Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Happy Birthday Willie Nelson

Happy Birthday to Willie Nelson - 75 years old today. The video of this duet with Bob Dylan is from Willie's 60th birthday celebration.

Also on this day, April 30...

In 1492 Christopher Columbus received his commission of exploration...

In 1993, CERN announced that the World Wide Web would be free to anyone...

And the rest is history....

What has all this to do with sailing? Not a lot. Except that Columbus was a sailor (and so is Bob Dylan for that matter) and without the Web how would sailors read about socks?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sock Fetish

Wed Apr 23

I love my socks.

Forget all the conventional advice that you read about how to stay warm when outdoors in cold weather. All that garbage about how you can lose 75% of your body heat through your head. It's a myth. If you don't believe me check out this post on the Wilderness Medicine Newsletter.

In any case, when sailing a Laser in cold water which extremities are likely to start wet and stay wet? With a bit of luck you won't be dunking your head in the icy waters... though it could happen. And your hands may or may not get wet but at least they are out of the water most of the time. But your feet are going to be immersed when you launch from a beach or ramp and are likely to stay wet throughout your sail.

That's why I love my socks.

Last Wednesday I went for a sail on the lake near my son's house in Massachusetts. For my recent solo sails on Narragansett Bay I wore my drysuit which has latex booties so my feet stay totally dry. I love the socks I wear with my drysuit too but that's for another post. Or maybe I should start a parallel blog about the socks I wear each day? That would surely win any competition for Most Pointless Blog in the World. But then it might attract all sorts of weirdos with a sock fetish...

Hmmm, I was going to post a link to a sock fetish site here but you really don't want to go there. Or maybe you do. Use the Google, weirdo.

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes, socks.

For my lake sail last Wednesday I wore my wetsuit with neoprene boots and inside the boots my NRS Hydroskin G2 Socks.

There they are. Or rather, there is one of them. Or one exactly like mine.

Isn't it a beauty? It's a wonder of advanced sock technology with (according to NRS) a 0.5-mm neoprene core that insulates and protects, 4-way-stretch PowerSpan™ outer layer for enhanced mobility and greater durability, ThermalPlush™ inner lining for increased insulation that also repels moisture and dries quickly, titanium laminate adhesive that aids body heat retention without adding bulk, and DWR
coating that forces water to bead and roll off the material reducing evaporative cooling.

You can tell from the description alone that some serious sock science brainpower has been at work here. All I can tell you was that last Wednesday my feet were toasty.

I love my socks.

PS. If any sock manufacturer would like to sponsor my Olympic campaign please get in touch.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Beast of Burden

Sun Mar 30

I have a physics question for all you sailing geeks.

We all know the relationship between body weight and boatspeed in a small racing sailboat like a Laser, right? Or we think we do.

In heavy winds, let's say over 25 knots, the heavier guys do better in the races (other things like overall ability being equal). Generally speaking, in these conditions someone of 200 lbs will beat someone of 150 lbs in a Laser because the big guy can hike the boat flat upwind and will still be surfing downwind, while the little guy is struggling all the way upwind and would be better off in a Radial.

On the other hand in lighter conditions, let's say 5-10 knots, the little guy will probably be faster around the course. Upwind he may well be hiking flat out while the big guy will be simply sitting on the side deck and going slower, wallowing in the hole his heavier mass makes in the water. And downwind the lighter sailor will be soooo much faster. It's all to do with displacement and drag and Newton's Second Law, F=ma and all that.

So far so good. Please don't bother to argue with the above, because I know I'm right. I can even look at the results of the racing at my old frostbite fleet and make a very accurate guess of what the wind conditions were like based on the relative finishing positions of two (both excellent) sailors of very different body weights.

The question I have is what happens at the very light end of the wind spectrum, say 0-3 knots? I know that no race committee in their right minds would run races in these conditions... but sometimes they do. I've noticed on a number of occasions that the heavier sailors start doing well again in these conditions.

There was the time my (heavier than me) son beat me in the 2006 Laser regatta at Hunterdon Sailing Club in New Jersey, in a very light patchy easterly wind.

And it happened again on the last day of the Kurt Taulbee clinic in Florida last month. There was one other guy on the clinic who said he weighed 150 lbs while I owned up to 200. (OK, I rounded down, but who's counting?) On the Saturday in 5-10 knots he beat me easily in every practice race. But on the Sunday in a dying gradient breeze fighting the new sea breeze, shifty, patchy, and dying away to zero occasionally, I did a horizon job on him in every race.

So my question is, why? Is it a matter of these heavier sailors actually having very good light air skills (relative to the opposition that day) that overcome any weight disadvantage they may have? Or does weight actually become an advantage again in the very light stuff? Is there some kind of inertia effect which means that the heavier sailor somehow keeps coasting through the lulls, maintaining flow on the sails and foils, until the next little puff comes along?

Answers please. Do no attempt to write on both sides of the paper at once. Credit will be given for references to any physicist other than Newton and for the use of second order differential equations. Bonus points will be given for anyone quoting Stuart Walker and being able to explain the quote in less than 500 words. Anyone referencing Nietzsche, Sartre or Rilke will be awarded a failing grade.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Fish on Fridays

Play safe in the water this weekend kiddies.

A man was killed early this morning by a shark while swimming off Solano Beach, north of San Diego, California. Experts say the attacker was probably a great white shark.

Whitey is still out there and he loves the smell of neoprene in the morning.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hot with Road Rage, Egos, Collisions and Speed

Who said it?

"The juice." That’s probably the best way to describe the power and the mayhem involved with 55 boats starting absurdly close to the line and all arriving to a mark ... all within less than a minute. Then every mark from that point forward, regardless of the windstrength, the mark roundings will be overcrowded and hot with road rage, egos, collisions and speed. So many fouls occur through the races it would boggle most people’s minds.
No, that's not a quote from my post about my only day sailing this year with the Newport frostbite fleet on Sunday. Though it would have fit.

