Friday, August 31, 2007

Super-Heavy Weight Laser Class Association

Another email from a reader prompts another post. This time on the subject of heavyweight Laser sailors. Here's the email (with a few details changed or redacted to protect the anonymity of the writer).

Just happened on to your blog as a result of scanning the inter-net for information on Laser sailing. I too am a grandfather. (I'll turn 58 in February) I have been a member of XXX Yacht Club since 1976, but in recent years the thought of rigging my Thistle for even a casual sail causes me to cringe. I want to simplify my sailing and rely on me, myself and I while on the race course, without the hassle of finding and training crew to handle the Thistle.

Seeing your blog is encouraging to say the least. I asked one of our Club's Laser sailors if my 260lbs. would greatly lessen my chances of being competitive in a Laser. He smiled and said that perhaps I should begin a new category of Laser sailors and anoint myself the founding member of the "Super-Heavy Weight Laser Class Association".

Now being a person to never shy from a challenge, I immediately began to envision how sweet it would be to coax a nearly submerged Laser over the finish line well ahead of this granola eating twig of a human. I've raced sailboats long enough to know that there are optimum and minimum weight factors that greatly increase ones chances of winning in a competitive one-design class such as the Laser; and my weight would be on the heavy side for racing a Finn, but what's wrong with dreaming?

I will keep trying to find a stiff boat with the updated rigging in hopes of hitting the start line next sailing season. And I will continue to read your blog for inspiration and a truthful dose of reality. Keep up the good work...perhaps I'll see you on the water in the future.

A Super-Heavy Weight Class. What a great idea. It is true that in such a light boat as a Laser, the weight of the loose nut on the end of the tiller can have a major effect on boat performance. I have noticed it whenever I race against my son, who is a good few pounds heavier than me though perhaps not in the Super-Heavy Weight Class.

In moderate winds a sailor over 200 lbs seems to be at a real disadvantage. If nothing else the heavier you are, the harder it seems to be to get the boat planing.

But as soon as the wind pipes up over 20 knots the heavier guys have a definite advantage, at least upwind. Many a time this summer I have been straining every sinew, hiking flat out in a vain attempt to keep the boat flat, only to see my son disappearing fast upwind casually sitting on the side deck.

Surprisingly in super light air, the playing field is pretty level again. Either you know the technique to keep a Laser moving in a breath of wind or you don't. Either you can spot the tiniest of puffs and position your boat in front of them, or you can't. I seem to recall that some guy called Isaac had a law about acceleration being inversely related to mass, so I guess heavier sailors must take longer to reach maximum speed. But then there is all that momentum and they take longer to slow down too, so they can coast through the lulls better than the "granola eating twigs".

So should we have a special award at Laser regattas for the Fat Boy category? Just like we do for women and masters? I can see arguments both ways. More thoughts on this in a post coming soon at a blog near you.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Dumb Question

The following question arrived by email today with the subject Dumb Question..

If you have a large sailboat that has battery powered equipment, and you keep it on a mooring out in the water, how does your battery stayed charged? Is the only way to re-charge the battery is to keep the boat on a dock with power? Thanks.

First of all there are no dumb questions. There is so much to know about sailing that all of us have gaps in our knowledge. In fact there are so many different types of sailboat and ways of going sailing that most of us have huge gaps in our knowledge. For example I know quite a lot about small single-handed racing dinghies and racing strategy, tactics and rules... but next to nothing about ocean cruising or navigation or how to maintain the equipment on a large yacht.

Which makes me wonder why this question was addressed to me. But I think I know the answer: large sailboats keep their batteries charged when on the moorings with wind generators or solar panels. I've often seen the generators spinning away when I've been ducking and weaving in my Laser through mooring fields.

And on the subject of dumb questions I just came across this quote in the signature of a regular contributor to Sailing Anarchy, the incomparable Gouvernail...

Sailors who are fascinated by the volume of what they don't understand and who are eager to announce their ignorance tend to have a realistic assessment of their knowledge, a solid grasp of what they claim to understand, and are the very best sources of information.

Sailors who act like they know everything are idiots and should be avoided.

Do any of my readers who actually have some experience with charging yacht batteries want to add anything for my friend with the not-so-dumb question?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Points of View

What you see is not only what you get.
What you see depends on where you sit too.
Your point of view depends on your point of view.

Our new house looks out over Mount Hope Bay, the northeastern arm of Narragansett Bay in Rhode island. Mount Hope Bay is about 7 miles long and 2–3 miles wide and we live on the eastern shore looking west.

We have a fabulous 180 degree panorama looking across the bay to Portsmouth, Bristol and Warren. To our left is the tip of Common Fence Point, the northern peninsula of Aquidneck, the "island" in Rhode island.

Beyond the point and stretching north is the largely undeveloped eastern shore of Bristol, low wooded hills sloping down to the bay. To the south is the waterfront campus of Roger Williams University, then a little further north is Mount Hope Farm, and then opposite us is the rock formation known as King Philip's Seat, a reminder of the violent resistance mounted by the natives of this area when we Europeans first settled here. The trees stretch on to the north towards the mouth of the Kickemuit River and from our house we have a view straight up the river. The view goes on to the right to the beach community and salt marshes of Touisset in Warren.

Frankly you couldn't ask for a better view of a peaceful, mainly natural, mostly undeveloped, beautiful shoreline, especially when you consider that we are in the nation's second most densely populated state. The bay itself is relatively quiet with little boat traffic except for a few fishermen, the occasional day sailor, a small amount of commercial traffic going to and from Fall River, and assorted racing yachts on Wednesday evenings when Tiverton Yacht Club hold their sailing races on the bay. Tillerwoman and I spend many happy hours on our deck taking in the view, watching the boats and the patterns of the waves on the water, listening to the bells on the navigation buoys making their random music in time to the waves... and did I mention, the sunsets are to die for?

I kept telling myself. I must sail Mount Hope Bay one day. On Monday I did.

I haven't worked out yet a practical way to launch directly into the bay so I launched my Laser at the boat ramp in Independence Park in Bristol Harbor and sailed out to the mouth of the harbor, past Hog Island, under Mount Hope Bridge, past the sailing dinghies going in circles off the dock at Roger Williams, around Common Fence Point and across to the beach at the bottom of the hill in front of our house.

I waved to Tillerwoman. She wasn't there. She had taken the opportunity of my sailing excursion to go shopping.

