Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Reasons to go to 2017 Laser Masters Worlds - #3 See-Through Toilet Doors

Continuing our series of reasons to go to the 2017 Laser Masters Worlds in Adelaide, assuming they will be in Adelaide which may just be an Internet myth but they ought to be in Adelaide because I am finding all sorts of cool reasons to go to Adelaide...

#3 is so you can check out the see-through doors on the stall doors at the pub in the Kent Hotel in Adelaide.

Yes, apparently it's a real thing.

The whole joint sounds like a pretty wild place because it also has a jungle (above) and a dunk tank.

Supposedly the theory is that the stall doors cloud over when you lock them. But at least one reviewer says they didn't work on the day they were there (or perhaps ever?)  And I also found one report that said they only cloud over to be opaque one way so you can see out while you are sitting on the toilet but nobody can see you.


Is this one of those tall stories that Aussies like to tell unsuspecting Poms and Yanks?

Sadly I couldn't find any pictures online of the see-through toilet doors at the Kent Hotel. I guess Aussies are too shy to take selfies in public bathrooms.  But apparently other places do have something similar.


These ones are at the Cafe Diglas in Vienna.

But who wants to go sailing in Vienna when you could be sailing in Adelaide?

Monday, May 02, 2016

Why I Changed My Name This Weekend

I have been called lots of things in my 67 years on this planet.

My parents gave me a first name which I have never liked very much.

I do have a middle name but I like that even else.

At the school I attended from ages 10 to 17 - what was known as a grammar school in England - I was called by my last name. That was the way in boys' schools in England in those days. That was OK. I have a nice simple English last name which only Americans manage to spell wrongly.

My wife has called me all sorts of things but we don't need to go into that.

I have been called all sorts of things when racing my Laser too.

And here in the blogosphere I go by Tillerman, of course.

Ten years ago, I became Granddad and I thought that was the coolest name ever.

Until this weekend.

We have been in Connecticut celebrating the 2nd birthday of my youngest grandchild, Juliet. That's her on the right in the photo with her big sister Isabel.

Juilet is talking up a storm these days, learning new words and expressions almost every day it seems. Perhaps it was the kids' TV program we watched together about circles and squares and rectangles, and concepts like small, medium and big, but whatever the reason she suddenly decided to call me Big Granddad!!!

It is true that I am a few inches taller than her other grandfather, and Juliet is a very observant child.

I do like my new name.

I am Big Granddad.

Who are you?

Friday, April 29, 2016

7 Reasons Why the Laser is Better than the RS Aero

Once people hear that I, a long-time Laser sailor, bought an RS Aero last year they usually want to know what the differences are between the two boats. So here are 7 of the reasons why I think the Laser is better than the Aero.

1. Recognition
Anybody who sees me with my RS Aero usually comes over and starts ogling my boat and drooling on it and babbling about how cool it looks and acting like a little kid in a toy store two weeks before Xmas, and generally being really annoying. "What is this?" they eventually ask in spite of the fact that it says RS Aero quite clearly on the hull. Duh!

What is this?

Whereas when I take my Laser to the local boat ramp, everybody recognizes it as a familiar and much-loved boat, which is why they usually come on over and ask, "Is that a Sunfish?"

Is that a Sunfish?

2. Weight
The total weight of a Laser is about 170 lbs so you can get a great workout doing things like hauling it up the beach after four hours of hard sailing, or helping little weak people to lift their Lasers on to the roof racks of their super-high giant SUVs.

Manly man training to lift a Laser on to a roof rack

Whereas the RS Aero only weighs about 75 lbs so it practically runs up the beach by itself and you can lift it on a roof rack with your little finger so it provides absolutely no fitness benefits whatsoever.

3. Mainsheet Fun
The Laser has been cleverly designed with the sheet running to a traveler at the rear of the boat and nice square corners at the rear end of the hull which will conveniently catch the sheet if it trails in the water when you are gybing and give you a surprise by quickly capsizing the boat and throwing you in the water. Ha ha ha!

Ha ha ha!

Whereas the designer of the RS Aero, for reasons I just don't understand, designed it with a center sheeting system so you get none of the above-mentioned surprise capsize fun that you get with a Laser. Boring!

