Single-Handing in High Wind

Single-Handing in High Wind

Most senior dinghy tests involve assessing the skipper's ability to single hand a dinghy in high winds. And indeed, this is an essential skill. Imagine that you're out in the South Sailing Basin on a beautiful summer afternoon. It's blowing 15 knots, and you and your crew are hiked out all the way when suddenly the hiking strap breaks, and your crew ends up in the drink. (See e.g.  http://youtu.be/ZZTwH8C5bjo for an excellent demonstration by our current Commodore). If you can't pull off a single-handed crew overboard maneuver, your crew will end up on the rocks by Emeryville while you wait for the rescue skiff to arrive.

Here are a couple of pointers which will help you single-hand like a pro.

Depowering the sails. Unless you have the stature of an NFL linebacker, chances are that you will have difficulty keeping the boat flat unless you take some steps to depower the sails. Reefing the main and furling the jib are good starting points. Tightening up the luff of the sail with the Cunningham and/or reefing line will help to flatten the sail, reducing its heeling force. Loosening up the vang or gnav will allow the head of the mainsail to twist and luff, all the while keeping the bottom of the sail powered up.

Balancing the boat. Balance is always key in sailing. Since you no longer have crew in the boat, you'll have to use your own weight much more effectively. Moving forward is essential; otherwise, the bow of the boat gets battered around by waves. Aggressively hiking out will help keep the boat flat. If you're lucky enough to be wearing a harness and your tiller extension is long enough, you can even go out on the trapeze! 

Tacking and jibing. Tacking a dinghy while single-handed in high wind can be quite challenging; large swells crashing against the bow of the boat tend to slow the boat before it passes through irons, causing the tack to fail. Furling the jib and loosening the vang as suggested above compound the problem, as the boat no longer points as high. In some situations, jibing the boat is the only viable option for switching tacks. For this, loosen up the vang (if this wasn't already done), and start the jibe with a maximal amount of boat speed. You'll have to aggressively use your weight and the tiller to keep the dinghy from rounding up and broaching.

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Michael Sherrell
If things look too hairy, consider capsizing immediately and hoping the COB can make his/her way to you. Although usually when som... Read More
Monday, 22 February 2016 11:02
Nathan Ilten
Great suggestion, Mike. Even better: anchor. If it really is that hairy, chances are that your capsized boat will still be moving ... Read More
Tuesday, 23 February 2016 11:10
Michael Sherrell
If you're trying to tack and nearly make it but not quite, chances are at the highest point you reach you will start being blown b... Read More
Monday, 25 July 2016 10:38
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CSC's Week in Review: Fast Track, Cruise, Open House & Windsurfing Galore

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CSC update as of 7/14, we have more than 1,000 members :)

Sunday 7/13 - we had dinghy racing, followed by an Open House and a party afterwards with the first ever performance by the CSC Band. Antony, Scott, and Kaylia serenaded their adoring crowd. Check out the video of one of their original CSC-inspired songs on Cal Sailing Club's facebook page

We had approximately 200 Open House attendees and one fearless Commander of a Pearson Commander, David Frasier, taking out eager new sailors--you're our hero, David!

July's Junior Sailing Fast Track from 7/7 - 7/11 came and went, and all we've got to show for it is a bunch of lousy pictures. Oh, and we have NINE brand spanking new juniors - congratulations!! 

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Use The Force

Use The Force

When we sail we use all our senses, but the one we rely most heavily on is our sight.  This was brought home to me when I took my first Wednesday night keelboat lesson several years ago.  I had grown accustomed to using the telltales on the shrouds to get a general sense of the wind when sailing the dinghies.  I even carried some bits of yarn in case the boat I was on didn’t have any.  I took the helm on the keelboat on a dark night and--oh crap--I couldn’t  see the tell tales.  I struggled that night, but realized that what had started as an aid had become a crutch.

The last Monday night advanced dinghy class, we worked on sailing without any sight at all.   But you don’t need a class to try it.  First make sure you have decent crew who is not blindfolded, and that you’re in an area with a lot of space (few boats and no obstructions).  Pick a day with moderate wind.   Put a blindfold on and try to hold a course.  Your crew can give you feedback.  Try to feel the puffs of wind before they hit the boat.  Pay attention to the balance of the boat.  Listen to the sound of the boat moving through the water.  Play with the main sheet.  Can you tell when the boat accelerates and decelerates?  Smell your gear, yeah, you should probably wash it.   Try sailing different points of sail.  If you’re feeling confident try a tack.

