R2AK Day 2 – Still Rowing

7-IMG_6865Rowing is the theme of the second day of R2AK for Colin.  The wind has been light and he’s been rowing all day; more than 12 hours of rowing.  This morning he was travelling on the west side of Salt Spring island, which is relatively sheltered.  He hoped that winds would be better in the more open waters and midday he moved east in order to cut through Porlier Pass to reach the more open waters between the Gulf Islands and Vancouver.

However, when he attempted to go through Porlier Pass, between Galiano and Valdes Islands, the timing wasn’t right and the current too strong against him.  He got caught in some messy turbulence and nearly shipwrecked.  He rammed into the boulders, running aground with his daggerboard. Luckily he managed to use his oars to push off the rocks before it was too late.  The boat escaped with minimal damage to the daggerboard that he said he could fix with some duct tape.

He was forced to wait for the current to switch to make the pass. When he reached the other side, he was disappointed to discover there was no more wind and the waves were sloppier, making rowing harder and sailing still futile.

It has no doubt been a tough day for all the boats, because despite Colin’s struggles he is still leading the small boats.  He is now anchored off the southern tip of Gabriola Island and is planning another early start tomorrow. Here’s hoping they get some favourable winds.

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Day 1 R2AK report

4-IMG_6804The R2AK race to Ketchikan Alaska started yesterday from Victoria’s Inner Harbour.  At noon the bell rang and more than a hundred salty sailors, rowers and one paddle boarder ran down to their vessels and started the 720 mile journey.

Colin hopped in his RowCruiser and started rowing.  Since there’s no motors allowed on this race and sails are forbidden in the inner harbour, 40 foot sailboats and catamaran’s were also being rowed, which is quite a comical sight.

Once Colin rounded the breakwater, he hoisted his sails and started sailing and rowing.  Winds were pretty light yesterday and he rowed for most of the day. For much of the day he averaged 4 knots and he’s at the front of the pack for boats under 20 feet.

He dropped anchor at 10 pm last night on the southern side of Salt Spring Island and started early this morning. He’s now coming up the west side of Salt Spring and closing in on Crofton.

It’s a tight race with the stand up paddle boarder and the French Liteboat close behind Colin.  The other small or solo boats are going a different route and are on the east side of Salt Spring or are heading towards the more open waters between the Gulf Islands and Vancouver.  The wind is stronger there so it will be better sailing, however it’s coming from the north so it’ll be on their nose.

The big boats are leading. Mad Dog Racing, the 32’ catamaran that won the first leg from Port Townsend to Victoria, is at the front with a lead of about 80 miles on the next boat.  These are powerful racing sailboats with 3 or more crew that are going non-stop, and very different from the small or solo boat.  It is very much 2 races within one and it’ll be fun to watch both. Stay glued to the race tracker at http://tracker.r2ak.com.

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Race to Alaska: The Roster is Almost Complete

Transpac Champion Team Tritium.  The rocket coming up from San Francisco

Transpac Champion Team Tritium. The rocket coming up from San Francisco

It’s just under four weeks until the start of Race to Alaska, and we’re pretty excited here at Angus Rowboats.  At this point there are almost 40 boats entered in R2AK, ranging from the million-dollar TransPac champion, Tritium, to a stand up paddleboard.

Can you really do the R2AK in a SUP?  I guess time will tell.

Can you really do the R2AK in a SUP? I guess time will tell.

Our goal is not to try winning the overall race – there’s almost zero chance of a $3000 garage-built recreational vessel winning against some of the larger carbon-fiber racing vessels.  Instead, we are hoping to do well in the little-guy categories – solo, and boats under 20’.  Small Craft Advisor has ponied up a $1000 prize for the fastest boat under 20 feet, generating some excitement and competition among the smaller boats.

There are currently nine solo craft, and fourteen boats under twenty feet. It is an eclectic mix of boats (and characters), and we have listed the competitors in these categories below:

Under 20″

Team Can't Anchor Us. A solo entry by Tim Penhallow in a Swampscott Dory.

Team Can’t Anchor Us. A solo entry by Tim Penhallow in a Swampscott Dory.

Team Squamish.  This Young 6 Meter is being crewed by three.

Team Squamish. This Young 6 Meter is being crewed by three.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Team Gold Rush.  Solo effort by Mark Dussel in a home-built trimaran.

Team Gold Rush. Solo effort by Mark Dussel in a home-built trimaran.

Team Discovery.  This customized vessel will be crewed solo by Roger Mann. Roger Mann was last year's first place solo finisher.

Team Discovery. This customized vessel will be crewed solo by Roger Mann. Roger Mann was last year’s first place solo finisher.

