Monday, March 31, 2014

Another Ridiculously Easy Photo Quiz

Hello sailor!

Well, this man appears to be sailing, except that wheel looks to be at rather an odd angle, doesn't it?

Who can it be?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Stephen Hawking - Sailor and Rower

Congratulations to LaurenceFL for correctly deducing the answer to yesterday's photo quiz. The young boy sailing on the Norfolk Broads in England was indeed Stephen Hawking.

Did you know that Hawking was also a rower? Or to be more accurate, while an undergraduate at Oxford he did join the Boat Club as a cox. Check out The Clever Cox on Hear The Boat Sing. Would you have found it easier to guess the mystery man from this picture?

The pictures of Stephen Hawking sailing and rowing both appear in his 2013 autobiography My Brief History which I have recently been reading and from which I learned that the first symptoms of Stephen's motor neuron disease didn't appear until his final year at Oxford. He noticed that he was getting clumsy and, after falling downstairs on one occasion, he went to a doctor who advised him to "Lay off the beer!"

Here is a video of the memorable scene from Star Trek: The Next Generation in which Hawking appeared as himself playing poker with Newton, Einstein and Lieutenant Commander Data.

I was planning to use the punch line of this scene, "Wrong again, Albert!" as a clue, but then LaurenceFL worked it out before I had a chance.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Throwback Thursday - Photo Quiz





What's it got to do with sailing?

Monday, March 24, 2014


US Wind Generation Capacity by Year
in Megawatts of Installed Capacity

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the contiguous United States has the potential for 10,459 GW of onshore wind power. The capacity could generate 37 petawatt-hours annually, an amount nine times larger than current total U.S. electricity consumption.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

RS Aero Video

Since RS Sailing announced the RS Aero at the RYA Dinghy Show in the UK at the beginning of this month, sailors have been salivating all over the forums about this exciting new 21st century single-hander. I even wrote a couple of posts about it myself here and here.

It has been noted that RS Sailing has not yet released an official video of the RS Aero sailing, although it is expected any day. In the meantime check out this unofficial video. If you fast forward to 1:30 on this video of RS Tera training at Northampton SC in the UK, you will see about 40 seconds footage of two RS Aeros sailing upwind…

OK. It doesn't look very exciting in that light wind, does it?

But it looks like more fun in this photo.

I can't wait until we have a chance to demo the RS Aero in the US.

I was out for dinner - and a few beers - with some sailing friends the other night, and the conversation turned to the RS Aero and I vaguely remember that I might have sort of entered into some kind of three-way pact long the lines of, "If you buy one I will too."

Hmmm. Are three boats a fleet?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Downwind Laser Sailing at Hyères

The 2014 Laser Masters Worlds will be at Hyères in October.

Registration isn't open yet but it will be soon.

To go or not to go, that is the question.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Top 7 Reasons Why Larry Ellison Will Hold the 35th America's Cup in Hawaii

There has been a lot of buzz in the last few days that Larry Ellison plans to hold the next America's Cup in Hawaii. See, for example, Larry Ellison eyeing Honolulu for '17 America's Cup.

And it's true. I have it straight from the mouth of a usually reliable source, who cannot be named at this time, that Larry has made the decision and that these are the seven main reasons why he has made this choice...

1. Hawaii is the only American state not in the Americas.  Larry feels that the America's Cup has been held in the Americas way too much. It's time for a change.

2. There some disagreement on how to spell the name of the place. Is it Hawaii or Hawaiʻi?  If the America's Cup itself doesn't generate enough controversy we can always have a good argument about diacritics and glottal stops. And Larry loves a good argument.

3. The state motto is "Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono." Need I say more?

4. Hawaiian music. The Hawaiian language has no word that translates precisely as "music", but don't let that fool you. There's a wide variety of traditional and popular styles of music unique to Hawaii. Take slack key guitar for example. Larry loves slack key guitar.


5. Volcanoes! What a brilliant idea to hold the America's Cup near volcanoes. A spectacular volcanic eruption could liven things up if the racing gets too boring.  Larry is a genius.

