Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Random Thoughts on the Number Ninety Four

It's the last day of the year and as I look out of my office window at another big snow storm with a gale warning in effect this afternoon, it's pretty clear that there will be no more sailing for me in 2008.

So I failed to make my target of 100 days of Laser sailing in the year. I only made it to 94.

Thanks to everyone who encouraged me along the way in my quest for 100. There were many helpful suggestions, most of which I ignored. Sorry about that.

The 100 day thing started because I noticed, when I read in the Laser sailing class magazine about some of the top Laser sailors, that many of them sailed at least that many days in a year. So I wanted to see what it would be like to make that kind of commitment to Lasering and whether it would make me a better sailor in the process. And even though 94 is not 100 I think I sailed enough days to learn something on both counts.

I did get a feel for what I need to do to prioritize sailing to the point where I could come close to 100 days in a year, how to fit it in with other activities in my life, how to choose the days to sail.

In not achieving the target I learned something about how to plan my sailing through the year, realizing now that I should have done more in the "good weather" months.

I'm going to do an analysis in another post about the kind of sailing that made up the 94 days... solo practice, group practice, club sailing, regattas etc. I suspect I will learn that I ought to make some adjustments in that mix in 2009.

I learned that when you set yourself a target it can become an end in its own right, sometimes to the detriment of the underlying reason for setting that target. I have to admit that some of the sails were short sessions simply to tick off another day. Not that I didn't enjoy them but from the perspective of training I ought to focus on quality of each session as well as sheer number of sessions.

I think I did become a (slightly) better Laser sailor by sailing so many days. I fixed some of the faults in my technique. I won a Laser regatta in a bigger fleet than I have ever done before (still not huge and still not against top competition but it's a step in the right direction). I took second place in my age group in one of the toughest regional Laser Masters regattas. A solid year to build on.

I also learned that I am a wuss. I learned that, being retired and able to choose almost any day to sail, I tend to choose to go solo sailing on sunny days with winds between 5 and 15 knots. I don't sail on my own when it's raining, or a drifter, or 20 gusting 30. But race committees run races on days like that so I really ought to bite the bullet and go and practice on days like that too.

I learned that 100 days is not too tough a target and I'm going to have another shot at it in 2009.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Do you remember the Sunday before Xmas, before those days spent buying last minute presents for the man or woman that has everything, and racking your brain to remember if you bought them the same thing last year, and driving through bad weather to get to the party, and feasting and drinking and hanging out with all your relatives, and playing silly games, and watching too much TV, and giving each other presents, and telling each other, "It's just what I wanted," whether it was or not, and eating too much and drinking too much, and waking up with a hangover or worse, and driving through bad weather to get home from the party, and standing in line at the mall to return the presents because they gave you the same thing last year?

Of course you don't remember. Sunday December 21 was in another reality. BX. Before Xmas.

So you don't remember that on that day I posted Simply The Best, a very simple request from me asking all you sailing bloggers to tell us what was the best post on your blog in 2008. But never mind. I forgive you for forgetting me. And the good news is that you still have two days to write that post on your blog about the best post of the year.

If you need an incentive, consider this. While you were enjoying yourselves over Xmas the dedicated hard-working judges of the 2008 Best Sailing Blogs of the Year panel were meeting and scoring all the sailing blogs of the year against a gazillion selection criteria. A massive spreadsheet was constructed. Points were awarded in every imaginable category from visual impact to veracity, originality to obtuseness, participation to pomposity, community awareness to complexity, believability to bullshitness.... And still the judges couldn't make the final cut. It's entirely possible that a good entry in the Simply The Best group writing project could sway their decision.

Go for it.

Full details at Simply The Best.

Monday, December 29, 2008

What I Learned From Sailing in 2008

Anyone who sails a good deal knows that sailing teaches you a lot more than the differences between a rolling hitch and a carrick bend, a ketch and a kedge, or a barnacle and a baggywrinkle. Sailing is an arena where you learn such vital life skills as teamwork, leadership, decision making, discipline... and how to avoid the club bore.

So, in that spirit, I thought I would look back on 2008 and contemplate what lessons I learned from sailing that have relevance in everyday life...

In January, in Airline Paranoia I learned that it's good to be paranoid. And in Airline Paranoia Revisited I discovered that just because you are not paranoid it doesn't mean that they are not out to get you.

In February, I discovered in Fear Factor that I know seven different ways to overcome fear... most of which I forget when I really need them.

In March I learned from an Olympic sailor a lesson that applies to many walks of life, Don't Get Burned Out by Practice. Good job there's no chance of me making that mistake in any pursuit.

In April I learned that I should be careful what I wish for in Ironman No More.

In May I learned in
Polyphony that if you strike up a relationship on the Internet with a member of the opposite sex half your age, there may be unexpected consequences.

In June I learned in Tiverton Tilling that sharing your spouse's passion can also have unexpected consequences.

In July I learned in And Now For Something Completely Different that sometimes it's a good idea to respond to one of those unsolicited emails from total strangers. Unless it's from Nigeria of course.

In August I learned in Hidden Law of the Universe that it's pointless to try and apply my logical brain to some aspects of life. Some phenomena are just not amenable to logic.

In September the US Stock market experienced a total Meltdown, and I learned that the best response to the end of capitalism is simply to go sailing.

In October I learned in Fat Boy and Little Man that contrary to what Harry Chapin sang in Cat's In the Cradle, it can be a good thing if my son grows up "just like me".

