Thursday, January 31, 2008

Losing It

Sat 12 Jan

The second day of the Caribbean Laser Midwinters Regatta at Cabarete promises to be the best day of the week so far, for several reasons...

  1. We are racing outside the reef.
  2. There is wind.
  3. The wind is increasing during the day.
  4. There are waves.
  5. It's not raining.
Unfortunately my race performance doesn't live up to the potential of the day.

I do OK in the first two races. Just OK. Not great.

The third race I guess it is blowing about 20 knots with the current running against the wind. The swell is coming from the left side of the course looking upwind but there is also a lot of chaotic chop on top of the waves.

I do OK on the upwind leg. Just OK. Not great.

Then on the downwind leg I capsize. I am sailing a more-or-less direct line for the leeward mark and one of the waves coming from the side rolls me to windward. I'm not the only one to capsize but I think my response to it is probably the worst in the fleet.

I do a fairly slow capsize recovery. Make sure I turn the bow into the wind first so I won't do one of those capsize recoveries with the rig lying to windward of the hull which is a recipe for letting the wind capsize the boat again before you can get into the cockpit.

OK. I'm back in the boat. Let's start sailing again. But somehow I've lost the ability to steer the boat aggressively down the waves. I sail fifty yards or so and death roll again. Another slow recovery. This time partly because I'm getting a bit tired.

Back in the boat again. Rest of fleet is way downwind near the leeward mark. Sail off tentatively in that general direction. Big mistake. Wham. A third death roll. This is starting to irritate me.

Do a very very slow third capsize recovery. Hmmm. Now I'm about half a leg behind the next boat. I seem to have lost all ability to sail downwind properly. I'm getting more tired. Time to call it a day. This is probably the last race of the day anyway. There's a regatta dinner planned for tonight and I'm sure the race committee won't want us to be late for the party.

I sail back to the beach feeling dejected and angry at myself. Why can't I just snap back after a capsize? Almost everybody capsized at least once. It's no big deal. Why do I lose all confidence in my ability to handle the waves and then start sailing in a way that just invites more capsizes.

I get back to the beach and that guy, my nemesis, the sailor I am always trying to beat is there before me. He has some totally unbelievable tale of being involved in a hassle with another boat at the leeward mark, getting into irons, capsizing, being dragged underwater for a hundred yards, having his nose and ears pumped full of seawater so he's totally deaf and totally drowned... or some such cock-and-bull story. I don't believe a word of it.

It's obvious to me that we both have the same issue. We capsized. We lost it. Two old farts who should know better.

Oh well. It's good to know I'm not the only one.

Learnings

  1. Need more time practicing in waves. Terrigal here I come.

  2. When waves are coming from the quarter and threatening to capsize me I should probably bear off and ride those waves downwind and then come back up on a (more stable) broad reach.

  3. Fitness matters. I knew I wasn't fit enough coming into this regatta, and this is how it shows.

  4. Maybe it's time to consider a Radial Rig. At Masters regattas we are allowed to switch between Standard and the smaller Radial rigs from day to day. One of my friends (about my weight) sailed a Radial Rig the whole regatta and had a whole lot of fun. The current Great Grandmaster World Champion sailed a Radial rig one day in this regatta. I've been doing the macho "I don't need a Radial" thing for years now. Maybe it's time to recognize my limitations and use a rig I can handle on the windier days? At the very least I could use it for practice on very windy days when otherwise I probably wouldn't go out on my own.

  5. I need to find a way to adjust my mental attitude to capsizes on runs. Bounce back. Do a fast recovery. Sail on aggressively. Get back in the game. I used to do this. Why have I lost it?

  6. Fitness matters.

Postscript

At the regatta dinner we shared a table with a sailor whose partner seemed to be an expert masseuse. During the evening she progressed around the table giving each sailor (and some of their wives) a shoulder and back rub. We all laughed as she commented on how she perceived each sailor's tenseness or otherwise. "Oh, you're really soft." "You're so tense."

When she came to me she announced that I was basically a very relaxed person who "looks after himself" whatever that means. Did she mean I keep myself in shape (which isn't true)? Or did she mean I am basically selfish (probably true but not great patter for a social occasion)?

Then she claimed to discover one point of tension in my right shoulder that was symbolic of some problem or worry. She kept kneading away at my shoulder and crying, "Let it out. Let it out." I tried to enter into the spirit of the moment and mentally "let it go", but I wasn't sure what I was supposed to be letting go of.

I wonder what it can be?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

NASCAR on Water

Forget the America's Cup debacle. Forget ISAF deciding to choose the most boring boats for the Olympics. Somebody out there is trying to make sailing more exciting to the spectators. How does this sound?
The racers will compete on short, closed course race tracks. Sailing an almost absurd reaching angle with one tack and one gybe per lap, oval track racing. We need the camera shots and some close boat to boat competition on camera, some drama. Epic racing if you would, and we need to film it up close.

And they sail in teams of 3-4 competitors, on extended distance courses, pit stops, driver changes, drama, an engaged audience of fans, cheering.

The boats in this story, race in fleets of 8 - 10, on about 1.something minutes/lap course, a continuous track, you gybe at one end, and tack at the other.

And visually, we need some color.

The course is defined by break away colored sail shaped flags, with graphics.

The sails will be colored, and have graphics, even sponsor graphics.

Of course, sponsorship money changes everything.

The boats will be really trick, pimped out. Sweet custom paint jobs.

There's going to be some on-the-water set dressing, race announcers, music, cheerleaders?

The boats are all set up with GPS and on board cameras on a stern mount.

Radio communication is encouraged.

The drama is on the course, the racing is real, there will be winners, and losers, and in the pits as the 3 guys there work on getting the boat totally dialed in, making small adjustments to rig tune, over a 100 lap (about 90 minute) race.

We'll have one camera crew working on the on-course shooting, covering full lap continuous coverage when the boats are close. Another covering the in-the-pits action, 3 smart capable guys trying to figure out what to do to this boat to get another 1/4 knot out of it. Making pit stop changes, and measuring the improvement, or decrease in performance.

That's how the story is shaping up. OK it's part NASCAR on Water, part World Of Outlaws Dirt Track Racing, a little part reality TV.

We're making a party of it. Inviting all our friends, we need a cast of hundreds.
Too good to be true? Well, yes it is. I'm messing with you. The above quote (slightly modified by me to mislead you) is actually describing some ideas floating around about how to make iceboat racing more attractive.

