Monday, September 27, 2010

Half a World

I had been looking forward to the 2010 Laser Masters Worlds at Hayling Island in the UK for 400 days. Unfortunately I did not exactly follow through on my optimistic plans for training for the Worlds that I wrote about in August 2009.

And I paid the price for my laziness.

Tillerwoman and I flew to England on Thursday 9 September, and after a bizarre and lengthy encounter with Avis at London airport (which could well be the subject of a whole other post) drove down to Hayling Island on the south coast on Friday.

Saturday. Check out my charter boat. Select the best set of foils I can find but it is noticeable that every single one of the new style Laser centerboards and rudders has been damaged in some way
during the Senior Worlds, with chips in the gelcoat on both leading and trailing edges. The LaserPerformance guys have some story about how there was some error in the manufacturing process for the first batch of the new foils and that it will be corrected in future. I sincerely hope they are right.

Moral: Never buy Release 1.0 of anything.

Measurement is very efficiently organized with a large band of volunteers. Have a fascinating discussion with the Chief Measurer about how it could be possible that my battens which had been measured and passed by the measurer at the Worlds in Australia two years ago and still have that measurer's initials on them could now be too long. Do battens expand in cooler weather?

Moral of story: You can never win an argument with a Chief Measurer bearing a steel ruler.

Go for a bit of a yot just to make sure that my boat is rigged properly and to check out the conditions. Geeze. Strong tides. Chaotic waves. This is going to be "fun."

Sunday. Practice race day. Always worth doing the practice race just to familiarize yourself with how the race committee operates and what conditions are like on the actual race area. I think this might be the only sunny day of the whole regatta. Somehow I seem to make an error at every mark on the course through not thinking about what the tide is doing. Rounding too close and being swept into the buoy. Going too high on a reach and then sailing low and slow against the tide down to the buoy. Overstanding the layline. Thinking I can sneak around on the transom of the inside boat at a classic leeward mark pinwheel without allowing for the fact that the three boats inside the wheel will be jammed into the mark by the tide.

Good job I got all that out of the way during the practice race.

Moral for the week: Think tide.

Monday. Day 1 of the regatta. Someone says it is 22 knots gusting 28. Someone else says 25 gusting 30. Whatever. It is windy. And to add to the fun there is a strong tide and huge, chaotic waves. Not the big Pacific swells that we had in Australia or the nice long rollers we get near the mouth of Narragansett Bay in a south-westerly, but nasty, unpredictable, monster, cockpit-filling, boat-bashing, short wavelength, square waves. I am going OK (for me) upwind, beating a respectable number of boats but downwind on the second run, I lose it. Capsize. Watch all the fleet sail past me while I do my typically slow and careful capsize recovery. Capsize again. Do an even slower capsize recovery.

Somehow I manage to stagger around the rest of the course with the long pointy thing aiming mainly at the sky. Get confused about which is the finish line boat but find it eventually. Amazingly I manage to beat 3 or 4 other boats who presumably capsized more times than I did or were even slower at capsize recoveries than I was.

At this point I am totally exhausted and am still facing a 45 minute sail downwind to the club, so I decide to call it a day and skip the second race. I am not the only one, by any means.

Prior to entering the Masters Worlds we were all required to sign a form saying we are competent sailors capable of sailing a Laser on open water in 25 knot winds. I feel like a fraud now for signing that form. Clearly I can't sail in these conditions. At least not in two races a day. I pretty much make a decision there and then that this will be my last Masters Worlds.


Well, this could be the last time
This could be the last time
Maybe the last time
I don't know
Oh no.

(In hindsight, this may not have been the best mental attitude to have for the rest of the regatta.)

Tuesday. It's 30 gusting 40. No racing today.

Wednesday. Not quite as windy as Tuesday. The RC goes out to the course and checks the wind and wave conditions for a couple of hours and eventually they decide that it's not suitable for racing. They're probably worrying that all the fat old farts like me who came in early on Monday are going to get themselves into trouble again. They are probably right.

There's a "barbecue" at the club on Wednesday night. I only eat some chicken and potatoes and salad but somehow I end up with an upset stomach overnight.

Thursday. Feeling a bit queasy this morning but the winds are only 8-12 knots from the NW so I go sailing. It is pretty shifty and even though I'm not feeling 100% I do complete both races, scoring around my typical place at the Worlds, about three-quarters of the way down the fleet.

