Sunday, April 30, 2006

Woods and Lakes Run 2006

Dear Tillerman, Congratulations on finishing the WOODS AND LAKES RUN 2006 (29TH ANNUAL!) on April 29, 2006.

For your records, the weather that day was SUNNY!!! COOL!! 52 degrees, COURSE DRY.

There were 24 finishers in the Men 50 to 59 age group and 106 finishers in the 10K race. Your overall finish place was 60 and your age group finish place was 17.

Your overall finish percentile was 57 while your age group percentile was 71.

Your time of 51:36.64 gave you a 8:19 pace per mile.

We hope to see you again next year for the 30th ANNUAL Woods and Lakes Run!!

Saturday, April 29, 2006


Avid readers (are there any?) of this blog will have noticed that I have not actually gone sailing on any day except Sundays since last October. But on Friday, I went sailing. Well, not exactly.

After the ceremonies for Tillerwoman, she and I along with son #2 and his girlfriend headed up to the lake in the woods. They did some fishing and I played with my radio-controlled Laser.

The Constant Gardener

Friday was Tillerwoman's day.

One of my commenters christened my wife as Tillerwoman a few months ago and I've taken to using that name here to refer to her myself. It only occurred to me the other day that the name is a better fit than I had ever realized.

tiller, n. One who tills.

till, v.t. Prepare and use soil for crops.

Yup. I just waggle a tiller. She is a tiller.

My thing is sailing; her thing is gardening. My idea of a perfect day is playing with my Laser in wind and waves. Her idea of a perfect day is playing in the dirt.

I've spent the last few summers teaching kids to sail. She's spent the last few summers helping to run a gardening program for kids where they grow their own vegetables and flowers.

On Wednesday nights I go racing with a local Sunfish fleet. On Wednesday afternoons, Tillerwoman runs an after-school nature program for third-graders at our local elementary program. She's been running that program for fifteen years now.

This year she received the recognition that she richly deserves. She was chosen to be the person to be honored in our town's Arbor Day ceremony. Her name was displayed on the notice board outside the town hall all week. (I would have shown you a photo but it looks just like one of my church sign spoofs so you probably wouldn't have believed it.) On Friday afternoon all the kids from the elementary school assembled in front of the school in perfect, sunny, spring weather. The school band played. Poems about trees were read by the first grade classes. Speeches were made by the principal, the school superintendent, the mayor and the chair of the shade tree commission. A certificate was presented. A flowering cherry tree was ceremonially planted in honor of Tillerwoman. (That's it in the photo above.)

And everyone applauded Tillerwoman for all her wonderful work with the kids over the years teaching them about plants and passing on to them her love of nature.

I'm so proud of her.

Friday, April 28, 2006


I do like to do some yoga stretches before any exercise, whether it is running, sailing, weight-lifting or using the hiking bench. Many experts advise that stretching is helpful, even essential for older bodies like mine.

I think Cutest Granddaughter in the World has been watching me doing my yoga and trying to copy me.

Here she makes a brave try at Upward Facing Dog but, being the genius that she is, I think her brains are too heavy for her to achieve the perfect position.

She makes a better attempt at Full Boat Pose. Of course with both grandfathers having a passion for boats and a father and uncle who are sailors we would expect her to be good at anything to do with boats.

Perhaps for the time being she should stick to what she does best.

Sleep well you Princess of New England.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Sail Towards the Next Shift

It's been a couple of weeks since my last post about Dave Dellenbaugh's lecture on Top Ten Tactical Tips. The last two tips were about sailing the beat, and so is this one. At least the title is. The discussion then went off into some issues related to downwind sailing and current. Not sure if this is what Dave intended or just where the audience's questions led him.

"Sail towards the next shift on a beat." As Dave said, this works in both oscillating and persistent breezes. If it's oscillating you are sailing a lift out to where the next header should be coming from. And if it's persistent you are sailing the header expecting to be headed more and more and then be able to lay the mark in a big lift. Either way you are sailing the shortest course to the windward mark.

So what does it add to have another tip that says, "Sail towards the next shift on a beat"? Beats me. Can any of you clever commenters out there explain why Dave used up one of his ten tips to repeat advice he had already given? Or am I missing something?

Anyway, under this title Dave then meandered off into various other pieces of tactical advice. First was to say that in light air you should go for pressure and in heavier air go for shifts. Having done most of my sailing in light air on lakes I have certainly learned this the hard way. If you can sail in two knots of breeze over there it sure beats sailing in half a knot of breeze over here, irrespective of headers or lifts or even if "over there" is ninety degrees away from the course to the windward mark or fifty yards above the layline.

