Monday, May 30, 2016

Falmouth Working Boats

Sometimes all it takes to brighten the mood is a video of a class of topsail cutters, crews working hard, these powerful sailing craft cutting deep furrows, their jaunty bowsprits leading the way as they bash upwind, .

A video of Falmouth Working Boats racing with their big rigs combined with insightful interviews of those involved with the class:

Falmouth Week 2014 - Falmouth Working Boats - The Highlights from Liz George on Vimeo.

A drawing of the Falmouth Working Boat shows a full keel, broad shoulders, narrowish stern and cutter sections of the traditional English fishing boats

The St. Mawes Sailing Club has this warning to spectators, particularly those who are watching the Falmouth Working Boat racing from a boat:
"A final cautionary note to add is that most Working Boats carry no engine and under full racing sail they are a handful for even the most experienced sailor. A long keel and limited visibility to leeward for the helmsman means that manoeuvrability is limited especially on crowded start lines or amongst moorings. I would recommend viewing from a distance and marvel at the skill of the top skippers as they navigate their way through the obstacle course that is the Carrick Roads on a summer's day.
This post treads on territory much better covered by English blogger, Max, over at Busledon Blog. (See his post on the Falmouth Working Boats and Oyster Festival.)

Saturday, May 28, 2016

New Zealand Zephyr Singlehander Dinghy

Here is another 11 foot singlehander, just like the Classic Moth, though it is a one-design class. The Zephyr is a New Zealand only class, designed in 1956 by Des Townson. They celebrated their seventy year anniversary this year with an 80 boat National Championship, which shows the class is doing something right. This is definitely one of those Retro singlehanders surging into a current day renaissance, despite all the online squawking about the need for "modern singlehanders".

Some of the 80 Zephyrs lined up on the beach of the Manly Sailing Club, Auckland, NZ, for the 2016 Nationals.

A classic dinghy shape from 1956, the Zephyr has a Vee'd transom. This one is fully kitted out with modern accoutrements such as a tactical compass, carbon tiller, blades fully protected in their bags.

The class is just in the process of legalizing fiberglass hulls but up to this point, all hulls have been cold-molded (a few have been strip planked) from one class approved mold. The decking, as shown, is substantial and sturdy. Minimum weight of the hull is not super-light, 58 kg (127lbs. - still lighter than a Laser).

The Zephyr has a lowish roach, full battened sail on a stayed aluminium mast that is stepped on the deck.

And, yes, they do look to be quite a lively planing boat when the wind comes up.

Zephyr Class Association.

Kiwi Neil Kennedy emailed me with these observations on the Zephyr dinghy:
"Above 15kn's a Zephyr, which is a quite powerful boat,  would be able match a Classic Moth although the Europe dinghy hulls, with their international moth style rigs and 80 sq ft of SA, would match a Zephyr in the same breeze. By the way the biggest age group at the recent nationals was (50-59) ( Ah! The "silver fleet" is where the action is).

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Header Photo: Yoles Rondes de la Martinique

The previous header photo is of the Yoles Rondes de la Martinique, a sailing canoe, a wild and wacky, far-removed cousin of our Chesapeake Bay Log Canoe. There are various classes; the large Yoles can have two sails (two sails for offwind courses?), the one in the photo just one, and they sport low slung. very square, boom-less sprit sails. Their hiking aids can't technically be called planks, since they aren't shaped, just round poles. They are steered with a long oar, leveraged off the stern.

I've mentioned the premier event of the Yoles Rondes season before in Earwigoagin, a round-the-island tour which takes place in late summer and is the sporting event of the year for the island of Martinique.

The Yoles de la Martinique belong to that genre of large crewed, over-rigged, unballasted sailing beasts, along with the Australian Classic skiff (here and here), the Bermuda Fitted Dinghy, the Bahamian workboats, the Log Canoes, the Coco Island Canoe, and the Hawaiian Sailing Canoe.

A photo, gleaned from the Internet, of a Yole Ronde struggling under full press:

A drone video set to a soothing score which belies the chaos below:

A series of on-board videos put together by "Yoles Martinique", with much shouting onboard (in French). Some things to note:
  • It takes two strong men on the oar to steer when the wind comes up.
  • Offwind, they will put some of the crew on their poles to leeward to reduce roll momentum (where they seem to spend most of the time underwater).
  • Every once in a while, a crew is jettisoned into the briny deep, the assumption being to reduce weight for offwind legs.
  • The crews are all smartly kitted out in matching team gear.

My2Fish has done a better job in researching the Yoles and wrote this informative post over on his blog.

What a glorious, photogenic sailing class!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Boat behind "The Dog House"

Joe Rouse's recent post about a guy who built a big Dudley Dix keelboat in his driveway brings back memories of my other encounter with a backyard boat builder putting together a large boat.

