Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Finishing the year on a high

We finished our years racing with the OYC Holiday Regatta. While a lot smaller than many of the other events we took part in my expectation was for some competitive racing in a mixed fleet and it turned out that way.

Going into race one I wasn't sure who our competition was exactly. Could be Kookaburra, a rapidly improving Shock 35, our old Nemesis Pole Dancer as J/120 or perhaps Powerpoint, a Henderson 30 that I crew on (Joe Cramer races on Kraken too and has been instrumental in our improvements over the last few years).

It was going going to be a mixture of crew, courses and conditions that would push the favor one way or another overlaid with tactical goodness, or badness. After a long week watching light air predictions (Powerpoint would romp all over us) I woke up happy to see it up to 10-14kts - enough to neutralize their light air prowess somewhat without being too much to have Pole Dancer steaming over the top of us.

But going into that first race it was hard to tell the main competition. We got a good start, on top of Powerpoint, nicely to leeward of Kookaburra and with PoleDancer forced to tack away to the potentially favored right. What to do? Pinch up in front of Kookaburra to establish that position while keeping enough speed to make sure Powerpoint couldn't get in front of us and hope the right shift didn't happen. Tack on layline, first around the mark and force the reaching powerpoint take the long route around us and waste enough time.

Wasn't sure we did get enough of a bite at them and didn't get an accurate time difference count but turned out we did! First.

And starting to get a feel for the competition now.

Second race was a long random leg race. Horrible start.


I blame John Sivak for not being on board. His starts have become somewhat legendary.

Problem being he wasn't on board.

Only nice thing, Powerpoint started dead last after problems. So we worked on getting a route out of trouble and staying ahead of PP for as long as possible. A lift (a 10 degree righty) to the first mark didn't quite give us a lucky freeby but we weren't too far out of contention at the rounding and then got a lucky break hoping for more right as the sea breeze exerted more influence and getting it. At the leeward mark we'd overtaken Kookaburra (just) and were close behind PD with PP a little ahead of them. Two legs hard on the wind followed and we all held station then a final downwind to the finish and with a quick recovery from a spinnaker sheet rigged the wrong way kept close behind the two faster boats.

Close enough, another 1st on corrected time. Pleasant surprise when results came out as we couldn't hear the finish times for the first two boats and thought we were probably second.

The last race caught us by surprise. Literally. I was down below looking at at spinnaker rip when Charlie called down that the horn was called and we were going into sequence. We just had time to get back past the committee boat and get the course. Running a bit early I did a big wiggle down behind Kookaburra and as I did so the horn went. My watch was fifteen seconds out! So rather than winning the boat end and getting a juicy blocking move on Powerpoint we found ourselves tacking out of trouble again. Third around the top mark we were closing down Kookaburra for second place but didn't quite get it, five seconds off in the end.

1,1,3 for the day and overall win (Powerpoint got 2,2,1 so we beat them on number of bullets).

With a nice favorable wind direction Wolfie and Aaron got to practice some spinnaker trim on the return to the harbor. Another bonus as I've been feeling bad about the lack of practice time put in this year. With our performance levels going up its actually proven harder to get people with less experience into the more nuanced roles, something that I hadn't expected.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Oh my poor sails - Hot Rum II

This last weekend we raced the second Hot Rum out of SDYC. Sadly missed the first but having fun in the series. 110-130 boats pitted against each other with course optimized pursuit starts over a short 14mile distance is always fun, or a little scary.

We're still working out the course - it has tidal flows and a big persistent shift across it. There are massive race traffic flow problems to deal with mixed with the occasional aircraft carrier....

For days preceding the race a local weather condition was shutting down the sea breeze but predictions remained consistent at about 10kts on the day of the race.

Morning of the race dawned clear and calm. Calm was interesting, the offshore breeze was already out of the picture. By the time I got to the boat at 10am it was approaching 10kts and from the NW. This could combine with a later sea breeze....

