Monday, August 31, 2009

Where's Waldo?

Where's Waldo? No wait. I mean, where's Tillerman?

The photo above is (most of) Team USA at the Laser Masters Worlds being sailed in Nova Scotia this week. Regular readers of this blog will know that the Masters Worlds is one of my favorite events as I wrote extensively here about all the fun I had at the last two Worlds in Australia and Spain.

There are a lot of familiar faces of old sailing friends in that photo. But I'm not there.

I should be there. I qualified to enter (not actually very hard). I beat the rush and entered on time. My entry was accepted.

But then I had to withdraw because my son decided to get married next weekend. I did briefly consider whether I could make both of these major events. After all the wedding isn't until Sunday... but no, it wouldn't work. The last race on Saturday could start as late as just two hours before the rehearsal dinner which is 824 miles away from the regatta site. Not practical.

So I will go to the wedding instead and look forward to the 2010 Laser Masters Worlds in England. Only 378 days to go!

But I can follow the 2009 regatta vicariously (not often you see that word on a sailing blog) through the bloggers that are sailing in it and/or writing about it. It's a very complicated event because there are 297 sailors who are actually competing in seven different fleets depending on their age group and which rig they choose, Standard or Radial. It's actually even more complex than that because one of the fleets is so large that they have had to break it down into two fleets with a qualifying series first.

So here are the bloggers covering the event that I know of so far. Please let me know if you find any others...

Kim Ferguson, whose husband Scott is racing in the Masters (age 45-54) Standard Rig Division, has a post about the first day's racing Some pretty good sailors comin' from little Rhody which concentrates on how well the top sailors from the Newport Laser Fleet, including her husband, are doing against some very high quality competition.

Dave Sliom from the rival Laser fleet in Annapolis, Maryland is also in the Masters Standard Division. He is one of those guys who sailed Lasers many years ago, then went off and did keelboats for a while, but came back to Lasers about 18 months ago because of the "simple beauty of the Laser". Sounds as if he is really having a blast doing Masters event. Read all about his first day at the Worlds in Day 1.

Let's see. Newport - check. Annapolis - check. Anybody there from the other top-notch Laser frostbite fleet on the east coast of the US, Cedar Point YC at Westport in Connecticut? Of course, there's a bunch, including blogger Marc Jacobi who tells us all about his First day. When I sailed at Cedar Point, Marc was regularly the fleet champion and very much the informal coach and advisor who was always helping the rest of us to improve our sailing. I think I am right in saying that Marc is one of only two Laser sailors who has qualified and sailed in every US Olympic Trials since the Laser became an Olympic boat (the other being Kurt Taulbee.) Marc is also in the Masters Standard Division and doing pretty well so far.

And here's yet another sailor in that division. Tracy Usher from the San Francisco Bay area, also by the way president of the North American Laser Class, has posted 2009 Masters Worlds Day One. Wow, this guy must have a photographic memory. His account of the second race retells every shift, every tack, every competitor ducked or crossed... or so it seems. Well I guess when you can score a second place finish in this level of competition you do remember all the details. Well done Tracy.

Finally we have Dr J, the author of Favored End, who is sailing in the Great Grandmasters (over 65) Radial Fleet, and who (I think) is also from Annapolis. He is a recent convert to Laser Masters sailing after racing other dinghies and small keelboats for most of his life. He has posted an account of the First Day of Racing but my favorite post on his blog is Couch Potato, about his unique method for getting fit for Laser sailing.

Reading all these blogs makes me wish I was out there on St. Margaret's Bay racing with these guys. Oh well. Can't be helped. I had better give some thought to that father-of-the-groom speech for the rehearsal dinner on Saturday. Anybody got any ideas?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Proper Course: The Laser Experience!

You have read the blog. Now you can experience Laser sailing Tillerman-style by signing up for Proper Course: The Laser Experience!

Exclusively for readers of Proper Course we are now offering a very special adventure. Come to a Laser sailing seminar in Rhode Island run by the one and only Tillerman.

Those other Laser clinics say they will teach you how to win races. But can you really believe them?

Proper Course: The Laser Experience! is different. We will teach you how to solidify your status as a mid-fleet mediocrity and how to relish your obscurity. With our many years of experience we have plenty of information to share and many new ideas and “secrets” that you will learn only from us.

Our coach
With vast ineffective racing experience in the Laser and Sunfish classes, and a veteran of four unsuccessful Laser Masters Worlds campaigns, Tillerman understands the needs of mid-fleet muddlers and back-of-the-fleet bozos alike. Tillerman's clumsiness and ability to spend hours on the water discovering different ways to make a Laser go even slower are legendary.

Sample Seminar Schedule

Day 1: Rigging and boat handling

21 wrong ways to rig a Laser

7 ways to screw up mark roundings including...

13 different wrong ways to gybe

9 different tacking technique mistakes.

Develop your own personal style for losing Laser races.

Day 2: Physical fitness

Experience Tillerman's unique approach to sailing unfitness.

Before breakfast we will practice the patented "run walk run-slower walk-even-slower stop-and-rest" workout method. Train your mind and body to "taper" your physical performance so that even if by some fluke you win the start, you will still slip back to mid-fleet or worse by the end of each race.

