Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Clay Johnson and Andrew Campbell

Congratulations to Litoralis for correctly guessing the answer to yesterday's photo quiz. The two boys in the picture are indeed the American sailors Clay Johnson and Andrew Campbell, both born in 1984.

The photo was originally published in the Summer 1987 edition of the E-Scow class newsletter, the Reporter. (It's on page 11.) Andrew and Clay's parents were very active in the E-Scow Class back then and only lived a few blocks away from each other in Toms River, New Jersey. I suspect the fact that Andrew's mother was the class secretary and treasurer and publication business manager had something to do with how this family vacation photo ended up in the newsletter. Andrew's family later moved to San Diego. Thanks to Baydog for originally sending me a copy of this newsletter.

After successful college sailing careers (Andrew at Georgetown, Clay at Harvard) both young men campaigned to compete in the Laser class in the Olympics for the USA. In the trials for the Laser slot at the 2008 Olympics, Andrew won and Clay was third, so Andrew sailed for his country in China. For the 2012 Olympics, Clay returned to the fray and was thought by many observers, including me, to be the clear favorite to win the Laser trials and go to Weymouth. But an amazing performance by Rob Crane on the last day of the Worlds in Perth (part of the US qualification system in this cycle) gave Rob the Olympic place.

Both Andrew and Clay have been mentioned before on this blog.

I wrote quite a lot about the 2008 Olympic campaign, but this photo of Andrew was in my more recent post Damn You Andrew Campbell.

I've also written several posts about Clay. This photo of him was published in the post encouraging you to Vote for Clay Johnson as the US Olympic Committee's Male Athlete of the Month.

Thanks to everyone who had a go at the quiz. Hope you enjoyed it.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Photo Quiz

Today's quiz. Who are these two cute little guys?

Sorry about the quality of this image, but that may by itself be a bit of a clue to its vintage. If nobody gets the answer right within a day or so. I will start posting clues.

Update Tues 28 Feb: As suspected this is a tough quiz without more information. So here are some hints...

1. This is a LASER sailing blog. These two kids became well known as Laser sailors, but one of them is more active today in another class.

2. They are NOT brothers.

3. They both have sailing blogs and both have been mentioned before on this blog.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Notes from Cabarete

I took a lot of notes when I attended the clinic at the Laser Center in Cabarete last month. Unfortunately, my handwriting is quite bad and now I can't read most of my notes.  Here are the ones I can decipher...

Mmmmm. Velero breakfast.

Mark vang.

The easiest way to derig a Laser is to take out the whole rig (mast, sail and boom with vang still rigged) and put it into a specially designed rack.

The fish and chips at Jose O'Shea's is a lot better than the bangers and mash at Jose O'Shea's.

Trim, trim, trim, pump, flatten.

An even easier way to derig a Laser is to look old or helpless or tired (or female) until one of the helpful young men working at the Laser Center offers to carry your rig to the specially designed rack.

Shrimp a la Papi is to die for.

High, looser, looser, looser.

It's easier than you think to break your ridiculously expensive carbon fiber tiller extension, even on the land.

Honeys and mamas.

Two up, one forward.

It's easier than you think to buy a new ridiculously expensive carbon fiber tiller extension in Cabarete to replace the one you broke.

No socks.

More duct tape.

Nice regatta awards. Must win one next time.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Marine Animals and Bikinis on Friday

You don't want to read my utter nonsense every day, so today I'm sharing some link love with three other bloggers who write much more interesting stuff than you can find on this blog.

First up is Tim Zimmermann who has been blogging up a storm this week with posts on everything from test-tube meat to Henry Miller's advice on writing. But the post that really hit me hard between the eyes was about the problems caused by illegal driftnet fishing in the Mediterranean, Driftnet Destruction. Warning: if you are of a sensitive disposition, be aware there are some very sad pictures of beautiful sea creatures in awful distress in this article.

More cheerful, even playful, in mood is @ the beach on Noodles logbook. Noodle isn't a real person. Well, are any of us bloggers real people? But Noodle is even less real than the rest of us as she is only a character in the virtual reality world, Second Life. She (of course she may not be a she in real life) tells us, "I met this guy. Nice guy. Sailor. We talked boats and stuff. Eventually he said: I kinda like your blog. It's very boatly, but how come you never take pics like Alex and Taru, you know... swimsuits and stuff. I told him it is a boat blog, not a skin blog."

LOL. "Not a skin blog." I like that. Anyway Noodle posted a series of pictures of her in a bikini (and sometimes in only half a bikini) that was eerily reminiscent of a series on Taru's blog.

I hope the guy she met likes her pictures. My theory is that Noodle is really some grizzled old male Danish keelboat sailor about my age. If so, he looks damn good in a bikini.

Finally, I have to mention Cabarete Dreamin: Part One on Center of Effort. The author of this blog is apparently one of those awful paparazzi who seems to have captured a photo of me in Cabarete hanging out in a bar with not one but two beautiful women, and somehow linked me with a photo of Ursula Andress in a bikini. It gets even worse because this scurrilous article puts words in my mouth that sound like they belong in one of those tabloid rags you find by the checkout at the supermarket (not that I ever look at such publications you understand.) Who is the person writing this stuff? And can I dare hope that there won't be even worse "revelations" about me in parts 2 and 3 of this series?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Four Ways to Become a Pinball Wizard

How do you get in the zone? How do you achieve that Zen-like feeling of intense absorption in an activity in which you seem to lose all sense of time and you are able to perform at the top of your game?

It certainly happens in sailing. I suspect that top sailors are "in the zone" most of the time. For a duffer like me it only seems to happen a few times a year. There was the first race at Quannapowitt YC last October when I just seemed to be picking up the shifts and puffs naturally and pulling out ahead of the fleet without any particular effort. There was the last race on Friday at Hyannis when something clicked and I was sailing so fast downwind I wasn't even anxious about capsizing any more. And there was the last race at Buzzards Bay in 2008 when I almost felt like I was having a Cannabinoid Moment.

I know it when I feel it. But how do you get into the zone?

There was an interesting article on this topic earlier this month in New Scientist - Zap your brain into the zone: Fast track to pure focus.

The article discusses several methods to achieving that state of high performance "flow" at any game.