4. Bathtub Fun
Similarly the brilliant man who designed the Laser gave it an ingenious tiny autobailer that carefully and slowly drains the water out of the cockpit. So if you are lucky enough to stuff the bow of a Laser into a wave you will fill the cockpit with water and you will be able to enjoy a nice refreshing soak in a cockpit full of water for about ten minutes while the bailer gently empties the cockpit. It's even better than that really because all that water in your cockpit slows the boat down so you can have an even more relaxing time soaking in the tub as you wave to all your buddies sailing past you.

Manly man soaking in tub

Whereas the designer of the RS Aero foolishly designed the RS Aero with an open transom that drains the water out of the cockpit so fast that it's all gone before you can get a chance to enjoy it. Boring again!

5. Head-banging Fun
One of the most exciting things about sailing a Laser is that the boom is so nice and low that you have to duck down really low to avoid getting conked on the head by the boom every time you tack or gybe. I even had an instructor once who used to tell us to "kiss the cleat" every time we tacked. This is an excellent exercise for keeping you agile and flexible as you get older.

Of course sometimes you don't get quite low enough and you get a sharp knock on the head from the boom to remind you to try harder next time. And then after racing you can compare the bruises and bumps on your head with your fellow Laser sailors and boast about them over a few beers.

Whereas... yes you guessed it, the RS Aero has completely done away with this feature of the Laser. The boom is so high you could practically stand up during gybes! What fun is that?  If you don't have any injuries what are you going to boast about?

6. Tossing the Caber
One of the best things about the Laser is that it has a sleeved sail. To rig the boat you just slip the mast into the sleeve and then lift the rig into the air like one of those Scottish blokes tossing the caber and pop the mast into the mast step. This is so much fun to do and great exercise especially when it's blowing 30 knots. It is always gratifying to show off your "tossing the caber" skills to the newbie Laser sailors who haven't mastered the art yet.  And if you are really lucky, some gorgeous little lady Laser sailor will ask a manly man like you for help in tossing her caber.

Manly man in kilt
stepping a Laser mast

Whereas the RS Aero has a bit of string called a halyard to pull up the sail. What a crazy idea! Anyone can do that. Even gorgeous little ladies.

7. The Wisdom of Crowds

Lasers have been around since 1971! Over 200,000 Lasers have been sold! Where I live in Rhode Island we regularly get 40-50 people out sailing Lasers in our local frostbite fleet all winter long!

So if you like bumping gunwales with the same 40-50 guys you have been bumping gunwales with for the last 45 years - and who doesn't? - then the Laser is the boat for you.

Whereas if you buy a new RS Aero you will have all the hassle of trying to persuade your friends to buy RS Aeros and come sailing with you. And then you will have to persuade some sailing club to host your RS Aero fleet. And then you will have to persuade regatta organizers to let RS Aeros come to their regattas.  Who needs all that botheration?

And then, at those RS Aero regattas, you might end up racing people like former surfers and windsurfers and kiteboard sailors and even recovering keelboat sailors  - people who have never even owned a Laser in their lives! Can you believe such people actually exist? Do you really want to associate with them? Oh the humanity!

I think I'll go for a sail in my Laser now.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Very British Problems - How I Failed to Meet a Very Famous Sailing Blogger

Hello, my name is Tillerman and I suffer from Very British Problems.

For those of you who are not Very British, or who have been living under a rock for the last few years or both, Very British Problems is one of those modern media phenomena that started a few years ago as a Twitter feed and which then quickly spawned a book, a TV series, a clothing line and god knows what else.

Very British Problems is all about what makes us British people different from normal people like Americans and Australians - such as our extreme modesty, our amazingly polite manners, our obsession with the weather, and especially our awkwardness in dealing with pretty much every kind of social interaction. All the things that make normal people love us so much.

One of my Very British Problems is not having a clue how to react when I see a Very Famous Person in a public place.

Assuming I recognize who it is (which 87% of the time I don't) what am I supposed to do?

Very Famous Person 
I saw in Logan Airport in 2014 
but I had no idea of
what his name was 
or what his latest record was called

Am I supposed to (Option A) rush up to them and give them a big hug and say how much I liked their latest movie, song, book, political rant or whatever is appropriate for the field in which they are Very Famous? Doesn't this happen to them something like 500 times a day and aren't they totally annoyed when you are the 501st person to do that to them today and they are forced to mutter something along the lines of, "So pleased you liked it." Wouldn't they rather you just left them alone?

Or (Option B) is it more appropriate to just make eye contact and give a little nod of the head and a smile to indicate you know who they are and know better than to annoy them by rushing up and making gushing comments about their latest piece of work?

