Friday, August 31, 2012

Under the Boat

"Now then, said Christopher Robin, "Where's your boat?"

"I ought to say," explained Pooh as they walked down to the shore of the island, "that it isn't an ordinary boat. Sometimes it's a Boat, and sometimes it's more of an Accident, It all depends."

"Depends on what?"

"On whether I'm on the top of it or underneath it."

Winnie-The-Pooh by A. A. Milne

3 Words

I went out for some solo practice on my Laser in Bristol today.

I can sum up the experience in 3 words....

1. Dazzling

What a superb day. Sunny. Warm. Bristol Harbor full of boats on their moorings with a few folk actually out sailing. Totally picturesque. Perfect late summer day. Only a slight twinge of regret that the days are starting to get shorter and soon will be getting cooler.

Enjoy it while you can.

2. Deceiving

The wind was 5-10 knots and at least one forecast said it would build. Actually it didn't build. It died a bit and shifted from SW to W. Then came back in for a while. Then died down a bit for a second time.

Oh well.

3. Distracting

I did over 30 tacks and then an uncounted number of gybes and some of them were almost OK. I did some windward mark roundings and some leeward mark roundings and some practice starts and some of them weren't too bad. I was so absorbed in what I was doing that I forgot all about the crap I read in the news this morning.

Some days you really need to go for a sail just to feel clean again.

I Talk to Invisible People

Why is everyone making so much fuss about how that old geezer with the scary hair at the Republican Convention last night spent ten minutes on the stage mumbling incoherently at an empty chair, apparently under the delusion that an invisible person was in the chair listening to him and occasionally telling him to shut up?

I am a blogger.

I mumble incoherently to invisible people all the time.

Sometimes they even answer me back too.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Get Off My Lawn


How do you learn?

How do you improve your sailing?

How do you fix the faults in your technique?

Does learning happen when you are racing, or practicing?

Or does learning happen when you are asleep, or reading, or even blogging?

Some people take notes on what coaches tell them.

Some people write down in a log book all the mistakes they make on the race course.

Some people are very organized about working on improving their sailing. They go out with a plan in mind for every training session and focus on particular skills.

I'm not that organized.

I do know a lot of things that I don't do perfectly when I'm sailing and racing my Laser.

But just knowing my bad habits doesn't automatically mean that I correct them.

Sometimes I find it almost impossible to fix something I'm doing wrong no matter how hard I try. I've been trying to do perfect roll tack for three decades now and still can't do them consistently.

But sometimes a fault gets fixed or a new skill just comes, apparently out of nowhere.

Maybe you do learn while you are sleeping - or blogging.

The human mind works in mysterious ways.

One of my persistent faults for many years has been not being able to choose the optimal way to enter the parade of boats on the starboard tack layline approaching the windward mark.

I know the theory all right. Leave it too late and you will find a wall of hulls and sails and have to duck a gazillion boats to find a hole. Go to the layline too early and you won't be able to take advantage of any shifts and you will be sailing in bad air from other boats for too long.

One thing I have been consistently bad at has been choosing whether to tack under boats on the layline or find a hole in the parade and go through it into clearer air. I'm not very good at judging laylines and have a paranoid fear of not laying the mark, so over the years I have developed the conservative habit of always looking for a gap in the boats on the layline that I can go through and then tacking above the layline in clear air. It's safe, but sometimes I have to duck a lot of boats to find the gap. Your finishes are not usually very good if you are giving up five places, say, at every windward mark.

But at the Buzzards Bay Regatta at the beginning of this month, I started tacking below the boats on starboard if I thought I was already on the layline. And it always worked. (Current was probably a big reason.) I didn't consciously decide to change my tactics in this way. I didn't think about it much. It just happened. Maybe I learned it in my sleep?

Another fault I have had is that after rounding the windward mark I tend to spend way too much time fiddling with my sail controls and my daggerboard to set them up for the run. I know that the first priority after rounding the mark should be to catch a ride on the first wave and get the boat moving fast. You can sort out the sail controls later. I know this. Several coaches have told me. I have read it in several books. But I wasn't doing it. At BBR I just started doing it. I don't know why. Maybe the voices in my head of those coaches finally made a difference.

