Chesapeake Shorthanded Sailing Society (CHESSS)

The inaugural CHESSS Challenge is in the history books. CHESSS challenges are designed to help sailors gain experience and confidence in single-handing or double-handing their boat to a destination, and they culminate with a raftup and debriefing session to share lessons learned to help improve sailing skills.

CHESSS helps sailors gain experience and confidence in single-handing or double-handing their boat.

Starting under gray skies with solid winds out of the east, CHESSS members rendezvoused at R-2 off Annapolis. As it turned out all of the boats were being sailed single-handed. Consistent with the purpose of CHESSS Challenges, radio communications and boat to boat coaching was encouraged along the way with follow-up chats during the raftup. The trip to the Rhode River was fast in gusty, reaching conditions to the turning mark near Thomas Point, followed by a run between the turning mark and G-1 at the West River. This allowed skippers to experiment with comparative VMG’s deep reaching versus running wing and wing.

The first two boats to reach the river entrance experimented with heaving-to, a strategy to park the boat for a short time. There had been some question about the ability of fin keel boats to heave-to reliably and both skippers were able to show that even in gusty conditions both a Pearson 30 and a Farr 38 can indeed heave-to successfully.

CHESSS challenges culminate with a raftup and debriefing session to share lessons learned

The heaviest boat, a Pearson 36 cutter set the anchor, and the other skippers had the opportunity to practice coming into a raft up single-handed. It was a chance to think through where to place lines so that a solo sailor could pass them to another boat while still maintaining control, and where to place fenders. One by one the skippers helped each other tie up safely. Once rafted up, the skippers did a tour of each other's boats discussing features that worked well or not so well short-handed, and examined the details of each boat, solo setups, upgrades, and discussed future projects. In keeping with the goals of the Challenges, discussions took place on sail trim, and short-handed sailing strategies. The boats split off and anchored for the night. In the morning, two boats sailed single-handed off of their anchors without running their engines.

CHESSS members have been active this month. CHESSS members participated in the SCC/GIYS Spring Regatta and also sailed in the Down The Bay Race, four members raced in the Newport to Bermuda race, and so far eight boats are entered in the PSA Moonlight Race.

CHESSS skipper John Zseleczky summed it up this way, “I enjoy the CHESSS races and the Challenge format for different reasons. The CHESSS races are competitive and fun because you have to do some homework and prep ahead of time, planning the course, thinking ahead about crowded mark roundings, the adrenalin at the start, trimming sails to get the best performance from your boat, the list goes on.

The Challenges are fun because there is no real pressure, no registration, and you get to experiment without the risk of losing seconds. You’re sailing with other boats so you do have something to measure against. You get to challenge yourself managing the boat shorthanded but with the promise of good company when you arrive at the raft up ... and because your comrades have all completed the same challenge, sailed the same course in the same conditions, and because CHESSS skippers are committed to help others improve, you can discuss how others did it and maybe learn some new strategies or new techniques, or even help a fellow skipper. Now what could be better?”

The next CHESSS Challenge is scheduled for July 8 and details about that event and the group can be found on the website.

by Chuck Scheaffer