Practice & Tuning Elements

By Andrew Kerr

 Most of these ideas and observations have been reinforced from my perspective as a coach – whether thru observing a team sailing around the race course from a coach boat or from post race video review.


A very common issue, particularly when teams have had a lay off from sailing, have not practiced as a team, or are in a pressure scenario, is over steering thru the tack.  Not only are you sailing a greater distance but you lose the opportunity to use lee bow tacks to control your competition.

 If, on average, a team tacks 7 times on the first leg and a bad tack costs you as much as several boat lengths (more in light air, chop, or heavy air), the distances “lost” can be quite dramatic on that first leg alone, where crossing or not crossing another boat is crucial.

 Critical to the success of the tack is picking the right time – if in light air – tacking in a puff to minimize loss, in chop – tacking in a flat spot, or if constantly wavy – at the top of the wave.  And if windy – when the boat is flat and sailing fast and not heeled over which will cause the boat to over steer and heel over again out of the tack.

 Take time to practice a smooth turn and make it a goal to keep reducing the rudder application in all conditions – start by reducing it by 25% and keep reducing it.

 Have the skipper watch the movement of the Genoa from one side to the other as you tack.  If it is blowing through very quickly – try slowing the turn down.  If it is getting hung up on the shrouds, try increasing the rate of the turn a little to get it through the fore triangle.

 When a team is tacking well, the headsail flows across with very minimal winch grinding and the boat accelerates immediately rather than stalling or heeling over and making a lot of leeway.

 A good idea is to do at least 10 practice tacks prior to the race and really hammer away at it in the more difficult conditions – waves, when it is gusty and when it is light – these are the conditions where the practiced teams will excel.

 A key point is to start developing a rhythm to your tacks so they are consistent and that can be best accomplished in practice and warm ups before the race.

 When the team is all up on the rail, try practicing how long you can stay on the rail before coming inwards – this will help keep the boat sailing flat and fast going into the tack.  The longer you can stay on the rail and still execute a good tack translates into less heel, less leeway, and better performance.

 An interesting observation of the top teams in a wide variety of classes, particularly from a coaching perspective, is how little grinding and physical work they have to do in each tack - just the fine tune at the end.  I would make this a team goal.


Tie the tiller off and sail!

Tie the tiller off in the center and move the crew weight from side to side and fore and aft & adjust the sails until the boat steers itself.

 Do this both upwind & downwind (with the spinnaker up) and try tacking & jibing around a course!

 This drill illustrates how the team can steer the boat with weight and sail trim and that if the Genoa is too tight in relationship to the mainsail trim that the boat will be forced to bear away and will hurt pointing ability and if the main is too tight in relationship to the Genoa the boat will have a tendency to head up and load up the helm.

 It will also illustrate to the team how a roll jibe can jibe the boat with no helm application as well as keeping the spinnaker filled as it avoids over steering.

 In coaching sessions, I have even had teams try practicing starting with the tiller tied off - this helps the team with pivoting the boat using the sails and being able to carve up and create a good gap to leeward off the line.

 The team will notice that when the boat is set up correctly, both trim and weight wise, that it essentially steers itself.  This is the same feel the boat usually has when it is sailing at its best.

 Take time to observe shifting your team’s weight aft in light air cause the boat ‘s helm to go dead and that it also forces the boat to bear off in the form of lee helm.  This will reinforce to the team why they want to sit forward in light air to reduce drag in the transom and give the helm some feel.

 The opposite will also be true; weight too far forward in windy conditions will cause the bow to dig in and the rudder will load up in the form of weather helm - the boat has a hard time tracking straight.

 If you try tying your tiller off in windy conditions, it will illustrate why moving the weight slightly aft on the rail going upwind when it is windy is fast and balances the boat by helping prevent the bow from digging in and loading up the helm.

 You will find that the “rudderless” drill will also help with leeward mark rounding’s by showing how the mainsail causes the boat to up wind and how to trim the Genoa at each point of sail to get max speed so that you can sail at max speed and efficiency thru the turn.

 This drill is highly recommended, particularly if you have a new crew member and want to integrate them quickly and you find that theatrically waving your hands karate style is just not getting your point across!

 Time and distance drill:

This drill is particularly good before a regatta and can help with getting good, clean, starts right off the bat in the series.  Pick a mark, set up near it and then sheet in and see how long the boat takes to accelerate and get there.  Repeat 5 or 6 times and also take the opportunity to figure out the lay line to the mark and stay within it.  Some teams I coach like to do this every day before the race; he more starts and approaches the better.  The goal is to be consistent off the line – not really good and then really bad.

 Looking at upwind set up:  

The next time you go sailing, try evaluating your mast tune and sail trim.  This is a good skill for your team to develop and will help everyone fully understand the tuning guide and what looks fast.

 Look to incorporate this before the start while you are getting tuned up and if possible sailing with a tuning partner.

 Here are some quick visual cues for turning:

 Look at forestay sag:

While going upwind with the boat fully loaded up – with the appropriate amount of backstay and aft lower for the conditions, have a crew member kneel on the foredeck and sight up the forestay to see how much sag there is in the middle part of the sail.   Use the mast as a reference.

 One thing we have done in helping with forestay sag evaluation is take the spinnaker halyard up to the stem head fitting and hold it there as taut as you can to make a straight reference line and then sight the forestay in comparison to the spin halyard to gauge how much sag there is.

 If there is too much sag, you will notice quite a bit of backwinding in the mainsail as the leech of the Genoa will direct air in to the mainsail.  You will also notice the draft is too far forward and to leeward.

 If there is very little sag you, may notice the forestay is very straight and stationary thru puffs and lulls and that the Genoa is super flat and the boat feels underpowered in the light spots.

 Look at the leeward shrouds:

If leeward shrouds are very loose (dangling) and the boat is overpowered it means the rig needs tightening.  If they look and feel tight and the boat feels underpowered then the rig needs loosening.

 The thing we have learned in a wide variety of one design classes is to set the boat up for the lulls and not the puffs – you can always depower for the puffs with steering, hiking and backstay but if you are underpowered in lulls, the boat always struggles.

 Try to get the sails to luff together:

We try to set the boat up so that when we do a slow luff up in to the wind, the luff of the Genoa and the luff of the mainsail break at as much the same time as is possible.  This tells you the sails are working well together and the slot between them is about right.

 Very often a scan of forestay sag, a look at the leeward shrouds, a look up the mast luff track to see where the tip of the mast is going,  in conjunction with how the boat feels – overpowered or underpowered, will help with what adjustments to make.

 In all of this stay as open minded as you can, ask questions and observe other team’s techniques, style and points of emphasis, there is something to be learned from everyone.

 These are some elements for your team to practice and incorporate; future articles will cover more ideas for a team to look at.   

 Any questions or thought’s please e mail me at:

 Best of luck and good sailing.



An interview with Don Erickson

By Andrew Kerr

Don Erickson is a long time S20 competitor, supporter, and organizer of a boat, fleet and class that he loves.  He lives in Eugene and is a member of Eugene’s Fleet 19 where he has owned and raced his boat Spy for many years.  He loves the sailing, the camaraDonrie and the fun people – a recipe to stay in a sport for a long time.

Spy has trailed to many events and championships over the years and Don has forged friendships wherever he goes, he has helped run the class championships in Eugene in both 1991 and 1996 and is the chairman of this year’s event in Eugene – to be hosted by Fleet 19 and the Eugene YC on Fern ridge reservoir – July 28th to August 1st.

Don recently bought S20 Hull # 1 and will be sailing it in the championships as well as helping organize the event – no mean feat!

Let’s learn more about one of the class’s favorite people, we are lucky to have him.

Andrew: How long have you been sailing and how did you get involved?

Don: I don’t remember exactly, but about 25 years. My first boat was a partnership in a Venture 21.  I traDond that for a Ranger 29 and sailed it for several years and then I got into another partnership in a S-20.

Andrew: What attracted you to the S20?

DON: Most of my friends sailed 20s and I joined the fleet while I was still sailing the Ranger.

ANDREW: I have known you for about 19 years and you are always having fun on and off the water – what is it about the sport that keeps you so energized?

DON: After I started going to the Class Championship, I became friends with some guys from Texas, California, and Colorado.  Although my sailing wasn’t successful on the water, I realized that the best part was meeting old friends each year at many other locations.  My first experience with away Championship was in Colorado where I had my best finish, but became very good friends with the guys from Texas.  After that, it was a real thrill to drive to the various yacht clubs each year and meet all the guys that I raced against and had a beer with the previous years.  Those are some of my best memories.

ANDREW: Favorite S20 sailing and traveling memories - there must be quite a few!

DON:  Sailing up on the ramp in a driving hail/rain storm, my crew jury-rigging a new main sheet after we blew the traveler the day before, the time we spent at Coronado, Marina Don Ray, the W.D. Schock Memorial Regatta, dismasting at Newport, Or, capsizing and breaking my spin pole at Klamath Falls, (all the local guys making sure I got it fixed so I could sail the next day). You are right, there are way too many memorable experiences to mention them here.

ANDREW: You recently purchased S20 Hull # 1 – tells us about the boat and its history, the fleet can’t wait to see it!

DON:  I had been thinking about it for several years and after I got back from Spain last June, I started to plan for this year’s championships.  And started to try to track down the boat.  I had seen a picture of it sitting in someone’s back yard and started calling and e-mailing people I new in order to find out who owned it.  I must have had 20 or 30 dead ends before I finally got to the person that sold it to the two ladies I bought it from.  At first I didn’t think I would be able to get it, but I guess they wanted a bigger boat and so we made a deal we both were comfortable with.  My son, Jim, said he would get it for me so everything worked out pretty good.

It seemed kind of weird to buy a boat sight unseen, but how bad can a 20 be?  As it turns out it is in great shape, and at this time is getting new bottom paint.  I am anxious to get it in the water and see how it sails.  I am very optimistic that it will compete with al the other 20s if it has a good driver and crew.  At any rate, I feel it is at the right place on the West coast and I can’t think of a better place than Fleet 19.  There is a lot of Fleet excitement.

ANDREW: Tell us about this year’s championships in Eugene - what can a team who is coming to the lake for the first time expect?

DON:  This year I wanted to have an exceptional regatta, so we wanted to get some sponsors to help with the costs, and to keep the entry fee at a reasonable rate. We are fortunate to receive a grant from Lane County in connection with their desire to have events that could increase tourism and show off Lane County and Oregon.  The track and field Olympic Trials are a in Eugene a month before our Championship, which we are calling SantanaRama2008, so if there are sailors who are also track nuts, it is possible to do both events.

We are working on fine-tuning our non-sailing activities but plans call for the Monday evening meal at a Veneta winery and Tuesday we will go downtown for a microbrewery experience (Oregon is famous for both of these). We will be providing buses so everyone can relax, have a good time, and be safe and sound returning to EYC or wherever.  Steak dinner on Wednesday, pig BBQ on Thursday, along with the annual meeting and awards Friday. Each entry will provide the whole crew with T-shirts, all the meals except for breakfast are included. Free beer, of course.

We will have the first Schock 20, new name the One, and the newest Schock 20 on display.  I hope to have a representative of W.D. Schock in attendance to give a talk about the 20.  I am hoping for widespread 20 interest both in our local fleet and other fleets so we can have 40 boats attending.  I have had positive response from Dave Woodruff in South Carolina and Rob Avery from Vancouver, Canada.

This will be the 32nd year of existence of the 20, and since last year was the 32nd America Cup, it’s a no-brainer. I think this a partial list of things, but you get the idea.

Windward Mark Rounding.jpg

Boat handling for rounding the windward mark and offset mark - part 1.

By Andrew Kerr

This is the first of two articles on rounding the windward mark and offset mark.  In this article we will look at the boat handling skills a team needs to practice and develop, in the second article we will look at tactics we can use at these marks.

The 2008 class Championships in Eugene (and many other events all over the country) are likely to feature a large fleet - 30 to 45 boats.  Given the fleet size there, is a good chance that the race committee will look to use an offset mark to reduce congestion at the windward mark.

With that in mind take every opportunity for your team to practice rounding a mark, sail on a reach for a short distance and then bear away and set the spinnaker.

Even if your team does not anticipate sailing with an offset mark this season, the vast majority of the information below will still help your team be smoother at the windward mark rounding.

Approaching the windward mark:

  • Hike hard coming in to the mark so the boat is flat and fast!
  • When the bow person sets the pole hike especially hard and if possible pull the pole topping lift up from the hiking position
  • If it is a long sail to the offset mark then delay setting the pole until you have rounded the windward mark to minimize disruption – particularly in heavy or very light conditions - the caveat to this is if you can set the spinnaker between the marks.
  • Ease the vang a couple of inches (be sure to recelat it !) to help pre-set the mainsail leech tension for downwind sailing and also to help the boat bear away by opening the mainsail leech.
  • The Jib/ Genoa trimmer really wants to focus on perfect trim of the sail and not be distracted – particularly important if sailing in dirty air from another boat or getting lifted into the mark requiring the Genoa to be eased for max speed.
  • Top skippers keep the boat going fast at all times – keep the boat rolling and be sure not to pinch too much, have the crew keep calling out waves and puffs all the way into the mark so you can be anticipating the elements. This is a chance to extend on boats behind you and catch boats ahead, boat length by boat length.

Between the windward mark and the offset mark – sail fast!!

As a coach I observe and video tape a lot of races and one of the common threads is the gains and losses for teams when sailing between the marks – particularly in the extremes of conditions – very light or heavy air.

Key elements for sailing fast between the marks are:

  • Trimming the sails well – keep the Genoa tell tales flowing – this does mean easing it and when it is time to set the middle grabs the clew of the sail and holds it inboard to facilitate the spinnaker going up smoothly.
  • Particularly when it is breezy – sailing the boat flat and not allowing excessive heel.
  • When it is light – minimizing movement and being smooth will maintain momentum and speed.
  • Determine how much pre feed on the spinnaker foot you want – if it is light then gently feed the foot out so that it doesn’t disrupt the Genoa, if it is breezy then you may want to delay until the boat is around the offset mark and flat and pointed downwind so that the foot of the sail does not get out of control. In medium conditions you likely will be able to pre feed most of the way but be careful of the sail touching the offset mark.
  • Take an opportunity in light/ moderate conditions to ease the Cunningham all the way off and the windward aft lower. 
  • The bow person can point to the offset mark to help the skipper gauge where it is as well as the middle looking to leeward helping keep track of it.

Setting the spinnaker between the marks:

With the wind shifting to the right and your team getting lifted on starboard tack going into the mark there may be an opportunity to set between the marks, here is a check list for this:

  • Make sure you get a good visual on where the offset mark is – it is easy to lose sight of it when setting the spinnaker!
  • If there is a boat to leeward of you and slightly ahead of you (preventing you from bearing away) - head high and then bear away and go behind them – this will give you the ability to set and get inside and be able to jibe at the offset – you don’t want to be pinned outside them.
  • Be sure that the leeward twing is all the way off and the windward twing all the way on.
  • Caution – if the twing line is too long it can scoop the offset mark – have them long enough but not too long!
  • Pull the guy back so that the pole is about 6 to 9 inches off the forestay – the guy will stretch this much on a reach when the spinnaker fills.
  • Luff the spinnaker if necessary to get the spinnaker halyard all the way to the top and then sheet in.
  • If breezy – delay pulling the Genoa down to keep the weight on the high side until the boat has flattened out. In this instance if you have the spinnaker and Genoa up at the same time be sure to keep the Genoa sheet well eased to allow the spinnaker to fly – if it is slightly over trimmed the sails forms a vacuum of stall and collapses the spinnaker.
  • When bearing off at the offset mark ease the spinnaker sheet first and that will make squaring the pole much faster and easier.

Extra’s extras, extra’s!

  • Put a mark on the vang so you know how much to ease it to set the mainsail
  • Leech tension with the top baton parallel to the boom once you are downwind.
  • Mark the topping lift so that the pole is set to the correct height.
  • Mark the spinnaker halyard so you know when it is fully hoisted.
  • Do a practice bear away set and mark the spinnaker sheet & cleat it when the pole is squared and the sail full. This pre set mark will allow you to focus on pulling back the guy on the set and free a hand up with the spinnaker filling nicely.


All the above is well worth practicing – there are good gains to be had here for your team and over the course of a series the points gained will add up. In our next article we will examine some tactics your team can use at the windward and offset mark.

Good sailing!



An interview with Jason Crowson

by Andrew Kerr

San Francisco Bay sailor Jason Crowson is the co-owner of the Santana 20 Sea Bear, along with Lance and Patricia Purdy, and is a member of Fleet # 12.  Jason has sailed a variety of boats and is also co owner of the Express 27 Moxie that sails out of Richmond.  He has won a variety of events in the Express 27 including the Delta Ditch Run, the Coastal Cup, as well as placing in the top five at the Express 27 Nationals a number of times.

