Friday, August 29, 2008

When? In Your Time

I've been playing this song over and over again in the car while I've been driving to and from sailing. At first the lyrics puzzled me. Then I realized... Bob Seger is singing to his son and teaching him some lessons about life.

So I dedicate this post to my grandson, Aidan.

Feel the wind
And set yourself the bolder course

Keep your heart
As open as a shrine
You'll sail the perfect line.

You'll be fine, in your time.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

How Much?

How much should we pay to enter a sailing regatta?

It seems like this year I've been paying around $40 or so a day as regatta fees to enter Laser regattas around here. Sometimes it's hard to see what I'm getting for my money...

Yes, a race committee... I guess they need gas for their powerboats.

Maybe drinking water between races; maybe snacks before, after or between races. But not always. And sometimes I have to pay extra for food and drink.

The winners get trophies too; they have to be paid for too. I don't begrudge that even though they rarely end up on my shelf.

I've run regattas myself in the past and know the challenges of drawing up a regatta budget. You don't want to lose money. You don't want to overcharge and scare sailors away. And you have no idea how many folk will actually show up and pay their money on the day.

Still, 40 bucks seems a lot. Am I getting old? I don't want to turn into that old curmudgeon who got into a slanging match with his fleet captain over a $5 regatta fee.

Some organizers seem to run excellent regattas for much less. What do they do differently?

How much do you think you should pay to enter a sailing regatta?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


On Saturday I went off to Lake Whippersnapper for the informal Laser practice racing that I also wrote about in Just Six Laser Dudes Racing Round a Sausage.

This week there were actually seven Laser dudes.

And new technology.

First couple of times I did this, one of the racers took it upon himself to blow whistles for the three-minute starting sequence. This was also the method used for starts at the world famous Goose Poop Beach Sailing Club when I sailed there.
How anyone can do this and still get a decent start himself is beyond me.

But this week we had a virtual committee boat.

The dude that sends out the emails to encourage us all to go sailing Saturday afternoons must be a pretty clever dude. He had taken it upon himself to build one of those automatic starting machines, a bit like the Ollie Wallock Automated Sailboat Race Start Machine that is fairly well known in the dinghy racing world these days. Just press a button and it sounds all the start signals.

But the email dude had gone one better. He had mounted his system in one of those rigid plastic picnic coolers and was using that as the buoy for the starboard end of the start line. There was a button on top of the cooler and a kind of horn for the sound to come out. All he needed to do every race was sail up to the cooler, press the button, and we were in sequence.


A virtual committee boat.

All it needs is some way to recognize boats OCS and race committees will be obsolete. Maybe a paintball fired down the line at time zero?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Last week of August...

The weather these last two weeks has been spectacular. The intense heat of the earlier summer has disappeared and we have been enjoying long balmy days with comfortably cool nights. Perfect weather for enjoying the outdoors. Perfect weather for sailing...

Last Friday I went Lasering in the Eastern Passage. Just cruising around between Aquidneck and Prudence Island, enjoying the views to north and south, admiring the yachts sailing by, soul sailing at its best, and letting my mind wander where it will go...

Last week of August. A back to school, end of summer feel. Easing back a bit after the frenetic "racing 2 or 3 days every weekend pace" of July and early August. Knowing that the coming months of September and October will offer some of the best sailing weather of the year. Much to look forward to.

And thinking... if I live to be 90 then I am currently at the end of August in my life span. Sounds about right. The intense heat and activity of June and July are over, thank god. No more sweating away in glass boxes. Now it's time to enjoy the good times, relish life, kick back, sail more, spend time with grandchildren. Much to look forward to.

Not time yet to think about frostbiting in December...

What month of your life are you in?

Monday, August 25, 2008


A few minutes ago the Democratic National Convention in Denver watched a film tribute to Senator Edward Kennedy, which included a number of shots of the senator sailing with his family on his schooner Mya.

Now this blog is getting numerous hits to my post on Mya, courtesy of the fact that it is #1 on the list if you Google "schooner Mya".

I'm dumbstruck. The connection between a major national event in Colorado, a TV audience, the oddities of a search engine algorithm, and the direction of readers to some obscure sailing blog written by an old Laser dude in Rhode Island just strikes me as seriously weird.


Last week of August ...

29 years ago I was building sandcastles in Spain with my one-year-old son.

28 years ago I was camping in the rain in France with aforementioned son and a heavily pregnant Tillerwoman.

20 years ago I was helping to run an Optimist sailing camp for kids at Rutland Sailing Club attended by both of my sons.

8 years ago I was helping to teach Sunfish sailing to kids in New Jersey.

For way too many years I was in some glass box arguing about budgets and plans and cost allocations and engaging in other stressful office-based activities that seemed important at the time but seem utterly irrelevant now.

On Wednesday evening last week I went sailing on Upper Narragansett Bay in my Laser. The conditions were perfect. I just cruised around and remembered why I enjoyed sailing so much.

I also remembered...
  • why I retired from working in glass boxes

  • why I moved to Rhode Island.

So I could do this.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I Didn't Get the Memo

On Tuesday of last week the weather forecast was "iffy". Light winds and possible thunderstorms in the area. Should I go sailing or not? I watched the sky. I checked the weather forecast. I studied the radar maps hour by hour..

Eventually at about 3 o'clock I decided. What the hell, I'm going sailing. What's the worst that could happen? Oh, I guess I could be struck by lightning, but I'll stay reasonably close to the launch area, keep an eye on the sky, and head back in if it starts to look ominous.

When I arrived at Independence Park in Bristol things were looking good. There was a gentle westerly wind blowing, and in the sky to the west there was a bright blue patch among the surrounding clouds. Seemed like things were going to be clear for a couple of hours.

As I launched I could see what looked like a thunderstorm way to the south over Portsmouth and Middletown. I practiced sailing up and down the harbor, trying to remember all the light air skills that I had been taught at Kurt Taulbee's clinic in Florida. The area of clear sky came directly towards me, but then a huge long cloud like a man's arm pushed out of the blue with what looked like a comic book fist about to zap the zenith. Dramatic, but no thunder.

I half expected some of the Laserite crowd that were here two weeks before to come out and practice too. But at 5pm none of them had appeared. Maybe they were freaked by the weather forecast? Maybe someone sent round an email saying, "no sailing this week". Whatever. In an case, I didn't get the memo.

I kept on with my practice. Some A-cats came out from the yacht club for their regular Wednesday night races. Then around 5:30 pm another Laser did come out to join me. Never seen the guy before. Another ex-pat newcomer to the area it seemed. He was hoping to sail with the Tuesday night regulars but I guess he didn't get the memo either. We talked about where we had been sailing in the last year and did a few practice races in the light airs.

