Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sandy Is Coming!

According to ...
The track of the storm is one that is potentially very destructive for the Southern New England coast. It doesn’t matter if it is a pure hurricane or, much more likely, a storm that is becoming extra-tropical, any storm with a central pressure near 950mb when it crosses Eastern Long Island and heads northwest is sure to throw a storm surge and screaming winds into the coast.
Woo hoo!

This could be interesting...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

They don't like it up 'em

I was saddened to hear in last night's presidential debate that the US military doesn't have as many bayonets these days as they did in 1917.

The value of the bayonet as an excellent tool for dealing with uncooperative foreigners was a recurring theme in the BBC television series Dad's Army. Corporal Jones, a World War 1 veteran, was famous for often recounting his experiences using the bayonet in action and reminding anyone who would listen that, "They don't like it up 'em!"


Call me old-fashioned, but I say let's bring back the bayonet.

Fat Boys Regatta 2012

It was an odd day in several respects.

First of all, the Fat Boys Regatta at Bristol YC has been a regular event on the local Laser regatta schedule for many years now. But, although I frequently sail in Bristol and although it's probably the Laser regatta that is closest to my current home where I have lived since 2007, I have never sailed the Fat Boys before. Indeed I've never set foot in Bristol YC before.

I'm not sure why. My son and I were planning to do the Fat Boys in 2008 but went off to play at the waves in Third Beach instead. See Fat Boy and Little Man.

Second of all, the weather was seriously weird. It was foggy in the morning and there was still a light drizzle when we launched from the club around 11am. There was a decent breeze, 8-13 knots say, at the scheduled start time, but as soon as the sun came out it died off to more like 3-6 knots for most of the time. Then, almost like someone suddenly turned a switch on, the wind went right and increased to about 15-20 knots at about 2:45.

Very weird day.

My results were mainly nothing to write home about. So I'll write home about them.

There were 22 boats. In the light winds I was usually finishing around 15th. Not good. But not totally humiliating.

It was obvious after a while that the right usually paid. The guys who went hard right immediately after the start and sailed almost into the shore usually came out ahead. But not always.

I was getting great starts. That's the third weird thing. I think I might finally have overcome my mental barrier to getting up in the first row at starts and fighting for a good hole to accelerate into.

But I never really made the commitment to go hard right in the light winds. There were always lots of shifts that tempted me to tack on headers and sail on lifts instead of continuing to go right. For a while being in the middle looked really good. I was ahead of boats to right and left. Until those fat bastards on the right came roaring in on a huge lift.

Oh well!

But there was one bright spot. After a few races I noticed that after rounding the leeward mark on to the final beat for the finish, there was a band of stronger wind near the layline to the finish line on the left side of the course. I went for it in the last couple of light air races and probably picked up five places each time I did, as everyone else seemed to go right. I don't know why they did that. Maybe they just figured that as it paid on the first beat, it would work again? Anyway, it was good to pass a lot of boats approaching the finish and I think I may have even made the top ten in one of those races. Children can be so cruel at my age.

And then they switched on the wind!

What a contrast. Now it was gut-busting hiking-hard upwind and ohmigod please don't let me capsize downwind. People were capsizing all over the place. I saw one broken mast. I saw one sailor repairing her boat with a screwdriver. I saw one boat that seemed to be on its side for ages being helped by the safety boat.

So I hit the hiking straps and went hard right and was in the top three or four boats at the windward mark in the first heavy air race. Woo hoo! How did that happen? I gybed on to port, headed straight for the leeward mark and just tried to keep the long pointy thing aiming at the sky. The boats near me headed further left but I grimly hung on to my rhumb line course and, out of the corner of my eye, I saw one of my competitors capsize. Ha! I was second at the leeward mark and should have come second in the race but I was so excited to be doing so well that I had a brain freeze about which end to go for on the highly biased finish line, and I was passed at the finish by the young guy who eventually won the regatta.

Hey, third is pretty good for me in this company.

In the second heavy air race I was strictly in survival mode. Just keep the boat going. Don't capsize. Don't capsize. And I somehow scored a fifth! Not too shabby.

I was having so much fun and was looking forward to some more heavy air racing, but the race officer waved for us all to sail back to the club. I discovered later that the safety boat (which was also serving as the mark boat) had somehow got itself literally tangled up with one of the capsized Lasers and so was unable to reset the marks to run some more races.

Oh well. A great day, nevertheless.

