Moving from JAM to Spin fleet

Discussion in 'Racing' started by Ben4195, May 15, 2019. Add this thread to a FAQ

  1. Ben4195

    Ben4195

    Joined Jul 5, 2005
    103 posts, 15 likes
    Beneteau 361
    US Sandusky Harbor Marina
    Hi All,
    I am crew on a boat that has been racing JAM for the past 5-ish years, going from a completely inexperienced team finishing mostly last, to regularly winning the Spring/Summer/Fall series' over the last 2+ years. The skipper, and at least one of the other crew members (there are five of us on the boat total) are eager to "graduate" to the Spinnaker fleet, but NONE of us has Spinnaker experience.

    Are we crazy? At this point, I have already voiced my concerns, particularly when we see the experienced Spinnaker boats hourglass their spinnakers or broach during a race, so I am pretty much resigned to going along with whatever the rest of the team wants to do. But I'm just wondering if we're truly being foolish, or if I'm being overly concerned.

    The problem is we have NOT practiced with the spinnaker, and we likely won't. We had planned to, but it seems the crew cannot/will not dedicate any time outside of the regular Wednesday Night Beer Can race to practice, and the plan is to simply get out there and "practice" during the race. the most we've done is watch Youtube videos on spinnaker sailing.

    The boat is a Ranger 26-2. And we would ONLY attempt sailing with the spinnaker in light/mild wind conditions until we developed a sense of proficiency. The plan currently is to start racing in the Spinnaker Fleet in the Summer Series, which is about five weeks from now.

    Thanks all!
     


  2. cb32863

    cb32863

    Joined Jun 29, 2010
    954 posts, 183 likes
    Beneteau First 235
    US Lake Minnetonka, MN
    Wow, so you are exactly where my crew and I are now. Except for a few differences..... You MUST practice. We did last night as we had never flown the spin in "anger" either. It is invaluable to find someone with spin experience, even better with your boat, to ride along and coach. @Jackdaw was on board with us and we practiced maneuvers at the dock first and then we went out and did a couple of sets, jibes, and douses. Will we do amazing Thursday night in the race? No, but we will at least not go in to it blind. You can always set late and douse early. If things get twitchy as you are closing on the gibe point, douse the kite and JAM to the leward mark.

    No one says you have to be all in all the time. Work with the crew and practice as much as you can. Before the race sail out an hour or so before the gun and practice. Then the boat will be ready for another set and you will at least have some time in the conditions you are going to be racing in. Don't fear the spin, be smart about it.
     


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  3. Jackdaw

    Jackdaw

    Joined Nov 8, 2010
    10,073 posts, 3,082 likes
    Beneteau First 36.7 & 260
    US Minneapolis MN & Bayfield WI
    I think its probably a great idea.

    First, I can't imagine what 5 people do on a JAM boat; there are only three jobs. I can image what they would do on a spin boat... everyone will have a full-time job+ and have a lot more fun.

    You are right, the key is practice. Even if you cannot get out for dedicated practice sessions, you can make up for a lot of that by getting out the the course an hour early (which you should do anyway!). Go upwind taking wind readings, then at the top bear-away set, gibe gibe gibe, and then a windward drop. All set for the race, and you got the kinks out.

    You asked if you were being overly concerned.... I'd venture yes. As CB says just be smart, learn from your mistakes. Pretty soon you be itching for the windward mark, so you can pop the kite. It's your reward for tacking all that way to windward!
     


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  4. FastOlson

    FastOlson

    Joined Apr 8, 2010
    1,083 posts, 152 likes
    Ericson Yachts Olson 34
    US Portland OR
    You sail a fast design, under whatever sail plan you have up. :)
    There are whole books written, some clear and some confusing, on how to race with a spinnaker. Main advice is to err on the side of safety and speed. Yes, speed. There are going to be windy days when it will be about 1% to 5% faster to sail with the chute up, until you broach and lose a lot of distance. (!) And days when reaching with a headsail will be faster even tho less photogenic.
    :)

    Focus on good communication, but with NO extra yelling...
    When I was racing our prior boat (a Niagara 26 that would beat 28 footers on many days) we learned to have a quiet boat with the emphasis on solving problems. Best words when our foredeck guy was trying to sort out a problem, was to just ask him "what can we (in the cockpit) do to help you?" And he would ask to have a sheet or guy moved or halyard adjusted, or once in a great while for an extra hand.
    We had fun almost every race, and even tho a couple of the crew of four had never before raced with a chute, won almost every series. Tough competition, too. We could spend up to two hours rounding marks and still finish within a couple of lengths of our best competitor with a Newport 28/2.
    Never be shy about avoiding a conflict at a mark if you can find more room by rounding wider and keeping more speed and control. And of course, avoid getting into luffing matches with idiots who have lost sight of the need to finish first....

