Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Two Things

Have you played the Two Things game?

According to Glenn Whitman, it's based on the assumption that for every subject, there are only two things you really need to know. Everything else is the application of those two things, or just not important.

Some of my favorite ones...

The Two Things about Software Engineering
1. There is no such thing as bug-free software.
2. Adding manpower to a late project makes it later.
-Tim Lee

The Two Things about Web programming (as it is mostly done in the real world)
1) Control-C
2) Control-V

The Two Things about Biology
1. Evolution is the process through which genetic structures that are better equipped to reproduce viable copies will tend to proliferate.
2. Except for the Platypus.

The Two Things about Medicine
1. Do no harm.
2. To do any good, you must risk doing harm.

The Two Things about Civil Engineering
1. Dirt + Water = Mud.
2. You can’t push a rope.
-Todd Grotenhuis

So next time you meet someone who has a different occupation from you, or who knows something about a subject you are unfamiliar with... ask them about The Two Things.

This meme caught my eye when I stumbled across it on the Interwebs today, because right at the end of my recent trip to Cabarete to spend 5 days trying to improve my Laser sailing, someone explained to me The Two Things about Laser Sailing. But before I reveal this secret, I would like to hear in the comments what you think are The Two Things about Sailing (or about whatever other watery perversion you favor.)

Go for it.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Just Another Week in Paradise

A couple of weeks ago I spent a rewarding (and exhausting) five days working on my Laser skills at the Laser Training Center in Cabarete in the Dominican Republic. The week was billed as a "Pre Brisbane Master Worlds Clinic" but of the eighteen sailors on the course, only a handful of us were planning to go the Master Worlds in Australia. In fact I'm not going to the Master Worlds this year myself. (More on why not in another post perhaps.)

There were a bunch of us from southern New England most of whom who had conspired to go together, several other Masters sailors I had met before, and some whom I hadn't met before including a couple of guys from Europe and two from Japan. No doubt informed of the reputation of Cabarete for big waves and heavy winds, almost half the group had chosen to sail Radial rigs, or were switching between Radial and Full rigs depending on the conditions. A healthy sign I thought. There was only one female sailor. Why is that? Don't women sailors know that Laser Radial sailing is an Olympic sport for women and that Laser sailing is the best way to meet gazillions of tall, fit, handsome, charming men? Come on girls.

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes. The Cabarete Pre Brisbane Laser Master Worlds Clinic Mainly For People Who Weren't Going To The Worlds.

It was a lively and convivial bunch. Our core group from New England dined together every night often with many of the other sailors too. There are a dozen or so low-priced friendly restaurants only a few minutes walk along the beach from the Laser Training Center, and many hours were also spent hanging out in the legendary EZE Bar right in front of the Laser Training Center enjoying their excellent healthy meals and healthy fruit smoothies and not so healthy extensive cocktail menu. The camaraderie of the whole group was one of the most enjoyable things about the whole vacation clinic.

The fifth and final day of the vacation clinic was a regatta (more on that in another post perhaps). The format for the first four days went roughly like this...

8-8:30 - roll out of bed in my hotel and wander down to the restaurant for a healthy meal of fruit and yoghurt etc. with other sailors and the beautiful Tillerwoman.

9:30-10:00 - stroll along the beach to the Laser Training Center and rig up a Laser.

10:30 - 12ish - listen to head coach Rulo explain the drills he planned for the day and his instruction on various aspects of Laser sailing and watch video of us not sailing Lasers properly from the day before and of good Laser sailors sailing properly. (More on what I learned about the finer points of Laser sailing in another post perhaps.)

12ish - 12:30ish - change into sailing clothes and eat healthy snacks and drink healthy sailing drinks possibly including a healthy fruit smoothie from the EZE Bar.

12:30ish - launch. Launching at Cabarete is more adventurous than at most locations because there is quite a significant shore break in which the waves could easily grab hold of a Laser and smash it into the beach or onto the sailor or both causing permanent damage to aforementioned Laser and sailor. Thankfully this never happens because of the very helpful young men from the Laser Training Center who hold the boats through the shore break until the moment when they tell you to jump on to the boat and when they throw you and the boat over the last breaking wave into the only slightly less hairy waves beyond the break.

12:30ish - 3:30ish depending on the wind conditions, and stamina or otherwise of the sailors, perform drills and drills and more drills and even more drills to refine our Laser skills while the coaches make videos of us to show all the Laser sailors later how awful our Laser sailing techniques really are. (More about the "interesting" weather conditions we experienced in another post perhaps.)

3:30ish - return to beach where the helpful young men helped us to navigate the shore break again without smashing up our Lasers or ourselves or both. Rinse boat. Derig. Change into something more comfortable. Consume our favorite post-sailing drinks and food possibly including a healthy fruit smoothie from the EZE Bar or more likely unhealthy beer or girlie rum drinks from the EZE Bar.

