Saturday, May 31, 2014


This is the trophy for the Orange Coffee Pot Regatta being held today in Surf City NJ, showing the first few winners. The Orange Coffee Pot is the oldest and longest running Laser event in the world. I did sail it a few times when I lived in New Jersey, although (it should go without saying) I never won it.  My name is not on the list of names on this trophy.

This is the list of Laser sailors entered so far for the Wickford Regatta in Rhode Island next weekend. I have sailed this regatta a few times too, although (it should go without saying) I have never won it. I expect I will be adding my name to this list shortly.

Can you see what these two lists of names have in common? Pretty amazing, eh?

Update June 2. Clay Johnson won this year's Orange Coffee Pot with John MacCausland second. Just to prove that Skip Whyte isn't the only one of the Laser sailors of the class of '72 who is still racing Lasers, here is a picture of John MacCausland sailing his new Laser in the Spring of 1972 at Cooper River Yacht Club.

Friday, May 30, 2014


That clever fellow Nick Hayes, author of Saving Sailing, has an article in the June 2014 issue of SpinSheet magazine titled Don't Sell Your Boat, Mister. In it he challenges a man who is trying to sell his Laser because he thinks has no time to get out on the water even though "the desire is there." Nick goes a bit deeper than the usual "live in the moment" memes with some insights from a Harvard social psychologist and some excellent advice on how to organize your life to be happy now, not at some vaguely imagined future idyllic time. He outlines a way to live such that "hours magically appear for things that bring happiness - like Laser sailing on a Tuesday night."

One of his arguments for creating time to follow your desire now, not postponing it for a couple of decades, is that perceptions of the source of happiness change as one ages. And he uses Laser sailing as an example of this saying that when you are in your fifth or sixth decades Laser sailing doesn't make the list as sufficiently restorative or rewarding or even fun. The implication being, presumably, is that you should go Laser sailing NOW while you still have the desire.

Of course Nick knows that not everyone feels like that about Laser sailing in later years because he adds as a sly afterthought, "Don't tell that to the Laser sailing grandfather of six, Tillerman."


Does desire for Laser sailing decline as one ages?

I guess I look at it from a position that could give me a distorted view. I have been racing my Laser in the UK and the US and several other countries for over 30 years so I see plenty of people in their 40s and 50s and 60s (not to mention a few in their 70s and 80s) sailing Lasers. I see the ones who kept their desire.

Sure everyone gives up Laser sailing eventually. But I see the ones who stop Laser sailing because their knees or backs or hips give out - or they die. And, sure, I also see ones like the man in Nick's article who give up Laser sailing because they say they are too busy with family and career to sail.  I guess I just don't see the ones who once had the desire but lost it before they really got round to taking up Laser sailing. I'm not saying they don't exist; just that I don't mix in those circles.

To be honest, I do find my own desire for some aspects of Laser sailing waxing and waning as I get older.

Some winters I am enthusiastic about frostbiting. Other winters I'm not.

Some years I get all excited about doing major regattas like a Laser Masters Worlds or North Americans. Other years I can't be bothered with all the faffing around that is involved in sailing major events.

Some years I like to travel a lot to sail. Other years I just want to enjoy sailing in my own (metaphorical) back yard.

But I have never yet totally lost the desire to sail my Laser.

Yesterday evening three of us went Laser sailing on the Sakonnet River launching from Third Beach. Two of us are in our seventh decades, the other is in his eighth decade. One of us drove ninety minutes to be there. It was a glorious sunny evening (if a little chilly for late May.) The wind was in the south and was stirring up some waves on which you could occasionally catch some rides downwind. We did some rabbit starts and chased each other round and round a short windward leeward course for about ninety minutes. Afterwards we all agreed we had had a marvelous time and that this spot was one of the best imaginable places in the world for some Thursday evening Laser sailing fun. And that we would damn well do it again next week.

We still have the desire.

Sshhh! Don't tell Nick Hayes. (But do go and read his SpinSheet article and buy his book.)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Colt State Park

One of my favorite places to go sailing - and running - is Colt State Park in Bristol RI.

As the website for the Rhode Island Division of Parks and recreation says...

Colt State Park is often referred to as the 'Gem' of the State Parks System. The entire western border of the park is an open panorama onto Narragansett Bay. Open year round, the park offers four miles of bicycle trails passing along the Bay and through 464 acres of groomed fruit trees, carefully nurtured flowering bushes, and manicured lawns. Rich in history, it proudly displays ten large playfields, a historical museum, and six picnic groves containing 400+ picnic tables.

Not to mention a couple of excellent boat launching ramps with more than adequate parking for trailers.

I wasn't there on Sunday.

Just as well because apparently members of the Blood gang from Fall River, Providence and New Hampshire decided to meet at Colt State Park for a Memorial Day weekend cookout.

What? Gangs have cookouts? Who would have thunk it?

Wait. It gets worse.

As (one assumes) sometimes happens at Blood gang cookouts, there was a little disagreement which turned the cookout into a shootout. One man was shot. One man was stabbed. They are both now in hospital.


In idyllic, peaceful Colt State Park!

Is nowhere safe any more?

I think I'll go sailing this afternoon.

In Bristol.

See ya!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Semaine Olympique Française Hyères 2012 Finn Medal Race

One of my friends, who is going to the Laser Masters Worlds in Hyères later this year, was wondering what it would be like.

I take two things from this video…

1. Sometimes it's a bit windy
2. They speak French.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

E Scows = Just Big Lasers Really

E Scows on Lake Geneva, Wisconsin last weekend.

