Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tiller of Doom

You have to hand it to those Moth dudes. They know how to have a seriously close championship and then have a serious party afterwards including the infamous tiller of doom (see photo above).

Congratulations to Simon Payne for almost, almost, winning the European Championship and for writing about it at Baltic Ballistic. And even more congrats to Arnaud Psarofaghis who beat Simon in the closest of close tie-breakers.

So serious Laser sailors, how about introducing this "tiller of doom" tradition at serious Laser regattas?

Monday, June 29, 2009

How to Tack a Laser Like a Champion

The natives are getting restless. They don't appreciate the current rain songs meme incorporating my wry commentary on climate change and my subtle mockery of all those lazy bloggers who, instead of writing stunning original thoughts, think it's OK just to post a YouTube video of one of their favorite songs from back in the day when they still had most of their hair and a modicum of sex appeal. They (the restless natives not the lazy bloggers) are starting to leave comments like, "Is this the blog of the Laser sailing grandfather known as Tillerman? It seems to have been hijacked... "

Well you only have yourselves to blame. In that poll last November I gave you a chance to vote for what you wanted this blog to be about. The old warrior Sailing was soundly defeated by the candidate of change who promised a policy of allowing Tillerman to write about Whatever The Hell He Wants.

So you can't complain now. You voted for it and now you're going to get four years of Whatever The Hell He Wants. Suck it up.

But, like all good leaders, I am sensitive to the mood of the people. So here are some hard-core, real Laser sailors doing some real Laser sailing, a video of the Laser Medal Race from Kiel Week.

The Brit, Paul Goodison, won of course. Doesn't he always?

Pause for all British-born Laser sailors to bask in the glow of their vicarious superiority.



Pause over.

So you asked for a serious sailing post about serious Laser sailing, so let's discuss what we can learn from this video. I ask you to take a serious look at Mr. Goodison's tacking technique.

Don't all of we serious Laser sailors know how to tack while holding the sheet and tiller in our hands, to hike out after the tack and then to do the famous Laser hand swap without ever letting go of sheet or tiller?

Well take a look first at seconds 42-48 of the video. Doesn't Mr. Goodison actually let go of the tiller after the tack? Is he even sitting on the tiller extension?

Then take a look at the tack by Mr. Goodison at around 2:10. Does he actually cleat the mainsheet just before doing the hand swap? I thought that was terribly non-U.

Amazing! What a bad example he sets for all the kiddies watching. But I guess that when you're the Olympic champion you can sail how the hell you want.

I know there is at least one seriously fast, real Laser sailor who reads this blog. Please do share your views in the comments on Mr. Goodison's tacking technique. Is he an unconventional genius or has he pushed Laser tacking technique to the next level?

Oh, and by the way, also look at those sailors going downwind at around 1:50. Look how the leech of the Polish sailor's sail is pumping away (quite legally) giving him a nice spurt of speed on every little wave. Get your vang setting just right and you too can achieve the same effect Jo-Jo.

So did you like that, nation? Is that the kind of serious Laser sailing post about serious Laser sailing that you have come to expect from Proper Course? Or are you waiting with bated breath for tomorrow's rain song?

Coach is a Moran

Singing in the Rain


This guy is nuts.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Shelter from the Storm

Yes, sorry, another rain/thunder/storm song. But it's still the monsoon season here in New England. What next?

Actually this song is one I've been meaning to post for some time. It was on the first mix of "psych me up for sailing" songs that I made about 25 years ago on one of those quaint little audio cassette tape thingies. (Ask your grandma kiddies if you don't know what I'm talking about.) This recording was my favorite "get in the mood for heavy air Laser sailing in the rain" song. If I was driving to go sailing and the weather looked bloody awful I would fast forward the tape to this song and I would be in the mood to drive down the "road full of mud" to do battle with "men who are fighting to be warm" until I was "burned out from exhaustion" and "blown out on the trail".

OK. I know it sounds dopey but it worked for me.

What's your favorite "psych me up for sailing in the rain" song? I've a feeling we're going to need a few this summer.

Friday, June 26, 2009


What's wrong with this picture? (Apart from it being a bit underexposed.)

No? I'll give you a clue.

This is a picture of the North American Laser Class Annual Meeting held at the Buffalo Canoe Club yesterday evening.

Still don't get it? I'll give you another clue.

The annual meeting of our class, as in other years, is being held on one evening of our North American Championships. I assume that this is so that the maximum number of committed, active class members can easily attend the meeting. The number of people registered to sail in the NAs this week is 212.

How many people are at the meeting?

Yes. Looks like about a dozen. Maybe there are a few people off camera? I suppose we should count the guy who took the photo too. But
at least one of those people in the photo is a paid employee of the class, not a regular member. And I wouldn't be surprised if there's a representative from the manufacturer of the Laser there too.

Still leaves about 200 Laser class members who were in Buffalo but chose not to attend the meeting. Wonder where they were. Wonder how many of them will bitch and complain if the class isn't run the way they think it should be.

I'm not at the NAs this year so I wasn't at the meeting either. But I did go to the class meeting when I sailed in the NAs at Hyannis a couple of years ago, and I did speak up at the meeting on a couple of issues that were important to me. The meeting that year was about the same size, as I recall.


Is your class any better?

Thanks to https://twitter.com/nalaser for news of the NAs and a link to this and other pictures.

Jim Pierce Rule

Does sailing need a Jim Pierce Rule?

