SPRING 1994 NEWSLETTER
                  by Paul Kamen, Fleet Measurer
Status of the Fleet
Activity in the fleet continues strong, with 7 boats sailing in
the Metropolitan Midwinter series this year. Along with regulars
Chesapeake, Dr. Who, and Twilight Zone, we also had Paddy Murphy
under new management. Redline was back, and Tomboy and Double
Agent came out.
Not present for the midwinters were Fudge Factor and Lost in
Space, taking the winter off. They'll be back in the spring, and
Incorrigible is also threatening to join us.
A few other boats have made noises about getting involved in
racing this year, and there's a good chance we'll have more than
10 boats on the starting line for Vallejo. Don't miss this
weekend! Even if you don't consider your boat a competitive
racer, the Vallejo raft-up and party is one of the highlights of
the season. You can enter the Vallejo Race without entering the
entire YRA season for $55 (see entry forms included with this
To enter the entire YRA season costs $135. This includes Vallejo,
the Second Half Opener Point Bonita Race (which ends with another
party/raft-up at Encinal YC), and nine other races on the YRA
schedule. Six of these are also proposed for our one-design
series. Make sure you get your entry in by April 8.
If you enter these or any other handicap races you'll need a PHRF
rating to be scored in the handicap fleet. The application form
included has all the numbers filled out for a stock Merit. Cost
is $20 for a new certificate, $10 for a renewal.
Have You Paid Your Class Association Dues?
Not to worry, there aren't any! To keep running the class simple,
we're not collecting any money. If you own a Merit 25 that sails
in the Bay Area, you're automatically a member in good standing.
Our only expense is an occasional roll of stamps for these
mailings, and various active fleet members have volunteered to
help with this when necessary. Let me know if you don't want to
get the newsletter, and we'll take you off the list. Also let me
know if you have any corrections or additions to the fleet
roster. I'm especially interested in email addresses or fax
numbers (provided you don't mind getting sailing-related faxes)
so we can experiment with electronic distribution.
(low-point scoring, one throw-out)
April 30       VALLEJO RACE (HDA #1)
May 1          VALLEJO RACE (HDA #2)
May 14         South Bay race (HDA #3)
June 25        Cityfront race (HDA #6)
July 16        South Beach SSS doublehanded race
July 30        EYC 2nd Half Opener Point Bonita race (HDA #7)
August 13      Sears Rock, out the Gate past Bonita and back (HDA
March 26-27    BYC Wheeler Regatta - possible Merits one-design
April 2        Doublehanded Farallones
April 8        Friday Night Races start at Berkeley (Weekly
               through Sept.)
April 10       Pineapple Sails One-design Race Clinic (Berkeley
               Yacht Club)
May 21-22      Cruise to Redwood City, raft-up in Secret Slough
May 28         CSC Ashby Shoal Breakfast (must be seen to be
June 4         HDA #4&5 Knox area, 2 races (SYC)
June 25        SSS Singlehanded Transpac start
July 9-10      Angel Island raft-up
July 11-14     Pacific Cup starts
July 24        Silver Eagle long distance bay race
July 31        HDA #8 (second day of EYC 2nd Half Opener)
August 27      HDA #10 North Bay race (TYC)
Sept. 2        Windjammer (race to Santa Cruz)
Sept. 3        Jazz Cup (race to Benecia)
Sept. 10       HDA #11 Cityfront race
Sept. 24       HDA #12 Berkeley race (RYC)
Sept. 24-25    Angel Island raft-up
October 8      Nimitz Level-Sum Team Race at BYC
October 29-30  RYC Great Pumpkin Regatta - possible Merit one-
               design class
Here's the proposed schedule for '94. As in previous years, the
idea is to keep the official one-design series light, to avoid
racer burn-out and to encourage high participation in the
selected events. Some of the more ambitious racers will also be
competing for the HDA (Handicap Division Association) title, and
this schedule is compatible with that program.
Of the 12 HDA  races, we've chosen six of them to count for the
one-design series, plus the doublehanded South Beach race. This
schedule includes the long-time favorite Vallejo Race, plus one
Cityfront, one South Bay, and two out-the-Gate-and-back courses.
By entering HDA you will automatically be entered in all the HDA
The South Beach race requires a separate entry to Singlehanded
Sailing Society. This race starts and finishes off South Beach
Marina, and goes up to Red Rock and back.
