Notes from USA 169 “Empeiria”
Annapolis NOOD, August 28-30
Spinnaker trimmer: Will Felder
Jib trimmer: Zach Mason
Tactician/Main: Brian Kamilar
Helm: John Heaton
Rig and Sails
● Southern Rig
● North J-2 high clew jib. North F-1 main. North spinnaker
We left the dock each day of racing with the rig at our “base’’ settings:
● Headstay length of 55 5/8” (using North tuning-guide measurement standard)
● Upper tension of 18 (loose gauge), barely 6 on the lowers. If light we went one step down
with is -1 (one turn off) on uppers and lowers. A couple of races the wind was a bit heavier
and we went one step up from base which was 2 turns on the uppers and one on the
● Stay in pressure, choose a “side” and be patient.
● Try to stay away from tangling with other fleets (sometimes wasn’t easy!)
● Brian focused on starting us in a low-density area on the line with ability to go towards
the desired side of the course for as long possible.
● For a couple or races the pin was quite favored so even if wanted to go right we worked
to win the pin and to then have the ability to tack to port.
● Because of the chopped-up air from other fleets the rig was generally at a lighter settings
to allow us to get off the line. Decision/discussion about these setting was typically done
about 5 minutes before each start. Gross backstay adjusted accordingly (less for lighter
● Key in the light and lumpy to be full speed at go, lines “pulled to their marks”. Max focus
on boat speed from acceleration in first few minutes off the line.
● Primary focus was on getting the boat to speed which helps us point.
● Twisty profile was faster. When we felt slow more twist in the sails helped and more
● An important focus for us is our heel angle. With relatively flat water our target heel angle
is 5 to 10 degrees. This is sometimes uncomfortable for the driver but is fast. In light air
there will be little feel (John is learning not to complain too much about that!). With chop
target angle was 10 to 15 degrees with a little more bow down but not too extreme.
● Puffs: with the shifty and puffy conditions there were big gains in getting the bow up
aggressively in puffs and then to not let the bow “dribble” down too much in the light
stuff. There is a balance with chop however. We focus on not too much bow down where
the boat is just tipping over. Main trim also reacts to puffs with communication from the
trimmer about how much main is out to allow the driver to know how much more “up”
there is. These is a general balancing act here that takes some practice. We did have
similar conditions the weekend before in Chicago so we were ready for the general
conditions we had in Annapolis.
● Main and jib trim: very active all weekend. Will and Zach were constantly playing the
weather sheet and halyard from the rail in hiking conditions. The weather sheet was
adjusted by sailing with Zach banjoing in puffs and then easing in chop and/or lighter
conditions. Periodic adjustments to the leeward sheet also from the rail. In lighter
conditions with Zach and/or Will in the boat, Zach would play the leeward sheet quickly
along with periodic changes in car positions (forward in lighter conditions). Will played
the jib halyard in puffs and lulls.
● For main trim, when got light and looking for twisty, visual que is top leech tell tail flying
90-100% of the time. Traveler car 80% up. Once at top speed can trim main to top leech
tell tail at 50% stall. Careful not go get caught main over trimmed, crew can help look up
if main trimmer is looking at race course, this is a team effort.
● Jib trim: Initial lead at 7.5 with two people legs out. 7 With one person’s legs out. Leach
tell tales always flying and jib trimmed to outside spreader mark at max trim. Inhaul
would be set so clew was where no- skid starts at cabin top to 2” off non-skid. Goal was
a round jib in the light air or chop and transitioning to a flatter setup as the boat was up
to speed. When both legs out crew were off the rail we would start to push lead forward
to 5.5 to 6 with no to minimal inhaul. We would not wait to adjust lead and could go from
5.5 to 7.5 on a leg in the large velocity changes. We would try to never have leach inside
the outer spreader mark in any condition and “outside outside” when both legs are in the
● Jib Transitions: Will being forward upwind would constantly be on the jib halyard to keep
horizontal wrinkles just in front of the first vertical seam back till we were on the rail
hiking. Once on the rail hiking we would have horizontal wrinkles just starting or taken
out but never pulling on the cloth vertically. This is our largest control on powering up
the boat once backstay is released by adding depth to the jib. We had more sheet and jib
halyard adjustments than any other event we had sailed due to the large variations of
velocity. Setting up the sheets to make for quick easy jib adjustments was important
during the event. Trimmer should be looking upwind anticipating the next adjustment.
Sailing into a lull we would have the sheet brought up to the high side and cleated to
windward with 0.5”-1.0” of slack between the two cleats. This way the trimmer could
easily reach behind them and ease that amount almost instantly. Once jib sheet is eased,
grab the inhaul to round out the bottom and keep from losing the top of the sail. Typically
we would not cleat this unless it was holding or we expected the breeze to drop more and
hands were needed to ease the sheet more. As the lull ends and pressure builds, the
trimmer can ease the barber and push on the sheet that is already set up between the
leeward and windward cleats from easing going into it regaining the eased amount.
● Crew weight: focus was on heel angle here. In puffs crew were on the rail before a puff
hit then aggressively off the rail in light conditions. This helped John keep the bow up in
● We struggled a bit with our mode downwind at the start of the regatta. The first day we
had too much crew weight to windward in light air. When Zach moved his weight to
leeward this helped the boat track better and allowed us to steer down better in puffs.
● As the weekend progressed Will took more control of the mode (bow-up/ bow-down,
wing etc.) and we went much better.
● Lot’s of communication between Will and John working puffs and waves.
● Zach and Brian communicated observations about progress relative to other boats and
puffs/lulls. Will and John tried not to react too much to relatives unless we were really
out of sync with the rest of the fleet. There was so much variation in pressure across the
course that we found it much better to focus on our boat and our own situation unless
there was a tactical reason to match another boat’s angle.