    We would all sort of discuss our way around the course. Position on the whole course is often more important than momentary advantage at any one mark or angle. Stated plainly, I could NOT win without the crew. So treat each other nice.
    All worth while when roaring along on a reach or a run!!

    Oh, and make sure the traveler is running very very smooth. You will need to instantly lower it if the chute starts to take control of your heel angle and helm!
    Fair winds!
    :)

    ps: another competitor was a Santana 27 with faired fins. That boat was really fast, as well.
     


    Last edited: May 15, 2019
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  5. jssailem

    jssailem

    Joined Oct 22, 2014
    9,006 posts, 3,921 likes
    CAL 35 Cruiser
    US Salem, Moored Port Everett WA
    @Ben4195
    Talk some sense into the skipper and what ever crew are willing to listen. There is no reason to take the boat out for the first time and attempt to race with a spinnaker if no one has flown one. It is an opportunity to damage the boat, the sails, the crew. And for what? to say you are "Graduating to the Big Boys Fleet" . Have there been crazier things done? yes. Does it make any sense? No.

    You say
    You say there is 5 weeks before the race. It does not matter that all five of the Crew can practice. At least 1 or 2 of you should try to raise and lower the sail even at the dock. There are so many ways to screw up a hoist and a douse that there is not enough time to discuss it. You highlight several of the issues that can happen. You are scratching the surface. In a race, when everyone is pumping with adrenaline and the wind is in your face as you fly down the course is not the time to have an accidental gybe with the spinnaker and no one immediately leaping to help save the boat.

    It might be a great time for you to change crews and get on an experienced boat in the Spinnaker Fleet. Pick up some knowledge and then come back to your "Lets just experience it" crew and share this knowledge. Who knows you may save the boat owner the cost of a sail or a friend's life. Racing no PFD's (Too Extreme)?
     


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  6. Jackdaw

    Jackdaw

    Joined Nov 8, 2010
    10,073 posts, 3,082 likes
    Beneteau First 36.7 & 260
    US Minneapolis MN & Bayfield WI
    Come on. Its a Ranger 26, and you're talking about people dying and showing 50 footers wiping out in 30 knots of breeze as examples. Too Extreme?? I vote yes.
     


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  7. jssailem

    jssailem

    Joined Oct 22, 2014
    9,006 posts, 3,921 likes
    CAL 35 Cruiser
    US Salem, Moored Port Everett WA
    Jackdaw, yes I thought to it was too extreme. But you and I both know that in the wrong breeze with inexperienced sailors on a 14ft Lido and a spinnaker people can get hurt.

    Your info was that of reason and instruction. Would you let these guys take out Bluejay for an afternoon of Spinnaker sailing while you watched from the shore?

    Moving up into racing at a higher level every competitive sailor does it at some time. Sailing in the competitive fleet using sails you have experience with, sure I have done that. Sailing in tight quarters flying a spinnaker for the first time with no experience not even practice alone on the water. No I have not done that. I did not think I had enough money to pay the expenses for the damage I could inflict on the competition if something went wrong.

    As far as the video. If a spinnaker on a 50 foot boat with all the skilled sailors and the boat mass, put it on its ear, out of control, wouldn't that give you pause if you took your self back 30 plus years in your sailing career.

    The reason I take a boat out and test equipment, test sails, test handling is so when I face it in real life when quick and proper decisions are needed I have at least a little experience to help guide my decision making.

    5 guys on a Range 26 (who seems like a lot) with no spinnaker experience and not wanting to spend the time to get some. Sounds to me like an opportunity for problems. An opportunity for someone to get hurt in the wrong conditions.
     


