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Jane’s Lifejacket Quest
So, it’s time for a new lifejacket, better known now as a PFD - Personal Floatation Device. My current one is pretty worn out, over 10 years old, and the pocket zipper broke. It also has some features I don‘t like so much.
Jane’s new PFD requirements:
Comfy, with unrestricted arm movement
Center front zipper - not a pullover or side zip
Full thin back floatation - not the thick chunk of foam below the neck that kayaker’s like
Not too thick in front
Pockets for radio, snack, and lip balm
Full or bucket trapeze harness friendly
Of course, I want my PFD to be USCG Approved. With a previous “floatation device”, I would have to ask everyone in my racing class if they were OK with it - meaning they would not protest me. Lots of people still wear this well known (and very comfy) side zip jacket, but it’s just not worth the hassle.
Many racers today sport those minimal PFD’s, very sleek and smooth, some with minimal (not USCG approved) floatation, which they wear cinched down tight, and under a rashguard to minimize snagging on stuff. Some are “impact rated”. Minimal pockets. One even has a sleeve for a 10 minute air tank in case you get trapped under the boat. I am way past that stage. I sail mostly in hot weather. I consider myself a competitive sailor, but comfort, air circulation, and convenience top my list.
Lots of PFD’s these days are pullovers or have a side zip. I prefer a front zip, that I can leave open on really hot days, and is easier to put on. The “valley” made by the center zip helps me find my trapeze hook, unlike the side zip/pullover - where the trap hook is “down there somewhere”.
Many of the nice PFD’s today are made with kayakers in mind. They can be very thick in the front, with a thick block of foam behind your neck in the back, then sometimes a mesh back below that. The back thick block of foam is meant to ride above the kayaker’s seat back. However, when sailing, that thick chunk by your neck catches on the sail/boom as you go under. A kayaker paddles with their arms spread wide. Thick front panels can interfere with sailing motions (sheeting) where your upper arms are closer to your body, and also make it hard to hook up to the trapeze . I wanted a smooth full back panel with thin back floatation that doesn’t catch, and front panels that do not restrict movement.
The thin full back PFD design works well with full trapeze harnesses too, worn either under or over the harness. PFD’s with those short thick backs might be good for half harnesses.
Pockets. I now carry a radio on my person, instead of in my tramp pouch. I was recently working a regatta where a competitor called out on his radio to inform the RC that he had capsized and was separated from his boat. A radio in his tramp bag wouldn’t have done him much good. With it’s floaty mast bob, my Hobie Wave can easily get away after a capsize. I also carry a whistle, some lip balm, a spare watch, and an energy bar in my life jacket. Sometimes a knife too. You need pockets for that. There are some excellent Fisherman PFD’s out there with gobs of great pockets - but watch out that those pockets aren’t too thick. Some pockets are actually constructed with a radio in mind - with 2 zipper pulls that meet around the radio antenna.
Choosing the contenders
More than half of the PFD’s I looked at lost out in the 1st round. Mostly because they were a side zip/pullover, or because they utilized the thick high back foam. This included the Hobie side zip (side zip, back), Stohlquist Edge (side zip, back), Zhik USCG Approved (side zip), Astral EV-Eight (back), Forward WIP (not USCG approved), and Magic Marine center zip (not USCG approved). All the side zip models had crappy pockets, except the Zhik, which has a huge center pouch pocket.
I took lots of pictures of the top 2 finishers, but the PFD manufacturer’s websites have better ones. Check the back and front designs, zipper placements, pocket layouts, and colors of ny PFD you are interested in buying.
All these PFDs had center zips, full thin backs, were super comfy, unrestrictive, and USCG approved. Pockets were good. If pockets are not important, you have a much larger pool of choices. Go for it!
I would like to have tried the Hobie Thinback and/or the Hobie Women’s Thinback PFD’s. They appear to check all the boxes, but nobody seemed to have any in stock. I didn’t like the colors offered too much either.
3rd place went to the Astral E-Linda (REI, online) - a woman specific model designed to cup and support “the girls” instead of mashing them down. It did accomplish that, but it’s pockets were a bit too small for my full size radio. Very comfy. Colors were not my favorites. It looks like the Stohlquist Betsea is very similar.