Bunny Whaler Dinghy.  This 17' dinghy will be crewed by two.

Bunny Whaler Dinghy. This 17′ dinghy will be crewed by two.

Our solo entry.  A RowCruiser propelled by sails and a sliding seat rowing system.  The small cabin allows for sleeping inside the boat at anchor.

Our solo entry. A RowCruiser propelled by sails and a sliding seat rowing system. The small cabin allows for sleeping inside the boat at anchor.

Team Sea Runner.  A solo effort by Thomas Nielsen.

Team Sea Runner. A solo effort by Thomas Nielsen.

Team Hear of Gold.  A solo SUP effort by Karl Kruger.

Team Heart of Gold. A solo SUP effort by Karl Kruger.

Now is that prize for 20 and under or under 20? I guess this will just squeak in.  This is a Cal 20 crewed by two.

Now is that prize for 20 and under or under 20? I guess this will just squeak in. This is a Cal 20 crewed by two.

Team Coastal Express.  This Mirror 16 is being crewed by two.

Team Coastal Express. This Mirror 16 is being crewed by two.

Team Vantucky.  This Windrider 17 is being crewed by two.

Team Vantucky. This Windrider 17 is being crewed by two.

Take Me to the Volcano.  This R2AK custom designed pedal and sailing craft will be crewed solo by Matt Johnson.

Take Me to the Volcano. This R2AK custom designed pedal and sailing craft will be crewed solo by Matt Johnson.

This R2AK custom designed vessel was created by Liteboat, and will be a solo effort by Mathieu Bonnier.  It is designed to sail and to be propelled with a sliding seat rowing system.

This R2AK custom designed vessel was created by Liteboat, and will be a solo effort by Mathieu Bonnier. It is designed to sail and to be propelled with a sliding seat rowing system.

Team Excellent Adventure.  A Montgomery 17 crewed by two.

Team Excellent Adventure. A Montgomery 17 crewed by two.

Solo Contendors

Team Discovery.  This customized vessel will be crewed solo by Roger Mann. Roger Mann was last year's first place solo finisher.

Team Discovery. This customized vessel will be crewed solo by Roger Mann. Roger Mann was last year’s first place solo finisher.

This R2AK custom designed vessel was created by Liteboat, and will be a solo effort by Mathieu Bonnier.  It is designed to sail and to be propelled with a sliding seat rowing system.

This R2AK custom designed vessel was created by Liteboat, and will be a solo effort by Mathieu Bonnier. It is designed to sail and to be propelled with a sliding seat rowing system.

Take Me to the Volcano.  This R2AK custom designed pedal and sailing craft will be crewed solo by Matt Johnson.

Take Me to the Volcano. This R2AK custom designed pedal and sailing craft will be crewed solo by Matt Johnson.

Team Sea Runner.  A solo effort by Thomas Nielsen.

Team Sea Runner. A solo effort by Thomas Nielsen.

Team Hear of Gold.  A solo SUP effort by Karl Kruger.

Team Hear of Gold. A solo SUP effort by Karl Kruger.

Team Gold Rush.  Solo effort by Mark Dussel in a home-built trimaran.

Team Gold Rush. Solo effort by Mark Dussel in a home-built trimaran.

Team Can't Anchor Us. A solo entry by Tim Penhallow in a Swampscott Dory.

Team Can’t Anchor Us. A solo entry by Tim Penhallow in a Swampscott Dory.

Our solo entry.  A RowCruiser propelled by sails and a sliding seat rowing system.  The small cabin allows for sleeping inside the boat at anchor.

Our solo entry. A RowCruiser propelled by sails and a sliding seat rowing system. The small cabin allows for sleeping inside the boat at anchor.

Team Hanging On.  Michael Adams will be competing solo with an Etchells 22

Team Hanging On. Michael Adams will be competing solo with an Etchells 22

 

 

 

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Strategies for Race to Alaska

Circling Vancouver Island in an Expedition Rowboat

Circling Vancouver Island in an Expedition Rowboat

It’s less than three months until the start of Race to Alaska.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll be ramping up the training, and fine tuning the selection of gear and food I’ll be bringing on the voyage.  Gear packing for a race is a delicate balance – it’s essential to have equipment to deal with all emergency situations and potential equipment failures, while trying to keep weight as low as possible.

The roster for the race isn’t yet complete, but there is already a diverse array of boats – from Bad Kitty, a renowned 35’ open catamaran, to Roger Mann’s (the fastest single-hander last year) entry, a Klepper folding kayak.  If there’s any wind, the leaders in the race will most likely be the purpose-built racing sailing vessels, but there are going to be many exciting races within the race.

