Thursday, May 30, 2013

Crazy People

There has been so much tiresome nonsense written in various forums recently about the whole "Let's make the game of Laser sailing better by giving all of our money to the lawyers and suing each other because a Laser isn't really a Laser any more it's really a Torch... or something" saga.

People who aren't class members trying to tell us class members how we should run our class.

People who admit they aren't lawyers trying to pontificate about complex legal matters.

People who don't even know their breach from their breech.

For the record this is a breach. It is all about when something or somebody breaks something. Like a contract for example.

On the other hand, this is a breech. It means the back end of something. You wear breeches to cover your breech.

If someone writes about "breech of contract" they are talking out of their breech.

But I really should be more charitable and stop making fun of my fellow sailors. God knows I've written more than my fair share of ill-informed utter nonsense in my time on this blog. So apologies to anyone who is offended by what's written above.

It is hard to find real words of wisdom on the topic. But here are a few...

1. A very wise man said recently on Sailing Anarchy what I felt like saying myself to some of the forum posters...

Are you going sailing this evening or are you just going to continue wasting your time trying to write your endless one sided drivel describing other people's business affairs about which your information is insufficient to form an opinion ?

2. Bertrand Russell knew a thing or two about Laser sailors and Internet forums too, when he said...

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. 

3. But I think that well-known Laser sailor Jerry Garcia summed up best how most Laser sailors feel...

The whole thing is remembering, this is who we are.  
Remember who we are?  
We are in reality a group of misfits, crazy people, who have voluntarily come together to work this stuff out and do the best we can and try to be as fair as we possibly can with each other, and just struggle through life. 

We crazy people who sail Lasers may not all be class members but we all care about the future of the game. Our passion for the game may lead some of us misfits to take sides in this dispute, even though we haven't even heard the arguments from every side yet. But come what may, we will somehow work this stuff out and find a way to carry on playing our game of racing plastic ironing boards.

We will survive.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

5 Stages of Laser Sailing

Stage 1 – Denial  “A Laser isn't a real sailing boat.”

Denial is the first thing that most people feel about Laser sailing. They’ve decided that it isn’t for them. They think that the Laser looks like a plastic ironing board. They have this false conception that boats are not real boats unless you can poop on them and drink beer on them, preferably simultaneously.

Stage 2 – Anger  “Why do Laser sailors go around all the time with big smiles on their faces?”

Lasers. Lasers. Lasers. That’s all these people ever talk about! Who cares that they had 40 people at their little tinpot regatta last weekend? Who cares that their boat is in the Olympics? Who cares that almost every great sailor in other classes started in a Laser?

Lasers. Lasers. Lasers. Enough already!

Stage 3 – Bargaining  “I’m only sailing a Laser because all my friends are.”

Finally, they cave, and begrudgingly buy a second-hand Laser and start racing at their local club. Often they are very active for a few weeks and then they don't show up at the club the next few weeks.

Stage 4 – Depression  “This is so hard!”

For many this is the worst stage. They’ve finally made the effort and bought a Laser, and now all their fears are confirmed. They were right – the Laser isn’t for them. It's so hard to hike it flat in a breeze. It’s so unstable downwind. Why is everyone faster than me? How did I get all these bruises? Why do I ache all over every Monday morning? What the heck is a "supervang"?

Stage 5 – Acceptance  “I get it!”

Some people don’t get to this stage, abandoning their Laser somewhere between bargaining and depression. But for those that do it’s totally worth it. They keep plugging away, asking questions, learning, getting fitter, capsizing less often. Suddenly, the light bulb goes on. Wow! This boat is really fun! I'm not last in the races any more.

Nobody can tell you what Laser sailing is like. You have to find out for yourself. Then, suddenly, you are a Laser sailor.  You get it. It’s a beautiful moment. And often those who were the most resistant, and the most critical, become the biggest evangelists.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Another Half to Remember

It was a strange weekend.

No sailing for one thing. On Saturday I was resting in preparation for the half marathon, on Sunday I was running the half marathon, and on Monday I was resting and recovering from the half marathon (and groaning a lot).

I say resting, but there's no real rest when when the house is full of Tiller Extensions. The two eldest grandchildren came for a sleepover on Friday night - a very special treat for them. The rest of the Massachusetts Tiller Extensions arrived on Saturday morning, and every hour when I wasn't actually running in Boston was full of play and games and fun. Grandchildren are the best fun ever invented.

Emily, my eldest grandchild, had worked out that Memorial Day was actually her "half birthday." She was exactly 7 years and 6 months old.

So we had to have a Half-Birthday Party.

With half a birthday cake. With seven and a half candles. And we sang half of Happy Birthday (omitting every other syllable.)

Very silly.

