunetly. The same little issue in light airs continues with these easily driven hulls – when to plane on the beat and when to just point as high as possible?

Delivered with each Tasar came an extremely illuminating folder ‘ Guide to Sailing the Tasar’ . In an addenum incluided in my edition, Frank discusses the issue of when planing pays up wind and when to point the boat.  (Which can be found on line at last I looked)

In brisk conditions over force three or so, depending on your all up weight, the Tasar will delight by picking up her heels on the beat and planing. This means she absolutely  flies well above the restrictions of her 12 foot water-line “hull speed” , and also makes less leeway because the foils create large amounts of lift. So despite the bow pointing lower, VMG is very much better. However in lighter winds the boat can be popped up on the plane somewhere near a beat, but in fact VMG will be poorer because the boat will need to be lower than actually optimal VMG. 

Various wind-speeds are quoted as being fairly great for planing up wind as the optimal VMG, 12/14knots seems to ring a bell for medium to large adults, as low as 9 for light crews. Below that though you have actually an analogue instrument which can tell you if you are pointing high enough or can come up on the wind. The quarter wave. In near planing but not optimal up wind planing conditions, it is best to get the boat moving rapidly on a tight reach and then work it up towards the beat. As you steer to the lulls and gusts in the wind, you have in fact a very accurate one point speedometer (sorry Log I should say ) – your quarter wave. 

Now the Tasar is a very easily driven boat so it will start to climb its bow wave well before full planing happens, and as you may know from motor boats, semi planing is vastly inefficient. You push more and more drag as you climb and although motor boats designed to be semi’planers sit very comfortably in the sea, they use a lot of power and fuel to maintain top speed.Most often in a planing motor boat you can simply back off the power when you get planing and ease up the speed with little use of gas pedal. The same is true in the Tasar in lighter winds. If you try to plane upwind, you either end up sailing too low for effective VMG, or not utilising the power in the wind well enough in taking a middle road, low of pointing. 

If you know then that say 12 knts wind is the critical point for you, and it is blowing 9, then Frank’s advice is to point the boat higher and sheet in for optimal VMG, and he went out and pretty much proved the point with some empirical data collecting, as features in ‘ High Performance Sailing’ his great body of work in one book. You can tell you need to point the boat because your quarter wave starts to exit the boat from aft of the hull, often at the rudder. The critical speed is too high as you start to semi plane, and you can then steer up and sheet in until the qaurter wave attaches to the hull again. 

What Have Planing Boats Got to Do With an 85 Year Old, Long Keel Classic 

Now that was well and good for the Tasar in the last section and planing, but how does this relate to heavy displacement craft. ?  Well it was from my experience of sailing the Tasar in very light winds when just ghosting along.

I took the theory of the qaurter wave being attached further. In very light winds in a dinghy you positioin your own and the crew’s weight forward, with the crew even ending up on the focstle, bow down. Here what I did in the tasar was to try and get the hull out of the water to the point where the qaurter wave exited, which in light airs was nearer midships.So you can either match the ‘wetted area’ to where the wave is coming off in order to optimise drag, because after that point the hull is in turbulent drag, or you can foot-off to gain speed and get the wave  back to the quarter or even transom. Here you have then a new vital instrument, a green light which suddenly flicks on infront of your eyes, only if you bother to look and use it!

The two waves of a boat, or wakes, are vortexes of turbulent water. The qaurter wave represents where the movement of the water detaches from its’ flow along the hull into a wave, a rolling body of water.  Now we know that wind in light airs will cause a nasty bubble on a deeply set sail, it will not be able to transit the full legnth and rather will give up its energy and actually create drag along the windward side in particular, and fail to give optimal power from exiting the leech. We know this too of keels, that they need enough speed to ‘fly’ otherwise the flow will remain turbulent and not nicely attached ‘laminar flow’ . It is the same fluid dynamics working on the hull too. 

Now to our classic, long keeled boat. These are typified  by long overhangs and a water line length often only 2/3rds of the LOA. The keel is relatively close to the this LWL in fact in terms of its mid chord, and again relatively speaking when comparing them to a tonne design spade keel, or modern bulb footed short chord keel like in a Melges or Whitbread 60. So we can use optimal hull speed as a near index for keel speed, and aim to reach that speed in order to ensure our keel is flying on the beat and reach, and thus we arent going too much sideways ie making adverse leeway.

