Thursday, November 26, 2009

Sailing - The Best Thing That Ever Happened

I met my wife, Joan, in New York City in the 1980’s.  If it were not for sailing I’m not sure she would have dated me.

She was someone who grew up near the Puget Sound in Olympia Washington, but her family was not boat centric like mine.  She was exposed to sailing on her neighbor’s boat in the 70’s and raced some on it but longed to do it more than her circumstances allowed. Taking sailing classes through a city parks program got her started but not satisfied, because she never had the chance to own a sailboat and spend as much time as she pleased on the water.

On the other hand, I grew up in Michigan in a family of boaters.  We were not strictly sailors, but we had boats of every shape and size: row boats, ski boats, cabin cruisers for cruising the Great Lakes and also sailboats for racing.  Fortunately for me there was a sailing club on the lake where we had a cottage.  I spent my summers racing sailboats, water skiing, exploring the connecting chain of lakes in a small boat with a 3 horse engine and fishing.  Life in a boat was second nature to me.

When I moved from Michigan to New York, the first thing I looked for was a sailing club, and I bought a beat up old Thistle sailboat before I had a car. I had never seen a Thistle before, but I chose it because I could afford it, and there was a strong fleet of Thistles in the sailing club I joined in Connecticut. To me it wasn’t the boat that mattered as much as the fact I could race and be on the water.

When I met Joan I had a motorcycle so that I could get out of New York to the sailing club in Connecticut.  Joan was more than eager to jump on the back and come Thistle sailing with me.  I’m not sure Joan would have done this if she didn’t have a strong desire to sail and get out of the city for awhile on the weekends.  If you’ve never sailed in a Thistle, it is great fun, but a painful experience, with a narrow rail to sit on and diamond stays on the mast that gave her so many bruises on her legs and arms that it looked like I was abusing her.  I never truly understood how much sailing meant to her until one day she told me that one of the main reasons she was attracted to me was that I was a sailor.  I offered her something that she didn’t have, but wanted: sailing. If I was a little smarter I would have found a less painful boat for us to sail sooner in our relationship! But, I’m not that smart.

When we moved west to Olympia in 1990, we brought our Thistle with us across the country.  But the Thistle was not the best boat for our new circumstances.  We took it out once when Joan was pregnant with our first daughter, and it reminded us of why we needed to move on.  Pregnant and bruised is not a good combination.  We sold the Thistle, and it was the end of that era. I can honestly say that every boat we have owned since the Thistle was Joan’s doing.  She just needed to be on the water, and it has been my pleasure to help make it happen. I take it for granted; she doesn’t.  I’ve always had boats; she has always wanted them.  It is an important part of the bond between us.

During the 90’s at Joan’s urging we bought a small runabout with a 90 horse outboard that we used to explore the South Sound.  We had a radius we could go from the ramp at Boston Harbor—the distance we could travel before the kids would make us crazy.  The radius was small at first and we discovered a small beach at Hope Island, a local State Park accessible only by water, where our daughters would play and eat the sand.  When they got a little older we could make it as far as Lake Bay on the Key Peninsula where the kids could explore and swim in the warm, shallow tidal water.  During the 90’s I would occasionally sail in the Wednesday night races with friends, and Joan would not be happy about it.  I figured she was being selfish for not wanting me to sail.  What I should have known was that what she wanted more than anything was to sail with me.  How stupid can a guy get?

During our power boating days, we would borrow a C&C 35 from Joan’s brother for a week long summer sailing trip to the San Juan Islands.  We would spend a week exploring the islands and watching for whales. This was a terrific family activity, and it got us out in a sailboat together again, reminding me of what a pleasure it was to be out on the water with the entire family for an extended period. It was like the trips in Michigan I used to take on the Great Lakes as I was growing up. But a boat of this type was not in the cards for us just yet.

In 2004 in the local paper, she read about a Star fleet that was starting on Budd Inlet.  She decided it was time to get a sailboat that we could afford and race together.  It was something that she wanted to do with me. I got in touch with the Fleet Captain, and he got us in contact with someone in LA who had a boat that met our needs: not too much money and the promise of not too much work to get it race ready.  We took a family road trip to Southern California to pick it up in the spring of 2005.  We sailed it together that summer, and I can say that it was fantastic racing with her again.  She just wanted to be on the water sailing again with me. And for me it was as much about being on the water sailing with her as it was racing.  As it happened, both our daughters wanted to try racing Stars with me the next year, and as a mother she wanted them to have the experience of sailing that she never had growing up. This left her on the shore without sailing again. This would never be acceptable and would lead to the next boat, something big enough for the family to sail together.

