There's no escaping the fact: Laser sailing hurts.
When my sons were teenagers and just starting to sail Lasers they used to complain about the minor bumps and aches associated with sailing. I used to tell them, "Laser sailing is mainly about pain". An exaggeration of course and, looking back, a scary thing to tell kids. But I don't seem to have caused them too much psychological damage and they are both fine young men now. And they both still enjoy sailing. Or perhaps the pain.
At the sailing seminar I recently attended, the guest instructor, Brad Funk, confirmed my point. He was telling the class one evening that most of us weren't hiking hard enough. "How do you know when you're hiking hard enough? If it hurts it means you're hiking properly!"
The publicity for the course promised "fun and torture". It was accurate on both points. After 5 days of such torture I have the following injuries...
A bruise on my head when it was bumped by the boom. Too tired or too stupid to remember to duck in time.
A nagging pain just below my right shoulder blade that doesn't respond to Tylenol. It gets worse if I sit in the car for several hours. The only cure seems to be Laser sailing. When I sail it goes away.
Bruises on both arms. I think these are caused when I do a capsize recovery. Certainly when I was learning to sail a Laser over 20 years ago I used to get more of these bruises.
A sore on my right finger caused by a hole in my full finger gloves. Sores on both index fingers caused when I switched to my 3 finger gloves. Just can't win.
3 sores on my left knee and 1 sore on my right knee caused when I used my short hiking pants. They got worse when I switched to my 3/4 length hiking pants that cover my knees. Go figure.
A bruise on my thigh caused by walking into a boat on the land. Just shows I don't look where I'm going enough on the land or on the race course.
A very sore big toe. Never had this before. My theory is that in this warm water my feet swell a bit and my hiking boots are too tight for these conditions. The love of my life says it will drop off. I'm not exactly clear whether she's referring to the toe, the toenail or something else.
So if hurts so much why do we do it? Are we all masochists?
No. I think we do it for one reason and one reason only. In the words of the song we do it because...."the pleasure is worth all the pain".
Saturday, April 30, 2005
There's no escaping the fact: Laser sailing hurts.
Friday, April 29, 2005
The guest instructor on the course, Brad Funk, sailed in his Laser behind each rabbit to give him or her advice on boat handling and on tactics too, if asked. Brad is ranked the #1 Laser sailor on the US Sailing Team which means he is currently the favorite to win the US Spot in the Laser class for the 2008 Olympics. To say he is in a different league to us weekend warriors attending the seminar is an extreme understatement. Meanwhile Rick was in his motor boat videoing the rabbit's sailing. The videotape would be reviewed by the class after sailing.
So the rabbit is the focus of attention for that race and I had mixed feelings about adopting that role. But I hoped Brad would be able to give me some tips and that I might also learn something from watching a close-up video of my sailing style. My turn to be rabbit came in the middle of the afternoon.
Brad sailed up to me before the start of one race and said in his polite way, "Is it OK if I work with you in this race?"
"Sure!" I replied. "How much of a start should I take?"
"What do you think?"
"OK. I think I'll just race you".
What does he mean? Just race me? Isn't he supposed to be going slow and giving me advice? Who does he think I am?
Still it is flattering to be treated as an equal though we both knew that, in truth, our abilities are far from equal. So I start the race 10 seconds early with Brad on my tail and we head for the favored left side of the course. When I tack back to cover the fleet, one of the other students, Jim, crosses in front of me.
"Jim got a good shift. You'll have to hike harder if you want to catch him", Brad suggests.
So I hike harder. Just my toes under the hiking strap. Body flat out. Hope it looks good on the video. And it works. I arrive at the windward mark in first place. Ease the sail controls before the mark. Smooth rounding. Raise the daggerboard. This is going to look good on video. Bear away to sail by the lee and catch a wave. Geeze - I'm sailing waves downwind with Brad Funk and it's all going to be on video.....
WHAM. Before I know what hits me, the boat rolls over and capsizes to windward. A classic Laser "death roll". And I'm swimming. The rest of the fleet sails past. Where is that damn video camera?
