Friday, August 31, 2012

I rode with a pro today

Elise wasn't ready for the Windjammers so I decided that I would do some bike riding instead. Some FB posts from fellow sailors on the course seems to indicate that there was very little wind which makes me feel a whole lot better :) And no wind is a good day for a ride.

Posting this as this is part of my cross-training for sailing, and in particular long distance short-handed racing.

I went out for a ride today up to Skyline and then back around a reservoir. Interesting day.


1st - I am an idiot - my water bottle messed up my rear brake cable and I braked constantly albeit slightly on my way up. I just couldn't believe how hard things felt when the grade wasn't that huge. The bike just didn't seem to go anywhere and it was a ton of effort. I thought that perhaps I was just way too tired from the week or something...I finally stopped to see if something was wrong and sure enough I realized that the brake was is like driving with your hand brake still on.

Very stupid of me. For the first third of my ride, I probably doubled the amount of effort required for the light climb. This was supposed to be a recovery ride. So much for that! I kept shifting back and forth on the saddle to rest my front or back leg muscles from time to time - because they were certainly working hard!

Lesson learned: if something feels wrong and even on flat terrain the light bike just seems to stick to the ground, stop and check your brakes...


2nd - wet is wet. I cycled up in the 'mountains' on King's Mountain - it is more like a hill...but it is low enough to be in a cloud. Even the peninsula was in the fog today - so I basically cycled for two hours in fine drizzle. I was wearing a light breathable sailing jacket which helped a ton and I think that bike shorts kind of absorb the moisture nicely. However, I was also wearing regular light cotton socks and bike shoes - normally when I go sailing and expect to be wet, I wear boots so that water doesn't get to my feet...Well, bike shoes are not waterproof. Both the shoes and the socks got really wet. This made my feet weigh a couple more extra pounds each - it literally felt like I was moving up steel with each pedal stroke. So as soon as I fixed my brake problem, I found another slowing problem. In fairness I was expecting SUN south of San Francisco.

Leson learned: if there is any chance that it will be wet, wear goretex socks or some water protection over your shoes...[[posterous-content:pid___4]]3rd - I rode with a pro. Right after I came down from the hill, I asked a rider who happened to ride by for directions back to my car. Since he was going there, he rode alongside me for maybe 8 miles or so. As we were riding he asks me 'do you race? you sound French, the mecca for cycling' - (I assumed he meant a bike, and not racing in general as I do actually race) - 'oh no, I took up biking about 6 or 7 weeks ago as a cross training tool for sailing' - 'oh, I see'

I wanted to be polite and since he was on a carbon fiber Cervelo bikes with rim as wide as the palm of my hand, I kind of assumed he was a racer so I asked 'what about you?'

'kind of. I am taking this year off to be with my family. I am just back on the bike. I rode in the Tour (meaning De France), I placed in the Nationals championship and I am just back on the bike after my break so that I can start seriously training for the Worlds next year. In a few weeks I will be riding 4 to 6 hours a day 6 days a week and doing recovery rides the rest of the time'

[[posterous-content:pid___3]]He asked me if I saw whales when I go out. Told him the whale story. 

His 'warm up' pace was my top speed...He could speak extremely easily - and me after my 'brake on' climb and trying to keep up with him, I was puffing like crazy between each word.

In any case, I did not slow down...and we rode together. He did set the pace...

Fortunately, he got a flat a couple of miles before my destination so I could slow down.

Total for the day 22 miles. Total so far for the week 75 miles.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Training News

Since I have a goal to do Single-Handed Transpac in 2014, I am starting to prepare for it, some things will take time...I need to do a lot more single-handed racing obviously, as opposed to just sailing/cruising, I need to practice doing this over several days at sea, I need to increase my general level of fitness and ability to recover fast (Endurance sports interwoven with high intensity workout do wonders for that, hence biking with at least once a week a heavy high intensity/low volume workout on hills. Great that SF is so full of them :)) - of course, how to set up the boat, etc.. will also play a role.

I like to not do things in a rush, particularly for a project like this! 

I delivered Elise so Berkeley Yacht Club on Friday night last week on my own. I set the boat up with a headsail since it was clearly going to be a downwind sail. Nice breeze between 15 to 22 knots (which meant about 8 to 15 apparent), gentle swell. I had prepared the spinnaker for a launch from the rail just forward of the companionway which is what I would most often do single-handed as I want to avoid having to go to the foredeck (slow) as often as possible. Clearly, setting up the pole is unavoidable, although it is possible to float the spinnaker of course.

