Friday, January 28, 2011

Life Without a Brain

I'd like to be a jelly fish
Cause jellyfish don't pay rent
They don't walk, they don't talk
With some Euro-trash accents

They're just simple protoplasm
Clear as cellophane
They ride the winds of fortune
Life without a brain

Gentlemen Start Your Engines

Gentlemen (and ladies) start your (search) engines.

It's now officially Friday at Proper Course World Headquarters, so feel free to use search engines to help you with my Inspirational Quotes Quiz. I suspect most of the answers are out there on the Interwebs somewhere but I don't guarantee it. I didn't use the Web at all in generating the quiz. Instead I found all the quotations in some dusty old objects I found in my basement. They are called "books" I believe. Some of my older readers may remember them. So you may well discover that The Google thinks that several of the quotes are from... some blog called Proper Course. Good luck!

Only one guess per person on Friday please. Let's give everyone a chance to get one right.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hurricane Igor

Stolen from Regattaholic on Facebook.

Quote of the Day

"I think we may be moving towards a world where there are two different groups of people enjoying the outdoors. Those with a photo of a flower on their phones, and those who have smelled the flower." - Tristan Gooley (The Natural Navigator)

If I had seen this quotation yesterday I would surely have included it in my Quotes Quiz. Tristan is not a Luddite and is not making the point that technology has no place in supporting the lives of those of us who enjoy nature; but he is saying that our technical gizmos can interfere with our interaction with and enjoyment of nature if used inappropriately. More at Technology and Nature Debate.

I have been following Tristan's Natural Navigator blog for some time and am looking forward to reading his book, recently released in America. Watch this space for a review soon.

Meanwhile, nobody has come up with any answers to my Quotes Quiz yet. So go over there and have a shot.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Inspirational Quotes Quiz

Who said it?

1. The art of winning is not in winning, but in winning so that the rest of fleet are pleased you have won.

2. It will give an idea of my approach to sailing when I say I measure distance in bottles of liquor.

3. Training accumulates. It's like money in the bank.

4. Let this be your motto - Rely on yourself!
For, whether the prize be a ribbon or throne,
The victor is he who can go it alone!

5. Success is simply the extension and utilization of an an entire series of failures.

6. Starting a boat in a large fleet is like playing Russian roulette with five bullets instead of one. One mistake and the finish is very quick.

7. In life, as in surfing, there are waves that if you dare to ride them will kill you, and there are waves that will give you the ride of your life... All we are really doing in our short time on this big round ball is paddling around trying to figure out which ones are which.

8. If there is one characteristic which all winners share, it is impatience with, and intolerance for, losing.

9. I had been sailing for years before I realized that most people with boats are liars.

10. Oh what a luxury it be
how exquisite, what perfect bliss
so ordinary yet chic
to pee to piss to take a leak.

A few rules...

a) Answers in the comments please.

b) No using search engines before Friday. See quote #1.

c) Only one answer per person before Friday.

d) One additional answer per person on Friday.

e) Then it's a free-for-all.

Don't be an asshole and spoil the quiz for everyone else by using the Google to answer all the questions within the first hour or two like the first commenter on this quiz.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Rule 4

Rule 4 of the Racing Rules of Sailing says, "The responsibility for a boat’s decision to participate in a race or to continue racing is hers alone."

I always thought that this was pretty straightforward but having read some recent discussions on the topic, I'm not so sure. How do you make the decision whether to race or not when wind and wave conditions are challenging, maybe at the borderline or beyond the point at which you are confident in your sailing abilities in those conditions? What criteria do you apply?

Do the actions of the race committee have any bearing on your decision to race? Do you assume that if they decided that the conditions are OK for racing, then it's OK for you to race? And how does the availability of safety boats affect your decision? If there are plenty of safety/ rescue boats around does that mean you are more likely to go out and race even if you think the conditions are well beyond your abilities and you might well get into trouble? And what about the decisions of your fellow competitors? If your closest competition in a series is going out to race, then are you more motivated to go out and race in winds that might be too heavy for you? Or perhaps if they don't race do you figure you can put some good scores on the board against them and so you decide to chance it?

It's complicated...

Of course we all know that in a perfect world we would all rationally assess the current conditions, and weigh any forecast change in those conditions, and take an objective perspective of our own and our crew's experience and fitness and skill levels, and then make an intelligent, logical choice. But in the real world, our emotions and competitive juices and peer pressure all come into play.

It's complicated...

If I think back as to how I have made this decision in the past, then I think I certainly have been guilty of making the assumption that if the race committee are prepared to run races, then it must be OK for me to go out and race. On some of those occasions I have certainly found myself racing my Laser in winds and/or waves that were beyond my ability to sail properly and, more importantly, stay upright for most of the time. But then, if you never go out and challenge yourself in conditions that are beyond your current ability then how will you ever learn to sail in those conditions? And I also confess that, on those days, I have been thinking that it's a lot safer to go out and sail in extreme conditions when there are lots of other Lasers and a safety boat or two around in case I really get into trouble, than it is to go and do it all on my own with nobody else around.

Having said that, I also have a certain pride in my own independence and self-sufficiency that I never want to deliberately be racing in situations where I am going to need the safety boat crew to help me perform a capsize recovery or, horror-of-horrors, tow me back to the shore because I am too tired or too incompetent to perform those tasks myself. I look on the safety boats as insurance in case something totally unexpected happens, like a breakage to the boat that makes it impossible to sail, or for that matter a breakage to me that makes me impossible to sail.