Now we come back to my dreadful earlier performance in 12.5s. Often I had experienced being rolled over on a beat by boats which seemed to have their own private wind band, if not them being out right scoundrels with a hidden electric motor on board!  Most ingracious and unbecomming of a man with 25 yachting years and more !

Now those overtaking boats maybe did have a better bit of wind, or more likely were on the right side of a shift when it came, thus getting the wind earlier. But I was a sitting duck because I hadn’t achieved keel speed or anywhere near it, so any motion in the boat would result mostly in drag and leeway. Like our planing breaking a barrier, we also have to push the boat to sail near hull speed in order to get lift from the keel and counter act leeway optimally.

So this is where Petter comes in , saying you have to keep the boat moving all the time, and that is the art of it in fact, with the science explained. Yes you can bow down a little in a classic boat to reduce the water line and wetted area, but it is more important to get the boat moving and keep it moving with the qaurter wave as long back as is needed to fly the keel. This is then on the leeward side for the most you want to look in a classic, as you heel a little to lee and have a longer water line there to attach that flow to. 

Now in the spirit of the late, great Frank Bethwaite, I would like to get out with a drone and follow some well sailed and purposely badly sailed 12 kvm, and other boats if I can. From drone footage we can see the nice Vee shaped wake and where it exits the hull exactly, plus the relative height to the wavelets , and the windex in shot I hope, plus also all importantly, the leeway being made, especially relative between well and poorly sailed boats (speed too low that is) 

Not a pencil laid on graph/paper in algebraic anger, nor  a ahem, slide rule raised to war. You could well of course work out keel speed from a design draught of your boat or hull speed for that matter. But there we have it, a little like that clever little top tell tale which informs you about so much physics going on up there in such a simple way, we have a little secret watery tell-tale over our shoulder. 

Cruising Boats Underwhelm and Annoy Me

Cruising is a past-time I have nothing against, and given more time away from racing and family respo0nsibilities I would gladly cruise the sounds and fjords here or the finer stretches of the Clyde, Lorne and even the outer Hebrides. Howevver cruising boats often irritate me in themselves. 

The trype of boat I am talking about are those with a mast-head rig, preferably telegraph pole in felxibility, a monster high freeboard rather like a block of concrete flats laid on its side, and a cockpit about a tenth of the LOA, often mostly cocooned in blue spray hoods, sun awnings and wind cheaters. 

The whole premise of this type of craft, built in all forms of construction not just GRP, is that it is comfortable down below and manageable to sail. An aqautic caravan for the middle age-ed. A home from home which just happens to floats and occaisionally move around in a wind assisted manner. Safe. High up out of the water. 

Well all that may seem right about them to the layman or the casual sailor is absolutely wrong about them to the racing sailor. The masthead rig is most often accompanied by a short boom brandishing a puny mainsail while a rather deep, you could say beefy, genoa of at least 320% actually drives the boat. Which then becomes a bloody handful in a blow. Ah but rolling reefing-furling saved the day for man friday or wifey to go up and attempt a sail change long after it became obvious that they would not make it back to port in a seamanlike manner, and possibly not all, by carrying full sail. Only roller reefing headsails have an issue in that they push the centre of effort higher and more forward when you dont really want those two effects what so ever. Their mainsails can be awkward to trim and get any shape into, or out of, and they tend to flag around at a nasty high frequency when reefing in a squall or hoisting on anchor. In effect you have relinquished much of the control of a sail boat to a mediocre naval aritecht and a rolling drum on the bow. 

The drum on the bow adorns many racing boats of course, usually the simpler furling only type, but crusing boats have developed a plethora of functional armery, much the opposite of beautification. There are snuffers like a used condom above spinnakers, there are kebab grills hanging off the pushpit, there are windmills ready to chop your fingers off and there are all those nylon boat covers and often a tent with windows encapsulating the whole cockpit. Ugly adornments. Often yes to the benefit of the round-the-worlder or the transatlantic adventurer, but to the coastal weekend cruiser? Pah, it is like the monsters cave, festooned with old meal time lef overs. They break up what was left of elegant lines a yacht should have and clutter the eye. 

