Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I Don't Know

In my recent post Broken Record, I let slip that I had been pumping some of the better sailors in Cabarete for tips on how to sail in extreme conditions. A couple of commenters to that post, other Laser sailors I guess, requested that I write about what I learned of how to keep the white floppy thing over the blue shiny thing in very windy and wavy conditions.

Now, of course, I have no problem with sharing such information with other Laser sailors. But my grasp of how to keep a Laser upright in strong winds and big waves is so shaky that I am reminded of Donald Rumsfeld's famous quote ...

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know.

I do have some things that I know that I know on this topic. For example I do know that you have to release the vang before rounding the windward mark. I could write about those things but you can find them in almost any book on Laser sailing. Might not be all that interesting or informative.

Then there are some things that I know that I don't know. Some of these are things on which I have read or heard conflicting advice from different sailors. And I may have tried some of their advice and still I know that I don't know which way is the best option. (An example would be how far to release the vang when sailing downwind.) That would make for a very confusing post but it might be an entertaining ramble.

Finally, given the amount of time that I spent swimming that Saturday in Cabarete, I strongly suspect there are some things that I don't know that I don't know about Laser sailing. How would I know? Is it possible to write a post about what I don't know that I don't know? What would Donald do?

Having said all that, maybe I will write a few posts on this topic discussing what I know that I don't know that I don't know... whatever. Perhaps some kind reader will fill in the gaps in my knowledge. You never know.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Pushing the Limits

Scuttleblog raises an interesting issue in a post about Paige Railey entitled Bad Habits. For those of you who have been living under a stone for the last few months, Paige has recently won honors as ISAF Female World Sailor of the Year and US Sailing Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year, and is one of the two leading contenders for the US spot in the Laser Radial class at the next Olympics. On the other hand she has been disqualified from two recent major Laser Radial championships for illegal use of kinetics. In each case she was flagged three times by the umpires for violating Rule 42.

Read what Scuttleblog has to say, but also go to
Jobson Sailing and click on Rolex Laser Radial Moment under Online Video Reports. There are some aerial shots of Paige sailing and an interview about this issue with her. Sounding remarkably composed for someone just bounced from a major regatta she calmly explains that she was trying some new things that were "not good" for the judges.

What do you make of this? Everyone accepts that to perform at the highest level in the Laser and Radial classes you have to push the limits of what is acceptable in using kinetics to propel the boat. Does Paige not know the limits? Does she not know how to adjust her game after the first two flags in a regatta? Is this, as Scuttleblog implies, a "bad habit" of hers?

Or is she actually playing an ultra-smart game by trying out different techniques prior to the Olympic Trials and the Olympic Games in order to assess what the limits of acceptable kinetics are and what the judges will call? As in many aspects of sailing -- and life -- do we need to cross the line before we know exactly where the line is?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Fifteen Seconds

"Congratulations Tillerman! You're beating a world champion."

What? Am I at the right blog? Is this Tillerman, perennial loser, capsizer, Laser breaker, and all-round crap sailor?

Yes dear reader, you are at the right place. Allow me to explain.

"Congratulations Tillerman! You're beating a world champion." OK, that wasn't exactly what the coach said to me as I rounded the windward mark in a practice race at the pre-regatta clinic in Cabarete a couple of weeks ago. No, he didn't say "Tillerman". He used my real name. But he did say the bit about beating a world champion and he was right.

What? No way! This is Tillerman's blog, right?

Yup. It happened like this. On the last day of the clinic the winds were somewhat lighter and the water somewhat flatter than they had been earlier in the week. Almost like the lake sailing with which I am all to familiar. We were mainly doing starting drills and practice races, and a couple of other sailors who hadn't attended the clinic (but were entered in the regatta) joined us for the drills. Most prominently some fit-looking young guy with the letters POR on his sail.