It’s as easy as bagging womp rats back home in Beggar’s Canyon.

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John DuMoulin
Thats a great idea! I used to do that when I was learning to windsurf. If I was having some inexplicable problem with sailing diff... Read More
Tuesday, 08 July 2014 16:34
John Bongiovanni
This was a great exercise in the advanced dinghy class. I figured out that the tension on the mainsheet was the clue. Head up unti... Read More
Friday, 11 July 2014 21:25
Michael Sherrell
Very useful comment, John. I was there but I didn't figure that out. By the way, Seamus, what the f*** is a "womp rat"?... Read More
Sunday, 13 July 2014 11:23
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How to buy your first VHF handheld for your CSC Senior kit

Candidate Senior sailors need to own their own VHF radio. This guide is designed to give some basic orientation on what to look for when shopping for your first handheld VHF radio. This guide is not a generic guide but designed explicitly for use at the Cal Sailing Club, for brief recreational use on dinghies and keelboat cruises inside the bay area. You need a radio for basically two things: contacting the day leader and, in an extreme situation, contacting the Coast Guard. Senior skippers need to have a radio with them in order to sail outside of the Junior area, and will often use them when cruising with other Seniors. 

Understand waterproof rating Most models are water proof and submersible, meaning they can be dropped into water and still be functioning when recovered. JIS4 means that the radio is barely splash resistant, JIS8 means the radio is submersible, it can stand for up to 30 minutes below 5' of water. Be careful when reading the descriptions when shopping because it's not uncommon to find JIS4 rated radios claimed as being 'waterproof'.

Floating or not? You  want the radio primarily for your own safety, and you want to make sure it is securely attached to you at all times. It isn't going to help you  if you leave it on a keelboat but fall off, or you lose it while  sailing but don't realize it (a pretty likely occurrence if it isn't  secured).  For both dinghies and keelboats, assume  that you'll end up in the water, so the radio has to be securely attached to  you. CSC keelboats have a radio on board, so the portable one is for extra safety. The models that also float can be easier to recover in case they get detached from you but they can be slightly bulkier and more expensive. The extra cost  of a floating one can be easily recovered the first time the radio drops in the water (which is not so unlikely, according to stories heard at the club). 

Whether you decide to get a floating or non-floating model, make sure that the radio is securely tethered to your gear so that in a capsize it won't be ripped off of you. In general, do not rely  just on the clip that attaches the radio to your life vest. In case you go for non-floating, you may want to get a waterproof case for it with enough buoyancy. You have to be careful, though, and take the radio out of the case when you're not using it otherwise the water (vapor) in the case can corrode the radio. The case needs to be securely attached to your life vest.

Power, screen, control and other features to look for 5 watt should be the minimum transmitting power. Rechargeable NiCad or Li-ion batteries are usually provided by the manufacturer, it's nice to have the possibility to put in regular AA batteries, too. Dual scan means that the radio will scan Channel 16 along with another Channel (69 for CSC). This is important because technically any boat under way is required to monitor Channel 16. Any boat carrying a VHF, whether  required to or not, is required to monitor Channel 16. So when you're  out the bay listening to our Channel 69, you have to also monitor Channel  16. The Dual Scan feature does this. Many VHFs have a triple scan feature, which monitors both Channel 16 and Channel 9 (the standard hailing channel). Squelch  is widely used in two-way radios to suppress the annoying sound of channel noise when the radio is not receiving a transmission. Most handheld radios have a separate squelch control to set the threshold to the actual noise that's on the channel, which can vary. Control knobs to adjust volume are generally more usable than push buttons: think you may be wearing gloves or have your fingers slightly incapacitated when you really need to use the radio. If you carry the radio in a case, push buttons to control the radio volume can be better. Make sure that the screen is very visible also in daylight. Backlit displays are useful in low light. Some radios have water-activated lights that should make the radio much easier to locate in the event it goes in the water in low light conditions.  A lock mode prevents the buttons to be operated when not needed.