Emily and Tillerwoman made the half-birthday cake.

But Emily did all the decoration of the cake, with the flair and imagination that only a seven and a half year old girl could conjure.

Another half to remember!

A Half to Remember

On Sunday morning I ran in the Run to Remember Half Marathon in Boston.

There was a lot to remember this year.

On Memorial Day weekend of course we remember the men and women who have died serving in the United States Armed Services.

But Boston's Run To Remember is organized by the Boston Police Department and Boston Police Runner's Club and is specifically meant to honor Massachusetts law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.

And coming only six weeks after the horrific bombings at the Boston Marathon which killed 3 people and injured 264, this year was very special and very different.

That act of terrorism and the violent events that followed in the next few days reminded us that, in the war with terrorists, the men and women in the armed forces and those in our police forces are all on the front line and are all putting their lives at risk to protect us in that war.

And we can not forget that, a few days after the bombing, the two brothers who had planted the bombs did murder a Massachusetts law enforcement officer, 27 year old Sean Collier, an MIT police officer. Apparently Officer Collier was planning to run in the Run to Remember this year.

So we remembered Sean Collier. Many runners wore his name and number on the backs of their shirts as they ran.

And we remembered the victims of the marathon bombings, especially the three who were killed, Krystle Campbell, Lü Lingzi, and Martin Richard, only 8 years old.

And we ran in honor of other fallen officers, and with supreme gratitude to the Massachusetts law enforcement officers who tracked down the bombers so effectively and who continue to protect us.

The route started on the South Boston Waterfront, wound through downtown Boston, and then over the Longfellow Bridge and along Memorial Drive in Cambridge, past MIT only a short distance from where Sean Collier was killed. Outside MIT there were dozens of police vehicles from towns all over the state lined up with police officers standing in front of them giving high fives to the runners. There were police officers at every junction and on bridges over the course. They cheered us on. We shouted out our thanks for their service to them.

But most of us were not only running to remember.

Or only to give thanks.

Important as both of those are.

We were running in a spirit of defiance.

How dare these terrorists attack something so harmless and innocent as a running race!

We were running to show that we are not afraid of the terrorists.

We were running to take back the streets.

It was a day I will never forget.

A half to remember.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Running in the Rain?

If you are out for a walk and it starts to rain, should you run or walk home if you want to be hit by the fewest number of raindrops?

Does it matter which way the wind is blowing? Is the answer different for thin people and fat people? If the answer is running, would there be an optimum speed to run or should you just run as fast as you can? What if the rain is coming down sideways? Does it make a difference if it's large raindrops or just a light drizzle?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Racing and Blogging

If you are a sailboat racer and you write a blog about your racing, does the blogging impact your racing performance?

And, if so, is it in a positive or a negative way?

When I first started blogging about sailing, I naturally assumed that there would basically be a one-way flow of information from the sailing to the blog. But now I'm not so sure. I've become aware of all sorts of ways in which there might be feedback from blogging to sailing.

But does blogging make me a better sailor or a worse sailor? In what ways might my blogging affect my sailing?

1. Goals. If you set yourself goals for your racing and publish them on your blog, then you are pretty well committed to making a serious attempt to achieve them. It's one of those commitment devices I wrote about a few years back.

Personally I'm pretty good at NOT telling the world about my racing goals. At least not before the actual racing. But I did slip up back in 2008 and write about my goal to sail my Laser 100 days in that year. Going public on the goal certainly did serve as a motivator to get out there and sail more days. Holy Shit - it's the end of April and I've only done 23 days! But in the end I failed. Only made it to 94. So what does that prove?

On the other hand, in 2007 I did blog about my goal to finish in the top half of the fleet at a world championship. And I did it! So what does that prove?

2. Learning new skills. If you are trying to improve a certain skill and you write a few blog posts about that skill, like say "how to do a kick-ass Laser roll tack", does the mere act of writing it down help you to learn that new skill? Does it implant the technique in your memory? Does even just doing the research for those posts help you to learn how to do better roll tacks?

You would think so, but given my total failure to become a better Laser sailor in the eight years I've been writing this blog I somehow doubt how effective this method really is.

3. Mental attitude. If you read any book about sports psychology, you will learn that self talk is a big deal. What you tell yourself you are is what you become. Tell yourself that you are confident at doing killer starts and you will start doing killer starts. At least that's the theory.

My problem is that I like to write self-deprecating humor. Laugh at myself. Tell the world I am fat and old and unfit. Make fun of all my crazy mistakes on the race course. It makes for some amusing blog posts (I think) but am I sabotaging my racing performance? Can I portray myself as a clumsy, incompetent, accident-prone sailor on a Friday, and then go out and be a top-notch racer on the Saturday?