So the number of times I have actually had to rely on a safety boat to get me home safely in 30 years of Laser racing can be counted on the fingers of one hand. There was the time at Wianno YC when my boom broke, and the time at Cedar Point YC when my gooseneck broke. I can't remember any other racing incidents that caused me to need a tow home (not counting the times when I have been happy to accept a tow when the wind dies at the end of the day.) I have broken a mast top section and broken a bottom section and somehow got myself home without assistance. I have broken my rudder and staggered home under my own power. I have cut my head open during a gybe and nearly chopped my finger off with the daggerboard, but still sailed back to the beach by myself. I guess that may be taking the philosophy of self-reliance a bit too far. But that's how I am. I hate to rely on the crash boats unless I really have to.

The times that I have chosen not to participate in racing are principally of two kinds. There have been many, many, (probably too many) occasions I confess when I have looked at the weather forecast or the weather at home on the morning of racing and have thought, "Nah. Too windy. Too cold. Too rainy. Who needs it?" But if I actually travel to the club then I almost always go out and start racing if the RC is running races. However I do apply Rule 4 quite frequently at the end of a day's racing. There have been numerous occasions after a long day of racing in windy conditions, perhaps including several capsizes (which always seem to sap my strength and confidence) that I have decided that enough is enough and headed for the beach. More often than not it's because I'm so tired that I start to feel that after one or two more capsizes I might actually be too bushed to right the boat on my own. And I'm damned if I'm going to ask the rescue boat to help me with that responsibility. That streak of pride and self-reliance thing again, I guess.

So there have been many occasions when I have looked at the wind and the water before leaving the shore and thought, "It looks crazy out there. I'm not sure I can handle this." But I have always gone out with the attitude, "Hey, I'll just try one race and come in if it gets too much for me." And on some of those days I have sailed all the races that day and come in with a big smile on my face. And on others I have skipped the last one or two races and still come in with a big smile on my face. After all, if you don't come back with a big smile on your face then why are you doing it?

So how about you? How do you apply Rule 4?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Para Sailin'

This post is not about para sailing.

It's about a certain person who seems to be all over the media - TV, radio, print, Internet - in America these days. You just can't get away from her.

She used to be the governor of one of those minor US states. The one that's attached to the top left-hand corner of Canada. The one with lots of reindeer and hardly any people. But, after a couple of years, whatshername got tired of actually governing all those reindeer and quit to become a TV and Internet personality. Or something.

Back in 2008 she ran in some election for a job in Washington which, as far as I can tell, would have involved her waiting around for some 72-year-old cancer survivor to kick the bucket so she could take over the job of being leader of the Western world. Amazingly, the American people said thanks, but no thanks, to whatshername and her 72-year-old BFF, and instead chose a couple of those intellectual elite types just because they were better at answering tricky questions from the lamestream media like, "What newspapers do you read?"

So now she is a TV and Internet personality. Most Americans feel strongly about her, for or against. She has a talent for using words that stir up trouble and attract attention. Attention to her. Which apparently is her main objective.

Everyone who makes a living talking about politics on the web or on TV in America seems to be fascinated by whatshername. They are like moths attracted to a flame. They can't resist talking about whatshername. The reason is that the more they talk about whatshername the more clicks and viewers they attract.

But America is suffering from Whatshername Overload. And the pundits (or pundints as whatshername would say) are finally getting wise to the problem. People are making resolutions not to mention whatshername. There's even a grassroots movement among the lamestream media pundints to declare February a whatshername-free month.

But what can we ordinary folk from real America do? How can we play our part in whatshername-free month?

Well, the best suggestion I have heard is that whenever someone brings up the name S---- P---- in conversation you should immediately launch into a monologue about how exciting it is to be towed behind a fast motor boat while suspended from a parachute, and how much fun you had doing it last time your were in St. Barts, Sint Maarten, Saint-Tropez (or wherever you favorite Saint Somewhere is), and how you really must try it darling, and so on, and so on...

After about five minutes you should pause for breath and look at all the puzzled faces and say, "Oh! Did you say Sarah Palin? I thought you said Para Sailing."

Oh shit!

I mentioned her name.

And I was trying so hard not to.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Win Laser 200000

In the fall of last year the Laser Class Office in England issued the first set of plaques with sail numbers over 200000, which means that Lasers with sail numbers over this milestone are probably already shipping somewhere in the world. Has anybody seen one sailing yet?

Woo Hoo! 200,000 Lasers! That means more than 200,000 Laser sailors! Maybe I'm not crazy after all?

But wait, it gets better. For now, the boat with the actual number 200000 has not yet been sold, and the Laser Class has arranged a contest where YOU can win the complete Laser with sail number 200000.

Entering the contest is very simple: you need to join the Laser Class (assuming you are not already a member) and you need to be able to answer one simple question.

So get over to WIN A BRAND NEW LASER and enter now.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Winter Puzzle

It's too frigging cold for most of us to sail this weekend, so to pass the time here's a photo quiz that combines sailing and cold.

All you need to do is tell me what these two pictures depict. Give me as much information as possible - when, what, who, where...

Then tell me what the connection between these two scenes is.

Good luck!

If you know the full answer please send it via email to me. If you are just making a wild ass guess by all means use the comments.

Update: I already have one completely correct solution via email so perhaps this quiz isn't as hard as I thought. On the other hand my correspondent does reveal that he has met the individual who links the two pictures. Ooops that's a clue, I guess.

Update 2: We have a second winner, the unparalleled O Docker, fresh from his podium place on Sweet Bluesette's Winter Doldrums Contest. And he didn't even meet the "missing link" person. I'll wait a little longer to see if anyone else gets it before revealing the answer.

