Girls Hike Harder: Ella Demand is Making a Name for Herself in the Opti Class

The US Optimist Dinghy Association does a great job of promoting youth sailing and getting kids excited about the sport. As a proud sponsor, we love to highlight these young racers and follow them as they grow! In this spotlight, meet nine-year-old Ella Demand, who is following in her parents' footsteps.

Ella 1 - resizedBoth of Ella's parents grew up sailing at Toms River Yacht Club in New Jersey. Two years ago, Ella started sailing there too. Still relatively young and new to the sport, she’s already hooked and enjoying the people as much as the sport. Here is what she had to say about her new passion.

Both of your parents are sailors, but why did you decide to try it?
I saw some pictures in a magazine, and they were hiking really hard. It looked like something I wanted to try.

How have your parents helped you improve your sailing?
My mom and dad tell me what I did wrong, then I can fix it. I also have a coach that changes every year. Right now it’s my dad.

What’s your favorite part of having your dad as a coach?
He’s always right there next to me.

How about your mom? How has she helped?
She tells me that even if you’re scared, you still go out.

What’s the scariest thing that’s happened to you?
At one race, it was 10-15 knots in the morning, but heading out after lunch a big gust of wind came in and flipped all the boats on land. They’d just pushed me off the dock, but right after the big gust of wind, my coach quickly dragged me in. My cousin helped calm me down (he’s thirteen, and he sails sunfish).

Ella 2 - resized

What’s your favorite thing about sailing and racing?
Meeting new friends. There are two people who went to my school, and I didn’t know them until we started sailing. During races I can maybe run into people I saw around the club but never got to meet them. I can meet them at the races.

When I’m racing, my favorite is point races. I like downwind the best because you lean the other way, and if you pull too hard you could go in the water.

Have you ever gone in the water? What did you do?
Once I fell in. I had to go get my boat because it started to sail away from me. I was sort of scared, but it’s happened to my friends before, and they told me what it was like.

If you could sail anywhere in the world, where would you go? Why?
Lake Garda, Italy. My dad sailed there, and he said there are always great wind conditions there.

What goals do you have for yourself?
To place in every regatta I go to.

How have you done so far?
Good. I placed first at Interclub, second at the TRYC No Tears Regatta, second at Powderpuff, and second at the Back-to-school Regatta. That was my favorite because all my friends were there.

Besides sailing, what are your other activities?
Swimming. This is my fourth year on the team at the YMCA.

What advice would you like to share with new sailors?
Don’t be scared, because your coach is always right beside you.

Ella currently sails with a Quantum XR-1 Green. Her dad said they chose that sail because it’s more forgiving to trim for sailors with moderate experience, and it’s designed with a flatter entry to accommodate sailors that are on the smaller side, like Ella.

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Things to Remember to Keep Your Sails & Rigging Safe in Heavy Weather

You might be prepared for rough weather at sea, but is your boat prepared for rough weather when it’s in the harbor? High winds and strong storms can cause problems for your sails and rigging. Here are a few helpful reminders to be sure to protect both the sails and the rig from inclement weather.

The weather forecasters are predicting a big El Niño year that could bring heavy and unusual weather to marinas across the country. After every storm, there’s a boat sitting in the marina with damage because the owner didn’t do a little preventative maintenance. Remember to follow these five steps and you’ll save yourself some money and avoid a heartbreaking call from the harbormaster.

Drop and Flake Your Sails
Roller furling sails should not be left on the headstay during threatening storms, especially if the boat is on the hard. Drop your sails and check them for loose points, discoloration, or wear marks. Take care of any tears when they’re still small, to avoid larger damage in the future. And, if you’re going to go an extended period without sailing, there’s no better time to bring your sails into the loft for some annual maintenance.

Inspect All Shackles, Lines, and Swivels
No matter how beefy your furling system is, it takes a beating every time you roll and unroll your genoa. Inspect all elements of the system including shackles, lines, and fairleads on the deck to make sure every element is in good, working condition, and is properly fastened. You should also give a thorough once-over to every element of your standing rigging, and check all halyards, lines, sheets, and clutches for wear and tear. Harden up on the backstay to keep your rig from bouncing around in heavy weather. If your boat will stay in the water during a storm, be a good neighbor and tie off your halyards to keep them from banging—anyone who lives on their boat nearby will thank you!

Properly Store Your Sails
If you’re not sailing your boat for an extended period of time, the jib should be dropped and stored down below. If your boat is in the water and you have a good cover for your main, it’s fine for the main to stay flaked on the boom. But if you don’t have a cover or if your boat is on the hard, your main should also be stored down below.

