04/27/2016, St. Simon's Island, GA
I had decided not to race this season because of my "iffy" schedule, but I couldn't pass up an opportunity to have local club racer Brett Grover on board CaiLeigh Anna for the first time. Brett is an accomplished racer, and happens to own a Catalina 34 almost identical to mine. Brett and I have been trying to get together for months so he could sail on CaiLeigh Anna and help me determine why we aren't able to sail up to expectations.
After two races today, it appears that CaiLeigh Anna managed to squeeze out a first and second place on corrected time in our class. We were far from the fastest boat, but we pulled off two great starts, sailed smart races by avoiding the strongest currents, and eliminated mistakes.
Brett agreed with Joe Brasfield and me that the sails on CaiLeigh Anna are ok for cruising, but too heavy and out of shape for competitive racing. However, Brett got more out of CaiLeigh Anna today because he's a better sailer/racer than me. We also think the Brunton AutoProp isn't feathering properly and is creating some drag while under sail. We did determine that the prop/shaft is rotating while the boat is under sail. However, information from the manufacturer says the transmission should be left in forward gear to prevent rotation.
I learned a lot about trimming and sailing for optimum results today. Brett was intense, relentless, and focused from the start to the finish. And I will be better because of today's experience. This is why I believe that racing sailboats makes better sailors of us. We are forced into maximizing performance while racing, but with cruising this isn't a concern. Also, while racing there are other boats to judge speed and performance against, which isn't the case with cruising.
Pictured here is Brett at the helm for the first race. I took the helm for the second race, but Brett continued as tactician and "task master."
|CaiLeigh Anna News||
02/21/2016, St. Simon's Island, GA
Thanks to Jack Brodhag and his brother Dean for this great photo of CaiLeigh Anna during the Double Handed Race last weekend. Joe Brasfield is at the wheel and I'm the trimmer.
|CaiLeigh Anna News||
02/20/2016, St. Simon's Island, GA
The Double-Hand Race this past weekend was blessed with perfect weather in the low 70s, clear skies, and brisk SE breezes. Nine local boats split into spinnaker and non-spinnaker classes and challenged each other for trophies and bragging rights. At sunset the sky was ablaze, making this skipper forget that he had not claimed one of the coveted race prizes. Much thanks to my good sailing friend Joe Brasfield who crewed with me aboard CaiLeigh Anna.
|CaiLeigh Anna News||
11/22/2015, St. Simon's Island, GA
After hauling CaiLeigh Anna for a bottom paint job and refurbishing of the feathering propeller in late July, I felt that the boat was almost ready for the Fall race season. The last service item to address was an engine overheating issue that occurred on our trip to and from Two-Way Boat Yard. After eliminating all other potential causes, I determined that I had a clogged heat exchanger. The heat exchanger works essentially as the "radiator" on inboard diesel marine engines.
Flushing the heat exchanger to remove mineral deposits is a fairly simple service item, but in the process of removing the hoses I broke off one of the copper fittings on the heat exchanger. This required me to remove the heat exchanger and bring it home to have repaired at a local radiator shop in Augusta. The result of this was that we missed the first race of the season on September 20.
The Golden Isles Sailing Club's Fall 2015 racing season includes five club races and one offshore race from St. Simon's Island to Amelia Island, Florida. Boats are separated into three competing classes depending on their size and design. CaiLeigh Anna, a Catalina 34, competes against other cruising boats in the mid-30' size in Cruising Class B. Skippers are allowed to drop one race results for the club races for the series, and the winner is determined by the low point total. The offshore race against Amelia Island Sailing Club is a stand-alone race between the Golden Isles Sailing Club and Amelia Island Sailing Club.
For the second race of the season on October 27, I was joined by Mike Harris, and high school racing team members Stefan and Griffin as crew. Mike is an excellent sailor, past commodore of the Golden Isles Sailing Club, and advisor to the high school sailing team. This is the second season I've used high school racers as crew members on CaiLeigh Anna, and I can't say enough about how positive an experience it is for everyone involved. I was thrilled to have Stefan and Griffin on board for the first time. We realized very early into the race that despite a recent bottom paint job, CaiLeigh Anna couldn't keep up with the faster boats in our class. While our finish was disappointing, it was a great day of sailing with a wonderful crew.
The third race took place on October 18 with Joe back onboard along with Stefan and Julian from the high school racing team. The forecast was for 25 mph winds with 35 mph gusts, so we put in one reef on the mainsail as soon as we left the dock. We also reefed the furling genoa headsail to about 75%, but at times we still had to spill the wind in an effort to control the weather helm and keep the heeling down. This was the strongest wind I've sailed or raced CaiLeigh Anna in since purchasing her. It's good to know that the boat will handle this kind of wind, but I wouldn't call it fun sailing or racing. Frankly, it was a relief to get back to the dock without damaging the sails or boat. My days of enjoying sailing in gale force winds have passed, especially on my boat! I could just see the dollar signs flashing before my eyes with every gust. One blown out sail could mean thousands of dollars to replace.
