Monday, September 15, 2014


When I started sailing in England I belonged to a sailing club on a lake only a few miles from my home. I sailed there pretty much every weekend. It was fun. It was what hooked me on sailing.

Yes, I know those aren't Lasers. But that is the right lake.

Then some friends at the club invited me to go and race with them at some other clubs nearby. We called these events "open meetings" in the UK. Once I even drove about 50 miles to an open meeting and raced a sailor who had just won the European Laser Championship. But most of my sailing was at the local lake.

When I moved to America there was a sailing club on the lake just across the road from my house. My sons and I sailed there pretty much every weekend in the summer. They sailed Sunfish at the club so we sailed Sunfish too.

I still had a Laser so occasionally I would travel to the Jersey shore, or Lake Hopatcong, or Marsh Creek in Pennsylvania to compete in Lasers. They call these events "regattas" in the US. I went to the Laser Masters US Nationals in New Jersey in 1990. But I never drove more than two or three hours to a regatta.

Them I got the travel bug. I had heard about events like the midwinter regattas in Florida (for Sunfish and Lasers) and the Sunfish North Americans and the Sunfish Worlds. So some winters I drove to Florida. And then I started flying overseas to regattas and went to the Sunfish Worlds in the Dominican Republic and in Colombia. It was exciting going to new countries and experiencing their culture and their food and meeting other sailors from other countries.

And then I realized I could go to Laser Masters Worlds and went to England and Mexico and Spain (twice) and Australia. Tillerwoman always came with me on these trips, and after I had retired we took the opportunity to tack on some extra weeks and explore the countries hosting these regattas.

Random photo to illustrate foreign culture
Not Australia

When we moved to Rhode Island I discovered there were so many regattas locally that I didn't need to drive very far to sail in them. I didn't even have a regular club to sail at in the summer. It was all regattas. And lots of practice days on the bays locally, sometimes on my own and sometimes with friends. There was frostbiting in the winter too when I felt like it.

In the last few years, I haven't felt much like driving hundreds of miles or flying thousands of mile to sail when I can have just as much fun sailing locally.

Recently I have occasionally sailed with a couple of Laser fleets that are each about an hour's drive away from my home. It reminds me of the days when I started sailing. Small fleets. Short courses. Minimal waiting around between races. Everybody knows everybody. Not too serious. Just half a dozen or so Laser dudes having fun sailing round a sausage.

A sausage

On Sunday I sailed with the Duxbury Laser fleet. We had about 10 or 12 knots of breeze from the north. We did 7 or 8 windward-leeward races and had some good close races and all came off the water thinking we had just had about as much fun in two hours as it is possible to have in a Laser.

Some of my friends drove 8 hours to Rochester to sail in the Laser Masters US Nationals. They had fun too. But there was no wind in Rochester on Sunday so there were no races that day.

Some sailors will drive 3,000 miles to a regatta. Sometimes they have more of an adventure on the the drive than they do at the regatta. Check out Carol Cronin's Deer in the Headlight:Better Lucky than Good for example.

Interesting map of the likelihood of hitting a deer 
with your car in the next year in the US by state.

I seem to have lost much of my passion for travel to sailing events these day. I feel like I'm returning to my roots.

Am I getting old?

Or getting young?

Maybe one day I'll get the travel bug again and jet off to New Zealand or Argentina for a Laser Masters Worlds? Or maybe not.

Wait. I forgot. I just booked a trip to go sailing in the Mediterranean in a few weeks.

Just ignore everything I just said.

Like you usually do.

Me sailing in the Mediterranean in a few weeks
If I get young again

Enough about me?

Do you have the travel bug?


/Pam said...

Having just returned from a 4 hour drive to Austin for a Sunfish regatta ... first ... the map is wrong ... deer are all over the place in certain parts of Texas and a real hazard at dusk and dawn ... we saw three out early as we were exiting the yacht club and heading home. Second, we're trying to race on both the Laser and Sunfish circuits in Texas this year. Lots of driving and it does get a little old. It feels like we barely get home and get the gear all aired out then it's time to load different boats on the trailer and head out again. We spent all day Saturday sailing in the rain for 6 races ... at the end of the regatta, Doug lost the regatta on a tie breaker ... and I won one race with Doug right behind me which took away that one point he needed to won ... it kinda made the trip worth it.

And why are you not going to the France Masters Worlds? You're going to be almost in the same place about the same time.

Joe Rousé said...

Hm, I think the chances of hitting a deer are greater than the map showing California indicates. See a couple take a stroll across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Tillerman said...

/Pam - I am going to Minorca Sailing because I enjoy sailing there more than I enjoy sailing a Masters Worlds. It's not just the travel obviously. Maybe it needs another post to explain the other dimension.

George A said...

One of the blessing of a large, popular dinghy class is that one doesn't have to travel much to find a race. That's the way it was with Moths in the '50s and '60s. As a junior sailor I never got out of the state of New Jersey.

Now Classic Moths and their owners are spread thin on the ground. We all have to travel a fair bit to race. It's a double edged sword: one must travel in order to race but the benefit is that one gets to experience conditions at different venues and one gets a view of a different neck of the woods. As I grow older it is a bit of a hassle to get loaded up (especially if one is towing a trailer with multiple boats) and the cost of fuel is certainly not getting any cheaper, but it's still manageable. I hope it remains so for another ten or fifteen years.

Tillerman said...

