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Crew Work on Dolphins Racing  

March 14, 2017 - Max Sheppard, Sea Fox http://dolphin24.org/sea_fox.html posed some questions regarding crew work when racing his Dolphin. Excerpts of his email are here along with webmaster replies. Additional comments from readers are solicited.

........... I would also like to pick your brain about racing a Dolphin with a four man crew. And the specific role of each crew member. I'm really trying to fine-tune and streamline the crew positions. Such as very specific roles for the foredeck, the mast position, the sail trimmer, and the skipper. I would like to upgrade my boat's running rigging. And, before I moved to many things around, I would like to discuss the best places to put things like spinnaker halyards. Considering most of my racing is windward/leeward courses rounding the Windward Mark to port

Webmaster Replies. Snowing heavy here in SE Connecticut - so get prepared for a snow job regarding answers to Max's questions re racing a Dolphin. These comments have not yet been reviewed with counsel......

Re - the 4 man crew - Most of Marionette's spinnaker racing has been with a 3 man crew (forgive the chauvanistic but time honored term - usually we have 2 males, and a female). Positions

1) Nicole - Helmsman/traveller trimmer and back up main/jib trimmer (Nicole)

2) Mike - main/jib trimmer and tactician/advisor, spinnaker and topping lift halyards (these are led back to the cockpit)

3) Webmaster - foredeck person, and pole setter/jiber, spinnaker bag set up, spinnaker repack, main down haul, main outhaul, jib halyard, reefer, jib track block adjuster, moveable ballast, navigator, sandwich maker. The message here is that the two in the cockpit's primary job is to keep the boat moving fast! It must be noted here that #s 1 and 2 can do the jobs of #3 faster and better (except for the last 3 jobs - moveable ballast, navigator, sandwich maker).

The skill and experience of crew makes all the difference, and any race plan/crew assignment work plan has to consider this. Marionette's usual crew (son Mike and daughter Nicole) are 'all star' - both former I-420 dinghy champions as skippers, collegiate All Americans as skippers, and lots of experience in J-24's, Lightnings, and in Marionette. (oh, and Nicole is current US Womens Match Racing Champion - 2015 and 2016).

A crew of 4 spreads out the load and adds another pair of eyes, but also adds weight (good, if more moveable ballast is needed), and complicates the communications.

I like to think that Dolphin 24's rate really well (PHRF) in conditions that are 'light/moderate' - meaning hull speeds for the fleet racing don't reach theoretical max - less than 5.7 knots for a Dolphin. Another way to say this is that in light breezes Dolphins, well sailed, sail to a higher % of their max hull speed than most other displacement boats. One of our favorite inside comments on the boat in these conditions is 'its ours to lose'. Sail conservatively, no banging corners, concentrate on boat speed, keep clear air but not far away from the competitors (exception - staying far ahead is ok). Big reefing breezes, reaching courses - take chances on the corners. Upwind, Dolphins don't like a steep chop - helming in these conditions is a full time job.

Another important Dolphin factor is Course. We like going to weather, and very broad/downwind sailing, don't like reaching. Crew experience/skill may be a factor here as reaching is easier, and 'fast', for everybody! Upwind and downwind work requires more skill and attention to sail trim and steering. So in reaching we lose an edge.

Important item. Spinnaker jibing - coordination between the two people in the cockpit watching and timing the jibe as the foredeck guy trys to unclip the pole on the mast, unclip the pole on the old guy, grab the spinnaker sheet - usually just out of reach unless the cockpit crew is watching and makes the necessary adjustment, clip the pole on the new guy, then clip the pole on the mast. Done right is clean and fast. Done wrong is messy and slow.

Tactical decisions - clear air starts are better than trying to win the pin or committee boat at all costs. Clear air is really important anywhere on the course. Tacking is slow - minimize. In light air watch for the breeze. Play the traveller - excess heeling is slow in a Dolphin (Note - this heeling thing can get to be a contention item among Marionette's crew.

Dolphin's have a centerboard that can be lifted..... - a big advantage on some courses. Not just possibly offering a shorter course, but very importantly allowing a Dolphin to pick up stronger/lifting breezes near shores.

Knowing the boat and its layout is important. There's a lot of stuff in the Technical Section - http://dolphin24.org/technicalindex.html Hardware and rigging. Also there is a description of Marionette's spinnaker rigging set up http://dolphin24.org/marionette_running_spin_setup.html

I found an interesting J-24 series of comments that are really pretty basic - going back to basics is always a good idea https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-key-points-for-a-beginner-racing-J-24s-to-be-aware-of

That's it for now - we'll get some shovelling done and stand by for other comments to this interchange on our Technical Section.

Nicole's Postscript (minor edits)

Nice explanation! See, I do read the website!! Some thoughts about a 4th crew member:

- must watch weight placement and movement; could be a great advantage in breeze and on reaches, but could complicate pitch (bow-stern balance);

- should avoid the cockpit and forward of mast so should cross under the vang in tacks and gybes or would end up in the doghouse making sandwiches and reading the NY Times (while still moving weight side to side, of course)

- would be best as a bow assist/mast/squirrel during sets, jibes, and douses of spinnaker;

- you could rig spin halyard and topping lift to cam cleats on mast and have 4th man jump halyards, freeing the trimmer in the back to focus on rotating chute/trim, and freeing the bow man to simply wrangle the pole and assist spinnaker deployment;

- an extra set of hands gathering the chute during douses is always helpful, also can then launch and collect chute through forward hatch

- during boat delivery a 4th crew member adds a much needed dimension to the spelling game, "Ghost"







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