Monday, July 02, 2012


I'm back.

Back sailing again.

In early May I hurt my back.

It was shortly after the epic Laser sailing workout that I wrote about at Scary Play. I'm not sure if that really was the cause. The intense pain actually came on a few days later while I was sitting at my desk using my computer (like I am now.) I suspect I was sitting awkwardly and the real reason for my problem was that I had hardly done any stretching or back strengthening exercises over the winter and spring months before launching into energetic Laser sailing again, and then I didn't do any stretching after Laser sailing either and paid the price.

Lesson learned.

I didn't run or sail for several weeks which made me even more cranky than I usually am. During that time I did do a lot of gentle stretching and other exercises to aid my recovery.

When I did return to sailing again, I chose to ease into it relatively gently in order not to cause a recurrence of my injury. Not sail too much on any one day. Not sail on consecutive days for a while. I suspect reading Aussie Laser sailor Ash Brunning's account of the recurrence of his back problems made me ultra-cautious. I wince every time I read this post. It's all too reminiscent of my own experience. Don't want to go back there.

Massapoag Laser and Sunfish Regatta
My first day of sailing after the injury was the one-day Laser Regatta at Massapoag Yacht Club on June 16. I had originally been hoping that weekend to sail both days, perhaps doing two regattas in New Hampshire at Lake Sunapee and Lake Mascoma. But in line with my "take it easy at first" program I decided to do just do one day. The fact that my son, who hardly ever races his Lasers these days, was willing to sail at Massapoag (and it was Father's Day weekend too) was the deciding factor.

It was a fun day. Going back to Massapoag gave me a chance to catch up with some of the Massapoag Mashers who had come with me on the Cabarete and Clearwater trips earlier in the year.

The winds were stronger than expected. 12-15 knots out of the NW in the morning. I gave my back a good workout in two 2-lap windward-leeward races, scoring a 3rd and a 2nd and then decided to quit for the morning. I watched the other two morning races from the beach while I did some back stretching exercises and pondered whether the aches and pains in my back were the normal effects of an hour or so of Laser sailing after several weeks off, or signs of something more serious.

The winds were a little lighter in the afternoon. I did three more races, scoring another 2nd and then skipped the final race too. Didn't want to overdo it on the first day out and blow out my back for the whole season.

With three DNS's in an eight race regatta I didn't think I had any chance of making the metaphorical podium, so was pleasantly surprised to be called up to receive the 5th place trophy, which apparently I had won by the tie-breaker in a 3-way tie with my son and one other young fellow. Happy Father's Day!

My back sure was sore afterwards but was fine the next day, which was a huge relief.

Tuesday in Bristol
So the next Tuesday I joined a couple of the best Laser sailors from the Newport Fleet for a practice in Bristol Harbor. The wind was honking from the south with some juicy waves. There was no way I could keep up with my friends upwind... or downwind for that matter. I was definitely holding up the back of the fleet in every race that night. Nothing to do with my back. I'm just not in the same league as them.

I gave the back a really good workout and quit a little earlier than the others. Once again there was pain after sailing but a quick recovery overnight.

Back to Massapoag
The following weekend was the date for one of my favorite regattas run out of the Community Boating Center in New Bedford, but I didn't feel ready to test out my back at a two-day regatta yet. On the Saturday my friends at Lake Massapoag were doing a Laser coaching session with video feedback so I joined them there again. As it turned out there was hardly any wind so we drifted around for an hour or so and attempted doing some light air roll tacks for the camera. Actually watching the video afterwards was quite instructive. I realized that one of my persistent faults with roll tacks is still persisting, and picked up a tip from one of my buddies on how I might fix it, so that was all good.

Sometimes sitting crunched up in the boat in light winds is more uncomfortable on the back and legs than hiking hard in 15-20 knots. Again my back was feeling it that evening, but was fine the next day.

Another Tuesday in Bristol
The next Tuesday evening in Bristol the winds were honking again, only this time from the NW. Great hiking weather. There were five of us sailing. Here are four of us before we ventured out into the demon winds of Bristol Harbor.

