Saturday, January 30, 2010

I Don't Care - I'm Going Sailing

Another Moran

Six Sample Sizzling Stingers

Last Saturday in Revelations, I published some links to a few old posts from my archives that I thought newer readers might enjoy. But often the comments from readers are better than the original posts. So this week I am recycling some comments to previous posts. Maybe these typical statements of what you think of me will be the inspiration for more in the same vein?

Angry, bitter, and the perpetrator of the worst kind of hypocrisy.
Bumper Stickers

Insulting, condescending and representing poor sportsmanship.
I Love Winter

Do you really believe people are going to believe that crap?
An Inconvenient Truth

Tillerman you are a bitter old man who is mired in the past.
Mommy Boats

When you act like an @$$ you just piss people off.

You are some dumb lurker/troll.
A Typical Day at the Forum

Friday, January 29, 2010

RIP America's Cup and Good Riddance

There's much wringing of hands in the blogosphere and elsewhere today about the latest turn of events in the America's Cup. If Larry wins his latest challenge claiming that it is against the rules for Switzerland to compete with American sails then Ernesto will go home and sulk and let Larry have the Cup. It's "depressing"; it's "disastrous"; it's "terrible for sailing" the pundits are saying.

I beg to differ...

The America's Cup has always been an anomaly, an outlier in the world of sailing. I don't accept it is the "pinnacle" of our sport in the same way that Wimbledon, say, is the pinnacle of tennis, or the Boston Marathon is the premier event in the world of long distance running.

At Wimbledon and Boston the participants are playing the same game in the same way using essentially the same equipment as us mere mortals. They just play the game a lot better than you or me, and we can admire them for that. On the other hand, the America's Cup has always, always been about exceptional boats using latest technology financed by extremely rich individuals using every weapon available to them (including lawyers and PR men) to tilt the playing field their way if they possibly can.

The America's Cup does not represent the sport of sailing that I play in any meaningful way. The sooner the whole event dies an ugly death, or failing that is recognized as irrelevant to the true sport of sailboat racing, the better as far as I am concerned.

On the other had if the match does go ahead I will be watching it with bated breath. I can't wait to see those two massive multihulls smash into each other at a combined speed of 100 knots.

RIP America's Cup.

Good riddance.

Update 4:30 pm. Apparently Justice Kornreich agrees with me. She wants to see the monster multihull smash-up too, so she won't decide on the challenge about the legality of Alinghi's sails until after the racing. Yeehow!

$20 Gas and the Future of Sailing

What is the future of sailing? Maybe economics and resource shortages will have a different impact than you might imagine...

I recently had the pleasure to read $20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better by Christopher Steiner. Of course, as an active racing sailor, I was reading the book not only with an eye to the many fundamental, even drastic, changes to our society and overall lifestyle that Steiner predicts but, more particularly, to how the rise in the price of oil, and everything derived from it, will affect our beloved sport of sailing.

The premises of the book are
  • the demand for oil will continue to increase as the global middle class expands
  • the oil that remains in the earth will become more and more expensive to locate and extract
  • as a result the price of gasoline (and all other products derived from oil) will climb to levels we have never seen before.

Each chapter discusses the changes to be expected as gas goes through $6, $8, $10..... all the way to $20 per gallon. Steiner focuses mainly on the impact on American society; one could argue that many European countries are already well along the path to some of these higher prices, and the associated changes in their way of life.

So here's how the story goes...

Chapter $6: the end of the American SUV as we know it, fewer cars on the road, fewer accidents, less obesity, cleaner air, no school buses, reduced travel in youth sports...

Hmmm. So what does that mean for my sailing? I have been known to drive a 2000 mile round trip towing my boat to sail in a regatta. I expect those days will be over for many of us as gas becomes more and more expensive. Maybe we will all race much closer to home, in the same way that Steiner predicts that the current practice of long distance travel for elite school athletes will die out.

Chapter $8: the skies will empty, all but one of the major American "legacy" airlines will go out of business, it will cost $1000 to fly coast-to-coast and $2000 to fly to Europe, and resort destinations dependent on air travel... Disney World, Las Vegas, Jackson Hole and the rest... will be in major trouble.

Hmmm. There goes the international element of my sailing. No more jetting off to Australia or Europe to sail in Laser Masters Worlds, at least not for so many of us. And will some of my favorite sailing "resort" destinations such as Bitter End Yacht Club, Minorca Sailing etc. survive once the current era of cheap air travel is over? Looks like all of my sailing will be at local clubs and regattas which is not necessarily a bad thing, just different.

Chapter $10: major switch to plug-in hybrids and electric cars.

And in this chapter Steiner addresses directly a change in boating habits under the heading Extinction Will Come for Gasoline-Slurping Big Boy Toys. He predicts the end of snowmobiles, and more to the point jet skis. (Do I hear the sound of applause from my sailing friends?)

And get this next prediction: "The giant fleet of motorboats, speedboats, and ski boats that crowd our waters will be thinned to a tiny convoy. Sailboats, canoes, kayaks and rowboats will rule the waves." (I am sure I can hear you cheering now.)

Steiner goes on: "Many people will have their hobbies stolen from them by the rising price of gas. It will no longer be possible for a family to enjoy a powerboat in the summer... People will get along without their 400 horsepower pick-up truck that drags their 300
horsepower bass boat from lake to lake."

So what will happen to all the powerboaters and jetskiers? My personal guess is that many of them will still be drawn to spending their leisure time on the water. And they will find ways to do so without big gas-guzzling engines. They will fish from a rowing boat or a canoe. Those with a yen for speed will sail high performance dinghies or catamarans. Folk who seek spills and thrills will take up whitewater kayaking or surfing. Those who want to travel and explore will do so in day-sailers and small cruisers. The rise in the price of gas will guarantee the future health of sailing, kayaking, windsurfing, rowing... every water sport you can enjoy without an engine.

Quite by coincidence I noticed today that bonnie of frogma has been thinking along similar lines. In a comment to a post on O Dock she wrote..

I've heard that kayaking is weathering the economy pretty well.

Back when gas was twenty dollars a gallon (or whatever it was when it was at the worst), I was always saying that we should do a campaign for my kayak club by printing up flyers - "Tired of the the high price of gas? Come visit your neighbors at the Sebago Canoe Club!" - and then going out in the middle of the night & leaving a flyer on board each & every motorboat in the Paerdegat Basin.

So what do you think? Am I an hopeless optimist? Or is sailing really due for a major revival as the price of oil rises inexorably to the point where water sports that use engines will be priced out of reach of the average family?

I haven't got my mind around whether $20 gas will have other consequences for sailing. What will it do to the price of the raw materials used in boat-building for example? What other unforeseen consequences might there be?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Lasers Rule

Here is the list of the top twenty five one-design classes in North America as compiled by "RogerJolly" and posted originally on Sailing Anarchy, from which I have shamelessly stolen it. The ranking is based on the number of boats competing in each class North American or National Championships averaged over the last three years. Junior classes and ice boats are specifically excluded.