It's actually Andrew Campbell's description of a typical race in the gold fleet at the ISAF Grade 1 Semaine Olympique Française in Hyères, France.

Hmmm. Maybe racing next winter in Newport will be better training for high level regattas than I imagined.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Reassuringly Expensive Potent Wifebeater

What do beer and Lasers have in common?

LaserPerformance announced today the appointment of Devin Kelly as President. Mr. Kelly was most recently with INBEV where he served as Vice President of Marketing for UK and Ireland. INBEV is the global brewer of many well known brands including Beck’s and Stella Artois.

So the guy formerly responsible for marketing Stella Artois, the beer favored by Britain's binge-drinking lager louts, is now going to be running my favorite small boat company.

Will the Laser become "reassuringly expensive" (Stella's old image)?

Or will it become better know for its "potency" (Stella has 5.2% ABV)?

God forbid that we Laser sailors will, like Stella drinkers, be tarred with a "wifebeater" image.

I wish Mr. Kelly every success in his new role. But the mind boggles...

Monday, April 21, 2008

Ironman No More

Sun Apr 20

Be careful what you wish for!

After tempting providence by asking my fellow Rhode Island boaters, "So Where the Bloody Hell Are You?", and celebrating sailing alone in The Sound of One Foot Clapping, it was bound to happen. More freaking boats than I could handle. Boats to the left, boats to the right. Boats crashing into me and boats that I crashed into.

Of course I knew all along where they all were. Or at least where the Laser sailors were. The Newport Laser frostbite fleet is famous worldwide for their commitment to winter sailing, the depth of their skills, and their excellent turnouts in the coldest of weathers. So when I showed up for their end-of-season regatta last Sunday it wasn't entirely a surprise to find fifty or so fellow Laser sailors there, many of whom had been sailing with the fleet all winter.

What was a surprise (at least to me) was my total incompetence at dealing with this form of big fleet short course racing. It's been a couple of years since I've sailed in a large frostbite fleet and it showed. I'd forgotten exactly how confusing it can be when forty Laser sailors all show up at the first windward mark within a few seconds of each other. Or how to deal with the situation where ten Lasers are planing into a leeward gate side-by-side and another eight are surfing along with a couple of feet of their transoms.

Total chaos. Collisions. Capsizes. Crashes. Curses. At times it was more like bumper boats than real racing. This kind of sailing requires superb foresight into developing tactical situations, instant analysis of how the Racing Rules of Sailing apply, quick reactions, excellent boat-handling... I have to say that my own skills in all these areas were sadly lacking.

It should have been fun. It used to be fun when I did this every week at my old fleet. But the crowds of boats at every mark rounding -- and my own incompetence at dealing with them -- made the day less than fun for me.

My starts were reasonable, my boatspeed was OK, but the mark roundings were disastrous. After three awful races full of all kinds of catastrophes, I sailed a reasonable fourth race. Managed to insert myself in the starboard tack parade at the windward marks without fouling anybody, or overstanding by a mile, or hitting the mark, or capsizing, or all of the above. Rounded the leeward marks on the inside both times without hitting anybody. Remembered to approach the short finish line from the right with the starboard tack advantage. So, I decided to quit before it got worse again. And I was sure it would get worse as I became more tired and my boathandling abilities went downhill

Quit! Me? Me... the guy who won the Ironman Trophy at my old frostbite fleet a few years ago for sailing every race one season, (or sailing more races than anyone else, I forget which)? Me... who used to sail every winter Sunday afternoon until my arm muscles were cramping up and I couldn't grip the sheet any more?

I'm afraid so. I quit. Must be getting old. No longer the Ironman.

I'm angry at myself for skipping frostbite sailing the last two winters on the flimsiest of excuses such as moving house and some minor injury. I'm angry at myself for wimping out early on Sunday.

Anger is a great motivator. Especially anger at oneself. I'm going to be out there every Sunday next winter with the Newport Laser Fleet. I'm going to become familiar once again with large fleet short course racing and crowded mark roundings. I'm going to master it.

Watch this space.

Or even better... come join me.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Sound of One Foot Clapping

Wed Apr 16

I think I'm becoming addicted to solo practice...

The last few days of practicing my Laser sailing by myself (literally by myself as most of the time there weren't any other boaters of any kind in sight) have reminded me that solo practice has a unique benefit. You can work on the minutiae of your sailing technique in a way that you never do when you are trying to beat your competitors in a race, and which can you never do quite so obsessively when training with a group because the coach or the group is always moving on to some other drill.

Case in point: on Wednesday I focused relentlessly on what I'm doing with my front foot in medium air tacks...

You will recall that Rulo in Cabarete had pointed out a flaw in my tacking technique in that I needed to hike out hard after the tack before swapping tiller and sheet hands. I've been concentrating on doing that the last few months and, in spite of the can't-teach-an-old-dog-new-tricks syndrome a.k.a. it's-hard-for-old-farts-like-me-to-break-the-habits-of-a-lifetime, I'm getting better at this aspect of tacking.

So after a warm-up with a long beat and a long run on Wednesday I resolved to tack every 30 seconds or so on the next beat. First of all I concentrated on the back foot technique. When exactly to lift it over the toestrap so it goes under the strap as I tack? Early so that I am hiking with one leg for a couple of seconds before the tack? Or just as I initiate the tack? Either way I also worked on eliminating another bad habit that Kurt had pointed out in Florida: my tendency to move inboard a couple of inches before starting the tack.

Once I had ironed out the wrinkles in the back foot technique over twenty or so tacks it was time to work on the front foot. In particular to work on the I Can Tie Knots With My Feet syndrome that I have written about before...