With her determination and prodding we found a Catalina 36 in Seattle that was perfect for the family to sail, but when we finally made an offer it was already sold.  The disappointment was palpable and caused us to give up on the search for about year. I was working in Oregon and this was a low point for me being so far from Joan and the girls. But Joan really wanted a boat for us to sail together.  For her it was as much a symbol of our relationship as it was a boat.  We needed something to call our own, a sacred space where we could be totally together.  Face it, she just likes being out on the water, and I’m lucky enough to be able to make that happen. We started looking again, and to our surprise the Catalina we were looking at the year before was back on the market.  Apparently the new owner was transferred out of town and it was just waiting for us to be ready to buy her.  After we bought it we made a vow that the boat was just for the two of us and we would never sail it without the other.  When I’m out on the water with Joan I can talk more easily or not talk at all; I’m at peace.

Life without sailing for me would be desolate. The connection it gives me to my wife and daughters would be lost.  But it took me along time to realize how much it meant to her. Because of her we have boats of every shape and size just like how I grew up. They represent freedom and togetherness. I’m not any good at finding meaningful gifts; I’m not much of a shopper and could never buy jewelry or a trinket that has any meaning.  The one thing I can do is give her the gift of sailing, something that touches my soul, and I can share it with her. The wind, the water, and conversation on a summer day…I can’t think of anything better as long as she is with me.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

2010 Rule Changes

As you might have seen previously during our discussions on the new rules there were a few cases where the new rules didn't work.  You might recall Rules 18 Scenario 4   It didn't make sense that a boat not entitled to mark room could pass head to wind at the leeward mark and turn off Rule 18.2(b).  ISAF agreed and this rule was modified.  I don't recall this happening in any of our races, but I'm glad they are changing it for next year. See the new wording below.

Rule 18.2(c):

(c) When a boat is required to give mark-room by rule 18.2(b), she shall continue to do so even if later an overlap is broken or a new overlap begins. However, if either boat passes head to wind or if the boat entitled to mark-room passes head to wind or leaves the zone, rule 18.2(b) ceases to apply.
Rule 18.2(c) will be changed to prohibit a newly discovered and potentially dangerous tactic that was an unintended consequence of the current wording of this rule. The revised rule will no longer permit a boat to tack just before she reaches a mark and, as a result of her tack, become entitled to mark-room from boats that had been clear ahead of her when they reached the zone. A parallel change in rule B3.1(c) outlaws a similar tactic in a sailboard race.

Another issue we saw with our review of the rules was that there were problems with both Rule 18 and 19 turned on at a mark.  There seemed to be too many confusing circumstances that occurred.  ISAF decided to take care of this by changing the definition of obstruction.  I'm not completely sure this solves the problem and I'm a bit concerned there might be unintended consequences with changing this definition.  You will recall the post in September Possible Change in Rules for 2010  that presented this proposed change.  We will see how this works out as it takes effect next year..

 Definition Obstruction:

Obstruction An object that a boat could not pass without changing course substantially, if she were sailing directly towards it and one of her hull lengths from it. An object that can be safely passed on only one side and an area so designated by the sailing instructions are also obstructions. However, a boat racing is not an obstruction to other boats unless they are required to keep clear of her, give her room or mark-room or, if rule 22 applies, avoid her. A vessel under way, including a boat racing, is never a continuing obstruction.
The definition "Obstruction" will be changed so that a boat racing will no longer be an obstruction to other boats that are required to give her room or mark-room. This change will simplify the analysis of some situations near a mark in which both rules 18 and 19 apply, and it will not otherwise change the ‘game’.

 Here are a few other rules that are changing in 2010, but they will not effect our racing as far as I can tell:

Definition Party:

Party A party to a hearing: a protestor; a protestee; a boat requesting redress or for which redress is requested by the race committee or considered by the protest committee under rule 60.3(b); a race committee acting under rule 60.2(b); a boat or competitor that may be penalized under rule 69.1; a race committee or an organizing authority in a hearing under rule 62.1(a).
Additions will be made to the definition Party to correct unintended omissions. The revised definition will mean that, whenever redress is requested for a boat by the race committee or considered for a boat by the protest committee, that boat will be a party to the resulting hearing. Also, a race committee that requests redress for a boat will also become a party when its request is heard.

Appendix B, Rule B3.1(c):

Rule 18.2(c) is changed to:
When a board is required to give mark-room by rule 18.2(b), she shall continue to do so even if later an overlap is broken or a new overlap begins. However, if either board the board entitled to mark-room passes head to wind, rule 18.2(b) ceases to apply.

Appendix C, Rule C2.12 (a new rule):

C2.12 Rule 18.2(e) is changed to ‘If a boat obtained an inside overlap and from the time the overlap began, the outside boat has been unable to give mark-room, she is not required to give it.’

