Sunday, September 29, 2013

Where am I?

1. Where am I?

2. Who (or what) is (or was) Patricia?

3. What is the name of the nearest sailing club?

4. What did Tillerwoman have for dinner?

Clue #1. Here is a photo taken at the nearby sailing club.

Clue #2. There is a love triangle in this story.

Clue #3. Every guest bedroom door in this establishment has a name on it, instead of a number. The people whose names are on the doors have something very specific in common.

Clue #4. I have no evidence that Patricia ever slept in this room, or even visited it, but she did live nearby for many years.

Clue #5. The name of this establishment might be in your Bible. Or it might not.

Clue #6. Here is something that might help you with question 4.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Golpear la Esquina

I skipped most of the racing in the afternoons at Minorca Sailing this year and went out and practiced on my own, working on some of the many faults in boat-handling technique that our instructor had kindly pointed out to me in the mornings.

I joined the last afternoon of the Laser series racing on Wednesday and my friend (who had a dominant lead in the series) beat me by a mile in both races. Hmmm. I always thought that we were pretty even in ability. Maybe solo practice doesn't really make you any better at racing? Maybe racing makes you better at racing? Who would have thunk it?

So I wasn't sure how I would fare at the weekly regatta on Thursday. Could I repeat my win at the previous week's regatta? There were about 15 Lasers and Laser Radials in the fleet but I figured the main competition was my friend (sailing a Laser Full Rig like me) and a couple of sisters from England who had been university sailors and who had already shown that they were a force to be reckoned with. The sisters were sailing Radials so, under Portsmouth Yardstick handicaps, to win I would need not only to beat them on the water, but also beat them by enough time overcome the handicappers mathematical jiggery-pokery.

The wind was from the south and the windward mark was up in the south end of the bay so it was shifty in a weird way that seemed to have no consistent pattern that I could figure out. There were gusts and holes all over the course. Hmmm!

A couple of minutes before the start of the first race I confirmed that the start line had a huge bias towards the pin end. Encouraged by our starting drills all morning I decided to "win the pin." And I did. Only to discover that the wind had shifted in the final two minutes and that the pin was now the unfavored end and all the rest of the fleet was now upwind of me. Duh!

So I started trying to find the puffs, play the shifts, and keep a clear lane. By some miracle I managed to arrive at the windward mark on the first lap in second place, a few boat lengths behind the younger Radial sister. I never did catch her over the three lap race but I did finish as first Full Rig and in second overall. But the elder sister wasn't that far behind me so I figured I might have only scored a third place on handicap.

In the second race my friend and I and another Laser sailor (from Ireland), all of us in Full Rigs established a healthy lead on the rest of the fleet. We tussled all around the course, but in spite of doing my best to psych out the Irish guy by shouting hails in a fake Irish accent and even singing several verses of "Wheels on the Bus" I ended up in third place. The Irish guy (whom I had sailed against in previous years at Minorca Sailing) told me he was very "chuffed" to have beaten me. Apparently I was his "that guy", the sailor you are always trying to beat but hardly ever do. Oh well.

After two three-lap races, the race officer announced that the final race would be a one lap race. Roll the dice. All or nothing. Have to get a good start!

Unfortunately the wind died just before the start and I had sailed too far away from the line. I was late to cross the line and in the bad air of about a dozen other Lasers. Ugh!

I tacked to try and find some clear air and as I looked at the fleet it seemed that the boats on the right were in stronger wind than those on the left, so I kept going right. The wind was getting stronger and stronger the further and further I went to the right, so I kept going. Now I was further out to the right than anyone else. What do they say in the books? Don't bang the corner?

What the hell! The books aren't always right. I went out to the starboard tack lay line, actually a bit beyond it as it turned out, and sailed fast to the first mark watching all the other little boats in the middle of the course through my window sailing slower than me. I arrived at the windward mark several boat lengths ahead of a couple of Radials, with my closest competitors in the regatta nowhere to be seen.

Woo hoo! I was winning the last race of the regatta, the last race for me at Minorca Sailing this year. I sang a few more verses of "Wheels on the Bus" as I extended my lead on the reaches and crossed the finish line with a substantial lead that I figured would be big enough to beat all the Radials. What a great way to finish the vacation!

At the awards ceremony that evening I discovered that the top four boats (as I had expected it was my friend and me and the two Radial university sailors) were all within one point of each other. The elder sister had beaten me in the first race on handicap and had also just passed another Radial at the finish line in the third race to score two second places (with one throwout.) I had a first (in the last race) and two thirds. So with my throwout we were both on four points but my first was enough to win the tiebreaker and win the regatta!

