Paul Exner  waits for wind in his Renegade iceboat on Lake Mendota January 10,  2004          Photo: Craig Wilson, Kite Aerial Photography

Paul Exner is a professional sailing coach and former 4LIYC member who now lives in Hawaii. Through his business, Modern Geographic Sailing, he  “help[s] sailors GET OFF THE DOCK and GO ANYWHERE BY SAIL safely and efficiently aboard their own boat.” Paul spent 10 years in Madison building SV SOLSTICE from a bare Cape George 31 hull. He posted the following story on his Facebook page about his Renegade days:

“Elusive EQUINOX of Sailing … I had a graffiti artist TAG my iceboat back in the day. I was new to ice-sailing, but got into it with 28-years of hard-core sail-racing background … I guess I wanted to make an impression.

This is a Renegade Iceboat, you can’t buy them commercially; they’re all owner-built. I didn’t build this Renegade, but I’d just completed the 10.5 year build of my SV Solstice so I bought this one from Jeff Russel; I joined Jim Nordhaus’ ice-boat work-shop in Madison, WI to work alongside a huge crew of ice-racers all modifying and tweaking their machines … super cool days.

I never really set the world on fire with my racing-results in the Renegade fleet, but man did I learn A LOT, and I had a few moments of racing success, especially in lighter-winds.

There was a lot to learn … and I approached my effort methodically. I kept track of my rig settings, air temperature, ice-conditions, and race-results with black magic-marker written on the runner plank … it was an ongoing hands-on experiment. I was modifying my plank stiffness with tows of carbon, got a new sail from “The Ice King” Henry Bosset at North Sails, and systematically practiced with dialing the boat into new grooves. I isolated parameters, and consistently sailed to new sailing theories I was developing with study … and I in-turn applied the theory to operational fundamentals.

My efforts were making a difference until I got into a crash with Garry Sternberg on a lake near Appleton in the Nationals that required late-night repairs, and the loss of two races that same afternoon. The next day, I went out and rocked a 2nd-place finish, out of the gates, finishing right behind the legend Mike Derusha. That was the last race of the event.

That was also my last Renegade regatta … I changed my life-focus and took my SV Solstice out onto the ocean, and have since devoted my same level of methodicalness to understanding and improving MANY vessel types in the open ocean using the same approach I used with ice-boats, and approach I use to accomplish a sequence of better results in any effort I make.

The ONE THING that’s most elusive about solving complex problems, and any problem worthwhile to solve IS COMPLEX (we ALL know that) … but fluid dynamic science for me, has opened an INFINITE INTRIGUE around billions of parameter-combinations to the LIFT FORCE relationship between velocity-square-apparent-wind-speed, and the angle between TRUE-WIND and APPARENT-WIND at the same time.

If you plot the relationship between the measured results of 1) Boat Speed; 2) Apparent Wind Speed; 3) Apparent Wind Angle; and 4) True Wind Angle … you’ll see generally see that [Boat Speed On Broad Reach] > [Boat Speed On Close Hauled] … that, [AWS on BR] < [AWS on CH] … BUT, the True-Wind vs. Apparent-Wind angle for the Broad Reach is wildly different than the TW vs. AW angle for the Close Hauled …. a difference by as much as 120 DEGREES ….. this comparison of relative difference is a HUGE FACTOR!

I guess what I’m getting at … (I wrote this post to write the two paragraphs immediately above) … IF your sailing coach doesn’t understand what’s going on above, and can’t show you the nuances of how to coax your boat into efficiency within the bounds of the parameters above (whether the parameters are mentioned by name or not), then you’re probably leaving A LOT of time, money, and natural talent on the table, and you might NEVER get to experience the true essence of your full sailing potential.

NOW … I coach sailing without ever looking at the tell-tails, and sometimes without EVER going into “the theory” if you want to call it that. After all, I believe that human beings are SO naturally gifted to relate with the real world intrinsically, that when we sail together, I provide very subtle instruction based on where I see your perspective and sensitivities, then I’ll draw-out your natural talent and awareness.

If you’re driven to learn sailing because you want to partner with a coach that spends their entire time focusing on what you need to learn to pass a Sailing Certification Exam, and you can’t see the difference between Administrative Learning and Learning to Reach Your Goals, then you absolutely deserve what you get … a sailing certification (hurray, you can bareboat charter in the Med) which IS totally awesome if you can ALSO, know how to sail.

Paul Exner
Forever thinking about sailing.”

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