Oh well. My only capsize of the whole week and it happens when I'm "on stage". I laugh at myself, right the boat and then I just try and copy Brad's superfast downwind style as the other Lasers disappear into the distance.
As the seminar notes say, "It doesn't matter if you win or lose. The important question is: Did you learn something?"
Rick himself has over 30 years of experience in various classes of boats but is mainly known as a catamaran sailor. The course is so well designed that, although he worked us hard, I enjoyed every minute of it. Rick told us a story toward the end of the course that explained his approach.
Warning. Viewer Advisory. If you are an extreme feminist, of a sensitive nature or despise old men who tell politically incorrect stories that demean the role of women, then read no further.
This is the story. An entrepreneur somehow acquired a 3-storey building and was wondering how to use it to run a business. He decided to turn it into a brothel. On the first floor his staff were all models; on the second floor his ladies were housewives (anyone remember Belle du Jour); and the top floor's service providers were all schoolteachers.
After a few months a friend asked him which group of women was the most successful for him in his business.
"Oh, the teachers are the most popular by far," he replied.
"Why is that?" his friend asked.
"Well the models were too prissy for most customers...'Mind my hair'....'Don't mess up my nails'.....it just didn't work out".
"And the housewives were too bossy....'Hang your pants there'.....'Put your shirt there'...it really discouraged the customers".
"But the schoolteachers told their clients 'We're going to do this...and then we're going to do that...and then that....and we're going to keep doing it and doing it until we get it right".
I don't know if that's a great formula for running a brothel. But it certainly made for a rewarding sailing experience.
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
My other boat is a Sunfish. No - that's not a bumper sticker but I suppose it could be. I mention it because my Sunfish trailer has various flat surfaces ideal for decorating with bumper stickers. Over the years I've collected a few. Some are the usual sailing stickers handed out at trade shows or sent by vendors every time you order some parts through the mail. Others are ones that just struck me as funny.
Here are a few....
evildoer - this was acquired at a time when it was the most common word in the president's speeches. I bought it to commemorate the time when after an awful start in a Wednesday night race I accidentally said out loud "General Recall". I was just thinking, "I hope there is a general recall". Honest. Anyway half the fleet thought it was the race officer that had shouted out the recall and stopped racing. Oops.
BEWARE OF DOGMA - has a scary picture of a fierce looking doggie
HARKEN Black Magic
Bike - It's Patriotic - is it? Never quite understood this one. Maybe it's about not driving around in gas-guzzling SUVs?
So Many Christians - So Few Lions
SAIL - from SAIL Magazine
Q104.3 CLAPTON ROCKS
Don't Pray in Our Schools and I Won't Think in Your Church
Get your MOJO working - a reference to Colie Sails MOJO Laser rigging package
Atheism is Myth Understood
Old European on Board - this one is a reference to Mr Rumsfeld's speech where he dismissively talked of old Europe. As I really am an old European it seemed appropriate.
LASER Other boats are just practice - this came with my 2005 Laser class renewal. Just about sums up my view of the Sunfish these days. As some of my stickers seem to be designed to piss off the religious right, I might as well piss of Sunfish sailors as well.
SF - this one of those national letter plates that you see on European cars. In America they always seem to be referencing Long Beach Island or the Outer Banks as if a barrier island connected to the mainland with bridges is really a foreign country. I suspect 90% of the people that see this think it's something to do with San Francisco - but there is a Sunfish logo if you look carefully.
"I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully" - G W Bush 09/29/2000 - this one has a cute little picture of Mr Bush looking a lot younger than he does now. I never quite knew the context of this profound expression of our president's political philosophy. Perhaps he was expressing his personal support for the US Sunfish Class Association? Anyway it's a reminder of those innocent days pre-911 when he had the luxury of talking about fish.
WHY BE NORMAL? - Exactly.
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
"For the truth is that I already know as much about my fate as I need to know. The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze." - Richard Bode, First you have to row a little boat.
All right. Enough talk of death.
