Monday, October 30, 2006



I spent ninety minutes driving to the yacht club.

I waited around for an hour until the PRO decided that it was too windy for us to race. It was blowing 20 to 25 knots, gusting to 35 knots, with an offshore wind and an incoming tide.

I phoned my son and learned that his Laser fleet in Boston had also cancelled racing.

I spent ninety minutes driving home from the yacht club.

I had a beer for lunch.

I went for a walk with Tillerwoman on the trails in the woods above our town and pondered the fact that a woman had been killed doing exactly this, exactly here, a year or so ago on a similarly windy day when a branch from a tree fell on her head, and pondered the fact that going for a walk in the woods with my wife is statistically more dangerous than sailing a Laser in 35 knots.

I pondered the fact that I had been out sailing a Laser in Menorca a couple of weeks ago in exactly similar conditions and had had a blast.

I pondered the fact that the Aussie Laser sailors go out and sail in these conditions and pondered that this might be one reason they do much better than American Laser sailors at international regattas especially when it's windy.


Anonymous said...

In my experience, the composition and equipment available to the RC has a more to do with it than general USA vs Ausie culture stereotypes.

As a P.R.O. the sailing is but one aspect. Other considerations include the fitness of the RC volunteers that have shown-up, the fitness of the committee and mark boats, anchoring, safety and rescue concerns and, it being late October in the North East, ambient air and water tempreatures. In regattas I've run, it's amazing how just one extra capable person, or substituting one good work boat for a marginal one, can change the picture, and greatly affect the go/no-go decision.

EVK4 said...

Organize the second annual heavy weather slalom championship...and don't forget to make a video.

EVK4 said...

let me try that again:

Laser Heavy Air Slalom Championship

Tillerman said...

Good points anonymous. There was no argument from the sailors about the decision as it was clearly in line with normal practice in this area. Even though several of us had been hoping to sail.

Lateness of the season and associated air and water temperatures, along with the wind being offshore were certainly factors.

ab said...

Aussies do tend to sail better in a breeze but we are generally hopeless if the wind drops below 8 knots. Our sailing culture teaches us to love big breeze, and to grumble and complain about the light air days.

Clubs in Australia are getting much more cautious about letting us race in a blow though - everyone is so worried about liability these days. In a lot of cases, 20 to 30 is enough to cancel racing.

Tim said...

I understand your dissappointment but I think that being the 'Officer of the Day' (PRO) is a tough job. I'm not sure that I would like the responsibility of making the decision.

I know that every sailor ultimatley has to take responsibility for his decision to sail but I think that the OOD (PRO) still has a level of responsibility to ensure that the racing can be conducted with adequate safety boat coverage for the prevailing conditions.

This summer we had a waterspout rip through a regatta which wiped out most of the fleet and was followed by winds upto 35mph and seas to match. The clubs safety boat teams were overwhelmed and the RNLI responded with inshore craft, a hovercraft and a helicopter.

The storm looked like is was passing well to the south but it changed direction and travelled up the coast and caught us all by suprise.
The condidtions for storms were present and the OOD would have been watching the storm to the south (as was I) so he could have made a decision to call off the second race. In retrospect he would have been wise to have done so instead of abandoning the race 10 minutes into it when the storm hit. But what would I have done in his shoes? It is easy to get it wrong and then be held accountable.

fortunately nobody was seriously injured and no boats were lost.

Check out my blog:

Tillerman said...

You're right Tim. And I hope my post didn't sound like a criticism of the PRO (who was just another sailor from the fleet as we all take turns doing RC duty). The fact that I was disappointed not to sail doesn't mean that if I were in his shoes I wouldn't have made the same decision.

As a sailor I was looking at having a blast and maybe capsizing a few times. As PRO I would have been imagining a dozen capsized Lasers being swept out into Long Island Sound, two of them with broken masts, and three of them with the sailors separated from their boats. If I only have two safety boats, how do I cope?

AdriftAtSea said...


Hypothermia is bad... and very common in New England this late in the season.

Being blown out to sea in a sailing dinghy, seems to be a quick way to feed the fish.

I'd like to see the statistics of being crushed by a tree branch falling, while walking in the woods. ;)

Tillerman said...

Bah! It's obvious.

Number of people killed in our town by falling branches in the last two years: One.

Number of people killed while sailing in our Laser frostbite fleet in the last twenty years: Zero.

Relative probability of being killed by a branch or being drowned while sailing = 1/2 * 20/0 = Infinity.


PS. Don't mess with me. I have a degree in science and know how to use it.

Tillerman said...

By the way, if anyone came to this post from Scuttlebutt, you might have noticed that Scuttlebutt modified my original text to imply that the yacht club I drove to was Cottage Park YC. It was not. I have never sailed at Cottage Park, though it is the home of the Laser fleet in Boston also referenced in passing in my post.

Scuttleblog said...

Tillerman (et all) - Sorry about screwing up and referencing Cottage Park YC. We saw a story about this same event on another blog, and it referenced CPYC, so we thought it would help the story if we included where this non-day of sailing occurred. Guess not. - SBUTT

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