Thursday, April 27, 2017


Last month I towed my Zephyr 'Slipstream' (Zephyr 195 with the red numbers, above) by car to Auckland and raced in the Auckland Zephyr championships. There were seven races over two days. The skippers I met were friendly, helpful and encouraging. I was advised to purchase a new mains'l as the sail that came with the boat was very old and cut very flat (possibly for the more breezy sailing on Wellington harbour from where I purchased 'Slipstream'). We raced offshore between Howick Beach and Waiheke Island. There was a good breeze and I had a wonderful time competing. It was a great learning experience. There were about 18 Zephyrs racing. I was last in every race. I didn't just lose, I lost by a 'Country Mile'. At the time shipmates, I expressed my thoughts regarding this situation in this way: "Bugger".

A few weeks later and after receiving my brand spanking new mains'l (Zephyr 195 with the new blue numbers above) I towed 'Slipstream' down to Auckland for a days racing at French Bay on the Manakau Harbour. There were four races held on this very tidal but delightful piece of water. This time with my new mains'l I wasn't beaten by a country mile - I was just beaten. I was last in every race. There were a couple of hopeful moments where I managed to get around the top mark on the first beat to windward in the middle of the pack; but downwind the other boats just seemed to have that extra bit of boat speed. Shipmates, at the time I described the situation in this way: "Bugger," in fact it was: "Double Bugger" (Because it's happened twice in a row).

Now, at this point it is important to note that the skippers who beat me in the racing are excellent sailors, they know their stuff and nothing I say is intended to detract from their excellent and well deserved placings in the racing. I just want to go faster than them.

One notable fact that I observed during the sailing was that compared to my rotund physical profile all of the other skippers looked somewhat like Norwegian racing sardines. My contrast with this fact rather protruded into the sailing atmosphere much like the proverbial elephant in the room. Bugger. Now elephants in rooms are usually not addressed directly because they are metaphors for things that are obvious but too difficult for people to talk about. I have been eyeballing my elephant and talking to him directly.

My goal is to create optimum racing conditions for myself by making some changes. This of course is no guarantee of success in terms of winning every race - that is unrealistic. But changing the situation of being beaten by a 'Country Mile' into finishing in the top 50% of the fleet is certainly an achievable goal.

My weight analysis (below) takes for granted that all of the following are being integrated at a high level:  Helmsman skill, good boat speed decisions, good route decisions, best use of natural conditions (taking correct windshifts), avoiding other boats and their slowing influence, defending a position (covering, luffing), automatic skills (sailing by feel), conscious fast sailing skills (concentration on the mains'l luff, waves etc), a well tuned boat, speed through the water, correct fluid compromise between pointing for height / bearing away for speed, Good tactics etc........... if all these skills are in place then boat and skipper weight can be examined as part of the full sailing scenario.

My analysis of the weight situation is predicated on the basis that a high power to weight ratio provides more speed. If the boat and skipper of a certain sailing skill weighs considerably more than the sailing opposition of a similar sailing skill then the power to weight ratio will have a considerable influence on the race outcome. I have found this out when racing my Starling dinghy. At 97kgs I am at a disadvantage (especially in light conditions) while racing the Starling when other skippers are weighing in at under 60kgs. The extra 37kgs in the Starling is pretty decisive. Some will give anecdotal evidence of how weight doesn't make any difference but an anecdote is not science and the laws of physics are, well.... the laws of physics.

Extract from Zephyr website:-
How heavy can you be and still sail a Zephyr?
Statistics from this years National Contest.
58-107kg in the Nationals fleet
65 - 86 kg in the top ten and
65 - 92 kg in the top 20 

- My weight when I started sailing my Zephyr was 97kgs

- I am an old (65) but reasonably skilled and experienced small boat sailor. Other competitors many who are 65 +  are also skilled and experienced. So I am competing on a level playing field.

-  My boat is pretty much down to weight at 63 kgs. The class rules determine the minimum weight at 58kgs. Getting 5 kgs out of the boat would help if combined with other weight loss measures - 5kgs alone won't make much of a difference.

-  To achieve my goal I need to lose some weight.

Now, shipmates bear with me as I explain the next bit of my dissertation. One of the meanings of the word 'Perverse' is: "Contrary to the accepted or expected standard or practice". So shipmates here is the perverse bit:

About four years ago when I weighed 103kgs I had a heart attack; a sobering experience that very nearly killed me. After quadruple heart bypass surgery and a couple of weeks recovery my weight got down to 90kgs. It then climbed back and settled at a steady 97kgs. Since then the very sensible advice from my wife, doctor, cardiologist, hospital surgeons has been:

"Losing weight will: lessen the risk of heart attacks, protect you from developing type two diabetes, help take the strain off your arthritic knee and ankle, enable you to walk longer distances without joint pain and generally enhance your quality of life." - Good stuff and I agree with all of it. But turning it all into action has been difficult - Until I bought a Zephyr sailing dinghy and got beaten by a 'Country Mile.'

Today shipmates I got on the scales as I have done since the campaign began and my current weight is 89. 2kgs............. and falling steadily ............... If I am able to get 5kgs out of the boat and get my own weight down to 80kgs that will be a total reduction of on-board sailing weight of 22kgs - not an insignificant amount. I will then be able to mix the results of the laws of physics with a few Norwegian racing sardines and see what happens to the 'Country Miles!' pah!.......................

............... what common sense and concern for my health hasn't achieved - human pride, competitiveness, bloody mindedness and dented Ego has.  

I shall write a book. I shall call it: THE ZEPHYR DIET.