But let's turn that one around. Another thing that those sports psychology books always talk about is how to overcome an error in a performance. Apparently if some people make a major mistake in a race, say blow the start, or capsize, or hit a mark, they have enormous difficulty in putting it out of their minds. They become angry at themselves and start sailing even more atrociously.

But not me. If I do something really bad  like getting strangled and pulled out of the boat by another sailor's sheet or breaking my gooseneck when I am winning a race my immediate reaction is to laugh and think, "This will make for a really funny story on the blog." I'm so happy to have such a disaster to write about. Much more interesting than winning the race. So then I can forget about the incident and get on with actually trying to win the next race.

There are probably all sorts of other examples of how blogging feeds back into sailing but Tillerwoman almost has the dinner ready and it's Toad-in-the Hole!

Got to go.

Please feel free to complete these thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Where am I?

Wickford Regatta 2013

Sometimes events surprise me. In a good way.

Last weekend was our Laser District Championship. A two day event in Wickford, Rhode Island. Part of the multi-class Wickford Regatta.

Here are what the winds were on Saturday and Sunday. (On Saturday we raced from noon to 4pm and on Sunday from 11am to 3pm.)

I basically had one main objective for the regatta. Finish every race.

That may not sound very ambitious but, as regular readers of this blog will know, last year I had a very pathetic racing season. I hurt my back badly in early May, and had to take about six weeks off from any exercise including sailing. Then when I did start sailing I was very tentative, easing myself into it very gently so as not to hurt my back again. The result was that by the time I started sailing major regattas again in August I didn't have the stamina and fitness to complete all the races on a heavy air day. It wasn't until the Fat Boys Regatta in late October that I actually finished every race in a regatta. And that was only a one day event.


So I hoped to do better at Wickford.

And I did. I finished all seven races.

Not only that, I felt strong and relatively fresh right up to the end of the last race. I wasn't just going through the motions, somehow struggling around the course, as has been true by the end of some regattas in previous years. I was sailing as hard as I could in every race.

So that was all good.

I think all the practice I have been doing since coming back from Florida in early March has paid off. Not only was my stamina better than at any time last season, my boat-handling was also pretty smooth (by my standards.) No bungled tacks. No catastrophic gybes. No death roll capsizes. No getting the sheet tied in a Gordian knot.

So that was all good too.

I am still not as fast as the good sailors upwind in 15 knots and waves. That too should improve as I get fitter and practice more. I can hope, can't I?

But downwind I was passing boats on almost every run and every reach. And we had a lot of those as we were sailing trapezoid courses. I must admit I do get a lot of pleasure of blasting past other sailors on a reach. Children can be so cruel at my age. I credit one simple tip that I learned at SailFit in March. Never knew before that I had been doing reaching wrong all these years.

All in all a good weekend. Gave me a lot of confidence and enthusiasm for the coming Laser regatta season.

Maybe there's (some) life left in the old dog yet.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Oysters and Beer and Crabs by the Sea

Well, I didn't complete many of the 33 things on my to-do list of items to prepare for this weekend's regatta.

But I did complete #14 today. "Take Tillerwoman out to lunch to let her know how much I appreciate her letting me go sailing all weekend."

As I wrote in The Meaning of Wife, we men will never understand women. Their minds work differently from ours.

Several days this week I asked Tillerwoman if she would like to go out to lunch. She always had some reason why she didn't want to go.

But today I found the secret key. I didn't ask here if she would like to go out to lunch. I said, "Let's go and have some oysters." Worked like a charm.

So we went to the Boat House and had a dozen Powder Point oysters on the half shell. From Duxbury. Plump, salty-sweet with a remarkably clean finish. (It says on their website.) But they were good.

I've even sailed at Duxbury. I seem to remember the water was salty-sour and my race finishes were remarkably unclean. Oh well!

I've been reading on Mitch's blog and in other places how bad the blue crab harvest is in the Chesapeake, and how expensive soft shell crabs are becoming. So imagine my surprise when the waitress said there was a special... a soft shell crab sandwich! And very reasonably priced.

I asked her where the crabs came from. Maryland, she said. Delivered to the restaurant live, she said. And then she launched into an explanation of how the chef chops the eyes and gills out himself and would we like him to come to our table and explain how he does it in even more graphic detail...

Ummmm. No thanks.

Just bring the sandwich.

It was delicious.

As were the two pints of Smuttynose IPA.

I came home and turned my boat over. I think it's the first time I've looked at my bottom in 5 years. Not a pretty sight. I cleaned it and polished it. Good for another 5 years, I reckon.

OK. I'm done.

I'm ready for the regatta now.

Bring. It. On.


