Have you wondered how the top DF skippers manage to put in consistent performances time after time?
What do they do that I don’t?
What can I learn from them?
Well, wonder no more, we have the answers. Below you’ll find the series of top worldwide DF skipper interviews. We set DF ICA Chairman on a mission to find out what makes the world’s top DF skippers so good. Is it a diet of cheese and red wine? Is is getting your boat setup just so?
Read on to find out what makes them tick.
Interview No. 7 – Peter Feldman – USA
Peter Feldman (centre)
Congratulations on your recent win in the DF95 Nationals at Hobe Sound. That was a tough fleet! Reaching top level takes years of racing and practice. Where and how did you learn in the early days? … and what are some of your most memorable, proudest championship wins?
- I grew up sailing and racing on dinghies and big boats – throughout junior sailing, high school sailing and college club sailing. After college I sailed big boats for a few years and eventually lost interest. Many years later, my dad found an RC sailing club where he spent time in Florida and I got interested in doing that with him. He built the two of us Soling 1m’s and we were hooked. I sailed my first nationals in 2016 in the Soling 1m and have done more and more RC regattas each year.
The proudest wins in my RC sailing career are my two DF 95 national championships. Those are my biggest wins in the biggest and toughest fleets.
I understand you are a pretty handy Poker player, winning a 2006 World Series event!!
Are there any skills that you have been able to transfer to your sailing?
- I was fortunate enough to win a World Series of Poker Circuit event in both 2006 and 2007. The World Series of Poker Circuit is a series that travels around the United States and should not be confused with the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas which is more prestigious. Still, those two wins were the best of my poker career and were very exciting and rewarding for me. Poker teaches you to think about process over results (make the right play at the right time irrespective of how the cards fall) and that can be translated to sailing as well. Just because a tactic does not prove to be successful does not necessarily mean that it was not the correct decision at the time based on available data.
What attracted you to the DF class, and what do you like most about your boat?
- Our RC club in Sarasota used to be only Soling 1m until about 4 years ago when the DF95 and other classes started coming in. Members were tired of sailing the same boat and wanted a change of pace. The DF95 was affordable, easier to build and setup than the Soling 1m and interest in our club took off immediately. I had seen the big fields in the DF95 nationals and globals so the DF95 was a natural addition for me. The boats are quick, fun and easy to setup and generally easy to sail but there are still some intricacies that make the boats interesting.
Do you have a pre- race plan for boat preparation, course research or routine that you follow, that others could learn from?
- I try to sail our racecourse for the race day before the first race a couple of times to get a feel for how shifts are hitting the course and how the starting line and leeward gate are setting up.
- Before each race I look at which end of the starting line is favored by sailing close hauled and checking my angle vs the opposite tack. As the sequence counts down, I’ll look up the weather leg to find out where the wind is and what direction the next shift will be. I gather as much data as possible without being late getting to my spot on the starting line.
I saw a series of photos where you sailed below Ray Seta and then climbed out to windward of him before tacking to get out to starboard. How did you do this? Did you have transmitter functions to change your trim from low to high mode.
- I think I had a little more speed at the gun and then when I went bow forward I must have gotten lifted in front of him and maybe I had a little better boat setup. I have the simplest of transmitter setups, everything is linear and I have nothing programmed into switches, trim or rudder. I was simply trimmed to normal close hauled. If you look further into the pictures, I got headed and tacked but everyone who stayed on starboard tacked later and got lifted inside of me and did the same thing to me that I had just done to them.
I have an encyclopedia of mistakes that have cost me places. What are the most common mistakes you see on the racecourse and how do you avoid them?
- Boats out of tune. If something looks wrong on your boat, or it feels wrong, figure out what is causing it and get it fixed!
- Poor or unreliable equipment. Make sure your boat is ready to race at all times. Maintenance and equipment reliability are key to success in RC sailing.
- Sailing the unfavored tack. Usually tactically the best move is to sail the tack that has the best angle to the mark.
- Sailing too much against the boat or boats around you and losing track of the big picture. If you get caught up in tactics or rules infractions against one or two boats, often you are costing yourself distance against the rest of the fleet.
- Not avoiding collisions even when you are in the right according to the rules – it does you no good to hit someone and potentially get tied up and cost yourself places, avoid the collision and protest.
- Sloppy mark roundings – often caused by not walking to a good position to view the mark rounding.
During the countdown sequence, what do you think about and how do you approach a congested start line.
- I’m thinking about a lot of things at once. I’m paying attention to the traffic immediately around me, who it is and what position they are in and if they will cause me a problem with pushing me over the line early. What is the wind doing, is it the same as it was a minute ago when I last was sailing close hauled or are my sails luffing differently and showing a shift that I should react to. Am I in a bad position and will I be forced over early? If so, maybe I need to trim in, go across the line and find a hole somewhere else on the line.
What is your usual first leg strategy. The first mark rounding is quite often congested, so what strategies do you use to come out of the first mark in good shape?
- If the first leg is too short or I’m sailing in a fleet of a lot of boats, I tend to be very careful going to the left side of the course and approaching the mark on port tack. If the leg is long enough and my speed is good, the left side of the course should be completely available tactically.
- The main key is to get to the top few places, then the racing is easy. Tactically this means a good start, good boat speed and not missing the first shift. I think avoiding tacking too much early in the leg is a good strategy, get near the lead and get back to the middle of the course and sail conservatively.
The DFICA would like to see some innovations in courses and racing. Windward gates are starting to be used more often and may take some time for skippers to get used. Do you have any suggestions that might work.
- I’m not sure about windward gates. We tried them once in a regatta I was in recently and without offsets the traffic once you rounded one of the marks was still bad vs the layline traffic. If you have offsets, now you have four marks that need to be moved every time you have a shift and in my opinion, this is too much overhead for most of the regatta volunteer crews that we have. I have not tried the offset mark which is short of the weather mark that they use in the TP52 class, it’s location is not super critical (easy to set) and I think that would be worth trying.
Most radio sailors have great difficulty with depth of vision and judging marks at a distance with small boats. Do you have any tricks to keep clear of the marks that are quite a distance away.
- I don’t use any tricks personally, but I have heard people use a couple of different ones like using the shadow of your boat when it passes the mark and using the wake of your boat when it arrives at the mark… generally I don’t find those necessary.
Do you have a different steering strategy for each rig and wind/wave conditions?
- Not really. Generally speaking, in all but the lightest of air you want the boat to sail itself upwind with minimal rudder input, maybe with just a touch of weather helm to go up in the puffs. I don’t think anyone is good enough to steer through the waves like you might do on a big boat but keeping track of your boat speed in waves and whether you need to foot off / ease out after a bad set of waves is important. Also, finding the right spot to tack in a set of waves can be critical.
What transmitter and receiver do you use and why did you chose that combination
- I use the Spektrum Dx6i transmitter and associated receiver. Simply put, I’m used to the Dx6i, it doesn’t make any unnecessary noises or beeps and 4 AA batteries last many sailing days.