Lance Purdy has sailed with Jason in many events over the years and Andrew Kerr has joined the Moxie team for the Express 27 Nationals a number of times.  Most recently his team won the Camellia Cup and the Harvest Day Regatta on the Santana 20.  Both events were windy and Jason and his crew showed great speed and poise in the challenging conditions.

AK: How did you get into sailing?

JC: My family has owned a sailboat for as long as I can remember.  We routinely did the Vallejo race and the Windjammer race every year.  We were rarely competitive but enjoyed just being out on the water.  I really did not get into serious racing until I had the opportunity to sail on a Davidson 44 out of Waikiki back in 1994.  I then began racing on several different boats while I was stationed at Pearl Harbor.  The most memorable was a return trip from Molakai on an Express 27.  Surfing at 18-20 knots down huge waves was the ultimate ride, and I knew I had to get one of those boats some day.

AK: What attracted you to the S20 and the S20 class?

JC: Lance and I had been sailing for a few years on my Express27 and he finally asked me to come sail with him and Patricia on Sea Bear.  It was the 2003 Memorial Day regatta in Eugene.  We had a really good time and I realized I wanted to sail more with Lance and Patricia on the S20.  The competition is very high in the class and the people are super nice and easy going.  What more could you ask for in a class?

AK: Tell us about the events you have raced in – particularly the Coastal Cup and Delta Ditch Run.

JC:  They really are very different types of racing.  I kind of get bored doing the same thing all the time, so I like to mix things up with some buoy racing, some ocean racing, and some long distance racing.  The Delta Ditch run is a lot of fun because it is all down wind (63 miles) and it gets warmer the closer you get to the finish line.

The Coastal Cup is a 350-mile downwind ocean race that takes a lot of commitment to complete.  There is a lot of preparation and planning that needs to take place before you even get to sail.  With the Express 27, we take the trailer down ahead of time so we can just trailer it home.  Once you are racing, there is no other race that is close to the level of fun you experience.  It is another all downwind race that typically includes winds from 10 – 30 knots.  Factor in the 10-15 foot waves and you have a recipe for some serious surfing.  It has been described as a 48-hour roller coaster ride that you cannot get off.  Every time I do this race, I get cramps in my cheeks from smiling so much.  We often see the speedo up in the high teens and even the low 20’s.  That is a lot of fun on a 27-foot boat.  And crossing the finish line right next to 40 and 50 foot boats just shows you how well the Express 27 performs in those conditions.

AK: You and Lance have known each other for a long time – tell us about your sailing together.

JC: Lance is great to sail with.  We are to the point now that we know what each other is going to do without even talking.  We seem to be a good fit for each other whether he is driving or I am driving.  I have been on boats where there is a lot of yelling and screaming during every point of the regatta, and that just is not fun to me.  Lance and I prefer to have fun and enjoy our time on the water.  Winning together is even better, but just being out there enjoying the competition is why we keep coming back.

Now that Lance is an owner of two boats, it gives us an opportunity to sail against one another.  This last weekend at the Harvest Day Regatta we got lucky and a few things went our way.  Next time I am sure we won’t be as fortunate and Lance will be on top. When you have such great talent in the fleet, as the S20 does, you just never know who is going to squeak out on top.  That is what is so great about the class and the fleet.

AK: This year you and your team won the Camellia Cup and most recently the Harvest Day Regatta – tell us about the events and your team at both regattas.

JC: Both regattas had one key factor that really played in my favor.  That is the fact that we had quite a bit of wind at both events.  I have had a lot of experience sailing my E27 on San Francisco bay in heavy air so I feel very comfortable doing so.  It really takes a lot of practice and concentration to keep the boat moving upwind in conditions like this. And downwind you have to almost anticipate what the boat is going to do with each puff and each wave.  If you wait to respond you will likely end up with the keel out of the water.

As far as my team goes, I had very different teams for each event.  At the Camellia cup I had my regular crew from the E27.  We have sailed together for almost ten years now and have a lot of fun doing so.  They couldn’t make the Harvest Day Regatta so I had to go searching for crew.  I somehow talked Sylvain Barrielle (owner of UK sails in SF) to come up with me, but still needed a foredeck.  Kim Magers volunteered to come out with us, not knowing what she was getting into.  She was great to have on board and I am really thankful she stepped up and sailed with us. 

AK: Having sailed with you, I know you are incredibly comfortable driving downwind when it is blowing and with big waves, how did you develop this skill and any advice to sailors on how to develop it?

JC: My experience with the several Coastal Cup races, and sailing on SF bay in heavy air has helped me gain confidence in sailing in heavy air conditions.  You really just have to know where the limits are for the boat you are sailing.  That and just spending a lot of time on the water is what makes you comfortable.  I would advise other sailors to try to travel to different regattas where you will see the different kind of conditions.  It will make you a more rounded sailor, and that added confidence will only help you in other situations as well.

AK: How does your S20 sailing schedule look like next year?

JC:  It is looking like I will go down and do the Schock Memorial Regatta with Lance and Patricia in March.  Then we will defend our title at the Camellia Cup in April.  I will be up in Eugene for the Memorial Day regatta and then back again in Eugene for the Nationals in July.

AK: Thank you Jason, it’s great to have you in the class.

All Roads lead to Tulsa! 

   An interview with IV McNamara

By Andrew Kerr

This year’s National Championships are being hosted by Windy Crest sailing club and S20 fleet # 37 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The racing is going to take part on Keystone Lake and is going to be a great event for the class. S20 sailor IV Mc Namara is a very active member of the fleet and the class; his team has traveled to S20 events all over the country. The Oklahoma fleets are true road warriors and IV along with other fleet # 37 members is actively involved in preparations to host the championships. Andrew Kerr sat down with IV to find out about his sailing, his team, the venue and what a team can expect at this year’s championships.

AK: Tell us about your background in sailing – how did you get involved with the sport?

IV: The family joke is that my mother was grinding a winch with one hand and breast feeding me with the other.  I grew up racing on my parents Catalina 30.  We did that every weekend when I was little.  I then graduated to my own boat, a Capri 14.2 which my brother and I sailed in junior events in the region.  I didn’t sail much in college, but school I missed sailing so I negotiated a deal with one of my dads buddies new wife to remove the E-Scow from her back yard in exchange for ownership of the boat.  I took Olivia sailing for the first time in that boat.  We proceeded to capsize it and almost sink it.  When she showed up a few weeks late to do it all again I realized I was in love.  We joined Windycrest and raced the E-Scow for 2 summers.   

AK: What brought you to the S20 class?

IV:  I had been actively racing at Windycrest on my E-Scow for a couple of summers.  I was interested in getting into a keelboat that had good one design racing within the club.  I also wanted a boat that was easy enough to crew that my wife, a novice sailor, could easily participate with me.  I looked at the J24 and several other one design boats, the problem was that Windycrest did not really strong and active one design fleet at the time.  Rumor leaked out that I was looking to get into a Keel Boat and Britt Williams recruited me and hounded on me to buy this bright Red S20 that was dying for someone to race it.   He basically sold me on the idea of traveling with the S20.  So I bought a boat “The One Tomato” and we had a Ton of FUN.  I sailed the Tomato for 2 summers then came across this nut who was selling a brand new S20 out in San Francisco on eBay for almost nothing.  I made a low ball offer and walked away with a great boat and a great story to tell.    I like the class because there is a lot of support from other sailors.  Always offering a kind word or suggestion about improving your sailing. 

AK: Tell us about your team and the experiences you have had traveling to different events:

IV: My number one team mate is my wife Olivia.  She has become a great foredeck and is the envy of the entire fleet!  We really enjoy traveling with the boat.  We try to make it to most of the regional events and 2 or 3 venues further away every year.  We try to mix in non sailing things while traveling i.e. visiting the Grand Canyon on the way to West Coast venues or taking an extra day to visit the nearest big city.  I have become an expert in parallel parking while towing the S20 in downtown areas.  The team has a primary goal of having a good time, but we all realize it is a lot easier to have a good time if you are performing well in the regatta so we focus on that as well.  Early in the year I will plan what events I want to go to and communicate that to the crew.  I think it is important to have the same 3 people on the boat all season long.  Time in the boat is the biggest factor that keeps us in the top half of the fleet.

AK: Fleet # 37 is very active, both at the local level and with traveling to different venues and supporting S20 events, tell us about the fleet and the people in it. How have you been able to achieve this level of activity?

IV: Two Words:  Britt Williams.  Britt is really the motivation behind Fleet 37.  He has purchased many boats and fixed them up and sold them to locals to race in.  The fleet has a few core racers and several people who participate socially.  We try to keep an even mix of sailing and partying to keep those who are not hardcore racers involved and out on the race course a few times a summer.  Traveling is always more fun when you have a bigger group, so we encourage everyone to come have fun with us.  Britt, with a little bit of my help, has done a good job of getting a few guys in Oklahoma City to begin traveling with us as well as a few more Windycrest guys interested.  We are always looking for opportunities to visit other potential fleets that are within a days drive to encourage them to come race at our place.

AK:  Tell us about the venue for this year’s Nationals – what can a first time visitor to the lake & area expect?

IV: This year’s Nationals are going to be a great time.  The whole club is really buzzing about it.  We will have many volunteers on hand to help traveling sailors feel at home.  For sailors on a budget, we have great camping facilities or we can even find spare bedroom room in a club member’s house for you and your crew.  There are also some great hotels about 20 minutes away if that is what you prefer.  In June we would anticipate breeze between 8 and 17 knots, generally from the south.  This sets up for great race courses.  We have organized a well seasoned Race Committee who has been involved in many aspects of organizing the Regatta.  Steve Snider, a Snipe and Sunfish Racer, has taken on the task of Regatta Chairman, he and is wife Mary are working really hard to make sure this thing goes off without a hitch.  The biggest obstacle we face is the drive time from the West Coast fleets.  My experience is that if that if there are 3 drivers in the car and you stick to strict 2 hour rotations pulling an all nighter is easy.  If team “old guys” on boat #920 can do it anyone can.  

We are also planning on having the S20 Southwest Regional Regatta a few weeks prior to the nationals.  If anyone wants to bring their boat out early, participate in the regional, fly home, and fly back for the Nationals they are more than welcome to.  I will personally drive you to and from the airport. 

Tulsa is a great town to visit.  We are celebrating the States Centennial Anniversary and local businesses have many exciting things planned.  (The regatta has been classified an official state centennial event!)   I encourage everyone to spend a few extra days here to enjoy the best the state has to offer.  You can find all kinds of things to do at

AK: Thank you IV, everyone is looking forward to a great time in Tulsa.

Winter sailing – keep the rust off!!

  By Andrew Kerr

 For most of us the season on the water has slowed down – but there are still a number of upcoming events that we can participate in as well as things that we can do off the water to maintain and improve our individual and team skills.   

 Travel & sail!

 There are a number of great winter regatta’s to attend and this is naming just a few– Mission Bay’s Hot rum regatta in mid December, San Diego Yacht club’s annual New years day race, Arizona Yacht clubs annual Birthday regatta, The Southern California midwinter’s and the annual WD Schock Memorial regatta.  Before you know it the early spring will be with us and events like the Dog Wood regatta in Atlanta and the Camellia Cup on Folsom Lake will present great sailing opportunities.

 All these events and others will offer great sailing in the S20 and an opportunity to connect with other S20 sailors from all over the country, please see for event details.

 On the land:

 Try having the team meet up every month to talk sailing – make it a fun social time, watch video’s of boat handling, review the tuning guide for the sails, starts & sail trim, plan the schedule and as a suggestion - review a racing rule a month.

 Try to read as much as possible – particularly on tactics, strategy, starts & tuning as well as other sports related books  – one of my favorites is “the inner game of tennis” by Neil Innes – this explores the psychological make up and visualization of champion tennis players and competitors in general, it’s great reading.

 A good thing to do as a team is to talk about hypothetical tactical scenarios on the race course, this is a great one to do on the drive to the regatta – an example – “the line is fairly long and is favored by 7 degrees to the pin end in a fairly big fleet, but the right side is the place to go for a geographical shift – what would you do?”

 Another example of a hypothetical scenario – “We are on starboard tack on a average (median) compass heading, the velocity is even on both sides of the course, we are 10 boat lengths to leeward of the starboard tack lay line and about 25 lengths from the mark and a pack of four boats are coming out of the left side, 6 boat lengths to leeward of the port lay line, and look either bow to bow with us or just slightly ahead- what would you likely do?” There is no exact correct answer but the important thing is to explore the tactical process for each crew member and help get them involved in playing what is essentially a game of chess.

What this does is really helps the team develop awareness and visualization skills and get on the same page about what the likely move will be on the race course. It’s also fun as you are thinking about the moving chess game that tactics and strategy present.  The tactical mind doesn’t like to be beaten but

One thing I try to do before a regatta which I would encourage you to try – particularly if I am sailing on a new boat or in a new crew position is to visualize the steps necessary to be successful – everything from being part of the boat preparation, the commute out to the starting line and, the pre start practice and then each subsequent maneuver around the race course.

This can help you adapt to the new situation quickly (or after a long lay off from sailing) and be a more effective team member from the get go.

Good sailing!

Lay line Revisited

Special Thanks to John Papadopoulos for the drawing and to Travis Wilson for the photo.

Special Thanks to John Papadopoulos for the drawing and to Travis Wilson for the photo.


Lay line Revisited

By Andrew Kerr

October 2006

Very often, back on shore after a day’s racing, some very familiar post race stories are told by competitors – “We ended up barging at the start and got shut out” or “We were doing really well and then over stood the weather mark and let four boats in” – or perhaps “We ended up over standing the leeward mark and gave up three boats on the inside when that shift came in.”  Sound familiar?  It has happened to all of us and it costs places in races and regattas and all of them relate to lay lines.

A team is certainly not going to nail every lay line but they can have a set of principles that can help them increase there chances of making a good call.  Let’s look at some lay line scenarios around the racecourse.

But first lets clarify the term lay line.  A lay line, for this article, is the straight line course you would sail to fetch an object (e.g. a mark of the race course).  Thus lay lines exist at every mark of the course, including those that define the ends of the start and finish lines.

Scenario 1:  The race committee has set up the starting line with the committee’s signal boat on the starboard end of the starting line.  Wanting to start at the starboard end of the start line, so that they can be the first boat to tack onto port, the team gets caught barging into too small of a space between the RC boat and the nearest competitor.  They have to “bail out” and re-approach the start line - ending up very late (and behind).  How do you win this coveted (but dangerous) position on the line?

Action:  The solution is to better identify the time and place to make your final turn upwind to the starting line so that you don’t accidentally leave too much space between you and the RC boat (for someone to barge into) or too little space to operate in, thus becoming a barging boat to the next boat down the line.  Key to making this approach is to identify a “safe” layline to the starboard end of the starting line and to make your final approach slightly below this line.  The “safe” lay line is the close-hauled course that will put you about a boat length or so to leeward of the RC boat - leaving room to head up if a leeward boat luffs you or to defend against a boat trying to barge between you and the RC boat.

To find this lay line, reach below the RC boat, on starboard tack, to the point where you think you can fetch (when sailing close hauled) the RC boat end of the start line.  Go about half a boat length further and then head up to close-hauled.  You are now on the “safe” lay line.  Note the compass heading for future reference.

The next task is to pick your distance, along this lay line, to make your final approach to the start line and to make a mental note of it.  This will be the place to sail to, whether approaching on port or starboard tack.  In a shifting breeze, note that this “turning point” will move significantly.  The following diagram shows how the turning point moves in location due to 15 degree shifts (left and right).  The diagram below presumes that you always want to turn onto your final approach from a common distance from the start line (i.e. enough room to complete a tack, make some tactical steering changes, accelerate, etc.)

Note that as the wind shifts further to the right (presuming the RC doesn’t reset the line), the turning point moves down and to the left and vice versa for a left shift.

If the line is restricted pre-start, go upwind out side the RC boat and watch the compass numbers on starboard tack.  The team needs to be aware that if the wind shifts the lay line shifts and consequently ones initial assumptions have to be reassessed. 

So if you detect a late wind shift (don’t forget to take periodic head-to-wind compass readings), make a note to adjust your turning point to compensate.

Another key part of being able to hit (and stay on) the starboard lay line accurately is to know what’s happing with the currents (a topic unto itself!).  A good move is to bring a current stick (a water bottle with just a bit of air inside will do) and to test the current near a fixed mark - well before the start and see which way it drifts and at what rate.  This will help you assess its effect on the lay lines and also your approach to the starting line.

It is worth noting that one knot of current is equal to approx. 5 knots of sailing wind and for each 1 tenth of a knot of adverse current, you have to compensate in your tacking angles by at least 4 degrees of tacking angle.

Scenario 2:  The team has a tendency to over stand the lay line to the weather mark and lets boats get inside room for the rounding.