It struck me that, from the water, Mount Hope Bay is nowhere near as picturesque as you would imagine if you had only seen the view from the selective vantage point of our home. The North Tiverton shore (on which we live) is somewhat ugly when seen from the water. To the south the landscape is scarred with a massive condominium development for "active adults"... whatever they are... and next to it massive piles of crushed stones which according to my local gas station attendant are part of some environmental clean-up of the site. Thank god we don't live there. Do those active adults know what was in the ground on which they are activating their adult activities?

Then a mile or two to the north of our house, near the Fall River/ Tiverton border there is an ugly conglomeration of oil or gas tanks. And just to finish off the impression of a semi-industrial landscape, dominating the north end of the bay (and completely invisible from our house) is the New England Power Company's Brayton Point Power Plant in Somerset, Massachusetts, apparently "the largest single source of air pollution in New England".

I sail back to Bristol and return home. Our house sits on land that until five years ago was a farm. I suspect that the only ground pollution on this site is several decades, maybe centuries even, of cow manure.
Tillerwoman and I sit on the deck after dinner admiring the view of the bay from our blinkered perch on the hillside. It is still perfect.

As I said. It all depends on your point of view.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

G'Day Mate

Today's the day.

A few weeks ago the International Laser Class Association announced the entry process for the Laser Masters Worlds in Australia next February.

In order to keep the entry process fair to all those wishing to compete the ILCA has decided to delay the opening of the entry for the World Laser Masters Championship 2008. It is anticipated that this delay will allow all interested sailors both local and abroad to check their schedules and to be ready to complete entry soon after the opening of the entry forms. Entry will open at 12:00 (noon) GMT on Tuesday 28 August 2007.

I don't quite get the logic of that, how delaying the opening of entries makes things fairer? But whatever. Go with the flow. I want to go to this regatta and Tillerwoman is even more eager to revisit the land of her birth so I have to secure an entry. Today's the day.

Let's see. Noon GMT is 8am EDT. So I'm up early. Wolf down my breakfast and at 7:30am I'm at the computer, fingers poised over the keyboard, ready to log in to the ILCA website.

What's this? Email from a US master sailing buddy saying that entries are already open. What? Aaaaargh. They jumped the gun. Maybe I will be too late.

Hurriedly open up the event website and start entering my details. They want my ISAF number? Who remembers such stuff? Luckily there is a link to a site that enables me to look that up. Now they want my height in centimeters and weight in kilograms? Whaaaaat? I'm a strictly imperial measures guy. A provided link to a conversion tool doesn't work. Think my pop-up blocker may be to blame. Find another converter via Google. 62 centimeters and 193 kilos. Does that sound right?

I plough on with entering all the details and hit submit. Hope I'm not too late. Rumor is that hundreds of Aussie Laser Masters are going to soak up all the available places in the first few minutes. Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat? An error message. It doesn't like my birth date. (Neither do I. It was far too long ago.) What can be wrong? Aaaah. I have it. The birth month has to be "JUL" not "JULY". I hate computers.

I move on to the next stage. Fingers working as rapidly as they can. Tillerwoman is asking me something. I block her out. Credit card details. Correct the address that got corrupted by the computer from the first time I entered it. Click on a box saying I have read the Notice of Race and accept everything in it even though I haven't. Hey what can possibly be bad in it? This is Australia. No worries, mate.

I hit submit again. Yeah. I've been accepted. I'm in!!!! Australia here we come.

Let's see how many people have already entered. I go to the entry list. A bunch of Aussies already. The rumors were true. Did they know that entries would open up early? Who from the USA is going? Only entries so far are me, the guy that sent me the email.... and.... OH NO.... it's that guy again, my nemesis. Not only does he beat me by a place or two at every damn regatta this summer, he even beats me to enter the freaking Worlds. How does he do it?

Anyway, we're going to Australia. Ace!

Monday, August 27, 2007


Laser sailing is a contact sport.

No, no, no. I don't mean you're supposed to hit the other sailors. I mean that to sail a Laser fast you have to be working the boat all the time. So if you are a kinetic genius trying to emulate Robert Scheidt, the points of contact between you and the boat are critical to your success in transmitting your body movements to the boat.

On the other hand, if you are an overweight unathletic old master sailor like me you, if nothing else, those 'contact points' are important for your comfort. So over the years I've experimented with almost everything that connects me to the boat: gloves, hiking boots, sheet, tiller, hiking pants. I'm pretty happy with my current options in these areas. I can't blame my mediocre sailing performance on my equipment. It's all the fault of the nut on the end of the tiller, as they say.

But until Jim Myers asked me to evaluate and review his Intensity Sails Gription Hiking Strap, I hadn't given much thought to that other point of contact between sailor and boat, the hiking strap. I've been sailing for the past twelve years with the strap that came with the boat when it was new, a padded blue strap about 2 inches wide. Having sailed with the Intensity Sails strap for a couple of weeks now it's become obvious what I have been missing.

So how is this new technology hiking strap different?

Wide. Wow, this strap is wide. Almost 4 inches. I'd never realised the advantage of a wide strap before. Much more locked-in feel when hiking. And it doesn't twist and turn over like my old strap used to sometimes.

Firm. The Intensity Sails strap is padded (for comfort) but is much firmer than my old strap. Again this contributes to that feeling of being solidly connected to the boat.

Sticky. The Intensity Sails strap has a grippy rubber-like material underneath which is supposed to grip rubber hiking boots well. I must admit that I've never really seen the need for sticky hiking straps and I still don't. I've been using it with a pair of Zhik hiking boots which are designed to take advantage of grippy straps, but I never used to find a problem with my feet slipping around with my old strap. But if "sticky" is your thing then I think you'll find that this strap's gription is as sticky as your sticky little feet could desire.

Comfortable. I've found the strap very comfortable on all points of sail. One factor that contributes to this is that the rubbery material is wrapped around the edges of the strap. My son has been using another vendor's wide strap which has much rougher edges and he has found that this other strap has been chafing his lower leg when he puts his leg across the strap downwind. This won't be a problem with the Intensity Sails hiking strap.

Fast. Scientific tests have shown that Lasers with the Intensity Sails Gription Hiking Strap are on average 0.38 of a knot faster than other Lasers. No. Sorry. That was a joke. I've no idea if it will make me sail faster but it can't do any harm to have a hiking strap that helps me to hike effectively, makes me feel locked-in and in control, and that is comfortable over a long day's sailing. And I will point out that when racing in the Leukemia Cup against a certain local sailor who had beat me by a few places at the Buzzards Bay Regatta, we'd usually arrive together at the windward mark and then I'd smoke him on the reaches. And I've always thought of reaches as my worst point of sail relative to my close competition. Could it be the change to a more effective hiking strap? Maybe.