The debate about invasive coaching in sailing has been rumbling along here for a while and last Friday we were discussing an analogy between Sailing and Tennis. Carol Anne of Five O'Clock Somewhere reminded us in the comments of the sad and strange case of Jim Pierce.

Jim Pierce was the ultimate intrusive parent/coach. His daughter Mary Pierce (pictured above) is a professional tennis player who burst on to the professional tennis scene at the age of 14 in 1989. Unfortunately she became more famous for the outrageous behavior of her father (who was also her coach) than for her play. He often shouted abuse at her opponents during matches, notoriously once screaming, "Kill the bitch!" and he was also verbally and physically abusive to his daughter. Eventually things became so bad that the tennis authorities enacted the Jim Pierce Rule which allows a player's disruptive family members or coaches to be banned from attending tournaments, and Jim Pierce was denied entrance to tournaments in which his daughter played.

So is Carol Anne suggesting that sailing needs a Jim Pierce Rule?

I hope not. I may rant on here occasionally about Mommy Boats and the like but I haven't seen anyone in sailing, parent or coach, whose behavior is anywhere near as bad as Jim Pierce's was.

Oh. I see what's happening here. Carol Anne was trying to trick me into posting a picture of some attractive female tennis player wearing skimpy clothing and striking a modeling pose. She wants to turn Proper Course into a clone of that other so-called sailing blog that has suggestive photos of young ladies in swimsuits every Friday. Well, I refuse to sink to such depths. Others may be prepared to use soft porn as a way to boost ratings but I have certain standards. This is a serious sailing blog about serious sailing subjects. Shame on you Carol Anne!

That's why I have posted a serious sailing picture of Ms. Pierce doing some serious sailing on a serious sailboat to illustrate this post. Enjoy.

Thunder Road

It's not actually raining right now...

But they say we will have thunderstorms later.

The New England monsoon season continues.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

This is a Motorboat

Pat has been out in the desert sun too long. He is spending way too much time poring through Rhode Island statutes to try and prove that my Laser is a motorboat under Rhode Island law.

No Pat.

This is not a motorboat.

This is a motorboat.

Fog on the Tyne

Fog this morning.

Well, at least it's not raining...


No, wait. Tillerwoman says it has just started to rain.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sailing Clubs and Yacht Clubs

"What we've got here is...failure to communicate," said The Captain.

We sure did a lot of "failing to communicate" in our debate about Mommy Boats and related issues of invasive coaching and allegations of cheating among junior sailors. The two camps seemed to be talking past each other. On the one hand we had folk like myself who believe that racing should be all about the individual competing alone without any outside assistance or coaching during the racing day; and on the other hand the people who think that on-the-water coaching during regattas is not only OK, but normal, fair and even necessary.

It struck me that the divide in our attitudes to regatta coaching reflects a deeper divide in the sailing community. The difference in attitudes is a product of two very different styles of sailing institutions to which sailors belong.

I'm going to call these two types of clubs "sailing clubs" and "yacht clubs" for the sake of discussion although
, just to confuse the issue, some of the organizations that fall into my "sailing club" category actually call themselves yacht clubs. Perhaps this sociological divide in the sailing world is a US phenomenon only; I'm sure my readers from other countries can let us know whether a similar split exists in other parts of the world. And before anyone challenges me I plead guilty in advance to exaggeration, over-simplification and painting in black and white. I know the real world has shades of grey with many clubs falling between my two extreme descriptions. But hey, it's more fun to exaggerate.

So what are the differences between yacht clubs and sailing clubs?

A yacht club usually has a grand old building and hundreds of feet of waterfront. The building has a dining room and a bar and a trophy room and maybe even a ballroom. There are vast changing rooms with lockers and showers. There's probably a veranda overlooking the water.

A sailing club may or may not have a building. One sailing club I belonged to didn't have one; another just had a shed to store some equipment. If a sailing club does have a small clubhouse it may have been built by the members; it is probably maintained by them.

A yacht club exists to provide its members with sailing and dining and dances and parties. Apart from the fact that it has sailing it is really a part of the whole country club/ golf club industry. Some people are members only for the dining and they never sail.

A sailing club provides its members with sailing and a place to hang out with friends before and after sailing.

A yacht club has a lot of employees to provide services to its members. There is probably a General Manager and an Executive Chef and a Secretary and a Controller and a Banquet Manager and a Maintenance Manager and a Waterfront Director and a Communications Director and guys who mow the lawns and guys who drive the launches and guys and gals who work in the kitchen and waiters and bar staff and... you get the picture.

At a sailing club almost everything necessary to run the club is done by volunteers from the membership.

A yacht club has a junior program. It employs a team of instructors who run classes for the members' kids at the club all summer. The instructors take the kids to regattas where every other kid is part of a team from a yacht club. The instructors look after their kids well at regattas by driving a coach boat to carry the kids' spare gear and lunches, and they provide some coaching to the kids between races.

A sailing club has a junior program. Some of the adult members run classes for the kids at weekends and organize some junior racing. Some of the parents occasionally take their kids to regattas at other local sailing clubs, where they push the kids off from the beach and watch the regatta from the shore.

Do you see what I am saying? There are two totally different types of club; two different worlds. I'm not saying one is right and one is wrong; they are just different. There are friendly, helpful, welcoming people in both sailing clubs and yacht clubs. There are excellent sailors in both types of club. You can learn to sail and make new friends and have a wonderful time on the water in both types of institution.

