Sunday, January 6, 2013

Melges 20 Tuning

Explaining the Melges 20 rig
The Melges 20 rig is sophisticated and it not easy to set it up and tune it correctly. Let’s take a quick look at the basics: The rig features two sets of spreaders with diamonds-, primaries (V1) and lower shrouds. The setup can get away with the absence of a back-stay, due to the very strong carbon mast section, combined with the support of the double spreader/diamonds set-up. This also allows for a nice and efficient square-top main!

Each pair of shrouds serves a different purpose.
Diamonds: The tension on this set of shrouds, in combination with the spreader angles, directly control the pre-bend of the rig. More tension and/or more swept back spreaders result in more pre-bend (which in return flattens out the main sail)
Primaries (also called uppers): This set of shrouds mostly influences head stay tension, but also to a certain extent mast bend (between the hounds and the bottom)
Lowers: Lowers have a huge effect on tuning and therefor must be tuned correctly. They control the mast bend in the lower part of the rig and significantly influence head stay tension!

Initial Set-up of the Melges 20 rig
Melges Boat Works does a great job at initially setting up your spreaders and putting all the fittings in the right spot. Nevertheless it’s worth spending some time ensuring that your spreaders are parallel and perpendicular to the mast foot. Also check if the triangulation of the shroud cars and mast step position are correct by using a tape measurer.
Put the rig in the boat, attach your forestay, get your base settings more or less sorted. Measure your mast rake and also side-to-side position to ensure that your rig is straight in the boat. This might take some iteration initially as all the tensions interact with each other. If it’s a brand new rig, don’t worry too much about getting the numbers exactly right or if the rig seems to have a sideways or “S” bend in it. Once you have sailed with it in the breeze and everything is stretched in you can get more precise about it.

Base setting
Use the most updated tuning chart you can find (not easy!). The sail makers are constantly refining their sails and therefore also their tuning charts change. Ask the teams at the front end of the fleet to share their numbers with you.  On the next page you can find what has been working for us on the Bacio Team.
Our base setting is 120-130 kg on the diamonds and the lowers (lowers with two holes showing on the track) and about 250-260 kg on the primaries at 9350 mm (30ft 8”) mast rake. We set our spreader deflections at 1400 mm (center to center of shrouds) for the lower spreaders and 655 mm for the upper spreaders. These tensions are measured with the Harken Digital tuning gizmo.

Bacio Tuning Chart (Base Setting in RED), December 2012

Wind Speed (kts)
Uppers Track
Uppers Turnbuckle
Lowers Track
Lowers Turnbuckle
Diamonds Turnbuckle
3 - 5
- 8
- 4
5 - 8
0 - 3
- 8
0 - 2
- 8
8 - 11
0 - 4
- 4
1 - 4
- 4
0 (Base)
11 -14
1 - 4
2 - 4
15 - 18
2 - 4
+ 4
3 - 5
+ 4
19 - 22
3 - 5
+ 8
4 - 5
+ 1
+ 6
4 - 6
+ 10
4 - 5
+ 1.5
+ 10

Step -3 (super light)
Drifting conditions, with at least one person to leeward. Please notice that we have a good amount of tension on the diamonds in order to flatten out the main and open up the main sail leech to help flow.

Step -2 (light, looking for power)
Here it’s all about generating power in the boat and getting people on the rail. As long as you aren’t constantly easing the main sheet (due to too much power) you can make this setting work great. You might also be pulling on a little bit of vang at times. With these settings your main sheet tension is critical in regards to head stay tension (and jib luff sag), so be “smooth” on your main sheet. You will notice the leeward shrouds flopping around quite a bit, but no worries there!

Step -1 (always fully powered up, pulling vang on, hiking hard)
Now you are starting to hit good upwind target speeds and playing the main sheet more. As you start pulling more vang on, also pull lowers on in order to keep the bottom of the main sail from going too flat.

Step 0 (Base settings, boat has tendency to tip over, starting to get rid of power)
You are now constantly pulling a good amount of vang on and flattening out the sail by pulling diamonds on and keeping the head stay tight with some lower tension (remember, one more hole on the lower shrouds car tensions that head stay nicely).

