Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Is less more?

Looking at the past to answer the current question

Over at Proper Course, Tillerman has posted a writing project assignment, "Less is More," inviting bloggers to either agree or disagree with that statement and apply it to sailing or blogging about sailing or whatever else we happen to do on the water.

I have two posts from the past that might be seen as addressing the issue, and they are distant enough in the past that many of the current regular visitors to this blog may not have seen them. With some updates, I'm reproducing them here.

One post, whose title was something like "One of these things is not like the other," has disappeared from my blog archives (I have spent two hours searching for it, and I'm convinced it's not there anymore). It featured a picture of our MacGregor, Syzygy, parked alongside my Etchells, Black Magic, in the parking lot above the main boat ramp at Elephant Butte Lake. Both boats were rigged – I believe there had been a regatta, in which Black Magic had been a participant, and Syzygy had been the committee boat. The post went something like this:

Can you see a difference?

One of these boats has a cabin, bunks, a toilet, sink, stove, electricity, stereo system, motor, and various other luxuries.

The other one doesn't. It just goes fast.

The other post, "Strings to Pull," from September 2006, gives another answer to the question:

Yes, the Etchells is a special boat

This picture shows how the Etchells can be both simple and complicated at the same time. Above the deck, the boat is very clean. There is very little to trip over, very little to get bruised on, very little to get tangled up. In the terms used by mathematicians, the Etchells is very elegant: it has power in simplicity.

On the other hand, the Etchells also has a whole lot of controls that most boats, even most racing boats, don't have. Very few other classes of boats allow racers to change the setting of the shrouds during racing, and almost none permit adjustments of the mast at either the partners (the joint at the deck) or the butt (where the bottom end of the mast rests) during a race. But Etchells sailors are permitted such adjustments. And then there's the legendary fraculator – it's the line that Etchells sailors point to when they really want to emphasize that this boat is different from all others. Yeah, some other boats have fraculators, but not many.

Here is a quick quiz: How many lines can you identify? If you can name at least half of them, then you probably already sail an Etchells, but if you don't, you should get in contact with the nearest Etchells fleet, because some skipper there probably needs your talent. To make the task easier, I will list the lines, so all you have to do is match the names with the lines in the photo.

Aft mast block

Bilge pump

Boom vang

Forward dock lines

Forward mast block


Jib halyard

Jib luff


Mast aft

Mast forward


Port jib fine tune

Port jib sheet

Port spinnaker sheet

Port spinnaker twing

Port lower shroud

Port upper shroud

Port shroud keeper

Spinnaker halyard

Spinnaker pole keeper

Starboard jib fine tune

Starboard jib sheet

Starboard spinnaker sheet

Now, of course, there are some lines that don't show up in this picture, such as the mainsheet fine tune, the starboard spinnaker twing, the starboard upper shroud, lower shroud, and keeper, the spinnaker pole topping lift, the foreguy, the backstay, the traveler, and the aft dock lines.

Yeah, when you sail an Etchells, there are a lot of strings to pull. Learning all of those strings is, for me, part of the beauty of the boat. It's not a boat for sissies, and it's also not a boat for intellectual lightweights. It's a boat for people who think, and who have brains to process a whole lot of information very quickly and then translate that information into action. I'm only just learning, but I love all of what I have learned from Black Magic, and I plan to learn more.

So … Is the Etchells a boat in which less is more, or a boat in which more is more?

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