But they are very different. And, in particular, they differ in the way they run their junior programs, and from that follows our heated differences about whether on-the-water coaching during regattas is a good thing or not.

What about you? Do you belong to a sailing club or a yacht club?

Or Would You Rather be a Dolphin?

"Humans think they are smarter than dolphins because we build cars and buildings and start wars etc...and all that dolphins do is swim in the water, eat fish and play around. Dolphins believe that they are smarter for exactly the same reasons."
— Douglas Adams

Have You Ever Seen The Rain?

Have I ever seen the rain, John?

Have I ever.

Our local Laser dealer is now offering boat demos in their parking lot.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

College Nationals on ESPNU

After all the negative talk here lately by us old geezers ranting on about young sailors and the supposed prevalence of cheating (even in the Optimist Green Fleet says BJ Porter!) and those damned Mommy Boats... it was a pleasure this evening to watch (thanks to the wonders of the DVR and my bloated cable subscription) the 2009 Gill College Nationals on the ESPNU channel.

I must admit I didn't have high hopes of the program when I started to watch it. I mean, I love small boat racing but watching it on TV? It would surely be excruciatingly boring, right? Not so...

Good breeze on San Francisco Bay with some nice surfing conditions downwind. Close races. On-board cameras. The ultimate winner not decided until the last set. Even Gary Jobson managed not to spoil it for me.

And what great kids. I have sailed against some of these skippers in Lasers (way behind them of course) and one or two of them have appeared on Proper Course before. The program has an interview with Paul Cayard where he admits that these superb young sailors would blow him away in short course dinghy racing.

So if you have access to ESPNU and you need something to remind you of all that is good about young people in our sport, try and catch the show. It will air again at the following times...

Wednesday, July 1 at 3:00am
Thursday, July 2 at 7:00pm
Friday, July 3 at 2:00pm
Friday, July 3 at 8:00pm
Thursday, July 9 at 7:00pm
Friday, July 10 at 3:00am
(all times eastern).

Picture Challenge

What is happening here?

And I don't want an answer like "too many well-dressed men in two small boats doing something with a barrel". I want to know specifically what significant event is being commemorated here.

Clue #1: Location
Clue #2: Flag

I know I have smart readers. Let's see how long it takes for the first person to figure it out.

Update: Congratulations to Greg who found the answer by using The Google. The event in the picture marks the handover of the Presidency of the European Union from the Czech Republic to Sweden. A barrel of beer from a boat rowed by the Czech minister for EU affairs, Stefan Fule, was passed to a boat with a delegation from the Swedish embassy, in the middle of the Vltava River in Prague last Saturday. Thanks to ROWING FOR PLEASURE for drawing this historic event of boating symbolism to our attention.

How much more moving the inauguration of Barack Obama would have been if he and George W. Bush had sailed a couple of Lasers out to the middle of the Potomac last January, and George had handed over a barrel of presidential ale to our new President.

Fire and Rain

Oh geeze. As if all this rain weren't bad enough.

Now James is seeing fires as well.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Is cheating common in sailboat racing? Are some coaches teaching kids to cheat? Do you have to cheat to win these days?

I am prompted to ask myself these questions as a result of some of the comments and debate swirling around in response to my post calling to Ban Mommy Boats NOW. My intent in raising the subject of the activities of coach boats on the race course was to draw attention to something that I find annoying and that gives some sailors what I think is an unfair advantage over others. But, as long as the coaching only happens before or after races it is within the Racing Rules of Sailing, and I would not describe such coaching as "cheating". However, as often happens, the discussion veered off into describing other actions that could be defined as cheating: illegal propulsion, not taking penalties after infringing rules... and even of coaches teaching such behaviors.

I don't like to hear such stuff. I don't want to believe it's true. I think that sometimes we are much too ready to accuse fellow sailors of cheating. Am I living in a dream world by thinking like this?

First of all let's define what cheating is... and what it is not. In the context of sailboat racing I would define cheating as deliberately breaking a rule in order to gain some kind of advantage, or accidentally infringing a rule and then deliberately not choosing to take the appropriate penalty. There has to be some element of malicious intent.

What so often happens when racing is that different sailors see or remember the facts of what happened in a particular situation differently; o
r the sailors have different understandings of the relevant rules or how to interpret them. In such circumstances it is ridiculous and unsportsmanlike to accuse a fellow sailor of "cheating".

Let me give you a couple of examples...

When I wrote my review of the Advanced Laser Boat Handling DVD a few weeks back, an anonymous commenter immediately pounced on the video clip from the DVD of a light air gybe...

It’s interesting that the clip you chose to show (the light air jibe) shows the sailor violating the rules of propulsion, by coming out of the jibe faster than going in. I have several other training DVD’s and they all seem to train and advocate the same thing. (One even says to do this carefully so as not to alert the refs.) What gives?
Shock horror! Coaches are teaching illegal propulsion! Deliberate cheating!

Not so fast. Thanks to the power of the sailing blogging community, fellow blogger and International Judge, Jos Spijkerman soon responded...

I'm at the Delta Lloyd Regatta and just showed this Video to the current ISAF rules 42 specialist, Sofia Truchanowicz. She informed me that the gybe is within the current interpretation of rule 42 and this manoeuvre is legal.
A great example of how different sailors interpret a particular action differently. Many of us might see gybes on the racecourse like the ones one in the clip and be quick to think we are seeing an example of "cheating". Not so, according to the ISAF expert.