Dave then pointed out that often a change in wind direction is associated with an increase in velocity. So in sailing towards a shift upwind you are sailing towards a wind with better pressure and better direction. But the reverse is true offwind.

This is where my Laser sailor's eyes start to glaze over. At one level I can sort of grasp intellectually the standard tactical advice about how you want to be sailing on the headed shift downwind. But it's not something I can relate to physically. Given that a Laser can sail extreme angles by the lee - and is often faster sailing a run by the lee - this whole art of sailing the shifts downwind is something I have never bothered to try and understand and probably never will.

Then Dave got into a discussion of sailing a beat where there is land towards one side, and why it usually pays to sail towards the land. The wind off the land may well be oscillating so there will be shifts you can use. Also the way the wind curves off the land is effectively a persistent shift so you can use that too. Hmmm - I guess that is why my strategy of banging the right corner in a NW breeze (when the land is on the left) in the last few weeks of frostbiting has never seemed to work out? Duh.

BOCTAOE. But of course, the closer you get to the land, the lighter the wind might be. So it might be the wrong choice. Ain't sailboat racing grand?

We finished off talking about sailing in current in the simple example where the current is running straight up or down the wind direction. Dave said that upwind if you head towards the side with the most favorable current, then the effect of the current on your apparent wind will mean that you are sailing in better pressure. This works irrespective of whether the current is running up or down the wind. On the other hand, on a run if you head towards the side with the more favorable current you will be sailing in lower apparent wind.

I must admit this one was a new idea for me. If you geeks don't believe it, draw your own vectors - I'm not starting a current/tide/apparent wind geeking out thread. At least not until we've beaten to death the "how do sails work" geekfest. Perhaps in a few months we can tackle the good old "Is there a lee-bow effect" question and other brainteasers.

So there you have it. A bit of a ragbag of different tactical tips under one heading this time. Next tip is also about the beat.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Sailing Goodies

Wow! What a great list of sailing doodads!

I wrote about my favorite sailing store Annapolis Performance Sailing before and I make no apologies for plugging them again because the list of Hot New Items on their website this week is a treasure trove of sailing booty. If you're looking to buy a gift for that special sailor in your life, you are sure to find something here to please him or her.

Top of the list are the Velocitek S3 GPS Speedometer and S5 GPS Race Computer. I wrote a post about the S3 back in December when I first heard about it via Rohan Veal's blog. A total indulgence of course for a middle-of-the-fleet weekend-warrior Laser sailor like me. What does it matter if I'm going at 2.1 or 2.2 knots? I'm not going to be breaking any sailing speed records. But there is something seductive about the idea of sailing a screaming reach with the eyes focused on those huge digits indicating my speed. If I move my weight 2 inches back does it squeeze out another 0.1 knot? How about if I just sheet in a smidgen? Only for practice of course. Expensive, but what a cool toy!

Then there is the C-Vane Laser Wind Indicator. A deceptively simple invention it solves a problem well know to anyone who has sailed Lasers for a time.
During any given regatta, one sailor will cross close enough to windward of another so that their boom passes just above the wind indicator of the leeward boat. Any Laser sailor knows what happens next. The mainsheet eventually rips the vane from its bracket, never to be seen again. There is a better way. C-VANE is here. When a threatening mainsheet passes over a C-VANE, it merely slides down the bracket, making a casual spin of the vane without hanging up and away it goes, leaving the wind indicator still attached and fully functional. Full protection from accidental removal and designed with less friction than any other small boat wind indicator, the C-VANE is the new paradigm for single handed sailors of all designs.
Another expensive trinket to avoid a very occasional mishap. But when you're racing in fleets like this one it might be worth it.

I don't quite know why APS is advertising cold weather gear in April on their Hot New Items List - suspect the winter gear will shortly be moving to Sale Rack Blowouts. However, one of the items on the list is a staple of my own frostbiting equipment and I can heartily recommend it. The Henri-Lloyd Goretex Drysuit is, at the same time, one of the most effective and one of the most hardwearing pieces of sailing clothing I have ever owned. No more of that yucky condensation in your nether regions that you always accumulate after an active day of sailing in a non-breathing drysuit. I must have had my current drysuit for at least five years now and even after all those years of frostbiting, grinding back and forth, in and out, on an abrasive Laser deck it's hardly showing any signs of wear.

