Dabchicks – 60 years old in 2016

The Dabchick, our iconic South African designed sailing dinghy, will celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2016. Our dream is to have a fleet of at least 60 Dabbies taking part in the 2016 Dabchick Youth Nationals. In order to achieve this, we are on a mission to grow the fleet.

After brainstorming various ways to achieve this it has become clear that we need to assemble a collection of Dabbies that can be used for training and development, and rented to young sailors on a short term basis, so that we can share the thrill of sailing this exhilarating craft and build the fleet.

There is no doubt that the boat sells itself – youngsters cannot resist the huge fun to be had sailing a Dabbie, plus there is the added dimension of the social side of the Dabbie class. The Dabbie kids are famous for sticking together, having fun and helping each other grow into better sailors by sharing tips, sometimes even during races!

We therefore have to find as many sailable Dabbies as we can, as quickly as possible, so we can use these boats for training and to promote this amazing craft. Around 3500 Dabbies have been built over the years and, since not all of them have sunk or become firewood, there must be plenty of them hanging from garage ceilings or in storage somewhere that can be brought back into regular use ahead of this milestone anniversary event for the class.

And this is where we need your assistance – please help us to locate any disused Dabbies that may be donated or purchased to help our cause and add to our pool of boats. We are trying to track down as many ’lost’ Dabbies as we can and are busy creating the definitive Dabbie database listing all known Dabbies.

If you don’t have a Dabbie to donate, but would like to contribute to the cause, we would welcome any monetary donations. Please contact the Treasurer, Barbara Sher (sherbarbara@gmail.com) to obtain the Dabchick Association bank account details. We also invite donations from corporate sponsors. In return we will acknowledge your sponsorship by giving you advertising space on your own sponsored boats.

In the fullness of time we’d love to have a collection of reasonable-to-good boats that are properly housed and cared for and that can be used for training, travelling road-shows and open days. This can only help to grow our fleet and swell the numbers entering our sport.

If you talk to anyone involved with the development and training of our top sailors in South Africa, they will tell you that it is far easier for a sailor to get physically fit for hard, competitive sailing than to gain the hands-on racing experience necessary to excel at the highest levels in the sport.

These essential skills can only be truly honed in the cut and thrust of the start line and the thrill of the race, regardless of how many hours are spent in land training and theory sessions, studying rules and tactics. Learning to practically implement all this sailing theory in the heat of the moment and in the best possible way is an indispensable element in the development of any young sailor. Sailing in large fleets from an early age is an advantage that cannot be over-emphasised.

Logic further dictates that having a wide base of as many young sailors as possible must be a huge advantage in the quest for sailing talent. The wider this base, the better the chances that some truly great sailors will emerge to carry the torch for their country. Having to fight to the top of the pile against a large number of competitors breeds sailors who are far tougher than those who do not have the sheer weight of numbers to contend with, and a substantial Dabbie fleet would provide just the right cauldron in which this talent can be tempered and developed.

Please help us to get at least 60 boats on the water by 2016 – any assistance in this regard would be greatly appreciated! Contact Andy Hoyle – ahcon@mweb.co.za

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Dinghy sailing – what to wear


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Radical Kite wave sailing


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Sailing watches – the finalbeat.com

Here’s some things to look out for:

A sailing-specific countdown – Most countdowns beep when the countdown has finished, for obvious reasons. The good thing about having a sailing-specific countdown is that the beep as each minute passes, and then give you beeps as you move into the last few seconds before the start. This gives you an audible countdown for those hectic starts, freeing you up to keep your head out of the boat. It’s a very useful feature.

A Sync option – This is also a very useful feature. If you miss the five-minute gun you can simply start your timer anyway, and when the four-minute gun goes you hit the Sync button and the countdown will start counting down from 4 minutes. You can also synchronise to the one-minute gun if you mess that up.