The more things change the more they stay the same.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Sailing is a rush. When winds exceed 15 knots, our deck slants almost vertically and chop splashes over the bow and low side, drenching me, the crew sitting in the forward position. My dad and I sit next to each other on the side of our Star (a low, slick racing boat), Tantalus, ready to fling our combined weight over the side to level the deck as much as our 300 pounds can. I hook my feet into the hiking straps and lean out in a sustained sit-up for the length of the tack. Anyone who says sailing is not a real sport does not understand the meaning of work--strength, focus, and strategy combine during a race to form the ultimate recreation.


More for Less

Sailing at its best sailing gives you more pleasure for so much less. No fuel burned, no noise and nothing but the wind to push you along at sometimes amazing speeds. When you look around the landscape of possible sailing experiences no boat can compare to the Star for classic beauty and pure sailing excellence. For a new Star we get so much more for less in our fleet.

With our fleet rules limiting the boats to only old boats, used sails and the spirit of helping all comers that our Fleet Captain, Bill Brosius, demonstrates each year as he opens his shop to the fleet and helps us get our boats ready for the season.

The cost of sailing in our Star Fleet is much less than sailing Lasers.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Bringing Alcor Back to Life

Bill Brosius, of the Budd Inlet Star Fleet in Olympia Washington, is deeply involved with his latest Star resurrection project of Star 924 named Alcor. And I do mean resurrection, because she was a mess and left for dead when Bill found her about a year ago in a garage in Spokane. In fact, to my untrained eye it looked to me like what she needed was gasoline and a match. But, this boat is not just any boat to Bill; it is the first Star he ever fixed up and owned. He just couldn’t let her die.

Star 924 was born in 1932 in Blanchard Boat Company on Lake Union in Seattle Washington. The earliest regatta recorded for Alcor was in the 1939 Star North Americans in San Francisco when she was sailed by F. Hissock from the Puget Sound Fleet finishing 12th. She has a connection to more than just Bill in our Fleet. She was shipped from the Puget Sound to Chicago in 1949 and sailed in the Star World Championships that year. She was skippered by a Puget Sound icon Sunny Vynne and crewed by our own Vicky Sheldon’s father Robert Watt. They were sailing against other Star greats of the time like North and Lippincott. Lowell North was first or second in every race in 1949, but didn’t win the regatta due to a disqualification in one of the races. I guess even the sailing greats break a rule now and then. Vynne and Watt finished 18th in Alcor. The following are their results for the regatta:

18, 924 Alcor, E. Vynne Jr., R. Watt, Puget Sound, 14  27  14  14 26

You can read the full regatta report and see the results at the following links to the Star Class website:

Because of all this history, Bill couldn’t take my advice and make a bonfire of 924 at our next fleet meeting. The last time Bill had his hands on Alcor it was the early 1970’s when the boat was donated to the Sea Scouts in Tacoma. The boat was old then, and in need of repair. Bill being Bill offered to fix Alcor up for the Scouts so they could learn to sail Stars (some things never change). A few years later he purchased Alcor from the Seas Scouts and he sailed her with the Tacoma Fleet in the 70’s. Bill, wanting to upgrade to the new fangled fiberglass boats at the end of the decade, sold Alcor and she went east in about 1979 to be sailed in a feet on Lake Coeur d’Alene. When participation declined in the Lake Coeur d’Alene fleet, Alcor disappeared into a garage somewhere in Spokane Washington. She might never been sailed again if someone hadn’t purchased her at a garage sale, and thought it might be fun to fix up an old wood Star. The new owner, realizing it was more work than expected to restore her, put Alcor on Craig’s List with an asking price equal to the value of the trailer on which she sat, $200.

Bill, seeing the advertisement, decided to head to Spokane to see his old friend Alcor. She wasn’t much to look at, but as Bill told of her history the owner realized that she was worth more to Bill than to him, so he gave her to Bill with the understanding she would be restored and raced again. This was a promise Bill could easily keep. It was not a question of if she would be restored; it was only a matter of when. Finally, with all the fleet put to bed for the season, Bill has had a chance to get going on the restoration. About a year after Bill was reunited with Alcor, and 77 years after she was built, she is rising from the ashes to be sailed on Puget Sound again.

With specs from the 1971 Star Log and an original set of plans to guide each step of the restoration, what follows are the messages and pictures that Bill has sent as he has worked on this labor of love. Some of the pictures were taken by Dave Roe as he helped Bill with the restoration. Also, Jim Findley has helped on this project as his wood Star was in Bill’s shop to get a face lift, and no one can resist lending a hand when asked by Bill.