The hot items list also includes Steve Cockerill's Boat Whisperer DVDs - something I don't need to buy as son #2 bought them for me for Christmas. I am ashamed to admit that I was trashing Steve for his choice of title in a post I wrote on the day after Christmas Day. But having watched them and also attended a talk by Steve a few weeks ago I can only say that, if you are a sailor of boats like the Laser these DVDs have the power to transform your life. They will convince you that many things you thought you knew about boat-handling are 180 degrees wrong. I'm going to have to write some posts about what Steve is teaching in the DVDs some time soon.

Finally, perhaps the most unusual item on the hot items list is the Alden Bugly Current Stick and Wetland Seed Sower.

Slip an Alden Bugly Current Stick and Wetland Seed Sower into the water near a mark. The ballasting is such that all but the yellow cap is submerged. Thus ABCs are unaffected by wind and are a far more reliable current telltale than "reading" the wake on a crab pot or other surface current telltale devices which are largely wind instead of current driven.

Pick it up and use it again or if you can't pick it up not to worry. ABCs are 100% biodegradable and as they biodegrade they release wetland seeds. Wetland grasses will grow from some of the seeds resulting in cleaner water we wouldn't otherwise have. You'll win the race and be the Johnny Appleseed of the racecourse. Cool!
What will they think of next?

Now where's my credit card? I have an urge to do some shopping for that "special sailor in my life". (Me of course.)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Ask the Tillerman #5

Dear Tillerman,
I'm confused - I never know whether to go high or low on a reach - whatever I do I seem to go backwards in the fleet. I've read all the books I can find on tactics but nothing seems to work.
Hi Lilli Hi Lo

Dear Hi Lilli Hi Lo,
I know exactly what your problem is. The books are wrong. They say things like "go high if there are boats immediately behind you attacking your wind" and "go low if the wind is dying so you can sail a hotter angle approaching the next mark". The problem is that the books are written by fat boys who sail boats like Stars and who think that a large fleet is twenty boats and that rounding a buoy with two other boats is a crowded mark rounding.

But you are a Laser sailor. You are sailing short courses in large fleets of fifty, eighty or a hundred boats. Even worse, you are a middle of the fleet Laser sailor. Different rules apply to you.

You arrive at the windward mark in every race at the same instant as twenty or more other Lasers. Out of these twenty boats, two or three will have tacked shy of the starboard tack layline and will try and pinch to round the mark and will be hung up on the buoy by the time you arrive; a couple will be fiddling with their sail controls or daggerboard as they round the mark and will capsize right in front of you if you are lucky or right on top of you if you are unlucky; half a dozen will have decided to approach the mark on or close to the port tack layline and, on finding an impenetrable line of starboard tackers will do crash tacks in front of said starboard tackers causing collisions, more capsizes and more boats hung up on the buoy; three or four boats who made a good starboard tack approach to the mark will see the mayhem in front of them and make emergency tacks at the last minute to avoid it causing yet more collisions with the boats to windward and behind them; one idiot will always ride up on the transom of the boat ahead of him thereby preventing both of them from bearing away; two guys will get their mainsheets tangled around their feet and will also be unable to bear away ... and so on, and so on.

You get the picture? Total confusion and chaos.

The only safe strategy in a fleet like this is to get out to the right side of the course early in the beat, hit the starboard tack layline about ten to fifteen boatlengths before the mark and keep going. Yes, keep going until you are at least two or three boat lengths above the layline, then tack. Now you can sail calmly above all the fools luffing and pinching and tacking and colliding and capsizing and cursing at each other in the vicinity of the buoy, overtake all twenty of them with a big smile on your face, and set off on the reach.

Now the question of whether to sail high or low on the reach is moot. There is already a bunch of losers below you and there is no way you can sail through them. Just stay above them and get ready for more anarchy and pandemonium at the next mark.

Panama Canal Crossing

Found this on Lawboat.

Nothing to do with sailing but enjoy anyway.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Best of Times, Worst of Times

Sunday was an awful day for sailing if ...

You hate driving eighty miles to the yacht club in pouring rain over flooded roads.

You hate racing in torrential rain that seems to get stronger and stronger as the afternoon progresses and that pelts you in the face when you look upwind and splatters all over your glasses so you can't see where you are going.

You hate racing in poor visibility so that you can't even see where the race committee boat is when you leave the shore even though you know it can't be more than half a mile away and at times you can't see the windward mark from the start line.

You hate enduring general recall after general recall in the rain as a bunch of aggressive Laser sailors keep pushing the line in a tide running upwind.

Sunday was an awesome day for sailing if ...

Your favorite way to spend a Sunday afternoon is racing against some of the best sailors in the area who stretch you to sail at your best.

