One-design sailing NMSC style
Sunday would have been a great day for sailing, with brisk (if at times gusty) winds and no looming thunderclouds. But there was work to be done on the marina, and also work to be done on our little flotilla of Sunfish, so we didn’t get out on Black Magic at all.
They did go up the Narrows toward the main body of the lake a couple of times, but the winds out there were stiff, so for the most part, they just cruised around the relatively sheltered cove in which the marina floats. The wind was hugely variable, so at times the ’fish would come to a near stop, and then there would be a gust that sent them careening across the cove. Those things can really fly.
Tadpole and Old Connecticut were having loads of fun. They were still having fun when a sudden gust of wind hit OC. He blew the mainsheet, but not in time to keep the boat from tipping over, in the gradual sort of slow motion one normally sees only in horror movies and nightmares – the boat leaned farther, and farther, and then the sail was in the water. He got himself up on the centerboard and tried to right the boat, but mainly all he could do was slow the inevitable, as the boat turned turtle. The boat ended up upside-down, with the daggerboard sticking up in the air, with OC sitting on top.
(cue soap opera dramatic music) At this point, Tadpole was getting ready to tow the upside-down Sunfish with his right-side-up one, but rescue arrived in the form of a family in an old-timey motor launch (I’m guessing circa 1948) flying a pirate flag. It turns out that the family has a vacation place in the same neighborhood as Five O’Clock Somewhere, and a daughter has been a classmate in Tadpole’s German class.
So the pirates in the motor launch towed OC and the ’fish back to the dock, where we eventually were able to right it. OC went to change into dry clothes, and then we socialized for a while in the marina pavilion.
The conversation came around to Black Magic, as well as Etchells in general. It turns out that when OC was a teenager sailing in Long Island Sound (interestingly, his first boat was a Sunfish), he saw the very first Etchells in competition. He talked about how the racing committee had a hard time dealing with these strange new boats, and especially their habit of wiping out the competition. Ironically, however, he’s never sailed on one. I told him that he must come for a ride on Black Magic sometime.
One of the reasons that the Etchells is seeing a resurgence of popularity has been its strict one-design status. In one-design racing, all of the boats are supposed to be as close to identical as possible, so the contest is strictly about the skills of the skippers and crews of the boats involved. It’s a lot like NASCAR, in that there are very strict standards for the boat, crew, and equipment, so that, at least in theory, nobody has an advantage.
On the other hand, if you have a fleet full of different boats with different handling and sailing characteristics, you have to have some sort of handicap system to adjust the finishing times of each boat so that the official score is at least an attempt to quantify the skills of the boats’ skippers and crews, rather than just being a measure of the boats’ inherent speed (or lack thereof). But while some of the handicap systems are pretty good, they are all far from perfect. One-design racing avoids the issue of handicap altogether.
Zorro has been working for ages to develop an Etchells one-design fleet in