Our primary goal is to simply finish the race.  Voyaging 1200 km unsupported along the full western coast of Canada is a feat in itself.  As last year’s race made clear, completion is far from guaranteed.  Beyond that, we’re excited to compete against the other single handers, and boats under 20’.  Small Craft Advisor is offering $1000 for the first boat under 20’.  While Race to Alaska has no official classes or categories, SCA’s prize is the closest thing to creating two distinct categories: boats over 20’ and boats under 20’.  We are under no delusions that the RowCruiser, a recreational stitch-and-glue camper rowboat with an add-on sailing rig and a sole occupant, will be outperforming the larger racing vessels, but we are excited to see just how fast the RowCruiser can cover the 1200 km distance.

As I plan for the race, much of my fodder for imagination comes from my 2012 15.5-day circumnavigation of Vancouver Island in an Expedition rowboat breaking the existing human powered speed record.  Half of my journey around Vancouver Island followed the first half of the Race to Alaska, and I did it at the exact same time of year (the second half of June).

Unlike last year’s R2AK race conditions, my circumnavigation of Vancouver Island had much more typical weather conditions.  Overall, I encountered a significant amount of calms, and a mix of moderate winds from both the south and the north.  Specifically, on the R2AK relevant section – from Victoria to Port Hardy – I encountered glassy calm for two and a half days (swelteringly hot) from Victoria to Comox.  Through the Johnston Strait, I encountered two days of northwesterly winds peaking at about 20 knots, and one day with calm and half a day with stiff southeasterly winds.

As a result of my Vancouver Island experience, I’ve decided to modify my food provisions.  After the Van Isle voyage I developed two cavities – after more than two decades of perfect dental health.  The cause was fairly obvious – every hour I would eat sugary sticky snacks.  Because of the heavy exercise, my mouth was dry, and there was insufficient saliva to wash my teeth clean.  This time, while rowing, I’ll be fueling myself with liquid snacks which will be easier to consume and be much easier on the teeth.

Resting will be very different from my Vancouver Island circumnavigation experience.  On that voyage I would pull my boat up on the beach at the end of each day and camp.  In the RowCruiser, however, I will be anchoring for most rest breaks.  This saves significant effort, and the cabin will provide comfortable accommodation.  The downside to anchoring is the added weight of the anchor and soggy rode.  I have pondered the idea of using a sack instead of an anchor, and simply filling it with rocks from the shore each night, but I have decided the extra effort of rock gathering isn’t worth it.  Rest is precious!

The other big difference from my Van Isle experience is the ability to sail as well as row.  If conditions are typical, I estimate I will be sailing about two thirds of the time.  It is imperative that the sailing periods be as restful as possible, which involves staying warm and comfortable.  The addition of the hiking board I have recently created achieves two purposes.  From a performance perspective, it allows me to move my weight outboard thereby reducing pressure on the lee ama, and from a rest/recovery perspective, it is a very comfortable position, allowing me to stretch out fully while maintaining good forward visibility.

Another small change I’ve made is the addition of an Anderson Self Bailer.  Initially, I decided not to install a self-bailer as they create additional drag and often leak when the boat is traveling slowly.  Instead, I would simply bail the small cockpit when conditions were rougher.  After repeated testing, I finally decided that things would simply be more restful with the addition of the bailer.  My goal, when winds are between 3-15 knots, is to feel like I’m on deck chair on a beach in Hawaii – eyes half open while lapping up the miles and eating beef stew.

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Plans/Manual for Sailing RowCruiser Now Available

We’d hoped to have the plans available for the sailing RowCruiser months ago, but it’s

RowCruiser with supplemental  sailing rig.

RowCruiser with supplemental sailing rig.

been a long process.  The sailing rig is very detail oriented, and the manual required countless diagrams and corresponding text to clarify the process. Needless to say, we’re excited to finally have it all finished so others can start building their own.

The sailing RowCruiser is comprised of two plans sets – one for main central hull, and the other for the amas, akas, foils and sailing rig.  The two plans sets are laser printed on 180 sq/ft of paper.  That’s the equivalent area of an average bedroom!  Every shape that boat is comprised of is easily transcribed from paper to wood, resulting in an easy and accurate way to replicate the vessel.  Each of the two manuals is about 70 pages and provides diagrams and photos .

The plans for the sailing components and amas can also be adapted for other boats, such as large canoes, although a bit of customization will be required to use on other vessels.

To learn more about our Sailing RowCruiser, please click here.