Battery life – I don’t think I’ve ever managed to keep a sailing watch long enough to run through the battery, so this isn’t really a consideration for me. And anyway, you can generally find somewhere that will change the battery cheaply enough if it does become an issue. But from my research, battery life is an issue for some sailors – if it is for you, then it is worth checking the reviews of a watch before you buy. I’ve listed it in the “Negatives” section of each watch where I’ve come across some anecdotal evidence that it is an issue.

Large number display – This can be useful, especially if you’re long sighted. Definitely worth looking for, but not necessarily a deal breaker.

Vibration alert – I’ve never had a watch with a vibration alert as part of the countdown function, but I like the idea. I’d be interested to find out whether it can be felt on a windy day, but if it can then it is an excellent feature.

Velcro strap – Velcro straps are a matter of taste. I wouldn’t buy a watch on the strength of the fact that it had a velcro strap – they’re easy enough to buy and fit if they are your strap of preference. That said, I find them quite useful – they’re easier to do up and undo than a traditional strap.

Scratch resistant glass – This is worth looking out for. I’ve had a watch or too (especially ones with domed glass) that can get scratched and more difficult to read.

GPS – To get this feature you’re going to have to pay bigger bucks. If you think you’ll use it, then it is a pretty great feature, but it is hardly an essential.

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Northern region Annual Disco Prizegiving – 30 th May 2015

Annual Northern region Dinner clicket clicYouth Dinner

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Helm, Trim, and Heel – ByMike Ingham

A smooth, efficient turn requires the input from the sails, hull, foils, and crew. Finding the right amount of each takes time and practice.

While coaching at the 2013 J/24 Worlds in Ireland, I watched a highly competitive fleet round the top mark, and then the gate marks at the bottom of the first lap. The lead group was tight, with the usual suspects among them, but there were also a few that were having the race of their lives—for the time being. One moment they were side by side with a top team. Then they’d lose a half boatlength while rounding a mark. With the next maneuver they’d lose another. And we all know what happens next: The top teams were able to get a clear lane and break free while the others faded into the fleet, never to recover. As I observed more, I could see how the best teams made each turn look effortless, much smoother and not just with rudder movement—they used all the tools available.

Let’s first look at how we turn the boat using the combination of rudder, sails, and heel. Fundamentally, the main and jib combination is like a windsurfer sail. On a windsurfer, leaning the mast aft shifts the sail’s center of effort (the center of the power in the sail) aft as well, which makes the board rotate into the wind. Similarly, trimming the mainsail increases leech tension and therefore increases leeward force aft in the boat, while easing the jib relieves force pushing the bow to leeward. When done in unison, the sail plan’s center of effort shifts aft relative to the center of resistance (the underwater foils), which makes the boat want to head up into the wind. Easing the main while trimming the jib does the opposite. Changing heel angle helps steer because of the shape of the hull. The roundness of the bow digging in to leeward while heeling makes the boat want to head up, and the bow digging in to windward (while flattening) makes the boat want to bear away. Steering with the helm is necessary and is by far the most reliable way of changing direction. We are not trying to eliminate using the rudder, we’re just trying to minimize its usage.

The right balance of helm, sails, and heel makes you smooth and fast. But how much of each should you use? There is no simple answer because it depends on the characteristics of your boat, the conditions, and how quick a turn needs to be. For example, if you have to do a big duck behind a boat, take the low lane out of a windward mark, or are executing a penalty turn, you might want to bear away hard. An aggressive bear away will require a substantial main ease and little—if any—jib ease while you heel to windward and pull the helm. While aggressively heading up around a leeward mark, at the start, or as part of a penalty turn, you will pull in your main as fast as you can while letting the jib luff, heeling to leeward, and actively pushing the helm.

Examining more closely such aggressive movements helps us understand the limits to the effectiveness of each method. Under-trimming either of the sails will cause them to luff. Over-trimming them will cause them to stall. Either way, the boat slows, and a slow boat doesn’t turn quickly. You can only vary from optimum trim so much before you will slow the turn. The limits are a partial luff and a slight over trim. Too much leeward heel will cause the boat to slip sideways and stall flow across the underwater foils, making it harder to steer. Change in heel angle of 5 to 10 degrees either way should be enough.