August 17, 2009
I should have the boat all rough sanded this morning and some of the smooth sanding done. I have located all the planks I need for the bottom [Port Orford cedar as specified in the specs] and I will hunt down some oak to finish making the frames I need. It’s possible I could have all the new frames and planks in place by Labor Day weekend. Bill

September 7, 2009
I made and installed five sets of knees and will get the wood to make the other 6 sets tomorrow. I started fairing out the dings in the wood and filled all the screw holes that I’ve uncovered so far. I will still have a bunch when I install the rest of the knees. In the morning I will sand the fairing compound and the hull with the DA, and fill any remaining spots. I will be down at the marina around noon and then go to Hardel’s for my lumber and come home to cut out the rest of the knees, which I will install Wednesday. I hope to finish cleaning out and installing all the wedges in the seams between the bottom planks that will be left in place. All I will have left to do will be to install the new bottom planks and wedge them then I will be ready to fiberglass the bottom and sides to within 2 inches of the gunnels. I will be ready to start on the deck by the beginning of October. Bill

September 13, 2009
I just finished installing the last knee piece and am now ready to start installing the bottom planks that need replacing. I picked up the planks Friday. If I can get my camera working I will take some pictures before installing the bottom planks. I probably won't start on the planks till tomorrow or Tuesday since I need to mow my lawn yet today. I will finish filling the screw holes with fairing compound so I can sand before doing the planks. Bill

September 27, 2009
I finished sanding the bottom tonight, will feather the edge of the glass I put on the bottom. Then I’ll wrap the bottom to side area and put the second layer of the bidirectional cloth at the mast step area. I will be down in the morning to bring some flowers for Hanna. See you or Dave then. Bill

October 2, 2009
I just finished flipping 924 right side up and it is sitting on some tires on the floor. Bill

November 5, 2009
A note to update you on Jim’s and my boat restoration progress. Jim's boat will be ready to put the finish varnish on his deck next Monday or Tuesday. Then he and I will start planking the deck on 924 Monday. It should be completed by next Friday and ready to finish out. I installed the new transom today and glassed the keelson. Tomorrow I will sand and fair the transom into the rest of the hull and put the two part varnish on the keelson. I will also make and install the two cockpit end pieces tomorrow or this weekend so everything will be ready for planking the deck Monday. Bill

November 11, 2009
This picture is showing the deck planked. Now it is just a matter of doing all the screws around the gunnels, plugging the screw holes, sand the edges as well as the deck and it will be ready to finish. Bill

November 18, 2009
Alcor now has a new deck and there is no doubt she will be racing with us in the spring. He has the original wood mast and boom and 1940's era sails for show, but mostly she will be raced in our fleet using the latest hardware and rigging.  Thanks to all of Bill’s work on restoring these forgotten wonders, we have the largest fleet of active racing wood Stars anywhere in the world. There could be 7 boats sailing in the wood division of our fleet including: 924, 2362, 2876, 3331, 4078, 4817, and 4916. Bill tells me there could be a couple of additional wood boats out there that want to join in the fun. I have no doubt the wood division of the Budd Inlet Star Fleet will continue to grow. How could it not, when there is an opportunity to actually race these classic beauties.

For more pictures of the restoration go to the following link:

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Rule 17 Review

One of the limitations in the rules on the right-of-way boat is contained Rule 17, ON THE SAME TACK; PROPER COURSE, which reads as follows:

If a boat clear astern becomes overlapped within two of her hull lengths to leeward of a boat on the same tack, she shall not sail above her proper course while they remain on the same tack and overlapped within that distance, unless in doing so she promptly sails astern of the other boat. This rule does not apply if the overlap begins while the windward boat is required by rule 13 to keep clear.

This rule is in Section B of Part 2, and is put in place so that a boat on the same tack as you can’t establish an overlap to leeward from clear astern and luff you above her proper course. Remember it is the proper course of the boat that has established the overlap to leeward that matters to this rule. Another important point about this rule; if you are a boat that has been overlapped to leeward and believe that the leeward boat is sailing above her proper course, you are still required to keep clear. Your only option is to keep clear and then protest. If you don’t keep clear you will be disqualified even if it is found that the leeward boat did indeed break Rule 17.

I’ll show a couple of cases that demonstrates how the rule works. In the first case a boat on the down wind leg gets an overlap from clear astern and luffs above her proper course, she breaks Rule 17. In the second case two boats are sailing different courses because perhaps they are in a PHRF race and they are different types of boats and sail different angles down wind. In this case even though the windward boat is sailing higher than her proper course it is the proper course of the leeward boat that matters, so Rule 17 is not broken. In the third example before the starting signal you are permitted to establish an overlap to leeward from clear astern and luff head to wind because by the definition of proper course, there is no proper course before the starting signal. However, after the starting signal she needs to head down immediately or she will break Rule 17.

This is the basics of Rule 17. If you want to get more in depth you can review US Sailing Appeals: 4, 13, 43 and 70. Also take a look at ISAF Cases: 7, 13, 14 and 46. If no one protests next month I’ll look at another rule.