We sailed in before the wind totally died. There was no thunder. Nobody got struck by lightning. Just two Laser dudes racing round a sausage on a summer evening. Priceless.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Don't Be a Ramp Hog

One of my favorite places to launch when I'm Lasering on my own is Colt State Park in Bristol because it has two boat ramps with a dock between them. It's very easy for me to launch my boat and tie it up to the dock while putting my dolly ashore. And ditto in reverse when I return.

I could launch off one of the many beaches in the area but after launching there's always that awkward "let go of the boat, run up the beach with the dolly, estimate state of tide during the next few hours and make sure dolly will be above the water all the time, drop dolly, run back to boat, and hope that in the meantime it hasn't (a) drifted out of reach, (b) capsized, or (c) been smashed on to the beach by wind and/or waves thereby causing extensive scratching, scraping and dinging of my precious gelcoat necessitating extremely tedious and time-consuming repair, and ditto in reverse when I return" process.

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes, the boat ramp. Beaches are fine if there are two (or more) Laserites going for a yot. One can hold the boats while the other deals with the dollies. On your own, a ramp and a convenient place to tie up the boat are perfect.

So last Sunday I went over to Colt planning a bit of a yot around the bay on a perfect afternoon for Lasering. Big mistake.

I had forgotten. In the middle of the week this is a relatively quiet spot. At the weekend on a sunny afternoon in August it's somewhat busier. Actually a lot busier. And worse than that, every yahoo in Rhode Island who has just bought a jetski, or a fishing boat, or a catamaran but has no idea on how to sail it, is there.

And nobody has taught these guys ramp etiquette. So let me make it simple. If you are using a boat ramp there are three cardinal rules...
  • if someone is already using the ramp (even if he is only a Laser sailor) it's impossible for the two of you to occupy the same piece of real estate simultaneously

  • minimize the time you have to use the ramp by preparing everything possible in advance

  • wait your turn.
I guess it could have been worse. I only came close three times to making the TV news headlines with a story along the lines of "Ramp Rage Rampage By Loony Laserite" or "Brit Boater Arrested In Ramp Rage Riot".

The first time was when I was launching. I'm pretty quick. Probably occupy the ramp for less than a minute. But that didn't stop some dude in a motorboat from roaring in from the bay and attempting to tie up to the dock outside of me. The ramp is fairly narrow and there are rocks on the other side, so as he drifted perpendicular to the dock he was totally blocking my exit to the bay. And I was totally blocking his exit to the ramp. I don't know what he was thinking. His mate was shouting something about whether he wanted a "rope" from the "back end". His language may not have been very nautical but he had the right idea. If they pulled in the stern there was a chance that I might be able to sail round them. Anyway the "rope to the back end" didn't materialize and I watched as the propellers of the twin outboard drifted on to the aforementioned rocks.

I waited. I watched. I patiently stood there holding my Laser ready to sail away whenever they left me some room to do so.

There was a lot of grinding of metal on rock. There was a lot of shouting. Engines were raised. Voices were raised. Engines were gunned. Water was churned. Voices were raised some more.

I waited. I adopted my best British supercilious stare. I tried to communicate telepathically, "If you two gentlemen hadn't been in such a hurry I would have been out of here by now and you wouldn't have to be putting up with this silent supercilious stare."

Eventually the two dudes worked out that the best thing was for them to go out and come in for another shot. In the meantime I sailed skilfully out of the dock while trying to communicate telepathically, "I'm a real boater. You are ramp hogs. Have a nice day."

I went for a yot around the bay. Superb afternoon for sailing. Flat out hiking upwind. Riding the waves downwind. After a couple of hours I headed back to the ramp.

There was a catamaran tied up to the downwind side of the dock where I had left my dolly. There was a man and a woman and a dog on it. The jib was flapping in the wind. The mainsail wasn't up. The man seemed to be busy doing something at the mast. The woman and the dog were watching him.

I went for another bit of a yot. I practiced some tacks and some gybes and some mark roundings. After ten minutes or so I went back to the dock. The catamaran was still there. The man was still busy doing something. The woman and the dog were still watching him.

Hey ho. What the hell. I went for another bit of a yot. Had fun reaching on the waves. Blasted around doing some Laser style soul sailing. After another ten minutes or so I went back to the dock. It looked like the man had just about finished whatever he was doing. In any case they drifted off the dock with the jib flapping in the wind. As they sailed past me I saw that the man actually was still busy doing something with the mast and the woman and the dog looked scared. It wasn't entirely clear to me if they were actually sailing or just drifting off in the general direction of Barrington. Whatever.
I communicated to them telepathically, "I'm a real boater. You are ramp hogs. Have a nice day." I think the dog may have been receiving.

There wasn't anybody on land or on the water waiting to use the ramp so I sailed in, jumped off my boat, and started taking out the daggerboard and lifting the rudder. Just then, a rusty trailer carrying a jetski started coming down the ramp towards me. I couldn't even see the vehicle to which the trailer was attached so sure as hell the driver couldn't see me. (Though you would think he could have seen the top of my mast?) So I hollered to make sure he was aware that he was about to run over a Loony Laserite Brit Boater about to have a serious case of Ramp Rage. He stopped halfway down the ramp. At least he hadn't crushed me beneath his rusty trailer. I tied up my boat and retrieved my dolly and put my boat on the dolly. The rusty trailer was still halfway down the ramp but I could just squeeze past him and luckily the wind direction was such that I didn't break too many windows on his SUV with the end of my boom.

While giving him one of those friendly guy how-ya-doing nods I also sent an urgent telepathic
communication saying, "I'm a real boater. You are a ramp hog. Have a nice day." I don't think he was receiving. And he didn't even have a dog to act as translator.

So please please please don't be a ramp hog.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Scrap the Medal Race Fiasco Now

The genius who thought up the "medal race" concept for Olympic sailing should be fired. The whole idea is a dismal failure. Let's scrap the medal race fiasco now.

It was all supposed to make sailing easier to understand for the general public. Supposedly we dumb sailing TV viewers didn't understand how a sailor could do so well in a long series that he could skip the final race and still win the gold medal. The genius who thought up the medal race probably imagined that the winner of the medal race would win the gold medal. It would be an exciting final showdown to the Olympic regatta. It would turn sailing into a popular TV sport.

So the aforementioned genius came up with the idea of a medal race... compulsory race for top ten boats, double points, no discards. Brilliant.

Problem is that it hasn't worked. Just look at this week's medal races...

  • In the men's 470, the Australian team had such a huge points lead going into the medal race that they could have finished last in the medal race and would still have won the gold. Thrilling.

  • In the 49ers, the Danish team sailed the Croatian boat, started four minutes late, finished seventh, and still won the gold medal. Logical.

