Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Laser sailors plan.

Well, if you're a racing sailor and you want to do well in a race then you sure as hell ought to develop some kind of plan before each race. Where do you want to be on the start line? What's your strategy for the first beat? Are you going to go right or left or play the shifts up the middle? Tide, current, wind pressure, wind shifts are all stuff that will help you to create your game plan.

As for me, I'm pretty bad at this part of the game. The first race at BBR on Friday was a case in point.

The fleet launched in an extremely light northerly zephyr for a long, long, drift down Sippican Harbor to the racing circle almost three miles away. It was frigging hot. I was already sweating like a pig at 9 o'clock in the morning. After what seemed like a couple of hours we arrived at the race course and hung around waiting for the breeze to build and maybe settle into some sort of consistent direction. It felt like it was going to be a long day. Did I tell you it was hot?

Eventually the race committee laid a course and a start line in a light north-westerly breeze coming off the shore. I was feeling lazy in the heat. I looked up the course. What's the wind doing? I had no idea. Looked pretty much the same all over the course to me.

Some sailors were sailing up the course before the race, checking out the wind pressure and the shifts and all that good stuff it says you're supposed to do in the books. I was feeling lazy. Did I tell you it was hot? I thought it made more sense to conserve my energy for a long day of racing than go hacking all over the course before the first race. So I lolled in the boat and drank some Gatorade.

My friend Captain Judy came sailing by. She was one of those keen types that had been sailing the beat, doing their research.

"So, what's your game plan?" she asked. (She is a high school sailing coach so she's probably asking her students stuff like this all the time.)

"Ummm. Plan? I don't have one," I replied.

Now I was feeling inadequate as well as unprepared. Then I thought to myself, "Hey, even if I'm too lazy to work out my own plan, I can always steal hers."

So I asked her, "What's your game plan?"

"Go left," she said. "It feels like there's more pressure over there."

Woo hoo. Aren't friends wonderful? Now I had a plan and I hadn't had to expend any physical or mental effort to create it.

I can't really recall what happened after that. Maybe I was dehydrated. Maybe I should have drunk more Gatorade. I had a terrible race and only beat a handful of other boats. It was ugly.

After the race I asked all my friends how they had done. They had all had good results. And when I asked them how they did it they all said, "I got a good start and went left."

Me, I got a bad start and went right. What was I thinking?

What we have here is a failure to plan. And a failure to execute a plan even after I had stolen one.

Oh well, things can only get better in the next race. Surely. Can't they?

Laser sailors, "Plan!"


Helmuth von Moltke the Younger said...

Jawohl! But if you plan to go right you had better watch out for the British. Contrary to popular wisdom they will go to war for a scrap of paper.

Baydog said...

I don't think there's a helmuth law in Mass. Or is that Connecticut?

Tillerman said...

Oh geeze. Here we go again. Who was it that started the tradition of leaving comments on sailing blogs that pick up some random words in the post but which have no real relation to the subject of the post?

JP said...

Don't Panic Captain Mainwaring!

Baydog said...

Okay, I went left the other day and practically got lifted all the way to the weather mark. Those who went right tacked and were way over the layline. Go left young man!

Emily Titesphinker said...

Mr. Tillerman, as a loyal reader of Proper Course, I am often appalled at the lack of respect shown you by some of the readers who leave comments here.

It is both distracting and frustrating to have to weed one's way through often irrelevant comments just to follow the discussion that is related to the topic of a posting.

As moderator of the comments page, might you not do more to implore readers to maintain a level of discussion that is commensurate with the high standards you have established?


Emily Titesphinker

Joe said...

Hmmmm, show some respect to the Tillerman. You've got it baby. Will there be a "Laser sailors are annoying" post in the near future? ;)

Captain Mainwaring said...

Stop talking in the ranks!

Tillerman said...

Excellent suggestion Miss TiteSphinker. And may I say what a pretty name you have?

As moderator of this comments page, I implore readers to maintain a level of discussion in the comments that is commensurate with the high standards of the original post... and preferably on the same topic.

Emily Titesphinker said...

I should say so, Mr. Tillerman.

But please correct your spelling of my name.

I have a small ' s '.


Emily Titesphinker

Pat said...

Dere vas comments relevancy here? Ver deed it go? I heard no comments relevancy, I saw no comments relevancy, und ich weissen keinen comments relevancy.

Pat said...

Speaking of planning, it seems from what you've said that the Buzzard's Bay Regatta went off pretty well for the Lasers, but the boats on the "yellow circle" seem to have had issues with the race committee.

Anonymous said...

I seem to remember Captain Mainwaring as a rather pompous bank officer doing something not very well.

Was Tillerman a bank Officer in a past life?

Tillerman said...

Pat, where did you here about issues on the yellow circle?

Anonymous, I was never a bank officer, and I hope I'm not pompous, but now you mention it I suppose I do bring the some of the same bumbling incompetency to Laser racing that Captain Mainwaring brought to his role.

Sam Chapin said...

Tillerguy, you beat a handful of people going the wrong way.. Now that is not too bad!

Now if you want an easy better plan, just sail fast and follow one of the "good folks".

No charge for the suggestion.

PeconicPuffin said...

Steal the plan! I have done well in races by simply following guys who I knew were very good.

Meanwhile ain't that the map of fixed fortifications that Patton took such a dim view of? Worked for Jerry, though.

(I am channeling George C Scott. See Scott sail...)

Walt Whitman said...

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the gun;

Rise up - for you the flag is flung - the BBR begun;

For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths - for you the shores a-crowding;

Shall only come if left you go, but right you went, a-doubting;

Here Captain! Blogfather!

