Ocean Racer Series #2 - Kimo Worthington

Next up in the Abilyn Racing Ocean Racer Series is a sailor who is notable most recently from his involvement in the world of crewed 'round the world racing--Kimo Worthington.  I had the pleasure of sailing with Kimo when he coached Team Larchmont in preparation for the 2013 New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup.  Thanks in part to Kimo's time with us on the water, Team Larchmont (helmed by Danny "DANger" Pletsch) came in second place behind only Team Canada (helmed by Olympic silver medalist Terry McLaughlin).  Blame Canada?

Kimo has been involved in competitive sailing for the past 40 years.  He has worked with six America's Cup teams, including America3 (America Cubed), which took the win in the 1992 America's Cup.  He won the 1997-98 Whitbread Around the World Race (now Volvo Ocean Race) along with Paul Cayard aboard EF Language.  And, he's served as General Manager of Puma Ocean Racing in its 2007-08 and 2011-12 VOR campaigns.  Outside of the America's Cup and VOR arenas, Kimo has participated in many premier yachting events such as the Admiral's Cup, Kenwood Cup, and various one-design world championships.

I was floored to be able to chat with Kimo during a particularly warm day this past winter about how we can set ourselves up for success offshore.  

Kimo Worthington Profile

  • Nationality - USA
  • Occupation - North America Sales Manager, North Sails Group
  • Disciplines - crewed offshore racing (Whitbread/VOR/Transpac), America's Cup
  • Notable Results
    • Winner, 1992 America's Cup, America3
    • Winner, 1997-98 Whitbread Around the World Race, EF Language
    • 2nd, 2008-09 Volvo Ocean Race, Puma Ocean Racing
    • 3rd, 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race, Puma Ocean Racing Powered by Berg Propulsion

Kimo's Tips For Offshore Racing Success

Go offshore.

Jerry Kirby gave me a similar tip.  By the way, Jerry heads up a top-tier construction business, Kirby-Perkins Construction, in Newport, RI.  I called up Jerry on one particularly gloomy day at work and asked, "Hey Jerry, how do I become a VOR sailor?"  He said, "Josh, what do you do for a living?"  So I told him.  He said, "Josh, you gotta stop doing that, and go sailing."  Not quite so easy as I had identical twin girls on the way, who are now 4-years-old going on 25.  

Kimo's point is to go offshore for a few days (5-8, 10 is better), and sail every angle.  Figure out the correct sail combination for the conditions faced each day, which are likely to be different.  Go upwind, and then bear off 10 degrees.  Get your numbers and figure out where you are in reference to your polars.  Do a sweep so that you know what you need to do at all angles.  WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN.

Weigh everything.

Everything that comes aboard should be weighed.  Keep the boat light.  Figure out what you need, and what you don't.  

Electronics.  Use 'em or lose 'em.

Know the ins and outs of your electronics (and the wiring).  Know how to use your electronics to help you determine whether you're fast or slow.  Use your electronics to tell you when you're in unfavorable current, and also where to go to get OUT of the unfavorable current.  

Hit the gym.

Be in shape.  Being physically fit is always fast, and allows you to make better decisions and better judgment calls.


Self-explanatory, but sometimes overlooked.  

Set yourself up so that you don't waste time.

Two examples:  Figure out how to eat quickly.  Sleep in your foulies in rough sailing conditions.  By sleeping in your foulies, you're ready for anything that needs to happen, and you're also not wasting time (and sleep) changing in and out of gear.  

Practice in a dinghy.

My good friend Peter Beardsley will love that this is one of the tips Kimo gave me.  Peter is the current President of the Viper 640 Class Association, and a great proponent of the sport.  He constantly tells me that if I want to get better, I need to get into a dinghy.  Maybe I got rid of my Vanguard 15 too early.  ICs?  Ugh...

Kimo says that the best VOR drivers are the 49er sailors.  Practicing in a dinghy can only help you sail faster offshore.  

Become a rig tuning pro.

Know your rig tune, and how to optimize it.  Make sure your rig is lined up with your keel and rudders.  Know when to use more runner, less runner, fuller sails, flatter sails, more halyard tension, less halyard tension, etc.

Sometimes racing is not racing.

The smartest sailors know when to race and when to survive.  Know when to back off.  If you break, you're out.

Preparation is key.