  • And here's the real kicker. In the Lasers, the Swedish sailor ended the fleet racing in second place behind the Brit in first. But the Brit had such a large lead that, to win the gold, he just needed to ensure that he wasn't last and the Swede wasn't first in the medal race. So the Brit match-raced the Swede and they finished ninth and tenth in the medal race. The Brit got the gold. The Swede, arguably the second-best Laser sailor at the Olympics, finished sixth overall in the rankings, with no medal at all. I don't blame the Brit for what he did, but here's the real irony. If the Swede had had a point or two less in the regular fleet racing the Brit would have not need to have match-race him to win the gold, and the Swede may well have won the silver or bronze medal. So the medal race concept can actually incentivize a sailor to do worse in the earlier races in order to win a medal. Explain that to your average TV viewer.

  • It was all supposed to be about making TV exciting for the Olympics, right? What TV? There was no TV coverage of sailing in the Olympics this year in the USA, the largest, most lucrative TV market in the world.
So let's scrap this medal race nonsense now. It's a crock.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Concentrate on the High Point

Warning: Scrolling down this post or clicking on the link contained herein may result in eye strain, involuntary interjections, and potential termination of employment. Not Safe For Work.

I am shocked...

Every Olympic Games we read about how unfair it is that some countries support their athletes financially much more generously than others. There's usually some whining about how the Brits win so many medals in Sailing because the sailors receive support from the National Lottery when anyone with eyes to see would realize that Brits are just genetically superior when it comes to sailing.

Anyway I am shocked...

According to The Sun (the authoritative source on such matters) the female Laser Radial sailor from Germany, Petra Niemann, raised money for her campaign by posing nude for the German edition of Playboy. This is a terrible example to young women sailors around the world and I sincerely hope that no other female sailors follow Petra's example. It just isn't cricket.

Petra sounds like an extremely smart young woman. The Sun quotes her as saying, "I work extra hard with my psychologist. He advised me to concentrate on the high point of the year above everything else."

That's the way to approach the Olympics... concentrate on the high point... let's see no more of these tacky nude photos.

I am shocked.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Breakfast of Champions

So far the US Olympic Sailing Team has won only one gold medal. And the winner of that was a girl.

I don't think that our guys are eating properly. They should copy that annoying Phelps kid who has won all those gold medals for swimming. Just check out what he eats every day for breakfast...

Three fried egg sandwiches; cheese; tomatoes; lettuce; fried onions; mayonnaise; three chocolate-chip pancakes; five-egg omelet; three sugar-coated slices of French toast; bowl of grits; two cups of coffee.

Sounds good to me. If it's fast for the Phelps kid it should be fast for Laser sailing, right?

I start my new diet tomorrow.

Chuck 'Em Out

Let's kick the 49er out of the Olympics. This week's 49er medal race demonstrated once and for all that this fragile little boat is unsuitable for sailing in conditions that other classes would consider as ideal winds for exciting racing.

According to Tim Wadlow of the US 49er team, the race started in 19 knots and 5 foot seas. Woo hoo. Wait for me. Perfect Lasering weather.

Of the 10 boats in the race, 4 were damaged and at one point 7 were capsized. It seems it was one of those races where he who capsized least would win.

DEN started the race almost 5 minutes late in a boat borrowed from CRO, and finished 7th which was enough for them to win the gold medal. Then they were protested for borrowing a boat. Ain't Olympic sailing fun?

The Yanks failed to finish and requested redress saying the race committee shouldn't have started the race. In 19 knots? Ain't 49er sailing fun?

Apparently the race was even terrifying for the spectators. The mother of Chris Rast, Tim's team-mate, wrote this to Scuttlebutt.

I watched in total terror as one boat after the other disappeared into chop and flipped. At one point Mr Jobson asks, "What happened to the USA team? Where is the USA team? Nine out of ten boats are now flipped!" I was sick. Do these conditions qualify putting our loved ones and our friends at risk of losing their lives, let alone the extreme damage done to almost all the boats? Who made the final decision to hold these races that day? It was not a "race"; it was a a survivor training course held in extremely dangerous conditions. Although, I am sorry my son and Tim Wadlow did not finish the race, I feel my fervent prayers were answered as I witnessed this race---both of them made it back to shore alive.
When it's too scary for the Moms to watch it's time to call the whole thing off.

So let's chuck 'em out of the Olympics.

Just Six Laser Dudes Racing Round a Sausage

I get confused about Britspeak and Amerispeak. I think "sausage" is Britspeak for a windward-leeward course. Draw the course. You'll see what I mean.

Anyway. That was Saturday afternoon. Just six Laser dudes racing round a sausage.

This year I've raced in Australia and the Caribbean. I've trained in Florida, and raced in a Masters World Championships and a Masters Nationals. But I had just as much fun on Saturday racing round a sausage with five other Laser dudes on a puddle in Massachusetts. It was the friendly Saturday practice/informal racing scene that I wrote about in And Now For Something Completely Different.

The dude that sends the emails summed it all up this way...

What a great day we had yesterday! The weather cooperated with scattered clouds, high 79, wind out of the west starting in the high single digits, building to the low teens. We had 6 Lasers, and sailed 9 races with 5 different winners. There was a varied fleet with ages ranging from 21 (Happy birthday Ryan - It was his 21st yesterday) to 60. Both sexes were represented. There was a variety of experience levels ranging from relative newcomers to the Laser to long time Laser sailors. Everyone seemed to have a lot of fun. As Rick told me later, "It was a blast."

It sure was.

The major gusts and shifts seemed to be coming out of a bay to the right of the course and the right end of the start line was favored. So in the first few races I tried to win the right end of the line, tack on the first header, get into a puff and ride it to the windward mark. The strategy worked at first and I won the first two races.

Then I got greedy and I tried to play that side of the course on the runs. But it was too big a diversion off the rhumb line to reach the gusts so I lost to the boats on the other side.

Then somebody noticed that I was getting a free ride winning the right end of the line every time. I was feeling loose so I shouted to the other dudes to, "Bring it on. Fight me for the right."

They did. They were good.

One race the dude blowing the whistle for the starts and I were forced over early. I did a quick tack and gybe and restarted quickly... I think I was second in that race.

Then they readjusted the line so the pin was favored. So I won that end. I never win the pin. It felt good. I think I won that race too.

Then the wind went further right and we had a laugher of a race where the dude that started furthest left was laying the windward mark and arrived there first. Happy birthday Ryan.

In the last race I misjudged the layline for the right end of the line and was squeezed the wrong side of the buoy by the "other sex" sailor. I came round for a second try and capsized on the mark and got tangled in the anchor line. LOL as they say on the Interwebs.

What a blast!

Just six Laser dudes racing round a sausage.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Rooting in My Sleep

Whoah. What happened? I blinked, and the Olympics (at least for the Lasers which is all I really care about) are almost over. Days with no wind. One day with too much wind. Hey, sounds just like any other regatta.