70th anniversary this week.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Spot the Difference

Photo of "Kirby Torch" on the Torch website earlier today

What the same photo on the Torch website looks like now

Kirby Torch Sail

Here is one of the first pictures of the brand new Kirby Torch sailboat released today on the Kirby Torch website.

Here is a close-up of the sail on that "Torch".

And here is a picture of Robert Scheidt sailing a Laser in the 2000 Olympics.

Photo: Katrina Butler -

Notice anything?

Does this mean Robert Scheidt is endorsing the Kirby Torch?

Or does it mean that we will all be able to buy Kirby Torches with replica Olympic sails like those used by our favorite Olympic Laser sailing heroes? Can I be Anna Tunnicliffe?


This is a Torch.

"The Torch is an ideal boat for the family. Children can learn to handle her quite easily."

There is a 1961 original Torch dinghy for sale on this forum.

Here's one that was for sale on eBay.

According to this forum thread, the The Torch was designed by Bert Keeble, a metalwork teacher at Maldon Grammar School in England, in the early 1960s. It was meant as a boat that could be built in schools and used to teach pupils to sail.

Here is another picture of the Torch...

The designer, Bert Keeble, died in 2008. Here is his obituary.

Thanks to Scuttlebutt for breaking some of this news a few weeks ago.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Carpe Diem

On Monday morning I posted 33 Ways to Prepare for a Laser Regatta (most of which was written on Sunday) and then asked myself, "Which of these 33 things am I going to do first today?"

It was almost like the Monday mornings when I used to work for a living. After a refreshing weekend sailing or spending time with the family or skiing, I would go into work on Monday and start to get my head around what needed doing that week. Usually it was a list at least as long as the 33 Ways post, and with the similar depressing realization there there was no way I could get them all done.

How to choose what to do first?

I think there used to be some guidance about the difference between "urgent" and "important", but I forget what it was.

In the end I decided to go sailing first.

I trailered my Laser over to Bristol and set sail in a shifty, gusty wind from the WSW coming off the Poppasquash shore. There are more boats on moorings in the harbor now than there were a few weeks ago. One of them was called Carpe Diem. So I made that the title of this post. Why else?

I had planned on sailing some short windward-leeward courses and then doing some tacking practice. And that's what I did, but what I was actually practicing was getting used to sailing in a crazy, unstable wind that was so different from the afternoon sea breezes I've trained in on most of my outings recently. Gusts splashing down on the water and creating huge shifts. Slam dunk headers. Unexpected lifts taking me above the layline. Hey, that's the kind of wind we race in as often as not, especially on the lakes. All good stuff.

And then after a shower and lunch I did a few of the less appealing chores on my "to do" list.

It struck me that going sailing first made a lot of sense. (If there's any wind in the morning.)

Sometimes by the time I've done all sorts of other stuff in the morning, I am too weary or not in the mood for sailing by the middle of the afternoon.  And then later I regret that I didn't go sailing.

I've always hated that hoary old quote, "When you look back on your life, you'll regret the things you didn't do more than the ones you did."

I think it's nonsense. There are so many things that you can't do in one lifetime that focusing in old age on what you didn't do is simply a recipe for misery.

I'm old now. I never climbed Everest. I never became an astronaut. I wasn't one of the Beatles. I didn't marry Angeline Jolie. But I don't "regret" not doing any of those things. I prefer to reminisce about all the wonderful experiences I have had in the last 65 years... not to mention what I still intend to do.

But as a guideline for what to do first each day I think it's not a bad guide. "Do first what you will most regret this evening if you didn't do it."

Especially if that thing is going sailing.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Youngest Water-skier in the World?

33 Ways to Prepare for a Laser Regatta

It's our Laser district championship in Wickford, Rhode Island this weekend. A two-day event and the first real regatta I've sailed since the Fat Boys Regatta in Bristol last October.

I'm not sure what to expect. Either my advanced age or my lack of fitness or my general wimpiness or all of the above were factors in my pathetic racing season last year. The Fat Boys was actually the first only regatta all year in which I completed all the races.

So I have five days left to get ready for Wickford. That should be enough right?

But I need to make some decisions, in the limited time I have available, on how best to prepare for the regatta. There are hotshots coming from as far south as Virginia, and last year's district champion, so I have to be at my best.

Here are 33 things I could do to prepare for the regatta. Which ones do you think are worth doing?

  1. Do several long runs to build up my stamina.
  2. Go for a long bike ride to build up my stamina.
  3. Meditate on Rule 5.

  4. Check all the bits of string on my boat and replace the ones that have frayed the most.
  5. Refinish my foils.
  6. Polish my bottom.