The great majority of our members sail for fun. Its great for mental health, camaraderie and to support our older members who many be less mobile, seeking new friends/network etc. Do you have any tips to help make sailing more fun.
- I think the key to keeping RC sailing fun is for people to keep learning and keep trying to get better. I’m impressed at some of the older RC sailors that I meet who are constantly trying to improve and learn. People need something to strive for, improvement, a greater knowledge base. It’s important for the better sailors to try to help keep those that are struggling engaged and improving (I need to improve at this).
We are also fostering youth programs to get younger people off keyboards and into sailing. Do you have any tips to help our member nations develop programs in their countries.
- First, I think RC sailing is a fantastic training tool for youth sailing programs. It can teach aspects of sailing more quickly and effectively than dinghy sailing. These aspects include : effects of tuning/sail controls, starting, upwind strategy and tactics, and rules scenarios. Video tape can be used as a training aid cheaply and easily.
- The difficult part is finding ways to get boats and transmitters into the hands of youth sailors. It’s a lot simpler when you are RC sailing where there are youth sailors around, but many of the ponds that I sail at do not have this. Getting RC sailing to be commonplace at yacht clubs is a good first step. Once RC sailing is happening where kids are around, they will become interested!
Interview No.6 – Des Fairbank
It was wonderful to meet you and John Jorgensen at the DF95 Globals in Dallas, and hear about the growth of the class in South Africa. Tell us how you first got into the DFs, and what has been your involvement since that time.
That was a great event during which we were able to meet many DF 95 skippers from around the world. Having been involved in the administration of Radio Sailing in some form or other since 1977 I was close to the state of the sport in South Africa. During one of our inter regional events I got talking to a sailor from Gauteng and we both agreed we needed to do something to get the interest back as it had been dropping in many areas around South Africa. He (Don Gibson) managed to get his hands on both a DF 65 and DF 95 and when we got together again we evaluated both. Whilst we were on this journey a local RG 65 one design was being developed and with Don and John Jorgensen (who became involved in the project) we decided there would not be room for three new classes. The DF 95 seemed to fit our idea of an ideal boat to promote around the country where there are extremes of sailing conditions.
After trying to get stock through the local distributor the decision was taken to approach the factory directly. They agreed and I founded DF Yachts. My goal was to see DF 95’s being sailed all around the country bringing radio controlled sailing back to many venues where it had ceased. Unfortunately Don Gibson fell terminally ill shortly after this and passed away but not before he saw the boat being sailed in various venues around the country.
What is it about the DF Classes that you like most?
I enjoy the restricted nature of the class together with being able to make them freely available to past, current and new radio sailors at reasonable pricing. It performs well in all conditions and is also very easy to transport around the country.
How is South African Radio Yachting administered and does the DF Classes run as a separate Association?
Radio Sailing in South Africa is administered by the South African Radio Sailing Authority which was previously the Model Yacht Association of South Africa originally founded by Keith Gerson and Keith Mackey in 1971. There are six regions and each region has one or more clubs. The clubs are a mixture of dedicated Radio Sailing Clubs and Radio Sailing sections of big boat yacht clubs. For years MYASA and for a while SARSA had direct access to the Government and received direct funding. Subsequently all water sports have been embraced under South African Sailing (SAS).
I could see the potential of the class in an environment where Radio Sailing activity was on a downward spiral and my aim was to get a Class Association approved and registered with SARSA and SAS as soon as possible. We prepared a constitution and submitted it to SARSA and SAS immediately after holding an inaugural regatta with 12 boats. It did not take long for the formalities to be finalised and the Class has not looked back.
How widespread is the ownership and where are the boats raced in SA? What has the growth been like in the last 3 years?
The class growth has exceeded my expectation and I was very apprehensive to begin with. However it did not take long to get the first couple of boats into each previous radio sailing venue and then it grew from there. Some of these venues were no longer active but the desire by some of the original skippers to sail was there and they just needed to have access to a suitable boat. Boats are currently being raced regularly in Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Witbank, Port Elizabeth, on the Garden Route at various venues, Richards Bay and Cape Town. There is a fairly large fleet of boats in the Gauteng area but have only just started to sail regularly and this will grow.
In the last two years there has been a growth in the number of people who are travelling to remote events and it has given me pleasure to see the enthusiasm and comradeship that has developed. It looks like we will have to limit the entry at our Nationals in September this year.
You have strong background in RC sailing. How did you learn to sail? Do/did you race big boats, and what have been some of your most memorable successes?
First started sailing at school in 1964 on Dabchicks. After leaving school in 1965 I never sailed again until around 1972 when I was re introduced to sailing on a friends popular mechanics home built dinghy. I was with him on his maiden voyage on a dam in Northern KZN when we were hit by a storm and a shroud broke and the beautifully laminated mast broke. There after I built and sailed a Fireball out of the Point Yacht Club for about three years.
I had often seen the vane controlled yachts being sailed at the Durban Model Yacht Pond at the Blue lagoon but this did not appeal to me. When I saw the first Radio Boats the idea of being able to build your own hull and make your own sails appealed to me. After a very short stint with a second hand boat I imported an Ashanti Marblehead hull from David Hollom in 1971. I sailed this boat in the 1978 World Marblehead Championship held in Durban (finishing 3rd South African) and also in the 1982 World Championship in Dunkerque. ( Finishing 14th).
I have won numerous R/C national championships in South Africa but one of my most memorable successes was winning all four R/C Class National Championships in 2003. This was followed up with a win in 2004 in the UK Open RCL Nationals. More recently winning the DF 95 Nationals in 2021 after a disappointing performance in the first DF 95 Nationals in 2019 was very memorable. I also campaign with my own built IOM Goth and for several reasons had not won a Nationals but put this right last year.
It looks like you mainly race DF95s. Are there many DF65s, and if not, why do think that is so?
There are a few isolated groups still sailing Lasers, Marbleheads and our local one design 36” Shipmate however the DF95 is currently the most popular sailing in all major cities around the country. The IOM is still active although lost a lot of ground due to the high cost of spares and new boats. As a result not much development is taking place.
We made a conscious decision that we would not promote the DF 65 for a couple of reasons but will not prevent people from wanting to sail them. As far as I know there are a few around but no active groups. I as DF Yachts was not prepared to double up on stock to offer the DF 65 and so it has been left to a hobby shop in Johannesburg who is not really interested in yachts.
How do you support new owners from the time they want to buy a boat. Do you have any tips for newbies?
My objective for creating DF yachts was to get radio sailing in South Africa back as popular as it used to be. I follow up all enquiries personally and offer as much advice as possible. I try to provide a complete service from supplying the boat, all rigs, sail bag, batteries and chargers to make it as easy as possible to acquire a boat. I also took the decision to sell the boat with an A and B rig so I have to pack the B rig into the presentation box. I also include a fair amount of literature over and above the comprehensive Joysway instruction manual. Even this results in many hours on the phone guiding people through the assembly process. I also try and attend as many events around the country as possible to have that personal connection with the owners.