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David Fawcett
Excellent Stefano, I could have used this a month ago Agree with you about gps, I looked at several vhf/gps handhelds, most of t... Read More
Tuesday, 01 July 2014 19:57
Stefano Maffulli
I ended up getting the SH HX300 in fact, it's also on sale on West Marine now with a $20 mail-in rebate.
Wednesday, 02 July 2014 11:23
Stephanie Evans
This is less about buying one as owning one and keeping it in one piece--every time you go out on the water, check your antennae i... Read More
Wednesday, 02 July 2014 08:43
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Notes, Pictures, Video from our Recent Racing Study Group


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As you may have heard, during the month of April we conducted a racing study group with the intention of improving racing skills, rules and tactics for club members.   The group was oversold with 22 members and 4 volunteer instructors.  We were fortunate to recruit some of our best racing resources to lead both classroom and on-the-water practice sessions, including Cory Schillaci, Paul Kamen, Seamus Vanecko, and Mark Playsted.  In this post I want to share a couple of pictures, Cory's rules quiz handout for you to test your own knowledge of the rules, and the entire tactics classroom session video by Paul Kamen.  I did not take pictures from the on-the-water sessions because we were all on the water, but suffice to say it was exciting with up to 11 boats on the water plus this skiff - and with at least one NASCAR style pile up.  Fortunately there was no damage or injuries.

 

Standing room only - we more than filled the Marina conference room

 

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Rudderless But Not Adrift: Sailing Without Your Rudder

We covered rudderless sailing at our Monday afternoon advanced dinghy lessons last week. Knowing how to rudderlessly sail is crucial not only in the (sort of rare at CSC) event that your rudder falls off (!), but also deepens your understanding of sail trim, boat handling, and makes you look pretty epic out there on the Bay. And let's face it: if you look good, you're probably sailing gooder.

It's also a skill you need to know to pass your senior dinghy & keelboat practical tests at CSC.

One simple resource that can be useful to get your started is this rudderless e-book (click the link to download), written by CSC member Joel Brand. 

Some pointers from our rudderless practice session and discussion last week:

If in a dinghy, try and get your rudder completely out of the water. It can still affect your course if it's in the water. As with all these tips provided below, however, try all sorts of different ways to maneuver and see what happens. Try it with the ruddder up, then down and swinging freely. Wind strength, waves, sail plan, and weight in the boat will all affect how your actions impact your course corrections...much like on any given day. Experiment!

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Nathan Ilten
Great tips! Here is another: Loosening your gnav will help with jibing.
Wednesday, 04 June 2014 10:34
Peter /"Margaret"/ Kuhn
Sit down sailors--especially those of modest proportions--often don't appreciate that rudderless sailing in CSC dinghies requires ... Read More
Tuesday, 10 June 2014 08:17
Michael Sherrell
Antony's rudder fell off last week. S*** happens.
Friday, 11 July 2014 09:44
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Memorial Day Cruise to Angel Island

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What gets a bunch of sailors out of bed before 8am on a weekend?  The annual cruise to angel Island of course! 30 CSC members and guests poured into Commanders and Merits for a gorgeous sail to the aptly named Island, for a sizable feast that would make your grandmother proud. 

Creaking at the seams, some of us chose to hike off the calories, others napped, and many took the short hike/quick nap combo that capitalized on the best of both worlds. 

The sail back was mostly uneventful, with half of of us sailing down Raccoon straits, around the Island and into Berkeley, and the other half taking a straight shot back to Berkeley. It was scorching in the wind shadow of Angel Island, but cooled off nicely with a 5knt breeze as we cruised into the Berkeley Marina. 

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The Art of Stepping Off

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Stepping on and off a dinghy with style can be an art. One of the best pieces of advice I received early on in my CSC career (after making it onto the dock still dry by sheer luck) was to commit to stepping off and never looking back! We all fear the dreaded plunge into the murky waters of our beloved dock...to inevitably be witnessed by the many bench sailors and commentators who collect like barnacles around the club house. The key, as beautifully demonstrated here by our soon-to-be Junior sailor Phillipe (and gif-elated by our very talented Jennifer Kroon), is to stay low/keep some bend in the knees, keep hold of the boat to steady yourself as you move forward, and let go as soon as you're ready to step off.  Anything else leads to wobbly do-the-splits-ville...and doom. Okay, not really. You're not a full-fledged sailor in my opinion until you've fallen into the water at the dock at least once to wash yourself clean of any dignity you may have been clinging to.

Click the image below for the brief video.

Any other tips for looking like a boss at the dock?

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