4ish until Rulo runs out of things to say or the sailors' rumbling stomachs say it's time for dinner-ish - debrief from Rulo about the drills and how terrible we all were, illustrated with many video clips proving what crappy Laser sailors we really are, thereby motivating all of us to start thinking about when we can get back to Cabarete for another vacation clinic.

(I hope you know that I'm only joking about Rulo and those videos. He really is a very supportive and helpful and positive coach - even to a crappy Laser sailor like me.)

5:30ish - return to hotel and shower and change into something even more comfortable possibly with palm trees or turtles or big fish on it.

7:00ish - stroll back to the EZE Bar and start evening festivities. And that's all I'm going to say about that. What happens in Cabarete stays in Cabarete.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

On the Wall

I had an eerie experience yesterday. A crossover from all this virtual blogging nonsense into the real world that was totally unexpected and somewhat weird.

I have become used to people copying and reproducing material from my blog. There are all those annoying websites that just "scrape" content from my blog for god knows what purpose. Then there are sites like Scuttlebutt and Destination One Design that occasionally repost my nonsense. I'm always happy when they do that, not least because they always include a link back to the original blog post which generates gazillions of hits to my blog for a day or two... and maybe even one or two new regular readers.

This weekend both my sons and their families came over to our house on the Rhode Island Riviera. Son #2 is very partial to English pork pies - well, we all are to be honest. So before son #2 arrived on Saturday morning, Tillerwoman and I headed up to Hartley's in Fall River to buy some genuine English pork pies (or at least as close to genuine as you can find over here in the colonies.) Thomas Hartley opened his first shop in Fall River back in the early 1900's. His pies were a familiar comfort food to the many English who worked in the mills of Fall River back in those days, and they quickly gained popularity with other mill workers because English pork pies are the best food in the world for hungry mill workers.

When you walk into Hartley's it's easy to believe that the shop hasn't changed much since the early 1900's. It's a pie shop, for Pete's sake. It's not a fashionable cyber cafe. We are not in Starbucks any more, Toto. As Tillerwoman ordered the pies I casually perused the various magazine clippings and newspaper stories that were on the walls (all singing the praises of Hartley's Pork Pies, of course.)

I looked at a long piece of text in the middle of one frame on the wall. I blinked. Wait! I've seen that before. Hold on! I've not only seen it before; I wrote it.

I looked up and down the text. It was a list of 50 items. I remembered it then. It was the complete text of my 2009 blog post 50 Great Things To Do In And Around Tiverton Rhode Island. And #41 on the list was Go to Hartley's Original Pork Pies in Fall River to buy the best English-style pork pies in America. And someone had highlighted that item.

I had written the post in response to a challenge from Carol Anne of Five O'Clock Somewhere to write a post to persuade a sailing buddy to bring his non-sailing wife along when visiting our area to sail. She wanted us to write about activities in our area, especially ones that might not be on the radar of the average tourist.

For some reason, the fact that an old-fashioned pie shop in Fall River had stuck on their wall one of my blog posts just seemed totally bizarre to me. There was an old guy (presumably the owner of the shop) chatting up Tillerwoman and doing the familiar, "Are you from Britain. So am I. Which part are you from?" patter. I went over to him excitedly and burbled something about, "Do you know who wrote that? It was ME!!!" He didn't seem at all interested and just changed the subject to the story of how Manchester United visited New England in 1955 and he and a bunch of buddies put together a New England team to play them and how they lost 11-0. I told him I thought United probably went easy on him. I showed my superficial knowledge of (real) football by muttering the hallowed words "Matt Busby." Then the pies arrived and we paid for them and left.

How strange is that, possum?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Pas de Pain aujourd'hui

Regular readers of this blog will know that Pain and Rum are two recurring themes.

I have always felt that Laser sailing and Pain and Rum go together like... well like fish and chips and mushy peas or.... trucks and beer and Jesus in country songs... or ... those three little dots in a row that are littered at random all over this post.

Brad Funk told me years ago that if it's not hurting you're not hiking hard enough. And I warped my sons' minds at an impressionable age by telling them that Laser sailing is mainly about pain. After a few hours of hard Laser sailing at a regatta or a clinic (like the one in Cabarete last week) I am usually aching in my back, my arms, my shoulders... well, pretty much all over.

If you happen to be sailing in the Caribbean then the best medication for Laser sailing pain is, of course... rum. The last time I was at a clinic and a regatta in Cabarete under the tutelage of Head Torture Master Rulo I was self-medicating with rum every evening.

But something changed. Last week there was no pain... and consequently no need for rum. (Although I do confess to consuming some of those girlie mixed rum drinks at the EZE Bar, purely to be sociable of course.)