Action: When sailing upwind before the start, note your tacking angles by watching the compass carefully.  These angles will be different in every wind and sea condition.  Practice calling lay lines to a practice mark and see how you do.  Try to judge the lay line when much closer to the mark – make it a rule of thumb to judge the lay line no further than 8 to 10 boat lengths away and youwill be a lot more accurate!

It is always good to bear in mind that once you find your self on the lay line, your chances of gaining in a subsequent wind shift are about zero – that is an encouragement to stay off it and play the shifts to keep your options open.

When the wind is oscillating, try to stay on the lifted tack (i.e. on the tack that sails you closest to the mark) as much as possible.  This helps avoid getting punched to a corner and then trying to judge a lay line from a long way out – a sure way to make an already tricky call much harder!

As you approach the lay line – on port or starboard tack – try to assess what phase the wind is in.  If it is a left phase and you are on port tack (port tack is currently lifted) then you will know that you have to go further to be able to make the mark because you will be headed when you tack onto starboard to make the rounding.  If it is a right phase and you are on port, then you know that you can tack well before a conventional lay line and then get lifted up o the mark on starboard.  Again, being closer to the mark when you judge the final tack will vastly increase the chances of making a good call.

Scenario 3: The team has trouble judging when to jibe for the final approach to the leeward mark and either over-stands, forcing the team to sail extra distance to fetch the fetch the mark, or is shy of the mark, forcing the team to sail lower to fetch the mark but slowing down as a result.

Action:  A very similar approach to upwind lay lines will be helpful – when your team is going downwind before the start – do a number of jibes and note the angle of the turns on the compass.  You will be able to get a sense for the jibe angles in the given wind and sea conditions.

Try to stay on the closest (i.e. most headed) jibe to the mark as long as possible.  Start your down wind leg with the knowledge of how the wind was shifted as you approach the weather mark.  If the wind was in left phase (i.e. you are headed while on starboard tack), stay on starboard on the initial portion of the down wind leg so that you maximize being headed downwind.  Some people remember this by sailing downwind on the opposite tack as what was the lifted upwind tack.

When the wind lifts (wind shifts more towards the stern of the boat), we jibe to play the shift and keep the boat sailing at the deepest angle toward the mark – the exception to this is when there is simply more wind on the other jibe.  In essence, this keeps your team away from the corners downwind and thus reduces the chances of trying to make a lay line call from a long way out.

Like going upwind, the trick is to judge the final jibe close to the leeward mark – the closer you can get to the mark the better the call is likely to be.  Current is also going to be a factor (sweeping from left to right or adverse etc.) so using the current stick before the race as well as taking a bearing on the leeward mark with a hand bearing compass to see the effects the current may be having will help the team decide when to jibe.

In summary, measure your environment (wind angles, current, etc.), make your approaches to lay lines closer to the mark to be fetched, and practice, practice, practice.

Best of luck and have fun at your next regatta.


2006 Western regional Championships

 By Andrew Kerr

 This years Western regional championships were held at Eugene Yacht clubs annual Memorial Day regatta and attracted a fleet of 26 S20’s.  The Memorial Day regatta continues to consistently attract an excellent size fleet and the strength of Fleet 19 was in evidence on the Thursday night race prior to the event with 22 boats on the line. Teams wore foul weather gear on both day’s of the regatta but were also rewarded with excellent winds and racing.  Hector Rosado graciously hosted an excellent party for the fleet on the Friday night that was attended by many and it was great to see so many familiar faces and also to meet some new ones.

 Saturday’s racing saw wind direction ranging between 205 and 225 degrees with velocity ranging between 5 and 15 knots. Gusts ranged down from both valleys bordering the race course, which kept teams on their toes and watching for the last shift and band of velocity that would come down to the starting line.

 In race # 1 Jerald Skeen’s team on Atomic Punk came on strong out of the left side and led at the weather mark but were passed just before the jibe mark by Team Disaster Area with Bruce Golison skippering with Andrew Kerr & Lance Purdy.  Disaster Area went on to win the race, followed closely by Atomic Punk with Chris Murschel's team on Loose Nuts taking an excellent third.  The pack was right behind and boats finished very close together.

 Race # 2 a number of boats in the fleet jumped on a late left shift that made the pin end favored and getting on to port tack at a premium.  The wind was gusty and oscillating 10 to 20 degrees so staying in phase and tacking in velocity was key.  The fleet split left/right going up the first beat – ultimately the last shift was to the left and that favored Disaster Area, Sea Bear (Jason Crowson, Patricia Purdy, and Josh Grass from Richmond YC) and One Eye Jacq (with EYC commodore and S20 veteran Doug Smith and his long time crew John Lee Ward and two time S20 Class Champion- sailing with Mike Sherlock in ‘91 & ‘92 Shannon Clune.)  These teams finished 1, 2 & 3 - followed closely by Loose Nuts and class veteran Ross Cooley and his team on Joriann.

 The last race of the day saw the wind oscillating back and forth – the fleet got off the line in about 7 knots of wind in a right phase with those further up the line shearing off the boats to leeward. Doug Smith's team showed excellent patience as they waited until the wind phased back to median and tacked in a good wind line. They proceeded to lift up on port tack and this enabled them to cross the fleet from the right which was led by Gordon Mattatal and his team of Don Southworth and Mike Merrifield on H20 Boa. These two teams were 1st and 2nd with Disaster Area finishing in third.  Road warriors Mark Erdrich, middle Austin Quilty, and bow John Poimiroo on team Fusion (out of Folsom Lake YC) had a very  good race and finished 4th.

An interview with Blaire Wallace May 2006

 By Andrew Kerr

 Blaire and Sasha Wallace own the S20 “Tinker Toy” (# 911) and keep the boat on Lake Tahoe - the venue of the 1985 Nationals.  The boat was formerly owned by John Musa of Fort Collins, Colorado and saw action at the ’99 Nationals on Lake Alcover.  Blaire and Sasha have actively raced the boat and last year they went to the Camellia Cup, Firecracker regatta (Klamath Falls), Whiskey town regatta and the Nationals (amongst other events) at Cascade Locks.  They actively race the boat in the local beer can races on Lake Tahoe and are looking forward to a great year of S20 racing in 2006.

 AK: Tell us about the sailing you did prior to the S20.

BW: I crewed for other teams, Mumm 30’s, Melges 24’s, Melges 30’s, that kind of stuff.

 AK: What prompted you to buy the S20 and join the class?

BW: I wanted to sail more one design regattas. Also wanted regatta’s to be more fun. More crew doesn’t usually mean more fun.

 AK: How is the local racing on Tahoe?

BW: Probably some of the toughest PHRF racing anywhere. Living in town with so many pro athletes can make for some pretty competitive sailing.

 AK: You have been exemplary road warriors this last year – tell us about the experience of traveling to new venues and events.

BW: I used to race cars for a living and always loved to be on the road seeing new places. It’s fun to sail in a new place and see how quickly you can figure things out.

 AK: Tell us about the experience of going to the Nationals and sailing on the Gorge.

BW: A really good experience. We didn’t have our regular middle so we sailed much more conservatively than I like to. But still a lot more fun than not sailing!

AK: Lake Tahoe is such a beautiful venue – it has been 21 years since the last S20 Nationals were held there - do you foresee a Nationals being held there again in the near future?

BW: It’s a great place to sail because it’s so shifty and unpredictable which also doesn’t make it a great place for an important regatta.

AK: How does next year’s S20 racing schedule look for you?

BW: I‘d sail every weekend & Wednesday night if I could get crew. It looks like we will probably sail 8 to 10 S20 regatta’s in the 2006 season.

AK: Thank you Blaire, we look forward to seeing you and your team at different S20 regatta venues this year.

Team Practice Sessions - Making the Most of Your Time

By Andrew Kerr April 2006

You only have to take a look along a dock before the start of a regatta to see how squeezed for time sailors have become as they pace up and down with cell phones or Blackberries (very often while casting off dock lines) before jumping aboard to head out to the course.

Not only are we rushed for time but many teams don’t have the benefit of a stable team roster so they are often dealing with crew training issues too.

In this article we take a look at practice sessions for both fully crewed and short handed sailing and how evening/beer can races can be utilized for your training.

Time and Distance and Acceleration Drill:

If your team took the winter off, one of the most visible issues at your early season regattas will be getting to the starting line too early and thus having no speed at the start, or being very late to the line and starting behind everyone.  You can get your timing back in shape if you practice accelerating to a fixed point, like a buoy.  Measure the time it takes and the distance and repeat the drill over and over to remind yourself just how long and how far it takes to get up to speed.  This drill can be run shorthanded too.

Even if your team can only practice a couple of these drills, or has time to incorporate one element (a beer can race as a practice for instance), you will see the value both in more consistent sailing and general team comfort level with boat handling.

Fully Crew Practice:

Whether during the weekend, after work, or well before the race starts, find or set up a starting line and an upwind mark that is less than a quarter mile away.

Set a 10 minute rolling clock with a practice start at 5 minutes and then a race start at zero.  Race to the windward mark downwind to the start line.  Do a proper racing spinnaker takedown and a tactical rounding either around the RC end (to port) or the pin end (to starboard).  Sail up to close-hauled.

Try all sorts of starting approaches so that you have a good repertoire to use – port tack approach, starboard tack approach, full speed approach, hang back approach etc.

Really work on time and distance and acceleration and holding position.  The more approach styles you develop, the less predictable you are to your competitors.

This drill gets in 2 starts, a race and pseudo leeward gate rounding.  Better yet, get another team to join in as it would add boat to boat tactics and more realistic mark roundings.  And it’s more fun!

Team Skills Drills

  •  Roll tacking and roll jibing.  Particularly good for getting up to max power speed in light air starts.  Make lots of tacks with critiquing of speed loss and speed build after each one.  Take time to really work on the perfect time to release the genoa sheet and steering smoothly through out the turn.
  •  Simulated late (opportunistic) gate mark selection with the pole down and stored and the chute free flying with the jib up.
  •  Coming in to the leeward mark on starboard tack and execute pole down, jibing, chute take down, and a tactical rounding.  Practice all types of takedowns and roundings.
  •  “Thin Building” on the starting line – i.e.: holding position about three lengths off the line, maintaining a good gap to leeward, and then accelerating accordingly to top speed.
  •   If you need to slow down and hold position – try easing the vang to dump the wind off the leech.
  •  Practice weather mark roundings.  For breezy conditions, practice sailing down hard to pin out competitors ahead from jibing.  For light air, assume the correct angle immediately with the spin trimmer talking pressure on the sheet immediately.
  •   A good trick is to have the middle or bow ease the vang an inch or two before the weather mark – this will help the boat bear off more easily and also help the mainsail leech assume the correct shape (top baton parallel to the boom) immediately.
  •  Practice staying within the lay lines to the starting line and building a team awareness of where the safe starboard tack lay lines to the ends of the starting line are.
  •  A rudderless drill with the team – hold the tiller in the center (or tie it off) and have the team sail the boat using only sail trim and weight placement.  A great challenge for the team is to see if you can do a start with rudder steering.
  •  This is great for team understanding roll tacking and jibing and helps the trimmers a lot with understanding the dynamics of starts and leeward and windward mark roundings and overall boat balance.
  •  Try a number of downwind legs without the pole to get the trimmers really in tune with rotating the spinnaker.
  •  On the light air practice sessions, sail reach to reach jibe practice so that the timing of the rotation, steering, and spinnaker pole trip is as good as the team can do it.
  •  Heeling to weather downwind and optimized weight placement.
  •  Man over board drill, upwind, and downwind with the spinnaker up.  Excellent for seamanship and practicing maneuvers.
  •  A great one to try in lighter air is a silent practice - a start, upwind and downwind leg and a leeward mark rounding.  This is great for team anticipation skills.  The only communication allowed is for safety related reasons.  My wife Stephanie tells me this silent practice was an instrumental element of team training for the 1995 America’s cup on America 3 / Mighty Mary.

Continue the starts and races until the team is tiring out and then head in and debrief by having each team member talk about there position and what they need to improve on for next time.  While this debrief session is going on it is good to have a person jotting down notes in to a wet notes book for future reference.

After work/ evening session – skeleton crew (shorthanded) with no spinnaker:

For this session it’s good to focus on starts, windward & leeward mark roundings with no spinnaker.

Crew required – could be bare min.  Great opportunity to do numerous starts with a rolling clock and focus on time and distance, acceleration speed building and slowing down & holding position.

Try to do as many leeward mark roundings as possible and critique each one – do all approaches – on port, on starboard having to jibe and round simultaneously and starboard approach with a jibe (jibe drop) then the tactical mark rounding.

Really work on the Genoa being perfectly trimmed to every point of sail and the crew moving to leeward in light air to help the rounding.

This is also a really good opportunity to practice pinching up (or “check luffing”) to use the VMG gained by the leeward mark rounding to translate in to pointing and a resultant clearer lane from the boat who just rounded ahead.

Now lets try some time & distance work – find a marker and see how long it takes from a slow position to sheet in, accelerate and reach the marker – try this over and over again and it will help a lot with time & distance.

Spare weekends (if any!) & find a tuning partner for races & regatta’s:

Any combo of the above would be valuable practice (sequenced from prior practices) on non race days.

At a regatta, it is very beneficial to get another team to be a tuning partner - go upwind with them for 5 to 10 minutes before the start and fine tune the boat’s set up.

If they are faster – why?  Check the critical settings – Genoa halyard tension, forestay sag, mainsheet tension, genoa lead position, genoa sheet tension, and in what “mode” of sailing they are in “Point mode” or ‘Fast forward mode”.

Once you have made your adjustments go upwind with them again and see how you go with them with the new settings.  How are we doing?

A great part of your regimen with your tuning partner is to go upwind on opposite tacks before the start (or in practice) for 5 minutes (or more) and then tack back and converge to see who crosses.  This will give you an idea of the initial shift and the initial favored side of the course.  Write it all down.

After each regatta, race, and practice session, write down in a wet notes book what needs to be worked on for the next practice session.  These notes are best recorded during your return to the YC or in the cockpit at the dock while they are fresh in the mind.

Beer can race & have fun!

This is a great opportunity to try some things – starting approaches, jibe drops etc. that you may employ in the regatta format or for bigger events on your schedule.  This is also an excellent time to train a new crew member and integrate them in to your teams system as well as introduce them to the local fleet. Take the time to teach & coach and make it fun.

One big thing to watch for is falling in to the trap (easily done!) of practicing things the team is good at!

Really focus on the chinks, as an example - if there is a tendency to get up to the line early and be slow at the start, let’s focus on time and distance and acceleration.

 A nice aspect of a post practice session/debrief is to have a social time as a crew, this makes it that much more enjoyable for everyone.  Making it fun keeps people coming back for more; a good sense of humor keeps it light and everyone looking forward to more sailing.

An interview with Travis Wilson
by Andrew Kerr February 2006

Travis Wilson started sailing Santana 20s at Sacramento’s Folsom lake as a member of Fleet 12 and since then he has taken his boat – Head First – all over the country and he has been a strong supporter of the class. In 1999 he sailed with class veteran Rick Harris, finishing 3rd at the Nationals on Lake Alcova (Casper, WY). In 2000 he and his talented team of Willem van Waay (skipper) & Peter van Waay (bow) bested a talented fleet and won the Nationals at Newport Beach, CA. In the 2003 Nationals at Huntington lake they finished 2nd and at the 2004 Nationals in Long Beach they finished 3rd. This team (With Willem skippering) was also part of the Coronado YC team that won the prestigious Lipton Cup. A long time resident of San Diego, CA and a member of Fleet 7, Travis has since moved to Arizona from which he organizing the 2006 Nationals to be held at Coronado Yacht club – August 7th to the 11th. The Nationals were previously hosted at Coronado Yacht Club in 1980, 1983 & 1992. This year’s event going to be a great regatta for the Class and is a much anticipated event. Andrew Kerr caught up with Travis to find out about his sailing and the upcoming Nationals at Coronado.

AK: Tell us about your early sailing years and what got you interested in sailing the S20.

TW: As I grew up, sailing was something to do on the weekends. My dad owned a Catalina 22 that we would take out on Folsom Lake. We would go out to watch the Camellia Cup from a viewpoint next to the dam. I remember on one occasion where all the Wavelength 24s (at the time I had no idea what they were) came around the weather mark, all broached and some of the crew fell off the into the water. It was exciting. That is when I decided I wanted to get into sailing more seriously. So my Dad bought me a Coronado 15 that I raced from junior high into my freshman year of high school. During the winter months, I would travel down to Richmond Yacht club to sail Lasers in their Junior program. We also had a Junior program that was headed up by Keith Steele and George Koch at Folsom Lake YC during the Spring and Summer months. That is where I first had contact with Charles Witcher - would come in to do chalk talks with us. After three years of sailing the C-15 around Folsom Lake, I became interested in the Santana 20 as all the Hotshots of FLYC were sailing them. So my Dad went out and bought one for us to sail.

