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Key West 2010 Blog: Chuck Allen

/Sailing World/ readers are familiar with sailmaker Chuck Allen as a long-time member of the annual Boat of the Year judging panel. But he's no slouch on the course. The former college All-America selection will be guiding fellow North Sail's employee Will Welles around the track as they try to win the J/80 division.

January 16, 2010
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For access to all of Sailing World’s coverage of Key West 2010 Presented by Nautica, please click here.

For the KW 2010 homepage, click here

Tuesday, January 26

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Some Like It Hot

We had superb weather to wrap up the final day down in Key West! Actually it may have been too hot at times. The forecast was calling for 10 to 16 from SSE, we saw 1 to 5 from that direction topping out at 9 knots. The lighter breeze plus the increasing temperatures made for some major sweating downwind. The attire for the day consisted of Camet Shorts, long sleeve Tech Shirt, visor/shades/block and some flip flops. We lightened up our gear bag for day going with the old motto: “Wear what you are going to sail in!” Race one was pretty soft all around with one guy hiking most of the time. The left saw Relentless, Jeff J, and us leading the way up the track. Unfortunately, after The Melges 24’s rounded the offset, they strung out in a perfect line (one after the other) caving these three boats into the right just enough so Glen Darden’s team made it across.

Jeff & Rodney Johnstone’s team proved to be the quickest as they ground down the leaders to finish first. Now it kind of became a two boat battle leading into the last race. Our team had a lock on third place with a nice gap behind and almost too many points up to second to move ahead.

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The second and final race saw our team lead at the top mark closely followed by The Johnstone’s-both Newport based Squads were going really well in the 7 to 9 knot breeze/two guys hiking conditions. Again in this race the breeze lightened significantly and went 15 degrees to the right. The Johnstone’s had remarkable speed passing us at the last top mark. We was able to hold off the herd-both boats had very comfortable positions. Looking back up the course I noticed Darden had sailed himself into a position where the Johnstones could win the event. Darden finished 5th, just one more place back and they would’ve tied for first and lost the tie breaker to Jeff and Rodney. But, they did a nice job of doing what they had to do to get the regatta win-sweet job! Again, A great job by Division 2 R/C as they ran a spectacular event for all three classes on our circle. Congrats to Glen Darden and his Team for the win and also to Jeff and Rodney Johnstone for a regatta well sailed-almost guys! We on Team Rascal had an awesome time the whole week, from the sailing, to the class party held at Kristen’s house, the dinner over at Mike Sodofsky’s place-it was all good all the time. The J/80 Class has some real good momentum going with regattas leading North all the way up to The 2010 Worlds in Newport, R.I., in early October.

We hope to see you out on the circuit.

Thursday, January 21

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Better Than Most Today, But Not As Good As One

As predicted, the breeze came in today, from the 155- to 170-degree range at around 11 to 16 knots with some larger gusts in the first race. It got warm too, which was really nice: I sailed today in Camet Shorts, Gul Dry Top, Sperry Sneaks with Dry Socks. Lots of sun block and of course my lucky North Sails visor. The Thermo Gloves [ed’s note: originally manufactured for gardening and outdoor work] are real popular on our boat; all the boys have them. We trimmed most the finger ends off of them today. These gloves are great on The J/80 when sailing with four people-there’s lots happening, especially for the front two guys. But the driver has his hands full with the 3-to-1 traveler, mainsheet and backstay. And of course the trimmer controls the jib and kite, both ripping up the hands. Our trimmer Carter has some beat up looking hands for sure. Both races today were Course 4 (Four Legs) with a 1.4 NM Beat at 165 degrees. The pin boat was favored by 5 degrees in both races.

In the first race, three of the top five boats were OCS, including us, Jeff Johnstone, and Kerry Klinger. Glen Darden had a clean start and ran away with the race. We were fortunate enough to get back to second place sailing quite fast in the mid to high teens conditions, both up and down wind. I believe Rumor (the Stork family) thought they heard their number being called at the start, went part of the way back only to realize they had not been called. It’s too bad because they showed nice speeds today in the breeze. Another bummer came for Jay Lutz and SWE 803 as they led at the first leeward gate only to shrimp and get passed by a few boats. It happens quick in this class. It started to get a bit lighter for the second race around 12 knots or so even dropping to 8 to 10 knots after the start. We had a beautiful pin start poked out on everyone. Anticipating the lefty pressure we had seen the first race, we hung on for just a bit too long, a 6-degree righty came in and all the teams we are fighting it out with in the standings were able to cross us at our first meeting. The first four boats launched away from everyone, we sailed our own race in fifth place for all four legs. Glen Darden was the winner again, narrowly crossing Klinger at the downwind finish. He won the day with two bullets and we were second for the day with a second and a fifth. Congrats to Darden and his team for a perfect day of yacht racing. One day left with two races scheduled and it is quite close in our class. There should be some good breeze to finish it out. One last thing, a great job by the Division 2 race committee.