You delight in sailing in 18 knot winds, hiking as hard as you can to drive the boat up and over the waves upwind, then working furiously to catch waves to surf downwind.

You enjoy the fact that the racing is so close that there are places to be gained or lost at every mark rounding and that wherever you are in the fleet there are always at least a couple of boats close enough to compete against right up to the finish line.

You relish riding huge waves that are the best you've ever seen in this location because the wind was blowing at 25 to 35 knots from the east all night long building up waves from the whole length of the sound in the perfect direction for rolling into our inlet.

You just love it when the race committee is expecting to have to call a general recall but, in the last couple of seconds before the start, the line clears with the majority of the fleet over the line and the race officer signals an individual recall and hails that everyone is over except two sail numbers - and you are one of those two boats.

You appreciate the irony in the fact that the rain stops as soon as you arrive back at the shore after racing.

Your idea of a perfect end to a day's sailing is that after you put the boat away and sit around in the clubhouse with your buddies the TV is showing the Yankees game in the Bronx and there the sun is shining and the Yankees are winning 7-1 and Giambi hits two home runs and Randy Johnson would have pitched a no-hitter if it weren't for Tejada getting the Orioles' only hits.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Extreme Geeking Out

My recent series of posts about the physics of sails has attracted some gentle ribbing from Joe while Bonnie in apparent admiration characterized it as "geeking out".

My own muddled musings on this subject - as much to try and get the issue straight in my own head as anything else - are nothing compared to the nerdy noodlings at this thread on Sailing Anarchy which is about the issue of whether you can construct a wind-powered craft that can sail dead downwind faster than the windspeed. You may think the answer is obvious but don't jump to conclusions until you have read all 1174 posts that have been made so far by geekier folk than me or any of my commenters, and still there is no consensus on the question.

If you feel compelled to add more geeky posts to the discussion on Dead Downwind please do it over at SA, not here. If you want to comment about SA or geeks (or idiots that go sailing their Lasers when the forecast is for rain, thunderstorms, floods and 35 knots) then feel free to do so here.

Saturday, April 22, 2006



Three Bridges, Two Races and a Thunderstorm

Cool set of photos on Scuttlebutt today of the demolition of the old bridge that used to link Conanicut island and the town of Jamestown to the mainland of Rhode Island. (For those readers unfamiliar with the geography of New England, the state of Rhode Island is not an island, and for that matter New England is neither new nor English.) The pictures reminded me of the time I sailed a race round Jamestown Island in a Sunfish in 2000 as part of the 50th anniversary celebration for the Sunfish - including sailing under that ancient bridge.

On Saturday there was a one race regatta in Narragansett Bay for which the first prize was a place at the Sunfish World Championships the next year. John Kolius (better known for achievements in slightly larger boats) showed up, sailed a Sunfish with a recreational sail straight out of the box from Vanguard, and whupped the pride of New England's Sunfish hotshots. I was so far back in the race I spent the whole time asking the sailors around me, "Who is that guy up front with the colored sail?"

We had lunch on Rose Island, including a tour of the lighthouse for anyone interested, and in the afternoon a parade was planned for all the assembled Sunfish to sail along the Newport harborfront. This is where things started to get a little hairy. The parade was delayed a little - in order to wait for the helicopter from the local TV station, I believe. Then in the middle of the parade a violent downpour of rain broke out with crashing thunder and lightning flashes all around us. The fleet must have been suffering from collective brainfade because we all headed back the considerable distance through the harbor to our launching point at Fort Adams. I remember thinking as I sailed between all the moored yachts that I should be safe because their masts were a lot taller than mine. Some guys from Vanguard in rescue boats were attempting to round up the Sunfish sailors and tow them in but they were outnumbered and several of us had to make it the whole way home under sail.

Once we were safe under the relative dry of the tent at Fort Adams it was discovered that one of the sailors had not made it back. His non-sailing wife was going frantic until somehow the news was relayed that he, out of the several dozen experienced sailors there, was the only one who had done what we are all told to do if we see lightning when dinghy sailing: head straight for the nearest shore. He had gone ashore at Ida Lewis Yacht Club and was perfectly safe.

At the party on Saturday evening, Vanguard unveiled with pride their special 50th anniversary edition Sunfish which had the ugliest blue and gold sail you have ever seen. I don't think they sold very many. A few years later I found one of those ugly sails in tatters on a beach somewhere so I took it home, cut it into irregular sized pieces, and used it as a jigsaw puzzle for my sailing students whenever I needed to entertain them for 10 minutes on a windless day.