It is difficult to anticipate what people do but it is obvious that most people don’t read so I try and stress the need to read the literature and look on social media.
What’s next for the South African fleet? Global Regatta???
I don’t think there is a South African who would not like for us to stage another International regatta and if we did it would most certainly be with the DF 95. South Africa hosted the worlds for RM and R10R yachts in 1978 and the RM worlds in 1994. We have discussed an event but have a huge problem trying to locate a suitable venue. I am sure the international community would love to come and sail and then enjoy a safari to see our great wild life. The one venue with Table Mountain as a back drop would have been ideal but they are battling with weed and pollution and no sailing has taken place there for some time now. Our 2021 DF 95 Nationals were held at the Witbank Yacht Club and the venue was great. We experienced exceptional winds requiring the use of at least three rigs with the odd race on D rig. However we have sailed there when it has been shocking. Must qualify that by saying this time we sailed from a spur which moved the course out into the dam. The club is looking at developing the end of the spur to provide more space and If this happens it may be a serious option. The venue is also not that far from the Kruger Park so would be ideal for booking a safari before or afterwards.
Interview No.5 – Bruce Farr
There is no need to introduce your Bio here as your name is legendary in yachting circles. You have produced some phenomenal yachts and enjoyed a long history of success. Huge congratulations, Bruce. It must be very satisfying in retirement to look back on all that you have achieved. In my younger years, I dabbled in yacht design and loved your breakthrough designs with light construction, flatter dinghy shapes and bigger sail area. What has been some of your most success or favourite boats and why?
There have been so many successful boats! Most of my favourites reflect more personal involvement in the programs or actually racing on board. Some highlights;
Travelodge NZ winning the 18 footer Worlds in 1972 (or was it 1973?) in Auckland, as I designed and built the boat, was occasional coach and reserve crew, even skippered her once before the worlds.
Titus Canby winning the 1972 South Pacific Championship. First keelboat design, shoestring budget, and I sailed on board.
45 South – Farr 727. First keel boat World Champion, and I skippered the boat in NZ 1/4 Ton Champs and qualification for Worlds.
UBS Switzerland. First Whitbread Round the World race winner and first “Maxi”. Great relationship with skipper/project manager in Pierre Fehlmann. Something of a trailblazing design with unique design and engineering .
Farr 1020. Nice sailing high volume production cruising boat with well sorted structural design, and well built. I owned one for a while.
Pick any of many 1 Ton World Champions in the 1980s and 1990s.
Longobarda. Easy 1989 World Maxi Champion. Very powerful boat, very sophisticated structure, very high ballast ratio with big slab of lead in centre of hull serving as keel structure. Glorious Italian program expertly led by Lorenzo Bortolotti, and I had the immense pleasure of being part of a fabulous racing crew.
I was thrilled to learn that you are now sailing DFs in Florida. Are you still involved in Farr Yacht Designs, and in what capacity?
I have been retired from Farr Yacht Design since 2013, and have had only a small and occasional role since, generally when information needed for older designs!
It seems the DF class’ popularity has been a sort of disrupter in the radio sailing community with more than 70,000 boats sold, new people trying the sport and new Clubs popping up everywhere. What attracted you to the DF class?
Gail and I moved to The Villages in Central Florida in 2015. I eventually discovered there were several RC sailing clubs there, collectively sailing about 7 or so different classes. In 2019 I checked out the clubs and discovered the DF 95 was just getting established there. Looking at all the classes, the DF 95 looked the obvious choice:- strict restricted class, inexpensive, fun to sail and very responsive, big enough to see a good distance away, while light, easy to manage and fit into the back of most vehicles fully rigged. Really user friendly, it just made more sense than the other classes. Once I started travelling around Florida a bit in the Travellers Trophy events in 2020 it made sense to add a DF 65 to the mix to race both days of those regattas.
I’ve been watching your results in the Florida fleets and can see you work your way up the leaderboard. Are you mainly in for competitive racing or social sailing with old and new friends?
It would be no surprise that I have always been quite competitive, and was a very good sailor in my youth until back and neck problems and design work load curtailed most of my racing, although I did a lot of sailing in a tune and advice capacity. So, I arrived into RC sailing with good background knowledge about racing and boat set up. While I am serious about racing for the mental challenge and fun of it, I understand my age and shortcomings, so have no expectations about winning, and do not aspire to be at the top of the class. I had good seasons in the DF 95 2020 and 2021, generally in the top ¼ of the Florida regional events. Interestingly, I seem to do better in the DF 65 even though I sail it less often and got into it later. I won the 2021 Travellers trophy with a 1,1, 2, 2, record after one throw out, which surprized me more than anyone. The 65 seems more difficult to set up and sail fast so maybe my background helped, as I am typically not tactically up with the best sailors. Or, it may just be my RNB sails which do seem fast!
The design team of John Tushingham, Mark Dicks, Buzz Coleman and Mike Weston have produced 2 highly popular boats that have brought so many new owners to the sport. They have balanced the compromises between quality and price pretty well. As a designer, do you have any observation about the boats that you like or would change?
Well, I am a designer, so of course I look at them critically! However, I think they are both really great products exceedingly well executed from a production design and marketing standpoint, so easy to get into, and an extraordinary value.
If I were offering advice to improve the DF 95, I would say they would be a better boat with a little more weight in the keel bulb and a tiny bit more sail, but I understand why they are how they are. For both the 95 and 65 I would like a slightly bigger rudder as in one design boats where everyone has the same, one may as well have plenty of rudder to improve handling, at some miniscule loss of performance in light airs. I quite like the sail restrictions as it pretty much eliminates the arms race (I am currently racing my 95 with a two year old set of stock sails put into service about 5 months ago with some small additions to corner patching, and they are definitely the fastest sails I have had in 2021 and 2022!
There are a couple of changes to the rules I think would be really useful to make the sails better at very little cost:- Allow a small luff round on the jib, perhaps 2 or 3 mm, which would allow a better vertical camber distribution, and more power. Allow one more eye in the mainsail luff (especially in the DF 65), and/or allow a luff tabling on the mainsail, both of which would improve the sail shape and vastly extend the useful life, as it seems that mainsail luff stretch (and associated sag between the eyes) is the first thing that limits the useful (racing) life. These changes would only add a few dollars to the cost, and could be easily phased into the classes. Better winch servos would be nice as I find they are a bit random as to where the end points start up and even drift around during a sailing day. Other than that, these are just great little boats, so much so that I have little desire to sail other boats even though I get a lot of pressure to get into the IOM class and others. The IOM looks like a bit of a slippery slope to me, if taken seriously, even if it is the best competition.