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Wednesday, January 20

No Gimmies on Moving Day

It was another really, really tricky day out on the J/80 Circle, with the breeze showing more of a 060 to 090 degree range, more right than the last couple of days. I was hoping for more breeze, which the models had predicted, but we sailed in our 6- to 10-knot setting the first race and our 0- to 6-knot setting the second race. We saw a lot of one-guy-hiking-two-guys-in conditions today. Sometimes we had two guys up but for the most part it was wicked light.

In the first race we again owned the middle of the line, toward the pin end, and we were soon tacking and crossing while leading the few boats that started left of us back-awesome positioning. We were 200 yards from the top mark when the breeze kicked 15 degrees right, allowing 6 boats to get across and round ahead. We got some back down hill, fighting into the top five. We sailed around the track like this way for what seemed like a long time. Coming into the finish we were able to edge out six boats or so, I mean we got our whistle and there were a ton more following. It sounded like machine gun fire going off. We could have been anywhere from 11th to fifth (which we scored).

When we got in, Kerry Klinger and I were talking. “Can you believe that first race,” he said. “You guys way out front, us in second and to end up where we did.” He was right, I thought the race was going to be the two of us battling it out. It was not the case. The guy who hung in and lost and got back the best was Jeff Johnstone-there is a reason these guys are leading. The next race was all about Kerry Klinger; he was so fast. He got a great start, and sailed low and speedy the whole time. When Kerry gets clear air in light conditions in the J/80, look out. He likes to sail a couple of degrees below the fleet and motor. Sure enough he won the second race today hands down with an “HJ” (Horizon Job). Nice work guys!

The rest of us were found fighting it out, trading places all the way around. I remember being in second, then eighth, then fourth, before finishing seventh. It could have gone anyone’s way out there. It wasn’t a physical day, but I definitely felt it when you get in. It felt like I’d have been sailing for around two days due to all the thinking under a bright sun.

A huge congrats to the team on Relentless today for scoring a one and a two-boat of the day-they get Chucky’s Nice Work Award. Also, how about the Johnstone’s for dethroning us today and moving into the lead? They have been extremely hot out there.

Tuesday, January 19

Junior Bear Cup Takes Home MVP; I Do Not

Today I am going to give you a different look into our team on the Rascal. But first a quick overview from our day on the course: A HUGE congrats to Jeff and Rodney Johnstone, who pulled off two bullets today. Also, Glen Darden from Texas sailed consistently, scoring two seconds. We ended up with a third in the first race, after a sweet pin-end start, and an eighth in the second race. We have held onto a narrow lead over the Johnstones and Darden after leaving some points on the table after a tactical mistake by myself (read below). The breeze was in the same NE Quadrant, with wind shots in the 030 to 065 range. We experienced more cloud cover today than expected bringing in some unexpected breeze. The North Sails Weather Service has been quite on so far and helpful to our team for sure.

Our team MVP for Day 2: Steve Frazier.

Steve is a co-worker at North Sails and goes by the nickname Junior Bear Cub. Steve is doing the bow for us, so we gets the most wet. Each morning Steve is the guy hopping in the water and cleaning the bottom with the West Marine snorkel and mask (which stays with the boat of course). A good half hour in the water at The Stock Island Marina followed by a quick rinse, into his battle gear: shorts and tee-shirt, Steve is a big surfer/kite sailor and can hang with the best of them. Steve is also in charge of our rig tune: tuning the boat in the morning, using our matrix while out on the water, and re-tuning when we get in. That gives him lots to do. Not to mention that everything is brand new so all our shrouds are moving, which doesn’t make this an easy gig-especially with me busting on him all the time. He can also make a very nice peanut butter and jelly sandwich, in case your interested. So, Steve gets Chucky’s Most Valuable Player Award (subject to change)!

A Poor Move Today:

By Me! In today’s second race we killed the start off the third to pin end, and we had the opportunity to tack and cross the fleet. I got stuck on how the left had paid for us in the first race and hung it out there a bit longer than we should have. Sure enough, boats that had had poor starts and cleared right behind us were back in the game. We literally went from top two to top ten. It really helps to get to the weather mark in the the J/80 class out in the top group. The clear air and ample lanes help the first few boats extend and sail almost their own race. We got pin balled around during this race, falling back into the teens before grinding some back to finish eighth. Lesson Learned: Tack and cross when you can-this was also our college motto. Tomorrow I hope to enlighten the readers into some of our daily routines and things we have been doing on the island and of course a look at our Day Three debrief. Stay tuned, I’m off to watch the Johnstones get their trophies.

Monday, January 18

Starting At the Top

Well, it feels great to get out racing after the last couple of days where we found ourselves rigging a brand new J/80 out in Stock Island. You get all the pieces and parts that come with the boat, but find out quickly that frequent West Marine trips are required.

