Tuesday, April 30, 2013


At the grassroots level, the sport of dinghy sailing depends on volunteers.

Our sport wouldn't exist if it weren't for all the people who give up their free time to do all the work to run the sport.

Everybody plays their part.

(Well, almost everybody.)

In my time I have been a fleet captain (several times), a sailing club secretary, a sailing club commodore, a newsletter editor, a regatta chairman, a principal race officer, a junior sailing instructor, an area junior regatta series organizer, a class regional representative, and a class district secretary.

I'm not trying to blow my own trumpet in listing the above jobs. All my friends who sail dinghies regularly end up making similar, or greater, contributions.

Some do much more.

One of my sailing friends from New Jersey served as president of his national class association for several years.

One of my sailing friends in Rhode Island ran almost single-handedly (well double-handedly with his wife) one of the most successful regattas on the Laser Masters circuit for many years.

I don't think I've ever run for election (against an opponent) for any of the jobs I've done. Usually it doesn't work like that.

Sometimes I've seen something that needed doing - and it was clear that nobody else was going to do it - so I just went and did it.

More often than not some greybeard in the club or the class, the local "godfather", took me aside and told me that I should be.... the next newsletter editor, the next commodore, whatever.

I've mentioned before on this blog that after I moved to Rhode Island it felt strange that I wasn't doing anything to give back something to the sport.

That feeling didn't last long. About a year ago the Godfather made me an offer I couldn't refuse. Now I have a voluntary job.

Usually when I start one of these jobs I have no idea what I'm doing.

But that's OK. I can always ask my predecessors what to do. I can always find some kind of mentor. If all else fails I can ask the Godfather for advice.

After a while I usually work out what I'm doing. And then I can start trying out new things to do the job even better.

Sometimes people give feedback to the folk doing these volunteer jobs. "You should have done that." "I wouldn't have done it that way."

Sometimes that criticism stings a bit but, if it's meant in the right spirit, it can be helpful. I try not to take it too personally.

The issue of volunteering is summed up well in Laser Sailing: The Rules.

Rule #35 Volunteer. If you see something that needs to be done in your local fleet, club or district and it isn't being done or isn't being done as well as you think it should be done... then don't whine about it; do it yourself.

Rule #36 If you can't think of anything else you can do to help the sport, then be the guy that brings the beer.

Yes, YOU.

I'm talking to YOU

Be the guy that brings the beer.

Caption Contest

Monday, April 29, 2013

On Track

Back in January I wrote a post Can I Make it to 100?

No, no, no.

It wasn't about whether I will live to be 100 years old.

That's not likely.

I don't think I want to live to be 100.

Cheat the nursing home. Die on your LASER.

The post was about how, if in the unlikely event that I should set my mind to doing so, I could sail my Laser 100 days in a year. It was just an intellectual exercise, you understand. Not because it was a real goal or anything serious like that. God forbid.

I even went so far as to work out, just as an intellectual exercise you understand, how many days I should aim to sail each month if I were to make it to 100 in a year.

The first four months of the year are not the best weather for Laser sailing around here. There is frostbiting if you are crazy enough to do that. The water is cold and nobody in their right mind goes out and practices Laser sailing on their own in these months.

So I set a fairly modest target for sailing in January, February, March and April.

18 days I said.

Let's see how many days I actually sailed.


Oh shit.

I appear to be on track to sail my Laser 100 days this year.

Now some of my more insane readers will think I'm actually aiming to sail my Laser 100 days this year.

Just for book-keeping purposes you might like to know that those 18 days were made up of...

  • 5 days of frostbite racing
  • 4 days of a group sailing clinic in Florida
  • 9 days of solo practice (which somebody said nobody in their right mind does at this time of year.)

Just saying.

I appear to be on track to sail my Laser 100 days this year.

This is getting seriously weird.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Compression Socks

I'm a bit slow in noticing new trends.

Probably it's been going on for years but I noticed for the first time at the Newport 10 Miler running race today that a fair number of the runners were wearing knee high socks.

I've seen ladies wearing long socks to run before but I always assumed that they were some kind of fashion statement because they were usually pink or covered in polka dots or little flowers or hearts.

But these socks today were worn by men and women, and they looked "technical" in the way that products look "technical" when they are supposed to do something "technical" that will help you in your sport and the designer wants to make sure that you and everyone else sees how "technical" their product is.

I think they are called compression socks.

Apparently they are supposed to do something to make you run faster or hurt less when you are running or hurt less after you have been running.

There's an article about compression socks on the Science of Running blog. It's about 2,500 words long so let me summarize it for you...

