Sunday, February 28, 2010

America's Cup 34 in Newport: It's All About the Parties

Jim Donaldson has nailed the real reason why the next America's Cup must be sailed in Newport, Rhode Island.

In an article in the Providence Journal, America's Cup in Newport is always half full, he describes the amazing party scene in Newport when the Cup was sailed here before...

"Newport - where yachts roll on the waves while the good times roll on shore." Ted Turner literally drunk under the table. All the sailors and wannabee sailors trolling the bars of Thames Street for debutantes and divorcees. "Those of us who occupied stools at the bars that are as ubiquitous as sea gulls in the City by the Sea recall Cup summers as one long, wonderful party."

In other Rhode Island America's Cup news our illustrious governor has formed a committee. A committee to "assess the existing marine assets and facilities we have so we can create a formal proposal for the America’s Cup races." All the usual suspects are on the committee... leaders of the RI yachting scene and marine trades, politicians, tourism and economic development bureaucrats etc. etc.

I think the make-up of this committee is missing the target. Where are the folk who can build the case that Newport will throw better parties and have a wilder social scene than any other city? That's the argument that will bring the Cup to Newport. It's not about how perfectly suited Rhode Island waters are for America's Cup racing; it's not about the awesome America's Cup village that we will build to house all the yachts and teams; it's not about all the relevant skills and experience that Newport has to support an event like this; it's not even about the tradition. It's all about the parties.

Think about it...

Does Larry Ellison like to party?

Is the pope catholic?

PS. I was thinking of posting a picture of a typical crazy Newport party scene at the top of this post, but then I thought better of it. You know what they say, "What happens in Newport, stays in Newport."

Amen Sister

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Massapoag Yacht Club

Golden Gate Yacht Club may have been making the news last week because one of their obscenely rich members spent a few hundred million dollars to win a couple of races between a catamaran and a trimaran in Spain.
But guess which yacht club just won the US Sailing One-Design Yacht Club Award for "administrative excellence, fleet growth, creative programming, regatta support and member contribution at regional, national and international levels of the one-design."

Massapoag Yacht Club
in Sharon, Massachusetts.

What? Who? Where?

Regular readers of this blog may think they've never heard of Massapoag Yacht Club. But really you have.

I'm not a member of MYC but I have sailed on their lake, and participated in some of their races and one of their regattas in the last few years. It was MYC's Sunday racing that I described in Laser Sailing at Lake Whippersnappper, even though I used a nom-de-lac "Whippersnapper" rather than the real name of their lake, Massapoag. It is the home of the Saturday afternoon informal Laser racing I wrote about in Just Six Laser Dudes Racing Round a Sausage. And it is the place that I sailed in a Laser regatta on my 60th birthday weekend, recounted in Just One of Those Days.

So, although I'm not a member, I have a special affection for Massapoag Yacht Club. It's my kind of place. And I was very pleased to see that they received the recognition they deserve in winning the 2009 US Sailing One-Design Yacht Club Award.

What's so special about this club? I can't provide a better answer than to quote what US Sailing said...

• A small, all-volunteer club comprised of 70 member families, located in the shadow of Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots.

• MYC hosted their 63rd annual regatta including Flying Scots, Day Sailors, Sunfish and Lasers.

• They organize five racing series’ during the year, including over 150 races over the course of the sailing season.

• The self-help spirit of the Club has allowed MYC to keep dues at a minimum while maintaining the ability to host several regattas a year.

• Their Flying Scot fleet is one of the largest in the country. They’ve crowned several National Champions. MYC has hosted the Flying Scot Nationals twice. A number of MYC members are represented as Officers in the Flying Scot Sailing Association.

• MYC hosted the “Area A” eliminations for the U.S. Men's and Women's Sailing Championships, and sent two boats to the Finals in 2009. A club member won the sportsmanship award.

• For nine years the MYC has hosted a Women Skippers Regatta to get more women at the helm position. They also host a singlehanded regatta, in which boats that normally have crew are raced single-handed to test the raw skills of the skippers and improve their understanding of the crew’s responsibilities.
Isn't that what it's all about? (Well, apart from that bit about the club being in the shadow of Gillette Stadium which isn't literally true unless the stadium casts a shadow over four miles long.)

All-volunteer club with low fees making the sport of sailing accessible. One design-racing in a variety of boats. Encouraging more women to participate in sailing. Pursuit of excellence in regatta organization and race management, running national championships and US Sailing Area Eliminations. Family atmosphere encouraging families to sail together and facilitating mentoring across generations.

Isn't this exactly the kind of solution that Nick Hayes is promoting in his books and talks about Saving Sailing? I think so.

Massapoag Yacht Club reminds me in many ways of the last club I belonged to in New Jersey, a club which shares many of these positive features, Hunterdon Sailing Club. People don't join a club like these ones to dine in the restaurant, or play tennis, or swim in the pool. (Mainly because they don't have restaurants, tennis courts or swimming pools.) It's all about the sailing.

So kudos to Massapoag Yacht Club for winning this prestigious award. And every success to all the clubs like them across the country (and the world) that are promoting and encouraging sailing at the grass-roots level. They are the future of our sport.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My Grandson

My grandson, Aidan. He has hair. He has teeth. He is 19 months old, and already has an extensive vocabulary and is stringing words together in sentences. He loves trucks and boats and books and running and talking and bath-time and pulling faces for the camera. He is much better looking than he seems in this photo. We see him almost every week, and every week he has changed and learned new words and new tricks.

I like being a grandfather. Life is good.

Who Are You?

Who are you?

What sort of person are you? What type of personality? And are you the same person at work, at home, when sailing, when blogging?

I find myself asking myself these questions after running that Typealyzer test on my blog yesterday and discovering that it said I am a totally different personality (as measured by Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) than I thought I was.

I took the Myer-Briggs test several times when I was working and always came out as INTJ. Extremely so on most of those preferences. But Typealyzer says I am ESTP. Totally opposite in three of the four "dichotomies".

What's going on? Does sailing bring out a totally different side of my personality? Or am I faking it, playing a role when writing my blog?

