Written by Everybody at CRW

If anyone has stories or pictures from CRW that they would like added to this informal, organic article, please email them to Justin or Dan and we will add them.

Come back to this page and check it out again. We will add more articles and more pictures as they come in.

The first contribution is from John Strauss. This was not only his first Viper regatta, but his first ever time racing a sailboat. The Viper is all about the “young at heart” and John shows that you can never stop having fun.

“Just returned to Campton Hills, IL 60175 and thought I’d chime in a bit.  #99 had an awesome time. 

 Yes, we were a bit slow and yes, we sailed jib/main on Sunday  BUT  Given that I turn 65 in a few days and that this was my very first race/regatta of any kind , I had an incredibly successful event.  I particularly enjoyed the chaos at the start and the traffic at the windward mark was terrific to experience! 

 I bought my first Viper #34 in 1997 and have only day sailed until this event.  Brian/Paul were kind enough to give me a deal on #99 at the recent sail show in Chicago, which we christened over the weekend and I have to thank them for talking me into participating .  Though we never sailed together before this event, my crew Christian Jensen and Philip Kwasinski were not only knowledgeable and experienced but a lot of fun on the boat.  I could never have done this without them. One final thought:  Damn, you guys really know how to sail these Vipers!  Keep it up and thanks for the show!

John Strauss “

Tac Boston from Doyle-Boston sailmakers ran a coach boat during the regatta. He posted on his blog with many useful tips and pointers.

Here they are:

Good day All!

I am just back from Charleston Race Week, where I sat in a RIB each day, watching, coaching and rescuing flip flops, hats and missed beer cans. It is always an interesting time when you are at a regatta and not sailing. Can’t say that I totally enjoy it but you always learn a lot by watching how others are doing things.

I was there supporting Brad and his Viper 640 team of Lee Shuckerow and Eric Vigrass. This is the second event that we at Doyle Boston Sailmakers have done in the Viper fleet and it certainly will not be the last. If you remember I sailed the St. Pete NOOD regatta on the Viper.

For this event we brought a new set of sails, version 2.0 if you will, that we finished just minutes before jumping in the van and heading south. The new sails are a tweak from the sails that I used in St. Pete, we felt that we were close to what we wanted but we knew we had lots of room for tweaking and that is what we did. The new sails are very nice and people on the race course really noticed that Brad was there. The boys ended up 3rd in the event, not to bad considering the boat they used is anywhere from 75-100 pounds heavier then the rest of them!

Anyway, I wanted to talk more about my observations from the ‘Coach boat’ then how the sails looked or how the team sailed. One thing that the Viper class does that I really like is the top to bottom flow of information between the best of the fleet to the new comers and folks back in the pack a ways. One of the reasons that I went down in the RIB was to help the fleet out with observations and give folks that were struggling some help to improve their position in the fleet and that in turn increases their FUN factor.

The fleet is very open to help and is often rather spongy in wanting more help and more info on how to get better and get up the fleet farther. The Viper fleet, lead by Class President Justin Scott try very hard to have a debrief at the end of the day where the top boats from the day talk about how they were set up, how they sailed the day and what they might have learned. All of this to immediately helps the fleet get better and have closer sailing. I truly wish that more fleets did this!

For this event we only were able to hold one such debrief, on Saturday night, but the information shared was helpful for the fleet and I noticed that many of the things that we talked that night suddenly appeared on more and more boats. This shows that these folks want to learn and want to get better. For the debrief Ethan Bixby and Ched Proctor from North Sails and myself answered many questions and gave tips of what we saw, how they sailed that day from Ethan and Ched’s perspective as they sailed. It is always interesting to see how other teams come to the same solution using a different path.

Some of the things that I noticed from the Coach Boat are as follows.

1) Not trimming the jib hard enough.

Many of top crew have the sail geometry/dynamics set up so that when they are fully sheeting in going upwind in most breeze the clew of the jib is either two blocked or very close.