The drill was for even sail numbers to start in the right-hand end of the line and odd sail numbers to start nearer the pin. I cruised down the line looking for a gap between two even-numbered boats luffing on the line, found one, reached in to it, sheeted in and crossed the line at full speed as the start whistle went. A perfect starboard tack shark attack start just like John Kolius taught us.

Most of the fleet tacked out to the right of the course but I couldn't see why as I had felt all afternoon that there was more wind on the left. There was clearly some reason why all the smart money was betting right but sometimes God rewards ignorance and stupidity. I was right. Left was right and right was wrong. So as I headed in to the windward mark just shy of the port tack layline, I could see that I would easily cross the guys on the starboard tack layline with that POR guy in the lead.

So I tacked comfortably ahead of him and that's when the coach told me that I was beating a world champion. POR was Gustavo Lima from Portugal, the 2003 Laser World Champion.

But as I did trash myself in a ritual round of self-flagellation on Friday, please allow me to pat myself on the back with some more self-congratulation today. I was not only leading the 2003 Laser World Champion, but close behind him was the 2005 Laser US Youth Champion. Not to mention further back in the fleet the 1975 Laser European champion and subsequent winner of ten Laser Masters World Championships; and two other guys with at least five more Laser Masters World Championships between them.

Not too shabby. As Andy Warhol said, we all have our fifteen minutes of fame. Or in my case about fifteen seconds of minor glory. Gustavo worked his way inside me on the run and rounded the leeward mark ahead of me. But man it felt good while it lasted. And I still crossed the finish line ahead of the holders of those fifteen other world championships.

Wow. My arm's aching. Must be all that patting myself on the back. So let me end by congratulating Gustavo Lima for winning the Laser gold medal at the Miami Olympic Classes Regatta last week against one of the toughest fleets ever to race in North America including the current World Champion Michael Blackburn.

Cabarete rocks. Tune up in DR and win the OCR!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Speedlinking Saturday

I thought I would share with you today some of the unusual and off-beat items I discovered this week in the bloggy world.

Someone called Doug Dougleson (which might not be his real name) recently started a blog and for some reason put a link on it to Proper Course. He has solved the problem of how to maintain a degree of anonymity in a uniquely bizarre profile. Check out
About Me.

Adam Turinas, from Messing About In Sailboats, like many of us sailors in northern regions is clearly suffering from cabin fever. He is reduced to playing a nautical drinking game called You shunk my battleshlip.

JP from London sounds equally desperate. Perhaps inspired by a visit to the London Boat Show he decided to write a boating related piece of fiction entitled Golden Balls and Boats, engineered to include all the top search phrases in Google's Zeitgeist. Absolutely shameless self-promotion and I am sure he has had thousands of new visitors to his blog as a result. I kind of wish I had thought of it first.

Yesterday I wrote about my crap sailing at a regatta earlier this month. So I was amused to find this post about crap surfing at Grandmas Gone Surfing in which Grandma ponders various excuses to end a crap surfing session from "time for tea" to "loss of appendage to shark bite". Classic!

My last link actually isn't about a watery sport at all but is kind of appropriate to my dogged and fatalistic approach to sailing. ProBlogger Darren Rowse wrote an Australia Day post about Australian speed skating icon Steven Bradbury entitled How Steven Bradbury Can Make You a Better Blogger. Bradbury is famous for winning an Olympic gold medal by hanging in there and waiting for others to make mistakes. Apparently he has even entered some Aussie slang dictionaries because "he did a Bradbury" is used to describe events where fortune seems to fall in the lap of someone. But as Darren correctly points out, Bradbury won a medal through twelve years of hard slog and by putting himself in a position to win. An inspiration for all of us whether bloggers or sailors... or both. Maybe in my next regatta I will do a Bradbury?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Broken Record

Runners are always chasing after that elusive "personal best", their best ever record time for a given distance. Well, I certainly set some personal records sailing in the Laser Caribbean Midwinters in Cabarete, Dominican Republic earlier this month. But not of the best kind.