In November I learned in Gonna Need a Bigger Boat that grandkids trump a bigger boat any day.

And finally, in December I learned in If I Had a Boat that, when it comes to experiences, quality is more important than quantity; and that if you have a dream then you should be more like Tonto.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Traditions

Over the Christmas holiday all eight members of the Tillerman US clan gathered at our house for traditional Christmas fare and merry times together.

Eight! How did that happen. All of a sudden I'm the patriarch of a family of eight. Me and the beautiful Tillerwoman, two handsome sons, two sons' gorgeous partners, and two adorable grandchildren. OK, my younger son's fiancee doesn't have the same last name as the rest of us until that wedding by the water planned for next September but as far as I am concerned
they are all family.

In my new role as patriarch (I like that word) I feel it's important that I establish some family Christmas traditions.

  1. All the family, however large it grows (and we wouldn't complain about a few more grandchildren in the coming years) should gather together under the same roof at Christmas for at least one night. Yeah, I know there are the in-law families to consider too, but with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and Boxing Day, not to mention weekends before and after, I don't think it's too much to ask that we find a way to synchronize plans so that we can all gather together once at Christmas. Hey, if one of the eight of us ever becomes rich and famous (or just filthy rich for that matter) we could even have our family Christmas get-together at some resort in the BVI at his or her expense.

  2. Granddad should always receive some sailing-related presents. This year I receive two real doozies. The C-Vane and Dave Perry's Understanding the Racing Rules of Sailing 2009-2012.

    • The C-Vane is the very last word in wind indicators for Lasers. At least, until someone else comes up with a new last word. My current wind indicator is Web 1.0 to the C-Vane's Web 3.0. My current instrument was even laughed at this year by a certain Laser Sailing God. When the gods laugh at you it's time for a change.

    • And Dave Perry's book is the last word on interpreting the Racing Rules. At least until they change the rules again in four years and poor old Dave has to write a new version of his book and every serious racing sailor has to buy the new edition. Poor old Dave.

      It's fantastic to have a world-class Racing Rules expert like Dave to explain the new rules to me. I'm hoping I can find material in the book which will be an inspiration for some more wonky posts here in the same vein as Both Leeward and Both Starboard where I can show off my truly awesome understanding of the Rules.

      So on Christmas Day I found a quiet corner and sat down with the book and, with my usual arrogant attitude, after only thirty minutes had discovered one definite mistake and one area where Dave's interpretation of a rule didn't make a lot of sense for Laser sailing. Should I write poor old Dave a polite note or should I write a scathing review of the book on the blog in a series of increasingly wonkish, impenetrable, argumentative posts?

      Hmmm. Tough one.

  3. My final new Christmas family tradition is that everyone in the family should share their aspirations for sailing for the coming years. This one is a bit of a stretch as the only confirmed sailors in the family are myself and my two sons... and son #2 hasn't done much sailing since high school. But in the last few days I made some good progress in establishing this tradition.

    • Son #2 volunteered, out of the blue, that he and his fiancee plan to take some sailing lessons next year with a view to chartering a yacht during their honeymoon in September.

    • Aforementioned fiancee expressed her approval of this plan. Wow.

    • When I mentioned their plans to Tiller-daughter-in-law the next day she said that she planned to take sailing lessons when her daughter Emily (currently three years old) learns to sail. Double wow.

    • Son #2 also expressed an interest in getting involved in some big boat racing series.

    • Son #1 a.k.a. The Whippersnapper was dreaming about buying a Flying Scot and teaching his kids to sail in it, and also racing it competitively on the local circuit. He even had me checking The Google on The Internet Machine to find out the prices of new Flying Scots.

    So that just leaves Tillerwoman (a lost cause as far as sailing is concerned I fear) and Aidan who is too young to have an opinion on the matter, and everyone in the Tillerman clan has expressed (or had expressed for them) some kind of aspiration to do some sailing at some (not always well defined) date in the future.

    Hmmm. A tradition has started.
Life is good.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday to Sir Isaac Newton, born on December 25th 1642 (Julian calendar) in Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth in the county of Lincolnshire in England, only a few miles from my own place of birth. Indeed Isaac and I went to the same school, The King's School in Grantham. Not at the same time I must point out.

By all accounts our Isaac was a bit of a weird old stick, a recluse, and given to feuding with some of the lesser geniuses of his time. But it probably wasn't an easy gig being the founder of classical physics. I mean, can you imagine just dreaming up mechanics and gravity and the nature of light
out of thin air, and by the way inventing calculus on the side to help you do the math? Enough to make anyone a bit eccentric. Or perhaps it was sniffing all those mercury fumes when he was dabbling in alchemy? On the other hand, he was a solid enough chap that he was later put in charge of the Royal Mint, improving the coinage and hanging those dastardly counterfeiters.

Sadly his birthday is not as widely celebrated as it should be. After all this guy was arguably the greatest scientist of all time. Just his luck to be born on the day that the followers of Baby Jesus arbitrarily (and almost certainly incorrectly) chose as the day to mark aforementioned baby's birth, and then one thing led to another until the whole Merry Christmas Ho Ho Ho thing gave an excuse to those bastards at Jordans Furniture to run a TV ad yesterday afternoon informing my wife that if we had only bought those leather chairs that she was coveting a few weeks back they would also have given her a free Blu-Ray Player for Baby Jesus Day. Damn them. What's a free Blu-Ray Player got to do with Baby Jesus?