AK: Tell us about Head First , I seem to remember the boat back at the '96 Nationals in Eugene - where and when did you get the boat?

TW: I thank my dad for that. He found and purchased the boat back in 1990 from a guy who had it in San Jose. The boat was barely used and had a full inventory of Hart Sails that were brand new. Sharon and Charles talked us into going to nationals in 1991 for the experience. It was a bit overwhelming for us. We showed up to the ‘91 nationals with no clue on what this all meant. I was 16 and we had only had the boat for about a year. We went out on the practice day and pulled our starboard bulkhead and never got to compete in the event. I remember Ron Fish being willing to repair the boat. At the time I had no idea who he was. But we opted to wait and fix it when we got it back home. The experience hooked me. I wanted to go to Nationals whenever I could. So all of you that don’t think you’re ready for the big event. You are. Look - I did it at 16. It’s just about showing up, having a good time and moving up the learning curve faster. The second Nationals I attended were held in Eugene in 1996. We had a great time. That is where I met many of you for the first time. I sailed with John Poole, a former ‘20 owner of #457, now owned by the Cardwells (aka Moon). It was nice to compete in my first Nationals with someone that had done it before. And at the Eugene Club you can never have a bad time.

AK: Tell us about your time sailing with Fleet 12 on Folsom Lake - you must have learned a lot being around Charles Witcher, Sharon Hart & Charlie Hess.

TW: Folsom was great. My dad had a slip in the marina so we would keep the ‘20 in the water during the spring and summer. After school or work I would go up to the lake, either by myself or with some friends, and go sailing. I spent so many hours sailing the boat that I just got a feel for her. Charles and Sharon were great. I used to go to Sharon’s loft anytime that I was close to downtown. Her loft was on the banks of the Sacramento River. Walking into that loft was like going into the FLYC Hall of Fame. There were trophies and pictures of her and Charles all over the place. I remember when I was younger thinking, “How could they win this many trophies?” I considered them to be the best. So whatever they said to do or said to change, I did. To make the boat a little faster the recommended that I fill the gap in between the rudder, the following weekend I was doing it. If they said to fair the keel, I did it. Charles taught me how to tune the ‘20 from the ground up. To this day I still tune the ‘20 to some of his numbers. Both Sharon and Charles took the time to get me started and I appreciate it tremendously.

AK: In 2000, you, Willem, and Peter put on a very impressive performance at the Nationals – what are the elements that make this team successful? Tell us a little about Willem & Peter:

TW: I met them at the Coronado YC Fall Regatta in ‘96. When I moved down to San Diego in ’97, I ran into them again at the Nationals held at Mission Bay YC. The following summer I was at the first “X” games held in Mission Beach when I ran into Peter working at the games. We started hanging out and became friends. As I became friends with Pete, Willem became a friend as well. We didn’t do any sailing together for about a year. Then Pete and I started sailing the ‘20 together for the year and went on to sail our first nationals together with Rick Harris in ‘99 up in Wyoming. That year Willem was going to sail on Team Disaster Area and decided to drive out with Pete and me to Wyoming. We had a great time on that road trip and became better friends. I remember being at a local bar that fall called Pacific Beach Bar and Grill and the idea was formed. I can remember after a few beers Willem, Peter, and I started talking about sailing Head First together. And from then on the team was set. Since that year Willem and I have sailed together on numerous campaigns with one another and have won regattas in the Farr40, 1D-35, Schock 35, J-105, and numerous other small boat regattas. So we learned from one another on how to win and what it took to win. Another key to our success came in 2000. We were using North Sails and Chris Winnard had just become a North representative. So with the our two boats having the exact same sails we spent two to three days sailing against one another, tuning up and getting ready for the event. I can’t tell you how important it is to tune with someone fast.

AK: One thing I can appreciate as a coach is how hard you guy’s sail and practice. I remember seeing your team at the 2004 Nationals in Long Beach, CA and how much sailing you were doing before and between races. Tell us about your approach to events:

TW: Our approach is simple. Have the best boat handling in the fleet and do whatever it takes to win the start and not to break down. Before the event we always go through the boat and replace anything that looks like it might fail. We clean and wax the boat and then it’s time to work on our skills in the water. Before every major event we spend at least one full day of boat handling. Peter and Willem both worked at J World with Andrew prior to us meeting. Willem is also the Coronado High School sailing coach and is a graduate of the famed St. Mary’s sailing team. From his experience in coaching and being coached, he takes us through some intense drills all the time. He always tries to catch Pete and I off guard or just relaxing and will say, “jibe and turn the boat”. Because we all know at the top and bottom marks you need to make split second decisions and turn the boat without waiting for the crew to get ready. So our goal was that he could turn the boat whenever he wanted and we would be able to do our jobs and complete the jibe or tack. Being comfortable with all your maneuvers in the conditions you are going to be racing in makes you and your team confident. Long Beach was a bit more work for us. We had a new mast and a new set of sails from Elliott-Pattison. So we spent about a day trying to figure out what the best setup was for our boat and his sails. Harry Pattison came down the day before the event to go out with us and show us what he thought a good setup would be. So that helped and it gave us a good starting point and from there we could tweak it. In Long beach, we set up for heavy air and had sails built for a heavier air venue. As the heavy air didn’t show up, we needed to do more sailing before, between, and after races to find something that worked. But all the time and hard work paid off as we found a way to get the sails to the shape we wanted. And the sails and practice put us in a position to win the regatta as going into the last race - we were winning the event. We didn’t end up winning but we came close. So practice pays off always in the end. Again, it is important to tune with someone or teams you know are fast. No one was out prior to the event to tune with that had EP sails. We tuned with Altitude Sickness, Aggressive Tendencies , Mini Me , and Disaster Area - as we knew any one of these boats could win the regatta. This gave us a good idea of what we needed to work on to be fast.

AK: The Class is excited for the upcoming Nationals at Coronado. Tell us about the event, and how things are coming along.

TW: Things are going great. The yacht club, race management team, sailing area, and dining arrangements have been made and confirmed. We are working on gear, a live band, and local shop and restaurant sponsorships. I have many ideas for trophies and I am trying to get awards for others accomplishments besides 1-10th place. I’m using ideas from past Nationals and adding things new to make the event memorable. The yacht club is excited to host the event and is doing whatever I ask of them to make this the best event held at CYC since the 2002 Lipton Cup. I guarantee that everyone that comes will leave with great memories.

AK: What can a first time visiting team to Coronado expect?

TW: A laid back town with a club that is full of great members. The CYC reminds me of Eugene YC. Not a big ego type of place. Everyone is friendly and willing to help visiting boats. The town itself is going to blow people away. The main street with all the restaurants and shops, including the Hotel Del, is just across the street from the club. That sailing venue itself is possibly the best for boats our size and for all levels of competitors. As the weather mark is just a few hundred yards off the beach, it creates flat-water conditions with consistent and steady breezes. The leeward mark and start and finish lines are close to the Navy piers where you can see up close the newest ships. Near the leeward marks, you can get some wind chop but the teams that are used to sailing in lakes will feel right at home. There is no kelp except an occasional piece that has been dragged in from the ocean. Also expect some current near the leeward mark.

AK: You recently sailed at the Arizona YC Birthday Regatta – tell us about the event and the S20 fleet in Arizona:

TW: The AZ fleet is full of great people. AZ is very different than most places as their sailing seasons are opposite. I sailed in the Arizona Yacht Club’s major event early in January with a team new to the ‘20 - Dennis and Tim McMillen (S20 #903 “Rambunctious”). Dennis and I had been “talking shop” for months. We finally got that chance to sail together in January. The weekend before the regatta, we met at the lake and went through the boat and re-rigging some of the controls. We took time to get used to one another and didn’t push it too hard. While we were practicing Dennis, told me his goal was not to finish last. I was thinking that is a good goal being his first regatta driving a ‘20. When the regatta weekend arrived, Dennis had bigger ambitions and wanted to be the first place Arizona boat. There were four boats from Arizona and the road warriors Britt Williams (S20 #920 “Feyest”) and IV McNamara (S20 #925 “Cocaine and Hookers”) who traveled all the way from Okalahoma. It was a small turnout of six boats but it was close racing. I didn’t know what to expect but I figured with a small fleet I just needed to keep us out of trouble and sail smart. My goal was to win the starts and sail towards the best pressure. Something I learned at Folsom Lake. Saturday was the light air day and boats would go from first to fourth and fourth to first. We finished two race and at the end of the day Britt was leading with two second places while we were tied with the local rock star, Martin Lorch, with both of us having a 1st and 4th. Sunday the wind came out of nowhere. A cold front moved in and we saw winds all day from 10 to close to 20 knots. I was glad, and so was everyone else - there was not going to be a drifter that day. The races on Sunday were tight and everyone was obviously sailing fast; staying upright was key. Other boats similar to ours decided to de power and run downwind with the genoa while other boats sailed with the jib. In the first race both Britt and our team (Dennis, Tim, and me) were sailing within a couple of boats lengths of each other. Britt passed us about 20 yards from the finish line while we were sailing through a fleet of Buccaneers. Our team won the next race, Britt finished third. IV McNamara won the third race. This gave our team, Rambunctious, a one-point lead going into the last race. The last race of the day was real puffy and Britt sailed with a jib. The course was a one-lap sausage. Britt rounded the weather mark with the jib one boat length in front of us and then set the kite. We were hesitant but knew that if we didn’t do the same, the race was over. So up she went. We sailed under control by over sheeting in the puffs and were able to pass Britt before the bottom mark. But that is where I made the big mistake of falling off the boat and watching Britt t come right at me at full speed. Luckily I was able to get back on fast and we were able to stay in the race right behind Britt t and team. We were not able to catch Britt t but no other boats managed to pass us during my man overboard episode. Back at the docks we had no idea who had won. When our victory was announced, Dennis and his son Tim were ecstatic. Their first regatta as driver and crew on a ‘20 was more than they had hoped for. It was great to see everyone again and I hope to see all of these teams in Coronado and at other regattas throughout the year leading up to Nationals in August.

AK: What are your sailing plans for the year?

TW: Well Andrew, this year will be different. I am getting married this coming September, in Maui, to my long time girlfriend Holly that some of you have met. So far I have sailing invitations for the Farr 40 East Coast and Great Lake circuit, the World Championships in Rhode Island, the J105 North Americans in Marina Del Rey, and a handful of Melges 24 regattas. Then in San Diego I have the Etchells weekends, along with defending the PC nationals that Chris Nesbitt (also a Santana 20 racer) and I won last summer with Bennett Greenwald’s Minx. For the ‘20s I am going to take a step back from ownership this year and maybe next. I still want to be a big part of the class and will remain a member and contributor as much as possible. This year I am going to try to help as many teams as I can by sailing with teams that need crew or help in getting up to speed prior to the Nationals. I enjoy helping out. I look forward to sailing in regattas all over the West coast and meeting those who I have not met before and visiting those that I have already met. I would love to go to Oregon - I have not been to Eugene in a while.

AK: Thank you Travis, we appreciate all the hard work that you are doing for the Santana 20 Class.

This and other Andrew Kerr interviews are available on


Fern Ridge Reservoir returns!!

An Interview with Fleet 19’s Doug Smith

by Andrew Kerr


Doug Smith has been an active member of Eugene, Oregon’s Fleet 19 for many years. He and his team sailing on One Eye Jacq have competed in S20 events all over the country and Doug is a big supporter of his S20 fleet and the class in general.

In 2001, Fern Ridge Reservoir had no water due to a drought but, undeterred, Fleet 19 were instrumental in running very good Nationals at Klamath Lake in conjunction with the Klamath YC and their local S20 fleet.

This last year the reservoir underwent repairs by the Army Corp of Engineers (see for related information) and again the resourceful group at Fleet 19 rebounded and co hosted (along with Fleet 16) a very successful Nationals at Cascade Locks on the Columbia River Gorge.

Despite the lack of local water, the fleet continued to hold monthly meetings, build the new docks at the yacht club, and S20 teams traveled far and wide to participate in other events.

The fleet has a group of enthusiastic and dedicated fleet members who maintain a great level of interest in the S20 and are the very glue that helps the class stay active and relevant in the new age of sail boat racing.

I have been lucky enough to attend events in Eugene for many years with our boat, Disaster Area, and one of the things that is so evident is the great spirit of volunteerism that Fleet 19 has - every one contributes in some way.

A good example of this is the Memorial Day regatta - the fleet will be responsible for preparing, cooking (and clean up afterward) a meal for hundreds of sailors. They will do this with great team work and a smile.

In 2006 the fleet will have a lake to sail on and will be hosting some of the best events you can sail in the S20 – Eugene Yacht Club’s Memorial Day Regatta – which has averaged 25 to 30 S20’s every year, Triton Yacht Club’s Emerald Cup and in the early fall - Eugene Yacht Club’s Harvest Day Regatta – to mention just a few.

Fern Ridge Reservoir is a beautiful venue for sail boat racing and a great place to bring your family and friends.  The experience both on and off the water is not to be missed.

Andrew Kerr caught up with Doug to find out how life with out water had been, the upcoming season, his own sailing and what makes this unique fleet tick.

AK: How has it been with no water at the lake for 2005? How have people been able to maintain their enthusiasm level?

DS: Actually, Andrew, it has been very disappointing but we did what was necessary to stay positive and keep sailing. Several fleet members traveled to events we normally compete in such as SOCKS in Seattle, but also traveled to Whiskeytown in Redding over the Memorial Day weekend that is usually our big event of the year.

One of the things we tried to do was maintain our friendships and habits from the racing season. Thursday nights have evolved into our weekly race day so many of us would continue to meet at EYC for burgers and beers.

Most were 20 sailors and usually the same people but - as we all know - the camaraderie is one of the aspects of the sport that make it so rewarding for many of us. Actually, since we had no water to play on discussions frequently occurred of what we hope EYC’s future will be in the coming years and some of the plans have been placed in motion. We have new docks, are negotiating to purchase some land we now lease, and have formed a committee to discuss the construction of a new clubhouse in the coming years. My crew owns a Shock 23 so we moored it at Siltcoos Lake (along the Oregon coast) so we had a place to sail that was reasonably close. It was fantastic in the spring but when summer came it blew over 20 constantly and was often foggy. It still was fun and enough to keep the addiction satisfied. Lido 14s, on Wednesday nights, at some of the mountain lakes was done a few times too.

AK:Tell us about Fleet 19 and its members, what makes the fleet run so well and keep rebounding even after the set backs of having no water in ‘01 and ‘05?

DS: I think the positive can-do attitude and willingness of everyone to jump in and help put on events is what makes our fleet continue to do so well. Many of the familiar names from the past, Fuller, Mikesell, Sherlock, Loveland and Franklin, have gone on to other things but new faces and boats have appeared with new energy and enthusiasm.

Two of our newer members took on fleet captain duties, the Goodrich’s and Gilstrap’s, and did fantastic jobs over the past several years. Leeann Bale Fish, (yes as in the old salt Ron Fish that everyone knows), has been our captain the past two years and did a good job keeping us going in these tough times. New people provide the energy, old members some history, but the major element is simply hard work and follow through to get it done.

An example in this past year demonstrated how several people really stepped up to the challenge. Mark Forest agreed to be the class president, even in the middle of completing his Master’s program, getting married and playing in a terrific big band. Then we find out we have no water to host the Championships so Rick Gilstrap says “no problem” and works it out long distance with Derek Hardy, of the Puget Sound fleet, to put on a memorable event on the Columbia Gorge. Everyone chipped in to help as needed and had a good time doing it. We all know how to have fun and keep the racing on the water and a good time on the land. Keep it fun, keep it easy and let the people who volunteer to do it do it their way. It always seems to work out fine.

AK: I understand that Eugene Yacht club had some new docks added this past year, tell us about these new additions and some of the plans the club has for the future.

DS: We were lucky that a good deal was made to purchase some floating concrete docks that were not being used in the Florence area. I helped to unload and stack them when delivered last year and Gordon Mattatall of H20Boa agreed to head up the project - expecting the 3 to 5 years originally estimated it would take to repair the Fern Ridge dam. When we were told, to our delight, that the project would be completed in one year we were relieved but also under intense pressure to get the new docks in the water since the dry year did so much to deteriorate our docks.

So Gordon mobilized everyone and many crews of people began the deconstruction of our docks. We rented some heavy equipment and one member spent an entire weekend from dawn to dark moving the docks off of the lake bottom and stacking them on the lawn for other crew to disassemble them, separate the usable parts for recycling, etc. Much of the docks were constructed from redwood and we hope to use this for future projects since it is so beautiful. Other beams and hardware will also be used in other projects.