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A Speed Comparison of Kayaks, Rowboats, Canoes, SUPS and Pedal boats

I’m often asked what is the fastest type of human powered boat.  How do surf skis, SUPs (stand up paddleboards), etc. hold up against one another?   I’ve decided to take the time to rank and compare the various modes of human powered aquatic propulsion.  Direct comparisons between craft are hard to come by, and relative performance can vary significantly depending on weather/water conditions.  We’ve compiled our analysis by comparing data from Olympic results, open water human powered boat races, and major records that have been broken.

Greg Kolodziejzyk's boat

Greg Kolodziejzyk’s boat

1) Pedal Power: Pedal power has proven itself to be fastest for short and long distances on flat water. The world record for the fastest 100 meter sprint is held by the Decavitator averaging 18.5 knots.  Decavitotor uses hydrofoils and is powered with a pedal system driving an air propeller.   The 24 hour flatwater distance record is held by Greg Kolodziejzyk who voyaged 245 km in a day using a lightweight carbon fiber trimaran propelled with a submerged propeller.  While the major aquatic records are held by pedal-powered craft, typical commercial pedal powered boats are much slower.  The Hobie drive system, for example, sacrifices significant performance in exchange for durability and function.  In most open water races pedal powered boats generally fare relatively poorly compared to surf skis and rowing shells due to the abundance of mediocre-performance pedal boats.

Our Cambridge Racer rowing shell

Our Cambridge Racer rowing shell

2)Rowing: When comparing the top Olympic speeds of rowing, kayaking and canoeing, rowing comes out on top. Olympic events are all short distance, however, when looking at the results of longer distance mixed boat races sliding seat rowing boats still perform slightly better than other fast paddle craft in calm conditions.

 

Surf Ski

Surf Ski

3) Racing Kayaks/Surf skis: The double blade paddle offers excellent performance, and speed is only slightly slower than sculling (sliding seat rowing) when using high performance craft.  When conditions get rougher, kayaks and surf skis will outperform a rowing shell. High performance kayaks and surf skis are almost identical in speed, while recreational sea kayaks are much slower.

Racing Canoe.

Racing Canoe.

4) Canoes: The single blade paddle is less efficient than the double blade, and the fastest racing canoes (including the OC-1) are slower than performance kayaks.

 

 

 

High performance SUP

High performance SUP

5) SUPs: Stand up paddleboards are the slowest of the conventional human-powered craft. A board shaped for performance is still hindered by the greater inefficiencies of a single blade paddle.  Additionally, the full standing profile of a human presents less-than-ideal aerodynamics.   An examination of the 2015 results from the 20 races (open to all human powered boats) hosted by Puget Sound Rowers, shows SUPs consistently trailing the pack.

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About our R2AK 2016 Attempt

Race to Alaska is 1200 km boat race from Port Townsend, Washington to Ketchikan, Alaska.  It is comprised of two stages – Port Townsend to Victoria, BC, and then Victoria to Ketchikan.  The rules of the race are very simple; no motorized propulsion, anything else goes.  Anything from a one-man kayak, to a 60 person rowing/sailing Viking ship can be used.  First to reach the finish line gets $10,000.

The Boat

RowCruiser with slap-on sailing rig.

RowCruiser with slap-on sailing rig.

The boat we will be using is our RowCruiser model with an auxiliary sailing rig which includes outriggers (amas).  The RowCruiser is designed to be a recreational cruising rowboat, which includes a sleeping cabin and offers decent rowing performance.   The vessel is close to 19’ in length with a ketch rig and sliding seat rowing system.

The Crew

Colin will be competing without glorious beard for aerodyamics.

Colin will be competing without  beard for aerodynamics.

Our initial plan was to have two crew, so the team could travel continuously with the crew alternating in two hour shifts.  After extensive trialing, however, we have decided instead to make it a solo attempt, with Colin helming the boat.  The boat moves about 20% faster with the weight of just one person (and gear) compared to two.  By strategically optimizing the boat for solo sailing, we feel it will be possible to travel at close to the same speed with just one person.  This will have the added advantage of allowing us to compete among solo contenders.  Safety will also be improved by being able to fully seal the sleeping cabin while on the water.  Strategic power naps will be achieved at anchor in the storm-tight cabin.

Strategy

Check out the video detailing the RowCruiser by clicking on image.

Check out the video of the  RowCruiser in action by clicking image above.

The beauty of the R2AK is the number of different boat designs in the race.  Each design has specific weather conditions most favorable for making progress.  For the large racing sailboats with tough crew and equipment continuous heavy winds are ideal, helping put them ahead of the smaller performance sailing craft.  For human powered craft light winds and calms are best.  Our boat will fair best (relative to the fleet) in light winds and frequent calms.  While our boat sails very well, it cannot compete with the high-performance multihulls in stiff winds.  On the other hand, it rows relatively fast (total boat weight is only 180 lbs including spars, foils and sails), so makes good time under oar.  Periods devoid of wind for more than 12 hours won’t be ideal, since half a day of continuous rowing is the limit for one person.

