Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Lawn Mower Guy Goes Sailing

Last weekend I sailed my Laser in the three day Hyannis Regatta.

Of course the first thing any sailor wants to know (after "Did you win?" and "How much beer did you drink?) is "What was the wind like?" Typically top sailors write on their blogs that it was blowing 15.1 to 17.6 knots or some similar nonsense. In any case I am very bad at knots so I can't do that. Instead I have three pictures below (stolen shamelessly from SailFlow) that show what the wind strengths were on each of the three days we were racing. (Actually these were the winds at Kalmus Beach and we were sailing some considerable distance offshore from the beach so maybe it was a bit windier where we were. Who knows?)


(Blue is average, green is lulls, red is gusts.)

Friday's winds were from the south (i.e. onshore) and had stirred up some "interesting" crunchy waves that reminded me of the time I accidentally opened the washing machine door while it was in mid-cycle. Upwind it was a good hiking workout which repaid the effort to work the waves energetically (which I was generally too lazy or too unfit to do properly) and downwind you could pick up some great rides on the waves (unless, like me, you were generally too unskilled or too timid to do properly.) Actually in the first three races I spent the whole of the downwind legs muttering under my breath, "God, please don't let me capsize. God, please don't let me capsize," which is pretty pathetic for a supposed hard-core Laser blogger and confirmed atheist.

Then in the fourth race something clicked in my head. I got angry at myself or the weather or God or something and I could feel the adrenalin flooding into my bloodstream. (Or maybe I just said to myself, "F### it, this must be the last race so I might as well go all in.") I worked like a demon upwind and was doing huge pumps on any promising looking wave downwind like some maniac lawnmower guy who can't get the damn machine to fire up. (See, I told you in the comments to the last post I was going to turn this into a lawnmower blog.) Man, it felt good. Once the boat was surfing it seemed like it was never going to stop. I wonder if this is what Laser sailing downwind in waves is supposed to feel like? As I approached the leeward mark I was going so fast on one wild surfing planing screaming lollapalooza that the sail backwinded and kindly gybed itself thereby saving me the trouble of having to attempt to execute a gybe (and maybe capsize like I did in the previous race.)

I scored a 7th in that race, by far my best result of the day, and thankfully it was the last race of the day because I was knackered with all that torquing upwind and lawnmower starting downwind. That evening several (well at least two... well actually two) sailors came up to me and complimented me on how fast I was on that last run. I didn't reveal that it was all down to my training for the Lawn Mowing Olympics.

I seem to remember that I didn't drink enough beer at dinner on Friday with the result that I woke up many times in the night because of the pains in my legs/ shoulders/ ankles/ arms and there was a lot of groaning and moaning so it was just as well as I wasn't sharing my hotel king bed with anyone else.

Saturday's winds were from the north (i.e. offshore) so the water was flatter and the waves not as crunchy as Friday.


I really don't want to talk about my mediocre sailing on Saturday. I started off with another top ten finish and then it all went bad. I seemed really slow like my boat was full of water and was dragging several pounds of seaweed on the foils, neither of which excuses turned out to be true so I had better invent some other excuses.

Excuse #1: I am actually an amazingly fast sailor in under 3 knots or over 25 knots. It's only wind strengths in between these two extremes that are a problem.

Excuse #2: I was tired after Friday.

Take your pick.

We were on the water about seven hours on Saturday, and completed seven more races. Even though I felt I had sailed terribly, when I looked at the results I had only gone down one place in the standings. Go figure!

Sunday was forecast to be lighter winds which didn't bother me at all. They started from the north and then died. Then they filled in from the south but still very light. The race committee held us onshore until 12:30 and then we sailed out for two races in winds that looked like this...


In the first race the pin end of the line was highly favored, so I decided that rather than fight for the pin with all the hotshots and then sail in the bad air of the aforementioned hotshots on starboard tack for several minutes, I would start nearer the boat in a position where I could tack on to port immediately and then sail fast in clear air and arrive at the windward mark with the leaders. This strategy turned out to be misguided when everyone flopped on to port at the gun and I was instantly at the back of the fleet. Duh!

In the second race I had a decent start but still arrived at the windward mark with the tail-enders. Lesson of the day: if you are just slow in the 3-25 knot wind range you will always arrive at the windward mark with the tail-enders.

I tried hard to pass boats on the run but I was still with the tailenders at the leeward mark. By some fluke, I did a good mark rounding and the two boats in front of me didn't so I was in clear air and soon blew past them. They tacked off to the left side of the course and a little later I tacked to cover them. Hmmm, taking into account the likely effect of the tide I was now close to the starboard tack layline to the finish, but there were still boats to the right of me (way overstood) and I was lifting above all the boats on the left. Pretty soon, it seemed like there were only three boats in front of me (actually the three kids who took the top three places in the regatta) and that was how I finished. Fourth! Best result of the regatta! What a way to finish the weekend! How many more exclamation marks can I use! That should have been a question mark! I don't care! Ridonculous! Seriously, even if it was luck, it felt good!

On Monday I mowed the lawn. Great cross-training. Seriously!


O Docker said...

I think your new startegy of waiting to post about potentially boring events is already paying dividends.

You've done a good job of faithfully reporting the bits that most people don't care about - upwind beat, mark rounding, offshore wind, choppy waves, blah, blah, blah, but you've also managed to work in some of that philosophy and life lessons learned stuff that turns a post about sailing into something that's genuinely readable.

And you've succeeded in subtly interweaving a sub-theme about the fascinating world of lawn mowing.

I wonder if this post would have been even better if you'd waited long enough that you'd mostly forgotten the details of the race itself.

O Docker said...


Baydog said...

What race?

Tillerman, on which setting do you cut your grass? I do 3 1/2 inches in the front yard, but 2 1/2 in the back.

Tillerman said...

O Docker - good point. I think I did write this post too soon. There is certainly too much boring stuff about sailing in it and not enough about the life lessons to be gained from lawn mowing. Perhaps I will start a new policy of only writing about races after ten years.

Baydog - settings? A lawnmower has settings? You can choose how long you cut the grass? I can see I still have a lot to learn.

Pat said...

No lawn-mowing practice, but last night I got a great deal on a new Black and Decker string trimmer ("
Weed Whacker") with a double-line spool (two strings sticking out). Today I gave it a test and it worked great.

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

I had a feeling New Mexico (or Arizona-I can't keep track these days) was way ahead of New Jersey in
weed-whacking. We've had this single -strand whacking device for years and it wobbles to the point of knocking the operator off his or her feet!

Tillerman said...

Oh geeze, I knew something bad would happen if I started a lawn mower blog. Now I'm getting Indonesian car rental spam.

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