You see it's finally dawned on me after 25 years of Laser sailing why it is that I'm always getting the sheet in a tangle in the bottom of the cockpit. In that earlier post I told you than I'm a front-endian... I try and keep my sheet tidily arranged at the front of the cockpit. But it always seems to work it's way back to the middle of the cockpit where it can tangle itself around my feet during tacks, get trapped under my feet when I'm trying to bear away at a crowded windward mark rounding, or just generally work its magical trick of tying itself in knots.

And why is the sheet not staying at the front of the cockpit? When I started concentrating with Zen-like focus on my front foot during tacks the answer was obvious. Because on at least half the tacks my front foot was coming down off the hiking strap on to a pile of sheet and then as I crossed the boat that foot was turning and sliding and pushing the sheet towards the back of the cockpit.


Or rather... Duh!

How could I have been so stupid?

So just a minor correction. Instead of a swivel and a slide with my front foot I changed to do a little push-off against the front of the cockpit, a one-legged jump even, as I crossed the boat and neatly caught the hiking strap with my new front foot, and smartly assumed the hiking position. Result: a smoother, swifter move across the boat and no more kicking the sheet around.

I think I'm becoming addicted to solo practice.

What shall I work on next?

Friday, April 18, 2008

So Where the Bloody Hell Are You?

Thurs Apr 10

So where the bloody hell are you?

Yes you, you Rhode Island boaters. I moved here last May naively thinking that a significant proportion of the residents of this state have some interest in boating and that I would see you out on the water with me. I was encouraged in this view
because you describe your little state as the Ocean State and because every time I had been here to sail before there were usually a gazillion boats out on the water. Apparently I overestimated your commitment to the boating life.

On the day after my lonely sail off Bristol on Wednesday last week, I launched my Laser off Fogland Beach in Tiverton on Thursday for a blast on the (quaintly and inaccurately named) Sakonnet River. Supposedly Fogland is a popular haunt of windsurfers but there was not a single one out there with me on a sunny spring day with plenty of wind on Thursday.

Not a windsurfer. No fishermen. No motorboats. No kayakers. No other sailboats. (I could see on my drive down to Fogland that all the hardy recreational cruising sailors of Tiverton still have their floating leadmines tucked away in shrinkwrap on the hard at various marinas.)

So where the bloody hell are you? Is it the cost of gas that is keeping boats off the water? Have your boats all succumbed to the dreaded ethanol gas tank corrosion? Perhaps it's not the right season for the fishermen to be out... I don't have a clue about that sport so it's quite possible.

Or is that you are all spooked by the scare stories you read about boating in cold water such as Bonnie's annual warning on the topic? Sure it's good to take precautions when boating in cold water. I was wearing a drysuit and a PFD and had told Tillerwoman where I was going so I didn't feel too exposed to unnecessary risk.

Oh yes, I know that many of you have jobs. But many of you must also be retired, unemployed, independently wealthy, shift workers, whatever... or sufficiently excited about this sunny spring weather to be prepared to steal an afternoon away from that boring office job.

So where the bloody hell are you?

I sailed around on my own for a while. Upwind and downwind. Did some practice tacks and gybes. Enjoyed riding the waves that were somewhat longer than on the previous day. Towards the end of the afternoon around 4pm a jetskier came out. Whoo hoo... another boater... sort of. He zigzagged around the river and then came straight at me as if to ram me, but he just gave me a cheery wave and roared off. Geeze, things are getting really bad when I'm pleased to see a jetskier.

So Where the Bloody Hell Are You?

In the interests of full disclosure, the title of this post was originally the slogan of an advertising campaign by the Australian Tourist Board which caused some controversy in certain countries. Apparently the sensitive souls in my homeland decided that the word "bloody" could not be used on British TV before 9pm, the Canadians had issue with the word "hell", and the strait-laced Singaporeans were not allowed to hear the words "bloody hell" at all.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Holy Fahrenheit

Dear Fellow Boating Bloggers,

I need your help.

We've had some discussions before about how hard it is to write an interesting post about a pleasant day's sailing. I think Edward from EVK4 Boatname Superblog and Adam from Messing About with Pigs on Sailboats agreed with me. If nothing bad happened during the sail what is there to say?

Last night I wrote a draft post about my first sail in Rhode Island this year. Here it is. Pretty boring, I think you will agree...

Wed Apr 9

January in Cabarete, February in Australia, March in Florida. What a winter! It was special to be able to escape from the wintry north-eastern US to sail in these venues, and I probably did more warm water Laser sailing this year than I've ever done in the winter before.

But now it's time to "enjoy" the sunny days but cool, cool water of Rhode Island in April. My first sail in home waters was Wednesday of last week. I launched out of Colt State park in Bristol and practiced on my own for a while.

Reaction #1. Holy Fahrenheit Batman, this water is cold. Did I really sail in March and April around here in other years? And those hard-core frostbiters in Newport sail all winter.

Reaction #2. Hmmm. After the big ocean swells of Cabarate and Terrigal, and the comparatively flat water of Clearwater Bay, I'd forgotten what Narragansett Bay chop was like. All these speed bumps up wind.

Reaction #3. Where is everybody? I didn't seriously expect to see any other dinghy sailors out on a weekday afternoon but one reason I like to come here for solo practice is that there usually is plenty of other boat traffic around. Recreational fishermen and other boaters. Working fishing boats. It used to give me some sense of comfort that if I got into trouble somebody would probably spot me and provide assistance. But not this day. The only other boat I saw on the bay all afternoon was a commercial fishing boat heading up towards Warren just before the end of my session. And I don't suppose he would have even seen an upturned Laser and a head in the water if it was more than a quarter of a mile away from him.