1. 10,000 hours
First there's the advice that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become expert in any discipline. "Over that time, your brain knits together a wealth of new circuits that eventually allow you to execute the skill automatically, without consciously considering each action." Yarg told us all about that back in 2009.

2. Seams
Then there's the idea that you should concentrate on some external focus, like the seam on the ball for a tennis player or the water's movement around your limbs for a swimmer. The idea is to distract the conscious mind from thinking about your own performance. I wrote about this a couple of years ago at Seams.

3. Neurofeedback
The New Scientist article then describes how scientists have been studying what goes on inside the brain when athletes are in the zone. They have discovered what brain waves are characteristic of the flow state and have been using neurofeedback to train people into how to achieve it.

Each person is hooked up to electrodes that tease out and display specific brain waves, along with a monitor that measures their heartbeat. By controlling their breathing and learning to deliberately manipulate the waveforms on the screen in front of them, the novices managed to produce the alpha waves characteristic of the flow state.

The experiment discussed in the New Scientist article was performed on archers. Hmmm. It might be a bit tricky to hook up a Laser sailor with electrodes and a brain wave display while he's actually sailing.

4. Zap your brain
The article goes on to report on how one scientist is speeding up the process of learning to get into the zone using something called "transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS)" which is basically a fancy way of saying "give your brain electric shocks." There's even a growing community of DIY types who are experimenting with tDCS at home. Scary! And probably also not practical on a Laser.

What do you think?

Do you have any other suggestions?

Oh, I have to explain the title of this post. This morning while I was thinking about how to write a post on this topic, the radio started playing Pinball Wizard by The Who. And I realized that this is probably the best song ever written about being in the zone while playing a game. Enjoy!

He ain't got no distractions
Can't hear those buzzers and bells,
Don't see lights a flashin'
Plays by sense of smell.
Always has a replay,
'N' never tilts at all
That deaf dumb and blind kid
Sure plays a mean pin ball.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Some of my old friends have been complaining recently that they are finding it hard to read those verification words that you have to type in to publish a comment. Those words are examples of a CAPTCHA which stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. And that's the point. It's to prevent robots from filling up our comments with spam.

Anything which poses a problem that humans can easily solve but which standard automated software does not recognize can be used as a captcha. Maybe the robots are getting smarter because it seems that Google has recently made the captchas used in Blogger somewhat harder to read. Especially so for my old friends it seems.

I wonder if they would prefer a captcha like this...

And they should certainly be grateful I don't use a captcha like this...

Friday, February 17, 2012

Happy Birthday

This blog is seven years old today.

What do you get a blog for its birthday?

Seriously. The kid is growing up fast. She deserves a present. What shall I give her?

Two Things about the New England Boat Show

On Monday, three friends and I headed into Boston to check out the New England Boat Show.

After a slightly alcoholic lunchtime diversion (more on that at the end of the post) we hung a right after entering the show and headed for the section with sailboats. As we are all Laser sailors we were eager to see if any of the manufacturers represented at the show had come up with a boat better than a Laser. I mean it's been over 40 years now. Surely somebody has invented a better boat.

There were dinghies of all descriptions and catamarans and trimarans. There were even a lot of those sailboats that you can sleep on and poop in if that's what takes your fancy. I've never really been much into pooping in boats but my friends were eager to take off their shoes and disappear inside some of the boats you can poop in. When they emerged I would ask them, "So what are The Two Things I need to know about this boat?" They would look puzzled (I often seem to have this effect on people) and then they would answer something like, "The V-berth is small and the cockpit is big," or "It's got nice curtains and a shiny wheel." I really don't remember all the replies.

Anyway after a while it was unanimously agreed that none of the sailing boats at the show were better than Lasers (even if you could poop in many of them) and off we went to play with the model boats on the Remote Control Sailing Pond. I must admit I was pretty good at steering the RC boat around the race course but my friends did their best to embarrass me. They were awful. The helpful man running the stand had to keep running over and rescuing their boat after they had lost control and done the RC equivalent of going aground aka trying to make the boat jump out of the pool. After one of our party (who shall be nameless) managed to T-bone the other RC yacht on the pond in a blatant port-starboard foul, the helpful man running the stand's face turned a shade of beetroot red and he started babbling hysterically about it's not bumper boats so we decided to move on before he had us evicted from the show. Hey, it was nothing that you couldn't fix with duct tape.

So then we wandered around the rest of the show which was given over to powerboats. Being an anal-retentive type I insisted that the party stick to a mathematically efficient grid pattern so we didn't miss anything. We sneered at the jetskis. We debated what kind of boat we would choose as a Mommy Boat (if we weren't passionately opposed to Mommy Boats which of course we all are.) We fantasized about owning a cruising motorboat which was large enough to carry a Laser onboard so that we could travel to Laser regattas in it, maybe even to Florida.

After an hour or so of kicking the tires (metaphorically speaking) on powerboats and taking our shoes off and putting our shoes on more times than I can recall, we kind of lost sight of our original objective and decided that if we were going to go over to the dark side we might as well really go for it and unanimously decided that the right powerboat for us was some monstrosity that was longer than my house. Personally I liked it because it had a flat screen TV in the owner's stateroom because I always like to watch TV while I am sleeping. Unfortunately, in this sector of the market you don't get a flat screen TV in the head so you can't watch TV while you are pooping. I was also impressed with the explanation of the helpful man on the stand that you could steer it with a joystick thingie which made it all seem very easy and would probably avoid a recurrence of that unfortunate collision with the fuel dock in Stamford. (It didn't actually explode. Well, not much.)

Anyway the object of our desires cost about 700 grand and we worked out it would cost about half my yearly income in gas to drive it to Florida and back. I tried to explain to my friends that if we split all the costs four ways it wouldn't sound so bad but they weren't convinced. I guess, in spite of our momentary delusions, we really aren't part of the 1%. Mitt Romney probably buys a boat like this for each of his kids as an Xmas present. Do Mormons do Xmas?

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes, South Boston with aching feet.

So, by following my anal-retentive grid we eventually stumbled into the corner of the show that was hosting the Powerboat Docking Challenge. After challenging all my friends to have a go at this, I quickly sidestepped over to the Old Charts of New England stand. For me this was the highlight of the show. They had some fascinating old charts of all the coastal areas around here, many from the US Coastal Survey and some from private chart makers going back to the early 1800s. My son bought me an 1861 chart of Mount Hope Bay (aka My Bay) when we moved into our current house and I think some of the charts on this stand would make wonderful presents for certain people I know.