I was on such a high that I was still babbling to anyone who would listen about what a great time I had had as we derigged our boats and enjoyed beer and pizza at the awards ceremony.

After the awards (no podium for me - I ended up 12th) one of my friends, who also reads my blog, pointed out that I must have been having fun because I didn't quit this regatta early. He was right. In fact, if you don't count the one day masters regatta at Cabarete in January, this was the first regatta all year in which I had completed all the races.

For a while, early in the year, I was using my back injury as an excuse for quitting before the end of all the races.

Then I was using the excuse that I only do this for fun, and if I wasn't having fun I would quit early. Although this was, of course, really just  another way of saying that I wasn't fit enough to be able to have fun sailing all day.

Maybe my 14 consecutive days of Laser sailing in Menorca really has built up my stamina to where it used to be?

Or maybe my problem was all in my head all along, and I have finally snapped out of my funk?

What an odd day. But in a good way.

I'm all fired up for the start of the frostbiting season now. Bring it on!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Cheat the Nursing Home

Cheat the nursing home. 

Die on your LASER. 

Natural Navigation Quiz

  1. What state are we in? (If you can't guess this one, I'll disown you all.)
  2. Which way are we looking?
  3. What was I standing on to take this photo?
  4. Where is the nearest sailing club?
  5. Where is the nearest boathouse that isn't a boathouse?
  6. What did Tillerwoman and I have for dinner?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Unsolicited Email

I am a bad person.

Sometimes I have fun when I get those unsolicited phone calls selling products I don't need or requesting contributions to sketchy charities that I have never heard of. I string the callers along for a while while gently taking the piss out of them.

I am sure all my fellow bloggers get emails like this from time to time...

I have been working for a while on Storylane, a product that I believe a blog owner like you will appreciate.  
Storylane works like a blogging platform but is social from the ground up. Your content can be categorized by you and then discovered by our fast growing community. Storylane can breath new life into the content you created for your old blog and hopefully connect you with people, places, and ideas that can add value and meaning to your life. 
Would you like to give us a try? join us here and add a story or two (feel free to use stories that are already on your blog)  
Jonathan Gheller
CEO Storylane 

Usually I just ignore them but I couldn't resist replying to this one, as follows...

Thanks for the invitation to join your Storylane product but I am not sure I want to be "social from the ground up." Mine is a sailing blog and so I really want to be social from the water up.  
And I am somewhat concerned by your threat that Storylane can breath new life into the content I created for my old blog. Most of the content on my "old blog" has been dead for years and I think it might get a little shocked if it was brought back to life all of a sudden. It might even get a Jesus complex.  
And speaking for myself I really don't want to connect with people, places, and ideas that can add value and meaning to my life. I have spent 64 years on this earth searching for the meaning of life and I am pretty sure that I've found it with the family and friends I now have, with the place where I now live, and with the ideas I now have. I don't think I could stand any more meaning and value in my life from connecting with Peruvian fire-eating evangelicals or plumbers from Azerbaijan who believe in trickle-down economics, say.  
CEO Proper Course

I really am a bad person.


How long should a sailing practice session be?

Read the blogs of some of the Olympic sailors and you will find that most of them spend many hours on the water each day, for day after day.

On the other hand, I remember reading a post on another blog a couple of years back (might have been Andrew Campbell's blog) that said you could achieve worthwhile results in an hour of two of practice.

But how about this post - Short but Effective Practice - on Jay Livingston's Laser Sailing Notes blog?

Excellence comes from putting one short, well-designed practice session after another short, well-designed practice session. And short can mean just 10 minutes. 
If you think 10 minutes isn’t enough, then let me give you a guarantee; I can improve your Laser sailing dramatically if you will budget just 10 minutes 5 days a week during the off or the on season. I would teach you to visualize flawless boat handling choreography, to understand and memorize one racing rule a week, to create and practice your energizing and settling self-talk, or to build your core strength.
And I’ll bet that most of you are already agreeing with me and few are actually thinking about making that minimal investment.

Wow. 10 minutes? Being basically a very lazy person, I would sign up for that.

Now, to be fair, the examples in Jay's post are more about practice sessions on the land - vizualization, learning a racing rule, working on fitness - than on-the-water sessions. I mean, who goes sailing for only 10 minutes?

But I think he's on to something.

When I go out and practice a skill, I must admit that I find it hard to concentrate on any one given activity for longer than 10 to 30 minutes say. Sure, I can be quite happy sailing around for fun for longer but that's not the same thing.

Maybe "short but effective practice" is worth a second look?

