Monday, November 30, 2015

RS Aero News

There's a lot happening in RS Aero world these days.

RS Aero World

1. Perhaps the most exciting news is that the RS Aero Class has qualified for ‘world sailing (ISAF) class status’ following the recent World Sailing conference held in China. This is only 18 months after the launch of the class which is now being sailed in 41 nations, and the announcement comes in a week when the 793rd RS Aero was being shipped.

This status gives the class ISAF approval to run an official RS Aero World Championship. I understand discussions are underway as to whether to designate a 2016 event already being planned as the first RS Aero Worlds or wait until 2017. Watch this space!

A major contributing factor to the remarkable growth of the class has been the energetic efforts of our RS Aero International Class Manager - Peter Barton.

Peter Barton
RS Aero International Class Manager
Apparently having just won something
which looks vaguely rude.

Every class should be so lucky as to have a Peter Barton.

2. In the last few months, RS Aeros have been competing in regattas in all four corners of the United States.

 Ash Beatty and Hank Saurage in RS Aeros
and a bunch of other random boats
at the Wurstfest Regatta 
at Lake Canyon YC in Texas 

Ian Ponting and Jim Muir 
at the Goblin Regatta 
in Santa Barbara, California

Andy Mack, Todd Willsie and Michael O'Brien
wearing their cool RS Aero Seattle Fleet hats
at the Puget Sound Sailing Championship
in Seattle, Washington

Gary Werden and Eric Aker
2nd and 3rd RS Aeros
and a bunch of other random boats
at the Archipelago Rally
in Westport, Massachusetts.
Modesty prevents me from
naming the skipper of the first RS Aero.

3. 2016 is shaping up to be an even more exciting year for RS Aeros in North America. It looks like there will be an RS Aero Midwinters in Florida in March. And there will be a major east coast RS Aero regatta in Newport, Rhode Island in July and a major west coast RS Aero regatta in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon in August. 

RS Aeros at the Gorge in 2015

4. An RS Aero has even been spotted racing at that bastion of Laser sailing, the Cedar Point YC Laser frostbite fleet. What is the world coming to?

Spot the RS Aero

5. I have always thought the RS Aero is a pretty cool-looking boat but it seems that RS Aero owners in some parts of the world are turning their RS Aeros into veritable works of art. Some Swedish RS Aero owners have been "coloring" their boats green or pink or orange or blue with vinyl wraps above the water line...

But the prize for best decorated RS Aero must go to Chris, from South Australia, who has named his boat 'Yes!' as in, "Yes! This is the boat I have been waiting for all my life."


I know exactly how he feels.

Confession and correction: Apologies to Hank Saurage for allowing auto-correct to spell his name as Hank Sausage in the first version of this post. 

For the record, Hank is not a sausage.

This is a sausage.

This is a Hank.

Friday, November 27, 2015


Ten years ago today I became a grandfather.

Nine years ago today I posted this collage of shots from the first year of my granddaughter, Emily.

This is how she looks now.

Happy Birthday Emily!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Laser Radial Womens Worlds 2015

The Laser Radials Womens Worlds are being held in Oman this week.

All the world's top women Radial sailors are there - including the contenders for medals at the Olympics next year.

After ten races, going into the final day, Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN) and Evi Van Acker (BEL) are tied on points, with Marit Bouwmeester (NED) the reigning World Champion and silver medalist at the London Olympics in 2012 just four points behind these two.

Anne-Marie Rindom 

Evi Van Acker 

Marit Bouwmeester

Who will be the new world champion?

Will these women be among the medal winners in Rio!?

Mirror Mania!

Was the Mirror Dinghy the start of the dinghy sailing boom in the UK?

Is it the reason why Britain has won more Olympic gold medals in sailing than any other nation?

Friday, November 20, 2015

If I Had A Boat

If I had a boat 
I'd go out on the ocean
And if I had a pony
I'd ride him on my boat 
And we could all together 
Go out on the ocean 
Me upon my pony on my boat


Ride a pony on a boat?

A little boat like a a Laser or an RS Aero?

What a ridiculous idea!

What on earth is Lyle Lovett singing about?

Well it may mean different things to different people. But it seems to me that this is some kind of escapist fantasy. As a boy I always dreamed of owning a boat and going out on the ocean in it. And my granddaughters have been known to say they want ponies for their birthdays. (Not that any of then have had that wish fulfilled. At least not yet!) Is the central theme of this song a combination of those two childhood wishes?

Not that escaping on a boat is merely a childhood dream. For me, and I suspect for many people, the appeal of sailing is that it takes us away from the everyday life of working and living in little boxes and driving in little boxes on roads, and shopping in big boxes (ugh - I hate supermarkets) and bills to pay and the Internet and computers and phones and blogging...