Cheap. Once again Jim Myers obviously has no idea how much he could charge for another superb Intensity Sails product. He currently has it on sale for $19.99. I just checked out the website of a certain other Laser specialist on-line vendor and the three hiking straps there are from two to three times that price!! Crazy!!! Rush to his website and buy up all his stock now before he comes to his senses.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Superhero Underwear

It's not only superheroes who wear their underwear outside their uniforms. Apparently skiff sailors do so too.

And if you're ever wondered why, Revolution Science Fiction has the answer.

Thanks to Magnus Wheatley at Rule 69 Blog for drawing my attention to this particular perversion. Photo courtesy of Christophe Favreau.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Anna Wins Gold in China

Regular readers of this blog will have noticed that I have a thing about Anna Tunnicliffe. No, I'm not an Anna groupie. I'm too old for crushes on athletic young women who can sail a Laser better then me. Besides Tillerwoman wouldn't approve.

No. It's more that I became somewhat tired of the Paige Railey PR machine. A year or two ago it seemed that Paige was always in the news. Youth phenom. Rolex whatever. And nobody seemed to be paying attention to the fact that the US had another top class female Laser Radial Sailor named Anna Tunnicliffe. So, in my contrary way I started blogging occasionally about Anna.

In January 2006, Anna won the Miami Olympic Classes Regatta. Wow, I wish I could hike like she is doing in that photo.

In February my granddaughter Emily and I had a discussion about hiking styles after she saw that photo. She's even more precocious now. Emily not Anna.

In December I had a little patriotic outburst about the dominance of British Olympic sailors in the ISAF rankings, along with a quiz asking who was the only American ranking number one in an Olympic class. Of course the answer was Anna.

In May of this year I did a post about the top two American Olympic campaigners in the Laser and Laser Radial classes. Of course Anna was mentioned.

In July I wrote a couple of posts about Anna's performance in the ISAF Worlds.

Get the picture? I guess I am an Anna fan. Been following her sailing career and blogging about her successes for a couple of years now. So imagine how thrilled I was this week when Anna won the gold medal at the Good Luck Beijing - 2007 Qingdao International Regatta in Qingdao, China, the second test event before the 2008 Olympic Games. Not quite an Olympic Gold but the next best thing I would guess.

Surely she is one of the USA's best hopes for a sailing gold medal in the Olympics next year. But first she has to win the Trials. I'm rooting for you girl.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Five Tips on How to Jibe a Laser in Heavy Air

"How the hell do you jibe in those conditions?" asks Adam Turinas in a comment to Monday's post about racing a Laser in over 20 knots.

Hmmm. Somebody is asking me for advice on Laser boat-handling? This guy must be desperate.

But it is true that, although I capsized a couple of times on Saturday, I didn't capsize at all at the gybe mark while others near me in the fleet did. So, even if am a total klutz at many Lasering skills, maybe I'm not totally hopeless at heavy air gybes. So what can I tell you?

Well, first of all the main way that people capsize a Laser in heavy air when gybing from reach to reach is by screwing up into the wind and broaching after the gybe. So here's Tillerman's tips on how to avoid this...

1. Gybe when you're going fastest. I know this sounds scary and counter-intuitive but it really is easier to gybe when you're planing or surfing down a wave. At this point there is very little load on the rig so the sail comes across pretty easily.

2. Gybe with confidence. When you decide it's time to gybe, don't futz about, just do it. Pull in the sheet a bit, bear away, and as the boat starts to gybe, give the sheet another pull.

3. Keep the boat flat. Forget about trying to roll the boat in the really heavy stuff. As the boom comes across throw your weight across to the new windward side. Remember what I said about most capsizes during gybes in heavy air being caused by screwing up into the wind? Well, you don't want to come out of the gybe with a major heel to leeward as you'll be heading for Broachville.

4. Do it like Turban. I learned this trick from an instructor named Turban at the Sunsail Watersports Center in Antigua. He was called Turban because he wore a turban. I guess you had to be there...

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes. Turban's trick. Turban he say, "Downwind tuck your back leg so that your thigh is over the hiking strap and your calf is under it." This is actually a very stable position for a heavy air run or broad reach, and if you have your leg like that before the gybe, when you throw body across the boat to the new windward side, your front foot (old back foot) will already be under the hiking strap. So if you need to hike hard to flatten the boat you will avoid the ignominious fate of falling out of the boat backwards because you didn't have a foot under the strap.

5. Bear away. As soon as the boom crosses the center-line, reverse the tiller and start bearing away on the new tack. Remember your high school physics lessons about angular momentum? No? Well, when you gybed you started the boat, boom and sail all spinning in one direction. If they keep spinning that way you are going to to do one of those screw-up into the wind leeward-heel broach capsize glug-glug-glug maneuvers that I warned you about. So you need to stop that spin by bearing away before it happens. You will end up steering an S-shaped course through the gybe.

OK. That's two or three hundred words that have exhausted the sum total of all I have learned about heavy air gybes in a quarter of a century of Laser sailing. Some of you reading this must know more, or can tell me if any of the above is utter nonsense. Bring it on.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Small Craft Advisory

Saturday morning and the wind is howling from the NW across Mount Hope Bay and blasting the front of our house. Litoralis (a.k.a. son #1) and I check the weather services online. NOAA has a Small Craft Advisory out for Rhode Island and all the services are forecasting 20 mph winds gusting to 30 to 35, with the afternoon being windier than the morning.

We debate whether to go to the regatta or not. We agree that it feels like one of those days where you go to the regatta, hang around for a few hours as the race committee keeps you on shore while they postpone racing an hour at a time until finally calling it off mid-afternoon. To go or not to go? We vacillate. Don't want to waste a day sitting around on the shore waiting for an indecisive race committee to call it off; don't want to miss the regatta if they do sail. Need to leave the house around 11am if we are going to be there on time.

At 10:50am I make an executive decision. We're going. Last minute flurry of activity to pack water bottles, energy bars (no Uncrustables for us), hitch up the two Laser trailers to our cars and we're off.

As we arrive at the regatta site we see the bay covered in white caps. There are a few other Laser sailors in the parking lot looking uncertain. Some have taken Lasers off roof racks and trailers. Some are waiting. Another sailor arrives and announces that he thinks there is a 20% chance we will race. We check out the launch situation: two narrow ramps with a pier between them, rocks on one side, facing almost straight into the wind and with waves crashing on the ramps. We all have mental images that it's going to be something like this video. Going out will be tough. Coming back in will be worse.

