Dummy Reflections, Page 3
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Fleet Etiquette


The Judge

The officials at a regatta event have given up their time to assist where needed. Many times they have given up their desire to sail and left the boat at home. Other times they are from a different class and not all that familiar with the EC12. Nonetheless, they are sailors and sail by the same rules.


 When these people speak, you obey. This is not a time to argue or carry on conversations of procedure or rules. They do not have time while a heat is underway, you do not need the distraction and your fine-keeled friends on the water don’t want to hear it either. So, shelve it till later.

Officials generally indicate the offence and expect you to act accordingly to resolve the issue. Communicate, don’t confront. The first thing you need to do is acknowledge their call. Let them know you heard them so both of you can go on with business less further talk. If you are called over on the start, head for one of the pins and restart. Let them know when you have done so. If they call a mark violation on you, let then know when you have completed your penalty. If you are warned not to enter a mark rounding on the inside, don’t. Go around. Officials will also call “Right of Way” penalties where needed. This most generally is associated with a mark rounding in heavy traffic where the person fouled does not have time to deal with calling the foul. Let them know, or the person fouled know, when you have competed the penalty.


Some Sailing Instructions allow third party calls of a foul. Be aware of this and should this rare case arise deal with it politely and do the right thing.


If you want to discuss a matter with the officials after the heat, ask for the time. They are busy. If your point is considered reasonable and it matters greatly to your position in that race, ask for redress. Having done so, leave it alone. They will get back to you after they have a chance to confer. My experience with redress is that when resolved in your favor it will come in the form of point adjustments. It is not expected that the final standings of a heat will be changed as part of the redress findings. A cascading effect could be confusing and take considerable time. Should redress be in your favor it will be better than nothing at all. So, smile and say, “Thank you.”


Resolve It On The Water

Civilized gentlemen should not have to call in seconds to handle the pistols. Those involved know better what happened than one being told the same. So, deal with it. Good common sense will go a long way to resolving fairness issues than insisting on versions of the rules.


Sure, we all should know the rules. But that is never going to happen at the level we function. We are a very diverse group pursuing a common interest. We all gathered to have fun and we might garner a bit of bragging rights along the way to foster the competitive spirit. It must be remembered that while we are not on the water we share with others what we have learned and instruct those seeking a higher level of understanding. In large fleets that attitude needs to be carried to the water in an even more general sense. Now it is time to apply those things we have talked about on the shore but to move forward as a group in harmony and comfort. I can assure you, that if you are patient, there will be time in the race to assert your skills without running rough shod over your friends. The rules, as they were changed a few years back, came from a need for common sense and fairness to all. They did not evolve to a higher level of complication so that those who know them well have bigger bullets.


Yes, I know it can get serious out there but in the end the result would be the same if we could lighten it up a bit. And then the feelings would be much more comfortable in the gatherings after racing. Then the embarrassing warning call that you are on “Starboard,” when you were actually on a port tack can be rendered into a more humorous tale. You have never done that?

Then you must have caught it in your throat before you blurted it out!


This is another point to consider. We very often see things in a different way because wish it to be that way. Pause and consider before you yell at someone that you are in fact doing what you think you are doing. And, if it does not come to you till later that you were a jerk, walk over and tell the other person so. Should the day come that you find all the closets full of skeletons it will be difficult to “Cooperate and Graduate” when your classmates do not consider you to be a team player.


Resolving matters on the course is important to all concerned. You can now concentrate without distraction. There are ill feelings when going to committee and there is no baggage to take home and then haul to the next meet. Use the rules like they were meant; fairness to all. If you will read very carefully, there is no penalty required if those involved chose to ignore a rule. A raft up is the best example of that.


If we are overlapped on the racecourse, we are walking together. It is easy to talk in pleasant tones.


The High Dive 

The situation is this. There is a group of boats gathered around the mark, all trying to cooperate and graduate the rounding. There might even be a raft up. You are coming in from behind and, as is the case normally, you are approaching faster than the group is moving. You move to the inside wanting to join them and maybe pass a few in the process. Maybe you see some daylight at the mark and think you can pass them all.


Well, when you make this move you will raise the ire of all your fine-keeled friends. If there is an experienced judge at the mark, he will say something like, “Don’t go in there 94, you don’t have any rights” or, “Go around 94, you don’t have any rights inside.” You will certainly hear similar warnings from those at the mark if there is no comment from the judge.