Maybe solo practice does make you better at racing after all?

I took the beautiful Tillerwoman out to dinner but I really can't remember what either of us ate except that vast quantities of beer and wine and gin were consumed and that "someone" had a splitting headache on the plane today. I can't imagine why.

Laser Daggerboard

I wonder if this would be allowed under Laser Class rules?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

El Fuego y la Lluvia

"I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end."

This the the 13th (or maybe the 14th) day we are enjoying at Minorca Sailing.

The weather this week has been gorgeous. Warm sunny days with light winds filling in around 10:30am and usually strengthening throughout the day to perfect Laser hiking and planing weather in the afternoons. We had one cool day last week (I think) and two or three very windy days at the weekend. But my memories are all starting to merge together into one hazy remembrance of sun and spray and waves and happy experiences with good sailing friends.

Where was I? Where am I? What was my last post about? Oh, yes. Winning the pursuit race last Friday.

Saturday was the start of our second week here and so also the start of repeats of the morning instruction schedule. Tacks and gybes again. But it was a different instructor and different wind conditions so I learned different things. In the afternoon I skipped the racing and went off and practiced by myself some of the things I had learned in the morning. I feel like I need to do that to reinforce new skills or change old bad habits.

Sunday was also about upwind sailing in the morning but in the afternoon, my friend and I went out (with an instructor) on the Laser SB3.

It wasn't quite as windy as that picture!

Our instructor said there wasn't enough wind to get out of the bay. But we did. Escape! Sailing on the wide wild Mediterranean.

Our instructor said we wouldn't be able to use the spinnaker coming back down the bay. But we did! 500 square feet!  A bit bigger than a Laser sail, I think?

Monday was all about downwind sailing in the morning class. Did more solo practice in the afternoon. It's almost a Zen thing. Me and the winds and the waves and my little boat just absorbed in repetitions of one skill. Is it making me a better sailor? Who knows until I get back into the afternoon races again?

Tuesday was the sea sail. Woo hoo! The best thing about Minorca Sailing. We get to sail our little boats out on the wild and wide open Mediterranean. I was chomping at the bit to get going. Some times in other years the winds have conspired to prevent us from escaping the bay. But on Tuesday we made it! Did some upwind and downwind drills out on the open sea and enjoyed the magnificent wild scenery of Menorca's northern coast.

Wednesday was the class about mark rounding. During the drills I learned a wild trick about how to overtake 10 boats near the windward mark. Don't ask. I'm not revealing my secret. I might need it in a real race one day. In the afternoon I joined the weekly series for the final day. My friend that came with us from America had pretty well sewn up the weekly series but it was fun to join the races because we had the GPS trackers on the boats so we could enjoy watching all the mistakes we made on the replays in the evening over a few large beers.

Thursday is today. We practiced starts in the morning and then I sailed the regatta in the afternoon. Wild shifts with gusts and holes. Almost like lake sailing. I have no idea where I finished in the regatta what with all the handicap adjustments for Radials and so on. I will find out at the awards ceremony at Ca Na Marga tonight.

Wait. What time is it? 6:30pm? Time to put on my glad rags for the party. See you later.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Pursuit Race

Friday is the traditional day for the weekly pursuit race at Minorca Sailing. A pursuit race is a handicap race where the slowest boats start first and the faster boats start at progressively later times depending on their handicaps.  About 9 or 10 boats entered on Friday. As it was gusting well more than 20 knots I chose to sail a Laser Radial. Hey, maybe I'm getting old but I'm really starting to appreciate the pleasures of Radial sailing in heavy air. I can actually control the beast in 25-30 knots which is more than I can say for a Standard Rig Laser these days.

The course was a big rectangle - reach, beat, reach, run. Round and round and round. Based on my scheduled start time I would need to sail for about 1 hour and 40 minutes. On the first lap I overtook a few of the slower boats who had started in front of me. Some of them seemed to have a lot of difficulty in the 25+knot winds on the first beat and ended up retiring. On my second lap past the starting area a couple of guys in an RS800 started just in front of me. They would need to lap me twice to beat me.

They capsized on the first beat and had to call over a rescue boat to help them. Race over for the 800.

On the third lap I passed the remaining slower boat that had started ahead of me. I was now in the lead.

An RS200 was also scheduled to race. I never saw it. I discovered later that they had retired early too. 

After about 4 or 5 laps I was pretty sure that there was only me and one other boat left in the race, and I had a healthy lead on it. Being a stubborn bastard I wasn't going to give up until it did.