Getting underway or completing a tack requires more winching than a Fife colliery to get that nasty big Genoa to stand. Usually some overdressed figure in over sized red oiles, hood up, sweeps away at the winch with the self tailer engaged for at least 15 minutes,  not realising they could have done 90% with a couple of turns and some decent arm movements if the helm had bothered to feather up or take a slower tack. Once three quarters of the way in, said able seaman brushes their hair from their eyes and cocks their hood back over to look up at the leech and foot of the sail only to their dismay that they must work like a boxing kangeroo to get the last four feet in. 

Then you have embarking and disembarking. Said wonderful cabin has remarkable headroom. Often 12 feet of it if you were to believe some owners. This goes hand in hand with hull in the water but these days with plastic boats from Tom’s yard, it means bloody high freeboard. A grown man disappears into the long shadow cast by these of an evening, and then struggles to reach up to catch hold of the gunwhale and must stand on tip-toes to tie up the rubber dinghy. A ladder is most often provided, usually on the stern, where it makes for a bloody awkward place to clamber on board in older boats , as the stern is a meter off the water and often tossing three times the height of the waves on its pendulous extremity. Modern cruisers have broad bottomed designs with open transoms and a double hull style down to within a simpled footstep of the waterline. Sensible ideas stolen from racing boats.

Cockpits on cruising boats are often open topped chambers of torture by the making of all over body brusing. They have more right angles than a cubist painting of a french town, it seems they have tiered levels of hard corners to bump shins, elbows, hips, heads and shoulders on. a 40 footer may allow room for a standard crew to move around fair enough, but for our more modest and mostly typical sailor, condityions are so cramped as to render manoerving a wrestling match between helm and their two winch persons. Oops another six bruises-a-man in that tack! 

Ah but cruisers would all go to sea and brave a pooping with their tiny cockpits and high transoms. Once filled however, you then have a salt water immersion tub for several hours until it either drains or the extra wegith up high helps roll the boat over into a capsize. Who are these boaters kidding? You are most likely, statistically, not to go out on ocean crossings in a 33 footer. You are unlikely to be caught out during a passage by a 77 Fastnet storm. You will have scuttled into a harbour and be enjoying either your cabin or more likely, the local licensed hostillery.

Which brings me to this. Do you really want to stay in said capacious, airey, cathedral like interior of a cruising boat in bad weather? Will you be enduring 14 or more hours of darkness in your excursions? Will you ever have a dinner party for 25 round the cabin table? Would you not rather have a lovely, long open cockpit? A place all your crew can sit in personal space, on rounded comnbings of an evening, and with lower freeboard, the boom tent makes for an impromtu al fresco mesanine deck, scoutish and half in half outdoors as is so trendy amongst Scandinavian architects these days. Sleep under the stars why not, on acres of level white cockpit floor. When you do require to take your slumbers away from the weather, you experience a roof over your head, a soft bunk under you and a sleeping bag around you in any case. Plush teak and mahogany interiors are butter on lard when you have a cabin and crawl in after a long day’s passage. When the weather does get all summer british, then will you really be reading books and stayingin said roomy cruiser cabin? Or will you be wandering along the pontoon to show off your yachty credentials in Falmouth or Oban high street? Sitting in a pub seeking converse with the land lubbing unwashed? Dining on langustines in a finer restaurant, or sulking in doorways devouring fish and chips? 

THis is the reality of cruising. You want to be outdoors, all of you, enjoying the scenery and learning about sailing, without playing twister when you gybe or back to back elbow boxing when you tack. When the weather closes in, you are no longer at anchor in some hidden away cove, you have planned ahead to provision and stretch legs from a Marina or council pontoon. For summer sailing inshore and in the minches, your finely attired cabin is highly superflous and only invites youngsters to use up their gigabyte allowances in what is home-from-home after all, heads burried in mobile or tablet.

