Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Risk



A major part of sailboat racing is learning how to manage risk.

How to play the odds.

When to take a risk to make a large gain.

And when to play it safe to avoid making a huge loss.



I'm not usually very good at this aspect of the game. I think I'm usually too conservative on the race course and don't take risks when I should. One aspect of my game that I think I usually play too safe is the windward mark rounding. My usual modus operandi is to approach the starboard tack layline six to ten lengths from the mark, find a gap in the parade of boats on the lay line, sail through it and tack. I hardly ever come on in port on the layine or within three boat lengths of the mark, and hardly ever try to tack below starboard tackers and risk not laying the mark.



But on Sunday it was different.

I was racing with the Duxbury Laser fleet again and the winds were forecast to be 15 gusting 25 but I don't think it ever actually was that strong.

I was still suffering from some lower back pain from the previous Sunday so I determined that I would race for an hour or so and then call it a day. Didn't want to overdo it.

As a result I didn't care too much about the results, so I had a mindset that I was prepared to take some risks. Roll the dice and see what happened.



The boat end of the start line was favored and I knew some of the sailors in this fleet would be fighting each other for the position next to the boat. I chose to play it safe at the starts and get a position a little further down the line with room to accelerate that was away from the mayhem at the RC boat.

As a result I was usually on the left of the leaders going up the beat. Sometimes sailing a bit faster than them (mantra: bow down) but not fast enough that I could tack and safely cross them all until they tacked. On the shortish course that often meant I was close to the port tack lay line before I could tack.

Normally this would be where I would start to panic and start looking for gaps in the starboard tack parade and bearing off to find such a gap and giving up way too many boats in the process of trying to make a safe windward mark rounding.

But on Sunday it was different. Some times I came in the port tack layline and managed to tack cleanly in front of the approaching starboard tackers. Some times I was further away from the port tack lay line and I chanced it tacking under a starboard tacker. Risks I would never normally take. It worked out every time and I rounded the mark in the lead, or in the leading pack every time.

Hey. Maybe I should try this more often?



I had good speed upwind and downwind. My leeward mark roundings weren't too shabby either. After four races my scores were 1,2,1,1.

Hmmm!

In line with my plan of only sailing for an hour or so, I decided to call it a day. Some wag later asked me if I had got tired of winning.

Not at all. But I chose not to risk hurting my back again by sailing for too long.

It's all about managing risk.


Monday, September 01, 2014

Mantras



Athletes in all sorts of sports believe in using mantras. But are mantras any help in sailing?

What is a mantra? An inspirational phrase that helps with your performance. Something to help keep the mind focused on what is important while you are competing.

Many runners use mantras. There is an excellent Runners' World article about it - The Magic of Mantras. It reminds us that a good mantra should be "short, positive, instructive, and full of action words."

But mantras are very personal. Different strokes for different folks. And even in a sport as apparently simple as running, a runner may use different mantras in different stages of the race and for different purposes.

Some examples of mantras from that article I linked…

To remind you to start out easy in a long race - "Pass no one."

To help you stay focused and forget how long a marathon really is - "One mile at a time." I could never have completed my marathons or half marathons without using this one.

To help you focus on good running form  - "Lighter, softer, faster, relaxer." Hey, they don't even have to be real words as long as they work for you.



Some sailors use mantras too. Christine Neville wrote about it in one of her posts about racing at CORK a couple of weeks ago. She felt she had been thinking too much about getting away from other boats to find clear air, so on this day she used mantras like "keep it simple" and "go as fast and direct as you can."

I really need a mantra to help me when I'm sailing a long windy beat to take my mind off my aching quad muscles and keep me focused on hiking hard and keeping good hiking form and sailing fast. I wonder what would work?

"It's meant to hurt." Maybe not. Too negative. A mantra should take your mind off the pain and adversity and keep you in a positive frame of mind.

"Tougher than the rest." Not true - but it would probably work.

"Grind them down. One at a time." Ha! I like this one. Just focus on sailing faster than the boat next to me until I have him in my bad air and he is forced to tack away. Children can be so cruel at my age.