My friends didn't seem to want to talk about how well they did in the Powerboat Docking Challenge. Apparently none of them had won. So we wandered over to find one of the friends who had sailed with us in Cabarete in January who was working a stand at the show for his business. He seemed pleased to see us and we passed a pleasant hour reminiscing about Cabarete and all the amazing experiences we had had there which seemed even more exciting and scary and dangerous the more we talked about them.

By then it was time for dinner so we found an Irish pub where bangers and mash was on the menu. I have to say that Boston does Irish pubs better than the Dominican Republic does. Who would have thunk it?

So what are the two things I will remember about  our day out at the 2012 New England Boat Show?

The first will be that one of our group gave his details to the helpful man running the stand for the Massachusetts State Treasurer's Office who was offering a service to find unclaimed property and within a few seconds the helpful man had found some forgotten stocks that would have been enough to buy two Lasers or the flat screen TV in the owner's stateroom on the boat longer than my house.

The second will be what we did before the show. A few weeks ago I met the owner of Eastside Wines and Market in South Boston. He explained to me that the secret of his business is to find wines that overperform and are undervalued. I told him I planned to swing by his wine store before going to the show and he laid on a wine tasting for our little group. Wow! What a revelation! I tasted wines that I had never heard of before and bought a few bottles. This place is a hidden gem. If you are going to the Boat Show this weekend, or are in the area for other reasons, be sure to swing by Eastside Wines at 474 East 8th Street. You won't be disappointed.

I think I'll take a nap now and watch some TV.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sticking to the Union

Great news this week from Maclaren and LaserPerformance! And a mystery hidden in the small print...

Maclaren announced on Wednesday a five-year sponsorship program "designed to encourage sailing participation and connect sailing enthusiasts worldwide." As part of a sponsorship deal for LaserPerformance athletes, events and products from 2012 to 2016, Maclaren are inviting applications for sponsorship from individuals and organizations and say this is "the largest commitment of its kind to date."

(As I wrote on Monday, Maclaren and LaserPerformance are sister companies. Wednesday's announcement fleshes out some of the details that were still unclear when I wrote Monday's post.)

The funding that Maclaren are offering organizations can cover such things as

  • fleet finance
  • entertainment services
  • logistical support
  • press and media support
  • and boat purchase and charter.

The latter point suggests that Maclaren are stepping into the breach, at least partly, to fill the gap left by LaserPerformance's recent decision not to participate any longer in chartering boats for major events such as the Laser World Championships.

But there's an interesting wrinkle to the news tucked away in the application form for individual sponsorship from Maclaren.

All applicants who own a LaserPerformance dinghy must join the appropriate sub chapter of LaserPerformance United. On March 1, 2012, LaserPerformance United will create unions for 5 dinghies that will offer support, connections and promotions to dinghy owners. Visit www.laserperformance.com for more details and a list of all unions. If there is no chaper/union for your dinghy, you must join LaserPerformance United.

Hmmmm. A union? Of course, the word "union" has a proud history in the sailing world with ISAF having started life as the International Yacht Racing Union and US Sailing being formerly known as the North American Yacht Racing Union.

I will be interested to see what this new organization, LaserPerformance United and its five "unions", will be like and what services they will offer. "Support, connection and promotion to dinghy owners," the announcement says. I'm all for that. God knows the sport of dinghy sailing can only benefit from more support, better connections between us sailors, and more promotion.

But which five dinghies will have unions? Laser and Sunfish, I am assuming. But what else. Pico? Bug? Vanguard 15? 420? Optimist?

What's also not clear to me yet is how the role of the new unions fits with that of the current class associations. Are the unions and class associations going to complement each other, or will they be competing for members? Should I join one or the other or both?

Early last year the International Laser Class, as part of its argument for the change to the Laser Class Fundamental Rule, claimed that LaserPerformance Europe had threatened to form its own 'Laser' class. Are these new "unions" the implementation of that threat? I guess more will be revealed in March when LaserPerformance announce the formations of the unions.

Until then, I will just have to wonder whether later this year I will be singing, with Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie, "You can't scare me, I'm sticking to the union."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Word of the Day

Star Crews

Andrew Campbell, usually seen at the helm of a Star these days, was crewing on a Star last weekend in the Zagarino Masters Regatta, while his father steered. He says he has always appreciated how tough the crew's job is on the Star but "the fresh soreness and bruises of a breezy weekend of Star crewing" have inspired him to pay homage to the crew's role.

Here is just a snippet of his hilarious description of what is involved in crewing a Star...

Part masochist, part water-breathing fish, all super-human, Star crews must love sailing in a way that not many others possibly can ever dream of. Star crews spend upwind beats with their feet going numb and ribs getting squeezed by their vests, all the while trying not to drown because of their heads are barely six inches above the water. Every tack is a technically demanding dance as they jump up out of the droop-hike, uncleat the old jib sheet, kiss their knee-caps as they squeeze under the low boom and explode up to the new rail yanking the new jibsheet into the cleat as they take a leap of faith over the new windward rail, hanging upside down by their knee ligaments until they can hook into the new rail and “relax” as they get fire-hosed down by the next wave.

There's much more at 50 Rules to Sail by in 2012 - Week 7.

Star hiking techniques have changed somewhat over the years. Check out these two images from the Mid-Connecticut Star Fleet's website.

Lowell North and Jim Hill on their way to win the 1957 Star Worlds

1940 cartoon spoofing the hiking methods of the top crews

Monday, February 13, 2012

Five of Diamonds

Quick. Without using the Google or scrolling further down this page, what company uses this logo and what do they make?





Don't worry. 93.6% of Zen masters don't know the answer to this question.

But as this is a sailing blog, and a Laser sailing blog to boot, some of you may be familiar with the logo. Haven't you seen it somewhere? Think.





OK. Time up.

Perhaps you remembered it as the logo on the sails at the Heavy Weather Laser Slalom in San Francisco last year? If so, you would be right.

Oh yes. Now you remember. What does it say on their sail? MACLAREN. Hmmm.

Aren't they the people that sponsor Anna Tunnicliffe and her match racing team? Yes they are. Maclaren have been making quite a splash in the sailing world in the last year. I hear they had some involvement with the Sunfish Worlds and also that they have been sponsoring Rob Crane, the US Laser sailor selected to go to the 2012 Olympics.