Another sailor arrives and proclaims in more positive tones that even if we don't race we will sail. He knows more sheltered areas to launch from. Sounds good. We can still go out and have a blast around even if the RC think it's too windy to race.

Wait. What's this? I see a few Lasers rigging at the beach just up the bay from the boat launch area. That beach is usually reserved for swimming but nobody is swimming today. We jump in our cars and drive over to the beach. Local official tells us we can't launch from the beach. After some discussion he relents as long as we keep to one end. It's going to be a hell of a lot easier to launch through the surf from the beach than off those narrow ramps.

We rig. I encase myself in several layers of neoprene and goretex. The RC boat arrives offshore flying a "Come Within Hail" flag. Launching is something of a challenge but is helped by a couple of guys (non-sailing Dads I think) who help hold our boats in the crashing surf and then push us off at an opportune moment. Litoralis capsizes while launching.

We follow the RC boat out to the race area. Hmmm. This is going to be interesting. Don't think I've sailed in winds like this since Cabarete. The kite surfers reaching up and down add to the impression that this is Cabarete. But the first cold wave breaking over my head dispels any illusion that we are in the Caribbean.

First race gets under way. Two lap triangle. I race the first beat conservatively just trying to stay upright, keep the boat as flat as possible, and not bury the bow into the wave fronts. Litoralis does better and arrives at the windward mark in second place. On the first reach he capsizes, loses the end of his mainsheet and retires from the race. Tie two stopper knots next time son.

I stagger around the two laps, capsizing twice myself on the second lap. I start telling myself that I'm getting too old for this game. What am I thinking, going to two Masters Worlds in the next six months? I can't do this any more. But then on the final beat I find myself only one place behind that guy again. OK. I guess this is tough for everyone. A few boats call it a day after the first race including one guy with a broken mast.

As I munch a Clif Bar and try and recover before the second race, the RC announces that it will be a one lap triangle. That perks me up. Maybe I can sail hard for one lap without getting too shattered. Off we go on the second race. I'm getting the hang of the conditions now. Litoralis arrives at the windward mark in second place again and capsizes on the first reach again. What's wrong with this kid? The reaches are fun. Waves are coming sideways on the first reach and you can catch some rides, but on the second reach they are more from astern so it's one long roller coaster ride to the leeward mark.

Every race I wonder if this will be my last, and I will call it a day after the race. But somehow I recover some energy between races and keep going all afternoon. Litoralis stops capsizing and finishes in front of me a couple of times. I stop capsizing and start actually thinking I know how to sail in the heavy stuff. The wind drops significantly for the fifth and final race, which is probably just as well for the return to the beach.

Definitely glad we decided to come. Great workout and practice in heavier winds. Results nothing to write home (or blog) about but, hey, I'm a old guy who can still Lasers with the kids and survive to tell the tale.

Cheat the nursing home, die on your Laser. But not this week.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Virtually Perfect

To answer my own request for good news about regatta organizers and race committees, I did sail in one regatta this year that was virtually perfect. Even though the winds were sometimes shifty, the start lines and courses were as square as could reasonably be expected. Start sequences and signals were spot on. Finishes were recorded accurately and, as soon as one race had finished, the RC started the sequence for the next race without any waiting around. There were no peanut butter and jelly unmentionables posing as regatta lunches, and the regatta results were posted on the web an hour or so after the last race. About the only thing to complain about as far as race management was concerned was that the start lines were a little short for the size of the fleet.

Off the water there was absolutely nothing to which one could take exception. No parking problems. No extra charges for food or drink. No dead skunks Brian.

On top of all that I had my best overall score in any regatta this season with a fifth place ranking. Then today I discovered that the regatta was written up on the Yachts and Yachting web page, with a brief description of a typical clumsy blunder by myself in one race. Still, there's no such thing as bad publicity and I will try not to let the fame go to my head.

Here's a picture from the Y&Y site of myself making a perfect mid-line start away from all the chaos at the pin end. That's me in the pink boat with my bow just hitting the line as the gun went off.

Oh, didn't I mention? It wasn't a real regatta. It was the first weekly Tacticat regatta last Monday, hosted in Europe this week. For those of you not in the know, Tacticat is an Internet environment where sailors of different countries and sailing classes meet to train tactics by virtually racing each other.

As I said, virtual perfection in regatta management thanks to the brilliant minds that invented Tacticat and continue to improve it in response to feedback from users. Come join us.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Wanted: Good News

So here I am, trying to redress the balance after several posts I wrote whining about race committees and regatta organizers, deciding yesterday to be more positive and letting the world know of a story about how Malletts Bay Boat Club was able to post the results of the 2007 Laser US Nationals so quickly...

When some dude called Brian leaves a comment telling me about all the problems at the self-same regatta and letting all the air out of my balloon of optimism and positivity. Apparently Brian had to walk an eighth of a mile every day, and failed to make the time limit in one race, and suffered other gross indignities such as having to look at a sign saying "Member Parking Only"...

Well, I have to admit that dude Brian has the jump on me because he actually sailed in the regatta and actually has some hard facts, while I have just been soaking up the propaganda promulgated on the web by the regatta organizers. But even so...

I refuse to be brought down by dude Brian's negativity. I demand to hear good news about race committees and regatta organizers. So please tell me...

What was the best example you have seen this year of excellence in race management?

Which regatta organizers did a superb job in your view?

What regatta did you sail this year where you left thinking, "These folk just know how to run a regatta properly. I will be back."?

Give me some good news. I insist.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Bad News Good News

Captain JP asked a great question today: Are bad posts good?

His point is that the most popular post on his blog recently was about his Worst Ever Race. Apparently people love to read about others' misfortunes. I've had a similar experience. No -- I never tried racing a triple-reefed Topper in a Force 2 wind. What I mean is that on this blog too, the most widely read recent post was the one where I was whining about the Uncrustables in a regatta lunch. Folk apparently love a good negative story, especially if it bashes some poor, overworked, volunteer regatta-organizer.

I guess we shouldn't be too surprised. Check out your major newspaper or TV news program. It's the bad news that makes the headlines. And the talk shows are full of politicians rubbishing the performance of your country's selfless, dedicated, masterly government leaders.

I've done a lot of whining about regatta organizers and race committees lately. I do feel guilty about writing so much negative stuff. My only excuses are that I do also write about my own screw-ups in various capacities, and one can only hope that talking about other people's mistakes will make us all better sailors, race committee staff, sailing club leaders, sailing instructors, or purveyors of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for hungry sailors. No. Scrub that last one.