On Sunday several of us headed over to Saunderstown Yacht Club for the Round Jamestown Island Race. The race started by heading south, around Beavertail and then into Jamestown village for a lunch break on the beach. (Our times arriving at the beach were recorded so a total elapsed time for the race could be calculated.) Then in the afternoon the race was restarted and we sailed under Newport Bridge, around the northern end of Conanicut and in a dying breeze under the two Jamestown bridges, new and old, and back to the yacht club. I remember the wind was spooky and swirly under the older, lower Jamestown bridge - maybe some ghosts were affecting it.

I think I had a respectable finish in the race, though I was not in the trophies. I talked to one of the organizers afterwards, thanked him and told him how enthusiastic I was about the race and that I definitely wanted to do it again the next year. He explained that it's not an annual event and, if it has been held again, I have never been back.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Rule 18 Protest Hearing

OK - let's get this over with quickly.
They made me protest chairman - God knows why.
Who's involved in this protest?

I'm protesting him.

And I'm protesting him.

OK, what happened? You go first.

I was inside the two boatlength circle and he didn't have an overlap but he rammed his nose in anyway and hit me and the buoy.

No. No. No. You were behind two other boats so you were definitely outside the circle when I entered it and I had an overlap and you didn't give me room.


I shouted at you, "No room."

And I shouted at you, "Buoy room."

So what?

So I was in the right, the onus was on you.

Onus schmonus. No such thing.

Is too.

Is not.

Does either of you have a witness?


Who's your witness?

Hu's my witness.

And Yoo is my witness.

I can't be your witness.

Well who's your witness?

Hu's my witness.

I'm getting confused.
I don't know who's who.

Hu's my witness.

Look, this is too confusing.
You both look the same - are you brothers?
I keep forgetting what you said.
Go and find some real pictures of yourselves.

Is this OK?

That's Robin Gibb.

No it's not, this is me.
People say I look like Robin.

And this is me.

He's dead.

See - I told you that you'd lose the protest.

No - I mean that's Maurice Gibb, he died in 2003.

Can we get on with this hearing please?
The bar's been open 10 minutes.

OK. Who's your witness?

Hu had to leave.
He had a meeting in Washington.

Yoo had to leave too.

No I didn't.

This is hopeless.

Hey bro, I'm getting thirsty.
Do you want a beer?

Sure do.
How about we forget about the protest and go to the bar?

Sounds like a plan, bro.
I can't stand that dude with the hat.
Let's do it.

Thanks to Captain Nemesis, a frequent contributor to the forums at The Captain Humphrey's Project, for taking time out from sailing an 8 ft. boat around the world to chair the protest committee.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Sailing Biathlon

At last, someone has come up with an event that Tillerwoman and I can do together. (She doesn't like sailing but she enjoys cooking and is a superb cook.)

Trust the Italians to think of this. The San Pellegrino Cooking Cup is a "competition for experts in the arts of seamanship and fine cuisine". As far as I can gather this is a ten mile yacht race during which certain members of the crew are required to whip up a gourmet meal in the galley which is then judged by a panel of experts. To win the event you have to obtain the best combined score in yacht racing and cooking.

The website is a bit sketchy on the rules. Will excessive roll tacking ruin the souffle? Does use of the blender infringe rule 42?
Is it possible to appeal against decisions of the Gastronomic Jury?

Anyway - seems like a neat idea. Might propose it to the commodore of our sailing club - he's looking for new ideas for our club.

I wonder if it's possible to cook Ossobuco in a Laser?


Wheeze Uck

I apologize for not posting about Sunday's Laser racing earlier.

It was another glorious day for sailing - sunny, temperature in the 60s, once again a gusty, shifty NW wind off the shore that was up and down in strength but was blowing a solid 20 knots in the gusts. Magnificent sailing weather.

Only 34 boats this week - apparently there was some religious significance to the day that might have distorted the judgment of some of the less enthusiastic fleet members about the importance of going sailing every Sunday. (Only 34! How many one design fleets would kill for a turnout like that on their best days?)

The reason for the delay in posting is that my results were mediocre to bad and it's taken me time to think of some suitable excuses for my performance. Note I said excuses not reasons. The difference between an excuse and a reason is that an excuse is based on a cause outside your own control; whereas a reason is something for which you might be held responsible.

For example, "Sorry teacher, I didn't do my homework because I wanted to watch the 2 hour episode of Alias on Wednesday night" is a reason. "The dog ate my homework" is an excuse and thus is infinitely preferable.