Try to be careful about what I eat tonight by having a simple meal of pasta and salad at an Italian restaurant.

Friday. Didn't feel any better this morning, but hey, I'm here to sail so I'm going sailing. Another 8-12 knot north-westerly. The wind is shifting back and forth about 20 degrees leading to multiple postponements and general recalls for our fleet. We have three general recalls with the black flag up and about ten guys get tossed out of the race. It's cold waiting around for the start and I'm starting to get stomach cramps. Eventually our fleet start our first race around 3pm (having launched at 11am). I score my best finish of the regatta (no doubt aided by the absence of the ten dudes BFD'd.) But after the race my stomach is painful and I feel light-headed and distinctly strange so I skip the second race (again.)

As soon as I reach the beach I head straight for the the changing rooms where I experience an attack of uncontrollable shivers. I stand under a hot shower for ages before I feel like I have warmed up. I dress and derig and let Tillerwoman drive me to the hotel. I collapse straight into bed with my clothes on and start shivering again. Then I start throwing up. It was not a good night.

Saturday. Go to the club but I'm not feeling well enough to sail. One of my fellow US team members tells me to, "Take a couple of deep breaths." I guess he's really telling me to, "Suck it up." But my body is telling me that if I go sailing I will feel exactly like I did on Friday. So I wimp out and miss another couple of races. Sounds like it was the lightest wind day of the regatta, with a lot of waiting around for the wind to fill in. Good job I missed it. It was the waiting that did me in on Friday.

Sunday. Feel a lot better and I'm psyched up to go sailing. Only 17-20 knots today but still with those big choppy waves. More general recalls and a couple of guys are black flagged. I have a terrific start and sail pretty well in the first race to finish in a respectable place (for me) right next to a couple of my old buddies from Cedar Point YC in Connecticut. Before I moved to Rhode Island and started measuring myself against "that guy", these two were "those guys". Any day I could hang with them was a good day.

After the first race I'm not as physically tired as I was after the first race on Day 1. (I didn't capsize during the race at all!) But mentally I'm done. I just can't face slogging around the course again in those waves, so I head for home. I capsize twice on the downwind sail back to the club. At one point I lose contact with the boat and have to swim hard to catch it as it's blown away from me. I lose my hat (but a kind safety boat driver finds it and returns it to me.)

So in the end I only sailed five of the ten races at the regatta.

I didn't sail the Masters Worlds. I sailed half a Worlds.

I think I'm right in saying that I finished every single race at the previous five Masters Worlds which I entered. So I feel like I am only half the Laser sailor I used to be.

I was not prepared for this regatta. I was not fit enough. I had not sailed enough regattas leading up to it. I should not be coming to the Worlds if this is best I can do.


Well, this could be the last time
This could be the last time
Maybe the last time
I don't know
Oh no.


SoxSail said...

C'mon T-man. Don't you think you're being a little harsh on yourself here? You flew partway around the world, to sail an unfamiliar (broken) boat in unfamiliar (cold) water in pretty insane sounding conditions, against the best guys in the world who are probably younger than you. Anyway, I applaud your guts. See ya on the water.

Tillerman said...

Harsh? Maybe SoxSail.


a) The boat was fine except for slightly less than perfect foils. And all the charter foils were the same or worse so I can't complain on that score. And a Laser is a Laser. I can't say I'm unfamiliar with a Laser.

b) Yes it was colder than summer sailing in Rhode Island but not as cold as frostbiting. So that's no excuse either.

c) In the Master Worlds we sail in fleets by age group. I sailed in the Grand Masters for sailors aged 55-64. I am 62. So, yes, I am a bit older than the average in that group but not so much that I can use that as an excuse either.

d) Yes the conditions were unfamiliar to me, and to a lot of my fellow sailors I dare say. But that's one reason we all go to sail regattas in different places - to experience different conditions.

So I don't think I was being harsh. Just honest. The real issue is how I deal with a disappointing performance like this.

Bender said...

Tillerman, not wanting to open up old wounds in a time when you apparently have some new ones, however.......Mummy Boats. Not saying it is the answer, but certainly, the role of the coach is one of planning and evaluating and directing. I am sure that if you were to have this direction more often, your sailing results
would be more predictable. I'm not talking a cram session over a week but rather, once a month, at regattas etc. I know I will be shot down and tagged a Mummy Boat supporter, but just helps.

JP said...