Update 3: OK, three people have emailed me with the correct answer now. You guys are so smart.

The first photo is of the O-Jolle Class racing in the 1936 Olympics at Kiel in Germany.

The second photo is of the Scott Polar Expedition taken shortly after reaching the South Pole on January 17, 1912 and discovering that Amundsen had beaten them there. On the return trip, Scott and his four companions all died of starvation and extreme cold.

The winner of the bronze medal in the O-Jolle class at the 1936 Olympics, sailing for Britain, was Peter Scott, perhaps more famous in later years as an ornithologist, conservationist and painter. Peter Scott was the son of Robert Scott, the leader of the Antarctic expedition in the other photo.


Thai designer Chatrukal Na Ayudhaya has innovated a sort of leather of the sea, using fish skin to create a new line of accessories including this fish bikini which is made from the skins of 15 tilapia.

It is reported to be very breathable and waterproof. At least that's what the tilapia say.

How klassy is that?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Regatta With Your Name On It

One afternoon this week I wandered into the TV room at the Tillercottage to see what Tillerwoman was watching. There was a vaguely familiar looking, somewhat overweight, middle-aged woman on the screen, standing with a crowd of people somewhere sunny. She was highly emotional, misty-eyed and in between sobs was saying something like...

I had a moment when the sails went up... gulp... I am a girl who couldn't find my name on a key chain or a lunch box... sniff sniff... if only I knew that God was saying... sob... "Baby, you don't have to worry about no lunch box.... there's a regatta in Sydney with your name on a sailboat," ... sob sob... so I say to you, "Wherever you are in your life, wherever you come from in your life... gulp... there's a regatta somewhere with your name on it!"


And then I realized what this was all about. The sobbing lady was the famous American TV personality Oprah Winfrey who is famous for... umm... being Oprah Winfrey I guess. She was recently given 2.3 million bucks by the Australian Tourist Board so that she could pretend to be extremely generous and take 300 viewers of her TV show on an all-expenses-paid trip from the US to Australia where they would make some tourism commercials for Australia which would pretend to be episodes of the Oprah Winfrey show starring the famous Oprah Winfrey.

You have to understand that as well as being famous for pretending to be generously giving away gifts paid for by her sponsors, the famous Oprah Winfrey is also famous for inspiring her (mainly female) TV viewers to "live your best life"(i.e. be more like the famous Oprah Winfrey) as part of her global mission to "evolve the consciousness of people everywhere." Yes, she really does talk like that.

I had just stumbled into the middle of the tourism commercial/ Oprah show episode about Sydney, which apparently had included a sail on Sydney Harbour for Oprah and friends in a bunch of yachts with Oprah's name on all the sails. Hence the sob-talk about "a regatta with your name on it."

Well sure, if you are one of the richest women in America and you have just made a deal to promote a whole freaking country then I imagine it's merely a minor detail to include a clause in the contract that says you have to have your name on a dozen sails (if you are so egocentric that that's important to you.) For the average Jane Doe watching the show the message that somewhere God is planning a regatta with her name on it is.... ..... well, words fail me. I guess she didn't mean it literally? Or did she?

But look on the bright side. There was some sailing involved. And I would guess that the global
TV audience for this little "regatta" on Sydney Harbour probably exceeded the global TV audience for sailing at the last Olympics and America's Cup combined.

There's a message there somewhere.

Russell Coutts are you listening?

Sak Pasé!

The biggest news in sailing today is that the organizers of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta have revealed that they are "extremely excited" that Wyclef Jean will headline "one of the biggest music events in the Caribbean", the closing of the 31st St. Maarten Heineken Regatta on Sunday March 6th, 2011 on Kim Sha beach.

I have been unable to confirm rumors that the event might also include some sailing.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

We The People...

There's always a lot of discussion in the United States about the Constitution. What did the Founding Fathers intend? Is this law constitutional? Why can't we make this sensible reform? Things can get quite heated at times.

The Laser Class has a Constitution too. There are 2807 words in the Laser Class Constitution. There are 4400 words in the US Constitution. Make of that what you will.

My post about Fairness generated a number of questions in the comments that are really questions about the Laser Class Constitution. Many readers wondered why we members of the Laser class can't solve the current sail issues that I outlined in Fairness by simply approving alternative sails from makers who have proved that they can deliver sails that are more durable and considerably cheaper than the current official sails. Indeed my post ended with a speculation of what would happen if we the class (we the people) simply made Intensity sails the new official sails of the Laser Class.

Ah, if only it were that simple. But there is that little obstacle of a Constitution.

So this is how it works (I think.)

The Constitution establishes a World Council. This consists mainly of representatives elected (indirectly) by the members, the Executive Secretary of the class (an employee of the class), and two representatives of the manufacturers. Currently there are six representatives of members on the World Council.

The constitution gives the World Council the right to make the rules of the class.

The World Council may make By-Laws for the purpose of carrying out the objects of this Constitution and of the Association and, without restricting the generality of the foregoing, may make By-Laws amending the Rules of the Laser Class, hereby established as By-Law 1 of the Association, as provided in paragraph 29 thereof....

The most important rule they made, and the one that currently defines our policy on sails is this one...

The Laser shall be raced in accordance with these rules, with only the hull, equipment, fittings, spars, sail and battens manufactured by a licensed builder.

Ah, you say. Why doesn't the class just change the rule about sails? Well, in theory we could. Rule 30 actually says how we would go about this...