Our next race was the always popular Florida- Georgia Ocean Challenge race between Golden Isles and Amelia Island Sailing Clubs on October 24 with Joe and Pat back on board as our regular crew. The race is contested on a 26 miles course between St. Simon's Island and Amelia Island. Despite a very good start, I was slow deploying our spinnaker and we fell behind from the early part of the race. After finally getting our spinnaker up and trimmed properly we actually closed on the leaders until passing marker StA, approximately midway, at the entrance to St. Andrews Sound.
As the final leg of the race became an almost dead downwind run, we fell behind the leaders and finished last in our class. Our spinnaker is cut for running downwind, but off the wind and not dead downwind. We had a choice between following the shorter rhumb line to St. Mary's Channel at a reduced speed or sailing off the wind and out to sea but with greater boat speed and distance. I gambled for the shorter course but it didn't pay off as most of the boats sailing the longer course finished well ahead of us. After the race we did learn a new technique of how to maximize the asymmetrical spinnaker when running downwind by moving the tack of the spinnaker past the bow and into the wind using the whisker pole. We will certainly try this on the next race.
We had already decided to miss the fourth race in early November since I had family obligations as did Joe and Pat. Joe and I planned to race the final event on November 11, but the race was cancelled early Sunday because of a building weather system across the coastal area that was predicted to turn into a Nor'easter. At this point the Fall racing season was essentially over.
Click here for video of the Fall Races.
Even though our race results were disappointing, the fact that there were only three boats in our class and because we had actually participated in more races than another boat, we earned second place in our class for the Fall Series. Joe and I are convinced that my sails are "tired" or stretched out and thus preventing us from developing enough speed to be competitive with the faster boats. I do have another mainsail that appears to be in better condition that the one on the boat, so we will switch over to this sail next Spring.
Older sails designed primarily for cruising just aren't good enough to use for competitive racing. But new sails for CaiLeigh Anna are out of the question at this point. We know that we're competitive on spinnaker runs, so we are hopeful that the other mainsail will help us find some upwind speed. I also have a lightweight headsail that needs to be converted over from a hank-on to a furled sail. It's possible that this sail will help us on light air racing days.
It was a fun season of sailing and racing even though the results weren't as good as desired. In the big picture, it was just 14 months ago that we took CaiLiegh Anna off the dock for the first time, so there has actually been a lot of progress since then. We are having fun, but we'd have a lot more fun with another ¼ knot of speed!
|CaiLeigh Anna News||
10/28/2015, St. Simon's Island, GA
CaiLeigh Anna and crew are past the midway point of the 2015 race season and results have been less than anticipated. We felt that the new bottom job would give us some speed we've sorely missed in close competition, but this hasn't proven to be the case.
We missed the first race because the feathering propeller wouldn't "feather." This was extremely disappointing considering that I had the propeller removed and professionally serviced when the boat was pulled in July.
A local diver was able to get the propeller working so we were able to compete in the next two club races as well as the annual FL-GA Coastal Cup Challenge Race between Golden Isles Sailing Club and Amelia Island Sailing Club. The picture above is CaiLeigh Anna headed out to the start of the offshore race on October 24.
Click here for a video of CaiLeigh Anna flying the spinnaker.
We are now convinced that our sails are "tired" or stretched out and will not power the boat to its hull speed. We are competitive with our spinnaker, which is our only new sail, but on a close and beam reach we give up speed to boats with similar handicaps. This doesn't mean that we don't make mistakes with sail setting and tactics from time to time, but the general pattern of comparative speeds is impossible to ignore.
The easy solution is expensive - to replace both the mainsail and head sail with newer sails made for racing. The reality is that this isn't going to happen because it's cost prohibitive. I do have a spare mainsail that came from a Catalina 34 Tall Rig, and it looks much better than the mainsail on CaiLeigh Anna. So, I will cut it down to fit and hopefully we can gain some speed with the newer and less "tired" sail.
The good news is that sailboat racing is fun whether winning or not. It would be more fun if we could lead a pack of boats across the finish line! We are down to the two final races of which we will only compete in the last one. Since there are only three boats in our class, and we are statistically in second place because of our starts. With some luck we may actually pull out a second place overall finish in our class for the Fall 2105 racing season.
|CaiLeigh Anna News||
08/15/2015, St. Simon's Island, GA
For the first time in four years we had the whole family at the beach for vacation. While most folks wanted to hang out at the pool or beach, Chris, Anna, and Bill wanted to join me for an afternoon sail in St. Simon's Sound.