After breakfast we will learn how riding a bike on the back lanes of Tiverton and Little Compton will maintain your weight in the target "fatties-sail-slow zone". We will be stopping at Provender at Four Corners for mid-morning sandwiches, followed by Grays for triple scoop ice-creams, and then lunch at Evelyn's enjoying clam cakes and chowder, the special two pound fried seafood platter and their signature lobster chow mein, finishing with apple pie and ice cream all washed down with a few jars of Newport Storm beer.

(Afternoon Laser practice optional but unlikely.)

Day 3: Starting style and technique

10 ways to mess up a start at the committee boat

5 really bad techniques for pin-end starts

Be a "starboard tack shark" and learn how to deal with being OCS

Practice hiding from the race committee in the mid-line sag.

Once you have learned Tillerman's starting style you will never have to worry about "holding your lane" again... because you will never have a clear lane.

Day 4: Mental health day

Today we will focus on mastering Tillerman's mental approach to Laser sailing.

We will set sailing goals and then brainstorm ways to avoid achieving them.

We will look at the weather every hour during the day and invent a difference excuse why it's not time to go sailing yet.

We will inspect our boats, make lists of required maintenance, and then learn the seven excuses for never actually doing any work on the boat.

At the end of Day 4 you will be a professional procrastinator.

(Afternoon Laser practice optional but not recommended: if you sail you fail.)

Day 5: Putting it all together

Today we will practice as a group all of our new skills. Each student will be given a two minute start over the rest of the fleet in practice races and then, by using the Tillerman Laser Techniques, will be humiliated as the rest of the fleet overtake him or her. We are expecting a guest appearance from that guy who will demonstrate that however a big a lead you establish early in the race, he can always crush you before the finish.

At the end of the day you will know that you will never be a winner and be resigned to your true status as a failure and back-of-the fleet bum.

Every evening of your week at Proper Course:The Laser Experience! we have special events arranged for you...
  • Visit to the Proper Course Fitness Center (aka Tillerman's basement gym) to admire the pristine condition of Tillerman's rarely used hiking bench.

  • Guest lecture by renowned Boston lawyer and Racing Rules expert Litoralis on "Procedural Tricks and Head Fakes Guaranteed to Confuse the Protest Committee."

  • Visit to the Proper Course Interactive Gaming Center (aka Tillerman's basement man-cave) for tactical training on Sailx. We will be racing against world-famous online sailors such as bigNeil, theycallmegod and CspotFoul. If you wish you can hire Litoralis at a special discounted hourly rate to represent you in the Sailx Protest Room.

  • Trip to the bars of Newport RI to demonstrate the effects of alcohol consumption on dehydration and its impact on sailing performance the next day.

  • Try the hot new work-out... pole dancing. Or, if you prefer, just watch.

We hope you will join us for an excellent time sailing in the beautiful waters of Narragansett Bay. Depending on the wind and weather conditions we can perfect our death rolls in the big waves off Third Beach, ogle the trophy wives in Bristol, or see if we can score a rare sighting in Wickford of the last surviving Force 5 sailor in New England.

This course is a lot of work for the participants, but a few days of hard work will cement your status as a loser for the rest of your life. The learning curve is awesomely shallow.

Sign up before Sep 14th for the special introductory discount price of only $3995 for the 5-day seminar. This once-in-a-lifetime price includes instruction, charter boat, and commemorative T-shirt. Beer, chow mein and tips for the dancers not included.

Coming soon, by the same people who brought you Proper Course: The Laser Experience! ...
  • Proper Course: The Dating Agency!
  • Proper Course: The Haiku Composition Weekend!
  • Proper Course: Pole Dancing for Beginners!
10% discount on all seminars for previous attendees at Proper Course: The Laser Experience!

The original suggestion which inspired me to launch my new business venture Proper Course: The Laser Experience! came from a request on Captain JP's log to create "the ultimate YourBlog Experience! that captures the essence of what your blog is about and which your audience might possibly be convinced to pay to do." Thanks for the idea JP.

Thanks also (and apologies) to those other Laser training schools who inevitably provided some of the inspiration for this post, especially SailFit, Rick White's Sailing Seminars and the Laser Training Center at Cabarete. Without their help I would be an even worse Laser sailor than I actually am.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Do Old Geezers Blog?

Do old geezers blog?

Well, I do. So others might.

More specifically, are any of the sailors racing in the 2009 Laser Masters (aka Old Geezers) Worlds which starts on Sunday going to be blogging day by day about the event? I enjoyed following the recent Young Dudes Laser Worlds via the blogs of four or five of the entrants, and I posted here summaries of what they had to say along with links to their posts.

But what about the Old Geezer Laser Worlds? Are there going to be any blogs covering it?

So far the only one I am aware of is Marc Jacobi's Blog.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Three and Three Quarters

One of the reasons that I've not been sailing so much this summer is that I've been spending more time with my granddaughter Emily who is exactly 3 years and 9 months old today. We've been looking after her and her brother Aidan every Tuesday, and she has been down at our house with her family almost every weekend. We've been doing lots of kid friendly summer stuff and, frankly, it's been even more fun than Laser sailing.

This Saturday I am taking Emily to her swimming lesson. Geeze, I'm turning into the grandad version of Crazy Swim Dad.

No regrets.
There won't be another summer when she's three.