Preparation cannot be overstated.  Before you even get to the dock, you need to have figured out where you need to go, how the weather will affect your course, and how to use your sails effectively to get to where you need to go.

Be prepared in case all goes to hell.  In other words, take the safety course.  Bring proper safety gear. 

Synthesizing Kimo's tip on preparation with Jerry's tip above, I need to stop doing whatever it is that I'm doing, and go prepare for the next race, which happens to be the 59th Annual Edlu Race, hosted by our home club.

The Abilyn Racing Ocean Racer Series collects tips and experiences from some of the world's most accomplished ocean racers.  Our goal is to improve our own sailing, as well as to show other sailors--both in the United States and elsewhere--that if you have strong ambitions to race offshore, there is a network out there of knowledge and guidance.  Just ask!

Abilyn Racing Introduces the Ocean Racer Series

As the Abilyn Racing program develops, our training will become multi-faceted to include both on- and off-the-water training.  But just as we cannot achieve our goals without the support of our Partners and others who are rooting for us, we will not be able to achieve our goals unless we learn from those within our sport with more offshore miles under their belt than we have. That is why we have reached out to some of our sport's top ocean sailors for guidance--sailors who are, for the most part, amazingly accessible, and more than willing to share their experiences.

But rather than keep the information and tips we receive to ourselves, our plan is to share what we've learned with our fellow sailors in hopes of inspiring others to take their ambitions to the next level.

So we are excited to introduce the first post in the Abilyn Racing Ocean Racer Series, a blog series reporting on the offshore sailing tips we have received from some of the world's most accomplished sailors.

Given that we race a Mini Transat boat, it seems only fitting that our first set of tips should come from a Mini sailor.  So we reached out to Benoit Marie, the winner of the 2013 Mini Transat.

Prior to training for (and winning) the 2013 Mini Transat, Benoit, by virtue of his engineering degree, worked on the construction of the JP54, the fast "cruiser" designed by the reknowned IMOCA 60 racer, Jean-Pierre Dick.

Benoit was kind enough to share of his "rules" for effective solo ocean racing, and let us know that this plans for the future include something "[b]etter than" the Vendee Globe (that's all we know).

Benoit Marie Profile

  • Nationality - French
  • Website - www.benoitmarie.com  
  • Disciplines - Mini 6.50 solo ocean racing
  • Notable Results
    • Winner, 2013 Mini Transat
    • 3rd, 2013 Pornichet Select 650
    • 5th, 2012 Sables Les Azores

Benoit Marie's "Rules" For Effective Solo Ocean Racing

  1. The shortest route wins 90% of the time.  Never forget that.
  2. When in doubt, stick to the direct route.
  3. Keep it simple and work on your average speed, not top speed.  It's useless to be the fastest over five hours if then you sleep for two days.  Go fast, but not too fast!!
  4. If you seriously WANT the race, you will get it.  By "WANT", I mean with all your passion and 100% of your mind and body devoted to your goal.
  5. Nothing is over 'til it's over.  Really, nothing!
  6. The reliability of your boat is of paramount importance.  If you break something and you need one hour to fix it, you might lose the race.  Then apply rule no. 5.
  7. But, you WILL break your boat; it is a normal part of the race.  NEVER wait to fix it.  And then apply rule no. 5.
  8. As soon as you think the boat can go fast without you, GO TO BED (but never more than 20 minutes, unless you are crossing an ocean).
  9. PREPARE YOUR RACE.  Do all the work before.  On the water you'll be tired, your brain will not work effectively, and you will consistently make decisions and judgements as would a 5-year-old if they were sailing your boat.  
  10. Maintain a steady moral.  Never be too happy or too low.  By maintaining an average moral, you will be way more efficient and clear-headed.


Follow Benoit Marie and his next adventure at www.benoitmarie.com.

The Abilyn Racing Ocean Racer Series collects tips and experiences from some of the world's most accomplished ocean racers.  Our goal is to improve our own sailing, as well as to show other sailors--both in the United States and elsewhere--that if you have strong ambitions to race offshore, there is a network out there of knowledge and guidance.  Just ask!

Practice Preview - The Gybe

The main focus of our upcoming season of coastal racing and training will be to master every sailing maneuver we may be called upon to perform offshore.  On top of this list is the gybe because, in any breeze, a bad gybe burns not only boat lengths, but precious time and energy, and has the potential in a blow to bring down the rig.  When we do gybe, we need to be able to stick it every single time.  

