North Sails LOFT NEWS

August 20, 2018


A New Boat, A New Season, And Lots Of Ambition!

Growing up sailing, Will French experienced all dimensions of the sailing world – junior sailing, racing, coaching, crewing and even program running. Within the last few years though, he’s added boat owner to his list of credentials; first purchasing a CS27 and most recently upgrading to an Olsen 911SE. Fixing her up throughout the long, cold winter in Toronto, Will and his crew were eager to dive into the racing circuit with the new boat come spring. In addition to racing, mainly distance, Will and his crew of friends (many of who he’s taught to sail over the past couple of years) are regulars during weeknight racing at their home club of Lakeshore Yacht Club.

We caught up with Will to get insights on his program, his new boat, and his upgraded North Sails inventory.

What prompted the new boat? Looking for a new adventure/challenge?

More race oriented instead cruising and I looking to get back to a boat that was more familiar with what I grew up on. Soca Junkie, CS27, was more an affordability thing really. If you want to grow at the same rate (perform at the same level) then on to the next boat [Olsen 911SE].

So you’ve always wanted to do more performance race stuff, more race oriented versus cruising?

Absolutely. I’ve been racing for over 15 years. So with J/24’s and then on 36.7’s, and then the F40. So I was wanting to get back to a boat more familiar to what I grew up on. But at the same time, like my crew is all just neighborhood buddies that I grew up with; So none of them are sailors.

How did you get the crew that you have?

Well, so my first boat wasn’t cool enough that any of my sailing buddies wanted to come sailing, because they were still all on the 36.7’s and whatever. And then, so I needed a crew. So I recruited some of my buddies, and so I’ve literally trained them from, this is the boat [this is what a boat is]. So for the crew that I’ve got, we’ve been pretty good. So part of it was a that affordability [for the new boat jump], and then also wanting to make sure that they could then take that next step and that they could perform with the new boat. Obviously the new boat would demand more of them than Soca Junkie, which was a great place to start.

Describe the type of racing you typically compete in (e.g. club, long distance, etc…)

We try to do everything – long distance, short handed, LOSHRS [Lake Ontario Single Handed Racing Series]. We’re not doing open’s yet because we’re still learning the boat but if there were enough crew interested and committed to doing it, then I’d do it. Right now though we’re mainly focusing on Wednesday night’s, the Lake Ontario 300 and general distance racing within Lake Ontario.

When did you start sailing and how has your program evolved over the years?

I started sailing when I was five years old. Definitely more aggressive sailing these days. What has been the most interesting really has been the new crew. The new crew has allowed me to look at sailing through their eyes and see things from a new perspective. It hasn’t been without bumps along the way; the crew has had to learn a whole new boat and many of them have only been sailing for about two years or less maybe. I try to always take out new crew who haven’t been sailing long and train them from scratch. I think if anything over the past years especially working with the crew that I got now, it’s made me calmer, not in the sense of pulling back, but just having to look through the eyes of someone brand new again, after so many years of sailing with people where you didn’t even have to talk move and you knew what to do. So that was a challenge, for sure. But that’s part of it is getting new people into it.

What were the motives to purchasing two new spinnakers?

It was just the boat came with everything in great condition sail wise, inventory wise, but the kites were old. I decided to go all in with new kite’s based upon the inventory the boat came with and the sailing we were going to be doing this year.

How have they assisted in your performance for racing this year so far?

Yes, but they’re pretty easy to figure out. Like the one sale that I’m more so still trying to figure out a little bit more is, the A1/A3, that me and Geoff sat down with, because it was kind of cool. So we basically took our PHRF certificate, and then, calculated out how could we design a kite that would optimize the PHRF without taking a hit; so we sat down and worked out the calculations. Geoff and I designed it more like asymmetrical reacher to fly off a pole.

Tell us about the LO300 and Susan Hood using your new kites.

Well, the fact that they were Air X really helped out, because it was mostly light air sailing. So that definitely helped out with being able to even get the difference between a zero and point five knots. If it was like the heavier cloth that just wouldn’t lift but with the Air X it was just able to lift that much [more], we keep going forward and finished faster.

What’s your best advice for someone looking to race & cruise their boat? Especially when it comes to new sail purchases?

Tweaking and upgrading parts as best you can. With older boats, try to think of the mindset of now and what you’ll be doing when sailing – don’t be afraid to try new setups on older boats when re-designing. One thing that I’ve always tried to do is, especially with older boats, and having like some background on the newer boats is, if this boat was redesigned today, how would they lay it out? Because the mindsets of today weren’t the same that they were in 1988. Sometimes you look back in time and you’re like, what were you thinking? So don’t be afraid to try new setups. Just because it was designed that way, years later it doesn’t mean that there’s a better way to do it. I think people get stuck with that, like they got a boat, and they think it has to say the exact same way with the setup, and they’re just terrified to change anything because they’re like, well, it’s not designed that way. It’s like, well it wasn’t designed that way when they made it, but it doesn’t mean it won’t work. For sails, depends on the purpose. If we’re talking strictly racing, I would go bang for buck. So like, Lake Ontario obviously we get tons of light breeze. So if you don’t have a good kiter, a good main, a good light number one, there’s 75% of your season, where you’re not using the best that you got. But then also, I think it comes down to what’s your style? Like, are you the type that’s more, I like to keep people far away? For me, I like to keep a buffer, more conservative; but for others it’s like Are you the type that, likes to get within a foot and aren’t afraid to do close crosses, or you need something of like, 75% this is going to work 25%, this is gonna be horrible.


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