Laser Gypsy

She's a high speed lady
Come down from astro city
She's got a body like tarzan
And a face like Lassie

She can do like Mick Jagger
Yet her tail's a real wagon
She's a lady with your mother
But keep away from you brother

She's a laser gypsy (spin you round and round)
She's a laser gypsy (lift you up and down)
She's a laser gypsy (beat me to the ground)
She's a laser gypsy

She's a high speed lady
From astro city
And when you wear that silk and leather
Oh, I love ya, love ya, love ya so much better

Oh I knew you're mine now
You make me feel so fine now, yeah
Oh I know you're mine now
Make me feel so alive now, yeah

She's got the groovies
Ooh groovin a groovin
Groovin and a groovin
Got to groove in a groove

I could take her to the movies
She's always got the groovies
Keep away from the disco's
Cause you always want to, aah

She's a laser gypsy (spin you round and round)
She's a laser gypsy (lift you up and down)
She's a laser gypsy (beat me to the ground)
She's a laser na, na, na, na
She's a laser gypsy
She's a laser gypsy

This blog is about Lasers.
Carol Anne in All these gypsies wants us to write about gypsies.
There is a song by Pagliaro called Laser Gypsy.
This is it.

Who Needs Wheels?

Ahah! Those crazy Norwegians have discovered the secret to launching a Laser without a dolly. All I have to do is to wait until it snows...

Hmmm. Should I be worried that the soundtrack to this video is "All My Friends Are Dead"?

Drift into a Minor-Induced Heaven

Imagine you are one of the top Laser sailors in your country. You qualify for the World Championship and head off to the Worlds in Canada full of hope. After a week of all kinds of weather, some good days, some not-so-good days, the championship is over and it's time to head home. You did OK but perhaps not as well as you might have hoped. How do you feel? Let down? Disappointed? I guess so.

That's very much the feelings expressed by our four bloggers at the Laser Worlds today.

A few weeks ago Clay Johnson won the US National Championship. In his first three races at the Worlds he scored 2,3,3. But then the protest committee threw out that third race, he had a BFD in the resail, his request for redress was filed too late... and he eventually finished in 33rd place. In Last Day of Laser Worlds Clay admits to feeling "slightly disappointed" with his results. But hey, he's still US champion, he was the top USA sailor at the Worlds, and I'm sure he knows what he needs to work on to raise his game up to being among the leaders at future world championships and even the Olympics. Good luck Clay!

The title of Ashley Brunning's post sums it all up: Final Day, World Titles ‘20 place slide to finish! damn’. Sounds as if allowing a second discard score let a bunch of other sailors jump in front of Ash in the rankings. Even so, 36th place and second Aussie at the Worlds behind the legendary Tom Slingsby ain't too shabby. Training to sail a Laser at this level is pretty much a full-time job and, like many others, Ash is now thinking about how he is going to make the money to support his efforts. Right now he says he could do with a camping holiday up the coast with his girl. He's earned it. Well done Ash!

The top Laser sailor from the Dominican Republic, Raul Aguayo, sailed in the silver fleet and finished in the middle, so effectively half way down the whole championship fleet which is his best performance in a Worlds to date. As he says in
PROGRESO..., "No está mal." Not bad indeed Raul.

Colin Cheng from Singaore says in honeymoon's over, "this laser worlds was one of the toughest things i've ever done." Colin, the only sailor from Singapore at the Worlds, finished a few places behind Raul in the silver fleet. I like Colin's blog; it has a different style from any other sailing blog I've followed and his personality shines through. I hope he continues to keep us informed via the blog of his future sailing adventures. Colin sums up his current feeling by saying, "i'm longing to get home and sink my fingers into the fretboard and drift into a minor-induced heaven."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rule Britannia

Congratulations to Paul Goodison (GBR), the 2008 Olympic gold medalist in the Laser class, on winning the 2009 Nautel Laser World Championships today in Nova Scotia.

Ted Kennedy 1932-2009

"The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die."

Doing a Cold Mother, Susannah and Foam Rollers

After the fog day and the hurricane day and the no wind day, order was finally restored at the Laser Worlds in Nova Scotia on Tuesday. A wind suitable for racing was served up for the first day of actual racing in the gold, silver and bronze fleets. At the end of the day two Brits, Paul Goodison and Nick Thompson, were leading the gold fleet as is only proper.

On the other hand, it sounds as if our two bloggers in the gold fleet are feeling the heat of the tougher competition now that the qualifiers are over. Clay Johnson was discovering that in the gold fleet at a Laser Worlds "everyone is super fast" as he tells us in Welcome to Gold Fleet. Ashley Brunning also had a Tough Day but is looking forward to finishing strong and then going home to make some money to pay for all this campaigning.

Raul Aguayo is finding that the silver fleet isn't exactly a pushover either in QUE DIFICIL. He also reports that our friend Ari Barshi has arrived for the Masters Worlds next week. Now my Spanish is very weak so I do use Google Translate to read Raul's posts. Even so I am somewhat mystified by the translation of Raul's last sentence which says that Ari is "doing a cold mother." Yikes.

Brian Raney had a "fun day on the water" racing in the bronze fleet and feels that this regatta has been Great Training for him. He also wrote a post Recovery about his routine off the water. I always appreciate it when a sailboat racing blogger thinks of something different to write about other than the usual "I went right. The breeze went left. Right was wrong. Left was right" kind of posts. Recovery is all about what Brian does after racing (apparently visiting a "lovely young lady named Susannah" who was excited to have Brian as a client); what he drinks before going to bed (much more healthy than my rum as painkiller routine); and how he prepares for racing by torturing himself with a "foam roller".