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes, Merry Newton Day.

Thanks to Olivia Judson for filling us in on some of the facts about Newton in The Ten Days of Newton on her blog The Wild Side. And if you care to celebrate my old schoolmate's birthday today, Ms Judson offers this song...

On the tenth day of Newton
My true love gave to me
Ten drops of genius
Nine silver co-oins
Eight circling planets
Seven shades of li-ight
Six counterfeiters
Four telescopes
Three Laws of Motion,
Two awful feuds
And the discovery of gravity!



Wednesday, December 24, 2008

How A Christmas Tradition Started

One particular Christmas season a long time ago, Santa was getting ready for his annual trip ... but there were problems everywhere. Four of his elves got sick, and the trainee elves did not produce the toys as fast as the regular ones so Santa was beginning to feel the pressure of being behind schedule.

Then Mrs. Claus told Santa that her mother was coming to visit. This stressed Santa even more.

When he went to harness the reindeer, he found that three of them were about to give birth and two had jumped the fence and were out, heaven knows where. More stress.

Then when he began to load the sleigh one of the boards cracked and the toy bag fell to the ground and scattered the toys.

So, frustrated, Santa went into the house for a cup of coffee and a shot of whiskey. When he went to the cupboard, he discovered that the elves had hidden the liquor and there was nothing to drink. In his frustration, he accidentally dropped the coffee pot and it broke into hundreds of little pieces all over the kitchen floor. He went to get the broom and found that mice had eaten the straw it was made from.

Just then the doorbell rang and Santa cursed on his way to the door. He opened the door and there was a little angel with a great big Christmas tree.

All radiant and smiling; the angel said, very cheerfully, "Merry Christmas Santa. Isn't it just a lovely day? I have a beautiful tree for you. Isn't it just a lovely tree? Where would you like me to stick it?"

Thus began the tradition of the little angel on top of the Christmas tree.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Best of the Best (Modestly Speaking)

Now that I've challenged each of you sailing bloggers to select from all of the posts that you have written on your blog this year the one that is Simply The Best, I suppose I'm going to have to set an example by choosing the best post on Proper Course this year.

This is no time for the modesty for which I am justly famous. This is a time to go down to the cellar of my archives and taste once again the many fine vintages and cheeky little numbers stacked away on the dusty racks down there. But what is "best" when there are so many superb posts written in my trademark meek, humble, and unpretentious style?

Should I choose a post about when I sailed the best? Or the post that attracted the most interest? Or the funniest? Or one that my readers found inspiring and uplifting? (Hmmm, that last one would be hard.)

Let's see...

I could select one of those totally pointless posts so typical of Proper Course such as Sock Fetish. I don't suppose anyone else is going to have a best post that starts, "I love my socks..."

Or perhaps I could choose the tale about the day when I finally met the young woman known previously in my family as "Granddad's Internet Girlfriend", actually a story about when I spent an afternoon introducing Polyphony to Laser sailing.

Or I could pick an account that includes two of the regular characters on Proper Course, my perpetual nemesis and my granddaughter. One of them says I'm their Best Friend.

Then their was the day that I actually won a regatta. The post has a suitably modest title... Just One of Those Days.

Or one of those rare regattas where I actually beat my nemesis, described in the very modestly written Not Throwing in the Towel.

Or one of those quirky posts about a more laid-back sailing day such as Just Six Laser Dudes Racing Round a Sausage.

Or the story about a morning spent blasting around in the waves off Third Beach Newport with my son, followed by a delicious lunch. Fat Boy and Little Man.

Or perhaps I should choose the post about the day I experienced a Sailor's High, a.k.a. Cannabinoid Moment.

No. I think I will choose Never Failed to Fail, a story about the last day of racing in the Laser Masters Worlds in Australia, a day when I was reminded that, as a Laser sailor, I have much to be modest about. Regular readers of Proper Course may remember this post as the one where I was dragged underwater with a noose around my neck. This post is simply the best because it combines
the three underlying themes of my blog... bad sailing, humor and an expression of my passion for the sport.

Now it's your turn. What was the best post about sailing on your blog this year? Full details of how to participate at Simply The Best.

Full Disclosure. This idea for a Simply the Best writing project was shamelessly stolen by Tillerman from Joanna Young of Confident Writing who was the original author of Simply the Best:Group Writing Project.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Simply The Best

A question for all you sailing bloggers: What was the best post you published on your blog in 2008?

I thought it would be fun to create a collection of the best sailing stories of 2008, and who better to pick the entries than the writers of those posts themselves? So that's our final group writing project of the year. Pretty simple really because you've already written the original post. That's why this project is called Simply The Best.

Here’s how it works:

1. Select the one post from your archives that you think is your best piece of 2008.

2. Write a post (on your own blog) about it, including the link to your selected best piece.

3. Complete this sentence as part of the post: "This post is simply the best because…"

4. To make it more challenging, the explanation needs to be 30 words or less. (You don't need to count the words "This post is simply the best because..." and you can have as many, or as few, words as you like in the rest of the post.)

5. When you’re done, link back to this post, and leave a comment here please so I know about it.

6. Post your contribution by 31st December 2008.

I’ll then do a wrap-up post with links to all the best pieces and the 30 word reasons why their authors chose them. We'll then have a collection of the best sailing writing on the web in 2008... because we all know that all sailing websites except blogs totally suck... along with what I expect will be some very diverse definitions of the meaning of "best".