But sailing is such a complex sport. We need different mantras for different wind conditions and different points of sail and different strategic and tactical situations and to avoid different mental traps.

"Keep your head out of the boat." is a very useful mantra of course.

And something like "Keep calm. Forget it. Carry on." is a good one for dealing with the aftermath of all the things that can go bad on the race course including capsizes, collisions with buoys, collisions with other boats, collisions with bridges, falling out of the boat, being pulled out of the boat by another sailor's sheet around your neck, chopping your finger off etc. etc.



What about you?

Do you have some favorite sailing mantras?


Saturday, August 30, 2014

How to Train for the Laser Masters Worlds in Hyères

I was in a very gay mood on Sunday.

OK. OK. I realize that it's pretty much impossible to use the word "gay" in a sentence like that these days without being totally misunderstood. But once upon a time "gay" was a very useful word in the English language with the meaning of "happily excited, merry, keenly alive and exuberant."

So let's start again.

I was feeling happily excited, merry, keenly alive and exuberant on Sunday.

I went racing with the Duxbury Laser fleet. There were eight Lasers racing. The fleet was close. The race courses were perfect. The weather was perfect. Everyone was having a good time.

Between races one sailor sailed across to me and said something along the lines of, "What a great day to be alive. I don't mind looking at all these transoms on the race course. It's just good to be out here." I totally agreed.

I haven't raced much this summer on account of some lower back pain after the Newport Regatta but it was fun to be at it again. Several of my friends have been training hard this summer for the Laser Masters Worlds at Hyères in France in October and two of them were there on Sunday. They were both sailing really well. Smooth. Fast. Smart. Their hard work is really paying off.

On the other hand, my results weren't anything to write home about. In my best races I was third or fourth, I think. I'm not going to write home about the other races.

As I said, I was in a gay mood. (See above for translation.)

I was feeling a bit French too. (No translation needed.)

French Laser sailor from Hyères...

So while we were racing, I was shouting random phrases in my bad schoolboy French at my two friends who are going to the Worlds to acclimate them to what it will be like sailing in France.

"Cette fille est très rapide!"

"Maintenez votre cours!"

"Chambre à la marque!"

"Étoile ennuyée!"

"Trichez la maison de soins infirmiers. Mourrez sur votre Laser!"

And from time to time I would break into a rousing verse or two of La Marseillaise, for the same reason.





Oh, I was in a very gay mood. (See above for translation.)

After sailing, one of the other mid-fleet sailors came up to me and starting launching in to some explanation as to why he had been sailing so badly. I was tempted to join in with a litany of my own excuses, as I usually would have done. But I was in too good a mood for that so I replied…

"I'm just happy to see my friends sailing so well."

And I was.



Bonus points for anyone who can complete a limerick that starts with the line…

There was a French sailor from Hyères..

Helpful hint: Hyères rhymes with "sea air."


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Photo Quiz



Where?

What?

When?

Where are they now?


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Back Pain - there's an app for that

Regular readers of this blog will know that from time to time I suffer from lower back pain.

I don't think it's directly caused by Laser sailing (although that may be a contributing factor.) The pain can be triggered by the silliest things like putting my socks on or reaching for a weed in the garden. (A doctor recently told me that primary care physicians hear stories like that all the time.)

But I think the last two bouts have been brought on by my bad posture while spending way too much time hunched over a computer writing blog posts and other stuff.



/Pam over at the Improper Course blog (where did they get that name from) posted some advice on the issue the other day at No More Back Pain. And there's plenty of other advice on the Internet including many videos on how to contort yourself into various poses and if you only do them for 6 hours a day, 365 days a year you will never experience back pain again.

Do this for 6 hours a day 
and never experience back pain again


Or you could go to a doctor who will chop off parts of your spine, or stick together parts of your spine, or replace parts of your spine, or implant some doohickey in your spine. You know the old saying: If all you have is a scalpel, the solution to everything is back surgery. (Or something.


Back surgery

Or if you are not into knives then you can go to a man or woman with big hands called a "chiropractor" who will push and pull at bits of your back and make it crack a lot and then give you a bill and never tell you that you would have got better anyway without having him or her crack your bones.