The gybe aboard Abilyn involves much more than changing the direction of the boat by turning the stern into the wind.  When broken down into its component parts and taking into account the articulating spinnaker pole and runners, the gybe aboard Abilyn involves a protocol of 30 individual steps designed to minimize movement across the nearly 10-foot-wide cockpit.  

Abilyn (USA 829) preparing to gybe.

Listed below is each step in our standard protocol, which we created based on our experience aboard Abilyn as well as the invaluable guidance provided by Single-Handed Transpac sailor Jerome Sammarcelli and Mini Transat sailor Lucas Schroder.  Both my co-skipper and I must be able to perform the entire protocol alone.  When sailing double-handed, the driver handles only the steering and runners.

Stay tuned later in the season for some sweet video footage.  Soundtrack to be determined.  Lately, I've been feeling dubstep.  

The Abilyn Gybe Protocol

  1. fall off to about 160-165 TWA
  2. trim main traveler so that boom is inside lifeline (main is usually trimmed downwind with mainsheet to control leech tension and traveler eased to leeward)
  3. lock main traveler control in weather cam cleat
  4. load working afterguy on winch drum
  5. open working afterguy clutch to "open" position
  6. ease working afterguy so that pole articulates leeward (to centerline)
  7. close working afterguy clutch
  8. remove working afterguy from winch drum
  9. load non-working (lazy) spin sheet onto weather winch drum (2 wraps)
  10. go low to trim lazy afterguy to hand-tight load (necessary so that, following the gybe, the pole stays on centerline and does not drop to leeward)
  11. trim in slack on lazy runner
  12. remove lazy main traveler control from cam cleat
  13. return to high side and ease working spin sheet to de-power kite
  14. ease off completely the working runner fine-tune control
  15. trim lazy spin sheet to bring clew patch around forestay
  16. when clew patch is around the forestay, turn boat
  17. while turning the boat, and with hand on the new working spin sheet, trim the lazy runner so that it trims the boom across centerline to new leeward side where it rests against old working runner
  18. continue to turn boat while trimming new working spin sheet, making sure to maintain control of the new lazy spin sheet
  19. head up to 140 TWA to help spinnaker pass through fore-triangle
  20. fall off when spinnaker has been fully gybed
  21. lock working spin sheet in weather cam cleat in cross-sheeting configuration
  22. add fine tune to new working runner
  23. go low, open up the runner macro clutch, and ease lazy runner, which will allow the boom to drop to leeward (given that we've opened up the traveler early in the protocol)
  24. open clutch on new lazy afterguy
  25. go back to high side, and load new working afterguy on weather winch drum
  26. open new working afterguy clutch to "lock open" position
  27. insert winch handle, ease kite, and winch in new working afterguy to bring pole approximately 10 degrees to weather of centerline
  28. remove winch handle from drum, close new working afterguy clutch, and remove working afterguy from winch drum
  29. go low and close new lazy afterguy clutch.
  30. trim kite and sail on!

See you out on the water.

RAM Mounts Partners With Abilyn Racing

We are excited to announce that RAM Mounts will be partnering with Abilyn Racing on its ocean racing campaign.  RAM manufactures essential mounting components for a wide variety of applications including vehicle, industrial, military and defense, material handling, as well as any application requiring a rugged and robust mounting solution.  RAM offers particularly creative and robust applications for use on sailboats.  

Abilyn Racing will be using mounting solutions provided by RAM for the on-board devices that will power our campaign, including our iPad, which will serve as our principal device for delivering navigational and performance data (thanks to our DMK Box).  We will also be using RAM mounting solutions to create an environment for our various GoPro cameras where we will be able to swap out cameras in various locations in a type of “plug-n-play” format.  This will allow us to efficiently capture on-board footage with very little hassle.

Check out RAM Mounts at http://www.rammount.com/.  

A Resurgence of Mini Sailing in the United States

At one point in the not-too-distant past, there used to be a bunch of Mini 6.50s sailing in United States, mostly concentrated in the northeast.  In 2007, eight Minis from the U.S. and Canada competed in the Bermuda 1-2, some with hopes of competing in the Mini Transat.  Over time, sailors moved on to different programs, and boats were sold--some overseas to race in the Classe Mini circuit.  Although a core group of Minis remained strong north of the border in Quebec City, Mini sailing in the United States, for a period of time, was sporadic at best.