This is one of those things you learn when you arrive at large fleet racing events. You didn’t read this anywhere. Well, you did but you are not thinking about it right now. The first time it happened to me I was a good herd animal and went to the outside. When you are a white monkey among brown monkeys you need to follow the flow until you have colored yourself brown. On my way home I thought about it. “Why can’t I do that?”


I thought about Rule 18. I thought about being clear astern entering the four-boat length zone. Nothing told me I couldn’t do it. I could do it!  I just need to keep clear. No problem.


Have you ever been passing a string of cars on a two-lane road and when you need to move back into your lane some jerk starts playing California Musical Chairs with you? So, you go screaming inside with this giant plan to pass the fleet and be the talk about great tactical moves and the music stops. Now you have this giant orange ball on your left, half the fleet on your right and the only view ahead through the spokes of the helm wheel is the port gunwales of boats. As has been said of many pilots, “He ran out of altitude and airspeed, all at the same time.” Yes, you will be the talk and you won’t like what you don’t hear.


The first boat you hit will cause a chain reaction that will wreak havoc with the once orderly rounding. The fleet is going to be moved to the lee and a big hole is going to open up at the mark. Boats from behind will pass through. You have drawn a penalty but worse are the ill thoughts of your mates. You will need to do some tall politicking later to repair feelings that could linger too long. If they don’t hear your song, the door of opportunity and consideration will close for you on the racecourse. Did you ever hear about being “Branded?”


Okay. What you have here is a reasonable behavior on the course; it is not a rule. Taking the high dive into the mark with the intention of passing others clear ahead and overlapped with each other is not against the rules. It is not good etiquette. It is not good herd behavior. It has become a thing that is not done for the good of all. However, to some it has become a rule.


Here is a true incident with that last thought in mind. I approached the first windward mark after a bad start, at good speed and on a good tack for the rounding. There were three boats taking the mark wide with one inside by several boat lengths. My view of the situation was that the outside boats were not a problem at all and the inside boat would be past the rounding into open water by the time I arrived at the mark. So, I followed the path of the inside boat.


Rounding the mark with good speed I start closing on this boat quickly. We are both on starboard downwind tacks so, I move to his left for the pass and to be leeward and inside for the reaching mark. I thought this to be good positioning tactics. When we are overlapped he starts coming down on me. I call leeward and he just keeps coming. Now, I have a lot of respect for this guy. He is one of my favorite persons on the tour. I call him by name and say, “…why are you doing this,” as I am bearing off to avoid him. He just keeps coming and at about 20 degrees off the lay line, he bumps me. I am shocked.


“If I was in a better position in this event I would protest you.” “For what,” I question. “For coming through the inside. You had no rights there.”


I didn’t know what my position in the point count was at this time but I should have been at least in the top five. I am completely distracted and the wheels are turning. I pause and then say, “Sorry…thank you, I appreciate it…” and continue on ahead.


Think about it. It is something one needs to get comfortable with.


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Hanger Flying


The term came from the vicarious thoughts and conversations of young pilots trying to gather experience in a hurry while safely on the ground. Much depends on experience. It leads to better judgment and faster decisions and hence, survival. It leads to practiced mental organization and process. It familiarizes the unthinkable so you could catch and contain the seeds of fear. Fear is a mind killer.


Most of us have done this in some form. Sailing is a good thing to visualize. It will help calm your heart and mellow out some of the surprises. There will be surprises.


This thought process has been used in evaluation of those areas in competitive sailing that are personal to most problems. Maybe it is those nagging things that keeps happening and you don’t know how to handle it. Mentally create the scenario and play it out, detail by detail. The beauty of this kind of experience is that you can pause to think and consider options then continue on. Trying to live this out in real time on the racecourse, over and over, is time consuming and frustrating with lost positions or penalties or possibly the give and take of verbal abuse. 

You can do this with your club mates. Here at DMYC, from time to time, we will have a fifteen-minute session before race time on the dry marker board going over reoccurring problems. This has helped with our relations to each other and made racing all the more keen.

This may not apply to those of you that are gifted with a quick mind and intuitive judgment. I have never had either. It has always been educate, learn to apply, execute and perform for me along with much personal recriminations. Hanger flying has helped me organize the effort and when challenged, the replays can produce learning through osmosis.