Get a Dehumidifier
Storms can cause excess moisture inside your cabin and damp conditions aren’t good for your sails. Get a small dehumidifier for your boat. Your sails will last longer and your boat will smell a whole lot fresher the next time you come out to sail!

Check Your Ports for Leaky Seals
It’s hard enough to keep a boat dry without rainwater seeping under the hatch covers. Before you leave your boat for an extended period of time, it behooves you to check every single port, hatch, window, companion way—anywhere water might find its way into your boat—for possible leakage points. And if you find any, fix them now. Also, make sure that all through-hauls (except for cockpit drains) are closed.

Don’t waste quality sailing days on fixing problems that could have been prevented. Remembering to follow these five preventative measures will ensure your sails and boat are ready to go the next time the weather allows.


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4 Steps for Maintaining Control on a Tight Reach

Our expert Dave Flynn was out on the water testing reaching spinnakers when he remembered how much he liked sailing on a close reach. However, if you're not careful you could easily wipe out. Below, Dave lists his four steps for maintaining control and keeping you and your crew safe.

Reaching racing photo

I was out blasting around testing reaching spinnakers the other day on a new C&C 30 and I was reminded of how much fun sending it on a close reach really was. So much of our time racing these days is spent sailing windward leeward courses that the fine art of sailing on a windy tight reach at the edge of control has almost become a lost art. It is a particularly useful skill in point-to-point and distance races. So how do you keep on the hairy edge while avoiding the wipeout?

The first mistake is to try to head up and sail towards the mark before you are ready. No matter how badly you want to get there, you have to everyone in position, hiking like crazy with all the weight well aft before you start to head up. Weight is the key. If people are still on the bow, or trimmers are down in the boat you are not ready to go. When the spinnaker is first hoisted start at a comfortably low angle, get everyone set, then work gradually up. Don’t worry about the mark.

It’s all in the hands of the trimmers. Every puff needs to be met with a generous ease of mainsail and spinnaker sheet (if you are jib reaching, ease the jib). As soon as you feel the heel start to increase, ease. Have a crew member on the rail calling puffs. Ease aggressively initially, then trim in as the power of the puff is turned into speed. Sails will have to move in and out constantly. It is a sport! A couple of notes on trim. The spinnaker luff should be tight. If using an asymmetrical pull the tack line down tight. Fly the pole low with symmetrical sails. A tight luff will pull the shape forward and open up the back end of the sail. If you are jib reaching you need to setup and outboard lead on the rail. Mainsail trim is largely a function of vang tension. Vang should be well eased in general and let off in the puffs or whenever there is too much heel.

Upwind it is all about minimizing rudder movement and staying smooth. On a windy reach you can be aggressive. The helm is going to have plenty of load. You can fight it. The real trick is to anticipate. As the puff hits and the boat starts to heel bear off aggressively to keep the boat flat. Once the power of the puff has been turned into speed head back up. The faster you are going the easier it is to sail higher angles. Sync with your trimmers, bearing off as they ease, heading up as they re-trim. Watch the leading edge of the spinnaker and don’t get ahead of your trim. Notice I have never suggested looking at the mark. The mark is irrelevant. You will either make it or not as you average out bearing off in the puffs and then back up in the light spots. If you are not going to make it don’t panic. There will be a perfect moment where if you take the spinnaker down you end up on a comfortable jib reach to the mark.

You will periodically wipe out. If you don’t, you aren’t trying hard enough. First, trimmers should keep easing even if the sail collapse if there is too much heel and the boat is rounding up. Let the vang go completely. As a helms-person if you realize you are losing it do the opposite of what your instinct tells you to do. Stop fighting and let the boat head up and broach. The trick is to maintain enough speed and attached flow of water on the rudder that when the sails luff completely and the boat starts to flatten out you can bear off. As the boat comes down with sails flogging the trimmers need to be ready. As soon as the boat goes flat trim like crazy. You will have a long way to go since you let the sails completely out. You will end up well low of course. That’s okay. You are starting over. It is just like you sailed when you first put the spinnaker up. Get the boat under control and then gradually head back up.

The classic tactical response when faced with a reach which is a marginal spinnaker carry is to head up early in the leg so you can set the spinnaker later. This is completely wrong. In fact, the opposite approach is best. It’s okay to come around the mark and hold for a couple of minutes to check things out. But as soon as it looks like you might be able to carry, go for it. Worst case scenario is that you will end low of the mark and have to jib reach at the end. That is still faster than jib reaching at a less than ideal angle for the whole leg. More often than not, you will make it!


By Dave Flynn
Quantum Sails – Cruising Guru

Originally published in Spinnsheet Magazine.


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