Catching a wave
Not Buzzards Bay
Not me

After BBR I did three practice sessions in Bristol in similar conditions, 10-15 knots (or more) from the SW and waves.

In the first one I had one companion who was sailing a Radial rig. This suited her height and weight in the prevailing conditions better than a full rig, and I was surprised to discover that we were fairly evenly matched upwind. Downwind my full rig Laser was much faster.

All that carving and curving that top Laser sailors do downwind has always been a bit of a mystery to me. But on that day it suddenly made sense. I could ride waves nicely for a while on starboard tack sailing by the lee, but then I would fall off a wave and not be able to catch rides any more. Heading up on to a broad reach gave a huge increase in speed and I was then able to go back to sailing by the lee and riding waves again. I was having so much fun carving turns down the length of Bristol Harbor I didn't even notice that my friend had capsized. Oops.

The next time I went out in Bristol it was with two sailors who are far better than me. We were doing rabbit starts and racing a windward-leeward course. I wasn't usually as fast as my companions upwind or downwind but I had just been reading Clay Johnson's tips about pinching and footing on the Center of Effort blog.  He twice used the phrase, "Put them out of their misery early," in the context of discussing when to foot to blast over a boat or group of boats to leeward on a beat. "Put them out of their misery early!" I liked that. It stuck in my mind. And I did it to one of my friends that evening. Children can be so cruel at my age.

I went out later that week on my own in Bristol and this time I consciously worked on fixing a fault with my medium to heavy air tacks. I had been told by a coach some time ago that I should stop swapping my hands on tiller and sheet during the tack, but rather hike first, get the boat up to speed, and then swap hands from the hiking position. It takes me a long time to eliminate bad habits. I had stopped swapping hands too early, but instead I had developed another lazy habit of going into a rather half-hearted hike, swapping hands, and then hiking fully out. So I tried to do it properly. Sometimes I succeeded. Sometimes I didn't. But I was getting better. I think. I hope.

This week I sailed in Bristol on Tuesday evening with three other sailors in somewhat lighter winds. One of my friends was much faster than the rest of us, and over fish and chips and beer in a waterside bar later he explained some of the the things he was doing differently from us - everything from sail settings, to steering, to sheeting technique. Hmmm. Something else to try next time I go out.

So how do you learn?

Sometimes stuff just seems to get better without even thinking about it.

Sometimes you remember something a coach told you or you read on a blog, and it triggers you to start doing something new.

Sometimes you can change a bad habit by working persistently over multiple practice sessions to change your technique and do stuff a better way.

Sometimes you learn stuff over fish and chips and beer.

On the whole, I think I prefer the fish and chips and beer method.

Or the "learn in your sleep" method.

I think I'll take a nap now.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Doug is one of the best Laser Masters sailors in the world.

/Pam is married to Doug.

(I don't think her name is really /Pam. I think it's Pam. But /Pam is how she signs her blog comments so I am respecting her choice to call herself /Pam.)

Doug and /Pam together write the Best Laser Sailing Blog on the Planet, Improper Course.

/Pam wrote an interesting post the other day about Doug's brain. The post was titled Are Real Laser Sailors Dumber than Dirt?


(I don't think /Pam really thinks that real Laser sailors are dumber than dirt. At least not most of us. I think /Pam chose a deliberately provocative title to make more people read her post.)

/Pam was so worried about Doug's brain that she got it tested by a real brain doctor. As we all know, real brain doctors are NOT dumber than dirt.

The real brain doctor concluded that Doug was not dumber than dirt but that he has quite an unusual brain that reacts in a different way to challenges than the brains of the rest of us, some of whom are dumber than dirt.

Apparently Doug believes that Laser sailing made his brain the way it is.

Hmmm. Maybe all of us real Laser sailors have unusual brains too?

Someone in the comments to Are Real Laser Sailors Dumber than Dirt? made a reference to the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is not a name you see every day on Laser sailing blogs. It made me feel dumber than dirt that I didn't know who he was. Was he the coach for that Croatian Laser sailor dude or that Laser sailor gal from Lithuania perhaps?