So what does Maclaren make? Something that might appeal to sailors perhaps?

Rum? No. That's Mount Gay.

Cars? No. Volvo do that.

German sneakers? Now you're being silly. That's Puma.

What? Baby strollers?

Yes. Or to use their own words, "Maclaren is a premier British parenting lifestyle company that produces the worlds most safe, durable, innovative, and stylish baby buggies, strollers, carriers, ..."

Hmmm. So why are they sponsoring sailing events? I thought that people tended to give up sailing during their "parenting" years. What's the connection?

Well, the principal connection seems to be that Maclaren (the baby stroller parenting lifestyle company) and LaserPerformance (the company that makes Lasers and Sunfish and many other boats) are sister companies under the same ownership.

More news on Maclaren's present and future involvement in sailing has filtered out over the past few weeks.

I first spotted something in the minutes of the North American Laser Class Executive Committee meetings. For many months now these minutes have recorded that LaserPerformance have been delaying making a commitment to provide sponsorship money to the Laser Class (which they had been doing in the past, I believe.) Then, in the January minutes there was a brief item saying that the class was going to submit a "sponsorship packet" to Maclaren.

Hmmm. Why would the class think that the baby buggy parenting lifestyle part of the Maclaren/LP empire would cough up sponsorship money to support Laser sailing when the boat building part of the Maclaren/LP empire would not? Very strange.

It all became somewhat clearer this week. The World Laser 4.7 Youth Championships are scheduled to be held in Argentina next month, but there is a notice on the international Laser class website saying, "We are still urgently trying to secure the provision of charter boats for the championships in Argentina." Traditionally the manufacturer of Lasers for the region in which such major championships are held (LaserPerformance in this case) has provided brand new charter boats for the championship, made some money from the charter fees, and then sold the boats (through dealers) at a discount.

Someone complained about this problem affecting the Laser 4.7 Worlds on the Laser Forum and a reply from one of the class officers revealed that...

LaserPerformance have decided they no longer want to participate in the boat charter business for major events like this...

Going forward LaserPerformance says it will focus entirely on boat building. All previous "support" functions once performed by LP will be transferred to their sister company Maclaren which will handle sports marketing. Organizations once receiving "support" from LP can now apply for sponsorship to Maclaren.


It's not clear to me that this means that Maclaren will provide the same kind of charter boat arrangements at major events that LaserPerformance previously did. If they don't, then the kind of Masters Worlds that I have attended with 400+ sailors competing may be a thing of the past.

But it does seem clear that if you want some sponsorship money for sailing, don't bother to write to LaserPerformance, send your pitch to Maclaren.

I have no idea what the reason for this change is. What are Maclaren getting out of being involved in sailing sponsorship? Is it about selling more baby buggies to Laser sailors? Or is there something else going on here that I am missing?

Please feel free to speculate in the comments. Normal rules apply. Any relation of your comments to reality is entirely optional. Points will be awarded for creativity and use of marketing buzzwords that real people don't understand. Resorting to use of logic and reason will be penalized.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Header Pictures

Two of my favorite bloggers, Baydog at 829 southdrive and Tweezerman at Earwigoagin have recently been in the habit of regularly changing the header pictures on their blogs. Often the new header photo is so interesting in its own right that they eventually write a post to explain the story behind the picture. Never having been someone too shy to steal someone else's idea I have changed my header picture this week. Well, actually I changed it twice. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?

For many months I had been using this picture as the header on my blog.

Pretty boring, eh? But at least it had the merits that it didn't take up much too vertical space and it didn't distract too much from the latest post on the blog. Actually that's a question that I'm still in two minds about: Should the header picture be eye-catching or should it should blend into the background so the latest post attracts the eye more? What do you think?

I did think the picture of the tops of Laser masts might make people wonder, "What the hell is going on here?" So just in case you were asking that (which you probably weren't) here's how that photo started out before I cropped it down and made it black and white.

A typical windward mark rounding on a winter afternoon at my old club, Cedar Point YC in Connecticut. I may well be in that mayhem somewhere but you can't see me.

Lately I've been getting bored with that black and white picture of tops of masts, and was also feeling that the blog was looking claustrophobic. I wanted to widen the blog slightly and put up a wider header photo with a bit more oomph.

So for a few days this week I was using this photo.

The photo was stolen by me from the Greenwich Bay Sailing Association website and, although not identified as such there, I believe it's of a start at the 2008 Laser World Championships in Terrigal, Australia.

The picture appealed to me as it captured so well the intensity of the sailing in a top Laser fleet a few seconds after the start. Look at those expressions! And, the way I cropped, it there was even a nice white space in the top left-hand corner for the actual title of the blog.

But, after a few days, I became dissatisfied with this picture. All those hotshot Laser sailors staring so purposefully at me began to unnerve me. "Why don't you get great starts like this all the time?" they seemed to be saying. Besides, this photo used up too much blog real estate in the vertical dimension. So I started hunting around the web for a better header photo.

The new photo is stolen from John Bertrand's blog Bertrand Racing. That's American John Bertrand, Laser world champion in 1976 and 1977 and silver medal winner in the Finn class in the 1984 Olympics; not Australian John Bertrand who skippered Australia II to victory in the 1983 America's Cup and who won the bronze medal in the Finn class in the 1976 Olympics. I know. It's confusing. It would be like having two guys called Mitt Romney running for president. Why doesn't one of them change their name, for Pete's sake?

The photo is in John's post about 2010 Laser Masters Worlds - Day 4 and is captioned "A quick fast start led to a second place finish in the first race today" although it apparently shows John leading the fleet into the windward mark.

John finished third in the Masters fleet in that Masters World. I was sailing in the Grandmasters fleet and didn't finish third. For me the picture captures the essence of the Hayling Island Worlds. Those dark foreboding clouds remind me of the chilly, damp, often very breezy, weather in England that week. I start shivering again every time I look at it.

So I hope you like the new header picture. But you probably don't care. Why should you?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Good Day Sunshine x 3

After two cloudy rainy days in Cabarete, on our third day there last month the sun came out and stayed out for most of the rest of the week. Woo hoo!