I came back from Minorca Sailing last weekend with a list of skills that I need to work on. Not a huge long list, but I did discover a few things from feedback from instructors, or my own observations, or watching my sailing track in races on GPS that need some work.

One thing is that I'm sure I'm not sailing the boat flat enough in 5-10 knots.

Another is that, although I did pretty well in most of the racing in Menorca, when I did get beaten in a race it was often because I wasn't as well tuned in to the headers and lifts as I should have been.

So on my first sail back in Rhode Island yesterday I worked on both these issues. Just sailed upwind for about 30 minutes concentrating on both issues. Is the boat flat? Am I on a header or a lift? Then had fun sailing downwind for another 30 minutes.

Short? True.

Will it be effective? Time will tell.


Today, October 19, is the anniversary of the death of Henry Tillinghast Sisson.

Regular readers of this blog will know that our friend Henry was a general in the Union Army in the Civil War, a Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island, and he lived just down the road from me in Little Compton. Not at the same time as me, you understand. Old Henry kicked the bucket 102 years ago today, in 1910.

But his lasting contribution to the world is that it was Henry who invented the 3-ring binder.

No. Really.

Where would we be without the 3-ring binder?

Before everyone started storing all their stuff on digital storage devices (or in the "cloud" whatever that is) we kept our stuff in 3-ring binders.

All kinds of stuff. Lecture notes. Tax returns. Technical manuals. Whatever stuff turns you on.

I discovered while watching the television machine on Tuesday evening that some men even have binders full of women! Whatever turns you on dude.

Me, I have binders full of boats. Well, not real boats. Articles about boats that I have clipped from sailing magazines and similar publications over the years. Articles about racing Lasers and tactics and strategy and fitness for sailing and racing rules etc. etc. etc.

My binders full of boats sit on a bookshelf in my man cave.

I hardly ever look at them.

If I want to find out something about boats these days I use the Google.

I really should look at my binders full of boats more often.

I could find interesting stuff in there to blog about, I'm sure.

So on this day, October 19, give thanks for the life of Henry Tillinghast Sisson, inventor of the 3-ring binder.


What's that you say?

You wanted to see a binder full of women?

Oh. All right then.

What do you have in your binders?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Breaking News

A boat went out for a sail around the bay yesterday.

It capsized near a bridge.

It got broken a bit.

Nobody got hurt or drowned or anything bad like that.

All my favorite blogs seem to be posting videos of the boat capsizing.

What's the big deal?

Real sailing boats capsize all the time.

That's not news.

Get over it people.

I think I'll mow the lawn now.

That's not news either really.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Last Blast

My last morning at Minorca Sailing.

We start our journey home this afternoon.

It was blowing Force 4 this morning with a forecast to build during the day.

It was the day of the pursuit race, but I opted to go for a blast by myself around Fornells Bay. In a Laser, of course.

I left the beach on port tack sailing upwind, sailed about two thirds of the way across the bay, and tacked on to starboard. I was heading due north towards the mouth of the bay.

Woo hoo!

I could make a break for freedom on the open sea!

It's only 300 miles or so to Marseilles.

Cheat the nursing home. Die on your Laser!

I think the Minorca Sailing rescue service was watching me.

As soon as I got as far north as Fornells Harbor they sent a safety boat out to keep an eye on me.

Only kidding guys.

I sailed up and down the bay all morning.

Some running. Lots of reaching.

Screaming planing reaches even.

I stopped for a while on the east side of the bay to rest and just soak in the surroundings.

Man, I love this place.

When I die, I don't want to go to heaven. I want to go to Minorca Sailing.

All too soon, it was time to head back to the beach. To have some lunch, dry my clothes, pack my bags, and head for the airport.

Life is good.

I hear it's going to be below freezing tonight back home.


PS. If you found this post via the Google because you were looking for information about the Last Blast Regatta at Quannapowitt YC tomorrow, the NOR is here.  I wonder who will win the first race this year?

PPS. This post about my 53rd Laser sail of 2012 is sponsored by Prairie Dog Granola Bars - "healthier than chewing tobacco and you don't have to spit."

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Cheesy Poofs 52nd Laser Sail of 2012

A few weeks ago my wise friend yarg wrote a brilliant post on his blog titled The Self-Imposed Agony of Defeat in which he bemoaned the fact that athletes in all sports can become so competitive and so serious that they forget that playing sports is supposed to be fun. If you are racing your sailboat and it becomes such a grind that it isn't fun any more, then why don't you decide more often to quit racing and go off on a screaming planing reach just for fun?