I'd never heard of this foam roller thing before. In case you are also puzzled by the reference, here is a video of a couple of ladies who are much more photogenic than Brian demonstrating the technique.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Weather Isn't Usually Like This Here

How often have you traveled to some place for a regatta or sailing vacation that promises perfect sailing winds every day... and then been disappointed?

How many places will tell you "we get a 15+ knot sea breeze from the SW every afternoon" or "thanks to the trade winds we get consistent winds of 15-20 knots from the NE every day"? And then when you spend a week there and the winds are way too light or way too strong for decent racing, the constant refrain from the locals is, "I don't understand. The weather isn't usually like this here."

It happens all the time.

It happened to me in Cabarete last year when we had rain and very light wind for much of the week.

It happened to me in Australia at the Masters Worlds last year when we had rain and light winds in the first half of the week.

It happens all the time.

It has happened at the Laser Worlds in Canada this week. Last year in Australia, the Canadians were talking up St. Margaret's Bay in Nova Scotia, the site of this year's Worlds. "Oh yeah, the winds are fantastic. 15-20 knots out of the south-west every afternoon. You have to come."

So let's see what weather our intrepid team of bloggers at the Laser Worlds have actually experienced. In the first five days they have had.....

two days when the wind was good for racing and two races were completed for each fleet on each day,

one day of dense fog and shifty winds in which only one race was sailed for each fleet (and one of those was subsequently tossed by the protest committee),

one day with a hurricane causing huge waves and no sailing,

and one day with no wind at all with lots of drifting around and no races completed.
In spite of the frustrating weather, our blogging team at the Worlds has continued to file reports about the action (or lack of it)...

Brian Raney catches us up with his activities in the last four days in which he has been mainly sailing on instruments.

Ashley Brunning gives us a summary of the no-wind day in Glass Out!

Likewise Clay Johnson told us about No Wind on Day Five.

And you don't even need to know any Spanish to guess what Raul Aguayo was talking about in CALMA.

Meanwhile Colin Cheng from Singapore seems to be more excited about being recognized by Proper Course as a member of Team Blogger than anything else. As he says, there's a first time for everything.

On the other hand, Brent and Josh, the LaserPerformance charter boat guys at the the Worlds were most excited after the hurricane about the fact that their cabin was still there!

I guess this is why major Laser regattas always stretch over a week. Chances are that you will get some days of the so-called "typical" weather in a whole week. Good news is that it does sound as if they are getting 12-14 knots of breeze today and may well complete three races. So I am looking forward to hearing this evening from our bloggers at the Worlds
all about the racing in the gold, silver and bronze fleets ... watch this space.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Team Blogger Has Mixed Day at Laser Worlds

Our team of bloggers had a very mixed day at the Laser World Championships in Canada on Saturday.

Best performance of the team came from Australian blogger Ashley Brunning who was charging to new heights. His dramatic account of the first race of the day tells us how he "exploded out to leeward of the fleet", "hiked like a demon to cross the fleet", and "made a huge gain downwind." He crossed the finish line 50 meters ahead of his nearest rival to score his first ever Laser World Championship win. Well done Ash!

In between races he munched on bananas and blueberry bread and then sailed another excellent race for a 4th place finish. Maybe if he had stuck to the Clif Bars from Day 2 he would have won the second race too?

In any case, Ashley's results were good enough to pull him up to 6th place overall, and tied on points with two other guys for 4th. Wow! These bloggers are getting damn good.

Dominican blogger Raul Aguayo tells us in AHI VIENE BILL! how he achieved two more solid finishes, but unfortunately not quite good enough to make the cut for the gold fleet. However Raul is still pleased with his progress and looking forward to some close competitive racing in the silver fleet.

American blogger Clay Johnson had the most disappointing day of all the members of Team Blogger, a Crazy Day Three indeed. He arrived at the yacht club on Saturday morning to discover that some members of his Blue fleet had filed for redress for the race committee's failure to abandon Friday's sole qualifying race, in which Clay came third. (I am assuming that the redress request was based on the foggy conditions.) The protest committee agreed that the Blue fleet race was indeed an unfair test of skill and called for it to be resailed on Saturday. In the resail Clay was black flagged so his score for the race went from 3 to BFD!

And then to make things worse Clay chose what turned out to be the wrong side of the first beat in the next race and scored a 32nd. He did a lot better in the final race with a 6th place but with only one discard allowed at this stage he has slipped a long way down the rankings.

After three tough races, finding his way back to the club in fog, helping to pack all the Lasers away in the clubhouse in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Bill, Clay and a few other bluefleeters filed for redress for the decision to throw out Friday's race. But then the protest committee refused to hear their protest because they were five minutes late turning in the form!

Geeze, what a day! Clay admits to being "really upset" but is trying to put what happened behind him and have a good Gold series.

Wait a minute. We haven't heard lately from Team Blogger member Colin Cheng. Has anyone seen him?

Oh there he is with the SIN letters on his sail. What the hell are you doing here Colin?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Bloggers Dogged by Fog

The second day of qualifying races at the Laser Worlds was a frustrating one for our team of Laser sailing bloggers. The race committee were hoping to run three races but, after a very long day on the water, only managed to achieve one race for each fleet.

Fog rolling over the course and very shifty winds were the culprits. All of our bloggers tell tales of multiple general recalls, abandoned races, marks invisible in the mist, overstanding marks etc. etc. Ugh!