Have you found any Tuning changes that have worked well for you? (rake, twist etc)
I figured out quite early that a little less (but just enough) headsail twist than most people were using seemed fast but a bit “finicky” to sail, which I think got me well up the fleet quite quickly. Others have caught on to that now so I have lost that benefit, and maybe dropped back in the fleet! I continuously have to re-learn that the mainsails like a lot more twist than one thinks from looking at it, so I keep saying to myself (and others!) “if in doubt, twist it out”, especially if the boat isnt fast! I do tend to set my boat up a bit on the ”free and fast” side of the range for upwind, which I think suits our tree and house lined pond conditions as there are regular and big wind shifts, so foot fast to the next header. I am also not scared to flatten the bottom of both sails, especially the main, as soon as the boat is more or less fully powered up, and add backstay as soon as it is mostly overpowered, along with easing the mainsail out.
I do change mast rake a little. On my A rig I reduce mast rake in strong winds to reduce weather helm, and that makes the boat accelerate better in puffs and not “bind up” when the puffs arrive. For my B and C rigs I did not have any info for rake so I just played with rake until they seemed to sail fast and straight with little or no helm. I think, as I suspect most others, that it is good to set up the boat so that it sails upwind with little or no steering needed, maybe just a touch of weather helm so it will slowly turn up into the wind in puffs. That allows me to get my head out of the boat and look up course for wind shifts and pressure and assess the tactics, a moment of breakthrough in my RC sailing progression! That, and tactics, are the areas where I am weakest, I guess due to not much time in this game, and more than 40 years since I raced competitively as a “helmsman”.
The great majority of our members sail for fun. Its great for mental health, comraderie and to support those members who many be less mobile, seeking new friends/network etc. Do you have any tips to help make sailing more fun.
Yeah! Don’t take the racing too seriously! I’m probably too old to eventually become good enough to win championships, so it better be fun. Do try to be careful and methodical with setting up the boat. Open the hatch after sailing! Help out others whenever you can, especially those struggling at the back (or middle) of the fleet, and those who are not mobile enough to get their own boats in and out of the water. It is rewarding and fun to set up someone’s boat better, and then watch them leap up the fleet in the next race. At our club, The Villages Model Yacht Squadron, I have become the DF 95 Fleet Captain, and I always show up about an hour early, encourage anyone else to do that also, and spend that time checking and tuning and showing people how to tune their boats. That has lifted the quality of our fleet, but it is also a chance to socialize before the serious stuff begins. We race two days a week, but one day is designated as a more serious race day and the other as a casual sailing day where we never register finish positions and don’t worry about missing a race or two to help someone else get better, tune someone’s boat, or help fix a breakdown.
Also, get involved with helping to run events, especially for other classes in your club. It’s more fun than you think, quite rewarding and much appreciated!
Our group was struggling with numbers through this winter with generally less than 12 boats showing up, so for March I organized a casual one morning per week, 4 week series, 3 to count, with just enough organization (me and occasional volunteers) to record finishing positions. We ended up with 27 boats showing up at some point, 21 boats on one day, and had some great racing. Positive features were that we always started with a skippers meeting and discussed how to race better/cleaner, and generally did a comfort break mid-morning and held a chat during that 10 minute break. I think these were good in helping the less experienced sailors and rule compliance.
We have many Kiwis in Australia who knew you back in New Zealand. Do you get back to NZ much these days? The NZ fleet is growing very quickly, and I’m sure they would love to see you back home!
Pre-Covid, I was back to NZ quite regularly, and hope to be able to be there next summer. I do have a friend in Auckland who I have convinced to get two DF 95s, so I will have a boat to race when I am there!
What’s next on your sailing program, and will we see you at the DF95 Global Regatta at Fleetwood in May next year?
I am not sure what is next! I do this for fun and the mental challenge, and have no expectations of being as good as people younger and/or more experienced at RC racing. I enjoy going to regional events that are less than a half day drive away, but can’t get enthused (yet?) about driving days away to other big events like the top sailors do. So, I can’t imagine travelling across the country for an event, let alone across the globe. I do want to get back into some sort of motorsports, for the same reasons of mental challenge, fun, and social interaction, and I can do a lot of that in Florida too. That is a lot more expensive!
I am considering whether to buy an IOM, just to have another racing option to get more sailing, and there is a very high quality fleet in Florida now, so it would be a good venue to sharpen my skills close to home and see if I can climb a bit further up the ladder. I’ll probably buy someone’s discarded old boat, to lower any silly expectations!
Interview No.4 – Coomera RYC
Coomera Lake, Oxenford
Phil – The Coomera Team of Ron Brown, Leon Holder and Will Charlton have started a new Club on Australia’s Gold Coast. It’s a great location with plenty of waterways and canals suitable for RC sailing. Your sole focus is on having fun and this is one of the core purposes of what DF sailing is all about. Tell us more about how you formed the idea and the culture you are creating?
Leon – I wanted an environment of fellowship, fun and comradery without the intense competition, bad language and arguments. Ron Brown and I had been discussing this for some time and one day I rang him and declared that we should stop talking and start a new club with all the values that we had discussed.
Ron – Having started radio sailing again in late 2017 at another local club where the primary objective was to win races, regardless of any other factors. This very competitive sailing environment created some bad situations and behaviours. Members were leaving and new prospective members were put off. Efforts to change the culture were resisted.
That Club which was originally set up for other RC classes and took a dislike to DF yachts because of the immediate market acceptance and competitive pricing which all occurred in a short space of time.
So, we established our own radio sailing Club with the culture the way we wanted.
Will – As Secretary of the Australian DFRSA Inc. I wanted to experience and document some of the issues of forming new pure DF clubs from a group of friends sailing, to gain the benefits of being affiliated with the ARYA, to protect the new club with public liability insurance; gain access to public land, right of use of the rules (RRS) and following all other rules both State and Federal Governments to protect members.
On culture, we wanted to set up a model RC club that adopted the DF Founders Statement and assist the growth of RC sailing. Simply put, it must be fun to continue to engage sailors of any age, was my thinking.
Phil – What has the Coomera Team done to get the Club started?
What tips do you have for other social fleets who like your concept?
What obstacles did you encounter along the way, and how did you get over them?
Ron – After some discussion, we agreed the direction and the objectives we wanted for the new club. The primary goal was to ensure all our members would have the opportunity to sail in a friendly, safe and enjoyable way. We took away the competitive “must win at all costs” rule. We have no trophies and no prizes. We adopted Paul Elvstrom’s words as our club Ethos:
“If in the course of winning you lose the respect of other competitors, you have won nothing “
Respect for your fellow skippers is one of our main requirements, as is lots of regular communication, so everybody is kept up to date with what is happening, news etc and to make everybody feel they are part of the club and not just a number.
After some discussion with other DF95 Skippers, several showed immediate interest to want to become involved, so Will Charlton, Leon and I set about establishing Club Rules, Objectives and Aims. With Will’s help, application for incorporation, selecting a sailing venue and seeking Council approval for right of use were the priorities. We also wanted affiliation with the State Association under the Australian RYA. It was all a bit time-consuming, which is essential when forming a new club, so it is fully compliant.
For those interested in forming a new club we freely offer our paperwork and advice which can be used to minimise the work and time required.