Too much helm either way (but particularly when bearing away) can act as a speed break. If it’s overdone, flow may even cease across the rudder and stop the turn completely. In short, if by using these techniques we lose too much flow on either our blades or sails we’ve gone past the productive limits. A maneuver that requires a quick turn will push the limits of losing flow. A maneuver requiring a small turn will only vary subtly from optimum speed.

Each unique boat will require its ideal combination of helm, heel, and trim. For example, if your boat has a small rudder, it will lose flow easily on the rudder so you want to minimize helm use and focus your efforts on using sails and heel to turn the boat. If your boat has a small main, it will lose flow easily, so more rudder and heel than sails may be best. If your boat has a small or inefficient keel, it will slide sideways easily, so don’t overdo it with the heel. If your boat has a large genoa, make sure you only vary slightly from optimum trim because it’s so important to the speed of your boat. If you over trim it too much, it will act as a break, and if you under trim it too much, you will lose a good portion of your speed force and that’s not good either. If your boat is lightweight, say a dinghy, much of a turn can be done with body weight. My Thistle, for example, has a large main and large rudder, but a small jib. I can steer well with weight, and I really focus on using the main because it is so much bigger than the jib. The rudder is much smaller on the Thistle, so we try to use it as little as possible. Conversely, a J/24 is a lot heavier so we still try to steer with heel, and since it has such a large genoa, we make sure that it’s trimmed well.

Armed with these basics, the only way to know what works best for your boat is to experiment with these characteristics. To start with, I recommend leaving complications ashore, such as extra crew and the spinnaker gear. You want to focus on the pure maneuvers without those distractions—they will be easy to add later. Next, experiment with turning too fast, trimming too hard, and heeling too much so you understand the limits of your boat. Then record some video as you experiment. For example, try a leeward mark rounding three ways: exaggerating the sail trim in one, the heel in the next, and finally the rudder. Then try subtle combinations.

Don’t underestimate the of value of helm feedback. You will know you have it right when you do your move with the helm feeling smooth and unforced. You should be able to immediately feel in your fingertips any unbalance in trim or heel. Then, watch check out your wake: If leaving a question-mark trail, you need to rebalance. If your leeward mark rounding shows a lot of turbulence, and your track indicates you’re sliding sideways, you’ve heeled too much.

Once you understand the right combinations for each move on your boat, you can add the rest of the team. Practice it so everyone knows what to do without much micromanaging; there is no time for that. Someone, usually the helmsman, will need to modify what is happening. For example, if you feel too much force one way or the other on the helm, recognize it quickly and call for a modification such as “less heel,” or “ease the jib.”

There are many factors that lead to sailboat racing success, but I find in my coaching that people tend to put the mechanics of turning as a low priority. They will work so hard to gain one boatlength upwind just to lose it at the corners. A small investment in learning your boat, then practicing to optimize your turns puts you in control of your race and that, for sure, is much more fun

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Terry’s Tip: Faster Leeward-Mark Exit ByTerry Hutchinson

A clean exit around the leeward mark requires a few consistent parts: a timely douse, good sail trim, proper rudder load, and a smooth, consistent rate of turn. In any competitive fleet a good rounding can be a make or break part of the race.

Timely douse Good timing on the spinnaker douse is critical. As I continue to learn time and again, early is better then late. The biggest criticism of my own game would my habit of pushing too far into the mark, at the risk of losing because of an untidy douse, which is greater than the potential gain. As soon as the boat is on the edge of the three-length zone, get rid of the spinnaker. In windier conditions make it happen even earlier, prioritizing a clean foredeck and weight on the rail as the boat turns onto the breeze.

Sail trim This is where a bad turn gets amplified. A flapping mainsail kills the momentum of the turn and keeps the front of the boat loaded more than the rudder. The ideal turn is when the mainsail is trimmed slightly harder, or ahead of the turn, keeping enough (but not too much load) on the rudder, helping the boat onto an upwind angle. The jib trim should be just behind the mainsail, but if the trimmer errs, it’s better to have the sail slightly under trimmed than over trimmed. This will again make it easier for the helmsman to hit the upwind angle.