The cry of ‘twithy and unweildy racer requiring a crew of several dozen men for her forty feet’ rings in my ears. Silly light boats, far too flimsy to take on that force three  chop we had out of Hamble the other day. Quite nasty it got when a sqaull of ooh, 22knts came through. Dear friend, you do not need to beman a racing boat with rail meat amounting to several tons on the windward gunwhale when cruising. You sail three or four up with a working #3 or even storm jib up, and a reef in the main, with the backstay hard on and the sheet down the traveller until it lulls down a bit. You crack off the wind and watch the log go up and the nautical miles fly by. In a word, you have control. You can sit in the cockpit and depower the wole boat by a simple twitch on the traveller line. 

There is something wonderful about crusing a performance boat. For its day the sigma 33 was a fast production 33 footer. Still a popular one design, I sailed several Cork Week national champs on one. One year we had a nasty top of no 1 weather and some grey days, with then a nice no 2 or 3 day coming in, and much sweating over winches on the run as we galloped towards the leeward mark amongst the top third of the fleet. In fact we toiled all week and the fastest recorded speed was 8.1 knts off wind. The weather became more clement for our delivery home, a brief window before our blustery encounter with Lucifer light but that is another story. In the bay of Youghall we picked up a school of dolphins, babies in tow, playing with the rudder as we sailed under spinnaker, and dancing on the bow much to our amusement and theirs. The wind was picking up a bit from its rather sedate start, and when I glanced on the log I was taken aback and had to check it against the GPS track. 9.7 knts. All week we had strived and panted and belted the boat and here we where, relaxed as larry is happy caning along on a flood tide up the Irish coast!

Uffa Fox was a great proponent of racing boat cruising and all his designs I know of which had accomodation, were pretty much elongated ff15s with a forecastle desing to a low cockpit. There are plenty good racer cruisers which will add that level of control and skill to the yachtsperson developing their skills for crusing and covering leagues under the hull to make for more ambitious holiday itineries. But the wide expanse of a racing cockpit on a fine evening or even night passage is really my cup of tea. A boat which balances well and is easily driven when light crewed, and points to high doh when a little weighted up with animated ballast. 

Bad Starts, Good Starts in Sailing Sport.

I was interested to read another of Y&Y’s articles on getting out of a bad start but what constitutes a good start, and how do you get yourself into that position on the gun?

The secret to me is that a good start is actually not so much about the half second it takes for the gun to  blast into your stream of consciousness. It is about what happens in the run up, the last minute , of course, but also what happens in the following thirty seconds. In the gamete of 5 minutes and the subsequent thirty seconds you have what constitutes a good start. 

The article above talks about bad starts and that is a good place to start so we black to white so to speak. A bad start can be late and behind other boats, stuck with other boats luffing and not moving, rolled over by other boats to windward, or starting at the wrong end of the line for either a line bias, or the predictable, big first shift to come, or in respect of the tide or current. Take our weekend warrior antics in the Melges this weekend. The line was often biased on the first day, but short enough for us to come in a little behind other boats who would then struggle to cross the line on the gun without being beyond the pin, or stalling up. Day two featured a very well laids start line with a slighty offset windward mark, giving a slight left bias. But we sail with the Otra’ rivers big current flowing out mid race course right to left, and lesser tidal water (sometimes more though) coming out of Toplandsfjord through the narrows at Varod. So going right is favoured due to the large lee bow for around a third or more of the beat. That means getting over to port quickly and even with only five boats out, that means getting a clean start and being at the boat.

The trouble here is that we got what looked to be ‘great starts’ but did not seem to do well out of them. It was infact not the case that we got great starts. We got a great initial position perhaps but a little at the wrong tim and then trimming on speed a little late. We got to the start line on time and in a good position but got rolled to windward once at least and burried in turbulence of leeboats once too. We lacked speed, clean air and the ability to tack port in that extra thirty seconds which is part of the start. 

The thirty seconds after determines if you can as above, do a controlling tack over to port, or stand on with your bow proud of the next man, and covering the guys to port of youu. Necking out like a horse  on the finish line of the grand national. Those determining seconds are built on the preceeding 30 seconds given that  you have the line bias or strategic position roughly right at 1 minute, or more in light winds.