  7. Get my car serviced so it doesn't break down on the way to the regatta.
  8. Attend to all the rust on my trailer so it doesn't fall to pieces on the way to the regatta.
  9. Find out where the regatta is and put it in my GPS so I don't get lost on the way to the regatta.

  10. Put Ben Ainslie's book under my pillow.
  11. Read a chapter or two of Ben Ainslie's book.
  12. Hypnotize myself into believing I am Ben Ainslie.

  13. Buy Tillerwoman some flowers to let her know how much I appreciate her letting me go sailing all weekend.
  14. Take Tillerwoman out to lunch  to let her know how much I appreciate her letting me go sailing all weekend.
  15. Tell Tillerwoman how much I appreciate her.

  16. Mow the lawn because it needs doing.
  17. Mulch the shrubs because it needs doing.
  18. Write a blog post every day because... hmm... I have no idea why.

  19. Buy more Powerade.
  20. Buy more beer.
  21. Buy more rum.

  22. Visualize that race last winter when I led the Newport frostbite fleet round the first mark.
  23. Visualize that race at the Fat Boys where I was almost second.
  24. Visualize drinking rum after sailing.

  25. Go sailing a couple of times this week.
  26. Sit on my hiking bench a couple of times this week.
  27. Do some yoga.

  28. Buy one of those fancy Zhik wetsuits with hiking pads. They are so expensive they must make you go faster, right?
  29. Buy a new wind indicator so I know which way the wind is blowing.
  30. Buy more Advil.

  31. Pre-register for the regatta so I actually have to show up.
  32. Set some objectives for the regatta.
  33. Decide to have fun at the regatta.

So what do you think?

If I could only do, say, seven to ten of the above, which ones do you think I should choose?

And what have I missed?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Something Every Laser Fleet Needs...


When I am an old man I shall sail a purple Laser
And wear a red do-rag which doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on single malt Scotch and Zhik wetsuits
And a new sail every three months, and say I've no money for gas.

I shall sit down on the dock and drink rum when I'm tired
And pump three times on every wave and shout "protest" a lot
And use the F-word in rants on all the sailing forums
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.

I shall go out sailing in 30 knots on my own
And steal bits from other sailors' boats
And learn to ooch.

You can wear Hawaiian shirts and grow more fat
And eat three large pizzas at a go
Or only oysters and beer for a week
And hoard duct tape and tools and Advil and things in boxes.

But now we must have USCG approved PFDs that keep us safe
And pay our entry fees and remember to thank the race committee
And set a good example for the children.
We must do our RC duty and read the sailing instructions.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to sail a purple Laser.

with apologies to Jenny Joseph

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Not a Kirby Sailboat Rant

This post was going to be a rant.

I wrote some angry stuff about some of the people posting on forums and blogs about the Kirby Sailboat/ Laser/ Torch issues.

Then I decided it was crazy for me to be angry at other people for being angry.

I don't always agree with all my fellow sailors but some of them are very upset about this issue. And they are my fellow sailors.  So I've decided not to rant at them, but continue to listen to them and to respect their views.

Personally, I don't think that any of us regular sailors really know enough about this issue to know which course of action will lead to the best result for all the sailors.

We don't know who will win the court battle between Bruce Kirby and LaserPerformance. We don't know if the design rights contracts between Kirby and the current Laser builders were still valid and enforceable. We don't know what LaserPerformance's defense in the court case will be. We don't know what legal advice has been giving to the Laser class that has informed their actions on this issue.  We don't know what has been discussed and decided in countless meetings behind closed doors.

There is so much we don't know.

What I do know is that the only people whom I can rely on to be working for my interests as a Laser sailor are the voluntary leaders of the Laser class.  I have met Andy Roy (North American Chairman) and Tracy Usher (President of the World Council) and they both strike me as people who are even more enthusiastic about Laser sailing than I am, who care deeply about the future of the sport, and who must be putting enormous amounts of voluntary effort and time into dealing with this issue. So I support them in their efforts to resolve this mess and wish them well.

I also have the utmost respect for Bruce Kirby (whom I have also met) for designing the boat which has given me so much pleasure for many decades, but he is also pursuing his own commercial interests in this dispute,  just as LP and LPE and PSA and Global Sailing and the new builders appointed by Kirby, and all the rest of them are. Nothing wrong with that. But I am way too cynical to believe that anyone who is trying to make a buck or two out of my sport is 100% on my side.

I take solace in the thought that when this is all over and the dust has settled and the lawyers have been paid, we will all still have our Lasers and we will all still be able to play with them. The newer Lasers might be called something else but I'm sure nobody will really care. We will want to play with our fellow sailors whatever their boats are called.  And there will still be volunteers willing to run the class and organize regattas for us.