Aside from the compliance requirements, funds are needed to purchase equipment. Coomera has been lucky that our original 10 founding members contributed around A$2,000 dollars. A Rescue Boat and outboard have been lent to the club. Marks etc have been either donated or paid for, as has Council fees, Incorporation charges. So funding is a major issue for all newly formed clubs.
Leon – Ron and I finalised our thoughts on the sort of club we would like then sought out like minded sailors, formed a committee and started the process of building such a club.
I focussed on my core skills of corporate structure, policy and procedures and all the legal bits and Ron focussed on the sailing/racing structure. We enlisted Will Charlton to assist in setting up some of the policy using his experience from other clubs and the DF association.
We didn’t encounter any obstacles as we had a definite plan and a strong commitment to build this club avoiding the traps we saw other clubs fall into.
We just needed to be patient and structured in working through the legalese etc.
Possibly the only issue that required any effort was to imprint our ”no trophies, no gold bars, no club champion” ethos but looking back that was quite easy as if anyone wasn’t happy with the concept, they were encouraged to seek out other clubs. I believe just as in all aspects of life, have a clear goal, plan and prepare for all possibilities and set about forming your social sailing club carefully with like-minded sailors and stick to the plan!
Will – The main obstacles we found were gathering of or raising sufficient funding to provide for seed formation capital, fees for rights of use of the water/shoreline, equipment costs of a recovery dingy and other safety equipment, then its storage.
Via the Australian DF Assoc, I can help other DF sailing groups in Australia with giving ideas, samples of objects, policies for your group to consider /change and adopt, even assistance with applications for Grants and information on the pros and cons of incorporation or running unincorporated. We have done it all at Coomera!
Phil – What is your own background in sailing? Where did you start?
Ron – I began my sailing in Wellington, New Zealand, in a 7-footer called a P class, and progressed through other centreboard classes, into Trailer Sailors and on to keel boats. During my sailing career I became involved in club management, becoming a flag officer and moving into the role of Commodore at two clubs.
A move to Auckland NZ saw a continuation of my sailing activities, joining the RNZYS, I brought and sailed a number of Trailer Sailors including a Noelex 25 in which we won the Interdominion Noelex Championship.
AS CEO of Epiglass / Epicraft, we became a major sponsor of Yachting in New Zealand with Admiral Cup, Kenwood Cup, Whitbread Round the world, Southern Cross Cup to name a few. I was one of the original foundation members of NZs entry into America’s Cup developing the Fibreglass constructed hulls.
Since retiring and moving to Gold Coast some 6 years ago I have been sailing DF 95s 4 days a week at Paradise RYC, Coomera RYC and Grand Vision RYC. I undertake the role of Fleet Captain at Paradise, Sailing Coordinator & Chairman at Coomera, plus the state DF 95 representative for Queensland.
Will – I had some limited experience sailing big boats as crew for friend with a trailer sailor. I enjoyed several Marley Point races on the Gippsland Lakes Victoria as sheet hand and deliverer of rum and coke -. a very social sailor with little experience in big boats
On RC sailing I bought a Plan B IOM and joined the Paradise YRC in 2018. Why? – My psychologist who was treating me for major depression wanted me to find another super competitive hobby as I could no longer compete in my race car in motorsport, as I became disabled due to a nerve disease. He wanted me to have an outdoor activity/outing with a new friendship group as many friends and family had recently passed. I am still a competitive person and like winning on equal grounds. I don’t need a trophy as I already have shelves full of motorsport trophies.
Leon – First sailboat was a Sabot over 60 years ago, then progressed through a variety of dinghies (Corsair, 125, Laser, Gwen, Flying Dutchman (my favourite)) and some cats, Hobie Windrush and Yvonne). Then on to Trailer Sailors, Hartley16, Ultimate18, Boomerang and a Sonata 7 and somewhere in the mix a Sailmaster 32 (British built timber keel boat).
Phil – What attracted you to the DF Classes and has it delivered on your expectations?
Ron – I was attracted to Radio sailing because of my past sailing experience and the love of the sport, plus as a retiree, I needed to ensure I maintained an interest and active lifestyle, so RC sailing was an easy fit for me. Since joining a local Club in 2017 the DF 65 was the established class at the time, the cost was economical, coupled with the one design, ease of assembly, made the buying decision easy.
Once I got more involved in the clubs racing activities, I was attracted to the DF 95s as a skipper and decided to take on the role of Fleet Captain at Paradise which has been an interesting experience, but most satisfying as the growth of our fleet coupled with an extra day’s sailing, the friendships developed has been great. Therefore, the expectations delivered have been met for me, so I am very happy.
Will – One class design RC boats at a reasonable cost where fellow sailors were not as aggressive, genuinely welcoming and helpful to disabled persons.
Leon – Advised to consider the DF95 by Laurie Hinchcliffe, Commodore of the private club at Hope Island. The DF95 has exceeded all my expectations and I in fact bought two DF95’s for my grandsons.
Phil – Do you have any tips for new owners before they launch their boat for the first time?
Ron – Prior to new members buying boats, we send them a list of items to purchase, Hobby Warehouse Contact details, Class rules, tuning guide, plus the maintenance list.
New or used Boat owners are helped with boat assembly, rebuilds, battery / Electrical requirements etc. When completed, the senior guys check things are in order, ensure the tuning is correct.
Will – Follow the excellent instructions from Joysway very carefully and ask your friends for help. The Coomera RYC has assigned some experienced sailors to help with assembly and tuning.
Leon – After building your boat, study the way it is rigged to gain a better understanding of how to tune it and give YouTube a thorough workout to seek more knowledge of RC sailing as it takes time to develop a feel for your boat.
One of the initiatives of Coomera Radio Yacht Club to encourage new sailors to join in our racing program was to create an apprentice classification. The boat carries a silver ribbon on the backstay and has right of way on the course (only required to execute a penalty turn if markers are touched). All other boats must stay clear and if contact occurs the boat that touches an apprenticeship vessel does the penalty! Has been very successful with our fleet (now 17) and at this time all our new boats have lost their Silver ribbon.
Phil – Are you considering any new racing formats, courses etc to make it create more interest and fun?
Ron – Because we sail for fun and Enjoyment, course setting is important, as we ensure our Racing is to the rules of sailing, we try to set a track where all skippers can easily see all marks, the start line is straight off the shore and established with port bias so all boats can start without crowding at one end. Starboard starting creates less hassles and takes possible arguments away.
We find most skippers want windward leeward tracks which offer good windward legs so there is a chance to pass and pick the wind shifts.
Will and Leon – Mixture of scratch and handicap. As resources allow, we will try Match racing this year.
Phil – The social side of sailing is important to keep old and new friends together and support each other. It’s also important to support those less able-bodied sailors. Do you have any initiative at Coomera that others could use?
Ron & Leon – Most definitely, the social side of any club is most important. At Coomera, we have an excellent Café, we all meet for lunch at 11.30 am prior to sailing at 1.00 pm each sailing day.