It's struck me as somewhat ironic that I've been trying to write a blog about sailing for 3 months and I haven't done any real sailing in that time at all. By "real sailing" I mean racing my Laser. Winter can be a frustrating time for me. But all that's going to change. At the end of this week I head off on a two week road trip.
First I'm going to Rick White's Sailing Seminar in the Florida Keys. It's billed as "five days of intensive training, fun and torture". Sounds like just what I need.
Then on the way back I'm going to sail in the Laser US Nationals at Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina. I've never done a US Nationals before so I expect it to be a humbling experience. But Wrightsville Beach is one of the few dinghy racing locations on the east coast that actually races on the ocean - as opposed to a sheltered bay or sound. So there should be a chance to sail in BIG WAVES - something I rarely have the opportunity to experience. I'm looking at the Nationals as another opportunity to practice and learn.
The last few days I've been checking out my boat and trailer, doing a few minor repairs, making sure everything is in good shape for the coming "fun and torture". Then next week once again I will be out there on the water a-dippin' and a-soarin'.
Monday, April 04, 2005
Sailboat racing is a silly game. The truth of the matter is that in a race that may take over an hour, it is the first 5 seconds that are the most crucial. Get off the starting line slowly and you may never recover.
In a running race it's OK to start slow. Indeed the runners that start too fast may quickly burn out and not be able to maintain their pace. But in a sailing race the reverse is true. This is because races usually start in an upwind direction and the boats that get out in front at the start are sailing in clear wind. Boats just a few feet further behind are sailing in wind that is disturbed by the leaders and so the trailing boats will sail more slowly. The rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer.
I'm not as good as I need to be at starts. If I can get consistently better at starts I know my finishing positions will improve dramatically.
2. Heavy air
Last season I sailed a lot of races in heavy wind in the fall. I can go fast in these conditions but I also capsized too much and got tired too quickly. If I can stay upright and keep going all day in heavy winds, I will do well.
I know the consistent winners have a plan. They think about the current and the wind and what course around the buoys is likely to be that fastest. Do I want to go right or left on this leg? Which side of the course is the wind strongest? Will the wind change direction, and if so how, and how do I position myself to take advantage of it?
I know the theory of all this but I don't execute. I get so involved in trying to make the boat go fast and how to beat the boats around me that I lose sight of the big picture. I have to "get my head out of the boat", as sailors say, and start thinking strategically more.
So that's it. Just three things. I will start analyzing how to work on these areas and keep track through the year of how I'm doing.
In the corporate world if you don't make progress on your "areas of improvement" we may need to consider "other options". Yikes. Sounds scary.
First of all we had the intense news coverage of the feuding over Terri Schiavo. Illuminated with old video of this unfortunate brain-damaged woman. Clearly the body was well and the mind was gone. Sadly her mind had really died 15 years ago and her life was much too short and unfulfilled.
Almost at the same time we had the pope's death. The mind was active almost until the end but we had watched the body slowly and painfully deteriorate in recent years. A long life and one of outstanding achievement. But still a slow, painful end full of suffering.
Then this weekend I learned of the recent death of one of my cousins. Actually the first death of a cousin. And she was almost exactly my age and had fought cancer for 10 years. One is reminded of one's own mortality when a parent dies. But when the first family member of the same generation as oneself dies, it becomes even more apparent that our time is not unlimited.
To make things worse yesterday we watched the movie Notebook. It's a chick-flick of course. A sweet romance. But interlaced with a story about a deranged woman in a nursing home whose connection to the young lovers is not immediately apparent. Another sad way for life to end.
How depressing. A brain damaged vegetative state. Painful diseases piling on top of each other. A long, losing fight with cancer. Senile dementia. Fates that none of us wish for ourselves.
What to do? Just keep on living every day to the full. Sailing is a big part of my attempts to stave off the decline of old age as long as possible. Physically it keeps me active and gives me a motivation to stay fit. Mentally it challenges me. Socially it keeps me involved with people of all ages including young children.
Maybe it's just denial. But I do sort of believe the old saying that we all have an allotted number of days on this earth but the days we spend sailing don't get counted.
Or as Jimmy Buffett put it, "I'd rather die while I'm living than live while I'm dead".
