Sunday, February 10, 2008

Coming Soon

OK. Tillerwoman and I are off to Australia today for spring training. No, strike that. I mean we are going so I can sail in the 2008 Laser Masters Worlds. Full accounts of all the sailing will be posted here after our return in mid-March.

In the meantime... do whatever you were doing before I interrupted you.


Well, the weather cooperated in Terrigal and they managed to put in three races on Sunday. But the conditions proved to be too much even for some of the Young Guy Real Laser Sailors who are sailing their World Championship there.

The Championship got tough when winds reached 25 knots, and up to 28 in the gusts, on big seas and swells off Terrigal in Australia today, but Race Officials breathed a sigh of relief as they managed to put three races to bed, starting the first group shortly after 9.30am. They did an excellent job.

Some sailors, however, did not enjoy conditions; exhaustion bringing them back to the Terrigal Trojan Rugby Club base. Andrey Quintero, trying to qualify Columbia for the Games was amongst the casualties. "The winds, the waves and the swell got so big; I just am not used to that. I am back because I am very tired," the normally smiling Quintero said.

Adil Mohammed from the United Arab Emirates told a similar story. "Too much wind, so difficult, big waves, too much gusts," said Mohammed who went on to say: "I am a bit light - around 68 kilos - for these big winds. I kept capsizing."

Zimbabwe's Patrick McCosh too, had trouble. "I capsized in the second race. By the time I got afloat again, the third race had started - and I would have been so far behind, I pulled out. We just don't sail in these sorts of conditions at home."
"Very tired"... "too much wind"... "I kept capsizing"... "don't sail in these sorts of conditions at home"...

Geeze. That sounds like stuff that I would say, or write here in this blog. I don't know whether to feel...

a) happy that the kids have the same problems as me

b) worried

c) pumped up that I'm going to get some awesome practice in big wind and waves in the Old Farts Laser Worlds next week.

I think I'll choose (c). Terrigal here I come.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Genuine Blue

It's already Sunday in Australia and, in an attempt to catch up for lost races in the Young Guy Real Laser Sailor Worlds in Terrigal, the organizers decided to make an early start. Forget about going to church dude.

According to the championship website...
The race committee made the call after checking expected weather conditions for today. The Bureau of Meteorology predicts ideal south/south-westerly winds of 15-20 knots, tending south-east this afternoon and easing throughout the day to 10-15 knots on 1 to 2 metre seas and a south/south-easterly swell of 2 to 2.5 metres.

Monday's current outlook looks fine too, with east/nor-easterly sea breezes at 10-20 knots on 1 to 2 metre and a south-east swell of around 2 metres. As the boats left the ramp this morning, at around 8.45am NSW time, the skies were a genuine blue with a few white fluffy clouds.
Woo hoo. That sounds better. I'm just finishing my packing. And tomorrow we're off. Terrigal and Old Farts Laser Worlds here we come.

Sail Away

I've never been much of a fan of Eithne Patricia Ní Bhraonáin and her soporific multi-tracked over-dubbed breathy new age chants, but I have to confess there is something about Orinoco Flow that appeals to me. It was actually the first track on the CD of "pump me up to go sailing" songs that I made to play on the way to sailing regattas.

Not that Eithne had the power to put me in the mood to go and blast around on a Laser in 25 knots. Rather her "let me sail, let me crash, let me reach, let me beach" mantra had the effect of cleansing my mind ready for the real start-me-up tracks that followed. A bit like a good mouthwash for the brain. And I have a feeling that "soporific" is exactly what I'm going to need before the 14 hour flight across the Pacific tomorrow night.

The video is quite cute too. How many of the locations can you identify?

Welcome to Sunny Australia

More torrential rain storms on Day 3 of the Young Guy Real Laser Sailor Worlds in Terrigal in New South Wales today, according to the championship website. They launched. They came back in as another storm came through. "Cold and miserable for all concerned," it says. I bet the Lovely Lassie Laser Launch Team weren't wearing their bikinis today.

Yikes. You Aussies had better get rid of all this rain by the time Tillerwoman arrives in Terrigal on Thursday or there will be hell to pay.