Day 3 of the clinic was devoted to boat speed upwind and downwind. Aaah Boat Speed. That magic ingredient that is vital to winning races. Some sailors seem to have it. Some don't. What's the secret? God knows I really do need to improve my boat speed.

Rulo talked to us about sail settings, and body movements upwind, and how to use the waves downwind, and upturns, and downturns, and all sorts of other good stuff until my head was spinning. Then it was out on the water for some drills involving long sails upwind and downwind to practice what we had been taught.

It was sunny. The wind was 8-13 knots. We sailed outside of the reef. There were swells you could surf on. What's not to like? This is what you come to Cabarete for. Woo hoo!

We were out for over three hours and my back definitely knew it had been working hard by the time we hit the beach. But a post-sail Banana Mama at the EZE Bar relaxed me wonderfully. And so to dinner with the beautiful Tillerwoman and assorted other sailors at the EZE Bar. Penne Caprese never tasted so good.

The fourth and final day of the clinic was devoted to starts, which god knows I really do need to improve. The winds were fairly light and from the north all day, and we worked on our starting drills just outside the entrance to the reef. The downwind legs of our practice races were painfully slow but I did manage to finish in the top three several times. It was another day of over three hours on the water, which sort of made up for the truncated sessions on the first two days because of the weird wind conditions then. And so to dinner with the beautiful Tillerwoman and assorted other sailors at the EZE Bar. Man, the sea bass was good.

The final day of the week was a regatta which was sailed inside the reef. The conditions were superb - force 4 winds I guess. Because of the relatively constricted sailing area within the reef we sailed 3-lap windward-leeward races with a short reach to finish. 5 races with 1 drop. I surprised myself by getting some great starts but I usually managed to waste them by screwing up the entry to the starboard tack layline, the windward mark rounding and/or the leeward mark rounding all of which were very crowded. Or so it seems now in my memory. On a positive note, in almost every race I was be able to pass one or more boats on the final reach. As I consider myself to be bad at reaches, and we hadn't really worked on reaches at all in the week, that was a pleasant surprise.

The regatta was a helluva lot of fun and a fitting end to the week.

For reasons that are now lost in an alcoholic haze, our little group of sailors from southern New England had decided during the week to call ourselves the Massapoag Mashers and to adopt as our mascot a sausage sailing a Laser. Don't ask. It made sense at the time I am sure. So on our final night in Cabarete I was determined to take the Massapoag Mashers to Jose O'Shea's Irish Pub so that I, for one, could enjoy bangers and mash.

Not the bangers and mash at Jose O'Shea's

Thursday, February 09, 2012

That Which Does Not Kill Us...

Last month I spent a week at the Laser Training Center in Cabarete in the Dominican Republic and wrote at Just Another Week in Paradise about the structure of a typical day there. This post is a summary of the the first two days of sailing that week... and one day soon I might get around to writing some more posts about the other three days and what I actually learned during the week.

The first two days of the clinic the weather was cloudy with occasional showers. I see that one website about Cabarete weather is reporting that the winds those two days were Beaufort Force 3, i.e. a gentle breeze of 7-10 knots. All I can say is that it is possible that the breeze averaged over each of those two days was 10 knots. Unfortunately the actual wind varied between 0-2 knots and 20-30 knots and hardly ever anything in between - or so it seems in my memory now.

We sailed inside the reef on those two days and the waves were large and chaotic with occasional breaking waves in the middle of our practice area. It took me a while to remember how to deal with such conditions. (This is a euphemism for "I capsized a lot.") From time to time a squall came through, rain fell, and visibility dropped (especially for this old geezer who was wearing his usual prescription sunglasses that become almost opaque when covered in rain drops). Oh, I almost forgot to mention, in the squalls the wind was really honking  - or blowing bananas off trees as they probably say in the DR. One of the coaches later told me that it was blowing 30 knots in the squalls and the coaches were discussing whether or not to call off our practice, but they reasoned that the worst that could happen was that our capsized Lasers (presumably with us grimly hanging on to them) would be blown on to the beach some distance from the Laser Center and that the beach staff would just have to recover the boats there and haul them back to the center.

Actually, once you got used to it, trying to sail a Laser in those squalls was kind of exciting. I'm sure it was teaching us something. Didn't Nietzsche say, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger?" Although modern psychological research does tend to support the opposite opinion.

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes. Having "fun" sailing a Laser in 30 knots in crazy waves when I couldn't see where I was going.

So that was all good, but after a squall passed, the winds would drop to almost nothing. Now I don't usually mind lazing around on a sunny afternoon on a lake in a Laser waiting for wind, but in those waves there was no possibility for "lazing around." We were rocking and rolling, and the booms were swinging back and forth, but there wasn't enough wind to actually sail the boat. On the first day we waited and waited out on the water for more wind and some of our number were even starting to get a little seasick. On the second day it was decided to head back to the beach when the wind died, which was a good decision.

The first day was dedicated to working on improving our roundings of windward and leeward marks, which god knows I really do need to improve. (More on that topic if I ever get around to writing about the racing on the last day of the week.) And the second day we worked on improving our tacks and gybes which god knows I also really need to improve. Many useful tips were dispensed and many whistles were blown and many marks were rounded and and many tacks and many gybes were attempted.

I must admit that my mood is very dependent on the weather. Rainy days (but not Mondays) do get me down. And, at times, it was frustrating sailing in those conditions.

I hope Nietzsche was right.

And it did get better on the third day.

Captkev Where Are You?

I still haven't heard yet from captkev, one of the winners of our draw for free tickets to the New England Boat Show. I did make it clear when announcing the contest that entrants needed to come back to this site on Monday evening or Tuesday to see if they had won, and if so to email me (tillermeister@gmail.com) their snail mail addresses.

But I still haven't heard from captkev and the boat show starts on Saturday. So, captkev, if I don't hear from you by 6pm today Thursday 9 Feb I will select someone else to receive your tickets. Sorry, but I don't want them to be wasted.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Who Are We?

The following was posted by the Buzzards Bay Regatta on their Facebook page today to persuade potential advertisers and sponsors that sailors are an "important market" for their products.