Sunday, April 03, 2005
It all started the previous September as I finished my summer sailing job and was thinking of what to do in the fall to keep fit and avoid gaining weight over the winter. "Why not enter a marathon?", I thought. I reckoned I would need 3 months or so to get into shape and a quick search showed that the Disneyworld Marathon in January was at about the right time of year. So I entered the race, booked a room at Disneyworld, reserved some flights, and told everyone I was running a marathon in January. Now I was committed.
I had an old book about running your first marathon. First problem was that the book reckoned it would take more than 3 months to get fit. So I just started part way through the program running the recommended time each week. Bad idea. I got terrible shin splints from running too far, too fast, too soon.
But I stuck with the program through the fall. It wasn't too hard as the book said that speed didn't matter, just do the times recommended, running as slowly as you like. Except I discovered that for the longest week, a couple of weeks before marathon date, the book told you to run 150 minutes on one day and this would be about 20 miles and "if you can run 20 miles you can probably finish the marathon".
Hmmmm. 150 minutes is 20 miles if you run it at seven and a half minutes a mile. For me the 150 minute run was more like 15 miles. And I knew all the marathon programs said you should do at least one run of 20 miles or more. Luckily I had arranged the program to give me a couple of weeks in hand in case I got sick or hurt. So I repeated the heaviest 2 weeks of the program and extended the long run to 20 miles.
I felt great after the 20 mile run. I felt like I had more miles left in me and could have done it faster. Only problem was that I was doing these long training runs in New Jersey in December with the temperature in the thirties. Race day temperature was eventually in the sixties. Not quite as easy.
The other thing I had overlooked was that the marathon race start time was 6am. When I read the small print in the info provided by Disney it said you had to catch a bus from your hotel at 4am. After the bus ride there would be a long long wait until the start of the race. Yikes.
So that's how my wish to keep fit for sailing led me to be sitting in a parking lot in the middle of the night surrounded by thousands of bare legs covered in goose bumps. I hope this sacrifice is reflected in my sailing race results next season.....
Oh yes, I did complete the marathon. Everything I had read about marathons is true. They ARE long and hard. The last 6.2 miles ARE much much harder than the previous 20 miles. There IS a wall. But I've signed up to do it again next year.
Saturday, April 02, 2005
Members are warned that DHMO has been detected at unusually high levels in our lake. DHMO, Di-Hydrogen Monoxide, a colorless and odorless chemical compound is also known as Hydric acid. Its basis is the unstable Hydroxyl radical, the components of which are found in a number of caustic, explosive and poisonous compounds such as Sulfuric Acid, Nitroglycerine and Ethyl Alcohol.
Should we be concerned about DHMO?
Yes, we should be concerned about DHMO! Although the US Government and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) do not classify DHMO as a toxic or carcinogenic substance (as it does with better known chemicals such as hydrochloric acid and saccharine), DHMO is a constituent of many known toxic substances and disease-causing agents, and can even be lethal to humans in quantities as small as a thimbleful.
What are the dangers associated with DHMO?
Each year, DHMO is a known causative component in many thousands of deaths and is a major contributor to millions of dollars in damage to property and the environment. Some of the known perils of DHMO are:
Death due to accidental inhalation of DHMO, even in small quantities.
Prolonged exposure to solid DHMO causes severe tissue damage.
Excessive ingestion produces a number of unpleasant though not typically life-threatening side-effects.
DHMO is a major component of acid rain.
Gaseous DHMO can cause severe burns.
Leads to corrosion and oxidation of many metals.
Found in biopsies of pre-cancerous tumors and lesions.
Is it true that using DHMO improves athletic performance?
Absolutely! With the numerous allegations of amateur and professional athletes using anabolic steroids and/or blood doping to enhance performance, virtually no attention has been paid to the performance enhancing properties of DHMO. It is perhaps the sporting world's dirtiest of dirty little secrets that athletes regularly ingest quantities of DHMO in an effort to gain a competitive edge over an opponent.