Another member leveled the harbor area in preparation for the pile driver to come in and place new steel pilings, which was done in time to meet the construction company timeline. They moved all of the docks from the back of the club grounds and bolted them together before the rains started. After observing how much work and expertise this project required we are thankful the membership decided to contract this out. Now there is water in the lake and the docks are floating. The fingers have been delivered and will be floated into place and bolted to the docks soon. The membership rose to the occasion and did what was necessary within the required time frame so we can be ready to host regattas next year. We even hope we can have a winter regatta if the Army Corp of Engineers raises the water level for testing. Stay tuned because we will broadcast and announcement if this occurs.

AK: Tell us about your sailing and your crew, I know you have traveled a lot with your team and boat – tell us about some of your experiences and what keeps you coming back for more?

DS: C’mon Andrew, I’m a sailor and an open question like that could end up with a two-hour answer. Lying, bragging and story telling is one of the requirements of being a sailor. I have decided during the aging process that memories are the most important part of living and of course making them the most fun. We can tell tales of watching the boat sail away from us toward the dam after bucking us off in a big broach, or the time the mast came down 10 minutes before the start at SOCKS and we put it back up and got a 2nd. The same weekend we get sprayed by stinky porpoise breath while quietly sailing in light wind. Or this year, at the Gorge in the big wind, when the weld broke on the stem fitting and the mast came down on us. We took it apart, found a welder for the repair, bought some fiberglass, repaired the boat and were on the line the next day. This is the stuff we live for and are part of the game.

I bought One Eye Jacq in 1986 and have been sailing her hard ever since. I’m not known for my boat maintenance because I am sailing instead. My loyal crew, Johnny LeeWard, also purchased Divine Madness the same year but has since sold his and for over 10 years has been my mate, (he makes me do my maintenance) doing whatever position he needs to keep us competitive.

I try to sail five or so regattas a year and John is with me for at least half of them. He is an excellent crewman and knows how to make the boat go and keeps me focused. We sail every Thursday night together and usually have a steady third most years but also really enjoy taking on a new crew and training them; sometimes a new person every week until we find someone interested in committing. We have been pretty lucky a few times and the crew has even gone on to buy their own boat. Nothing is more complimentary for a skipper to see their crew be so enthused to move ahead and buy their own 20.

Our greatest accomplishment, and to this day the best road trip ever, was in ‘94 when us and the Spyguy, Don Erickson in #314 Spy, traveled to Lake Dillon in Colorado for the Championships. Johnny and I, with the best foredeck ever, Nicholai Lenn, placed 3rd. Everything just seemed to be right, we got lucky, and so we are now in the book. Nic owns a 20, Repo, and he will be kicking my butt on the course for sure. I have some memorable San Diego trips and really enjoyed the Shock Invitational in San Francisco during fleet week the times Tom held them. I hope he brings them back because they were special and a good meeting place for the California and Oregon boats to meet.

AK: How does the upcoming season look for Fleet 19?

DS: It will be busy and wild. We all will sail at least twice as much as normal since we are a year behind now. I know I will also be cruising my boat more and taking many friends out as often as possible. I enjoy that part of the 20 as much as racing it. I know I am making a commitment to get my boat up to grade and purchase some new go fast stuff and know I am not alone. We have some new sailors ready to go and I hope to see 10 to 15 on the line every Thursday with 25 here for Memorial Day Regatta. I am commodore of EYC this year and personally invite all the 20’s in the nation to attend. It will be hosted by a past class champion, Paul Stephens, and you know he will do a fantastic job. If you want to attend but need a boat, crew or just want to come for the fun let us know and we will help you out.

We are very disappointed that we had the Championships twice since ’96 where we couldn’t showcase our lake as one of the best Santana 20 venues anywhere. We will try again but come join us this year to see for yourselves.

AK: What events do you think we may see you and your team at in 2006?

DS: We will do SOCKS in Seattle, possibly the Firecracker at Klamath Lake, three regattas on our lake, and usually go to Newport for at least one regatta every year. I took the tuna to Whidbey Island Race Week a few years ago and had a fantastic time and did pretty well being the smallest boat of about 150 boats. A couple other boats have been doing it the past years and are making a name for us up there. They have offered to host our championships within their event if the class ever wanted to go there. It is one of the must do events but pretty big water for the little tuna sometimes.

AK: Thank you Doug.


Heavy Air Sailing at the Cascade Locks S20 Nationals Revisited

By Andrew Kerr

For those of us lucky enough to be able to compete in the S20 Nationals this year at Cascade Locks, our memories include the incredible scenery on both sides of the river and the spectacular heavy air conditions that we raced in. As it is unusual to sail an entire 8 race series in consistently breezy conditions, it is worth taking a look back at some of the elements that worked well in the when it was 15 to 25 knots (28 knots was apparently reported):

Upwind Notes:

- If in doubt about which headsail to use (jib v.s. genoa), the improved jib shapes being offered, inboard tracks, and the ease tacking the jib make it a great choice when the wind is on the cusp. Having the jib lead one hole aft of normal position was fast as it twisted the upper leech of the sail off and helped the boat track straight.

- Use a two to one purchase on the jib sheet with using two bullet blocks attached to the clew of the sail. This offered good fine tuning of the jib in heavy air.

-If you need to slow down, such as when burning off time or holding position on the starting line, ease the vang. This stops the boat from going sideways and forward by dumping the wind off the leech of the mainsail.

- Start going full speed at least 20 seconds before the start so the boat is moving at top speed with crew on the rail when the gun goes off. If you sheet in later (i.e. you start accelerating to the line with less than 20 seconds), the boat will heel over and go sideways.

- Tack, instead of gybe, in pre-start maneuvers. It is a much less hazardous maneuver and easier on the gear and helps keep the boat closer to the line.

- When very windy – remember to ease the headsail out to reduce the back-winding in the mainsail – the more the back wind the more the ease – particularly with the Genoa at the top range.

- Move rail weight aft slightly weight aft slightly to stop the bow digging in. This also helps keep the rudder in the water and reduces weather helm.

- Keeping tacks to a minimum and being very selective about when you tack. Every tack in heavy air was a big loss as the boat went sideway’s first and then forward. Keep a mental track of how many tacks and trying to keep the number down.

- Seeing the starboard tacker (s) very early and ducking very early. Easing the vang helped de-power the main and allowed the boat to bear away more quickly. Easing the genoa a lot to also was important to help the boat bear away.

- In the very heavy air – avoiding lee bowing competitors. The boat would stop coming out of the tack. The only effective lee bow opportunities, when blowing 25 knots, was when you could clearly cross the oncoming boat.

- Playing the mainsail and genoa sheet and jib sheet together in the very big gusts to keep the sail slot consistent.

- Consider sailing with four people in heavy air events. Bruce Golison’s team did this and it worked well. It requires that the fourth person is athletic and can move around the boat well.


Downwind Notes:

- Easing the vang slightly (one to two inches) before the weather mark rounding to twist the leech off the mainsail off helped the boat turn downwind at the rounding.

- Delaying the spinnaker set – taking a deep breath, make sure the boat is flat, tough out the big gust, make sure the boat is on the correct jibe & the crew is in the correct position – and then hoist. Ted Turner had a great saying about heavy air spinnaker sailing – “you put the spinnaker up and Mother Nature brings it down!”

- On the hoist – having the skipper and middle sitting on the leeward side to counteract the roll to weather worked very well – an excellent suggestion from Lance Purdy in a prior downwind article.

- Making sure both twings were at deck level on the hoist and the spinnaker sheet was over trimmed by two feet until the team was ready. Then slowly easing the sheet out as the boat became more and more stable.

- Leaving the jib up when going downwind – one less thing to worry about. This also retained a tight jib halyard for the next upwind leg and helped prevent hour glassing of the spinnaker around the forestay.

- Keeping the spinnaker over trimmed in the big gusts to keep the sail behind the mainsail and then easing out the spinnaker sheet slowly in the lull or when the boat stopped rolling.

- Leaving the aft lowers engaged downwind when it was very windy or easing them slowly in a lull in conjunction with a slow ease on the backstay to keep the mast in column.

- When jibing – waiting for a good lull, when the boat was planing, or the stern was lifting on the top of a wave. These were the best time as the load was off the sails.

- Jibing the mainsail first then jibing the pole after the mainsail was over. Releasing what is now the leeward twing line so that the pole could be taken off the mast, keeping the sail very over trimmed and progressively bringing the windward twing line down as the pole was pushed forward and out. The skipper would steer to keep the bow of the boat right under the center seam of the spinnaker – if the seam yawed to the right, the bow was steered to the right to keep the boat right under the sail. The advantage of jibing the main first was to get the jibe over with, the boat steady, and then deal with the pole.

- Perform a very early spinnaker takedown when approaching the leeward mark so the entire team could be on the high side when rounding the mark. If the takedown was late, the boat would be heeled over and going side ways.

- The mantra of getting around the course for the 8 races with no gear failure or dramatic happenings. This worked well for a number of teams and gave them a solid result overall.

- Big Kudos go to Lance Purdy’s team on Sea Bear – I believe they were the only team not to broach downwind over the course of the 8 race series - no mean feat. That Delta Ditch run sailing and experience proved invaluable practice!

These are just some of the elements that worked in heavy air, there are many more. This past Nationals was a great experience for the class, I encourage everyone who participated at Cascade Locks to impart the knowledge gained of sailing the boat in these conditions to there fellow fleet & class members either through word of mouth or articles for the class website and newsletter.

Notes and Observations on the

2005 Santana 20 "The Gorge rocks!!" Championships

By Andrew Kerr

This year championships were held at Cascade Locks in Oregon from August 8th to the 12th and what a great event it turned out to be for the class!

Fleet 19’s Rick Gilstrap and fleet 16’s Derek Hardy – both of who put in a tremendous amount of hard work into making this event a success, masterminded the event. With the very unfortunate loss of water at Fernridge reservoir in Eugene for 2005, these two gentlemen, aided by numerous volunteers from Fleet 19, put together a top event at a completely new venue for the class – this was no mean feat!

Great news for 2006 – Eugene will be back with water and a great series of regattas for all of us to attend – Memorial Day, the Emerald Cup and Harvest day amongst others!  Fernridge reservoir is a great place to sail and to bring the family and friends - lets all support Fleet 19’s events next year as they finally get to sail again.

Coupled with this was the great race management of our hosts – the Columbia Gorge Racing Association, led by Kerry Poe and his very able team.

Twenty-three teams traveled to the Locks from Oklahoma, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Florida & California. Notable road warriors included the three teams from Oklahoma led by fleet # 37 (Tulsa) Fleet Captain Britt Williams and his team of Roger Adams & Flint Johnson, IV Mc Namara and his team of Justin Adams and Olivia McNamara (both from Windy Crest sailing club) and Jim Blakewell and his team of Willard Rogers& Marvin Mason (from Oklahoma city boat club the hosts of the ’85 Championships) as well as the three teams from Colorado led by fleet # 28 Fleet Captain Tim Dunton with his team of Frank Keesling, Mark Donahue, Angus Brackett & Annie, Mike Mckeever and his team of Lynne & James Mckeever and former class president Scott Newcomb and his team of Barb and Nicole Newcomb.

All these teams had competed in the Dillon Open Regatta the weekend prior to the Championships and then immediately hitched up their trailers and headed for the Locks!

Britt Williams and his Fayest team won the Dillon open, Team Chubasco (Tim Dunton, Guy Lindsey, and your scribe as guest crew) was 2nd, Raymond Mcleery with former S20 sailor Mick Sage crewing were 3rd out of ten Santana 20’s.

This type of commitment and participation makes a class feel alive!  The challenge has been laid down – show your support by traveling to Windy Crest Sailing Club in Tulsa for the 2007 Championships in the third week of June.

Monday, the first day of Championships at Cascade Locks, saw the tent and RV site grow, class measurer John Papadopoulos measuring sails, and teams venturing out on the river to get some much need practice and orientation.

The first thing that strikes you about Cascade Locks is the beauty of the scenery on both sides of the river that divides the states of Washington and Oregon. The other notable items is how the wind builds thru the morning, peaking at 2pm, and then slowly fading after 6pm.

Monday evening folks gathered around different RV’s and tents at the campground and swapped stories of their day on the water.

Tuesday was warm and windy, John Continued measuring sails, Fleet 19 and Fleet 16 registered boats & sold T shirts ( thank you Zoe Gilstrap) and teams made final preparations to their boats. Just after midday Kerry Poe and his race team (ably assisted by Eugene YC’s race officer Rich Arring) ran practice races in 10 to 22 knots. Some teams elected to fly spinnakers while others chose a more conservative route.

Fortunately Ron & Leeanne Fish, the WD Schock dealers from Eugene, Oregon, brought a blank mast extrusion to the regatta. The only question was who would need it the most.

Tim Duntion narrowly escaped needing the mast when after sailing the practice racehe found a crack in his mast just above the spreaders. With great advice from Ron Fish and other class members, he patched up the mast with metal straps and crossed his fingers for racing on Wednesday.

That evening the class enjoyed a cook out under the tent (with class secretary and event co chair Derek Hardy quarterbacking the cooking) and Andrew Kerr ran an interactive & informational seminar focused on heavy air sailing with valuable contributions from class veterans Phillip Infelise, Paul Stephens, Gordon Mattatal, Ron Fish & others. The group enjoyed the time and we all waited with great anticipation the first day of racing.

The first day of racing has been well documented in another report by John Papadopoulos, after two races Four time Champions Team Disaster Area – Chris Winnard, Andrew Kerr & Bill Ramacciotti (Southwestern YC) emerged with the yellow leader Jersey scoring a 3, 1, defending Champions - Team Mini Me – Bruce Golison, Steve Washburn, Stevie Washburn and Anika Olsen (Alamitos Bay YC) were second overall also with 4 points (2, 2) and 3rd was a team who had been on a long sabbatical but to the delight of the fleet had come back – Team Sea Bear – Lance Purdy, ( Folsom lake YC) middleperson Jay Magers (of Eugene YC, Jay won the 1999 Championships sailing with Paul Stephens) and Patricia Purdy on the bow, scored a 1, 5. This team would continue to sail a terrific regatta all week.

The long runs down the river were exciting and teams were challenged to find the right time to jibe – sometimes there was no choice and the jibe had to be executed! Class veterans had to think a long way back to remember the last time they had planed for such prolonged periods of time! A notable performance was by Ron Fish’s team on Giddy Up – sailing with Leeanne Fish, ( Leanne is Fleet 19’s captain), Bill Nichols(the owner of the S20 Puffin in San Diego’s Fleet # 7 and a resident of Salt Lake City, UT) and Brody Knight, they scored a 3rd place in Race #2 and were sailing the shifts very well. 

Unfortunately in race # 2 Team Altitude Sickness – Dan Borrer, (Dan is from the S20 fleet in Tampa, Florida and a former Eastern regional Champion) Phillip Infelise and Nate Campbell lost their mast due to a parted aft lower line - the mast broke in two.  This unfortunately ended there regatta but in a typical show of class Phillip (former S20 class president and co event chair of last year’s successful Championships in Long Beach) stayed the whole week and supported the event as well as providing welcome humor at the Class Association Annual Meeting on the Thursday evening.

Doug Smith and his team of John Ward and Trent Herring sailing on One eyed Jacq suffered a dismasting when their stem head fitting broke. Doug and his team worked hard to get a replacement and to the everyone’s delight they were restepping the mast for the start of racing on Thursday. The same was true of Rick Gilstrap and his team of veteran Ross Cooley and Zoe Gilstrap on Chicken of the Sea. They had an aft lower car blow out but were able to replace it in time for racing.

Great to see was the participation of the young sailors on # 670 @Ease from Eugene YC – Nick Genovese, Brian Genovese & Chris Atkins.  This team completed every race and is improving at every regatta.

That evening the movie Wind was shown to the few sailors who could stay up that long, the rest of us retreated to bed after an exciting day of great sailing on the water.

Class Webmaster John Papadopoulos updated the web site every day with reports and pictures for which the class is very grateful.  John took pictures , measured sails and compiled results – a great job all week by John.

Thursday saw 3 races run in definite jib conditions – 10 to 28 knots with a half to three quarters of a knot of current pushing the fleet over the line. A couple of general recalls ensued and the RC used the I flag (one minute rule) to restore order in the fleet. The wind gradually built and by the end of race # 5 to a healthy 23 knots with one-foot chop.

Team Disaster Area scored a 3, 1, 3. In the first race we flew the Genoa, managing to make it work but it wasn’t as good as the jib for playing the shifts. Team Mini Me scored a 2, 6, 1 for the day. In the second race Stevie Washburn went over the side but gamely clung on to the side of the boat and was hauled back in. Team Sea Bear scored a 1, 3, 2 and assumed the lead (factoring in the throw out after 5 races completed) by winning a tie with Team Mini Me. Team Disaster Area was one point behind.