Go for it.

Full Disclosure. This idea for a Simply the Best writing project was shamelessly stolen by Tillerman from Joanna Young of Confident Writing who was the original author of Simply the Best:Group Writing Project.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

If I Had a Boat

My fellow retirees from the Mighty Absurd Refreshment Syndicate had a lunch meeting last week in New Jersey. They sent me a photo. They are looking good. Some of them even look younger than when they were working with me at the Mighty Absurd Refreshment Syndicate 8 years ago. Retirement seems to be treating most of us well.

I didn't go to the meeting. Today I went sailing instead.

What a superb day for sailing. Why can't all winter days be like this?

If you painted a picture of this day you wouldn't need gray paint like last time. You would just need several tubes of blue.

I sailed a fine reach out of Bristol Harbor towards Poppasquash Point, straight into the early afternoon sun. Following the streak of the sun on the water. Color it yellow.

Once I rounded the point the wind increased a bit, there were actually some waves, and I sailed close-hauled for a while towards the distant skyscrapers of Providence glimmering in the sunlight, 12 miles away to the NNW. A bit of a hike-fest to work out the quad muscles.

What a day. Day 94 of Laser sailing this year. Perhaps the last such day given the weather forecast for a 3-day snow storm starting on Friday, and then all kinds of festivities and fun family activities associated with the Winter Solstice, Yule, Saturnalia, Chronia, Sol Invictus, etc. etc.

If this is the last day of Lasering in 2008 it wouldn't have been a bad place to do it, in this crossroads of Narragansett Bay where four arms of the bay come together. I started remembering all the places I had sailed around here this year...

Stretching to the south is the eastern passage of Narragansett Bay and 10 miles away is Newport, where I played bumper boats in April in Ironman No More, duelled with Mr Fast in July, and raced with the Newport Laser Fleet in November At Last.

Someone sailing up the eastern passage from the south is faced with three choices here...

To the northeast is Mount Hope Bay, My Bay, and I couldn't help thinking of the day when I sailed with my son from Bristol, under Mount Hope Bridge and into My Bay, the one and only Diana and Joe's House of Only Orange Shirts 78th Sail of 2008.

Upper Narragansett Bay a favorite place for solo practice in the summer, stretches away to the NNW. In the distance I can see Barrington, the site of our district championship this year, where once, just once, this Blind Squirrel found his nut.

And due north from this crossroads on the bay is Bristol Harbor, another favorite solo sailing area, and also the site for A Bit of a Yot.

What a year. So many sailing memories.

Then it was time to turn back downwind and sail back to the launch site. Is the last sail of the year. Who knows?

I do know that it was for days like this that I retired from the
Mighty Absurd Refreshment Syndicate.

The mystery masked man was smart
He got himself a Tonto
'Cause Tonto did the dirty work for free
But Tonto he was smarter
And one day said, "Kemo Sabe
Kiss my ass I bought a boat
I'm going out to sea."

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Paint it Black

My 93rd Laser sailing day of the year last Tuesday was on an overcast, cold, cloudy, gray winter day in Bristol Harbor... even more dark than the Hazy Shade of Winter day. But hey, if I only sail on sunny days, I'll never make it to 100. I probably won't make it to 100 anyway but there's still an outside chance.

I've been sailing a lot in Bristol Harbor these last few weeks. It gives me a sense of security. Compared to some of the lonelier spots around Narragansett Bay where I sailed in the summer, it's quite urban. Even though there's very little other boating traffic at this time of year I figure that if I got into trouble somebody on land would probably spot the crazy old dude standing on the upturned Laser waving his arms about. Or even if they didn't see me I'd probably wash up at the bottom of the lawn of one of the Poppasquash Point mansions, or into some dock on the Bristol harbor front before too long.

If you had wanted to paint a picture of the harbor last Tuesday you would have needed a lot of gray paint. The sky was various shades of gray. The water was almost black. The buildings around the harbor all looked gray. Then after you had smeared gray paint all over your canvas you would have added a few tiny spots of green and red for the navigation buoys, a few tinier spots of gold for the lights coming on around the harbor, even at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. If you were painting it from the perspective of the crazy Laser guy you would need a smear of red for his vang line and a few touches of blue for the band round his mast which he had to put there to indicate which fleet he was sailing in at the US Masters back in June and which he has been too lazy to to remove since.

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes. Bristol Harbor on a dark December day.

At least my hands weren't so cold as recently. I have a new pair of gloves. Like they always say, "When the going gets tough, the tough get.... latex." See Sticky Fingers for full explanation.

So my hands were dry and warm, but the spray blowing off the wave tops was making my hat wet. Hmmm. Do I need a latex hat as well?

So there I was blasting around on my Laser in the cold and dark at about 3:30 in the afternoon, watching all the cars on Hope Street with their lights on... and then it started to rain.

Life is good.

93 down. 7 to go. Brrrrr.

Yesterday my 3 year-old granddaughter Emily out of nowhere suddenly said, with much emphasis and emotion, "Grandad, I love you." (I seem to have progressed. In June she was saying I was her Best Friend.)

"That's great Emily. Why do you love me?" (Always fishing for a compliment, even from a 3-year-old.)

"Because you're wearing a green shirt, Grandad."