It's a good idea after each day's racing to write down in a notebook all the excuses for why you didn't win. That way you can refer back to excuses you used earlier and recycle ones that might apply to your latest miserable effort. Never write down reasons such as "I forgot to check the weather forecast" or "I couldn't hike hard enough because I didn't go to the gym all winter". These are clearly reasons because you could have done something about them but didn't. Focusing on negative factors like that can only lower your self esteem and we all know that self esteem and confidence are essential for boat speed.

I was meaning to post some excuses on Monday about Sunday's racing but the dog ate my excuse book. So I had to think of some new ones.

First of all I blame the race committee. I know the wind was shifty but it seems like every race there was a huge bias towards the pin end of the line with the result that most of the fleet were crowded at that end. So I was just forced to start at the boat end of the line in almost every race.

Now you could say that by starting in a less crowded part of the line, at least I had freedom to tack. That's true but it turned out that most of the gusts were coming out of the left side of the course so it was all the weather's fault that most of the fleet got to the windward mark before me.

Even when I had a good first beat I found out I was losing lots of boats on the runs. There were waves and I was trying to catch a ride on them but other boats seemed to be gaining on me all the time. After racing, the daily winner Andrew Scrivan explained the technique we should have been using.
With the velocity being anywhere between 5 and 20kts, the waves on average, resembled those of 10 kts of breeze. So when we were hit by large blasts of air, the ability to cut through waves, on the down wind was key. When you are trying to pass through a wave down wind you need to find and steer for the small part of the wave to pass through. Much like when sailing in big waves, when you scan your peripheral for the large part of the wave to lock in and ride; now you need to find the smallest part of the wave ahead of you to pass through. Once I saw the area I wanted to shoot for I would trim, head up, and flatten to weather, or bear off, keep the sheet taught and flatten to leeward. When the waves are moving faster than I am I do not steer, play the sheet or roll all that much or repetitively, only when needed. My board was up slightly higher than normal, and U would scoot back as I punched through a wave.
I blame Andrew for not telling me that before racing.

Then I noticed that the foot of my sail was fluttering wildly on the beats. Must be getting old. Why don't they last longer? Blame North Sails.

Talking of getting old, I was definitely flagging by the last two races. Making stupid mistakes, bumping into people. Actually bumping into the same boat twice. I'm sure I wouldn't feel like this if I were 20 years younger. Blame my parents for that. Couldn't you have waited? Women have babies in their late forties all the time these days.

As we are now in daylight saving time we race half an hour longer than when we were on standard time. This means that I have to conserve my energy in order not to get too tired so I'm not able to hike as hard as I really should. I believe I can blame Benjamin Franklin for this problem.

So there you have it. It was the fault of the race committee, the wind, Scrivan, North Sails, my parents and Benjamin Franklin. With all of them conspiring against me, what chance did I have?

Anyway, in the last race I had a good start and a good first beat and was dueling with my buddy Joe up the right side of the course. Suddenly we get a massive lefty wind shift (which we couldn't possibly have seen or predicted of course) and ended up eating a huge header all the way into the mark. Most of the fleet rounded before us and we were never able to catch them. Joe and I had another good battle up the final beat and he crossed the finish line just ahead of me with only a few tail-enders behind us.

Joe laughed and shouted across at me, "We Suck!"

Yes Joe, but I suck more.

Oops - that's almost a reason - bad for self esteem - delete that thought.

I'll be out Lasering again this Sunday. Might need some new excuses. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Going... Going... Gone

"Another fine mess you've gotten me into."

Thanks to Chrissy Alsop and Yachts and Yachting for the photo of action from the Merlin Rocket Silver Tiller at Salcome YC in the UK over the April 8th and 9th weekend.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Robin Gibb's Other Twin

It's a little known fact that Robin and Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees were not actually twins, they were triplets. After their birth on the Isle of Man in 1949, the third boy was spirited away and raised by another family in England. At last the truth can be revealed, the missing triplet, separated at birth, is ... Tillerman.

At least, when I put one of my photos into My Heritage Face Recognition software, Robin Gibb was the face that came up with the closest match. Actually, now I come to think of it, Robin looks a lot more like me than he does to Maurice. Maybe I'm the real twin and Maurice was an imposter?

I was somewhat surprised to see that My Heritage also came up with Harry Belafonte as a good face match with me. Hmmm - didn't think my suntan was that good.

OK - now you've had a laugh at my expense, try the face recognition game and let us know who is your missing twin separated at birth.

You know - I think I would look kind of cool with an ear ring ...


Dan from Adrift at Sea tagged me to write about what I was doing one, five and ten years ago. As you can see from the title of this post I have thrown in a bonus year for reasons that will become apparent shortly ...