So the medal races are tomorrow, or tonight, or something like that. I'm not staying up till the wee hours of the morning to watch the medal races on the Internet, so it will all be over by the time I wake up tomorrow.

So who to root for in my sleep?

Well the Brit of course. Paul Goodison only needs to come 9th or better in the 10 boat medal race to clinch the gold medal. Should be a piece of cake.

Is it just my imagination or is good old GBR dominating the sailing again at this Olympics?

And then there's a bunch of guys close to each other in contention for the silver. But I'm going to be rooting (while sleeping) for Gustavo Lima of Portugal because...
  • he's the only one of the bunch that I've met (though I doubt he remembers our conversation in the line for the BBQ on the beach in Cabarete)

  • he's the only one that I've raced against

  • he's the only one that I've beaten to the windward mark in a race (OK a practice race)

  • I think that my fifteen seconds of minor glory story will be even more dramatic if I can bore folks with the line "did you hear about the day I beat an Olympic silver medalist?"
And then there's the Laser Radials where Anne Tunnicliffe (USA) is assured of some kind of medal and goes into the medal race with a 7 point lead over her nearest rival.

The great thing about being of one nationality (GBR) while living in another country (USA) is that you have twice the chance of being able to support a winner at the Olympics. (Though Tillerwoman with her Australian roots is even better placed to be able to cheer a sailing gold medal winner in any given event.)

Anyway, regular readers of this blog (all three of you) will know that I've been something of an Anna groupie for over two years now with posts such as Anna Wins Gold, Go Anna!, and Anna Wins Gold in China.

But you know what will happen if Mrs Funk (yes Anna married Brad Funk earlier this year) brings home the gold in the Laser Radial class? Thousands of young American women will be inspired to take up Laser Radial sailing and major Laser regattas will be inundated with hordes of nubile young women wearing tight outfits of Lycra and Neoprene and asking for advice on how loose their vangs should be. The prospect for a dirty old Laser geezer like me is enough to make me drool in anticipation.

(Just looking dear, just looking.)

Go Anna!

Maps on Shoes on Monday

What a brilliant idea... maps on shoes. If you're lost in some strange city you don't need to stand on a street corner trying to work out where you are on a paper map and looking like a tourist. Instead just stare down at your toes and you're all set.

Could even be a great idea for those racing sailors who have a tendency to forget the course they are supposed to be sailing. How often do you hear some dude who surprisingly finds himself leading a race shouting to the other boats nearby, "What's the course?" as he realizes he has no idea where to go after the windward mark. And yes I mean you, all you Laser sailors at the Buzzards Bay Regatta this year who couldn't remember what a T3 course was. Just inscribe the course maps from the SIs on your hiking boots and you'll never get confused again.

Thanks to GEOBLOGGERS for the idea. You can design your own map shoes at Zazzle. But I wonder why they are only doing women's and kids' shoes? Hmmm.

And if you want to buy something from Zazzle, check out their coupon page first.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


I wrote last week about the mysterious Isle of Spar.

It comes. It goes.

I see it every day from my window, but Blaskowitz never believed in it and omitted it from his famous chart.

Wikipedia says it's in Massachusetts
last time they looked. NOAA disagrees. They definitely saw it in Rhode Island.

Wikipedia "says it's only visible at extreme low tide". Hmmm. My eye doctor says the vision in my left eye can only be corrected to 20/40 vision but I see it at every state of the tide except the the highest of the high. Even with my left eye.

It's there. No it's here. Now I see it. Now you don't. Weird.

But yesterday there was a protest on Spar Island. I wrote a few weeks ago about the proposal to build an offshore terminal for liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers in My Bay. The as yet imaginary terminal would be close to the perhaps mythical Spar Island.

So yesterday the opponents of the LNG terminal led by the Coalition for Responsible Siting of LNG Facilities organized a protest on the bay. More than 100 sailors, power boaters, kayakers and other activists made a several-mile cruise up the bay to protest plans to build the LNG unloading terminal. One of the leaders of the protest, Joseph Carvalho, landed on the famed Isle of Spar and actually gave a press conference there.

His reaction on his first visit to the mysterious mid-bay maybe island: "It was a wild and scenic view. It was gorgeous. I soaked it in. It’s truly amazing."

Sure is dude.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Newport Bridge

On Sunday I sailed from the largest island in Narragansett Bay, Aquidneck, to the other two large islands in the bay, Prudence and Conanicut. And back. It's always good to come back.

This song kept going through my head. I don't know where it comes from. But I think some of the poetry of the original is missing.

Got out of town on a Laser
Going to Prudence Island.
Sailing a reach
Before a following sea.
She was making for the waves
On the outside,
And the downhill run
To Conanicut.

Off the wind on this heading
Lies North Kingstown.
I got fourteen feet of the waterline.
Nicely making way.
In a noisy bar in Middletown
I tried to call you.
But on a Timex watch I realized
Why twice you ran away.

Think about how many times
I have capsized
Spirits are using me
larger voices calling.
What LaserPerformance Ltd brought you and me
Cannot be forgotten.

I have been around the bay,
Looking for that woman/girl,
Who knows love can endure.
And you know it will.
And you know it will.

When you see the Newport Bridge
For the first time
You understand now
Why you came this way
'Cause the truth you might be running from
Is so small.
But it's as big as the promise
The promise of a coming day.

So I'm sailing for tomorrow
My quads are a dying.
And my love is a boom vang tied to you
Tied with a spectra chain.
I have my boat
And all her telltales are a flying
She is all that I have left
And 'Laser 157812' is her name.

Think about how many times
I have capsized
Spirits are using me.
What LaserPerformance Ltd brought you and me
Cannot be forgotten.

I have been around the bay,
Looking for that woman/girl,
Who knows love can endure.
And you know it will.
And you know it will.

So I cheated and I lied
And I pushed the limits of Rule 42
And I never failed to fail
It was the easiest thing to do.
You will survive being bested.
Somebody fine
Will come along
Make me forget about tacking on you
At the Newport Bridge.

First for Andrew

Congrats to USA Laser Olympian Andrew Campbell who led the Laser fleet all the way around the course and scored his first win of the Olympic regatta in Race 3 in Qingdao. I can't find any news reports of the race online yet but the official results are here. Andrew started the regatta with a couple of finishes in the teens which he attributed on his blog yesterday to first race jitters and being over-conservative.

Meanwhile some of the early favorites in the Lasers such as Tom Slingsby from Australia are placing well down the fleet.

Can we hope for a medal for Andrew? Can't wait to read about this race on his blog.

Meanwhile Anna Tunnicliffe of USA leads the Laser Radial fleet...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Numero Uno

The Scuttlebutt newsletter today gave Scuttlebutt an incestuous pat on the back today with the following piece of self-congratulatory puff...
If you are to search online for information on Cal 32 boats or for using Windward Gates as the weather mark, the top ranked listing you are likely to find will come from the Scuttlebutt Forum. Internet search engines are hard to trick, and they rank website pages based on the quality of the information, and then factor in the amount of traffic that goes to that website page.
Well ya boo sucks to you Scuttlebutt.