Life is very good.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Early Bird Catches the Worm

The email came today...

Place Offer for World Laser Masters Championship 2009

Immediate action is required, this offer is time limited to December 26, 2008

A place has been offered to you at World Laser Masters Championship 2009 if you would like to accept this place please follow the link below, if you cannot attend the event please follow the alternative link which will allow the place to be offered to another sailor.

Yooooo hoooooo. The powers-that-be think that Tillerman is qualified to represent the United States at a World Championship. What a hoot!

I wrote back in June in Unqualified about how the Laser class has implemented a new system to make it harder to qualify to sail in a World Masters Championship. One interpretation of the initiative would be that it's all an effort by the International Laser Class to keep back-of-the-fleet yahoos like me out of the Masters Worlds.

But a close reading of the so-called "ranking" system that the North American region adopted made me think that I might still have a chance to get in to the Masters Worlds in Nova Scotia next year. Basically all you needed to do to qualify was...

  • Sail in a Worlds recently - check
  • or sail in a major North American Masters regatta and not be close to DFL - check
  • and make sure you get your entry in early. First come first served.

So, as I wrote in Don't You Know Who I Am?, I got up early on the day that entries opened in September, completed the on-line application, and then fired off an email to the North American class office detailing my somewhat meager (but good enough) qualifications for entry.

It worked.

At one point a few weeks ago the International Laser Class website showed me "ranked" as 10th among all the Master Laser Sailors in North America who had applied for a place at the Worlds. What a joke! Just to let you know how ridiculous this was, the current Great Grand Master World Champion was ranked 35th... 25 places behind a bozo like Tillerman. What it really meant was that among North American sailors who passed the (very low) bar for entry I was the tenth to get out of bed and fire up his computer on that morning in September.

Whatever. I'm in.

But things have changed since I applied.

My younger son and his girlfriend recently set the date for their wedding. First week of September 2009. Same time as the Masters Worlds. Of course I want to go for the wedding. So I am going to have to decline the generous offer from the class office to sail in the Worlds next year. No big deal. Some other old bird (who didn't get up as early as me) can have my worm. Family comes first.

But it was still kind of cool to catch the worm first.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

More Sausages

OK. Back to real sailing today. No Rants on the Racing Rules for a while, as it seems that some of my regular readers don't like them. But I do have some more really cool photos of demolitions that I found on The Googler Image so I will have to return to the Demolition Series soon...

My 92nd Laser sail of the year was on Bristol Harbor last Friday afternoon. Winds were light and patchy so I didn't stray too far away from the beach. Didn't want to get becalmed and have to do that silly 'stand in front of the mast and waggle it about' trick to air row myself a mile or two back to my dolly against an ebbing tide.

Mainly I just did sausages in the top end of the harbor, using a keelboat named Althea that was moored near Bristol Yacht Club as the windward mark.

I like sausages. Yesterday for lunch I had bangers and mash at Aidan's Pub in Bristol. My grandson's name is Aidan. Pretty cool that he has his own pub already. I like pubs too. Life is good.

There you go 'regular readers who are repelled by racing rules rants'. Wasn't that fun?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Demolition #1

OK. In More Wonky Stuff for the Freaks I promised to "demolish" the three sensible intelligent answers given by well-meaning and knowledgeable sailors to my Racing Rules question last week in Both Leeward and Both Starboard.

Maybe "demolish" was a bit harsh. I actually think that the answer given by several respected commenters that I summarized first in More Wonky Stuff for the Freaks was right on the money. In the example I gave last week it is true that Blue is the give way boat almost right up until the collision occurs. And even if the application of Rule 11 was a bit confusing at the point of contact, then there was no doubt that Blue was also initially obliged to keep clear under Rule 15
when she acquired right of way (if indeed she ever did), so she should probably be DSQ under that Rule.

However... that answer, while correct in that situation, is sorta kinda ducking the point I was trying raise, which is that there is a serious anomaly or paradox (call it what you will) in the Racing Rules of Sailing that applies when a boat sailing by the lee meets a boat on the same tack sailing close-hauled. In fact I would go so far as to say that it is an error in the Rules that ought to be corrected at some stage.

To illustrate my point more clearly let me change the facts slightly to create a more extreme situation. Take a look at this...

Basically same issue as before. Two boats, same tack, overlapped. And when contact occurs each is to leeward of the other (as leeward is defined in the Rules for each boat). But, as I've drawn the diagram now, I don't think you can avoid the issue by invoking Rule 15 because in every position in the diagram Red is to leeward of Blue (on the side of Blue on which she is carrying her sail) and Blue is to leeward of Red (on the side of Red away from the wind).

Of course, as a certain ex-president might have said, it all depends on the meaning of "side". Indeed it does and that will be explored in more depth in Demolition #2.

More Wonky Stuff for the Freaks

I warned you that I would do it.

Yes. Thanks to the enormous response last week to my posts about the Racing Rules of Sailing, this week there will be another mind-numbing brain-teasing set of Tillerman 'ramblings on the rules' for all you Racing Rules Freaks out there.

My original post was about a real situation where there was contact between two boats on a race course where, at the time of contact, the boats were overlapped, both boats were on starboard tack and each was to the leeward of the other, at least according to how 'leeward' is defined in the Racing Rules.

Here was the situation...