Text books say boldly that the aim of the helm and crew is to hit the line at maximum speed just as the gun goes, but when ever you have a strategy of going for an end or using if you dare, the fleet ‘sagging’ back more along the mid line, you have to commiit to a position along the line. At a minute out the ‘shooting alleys’or slots you will ride out on once you sheet in are usually established. In the big sigma 33 fleets of the 90s, these were often at 2 minutes I remember, it seemed an eternity until we sheeted on.  However if you are in at the favoured end, often the boat end for a reason we will come back to, then your own position at a minute and thirty seconds can nicely mess things up for your immediate slot companions too. 

So very often I find that boats do not start at full speed on the line, and in fact I think I could probably count on one hand the number of races where I have been on a fully close hauled boat sailing its polar target on the start line. 

However having said that top speed is not that often achieved, you do need to have relatively high speed to your competitors near on each side, or you will fall back and be buried unless those folk are rotten sailors or are being hampered by early starters ‘above’ then to windward. 

This was our mistake this weekend. Our helm is a raw-ass at getting into a great and quite dominating position on the start, in fact it is his trade mark, but then he doesnt capitalise on it. We hit the line slower than other boats or squeezed up more than we want to be before we are near close hauled. That is a little puzzling, having been the top dog at 30 seconds out with a fleet dominating position just to throw it away.

A bit of background and we can understand why. Our helm is a former laser sailor and dinghy instructor. So the alarm bells sound here about ‘sheet in and go’ . Despite the Melges being a big dinghy, it still takes  about two boat lengths to get to a reasonable speed you may be lucky to compete with on the line. You need more space to reach into then, so you need to ‘block at the boat’ longer to the right hand side which risks people who have spotted the bias or strategy tacking under you from a port approach and stealing your good start, which I thiink may have happened once, but then we had a very good slot on the boat end. 

‘Boat Speed Makes Me A Tactical Genius’ said Dennis Conor or someone anyway, and that is very true with starts because once you get your eventual slot, you need boat speed to capitalise on it. Here you need to know about your fleet behaviour and if there is a flag I, Z and Black Flag flying after any total recalls etc. The fleet gets more docile and holds back, while often also becoming more tightly packed. In the last minute then you can establish where the CoG ie biggest numbers are lining up for, and if this matches your fleets behaviour – do they line up and sheet in like a stereotypical nationals or worlds? Or do they like to fall off and end up a big frieght train reaching down the line all feeling they are early? 

Why Right Hand Side Starts Are So Fought Over

Boat end start are very popular. First and foremost when you do need to tack onto port, it is much more likely given even boat speed to the fleet, that you will cross fewer boats on a standard port mark rounding circuit, as you take your first and often decisive tack over to port. Also if you do get rolled over or start a little late, there are very few boats sterns to sail away from by tacking over to port, and a high likelyhood that only one boat is free to tack, and they may well want to pin the others out until a sizeable windshift comes. However if you know there are a lot of late comers crashing the boat end party, then you are not free in fact to tack on port. Understanding your fleet’s behaviour and checking for late boats on the RHS then is essential. 

Another reason people like RHS is the use of rules regarding water for the comittee boat and overlap denial there, and using the IDM pocket to hide  in. These are covered in other texts and the rules with explanations by the late Paul Elvestrom for example. Bit beyond here in a way, but yes we used it twice on sunday and failed to make good out of it. Responsible boats in a big fleet will not try and even use the overlap if it is there becauuse they can quickly land on boats they have not seen or whcih are coming on port, with no where to go as they have to reach down to pass the committee boat. I dare say this tactic of ours , pinning the fleet and booking a high place RHS, while a guy rolls over with overlap, is the cause for major insurance claims world over, and if they just eliminated the boat as an obstruction with right to water for those overlapped, they would have a lot fewer. 