IV Mc Namara and his team from Tulsa, Oklahoma scored a 2nd place in race # 4 and Gordon Mattatal and his H20 Boa team of Don Southworth and Mike Merrifield and Tim Dunton’s team Chubasco and Britt Williams team Fayest all sailed a solid day and series.

Thursday evening saw the Annual Meeting led by outgoing Class President Mark Forrest. The outgoing Governing Board was thanked for their hard work this past year and a new slate of board members were elected.

Afterward the fleet enjoyed a catered banquet dinner and the socializing continued. The unique experience of the Championships is to get to meet in person the people who otherwise are names in the yearbook or on the web site. This meeting of fleets and people is one of the special ingredients of the Championships experience. This is not to be missed!

Friday’s racing concluded with two races in Genoa weather.  Mini Me scored a 4, 1, Disaster Area a 2, 2, and Sea Bear a 1, 5. There was great racing through out the fleet as teams battled for overall positioning in the regatta.

In the end the championship was settled on the final beat of the final race: Mini Me tied with Disaster Area with 12 points and won the tiebreaker (one more 2nd place) while Sea Bear placed 3rd overall only one point back.

All 3 teams sailed a great series – congratulations to Bruce and his team on Mini Me on defending their Championship, Team Disaster Area posted there 5th 2nd place in the Championships, and Lance and his team on Sea Bear sailed the regatta of their life.

Event judge and Eastern Regional Director Edith Collins (Atlanta S20 fleet) had the pleasure of not having to judge one protest the entire series.

But in the end the real winner was the class – some naysayers said this event would not work and to the absolute contrary it was an outstanding success.

Rick Gilstrap, Derek Hardy, Kerry Poe and the CGRA and all the volunteers from fleet 16 and fleet 19 we tip our hats and say thank you.

Next year the Championships are to be held in Southern California, likely the second week of August, at which class is looking forward to another top class event!

An Interview with Kerry Poe

By Andrew Kerr

Kerry Poe and his wife Amy run the North sails loft in Portland, Oregon. When they are not making sails, they are sailing in a wide variety of one design classes ranging from Cal 20’s, 505’s, Thistles, Lasers, J24’s to name just a few. Kerry sailed in the Santana 20 class for a number of years with Keith Hammer and Kent Sisk and his boat, currently under new ownership, is part of Eugene’s fleet 19.

Kerry is a multiple champion in a wide variety of classes; he was 3rd in the Olympic trials in the 470 after a very successful campaign in that tough class. When you watch him sail, the first thought that comes to mind is what a total natural sailor he is - comfortable in any boat he sails on. Just give him the tiller extension and the mainsheet and the rest all falls in to place. He can make any boat go fast from the get go.

Any person who has met Kerry will tell you how approachable and helpful he is to anyone who has a question about their sailing. He is an enormous resource of information on everything from tuning, to sail shape and design and all aspects in between. In addition to sail making and servicing customers sails needs, Kerry also helps run the events of the Columbia Gorge Racing Association. The Santana 20 class association is very pleased to have him as our principal race officer for the National Championships – to be held at Cascade Locks August 8th to the 12th.

Andrew Kerr sat down with Kerry to find out more about his sailing, plans for the future and the Cascade Locks venue.

AK: How long have you been sailing and what got you started?

KP: I have been sailing for over 25 years. When I was a kid, I had a paper route and there was a picture of a sailboat in the paper. I clipped the picture out and tacked it to my peg board and decided I wanted to buy a sailboat. I went to the Portland Boat Show with my parents and looked at all kinds of crazy sailboats. I decided I wanted the plastic catamaran with colored sails that you could motor or row. It was the all in one boat that I thought was perfect for a boy of 13 years of age looking for a cool ride to get the chicks out on. Fortunately, one of my mother’s co-workers steered me down the right path and I purchased a Sunfish and started racing at Willamette Sailing Club. The first time I set foot on a sailboat was on my own Sunfish. Good thing I liked it!

AK: What was it like sailing in the 470 and campaigning to go to the Olympics?

KP: A great life experience. I think I can honestly say I got more out of campaigning for the Olympics than I did from college. When I was growing up in Portland we did not have a very good junior program or coaching available. I learned how to be very disciplined in coaching myself and then eventually working with US Sailing Team coaches. I learned how to organize a campaign and fundraise. We were the first US boat to display corporate sponsorship, thanks to Full Sail Ales. I also had the opportunity to travel to many different parts of the World and meet people from many different countries.

AK: You sail in a multitude of one design classes, do you have a favorite class or is each one a different challenge?

KP: I actually enjoy sailing in all different kinds of boats. I think that the diversity of boats is what makes sailing so interesting. The Lido 14 is not a very exciting boat, but when everybody is going around the course slow together in a tight group it makes for some great tactical racing. On the other end of the boating spectrum is the 505. With its carbon hulls, high aspect foils and strings to adjust everything from the mast bend to the trapeze twings (to keep the mast up when going downwind), the 505 is a tweaker’s dream boat. Santana 20s pretty much go the same speed around the course so the racing is tight; however you have to depend on crew work more with a crew of three and you have to make sure you keep your foredeck crew on the boat.

AK: Tell us about the Columbia Gorge Racing Association and your involvement with it. I know you have long been a proponent of sailing on the Columbia River and in the Portland area - how are sailing progressing in this area and how do you see the future of sailing in the area shaping up?

KP: In the 80’s I use to practice at Hood River with my friends. We would take turns trashing each other’s boats in the big breeze of Hood River. We had a great time and greatly improved our breeze sailing, but Hood River has some pretty extreme breeze and you have to dodge a lot of sailboards. When I won the 470 Pacific Coast Championships in 1996, I also won the opportunity to host the next year’s PCC’s. I knew I wanted to have the regatta in the Gorge, and eventually settled on Cascade Locks. The great breeze, the sailboat accessibility and the width of the river there made for a great regatta and a great sailing venue. As the word got out, more fleets kept calling to have me run races for them so I founded the Columbia Gorge Racing Association as a non-profit organization to help organize regattas and clinics. CGRA has been working with the Port of Cascade Locks and the community to hopefully, one day, build a world-class sailing facility in Cascade Locks. We currently run our events off of a beach, some docks and a parking lot. The marine park we operate out of is beautiful, but we do not have room to expand and keep up with the increasing demand.

AK: How about the Cascade Locks venue- what can a team expect conditions wise do you think?

KP: The average wind speed is 17 knots. It is rare to get above 25. I would expect most of the racing to be between 12-20 knots. The water will be warm so you may find yourself sailing in shorts and a spray top. Depending on where we put the course you will find fairly flat water to short waves. Of course you will be sailing in freshwater with maybe a ½ to 1 knot of current. The wind conditions are such that there is not one side of the course that is always favored, so it keeps the racing interesting. The breeze usually starts light in the morning and builds until 2:00 PM when it reaches its peak velocity. After about 4:00 PM the wind velocity begins to subside. Depending on how the fleet is handling the breeze and how strong the wind is building, we may go out for one race in the lighter breeze and take a long lunch break and go back out for a later race when the wind dies down again.

AK: Any advice to a team that is sailing at Cascade Locks for the first time?

KP: Come early and practice in the breeze. I had a San Diego Melges 24 sailor come early to a regatta and he said it was the best thing they could have done, since they spent the first day just ogling over the scenery. Once they got that out of the way they could actually concentrate on the sailing. I would check your rigging. Make sure your tiller does not have dry rot and every thing on the boat works well.

AK: How does your summer schedule look? I am guessing it’s booked! Tell us about the highlights on the calendar for you.

KP: Yes, this is a busy summer for the CGRA. Besides the S-20 Nationals, we also had some college regattas, the Laser and Laser Radial PCC’s, International 14 North Americans, 49er and 29er North Americans, A-Class US Nationals, Santa Cruz 27 Nationals and Wind Youth Clinic.

AK: Thank you Kerry.

Pre Race Preparation

By Andrew Kerr May 2005

It’s important for a team to develop a routine before each race to develop consistency and be prepared.

Each team’s routine is different but the major point is that one is needed – here is a suggested one that can help, whether it is a Wednesday night race or a championship, the development of a good repertoire will help the team with consistency in a series of races.

Much of this is the essential basics, but these mistakenly very often get left out of the equation in favor of more sophisticated elements. Let’s have a look at a sample of the preparation that goes into the time before the race starts.

1) Rig the boat as a team, put the main on last to keep the cockpit clear and put the little jib on the bunk until everyone is out of the cabin and when they are finally done store it – flaked, with an extra set of jib sheets reeved on it and the tack facing forward.

2) Practice setting the pole a few times to get warmed up. If you have a new team member this is a great chance to give them a boat orientation and to go over their body placement and responsibilities as well as answer any questions.

3) Make sure all the weight is out of the ends of the boat – clear shelves out and keep taking things off the boat every week that are not necessary or are not required for class rules or required boat weight – keep the boat on an on going diet. Also, have the shrouds at base setting with the tuning guide accessible.

4) Get out to the start line before all of the other teams – this is a victory in itself – you need at least an hour of prep time before the gun. Use every minute of this time.

5) If it is a long sail out to the start line then that can be a good opportunity to talk about the day and also to review the sailing instructions and agree on them as a team.

6) When out to the starting area – immediately go upwind on starboard tack and get dialed in with speed and the compass. Take an opportunity to tune upwind with another team. Split tacks with them for 3 to 5 minutes and see which side is favored when you converge. If they are faster - why? Is it set up? This is also a great time to start the communication going – speed and height – whether it is a net gain or loss versus the other boat your are sailing against and to start talking about the breeze – particularly calling the lulls as well as the puffs.

7) Pay particular attention to: genoa halyard tension- is the draft in the right place? Note the halyard setting, backstay tension – if puffy – play the backstay for max power, critique your mainsail leech tension – the top baton telltale flying 60% and stalling 40 percent. If the water is flat and the boat is going well we will go the opposite – 40% flying and 60% stalling – how the boat feels and the water state (flat v rough) will help with this.

8) Really focus on straight-line speed and consistent minimum heel angle, check out the current and monitor and the compass headings and write them down.

9) Is the rig tension right? Send someone up to look at the forestay sag and the side sag of the mast. Is the breeze going to build or fade? If the rig is too loose the main will flog and the forestay will sag a lot to leeward causing the mainsail to backwind. You will also notice the leeward shrouds dangling a lot as well.

10) If the rig is too tight the boat will feel dead, the main and genoa will look very flat and the forestay will look very rigid despite no backstay, the leeward shrouds will look tight too. Jump on this and ease the rig – set the boat up for the lulls – not the puffs.

11) Practice tacking – being smooth – easing the boat into the tack and dropping the genoa inside the lifelines. You can never get too good at this.

12) If the boat is struggling out of the tack keep the genoa eased 6 inches (or more) and ease the mainsheet to open the leech of the sails and to help speed build – the lighter and choppier it is the more important it is. If it is windier then pick flatter water to tack in and have the crew come off the rail when the boat flattens it going in to the wind. Ease the mainsheet slightly out of the tack to help keep the boat upright. You can critique your tack by the amount of heel angle out of the tack and the time the cockpit crew is having. If you are coming out of the tack with a lot of heel and the genoa is hard to sheet in then the boat has been over steered. Watch the genoa very carefully – your goal is to have the sail flow across the boot smoothly to minimize grinding and skirting. Typically this means less helm. The better teams tack better – on a consistent basis.

13) Sail to the other side of the course and check current and watch the compass for shifts/ tendencies- write the #‘s down in an accessible place for the tactician. What’s going on here, what part is geography playing, any thoughts on cloud formations?

14) If possible – round a windward mark and practice a spinnaker set. Make sure no one is allowed on the cabin top and the weight is distributed low and to the sides to dampen rolling & pitching. The bow person is looking back for wind.

15) Critique the vang tension – is the top baton parallel to the boom? Adjust it and be conscious of it in velocity changes. The mast person typically does this.

16) How is pole height – keep the center seam vertical and the sail breaking in the middle of the luff. Mark the topping lift when you find generally good settings.

17) Practice jibing – min. helm, if its light air move your weight to windward (opposite the mainsail) to help roll the boat. Jibe the mainsail and spin pole simultaneously so they are both flying. Make sure to keep the spinnaker perpendicular to the wind – rotating the spinnaker on the jibe – guy back, ease sheet to keep the spinnaker flying. The skipper should use min. helm and keep the bow of the boat under the center seam of the spinnaker if it is windy. If it light it is critical that the trimmer is talking pressure on the spinnaker sheet all the time – particularly out of jibes so that the team can discover the correct angle to sail as soon as is possible. Practice these jibes as much as possible within the time frame that you have.

18) Practice a takedown and leeward rounding if possible. Pre-set mainsail controls (backstay, cunningham if necessary), genoa up – set halyard tension and set the sheet up on the correct winch, pole down, free fly the spinnaker, spinnaker down – overhaul the guy if it is a leeward takedown, overhaul the sheet if it is a windward takedown.

19) Critique the rounding – did we go wide enough to come out tight to the mark, close hauled and with speed? The genoa trimmer must trim the genoa perfectly to every point of sail for max speed and the skipper can do a “check luff” – pinch up 5 degrees to get the inside telltale to dance on the genoa to make sure we are right on the wind.

20) Go straight to the start line- check in with the race committee; check the course, flags, etc.

21) Run the line on starboard tack with the genoa down and note the compass heading – add 90 degrees and write this # down.

22) Go Head to wind – get the boat stopped and in clear air – note the heading. If the heading is less the pin end is favored – if the heading is more than then the RC is favored.

23) Stay near the line – tack if possible and do head to wind readings in clear air. If in a current pushing you over the line – jibe to stay away from it. Don’t forget to back down and clear the rudder and keel.

24) Watch prior starts (if there are any) like a hawk from the pin end of the line – if they are bow down on starboard tack the pin end is fav. If they are bow up or bow even then the RC is favored or the line is fairly square. Watch there lay lines to the start – who is barging – where is the barging lay line and what is a safe lay line, check out the pin end lay line and watch to see if they struggle to make that end.

25) At approx. 20 minutes to go Is the rig tension right – final decision? You have till the 4 min flag (prep) but decide no later than now! If the RC is heavily favored – it’s very easy to be early to the line, if the pin end is favored it is very easy to be late. It can be good to verbalize this.

26) At 7 to 8 mins to go – genoa up and set the halyard tension. Verbalize your strategy – “third of the way from the RC” or “toward the pin and go to the left side of the course” etc. This gets the team on the same page about what we are trying to accomplish.

27) Watch the fleet very carefully – where are they setting up? Go for a low density area start – clear air a big gap to leeward – this is supremely important so you can go fast and not get pinched off by a leeward boat, try to avoid log jams and tight spaces.

28) Really work on carving a big gap to leeward (luffing up with the mainsail in and the genoa out) – you can then use some of this gap to close reach a little with so that when you head to close hauled you have max speed. If it is windy – consider easing the vang to help slowly down and hold position while creating a hole to leeward.

29) At the start – be smooth – middle monitor the speed and height of the competition, bow call puffs and waves – “big puff – 3, 2, 1, now!” Also call lulls and flatter water – in the flatter water you can point more.

30) Focus on speed and getting away from the fleet.

31) We are off – let’s keep the boat going fast and win our area of the course.

32) At the end of the race- stay near the line, rehoist the mainsail halyard which has slipped and do your line R&D as soon as you can after a break and get the genoa up early so as not to be caught unprepared. How is the rig tension?

33) At the end of the day – shrouds back to the base setting, bail out the boat and have a debrief on the boat or at the yacht club and make notes on the course and performance and enter them into a waterproof wet notes book – it makes a great reference tool over the course of time.

All roads lead to Cascade Locks!

By Andrew Kerr

With these years Nationals being held at Cascade Locks on the Gorge in Oregon, August 8th to the 12thth - the class is looking forward to a top class Championships both on and off the water.

Ideally your team is sailing its best by the time the Nationals start – here are some ideas that can help your team accomplish its goals at the biggest event on the class regatta schedule.

Race as much as you can!

This sounds obvious but for many fleets the season is relatively short and so there is little time to waste! Whether it is a weekend regatta or a mid week beer can series, the more you get out on the water the better. The old saying that there is no substitute for time on the water could not be more applicable.

Target key events - hitch up the trailer and go!!

Each fleet has a good schedule to choose from - regional championships are excellent venues to get in the “Championship mode”. They offer an opportunity to scrimmage against a bigger S20 fleet very often at an unfamiliar location – this might be at the SW regional Championships which is being held at the Lighthouse charity regatta on Lake Hefner in Oklahoma – June 25/ 26th or the District 2 Championships at the Camellia Cup regatta on Folsom Lake – April 2nd & 3rd , the Loyalty day’s regatta in Newport , Oregon - April 23rd & 24th or the SOCKS regatta which is also the venue for the Western regional Championships – May 14th & 15th.