The Australian blogger, Ashley Brunning, made the best of a bad job and scored a 7th place in his fleet, enough to make him top Aussie in the rankings right now. In his account of the day at In rolls the fog he waxes lyrical about what he calls "cliff bars". Maybe they don't have them in Australia because, as all readers of this blog know, they are really Clif Bars - with one F. Someone even wrote a poem about them: Clif Bars.

American blogger Clay Johnson had an even better day scoring a third in his fleet pulling him up to second place overall. In FOGGY Day Two he tells us how, even though he overstood the first mark in the fog, he pulled back from around 15th by sailing a smart second beat. Those compasses sure do help in the fog!

Dominican blogger Raul Aguayo tells us (in Spanish) at FOG-CANADA! how he spent seven hours on the water to complete one race. In spite of "mucha niebla" he finished in 20th which puts him within striking distance of qualifying for the gold fleet if he has another good day today. Animo Raul! A la flota Oro!

Our other Laser sailing bloggers from yesterday must have been too exhausted to post anything last night. I'm not surprised.

Wait a minute. Has anyone seen Colin Cheng?

Oh yes. There he is, in 196024, sailing off into the fog...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Blogging the Worlds

There are some bloggers sailing in the Laser World Championships in Canada this week. Amazing! Where do they find the time to train for a world championship and write a blog? Some of them even have full-time jobs too. More to the point how do they find the energy to go Laser racing all day and then write a blog post in the evening?

The sailors are currently split into three fleets for qualifying races so the top guys are not all racing against each other yet. Even so, blogger Clay Johnson of the US had a Great Start to the Laser Worlds with a second and a third in the two races, and is currently in fourth place overall.

Meanwhile blogger Brian Raney, also of the US, was Making a Splash capsizing in the second race.

Blogger Raul Aguayo of the Dominican Republic was kind enough to write the title of his post about Day 1 of the Worlds in English, And We're Off. The rest of the post is in Spanish but I think he's saying that he had a good first race, not so good second, but he's doing better overall than he did in Australia last year.

My favorite post of the day is from blogger Colin Cheng of Singapore, who already has one world championship to his credit: Colin won the 2006 Laser 4.7 Worlds in France besting 236 other competitors. His entire post is "colin goes to the laser worlds and finds himself too exhausted to finish this senten ".

Hang in there Colin. In anticipation of losing a day of racing to Hurricane Bill at the weekend the organizers are planning to add a third race to the schedule today. Good luck guys.

Lasers Lasers Everywhere

This one is for you Joe. I know how much you like Lasers.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

It Could Be Worse

I'm still feeling pretty ticked off about the theft of my Laser dolly wheels at the weekend. Especially as when I went to buy new wheels from the Laser dealer in Portsmouth (right next door to the factory where they build the boats) I was told that the shop and factory were totally out of dolly wheels. Apparently they are expecting a shipment of 1500 wheels in the next few days. So, no sailing for me until then. I was so desperate I actually went for a long bike ride today instead.

But it could be worse. Our intrepid LaserPerformance duo, Brent and Josh at the Laser Worlds in Canada, the guys handing out all the charter boats, have had their 16 foot inflatable motor boat stolen!

Geeze. You can't trust anybody these days. Not even Canadians.

So if anyone is offered a snazzy inflatable boat covered in LaserPerformance logos... or for that matter three manky old dolly wheels... report the seller to your local police. Everyone else is advised to lock up your boats, your trailers, your dollies, your daughters... whatever. There are some bad people out there.

Laser Worlds Practice Day

All photos © Matias Capizzano /

The Laser World Championships start today in Canada. Here are some of the superb pictures from of the Practice Day yesterday. Many more pics here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

To the Members of ICI (Slough) Sailing Club c.1983-1985

Thank you.

Well, I could stop there but I had better explain what this message to the past in a reverse time capsule is about.

A few months ago I ran some kind of contest here (its details have already slipped from my memory) and the contest was won by Carol Anne of Five O'Clock Somewhere, the wonderfully diverse blog on which Carol Anne covers such subjects as Etchells sailing, New Mexico rural life, pole dancing, grammar, and motivational messages on the wrappers of her feminine-hygiene products. "You go girl!"

Where was I? Where am I?

Oh yes. Carol Anne won the contest and her prize was to choose a subject about which I had to write a blog post. (Note the careful placement of the preposition in that last sentence. Carol Anne teaches grammar and knows that a preposition is not a thing to end a sentence with.) Anyway, Carol Anne assigned me the subject of Who Inspired You? or something like that. It's been a while. My memory isn't what it was.

Anyway. She had probably forgotten that I had already written a post about who inspired me to take up sailing, the punningly titled Men from Mars in which I credited two former colleagues, who also happened to be Olympic sailors, with inspiring me to try out this wonderful sport of sailboat racing.

Then, a few weeks ago, I received an email from a member of what is now called Taplow Lake Sailing Club but which, when I was a member, went by the snappy title of ICI (Slough) Sailing Club. I wrote about their club, my first sailing club, in Where It All Started.

The email rather aggressively asked..

Who are you Tillerman?

I am Redacted Redacted. Do you remember me?

Or Redacted Redacted, my husband? Redacted Redacted, Redacted Redacted, Redacted Redacted, etc etc? Please reply and identify yourself. I would like to know who you are and get in contact.

I'm sure lots of other older members would like to know too. Maybe I can fill you in with whats happening at Taplow Lake.

