EASTERN / NE Boat Set-Up

There has been a tradition in the New England clubs (and elsewhere I think) of making the top skipper for the weekend disclose the gear, setup, etc that did the trick- Seems like we have more people getting interested in racing these days so I am thinking we ought to start doing this again. So with that in mind here goes- I apologize if this is a bit much but I just polished off a big cup of coffee (I’m not addicted, I just like the taste) so this is gonna be a long one….

MAST- My whole program is built around the same CSI/Kent mast I’ve had since 2008. It’s a 4.1 model, great mast, in wide use, and has been a great constant as I fiddle with the other components of the boat.

HULL- A CSI hull, two years old. A very sexy piece of kit! Jeff has been refining the design and construction of these things for years and he hit the nail on the head with this one. It’s legal, I swear….

PLANK- I switched to a softer plank this season- the previous one bent 1 3/8″ (34mm )with my weight, which is 175 pounds (80kg) of pure muscle. Really…. The current one bends 1 3/4″ (44mm) with my weight. May not sound like much of a difference but this makes the boat much more forgiving to sail. This is about the same deflection all the hotshots have been recommending for years.

SAILS- I used a set of new 1D sails last weekend- Honestly can’t tell the difference between them and the North sails I’ve been using for the last several years. Used the flat one Saturday in the big breeze and the full one Sunday when the wind was down a little.

RUNNERS- All CSI carbon bodies, 440C steel. Used max thickness (1/4″) inserts sharpened to 90 degrees with a ton of flat (22″ maybe?) in the big breeze on Saturday and went to minimum thickness (3/16″) 100 degree short inserts (32″ long) with less flat in the softer breeze and softer ice on Sunday. These seemed to stay on top of the softer ice better than 90’s or thin T’s. My sharpening technique consists of dropping all my blades at Steve Duhamel’s shop every year- he makes them PERFECT.

SET-UP- I set the boat up to be more forgiving and sail-able than I have been for the past few years- mast step further forward, sidestays snug but not bar tight. Along with the softer plank this makes the boat much less work to sail (no easing the sheet and hiking out of the boat in the gusts) as the mast and plank do much more of the work. “Tune for effect!” as Jan Gougeon said. I’ve been sailing with the mast stood up fairly straight and the boom on the low side (12″ or so off back deck). Makes for a cramped office but the boat seems to like it! Maybe shrinking the gap between the boom and your legs makes a good end-plate effect? Food for thought…..

SAILING- As always you don’t want to sheet too hard off of the starting line and out of tacks and gybes. And in lulls. This seems really true with the softer setup. Less time fighting the boat means more time to look at tactics and laylines- big gains to be made here. Drag is the big enemy (esp. in big breeze) and I try to keep my toes pointed, knees bent, elbows in, and head tilted back as much as possible. Some experts gave me some good advice on tuning; Remember that half the race is downwind so when you are tuning before and between races don’t just race upwind and coast back to the pit- make sure your setup is soft enough for the downwind leg as well! Keeping the mast bent on the downwind leg is a big gain in speed and safety (bent mast=downforce=control).

MIND SET- I’m fortunate to travel with Chad Atkins (Holy Christ, did I just say that?) quite a bit and when the conversation isn’t completely in the gutter we talk boats (ours and other peoples), tuning and racing- this does wonders for getting your brain into iceboat mode- thinking about tuning, set up, tactical stuff, you name it- gets the surviving neurons firing. I’m also lucky to hang out with the CSI gang every Thursday and the brainstorming goes into high gear there as well- And of course at regattas a high percentage of conversations are about iceboat set up, construction, tuning…. An amazing learning opportunity- You can learn as much during dinner as you can on the ice! That’s why it’s good to attend….

PRACTICE- No substitute for time in the boat- Doesn’t have to be a big event- blowing out of work at lunch, setting up a pair of little marks and doing a bunch of laps on the local frog pond for a few hours against even one or two other boats can yield major results- No pressure, no scorekeeping, perfect time to experiment with different set ups and techniques- starts, tacks, gybes, mark roundings all get better. A good tuning partner is great to have- again, I’m lucky that Chad and I live a few miles apart and have similar gear and sailing styles- we beat each other up on the course and the post-mortems yield a lot of information. Our sparring sessions have sped us both up a lot. Plus it’s fun.

RECON- I am shameless when it comes to copying fast sailors and their setups and pestering them for go-fast tips. Scrutinizing photos on the web is a great tool as well. I’ve found many of the fastest sailors to be very forthcoming and have a notebook full of tips, tricks and rules of thumb- With that spirit in mind feel free to hit me with any questions you may have and we can all speed up and invent our own bag of tricks….

T Thieler US 5224

One response

  1. Dave Ross

    Thanks very much for this James. As a relatively new iceboater I really appreciate the open attitude to sharing tips and tricks. Here’s a suggestion, with no disrespect to you James. How about asking Karel Jablonsky to share what he credits his quantum leap in speed at this year’s worlds to. He was very forthcoming with those who were in Kingston and I suspect would be online as well.
    Dave Ross KC 5203

    04/03/2015 at 10:31 am