Getting started in the Snipe Class
Published on August 4th, 2021
Getting started in a new one-design class can be intimidating. You may not know the boat, the people, the set-up of the rig, or the fastest sail trim. But joining a new class is not as scary or as challenging as you might think.
Quantum Sails’ Carter Cameron began sailing Snipes a year ago and in this report reflects on the positive experience and lessons learned to give others a leg up when starting your one-design journey.
Sailing the 2021 Snipe US Nationals marked my first anniversary in the boat, and I couldn’t have had more fun. Here are my takeaways after the first year learning the boat.
Growing up sailing Lightnings in Charleston, I was familiar with how a chined boat sails. However, most new Snipe sailors are collegiate or recently graduated sailors who are used to sailing round-hulled boats like Lasers, 420s, and FJs.
With these boats, the goal is to sail as flat as possible so you get the most efficient flow over your underwater foils. Anytime you heel to leeward, you’ll start sliding because the foils don’t have an optimal angle of attack. The Snipe is different from collegiate dinghies because the chine helps create lift as well, and its daggerboard is not as efficient either.
The Snipe board is made from a piece of sheet metal, so it’s only faired around the edges and flat in the middle, whereas with fiberglass boards you can create shape across the whole foil. Sailing the Snipe with a little bit of leeward heel−no more than 5 degrees−puts the chine in the water and creates lift to help overcome its less efficient daggerboard.
The Snipe has many controls to help manipulate sail shape, which is great for the collegiate sailors who are used to having vang, cunningham, outhaul, and jib halyard to tension the rig. In addition, the Snipe has adjustable spreaders in sweep and length, a mast ram, jib cunningham, and STA-Masters to adjust rake. While this may seem like a lot, the magic of the Snipe is that you can simplify all these controls and still be fast.
Quantum’s tuning guide is spot on, so just follow that to match rake, tension, and spreader sweep and length, and you’re off to the races. I learned fairly quickly what the mast ram is capable of, but new sailors don’t need to worry about moving it in their first year in the boat. Just lock it at neutral and you’re good to go.
For the curious, however, mast forward upwind will bend your rig more and sag jib halyard and vice-versa for when you pull it back. Once you’ve got some Snipe experience, you can pull your mast aft all the way on the downwind, which helps get your boom farther out and pushes more depth into your main, creating a more powerful shape.
Whisker Poles Are Your Friend
Gone are the days of the skipper holding out the windward jib sheet for wing-on-wing downwind. Now the whisker pole has come to the rescue. Snipe whisker poles are rigged on a clever self-retracting bungee system rigged inside the boom.
All that needs to be rigged to go sailing each day is to tie the end of the pole launcher line coming out of the pole to the clew of the jib and feed the other end of the launcher line through the blocks on the mast and deck to the crew. Whisker poles are great for maximizing projected area on the downwind and they really help the boat take off on the reaches. Snipes love to plane because of this set-up.
Serious Sailing, Serious Fun
The Snipe Class trademarked this motto for good reason. It is truly one of the most competitive one-design classes in the world, and it’s hard to meet a better group of sailors off the water.
It’s not every day you get sail against World Champions like Augie Diaz, Raul Rios, George Szabo, Pan-American gold medalist Ernesto Rodriguez, and too many National and North American champions to count. It’s humbling to be rolled by one of these guys on an upwind, and they’re more than happy to help you sail your boat faster as well.
My favorite part of the motto is Serious Fun. I’ve made friends I’ll have for the rest of my life and had mentors I’ll never be able to pay back no matter what I do. Part of the serious fun is getting the “U30s” in the boat, post-collegiate sailors 30 years old and younger. There are lease-to-own programs, loaner boats, and numerous regatta charter deals that are geared to get this group sailing Snipes.
There’s nobody that does this better than Alex and Lisa Pline of Annapolis Fleet 532. They’ve been instrumental in getting me involved in the class and making sure I’m having a good time. Because of folks like the Plines, we’ve got a good group of U30s who travel to all the regattas. You’ll feel like you’re back in college with these folks when you’re off the water.
After one year of sailing the Snipe, I can tell you it is a fantastic boat for anyone looking for competitive, fun racing at a price that won’t break the bank. I wouldn’t change a thing I’ve done sailing this boat for the past year, and I know I’ll be sailing it for the rest of my life. So for all of you on the fence, trust me and go get a Snipe. You won’t regret it.
For more information about Quantum Sails Snipe products and tuning resources, visit the Quantum Sails Snipe one-design page.