This too will pass.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Andrew Simpson

The British sailor Andrew James Simpson MBE (born 17 December 1976) was killed today in a training accident on the Artemis AC72 on San Francisco Bay.

He won a gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, as crew for skipper Iain Percy in the Star class.

Percy and Simpson competed at the 2012 Olympic Games, again in the Star class, and won the silver medal.

Simpson was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2009 New Year Honours.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Game Changer?

Can a blogger change the world?

Or at least the Laser sailing world?


Most of my readers probably know that the Laser sailing world is in an unholy mess right now. There is a legal dispute going on between Bruce Kirby (the designer of the Laser) and LaserPerformance (the builder of the Laser in North America and Europe.)

Bruce Kirby says that LaserPerformance no longer has his approval to build Lasers to his design, and claims that they are infringing his design rights by continuing to do so. We haven't heard much from LaserPerformance but undoubtedly they will have some legal defense to Kirby's lawsuit.

Meanwhile, Kirby has appointed two other builders in Canada and the Netherlands to build the Laser. But he isn't calling it a Laser; he is calling the boat a Kirby Torch. He can't call it a Laser because LaserPerformance owns the right to use Laser trademarks, the Laser name and starburst symbol, in North America and Europe.

At least everybody thought they did.

Then along came Pam.

Pam, along with her husband Doug, writes the blog called Improper Course.

Pam has been doing some digging into the ownership of the Laser trademarks and their current status. It  turns out the Laser trademarks being used by LaserPerformance are owned by a couple of offshore corporate entities called Velum and Karaya. And Pam has dug up some evidence that there are some issues affecting both these trademarks.

On April 23, Pam wrote a post LASER Trademark for Running Regattas.  Pam reported that "in the US, Velum holds the trademark in the class of services that pertain to organizing sporting events, namely, sailing competitions, and regattas." Nothing to do with actually building and selling boats at all. And as Pam pointed out, Velum, or LaserPerformance, don't actually run Laser regattas. That is typically done by sailing clubs. So what's going on?

On May 5,  Pam (aka Mrs P) posted on the Laser Forum that she had spoken with a representative for Bruce Kirby in the previous week.

Then on May 7, Bruce Kirby Inc. filed a petition with the US Trademark Office asking them to cancel the Laser trademark owned by Velum on the grounds that they had "abandoned" the trademark by allowing numerous third parties to use it.

Interesting. However, it doesn't seem to me that the Laser trademark for running regattas is central to the issue of who has the right to use the Laser trademark on boats. But wait, there's more...

On May 7, Pam published another post Laser Trademarks Up for Grabs?. This time she turned her attention to the LASER trademarks owned by Karaya, the ones that do actually pertain to the class of goods that includes sailboats and sails. She tracked the transfers of these trademarks between various corporate entities and the name changes of some of those entities. She discovered that it seems that the trademarks may have been conveyed at one point to an entity that wasn’t yet legally in existence, and that the last entity to hold clear title to the trademarks has since been dissolved.

It's all very confusing. It makes my head ache to read the story. Doug has made a little diagram to make it all clearer but that makes my head ache too.

But if there really is some question over whether LaserPerformance (through some associated company) actually does have the right to use the Laser trademarks, that would be a real game changer.

Can a blogger change the world?

Or at least the Laser sailing world?


Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Sailing the Queque

Last night I had the strangest dream.

I was participating in some sort of multi-day dinghy sailing event that was being held in a different venue each day.

All of the sailors were staying in some big, rambling house.

I was sailing a two-man dinghy. I was the crew. That's pretty strange to start with.

Every day before sailing we had to write an essay about our strategy for the day.

My skipper and I had done pretty well on the first day of the regatta.

On the second day we were due to sail the Queque.

As far as I could gather the Queque was a long winding lake, or perhaps a river.

There were charts of all the sailing venues for the regatta on the walls of the house but I couldn't find a chart of the Queque.

On the morning of the day scheduled for the racing on the Queque I had to leave the house to attend to some personal business, and I was late for the essay writing "exam."

I rushed in with only a few minutes to write my essay and I didn't know what to write about the Queque.

All I could remember was that my skipper had told me that we should "stay in the hoo."

What does this all mean?

In the dream I seemed to think that Queque was some kind of native American place name. But I googled "queque" this morning and discovered that this is a queque.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Ask the Tillerman #3

Mark R asks...
I wonder if I might submit a question on behalf of my training partner, I know she would be embarrassed to ask herself.   
It is Thursday night, you have just finished racing, and beaten the other Lasers in your 4.7. You wish to celebrate using the £2.50 left in the weekly household budget, perhaps with a bottle of white wine or similar beverage. What purchase offers the best alcohol to price value, whilst befitting the Laser 4.7 sailor?