Round and round we went. On the 7th or maybe 8th lap I capsized at the gybe mark.  A rescue boat came over to make sure I was OK. I gave the driver a thumbs up and a smile. "Hey, I just needed a rest!"

On the 8th or maybe 9th lap the race officer came over in a RIB and informed me that the race had finished.

I had won! 


I don't think I have ever raced a Laser in heavy air continuously for 100 minutes before.

I sailed back to the beach, had a shower, had a beer with my lunch, and took a nap all afternoon.

Napping is one of those skills that I am working on a lot these days.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Cerebro Pedo

Thursday in the Advanced Laser Class at Minorca Sailing was all about starting practice in the morning and the weekly regatta in the afternoon.

It was blowing perros off cadenas as they say around here. Our instructor recommended that everyone in the class - even fine upstanding fit young men like my friend and I (who have a combined years of Laser sailing experience exceeding our instructors age by a factor of two) - should trade down a rig so we could concentrate on boat-handling rather than survival. So we went out in Radials.

The starting practice was probably the most useful drill of the week. God knows I suck at starting. Anything I can do to improve my starting skills is worthwhile. We did starts on port bias lines and starboard bias lines and rolling starts and starts with short races and mystery starts and other similar tortures. My friend and I agreed that it would be good practice for us to be mean to each other for a change so I luffed him up to windward before the start and blew him away at the gun and he repaid the compliment. We shouted things like, "Don't come in there!" and, "Up up up!" a lot. It was almost like racing in the Newport frostbite fleet except it was about 50 degrees warmer and there weren't any icebergs.

In the afternoon it was not only blowing perros off cadenas even more, the air was full of flying perros. So we decided to race in Radial rigs again. The instructor asked if we wanted to sail triangular courses as he envisaged too much death roll mayhem if he ran the usual alternating sausage and triangle races and the majority of the sailors agreed with him, so that was decided upon. We would race round and round a triangle an indeterminate number of times, crossing the start-finish line each leg, until the RC boat put up a red flag when the leading boat rounded the leeward mark meaning that it was the final lap.

In the first race I made a good start near the boat end of a starboard biased line and led everyone by a considerable margin at the windward mark.  The Radial took off on the first reach like a bat out of hell even before I had had a chance to ease the outhaul and downhaul. What a blast! "Win the start and extend your lead." Isn't that what all those rock star sailors write in their books? One win to the Tillerman.

Or maybe not. There were also a bunch of little people racing in Laser 4.7 rigs (even smaller than the Radial) and we were handicap racing under Portsmouth Yardstick. One of the 4.7 sailors was a very fast woman who is a member of the sailing team  at Cambridge, which is the best university in the world. So it was entirely possible that the aforementioned very fast woman had beaten me even though I was first across the finish line. What the hell. I hate handicap racing.

Best university in the world

The second race was somewhat more ugly. The line still had a starboard bias and I got to the line a bit too early and ended up drifting down towards the pin, with most of the fleet starting to the right of me. Not good. My friend had an excellent race and crossed the line first, but I did manage to beat all the little people and cross second. But who knew how the very fast woman from the best university in the world would correct out on handicap? I hate handicap racing.

The third race will forever be embedded in my memory banks in indelible ink, and I don't mean that in a good way. First of all my friend decided to pull a repeat of the silly games we had been doing in the morning starting practice and with some aggressive luffing and much screaming of, "UP UP UP UP UP!" he managed to force us both over the start line and we were called OCS. By the time we had both returned to restart I was dead last.

But I remembered what it said in all those rock stars' sailing books. Put a bad experience on the race course out of your mind and just sail fast.

"Imitate the action of the tiger. Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood. Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage." No, that's not from one of Stuart Walker's books. I think Shakespeare said that.

A tiger

And did I mention it was still blowing perros off cadenas?

So I stiffened the sinews and hiked hard and gradually started grinding down the rest of the fleet. Round and round the triangle we went. On the final reach I passed the leading 4.7 sailor, rounded the leeward mark, crossed the finish line in first place (but who knows who would beat me on handicap), eased the sheets, eased the vang, thanked the race committee for an excellent afternoon's racing, and waited to congratulate my fellow sailors as they crossed the line too.

I wasn't watching too closely what they all did after crossing the line, but after they had all finished, the last sailor looked back at me as she continued upwind and shouted back at me, "We haven't finished!"

What? I looked upwind. Everyone else was still racing upwind towards the windward mark. I looked at the committee boat. No red flag. Oh no! We still had one more lap to go! I did briefly consider joining the race and trying (again) to catch a few of the tail-enders but I wasn't feeling very tiger-like. Hey, this can be my throwout. So I sailed back to the beach and waited for the others to finish and join me so we could all have a good laugh at my stupid mental error. Duh!