Final Thoughts About The Summer

It was fun. More so than I had expected. The people made the big difference. Everyone was nice and there was never this feeling that you had busted into a private group. I had more support, constant conversations, gracious invitations and sharing of information in the first two-day weekend regatta than I did the first year at my golf club. I found a playground with a lot of good things going on and I wanted to come back. It was more than just a playground, it was a Candy Store and this thing about “senior citizen childhood” is real.


The Dummy Reflections series has been pointed in the same direction as the building sections of this site, to the beginning and often isolated model sailing interest. Those that formed DMYC had spent most of the last five years alone in our endeavors with little information to be found on EC12s. Two excellent books had been written but they required study to actually visualize the process and effort to build a racing EC12 by yourself. It has been a rewarding experience in many ways to carry it to this level. It needed to be done.


What has been done here is not the last word in EC12s or model sailboat racing. I will soon leave this keyboard and head for the playground. It is my personal hope that this effort will have accomplished two things: That it has generated enthusiasm and confidence in those interested in building and racing an EC12 for personal accomplishment and joining us on the playground; That the real experts will now come out and share their thoughts and knowledge so that we can learn more and grow.


I am getting carried away again…back to BOATS! Here are some comments, pros and cons, when at the large fleet races. Much is that which looked good on paper with sound reasoning in the development but not practical or needed in heat racing.


Sails and Rigging



I carried an “A” rig with a light air jib in the sail case. I never could make it work as well as the standard weight jib. I think I do well in light air conditions and this bothered me greatly. I will leave it at home this year and do more testing here when the occasion arises.


My normal setup for a jib was sheeted in too much, needed to be more full and with more twist in the tuning. The mainsail was too full and the boom needed to be adjusted as close to centerline as it could be. Just the opposite of what I had been doing.


The turnbuckles for the shrouds and the hook attachment to the racks did not work out. They were far too vulnerable to collisions. Fine adjustments to the shrouds at the water’s edge are not needed in large fleet heat racing. Also, the hooks interfered with repeated consistency each time the rig was stood. The forces required to install them without lengthening the adjustment was too stressful to the rig. I did not like that. The lower-lowers were impossible to attach without changing adjustment. The turnbuckle on the backstay remained till the end of the summer but it too was removed. I found that I would make small adjustments in tension with just the bowsie and thereby removed some drag. Here again, this was not needed at the water’s edge.


I found that keeping the lower shrouds attached behind the uppers is not a requirement. Attaching them to the needs of mast bend is more important.



The new learned tuning of the sails soon produced good visuals on the jib. The sail was predictable which led to a scalloping tack process.


I was now able to sheet vang, learned how and where to use it with the main boom set to be in tight at close haul. Then I acquired a feel on the transmitter for a “relaxed” setting. It was like having a Traveler on the stick, if I understand how a real one works. It is just my guess but I think I run a bit more sheeted out than most.


The Sullivan gold clevis with a DuBro coupler and two nylon nuts make a world of difference in repeated standings of the rig. I want the rig perpendicular to the centerline slope of the deck and square athwartships. I want to count on getting this quickly this every morning. I tune from there. This is all I understand at the moment.


I know it horrified some where I put the lower shrouds. I spent a lot of time thinking about it and I needed to place them to suit my understanding of where the rig had to be for the conditions of the day. The backstay tension and the bend of the mast to match the luff round of the main are not compatible. You set one and it changes the other. I discussed this in detail in the tuning section and will not go over it again here. But this was a big deal with me this summer in getting the mast comfortable in my mind.


“B” Rig

I carried on and never had the opportunity to use it, not even test it. The cut down mast the environment of all the hardware and lines is described here on the site. This is the only place I have ever seen guidelines to this rig. I have no idea if it will work. Worse is, that I am in the process of building another for traveling with a different sailcloth. It is going to be interesting the day I need it!


Power Switch

I can find no reason to have it on the deck. I removed it during the summer, coiled up the wire and taped it to a servo inside. It was now inside, out of the weather, and not in the drag equation. I open the hatch after each heat for a lot of different reasons so it is not inconvenient to use.