Mark R writes a blog called Slipper Musings. He sails one of those exotic boats that look all technical with fancy black carbon bits called an RS300. Apparently there aren't many of these exotic boats around in his neck of the woods because he has been writing for the last few months about how he goes out and practices sailing his RS300 with a lady called Claire who sails a very sensible boat called a Laser 4.7.  (In case you don't know, a Laser 4.7 is a Laser with a smaller sail than the standard Laser.)

Mark and Claire go out sailing on Chichester Harbor in England in all sorts of weather in the English winter.  Where they sail is not far from where I sailed the Laser Masters Worlds in 2010. The experience still gives me nightmares. I have only just stopped shivering from sailing in such frigid weather. And I was there in September!

So let's get this straight. Mark sails some oddball boat and has nobody with the same kind of oddball boat to practice with. And yet, he has a lady friend who will come out and practice with him in the miserable, rainy, cold English weather. She is a Laser sailor so she already has 200,000 other Laser sailing friends to practice with. But she obviously feels sorry for Mark and his eccentric obsession with his bizarre boat and out of the kindness of her heart she goes training with him.

So Claire beats all the other Lasers in her 4.7 in the Thursday night racing and Mark asks what she should buy to drink with the following constraints...

  1. Cost no more than £2.50
  2. Something like a bottle of white wine
  3. Best alcohol to price ratio
  4. Something befitting the Laser 4.7 sailor

I hardly know where to begin..

First of all, I'm not all that familiar with what stuff costs in Britain these days (I've only been back for the occasional vacation in the last few years)  but I seem to remember from my last trip that £2.50 does not go very far. Isn't that what they charge now for a bag of crisps?

Secondly, why is this woman buying her own drinks? She beats all the other Laser sailors. She goes training with Mark in his deviant, odd little boat in the English winter.  Clearly Claire must be pretty much a cross between Mother Theresa and Ellen MacArthur.

Every man in their oddly named Slipper Sailing Club (and especially Mark) should be lining up to buy drinks for her and to throw their cloaks down in the mud for her to walk on while she launches her Laser. Whatever happened to English gallantry? Don't they teach the story of Francis Drake and his muddy cloak in English schools any more?

Thirdly, have you people not been paying attention? What have I been teaching you on this blog all these years?

Real Laser sailors drink beer.

Check out Beer and Sailing.

Check out Beer is Better where it was conclusively proven by real scientists that beer is the best thing for you after exercise.

Above all check out Laser Sailing: The Rules and meditate on Rule #28 Drink real beer.

You should not need telling again.

White wine? At £2.50 a bottle? You have to be joking.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Rowdy Raunchy Loud Hysterical Crazy Fun

In a Scuttlebutt newsletter back in March there was an article by Glenn McCarthy arguing that the decline in sailing over the last 40 years is because it isn't as much fun as it used to be. He says that the sport is striving too much for perfection, crew are under pressure to perform their duties well on board, even sailing clothing has to reflect a businesslike atmosphere, and after sailing folk run off home as if they were leaving work. He makes a plea to "bring on the rowdy, raunchy, loud, hysterical, crazy pranks, shenanigans, hoot and hollers, in anyway and every way you can." He wants to convert sailing back into a really fun time.

He's right of course.

What's the point of doing something like sailing if you're not having fun?

It's not supposed to be like work.

But who are these people who go sailing and never have any fun?

Haven't I spent the last eight years writing a blog that tries to expose the fun in sailing, that makes fun of myself and makes fun of others, that is even crazy and hysterical at times?  Can anyone read this blog for any time and not come to the conclusion that sailing is fun?

Hell, I wouldn't go sailing and I wouldn't write this blog if it wasn't fun most of the time.

Of course, kids know how to have fun on the water. I was just finishing up six years as a junior sailing instructor in the year I started this blog, But I did write at least one post Kids Learn by Playing - Duh! in which I discussed how to balance safety and learning and FUN in a junior sailing program.

So why don't (some) adults have fun when they are sailing? I don't get it?

Is it because racing isn't fun? Absolutely not.

Sure it's fun when you are winning. I do win occasionally. No, really.

But 99% of the time I don't win, and most of those times sailing is fun too.

Yesterday I went for a sail by myself on Bristol Harbor.

It was blowing 12-15 knots on a glorious sunny Spring afternoon.

I worked upwind for about 20 minutes and then went reaching down the waves, zig-zagging back and forth all over the harbor.

Hiking right at the back of the cockpit. Spray flying everywhere. I may have let out the odd hoot and a holler or two. Nobody could hear me.

All by myself having fun in the sunshine.

Rowdy, raunchy, loud, hysterical, crazy fun.

Maybe Mr. McCarthy should buy a Laser?