Good question.

Today is my thirteenth day at Minorca Sailing.

In the last twelve days I have raced a five day ten race series, a one day three race regatta, a pursuit race, and another five day ten race series. In other words I have raced every day for twelve days.

In the same twelve days, I have also attended ten sailing classes and done sailing drills for a couple of hours on eight days.

I may have lost count somewhere. You do sometimes at my age. But that's roughly right.

The amazing thing is that I'm not burned out. I've enjoyed every minute of it and wake up every morning refreshed and looking forward to more of the above.

Today we had a class about sail settings and then some starting drills. It was fun. But then the wind picked up from the southwest, the best wind we have had in the last few days, and our wise instructor decided to let us spend the rest of the morning doing screaming planing reaches. That was even more fun.

This afternoon was the scheduled weekly regatta. I won it last week so decided to skip the regatta and go off doing some more screaming planing reaches on my own. I mean, how many ecru sailing hats does one man need?

Besides, it's my last afternoon here and I think twelve consecutive days of racing is enough. It wasn't quite as windy this afternoon as this morning but there were some nice juicy gusts at times.

Life is good.

I think I'll take a nap now.

This post, about my 52nd day of Laser sailing this year, is sponsored by Cheesy Poofs. "I love Cheesy Poofs, you love Cheesy Poofs, if we didn't eat Cheesy Poofs, we'd be lame."

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Powdermilk Biscuits 51st Laser Sail of 2012

Well, it's been a quiet day in Ses Sailines, the little village that time forgot and the decades cannot improve, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.

No. Wait.

I'm pretty sure that's somewhere else.

But it was a quiet day at Minorca Sailing today.

The topic for the day in the Advanced Laser Class was "Starts."

God knows I need to improve my starts.

At 10:00 am, there was no wind.

The instructor gave us his prepared talk about starting tactics.

At 10:30 there was still no wind.

We continued the class with random questions on every Laser sailing topic under the sun.

At 11:00 there was still no wind.

We discussed options. Paddle-boarding anyone?

I opted to go for a swim in the pool.

Then lunch. I now know the Spanish for, "A tuna and tomato roll, please."

After lunch a light northerly wind filled in. Winds always "fill in" here. Eventually.

I went down to the beach. It was the last day of the race series. I checked the results so far. I did some mental higher mathematics and worked out that I had clinched the series already, even if I didn't sail today. But I think it's disrespectful to your competition to refuse to race in such circumstances. Anyway I'm not entirely confident in my ability to do mental higher mathematics after I have had two beers for my lunch with my tuna and tomato roll. So I sailed anyway.

The Swiss lady was super fast in the light air and won the first race by a huge margin. The Scottish lady and I tussled all round the course. I scraped the windward mark on the last lap and did a 360. The Scottish lady passed me. I caught her on the next reach and just established an overlap at the gybe mark. I held on to take second and she was third. After the race we discussed how she could have defended better at the gybe mark. It's that kind of vibe here. We all help each other.


In the second race I came into the line with about 30 seconds to the gun, luffed up to leeward of the Swiss lady, pulled the trigger first and was away. No way was she going to beat me twice in the same day. Children can be so cruel at my age.

I rounded the windward mark in first place with the Scottish lady not far behind. She eventually caught me on the second beat by playing the shifts better. That whole business about lifts and headers is something I need to work on. Once she was ahead I couldn't catch her. I was second, with the Swiss lady third.

So all three of us had four points for the day, and they each beat me once. A fair end to the series. I think they are tied on points for second place with the Swiss lady winning the tie-breaker. We will see at the awards party tomorrow night.

When I returned to the beach after a celebratory sail around the bay, Tillerwoman was waiting for me.

She had had a very bad afternoon. Had a minor disaster in fact. The sort of disaster that rarely happens in the quiet little village of Ses Salines.

She was knitting by the hotel pool, and her knitting pattern blew into the pool!!!

Damn wind!!!

She had to jump into the pool to retrieve it!!!

Oh, the humanity!!!

This post was sponsored by Powdermilk Biscuits,  which give shy persons the strength to get up and do what needs to be done. Heavens, they're tasty and expeditious.


My sailing pants are getting a little holy.

I think it's time to retire them.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Beaten by a Girl

One of the asymmetric sailors walked across to me after racing this afternoon and said in an accusatory tone, "I hear you got beaten by a woman." Emphasis on "woman."