Rank) Class:2007-2008-2009--3yr Av

1) Laser Radial:111(MA)-88 (CA)-121 (NY)--106.67
2) Laser:87 (MA)-77 (CA)-97 (NY)--87.00
3) Flying Scot:101 (VA)-69 (NJ)-74 (WI)--81.33
4) Lightning:80 (MD)-97 (RI)-65 (NY)--80.67
5) MC scow:88 (MI)-69 (WI)-51 (OK)--69.33
6) Thistle:64 (OR)-59 (FL)-83 (CT)--68.67
7) Sunfish:55 (AL)-52 (PA)-76 (SC)--61.00
8) C scow:48 (GA)-59 (WI)-71 (WI)--59.33
9) 29er:63 (ONT)-65 (ONT)-41 (ONT)--56.33
10) E scow:50 (SC)-71 (NY)-46 (WI)--55.67
11) J/22:68 (OH)-NA-37 (TX)--54.67
12) Hobie 16:50 (CA)-56 (IA)-54 (ONT)--53.33
13) Vanguard 15:29 (CA)-77 (NY)-45 (NY)--50.33
14) Butterfly:55 (MI)-54 (MI)-38 (MI)--49.00
15) Lido 14:52 (CA)-43 (OR)-47 (CA)--47.33
16) Albacore:51 (MD)-39 (ON)-50 (ONT)--46.67
17) Snipe:63 (CO)-31 (MA)-44 (FL)--46.00
18) Inter Club:45 (MD)-35 (NJ)-55 (NY)--45.00
19) J/105:69(MD)-36 (CA)-29 (NY)--44.67
20) J/24:34 (FL)-54 (NY)-44 (MX) --44.00
21) 505:30 (MD)-31 (OR)-69 (CA)--43.33
22) Star:49 (BC)-30 (MI)-47 (CT)--42.00
23) Melges 24:52 (MI)-49 (MD)-21 (CA)--40.67
24) Interlake:50 (OH)-33 (OH)-31 (MI) --38.00
24) Y flyer:39 (IL)-49 (GA)-26 (IN)--38.00

Any comments? Surprises? Omissions?

Hitler vs Panbo

Panbo thinks the iPad (or the Apple thingie as he calls it) may be great for boats.

Hitler begs to differ...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Flaws Endure

Last Sunday was another superb day for Laser frostbiting in Newport, RI. Pretty much the same conditions as I wrote about last week in Positively Balmy. 7-10 knots of wind from ESE and 40 F temperature. The only real difference was that we had about a dozen more boats out racing. You really have to worry about the future of sailing when we can get "only" 35 boats out Lasering in January in Rhode Island.

Oh, and the other difference was that the race committee laid the course slightly further north than last week so the (windward-leeward) course was a little longer, and the windward mark, instead of being in front of that mansion used by those New York yachting types, was closer to the Ida Lewis Yacht Club.

Miss Ida Lewis (that's her in the picture out for a Sunday afternoon row in pretty typical conditions for Newport Harbor in the summer) was the lighthouse keeper on Lime Rock in Newport back in the 19th century, but she became famous for driving the rescue boat for the Newport Frostbite Fleet way back when. No, that can't be right, but she did become famous for rescuing other people who did stupid things in Newport Harbor like some boys who capsized their boat by climbing the mast, and some drunken shepherds who jumped into the water to save a sheep. (And you thought Laser frostbite sailors were nuts.) Anyway Miss Ida saved at least 18 lives, and maybe more, and had a yacht club named after her and that's where they put our windward mark on Sunday.

Where was I? Where am I? Oh, yes. Laser racing last Sunday.

As I said conditions were similar to the previous week. My starts were perhaps a little better. I'm becoming more confident to fight for a position in the front row. More confident, but not necessarily more competent. But I know the theory, and my performance will improve with practice. (I hope.)

The left side of the beat was favored again but I tended to play the odds by working the shifts in the middle of the course in most races rather than trying to drag race with all the hotshots out in Left Cornersville.

I usually went right (looking downwind) on the runs and found more pressure out there and passed some boats and set myself up for the inside position at the right-hand gate mark. I tried the left side once and it was a disaster.

My leeward mark roundings were good except for the one race where there was a windshift just before I reached the mark and all the people rounding the mark ahead of me started heading straight for me and I did a panic gybe and my sheet caught round the transom and I turned back to unhook it and.... aaaaarrghh.... I'd rather not talk about it.

I think I did better on the final beats than last week. Went left for the pressure. Was not quite as incompetent as last week at managing the tactics at the finish but there's still room for improvement there.

But it's the approach to the windward mark on the first beat that is still mystifying me. I just don't seem to be able to work out when to hit the starboard tack layline, when to tack on it, and how to optimize my chance of rounding the mark in good shape after that. As one of my fellow sailors commented to me after racing, the problem in these conditions is that everyone's speed is pretty much the same so we all arrive at the windward mark together.

Approach too close to the port tack layline and your only option is to tack below a wall of starboard tackers and probably fail to lay the mark. Enter the starboard tack parade too early and everyone else will tack in front of you and give you bad air and you'll probably still fail to lay the mark. Split the difference and approach the starboard tack layline a few boatlengths before the mark and you may find a gap so you can tack in clear air above the "parade"; or you may have to tack below a starboard tacker and risk not laying the mark again. I'm sure it's all about gaining more experience and learning to see situations developing and being able to make snap judgments on when to go for the layline and when to duck some boats and when to tack below them and when to tack out of trouble early. But for now it's the weakest part of my game.

One of the pleasures of sailing with the many talented sailors in the Newport Laser Fleet is the opportunity to watch how they sail and to learn from them. Approaching the dreaded starboard tack layline and seeing Ed Adams crossing my bow sailing high and fast with his traveler blocks pulled higher than usual, just like he wrote in that Sailing World article many years ago. Following Steve Kirkpatrick down the right side of the run several times and seeing when he chose to gybe for the gate mark and how well he managed the traffic at the mark. It's all a "learning experience."

So now I've sailed the first three weeks of the season and am starting to get a handle on where I stand in the "pecking order". Better than I expected. I've had my share of top ten finishes in races, and my overall result each week has been around 12th or 13th. Not too shabby in a 35 boat fleet with the depth of talent that this fleet has.

And I've only just started. Next thing is to work on my weaknesses and start clawing my way up the fleet. Yeah right! As a certain well-known and recently deceased sailor almost said, "The race goes on, the flaws endure, the fantasy still lives, and the delusion shall never die."

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cruising in Seraffyn

Lin and Larry Pardey are yacht cruising "royalty". They've done it all: 200,000 ocean miles, most of those miles on their self-built, engineless cutters Seraffyn and Taleisin. Circumnavigated both east about and west about the world, and gone westward around all the great southern capes including Cape Horn.

Perhaps even more importantly, through their books, videos and seminars they have inspired a whole generation of young couples to do what they did: take up the live-aboard lifestyle and follow the Pardey mantra, "Go small, go simple, go now."

Of course I've been aware of the Pardeys for almost as long as I've been interested in sailing, but I have to confess that until recently I had never read any of their books. Then, the other day, while browsing in the musty, dusty shelves of our local public library, I came across a copy of the 25th Anniversary Edition of Cruising in Seraffyn. The first edition of this book published in 1976 was the first of a whole series of books by the Pardeys about their cruising life; this edition from 2001 is updated with many color photos and some new retrospectives by the Pardeys on the "affordable, attainable dream" of bluewater cruising.