Let's break it down...

Energy Orientation: Extraversion (E) / Introversion (I)
Extraverts are drawn to the outside world as their elemental source of energy. They must engage the things, people, places and activities going on in the outside world for their life force. Introverts, on the other hand, draw their primary energy from the inner world of information, thoughts, ideas, and other reflections.

I think it's true that I'm an extreme "I". And I suspect that most of my ex-work colleagues and sailing friends would agree. I enjoy the company of other people but they are not what provide me with my basic source of energy. I live in the world of ideas and thoughts and reflections.

But I can understand why Typealyzer would conclude from my blog that I am an "E". When I first started Proper Course (and to still to an extent today) it was a vehicle for my inner conversation with myself. A place to jot down my thoughts and reflections (as this post is.) But it's also true that I discovered that I get a huge boost from the comments and feedback that folk leave on my blog. I love the interaction with my blogging friends. I enjoy building the community of friends who participate in things like our group writing projects. I deliberately stimulate comments by asking open questions. (Who are you?) I think I would probably abandon the blog altogether if people stopped leaving comments. So, yes, the blog has allowed me to express the "E" side of my personality; probably much more so than I do in any other aspect of my life.

Not to mention that if you write a blog about a physical outdoor activity like sailing, a tool like Typealyzer is probably going to tag you as an "E" anyway. It sounds as if many other sailing blog score an "E" too, even when the writer is an "I".

Perceiving: Sensing (S) / Intuition (N)
Those who prefer Sensing Perception favor clear, tangible data and information that fits in well with their direct here-and-now experience. In contrast, those who prefer Intuition Perception are drawn to information that is more abstract, conceptual, big-picture, and represents imaginative possibilities for the future.

I've always been a bit confused about this one. I was trained as a scientist so I always assumed I was an "S", someone who looks for facts, and data and details. But the Myers-Briggs tests I took at work always ranked me as an "N". And I suppose that in my work as an IT manager that is how my mind operated. I was drawn to concepts and theories that made sense of all the details. I always wanted to try and see the "big picture". I learned to rely on insight and intuition. I used the word "architecture" a lot. Even what I'm doing now, trying to make sense of who I am and how I write within the Myers-Briggs framework is surely an "N" trait.

But why would Typealyzer see me as an "S" when looking at my blog? Is it because most of my recent posts have been about facts and news in the real world, be it the America's Cup or my own frostbite racing? Maybe. I ran Typealyzer again on some of the topics in my blog that I thought might expose more of my "N" side. The posts on Rules, Theory and Mental Fitness still showed me as an "S". But the Weather topic, that included all those wonkish posts on the theory of wind, came out as "N".


Another question that springs to mind is, "Are the best racing sailors "S" or "N" types?" All of the racing books and coaches would have you believe that the secret of racing success is to analyze the data; know the settings that make the boat go fast; work out what the wind is doing and decide on a strategy for the start and the race; keep your head out of the boat and watch the wind and the fleet; use the information your senses provide. All "S" stuff.

But, don't the top racers have more "N" in their make-up? Don't they have some sixth sense, some intuition that is the key to their success? Isn't the ability to see the big picture of what is happening on the race course much more important than knowing the current compass heading?

Judgement: Thinking (T) / Feeling (F)
Those who prefer Thinking Judgment have a natural preference for making decisions in an objective, logical, and analytical manner with an emphasis on tasks and results to be accomplished. Those whose preference is for Feeling Judgment make their decisions in a somewhat global, visceral, harmony and value-oriented way, paying particular attention to the impact of decisions and actions on other people.

At least all the tests agree on this dimension. I'm a "T". Cold-hearted logical bastard. You should keep out of my way on the race course.

Lifestyle: Judgment (J) / Perception (P)
Those who prefer Judging rely upon either their T or F preference to manage their outer life. This typically leads to a style oriented towards closure, organization, planning, or in some fashion managing the things and or people found in the external environment.

Those who prefer Perceiving rely upon either their S or N preference to run their outer life. This typically results in an open, adaptable, flexible style of relating to the things and people found in the outside world. The drive is to experience the outside world rather than order it; in general lack of closure is easily tolerated.

In my working life I was definitely a "J". Once a decision was made (using my Thinking side of course) that was it as far as I was concerned. Let's get on with it. Closure is my middle name. I worked with a guy who was an extreme "P". For him no decision was ever final. He didn't know the meaning of the word "closure". He was always "open and flexible" to remaking every decision. We drove each other crazy until we both took Myers-Briggs. After that we still drove each other crazy... but at least we knew why and could laugh about it.

So why does Typealyzer see me as a "P"? Could it be because I ask so many questions on my blog? Where will the next America's Cup be? Is Larry Ellison an evil genius or just evil? Will I be DFL in next week's frostbiting or will I wimp out altogether? Do I communicate a personality in my blog that is always open to new suggestions? Does Tillerman ever really close down a discussion on his blog? Will his readers ever get tired of all his questions?

OK. I think I understand it now. I have reflected on the matter like a true "I". I have used my intuition to understand the big picture like a real "N". I have thought the matter through just like a typical "T". And I have made my decision as a "J" always will.

The subject is closed. I am INTJ. Typealyzer is crap.

That's who I am. Who are you?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Thanks to Jos of RRS - Look to Windward for referring me to Typealyzer, a site which promises to determine your personality through your blog. You just give it the URL of your blog and it responds with a personality analysis.

Here is what it came up for me...

The Doers.

The active and playful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities.

The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time.

It seems that the answers are based on the well-known Myers-Briggs personality assessment tool which assesses people on four pairs of "preferences".

But here's what is really weird. According to Typealyzer's analysis of my blog I am ESTP. But every time I (the real person me, not my blog) have filled out a Myers-Briggs questionnaire I have come out as INTJ, in other words exactly the opposite on 3 of the 4 dimensions.


What does this mean? Is "Tillerman" not the real me? Am I playing a role when writing my blog? Am I exploring a hidden side of my personality that doesn't usually appear? Is sailing (the main subject of my blog) an activity in which I escape the "real me" and become a totally different personality? Are you a different personality as a sailor and/or blogger from who you are in the rest of your life? Or is Typealyzer total crap?

