Light Air Worries

It is funny how things can seem in hindsight. During the planning and construction phase I was worried that Bolero might disappoint me with her light air capabilities. Part of the root of this concern was a conversation I had over on Tim's Plastic Classic forum last December with Kristian.

I'm really glad I came across your project. With a few exceptions there aren't a lot of people talking Shields online, even though Shields owners and crew tend to be pretty excited to do so in person.

And don't get too excited about the structural work I'm doing. #9's bottom is in much better shape than 88's. Also, I'm one of those "last inch" people when it comes to boat prep. Also(2) I'm jealous of 150's bottom, which is pretty flawless. To be quite honest, if I could I would send my boat to Tim for a (one design) restoration!, as he seems very good at what he does. I can promise you some very neat ideas when it comes to the rigging.

The Shields is a heavy boat, and needs a little work to get moving in the light, especially downwind. Definitely a great boat in a breeze; this years nationals had 2 races in the high 20's and I've never had such fun. For a couple cruise I'm comfortable in anything up to about 20 with standard sails. Over that and it just gets too wet, although the boats still very easy to control. A local sailor used to race singlehanded up to about 25, with a small reef in the main. By the way, has anyone told you about scoop mode yet? It's a unique condition of shields sailing that when close reaching in choppy seas, the jib tends to regularly deposit waves into the jib trimmers lap.

I've certainly thought about putting in an masthead sheave and getting a used T10 spinnaker. Problem is that the mast tip has a lot of unsupported length, and is pretty bendy (you should have seen it when we broke the backstay in 30kts) I think in order to do it right you'd need to add a set of jumpers or cap shrouds. That would make a MH sails more than just a 5kt affair. On reaches to and from the race course I've thought the better ticket would be some sort of jib top reacher, sheeted to the toe rail, or even the spinnaker turning blocks and barberhauled. I'm asking my sailmaker today if he has any thoughts on the subject, I've never taken this idea very far for OneDesign reasons.

Hope I haven't spooked you with the light air talk. While thats their weakness, they're still a pleasure to sail. In fact, I get a lot less frustrated in light air shields sailing than I do in the more modern raceboats I sail the rest of the time. You've picked a great platform for your project, as the boats definitely have that undefinable good feeling about them.

What a difference some time at the helm makes. I have no complaints with Bolero's light air characteristics. What I have been thinking more and more about is setting her up for comfortable higher wind ranges. My best guess is that I am pretty comfortable up to 15 knots and expect that number to grow a bit with experience and proper rig and sail trim. After that I want to incorporate the flattening and two reef points that I added to the sail.

I have been playing with the approximate force on the sail for various sail configurations using the formula:

Sail Force = (Sail Area) (Wind Speed)^2 (0.00431) -- I found it on the Web so it must be right :)

Actually since I know that the force varies with square of the wind speed the exact value isn't important. What I am looking for is a feel for when I get overpowered and use that number to get a feel for a more appropriate sail configuration.

I find it quite impressive that Kristian can "couple cruise" in 20 knots and his friend can single hand in 25 knots. I have some learning to do.

My winter challenge is to find the real estate I need on the boom for all this stuff. Should be fun.