At the awards ceremony I was amazed to find that my first and second places on the water had survived the handicapper's mathematical magic and that was enough to make me the winner of the regatta, at least among those in our morning Advanced Laser Class. The very fast woman from the sailing team at the best university in the world apparently won the regatta overall and in the group of "ringers who don't even bother to take the Advanced Laser Class but just go off and do windsurfing or asymmetric boat sailing in the mornings and then come and beat up the sailors from  the Advanced Laser Class in the Laser races in the afternoon." Good luck to her. She was very fast.

And then I took the beautiful Tillerwoman out to dinner where I enjoyed Menorcan tomato soup and fillet steak kebabs along with a glass or two of red wine. I really can't remember what she had.

A glass of red wine

Saturday, September 21, 2013

La Cuchara Grasienta


What day is it?

How long have I been here?

After over a week at Minorca Sailing, time is losing all meaning. Every day is sailing and sailing and more sailing. I am losing track of what I did each day. Sailing I guess.

Last Wednesday was our fifth day at Minorca Sailing (probably.)

In the morning the coaching session was all about mark roundings (I think.)

God knows I need to improve my mark roundings.

I could write a long boring post about what I learned on Wednesday about the minutiae of rounding marks in a Laser but it would be long and boring and there are already way too many long and boring posts on this blog.

So I won't.

In the afternoon I went off and practiced on my own and I could write a long boring post about the minutiae of what I practiced but it would be long and boring and there are already way too many long and boring posts on this blog.

So I won't.

In the evening I took the beautiful Tillerwoman to dinner at the restaurant by the side of the bay in Fornells that is universally known by the instructors here as "The Greasy Spoon."

It's not really called "The Greasy Spoon."

It's not even what, back home, you would call a greasy spoon.

It's a perfectly ungreasy restaurant called Sa Nansa.

We enjoyed watching the changing colors of the clouds as the sun set and seeing the almost full moon rising over the bay.

I can't remember what we ate that day but sobrassada and fish were almost certainly involved in some way.

So was beer.

All the restaurants and bars around here seem to serve Estrella Damm beer. According to the Wikipedia (which is never wrong) it has been brewed in Barcelona since 1876 when August Küntzmann Damm founded his brewery there. And I am sure my very smart readers know that in 2007 Estrella Damm was one of the major sponsors of a sailing team called Emirates Team New Zealand, a challenger for the America's Cup that year.

I wonder what happened to them?

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Sailing my board boat
Writing the odd note
In my old nonsensical blog
Pulling my tight vang
Having the odd prang
Tell my friend this beat's just a slog.

Wasting away again in Sobrassadaville
Searching for my lost mayonnaise and fries
Some sailors claim that Advil's the best cure for pain
But I have no idea what to advise.

I don't know the reason
I stayed here all season
Nothing to show but this embarrassing bruise
But it's a real beauty
A black and blue cutie
How it got here I haven't a clue.

Wasting away again in Sobrassadaville
Searching for my lost mayonnaise and fries
Some sailors claim that Advil's the best cure for pain
Now I think, hell, beer is the thing for my aching thighs.

Blew out my mast top
Came to a full stop
Hitched a tow from a mommy boat back home
But there's beer on the table
And soon I'll be able
To scoff down that pizza that helps me hang on.

Wasting away again in Sobrassadaville
Searching for my lost mayonnaise and fries
Some sailors claim that Advil's the best cure for pain
But I have no idea what to advise.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Un Día Típico en Menorca

Tuesday was a typical day at Minorca Sailing.

Typical for me anyway.

7am - get up and go for a run. On Tuesday I ran to the Torre Fornells and back, about 45 minutes.

Torre Fornells

8:30am - breakfast at the hotel on the terrace in the sunshine with friends. I usually have a bowl of fruit and a roll with some ham and cheese.

10am - briefing on the beach followed by instruction. On Tuesday the lesson of the day was about sail settings and then we did some sailing around a triangle and a blast around the bay. The wind was about 15 knots from the north and we beat up towards the entrance to the Bay of Fornells. As we got farther north we were in some swells rolling in from the open sea. I joked with one of the instructors that I was going to make a break for freedom and go sailing outside the bay. But I didn't. Instead we sailed a glorious downwind blast the length of the bay catching rides on the waves.

1pm - lunch at the hotel, again hanging out on the terrace with friends. I usually have a beer and a sandwich, but there are plenty of other items on the menu.

1:30pm - short nap. I am good at napping. It is one of my few talents.

