Sail Shape and Mast Shape
June 23, 2020

Sailing World published an article by Steve Hunt on sail shape from the mast that is superb.

He speaks of where the speed stripes should line up and when to have more curve in the bottom than in the top and vice versa. Fortunately, with the Etchells, there are plenty of ways to bend that mast to make it work!

Steve also points out the difference between overbend wrinkles and contraction wrinkles in the mainsail.

One trick from a sailmaker: if the luff curve got too deep (and when the sail getting long in the tooth because of overstress) mark where the luff rope exits the bottom of the sail. Then break the binding cord that holds the luff rope in place, pull out an inch of luff rope and restitch the luff rope in place. You can get more life out of the sail that way!


New North Sails' Webinar Featuring Mike Menninger
June 6, 2020

North Sails put on a great webinar with Michael Menninger, Alex Curtiss, and Eric Doyle running through Steve Benjamin's team approach to performing at top levels. While the intent was more about the transition to the bigger rake and aggressive inhauling used for the newest Australian sail designs (MAL and GT jibs, and to an extent, the FC-FM mainsail), there were many nuggets from a member of the team who has paved new ways of thinking about sailing Etchells. Crew work is vitally important in the Etchells, where each inch off the line makes a difference.

Some of the main takeaways were to be as expected: maintain balance between main sail and jib leech profiles to ensure they match. Play all controls constantly -- traveler, backstay, ram, inhauler and sheets. But some were more distinct; on the mainsail, aim to keep the top main batten-aft parallel to the boat’s midline, hike earlier than you think, and minimize drag by sailing flatter (sails and heel) to keep from stalling of sails and rudder. Outhaul flattens lower half of main and should be on harder than you think, especially in light air.

The video is worth watching at the North Sails Webinar site.

Below are some of the highlights from video.

Rig setup
Try tighter forestay with more rake and much harder sheeting (see notes below in "Season Schedule in Flux, But Some Diversion"). Benj and team has been using a tighter rig setup since they started in the Etchells program, but they are sailing with a bit more rake and using the Aussie sails with more aggressive inhauling. Their aim is for straight mast at Base, then ease lowers to generate more power (watch for fall off above hounds to leeward.

Three examples in similar breeze. Middle boat’s sails are probably too full and could use more rig tension, especially in the lowers. Right boat is set for heavier wind with slight windward poke on the uppers.

Three Examples of Differing Setup

Source: North Sails.

Lightwind Conditions
Michael usually finds that most boats’ sails are usually too full in very light air (<6kts). They find that adding tension to outhaul won't overstretch the sail, and they should try to flatten as much as possible. Watch the leech tension so that it's open and sails aren’t stalling. The group suggested keeping the traveler high, trimming hard and make sure sail is not stalled, especially at the top. If more belly is needed in the bottom of the sail, that can also be adjusted through side-to-side bend with adjustable side shims. In very light conditions, Michael aims for overbend wrinkles in the mainsail that are ¼ way up the mast and run to sail windows. In this light wind condition, they want all tell-tails trailing aft.

Light Wind Sail Setup

Source: North Sails.

In this wind condition, they are making the headstay tighter, drawing the mast back with ram/chocks, and trimming the backstay. Michael looks at the camber and depth at roughly 2nd speed stripe from the top, to look at twist and adjusting backstay, sheet and traveler to get the optimal shape. He maintains a balance on twist by adding more twist to open up the top, flatten the boat and allow the boat to point up a bit depending on intended mode (point, speed, or wave steering).

Midrange Mainsail Setup With Speed Stripes

Source: North Sails.

The (recent) traditional standard on main trimming was that the traveler never went below centerline. Now, it is more likely to ease the traveler even all of the way down to get boat back on its feet. Traveler position needs to be balanced between easing to reduce twist and bleed off power but still allow point. They suggested that the mast should be straight to the hounds (mast butt goes forward to balance the main sail (there is a balancing act to ensure that with the mast butt forward and ram aft the bottom of the main can become too full and add drag while top is too flat.) The thought was to try to keep camber and chord depth in balance up the sails.

Heavy Wind Setup

Source: North Sails.

In bigger wind, the angle of attack is critical on the puff, so communication (countdown) comes from trimmer to call the puff and allow helm to enter the puff in a more controlled fashion, rather than reacting after the fact. The bottom battens should be matched between the jib and main exit-wise, with the jib fairly open as is the main. Get them similar most of the time.

