Tuesday, October 24, 2006


This is a Comet.

According to the class website it is a lively, hard chine, non-spinnaker, 16 foot double-handed racing sailboat weighing 260-295 lbs. and with a sail area of 140 sq. ft. The Comet carries a sloop rig (mainsail and jib), the mast stands 20 feet 5 inches above the deck and is supported by a fully adjustable three stay rig. It was designed in 1932 as a sort of junior version of the Star. Most of the currently active fleets are in the North-Eastern United States and the 2003 North American Champions were one of my Wednesday night Sunfish racing buddies, Bob Griswold, and his wife Katha.

No wait, this is a Comet.

According to the class website it is a single-hander with an unstayed mast. It's 11 ft. 4 in. long with a sail area of 70 sq. ft. and a hull weight of 110 lbs. Most of the active fleets are in the southern parts of England and Wales and in the Midlands.

Wait a minute what's going on here? Two completely different sailboats have the same name? How bizarre.

But wait. It gets worse.

This is Comet.

Yes, the tall guy in the picture underneath the pointing arrow.

Let me explain. The tall guy's real name is Ian Coppenhall and he is the 2005 and 2006 UK National Comet Champion (the single-handed Comet not the junior Star style Comet). Ian worked much of this summer and early fall as a sailing instructor at Minorca Sailing. All of the instructors at Minorca Sailing are known by their first names or nicknames and as they already had several Ian's, Ian Coppenhall is known there by his nickname of Comet.

Comet - the sailing instructor, not the UK single-hander or the US double-hander, was the instructor of the advanced Laser group during my first week at Minorca Sailing this year.

Now, I've been to a few Laser clinics and classes over the years that I've been sailing the boat and I've often suffered from the syndrome described by ab at Split Tacks. He was one of the better sailors in a largish class at a Laser coaching session, and so the coaches 'understandably spent most of their time with the less proficient sailors because that's where they could make the most visible gains. They gave me some positive feedback ("You're sailing the boat very well"- that kind of thing) which is well and good, but I need someone to help me identify my weaknesses - to help me sail faster.'

Yeah - been there - done that.

But Comet was different. He took the time to follow along behind me in his RIB while I was sailing the Laser on different points of sail and in different wind conditions. As ab says, once you've mastered the basic skills, it's relatively small things that you need to improve. Comet took the time to watch me closely and tell me about those minor faults in technique.

Just what I needed. Thanks Comet.


Anonymous said...

I always thought Comet was reindeer... :D

Anonymous said...

Does he also go by the name Kohoutek?

The 2nd version looks like a Byte, do you know how it sails?

Tillerman said...

Geeze you guys - this is a sailing blog. I could have gone on rambling about reindeers and astronomical objects and the first jet airliner, not to mention a UK electrical retailer and a way of writing web applications... but I wanted to stay on topic.

Yeah Joe, I suppose the UK Comet hull is roughly the same size as a Byte but it carries more sail area. Don't know how it sails or whether it has a cupholder.

Anonymous said...

What were some of the minor faults in your technique? I would imagine you are not the only person making those mistakes. Maybe we can all learn something!

Anonymous said...

What about comparing classes Lightning (US) with Lightning (UK)....

Tillerman said...

derek - I expect I'll get around to writing a post about Comet's comments on my faults at some point. They are all actually pretty basic things that you could learn from any book on Laser sailing but it's amazing how you develop bad habits over the years and don't notice them.

anonymous - uh oh - you mean there are other classes that are really two classes? Maybe there's a whole new theme here.

Post a Comment