Sailor Spotlight - Billy Warner

November 9, 2018 7:31:38 AM EST

Sailor Spotlight:  Billy Warner and the TRYC Tech Fleet



Each year the Toms River Yacht Club host the Turkey Bowl in their fleet of 30 techs.  This event is wildly popular with a fleet limited to 56 sailors (it's grown so much they have to sail in heats) sailing in 28/30 boats (they keep two replacement boats on stand-by in case of a breakdown).  There are so many people who help make this event happen, from the tech owners who helped fund the fleet to the people who make food or run the Race Committee to the maintenance crew who prep all the boats before the event; it's a total team effort. 

Tech sailing is about getting out on the water.  It's about having fun and sailing in a boat that doesn't take hours to rig or a lot of money to upkeep.  Held every Saturday after Thanksgiving, the Turkey Bowl has provided local sailors with an opportunity for an informal reunion and one more chance to get a few laps in before the winter months slow things down.

This week we checked in with Billy Warner, someone who has been instrumental in running this event for so many years to learn about what else makes this event and fleet so special.

***Looking for something to do the Saturday after Thanksgiving?  Come sail the Turkey Bowl!  Anyone and everyone is welcome to come sail.  The event often sells out so register soon!***

Registration Info
Current Entry List

Name:  Billy Warner
Age:  42
School:  Toms River HS South and URI
Yacht Club:  TRYC

1) Billy, it's November and Thanksgiving is around the corner.  All Barnegat Bay sailors associate Thanksgiving with the TRYC Turkey Bowl sailed in Tech Dinghies.  Can you give me a brief history of how the Turkey Bowl started?
Back in 2003, a small group of sailors thought there was a something missing in the local sailing scene. We were looking for a boat that we didn't have to dedicate a lot of time to; other boats consumed our money so we wanted it cheap and we wanted to appeal to a big audience.   Sailing in front of the club for 2 hours on a Sunday was what we saw as perfect.  At about that time, M.I.T. had 30 techs for sale for a thousand dollars a boat. We had a goal of getting 12 boats. The first 6 sold fast. The next core group of buyers didn't even intend on sailing the boats, they just saw it as an opportunity to help and basically donated their boat.  The fleet owes them a big thank you. I recognize this group at every awards presentation and give them the same gift the winners get because they made it happen.  The next 10 boats took some selling and after 22 committed buyers my dad floated us some cash until we sold them all. We still laugh about the ghost boat somebody claimed they paid for. 

Another funny memory,  back then you got 200 minutes on your phone per month for free and then it was 50 cents a minute after that.  I spent hours on the phone daily trying to sell the last 8 boats and ended up with a $1000 phone bill.  Fortunately Voice Stream let me slide.  A few weeks after we collected all the money the boats arrived in trucks that were recently used to deliver some raw chicken.   We bought a shed for the gear and sailed them on Sundays in the winter.  A few months later we wanted to host a big regatta so we stole the idea from ODU and hosted the first turkey bowl for about 12 boats.  Phil Barrow won and his late brother Greg was 3rd.  Every year it got a little bigger and eventually we had a super talented group with a waiting list to get in. The party after racing was like a big reunion of old and young. My mom, Barbara Warner, has always been the host for the party and helped make the event a sellout. One of the unique events at awards is that ties are decided with a beer chug off. The crowd gets really involved. 

About 5 years ago, Alice May-Webber donated a print of a historically significant local artist John Peto called " The Cup We Race For"  that hangs on the Club wall.  Throughout the years two tacky trophies have been donated and likely hidden at the winners house.  These trophies are the "Chicken" and the "Captain" and are more often than not forgotten to be brought on race day. We have a Masters, Junior and Women's division.  At the bar after racing,  a never ending controversy is whether the main perpetual should be awarded to a single handed sailor or a double handed boat. The cause for the stir is that lighter skippers can dominate in light conditions and then take a crew when it's windy.  Heavy skippers are limited to excelling in only medium and heavy air.  We've nominated a committee to put this issue to bed...

2) As the years have progressed, how has your role changed with the Turkey Bowl?  How much maintenance do you have to do on the techs to keep them all up and sailable?
The boats are 1994s and have been very good to us. Every year the boats need a serious cleaning which Bill Warner Sr. has mastered . It is the biggest hassle and thankless job. Recently we got smart  and hired some labor from craigslist to help us clean them. The registration we collect throughout the years helps sustain this.  Doing even the simplest maintenance task usually means you have to do it 30 times.  Even tying them up for a storm is an hour-long commitment.  I'm not 100 percent sold on the world water levels rising, but if the techs are any indicator, they float away a lot more then they used to. Art Bailey has saved a number of boats floating around the river.  I'm an expert at counting to 30 just to make sure we have all the boats still. We have been thru 2 major refits where all the lines get replaced and centerboards fixed up. About half the boats have had the keelsons fixed. "Just enough to keep her sailing" is the motto, otherwise it would be a full time job.