There were a bunch of A-Cats out racing too and with the wind running diagonally across the harbor it was pretty much impossible to avoid them if we both wanted to race a WL course. This made the evening even more exciting because A-Cats...
  1. are incredibly fast
  2. are incredibly quiet so you never hear them coming if you don't see them first
  3. are apparently somewhat hard to control.
After my first encounter on the race course with an A-Cat whose helmsman hailed at me, "You're gonna get killed!" I began to wonder if all A-Cat sailors harbored some deep grudge against Laser sailors.

I hung in there all evening with the others (no quitting early this week) and I only capsized once (clumsy gybe.) I was hiking in somewhat better style than the previous week and was keeping up a bit closer to the leaders. Nobody got killed by an A-Cat, and we all came back with big smiles on our faces. Then we wandered off to Aidan's Pub where I demolished a Leinster Burger (blue cheese and bacon on top) with pub fries and a couple of pints of Old Thumper, while we all enjoyed the popular sport of slandering the reputations of all our Laser sailing friends who hadn't come out to sail that evening.

Life is good.

I'm back.


Sam Chapin said...

That is a lot of sailing for an old man. I am impressed.

Baydog said...

You have A Cats in Rhode Island Too?

Tillerman said...

A-Cats not A-Cats.

Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

A cat: that's what Doberwoman would like for breakfast every morning.

O Docker said...

I thought when they did away with the old 'Mast abeam' hail a few years ago that they replaced it with 'You're gonna get killed'.

Tillerman said...

Could be O Docker. I really miss "mast abeam."

Baydog said...

BTW: You look great.

Anonymous said...

"Mast abeam" situations won't kill you as the boats will be going in the same direction, but an A-cat coming at you at 15-20 knots or so is scary. Starboard rights won't pay for the damage to yourself or the Laser...


kiwiyates said...

Nice to see your back...... now we've seen your front!!!!

Pandabonium said...

A-cats - who are all those people and why are they making any noise other than to announce your eminent demise? Stay on a starboard tack and yell it through a megaphone - STARBOARD! F-ers. Who do they think they are? A bunch of A-

Steve - Indented Head YC said...

At our Club we occasionally the Clubs up and down the Coast from us in a combined race and the Club down the coast brings its A Class cats. Scary things.
But at a recent fishing show I discovered some little bell things that clip on your line and make bell like sounds when a fish shakes the line.
Plan to insert para in SI that all cats must be equipped with little bell things that make bell like sounds as they sail
PS I should point out that I don't often go to fishing shows, but it was next door and they did offer the Yacht Club the BBQ franchise

PeconicPuffin said...

Back in the saddle...outstanding!

Tillerman said...

In general we Laser sailors tried to keep out of the way of the A-Cats, mainly for the reason that the 9:40PM Anonymous commenter expressed, and because they were there first and had set up the buoys for the course. But they are so fast that sometimes they converged with a Laser before the Laser sailor expected it. Still, we had no collisions.

Anonymous said...

With the big American holiday on the forth, I thought some of us might like a little history lesson from the late American Icon Andy.

Tillerman said...

What? I think Mr Griffith got things mixed up a bit there. Here is the correct story...

Keep Reaching said...

Andy Griffith who played Sheriff Taylor of Mayberry died today at age 86.

Tillerman said...

Yes KR. You don't mind if I call you KR, do you? Keep Reaching seems such an unlikely name. What were your parents thinking? But there is a lady on US TV who is called Krystal Ball, and apparently it is her real name. Her father was a physicist who did his dissertation on crystals.

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes, Mr Griffith.

I only saw the news about his death after posting my flippant comment about the former half-term governor from Alaska. I didn't mean any disrespect to Mr Griffith. I suspect many American were very fond of him. Once again I have to confess I have almost zero knowledge of American popular culture prior to 1989 (when we moved here.)

Anonymous said...


So much better than watching - glad you are back enjoying it - and congrats on keeping out of the way - we have a couple at the KWSC and they are lethal once they get going - I have always found the correct hail is 'starboar...$*&%!...I'll just get out of the way then shall I?' usually hurled at the departing stern of said cat with a suitable amount of vitriol is the correct approach.

I guess I could protest, but that would mean I would have to understand things like the rules.

Tillerman said...

One of my friends pointed out that one of the A-Cats sailing last Tuesday had signs of two repairs on the side of one hull, and that the points repaired were exactly the same distance apart as the bows of an A-Cat hull.

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