Don't be too hard on yourself Mr T!

Sounds like you were sick and the weather was foul.

Remember that most of us wouldn't have been accepted as an entrant at that level and there's always someone who can sail a bit better.

I like most sailors have been at the back of many a fleet and didn't finish others too

The key thing is you went for it

harrymvt said...

I agree with JP. It's not your ranking that matters, it's that you even qualify to be one of a very select set of world-class sailors.

For an explanation of what went wrong, see

Antolin said...

hola Timonel.

you are still our hero!! sail on rock!!

Chris Partridge said...

You didn't drink enough Ruddles, which is medically proven to cure all ills.

Tillerman said...

Chris P could be right. I sampled many excellent English ales and beers during my visit but I didn't make it to Chris's local, the Royal Oak in Langstone, to enjoy a couple of pints of Ruddles County until the last Saturday night of my visit. That's probably why I recovered on Sunday morning. Next time, if there is a next time, I need to drink Ruddles right through the regatta.

Next year the Masters Worlds is in San Francisco. According to, Ruddles County is not available in San Francisco. What is the Laser class thinking? Hosting a Masters Worlds in a location that doesn't have Ruddles!

Anonymous said...

Your US tummy caught the infamous Hayling Island bug! Revenge of the homeland?
More seriously, truly sorry to read about your physical troubles during the regatta. As others have stated, don't be hard on yourself. The simple truth is that when you are not in top shape, it will show when you are competing at the top level.

Tillerman said...

Yeah, it is kind of ironic that I have sailed Masters Worlds without any problems at all in locations such as Mexico and Spain, which are rumored to pose much greater risks to the Anglo-Saxon digestive system ... and then I got laid low by the water or the food or the beer or something in my home country. (I am from England originally.) Go figure!

Chris Partridge said...

No Ruddles in San Fran? I am shocked. Shocked.
Let me know in good time and I will ship you a few cans, though it won't be the same as smooth draught ale straight from a cool celler, drawn by the hand of a buxom barmai...sorry, gotta go...

Anonymous said...

time to trade in the dinghy for something bigger and less tippy

Tony said...

Don't let it be the last time! At 62, you're way too young for that!

I feel a little dirty for suggesting this, but have you thought about swapping to a Radial for the next Worlds? San Fran then Fremantle, both will be a battle in the full rig but much more fun with a smaller sail. Might be a good way to rediscover the fun.

I need to go and wash my mouth out now.

Sam Chapin said...

Tillerman, we have missed you and glad that you made it back. I followed John Bertrand blog and the score card. I figured you were just too smart to be trying to sail in all that unpleasant weather and were sitting on the porch happy with Irish Coffee and some other smart dudes, swapping stories about better days.
Glad your back anyway.

Baydog said...

The weather was too much.
The Emperor has no clothes.
Welcome home.
We love you.

O Docker said...

While we'd like nothing more than to see your shining countenance gracing our waters next year, the odds are good that you'd find similar conditions here.

The shallow shelf of the East Bay that's home to the Berkeley Circle is famous for its short, steep chop that stops even keelboats in their tracks. Winds are typically 15-20 by mid afternoon, and no one sails a board boat here without a wetsuit in the summer.

While those conditions might be intimidating if you're not used to them, I'd guess you'd adapt with some practice.

Why not come out here a few weeks early to train? The Cal Sailing club in the Berkely Marina has a few Lasers, or you could probably make other arrangements for a loaner boat. You'd then sail the races in a boat you had a chance to tune.

At least you wouldn't have to eat English food that requires a fermented antidote (not that there's anything wrong with fermented antidotes).

It's tempting for us to sit on the sidelines and offer sage advice, but you're the only one who can make the call. At what point is it no longer fun? But, how would you feel sitting the next one out, knowing it was right here in the states?

Of course, just two years after next year, your seniorosity would let you compete as a Great Grand Master and you could teach those older farts a lesson. You wouldn't want to lose your, uh, edge, in the meantime, would you?

Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

Welcome home Tillerman.

bonnie said...

Maybe the SF boat bloggers can start a campaign where they select a few good pubs & then start going in in random groups & while ordering, asking the bartenders if they happen to serve Ruddles County.

Joe said...

Ruddles County? Why on earth would we drink an ale imported from half way around the world when we have our own excellent brew from Anchor Steam?

By the bye, welcome home dear sir.