The Gorge Racing Association is running a one design regatta at Cascade Locks on August 6th & 7th and the class is hoping to have a fleet at this event which will provide a perfect tune up at the Nationals venue.

There are many other great events that will attract good S20 racing – the High Sierra Regatta (July 15th/ 16th) and Cal Race Week (June 4th & 5th) are good examples.

Road warriors like Fleet 28’s fleet Captain Tim Dunton are racing in the Dillon Open in Colorado (August 6th & 7th) and then hitching up and heading to Cascade Locks. Tim is encouraging the Colorado fleet to travel and we are looking forward to seeing a number of teams from the Rocky Mountains.

Events like the ones we have mentioned (and there are many others in different parts of the country) give your team great exposure to bigger fleet S20 sailing and great opportunities to practice and refine your techniques.

The class prides itself on being completely open and welcoming with information, assistance and answers to questions so don’t hold back if you have any reservations about any aspect of your participation– we want you to participate and get the most out of your sailing experience.

The unique spirit and camaraderie of the class is what keeps most of us coming back for more. This spirit is embodied at the Nationals, which is a great unification of fleets and people from all over the country.

For more information on events and the Nationals please go to the class web site – and click on the 2005 regatta schedule. For the Nationals there is also an event web site – You can also contact Rick Gilstrap (Fleet captain of fleet 19) at or fleet 16 Captain Derek Hardy at for more details on the Nationals.

Keep notes at each event:

Your note book can help log all that you have learnt – wind speed, direction, things to improve on, favored side of the course, Weather trends, things to work on etc. Be sure to keep good notes, the best time to enter your notes into the book is when they are fresh in your mind – either after the day’s sailing or on the drive home.

Set up a practice schedule and remember the performance pyramid!

This can come in many forms depending on your teams schedule and availability - you may for example use your weekly beer can race to try out a particular maneuver or new technique – be it with a starting repertoire, sail trim or boat handling.

The thing to remember is that your boat handling is at the base of your performance pyramid – and with out it your boat speed and tactics will not work. Tack and jibe and round marks as much as you can. Set buoys and round them, do as many practice starts as you can – all the best tactics in the world will be for naught if your team for instance cannot tack well and with confidence.

Be wary of practicing things you are good at – it’s easily done! Key in on things that are weaker elements – be they jibe sets, starts, light air sailing – what ever you identify - each team’s are different and unique.

The Unique experience of the Nationals:

Whether you are a first time Nationals participant, or a veteran of 25 of them, don’t miss the unique opportunity to sail in this years championships at Cascade Locks – the top sailing, the friendships made and renewed, and the great camaraderie of the S20 class will make it an experience that is not to be missed. All roads will indeed lead us to Cascade Locks in the beautiful state of Oregon – see you there!

Spinnaker Pole Height For Good Downwind Speed

By Andrew Kerr


The spinnaker on the left has the pole a little too low - notice how the curl on the luff of the sail is a little high

The spinnaker on the left has the pole a little too low - notice how the curl on the luff of the sail is a little high

One of the many aspects of good downwind speed is attaining the correct height for the spinnaker pole in the wide variety of wind and sea conditions that your team can encounter over the course of a race or series.

In my role as a coach I spend quite a lot of time watching teams sail from out side of the boat; Very often I am video taping them or taking pictures for later review and critique. This perspective is a unique one and has helped with a lot of the sail shape visualizations that are more difficult to see when actually on board.

Every photograph of a boat with a spinnaker up reveals something about pole height and the shape of the sail. A casual flip through a sailing magazine can illustrate all the differences and pluses and minuses of spinnaker shapes.

Let’s look at the different conditions that your team will encounter and what to look for with pole height and the overall spinnaker shape that it creates.

General shape- what to look for.

The old maxim “get the clews even” is not very effective as spinnakers are designed differently and if one was to abide by this the spinnaker clews would be raised far too high as the breeze increases causing the head of the spinnaker to blow out flat and for the sail to lose a lot of directional power as well as it’s stability.

Instead what you are looking for is the sail to be breaking or curling on the luff around the center panel area on the luff, the sail to have a vertical profile and for the center seam of the spinnaker to be vertical. There are exceptions to this which we note later in this article.

Adjusting pole height can be compared somewhat to adjusting the Cunningham on the mainsail – as it helps controls the position of the draft of the sail as well as luff tension and how open or closed the leech is. If the pole is too low the luff will be too tight and the draft too far forward on the sail (like having the Cunningham too tight,) if the pole is too high the luff is too loose, & the draft too far back that is akin to having insufficient Cunningham – sometimes the case when there is a lot of backstay on.

In picture # 1 we can see the vertical profile of the sail, the center seam vertical and the luff breaking evenly in the middle panel on the luff of the sail.

If the pole is too high you will notice the sail will curl on the lower portion of the luff and the center seam will not be vertical, this is because the tack of the sail is too high forcing the luff of the sail to be too loose which in turn makes the luff collapse down low as the clew of the sail is lower and the draft is too far aft in the sail. If the pole is too high the sail will tend to be very unstable and the top of the sail will be blown out flat.

If the pole is too low you will notice the upper part of the sail on the luff will curl this is because the tack of the sail is being forced too low and the clew is riding too high causing the sail to luff up high. The advice is to adjust the pole height until the curl is in the middle part of the luff and be ready to adjust it in any subsequent lull or puff.

When proper pole height is accomplished for sailing low angles the sail will have a vertical profile as in picture # 2.

On Disaster Area all 3 of us are conscious of correct pole height, either Bill or I will adjust the topping lift or out board end if necc. Depending on who has a free hand. The topping lift on our boat is located on the starboard side of the mast on a swivel cleat and is accessible from most angles.

To keep your team on the same page and communicating – try asking “what do you think of pole height?” once in a while (or vang tension or mast rake etc.). This helps keep the productive boat speed communication open and ongoing.

Keep an open mind at all times – it’s easy to fall in to the trap of “this is how we do it”; Typically you find you don’t get any faster that way and very often a team get’s slower.

When running try to keep the inboard and out board end even

On some types of boats this does not apply – some classes, (like one design 35’s for instance) like the outboard end of the pole higher than the inboard end as it accomplishes a faster shape.

On the Santana 20 and boats similar too it we try to keep the inboard and outboard ends fairly even for max projection of the pole length. Some S20’s have an adjustable track on the inboard end of the pole (Altitude sickness, DA, Head First and others) which can be commensurately adjusted as the outboard end is adjusted; most boats (Cal trans, Mini Me to name a few) have two spinnaker pole bale rings at different height’s for the pole on the mast to accomplish the same thing – both systems are very effective so no radical changes are needed!

Let’s look at pole height in a variety of conditions:

Pole height in Light air:

Typically the advice is to lower the out board end of the pole ( and the inboard end) to pull the daft forward in the sail and create more stability in the luff of the sail as well as open the leech of the sail – by virtue of raising the clew of the sail. We are essentially changing the shape from a symmetric one to an asymmetric one.

This helps widen the slot between the mainsail and spinnaker and also accommodates the higher angle you are sailing in order to maintain pressure on the spinnaker sheet and the apparent wind across the sails. In very light air (and particularly if there is chop) it will be beneficial to have the sail curl higher on the shoulder of the sail (above the mid panel in the upper area of the luff)

As the breeze increases the pole can be raised for more projection - but keep an eye on the shoulder of the sail and where it is curling so as to not over do it.

If it is puff/ lull, then puff/ lull make sure the sail has loaded up sufficiently before raising the pole so as not too disrupt air flow, as the wind fades, lower it as you sail a higher angle to maintain speed.

In these conditions it is super important for the trimmer to be feeling the pressure on the spinnaker sheet and critiquing the position of the curl on the luff of the sail as small adjustments can bring large performance gains over teams who are not conscious of these necc. Adjustments.

Running – medium air – flat water:

This is when you are looking for the classic shape – center seam vertical – a vertical profile on the luff of the sail (best visualized by watching boats sail from outside the boat and looking at pictures) and the sail curling in the middle panel of the luff of the sail. Try to have the inboard and out board ends of the pole even as well for max projection.

It is really good to have the bow person calling out the puffs and lulls so that you can anticipate pole height adjustments – slightly lowering the pole in lulls and raising it slightly for more projection in the puffs.

Picture # 3 is an example of excellent spinnaker shape in these conditions.

Running – medium air with Chop or in swells:

These are difficult conditions! What can help here is to lower the pole a little to pull the draft forward and create a slightly more stable and forgiving shape. In this instance you will go for a slightly higher curl on the luff of the sail than in flat water.

Having the pole a little further forward also helps maintain air flow attachment to the sail and helps accommodate the widely changing apparent wind speeds and angles – a whole other article unto itself!

Running – very heavy air:

We can use the Cunningham analogy here – lower the pole a foot or so from the norm (with the curl on the luff above the mid panel toward the upper area) this will depower the sail by virtue of tightening the luff, pulling the draft forward and opening and splilling the leech by virtue of raising the clew of the sail. This will give the sail more stability and the helm a lot more control and a wider steering groove.

This was perfectly illustrated by team Alinghi in the America’s cup final, when Team New Zealand suffered breakdowns in the windier races – Alinghi set the spinnaker with the outboard end of the pole lowered for better stability and sailed conservative sensible downwind legs under perfect control.


One can also make good pole height analogies with the mainsail Cunningham adjustment – typically one will lower the outboard end (and inboard end if possible) of the pole (sail breaking high on the mid panel toward the upper area of the sail) to tighten the luff of the sail, pull the draft forward for a larger steering groove & open the leech and create more of an asymmetric reaching oriented sail. The more open leech and wider slot enables the mainsail to be eased more (without luffing) for more forward power. The lowered outboard end applies for reaching in light air, medium air with chop and heavy air (for depowering).

A case can be made for raising the pole from the very lowest mode on the setting to help increase pointing ability in medium air and flat water (by virtue of moving the draft aft and closing the leech on the sail) – this does however depend on the cut of the spinnaker and doesn’t work on running (broad shouldered) sails but can work on flatter cut shapes with narrower shoulders in flat water.

Make sure your leeward twing is long enough to allow the spin sheet to go all the way outboard so the slot is as open as possible. If the twing is too short the spinnaker will sheet will close off the slot and drag the boat side ways and you will be forced to over trim the back winded mainsail.

The Twings:

On the S20 most teams do not use a downhaul (or foreguy as it is sometimes referred too) as the twings are positioned well forward to effectively be a downhaul, because of this we tend to always have the windward spinnaker twing pulled down all the way in all conditions to keep the spinnaker guy and pole as stable as possible. This does make the guy adjustment & topping lift adjustment a little harder but it really is worth it. Some teams run the windward twing 6 inches or so of the deck which makes adjusting the guy easier and is perfectly acceptable in very flat water and medium air.

In heavy air - running downwind we pull the leeward twing all the way down to choke the spinnaker down and reduce its oscillating tendency. In lulls we are quick to ease it all the way off to power the sail up.


Spinnaker pole height adjustment is another dynamic speed control that is worth reviewing as a team both on the land (looking at photographs and videotape) and through constant observation on the water, making the correct adjustment will help your team makes gains in the variety of conditions that you encounter when sailing downwind.


Here we can see the center seam is verticle as a result of correct pole height.

Here we can see the center seam is verticle as a result of correct pole height.

The pole height shown here is giving the spinnaker maximum forward power and projection

The pole height shown here is giving the spinnaker maximum forward power and projection

This picture shows a good uniform luff shape & a vertical profile

This picture shows a good uniform luff shape & a vertical profile



Changing Headsails

By Andrew Kerr

The call of “change the headsail “has resonated with teams since the inception of competitive sailing. It is one of the ultimate calls to action for a team as the crew hurriedly goes about their tasks, very often under the pressure of time, tactical needs and weather concerns.

I recently had the pleasure of sailing with S20 veterans Tim Dunton and Guy Lindsey at Dillon YC’s excellent Dillon Open regatta in Colorado on Tim’s S20 “Chubasco”.

It was another normal pre start of a race – the routine lay line checks to the starting line, head to wind readings and pre start maneuvering. We were the first class to start.

At about roughly 4 minutes and 30 seconds to go – Tim eyed a wall of new wind approaching from the top of the lake and made the decision of the day, of the regatta – change to the Jib! This proved to be a race and regatta winning decision.

Guy and I looked at each other for a second and as he was scrambling forward to lower the Genoa I started to pull the jib out from down below. As I brought the jib on deck it started to blow 25 to 30 knots and the lake was white capping all around us.

As Guy changed the Genoa he reminded me of our own Bow person on “Disaster Area” – Bill Ramacciotti - confident, quick and getting the job done – plain & simple.

As jib sheets were reeved, jib blocks put in place and the new headsail hanked on as fast as we could, Tim kept maneuvering us at speed and was ever conscious of the “safe” (non barging) starboard tack approach to the favored race committee boat end .

With about 20 seconds to go we were attaching the Jib Halyard , just before the the gun was fired we raised the Jib, Cranked on the halyard, sheeted it in and took off with a good start at the race committee end while the majority of the fleet ( Ensign’s & S20’s) had been held up in the barging position by our team with a mainsail only or were grossly overpowered with the Genoa up.

This experience high lighted many facets of the effective headsail change – let’s look at the successful elements behind this dynamic challenge to a team. A lot of these ideas have been race savers particularly in areas like San Francisco, lots of lake areas and other areas where there is a good chance of the need to change – sometimes several times during the day.

On the S20 we have typically changed either prior to the start or on the downwind leg in conditions when the wind was fading and we were changing to the Genoa from the Jib.

I can only recall a few times when we have changed downwind in a building breeze with the spinnaker up – this is the hardest time of all and very challenging on the S20. The bow has to choose their times to go forward without submarining! Sometimes the conditions downwind are just too much and the team has to reconcile itself to sailing with the wrong headsail on the next upwind leg.

Let’s tale a look at a suggested check list for a quick change.

Preparation Checklist for a fast change:

- Mark the jib tracks so that you know where the Jib fairlead block has to go.

- Mark the Halyard on the Jib so you have a basic idea where the halyard tension will go to.

- Make sure the hanks on the halyards run smoothly and are not frozen or difficult to open.

- Make sure the Jib Blocks are readily available and stored in a commonly known place which is easily accessible.

- Have both the middle & Bow crew have a roll of white tape accessible – for taping the snap shackle on the Jib halyard.

- Flake the headsail(s) you are not using, fold it in to thirds and place a loose sail tie around it. This will be much faster than having to unroll the sail under the pressure of limited time. We tend to do this mainly on bigger boats unless the need for a change is typically predictable based on the typical conditions – i.e. – San Francisco bay in the summer time.

- Reeve an extra set of Jib sheets on to the headsail you are not using – saves time.

- Store the flaked (or rolled) headsail with the tack facing forward – this will enable you to place it on deck facing the right way to be hanked on.

Team Roles (3 person team):


If before the start – keep the boat moving well and close to the line. Avoid getting stuck in irons with the main only! If possible steer to keep the boat level and the crew as dry as is practically possible. This is not always possible but something to strive for!

Monitor time and RC signal flags and be conscious of the the approach to the line. Business as usual – starting as well as the team can.

If there is time and there are fleets starting ahead of you – be the eyes of the boat to observe how the starts are going and to observe wind shifts & velocity up the course.

If sailing downwind under spinnaker – move weight aft a little and steer to compensate for the bow being down by the forward weight of the bow crew changing the headsail.


- Bring the new headsail up on deck, locate & put jib blocks on, take the old jib sheets out of the ratchet blocks (and take them off the clew of the sail if you don’t have another set of Jib sheets), reeve new jib sheets through the blocks and tie stopper knots in the ends. If necc. Take the jib halyard from the bow person and attach it to the bale on the mast.

- Keep monitoring time and stay aware of distance to the starting line.

- If time is incredibly limited and you are on your final approach to either the start or screaming in to the leeward mark under spinnaker – then just reeve the expected loaded ( needed)jib sheet and reeve the other one later when there is an opportunity.

- If there is time – help the bow flake the old headsail and store it. If not enough time – gently store the old headsail. If there is a lot of time and it is a permanent change then you may consider rolling the sail.

Generally you won’t have enough hands to flake the sail when going downwind with the spinnaker up as the middle will be trimming the spinnaker - so that will require a gentle store of the headsail down below as well. .

- If you are changing downwind with the spinnaker up (from Jib to Genoa in a fading breeze most of the time in the S20, very rarely the other way) then be prepared to jibe the spinnaker pole while the bow crew is pre occupied.

- Raise the headsail & set the halyard tension to the pre marked setting.


Make sure you stay on the boat! Keep low and move deliberately. ! One hand for your self and one for the boat!!

- Take the halyard off and either put it back on the bail on the mast or pass it back to the middle to attach on to the bail.

- Un hank the sail with sail between your knees so it can’t fall over the side.

- In rough / wavy conditions – keep the clew and leech of the Genoa bungeed down to stop it falling over the side.

