Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Little Bathtubs

Thanks to Gavin Atkin of for passing on this delicious parody of a song which was a hit for Pete Seeger in the 60's, Little Boxes. The new version skewers all those owners of plastic boats in marinas.

Little bathtubs in marinas, little bathtubs made of ticky-tacky,
Little bathtubs at the quayside and the owner in the bar,
There’s a white one and a white one and a white one and a white one,
And they’re all made out of ticky-tacky and they all look just the same.

And they all have roller-reefing and self tailing winches,
Arid they all put a little reef in in anything above a two,
There’s a Jeanneau and a Beneteau and a Moody and a Westerly,
Aud they’re all made out of ticky-tacky and they all look just the same.

And they all have weatherfaxes and global positioning,
And a radar and a little screen that helps you to plot,
There are are gadgets and gizmos which show where the wind blows,
And the skipper is just a passenger ’cause the Autohelm does the lot!

And the owners are all builders or accountants or solicitors,
And they all drive down from Loughton on a Friday afternoon,
And they slip into their blazers and their Henri Lloyd moccasins,
For an evening at the yachty-clubby and they all look just the same.

And the owners all have wifeys who hate to go sailing,
Except around the Greek Islands where they get a good suntan,
And they all sit in marinas and drink up their G&Ts,
And they all come out of Billericay and they all look just the same.

And they all have little children who love to go sailing,
But they’re all sent away to boarding school where they never get the chance,
So they read their Arthur Ransome and dream of great voyaging,
In a pretty little wooden cutter, off to Holland or to France.

Little Bathtubs in marinas, little bathtubs on a swinging mooring,
Little bathtubs at the quayside and the owner in the pub,
There’s a Jeanneau and a Beneteau and a Moody and a Westerly,
And they’re all made out of ticky-tacky and they all look just the same.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Half a World

I had been looking forward to the 2010 Laser Masters Worlds at Hayling Island in the UK for 400 days. Unfortunately I did not exactly follow through on my optimistic plans for training for the Worlds that I wrote about in August 2009.

And I paid the price for my laziness.

Tillerwoman and I flew to England on Thursday 9 September, and after a bizarre and lengthy encounter with Avis at London airport (which could well be the subject of a whole other post) drove down to Hayling Island on the south coast on Friday.

Saturday. Check out my charter boat. Select the best set of foils I can find but it is noticeable that every single one of the new style Laser centerboards and rudders has been damaged in some way
during the Senior Worlds, with chips in the gelcoat on both leading and trailing edges. The LaserPerformance guys have some story about how there was some error in the manufacturing process for the first batch of the new foils and that it will be corrected in future. I sincerely hope they are right.

Moral: Never buy Release 1.0 of anything.

Measurement is very efficiently organized with a large band of volunteers. Have a fascinating discussion with the Chief Measurer about how it could be possible that my battens which had been measured and passed by the measurer at the Worlds in Australia two years ago and still have that measurer's initials on them could now be too long. Do battens expand in cooler weather?

Moral of story: You can never win an argument with a Chief Measurer bearing a steel ruler.

Go for a bit of a yot just to make sure that my boat is rigged properly and to check out the conditions. Geeze. Strong tides. Chaotic waves. This is going to be "fun."

Sunday. Practice race day. Always worth doing the practice race just to familiarize yourself with how the race committee operates and what conditions are like on the actual race area. I think this might be the only sunny day of the whole regatta. Somehow I seem to make an error at every mark on the course through not thinking about what the tide is doing. Rounding too close and being swept into the buoy. Going too high on a reach and then sailing low and slow against the tide down to the buoy. Overstanding the layline. Thinking I can sneak around on the transom of the inside boat at a classic leeward mark pinwheel without allowing for the fact that the three boats inside the wheel will be jammed into the mark by the tide.

Good job I got all that out of the way during the practice race.

Moral for the week: Think tide.

Monday. Day 1 of the regatta. Someone says it is 22 knots gusting 28. Someone else says 25 gusting 30. Whatever. It is windy. And to add to the fun there is a strong tide and huge, chaotic waves. Not the big Pacific swells that we had in Australia or the nice long rollers we get near the mouth of Narragansett Bay in a south-westerly, but nasty, unpredictable, monster, cockpit-filling, boat-bashing, short wavelength, square waves. I am going OK (for me) upwind, beating a respectable number of boats but downwind on the second run, I lose it. Capsize. Watch all the fleet sail past me while I do my typically slow and careful capsize recovery. Capsize again. Do an even slower capsize recovery.