I am pretty sure that at this regatta I broke my own records for...

  • Most capsizes in one regatta
  • Most DNF's scored in one regatta

Here's how it happened...

Friday. The decision was made that we would sail inside the reef. The guys on the beach helped us launch our Lasers through the shore break and we headed off downwind to the start area near the beach where all the kite surfers play.

Waves and wind seemed much crazier than they had during the clinic but I managed to complete the first 5-lap Windward-Leeward race without capsizing and even managed to lap at least one of the tail-enders. Was feeling kind of smug and self-satisfied and starting to believe that I could handle this stuff.

In the second race a rain squall hit us just after the start. The wind got even stronger but the worst thing was that I could hardly see a thing. It was almost like white-out conditions you can get in the clouds in the mountains. The watchers on the beach only a couple of hundred yards away said that they lost sight of the whole fleet of thirty Lasers. As I came into the windward mark near the port tack layline, the leaders (on starboard tack) were bearing away and catching rides in the waves crossing my course. I could barely see them. I couldn't predict their exact courses on the waves. I was barely in control of my own boat. I somehow managed to dodge through the leading pack when I suddenly glimpsed through the murk a dark head in the water a few yards ahead off my bow. There was a windsurfer down in the water right next to the windward mark. What was he thinking, sailing on our racecourse in those conditions? More by luck than judgment I avoided killing him (wonder what it's like serving a life term in a Dominican prison), executed an ugly tack, wobbled around the windward mark and bore off in the general direction that I guessed the leeward mark might be. Don't ask me what happened next because I couldn't see a damn thing and there were waves as big as houses falling on me from all directions. I seem to remember a lot of swimming and a lot of climbing on to the centerboard.

I arrived at the leeward mark totally exhausted and decided that I should retire before I did some serious damage to myself or someone else. First DNF. But the race committee called off racing for the day after that race.

Saturday. And then things got worse.

Today I capsized twice on the way to the start. So I told myself I had two choices. Chicken out or hang in there. I chose to hang in there.

Every race I was wiping out on every downwind leg. Death rolls. Broaches. Capsizing on gybes. Being rolled over by random waves from unexpected directions. But in each race I kept going until I was too exhausted to do any more capsize recoveries and then I waited by the start area until the next race, had a drink, caught my breath, and watched the leaders' technique as they came into and rounded the leeward mark. Then I would start the next race, struggle up the beat and start the suicidal downwind mayhem all over again.

I figured that at least I was out there playing in the waves and learning something. What doesn't kill me makes me stronger, right? Afterwards the RC said they had measured 35 knots of wind during a squall on Saturday. I can believe it.

On Saturday night I pumped some of the more successful sailors for information. How do you sail those runs, those beats? How loose is your vang? Do you loosen your outhaul downwind in the strongest winds or just leave it at the upwind settings? I picked up a few tips, especially about surfing upwind on port tack and being very aggressive about bearing away at the windward mark to catch a wave.

Sunday. The advice seemed to work. I started every race. And finished every race. Got some decent starts. In one race I was even in the middle of the fleet ahead of some very good sailors at the halfway mark. (How did that happen?) Only capsized once all day. What a great way to finish off the week. Felt that through my struggles on Friday and Saturday I had actually made some progress in learning how to survive in these waves. Now I just have to learn how to go faster!

Just to put my dismal performance into perspective...

  • 19 of the 30 entrants in the regatta scored a DNF or DNS in at least one race.

  • 9 of the 30 failed to complete all the races on Sunday (but I did).

  • When we came to check in our charter boats on Sunday afternoon, at least a third of the fleet had a permanent bend in the upper mast section (typically caused by a downwind capsize when the tip of the mast hits the water at speed).
All photos by Roberto Alvarez and courtesy of

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

It Depends

Photo by Roberto Alvarez courtesy of

At the four-day clinic prior to the Caribbean Laser Midwinters in Cabarete, Dominican Republic earlier this month, the coach running the clinic, Brett Davis, did a superb job in teaching us and running drills that focused on many aspects of Laser sailing including boat-handling, upwind and downwind boat-speed in waves, tactics, starts, nutrition, physical fitness and even yoga. He answered all our questions and was more than willing to pass on his considerable knowledge about the sport.