But I didn't get into trouble. Not this day. Just cruising up and down the bay in the sunshine, stretching out the endurance a little, working out some of the kinks in my technique, enjoying the solitude of a sunny afternoon on the bay.
So please help me with suggestions. How can I sex up a story like this to make it more interesting?

I did try exaggerating how cold the water was to make it sound more exciting. I tried a bit of my usual self-deprecation by talking about what a wimp I am to be complaining about the cold when the frostbiters around here sail all winter. I even tried to introduce a hint of danger with that evocative (but imaginary) image of my little head bobbing in the water as my upturned Laser drifted away from me.

But none of it works does it?

So what to do?

A technical discussion about some esoteric aspect of Lasering technique such as where exactly to put your feet during a tack to avoid getting the sheet in a tangle?

A note about the names of all the other boats I saw? Didn't see any.

A picture of a pig on a boat? Done that already this week.

So help me please. If I don't work out how I'm going to make posts about practice sails more interesting I might have to resort to writing about what I had for dinner or a review about the smell of my clew strap.

Suggestions pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Feel on Baby

Sat Mar 29

The third day of Kurt Taulbee's Laser racing seminar in Clearwater was mainly about "feel sailing". Drills aimed at teaching us to have more sensitivity, to acquire a better feel for the boat, to use all six senses, to increase awareness for what the boat is telling us. (My interpretation of what "feel sailing" is; not Kurt's.)

After reviewing the video from the second day and a discussion about tactics and strategy it was out on the water along with three members of the Clearwater Youth Team. Kurt explained that there were fewer kids today than on a normal weekend because one of the team was out on the west coast attending Midwinters West and a couple were in New Zealand for the Radial Worlds. Hmmm, I guess we should have been be thankful that those wunderkinds were not in Clearwater that weekend to embarrass us old farts.

We sailed upwind with our eyes closed. We sailed upwind looking backwards and looking over our shoulder. We tacked with our eyes closed. We sailed downwind on starboard tack seeing how far we could heel the boat to windward before it rolled over. (Someone found out the hard way.) Then we did the extreme heel exercise on port tack too.

Then we did sailing upwind standing up. This wasn't just in a drifter but in a real wind where you needed to get some weight on the rail to balance the boat. What a hoot! I just could not do this drill right. I consoled myself that I've always been bad at any sport that required balancing skills while standing up. That's why I sail: I can sit down. Eventually I sort of kind of almost stood up for a few seconds but Kurt admonished me for using the tiller extension to help me balance. Holy Blondin Batman. Thank god he didn't video this drill.

Then we did some speed starts. 3-minute rolling starts, sail for a minute after each start, then back for the next one. I managed to upset one of the kids during this drill as I tried to pull off one of the aggressive start-line moves that Kurt had taught us the day before, messed it up, and ended up ruining one of the starts for both of us. What seemed to rile him up the most was that he just had to beat one of his buddies in every practice race and I had ruined his chance in one drill. I guess everyone has a that guy, even kids.

Then some races to round off the day.

Lots of great feedback from Kurt on the water about various aspects of my technique. Lots to practice when I get back home.

Then off to the local Mexican restaurant with Tillerwoman for nachos and chimichanga and way too many Dos Equis. Life is good.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Shoveling Crap

I just blew the Australian white plonk out of my nose reading Adam Turinas's post today on Messing About in Sailboats which is all about a three-way conversation he has been having with himself (and/or his editor and marketing director) about how he/they are going to "stop shoveling crap", how he/they "won’t post anymore random pictures without a point of view about them" and in particular he/they won't post any pictures of cats on boats or pigs on boats.

Good for him. I admire his high-minded commitment to quality. I, on the other hand, am quite happy to post anything that comes into my head. So blame Adam for giving me the idea to post the following pictures...

a cat on a boat

another cat on a boat

and a pig on a boat.

For those into pigs on boats you might like to know that the photo above is from a New Zealand website promoting the opportunity to go hunting wild pigs and goats from a jetboat, apparently "an experience you will never forget".

And if that doesn't appeal how about.....

a dead pig as a boat?

Yup. It is what it is. A Norwegian "comedian" put an outboard motor on a dead pig.

Can I sink any lower? Watch this space.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Dear Reader

Dear Reader, I'm sure you know that some of the keys to success in sailboat racing are focus, concentration and awareness of our surroundings. So try this test...

How did you do?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Dear Neighbors

Dear Neighbors,

I'm sure you agree that we live in a beautiful corner of the world and I hope that you enjoy as much as I do the natural environment of our community, the wild hillside running down to the bay, the animals and birds, the trees and wildflowers, our beach, and the spectacular views of the bay. So why do we have a restriction in our residents' association covenant that is harmful to the environment and forces us to use more energy than is necessary and, in doing so, to contribute to the global warming crisis?

I refer, of course, to the prohibition on drying our laundry outside the natural way by hanging it on a clothes line. Did you know that clothes dryers are responsible for 5-10% of residential electricity usage, not to mention that clothes dryer fires account for about 15,600 structure fires, 15 deaths, and 400 injuries annually?

A recent article in the Providence Journal says...

Ever since dryer sheets took the place of the summer breeze, clotheslines seemed to have gone the way of the porch radio — quaint traditions of previous generations, now confined to black and white photos and period films.

But a recent movement has tied the clothesline to one of today’s most pressing issues and, quite possibly, made the line a hip place for clothes to dry. Members of “Right to Dry” groups, popping up nationwide, are touting the clothesline as an easy way to go green: It cuts the need for energy-gobbling electric dryers.

“This is a novel approach to environmental activism because almost everybody has to do laundry,” said Alexander Lee, executive director of Project Laundry List, a New Hampshire-based clothesline rights group. “We have found a way to get in the hearts and minds of every American, even if they think what we do is crazy.”