Pole was set up and I hoisted the spinnaker, bringing the main in so the chute wouldn't get stuck between the shroud and the mainsail. No problem there, I squared the pole, trimmed the kite and went off to Berkeley, sailing by the AC boat at mooring. I drove to the kite instead of trimming and very occasionally trimmed when there was a big wind shift (like when I past Alcatraz. Nice broad reaching the whole way. I gybed (using Andrew Evans' tip): I squared the kite with the pole about 2/3 of the way out and the clew 1/3 back, then first gybed the main, then set the autopilot on (wind mode) at about 150 apparent, then walked forward to move the pole to the other side. I think that 150 was still a little too high (last time I did a gybe practice, I had sailed too low and the kite wrapped, which was easily corrected but still not ideal) so the kite collapsed on itself since there was no support on the new windward side. Not a big big deal, it didn't wrap and it unfolded back as soon as the pole was set up again. I then walked back to the cockpit, trim the kite again and off I went.

I wanted to practice a douse without AP, simulating AP failure since it was such a nice warm evening. I therefore decided to douse in the companionway and just leave the pole up (in real life, I would then have gone upwind, and remove the pole - as upwind, even a bungee can keep your boat nicely going with trimmed sails for a while. I had run the halyard back to the cockpit in order to do that. I ran the line with the tiller between my legs (including the guy) - then grabbed the sheet forward of the turning block, released the guy and sheet and started to gather the foot, then released the halyard. Small complication...the guy got stuck around the winch so I had to go back and unstuck it as I couldn't bring the entire chute in - as I did this, I accidently pushed the tiller the wrong way and the boat gybed which meant that I now had the chute against the shrouds on the windward side. Not good. I gybed back and completed the douse without any other major issues. The halyard was either full on or full off and it ran just fine. I stuffed the chute down below and headed into port.

Bottom line: I managed to mess up both my gybe and my douse but nothing broke :)

I did hill repeats yesterday (8 of them!!! up the hills of Bernal Heights) and I went for an 11 mile round this morning, with some hills. September has come early and it was sunny and quickly getting hot!


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Some input from one of the sailors just back from SHTP

Lessons learned: I need a way to generate power besides the solar panel, and I probably need two large panels. Maybe the current 80W and the new 40W would be enough. Weight on the boat is secondary to being able to rest - and particularly at night, the AP did a BETTER job at driving the boat. Nighttime is also the most challenging time to charge batteries for a boat that does not have an engine.

(AP == Autopilot)

Wondering if I shouldn't also look into twin sails for the event of AP failure. I can use a jib to avoid hand steering even with AP failure in pretty much all points of sail but downwind sailing which will be the majority of the time in this race. Twin sails can steer the boat downwind (without a spinnaker). I think that I will need to assume a power failure or AP failure and NOT depend on this to steer and rest. So not only do I need to find additional ways to get power at night (the race autopilot is still likely to be the best driver with a high level of fatigue) I also need to find, test and refine alternate method of steering that does NOT require power.

I quote

'All the solar only boats had issues with having sufficient power in the early part of the race, and in some cases throughout the race. Only IDEFIX, an Olson 30, seemed to not have too much of a problem. He was carrying two panels about the size of Elise's 80W panel.  The bottom line is if you plan on doing this crossing don't plan the solar panels based on sunlight, plan on overcast for 4 to 5 days straight.

If I were trying to go without any generator I would seriously consider adding a wind generator or a water generator. Even a very small one will generate plenty of power. I would trade this off against carrying a small Honda generator on the stern deck in a plastic box. ONe boat, TAZ, did the latter, and it saved him after about 6 days, from having to hand steer for long periods.

The top 5 boats in this race did very little driving. They all had APs that didn't fail.

The top two issues in this race, of this duration, is the integrity of the electrical system, and the quality of the AP's.  Adding a few lbs to carry a back up generator, or a water/wind generator is not going to amount to anything if your competition, as happened in this race, has to hand steer for several days.  A few pounds likely wouldn't cost you more than an hour over the entire course. A badly steered boat or worse a crash due to fatigue can cost you a lot.  Some folks broke booms and other key parts of the boat. I believe that only happened in the light weight class and suspect it was due to fatigue.