Or what about the incident I described in No Go? A starboard tacker responds to a hail of "Tack or cross?" with an answer of "Go!" and then protests the port tacker for trying to cross ahead of him. Absolutely shameless behavior! Definite cheating!

Actually not so. Read the full story and you will see that it's actually a comedy of errors by both sailors. Stupid maybe. Laughable certainly. Not cheating.

So let's agree that lack of knowledge of the rules, not knowing how to interpret the rules, honest mistakes, different perceptions of the facts of an incident, poor boat-handling etc. etc. are not "cheating".

But still the question remains. Is there much cheating at sailing regattas these days? Does Tillerman need to get his head out of the boat and see what's happening all around him?

Perhaps. Maybe I am too ready to give the benefit of the doubt to my fellow sailors. Here is how I try to deal with rules incidents as they occur on the racecourse...

If I see you infringe a rule I will tell you... once, and only once. If it's a typical boat-to-boat rules incident I will simply hail "Protest" possibly with your sail number if there's any doubt which boat I am protesting. If it's what looks like a blatant illegal propulsion issue I will simply tell you to tone it down. Then I will forget about it and move on with my race. I won't get angry. I won't scream and shout. I will not get into a slanging match with you about the incident. I'm here to sail my race and enjoy myself. If I'm spending time arguing with you about the rules I'm not concentrating on my own race.

And here's the dirty little secret I don't actually want you to know: if you don't do your turns I won't actually file a protest against you after the race. Life's too short to spend my evening in the protest room instead of the bar. If you know you infringed a rule, do your turns. If you don't, then you are a cheat, and you have lost my respect for ever. If we have a genuine difference of opinion about the facts or a different understanding of the rules, then we may have a polite discussion after racing about the incident. As a result one of us may decide to retire from that race. Or maybe not. I hope that at least we can shake hands and part as friends and that neither of us will be tempted to use the C-word.

So am I letting cheaters get away with it by not following through on protests? Am I living in a dream world in not wanting to believe that cheating is going on all around me on the race course? Is cheating in sailing as common as some people claim? Do some coaches really teach cheating?

Let it Rain

Eric! Stop it!

It's raining enough already without you calling for more.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Saturday Speedlinks

Gavin Atkin tells us What's Wrong With Yachts

Leo Babauta explains The Simple Fitness Rules

and Jeff Galloway reassures us that Your Best Running May Be After 40.

All music to my ears. Enjoy.

Hard Rain

Amazing! There's no rain in the forecast for today. Can that be right? It won't seem like June if it doesn't rain every day.

But it is supposed to rain tonight, and for the next four days. I will need to find some more rain songs.

Update: First drops of rain fell at 3:29 pm while I was mowing the lawn. Another beautiful June day in New England.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Sailing and Tennis

The Scuttlebutt article that triggered my post Ban Mommy Boats NOW also has a lot of constructive comments. Here are some excellent observations on the issue from Mike Moore, including a very appropriate analogy on the protocols for coaching during competition in tennis.

I don't mind that a sailor and a coach might spend hours in training refining tuning. I don't mind that a coached sailor may get a tow to and/or from the racing area. And I don't mind that the coached sailor can benefit from the coaches observations at the end of the day.

Where I grow frustrated is where the coached sailor is told that the current at the mark is such and such, rather than discovering that for himself. Or where the coached sailor has different sails available on the water rather than having to decide for the day at the dock. Or where the coached sailor can feel comfortable under-rigging his boat because he has spare parts available to him on the water.

Tennis may be a good analogy to the compromise I'd propose. Those who want to employ and learn from coaches can. The coach can be in the stadium and observe, but while competing, the coach and the athlete have no communication. After the match is when the coach and athlete can discuss what the coach observed. In sailing, the coach can be on the water, and observe what is happening on the course; but from the first warning to the last finish for the day, no communication is allowed between the coach and sailor (safety issues the only exception). Back on the tow, or at the dock, the coach is free to tell the sailor what he observed; but the sailor has had to make the same decisions for himself that the un-coached sailor has during the course of the day.

Oh, and keep the coaches the heck out of the starting area. Well away. There is nothing worse than having to keep track of a coach boat in a crowded starting area.

Bravo sir! An excellent analogy and I'm sure Maria Sharapova would agree.

iPhone Wind Meter

I thought I had seen it all but now there is a Wind Meter app for the iPhone. It works by measuring the volume of the wind on the iPhone microphone and converts it into a wind speed reading. To use, you simply point the microphone into the wind and push Get Wind, wait a few seconds and push Got Wind. The final reading is the average of the period.

Hmmm. I wonder if this is at all accurate?

And what next? An app to calculate the current at the windward mark while I am hanging out in the start area? An app to automatically generate a Rule 42 protest form against that kid and email it to the protest committee? The possibilities are endless. Watch this space.

Update: According to Panbo: The Marine Electronics Weblog it really works.

Early Morning Rain

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Invasive Coaching

My post calling to Ban Mommy Boats NOW seems to have generated a lot of interest. Thanks to the various sites that linked to the post... and especially to Peter Huston who gave me a shout-out on the front page of Sailing Anarchy today in an excellent article Social Distortion, all about what's wrong with our sport today.

There has been a lively discussion in the comments to the original post. So far I have been called a "bad loser", a "coach hater" and admonished that it's about time I "learned to sail"! Oh well. Par for the course I suppose.