After sailing, we meet at the local Oxenford Tavern for a few drinks on the way home, which is well supported. In 2022, our plan is to have a quarterly dinner with Partners at a local restaurant. This maintains lots of social interaction for all members to get to know one another and develops old and new friendships and boosts club morale.
Will – We have developed and adopted policies that demonstrate inclusiveness, particularly no discrimination AND are putting them in to place.
For example, by the actions of the Race officers course setting an appropriate course for wind conditions and viewing from a seated position. Also reminding others to assist in physical access and safe launching and recovery of boats for disabled/ageing sailors.
We give ALL equal opportunity to see well and thus always be in control of their boats, irrespective of being seated or standing / walking sailors.
We assigned a Buddy for new sailors, their nominator to join the club. We also have a Diversity Officer, a non-committee position, who can reassign the Buddy if required and keep in touch with members who ask for help on any matters……Great for loneliness and good mental health. – a Men’s Shed powered by RC sailing.
Phil – Thanks guys, it’s great to see the Founders Statement at work, the help you provide to new members and the fun you’re having without competitive pressures. The DF Classes certainly provide a vehicle to help many people in so many different ways. Best wishes for your 2022 season.
Check out the Coomera RYC website for more details on the club. Click here to take a look
Interview No.3 – Ed Baird
Phil – Reaching top level takes years of racing and practice. Where and how did you learn in the early days?
Ed – I grew up in St, Petersburg, Florida. In our area, we were lucky to have a number of families who were excited to be involved in racing. Having that energy around made it natural to improve. Between dinghies, like 470’s and Lasers, and small keel boats, there were lots of racing opportunities available. It was fun to be with my friends on the water…a lot! –
Phil – You have a long list of big wins and achievements, but what have been some of your most treasured regatta wins?
Ed – For the teams I’ve been involved with, winning events was part of the bigger picture which was learning about boats, weather, team work, equipment and racing. The more we learned, the better we did. The goal was never to win some big event, but rather to keep learning and improving, and see where it took us. I’ve been lucky enough to part of America’s Cup, Olympic and ‘round the world race teams, as well as great TP-52, Maxi and other international teams. Each has taught me new lessons helped me be better for the next project. Racing, coaching and writing about the sport have all contributed to great experiences. –
Phil – What attracted you to the DF class, and what do you like most about your boat?
Ed – During 2020-21, we were stuck at home more than normal. My adult kids were spending a lot time with us and we were looking for things to do together. We have a waterfront home, so the idea of sailing RC boats off the dock made sense. Once we got the DF95’s, we were able to have match races off the dock, which entertained the neighbours (they made bets) and helped pass the lock-down time. Having the ability to go sailing in 2-minutes off our dock was a great source of entertainment and made family time more fun. Racing
Phil – Do you have a pre- race plan for boat preparation, course research or routine that you follow, that could be applied to Radio Control Yachting.
Ed – Clearly, boat prep is an important part of our sport. You can’t win if you don’t finish. And you can’t be fast if you are not set up right. Your boat needs to be ready for the conditions whether it’s a Maxi or and RC boat. However, even fast, reliable boats finish in the back sometimes. Generally, that’s because they apply the wrong strategies to the race course. Conditions affect your race strategy. In very basic terms there are two types of course conditions, when it comes to wind types. Shifty and steady. When it’s shifty, you need to place yourself to make use of the next shift better than your opponents. When it’s steady, you’d better be fast and have clear air. If you break down the race course to one type or the other, your strategy often becomes obvious. When it’s shifty, set up in places that let you use the shifts to your advantage. In other words, don’t get trapped in groups that leave you unable to tack when you need to. When it’s steady, get clear air and be sure you are as fast as you can be. The shifts are less important, so don’t put as much focus on them.
Phil – What are your best tips for setting up the boat before a race? (Balance, shape etc)
Ed – RC boats seem to like to sail in a very balanced way, meaning that you trim in the sails and the boat will go straight. As the wind comes up or down, this means changing the ratio of power between your main and jib (more jib versus main, and vice-versa). Because the sails trim and ease together, this balance quickly changes how much rudder you need to keep the boat going straight. RC boat rudders tend to be pretty big, so turning them away from center makes plenty of drag. When I watch successful RC skippers, I consistently see that they have a good balance of sail trim for the wind speed, and the boat really steers itself, most of the time. How do you learn that? Watch and experiment. Learn how to adjust the relative shapes and trims of the two sails and play with different configurations. You’ll be surprised what a difference changes in trim make.
Phil – What do you look for when you arrive at the course?
Ed – Shifty or steady? Rough or smooth. Any areas where there are wind shadows? Any noticeable current lines? Does the topography make a persistent shift on the course? All of these things help form your strategy.
Phil – During the countdown sequence, what do you think about and how do you approach a congested start line.
Ed – I know where I think I want to go on the course, so I try to find a starting position that will let me get there. I’m aware of the rules and will use them to protect my “space”, but I try to avoid getting into scraps at the start that might prevent me from heading my planned way on the course. I also have a “plan B” in case my primary starting plan doesn’t work out. Often executing a good “Plan B” can save the race.
Phil – What is your usual first leg strategy. The first mark rounding is quite often congested, so what strategies do you use to come out of the first mark in good condition?
Ed – My goal is to be in the top group at the first mark. Racing against 10 boats, this might mean the top 4 or 5, if there are 25 boats, then maybe the top 10. From there, if you can pick off 2-5 boats before the finish, you’re having a great race. Once around the first mark, you’re looking for clear air for good boat speed. Shifts are usually less important downwind than clear air and/or puffs, so get a little clear of the other boats and go fast. Then, remember to set up for being inside at the next mark rounding so you have clear air upwind.
Phil – How do you work through the fleet to get to the front? Do you prefer to point high or go for more speed?
Ed – Finding ways to keep clear air and good speed are critical. Avoid getting trapped on lay lines too early. There’s a real art to climbing back through the fleet, but it all starts with being able to play your own game and not being slowed down by the boats just ahead of you. From a speed standpoint, it rarely helps to pinch. Sometimes you have to, but when in doubt put the bow down and go fast. You will be right most of the time!
Phil – Do you take many risks and go on a flyer to make up ground?
Ed – That completely depends on the situation. Is it race one of a long series with no drop races? Then maybe no. Is it the last race and it’s already your drop race with no risk for losing places on the overall scoresheet? Then sure, go for it. Risk management is one of the greatest things that sailing teaches. Weather, opponents, scores, pushing the equipment; these are all areas where we have to assess risk and make choices in every race. It’s part of the fun!
Phil – Most radio sailors have great difficulty with depth of vision and judging marks at a distance with small boats. Do you have any tricks to keep clear of the marks that are quite a distance away.
Ed – Obviously, getting a higher vantage point helps. But other than that and maybe having bold colours on your sails, I think you have to practice to learn how close to push things.
Phil – Do you have a different steering strategy for each rig and wind/wave conditions
Ed – I only have one rig. But my suggestion is to get the sails balanced so the boat goes straight, easily, and then let the boat take off!
Phil – Do you change the default program on your Tx from the factory settings, and if so, what works best for you?