Amendments to these Rules shall be approved by each
(a) the World Council,
(b) the Advisory Council,
(c) at least two thirds of the membership replying in writing to the International Office of the Class in response to a postal ballot published by the International Office of the Class. Only those postal votes returned to the International Office within 6 months from the date of publication of the rule change shall be valid, and
(d) the ISAF.

(Slight oddity here. The constitution refers to the "rule changing rule" as Rule 29. But it's actually Rule 30. Whatever.)

Well that's not easy for sure. You have to ballot the members and get a two thirds majority, and after that get ISAF approval too. So it takes a while. But we do it all the time. The most significant change in recent years was the approval of totally new sail control systems - vang, outhaul, cunningham etc.

Wait. What's that about an "Advisory Council". Who are they? And if they are only there to be "advisory" why do they have to approve rule changes? The answer my friend is, of course, to be found in the Constitution...

15. The President and Vice President of the World Council and two persons nominated by those builders who are also Trademark owners shall constitute the Advisory Council and shall assist and co-operate with the World Council in the carrying out of their responsibilities, and shall have the responsibilities as set forth in paragraph 17 hereof and the paragraph entitled “Amendments” of the Rules.

Huh? Four people. Two of them are appointed by the builders? So does that mean that it's impossible to pass a rule change if the builders don't like it?

Sure does.

So, you say, my helpful friend, just change the Constitution to change the rule about how to change rules.

Let's see how we would do that...

17. Amendments to this Constitution shall be approved by each of:
(a) the World Council
(b) the Advisory Council
(c) at least two thirds of the membership replying in writing to the International Office of the Class in response to a postal ballot published by the International Office. Only those postal votes returned to the International Office within 6 months from the date of publication of the proposed change shall be valid.

Aaaghhh. That pesky Advisory Council again, with those two veto votes.

We are screwed. You can't get there from here.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sailing and Baseball

There were a lot of constructive and insightful comments to my post Fairness which bemoaned the threats to the fairness of my favorite game - Laser racing - from two sources... Mommy Boats and Crap Sails.

We've explored the Mommy Boat issue (aka pesky coach boats at regattas) from many angles on this blog before, but a wise commenter named Brass came up with a new question on the topic...

Like it or not, sailing is a 'coached game'. What would you think if the Yankees decided to go into a play-off game without their coaches on the field?

Hmmm. That's a good point. What can we learn from the role of coaching in other sports? Baseball is my favorite "American" sport. Never really did get into pointy football or those tall dudes in baggy shorts running back and forth. And baseball has lots of coaches, and there are several ways in which they are involved in the game during play.

"What would you think if the Yankees decided to go into a play-off game without their coaches on the field?"

Hmmm. I guess you can take that question two ways. Firstly, what would I think if the New York Yankees played the Boston Red Sox (yes, they do make the playoffs some years) and the Red Sox had coaches on the field and the Yankees didn't?

Well, of course that would be grossly unfair. One team has coaches on the field and the other side doesn't? What sport would allow such a terribly inequitable situation?

Ummm. Sailing? Yes. That's exactly the problem I've been ranting on about here for years. Some sailors at a regatta have coaches to help them; others don't. Of course it's unfair. Can you imagine a baseball game where only one side had coaches?

Or perhaps Brass is asking a different question. "What would you think if major league baseball games were played without any coaches on the field at all?"

Great question Brass.

Let's first explore what coaches do in baseball. Each team has several coaches who work with the players in Spring training and between games on such things as fitness, conditioning, hitting, pitching, catching, fielding etc. etc. That's fine. That's equivalent to sailors working with coaches to improve their skills between regattas. I have no objection to that.

But baseball coaches also play a role during the game. Two of them, for the side at bat, are actually on the field during play. One at first base; one at third base. What do they do?

According to this site the job of a first base coach includes...
  • Whenever a player gets a hit the first base coach is the first one there to pat him on the bottom and tell him good job

  • Remind a runner how many outs the team has gotten.

Whaaaat? Pat him on the bottom? Remind him how many outs there are? Come on! Some superstar baseball jock earning $10 million a year can't perform unless some creepy old geezer pats him on the bottom every time he gets a hit? And he can't count up to three? Two actually. Geeze. Isn't this the ultimate in the pussification of a sport? Is this a role model for sailing?

The job of a third base coach is a little more complicated. Among other things he spends a lot of time patting the top of his head, and scratching his nose, and making the sign of the cross to signal to the players what the team manager wants them to do on the next play. God forbid the jocks should actually have to decided how to play themselves. This would be the equivalent in sailing of a Mommy Boat driver sitting at the windward mark and patting his head three times to mean, "The wind is dying and there's no boats close behind you, so go low on this reach." More pussification.

Is this what we want for our sport?

So yes Brass, I think baseball would be more fun if the coaches weren't on the field. And so would sailing.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Winter Doldrums Contest

I'm a pretty competitive type and I love competitions on blogs. And Pandabonium over at Sweet Bluesette has a doozy of a challenge over at his Winter Doldrums Contest.

Panda sails the only Lido 14 (so far) in Japan with his lovely lady Kimie, and his blog is mainly about their jaunts on aforementioned Lido usually followed by a delicious meal at Mama's Kitchen. The contest is to answer three questions about the picture above so head over to Winter Doldrums Contest right now and have a shot. Panda is offering real prizes for the first three correct (or near enough) answers! Woo Hoo!

For the record, there is already one winner, but modesty prevents me from revealing his name.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Next week is the New York Boat Show. At that show, 40 years ago, a simple little single-handed sailboat called the Laser was launched. And the rest is history.