Other Thoughts for the Future
Lighter weight sails will get hard miles on them when winds come up. More open light wind range jibs are softer, made of lighter sail cloth, and can be used in higher breeze with bumpy seas, and the more closed (upper range) sails can be used in flatter water down wind range. (Subtle words of caution when buying used sails!!)

Michael told an anecdote that they noticed that main was setting up a little flatter on one tack over the other, so they adjusted position of one of the spreaders to fix that. Something to consider when looking at rigs. Benj and team are not using the hinging spreader, and the general agreement was that it was hard to get it right. That said, it does position the mast well on the downwind leg.

Season Schedule in Flux, But Some Diversion
May 8, 2020

The YRA held a call in earlier this week to discuss the upcoming season in light of the pandemic. The general consensus from the YCs was that they were likely to hold off racing until at least June, with the expectation that the upcoming Memorial Day regatta would not be held.

The YRA will host another call in a couple of weeks to see when the season might open, but the draft US Sailing guidance will be to only sail with people you are self-isolating with, which probably only possibly works for Dan, Chris, Ed or maybe RJ! The rest of us might have to singlehand! There was talk of round-the-cans revival as a way to not overly press RC boats with non-cohabitating people. So...back to the future.
That said, if things do open up, there are some opportunities to gather on the water beforehand for some tuning, practice or informal racing where we drop and pickup our own marks.

Some Diversion in the Meantime

Certainly, we've never had more time to optimize systems and look at rigging! North Sails ran a great Etchells seminar a couple of weeks ago, and they are planning one more "Etchells-nerd" one before a final practical application one. The first seminar had some great content and even showed some optimal sail shapes from off and on the boat for older and newer sail models in the North Sails webinar. If you are interested in the new forestay measurement idea that was mentioned, the Aussies came up with it a couple of years ago. Written by Richie Allanson and Michael Coxon, this article demonstrates a new way to measure rake that eliminates some of the minor setup differences between boats.

And if you can't get enough, Andrew "Dog" Palfrey ran a seminar at  RORC where he was giving his thoughts. While the early part had some good content, but the most interesting meat really comes out after 0:40, or really 0:48. Couple of the notes:

-  On mode changes, make only small changes in anticipation of wind changes.

-  Lulls are more important to call out and to make changes than gusts (just hike first, then look to make changes: traveler, backstay, jib f/t, tack, etc).

-  In point mode, need more power aft in the main to balance the boat (traveler, sheet, backstay)

-  Routine is good for starts: make notes of where transits are for 2 minutes, 1:30, 1 min etc on stbd tack

Lastly, this article on rudder angle from Sailing World was reposted and might be interesting to test out when you are checking out your boat.

Cunningham Wins US Nationals in a Countback
September 22, 2019

International Etchells Class Chairman Jim Cunningham and his all-star crew of Steve Hunt, Erik Shampain and Carrie Wiley won a US Nationals loaded with past World Champions and Olympians who were looking forward to a fantastic event graciously hosted by American Yacht Club in Rye, NY Sept 20-22.

Despite the challenging Long Island Sound forecast and daily conditions, the organizing team, led on the water by PRO Rich Hulit managed to make the best of the breeze available to deliver four races.

Leading the regatta out of the blocks from the hard right corner in Race 1 was Scott Kauffman, Austen Anderson, Brian Kamilar and Gonzalo Ribero. Showing the fleet a clean pair of heels for a wire to wire victory.

In race 2, it was another Shelter Island-based team of Jay Cross skippering to lead wire to wire, but in a race that saw NW gradient fighting with SW sea breeze producing several large holes, plenty of snakes and very few ladders. Jay and team were short on fingernails as they crossed the finish line, peeling to their jib for the last 100 yards into the finish line.

Jim Cunningham’s team delivered a strong first day posting a 2, 3 for a clear overnight lead over George Francisco, Karl Anderson and Ezra Culver and Steve Girling, Adrian Owles and Lars Osell.

American Yacht Club hosted a wonderful regatta dinner on Friday evening celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the founding of Fleet 1 in western Long Island Sound, with guest speakers including 7-time Etchells World Champion Dave Curtis and one of the original Fleet 1 founders Dooie Isdale illuminating the crowd with some great memories and words of encouragement! Benefiting the US Etchells' Youth program, an auction was run on a hat signed by nearly all of the Etchells World Champions over the 50 years donated by Fleet 1 treasurer Dan Smith and a round of golf donated by Don Dowd and Sandy Weil raised over $4,200 for the young Etchells' sailors.