So to change to a more positive tone, let's give credit to a race committee that knows how to do things right. Check out the account of how Malletts Bay Boat Club managed to record the finishes of the 2007 US Laser Nationals accurately and post them so quickly to the web. It's a story of attention to detail, superb organization and planning, practice, well-designed processes, delegation, intelligent use of technology, and commitment to excellence.

Congratulations to Malletts Bay. Other RCs please note. It can be done.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Papa's Got A Brand New Bag

Laser sailors treasure their bags. No Adam, not a giblet bag, though I must say I too, like Captain Giblet Bag, cut a fine manly figure in a Speedo. No Joe, there will be no pictures.

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes. Bags.

Not long after Bruce Kirby launched the first Laser, way back in the early 70s, some bright spark invented the Laser foil bag. You see when you pack up your Laser after sailing you want to take home with you your daggerboard, your tiller, your rudder, your sail, your battens etc. etc. You don't want to leave them on the boat for the boards to warp in the summer heat or for some jerk to "borrow" your pristine new sail and your finely polished rudder. So you need a bag to carry all those unwieldy parts. Hence the Laser foil bag.

Fast forward to the twenty-first century and the technology of foil bags has advanced somewhat. As the Laser is a strict one-design we can't do much to improve the boat, but, hey, we can have a cooler, snazzier, better designed foil bag than the kid next to us in the boat park. It's all about psychology dude. Impress that kid with your equipment (no not the giblet bag) before sailing and the battle is half won before the race starts.

So it was with considerable excitement that I unpacked the parcel that arrived a few days ago from Intensity Sails with some new Laser gizmos including a bright red, high-tech-looking Intensity Sails Foil Bag. I packed all my gear into the bag before the Buzzards Bay Regatta last weekend and gave my new toy a trial.

Man this is one amazing feat of modern fabric engineering. The compartment for the daggerboard itself is well padded to protect the vulnerable edges and corners and has a vent of mesh down one side. I like that. As someone who is too lazy to dry my foils before I pack them away it's good to know that the board will dry out in the bag, and it's also supposed to protect against overheating. (Don't want a warped edge dude. Nothing worse than a warped edge.) The daggerboard compartment is closed with a sturdy looking zipper -- an "oversize 3 sided coil self healing zipper" according to the website. I've no idea what that means but it sounds good and could be a useful put-down line at some point. "How many sides does your coil have, dude?"

The rudder goes into a compartment closed with a hefty Velcro flap. Wait, there's another compartment under the flap, just the right size for a folded sail. Cool.

Wait. What's this. Another compartment on the outside of the bag with another zipper. Just right for storing battens, and maybe some lines. A place for everything and everything in its place. And then over on the other side, placed diagonally so as to maximize its length, is a long pocket for the tiller and those extra-long tiller extensions that all us Laser guys prefer. Size does matter baby.

The one feature that I found a little strange and that is different from all other foil bags I have seen is that this one is designed to carry the daggerboard trailing edge down. It always made sense to me to have it the other way up so the board rests on its thick leading edge, and the relatively fragile trailing edge is protected from accidental knocks when some klutz like me drops his bag on the floor too hard, for example. I asked Jim Myers of Intensity Sails about this aspect of the design. His reply was, "We looked at this and found with the seam, seam taping and padding that there was enough support for the trailing edge for normal use. I have used mine for over a year with no trailing edge issues." Sounds good. But I still put the bag upside down when I put it in the back of my car.

The Intensity Sails Laser Foil Bag looks sturdy and well-constructed and as if it should last many, many years. There is a bold "Sail with Intensity" logo on one side. Maybe it will remind me to do just that if I look at it often enough? The other side has white spaces to write my sail number and name so that some other envious Laserite can't "accidentally" make off with it. There is a carrying handle and a shoulder strap. Every feature you could imagine wanting. Superb product.

But wait, there's more. Here's why you should rush off now to the Intensity Sails website and order a foil bag. The price. The regular price is $99.99 and they are currently on sail for $69.99. What? Is that a mistake? Has Jim lost his mind? One of my other favorite vendors of Laser goodies is charging over twice that price for their foil bag. So buy one now before Jim recovers his sanity. Even better buy two, one for you and one for your best friend, wife, husband, father, son, whatever as their next birthday present.

What's that, you don't know any other Laser sailors? You will. There are 190,000 of us. Buy two bags anyway.

What? You don't sail a Laser? You mean, you don't sail a Laser yet. You will. It's addictive. In any case buy, two or three foil bags so you can give them to your current and future Laser sailing friends. There's no better value and there's no better present for a Laser sailor.

OK. Got to put my Intensity Sails Foil Bag back in the car and go sailing. See ya!

Come here sister.....Papa's in the swing
He ain't too hip...about that new breed babe
He ain't no drag
Papa's got a brand new bag

Come here mama....and dig this crazy scene
He's not too fancy....but his line is pretty clean
He ain't no drag.
Papa's got a brand new bag

Friday, August 10, 2007

We Have The Technology

There's been some whining in some quarters recently about the ability or willingness of organizers of major regattas to post results and news about their events on-line in a prompt manner. (Not here of course. I never whine about regatta organizers.)

So let's give kudos (and smarties and M&Ms too) to Malletts Bay Boat Club, host of the 2007 US Laser Nationals who have someone on the finish boat posting live updates about action on the water today and who by 2pm had already posted some of the results of today's races while other races are still going on.

Way to go Malletts Bay.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Laser Sailing Questions

JP, the author of Captain JP's log has been trying out a Laser and has some questions about Laser sailing...

One thing I've noticed is not everyone sails the same way: for example during tacking when does the tiller flip from behind the back - before or after? In the lesson we were told tack first then get the tiller on the right side but my nephew flips it over before the tack and says that's how he was taught.

Not sure if you're talking here about flipping the tiller extension to the new side, or swapping sheet and tiller hands.

Don't flip the tiller extension to the new side before the tack. Hold it in the natural position that you have been holding it for beating as you go into the tack.

As for the swap of sheet and tiller extension to the new hands, the way that's usually taught is to do the hand swap after you have crossed to the new side of the boat. That's what Ben Ainslie describes in his book. But in Ben Tan's book, the chapter on tacking shows the hand swap being done behind the back as the sailor crosses the boat. I think I do both in different circumstances. I've never heard of anyone swapping tiller and sheet hands before the tack.

Also which method is best for pulling lots of sheet in at once - wrap round knee or tiller? Which do you use or does it vary by circumstance or preference?