But hey, couldn't something along these lines work for Moth or small cat racing too?

Thanks to Fred for the heads-up on this one.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Pray Harder

You will have gathered that the weather conditions during the first part of our week in the Dominican Republic were unusual.

"The weather is never like this, at this time of year." How many times have you heard that?

It rained a lot. The winds were often light.

I heard various explanation from the local experts in Cabarete. A stalled front. Al Gore. Whatever.

But I think the explanation we heard from a waiter in one of the Cabarete restaurants one night was closest to the truth...

"God is angry with the Dominican people because we haven't been praying enough."

Pray harder Jose.

It Does Get Better... Honest

It really wasn't as bad as it sounds.

If you've been following the accounts so far of my sailing trip earlier this month to the Dominican Republic you will have heard about...

One day when there was no wind for sailing at all
.

One day when we probably shouldn't have bothered to sail.

One frustrating day of racing in light winds when we only completed one race.

One day when the wave conditions made it impossible for us to sail through the reef
.

One long day of light wind practice.

Not exactly what I was expecting after the big wind, big wave conditions of last year, I must admit. Ironically, one of my friends who went to Cabarete last year didn't come this year because he had concluded that the winds were always too strong for him to enjoy his sailing.

Hmmm.

I guess my accounts so far are a bit of a downer.

I even had an email this morning from some reader who must have felt sorry for me, encouraging me to visit a sailing center in Thailand that (like of all these places) promises reliable winds (and no rain).

But wait, dear reader. It does get better.

The conditions on the final two days of the Caribbean Midwinters Regatta made up for the frustrations earlier in the week. The week finishes on a positive note.

And even in the first part of the week I was having fun and learning a lot. Hey... beach, Lasers, Ron, fish and chips... what's not to like?

Watch this space.

Paradox

This is a sailing blog (supposedly).

Sometimes I try and write about sailing (actual experiences of sailing a boat on real water in real wind.)

Sometimes I write about stuff that is only peripherally related to actual sailing (why some people hate Laser sailors, satire about coach boats, a fictional protest hearing, weird stuff I didn't eat while sailing, and so on.)

If you can judge the popularity of my posts by the number of comments they receive, then it's the sideways looks at topics vaguely related to sailing that readers enjoy the most.

Why is this?

Am I simply unable to write about actual sailing in an interesting way?

Is a good day on the water actually a fairly unremarkable event?

What does this say for the future of this blog?

If I really do write (at least) 100 posts this year about 100 days I spend sailing my Laser am I going to bore my pants off my readers.

Hmmm.

Monday, January 28, 2008

No Koalas This Year

Fri 11 Jan

What if you threw a party and nobody showed up?

What if you were the race committee for a major regatta and none of the sailors would sail out to the course?

It didn't quite come to that. But almost.

The first day of the 2008 Laser Caribbean Midwinter Regatta couldn't have been a bigger contrast to last year's event. Last year we had waves the size of houses, and winds that... hmmm.... how do they describe big winds in the Caribbean? Blowing dogs off chains? Koalas off trees? I dunno.

In any case there weren't any dogs or koalas whistling through the palm trees this year. At the appointed launch time there wasn't any wind whatsoever.

The committee boat set out for the race area. Th AP flag on shore came down at 11am. All the sailors sat on the beach.

The committee waited. The sailors waited. Who would blink first?

A light zephyr wafted across the surface of the water and a few sailors broke ranks. The rest of us watched from the beach as they drifted away on the current, making little or no progress towards the race area.

Around 1pm the rest if us launched and sailed out in a light wind to the committee boat. Where we waited. And waited. And waited.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not criticizing the race committee. The wind just wasn't cooperating.
During the wait I tried to practice some of the light air skills that Rulo had taught us on the clinic.

Eventually the committee started a sequence in a light breeze with the current pushing us upwind over the line. General recall. What a surprise. Black flag. Another general recall. Three boats black flagged. Fun, fun, fun.

Then we got away. I made a diabolically bad start near the committee boat followed by a botched tack to clear my air. Hmmm. I'm already with the tail-enders.

It was a two lap windward-leeward course with a downwind finish. I tried to find a clear lane and play the side of the course that I figured would take most advantage of the current. I passed a few boats.

The committee tried to start another race under a black flag but after one general recall where nobody was flagged (how is that possible?) and another one where confusing numbers were posted, they called it a day.

Back on the beach one of the sailors black flagged was organizing some others to file a request for redress. The PRO didn't look too happy. It had been a difficult and frustrating day to be a race committee too.

Not the best day of racing I've ever had. But hey, there's Ron in the hotel room, and wait... it's Friday. Must go to Jose O'Shea's Irish pub for fish and chips on the beach.

Life is good.





Sunday, January 27, 2008

Airline Paranoia Revisited

On the lay day between the clinic and the regatta at Cabarete I opted to follow coach Rulo's advice and not to sail. It was a sunny day with light winds so Tillerwoman and I just relaxed and enjoyed a day at the beach.

Around 3pm we strolled down to the Laser Center to complete my registration for the regatta and then we went out to dinner at Otra Cosa, one of Cabarete's finest restaurants. On the way to the restaurant we ran into another New England Laser sailor we know who had just arrived. He had a tale of woe to tell.

Last year he flew via Puerto Rico to the DR and the airline canceled one of the legs of his flight.

This year he flew via Miami to the DR and the airline had lost all his luggage. All he had were the clothes he was standing up in and his toothbrush.

I couldn't resist telling him my tale about why I am paranoid about booking non-stop flights whenever possible. We invited him to join us for dinner but he said he had better walk down to the Laser Center and sign in and see what arrangements he could make to sail... with no sail, no lines, no tiller and no sailing clothes.

Hmmm. After dinner I began to think that crowing about how smart I had been to book a direct flight might not have been the most helpful response to my buddy's dilemma. What an ass I am.

So in the morning I dug out a spare pair of shorts and a long sleeve rashguard and lent them to him. He managed to borrow all the other equipment he needed and sail in the regatta which just goes to show that maybe my paranoia about airlines might be a bit extreme.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Luckiest Man Alive

Wed 9 Jan

It was a weird day.

Day 4 of the pre-regatta Laser clinic in Cabarete was somewhat strange to be sure.

In the morning briefing coach Rulo educated us on how to sail a reach in a Laser. Lots of great advice. Starting practice was promised for the on-the-water session. But it was not to be.