Day 2 dawned breathless with a weak forecast!

After being postponed ashore for a couple of hours ashore the fleet left the generous hospitality of American Yacht Club to sail upwind in a light southerly.

A jam-packed pin-half of the line saw Girling lead off the pin towards left shift and pressure for a straightforward (if that can ever be a thing on Long Island Sound) race victory.

With the breeze clocking further left, race 4 was started in a diminishing SSE breeze. This time Cunningham won the pin and was launched, quickly able to cross the fleet on port tack. Behind Cunningham, it was a very close affair with boats lining up bow to stern, poles forward on the run back downhill.

Cunningham led the left on the second, increasingly sticky lap, but it was Steve Benjamin, Joseph Morris, Ian Liberty and Dave Hughes who were the first to dig right, followed by Dirk Kneulman, Andrew Macrae and Hank Lammens. Scott Kaufman followed a couple of minutes later, crossing the middle, which looked awful!!!, but he just kept going, taking a few transoms and eventually finding more right shift and pressure on the right side of the track. This provided just enough leverage to seal his second race win of the regatta, with Benji second and Cunningham, escaping the left to hold onto third.

Sunday opened hazy and hot. Although better breeze was promised, it did not arrive at the race course until after the PRO had called time on proceedings.

So the overnight results stood, with Jim Cunningham and team won the regatta on a countback from George Francisco and team, with Scott Kauffman and team in third.

Steve Girling and team in fourth place overall won the podium as the first Corinthian boat, followed by one of the two US Etchells Youth teams competing in the regatta, led by Gordon Gurnell, with Chris Mason-Hing and Rachel Day aboard. Rounding out the top 3 were local legends, Don Dowd, Sandy Weil and Eric Dowd.

Please see Yachtscoring for the full results.

A big thanks to the sponsors – Brooklyn Sailbags, Landmark Vineyards, Fiji Water and North Sails – and all of the organizers and volunteers who helped to make this event a success. The fleet moves to Shelter Island and Annapolis in the coming weeks. Join us, and we’ll welcome folks who want to join or return to this amazing class!

-- We thank Steve Girling for his fantastic sailing and memory to write this article.

Etchells Atlantic Coast --¡Ay, Caramba!
May 21, 2018

A total of 22 teams turned up for racing this past weekend, and congratulations Jose Fuentes and Caramba crew (Luke Lawrence and Ian Coleman) for winning the Etchells Atlantic Coast Championship hosted by American Yacht Club and Etchells Fleet 1. Senet Bichoff, sailing with brother Clay Bischoff and Stu Saffer, claimed the top Corinthian prize and fifth overall! Standing on the podium for Overall prizes were Goombay Smash team of William "Doug" Douglass, Chris Larson and Allan Terhune in second, and the America Jane 11 team of Scott Kaufman, Lucas Calabrese, Austen Anderson, and Jesse Kirkland. For the Corinthians, it was the two Youth teams on the podium, with Team Blue of Sean Cornell, Christopher Manson-Hing, Rachel Ann Daye, and Scott Ewing taking second prize and Team Red of Connor Needham, Jimmy Kennedy, Franny Schulte, and Brooks Daley claimed third.

The two days saw some pretty different conditions between Saturday and Sunday's racing

The attentiveness, perseverance, and athleticism of the Race Committee was certainly appreciated on Sunday when a strong Easterly brought 6-foot breaking waves and the wind gusted into the high-20's kts. Pumps were working non-stop and it was survival mode, but the RC managed to get in two solid races. Deteriorating visibility and dropping temperatures called off further races, and sailors appreciated the opportunity to dry off (sort of as the rain showers kept passing through). The wet sailors were greeted by hot chili and plentiful drink to help ward off the cold.

On Sunday, the day opened in fog as a warm front moved through. The RC headed out to set up for an on-time start, and the fog lifted in appreciation! Despite the fluky NW breeze, the Race Committee put in four races to give a discard.

Here are the articles that followed the regatta.

Nice weekend everyone! Big shout outs to David Barton, PRO, and Jeff Jamison, Regatta Chairman.