Knee? Tiller? Neither. Don't use your teeth either. (I've seen people do that too.)

The way to sheet in is to use both hands. With practice you can grab the sheet near the block with your tiller hand (while still holding the end of the tiller extension). Lift that hand upwards pulling in several feet of sheet (of course while steering straight at the same time). Then grab the sheet near the block with your sheet (front) hand and pull in several more feet. Repeat, alternating each hand. Of course you need a tiller extension long enough to be able to reach to the block without dropping the extension.

Both of these techniques, the hand swap and sheeting in, can be practised on dry land if a student is finding them difficult. When I was teaching kids to sail Optimists (that require exactly the same methods) we always went through these techniques on the land first.

Hope that helps. Any more questions, class?

Sailing in Decline

Sailing is in decline. The sport is dying. Just look at these numbers...

263 Toppers are sailing in the British 2007 Topper National Championships this week at East Lothian Yacht Club.

462 Optimists are sailing in the USODA 2007 New England Championships at Sail Newport.

Entry for the Laser Masters 2007 World Championships in Roses, Spain has been closed at 417 boats.

Shocking. I don't know what we are going to have to do to revive the sport.

Poetry in Motion

It's been apparent in the last few regattas that the leaders in the local Laser fleets have much better upwind speed in waves than I do. What am I doing wrong? What do they do differently? I was puzzled.

Then today I saw a reference in Sailing Anarchy to an old article in Sailing World by Ed Adams about Robert Scheidt's upwind technique in a Laser. Now I've been hoarding away Sailing World articles that are relevant to my kind of sailing for years. Let's see if it's in my file. Ah yes, here it is: March 1998 Poetry in Motion by Ed Adams.

So let's see what Mr Ed says...

Shoulder down mode. In the flat water between wave sets, sit up slightly and lean forwards with the forward shoulder down.

Punch the wave. Just as the bow meets the wave, throw the torso aft and out and punch the wave by jabbing the tiller to leeward.

Unweight on the crest. As soon as the wave punch is made, come out of the hard hike, sit up and forward to unweight the boat on the crest of the wave, and pull the tiller up.

Power landing. As the boat drops into the trough, throw the weight aft and out violently and put the tiller back down to leeward.

Hmmm. Well that's certainly more complicated and athletic than anything I do right now. I'll have to try it. Just in case, does anyone have a recommendation for a good chiropractor?

By the way, does anyone who really knows about Laser sailing want to comment as to whether this is still the best recommended technique or has someone discovered an even better way in the last seven years?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

More on Sailing and Uncrustables

It seems I was not the first to find Uncrustables unsuitable fuel for sailing. Today I received this email from a reader in Iceland.
I had to write concerning the Uncrustable sandwich. Your post caused me to spit out my morning coffee laughing and subsequent marital discord. During 30 years as a pilot for a major airline I made some thousands of trips to the US and became quite fond of peanut butter (Jif brand). Peanut butter is somewhat rare in Iceland but a few months ago my wife was shopping and in a very thoughtful moment bought a case of these Uncrustable sandwiches in assorted flavor. Her thought was I could eat these while sailing. Sadly they are inedible by humans and testing on my own dog (who is omnivorous to the extreme) and some of the local livestock indicates other species are not too fond of them also. I had taken to unwrapping them and throwing them in the sea on the idea that fish and whales will eat anything.

So I had my wife read your post as a gentle way to express that perhaps others had the same impression of this miracle of modern food engineering. She said:

"I thought you liked them?"

I said:

"They are in the sea."

She sulked for a bit while I explained that her idea was great but the Uncrustables were not. In the end all is well and I am back to cheese sandwich. The Uncrustables were donated to the local church.

It seems that our friend had also been reading
this post about sailing nutrition because his letter goes on to say...

Now as to drink. It is cold here, not as cold as you might suppose but chilly. As I write it is 48 F and the sea temperature is 11 C. While I agree that:

"The goal of your pre-sailing diet should be to optimize fuel stores and hydration levels while relaxing your mind"

drinking Mimosas, Margaritas and iced rum drinks would mean sure hypothermia. So to rephrase:

"The goal of your pre-sailing diet in cold weather should be to provide warmth and optimize fuel stores and hydration levels while relaxing your mind"

Next time you sail in cold weather I suggest:


Strong Coffee
Decent Brandy

Directions - mix to taste, put in thermos



* 2 parts rum
* 1 parts water
* 2 sugar cubes
* Sprinkle cinnamon
* Sprinkle nutmeg

Directions - combine, heat and drink


Cafe Orange

2 to 4 oz Cointreau
hot, strong coffee (decafe is smart)
whipped cream

The above provide the caffeine and alcohol mixture one requires to be both alert and relaxed.

Enjoy your blog, been sailing Laser, Finn and Windmill for 25 years and for the past 4 years sailing almost daily in the fjord.

Best Wishes.

I think I like this guy.

Boat Park Chaos

Dear Mr Regatta Parking Lot Attendant,

I know you had a tough job this weekend, trying to coordinate the movements of 250 Laser, Laser Radial and Vanguard-15 sailors and their boats and their trailers and their cars in a field that was perhaps just a tad too small for the job. The chaos on the first morning of the regatta probably wasn't entirely your fault, unless you were also responsible for planning the parking arrangements. So I hope you are thinking, like I am, about what could have been done differently.

Sailors come to this regatta because of its reputation for reliable strong winds and excellent race management on the water. But the land-side logistics can affect our enjoyment of the event too and, frankly, this aspect of the event fell way short of the mark. I hear that some people won't come to this regatta any more because they are not made to feel welcome. I'll probably be back, but only because I have faith that your yacht club can learn from their mistakes. And management of this launch and parking area last weekend was a monumental screw-up of the first order.

At first everything went smoothly. I dropped off my boat and trailer at the launch site a couple of days before the regatta after going over there to practice. My friends assured me that in previous years all the boats and cars and trailers could fit in this field so everything seemed hunky-dory.

On Friday morning too it looked at first as if things were under control. There were signs indicating which end of the field cars should be parked. Everyone obeyed the signs and slowly the field filled up. Apart from those signs, you seemed to be letting the sailors decide for themselves where to park their boats, trailers and cars. I wonder if there had been any discussion in the planning meetings about the capacity of this field and perhaps the need to park the cars in orderly tight rows to maximize use of space? Had anyone thought to suggest parking boat trailers at one of the remote parking lots to create more space for boats and cars?

