This article is the final in a series wherein the author chronicles the refit of 1978 C&C 25. To review the previous article click here: Refitting for Performance Part Three.
My wife, Heather, and I took a weekend off earlier this summer to build a garden and do a little landscaping in our backyard. We put in some flowers, vegetables, and planted a tree. It would have been easier to hire a professional crew to come in and completely redo the yard. It probably would look better, too. By doing it ourselves, though, we put our sweat and personalities into it. The results may not be as spectacular, but it was fun to spend quality time with Heather, and I know now that everything's starting to bloom we are more thrilled than if someone else had done it. There is something satisfying in that.
This same hands-on spirit pushed Mark McGivney and me to upgrade his C&C 25. It would have been a lot easier for us to contract the work out. However, we are richer for doing it ourselves. We are richer in knowledge; experts like Phil Garland (Hall Spars and Rigging), Kevin Coughlin (Waterline Systems), and Rich Bowen (North Sails) taught us about the technical aspects of the boat and the loads attributed to sailing. We're richer in Experience: We did a lot to improve Marks boat; redid the bottom, installed new genoa tracks, replaced the traveler, added a backstay, and added new halyards. Plus we put new sails on board.
Overall, this experience gives us more confidence to tackle other jobs down the road. And were now richer in friendships. For the first time in many years, Mark and Ifriends since high schoolwere able to hang out and accomplish a rewarding task. We also met new friends like Pete Sappett, who encouraged and advised us while he worked on his Morgan 32 in the yard alongside us. And Mark is a lot richer than he would be if he had paid to get all this stuff done. At the end of the day it cost him a couple of sandwiches and a few beers to keep me happy and engaged in the project.
We did all of this work to enhance Marks enjoyment of the boat, but in the back of our minds we knew the true measure of our work would come on the racecourse. We kept saying that regardless of the on-the-water results, the project would be a success. But soon it was time to stop the introspection and go racing.
The maiden sail for R-Yot (no, we never did decide on a new name) was a pursuit race that circumnavigated Prudence Island, in Narrangansett Bay. The race, the Prett Gladding, is run annually by the Barrington Yacht Club. Diehard sailors who always seem to get their boats ready early in the season are perennially on the starting line, champing at the bit to race. But our crew was a little on the light side: Mark, my father Jack, and me. With a PHRF rating of 244, we were one of the first boats to go off in the light-air, downwind start, and for a while we led the race!
At some point the boats began to compress and there was a lot of trash talk coming from the Curlew, Lars and Brian Gucks Pearson Wanderer, as they approached us from behind. They got into our heads that way and sailed by us in a puff up high to take the lead. Then a boat that looked as tall as it was long passed both of us. We held onto to third for a while longer, but more importantly, everything we did to the boat, worked!
Eventually the wind filled from behind and soon the fleet was charging up on us. At one point I looked back and all I saw was a wall of boats, wing on wing, approaching fast. Our hopes of coming out of the box and placing were quickly dashed, as the bigger faster boats caught up and passed us. We did not give up without a fight though. Just as the fleet got to us, the breeze clocked hard to the south and the sea breeze kicked in. We were able to sail upwind in 12 knots true. We had a couple of fun tacking duels with some J/30s and forced a Frers 36 to duck us. These minor victories do a lot to bolster ones pride.
Upwind the boat felt very balanced. The helm was either neutral or displayed a slight weather feel and we were able to point with the larger J/30s. When the puffs hit, or if we needed to duck a boat, Mark was able to drop the traveler quickly to keep R-Yot on its feet. As the breeze continued to build we pulled on the backstay and moved the jib lead aft to help depower.
In the end, we didnt finish in the money, but we did have a nice day of sailing. I could tell, too, that Mark enjoyed driving his "new" boat. He could not believe the difference in the helm upwind and felt that his speed was better than it had ever been. In short, mission accomplished. By way of our refit we had determined what problems Mark had the previous year and then made the necessary modifications to correct them.
Since that first race, Mark has begun competing in the Barrington Yacht Club Tuesday Night Races. He called me after one of those first contests. Our talk was not about how the boat wouldnt perform. We talked about sailing and how he and his crew could improve their skills. They were now in the hunt, finishing sixth, just four seconds out of third. From what he said, it sounds like he needs to work on starting techniques and some tactics, and maybe some boat handling, but all of that will come. And of course, we discovered a few more modifications that could be made. Tinkering with boats. It never ends, does it?
It took until mid summer, but Mark and R-Yot finally got in the groove. He won his first race in early August. It was a small event, but one in which he'd competed the year before and stunk. This year he crossed the finish line eight minutes ahead of the next boatand he was the slow boat in the fleet. Watch out America, let the pickle dish accumulation begin!
Refitting for Performance, Part III by Pete Colby
Refitting for Performance, Part II by Pete Colby
Understanding the Racing Rules by Dan Dickison
Buying Guide: Headsail Sheet Lead Systems