But after a couple of days, one of the students on the clinic started to gently chide Brett. "I wish that just for once you would give us a straight answer instead of saying, 'It depends,' every time we ask a question."

I could see this guy's point. The discussions at the clinic had often gone something like this...

Student: So Brett, when I get a bad start what should I do? Should I tack and take a few transoms and get over to the right side of the course in clear air? Or Should I keep going to the left?

Brett: Well, it all depends on whether you think the left side of the course is favored.

Student: Hmmm.

Student: So Brett, when I'm beating in waves, where is the best place to tack?

Brett: Well I like to tack in the troughs. But what do you do T? (addressing young hotshot sailor).

T: I try and tack going up a wave so that the crest of the wave helps to turn my bow.

Brett: Well I guess it depends on the sort of waves you are sailing in.

Student: Hmmm.

Student (after long discussion on S-curving downwind): So Brett should we ride the waves by the lee as long as we can and then head up on to a broad reach? Or should we do lots of tighter S-curves?

Brett: Well, it all depends on the waves...

Student: Hmmm.

Of course Brett was right. And the student teasing him was being a bit naive expecting black and white answers to some of these question about more advanced aspects of Lasering technique. When you're just learning to sail things are more definite. Sit here in the boat. Hold the tiller this way. Look that way. Heel the boat this much. But when it gets to technique in waves there is no right and wrong method that works all the time. You have to develop a feel for the waves and learn by trial and error what works in different conditions. And different sailors do have different styles.

Brett answered the challenge to his "It depends" comments directly by telling us that we shouldn't expect to be able to get definite answers to questions about technique for sailing in waves. He said you can't learn this stuff that way. You can't, for example, learn downwind technique in waves by thinking about it; you just have to sail hundreds of miles in a Laser downwind in waves until you develop a feel for it.

I'm sure he's right. Anybody want to volunteer to drive a coach boat for me while I do some downwind sailing off the New Jersey shore next month? No? Can't blame you.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Wave Reflections

diego romero argentina Diego Romero sailing in the 2007 Caribbean Midwinters Regatta
Photo by Roberto Alvarez courtesy of

Dear reader, I misled you.

Having read again my post on Waves, and the comments to it, I can understand why I left the impression that my experience sailing in Cabarete in the Dominican Republic a few days ago was one long struggle to cope with the wave conditions. Of course that was not correct. Yes, there were some days when it all seemed a bit beyond me. But there were also days when I enjoyed long exhilarating rides surfing down those monster waves. Days that will rank as some of the best I have ever spent on the water.

On the first two days of the clinic it was champagne sailing conditions all the way. Winds of 15 to 20 knots and plenty of waves. Brett Davis, our coach, gave us lots of drills to allow us to gain familiarity with wave sailing both up and down wind and to improve our boat-handling and boat-speed in those conditions. When we set off on a downwind drill and bore away to sailing by the lee on one of those big rollers it was like sliding down the roof of a house. The Laser effectively became a surfboard. Much of the time the sail was backwinded on those rides.

Hmmm, let me see? If the winds were over 15 knots and the speed of the boat on a wave made the sail back then we were going faster than the wind, right? That feels pretty darned fast on a little 14 foot slab of fiberglass.

Eventually the ride would end and it would be time to head up on to a broad reach and try and catch the next wave. Brett had us doing plenty of reaching drills too, mainly racing between the two safety boats and gybing around each one as they were driving slowly downwind. Then on the second day he had us doing a drill he called 1-2-3-Pump where when he blew the whistle we would bear away to sailing by the lee, and then on the next whistle move body weight in, sheet in 1-2-3 times and then a big pump to make the boat head up and start planing on a broad reach without using the tiller. And repeat. Over and over again. Down and surf and up and plane and down and surf and so on and so on.