When traveling north for regattas from Annapolis there are two routes; the faster, busier, somewhat more expensive Interstate 95 through Baltimore to Delaware; or the slower, more scenic route up the Eastern Shore using the Bay Bridge to Route 50, into Delaware, to Route 13 and then to Route 40. I prefer the Eastern Shore route. One of the highlights on many of these trips thirty or so years ago was stopping at "The Dog House", a hot dog emporium located on the busy retail strip of Route 40 in Delaware, about two miles or so before the Delaware Memorial Bridge. Crossing the Delaware Memorial Bridge would put you on the New Jersey Turnpike, a two hour and change drive to New York City and then to points further north. It was a convenient travel stop, either coming or going, and, in that innocent time before I learned about nitrates, the chili dogs were very good.

The Dog House:

Google Street View ©2016 Google

In the years of going back and forth for the International Canoe racing in Rhode Island, Buzzards Bay, and City Island we would park with our trailers off to the side of "The Dog House" because there was no room out front. One year we realized that there looked like an upside-down boat in the suburban back yard of the house directly behind "The Dog House". We scrambled up the tallish, wood privacy fence to take a look and, sure enough, someone was building what looked like a Colin Archer, full-keel cruiser in ferro-cement, somewhere between 30-40 feet (9-12 meters) in length. Every year after that for, maybe, eight years in a row, we would scramble up that fence behind "The Dog House", and peer into the backyard to gauge his progress. One year, just before twilight, we were on our way home, heading south, made the customary stop at "The Dog House" and, after eating, climbed the fence to discover the builder was hard at work. We asked some questions across the fence and then he kindly invited Bill Beaver, Dick White and I into his backyard to have a close-up look. In the fading light we could see the cruiser was right side up by this time and the deck was more or less complete. I can't remember in our conversation if he said how long he had been building her, he definitely looked an older gent; all I remember was his dream of going ocean cruising in this hand-built boat was still burning bright. There was no doubt he was going to keep at it. I did wonder at that time, given the narrowness of his side yards, how he was going to get that cruiser, when finished, out of the back yard.

I retired from International Canoe racing long before Bill Beaver and several years later, in the summer, I got a call from Bill after one of his road-trips.

"It's gone," he said.
"What's gone," I replied.
"The boat... the boat behind The Dog House."

From a previous Earwigoagin post, Dr. John Vardiman building an Alden schooner in his barn.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Ian Bruce - A Lifetime of Experiments and Achievements in Sailing

Ian Bruce's memorial was early May at Royal St. Lawrence Y.C. I knew Ian, mostly through a work connection, but we also bonded over a love of the now Classic International 14 (although Ian had retired from 14's when I was racing them). In the late 1970's I saw him about twice a year when he was in Annapolis, and in the later years I touched base when he was up for the Annapolis Sailboat Show. Most of what has been written about Ian centers on the Laser; "Father of the Laser" being the typical moniker bestowed on Ian, but the Laser was only one part of what Ian, the designer, and Ian, the engineer worked at throughout his career.

Ian embraced emerging technologies to make the Laser a true one-design.

When Ian sold a bucketful of Laser's at the first New York Boat Show, he knew he had a winner but he wasn't satisfied. Ian set to work to make this class a true one-design, in every aspect. He wrote a very detailed construction manual so there was no leeway on how international manufacturers were to build the Laser (and this construction manual seems to be the only recognized IP in the current dispute between Bruce Kirby and Laser Performance). Ian didn't like the variation in the Laser sails so he, Steve Haarstick, and Jack Lynch formed Chesapeake Cutters, which was the first company to computer cut sails (using the Gerber Cutter and this is where I come in; I was production manager of the cutter operation). Ian didn't like the variation in the wood blades for the Laser so he developed, with an English company, a method to make them from expanded, self-skinning urethane foam using bronze molds with steel rods as reinforcement. When it came to making parts for the Laser more reproducible consistently, Ian was an early adopter of emerging technologies. The current term, SMOD, Single Manufacturer One-Design, came well after introduction of the Laser but credit to Ian Bruce in his drive to keep seeking out and then implementing the manufacturing technology needed to achieve identical dinghies.

Ian was a project guy.

Ian was happiest when he was up to his elbows in a project and the projects he chose were usually pushing the limits. In the 1970's nobody had built a production two-man dinghy at 64 kg (140 lbs.) in glass; the lightest dinghy going before the Tasar was around 90 kg. (The Tasar was designed from the Aussie NS-14 which was built in plywood at that time.) Ian went with full foam core and light skins, a relatively new technology, to achieve the very lightweight Tasar. When Ian did a keelboat, the Laser 28, he decided to build it using resin infusion (which uses a vacuum to pull the resin through the cloth) in order to have a tighter control over the laminate. Problem was, at that time, no one had done a part as big as a 28-foot boat using resin infusion. The last time I saw Ian, in 2012, he had his latest project, an all-electric runabout that he was aiming to get to 30 knots. Ian was more than a boat-builder, even more than an industrial designer, he was, using U.K slang, a true "boffin".

After the Laser, Ian set the lofty goal to bring high performance dinghies to the World.