2:30pm - afternoon racing. Some afternoons this week I have gone off on my own, like the antisocial bastard I am, and practiced some boat-handling issues by myself. God knows I have enough boat-handling issues. But on Tuesday I joined in with the Laser racing. There is a mix of full rigs and Radials and 4.7s in the fleet and we race using Portsmouth Handicaps. It's good in that it encourages a bunch of people who are too light to handle full rigs in a breeze to race; on the other hand it means there are only a few full rigs in each race so there is not much close boat to boat racing. We were racing alternating triangle and sausage laps.



One of the racers in the full rigs is one of our instructors. He is seriously fast. We can't see why he's so fast but he is. And one of the other full rig sailors is a friend from home who came to Minorca Sailing because I recommended it. The two of us have been having some pretty close racing.

In the first race the instructor led all the way and just extended his lead but I was leading my friend most of the way around all three laps until the final gybe mark. After the gybe I discovered that (a) the traveller block was trapped under the shockcord and line on the tiller that they use to hold the rudder down on the Minorca Sailing Lasers, and when I freed that mess I discovered that (b) the sheet was also hooked around the end of the boom. A double whammy! By the time I had solved both problems my friend had passed me and he beat me to the finish line.

In the second race the instructor was OCS and I was to the right of the fleet in a huge righty shift that lifted me inside the whole fleet. I was first to the windward mark, led the fleet round all three laps and beat the instructor across by the line by a second or two. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than smart or fast.

4:30pm - shower, rinse sailing clothes and hang them out to dry.

5:00pm - have a large beer and do a spot of blogging.

6:30pm - on Tuesday we had been racing with GPS units on our Lasers and in the evening the instructors gave us a debrief using the GPS tracks. Very instructive. You could see every start you flubbed, every shift you missed, every tactical mistake you made, and exactly how much slower you were than the instructor.

7:00pm - stroll into Fornells the local fishing village, about a mile from the hotel. I took the beautiful Tillerwoman for dinner at El Pescador and I had fried whitebait followed by spaghetti marinera. I really can't remember what she had.


9:30pm - stroll back from Fornells.

And so to bed.

And then in about 9 hours it was time to get up for another action-packed day at Minorca Sailing.

Life is good.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Cómo Corregir los Malos Hábitos

How do you fix a bad habit?

Can you fix it simply by saying "do it this way not that way"?

Well, that certainly doesn't work for me.

If a sailing coach points out to me a flaw in my technique, a way to do things better, I am totally incapable of telling myself, "Oh, that's a good idea. I will start doing it the way he says."

Well, I can tell myself that but I will still find myself doing it the old way when I'm not thinking about it.

The bad habits of 30 years are hard to break.

Case in point.

On the first day at Minorca Sailing our instructors pointed out to me two flaws in my tacking technique.

The first flaw was that after I have done a tack I was sitting down on the deck on the new tack, after crossing the boat, too far back.

And the second flaw was that  I was doing the hand swap after the tack all wrong.

I probably need to to explain Laser tacking technique to my three readers who don't sail Lasers to explain that last point.

When you sail a Laser you hold the sheet in your front hand and your tiller extension in your back hand. When you tack you cross the boat (facing forwards) and keep the tiller and sheet in the same hands as you hike out on the new tack. The tiller and sheet are now in the wrong hands. And the hand holding the tiller extension is now behind your back. So you take the hand holding the sheet to pick up the tiller extension. Once you have hold of the tiller extension with the new back hand you pick up the sheet with the new front hand. Then you can drop the sheet with the new tiller hand. And you are all set! Magic!

Got that?

Or did you drop off during that incredibly boring explanation.

Wait. It gets worse.

After doing all those things in that incredibly boring long paragraph the tiller extension is still vaguely banging around near the back of the boat so you need to bring it forwards so you are holding it in front of you like all those really good Laser sailors you see on YouTube are. I had never really thought about the fact that there are two ways to bring the tiller extension in front of you. You can bring it under your arm or you can swing it over in front of you. And I had thought even less that there are actually two different ways that your new tiller hand can pick up the tiller extension. You can pick it up palm up with the thumb towards the aft of the boat. Or you can pick it up palm down with the thumb towards the bow of the boat. And I had thought even less than that that if you want to swing the tiller extension over you need to do the palm up thing. And if you want to bring the tiller extension forward under your arm you need to do the palm down thing.

Got that?

I'm sorry, but that second long boring paragraph was even longer and more boring than the first long boring paragraph.

Wait. It gets better.