One-design class rules will apply for all of the seven races in
the one-design series.
Included with this mailing is a copy of the latest revision of
the Merit 25 r than those from Kenyon are
now allowed as long as they meet specifications, certain mast
reinforcing is allowed, and a higher spinnaker halyard exit is
For several years now the rules have not placed any limits on
battens in either mains or jibs, and I've found that battens in
jibs, even in the 150 (two battens above the spreaders) have
dramatically extended the racing life of the sail. My heavy #1
was winning races for six seasons, including lots of Friday night
racing. This has definitely cut into my sailmaker's income! The
allowable mainsail roach is also a little larger than for most
other classes - so make sure your sailmaker has a copy of these
rules when you order new sails.
The most important change is the new high location for the
spinnaker halyard exit. This is similar to standard practice on
the Olson 30 and Express 27. With a cam cleat and a fairlead on
the mast, spinnaker sets and drops are controlled by the foredeck
crew, and happen about four times as fast as with the standard
I'll cast modesty aside and announce that Twilight Zone has had
an exceptionally good winter racing season. In the Metropolitan
Midwinters we finished first in the Saturday One-design series
ahead of Double Agent and Tomboy, and also came in first in the
Sunday handicap division. The Islander 30 Antares was second, and
Double Agent tied with the Cal 29 Grand Slam for third. As of
this writing we're also first in our handicap class in the
Encinal Yacht Club midwinter series. In 11 years of racing
Twilight Zone in the midwinters, this is our first clean sweep!
Meanwhile Dr. Who came in first in class in the Three Bridge
Fiasco, with Chesapeake second. Dr. Who alo won the January
Chowder Race at Berkele Yacht Club.
We've been invited to share the secrets of a secret slough in the
South Bay by an informal group of sailors that calls itself the
"South Bay Muddies." They claim it's well worth the trip south.
Don't know exact location, so you'll have to check in for
instructions a few days before (I suspect it's in or near
Westpoint Slough, which is on the chart). This is also the Spring
"CyberCruise" for the electronic sailors on the internet. Lots of
interesting characters in this crowd!
This is Berkeley Yacht Club's big pre-season event. Unfortunately
it conflicts with the Singlehanded Farallones race, so Dr. Who
and Chesapeake will be occupied elsewhere. We need seven entries
for a one-design start, so get your entry in ASAP. (Bobbie
Tossie, 510-939-9885).
This is the annual one-day intensive course in starts and upwind
tactics, sponsored by Pineapple Sails and held at Berkeley Yacht
Club. Have your boat and crew at the BYC guest dock by 9:00 AM on
Sunday April 10. Guaranteed to make you a better racer in just 7
hours. Call Pineapple Sails (510-444-4321) for details if you
didn't get a flyer in the mail.
This question comes up all the time, and since right now I can
say good things about all four major local lofts, I'll put my
opinions in print. Disclaimer: these are just my opinions, based
on limited experience. Your mileage my vary.
1) Mainsail: Pineapple has had great success making fast dacron
mainsails over the years. My old dacron main, intended to be the
"beater" sail for cruising, daysailing and Friday night racing,
keeps on moving the boat faster than the newer and carefully
preserved North kevlar. This after some six seasons of hard
abuse. The North kevlar looked good at first, but somehow didn't
age gracefully. It's still fast in heavy air, but doesn't have
the range or the easy adjustability of the Pineapple dacron.
Bruce Koch (Lost in Space) has a new North kevlar main, built to
the maximum girth limits and with 5 battens instead of the usual
4, with the top 2 full-length. It promises to be a very fast
sail, but we won't know until he gets his new mast and gets back
into competition. (Lost in Space suffered mast damage during the
Second Half Opener last year, when a shroud came off the spreader
tip. Check your spreader tip lashings!) Meanwhile I have a North
"3DL" mainsail on order, also a full-girth, 5-batten design. If
it's not an unqualified success, then I'll probably be going back
to Pineapple next year for another dacron main. There are also
some Sobstad "Genesis" mains in the fleet that seem fast, but
there were some quality control problems with at least one of
them, and Sobstad seems to be reluctant to customize the design
very much.
