SAILING | Braving the sound in wintry weather

sailing gear
Gear you’ll want should you be brave enough to undertake winter sailing, as our newest correspondent, Edward Briganti, has.

Edward Briganti Contributing Writer

If you’re a New Yorker (or live anywhere on the eastern seaboard for that matter), you know we’re coming off what’s proved to have been a long winter. As a lifelong sailor, however, I long ago swore off heading out on the water between October and late April unless it was in warmer climes. But after New York’s fourth major snowstorm, I was driven from my cramped, stuffy, over-heated apartment into the outdoors. I have begun “Frostbiting,” as winter sailing in New England is known, on Sundays at Larchmont Yacht Club. It’s amazing how “up” life can look just by spending a few hours in the sun, even if it’s 40 degrees.

On the other side, winter sailing can be a brutally cold and miserable affair — the water is a hypothermic 36 degrees — so cold the floor of the cockpit gets chilly and forms ice inside the boat as you sail; there is more wind and it is shiftier and puffier and more unpredictable than in the summertime — all increasing the dreaded threat of a capsize. The fear of capsizing, however, is what also makes winter sailing so exciting. It’s healthy for the soul to scare the crap out of yourself every now and again. Winter sailing can also be some of the most strategically rewarding and visually appealing sailing there is. The light refracts off the water in a crisper, clearer way and the lack of boat traffic creates smooth waters. When it’s good, there’s often nothing better, so it is critical that outdoor sportsman dress appropriately for the conditions. Below is a summary of the gear I use, love, and recommend. All are based on two key and reinforcing themes: warmth and moisture transfer.

My take on gear is that you pretty much get what you pay for and cheap can be expensive. I take a long-term investment approach to my gear: if you buy the good stuff, it will perform better, longer. While it is recommended that anybody recreating in waters colder than 50 degrees wear a drysuit, it is not mandatory. For the sake of comfort, I use my Gore-Tex and capilene based offshore foul weather gear as my winter sailing attire.

1. Top: Musto MPX Gore-Text Race Smock: My top layer has an active cut, room for layering, articulated elbows and underarms for ease of movement. I like the smooth non-abrasive stretch neck seals with Velcro adjustment, side opening neck with waterproof gusset, and Velcro adjustable neoprene waistband. Side pockets with water resistant zips stash granola bars or a beanie on warm days. The waterproof coating keeps me dry.

2. Bottoms: Musto MPX Offshore Trousers: I lived in these bibs for 4 sultry days in the Gulf Stream on the way to Bermuda during the 2008 Newport Bermuda Race. The 500 denier Cordura seat & knee patches resist abrasion while hiking and moving around the cockpit. There’s plenty of room for layering. The multi-tool sheath stores my Gerber multi-tool. My favorite feature is the 2-way zip, which allows one to relieve oneself over the side without having to derobe.

3. Boots: Shamrock Stretch Boot by Dubarry of Ireland: Cozy feet are happy feet and happy feet make for a good sailor. These boots are gore-tex lined and incredibly comfortable. There’s enough room to fit a Little Hotties toe warmer inside as well. Some people think it’s cool to
wear these boots around town. Don’t. These boots will save your life, so treat those award-winning slip resistant soles with respect and have a pair of sneakers to change into when you’re
back on the dock before you reach the pavement.

4. Lifejacket: Lotus Designs PFD: This was my lifejacket from college sailing. I picked it up on a five-finger discount from the Lost & Found at the yacht club after watching it go unclaimed for an entire summer. The low profile/flak-jacket look is key to keep the things flow. The utility pocket on the front carries your knife, lip balm, granola bar, and beer koozie.

5. Gloves: Atlas Thermal Fit gardening gloves: Yes gardening gloves. Sold individually and preferred by sailors who always seem to lose just one glove. Much cheaper than brand-name sailing-specific gloves, just as warm, and in many cases more functional.