It rained off and on all morning. Did I mention that it had been raining in Cabarete pretty much all the time since we arrived? Or at least it seemed like that.

There would be no wind. Then some gusts as a rain squall arrived. Then rain. Then the rain stopped but so did the wind.

During every lull Rulo would optimistically promise, "After the next rain, we sail." After the next rain... no wind. No sailing.

We grabbed some lunch from the Eze Bar.

Around 2:30, with the day rapidly slipping away from us, during another apparent no-wind gap between showers, Rulo said without much hope, "You can try to sail if you want." We students mulled it over. It was decided to send out a "rabbit" in a Laser to see if it was possible to sail in these conditions. Actually three of us volunteered to go out. Might as well. We came here to sail.

As soon as we launched it was apparent that there was a bit of wind out on the sea. Fluky and squirrely to be sure. From an unusual direction too. I played around a bit surfing upwind on one tack as the rest of the group joined us. We sailed towards the gap in the reef and the wind picked up a bit more, though it was still very shifty. Hmmm, maybe this won't be so bad after all.

The wind died completely just after I crossed the reef. Ho hum. Then it filled in again from the more normal vaguely NE direction. Some of us sailed upwind a few hundred yards while Rulo set up some start line buoys.

I bore away to return to the start area and the fitting holding my mainsheet block on the end of the boom came off the boom as one of the rivets popped out. Damn. For you the war is over, my friend. The other guys started a race as I sailed back to the beach.

Tillerwoman met me on the beach and brought me a beer. Ari, the owner of the Laser Center, saw what had happened and told me, "First finish your beer. Then de-rig and I'll replace your boom." What a guy!

"You're the luckiest guy alive!" says Ari.

"Why?" I didn't feel lucky.

"Better you had that thing break today and not in the regatta on Friday."

Hmmm. I guess so. I still didn't feel lucky.

I was kinda wondering whether to rush to rig up a new boom and go out sailing again. But before I had finished my beer I saw the rest of the group returning to the beach too. They had done a couple of drills and then packed it in because the wind wasn't cooperating. "You didn't miss much," said Rulo.

There was a debrief. As far as I recall the main advice for dealing with these shifty, fluky conditions was, "Get a wind indicator." Hmmm.

More rain. The class hung around asking Rulo questions until the rain stopped.

"Can we sail tomorrow?" (The next day was planned as a lay day before the regatta started on Friday.)

"If you want. But top sailors don't practice on the day before a major regatta. It's a time to check your boat, make sure nothing's going to break, and to rest."

Hmmm. Oh well, I'm the luckiest man alive. Where's the Ron?

Clam Shell Mystery

Until we moved to Rhode Island last year I had never before lived by the sea. So there are many things that I am still learning about life on the shore, and some things that are still a mystery to me. Perhaps one of my readers with more knowledge of the littoral environment can answer a question that's bugging me today....

This morning I went for a run around Bristol Harbor, starting from Independence Park, up the East Bay Bike Path for a short way, along Poppasquash Road around the head of the harbor, past Bristol Yacht Club and then further down the road towards Poppasquash Point. Not surprisingly on a frigid January day there was little activity in the harbor, though there was one yacht on a mooring, and I saw some Lasers being rigged near the Herreshoff Museum. But Laser sailors are crazy anyway.

Where was I? Oh yes. The great Clam Shell Mystery.

The bike path was littered with broken shells, clams I think, and the unmistakable white splashes indicating seagull activity. I'm 99% certain that what's been happening is that the gulls have worked out that dropping the clams from a great height on to the path is the easiest way to break the shells and gain access to the meat inside. The same thing used to happen at my old frostbiting club on Long Island Sound where, at the end of the winter, the parking lot was covered in broken shells.

But I've never seen this phenomenon in the summer. Why not? Is there a different breed of gulls with different habits here in the winter? Are the clams harder to prise from their shells in the winter? Do seagulls only eat shellfish when there's an R in the month? Or do the gulls have access to other food in the summer and only resort to clams in the winter? What's the answer?

The Google didn't help me much in trying to find an answer. But it did turn up this post Seagull Smarts by a fellow Rhode Islander who claims to know a bit about science and the environment. He spotted the same phenomenon (maybe on the same bike path) and it spurred him to ponder how smart seagulls are and the role of genetics and evolution in their discovery of this natural clam-opener.

But I'm still mystified as to why we only see this in the winter. Somebody please shed some light on this.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Rhode Island Red Rant

She's doing it to annoy me. I know. Just to provoke me into a response. I shouldn't let her.

Oh well, what the hell? I just have to put her straight...

The famous sailing blogger, Carol Anne of Five O'Clock Somewhere, has written a post about the emblems and symbols of US states, The Official State... whatever, in which she pours scorn on the choice of Official State Bird by my recently adopted home state, The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

Rhode Island has chosen an Official State Bird that I’m not sure should qualify – an Official State Bird should be wildlife rather than a domestic animal, a species rather than a subspecies or breed, and should encompass both genders. Much as I enjoy the high quality of egg it produces, the Rhode Island Red hen would be better named as Official State Poultry or Official State Domestic Animal. Somehow, I find it hard to imagine bird lovers with binoculars going to Rhode Island barnyards in search of a “find.”

How dare she? Who says that a state bird has to be a wild bird? We are Rhode Islanders. We can choose whatever bird we like. When Roger Williams fled from the repressive atmosphere fostered by the narrow-minded Puritans in Massachusetts Bay Colony (a.k.a. Red Sox Nation) his new settlement in Providence became the first organized colony in America to be founded on the principles of freedom of thought and worship.

Freedom Carol Anne. That means we have had the right since 1663 to be Quakers or Jews or Atheists... or even New York Yankee fans if we wish. And we certainly have the freedom to choose our own state bird.

And that's how it happened. In 1954, a state bird election was sponsored by the Audubon Society of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Federation of Garden Clubs, and the Providence Journal Company. The Rhode Island Red beat out its closest competitors, the osprey and ruby-throated hummingbird, and became Rhode Island's official state bird on May 3, 1954. So there.

And where does Carol Anne get the idea that our choice of the Rhode Island Red is some kind of feminist statement? She writes, "An official state bird should... encompass both genders." I'm not an expert on the birds and the bees but I'm pretty sure that you need a Rhode Island Red rooster and a Rhode Island Red hen to make little Rhode Island Red chicks.

Indeed you do, and here's a picture of a magnificent Rhode Island Red rooster to prove my point.