Burn Time

The concept of burn-time is really kind of turning the traditional start psychology on its head a little. Here you ‘start’ when the time it takes to sail to the line and assume close hauled is reached. You are then dependent on having a long lane to shoot into, and that is a luxury in some races. In essence though what we could learn is that a little further back and to the right of the boat could be just as good, because in fact we can then force boats to sit around us  to windward at 30 seconds. By lying where we are, we natually block a lot of boats who are coming in on starboard (while of course opening up a little playing field for anyone on port to come into or for boats falling back from the line, to gybe round in.  But given we dont have a rack of port handers at 30 seconds, we have options to bear off and reach round a couple of sterns or to just sail a little free and stick our nose in the boat at speed. Note here, an IDM does not consititute a mark-of-the-course, it is the start line, and you do not have rights to water on it. If you are forced up onto it, the comittee will have a  perfect view and if you go between it and the boat, you are also out. 

Burn time then ok, it is a function of your own boat, crew abillity and the wind and any tidal effects there and then. You can think of it being a line  which you must be on in order to go, way back from the real start line. Here you want an orderly fleet, where either other folk are doing the same, or you have everyone on starboard and y ou have a lane to push up into. It is sheet in and go for keel boats if you like, you are further back from the line and creeping up to close hauled , or using a reach to build speed and come up into a hole as planned, with a knowledge of what this burn time is.

Sucker Punch

Now following up from the end of the last paragraphy, you can pull out a sucker punch when you do see a gap. Usually a gap is caused by one boat holding up several RHS boats by being obstinate, or a little burried in their windshadow by say a third of a boat length. It can be that boats to the LHS are too close and have reached off to get speed early. In any case, you spot it or know it is going to happen due to fleet history and how they are lying at ‘T minus’ one minute or there about. You have yourself in position for either a lane on a gradually built beat, or a reach and turn hard up. Here you can pull a sucker punch on the last boat in the rack who is making the gap by sailing behind and to the RHS of him kidding on that you are trying to put your nose into windward, and waiting for that space. He weill then tend to squeeze up more snuggly to the boat to his windward RHS, closing what he thinks is the gap, but then at T minus X seconds, you drop your bow, reach round the back of him and come up on his quarter. Alternatively the next boat over the gap is the one you sucker punch by rolling over them at speed before, during or after the start. it is a lovely tactic, but perhaps best for bigger fleets who have long rafts and many more suckers!
Boat Dynamics

If you have used burn time or just are following the gist of the fleet and sheeting on, usually when the rack to your left has reached off a little, then you need to understand your boat dynamics for the  weight of breeze you experience before and after the start. The crux of the matter is getting enough flow over the keel and rudder so that they ‘fly’ and then getting the boat up to close hauled and the polar target for that wind. Getting the foils to fly is essential because otherwise you will only draw more leeway if you sheet in and luff up abruptly without having achieved keel speed. This takes you closer to the LHS boat and if he is at keel speed, he will draw forward from you,. It is a really common problem. Keel ‘fly’ speed is determined by the legnth and thckness profile of the keel. It also relates to the angle or attitude to the wind, being more apparent on the beat, but without the speed and flow you will not generate optimal lift on the beat. In many boats you will feel an obvious heel come on near or just after the start because you will find that you edge forward into fresher wind with other bows being equal to you, the keel suddenly flies, or ‘bites’ as some call it, and this generates lift which actually rotates the boat in the same direction as the pressure  from the sails. A lot of boats who experience this have been a bit too close to the line or slow to sheet in, and are greedy with their mainsail settings for the true  wind which will soon hit them. A big heel will knock a lot of the lift off the keel again, and you will draw sideways, risking collision in some designs,. 

A short ‘chord’ keel like a Melges  24 I sail on, or a dinghy will fly at a lower water speed than a spade type keel or an old fashioned long keel. However it will also stall more readily because it flies in a smaller band of angles the boat has to the wind. It is important not to sail a Melges with heavy handed steering or sheeting, and also important not to ‘pinch’ very much. 

