Quantum’s New Melges 24 Class Expert on Promoting the Fleet, Having Fun, and Bragging Rights

Chris Rast is a three-time Olympian and professional sailor based in Switzerland. Along with sailing fast boats and having as much fun as he can, Rast has a new role as Quantum’s Melges 24 Class Expert.

Chris-Rast-2---photo-credit-Mick-Knive-Anderson

Photo by Mick Knive Anderson

Chris Rast was born in the U.S. to American parents, but has lived in Switzerland since he was two years old. His first Olympic campaign in 1996 was in the 470, followed by two more Olympic appearances in the 49er, one sailing for Switzerland, and one for the U.S. For the past 10 years, he’s been sailing the Melges 24, and now takes on a new role as Quantum’s Melges 24 Class Expert.

In this Q&A, we talk to Chris about his work to promote the fleet, how to have more fun in the Melges 24, and earning bragging rights.

Quantum: Melges 24 Class Expert is a pretty official-sounding title. What will this new role entail?

Chris Rast: My involvement with the Melges 24 goes about 10 years back when I started sailing with a fully professional Swiss team. I’ve always been in love with the boat. I think the boat is one of the greatest designs out there, for the performance factor and the fun factor. It’s a great team boat, and last year our team won the worlds.

We’re going to make a big push to promote the class, doing all sorts of promotional work, especially in Europe. I will be going to most of the Melges 24 events, along with my team and my wife Dani who is part of Swiss Performance Sailing, to host clinics and do other types of promotional work. Quantum is really trying to support the Melges 24 class, especially the Corinthian teams and people who are new to the class. They want to make it easy for people to get into the Melges 24 and do well.

 

Quantum: What are you most looking forward to with this new role?

CR: The class lives and dies not by the professionals or the top teams, but those teams that make up the middle of the rankings: The new teams that get into it, and the teams that like to go out and sail and to have fun, but need a little bit of help to get better. We really want to support the Corinthian teams, and the teams that need a little bit of advice to do well around the racecourse and have more fun. Because guess what—winning is more fun than losing. I really like helping teams and helping them get better. That’s what I’m really looking forward to.

 

Quantum: What are the steps you take when working with a new boat?

CR: It’s all about analyzing the dynamics of the team. Every team’s a little bit different; they have different strengths and weaknesses. We need to figure out where we can have a maximum impact—maybe for one team it’s how to set up a boat, for another team it might be technique or maneuvers, and for other teams it might be tactics and strategy. I try to figure out where the deficiencies are in a team, and come up with a plan to improve in those areas.

 

Quantum: In the Melges 24, with it being such a strict one-design class, is there a right way and a wrong way to do things?

CR: Yes, I would say so. Every crewmember adds to the mechanics of the boat. Sometimes they just have the wrong crewmembers in the wrong positions. Maybe one crewmember is stronger than the other, or another is better at multitasking and needs to be on the bow instead of the middle of the boat. It’s a lot about figuring out the mechanics of the team and letting everybody use their strengths.

 

Quantum: You’re a former Olympian in the 49er, what do you feel like that experience or your other early sailing experience gave you coming into the Melges 24?

CR: You know it really is a bit of a natural fit because the 49er is an asymmetrical boat, so that really helped me with the downwind sailing on the Melges 24. On the other hand, with upwind sailing it was more my 470 background that helped me. So that combined, it was a very easy fit to sail Melges 24s.

 

Quantum: How did you get into coaching?

CR: I started off with the junior coaching and moved into Olympic class coaching. I was the Olympic coach for the Swiss team in 2000 for the games in Sydney. We missed out on the spot in the 49er; we were second in the trials. But since there was a limited amount of coaching credentials, they chose me as their coach. I had a ton of experience sailing in Sydney and I spoke English, I knew the area, and the sailors trusted me and respected me. That’s how I got into higher level coaching. But my primary goal is still to sail and have fun and help people, and when I can I do a little bit of coaching.

 

Quantum: The Melges 24 is such a strict one-design fleet and it’s been around for 20-some years. Why should people come into the class now?

CR: Since its inception, the Melges 24 has been such a fun boat to sail in regards to its performance. It goes well upwind, and downwind it’s a hoot. The last day at Key West Race Week, we had big wind and huge waves, and we were just ripping around, ploughing through waves and planning.

