Single Handling The Sabre (W/ Short Videos)

By Rich

With Lisa in Newport to contest the J/70 Worlds and other cronies tied up with miscellaneous distractions, I needed to do some single handling today if I was going to put hours on the Sabre to learn how to operate it and to look for bugs to fix before the spring. I learned a lot today and Seb and I had a ton of fun together after a (steaming hot) 10 knot Southerly filled in.

The weekend started Friday night when Brian, Lisa and I took the boat to the Club. After dinner I spent my first night on the boat.


Key learning: The AC works! And what a difference. I never would have stayed on the boat at the dock in that heat without AC. Very nice! Growing up, our boats didn’t have heat, AC, or microwave ovens. Cruising sure has changed.


After breakfast in the morning, I motored out and unfurled the jib to tidy the boat up a bit at a slow pace. Then the wind completely shut off, so I decided to learn how to use the windlass. It worked fine and I figured out how to use the washdown. Key learning: when you get into your 40s like we have, you start hearing yourself saying things like ‘man, this bimini is clutch in heat like this.’ My 20-something self would be horrified.

Then the beautiful southerly filled in, so I pulled up the hook, hoisted the main, and set off on a nice close reach toward the Eastern shore. Key learnings: the boat can be single handled perfectly easily, but even in these moderate conditions, it’s a very physical endeavor. I missed having crew most when putting the boat away – there is so much to do and everything is huge compared to the little race boats we’re used to. Key, key learning: I need to get in shape. Below: reaching back toward Lake Ogelton.

Another key learning: I love the way the boat handles going to weather. *Whew.* Not that I was too worried about it, but my last boat was a J/29 which was a pure delight going uphill. The Sabre compares favorably: with the board completely down she trims out with just a bit of weather helm and the balanced rudder feels like power steering compared to the unbalanced rudders found on the J/Boats we normally race. A little more feel might be nice, but this rudder design means less fatigue for autohelm and humans alike on long passages. It’s the right tradeoff. I discovered another big plus about the boat’s design today: it allows the best helmsman steering position of any cruising boat I’ve experienced yet. Score!

With thunderstorms looming and my bottled water supplies exhausted, I tucked her to bed and ran home for a cool shower and some college football. There’s always tomorrow, when the winds should be even better and I can foist some chores off on willing crew.



3 thoughts on “Single Handling The Sabre (W/ Short Videos)

  1. That’s simply awesome! One thing i found helpful in single handing, if you want to enter a channel under sail, dump and fold the main first. Leaves great visibility and an easy to roller furl headsail once the engine is started 🙂

  2. Rich, the boat really looks good! You guys made a great choice. I think you will enjoy it.

    I think it is sometimes hard for the racers to adapt to a cruising lifestyle. Just my opinion here so take it with a grain of salt. First I’m not a racer. I grew up driving submarines so any contact within 10,000 yards had to be reported to the captain. So my attitude is to maintain distance … not a good instinct on the race course. My wife, however, learned here seamanship on the sailing team at the Naval Academy racing 420s. She is very comfortable with “close aboard”. Makes for an interesting dynamic / balance in the cockpit.

    I have found my attitude has significantly changed over the 30 year as we have gone from chartering to owning our own boat. I really have shifted to connivence with good performance from pure performance.

    We not only have a bimini and dodger but a fully enclosed cockpit. It adds windage but I can sail in comfort well into November and can sit in the cockpit during a rain storm and stay cooler than below all closed up. I have a very heavy anchor with a lot of chain. Not good to have that weight up front, but I sleep well knowing that I’m not going to drag anchor. And yes I have an in mast furling main. Don’t cringe, as an “older” cruiser it makes it very easy to reef the main and put it away. I don’t have to go out of the cockpit. I also reef early and often since it is easy. And I have learned how to get it in and out without jamming the sail. We sail a lot more now and can go out for several weeks at a time. So unlike chartering where we did it for a week once or twice a year, when you are constantly onboard these things my marginalize performance but they make sailing easier to we spend more time on the boat.

    We also like our conveniences for everyday life. I love our AC. Split zone for the salon and forward cabin and separate unit for the aft cabins. Makes all the difference on a marina day and while the generator adds weight, it lets me run the AC in the evening while I charge batteries so Debbie can cook without sweltering and we can watch a movie in comfort. The inverter let’s me run a TV and computer so we have things to do at anchor and my son can bring his computer along. The autohelm is not like hand steering but it can go all day and never loses attention. In wind vane mode it follows that shifts much better than I do. It uses power, but we just charge when needed.

    Okay this is a long winded way of saying that as you get older and spend a lot of time cruising, some of those things that seem ridiculous when you were younger become nice to have and you begin to wonder what your issue was with them to start with. And by the way, the boat still sails great … in a good breeze we will do 8-9 knots upwind and she rides well downwind in 20+, loves to surf.

    1. Makes all the sense in the world Glenn! I’m making this transition gracefully. and I can totally see the merit in all of the tradeoffs you’ve chosen with the boat. I’m sure over time the boats we buy will move further and further in the same direction!

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