  • they might help blood flow
  • they might stop your leg vibrating (seriously!)
  • they might improve performance
  • they might improve recovery
  • various experiments have been conducted and results are mixed
  • the author tried them out and got the best results by wearing them on the day before the race (go figure!)

I noticed that one lady running near me for most of the race was wearing a fetching pair of lime green calf sleeves. (Hey, what else am I going to look at for 10 miles?)  I guess these are supposed to work in the same way as compression socks.

Why hasn't this technological marvel been adopted in dinghy sailing yet?

You could wear those lime green sleeves on your arms as well as your legs.

Or does a tight wetsuit or tight rashguard have a similar effect?

Further research is indicated.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Caption Contest

Newport 10 Miler

If my alarm clock goes off, I will be there tomorrow morning.

What a course!

Spring Training - Random Thoughts on Practice

Since attending the 4 day Laser clinic at SailFit back in March, I've managed to fit in a number of solo practice sessions in Rhode Island. Seven sessions so far in fact.

It makes sense. What's the point in going to a clinic in January or March and learning lots of things I need to improve, and then not working on those issues right away? I have done very little practice in March and April in other years. What was I thinking?

It makes sense. When is the time I really need to practice? Before the sailing season starts. March and April are the time. Spring training, so to speak.

I've been spotted a couple of times by fellow sailors who said that they would really like to join me. I invited them to come with me the next time I went sailing. They had some excuses.

Truth is I'm finding that the best way to practice is on my own.  Trying to change my bad habits into good habits is not easy. I need to to focus on one thing at a time and work at doing things a new way. When I sail with somebody else, inevitably we end up doing some kind of informal racing which is not conducive to working on new techniques. Sometimes you have to go slower before you go faster.

Or maybe I'm just an antisocial bastard.

Of course the water is cold this time of year. But I pick my days. I don't go out on my own at this time of year when the wind is over 20 knots. I wear a lifejacket (of course), a drysuit and take a VHF radio with me in case something really bad happens. And I sail on an enclosed harbor in sight of people on shore. And I tell Tillerwoman where I am going and how long I expect to be out. So far so good.

I'm not really planning to die on my Laser. Not just yet anyway.

I'm basically working on about 8 things that Kurt Taulbee pointed out to me at the clinic. I usually work on 3 or 4 of them in each practice session.

A couple of other bloggers have given me food for thought about how to practice...

I'm not quite as organized about my goals as Mark of Slipper Musings seems to be. But I do like his charts and color coding. Check out Process Goals.

And I'm not as much into the Zen of sailing as Jay of Laser Sailing Notes seems to be. But I did like his post about Mindfulness. As Jay says..
The purpose of practice is to develop a habit of awareness, to be able to hold your attention longer and longer on specific details. On the water you will be more mindful of you, your Laser and the wind.
And so I spend my days sailing up and down Bristol Harbor and doing practice starts and practice mark roundings and convincing myself that it's all doing some good and that I'm still not too old to learn to sail smarter and faster.

This Year Will Be Different.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Ask the Tillerman

Way, way back in the early days of this blog I wrote a series of posts called Ask the Tillerman.

This was a bit like one of those agony aunt columns where I answered readers' questions.

I can't really remember any more whether they were real questions from readers, or whether I made up all the questions myself.


Basically I gave unhelpful advice to perhaps imaginary questions from maybe fictional sailors.

I thought I would resurrect the concept.

So here is your chance to ask any question about sailing that's been bugging you.

Could be boat-handling, tactics, strategy, preparation, racing rules, Laser rules, slide rules, golden rules, nutrition, beer, toad-in-the-hole, shiny bottoms, muddy bottoms, helmets, hiking pants, wet pants, frostbiting, nailbiting, fish on Fridays, mermaids, maps on Monday, weather, whether, torches, knots, nuts, running, punning, anything ...

Remember there's no such thing as a stupid question, only a stupid questioner.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


I like Laser sailing.

I also like running.

On Sunday there is the first Laser regatta of the season at Fort Adams in Newport.

Also on Sunday there is a new 10 mile running race in Newport, starting from Fort Adams.

The run is earlier in the day than the regatta, but I don't think I am fit enough to do the run and the regatta back to back on the same day. I have to choose one or the other.

I haven't sailed any races in April so far. Done a few solo practice sessions but the regatta on Sunday would be the first opportunity to race this month.

I want to try and do one longer running race - 15k, 10 miles, half marathon - every month if I can. The race on Sunday is my last chance to do that in April.

Running the 10 miler would be good preparation for the half marathon I have registered for at the end of May.

