Thursday, June 14, 2018


JUNE 12, 2018


Leaving work at the hospital, I was impressed with how strong the Easterly was blowing.  Sure enough as I pulled into the harbor lot, the Crow’s Nest flag confirmed a strong wind from the East.  We sorted out crew issues and finally left the harbor at 5:30. We got out in time to set the mark and called for course B1, the longest course in the Easterly breeze part of the course chart.  We had 15 boats out for the fun and we gave the 5 minute horn. 

On Pair A Dice, we wanted to start right at the start mark end of the line assuming the risk of being called for barging.  As it turned out Pacific Spirit could have called us on barging, but we anticipated and slowed down and were able to start right behind them at the mark.  We were able to keep a line pretty much in line with the first mark (Blacks) and we were the first ones around, then we sailed on toward Mile.  On the way to mile sailing into the waves, we were able to keep our speed between 5 and 6 knots.  I was excited thinking that we would get better speed sailing with the waves on the way to Gov.  Sailing to Gov our speed was a miserable 3-4 knots as the wind seemed to be waning a bit.  The seastate was downright chaotic with waves generated from the strong Easterly mixing with the outside chop from the northwest blowing outside.  On top of everything there was a strong south swell on the water.  Avatar was able to pass us to round Gov just ahead of us.  We noticed that an Easterly current at Gov.

As we thought there was more wind outside we tacked outside right after Avatar.  On the leg back to start mark, Avatar stretched the lead out on us and finished first at 1:02:51 elapsed time.  Tusitala followed (1:07:46), PAD (1:08:26), Nidaros II (1:09:25), Pacific Spirit (1:10:14), Kicks (1:10:46), Perfect 36 (1:11:02), Andiamo (1:12:43), Aeolian 1:14:46).  All times are elapsed.

By the end of the race, with the chaotic conditions on the water, I thought it was ironic that we chose course B1.  We all tried our best sailing course B1 in unusual conditions on the water.  B1 with chaos!


As noted, we had small steep chop from the Northwest and from the East and big swells from the south.  On top of this, there were light areas of wind that also had notable shifts.  The swells do not have nearly the impact of the short steep chop which can quickly stop your boat, especially when trying to tack in these conditions. 

Usually, when dealing with waves, there is one tack that you are sailing with the waves and another tack that sails into the waves. In these conditions you want the jib fairlead further forward when sailing into the waves, yielding more power to keep your speed up.  You can have the fairlead further back on the loaded jib when you are sailing with the waves.

  On this night, with every point of sail having waves and chop, I believe a rounder jib (fairlead forward on both sides) and  a looser jib sheet  were the answer to keeping speed up.  With the shifty wind, the rounder jib also is more forgiving, though not allowing you to point as much as normal. I encourage comments from the many excellent sailors in our group about dealing with chaotic sea states.


We all know that you need maximum speed just before a tack. Studying my track for this night on Race QS, my frustration with the conditions was amplified.  With all of the chop and “chaos” it was nearly impossible to get speed up enough to tack. My tacks in these conditions were excrutiating.  On one tack I lost 90 seconds of time.  In normal conditions with good wind (and crew) I can usually execute a tack with 0 seconds lost.  My takeaway emphasized to me that you always must have speed through the water to tack!



On Saturday, June 30 the little Boreas race will be held.  The course is from a buoy  in Santa Cruz (at 12 noon) up to Mitchells cove buoy then down to a finish line outside of Moss Landing harbor.  The party will be held at Elkhorn Yacht club.  I know several boats in our group will be participating.  The party at Elkhorn should be fun.
We will see you next week.

Barry Keeler

Sailing Pair A Dice

Thursday, June 7, 2018


JUNE 5, 2018


On my lunch break, I checked predict wind which was calling for 25 to 30 knot winds clear until 7pm.  I was cursing the fact that we had the 155 jib installed.  When I finally arrived at the harbor, you could see that the wind was dissipating from the looks of the Crow’s Nest flag.  As we left the harbor there was plenty of wind left for us to play in. We set the buoy for the inside of the start line, called for course Whiskey 2 and gave a 5 minute horn.  Scotty on Rosa Nautica volunteered to be sheriff for the night. 