I have installed at least 200 tiller universals and 300 plugs.  Every year just before the Turkey Bowl we do 20 hours of maintenance and spend about $1000 on parts . Patrick Connell has been there for almost all of them.  Over the 16 years of turkey bowls there have been just 5 breakdowns. Even in the 25 knot gale that Peter Slack documented on film,  the boats held up. If you have a minute, search "Turkey Bowl" on Youtube. 

The old sails were going on 20 years old and were not keeping up with the abuse we put them through. During the Turkey Bowl two years ago we did a fundraiser for sails and the maintenance fund. The Barnegat Bay Sailing Foundation helped us out tremendously.  30 other tech sailors came up with the rest and got to name a sail. They have helped keep the fleet even and the new sails are easier to de-power and less blown out. 

3) Techs are often considered "the great equalizer."  You can be an Opti sailor or a Finn sailor, sail with one or two people, sail in breeze or in light air, and generally speaking all the boats go about the same speed.  Why is this a good thing?
It is great seeing average level sailors go in a straight line and keep up with the best in the area.  In 6-12 knots the fleet is very tight up and down the course. On days like this, the stories at the bar after racing from the Average Joe are the greatest because they finally get to mix it up with the hot shots. It may have been years since the last time they got to call starboard on a local legend.   The chirping would go something like this... "Hey Clay, I was breathing down you neck on that last run."  Clay might smile back, "Don't get used to it."  Getting everyone together to compete and share the stories at the end of the day is my favorite part if this fleet.  Technique becomes more of a factor when roll tacking or jibing in 3-6 knots.  It's my least favorite aspect of this fleet when it gets abused. Two smooth connected roll gybes are good for a free boat length. It seems innocent but then it happens again later in the leg.  Do we get a judge to help regulate ?... I don't want to waste their time. 

A lot of sailors can be pretty smooth in the boat after their second day so we have had most come back for more each year.

4) You are one of the best sailors around and your certainly spent a lot of time racing the boats. For those racing this year, can you share some tips to race the boat better.  
To quote peter Slack from a previous Sailor Spotlight, "that is the silliest thing I ever heard."   Here is what seems to work for me to achieve a variety of finishes.
The mast can be unpinned on the sidestays and has an adjustable forestay. In the light stuff I like to have one inch between the mast and the front fiberglass support.  After I'm hiking I drop back to 2 inches.  Remember these stays were all hand made at different times so If the pin holes don't let you put the mast exactly where you want it; if you have your mast be slightly off to the starboard side windward and keep the rake perfect, maybe you'll be a hair faster at the start.  For example set the rake at the second pin down on port side and the 3rd pin down on starboard side. Then snug the forestay line.

The board angle is very important, keep it all the way forward which is a few inches forward of 90 degrees.  As soon as you can sit up up put it at 90 and as you are over-powered rake it back about 4 inches. 

The faster boats always seem to be tighter than me on the outhaul.  It's really important not to over-trim the mainsheet.  In light air you should have a foot and a half between the blocks and in medium breeze about a foot. 

One of my favorite moves is when I'm hanging on the line with about 30 seconds to go (luffing with room to leeward) and there is a boat coming from behind looking to sneak under me.  In this case, just lift the board so you slide down a bit until they commit to going above you. 

5) You've been a junior sailor, college sailor, sailing coach, and have been involved in the sport your whole life.  You clearly love the sport.  In a time when we're losing a lot of sailors post-college, can you offer any advice to the young sailors on the bay on things they could be doing now to ensure a lifetime of enjoyment in our sport? 
Keeping this age bracket involved is tough. It has probably been this way since sailing competitions started and not a new problem.  Our biggest successes are when a guy with a boat says to me, I need a crew, can you get me a college kid.  I pair them up with the kid who has the most chance of keeping a commitment -- skill is the last trait I'm worried about when connecting crews.   We have had bit of success but so many kids  just disappear like it was an elective class and they are done with it. 

I'm very familiar with most of the faces in our Junior Sailing pictures hanging on the club wall.   Since 1980 our Jr program has averaged about 50 kids a year?  I'm estimating over the last 35 years of program only 5 % still sail.  That's only 20 or 30 of that group still active in the sport.  The Tech fleet founders thought this boat would be perfect for that group. It works but it needs energy and promotion and shrinks without several cheerleaders who push the idea.   Every yacht club needs a boat committee, grounds committee, etc; they could also use a committee to boost the participation of 18-24 year olds. It does not just happen by itself.
Posted in News By

Colie Sails