Sailing and Tuning Articles

Tips For New Frosty Sailors

by Tim O'Keeffe

It's always difficult for a newcomer to break into an established racing fleet, and this is especially true in Frosties. Not only do we have the new-kid-in-town, new boat, new race course issues to overcome, but the class seems to attract some people who are superb boat-builders but who are unfamiliar with dinghy racing. Rookie Frosty sailors, whether experienced racers or not, often have a lot of catching up to do, and the more help those of us who are old hands can give them quickly, the less chance there is of their getting discouraged before they get up to speed.

I've noticed that there are a few mistakes that many novices make, the first of which deals with the clew of the sail. While many people rig an adjustable outhaul, they neglect to make some provision for holding the aft corner of the sail close to the boom as the outhaul is slacked. I use a short piece of line that runs through the clew grommet and is tied around the boom with enough space (about an inch) so that the clew can easily slide in and out along the boom as needed. Some people find that the plastic clips used in Sunfish spars work fine, although they tend to fly open in a strong puff unless they are permanently wired or pop-riveted closed. Without some such device, as you slack the outhaul, instead of adding camber along the foot of the sail, the clew pulls up away from the boom and increases the twist in the leech.

A related error is pulling the foot of the sail too tight. Most of are used to tightening the outhaul of a mainsail, even a loose-footed one like a Laser's, to the point where the sail runs right along the boom. But most Frosty sails require considerably more slack. A good starting point seems to be enough slack so that the distance between the clew and the boom end is about six inches. This is necessary even in heavy air, because flattening the foot stalls the boat at a time when maximum drive is needed to get through the accompanying chop.

Speaking of drive, it's a good idea to sail the Frosty fuller than your natural inclination might tell you It's very easy to overtrim, point high, and not go anywhere, even though the outhaul is adjusted perfectly.

Whether you are large or small, your weight is a big deal in a 35-pound boat. Frosties should be sailed with the bow slightly down--more so in light air. Many start out sitting too far aft and then find it hard to break the habit. Why not work out a position right from the beginning that keeps the transom from dragging through the water?

These tips are not guaranteed to make anyone an instant winner, but they can shorten the break-in period for new Frosty sailors. Of course, those of us already sailing regularly can be of enormous help, too. Aside from the obvious of making the newcomer feel welcome, we ought to give him/her special attention and advice during and between races. A little friendly coaching will benefit us all with larger and more competitive fleets.

Think Light Air

by Geoff Stucke

On a Sunday morning as you sit reading the newspaper, you glance out the window to see what the wind will be like on the race course. There will always be those times when what you see is not much, and your mind fills with images of what it was like on the last light-air race day--all those moments when evryone else had his private little breeze, and you sat there, dead in the water.

My anxieties run just the opposite way. Heavy air is what bugs me, those days when my boat feels like an animated Dixie cup. But having grown up on a lake, battling all those two-knot blasters in the morning only to face the five-knot howlers in the afternoon, I've come to love a light air. It's one case where familiarity breeds affection, as well as a few techniques.

For example, it helps me to think of a Frosty as a feather in a bowl of chocolate sauce. Physics proves that your boat will move, but just keep that rudder still. The more you move it, the more it acts like a brake.

Try to be on top of things. At the start, be at the line, with as much speed as possible. The speed that you need can be obtained by heeling the boat to leeward. But don't just heel it a little--heel your frosty more than you ever thought of heeling it.

I always laugh when I see photographs of light air races. I can pick myself out right away by the angle of my mast. Getting the sail at an extreme angle somehow creates more speed than you would believe. And the reverse works too--if you are close to a mark and need to point higher, heel the boat to windward.

You also need to get your weight forward, but with your weight forward as well as to leeward, the boom gets in your way. The answer to that problem is to let your sheet out a little. As you've probably been told, pinching is the worst thing you can do in light air.

Something that I learned from Mike Huber while working at North Sails/Cape Cod is that it's not to your advantage to let your outhaul way out. In a Frosty, your sail area is 25 square feet. If you let your outhaul out too much, your sail area becomes about 15 square feet. Draft is great to have downwind, but most Frosty sails are cut with enough draft already. You should take some of the tension off downwind, but not too much or you won't have a sail left.

Above all, pay attention. Keep the boat moving and don't lose concentration until you cross the finish line. And next time when you're sitting on that couch on a Sunday morning, get excited that the air is light, and go out and have a good time.