Sailing the regatta would be good preparation for our Laser District Championship on the third weekend of May.

The running race is on a spectacular course along Ocean Drive and past the Newport mansions.

The sailing regatta is in the magnificent natural aquatic amphitheater of Newport harbor and off the iconic Newport waterfront.

The weather will be cool on Sunday morning - perfect for running.

The weather will be sunny with about 10 knots of breeze on Sunday afternoon - perfect for sailing.

There might be beer at the Laser regatta.


What should I do?

Friday, April 19, 2013

I Hate Blogger's New Google+ Comments Feature

One of the bloggers whom I follow recently enabled a new feature which forces people who want to leave comments on his blog to create a Google+ profile.

It appears that I can no longer leave comments on this blog using my Blogger profile "Tillerman."

I can't even create a Google+ profile with that name because it's already taken.

The few of my fellow bloggers who have left comments on this blog are all now appearing with different names too.

I hate this.

I don't want to create a whole new identity for myself in the blogging world.

I won't be leaving comments on any blogs which enable this weird feature.

I certainly won't be enabling this feature myself.

Or have I misunderstood how this apparent abomination actually works?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Do sailors trash talk?

Trash talk: disparaging, taunting, or boastful comments especially between opponents trying to intimidate each other.

The subject of trash talk came up on a fellow sailor's Facebook page.

Someone asked, "Do sailors trash talk?"

I'm not sure if the question was innocent or ironic.

Do sailors trash talk?

What do you think?

Do you enjoy trash talk on the race course?

Or does it offend you?

Do you have any favorite examples of sailing trash talk?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What class of sailboat is this?

What class of sailboat is this?  And where does it come from?

Esteemed Sunfish blogger my2fish posted it earlier this week and none of his readers has been able to tell him. I wonder if any of my readers can work it out.

The only clue (which is of absolutely no help whatsoever) is that a friend of my2fish's saw this picture hanging on the wall of a doctor's office.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Where am I?

Clue #1 The area in the top left of the overhead view can be explored on Google Street View. Here is what you can see in front of the right-hand building.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Kirby and the Torch

The twitterverse has been quite a-twitter with tweets about the Kirby Torch for the last day or so, as you can imagine.

But Internet search is a funny beast and when I searched Twitter this morning for the latest news on the Kirby Torch I came across this blog post Kirby does the Human Torch on a blog called Til the Last Hemlock Dies.

Apparently there was a character called the Human Torch who appeared frequently in Marvel Comics and the character was written on a regular basis by a writer called Jack Kirby.

How spooky is that possum?

Even more spooky is that the blog post talks about a legal challenge concerning intellectual property matters by the original creator of the Torch.

And the story of the Torch concludes on this sad note...
It's almost as if Kirby was saying, 'Okay, guys. Here it is. I'm going to give it one last shot.' And he tried. And he failed. The Torch was just not first flight material in the Silver Age.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Kirby Torch - What Do I Know?

Today we saw a development in the dispute between Bruce Kirby, designer of the Laser, on the one hand... and LaserPerformance (builder of Lasers and owners of rights to the Laser trademark in most of the world) on the other hand.

For those of you who have been living under a rock for the last couple of years and who have no idea what I am talking about, you can catch up on the history of this dispute on these posts....

March 2011 Three Laser Classes? - The Laser Class tries to change its fundamental rule to allow the current builder to continue to build Lasers without Bruce Kirby's approval.

November 2011 Mushroom Goes Kirby Sailboating - Bruce Kirby goes public on the dispute and announces that the Laser never was a Laser; it was really a Kirby Sailboat all along.

March 2013 Shit Hits the Fan - Bruce Kirby sues everyone involved including the Laser Class and the International Sailing Federation.

March 2013 Kirby Torch - Bruce Kirby files an application for the trademark "Torch" and I predict he will use it as the new name for the Laser.

Confused? I'm not surprised. So am I.

If you want more detail you can check out the 21,749 posts on this topic on the Sailing Anarchy Dinghy Forum, the Laser Forum, and the Yachts and Yachting Forum. I suspect that when you have read all of those you will be even more confused. Some of the people on those forums are even more in the dark than I am and have even less grasp of the accepted rules of logic and argument than I have.

And so today (or maybe a few days ago - I'm not all that sure) we have a new website about The Kirby Torch.

According to this website...

  1. On March 25, 2013, ISAF sent a letter to Jeff Martin of the International Laser Class Association (ILCA) which stated as follows: "...ISAF requests that ILCA cease to issue ISAF plaques to LaserPerformance (Europe) Limited and Quarter Moon Inc. (the "Builders") with immediate effect." 