Your chiropractor with her previous patient


But now there's a better solution. At least for people like me who mess up their backs with bad blogging posture. There's an app for that. Or to be more accurate a device and an app. It's called the Lumo Lift.

The Lumo Lift is a small device that you place on your clothing near your collar and it detects the curvature at the top of your spine. When you slouch, your spine curves, and the Lumo Lift gives a small buzz to remind you to straighten up.  (Just like your Mum and your schoolteacher and your drill sergeant used to.) The Lumo Lift can also track your physical activity like the Fitbit and other gadgets.

Wow. What will they think of next?

Attractive young lady wearing a Lumo Lift

Check out all the details and buy one for everyone you know who has bad posture at www.lumobodytech.com



Full disclosure: I did not receive any bribes or payments or free samples to write this review and to be honest I have never even tried a Lumo Lift so I have absolutely no idea whether it really works or not, but it does sound like more fun than back surgery. All opinions are my own (except when I used cut and paste.)


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

East Coast Road Trip Laser Regatta Bucket List



A few days ago I posted a request from a group of Canadian Laser Masters Sailors. They wanted ideas on where to go on a US East Coast Laser Road Trip starting at Florida Masters Week in February and ending up at the Masters Worlds at CORK in July.

Several of my readers gave them suggestions in the comments and this post is my contribution.

First of all - and I am sure my Canadian friends already know this - this trip needs to be planned taking into account where major regattas of interest (especially masters regattas) are being held in 2015 and where and when each Laser district on the east coast is holding its district championship next year. And a lot of that information is not published yet.

Another difficulty in planning such a trip is that it's hard to find events to do in the first few weeks immediately after the Florida Masters week in February. Although one option is certainly the open Masters Midwinters East in Clearwater, Florida on Feb 18-22.

Having moved the motorhome and Lasers to Clearwater, I think I would see if Kurt Taulbee of SailFit was available to run a sailing clinic for the group some time in March in Clearwater. I always have a good time and learn a lot there.

Then if there's anything going on in March or early April in District 12 (Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina) I would go there, especially if it's in Charleston or Wrightsville Beach.

Or if they are up for a longer drive, the Canadians could head over to Austin Texas and sail in Fred Schroth's famous Easter Laser Regatta on April 4-5. I've never done it but it looks like a hell of a lot of fun and is legendary in Laser circles. Apparently it's America's Favorite Regatta!! It says so on the website so it must be true.

2014 trophy winners at the Easter regatta

After any District 12 events, it's time to hit District 11 (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.)  Some of my favorite places to visit there are Fishing Bay YC in Deltaville VA and Severn Sailing Association in Annapolis. I see that D11 usually has an early season opener at SSA at the end of April, the Sunshine Open, so I would definitely plan to include that.

Then onwards and northwards to District 10 (New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania) my old stomping ground from 1989 to 2007. They have a very active spring and early summer season with a regatta almost every weekend from the end of April onwards.  Take your pick.

One regatta in D10 that should be on every Laser sailor's bucket list is the Orange Coffee Pot at Surf City YC, the oldest Laser regatta in the world - it has been raced every year since 1972 and this year was held on the last Saturday in May. What a hoot if some old fart took the treasured trophy back to Canada.



If time permits, the Canadians could also take in a regatta in District 8 (eastern New York - mainly Long Island.) One of the events on the eastern end of Long Island, anything at Sayville YC and perhaps the D8 championship.

But then, saving the best for last, the Canadians absolutely have to spend some time in District 7 (New England) the absolute mecca of Laser sailing. (Perhaps I'm a bit biased.) Apparently they need to be back in Canada by the second week of July for the Masters Worlds which means, unfortunately, they will probably miss all of the D7 signature events like the Newport Regatta, the Hyannis Regatta and the Buzzards Bay Regatta.

But they should definitely aim to take in the Wickford Regatta which will probably be in early June. I can't do better to describe it than to quote from the regatta website.

