TIPS FOR NEWPORT, BLOCK IS. RACES

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Sailors heading north for the Annapolis to Newport Race, starting June 15, or for the Storm Trysail Club's Block Island Race, over June 24-28, should note that two new Be Current! packages from Nolan Associates are available for these events.

Anyone familiar with the handy Be Current! series for the Chesapeake Bay racing season knows how useful the microcosmic tidal current flow charts can be in plotting strategies, especially for those with a smaller bank of knowledge gleaned from local experience to draw from.

The charts are shown graphically as well as numerically, hour by hour over the race course area, and it's good news that some "local knowledge" is available for the foreign waters up north.

Nolan Associates' Jim Nolan says that finding 0.1 knot of fair current can savenine seconds a mile at a boat speed of 6 knots, and 22 seconds a mile at a boat speed of 4 knots. Similarly, he says, avoiding 0.1 knot of foul current at a boat speed of 5 knots can save 14 seconds a mile.

Nolan also says that sailors in New England are more technologically oriented -- and more inclined to use all of the available assiststhey can lay their hands on -- than our own bay-area competitors. That can be a scary thought if one hopes to go up there and win by the seat of his pants alone.

Like its bay-race counterparts, the BlockIsland Race Week version of Be Current! includes detailed current-prediction information, charts and tables and plenty of nifty race-planning work sheets, which can be used as a logbook as well as a handy crib sheet for the navigator's pocket.

The Annapolis/Newport version is a more comprehensive package, with three distinct sections on the start from Annapolis to the mouth of the Chesapeake, the ocean fromthe mouth of the bay to Block Island, and the finish from Block Island to Newport.

Both start and finish sections are divided into manageable subsections, each of which is a stand-alone unit with explanations and instructions to reduce groping around from page to page.

If knowledge is power, and power means speed, it's good to know thatsome local knowledge can be purchased.

The Annapolis to Newport Race Be Current! ($25) and Block Island Race Week version ($20) are both available at Fawcett Boat Supplies, from CBYRA, or directly from Nolan Associates, 5415 Burling Road, Bethesda, Md. 20814-1213, phone 301/986-8948.

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It's National Boating Safety Week again, and just in time an important new publication to help boat owners avoid one of sailing's most potentially disastrous events is available free forthe asking.

As any sailor who has been through it can testify, a dismasting is one of the most terrible experiences there is on the water. Beyond the immediate shock and horror of the event, any dismasting can have life-threatening con

sequences as well as serious financial impact in terms of damage to your boat.

Certainly there are outside factors such as collisions or freak weather conditions that can contribute to a dismasting, but BOAT/U.S., the 385,000-member BoatOwners' Association of the United States, says most sailboat dismastings are caused by failure of fittings that hold the rigging together.

To spread information about potential rigging problems that can result in dismasting, the BOAT/U.S. Damage Avoidance Program recentlyproduced a "Mast & Rigging Self-Inspection Guide."

The free guidecontains a comprehensive checklist for routine inspections and regular maintenance of sailboat rigging to help skippers identify potential trouble spots and correct problems before an accident occurs.

The guide says most dismastings are the result of failure of tangs, turnbuckles, chainplates and the smaller screws, bolts and pins that hold everything together, as well as skewed spreaders and rotten bulkheads that are used to anchor the chainplates.

Among the tips in the guide, BOAT/U.S. recommends the following:

* Use a magnifying glass to check terminal fittings for cracks, as well as distortion and rust. Take tiny cracks seriously -- they can grow larger quickly.

* Turnbuckle barrels should be secured to the threads, either with rings, cotter pins or by tightening locknuts.

* If the mast is steppedon deck, it must be supported properly down below to avoid problems ranging from jammed doors or broken bulkhead bonds, to a sagging cabin top.

* Look for signs of galvanic corrosion (white powder) or pockmarks at the maststep or where dissimilar metal fittings (winches, cleats, etc.) are attached to the mast. Also check the maststep for distortion, which can occur when the mast is cocked to one side.

* Do welds on the mast and boom show any signs of crevice corrosion? Welds that aren't done correctly have sharp edges and crevices that encourage corrosion. Welds that are cracked or badly rusted should be rewelded immediately.

* Spreaders should bisect the shrouds at equalangles. Spreaders that are cocked too far up or down can slip, causing the mast to buckle suddenly. Spreader ends should be secured to the shrouds with seizing wire and then protected with tape or a rubber boot. Exposed spreader ends are sharp enough to shred the genoa when the boat is on the wind.

* Look for signs of leaking around the chainplates. If water enters the deck's core, it eventually could lead to structural problems. Even more serious is a leaking chainplate attached to a wooden bulkhead beneath the deck. Water entering the wood can cause rot, which weakens the bulkhead so that it won't support the chainplate and the rig's heavy loads.

From our own experience, and from talking with some local rigging experts, additional importanttips for preventing a catastrophic rig failure include regularly checking all clevis pins for signs of bending -- a sure sign that a shroud or stay has been overloaded. This is particularly true for a headstay, which takes the hardest pounding in waves and can become work-hardened with the extra exercise. A headstay is often more failure-prone than other stays and shrouds.

While you're up at the pointy end,it's especially important that roller-furling systems receive properregular maintenance. Without it they are likely to fail, bringing down the sail, the headstay and even the mast -- "which can really ruinyour whole day," one expert added.

Spreader bases -- especially those made of easily cracked cast aluminum -- and swage fittings need to be checked regularly for signs of wear. Swage failure, too, is a primary cause of dismasting.

To receive a free copy of the "Mast & Rigging Self-Inspection Guide," write BOAT/U.S., Department G, 880 South Pickett St., Alexandria, Va. 22304, or call toll-free at 1-800-678-6467.

If in doubt about your rig's condition, if it's been a while since it had a really intensive check-up, or if you suspect you may have a problem beyond a simple fix, it's usually wisest to call on a professional rigger for a thorough inspection and a proper repair. With rigging, prevention is always the best, safest and least-expensive cure.

Nancy Noyes is a member of the Chesapeake Bay Yacht Racing Association and has been racing on the bay for about five years. Her Sailing column appears every Wednesday and Sunday in The Anne Arundel County Sun.

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