But here is one comment in full (from the ubiquitous Anonymous) which does I think have some excellent observations on coaching...

Coaching is an important part of growing as a competitive sailor. The real issue here is when and how kids are being coached.

A great coach can give a racer the skillset to make the smart choices on the water themselves. A great coach can also give a racer an understanding of why things - good and bad - went the way they did.

Invasive coaching is the real problem here. It's less teaching and more instruction following

If a kid is told to "stay left" without knowing why, then how is that going to help him/her down the road.

Additionally, we need to keep in mind these are young kids and we want to keep them in the sport of sailing as life long sailors - something that isn't happening as much today.

It also needs to be fun and that means all the kids interacting together - sailing out to the course together, rafted up at lunchtime, occasional bailer fights.

Jr. Sailors are the building blocks of future, and hopefully, lifelong sailors. If we teach them that to be successful you need money or unfair advantage then that's what we'll be seeing 10 years from now when they start showing up on Wednesday nights protesting you for not having your MOB Pole properly stowed.

Couldn't have said it better myself.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Words of Wisdom... and Some Questions

Some words of wisdom from the best book ever written on self-coaching in sailing: Sail, Race and Win by Eric Twiname...

Many people rely on racing as virtually their only way of learning to race more successfully. Yet race experience alone is of limited value. More racing does not necessarily mean better results. Often it brings the opposite...

To improve a technique, tacking for example, you must experiment. Experimenting means that you will be doing some tacks worse than usual... During a race you are reluctant to experiment because... it would be crazy to do something deliberately which you know would make you worse...

Normal race experience on its own tends to confirm you in what you are doing already....

Maximum benefit comes from a broad range of learning methods of which racing is only one.

Twiname goes on to list these other "ways of learning"....

  • Observation
  • Solo practice
  • Crewing
  • Physical fitness
  • Swapping boats and classes
  • Paired practice
  • Team and match racing
  • Race post mortem
  • Reading and seeking advice
  • Group coaching
  • Mental fitness

What do you think? Is it possible to race too much? Do you agree that racing "tends to confirm you in what you are doing already" (which may not be optimal)? Does it make sense that you could race less and improve faster? Are you using some of Twiname's other "ways of learning"?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


It was the last race of the day and my plan was to go left. It had taken me all afternoon but I had finally realised that it was more than a fluke that the guys on the left were crossing ahead of me in every race.

I started a couple of boat lengths up from the pin which was favored. I'm no big fan of trying to win the pin even in a small fleet. Too many things can go wrong especially for a sailor as uncoordinated and clumsy as me.

So I powered off the line and kept going left as most of the fleet tacked on to port behind me. The boat that did win the pin found a small header and tacked on to port too. I dug into the header further and then tacked.

Two thirds of the way up the beat I was looking good. I was ahead and to leeward of the two boats that were closest to me. If I tacked I could probably cross them, but was it worth doing three more tacks with the windward mark coming up fast?

I should have tacked earlier. Instead I tacked on the starboard tack layline and sailed right into a header. Ugh. The other two boats caught me and we rounded the mark together.

I pulled off one of the best windward mark roundings of my life. Pure chance. But I stayed in the hiking straps and bore away on to a beam reach blowing over the guy who was first at the mark. The wind had gone way left but was still very shifty, so the "run" was a mix of various angles of broad reach. I worked the sail constantly, sheeting in fast on every header and easing fast on every lift. All that pumping and easing worked like a charm and I pulled out a lead of several boat lengths by the time we reached the leeward gate.

I rounded the upwind side of the gate and tacked immediately. The wind had gone so far left that I could lay the finish line. I sailed to the finish on a tight planing reach, laughing and whooping and hollering. I love it when a plan comes together.

OK. OK. It was the only race I won all afternoon, but even so it felt good to finish off the day with a win...

And OK, this wasn't some major regatta. Merely a return visit last Saturday afternoon to the lake where they have this informal racing/practice scene that I described last year in Just Six Laser Dudes Racing Round a Sausage. Not exactly the same six dudes as last year, but five of the six sailors on Saturday were in the top six at last year's regatta here, the one I described in Just One of Those Days, so we were pretty evenly matched.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Mommy Boats: The Other Side of the Argument

There has been a whole lot of discussion in the comments to my post calling to Ban Mommy Boats NOW. In the interests of fairness, I am also posting this email from James Barton who seems to know a lot more about the practices at major US Optimist championships than I do...
Tillerman may be being a bit tough on our current crop of Opti sailors.

For those of you who have never been to an Opti Championship, here's how it breaks down: Most big regattas require that every sailor have a coach or a parent on the water, remember these are little kids, often 8 or 9 years old. Most of the kids are members of a Yacht Club Team, or other Racing Team of some sort, that already has a coach. Teams over 9 or 10 sailors sometimes have two coaches. Small teams some times "join forces" as there are two or three races going on at the same time.

I am not aware of anyone at this years team trials who had a private coach, although I have seen it at other regattas. There is absolutely nothing wrong with coaches taking wind readings and passing them along to the team before the start. Although at the Team Trials I have attended, the race committees were very communicative and broadcast all race committee activities on VHF radio for everyone to hear. If you want to know the wind direction at the weather mark, all you had to do was listen to your radio.

These coaches are rarely highly paid and perform a great service to the sport by teaching the kids, respect for the rules, and respect for each other. To think that any of them are teaching the kids to cheat is ridiculous.