One year ago in April 2005, my eldest son and his wife had just given us the exciting news that we were going to become grandparents in November. This being the internet age, they chose to break the news by sending us via email a digital photo of their home pregnancy test kit with the tell-tale blue line. All went well with the pregnancy, a baby girl arrived in November and we are just crazy in love with her.

April that year was a busy month for sailing with an extended road trip to Florida and the Carolinas. I attended the Rick White Sailing Seminar in the Florida Keys and wrote a little about that experience here. On the way back up north, my wife and I spent a few days in Charleston, and then I sailed in the Laser US Nationals at Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina. I posted a story about one incident at that regatta here.

I was also actively working on starting up a new Laser fleet at my sailing club, planning our first Laser regatta and putting together the schedule for a junior Sunfish series that I had started a couple of years earlier.

In April 2001, I had been retired for less than a year and both my sons were still in college. In some ways I was still sorting out how to be retired, to what activities I was going to devote my time, how to pace myself.

Earlier that winter, my wife and I had made the first major trip of our retirement - several weeks in Australia where we visited our youngest son, who was doing a semester abroad at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, and we also spent time with my wife's relatives in Perth, Western Australia which we loved. We pondered for a while whether we should emigrate to Australia but knew in our hearts that we wouldn't be able to bear living so far away from our sons.

Part of my aim in retirement was to expand my sailing horizons as my sailing life had settled into a bit of a rut, sailing every Sunday in the summers in the Sunfish fleet that meets on the lake across the road from where I live, as well as doing occasional local Laser and Sunfish regattas. I see from some notes I made a little later in the year that, among other things, I had ambitions to become a sailing instructor, do a lot more Laser sailing including the Laser Masters World Championships, and to find some outlets to write about sailing - all things that I did achieve in the following few years.

I was doing a lot of running that spring, ran a 5k in March in under 23 minutes - nothing special, but a time I would like to repeat later this year if I can.

Ten years ago both my sons were in high school and I was working as an IT executive for a major corporation. I remember I resented the frequent travel, especially the long trips to Latin America, that took me away too much from my kids and wife.

April that year was a milestone month in my sailing career. I scored my first overall win in a Laser regatta - at a small club in Peace Valley, Pennsylvania!

Also in April, my youngest son and I took a Bareboat Cruising Preparation Course at Offshore Sailing in Connecticut during his spring break from school. I can't remember the motivation for doing this - I don't think we had more than a very vague intention of actually chartering a yacht for a vacation. But, at least for me and I hope for him, the course was a blast. We had what looked like a brand new Hunter yacht to play with on Long Island Sound in April. I remember glorious sunny, breezy days out on the Sound in the middle of the week without another sail in sight. We practiced all the skills from maneuvering under power to man overboard. Of course, even at 15 years old, my son was a better big boat driver than me. I remember that when I had to take compass bearings from the boat to plot our position on a chart I managed to "prove" that we were two miles inland somewhere in Fairfield County. And it was me, not him, that managed to demolish the refueling dock. Oops. After that I decided to stick to Sunfish and Lasers - much to the relief of the whole marine insurance industry, I am sure. At an age when father-son relations can be difficult - and we were no exception - it was a unique opportunity for us to do something together that I will always remember.

At the end of the month I ran the classic 10k Woods and Lakes Run in our home town in under 46 minutes. I'm doing that run again this year and know I won't come anywhere near that time, but I have set myself the goal of achieving that time in a 10k by the end of the year. Hope these old bones can make it.

The bonus year. 33 years ago I wasn't a sailor and I wasn't a runner. I was working in IT in the UK, leading a team of programmers.

But 33 years ago this week I was on my honeymoon. I had met this bewitching, gorgeous, warm-hearted, tolerant, kind, patient, good-humored, playful, smart, artistic, long-haired beauty 18 months before and proposed to her a year later. (Must have been the attraction of opposites.) Amazingly she said yes and we were married in a small civil ceremony on April 14 and spent our honeymoon in Cornwall, exploring the coastline, discovering charming fishing villages, walking on the sand, paddling in the sea (way too cold to swim in England in April).

I still wake up next to the same girl every morning and my first thought is that I'm the luckiest man on earth that she chose to marry me and put up with me for 33 years. On our anniversary I brought her a cup of coffee in bed and gave her a card and a kiss. Her response was, "Here's to the next thirty three."

If I can make it to 90 years old that's a deal. Wonder if I'll still be sailing a Laser then?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Joe Rouse Is Messing With My Head

Joe Rouse from The Horses Mouth is messing with my head. Don't be fooled dear reader by his seemingly helpful, erudite comments to my post questioning some of the widely-held assumptions about how wings and sails work.