An understanding on your boats dynamics on the beat and the tight reach then are key, and understanding what the eventual ‘groove’ is in terms of boat speed and angle to wind (relative wind angle is just as good as TWA) are important and that takes us back to firstly burn time – how long it will take  to get up to the line and be close hauled, and also that in fact 30 seconds after you are likely to be fully in the groove for the true  wind speed you now experience with the bows champing at the bit so to speak.
If considering burn time, then it is good to pracitce away from the ‘stramash’ of a biased end. In a good proper punch up there by the boat, there will be perhaps no boats at all with a good crossing relative to polar target and the start signal. Some crews master burn time, and  use techniques like the sucker punch or lying a back wiith space to their left and ahead in an orderly fleet, pinning the boat RHS up on their quarter, and then daring to use burn time to sheet on and go, while that boat is paying more attention to his windward colleagues and boats further down the line. This is especially truw when you know line sag, often caused by adverse tide, is a feauture of a regatta.  Then you can punch out and have not only speed on the line but also so big a windward advantage that you are free to tack onto port soon after the start. 

Dropping Your Shoulders

The start is the sprint, it is the converse final furlong, where many a race is decided. However by relaxing a bit more and realising that you have rights on idiots or have water to avoid them in, and a protest  flag not in the least, you want to take it a little more scientifically and think of burn time relative to your distance from the line and how you are going to assume close hauled with the right initial speed for the foils and get to polar target speed ASAP. 

It is well and truly worth a few OCS and back round in judging burn time, and worth noting in the log, remembering the wind speed and boat speed at the time you started. It can be that you let someone else play the tough guy on the boat end, blocking the fleet while you cosey in on his lee quater, thus making a bigger pocket ahead and to leeward. It can be as above that you con a boat at the end of a little rack to luff up to defend an approach from behind only to then reach around hime 

Finally – Crazy Stuff!

We have touched on some bold starts, but what about some crazy stuff, without always being dangerous?

The first truly lunatic start, which can be quite beautiful, is the port tack start. Here you are in one of three situations. 1) You are mid to end of fleet LHS, decide on a RHS strategy and get passed the whole fleet on their transoms to then have a really good start at the boat or IDM. This is possible as a good start only when there are no late comers at the boat, and when you start so soon after the first starboard boat at the right hand end, that they cannot possibly tack right ontop of you. If you are a little late or they obviously choose to tack to port, then you have a get our of jail by tacking into the gap they then leave anyway. The second situatioin is where you are at the pin and early enough to maybe think of going once around if no Z flag is up, but then see a big sag in the line. You tack over and get up there, sailing just under the start line at some speed until the gun goes. Then you can either tack back immediately the gun goes or just when you get close to the first STB boat if you want to go left strategically. Lastly when you are near the line and spot a major windshift, where by boats might not even stand the line on STB. Here you can edge out ahead, let the boats sail behind you and tack over for potentially the best of your life if you spotted it first. You will be slow, but terribly well positioned to put speed on if the shift holds, and get ahead of the fleet who will all have to tack to port anyway.

Another crazy is dipping the line when no Z is in rule. A few smart alecs on day one of the sigma nationals in Cork in 96 did this, there being initailly no Z. It was odd to look up and see boats running down towards you 1 minute out, but there was a sag on day one due to the line being a mile long. However everyone had a transit pretty soon after that and they decided on flag z so they could send out spotter ribs for we naughty ones with a transit and boats around us who maybe were over early. But it was one the smoke you know dear boy, not the gun fire!  It can be a get out of jail start from a general recall when you have sailed too far, but it is a craxy one completely dependent on either a big fleet sag, or gaps big enough to gybe in

lastly not so crazy, but the late at the end start. Here you have a decided strategy of going that way, and you choose to follow other boats out rather than attempting a faster start further along the line. THis is useful in handicap fleets where a really big boat controls a perfect start and you follow out on their transom, being smaller, they will soon escape you and on the RHS you are free to tack no matter what. {in end lates are more risky but you can do a corrective port tack if there is a new gap a little further along the line if you start a little burried behind a proper gaggle of boats who want to go that way too. If they get a really good start on a biased line,they will be keen to cover the fleet on the first shift by crossing them on STB in case RHS gets a big advantage and LHS loses its start line advantage, so the air may free ahead of you quicker than you feel, or you can even reach off a little if there is some mental current and tide or a new wind coming from the LHS, such that a craxzy way out to left, way behind suddenly pays. THis can be the case when a dominant, major sea breeze establishes itself over the local coastline sea breezes, or if a front comes in.