If you keep up with Olympic sailing, the push toward high performance, more technical, and faster classes is more obvious than ever. The sailing world is rapidly pushing once great classes like the Star and Yngling to the side in order to make room for faster, lighter, and more aesthetically pleasing boats like the 49er FX and the Nacra 17.
Following the 2012 London Olympics, sailors, sailing organizations, and online forums around the country all started taking a closer look at the system in place for up and coming sailors to hone their skills. With this push toward more technical boats that utilize highly tunable rigs, light frames, and demand a greater understanding of advanced racing principles, there is a growing need in the United States for boats that can deliver these attributes to sailors at an affordable price.
The Byte CII fulfills all of the growing needs for future Olympic hopefuls and then some. Compared to similar boats, the Byte CII was designed to fit in a weight range, not a gender or an age group, while presenting a higher learning curve for maturing and advanced sailors. The boat features a fully battened Mylar sail that delivers maximum performance while increasing durability significantly over traditional Dacron sails found on most small boats. This is sure to save competitors considerable amounts of money on purchasing sails each year for the biggest regattas.
The sail’s power is sustained much higher through the sail plan than boats like the Sunfish® or Laser Radial®, while rigged on a two piece carbon fiber spar. Combining this flexible and advanced mast with a powerful Cunningham system and tunable traveler allows smaller sailors coming out of Optis to stay under control in heavy breeze, while maintaining a great deal of physicality for sailors as large as 160 lbs.
Additionally, combining the boat’s light, 100 lb. frame with a sail that maintains its power so far up the mast, makes sailing downwind in big breeze more technical and challenging for even the most advanced sailors.
The Byte CII’s growth has exploded internationally and nationally with promises of a higher learning curve and sailors growing weary of the ‘strap the vang and hike hard’ mantra in similar classes. On the international front, the boat was selected for competition in the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in 2010 and was selected again for the 2014 Games in Nanjing, China.
The Byte CII also made a big splash in the United States last year as it was featured in two US Sailing National Championship events, the US Women’s Singlehanded Championship and the Chubb US Junior Championships. The boat was reselected again in each Championship for 2013. Furthermore, the Byte CII Open Worlds are scheduled for August, in Newport, Rhode Island, with an opportunity for five men and five women to qualify their countries for the 2014 Youth Olympic Games.
This has opened the door for the Byte CII’s presence in other international events such as CORK OCR, in Canada, scheduled just prior to the Worlds.
The sudden burst in the boat’s popularity has sparked a need for clinics and updated tuning information to give sailors an initial idea of what to expect as they step into the boat for the first time. This is especially true amongst youth sailing groups in the United States that typically sail boats with less complicated and more cumbersome tuning adjustments. To help satisfy this growing need for information on the Byte CII and how to properly tune it, Zim Sailing, the North American manufacturer of Byte CII’s, sat down with former ICSA Women’s College Sailor of the Year and Olympic hopeful, Allie Blecher, who dominated last year’s US Women’s Singlehanded Championship in the Byte CII.
What did you enjoy most about sailing the Byte CII this summer?
Initially, I think the most enjoyable part of sailing the Byte CII was that it was a new boat and a new experience for every sailor there. Getting to experience something new together as a group made it special. Everyone out there could make mistakes tacking the boat or flipping over, and no one was going to judge us for it.
Also, the downwind legs were particularly fun. The boat is so light and quick to accelerate that you could surf waves easily, even in light air. The ability to surf waves in light air was so evident early on that we had to talk to the judges early to find out about the kinds of things they were looking to flag. Ultimately, the boat wants to surf, and the judges weren’t going to flag us as long as we could get on waves.
How is the Byte CII similar to boats that it is compared to? How is it different?
A lot of the technical stuff is all the same or at least similar. Basic things like where you sit, how you steer, etc. There were a lot of differences in how much your bodyweight affects the boat both upwind and downwind going through or down waves. Again, the boat is so light that you really need to lean forward down waves to get the most out of riding every wave, and you can really torque through waves upwind. I’m on the smaller side, so it felt really good to be in a boat where I actually feel like I am doing something with my upper body.
Another big difference was the fine tuning, and getting used to the controls. The boat is extremely responsive to the adjustments, so it’s really nice how they are all led to each side and are always right at your fingertips.
Lastly, compared to some similar boats, the Byte CII accelerates much more quickly. It was really nice to not have to put a ton of effort into getting the boat going at the start.
What stood out to you sailing the Byte CII in light air and heavy air?
The biggest thing that stood out in light air, as we touched on earlier, was how fast the boat is and how it quickly accelerates. You can surf waves downwind at pretty low wind speeds. The sail plan is up much higher than similar boats, so it sails a lot like the Europe Dinghy.
In heavy air, the first thing that is immediately noticeable is how much more under control the boat is from a physical standpoint. The Cunningham is really important for depowering the boat, and I was able to extend further out of the boat as well because the boat isn’t quite as wide as some other boats. Downwind the boat is really technical and challenging in breeze because of the light weight and the higher sail plan. Knowing how to use the vang downwind is essential to going fast and staying upright.
We’ve talked a lot about the control lines with the Byte CII, how are you using them in the boat?
I honestly didn’t use the outhall at all when I was sailing the boat. I set it before the start of the race, and left it there. I’m sure if you got really technical you could find a reason to use it. The Cunningham is the most important adjustment on the boat upwind. It has a really heavy purchase, so it’s really easy to put on, and super effective depowering the boat upwind. I only pulled the slack out of the vang going upwind in case I needed to ease the main. There was really no other reason to use it upwind. However, when you go downwind, the vang is far and away the most important adjustment. The boat is so responsive that a little bit of vang on or off goes a long way. Make sure it goes on in the puffs and off in the lulls. A lot of the other sailors who did not play the vang properly would end up in the water pretty quickly.
What are some of the tips you would give to someone hoping to compete in a Byte CII this summer?
First of all, I would make sure that the cockpit is set up comfortably. It is very open, so take the time to set things up where you want them. Also, as we talked about earlier, the control lines are lead up the sides to make them easy to put on and take off. Make sure you can reach them, and definitely even them out between races so that you will have room to put more of something on or take more of it off from either side of the boat. The last big thing is to make sure the halyard is up all the way. The cleat position will cut down a lot on the slipping, but you still have to tie the halyard to the boom before putting the excess into the sail bag.
The Byte CII is growing in popularity internationally. Why do you think other countries are getting involved in it?
I just feel like more of a sailor comes out in you, versus other classes where the sailors are more coached to be the kind of sailor the boats make them. The class is really tactical because you can’t just sail in a straight line to win races. It is a physical class, but not so much that it defines the boat. I really feel the boat will take a lot of sailors to the next level, and it would be great to see it become a more popular class in the United States.
For More Information on the Byte CII Worlds/NOR: Click Here
For More Information on the Byte: Byte Class
by Media Services - 5:36 PM Thu 28 Feb 2013 GMT
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Byte CII - single handed dinghy
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