Rudder load This is completely dependent on the conditions. The sail trim should be enough to encourage the boat onto the upwind angle, but not so much so that the boat loses control and spins out while rounding the mark. In an ideal world, the load is enough that the helmsman can turn upwind with control and land just inside of the upwind angle. From there they can press slightly on the jib to build speed, without giving up precious gauge, to maintain a tight lane. Rudder load will dictate this, so when in doubt, slightly more load is better then less.

The turn A good turn starts wide and passes as close to the mark as possible on a close-hauled course. That’s easy to say, and yet in the heat of the moment it’s often harder to execute. My recommendation is for the helmsman to have a good line of sight to the mark, good balance on the helm (meaning you can control the rate of turn and the boat is not controlling you), and practice different approach angles, always working toward passing the mark as close to upwind as possible. Again, the priority is to be on the breeze or slightly thin on the jib to hold the lane out of the bottom.

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How to Sail Like a Corinthian – ByTerry Hutchinson

At a recent Melges 20 event we had a close situation at a top mark where we fouled another boat and if we did not foul it felt close. Nothing was said; both boats bore away, set kites and went about their business. Inevitably my counterpart on the other boat is an Olympic gold/bronze medalist, multiple world champion, America’s Cup, Volvo ocean race etc…. all around sailing stud. I would also say that Jonathan and I are about as different of people that you could meet. Jonathan reminded me about the meaning of respecting your competitors, pushing the limits, and racing hard while not losing sight of the big picture.

How? Ashore I went up to Jonathan to apologize for what I thought was a foul on our part and thanked him. He was quick to point out that we do a lot of racing in an environment where we are coaching owner-drivers and sometimes things are just close. Yet, he also said that racing against each other hard is a give and take on the water and without saying it reminded me in a very simple gesture that there is a lot to gain by racing hard and in a professional manner.

Lesson learned again! As potentially my own worst enemy with intensity and for those of you who have the same tendencies, there are some good takeaways from this exchange and experience.
Pick and choose your battles. In the example above if it was a foul it was small enough that our competition did not think it warranted a penalty. Jonathan made a choice to cut us some slack and as we talked about the situation ashore. It was a great reminder for me that not every situation requires a red flag and there are times to race competitors hard and cut each other slack. No shouting, just racing.

Knowing the rules. This is a tricky one in our sport. In the best of situations the rules can be confusing. In confusing situations it gets harder and as emotions in the heat of the moment get revved up thinking clearly can be tough. A clear understanding of the rules and quick acknowledgement of a foul with immediate penalty clears the air pretty quickly and will allow you to get back to racing.

No cheese. In the situation that I described above there was no real alteration of course and yet it would have been real easy to put the bow up and do a Hollywood and protest, place the onus and burden of a protest on us. But they did not and there is the great lesson. Nothing said if it was clean and keep racing. The conversation ashore revealed what I felt on the boat and yet a solid reminder from a great professional. No need to be cheesy on the water as there is a lot of racing in 2015.

Each situation on the course requires a different reaction or response. The above lesson though was and is a great reminder to being a higher standard. There are certain teams that you will race against, we all know who they are, and that won’t be a good standard. Stay above it, do your penalty turns if you foul, and remember it is still just a sail boat race!

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Some more Tips by Michael Storer

Sailing skills
I have sailed most types of boats at some time or another, sometimes with quite good results – so I have confidence in my general sailing ability.

My bibles have always been Eric Twiname’s books. They both have the message that anyone can do well at a National level and that improvement comes from changing the way you think. They are possibly out of print but I see them not infrequently in second hand bookstores.
“Start to Win” – goes through the techniques required to handle a boat efficiently.
“Sail, Race and Win” gives examples on how to make the techniques automatic.

The overarching principle is, to improve, spend time on the water practicing. The practice has to be task oriented. If you can get time aside from racing to practice, well and good. If you only ever race it is worthwhile moving the priority from finishing well, to focus on some aspect to improve during the race (eg, one or two of: roll tacking, roll gybing, pumping sail downwind, surfing, sailing boat flat (or windward heeling), sailing in the right direction when looking elsewhere etc).