Step 1 (getting windy, too much power)
At this stage it’s about finding the right amount of power in the rig. If you’re having to ease too much mainsheet in order to keep the boat flat and the main might even be ragging a bit, just put a couple more turns on the diamonds and primaries. This will calm everything down again.

Step 2 and 3 (should we actually go sailing?)
Now the boat feels like a handful, you might sometimes even get blown over a bit and loose flow on your foils. But don’t worry the boat can handle it. Keep working the jib sheet in the puffs to take the worst “bite” out of it.  No need to go crazy on the cunno, we feel its actually counter productive to have it on too tight. Only bear away once vang and cunno are well eased or you might loose your rig!

Monday, April 23, 2012

How to loose a regatta

Just finished Charleston Race Week yesterday with a bit of a bitter after taste. This marked my fourth CRW and this one turned out to be a nail biter.
Willie, focused on perfect kite trim

Our Melges 20 team "Bacio" was leading the fleet easily after the first day of racing with three bullets and one 2nd place. Our second day of racing on the other hand was, mildly put, a disaster. Our scores for that day were DSQ, 16, 1 and 17. Going into the last day (and potentially two more races) we were laying 8 points out of first place, so we had some work cut our for us. Especially since there were two more boats ahead of us as well. Unfortunately only one race was sailed due to deteriorating wind conditions. We ended taking 3rd place behind a well deserved win by Russel Lucas' team on Shimmer (together with Harry and Hans Melges) and Travis Weisleder's Layline (sailing with Scott Nixon). The points were super tight, with four teams within four points. Now THAT's close racing after 9 races!
See HERE for results.
So what went wrong on Saturday for Bacio? Obviously we win and loose as a team, but I will have to take most responsibility for our downward spiral that day.
Our team had just won the Bacardi Cup and were feeling confident, maybe even a bit cocky going into this event. Instead of going through our normal pre-regatta and pre-race routines, I was slacking a bit. Most notably, I didn't go through the SI's as diligently as I normally do. And this cost us the regatta.

CRW, compared to our other events, still has the 20% penalty in their SI's. Specifically this means that when you do infringe a rule (like hitting a boat, like we did) you take a 20% penalty, instead of doing turns (as we do at the other events). You have to acknowledge your mistake by flying a yellow flag after the incident, sail the rest of the race with the yellow flag and report this to the Race committee.
Well, I had read the SI's and also this part of them, but it just didn't quite register. Usually, I work myself through the SI's by taking notes and then discussing them with our team, making sure everyone is on the same page. Because we didn't have a yellow flag on board that day, we ended up with a DSQ instead of a 20% increase in our score for that race (which would have been a total of 11 points and secured the win for us).

So, good lesson learned, the hard way. Doesn't matter how well you have done in the past, don't slack off on your routines. Keep going through your check lists and keep doing your homework in order to prevent mishaps like this.

For me this marks a little break for the Bacio Team. The European Melges 20 season has already started and will continue at the beginning of June with its second event on the Isle of Elba in Italy. Dani and I will be sailing with Rob Wilber on the "Cinghiale" and we are looking forward to fighting it out with the Italians.
Going upwind in our new SLAM outfits! Thank you Point Loma Outfitting
All pics by Joy

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Bacio wins 2nd National Title

We just concluded the 2011 Audi Melges 20 US Nationals in Miami. We had three absolute great days of races with over 30 boats on the line. All races were held in planning conditions and all sailors enjoyed to be  ripping along at 15 knots +. That's not bad for a 20 ft boat!
We started the regatta strong and never let go of the title. With a 3rd in the 7th race we didnt have to sail the last race of the day. Instead we just watched the start of the last race and enjoyed watching these great sailboats race upwind.
Key to our success this weekend was definitely having an upwind speed edge on everyone else. Speed makes you a tactical genius... It definitely made my life easy as a tactician.
There was also a bit of drama in the prelude of the regatta when some boat's modifications to their keel plate were deemed illegal. The boats were still allowed to sail the regatta but have to now change it back to its original state.
Our team, Michael Kiss, Jamie Kimball and myself, have worked hard on improving our sailing skills and it really paid off at this regatta. We spent the two days before the regatta practicing on accelerations, rounding marks and all the usual maneuvers.