What the very helpful instructor at Minorca Sailing noticed was that I was grabbing the tiller extension palm down and was then doing the swing over thing, with the result that my wrist was now twisted into some anatomically impossible and potentially very painful contortion so that I now needed to grab the tiller extension again with my new front hand, let go of it with my new back hand, twist my back wrist around to a more anatomically possible and less painful position, grab hold of the tiller extension again with my back hand and let go of it with my front hand. I had replaced a simple elegant hand swap maneuver with some incredibly ugly quadruple clutch monstrosity. No wonder my tacks were so slow! No wonder I so often flubbed my tacks.


I lied.

That third long boring paragraph wasn't really any better, was it?

Anyway, after the instructor told me that on the first day, I tried to do better. I experimented with palm-up-swing-over and palm-down-under-the-arm methods. But then in the races on day 2 I found myself reverting to that ugly, risky, slow quadruple clutch nonsense. 

I find this all the time. I can do things a new way if I am thinking about that and nothing else. But if I am dealing with all the brain overload of real racing and trying to think about whether I am on port or starboard tack, and whether I am going to cross that guy, and who has right of way, and whether I am on a lift or a header, and is there more wind on the left or the right, and should I put on more downhaul or more vang, and why isn't the autobailer working, and why is that guy pointing higher than me, and where the hell is the next mark, etc. etc. etc. then I really don't have the bandwidth to think about palm-up-swing-over vs palm-down-under-the-arm.

So I skipped racing on the third day and practiced nothing else but doing tacks and gybes using palm-up-swing-over and palm-down-under-the-arm.

I discovered that my old fault of not sitting down forward enough after the tack was the reason that I wasn't doing the under-the-arm thing. It was much easier if I was far enough forward.

I discovered that palm-down-under-the-arm worked best for me on tacks and palm-up-swing-over worked better for me in gybes.

I practiced doing the hand swap on tacks and gybes the right way over and over again all afternoon. I was trying to rewire my brain to do something a different better way after possibly 30 years of doing it the wrong way.

I suspect I will need several more practice sessions like that before it is totally unconsciously automatic and that I never revert to the old bad habits.

What about you?

How do you break bad sailing habits.

After that I took the beautiful Tillerwoman to Ca Na Marga for dinner where I enjoyed Pizza Mar (with tuna, shrimp and anchovies) followed by one of the house specialities, figs with ice cream. I really can't remember what she had.

This post was way too long.

I think I'll have another beer now.

A Veces Me Pregunto

On my second day at Minorca Sailing I went for a run for an hour before breakfast.

Actually it was an hour of interval training.

I have a running program that says I should do that because I want to run a half marathon later in the year.

Sometimes I wonder...

In the morning my Laser class was all about upwind sailing.

We listened to an instructor for a while and then did lots of upwind sailing.

I guess we must have done some downwind sailing too.

I learned four things that I could improve in my upwind sailing technique.

That's even better than the first day when I only learned three things.

Do I really have so many bad sailing habits?

Sometimes I wonder...

It rained a lot at lunchtime.

Then the wind came in strong from the NE.

It was honking.

The weather forecast said it would gust to 44 mph.

Yeah right!

But I chose to sail a Radial rig anyway.

Hey, I'm officially old now according to the Laser Class. A Great Grandmaster!

First time I have ever raced in a Radial rig.

And I won two of the three races.

Not counting the instructor in the races.

And not counting the extremely fast small lady sailor from the Cambridge University Sailing Team who was sailing a 4.7 rig and probably beat us all on handicap in all three races.

Maybe I should sail in a Radial more often?

Sometimes I wonder....

After that I took the beautiful Tillerwoman to S'Ancora for dinner where I enjoyed sobrada with cheese and honey on toast and then grilled sardines. I really can't remember what she had.

And then after that I felt like I need to sleep for about 16 hours but I guess it was only about 9 hours before it was time to get up for another action-packed day at Minorca Sailing.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Tres Cosas

I am at Minorca Sailing this week.

And next week.

On the first day of sailing on Saturday we were introduced to our instructors.

I was amazed to see that both Ben and Anna are teaching here. Wow!

And that Ben is teaching the Advanced Laser Class.

I learned three things on the first day.

I always like it when I can learn three things.

I can remember three things.

At least I can before the first beer of the day.

Thing Numero Uno

The first thing I learned was that I am doing the hand swap after a tack or a gybe all wrong.

I might have been doing it wrong for 30 years,

I wonder why no other coach ever told me.

I am doing it incredibly stupidly wrong.

If I had ever made a video of myself sailing I would probably have spotted it.

But I haven't so I didn't.


Thing Numero Dos

The second thing I learned was how to slow down on the run.

