Monday, July 11, 2011

The Wise Old Man of Lake Eustis

I blame summer.

I seem to have been neglecting this blog lately. I've been sailing five times since my last post about actual sailing and I haven't written a post about any of those five sailing days yet (as opposed to writing about cramp and posting some Swedish beefcake for the ladies). I blame summer.

Anyway, returning to the real subject of this blog, my continual struggle to keep on Laser sailing in the face of the depredations of old age, in particular, the dreaded death grip cramps... about a week after my dismal failure at the Atlantic Coast Masters on account of the aforementioned death grip cramp, I went sailing on Monday to test out the theory advanced by the wise old man of Lake Eustis, Sam Chapin, namely that I was holding the sheet way too tight and that that was the principal cause of my dreaded death grip cramp.

I launched from Independence Park in Bristol and did the loop around Hog Island and back. With 10-15 knots from the south that meant starting off with a beat of about 3 miles, so I had plenty of time to test out the Chapin Theory.

What I learned...

1. I have two different ways of holding the sheet. One is with the line coming up between my hand and fingers and then locked beneath my thumb. The other way is with the sheet wrapped around my hand. I think I read somewhere that wrapping the sheet around the hand is considered very bad form and extremely wimpy in some macho Laser sailing circles, but hey I'm not a macho Laser sailing circle.

2. With my sheet coming up through my hand, I discovered that I could relax my fingers almost entirely and that only a light grip with my thumb was sufficient to do the job of holding the sheet. The ratchet block really does do the job!

3. With my sheet wrapped around my hand, I don't grip the sheet very tightly but I do then have a tendency to pull the sheet very taut and put a lot of strain on the muscles in my forearm, which I am pretty sure is where the cramp starts.

4. I have a fault when hiking hard of using the sheet to support a lot of my weight. This also puts a lot of strain on the forearm. By concentrating on supporting my weight with my legs and my feet under the toe-strap I can relax the tension in my arm.

5. I noticed that when I transfer my sheet to my tiller hand (to adjust sail controls with my front hand) I naturally hold the sheet in a light grip between one finger and the tiller. Duh! If that's all it needs then I don't need to be straining like crazy when I hold the sheet in my front hand!

So I sailed my long beat, practicing holding the sheet with minimum hand tension and minimum forearm tension, and supporting my weight with my legs not with my arm, and I concluded that the wise old man of Lake Eustis really is a Wise Old Man.


bonnie said...

hey, who's complaining about Swedish beefcake?

Tillerman said...

Nobody's complaining. It's all part of the service. "All human life is here."

And for your quiz of the day, who can tell me where that quotation or motto came from and why it is topical this week?

O Docker said...

OK, I guess I'm first to read your challenge.

As the News Of the World gasped its last yesterday, the motto should be changed to, "All human life was here."

They were famous for their, uh, undercover investigations, and for, perhaps, knowing a bit too well how to work the phones.

O Docker said...

The word verification chap in Mumbai is indeed way ahead of me on this one. His offering:


Tillerman said...

Yes indeed. That was the motto of the British Sunday tabloid the News of the World, which closed on Sunday so that Rupert Murdoch could pretend to be "shocked" about his employees' murky investigative practices and position himself as Mr. Clean to the regulators dealing with his takeover of BSkyB.

My parents used to subscribe to News of the World when I was a boy. I never quite understood why because my mother was always complaining it was "full of sex." I think I learned to read at a very early age after hearing this, only to discover that the News of the World was full of stories about scoutmasters molesting little boys in the woods, and vicars consorting with prostitutes.

I think I can thank this rag for setting me on the route to atheism from an early age.

Good riddance.

Anonymous said...

This mainsheet grip thing. I have never understood why all Laser class supremos advocate sailing without deck cleats. I suspect that the reason all club mid fleeters such as me don't fit them is some kind of homage to the stars that advocte sailing without them. I find them an invaluable aid - especially upwind when it is light so that I can set the rig with a consistent tension. When I don't want the main cleated I simply don't use them. Why not give them a try?

AKA Brian L

Tillerman said...

Ahah. Someone finally said the C-word. Cleats. Now I've said it too.

Good point Poesje. Why don't top Laser sailors like to use mainsheet cleats? My boat actually has them but I very rarely use them.

I suspect this topic deserves a separate post.

Sam Chapin said...

I have a lot of things to do today including Laser sailing, but here I am doing the dam computer thing. Thanks for the nice note tillerguy.

On wraping the sheet around your hand, that makes it too hard to ease the sheet. You have to ease to keep the boat flat. On big boats maybe it is more important because you may may to ease more sheet and then you may get your hand pulled into the turning block.

The cleats on the Laser are a big if. I usually take them off so I don't have to sit on them when I have moved forward. But then I have found that actually now I can sit right on the spot and before I was moving more forward not to be sitting on them. So maybe I was better off without them.

If you sail long distances out to race course you maybe happy to have the cleats. When you are racing most of us will do best to be working the sheet. I had a Laser once with just one cleat and when we were hanging around between between races it was handy to cleat the sheet.

You may notice now in the Advanced Boat Handling DVD in the high wind tack the demonstrator is cleating the sheet. Wow!
Good Luck to rest of us.

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