Top speed for the RowCruiser under sail is about 12 knots, and a sustainable rowing speed (for 10-12 hours) is 3.5 -4 knots.

We will be experimenting with various sleep strategies in advance of the race.  Ideally, sleeping at anchor will occur when conditions are the most contrary (heavy headwinds, opposing currents, etc.).

Safety

Quick release ama.  But wait, you're wondering, isn't that a precarious connection?  Watch the race and find out.

Quick release ama. But wait, you’re wondering, isn’t that a precarious connection? Watch the race and find out.

Safety is paramount when sailing in cold northwest waters.  The sailing RowCruiser is comprised of seven watertight compartments, so it can sustain significant damage and remain afloat.  One of the greatest dangers with multihulls is capsizing, since they are very stable in the inverted position making righting difficult.  We have addressed this issue by using quick release amas.  One ama can be released in less than 30 seconds (with a tether to keep it from blowing away) making recovery very easy.  And a great deal of thought has gone into clothing to ward off hypothermia.  A Helly Hansen drysuit and HH clothing (designed specifically for the sea) will be used strategically to stay warm while sailing and to shed heat while rowing.

Sponsors:  A big thanks goes to all our supporters which include Helly Hansen, Aqua Quest, Small Craft Advisor, and our company Angus Rowboats (smart decision, Angus Rowboats!!).  Norwegian Helly Hansen has been making clothing for seafarers for more than a century, so we feel reassured to be using their clothing.  Most of you boat enthusiasts are probably already aware of Small Craft Advisor – it’s a wonderful magazine that explores the nuances of small craft exploration and designs.

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RowCruiser Build Workshop Sept. 19-25

For those interested in attending our RowCruiser Workshop, you can find more information here: http://rowcruiser.com/RowCruiser%21/RowCruiser_Workshop.html  It will be held at the Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend – a fun place for the nautically inclined.

 

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Everything You Need to Know About Installing a Sliding Seat Rowing System

Sliding seat rowing is an efficient way to propel a boat, while providing a fantastic full-body workout.  To enjoy the advantages of sliding seat rowing, however, it is important to install a properly-designed rowing system in your boat.  For those new to the sport it can be a confusing process with many options available.  We decided it was time to write an article clarifying the procedure for those wishing to outfit their vessels for sliding seat rowing

Overview

Sliding Seat Rowing

Open Water Sliding Seat Rowing

The purpose of a sliding seat system is to allow your leg muscles to be fully involved, allowing for more powerful strokes.  In order to take full advantage of this benefit, it is important that the sliding seat, foot brace, oarlocks, etc. are ideally positioned relative to one another to provide maximum efficiency and comfort.  This aspect of the system is referred to as the “geometry”.  We have written another article focusing specifically on rowing geometry which you can view here.

Another important aspect is the type of hardware and components being used.  It is important that friction in the system is minimized, otherwise the benefits are quickly lost.

What boats are  suitable for sliding seat rowing?

Oxford Wherry

Long, narrow and light boats such as this 16′ 56 lb Oxford Wherry work well for sliding seat rowing.

Before going to the work and expense of converting your boat for sculling (sliding seat rowing),you need to assess whether your boat is appropriate.  Short vessels are not suitable for two reasons.  Their waterline length restricts overall speed, so much of the extra horsepower is wasted.  Additionally, short boats are more heavily affected by the movement of the rower on the sliding seat, causing the bow and stern to pitch up and down, which slows the boat.  Generally, sliding seat rowboats should be at least 15’ in length.  Wide and heavy boats don’t perform well either.  Canoes and canoe-shaped boats make good rowing vessels.  Slender long and light rowing boats such as our Oxford Wherry are ideal.

How to outfit your vessel for sliding seat rowing?

There are several options for installing sliding seat rowing systems:

Custom Design and Construction: The framework for the sliding and oarlock supports can be custom built into your boat using existing boat structure (hull, frames, gunwales, etc) as part of the support.  Third party components – sliding seat, tracks, oarlocks, foot supports, etc can then be installed.  Be sure when designing the system to adhere to appropriate geometry.  A good source for rowing components is Pocock, a rowing company based out of Washington . Items required are a seat, tracks, oarlocks, oarlock pins and a footstretcher. We don’t recommend using seats that use bushings for the wheels, as friction is significant. Instead ball bearings or double-action systems are ideal.