6. Spam! Spam is very popular in Hawaii. Fried spam with rice, fried eggs and spam, spam stir-fried with cabbage, spam mashed with tofu, spam and cold sōmen, spam and baked macaroni and cheese, spam sandwiches and spam musubi, to name just a few delicious spam dishes you can enjoy in Hawaii. Spam - the official mystery meat of the 35th America's Cup!!! Larry loves spam. And sponsors.

7. Okolehao. Need I say more?

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Wet and Dry - Where am I?

Both these photos were taken today Sunday 9 March.

The air temperature was in the high 30s, with a blustery NW wind gusting over 20 knots at times.

Two very different groups of sailors went out to enjoy the sunny afternoon.

The two places are about 10 miles apart.

Where are they?

What color was the bear?

What did Tillerwoman have for dinner?

How many bloggers can you see in the photos?

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Jersey Pump

I thought I would write a post about the importance of the Jersey pump in my life.

No, no, no.

I haven't taken to wandering around the boardwalk in flowery pants and a tank top and making gestures at the passers-by.

I am referring to a certain product called Jersey Pump.

Jersey Pump is a protein supplement designed to "fuel the gladiator in you" whatever that means.

But I have never actually tried drinking Jersey Pump. So I can't really comment on whether it will "increase your stamina and build lean muscle mass."

No, no, no.

I am here to praise the creativity of the motivational messages crafted by the person who is posting to Twitter with the handle @JerseyPump.

It appears to be the corporate twitter feed for the folks who sell the stuff in the orange bottles but there is very little direct pushing of the product. To be honest there is some macho weightlifters' trash talk. At least I think that's what it is. I don't circulate in trashtalking macho weightlifter circles very much these days. Tweets like these….
To be honest the main reason I wear tank tops is to avoid a concealed weapons charge  
I've got 99 problems and idiots curling on the squat rack is one of them 
Gloves to lift weights? Don't you mean bitch mittens?   
I'm too big? Not possible! You're too small. 
I eat dumbbells for breakfast  
More Plates=More Dates 

I don't even know what most of those mean.

But along with those are some real inspirational messages that I actually find useful in pushing me to stop reading twitter feeds from protein supplement marketeers, walk away from the computer, and actually go for a run or work out on the hiking bench or even… yes even lift some weights.

If you keep saying tomorrow, you will run out of time.
Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.
I will do what you won't today, so I can do what you can't tomorrow.
Of course it's hard. It's supposed to be hard. If it were easy, everybody would be doing it.
If you want something you've never had, then you've got to do something you've never done.
Your body is the baggage you carry through life. The more excess baggage the shorter the trip.

Thanks to @JerseyPump I am determined to be fitter at the start of this year's Laser sailing season than I have ever been before.

This year will be different.

As long as I don't put my back out again while weeding or sitting at my desk.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Don't Bite the Sheet

The Laser has a very long mainsheet. There's a lot to pull in at leeward mark roundings etc.

Some rookies have trouble with this. They think they have one hand for the tiller and one for the sheet, and they can't work out how to pull in all that sheet with one hand. So they use their teeth.

Pull in a few feet of sheet. Put the sheet in your teeth. Move your sheet hand back to the block. Repeat and rinse. Don't forget to floss.

It's actually not that hard to use both hands to sheet in. You just need to figure how to hold your tiller extension and the sheet in the same hand. Once you've got the hang of it, it's very easy and very efficient to sheet in hand-over-hand using both hands.

That's the approved official bestest method that every coach teaches.

If you see someone with his sheet in his teeth you know he's a rookie.

Rule #3 in Laser Sailing: The Rules clearly states...

Guide the uninitiated.
Novices should be guided in the ways of Laser sailing.

Here is a guy who sheets with his teeth

It's OK to shout at him and tell him he's doing it all wrong.

Here's a video of the same guy…

What is a little weird is that you can see in the video that the sailor clearly also knows how to use his tiller hand and his sheet hand to sheet in.  The approved official bestest method that every coach teaches. But sometimes he uses his teeth instead of his tiller hand. And he keeps the sheet in his teeth most of the time he's sailing. Very strange.

Oh look. Just after 3:30 in the video he even attempts a tack while holding the sheet in his teeth. And promptly capsizes. Ha ha ha. What did I tell you?