I was excited to read this famous book and to understand why Lin and Larry had inspired so many and won so many fans. My good friend O Docker even fantasized that the Pardeys, The Pied Pipers of Newport Beach, may have been "the original sailing bloggers"! So I settled by the fireside with Cruising in Seraffyn at the TillerCottage on a recent wintry evening and prepared myself for a treat...

I have to say I was disappointed...

Maybe I took unnecessary offense at the stance taken by Lin in a new introductory chapter for the 25th edition entitled Anyone Can Go Cruising. Because she wasn't really arguing that "anyone can go cruising"; she was actually advocating that people should start cruising while they are still young. The chapter is peppered with put-downs of older folk (like me)... if you are 60 or 70 it might be too hard for you to get up at 3am to fight off a lee shore to a safer anchorage in 45 knots of wind... when you are 65 it will be hard to come by a temporary job to supplement cruising funds... you won't want to go cruising when you're older because you might not be there when the grandchildren are born... and so on.

I'm sure there's some merit in the argument, but it didn't endear me immediately to Mrs Pardey. But I thought to myself, "OK. Maybe she's right. The book is aimed at young couples. So let me imagine myself reading this book when I was 25, say. Would it have inspired me to drop everything and go cruising?"

So I plowed on and started reading chapter one of the original book, which is all about how Larry and Lin built Seraffyn. As someone who is hopeless at carpentry I stand in awe of someone who can turn trees into a working sailing boat. Except I couldn't understand half of what Larry was talking about. I have no idea what a deadwood, a cutwater or a rabbet are; I couldn't tell you the difference between buttocks and futtocks; and I have no clue how to scarf, nibb or where to find a ribband. And I was no wiser about these mysteries after reading this chapter than I was before.

I'm sure it's my fault. Larry and Lin have tens of thousands of fans. I'm just not wired to get excited about futtocks and rabbets.

But I kept on reading. To be honest the next few chapters are a bit more interesting, describing how Lin and Larry sailed down the coast of California Baja and into the Gulf of Cortez. Meeting other cruisers; eating local fish; getting to know the local people. There are useful pieces of advice for other cruisers from time to time: a recipe for chowder, a very technical looking diagram of trip lines and thimbles and shackles and chain that did something important. There's a picture of a very young Lin in a wide-brimmed hat; a picture of a Mexican dude called Jesus in a wide-brimmed hat; a picture of a very young Lin in a bikini; a picture of Lin in bed... after a while I found myself starting to nod off... the book wasn't holding my attention. It reminded me of one of those office bores telling me what a wonderful vacation he had had in Costa Rica and all about this marvellous little restaurant and this fabulous picturesque fishing village and how you just have to try fig brandy and look at this amazing picture of Jose in a wide-brimmed hat and my wife in a bikini and....

I'm sorry. I just didn't get it. I don't think this book would have inspired the young Tillerman to go cruising. It left me cold. I couldn't finish it. Sorry, all you Pardey fans.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


It occurred to me the other day, in a bout of unaccustomed modesty, that newer readers of my blog may not be aware of some of the gems of blogger wisdom and humor that are hidden away in the archives of Proper Course. So I thought it might be fun occasionally to dig into the treasure chest and show off some of these nuggets.

And then I thought it would make sense if I had some kind of theme to the archive posts that I selected rather than just picking out two or three random posts from yesteryear. So the theme of this blast from the past is "Revelations"... posts in which I reveal aspects of my character or psyche or general incompetence that may not be entirely flattering.

Think of it as redressing the balance for all the posts I have written this month making fun of other people such as Larry Ellison, girls in keelboats, and men who are excessively proud of the length of their thingies.

First up is a post from January 2006 Overheard on a Run in which I rashly revealed that I have a phobia of having my photo taken with a fairy.

Second is a post from January 2007 Broken Record in which I candidly confided about how I broke my own record for most capsizes in one regatta.

And third is a post from January 2008 Airline Paranoia in which I courageously confessed to a deep-seated psychological fear of being separated from my tiller.


Friday, January 22, 2010

43 Days Ago

For Greg and Kris, by special request.

43 days ago today was Thursday December 10, and my wife and I were in the middle of our vacation at the Bitter End Yacht Club in the British Virgin Islands. It was a pretty typical day at BEYC... if any day can be typical when every day is different.

Breakfast: Mimosas, tropical fruit and callaloo omelet. Yum. I have this almost every day. I'm in a rut.

Morning: Sailed a Laser on my own all morning over into Gun Creek and Leverick Bay. Practiced lots of tacks and gybes, and reaching at all angles to the wind. Began to appreciate the Classic Laser.

Lunch time: Lost Tillerwoman. Walked past the restaurant back to the room (where I always met her every other day at this time.) She wasn't there. I showered. I waited. I drank rum. I waited some more. I drank some more rum. At 12:45 I left a note in the room saying where I was going and went to look for her. Walked past the restaurant and to the pool where she usually hangs out in the mornings. No Tillerwoman. Asked around and somebody said they had seen her there an hour ago. Walked to restaurant. She was there. She said she had been waiting there for me, and then gone to room to look for me. We must have crossed paths somewhere along the way, maybe even twice? I was feeling mellow (probably because of Laser sailing and/or rum) and didn't shout at her for changing her routine and causing me to walk a couple of miles in the heat of the tropics looking for her on an empty stomach when I could have been chilling out in the restaurant drinking rum grog.

Lunch: They were playing Xmas songs in the background in the restaurant. I joined in with a rousing chorus of "O come let us adore him!" in my best off-key tenor with a British accent. What can I say? I was feeling mellow and was in the Xmas mood. Big old fat American at the next table said to his wife, "Jesus was so nice they nailed him to a tree." He said it loud enough so I could hear. I think it was a rebuke because he thought I was mocking his religion with my awful singing. Considered making loud remark to my wife that they didn't nail Jesus to a tree because he was "nice" but because they thought he was spouting radical ideas that would upset the status quo... Mister Rogers was "nice"... they didn't nail him to a tree. But thought better of it. Had some swordfish and lots of rum grog for lunch. Feeling very mellow.

After lunch: took a nap in a hammock.

Afternoon: went down to the sailing center. The watersports director was hanging Xmas lights everywhere. Took out a Hobie Wave by myself way down the bay. Worked out how to use the hiking straps and was flying a hull. Practiced layline judgment and windward mark roundings. There was something called "Beer Can Racing" on the program for Friday and I wanted to be in form for that.

Pre dinner: went back to room and drank several Dark and Stormies. There was still a helluva lot of rum left. Feeling even more mellow.

Dinner: Rack of lamb, Merlot. Got involved in long conversation with interesting group of people at the next table that degenerated into another of those macho "my thingie's longer than your thingie" stand-offs. Sailors are weird.

And so to bed.

I hope you like it Greg and Kris.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Original Drawing of Sailor in Training for Laser Masters Worlds

Conversation today between myself and my 4-year-old granddaughter.

Emily: Look Grandad, I've drawn you a picture!

Me: That's very nice Emily. Is that me on my boat?