I'd just like to point out that if you were to search for the following terms using The Google, the top-ranked site will be Proper Course.

So there.

Any advance on naked laser sailing? What is your blog famous for?

Ross and Me

Ross Bennett is a Laser sailor.
I am a Laser sailor.

Ross is 21, (or thereabouts).
I am 60.

Ross has a blog about Laser sailing.
I have a blog (mainly) about Laser sailing.

I live on the East coast of the United States.
Ross lives on the West coast.

In 2007 I sailed the Laser North Americans and was the last boat that finished every race.

In 2008 Ross sailed the Laser US Nationals and was the last boat that finished every race.

For some reason this gives me a feeling of kinship with Ross. It seems we both have the same stubbornness and persistence in the face of adversity. On the other hand, a disinterested observer might just conclude that Ross and I both suck at Laser sailing.

Among other things, Ross blames his weight for not doing better. At 168 lbs he thinks he is too light to do well in over 15 knots.

Among other things, I blame my weight for some of my recent bad race results. At 196 lbs I think I am too heavy to do well in 5-10 knots.

168? What a coincidence. When I was Ross's age that was what I weighed. Or "12 stone" as we used to say in England. Just wait Ross. Just wait.

Ross has a good laugh at his misadventures while racing and blogs, for example, about capsizing when his lifejacket snagged his mainsheet.

I have a good laugh at my misadventures while racing and blog, for example, about capsizing when my neck snagged another sailor's mainsheet.

Ross thinks he can improve and in the title-bar of his blog says he is writing about his "quest and aspirations for Olympic Gold in 2012, 2016 and beyond in the Laser."

I think I can improve but have more modest ambitions, really aiming only to "cheat the nursing home."

I wish Ross well in his Olympic quest. He is young and ambitious and has plenty of time ahead of him to raise his game up to the lofty levels required for Olympic qualification. If you want to support Ross, check out Ross Bennett Sailing. You are also free to express your support in the comments here.

Monday, August 11, 2008

What Would You Have Done?

Hope you enjoyed reading the story of guest blogger Hal Weidner's encounter with Hurricane Cleo in mid-Atlantic in 1958, in which he narrowly escaped with his life and lost the good sailing vessel So Long to the ocean depths.

Slammed by Hurricane Cleo - Part 1
Slammed by Hurricane Cleo - Part 2

Slammed by Hurricane Cleo - Part 3

Now I know less than nothing about ocean sailing. But I know some of my readers do, such as Edward who has just completed a Serious Ocean Going Race to Hawaii. Hal has suggested the question. "What would you have done differently?"

But as I suspect few of you were crossing oceans in 1958, let me suggest another slightly different question....

What would be different if you attempted the same voyage in 2008? In particular what technologies would you be using that would have headed off the disaster that Hal experienced or would have allowed you to cope with it better?

Narragansett Bay 1777

A Topographical CHART of the
BAY of NARRAGANSET in the Province of NEW ENGLAND.
with the ISLES contained therein, among which
have been particularly SURVEYED.
Shewing the true position & bearings of the Banks, Shoals, Rocks &c, as likewise the Soundings:
To which have been added the several Works & Batteries raised by the Americans.
Taken by Order of the PRINCIPAL FARMERS on Rhode Island.
Engraved & Printed for WM. FADEN, Charing Cross, as the Act directs, July 22d. 1777.

This early chart of Narragansett Bay was apparently commissioned by the principal farmers of Rhode Island in order to provide the British with military intelligence about the navigation of the bay, and also "the several works and batteries raised by the Americans".

Hmmm. Not very patriotic of them, eh?

The chart claims to show "the true position & bearings of the Banks, Shoals, Rocks &c" but there's one thing that worries me about that claim. If I look out of my window over Mount Hope Bay, the most prominent feature in the middle of the bay is Spar Island, a small flat-topped low island, visible at all states of the tide except the highest, and surrounded by shoals. But Spar Island is not marked on the Blaskowitz chart.

However, Spar Island is marked on the 1861 US Coastal Survey chart of Mount Hope Bay, an original of which hangs in my dining room. So what gives? Was the island created by some geological event between 1777 and 1861? Or was Blaskowitz simply guessing when he came to draw that part of his chart?

Friday, August 08, 2008

My Taylor Is RIch

In the early days of the online sailing simulator, Tacticat (now sailx), some bright spark discovered that, by causing the skiff class boat to execute a certain combination of unseamanlike maneuvers, it was possible to fool the program into allowing you to keep flying the spinnaker when heading up to a close-hauled course. For a few days, anyone in the know was able to make huge gains by using this trick to sail upwind with the spinnaker flying, as the rest of the fleet looked on in awe and claimed that it was all totally unfair.

It didn't take long for the Tacticat overlords to identify what was obviously a bug in the program, and it was soon fixed.

Who would have thought that this weird anomaly from the world of sailing software would be replicated in real life? And at the Olympic Games no less?

In the Tornado catamaran class, the Dutch and American Olympic teams have developed so-called code 0 gennakers which are designed to be carried upwind as well as downwind. Although they may be slower downwind than a normal Tornado spinnaker, the code 0 sails are apparently so much faster upwind in the expected light wind conditions in China that these two teams are almost certain to win the gold and silver medals.

So now those energetic and competitive Australians are rushing to copy the Americans and Dutch.

The British, superior and aloof as only true Brits can be, say they already tried that idea and it will only work in a narrow wind range.

And the Austrians, dour and disgruntled, are threatening to boycott the whole regatta.

Ohmigod. The Olympics are just like Tacticat. All it needs now is someone hailing, "The darker the windier" or "My taylor is rich" all the way round the course and they will be identical. (Sorry. Tacticat in-joke. You had to be there.)

Apparently there is nothing in the Tornado class rules that prohibits using a smaller spinnaker or the use of it upwind. Just to be sure the Aussies posed a couple of questions to the Chief Measurer and, according to SailJuice Blog received the following answers...

Does the non-one design ‘code zero’ upwind spinnaker contravene the class rules?

The concept of a smaller gennaker does not contravene the class rules. Class Rule G.5.3 does not specify minimum dimensions.

Is a “dolphin strike” permitted on the bowsprit?


No. The addition of a compression strut and associated rigging below the bowsprit spar would contravene class rules F.5″

I have no idea what "non-one design" means or what a "dolphin strike" is but it's all starting to sound more like the America's Cup than the Olympics. It's only a matter of time before the lawyers jump into the fray.

My immediate reactions....

  • I'm glad I sail a strict one-design class where such shenanigans are almost inconceivable.