2) Having the jib tack way up in the air

Setting up with the tack to high in the air changes a couple of important things. 1) It changes the whole geometry of the jib, sheeting and set up. 2) It opens the end plate effect up. You will find that if your tack is up much more then 2” you will be quickly running out of jib track and you will not be able to slide the lead back to open the leech and “out haul” the foot.

3) Not having the main halyard hoisted all the way

Again this changes the sheeting geometry of the sail. It makes your leech appear longer, which with the bridle will not allow you to trim your mainsheet hard enough. It also means that you will end up with big wrinkles in the luff of your sail as the Cunningham will bottom out.

4) Forgetting to pull the outhaul back on before heading upwind

In the big breeze on Friday and Sunday, I noticed many times that as boats rounded the leeward with their outhaul eased way out, they would not hold the lane with the boat that had the proper set up. The boat with the eased outhaul was always over powered, heeled too much and going a bit sideways. All bad when trying to hold that lane either in front or behind the boat around you.

5) Not sailing with enough Vang/GNAV in heavy air upwind.

What happens here is that when you ease the mainsheet in the big puffs your boom raises and actually powers the sail more! Not at all what you want when you are already over powered.

6) Not playing the jib sheet enough in big puffs

With most sport boats, you will find that as soon as the breeze is enough to start washing out/flogging the mainsail you need to start to ease the jib sheet as well. Otherwise the boat loses balance and the jib starts to pull the bow down away from the breeze. The good guys are adjusting the jib with each puff to keep the bow moving forward.

7) Sailing with the rig too loose in big breeze

Again this allows the sails to power back up and makes the boat heel more and go sideways.

8) Great big giant smiles on faces going downwind in 20 knots of breeze!


Only cure for this is to go back to sailing lead mines!

I would like to end this little blog session thanking the Viper fleet for welcoming us into the class with open arms, say thank you to the Charleston Circle 1 Race Committee for running an excellent regatta and thanking you all for paying to attention to this blog.


These are some posts from Sailing Anarachy and Scuttlebutt

“There are some stories to be told from the roaring twenties course.

Friday was a big air day. One Vipe went aground on the way out to the race course, the lady helm got hit by the boom and was rushed off to hospital for 8 stitches on the forehead but was out racing on Saturday. Another Vipe got holed in a collision but an overnight working party of fellow Viper owners got the boat patched and racing again on Saturday.

There were at least two MOBs on Friday. The same guy from a Melges 20 was picked up twice !!! Both times by Vipers. I dont know the full story. Some say he jumped the second time. He was bobbing in the water at the windward mark. The mark patrol boat either didnt see him or couldn’t get to him (altho lots of boats were yelling at the patrol boat “There’s a guy in the water”), so John Porter who was next to me swept him up over the transom of his Vipe. Someone must have the scoop on how he got there.

Saturday was tactical and fun as predicted. Light in the first race, but really decent sea breeze at the end.

Good chalk talk and debrief by Ethan Bixby, Ched Proctor and Tac Boston after racing on Satuday.

We’ll see what today holds. Big drive home tonight .”

“We can add a bit to the story of the Melges 20 sailor who got picked up twice. We were a little bit ahead during the first pickup, beating on starboard, about a boatlength to windward and a bl behind hull 18. The guy seemingly fell out of the Melges on a wipeout, as the Melges just kept wiping out down the racecourse, they couldn’t get it under control to drop and turn around. So the guy was bobbing and waving right in front of 18, and those guys plucked him out of the water without missing a beat. I would say we gained maybe 2 bl’s from their pickup to their back on the wind and settled in – fantastic job.

What I heard from 18 is when they got to the windward mark, there was a gap to boats behind, the rc powerboat was right there, so the guy waved, rc waved back (what he thought was an acknowledgement), so he jumped in thinking they would come pick him up. They didn’t, and then porter (26) came by and plucked him up again.

RC gave 18 and 26 redress.