We decided to start half way up the line on starboard tack.  Pacific Spirit had the same idea and we both crossed the line together. We traded tacks on our way to wharf and they finally rounded wharf just ahead of us.  We also rounded Mile just behind Pacific Spirit.  On the way to Gov, we all entered a transition zone as we saw the easterly filling from the Pleasure point area. We all slowly got through the transition zone and made our way back to the start/finish mark.  On this night the easterly was definitely stronger toward shore and both Pair A Dice and Pacific Spirit rode the stronger wind clear to the swim buoys along shore.  We both tacked out toward the start mark but on PAD we noticed that we were returning to the transition zone and tacked back in for the better wind inside.  Pacific Spirt and several other boats stuck it out and seemed to catch the northwesterly toward the finish mark.

At the finish Pacific Spirit crossed at 1:23:26 and PAD crossed at 1:24:40, Kicks at 1:34:22 and Nidaros II at 1:44:25 (all times are elapsed time).  The length of the course was 3.93 nautical miles.


It is a fact of life that we often have transition zones in our waters.  This is when there is a northwesterly on the outside and and easterly building on the inside.  When this occurs, there is an area where there is little or no wind that must be crossed to finish the race. 

There are several tricks to use in these conditions.  First, use every indicator you can find to tell the direction that the new wind is blowing: flags on land, which way are anchored boats facing?  Pay close attention to birds, both floating and flying.  Birds will usually sit in the water with their heads toward the wind.  On this night we saw about 5 birds flying (soaring) directly toward the beach.  This told us the wind was from the north at THEIR altitude. The wind will frequently be different at different heights.  You must decide whether to trim sails for the lower wind or the wind aloft.  While trimming sails in these conditions, no winch handles! You need to be able to switch sides easily NEVER letting the jib backwind.  Sometimes, you can detect an area where the easterly and northwesterly are very close to each other. You can use these areas to minimize time in the transition zone.  Use whatever legal means you can to get through the transition: waves and currents may be used advantageously.

In 2009, we competed in a national regatta in San Francisco.  We were in the first race of the regatta and the winds were unusual to say the least.  It was one of those days when everyone was using anchors to keep from be swept away by the 2 knot current from the ebb tide.  In these conditions, we found ourselves in last place as we rounded the last buoy before heading for the finish line.  We looked out and saw all of our competitors in no wind and being swept by the current again.  We had plenty of wind as we rounded the last mark and immediately sailed back along shore against the lighter current near shore.  When we saw an area where the two different winds were close together (reading the wind on the water), we crossed into the different wind and used the current to carry us through the finish line.  We startled the committee boat as we crossed the line.  There was a 45 minute cutoff time for the race, meaning any boat that finished more than 45 minutes after us was not counted.  We were the only boat to finish in our class and we had many compliments payed to us by our competitors.  This was only made possible for us because we knew how to deal with transition zones which are common here, but almost never seen in the bay.


Though we had over a dozen boats out for the fun, only about 6 of us used this app on this night.  I encourage everyone to use Race Qs for your own education and in order to be counted for the race.

We will see you next Tuesday.

Barry L Keeler
Sailing Pair A Dice

Friday, June 1, 2018

MAY 29, 2018: IN'S AND OUT'S

MAY 29, 2018
By the time I got to the harbor, my crew had already swapped out the 135 jib for the 155 with a nice easterly filling in.  As we left the harbor, there were about a dozen boats out for the fun.  We set the other end of the line mark (Thanks to Todd for the bigger mark buoy).  We called for course B4 like, before we can eat we have to do B4!  We set up as sheriff boat for the night and blew the 5 minute horn.  I had Fred on the helm and he nailed the start just crossing the buoy as the prestart 5 minutes expired.  No boats were OCS and the race was on. 

Everyone was rushing toward Black’s buoy and most boats had to tack over to make the mark.  The rounding was very crowded with many boats screaming for room at the mark.  After rounding Blacks, everyone’s strategy diverged. 

Everyone knows that an Easterly is stronger toward shore and most know that there is a westerly current flowing along shore.  What everyone knows does not always pan out. On this night there was a stronger river of wind right on the rumb line to Gov.  As the “boats in the know” battled for the lighter wind toward shore, some of us enjoyed undisturbed wind sailing directly for the mark.  Homer rounded just ahead of PAD and we all charged toward the finish line with the fleet chasing us. 

