|Better Know a Viperer: Dave Nickerson|
|Written by John Q. Snakepit|
|Monday, 22 October 2012 17:25|
Dave Nickerson is the Viper 640 class's Technical Committee chairman. Dave, along with his Tech Committee colleagues Ben "Carbon Mongoose" Steinberg, Tim "Timbo" Carter and Professor Bob Matthews, are the keepers of the sword, inspecting Vipers with rulebooks in hand and ruthlessly burning tow lines that are a millimeter too thin and declaring that the brilliant and complicated spinnaker halyard retrieval takeup system that you spent all summer designing isn't class legal. Still, there are benefits to knowing the Class Cop, and in Dave's case, the knowledge acquired during his hundreds of hours of boatwork spent upgrading and perfecting one of the oldest Vipers on the racecourse can be transmitted over a beer post-race. The Tech Committee are also the guys who think about improvements to the class rules to keep the boat modern and fun to sail. Dave's also not one of those "soft drivers" who doesn't know what to do once he steps forward of the mainsheet bridle, as he spends 50% of his time crewing his boat when co-owner Moise "Mo" Solomon is on the helm. Dave is a veteran of at least a dozen one design classes, so we wanted to pick his brain about why he likes the Viper the best out of all of them...
Name: Dave Nickerson
Tell us a bit more about the origin of the name of your Viper: Second regatta for us: 2009 LIS Champs that Jonathan Nye hosted at Indian Harbor. Our friend Spike in the front of the boat looked back at Moise and me (very much newbies) as we were flying downwind in a big puff and said “you should see the grins on your faces”. He had pretty big grin too. So…
You have one of the oldest Vipers still out there on the racecourse, and have done a ton of work on it. What do you think were the most important projects to do, and do we dare ask how many hours you've spent working on Viper 18 over the years? Haven’t counted the hours – don’t want to, but I actually enjoy working on boats when I can. My co-owner, Moise Solomon is very handy. You wouldn’t want to hire us ‘cause we’re not that good, but we have passable combined skills. Most important projects: replacing the rudder tower with the Mk III design (mold courtesy of Ben Steinberg and Bill Griffin’s then new #110), adding forward footblocks in the cockpit, removing the old inboard shroud chainplates (ouch to sit on), 16:1 gnav on the Harken track (we prototyped the current setup thanks to Scott Norman there). On the “old-boat-and-we-had-to” list: paint topsides, redo cockpit non-skid, replace keel bolts that were pulling out, clear-coat the mast, fix gelcoat bubbles, new spin sock, new tail bags, new hiking straps, replace all lines, many new blocks, and so on...
Who introduced you to Viper sailing, and what drew you to the boat: Interesting story. A local club in Stonington, CT, SHYC, organized a “Sportboat Demo Day” in the fall of 2008. I had a J/22 at the time and got involved to make sure the 22 was part of this and was expecting to help grow the local fleet after new folks tried the boat. Great mix of 7 boats that sunny, breezy October day: Viper 640, K6, Open 5.70, the brand new Melges 20, Laser Performance SB3 (remember that one?), J/22 and J/80. All were supported by reps or class members and about 75 people showed up to go demo and sail some really fun boats. Moise was there that day and we happened to get a chance to go Viper sailing together with the-one-and-only, now-Governor Kay VanValkenburgh. It was all over for us and a partnership was born. The local group had their eyes opened and debated a lot about the two clear favorites – the K6 and Viper. Then the economy started to tank, 8 buyers became 6, then 4. In the end, Bill Griffin bought a new boat and Moise and I bought a used boat to hopefully jumpstart a local fleet (that is now at 4). And Bill and I sold our J/22s. Rumor is that Stonington local Rod Johnstone is still pissed at us. Sorry Rod… Still love your work – the J/35 I had for 14 years was really great in that era.
Tell us a funny story about Moise -- it seems like you're the half of the ownership team who most Viper sailors interact with: Moise has a very busy professional life and 6 year old daughter. He’d be a lot more involved in the Class if he could. So, no sh** there we were, driving across that huge bridge in Charleston after touring town the day sailing got blown-out at CRW in 2011. A big gust (40?, 50?) hits us from the side and the ski box on the top of Mo’s Excursion blows open, rips off, and our Viper top cover, bottom cover, mast cover, tie down lines, padding, a sleeping bag, etc get blown across the other cars, the other lanes and onto the other side of the bridge. Shoulda seen Mo’s eyes! No place to pull over, so George and I jump out at the bridge base and run back up the bridge. We got the covers back (bottom cover still has tread marks on it), but a lot of smaller stuff and the box cover flew away.
Tell us about the sailing conditions at your home port -- what is it like? Like a lot of the east coast, good breeze in the spring and fall, lighter in the summer. Some current and a few rocks. The weeds (mostly eel grass) seem to show up for August, but we now have a really effective weed stick design. No longer get psyched out by the local Melges 24s “Dave – watch this!” using their kelp cutters on a Weds night race.
When are we going to have a Viper regatta in Eastern CT? Hopefully, fall 2013 – we’re overdue in paying back folks at all the great places we travel to. Got a hoist in place this summer at New England Sailing & Science in Stonington (shameless plug: a great non-profit community educational program that my wife Cindy runs nessf.org). We need to raise the remaining funds for the 1 ton electric chain hoist and installation.
What do you do professionally: My career has been in the wholesale electric power industry and I’ve had a consulting practice in the business for about the last 8 years. Interesting stuff if you are a power geek, but most folks' eyes glaze over in about a nanosecond. Next question.
Do you have a basic race philosophy: Try to sail as well as Brad :^).
Any other sports or hobbies: None that matter.
What's most frequently played on your iPod these days? Retro phase. Seem to be playing Steven Stills a lot on Pandora.
What's one thing that you'd want people from the Viper class to know about you that they probably don't: I’ll soon be the commodore of the infamous Mystic River Mudheads. Actually a really great group that’s the core of competitive sailing around here.
What is the one sailing accomplishment that you are most proud of? I’m probably too modest to go there. How about nudging a son, who is now clearly a better sailor than I am. Dan stepped in for Moise after Mo’s knee operation late this spring and drove our Viper for Wickford and Larchmont. It’s really fun to crew for your own kid and sail with his college sailing buddies.
Why did you decide to throw your hat in the ring to become an officer of the Viper class? Dunno. Got initially involved with a group working on issues with the early Mark III boats with Rondar. Justin pulled me into the vortex from there.
What are some of the "upgrades" that you as Tech Committee chair would recommend that an owner of a brand new (Rondar Mark III or Mark IV) Viper do if they wanted to match the top guys in the class? Not much: minimum (legal) diameter lines, 16:1 gnav, Cunningham adjustable while hiking and the aft split-tail mainsheet set up with an auto-ratchet on the boom rather than at the swivelcam. Couple hours work.
What would you like to see the class do more of in the future? Coached clinics. I think we’re pretty good as a class about running organized debriefs periodically at regattas to share the insights of the top guys, but the occasional additional opportunity to do drills, see video, and get advice and tips in a coaching environment can help us all improve and make the racing even better.