Apparently they did manage to get one race in, starting around 5:30 pm under sunny skies. Let's hope that the conditions are better when the Old Farts Laser Worlds start next Sunday.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Terrigal Laser Launch Crew

It has come to my attention that today's Fish on Fridays post did not meet the high standards set by Mr. Joe Rouse of San Francisco, the author of the famous sailing blog The Horse's Mouth, in that when Mr. Rouse started the Fish on Fridays meme it was specifically understood by the author and all his readers that every picture in the series would show at least one lovely young lady wearing a skimpy bikini holding a very large fish, and not some ugly Australian dude wearing a skimpy mustache holding a slug with gills...

So for Mr Rouse and all his fans, here is a picture of the young ladies who, I have it on very good authority from a usually reliable source, have been hired by the organizers of the Laser Masters Worlds in Australia as launching assistants to carry our Lasers down to the water each day and carry them back to the boat park each evening.

Eat your heart out Joe Rouse. You don't get service like that at Force 5 regattas.

She'll Be Apples

I needn't have worried. Terrigal didn't disappoint. The weather improved and two races were sailed on Day 2 of the Young Guy Real Laser Sailor Worlds today according to the championship website.

The races started in light rain but shortly afterwards the sun came out. Woo hoo. Tillerwoman will be pleased to hear that. She won't allow it to rain when she returns to her native Australia.

There were lots of waves, big swell and light breeze... at least that was how it was described by one of the guys who got yellow-flagged twice for pumping. His other excuse was that he heeled the boat over to check for weed under the boat and was only flattening it afterwards. Hmmm. Must remember that one.

Trapezoid courses can be confusing at times. Nobody should feel bad about getting lost after that dude Slingsby, whom I was writing about earlier in the week, went round the wrong windward mark in the first race. Current standings in the 160 boat fleet for other guys that I've mentioned here from time to time are Brad Funk 5th, Gustavo Lima 12th, Andrew Campbell 21st and Raul Aguayo 61st.

I'm pumped up. We are scheduled to be in Sydney on Tuesday and in Terrigal on Thursday. Racing in the Old Farts Laser Worlds starts on Sunday.

No worries mate. She'll be apples.

Queensland Lungfish

We're very excited about our upcoming trip to Australia. Only two days now until we leave. Wonder what this beauty tastes like when it's deep-fried in batter and served up with chips, vinegar and mushy peas?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Will Terrigal Disappoint?

There are several reasons I am going to Australia to sail in the Laser Masters Worlds in Terrigal...

  1. Tillerwoman was born in Australia and would never forgive me if I missed an opportunity to take her to visit the land of her birth to play the didgeridoo or whatever it is that Aussies do when they are overwhelmed with patriotic emotion.

  2. Meet up with Masters sailing friends from all over the world and have a good old time hanging out with them.

  3. Totally crush aforementioned Masters sailing friends in the races.

  4. Spring training.

  5. Tick off another few days on my quest for 100 days of Laser sailing in 2008. Say six days of racing and two days of practice - maybe eight in all?
Terrigal sounds like an awesome place to sail. The advance publicity promised big ocean swells and 20-25 knot winds. Woo hoo. Maybe I'll get to practice some of those heavy air wave sailing skills that Rulo was teaching us in Cabarete?

But as I read the reports of the Young Guy Real Laser Sailor Worlds which are going on now prior to the Old Farts Laser Worlds I'm beginning to wonder...

First of all they lost the committee boat.

Then the first day of racing was abandoned with some pathetic excuses about the winds were too light and then the winds were too strong and then they didn't want anyone to get struck by lightning.

I hope Terrigal isn't going to disappoint?

Anyway I'm really an optimist and I see that there is going to be some sort of Aboriginal welcome at the opening ceremony for the masters' event, so I expect Tillerwoman will get to see a didgeridoo, if nothing else.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Just Another Practice Race

The sun came out this morning in Terrigal and, contrary to the weather forecast, it wasn't raining. Hmmm. Maybe I won't cancel our trip to Australia after all. Tillerwoman has commanded that it's not allowed to rain when she is in Australia.

The committee boat that was wrecked in the storm was carted away on a trailer. A "comfortable catamaran" was loaned by someone from the host club to replace it and a practice race was sailed in a 10-15 knot sea-breeze, according to the Laser Worlds regatta website.

Nobody finished the race.


How did this superstition about not finishing the practice race start? I don't get it. Apparently if you win the practice race you will not do well in the regatta. So most sailors duck out before the finish line.

Actually it may not be a superstition. I can now report that I won the practice race at the Sunfish Worlds in Cartagena, Colombia in 1997 and I have never won a race at a world championship since. Spooky, eh?