End of rant.

Actually Carol Anne also makes an excellent suggestion, to tell her about some of "the more interesting Official State thingummies" that we know about. Rhode Island certainly has some fascinating
Official State thingummies and I will write about them in another post soon.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Nobody's Perfect


I've already written several posts about how the coach at the Laser Training Center in Cabarete, Javier Borojovich, a.k.a Rulo, is damn good. But even the master is not perfect...

On the third day of the clinic, we were doing a drill to simulate crowded leeward mark roundings. The first attempt caused a huge pile-up at the mark. Just like one of those mid-fleet catastrophes at the gate in Tacticat. Rulo gave us all a stern lecture to, "Follow the rules".

Second shot at the drill, Rulo jumped into a Laser himself and was showing off his roll gybes and aggressive tactical positioning. Final approach to the mark, I'm on starboard tack nicely positioned to the leftish side of the pack. Then here comes Rulo gybing on to port trying to cross my bow and attain an inside position. Oops. The boats bump. He didn't quite make it.

I have to confess I couldn't resist shouting out, "Follow the rules!" all the rest of the time we were doing that drill.

But Rulo is still a damn fine coach.

On The Third Day...

Tues 8 Jan

And on the third day... we sailed through the reef.

After a week at Cabarete last year when the wave conditions were always too severe for us to sail through the gap in the reef, and another weekend of similar conditions this year, I was beginning to doubt that I would be trapped forever inside the line of breaking waves from point to point that confined us to the relatively small bay of Cabarete.

But no. On Tuesday the ocean swell had moderated and we were able to sail out into the Atlantic Ocean for a long day of practice in relatively light winds. Rulo had us doing rabbit starts time after time to work on light air upwind technique and speed, and then good old "tacking on a whistle". After we had sailed about half way to Bermuda we then did a whole series of downwind drills.

As on Sunday, Rulo was excellent both on the water and in the debrief in pointing out how to improve our technique, well my technique. Some of the other sailors were seriously faster than me in these conditions.

Rulo gave us longer on the water than usual, to make up for yesterday I assume. No complaints from this sailor. I came here to sail.

The walk back to the hotel seemed shorter than yesterday. The shower was more refreshing. And Ron... Ron worked his magic again. I love Cabarete.

Da doo ron ron.

Learnings

Upwind in light air
  1. Lock body into boat better.
  2. Sail with shoulders outside of butt.
  3. Lock tiller on leg.
  4. Steer with movements of the back, not the tiller.
  5. Have a slight heel in waves, flatten between waves.
  6. In waves just take out the slack in the vang.

Roll tacks
  1. Sheet in before the tack

Roll gybes
  1. Move towards center line before the gybe.
  2. Over trim before the gybe.
  3. Wait for sail to fill before flattening after the gybe.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

If This Trend Continues...

Mon 7 Jan

On the second day of the Laser clinic prior to the Caribbean Midwinters in Cabarete, coach Rulo gave us a seminar on downwind sailing in various wind strengths and wave conditions.

There was much discussion of techniques for transition from sailing a broad reach to by-the-lee; merits of knee-up and knee-down positions; fore-aft trim; loose vang and tight outhaul vs tighter vang and looser outhaul; and so on and so on.

I am aware that the previous sentence will make no sense whatsoever to outsiders to the secret society of Laser sailors, but aficionados of the sport will know that such subjects can occupy many happy hours of discussion, not to mention spawn uncounted unending threads on the Laser Forum.

Just to round out the day of Laser technique porn, Rulo schooled us on the secrets of success for gybes and tacks in heavy air and light air. At the end of the session my head was spinning, and I see that I filled up six pages of my notebook with what is now an indecipherable meaningless scrawl. (Note to self: I should have listened to Miss Bush in third grade when she said I needed to work on a neater cursive writing style.)

Unfortunately the weather gods did not favor us on Day 2. It rained all morning and then there was little to no wind in the afternoon. No sailing at all today. So Rulo gave us a Rule 42 seminar instead. This guy is relentless!

However this is seriously bad news. Having foolishly bragged that I will sail my Laser 100 days this year, I had counted on 7 days of sailing in the DR to launch me on the quest. Now I am 50% behind schedule and if this trend continues (as they say on TV election coverage) I will only make 50 days of Lasering this year. Gadzooks! Do I have to plan for 200 days to achieve 100?

Oh well, look on the bright side. I will just have to sail one more day in the summer to make up for it.

Tillerwoman and I slunk back to our hotel, damp and dejected. Just as well that Ron was waiting there to console us.

Tilley Awards Party

The Tilley Awards Party was a little more subdued than normal this year thanks to the writers' strike and the non-appearance of Ron. However five (update, make it seven) brave souls showed up in total disregard to the discussion on Sailing Anarchy as to whether the wearing of Tilley hats is gay. Congratulations to all award winners (and gatecrashers).












Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Thank God for Ron

Sun 6 Jan

I was somewhat apprehensive about the first day of the pre-Midwinters Regatta Laser clinic in Cabarete, Dominican Republic. I hadn't sailed for many weeks. Indeed I think I had only had one day of practice on the water since the Laser Masters Worlds in October. Three months with hardly any sailing! I was bound to be rusty.

Add in a back injury that had stopped me exercising for several weeks after the Worlds, then a couple of miserable man colds, and worse than usual early winter sloth... and I was more overweight and less fit than I had been for years. The conditions on Friday and Saturday had been similar to last year's regatta, big waves and crazy winds. By Sunday, the first day of the clinic, the winds had moderated to around 15 knots but the waves were still big enough that it was impossible to sail through the gap in the reef. Was I in any shape to tackle a repeat of last year's fiasco?

After we had rigged our boats the group of ten or eleven students met for the on-the-shore briefing. Coach Rulo took us through a lesson on sailing upwind in waves. It was apparent right away that this guy is a seriously good teacher of sailing skills. It's not that I hadn't heard about upwind technique in a Laser before. I've even written the occasional blog post about it such as Poetry in Motion. But Rulo had a way of explaining the sequence of movements that made it all clearer than it had ever seemed to me before. For instance, several time he drew diagrams of waves and marked on the diagrams exactly when to start easing the sheet to bear off, or when to torque the body to help the boat head up the wave and to avoid crashing into the next wave. Looking back it's exactly the same technique as Ed Adams was describing in that article I quoted in the above link, but Rulo's explanation was easier to understand and remember.