On the race there were many times when I would take over and realize 30 min into a session that the AP could steer closer to the course, especially at night. This was mostly due to my fatigue level. It was very hard to focus on a good compass course.  In the really knarly conditions I would always drive, but squalls pass in an hour or so.  I tried to keep my rest level up to deal with those situations.

Pretty interesting how your mind set changes as the duration of the event sinks in.'

Invaluable piece of equipment for short-handed sailing

On days with very light winds...


America's Cup World Series 2012 San Francisco - Video Highlights








America's Cup World Series 2012 - Full Video Replays

Thursday Full Replay Friday Full Reply Saturday full replay Sunday full replay

Thursday, August 23, 2012

My Ride this morning

21 miles, with a 3.4 mile climb. I clearly need to get in better shape, I was the slower rider up that hill!


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Long Ride Today

Needed to head out to West Marine to see if they had a pair of sunglasses that would fit me. Mine are starting to threaten to poke a hole into my skull..

Total Mileage: 22 miles

Flatter than my usual rides...pretty industrial places in some areas, but at least, no traffic there!

The way out via Candlestick Park
The way back via Brisbane and the bike track

And tomorrow SAILING!

New plexiglas doors for Elise's offshore endeavors

Wood isn't quite as strong in case it gets a huge splash of water on it - AND it would float up on the surface if submerged under water...
For some reason the top door had just disappeared so we had to make a new one. As the hatchboards have to be attached to the boat, we needed to add a padeye that can now take a line that we will attach to the boat. Next part of the project: the line!

Elise got a French press and a small thermos

Thank you Serge

Thermos fits perfectly in the can holders and will allow us to transport hot coffee to the race course.

The French press is a camping one which doesn't break and not made of glass...this will be for long distance races where a little bit of really nice coffee will really be welcome in the morning!

 We tried it at home.



We got Elise a boombox


We decided that the marine stereo solution wasn't great for Elise. 1) it is a mess of wires from the battery and for the speakers since we dont' want it permanently installed (it is a lot of weight) - 2) we very rarely use CDs and never the radio (we don't have an FM/AM antenna on the boat). Most of the time, it will be iPod packed music for long distance races, for a day working at the boat, or for a cruising evening. If there is too much wind, we are unlikely to have music on deck anyway.

This little guy is light, works with iPod, takes batteries (and a charger too) for 20 hours worth of music on a set of batteries at full blast. It offer 20W worth of power, more than my regular PC speakers, can be up on deck or down below, can be tied to anything or just hang down a line with a couple of carabinos.

We can also get streaming FM through a smartphone which will work with this little device, should we want to. The only thing that it will not have is CD capabilities. We can get all of our CDs into a couple of iPods though, so shouldn't be an issue!

In other words, pretty cool for our use of music on Elise...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Farewell (L' Affaire Farewell)

2009NR1hr 53m
 In this thinking man's spy thriller, KGB agent Sergei Grigoriev (Emir Kusturica) plans to hand over hard evidence that proves the depth of his agency's penetration of U.S. intelligence, in a one-man crusade to bring down the Soviet empire.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Long Ride on Saturday

Total was 22 miles, nice and hilly - was planning on riding through Golden Gate Park but I had forgotten that it was Outside Lands and I couldn't get through.

The funniest bit is that whenever I overtook a serious biker, they would heat up the pace and start competing with me!

Total for the week between leisure Rides and commuter Rides was 87 miles.

Cleanup Job by Serge

Whiter than White

Friday, August 10, 2012

My Ride Tonight

Recommended Reading

In this book full of pictures you'll find the story of the First Solo Around the World voyage on a 21feet monohull, the smallest boat ever, unassisted, without engine and non-stop.


I would so love to do this...maybe after a Transpac and a Transquadra? - maybe my little Jules Verne Challenge...

Thursday, August 9, 2012

More love for the girl

  • She got a new carbide blade (needed for long distance offshore in case the bolt cutter doesn't cut it)
  • Her offshore and short-handed racing main just got a third reefing point

I kind of have posted something about sails already, but figured it might be helpful to have a reminder. Basically a sail is built for a specific wind range (or is adjustable, like a reef in a mainsail that takes about 30 seconds to take and less to shake off) and some for specific points of sails. Racing sails and Cruising sails have different shape as some vary durability Vs performance (and shape). Like everything, you can make something very specialized, or something very generic.