So I looked up Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on The Google.

Apparently he is a psychologist and according to The Wikipedia (which is never wrong)...
He is noted for both his work in the study of happiness and creativity and also for his notoriously difficult name, in terms of pronunciation for non-native speakers of the Hungarian language, but is best known as the architect of the notion of flow and for his years of research and writing on the topic.
Ah. Flow. Sailors know all about flow.

I discovered that, in one of his books, Professor Csikszentmihalyi used this diagram to summarize the mental states of people with different levels of skill responding to different levels of challenge.

I looked at this chart and studied it for a while and thought about it for a longer while and realized that it explained everything I have written about Laser sailing on this blog over the last 7 years.

Sometimes one picture is worth 2390 posts.

I think I'll take a nap now.

I Yam What I Yam

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Tiller Extensions

One Giant Leap For Mankind

Perhaps the most inspiring story for me during my teenage and college years was that of the American space program, from President Kennedy's historic challenge in May 1961 (when I was 12 years old) - "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth" - to that unforgettable moment in July 1969 (a few days after my 21st birthday) when I stayed up all night so that I could watch on live TV the moment when Neil Armstrong descended the ladder of the lunar module and put man's first footprints on the moon.

Neil Armstrong died yesterday aged 82.

I followed the ups and downs (no pun intended) of the space program through Mercury, Gemini and Apollo, and thought that the first manned landing on the moon was probably the most significant event of my lifetime.

Actually I still think that.

NASA's endeavors during those years were responsible in no small part for inspiring me to spend my career working with technology (although I'm no rocket scientist) and my admiration for what the USA achieved in space in that decade was part of the pull I felt to eventually emigrate with my family to America.

It feels very strange to me to talk to my grandchildren now about men walking on the moon as something that happened over 40 years ago, before even their parents were born. What feels really strange is that it didn't lead to more manned exploration of the solar system. Back then, I felt sure that there would be a permanent lunar base by now and that men would have landed on Mars.

Yes kiddies, when I was younger than your father, twelve humans walked on the moon and came back safely. And then it was over. By the way kiddies, there was also a time when people like us could buy a ticket and fly at supersonic speed across the Atlantic. That's over too now.

RIP Neil Armstrong.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Mr. Cool

Somebody... somebody whom I may be related to on account of some legal ceremony back in 1973... bought my 6-year-old granddaughter Emily some Mister Men Whatever and Little Miss Sumajamig stickers. Emily spent the first evening of the 2012 First Annual Tillerman Clan Family Vacation handing out these stickers to all the members of the family.

These are the three that she stuck on my chest.

I think she is a surprisingly good judge of character.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

New Jersey Stereotypes

I used to live in New Jersey.

It doesn't suck.

But many people have false stereotypes about New Jersey. They think it is full of awful people like...



Tony Soprano


Chris Christie.

What is less well known is that New Jersey is a superb area for sailing, especially Sunfish sailing and Laser sailing. The north-west area of the state is dotted with dozens of lakes surrounded by wooded hills and is a hotbed of Sunfish sailing. 

Here you will find scenes like...


And the Jersey shore has all kinds of sailing, including Laser sailing. The longest running Laser regatta in the US (maybe the world) is held annually in New Jersey at Surf City Yacht Club, won this year by....

Clay Johnson.

Another famous sailor who spent his early years in New Jersey is the US representative in the Laser class at the 2008 Olympics...

 Andrew Campbell.

As I discovered in the years I lived there, New Jersey is a wonderful place for a sailing family to live and to bring up their children to learn about and to enjoy our outstanding sport of sailing...

I wonder where this little chap is now?

I've never seen a "snooki" in a Sunfish

and I've never seen a "chris-christie" in a Laser

but I have seen the Jersey Devil....

This post is written in response to a request by Baydog to write a post on the topic of stereotypes and misconceptions about New Jersey. He won the right to choose a post subject for me in some nutty competition here a few weeks ago.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

People Say I'm Crazy

People say I'm crazy doing what I'm doing, 
Well they give me all kinds of warnings to save me from ruin, 
When I say that I'm OK they look at me kind of strange, 
Surely you're not happy now you no longer play the game.