Somehow I manage to stagger around the rest of the course with the long pointy thing aiming mainly at the sky. Get confused about which is the finish line boat but find it eventually. Amazingly I manage to beat 3 or 4 other boats who presumably capsized more times than I did or were even slower at capsize recoveries than I was.

At this point I am totally exhausted and am still facing a 45 minute sail downwind to the club, so I decide to call it a day and skip the second race. I am not the only one, by any means.

Prior to entering the Masters Worlds we were all required to sign a form saying we are competent sailors capable of sailing a Laser on open water in 25 knot winds. I feel like a fraud now for signing that form. Clearly I can't sail in these conditions. At least not in two races a day. I pretty much make a decision there and then that this will be my last Masters Worlds.


Well, this could be the last time
This could be the last time
Maybe the last time
I don't know
Oh no.

(In hindsight, this may not have been the best mental attitude to have for the rest of the regatta.)

Tuesday. It's 30 gusting 40. No racing today.

Wednesday. Not quite as windy as Tuesday. The RC goes out to the course and checks the wind and wave conditions for a couple of hours and eventually they decide that it's not suitable for racing. They're probably worrying that all the fat old farts like me who came in early on Monday are going to get themselves into trouble again. They are probably right.

There's a "barbecue" at the club on Wednesday night. I only eat some chicken and potatoes and salad but somehow I end up with an upset stomach overnight.

Thursday. Feeling a bit queasy this morning but the winds are only 8-12 knots from the NW so I go sailing. It is pretty shifty and even though I'm not feeling 100% I do complete both races, scoring around my typical place at the Worlds, about three-quarters of the way down the fleet.

Try to be careful about what I eat tonight by having a simple meal of pasta and salad at an Italian restaurant.

Friday. Didn't feel any better this morning, but hey, I'm here to sail so I'm going sailing. Another 8-12 knot north-westerly. The wind is shifting back and forth about 20 degrees leading to multiple postponements and general recalls for our fleet. We have three general recalls with the black flag up and about ten guys get tossed out of the race. It's cold waiting around for the start and I'm starting to get stomach cramps. Eventually our fleet start our first race around 3pm (having launched at 11am). I score my best finish of the regatta (no doubt aided by the absence of the ten dudes BFD'd.) But after the race my stomach is painful and I feel light-headed and distinctly strange so I skip the second race (again.)

As soon as I reach the beach I head straight for the the changing rooms where I experience an attack of uncontrollable shivers. I stand under a hot shower for ages before I feel like I have warmed up. I dress and derig and let Tillerwoman drive me to the hotel. I collapse straight into bed with my clothes on and start shivering again. Then I start throwing up. It was not a good night.

Saturday. Go to the club but I'm not feeling well enough to sail. One of my fellow US team members tells me to, "Take a couple of deep breaths." I guess he's really telling me to, "Suck it up." But my body is telling me that if I go sailing I will feel exactly like I did on Friday. So I wimp out and miss another couple of races. Sounds like it was the lightest wind day of the regatta, with a lot of waiting around for the wind to fill in. Good job I missed it. It was the waiting that did me in on Friday.

Sunday. Feel a lot better and I'm psyched up to go sailing. Only 17-20 knots today but still with those big choppy waves. More general recalls and a couple of guys are black flagged. I have a terrific start and sail pretty well in the first race to finish in a respectable place (for me) right next to a couple of my old buddies from Cedar Point YC in Connecticut. Before I moved to Rhode Island and started measuring myself against "that guy", these two were "those guys". Any day I could hang with them was a good day.

After the first race I'm not as physically tired as I was after the first race on Day 1. (I didn't capsize during the race at all!) But mentally I'm done. I just can't face slogging around the course again in those waves, so I head for home. I capsize twice on the downwind sail back to the club. At one point I lose contact with the boat and have to swim hard to catch it as it's blown away from me. I lose my hat (but a kind safety boat driver finds it and returns it to me.)

So in the end I only sailed five of the ten races at the regatta.

I didn't sail the Masters Worlds. I sailed half a Worlds.

I think I'm right in saying that I finished every single race at the previous five Masters Worlds which I entered. So I feel like I am only half the Laser sailor I used to be.

I was not prepared for this regatta. I was not fit enough. I had not sailed enough regattas leading up to it. I should not be coming to the Worlds if this is best I can do.


Well, this could be the last time
This could be the last time
Maybe the last time
I don't know
Oh no.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Life Coach

Sam Chapin, the esteemed blogger who writes How to Sail the Laser, has recently been writing a series of posts under the title of Laser and the Life Coach. I'm not sure what a "life coach" is -- it sounds a bit New Ageish to me -- but the series includes some great tips on how to be a better sailor.