Sports-medicine physicians warn that ingesting too much DHMO can lead to complications and unwanted side-effects, but do acknowledge the link to improved performance. DHMO is not currently considered a banned substance, so post-race urine tests do not detect elevated or abnormal levels of DHMO.
What are the symptoms of DHMO overdose?
You may not always recognize that you have been a victim of accidental DHMO overdose, so here are some signs and symptoms to look for. If you suspect DHMO overdose, or if you exhibit any of these symptoms, you should consult with your physician or medical practitioner. The data presented here is provided for informational purposes only, and should in no way be construed as medical advice of any sort.
Hyponatremia (serum hypotonicity)
Dangerously imbalanced levels of ECF and ICF in the blood
Degeneration of sodium homeostasis
How can sailors protect themselves from DHMO?
Because of the exceptional levels of DHMO now entering the reservoir, it will be extremely difficult for sailors to avoid exposure entirely. However, the risks can be minimized by wearing a full body dry-suit with latex booties together with latex rubber gloves. Ensure that seals at neck and wrists are in good condition and form a very tight fit. Wear goggles and do not sail if there is any risk of splashes to the face.
What is our club doing about this problem?
Rest assured that the Executive Committee is doing everything we can to address this unprecedented threat to our sailing activities.
State Liaison C.E. commented, “I had no idea that DHMO levels were so high. I will be working with other local organizations to see what we can do. With the support of club membership, we will stamp it out”.
Commodore R.B. also expressed his concern. “We will have to look into what the liability of the club and its officers will be if any of our members are exposed to DHMO. Members should be aware that the club assumes no responsibility if they suffer problems with DHMO during unsanctioned activities”.
Why is the press not covering the DHMO scandal?
It is true that this problem has been largely ignored by the press locally and nationally. But coverage of DHMO can sometimes be found in the mainstream media…... usually around the beginning of April each year.
How can I find out more about the risks of DHMO?
Check out http://www.dhmo.org/. Much of the information above comes from this website.
All members scheduled to serve as race committee on Wednesday nights should become familiar with the following guidelines.
1. Fishermen at our lake have a boring life. All they do is stare at the water. Try to make their life more interesting by setting the start line between some anchored fishing boats. Fishermen love to watch the boats sailing nearby and to chat to the sailors.
2. In light winds, make sure you set very, very long courses. If you don't, you'll only have to run more races making for unnecessary work.
3. Most sailors hate to tack. Try and set the first leg of the course so that they can reach the first mark without tacking.
4. Most sailors find it really hard to work out which is the upwind end of the start line. Help them out by setting a start line so that they have to beat to get to one end. Then it is so much easier for the sailors to identify the favored end.
5. Start sequences can be very boring for the sailors. Try livening things up by stopping a 3-minute sequence at any time and restarting it without warning. Another option is to make the 2-minute and 1-minute signals at some random interval after the 3 minute signal. This keeps the sailors on their toes.
6. Don't bother to call any boats that are over the start line. It's not really your job. Alternatively call out a few sail numbers that are over and add "and those other boats that I can't see". Keeps everyone guessing and that is a lot of fun for everyone.
7. Liven up the first leg by driving the committee boat up to the windward mark, and then when everyone is halfway up the beat and spread out on both side of the course, pick up the mark and move it. This is really exciting for the sailors who guessed wrong about where you were going to drop the mark.
8. Have a good rest while the sailors are racing. You have earned it. Chat to the sailors that showed up late for the race. Don't bother to watch the racers. The first boat will always give you a shout when he or she is about to finish.
9. Set a really long finish line. Don't worry if it is so long that you can't read the sail numbers at the other end of the line. You can always ask the sailors to shout out their numbers when they know they have crossed the line.
10. If you get bored, you can always shorten the course. To do this, drive over to the mark that the sailors are approaching and put it in the committee boat. Let the racers guess how they are supposed to finish. Makes them think - which is good for them.
11. If any guests or potential new fleet members show up to race, remind them that the races are for members only and that they should keep clear of the racecourse. This is especially important if the newcomers are juniors, because kids need to be put in their place.