Man it was fun.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


gustavo limaPhoto by Roberto Alvarez courtesy of

One of the main reasons for my trip to Cabarete last week was to gain some experience sailing in waves. Almost all of the sailing that I do at my home clubs and at regattas up and down the East coast is on sheltered waters: inland lakes or protected bays or sounds. The author of Split Tacks, ab, wrote a post a few days ago making the point that sailors like us are at a big disadvantage when it comes to competing at major Laser championships which are usually in more open waters.
I suspect that a lot of Laser sailors spend most of their sailing time on relatively flat water. Rivers, lakes, harbors, protected bays and so on. But when the major championships come around, they are nearly always held in open ocean conditions, with waves. In these regattas, most of the sailors are fit. Most of them can tack and gybe well. Most of them understand tactics and strategy. But the sailors who do well are those who can handle the waves, both upwind and down.
Cabarete did not disappoint. The sailing conditions there were ... "interesting" to say the least.

Cabarete is on the Atlantic Ocean shore of the Dominican Republic and there is a reef no more than a half a mile offshore which has a gap in it through which you can usually sail to the open sea. But on the days of the regatta the waves were not only breaking along the line of the reef but also across the gap in the reef too. This made it impossible to sail through the gap, so we had to sail the regatta inside the reef. You can see the line of surf on the reef in the background in the picture above.

Outside of the reef the waves (I was told) were more regular and predictable; inside the reef there were still sizeable waves but, because of reflections off the reef, they were more chaotic. And in certain places on the race course they were breaking too. The average waves were more or less head on when beating on starboard and so from the side on port tack. Then on two days of racing there were big squalls with heavy rain and even stronger winds going through the race area at times.

So I would be racing in crazy winds and trying to cope with these big waves up or downwind when all of a sudden a huge wave with a breaking crest would come from an unexpected direction. I saw boats picked up by these waves and tossed in the air. One guy even told me he pitchpoled. Dealing with the waves upwind and downwind was a real challenge to me. Brett Davis's advice during the clinic was a great help and I am sure that after five days of struggling with the waves I must have improved a little.

The photo shows 2003 Laser World Champion Gustavo Lima catching a ride downwind on a typical Cabarete wave (if there was such a thing). I'm sure I did the same thing many many times during the week but as far as I know nobody captured it on camera. Hmmm -- I wonder why?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Just returned from a week of Laser sailing at the Laser Center in Cabarete, Dominican Republic. There was a 4-day clinic followed by the 3-day Caribbean Laser Midwinters.

It was an amazing, brilliant, challenging, draining, exhilarating, exhausting, exciting, humbling, inspiring, instructive, rewarding, scary, sunny, rainy, windy, wavy and totally worthwhile experience.

Thanks to Ari Barshi and all his staff at the Laser Center for organizing the week. (Ari was the guy who left a comment on this post about training methods telling us that his personal solution was to hire an elite coach, buy a coach boat and 15 Lasers and open a Laser training center. It certainly seems to be working for him.)

Thanks to Brett Davis for coaching us at the clinic and passing on many words of wisdom.

Thanks to Andres Santana and his race committee team for running the regatta in some wild, windy weather with awesome waves. Even Ari said he was surprised that they had us racing in the extreme conditions on Saturday.

But, most of all, thanks of all to all my fellow sailors at the clinic and regatta. They say that to improve you have to test yourself against sailors of a higher standard than yourself and I certainly had that opportunity! And every one of these superb sailors was happy to answer questions, share their knowledge, and help a comparative bozo like myself.

I have an inkling that there were a few bloggable moments that I will want to write about here in the next few days...

Friday, January 05, 2007


Life is good.

My marathon preparation is going well. Just completed the 12th week of the training program and enjoyed a nice and easy 18 mile run yesterday.