One of the first times I came across this issue was when I almost literally ran into Prince Charles. He was lucky enough to be spending a couple of years studying at the same university as me and we crossed paths when he was coming out of a local bookshop and I was going in.

There are probably special rules for how to great Very Famous Royal People which makes things even more complicated. And in any case if you are going to adopt option A above, what are you supposed to tell a Very Famous Royal Person you like about their latest work? Especially this one who actually did even less work than other Very Famous Royal Persons because he was just a student like me?

"I like that nice suit you're wearing, Your Royal Highness - but why don't you dress in jeans and a raggy old sweater like the rest of us?"  I don't think so.

Or perhaps, "Hi Charlie - I'm a big fan of the whole royal family thing - how are the corgis - say hi to your Mum for me." That doesn't seem entirely appropriate either.

So I just pretended I didn't recognize him.

Probably just as well really.

And then there was the time I was quietly having breakfast on the restaurant terrace at the Bitter End Yacht Club a few years ago and Richard Branson came zooming up in a big swanky speedboat (he owns a couple of the nearby islands and stuff) and he walked right past me into the restaurant.

What was I supposed to say?

"Hi Sir Richard - sorry about your house burning down. Hope you had good insurance!"

"Hi Dicky - love this whole space thing you're doing - how do I sign up to go to Mars?"

My mind was a total blank.

So I decided to be Very British and opted for a subtle version of option B. The briefest of eye contacts. (I think he probably recognized me too. Probably reads my blog.) And a very slight smile that clearly indicated, "I know who you are but I choose not to invade your privacy because I understand what a bore it is being very famous and insanely rich."

I think he appreciated my Very British solution to the dilemma.

So last December when Tillerwoman and I were standing in the immigration line at Beef Island airport on Tortola and I spotted a Very Famous Sailing Blogger and her family a few places ahead of us in the line, I had no idea how to react.

Immigration line
Not actually the one at Beef Island

As well as all the usual Very British Problems associated with approaching Very Famous People in public, there were two other complications to the situation.

Number 1 - and most significant - is that we were standing in a line - a queue as we Very British People call it. And we Very British People have a whole huge set of Very British Problems about the etiquette of queues. Most important of all is the commandment that THOU SHALT NOT JUMP THE QUEUE. As a Very British Person I was almost certainly physically incapable of stepping out of the line and going to chat with a person several places ahead of us in the line. I would be feeling that everyone else in the queue would be deeply offended because they would think I was "jumping the queue" and that is something that Very British People never do.

Number 2 - was that I am also a sailing blogger - but nothing like as famous as the Very Famous Sailing Blogger.  I know who she is but does she have a clue who I am? Does she read my blog? Has she ever left a comment on my blog? My mind is a blank. The answer to these questions is very important. Depending on the answer it will make a difference to my opening remarks.

Do I introduce myself as an anonymous fan, or rush up to her and shout, "Hi! I'm TILLERMAN!!!" which would be about the stupidest thing to do with several dozen strangers watching us and listening to me if the Very Famous Sailing Blogger had no idea who the hell I was.

While I am pondering these issues, the Very Famous Sailing Blogger reaches the front of the queue and starts what looks like a very complicated conversation with the Immigration Officer presumably about the immigration status of her and her mother and her three beautiful little daughters. So I figure I will wait until we are both through Immigration and then sidle up to her in the baggage hall and start a quiet conversation with an opening gambit along the lines of, "Hi, aren't you Brittany from Windtraveler?" and compliment her on the good behavior of her three little girls because they really were being amazingly good. I think even a Very British Person could manage that.

But before I get the chance to make my move, BVI Immigration escorted the Very Famous Sailing Blogger and her mother and her three beautiful little daughters off to one of those rooms that they have in every Immigration Department in every airport in the world which you always hope you never see the insides of because who knows what they do to you in there?

And I never saw her again.

And that is how this Very British Person failed to meet a Very Famous Sailing Blogger.

PS If you ever see me in real life, please feel free to rush up to me and give me a big hug (especially if you are female) and tell me how much you love my latest blog post (even if you can't remember the title or what it's about.) I won't mind. Really.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Reasons to go to 2017 Laser Masters Worlds - #2 Pie Floaters

Doesn't that look delicious?

It does indeed.

But what is it, Tillerman?

That, my friend is a "pie floater."