Now its back to Switzerland for a couple of weeks of work, then back to Miami for the Audi Melges 20 Gold Cup in December.
Results can be found here: Results

Chris out


Sunday, October 30, 2011

How to Rally Back

"Chris, how are we going to win the Nationals?"
This is the kind of email I usually get about a week or two before another Audi Melges 20 event from our skipper Michael Kiss.
Our team has had a pretty solid track record since we started sailing together last year at Charleston Race Week. It includes winning last and this year's CRW, winning the Nationals last year, finishing 1st at one of the Miami Winter series events and winning the overall Winter Series.

Sounds pretty good, huh? Well, there are also plenty of regattas we didn't win.
The competition has caught up and they have painted a big fat bulls-eye on our mainsail.
So how are we going to win the Nationals this year? How will we keep our competition behind us?
Well, for starters, let’s stay humble. I mentioned that there have been plenty of regattas that we did not win. And usually it’s not because someone else sailed exceptionally well, but instead because we made too many mistakes and weren't able to rally back far enough up the ladder.

So what kind of skills do you need to be able to fight back after bad luck has struck you down? Here's a short list our team will keep working on:

Minimize the damage.
When things don't go your way, try putting a lid on it. By throwing a temper tantrum you will most likely loose twice as many boats, than if you focus on the next opportunity to get back in the game. It once again starts off by having the right attitude in such situations. Instead of mumbling the usual ".... why us again...", giving up on the race or blaming someone else verbally, always give it your best shot. The race isn't over until it’s over! Instead of blowing a gasket because the guy next to you at the mark has no clew what he's doing and is taking it extra wide (and by doing so letting 5 other boats come barging in), embrace the challenge you have been given.

Get good at sailing in thin lanes.
Too often I catch myself ducking a couple of boats more in order to get a clearer, wider lane. Instead, force yourself to pick thin lanes and hang in there, even if it sometimes means to sail in some bad air. So while you are out there practicing before the race, figure out where exactly that “bad” air really starts and how you can stay out of it in crowded spaces.

Get good at sailing in bad air.
This will prevent you from getting bounced out to the lay-lines too often. Usually anything over a 7 degree shift warrants to sail in a bit of bad air instead of continuing on a header, for who knows how long, until you finally get a clearer lane to tack on (by this time the breeze has most likely already swung back anyways).

Risk Management.
Opposed to my usual low risk sailing style, you must also sometimes take a bit of added risk in such situations. But this has to be calculated risk and not just some blind, “ring the bell” in the far right corner. Usually this also results in clearer breeze and therefore you can capitalize on your, hopefully superior, boat speed.

So these are my two cents on winning this next regatta. We'll see how it plays out!
Chris out

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Starting, Italian Style!

Kiss the Madonna and Baby Jesus for good luck!
So we finally managed getting off the line in the last race. And guess what, we were second at the windward mark. OMG, we DO still know how to sail! Jamie's main comment in regards to starting was: Beat the two boats around you. And he is sooooo right. Keep squeezing up to the windward boat until you at least can see the veins popping out out of the tacticians forehead or until you hear something like: " He, he, he gazzo dio, porca miseria!!!!! Then smile at them as you bear away at 10 seconds and leave them in the dust. Yeah.....
In the first race we actually got rolled, again. And that after repeatably telling ourselves that we were going to pull the trigger early....anyways, we managed to find a lane and were in ok shape at the first mark. Coming into the leeward gate it was full on with boats piling up and lots of Italian language. We positioned ourselves infront of another boat told them that they did NOT have an overlap coming into the mark zone, had to give the boat ahead of us some room so swerved a bit wide and guess what? The boat behind us just barged inbetween the mark and us. We end up having contact with them. We yelled protest and within two seconds we get a red flag and repeated whistles by my favorite Italian Umpire (who's name I will not disclose, but will tell you that I believe he is half blind). As I look back (after hearing the whistle, sure that the Italian boat was getting a penalty) I see that the flag is pointed at us. Not believing what my eyes are telling me, I shrug my shoulders in disbelief. The umpire completely looses and he's head literally almost explodes as he yells: USA 13, you will keep doing circles until I say so!!!! Madonna, take it easy pal......
Obviously we were in last after doing our circles and getting getting released from "circling-hell", caught a couple of boats and got ready for the last race.

Lots of good lessons learned. I'm super happy to have sailed this event with Michael and Jamie. At the end of the week we had found great upwind and downwind speed, adjusted to Italian starting and solidified our team under pressure.
31 Audi Melges 20 boats, ready to race!