At the Buzzards Bay Regatta a couple of weeks ago I implemented my new highly sophisticated sailing philosophy as described in my post Sailing Philosophy with Crappy Chart. This scientifically tested approach, based on the latest advances in sports psychology and exercise science, is derived from a 30 years long, randomized, placebo-controlled, double blind study of Laser sailing, and applies a new understanding of the 5 stages of physical exercise and their relationship to the 10 point Maslow-Tillerman-Goldstein Self-Actualization Scale.

Or to put it another way, I quit while I was still having fun.

On each of the first two days I sailed three of the five races scheduled and then went home to play with my grandchildren.

On the final day I sailed two of the three races scheduled and then went home to play with my grandchildren.

My friends looked at me kind of strange and asked me if I was OK.

I know what they were thinking. Is he unwell? Is he injured? Did something on his boat break?

I understand. I appreciate their concern.

As I prepared to leave the race course on the final day, one of my friends screamed at me, "STAY!"

I know it will be hard for them to understand the new me.

I'm not sailing regattas like they do any more.

Maybe I'm getting old.

Maybe I'm getting wiser as I get older?

Crispy Bacon

At the Buzzards Bay Regatta a couple of weeks ago there was one Laser with the name CRIS P BACON on its hull.

In between the races I asked the skipper of CRIS P BACON, "Is your name really Cris P Bacon?"

"Yes," he admitted with a hint of annoyance in his voice.

What were his parents thinking?

With my usual lack of sensitivity I blundered on with my interrogation.

"So, do you actually like crispy bacon?" I asked.

His reply shocked me to the core.

"No, I f###in don't like f###ing crispy bacon. Crispy bacon is an abomination. Bacon is meant to be juicy and chewy. You want to feel the juices on your tongue. You want to savor the taste as you chew it. What's the point in turning bacon into something that tastes like charcoal? People in this country have no idea what good bacon is like. I was on vacation in Ireland last month and we had wonderful breakfasts of soft, chewy, juicy bacon with runny fried eggs. Mmmm. And what's the point of putting crispy bacon on a hamburger? It only goes soft with the juice from the burger anyway. And bacon goes with scallops like peanut butter goes with jelly, but you definitely want the bacon chewy not crunchy. American bacon is f###ing crap anyway. It's all streaky and nasty. Not all like the real bacon that they have in Ireland and England, nice lean rashers with a strip of fat.  I guess it's no wonder that people in America want to overcook their crappy American bacon and turn it into disgusting f###ing crispy bacon..."

By now we were well into the start sequence for the next race so I went off to try and secure a good position on the line, but I could still hear him in the distance, ranting on about crispy bacon, as the race started...

Baydog made me write this post.

The first two sentences of this post are actually true.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sailing Philosophy with Crappy Chart

At the Buzzards Bay Regatta a couple of weeks ago, I realized that I have evolved into a new way of thinking about racing in regattas.

Warning: there will be math. Well, at least a crappy chart.

The Tillerman Philosophy For Extracting Maximum Fun From Sailing In Laser Regattas depends on understanding The Five Stages Of Sailing A Regatta and the Tillerman Fun Factor.

Here are the Five Stages...

1. Adjustment. This is the first stage that we go through after starting to sail and it begins on the way out to the course. In this stage we are becoming familiar with the sailing conditions, the winds, the waves, the current, the shifts, the layout of the course, what the RC boats and marks look like, where the Mommy Boats are lurking etc. etc. Often at first it feels a little strange - whoah this chop is nasty - but after a while we get used to it and how to set our sail controls and how to sail the boat properly in these conditions. Ideally we complete this stage before the first race of the day, but sometimes we have to race a bit before we complete the Adjustment Stage.

2. Competence. In the second stage we have adjusted to the conditions on the course and are sailing well. We are feeling fit and are working hard but not getting tired. Physically and mentally we are at the top of our game (but so are all the other sailors.) We are enjoying the regatta and feeling good. Sometimes we stay in this stage right through every race in the regatta. This was often my experience when sailing Sunfish regattas on the SANJL circuit in New Jersey, for example.

