Challenge 5 has been issued and I have been tasked with summing up our 2011 Dyneema Experience. All of it- the good, the bad and everything in between. Dyneema really seems to want to improve the experience for the next Dyneema Experience Team and are looking for input into what they can do to make that happen. So here goes...
I'm not a negative person. Asked if the glass is half empty or half full, I'm likely to say it has more than I deserve and there is plenty enough to share. So recounting the less than stellar aspects of DET 2011 is a tough one for me but the only way to improve things is to look at things that didn't go as planned.
The concept of the Dyneema Experience was a fantastic one. Choose 40 skippers to test line with Dyneema rigging, write about their experiences with it and have a little competition to win a grand prize- a master class on the PUMA VOR boat. Unfortunately, the logistics of rigging 40 boats was perhaps underestimated. We did not receive our rigging until a couple of weeks ago, long after the sailing season in our area had ended. Now we have 106 degree weather and average wind speeds of 5 mph, not exactly ideal conditions to test rigging unless someone is interested in how the rigging looks on a boat while motor sailing. This really wasn't Dyneema's fault. As our line supplier New England Ropes kept sending us emails asking us to be patient, saying that the line was out for splicing etc, it became clear that Dyneema was as frustrated at the delays as we were.
Going forward, it would probably help to select the next team in the autumn to allow a lot more time to get the participants their line. It would also probably be good to be certain the line suppliers are really committed to DET. Some of the line suppliers for other boats did a fantastic job of going over technical specifications for line selection, even sending out new ropes when it became clear that the originally selected lines where not suitable for that boats particular use. I never felt that from my supplier. There was some back and forth with New England Ropes to choose the right line and splices for our boat. I spent days going over tech specs for our line, carefully selecting line that would work for our usage and that would offer us a chance to try out some new ideas, like using a smaller diameter line in some instances to allow us to keep our deck hardware sizes. New England Ropes got our finalized line order, thanked us and assured us we would be getting the ordered line soon. Didn't happen that way. We waited months only to receive the line NER had suggested in the first place, never mind all the time spent going over the specs, etc.
Another way the DET could be improved is by increasing the level of communication. It would have been really helpful to have a designated person from Dyneema to answer technical questions. I was new to Dyneema and needed a bit more technical guidance. The lack of this did provide a benefit though. It forced me to engage much more with fellow cruisers. We as a group tend to share information so I was helped quite a bit by cruisers who have Dyneema on their boats. These Dyneema savvy sailors also reached out to other cruisers who weren't a part of DET but who have been following along with me and answered the many questions that they had about Dyneema lines. So what was an obstacle turned out to be a benefit for the overall effectiveness of DET. Behind the scenes, there was a whole lot of discussion about the benefits of Dyneema cored lines on a cruising yacht. So in the end I did end up with a really solid rigging education, just not from where I expected to get it.
Which brings me to my final point and the thing that will stay with me long after DET 2011 is over. I was hesitant to mention how truly frustrated I was with my line supplier. Not the quality of the line, but their apparent lack of urgency in getting me my line. I was very aware that there were a lot of boats who would have loved to have been selected and rerigged. To complain would have made me seem ungrateful for the benefits I have received and I am really, really grateful. Grateful to Dyneema for providing rigging that is superior in performance and will serve us well as we take off to cross oceans, grateful for fellow DET competitors who displayed an amazing level of good sportsmanship- helping, encouraging and supporting me when it seemed to be such an uphill slog and to the international community of cruisers that I am so very pleased to be a part of who supported, encouraged and answered endless questions.
So the quesion is, would I do it again? The answer is an unequivocable yes. Overall, my experience with Dyneema has been a positive one. To be sure there have been frustrations and challenges and I'm not even going to be able to really write about testing Dyneema line for a few months yet but all of this pales in comparasion to what I have gained. So to Dyneema, to my fellow DET members and to you, the amazing community who never fails to rally aournd to help a fellow cruiser- Thank you. I could not have done it with out you. It has been an amazing experience I will never forget.