I can now reveal all. Joe Rouse, if that is his real name, did not write those comments. He just did some nifty cut and paste work from this site and this one. And here is the really cunning twist executed by the slippery Mr. Rouse... he chose two sites that contradicted each other and had mutually inconsistent explanations for how wings generate lift. Just to drive me crazy. And it's working.

So who should I believe? Mr Rouse's first comment was from the NASA website. You think you would be able to trust these guys. After all they are rocket scientists. But don't forget these are the people that brought us Apollo 13, and the Columbia and Challenger shuttle disasters, not to mention that little matter of mixing up metric and imperial units that led to the loss of the Mars Climate Orbiter.

On the other hand, the source for Rouse's second comment, this article by C Johnson, Physicist, is even more dubious. C Johnson, Physicist tries to impress us with his or her credibility on this topic be letting us know up front that, "I received my education in Physics at the University of Chicago. They seem to have done a good job."

Don't you just hate it when people do that? Do you think that Albert Einstein introduced his paper on General Relativity with the words, "I was educated at the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School. They seem to have done a good job"?

Or when Francis Crick wanted to tell the world about his discovery of the double helix structure of DNA did he boast, "I was educated at University College London. They seem to have done a good job"?

And when George W Bush was trying to convince us that there were WMDs in Iraq should he have started all his speeches with, "I was educated at Yale and Harvard. They seem to have done a good job"? Would that have made him more credible?

No C Johnson, Physicist, I really don't care where you studied physics. I will believe your article if you have good arguments backed up by solid evidence. But if you write spurious pseudo-science I will not be swayed by the fact that you went to some parvenu mid-west school founded by a religious sect and a robber baron.

Oops. That last sentence came out a lot nastier than I intended. See what this Rouse guy is doing to me? He's turning a kindly old grandfather into a mean-spirited old curmudgeon. On behalf of Rouse I apologize to all alumni of the University of Chicago which I am sure is a perfectly fine school if you like that kind of thing.

Where was I? Oh yes. NASA and C Johnson, Physicist. So what do these two papers say?

C Johnson, Physicist, after explaining that "there are many, many, many alleged descriptions of the Bernoulli Effect or of Bernoulli Lift or about how airplanes fly, which are not accurately correct" then goes on to repeat the hoary old myth about two air molecules that start together at the leading edge of the wing and must end up together at the trailing edge after one has traveled under the wing and one has traveled the longer distance over the top of the wing.

I made my own feeble attempt to debunk this nonsense in my post on Geeking Out. So I'm especially glad to see that, on this one, NASA agrees with me and not with C Johnson, Physicist. Here's what the NASA site says ...
The most popular incorrect theory of lift arises from a mis-application of Bernoulli's equation. The theory is known as the "equal transit time" or "longer path" theory which states that wings are designed with the upper surface longer than the lower surface, to generate higher velocities on the upper surface because the molecules of gas on the upper surface have to reach the trailing edge at the same time as the molecules on the lower surface.
NASA goes on to say that the air passing over the upper surface of the wing, in reality, has an even higher velocity than you would suppose from this equal transit time balderdash.

You see what this Joe Rouse character is doing? Looking like he is being helpful but steering us towards sites that contradict each other in explaining how wings generate lift. Oh, this guy is clever. So clever he makes my head hurt.

C Johnson, Physicist's paper essentially breaks down the causes of lift into two components: a Bernoulli Lift caused by the lower pressure above the wing in that (incorrectly described) faster moving air; and a Reaction Lift caused when the wing is tilted upwards because "the air which hits the bottom of that tilted surface is deflected downward (action), which creates an equal and opposite reaction, upward lift, in the wing itself." (Newton's Third Law - Action and Reaction).

At first this sounds plausible as it does explain such mysteries as how airplanes can fly upside down. But wait, what does Slippery Joe's other reference, the NASA site say?
There is also an incorrect theory which uses Newton's third law applied to the bottom surface of a wing.... It neglects the physical reality that both the lower and upper surface of a wing contribute to the turning of a flow of gas.
Once again. The incredibly annoying Mr Rouse gives us a morsel of explanation with the left hand and then takes it away with the right hand. Diabolical!

So who should we believe? NASA or C Johnson, Physicist? What do you think?

Anyway, my brain is hurting from all of Joe Rouse's shenanigans. It's enough to send a sailor spinning wildly into calenture.

I need a rest. No more geeking out on theories of lift for a few days. But I will be back.