SailZing asked Matt Fisher to write an article about sailing with crew in the MC. Matt and crew finished 3rd at the MC Scow Train Wreck regatta at Lake Eustis Sailing Club, February 2-4, 2018. Here are Matt’s notes.
Adjustments when Sailing with Crew
SailZing asked me to write an article on adjustments when sailing with crew in the MC. Several skippers, like Bill Draheim, Andy Burdick, Eddie Cox, and many others are likely much better sailing an MC in a breeze, but I learned several things this past weekend at the Train Wreck regatta that seemed to help our speed.
Decision to take Crew
Normally, I have wanted to see cows blowing across the freeway before taking a crew. Ron Baerwitz calmed me down this past week. He thinks you can sail at 300#+ when it is blowing 8 mph with waves like we have at Eustis. 30% of the time on the 2nd day at the Train Wreck the wind was below 10 and Ron was right: we were fine upwind and down.
My wife and daughter weigh about the same, so our total crew weight with either of them is about 310 lbs. I think the target weight range is 250-320 lbs. It is a wide range but some of the top big guys are 220-250 and it seems that 310, 320 still works. I think I have read some old articles that said 300 was the top number and I don’t know that that is right.
It almost feels unfair when you have a crew — and it is fun. Taking on a crew enables some husbands and wives to sail together, it gets kids involved, and it really makes the boat easier to sail in a breeze. There is no overpowering spinnaker and they can call puffs, and pull up the weather board. You don’t go correspondingly slower downwind as long as you are not plowing the bow. I need to read Zack Clayton’s article on how not to do that!
We should try to work with the host clubs to try to get the local juniors involved. I sailed a Laser this past year, so I have nothing to prove to try to do it by myself in a big breeze.
Changes to Tune/Steering
We make a couple changes when sailing with crew. The boat will feel different; the biggest change is that you should steer bow down and drive the boat through the waves more deliberately. You almost will feel like you are planing upwind and you steer just a click above that feeling. If your crew weight is 310# and you are next to a 220# single-handed skipper, you will steer 3-4 degrees lower. But you should be going 20-21 boat lengths to his/her 19. I haven’t done the math, but the heavier boat will reach the weather mark faster.
Depower with Traveler
This may have nothing to do with having a crew, but I found myself easing the traveler down to depower. I said this once at a fleet meeting and it didn’t go over well. At Hoover Reservoir in Ohio when it is blowing 20 we rarely use the traveler and I use the vang to depower. Using the traveler can be cumbersome compared to using the vang, but in a larger lake like Eustis with 1 mile beats I think the main and mast perform better with the traveler. I think the top of the mast may bend too far off when you use vang. Again, I don’t know if this is related to sailing with a crew or sailing heavier but I found that the boat stabilizes better when the traveler is down and the mainsheet is normally trimmed with a slight twist.
Changes to Tactics
The biggest change we made at Train Wreck was where we chose lanes. Pointing 3-4 degrees lower than some of the fleet sometimes isn’t fun and obviously keeping your lane open is key; you’re thinking about your lane all the time unless you are around people with crew.
At the start I would have the traveler in the middle and trim a little in at 20 seconds to go and pinch up to stay above the boat to leeward. Then for maybe one minute after the start hold high — depending on who is below you — until you are clear or have space with the boats to drive a little freer to leeward.
After the start, if someone puts a safe leeward below you, don’t waste your time trying to stay above the skinny person below. As long as we weren’t up 10 or 20 degrees, we would tack away to get in a clear lane.
I could go on, but these are the highlights.