The current Laser world champion, Tom Slingsby, (he's the dude in the hat in this post) didn't even go out to the course. He obviously believes in Rulo's Rule.

A number of entrants in the Laser Worlds are trying to use this regatta to win their country (and themselves) a place in the Olympics this year. One of these is Raul Aguayo from the Dominican Republic who won the Caribbean Laser Midwinters in Cabarete a few weeks ago.

Raul is scary fast in a Sunfish too. Back in 1997 he was also sailing at that Sunfish Worlds in Colombia. He must have been pretty young then. Like me he "qualified" to sail in the silver fleet. Somehow I beat him in two races. In the last ten years he has improved more than me. I didn't beat him in any races in Cabarete this year.

I wish him well in Terrigal.

Spring Training

Some random thoughts on winter, spring, lay-offs, coming back, training, peaking...

Take a sport like Major League Baseball. The season is April to September, plus a few games in October if your team is lucky. About the same months that many folk in the north-eastern United States, Canada and northern Europe do their sailing.

Then most baseball players don't play the game at all from October to January. (Though I assume they do keep themselves fit by working out in the gym.) Likewise I did hardly any sailing this year between the trip to Spain in early October and the trip to the Dominican Republic in January.

So how do baseball players get themselves ready to play the game at a high level in April? They head off to Florida or Arizona
in February and March for something called "spring training".

Leave aside for a minute how February became "spring". The important thing is that the players need a couple of months to prepare for the big games again. They do workouts and drills together as a team. They play so-called "exhibition games" against other teams. The scores and statistics in these games don't really count. They are for players to get back in the groove again, and for the managers and coaches to assess the players and decide which ones should make the team roster when "real" games start in April.

I think I need the equivalent of spring training for my sailing this year. Indeed I approached the clinic and regatta in Cabarete last month much in the same spirit as a baseball player going to spring training. An opportunity to work on my technique with a top-class coach. A time to build back my skills to where they were at the end of last summer. A chance to have a few races against good sailors without being bothered too much about the scores. Hell, if I had had to take myself out of a game after three innings it wouldn't have really mattered.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I should have written this post before going to Cabarete. Now it just sounds like excuses for my dismal results. I almost did write it before I went actually. You can believe me if you want (or abuse me in the comments if you don't).

Do you feel the same after a lay-off from sailing? Is it possible to maintain your racing skills at a high level all year-round? Or are there inevitably peaks and troughs in your performance through the year? Do you actually need a down-time for a couple of months each year? Do you sometimes feel like you need "spring training for sailors"? Do you approach some regattas with the attitude that they are mainly for experimentation and practice, and that the scores aren't too important for you?

And if I said that I am treating the Laser Master Worlds in Australia as part of my spring training would your reaction be...

a) you're nuts
b) that's showing lack of respect for the regatta and the other sailors
c) you're just setting yourself up with an excuse if you don't do very well
d) you are ensuring that you won't do very well if you go with that attitude
e) all of the above?

Hmmm, I thought you'd say that.

Bollocks to Handicap Racing

99% of the racing I do is one-design Laser racing. Identical boats (or as near identical as is humanly possible) so the only variable is the nut on the end of the tiller. I never really developed any enthusiasm for handicap racing with its arbitrary fudge factors that never seem to be totally fair. I've entered handicap regattas and won them a couple of times, but even then I never felt the same satisfaction that comes from winning a one-design regatta.

If handicap races are a bit of a lottery for established classes, how much more weird is it when one of the entrants is a new or radically changed design that nobody has a clue how to handicap fairly? This is the situation currently with the foiling Moths that we have all been oohing and aahing at on YouTube videos lately.

2006 Moth World Champion Simon Payne has a post today on his blog, Handicap Racing, in which he tells a sad tale about Moth handicaps in the UK. Apparently for many years he had "skilfully managed his handicap" at Hayling Island Sailing Club (whatever that means) in anticipation of winning the "Big One" the Glynn Charles pursuit race one year. Apparently the winner receives a holiday for two from Neilson which only added to Simon's hunger for the win. (I must write another post some time on the whole question of high value prizes for small boat races and whether it's a good thing ot not.)

Anyway Simon's cunning plan has been thwarted because, "Graham Vials and Jason Belben have thoughtlessly put a nail in the coffin that is the Moth handicap with a couple of recent race wins". In other words other sailors have proved that a foiler is fast and the handicap has been adjusted to be more fair. Poor Simon.