Then it was out on the water for some windward-leeward drills and races of various types to allow Rulo to assess our boat-handling skills, upwind, downwind, tacking and gybing. There was one drill I hadn't seen before, what Rulo called a "points" race and I came to know as the never-ending race. It was basically a windward-leeward race for an indeterminate number of laps. The leader at each mark (after the first) had to do a 360 and the race kept going until someone had done five 360's. Luckily there were a couple of sailors at the clinic who were significantly better than the rest of us so that one or other of them would be able to regain the lead at five marks before we had sailed the mathematically possible twenty seven laps or so.

I needn't have worried too much about being out of form. I caught a few rides on waves and did a few gybes to warm up before the drills started, and all of a sudden the memories of how much fun this place was last year came flooding back. I was able to hang in there around the middle of the fleet for most of the drills and occasionally was doing even better.

However, the thing that I found most gratifying about the day was that Rulo would come up behind me in his motor boat while I was sailing in the drills and give me detailed feedback on faults in my technique and how to improve. I've done a number of other sailing clinics before but I don't think I've ever had quite so much good, relevant, detailed, personal feedback before. Then there was also a comprehensive group feedback session after sailing, with video shots from the on-the-water session, that reinforced and expanded what I had learned during the day. Quite a learning experience.

Learnings

1. Exactly when to torque on the waves.

2. I need to work the upper body more in these conditions.

3. I should hike hard before swapping sheet and tiller hands after a tack. (I'd developed this lazy style of doing the handswap while crossing the boat and Rulo said it delays me from hiking the boat flat and accelerating out of the tack properly.)

4. The optimum path for steering when gybing at a leeward mark. I don't think anyone had ever properly explained this to me before and my former abysmal technique was quite obvious on some of the video feedback.

5 If you don't exercise for three months and then go on a serious training session in big waves you are going to ache in every part of your body afterwards. Ouch. Thank God for the bottle of painkiller labeled Ron in the hotel room refrigerator.

Monday, January 21, 2008

RIP Sir Ed

"Well, George, we finally knocked the bastard off."


Before Chichester, before Bernard M. and Sir Robin, before Dame Ellen and another Francis... I had a hero. Not famous for a sailing achievement but nevertheless a man who inspired a little skinny kid in England by doing something nobody had ever done before...

I wasn't yet five years old but I remember the summer of 1953 vividly. England crowned a new queen and on the same day the news broke that a New Zealander and a Sherpa were the first to climb the highest mountain on the planet.

Sir Edmund Hillary died a few days ago and today his state funeral was held in New Zealand. His wish was for his ashes to be spread across Waitemata Harbour.

RIP Sir Edmund. You knocked the bastard off and I will always remember.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Favorite Sailing Photo

Adam Turinas, the famous sailing blogger, challenged us to blog our favorite sailing photo. I like a lot of the shots I took of kids I taught to sail a few years back. There's something very cute about a little kid in an Optimist with a big grin when you can just see that he or she gets it, sailing really is the more fun than video games. But there's also something that feels a bit weird about posting pictures of other people's kids on the Internet.

So here is the other extreme of small boat sailing. Laser World Champion Gustavo Lima catching a ride down a huge breaking wave at Cabarete, the best place in the world to sail Lasers.


Poetry Corner

Carol Anne, the famous sailing blogger, challenged us to write a poem about "Where I'm From" based loosely on the model provided by the poem of that name by George Ella Lyons. I don't think I've written any poetry since being forced to do so in English Literature class at school. I was a nerd back then and hated all classes other then science and maths. Come to think of it I'm still a nerd.

As I understand it, poetry is a form of writing where it's impossible to understand directly what the author is saying as he or she always expresses things with obscure and indirect references that only make sense tangentially. A bit like waking up in a dark room and wondering if that shape at the bottom of the bed is (a) your wife on her way back from the bathroom, (b) a trick of the light, or (c) one of Stephen King's vampire ghosts come to suck your blood. Have I got that right Carol Anne?

Anyway here's my best shot. I've included some metaphors (poets like those don't they) and references that only three or four people in the known universe will understand (and none of them read this blog). If the poem doesn't make any sense to you I will have succeeded in my mission.


Where I'm From by Tillerman

I am from coal and grit
smoke and steam
Vick and Vim and vests
and cod liver oil.

I am from the allotment and the river bank
stinking sprouts in frosty mud
sacks of musty spuds
stinging nettles
and wriggling tiddlers in a jam jar.

I am from the union
and the co-op
don't be a snob
wait your turn.

I am from always wear your cap
be quiet boy
stand to attention
polish your buckle with Brasso
and squeeze the trigger slowly.

I am from descended into hell
and sits on the right hand
he's a bummer
praestare valeamus
and plain bob minor.

I am from the L.N.E.R. and the canal
bomb sites and air-raid shelters
factory whistles and cops on bikes
pork pies and pickled onions
fish and chips and mushy peas
light engineering soup.

I am from the Boer fighter and brewer's drayman
from Frederick who waved a flag and rode the rails
from Amy the Lincolnshire lass sent into service
and from the Geordie girl who sailed alone to India.

I am from the cardboard box in the sideboard
stuffed with snaps from the box brownie
of grim-faced young men in khaki uniforms
of jaunty old widow ladies in hats and winter coats
and of a handsome young couple with eyes full of hope
watching a skinny kid running across the sand
into the grey waves of a northern sea.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Tillerman's Tiller

I reported yesterday that, despite the best efforts of the US airline industry to thwart me, I did manage to arrive at Cabarete with my Black Diamond carbon-fiber low-profile high-stiffness tiller (with titanium chafe plate) along with associated 48" Fatso Junior oval-cross-section peel-ply-finish tiller extension (with fully rotating omniflex universal joint).

This is a big deal. We Laser sailors treaure our tillers and not only so that we can recognize each other when wandering lost around international airports by the fact that we are all carrying our 48" long cylindrical packages. These carbon fiber tillers really do give a lighter, smoother, more sensitive feel on the helm than the clunky old aluminum ones we used to use.

But there was a surprise.

When I opened the package containing my tiller there was a little note inside from the TSA saying that they had opened the parcel and inspected it but not removed anything. Phew. That's a relief.