It has been a “Love Hate” relationship. I think the jib boom is balanced because it moves freely in light air and always tells me when I am dead downwind by its neutral meandering. There is 33 grams of lead between the jib swivel and end. I don’t know if that is the right thing. Most of the time it works just fine and is where I want it. So, I don’t use the twitcher. Then there are those few times I want to gybe for tactical reasons and place the jib quickly without wiggling the rudder. Then I get upset at myself because I removed it and now have to swing the boom. All the new boats are getting a twitcher; I think it is a good thing. I just need one to make the difference for me, one time, so mentally I can put this to bed.


The Sheet Line Collector Ring

This is getting more study at this writing. We have had two string attachment failures at this ring this summer following collisions. That is not acceptable. This needs to be bullet proof. So, in your own realm make sure you are bullet proof.


Batteries and Chargers

I have never liked the low technology and inconvenience of chargers for battery cell sizes we use. I have never like the characteristics of NiCd batteries. The diligence to make them reliable is a night job. Finally, in September, I found a source and a product that is reliable, predictable and convenient. The road to this was not cheap but the weight off my shoulders was worth it. NiMH batteries and a fast thermistor charger has been the answer for me. I do not have to discharge them and they can be topped off during the morning drill before sailing or in the evening before bed. I carry three 6v and two 9.6v 1500ma batteries to the lake each morning, fully charged. I do not have to have a charger running in my room all day and night any more. Yea!


Bow Block Tension Line

This was a bad design to start with. The cleat glued to the hull popped off when the Epoxy because brittle and the hull flexed. It has been moved to a screw in the lead on 94 and it will be attached to one of the mounting screws on all of the new boats.


Bow Block Failure

This happened the last regatta of the season at Sun City. The line wedged between the Becket and the casing of the block. This is not supposed to happen and I am puzzled by it.



The block failure and the sheet line attachment failure required that both needed to be retrieved to repair the problems. The retrieval system worked and the repair was made quickly. It does require more hands than you have when you are in a hurry and careful concentration.


Sail Case

Do not make a case with dissimilar woods and then stain them. The shrinking properties are different. If it were not for latches and hinges, a pretzel could resemble the result.


Topping Lift

Man, have I heard a lot of verbal abuse toward this control. It was tough. There are a lot of people out there re-inventing the wheel. That is good! I try not to invent and used numerous methods that did not work for me. I finally found some elastic string at the fabric store that is about 1/32 on an inch in diameter. That and a wire sleeve swage would produce about 2” of tensioning travel. I could go to 1.5 pounds on the backstay and the jib boom would not move. However, it probably won’t work for you!



If you pre-tension the jumpers, don’t forget to hook the wires on the spreader arms before a race! J


Rudder Linkage

Did not like the design as shown for the 2000 boats. Using a ball swivel attachment to the control arms because of the high angle to the lead mounted servo was too loose to my liking. I do not know if the rudder could chatter in the water but just the thought has bothered me. Also, the wood dowel shaft with threaded rods became looser as the season went on. Here, you will see a new design for a single shaft in carbon fiber, Epoxied threaded rods and tight clevis connectors. Stronger, lighter and more firm. You will also see a tighter fit in the fairing for the rudder. A summer of sailing has not convinced me that I need more than 37 degrees of throw.



The .012 stainless wire becomes brittle and breaks in the stresses and workings of the mainsail and the mast. Moving the wire around the headboard hinge to the crane will give it longevity but restricts movement of the sail. It is minute but very important to the top third. Finally, after a year of messing around, I was able to glue Spectra to wire for the threading of the Jackline. It takes good CA glue, not the cheap stuff. I use Zap now. It also takes patience, let it sit for at least 15 minutes inside the house and then feather the bonding end with a razor knife or sandpaper. It sure looks better.


#1495 was just launched with the new Spectra Jackline. With the mast set to the luff round of the mainsail, the entry angle of the luff is linear and smooth from the tack to the tip of the headboard. You can blow in it and it will move from side to side! Very nice. This new swing arm boat was also very fast.



Multiple ballasting was worth the effort. There is no doubt here that it makes a big difference in light air.


What It Is All About

I will have even more fun this summer in the big fleets. It will be a lot more relaxed as I have been there before. I will have personal goals, of course, and the planning toward learning will continue but there will be a lot of “let it happen” and smile. The only regret I had this summer was not getting into this 30 years ago!


Enjoy. Come play with us on the playground.

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