The run from the Burlington lift bridge to PCYC is 19 nautical miles. With a typical breeze, one could count on a pleasant three to five hour journey, depending on wind direction. But light wind can make this leg feel like Homer’s Odyssey — during the Susan Hood, a very similar leg (CCIW spider to PCYC) took us 8 hours!
But twice now, sailing with Rick Culver, we’ve done the trip in 2.5 hours.
The first time, the Monday after the Susan Hood, three of us (Lazy Sheet, Rick and me) were sailing upwind with the #3 on a close reach. That meant an average speed of 7.6 knots upwind, and a peak speed of 8.1 knots — planing upwind!
Yesterday, the wind was just aft of the beam, and Rick and I only set the headsail (our old #1), leaving the mainsail neatly packed away. Once again our average speed was 7.6 knots (downwind this time), with a peak speed of 9.1 knots. Wit a bit of wave on the water, we could get PERSPECTIVE riding the gusts and waves for long stretches. It’s amazing how smooth and creamy the helm feels when the boat pops up onto a plane.
Here’s an aside about hull speed and planing. A displacement boat (monohull that sits in the water), has a maximum speed that is defined by its length. This is the boat’s hull speed. Bigger boats have higher hull speeds. For a 10m boat (PERSPECTIVE) our hull speed is 7.6 knots. For a Viper 830 (8.3m), the hull speed is 7.0 knots. But light boats, like the Viper are able to lift up out of the water and begin to plane like a surfboard. Once a boat is planing, there is no longer a speed limit, and the boat can go much faster than its hull speed. PERSPECTIVE is quite a bit heavier, than a Viper so she needs more force to rise out of the water, but she can. Every time we’ve sailed faster than 7.6 knots, we’ve been planing. And when we do, because the physics of surfing along the surface of the water are so much different that the physics of pushing water out of the way, the experience on the helm is also very different. When the boat rises up, the forces on the tiller become very light, the sound of the wake changes to a shhhhhh sound, and the smile on the helmsman face gets wider and wider.
So coming back to our two quick trips to PCYC this year, I notice that our average speed 7.6 knots is exactly our hull speed, which means to me that we were planing half the time!
Rick will be joining us on the Lake Ontario 300 this summer. If he brings planing conditions with him for that race, we’ll have to give him a nickname, like “surfer dude”.