Thanks James. Always good to hear well reasoned arguments from both sides of the issue.

I guess I have no real objection to the use of coach boats at Optimist and other junior regattas if, as you imply, all sailors have equal access to support and information from the coaches (which does not seem to have been the case at the event
covered at Youth Coaching which triggered this whole current debate.)

I'm still not convinced that it's fair at any regatta for only some sailors to have this advantage. And I am totally against the use of Mommy Boats at events for REAL Laser sailors such as Laser Masters events. Ban Mommy Boats NOW.

Laser Killer?

Regular readers of this blog may be forgiven for thinking that I am a totally rabid, fanatical Laser zealot. It's really not true. Much as I like my Laser, I am realistic enough to know that the Laser will not for ever maintain its position as the most popular, most competitive, most fun single-handed sailing class in the world. Sooner or later a new boat will come along to displace the Laser from that role... the Laser Killer. But what kind of boat will it be? And have we seen it yet?

I'm inclined to think that the Laser Killer will not be one of those high performance trapezing classes such as the Musto Performance Skiff, RS700, Swift Solo or A-Cat. Exciting as those boats look, I feel that they probably demand too high a level of skill, and perhaps are also too expensive, to ever be mass-market boats as the Laser Killer surely will be.

Having had the opportunity at Minorca Sailing a couple of years ago to play around sailing boats with asymmetric spinnakers I do think that the Laser Killer will be an asymmetric single-hander. The spinnakers add a whole new dimension and excitement to downwind sailing from every aspect... boatspeed, excitement, strategy and tactics.

So the Laser Killer will probably be a hiking asymmetric singlehander using modern materials and technology; easy to learn to sail but hard to learn to sail well; robust and easily transportable; not too expensive and marketed worldwide. What will it be?

About ten years ago I saw the MX-Ray at a boat show and thought it might be the Laser Killer. But it never really took off and I don't believe it is manufactured any longer. Anyone know why?


Some years after that I was writing about the Hoot and wondering whether this was going to be the Laser Killer. But according to the News page on the manufacturer's website they are still tinkering with the design of the prototype and are continuing "to move towards final production." Hmmm. Seems like they were saying much the same three years ago. Not a good sign.


Then only last week we heard about the prototype of a new asymmetric single-hander from RS Racing, the much anticipated RS100.



The RS100 is from the drawing board of Paul Handley, designer of the very successful smaller boats in the RS line-up, so that's a good sign. Along with RS Racing's long experience as a manufacturer of small racing boats and dealers in twenty countries around the world, there is every chance that the RS100 will be just as successful as their other products. Their aim is to "create a responsive design that will appeal to all good single-handed sailors – giving an achievable challenge and a boat that is suited to most club waters as well as championship courses." Hmmm. Sounds like this could be the Laser Killer.

Apparently RS Racing have invited their dealers from other countries to visit the UK within the next few weeks "to sail the prototypes and give feedback from a truly international perspective." And the plan is to launch the boat on the market early in 2010, for the class to "build globally from the outset", and for the first world championship to be scheduled "in the second year of its life", presumably 2011.

Hmmm. Will the RS100 be the Laser Killer? What do you think?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ban Mommy Boats NOW

There has been a lot of buzz in the sailing blogosphere this week about one of the greatest threats to the spirit of Corinthian sailing... those pesky coach boats, a.k.a. Mommy Boats.

First of all Scuttlebutt drew attention to a problem caused by Mommy Boats at the Optimist Team Trials (which are used to select the US Optimist sailors to be sent to major events around the world each year.) One young man who sailed
in the trials, Bradley Adam revealed that "some kids had coaches upwind who radioed back to the starting line what the breeze was doing at the windward mark." Oh come on! That's not fair. It may be strictly legal within the Racing Rules of Sailing (as long as it is done before the prep signal) but the parents who are paying multiple coaches to help their kids with tricks like this are doing everyone a disservice.

Then Earwigoagin wrote a post about the Laser Atlantic Coast Radials and the annoyance caused to many sailors by so many Mommy Boats buzzing about the race course. Jacob D left a comment on this post saying...
I was also disturbed by the last minute instructions to those with coach support. That just isn't right! Isn't there a FAIR SAILING rule (RRS #2)? The SIs should be written in such a way that this isn't possible.
Indeed they should Jacob D. We should either prohibit coach boats in the Sailing Instructions or, even better, classes should decide to ban the pestilence altogether from their regattas. According to Scuttlebutt (again), the Star class recently voted to address this issue by prohibiting "all contact between athletes and coaches after leaving the harbor until the end of the last day race of the day." Right on!

And check out what Susie Pegel said about REAL Laser sailors this week.
A REAL Laser sailor is someone who drives their own boat to a regatta and sails the event unaided by coaches or support boats.

Enough is enough. I'm mad as hell about Mommy Boats and I'm not going to take it any more. So please urge regatta organizers to use their regatta SIs to ban coaches providing unfair assistance to the select few who feel the need win so badly that they will resort to such dubious measures. And please campaign within your class association to persuade your class to adopt a rule banning communication between coaches and sailors from the time the sailors leave the dock until the time the last race of the day is finished.

I know this is going to be a tough fight. There is a whole generation of young sailors who don't know how to race without their Mommies or their surrogate Mommies helping them. There are a whole bunch of guys and gals making money by "coaching" at regattas. (But please don't misunderstand me. I'm not against coaches earning a living by training sailors outside of regattas. I just don't want you making the game unfair during regattas.)