Once Ian had set the Laser onto the path for international success, he set out with another goal, to introduce the World to the Antipodean high-performance dinghy. Ian felt that the North American and English dinghy classes, compared to the Australian and New Zealand dinghies, were too heavy and too slow. So he partnered, first with Australian designer Frank Bethwaite to produce the Tasar and the Laser II, and then with New Zealander Bruce Farr to produce the Laser 28 and the singlehander MegaByte. Having a conversation with Ian Bruce in the late 1970's you knew you were in the presence of a true believer in the Australian/New Zealand lightweight, overpowered dinghy. Did he succeed? Yes and no. Certainly the classes mentioned, the Tasar, Laser II, Laser 28, and Megabyte never gained traction as big international classes with staying power but, by bringing the Antipodean designers, and their boats front and center to the sailboat world, Ian paved the way for Bethwaite Olympic class, the 49'er and helped push the International 14 into the Aussie skiff camp. In many ways the current crop of lightweight singlehanders coming to market, the RS Aero, the D Zero, the Melges 14 and others owe a large debt to Ian Bruce's pioneering efforts to introduce these type of dinghies 40 years ago.

Mention must be made of two other people that were an integral partners in Ian's success; Ward McKimm, the "money man" who had complete faith in Ian Bruce and was a major force behind the scenes, and Peter Bjorn, the "right-hand man" who was with Ian through both Laser Performance days and the Byte days.

And then there is an entire history of early Ian Bruce and the International 14's but that needs to be told in another post.

Music Whenever: Gregory Alan Isakov "Living Proof"

I've featured Gregroy Alan Isakov before on Earwigoagin ("The Stable Song") . Given Isakov's mournful, wistful music, this video and this tune go together, to use a trite phrase, like a hand and a glove.

Filmed with an acrobatic mime at an abandoned Six Flags amusement park in New Orleans, La, this video is an interesting juxtaposition of remembrance of previous joy with a present reality of loss.

The lyrics:

Living Proof

The night fell with bicycle bells, the dark had wooden teeth
Oh we broke on up to hill country, the air was thin and sweet 
Lord, the air was thin and sweet

She held onto my coat that night, like a kid lost in her sleeves
Oh we warmed the ground, we hushed our sound
We slept on walking feet
Lord, we slept on walking feet

Oh Darlin, pardon me
Can you help me remember
When we were all flying free
We were dust from our bodies
And we were flicker and flame, yeah we burned till the morning
Darlin, pardon me

Off in the night, you can hear 'em bright,
The Sirens of the Sea
Oh and city birds and alley girls, they all just sing for free
Oh they all just sing for free

Oh Darlin, pardon me
But do I look familiar 
When we were just larkspur and leaves
We were strung through the tether
And we were all silver and stone
We were the lust of the miners
Darlin, pardon me

That sky glowed all calico like phosphor in the sea
To the ground we fall, she owns us all
Kings and boys and beast
Kings and boys and beast

Oh Darlin, pardon me
But do I look familiar
When we were just flying free
And we burned from a freight train
And we were some flicker of truth in the smile of a salesman
And we were all buried jewels 'neath the grass in the suburbs
And we were all living proof
Oh Darlin, pardon me

There is also Nicole Atkin's song about long lost New Jersey shore amusement destinations.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Canadian 49'er team video - May 2016

I've featured plenty of Olympic 49'er videos on this blog, mostly of the watery, down-the-mine, disaster variety. This one is different. The sailor's monologues nail the difficulty of sailing a high-performance dinghy, coupled with the obsessive grind of an Olympic campaign. The videography is beautiful. There is the requisite blasting around but there is also a sequence of these two caught in North American squall; the blast and then the calm and the torrential rain afterward.

905 Sailing-HD from Jesse Wyatt on Vimeo.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Pipsqueak - A 5-Footer from the Douglas Fir Association

When I wrote about my El Toro sailing days I recounted a same-age compatriot from the community accompanying me, as I learned to sail, in his six-foot sailboat. I decided, using my faded memory, to see if the InterWebs would offer up any clues as to the identity of this tiny sailing dinghy and, sure enough, I came up with a good candidate, the Pipsqueak design by John Burroughs. The design was sponsored by the Douglas Fir Association and plans were cheaply obtained. The Pipsqueak was even smaller than I remembered it, a five-footer instead of a six-footer.

I found some photos that were put up by the Tacoma Public Library. It is indeed a very small sailing dinghy, but a very good size to tow behind a bicycle as my friend would do.

Tacoma Public Library

Tacoma Public Library

Tacoma Public Library

The May 1956 issue of Life magazine had a one-page spread on the Pipsqueak.

My recollection is the Pipsqueak was very slow compared to the El Toro (my word! - the sail looks to be made from some sort of colorful domestic fabric; dress? sheets? table-spread?), but my friend had a lot of fun with her, though mostly paddling her. I must say that I have never since seen a sailing dinghy towed behind a bicycle.