If you are looking for a class where you get to sail not only against other Corinthian teams, but also against fully professional teams, people like Jimmy Spithill, Vince Brun, Morgan Larson, Terry Hutchinson—you want to get on the same starting line as Terry Hutchinson? Get yourself a Melges 24 and you can go against the world’s best. That’s a very cool thing. You can go out with your friends, do well, beat guys like Terry Hutchinson, or myself, be proud of it, and brag about it at the bar.

 

Quantum: How can a team get your help?

CR: Anybody can reach me via email to ask questions. They can go onto the Quantum website for my contact and we’re working on getting something up on the Melges website too. If you have questions just shoot me an email and I’ll answer as best as possible.

 

Quantum: What’s your next stop?

Apart from Melges 24 sailing, I also do a full Melges 20 campaign in Europe, on a boat called Section 16, owned by Richard Davis. The season starts at the Monaco Winter Series in February, which will be cold probably, but we’ll warm up at the fire in the casino in the evening.

 

Look for Chris Rast at Melges 24 events around the world, and in instructional videos that will be posted on the Quantum website. If you have a question for Chris about the Melges 24, click here.

 

Chris-Rast-Bio-PhotoChris Rast
Quantum Melges 24 Class Expert
crast@quantumsails.com
US: +1 616 312 3860
Swiss: +41 78 641 3606

 

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Re-Shaping the Luff: Bringing Sails Back to Life

As sails age, many things can happen that will affect sailing performance. The biggest being the draft of the sail changing. Quantum Sails Chicago’s Service Manager, Sam Keys, talks about what causes these issues and what can be done to fix them.

Typically when a sail is designed, the largest amount of draft at a given position of the sail is at about 45% of the way aft of the luff towards the leech. As the sail gets older, a couple of things can happen that move the draft of the sail closer to 50% or more, making it more and more difficult to trim and to steer the boat to. The other issue with the draft position is that it gets a lot “fuller” than originally designed, making it difficult to de-power the sail as the wind strength gets stronger. Here are some ways that we like to give your old sail a “face-lift.”

Luff-shape-graphic

Luff Rope Shrinkage         

One of the biggest causes of the draft position changing is when the rope on the luff of a mainsail or genoa shrinks. When a luff rope is attached to a sail it has to be given a small amount of tension in order to take the load that the halyard or Cunningham has applied to it.

Over time this rope can eventually shrink, making it very difficult to apply the correct tension on the luff. This will make the sail seem fuller, moving the draft aft on the sail. What we like to do in this scenario then is to essentially “ease” a portion of the tension of the rope.  

This is done in two different ways. If the rope is free floating in the luff tape, held in place by hand stitching at the head and tack, then we can unstitch the hand stitching and ease the tension in the rope and hand sew it in its new position.

Typically, the rope is not free floating, which in that case we have to unstitch almost the entire luff tape to re-tension it. Then we apply back on the sail and re-sew it.

Luff Shape Image - resized

Luff Re-shape

Over time the material of the sails will stretch. This will cause the draft to become fuller than originally designed, even with the correct amount of luff tension. What we like to do here is re-shape the luff roach.

To some, the luff of the sail may seem like a straight line, but this actually is not the case, it has a positive arc running from the head to the tack. This, along with the broad-seaming of the sail, is one of the methods used to create shape in the sail. To help alleviate the fullness in the sail we then essentially reduce this roach using a long batten along the luff to create a new luff shape, but with a similar arc as was originally designed.

Over time and continuous use, your sails will start to show their age and lose some of their performance. Drop them off at your local Quantum loft and we can help bring them back to their original glory.

 

____

Sam Keys
Quantum Sails Chicago
Service Manager
312-225-0801
skeys@quantumsails.com

 

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Will You be Ready Offshore When Rough Weather Hits?

You're ready to head offshore, but are you ready for rough weather? Mother nature can create some unique challenges and having the right sails and crew can make all the difference. Follow these tips for preparing your boat and your crew, and let the adventure begin!

Nemetoma Salty Dawg - Resized

While “cruising” and “rough weather” seem to be contradictory terms, even with modern weather forecasting, it is a reality of offshore sailing. Quantum sail designer and pro sailor David Armitage found that out first hand while delivering his Beneteau 47 Nemetona as part of the Salty Dawg Rally from Norfolk, VA, to Virgin Gorda for the start of a nine-month sailing adventure with his family.