Anyone who knows anything about the Racing Rules must concede that this is a seriously weird situation. It would appear that Rule 11 'On The Same Tack Overlapped' applies. But Rule 11, as written, seems to say that both boats are the right-of-way boat, or perhaps both are the give-way boat. Again, seriously weird.

There were a lot of intelligent and well-reasoned answers to this paradox from my commenters. Basically there were three solutions offered...

  1. The blue (running) boat is obliged to keep clear of the red (beating) boat under Rule 11 until a very short time just before the incident. So even if there is some confusion about how Rule 11 applies at the time of contact, even if the blue boat miraculously becomes the right-of-way boat just before the contact occurs, the blue boat is still obliged to keep clear of the red boat under Rule 15 'Acquiring Right of Way'. So Blue should be DSQ. But see Demolition #1.

  2. When two boats on the same tack meet, and one is running and the other is beating, the running boat is 'closer to the wind' and is always the give-way boat. That's the intent of the Rules. So Blue should be DSQ.

  3. Both boats are obliged to give way. That may sound paradoxical but really it's not. So both boats should be DSQ. Toss 'em both.

I have to confess that I have a liking for answers 1 and 2, if only because I was the Red boat in the real-life incident and was merrily sailing along assuming, as a starboard tack beating boat who was meeting boats that were on a run, that I would always be the right-of-way boat. But then, when a boat on the same tack as me touched the leeward side of my boat, my immediate instinct was that I must have violated Rule 11.

Until I started thinking. And thinking. 18 months later I'm still thinking about it. I think too much.

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes. Possible answers to the paradox.

I will now proceed with razor sharp logic and devastating cunning to demolish all three answers offered by my erudite and experienced commenters.

Watch this space...

Monday, December 08, 2008

What Sinatra Didn't Think About

So there I was on a chilly, breezy, sunny winter's day, all bundled up in my drysuit and my oversized boots over the drysuit latex boots, and my 3mm neoprene gloves, and my thermal hat pulled down over my ears, launching my Laser into Bristol Harbor and heading out for my 91st Laser sail of the year.

Man, I felt clumsy in all that gear.

And for a while I wasn't all that warm either. My fingers went through the same progression as they had on other recent sails, from OK to cold to painful... and then after about 20 minutes to tolerable. I think I had some feeling in three fingers and a thumb on each hand, but the middle finger on each hand seemed to be totally numb. Is this normal? Is this healthy? Will bits drop off?

It took longer than 20 minutes for the clumsiness to go away. My winter boots are one size larger and of a different design than the ones I wear in the summer and I seemed to be tripping over my feet in every tack, getting my feet tangled in the hiking strap. In my thick gloves it was hard to pick up the thin control lines. How did I ever sail a Laser in all this gear?

Then about 30-40 minutes into the sail something clicked. There was no longer any pain in my fingers. I wasn't clumsy any more. Everything felt just right. Even my little torquing movements on each wave seemed to be in synch with the waves in a way that hadn't felt so right before. The sailing became easy, effortless, as if this was my natural element. I'm sure friend Zen would have a word for it.

I had time to look around and enjoy the experience of being in the moment. The sun was shining on a perfect December afternoon. I was the only boat out in one of America's most historic harbors. Only a couple of boats left on moorings out of the hundreds that were here in the summer. This was a thriving port back in the era of the slave trade. Over there Captain Nat designed and built all those America's Cup defenders. And this day it was mine all mine.

I turned downwind and stayed in the zenness, or whatever it's called. Now using the energy of the waves to carry me faster than the wind could drive me. Now using the wind to power me faster than the waves. Not thinking about how to do it. Just doing it.

A couple of days later I was reading a book about memory, of all things, and why it's totally natural for us older folk to lose it in a minor way as we age...

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes, unconscious sailing. Zenness.

The book talked about something called "procedural memory", describing it as what Sinatra didn't think about when he sang, what Tiger Woods doesn't think about when he drives a golf ball. That's what I was using last Wednesday, once I had worked through the pain stage and the clumsiness stage. Sailing without thinking about sailing.

I think too much, I think.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Toughest Sailing Race in the World

What is the toughest sailing race in the world?

Well, as a certain former president of the United States might have said, "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is."

It sure does, and for that matter it also depends on the meaning of "sailing" and "race" and "toughest". I think we can probably all agree on the definition of "world" can't we?

Let's take the easiest one first. What is "sailing"? For example, there was recently a major dispute going on about whether kitesurfers are eligible for the world sailing speed record. Are kitesurfers sailors? In any case, do kitesurfers race? Anyway let's leave them out.

But what about windsurfers? Did you see them at the Olympics "air rowing" themselves around the race course? If that's a sailing race then arguably it is the most physically demanding type of sailing race there is. Maybe some windsurfing race is deserving of the title "Toughest Sailing Race in the World"?

But what do we mean by "toughest"? Is it the race that is most difficult to win, against the toughest competition? Or is it the one that demands the highest level of skill from the crew? Or do we mean the race that is the most physically demanding?

I've no idea which sailing race or event is the most difficult to win because of the standard of competition. Would it be the America's Cup? But you could argue that that is more of a battle of designers (and lawyers) and always has been. Anyway how can it be the toughest to win when you only have to beat one other boat?

Or is the Olympics the pinnacle of our sport? Does the regatta for one of the Olympic disciplines count as the most difficult to win? Maybe. But you have to take into account that each country can enter only one boat in each Olympic discipline. So what if the top five sailors in a particular class all come from the same country? Wouldn't it then be harder to win the Olympic trials in that country than to win the Olympic regatta itself?