Our race start was 12:26:40. As we motored out to the course the breeze backed off and rotated north. Now it was looking light again. We crossed the line on the second and at the pin but slow. Two other 36.7s had jumped the gun and with them turning back we found ourself the lead boat of our group, with Melokia above us.

With the current behind us and a squeak of boat speed we keep this position and later gybed back into the current and consolidated. As we cleared Point Loma the fresher breeze started to kick in and the race changed personality... the first mark in this race is typically a reach gybing to a run but this time we found ourself deep with 16kts of building breeze gybing to a reach.

It was a fun reach! Gybing right at the mark we found our selves a bit below the mark. As I grew more confident in my lightweight spinnaker sheets ability to take the pressure we worked up to the mark, with boat speed between 8 and 10 kts. Fun times!!! I even whooped on a few waves though we weren't breaking free and surfing it felt good.

Kea, a 36.7 sailing with a larger masthead asym had been firmly behind on the first leg but once on the reach she was making trees on us. As I become more confident in the hardware I was working up, both to try and cut her off and to give my foredeck some down before the mark to get the kite down. In the end we didn't cut her off and rounded the second mark inches behind her transom (reverse positions to the last race of the last regatta).

Both of us were looking pretty good relative to the fleet though, with some space before the big boats got to us and smaller boats ahead.

We were flying a #1 and hadn't put battens in the #3. As we came back up the course the wind speed increased to 20kts and this proved costly. We also made some tactical mistakes (my fault). Having overstood the third mark I aimed at it but this allowed boats that had overstood even further to have the inside at the mark. This left us pinned and slow and in bumpy water and crappy air (and seriously overpowered... wind still increasing). It was a while before we could tack for cleaner air and meanwhile Kea had been inside at the mark, tacked and was stretching their lead.

Positives though in that there was no sign of the other 36.7s being near. This is a race where every boat you lose (that rolls you from behind) pushes you back towards the even faster boats behind them. Getting the early part right is critical and we'd got lucky there. Back at the bar it turned out there were a couple of blown spinnakers, and the two OCSs so that cleared out much of the fleet.

Back to us!

As we came into the pressure waves under Point Loma the gusts kept building. It was ugly, we were flogging our main and genoa a lot and wishing we had the #3 up. Perhaps we should have switched...

I saw 24kts TWS but wasn't really paying attention at the high points, simply trying to feather into them but maintain just enough pressure on the sails to keep our speed up.

Luckily lots of other boats were in the same situation. Later conversations had boats claiming they saw 30kts but I wonder if they were talking AWS not TWS. Many of us were completely over canvased.

As we passed the sub pens we had an encounter with a 47.7. They were moving fast on starboard and a duck would have meant a massive loss, if we could have even managed a bear away. To the left we had shallow water. I luffed hard until the last minute then flopped onto port and back again as soon as we could. It was painful and we lost a lot of ground - and then ended up in their dirt.

Shortly afterwards an F10 ran aground in the same place.

After this section the wind normally lightens and again it did. We'd been starting to look quite good against Kea until the El Sueno (the 47.7) incident but had lost them. Working the left side of the course though we start picking off boats that had gone right. Kea came back in sight, no chance of beating them but the 2 minutes they crossed the line ahead of us was about felt about right.

We picked of a 40.7, a F10 and some other misc boats in that last stretch but had lost a huge amount on the first half of the upwind. Eventual result was 53rd.

Pictures from da woody None of the exciting bits though (barring that Cat starting to flip - full sequence in the link - is that Jay Davis of OYC going for a swim?)

SDYC Hot Rums

We missed the first Hot Rum but had a couple of fun races, made some big mistakes to learn from and come back stronger. Got beaten by some good boats and beat some good boats and had a LOT of fun (also had some nice hot rum).

Hardly any pictures from race II which blew 25kts and we sailed with our #1 headsail (never again). Great downwind hitting 10kts but funnily enough horrible upwind to a respectable 53rd (funny getting that result and looking backwards at the 70 boats you beat - also was 4/22 in class).