Elise has three sets of sails

1- Cruising/Practicing

These sails are typically old Dacron sails that have lost their shape but served a good purpose and the spare of the spare of the spare spinnaker. We have a main sail that can be reefed three times in case we really want to sail comfortably even San Francisco summer weather on the Bay. A #3 without any shape nor batten, a #2 that did not belong to the boat for the no wind times. We have a sad looking kevlar #1 which will probably die on a cruise and which we stop putting up as soon as true wind reaches 6 knots. It is so old that the sailmaker just refuses to fix the sail out of pity for it.

We could also take the #4, which is even smaller than the #3 shapeless jib and which is designed to have the hell beat out of it as it is supposed to be flown only in really high winds. 

If we need the trysail or the storm jib, we probably wouldn't be going out on a cruise.

And I like to race across Oceans (for now at least), not cruise around them...

The goal of these sails is not to make us feel bad when they are poorly handled and to save up the other sails for their sweet spot of use.

The old Doyle inverse France spinnaker is our cruising spinnaker.

2- Bay Racing Sails

The goal of these sails is performance and a bit less durability. They are not for offshore use and are very fragile. We want them to keep their shape as much as possible. We use kevlar, aramide/carbon combination typically.

We have only 3 sails in kevlar: a #3 jib (the blade) with batten, a #2 and a #1. We typically only carry the #3 and the #1 (class rules allows us to carry only two headsail on any race day + two spinnakers). These sails typically have to be changed every three seasons or so. We would only fly those during practice if we are practicing trimming. Any maneuvre practice will be done on the cruising/practice sails so we don't have to worry about flogging.

The racing main is a light dacron main which is a bit more durable and seems to be very appreciated by a lot of the top sailors in the fleet which is why we went this way.

We also use our top spinnakers for these races.

Frog is the top light spinnaker, and Mike (the chute we purchased from Mike) is the spare.

France is the top heavy weather spinnaker as it is heavier. It has no spare.


3- Offshore and Short-handed Racing

These sails take a bit more of a beating. It is more costly to change headsails and we dont' have a downwind leg to do it on typically so either offshore fully crewed or short-handed we need sails that are a little sturdier and can take a bit more wind than their bay counterparts. They tend to be flogged more often so durability is favored over shape and high performance.

Sailing in swell also means that no sail will always be 100% of what it can deliver, so it is less important anyway.

Offshore we also need to make sure that we have sails for super light winds and super heavy wind, particularly short distance races. Short-handed requires often more reefing and smaller canvas than typical crewed races. We are also more likely to be a reach in these longer distance races than on the up and down typical round the buoy race course and this is a point of sail Elise has a specialized sail for.

Offshore races are also typically longer than other races, so sails that are more UV friendly and can take on a lot more beating without dying after one season are preferred. Not all sails need to be carried on for all races - the races with enough weather forecast visibility, we will minimize weight by taking on only the sails we think we will fly.

They last longer.

Elise has the following range of offshore/short-handed sails.

Headsails - in oder of the amount of wind they can take (sails that can take more wind are a) bigger and b) ligher but more fragile because the cloth or material they are made of is lighter)

  • #1 (Genoa) - we actually don't have a good choice for this and I am looking at a stronger genoa that could be reefed so it can be sailed in higher winds and replace a #2 (it would be less expensive timewise to take a reef than to downgrade and it would allow to sail a bigger sail than a regular #3 jib for some of the intermediate wind speeds which may make us faster
  • #2 - can also be used on the Bay, but typically, it will be for offshore events
  • #3 - jib. Dacron. Has done numerous Coastal Cups and other offshore races
  • #4 - dacron. Heavy material
  • Storm jib - comes with a separate pair of sheet already installed. Very strong. Has orange parts on it to make it ultra visible

Main sails

Main sail with three reefing points (as of today!)

Trysail in case the wind requires to further reduce canvass - like blowing 50 or 60 knots...

Specialized sails

Blast Reacher: this is a performance sail for a Reach (wind abeam of the boat, ie 90 degree angle to the boat) - in higher wind, it is not possible to fly a spinnaker on this point of sail but a jib doesn't have the same exposed area since it is not cut to be a specialist reach sail. The reacher has a high clew typically. It can also be used as a 'oh shit' performance sail for downwind if there is too much wind for the heavy weather spinnaker (like over 40 or 45 knots) as it will carry better than a #3, with more sail area - but won't allow the boat to go as deep as a spinnaker would, thus taking away some tactical options. A racing sail.