Emily: Yes!

Me: It's very good. That's the water at the bottom?

Emily: Yes!

Me: And then that's me on the boat, and the sails at the top?

Emily: Yes!

Me: How many sails does my boat have?

Emily: Two!

Me: OK. And I like the pattern you drew on this sail.

Emily: Yes, it's a star! Grandma told me you have a star on your sail.

Me: That's right. But why do I have six fingers on one hand?

Emily: Don't be silly Grandad. You only have five fingers. That other line is the rope you hold when you are sailing.

Me: Oh.

I think she may be a bit confused about what a Laser actually looks like but I think it's a good attempt purely from imagination. But then I'm biased.

Her uncle and aunt bought her a child's digital camera for Xmas so perhaps in the summer I will be posting photos she takes of me and my boat. For now, here is a photo I took of her taking a photo of me taking a photo of her...


I'm screwed. No escape. No excuses. Totally screwed.

A couple of years ago I wrote about Commitment Devices, ways in which you can "lock yourself into a course of action that you might not otherwise choose but that produces a desired result." Like losing weight. Or running a marathon. Or sailing on 100 days in a year. One of the obvious "commitment devices" is to publicize your goal, tell all your friends, write it up on your blog even.

Sometimes you can create a commitment device for yourself unintentionally...

My first post of this year was Crazy Run Grandad. It started off with me boasting about running a 5 mile road race in the snow on New Years Day. Then I started rambling on about joining a running club and which of their programs appealed to me: a 5 mile run every Thursday evening in a local town, a grand prix series of races throughout the year, and even an award for running a race in every New England state in the year. I only expressed vague interest in these programs; and, in any case, this blog is only read by fellow sailors (right?) and you don't care about my running, do you?

I sent off my application to the running club the same day and the membership secretary emailed me a few days later to welcome me to the club and to ask if I could supply any biographical details for the club newsletter. I didn't know what details he wanted so I referred him to Crazy Run Grandad which also had a few random comments on my history with running.

Next think I knew he had sent the link to the club webmaster and he had put up a link to Crazy Run Grandad on the home page of the club website. And I can tell from my Sitemeter stats that people (real runners) are actually coming from the running club website to my post that includes those ramblings on my possible running ambitions this year.

So now I'm screwed. I have revealed my innermost thought on my running goals to my fellow running club members (whom I haven't even met yet.) So now I'm just going to have to at least make an attempt towards going some part of the way to sorts kinda achieving maybe some of them. Bloody commitment devices!

The first problem is that evening 5 mile run series. I looked back at the times of runners in previous years and realized that at my current pace I might well be last in that run every week. They'll all be waiting around to record my finish and I'll be keeping them from their beer and pizza. So I really want to improve my pace up to the point where I'll be huffing and puffing around the course with a few other old geezers in the tail-end pack, and not be totally detached several hundred yards behind everyone else. And the series starts in March so I don't have long.

I was thinking about this on Tuesday morning. I had a running workout planned. But first I had to check what all my friends were doing on Facebook, and read the latest posts on a few dozen sailing blogs, and chat to my Mum on the phone... you know, really important stuff. By the time I was ready to go running it had started to rain. Cold rain. Bone-chilling cold rain.

I hate running in the rain. But I had created a commitment device. So I went off to the local track and ran some mile intervals... in the rain. Then I came back and compared my times to the same workout last year and basked in the warm glow of smug satisfaction that I am faster than I was in this month last year.

So yes I am screwed. But it's a good thing... really... I think.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

236 Days Until 2010 Laser Masters Worlds

It's official! I'm in! The email arrived today...

Place Offer for World Laser Masters Championship 2010

Immediate action is required, this offer is time limited to Wed 3rd February 2010

A place has been offered to you at World Laser Masters Championship 2010 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.

I'm one of only 18 North American sailors who have been offered places at the 2010 Laser Masters Worlds in England that starts in only 236 days.

My qualifications for being part of this select company are basically...
  • I have attended a previous Masters Worlds in the last 5 years
  • I got up early enough on the day entries opened to get my name near the top of the list.
I've written before about the byzantine method devised by the North American Laser class to decide who gets first dibs on places at the Masters Worlds. Actually it's tougher this year for average weekend warriors like me because they added a new category in the rankings ahead of us "have been to a Masters Worlds before" crowd. Now they give priority to sailors who have actually won a major Laser Masters championship in the last 5 years. Geeze, what an idea! Ranking people based on talent rather than participation!

Anyway, I guess there were less than 18 former champions who wanted to go and sail in England in September, so now bozos like me can still get in. Actually this is all rather a moot point in that I expect pretty much everyone who wants to go from North America will eventually be awarded a place. Other countries don't take up all their allocated places, so later on in the process these places get reallocated to countries that have more people wanting such places like us.

I see that that guy has a place too. And my friend with the J/30 is near the top of next group to be allocated places. The email dude from the six dudes and a sausage scene has applied to go too. Plus lots of other old friends and familiar names. It's going to be good.

Of course last year I was offered a place, but I had to turn it down because one of my sons decided to arrange his wedding for that same week. Can't happen again. All my offshoots are married off now.

Only 236 days to go. I'm excited. Better start thinking about a training plan...

Hermaphrodite Brig

A commenter called Bubbles asked, "Like, Mr. Tillerman, how come you never talks about BRITNEY or LADY GAGA or anyone on this blog?"

Well, I always try to please my readers so here goes...

This is a sailing blog so I did a search on Lady Gaga and Sailing and came up with this little gem on a site called TrueKnowled?e.

Is Lady Gaga a hermaphrodite?

The answer depends on what you meant by "hermaphrodite":

If you meant intersex human being (A person who possesses a partial or complete set of sex organs for both genders. Historically known as hermaphrodites.) then I don't know the answer

If you meant hermaphrodite brig, or brig-schooner, a type of two-masted sailing ship which has square sails on the foremast combined with a schooner rig on the mainmast, the answer is NO.

I couldn't make this shit up.

Happy now, Bubbles?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Positively Balmy

The weather in Newport on Sunday for Laser frostbiting was positively balmy. Well, positively balmy as compared to the previous week. The air temperature was 40 degrees F, the water temperature was 39 F, the winds were 7-10 knots from the ESE and the water was flat.

There was rain in the forecast and I hate getting rain all over my glasses because it makes me even more blind than I usually am. So I wore a light nylon peaked running cap under my winter sailing
hat made out of Windstopper fleece with DWR finish and contoured ear band wraps with Elastane trim... the latter hat for warmth and the former hat in what would probably be a vain attempt to keep the rain off my glasses.

My start in the first race was typically awful so I tacked for clear air out to the right side of the fleet. There was a header so I tacked on it. About thirty seconds later there was another header so I tacked again. After a couple of minutes of this I was thinking, "Ahah. I know this. This is lake sailing. Flat water and lots of oscillating shifts. I've done this all my life."

Most of the talent seemed to be drag racing over on the left side of the course so as soon as I had made enough gains in the shifts I headed left to connect with the pack and cross as many of them as I could. I surprised myself by arriving at the windward mark somewhere in the top ten, which was a first for me in this fleet.