Awaiting your reply,

Redacted et al

(These people weren't really all called Redacted Redacted. I am just respecting their privacy.)

Actually I didn't remember Redacted. Or al.
It's been a while. My memory isn't what it was. But I replied to her and explained that I was the tall skinny (I really was skinny back then) guy with glasses with the orange Laser and mentioned a few names I did remember... Redacted whom I met in Minorca... and that old Redacted guy who was the secretary... and Redacted Redacted who was the club hotshot. I was looking forward to a friendly email exchange that would jog my memory about happy days at my first sailing club in the 1980's. No such luck. I heard nothing more from Ms Redacted. Or al.

Anyway (geeze this is turning into a long post) I've been racking my brains for how to give Carol Anne her prize (remember her? the one who shared the messages from her feminine-hygiene products with the world? "Reach for the finish line!") and I thought, "Ahah. I should write about the members of my first sailing club. They might not have been the ones who inspired me to take up sailing but they were certainly the ones who really showed me what a terrific sport this is and motivated me to make it the primary sport of my life."

I almost wrote a post along these lines until I looked back at Men from Mars, and saw that I had effectively already written that story in the last section of that (also way too long) post. I had totally forgotten doing this.
It's been a while. My memory isn't what it was.

Anyway, now I can give Carol Anne her prize by recycling that section slightly and saying...

To the Members of ICI (Slough) Sailing Club c.1983-1985,

Thank you.

You inspired in me a life-long passion for the sport of sailing.

You passed on to me your sense of fun and enthusiasm for sailboat racing.

You taught me tactics by pulling moves on me on the racecourse and then explaining to me afterwards how I should have countered them.

You taught me respect for the rules by winning protests against me but always treating me in a friendly and sportsmanlike manner.

You encouraged me to travel and to compete with sailors from other local clubs.

You showed me that ice and snow are no reasons to stop sailing in the winter.

And every other place I have sailed since then I have found sailors just as welcoming, just as helpful... and just as competitive as you.

Thanks to all of you.

From the tall skinny (yes I was) guy with glasses and orange Laser.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Original MIT Tech Dinghies - Where Are They Now?

Thanks to Tweezerman, who writes the excellent sailing blog Earwigoagin, for bringing to our attention this old video of wooden lapstrake Tech dinghies participating in collegiate sailing at MIT around 1945. He wonders if any of these beautiful examples of wooden boat-building survived.

Great question Tweezerman. And not just because they were beautiful boats. The fleet of Tech Dinghies that you see in the video gave birth to American college sailing as it we know it today. The Tech was designed specifically for MIT by Professor George Owen, and the first boats were made for the opening of the MIT Sailing Pavilion in 1935 by the famous Herreshoff Yard in Bristol, Rhode Island. In the following years, the first ten Dinghy Championships of the newly organized Intercollegiate Yacht Racing Association (ICYRA) were sailed on the Charles River in that fleet of cat-rigged, wooden Tech Dinghies.

So what happened to them?

In 1952, MIT's Second Fleet of Tech Dinghies was built in fiberglass by Cape Cod Shipbuilding in Wareham, MA. (MIT are now on their Fifth Fleet.) I don't have a clue what MIT did with the First Fleet after taking delivery of the Second Fleet, but if modern day practice is any guide they probably sold the old boats to another college (or perhaps high school) sailing team.

Using the most sophisticated and powerful research tool known to professional historians I have discovered the following information about the whereabouts of some surviving boats from the First Fleet.

The website of the Little Boat Shop in Maine has pictures of the hulls of two of the original MIT Tech Dinghies. One is described as "on display at the Cape Cod Maritime Museum" and the other is being restored by the Little Boat Shop and is said to be "scheduled for complete restoration this year and is available for sale." (It's not entirely clear to me whether these are two different hulls or whether the shop is restoring the boat that was in the museum, or indeed if the website is actually current.)

There are also some pictures of an old wooden Tech dinghy on Flickr.

The caption is a little confusing in that it doesn't specifically say it was one of the First Fleet (but that was the only wooden fleet as far as I know) but it does say that it is "the only remaining one of its class" which seems to conflict with the claims for the boats in the photos on the Little Boat Shop website (unless they are all three actually pictures of the same boat.) The Flickr boat is said to be "at the pavilion" (presumably the MIT Sailing Pavilion), has a very old (torn) sail, and is apparently kept outside. I wonder if it is still sailed?

I mentioned that the First Fleet of Techs was built by Herreshoff in Bristol RI and I know that the Herreshoff Marine Museum has an extensive collection of boats built and/or designed by the Herreshoffs over the years. Sure enough the museum's website confirms that their boat collection does include an MIT Tech Dinghy built in 1936, presumably also one of the First Fleet.

So there we have it Tweezerman. Apparently at least four of those original forty boats still exist (unless I've counted some boats twice) and there may be more. I know that at least one former MIT sailing team member and Tech ace reads this blog so perhaps he, or others in the know, can cast more light on this subject?


Now that I've answered Tweezerman's question I have a couple of my own...

Is the video found by Tweezerman the oldest (or at least the oldest online) video of dinghy racing?

Does anyone know the names of any of the sailors in the video?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Rule #1 - Have Fun!

The best part of this video is at the 42 second mark where a kid in an O'pen BIC blasts past some poor kid in an Optimist miserably bailing out her plastic box.

This is the future of junior sailing. Check out the description of the recent O'pen BIC Un-Regatta held earlier this year at Miami Yacht Club.