Vials and Belben were actually first and fourth across the line in the 240 boat Boody Mary pursuit race at Queen Mary SC near London back in January. But Vials wasn't recognized as the official winner of this prestigious event because his boat didn't have a handicap number recognized by the Royal Yachting Association. Bloody right too.

However my old friends at Rutland Sailing Club are not as stuffy as the Queen Mary lot and they gave Vials a nominal handicap of 800 for his Bladerider in the recent John Merricks Tiger Trophy at Rutland. Graham promptly went out and won the event. There is an article on SailJuice Blog, Flying Tiger, the gist of which is that although Payne races off 690 now at Hayling Island, 800 was a fair handicap for Vials in the conditions at Rutland, and Vials really deserved to win the event.

I still don't get it. As Simon Payne says in his story about this whole mess, "Bollocks to handicap racing."

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Terrigal Weather Update

Only five days until I leave for the Laser Masters Worlds in Terrigal. Meanwhile Andrew Campbell has this inspiring weather update on his blog...

With four days of rain and onshore breezes and swells, New South Wales and the Central Coast is trying to wring itself out and get settled before the Laser World Championships starts here on Wednesday. While most of the counties have been in months long drought, the top stories are about flash floods swallowing objects such as Rescue Fire Trucks and small villages. The entire month of February’s expected rain has arrived in it’s first four days.

All the while the swell has rolled in bigger and bigger each day onto our little beach under the faint protection of a natural jetty beside ‘The Haven.’ I know of at least four boats in the last week that have been gobbled up by rogue breaking sets of waves and come ashore with broken masts, torn sails and thoroughly embarrassed sailors amongst cheering crowds of onlookers.

Last night apparently the race committee boat, which was peacefully anchored alongside the local fishing fleet, broke loose from it’s ground tackle and rode ashore to be found this morning full of a mix between buckets of rain water and sea water from the waves breaking into it.

All that and our forecast is calling for the swell to potentially increase over the next few days as the low pressure system intensifies. That could make it difficult getting through the already meter-high beach break, but we’ll see what happens.

Here is the race committee boat, high and not-so-dry.

According to the Laser Worlds Championship website...

Local police, the NSW Fire Brigade, inclusive of a Hazardous Materials Response Unit arrived at The Haven shortly after 10.00am this morning and are working away to lift the waterlogged and sand drenched boat out and onto land, where it will be inspected. It is yet to be determined whether the boat can be salvaged or not.

Yikes. What have I let myself in for? If the weather has wrecked the committee boat, what chance do we poor Laser sailors have? Now where is that advice on how to deal with fear?

Fear Factor

I posted an email earlier from a reader who was asking about how to deal with fear of sailing. When the wind is howling and you think that you won't be able to handle the conditions, that you might even break something or hurt yourself, what do you do?

I don't propose to be an expert on this matter. No, take that back. I'm very much an expert on that feeling of being scared to go sailing. What I mean is that I'm not an expert on sports psychology or motivating athletes on how to overcome their fears. But I can pass on a few tips that have worked for me at times...

1. Logic
If you're a left-brain type then maybe a logical argument will persuade you to go out and sail in 30 knots.

What's the worst that is likely to happen?

Sure you might capsize but that's no big deal.

Perhaps something might break on your boat, but you can always mend it.

Will you hurt yourself? Probably not.

I've been sailing a Laser for over 25 years and have been out in all kinds of conditions. I broke a mast top-section once and still managed to sail two miles back to the sailing club with the rig bent in half. I've ripped out various fittings and broken a boom but still managed to survive to tell the day. I've had a few bruises and grazes at times for sure, but the worst injury I ever had was the time the boom cut my head open during a gybe. There was a lot of blood for a while but it didn't require a hospital visit. And that's it.

Realistically the probability of any kind of serious injury while dinghy sailing is very small. So stop thinking about what might go wrong. Go sailing and enjoy the wind and waves.

2. Peer pressure
If you're sailing with other people then there will probably be other folk who want to go out and sail in the conditions that are scaring you. Surely you're not going to let them have all the fun are you? You'll feel like a total wuss if you're standing on the shore while others are out sailing.

This worked for me on the day I wrote about in Small Craft Advisory.

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.
A positive enthusiastic role model who is determined to sail can have a powerful influence on the timid, uncertain types like me.

3. Call on past positive experiences
Psych yourself up by recalling times that you have sailed before in heavy weather.

For example I can always puff out my chest and and remind myself, "I survived the 2007 Caribbean Midwinters."