Most important in order of importance:
1/ Keeping boat flat -the biggest difference between the sailors in the top third of the fleet vs the bottom third. A bit of heel in the very light stuff is OK, but as soon as the boat is moving reliably – flat. Practice by sailing a medium wind race keeping the boat heeling a few degrees to windward upwind and on the reaches and a bit more when running. There are no excuses for not being able to keep the boat dead flat through use of steering and sheeting.

2/ Keeping sail moving – sheet in and out – steer in concert – wind is never static – know how to use the tufts on the sails – they should be flying almost all the time (though they won’t fly on a run).

3/ Being able to set up sail adjustments quickly for changes in wind or point of sail. Texta (permanent marker) marks on boom, mast and control lines when you feel you have been going particularly well. Is it worthwhile to stop just past the windward mark to draw texta lines on your boat when it has been moving well? YOU BET! If concerned about the appearance, put some clear contact film on any areas that you may need to mark beforehand.

Sail Adjustment in General.

Rule One of sail adjustment (and everything else) is watch what the fast guys are doing – how loose is their traveler, outhaul, luff tension, where are they sitting? As I am learning “Sabre Specific Behaviors” I spend the time before the start following the good guys, copying their settings then setting off upwind myself to see if I need more power or pointing.

Rule Two is that if you can’t adjust it quickly during the race without losing speed or direction it is better to not adjust. Save the adjustments for the beginning of each downwind leg and before the beginning of each upwind leg. If in the bottom third stick to mainsheet and tiller otherwise unless badly underpowerd/overpowered and concentrate on keeping the boat flat. As this becomes more automatic you will have additional time to optimise settings for variations in windstrength

Specific Sail Adjustment
Light wind
Winds where getting boat moving is unreliable (see paragraph above, grumble).

Wind less than 3 or 4 knots. In principle, sail should be relatively flat and quite twisted. Crew weight should be well forward and a bit of leeward heel. Perhaps pull a bit of rudder up to reduce wetted surface. If in doubt, ease mainsheet and get speed up, then think about pointing. No point in adjusting sail controls for reaching and running (all points require a flattened sail with reasonable twist), though I would use a little more vang on the run.

Medium Wind
Boat moves reliably and can be held flat without easing sail. Wind 5 to 13 knots.

Upwind – foot outhaul adjusted so about 75mm (3ins) between sail foot and boom, vang adjusted so windward tufts at each level of the sail stall at the same time when you point up a little too much. Leach tufts should all be flying No or very slight luff tension. Traveler loose. Outer end of boom above inside face of buoyancy tank. Legs behind thwart, body leaning slightly forward so midpoint of shoulders is in line or slightly ahead of thwart.

Reaching – if sail is eased and tufts still flying, that’s reaching. If you can’t ease sail enough to make tufts fly, you are running – so see below. From beam reach to broad reach ease foot outhaul to give 1 in 7 curve to bottom of sail – fit a stop so that it can’t go past this. Vang readjusted so lee tufts stall at same time at all heights. No or slight luff tension. Mainsheet can be adjusted so leech tufts flick behind the sail briefly from time to time. Centreboard raised a foot

Running – No tufts will fly. Foot tight so that only a tiny amount of curve remains. Vang firm so leach does not twist. Traveler irrelevant – Centreboard as high as you can manage without death rolls (There are toothmarks in the stbd side deck where I got carried away with this in my third race). Move weight forward a foot or so, heel boat to windward approx 5 to 10 degrees (brings helm back into centre to reduce rudder drag and moves middle of sail up higher).

Stronger wind
Sails are having to be eased frequently to keep boat upright. 13+ knots.

The big trick to sailing in strong breezes is to pre-empt the effect of the breeze – see a gust approaching, get boat double extra flat (if not actually heeled to windward a bit) and ready to ease a bit more mainsheet and point up (if going upwind) or bear away with big ease of main (if going down(wind)).