Project Laundry List advocates for legislation that would override neighborhood organization prohibitions against clotheslines and leave it up to each household to determine its drying method.

The folk at Project Laundry List are to be congratulated on their campaign to allow us all to take this simple step to save money and energy, and surely it's only a matter of time before our state implements a "Right to Dry" law that would override our neighborhood prohibition against clothes lines anyway. But why wait? April 19th is National Hanging Out Day. Please join me in a mass act of civil disobedience to this ridiculous rule by hanging your washing on the line next Saturday.

After all, as Benjamin Franklin said, "We must all hang together, or most assuredly we will all hang separately."

Friday, April 11, 2008

Dear Olympic Sailors

Dear Olympic Sailors,

Congratulations on being selected to represent your countries at the 2008 Olympic Games in China. While you are there I'm sure you will want to take the time to experience Chinese culture and learn more about this fascinating country.

For example, you might want to try out the latest skin treatment becoming popular in China... allowing fish to eat your skin.

According to this article...

Beauty-seekers in Southern China are soaking themselves in pools filled with this type of small fish that eat human skin:

Garra Rufa, a type of small tropical fish, also nicknamed Chinchin Yu, nibble fish or simply doctor fish, are put in hot springs. As they can live and swim freely in at least 43-degree-hot waters, they are naturally used for the treatment of skin diseases in such spas.

When placed in the spa, these fish can feed themselves on the dead cells of the human body, since they only consume such cells, leaving the healthy skin of the human body to grow. The whole process is reportedly free of pain. It won’t hurt and the bather might feel a pleasant tingling on his or her skin.

Gives a whole new meaning to "Fish on Fridays".

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Dear Gov

Dear Gov,

Thanks for taking the initiative to lead our state to find more sources of renewable energy. I appreciate your decision to seek bids from private developers to build and operate an offshore wind farm designed to generate 1.3-million megawatt-hours per year just south of Block Island in a move that would also significantly lower the cost of electricity on Block Island. It makes me proud of my adopted state, Rhode Island.

Keep up the good work.


Monday, April 07, 2008

Dear Sally

Dear Sally,

Thanks for organizing and publishing our 2008 District 7 Laser regatta schedule... and thanks to all the regatta organizers in clubs and fleets that have collectively put on such a magnificent schedule for us this season. Having arrived in New England early last summer, and being somewhat preoccupied with the move and its aftermath last year, I am excited to be have some much Laser sailing right on my doorstep... and even more only a few hours drive away.

I see that in April and May we have a number of one day regattas to warm up for the season. Some of the ones that tempt me the most are the Peter Milnes Regatta in Newport at the end of April (which I did with my son last year), the QYC May Madness Regatta in Wakefield (which we wanted to do two years ago), and then at the end of May a regatta on Lake Sunapee in New Hampshire which my son is always raving about since he went Star sailing up there. Maybe we'll make it to Sunapee this year?

Then in June the pace really hots up with two and three day regattas almost every weekend. We start off with a two-day event in Barrington (just one bay over from my house), then on successive weekends the Championship of Buzzards Bay (a real blast last year) and the US Masters Championship (also on Buzzards Bay).

As if that wasn't enough, in July and August on consecutive weekends we have a one-day event on the lake near my son's house, followed by two two-day events, the Newport Regatta and the district championship in Barrington, and then two three-day events that I did sail in last year, the Hyannis Regatta and the Buzzards Bay Regatta.

Phew. I'm going to need to get fit.

As well as all that I see we have a five state district Super Series with regattas in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont and New Hampshire. Hmmm, what happened to Maine? I'm sure I can fit in a regatta in Maine too if I really want to. It would be kind of cool to sail in all six New England State. Are there enough weekends to fit it all in?

But wait, it just gets better.

In September there is the famed New England Masters at Third Beach Newport, the Ponce de Leon Dinghy Series in Marblehead, a couple of regattas on Saturday and Sunday of the same weekend at two New Hampshire sites (that sounds like a fun trip), and even more stuff in October.

I see you've also mentioned the Canadian Laser Masters in September in Nova Scotia, which if I'm not mistaken is at the same place as the 2009 Laser Masters Worlds. I might have to do that one to check out the Worlds site.

Geeze, there is just so much Lasering to do in New England this year.

See you on the water.

Cheat The Nursing Home

Cheat the nursing home. Die on your LASER.

That's the line that's been in the title box of this blog for a while now. It's what the bumper sticker on my car says. And I even wrote a post last year about how the phrase originated.

Here's a story I found about someone who came perilously close to making the joke slogan come true... and how it affected him. The author is Fatty Goodlander and the story originally appeared in the April 2005 issued of Cruising World.

A decade or so ago, I was racing Lasers at the St. Thomas Yacht Club when it felt like an elephant stepped on my chest. The pain was so intense that it jackknifed me off the boat and into the water. One foot tangled in my hiking strap, I was underwater, I couldn't breathe, and my eyes were open. Time floated. Two thoughts danced slowly through my brain: One of them was "I'm dying." The other was "Damn, there goes my boat speed!"

I forced myself to relax. I untangled my foot, surfaced, and crawled back on the boat. I stayed facedown for a long, long time and shook like a leaf. I was terrified. But in all my life, I've never failed to finish a race. Finishing is important to me. I'm goal oriented. I slowly sat up, sheeted in, and continued on.

Back at the yacht club, Henry Menin--who'll sit as a juror at the 2007 America's Cup in Spain--came up to me and asked, "Are you OK, Fatty?"

"Yeah. I had a little problem out there on the racecourse, but I think I'll be more competitive at the bar!"

Silly me. A few days later, I was evacuated by air to a cardiac unit in Puerto Rico. As they wheeled me down the corridor, I thought, "This can't be happening. I can't be dying. I haven't sailed around the world yet, and I haven't written the big book!"