4. Bite smaller chunks
OK, maybe you won't be able to handle the conditions. Maybe you will capsize a lot and get tired and have to come in early. So what? If you don't go out and try to sail in these conditions you never will learn to master them.

So make a small commitment. "I'll just sail one race and then see how I feel." Or, "I'll keep sailing until I've capsized five times and then I'll call it a day."

Sometimes when you do this you will find that you don't capsize as much as you thought you would, or you will do one race and feel confident to try another. And sometimes you won't. But hey, at least you gave it a shot.

5. Brag
OK, so you are all standing there, staring at the waves crashing on the beach, and wondering who will be the first to admit he doesn't want to sail. None of my first four tips are working for you. So now is the time for desperate measures...


Take the initiative. Tell the group how psyched up you are about sailing in heavy air. Here are some lines you could use...

"Come on guys, it's only 25 knots between the gusts."

"Wow. 30 knots! I've been waiting for weeks for an opportunity to practice in this."

"Yeah baby. 35 knots! It's a day for the fat boys. I'm going to blow you all away."

Yes, I know it's all lies, but after a few minutes of such bullshit you will actually start to believe it yourself. And then the others will respond to you as in point #2 above. Problem solved.

6. Music
Now we're really getting into the New Age, touchie-feelie, right brain stuff. But music does have the capability to inspire, motivate, calm, soothe, relax... whatever mood change you need.

Surely I am not the only sailor who has composed a mix tape (and it really was a tape back in the early 80's) of songs that he enjoyed to listen to while driving to a sailing event? On that tape there were a few songs that particularly had the ability to put me in the right frame of mind to tackle heavy air, to tough it out with the competition, to keep going when I was becoming tired... and so on. Listening to the music before sailing helped calm any fears and motivate me to have a go. And if things got gnarly out on the race course I would recall the most appropriate tune to keep me going.

Which brings me to the last piece of advice...

7. Sing
If all else fails, sing. Yes, I know this idea is even crazier than #5 and #6. But if you're out there in the midst of huge crashing waves the size of houses and winds that are blowing koalas off trees, singing at the top of your voice does take your mind off the stuff that's scaring you. It's worth a try. I'm sure the psychologists have some fancy term for this way of using a distraction to occupy your mind and overcome your fears.

And, if nothing else, the sight of you singing at the top of your voice will totally discombobulate your competition.

What song to sing?

I have found that Wheels on the Bus works quite well.

OK. That's seven ideas from me. What can you suggest?

The F Word

I received an interesting email a few weeks back suggesting that I write a post on the issue of fear of sailing. Here's what my correspondent had to say...
For what it's worth, sailing sometimes scares the hell out of me.
High winds, hard unstable craft, soft body, and a high propensity to land upside down in an environment for which evolution has yet to prepare me adequately.

We've all read the blogs " What a pussy, didn't put the spinnaker up in 35 Knots of wind ".
We all want to be on that perfect reach. Slicing through the water. Spray and hoots of joy or maniacal laughter, in the air.

But how do we get out there when the sky is slate gray, the wind howling and the water colder than an Scandinavian Fjord at Christmas?
How do we avoid going from full rig to radial to standing at the waters edge wishing for our slippers and an open fire?

The psychology of sailing is vital to our performance. For a start, we have to have the courage to be on the water to compete in the first place. But then there are the other aspects. From, should I tack round a mark of gybe? If I gybe without full confidence what will be the result? To, can I really ask the club champ for water when it was only by a fluky 180 degree wind shift that allowed me to see him close for the first time ever.

The f # # # word is often heard on the water but rarely talked about in the club.
So what techniques do you and the people who read this blog use to overcome what is perhaps one of the most fundamental aspects of sailing, for me anyway?
I'll jot down some of my own ideas on the topic in another post, but how would you respond to this question?

Monday, February 04, 2008

Commitment Devices

How do you keep a resolution, a commitment to yourself? Something that you want to do like lose weight or exercise more but you know that the gluttony and sloth may get the better of you. Do you have any tricks to force yourself to keep the commitment?

According to Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt at Freakonomics, economists call a trick like this a commitment device — a means with which to lock yourself into a course of action that you might not otherwise choose but that produces a desired result.

They give the example of a Los Angeles businesswoman who tries to watch her weight. So she bought two lifelike plastic models of human body fat from a medical-supply company, a one-pound blob and a five-pound blob, and put them on display in her kitchen.