Did you know that sailors are one of the most attractive consumers for both local businesses and global brands?
•95% are college educated; 50% have graduate degrees
•90% are professionals or managers
•Average HH Income – $240,000
•Average Net Worth – $1.4 million
•95% own their homes
•Travel extensively, are active and computer savvy

I have no idea where BBR obtained this data. Presumably some kind of market research survey. I wonder how "sailor" was defined in the survey? Did it include all youth sailors and all retired sailors? Did it include windsurfers and dinghy sailors? Did it include the guys and gals who hitch a ride on other people's boats for Wednesday night beer can racing? Did it include all the users of community sailing centers? Or did they just poll yacht owners or yacht club members? I have no idea.

How does this tally with your perception of the demographics of the people you sail with?

Monday, February 06, 2012

And The Winners Are....

The winners of the draw for free tickets to the New England Boat Show are


If you are one of the winners, please email your snail mail address to tillermeister@gmail.com and I will mail you two tickets to the show.

Thanks to everyone who entered. Congratulations to the winners!

The Tack Dance

Does anybody remember the EVK4 SuperBlog? Back in the day it was one of the best sailing blogs on the planet. Then Mr. EVK4's kids got into swimming and baseball, his blogging activities meandered off into those sports, and his brilliant and witty observations on sailing disappeared from the sailing blogosphere.

But what's this?

A couple of weeks ago the EVK4 SuperBlog had a post about sailing - How do you tack? - which introduced us to "the tack dance." See video above.

What's going on? Is EVK4 returning to the baydog eat baydog world of sailing blogging?

I am very concerned.

Top 9 Sailing Destinations on the Planet

After over thirty years of intensive research I am now ready to reveal my own personal recommendations of the top nine sailing destinations on the planet. As part of the preparation for this post I have sailed various kinds of small boats (but mainly Lasers and Sunfish) on four continents. I have spent many weeks trying out various sailing resorts; I have traveled thousands of miles to race in world championships in exotic locations; and I have competed in regattas in all sorts of places from swanky yacht clubs to empty windswept beaches. These really are the Top Nine. If there is any place better than these nine, then it would have made it a Top Ten list.

First up are the best three places in the world to go to for a small boat sailing vacation.

1. Minorca Sailing

RS Vareos at Minorca Sailing

Minorca Sailing operates on Fornells Bay on the Spanish island of Menorca in the Mediterranean. This place is dinghy sailing heaven. You can learn to sail there. (I did.) You can receive expert coaching on any aspect of dinghy sailing. You can race every day. You can sail in Lasers and a vast range of other dinghies including many types of asymmetric boats, from the ever popular Laser 2000s and RS 200s to the more challenging 29erXX and RS 800s. Check out the full list of sailing fleets.

When I die I don't want to go to heaven; I want to go back to Minorca Sailing. That's how good it is.

2. Bitter End Yacht Club

Sunset over North Sound viewed from BEYC

The Bitter End Yacht Club is a laid back water sports resort on Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. You can kayak. You can go scuba diving. You can fish. You can snorkel. But for me it's mainly about the sailing. Lasers (of course) and a good range of other boats including Hobie Waves and Getaways. Check out the club fleet.

BEYC is an all-inclusive resort. You live in cabins dotted on the hillside overlooking North Sound. For breakfast I would usually have some healthy fresh tropical fruits and maybe a callaloo omelette with a mimosa, or two. For lunch I would enjoy a healthy salad and maybe some crabcakes with a glass of rum punch, or two. For dinner I would be very unhealthy and eat and drink way too much and maybe, if I drank enough, even dance with the wife to steel band music.

Talking of Tillerwoman... regular readers of this blog will know that she claims not to like sailing. She never goes sailing. But at BEYC she will sail with me. That's how good it is.

3. Laser Training Center at Cabarete.

Caribbean Laser Midwinters at Cabarete in 2008

Cabarete is in the Dominican Republic and is the best place in the world to practice Laser sailing in big waves with expert coaching onsite. OK, I guess you could go windsurfing or kiteboarding too, but I go for Lasers. There are clinics. There are regattas. There is briefing from head coach Rulo before and after sailing, and videos showing how you really sail (as opposed to how you think you sail.) It sounds intense, and it can be at times, but it's also enormous fun.

The top Laser sailors in the world train there, often in January just before going to sail in the Miami Olympic Classes Regatta. Some wag even coined a slogan - Train in the DR. Win the OCR. That's how good it is.

Since 1989 I have been towing either a Laser or Sunfish up and down the eastern parts of the USA and Canada in order to research regatta sailing locations for this blog post. My next three places are absolutely the best places for small boat regattas on the entire east coast.

4. Newport, Rhode Island

Larry Ellison's Newport cottage

Newport had to make the list. I could write about Fort Adams which is going to be the site of one of those snazzy America's Cup World Series events later this year. Or I could mention the New York Yacht Club's Harbor Court clubhouse which hosted a fabulous North American Laser Masters Championship a few years back, memorable (for me) as the one and only time I beat over 100 boats in a race. (No, really, I did.) But the best location for dinghy racing in Newport is somewhere over on the other side of town, so far over it's actually in the next town, Third Beach Newport (not actually in Newport.)

This ain't no swanky yacht club. It ain't no skanky yacht club either. It's a beach with a parking lot and a boat ramp. That's it. But for wind, waves, easy access to the sailing area, ability to park near the boat, and ease of launching - i.e. all the things that are really important for us dinghy sailors - Third Beach Newport is the best there is. It's the home of the legendary New England Laser Masters Regatta. It was the home of the last US Laser and Laser Radial Olympic Trials to be actually held in the US. That's how good it is.

5. Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina

Laser US Nationals at Wrightsville Beach in 2005

It's a dirty little secret that most sailing clubs on the east coast of the United States don't actually sail on the Atlantic Ocean; no, they sail on bays, often sheltered by barrier islands. But not the Carolina Yacht Club in Wrightsville Beach NC. When you go there for a major regatta they send you out on the ocean in the big waves. Woo hoo!

I sailed the Laser US Nationals there in 2005. That was the memorable occasion I wrote about in Heavy Air Fear when two of the best Laser Masters sailors in the nation invited me to join a boycott against those scary big waves. That's how good it is.

6. Brant Beach Yacht Club, New Jersey

Sometimes you go to a regatta and everything about the place is just perfect. Brant Beach YC is one of those places. Actually it's the best of those places.

Great location. Great clubhouse (actually two clubhouses.) What seems like hundreds of yards of beachfront for launching boats. Great volunteers.

