Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Apparently Oracle Team USA has been tuning up for the America's Cup by learning to sail foiling Moths at some place called Wangi Wangi in Australia.

In honor of the foiling camp, the team's favorite singer, Weird Al Yankovic, has composed a team song… FOIL.


You wanted to see some sailing?



No. I am definitely NOT going to post a picture of Jimmy Spithill sailing a Moth naked.

That would be very silly.

Egotist or Masochist or Manly Man?

In a comment on my report about the Newport Regatta (where I chose to go in early on both days because I felt like I had had enough fun already) kiwiyates posed this question…
When our boat is designed to be changed to suit the conditions/sailor, why is it that Laser sailors seem to so resistant to downsize the sail to suit the forecast conditions or their current ability? I assume you had a Radial class too. Wouldn't it have been even more fun to race Radial and be able to participate more under those conditions? It seems that Laser sailors have big egos and never want to go "down" as though it was going backwards. What do you think?

And he (or maybe she) followed up with another comment on the topic…
Here in Florida, we try to maximize the fun while trying to level the playing field. Since we get so many light days, all the kids go up to Full. Only the few heavy days, the adults go down to Radial (with some convincing). Whats the point of 1/2 the fleet going in because "its to windy for me" (young or Masters). This means we have more boats on the start line, more even competition, more races and more fun. Isn't that the goal?

I received a similar suggestion after my rather disastrous showing at the Laser Masters Worlds in 2010 and answered it with a post Random Radial Ramblings.  To save me repeating everything I said in 2010 (of if you have no idea what a Radial rig is and how it fits into Laser sailing) I suggest you read that post now before I go on.

Pause to allow you read old post.

OK? Everyone up to speed now?

So (while trying to avoid repeating what I said in 2010) here are 5 reasons why I don't yet own a Radial rig and 3 reasons why I should probably get one soon.

5 Reasons Why I Don't Own a Radial Rig And Never (Well Hardly Ever) Sail One.

1. There's a difference between stamina and skill. It wasn't that I couldn't handle the conditions at Newport. I am perfectly capable of sailing in winds of 15mph gusting to 25mph with moderate waves. In fact I enjoy and relish sailing in those conditions. It's just that it was my first regatta this season and I wasn't fit enough and/or didn't feel like sailing all day. I was getting tired.

2. I have sailed a Radial (at Minorca Sailing) a couple of times when it was forecast to be gusting over 30 and frankly I found it a little tame.

Demonstration of how tame a Radial really is

Maybe I could have a sailed a couple of extra races at Newport if I had been sailing a Radial, but I suspect I wouldn't have had so much fun. And, hey, I sail to have fun not to stick it out all day just for the sake of it.

3. There often is a start for Radials at the regattas I sail - and there was at Newport - but often it's quite a small fleet (the notable exceptions being the Hyannis and Buzzards Bay Regattas which attract huge Radial fleets.) If I had sailed a Radial at Newport I would have been sailing against 4 other sailors. In the full rig fleet we had 44 sailors. 44 is more fun than 4.

4. I am quite a big fellow as Laser sailors go. Currently hovering just over 190lbs. The Radial is best for sailors in the 130-165lb range. I did ask a coach, whose opinion I deeply respect, about whether I should move to a Radial as I am getting older and he told me definitely not. If anything I am heavier than the optimum weight for a full rig, so the coach felt I should stick with the big rig.

5. I am a masochist. Yes, I do sometimes find it challenging to sail the full rig Laser in big winds and waves. But (most of the time) I enjoy the challenge, I like the way it pushes me to try harder and to develop heavy weather sailing skills. I like the feeling of sailing on the edge of control. As Bob Marley almost said, "If it's easy, it won't be amazing." (Actually he said "she" not "it" and he was talking about women. But same principle.)

Well known Laser coach Bob Marley

3 Reasons Why I  Should (Probably) Buy a Radial Rig Soon

1. Laser Masters Worlds. In my 2010 post I wrote about how the International Laser Class expected sailors over 65 to sail the Radial rig at Laser Masters Worlds. The only fleet for sailors over 65 - Great Grandmasters - was a Radial fleet. That's no longer true. Thanks to campaigning by some sailors around my age who didn't want to be forced to move to Radials at the Worlds there is now a Great Grandmasters Full Rig Fleet at the Masters Worlds.

Oman, last year, was predicted to be a light wind venue so if I had gone there I am sure I would have sailed the full rig. But Hyères, this year, could well be very windy. See this video for example. Moreover, it doesn't seem like the option to sail a full rig at the Masters Worlds is very popular with my age cohort. There are 8 full rig GGMs registered for Hyères and 80 (EIGHTY!!!) Radial GGMs.

80 is more fun than 8. If I were going to Hyères (which I'm not) I would definitely sail a Radial. And if I were going to sail a Radial there I would want to practice sailing a Radial at home first.

