Wednesday, December 9, 2015


The acronyms on race summary sheets DNF and DNS mean "Did Not Finish" and "Did Not Start" respectively. Two DNFs and one DNS sums up my second race outing yesterday evening. I was very excited before racing because it was blowing about 15 - 20 knots and I knew that I would be very competitive in this wind strength - and I was - until on three separate occasions in the first two races I capsized in spectacular fashion. To be fair to myself I have to say that I wasn't the only one suffering from multi - capsize syndrome as nearly everyone (except the winning Starling - which wasn't me! ) had a turn at getting thoroughly wet during the evening.

These photos are a bit deceptive as they don't really show how hard it was blowing, but it was fair funneling between Limestone Island and the mainland at Onerahi.

In the first race I was second to the top mark close behind a very skillful and accomplished teenage girl who always sails superbly. Downwind she really showed her skills by planing away in a shower of spray and gybing skillfully back onto what was a flat run to the bottom mark. My attempts to follow suit had me capsizing twice in a row. On both occasions the centerboard came out of the centerboard case and started to float away. I spent a lot of time trying to get it back in its slot so that I could heave on it and right the boat again.

In the second race, again I was doing very well only being pipped to the first mark by a whisker - but then again while sailing flat off downwind I came off a wave with the boat rolling to windward, over corrected and ended up in the tide again. This time I ended up under the boat with the main sheet wound around my neck and the deck banging on my head. Again the centerboard had fallen out and I spent a lot of time getting it back into the the centerboard case. By the time I got back into the boat for a third time I was pretty exhausted and decided to call it a day.

BUT - as I sailed back to the club house to the beer and barbecued sausages I hardly felt hard done by. The water was very pleasant to capsize into as it is warmed while flowing into Whangarei Harbour over several large sand banks that have been baking in the sun all day. Also, in this big wind memories came flooding back from my early sailing years as I felt again the joy of small boat sailing: Thrashing to windward, then planning off downwind in a flurry of spray and wind - very, very, very good for this old buggers soul I can tell you.


1 - "Always wear a life jacket". Wise words. I would have drowned without one.

2 - I am showing my age. Hiking out for long periods of time at 64 years of age is very taxing. I need not just the set of compression pads to protect the underneath of my thighs, I also require a set for my calf muscles.

3 - The boat requires another self bailer. In these choppy conditions I had water coming green over the bow and filling the cockpit.

4 - I need a piece of shock cord (something that all Starlings have - something I had overlooked) to hold the center board in place when capsized.

5 - I need to make sure that I do a thorough boat inspection before launching. I failed to see that I hadn't re-tied the hiking straps back up with shock cord which made getting my feet under the straps harder after each tack.

6 - "She'll be right" is not good enough - I thought the two loose sail battens in the mains'l that I knew required new elastic in the sail pocket (to hold suitable tension on them) would be ok. But in this full sail breeze one of them popped out when the sail was flogging in the wind. I took the sail into 'Calibre Sails' today to get fixed.

7 - My little Starling looks beautiful in all her varnished glory - BUT - she is also very slippery to work in. I slide like hell all over my beautiful varnished cockpit floor slats LOL and the deck isn't much different. Many racing yachts have non skid tape or painted out patches in high use areas - But I know all of this - My keeler Mariners' deck and cockpit are all painted out in non skid paint. I think I will have to do something about that if I continue to race.

8 - "Practise makes perfect" so the saying goes. I would settle... not for perfection, but for just staying upright throughout the racing. So a bit of practise is required in a less frenetic context where I can get used to a few of the old moves. You can't teach an old sea dog new tricks - that's because he needs to teach the new tricks to himself - with a bit of practise.


Steve-the-Wargamer said...

Wise words one and all.... :-)

Alden Smith said...

Steve, there is most certainly wisdom in always wearing a life jacket!

Dan Gurney said...

Well done! And well said.

There must be some muscle-memory involved in racing sailboats. Isn't it great how sailing a little centerboarder in heavy air can make you feel 40 years younger? It kind of takes you back in a way similar to the way an old song you haven't heard since high school takes you back.

Get that shock cord on your centerboard, and you'll finish better.

Alden Smith said...

Yes you are right Dan - it's a bit like riding a bike, something you don't ever forget how to do, although I am a bit slower riding my bike as well these days! I like your comparison to an old song - memories, nostalgia and an intimate connection to things from our younger days.

George A said...

Alden: For non-skid in dinghy cockpits I like a self-stick foam called "SeaDek"; see here:

SeaDek can be cut with good scissors to fit nooks and crannies in the cockpit sole. The adhesive is quite strong and if you need to refinish bright work surrounding installed SeaDek you can mask it off. I have found SeaDek to be kinder to the knees than either rock salt or sand or other granular non-skid materials stirred into paint or varnish. I like it better than non-skid tapes as well. Hopefully you can find this material down your way. I'd mail you a small piece for experimental purposes if I knew your snail mail address.

Alden Smith said...

Good advice George. Thank you for the offer of posting a snail mail sample - but SeaDek and similar products are available here in NZ. On my big yacht Mariner I have used a non skid paint product that contains granulated rubber mixed in with the paint. It's used a lot around swimming pools. This product has been on Mariner for a few years now and provides a good 'non harsh' no skid surface.

Charlotte Hawkins said...

Hey Dad who took the photos and why is there not one of you falling into the water!? :D Hehehe!

Alden Smith said...

Your Uncle Tony took the photographs. He was very disappointed about not getting one of me capsized in the water, I think he wanted to post it all over the internet - but I was too far away and he didn't have a telephoto lens on his camera.

Charlotte Hawkins said...

Hmmmm.... How much did you pay him to delete the photos Dad!?

Alden Smith said...

Shhhhhhhh...... Heaps, Charlotte, heaps... and I had to buy him beer and agree that he is better looking and more intelligent than me for a whole week! That was a toughie I can tell you.