Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ian Bruce

I was walking down the pier at the Mid-Atlantic Small Craft festival this year and passed one of those varnished Classic look-alike repro Chris-Craft runabouts. I made a mental note that this was an odd duck at this event; I'd never seen a classic motor boat at MASCF, there already being a surfeit of other events that cater to the Classic runabout crowd (the big one is the Antique Boat Museum event at Clayton NY at the beginning of August). Pushing this anomaly out of my mind, I kept ambling along to the end of the pier, perusing all wide variety of paddling, rowing and sailing craft. After fifteen minutes stepping in an around the small boats scattered on the floating dock, I looked back toward the Museum and spotted what looked like a familiar figure standing on the pier next to the Chris Craft. Hard to tell at this distance but it looked like Ian Bruce, the one man responsible for launching the greatest number of fiberglass sailboats in the history of mankind (the Laser first comes to mind, then the Laser II, the Tasar, the Byte, the Megabyte, the Laser 28, and before all that, about 150 International 14's). If it was Ian Bruce, then the reproduction Chris Craft started to make sense. It took me some time to make my way back up the pier and, sure enough, there, standing in the cockpit, was Ian Bruce.

I had heard Ian was developing an all-electric Classic runabout, something that could do 30 knots, an unheard of speed in the all-electric world and here was the boat in the flesh. Ian had brought the boat down from Canada to do the Wye Island Electric Boat Marathon the weekend before (just up the river from St. Michaels) and decided to attend MASCF. Ian had a water pump pack it in the day before the Wye Island race which he and his friend Jack Lynch fixed with some local hardware parts (not sure what needs water cooling in Ian's electric setup on the Chris-Craft look alike). This severely curtailed the top speed to about 9 knots and put him out of the running. His intent is to return next year, fully operational, and smash the record for the 24 mile course. A YouTube video on the Wye Island Marathon (including Ian's Classique Bateaux - Ian has always lived in French speaking Quebec) shows these electric powered craft making good speed around the course.

After producing fiberglass sailboats since the late 1960's, Ian is no longer in the sailboat production business, having sold the Byte and Megabyte lines to Zim in May of 2011. This E-boat project has got Ian's considerable creative talents going full bore and his focus is on making this all-electric Classic runabout a success.

The bulk of our five minute discussion wasn't electric boats, or the state of sailboat manufacturing but reminiscing about Classic International 14's. I consider Ian one of the greatest living International 14 champions. I hope to catch him again in 2013 on his return to racing on the Maryland Eastern shore.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Header Photo: South African Sonnet Scow

South African Jack Koper designed three plywood scows, starting in the late 1950's with the junior scow, the 11'9" Dabchick, and then followed with the 15'6" Tempo scow and then with the 14' 6" Sonnet Scow (featured in the header photo). All three enjoyed great success in South Africa and the Tempo also achieved some numbers in Europe, notably Holland and Germany. The Tempo has faded from the scene but both the Dabchick and Sonnet still have good fleets in South Africa (500 built for the Sonnet). Those readers who guessed the photo might be the American Y-Flyer scow were close -from the photo they look similar - but off by 4 feet in length.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunfish Frankenboat; The Solar Fish

Drawn to all things just different, I couldn't pass up taking photos of this modified Sunfish, the Solar Fish, that showed up at the 2012 Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival. Very ingenious. It was designed to be a sit-in, non-hiking day sailor with a small cabin. I took a quick once-over on shore but didn't have a chance to talk to the owner/builder. Some features that were apparent in my quick glance over were;

  • Furling sail.
  • Solar panel that fed a small trolling motor (the motor seemed to double as a rudder as well.)
  • A very nautical looking cabin.
  • What looked to be a wooden anchor bowsprit fitting (but I didn't see an anchor).

The Sunfish sported Ohio registration numbers. There seems to be a large number of retired machinists from the now-gone heavy industry factories of Ohio that seem to love hacking into various projects.

The Solar Fish made it out for a sail-about before the sailing race but didn't participate, instead smartly returning to shore under power, ignoring the contrary wind blowing off the Museum shores.

A side on view of the Solar Fish under sail..

Two photos on the trailer.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

#16 - Bumpity Bump

As mentioned in the previous post, I did race committee for the J-24 East Coast Champs run by Severn Sailing Association. It was supposedly a race committee by invitation only which meant it was mostly greybeards and it seemed that we all brought our own wind-sticks and handbearing compasses. Many a lively discussion cackled over the radios about what the wind was doing and should we move the marks or not - credit Mike Waters, PRO, with taking all this cacophonous feedback and making command decisions that turned out to be correct.