I remember saying to the guys on Saturday: “OK, we have a lot of work to do but let’s get out to practice around 2:00 p.m.” Never happened, not even close. Sunday came around, same deal: “today we are out yachting by 10:00 a.m.”

Guess what? Did not happen. We actually were able to get in a couple of hours around 2-ish… 
It was well worth it because we hooked up with a bunch of other J/80s and got in some good line-ups, and some very useful corner turning. There are some definite techniques that need to be mastered in the J/80 if you want to be competitive: starting in light air, hoists and takedowns, etc… there can be some friction issues throughout the boat if you do not play it right.

Anyway, just a couple of hours in the boat really helped our team as we had a good day on the water.
 
After the front moved through yesterday, the typical Key West High was moving in: breeze hanging in the 350- to 050-degree range favoring the lighter side. We found the early part of today on Division 2 to be right center favored with leverage-the breeze shots would come down and hook you in on 8-degree shots with full hiking, just enough to edge the boat forward on anyone left.

This paid off for us as we had a average start off the left in the first race (the pin boat was favored by 6 degrees), waited, waited and waited for some boats to cave into us found a nice lane and managed our way up into the top-five grouping.

Lane management was critical, as we sailed into the J/105s quickly-they could not point as high as the J/80’s in the 5-10 knots breeze, their point seemed even, if not a touch lower. We ended up in first for a while getting passed by Glen Darden and Max Skelley and his group and one other boat. It became a total fight to the end on the four-legger: downwind finish, with four boats jibing all the way down. We lucked out and had two great jibes at the end and won the race by a half of length-not bad after putting the boat together yesterday!

The second and last race today had some serious left trends to it during the pre-start. It became obvious as the day got warmer that everything was trending left. The pin was favored by pretty much the same amount as the first race: 6 degrees or so, it was the place to be for sure. We started one boat up from the pin boat and just shot out and found the left breeze we had anticipated.

We hit the first mark five boatlengths ahead of the next boat, which were the Swedish Team, with Jay Lutz, on board. They jibed downwind before us and got headed, reaching the leeward gates first by a length and never looked back. We got hung out to the middle a bit more than we wanted to and lost one other boat finishing up third for the race to score 4 points for the day, enough to get us out in front, in this long week. Lutz and his Swedish Squad are close on points, as are about 10 other teams.

Overall, a great day out there with plenty of sun and superb boat racing. A great start to The 2010 Key West Race Week! Now we’re off to the J-Boats Sponsored J-80 Class party.

-Chuck Allen, North Sails One Design-J/80, Rascal

Tuesday, January 12

Time for a Little R & R, Wait, I Mean R & D

Walter Cooper| |Chuck Allen, seen here judging SW’s 2010 Boat of the Year contest, will be calling tactics for the J/80 Rascal at Key West 2010.| Hi, sailors! Chuck Allen here from North Sails One Design in Rhode Island. I’ll be writing daily posts for Sailing World during Race Week. This year, I’ll be racing J/80s on the Division 2 circle. We wanted to get involved with the J/80 class, as both the NAs (Marion, Conn.) and the Worlds (Newport, R.I.) take place in the Northeast this year. What better way to get rolling than Key West? (Actually, I started sailing with Steve Kirkpatrick, old college buddy, at Buzzards Bay last season, and we plan to sail in a bunch of events leading up to the big ones. Steve couldn’t make Key West, but we thought it would be smart if I went to give some knowledge and a little bit of a head start on things.

Anyway, I am sailing with my J/24 buddies down in Key West: Will Welles, Steve Frazier, and Carter White. Will and I have been campaigning J/24s for the last three years, hitting most local and major regattas. Steve-O (aka Junior Bear Cub) sails with us occasionally, but most recently placed second at J/24 Worlds crewing for Chris Larson. Yes, they beat us… we placed sixth again. Carter lives up in Maine and heads up his local J/24 fleet, which heads up one of the best events, the Down East Regatta, which he won last year. Will is going to helm the boat, Carter’s going to trim both ways, I’ll be doing tactics and kite up/downs, and Steve-O will handle everything that happens forward.

As I write this, the van and boat are leaving for Florida. The boat is a brand new French boat, same as Steve Kirkpatrick’s. We pretty much have new everything, from the trailer to the sails. But we’ve got some learning to do, that’s for sure. We’ve allowed time to have the boat rigged and tweaked on Friday on Stock Island, home base for Rascal during the event. We’ll practice on Saturday and Sunday before going into battle. We plan to do some two-boat speed tests with Jeff Johnstone, of J/Boats. This can only help us, as Jeff has a ton of time in the boats and has competed at the Worlds level many times. I would live to have some debriefs after sailing to compare boat setups, trim techniques, etc. Maybe during a football game?

We’re looking forward to sailing in what Jeff J. describes as “a really competitive fleet,” enjoying the warm sun-that’s right, the Gulf Stream has moved north and the temps look to be getting back to normal. I’ll try to provide some insight into the J/80 class, and will throw in whatever I hear from the other classes on our circle.

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