What was different? Could it be that I am physically fitter than I used to be? I have been working out with weights a couple of days a week in my basement for the last few months. Trying to get some minimum level of muscle tone in my back, my arms, my shoulders... all those bits that usually hurt after Laser sailing. I have been steadily progressing to heavier and heavier weights but it hasn't been particularly intense... could it have actually worked?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

6 Reasons I Need This Gadget

As I was closing out my account at the shop at the Laser Training Center in Cabarete on Saturday, feeling mentally and physically exhausted after four days of Laser training and a one day regatta, my head still spinning with all the tips on the finer points of Laser sailing I had picked up over the week from head coach Rulo and assistant coach Colin, I noticed that one of the European sailors who had been on the clinic, actually one of the best sailors there last week, was buying one of those nifty Sail Pro onboard video cameras and a carbon rod for stern mounting it on his Laser. Hmmm. So that's what the good guys are buying these days to get even more gooder, I thought.

I didn't buy one for myself. I thought it might be ridiculously expensive. I thought it was probably only worthwhile for the really good guys looking to be even more gooderer. But since returning home I'm not so sure. I've been doing a bit of research online and am beginning to think I should treat myself to this camera. Here are Six Reasons Why Tillerman Needs a Sail Pro Video Camera.

1. I do a lot of training by myself. With this camera I could record my own clumsy attempts at Laser boat-handling and compare it with video of how the experts do the same maneuvers from the Advanced Laser Boat Handling DVD made by my friends in Cabarete, spot the differences, and then work on them.

2. I learned last week that sometimes a video is the only way to convince yourself that you are making mistakes in your boat handling. I thought I was doing some things right, only to be quickly disabused of that notion when Rulo showed me (and all the other students on the clinic) video of exactly what I was doing wrong.

3. According to the Laser Training Center website, this onboard camera package was actually developed by Rulo after he became frustrated with the performance of 26 other different cameras. It certainly sounds as if he has come across most of the potential issues with such cameras and found solutions for them.

4. There is a stern mount that is custom designed to fit the Laser.

5. The examples in the videos (like the one below) certainly suggest that it gives an excellent view of all the actions of the Laser sailor, better than you would even see from a video taken from a coach boat.

6. I could always post a bit of video of my own sailing on the blog one day if I can't think of anything else to write about.

The price is $380. About two thirds of the price of a new class-legal Laser sail. Or, I am somewhat ashamed to admit, only about twice my total tab at the EZE Bar in Cabarete last week.

But is there anything else that I can buy that will cost less than $400 which would help me to improve my Laser sailing as much or more than this camera would?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

World Youth Sailing Trust

Thanks to the Twitter machine I was made aware yesterday of some good news in the War on Mommy Boats. Well sort of...

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have been ranting for years about the evils of coaching during regattas. At the levels at which I race Lasers (local and district open regattas, and master regattas up to and including world championships) I would like to see those pesky coach boats (aka mommy boats) totally banned. They get in the way. They contribute to the wussification (or pussification if you prefer) of our sport. And worst of all they give an unfair advantage to the sailors that have them.

But I am realistic to know that in youth sailing and at the highest level regattas (open Worlds, Olympics, ISAF level 1 events) they are here to stay. The majority of the competitors have their mommy boats. However, it's still unfair to those that don't have them.

But what if there's another solution than banning mommy boats from regattas? How about if we stop the class warfare and envy of the rich and provide mommy boats to everyone? (Or is that socialism?)

Thanks to Dan Jasper of SailCoachUK for bringing to my attention the work of the Word Youth Sailing Trust...

Just for a moment imagine you are a 17 year old again. You have arrived in a new country for the first time to race at the ISAF Youth Sailing World Championship.

You have no coach to help you and only a practice day before your first race.

A new country, a new boat, your first time at a major international regatta and you come face to face with your competition - some of the best young sailors in the world with the best kit, supported by a team of coaches.

Exciting? Yes, but also more than a little bit intimidating. How do you go about competing under such circumstances?

The Trust supports young sailors from emerging sailing nations at the ISAF Youth World Championship by funding coaches to help them compete on a more level playing field with those sailors from the better-funded countries. As well as helping with racing skills, the coaches play a vital role in supporting the sailors in all on and off water aspects of the Event and deliver daily briefings and de-briefings to all competitors. It is the Trust's aim to ensure the young sailors return to their home waters enriched by their experience, with new friends and an enhanced love for the sport of sailing.

Hmmm. This seems like a pretty good idea to help these kids and make the game fairer. But I'd still like to see those damn mommy boats banned at the kind of regattas I sail in.

Related Posts
Mommy Boats
Ban Mommy Boats NOW
The Other Side of the Argument
Bad Mommies
One Hundred Mommy Boats
Mommies Gone Wild
A Wise Man Once Said
Sailing and Baseball

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Are Laser Sailors Crazy?

I might be crazier than I had imagined.