Wind is never even in strength – there are times when the wind is stronger on average (ie wind is stronger in BOTH gusts and lulls) and lighter on average (ie wind is lighter in BOTH gusts and lulls). These cycles last from 5 to 15 minutes, the trick is to set up the boat for the current cycle. The vang is the most important adjustment

Upwind – the objective is to flatten the top of the sail to prevent heeling, but have enough fullness in the bottom to give adequate power and to make the boat point – if foot is flattened excessively it is hard to make a Sabre point. Same if the traveler is too tight. This is quite different from most boats I have sailed. Vang is the most important adjustment and will be adjusted frequently and hard – the trick is to set it up so that boat can be kept flat 90% of the time for each wind cycle. If you see a big gust approaching, pull on heaps of vang before it hits, then ease it back out after the gust has passed as you become underpowered. Luff tension can be medium or pulled out to the black band if vang is not adequate to keep the boat flat. If really blowing the crabs out of the sand pull up 150mm (six inches) of centreboard. If you can’t avoid a nasty wave face ease the mainsheet a little, bear off a few degrees and hike HARD (flat boat) – you will still hit the wave – but speed will reappear quickly – then point again while pulling main back in and go back into your normal hiking position.

Reaching – upwind vang tension is excessive on the reach so you can afford to ease it from the tight upwind setting. – if you don’t you will notice the mast bending strongly to windward in the middle from the boom compression. So vang firm rather than hard. Downhaul as per upwind – doesn’t make much difference in these conditions. If you feel underpowered ease out main foot toward the one in seven position, if still underpowered ease downhaul. Centreboard 1/3 up. Sit behind thwart and lean body aft if nose is digging in.

Running – as per medium breeze but weight should be as far back as necessary to prevent nose diving but keep trying to move forward – sitting in the stern when it is unnecessary is dead slow. Centreboard 1/3 to 1/2 up. When surfing down the faces steer for the low point of the wave in front

To Summarise
Main thing is not to get too caught up in the search for the perfect boat. Rather, spend time working on specific aspects of your skills, try to identify weaknesses and work out practice strategies to correct them.

For example my weaknesses are: Light wind, starting, strategy under the simplified rules, not using body weight actively enough to maximise advantages from waves and small fluctuations in wind (a legacy of sailing larger boats – Sharpie/Yachts) and not pushing the boat hard enough downwind in medium to strong conditions. I am prepared to blow race results to improve these areas by practicing on the race course.

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Some Tips for you

Before you start on your dinghy sailing training plan, read the guide from Olympic silver-medalist Joe Glanfield as to how you can improve your sailing. Dinghy sailing can be a great way to improve your body’s levels of health and fitness, through regular training, and offers a fun, active way to get fit.

As with most sports, the longer you spend training, the more you will improve your dinghy racing skills. A good start is by trying to find the time to do a weekly training session on top of any racing you do. This training time can be used to work on weaknesses highlighted in your racing.

There is a tendency in the sport of sailing to be very quick to blame equipment for poor performance and spend a lot of time and money buying and testing new equipment. In reality, most people’s equipment is fine and they would be better to spend their money on coaching to learn how to use their equipment more effectively.

Sailing can very basically be divided into three sections although there are a lot of sub-headings within these. Each section can be trained in different ways.

Dinghy boat handling
This is usually best practiced by sailing around a short course. The course can be made progressively shorter as you get better so you are continually pushed.

Dinghy boat speed
There is quite a lot of theory behind boat speed that is worth reading up on. If you find someone else to sail against you can line up close to one another (without effecting each others wind) and sail in a straight line working on technique and settings. For this to work well it is important for the boats to regularly speak to each other and say what they are trying.

Dinghy sailing tactics and strategy
All sailors will get better at their tactics through experience, so the best way to practice is simply to race. Organising a group of you to do lots of small practice races is a really good idea. The races being small means you can do a lot of them and so get a lot of starting practice. Also, the boats are likely to be closer so there will be more tactical interaction.

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