Monday, October 27, 2008

The Home Builder's Dilemma

When this time last year I undertook the project to make Try-Foil, I had to make some decisions as to what I could get away with and still end up with a credible result. For example, one choice was to whether or not to use old broken windsurfer masts for the rack system. Cost was negligible (I had made a run down to the Outer Banks and collected various bits and pieces from the windsurf shops down there,) but Bill told me there would be a weight penalty and a decrease in stiffness. He suggested, and I agreed, that specifically engineered tubes would be a better, albeit a more expensive choice. So I spent about $1000 to get Ted VanDusen to make the bare tubes. I did make the cuts and the corner joints and I think the result is as good as a production boat (okay, maybe not the spiffy aero-sections of the BR but just as light and stiff.)

I had decided early on that I wanted the rig to be a non-issue, i.e., typical of the top of the fleet, so I bought a Burvill mast and a KA sail. It so happened that many of the top guys subsequently went with the skinny masts, the newest KA shape, and even the aramid rigging, but I believe at this point my rig choice isn't holding me back (just my technique.)

Likewise, I'm sure that my hull weight and stiffness are right in the ball park with the production boats. I suppose that there are advantages to slightly less surface area and tweaked chine sections, and even removed flares, but the order of magnitude of those improvements is way below that of pulling off consistently good starts and smooth turns (which is what my emphasis needs to be.)

That leaves the foils.

I built the struts and lifting foils last fall with the help of Gui and Bill. They work. Just not as well as I had hoped. So when my daggerboard gave up the ghost last weekend, I made the decision to buy a production board and foil. Actually, it was a hard decision. I had vascillated back and forth with John, Bill, and Gui providing lots of input and counsel. I'm sure that I could build another set that would work, but I'm also sure that whatever I built wouldn't be as efficient as the best of the production builders. How could it? Would anyone seriously consider building their own sail (okay, you sailmakers would, but that's your business, literally.) For us normal guys the idea of buying a production foil set makes as much sense as buying a production sail.

My order went out to AMAC this morning. I hope to have the new daggerboard and lifting foil in the next few weeks. I'll still have to mate it to my trunk, and re-design the control system, so it probably won't be until the spring before I hit the water again, but I'm excited. I do hope to make another, slightly thinner, rudder this winter from a mold that John has (Gui calls his vertical section "outdated" and suitable for a museum,) so I'll still be in the builder's mode for the next few months. But, yes, I've bit the bullet. Somehow it tastes good.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

End of the Sailing Season, for Me

Yesterday's gathering at West River Sail Club of the Greater Metropolitan Annapolis moth fleet was, for me, the end of the sailing season. You see, the sand bar at the edge of the channel, about 1/4 mile up wind of the clubhouse, proved a little tougher than my daggerboard. Running aground at over 20 knots showed the strength of the carbon layup was definitely not in the fore and aft direction. The sudden pitchpole was accompanied by a loud tearing sound as the cedar core gave way. So, I'm done until I can manage to either build or buy another centerboard. Since the mainfoil also had problems earlier in the season, I'm looking to replace the whole shebang, preferably from a builder who can turn out something I can't break (on the production side I'm looking at AMAC or Ilett; otherwise I wouldn't mind buying a copy of Bill's kit if I can convince him to make another.)

The other thing that happened was a blown trailer tire as I was crossing the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, with winds over 30 knots on the beam and the trailer weaving back and forth, attempting to flip over at 60 mph. No big problem after I cleaned out my shorts.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Cost vs Benefit

This past weekend I sailed at the AYC High Performance Dinghy Open in Rye, NY, finishing 2nd behind Peter Becker and just ahead of Gui Vernieres. Also sailing were Chris Williams, Joe Cummings and Devon (?).

The wind was light, with foiling possible only on the first couple of legs on the first race on Saturday. The second race was definitely a cable disconnected, wand-raised low-riding affair. Sunday was about like Saturday with a little foiling out to the course and before the start only to race in the dropping breeze.