Last week I was at the Laser Training Center in Cabarete in the Dominican Republic attending a 4-day Laser racing clinic followed by a 1-day regatta. There were about 18 sailors on the clinic, mainly from the USA but also from Europe and Japan, including a bunch of us from southern New England who already knew each other. We sailed every day in all sorts of winds and wave conditions. We listened to instruction on the finer points of Laser sailing from head coach Rulo. We watched videos of us Laser sailing and videos of good sailors Laser sailing. We discussed sailing over breakfast. We discussed sailing over dinner. Speaking purely for myself I also dreamed about sailing. I didn't wear socks or long pants all week.

The picture above is of me, surfing down a wave, crossing the finish line of the final race on Saturday. I do recall that I was whooping, "Woo hoo!" in celebration of completing a fantastic week of sailing in warm weather and warm water. In January! Woo hoo!

In the few hours of free time last week when I was not sailing or learning about sailing or talking about sailing or dreaming about sailing, I read a book. The book was not about sailing; it was about madness.

The book was The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson. Among other things the book explores the theory that many important CEOs and politicians are actually psychopaths.

The book also takes aim at the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association which attempts to list every known mental disorder. The first edition of DSM was only 65 pages long, but the latest edition is 943 pages long and lists 374 different mental disorders. Of course the drug companies love this. The more disorders there are, the more opportunity there is to market drugs to "treat" all these disorders. But it is certainly questionable whether the DSM now labels as mental disorders many ordinary behaviors which are perhaps only slightly unusual or a little difficult for others to deal with.

In The Psychopath Test Ronson describes how he got hold of a copy of DSM and was quickly able to diagnose himself with 12 different mental disorders. There was Arithmetic Learning Disorder (sums are hard for him) and Parent-Child Relational Problem (tense homework situation with his mother brought on by sums being hard) and Caffeine Induced Disorder (feeling jittery after drinking coffee) and so on and so on. Ronson concluded that he was much crazier than he had previously imagined.

I haven't seen the DSM but I wouldn't be at all surprised if there is a mental disorder called Irrational Exuberant Vocalization Disorder (IEVD). This is characterized by spontaneous utterances of incoherent and meaningless whoops and squeals, sometimes accompanied by tics such as pumping one fist in the air. If there was a video, and not a still shot, of me crossing the finish line in that race on Saturday you would clearly see and hear that I am suffering from IEVD. I might be crazy after all.

On the plane ride back from the Dominican Republic on Sunday afternoon I began to realize that IEVD might be much more common than I had imagined. From time to time the quiet atmosphere of the darkened airplane cabin would be punctuated with infantile squeals of glee emanating from otherwise apparently normal American male adults. It seemed like half the men on the plane had IEVD. I saw a man across the aisle in front of me pumping both fists in the air and heard him emit a few screams of "woo hoo" after which he was blathering "yes yes yes" and drooling a little.

What on earth was going on? I got up to walk to the bathroom at the back of the plane and on my return I noticed that most of the seat-back TV screens were tuned to some channel which was showing that weird American game where men in tight pants bend over with their bums in their air and then run into each other and fall over when the pretty white boy throws a pointy object away. It seemed that all the IEVD sufferers were watching this channel. How odd!

Anyway, I need to get hold of a copy of DSM to see if I am really crazy. Perhaps all Laser sailors are crazy?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Dancing Girls

Who says you can't have dancing girls at a boat show? They did at the London Boat Show in 2010.

Go for it New England.

Boat Shows

What do boaters do in the winter when it's too cold actually to go boating? (Not counting those crazy frostbite sailors of course.)

Well, it's kind of a tradition in these chilly northern climes to check out a boat show or two. Kick the tires (metaphorically speaking) on all those expensive yachts that you will never be able to afford to buy. Talk to the sales people and do some comparison shopping on the boats that you might actually be able to afford to buy. Visit the stands of all the other vendors for everything boaty under the sun - from resorts to refrigerators, trailers to telephones, binoculars to bilge pumps. I usually leave a boat show having bought huge bags full of nautical swag of various sorts.

Of course not all boat shows are equal. When I used to live in the UK I was spoiled. The London Boat Show is amazing and the Dinghy Show at Alexandra Palace was even more my cup of tea (as we say in England.) When I first came to the US I was somewhat disappointed to discover that some apparently important boat shows have nothing but powerboats. Yes, it is true that if you Google "best powerboat blog on the planet" you will arrive at Proper Course. But I'm not actually a powerboat guy; I'm a sailor. If I'm going to go to a boat show, I want to see sailboats and sailboat stuff.

But some boat shows in the US don't have any sailboats at all. (Or hardly any.) Can you believe it possum? I was most disappointed in that regard when, on our first week in the US in 1989, we went to the New York Boat Show. And there is another boat show, not a million miles from where I live now, that it is mocked every year by a group of guys from Sailing Anarchy who meet up for a few beers first and then proceed to have their photo taken in front of what they consider to be the most hideous powerboat in the show.