2nd place went to the Astral E-Ronny (REI, online) - which easily checked all my boxes, and was the best looking PFD of them all. The ventilated split back (Thin Vent) should help dissipate heat. My radio (or phopne) fit easily in the left zipper pocket or the left elastic mesh pocket. I loved the brilliant Fire Orange color, but it is also available in Space Black, Soil Tan, and Water Blue.
1st place - Winner, winner, chicken dinner - went to the NRS Odyssey (NRS, online) - which also easily checked all my boxes. The inside back features raised mesh bumps - the Cool Flow System, designed to improve ventilation. Both left and right outer pockets are designed to hold a VHF radio (or phone), so there are 2 zipper pulls which meet at the antenna. There are also zip pockets behind the radio pockets. You can get most of your hand inside that inner pocket, which could even take a handwarmer (I needed those a few times this year). I also liked the simple bottom clip, which would allow me to safely unzip the PFD to ventilate between races on really hot days, and is meant to keep the PFD from riding up. A final big plus for the Odyssey was that the shoulder straps had a place to fully tuck the ends away. No more shoulder straps flappin’ in your face. Those pockets might be too much for some, but they are just right for me. Available colors are Red, or Charcoal with bright green accents.
Test fitting any PFD
Loosen all the side straps and the shoulder straps. Put the PFD on, and zip it up. 1st tighten the lowest straps, and work up. Go easy there, it’s not a straitjacket. Unless it’s blowing 20+, or you are sailing far from shore, or you are in the Olympics - you probably don’t need the straps overly snug. The PFD should be comfy and un-binding. Last, tighten the shoulder straps. To test - sit down in a sailing position, squat, kneel and crawl. Windmill your arms and making “sheeting” motions. The PFD should not chafe your inner arms, interfere, or ride up. Take the PFD off, put it back on, and tweak your strap adjustments. Try the PFD over your trap harness, or possibly under your trap harness. Does it ride up and irritate your chin? Can you lay on your belly - for those light wind days, or on your back - for between races resting.
Just like my foot protection, hat, sunglasses, and gloves, I never leave the beach without my PFD. Wearing my PFD at all times gives me a sense of security and safety, plus it is easier than tying the thing down on the boat. I encourage all sailors to wear their PFD all the time, every time, no exceptions.
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Greetings FWC Members!
I hope you all are enjoying the warmer weather and have taken the time to do some sailing! It’s been great to see boats on the water again, and to have some successful regattas in the books. Here’s your May newsletter.
What’s going on?
The FWC leadership team has been busy planning another large, unique, and exciting event. We put a little teaser video out on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, but if you missed it, here is the official announcement: We are excited to share that we are planning a distance race, scheduled for August of 2024!
The Wave 100 will be sailed on Lake Michigan and will see sailors sail from South Haven, MI to Michigan City, IN, over the course of three days. This is most definitely going to be an endurance race, and while we are working hard to make safety a top priority, it’s not going to be a typical regatta! Please look for more information on this exciting race soon!
**Some of you might be asking “Why the Wave 100? Those locations are not 100 miles from each other...” Right you are, astute sailor! 100 miles was determined to be probably a bit too far for the Wave, but this route will give us about 60 miles of sailing distance. 60 miles is pretty darn close to 100 kilometers! **
Our first two Regional regattas are in the books, and we have posted recaps of each to our website!
Read about the Mid-South Regional here
Read about the Southeast Regional here
Speaking of the website, I want to include a section in the next few newsletters to highlight some different parts of our website. Often times, visitors only visit 1 or 2 pages, but we have a lot of great information scattered throughout! The page I want to showcase today is the Information Page
On this page, we have linked important documents like our rules and bylaws, season points, past meeting minutes, and more. Towards the bottom of the page you will see an archive of previous race results. If you ever want to walk down memory lane, or settle the argument about who beat who at a certain regatta, look no further than the Info page!
Our next big regatta is the FWC Championship in Yankton, South Dakota! This is a favorite sailing destination for many Midwest sailors – a great beach area, on site camping, beautiful scenery, and of course, generally good winds! Yankton has been host to many championship level regattas in the past, most recently the Hobie 16 and 20 fleets in 2017.