And then at 4:05 he does another tack and uses his teeth to enable him to swap his sheet and tiller hands. There's also a way to do that without using your teeth. It's the approved official bestest method that every coach teaches.

At 6:30 he is sailing downwind and puts the sheet in his teeth again. And then he immediately death rolls!!!

Do you believe me now that holding the sheet in your teeth is not a good idea? Quite apart from all the yuk in the water that most of us sail in, not to mention the likelihood of expensive dentists's bills, it really isn't a very efficient way to sail.

Today I received my copy of the 2014 Laser Class handbook.

Here is a picture of the front cover.


My head is spinning.

That is Robert Scheidt, current Laser World Champion and without a doubt,the most successful Laser sailor of all time.

With the sheet in his teeth.

Can somebody please explain this to me.

Does Robert sail like that all the time?

Or is there some special reason he has the sheet in his teeth at this moment?

Do I have to relearn what little I thought I knew about Laser sailing technique?

Did I miss the memo? Is "two hands and your teeth" now the approved official bestest method for sheeting-in that every coach teaches?

Looking Back at Laser Sailing in 2013

It's Throwback Thursday so let's take a look back into the dim distant past of… 2013.

It was another funny old year…

In January and February I did a spot of frostbiting with the Newport Laser Fleet. There was the day we sailed in the fog, there was the day I got ice on the deck and a big smile on my face, and the awesome day when I almost began to feel that I might not be too bad at Laser sailing after all.

Then there were three consecutive weekends in February when even I didn't think it was suitable for Laser sailing, but towards the end of the month I actually broke my own record for how early in the year I went out for a bit of solo practice. I must be nuts.

In March I went down to Florida with some friends to train with coach Kurt Taulbee at SailFit.

This is me

I learned a lot, especially on the day when I helped one of my friends (and myself) overcome Heavy Ar Fear by being the idiot to be saying, "It looks great out there. I'm going sailing. Who's coming with me?"

On returning to chilly Rhode Island I did a bit more frostbite racing and another eight days of Spring Training in March and April. I was pretty pleased with myself at the end of April thinking that I had prepared as well as I reasonably could for the upcoming season. This Year Will Be Different. Right?

I did some more solo training in May. Well sort of. You could also describe it as going off on my own for some rowdy raunchy loud hysterical crazy fun.

This is me too

Then I sailed four regattas over the summer of 2013 and learned something at all of them.

At the 2-day Wickford Regatta in May I learned that all my on-the-water practice in March, April and May had paid off. I was fit enough to be able to complete every single race and I still felt strong right up to the end of the final race. This was major progress compared to 2012 where I was frequently missing the last race or two on every day at the regattas I attended. Even better than that, I was passing boats on reaches and runs, probably due to some of the work I did with Kurt at SailFit. So that was all good.

The 2-day John Bentley Regatta at New Bedford YC in June would have been special whatever happened on the water,  because it was in memory of a sailing friend we lost way too young the previous December. But I did learn a lot too, mainly about Managing Arousal and Anxiety. Or how not to be a slug or a crazed squirrel. On the first day I realized afterwards that I had been too much like the crazed squirrel. And on the second day I started like a slug, but found a couple of ways to energize myself, get myself in "the zone" and enjoyed a rewarding day of racing in perfect Buzzards Bay weather. I don't remember a day I had more fun racing. And I finished in the top ten! So that was all good.

This is a slug

The 2-day New England Masters at Sail Newport in September was a big learning experience too.  On the first day, the learnings included….

1. Mid line sag is real
2. The other sailors have no idea where the start line is either.
3. The other sailors are really good at accelerating off the start line.
4. I suck at accelerating off the start line.
5. In a large, close fleet it's not a good idea to approach the mark on the port tack layline.
6. I hate bridges.
7. Don't capsize
8. I need to learn how to do capsize recoveries faster.
9. Don't screw up
10. When I don't race for a couple of months, I screw up.

But apart from that it was all good.

On the second day, I learned that Doug's advice on Improper Course about Sailing in the Middle of the Fleet (a primer for the mid-fleet average sailor) really worked. I was 6th out of 48 in one race (woo hoo!) and won a trophy for third place in the "incredibly old geezers - they really ought to be in the nursing home instead of blundering around the race course getting in everyone else's way" category (woo hoo again!) So that was all good.