  • Who would have thunk that even a bug in Tacticat would emulate real life so well?

  • If the Tornado class had aimed to ensure that they will never ever ever be invited to sail in the Olympics ever again, could they have devised a better strategy?

As they say in Tacticat, "Why cats are not olympic any more?"

Slammed by Hurricane Cleo - Part 3

The third and final part of Hal Weidner's story of his encounter with Hurricane Cleo in 1958...

Neither one of us dared talk about our probable fate. Such a conversation seemed impolite. So we pumped on. By now we knew that our little ship had opened up and was filling, at the same rate as we could pump. Ruddy had seen it earlier, but couldn’t stop it.

We kept a line weighted with an empty soup can hanging down the companion way to measure the water’s height inside the hull. We couldn’t make headway. The wind had dropped of to a breeze, but the slop of the high seas continued to bounce us around in attempts to wash us off our tiny platform. One time we saw an unusual wave coming. We both yelled NO! We threw ourselves over the open hatch and tried to find some kind of grip. But, it drove us apart and nearly filled So Long to the gunwhales. We pumped like demons and got it back to the bottom of the soup can. ---On it went.

That night we saw the lights of a cargo ship passing to the south. We had rockets - wet ones, somewhere. This surprised us. Why were cargo ships taking such a northerly course? Then we hit on a happy idea. They had turned back and now were trying to make up for lost time by sailing the shorter course. This filled us with hopes of seeing more ships. The next day was mockingly beautiful. The sea was almost flat and a warm sun allowed us to take off our boots and wiggle our toes in the sunshine.

We managed to keep our little stick of wood afloat and perched on it like ants. If we saw another ship, we decided to fill one of our sea boots with lamp oil, place it on the bow, and set it on fire; also we decided to dive down and rip the mirror from the head to flash an S O S in the ship’s direction. Then we waited for a long shot.

The next morning, we had the good luck of finding a can of tinned beef and another of peaches. Out of nowhere a tiny bird appeared and perched on our bow; it breathed hard. Ruddy threw it a small piece of beef and the little bird grabbed it in his beak, straightened its neck, and choked it down --- all in a flash. We threw him some more and he gobbled them up.

I turned to look behind us and saw a city block of glistening houses heading our way. We both had our share of hallucinations, so I closed my eyes for a minute. Then, I heard Ruddy yell, “It’s a ship, a great big ship!” It loomed on the horizon. She would be passing us as close as two miles. Ruddy got busy with the boot-fire and I dove down and tore the mirrored door off the cabinet. By the time she came abreast of us we were flashing and smoking away. She was moving fast and went right on by; slowly she began to sink on the horizon and we sent our curses after her. I could not stop following her with my eyes. I suddenly recognized a change — she was getting longer. She was turning.

The Pacific Conqueror, a brand new Greek cargo ship, drifted alongside. They pulled us up on deck, wiped off the grease from our faces, and sat us down on the main deck. Then, they put an opened Heineken beer in our hands — all without saying a single word. In that short time, So Long had gone under.

Cleo was blowing herself out.

This is a record of a true story, experienced by the author.
Copyright © 2008 by Hal R. Weidner.

Related Links
So Long
Slammed by Hurricane Cleo - Part 1
Slammed by Hurricane Cleo - Part 2

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Catch a Wave

I discovered during the Buzzards Bay Regatta last weekend that I am now able to pass other sailors on runs. No big deal you might say, but it's a new experience for me. For many years my thought at the top of a downwind leg was, "I hope I don't lose too many places on this leg." Whereas now it's, "Let's see how many places I can gain on this leg."

I guess I'm finally beginning to get the hang of catching rides on waves in a Laser downwind. Perhaps it's because, after sailing most of my life on inland lakes (ripples not waves), I have done more sailing in big bumps on the sea in the last year than ever before.

I suppose
I first became aware of the possibility that I don't totally suck downwind a couple of weeks ago at the district championships when, after my brilliantly successful first beat strategy in the Blind Squirrel race, I was able to stay ahead of two of the best sailors in the fleet downwind. (OK I got passed by a couple of lightweights but you can't beat physics.)

At BBR on the second day, after rounding the windward mark, I would sail radically to one side of the course, make sure I had clear air and then work the waves. One thing I hadn't realized until recently was that if you are fast on a run you don't just pass boats one by one; you pass them in groups. Magic.

Of course if your first beat is so bad that you round the windward mark with the tailenders it's a bit easier to look like a hero on the run. And there's not much point in passing ten boats in ten minutes on a run if you let someone else gain a late inside overlap at the leeward mark and end up losing the same ten places in ten seconds. But hey, I learned from that mistake in the first race on day 2 and turned in three solid top twenty finishes (which is good for me) in the next three races.

I'm sure there is still huge room for improvement. But it's good to discover that at least there is some improvement as a result of all the sailing I have been doing this year.

On the other hand, maybe I was just faster because of my new rudder? Hmmm.

Slammed by Hurricane Cleo - Part 2

Episode 2 in guest blogger Hal Weidner's story of his encounter with Hurricane Cleo in 1958...

Cleo came at midnight, slowly at first.

We had gotten used to the off-key cello sounds in the rigging. On the night of the 17th, the rigging began to shriek and we feared we were in for a real blow. We decided to head So Long up into the waves, button down, and ride her out. This worked for only a few minutes. The waves just rolled over us. For some reason these seas were acting like waves coming ashore on a beach; they curled early and the tops broke off and seemed to fall straight down. We had a mile of water beneath our keel, so this wave pattern was a mystery, unless our leeway’s wake was disturbing the sea.

After we got knocked down and stayed there for several minutes, we began to doubt our strategy — even though we eventually discovered that the dingy had broken out of her chains and was resting, upside down, on the head of the mainmast. We decided to try running off before the wind. I stayed at the helm while Ruddy went below to make repairs. The air was full of water. The wind’s shriek was terrifying.

During any given minute we had dozens of lightening bolts stabbing down around us. They illuminated the chaos. I unlashed the wheel and headed So Long downwind to run off. She took off like a speed boat, throwing up a huge bow wave - perhaps ten feet high. At the helm, I could hear the sound of each following sea as it hit our wake. The roar of the wave began and increased to a sound like Niagara Falls and then as the blue water came down, it began to hiss as well; it slammed down from on high, driving me to my knees, and plastering my chest to the wheel. Sometimes, it knocked me unconscious. These incredible sleigh rides only lasted a few minutes before So Long either veered off course or buried her nose in the back wall of a receding wave. We rolled over numerous times, somersaulted [pitch-poled] and lay over with masts across the water. I spent a lot of time in the water, but the deep trough between waves gave me a quiet pause to clamber back on board. Our masts were too heavy on top and the bare poles were pushing like sails.