3. Fatigue. After several hard Laser races on a windy day there is no denying that some of us older, unfit, overweight types are starting to feel a bit tired. Well, at least I do. The legs are aching, the arms are aching, the heart is racing. But it's a good kind of fatigue. We know that it's a sign that we are having a good workout and in a masochistic kind of way we actually enjoy it. We are still sailing pretty well even if every race feels a little harder than the previous one. After every race we grab something to drink and maybe some snack for a little more energy, and try to summon up the energy for "just one more race."

4. Exhaustion. On some days, especially the windier ones when the race committee insists on running 7 races, each one with 5 one mile beats or the like, we move beyond Fatigue to Exhaustion. Now we are too tired to sail properly. We don't have the energy to hike hard any more. Every beat feels like a long struggle as we bash into wave after wave after wave. We start to make stupid mistakes. We misjudge laylines. We do terrible mark roundings. Every tack and every gybe is an adventure. It's not really fun any more but something keeps us going. Maybe we think if we sail every race it will prove something. Maybe we will actually win a shiny little trophy. Maybe we will beat "that guy" who usually beats us.

5. Agony (or Ecstasy.) Sooner or later the exhaustion stage leads to a disaster. A capsize. Getting even more tired. More capsizes. Totally running out of energy. A collision with another boat. An injury. Something bad eventually will happen if we keep sailing after we are totally exhausted.

Or will it? On some very very rare occasions I have experienced a "sailor's high" at this point of the day. The exhaustion disappears and I seem to be sailing above my true (mediocre) ability. A Cannabinoid Moment. But I can never count on it. If that's what I'm seeking it would make more sense to smoke some pot.

So how much fun am I having at each of these stages? Let's plot it on a chart. ( I warned you there would be math.)

I warned you it would be a crappy chart.

The y-axis is a measure of how much fun or "not fun" we are having. The x-axis is time. And I have marked the stages we go through as the day progresses.

Through the first three stages we are doing fine. Having fun of +3 to +4.

But when we enter the Exhaustion Stage, the fun factor plummets and goes negative aka "Not Fun Any More."

Keep sailing and either things go really pear-shaped (-5 "Not Fun At All") or very rarely we experience the "sailors high" (+5 "Wow - This Is Good Shit.")


My new sailing philosophy is to quit for the day at the end of Stage 3 or the beginning of Stage 4. I will not keep sailing to the point where it's not fun any more.

There is a side benefit. In the first three stages I am sailing well. In stages 4 and 5 I am sailing badly. I would rather practice sailing well than sailing badly. If I practice sailing well I might improve. If I practice sailing badly my sailing skills will surely go downhill.

Of course another alternative would be to improve my fitness and stamina to the point where I'm still in stage 2 or stage 3 at the end of the day.

But that would require effort.

I think I'll take a nap now.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Is It Really About The Money?

Dean Brenner, the outgoing chair of the US Sailing Olympic Committee, has been remarkably brave and open in answering questions about his team's dismal performance in a thread on Sailing Anarchy The Dean Comes Clean.

Kudos to him for that.

I was struck by a comment he made in a discussion about allocation of funding...

From 2005-2008, Zach Railey and Anna Tunnicliffe got relatively little funding. They had not yet earned it. But they never complained, they worked hard, they got their results where they needed to be and their funding changed dramatically.

Just to remind you, in the 2008 Olympics, Anna won the gold medal in Laser Radials and Zach won the silver medal in the Finns. All with "relatively little funding" from US Sailing apparently. And these were the only sailing medals that the US won that year.

In the 2012 Olympics the US didn't win any medals. Anna was the skipper of the women's match racing team that came 5th in their event. Zach came 12th in the Finns. This time their funding had changed "dramatically." Dramatically upwards presumably.


 Is funding really the problem?