I had already planned to have a mechanic meet me early Saturday to troubleshoot a wiring issue with the starter on CaiLeigh Anna, so the crew joined me just before lunch and we headed out into a very nice breeze.
We had planned to buddy sail with another boat but they left the dock well before us and we were never able to hook up. By mid-afternoon a thunderstorm was building over Brunswick so we played it safe and turned back to the marina.
It was a very enjoyable sail in 18-20 mph winds and a good test sail for CaiLeigh Anna following the bottom job and prop maintenance at Two-Way Boat Yard in July.
|CaiLeigh Anna News||
08/13/2015, St. Simon's Island, GA
CaiLeigh Anna had special visitors in mid-June as Leigh and little Maggie Sue Phillips made the baby's first visit aboard for a weekend stay. Maggie Sue was quite impressed and as you can see from the photo ready to go sailing, but she'll have to wait until she's old enough to actually fit in a life jacket. Maggie not only enjoyed her visit to the boat, but also got in a little pool time with Hugh & Suze.
We were treated to a second visit in August! Chris, Leigh, and Maggie spent the night on CaiLeigh Anna while waiting for our vacation rental on Jekyll Island to start. Mags was an "ole hand" by this point and crawled all over the boat checking things out.
Suze and I look forward to many more visits from our 2nd Grand-Mate.
|CaiLeigh Anna News||
07/20/2015, St. Simon's Island, GA
In mid-July I needed to move CaiLeigh Anna from Morningstar Marina at St. Simon's Island to Two-Way Boat Yard in Darien to have her pulled for bottom paint and other work.
I had planned to make the trip solo, but the Hammons' Family was on vacation at nearby Jekyll Island and several of the brave and bold ones joined me for the 22 mile trip up the ICW.
This turned out to be my grandson Lee's first opportunity to go out on CaiLeigh Anna. He spent most of his time steering and calling dolphins, and learning about navigation aids. He did a great job!
Also joining me were: my daughter Cail, Brenda Hammons, Joyce Garmon. I think everyone had a fun time. It was a beautiful day to be on the water. And we enjoyed a late lunch at B&J's Seafood in Darien after the trip. That's not a bad day!
|CaiLeigh Anna News||
07/15/2015, St. Simon's Island, GA
Picture above are Geary Davis and Joe Brasfield during a club race in early March. It was great to finally get these two good sailing friends together on CaiLeigh Anna.
A lot of water has flowed under the keel since my last update in the fall of 2014. Shame on me! Mechanically speaking, CaiLeigh Anna is in pretty good condition, but there was a nagging issue of raw water cooling that had plagued us periodically since we installed the new engine. I finally determined the cause to be a worn face plate on the Oberdorfer Raw Water Pump.
The pump uses sea water to cool the internal engine coolant through a device called a Heat Exchanger. Sea water is then pumped through a Water Muffler after being mixed with engine exhaust and is eventually discharged through an opening in the stern. When you don't have water coming out this means your engine will eventually overheat. I replaced the Oberdorfer Raw Water Pump and plan to rebuild the old one and use as a backup or spare. It sounds pretty simple, but diagnosing the problem has been difficult because of the periodic nature of the issue.
We ended last fall's race season with disappointing results, but with a plan for improvement. Primarily, we need more boat speed to live up to the Catalina 34's PHRF rating. We knew that our head sail was too small and this was remedied by modifying a 135% genoa from a Catalina 355 to fit CaiLeigh Anna as a 150% genoa.
During the first spring race on March 08 we finally had a chance to test the new sail in fairly light air without definite results. After a decent start we chose the wrong side of the race course and fell victim to a strong opposing current. We finished third out of four boats, but failed to cover the handicap so our finish was a 4th place. In addition to our tactics being faulty we also realized that our execution left room for improvement.
The spring race series was a total of five races, but we would only compete in three of them because of scheduling conflicts. We competed in the second and fourth races with similar results of last place finishes. Even though our tactics and execution had improved it was pretty obvious that there was still a problem with CaiLeigh Anna achieving a competitive hull speed.
We put this theory to test on May 30 during the 26 mile Coastal Cup Challenge Race from Fernandina to St. Simon's Island. Other than the start, tactics have little to do with this open ocean race. It pretty much boils down to sail trim and boat speed. We finished fourth out of five boats in our class and based on speed calculations we averaged 3.25 (nautical) miles per hour compared to winning boat's 3.7 miles per hour. We are clearly giving up at least ½ mph of speed.