The blog is jogging along at a steady pace too. Proper Course had its first day of over 1000 visits this week. And I just completed my first paid writing assignment for a real world sailing magazine -- an opportunity that came my way because of the blog.

Sailing? Ah well. Not so much of the real stuff lately. But in the Tacticat world I'm slowly getting the hang of it, amassed 1000+ points and clawed myself into the top 100 in the rankings. I'm beginning to convince myself that it does teach some useful skills that will translate to real sailing. More on that in another post.

But it's time for a break. A week off from running to use some different muscles. A week off from blogging to do some living and have some experiences worth writing about. And a week off from virtual sailing to do some of the real stuff.

Normal service on this blog will be resumed on or around January 16.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Seventh Annual Weblog Awards

The Seventh Annual Weblog Awards is now open for nominations. I see there is a new category for best sports blog. It would be really cool for the sport if a sailing blog won that award. So check out my list of Top Ten Sailing Blogs and vote for one of those, or for any other sailing blog you prefer.


Someone is making fun of me.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Blog Privacy

The upcoming "Washington sex blog" lawsuit is a reminder to all of us that blogging carries certain risks. For those of you who have been living under a stone for the last few months the case concerns a young lady who wrote a blog about her challenging life trying to juggle simultaneous sexual relationships with six different men. All good clean fun you would think. Problem is that one of the gentlemen concerned found out about the blog and wasn't entirely happy about certain details of his recreational preferences being made public. So being American, and a lawyer, he sued.

Those of us interested in the case are not following it because of our perverted interest in the potentially lurid testimony if the case goes to trial. Of course not. Nobody in America is interested in stuff like that. The much more important aspect of the case is that it should help establish whether people who keep blogs are obligated to protect the privacy of the people with whom they interact offline.

Of course I don't expect anyone is going to sue me over what I write in Proper Course. But I do have a concern about how far it is sensible for me to go in writing about other people -- the people I race with, other sailors, my friends, my family.

I don't try to be deliberately offensive but I do understand that some of the incidents I describe may look totally different to another party involved. For example I am sure that the other sailor involved in this mark rounding probably wouldn't agree with my account. Would he be upset if he found out what I wrote about him?

Or the folk I write about may just not appreciate that what they say or do in the context of a casual interaction or a sailboat race ends up on the The Interweb and is accessible to anyone who knows how to use The Google.

Of course I can't avoid writing about other sailors. How could I write about sailboat racing and not do so? So without setting out to define anything as formal as a privacy policy, I have found myself adopting certain practices to protect the innocent and guilty alike...

  • I very rarely use the real names of the people I write about. So even if you recognize yourself in one of my posts, your friends at work and the club (or even your family) won't know it's you. Sometimes I make up silly names like Alphonse, Bertie and Cedric in the Mark Rounding post. Sometimes I use initials such as the mysterious "S." who helped me start a Laser fleet a couple of years ago.

  • The only times that I can recall using real names of people I sail with and write about, (a) they were already nationally well known names in the sailing world, and (b) I only wrote good stuff about them like the fact that they were great coaches or that they won a race.

  • I don't even use my own real name though it wouldn't be too hard for anyone to discover it given the two years of clues I have written. And a few people who know me well and have stumbled on the blog have, of course, recognized who the writer is.

  • I don't even mention by name the clubs that I sail at regularly. This may seem like a ridiculous conceit to some folk. But I don't want the other members of my clubs to be worrying that I am spying on them and that anything they do may end up on this blog. You know what they say: what goes on at the yacht club stays at the yacht club. But this almost seems deceitful. After all some of the things that happen at the yacht club will end up in this blog. Would it be fairer if everyone knew of that possibility?

I'm not sure if these informal rules are the right ones. Am I being too cautious or too protective of the privacy of myself and my fellow sailors? I'd be interested to hear your views, especially if you write a blog yourself. How do you strike the right balance on this question?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


It's always interesting to read your comments on anything I write here. Most people leave their comments within a day or two of the original post, but occasionally I notice someone finds an old post and leaves an insightful comment weeks or even months after I had written the original item.