Stop! I need to finish this blog post.

For some of us, sailboat racing provides relief from the pressures and tedium of everyday life. For others, just taking a small boat like a Laser or an RS Aero out to play on the ocean in big waves is their escape route.

But what is Mr. Lovett trying to escape from?

Maybe the first verse will give us a clue?

If I were Roy Rogers 
I'd sure enough be single 
I couldn't bring myself to marrying old Dale 
It'd just be me and Trigger 
We'd go riding through them movies 
Then we'd buy a boat and on the sea we'd sail


He doesn't want to marry "old Dale." He is pulling back from a relationship with a woman...

Roy and Dale

 ... and going back to a childhood fantasy of a man and his horse. 

Roy and Trigger

Maybe the song is about the bitterness of a man who was hurt in a romantic relationship that went wrong?

But wait. What is in the second verse?

The mystery masked man was smart 
He got himself a Tonto 
'Cause Tonto did the dirty work for free 
But Tonto he was smarter 
And one day said kemo sabe 
Kiss my ass I bought a boat 
I'm going out to sea

Lone Ranger and Tonto

The Lone Ranger.  A man and his horse. But now the singer identifies with the lone ranger's Indian companion who "did all the dirty work for free." And it is Tonto who says "kiss my ass" to the boss and goes off on his boat to escape. Or is there an undertone of a sexual relationship here too? Whatever the nature of the relationship it's clear that the image of going out on the ocean on a boat (with or without a pony) is a release from a human bond which the singer wishes to escape.

But things get even more confused in the third verse.

And if I were like lightning 
I wouldn't need no sneakers 
I'd come and go wherever I would please 
And I'd scare 'em by the shade tree 
And I'd scare 'em by the light pole 
But I would not scare my pony 
On my boat out on the sea

Lightning? Sneakers? What does that have to do with the other verses? Well I guess it's all about escape and freedom again so he can "come and go wherever I would please." But there's a touch of anger and maybe even revenge too.  "I'd scare 'em by the shade tree and I'd scare 'em by the light pole." Who does he want to scare? The mysterious woman? Her new partner? The boss man? All of the above? Whatever the source of his rage it is in contrast to his liberation with his pony on his boat out on the sea.


I guess I really am no good at analyzing song lyrics.

All of the above is probably utter nonsense.

You are probably laughing at me because I am too naive to understand the true meanings of "pony" and "ride" and "lightning."  They are likely references to drugs or sex or both, subjects of which I know so little.

So how do YOU explain this weird little song?

This post was inspired by today's post on Damian's excellent blog, The Final Beat,  which is about a different song called If I Had A Boat sung by a musician friend of Damian's.

If I Had A Boat - the Lyle Lovett song not the one by Damian's friend - was one of the the Top 10 Sailing Songs in a vote held by Adam in 2007 on his excellent blog Messing About in Sailboats.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Throwback Thursday - Bitter End Yacht Club 2011

This is one of my favorite photos of me sailing.

Or should I say "not actually sailing?"

This embarrassing incident happened during my stay at Bitter End Yacht Club in the BVI in December 2011.

I was racing in the Laser regatta on my first Sunday there. I won the first race. Then in the second race a squall came through and my mast broke on a beat. Of course I fell out of the boat.

"Luckily" the official photographer was on hand to capture this photo just as my little head in my favorite orange sailing cap popped up out of the water.

Tillerwoman insisted on buying a 12x8 print of this image (the one with the broken mast - not the one of the orange cap) to frame and hang on the wall at home.

For the record, I was towed back to shore, got myself a new rig, came back to the racing, and won the bottle of rum awarded for first place Laser.

Yes, the photo of me and my broken mast has been posted once or twice on the blog before.

There may have even been a picture or two of bottles of rum here before.

I am allowed to do that on Throwback Thursday.

I really need to get back to BEYC some time soon.

Anyone up for a sailing bloggers' reunion there?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Six Words of Sailboat Racing Advice - Learning Experiences

A few days ago I challenged readers to give me their best racing advice in six words.

There have been dozens of wise - and flippant - responses and they are still coming in.

But I wondered, what have I learned from my own racing experiences recently? How could I sum up those learnings in six words?

Racing with the Newport Laser frostbite fleet a couple of weeks ago, I discovered a counter-intuitive way to sail the first beat of a race in a highly competitive fleet and arrive at the windward mark up with the leaders. See Hubcap Diamond Star Halo 56th Sail.


In one race I started at the "wrong" end of the line, I sailed the "wrong" side of the course, and I banged the corner.

