How can keelboat racing work with Social Distancing?

Social Distancing

Four-time Olympic sailor, Mark Mansfield, a professional sailor, is part of the Key Yachting/ J/UK team representing J/Boats in Ireland. Mark contributed a good perspective on how sailing can take place while enjoying with family and friends.

Fully crewed or shorthanded?

Though there are other options around, family crew and the like, clearly it will be challenging to sail fully crewed for the first couple of months and still keep the required space between each other. The sight of 8 bodies huddled together on the rail while going upwind on a 35-foot cruiser-racer would not only be regarded as unsafe, but irresponsible and would send all the wrong messages.

So, at what crewing levels could racing happen and still keep close to the permitted social distancing levels?

It is possible to specify a max crew level for different sized boats?

Different sized boats have different crewing needs. A J/70, for example, does not need the same crew numbers as a 42-footer. So, what crew numbers would be required on different sized boats. Here is my estimate:

    Up to 26 footers 3 max per boat – Only 2 allowed to sit over the side
    Over 26 foot and up to 31 foot – Max of 4 crew – only 2 allowed to sit over the side
    Over 31 foot and up to 36 foot – Max 5 crew – only 2 allowed to sit over the side
    Over 36 foot and up to 41 foot – Max 6 crew – only 3 allowed to sit over the side
    Over 41 foot and up to 46 foot – Max 7 crew and only 4 allowed to sit over the side

And, so on in 5-foot sized increases.

An amendment to The Notice of Race (NOR) could be inserted for events to make these reduced numbers a requirement, while we still have these restrictions due to COVID 19.

Is this enough crew to race boats with spinnakers?

In the Fastnet Race in 2019, there were 65 entries in the Doublehanded class, ranging from 45 footers, down to 30 footers. Most boats were in the 35-foot size range and used spinnakers. Yes, they all would have autopilots, and that effectively gives you an extra pair of hands doing sail changes. But that still would mean that they would have had two less crew than my crew size thoughts above. Here is how that would look like on specific boats:

J/22, J/24, J/70, J/80?

Three crew could easily handle any of these boats. In fact, two would be just as easy. One is helming and trimming the main, one in the cockpit, and one on the bow. The Bowman stays forward of the shrouds; the cockpit person stays away from the helm, up by the hatch. It won't be all that easy, but 30-foot boats like Etchells have similar-sized sails and normally sail with 3.

J/109, J/109, J/111, J/112E?

Five on any one of these boats is possible. One on the wheel, staying back a bit. One in the cockpit is trimming the mainsheet but sitting well forward. Helm adjusts the traveler or leaves it in the center. One sits in the hatch, or on top of the coach roof. The Jib Trimmer sits out, and during tacks, they pull in the new sheet while the Mainsheet Trimmer has let off the old jib sheet. The Bow person sits out forward of the shrouds; jib trimmer sits out to windward, 2 metres back from the Bowman. 

Downwind more room becomes available as both sides of the boat can accommodate the crew. Andrew Craig, Class Captain of the J/109 class in Ireland, says, "the J/109 is well-suited to shorthanded racing with the small jib and plenty of space for a reduced number to spread out. The Asymmetrical Spinnaker requires no pole, which also makes shorthanded use possible in the right conditions".

Auteur

  • Ice

    Bio

    Eddy Lekens, Ice for his sailing friends, started sailing at the age of 9 and soon started racing with keelboats with his parents. He is the founder and owner of ClubRacer, one of Europe's most popular sailing websites. Eddy Lekens was in 2004 awarded for "best offshore sailor of The Netherlands" for his results with the Audi sailing team. His other passion away from sailing is being a omnichannel ecommerce consultant.

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