On the other hand, at the 3-day North American Masters in October it was not all good. For some reason I was not prepared - certainly not mentally and perhaps not physically either - for the regatta. I had been looking forward to it all year but my heart wasn't it. I sailed badly. I quit early. The experience did cause me to think a lot about what kind of sailing events I do and do not enjoy and how that will affect my choice of regattas this year; and also to work out what I will need to do to prepare for a major event like this in the future. So that was all good. I really should blog about it one day.

Wait. What happened in July and August?

In July I went Laser sailing locally ten times, including one afternoon sailing with my son on Mount Hope Bay when we made a landing on Spar Island and claimed it for the British Empire.

This is my son on Spar Island

And in August we spent a lot of time with the family and I only sailed my Laser four times.

Oh wait. I almost forgot the highlight of the year - the trip to Minorca Sailing in September. This year one of my local sailing friends and his wife joined us there and we all had a blast. Well, I had a blast. I think the others did. I learned a lot and won the first Thursday regatta, and won the pursuit race, and won the second Thursday regatta. And there were sardines. There were definitely sardines. It was all good.

These are sardines

And then in December, Tillerwoman and I had another wonderful vacation at the Bitter End Yacht Club in the BVI. We sailed catamarans a lot together. I sailed a Laser and won both the Laser regatta and the Hobie regatta on the Sunday we were there. There was kayaking and swimming and running and hiking. There was rum. There was definitely rum. It was all good. I really should blog about it one day.

This is me relaxing at BEYC

Wait. What happened in November? I have no idea. Apparently nothing.

According to my notes, I went Laser sailing on 72 days in 2013. It's not 100. But it is more than 43 so most of my male readers are happy.

Oh. I almost forgot the best day of the year. October 12.

Andrew James
5th grandchild
3rd grandson
Born 12 Oct 2013

It was all good.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014


How to Get Killer Starts in Laser Races

Last Thursday evening there was another webinar organized by Javier "Rulo" Borojovich, the head coach at the Laser Training Center in Cabarete. This one was about Starting Technique and featured as guest expert, UK Laser sailor Nick Thompson, currently ranked by ISAF as #5 Laser sailor in the world.

Nick Thompson

God knows I need to improve my starts but unfortunately - well fortunately really -Tillerwoman and I had agreed to babysit the four Massachusetts tiller extensions at the designated hour for the webinar while their parents went out on a well-deserved night on the town in Boston which was somehow earned by my daughter-in-law's blogging efforts. I think I mentioned before that she is the successful blogger in the family. People actually give her things like money and nights out on the town in Boston for her blogging. I don't know where I'm going wrong.

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes babysitting the Massachusetts tiller extensions.

4 grandkids randomly doing stuff
 on a couch that isn't very level

So as I really really need to improve my starts, and as I was clearly not going to be able to concentrate on the webinar while four grandkids were running around the house pretending to be a ballerina or monster trucks or whatever it is they are supposed to be, and bouncing off the walls and singing songs about royals or tigers or making monster truck noises, and clamoring for something to eat or refusing to eat what is put in front of them, in other words just kids being kids… I asked Rulo if I could have a look at a recording of the webinar at some later date. And he agreed.

So once I had recovered from the babysitting experience (only joking kiddos - I always love spending time with you) and the terrible awful disgusting thing that happened just after their parents came home from their bloggy night out in Boston (you really don't want to know) I settled down quietly at home to watch the recording of the webinar and learn about starting technique from Rulo and Nick.

Rulo's presentation and Nick's expert contributions covered everything you would want to know about getting killer starts in Laser races including, how to decide where on the line to start, how to hold your position on the line, how to create a leeward gap, how to accelerate at the start, and how to hold your lane after the start.