It's very important to learn how to slow down on the run so you don't get trapped in one of those awful pinwheel leeward mark roundings outside 19 other boats.

The secret is to pull your sail in.

I knew that.

I had tried it.

It didn't work.

What nobody had ever bothered to explain to me before was that when they sail "pull your sail in" they mean "really pull your sail in like over the center line of the boat."

That works.


Thing Numero Tres

The third thing I learned was that when you catch your sheet around the corner of the transom during a gybe (as all Laser sailors inevitably will sooner or later - it's a feature not a bug - thank you Bruce Kirby) you don't have to dive to the back of the boat and pull the sheet off the corner of the transom with your bare hands thereby sinking the transom in the water and slowing the boat down. All you need to do is flick off the sheet with your tiller extension.

Why didn't I think of that?


Already after one day I am a smarter Laser sailor.

Thank you Ben.

(No. It's not really that Ben. I think that Ben is busy this week losing the America's Cup for Larry Ellison)

After becoming so much smarter on only the first morning at Minorca Sailing I decided to skip racing in the afternoon and take a nap.

After that I took the beautiful Tillerwoman to Ca Na Marga where I enjoyed serrano ham on Menorcan bread followed by chicken and vegetable kebabs. I really can't remember what she had.

Life is good.

I think I'll take a nap now.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Laser New England Masters - Day 2

On Sunday last weekend, the second day of the New England Masters our course area was to the north of the Newport Pell Bridge again but over near the Jamestown shore. The wind was a lot lighter and coming off that shore, so I expected it to be quite shifty.

As I sailed out to the course I contemplated how lucky we were that Newport had NOT won the rights to host the 34th America's Cup. With all that lollapalooza going on there would be no way that Fort Adams would also be hosting the New England Laser Masters this weekend.

In most races the majority of the fleet went left on the first beat and a smaller group went right. I have no idea why. It's hard enough for me to devise my own race strategy never mind trying to read the minds of my fellow sailors.

I have been reading Doug's posts over on Improper Course about Sailing in the Middle of the Fleet and based on his words of wisdom I decided that my strategy would be to get clear air as soon as I could after the start and then sail the shifts and the pressure. Have clear air with freedom to tack and just sail my own race. This usually involved getting an OK-ish start, failing to maintain my lane for very long, and then tacking on to port to find a clear lane.

In the first race this didn't work particularly well giving me a result in the high 20's, but in the second race it worked like a charm. I sailed up the middle of the course always trying to sail the lifted tack and keeping in the areas of stronger pressure. I was reassured to see one of the regatta leaders playing the same game with me. And I rounded the first mark in a group of 8 or 10 boats who had a good lead on the rest of the pack.

Downwind I kept my eyes open for which side of the run seemed to have more pressure and headed over there when I saw one side was favored. Didn't make any stupid mistakes on the final beat and crossed the finish line in 6th place! Not too shabby in a 48 boat fleet.

The wind freshened considerably in the third race, the wind went further right at some point, the tide was ripping at the windward mark but other than that I don't really remember much about the last three races. Probably a good thing, looking at the results.

After racing we all mellowed out over chowdah and beer and told each other outrageous exaggerations and downright lies about our experiences during the regatta - as per usual. And when they announced the results it turned out that third place (the lowest award) for the Great Grandmasters (the oldest age group) went to... the old bald guy with the English accent who had been telling those unbelievable stories about getting trapped in the dead zone on the bridge abutment.

Well, I guess it was better than a slap in the face with a wet kipper.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Laser New England Masters 2013 - Day 1

Last weekend I sailed in the Laser New England Masters.

For the past few years this has been held at Third Beach, Newport which as some blogger explained back in 2007 is just about the perfect place for Laser racing.

This year it was run by Sail Newport at Fort Adams with courses on the Eastern Passage of Narragansett Bay which is where the 34th America's Cup would have been held if only Larry Ellison hadn't been bribed by the San Francisco taxpayers to hold AC34 in that other town with a bridge.

I have to say I learned something in every race.

I think the race committee probably learned a thing or two as well.

Our course area was north of the Newport Bridge just off Coasters Island in front of the Naval War College.

Here is a view of our race course from the Naval War College.

Except that on Saturday the wind was blowing from the opposite direction, the wind was a lot stronger, that ugly big aircraft carrier wasn't in the middle of our course, and there were 48 Lasers milling around. Apart from those minor details this is a pretty good picture of our racing on Saturday.

Race 1. 
We had the obligatory general recall that is apparently compulsory at every major Laser masters regatta so that the cream of Laser masters sailors can work out that yes the tide actually is going out and yes it is pushing us all over the line.