As others said, the racing on circle 1 was fantastic all weekend. We got a good mix of conditions, steady strong pressure, lighter winds, puffy shifts, and working the currents in both directions. Friday was definitely an all-smiles day. Someone said it at another regatta, racing Vipers on windy days is kind of like going to the water park …. you wait line 30 minutes on the way up for the joy of the 2 minute ride down. We had a new Velocitek speed puck on board, and the last two races were steady 13-15 all the way down. We peaked at 16.9.

I think race 4 on day 1 was a real test for the crews that were new to these boats, Laser and Melges included. Arms sore, legs sore, backs sore, soaking wet, and you really have to work these boats to go fast.
The racing got more and more challenging as the weekend progressed, particularly on Sunday. The fleet really compressed as the new crews, and crews new to Charleston, started to work things out. Racing was really tight on Sunday.”

from I-20 Westbound, having just crossed into Texas, towing The Stig (Viper #103) and Animal (Viper #102) on Ultraracer’s ultra cool Viper Texas Tow Rig (pictures below).

What an awesome regatta! Thanks to the organizers for putting on a fantastic event. This is definitely going to have to be an annual pilgrimage. It was also great to see a lot of old friends that I hadn’t seen since the Viper NAs in Marblehead last year.

Great mix of conditions, including “Baptism by fire” Friday, where we raced a brand new boat with a new crew for the first time in “dogs off chains” breeze (Woo Hoo!), to the lighter but equally fun tactical Saturday, to the breezy wrap-up on Sunday (ouch, my aching muscles!). We felt great that our results kept improving race by race, until we tore a big hole in the spanking new kite in Sunday’s first race  , and then sailed much more conservatively downwind (much to my crew’s chagrin) in order to not blow the kite up completely… Oh well. Such is life.

Totally agree with Saltwater Cowboy about the Viper fleet getting tighter and more competitive as the weekend progressed. Mark roundings on Sunday seemed quite a bit more crowded and exciting, and we were all really mixing it up at the starts, which was great fun. Heck, we even had our first general recall of the regatta…  I LOVE big fleet One Design racing!

Now about that Viper Texas Tow Rig:
Ultraracer built a rack for his F250 to put his boat on top of the truck. so we’ve got one viper on top and one behind. We got off the water a little after 3pm yesterday, were on the road by 6pm after leisurely getting things packed up, and by alternating driving and sleeping in 4 hour shifts, and we’ll be home in central TX by 2pm today. Road Trip, baby!

Next step, we’re going for a tandem trailer so we’ll have one Viper on the roof, and two stacked on a trailer. Three boats, three drivers, one tow vehicle, and the whole country within our non-stop reach!

From the Guy who won the SB3 class commenting on the various 20 foot sport boats on the line:

“Each of the boats has something special to offer.

Viper – Very Fast, simple, impressive (almost evil) looking, lowest price of the SB’s and very popular right now…today.
My crew Stephi could not stop talking about how sweet the boat looked! I agree, its really sweet looking.

Melges 20 – Fast, simple, attractive, expensive & exotic (which appeals to many) and sure to grow steadily in NA and Euroland.

Laser SB3 – Surprisingly fast, traditional sailing controls (some may enjoy this versatility), extremely easy to sail well (forgiving), lower cost, durable and tough (this boat is “well built”), safe, very stable and comfortable in big breeze and waves (Solent), huge class worldwide (maybe this will matter someday in North America, maybe not?)

As the Viper sailors stated, they all produced happy sailors, big smiles and that buzz downwind. No doubt the Viper and Melges have slightly more mojo downwind but its in the same ball park. I really hope they all hit it big to be honest. I would love to sail in more regatta’s like this one! In fact, I think they all will be a hit after my experience sailing in this event. The Viper already is frankly. I really dont think you can go wrong on any of the boats themselves. All of them rock in their own way.