2) 150% Genoa: The North "3DL" genoa, new this winter, has proven
to be a very fast sail. As much as I hate to agree with any
advertising hype from a sailmaker, I think North really is on to
something with the 3DL process. Conventional North jibs have
proven to have a very long competitive life, also. My old heavy
kevlar 150 was still winning races after 6 seasons of heavy use,
including Friday nights. Part of the longevity is due to the
battens in the upper leech, an innovation hat originated in our
fleet and has yet to spread very far. It's a minor inconvenience
getting the battens to clear the upper shrouds in light air, but
it's more than worth it in sail efficiency and long life. The new
3DL is my first 150 built with battens right from the start - all
the other batten-equipped genoas that I've used have been retro-
fits. Nobody knows if the 3DL sails will be as durable as the old
kevlar. It sure looks like fragile stuff, but so far so good.
If you're shopping price, the Sobstad "Genesis" line seems to be
a cost-effective way to get a high performance, low-stretch jib.
This process doesn't avoid major seems like the North 3DL, but
the price is right and they seem to perform very well.
3) Spinnaker: I like Marion spinnakers, but the margin here is
small. Pineapple is a very close second. My newest spinnaker is
an all-white 0.6 ounce dacron chute. Class rules specify
conventional 3/4 ounce nylon for the spinnaker, so this is just
for PHRF racing. It's proven to be spectacularly fast on a close
reach, butmight suffer in sloppy conditions. Marion has recently
become a UK loft, but they say that design and construction will
still be local.
Marion also has the best batten design, in my humble opinion. The
battens go in from the front end of the pocket, and are held in
place by a long velcro patch so there's no compression on the
very flexible forward tip. It would be very interesting to see
what they could do for a Merit mainsail. If I had an old short-
batten main that I wanted to retro-fit, I'd probably take it
4) 100% Jib: My North kevlar is satisfactory, but nothing
special. I don't think the North design really takes advantage of
the battens in the sail, because it still has the conventional
hollow leech. This might also be a good place to economize with a
Sobstad Genesis.
Again, these are just my opinions, based on far too few data
points. We'll be happy to print other comments or rebuttals with
the next issue of the newsletter.
Two boats are on the block that we know of: Bob Vogel is selling
FULL OUT, asking $8,000. Lots of equipment, a 1991 rig, and it's
had the keel reinforced. The other one for sale is Garrett and
Laurie Smith's DOS EQUIS, the first Merit on the Bay, built in
1979. It's advertised for only $5,000, and has a 1992 rig and
lots of sails. Their phone numbers are in the roster, let's help
them both find buyers who will keep these boats active in the
Friday Night Races start on April 8 at Berkeley Yacht Club, and
this year they'll be using the new "simplified" racing rules.
These rules are much easier for the new racer to understand and
observe, so if you've been shying away from entry-level racing
because of the complexity of the right-of-way rules, this is a
great opportunity. The big secret about these isrules is that
they will very likely become the basis of the revised official
IYRU rules in 1996. There are some interesting changes over the
"full" rules. For example, you are now on a new tack as soon as
you cross head-to-wind, not when you fall off to a close-hauled
course. There's no such thing as a yacht that is "tacking" under
these rules. (Why didn't I think of that?)
Most Merit 25s don't have a topping lift, and this means that you
always have to have someone hold up the boom (or use a backstay
hook) when you raise or lower the main. After a lot of shopping
around for a solid spring-loaded vang system, I settled on the
"Boomkicker," (model 100) which seems to be both the cheapest and
the best. It saves a whole crew position when raising, dousing,
and reefing the main, and also improves light-air sail shape by
supporting the boom. You need to take off the standard vang
fittings on both the mast and boom to install it properly, but
the result is a much cleaner and more powerful arrangement.
Every time I do this newsletter I'm able to add a few more email
addresses to the roster. In a year or two I hope to distribute
electronically, and save trees and stamps. Meanwhile, a lot of
information relevant to theMerit 25 fleet gets tossed around on
the "" newsgroup, accessible over the internet. A couple
of us, and some regular crew, are also active in the sailing
conference on The WELL, the Sausalito-based commercial bbs
specializing in recreational conferencing. That's where we really
plan the cruises, and a few of us even post detailed postmortems
of every significant race we sail in. Worth checking out if you
have a modem, and if a somewhat complex user interface doesn't
scare you off. 415-332-6106 (N-8-1).