And that was pretty much the pattern for the first beat in all the races. I played the shifts in relatively little traffic on the middle right of the course and arrived at the first mark up with the leaders.

It was pretty obvious that it was going to be shifty if you thought about it because some dude had erected this huge mansion on a hill just upwind of our windward mark, totally messing up the wind on our race course. (See picture above, which was obviously not taken in January.) It was a pretty inconsiderate place to put a mansion if you ask me. I think it's something to do with some outfit called the New York Yacht Club, but why the New Yorkers have to have a clubhouse in our little state of Rhode Island is beyond me. Don't they have anywhere to go yachting in New York? In any case I didn't see any of them out yachting in front of their mansion on Sunday.

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes. The windward mark.

So there was the usual mayhem at the windward mark when ten boats try and occupy the same bit of water that's only got room for three. Much shouting and luffing and even more shouting at the occasional port-tacker who decides it's a wise move to T-bone somebody and knock three boats on to the other tack and generally ruin about ten people's race. All in all it worked out reasonably OK for me; I got away cleanly from the mark in five of the seven races and only had to swear at a port tacker for ruining my race in two of the seven. (Oops, I forgot. I was one of those port tack party crasher guys last week.)

On the runs I generally tried to get out into clear air one side of the course or the other. It amazed me how many of my fellow mid-fleet sailors seemed to like sailing the rhumb line in a crowd of other boats. I'm sure it's faster to separate; or perhaps I'm just an antisocial bastard; or perhaps the guys in the crowd were telling each other dirty jokes? I dunno.

Anyway, having sailed outside the pack I usually arrived at the gate mark in a good position for an inside rounding that I only managed to almost screw up once. I've learned from bitter experience that it's best to call for rights at a leeward mark in plenty of time so that nobody is tempted to believe that they are clear ahead or have an inside overlap. I've always been good at shouting on the race course. I consider it one of my few strengths.

I even amazed myself by doing some pretty good classic leeward mark roundings, if I do say so myself, and often emerged on a higher track than the boat ahead of me. As a result I could sail the final beats to the finish line in clear air, and even pick off one or two boats that had rounded the other gate mark.

On the other hand, my tactics at the finish were generally dismal. Definitely something I have to work on. I know the theory, but in the heat of the moment I usually fail to appreciate which end of the line is favored and when best to tack or duck to maximize my chances against close opponents. So I think I usually dropped one or two (or three or four) places at the finish. Damn!

Halfway through the afternoon I was feeling so warm that I actually removed my winter sailing hat made out of Windstopper fleece with DWR finish and contoured ear band wraps with Elastane trim. My nemesis, the other guy, sailed over to me between races and we compared notes on our finishes and I was able to ruin his day by telling him that I already had several top ten finishes under my belt. Afterward I did wonder whether it was a good move to PO a guy who carries a six foot chain saw in the back of his truck. He could do some serious damage with that.

I was pretty pleased with my results for the afternoon. I made the top ten in five of the seven races (in a 23 boat fleet) even though apparently I was invisible to the race committee in one of my best finishes and was scored DNF. Oh well, never mind. It's not the results that count. It's the opportunity to get out in the fresh air on a (positively balmy) winter afternoon and do one of the things I love best: race my Laser.

Last week in my post about frostbiting, I Love Winter, I managed (unwittingly) to upset Edward W. Coyne, Anonymous, and the Chairman of the US Olympic Sailing Program. I wonder who will get pissed off about this post? Probably the Commodore of the New York Yacht Club...maybe all the sailors in New York state... quite likely Anonymous again (he's a very sensitive fellow)... and almost certainly the guy who holds all the patents on winter sailing hats made out of Windstopper fleece with DWR finish and contoured ear band wraps with Elastane trim. Hopefully not the guy with the six foot chainsaw.

Still no sign of Larry yet. I expect he's looking round for a good deal on a second-hand Laser.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sailing Trends

Is sailing in decline? Google Trends thinks so.

Google Trends is a tool that allows you to see how the number of searches on Google for any term is changing over time. As you can see from the top line in the graph above the volume of searches for "sailing" shows a pronounced seasonal variation, but there is also a clear long-term downward trend in the search volume from 2004 through 2009.

Click on either of the boxes above or here to see the actual graphs on Google Trends. Note this graph is for the United States only but the worldwide trend chart is very similar.

Is there any reason to believe that the number of searches for "sailing" is not correlated closely with actual interest in sailing?

I checked out a few other sports, just for comparisons...

Kayaking shows a slight decline, but nothing like as bad as sailing.

's seasonal peak in 2009 is at about 50% of its 2004 peak, just like sailing.

is pretty steady with maybe a bit of a drop-off in 2009.

And swimming shows a slight long term decline, but with big peaks of interest in the Olympic years.

Of course these charts combine the searches made by people interested in actively participating in these sports and those made by folk who are simply spectators of the sport.

But still... sailing looks pretty sad. Do any of you sailors out there have a rationale to explain this away or, even better, why it's really a good thing?

Where's the rum?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Vote for Clay Johnson

Now is the time for all loyal readers of Proper Course to show your commitment to the sport of sailing by voting Clay Johnson as the US Olympic Committee's Male Athlete of the Month (for December). Vote here.

This isn't a poll between sailors only; it's for athletes of many sports. Come on people, we can't let the guy from "men's bowling" beat a sailor. Which is not to say that I am being condescending or patronizing about men's bowling. I am sure it is a fine sport and the men's bowling athletes deserve our respect for achieving more in men's bowling than I have or ever will...

Where was I? Oh yes, vote for Clay.

If you think you don't know who Clay Johnson is then you haven't been paying attention to what I have been writing here. In August I wrote about how he won the Laser US Nationals and how he was top USA sailor at the Laser Worlds, in December he was second at Sail Melbourne, and even more impressively Clay is one of my 5 Laser Sailing Bloggers to Watch in 2010.

vote for Clay. We can't let a sailor be beaten for male athlete of the month by the table tennis male athlete. Which is not to say that I am being condescending or patronizing about table tennis male athletes. I am sure it is a fine sport.... Oh, never mind. Just vote for Clay.

Spread the word. Vote now. Poll closes Jan 18.

Update Sunday 7:00 AM: After I posted this plea for votes for Clay he surged into a lead in the poll but overnight he has been overtaken by the wrestler who has our boy pinned on his back 84 votes to 68. Come on all you sailing fans, help the sailor pull off a reversal and take down the wrestler. Note: the use of the term "boy" does not signify disrespect etc. etc. etc.

Update Sunday 6:45 PM: Today Clay caught a huge gust on the right side of the course on the run and surfed into a commanding lead over the wrestler. As of now he is over 60 votes ahead. But sailors we cannot be complacent. If last night is any guide, all the wrestling fans come out at night and vote for their boy. Spread the word. Tell all your sailing friends. Vote for Clay. Clay currently has 42% of the total vote, so if we can just support him on the final lap of the race we may be able to push him over 50% and crush all the other sports. Take that Tiddlywinks!

Update Monday 7:45 AM: Woohoo! Clay has extended his lead over the wrestler overnight and now has over a 100 point margin. But wait, who is this making a splash? The diver plunged long and deep right into third place and is poised on the springboard to take over second from the wrestler. We cannot relax. Come on sailors we can do it. Vote for Clay. Tell all your friends to vote for Clay. Let's push his vote share over 50% and show the world what is the most popular Olympic sport. Take that Pooh Sticks!