- Hank on the new headsail and reattach the halyard – if you use a snap shackle be sure to tape the shackle closed.


Note: Do you notice that during the fall and spring that this is the time that the tips of your fingers feel particularly frozen! !!


Practice changing from jib Genoa and back with your older sails. Do it both downwind with the spinnaker up and also reaching around as if you were in the pre start area. When coaching teams in practice sessions I have timed them in both scenarios and we have strived to reduce the time after each practice change.


Changing headsails quickly and efficiently is another dynamic team skill that can help your team win races.

Take the time to practice it early in the season with your older sails and as a team take some time to talk about each team member’s role.

Best of luck and have fun in your next S20 regatta !

Heavy Air Downwind Sailing

by Andrew Kerr February 2004

What is heavy air?

For each team this can vary depending on the experience level aboard – but for most teams it is about 20 knots of wind and above – especially in open unprotected water when the seas have a chance to build and are influenced by the current.

Be prepared - get psyched!!

If you don’t like like light air – practice in it as much as you can – the same can be said of heavy air – particularly downwind – go out with your lifejackets on, the rig tightened to the max setting required by the tuning guide and your old sails and go sail in it!

In Lance Purdy’s excellent article on heavy air sailing in the S20 technicalities book – this is exactly what his team did on Sea Bear on a windy day on Fernridge reservoir.

It’s important to change your mind set to a positive one for the given conditions, try and avoid talking yourself out of doing well just because the wind isn’t ideal for you.

In the S20 you want to go over every piece of rigging on the boat – every pin and ring ding- if a halyard or sheet is worn – don’t risk it – replace it. Talk with your team also on the risk management involved with deciding to set the spinnaker or not - there may be a strong case not too, more on that later.

What we have seen on our boat time and time again is the importance off getting around the course clean and in one peace – generally if you can do this with no broaches, gear failure or other incidents you can finish in the top half of the fleet just based on those things. It can be a classic war of attrition out there!

Lets look at sailing dead downwind, ( or as low as possible on a windward/ leeward course) in this article and we will look at heavy air reaching in future articles.

Rounding the weather mark:

When rounding the weather mark keep everyone on the rail to keep the boat flat and be sure to ease the jib out a lot in tandem with the mainsail to keep the boat level. If you don’t the mainsail will flog and the boat will be driven straight sideways by the over trimmed jib!

If it is very windy then a good idea is to ease the vang an inch or two as you approach the weather mark – this twists off the leech of the mainsail and helps the boat bear away. If you don’t do this on some boats the boat will simply not bear away even though the Mainsail is completely eased out!

If you are sailing to an offset mark like we have typically been doing at the Nationals then don’t bother setting the pole until you have rounded the offset mark – keep everyone on the rail as you are likely very overpowered and concentrate on trimming the sails well for max speed and control.

Shall we set and when?

This is the big question!! If you are leading the fleet then what we have done in the past is make sure we are on the correct closest jibe to the mark, made sure the boat is flat and perfectly under control, set the pole and then watched our competition carefully to see how they are doing. Can they hold the sail up effectively or are they having difficulties?

If they are doing fine then we set, if they don’t set then we don’t either as there is no need to risk anything.

At one Nationals we watched two boats set behind us and just as we were thinking of matching them they both death rolled – one capsized, (they came up fairly quickly) and the other rounded up hard head to wind with the chute flogging wildly - seeing this we didn’t set and pulled away with our jib wing and wing on the closest jibe to the mark.

If your team is practiced and the gains seem like they are there to be made then go for it, but here a checklist to make sure it works out as well as can be expected:

Make sure the boat is perfectly level and under control.

Don’t ease off the mainsail controls or the backstay or aft lowers - leave everything on as if you were going upwind – easing them is not going to help performance much and you will not have time to put them back on as the leeward mark will come right at you!!

Make sure you are on the correct headed jibe to the mark – a lot of team set, get on a plane, lose track of the mark and sail lots of extra distance, they can actually be beaten quite easily by teams that sail on the correct jibe with no spinnaker in 25 knots of wind.

Set in a lull – not the biggest puff of the day!

Leave the small jib up with the sheet eased out, it’s one less thing to worry about and it helps stop the chute from hour glassing around the forestay. If you have the Genoa then the advice is to take it down when the boat is under control.

Keep the outboard end of the pole down a few inches from your normal setting – this will tighten the luff of the sail, pull the draft forward and spill the leech – make the analogy of the Cunningham on the mainsail which does a similar thing. In watching the America’s cup final it was interesting to note Alinghi would do this for max control and safety as Team NZ had retired with gear failure and the goal was to get around the course in one peace – that is very true in heavy air S20 fleet sailing as well.

Make sure the windward and leeward twing’s are on tight so that the spinnaker is choked down. Also make sure the guy is around a winch and preferably the sheet as well.

Don’t set until the skipper say’s hoist and make sure everyone is in the correct position.

When the spinnaker fills - over trim the sheet to keep the sail in front of the boat and move the bow and middle crew back to get the bow out of the water and keep the rudder in the water! How far you move aft as a team will be dictated by the size of the waves and the amount the bow is burying. If the bow is aloud to bury in the water the boat will want to round up very quickly and broach.

This is fun – whoops we are starting to roll!!

The fun meter is right up there as your team blasts downwind, with the bow calling the puffs suddenly you hear the call “ here comes a huge blast” and the boat starts to roll hard to windward - what to do? Here’s a checklist:

Skipper – steer the bow directly under the center seam of the spinnaker – if it yaws’s to windward- steered to windward, if it yaws to leeward – steer to leeward. This keeps you right under the sail for max balance.

Middle – over trim the sheet on the spinnaker about a foot and a half to put the sail directly in front of the boat, hike out to leeward a little too if the skipper is sitting on the weather side to keep the boat balanced. Make sure both twings are hammered down to deck level to reduce the oscillating tendency of the sail to a minimum.

Bow – Call the puffs – hike out to leeward a little to counter the weather heel and have a had on the tail end of the vang ready to release it if the boat starts to round up in to the wind. Otherwise make sure the vang is very tight so that the leech of the mainsail has power in it to counteract the power of the spinnaker to help dampen the rolling. A common misconception is to ease the vang downwind to depower the mainsail – this actually increase the rolling and can cause a death roll (Jibe broach to leeward or round up to windward) because there is a large inequity in balance between the mainsail and the overpowering spinnaker.

Pump the mainsail and spinnaker sheet:

As skipper bears away in a puff or the stern lifts on a wave and the bow goes down, ( the apparent wind shifts forward) try pumping the mainsail and spinnaker sheet together – this will accentuate the apparent wind across the sails and promote / prolong a surf or plane. As the bow lifts and/ or the apparent wind shifts aft – ease the sheets back out.

The limitation in the rules on this is you cannot pump more than once per wave or gust and planing or surfing conditions must exist. In the ideal world you would pump the spinnaker guy as well but this can be a little too much physically to do, as the boat is a borderline handful at this point! Pumping the sails when it is windy is a work out but the gains are tangible if it is done properly.

Bad roll to windward – possible Jibe broach:

If the boat rolls really badly to windward then ease the pole forward – this will put the spinnaker behind the mainsail and help you regain composure. We have done this in the big waves off Miami in the SORC, (and other events) many times. The boat is heeling hard to weather and on the verge of jibing and broaching – we ease the pole forward and over trim the sheet to put the spinnaker behind the mainsail, in tandem with the skipper steering under the center seam - it saves the day!

Marginal conditions:

On day’s when the wind is very gusty with lulls followed by big blasts it’s very effective to play the leeward twing and the spinnaker sheet.

projection of the sail, the bow then spots a big gust and the middle pulls the leeward twing line down and over trims the spinnaker sheet to keep the spinnaker and the boat steady and to dampen the rolling – in the subsequent lull the sheet and twing are eased out, the two are essentially a gas pedal.

Boat is rounding up:

If the boats roll to leeward, or a big blast starts to lay the boat over then the action to prevent this starts from the back of the boat:

Skipper pumps the helm to reattach flow on the rudder.

Middle eases spinnaker sheet out.

Bow dumps the vang to depower the mainsail – keep calling the puffs!

Middle dumps the spinnaker sheet completely.

Note: Don’t dump the guy off, as the spinnaker will blow out to leeward and have 5 times the heeling moment in it!


This really is a function of timing and keeping the boat steered under the center seam of the spinnaker.

Good times to jibe include:

In a substantial lull – if available!

On the top of a wave – this enables the boat to be jibed going down the wave with minimum pressure on the sails.

When the boat is planing – this is a great time as there is very little pressure on the sails and the main can be jibed easily.

Key elements include:

The skipper steering the bow under the center seam of the spinnaker and using very little rudder.

The middle keeping the spinnaker chocked down with the sheet and twinged down to reduce oscillation to a minimum.

Every one is ready and on the same page !

Broaches or bad jibes usually occur because of over steering, not being able to jibe the mainsail, jibing in the trough of a wave or with the spinnaker too eased out.

What we have done is jibe the mainsail first and then jibe the spinnaker pole second – similar to the 470 Olympic class techniques.

With the end for end technique which we and a lot of teams use, it is very helpful to be able to lower the inboard end of the pole to gooseneck level and lower the topping lift down as well – this way the bow can end for end the pole from the cockpit very easily and not have to go on the foredeck. Teams who use the trolley system can do this automatically as the pole comes back in to the cockpit.

A technique to practice when it is blowing 20 to 25 is having the bow person help jibe the main across by grabbing the vang, they then jibe the pole across while the skipper keeps the bow of the boat under the center seam of the spinnaker.

The trick is for the skipper not to sail too dead downwind as this can cause a major hourglass in the sail and for the trimmer to keep the spinnaker slightly overtimmed to keep it as steady as possible. Once the bow person has jibed the pole they can jibe the jib across (the leech of the jib has been wandering back and forth across the centerline fairly eased out to enable the pole to be jibed) and cleat the jib sheet on the leeward winch.

If you experience a bad hourglass in the sail because the boat has been held by the lee too much then jibe the mainsail back and the reverse flow off the sail will unwrap the spinnaker – seeing it in practice tends to make believers of that technique !

A very conservative- and very often very effective approach is to take the spinnaker down to windward, jibe the main and jib, reset the pole and if the conditions are right – reset the spinnaker. This can be a great move if it is just too much wind to jibe in or the risk/ reward formula is a poor one for your team. This also works particularly well on short downwind legs.

Alternatives to the spinnaker:

If it is very windy – 25 knots plus – we have found it very effective to wing the jib out and sail as low as we can to the mark. Pumping the mainsail once per wave or puff helps accentuate a surf/ plane.

In one heavy air race the whole fleet was caught out with Genoa’s in 25 to 30 knots and we found it very effective to wing the Genoa out using the spinnaker pole. The boat sailed low and fast to the mark and we got there in great shape.


Get the spinnaker down very early - much earlier than you think! Budget lots of time to store the pole and douse the sail and get cleaned up. Getting around the mark clean with everyone on the rail and ready to go upwind will give tangible gains on teams that don’t.


Like any skill there is no substitute for practice, heavy air is very much a big test of your teams boat handling. Your decisions on how you tackle the heavy air downwind leg will typically be a function of how much experience the team has. Generally conservative tactics with a solid backing in the fundamentals will produce consistency in a series that will help the team realize it’s overall potential in these conditions.

Tactical and Boat Handling Priorities

By Andrew Kerr

One of the many challenges that a team faces is coming up with a game plan or set of priorities for the different conditions that each race or series can present.

Here are some ideas - both general and specific that your team can utilize to help simplify what can be very often difficult and challenging scenarios on the race course.

Let’s look at a fairly wide variety of wind and seas conditions and also factor in the location – be it a lake or the ocean – flat water, choppy or big waves.

For your own team’s location I would suggest you add in your own localized considerations and priorities – be they local knowledge, established weather patterns, geographic and current influences and other tactical influences where applicable. Let’s look at each condition with a check list series of priorities and tactical considerations.

Light air- fairly flat water:

At the start:

Full speed and clear air is the maxim.

Start in an area of the line that gets you to the most velocity.

Stay near the line – don’t wander away. Avoid any sharp turns on the final approach.

Don’t tack within a minute and 30 seconds.

Build speed and trims the sails for every point of sail.

Roll tack and jibe around the line to maintain speed.

The team should be as smooth and deliberate as possible.

The Beats:

Minimal tacks – sail toward velocity and tack in velocity. Ignore minor oscillations to get to more velocity.

Sailing in the velocity is the top priority.

Avoid packs of boats – sail in wide lanes with plenty of space. Don’t lee bow anyone – you will get rolled! If in doubt – duck! When you do tack – roll tack the boat as smoothly as you can. The

Downwind Legs:

Sail in the velocity – what worked upwind? Go to that side downwind. Don’t sail too low in the lulls or too high in the puffs – constantly talk about the pressure on the spinnaker sheet to sail the correct angle. Work to keep your air clear from boats around you.

Jibe to stay in the velocity.

When you jibe try to do it in velocity to minimize the loss and roll jibe the boat smoothly.

On the jibes the goal is to keep the spinnaker filling all the time or as much as is possible in the conditions.

Protect the inside on the approach to the leeward mark.

Medium air:

The Start:

Research the line – how long is it? Which end is favored (farther upwind)? Pick a section of the line that gets you going to the better side of the course.

Where are the safe lay line approaches?

How do the other fleets ahead of us look in there start and race?

Do a minimum of 5 head to wind readings to track the wind.

If the wind is oscillating – consider a mid line start to avoid being damaged by a shift. If the wind is oscillating the option to tack and get in phase with the wind shift is likely the biggest priority.

If the wind is persistently shifting in one direction then pick a section on the line that gets you going that way.

Always remember that the start is a means to an end – where do we want to be 4 minutes after the start?

The Beats:

Work on speed and pointing as hard as you can.

Focus on going faster than the boat to leeward and the boat to windward so you can jump out into a space in the front row with tactical options.

Pay attention to the compass – tack on the shifts and keep your bow pointed toward the weather mark as much as you can. The angles you sail are now becoming high on the priority list. Keep in touch with the bulk of the fleet – don’t go to a corner by yourself.

When you tack – look ahead and make sure you are not tacking away from velocity. Consolidate when you can – tack and cross as many boats in your area as possible to consolidate your gains. Stay between the fleet and the next shift .

Go to a late lay line to make your judgment of when to tack for it better.

If choppy or with bigger waves:

Tack less and when you do tack either tack in flat spot or on the top of the wave if possible.

If you are going to lee bow another boat in chop you need to be able to cross them to be able to make it work otherwise your team gets rolled.

Usually a duck is a safer option !

The Downwind Legs:

Get your self on the closest (headed Jibe). The angles you sail are becoming more and more of a priority.

Keep your air clear.

Monitor the compass – jibe on the lifts and watch the velocity behind you to stay in it. Avoid luffing duels! Negotiate early!

Go to a later/ closer lay line to the leeward mark to avoid misjudging the approach.

Protect the inside on the final third of the leg.

Take the spinnaker down early and capitalize on the errors of other boats.

Heavy Air:

The Start:

Make sure you are perfectly set up for the beat with sufficient rig tension, Backstay & aft lower tension and Jib Halyard tension.

Avoid boats that appear to be out of control.

Pick a section of the line to start on – defend it. Really work on sailing the boat level (Min. heel) to maintain a gap to leeward off the line.

The Beats:

Minimize tacks – particularly if it is choppy. Focus on a constant minimum angle of heel and anticipate the blasts.

Monitor the compass – the angles take precedent over velocity as you have more than enough wind for max performance. The shifts can be subtle (sometimes substantial too) and the compass will help a lot with this.

Avoid an early lay line to the windward mark so you can play the shifts and reduce the tendency to over stand the mark.

Downwind Legs:

Make sure you are on the correct jibe.

Keeping the boat under control is the key element.

Watch behind you very carefully for the gusts and shifts.

If too windy consider another mode of sailing – wing on wing with the jib. Get the spinnaker down early – very early!!

Leeward Gate marks:

At events like the North sails race Week in Long Beach – (the venue for the S20 Western regionals) and the Nationals, (at the same venue) your team will encounter two leeward marks.

Here is a quick checklist to help decide which one to round: Go to the leeward mark which is closer, (further upwind).

Go the mark that takes your team to the favored side of the course.

If in a pack of boats – go to the mark with the least traffic for clear air and freedom.


Each location will have it’s own set of priorities that you will need to add in the various conditions your team sails in – the important aspect though is to try and have a set of consolidated priorities – both boat handling and tactical so that your team can get more of an overall grasp on what to focus on. We have found that particularly as we travel to new locations that this is a never ending process of constant learning, note taking and observations that keep us all coming back for more!

It is very easy (way too easy!) to make the same mistake numerous times – another intriguing aspect of the sport! Best of luck and have fun at your next S20 regatta.