Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Annapolis, Md
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I have mostly done single- and double-handed races here on the Chesapeake although I also did a few single-handed races when I lived in Savannah. Over there years there have been serveral attempts to get single-handed racing going on the Bay. EYC had a brief series of races back in the late 1980's and then there were some random events during the 1990's. Most recently there was a short-lived series out of Annapolis Harbor that had a lot of promise but eventually died prematurely.
I had hoped to eventually do some distance single-handed events but I really don't have time or the finances to do anything major at this point. There is a fellow on the creek where I live who is prepping a J-105 for offshore single-handed racing and hopes to do the Bermuda 1-2.
I had forgotten to answer your questions about weather helm and keeping the helm balanced. I think this will vary with the specifics of each boat. On my boat, I tend to sail with a slighter greater heel angle than I would accept if I were sailing with crew. In a gust, I tend to trim the feather the boat a little, then the backstay, traveller, and as a last resort mainsheet pretty agressively as a way of minimizing weather helm. As a fractional rig, the backstay adjuster is my best friend. The jibs are not exactly set and leave, but they are smaller and respond very well to luff sag (back stay tension) so I adjust them far less than the mainsail.
In a gust I will typically start by tensioning the backstay, which simultaneously opens the leech of the mainsail, tensions the forestay (and so takes fullness out of the leading edge of the jib), and slightly opens the leech of the jib, all of which collectively reduces weather helm and heel angle. I will then feather the boat until I can get to the traveler where I want it. In a building breeze, as the breeze builds, in addition to smaller scale backstay, mainsheet and traveller adjustments, I move around the boat adjusting halyards, outhauls, vang, jibsheet leads, until I achieve a maximum VMG, a reasonable heel angle, and a moderately neutral helm.
Synergy is surprisingly responsive. I can hold the wheel in one hand and appliy the backstay adjuster with the other until I feel the helm lighten to the point that it feels balanced, but she tollerates higher heel angles, and does not wipe out as suddenly as an many designs that I have sailed on, which was one of the motavations for buying this particular design.
I have only raced on J-35's that were fully crewed so I really don't know how they behave as single-handed racers. My sense is that they are inherently forgiving designs for that era and so althoigh they are not fractional rigs, they might be a good choice. Another masthead rigged boat that appealed to me was the Express 37, but they were 8 inches deeper and I was concerned about getting in my channel with one of them. The J-35 and Express 37 are actually faster boats overall in the light conditions of the Bay, but in making a decision for my own use I thought that the fractional rig's smaller headsails might be easier for me to handle.
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Curmudgeon at Large- and rhinestone in the rough, sailing my Farr 11.6 on the Chesapeake Bay