The whole non-hiking thing, new to me and probably most of us, was pretty interesting. It was hard to fight the urge not to hike at first. I almost jumped out of the boat thinking I had my usual hiking strap to hold on too. It felt funny for a while and if you heel up alot your basically standing on the deck foot hold with your heels which isn’t always the surest footing! Over the first day, my brain slowly shifted to relying on the sail controls with the crew and managing the boat. Its a finesse boat upwind, for sure. Smooth and steady, drive carefully and aggressively to keep the boat moving. In non-hiking, calling the puffs upwind and down was extra crucial. On the Melges puff calling must have been life or death! It took some extra hard concentration upwind not to get knocked around in big gusts, or big waves (heels barely holding at times) and therefore get slow vs. your competition. Downwind, non hiking was not too much different as the boats do not really benefit from hiking when the breeze is up as you are deep enough not to get pinged. I can certainly see why non-hiking has caught on but is was not as relaxed as I had expected. It still took alot of effort and coordination, perhaps even more. The SB3 was still a very physical boat in the breeze. The loads on the asail sheet were pretty big for a 20 footer as well. Im not sure if your wife is going to enjoy that position in 15+! This is likely the SB3’s issue alone with its larger rig and higher weight.

Way too civil. From the Viper trenches the whole performance/adrenaline question is answered. The Viper is faster upwind and downwind in the conditions experienced at CRW. Upwind, the Vipe stays on her feet during the puffs and powers up faster in the lulls. Downwind the Viper sails faster and lower than both the M20 and the SB3. How do I know? After spending three days figuring out how to get around the other two despite their five minute (minimum) head starts, makes the point pretty obvious.

Here’s my analogy.

The Viper is the beautiful girl you meet at the bar who turns out to be really down to earth and into sex. The one that leaves you wondering how you got so lucky.

The SB3 is the girl you pick up 15 minutes prior to closing. You’re out of options and you’ve convinced yourself she’s not so bad. Sex is pretty good. She’s into it and grateful for the attention. You take her number figuring you’ll probably give her a call the next time you’re in town.

The M20 is the gorgeous gal with the perfect hair and makeup. You chat her up, realize she’s a pro but decide, what the hell? She gets you up to her room where everything turns out to be “extra”. Her tits are rock hard and the sex is perfunctory. By now you’re kicking yourself wondering what the hell you were thinking.

And LS, you’re deluding yourself if you really think the Viper’s ability to catch the other two was because we could see how the M20s/SB3s were sailing and benefit from that knowledge.

Sorry for being so un-PC

The peleton in this fleet doesn’t nibble. It bites! We slid down to 4th at one stage, but ground it back on the last 20 boat lengths on the 3rd windward leg.

Last Race
We saw the breeze going right with pressure just before the start so we adapted quickly to set up near the cttee boat. We had a clean start with no threat to windward, but with Justin Chambers and Mike Krantz on the Zhik boat (crummy buns) just to leeward going fast. The first 100 boat lengths was spent entirely focussed on keeping my lane above Zhik, bow to bow,without giving up speed. Justin is wicked fast and knows my style (we sailed together at the NAs) so one small slip and I would have been in his bad air. I couldn’t get over him, and he couldn’t get bow out on me so we hung together until he and a couple of other boats decide to go right and took my transom to head over there.

We looked around. It didnt seem like we were in left phase yet and I couldn’t see more pressure on the right, so we kept going. The stronger tide in the middle of the course was something to consider but we had been seeing all kinds of lefty puffs at the top of the course throughout the day so we decided to at least wait until we found one of those. Everyone going right was having to take our transom, but at Charleston a momentary lead can turn out to be illusory.

When most of the fleet had crossed behind us, still no real lefty, but with most of the fleet on the right the odds had altered and I started to figure in the risk of a left shift leaving us tacking above the layline, so we put in our first tack to cover the fleet. I seem to remember that Brad Boston looked pretty good of the right boats. We eventualy got a small left shift, allowing for tide we were still a good bit below the layline, so I felt good that we still had options.