And fellow Laser Master sailors... can't we at least agree to ban the use of Mommy Boats at Laser Masters regattas? Do we want to be "REAL Laser sailors" like Susie Pegel or to be more like the spoiled rich kids at those youth regattas?

So join the campaign. Let's Ban Mommy Boats NOW.

Update: to be fair, check out also The Other Side of the Argument.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Cat

Another in the series of "photos of cool single-handed sailboats that I am either too clumsy or too cheap to sail." This one was stolen from the Hall Spars & Rigging Facebook page and shows Ben Hall at the A Cat Intergalactic Championships in Islamorada, FL.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dolphin Play Bubble Rings

For an explanation of what you see in the video check out Mystery of the Silver Rings.

Susie Pegel - A REAL Laser Sailor

Susie Pegel had a letter published in Scuttlebutt yesterday saying she had come across the topic on-line, "7 reasons to hate Laser sailors." Hmmm. I wonder where that came from originally?

She went on to say that it all depends on defining what is a REAL Laser sailor. She suggests...

  1. A REAL Laser sailor is someone that has been sailing and racing a Laser since the early '70s and is still at it today.

  2. A REAL Laser sailor is someone who has always had a Laser even while campaigning a different type of boat.

  3. A REAL Laser sailor is someone who has upgraded their equipment and techniques and has stayed active in the class.

  4. A REAL Laser sailor is someone who drives their own boat to a regatta and sails the event unaided by coaches or support boats.

  5. A REAL Laser sailor keeps at it because he/she loves the boat, the fellowship and the freedom of NO CREWS.

  6. A REAL Laser sailor is someone like Dick Tillman, not Brodie Cobb.

  7. If you want to see REAL Laser sailors in action, go to a Laser Master's regatta!
Well said Susie. I like that concept.

I guess I only qualify as a REAL Laser sailor on 6 of your 7 criteria (assuming you will allow me that, at least in personal behavior if not in skill, I am more like Dick Tillman than Brodie Cobb.) I fail the first test in that I didn't get into Lasers until the early 80's. Hope that's not a problem.

For those who don't know her, Susie is certainly a REAL Laser sailor. I'm pretty sure that she passes all 7 of her own tests and, more impressively, is also the only woman ever to have won a Laser North American Championship. Not Radial NAs. Not Womens NAs. An Open Laser NAs against all-comers. You can check it out in the archives.

1980 Laser North Americans
  1. Susan Pegel
  2. Russel Coutts
  3. Andy Pimental
  4. Svend Neilson
  5. Andy Roy
Yup. She even had to beat some kid called Russel Coutts. And she still races in major Laser events, especially Masters regattas, and regularly beats most of the men. Most recently she placed 27th out of 95 in the 2009 Laser Masters North Americans.

Susie Pegel is a REAL Laser sailor.

OK, OK. I know that photo at the top of the post shows her helming a Star (in which she has also had a distinguished career.) But check out Rule #2 for REAL Laser sailors. Anyway I couldn't find a picture of her in a Laser.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Musto Skiff

Photo © Tania Samus / www.photoblink.co.uk

The Musto Skiff is a single-hander that I would sail...
  • if I were a much better sailor than I really am
  • if I lived anywhere near an active fleet
  • if I knew how to trapeze
  • in my dreams.
The photo above is from the report in Yachts and Yachting about the Musto Skiff Open Event at Whitstable Yacht Club last weekend. Just a few snippets from the Y&Y article will give you an idea of how much "fun" these babies are...

Andy Peake will learn to tie bigger knots or will buy 6mm rope for his trapeze adjusters; whilst sending it on the run in the second race (in second place) his adjusters were down to the knots and as he bounced over a wave the first knot pulled through the cleat .... oh no ... before he could do anything he bounced over another wave resulting in the final knot running through the cleat and from there on it was swimming all the way...

Graeme Oliver was another unfortunate who having sailed 3 good races was on his way to a 4th good result when he went over the handlebars with his foot in the strap ... this lead to twisted knee ligaments and no sailing on the Sunday...

Comedy moment of the race (well for those behind them anyway) was class chairman Simon Reynolds squandering a nailed on 4th place with an impressive windward wipe out taking Russ Clark out in the process...

Mick Keates & Ron Barnes who both completed all 4 races on Saturday in conditions that can only be described as full on ... they showed some of the whipper snappers that experience, guts and bloody mindedness are key qualities for MPS sailing in these conditions...

"Experience, guts and bloody mindedness." Hmmm. Maybe I could handle a Musto Skiff?

Photo © Tania Samus / www.photoblink.co.uk

Monday, June 08, 2009

Wetass Laser Surfing Loopiness

This one is for you, Joe.

Seven Sailor Light Bulb Jokes

Here are seven very lame light bulb jokes to kick off Carol Anne's group writing project...

How many high school sailors does it take to change a light bulb?
Three. One to change the bulb, one to be a witness, and one to file the protest.

How many Finn sailors does it take to change a light bulb?
Four. One to hold the bulb and three to rotate the ladder.

How many Star sailors does it take to change a light bulb?
115. One to hold the bulb and 114 to rotate the house.

How many Force 5 sailors does it take to change a light bulb?
Irrelevant. There aren't any Force 5 sailors left. They all burned their boats and bought Lasers.