For those non-American readers who may not know, the TSA is the Transport Security Administration, the fine men and women whom we rely upon to keep us safe when we travel by air. Prior to Sep 11 2001, in line with the best principles of the free market, a mish-mash of various private companies were responsible for security screening at airports in the USA. After said private companies somehow managed to allow fifteen middle-eastern gentlemen to carry a number of box-cutters on to four airplanes (you never know when you might need a box-cutter to open the free bag of peanuts on the flight) the US government decided, in line with the best principles of government accountability, to take over security screening themselves and created the TSA.

Not everybody thinks this was a good move.

Personally I have nothing but praise for the efficiency and cheerfulness with which the TSA agents always check out my shoes for hidden bombs and force my wife to dispose of her bottle of drinking water before every flight. It's not easy separating a woman from her bottle, you know.

But the TSA's critics harp on such issues as employees being found asleep on the job,
spending of federal funds on lavish parties, and failures to detect fake bombs carried by undercover TSA agents. Hey, nobody's perfect.

Then there was the famous case where a frustrated passenger decided to have a bit of fun at the expense of the TSA Administrator Kip Hawley by scrawling in black indelible ink on the regulation quart size clear plastic Ziploc bag in which we are allowed to carry travel-size toiletries on board, "Kip Hawley is an IDIOT". Naturally this witty chap was detained for a few minutes by TSA agents while they established that he was not (a) an Islamic jihadist, (b) off his meds, or (c) another of those damn undercover TSA agents trying to test us. For some reason, said witty gentleman thought that this brief detention was a violation of his constitutional rights and like all red-blooded Americans these days whose constitutional rights are violated he went and posted about it on an Internet forum.

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes.

Apparently some eagle-eyed TSA agent at Newark airport must have spotted on his X-ray machine a suspicious looking package consisting of two long PVC pipes taped together, each containing some mysterious black substance. What could it be? A pipe bomb? A homing device for shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles? Another test fake bomb from those damn undercover TSA agents trying to test us?

Anyway, better safe than sorry. Eagle Eye opened up my tiller package and satisfied himself that it was just another one of those weird sticks carried by those guys with unseasonal tans and over-developed quad muscles, and he let it pass.

Thanks dude. Have a nice day.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Airline Paranoia

It's not that I'm afraid of flying. But I am paranoid about what airlines will do to me.

I don't think they are going to kill me. But I do believe that there is a vast two-wing conspiracy to do everything possible to disrupt my plans to travel anywhere by air.

Let's just ponder for a few moments the ways that airlines can screw up your travel plans.
  1. They can cancel your flight for any one of several hundred reasons including weather here, weather there, mechanical problems, flight crew didn't show up, flight crew out of hours, flight crew on strike, plane never arrived, can't find the plane, or "the computer worked out that we'd lose money if we actually honored our contract to take you where you want to go, so we're going to pretend we didn't mean it".

  2. They can delay your flight so that you are forced to spend several uncomfortable and excruciatingly boring hours in one of those armpits of the world euphemistically known as an airport lounge.

  3. They can cancel the second leg of your flight so you are forced to rent a car and drive several hundred miles in the middle of the night through some god-forsaken foreign country such as France or Minnesota to reach your destination.

  4. They can cancel the second leg of your flight but then rebook you on a later flight that ensures that you will miss the ferry you were hoping to catch.

  5. They can decide in mid-air that it makes more sense to take you somewhere else than they originally promised. This is how I came to visit Wagga Wagga one fascinating night and then travel to my ultimate destination in the early hours of the morning by the appropriately named Wagga Waggon. It is also how my whole family and I came to celebrate one New Year's Eve on the floor of Pittsburgh Airport. Ah, happy days!

  6. They can damage your luggage.

  7. They can lose your luggage.

Ah. The crux of the matter. It's that last one that I'm really paranoid about when I fly off on one of my overseas sailing trips. I guess I know that one way or another the airline probably will manage to deliver my body,
more or less intact and still in working order, to approximately the right place, probably within the same month that they promised when I bought the ticket. But my checked baggage? That's another issue.

When I used to be one of those businessman types jetting off to visit the far-flung outposts of our corporate empire once or twice a week, of course I never checked baggage. Always stuffed spare shirts and underwear into a carry-on bag and never worried about the lost baggage syndrome. But on a sailing trip I have way too much normal clothing, sailing clothing and sailing gear to use this strategy.

There is nothing worse than showing up for a sailing regatta on the far side of the world missing some or all of your sailing gear. At the Masters Worlds in Spain I met several Australians and New Zealanders in this predicament and, I can tell you, they were a pathetic sight, wandering around disconsolately without their 48 inch carbon fiber tiller extensions. A Laser Master without his tiller is as woeful as John Wayne Bobbit.

So what to do? Well, I have this theory that if you fly non-stop to your ultimate destination the airline basically only has one opportunity to lose your sporting equipment and other luggage. They can just decide not to put it on the plane in the first place. Don't laugh. This has actually happened to me. Not once, but twice. On a ski trip to Vail one winter, and on my trip to the Sunfish Worlds in Colombia, the airlines basically decided that they didn't have room to carry all the passengers' luggage so they just left mine behind. Nice.

But if you have to change planes to reach your target there are a gazillion ways that they can lose your luggage. They can delay the first flight so there is no time for your luggage to make the second flight even if you are on it yourself. They can misplace it at the airport where you are changing planes. They can just forget to transfer it to your second flight. And so on. And so on.

So whenever possible I find a non-stop flight. In travelling to Cabarete for the Carribean Laser Midwinters I decided that I would not fly out of my local major aiport, Boston, because there were no direct flights to Puerto Plata, the closest airport to Caberete in the Dominican Republic. I concluded that it made more sense to drive 200 miles to Newark, stay overnight in an airport hotel (which incidentally let me leave my car in their parking lot while I was away thereby saving me the exorbitant fees for what is laughingly called "economy" parking at Newark airport), and then take the direct flight to Puerto Plata the next morning.

Which is why, two weeks ago, on Thursday night I slipped off to sleep in a slightly anxious mood listening to the hum of the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike ("they've all come to look for America" according to Paul Simon). And on Friday night I drifted off to dreamland to the sounds of the crash of the surf on the reef just off the Punta Cabarete, happy and secure in the knowledge that, once again, I had foiled the best attempts of the US airline industry to separate Tillerman from his tiller.

Random Jottings

This is not going to make a lot of sense.

On Monday morning I went for a swim in the sea and then had breakfast on the beach with my bride.

Today I'm looking out at a wintry landscape, snow in the foreground, low clouds on the hills across the bay.