At the finish it was Homer, well ahead of us.  PAD crossed at 37:11 elapsed time, Tusitala 38.26, Pacific Spirit 38.54, Patricia J 39.00, Nidaros II 41.00, Perfect 36 42.5 and Aeolian 43.5.  The course was 2.43 miles long.

Strategy vs Tactics:

Employing strategy is sailing a course as if no other boats were on the course. Using Tactics is using racing rules to gain an advantage over other boats.  Unless you have a crystal ball to tell you where the stronger wind is, it is usually a crap shoot.  You can attempt to observe where the most wind is, but it is difficult to call.  Sometimes your best call will pay off and other times you get left behind.  On this night, the old rules that “always work” did not pan out for the boats that went inside.

Estimating Lay lines:

One boat got caught at the windward mark dead in the water right in the middle of all of the boats trying to round the mark.  We have all been in this position.  To prevent this from happening requires close examination of everything that is happening around the mark.  Are other boats getting headed at the mark? Is there an adverse current at the mark (check which direction kelp is streaming)?  Do you know the laylines for your boat?  

Every boat has it’s unique layline.  It takes practice to learn this for your boat.  You are sailing on port tack and want to tack onto starboard to clear a mark.  When do you tack onto starboard?  This is what your layline is and you will learn with practice and observation. On some boats you sight the bulkhead, some you sight the traveler. To complicate this, laylines will change when you change your sails. It also helps to tack efficiently (Use race Qs to evaluate this).

We had a great barbecue at the yacht club and we attempted to show everyone the benefits of using Race Qs.  

See you next Tuesday.

Barry Keeler

Sailing Pair A Dice

Friday, May 25, 2018


May 22, 2018


I had just returned from vacation and was looking forward to sailing again.  I had no idea what the predictions were for wind, but when I showed up to the harbor, there was a strong northwesterly blowing and my crew had the 135 jib installed for a great night of sailing.  As we left the harbor, we knew the wind would not let us down so we called for the most ambitious course, Whiskey 1 and after setting the start line, got off a 5 minute horn for the start.  We did not have a sheriff boat this night and everyone seemed to honor the start line.

On Pair a dice, we decided to start at the red buoy end of the line on starboard tack and accomplished this with no other traffic around.  Shortly after the start, Pacific Spirit crossed us clearing us when they were on port tack.  We all made our way to wharf mark with various crossings taking place and Tusitala and Pacific Spirit leading the way around Wharf Mark.

  On the way to mile buoy we had Patricia J roll us to windward and round Mile with Yellow Belly (Homer’s boat) just ahead of us.  We could not close the gap on the way to Blacks buoy. It’s hard catching up with fast boats with excellent helmsmen! 

At the finish it was Pacific Spirit with 44.49 elapsed time, Patricia J with 47.36, Pair a Dice 48.20. Kicks 55.00, Aeolian 59.21.  All of these times recorded from Race QS are elapsed time.


More important than winning a race is safety on the water.  How do you accomplish this when boats are sailing in close quarters that would make a cruising sailor faint?  I heard a story that there was a beer can race up in San Francisco last weekend.  Two Catalina 30’s did not see each other and one boat hit another mid-ship, taking out 3 stanchions and all life-lines  on one side of the boat. At the same time the colliding boat impacted with such force that the bow was holed below the waterline.  This required an emergency dive from a diver that was able to apply an underwater patch to prevent  the boat from sinking. 

When all boats are sailing as close as we do in the starting sequence, it is not surprising that something like this could happen.  In order to prevent this kind of horror on Pair A Dice, I always tell my crew: “Never assume I see all boats!”  “Never refrain from telling me about other boats!”  The conversation before races is often simply: “Do you have the one o’clock  on starboard at 100 yards?”, while another crew member will say “Do you have the 11 o’clock at 200 yards?”  This keeps the skipper apprised of all of the boats that are close to us.  In theory, this should help to avoid collision and has worked well for us.  But what do you do when another boat is oblivious and sails on a collision course with you?  This is where rule 14 comes into play: “avoid collision!”  It does no good to maintain your right of way and damage your boat or even worse cause harm to crew members regardless of who has right of way.