So I started to figure the cost vs. benefit for the experience. The entry fee was $50 and I spent $123.37 in fuel and $98.95 in tolls for the trip up and back (786 miles, round trip.) Towing the trailer added to the toll costs but if the boat was on the roof I'm sure the mileage would have been much worse than the 19.5 mpg that I averaged. In return I got the two days of sailing, a nifty AYC-Heineken embroidered polo shirt, a green Heineken ball cap, a nylon drawstring bag with a zippered compartment, a huge buffet dinner Saturday night and free beer after sailing on Saturday and Sunday. My second place garnered a compass and a 4x6 photo of a foiling moth (it happened to be Peter) in a nicely engraved picture frame. I'm also to be sent a photo cd of the competitors sailing which should include a spectacular shot of me falling out of the boat. Anyway, the $$$ costs expended seem to just outweigh the tangible benefits received.

But the weekend was really about the intangibles. I first of all put to use one lesson learned at Weymouth: if at all possible, never record a lettered score. Both days I could have bailed and gone back in to the waiting keg (as everybody but Peter and I did for at least one of the four races,) but I stayed and finished each race. This included Sunday when my vang broke on the way out to the start. If it was breezy I would have had to go in to manage a repair; as it was I jury-rigged a fix on the water and sailed two races with a barely workable purchase arrangement. More to the point, sailing in the light breeze on Saturday showed that I have good speed in low-riding conditions, even with my klunky mainfoil and my torn upper batten pocket. I lead everyone around the course only losing the gun to Peter at the finish line as I got tangled up with boats in other fleets. I think the relatively higher volume of the Hungry Beaver design had a lot to do with my displacement speed. Also, my years campaigning low-riders back in the day certainly helped me find the elusive boatspeed groove (in, as Bill put it, "a wind of 3 with lulls to 1.")

Over and above the on-the-water happenings were the interactions ashore. Notably, the hospitality of Peter and Adrianne in housing and feeding intinerate mothists was marvelous. I got a soft bed, a hot shower, a hearty breakfast and personalized instruction in making foofoo coffee. Thanks, guys! Even the socializing onshore with the folks in the other classes was enjoyable. The moth generated a lot of comments like "That's the coolest thing around." There were 8o some odd boats at the regattta, including A-cats, 5o5s, Fireballs, ICs, K6s, and Contenders (plus a few other classes that I forgot,) and I'm sure it was the first time most of the competitors had seen a foiler in action. It's too bad that the breeze didn't cooperate for more spectacular sailing.

I hope to make the regatta next year. Peter and I were discussing what it would take to get more participation. Perhaps designating the regatta as the Moth Atlantic Coast Championships?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Foresight and hindsight

Most of the moth blogosphere seems a bit quiet so I thought this weekend I'd publish an entry (lest Doug starts to gain an advantage in the competition...)

I'm pretty much set to make the eight hour drive this coming Friday up to New York for the AYC HPDO regatta. My cunningham change seems effective and I'm glad I made it. I'm also feeling more comfortable sailing downwind on the deep angles. I managed a rough airborne jibe at Elizabeth City in about 12 knots of breeze and am at the stage where I need to practice, practice, practice (if I only had time available.) My last boat-to-boat comparison was at West River almost two months ago and I seemed at that point a little behind the pace that Bill set, but no so far out of reach that I was terminally discouraged. I am looking forward to some head-to-head competition with Gui (who claims that Bill is faster - I find that hard to believe), with Peter (who gave a very competent showing at Weymouth), and all of the other Bladeriders that will be there. If Bora makes the regatta we will have the best of the American mothies leading the pack and showing to all the other classes the capability of the moth. Here's hoping that the breeze is between 10 and 20 so I don't make a complete fool of myself!

So much for looking ahead. How about the past? Doug updated the world site with the combined history page that I put together with significant input from George Albaugh. George also contributed the winners of the moth world championships back to 1933 and that revised list appears on a new page that Doug ammended. The history of the moth, especially the contributions of the IMCA prior to 1972, is now available to the world, appropriate as we move to the '09 Gorge Worlds.

Also, Rod Mincher uploaded a neat video of Jeff sailing my boat a couple of weeks ago. I like the editing and the sound track. Thanks, Amy and Rod!

How about my history? I found a photo of me and my first boat, a Stockholm Sprite that I built in 1973, that was appropriately named "1st Try." The two pictures below show the boat at a Ware River regatta (with my little sister, Jennifer, now the mother of five) and with yours truly. Note the T-boom and the seemingly 1-1 vang. The vang actually went to a differential drum and gave about a 10-1 purchase. I still have a small part of that boat in the garage. So 35 years later I'm still knocking around in moths. Yee-ha!