His wife was standing by us.

"Yes," I said, "I was beaten by a girll!" Emphasis on girl.

Oh god! I did it again. I used the G word. I hope his wife wasn't offended when I called her a "girl." I got into a lot of trouble a couple of years ago using the G word. I was publicly admonished on the Interwebs by the chairman  of the US Olympic sailing program, no less, for referring to female sailors as "girls." I wrote the case for the defense in my post Girls on Keelboats.

Perhaps if the chairman of the US Olympic sailing program had devoted a bit more attention to working out how to win Olympic medals for the US in sailing in 2012 instead of having a go at a random old geezer blogger, he might not now be the former chairman of the US Olympic sailing program?

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes. Getting beaten by a girl.

It's true.

It became apparent after a couple of days of drills and races, that the talent in our Laser group this week at Minorca Sailing consists of two female sailors, one from Switzerland - one from Scotland, and myself. We three tend to end up near the front in most of the drills and races. The two ladies race Laser Radials back home but have been racing full rig Lasers this week in the light winds we have had the last few days. I think that was a wise decision for them. They are lighter than me and if you are heavy enough and skilled enough to sail a Laser flat upwind in the prevailing conditions (and they are) it can only help to be many tens of pounds lighter than the fat old geezer in the orange hat. (Me.)

In the first three days of racing, the Swiss lady and I have shared the wins in the races.

Today the Swiss lady decided to sail a Radial. I think she felt that maybe she would have an even better chance to beat me with the handicap advantage that she would have in a Radial rig.

The Scottish lady opted to stick with the full rig and she beat me fair and square in the first race today. She was sailing higher and faster and smarter on the first beat and led me around all three laps.

So yes, I was beaten by a girl, I mean female sailor.

I hope she wasn't offended that I called her a girl. You have to be so careful using words like that these days. I only meant it as a self-deprecatory comment against myself and a compliment to her own youthfulness. Shouldn't a lady who is a mother of three teenagers be pleased to be called a girl? Perhaps, as she is Scottish, I should have called her a "wee lassie?" Or, then again, maybe not. I have discovered the hard way that drawing attention to a woman's weight or size never turns out well.

Anyway I was beaten by a girl.

"I bet you won't blog about that!" said her husband.

Monday, October 08, 2012


Today, Monday, marks the tenth or maybe eleventh day we have been at Minorca Sailing.

The days are starting to blend together in my memory in a pleasant haze. Memories of sunny days on the water, leisurely lunches in the sunshine on the hotel patio, and evening strolls to local restaurants. I can't remember any more what happened what day, or even what day it is. Weekends lose their meaning when every day is like a weekend.

The last few days have brought mainly lightish winds of Force 1 to 3, with plenty of sun. We have had sailing classes every morning and Laser races every afternoon and sometimes video debriefs in the evening too.

I think we worked on upwind sailing and downwind sailing and tacks and gybes in the classes, but we have also done other stuff. We've done drills and drills and more drills. My head is spinning trying to remember all the drills.

I finally discovered how to do roll tacks in very light winds. I've been struggling with this for years. Every coach and every book seems to teach it a slightly different way and none of them seemed to be working for me. But the method demonstrated by our instructor this week did work for me and all of a sudden I can do (totally illegal) extreme roll tacks in hardly any wind that can accelerate the boat to an alarming speed coming out of the tack. Woo hoo!

I have also learned the totally useless skill of how to tack a Laser by walking around the back of the boom. Quite spectacular and very silly.

I have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in one Laser race by failing to predict how an RS100 would gybe and round the last leeward mark of the race in front of me, thereby getting trapped outside him as he soooo sloooooowly picked up speed after his gybe and then got trapped below him as my Laser opponent came round the mark behind the RS100, tacked immediately for the finish line and beat me by many boat-lengths. Duh! Sometimes I am so dumb. (The asymmetrics start separately from us and and are scored separately but race around the same buoys.)

And I made a miraculous comeback from deep in the fleet in another race when the wind died and I stole an inside overlap at a gybe mark thereby putting myself on the left of my fellow Laserites when the wind eventually filled in from the left and I was the the first to get over into the new wind and lead the fleet around the leeward mark and to the finish. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.

I think I could bear to live this kind of life indefinitely.

Do we really have to go home on Friday?

Sunday, October 07, 2012


On Friday evening a whole bunch of new sailors arrived at Minorca Sailing, and on Saturday the weekly cycle started again. Same schedule of classes and races but with different instructors running each class and with a whole different bunch of sailors participating.