How many Sunfish sailors does it take to change a light bulb?
None. The class rules don't allow the light bulb to be changed.

How many Moth sailors does it take to change a light bulb?
Meaningless question. The light bulb was eliminated to save weight.

How many Laser sailors does it take to change a light bulb?
None. Laser sailors aren't afraid of the dark.

Light Bulb Jokes for Sailors

This week's group writing project is not from me. It's from Carol Anne of Five O'Clock Somewhere. She challenges you to create a light bulb joke with the format "How many ____ sailors does it take to change a light bulb? ____, (because) ____."

For example, "How many Etchells sailors does it take to change a light bulb? It doesn't matter, because they're all busy bragging about their fraculators."

Hmmm. I have no idea what a "fraculator" is, but I guess you get the idea. Full details of how to participate at the bottom of Technology has been unkind to me.

So go across to Five O'Clock Somewhere and help Carol Anne set a new world record for number of entries in a sailing blog group writing project. The current record is only 31 for the Lists project last month. I'm sure we can beat that. I mean, how hard is it to think of a light bulb joke and insult some fellow sailors in the process? Go for it. Do it now.

And while you are at Five O'Clock Somewhere check out some of Carol Anne's stories about sailing such as Ready to sail? and Dismasted! "It's like sex" says Carol Anne. (I think she means sailing, not getting dismasted.)

OK. So dream up some light bulb jokes and enter them in Carol Anne's group writing project. No whining Joe; just do it. Don't leave the jokes here. This is all about helping Carol Anne set the new world record. Do it now.

Solo Open Delph

Many, many moons ago when I was a young lad of 30 years or so of age and I was thinking about whether to take up sailing, I attended a meeting for potential new members at Maidenhead Sailing Club which is west of London in the Thames Valley.

I suspect that most clubs hold "meetings" like this and that they are all much the same. I was forced to drink a few beers while various enthusiastic chappies told me about what a jolly old time they had at Maidenhead SC and especially how the particular class of boat that each chappie sailed was the perfect one for me. I almost fell for the pitch from the Solo chappie. It was after the third, or maybe fourth, pint of beer I believe, that he took me outside to show me his pride and joy in the boat park. It looked pretty snazzy even in the dark.

After that evening I was pretty well set on buying a Solo and joining MSC.

I didn't. I ended up buying a Laser and joining the club at Taplow Lake just down the road. It made sense at the time for reasons I don't fully recall. It was almost 30 years ago.

But if I had gone the Solo route, and if I had not moved to America, I might have been in that photo...of some Solos racing at the Delph Sailing Club Open Meeting on Saturday.

It wouldn't have been so terrible, don't you think?

By the way, where the hell is Delph?

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Anti-social networking

After trying Facebook and Twitter I have finally figured out what these anti-social networking services are really about. The chart says it all.

Saturday Speedlinks

Scuba on the Rhone, dancing on the decks, Jimmy Buffet night on the boat from bvi captains log blog. What a life! Warning: includes pictures of ladies in swimsuits.

In Whether to Pay Attention to the Weather Jay agonizes over whether or not to travel to that regatta depending on whether or not the weather forecast is saying whether or not the weather will be wetter or not. Or something like that. I'm just the same.

And for you racing sailors, especially Laserites, some great observations and ideas on how to recover from a bad start with The Great Escape by Scott Young, someone who actually merits the title of 'Laser Master'.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Evelyn's Drive-in

Last Sunday the family stopped in for lunch at the famous Rhode Island landmark, Evelyn's Drive-in, just down the road from us in Tiverton. So for today's Fish on Fridays feature you can enjoy the photo of Evelyn's lobster salad plate with french fries.

Thanks to one food guy for the photo, and for a much longer review and many more photos of Evelyn's at The BEST Lobster Roll at Evelyn's Drive-in.

Doesn't that beat one of Joe Rouse's pictures of ladies in swimsuits?

Group Writing Projects: Why?

One of the features of this blog for a while now has been the "group writing project". I suggest a topic. Other bloggers and blog lurkers write a post (or two) on that topic. I post links here to their contributions. Everyone can read a bunch of articles on the same topic. That's it. Easy. Maybe even occasionally fun.

Here are some (maybe all) of the group writing projects we have run so far.

May 2009 Lists 31
Nov 2008 Guess Who's Coming to Dinner 16
Oct 2008 Bucket List 14
Sep 2008 Best Sailing Innovation 25
July 2008 Heyitwasgreat 9
June 2008 Sailing Goals 11
May 2008 Learning Experiences 19
June 2007 Race Committee Screw-ups 6
May 2007 Worst Sailing Mistakes 14
Dec 2006 Inspiration 10

The numbers after each link in the list above are the number of entries I received for each project... 155 in all, I make it. Did I miss any?

Lately there's been some whining and complaining about these projects. Certain people have been acting as if I am some kind of heavy-handed taskmaster forcing them to stay up all night to complete these onerous writing assignments. For example, see Damn You Tillerman.

Nothing could be further from the truth, of course. People, at least some people, seem to like responding to my occasional suggestion of topics for them to write about. I wonder why?

I have no idea really. So why do you participate in these pretty pointless prose projects? What's in it for you? What do you like about these projects? What don't you like? Answers in the comments please.

Oh shit. I seem to have set you another writing assignment. Damn you Tillerman!

Oh well. Can't be helped now. There will be another group writing project coming up in the next few days. Watch this space...