Such was the case with this comment on my post Snap! that was about a technique for consciously switching visual attention every few seconds between all the factors that are important in a race
: sail trim, boat trim, wind, heading, other boats... and so on.

TK, an avid scow sailor from the midwest left a comment about a superior technique using other senses. It is so good I will quote it in full ...


I may be late, but I found "Snap!" to be very interesting. I am an avid scow sailor in the midwest. And scows depend greatly on 'feel,' but I found the same idea transferred well to the Laser.

I think it is important to widen your field of vision and open up your awareness well beyond what your eyes are telling you.

I've gotten to the point where boathandling and sail control are done mostly by feel, with the occasional visual reference. I think moving your eyes through such a dramatic progression of "snaps" can be distracting.

When you 'hear' what your body is telling you: the boat starting to heel and respond to the breeze can be felt in the rear end and the thighs on the deck, the puff can be felt on your cheek, even the sound of the wake or bow wave...

Awareness of all these senses can tell you lots about the boat's attitude and the handling required.

This allows you to keep your field of vision up and out of the boat. Through a wide lens, watch the wind on the water, watch the angle and attitude of boats near you and those on the other side of the course. Who is up? Who is down? Where is the velocity?

Looking away to the next 'snap' on the list runs the risk of missing something in that field of vision, like that persistent shift.

Making boathandling automatic can mean keeping your eyes up on the racecourse almost the entire time. Fo me, making boathandling automatic required tuning in to what all the other senses were telling me.

With practice, awareness can be greatly heightened.
To the point of telling you almost everything you need to know. So your eyes can see what's happening on the course.

Sounds a little like Zen's Zai Chi. And it works.

Just my $.02

Hope this helps,

Thanks TK. Great advice. I will try and apply it.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Top Ten Sailing Blogs of 2006

In the spirit of the season here is my own personal favorite list of Top Ten Sailing Blogs of 2006. It was tough to narrow the list down to only ten as there are so many great sailing blogs out there. To help me prune the list I ruthlessly applied the following rules to select a blog ...
  • It must be mainly about sailing.
  • It must have been in existence for most of 2006.
  • It must be updated regularly.
  • It must be actually worth reading... it's interesting, entertaining, educational, funny, whatever... something grabs me about it.
  • The writer engages his or her audience, allows comments on the blog, responds to them, makes comments on other sailing blogs, is part of the community.
Top of the list is The Horses Mouth. Joe Rouse serves up an eclectic feast of sailing news and photos with fish on Fridays and weekend wahines. Spectacular photos, sharp humorous comments, always entertaining. Keep up the good work Joe.

Edward from EVK4 Bloglet writes about sailing his Newport 28 Lady Bug on San Francisco Bay, introducing his son and daughter to sailing, his Polka Dot Racing Team, and more mundane aspects of sailing such as docklines. He's not crossing oceans or sailing major regattas; he's just a guy having fun on the water day-sailing with his family and doing some local racing. But he has a knack for wry self-deprecating humor and he brings the reader into the experience in a way that makes his blog fascinating reading. Thanks for sharing, Edward.

Zen from Zensekai also lives in the San Francisco Bay area and sails an Islander-29. He is a martial arts instructor, has a "made in Japan" wife, and plans to sail to Japan one day. His interest and knowledge of Asian culture, languages and philosophies brings a unique twist to a sailing blog, as exemplified by his post on Tai Chi, Sailing and Laser Racing.
Sensei, domo arigato gozaimashita.

Zen dreams of sailing across the Pacific but in 2006 Mark and Judy Handley achieved the dream in their Tayana 42 Windbird and wrote about at I have followed their progress all year from the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal, and then from island to island across the Pacific to New Zealand. Judy writes posts almost daily about their shore adventures and sailing voyages (not even a broken leg interrupted the flow), and Mark chips in occasionally with articles about the technology on their boat. Gets my vote for best cruising blog of the year.