We pitch-poled again. A bigger-than-ever wave reached over us further than usual and dropped the sky on us. We went way down under water - still with speed on. When we popped up, our masts where dragging along with us -- becoming battering rams. We went at it with cable-cutters and hatchets cutting our masts free. Ruddy was bleeding from his forehead. He had been pitched headlong while below; I thought he’d been washed overboard.

I was convinced that we would not make it through the storm, so when the first light of day showed us the ragged seascape, I was thankful, but daunted by the prospects of drifting north-by-west towards Greenland in the current — on a floating island. The sea lanes were far to the south of us. We had doubts about our being able to pump forever. The deck was fitted with a lift pump. We pulled up and a column of water spilled off the deck; we pushed her down for a refill. So Long was more than half full of water and we could not make progress. We were both sick from swallowing salt water and now being flipped back and forth because the keel now missed her masts.

We dived into our flooded cabin for cans of food and amused ourselves guessing at its unlabeled contents. We both wore lanyards strung with tools --- including a can-opener. The first can was cream of mushroom and after we spooned it down, we felt better.

Copyright © 2008 by Hal R. Weidner

Tomorrow read part 3 of Hal's story, "Neither one of us dared talk about our probable fate..."

Related Links
So Long
Slammed by Hurricane Cleo Part 1

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

So Long

So Long, the yacht in the Slammed by Hurricane Cleo story by our guest blogger, Hal Weidner.

As Hal says, "So Long at 32ft was beamy and carried huge baggywrinkles on 5/8 inch stays supporting tree trunks. Her huge rudder looked like it had come from a river barge. She was a heavy-weight."

What Were They Thinking?

What were they thinking?

Yesterday US Sailing issued a press release about the upcoming U.S. Singlehanded Championships for the George O’Day Trophy. As part of the usual PR puff they chose to mention four previous winners of the O'Day including a certain Mr. Brodie Cobb who won the trophy in 1984 and 85.

The problem? Mr. Cobb is currently suspended (by US Sailing) from "participating as either skipper or crew member in any sailing competition in the United States" because of what was euphemistically described by the US Sailing Review Board as an incident involving physical contact between two sailors.

Or if you want the gory details, according to this thread on the Laser Forum, here are some of the "facts found" by the jury who heard this case...

14. Shortly after finishing 180081 (Cobb) tacked to starboard and rammed 164380.

15. The skipper of 180081 pulled the boats together side by side and said to 164380 “didn’t I tell you I was going to beat your ass?”

16. 180081’s skipper got halfway out of his boat and boarded 164380 and started to grab and punch the skipper of 164380, not once but at least twice.

17. The skipper of 164380 asked “What the fuck are you (180081) are doing?”

18. The skipper of 180081 answered as he again attempted to punch the skipper of 164380 with an overhead punch “Don’t you know who I am, you’ve fucked up my regatta.”

19. The skipper of 164380 only put his arms up to defend himself and made no aggressive moves in response to the attack.

Couldn't US Sailing have found a better example of a former O'Day winner to enhance the reputation of the event in their press release?

What were they thinking?

Update: There's also more detail and discussion about the original incident at this thread on the Scuttlebutt Forum.

Slammed by Hurricane Cleo - Part 1

Fifty years ago this month in August 1958, Hurricane Cleo blasted across the North Atlantic. Cleo was the strongest Atlantic hurricane of the 1958 Atlantic hurricane season and remains one of only three Category 5 hurricanes to avoid land in the historical database. Over the next few days, guest blogger Hal Weidner will be telling the true story of his encounter with Cleo ...

I first met So Long in July when she anchored near a yacht club on Long Island Sound. She was unique among the other yachts---a bulldog among greyhounds. So Long at 32ft was beamy and carried huge baggywrinkles on 5/8 inch stays supporting tree trunks. Her huge rudder looked like it had come from a river barge. She was a heavy-weight.

Her owner, a Norwegian named Ruddy, had been trying to sell her, but had no luck. I jumped at the chance of sailing her back to Norway. I had worked at the yacht club for several years to stay near the water. Raised in the Midwest; salt water was love at first sight.

Somewhere in the Caribbean, a cell of hot air was fixing to make a reputation by revving-up to 160mph winds and - in passing - trying to send So Long to the bottom. She got her name: Hurricane Cleo. With 160 mph winds, she went punching-up the middle of the Atlantic. Ships on both sides turned back towards shore to let her pass. But, So Long was dead-centered by Cleo’s path---1,500 miles out of New York and 1,500 miles from England.

So Long had lost her auxiliary engine coming down the East River just as she swept by the UN Building, and at the Brooklyn Navel Yard, her single-sideband radio was pronounced beyond repair - according to a radioman from a nearby destroyer. We had only a radio for getting the time signals from Greenwich. We knew that no rescue would come anyway, so we said a prayer, threw the statue of Liberty a kiss, and headed west for our first stop: Falmouth.

By August 15th, we were reaching the mid-point of our course in the fan of the Gulf Stream at 45N 44W. There the water glowed, making our wake light-up like a skein of neon tubes. We began to see signs of a hurricane: large ground swells, the moon wore a green ring, and the winds increased to 55mph. It was exhilarating and we made all of 6 knots. We took some confidence from So Long’s past; she had been a North Sea pilot cutter and had oak beams 6x8 inches to best the ice. We liked to think of her as our floating tank. In the middle of the ocean, I suppose, all sailors love their ships.

In the gales we took time to try how
So Long lay to the wind. She appeared to ride comfortably with her bow up and her tiller down. She would not, however, lay closer than 55 degrees to the wind. But she liked her storm trysail; so we agreed that this was to be our fallback if we got a real blow. Beside, Joshua Slocum had recommended it.

Copyright © 2008 by Hal R. Weidner

Tomorrow read Part 2 of Hal's Story. "Cleo came at midnight..."

Forty Cents a Week

On Friday, the first day of the Buzzards Bay Regatta, the sea breeze eventually came in from the south-west in early afternoon. The race committee sent us off on a five leg windward-leeward course with each leg approximately a mile long. Three long gut-wrenching flat-out-hiking beats, and two long wave-riding runs.

Those three long beats were fun. Always another sailor close by to race against. I was trying to work the waves upwind and as I jabbed the tiller moving up one wave I heard a loud crack from the back of the boat.

Hmmm. What was that? Maybe the rudder hit something?

All was well for a while but then the tiller started catching on the traveler cleat. How can that be? I finished the race and then leaned over the back of the boat to find out what was going on.

Uh oh. One of the stainless steel brackets holding the rudder head to the lower pintle had broken and then bent. The rudder was still attached to the boat but was loose at its bottom point of connection to the boat. The two mile downwind sail in waves back to the beach was "interesting". At any moment I was expecting to lose control of the rudder. Maybe it would jam to one side and I would be unable to bear off down a wave?

Sheer terror. More terrifying even than Edward's fish taco.