I'd never realized it before, but those were the two givens in my life: I'd circumnavigate, and someday I'd write a book worth reading. (I've written five books, but alas, I reckon only one, Chasing the Horizon, merits serious attention.)

Things looked bleak at that point. For the first time in my life, my horizons were shrinking. But just before dawn is always the darkest time. The test results were surprisingly good: I hadn't had a major heart attack--just a severe cardiac wake-up call. I'd have to radically change my lifestyle, but with proper diet, regular exercise, and the right medication, I'd survive.

"How are you?" Carolyn asked nervously as I tied up my dinghy painter to Wild Card, our 38-foot S&S-designed Hughes 38.

"I'm OK. And I want to sail around the world ASAP."

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Dear Scuttlebutt

Dear Scuttlebutt,

Thanks for the spike...

Thanks for recirculating my tongue-in-cheek letter to the Sunfish Class about some ideas they could pursue to make the Sunfish more popular. As you can see, thanks to your support, two or three thousand extra readers stopped by my blog in the last few days to read that post. (Or actually to check out the pictures of Sir Paul's new squeeze in her bikini, I suspect.)

As far as I can tell from my Sitemeter stats, some of them also stayed a while and browsed some other posts on the blog. I wonder how many, if any, will become regular readers.

Anyway, thanks for the spike in traffic.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Topless Charters

Topless Charter boat booted from marina for not having a family show.

Owner vows to keep fighting.

Dear Fake Tillerman

Dear Fake Tillerman,
We are writing on behalf of our client, Real Tillerman, who is the owner of the Google username: Tillerman.

Our client possesses rights in the username Tillerman in connection with sailing blogging and is concerned that your use of the Tillerman username as a blogging persona could cause confusion with the username of our client. Our client's concerns have been confirmed and the problem has become acute, as our client has encountered several instances of actual confusion. As a result, we demand that you immediately cease all use of the username Tillerman as a blogging persona and as a username.

As explained in his previous blog post, our client is a sailing blogger who has been using the Tillerman username since at least as early as February 2005. A recent review of your blog reveals that you are using our client's username to promote your own sailing blog.

Our client has encountered several documented instances of actual confusion. For example, we are aware of at least two instances of actual confusion related to Tillerman. In one instance, Tillerman's own son expressed confusion about the authorship of your blog. Due to the actual confusion between our client's blog and your blog, your use of the username Tillerman is causing irreparable and significant damage to our client's current and future use of his username.

Accordingly, on our client's behalf, we demand that you and your company, including, without limitation, all subsidiaries and affiliates, immediately and permanently cease and desist all infringing use of the Tillerman username, and of any username or term that is confusingly similar to the Tillerman username.

In addition, we demand that you undertake affirmative steps to correct existing confusion, including, without limitation, a statement on your blog, and the blogs of all your affiliates, that your blog is not associated with that of our client.

Please provide us with written assurances by 11 April 2008 that you have complied with these demands.

If we do not receive such assurances by the aforementioned date, our client will pursue all rights and remedies available to protect his intellectual property rights, including, without limitation, seeking injunctive relief, attorney's fees and treble money damages. This letter is sent without prejudice to those rights and claims, all of which are expressly reserved.

Micheál McMuckity Esq., Attorney at Law
Stutter, O'Lemon and Swish

PS. Only joking Dan.

Dear George

Dear George,

You inspire me.

Or to be more accurate... this week you inspired me.

To be brutally honest, until now I have found you singularly uninspiring. Back in the late 1990's, when you first started your run for your current office, I remember a Laser Masters regatta where some of us drilled one of the Texas sailors for more information about you. We couldn't believe you were a serious candidate. "What you see is what you get," was the Texas sailor's enigmatic reply about his governor. I guess we all misunderestimated you.

But this week you inspired me.

You didn't inspire me during the 2000 election campaign. "Compassionate Conservative" didn't turn me on. It seemed as lame and meaningless as any other artificial alliterative oxymoron such as Ferocious Freethinker or Benevolent Bigot. It didn't surprise me when the majority of Americans voted for the other guy, the one with the lock-box and the big sighs. (I wonder what happened to him?)

But this week you inspired me.

During the last seven years you have done little to excite me. Sure we all rallied behind you when you stood on the rubble of the World Trade Center with that old firefighter guy. But since then we've had yellowcake in Niger and aluminum tubes, "mission accomplished" and "bring 'em on" and "stay the course" and "heck of a job Brownie" so I've seen little to inspire me.

I won't go on. This is not a political blog and I guess some of my readers may be among the 14% of Americans who still think the country is on the right course, so I don't want to upset them.

But this week you inspired me, George.

You see I've been reading a book about your presidency, Dead Certain by Robert Draper. It's one of those inside stories based on interviews with many of the key players in your administration, including five one-on-one sessions with yourself. Draper has written what you might call a personality-driven history, with a special emphasis, George, on your personality of course.

And you inspired me.

No, it wasn't your optimism in the face of harsh unpopularity. It wasn't your apparent certainty in your own decisions even when all the evidence spoke against you. It wasn't even your obsession with punctuality... though that is a "virtue" I share with you.

What inspired me most was the description of your commitment to daily physical exercise. Apparently whatever is going on in the world, however busy your schedule, your aides know that every day without fail they have to allow you at least an hour to go for a run, or a bike-ride, or to work out in the White House gym. (The index to the book actually has 27 page references to Bush, George Walker, jogging and exercise of.)

What a guy. I should really be exercising at least an hour a day too. If you can do it, then so can I. George, I should be more like you. You inspire me.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Dear Sir Paul

Dear Sir Paul,

Thanks for sending me the pictures of your recent Sunfish racing seminar in Antigua. I've only been out of the Sunfish scene for a year or so, but apparently the go-fast techniques have advanced considerably in that time.