But I digress. There is a boat show in New England next month that definitely looks like it's worth a visit. It is called, strangely enough, the New England Boat Show. It's at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center from February 11-19.  And right at the top of the Features page on their website there is an article about something called SailFest. And it says...

Featuring the latest in Sailboats for your racing and cruising pleasure. See, board and explore sailboats from 8’ to 42’ from more than twenty manufacturers. Shop more than 100 booths of sailing related products and services including sailmakers, canvas, sailboat hardware, cordage, marine electronics, rigging equipment and services, time share companies offering large sailboats for fractional ownership, sailing schools, foul weather gear, sailing gear, clothing.

(OK. I admit it. I bolded all those references to sails and sailing and sailboats. I was just so excited to see them.)

Wait. Boston Convention Center? One of my three readers works just across the road from there. Let's do lunch. Have your people tweet my people.

Wait. Where was I? Oh yes, New England Boat Show.

Another pet peeve of mine about boat shows is that some of them are just rows and rows of vendor booths pushing their products or services. When I go to a boat show I want to be entertained and educated too. I want stuff going on that is not all about trying to make me buy a bilge pump or a seat cushion (neither of which would be of much use to me on a Laser anyway.) I want seminars. I want interactive exhibits. I want to meet famous sailors. I want scuba diving lessons. I want Jimmy Buffett. I want dancing girls... No wait. I'm getting a bit carried away here. But you get the idea.

And it does look as if the organizers of the New England Boat Show have made the effort to offer many of my "wants" (but perhaps no dancing girls this year?) There's a chance to meet Abby Sunderland, the youngest solo sailor ever to circumnavigate the globe. There is radio-controlled sailboat racing. There are seminars on all sorts of yachtie topics from How to use your boat's radio to Lines and knots, from How to love the fog to Ethanol. Mmmm. I love ethanol.

And there is a Power Boat Docking Challenge. Hmmm. After that little incident with the fuel dock in Stamford on my Bareboat Cruising Preparation course I think I'll keep clear of any docking challenges that might be watched by persons of a nervous disposition. I didn't really totally demolish the fuel dock... honestly. Well, it didn't actually explode... much.

Where was I? Oh yes. The New England Boat Show.

Oh look. There's even a booth devoted to Old Charts of New England where you can learn about "the history behind the surveying of the U.S. coast, how chart making got its start in the United States and the importance nautical charts played in the growth of our nation." I'll definitely have to check that out. I have one of those old coastal survey charts on my wall, a much appreciated present from my son when we moved into this house. I would love to learn more about how it fits into the history of chart making in this region.

OK. That's it. I'm definitely going to go to the New England Boat Show. Any readers or other bloggers from New England want to join me?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Steam and Spray

Steam and Spray - a great article by Ned Hepburn (one of the Puma Ten) on The Classical. He does a terrific job of capturing the excitement of racing in Abu Dhabi on Mar Mostro in the pro-am race.

Here is one extract to give you the flavor...

Ken Read asks you to grab the steering wheel for a while and you feel how surprisingly mallable the thing is; it's not unlike steering a Cadillac. It's a giant fucking thing; wide as a card table and as tempermental as one too... you can barely keep the thing from going haywire. "Hands at 10 and 2!" you hear in your head, some distant driving instructor from a decade ago tells you. You pull hard to the right. The boat makes the sound a camel might while achieving sexual climax except LOUD and INCREDIBLY FUCKING CLOSE to you – everyone lurches in the opposite direction as the team swerves to avoid the fucking French boat; those Gallic bastards not knowing the havoc they caused on the American boat.

Check out Steam and Spray for the full article.

I Will Go Sailing No More

There she is. A typical Newport yachtie. Sails her yacht in the Newport-Bermuda Race. Hangs out on St. Barts. Seems to have lots of rich friends. Is apparently something of a genius in dealing commodity futures.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Liza Baldwin was running a Ponzi scheme and defrauded her victims out of millions of dollars. She talked a good game but today she was sentenced to 30 years at the Rhode Island Adult Correctional Institute, with 8 to serve, and ordered to pay $7.9M in restitution.

No more sailing for you Ms. Baldwin.


the romanian mob
Photo by jonrawlinson on flickr

This week my old friends in the sailing blogosphere have been acting... well, like old men.

O Docker was moved to such a state of apoplexy by the achievements of a group of talented young people that he spluttered the blasphemous question, "Is blogging dead?"

Joe Rouse seems to have been visiting the wayback files and sounds like my mother-in-law when he asks "Computers, Are They The Wave Of The Future?"

And Yarg has apparently spent all the winter in his basement pursuing such rewarding pastimes as sanding and varnishing shovel and rake handles while listening to 70's music. Sheesh!

It's time for an intervention. Really people, you need to get out on a boat some time in the near future. Yarg and I and some other sailing buddies are jetting away next week to the Dominican Republic for some serious Laser action in Cabarete. Joe and O, you need to get your butts off that park bench and do something similar.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Bloggers Go Sailing

The Puma Ten got to go out sailing on Mar Mostro in Abu Dhabi today. Looks like they had a wonderful time.