Update Monday 5:00 PM. Uh oh! As I feared there has been a huge surge of votes for the diver today and Clay only has a narrow 80 vote lead over him. I expect some diver blogger is behind all this. Shame on him. So, all you sailors, now is the time to Get Out The Vote. Don't let complacency lose this election for us. Phone all your friends. Tweet all your friends. Tell them to vote for Clay, TODAY. Polls close at.... actually I have no idea when polls close but it says they will close some time today. DON'T DELAY. VOTE FOR CLAY.

Update Monday 11:30 PM. Polls are closed. Clay won! Take that Cheese Rolling.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Girls on Keelboats

It seems I unintentionally offended someone.

A few days ago I wrote a post about Laser frostbite sailing in chilly Newport, Rhode Island: I Love Winter. In the introduction to that post I made passing and (typically) flippant references to two regattas in Florida the same weekend where it was unseasonably cool but not quite as chilly. At one Florida event some sailors chose not to sail in the prevailing conditions; at the other Florida regatta, the selection trials for the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics for Women's Keelboat Match Racing, the organizers canceled the last day.

I thought that there was some slight irony and maybe a little humor in the contrast between what was happening in Florida and in Rhode Island.

Not everyone agreed with me.

Dean Brenner, the chairman of the US Olympic sailing program, took objection to how I referred to the Women's Keelboat Match Racing US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics qualifier and wrote to Scuttlebutt to say...

Hey, Mr. Tillerman, the “girls on keelboats” you so quickly (and at least to me, condescendingly) dismissed was (sic) a literal “who’s who” of top female Olympic talent in the USA today, all fighting for spots on our national sailing team and for the three country spots at US SAILING’s Rolex Miami OCR in two weeks.

I wonder why Dean was moved to write to Scuttlebutt to complain about the frivolous jottings of some random old geezer blogger? Was it because I so "quickly" passed over the mention of this event? Well, I'm sorry if I didn't show these sailors the respect they certainly deserve by providing more information about the
Women's Keelboat Match Racing US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics Qualifier or listing the names of all the competitors in my post, but that post wasn't really about them. It was about the usual subject of this blog... me.

Did Mr. Brenner think that I don't have respect for top women sailors? If so, he is certainly mistaken. And he obviously doesn't read my blog very much because, when Anna Tunnicliffe (actually the winner of the
Women's Keelboat Match Racing US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics Qualifier last weekend) was campaigning for and competing in the Olympics, I was regularly writing posts here about her achievements such as Anna Wins Gold and Go Anna!. I would be the first to admit that Anna and the other women keelboat match racers on the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics have already accomplished more in the sport than I have (or ever will.)

Or was it the use of that word "girls" that provoked the complaint? Of course I know it's not politically correct in some quarters to refer to women over a certain age as "girls". It is seen by some sensitive folk as condescending or patronizing. But I plead not guilty to using the term "girls" inappropriately in this context as there are precedents for the use of that word to refer to these top women keelboat match racers

Check out for example this newsletter from the US J/22 Class where, in an article about the 2007 Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championship (won by Sally Barkow), several of the competitors in interviews refer to their fellow team-members and other competitors as "girls".

Or how about this interview with Anna Tunnicliffe, posted on the US Sailing website no less, in which Anna was asked about the transitions from single-handed sailing to sailing with a crew, and in her reply she said, "I really like match racing because I really enjoy hanging out with the girls who I sail with." (My emphasis.)

So if these top women keelboat match racers refer to each other as "girls" I really don't think anyone should object if others occasionally use the same term when writing about them. In any case, I wish the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics, and especially the "girls on keelboats", all the best in their preparations for the 2012 Olympics. I hope none of the lady match racers were offended by my breezy and playful reference to them; it certainly doesn't reflect any lack of respect for their abilities and accomplishments.

I thought I would make amends (if indeed amends are needed) by listing here the names of the nine ladies in the top three teams who won places on the
US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics for Women's Keelboat Match Racing last weekend. It took me a while to find the names...

Mr. Brenner's email named a few of the competitors in the trials but not specifically the winners. The list of members of the
US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics on the US Sailing website only shows last year's team as far as I can see, and the press release of the results of the qualifier on the US Sailing website only has the skippers' names.

I finally took the nine names from the list on the US Sailing website of the US entries at the Miami OCR (also up for grabs at the event last weekend) even though there was an obvious mistake in at least one lady's name. I hope this list of the US "girls on keelboats" sailing team is correct...

Anna Tunnicliffe-Funk
Molly O'Bryan Vendemoer
Debbie Capozzi
Genny Tulloch
Alice Manard
Karina Vogen Shelton
Sally Barkow
Katie Pettibone
Nicole Breault


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

5 Laser Sailing Bloggers to Watch in 2010

Clay Johnson is on a quest to represent the United States in the Laser class at the 2012 Olympic Games. They say that some people are great sailors but can't write well about the sport; others are wonderful writers but only mediocre sailors. Clay is that rare individual who is both a top sailor and a good writer. You can follow the ups and downs of his Olympic campaign at Clay Johnson Sailing.

Ashley Brunning from Australia is also focused on winning a place at the Olympics in 2012. As well as writing about his training and regattas he shares with us some occasionally humorous details about his international travels and frank insights into his efforts to secure funding and cope with injuries. Follow him at Ashley Brunning - 2012.

Brent Burrows of the Bahamas only recently moved into the Laser class. His enthusiasm for the sport of sailing, and for Laser sailing in particular, shine through on his blog. His recent trip to Florida for the Orange Bowl Regatta taught him that he has a long way to go before reaching the level of Clay and Ash. But he's only 16 and we might just be following his Olympic campaign a few years down the road. Check out his writing -- and his videos -- at SailFast13©.

Sam Chapin says he is an old guy who has sailed Lasers for a few years, does it locally, and encourages others to join him. It seems that his blog started as a way to pass on to a larger audience the tips he had been sending in emails to his local fleet at Lake Eustis in Florida. In a year he has assembled a treasure trove of practical Laser sailing advice, mainly of value to beginners and the average club sailor. I hope he keeps on telling us all How to Sail the Laser.

Jay Livingston is another older guy (or Master as we euphemistically call ourselves in the Laser class.) His Laser Sailing Notes are reflective and philosophical. I often find myself being stimulated and inspired by his musings on such diverse subjects as fitness, mental attitude, equipment and practice. I'm hoping for more of the same in 2010.

So that's my "five Laser sailing bloggers to watch in 2010."

Are there any others you would add to the list?

Monday, January 11, 2010

I Love Winter

I love winter.

Yesterday in Miami the Etchells sailors were whining because it was 39 degrees F and twenty racers went home early. Oh the horror! 39 degrees!

In Fort Lauderdale the wind chill was in the 20's and they canceled the last day of the USSTAG Qualifier, whatever that is, but it appears to be something to do with girls on keelboats.