6. Sunglasses: Haber Vision Kenais: A bunch of ex Bollé guys got together and produced a gnarly line of polarized shades at value prices. The full coverage blocks out glare, and the polarized rose-colored lenses allow you to spot that lefty shift coming down the course from 300 yards

7. Hat: Patagonia Beanie: Crews might prefer a thicker wool hat, but as a skipper, I often get warm when I’m in the thick of racing.

8. Fleece Sweater: Patagonia R2 Jacket: This piece will essentially be your mid-layer between your smock and you base underwear. It is super light, super compressible, breathable, and heck, the U.S. Marines even use this jacket (have yet to find the special issue tan and olive drab), it must be good! The softly lined inner collar is where it’s at.

9. Fleece Pants: Patagonia R1 Pant: Similar to the R2 jacket but for your legs. Could get a little warm on the more mild days, if so, drop down to full-length capilene tights.

10. Wicking Undershirt: Patagonia Capilene: No cotton t-shirts in here. We wick and we stay warm and dry. Not much more to say here.

11. Wicking Underwear: Patagonia Active Boxers: The outdoor sportsman can’t have enough pairs of this wicking boxer short.

12. Socks: Patagonia Mid-weight Hiking Socks: If it seems like I’m obsessed with Patagonia, I am. They make good stuff and I believe that pretty much all others are just imitations. In all practicality though, you need a warm sock for frostbiting but it’s important that your sock not be a thick one. In the event you end up in the water and your boots fill up, you need to be able to kick them off easily. While this is an extreme situation, in reality, the Dubarry’s seem to fit better with a thinner sock.

13. Multi-tool: Gerber: The icon on this tool is a sword in a stone. I’ve had this tool since high, school and it has truly been my Excalibur. The quick deploy needle-nose pliers are a big help in clasping cold ring dings and adjusting shroud tension.

14. Knife: Boye Boatknife: A multi-tool AND a knife you say? What for? Well, the Gerber is your toolbox in a sheath for all the nuts, bolts, ring dings, pins, and other misc. hardware on the boat that might require attention. Yes the Gerber has a blade, but every sailor worth his salt knows a knife is really for personal safety. When things get rough and that line needs to be cut to free yourself or your crew from danger, you need a blade that will deploy quickly, cut inch-thick line like butter, and it’s dendritic cobalt so it won’t rust in the saltwater environment. For that you choose Boye.

15. Activated Warmers: Little Hotties:
It might seem like cheating with all this gear to use these little suckers but when it’s cold out, you’ll be glad to have them. Who said you have to suffer and be uncomfortable?! Enjoy some creature comforts and stuff yourself (especially crews) with these activated charcoal warmers.

16. Neck gaiter: Buff Original: Some people like the fleece ski neck gaiter, I prefer the lower profile, climate controlled Buff. The fish scale pattern lets the competition know I’m serious.

SAILING | Where the Figawi?

Cynthia, with reefed genoa, blasts to Nantucket shortly after the start of the 2010 Figawi Race. Photo courtesy of Marblehead Studios.

Family Team Competes in 2010 Figawi Race Weekend

Will Briganti Contributing Writer

Hyannis and Nantucket, Mass. — Cynthia, a Grand Soleil 46.3 owned by Steve Landis, took to the waters of Nantucket Sound for the 39th Annual Figawi Race Weekend, a classic New England distance race from Hyannis, Massachusetts to Nantucket Island held each Memorial Day Weekend since 1972. Guest contributor and Cynthia crew member Will Briganti reports:

This year’s Figawi race featured over 250 sailboats in 13 divisions. While Figawi has a developed a reputation for its pre and post-event revelry, it was great to participate in an event with so many other teams of families and close friends. Cynthia’s crew was comprised of the Landis family: Steve, Cindy, Carrie and Libby; and the Briganti brothers, Eddie and yours truly, Will.