On the actual start of the race I was pushed over the line again by the tide in the last minute before the start (I'm a slow learner) and decided to reach down the line to find a hole to duck back down into. All my fellow sailors started shouting helpful advice like, "You're way over the line," and when I tried to duck back down below the line they shouted less helpful advice like, "Up. Up. Up!"  I don't recall any of my sailing books recommending what to do when trying to force your way into the crowded front row of the fleet from above the line. Probably because they didn't imagine in a thousand years that any of their readers would be stupid enough to try this tactic.

At this point I got very confused, I saw a red mist before my eyes, the gun went off and I had nowhere to go except to start sailing to windward to avoid the rest of the fleet. I didn't even think to check the pin to see if I was really over the line but I was pretty sure I was OCS. What the hell, I thought. I might as well keep sailing and see what happens. It turned out that I wasn't OCS and I finished in the mid 20s which is pretty good for me in this fleet.

Lessons learned
1. Mid line sag is real
2. The other sailors have no idea where the start line is either.
3. The books don't teach you everything.

Race 2. 
I made a more conventional start trying to enter the front row from below the line.

I didn't do it very well.

I was blown out the back of the fleet.

Then I thought it might be a good idea to approach the windward mark (of a windward-leeward course with no offset mark) on the port tack layline.

As I approached the mark there was a huge pack of starboard tackers bearing away on the run who, in the stronger winds, were mainly out of control anyway and not expecting to see some old geezer on port tack on a collision course with them.

I finished in the high 30s.


Lessons learned
1. The other sailors in the fleet are really good at accelerating off the start line.
2. I suck at accelerating off the start line.
3. It was more fun when I thought I was OCS.
4. In retrospect it was not a good idea to approach the mark on the port tack layline.

Race 3.
Race 3 on Day 1 of the 2013 New England Laser Masters is a race that nobody who was there will ever forget. And not in a good way.

By now the wind was really honking, blowing dogs off chains, koalas off trees, and other colorful metaphors.

The wind was from the SW and the windward mark was up by the bridge. The tide was running pretty fast by now and was going out, i.e upwind.  The race committee called for a triangular course to give us the thrill of some reaching legs in the stronger wind. So far so good.

What the race committee didn't realize, at least not at first, was that the windward mark wasn't very well anchored and that by the time that those of us in the bottom half of the fleet arrived there it had actually drifted through the bridge.

No problem. Beat through the bridge. Round the mark. Reach back through the bridge.

Ha. As everyone knows winds under bridges are all messed up and squirrely. And the windward mark is probably the most crowded and incident packed part of the course anyway what with certain old geezers trying to come in close to the port tack layline and the general incompetence of some old geezers at bearing away in heavy wind without wiping out anyway. Add in messed up under-the-bridge winds and it was a recipe for disaster.

But wait. It gets better. The starboard tack layline passed close downwind of one of those huge concrete barnacle-coated bridge abutments. And as you passed the abutment you were of course in the wind shadow of afore-mentioned abutment. So you stopped. But the current didn't stop so it bashed you into the abutment. You were now in a total dead zone. You couldn't sail out because there was no wind. And when you tried to push yourself out, the current pushed you back up against the abutment.

I was lucky. I was the right way up in the dead zone as I gently polished my gunwhale against the barnacles on the abutment. Other sailors capsized in the dead zone. One sailor fell out of his boat when it capsized and was swept away from his boat by the current while the boat was polishing itself against the barnacles.

Outside the dead zone it was even worse. A cauldron of death and destruction. Even if you didn't capsize you had to dodge all the boats that did and all the little heads of sailors in the water desperately trying to swim against the current to get back to their boats trapped against the abutment.

I think I will still be having nightmares about this day five years from now. So, probably, will the race committee.

I finished in the high 30s.

Ugly. Ugly.

Lessons learned
1. Sometimes you are the windshield. Other times you are the bug.
2. It would be fun to see a windward mark under the bridge at the America's Cup.

Race 4.
The windward mark was the course side of the bridge this time but I still capsized there.

Lessons learned
1. Don't capsize
2. Learn how to do capsize recoveries faster.

I finished in the high 30s.

Ugly. Ugly. Ugly.

Race 5.
After 4 races in which I was feeling my lack of race experience this summer and wondering whether I should retire from Laser sailing before I did any real damage to myself, I actually sailed a race where I didn't commit a single bone-headed screw-up. I ended up just outside the top 20 in this race, my best result of the day.

Lessons learned
1. Don't screw up
2. When you don't race much you screw up. 

Here endeth the first day of the New England Laser Masters 2013.