Ed – No changes. We want our two boats to be as identical as possible, and to keep things simple. Remember, we are looking for family fun and entertainment. Having the fastest boat isn’t important to us. Making the boats easy to sail and the same speed keeps things fun off our dock.
Phil – The great majority of our members sail for fun. Its great for mental health, camaraderie and to support our older members who many be less mobile, seeking new friends/network etc. Do you have any tips to help make sailing more fun.
Ed -Do it with people seeking the same goals as you. Racing, cruising, teaching; all can be fun but not always at the same time. Find like-minded friends and be with them often.
Phil – We are also fostering youth programs to get younger people off keyboards and into sailing. Do you have any tips to help our member nations develop programs in their countries.
Ed – Outside is a fantastic place to be. Put the keyboards down and go enjoy the world! Once you bring new sailors to your group, give them a chance to experiment, ask questions and learn. It takes time to learn our sport, so don’t rush. And when it’s time to bring new sailors into racing, encourage and support them. Remember that they don’t know the rules or the norms of your group. Help them watch others race and explain to them what’s happening. And let them play with the boats. You’ll be surprised how big their smiles will be!
Interview No.2 – Jonas Samson
Jonas is a great asset to radio sailing in Sweden, he motivates other skippers to come and get involved, wherever in the world that might be. He’s usually at the pointy end of whatever fleet he sails in. So what makes him good? Let’s find out.
Reaching top level takes years of racing and practice. Where and how did you learn? Did you sail large yacht?
- I did sail large boats, from Optimist (some years 1985-1992 windsurfing OD) to 35 footers. Close to zero hours holiday sailing 🙂
- No more big boat racing for me, I have found my thing in RC racing!
- I practice RC sailing frequently because I think that thumb feeling and distance practice is gone if not practiced all the time.
Congratulations on your 4th place at the recent UK DF95 National Champs. What have been some of your big regatta wins in either RC or yachting?
- Thanks, I guess I need more practice in big fleets to be able to reach podium, so here we go, all bigger events – I will be there 😊
- Some national podiums in bigger boats,
- top 10 at Windsurfing Worlds,
- some national podiums RC + 5th DF95 Globals 2018.
Aiming higher 🙂
Can you pass on any learnings from your recent IOM Masterclass in Croatia?
- The Croatians with IOM Master Z gave me insights of things, some of us already knew, down to the smallest detail. Zvonko delivered secrets in a fun and describing way, showing video from 2017 in France and 2019 in Brazil the IOM Worlds, focusing on his boat and what he thought in each part of the races, start, first upwind, first rounding, first downwind. Why he tacked where he did and why he positioned where he did. Very informative and transparent.
- We also learned that training by your self is a good thing, when you meet up with more than 2 boats you will always race – less training.
- Of course, he led us through rig trim and what to do in what conditions and what the change was supposed to give the rig.
Tell us a bit about how DFs are managed in Sweden, How many Clubs, classes sailed?
- We have a new system, due to many active boats (DF65) regional rankings and national rankings devided.
DF95 same weekend as IOM-ranking (Saturday-Sunday events)
- Number of clubs I don’t know, but several spread geographically.
- DF65 is the biggest class in number of boats in Sweden, then IOM and at third place the great boat DF95 – hopefully DF95 will grow 😊
Why did you buy the DF and what do you like about the boat?
- To be honest I was fooled into this RC-sailing stuff 😊 by my dear friend Michael Collberg.
Started 2016 with a DF65 out of the box, DF95 a few weeks before Globals November 2018 and then IOM 2019.
- I think the 65 is the best “welcome to RC-sailing” boat, low price, easy to put together, HUGE number of active great sailors, big fleets and active class. I think the 95 is a better sailboat overall and maybe easier to sail up to its potential. When racing internationally the 95 is the bigger class compared to the 65.
Do you have a pre- race plan for boat preparation, course research or routine that you follow?
- Sure, don’t we all? 🙂 I have come to regattas without checking my materials, resulting in DNF or DNS, that’s not the way to go, so…
- I prepare material some days before arriving to a regatta, checking batteries and electronics. I check all knots and change sheets if necessary. DF95/DF65 I change the rubber tensioner frequently. I make sure my boats are 100% dry.
- If possible, I ask locals of patterns, and I check forecasts and ask again.
What are your best tips for setting up the boat before a race, including any key measurements you use?
- The DF-classes I stopped measuring some years ago. I set present rig with only one goal – 100% neutral steering upwind. I work with sheeting angles of the jib and main twist. Remember its small boats so small adjustments give huge effects! 1 mm somewhere could be much. ¼ turn on the kicker is much….
- I’m new into IOM so until I can do above with confidence I still measure – the feeling when sailing upwind is more important than the exact mm everywhere.
What do you look for when you arrive at the course?
- This is an interesting question. My first thing when I have put the boat in the water is to stand leeward on the pontoon both up and downwind, to check patterns in gusts or angles of the wind. If waves I check where and if I get hammered on one tack and take that to memory bank.
- I also try to team up with a similar sailor to check corners of the race area. I go left, the other boat goes right and we meet up at area of top mark to check which corner paid off best. Same at downwind, one boat goes starboard the other port tack, jibe at middle and meet at the bottom mark area to check, discuss gusts and angle – memory bank.
During the countdown sequence, what do you think about and how do you approach a congested start line?
- I try to determine the best side of the line, checking angles and gust directions. Very often I’m at my favoured spot, then my second choice turn up to hold my position…and stay out of trouble! A meter or two away from the invasion of boats is better than in the middle and get entangled.
- Depending on my game plan first tack I try to be on favoured side but keep an escape plan in my pocket, if I need to tack be sure to have the space.
What is your first leg strategy? The first mark rounding is quite often congested, so what strategies do you use to come out of the first mark in good condition?
- This is the most important thing, I think. Stay out of trouble, add distance at top mark.
- In a funny way, many sailors think that their boat will have up wind angle of 10-15 degrees last 5 meters 🙂
- Don’t tack from port in leeward, duck the starboard boats and add a meter or two. This will give you the best boat speed in the last 5 meters in the field and you often gain 5-6 places due to a clear first rounding.
In many of the photos you are not always first to the top mark. How do you work through the fleet to get near the front? Do you prefer to point high or go for more speed?
- If shifty – gusty, play those shifts and gusts the best you can.
- If stable wind, go for speed, point a few degrees lower and work p-mix to optimise your boat speed.
- When in a lift, work that lift 100% point, point point…until the shift turns back, then speed, speed, speed until next change in the wind. Decide if tack or speed (depends on where you are approaching marks and competitors)
Do you take many risks and go on a flyer to make up ground?
- Well, when early start and collision – 360, then I’m dead last. Change of game plan, where will next gust appear? I go in that direction with maximum speed. In this case I forget to race the fleet. I race as if I was the only boat on the course, if on favoured tack but in bad air, I keep going in that bad air.
Most of us have great difficulty with depth of vision and judging marks at a distance. Do you have any tricks to keep clear of the marks that are quite a distance away?
