Monday, May 01, 2006

Nobody Drownded

On Sunday it was my turn to do race committee for our Laser frostbite fleet, a duty that every sailor is obliged to do once in the fall and once in the spring season.

Tillerman's First Rule of Frostbite Race Committee: It's always colder doing race committee then you think it will be and it's much colder than actually sailing. You'd think that standing in dry clothes on a dry committee boat would be warmer and more comfortable than half immersing yourself to launch your Laser and then getting drenched with cold water all afternoon plus an occasional ducking every time you capsize. You would be wrong. When sailing a Laser you are (nearly) always moving, certainly performing enough exercise to stay warm assuming you have dressed properly in several layers of warm, wicking clothing and your goretex drysuit with rubber bootees and latex gloves and ski hat. On race committee you are not moving about enough to stay warm and, if you are unlucky enough to be on a mark boat, you are immersing your hands and arms in frigid water at intervals too. Believe me I have had some miserably cold days doing race committee for this fleet.

Tillerman's Second Rule of Frostbite Race Committee: Always volunteer to do race committee at the warmest end of the season. Early in the fall season or late in the spring season. October is likely to be warmer than December; May is likely to be warmer than March. It took me a year or two to work this out. (I must be a slow learner.) I had originally assumed that doing race committee in December would be preferable to missing a day of sailing in October. Wrong. Race committee in a cold month is one of the most painful and depressing ways to spend a dreary freezing winter's afternoon. Much better to be sailing in December and doing committee duty in October.

Tillerman's Third Rule of Frostbite Race Committee: Think what you would wear for sailing today and then wear more. You can never wear enough clothes to stay warm for frostbite race committee.


Last Sunday, for the first time in all my years sailing with this fleet, Tillerman's rules of frostbite race committee didn't apply. The temperature was in the mid 60s, the wind varied from zero to six knots and the wind direction swung around from SW to SE. I was on a mark boat laying the buoys for the leeward gate and the start and finish line. We dropped the buoys and ran a race. The wind shifted. We moved the course. We ran another race. The wind shifted again. We moved the buoys. We started a race. The wind died and then came back. We started another race. The wind died again. Some sailors managed to finish anyway. We shortened the course and waited. The wind never came back. We towed all the sailors back to the club.

And it was warm. The young man and I on the mark boat actually stripped off a layer during the afternoon. We were lifting the marks from the water using bare hands without any fingers freezing and dropping off. We applied sunscreen. We lazed on the boat in the sunshine. We took dozens of photos of the racers.

It was a frustrating day for the racers. The wind was so shifty and patchy that many excellent sailors were at the back of the fleet. When the wind died on a run the tide pushed people sideways and it was a real battle to gain enough boatspeed to make the leeward mark. Some sailors were unable to finish the last race within the time limit. Several sailors gave up halfway through a race and rocked their boats back to the club.

But it was an excellent day to be doing race committee. Not cold. Not too much action. None of the sailors broke anything. Nobody needed rescuing.

I was reminded of a comic monologue by the British actor, Stanley Holloway, that was popular on the radio when I was a boy growing up in England. In his droll story about Albert and the Lion, a tale about a boy being eaten by a lion - of great appeal of course to a young lad's morbid sense of humor - Albert and his parents visit the famous English seaside town of Blackpool. Before heading for the zoo and Albert's fatal encounter with Wallace the lion, they take a look at the ocean.

They didn't think much to the ocean,
The waves they were piddlin' and small.
There were no wrecks and nobody drownded,
'Fact, nothin' to laugh at at all!

That about sums it up. No wrecks. Nobody drownded. Nothing to laugh at at all. An excellent day to do race committee. It was actually warm.

And before one of you pedants points out that I spelled "drowned" incorrectly, go check out the original lyrics.


Anonymous said...

I agree with all of your rules, however we tend to do it differently with the Frosty fleet. Every person switches on and off between races for the race committee. I think this works better for Frosties than it would for Lasers. When I've done interclubs whe always have the same people generously donating their time to run the races. I have to say, I used to sail Lasers in the Boston frostbite fleet about 15 or so years ago now, and I found it to be really unpleasant. The sailing part was fantastic, and I was rarely cold as I was working hard trying to win races. The difficult part was rigging and derigging; the Laser was never intended for frostbiting. Touching the two spar sections was absolute torture, as was rigging the boomvang, outhaul and cunningham. Of course at that time you had to use elaborate purchase systems that didn't utilize blocks of any kind. Man that was frostbite defined

Fred said...

Tillerman said: >>We were lifting the marks from the water using bare hands without any fingers freezing and dropping off.<<

C´mon, and you are telling us a day later to "always" wear gloves... Doing the marks I would say it is much more advisable to wear gloves but why would I not do it? Because your hands get dry much sooner without the wet gloves. Same reason I do not wear them when sailing.
...YEEP, today is our first Wednesday night beer can race. Lovely spring weather here since 3 days. Temp around 15°C. I get my Bull 7000 out of the shed, wash it, rig it and off we go.

Pat said...

For committee boat duty the weekend after next, I'll likely have to cope with 90-degree (F) weather, in an open boat without a bimini. Oh, the horror. Maybe I'll pre-freeze some beverages to bring aboard.

Post a Comment