The Wickford Regatta is a celebration of One-Design Fun. First held in 1972, the Wickford Regatta was one of the first Laser events in the world. In subsequent years 470s, 505s and Flying Dutchmen made the Wickford Regatta the premier springtime event on the East Coast for the balance of the 70’s. The Wickford Regatta came out of hibernation in 2009 in spectacular fashion and this year will be better yet. Great sailing, a great party, lots of cool boats and the warmest hospitality you will ever experience. Come and have a blast! The racing is on the West Passage of Narragansett Bay with launching from the soft sands of Cold Spring Beach.
The Canadians may also be able to fit in some of our smaller D7 one day regattas in New Hampshire and Maine held around the end of May and beginning of June.

Finally, another must do is the John Bentley Regatta at New Bedford YC, usually held towards the end of June. I'm sure many of the sailors on the Real Canadian Masters Sailing Team will have known John Bentley, who sadly passed away in December 2012. John ran this regatta himself for many years and it has been renamed in his memory. What better way to finish up the east coast road trip by sailing with John's old Laser sailing friends at a regatta named in his honor?

John Bentley

OK. That's my suggestions. I'm happy to refine this list as dates of events get firmed up over the winter. And if any of my readers have other ideas, please let the RCMST (or is it RMCST?) hear from you in the comments to this post.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Captain Webb - Nothing Great is Easy



On this day, August 25, in 1875 Captain Matthew Webb became the first man to swim across the English Channel. Smeared in porpoise oil and despite stings from jellyfish he swam from Dover to Calais in 21 hours and 45 minutes.

In 1883 he attempted to swim across the Niagara River just below Niagara Falls. Many though the stunt was tantamount to suicide. They were right. He was drowned in the whirlpool.

His memorial stone in Dawley, Shropshire, England has the inscription, "Nothing great is easy."



Captain Webb is also commemorated in John Betjeman's poem "A Shropshire Lad."

Enjoy...


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Emily the Kayaker



My eldest grandchild - smart, talented, funny, kind Emily - is now a solo kayaker. And what a place to learn - in the spectacular scenery of the Adirondacks.


Hard to believe she is the same baby in this photo from less than 9 years ago.



Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Cabarete



I've been to the Laser Training Center at Cabarete in the Dominican Republic several times.

Next winter they will have a new coach, Judith Krimski, who writes the Center of Effort blog.

I would really like to go back to Cabarete next winter, maybe with a group of local sailing friends.

Today I came across this photo. It's from a Facebook group set up for Laser sailors who were at Cabarete from 12-15 January this year and it was posted by Kristian Joos.

I have to say it brings back memories of what it is like sailing there. It's a very typical scene.

Hmmm.



All of my posts about Cabarete can be found here.

East Coast Laser Road Trip - Ideas Needed



This morning I received the following email which speaks for itself. Please let David have your ideas in the comments. Even if you are not a Laser sailor you can surely help with the planned research project into beers of the US east coast! Thanks.


Dear Tillerman

A group of masters, GMs and one GGM, none of whom have ever done a laser campaign, would like to. We are all located in or close to Calgary, Alberta.

Very preliminary planning has produce some ideas, a motorhome, a driver willing to drive forever, and a trailer that will hold 6 lasers.

Our thinking so far is that our motorhome would tour either the east or west coast. Participants could travel with the motorhome or fly in to as many regattas as they want to participate in- most of our participants still work to feed their laser habit/addiction. Probably we would look for B&Bs, camp or hotels, as well as using the motorhome, for accommodation at regattas and on tour.

We are relatively familiar with the US west coast regattas, but not at all with the east coast, other than from your blog and regatta reports. One thought we had was to do the Florida Masters regattas and then move up the coast slowly, ending up at the Worlds at Cork next year. We would like to participate in both large and small regattas, and training nights, and dip inland from time to time. We plan to offer some Canadian Calgary hospitality wherever we go, and may be able to offer some race committee help. One research project in which there seems to be particular interest is local beers of the east coast.

Where should we go? Can you or your readers help us plan a route or suggest friendly regattas?

With thanks, and appreciation for Proper Course.

David 


PS. The photo at the top of his post is NOT of the motorhome that the Canadians are planning to use. I'm sure many of my readers will know this particular vehicle already.