Dave completed the passage with the help of his father and brother, both experienced sailors. Their departure date was set on a recommendation from Chris Parker of the Marine Weather Center. Indeed, there were a number of boats that would head out at the same time on Parker’s advice. While they had a decent weather window, they could still expect to see some heavy weather and rough seas during the 1,300 nm journey.

The sail inventory required for any offshore sailing experience is very different than what one needs for in-shore or even weekend coastal cruising. Outfitting your boat and preparing your crew properly is like taking out an insurance policy: Hopefully you won’t ever need it, but you will be very happy to have it if you do.

Balancing Sail Area and Trim In a Storm

More sail area doesn’t always mean more speed, certainly in rough seas and big breeze when the boat can easily be put on its side.

The autopilot does a lot of work offshore, but for the autopilot to work well, both the sail area and the trim must be balanced. With a small staysail and reefed mainsail, Dave and his crew were able to maintain up to eight knots on their course in 35 to 40 knots of breeze. “If you saw the boat during these periods, you would have been shocked at how little sail area we were carrying, and yet still making good forward progress,” he says.

Always a racer, Dave says the experience was a good lesson. “I would definitely not go offshore without good/small heavy air sails that allow you to sail the boat well.”

The Headsails

When you’re out at sea and it’s blowing 30 knots, your primary all-purpose genoa on the roller-furler isn’t going to cut it; the sail will be too big when it gets rough, and you won’t be able to furl enough sail for the conditions and still have a working headsail.

Having a heavy working jib not larger than 100% of the perpendicular distance from the luff to the clew as well as a true storm jib or staysail is crucial. The working jib can be flown on an inner forestay, if you’ve equipped your boat with one, or on the primary roller furling system. However, if you have to drop the genoa and hoist the working jib, you’ll want to be very prudent about performing that maneuver early and not waiting until the boat becomes unmanageable in the building breeze. Additionally, having a purpose-built small jib will extend the life of your genoa.

Offshore, a heavy working jib is likely to be the correct sail much of the time, and if you plan to sail offshore often, adding an inner forestay might make a lot of sense. “We had taken the time the previous year to fit an inner forestay and small jib to the boat,” says Dave. During the passage, he says, “that sail and setup definitely paid for itself.”

When it really gets rough, you need to have a true storm jib. There are multiple ways to fly a storm jib, and if you have a furling system, you’ll need a sail with piston hanks for the inner forestay. Other considerations like a tack pennant or pad eye for sheeting should also be discussed with your sail maker.

Read more about choosing cruising headsails.

The Mainsail

If using a traditional mainsail, you need to be sure that you have the right number of reefing points and at the right distance, and that you know how to use them. Flynn recommends two deep reefs. During sudden squalls, the mainsail will most likely be dropped completely. For upwind sailing in sustained high wind, you will need a storm trysail. To use the storm trysail, you would normally take the mainsail off the boom and stow it down below.

If your boat is equipped with an in-mast furling system, you probably don’t need a storm trysail. The in-mast furling allows you to roll up the main in such away that is very flat and about the same shape of a storm trysail. While there are a number of pros and cons to an in-mast system, the ability of being able to reduce mainsail area in a hurry could be huge. “In these instances [we were able to] reduce sail quickly in the rainsqualls, which allowed us to maintain control and balance,” says Dave.

Read more about choosing the right mainsail for your boat.

Dad Nigel Stands Watch - resized

Know Your Course & Your Crew

Nematona was making good progress down the coast, but some of the other boats tacked to the northeast and headed out to sea to avoid the rough weather. The result was an easier ride, but they ended up sailing up to 200 extra miles in the wrong direction. The boats that took that route arrived two days behind Nematona.

If he had to do it all over again, Dave says he would have taken the same route, but he would have rather had four people on board. Their watch system in rough weather consisted of one person at the wheel, the second person resting under the dodger just aft of the companion way, and the third person was down below attempting to sleep. During the last three days, actually getting any quality rest was almost impossible in this scheme.

Dave and his crew arrived in Virgin Gorda after eight days to the minute at sea. There’s never a guarantee of a safe passage when crossing the open ocean, but with the right preparation and planning, you’ll be in a lot better shape. “We were tired, but happy to have arrived safe and sound in one piece,” says Dave. “Let the island adventure begin!”

You can follow Dave and his family’s adventure on their blog and Facebook page.

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