Piantedosi drop in unit is a simple way to add a sliding seat system to your boat

Piantedosi drop in unit is a simple way to add a sliding seat system to your boat

Complete Drop in Unit: There are several companies that supply complete one-part sliding seat rowing units that can easily be installed and removed from the boat.  The riggers, oarlocks, sliding seat and footstretcher are all affixed to a metal frame, and these units are compatible with many open boat designs.  The advantage is simplicity and convenience, however, they are pricy.  Base price is about $650 with another $100 -$200 for the various connector systems.  Chesapeake Light Craft and Alden are both good sources for drop in units.

Sliding seat drop in rowing kit is an economical and lightweight way to propel your boat.

Sliding seat drop in rowing kit is an economical and lightweight way to propel your boat.

Kit Drop in Unit: We’ve designed a simple drop-in unit that comes in kit form as an alternative to the complete drop-in units.  It’s about half the cost, and half the weight, but does take about 12 hours to build.  It includes all the components, hardware and plans/manual.  The components provided are the same as those used by completive college rowers for robust and efficient performance.  To learn more about this system, please visit our sliding seat page.

We don’t recommend trying to make home-made made components such as the seats and oarlocks.  These items are finely honed for performance, and it is very challenging creating components that work as well as the commercial versions.

Once you’ve figured out the ideal sliding seat system for your boat, you’ll need to think about oars.  It is important that appropriately-sized oars are used to make full use of the system.  For more information on sculling oars, please visit our oar page.

 

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About our Sailing RowCruiser

A fun boat for sailing, rowing - with a bedroom inside!!

A fun boat for sailing and rowing – with a bedroom inside!!c

Part of the motivation behind our efforts to design the sailing version of the RowCruiser came from the Race to Alaska (R2AK).  As competitors in the race, we wanted something that was fast by oar and sail and could be raced non-stop for more than one week by two people.  We feel this overall concept will also make a fun recreational boat, and we will be selling kits and plans for the sailing version this fall.  The beauty of this concept is the central hull can also be used on its own for quick rowing, camping or fishing trips, or the amas and sails can be affixed for more exciting adventures.

One of the most economical ways of owing a sexy boat.

One of the most economical ways of owing a sexy boat

Using the basic RowCruiser hull as a starting point, we mulled various concepts for months in our efforts to create an effective sailing system that works harmoniously with the sliding seat rowing rig.   Below, I discuss some of the various concepts incorporated into the design and some of the thoughts that went into the developments.

 

 

Each ama weighs 9 lbs,  yet provides more righting force than a 300 lb crew member.

Each ama weighs 9 lbs, yet provides more righting force than a 300 lb crew member.

Amas (outriggers): Designing ideal amas  was a huge challenge.  The hydrodynamics of multihull craft are extraordinarily complex, and we struggled to find much information on the pros and cons of various existing ama designs.  For example, what is the difference in performance between a longer ama and a shorter ama?  For us, we needed to create shorter amas so there would be sufficient clearance for the oars.  Short amas would also provide additional benefits such as lighter weight and easier storage, in particular for trailering.

We ended up creating 8’ planing amas.  Each one provides 150 lbs of buoyancy and weighs 9 lbs.  The planing aspect of the amas serves two purposes.  First, when sailing, the amas will skip lightly over the surface creating very little drag compared to the speed restrictions arising from a short displacement-shaped hull.  Additionally, just like water skis, the shape of planing amas push upwards at speed meaning that more than just buoyancy keeps them on top of the water, helping counter the force of the sails.  This is ideal when the boat is sailing fast, as much less of the ama is submerged than a non-planing ama, and the boat heels less.

Having fun in a good breeze

Having fun in a good breeze

In testing, the amas performed just as hoped.  Maximum speeds reached so far have been 9 knots with two people and gear in the boat.  I suspect speeds of up to 12 knots will be attainable when sailing with one person in ideal conditions.  The amas provide enormous stability, and the boat can easily be rowed and sailed simultaneously, since the amas keep the central hull level.

Akas (ama cross-supports): Since we planned on using the boat in very challenging and remote waters in the R2AK it was important that the akas were up for the job.  Additionally, we wanted to make them aerodynamically shaped, an aspect often ignored by designers, but very important for good performance.  The akas are hollow shaft, created by laminating three layers of spruce (we used knot free 2 x4’s milled with a tablesaw for an economical and sound solution).  It is a relatively easy process. The three lamination layers are coated with epoxy, bent over a frame, and clamped along their length.  The akas are then shaped with a planer to create an elegant and aerodynamic shape.

Hollow shaft akas are robust while offering curved edges for aerodynamics.

Hollow shaft akas are robust performance while offering curved edges for aerodynamics.

Our finished 10’ akas each weigh 8 lbs, and are much stiffer and stronger than a standard 2×4. Each aka is curved to a different radius since they are positioned at different levels on the boat.