In Rhode Island the temperature never got out of the 20's, the wind chill was in the teens... so we went Laser sailing. About twenty of us turned up for frostbite racing at Newport and we had a terrific day.

Some of the guys had a little boat work to do before we launched. Chipping frozen snow off the hull for anyone who had left their boat upside down without a cover. Spraying de-icer into the mast step and chipping ice out of there for others. I had my snow shovel in the car... just in case I needed to dig the boat out... but my boat was fine apart from a slab of ice in the cockpit.

We launched a little later than usual... some problem with the RC boat it seemed... but then the RC did a superb job, cracking off seven short windward-leeward races one after the other with the minimum of hanging around between races. It's not the racing that makes you cold in these conditions; it's the waiting around.

I think that when you write about racing you're supposed to describe the sailing conditions but I'm hopeless at estimating wind speeds. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that it started around 12-14 knots and dropped to about 8-10 knots by the time we finished, and the direction was NW-ish. What do you care anyway?

After the first race it felt like the tips of my fingers had died. No, they couldn't be dead or they wouldn't be feeling that excruciating pain. I looked around the fleet and saw that several of the other guys were furiously shaking their hands or slapping their shoulders or otherwise performing contortions apparently aimed at restoring blood flow to their extremities. So I started waving my hands around too and after a couple of minutes the pain had changed from "They should use this torture at Guantanamo" to "I may be able to just about stand to do one more race if it doesn't get any worse."

After the second race I felt fine. My brain or heart must have realised that it really did need to send some blood to my fingertips and the pain went away. In fact I felt positively toasty all over. Thank you all you scientists who invented Goretex drysuits with latex booties, and wicking underwear, and hats made out of Windstopper fleece with DWR finish and contoured ear band wraps with Elastane trim. (No, I don't understand half of that marketing babble about the hat either but it sounded good when I bought it.)

My race results were nothing to write home about so I won't write home about them.

I generally tried to stay to the right of the fleet because I have a morbid fear of reaching the port tack layline and then approaching a crowded starboard tack layline with no gaps and nowhere to go. Must be something to do with that traumatic experience I had in my youth. To make things easier for me, 90% of the fleet seemed to favor the left side of the course.

90% of a 20 boat fleet? You do the math.

I expect I will get an email in a day or two with "Words of Wisdom" from Sunday's winner which will explain why the left side of the course was obviously favored because of a tidal differential or a coastal wind veer or some other similar gobbledygook which I never understand. Be that as it may I generally arrived at the windward mark with the tail-enders. But that's OK. I was having fun... and these guys are all faster than me anyway so I don't think it would have mattered a lot which side of the course I sailed the beat.

Actually I did bang the left corner in one race. Never could find a lane to tack into and the corner comes up much faster than you think on these short courses. So I sailed up the port-tack layline only to discover a solid wall of starboard-tackers at the mark, bore away for a promising gap only to see someone else tack into it, tried to tack below the crowd, fouled someone, did my penalty turn... and was last to round the mark behind some dude in a Radial. Hmmm.

The runs were a lot of fun. Pretty decent waves to hook rides on early in the afternoon. A bit less lumpy later. Always a nice crowd at the leeward mark where I could demonstrate my amazing talent at shouting a lot for room and occasionally even managing to pick up a place or two.

As the afternoon progressed I improved from my initial mindset of "oh shit it's frigging cold... I do hope I don't capsize... I do hope my fingers stop hurting... it's bloody crowded... I'd better be careful I don't hit anybody" to the much more constructive "some of these people really aren't any faster than me... I can overtake them on the run or pick them off by playing the shifts better on the final beat."

At the start of this frostbiting season when we had 50-60 boats on the line I was thinking, "It would be really cool if I could break into the top 20 in this fleet." I'm pretty sure I achieved that ambition yesterday.

No sign of Larry yet...

I love winter.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Houston, We Have a (Rum) Problem

Don't get me wrong. I like rum.

I like it so much that on the way out to the Bitter End Yacht Club in the BVI last month I stopped in at the general store on Beef Island while we were waiting for the North Sound Ferry and bought a large bottle of fine Puerto Rican rum. That should be enough for ten days of post-sailing relaxation or medication (depending on the circumstances) I figured.

Imagine my surprise when we arrived at our villa at BEYC and found another complimentary bottle of rum in the room. Hmmm. This is going to be a good vacation, I figured.

On the first weekend of our stay at BEYC I won the Sunday Laser regatta. Did I mention it before? I went along to the post-regatta party and prize-giving that evening. I only had a couple of beers as I had already been attacking one of those two bottles of rum earlier and I needed to pace myself for another assault on the same front later.

Imagine my surprise when my prize for winning the regatta was... yeah you guessed it... another frigging bottle of rum.

So now I had three bottles of rum and only eight days left to finish them off. This was going to be tough. Could I handle the challenge? How many different things could I buy at the resort emporium that would go well with rum? Does rum go with breakfast? Might I even be forced to share my rum with other sailors? Yikes, what would I do if I won the regatta the next week too?

Houston, we have a (rum) problem.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

My Future Crew

She needs to learn to swim before she learns to sail.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Larry Ellison to Join Newport Laser Frostbite Fleet

It's official.

Larry Ellison has bought himself a little cottage in Newport, Rhode Island for $10.5 million. Check out Astors’ Beechwood Sold to Billionaire Software Tycoon.

The Twitter is a-tweeting with speculation about why Larry wants a pad in Newport. But you heard the real scoop here first. The house in question is only about a mile from Fort Adams, home of Newport's famed Laser frostbite fleet. Clearly Mr. Ellison is tired of all the shenanigans surrounding his current sailing endeavor, something called the America's Cup I believe, and is planning to take up the simplest, purest, funnest, corinthianest form of sailing there is. Look to see him sailing against Tillerman and the rest of the crowd in Laser Fleet 413 as soon as he is done with that little piece of unfinished business in Valencia.

Whatever other possible explanation could there be?

Length Matters

So there I was standing at the urinal in the men's bathroom at the Bitter End Yacht Club after winning the Sunday Laser regatta when this other guy sidled up to the next urinal. We're standing there doing what men do in these circumstances, staring straight ahead, and I'm feeling pretty mellow (did I mention I won the Laser regatta?) so I strike up a conversation with the other dude.

We exchange some pleasantries about the freezing cold temperature in the men's bathroom at BEYC. Every other public area at the resort is basically open to the elements and the delightfully warm outside weather but for some reason the bathroom is as cold as a meat locker.

Then I forget that not everyone who is on the property is either staying at the resort or a member of staff and I ask him what he has been doing this morning (perhaps hoping he will then ask me what I did this morning and I could tell him about winning the Laser regatta.) The question stumps him for a while and then he realizes that I think he is also staying at the resort and he corrects my mistake by telling me that he actually arrived here by one of the yachts out on the moorings.

Except he has to give me one important detail about his boat which is clearly very important to him. "Oh, I came on a 43 foot catamaran."

43 foot? Why should I care how frigging long his pontoon boat is?

And then I get it. This is a macho thing. This is what male yachties do. They boast to other male yachties about the length of their thingies. Just like little boys back at school comparing the length of their thingies.

So there I am standing at the urinal (still staring straight ahead) and I realize I've just been challenged by another male about the length of my thingie. How should I respond?