- Yes, I do :)…. Bottom gate, (if they are equal) I choose that mark where I can use the sun throwing a shade from my sails on mark. Then I know I can round it clear.
- Top mark, I try to approach so my boat is in between myself and the mark, so I know I’m clear.
Do you have a different steering strategy for each rig and wind/wave conditions?
- As said above i set trim to 100% neutral helm, this is harder in higher wind and higher waves, but doable 🙂 this is something you can add hours in training by yourself. Bottom line would be BOAT SPEED.
Do you change the default program on your Tx from the factory settings, and if so, what works best for you?
- Yes, DF95 and IOM I use p-mix a lot. I also got help to change rudder speed. (I’m not an RC guy) 🙂
(Phil… P-Mix is the use of the switches to change sensitivity for steering and sail winch control. Search the excellent manual written by David Flakelar)
The great majority of our members sail for fun. It’s great for mental health, camaraderie and to support our older members who may be less mobile, seeking new friends/network etc. Do you have any tips to help make sailing more fun?
- At local pond, use time on water to have fun, don’t always publish results, don’t always do races. When training and fleet is, say 10 boats, start and first upwind, then training is over, do this over and over again and share information.
- In practice, don’t be so rule intensive, especially if there are new sailors. Help those who need it with sail trim to get the boat going, if there is a collision, discuss the whys and hows instead of screaming PROTEST, DO YOUR TURNS!
- Make sure that after sailing is finished, discuss with the less knowledge sailors, check their boat and rig. Make sure they come next time. Bring coffee and chairs 🙂
We are also fostering youth programs to get younger people off keyboards and into sailing. Do you have any tips to help our member nations develop programs in their countries?
- Make sure that new into RC sailing try first time with a correct boat, good balance and well sailing boat. This will make the experience so much better.
Interview No. 1 – Mark Golison
Mark has a very long history in the big boat world with many many regatta wins to his name over the years and he is also a strong and consistent skipper in the radio sailing world. He is entered in the 2021 UK DF95 Nationals and could challenge John Tushingham for the title after their battle at the 2018 Globals went down to the wire.
Find out what Mark had to say to Phil below.
Reaching top level takes years of racing and practice. Where and how did you learn? Do/did you sail large yacht?
Yes, 56 years for me! I started in 8 foot Naples Sabots at 6 years old. Other dinghies I sailed were Lasers, FJ’s, Snipes and FD’s. Small keelboats included Cal 20, Santana 20, J-24, and Melges 24. Throughout much of this time I raced our family’s big boats, starting with a 41 foot gaff rigged schooner, then moving on to an Islander 36, IOR Choate/Peterson 44. I also sailed on countless other keelboats from 20 feet to 70 feet.
What have been some of your other biggest regatta wins?
In non-RC boats they include: US College All-American, College Team Racing National Champ, College Singlehanded (Laser), Doublehanded (FJ) and Team Racing Pacific Coast Champs, 1st Overall Trans Pacific Yacht Race (Transpac), US Sailing Men’s Match Racing Champ, US Sailing Men’s Champ, Ficker Cup Champ (Match Racing), Cal 20 National Champ (3x), Melges 24 Pacific Coast Champ, Melges 24 National Champ (2nd)
In RC boats they include: DragonFlite National Champ (3x), IOM US National Champ, Canadian IOM National Champ, DragonForce National Champ. Many Regional IOM Champs.
Do you have a pre- race plan for boat preparation, course research or routine that you follow.
Since I don’t have a local IOM/DF fleet, I typically arrive 1 to 3 days (depending on distance) before regattas to acclimate to time zone changes, and to setup, work on, tune and sail the boat. I bring tools and have spare parts in case of a failure. If I am sailing in a location that I am unfamiliar with, I will talk to locals about any course tendencies to watch for. In general, I find a bit less local knowledge advantage in RC sailing compared to big boat venues, where the boats can get so much further apart.
What are your best tips for setting up the boat before a race?
I am all about balance. I tend to start out with base numbers, then tweak them as they feel right. These tweaks are based on the conditions. In San Diego, the wind was light/medium with very flat water, so I sailed with a bit more main leach tension than I normally would. Headstay tension, sheeting angles, leach twist and foot round are all important.
You seem to be able to read the wind at any course and chose the right race strategy. What do you look for when you arrive at the course?
Well it depends on the course and the conditions. In San Diego, there are a lot of shifts, but as important are the holes. If you are not careful, you can lose 10 boats while stuck in a hole. Of course, that is also an opportunity to pass when you’re behind! In some venues, you will want to look for current and/or areas of the course that seem to have more wind or consistent shifts from land effects. Other venues might have less shifts and your position relative to the fleet might be more important.
During the countdown sequence, what do you think about and how do you approach a congested start line.
I’m trying to determine the favoured end, by how much, the side of the course I want to end up on, and where the starting line is too congested. If the leeward end is favoured, is the first leg long enough so that you don’t get pinned to the left side. Where can I setup without having someone either on my lee bow or reaching over the top.
What is your first leg strategy. The first mark rounding is quite often congested, so what strategies do you use to come out of the first mark in good condition?
Stay clean! This is the worst part of the race to foul or be fouled. Go fast and avoid tacking multiple times. At the weather mark, be conservative (doesn’t always happen!). Get around clean and get away from the pack.
In many of the photos you are not always first to the top mark. How do you work through the fleet to get to the front? Do you prefer to point high or go for more speed?
Don’t panic, keep sailing smart and fast. Let other boats make mistakes and take advantage of them. Stay on the lifted tack. Downwind, get away from the pack a bit.
Do you take many risks and go on a flyer to make up ground?
“Calculated” risks and flyers. What are the downsides of the risk? What are the upsides. Are the next few boats behind you going with you? How early or late in the race is it? Are you in a position where the race will be a throw-out anyways? Odds that it will work? Lots to consider…
Most of us have great difficulty with depth of vision and judging marks at a distance. Do you have any tricks to keep clear of the marks that are quite a distance away.
I’m not the best person to ask…I have had plenty of mark rounding’s where I either turned inside the mark, hit the mark or took the mark super wide. I just try to do my best.
Do you have a different steering strategy for each rig and wind/wave conditions
Yes, particularly with the DF95. Because the boat is so light, there are some challenges controlling the boat in waves and wind. In smooth water I try to minimize rudder movement, partially carving my tacks. In light air and chop, or high winds, you must be careful to not hit a wave mid tack. With the lack of momentum, the boat will stop. So, I turn up a little slow at first, then throw the rudder hard over to make sure the bow gets through the wind and waves. Sheet out for speed then come back up on the wind.
Do you change the default program on your Tx from the factory settings, and if so, what works best for you?
No, except to adjust the end points. My new sail servo doesn’t seem to be as precise as my last one, so I might try setting up a switch to change the sheeted in position slightly.
So, there you have it, all of Mark’s secrets laid bare for you to use as you see fit! Tune in next time for another top DF skipper interview.