2. Solo Practice. Regular readers of this blog know that I like to practice sailing my Laser on my own quite often on the local bays. Some days, I feel the conditions are such (maybe too windy and too cold) to sail a full rig on my own. Too much chance of something bad happening without anyone around to help me - or even notice. On some of those days I might go out in a Radial.

Typical day when I might downsize to a Radial for solo practice

3. Frostbiting. Most winters I sign up to sail with the Newport frostbite fleet. On some Sundays I feel that it's too cold and too windy for me so I don't go and race. On some of those days, maybe most, I would sail a Radial. In that fleet the Radials and full rigs all start together and are scored together. A fat boy like me would probably be at the back of the fleet in a Radial. But, hey, that's better than missing all the fun of racing in the snow and hail and sleet while dodging icebergs in the freezing waters of Newport.

RC launching on perfect sailing day for Newport frostbite fleet

See also Why Manly Men Never Use a Radial Sail by my friend, yarg. Yarg is fast in a Radial. On a windy day Yarg often beats me when he is sailing a Radial and I'm not.

So am I an egotist or a masochist or a manly man? Feel free to hurl other insults at me in the comments.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Newport Regatta 2014

Last weekend. My first regatta of the year. Also our district championship. Just down the road in Newport.

44 full rig Lasers. 15 races over 2 days. Wide range of ages from kids to grizzled old grandmasters (like me.) Both genders. Lots of new faces I've not seen on the local regatta circuit before.

Sunny warm weather.

Wind. Oh yes, we had wind. Let the pictures tell the story.



I learned a lot over the two days.

1. I currently don't have the stamina to sail 15 races in 2 days in winds occasionally gusting over 20mph. I actually sailed in only 4 races on Saturday and 3 on Sunday. On each day I sailed as hard as I could until I was getting so tired that I knew that I would start to make (even more) stupid mistakes and that I wouldn't be enjoying it any more. So I said my goodbyes to the race committee and sailed back to the beach. Maybe it's partly mental, but it's mainly physical. Hey, I'm "pushing seventy" as my Dad was fond of saying when he was about my age. I do it for fun and when it's starting to be "not fun" on any given day it's time to quit.

My attitude to regatta racing is basically the same as it was in the summer of 2012 which I summed up in a blog post titled Sailing Philosophy with Crappy Chart. If I sail more multi-day regattas and sail more races each time (and eat more spinach) I'm sure I will get fitter and eventually end up completing all the races. If I don't, I won't. I yam what I yam.

2. There is no practice for racing in large fleets that compares to actually racing in large fleets. I've done a lot of sailing, mainly with one partner or in small fleets, over the past few weeks, but I still felt very rusty on the first day at Newport. On Saturday my starts were poor, I made bad strategic decisions, and my mark rounding tactics were mediocre. In the 44 boat fleet I had several finishes in the low 30s and one in the mid 20s. Not good…

And yet…

I was having fun. And my competitive juices were flowing. I really felt that if I could get my act together I could place a lot higher. It seemed that there were about half a dozen boats at the back of the fleet that I could easily beat and then a large group of 12-15 boats ahead of me… but not far ahead. Maybe it was an optical illusion but it seemed that I only needed to make a small improvement in my starts or my boat speed or my tactics at marks and I would be able to pass that big clump of boats in front of me and break into the top 20. Maybe.

And in the first two races on Sunday that was exactly what happened. I think I was just more comfortable with sailing in a regatta with a largish fleet again. I wasn't consciously doing anything very different but I seemed to be finding a clear lane to the favored side of the course soon after the start, I was thinking ahead about which sides of the downwind legs I wanted to sail, and I wasn't totally screwing up every mark rounding. I was beating some of the sailors who had been consistently ahead of me on Saturday. And it felt good. I scored a 16 and a 21 in the first two races. Much better than Saturday. (Although it must be said that attrition of the fleet due to breakages, capsizes, too much Bacardi on Saturday night, and over eagerness on black flag starts was also a factor in boosting my scores.)

And in the third race on Sunday, I managed to kick it up another notch. I was really warmed up now and had good boat speed upwind and downwind. All that practice at Little Compton over the past three weeks was paying off. I nailed the starboard tack lay line perfectly on the first beat and rounded the mark way up in the fleet. I was catching good rides on the waves on the first reach and managed to hang close to the leaders. It felt weird but I felt like I was sailing better because I was surrounded by better company than I had been hanging out with in the earlier races. Be that as it may, I held off a challenge on the second reach and extended my lead over that boat on the final beat, hiking like a demon and working the boat hard through the waves. I thought I had finished just outside the top ten but it turned out that there were four boats who had been black-flagged in front of me so I actually scored a 7th.

Wow. I was mentally and physically drained, and I figured that I would call it a day and end the regatta on a high note, so that I could revel in the memory of that race for a few weeks and motivate myself for the next regatta.

I sailed back to Fort Adams and derigged my boat. There weren't many people around so I stretched out on my back on the grass in the sunshine and stared at the sky for a few minutes and just reflected on the joy of sailing in the waves and the wind and the sunshine and what a great weekend it had been.