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Four Things

One of our sail-blogging friends is thinking that his sailing days may be over. The adversities of advancing age are catching up with him and his wife, and they are trying to sell their boat. Or maybe not. He doesn't seem sure what he really wants to do.

It made me think about my own situation. I am lucky right now that I have good health and reasonable fitness, and some of the things I enjoy the most are outdoor physical activities such as sailing and running and gardening.

I was reminded of some advice I read a few years ago (can't remember where - can't find it on the Google) about how we should choose the activities and interests to pursue in retirement. It was suggested that we should think of two dimensions - physical vs mental and social vs solitary - and try and choose at least one activity that would combine every combination of those two dimensions. In other words do some physically challenging things with other people and some by yourself; and do some mentally rewarding activities with other people and some by yourself.

I think the logic was that it's good to get some exercise but as you get older your ability to pursue physically demanding pursuits may wane because of illness or injury or just old age, so if that's all you do you may find a huge gap in your life when you have to give them up.

Similarly it's good to get out and socialize with friends, but as you get older you may find your friends dying before you, or you may not be able to see them so often for other reasons, so it's good to have some rewarding activities that you can follow on your own.

Also it's good to exercise your brain. But if that's all you do, what's going to happen if and when your mental facilities decline?

Seemed like good advice.

Not sure how well I've been following it...

Physical and solitary - running is very much in this category for me, although some people make it more social.

Physical and social - in spite of being a single-handed sailor, one of the things I do really appreciate about sailing is the ability to hang out with sailing friends before and after sailing, preferably over a few beers.

Mental and solitary - when I'm feeling lazy this is my natural place to go. Reading, sudoku, browsing the web, playing SailX.

Mental and social - Hmmm. This appears to be the missing quadrant in my life. What am I supposed to do? Join a chess club? Take nuclear physics classes at a local university? Enter the Senior Olympics Spelling Bee? This one is a puzzle to me. Or does blogging count?

What about you?

How are your four things?

Ask the Tillerman #2

The deliciously named Doc Häagen-Dazs asked, "Why did the icky gaff-rig triump over the more efficient Marconi rig in the world-wide establishing of the Opti class for juniors?"

I have no idea what you are talking about Doc.

This is an Optimist...

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Ask the Tillerman #1

In response to my request to Ask the Tillerman some questions, a reader named Was it Was asked, "Am I normal in enjoying a bad start because I get to overtake more boats, than have a good start and watch boats go past me?"

Ain't that life for the mid-fleet sailor?

Happens to me all the time.

I guess the truth is that the 15-20 guys at the front of the fleet really are faster than me. And then there are 5-10 guys at the back of the fleet who, incredible as it sounds, really are slower than me. So, contrary to popular wisdom, it really doesn't matter whether I get a good start or a bad start.

If I get a good start I might round the first windward mark in the top 10, but then the fast guys will pass me and I will end up somewhere around 20th. If I get a bad start I might round the first windward mark with the tail-enders but then, even in a short race, I will pass a few boats and end up around 20th.

OK. Sometimes, once in a blue moon, I might get an amazingly good start and luckily go the right side of the beat even though all the good guys favored the other side and then I might round the first mark up with the leaders and might even finish in the top 10. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut occasionally.

So is it normal to enjoy a bad start, asks our friend.

Well, one way to look at it is if most of your starts are bad starts you had better enjoy those races else otherwise you would be miserable most of the time you are racing, and then you might do do something incredibly stupid and desperate like taking up golf... or even cruising.

And a start is just one moment in the race. Good or bad the moment is soon over. So why not enjoy spending the whole race passing the boats at the back of the fleet rather than suffer the frustrations of getting passed by all those really annoying fast sailors at the front of the fleet?

In fact, the more you think about, why even bother to try to get a good start?  Last time I did RC duty I noticed there was always a bunch of boats hanging out above the layline for the boat end of the start line not making any serious attempt to be on the line when the gun went off. They just waited until the rest of the fleet had started and then they rounded the committee boat and followed the fleet up the course. Were they deliberately getting bad starts in every race? And, more to the point, were they the smartest sailors there? Had they found the real secret of how to enjoy racing?

I have read advice somewhere, in one of those totally useless books which purport to teach you how to win races, that sometimes you should deliberately be OCS, and not go back to restart, so that you can get the experience of sailing in clear air and being able to decide your own strategy for the beat without getting bounced from tack to tack by all those annoyingly fast sailors at the front of the fleet. I think the point is to motivate you to try hard to win the starts so that you could sail like that in every race. Fat chance!

No. I think the opposite is the best advice.

The secret of happiness is to start last and spend the race overtaking other boats.

Which is a rather long way round of saying in answer to the original question.... YES.