Next race was lighter. We were on an off the spinnaker on the first leg then deep and light with our heavy wind kite up on the second then a steady upwind. I argued John into some tactical mistakes (I get jumpy, and want to do things to improve the situation and in this race should have kept quiet) but we sailed smooth and fast for the conditions with a lot of good communication on board to come in a respectable 29th (3rd in class).

Best Recipe This Year
A sliced lemon added the little zing to the hot rum the previous race's batch had missed (I'd gone with ginger the previous race but either didn't put enough in or it was stale or something).

Ingredients (enough for one Hot Rum per crew with 9 people on board):

  • 96oz apple cider
  • 2 teaspoon all spice
  • Cinnamon sticks, 3-4
  • 1 thinly sliced lemon
  • 3 tart apples studded with cloves (~12 cloves per apple)
  • A cup of brown sugar
  • Boil for about 30 minutes until the apples are mushy then decant into a very good thermos so it's still hot when you mix with rum to taste at the end of the race.

Photos from DaWoody (or look at all 1700 of his pictures)

Started at the pin end and raised a kite as soon as we could to get separation.

Not quite holding the kite as the wind shifted back left. Think that;s Jonathan's shadow at the bow ready for headsail up.

Dropped kite to make the first mark

Long slow downwind with the wrong kite up

Reaching to Mark III - Light and Tight

Back upwind

Looking for a lane to tack into and finish

And finishing

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Engine Mount Woes

Earlier this year Kraken was forced to skip a couple of regattas. During this time she was in the boatyard getting a fairly significant repair done and my pocket ended up lighter.

The summary of how we got to this state is that I snagged a line on the prop and after this had a fair amount more water in the grid than normal. This mainly collected under the sink but with water, or salt deposits found all around the after section of the boat. Kraken has always shipped a bit of water here and there and I was already starting to try to figure out where it was coming from, but after the prop fouling I pushed harder on this and the problem kept getting worse.

Eventually, with a sinking (ha) feeling, I found myself looking into the engine  compartment at water coming in through a hairline crack around the engine mount. This didn't leak just sitting at the dock but with the engine running and in forwards gear the mount visibly vibrated away from the hull and clean ocean water poured in.

This was the week before the NOODs so instead of competing Kraken was hauled and George at Oceanside Boat Yard started dismantling the engine bay.

During this process our insurance company (BoatUS, recently converted to using GEICO) had an engineer looking at the boat. Given the likely size of the repair I had my fingers crossed here.

What George found was that the original build process had just "slapped" the engine mount onto what looked like a weak epoxy / filler mixture. You could see where old oil had been leaking into this area. When pulling the mount off two small areas of glass ripped and it just "popped off".

Furthermore the top of the shaft that the saildrive drops down through was very thin, perhaps 1/8" of glass (see the hole in the mount below). Bear in mind that this is underwater exterior hull even if hidden by the plate that surrounds the sail drive leg exit (which isn't sealed). The tube itself wasn't very well made, a glass tube with some tabbing but lots of voids. Overall I'm not surprised at the water I'd always found in the engine compartment (not much prior to the line snag, but there).

Here's the upside down engine mount. See how thin the glass is where it connected to the tube? Also note the saildrive nuts that were rusting and only supported by some sealant - the engine bolts were the same. When the yard was pulling the engine one of the nuts actually dropped - something that would be tricky to repair if you weren't pulling the mount. Not the best of designs.

At this point I got some bad news, Geico pointed out my insurance policy had a "no manufacturer defects" clause. I have a vague memory of reading this and thinking that Kraken had been around the block enough for us to be past that point. Apparently not. With the evidence in front me it was not something I felt I could argue against.

Beneteau remained quiet to my inquiries. I'd contacted them through our local dealer to ask about what we might find as we pulled the mount apart (initially just looking for advice) and then again when Geico started pointing the finger their way. After more prompting I got a response through the dealer "we don't make them like that anymore".