Yuk. Be grateful I didn't post a picture of this lady's fat blobs!

Another suggestion from Levitt
for those who want to lose weight is to write a check for a substantial amount of money to the American Nazi Party, seal it up in a stamped envelope, and vow to drop it in the mail if you break your diet.

Wow. That's pretty serious too.

If you don't want to go to the extremes of writing a check to an organization whose goals you abhor, then you could go to and sign a contract with them to give a certain amount to some wholesome charity if you fail to meet your commitment to yourself.

Hmmm. So what device am I going to use to make myself stick to the commitment to sail my Laser 100 days this year come hell or high water? Well, basically by telling the world (a.k.a. as the three regular readers of this blog) about it I am exposing myself to huge personal embarrassment and humiliation if I fail.

To make sure you can keep track of whether I am backsliding I am posting the number of days sailed year-to-date in the sidebar over there >>>>>>>

And I have created a post 100 Days at Sea which will be a list of links to posts about each of the 100 days of Lasering (so I don't lose count).

So what about you? Do you have any neat tricks to force yourself to keep commitments like this?

Terrigal Weather Forecast

Next weekend Tillerwoman and I fly off to Australia so that, among other things, I can sail in the Laser Masters Worlds at Terrigal, north of Sydney. The Masters Worlds first race day is Sunday Feb 17.

The (real) Laser World Championships (for real Laser sailors) are also in Terrigal and start with a practice race on Wednesday this week. Here is the weather forecast for the first few days, courtesy of Sail World.

The weather bureau has predicted big winds and seas for the early stages of the 2008 Olympic class Laser World Championship that starts off The Haven at Terrigal on the NSW Central Coast on Wednesday.

One hundred and sixty sailors representing 56 nations will face the starter's gun in a Practice Race at 2.30pm on Wednesday before the real deal starts on Thursday with racing set to commence at 1.00pm each day.

Forecasters say to expect up to 25 knots of north-easterly winds tomorrow, when many competitors will be out practicing on the offshore courses. Competitors can expect a southerly change on Wednesday morning of up to 25 knots throughout the day on a four metre swell, which will favour the heavier sailors who enjoy surfing down waves in offshore conditions.

A south-easterly change has been forecast for Thursday in the 15-25 knot range, while Friday is predicted to be a south-westerly of 20-25 knots. In other words, no let up for competitors. Rain is expected all week too, until Sunday when the sun is supposed to shine for the first time.

Woo hoo. Don't use up all the wind before I get there guys.

Wait. What was that last bit? "Rain is expected all week"?

Oh no. Not again.

Photo is of Tom Slinsgby, some Australian dude, who is supposedly going to do well at the Worlds.
Courtesy of

Last Chance

Sun Jan 13

Last race of the 2008 Laser Caribbean Midwinters at Cabarete. Last chance to be a hero. Or, more realistically, last chance to finish somewhere other than the tail end of the fleet.

The wind is just right for me. Strong enough that my height and weight (post-two-month-inactivity-and-Xmas 10-pound-weight-gain weight) should give me the ability to grind down the little guys upwind. Not so strong that I'm going to lose it downwind.

One of my friends sails by before the start and shouts something about leaving it all out there on the course, no point in saving anything for tomorrow. Yeah baby.

No more timid starts. No more half-hearted hiking. No more Mr Nice Guy at mark roundings. This is it. Game on.

I ace a great start... front row, mid-line, heading left. (Yeah left, I do learn from my mistakes eventually.) One of the best sailors from the clinic is to leeward of me but I hike hard and focus on boatspeed and hold my lane for the first couple of minutes until I detect a small header and tack.

Hmmm. Maybe I haven't totally forgotten how to sail this beast.

I work the left side of the course, make sure I'm always sailing in clear air, rig powered up as much as I can handle, hiking my socks off... and I'm around mid-fleet at the first mark. Best beat this regatta.

Yeah baby. Now I remember why I love this sport.

I'm working the waves downwind, getting some good rides, no thoughts of capsizes, execute a nice smooth leeward mark rounding ahead of people I've been behind all week, and I'm off upwind again, looking good.

Middle of the beat I'm on a convergence course with one of the other fast sailors from the clinic. He tries to lay a leebow on me but isn't quite ahead enough to make it work. We're bow to bow. I hike superhard for 30 seconds, 60 seconds, 90 seconds. My quads are screaming but I'm edging ahead. Yeah, now he's in my bad air and he has to tack away. Ha. This is what it's all about. Meet the best man-to-man and grind him down. Take that dude!