Boats were being rigged. Sailors were getting dressed for the water. More and more boats and trailers and cars were arriving. Then at 9am, about half an hour before we were due to launch, the crisis hit. The field was full. Cars and trailers were backing up down the entrance road. Tempers were getting frayed. The latecomers could see that they would miss the start. There was nowhere to put all the boats and cars. Total mess. Didn't you see it coming before then?

Let's be charitable. I won't say you lost it. I will say you made an executive decision. You marched over to the young man who had the car parked furthest from the entrance, and told him brusquely to move his car to the other lot a couple of miles away and to catch a shuttle bus back. Actually you were very brusque.

He didn't take it well. Partly it was in your manner. Partly it was because he didn't understand why you were singling him out to move when he had been one of the first to arrive and park his car in a good position close to his boat. You didn't really explain that you were trying to empty the whole lot of cars. In any case, it seemed unlikely that all those cars could be moved and all those people bussed back here in under thirty minutes.

His response was also partly because we Laser sailors like to have our cars and all our clothes and tools and spare gear close at hand. It makes us feel secure. He got angry. He argued. He can't help it. It's genetic. His father likes to argue. His grandfather liked to argue. I apologize for my genes.

He stormed off. You stormed off. You tackled him again and fiercely insisted that he move his car. Eventually he did. You had similar confrontations with other sailors. Tempers flared. Little knots of sailors formed and vented about the situation and your attitude. Nobody wanted to be forced to drive to some other location and perhaps get back here too late to catch the first race. Harsh words about you and your yacht club's ability to run a regatta were exchanged.

I was trying to keep out of your way. I sat quietly to one side with the guy who is probably the oldest active Laser sailor on the planet. At least you had a bit more tact when you approached us and asked us to move our cars off site too. You did address us as, "You gentlemen." I hope you noticed I returned the compliment by calling you, "Sir".

The host yacht club and its volunteers should treat sailors like they are welcome and with some respect. We sailors should also treat you with respect. After all you are a volunteer trying to do a difficult job. So on behalf of all the sailors I apologize for the guy who called you a Parking Lot Nazi. That was uncalled for.

Some of us moved our cars begrudgingly. We caught a bus back to the launch area which was still in confusion. One of the regatta officials said he had heard that our first warning signal would be postponed because of the parking chaos. Another official vainly attempted to phone the yacht club to obtain confirmation. More confusion. Some boats had already set sail for the Laser circle a couple of miles away so eventually we all launched.

The second day you had some signs at the entrance saying that that no cars were allowed in the field. So we parked in the off-site lot and came to the launch area by bus. There was plenty of empty space in the field. We wondered why you didn't allow at least the early birds to park there.

By the third day, most sailors had worked out that we could park our cars on the road outside the field and wouldn't get ticketed by the famously officious local police. There were dozens of cars parked both sides of the narrow lane blocking part of the road. Did you think that was a better solution than allowing at least some cars to park in an orderly fashion in the field? Apparently not.

Did you reconsider when you heard the sirens and saw the flashing lights come down the road? As several police cars and fire trucks barrelled at high speed towards us could you see any problem? When the fire trucks were stopped by cars going in the opposite direction in between the two lines of parked regatta cars, did you wonder if someone in authority might question who had caused this road to be blocked to emergency vehicles? I hope the house didn't burn down before they arrived.

You did try and take some preemptive steps to avoid more chaos after the regatta was over. Telling all the sailors not to bring their cars into the lot until we were ready to hitch up our trailers and leave was probably a good idea. Thanks for thinking ahead. You didn't exactly do it in a diplomatic way though. Starting the conversation with, "Don't even think about bringing your car through the gate...." and threatening to abandon us altogether may not have been the best way to motivate us to cooperate.

But back to the first day. Don't you think it would have been better to head off the first morning's confusion by better planning? Perhaps we should have been told beforehand that we had to park cars at the other site? Or perhaps all trailers should have been put in that other lot? Or perhaps some better organization of parking would have used the space more effectively?

Can I suggest that before your yacht club hosts this regatta again you have a chat with the folks at Hyannis Yacht Club. At their regatta the previous weekend they had a similar issue: how to fit all the boats, trailers and cars into a small space. But they had a plan. They had plenty of cheerful guys in fluorescent yellow T-shirts directing traffic and parking cars tightly. They had a separate area to store trailers. They had planned it out properly and communicated clearly and so there was little stress in what was also a very crowded lot.

But most importantly the guys running the parking lot at Hyannis kept the mood light. They looked like they were having fun. They joked with each other and with the sailors. Nobody there got angry. Nobody got called a Parking Lot Nazi. Think about it. Please.

Thanks for giving up your free time to help run this regatta for us. I know you would probably rather have been out on the water instead of dealing on the land with a couple of hundred unruly teenagers and a few cranky old geezers like me. Hope the feedback is helpful and that things will go more smoothly next time your yacht club hosts this regatta. See you in a couple of years.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Mind Games Revisited

I was asking a few days ago what kind of remarks would be successful in disrupting the concentration or focus of a competitor in a sailboat race. This weekend I discovered the answer: almost anything.

Friday on Buzzards Bay. I beat Litoralis by half a dozen places in the 3-leg windward-leeward-windward first race and life is good. In the second race perhaps I am fading a bit and he, having the advantage of me in age by a few decades and in weight by at least as many pounds, arrives at the first windward mark a few places in front of me.

So I start working the waves downwind like some 17-year-old Radial sailor possessed by demons. Doing my best Ben Ainslie impression, carving turns up and down, pumping on every wave. I'm catching him up and life is still good.

As I surf past him I think of what I should say to him. Don't want to be a smart ass. Needs to be something that sounds positive and encouraging in a fatherly way but there's no harm if it also gives me a little mental edge too. Ha. I've got it.

"You know this is a five leg race, right?" Just passing on information that the race committee changed the course board between races. He might have missed it. Just being a good Dad.

"You know this is a five leg race, right?" Ah, but what if he thought it was still the shorter course we sailed in race one? Maybe he hung it all out on the first beat in an attempt to beat poor old Dad? Maybe he thinks there is only one more beat after this downwind leg? What's it going to do to his head if he finds out that he actually has two more beats and one more run to do? Might be demoralizing perhaps? Could make him concede the lead in our personal tussle? Maybe.

So I say it. "You know this is a five leg race, right?"

