Thursday, March 25, 2010


I have never been any good at anything involving balance on one or two legs. I can ski and skate now, but when I was learning it was a real struggle for me to move past the "falling over every few seconds" stage. On my recent vacation in the BVI I went to a yoga class on the beach early one morning. I did OK except when it came to those poses involving balancing on one leg... there was much falling over and embarrassment and apologies to the instructor. Very strange.

Some people like to stand up while they are sailing little boats like Lasers or Sunfish. Bonnie and a friend were doing it in Sunfish this weekend and you can see pictures of them doing it at the strangely titled
i can has banana? or at least onion, sage, rosemary & thyme.

Although it looks strange, it's actually not too hard to stand up in the cockpit of a Sunfish sailing downwind in lightish winds. One of my friends in New Jersey used to teach kids to sail Sunfish by standing on the transom of the boat. That's a bit harder; I forgot how he managed to avoid being swept overboard by the boom every time his students tacked. And my post from last year Eleven Crazy Things You Can Do on a Laser had some other strange tricks you can do while standing up on a Laser. Well, maybe you can do them. I can't do most of them. As I said, I have terrible balance.

Sailing coaches will sometimes make their Laser classes sail standing up. Gary Bodie had us all sailing the Laser standing up in front of the mast in very light airs on Cayuga Lake at a clinic there in 1995. And both times I went to Sailfit Laser clinics with Kurt Taulbee in Florida he had a drill where we had to sail standing up. And not just in light airs or just downwind. He wanted us to sail closehauled in a fresh breeze standing on the side deck. Never did master that one. M
uch falling over and embarrassment and apologies to the instructor again. Very strange.

Why do coaches make you sail a dinghy standing up? Does it actually improve your feel for the boat in the more conventional sitting down position? Does it make you more aware of heel or how to react to puffs? Or is it a good way to amuse (or torture) the class when the winds are too light to do much else?

A friend whose sailing skills I admire even showed off by sailing out to the race course one day on Buzzards Bay while standing on one leg on his Laser. I bet he goes to yoga classes.

But what earthly use is it to have this strange skill of being able to sail a Laser or Sunfish standing up? Sam Chapin did actually come up with one answer to this question in his post LASER SAIL IN LIGHT AIR yesterday. He had this tip...

Sail to the pressure. Get some good polarized sun glasses that help you see the ripples on the water. Stand up now and then for a look around. Practice standing up and still sailing fast with control of the boat.

Good point. I have been known to stand up before the start of a race to check out the wind, but have never tried to stand up and "sail fast with control of the boat" during a race before. I would probably fall over.

Maybe there's something in this? Maybe I should learn to sail standing up? Maybe I should practice some of those yoga poses on dry land first to improve my balance skills?

if you are out on Narragansett Bay this summer and you see some old geezer sailing his Laser while awkwardly trying to assume the Natarajasana pose, it will probably be me.

Am I strange?


Joe said...

I love wahines on the beach. Did you post something besides the photo?

Sam Chapin said...

After I wrote that light air thing in the blog I went down to the lake to a very very light wind evening. Not my pick for wind conditions. You need a little vang on so you can ease the boom out without a big twist.

Now stand up and look around--can't see the pressure any where. Just try that when the wind is very light. When you have that mastered, move up to a little more wind. And then some more.

If you live long enough maybe you can stand up on a wild plane like Anna in the "Advanced Sailing" DVD

Pat said...

Where are the strings that hold her up?

She does look rather like a marionette.

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