Try Typealyzer yourself. What do you think?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Breaking News: America's Cup 34 in Newport

It's official.

The next America's Cup will be held in Newport.

The news was announced today by the Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport.

The headline on their website reads...

A Valencia vittoria degli americani anche nella seconda regata (5'27" il vantaggio sugli svizzeri) e dopo 15 anni il trofeo torna a varcare l'oceano. La prossima edizione si svolgerà a Newport nel 2013.

Or in English (as rendered by Google Translate) ...

In Valencia victory of the Americans in the second race (5'27 "advantage over the Swiss) and after 15 years the trophy back to cross the ocean. The next edition will be held in Newport in 2013.

And why would this news be announced first in Italy? Well, the Challenger of Record is Italian, and Larry Ellison has promised to consult the challengers before deciding the venue. So maybe there's already a deal to choose Newport and the Italians leaked it?


We report. You decide.

America's Cup 34 - Defender Series

Slow down there all you Larry Ellison fans.

Before you start assuming that Larry and his BMW Oracle team are going to be defending the America's Cup for the USA there's one small matter to consider. The official holder of the Cup is not Lawrence James Ellison; it is the Golden Gate Yacht Club. And when an American yacht club has held the Cup in the past it has usually held a selection trial, sometimes known as a defender series, to decide which American syndicate and which American boat will have the honor of representing the USA and that club in the actual America's Cup.

Right from the early days of the Cup in the 19th century, when the Cup was held by the New York Yacht Club, selection trials were held to decide which boat would defend the Cup. More recently, in 1992 and 1995 there was even an official trophy for the American defender series, the Citizen Cup.

Even though Dennis Conner won the America's Cup for the San Diego Yacht Club in a Deed of Gift match in 1988, he still had to compete in the Citizen Cup against Bill Koch's
America³ in 1992. And America³ won that defender series and went on to successfully defend the Cup against a challenge from Italy.

Then in 1995 things got really complicated in a three-way defender series between Dennis Conner's Stars and Stripes, John Marshall's Young America, and Bill Koch's all women (plus Dave Dellenbaugh) team Mighty Mary. This time Dennis Conner won the defender series but decided to use Young America's memorable "mermaid" boat in the actual America's Cup match.

The advantages of a defender series are obvious. No doubt there will be multiple challengers from many countries and they will be all honing their skills, refining their technology, and tuning their boats in a lengthy challenger series. If USA is to successfully defend the Cup then it is imperative to run a defender series to ensure that the fastest boat and the smartest sailors are selected to hold the Cup for America.

Larry Ellison and Russell Coutts know this and have both spoken in interviews in the last few days about the possibility of multiple American teams and a defender series.

Let's hope it happens. Larry Ellison won the Cup for the GGYC. Now he needs to win the right to defend it.

What do you think? Should Golden Gate Yacht Club hold a Defender Series? What other teams might mount a bid to defend the Cup? What American sailors would you like to see competing in the Defender Series? Could we even have another all women (plus or minus Dave) team again?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Herreshoff Wants America's Cup 34 in Newport

Rhode Island is wasting no time in its efforts to persuade Larry Ellison to do the right thing by selecting Newport as the host for the 34th America's Cup match.

This weekend Halsey Herreshoff will be traveling to San Francisco to hand-deliver a letter from Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri urging Ellison to consider Newport as the next site for the sailing competition. Halsey is the president of the America's Cup Hall of Fame, was navigator on the US defender Liberty in 1983, and is the grandson of the famous Captain Nathaniel Herreshoff who designed and built five yachts that successfully defended the America's Cup between 1893 and 1920.

Let's hope Larry has enough sense of America's Cup history and enough respect for the Herreshoff name to keep an open mind on the merits of Newport's case to host AC34.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Sunday morning 8:44 am. I posted as my Facebook status "33 degrees and 18 knots forecast for 1pm. Perfect weather for sailing." Hah!

One of my Facebook "friends" responded, "Please be careful, Old Man!"

Not long after 11 am I left the house and headed down to Newport for another afternoon of Laser frostbite racing. As I left the house my wife kissed me and said, "Please be careful!"

Careful? I am a Laser frostbite sailor. I have a drysuit and know how to use it. I can handle 33 degrees and 18 knots. Hah!

How wrong I was.

I arrived at the start line as the first race was already in the starting sequence. That was good. I had to duck behind the whole fleet on port tack thereby achieving the first two objectives I learned last time I went frostbiting: avoid the crowded part of the start line and sail the beat in clear air. I remembered the third lesson about avoiding the pile-up at the windward mark too, and by overstanding the layline a tad was able to cruise past all the bozos luffing to get round the mark, and crashing into the luffers on port tack, and failing to lay the mark, and capsizing at the mark etc. etc.

I rounded the mark and looked back at the usual mayhem and felt a smug sense of satisfaction that I knew what I was doing. Hah!

How wrong I was.

The windward mark was set quite close into the dock wall at Fort Adams and the gusty westerly wind coming over the fort was.... ummm... interesting. As I was hit by random gusts on the downwind leg I struggled to retain control and keep the long tall stick thingie pointing roughly at the sky. I've discovered after many years of Laser sailing that this tends to be faster than the alternative.

After a couple of hairy planes I realized I was getting a bit too far to the right, so I gybed and headed for the left-hand gate mark. Hmmm. Somehow, while I was struggling to keep the long tall stick thingie pointing at the sky, all those "bozos" who had been playing silly buggers at the windward mark had got past me. The fourth lesson from last time about covering the opposition on the final beat was now somewhat irrelevant, but I hung in there and finished in touch with the other tailenders but still in DFL.

Oh well. I was just warming up in that race, I will do better in the second race, I thought. Hah!

How wrong I was.

Similar beat. General mayhem at the windward mark with me being super smart by overstanding the layline and cruising past the mess. I set off towards the gybe mark on what was actually a run and.... whoah.... death-rolled. How did that happen? I have no idea.