Sailing Light in the Heavies

by Jennifer Kano

Hooray for the Cape Cod Frosty!! Finally there's a racing dinghy that doesn't overpower light-weight sailors in heavy weather. And not only can we light-weights stay in control, we can also keep right up with the heavy-weights, even in the stiffest of breezes.

The key to handling the Frosty in heavy weather is having an effective hiking method--one that allows you to get up on the gunwale for maximum hiking leverage.

In strong, steady wind, sailing while sitting on the gunwale is fairly simple and comes pretty naturally once you screw up enough courage to get up there. The main barrier to overcome if you have never done this before is purely psychological. Once you realize you aren't going to flip the minute you get your derriere more than eight inches up off the bottom of the boat, that barrier will disappear. (More on how to overcome this barrier later.)

Strong, puffy wind, however, is another matter. To keep the boat on an even keel through sudden increases and decreases in wind speed, you must be able to shift a substantial amount of your weight very quickly. At first this means avoiding a swamping or capsize either to leeward or windward, but ultimately it means keeping the boat level for maximum speed. Again, the first step is getting over the gut feeling that you can't stand, or even approach standing in a Frosty . . . you can!

Try the following: while facing forward in the boat carefully get up onto your feet in a squatting position (weight still low), and then move your feet outboard (left foot to port, right foot to starboard) until the sides of your feet are hard up against the chines of the boat. Now stand up slowly.

Keep your legs slightly flexed and adjust your weight distribution to control the heel of the boat by bending one knee or the other--not by simply leaning your body over. Do not move your feet or lift either one of them off the bottom of the boat.

To tack, squat back down and lean over while the boom swings (it probably will brush your back, but don't worry about it). Stand up again when the tack is complete. Leave your feet right where they are during the whole maneuver.

To shift your weight fore and aft, slide one foot forward or back a few inches, keeping it hard up against the chine; then do the same with the other. A few quick shuffles of this kind will move you as much as necessary. Do not pick your feet up in an attempt to walk in the boat.

If the mere thought of sailing standing up still horrifies you, try it for the first time in light wind on a beam to close reach, and build up your courage from there.

Now come the gunwale-sitting part. Go out on a windy day, do your stand-up sailing, and then from this position bend your windward knee and lower yourself onto the windward side deck. Voila! There you are. Keep your fcrward foot in the same position, pointing forward and hard up against the chine. This will feel a bit awkward at first, but stick with it; if you don't, and you turn your foot so that just your toe is touching the chine, you won't be able to shift your weight to leeward quickly enough to avert disaster when a puff suddenly lets up. Your windward foot can be turned into a more comfortable position, but keep your heel hard up against the chine. Tack just as you did to sail standing, and use the foot "shuffle" to slide yourself fore and aft.

As you've probably guessed, the wide-spread foot positioning is the key to this whole thing. With it you have the ability to shift your weight instantly to either port or starboard a little or a lot, and also to move quickly down into the boat or back up onto the rail as conditions dictate.

You will undoubtedly find that all this leg flexing results in very sore thigh muscles, especially at first, but just think how toned up they'll be getting!

Gunwale-hiking, like any other new skill, will take a little time and practice to do well, but once you get the hang of the basic technique, you will never again consider staying on the dock on a blustery day. You may even find yourself whistling.

Roll Tacking A Frosty

By Dr. Dal Dalglish

Roll tacking is a technique used in dinghy ans small keel boat classes to minimize speed lost when turning the boat into the wind. A roll tack well executed can actually "lever" the boat to windward and greatly increase acceleration coming out of the tack.

The technique I use in roll tacking a Cape Cod Frosty is very similar to techniques used in other small boats. To initiate the maneuver I gently push the helm to leeward trying not to create extra turbulence by turning too sharply. In light air I may lean slightly to leeward and in moderate air I may trim the main slightly to help turn the boat without using the rudder. I should mention that I sit in the boat sort of side-saddle with my legs out aft and my back to weather.

As the boat swings head to wind I lean out to weather hard and roll the boat on the new tack. I remain on this same side until the gunwale is almost in the water and the boat has completed its turn and is on the new heading. Then I gently shift my rear end onto the new side slowly flattening out the boat. Slowly is emphasized as acceleration can be lost if this is done too quickly.

Using this technique I believe speed lost while tacking can be minimized. The Cape Cod Frosty is under rigged and because of its lightness and shape, carries almost no momentum through a tack. Roll tacking can go a long way, therefore, in overcoming these disadvantages.

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