Good points George. And if I do acquire an RS Aero I will be in the same boat as you, metaphorically speaking. I may well have to travel longer distances to find regattas I can do, at least for the first few years of the new class. Perhaps the Aero will renew my passion for travel?

George A said...

Hopefully there will be an RS Aero fleet in area St. Pete. If timed correctly you could attend Kurt Taulbee's racer boot camp and then take in a regatta for the cost of one trip down I-95/ I-75. Nothing like a nice long road trip towing a trailer to get one over the annual case of white line fever.

Tillerman said...

Sounds like a great idea. Except if I ever do that drive with a Laser or an Aero I will be carrying the boat on a roof rack, not on a trailer.

R1 said...

I would like to do more of our region's Laser Travellers' regattas but I am generally put off by the following:
1. Travel time
2. Fear of arriving to (a) a gale (b) no wind
3. Regattas with 120 boats in 10 classes that takes 30-40mins to get them all off (even without a GR), 1hr race, 1hr between race (multiplied by 3 or 4).
4. Cost of accomodation for multi-day regattas.

I would accept 1 and 2 for class specific regattas, probably even 4.

But to travel somewhere that has class specific regattas, sunshine, warm water, decent fleet, decent breeze, comfort onshore.....I would certainly push the boat out for that! Any suggestions?

George A said...

Boils down to how much you wanna race.

Moth boaters take out some of the sting of accommodation costs by taking each other in at various regattas. My house is lousy with sailors in every bed, on every sofa, camped in the yard in tents etc. for the BYC regatta. Likewise, this coming weekend I'll be bunking in the spare bedroom of a fellow competitor down at Elizabeth City, NC--good times and lots of opportunities for "bench racing" and socializing. For the Mid-Winters down in FLA the wife and I budget for a nice B&B, but we stay with friends along the way to/from the regatta. That gets in a couple visits with distant friends, saves on motel bills and make the trip less of a kamikaze run for the Missus, so several birds with one stone.

As for the weather--ya can't control that Bunky, it is what it is. I've driven to St. Pete only to spend the first day drinking beer on the clubhouse porch--actually not a bad thing (pack a small cooler and fill it with a decent craft brew). In my experience it's v. rare that an entire weekend is unsailable. That kind of weather is generally predictable days before the event and we've postponed regattas (example: a hurricane or other big system is bearing down with a fairly certain arrival time).

I agree with you on the subject of big multi-class regattas--you can easily spend more time bobbing up and down waiting for your start than actually racing so I tend to avoid those for the most part. Even for a small class like Classic Moths there's plenty of events that are Moths only or just a couple other classes.

Ditto on venues where the starting area involves a long sail from the beach or club dock. It's not that I mind the extra sailing (kind of enjoy that after all) but more to the point if you have a mechanical issue your regatta is over by the time you're towed in, effect a repair and then sail back out to the start area. At venues where you can easily sail to some beach, even if it's not the club beach, you have the potential to re-tie a line or make a quick jury rig and get back in the hunt, missing just one race. I think Tillerman beat to death the subject of how to jury rig most of the common break-downs in one of his earlier posts (keep some extra line in your pocket or wrapped around something in the boat).

As for travel time, the Mid-Winter regatta is the only one I attend which involves more that 4 or 5 hours of drive time. Usually by February I'm more than willing to drive the distance to escape Mid-Atlantic winter for a few days. Going to a regatta beats working every time and yes, I still like my job.

Tillerman said...

I think that R1 and George have hit the nail on the head.

For me the cost doesn't really inhibit me from going to an event I really want to do. And if it's attractive enough I will travel. What really ticks me off about some events is what another commenter on here called "too much faffing around."

The Faff Factor seems very important to me these days. That's one reason I like Minorca Sailing so much. Very low Faff Factor.

Tillerman said...

Talking of too much faffing about, here is today's Facebook status from Christine Neville, one of 3 US women sailing in the Radials at the ISAF Worlds in Santander this week. This of course is the ultimate multi-class event but they were also plagued with light winds. Christine worked extremely hard to qualify for and prepare for this event, not to mention much effort on fundraising to raise the money to go.

"We never raced today. The laser and laser radial world championships are over except for the medal race and the silver fleets never got to race. Thats 4 days without racing. There is nothing you can do about the weather, but when there are race-able conditions (all day today there was 14-25 knots on the Duna course and no- one was racing there) at a World Championships, the race committee should be able to host races. Today was a joke, the laser gold and radial gold fleets spent 7 hours on the water and only sailed one race due to RC incompetence, and there were empty course areas most of the day while lasers sat on shore wishing they could sail. It's not often that you feel it was a waste of time to travel to a regatta."

George A said...

No excuse at that level. ISAF should be required to return entry fees and reimburse travel expenses. Most sailing instructions read that at least one race is required to constitute a regatta. No racing due to weather is understandable, but the silver fleets didn't get to race even when conditions permitted. That's the kind of stunt that makes me glad I'm in a relatively low pressure group with no great aspirations.

Tillerman said...

As I understand it George, all the Radials raced a 4 race qualifying round to split the fleet into silver and gold. Then the gold fleet sailed only 3 more races (plus the medal race) and the silver fleet didn't get any more races in. The weather wasn't great on the days scheduled for the silver and gold fleet racing and I guess the organizers gave precedence to completing as many gold fleet races as they could. There was a similar situation in the men's Laser fleet. Tough luck on the sailors in the silver fleets though. Big multi class multi fleet regatta can be very frustrating.

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