I like the new recommended upwind light air body position. I can see that you are able to keep the boat with exactly the correct critical few degrees of leeward heel by subtle movements of your arms and legs, and with your body that low in the boat you have reduced wind resistance considerably.

And the new technique for downwind is fantastic. You have the perfect view of the clouds so you can position the boat to catch any puffs. And that subtle use of the feet instead of the rudder must lead to much more sensitive steering. Any Rule 42 issues here, I wonder?

But the most impressive move of all is this new method of roll tacking. Using the angular momentum of the legs to initiate the roll while completing the tack with no hands on the sheet or rudder! Superb! What efficiency!

It looks to me as if your new student is enjoying the seminar too. How considerate of you to allow her to observe your speed-sailing technique by sharing your boat with her. I expect she learned a lot by working so closely with an expert such as yourself.


Thursday, April 03, 2008

Start Me Up

Fri Mar 28

The second day of Kurt Taulbee's Laser seminar in Clearwater was all about starting. I thought I had heard or read all there was to know about starting preparation and tactics, but Kurt's briefing before we went sailing touched on a couple of areas that I either had not heard before or had forgotten...
  • best time to hold up the boat to weather
  • some subtle differences between pin-favored and boat-favored starts.
As always the best part of the day was the actual drills...

Bow on Buoy. Sounds easy. Just hold the bow of your boat next to a buoy for as long as you can. But I had all sorts of problems doing it today. I think it was the combination of very light winds and a significant current that was messing me up. As Kurt explained the whole point of the drill was to learn instinctively how the boat will react to heading up, backing the sail, sculling down, heeling the boat either way, slow tacks etc. etc. so you know exactly what to do to place and hold the boat where you want in a real start. Hmmm. Definitely something that I need to practice more on my home waters.

Blast Off. This was a drill I had not seen before. Kurt set a very short start line with a third buoy about a boat's length to leeward of the starboard end of the line. The idea was for us to approach the line from the right one by one, then bear off and accelerate around the "extra" buoy, and then hit the line at full speed, close-hauled. The tricky part was to know where to pull the trigger in relation to whether the wind was shifted left or right.

Long Line. Starts in the middle of a very long line using transits to judge where the line was. As I discovered, it's one thing to know when you're on the line; somewhat more difficult is to judge how far to wait below the line to have enough room to accelerate. I was originally setting up way too high and being over early but improved the more times we did the drill.

Surprise Starts. Ha ha. One of the evil sailing instructor's devilish weapons. I used to use this when I taught sailing and the kids hated it. Basically you have to be setting up just below the line at the 3-minute signal but the actual start can be any time after the 1-minute signal. Any time! Maybe only 10 seconds after the 1-minute signal. Maybe 4 minutes after. That's the surprise.

So there we were luffing on the line waiting for the start. We all drifted down towards the pin. Eventually we had to duck down, gybe, and head back towards the other end of the line to find a gap. What I learned from this drill is that I have to bail out because I am too close to the pin earlier than I thought I did. It's all on video. You don't want to see the gory details. Honest.

And then we did a few short races.

As on the first day, the most valuable part of the seminar was the individual feedback that Kurt gave me, which today was supplemented by video of my pathetic attempts at the drills that we reviewed on the following morning.

Among other things I learned...
  • I need to have my sail flatter for upwind sailing in light airs. Much flatter.

  • When bearing away to a tight reach before the start I need to be careful not let the sail stall.

  • My big rolls in light air start are good (and legal). Woo hoo. At least I got something right.

  • I need to remember to return to the "forward position" in the cockpit after every maneuver... especially while waiting on the start line.

  • If leading at the windward mark on a short course, I must not let another boat get inside (left) of me.

  • When sailing upwind in light air, I learned a better technique for "locking" the tiller.
Then off to the Island Way Grill with Tillerwoman and the other two students on the course to enjoy the sunset, soft-shell crabs, blackened snapper, and a bottle of Pinot Noir. Life is good.

Dear Sailing Forum Cyber Bully

Dear Sailing Forum Cyber Bully,

Yes you. You know I mean you. You hang out on the forums and like to pounce on the noobs and the figjams, the naive and the bloviators, the lame and the weak. You delight in showing off your knowledge, your wit, your ability to coin a snappy insult. You are the master of the put-down and the jeer. You play to the gallery and love it when all the other bullies pile on to the same victim.

It feels good doesn't it? I know. I've done my share of making fun of some of the pretentious, know-all, self-important idiots who post on those forums. There's a special sadistic pleasure in crafting a carefully phrased put-down to one of these fools.

But wait. There's a real person with real feelings behind that screen name. Have you ever thought about what impact your sarcastic remark will have on that person? You don't know who they are, what they are like, what's going on in their life right now.

Maybe the bozo that you called a "retard" is really some 12-year-old kid in special education? Maybe the fool with the lame question that you called "gay" is some teenager struggling with his sexual identity in a homophobic fundamentalist religious family who preach to him that homosexuality is a mortal sin? Maybe the guy with self-important delusions whose balloon you love to burst is suffering from some real mental illness and has just lost his job, his wife and his home?

Still feel so good about being a bully?

Well, just consider this. There have been several reports in the last few months of teenagers who committed suicide after suffering from various varieties of "internet harassment". How would you like to have that on your conscience?

You see, no matter how pompous, ignorant, lame or obnoxious a poster on a forum may appear to be, you have no idea who that person really is, what is going on in their life right now, or what their mental condition is. If they are suffering from clinical depression do you want to be the one responsible for pushing them over the edge?

Have you ever stopped to think that the folk on these forums who seem to be the most weird, the most delusional, or the most pathetic are actually the ones that may be suffering from a real mental illness? If you and the other bullies stick the knife into one of these sorry souls then is it possible that you may push them into taking some drastic action? Suicide? Going postal? Shooting up the local mall?