  2. "...ISAF has concluded, based on the correspondence and court papers received from Bruce Kirby's attorneys, that the Builders are no longer licensed by Bruce Kirby and/or Bruce Kirby Inc. to build the Laser class boat (as required by the 1983 ISAF Agreement and our 1992 Plaque Agreement)." 

  3. Current manufacturers of the Kirby sailboat under the Laser brand are in the process of converting over to manufacture the Kirby sailboat under the Kirby Torch brand. 

  4. Bruce Kirby Inc. has today signed Builder Agreements to manufacture the Kirby Torch in regions serving the needs of sailors in the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania. 

  5. Bruce Kirby Inc. and the Torch Builders have been trying to negotiate with the International Laser Class Association in hopes it would replicate itself as the Torch Class. This is considered the most expedient way to establish a Torch Class because Bruce Kirby Inc. and the Torch Builders all agree that all authorized Laser brand boats with ISAF plaques will be class legal in the Torch Class.

I have no reason to doubt the veracity of the first two points,

I have no idea what the third point means or the evidence for it.  Has LaserPerformance thrown in the towel and are they switching over to making Kirby Torches? I would need some more evidence before I believe that.

Point 4 may well be true but I am not sure who the new builders really are. The three builders listed on the website are the current Australian builder (generally believed to be allied with Kirby in this dispute), a Dutch company with very little web presence, and a Canadian company which has the same address as the Canadian Yachting Magazine. Are the latter two real boat factories?

Point 5 sounds plausible. If Kirby is to be successful in relaunching the Laser as the Torch with new builders, it would help him a great deal to obtain recognition from the existing Laser Class. If the Torch becomes a reality we need some way to allow Torches and Lasers to race together under one class organization. But who knows how the Laser Class will respond to this suggestion?

I don't think this is the the end of this dispute.

Not by a long way.

I think it is just a maneuver by one party in the early stages of a legal dispute that will eventually get settled in court.

But then what do I know?

Update #1. There you go. As soon as I post the above, I see that those clever people at Scuttlebutt with their worldwide news gathering organization are one step ahead of me. See What led Bruce Kirby to rename his boat  which explains the whole dispute much more clearly than I have, and specifically has much more information on the Canadian Torch builder.

Update #2. And how about this timing? Only last week the US Trademark Office sent Bruce Kirby Inc. a Final Refusal on its application for the Kirby Torch trademark. I'm no lawyer but I think I'm right in saying that this is not actually "final" and BKI can appeal this decision.

Update #3. The Laser Class response: "The International Laser Class Association (ILCA) is disappointed to learn about the actions by Bruce Kirby Inc concerning the introduction of a new class association whilst there is an unresolved legal dispute between Bruce Kirby Inc and some Laser builders. The ILCA continues to believe that it is necessary to resolve the current legal issues before considering possible alternatives, and remains committed to working towards a resolution."

Update #4. Sail-World article: Kirby says "The idea of saying we should all just sit and wait until the court case… That’s bullshit."

Update #5. And now there is an online petition asking "the International Laser Class Association to consider all of the options available, and not to rule anything out without consulting the very membership they are there to serve."

Sunday, April 07, 2013

I Have Stumbled on the Answer

I haven't sailed for a week or so.

I haven't even blogged about sailing for a week.

But I have been thinking about sailing.

I have been thinking that one reason that I suck at racing is that I don't concentrate on the right things when I'm racing.

Some of the things I should be thinking about when I am racing...
  • Which side of the course is favored?
  • What is the current doing?
  • Am I on a lift or a header?
  • What is the wind doing?
  • Where is the next gust?

Some of things I am actually thinking about when I am racing..
  • Do I need to adjust my sail controls?
  • Can I cross this starboard tacker?
  • What are my telltales doing?
  • Why am I underpowered?
  • Why am I overpowered?

In other words, I am spending way too much time with my head in the boat and worrying about how to sail the boat faster and dealing with the boats in my immediate vicinity, and too little time thinking about the big picture of how to get to the windward mark in the lead. (Ha ha! Well, at least to get to the windward mark in the top half of the fleet.)

It has become clear to me that I have penetrated to the very core of things and I have stumbled on the answer...

Leonard Cohen has a very similar revelation about 7 minutes into this video...

Am I overthinking this?

Where am I?

This one should be a good puzzle. The location where this photo was taken isn't visible via the Google Street View (at least I just checked and I couldn't see it), so you'll have to rely upon something other this time. 

Here are your clues:

  • During the time that this town was thriving, the water nearby certainly wasn't stagnant. 