By the time I had composed myself, and had a relaxing swim (first time in Narragansett Bay in February - most refreshing), and righted the boat, and climbed back in the boat, and got my bearings as to which way the pointy end was now pointing.... there was only one boat behind me. I think it was some dude who started the race about five minutes late.

Oh well, I thought, at least I can beat him. So I sailed the rest of the course. The dude behind me retired at the gybe mark so I was last finisher again, and to add insult to injury, the race committee had actually started the sequence for the next race before I finished. Well, I guess it was cold, and nobody wants to hang around for some bozo who is miles behind the fleet. (Me.)

OK. Time to get serious. No more capsizes. I can handle these conditions. Hah!

How wrong I was.

In the third race I capsized to leeward in a gust just before the gybe mark. How did that happen? I have no idea.

This time after the usual routine of swimming around (second time in Narragansett Bay in February - most refreshing etc. etc.) I decided to take a breather and not bother to finish the race. Save some energy. I noticed that my nemesis the other guy was heading back to the launch area along with a couple of other sailors. What's that all about? It's only 18 knots. I can handle this. Hah!

How wrong I was.

I approached the start area for the fourth race and looked upwind. Yikes. The sea was a mass of whitecaps and streaking foam. I saw later when the RC posted the results that they recorded the windspeed for the afternoon as 15-30 knots. Hmmm. I guess I was looking at one of the 30 knot gusts.

I remembered my wife's last words to me. "Please be careful!" I wimped out and sailed back to the beach.

As I drove home I was disappointed and angry with myself. Why had I given up so early? Why didn't I tough it out? I can handle 30 knots. Or I used to be able to. What's the matter with me?

I think it would take at least two more posts for me to cover all the Excuses as to Why I Sailed so Badly on Sunday, and What The Hell I'm Going To Do About It.

America's Cup 34 in Newport

As soon as Larry Ellison's BMW Oracle team had clinched the America's Cup on Sunday, he cited Newport, San Diego and San Francisco as possible venues to host the next AC match.

It's good to hear that the powers-that-be in Newport and Rhode Island have taken him at his word. According to this article in our local newspaper R.I. could be back in the America's Cup race.

A spokesman for the governor of Rhode Island Donald Carcieri said, "The governor believes it’s a great opportunity to bring home one of the most prestigious and historic sporting events back to Newport, where it belongs." A quickly assembled America’s Cup committee is exploring the costs and benefits of wooing the races back to Rhode Island and will deliver that information to Governor Carcieri as soon as next week.

The commodore of the New York Yacht Club cited Rhode Island’s advantages over San Francisco Bay and San Diego; and both the executive director of the America’s Cup Hall of Fame (based in Rhode Island) and the executive director of the state’s Economic Development Corporation spoke about the economic benefits to the state of hosting the Cup.

So it sounds as if Rhode Island is going to make a serious bid to persuade Larry to host AC34 in Newport. And, of course, it has not gone unnoticed that Larry recently bought a home in Newport.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Happy Birthday

Today is Proper Course's fifth birthday!

Yes, it was five years ago on 17 Feb 2005 that I started this blog, not having a clue as to where it might lead and certainly not imagining I would write over 1600 posts and still be blogging five years later. Along the way I have made a lot of good friends (most of whom I've never met) and through trial and error learned one or two things about how to do this blogging thing.

In those five years I have sailed in America, Europe, Australia and the Caribbean; I have run a couple of marathons; I have started a Laser fleet in one club and taught sailing to kids at another club; I have raced in two different Laser frostbite fleets and at numerous other venues; I have moved house from New Jersey to Rhode Island; I have met a lot of interesting people through sailing and made a few new friends; and, best of all, I have become a grandfather. What a long strange trip it's been!

I wonder what the next five years will bring?

Happy Birthday Proper Course.

Worst Wrap

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this month's group writing project Worst Sailing Innovation Ever (WSIE) - especially to those of you participating for the first time. I think I counted 27 entries. Well done!

Six of you selected a particular class of boat or generic design of boat as your WSIE...

Three contributors have issues with engines...
  • The writer of The Boating Bible says that So-called sailboats are the WSIE. He is against sailboats that use engines for "canting keels, water ballast, button-controlled winches etc." He likes a bit of manual exertion when he is racing.
  • Adam Turinas from Messing About in Sailboats says that the WSIE is My (his) outboard.
  • And I went to the extreme and wrote a rant against the whole concept of Putting an Engine in a Sailboat.
Four people chose to tell us about other pieces of sailing equipment that really bug them...
  • The Peconic Puffin thinks monofilm is the WSIE.
  • Captain Puffy Pants offers a good rant about Cup Holders with Suction Cups.
  • Zen of Zen's Sekai II - By Sea asks What is in a name...? which is about why lifelines shouldn't be called lifelines.
  • And Chris Partridge, who is a rower, went to the extreme in this category and nominated for WSIE... The Sail. Hmmm.
Five entries were from the world of racing...
  • Yarg of Apparent Wind has a beef about how we all take club racing series too seriously so he suggests as WSIE the concept of Club Champion.
  • Jos of Racing Rules of Sailing - Look to Windward wrote an entry for the project in which he asked his readers which one of the Racing Rules is the Worst Sailing Innovation Ever?
  • AlextheLaserSailor nominates Rule 42. Although his real beef seems to be with those coaches of youth sailing who teach Rule 42 badly.
  • B.J. Burrows from the Bahamas suggests Automatic Starting Horns as the WSIE.
  • And I, trying to be topical, trace all of the current woes with the America's Cup back to The Deed of Gift.
Then there were four entries that didn't fit neatly into any of the above categories...
  • O Docker doesn't like The Gybe.
  • Edward the Superblogger says the WSIE is The Ubiquitous Topsider.
  • Captain JP doesn't like the current time-tested phonetic alphabet so he has invented Buff's Phonetic Alphabet.
  • And The Bursledon Blogger suggests that "appalling low budget drama, based in the fictional Hampshire sailing community of Tarrant" Howards' Way as his nomination for WSIE.