And if you are tempted to be one of the many cyber bullies pouring scorn on a certain sailor attempting to spend 1000 Days at Sea, have you paused to consider that his obvious weirdness may be the sign of mental instability, that he is now facing two years alone at sea without his former sailing companion, and that adding to the pressures on him may not be the wisest move? Do you want to be responsible for causing another Donald Crowhurst tragedy?

Just my two pennorth. Feel free to bully me in the comments. I can take it.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

It's Only Rock and Roll

Thurs Mar 27

On the first day of the Sailfit seminar at Clearwater Beach we focused on boat-handling... specifically tacks, gybes and mark roundings. Coach Kurt Taulbee gave us a talk on these maneuvers and then it was out on the water for some drills which included some of the old favorites...
  • tacking on the whistle
  • gybing on the whistle
  • leeward mark roundings

and a couple of drills I hadn't done before...
  • tacking with the eyes closed
  • tacking without using the rudder.

Then some short races followed by some longer races.

Pretty standard stuff but the best part of the day was the feedback that Kurt (who was also sailing with us) gave me on the water.

Some of the things I learned today were...
  • how to position my weight better on a run
  • how to use my feet more effectively when on a run
  • better sheeting technique on a run
  • how to sheet for more efficiency during a roll tack
  • three different modes of light air steering
  • how to do a run-to-run gybe without changing direction.
A good day with plenty of learning experiences.

Then off with Tillerwoman to Joe's Crab Shack for crab nachos, crab cake and fish and chips washed down with a couple of long draft beers. Life is good.

Dear Mr Google

Dear Mr Google

I would like to complain about an intolerable situation which has arisen on your Blogger service.

A few days ago I wrote a post titled Tillertard about what I assumed were two blogs by the same bloke calling himself Tillerman and Tillertard.

Here is the profile picture of Tillerman who writes doublereef.

And here is the profile picture used by Tillertard who writes doublebeef.

Well, I discovered yesterday that these two blokes are not the same bloke. The doublebeef blog by Tillertard is actually a parody of the doublereef blog by Tillerman and is written by someone else. I had assumed it was just a clever post-modern self-deprecating self-parody by the same chappie, (a bit like this blog). Duh!

My innocent assumption was corrected in an email I received yesterday from some guy who sails just across the bay from me.

I noticed your note on the doublereef / doublereef blogs. Some clarification - DoubleReef is the blog of one Daniel Taylor, who posts as Tillerman and is the annoying troll that EVK4 mentioned in his comment to you. DoubleBeef, by "Tillertard", is a parody of Taylor's turgid bloviations on his own blog on on other forums - most notably on the cruising forum on SA.

Taylor has nothing to do with creating the DoubleBeef blog, though he has posted comments on it many times - both as himself and as an anonymous poster. However I think he would happily slash my tires or sugar my diesel tank for my role in the whole affair...

Thought you might want to know.

So now there is...
  1. Me, Tillerman, who writes this blog Proper Course, mainly about sailing.

  2. The professional poker player, Ian Girdwood, who writes TillerMaN's Blog Spot, mainly about poker and other games (and who started his blog 5 months after I started mine.)

  3. Tillerman who writes doublereef, mainly about sailing.

  4. Tillertard who writes doublebeef, a parody of doublereef.

Got it? Good.

Mr Google, this is making my head hurt

and I am sure it is confusing the hell out of all three of my faithful readers.

So, what are you going to do about it?

Yours, in anticipation...

The real, original, authentic Tillerman

PS. The letter exposing the Tillerman/Tillertard identical twin parody was sent on April 1st. So if it was only an April Fools joke please ignore this letter.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Dear Sunfish Class

Dear Sunfish Class,

I see that there's currently a thread on the Sunfish Forum bemoaning the low attendance at two of your recent regattas with the usual wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth asking how you are going to build up the class to its former glory.

I have the answer for you.

Question: What sells products these days?

Answer 1: Cool. If your product is used by some celebrity, preferably a hugely rich entertainment megastar, then your target market will want to emulate said celebrity and be cool like him or her.

Answer 2: Sex. If there is any suggestion that your product will make you more attractive to the opposite sex, can be used in wooing the opposite sex, or can be photographed being used by attractive women in bikinis then your sales will skyrocket.

So check out the article and pictures in today's Sun showing Sir Paul McCartney sailing with his latest love interest, Nancy Shevell.

As you can see, Sir Paul, one of the richest men in the world, has chosen a Sunfish as his sailing craft of choice. And Ms Shevell, looking remarkably well-toned for a woman of 47, is wearing a rather attractive swimsuit.

If this isn't a golden opportunity for the Sunfish class to secure a celebrity product endorsement along with the rights to the images of Ms Shevell draped attractively across the Sunfish's deck, then I'm a Force 5 sailor.

Just glad to help out my old friends in the Sunfish class.


Related Posts
Year of the Sunfish
Ten Reasons Why Sunfish Are Better Than Lasers
World's Most Expensive Sail

Enough Already

This Laser sailing game is just getting too hard for me.

First of all I ended up DFL in the final race of the 2008 Laser Masters Worlds. Last! Tale End Bozo! There's a message there somewhere.

Then I read of all the up-and-coming youngsters starting Olympic campaigns while still in college. How can I hope to compete with kids like Ross Bennett?

And the final humiliation. On Sunday, in the last race of Kurt Taulbee's Laser seminar, I was beaten by a 15-year-old kid in a Radial!

The message is clear. I suck at Laser sailing. I'm going to finally admit that I'm just too old for this game. I need a more comfortable boat. I'm going too sell my Laser, buy a Force 5, and go and play with the other old farts.