At this point I'm not very happy with either Geico (well, my policy specifically) nor Beneteau. At the very least I'd have expected some basic information on how the mount was constructed could be easily provided.

Luckily in all this George was a ray of light. Though it was difficult keeping him on the boat - Oceanside is a small yard with a single fibreglass expert and other small jobs would come in and take precedence over Kraken - when he was on the boat his work was excellent. I would be worrying about details and come into the yard to talk about how everything was going to fit back together and he'd be a step ahead of me and have a plan. I ended up fully trusting the fix - Kraken probably has the strongest engine compartment of all the 36.7s now with a solid connection between the outer hull and the mount. And the engine compartment is now bone dry!

During this period we also cleaned up the engine (while it was out) and replaced the prop seals on the saildrive.

 Here are some pictures of things going back together!

And finally ready to return to the water!

 All in all this repair was very annoying. However I am glad that I found out by wrapping the prop and getting a slow leak rather than hitting a log and punching a hole in the bottom of the boat.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017


Pretty cool getting the first glimpses of the new Figaro. Looks fun to sail!

What happened in the last year then?

This blog probably looked pretty dead. In my mind it's still been rolling and Kraken has still been sailing and racing. Over the last year a LOT has happened and the blog stopped updating because I wanted to get my head down and write a proper piece, a concept that never happened.

Here's the summary:

CYC Fall Regatta (2016)
I don't remember us doing too well but we learnt a lot about the course that stood us in good stead and had some fun doing it. Typically a tricky race to get crew for as it competes with the Little Ensenada race.

Of note was me hitting the dock on arrival at CYC. Put the engine in reverse and it threatened to jump out of the boat. I wasn't going fast but it took me some moments to jump off the boat to stop it and we kissed the dock. On inspection I'd picked up a line on the prop which cut away easily and the engine ran fine but the damage was already done.... More on this in a bit....

SDYC Hot Rums (2016)
We had our best Hot Rum series yet. Overall about 50th out of 130 boats with a best result of 24th and learning a lot more about the course (also a long way ahead of the local boats while running a cruising main and in one race a 12 year old spinnaker that we've abused badly in practices.

Seemed to be a lot of water in the grid on arrival home. Perhaps a bucket and a half.

SDYC Mid Winters (2017)
2nd place, by about five points. We lost the regatta on the first lap where we blew a clear lead at the leeward mark oh wait where are the other boats going crap that's a gate we just went around the wrong way. We recovered but in the final race had to give up pinning Adeline (which was tricky - they were faster than us upwind) to the layline in order to cover Adventure and protect 2nd. Good practice for the NOODs though.

Seemed to be a lot of water in the grid on arrival home. Several buckets.

I taped of parts of the grid to try and work out where and when this water was coming in. Sitting at the dock there is no ingress.

Pre NOODs practice (2017)
With a fantastic crew lined up for the NOODs I was pretty pumped up. The last bit of upwind speed might have been there with some more adjustments and a new Genoa. The boat was lighter than ever before, completely in One Design mode. Our practice didn't have the full race crew on board but close and was solid. We were ready.

A couple of buckets of water in the grid, seemingly more in the aft end but hard to tell.

All is stopped (DON'T SINK THE BOAT).
At this point I set hard to tracking down the leak. Thru hulls looked okay, saildrive gasket okay, water lines okay. After several lunchtimes spent nosing around I found something pretty shocking. With the engine in gear at the dock - in forwards (not reverse) - I could see a crack around the base of the engine mount and water was coming in fast. The crack was about 12" long and ran down both sides from the forward port corner where the mount joins the hull.

Crap. Crap. Crap.

With two weeks to the NOODs this didn't look good.

I called in the Oceanside Yard and they concurred. Not looking good.

Race over.