A couple of people wrote posts with multiple suggestions for WSIE...

And finally we had three entries from people who chose things that basically stop us sailing altogether...
  • Andrew Sadler who writes SadlerBootwerk is currently ice-bound in the Netherlands so he chooses as his WSIE Ice.
  • Carol Anne of Five O'Clock Somewhere nominates Work: The number one cause of people not sailing.
  • And David of Never Sea Land nominates Land. It is, after all, the abrupt running out of said medium that causes most sailing wrecks.
Thanks again to everyone who made the effort to write something for this project. Once again I was astounded by your creativity.

Update: Late entry from Beachcomber who has a new blog, Exploding Water. His suggestion for WSIE is yacht club initiation fees. And he has a few other beefs too in
What ails sailing in the US?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Nerds Who Won the America's Cup

nerd n. slang
  1. A person who gains pleasure from amassing large quantities of knowledge about subjects often too detailed or complicated for most other people to be bothered with.
  2. A person who is single-minded or accomplished in scientific or technical pursuits but is felt to be socially inept.

Let's face it. We knew all along that the 33rd America's Cup was going to be a design competition. Even if Ernesto Bertarelli hadn't decided to drive his own boat and demonstrate the most spectacularly incompetent match racing skills in the history of the Cup by accumulating a penalty prior to the starting signal in each of the two races, he would still have lost. Larry Ellison's trimaran was the faster boat. Game over.

I said as much back in December 2007. The Deed of Gift match was going to be a battle between two egocentric billionaires that would be decided by who could hire the talent to design the faster boat. As I put it, "
The America's Cup should be all about the nerds in the design office. Rich old coot with the best nerds wins."

And nobody should be surprised that America would beat Switzerland in such a contest, right? We all know that America has the best nerds, don't we? America put a man on the moon. Americans invented Spandex, the 8-track tape, Bubble Wrap, the Segway, and the disposable diaper. Case closed.

So where did Larry Ellison go to find the nerds to design his space age monster trimaran? One of the leading American yacht design offices? The naval architecture and aerospace departments of some of America's world-class research universities such as MIT or CalTech?

Well, not exactly.

Here is a picture of Larry's nerds...

... or as they are more politely known in this May 2008 press release "the BMW Oracle Racing design team."

So who are these super-nerds who just won the America's Cup for Larry?

Well the guy on the right at the back is Russell Coutts, the CEO of BMW Oracle Racing. And the dude with grey hair third from the left in the front row is Mike Drummond, the Design Director.

Russell and Mike aren't really nerds. They are the bosses of the nerds. There's nothing wrong with that. Being a nerd boss is an honorable profession. I used to be one myself. But they are not the real nerds. (Oh, by the way, Russell and Mike both come from New Zealand.)

Those two guys on the left of the front row, the slightly chubby ones with the nerdy grins, they are the real super-nerds. They are Vincent Lauriot Prévost and Marc Van Peteghem, principals in the multihull design firm of Van Peteghem Lauriot Prévost (VPLP). The guy standing behind them with the tanned complexion and the very white teeth is Franck Cammas. Actually Franck is a bit of a jock as well as a nerd. He's currently making an attempt on one of those "fastest round the world" records in Groupama 3, but Larry hired him because he is one of the world's top multihull gurus. And the other super-nerd the one on the right of the front row is Michel Kermarec, who was in charge of the incredibly nerdy areas of "performance prediction and appendage design."

So there you have them. Vincent, Marc, Franck and Michel, the nerds who won the America's Cup.

Oh. I almost forgot to mention it. The nerds who won the America's Cup... they are all French.

Update: Ralph from Montreal asks in a comment, "What nerd(s) designed the hardwing?"

Great question Ralph. The wing project was headed by aeronautical specialist Joseph Ozanne. The entire aerodynamic project was based on numerical simulations without using a wind tunnel. Very nerdy, I am sure you agree.

Here is a picture of Joseph Ozanne...

He is French, of course.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Four Five of the Worst

They are coming so fast I can barely pedal hard enough to keep up with them. Here are yet four five more entries in this month's group writing project, Worst Sailing Innovation Ever.

Some of my "friends" seem to think it is funny to choose titles for their posts in this project that "accidentally" insult myself. Earwigoagin, for example, has titled his post Worst Stream of Consciousness; Tillerman. But his post isn't about me at all. It's about the hype surrounding the concept of the single-handed dinghy with an asymmetric spinnaker.

David writes a most excellent blog called Never Sea Land. It is without a doubt the best blog on the planet about ladies with no legs. David's choice for the Worst Sailing Innovation Ever is Land. It is, after all, the abrupt running out of said medium that causes most sailing wrecks.

Meanwhile, from the deserts of New Mexico, Pat offers us a rant about Ferro-Cement Boats. I don't think I've ever been sailing in a ferro-cement boat. It sounds like an appalling idea.

And former lurker AlextheLaserSailor nominated Rule 42. Although his real beef seems to be with those coaches of youth sailing who teach Rule 42 badly.

Keep them coming. You have all of the rest of today, until the day ends wherever in the world that days end, to submit your idea for
Worst Sailing Innovation Ever.

Update: Oops I missed one. The Boating Bible Manual of Seamanship is undoubtedly the best Bible about seamanship on the planet (though I couldn't find the section about walking on water.) The Bible says that So-called sailboats are the WSIE. The dude that writes the Bible is not totally against engines like some nut who proposed The Engine as WSIE. (I wish I had thought of that abbreviation two weeks ago.) No, the Bible dude says he doesn't mind engines on sailboats for "maintaining battery power for navigation lights, communications, navstation equipment and house power"; he is just against them for "canting keels, water ballast, button-controlled winches etc." He likes a bit of manual exertion when he is racing; and some beer after the race. I'll drink to that.

Rule 42 – Worst Sailing Innovation Ever

AlextheLaserSailor, who says he has been "lurking on the Proper Course blog for many months" has decided to come out of the shadows and contribute to our group writing project Worst Sailing Innovation Ever.