Of course a lot of this is standard stuff that you will hear at any starting clinic or can read in any good book about Laser sailing. But there were also quite a few useful tips and hints that I hadn't heard before such as…

  • Why Nick doesn't start in the middle of the line very often but why Robert Scheidt does and where someone who doesn't have very good boat speed (I think he was talking about me) should start.
  • A trick on how to spot the RC boat at the end of the line when the view is blocked by sails.
  • The importance of checking "drift rate."
  • How to find a gap on the line in the last 30 seconds before the start (with a video showing Nick pulling this off to perfection!)
  • Six tips to minimize leeward drift.
  • Three ways to create a leeward gap.
  • Five keys to protecting your gap.
  • A trick to confuse the judges. Sssshhh. Don't tell anyone.
  • Three best ways to practice starting.
  • And much much more.

So thanks to Rulo and Nick for an excellent webinar.

And thanks to Emily, Aidan, Owen and Andrew for being good kids and so much fun (apart from that terrible awful disgusting thing that happened after their parents came home.)

The next webinar will be on 27 March and will be about upwind speed in light and medium winds with Laser Olympic Bronze Medalist Rasmus Myrgren from Sweden as guest expert. You can sign up here.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Just Say "NO" to Lasers


After posting about the RS Aero on Saturday, I spent a bit of time browsing the web for news about other single-handers launched in recent years, like the RS100.

It turns out the RS100 even has its own blog RS100 Sailing. And owners of RS100s can create their own profiles on the blog and tell the world why they chose the RS100 and what their sailing plans are and what beers they like etc. etc.

Most of the sailors on the site are from GBR. I can only see one USA sailor, Richard Barry. He sails out of Annapolis and is the proud owner of RS100 sail number 192. (I don't think that's Richard in the photo at the top of this post. That photo is from the RS100 brochure.)

Apparently Richard really doesn't like the Laser. He describes it as "boring" and "old-fashioned" and a "pain box."

And he signs off his profile with this impassioned plea...

Just say “NO” to Lasers. Don’t take that crap any more. You are going to live, what, 80 years maybe… on the outside? Why waste it sailing a boring, minimalist, ugly, craptastic little boat? Life is too short, dude!


Some people really don't like Lasers, do they?

But could he be right?

Have I wasted the last 30+ years of my life?

Saturday, March 01, 2014

RS Aero - 21st Century Laser?

You might have noticed, if you have read this blog for a while, that I like Laser sailing. At times I can even be quite passionate about Laser sailing. I love my Laser. And a lot of other people feel the same way. Over 200,000 Lasers have been sold and it's one of the most popular single-handed racing dinghies in the world.

One of the reasons for the Laser's huge success has been its strict one design rules. But I suspect that this will also eventually be the cause of its demise. A boat which has been "frozen" in 1970s technology must always compete with newer designs, newer concepts, newer technology.

So I am realistic to know that the popularity of any sailing class never lasts for ever. One day a boat will come along which will take over the role of the Laser as the leading single-handed racing dinghy in the world. And from time to time I have written posts on this blog speculating what that boat might be.

MX-Ray? Hoot? D-One? What happened to them? I've never even seen one of them in my neck of the woods.

More recently the RS-100 has been doing well in Europe but I don't think that many have been sold in North America. I have sailed the RS-100 when I have been on vacation at Minorca Sailing and it is certainly an exciting little boat. It is so much more fun to sail downwind than a Laser; the asymmetric spinnaker gives a whole new dimension to the experience.

And yet. The price of a new RS-100 in the US is about twice the price of a new Laser. Not many people are going to buy one at that price. Not enough people to make a big dent in the sales of new Lasers anyway.

But at the RYA Dinghy Show in England today, RS-Sailing is launching another single-hander, the RS Aero.

It is a full-size single-hander. 4m long and 1.4m beam.

It only weighs 30kg so one person can carry it up the beach and it is very easy for youths and women to put on a roof rack.

It has three rigs to suit many different sizes and weights of sailor (just like the Laser.)

It's advertised price is £4870.  This compares with the top-of-the range Laser XD in the UK at £4,847.

So what's not to like? Sexy, fast new design. Half the weight of the Laser. Same price. All the technical expertise, manufacturing capability and marketing know-how of RS-Sailing behind it.

RS-Sailing are even describing it as a "21st century Laser" in their RS Aero Lift-off press release.

Could this be the Laser killer?

I wonder if Minorca Sailing will have an RS Aero by September?

Watch this space.