Reflections from Class Champion Bill Menninger

These reflections on this years Harbor 20 sailing and class championship are posted on behalf of our 2013 Class Champion Bill Menninger:

 What a great job the class officers and directors have done in helping our class continue to grow. A big shout out! To our faithful ; John, Peter, Emile and Karl.

Then we have unsung heroes like Judy, to keep Robert Kinney company on our championship race committee, and Jim Kerrigan (sorely Missed) who helped create the Kerrigan jib boom adjuster. There are many others who make our class strong and our social events fantastic. Mark and Shana, Karen, Judy and Kathy. Not to mention all the significant others who dedicate their time behind the scenes.

 This years championship completed eight races, for which I was very thankful. By the time we got to the dock, I had a faint idea we had won, but I wasn’t sure with Jim Buckingham winning the last race. Thankfully, Chris Allen had not won a third in a row, and Gary Thorne was just behind us. Tim Hogan had one bad race on Sunday, so I was really just worried about Jim, our newest class addition, sailing with his youngest daughter Biz.

 What was interesting for me is there are many ways to sail a Harbor 20, and it really comes down to starting and getting a first shift. While I depend on a looser rig to sail some headstay sag in lighter conditions, Jim sailed with a relatively tight rig, and used the mainsail boom vang to bend the mast, thereby shortening the mast and that too develops headstay sag. Two different ways to skin a cat, and since we never sail in one direction more than 150 feet in the bay, we really cant say one technique is better than another.

 The light air put a premium on jib trim and crewing, constantly trimming the jib in and out to maximize acceleration and minimize steering. The shifty conditions put a premium on crews who could spot the puffs and talk about different situations on the course.  We tightened our jib outhaul on the runs to give us more

Effective sail area downwind, we kept our jib downhaul the same on every race, and find it better to be erring a little on the too tight side, versus too loose.

Our shroud tensions were around 15 on the uppers and 8 to 10 on the lowers. On Sunday we raised our jib an additional inch to make the sail slightly fuller after a disappointing final race on Saturday….I typically call our diver ahead of an important regatta to remind him the bottom has to be smooth, and he usually does the boat a day before the races…

 Strategy wise, we chose to start on the windiest part of the line, disregarding the shift we expected of the side of the course to favor. In other words, a good start, heading the wrong direction, usually finds you in the top five. A bird in the hand so to speak!  Downwind, we tried to avoid the lido lee and take advantage of better wind or tide around Bay Island. We used almost no vang tension all weekend as the boom weight was enough to keep the leech firm.

And every so often I looked up to see the battens hadn’t popped through after a gybe, so I would gently pull the main boom in until they popped to leeward and noticed the boat immediately accelerate.

 A special thanks to Peter Haynes and Greg Helias, who reminded us on more than one occasion to go around the weather mark offset buoy. Without them, someone else might be writing this!

 Every year, the class gets stronger and better. I hope we can help share some good ideas and encourage others do the same.


  • Bob Yates

    Thanks Bill for your thoughts on sail trim. I think that we had it all wrong.

  • For us neophites just coming into the class (Salesmanship), this is a wonderful range of input which we’ll find very useful as we learn to find our set of polar and rig set-ups. Thanks for sharing.

  • Mark & Shana Conzelman

    Mark and I are honored to even be mentioned in this very well said recap of a beautiful weekend! Of course from where I sit you all look amazing out there – totally impressed! Bill and Diane never cease to amaze all of us, noting that Bill was a tad under the weather on Saturday so imagine if he was tip top……just sayin! I’m thinking your willingness to indulge in one of Mark’s spinach smoothies shows your fortitude. Good job you two, well done! Shana

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