One slight mistake we made in creating the prototype akas is creating too much curvature in the forward aka.  Since we are pioneering the concept of curved hollow-shaft akas, we had very little information to go on.  In calculating the spring-back from the lamination, we assumed it would be the same as standard three layer solid lamination.  In fact, since the middle layer is mostly hollow, the spring-back forces are less, and it did not straighten out as much as calculated.  As a result, the forward akas have had to be raised from the deck on blocks.  These numbers will be corrected for our upcoming plans.

Overall, the amas and akas together provide an enormous amount of righting force with a modest total weight of just over 30 lbs.  The added benefit of having amas affixed to the boat is having great stability while anchored, fishing etc.

Amas can be released in second while providing a secure connection.

Amas can be released in second while providing a secure connection.

Aka Connections and Safety: We came up with a novel way of affixing the akas to the amas to significantly enhance safety.  The greatest danger with multihull boats is capsizing and being unable to right the boat due to the great stability in the inverted position.  With our planned race to R2AK safety was paramount, and we wanted an easy solution for re-righting.  The solution is to be able to remove one of the amas.  With an ama removed, the boat can be righted as easily as a Laser sailboat.  The problem, however, was how to achieve a connection that could be quickly and easily disengaged, yet be robust and secure while sailing.  Bolts are far to challenging to undo in a rough stormy ocean.  Even wing nuts are next to impossible to loosen up when flailing around in the water with numb fingers and hypothermia setting in.  Our solution was to use cinch straps.  The amas and akas mate together with a Lego-like connection (which you can see here), and then are cinched firmly together using a strap.  A simple push on the release mechanism immediately disengages the two components.  With this setup an ama can be disengaged in under 30 seconds (connected with a tether to the main hull , so it doesn’t blow away), and the boat righted.

The akas are secured to main hull using bolts and washers.

Daggerboard case is offset to provide a comfortable sleeping berth.

Daggerboard case is offset to provide a comfortable sleeping berth.

Offset Daggerboard: The daggerboard case is situated in the aft end of the cabin and is offset to allow sufficient room for the occupant to sleep comfortably.  There is negligible performance loss with an offset daggerboard.  In light to medium wind speeds, the helm is balanced allowing for hands free steering from a broad reach and up when the sails are trimmed properly.  In heavier winds, as the forward amas are pushed down, the center of lateral resistance moves forward slightly creating slight weather helm (slight weather helm in heavy winds is a positive attribute in a sailboat).

Overall Safety: In the Pacific Northwest it is far too easy to die in the frigid waters.  A series of mishaps can lead to immersion followed by hypothermia.  The good news is with a solid knowledge of boat design and the potential dangers, it is possible to create boats that significantly minimize these dangers.  With a family at home, and no desire to visit Davy Jones, I spent a long time pondering potential dangerous scenarios, and how the crew and boat could respond to these various situations.  Below are some of the most likely situations to occur, and design implementations to enhance chances of survival.

Hull Compromised: There is always a possibility of hitting an object at high speed and holing the boat. The sailing RowCruiser is comprised of seven independent sealed compartments meaning that even a large hole will not fully compromise the boat.  Apart from being smashed to pieces in a collision with a large ship, the RowCruiser would have the capability to limp to shore in most situations incurring hull damage.

Capsize: As mentioned above, the amas are designed to disengage in seconds so the boat can be easily re-righted.  Once one ama is removed, the boat is righted by standing on the inverted aka while holding onto the daggerboard and leaning back.  Because of the shaping of the cockpit, only a few gallons of water will need to be bailed out after righting.

Rough Weather: As with any sailboat strengthening winds are initially dealt with by downsizing sail.  In open ocean conditions there are various tactics for dealing with heavy weather, but a popular strategy is hoving to.  This involves shifting the overall center of effort and center of lateral resistance so the boat shoulders into the wind and wind spills from the sails.  The beauty of a ketch rig (as with the RowCruiser) is the boat can quickly and easily be hove to.  The mizzen is simply sheeted tight, and the main released and suddenly everything becomes tranquil.   In this state, the wind has very little effect on the boat, and the bow points into the waves.  It is the ideal configuration to make sail changes, or to simply wait out the weather.  Or for exhausted solo sailors in gale-force winds, it’s the best way to have a break – make a cup of coffee and have your lunch before carrying on.

Propusion failure: By having an efficient sailing and rowing rig, there is always a backup system if one or the other fails for any reason.

Sails: The sails we used are very economical while providing good performance and robust durability.  Sail area is 78 square feet, modest for the amount of righting force provided by the amas.  This means that the boat is very forgiving, and the sails don’t need downsizing until the winds are very stiff.  Despite having a relatively small sail area, the boat moves surprisingly quickly in light winds.  And of course, sail speed can be augmented by rowing and sailing at the same time.