I competed in a regional Laser regatta recently. The regatta was specifically a Masters & Youth. Three separate fleets for the different rigs, with both old farts and youngsters competing within each fleet. This regatta is a highlight of our Lasering year, with a strong following from the mature sailor and youngsters alike. A good number of the participating Youth sailors are anointed by our regional sailing institution as elite youth sailors – benefiting from national coaching and mentoring programs.

Day 1 (3 races) was 15-20 knots - heavy going for the first day of the regatta. I typically got to the top mark in the top half of the fleet - not normally a problem as I usually pick up a few places downwind. Not this time though. A number of youth sailors in front of me were rocking and rolling all over the place. Initially I thought they were just struggling with the heavy conditions, on the verge of a deathroll, then recovering with a big tug on the mainsheet and flattening the boat – but this rocking, rolling, tugging and flattening continued all the way down the run – not just in the first race, but consistently on each leeward leg of the course.

Day 2 (2 races) conditions a bit easier at 5-10 knots. Great Lasering conditions with flat water and shifty breezes. The youth sailors were once again working their boats downwind, with BIG sail adjustments continually down towards the leeward mark. Not so much rocking this time, but plenty of sail adjustments that were obviously not required.

Our elite juniors are being coached to exploit rule 42 – ooching, pumping and rocking on their way to Laser greatness.

All they need to learn now is how to be more subtle in contravening this rule, so they can fool the professional judges, not just old sailing hacks like me.

So – the worst sailing innovation ever is Rule 42. A rule that we’re expected to breech, but to do it subtlety so as not to get caught.


Thanks for the rant Alex. So come on all you other lurkers. Drop me an email (tillermeister at gmail dot com) with a few lines on your suggestion for Worst Sailing Innovation Ever. Today, Monday 15 Feb, is the last day for entries. Full details at
Worst Sailing Innovation Ever.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Not Quite Totally Most Useless Sailing Innovation Ever

"What can me more useless than writing about what is worst?" asks the Zenfather. A rhetorical question of course. A rebuke to myself and my negativity and worthlessness in proposing that my fellow sailing bloggers spend a few minutes discussing the Worst Sailing Innovation Ever for our latest group writing project.

The Zenfather writes a most excellent blog called Zen's Sekai II – By Sea. It is undoubtedly the best blog on the planet about sailing, Japanese food, boating consignment stores,
hanging bikini bottoms on lifelines, and bottled water.

I'm not sure if he is participating in our group writing project or not. Nothing is ever "worst" in the eyes of the Zenfather. In Zen philosophy nothing is totally useless. He would rather think of something good for sailing.

But he has sorta kinda written a post on the subject. And included a delightful picture of a shapely young lady with her jeans falling down. And rambled on about bedding. And bikini tops. Very Zen.

The main theme of his post is "lifelines". But he stops short of calling them the Worst Sailing Innovation Ever. I do gather that he doesn't like the name "lifelines" much, because he doesn't think they will save your life.

Anyway check it out yourself. What is in a name... (By the way Zenfather, what is the name of that shapely young lady in the photo in your post, the one with her jeans falling down?)

Gong Shi Fa Chai !!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Puffin's Worst

The famous Peconic Puffin sent in an entry for this month's group writing project, Worst Sailing Innovation Ever.

Peconic Puffin is the nom de splash of a windsurfer from Long Island who writes the best blog on the planet about windsurfing, ear plugs, stand up paddling, iPhone apps, and drinking beer out of a fiberglass mast. His suggestion for Worst Sailing Innovation Ever is monofilm, apparently because monofilm sails are an exercise in "accelerated decrepitude." No, I don't know what he's talking about either but then I don't understand most blogs about sailing unless they are about Laser sailing and not always then.

Thanks to everyone who has contributed so far. I know there are least thirty more people itching to enter the project, but there are only two days left until the deadline so don't delay; the project closes on Monday February 15th. Please do have a shot at telling the world about what you think is the Worst Sailing Innovation Ever. You don't even need to have your own blog to participate. Full details at Worst Sailing Innovation Ever.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Horse Wurst

Another entry today in our group writing project Worst Sailing Innovation Ever.

Joe Rouse writes a most excellent blog called The Horse's Mouth. It is without a doubt the best blog on the planet about fishing while wearing a bikini, surf, Laser sailing on San Francisco Bay, cats, and powerboats masquerading as sailboats.

Joe's suggestion for Worst Sailing Innovation Ever is The MacGregor 26, a powerboat masquerading as a sailboat.

Thanks to everyone who has contributed so far. If you haven't sent in your entry yet, then don't delay. The project closes next Monday February 15th. Please do tell us all what you think is the Worst Sailing Innovation Ever. You don't even need to have your own blog to participate. Full details at Worst Sailing Innovation Ever.

Fifteen Minutes America Likes to Watch

So did I get it right?

In December 2007 I wrote my predictions for how the 33rd America's Cup would play out in 7 Reasons Why a Cat Fight Will Be Good for the America's Cup. The first race is in the bag with a win for BMW Oracle by a margin of over fifteen minutes. So let's see what I wrote over two years ago and how some of my opinions played out...

1. Tradition.
I said a Deed of Gift match would be more traditional than recent America's Cups.
"One defender. One challenger. Two crazy rich old coots. The way it was meant to be." That was easy. I got that one right. Sort of. I just didn't know how badly the two crazy rich old coots would behave in the lead-up to the Cup match.

2. Excitement.
I said, "There's no argument, multihulls are faster and more exciting than monohulls." I guess that's still debatable. It sure was exciting to see those huge machines flying their windward hulls in light breezes and sailing at up to three times windspeed. But it was hardly an exciting tactical race to watch. And it was soooo long.

3. Simplicity.
I predicted we wouldn't see any of the boat-to-boat tactics traditional in match racing, that there wouldn't be any of the usual pre-start maneuvering, that each boat would just stay apart from the other and go for a good fast clean start. Well, I guess I totally blew that one. Spithill did a dial-up and forced Alinghi to tack in front of BMW Oracle and draw a penalty; then Spithill managed to stall BMW Oracle and yielded a huge lead to Alinghi at the start. Oh well, you didn't really think I knew what I was talking about, did you?