  I emphasize that we are beer can racing and we are all trying to learn. While we have no protest committee, if a boat does not abide by the rules, let me know and I will cover it in this blog WITHOUT naming boats.  We have many excellent sailors and racers, but some are just learning about racing and may not know the rules as well as others.   Remember rule 14.


I am looking forward to next Tuesday.

Barry L Keeler
Sailing Pair A Dice

Friday, May 11, 2018


May 8, 2018


As I was at the harbor working on my boat all day, I watched as the Easterly wind seemed to be building through the afternoon.  This was confirmed as we left the harbor, the Easterly was well in place and with the wind so strong we ambitiously called for course Bravo 2.  It took a while for us to set the mark for the other end of the line, but we accomplished a 6:05 start with Sagitarius acting as the Sheriff boat.  The call was “all clear” at the start. 

Many of the boats started on starboard tack and it got very crowded at the start mark for the start.  It was a thing of beauty to see Peter Prillinger on Sea Quake charging the line at maximum speed in clear air timing the start perfectly.

After the start, many of us were stuck in bad air behind other boats and no way to escape with other boats locking us in from behind.   We limped along until we finally had a chance to tack over and clear the other boats. We all creeped slowly toward SC3 as the wind slowly was dying just as we all entered the nasty chop created in this corner of the bay.  With little wind, building chop and an adverse current to boot, it seems like all boats had to tack several times to get around SC3.  I believe we all developed a deep hatred for the difficult conditions around SC3!

On Pair A Dice, we finally rounded and started our downwind run toward Blacks. We were making pretty good time, but we were quite impressed that Peter on Sea Quake was rounding Blacks way off in the distance.  One by one most of the boats furled their sails and headed for the harbor.  We made it to Blacks and rounded but found ourselves about 300 yards from any wind at all and finally gave up.  Peter was the only one to finish and gave a celebratory toot of a horn.  Well done Peter!


Many of us are just learning about racing and the rules that govern us on the race course.  In our informal setting, we do not have protest committees and there is no way to impose a penalty.  This being said, we should all conduct ourselves as if we are in a sanctioned race and we should follow the rules.

In the racing rules of sailing rule 11 “ON THE SAME TACK OVERLAPPED” states: “when boats are on the same tack and overlapped, a windward boat shall keep clear of a leeward boat.  At the start, when one end of the line is favored, it is common for boats to bunch up at one end.   A boat that is sailing hard on the wind aiming to clear the mark that is the leeward boat has right of way over any windward boat trying to poke there nose in and make room for themselves (barging). The barging boat must either turn up and spin around to clear the mark when the line is clear or turn down and go astern of the boat at the mark and start further down the line.  As any rule, windward vs leeward carries the same gravity as a port vs starboard situation.  I hate the sound of crunching fiberglass and the expense of repairing two boats.  Just because a boat gives you room to barge on one start, do not count on it every time and in a sanctioned race, you will either exonerate yourself by doing a turn or find yourself in the penalty room.  It is best to avoid these situations altogether. When you see that you are going to be caught, change your plan to avoid being a barging boat.
It should be noted that the boats that did best on this very tricky night, were boats that started down the line in clear wind.

Let’s pray for better wind next Tuesday.

Barry Keeler

Sailing Pair A Dice

Friday, May 4, 2018


MAY 1, 2018


The predictions for this evening were for very strong winds from the northwest.  I was surprised when I pulled into the harbor. One glance at the Crow’s nest flag showed a building Easterly.  Apparently there was a lot of wind until an hour before we left the harbor.   We kept the 135 jib that was already on the boat.  As we left the harbor, the beautiful Easterly wind seemed to be building.  It was building so nicely that we called an ambitious course down to SC3.   As Santa Cruz conditions often will do, the easterly started dying in the 5 minute countdown.   We postponed the start for 5 minutes to see what would happen and changed the course to B4, keeping us all inside to take advantage of the Easterly.
Pacific Spirit was the sheriff boat for this night and they sailed out to observe the line.  All of the boats were dealing with a very light wind and  waves that really slowed the boats down that were trying to get up to the pin end the line.  Sure enough, at the start, several boats were over the line as reported by Pacific Spirit.  Unfortunately for Aeolian,  Aeolian was the only one that was named.   Aeolian dutifully went back to dip the line for their start exhibiting the Corinthian spirit.