Prices for the regatta increase on June 1st, so please don’t delay – if you are going to come sail, sign up today! Registration can be found on Regatta Network
We are excited that Jane Sherrod will be available to host a quick clinic on Thursday evening for any newer or novice sailors. We certainly want this regatta to be open and accessible to all, and we hope this gives any sailors who may not have as much experience some confidence to come and learn and compete well!
See you in Yankton, South Dakota, June 23-25.
Other upcoming regattas include:
North Coast Regional, Put-in-Bay OH - August 4-6
Deep South Regional, Ocean Springs MS - October 13-15
Florida Keys Regional, Key Largo FL - December 1-3
In addition to those, we have some Tier 3 regattas coming up soon:
Mid-Americas Area Championship, Dallas TX - May 27-28
Candler Regatta, Panama City, FL - June 3-4
Membership remains at $25 for the calendar year and is required for our Tier 1 and Tier 2 regattas. It is optional for Tier 3 regattas, however only FWC members will earn season points at Tier 3 events. If you have completed your 2023 membership – thank you! If you haven’t yet, I would encourage you to do so by following this link (https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/FormulaWaveClass) or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Our referral system is still in place! Refer a brand new member to the FWC and earn $5 off next year's membership cost (max of $25)! If you have questions about how this works, please contact us to ask any questions!
Our youth membership is only $10, and we strongly encourage any younger sailors to jump on a wave and come race!
I want to make sure you are aware of all other resources we have for you to stay connected and informed.
· Social Media
o Follow us on Facebook for updates, information, and sometimes just for fun pictures and all things Wave sailing!
· This is a user content generated forum for you to start conversations, ask questions, or discuss whatever is on your mind when it comes to Wave sailing and racing! Check it out if you haven’t yet!
As always, Thank You to everyone who supports and sails with the FWC. It’s truly an honor to be part of this amazing class and fun group of sailors. See you on the water soon!
FWC - President
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Just returned home from a fantastic 3 days of sailing from James Island Yacht Club in Charleston SC. Beautiful and historic locations - Ashley and Cooper Rivers confluence, tidal flows, various wind conditions, and very tight challenging competition. My hosts - Jay and Kathy Adams - provided such warm and fun hospitality that it was hard to leave. The great race management team managed to get 12 races in the 3 days of sailing. They were certainly ready to keep going on Sunday after 2 races, but we sailors had had enough. Plenty variety with both windward-leeward and triangle courses. The guys were sailing in spray tops and shorts, while I was mostly fine in full armor wetsuit, kneepads and furry spray top.
James Island YC has a large grassy area for setup, and a very nice sandy/shell beach for launching. After racing, there is a friendly bar - and popcorn! Also a handy covered area with chairs and couches to hang out.
Sailors were treated to a full range of wind conditions - from 8-10 its - to absolutely nuclear gusts. Wait times were well spent visiting and swapping stories, and comparing the different boat setups. Doug Seib even set up his awesome Wave spinnaker for all to see.
The St Simon's Surf Sailors - or as I call them - "the 400's" represented the great state of GA, the FL bunch from Mt Dora area, Doug from OH, and me from TX, and Jay Adams representing the home club - a fun and competitive group.
You know it's windy when the boat is litterally shaking, you can't manage to get the mainsheet pulled in for more that a few seconds, you are waiting desperately for a lull and flatter water to attempt a tack, and you are so far back on the boat going downwind that you are in the guy behind you's lap. Turning downwind from the weather mark was particularly exciting. I witnessed some great saves - especially enjoying Terry Warren's boat doing a beautiful headstand and pirouette, followed by a less graceful crash landing. I understand that Jay Adams also did an impressive headstand as well, but I was afraid to look behind me at the time.
On the last race, Doug's rudder would not lock down, and while giving him plenty of room at the gybe mark - Jay swooped in and turned that advantage into a horizon job. Beautifully done.
Note from Ted: remember to sail the right course - Ted was sailing like a scalded-ass-ape towards the windward mark instead of the finish. Nice of the PRO to ask his intentions so he could come back.
Note from Roland: never put sunscreen anywhere above your eyes.
I managed to measure a bunch of boats, and several sails. Not really sure what the numbers tell us, but they are interesting to see. Numbers will be published on the FWC pages.
Be sure to add the Charleston SC regatta at James Island Yacht Club to your schedule for next year.