So perhaps the hardest race to win is the World Championship for some class? But what class? What is the most competitive class in the world? We will never agree on that.

And is it harder to be a world champion in a single-handed class like the Finn or the Laser where the sailor has to manage every aspect of the race... strategy, tactics, boatspeed, sail trim, steering etc. etc. ... by himself? Or is it harder to put together a champion crew of sailors on a larger boat, and train and motivate them to work as a team?

And is the size of the fleet a factor? Could the toughest world championship to win possibly be in a fleet of, say, twenty boats, all top class competitors? Or does Ed Baird's feat of winning the 1980 Laser World Championship in a fleet of 350 Laserites rank as the all-time toughest sailing race win?

And what class of boat requires the most skill to sail well. Foiling Moths? I don't know.

On the other hand, if "toughest" means "physically demanding" then surely ocean races, and especially the Round-the-World races, must be in the running for the title. Racing non-stop week after week in wet, cold, uncomfortable conditions must be tougher than what any of the Olympic or America's Cup or One Design World Champion sailors go through. The latter go back to a nice warm shower and a comfortable dry bed every night.

So if we are considering Round-the-World Races, once again we have to choose between fully crewed boats and single-handed racers. My vote would be that racing single-handed around the world is tougher then being part of a crew, but what do I know?

Then we have the meaning of "race". Do we mean fleet racing or team racing or match racing? Which one is toughest?

And last but not least we have to agree on the meaning of "is" or perhaps "what". When we are asked to choose the toughest sailing race in the world are we talking about a race or regatta that is run annually, or at least on a regular basis, such as "The America's Cup" or "The Vendee Globe"? Or do we mean one particular occurrence of such an event like "The 1979 Fastnet" or "The 1998 Sydney to Hobart"? When boats sink and racers die, things are pretty tough by anyone's definition.

So where does that leave us?

Speaking just for myself I would have to answer the question as follows...
  • Racing round the world must be the toughest kind of sailing race

  • Doing it single-handed is tougher than doing it on a fully crewed boat

  • Doing it non-stop single-handed when nobody in the history of the world has ever completed that feat, never mind done it in a race before, must rank as the toughest race of all time.

So my vote for title of "Toughest Sailing Race in the World" goes to the Golden Globe of 1968-69 won by the only finisher Robin Knox-Johnston.

But what do you think? What is the Toughest Sailing Race in the World?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Retire During Retirement

ABC News' Charles Gibson: You're only 62. Is there one more thing you really want to achieve?

Guy a bit older than me with whom I share a birthday and who is about lose the job he's had for last 8 years: Um, that's interesting question... Wouldn't it be interesting for baby boomers not to retire in, y'know, nice places, but to retire during their retirement to go, y'know, help people deal with malaria or AIDS? ... In other words, I'm not suggesting that is what I'm gonna do. It is the kind of thing that intrigues me.

Tilley Awards 2008

It has become a regular annual feature of this blog for me to nominate my Top Ten Sailing Blogs of the year. I did it in 2005, 2006 and 2007. This year I thought I'd do something a bit different. But I need your help.

Instead of a Top Ten List I thought I would choose my favorite sailing blogs in various categories. You know, like the Oscars have awards for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Animated Feature, Best Documentary, Best Cinematography and so on and so on.

I thought I could have categories too but I need your help in suggesting what the categories should be...

Should I break it down by sailing "disciplines" like they do in the Olympics? Best Keelboat Blog, Best Catamaran Blog, Best Windsurfer Blog... etc. etc.

Or should I make it more free form? Then I could include categories like Best Round the World Cruising Blog, Best Ocean Racing Blog, Best Olympic Sailing Blog, Best Lake Sailor Blog...

I don't want to make the categories too tight. For example there's not going to be an award for Best Blog by an Owner of a Newport 28 on A-dock in Berkeley Marina. But I would be open to a special category for Best Account of an Ocean Race by an Amateur Sailor.

And if I'm going to honor some of my favorite blogs I might have to have some rather odd-sounding categories like Most Creative Photo Series of Fish and Wahines in Interesting Combinations. You all know who I mean.

I'd be quite happy for categories that recognize individual posts of special excellence such as Funniest Sailing Video of the Year, or Most Horrendous Sailing Mistake Post.

Maybe I'll have to have some categories for specific classes of boat. For example, there do seem to be an awful lot of Moth Blogs out there these days. I can't keep up with them all.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I want your ideas. For award categories at this stage please. Later on when I've selected the categories, I'll ask for nominations for each category. Tell me your suggestion via the comments please.

Fish on Fridays

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Return of the Whippersnapper

Enough of posts for Racing Rules Freaks. This post is about real sailing, as opposed to racing, so there were no rules and no Racing Rules Freaks.

Well, not exactly true. On Friday I went Laser sailing with son #1 who is the very epitome of a Racing Rules Freak. He's even a moderator in the Sailx Protest Room. How freakish is that?

But on Friday there was no racing and so no rules.

Son #1 is also known as The Whippersnapper. I think it was Dan Kim from Adrift at Sea who first gave him that nickname. Whatever. Who cares?

Then, a couple of years ago, when I went sailing with the Whippersnapper at a lake I discovered near his home in Massachusetts I christened it Lake Whippersnapper. It's not really called Lake Whippersnapper. You won't find it under that name on Google Maps.