In between I've thought about blogging a bit but never got started. Maybe I have blogger's block. While in the DR I read Stephen King's Bag of Bones which is about a writer who has writer's block. He's also haunted by the usual gaggle of ghosts but they haven't been to visit me yet.

I have a photo from the DR that says R.I.P. I thought of posting it here and shutting up shop. All good things have to come to an end one day.

But I guess it's just post-vacation blues.

Cabarete was different from last year. I had a friend years ago who used to love to hike the mountains in Wales. He had this philosophy that every time you climb any given hill it's never the same experience. It's always fresh and new and changed, mainly because of the weather. I think that's even more true of sailing in the same place more than once. The people were different; the waves were different; the wind was different; the coach was different. I guess I should write about it.

If Stephen King can write a whole novel in the voice of a guy who can't write a novel then maybe I can do the same for blogging? A blog about a guy who can't blog? Hmmm.

Some of us like to suggest group blogging projects. Before I went away I asked for photos of all you top sailing bloggers in Tilley hats so we could have a virtual party here. Thanks to both of you who responded. What a party. How are three of us going to drink all this rum?

While I was away Carol Anne suggested a group project to write poems based on Where I'm From by George Ella Lyons. I've written an attempt and will post it soon. But it would confuse you even more if it were the first post here after a two week hiatus.

And Adam suggested a project on what's your favorite sailing photo? Tough one dude. Do I go for one of spectacular action? Or one of the many I took in my years as a sailing instructor of little kids sailing badly but with huge smiles on their faces that told me that even if I couldn't teach them to sail well at least I was passing on the joy.

I have lots of idea for posts about the Cabarete trip. Why can't I write them?

How about a group project on how to overcome blogger's block?

Some of you have started to leave comments on my last post asking for info on my trip. It's good to feel missed... I think. Edward of course, my most prolific commenter; and I guess he would say the same of me. I know who 181839 is, didn't know you read this drivel, see you in Australia. As for David who wants his 15 minutes of fame, I'm confused. This is apparently the author of Never Sea Land; how am I going to make you more famous than you already are?

The fictional writer in Bag of Bones managed to disguise the fact that he had lost the ability to write by sending his publisher four years worth of novels that he had written before but never submitted for publication. Maybe I should have done that with blog posts. On second thoughts why would you want to read about what I was doing four years ago?

Why does spellcheck on Blogger not recognize bloggers and blogger's as valid words?

23 days until I leave for Australia. Need to spend some time on the hiking bench. See ya.

Hmmm. That wasn't so hard. Maybe I'm not haunted after all.

Told you it wouldn't make much sense.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Tilley Awards Party

I am pleased to announce that any winner of a Tilley Award, that is anyone nominated to my list of Top Ten Blogs in any of the last three years or to today's Top Ten Sailing Posts Of 2007 Not Counting Any Posts By Bloggers On The Top Ten Blogs List Because Then Almost Every Post Would Be By Edward or Adam, is entitled to wear the prestigious Tilley hat as pictured above.

All Tilley Award winners are invited to a (virtual) party. Please post a photo on your blog of yourself wearing your Tilley, or send it to me via email, and I will be pleased to pull them all together into a grand gala awards ceremony party spectacular post, complete with red carpet.

You don't have a Tilley hat? Doesn't that photo above just cry out for a bit of creative Photoshop magic?

Anyway I and my Tilley hat are off to the Dominican Republic now for some sun, sea, waves, and lots of Lasering. Normal service on this blog will be resumed on or around 15 Jan.

Top Ten Sailing Posts of 2007

Tuesday's post recognized ten of my favorite blogs about sailing and similar damp doings. But there are so many other great sailing blogs out there, so here are my Top Ten Sailing Posts Of 2007 Not Counting Any Posts By Bloggers On The Top Ten Blogs List Because Then Almost Every Post Would Be By Edward Or Adam.

Let's start the list -- and the day -- with Fall Sunrise on Sailscape.


One reason I love this picture is that the guy who takes all the photos on Sailscape is from Wickford, more or less diametrically the opposite side of Narragansett Bay from where I live. So he sees superb sunrises over the bay; and I enjoy equally spectacular sunsets. Ain't life grand?

Then to exercise your mind, try to answer the question How Corinthian Is Your Yacht Club? on Desert Sea. Pat challenges us to think about the standard of our sailing clubs in a long but highly stimulating post.

And for another take on yacht club politics and all that crap take a read of
Sailing Burbles from Team Gherkin. It's another long post but a fascinating insight into one dinghy sailor's weekend and his club.

If you'd like something more inspiring try
Woodwind Rescues Haitian Migrants on Bruce Smith's Voyage Blog. Wow. What a story. This guy is a real hero.

Then for an epic racing story how about
Tommy Hilfiger Wins Italy’s Centomiglia Regatta! on Stan Schreyer's blog.

Or if you want to explore some gender differences in approaches to sailing check out
Get over it, Love! on SailJuice.

Of course we all love to read about other's mistakes so how about
RFU w/ RDF so bad we missed Cape Cod on Panbo: The Marine Electronics Weblog.

Sometimes I'm attracted to a blog because of a theme or a whole series of posts on the same subject. Any top ten list has to include a
post about Cape Cod Frosties on Eli Boat such as Pics or it didn't happen.

Talking of series I've never seen anything quite as amazing as
all the mermaid posts on Never Sea Land.

On second thoughts I have. Nothing will ever compare to
all the Fish on Friday's posts on The Horse's Mouth of which the photo below is just one typical example.


Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Year of the Sunfish

Just over a year ago I sold my last Sunfish (after owning one or more for over 15 years) and decided to concentrate on racing my Laser. I have no regrets after a year of fun, travel, and some modest achievement in the Laser. But I wonder if my timing was a bit off...

After all, 2008 is the Year of the Sunfish.

Huh? What does that mean?

Judging by various documents on the Sunfish Class website it seems that the class has been undergoing a rigorous self-examination over the past year and has been giving some serious thought on how to position itself for success in the future. For example check out this presentation on marketing strategy. After honestly admitting the Sunfish's (at best) second place status to the Laser in terms of new boats built, geographic coverage and class membership, the strategy goes on to discuss how to change the perception of the class in the minds of the public and how to trade on the unique nature of the boat to grow the class in the future. Not surprisingly they are planning to exploit some of the benefits of the Sunfish that I also pointed out in my post on Ten Reasons Why Sunfish Are Better Than Lasers.

Wait. What's that about a problem with the perception of the class?