It all started with an unconventional La Mans beach start at the gun. The spectator fleet was then surprised with the mandatory mid-course freestyle moves such as Spidermans (fast flips), Supermans (body drags), King Kongs (mast climbs), and compulsory 720s. The "serious play" format brought roars from the spectators and huge grins from the kids at every level of the fleet. Some boats were single handed, some double, a few triples. It doesn't matter- "this is the "UN-Regatta" where anything goes as long as it follows Rule #1- Have Fun!


I thought I had totally exhausted Murphy's Law of Laser sailing. Everything that could go wrong had already happened to me... surely.

I had broken a mast on Rutland Water and broken a boom off Cape Cod. I had broken down on the way to a regatta and broken my gooseneck when I was winning a race. I had capsized to leeward and capsized to windward more times than I could count; I had capsized by hooking another sailor's sheet around my bow and capsized by hooking another sailor's sheet round my neck.

I had done it all. Right?


On Saturday afternoon, Murphy found another way to make things go wrong while Lasering.

It was a perfect day for sailing. Sunny. Hot. 12-15 knots out of the south.

My son and I launched our Lasers out of Weaver Cove in Portsmouth and headed upwind on port tack in the general direction of Newport Bridge. It was champagne sailing conditions... hiking hard... busting through the waves. After a mile or so we cracked off on to a close reach bouncing up and over the waves. The spray was flying everywhere and I could hardly see where I was going for the salt in my eyes. Then we hardened up on to a beat again, blasting towards Conanicut.

After a while we tacked on to starboard and stopped about 40 minutes after leaving the ramp for a breather and a drink. Gatorade not beer. We were just upwind of Halfway Rock.

"Ready to go downwind?"


We rode the waves downwind on a very broad starboard tack reach. I carved up and down and tried to catch a ride on the downside of each wave and blast through the next crest. I was in the zone. Lasering doesn't get any better than this. We surfed to the west of Dyer Island and then headed back up on the wind towards Melville Marina and the launch ramp.

A perfect hour or so of Laser sailing. Looking forward to going back home to dinner with the grandkids and a glass of wine or two watching the sunset.

The ramp was busy with a queue of motorboats waiting to use it. No problem. We sailed in to the beach just south of the ramp. I held the boats in shallow water while my son went to retrieve the launching dollies which we had left at the top of the ramp, as usual.

He seemed to be taking a long time. Eventually he shouted, "Someone has stolen three of our wheels!"


I've never had this happen before. Someone stole our dolly wheels while we were out sailing? Incredible.

We worked out how to transport our boats to our road trailers without dollies. Pull the boats up on to the beach. (Ouch for the gelcoat.) Derig the boats on the beach. Bring a trailer to the ramp. Carry a boat on to the trailer. Repeat. Not a big deal except for a lot of huffing and puffing and maybe a few scratches in the gelcoat.

The parking lot was crowded. There were guys fishing on the dock. We asked around. Had anybody seen someone messing with our dollies? Apparently not.

The irony is that my son and I probably have the oldest mankiest dolly wheels in the world. If anyone is hoping to sell these pieces of shit then they are going to get laughed at. It's significant that they only stole three; they left the fourth wheel because it was rusted to the axle of my original antique galvanized English Laser dolly (now handed down to my son), perhaps the oldest Laser dolly in the world still in regular use. We concluded that the thieves were probably some kids wanting some wheels to throw around and play with. Still annoying.

Some kids in Portsmouth stole our wheels.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Kill Da Wabbit

Sailors and boats are arriving for the Laser World Championships in Nova Scotia. Bloggers are starting to blog about it...

Even the two guys responsible for all the charter boats, Brent and Josh, have a blog. Check out Brent and Josh Go To Laser Worlds to read about their adventures.

One of the US sailors went out to train yesterday and somehow got confused about the drill his training buddies were doing in Unknown Customs.

Yup, Brian tried to kill da wabbit.

I'm sure Brian knows how a rabbit start is supposed to work but, for anyone who doesn't know, here are the instructions (shamelessly stolen from NIH Sailing.)

A rabbit start can be run using no floats or marks, only the race boats themselves. The racers agree to have one boat serve as the “rabbit”. All other boats keep downwind of the rabbit prior to the start. At the agreed starting time, the rabbit crosses the other boats on a port tack. The line sailed by the rabbit is defined as the starting line and its stern is the windward end of the line. All other boats cross the line defined by the rabbit’s course and once across, have started. Once all the other boats have started, the rabbit is free to tack to starboard if the skipper so chooses.
Got it? You have to go behind the rabbit - not hit it. Don't kill da wabbit.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Cat is Dead. Long Live the Cat!

The cat is dead.

There will be no multihull class in the 2012 Olympics.

The IOC President Jacques Rogge wrote today to ISAF: “Whilst the IOC Executive Board fully recognises the value that Sailing brings to the Olympic Games, it decided to maintain its decision of 2005 regarding the overall quota of sailors and medals. As a consequence, Tornado Multihull shall not be on the programme of the Games of the XXXth Olympiad in London.

Oh well. Multihull fans will just have to be satisfied with watching the America's Cup next February in Ras al-Khaimah.

Long live the cat!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I believe you should live every day as if it were your last.

That's why I'm not writing a blog post today
because who wants to waste their last day
on earth writing a blog post?