Anyway we spent Thanksgiving with the Whippersnapper and Mrs Whippersnapper and the two little Whippersnapper offspring at the new Whippersnapper house, which is also not too far from Lake Whippersnapper. Much turkey and white wine and various accompaniments were consumed on Thursday.

So, on Friday, I enticed the Whippersnapper away from all those new house chores... putting up window blinds and installing garage door openers and eating up all the cold turkey... and dragged him to Lake Whippersnapper.

What a great day it was for sailing. Brilliant sunny day. Yummy sailing wind but not as gusty and shifty as the last couple of times I sailed there on my own. We started off with a delicious planing reach down the length of the lake. Then did some informal windward leeward sorta kinda practice races across the lake but we weren't really racing just chilling out and enjoying the sun and the wind and doing the father-son-sailing thing.

Edward the famous EVK4 Superblogger did the father-son-sailing thing too on Saturday. He persuaded his 3-year-old son Noah to go sailing with him for the first time. If you've been following the EVK4 Superblog you will know that Noah was initially a bit nervous about going out on Edward's boat, so this was a big day in the Superblogger family. Woo hoo!

The Whippersnapper was not much older than Noah when I first persuaded him to sit on the bow of my Laser, facing aft, legs either side of the mast, hanging on to the mast for dear life with both hands, and I took him for his first Laser sail. Now the Whippernapper is 30 years old and has two kids of his own. But he still comes Lasering with his old Dad occasionally.

I should have listed that as one of the things I am thankful for in my Thanksgiving Day post. May Edward be as lucky as I am.

Life is good.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


Sailors are divided into two types: Racing Rules Freaks (RRF) and Sane Normal Ordinary Persons (SNOP). RRFs speak RRF-speak (or sometimes Dutch). SNOPs speak a sane normal ordinary language, like English

Judging by the reaction to the last two posts on this blog (which were about the Racing Rules and written in RRF-speak) I have a lot of readers in both categories. Jolea, the famous Gypsy Pirate Wench, probably summed up the reaction of the typical SNOP to RRF-speak with her comment on Both Leeward and Both Starboard...

Danger will robinson information overload!!!!
A couple of other SNOPs tried to enter the Racing Rules discussion with appeals to commonsense and by using the everyday meanings of certain words, not realizing that this is not the way to play the game like an RRF would. They were immediately smacked down by the uber-RRF for their naivete.

An RRF will never appeal to commonsense; instead he (it's almost always a he) will debate the fine meaning of the definition of "leeward" in sentences with no less than 500 words each, with numerous references to obscure sections of the Racing Rules of Sailing.

Or else an RRF will play the "numbers game". This is where he quotes a string of Rule numbers to demonstrate his superior knowledge of the Rules. Something like... "Rule 22.2 says blah blah blah but since this doesn't apply here then Rule 15 kicks in, if not then Rule 11 doesn't apply then we have to go to Rule 12 so both broke Rule 14 only but I don't see much hope for that argument." Got that?

I'm not sure whether I'm an SNOP or an RRF. A few weeks ago I was acting like an SNOP when I ridiculed RRFs in Tillerman... "Important Enough" and Sea Lawyer. But then I started acting like an RRF myself after I got protested in Sailx and wrote about it in Cheers.

This week I've definitely been exposing my inner RRF by writing two posts specifically about the Racing Rules Both Leeward and Both Starboard and Both Leeward Both Starboard - Bigger Crunch. Worse than that I acted like the worst most obsessive kind of RRF by answering almost every comment to these posts with an argumentative comment of my own in true RRF style.

You might think that there aren't many RRFs around. But actually a lot of folk visited these Racing Rules posts, thanks to links posted on Scuttlebutt and Destination One Design. I think you would have to be an RRF to click on a link with a teaser that says little more than, "Here is a question about the Racing Rules that has been bugging me... for over a year now."

I apologize to all the regular readers of this blog (a.k.a. Tim, Tim and Anonymous), but I think I may display my RRF tendencies a bit more over the next few weeks. You see, I've discovered a new toy, TSS or Tactical Sailing Situations which is a PC based drawing program for illustrating and explaining rules, protests, tactics and boat movements. It makes it incredibly easy to draw those pretty diagrams that show little blue and red and yellow boats crunching into each other, like the ones in this week's Racing Rules posts. I do feel an urge to make some more pretty TSS drawings so I will have to think of some good Racing Rule Freak situations, preferably with much crunching of boats, to blog about.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Are you an RRF or an SNOP. Or ambidextrous like me?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Both Leeward Both Starboard - Bigger Crunch

Here is a variation of the puzzle posed in Both Leeward and Both Starboard. Basically the same situation as before except that each of the two starboard boats makes contact with the windward side of the other (as windward is defined for each boat in the Definitions in the Racing Rules.)

One imagines that there would be a good deal more shouting in this situation as is it is clear from position 1 that the boats are on a collision course. Red would of course claim that Blue was on her (Red's) windward side in all 3 positions. However Blue would claim that, when the collision occurs, Red was on her (Blue's) windward side and that Red was therefore obliged to keep clear.

So does this differ in principle from the previous example? When Red passed to the windward side of Blue (as defined in the Definitions for Blue, a boat sailing be the lee) was Red obliged to start keeping clear? If neither boat changed course should both be DSQ'd for failing to keep clear under Rule 11?