Some of Sam's advice is pretty much the same basic material you would hear from any sailing coach...

Set goals


Get strong

Use your head

But he adds a few New Age-y and Life Coach-y thing such as...

Have friends

Don't get angry - forgive - be happy

Drink green tea - have flowers around - listen to music - floss

Hmmm. Flowers? Floss? He was beginning to lose me here.

But wait, it gets worse...

What? No hamburgers? No steaks? No pork pies? Come on Sam.

But wait, it gets even more worser...

Yikes. What kind of sailor are you, Mr. Chapin? Alcohol is part of sailing culture and history. I was pretty much ready to give up on Sam's advice but then he redeemed himself with....

Have sex. Have more sex. Have lots and lots of sex.

According to Sam, sex increases attentiveness, ameliorates depressive symptoms, ameliorates pain, reduces stress hormone production, and improves immune function. The more sex you have, the harder you can hike, the longer you can hike, the faster you can sail. Woo hoo!



Ummm, come here dear. Have you seen this interesting blog from the life coach chappie?

Friday, September 03, 2010

Hurricane Party Songs

What are the best songs for a hurricane party? Answers in the comments please.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

One Hundred Mommy Boats

A few years back, Tom Paxton recorded a CD entitled One Million Lawyers and Other Disasters. The full lyrics of the title song One Million Lawyers are here.

I have to be careful what I say here because I have two lawyers in my immediate family and some of my best friends are lawyers. But here is a sample of the lyrics...

Oh, a suffering world cries for mercy.
As far as the eye can see,
Lawyers around every bend in the road.
Lawyers in every tree.
Lawyers in restaurants.
Lawyers in clubs.
Lawyers behind every door.
Behind windows and potted plants,
Shade trees and shrubs.
Lawyers on pogo sticks.
Lawyers in politics.
In ten years we're gonna have one million lawyers.
How much can a poor nation stand?

You get the idea.

I've written before about an even worse scourge than lawyers... Mommy Boats, those dratted "coach boats" that seem to be everywhere at major Laser regattas these days. Even worse in my opinion than one million lawyers would be to go to a regatta with one hundred Mommy Boats.

And it has happened. Although not to me. Yet. Read on...

In his report of the sailing on Day 2 of the Laser World Championships at Hayling Island, Clay Johnson commented...

It was a very tough day of sailing with some painfully light legs. The chop from 100+ coach boats doesn't help the situation either! I'm praying we get some more breeze for the rest of the regatta!

I think a better title than Light and Lumpy on Day Two for Clay's post might have been One Hundred Mommy Boats and Other Disasters.

Yikes. One hundred Mommy Boats! Can you imagine it?

It is to be hoped that there aren't that many Mommy Boats at the Masters Worlds in a couple of weeks. Master sailors are REAL Laser Sailors. We don't need no stinking Mommy Boats.


Some times I amaze myself with how much I have forgotten about sailing. If only I could remember now to do what I used to remember to do before I forgot to remember to do it... I would be amazing.

Tuesday night sailing a couple of weeks ago was a case in point.

There was a nice steady breeze out of the SW of around 10 knots when I launched around 5pm but it died away quickly to around 5 knots shortly after racing got under way. There were six of us. Mainly the usual suspects.

On these short course windward-leeward races in a comparatively steady breeze I have a very simple principle. I look on every tack or gybe as an opportunity to lose distance on the opposition. Good sailors will say the opposite. They say that they look on every tack or gybe as an opportunity to gain. But I know what I'm talking about here, people. If you saw how bad my tacks and gybes are you would agree with me.

So the game plan is very simple. Try and sail in clear air without putting in too many tacks on a short course.

My theory didn't work very well in the first few races. I was almost last in every race. I did find one strand of weed on my rudder after one race, so I rationalized that that explained everything. It wasn't me officer. It was the weed.

But then I got frustrated. How come almost everyone else was beating me to the windward mark in every race? What were they doing differently? Were they just applying my "minimize the tacks" theory, or did they have a different plan?

Then it dawned on me. The wind was actually a bit shifty. And these dudes were tacking on the headers. And I hadn't even been checking for shifts. Stupid boy!

How could I have forgotten to remember what I used to always remember? In all those early years of my sailing career on little lakes it was all about tacking on shifts. Just because the shifts typically aren't so big on a bay doesn't mean they don't matter.

So for the final two races I started concentrating on the shifts and tacking on headers and always sailing the lifted tack. I was second in both races, just behind our resident world masters champion.


Laser sailors, "Look for the shifts!"