The Laser has become hugely popular as a racing sailboat for the masses for a number of reasons, the most important of which are...

1. It's fun.

2. It's good value for money. As sailboats go, the Laser is relatively cheap to buy, requires minimal maintenance, and retains a strong value in the second-hand market.

3. It's fair. The strict one design rules enforced by the Laser Class, tight manufacturing standards by the builders, and a reluctance by the class to allow change for the sake of change have created a level playing field for racing which means, that as far as is humanly possible, the outcome of a race is determined by the skill of the sailor rather than by the size of his bank account.

But all is not well in Laser world.

There are two issues facing the Laser which could seriously threaten the future popularity of the class by undermining two of those drivers of its success in the last 40 years; two areas where those who are prepared to spend more money on their racing can easily secure an immediate and unfair advantage over those who do not choose to spend their money that way; two cancers that are eating away at the fundamental fairness of the Laser racing game.

The two threats are Mommy Boats (of which I have written here often) and Sails.

Mommy Boats - my deliberately derogatory term for the practice of some sailors of paying coaches to drive around in motor boats in order to give them extra assistance at regattas - are a pestilence on our sport for all sorts of reasons: mommification (or pussification as Scuttlebutt so brilliantly called it), nuisance, safety, but most importantly of all... unfairness. Of course having a Mommy Boat gives a competitor an advantage. That's why he is paying the Mommy Boat driver. How does that fit in with the fundamental principle of a level playing field for all Laser racing?

A very wise commenter on my last post on this subject Mommies Gone Wild, made a good point about this practice of "coaching" at regattas...

I suggest that it is no more an unfair advantage than that gained by a boat buying new sails for every second regatta.

He is right. But as my old Mum used to say, "Two wrongs don't make a right."

Official legal Laser sails are crap. Worse than that they are very expensive crap. They are made using an old design with out-of-date sailcloth technology and they don't last long enough. We can argue about whether they last one regatta or one year. It all depends to an extent on whether you are trying to win a spot in the Olympics or just be competitive on the local regatta circuit. But there is no doubt that they wear out too quickly, and soon become slow. Sailors with deep wallets (or with generous sponsors) buy new sails frequently and thereby secure another unfair advantage over those who cannot afford to spend so much.

It wouldn't be so bad if legal Laser sails weren't so ridiculously expensive. APS will currently sell me a North Laser sail for $563.50 ($615 if I want it rolled) or a Hyde Laser sail for $595. (Hyde and North are the only makers of legal Laser sails.) The same company APS will sell me a Laser "practice" sail (functionally equivalent but not class legal for racing) for $179.95. Intensity Sails will sell me a similar "practice" Laser sail for $179.99 (or without bag, numbers, clew strap, tell tales or battens for the knockdown price of $134.99.) Wow!

So why is the price of a legal sail more than three times the price at which the same dealer can sell me a "practice" sail? The answer is murky but clearly the high price of legal sails is driven largely by profits made somewhere in the distribution chain from sailmaker to boat manufacturer to Laser dealer. Not that I begrudge these guys making a profit. We need them all to prosper and stay in business... especially the dealers who provide so much support at a local level to our game.

But this business model is not sustainable in the long term. And it's not fair. Already one of the premier Laser fleets in the country, the Cedar Point YC fleet, has voted to allow Laser "practice" sails from Intensity Sails to be legal in all their fleet racing.

Shock! Horror! Everyone will buy one of those cheap Intensity sails (which by the way are rumored to be more durable than the more expensive class legal sails.) Maybe most of the fleet will buy a new Intensity sail every season? Just think what that will mean! It will mean that the whole fleet is racing with sails that all perform well and are all equally fast and that no sailors in the fleet are gaining an advantage by shelling out 600 bucks for a new sail for every frostbiting season. How terrible! A level playing field!

Unless the class and the manufacturer address the sail issue in some way, this trend will continue. More fleets will vote to allow Intensity or APS or other "practice" sails. Those fleets will run regattas where those sails are allowed. Effectively a parallel class of "Intensity Lasers" will be created. Sails of legal sails will plummet. Something will have to give.

So what can be done?

Well, the Mommy Boat issue can be fixed very easily. The Laser Class simply needs to vote to adopt a class rule like the one recently introduced by the International Star Class

31.1.4 For Gold and Silver events a yacht shall receive no outside assistance from support boats or otherwise once she has left the dock for the day until the finish of the last race of the day, except in the case of emergency and/or towing supplied by the organizer and available to all participants.

The sail issue may be harder to fix. It's one of the most frequently discussed topics on the Laser Forum. A couple of weeks ago one regular contributor to the forum (who happens to be a former Executive Secretary of the class) floated a couple of ideas...

What would happen if we, the members of the class, decided next week to adopt the Intensity sail as the only legally sanctioned sail for all our races? What would be the impact? Would everyone at the upcoming Midwinters buy a new Intensity sail? Yes, they would have to. Would that be so terrible? If you do the math, it would cost some sailors a bit more money and save some of them (who were going to buy a new sail anyway) a lot of money. Why not go further and include the cost of a brand new Intensity sail in the price of entry to the North Americans this year? Most competitors are probably buying a new sail for that event anyway so they would actually save money. Result: "Our North American Championships would be a more one design event than it has ever been."


Update 17 Jan 2011: Yarg at Apparent Wind has written an excellent commentary on the "sails" part of this topic. Check out The Path to FAIRNESS.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Frigid Frostbiters

This time last year I was sailing with the Newport Laser fleet in January in conditions similar to those in this video. Full story at Newport Patch.