Sailscape continues to delight us with his superb photos of New England seascapes, classic yachts, small boat racing and Virgin Island views. A feast for the eyes!

Eli Boat feeds his readers plenty of stories and photos from the yachting world at large but my favorite posts are of his stories of Cape Cod Frosty racing in New Hampshire such as this account of the day when 24 Frosties came out to race and the photos in this post entitled Once the ball gets rolling.

One of my prime sources of sailing news is the renowned Scuttlebutt newsletter, so I was pleased to see that this year they also started a blog named... what else but Scuttleblog, a place for Tom and Craig Leweck to post personal commentary such as a peeve about one-design class measurement, to question the future of Olympic yachting, or to bust some gossip about Dennis Conner. These guys know the sailing world as well as anyone and can always be relied upon to keep us informed and entertained.

I follow the blogs of a number of top racing sailors, Olympic contenders and world champions, but the best of the bunch is US Laser sailor Andrew Campbell's Not just because he is a Laser sailor but because he follows all the rules of good blogging that I listed above (and you would be amazed at how many of the other racing hotshot bloggers don't do so). This year we have been able to follow Andrew's progress from the culmination of a stellar college sailing career through major regattas in Europe and North America, the Olympic Test Event in Qingdao, China, and the Laser Worlds in Korea. Since returning to the USA, Andrew has been writing a series of articles entitled Monday Morning Tactician such as this one on a rules situation near a windward mark. I'm looking forward to continuing to learn from Andrew's experiences and following his Olympic campaign.

And then we have LiveSailDie. You didn't think I could leave this out of the Top Ten did you? Two Aussie sailing instructors in Queensland cover yachting from an Australian perspective in a breezy, fresh, entertaining style. Check it out.

And finally we have
Zephyr self-described as Sailing Culture for Voyagers, Zealots, Poets and Populists. This has to make anyone's top ten list of sailing blogs. In May alone the author wrote about Long Island Sound summer anchorages, Dee Caffari's triumph, the lost crewman off ABN AMRO TWO during the Volvo, the passing of poet laureate Stanley Kunitz, MapMuse technology, the opening of the National Sailing Hall of Fame in Annapolis, and a SAIL magazine article on blogging.

Zephyr posts on average about once per day and covers sailing from so many angles. His insights into sailing culture in the broadest sense of the word are often thought-provoking and occasionally provocative. I can't do better then to end this round-up of sailing bloggers by quoting at length from Zephyr.

Technology is having a significant impact on sailing culture, particularly in how sailors communicate with one another and share information about key aspects of voyaging and cruising (weather, friendly ports-of-call, sheltered anchorages). Some of the best examples of this are found in the multitude of individual sailing weblogs being published with more popping every day. Unlike Zephyr, which focuses on a specific topic (sailing culture) and covers it broadly, these sailing blogs are written from the perspective of voyagers, boatbuilders, weekend warriors. They're mostly about the individual journey and serve as a two-way, grassroots window into the sailing world. When I was mate on the Maxi in the late 90'’s I used to punch out email updates to all my desk-bound friends back in the States, compile a mailing list and send them whenever I could find an Internet cafe when we paused in Roadtown, English Harbor, Culebra, etc. I remember people enjoyed them, forwarded them all over their offices, to friends across the country. Sailors are intrinsically storytellers and the Internet has magnified this attribute. Consider the shift from the viral, uncontrolled mass email to a narrow-casted, self published weblog. We are witnesses to this technology proliferating, evolving and beginning to virtually knit together the larger sailing community...not surprisingly the results are (like many things in life) heterogeneous - we discover compelling content side-by-side with the trite, sublime with mundane, unique with conventional...
And who knows where technology will take the world of sailing story-telling in 2007? I'm looking forward to finding out.