But above all, the folk at BBYC have totally got their act together in knowing how to run fabulous dinghy regattas. Everything from the race management on the water, to hospitality on the land, the refreshments on and off the water, communications with the sailors... literally everything. They just have their shit together. It was my favorite place to sail when I lived in New Jersey, and even though I don't usually drive far to regattas these days, I'm heading back to BBYC in September for the Laser Masters Nationals. That's how good it is.

Awards winners at 2005 Laser Atlantic Coast Masters at Brant Beach YC

Wait. Who is that skinny guy in the orange T-shirt? The 2005 Laser Atlantic Coast Grandmaster Champion apparently. No wonder he wants to go back to BBYC. Memo to self: take a white shirt to BBYC in September. Just in case.

In the past sixteen years I have had the great pleasure to sail in three Sunfish World Championships and six Laser Masters World Championships. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to travel all over the world and race against so many awesome sailors from dozens of different countries. It also means I have had the opportunity to visit the following three sailing destinations...

7. Cartagena, Colombia


I would never have thought of going to Colombia if I hadn't been invited to sail in the 1997 Sunfish World Championships in Cartagena, and I am so glad I went. Back in the day, Cartagena was one of the main ports used by Spain to ship out all the gold and silver they mined in South America. As such it was a great temptation to all those pesky English captains like Drake and Hawkins who were active in that area doing the usual ravaging and pillaging and generally robbing Spanish gold wherever they could find it. Over time the Spanish spent millions building walls and forts to protect Cartagena from the pesky English (not to mention the nefarious French) and much of those colonial fortifications survive today. Cartagena's walled city and fortress are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and rightly so. Estupendo!

And the sailing was pretty good too.

8. Terrigal, New South Wales


I love Australia. And there are some gorgeous places to sail there. Sydney Harbor on a weekend is packed with racing sailboats. Fremantle in Western Australia is world famous as a sailing venue (think 1987 America's Cup.) Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide - what's not to like? I haven't sailed in any of those.

But I did sail in the 2008 Laser Masters Worlds in Terrigal. Terrigal is a beach town about 60 miles north of Sydney. The "clubhouse" for the regatta was actually a rugby club and the boat park was the rugby field. We stayed in an apartment close to the rugby club and there were plenty of little restaurants within walking distance for post-race refreshments. The regatta had a bit of everything. Light winds and big waves. Sunny days and rainy days. I managed to discover totally new ways of screwing up Laser races including getting another boat's sheet wrapped round my neck. I achieved the dubious distinction of being the first USA sailor across the finish line in what must have been the longest Laser World Championship race in the history of the planet. Ace!

In spite of all that it was enormous fun. Perhaps it was the Aussie hospitality and good humor. Perhaps it was the chance to be sailing in the sunshine on the Pacific Ocean during the northern hemisphere winter. Whatever. It really was that good.

9. Roses, Catalonia

Roses - Ciutadella (Foto: Wikimedia Commons, 2006)

Roses is a charming, historic, Spanish town on the Mediterranean about 100 miles east of Barcelona and quite close to the French border. It was the home of the 2007 Laser Masters Worlds, a major milestone in my sailing career as the only world championship ever in which I managed to finish in the top half of the fleet (just) and thereby was able to claim that that I had (briefly) emerged from the depths of perennial no-hoper to the giddy heights of semi-respectable mediocrity.

If that weren't enough, Tillerwoman and I found it a delightful place to stay. Wandering the winding back alleys of Roses most nights to find yet another charming little restaurant. The regatta party at the impressive Ciutadella, another one of those forts built by the Spanish to defend against their pesky neighbors. The trip on the lay day to the sleepy little fishing village of Cadaqués, a favorite haunt of Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró. A day exploring Barcelona on the way home. Fantástico.

I heard a rumor that the European Laser Masters are going to be in Roses this year. I might just have to go back for that. It's that good.

OK. That's my top nine. Of course you will disagree. You know some way better places to sail, I am sure. Why not tell us in the comments?

Sunday, February 05, 2012

LiveBlogging the SuperbOwl

10:12 pm - Eli won a Chevy! Just like my daughter-in-law. He must be quite good.

10:08 pm - "This was one of the greatest football games ever seen." Really? I did like Mr. Quiggly though.

10:05 pm - Some old dude is carrying a shiny pointy ball that is apparently named after a rest area on the NJ Turnpike.

9:53 pm - Incomplete - whatever that means. Oh, apparently the game is over. East Rutherford has won. They don't seem to be talking about Tom Brady any more.

9:51 pm - Was that what they call a Hail Mary?

9:49 pm - Fourth and forever here, the guy says. I'm lost.

9:44 pm - He went into the endzone for the touchdown he didn't want??? Something to do with the clock??? And preserving a timeout??? Wheels within wheels. I though this was rugby and it's more like 4D tic-tac-toe.

9:40pm - Whoah I think I dozed off for half an hour or so. This game is sooooooooo thrilling.

8:54 pm - Tom Brady is sitting on a bench having a rest and the commentators are talking about what he is doing with his left arm. Geeze. Isn't there a game going on somewhere?

8:39 pm - Wooooh. That Fiat ad is HOT!

8:36 pm - Wait. There's some coach on the sideline giving instructions on the radio to the pretty white boy. Isn't that an infringement of Rule 41? Why doesn't someone fly a protest flag?

8:29 pm - I think I'm beginning to understand this game now. Tom Brady throws the ball. Some dude in a blue shirt catches it and falls over. Repeat as necessary. Is that all there is to it?

8:16 pm - Tillerwoman says, "Is there anyone on the Patriots team other than flipping Tom Brady? Tom Brady this. Tom Brady that. Why don't they ever talk about anyone else except Tom Brady? I think I'm going to go and read my book."

8:14 pm - The half-time show was even worse than the game. Thank god it's over.

8:12 pm - Where did all those penguins come from? No, wait, they are nuns. No, some of them have beards. I'm confused. Life is a mystery.

8:03 pm - How come that old lady in the weird crown in the middle of the field can sing with a tiny radio microphone when those dudes in gray suits in the studio needed to hold those huge mikes? Is there some sexual symbolism here or what?

8:00 pm - Woo hoo! Foxboro winning at half time.

7:55 pm - "He's not a normal human being," says the commentator. "He's not a normal human being, he's a football player," says Tillerwoman.