Well, to be honest in some quarters the Sunfish is not taken as seriously as a racing class as the Laser is. One example from my own experience: My sons grew up sailing Optimists, then in their early teenage years they mainly raced Sunfish with a bit of Laser sailing thrown in too. When my elder son was in his junior year at high school we had the good fortune to meet one of the top college sailing coaches at that time, and we pumped him for information on college sailing. Would my son's achievements (mainly in Sunfish) be attractive to college coaches, which colleges might be a good fit for him, would he have a chance of making a college team, etc. etc.? The uber-coach's main advice was, "Forget the Sunfish and concentrate on the Laser. College coaches won't have much respect for what you have achieved in the Sunfish." I have no reason to think much has changed in the past twelve years.

But 2008 is the Year of the Sunfish.

What? What is Tillerman rambling on about? Why is 2008 the Year of the Sunfish?

Well, it seems that the good folk in the Sunfish class have pulled off a couple of coups in their attempts to raise the perception of the class in the minds of the public. In 2008 the Sunfish will be...

1. The boat used for the finals of the US Sailing Singlehanded Championship, also known as the O'Day Trophy.

2. The boat used for the US Championship of Champions, in which the national champions of each class compete against each other.

Kudos to whoever in the Sunfish class managed to twist some arms at US Sailing to make this happen. This can only help to improve the perception of the class (especially in a year when the Olympics will be giving the Laser some free PR.)

So who will win these two events? Will it be some of the regular Sunfish hotshots? There's always an advantage in sailing an event like this in a boat you've known for twenty years. Or will some genius from another class step into a Sunfish and blow everyone else away? Only time will tell. Personally I'm rooting for some of my old friends from the Sunfish class to win both of these prestigious events. That will stick it those snooty Laser snobs.

Whatever the results, 2008 will be the Year of the Sunfish.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Bloggers' Guide to Sailing in 50 States

Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
District of Columbia
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming

A Sailor's Top Ten Blogs of 2007

Here is my list of the Top Ten Blogs that have entertained and informed this particular sailor the most in 2007.

What can I say about the EVK4 SuperBlog that has not already been said? Edward's superb blog has the unique distinction of being the only blog to make my Top Ten list three years in a row. Edward is not a sailing rock star (yet), just a regular guy who day sails with friends and family on San Francisco Bay, with a dream to sail across the Pacific to Hawaii one day. I think I enjoy his blog so much because his sense of humor is even weirder than mine. My left coast alter ego. May you achieve your dream in 2008.

And then we have 1000 Days at Sea, the blog of Reid Stowe and Soanya Ahmad as they attempt to achieve a world record by staying at sea without making landfall for 1000 days on their 70 foot gaff-rigged schooner Anne. Love them or hate them, they have energized fans and detractors alike. There's a thread about them on Sailing Anarchy that has over 9,000 posts and which accuses Reid of almost every imaginable sin under the sun. There's even a parody blog. So we can't ignore them. But as we armchair critics render judgment, Reid and Soanya
are currently a quarter of the way towards their goal, sailing the Southern Ocean, and sending back stories of eating fenugreek sprouts, seeing the black behind the blue sky, and speculating about weightless toothbrushes! Honest. Even I couldn't make this stuff up.

Is it a blog? It says it's a blog. But it doesn't allow comments. Shall I let it on the list? Oh well, I guess it's too good to leave out. Rule 69 Blog, described as "hand-grenade journalism" by the author Magnus Wheatley, is the best source of news and strong opinions on the yachting controversies of the day. From the Olympics to the America's Cup and beyond, Magnus has a point of view and is not afraid to express it. I just wish I could rant back at him in the comments occasionally.

As a Laser sailor I must include two excellent blogs by the sailors who won the Laser Radial and Laser US Olympic Trials this year. Anna Tunnicliffe and Andrew Campbell write about Laser regattas of course, but they have both found time to fit other sailing activities into a busy year of Olympic campaigning. Anna and her crew made it to the podium at US Sailing’s Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championship and Andrew has been exploring many tactical and racing rules questions in his Monday Morning Tactician series. Good luck to them both in China.

And here's a pic of Anna flying a Bladerider Moth.


You didn't really want pictures of Reid or Edward did you?

I'm not much of a windsurfer but I have to admit I am enthralled by the exploits of Michael who writes
The Peconic Puffin. This guy goes out windsurfing in ice and rain and freezing slush and 50 knot winds and then makes us believe how much fun it was. Truly amazing.

A blog I've been following since I first discovered the medium is
frogma, the story of Bonnie, a New York based sailor and kayaker. Truth is she writes more often about kayaking than sailing, but that's OK. Her blog is honest, down-to-earth, direct... and at the same time inspiring. I guess it's a characteristic of every blog on this list, but her enthusiasm for her sport (paddling in this case) just shines through in every post and makes you want to give it a try.

Several readers of Proper Course recommended tugster: a waterblog for this list, and I can see why. The author Will Van Dorp works on greater New York harbor and posts on his blog photos of what he sees on the water. Tugs, sunsets, barges, birds, container ships, rudders, tillers, men at work, fishnets, kayakers... even some sailing craft occasionally. Strangely addictive.

The author of Captain JP's log writes about life on the river in another major port, the Thames in London, as well as musing on various aspects of sailing and watery pursuits in general. But perhaps his most ambitious venture was a series of posts on the Celebrity Yacht Race, an event that seems to have been totally overlooked by the mainstream yachting press.

I've saved the best for last. If I had to choose one blog as the top sailing blog of 2007 it would be Messing About in Sailboats by Adam Turinas. Entertaining, witty, informative, topical... Adam's blog covers everything from the America's Cup to Naming a Boat the Cockney Way, from "great places to sail" to why a yacht is naked without a heavy machine gun. Adam also has a gift for promoting participation and pulling together our community of sailing bloggers. The most striking example of this art was his group project to choose the Top 10 Sailing Songs. A gazillion readers sent in ideas, no doubt motivated by his promise to send out a CD of the top songs to all participants. He has been posting videos of sailing songs on his blog for several months now and shows no signs of running out of material. What a brilliant idea! And thanks for the CD mate, it's played almost daily in the Tillerman household.

So there we have it. Apologies to all the excellent blogs that didn't make the list this year. Every year the number of high quality boating blogs increases and it becomes harder and harder to choose only ten. Congratulations to the Top Ten. What a mix! I wonder what new blogs will emerge in 2008 to challenge them?

Numbers