We came up with a plan (I'm going to make another post about the full fix). Pull the boat. Prise or cut the engine mount off. Clean it up. Clean up the hull. Retab it together only stronger than before.

And that's what we did.

Missed the NOODs and with Oceanside Boatyard being a small place with one glasser the two weeks of work needed for Kraken spread out as other shorter jobs came in and pushed the schedule. We missed the Yachting Cup and wasted another great team by about two days. And there went my target for the year which had been to win the San Diego high points trophy (being a target doesn't mean we'd have done that, it would have been hard, but we had a chance).

Back on the water - The Elizabeth Hospice Regatta (2017)
This was the first time we'd hosted the fleet at Kraken's home club at OYC. Six boats made the line and we sailed with a fairly mixed up crew. Hard on new people to be pushed to perform at the front of the fleet and hard on equipment. On the first day we were saved by Steve Ernest, he really steadied the boat and on day two Kathy and injured but awesome Kelly came on to help save the weekend. Another second place in the regatta to Adeline ( grrr :) ) but with three bullets the most we've taken in a weekend and a positive sign to work on.

An awesome weekend again, some great racing, blue skies.

For one race a helicopter was flying overhead taking shots. It was of course our WORST race of the weekend (Results out of 6 boats 5,1,1,6,1).

I do however love this shot mid tack.


Things heating up now. We're back together and proved we can float. I started working on crew for the...

The Beneteau Cup 2017 - West Coast Championship
Another great crew lined up but a tricky regatta for us with the second day being in the tidal flow of local knowledge central San Diego Harbor (as opposed to the more neutral offshore courses). Luckily we have a couple of crew members who have started racing beer cans in San Diego so our own knowledge was growing but still....

The plan was to hit it out of the park on day 1, then cover our main opposition on day two. Didn't quite work out that way.

On the way down there was some breeze so I switched over to sailing somewhere off La Jolla. When raising the genoa it wouldn't run. Lying on my back on the deck with binoculars I could see half a sheave with the halyard jammed down the side.

Getting on the phone to Rigworks we got lucky - they had a spare sheave of the right dimensions and could leave it in a drop box for me. In actual fact I made it to their shop before closing - COOL shop! Next morning I skipped the skippers meeting to climb the mast but it turned out you can't swap the sheaves without removing the headstay (actually, when I completed this repair you only have to disconnect the headstay at the bottom there's then enough play to move it out of the way).

So we replaced the spin 1 (starboard side) halyard with a 3/8 line and used that instead. With gusts up to 15kts we ran the halyard soft on day 1 and were off the pace but with a 3,2,2 finish (out of 7) managed to lead the pack by a point.

Next day we said whatever let's apply full pressure and see what we can do. On the first upwind we got the start we wanted, hit the flow upwind tacked back between the buildings and just snuck a great layline for the top mark. This involved hitting the seawall at a point between the buildings and having found it we used that spot again and again all day.

Upwind speed was on the money. Downwind speed was great too. More pole back than normal with a large and flat looking kite we were finally fast in flat water.

The only mistake was losing the lead in race two because I decided to try and finish on lap one of a two lap race. A messed up bottom rounding from the two boats that got ahead though and we "Nascared" our way back into the lead and a solid pair of the bullets for the day.

And became the West Coast Champions for 2017. With a fancy trophy for OYC to put somewhere for the year.

A Beneteau Cup Day 2 (231 of 262)

The CYC Fall Regatta 2017

And here we are nearly up to date. Despite losing a couple of regulars to the Little Ensenada race we managed to fill in with some great people and keep the complete trim team from the Beneteau Cup success. Terrie came back from injury to do pit, John Wilson and Brian Frest came on to do the front of the boat and we got pit and foredeck together for a practice to work out the kinks.