Here's Brian DiFeo at the helm of Mar Mostro.

photo taken by takingyerphoto

And Yimmyayo posted this picture with the comment, "Steering a 6 million dollar boat. No Biggie."

Yimmyayo also tweeted, "Easily one of the most enjoyable things I've ever done in my life."

And Jamie Beck of From Me To You tweeted, "I think I have a new hobby after today."

I think they get it!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Just Cruisin' Around The Harbor

Originally posted by frommetoyou, one of the Puma Ten bloggers in Abu Dhabi this week.

From Me To You

Check out more stunning photos of the Volvo Ocean Race Village in Abu Dhabi posted by Jamie on her blog From Me To You. Jamie is one of the ten bloggers sent by Puma to cover the VOR in Abu Dhabi.

And see more work of the Puma Ten at PUMA Sailing.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


My granddaughter Emily has been attending kindergarten for one term, and now she is the one reading me bedtime stories. Yes, I did get that the right way round. I'm so proud of her.

Say What You Like About The Deaf

On Sunday I raced with the Newport Laser Frostbite Fleet for the first time in a couple of months. As expected, my performance was awful. I could think of a whole host of excuses for my dismal scores - most of which I have mentioned before on this blog - but I don't think I've told you yet about one of my issues (which was a factor on Sunday) - I am a little deaf.

Yes. I don't always hear so well these days. At times it can be a distinct advantage for it to be known that you don't always hear what folk are saying to you. At times you can even deliberately pretend not to hear what is being said. Sentences like, "Will you please stop playing with your computer and come and help me with this," are, for some reason, particularly hard for me to pick up.

It's never been too much of a handicap when racing my Laser. I can usually hear the starting sequence and pretty much all the other race committee signals are visual, right? No, not right! At least not in this fleet.

The race committee had set small orange buoys for the windward mark and the leeward gate. All was fine for the first race which was a simple windward leeward course. But for the second race they signalled a course "H" meaning we had to go Windward – Reach Mark – RC Boat (to starboard) – Leeward – Finish.

But wait. The RC hadn't dropped a reach mark yet. (At least, I couldn't see one.) The race officer was doing a lot of shouting and gesticulating but with the noise of the wind and the waves and all the sails flapping and my warm hat covering my ears and my (very slight) touch of deafness I couldn't quite pick up what he was saying. It's not unusual in this fleet to use one of the government marks in the harbor as a racing mark on occasion, but I didn't see any obvious candidate. I sailed closer to the committee boat.

The race officer was shouting something that sounded like, "Woof woof woof reach mark woof woof red woof woof woof know it's unusual woof woof woof." Hmmm.

They started sounding the horns for the 3-minute starting sequence. As I approached the line I saw one of the fleet captains nearby and shouted to him, "What's the course?"

He turned away from to me to look upwind and waved an arm in the general direction of the windward mark and said, "Woof woof woof windward woof woof woof red woof woof woof." Hmmm.

Now I was really confused. Were we going to use a government mark as the windward mark?

What the hell, I thought, I'll just follow everybody else, like I usually do.

There was a red nun buoy up the course, not as far upwind as the orange buoy we had used as the windward mark in the first race. So I kept all options open and didn't go above the layline to the red nun until I saw others doing so. Maybe the red nun was the reach mark? But it was in a weird spot for an H course.

Eventually I rounded the orange windward mark with the tailenders and said to one of my fellow duffers, "I have no idea where I am going!"

"If I knew where I was going, I wouldn't be here," he replied.

And that was pretty much the story for all my races in my Sunday. In every race, if I had known what I was doing I wouldn't have done what I did.

But it was fun.

And then home to Tillerwoman for a delicious dinner of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.

What's that you say dear? Yes, I will have more gravy, please.

Friggin' in the Riggin'

I'm going to be watching with interest the work of the ten bloggers sent by Puma to Abu Dhabi to report on the Volvo Ocean Race. They look like a talented bunch and they certainly have a different style from your average sailing blogger.

The above picture was posted by Ned Hepburn of http://nedhepburn.tumblr.com/ with the caption friggin' in the riggin'.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Puma Loves Bloggers

Dear blogging friends, you have probably heard the news by now that Puma are sending ten bloggers on an expenses paid trip to Abu Dhabi to cover the Volvo Ocean Race. These lucky bloggers will "photograph and post updates as the competing sailors rest and recharge while participating in short sprints before departing on Jan. 15 for the race’s next stop in Sanya, China."

Woo hoo! Sailing bloggers finally get the recognition they deserve. What a sweet trip that would be!

But who are these top ten sailing bloggers chosen by Puma for the bloggy trip of a lifetime?

