Saturday, October 18, 2014

Our Schooner Race on Shearwater 45 "Apella"

The 25th running of the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race proved to be a well-run and memorable event. The weatherman came close to creating big problems but it all worked out in the end. The massive cold front that tore apart parts of USA in the previous week arrived in Baltimore on Wednesday afternoon, dumping enough rain to wash out the planned Parade of Sail through Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Other than that, everything went off with the usual smoothness of a well-practiced organisation.
"Apella" alongside "America II" at the start of the 2013 race.
Behind the wind-driven soaking of Wednesday, we were handed a couple of gorgeous days to carry us down to Portsmouth. The weatherman didn't get it all correct though. The forecast light breezes from the south at the start, swinging to westerly for most of the race, held only for the biggest and fastest boats at the front of the fleet. Behind them the wind was sometimes the opposite of the forecast and then fell apart into increasingly large holes that trapped boats for hours. The further back that they were in the fleet, the larger the holes and the longer they battled to get through.

As for us on Dan Hall's Shearwater 45 "Apella", we had a pretty good race, one to store in the memory banks for recall in the coming cold winter days when only professional seamen and crazy people are out on the water. We had a good crew, comprising the owner, myself and a bunch of friends who are capable sailors.
Dan Hall, Dudley Dix, Paul Schaub, Dylan Bailey, Tom Miller & Scott Page.

We had a crazy start. Dan was on the helm, labouring under advice from Paul and myself that obviously conflicted with his own thoughts and must have been comical to anyone paying attention to us on nearby boats. Complicated by current, spectator boats and a big boat fleet that started 10 minutes before us but was mostly late to the line, we were dodging boats and going the wrong way within the last minute, yet still managed to cross the start line first, within 10 seconds of the gun and right at the committee boat. As Tom said, "sometimes too many chiefs actually works".
A Class gaff schooner "Hindu", which gave us some close-quarter racing.
We worked our way through much of the big boat fleet and had mostly good sailing all the way down the bay. Most of the time we were lying between 7th and 10th on the water and thoroughly enjoying what we were doing. A highlight of the race was twice managing to get ourselves ahead of the beautiful Baltimore clipper replica "Pride of Baltimore". When the wind came through after we broke out of the hole together, she sailed away from us.
Creeping up on the beautiful "Pride of Baltimore II".
We were in B Class, with our Windmill Point finish line 40 miles short of the Thimble Shoals line for the bigger boats in Classes A and AA. We planned to sail the optional additional 40 miles to claim "bragging rights" but gave up on that idea when the winds went light and onto the nose. Mission accomplished, we whimped out and motored the rest of the way to Portsmouth.

The awards party was today and we came away with first place in B Class, ahead of "Tom Bombadil". A great end to an enjoyable few days. Thank you to the crew of "Apella", all other competitors and especially to the organisers and volunteers who together made this such a successful event.
Tom, Dudley, Paul and Dan with the silverware. Scott & Dylan missed the party.
Dylan has promised to bring his Little Creek 47 "Flutterby" north from St Augustine, Florida, for the 2015 Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race and we will race the bay together again. I look forward to it.

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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race 2014

The Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race is held annually, with schooners of all types and sizes racing each other from the Bay Bridge North of Annapolis to the southern end of Chesapeake Bay. Starting at 13h30 on Thursday 16th October, this is the 25th running of the annual race, which was started by the late Capt. Laine Briggs.This is really two parties, one in Baltimore, Maryland, the other in Portsmouth, Virginia, linked by a yacht race.

I have sailed in this race twice before, on steel boats that I had designed. In 2004 it was on the 60ft gaff schooner "Ancilla II", then owned by Renny Barnes. About 5 or 6 years later I did it on the  Hout Bay 40 "Adventure" that was owned by Charley Holmes.

This year I will sail with Dan Hall on his GRP staysail schooner-rigged Shearwater 45 "Apella". She was built in Cape Town by Patrick Fraser. Patrick commissioned the Shearwater 45 design and built two of them, one for himself and the other for his colleague Denis Colclough. The one that we will sail was the boat owned by Denis and was originally named "Wave Maiden".
"Apella", snapped by solo-circumnavigator Ant Steward at a recent
chance meeting when leaving Newport RI.

The Shearwater 45 has a modern underbody below her classic good looks. It allows these boats to show surprising speed under most wind conditions.

The two schooners were both fitted out with very distinctive colours and detailing, styled after the very luxurious private Pullman carriages that were used by wealthy families to travel on the railroads of North America.
Sistership "Moonbeam" out of the water, showing underbody.
Gorgeous interior of "Apella", looking aft
Looking forward.

The cutter-rigged version of this design won two boat of the year awards at the 2000 Annapolis Sailboat Show. Read more about the Shearwater 45 in an earlier blog post.

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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Didi 950 Progress & Lifting Keel Option

Mike Vermeersch in Ravenna Ohio turned over his Didi 950 hull a couple of weeks ago and sent me a video of the process.  He turned the hull with the help of a few friends, using the spit roast method and a pair of engine hoists.

With the hull settled in her new cradle, Mike has settled into doing the epoxy fillets and coatings, ahead of starting on the interior joinery.

Epoxy coatings progressing on Mike's Didi 950
While builders have been making material progress with their builds, I have been doing the drawings that detail the lifting keel version for Fred Grimminck. Fred is building his Didi 950 in Queensland, Australia. He has also turned his hull in the past fortnight.

The lifting keel version uses a keel support box of identical footprint to that of the fixed keel version. The difference is that the keel has to slide through where the motor sits in the fixed keel boat, so the motor has relocated to below the front of the cockpit and has a saildrive. The keel support box for this version has the casing built into it, with a flange at the top edge for bolting the keel securely in the down position. In the raised position, the keel is at approximately the same level as the bottom of the rudders. Draft is 2.35m (7'9") with the keel down and 1.15m (3'9") with the keel up.

The keel is lifted by means of a tackle, with the tail led to a dedicated winch that is recessed into the galley counter. This is a simple system, without the waterproofing and complication issues of leading it to a cabin roof winch.
Accommodation of the lifting keel version of the Didi 950
This lifting keel offers Didi 950 owners the possibility of having a racer or a performance cruiser, with deep draft, that can live on much shallower moorings or can access shallow anchorages.

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