Monday, June 18, 2007


On the one hand I achieved all my objectives at the Laser North Americans.

On the other hand I sailed my worst regatta ever.

How come?

Well the objectives weren't exactly that hard to achieve...

1 (and 10). Have fun. Sure. How could I not have fun? Three days of Laser racing in all sorts of wind conditions with some of the best sailors on the continent. Superb race management (apart from that scoring fiasco but that's a story for another post). Excellent hospitality and food at Hyannis YC. Good friends to hang out with on the beach. Sure it was fun.

2 and 3. Stretch and hydrate. Wow, Laser sailing makes you tired and sore. But at least I remembered to ease the pain somewhat by drinking lots of water and stretching before and after racing.

4 and 5. Start and finish every race. Check. Triumph of persistence and stupidity over common sense but I've always felt that even if I can't sail well at least I can keep sailing badly.

6. Pass that boat in front. Yes, I made some smart tactical and strategic choices and did pass some boats sometimes in some races. I still know how to sniff out a new wind coming in from one side of the course and get over there before at least some of the opposition. I still know how to time an inside overlap at the leeward mark just before the two boat length zone. I still know when the tide will cause a pile-up at the windward mark and so overstand a bit and sail over all the mayhem.

7. Work hard enough to be completely exhausted every night. Oh yes. Three long days on the water. At least six hours of sailing a day. Long sails out to the course and back. Working on aspects of technique when sailing to and from the course. Hanging it all out in each race. Oh yes. I was exhausted every night. I still am.

8. Meet up with some old friends and make some new ones. Sure. Good to renew some old acquaintances. Pump some of the guys I knew from New England about the sailing scene up here. Meet some new people including one of the legends of the class... bought a boat in 1971 the first year the Laser came out... champion in the 80s... sailed another class but now coming back to the Laser only. But that's a story for another post too.

9. Learn some lessons. Maybe. On the long sails to and from the race course I was able to experiment with some things and learn some things about my style and mistakes and how to correct them. But as for the races themselves? See below.

So why the Humiliation poster?

Well I achieved my objectives for my first major regatta this year. But I did set the bar pretty low. I was just looking at it as a practice session and a way to kick off the summer season. But I can't totally ignore my results...

I had the unique distinction of posting the worst score in the regatta among sailors who finished very race. The only people behind me were those sailors who scored at least one DNS or DNC or DNF. Pretty dismal, eh? I wasn't last in any race but I was always among the tailenders. Sure we had fun tussling about who would come 4th or 5th from last. But I still ended up with the worst score of people who sailed every race. At some regattas they give a special award to the sailor who ends up in that position. They call it the "Spirit" or "Persistence" Award. No thanks. I didn't even stay around for the awards ceremony.

So what was wrong? Well, basically my boatspeed was slow, slow, slow on just about every point of sail in every wind condition. After the windy day on Friday I thought maybe I was just out of practice in heavy wind and waves. But Saturday was only 10-12 knots and Sunday was even lighter with relatively flat water. But even so, people were just sailing away from me upwind and downwind.

I have only two possible explanations...

Theory #1. I'm getting too old for this game. It's time to sell my Laser and take up something easier like cave diving or paragliding.

Theory #2. I need a new sail.

On balance I'm leaning towards theory #2.


Carol Anne said...

Go for Theory #2. I've discovered that with the Etchells, I can get a pretty good slightly-used sail for less than half the cost of a new one, and those sails do make a difference in performance. I expect you can get a similar deal with Laser sails.

Tillerman said...

Ahah - thanks CA - for giving me a whole new idea for a post on the economics of Laser sails, new, used, and rip-off (oops I mean not-official-Laser-sails-only-for use-in-practice-yeah-right). It's quite a contentious subject in some quarters.

Shopping City Chaplaincy said...

Well its a tough one. If you get a new sail and it makes little difference then what do you do? But hey its worth a try.

Tillerman said...

Exactly Tim. Right now I have a perfect excuse for poor results in regattas: It's not me, it's the sail. If I get a new sail and I continue to do badly there will be nobody to blame but myself. Oh, the pressure!

PeconicPuffin said...

"In sailing, one must drink deep from the cup of humiliation."

That's my favorite quote from my favorite article about windsurfing, in Forbes back in 1992.

Meanwhile, there can be no doubt that you should get a new sail. Who is not happier with a new sail?

Tillerman said...

Good point pp. It's like buying a new car. It makes you happier whether you need it or not, and whether the new car is better than the old one or not.

Aaaaah. Don't you just love that new sail smell?

Anonymous said...

I remember getting into Stars when I was 16 and barely out of Optimists. My dad had sailed them, and he was keen on me going into the class as well. Before I had done this, I had a North American championship win under my belt as well as quite a bit of other silver. At that point, I felt I could jump into any boat and be comfortably in the top 5 or so. Well, I was in for a huge surprise when I faced off against the literal giants of the Star class. I would get these great starts and then find myself second to last by the first mark. It was a humbling experience for me. For the rest of the season I barely managed 10th to last in some of my better races, but the battles I did have with 85 year olds at my end of the fleet were probably harder fought (at least for me) than the ones for first and second. Because I was much younger then, I didn't have the set of goals that you made for the Laser NA's, at least not consciously, and that probably made things more difficult in the beginning. By the end though, it was clear that I had learned a tremendous amount, not just about sailing, but how to keep plugging away. Maybe you do need a new sail...maybe not, but at least you have nothing to lose.

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