Decisions Decisions Decisions

I have a lot of decisions to make this week...

Should I go down to New York in February for the third annual New York Area Water Blogfest (or NAWB, as the cognoscenti say in fashionable conversation)?

What should the Yankees do about their starting rotation if Andy Pettitte retires?

If registration does eventually open for the Laser Masters Worlds in San Francisco this summer, should I go or not?

Is it worth the effort to learn how to spell Connecticut?

What should we do about the value of the renminbi?

Should I change the look and feel of my blog?

Should we change the filibuster rule?

Who will win the 2011 Moth Worlds?

Is it time to get my hair cut?

Retreat or reload?

Droid or iPhone?

Boxers or briefs?

Where to start?

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

It's a hard life.

I think I'll go to bed now.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Cremation of Sam McGee

A Wise Man Once Said...

"If you need a coach to help you at your Championship, I don't think you're ready to sail in it!" - Terry Bischoff. The quote is part of a longer item by Mr. Bischoff in Scuttlebutt 3251. It's in the second item PUSSES AND WUSSES which is a commentary on my post on Monday, Mommies Gone Wild.

Well said, Sir. One of the best perspectives on regatta coaching I have heard to date.

PS. As far as I know the picture at the top of this post is not of Terry Bischoff.

Caption Contest

What are these two ladies saying to each other?

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

212 Days until Laser Masters Worlds 2011

It's only 212 days until the start of the Laser Masters World Championships in San Francisco this August. Woo Hoo!

Yes, yes, yes. I know the last time I showed my face at a Masters Worlds it was a total freaking disaster. But we are talking San Francisco! Home of the 34th America's Cup! And if you can believe all the journalist hacks who mindlessly parrot the PR releases from Larry Ellison's boys, San Francisco has an "iconic waterfront" and its bay is a "magnificent natural aquatic amphitheater." Woo Hoo!

A few months back a commenter on this blog was extolling the virtues of Marina Bay and the Berkeley Circle as the proposed location for the Masters Worlds. Indeed, the Finn Gold Cup was held on the Berkeley Circle last summer with launching from Marina Bay on the Richmond Riviera and this was always intended as the test event for the Laser 4.7 and Masters Worlds this year.

However, an informed source has recently told me that plans have changed. It has now been decided to move the location of the Masters Worlds across the bay and it will be run out of the St. Francis Yacht Club with racing on the City Front (a.k.a. the iconic waterfront.) Woo Hoo!

But what about the fog, I hear you ask. Isn't there a greater chance of fog on the San Francisco side of the bay in the summer months? Shame on you. Don't you know that we are talking about sailing in a natural amphitheater off an iconic waterfront? Have faith. Woo Hoo!

Another big positive about the move is that competitors will now be able to use all the facilities of the St. Francis Yacht Club. And if you get fed up with that, then you can just walk down the street and have a beer with Larry Ellison at the Golden Gate Yacht Club. Maybe he'll even show you that big Cup he won last year? Woo Hoo!

But wait, it gets better. The St. Francis YC is in what's known as the Marina District and from a quick Google I gather there are a gazillion hotels and restaurants and bars and night clubs within walking distance of the yacht club. And, acccording to Wikipedia, (which is never wrong) most of the residents of the Marina District live something called a "swinger" lifestyle. Woo Hoo!

My source also informs me that there is going to be a Masters Slalom event right before the Worlds.

OMG. Laser Slalom? San Francisco? They did this back in the 70's. It's part of Laser Class folk lore. I even posted an old video of it here. Woo Hoo! Iconic!

So if you are a Laser Masters sailor and you like the sound of the above, then you need to rush off right now to the event website and register for the Masters Worlds immediately.

No, wait.

You can't register yet.


What's all that about? I have no idea.

OMG. I just followed that swinger link. So that's what it means. Somehow I don't think Tillerwoman is going to let me go to this regatta on my own. Or perhaps not even as a couple?

To be continued...

The Soft Toy Watch

And now for something completely different. The following arrived in my email this week. I have every reason to believe that it came from an actual participant in the recent Sydney-Hobart Race.

Hi, I'm Orlando Fitz, a Charitable Pirate Bear and I've Been To Hobart.

Tillerman suggested that a guest post about the Sydney to Hobart Race might be welcome, and I'm delighted to step up. I mean, if a mechanical fish can blog, an ocean racing piratical bear can do it easy.

When Tony Kirby, the incredibly generous owner asked me to come along as Chief Stuffed Toy on Patrice SiX, I jumped at the chance. I had already done Hobart on another boat the previous year so I knew this was going to be a great opportunity to extend my piratical ocean racing skills.

Christmas week passed in a whirl, with the crew party, Safety and Weather Briefings, Skippers and Stuffed Toys Cocktail Party, and last minute checking of piratical stores and equipment, and before I knew it, it was Boxing Day morning, the day of the race start.

What a nasty surprise: the owner, attempting to stiffen up the soft toy presence has dragged in a soft toy heavy, Willy the Whale: Willy has done more Hobarts that he can count on his flippers and is a past winner, so best get focused and set myself up to learn from one of the greats.

Willie the Whale with his Damn Crew Pass

Off down the harbour to the start. Reasonable start: life is hard for a 41 footer with Maxis, 52 footers and all, but we make the best of it, bear away round South Head and head South in a moderate Nor-Wester, waiting for the forecast Southerly.