Are any of them winners of the prestigious Tilley Award as one of the Top 9 Sailing Blogs of 2011? Is O Docker going? Is Tweezerman? Surely they will be sending Buff Staysail?

Well, I don't know for sure, but I suspect not. Apparently the ten bloggers going to Abu Dhabi don't hang out in the stuffy old yacht clubs of Blogger and Wordpress and Typepad. They inhabit the lively waterfront bars of Tumblr and Instagram. They are the new generation of bloggers. They are the cool kids.

One of the lucky ten is Sean Sullivan who has a tumblr blog called The Impossible Cool. How cool is that possum?

And we have Ned Hepburn who writes real cool stuff on his blog like "fucking tweens. Hey, could you tween assholes NOT strip the attribution from my fucking posts and pass it off as your own? Don’t fucking steal my work." (Above work is attributed to Ned Hepburn.)

Then there is James Nord who writes a tumblr blog called HIGHLIGHTED LIFE on which he reported that he picked up two new bathing suits for his trip to Abu Dhabi. Here he is...

And Ashley Simko and Frommetoyou are going too. As far as I can gather, Ashley is a graphic and interactive designer who is occasionally asked to write about fashion, and Frommetoyou is Jamie who is a photographer in NYC who collects old typewriters.

I don't know who the other five lucky bloggers are, but I wish them all well on this fantastic assignment. I admit I am a little jealous that Puma didn't invite me but I couldn't possibly have gone to the Middle East for a week in the middle of the Newport Laser Fleet frostbiting season anyway. I shall be following the blogs of Sean, Ned, James, Ashley and Jamie over the next few days with great interest.

Update Mon 9 Jan 10:51am: Just tracked down two more of the Talented Ten. Also going to Abu Dhabi are Brian DiFeo the founder of Instagram NYC and Anthony D. of takingyerphoto.

Update Mon 9 Jan 1:09pm: Shortly after arriving in Abu Dhabi, one of the lucky bloggers tweeted, "My site is blocked in the UAE due to questionable / prohibited content." (You can probably guess which one from what I wrote above. Which probably means Proper Course is now blocked in the UAE too.) Oops! I wonder if Puma knew about Internet censorship in the UAE?

Update Mon 9 Jan 5:15pm: Just spotted another of the Puma bloggers in Abu Dhabi. It's Yimmyayo who apparently offers "visual crack for the ocular fiend." Some of the other bloggers on the Puma Ten are obviously talented photographers. Now the Yimmyayo blog is a striking series of photos, but the author says, "The images hosted on this blog have been hunted, culled and collected from the world wide web to be presented as visual stimulus for those viewing. This imagery is not being presented as my own, unless noted under the specific work." Hmmm. A bit like Proper Course without words!

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Why Earwigoagin is the Best Sailing Blog on the Planet

The reason I chose Earwigoagin by Tweezerman as the Best Sailing Blog on the Planet 2011 in my list of Top Sailing Blogs of 2011 is that if I had had to pick one blog, and only one, to read last year it would have been Earwigoagin.

Tweezerman covers sailing from every angle. He writes about his own sailing today, and his own sailing decades ago. He covers current sailing news and sailing history. He has great pictures and great music. At times he educates me; at other times he makes me laugh; he always entertains me.

He wrote a terrific series of article in 2011 about the summer three decades ago when he raced sailed three world championships in five weeks, the International Canoe Worlds, the International 14 Team Racing Championship (the most prestigious event and the defacto world championship at the time apparently) and the actual official International 14 Worlds.

Our man claims that he wasn't World Championship caliber but here's a photo of him leading one race in the International Canoe Worlds...

... and he was a member of the first and only East Coast team to win the International Team Race series. That's our hero on the right, I believe.

These days, it seems that the Classic Moth is Tweezerman's boat of choice and he couldn't resist have a little dig at me (and 200,000 other Laser sailors) with his post on Why a Classic Moth is Better than a Laser. I forgive you, Sir. But even this Moth fanatic has been spotted trying to be a Faux Laser Sailor and he has written 38 other posts about Lasers so he's not all bad.

I love the variety in Earwigoagin. Tweezerman covers the America's Cup and weird European regatta party traditions; he reports on the Volvo Ocean race and reviews pumpkin beer; he has posted several articles about crash boat operation and also some photos of his friend Bob's model boats. I could go on. Always fascinating stuff.

So if you haven't enjoyed the Tweezerman's work before, head over to Earwogoagin and browse around. You won't be disappointed. A very worthy holder of the title Best Sailing Blog on the Planet 2011.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Top 9 Sailing Blogs of 2011

Everyone does top ten lists, but here on Proper Course we have higher standards than most, and only nine blogs on the whole planet achieved the level of excellence required to be one of Tillerman's Top Sailing Blogs of 2011.

1. First up we have Windtraveler, undoubtedly the best blog on the planet about a couple of newlyweds sailing around the world on a 35ft Hallberg Rassy Rasmus.