The breeze was stronger than usual, with most of four-hour race sailed in 20 to 30 knots of wind. In order to keep control of the steering, we had to shorten Cynthia’s sails for the first and last legs of the race. Kudos go to Eddie and Carrie for getting drenched on the bow as they affixed a temporary forestay to the deck, which allowed us to use a smaller jib.

With the heaviest gusts of wind coming across our bow during the morning hours, the start of the race proved tougher than we’d expected. We did, however, get a great view of Mya, the schooner owned by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, just before we crossed the start line. The Kennedy family has been strong supporters of the Figawi race since its inception, and hasn’t missed out on a chance to compete. This year, Mya was skippered by the late senator’s son, Ted Kennedy Jr., and was joined by a few cadets from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.

The course for Cynthia’s division began off the Hyannis jetty and featured a five-mile beat to just off the northwest coast of Martha’s Vineyard, followed by a 17-mile reaching leg to a mark just off Nantucket’s famous Great Point Lighthouse, with the remaining five-mile beat to the finish off the Nantucket breakwater.

Upon crossing the finish line, beer cans were cracked open and the boat was tidied up as we followed the long procession of Figawi racers up the channel, around the Brant Point Lighthouse and into the harbor. Once we found our place amongst the other 250 boats in the Nantucket Boat Basin, the Cynthia crew boogied to the tunes of a live band in the famous party tent and sipped on rum drinks courtesy of Mount Gay Rum, the race’s official sponsor.

The next morning, we groggily awoke to the news that Cynthia, in Division B, had placed ninth of 20 boats. Not a bad finish for a crew of Figawi first-timers.

Commenting on the experience, Skipper Steve Landis said, “Although the race was a logistical challenge, we had a lot of fun and we learned a lot. It was great to get to Nantucket so early in the season.”

Till next year!

Figawi2Will Briganti, left, fastens a line aboard Cynthia following the start of the 2010 Figawi Race. Photo courtesy of Marblehead Studios.

BOATS| Adirondack afternoons are well-spent aboard ‘Sadie’

HannSteve Hann, an Adirondack renaissance man, sails his “Sadie” across Placid Lake’s harbor.

Beekeeping. Snowmaking. Boat building. These are just a few of Steve Hann’s diverse hobbies and interests. He and his wife, Molly, are fellow Laurentians (He’s in the class of 1997, she’s a 2003 graduate) and very dear friends of ours. A visit to their Saranac Lake home is a treat in any season as there’s always something a bit unusual going on. Stopping by in June, for example, you might find the Hanns tending to their Lost Apiary or harvesting wild leeks. In the winter, there’s skiing and, more recently, ski-making. In the shoulder seasons and just about every night of the year, in their basement workshop, there’s wooden boat building and repair.

Hann, a registered nurse, has operated his Lost Paddle Boatworks , since moving to Saranac Lake in 2004. While he spends much of his time tending to a collection of antique wooden boats owned by Tanager Lodge on Upper Chateaugay Lake, he has also had time to build his own craft, “Sadie.”

Sadie is a 12-foot dinghy built on plans published by Frederick Goeller in the 1948 volume “Rudder Sail Boat Plans.” She’s planked with white cedar on steam-bent white oak frames. She has white pine seats and carries oars Hann made from ash. She carries a Gunter sail rig and has no motor. Hann estimates her weight at between 175 and 225 pounds with a four-foot, three-inch beam, a two-foot, eight-inch draft (with dagger board down; she carries a nine-inch draft with the dagger board up) and a sail area of 83 square feet.

Hann launched her on Aug. 24, 2006 in Upper Saranac Lake and, during that maiden voyage, he asked Molly to marry him. She said yes. On Sept. 8, 2007, the newlyweds arrived at their wedding reception on Lower Saranac Lake aboard Sadie.

We spent a recent afternoon on Placid Lake’s East Lake with Hann and Sadie is a terrific recreational day sailer (though Hann and Molly do use her for overnight camping trips). She’s easy to handle, responsive and a boat that’s sure to become a wonderful heirloom for generations of Hanns.

Here’s a gallery of her: on Facebook