How do do two sailing stars perform worse after 4 years of "dramatically" greater support from US Sailing?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Road Not Taken

After the dismal performance of the US Sailing Team Sperry-Topsider at the Olympics this year (first time the US team didn't medal in sailing since 1936) there has been much idle chatter on the forums as to what went wrong.

Some blame the man leading the team for the last eight years.

Some blame the bureaucratic and inward-looking nature of US Sailing.

Others point to the low levels of participation in and enthusiasm for sailing in the USA as compared to Australia and Great Britain.

Others say that sailing in the USA is only a sport for rich white people.

I was reminded of that photo above. I wonder if things would have been different if that mixed race boy living in Hawaii a few decades ago had turned to look at that boat behind him and asked his Mum, "Can I learn how to sail one of those?"

Maybe he would have won an Olympic gold medal in sailing and inspired millions in the generation that followed him to take up sailing?

I guess he did OK anyway.

When I'm 64

At the Buzzards Bay Regatta last weekend, the vast majority of the other Laser sailors were "kids." Now I know I sometimes refer to anyone under 45 as a "kid." But at BBR they really were kids. Under 25. No, under 18 most of them.

I don't mind racing with kids. Some of them are fast. Some of them are not. Most of them are very polite and friendly and even respectful to an old geezer like me. Not that they give me any special breaks on the race course. Nor would I expect it.

In most races I didn't do very well on the first beat, but after that I was able to pass boats downwind and upwind all through the race. This often meant that on the final beat I would catch up with some kid or other and have to work out some way of passing him.

In one race on the first day, on the last beat of a race, I was sailing upwind on starboard tack, with another boat a few boat lengths to my right. A kid approached on port tack whom I thought could easily cross us so I shouted, "Cross!" and waved at him to cross us.

He elected to tack to leeward and ahead of me. Not exactly a close lee-bow but close enough to give me a bit of bad air. 


I couldn't easily tack to clear my air because of the boat on my right, so I decided to focus even more on sailing fast and seeing if I could get ahead of the kid before the dirty air off his sails slowed me down and I would be shot out of the back.

For some reason I started to sing. I find it helps me to concentrate on sailing well.

"When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now"

I focused on hiking hard and working the boat through the waves, not allowing the waves to slow me down, and on sailing high without pinching. I wasn't singing very loud, you understand. If the kid heard me, he would have thought I was crazy.

"Will you still be sending me a valentine, birthday greetings, bottle of wine?"

I was getting my bow further ahead of the kid and out of his bad air, so I put the bow down for more speed. By the way, sometimes I think I'm singing under my breath but really I'm signing out loud.

"If I'd been out 'til quarter to three, would you lock the door?"

I was really gaining distance on him now. One boat length ahead at least....

"Will you still need me, will you still feed me"

Now he was in my bad air and he was really feeling it. Two boat lengths ahead.

"When I'm sixty-four?"

I may have sang that last line a bit louder.

The kid may have heard me.

He gave me a dirty look as he tacked away, wondering how that old geezer had just gained several boat lengths on him in about thirty seconds and what the hell he was singing.

OK, where's the next kid?

Unusually Usual

You know what they usually say when you go to some new location for a sailing regatta - "The weather isn't usually like this here."

It happens everywhere. They promise reliable breezes of a certain speed from a certain direction, but the time you actually go there, there is no wind at all, or it's blowing a gale, or it's pouring with rain, or the winds are flip-flopping back and forth like.... (name your least favorite politician)'s policies.

Buzzards Bay is no exception. The commonly accepted wisdom is that the heating of the land to the northeast of the bay during the day reinforces the prevailing wind blowing from the southwest along the length of the bay to give rise to 15 to 20-knot winds in the afternoon. But every time I have sailed the 3 day Buzzards Bay Regatta we have never had conditions like that every day. Last year we had one extremely frustrating light wind day, one "typical" day, and one day cancelled because of high winds, rain and thunderstorms.

This year, though was very unusual. We had winds from the south-west every day, over 10 knots every day, and on the first and third days building as the afternoon progressed.

Marvelous weather for Laser racing.

Unusually usual.




Thursday, August 09, 2012

Pre-start Tactics

From areggio's channel on YouTube.