Hang low your sweating head;

'Tis all a dream that you have won,

Your chances cold and dead.

EVK4 said...

I'm no sailor but why wouldn't it be "I went port or I went starboard" instead of this silly "went left or right" crap. Seriously, is it just to confuse those of us on land?

Tillerman said...

Edward. Come on dude. "I'm no sailor but...." What are you talking about? You are a serious ocean-going racing sailor. I happen to know you have raced across the Pacific at least twice. It says so on your blog. Enough of the false modesty, pleeeeeeeeeease.

Pandabonium said...


Pat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pat said...

Sorry, long....
The stories about the yellow circle may be unreliable. Also, as of yesterday that was the one circle that seems not to have published final results on the Buzzards Bay Regatta web site; they had a place for more race reports.

In essence, the beefs came from a few Sailing Anarchists. Taking them with a couple of large shakers of sea salt may be very well advised. The griping seems mostly to have to to with the PHRF Racing 1 fleet (big boats).

They had a long race on Friday (13 miles, more than 2 1/2 hours for the 1st boat). (Was this the "Buzzard" distance course?)

Then, on Saturday, if the bitching is to be believed, the RC was slow getting out & anchoring, gave out plans that they couldn’t follow, tried to send the fleet on a long-distance race in a dying breeze (mid=bay wind apparently was much worse and more fickle than closer to shore, and an initially promising early wind died), and might have had a personality issue on board.

Also, a person complained about a leeward mark being set unanchored, and one complained about uncharted marks, but maybe they didn't read the supplemental course sheet that said it didn't cover a couple of marks (though one of the named marks might have been missed).

Apparently, PHRF 1 did not get in a race early Saturday (race 2) but the other fleets on the circle were given shorter courses (5 miles) and did get in their race. Maybe the PHRF 1 complainers would have been happier if they'd realized that some other fleets elsewhere didn't get any races at that time in spite of having highly praised RCs.

All of this is may not have any validity or may be based on mis-impressions.

A complainer also said there was a personnel change on the yellow circle boat on Sunday and the RC work was much better. Of course, the wind Sunday was also better, so maybe it was easier for the RC to look better!

Some media reports about the BBR may have bad info about boats and circles. One press release bragged about wonderful winds on Saturday -- which may have been valid closer to shore but not mid-bay, except for that early breeze. Perhaps not all of the fog was on the water.

As I understand it, the Yellow Circle was hosted by the Mattapoisett YC and was the "big boat circle" and was furthest out in the bay (vaguely near centerboard shoal?), with 7 multihulls, 11 PHRF cruisers, 18 PHRF race 1 , and 10 PHRF race 2 boats.

PHRF 1, with ratings from 12 to 90, had lots of assorted 30- to 41-foot J/boats in the fleet. PHRF 2, with ratings from 99 to 138, had a couple of J/29s and a solitary Viper 640 sport boat.

As I understand it, the yellow circle was a few miles south of the closer to shore Laser-dominated blue, which had 56 Laser full rigs (22 masters), 65 radial rigs, and 35 V15s.

Given the source of the complaints, the status of news, incomplete results, and weather conditions, who knows what really happened.

The RC may not have had any real problems and they and the complainers may have just been frustrated with the (lack/ unreliability of) wind on Saturday. Or maybe the frustrations did translate into errors, or maybe a couple of mistakes that normally would have been overlooked became big irritants because of conditions.

If there were goof-ups, it would be nice to know what caused them and whether they could be avoided in the future. The whole point of a critique should not be to jump on and hassle unpaid volunteers, but to improve whatever can be improved and make the racing as fair and exciting and productive as possible.

Tillerman said...

Thanks Pat. Thanks Pat.

Joe said...

And I thought Bonnie's post was long. Pat, my eyeballs just exploded. Although, they were good comments.

Kiwiyates said...

Um - Its not Mainwaring - its Mannering for those who really know "Dads Army" and the best quote from the show is... "they don't like it up 'em" by Jonesy. Probably a whole post worth in that quote - now if you could just tie it into Laser sailing....

Baydog said...

Holy shit. Does anyone have some dramamine?

I'm so surprised O Docker hasn't chimed in yet. So many of these comments remind me (us) of him, no?

where o where are you O D?

O Docker said...

Baydog, I'm confused. Just look at these comments - they're all over the map.

I agree with Emily Titesphinker - someone should call the class to order and get back to the original topic.

I thought Edward had a good point. Why do these Laser sailors go 'left' and 'right' when they should be going to port or starboard. I think they sail by the lee so much that they're never really sure which tack they're on.

Don't sail by the lee. You'll poke your eye out.

Tillerman said...

Kiwiyates - that's quite a challenge. How can I tie "They don't like it up 'em!" to Laser sailing? Hmmmm. I'll think about it.

O Docker and Edward, I suspect the convention of referring to the sides of a beat as left and right is that you sail to the left on starboard and the right on port. Using port and starboard would cause endless confusion.

It can be still confusing when discussing downwind strategy as there seems to be no convention as to whether "left" means "left looking upwind" or "left looking downwind", so it's usually necessary to state which it is explicitly.

Baydog said...

What was the original topic?

Tillerman said...

Baydog, I have no idea. Why do you look like a slice of tomato?

Baydog said...

Because it's summer in NJ, Captain!

Tillerman said...

Ah, just waiting to see who'd be the first one to spot that.

Baydog said...

I noticed yesterday. Typical for me but very unusual for you. I like it!

Pat said...

Is anyone growing basil?

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