Tomorrow is another day.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Best Regatta Blog Post of the Year

I read a lot of blogs about sailing. I read about folk racing all sorts of top class regattas in all sorts of swanky sailing venues all over the world. This summer, for example, I have been following with great interest blog posts about the Star Worlds in Sweden, the Radial Worlds in Japan, and the Laser US Nationals in New Jersey, to mention just a few.

But I hereby award the 2009 Proper Course Award for Best Regatta Blog Post of the Year to the account of the Hickling Broad Regatta 2009 by "Mondale", a story about how Mondale and three of his mates spent the weekend "sailing, drifting and drinking and eating bad food."

This is not exactly the Star Worlds, but it was clearly a wonderful experience for all concerned...

All regatta posts should have photos of how the boat is set up for racing...

Your host, Will with Woodcut's extensive bar

And, of course, we all like to read exciting accounts of the sailing action...
"I normally object to such things as mobile phones when sailing but it was nice to be able to text the race committee and let them know of our progress. It was also nice to receive their sarcastic responses."

Personally, I also like to read about what top sailors eat at major events...

We chose the black pudding option.

And then the climax of every good regatta post is the awards ceremony...

Ross (regatta organiser) presents Will with his
'longest distance travelled to visit regatta
but not actually enter a race' medal

Much more in the same vein at Hickling Broad Regatta 2009.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Regatta Coaching - The Next Dimension

Sailing coaches, take your game to the next level.

Have you ever felt confined by your Mommy Boat at a regatta? Have you ever wished you could get a better view of the sailing area? Have you ever imagined how much more effective you would be as a coach if you could hover 30 feet in the air, and see what the wind is really doing?

Now you can, thanks to the JetLev Flyer.

With the JetLev Flyer you can ascend to 30 feet in the air any time you want. Spot all the shifts and gusts that the other coaches can't see and tell your sailors what you have seen. Hover over the race committee boat at the starts and get the perfect view. Follow your sailors around the course and take superb video footage from your aerial vantage point.

Stop Dreaming! Start Flying!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

400 Days until 2010 Laser Masters Worlds

It's been a quiet year in Lake Wobegon...

After competing in two Laser Masters Worlds in the fall and winter of 2007/2008 followed by my (failed) attempt to sail my Laser 100 days in 2008, I haven't sailed much at all since my final outing of last year, a brilliant sunny winter day on Bristol Harbor which I wrote about in If I Had a Boat.

Oh sure, there's been some Lasering. A blast or two with my son, a SailFit seminar in March, informal racing once or twice with the Laser dudes at Lake Massapoag, sailing with Mark and his Force 5, and a dozen or so solo practice days. But no regattas. It's probably been my least active stretch for a very long time.

Don't worry. I'm not going to write a long whiny post about why I haven't been sailing much lately. Suffice to say that sailing is not my whole life and I have preferred to spend time on other rewarding aspects of my life in the last 6-8 months.

But it's only 400 days from today until the first race day of the 2010 Laser Masters Worlds in Hayling Island in the UK. The last few days I've been thinking about those 400 days a lot and have formulated the outline of a plan of how I'm going to to use that time to prepare for the Worlds.

It seems to me that 100 days - approximately 3 months - is a nice convenient chunk of time. Long enough to achieve something worthwhile; short enough that the end date is close enough to give a sense of urgency to the endeavor. So I've been thinking of my training program as 4 separate periods of 100 days. What should I do in each 100 days? How should I change activities in each 100 day chunk in order to keep things fresh and stay motivated? What targets should I have for each 100 days? More on that in some upcoming posts.

I've also discovered a terrific resource about what to do when practicing alone... which I do a lot. My mind is buzzing with ideas for a whole series of posts on that topic.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Clay Johnson

A coach who used to race against Robert Scheidt the one-time superstar of the Laser class once told me why Scheidt was so special...

It wasn't that he won every start, though he certainly won his share.

It wasn't that he always chose the right strategy for the first beat, though he often did.

No. The reason that Scheidt was so dominant in the Laser class in his day was that even when he had a bad start or went the wrong way on the first beat (or both) and as a result was way down in the middle of the pack after the first leg... he had the determination and the smarts and the skills to work his way through the fleet and still end up among the leaders by the end of the race.

Now read Clay Johnson's account of his racing this weekend at the Laser US Nationals at Brant Beach in Tricky Westerly on Day One of US Nats and Great Second Day. In four of the eight races sailed so far Clay didn't get things right at the start or on the first beat and rounded the first windward mark in around 35th, 30th, 15th and 20th places. Yet, every time, he recovered from his mediocre showing and, as a result, his scores for the eight races are 7,1,5,4,1,5,2,4.

Now I'm not saying that Johnson is the next Scheidt. I am saying that he is a damn fine Laser sailor and that his ability to recover from a bad start and sail up through the fleet is one of the keys to his success.

No other sailor at the Nationals has all single digit scores.

Indeed, every other sailor
in the 103 boat fleet has at least three scores of double (or triple) digits.

Clay has a 21 point lead on his nearest rival, a lead which means that he doesn't even have to sail the final day of the regatta.

Congratulations to Clay on his first national championship. Watch this guy. We will be hearing a lot more about him in the coming years.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Caption Contest

Several people had fun at the expense of a couple of Star sailors in our last caption contest. Now's your chance to have a dig at those super-fit hyper-active go-getter Laser dudes. This photo was received via Twitter this morning from the site of the US Laser Nationals at Brant Beach NJ.