According to a comment posted on YouTube with the video, "Every start this kid would appear at the boat and hold position by tacking for the entire five minute sequence. The perpetual motion award goes to this kid who, during this sequence alone, tacked 48 times!"

He certainly seems to scare anyone else way from taking his spot.

I wonder if this would work for me in Lasers? Must try it at the New England Masters in a few weeks.

"A Heck of a Wake-up Call"

Number of medals won by USA at Olympic Games/ number of sailing events.

1948 Torquay   4/5

1952 Harmaja  3/5

1956 Port Phillip  2/5

1960 Naples  2/5

1964 Sagami Bay  5/5

1968 Acapulco  2/5

1972 Kiel 3/6

1976 Kingston 3/6

1980 Tallinn - USA Boycott

1984 Long Beach  7/7

1988 Pusan  5/8

1992 Barcelona  9/10

1996 Savannah  2/10

2000 Sydney  4/11

2004 Athens  2/11

2008 Qingdao  2/11

2012  Weymouth  0/10

Sources: US Sailing 1948-2000  and Wikipedia 2004 and 2008

Dean Brenner, outgoing chairman of the U.S. Olympic Sailing Program - "This is not the distinction this team was going for. Listen, there's no hiding. There's no way to spin it. There's no way to suggest anything other than we didn't perform."

U.S. Sailing President Gary Jobson - "A heck of a wake-up call. In essence, we weren't competitive in any class. I was a little surprised, and, like all American sailors, disappointed. The question for me is, what do we do about it? I can't predict how the review will go, but I can tell you it's going to be thorough. This isn't going to stand long-term."

Tuesday, August 07, 2012


Grandson Owen

Two years old

Son of a son of a blogger

China Rising

2008 - Olympic gold medal in Laser Radials - USA
2012 - Olympic gold medal in Laser Radials - CHN

Is this a metaphor for something more fundamental?

Monday, August 06, 2012

Laser Cookie

While I was out sailing on Saturday, my 6-year-old granddaughter Emily made a batch of cookies, including this one especially for me.

Pigeon Toed

Thanks to Doug of Improper Course for this overhead shot of Tom Slingsby sailing to Olympic Gold in the Laser Medal Race today.

I was puzzled by one aspect of his hiking style. Why is he pointing his toes inward?

Is this his normal hiking style? Is there some advantage to this? Do other top sailors do this? Does everybody except me do this?

Mr. Happy

Sam Chapin wrote a blog post a few weeks ago, Laser Sailors Look For Happiness, in which he talked about a 21 day program dreamed up by some Harvard professor that is supposed to make you happy.

One of the the things that is supposed to make you happy is to do 30 minutes of exercise every day for 21 days.


Here is what I did in the last 7 days...

  • Monday. Ran 10 miles.
  • Tuesday. Went Laser sailing.
  • Wednesday. Went Laser sailing again.
  • Thursday. Ran 30 minutes.
  • Friday. Sailed my Laser in the Buzzards Bay Regatta.
  • Saturday. Sailed my Laser in the Buzzards Bay Regatta.
  • Sunday. Sailed my Laser in the Buzzards Bay Regatta.

Why do I feel so tired today?

Moth Guide

I love reading Simon Payne's blog. He has such a wicked turn of phrase and a dry British sense of humour. He has just published a form guide for the Moth Worlds later this month. Here are some of his descriptions of his fellow sailors...

Aesthetically better off not wearing Lycra.

His boat has more lines than a zebra wearing corduroys.

He isn’t good at boat work believing they heal over night.

Was racing Moths when the Dead Sea had only just called in sick.

Don’t call starboard on him as he’s wearing headphones, and he won’t hear you.

If they ever translate the rule book into Italian he might benefit from a quick flick through.

Stick your boat next to him in the dinghy park and by the end of the week you will be faster, and also probably a scientologist.

You can read the full guide at 2012 Moth World Championship Form Guide.

Buzzards Bay Regatta 2012

Three days of Laser racing on Buzzards Bay...

Racing against lots of kids. Beating some of them in some races.

Superb winds every day.

Wasn't last in any race.