The lefty faded and immediately some of the boats tacked and started making their way more to the left of us. John Porter had already got to the left of us. He was joined by Dave and Ethan and a couple of other good boats and I liked that left at the top of the course so we tack back on to starboard to make sure that we are the leading boat from the left. Sweet smooth tacks from my crew Jason and Tom who 2 days ago had never set foot in a Viper. I am getting super conscious that a big lefty could leave us overstood. A good sized lefty after a 100 yards and I flop back again. Now we are looking really good. The left boats are lined behind me and Rockhead has suddenly appeared probably the closest boat, bow out on us but a safe distance to leeward.

Then it gets tricky. The left boats tack again to get more to the left. Rockhead is the closest boat but four other boats are damn close, they have all gone left and I think there is more left to come. We flop over to starboard again to “own the left”. We get close to layline. We are 100 yards from top mark I have to go back. Back on to port, the lefty fades and Rockhead has us coming back on starboard. I would like to tack to lead him back left but we are out of race course and I dont want to be in his dirty air for the last 100 yards. Damn, where is that last lefty? I take Rockhead’s transom….at least I will be on starboard when we meet again. But the crafty bastard tacks and pins me to the layline.

Rockhead had me on the final exchange of tacks and is leading, but we are right behind him at the mark. Both boats hoist before the offset and take off on screaming plane. Both crews are whooping and hollering like we were about to scalp general Custer. Rockhead and I go way way back. We have been racing against each other in different classes on and off for over 20 years so this is not the first time nor the last that we have been duking it out. We get a great wave and we surf forward and to leeward, I’m thinking “Oooh I’m going to pin him for the jibe”, but I misjudge it, stay on the wave a bit too long and sail into his lee. The key in Vipers overtaking downwind is to work your way to leeward without actualy going into the dead zone beneath the leading boat. Soak it more if neccesary. I sail into the dead zone and we are forced to jibe away. Aaaargh.

Now we are on our own, trusting to lady luck, and we are going to be coming back on the port jibe. Its ugly when we come back. To cut a long story short and omit two jibes which didn’t change the picture we are 4th with 10 boats right behind us but wait, there’s good news, they are all dicking with each other and they are hot on the layline. We are perfectly set up on the other layline. Super smooth takedown from Jason and Tom and we round inside one boat and windward lane of another. One down, two to go. 10 boat lengths to get clear of the spinnakers and then we tack on to starboard and haul out to the left again.

It was quickly clear that the breeze was oscilating a lot more on this beat. The last beat of Charleston race week in the Viper fleet was simply epic. The front 20 boats were completely compressed, everyone was trying to tack in phase and keep clear air. God knows how many place changes there were on that final beat but it was a lot. Our plan was to work left staying in phase. There were times in righties where five boats on the right would look like they were in front of us but we always tacked and led them back to the left until we found the next lefty and then we took the heat right back to them.

Jnye said it right, the final battle was a tacking duel between two groups working at the top of the course from the left and right. I led the left group and then broke away from them and stayed on port well below the layline to cross the right group and catch one final piece of good pressure that we had seen at the top on the right. Nice lots of pressure , but its a big righty and we are above layline with two boats beneath us on layline, including Paul Zimmerman who has been going fast all week. We foot across their bows, hoist and go. Lots more pressure at the top, so we dont want to jibe until we are on layline. Paul is in second. He stays with us and then jibes first. We jibe . Flat out screaming plane. Building pressure. We’re being forced to sail lower to keep her flat. “Gawd are we overstood?” We eased the jib to keep it flat so we could heat up. Its nice we’re looking good. He’s trying like hell but Paul can’t get to us. Bang, the only bullet of the regatta. High fives with Tom and Jason who are jumping out of their skins with excitement. It was a real kick sailing with them for the three days, seeing them get faster and smoother every day and their transparent delight in the boat. I’m glad they got their bullet because they deserved it. Two new friends and a great weekend of sailing. What more could you ask for out of life?