We have cut the speed deficit by 50% from the last offshore race where we were over 1 mile per hour slower than the winning boat. The increased size of the genoa jib accounts for this gain in speed. We are fairly certain that our remaining speed issue is below the water line meaning that something is dragging or slowing us down. It's past time to have CaiLeigh Anna pulled for new bottom paint so later this month I will have her pulled at Two-Way Boatyard in Darien so I can inspect the bottom and have the anti-fouling paint restored for the first time since I purchased the boat.
I will also inspect and service the Autoprop H5 folding propeller which I suspect isn't functioning properly when the boat is under sail power. The principal of a folding propeller is that the blades pivot to a neutral position when sailing and thus reducing drag by 85% compared to a fixed blade propeller.
Essentially we are chipping away at the speed issues so we hope to be more competitive in the upcoming fall race series. Considering that a year ago CaiLeigh Anna had a dead engine and hadn't been sailed in years I guess I should be pleased with the progress that's been made. We've had a great cruise to St. Augustine which I'll cover in another post, and we have competed in two offshore races and well as seven club races. We are slowing chasing away the mechanical, electrical, and sailing gremlins that stand in our way of competing. This fall should be exciting!
|CaiLeigh Anna News||
11/23/2014, St. Simon's Island, GA
It's now the weekend before Thanksgiving and the fall sailing season is in the rear view mirror. The last few months have flown by at the speed of lightning as it's been a non-stop routine of working four or five days at my paying job and then hurrying down to the coast to prepare for a weekend race. Mix in a Georgia Tech Homecoming trip to ATL, a Baby Maggie Shower, a trip to Asheville, NC for a wedding reception, a tour of the Biltmore House, and the Captain and Admiral are spending the second weekend at home since July 4th!
I've had a couple weeks to reflect on our first sailing season aboard CaiLeigh Anna, and the experience has been a whirlwind of highs and lows. We were unable to conduct full sea trials after replacing the engine in August, so the Fall club races in actuality became our sea trials. We experienced electrical and fuel gremlins, which are not abnormal for a boat that has not been used in years. We just dealt with the problems one by one and forged ahead. Fortunately, the list of issues is now very short and I've developed a pretty good feel for the mechanical systems aboard the boat.
As early as the first race in September we realized that we could not be competitive with our small 125% Genoa Jib. This sail provides a lot of power in light air, which is typical during the Fall season along the Georgia coast. The 125% Genoa Jib is a great cruising and heavy air sail, but it is not a racing sail.
Through good luck and the misfortune of other boats we did manage to squeak out two third places finishes in the early races, and after four races CaiLeigh Anna was in a statistical tie for third place overall. In mid-October we competed in the FL/GA Ocean Challenge Race from St. Simon's Island to Fernandina Beach and realized just how much speed we were missing. Over the 25 mile coastal race we averaged between 1.5 and 2 miles per hour slower than the winning boat. This difference in speed is almost completely accountable to the small head sail since we know that the Catalina 34 has a relatively fast hull.
A good friend with a Catalina 355 gave me his original 135% "like new" Genoa, which was a little large for my Catalina 34, and I sent the sail to a sail loft in Jacksonville to be cut down for CaiLeigh Anna. Dimensionally this sail will be a 150% Genoa for my smaller boat, and should provide the extra speed we so desperately need to be competitive. Unfortunately it didn't arrive back in time to use during the last race of the season.
It's probably just as well that we were handicapped by the small headsail because it has given my crew and me time to learn the boat. I am so fortunate to have our good friends Joe and Pat as dedicated crew for our races. Last Fall, Pat and I won the under 30' cruising class on Roma, finished third in an offshore race, and Joe and I finished second in the Double Handed Race.
This was a new experience competing in the "big boat" class, and we will have to step up our game to be competitive, even with the new head sail. Sailboat racing is very much a mental game as well as a tactical exercise, and while we generally did very well at the start of the races we did make some blunders during a couple races.
The Catalina 34 enjoys a great reputation as a club racer so we are expecting many great racing seasons to come. I'm sure we will lose more races than we will win, but I just want to be competitive and mix it up with the race leaders as often as possible. We've owned CaiLeigh Anna for just a year and the first nine months were spent bringing her back to life. She may not be all the boat I dream of having, but she's all the boat I need and more.
Without a doubt the best part of owning CaiLeigh Anna is that Suze feels comfortable spending extended time aboard and she actually seems to enjoy the racing. This is something I could never say about her and Roma. Besides racing, we also expect to enjoy more cruising in the months and years ahead. We are already planning a spring trip to St. Augustine and a summer trip to Savannah and Hilton Head. For now, it's time to rest, enjoy the holidays, and get ready for a new little mate, Maggie Sue!
|CaiLeigh Anna News||