On the other hand I did predict the windward leg tactics correctly. "Bang the corner. Tack. And then off on another wild ride to the first mark."

4. Technology.
I said that, in the end, AC33 would be decided by technology.

The deed of gift match between multihulls of essentially unrestricted design will be a test of technology and yacht design more than seamanship. This is a good thing. The Olympics and each class World Championship are the events designed to find out who the best sailors are. The America's Cup needs to differentiate itself from these events. The America's Cup should be all about the nerds in the design office. Crazy rich old coot with the best nerds wins.

Not exactly a difficult prediction. There was every chance right from the start that this was going to be a one-sided competition. It's just that nobody knew which side. As it turned out, BMW Oracle was faster upwind and faster downwind in conditions that the pundits thought might favor Alinghi. It certainly looks right now as if the crazy rich old coot from the USA has the best nerds.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Caption Contest

Ernesto Bertarelli showing the America's Cup to Richard Branson

I wonder what they were saying?

Any suggestions?

New Mexico's Worst

One more entry today in our group writing project Worst Sailing Innovation Ever.

Carol Anne is a college English instructor from New Mexico who writes a most excellent blog called Five O'Clock Somewhere. It is without a doubt the best blog on the planet about sailing in the desert, copiers at community colleges, cats, grammar, and having your hair done.

Carol Anne's suggestion for Worst Sailing Innovation Ever is Work: The number one cause of people not sailing.

Thanks to everyone who has contributed so far. If you haven't sent in your entry yet then now is the time to do it. Don't delay. The project closes next Monday February 15th. Please do have a shot at telling the world about what you think is the Worst Sailing Innovation Ever. You don't even need to have your own blog to participate. Full details at Worst Sailing Innovation Ever.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fighting Talk

A few months ago I wrote a review of a book called Saving Sailing by Nick Hayes. Nick's basic premise is that sailing is in decline and he has some well-thought-out ideas to remedy that problem. I think I wrote a fair and positive review of the book.

Nick recently gave an interview to US Sailing about his experience participating in the National Sailing Program Symposium in which he is quoted as saying...

I didn't sense, nor do I believe, that the macro participation numbers are in question, except perhaps in narrowly-viewed (and ill-informed) blogs that originate where specific fleets are strong.

Hmmm. I wonder which "narrowly-viewed (and ill-informed)" bloggers he is talking about? Not me, I hope.

Dutch Worst

One more entry in our group writing project Worst Sailing Innovation Ever today from our friend in the Netherlands, Jos Spijkerman. Jos writes a most excellent blog about the Racing Rules called Racing Rules of Sailing - Look to Windward. It is, without a doubt, the best blog about the Racing Rules of Sailing on the planet.

Jos, not surprisingly, went searching for the worst Rule in the Rulebook in his post Worst Sailing Innovation Ever? Is it 22? 30.3? 42?

(Rules guys always talk in numbers like this. Just go with the flow and pretend you know what they are talking about. Then when they pause for breath say, "What do you think about the new wording in Rule 39?" Floors 'em every time.)

Anyway, Jos is asking his readers for suggestions on the worst Rule. So please go over to his blog and give him a piece of your mind.

I Love Texas

America's Cup Action

Great video from the good old days when America's Cup boats actually used to go sailing. Is it too much to hope that we might see a similar outcome in Valencia later this month?

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Have Some More Wurst

Four more entries in our group writing project Worst Sailing Innovation Ever...

Paul Cross is a "loquacious, idle, pun hunting teacher of Physics." He writes a blog called Daedalus which is about learning with new technology, sailing, science….and pretty much anything else he has an opinion on. It's perhaps the best blog on the planet about things that Paul Cross has an opinion on. His nomination for Worst Sailing Innovation Ever is The Cabin. As he says in Cabin Fever... An openboat rant...

As soon as you put a lid on a boat it stops being a boat. It becomes: a shed, a mobile home or an excuse not to go sailing.

There is nothing about a cabin that improves the boat, it merely compromises the craft's ability to sail and gives you more room to weigh yourself down with stuff you think you might need but probably never will.

I think I like this guy.

Andrew Sadler writes a most excellent blog called SadlerBootwerk. It is perhaps the best blog on the planet about Dutch barges, carpentry and Optimist sailing in the Netherlands. Andrew's suggestion for Worst Sailing Innovation Ever is Ice.

Huh. Ice? I like ice in my Scotch. And it's hardly an innovation. But poor Andrew is iced up in Holland, his barging clients can't get to him and his daughter can't sail her Optimist, so I guess we'll give him a break and allow

O Docker (at least according to his profile) is a "drone" who works in publishing in Sacramento. He writes a most excellent blog called O Dock which is probably the best blog on the planet about fixing a boat on O Dock in Berkelely Marina and watching other people sailing on San Francisco Bay. He has discovered a fascinating piece of nautical history from the 17th century involving one of my ancestors the first Baronet Gybe. O Docker's selection for Worst Sailing Innovation Ever is The Gybe.

Tillerman writes a most pathetic blog about dogfood and people who can't spell. He seems to have been swept up in the current mania for criticizing that most excellent sailing event, the pinnacle of our sport, the America's Cup. In an extremely boring post which is nothing more than the transcript of his rambling interview with the famous sailing reporter Buff Staysail, he proposes
The Deed of Gift as Worst Sailing Innovation Ever.

Thanks to everyone who has contributed so far. The project will be open for another week until next Monday February 15th. Please do write your suggestion for Worst Sailing Innovation Ever. You don't even need to have your own blog to participate. Full details at Worst Sailing Innovation Ever.

By the way, if anyone didn't agree with my post on 23 Reasons Why Putting an Engine in a Sailboat is the Worst Sailing Innovation Ever then check out the latest post on Syzygy Sailing, Goddam shit ass piece of shit boat.