According to Wikipedia (which is never wrong) the pie floater is an Australian dish particularly common in Adelaide. It commonly consists of a traditional Australian-style meat pie, usually sitting, but sometimes submerged (sometimes upside down) in a bowl of thick pea soup. It is usually garnished with tomato sauce.

Apparently Anthony Bourdain, Billy Connolly and Joe Cocker are high profile fans of the pie floater.

Well, Joe Cocker was a big fan of pie floaters before he died a couple of years ago. As far as I know nobody ever conclusively proved a connection between Mr. Cocker's death and his consumption of pie floaters.

The pie floater in the photo at the top of this post is from Vili's Café in Adelaide, Australia. (How did you guess?)

And when I go to the 2017 Laser Masters Worlds in Adelaide I am definitely going to Vili's Café to enjoy a pie floater.

Can you believe it? Some of the Anonymous commenters on my blog have been casting doubts on my assertion that the 2017 Laser Masters Worlds will be in Adelaide.

How dare they?

Do I question your faith?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Fork in the Road

A fork in the road.

This is not photoshopped - even though I know it looks like it could be.

I really did pass this on the way to the Archipelago Rally in Westport, MA last year.

Did I ever tell you how I (almost) won the Archipelago Rally?

Reasons to go to 2017 Laser Masters Worlds - #1 Diving with Great White Sharks

I was thinking of writing a series of posts on Reasons I Should Go To The 2017 Laser Masters Worlds In Adelaide, Australia.

Thanks to a comment on yesterday's post by Barubi, here is #1 in the series.

Apparently just across the bay in Port Lincoln, you can go diving with great white sharks. I mean, who doesn't have diving with great white sharks on their bucket list?

Can't you just see me doing this?

Tillerwoman was born in Australia but surprisingly for a "right dinkum sheila" she says there is no way she is going to go diving with great white sharks while I am sailing.

Maybe this would be more her style?

Anyway, if any other Laser Masters sailors (or their wives, husbands, domestic partners, trolly dollies, boat boys or whatever) are thinking along the same lines, you can book up for your shark dives at Adventure Bay Charters.

Go for it!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Laser Radial Masters Worlds 2016 - Nuevo Vallarta, Mexcio

I think I sailed in six Laser Masters World Championships from 2000 to 2010 - in Mexico, UK, USA, Spain (twice) and Australia.

I have been telling myself the last few years that, in spite of having had some amazing sailing experiences at those events, I've got it out of my system, that I have no desire to go to any more Masters Worlds.

I even compare it to running marathons. Glad I did that three times. Don't feel the need to do any more.

This video almost makes me want to change my mind, to actually do some more Laser Masters Worlds.

Is it the enthusiasm of the sailors?

Is it those gorgeous sailing conditions?

Or perhaps it's the band?

And I hear that next year the Masters Worlds will be in Australia.

Tillerwoman always likes an excuse to visit the land of her birth.

Maybe I will do it for her?

I don't know what's come over me.

Perhaps I should consider training for one more marathon too?

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Alison Young GBR - 2016 Women's Laser Radial World Champion

Congratulations to Alison Young of the British Sailing Team on winning the 2016 Women's Laser Radial World Championship in Mexico this week agains some tough competition.

Going into the final race, Paige Railey of the USA was leading by four points. Alison won the race and Paige finished sixth giving Alison the gold medal by one point!

Full results are here.

I think we will have to have a British patriotic song to celebrate the occasion. So turn up the volume, open all the windows, and treat your neigbours to Rule Britannia from the Last Night of the Proms in 2009. What could be more British than this?

PS I don't think that mezzo-soprano dressed up as Lord Nelson is Alison Young.

This is Alison Young.

For more on Alison's background and sailing achievements, check out Proud to be English.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Test Drives for Sailors - Absolutely Essential or Waste of Time?

How do you go about buying a sailing dinghy when it's a design you have never sailed before?

Are you prepared to make a decision on what other people say, what you have read, watching videos of it, seeing other people sail it?

Is it good enough for you to know that it's a popular boat in the area where you live and that you will have plenty of other people to race with?

Or do you absolutely have to sail it first yourself to make sure you really like it?

Looking back on the sailing boats I have bought over the years. I realize I am very much in the camp of people who would answer with a very definite YES to the last question. I want to "kick the tires" and go for a "test drive" first before I buy.

Kicking the tires

But is that always easy to do?

Do you have a friend who will let you try out their boat? What if it's a singlehander? Does your friend trust you enough to let you blast around for an hour or so in their shiny new boat that set them back more than a few thousand bucks?

