Monday, August 28, 2006

Trying a Shark in the Coupe Du Quebec

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of helming a Shark in the Coupe Du Quebec held at BYC. Also recently, Bob and I crewed in a Shark in the Montreal One Design Regatta. So, now I have done foredeck and helmed. Bob did mid-crew each time. Much thanks to Tony at PCYC for inviting us to crew, and now William for loaning his great boat. Being strangers to the boat, we didn't expect to place well and didn't! But, we were pleased to experience it, and see the Shark class in action. It was definitely worth it! The calibre of sailing talent in this class, both in Montreal and from Ontario is very high. We would have to seriously train for some time just to keep up with this class. As far as the boat itself, well it is a pleasure to sail. Having sailed a T22, some comparisons are inevitable, though it is important to understand that today the two classes really share little purpose of use, or design aspects in common. The Shark's outboard motor goes on and off the transom from storage, so we found it less hassle to paddle a bit, and raise the mainsail coming out of harbour. I actually enjoyed not starting up an iron jenny. The cockpit is rather cramped, since for the boat to be balanced and fast, the helmsman must sit forward of the traveler. I found using the traveler and tiller extension awkward from the forward position. The boom swings low, and thus the potential for accidents a bit higher. The boat is a fractional rig, and does not carry a lot of sail to power a fairly narrow and light hull compared to a T22. So, I found the boat sluggish in very light wind, but an absolute joy whenever the wind was moderate or higher. In heavy winds, the boat sliced through waves easily, and never presented a physical challenge to its crew. In the end, I concluded the Shark is a very safe, easy boat to sail even in difficult conditions, but a much more difficult boat to sail fast and competitively against talented members of the class! That makes the Shark Class a very attractive option for racing, particularly with its large one design racing circuit. Montreal has a good fleet, and active racing extends to many one design regattas in Ontario. Anyone wanting to campaign a relatively inexpensive keelboat in one design racing will find the Shark Class challenging fun. The usual cautions to finding and maintaining an old boat apply, since all Sharks are aged boats now. Certainly, one can find a wide range of boats from cheap fixer-uppers to beautifully-maintained dry sails, and everything in between. Another asset of the class is friendly good members like William, Nick, Jin and others who are happy to introduce people to the boat and keep the fleet healthy. Thanks guys.