Seeing the crew sheets come in and the weather forecast running hot and cold over the weekend it was obvious this was going to be a hard and close contest. With Kea back in the fleet the top boat was back. Adeline had been missing their normal Helm (Bob) and bow (Nick) for the Beneteau Cup and would be back in the groove, Melokia had a new set of sails (much needed!) and Jon Gardner to call tactics and all the other boats have been looking fast as the fleet compresses. This was going to be a fight.

Day I
Day one we waited for the breeze to fill. I took a snooze below, John W took a swim, we ate cookies and watched the breeze all around Southbay until suddenly it made it to the course and we were off!

Light winds in South Bay make me nervous. Pressure is king and can dissipate poof! John S did a great job of keeping us in the hunt tactically, the crew settled down to business and we finished the first race second to Kea by a boat length.

The second race we finished the first lap in third but got super lucky. We hit the inside of a hole and all the boats on our side (five of the eight) were deeper in it. The two boats that had taken the other side missed how slow we were and passed clear ahead but aimed deep into the hole. We took the side they'd come down on and when everything resolved itself had gone from third to half a leg ahead of the nearest boat. This is something Kea likes to do from time to time but was the first time we'd done it in One Design. We should have taken a picture. Felt a bit cheeky to be honest.

The third race went to Adeline, Kea second and us third leaving us tied with Kea on 6, and Adeline in third on 10.

Day II....
Day two started differently. Winds up to 16kts as we sniffed around the course getting a feel for how it was covered. It was fairly consistent above 14 and sections of 18 so we hit the #3 headsail (everyone did) and switched to heavier spinnaker sheets.

With gusts and shifts hitting us and the downwind having a big barrier of the start finish line just above the gate the first race involved a fair amount of just keeping it together on the downwind.

We were powered up and looking at our tracks on raceQs were hitting 9kts SOG going across the tidal flow.

Finished second, a boat length behind Kea.

Race five we had some miscommunication on the start and I was slow hitting the gas. Melokia grabbed a clear lead at the windward mark and while we got there ahead of Kea we were on port and had to give them room at the mark. I slammed the tack a bit and we were in a solid third around the offset.

We survived to the bottom gate again but blew our last gybe and in the struggle to recover overstood losing more ground. Terrie turned around and I could see she thought we'd blown it.

Heads down in the boat we split tacks and sailed in clean air. Lost some ground in a wiggle up the course and had a couple of bad tacks but were a close fourth to the lead group at the top mark but more importantly with a plan in hand.

With the boats in front all messing with each other, and the strong winds we took an early jibe and sailed our own race. Just clearing the restricted start finish we hit two perfect laylines to the bottom mark and snuck it in first place inches in front of Kea who had made their way around Melokia.

It was such a sight coming in with three boats barrelling hard at us but nowhere to go and the time and space to make a tactical rounding which we consolidated by pinching until Kea was under us and trapped. We took them out past the layline tacking only when I became worried about the bullet from the other boats who had split.

Second bullet of the weekend and with it the regatta win, tied on points with Kea as we both had a third, two seconds and two firsts - the last race results proving the tiebreaker.

The top four places in that race were split by about 12 seconds.

And Breathe.

And that's where we're at. Fighting at the pointy end for now. A good fleet. Lots of sharing of information. I know that the other skippers are making plans to make life harder next time. I'm starting to make plans to meet that challenge. Depending on who gets what crew on which day, or who blinks and makes the biggest mistake anything could happen.

Which is part of why I bought Kraken in the first place.

CYC Winners, Scores and a Big Grin.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Back to new boats - Vendee Globe

So Alex bust his starboard foil shortly after I last posted about the VG. While there are rumors that he has a spare and we haven't seen the damage he definitely slowed down here and there.

This has evolved into between Hugo Boss and Armel Le Cleac'h's Banque Populaire who has been holding a narrow (10-20nm) lead for the last couple of days.

At the moment they are blasting along on port but about to hit starboard tack again (the weather in the above image is at +3hrs).

At which point Hugo Boss will be foiling again. Watch this to see how excited Alex is with the idea...

Yes that's right, VERY.