Monday, February 08, 2010

ALPO - the Secret Formula for Winning Laser Races

One of the latest videos to go viral on the liberal youtuby bloggyspherie thingie is of Sarah Palin reading cues written on the palm of her left hand to answer questions when she was being tossed softball questions interviewed after her speech at the Tea Baggers Tea Party Convention last weekend. Apparently those liberal elite types think it's hilarious that someone who considers herself to be presidential material should need a cheat sheet to answer tough questions such as, "If you were president what would be your top three priorities?"

I disagree. I don't begrudge Mrs. Palin her Cliff Notes. In fact she has given me a terrific idea to improve my Laser sailing. I wrote last week in Brain Freeze how I keep forgetting important tactical principles when I am racing in the frostbite fleet. So now I just need to write cheat notes on my hand and I won't forget them again.

No wait. That won't work. I wear black latex gloves when frostbiting and I won't be able to read anything written on them.

Hmmm. WWSD. What would Sarah do?

Let's see. The three points she had difficulty in remembering were...
  • Tax cuts
  • Energy
  • Allow America's spirit to rise again

Wait a minute. Couldn't she have used an acronym to help remember those three points? T.E.A. That would have been easy. After all she was at the Tea Baggers Tea Party Convention.

So what acronym could I use?

The four things I need to remember when Brain Freeze sets in are

  • Avoid the crowd on the start line
  • Look before tacking to preserve clear air
  • Port tack layline - don't go there
  • Opposition - cover them on final beat


I can remember that.

How about you? Do you have any special tricks to help you remember important stuff when racing?

America's Cup: Breaking News

It's official. The results are in. It's all over. There is a winner.

No, no, no. I'm not talking about the actual America's Cup. I'm talking about the America's Cup Poll conducted on this blog over the last few days to determine what my readers, a highly intelligent and knowledgeable sample of sailors worldwide, think about the 33rd Match of the America's Cup.

And the winner is.... "It's going too be exciting" with 49 votes.
In second place was... "It's a fiasco" with 27 votes.
And in last was... "I don't give a damn" with 20 votes.

The votes were cast before today's "exciting" first race of AC33 was abandoned because of lack of wind. I wonder if I would get the same result if I re-ran the poll now?

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The Deed of Gift

So Tillerman, whatever happens with the racing in Valencia this week, there seems to be a general consensus that, after all the legal battles of the last couple of years, the America's Cup is totally screwed up and a monumental PR disaster for the sport of sailing. Why do you think that is?

Great question Buff. Thank you for asking. In my opinion it all goes back to the Deed of Gift. That's why I'm nominating the Deed of Gift as the worst sailing innovation ever (in that bloggy group hug thing that's going on write now.)

Ummm. Deed of gift? What's that? Some kind of tax dodge?

Not exactly Buff. I need to tell some history to explain it all. In 1851 a schooner called America, owned by a syndicate representing the New York Yacht Club, won a race around the Isle of Wight in England. The trophy they won was a silver bottomless ewer (not a cup).

Six years later in 1857 the surviving members of the syndicate donated the bottomless ewer (not a cup) to the New York Yacht Club. To accompany the
bottomless ewer, they wrote a Deed of Gift that specifying that the bottomless ewer should be held in trust as a "challenge" trophy to promote "friendly competition among nations".

You're losing me mate. What does all this have to do with the America's Cup?

Well, Buff, the Deed of Gift said that the bottomless ewer was a "cup" even though it clearly wasn't a cup. And I guess that people started calling it America's Cup after that because the boat called America once won it.

So why is this Deed of Gift thingie the worst sailing innovation ever?

Well, the Deed of Gift set up the holder of the America's Cup (then the New York Yacht Club) as both the defender of the Cup and the body responsible for organizing and running the races for the Cup. It was an unfair competition right from the start.

I guess you are right in theory, but surely those Corinthian type chappies from the NYYC could be relied upon to run fair regattas?

Umm, Buff, have you ever met a sailor from New York?

How do you think the NYYC held on to the America's Cup for 132 years?

They exploited the advantage given to them as both defender and regatta organizer in every way they could. They even persuaded the folks that donated the Cup to them to amend the Deed of Gift a couple of times to make it more to their liking. In 1881 they got the deed amended to prevent those low-class Canadian clubs on the Great Lakes from challenging. And in 1887 they persuaded the sole surviving syndicate member, George Schuyler, to have the deed rewritten in fancy legal language that really tightened up the rules for challengers.

OK. I see. It would have been much better if the America's Cup had been run all along by some independent organization that wasn't biased to one side or the other. Why didn't George Schuyler and his buddies donate the Cup to some setup like that?

Great question Buff. The problem was that in 1857 there wasn't any international yacht racing organization. In fact there weren't any international sporting bodies of any kind. The International Yacht Racing Union wasn't founded until 1907, and the International Olympic Committee was only founded in 1894.

Well couldn't Mr. Schuyler have found some other independent, neutral organization to run the America's Cup?

Great idea Buff. Basically he would have needed to choose a country that wasn't likely ever to be interested in challenging for the cup themselves, probably a land-locked nation, a country respected by all other nations for its neutrality and fairness. Like Switzerland, for example?

Yeah Tillerman. I think we're on to something here. Do you think that the Swiss government would have accepted the responsibility of running the America's Cup?

Probably not Buff. Old George Schulyer would have needed to choose some organization in Switzerland that knew something about sailing.

Was there any such organization in the mid 1800's?

Not as far as I can tell at the time of the first Deed of Gift in 1857. But by the time old George signed the third version of the Deed of Gift in 1887 there was a highly reputable Swiss yacht club that could have taken on the responsibility. It was founded in 1872 by local and foreign members of the upper classes who enjoyed sailing on Lake Léman. In 1876, Baronness of Rotschild registered her steamship "Gitana I" through this club, and in 1907 it was so well respected that it was recognized as the "National Authority for Racing Yachting in Switzerland."

Wow. That's fascinating Tillerman. So what you are basically saying is that George Schuyler should have donated the Cup to this Swiss yacht club and we wouldn't have had any of the controversy and unfairness and legal shenanigans of the last 150 years?


What's the name of this neutral, independent, fair-minded, trustworthy Swiss yacht club?

Société Nautique de Genève.






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