Team Bacio is looking forward to sharing some Italian Starting Techniques at our next event at Charleston Race Week in a couple of weeks.... He, he, he, he :-)
More, less critical, reporting can be found on the Audi Melges 20 website here.
Congratulations are in order for the top Italian teams that sailed a really good regatta.

Chris out

Our new team car and driver....

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Not getting off the line......

Team Bacio is currently in Naples, Italy sailing the first event of the 2011 Audi Melges 20 Sailing Series. I'm once again on board together with Michael Kiss and Jamie Kimbell. After a long winter series in Miami we are now measuring ourselves against the top Italian Teams.
Not so well so far.....
Today we had three races and in each off them we had more boats ahead of us than behind us. Not good! Hmmmmm.....
The conditions were light, very light at times combined with a nice bit of chop and some swell. The three of us just haven't sailed in these conditions and it showed. Nevertheless we remain determined to improve our light air sailing and keep learning new tricks in every race. Our upwind performance went from end-of the-fleet to mid-fleet as Michael's steering got better and better and we loosened our shrouds to the point where I thought the rig might jump out of the boat!
The other issue is that we're just not coming off the line. There are a lot more good boats here and they are aggressive little suckers! We just need to get in there and growl back!
Dare I say that I hope we have the same conditions tomorrow? Not necessarily good for our results but it will definitely make us work harder!
The event itself has been very well organized. Audi is spending some serious money on the Melges 32 and 20, putting up VIP tents, showing off their super cool cars and having some hot hostesses sweet talking you into buying one.
But that said it seems the class doesn't show the same kind of camaraderie as we have in the USA. Everything seems very serious, so serious that they have brought in 6 (yes six!) umpires to police the racing on the water. The chief umpire held a one hour presentation yesterday about how we was going to crack down on any kind of cheating and that he wasn't afraid of sending people home.... Wow, I'm happy we don't have that going on in the USA. Hopefully the US Melges 20 fleet will keeps its friendly character as I believe it is one of the main reasons why it is prospering so well.

Tomorrow we have another three races scheduled and Bacio will come out fighting! No more Mister nice American guy....
Chris out
more pics can be found here
P.S. We're laying in 20th position out of 31 boats.....

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Improving our Game...

Bacio wins Audi Melges 20 Winter Series!!!
Happy Faces on Bacio: Chris, Mitchell and Michael
Well we just finished the Audi Melges 20 Winter Series in Miami. With a 2nd place at the Bacardi Miami Race Week we secured the title and we are still the team to beat. The series consisted of three regattas, concluding with the Bacardi Miami Race Week which boasted a total of 26 Melges 20s! How is that for one design racing! Every event saw a different winner. We won the first event, Red Sky (Paul Reilly) won the second event and the last event was won by Mary-Ann Ward on M&M Racing.
An ecstatic Mary-Ann Ward!
This is a testament to the great nature of the Melges 20 class. Everybody has improved their game since we last won the Nationals in August and we are having to work harder and harder to stay ahead or at least stay even with the other teams.
When Michael Kiss got me on board his Audi Melges 20 Bacio back in Charleston last year, we immediately got along. We are both quite technically inclined and enjoy bouncing ideas back and forth.
I consider the AM 20 one of the best sailing training platforms out there. Apart from offering great racing on the water, the owners are a pretty tight knit group that enjoy the social aspects of the class as much as the racing.
For me as a pro-sailor my main objective is to help my owner improve his own personal sailing game. I believe it is way more satisfying for the owner to keep taking more and more responsibility on the boat than having a Pro-Sailor baby him around the course. With this in mind Michael and I set up a pretty intense schedule that would allow us to do exactly that. For every regatta we set attainable goals which aren't based on results but primarily on certain parts of racing. I keep pushing responsibility back in the boat (I do bow) and we talk about our mistakes openly after each race.
At times this can be frustrating but long-term I'm convinced its the way to go.
Enjoying having the fleet behind us
Bacio is now off to Europe where we will see how we face off against the top Italian crews. The Italians will certainly push us and make us work harder at improving our game once again.
Last but not least we would like to thank our teamgear suppliers Point Loma Outfitting and SLAM for their continued support.

Chris out