I'm excited about the change.

In the first week there were only four sailors in the Advanced Laser Class and usually only the four of us racing Lasers in the afternoons. The other three sailors (one man and two women) were much lighter than me so they sailed Radials all the time, with the women sometimes switching to 4.7 rigs when it got more windy. I sailed a Laser full rig in all the races as it never got much above 12 knots except for the class on the first morning. The races were scored on handicap so, in theory, everyone had an equal chance to win, but the pattern was always that I would get out in front of the other sailors in the smaller rigs early in the race, and just sail as fast as I could in an attempt to get far enough ahead of them to try and win each race on handicap.

So it was almost a pure boatspeed and wind strategy contest. There was almost no boat to boat tactics involved. No crowded mark roundings. No trying to work out which boats to cover up the beats. No working out how to pass other boats downwind. It was good for working on sailing fast in a straight line, but so much was missing.

But on Saturday morning this week, eight of us turned up for the same class. And on Saturday afternoon there were ten Lasers racing. I've been to regattas in the US with fewer boats.

Even better, everyone was in full rigs. A couple of the women are threatening to switch to Radials if it gets windier, but up to now we have had drills and races with everyone in full rigs.

Another plus point is that there has been close competition up and down the fleet. The top four or five sailors (including myself) are pretty close in ability so it looks as if we are in for an exciting week of tight racing with lots of boat to boat tactics and close-quarters combat.

Let the games commence!

Saturday, October 06, 2012


I love pursuit races.

At my first sailing club, at Taplow Lake near Slough in England, all of the regular weekly racing was pursuit racing. We had four fleets, Toppers, Miracles, Enterprises and Lasers, I think they were. We would start racing at intervals determined by the boats' Portsmouth Yardstick handicaps, slowest fleet first. Then we would race a zig-zag course around the fixed buoys scattered around the lake, which was usually so complicated that you would have to write the course on the back of your hand to remember it.  HP BP DS JP CS AS LP or something like that. After a certain fixed time, in theory if everyone had sailed perfectly to their handicaps, all the boats should have been at the same spot. Of course they never were so the boat in front was the winner, and so on down all the boats in the club.

The Lasers were the fastest fleet so we started last. I always thought that was an extra handicap because you can waste a lot of time trying to overtake half a dozen Enterprises, say, on short legs of the course, while the lead Topper (who started first) was sailing in clear air way ahead of everybody. This was one of the first excuses I ever devised in a long career spanning over thirty years of thinking up excuses for not winning sailboat races.

So pursuit racing is not perfectly fair but it is fun.

At my second club at Rutland Water, we had more one-design fleet racing but, as I recall, we had at least one pursuit race for all the dinghies and catamarans once a month. I vividly remember racing in those pursuit races against the future Olympic silver medallist John Merricks when he was just a kid in a 420. But he was a damn fast kid in a 420 even then.

At my sailing club in New Jersey, Hunterdon Sailing Club, we had a pursuit race called the Little Brown Jug which was held on the July 4 weekend and was raced on a long course covering as much of Spruce Run Reservoir as was practical. It was always a lot of fun. I do remember hurling insults at the club curmudgeon as I overtook him in the Little Brown Jug one year.

The last three times I have been at Minorca Sailing they have held a pursuit race on the Friday morning, typically the last opportunity to sail for all the guests leaving on the main flight back to the UK later that day. Last year I almost won the pursuit race on the last day of our vacation but was passed near the end of the race by some ringer I hadn't seen all week in an RS200 (I think) who turned out to have won the UK Nationals in Larks several times.

On Friday this week, I had another shot. The course was a square box- a beat, a starboard tack reach, a run, and a port tack reach. The wind was Force 3 to 4. The length of the race would be about 1 hour 35 minutes for Lasers; obviously longer for slow boats and shorter for fast boats. We started at our designated times in a Le Mans style start running from a start line on the beach to our boats held ready for us by instructors in the shallow water.

The Laser 4.7s went first. Then several minutes later a sole Laser Radial. Then a Laser 2000 helmed by the mother of one of the instructors. Then a few seconds later, me in a Laser full rig. The RS100s were scheduled to start several minutes after me.

I passed the Laser 2000 before the first mark of the course. So far so good.

The RS100s started shortly before I completed my first lap. In theory they were faster than me but I actually passed them on the next lap, establishing a lead of over a lap on them which held for the rest of the race.