Hardly are we out of Sydney Heads, when out of a sea-bag, comes this tiny Stowaway Bear. Stowaway Bear, it turns out has quite a few ocean miles under his dungaree belt, having started from Europe two years ago, crossed the Atlantic, Panama Canal and down the Pacific, to there's another Soft Toy hand.

Well that's three of us Soft Toys now, so that's enough to form into a regular Watch.

About 5 o'clock there she is: absolutely textbook roll-cloud, precursor to the famous Southerly Buster.

Now, as everybody knows, there's nothing soggier than a Soft Toy in a Southerly, so this is about the time for the whole Soft Toy Watch to go below and get stowed. Willie gets ticked away behind the saloon curtains, I'm stuffed into the locker, and Stowaway Bear gets packed back into his gear bag.

And that, your honour, is the last thing I remember until the party started in Hobart. Must have been the beer and champagne that did the real damage.

Here's how we ended up in the morning:

Wooooo. Great party.

Just can't wait to do it all again next year.

Don't forget the Oncology Kids

Monday, January 03, 2011

Mommies Gone Wild

We've had a good rant intelligent rational discussion here before about the topic of Mommy Boats, the pestilence of so-called "coach boats" that infest an increasing number of Laser regattas these days. In the comments to my previous posts Mommy Boats and Ban Mommy Boats NOW the discussions were lively and heated.

Some agreed with me, that the "mommification" of our sport has gone too far. The practice of certain sailors having Mommy Boats bringing them warm coats and hot drinks between races, and of course towing them to and from the course area, is undermining the spirit of independence and self-reliance which is the very essence of our sport of single-handed sailing.

Others pointed out the unfairness of a competition in which only a few competitors have Mommy Boat drivers to provide them with physical and moral support, not to mention passing on information obtained by radio from other Mommy Boat drivers of what the wind is doing around the course.

Of course access to a Mommy Boat gives a sailor an unfair advantage. That's why, at the highest levels of competition, the major international Laser regattas, almost every sailor has a Mommy Boat. You can't hope to compete at that level without your Mommy to help you. US Olympic hopeful Clay Johnson reported that at the Laser World Championship in England last year there were over One Hundred Mommy Boats and, in a wry understatement, that the chop from all these Mommy Boats "doesn't help". Crazy!

And it's getting worse. All these Mommy Boats get in the way of the competitors and interfere with the racing. Sometimes race organizers try and write Sailing Instructions to keep the dratted Mommy Boats away from the race area but it's not working. A case in point was an incident that happened at Sail Melbourne a few weeks ago. There was an SI (#14 here) that specified that Mommy Boats must NOT be in the race area after the first prep signal of the day. In spite of that the following incident (as reported by the International Jury) happened...

When starting in the afternoon on Charlie Course the Laser Standard class and their coach boats caused problems by going through 2 course areas whilst earlier fleets were still racing. The jury were requested by the Charlie Race Officer to assist in clearing the boats, especially near the inner loop gate.

This was done but numerous competitors were intransigent and the jury were moving close to one Laser when a fast moving coach boat came towards the jury boat and Laser. The driver had to make an immediate fast turn to port to avoid a collision which would have ended in damage. In doing so, the other judge who was sitting on the sponson talking to the competitor ended up in the water under the hull. The driver responded very quickly in turning off the engine preventing serious injury.

There is another account of the same incident as reported by one of the sailors (and which differs in some details) at Unruly.

It's bad enough that some Laser sailors were "intransigent" in not responding to requests from jury boats to clear the course area on which another fleet was already racing. It is unforgivable that their Mommy Boats were on the course at all, in clear violation of the SIs. And it is absolutely shameful that one Mommy Boat driver almost caused an accident that could have seriously injured one of the judges.

What can be done to deal with this menace? Clearly it is not enough to state in the SIs that Mommy Boats must not be on the race area after the first prep signal of the day; in this case the Mommy Boat drivers just ignored the SIs. What sanctions can be used to enforce such a rule? Can the Mommy Boat drivers be penalized if they are not actually competitors in the race? Can the sailor associated with a badly behaved Mommy Boat be penalized even though he or she is not directly responsible for the misbehavior? Can SIs be written in a way that will keep these damned Mommy Boats off the race area and stop them getting in the way of competitors?

Seriously. This is beyond a joke.

Rivera Wins Hangover Bowl

In yesterday's post I mentioned in passing the New Year's Day Hangover Bowl Regatta at my old Laser frostbiting fleet at Cedar Point YC in Connecticut. The godfather of that fleet was a gentleman called Eric Robbins who moved to Florida a few years ago and is now sailing out of Davis Island YC in Tampa. It seems that Eric has transferred the Hangover Bowl tradition to his new club.

Here is an account (by the aforementioned Eric Robbins) of the Davis Island YC 2011 Hangover Bowl, which was won by none other than my blogging friend Antolin Rivera, the sailing potter (or should that be potting sailor) who writes the most excellent blog Bel Mar Sailing, Pottery and Yacht Sales.

Antolin Rivera, sailing his Laser “Cheesecake”, dominated the Second Annual Hangover Bowl on New Year’s Day. Although he bested Craig Carlson’s Windmill “Red Baron” on a tiebreaker, it really wasn’t that close, as Antolin posted three bullets in the five races for the eight-boat fleet.

Skip Ryan and Susie Crump assisted Eric Robbins on the signal boat, while Judy Hanlon served with Jim and Claire Titgemeyer on a very busy mark boat.