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  8. Ben4195

    Ben4195

    Joined Jul 5, 2005
    103 posts, 15 likes
    Beneteau 361
    US Sandusky Harbor Marina
    Thanks so much, guys. Unfortunately we can't get out there an hour early to practice; the balance of the crew come strait from work so often don't get to the boat until close to 6 pm, and the first horn is at 6:30, so it's often already a race just to get to the start line.

    JD, we only have five on board for JAM with the idea of going to Spin, as a new person just joined this year to familiarize herself with the boat and crew. And we use the extra personnel for weight distribution. Additionally, it's actually the rare race when EVERYONE is able to race. For example, tonight we KNOW one of our five is going to be absent.

    Jsailem, we're not moving to spin so we can race with the big boys, as you say, but rather for the competition. Like I implied in my original post, for the last 2+ years, we have been THE boat to beat in the JAM fleet. Is that because we're awesome? No. We have a fast boat, new sails, other new equipment, and we've learned A LOT since we started racing together, making fewer mistakes, and the other JAM boats are mostly more casually sailed. It's almost embarrassing when we finish 5 or 10 minutes in front of the second place boat. (however since I'm writing this, tonight we'll get smoked. Karma, right?) We feel we won't improve our skills further until we can have consistent competition by which to compare ourselves. And we're not getting that anymore in the JAM fleet.

    And I definitely understand the warning you present with the video, and that scenario what causes me so much anxiety. However, as I stated above, we would NOT attempt to fly the spinnaker in anything but light/moderate winds to start with. Moderate may be 8 knot winds, or even less! We've been in races where our speed is 1 knot or less. In any case, we are all in agreement that we would rather finish last in the spin fleet if we don't feel confident/capable enough to raise the spinnaker if conditions aren't right.

    I feel better now, reading all your opinions.

    Thanks guys!!
     


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  9. Jackdaw

    Jackdaw

    Joined Nov 8, 2010
    10,073 posts, 3,082 likes
    Beneteau First 36.7 & 260
    US Minneapolis MN & Bayfield WI
    We're agreeing on most of this.

    My post was a follow-on to the one @cb32863 made, you have to first have SOME instruction and OTW practice so you know as its most basic level how to do it. But then, pre-race practice will get you going and help you get better. The pre-race practice is in open water, and even with our 150 boat starts its safe. EDIT - if pre-race practice is not possible, then just race. Your progress will be slower, but it will happen. How many boats on the course around you? Our new spin boats start racing in the vicinity of 150 boats, and I can't remember a collision involving a boat with a spin up.

    Will the spin work be perfect and great to start? No way. But perfect is the enemy of good, and can't boil all the risk out of anything. Could people get hurt? Maybe, but in light to mild conditions that spin is not exactly a handful.. Risk managment. Its like when you taught your kids daughter how to ride a bike. You tell her as much as you can, show how to do it, but then push her going and then let her go, knowing full well she's going to crash. And crash again. But you can make it safe danger. Control the conditions. Be smart about it. It's way too easy to talk yourself out of doing new things.
     


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  10. Ben4195

    Ben4195

    Joined Jul 5, 2005
    103 posts, 15 likes
    Beneteau 361
    US Sandusky Harbor Marina
    At most there will be 10 spinnaker boats. It's not a really big club. Maybe 8-10 spin boats, 7 JAM boats, and 3 or 4 Catalina 22s (they have their own start).
     


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  11. Jackdaw

    Jackdaw

    Joined Nov 8, 2010
    10,073 posts, 3,082 likes
    Beneteau First 36.7 & 260
    US Minneapolis MN & Bayfield WI

    Then go for it. With that small fleet, the other boats will know you are the 'new guys' for a while, and stay clear. ;^)

    My advice here is informed partly by being a sailing coach, but mostly because I'm the fleet captain for our PHRF 1 (spin) fleet. And I get this type if question all the time from PHRF 2 skippers. Most are just like you. Well crewed JAM boats that are looking for more competition and excitement than they get in JAM. And importantly you have the crew to do it. You're already good sailors. You know the ROW rules. Most the moves in the spin playbook you will see are build up of things you already know.
     


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  12. Ben4195

    Ben4195

    Joined Jul 5, 2005
    103 posts, 15 likes
    Beneteau 361
    US Sandusky Harbor Marina
    Thanks so much, JD. yeah, the other spin boats definitely know we're the newbs on the water. That doesn't stop them from trash talking us on the water for not having moved over to the spin fleet tho. ;)
     


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  13. FastOlson

    FastOlson

    Joined Apr 8, 2010
    1,083 posts, 152 likes
    Ericson Yachts Olson 34
    US Portland OR
    Spinnaker Fun.

