29er XX crash and burn sailing

2 01 2008

Due to the recent Olympic Sailing class selection battle, I thought I’d write about my experiences of one of the boats in selection, the 29er XX.

Now apart from the rubbish name, and horrendous multicoloured “XX” graphic on the sail, I have to say I was extremely impressed with the boat.  I was sailing at a Hayling Island event 2 years ago with Edd Chapman. We pitched up on Saturday, with a borrowed 49er (thanks to Steve Hopper for that), to be greeted by 25 – 30 knots in Hayling bay. The event was obviously, very quickly postponed, leaving us with nothing to do. Dave Hall was at the event, showing off the new 29er rig, so we thought we’d badger him for a go. We borrowed a 29er, stuck Dave Hall’s XX rig on it, and 30 minutes later we hit the water.

Now this isn’t a Yachts and Yachting style report. We didn’t exactly have decent sailing conditions to get a good handle on how the boat sails. As we headed upwind, both flat wiring (all 150 kg’s of us) and tracked all the way to the back, we quickly discovered that, even with the jib fully eased, we had no way of holding the main. The breeze was so high that we could barely get upwind without getting blown flat. After knocking the jib right off and nearly completely dropping the main, we began to figure out how to make the thing go. After 5 minutes of getting battered up-wind, we decided to make a smart decision.

Me: “I’m bored, lets get this kite up”.

Edd: “Do it”

Edd pulled the stick, I dumped the main and we spun the boat into a 30 knot bear away, pulled the kite up and then hit the straps as we took off. The 29er flew through the Hayling chop. We weighed so much that all it took was a flick of the shoulders to drive her down the next wave or to flatten her out in the gusts. As each gust rolled in, I popped the kite with Edd tweaking the stick to steer us through. 200 metres later we called the gybe, pulled the stick and stepped across the boat. The 29er XX is so thin compared to the 49er that you can throw her into gybes and cross the boat in half the time.

As we hit the straps, Edd called a big gust rolling in. We both hit the knots and flattened out as the breeze kicked up. In front of us, two International 14’s pitchpoled in unison, leaving the crew flying through the air. Huge grins on our faces, Edd heated the boat up to sail over the top of the upturned skiffs. Everything from here on in goes into slow motion. With the boat sailing a hotter angle, we are sailing about as fast as the 29er xx can ever go. As we launch ourselves past the guys in the water, my heart stops. We are sailing someone elses £6000 29er, with a brand new XX rig attached, and we’ve just sailed about two metres away, at 20 plus knots with spray everywhere, past a guy standing in thigh deep water. Oh crap…

The skiff slams into the sandbank, and we take off. The centreboard is driven back into the fibre glass 29er hull, finishing at a 45 degree angle. The Carbon fibre spinnaker pole slams into the sand and breaks in two. I land in the water in front of the kite and surface just in time to see Edd descending from the sky, landing on my chest.

As the spray settles, and we walk back to the very broken looking boat, Edd sums the situation up with one word.

Edd: “Balls”

29er XX



14 responses

2 01 2008

Guys, thanks VERY VERY much for a spectacularly great sailing blog post to kick-off my sailing New Year….

Best Sailing Blog Post of 2008


2 01 2008

guess the owner of the 29er wasn’t too happy
hows san fran next episode coming on?

3 01 2008

Jus is working on it. He’s had coursework to do so that had to come first unfortunately. It’ll be here soon as possible!


24 01 2008
Steve Chesney

Great story!
Reminds me of how lucky I am to sail dingies in Hayling Bay regularly. It has
great waves and frequently a really good sea breeze, not to mention the sandbanks 1/2 mile offshore to catch out the unwary. Last year I was crewing a Fireball out there in a steady 25 knot breeze, ideal conditions for this little scow derivative. The waves were quite nasty, square things, the boat fell off the top of a wave, the wire went slack and I was floating in mid air. When my body decided to obey the same law of gravity that the boat just had I hit the gunwale hard on both shins – ouch! My fine helmsman – Angus, kept the boat under and mast, I scrambled back out onto the wire and we thought no more about it. When I subsequently climbed out of the drysuit my boots were full of sticky blood and I had a big hole in both shins. This forced me to wear shorts in the bar just to show how hard I am. Silly old fool, is 53 to old to sail like this? I hope not.

24 01 2008

That’s the beauty of sailing I guess. Any age can take part, any age can get injured, and therefore any age can walk round the bar telling people how tough the sailing was but how he handled it without breaking sweat. What a great sport!
Sounds like you had fun. I’ve lost count how many times we’ve hit a wave down wind with our bodies, get washed off the back, only to be slammed back into the deck when the boat powers up again. That always hurts!

25 01 2008

I hate the gunwale to shin contact.

25 01 2008

The worst i’ve had was when we had just regripped the boat with skateboard grip at the Nats 3 or 4 years back. I ended up sliding down the gunwal on my arm, ripped clean through my rashvest and sliced me up, road rash style. I’ve still got the burn mark today. Still, a grippy boat is worth it!

26 06 2009

Why couldn’t you get it going upwind?

Did you pull up board? Ease jib pins, vang? Clamp cunno?

All that stuff?

Or was it really just so overpowered that you couldn’t do anything..
30 knots doesn’t seem like enough to do that.

26 06 2009

Board was up 6 inches. Jib pins eased, cunno all the way on, vang right off. It was breeze on, but it was the big sudden gusts that kept us from going upwind. If it was constant we could have trucked along happily, but with the big gusts hitting constantly it just got a bit shitty. The main was fully backed and we were still getting blown around, so we spun the wheel instead to get the kite up.

When I say we couldn;t get upwind, it;s more like it was just a bit shit. Getting blown around and not getting much pace is never any fun…

Btw, we weighed 148kg at the time, so we weren’t light at all.

14 07 2009

Ah yeh I get you now, been there it sucks when you can’t build the momentum you want.

Do you play alot of jib in those situations?

14 07 2009

Yeah we crack the jib off every gust that hits to stop the boat tripping over. You just have to be careful to get it back in when the breeze settles, otherwise you end up reaching everywhere 🙂

18 07 2009

Nice guys, cheers 🙂

17 09 2009

I sail an RS800 and have always used full vang in heavy weather, together with cunno if necessary. Could you explain why (and when) you’d ease the vang instead? Thanks.


17 09 2009

when you need to totally blade off the top half of the main. By easing the kicker when it’s truly breeze on, you get rid of half of the sail, so can keep the boat under control.

Also, try lifting the board when it gets this breezy. I’d only ever do this when the boat is properly tripping up, and you can’t get in to lift the board.

Hope that helps.

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