There is Brittany who is NOT the Brittany with the same last name who blogs about "keeping the fire alive" in relationships, and whose blog is blocked by her company's firewall as being pornographic. And there is Scott who is NOT the Scott with the same last name who is a prolific software development consultant and who seems to be really smart. I love people who tell me who they are NOT in their blog profiles. That appeals to my sense of contrariness.

And then there is Baby Girl who apparently has a Caribbean soul having spent her most formative months in the Islands. With her momma she has swam with sea turtles, snorkeled tropical reefs, sailed through some gnarly squalls, visited over four countries, done a handful of Hash runs, and hiked to waterfalls. Oh, and she's not even born yet! I love sailing blogs that are about people who are not even born yet who go on hash runs.

2. Number 2 on my list of Top Sailing Blogs of 2011 is the deliciously named Doc Häagen-Dazs who writes Time on the Water. He's obviously a good guy because he and his family used to race Lasers back in the 1970's and 1980's. But now he's just another cranky old geezer blogger like me who writes posts about things like this that would never be tolerated on his boat.

I love sailing blogs about intolerance.

3. The third blog on this amazing list of Best Sailing Blogs on the Planet is the misleadingly titled Captain JP's log. It's not a log; it's a blog. And it's not written by Captain JP. The real author is the well-known Australian journalist and sailing personality Buff Staysail who does an excellent job of impersonating a suave, man-about-town from London who supposedly spends his time ice-skating, going to the theater and watching the wild beasts in Shepherd's Bush. But he doesn't fool me. I love sailing blogs that are about the wild beasts in Shepherd's Bush.

4. The fourth blog on my list of Best Sailing Blogs on the Planet of All Time is also somewhat misleading. FrogMa is not a mommy blog for tadpoles, and Bonnie the author is not the mother of a frog. Why would she choose such a ridiculous name for a sailing blog? Bonnie is in fact a hard core Sunfish sailor. She races her Sunfish. She runs Laser regattas. She makes her boyfriend go Sunfish sailing with her. And she even goes Sunfish sailing at the end of December in a typically brutal New York winter. It doesn't get any more hard core than that in the Sunfish world. I love sailing blogs about ladies who are hard core.

5. But the title of Best Sunfish Sailing Blog on the Planet must go to my2fish: a blog about sunfish sailing. Not that my2fish: a blog about sunfish sailing is actually a blog about Sunfish sailing. Of course not. It's actually about Norwegian Laser sailing and how to navigate past the goose. The secret of successful blogging is to choose a niche that nobody is else covering and my2fish has certainly done that for the "Norwegian Laser sailing and navigating past the goose" niche. I love Norwegian goose blogs.

6. Number six on this list of amazing sailing blogs that may or may not be the Best Sailing Blogs in the Solar System is Center of Effort by someone called Judith Krimski who says she is "a graphic designer, freelance sailing writer and blogger of all things one-design sailing" and also "three-time Boston Sailors Regatta Champion." Like me she suffers from a delusion; hers is that she believes that Boston Harbor is the BEST sailing venue in New England. Hmmm.

Anyway, in spite of her delusion, Judith writes a damn good sailing blog, covering such diverse topics as what Judith thinks about in the Laundromat and the sailing achievements of Steve Jobs. No wait. There really is lots of sailing on this blog. She recently scored an interview with elite Laser sailor Clay Johnson where she ventured where no other sailing journalist has dared to venture with her scoop about what really happened to the hair on the back of Clay's legs. No, seriously there are lots of great posts about sailing on this blog. But I do love sailing blogs where ladies talk about men's hairy legs.

7. Number seven - yes possum we nearly are at the end - on this list of the most amazing, fantastic, Bestest Sailing Blogs in the Galaxy is Apparent Wind which apparently is written by a blogging tag team of Annie, Eric and yarg - but it's mainly yarg. Annie, Eric and yarg are apparently "Laser dudes." Ahah. I like blogs by Laser dudes. Apparently yarg is a high school sailing coach and he writes very thoughtful posts on topics such as How Einstein taught sailing, why the America's Cup is like watching gelcoat dry, and how to pack Lasers in a cardboard box.

Apparently his job keeps yarg very busy because he doesn't post all that frequently to Apparent Wind. I wish he would write more often. This blog definitely focuses on quality rather than quantity. Apparent Wind is to Proper Course as Chateau Lafite Rothschild is to Bud Light. Apparently I love sailing blogs that taste like expensive wine with almond and violet aromas.

8. Number eight - almost there possum - on this list of the Bestest Sailing Blogs in the Universe with Almond and Violet Aromas is..... the one and only.... O Dock. What can I say? Unique. Quirky. Original. Amazing. Addictive. Almond and violet aromas. Try it. You'll like it.

9. And finally possum, the winner of the title of Best Sailing Blog on the Planet 2011 is.... Earwigoagin by Tweezerman.