"Oh, I've been sailing a 14 foot Laser and a 13 foot Hobie Wave," would make me sound terribly inadequate compared to him and his 43 foot thingie.

Awkward pause...

Long silence...

I finish doing what it was I came in here for....

I mutter, "Oh well, have a good day." And beat a hasty retreat.

Game, set and match to the man with the 43 foot thingie.

Length matters.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Damn You Andrew Campbell

Damn you Andrew Campbell.

Two years ago, at the changing of the years, I was Aspirating. I was telling myself that I wouldn't set New Year Resolutions for 2008; instead I wrote about some "aspirations" for the year. The fifth of six "aspirations" was to sail my Laser 100 days in 2008.

I think I set the target of 100 days because I had read that some of the top guys and gals in the class were sailing that much, or more. I failed to make it to 100. I only sailed 94 days. But I did learn a lot and, at the end of the year, wrote some Random Thoughts on the Number Ninety Four.

Come to think of it I also failed to achieve the other five "aspirations". Just shows what a waste of time this New Year Resolution business really is.

But at the start of another year I can't help thinking ahead. What will the year bring? Should I have some resolutions, goals, aspirations, themes... or should I just resolve to follow Captain JP's advice and take more time to stand and stare?

So all these thoughts are noodling around in my head when up pops a new post on Andrew Campbell's blog. The dude sailed 150 days in 2009!!!! Could I? Should I?

Now I can't stop thinking about the number 150.

Damn you Andrew Campbell.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Looking Back at the Noughties

Leaving aside the question as to whether 2010 is the first year of a new decade or the last year of an old one, I thought it would be fun to look back on the highs (such as they are) of my sailing life over the last ten years... the decade of the "noughties".

2000 was a year of many highlights.

My first Laser Masters Worlds... in Cancun, Mexico in March. Glorious weather. Sailing right off the beach in front of the hotel. Sunburned knees (resolved to buy longer hiking pants). Won an argument about signal flags with Russell Coutts' brother.

The Sunfish 50th anniversary celebrations in Newport in September. Nearly killed in a lightning storm on Saturday. Awesome race round Jamestown Island on Sunday.

But perhaps the highlight of the year was a Laser regatta on a little puddle in Pennsylvania (Marsh Creek) which I came so close to winning. It was mine to win or lose going into the final race. Did I choke? Or was it the thumb cramps that did me in? I ended up tied for first place but lost it on the tiebreaker.

2001. Who will ever forget this year? Our little town in New Jersey lost two of its citizens on September 11, both of them as it happens parents of kids in our junior sailing program.

I sailed my Laser at CORK, did Laser frostbiting almost every Sunday in the fall, and took my bride to the Bitter End Yacht Club in the BVI in December. But perhaps the most memorable regatta was the New England Sunfish Masters at Sprite Island YC on the weekend after September 11. There was an a capella choir singing God Bless America on the beach before we sailed, and at the skippers' meeting we observed a moment of silence to remember good friends who would sail with us no more.

2002. February saw me hitting the road to sail two Laser Masters regattas in Florida with a few days in between at Rick White's place in the Florida Keys. After a summer of racing Sunfish and Lasers up and down the east coast it was the Laser Masters Worlds in Hyannis in September, and then back to frostbiting at Cedar Point YC in Connecticut in the fall. Highlight of the year: winning the Ironman award at CPYC for being stubborn enough (or dumb enough) to sail more frostbite races than any other fleet member that season.

2003. This year I shifted my home sailing base to a different New Jersey lake, Spruce Run, the home of
Hunterdon Sailing Club and won their club handicap regatta, the Commodore's Cup, and later in the year traveled to Spain to sail in the Laser Masters Worlds in Cadiz.

But perhaps the highlight of the year was the opportunity to take on the job of head sailing instructor at Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club in New Jersey. I had a wonderful (and exhausting) summer teaching a great bunch of kids to sail in Optimists and Laser.

2004. Won the HSC Commodore's Cup again and their Open Fleet series. Qualified as a US Sailing Level 2 Coach. Ran the Lake Hopatcong YC junior sailing program again. Skied a lot. Did a lot of frostbite sailing. Trained for a marathon. Phew. Where did I find the energy?

2005. Started a sailing blog. Wonder what happened to it?

Ran my first marathon, attended a Rick White sailing seminar in the Florida Keys, sailed in the Laser US Nationals in Wrightsville Beach and the US Laser Masters in Annapolis and the Laser Atlantic Coasts in Brant Beach, started a Laser fleet and a new Laser regatta at Hunterdon SC, and taught the kids sailing at Lake Hopatcong again. Was First Grandmaster in the Atlantic Coasts and won the HSC Laser Regatta. Phew again.

There is absolutely no doubt about the highlight of the year: Sunday 27 November 2005, the day I became a grandfather. It changed my life.

2006. Ran another marathon and sold my Sunfish (the end of an era.) Most of my Laser sailing this year was club sailing with HSC in the summer and frostbiting at CPYC in the spring and fall.

Highlight of the year was a return to where I had learned to sail about 25 years before, the trip in October to Minorca Sailing in the Med. I did a lot of Lasering but also took some classes in sailing other types of dinghies and even learned to windsurf!

2007. In January I took my first trip to Cabarete in the Dominican Republic for a Laser clinic and the Caribbean Midwinters. In April I ran the London Marathon and in May we moved into our new home in Rhode Island. The summer was a blur of Laser regattas around southern New England including the Laser North Americans in Hyannis. Then off to Roses in Spain for another Laser Masters Worlds.

A great year of sailing but perhaps the highlight was finally, finally, finally achieving my ambition of finishing in the top half of the fleet at a Laser Masters Worlds. Semi-respectable mediocrity at last.

2008. Another trip to Cabarete in January, training with Kurt Taulbee in Florida in March, winning a Laser regatta in Massachusetts in July, and welcoming my first grandson to the world a week later. What a year.

I sailed my Laser on 94 days in 2008 but the sailing highlight of the year has to be the trip to Australia in February for the Laser Masters Worlds in Terrigal, just up the coast from Sydney. My results weren't anything to write home about but, in the middle of the racing on the last day I reflected on my blessings...

  • I'm in Australia in the middle of the northern hemisphere winter.

  • The sun is shining and the sky is blue without a cloud in sight.

  • I'm sailing on the Pacific Ocean. The Pacific! (For a kid who grew up in a grimy working class town in middle England, the idea that one day I would sail on the Pacific Ocean was about as likely as that I would land on the moon.)

  • The wind is perfect, the waves are challenging but manageable. Champagne sailing conditions.

  • I have my health and fitness and can still play this game even at my age.

  • I'm surrounded by the best bunch of guys on the planet, the other globe-trotting Laser grandmaster zealots.

. The last year of the noughties. I didn't sail much this year. Almost gave up sailing in fact. There's no doubt that the sailing highlight of the year was the trip to Bitter End Yacht Club in the BVI in December. Lasering, snorkeling, rum, kayaking, cat sailing, rum, hiking, swimming, yoga, more rum... and the highlight of that trip was... well, I haven't written that post yet. Maybe tomorrow.

How were the noughties for you?