  • It's old. Elements of it date back to the Pre-Cambrian Era, and its history is richly intertwined with the narrative of our nation, a major industry, and at least one notorious historical figure. It even has over 100 buildings listed in the National Register of Historic Places. 

  • This door is close to the beaten path but only the locals generally know about it, and it's now scrawled with graffiti. 

So there you go. Have fun.

Mitch made me do it.

Here is another clue...

Here is another clue...

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Food Quiz

Aaa Bibcock Dee Slothfully Non Noo Swoops Soss 

In this array of letters, find the five main components of tonight's dinner.

One protein, one starch, three vegetables.

I can't remember how long it is since I posted without at least one image, and I ain't scrolling back to find out.

First reader to solve the puzzle is invited to suggest a title for a blog post which I must write.

No limits. Except Anonymous answers.

Baydog made me do it.

Update 7 April 3:15 pm

Well, Baydog cracked it! Brilliant!

The ingredients were indeed tofu, soba noodles, bok choy, scallions and snow peas.

The dish was Soba and Tofu in Ginger Broth...

Photo by Tillerwoman with her new iPad
Cooking by Tillerwoman

Friday, April 05, 2013


All images are screen captures from Google Maps.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

It's Five O'Clock Somewhere

What the heck is "swai"?

According to Consumer Reports swai is a river-farmed catfish from South-East Asia...

Swai is a white-flesh fish (typically available in fillet form) with a sweet mild, taste and light flaky texture that can be broiled, grilled, or coating with bread crumbs and fried, according to experts. It can be prepared simply, but also takes well to sauces. A 3.5-ounce serving of plain fish contains around 90 calories, 4 grams of fat (1.5 saturated), 45 grams of cholesterol and 50 milligrams of sodium.

Hmmm.  I wonder if one of my readers knows a good recipe using swai?

Monday, April 01, 2013

Uh Oh

This Portsmouth RI police boat fell off its trailer on Route 24 on Thursday afternoon, blocking the road for about 30 minutes.

"Somehow it came off the trailer," said a police spokesman.

8 Reasons Why Running is Better than Laser Sailing and Other Random Thoughts on the Same Theme

The other day I was looking at the Facebook page of world famous Laser Master sailor John Dawson-Edwards.

Apparently in October last year he celebrated his 66th birthday and after thanking all his friends for their birthday greetings he commented, "My first year as a Great Grandmaster is over and I never went sailing!"


Another Laser sailor bites the dust?

Apparently cycling is John's passion these days.

Actually I seem to remember he was always a keen cyclist.

Except now he races his bike but not his Laser.


I'm not a bike racer but I am a runner.

And I've been thinking lately about why running is so much better than Laser sailing...

  1. Running is a lot simpler and cheaper than Laser sailing. To run all you need is a pair of sneakers and some season-appropriate clothing. To go Laser racing you need a boat and a new sail and lots of fancy rigging and a drysuit or a wetsuit and hiking pants and hiking boots and a compass and a starting watch and a wind indicators.... there's no end to the stuff you need. 

  2. You can run anywhere any time. No wind - you can run. Blowing 30 knots - you can run. Stuck in some motel in some godforsaken state in the middle of the continent with no water in sight - you can run. 

  3. In running races you can measure your performance against the clock, against your own previous times. In sailing it's all relative. You might be going fast for you, but if there are 20 other guys going faster, all you know is that you didn't even make the top 20. 

  4. It's a lot easier to fit running into a busy schedule. I can step outside my front door, go for a 45 minute run, come home and shower, and be sitting in front of the TV drinking a glass of whiskey 60 minutes after I started. Laser sailing at best consumes a half day, and sometimes a whole week. Who has that sort of free time these days? 

  5. Girls. A lot of girls run. I think I read somewhere that these days 60% of the participants in half-marathons are girls (of all ages.) That's a lot more girls than you meet at Laser regattas. Of course I'm happily married, but if I weren't then running would be the ideal sport to meet lots of girls. 

  6. You don't get wet when running (unless it's raining.) 

  7. You don't capsize when running. 

  8. Runner's high. 

I woke up in the middle of last night.

I started thinking about my plans for the month.

There are four weeks left in the frostbiting season.

One Sunday I'm down to do RC.

One Sunday is our wedding anniversary. Actually not just any anniversary. One that ends in a Nought. The family are all coming to help us celebrate. No sailing that Sunday.

Another Sunday there is a 5k running race I would really like to do.

Another Sunday there is a 10 mile running race I would really like to do.

Oh shit.

I think I might be going the way of John Dawson-Edwards.

Anybody want to follow a running blog called Proper Course?