Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Wanted: J/30 Tactician


The choice of a J/30 sail insignia as my "days sailed counter" in the sidebar yesterday reminds me that I meant to tell you the story about my being invited to be a tactician on a J/30 in the class's 2008 North American Championship. Or maybe it wasn't tactician. Maybe it was strategeriser. Is there a difference?

Regular readers of this blog (all three of you) will know that I am about as well qualified for such a role as I am for being John McCain's choice for vice-president, or the US representative in the marathon at the Beijing Olympics. I mean when I look at the picture above the questions that occur to me are...

  • Is that a J/30? I stole it off the website for their NAs but I've no idea if it really is one.

  • What are all those people doing? How can it take so many folk to drive one little boat? Don't they get in each other's way?

  • Which one is the tactician? Is it the guy in the snazzy red dungarees bending over? Or the guy in the tasteful yellow pants apparently clapping his hands behind his back? And what is all that about anyway?

  • Why are there three holes in the back of the boat? Won't it leak?

Anyway this is how it happened. Back in February, my wife and I were having dinner in Sydney with a fellow US Laser Master sailor and his wife prior to the Laser Masters Worlds in Terrigal. The conversation rambled around various topics as the wine flowed and vast quantities of seafood were consumed. It turned out that my dining companion has a half-share in a J/30 and is planning to do the NAs in Rhode Island this September. I asked polite questions about J/30 sailing trying to sound interested while not displaying my total ignorance of the subject. My friend then had what I can only describe as a brainfart. I think his logic went something like this.

  1. We need a tactician, someone with local knowledge of winds and currents in Narragansett Bay.

  2. Tillerman lives in Rhode Island and may have sailed on some parts of Narragansett Bay.

  3. Ergo Tillerman would make a great J/30 tactician.

The invitation was proffered. I humbly explained my total lack of qualifications for the role, not least that I know nothing about sailing a boat with more than one sail, I know even less than nothing about Narragansett Bay winds and tides, and moreover I don't play well with others. There's no me in team.

I wasn't sure how serious the invitation was. After all, this was the same guy whom I was with at one of the "social" evenings at the Laser Masters Worlds in Spain last year when we both bullied various New Zealand sailors into agreeing to host us for a pre-Australia-Worlds Laser training campaign in Kiwi-Land. Nothing came of it, not least I suspect because when I sobered up next morning I couldn't even remember which New Zealanders we had been talking to.

Anyway the topic was not raised again in Terrigal so I assume he also sobered up after our Sydney dinner and made other plans. But perhaps I am missing something? Maybe I should get some big (well bigger) boat experience so if such an invitation comes up again I could legitimately accept it. Maybe sailing in yellow pants with my hands behind my back would be fun?

13 comments:

TK said...

I think the tactician has to be the guy in the gray vest with his arm casually draped over the lifeline, the one person on the boat not doing anything.... he must be plotting their next move of strategery.

EVK4 said...

When I wear my tasteful yellow pants, I prefer to keep my hands in my pockets. Unless I'm driving, then I assume the "at-ease" posture with my hands behind my back. This makes all the superfluous crew feel comfortable.

And it's J-24s that sink, not J-30s.

seadated said...

I've raced that boat a few times. It's in Hampton VA - USA 90, aka "White Boat" This was from the N/A's in 2004, I believe. They won, but ultimately lost their title in kangaroo court. The guy squatting to the left of yellow pant guy is Kenny Saylor, the Hampton North Sails guy and tactician, the guy in the yellow pants is owner/driver Dave McConaughy, and the guy in the white tee shirt is a former spinnaker trimmer from the Farr 395 I used to sail on called "Kahuna". His name is Bryce Barritt, and is the best kite trimmer I've ever met.

You should give a J/30 a whirl one time, Tillerman. It sails like a big laser, but with a few more strings to pull. It seriously is big fun!

Tillerman said...

Thank you guys for all your help. So if I've got this right...

a) you have to be the owner to wear yellow pants and stand there with your hands behind your back or in your pockets. (No, wait a minute, is he actually holding the tiller behind his back with both hands? That would make more sense. I must try that on my Laser some time.)

b) the strategeriser on a good boat is actually a pro and has to do a lot of squatting. Two more reasons why I'm glad I didn't take up this offer... I'm not a pro and I hate squatting.

c) J/30s don't sink. I checked Edward's assertion by googling "J30" and "sink" and discovered that J30s actually have a sink and sometimes a stove too. How civilized on a racing boat. Do they have a margarita mixer too?

JP said...

Give it a go - always fun to try another type of boat.

And as a laser sailor you do tactics as well as everything else so why not?

And would be one of those learning experiences ;)

tillerman said...

Good question jp...

In principle I'm prepared to "have a go" at almost any kind of sailing. Would love to have a chance to sail on something like a J/30 if I could do it first in practice or in low key races.

However calling the shots on a J/30 in its North American Championship for a team that has a legitimate chance to place well in its category is just a little too much pressure for me. I hate to let other people down and I'm pretty sure this is what would have happened.

I did actually do a bit of crewing on a keelboat a few summers back in some club races and discovered that the depths of my ignorance and incompetence in such a setting were stunning.

EVK4 said...

Their tactician's name is Kenny Saylor? Was his career choice coincidence or destiny?

A friend of mine's brother is my sailmaker. The sailmaker has a completely unpronounceable Dutch name; the brother who doesn't sail has a middle name of Sailor (still with the unpronounceable last name). It doesn't always work out like you plan as a parent.

Carol Anne said...

Surely the J/30 guys are NOT asking you to come onto their boat and strategerize in a race without offering some practice time first?

wbemus said...

Tillerman, what was the owners name? I have a feeling that I know who you're talking about. In fact, I'm part of the crew.

tillerman said...

I couldn't possibly reveal the owner's name wbemus. The identity of all characters discussed on this blog are strictly confidential in order to protect me from libel suits.

wbemus said...

Would the boat be based out of Westport CT? Or is that too much information. I'm the spinnaker trimmer on the boat I think we're talking about.

tillerman said...

You could zap me with a laser beam but I still wouldn't reveal any more info.

wbemus said...

Darn, oh well, that's a shame ;)

You should try racing on a J/30 some time, they're lots of fun. We don't use UK Halsey sails though.

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