Now I'm on the left of the course next to the guy who almost won race 1. All the way up the second half of the beat I'm hanging in there with him. Hmmm, maybe I'm not as slow as I thought.

Smooth bear away at the mark and catch the first wave. This is how I should have been sailing all week. One boat passes me on the run. (Hey he's always giving me good advice in the comments here so that's OK.) Even so, I finish in the middle of the fleet, way better than I've done in any other race this regatta.

Well, it took me all week but I finally found my groove. Nothing better than finishing a regatta with your best race. Maybe I won't give up Laser sailing after all.


  1. With the right attitude I can make a great start.

  2. If I hike hard I can hang in there with the best.

  3. Staying close to the leading pack is better odds than banging the other corner.

  4. Now I need to work out why I wasn't sailing like this all week.

  5. Then I need to work out how to move even further up the fleet.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Bang the Corner

Sun 13 Jan

It's the last day of the Laser Caribbean Midwinters at Cabarete. So far in the regatta my race results have been dismal to bad. One last day for redemption.

The wind is similar to Day 2, starting light but increasing as the day progresses. But the current is running the other way, against us on the beat. Hmmm, need a different strategy I guess.

In race 1 there is a mass of boats at the pin so I start mid-line and tack on to port in clear air. There seems to be a huge pile-up at the pin so I'm feeling smug and self-satisfied to have avoided that mess. Keep trucking in clear air for a minute or two.

But what now? The boats on the left are passing me. I'm confused. How can this be? I dig back in to the left so as not to lose touch with the leaders.

But wait. What's this? The boats that went to the right are winning out big-time. In fact the boat that went the furthest right, a guy who had been in the middle of the fleet up to now, is in first place at the windward mark.

I am DFL at the first mark. Ho hum. This is the first time I've been last. Let's make it the last time.

I catch a couple of boats by playing the shifts on the second beat, but this is not turning out to be one of my best regattas.

While the race committee are moving the buoys before the second race I ponder my options...

Hmmm. So right was right. Well maybe I should just bang the right corner in the second race, roll the dice, see what happens? Hey, I can't do any worse than I'm already doing so what do I have to lose? It's probably because of the current. Going right gets you out of the adverse current. It's a theory. It's a plan. Let's do it.

The wind has strengthened for the second race and also shifted left quite a bit. I get a good start and execute my plan. Bang the corner. Rightsville Population 1 here I come.

I see that all of the smart sailors are going left. So what? There are two possible outcomes...

  1. They are correct and I will be last at the windward mark again. What's new?

  2. I will be right, I will look like a genius, and I will have something spectacular to write about on the blog. Worth a try.
Hmmm. It's getting lonely out here. Everyone else is bailing out and heading left. But I'm tanking along on port tack, way, way, way out to the corner. One tack and here I come.

How does it look? Pretty good. Start rehearsing suitably modest comments for when everyone congratulates me for being so brilliant.

Hmm. Maybe I misjudged the angle. Looks like the leaders might cross me.

Uh oh, maybe I was wrong? Looks like a bunch of boats will cross me

Uh oh, oh no. They're all crossing me.

At the first mark I'm back with the tailenders again.
How did that happen?

Possible explanations...
  1. With the big shift to the left between the races, the right corner is not so far inshore and so I didn't get out of the adverse current.

  2. The wind kept shifting left and I didn't notice.

  3. The right corner paid in the first race because of pressure or a shift, not current.

  4. I'm just slow.

  5. God hates me.

  6. All of the above.
  1. Lightning never strikes in the same place twice.

  2. If the smart money is all betting the same way it's probably right (or left in this case.)

  3. God does hate me.
OK. One last race for redemption. Let's roll.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Hunterdon Sailing Club

A few of my friends from my old sailing club in New Jersey are aware of this blog. Now I hear that one of them has written an article for the club newsletter drawing all the members' attention to Proper Course.

Yes, that's right. I've been "outed".

I don't think I ever mentioned the name of the club in the blog before... part of my feeble attempt at relative anonymity for myself and the people I sail with. But I guess the least I can do now is to write a post providing any readers from the club a road map to the various stories that I've written here about their club...