Didn't break anything.

Lots to blog about including...

My new philosophy about sailing in regattas including (if you are lucky) a crappy drawing of a graph that explains my new philosophy about sailing in regattas.

Some boring charts (not crappy drawings) of what the winds were like.

My new secret weapon for grinding down any random kid.

Things I am doing better now than I used to.

Things I am still doing badly.

More bad mommies.

Crispy bacon.

Watch this space...

Friday, August 03, 2012

Edgy, Aggressive and Unique in Style

On Wednesday afternoon a friend and I went for a sail from Bristol Harbor in our Lasers.

It was blowing about 12 knots from the SW with gusts up to 15-18 knots at times.

It was sunny.

There were some waves.

We blasted upwind until our quads screamed for relief.

And then some.

We sailed under Mount Hope Bridge and across to RWU's dock.

I pointed out where the Tillercottage is on the far shore of Mount Hope Bay, although you can't actually see it from there.

We blasted upwind a bit more.

We sailed back through the bridge and around Hog Island Lighthouse and then reached around the backside of Hog Island and across to Poppasquash Point.

And then it was downwind all the way back to the beach.

It was fun.

We met up with Tillerwoman and walked over to Aidan's Pub for some burgers and beer.

We sat outside.

We saw Elvis.

I spotted a beer on the pub's menu that was described as "exploding with Warrior, Glacier and Cascade hop character."

I like exploding beers so I ordered one.

It was called Monkey Fist.

The menu also said the beer was "edgy, aggressive, and unique in style."

Just like me.

Thursday, August 02, 2012


I only met Heidi a few days ago but there was an immediate attraction. On Tuesday I decided that I just had to start a relationship with her and I asked her out. She didn't mind my suggestion at all.

Dressed in red and black she looked ready for action. I was excited to be giving her a whirl. After all she's never been rigged before. At least that's what she said.

There are some rules for the first date. I'm not quite sure where they come from but current etiquette has it that you don't want to get your vang too tight and it's not a good idea to yank too hard on the downhaul in the first couple of hours. Something about letting her relax on your first encounter so that she will be in better shape on future outings. Apparently it does wonders for her performance over the long term.

So that's what we did. On Tuesday afternoon I took her over to the iconic waterfront of Bristol, Rhode Island where I've had some success before. She looked crisp and white and so young, with not a wrinkle in sight. Made her predecessor look old and tired by comparison.

We took it gently to start with but, at least on my part, it was love at first sight. She seemed more smooth in the luff than her immediate predecessor; I'm a sucker for smooth luffs. Her bottom had a perfect curve, not too full, just a perfect shape. Her leech was nice and tight as it should be. But I think it fluttered a bit once I started working her a bit harder.

I tried some gentle beating and I was surprised by how well she responded. But mostly I reached around a bit and that was the most exciting part of the date for me. Man, she seems fast.

I haven't been block-to-block with her yet but I suspect that is a definite possibility the next time we go out. I wonder when our next date will be....

OK. OK. OK. I know this is only a rework of my 2008 post First Date. But, hey, recycling is good isn't it? And some of you may not have read that earlier post.

Hmmm. So the sail I bought in 2008 lasted four years before I felt the need to buy a new one last week. There's a lot of whining in the Laser class about how expensive legal sails are and how they don't last very long. There's some truth in that, especially for the guys at the front of the fleet where the wear in even a couple of regattas may make a significant difference to their performance. But for a guy like me thrashing around in the bottom half of the fleet... nah, not so much. I'm only doing this for fun anyway.

I used the sail that was new in 2008 at the 2010 Master Worlds (not the sail's fault that I did so badly there) and at numerous other regattas, and for trips to Cabarete and Clearwater for clinics, and for practice and frostbiting for the last year or so. Four years of fun for around six hundred bucks. A few dollars each time it got used. When you add up all that I have spent on my sailing addiction in those four years, regatta fees, charter fees, airfares, car rentals, hotels, meals out, rum, beer, Advil... etc. etc. etc. the cost of a sail is really not a major part of my sailing expenses.

So let's have less whining and more sailing.