We chose not to incorporate a larger sailing rig for many reasons.  The complexity, weight and cost of the boat would increase significantly, and rowing (it’s a rowboat at heart, after all) would become more sluggish.  As is, the masts and sails can quickly be removed and stored in the cabin (the masts break into two pieces).  It’s a pretty elegant and easy solution that offers impressive speeds.

Reefing: We’ve created a unique way of reefing that can be viewed on our Facebook page here –   It takes a little more effort than standard reefing, but is more efficient, and much more economical than roller furling systems.  It can be done carried out in rough seas by the athletically inclined, or on the beach for those a little less enamored with the idea of scrambling around on a pitching deck.

For an easier  (and much more expensive) system of reefing, we would recommend the mast furling style of sail such as those offered by Hobie.

Kick up rudder is attached to dual tillers with line system

Kick up rudder is attached to dual tillers with line system

Steering: Creating a steering system for small trimarans can be challenging.  The cockpit is too far forward for a standard tiller to work.  Often the solution is using a push-pull rudder stick, however, this doesn’t work so well with a mizzen mast in the way.  Instead we came up with a  solution uitilizing dual tillers on both sides of the cockpit connected to the rudder using a system of spindles and blocks.  This system is relatively unique and offers easy

Dual tillers on both sides of the cockpit allow for easy steering

Dual tillers on both sides of the cockpit allow for easy steering

smooth steering from any location in the cockpit.

The rudder foil is designed to kick up when coming into shallow water.

Rowing System: We use the standard sliding seat rowing system that has been thoroughly tested in the standard RowCruiser.  The entire sailing rig, including the amas, akas and steering system has been designed so as not to interfere with the oars.

The sailing system is designed to not interfere whatsoever with the rowing.  Sails, boom, tillers, amas, akas, etc are clear of all rowing movement.

The sailing system is designed to not interfere whatsoever with the rowing. Sails, boom, tillers, amas, akas, etc are clear of all rowing movement.

The oars are completely clear of any obstructions and powerful smooth strokes can quickly propel the boat in windless conditions.  Since the amas keep the boat level when the sails are in use, the oars can also be used in light winds for “motor sailing”.  When not in use, the oars are easily pulled up onto the amas and held in place with bungies, where they are out of the way and fully clear of the water.

Reinforcing: The decks of the sailing RowCruiser have been further reinforced (from the rowing-only version) to support the weight of an individual changing sails.  This has been achieved by adding additional quarter knees and cross supports.

Weight: Our racing version of the sailing RowCruiser weighs less than 200 lbs, which includes the sails, daggerboard, rudder, rudder, all spars, rowing hardware, amas akas, etc.  This is incredibly light, considering a standard Hobie 18 catamaran weighs over 400 lbs, or a Laser Radial (not much more than a pregnant windsurfer) weighs 130 lbs (hull only).

We wouldn’t recommend building a recreational model quite so light, however.  While the lightweight version is fully capable of dealing with all rigors on the ocean, it is more vulnerable to being dropped or sustaining damage when hitting objects.  The main weight savings from our racing version come from utilizing a single layer of 4 oz fiberglass cloth on the outside, instead of overlapping layers of 6 oz.  Additionally, only glass strips were used on the inside instead of full glass swaths.  A completed recreational version would weigh about 30 to 40 lbs more coming in at about 220 lbs complete.

Amas, akas, masts, booms all packed in the main hatch.  Nice and compact.  Just remember to tie the boat to the trailer!

Amas, akas, masts, booms all packed in the main hatch. Nice and compact. Just remember to tie the boat to the trailer!

Trailering: We recommend using a SUT 220 trailer for transporting the boat.  The amas and akas all fit through the main hatch for easy and compact trailering.

Cost:  This versatile and sexy boat is surprisingly affordable to build.  For those building from kits, the total cost of the boat, including all the building materials, sails, spars and sliding seat hardware is just over $6000.  For those building from full-sized plans (bear in mind a lot more time is required for construction) the boat can be built for just under $4000.

Kits and plans for the main RowCruiser hull are currently available and kits and plans for the sailing version will be available in the fall of 2015.  For those wishing to start building now, we recommend starting with the main hull and building to the point of laying the decks.  The daggerboard case and sail mounts can be installed after the decks, however, it is easier to do prior.

We have postponed our entry in the R2AK race due to an unfortunate accident (forgetting to tie the boat to the trailer after a training run) a couple days prior to the race start.  The boat will, however, be competing in an upcoming R2AK. 

 

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