Team Shear Water Madness

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Team members: Steve Rogak, Mederic Fermi, Kevin Noel, Brian Muir, Joshua Chan, John Robertson
Hometown: Vancouver, BC, Canada
Race vessel: Richard Black Custom Cat Ketch Monohull
LOA: 28′
Human propulsion: Two people pedaling at one time.
Connect: facebook


TL;DR: Tom Selleck’s mustache, murder, short NBA players, and the unspoken East Coast/West Coast shellfish rivalry.

Sometimes, we get to just write about boats.

We all answer to someone. We’ve all got to make rent. Here in the R2AK word mines, we pay the piper by keeping the fans of R2AK Nation happy and hopped up on non-stop, long-form textual hallucinations that skip from tangent to heretical tangent until the sea level rises from the exhausted and desperate tears of the uninitiated who are just looking for some damned facts.

“Just one,” they cry. “Just a single fact.”

Then there are the rare days when the boss is gone, and we look in the mirror and find that glimmer of fading self-respect, remember the people we could have been, screw up our courage, look ourselves in the eye and say to whoever is listening: “Not today.”

Today’s one of those. Screw you, our boss and the race fans. Facts and relevance be damned—today we’re writing about boats.

From the time we clicked on their boat pic, Team Shear Water Madness gave us the spine we thought we lost to the big-money deals to get us our mojo back. How? Check out the boat on these guys.

A 1981 design/build one-off, the Shearwater 28’ is bonkers practical and oddly a pleasing-looking mashup of “modern” construction and a sail plan whose roots go back to the workaday workboats plucking oysters off the bottom of Long Island Sound—back when the East River had more oysters than bodies, and people plucked them by hand in boats powered by wind and muscle alone. Cat Ketch rigs were de rigueur of the 19th century East Coast oyster catch set before anyone understood there was a west coast with way more oysters. Today, most of them are a near term echo of a mid-80s fantasy whose relevance waned like Tom Selleck mustaches and rollerblades.

It’s no question that the cat-ketch is a weirdo rig. No standing rigging, one freestanding mast all the way at the pointiest part of the pointy end, another one behind it and in the middle. It’s got twice the booms to whack anyone too tall and unaware on every tack and jibe, and no way to put up a jib or any other kind of headsail. Sailing a cat-ketch is a crockpot—a set it and forget it experience—compared to the sail change circus that happens on any other foredeck in any other race. Modern race boats might have a quiver of six headsails to fly off the front that get changed out as the wind conditions evolve. Cat-ketch = two sails and a jury rigged spinnaker. You can make them smaller if you need to, and then make them regular sized again, but that’s pretty much it.

Put ‘em up, bring ‘em down. Simple. Elegant.

Where is the struggle, the endless sail changes? Seems somewhere between good thinking and heretical.

Beyond the boat itself, the assembled crew of this specific godless anomaly have all sailed a ton. The experience that ranges from racing all over, Van Isles, Southern Straits to a lifetime of sailing from dinghies to international racing yachts, tons of certifications, super fitness, and blah blah blah—but that boat tho!

The cold-molded wooden hull is light, has the durability from the external fiberglass coating but is pretty to look at from the inside. At 28 feet, it’s also got a centerboard that lifts for going faster downwind, heading into the beach, or putting on a trailer, or decreasing drag when you need to pedal. The masts even break down with big ass hinges just above deck level to make it less than a major issue if you need to fix something at the top of the mast, or flop it all down and put it on a trailer to take it out of the water at the end of the season or bring it back from Prince Rupert after you get across the finish line in Ketchikan.

More than that, it punches well above its weight. A PHRF rating of 160 doesn’t make a goddamn bit of difference in a race without handicaps, but is impressive none the less. Don’t speak sail nerd? 160 isn’t bonkers good, but a 28-foot boat at 160 is like all 5’3” of Muggsy Bogues playing 12 seasons in the NBA, but with the benefit of platform shoes.

For human power, Team Shear Water Madness’ mid-ship pedal system cantilevers two pedalers—one off each side—to bring the weight forward and make everything more stable. First one we’ve seen like that—that boat tho! So practical!

Good looking lines, practical/low maintenance sail plan, slippery hull, and revolutionary pedal power: how could we write about anything else? To paraphrase Admiral Farragut: “Damn the references and metaphors, full speed ahead.”

Welcome to the R2AK, Team Shear Water Madness. Shhhhhh, don’t talk. We’re looking at your boat. Don’t ruin the moment.