Heavy weather Spinnaker France is a big favorite there for when it is really blowing

Lighter weather Spinnaker - we would typically use Mike (less 'precious') as the main offshore spinnaker and 'Libra' the spare spinnaker we got from Libra as the spare for offshore, keeping Frog for Bay Racing as this is where it will make the biggest difference!

and that's it! She's got a whole family of sails! Most boats don't have that many. Cruising boats do not require any of the racing sails. Boats that only race in the Bay do not need to worry about offshore sails. Boats that dont' race offshore probably won't carry a blast reacher. Boats that do not do long distance offshore don't carry a trysail, sometimes not even a storm jib, they just use a #4 and two reefing points in the main.

Elise is an all around boat which caused a lot of compromises to be made and a lot of sails to optimize for every situation - and a set of spare sails so the good ones are kept for the good things they were built for and last/perform longer!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Great video about step by step single-handed gybe on an Express!

Express 27 Thumper!


Pulling the boat out

Early morning ritual - cafe latte and boat out of the water.

Nat arriving to the scene on her commuter bike, laptop and work clothes ready to be deployed later in the office and in the bags.


Serge positioning the boat for lift off.


Hilarious Olympic commentary!!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Full report on Low Speed Chase


Quoting from the article, a few notable points

  • Some onboard had inadequate PFDs, including one wearing a dinghy vest, and the skipper wearing just a belt-type inflatable.
  • None were clipped in, although jack lines were installed.
  • We already know they went too close to the island and inside the 10-fathom line, but they saw breaking waves before the ones that hit them.
  • Low Speed Chase bore away at the first point before Maintop Bay into the four-fathom line instead of staying high around the shoal. Two other boats also went into the same area during the race.
  • Low Speed Chase's EPIRB was activated, but [...] its registration was outdated.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Cross- training

Among other news, I did bike 14 miles (from Bernal Heights to Twin Peaks, then to the Ocean then back to Bernal Heights) on Saturday...Thigh is feeling strong.

Evening Reward Sail

After two days of laboring on the boat, it was high time to go out and play.

Walking to the boat so that it is head to wind, allowing us to hoist the main sail at the dock.

Heading out!
Getting the jib sheet ready around the winch trying out the new cross-sheeting arrangement
Hoisting the jib by pulling on the jib halyard
Trimming the jib for a loose upwind

And off to the gate
Deciding to go on a reach in the direction of Sausalito, so trimming the jib to bear away. We didn't have the instruments on, but it was probably blowing 17-21 knots or so, typical of this time of year.
and off we go!
Serge is a happy bunny and found something to keep him busy while Nat practiced some single-handed of the boat.
What a beautiful evening
We did take a reef in just so that we could try these reefing lines that gave us some much trouble.
Waiting for the sunset on San Francisco Bay
Reaching back in the direction of the Club

Solar Panel Project

When the sun came out we figured that it would be a great time to install the 40 W solar panel to supplement the teeny one when running the autopilot during a day sail.

First we unpacked the beast
Then we pushed the wires through a little sealed hole (with rubber) - 
Nat did most of the crawling below, stripping the wires and cramping on a heatshrink ring terminal
Serge was the surgeon aid, passing on tools so that Nat could breathe (the other solution would have been to bring all the tools at once or go back and forth for them...given that the workshop was space challenged, tag teaming sounded best) - here with the heat gun that we use to heatshrink the terminals.
A knife that was used to remove initial cable ties that were holding the terminal block (see below)
Nat screwed on the terminal block with the connections from the solar panel to the charge controller to the wooden backing plate for the spare rudder.
Back up on deck, we secured the solar panel
 And we moved the teeny one to the other side so both can have sun at the same time and push more amps through to the batteries.

Cross-sheeting project

We tried about a million ways to cross-sheet without having the line rub against the deck. We have not yet found the solution...And springing up the turning block may be part of that solution, however, it doesn't seem to be the full one!

Jib Car Project

The jib lines kept getting hung up on a non flush set screw. We bought a shorter screw which should help with this problem and we drilled the set hole a little wider to allow the screw to go all the way down...