12. If any of the anchors on the buoys look old or dirty, just untie the line and dump the anchors in the reservoir. The rear commodore will be delighted to supply new ones.
13. Set the course as far away from the club launching area as possible. You can usually rely on the wind to die later in the evening, and the sailors really appreciate the chance to practice their light air skills on a long sail back to the beach in the dark.
14. Remember when you are race officer, you are always right. Do not be distracted by advice and comments from any of the sailors. If a sailor persists in telling you how to do your job, it is OK to teach him or her some new nautical terms that may not be in the dictionary.
15. Please make sure that these new race officer procedures are used for all races on or after April 1st 2003.
In 2003 I wrote a spoof article on how to do race committee - but it was actually a list of all the awful things that a race committee can do to screw up the racing and ruin all the sailors' enjoyment. The in-joke was that one poor guy had actually managed to make every single mistake on the list on one memorable Wednesday evening the previous season. He must be very thick-skinned because he's still talking to me.
Then last year I stole an idea I found on the web about this terrible substance in our lake called DHMO. The article was full of dire warnings about how it causes death if inhaled in small quantities, that some athletes are actually ingesting it to improve performance, that it causes thousands of deaths per year etc. etc. DHMO stands for Di-Hydrogen Monoxide. I didn't think you'd need to be a chemist to recognize the jokey name for water, but it fooled a number of club members.
I'll try and post those two article to this blog.
This year for my April 1 edition of the newsletter I included 3 short jokes. One was asking members to look for some propeller cleaning fluid called Prop Wash. Another was a spoof tuning tip about negative mast bend complete with a picture of a boat with extreme mast bend (which was actually an ice boat). And another was bizarre advice about how to avoid infringing the illegal propulsion rule which including such absurdities as holding the tiller in the central position while hailing "One Mississippi, Two Mississippi, Three Mississippi".
I mailed the newsletter on the last day of March and am awaiting the reaction.
Yesterday I received a desperate email from an out-of-state sailor who had won a trophy at a local regatta. Apparently he took the trophy to an engraver to have his name added to it, and in the process the trophy had been damaged beyond all hope of repair. As the trophy is actually a memorial to a deceased sailor he was devastated and he wants to see if he can replace it without the family and host club finding out about the breakage. He was asking me if I knew where the trophy had been bought originally.
Unfortunately I don't know the history of the trophy so I sent him a short, sympathetic reply with a suggestion of who else he might ask. Aaaaaaaagh. Of course it was all an April Fools joke and I was well and truly fooled.
Guess it serves me right.
Friday, April 01, 2005
One of my favorite sailing books is 'Sail, Race and Win' by Eric Twiname. It is essentially a book about how to coach yourself to sail better. Twiname identifies 12 ways to improve your racing. I'll list them in this blog and then use this as a structure in future postings to talk about my sailing year and my attempts to go faster.
1. Race experience. Twiname points out that for many people this is their only way of learning to race successfully, but it's not actually all that effective. To improve you have to experiment. And most people won't make radical experiments with technique in the middle of a race. He advocates using some races as classrooms and forgetting about the results.
2. Observation. Was it Yoga Berra who said you can observe a lot just by watching? We never have the time to observe ourselves and others while racing. So get out on the RC and watch other racers closely. Have someone take photos or videos of yourself and study the results.
3. Solo practice. Sailors practice so much less than athletes do in other sports. Twiname says this is the fastest and easiest way to improve.
4. Crewing. Crew for a champion and learn from him.
5. Physical fitness. As a Laser sailor I know how important this is. But knowing it and doing something about it are different things.
6. Swapping boats and classes. Each class emphasizes different skills so switching forces you to work on different skills.
7. Paired practice
8. Team and match racing
9. Race post mortem and analysis
10. Reading and seeking advice
11. Group coaching
12. Mental fitness. Once again Yogi Berra said it first, "Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical". Even more true in sailboat racing, I suspect.
What Twiname recommends is to choose 3 major weaknesses that you need to work on and then think about how each of these 12 techniques can contribute to eliminating that weakness. So that's what I will do. I will use this blog to develop my self coaching plan and report on how it works out.