I have many fond memories of the years I spent at Hunterdon Sailing Club whose home waters are Spruce Run reservoir near Clinton, NJ. It's not a swanky yacht club with a restaurant and a bar. Just a group of sailing enthusiasts who keep their rescue boats and other gear in a shed at the reservoir; who compete furiously in their racing program -- but don't take themselves too seriously; who are wonderfully welcoming to newcomers; and who do a terrific job of promoting the sport through training programs and other efforts. They, and many other clubs like them, are the grassroots of our sport. And they are damn fine sailors too with a bunch of former national champions (and a few future ones I would dare say) in their membership.

I joined the club originally so that I could take part in their Wednesday night Sunfish racing. It's one of the most competitive high quality one-design club fleets I've ever known.
I wrote about a typical evening in Wednesday Night Sailing. The winds on Wednesday evenings weren't always very reliable, as I described in Idiot Wind, and sometimes Wednesdays were very frustrating for me such as in the story Full of Woe.

I consider myself primarily a Laser sailor, so I used those Wednesday evenings to practice various sailing skills, such as starts in Crossing the Line. I was never very good at the Sunfish but one Wednesday evening I just made a few Tweaks to the boat and sailed like a champ. Sometimes it wasn't even so much about the racing as just being out on the water and savoring Memories of a Moment. Of course we all took our turn on race committee and I wrote about RC work on a bitterly cold, wet Wednesday early in the season in the Perfectionist.

One of the best things about Wednesday nights was beer and pizza after sailing where the conversation got pretty wild at times as in Liars Poker, and other times I actually learned something as in the chat about Sailor's Edge.

A friend and I started a Laser fleet at HSC and in early 2005 I was hassling various local Laser sailors to join us... and dealing with their Excuses. We raced on Sundays with the club's other one design classes. I had a lot of fun sailing my Laser in that fleet such as one heavy air day when I was Feeling Good. It's not always easy to capture why we all enjoy sailing so much but I made an attempt in Sailor's High to describe why I got such a kick out of our Sunday racing in the Laser fleet. At first I was faster than other sailors in the fleet, but it's no fun winning all the time, so I was actually pleased to get beaten occasionally, such as the day I pondered What's Wrong With Being Number Two?

We started an annual Laser regatta and I wrote about the first of these in Regatta Cast and The Regatta. I won the regatta that first year, but didn't do so well in the Second Annual Collander Cup.

There was always a friendly rivalry going between the Laser and Force 5 fleets at the club. I never understood why anyone would prefer a Force 5 but its fans say it's more Comfortable.

I spent many weekends at that club and wrote about a typical (or perhaps not) experience in Lake Weekend. One week a new sailor showed up to sail on Sunday and I wondered, "Who is that guy?" HSC members can probably guess.

There are a couple of regattas at the club where all the classes sail together. One is the Commodore's Cup which is a Portsmouth handicap regatta. I won this a couple of years in a row, so in the third year I felt like a Marked Man and was the object of some Banter from one of my competitors, and this fellow, my Nemesis, did beat me in the regatta.

The other multi-class event is the annual pursuit race every year on July 4th. Triple A Blues is actually a story about why I did not make it to that regatta one year.

The club also hosts an annual regattas for The Juniors in the club and another for new sailors, The Rookies. It was very gratifying being able to help in making both these regattas a success back in 2005.

I helped out with the sailing classes for kids in the summer a couple of times. One of the fun things about working with kids is that they do ask you the strangest things such as "What's A Histogram
." We also had fun in the winter at events like the First Annual Burning of the Socks Day.

Like all passionately competitive sailors, sometimes there was a bit of aggro between the sailors at HSC. A few years ago there were rumblings about suspicions that some sailors were stretching the limits of the Illegal Propulsion Rule. So one winter another sailor and I gave a talk on Rule 42 which we hoped would clear the air. But, even so, the next spring I found myself serving on a protest committee for an alleged Rule 42 violation, No Contest.

I used to be the editor for the HSC newsletter and was rather fond of inserting April Fool Jokes in the April issues. A couple of examples are Race Officer Guidelines and DHMO Scare. But there was another time when I was Fooled myself.

If you live near Spruce Run do go and check out Hunterdon Sailing Club.
But If you sail at Spruce Run be resigned to Learning to Love Light Air. It's a lake dude.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Fish on Fridays

Pet stores in Australia have been selling a portable speaker with a built-in fish tank, designed to hook up to portable audio devices like the iPod. The cleverly named iPond has been drawing fire from animal rights groups for not providing adequate space for a fish to live.

Training for Laser Frostbiting