The next boat to catch was the Laser Radial. I finally reeled him in on the top reach on one lap, overtaking him to windward.

That left only the two Laser 4.7s being sailed by female sailors from my class for the week. I caught one about half way through the morning, but only seemed to be gaining slowly on the other one. She had a lead of over two legs of the course on me when I started and she seemed to be maintaining a healthy lead for most of the race. I gained a bit on every beat, and on reaches when the conditions were such that the full rig would plane and the smaller 4.7 rig wouldn't.

Eventually I passed her near the top of the beat on the 6th or 7th or 8th lap. Really. I lost count. It was about ten minutes before the end of the race, so I just had to stay ahead of all the boats for that time to win.

I did.

Children can be so cruel at my age.

I think I'll take a nap now.

Crudo es la Nueva Naranja

Most days when we go down to the beach at 10am for the briefing on the morning sailing activities at Minorca Sailing, there is no wind. The briefing always starts off with the head instructor, Ian, giving us the weather forecast for the day, and he invariably promises that the wind will "fill in" later in the morning from some direction or other.

He is invariably correct. It does fill in. Although not always from the promised direction.

However, on Thursday, by the time we were all ready to go sailing there was still no wind.

Various options were offered.

We could be towed down to Fornells for coffee and ice cream, or we could play volleyball on the beach.

Volleyball was the most popular option. But not for me. I don't do team sports. There's no me in team.

So the grumpy old geezer in the orange hat went off for a relaxing swim in the pool, while the other Laser sailors wore themselves out playing volleyball. Apparently they also went out for a short, intensive section of starting practice when the wind filled in just before lunch. Not me though. I was having a nap by the pool, saving my strength for the big event of the week, the Thursday afternoon regatta.

By the time of the regatta it was blowing force 3 to 4 and, as a result of my fiendish strategy of getting my competition to wear themselves out playing volleyball, I managed to win the regatta. Children can be so cruel at my age.

So at the prize-giving on Thursday evening I collected two gold medals (one each for the series and the regatta) and a cool Minorca Sailing hat in a fashionable shade of ecru.

Ecru is the new orange.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Los limpiadores del camión hacen swish, swish, swish,

I'm sorry people. I've left Senorita Cuarenta y Tres on the front page for as long as I can, but it's time to move on with the story of my Minorca Sailing vacation.

On Wednesday, it was time for one of my favorite things about Minorca Sailing, the famous "sea sail" - the morning when, weather conditions permitting, we are allowed to leave the Bay of Fornells and go out sailing on the wild and woolly Mediterranean Ocean. (It is an ocean isn't it?)  Last year we attempted this on a light wind day and barely made it out of the bay before we had to turn round. I wrote about this at Sea Sail. The next week we had a marvelous time outside the bay sailing on waves, although I don't think I ever got round to blogging about that day.

Anyway, winds were pretty light on Wednesday morning but our little band set out with high hopes.

And we made it! We escaped the bay and sailed outside!

Tillerwoman clambered over the rocks and took some photos of us.

Here is me (in the Laser with no window in the sail) about to make my escape...

And here we all are on the open sea...


When we were having our group blogging project about photography a few months back, one of my wise readers commented that it's hard to take photos of sailing boats from shore with a cheap compact camera without the boats looking like little white dots. I guess this photo proves the wise one correct.

I think I might be the third white dot from the right.

Anyway, not long after we left the bay the winds got even lighter and our instructors deemed it prudent to start sailing back.

Things got a little silly on the return sail. The folks in the Laser group this week all seemed to have a good sense of humor, in some cases even more bizarre than mine. One chap started singing a song which I didn't recognize but it did sound a little bawdy So I started competing by singing "Wheels on the Bus" - the song that always seems to go with sailing especially in Menorca.

This time, Tillerwoman was a little closer and managed to capture me demonstrating the actions that go with the line, "The wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish!" I'm pretty sure this is the first time anyone has ever done this on a Laser.

In the afternoon I won both races to clinch my victory in the Laser series for the week.

I think I'll take a nap now.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Cuarenta y Tres!

On Tuesday at Minorca Sailing the topic of the lesson and the drills in the Advanced Laser Class was "sail setting."

And in the afternoon we had two races.

More significantly this was my 43rd day of Laser sailing this year.

Every time I complete my 43rd sail of the year, it seems to generate enormous excitement among some of my male readers.

And that's all I'm going to say about that...

Tuesday, October 02, 2012


Most people don't like negative feedback. It can be painful and embarrassing to have someone else draw attention to your faults.