3. In other good news, I think I have a new That Guy.

4. Today, my back hurts.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Please Come to Newport

Please come to Newport
To live forever.

A Rhode Island life alone
Is just too hard to live.

I live in a house that
Looks out over the ocean.

And there's some stars
That fell from the sky
Living up on the hill.

It's THE Newport Regatta this weekend…
Please come.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Emergency Repair Kit

After I broke the connection between the traveler blocks on my Laser last week and staggered back to the beach (sailing with some difficulty a center sheeting Laser with a 1:1 purchase on the sheet not to mention the extra friction from one traveler block jamming up the rear boom block) it occurred to me (only too late) that I could easily have repaired the breakage by tying the two traveler blocks together with a short length of line.

In fact there are all sorts of breakages on a Laser that can be temporarily repaired with a short length of spectra and maybe some duct tape to stop it sliding out of place. Any fitting coming off the boom or mast could probably be fixed in this way. In fact Marc Jacobi tells on his blog how he even lashed together mast and boom after he broke the gooseneck pin at the NA Laser Masters last year.

Of course you are not going to be able to repair a broken spar with such a simple repair kit but, as this photo shows, with enough duct tape and some help from a friendly coach boat, you can even make a temporary repair to a hole in your hull. (More details at Stay out of Trouble.)

So if I were to carry an emergency repair kit on board my Laser I reckon I would need...

  1. A short length of spectra
  2. A knife
  3. Duct tape

Anything else?

What would this kit fix… and what else couldn't it fix?

Monday, July 07, 2014

10 Reasons Why Massapoag YC Might Be the Best Sailing Club on the Planet

On Saturday and Sunday my son and I raced with the Laser fleet at Massapoag Yacht Club in Sharon MA.

I can't remember the last time I had so much fun.

Here are 10 reasons why Massapoag YC is (quite possibly) the best sailing club on the planet….

1. There is Laser racing on Saturdays. Actually there is racing for Sunfish and Lasers on Saturdays. Lots of short races which is what we "board boats" like. Minimal waiting around between races. We did one windward-leeward race and then a gazillion Harry Anderson courses so we could enjoy some exciting reaches and the RC could video us gybing round the committee boat.

2. There is Laser racing on Sundays. Actually Sunday is their race day for all the fleets at MYC. Yesterday there was a good sized Flying Scot fleet, a couple of Day Sailers and seven or eight Lasers. The RC runs two longer races on Sundays, and then all the other boats go back to the club and the Laser sailors race lots more short races until our arms or legs drop off, whichever comes first.

3. There is wind. Lakes have a reputation as light wind venues. Well, it certainly wasn't light at MYC this weekend. Somebody said there were 28 knot gusts on Saturday and I don't think Sunday was much less. Of course it's gusty and shifty compared to sailing on more open waters but that just adds to the fun.

4. They let ME sail there. They even let my son sail there. Amazing!

5. The competition is just the right level for me. I'm not trailing around at the back of the fleet (except when I do something incredibly stupid.) On the other hand it's not easy to win there. In fact, I only won one of the gazillion races this weekend. But that's all I need to go home happy. (My son won a few more but then he had an expensive sailing education under the pretense of studying for an engineering degree.)

6. The club is only a few miles from my son's house. He doesn't have the time to sail very often so on the rare occasions I can persuade him to sail with me, this is one of the easiest locations to do it.

7. It's a very friendly fleet. In fact, when they found out that Sunday was my birthday someone organized an impromptu birthday party for me after sailing, complete with birthday cupcakes, a candle (66 candles would be a lot to expect) and a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday in five part harmony.

8. The water is fresh. After all the sailing I do on the sea, it's a real pleasure not to have to rinse the boat after sailing.

9. They make videos of the sailing. Well, at least they did this weekend. I can see my rather slow capsize recovery, my very bad leeward mark roundings, and many other learning experiences.

Here is my son initiating the gybe at the RC boat

And here I have just completed the gybe around the RC boat
and am about to chase the my son (who was leading the race) down the final run.
Screenshots from MYC video by David Gilman.

10. I think Massapoag YC may have unwittingly hooked my two eldest grandchildren, Emily and Aidan, on sailing. They have only been sailing on small boats once before, two years ago. It was at Lake Massapoag and I wrote about it here. On Sunday, Tillerwoman and my daughter-in-law (recently named by National Geographic Magazine as a top family blogger) were in the vicinity of the sailing club with the kids so they brought them there, arriving as my son and I were derigging.

Apparently Emily asked her mother when she could go sailing again. Mom told her that she could choose to go sailing any time she wanted. Just say when.

Emily didn't have to think before replying…. "NOW!"

I think she takes after me a little bit.

Happy birthday indeed.

Emily sailing with me in 2012

Sunday, July 06, 2014

My Butt

Another great angle from the videographer at Lake Massapoag.

Do these hiking pants make my butt look big?

My Hand

Thanks to the wonders of video technology, the RC at Massapoag YC were filming the races yesterday. Here they got a really cool shot of my hand on the gunwale.