So, after derigging I went over to the race office where there was a helpful lady from the manufacturer who phoned a dealer who promised to bring over a new rudder for me the next morning. Yes, a whole new rudder. Apparently they couldn't sell me the rudder head and pintles separately. Oh well.

Conversation between myself and the lovely Tillerwoman on Saturday evening...

Lovely Tillerwoman: So did you get the thingie you needed this morning?

Myself: Oh yes. But I had to buy a whole new rudder.

Lovely Tillerwoman: Was it expensive?

(Note to readers: Tillerwoman is one of the most frugal women on the planet. She is a genius at shopping. She can find ways of buying almost anything for a fraction of its usual price.)

Myself: Mmmm. Well not much really when you think that the old rudder lasted thirteen years.

Lovely Tillerwoman: So how much?

Myself: Mmmm. Well let's see. Over thirteen years it would be about forty cents a week.

Lovely Tillerwoman: I need a calculator to work that out. But it doesn't sound like much when you put it that way.

I am a very lucky man.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Hidden Law of the Universe

I wrote a couple of weeks ago in Blind Squirrel about how, through superior powers of observation, deep meteorological understanding and outstanding reasoning abilities, I chose the right side of the race course on the first beat and was first sailor to the windward mark against tough competition in a race in our district championship.

This weekend at the Buzzards Bay Regatta I paid the price for that success.

Let's think about this logically. On any given beat, there are three possibilities...
  1. it doesn't matter which side of the course you choose
  2. it does matter and it's pretty obvious which is the correct side
  3. it does matter but it's not clear which side is better.
OK. Now ignore the first category and concentrate on just the second and third categories. If they are all category 3 then just by chance you should make the right guess 50% of the time. Factor in some category 2 races, then isn't it obvious that, statistically speaking, the chance of any reasonably competent sailor choosing the favored side of the course must be more than 50%?



This weekend I demonstrated to my own satisfaction that the normal laws of logic and statistics don't apply to this issue. There is some hidden law of the universe that roughly speaking says, "For every beat where Tillerman chooses the correct side of the beat, he must pay for it by choosing the wrong side N times, where N=(1 + George Bush's age - Tillerman's age + number of years since Tillerman read a book by Stuart Walker + number of glasses of wine consumed by Tillerman on previous evening). N cannot be less than 3 and could be well over 10.

For example...

On Day 1 of BBR, the wind was swinging around at the start of the day. The race committee tried a start while the wind was in the west and it swung way to the south so they had to postpone the start. It stayed southish for a while, and we got one light air race in.

Then it went west again. Oh no, now it's south-west. No wait. There's a north-westerly coming in. Eventually we got a start off with the wind sorta kinda westerly. I didn't have a great first beat and run so at the start of the second and final beat I had a choice. Right or left. Most of the fleet went left. I figured that, given the earlier push by the north-westerly the wind was just as likely to swing right. And I figured I wouldn't pass many boats by going left so I went right.

Right was wrong. Left was right. Duh. N=1 and counting.

On Day 3 the pattern was similar. Wind swinging all over the place. Two postponed starts. Eventually we got away in a westerly. I had a decent start in clear air about a third of the way down the line from committee boat.

Ahah, I thought. At least I can learn from my own mistakes. This is like race 2 of day 1. The secret of success is to bang the left corner in expectation of the shift to the south-west. Halfway up the beat I look over my shoulder and see that two boats who tacked on to port out of a start at the committee boat are now about half a mile to windward of me. And everyone who started right of me is way ahead of me too. Huge righty. N=2 and counting.

(Actually that race was abandoned but the hidden law of the universe didn't know that was going to happen.)

In race 2 on Day 3, a similar thing happened. The wind had settled in to a consistent direction and a few smart souls like me, blessed with superior wind intuition, hit the left side of the beat. Man, that was a good choice. We were gaining bigtime on the dumb shits that went right and by the top third of the beat it looked like we had gained several hundred yards on them. But then a huge righty came in and the lucky fools on the starboard tack layline were reaching in to the mark. Some of them were actually planing to the windward mark! While we brave band of sailors on the left were struggling to the mark on a massive header in spite of our higher intelligence and advanced decision-making abilities.

N=3 and counting.

See what I mean? I am cursed by the hidden law of the universe. How many more races must go wrong before I get it right again?

Monday, August 04, 2008

Buzzards Bay Regatta 2008

Three days of Laser racing on famous Buzzards Bay.

Breaking a pintle. Ouch.

No Uncrustables this year.

No "Parking Lot Nazi" this year.

Ten races in all kinds of wind.

Meeting some cool new people.

Racing against and hanging out with some old friends.

Learning one of the hidden laws of the universe about wind shifts.

Discovering that I am actually better at some aspects of the game than I used to be.

Lots to blog about including the last race of the regatta which will rank as one of my favorite sailing memories of all time.

Watch this space...

Maps on Monday

An alternative map of the United States where each state is named after a country with a similar Gross Domestic Product, courtesy of The Big Picture.


So California is France, Texas is Canada and Florida is South Korea. Sounds about right.

But wait. What is that state in New England just to the west of New Hampshire, sorry I mean just to the west of Bangladesh? It's the Dominican Republic, now part of New England and therefore part of Laser Class District 7.

That's an in-joke that I'm going to have to explain.

While chilling out over beer and burgers after the Buzzards Bay Regatta this weekend we were joshing with Ari Barshi, owner of the Laser Center in Cabarete in the Dominican Republic, who has been sailing a number of the District 7 (New England) Laser regattas this summer. Not only that, but most of the New England Laser sailors present in the group had also had the pleasure of sailing at clinics and regattas hosted by Ari in Cabarete. So over the third (or was it the fourth) beer someone proposed annexing the DR to D7. Then over the fifth (or maybe the sixth) beer some bright spark suggested holding the District 7 Championship in Cabarete next year. Why not? We might get more than seven entrants that way.

Seems like the map was prophetic. Move over Vermont. Welcome Dominican Republic.

Saturday, August 02, 2008


I received this email earlier this week. I am scratching my head as to how to help this guy. Does the boat he is searching for exist? Can anyone help him?

Hi, Help me please !

Is there such a one-person boat ?

Under 11 or even 10 feet long
Hull under 50 lbs
Width under 3 feet
Sail under 30 sq. ft.

Need not be as fast a Laser, but should be able to keep up for a short while in relatively calm weather.

The boat should let me stay dry in street clothes and not getting me cold, when under sail in shallow water near shore, with one hand holding the sheet and the other holding a camcorder for wild life filming.

The boat needs to be able to cross a one-kilometer open water (where big boats are passing) in 20 minutes in cross wind.

In other words I am hoping there is such a light weight, fast sail boat that a small person like me can handle it it alone (with a small car), and launch it anywhere.

Is this a reasonable expectation ? Your comment please !