His reply sounds something like, "What? WHAT? Wooooaaaaa! Aaaaaarrrghhh! SPLASH! Splutter, splutter, splutter," as he death-rolls his Laser and I carry on down the run a-pumping and a-rocking and a-rolling.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Monday, August 06, 2007


Dear Ms Regatta Lunch Snack Organizer,

Thanks for giving up your free time to help run this regatta for us. I appreciate that you are a volunteer and
that you are probably not a Laser sailor yourself. I really appreciate that the regatta organizers saw fit to spend some of our entry fees to buy on-the-water lunches for us every day and I want to thank you for volunteering to head up the team buying all the food and packing it in plastic bags for us and then handing it out to us on the water every day.

Having said all that (and I do appreciate you, I really do, and I have been in your shoes and once made a huge mistake in this capacity myself) could I please offer one suggestion...

Smuckers processed peanut butter and grape jelly Uncrustables are not suitable lunch snacks for Laser sailors.

Here are a few reasons...

1. They taste vile.

2. They are intended for little kids, not finely tuned adult athletes like us.

3. They taste vile.

4. They contain way too much fat and way too little carbohydrate to be a satisfactory snack for someone undertaking vigorous physical exercise.

5. They taste vile.

6. They are a processed food made in a factory.

7. They taste vile.

Can I suggest that before your yacht club hosts this regatta again you have a chat with the folks at Brant Beach Yacht Club in New Jersey about how to provide sustenance on the water for Laser sailors. At the Atlantic Coast Laser Championships a couple of years ago they had a large catamaran moored on the direct line between the finish and start lines of the trapezoid course. There were several people positioned on the transom of this catamaran handing out energy bars and fruit and water between every race. That's what we really need. Healthy food that tastes good and provides the fuel we need frequently. Not processed junk kiddie food.

Sorry to be so blunt. I think that's all for now. Thanks for volunteering to provide us with lunch. Hope the feedback is helpful. I appreciate all your efforts. I really do.

Update: I have been asked to point out, for anyone reading this post on or after August 13, that it does not refer to the 2007 Laser US Nationals hosted by Malletts Bay Boat Club, Vermont from August 10-12. The post was originally published on August 6 and even I cannot tell the future.

Buzzards Bay Regatta 2007

Another Monday feeling totally wasted after another three day regatta. This weekend son #1 Litoralis and I sailed Lasers together in the Buzzards Bay Regatta hosted this year by the New Bedford Yacht Club.

The Laser fleet was larger and the competition was much tougher than at the Hyannis Regatta the previous week. And my results reflected it. Friday and Saturday brought champagne sailing conditions with sunshine and a south-westerly that rewarded those who could hike hard and work the waves. I could do the former for a few minutes at a time and the latter not very much at all. Sunday the wind was lighter and from the east initially clocking round to the south. Not as interesting so we bagged the last race in order to beat the expected chaos in the launch area as 120 Laser sailors and a gazillion Vanguard 15 sailors along with assorted Mommies and Daddies and ginormous SUVs all attempted to load boats on to trailers in a space slightly smaller than my back lawn.

The race committee on the Laser circle was superb. Best one I've seen all year. And I told them so. Actually the PRO was a bit too much of a perfectionist for my liking. Did he really have to abandon the first race on Sunday after that big right shift came in half way up the first beat? Of course I knew that shift was coming and was halfway to Martha's Vineyard, banging the right corner for all I was worth, and looking golden. Hey, that's not unfair conditions for racing; that's validation of my impressive weather insights (and ability to check before leaving home).

I haven't seen the final results yet but as of Sunday morning I was beating this guy and this guy and this guy so that was all good. That guy was beating me again but what's new?

There were a few bloggable moments that I plan to write about later. But for now I just need to take it easy and let these aching muscles recover.

Tillerman's Boat on YouTube

Wow. What a surprise. My boat is famous. It's now on YouTube.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Trick Play

Talking of mind games, one step further (perhaps one step too far) in the mental game of outwitting your opponents is the trick play. By this I mean a move that for a while tricks the opposition into thinking that something is happening which is totally different from what is really happening.

Take for example the "wrong ball play" as shown in this video.

Deceptive? Yes.

Successful? Yes

Unsportsmanlike? Maybe.

My question for you today, is whether some deceptive move along these lines is even possible in sailboat racing. The nearest I can think of is the fake tack when another boat is covering you. But a move in which the opposition essentially stops playing because they think the game is suspended or over, freeing you to make a huge gain against them? It's hard to imagine. My general recall fiasco (shouting, "General Recall!" just after the start when the RC hasn't signalled one) may be similar, but that was a mistake, not a deliberately deceptive play. Although it could be done with malicious intent. Hmmm. Should I?

And my other question is: If someone in sailing pulled a move as audacious as "wrong ball coach" would they be successfully protested under Rule 2... A boat shall compete in compliance with recognized principle of sportsmanship and fair play?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Mind Games

Psych-out: the act of undermining someone's confidence by psychological means.

In a comment on yesterday's post Stephen pointed out that one reason another sailor might be complimenting me on my sailing was that he was trying to un-nerve or upset me in order to put me off my game. Hmmm. I guess that could be true, but I don't think so in this case. Laser sailors are way too genteel and respectful to play games like that. Yeah, right.

But it does raise the question of what kind of remarks would be successful in disrupting the concentration or focus of a competitor, or disturbing their natural free-flowing excellent performance. I remember one incident this year where one of the guys close to me in the fleet shouted something to me on the start line about 30 seconds before the start. I didn't even hear what he said so I naturally asked him to repeat it (I know... stupid move) by which time I'd lost my concentration on the start sequence and totally blew the start.

And as Stephen points out, getting a fellow competitor to think too hard about something he or she is doing well naturally is almost guaranteed to succeed in disrupting their game.

So please tell me. Do you have any choice remarks that are successful in psyching out your competition? Or have you been the victim of psychological mind games like this yourself?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

I Am That Guy

A few days ago I wrote about my unhealthy focus on trying to beat one other sailor and asked whether other sailors suffered from the same mental disorder. I never expected to find the answer to my question so close to home...

At the Newport Regatta a few weeks ago one of the other sailors, someone I hadn't met before, complimented me on how well I was sailing and told me that I had improved since last year. Hmmm, that's cool I thought. Good guy. On the long sail back to the club after the first day of the Hyannis Regatta last weekend he did the same, and then started asking me what my actual finishes were. Then the next morning he wanted to know what my overall position was for the day. This carried on all weekend. Every time I met this fellow on the water or on the land he was always asking, "Where did you finish up in that race?" or "How did you do today?"

By the end of the regatta and after spending more time with him I worked out what was going on. He had been measuring his progress against mine since last year. Watching me (mainly from behind) and trying to catch me in every race.

Ohmigod! You know what this means. I am that guy!