But that meant I sailed the whole race in clear air and did the minimal number of tacks. In that race that strategy worked better (for me) than fighting for position on the crowded end of the line, fighting for a clear lane against all the top sailors in the fleet, and being bounced around doing multiple tacks in traffic on the busy side of the course.

Clean start and clear air wins.

Last month I sailed my RS Aero in a local fun pursuit race against an assorted menagerie of craft, the Archipelago Rally.  I came 2nd in the 43 boat fleet. See How I (Almost) Won the 2015 Archipelago Rally.

Some other sailors (behind me)

But I was very lucky. The tide situation favored the faster boats, but even more importantly the leading boats made not one, but two navigation errors! On a course that only had three rounding marks! And I happened to be placed to take advantage of their mistakes. It helps to be lucky but the real moral is...

Know the course. Write it down.

In July I sailed in the RS Aero North Americans in the Columbia River Gorge. I had a blast but on the first day of racing I capsized in three of the four races. I was pretty slow at capsize recoveries and my results were mediocre. See RS Aero Capsizes - Mission Accomplished and RS Aero North Americans.

Some other sailors (way in front of me)

In retrospect it was apparent that I had not practiced enough in the kind of conditions I should have expected in the Gorge - strong winds and short waves. Almost all of my RS Aero sailing in the summer had been done on a lake, on flat water, and usually in quite light winds. There are places in Rhode Island where I could have found conditions more similar to the Gorge and I should have done some RS Aero training there before going to the NAs. (I should have practiced capsize recoveries more too.)

Train for the conditions you expect.

Next year it will be different.

How about you?

Do you have any "learning experiences" from races or regattas that you can sum up in 6 words of advice?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Is the RS300 a Cult?


What is the RS300?

Well it's a singlehanded sailing dinghy from RS Sailing - just like the RS Vareo and and the RS Aero and the RS100, boats I have sailed and written about on this blog.

Well perhaps not quite like those boats.

This is what RS Sailing say about the RS300 on their own  website...
The original fast, responsive and challenging single-hander. 
One of the fastest singlehanders with a cult following.


Really? Cult following? What does that mean?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary has these definitions for "cult" ...
1. a small religious group that is not part of a larger and more accepted religion and that has beliefs regarded by many people as extreme or dangerous  
2. a situation in which people admire and care about something or someone very much or too much  
3. a small group of very devoted supporters or fans

 Another cult


Well, I guess we can ignore definition 1.

Surely RS300 sailing isn't a religion?

And are RS300 sailors really dangerous?

RS300 sailors at 2015 UK Inlands
They look mostly harmless to me

But perhaps definitions 2 and 3 are true?

Does the RS300 only have a small group of devoted fans?

And do they admire the RS300 too much? Are they a "cult"?

I have no idea.

The RS300 was Sailboat of the Year in 1998 so it's been around a while. From what I can discern on the interwebs there are not many new boats being sold today. But on the class website I do see a list of over 150 boats and owners registered and I found a 2011 post on a Yachts and Yachting forum that said about 220 boats had been built at that time.

And do the members of the "cult" (if that's what it is) admire their boats too much? Well, it's hard to say. I'm sure a lot of readers of this blog would say that I admire my own boats the Laser and the RS Aero too much. Indeed, I was once accused by a reader of writing too many "up the Laser rants."

So just like me, the members of the RS300 "cult" will praise their boat to high heaven.

For example, the famous Steve Cockerill is quoted by Wikipedia as saying the RS300 is  "one of the most challenging and exciting dinghies I have ever sailed”  as well as "the first boat that I have sailed that is a joy just to sail around the course let alone race."


Steve Cockerill winning the RS300 UK Nationals in 2003

Steve Cockerill
Not an RS300

But then there's the other point of view.

Here is a perspective on the RS300 posted by Ian C on the Dinghy Anarchy thread What is the most difficult boat to sail?

I've sailed Cherubs, campaigned a 12 for a few years, sailed 18s for a couple of years and currently have a 49er. However, the one boat that just seems intent on murdering you given half a chance in a blow, is the RS300. 
From the moment you put it in water, it wants to fall over. Then all the sail controls work in reverse...if you flat out overpowered on a reach, you pull MORE kicker on to lose power. By which time the sail is so flat you can't read it. Going downwind the silly nose wants to bury all the time, and just at the point that you get far enough back to make a difference, you run out of gunwale. I don't know if it's because it's only got one sail and one person in it, so if any of it is in the wrong place it's going to bite, but gybing the thing is a sod. And when you inevitably piss it in, the thing inverts almost immeadiatly and the daggerboard falls out. Getting back in over the front of the wings almost always ends up in squashed bollocks...

