Boat optimization for shorthanded sailing

Published on February 23rd, 2021

by Michelle Slade, Marin Independent Journal
At 72, Aidan Collins is the first to admit he is not getting any younger. Nonetheless, he remains active on the local San Francisco sailing scene, racing regularly with the Singlehanded Sailing Society as well as club racing through the Tiburon and Marin yacht clubs.

He has owned six boats since 1984, and hopes Bella, his Alerion 33, will see him through the rest of his days. To accomplish that goal, he sought out Scott Easom to help him simplify operations on Bella.

Easom, an accomplished sailor who started his business — Easom Racing & Rigging — in his teens, installed automatic winches for Bella’s mainsail, jib, and traveler replacing standard controls, and a jib-boom. Collins is thrilled with his new set up and is hoping to continue racing safely at a high level for as long as he is physically able.

“Just having powered winches to trim the sails has made it very easy,” Collins, a San Rafael resident, commented. “I don’t need crew because those jobs are now done electronically, and the jib-boom is particularly useful off the wind for reaching.”

Shorthanded sailing has trended in recent years as boat owners find it more difficult to maintain a competitive and consistent crew: it is often easier and more time effective to sail alone, or with one other. By far the most well-attended local sailing events are shorthanded races like the Three Bridge Fiasco and Round the Rocks. Shorthanded sailing has dominated this past year as most fully crewed racing events were canceled due to COVID-19.

But as Easom noted, few boats are designed specifically for shorthanded sailing which leaves many boats challenging to sail solo because one must move all over the boat to change something, and adjustments that should be made are not because it is just too difficult. When a client gave him carte blanche to modify his 33’ boat so he could sail solo, Easom went to town.

“We installed a bowsprit, a jib-boom, and ‘electrified’ other functions on the boat,” Easom explained. “Trimming is done by pushing buttons — push a button and the jib goes away which allows us to jibe, or if the wind is too light, we can quickly get the jib out of the way so that the boat performs better.” – Full report

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