Can you walk into your local dinghy shop and ask the dealer to let you sail one of the boats in the showroom? Is he or she set up to let you do that?

I have been lucky. I have owned three classes of sailing dinghies - Laser, Sunfish and RS Aero (not counting the Optimists I bought for my kids) and I did have the chance to take a Laser, a Sunfish and an RS Aero for a test sail before I bought each one.

My first sail in a Laser was at Minorca Sailing. My wife and I went there on a two week holiday in 1981. First of all we learned to sail in a two person boat, and then I started taking out some of the singlehanders there. It must have been almost the last day of the holiday when I took a Laser out for the first time. I was hooked immediately. I went home and bought one, the first of four new Lasers which I have bought. And I still am a Laser sailor.

Some young dude trying a Laser at Minorca Sailing
(Not me)

When we moved from England to New Jersey in 1989 I discovered that the most popular singlehander in the North Jersey lakes area where we lived was a strange little boat called a Sunfish. The man across the road from us owned one and he encouraged me to take his Sunfish out for a sail one day. I must admit I wasn't impressed at first. It didn't seem to point very well. It didn't plane as well as a Laser. But it was good enough and it was what everybody else in our lake and the other nearby lakes was racing, so I bought one. No regrets. Had some amazing experiences on the Sunfish racing circuit including some memorable world championships in the Caribbean and South America.

The Sunfish IS comfy!
(Not me)

And then there is the RS Aero.

RS Aero in Barcelona
(Not me)

In many ways this was a tougher decision than it was to buy my first Laser or my first Sunfish. Back in 2014 and early 2015 when I was trying to decide whether or not to buy an RS Aero, there weren't any local established fleets. By buying when I did I would be one of the first RS Aero owners in New England, indeed in the country, so I didn't want to buy a boat that was just "good enough" as I felt about the Sunfish. It had to be a boat that offered a significantly better sailing experience than my current boat (a Laser) AND it had to be attractive enough that I could see a good probability that it would eventually take off and there would be local fleets to race with.

And so it was back to where it all started - Minorca Sailing. In the fall of 2014 Tillerwoman and I went on our (almost) annual vacation to Minorca Sailing and I had a chance to try out the RS Aero they had there. I wrote about the experience at....

RS Aero - First Impressions
RS Aero - Impressions in Light Winds
RS Aero - Impressions in Stronger Winds
RS Aero - Capsize Recovery

I gave the RS Aero a good workout in different wind strengths, with 7 and 9 rigs, and I made sure I could do capsize recoveries. In the end I decided that I would go ahead and buy an RS Aero if my two friends back home decided to do the same after their demo sails. But I probably wasn't crazy enough about it to buy it if I was going to be the only sailor in New England with an RS Aero. (I felt much the same about the RS 100 after trying one in Menorca a few years earlier.)

RS Aero at Minorca Sailing
(Not me)

And the rest is history. The three of us took delivery of RS Aeros in May of 2015. We raced RS Aeros all summer at our home club. We hosted a couple of RS Aero regattas at the club. Two of us sailed in the first RS Aero North Americans in the Columbia River Gorge. One sailed in the RS Aerocup in Barcelona.

RS Aeros at the Gorge
(Is me)

And now at the start of a new season we have lots of plans and ideas for growing RS Aero activity in New England and holding bigger regattas and going back to the Gorge again... and did I hear a rumor about an RS Aero regatta on Lake Garda in September?

Sailing on Lake Garda
(Not RS Aeros)

Buying an RS Aero has turned out to be an excellent decision for me.

But the whole process has got me thinking.

Does everybody need a test sail before buying a new class of sailing dinghy?

Is a quick 20 minute demo sail enough for some people to make a decision?

Or do some people need to sail the boat several times in different conditions before laying down their money?

I was surprised to discover from talking to a number of experienced sales professionals in the sailing industry that some of them are skeptical about the value of "demo sails."

Some of these pros (not all by any means) seem to feel that demo sails can be a big waste of time. They say that demo sails are often exploited by people who have no intention of buying the boat but just want to try out a new boat or have a ride around the harbor on a summer afternoon.

I have heard talk of charging for demo sails or of asking people to put down a deposit on a boat first.

I am not sure how to reconcile these opinions of the professionals with my own feeling that I need to sail a boat before I buy it. Is getting as many people as possible to try out a cool new boat a good sales strategy, or not?

What do you think?