However, with the continued design and development of "series" boats including the RG650, as well the efforts of Mini proponents like Joe Cooper and Tristan Moulinge, and builders like Jerome Sammarcelli, who built Pogo 2s in the United States between 2011 and 2014, Mini sailing here on the left side of the pond has experienced, and is experiencing, a resurgence.  That resurgence is being felt no more powerfully than in my home waters around New York City.  

Pogo 2 USA 829 (ex-Flying Fox) somewhere in Nevada.

In the span of less than two seasons, we've gone from having one Mini in the area to having five!  

In 2012, the OpenSailing-built Pogo 2 USA 829 (Abilyn, ex-Flying Fox) journeyed over from Marina Del Rey, California via a very creative courier.  Around the same time in mid-2013 that we acquired USA 829 from her former owner, a fellow sailor from the western Long Island Sound racing scene picked up USA 702 (Frogger), a Manuard-designed Tip Top that previously raced in the Bermuda 1-2.

Later in the year, it was announced that USA 415 (ex-Carbon Neutral), a proto that also raced in the Bermuda 1-2, would be joining the party from Newport, Rhode Island.  Around the same time, we met up for drinks at Campbell Apartment with an out-of-state sailor who came into NYC just to talk with us about Mini sailing.  We must have said the right things, because two months later, he picked up the Pogo 2 USA 806, previously owned by Jerome Sammarcelli, who sailed her from San Francisco to Hawaii in the 2012 Single-handed Transpac.  

Most recently, we learned that the Lombard Zero USA 530--the only finisher in the 2013 Mini Pacific Challenge from Los Angeles to Hawaii--will soon be on its way from California to its new owner who intends to keep her within spitting distance of the lower Manhattan.  

At least three of these five boats will be raced regularly on Long Island Sound during the 2014 season (which can't come soon enough!), and likely will be on the starting line of the 2015 Bermuda 1-2 Yacht Race, including our Abilyn.  USA 702 has already qualified for the event by taking the long route from New York City to deliver Frogger to her winter home in Newport, Rhode Island.  

Although there are other Minis scattered about, including one in Newport, RI (proto USA 754), one in Chicago, Illinois (Pogo 2 USA 812), one in Charleston, South Carolina (Pogo 2 USA 831), one in Annapolis, Maryland (RG650 USA 837), New York City by far has the most concentrated grouping of Minis in the United States right now, which means that the 2014 will be an exciting one to say the least.  The IRC-optimized race boats that dominate these waters have never seen so many fathead mains, runners, fat asses, and dual rudders.  

But what is more exciting than having heads turn is being able to race with a great group of sailors (which hopefully will include former world #1 ranked Mini sailor Jeff MacFarlane) who we know will push each other to take their racing and seamanship to the next level, and support each other as we continue to take our Minis farther and farther offshore.  This camaraderie and support is a critical component to what we at Abilyn Racing are trying to achieve because, at the end of day, we'd rather not be alone when we're alone at sea.  

Plus, it will also be nice to finally race with a group of sailors who share a common goal--to have the breeze always at about 20-25 knots and 140 degrees TWA. 

See you out on the water.

ZBlok Partners With Abilyn Racing

We are excited to announce that ZBlok will be partnering with Abilyn Racing on its ocean racing campaign as our official sunblock provider.  We will be using ZBlok with ClearZinc throughout our campaign including the nearly 1,300-mile stretch of open ocean that makes up the race track of the Bermuda 1-2 Yacht Race.  

This is great news, because ZBlok literally is the only sunblock we will put on our faces.  We have used ZBlok sailing aboard our Mini 6.50, V15s, Viper 640s, and a host of other boats where we’ve been sweating or otherwise soaked because of rain or ocean spray.  Never once have we experienced any eye stinging or other irritations usually caused by other sunblocks.  We also use ZBlok during summer, land-based training—when you’re biking down a New York City street trying to avoid taxis and tourists, you simply can’t afford eye irritation.  

If you’re active on or off the water, you should definitely pick up some ZBlok.  Check ‘em out at www.zbloksun.com