Racing in a 6-9k southerly under sunny skies, with temps in the 70s, Colin Browning with crew Nikki, in his Windmill renamed “Happy Birthday Nikki” for the day, topped the first contest, a “normal” windward-leeward, over Craig, with Dawn Narramore’s Flying Scot “Lasagna Hog” in third. The winner of each race earned a prize of a “nip” bottle, to be consumed immediately. The effects seemed to be cumulative, except for Antolin.

The second heat, with a course of windward, leeward around the signal boat, windward, and finish downwind stern-first(!), was won handily by Antolin, despite his whining about the backwards finish. Craig and Dawn placed 2-3 again.

A triangle was set for the third race, with each boat required to do a 360 spin on each of the four legs. Antolin again showed the way, leading Lee Smith (in the oldest Laser seen at DIYC in decades) and Dawn.

The Race Committee then announced the feature race, called “Come Within Chug”. After racing around the weather mark, the boats were required to run past the signal boat and collect beers, round the leeward mark, then return the empties to the Race Committee while sailing the second lap. Antolin thought he just had to carry the unopened beer, but when reminded that he need to deposit his empty, chugged half of it while reaching back to the signal boat. Since the Race Committee did not appreciate his toss of a half-finished can, he was penalized with a 360-spin, but still won his third race. Craig took second, ahead of Pat Crump with Jane in his Fireball “Mr. Rogers”. Colin and Nikki seemed to have trouble with this one, straggling across last, but now very chatty.

Sailors had a choice of course for the last race. They would sail either windward-leeward, or leeward-windward. During the starting sequence, the race committee noticed that Antolin was leading the regatta by four points, so called him over-early due to his whining. Pat and Jane led the five boats who started upwind, while Colin and Nikki, now animated as well as chatty, topped the downwind starters.

Antolin won the regatta with 14 points, and posed for photos with the Hangover Bowl Perpetual Trophy, a full-size toilet bowl. He has not yet offered enough money to prevent their publication.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

The Older I Get The Faster I Was

I celebrated New Year's Day by running in the 5 mile Hangover Classic road race in Bristol. Even if I'm not making any of those crazy New Year Resolutions like run a marathon, sail 100 days, or lose 20 pounds, it still feels good to start a new year with some vigorous outdoor exercise. At least I'm starting the year right.

There was a time when I would go sailing on New Year's Day. My old frostbiting fleet in Connecticut used to run a fun Laser regatta called the Hangover Bowl on New Year's Day. In fact I think they still do. It included crazy races such as the windward-leeward course where you could choose whether to start upwind or downwind (start line mayhem!) and the come-within-chug race where you had to pick up a can of beer from the RC boat on the run and consume it before dropping the can back on the RC boat on the next beat. Aah! Happy days!

There was still plenty of snow on the ground but the temperature was promising to rise into the balmy high 40's. I sat in my car and watched the other runners arrive. Some wore shorts and singlets. Some wore long pants and long-sleeved shirts and fleeces and hats and gloves. Hmmm. What to wear? Being a very sweaty runner I decided to go for shorts and T-shirt. I shivered while waiting for the start but soon warmed up.

The course started around the north end of the natural amphitheater of Bristol Harbor, scene of much Lasering fun on Tuesday nights last summer, but nobody was out sailing yesterday morning. Then we ran through Colt State Park and along the shore of the natural amphitheater of Upper Narragansett Bay, a favorite spot for many of my solo Laser practice sessions in the last few years. Aah! Happy days!

Why is running alongside water so special? Do I enjoy it so much because I am a sailor as well as a runner? Or does it revive some primeval memory of hunting along the shores of some African lake three million years ago with our fellow Australopithecusses? Australopitheci? (You don't see that word very often in sailing/ running blogs.)

I didn't push the pace until the final mile but was still pleased to discover that I ran the course about two minutes faster than I did last year. Huh? How could that be? I am almost resigned to becoming slower as the years tick by. Running faster, especially as I hadn't trained much in the last few weeks, was a real surprise.

But when I looked back at my notes and split times in my running diary entry for last year (did someone say "anal-retentive"?) I realized the reason why. Last year much of the roads in the park were still covered in snow but this year they had been cleared. All of my improvement came on the snowy miles. I had been deliberately slowing my pace when running on the snow last year to avoid slipping and falling.

Oh well. I guess it's still true that the older I get, the faster I was.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

This is HUGE - ACLM in MA

Sailors from around the world rejoiced at the news that the Atlantic Coast Laser Masters Championship is coming to New Bedford YC in 2011. This might well be the biggest sailing event in the world with potentially 20 or 30 times as many boats as in the much vaunted America's Cup Match... and now it will be in our home waters.

This will not be your grandmother's America's Cup as the boats are 14' planing monohulls that can race at speeds up to 19.7 knots. This will be the Grand Prix of sailing. With the natural amphitheater that Buzzards Bay provides, it will open up the races to thousands of spectators on land. Our waterfront will become the destination it was meant to be. And sailing will benefit with the amount of interest that only these races can create.

Never in the nautical history of MA has there been bigger news than this. Thank you New Bedford Yacht Club! We can't wait for the races to begin!!

The dates for the regatta are 18-19 June and the racing area, loosely defined, lies between the Cape Cod Canal and Cuttyhunk.

It's going to be HUGE!

First Drive

I know you don't believe me when I blog about how all my grandchildren are incredibly gifted and talented and advanced for their age. But check this out...

Grandchild #3 Owen at the age of six months...

a) driving the family Chevy Traverse

b) steering with one foot on the wheel

c) while simultaneously taking a photo with his Blackberry

d) and posting it to Facebook!

Convinced now?