English pubs in San Francisco:
The Pig & Whistle, Elephant & Castle, Mad Dog in the Fog, White Horse Tavern & Restaurant, The Black Horse London Pub, The Bitter End,.... if you want Irish pubs...that would be about a long list.

Tillerman said...

I try and avoid so-called "English pubs" in the United States. I haven't found one yet that is anything like the real thing.

It's hard to explain what a pub needs to be the real thing, but it helps if the buildings are 15th century, it's been serving customers since the 17th century, it looks like this, and it has a tide table on a chalk board in the bar.

Anything like that in San Francisco?

Pat said...

You could even get someone to take your own boat out to San Francisco next summer. And I'm sorry so much of England was cruddy for you but maybe that gets rid of all the bad karma.

Joe said...

Sailors like to drink's a dive bar.

O Docker said...

If you do the 2011 Masters Worlds, you'll probabaly be spending more time in the East Bay than in SF - I think home base will be Richmond's Marina Bay Marina, as it was for the Finn Gold Cup.

While a mere 100 years old, this upstart establishment has something of the character of a pub and it's only a short way from the marina.

Joe would probably make a better pub crawl tourguide than I, but without trying to imitate a pub, there are ample opportunities here to soothe a sailor's battered spirits.

There would be older watering holes here, of course, if Drake had been a more observant navigator.

Joe said...

I'm pretty sure that the event will be held off of Crissy Field since the St. Francis is involved....just like the North Americans were a few years back. So we'll have a beer on the beach rather than next to a refinery in Richmond, .)

Joe said...

By the took your return to resuscitate Oh back from the dead. I pleaded with him to write something, but he ignored me as I writhed in pain lying in the gutter.

Baydog said...

Was that you in the gutter, Joe?
And it has been painfully quiet on O dock.

O Docker said...

Not dead, just sleepin'.

I read somewhere (but can't find it now) that the venue is the Circle, and that even though St.FYC is hosting, the base would be in Marina Bay, much closer to the Circle. I think they don't want half the fleet getting mowed down by freighters trying to get there from Crissy.

Of course, being wrong is one of the things I'm most consistent at.

Pandabonium said...

Welcome back. Some "adventure" you had. Sorry to read about you getting ill at such a time.

You should not feel bad. There is no such thing as "failure", only feedback. Failure is an emotionally charged word and is self defeating (not that you used that word in the post). Feedback is a non-judgmental word and is reality telling you what does or doesn't work. So, as you have done, you look at the feedback and respond accordingly. Whether that means making new efforts with a better plan or not going back again is up to you. Either way, you should feel good about yourself.

Tillerman said...

O Docker is right. St. Francis YC is the host club but the Lasers will actually launch from a marina in Richmond and sail in the general Berkeley Circle to Southampton area of the Bay. SFBayLaser left a comment here to that effect on my August 25 post.

So any advice on fun places to stay, eat, drink etc. in or near Richmond will be welcome from you locals. Did Joe say "refinery"?

Joe said...

Oh, you are wise and all seeing. Forgive me for questioning your information.

When I think of lovely spots to spend time in the Bay Area the first place that pops into my mind is Richmond. What a lovely place! It does remind me of the Riviera.

Here's your chart.

By the way, the Hotel Mac is not near Marina Bay. You will have to cross through some of the better neighborhoods to get there.

Tillerman said...

Stop trying to dissuade me from coming. One of the joys of travel is to experience different cultures and peoples. I am sure that the residents of Richmond are wonderful people and that there are many charming places to eat, drink and be happy in their pretty little town by the bay.

Unknown said...

"but nasty, unpredictable, monster, cockpit-filling, boat-bashing, short wavelength, square waves."

A perfect description!

Stuck to "Seafarer" my self as they reckoned part of the proceeds went to charity.

Did I see you US of A boys with a mummy boat or was that the Canadian's?

Figured out what to do with your spool of string yet?

Tillerman said...

I think that several of the North American sailors at the Masters Worlds had Mommy boats. A very sad sign and definitely a step in the wrong direction. Some of the sailors' Mommies even carried warm coats for the poor lickle munchkins to wear between races.

No, I haven't figured out what to do with that complimentary spool of string given to all competitors yet, but I suspect Tillerwoman will probably commandeer it for some horticultural purpose like supporting bean plants next season.

Unknown said...

Ha good thinking on Tillerwomans part,would have helped keep the sweet pea in order this year.

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