If your girlfriend tells you she is dumping you because you have bad breath, you have two reasons to be ticked off.

If your boss tells you that you won't be getting a raise this year because you have an abrasive personality and that he has had complaints about you from your customers and your colleagues, you will not be a happy camper.

And if your wife tells you that you wake her up every night with your snoring and that she doesn't understand why you never remember to put the toilet seat down then you will probably be deeply hurt.

At least that's how I imagine you would feel. I have never experienced any of these scenarios personally, of course. But you get my point.

But sometimes you welcome negative feedback.

If you are a crap Laser sailor like me and you go off on vacation to take some Laser classes and the instructors actually point out some things that are wrong with the way you sail a Laser that you weren't even aware you were doing wrong, then you will be delighted.

Bring it on.

The more insults the better.

The more reasons you can spot why I am a crap Laser sailor, the more things I can work on improving, and the more chance there is that one day I won't be quite such a crap Laser sailor.

Such was the case on Monday, the third day of my Minorca Sailing vacation this year. The topic was downwind sailing and the instructor noticed that when adjusting my course on reaches, and even more so when rounding marks, I was using my rudder to steer too much and not using my body weight to heel the boat to make it turn.


Of course I knew that using the rudder too much would slow the boat down.

What I didn't know was that I was an blatant offender against this, one of the primary rules of boat speed.

Perhaps that's why I'm always so slow at windward marks and gybe marks, and why other boats always seem to be able to overtake me at these points?


And I really appreciated it when one of the instructors commented on a fault in my roll tacking style (if you can call it that) just as I crossed the finish line to win the race by a huge margin. I'd much rather have feedback like that than a pat on the back and a "Well done!"

But I'm pretty sure that Tillerwoman is wrong when she says that I snore.

Monday, October 01, 2012


The last two times I have spent a couple of weeks at Minorca Sailing, I have spent one week taking Laser classes and doing Laser racing, and the other week learning to sail asymmetric spinnaker boats like the RS Vareo and the RS 100. It was fun learning to sail a totally different style of boat.

But a couple of weeks ago, while chatting with my son about this year's Minorca Sailing trip, I found myself pondering whether I should do Laser sailing and nothing but Laser sailing for all two weeks in Menorca. "I wonder how much I would improve my Laser skills if I took Laser classes every morning for two weeks and spent every afternoon racing Lasers and practicing Laser sailing."

I think my son thought I was going crazy.

Maybe I am.

It's probably a symptom of my recent change in attitude to Laser sailing that I wrote about in Swinging Back...

For the last couple of years I seem to have had the attitude of, "I only do Laser sailing for fun. I am a crap Laser sailor and will always be a crap Laser sailor. I don't even have the stamina to sail all day at most regattas and it's OK to quit before I get really tired. I only do Laser sailing for fun."

Now I seem to be swinging back to thinking, "It may be a delusion that I can become a better Laser sailor but it will be fun trying to improve my sailing and racing skills. If I can really focus on Laser sailing I might actually not be quite such a crap Laser sailor."

In any case, I'm not going be sailing the RS series boats in New England. There's no sign that their sales are taking off there. So why bother to learn to sail boats that I can't sail back home?

So that's the plan this year in Menorca. Sail Lasers all day every day for two weeks and see what difference that makes.

Well, that was the plan until Sunday, the second day of our vacation when a heavy rain storm hit the area on Sunday morning and sailing was cancelled for the morning.

In the afternoon we sailed two races, in Lasers of course.

I learned two things (or maybe it was really one thing) about starting on a pin favored line.

In race 1, I learned that it is a really good strategy to start a little way up the line from the pin, with a good gap to leeward to accelerate into, so that you don't get tangled up with the boats desperately trying to luff around the pin, and so that you can power right over the top of aforementioned luffing boats and look back at the sad little faces of the sailors in aforementioned boats. Children can be so cruel at my age.

In race 2, I learned that it is a really bad strategy to start so close to the pin that you can't lay it and have to try and luff round it, and then you hit it and have to do a 360 before you even start racing and then you have to look at the transoms of the whole fleet disappearing towards the horizon. Children can be so cruel to people of my age.

But it was all good experience.

After a hot drink with something alcoholic in it and a hot shower and a bit of stretching and a bit of a nap, it was off to Ca Na Marga for some tomato soup and steak kebabs all washed down with a bottle of red Spanish plonk.

Life is good.

I think I'll take a nap now.