All of the boats charged for the first mark, Blacks.  Avatar was the first around followed quickly by Pacific Spirit and  the rest of the fleet.  We all then slogged downwind toward Gov with constantly changing winds creating challenges for all of us.  On Pair a Dice, we were constantly monitoring the wind.  We jibed back and forth to take advantage of the change in the wind direction.  On the way to Gov we all noticed that there was a Coast Guard boat tied to the mark.  Thanks to Doug on Avatar who had the brilliant idea to actually contact the cutter, we got the approval to round the mark and the coast guard cutter “as long as we left them enough room”.

As Pair a dice rounded, we had Makani right on our port quarter preventing us from tacking over toward the inside.  All boats had gone in toward the beach, knowing that when an easterly is blowing it is strongest on the beach.  Finally, Makani tacked over toward the inside and we started to follow until we saw that the northwesterly was overpowering the Easterly wind and was only 60 yards away. Our decision was made when we saw that the finish mark was surrounded by the building northwesterly.  This left Avatar and Pair a Dice racing toward the mark with Avatar closing faster than us.


At the finish it was:                                                         elapsed time:
                                       Avatar                                    45:41
                                      Pair a Dice                               46.19
                                      Perfect 36                                47:09
                                      Pacific Spirit                            47:27
                                      Makani                                     48:25
                                      Tara                                           49:35
Course distance: 2.43 miles

It turned out to be a beautiful evening for a sail and a great get together at the Crows Nest after the race.

Lessons learned:

I thought it was brilliant to actually call the coast guard boat to get their approval to round them “at a distance”.

 It is not usual to have winds change direction as much as tonight.  In conditions like this, it is critical to pay attention and change sails to match the wind as well as you can.

I am looking forward to next Tuesday.

Barry Keeler
Sailing Pair A Dice

Friday, April 27, 2018


APRIL 24, 2018
Looking at the forecast it sure looked like this night was going to be a floater with no wind.  I was surprised when I got to the harbor and saw the flag on the Crow’s Nest showing a strong wind from the northwest.  As we left the harbor, we had over 15 knots of wind creating a great night for a sail.  Since the marks have all been set, we chose course whiskey 3: start to wharf, Blacks, finish.  It was great to see about 15 boats out for the fun, including two SC27’s.

Since I had not arranged for a sheriff boat, we assumed the position.  As we sighted the line, we were surprised that many boats held back from the line for the start, so “All clear” was the call as we hardened up on port tack.  Being the sheriff boat can have it’s advantages since you are starting right on the line, we were able to clear all boats that were on starboard tack.  When we finally tacked out on starboard, we cleared almost every boat.  Someone on my boat said “you know next time we meet we’ll be on port tack with them on starboard”. 

  Sure enough, when we tacked over we had to duck many boats to get to the layline to Wharf mark.
By the time Pair A Dice rounded wharf most of the fleet had rounded ahead of us.  We all slogged our way downwind toward blacks buoy.     One by one, all of the boats rounded Blacks and made their way to finish at start mark.

At the finish, it was Pacific Spirit, followed by Tusitala, Pair a Dice and Avatar.

                                                         Pacific Spirit          42.25 elapsed time
                                                         Tusitala                  44.46 elapsed time’
                                                          Pair a Dice           45.12 elapsed time
                                                           Avatar                 46.00 elapsed time

The length of this course was 3.23 nautical miles

Race QS,

We are now using Race QS as the tool to determine how boats finish.   This is a free app you can download to your smart phone and it is a great tool to gauge how you are doing throughout the course. We now have about 6 boats using the app, it would be great to get everyone on board with this.

Other regattas:

The Spring Score series is starting this Sunday.  This will be a short series since we will have only two days of racing.  The month of May will be occupied by the made in Santa Cruz regattas.


One of the most often stated tactical strategies is to stay between the mark and your competition.  On Pair a Dice we did not follow this strategy on this night.  After we tacked over on starboard and cleared all of the boats, we should have tacked over on port sooner to increase our chances of clearing boats while we knew we would be facing them on port tack.  We may have been able to cross in front of many of the boats rather than ducking them.

I will see you next Tuesday.

Barry Keeler
Sailing Pair A Dice