I was on the pin boat - the leeward end of the starting line was to be the anchored SSA RIB - the idea being we could control the unruly J-24's with another set of stationary eyes at the leeward pin. I've never done this before; usually when I've been tasked to call the leeward end of the line I've done it from a moving motorboat that we are trying to hold on station - never an ideal situation. Friday we had very clean starts but Saturday the class got more aggressive, we had around 4 to 5 general recalls - still not bad by class standards; which worked out as we were trying to bang out 4 good races that day to conclude the regatta in front of approaching Hurricane Sandy.

From the vantage point of the pin boat, I got to watch the antics of good old bow number 16 who was trying the very risky starting tactic (in this caliber fleet and with a keelboat to boot) of coming in on port and tacking to leeward of the fleet with about 30 seconds to go. The first start on Saturday he made a complete hash of it and ended up slightly below and squeezing up mightily to avoid hitting the pin boat - which he ultimately failed to do. Bumpity bump he went along our inflatable bow and then his rudder fetched up on the anchor rode. In a superb feat of athleticism, one of the crew, lickety-split, leaped over the aft stanchion, straddled the rudder with one foot on top and used his extended leg to push the anchor rode down off the rudder. Quite remarkably, this was successfully accomplished in a couple of seconds and #16 was off to the races. Dutifully we radioed the main committee boat that J-24 #16 had hit the pin boat. We expected that he would take a penalty when he finished, as was written into the race instructions.

Number 16 hadn't learned his lesson for he tried the same maneuver on the next two starts. He didn't hit the pin boat this time but he did create a nice cluster of J-24's, clotted together, all downspeed at the start and straining to get around the leeward pin boat.

It was a grueling day getting four longish races (not only were we the pin boat but we traipsed up and down the course, filling in where needed especially in changing some marks).  I got out of the club around 5 o'clock, went to the beer store to get some storm stock and back to the house to get some food. Somewhere after 6 o'clock, Mike Waters called on my cell phone and wanted me to confirm that #16 had indeed hit the pin boat as the skipper was now claiming that he didn't, only that he had snagged the anchor rode which is not a foul. I confirmed and volunteered to come back to the club but he could tell in my fatigue and I could tell in his fatigue that this was not a battle we wanted to fight. Plus, everyone was hustling to de-rig their J's and leave that night as everyone had places to go and things to do to prepare for Hurricane Sandy. So I didn't drive back to the club and #16 gambled again and got away with a bald-faced lie. I've seen this happen before in sailboat racing, mostly in the protest room, but it doesn't get any easier.

Tip Of the Hat to Number 16 (I have a Filipino friend who maintains that karma always returns the favor) - The Bonzo Dog Band, "I Love to Bumpity Bump".

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Race Committee in the Shadow of Sandy

I was a member of the SSA race committee running the East Coast Championships for the J-24 class; the regatta took place on the weekend before that Monday when Sandy slammed into New Jersey, about 160 miles to the east. I had done this regatta last year and the last weekend in October finds the Chesapeake Bay normally empty except for the J-24's and the IRC folks. Not this year. This year a constant stream of boats criss-crossed our course, making their way to safer hurricane holes; most working their way north towards Baltimore. On Friday, the Sandbagger's Bull and Bear sailed north with their tenders following. I was told this was their normal routine as they winter over in a barn up on Gibson Island. My friend Tom was steering one of them; he gave a cheery wave as the wind was just right for these oldster's to have a delightful sail. On Saturday, two trimarans were spotted going north, one larger one loafing along under main only and a Sea Cart 30, fully powered up, coming from West River and smoking north. Larger cruising motor yachts zipped about. In the afternoon two of the large dinner/party yachts that ply the Annapolis Harbor and Severn River with bands and booze were seen steaming purposely north in tandem. Several container ships were going south, towards Sandy; strange to our eyes but the assumption was they knew what they were doing. Saturday's clouds started at a normal height, coming from the northeast with openings here and there to let glorious fall sun play on the water, but, later in the day, the clouds started socking in low with an ominous dark band sitting to the south, always a portent of something brewing from the ocean side.

The class and club had cancelled Sundays racing as the forecast was for a full on gale commencing before the advancing hurricane. Luckily, winds never got much over 12 knots on Saturday so we hustled and got in four races to wrap up the regatta. We got off the water just before dark and on my way home I stopped at my favorite beer store to replenish my storm stock.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Kite Racing - A Primer

I suspect that I am not the only long time sailor that knows bupkis about the new Olympic Sailing Sport of kite racing. Maybe this video may help (though I still want to know how you keep from entangling these kites on port/starboard crossings - and still not sure how the weight equalization works out?).
"And we've got the big kites going"

Update: Oops! Spoke too soon. From Tillerman: The kite racers didn't make the final Olympic Class cut at this years ISAF meeting. The RSX boards will be back in for the 2016 Olympics.

This is Kiteracing ! from International Kiteboarding Ass. on Vimeo.