7:52 pm - Love the e-trade kid. Speed dating LOL!

7:45 pm - Goooooo Mr Quiggly!

7:43 pm - GRONK!!!  Sorry. I don't know what came over me.

7:22 pm - How do they draw these yellow lines on the field and then rub them out so quickly? Is it chalk?

7:25 pm - Nice to see that all these kids are following my advice about wearing helmets.

7:22 pm - Tillerwoman says, "Look at all that flab running around. They're flabby. They're floppy. Put some pants on."

7:17 pm - Woo hoo! Prohibition is over!! And they celebrated by drinking Budweiser?? What is wrong with Americans?

7:12 pm - Tillerwoman says, " I think they should wear baggy trousers."

7:10 pm - So let's get this straight. Foxboro in blue shirts, East Rutherford in white shirts. Is that right?

7:05 pm - Goooooooooooooooooooal. No wait. He kicked it over the goal. No wait, he scored anyway. I don't get this game.

7:01 pm - Now my times are all wrong. I'm watching a recording.

6:43 pm - Son #2 calls on the phone. Apparently he isn't watching the SuperbOwl. He's a good kid. Better pause the SuperbOwl so I don't miss any of the "fun."

6:42 pm - Wait. Why is Elton John in the SuperbOwl?

Tillerman Runs Without a Limp

What kind of blog post title is that? "Tillerman runs without a limp." So what?

Well, I have been suffering from some weird kind of ankle injury the last few weeks. It doesn't hurt when I run or when I sail a Laser. But sometimes it hurts when I am sitting down doing something strenuous like blogging. And yesterday I went for a walk with Tillerwoman and it hurt when I was walking. Weird!

Yes, I knew you would be interested. It's OK right now. Thank you for asking.

I thought I would tell you that "Tillerman runs without a limp" because I discovered something while using the Google to do a bit of research on this SuperbOwl nonsense happening later today.

Apparently there is some large man called Mr. Gronkowski who is playing for a team called the Foxboro Patriots in the SuperbOwl, and it's all over the Google that Mr. Gronkowski walks without a limp. Huh? No really, it's big news this weekend in Foxboro.

As a service to my readers I did a bit more research into Mr. Gronkowski and discovered two facts about him. He did sprain his ankle recently. And he is a "tight end" whatever one of those is.

Further research revealed that, in American English, this is what is known as a "tight end."

I still don't get it. Do they play tennis in the SuperbOwl?

Giants Use Yoga to Prepare for SuperbOwl

Apparently a team of big men from New Jersey called the East Rutherford Giants are playing in a game today called the SuperbOwl. And they are using yoga to prepare! Just like I do for sailing.

According to the article in that link some lady called Gwen "whips the players into shape for gameday by coaxing them into pretzel-like positions."

This is a lady with a whip.

This is a pretzel.

I will leave the rest to your imagination.

Superb Owl Sunday

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Ben Paton

To make up for yesterday's story about (what is apparently) an International Moth sailor being rescued by a lifeboat, here is a video of Ben Paton sailing his foiling Moth in the Nordea Moth Europeans at Travemünde in 2011.

Friday, February 03, 2012


There but for the grace of the Flying Spaghetti Monster go I.

Good news - but a sobering reminder - from England.

On Friday 27 January a lone dinghy sailor was plucked from the sea west of Hurst Castle as he was being swept out through the Needles Channel. The Yarmouth RNLI lifeboat had been called by the coastguard following a radio call from a passing yacht.

The dinghy had been dismasted off the Starting Platform at the entrance to the Lymington River about an hour earlier... By the time the RNLI lifeboat found him he was half a mile west of Hurst Castle in failing light and a strong westgoing tide.

As someone who likes to go sailing my Laser on my own this is my nightmare scenario. I am sailing somewhere that seems relatively safe and familiar (in this case the entrance to a river), I suffer some kind of breakdown like a dismasting (as here), and without any way to sail the boat I am swept out by currents into more dangerous and unprotected waters.

According to the report on the RNLI website, this particular sailor was "carrying no form of communication" and "was very fortunate to have been spotted before dark." Would he have ever been found if not for that radio call from a passing yacht?

I must admit I have been guilty of the same sin myself, as I have regularly been sailing the bays around Rhode Island on my own without carrying any form of communication. I continued to do that even after writing that mammoth post last April on safety for a solo Laser sailor which recommended that I should be carrying a "portable, floating, waterproof VHF radio."

Thankfully Santa (in the form of son #1) was reading that post and he gave me for Xmas a Standard Horizon HX290 floating handheld VHF radio.

I feel much better now about sailing on my own, knowing that if something really bad does happen I do have a way to call for assistance. Given the mild weather we have been having lately I'm even tempted to go for a bit of a solo yot someday soon.

By the way, can anybody identify what kind of dinghy that is in the picture of the rescue?

Thursday, February 02, 2012

New England Boat Show - Free Tickets



I have complimentary tickets for the New England Boat Show to give away to some lucky readers. The New England Boat Show is at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center from February 11-19. I wrote about the show a few days ago at Boat Shows.

All you have to do to have a chance to win two complimentary tickets to the show (valid for any day of the show) is to leave a short comment on this post telling me why you want to go to the New England Boat Show.

Is there a particular exhibit you want to see? Are you shopping for a new yacht? Do you want to do some comparison shopping and need to quiz a number of vendors about their products? Are you aiming to check out one or more of the seminars? Or are you just looking for somewhere interesting to go on a cold winter afternoon in Boston? Whatever the aim of your visit, just explain it in a few words in the comments.

If you're currently not sure what you want to see at the show then check out Features at a Glance or browse the list of Exhibitors and Products or peruse the list of Seminars. You are sure to find something to give you a reason to visit the show.

I will randomly pick three winners from all the entries received by 6pm EST on Monday 6th Feb and announce the winners shortly thereafter on Monday evening. So come back on Monday evening or Tuesday morning to see if you have won. If you are a winner I will need your snail mail address (via email) ASAP after that so I can mail you the tickets to arrive in time for the first day of the show, Saturday 11 Feb. Each winner will receive two tickets to the show.

Go for it!

PS. Don't leave an Anonymous comment. You won't win that way! Contest not open to relatives of mine. Only one entry per person please. Decision of the judges (me) is final.