...and getting in over the back invovles 10 knot bodysurfing. And don't forget it looks like someone has thrown a kayak and a windsurfer rig into a skip. Pretty, it ain't.
In lighter winds the boat is an absolute joy to sail, it's fully powered up in a F2. But I just hate them in a F4 or more...they just make you look like a total amateur. I'm practice would help (I've only borrowed one a few times) but I'm not sure I'd make it through the pain barrier! 

 Stuart Hopson sailing in the UK RS300 Slalom Championship in 2015

So what do you think?

Is the RS300 a cult?

Should I buy one?

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Best Racing Advice in Six Words

If you only had six words to pass on some advice about sailboat racing to a new racer, what would they be?

For example, the first answer that springs to my mind when faced with this question would be the somewhat cynical...

"Win the start. Extend your lead."

But I am sure you can do much better than that.

Please leave your answer in the comments to this post.

This post was inspired by the post The Best Cruising Advice in Six Words on Windtraveler the excellent cruising blog about that "estrogen-rich family" Brittany, Scott, Isla, Haven and Mira. (The estrogen quote is theirs, not mine.)

That post was inspired by a recent New York Times contest calling for parenting advice in "six words or less" which was, itself, inspired by the book The Best Advice in Six Words: Writers Famous and Obscure on Love, Sex, Money, Friendship, Family, Work, and Much More.

Is that what they call a "meme?" Whatever they call it, please participate, and leave your answer in the comments.

Racing advice in six words.

First thing that comes into your head.


This challenge is a little reminiscent of the group writing projects we used to run on this blog.

For example in 2008 I asked people to write blog posts or articles on the theme of Best Sailing Innovation Ever which received 25 entries.

A couple of years later we turned that one on its head and had a group writing project on Worst Sailing Innovation Ever which had 28 entries.

Wurst - Worst. Get it?

Some of our group writing projects have had even more entries than that.

But today's challenge is a lot easier than writing a whole article.

Just six words.

Six words of racing advice.

How hard is that?

Please leave your answer in the comments.

Your name - or nom de plume - would be nice too.

"Nom de plume" is French for "name of pen."  Some stupid name you make up if you don't people to know who you are and, really, who could blame you.

Where was I?

Where am I?

Oh yes. Six words of racing advice.

Submit more than one idea if you feel like it.

In the comments to this post.


I don't know what I will do with all the answers.

Probably put them all in a separate post.

Maybe organize them into categories.

Perhaps use some of the best ideas as jumping off points to write some of my own blog posts, full of insane rambling and half-remembered reminiscences about races in which I used - or failed to use - your advice.

I'm not in this video but it does cover a situation which is pretty typical of my own racing career.

I really do need your advice.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Throwback Thursday - Dylan Goes Electric - July 1965

I have just finished reading Elijah Wald's excellent book Dylan Goes Electric. Hard to believe that it's 50 years since Bob Dylan shocked the folk music purists by playing a few songs at the Newport Folk Festival using a band with electric guitars. Oh the humanity!

But it was a big deal at the time. "The Night that Split the Sixties."

The book is a fascinating read. As the blurb on amazon. com tells it....
(The book) explores the cultural, political and historical context of this seminal event that embodies the transformative decade that was the sixties. Wald delves deep into the folk revival, the rise of rock, and the tensions between traditional and groundbreaking music to provide new insights into Dylan’s artistic evolution, his special affinity to blues, his complex relationship to the folk establishment and his sometime mentor Pete Seeger, and the ways he reshaped popular music forever.

As always, there's a lot more to the story than the simple myth that Bob Dylan picked up an electric guitar one July night in Newport in 1965 and changed popular music for ever.

Little did we know at the time, that the same weekend Dylan was in Newport, US President Lyndon Johnson was huddling with his military advisors in Washington, and a few days later he announced his order to increase the number of United States troops in South Vietnam from 75,000 to 125,000, and to more than double the number of men drafted per month - from 17,000 to 35,000.

And of course nobody (apart from the immediate family) took any notice at all that on the last day of July 1965, a couple of newly-weds in England, an aircraft engineer and a science technician, welcomed a baby girl into the world. They called her Joanne but she goes by the name of J.K. Rowling these days.

What does all this have to do with sailing?

Not a lot.

I don't think LBJ and JK were sailors.

But Bob Dylan is (or was.) Check out Snowy Day Laser Sailor Blues which has a photo of Bob Dylan sailing a boat that's not a Laser and some lyrics about Newport.

And for your listening enjoyment - or you can boo if you want to like a lot of yahoos in Newport did - here is the first song in the performance that caused all the brouhaha on July 25 1965.

Well, I try my best 
To be just like I am 
But everybody wants you 
To be just like them