    Found this shot in my archives... from the early 90's, and we were out on a pleasure sail one evening when a friend saw us and took a picture.
    Probably doing close to 8 kts at the time.
    Good Times!
    :)
    I recall that my friend Don was driving at that point, and we had his (non sailing) sister with us, visiting from a dry part of Texas. He explained that a sailboat had to heel when "going to windward" and she nodded and fully accepted the explanation!
    When driving to weather with the rail kissing the water, she just looked at the water flowing along near her elbow, sitting on the low side, and smiled. A Nice Sail indeed... ! :)
     

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  14. Scott T-Bird

    Scott T-Bird

    Joined Oct 26, 2008
    3,904 posts, 898 likes
    Starwind 27
    US Barnegat, NJ
    While they're talking trash at you, just think how sweet it will be when you get to return the favor the first time you finish ahead of one those guys! :cool: Have fun with the spin! Have somebody take pics and give us a report how it goes.
     


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  15. Joe

    Joe

    Joined Jun 1, 2004
    6,663 posts, 422 likes
    Catalina 27
    US Mission Bay, San Diego
    Why don't you just skip a race and practice instead? Assuming that everyone can show up once a week at the same time for the race.... why would you not want to practice a few hours instead of looking foolish in a real race.
     


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  16. Ben4195

    Ben4195

    Joined Jul 5, 2005
    103 posts, 15 likes
    Beneteau 361
    US Sandusky Harbor Marina
    Thanks Scott, yes, it'll be fun going to Spin, and we'll provide friendly banter back and forth, I'm sure. I do take videos of our races, actually, mostly just to review later to see how we either messed up, or otherwise could have done something differently. Not too many people taking pictures though. :(

    Joe, that is a great idea, and one I'm trying to push actually. Last night's race was our sixth race of the series, and it's a best six races out of a nine race series (barring any race cancellations), and we've gotten first place every time, so I think we can afford to miss the next three JAM races and still get our flag. I suggested to the team last night that we take the next two Wednesdays, and practice doing the spinnaker away from the rest of the race, then on the ninth race, if we feel confident enough, to race with the Spin fleet. Obviously we wouldn't be scored with the spin fleet, or the JAM fleet, but that's no big deal.
     


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  17. jssailem

    jssailem

    Joined Oct 22, 2014
    9,006 posts, 3,921 likes
    CAL 35 Cruiser
    US Salem, Moored Port Everett WA
    Sounds like a reasonable suggestion to the team.
     


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  18. Jackdaw

    Jackdaw

    Joined Nov 8, 2010
    10,073 posts, 3,082 likes
    Beneteau First 36.7 & 260
    US Minneapolis MN & Bayfield WI
    That is a great suggestion by @Joe . It helps of course that you do not need the places (or finishes for that matter). Bigger picture (for everyone) it might be worth it to skip a race and probably a DFL finish and just practice at that time. It's only 1 or 2 points worse. If it saves you a point, you can start and then retire and go practice. Some clubs score a RET one point better than a DNC or DNS.
     


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  19. Ben4195

    Ben4195

    Joined Jul 5, 2005
    103 posts, 15 likes
    Beneteau 361
    US Sandusky Harbor Marina
    Yes, I think it's a great idea. We have our six points for the six races, so can simply throw out the last three races of the Spring Series.
     


  20. Joe

    Joe

    Joined Jun 1, 2004
    6,663 posts, 422 likes
    Catalina 27
    US Mission Bay, San Diego
    Here's another suggestion. Tie your boat up to a dock, boat facing downwind. The boat should be able to swing a bit. Then walk your way through set up, launch, jibe, and douse. Your crew becomes familiar with everything without distractions. Rotate the crew through all positions....it'll give them confidence.
    Once out on the water their familiarity with the mechanics will allow the crew to concentrate race related duties. For instance the helmsman must learn to steer the boat under the chute as it comes across with the jibe. The foredeck crew will want to focus on clearing lines and getting set up for next move.... etc.

    Training at the dock was an idea I picked up from the old John Rousmaniere video series.... especially useful if you have some inexperienced. crew.
     


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