Thanks to Susie Pegel for the video.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Throwback Thursday Quiz

You know the drill…




What event?

How did the sailor in the picture finish in this regatta?

What was for dinner on Saturday night?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Electric Plate Party

"Use it or lose it!"

That's what they say.

Whoever they are.

It's certainly true about Laser sailing as I discovered last week.

I went sailing on Monday in Bristol and again on Saturday from Seapowet Beach on the Sakonnet River.

Both days the wind was in the south and strong enough to stir up some nice juicy waves and chop.

Both days were a bit of a challenge to me.

It's not just that I hadn't exercised my Laser sailing muscles on the water for three months.

It's also that my boat-handling skills seemed to have deteriorated seriously during the layoff.

I was awful at working the boat upwind through the waves.

I was clumsy and incompetent in the tacks.

I managed to capsize on one of the few occasions I felt brave enough to gybe.

But I did have a blast on the reaches and runs.

Once again I was sailing on my own.

I did invite some friends to come with me.

But they all had excuses.

The most creative excuse was one person who said she was having an "electric plate party."

I have no idea what an "electric plate party" is.

Is it some American tradition that I haven't come across in the 25 years I have lived here?

Whatever it is, it's apparently more fun than Laser sailing in waves on the Sakonnet, hard as it is to believe that.

This is all I could find about electric plates on the Google….

The last one looks like a fun party, but surely that's not what my friend was suggesting?

Monday, May 19, 2014

God Bless America and Lady Liberty

One of the best things about the Laser Class is that it includes some wonderful, dedicated, talented people who, when they see something that needs doing, they just pitch in and get it done themselves.

It's actually Rule 35 in Laser Sailing: The Rules

#35 Volunteer. If you see something that needs to be done... 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.

One such person is Pam from the Improper Course blog. Her husband Doug is sailing in the Laser Masters Worlds in France later this year. She thought it would be cool to have a Team USA shirt for the event, so she went ahead and designed one.

I really like her use of the image of the Statue of Liberty as an iconic symbol of the USA as well as of French-American friendship. What could be more appropriate?

More information about the Hyères France Laser Masters Worlds Team USA shirts at

You can order one by emailing Pam at the email address on their blog.

Monday Caption Contest #2

Monday Caption Contest #1

Sunday, May 18, 2014

For the Record

I mentioned in SPLASHED: In Early May! First Time Ever that I didn't sail at all this year in February, March or April. I can't remember taking these months off for a long time. Or does my memory fail me?

One of the beauties of writing a sailing blog is that blogs have archives and so I can look back and answer questions like, "How much Laser sailing did I do in the early months of the year in each of the last 10 years and have I just set a lifetime record for lateness, laziness, languor, lassitude and general laxness?"

In 2005 I was certainly sailing in April as I went do do a clinic in Florida run by Rick White - "I'm sailing waves downwind with Brad Funk and it's all going to be on video."  And then I sailed in the Laser US Nationals at Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina on the way home.

In 2006 I was frostbiting in March and April at Cedar Point YC in Connecticut, even enjoying sailing in the snow and sailing in the rain. Did I really write that shit?

2007 was the first year I went to Cabarete in January to sail in the Caribbean Midwinters. And in spite of selling our house in New Jersey, being homeless for a couple of months, and training for the London Marathon, I still managed to fit in some Laser sailing in Massachusetts with my son in April.

In January 2008 I was back in Cabarete again. "Congratulations Tillerman! You're beating a world champion." In February I was in Australia for the Laser Masters Worlds. In March I went to Florida for a 4 day clinic with Kurt Taulbee. And in April I was doing lots of solo practice in Rhode Island. Now that's the way to start the year!

In early 2009 I wasn't quite as energetic as I was the previous year, but I did go to Florida again in March for another Kurt Taulbee SailFit clinic.

In 2010 I started acting a little strangely and writing posts about how much I was enjoying frostbite racing in January in New England, such as I Love Winter and Brain Freeze. The odd behavior continued in February to the point that I was even asking myself Am I Strange? It was pretty obvious that the answer was YES by April when I went sailing by myself in Bristol and on the Sakonnet.

In 2011 I started acting a bit like a normal person again and not like one of those strange new England Laser fanatics. I didn't sail at all in January, February or March. But by the end of April I was suffering from LSDD,  Laser Sailing Deprivation Disorder, and had to take the Treatment for Crabbiness, a Laser sailing session in the Fogland Total Water Immersion Facility.

In 2012 I had learned my lesson about how bad it was for me to not go sailing early in the year. I went deaf from frostbiting and spent another week in paradise at Cabarete in January. In March I went wild in Florida with some other strange people called Mashers,  did some solo practice in Rhode Island to beat winter hibernation (woo hoo - solo practice in March - a new record) and went frostbite racing in Newport, reminding myself in the process of why sailing is such an escapist pursuit. I was very strange that year.

In 2013 I rediscovered my passion for frostbiting in January and February. "Thanks very much God. If it be Your plan to wipe me out one day with a massive heart attack while I am sailing my Laser, then can You please just do it now? It's never going to get any better than this."

And also in 2013 I broke my own pointless record for earliest solo practice in Rhode Island by getting out in Bristol in February. Brrrr! "Siri, where is the nearest liquor store?"

So it seems 2014 has set a new record for laziness, languor, lassitude and general laxness - at least for the last 10 years. In 5 of the last 9 years I did travel to warmer climes at least once and sometimes several times. But even in the years I didn't travel I was out frostbiting locally or fitting in some cold weather solo practice.

Oh well! I did run a half marathon and have a new granddaughter this April. It's all good.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

SPLASHED: In Early May! First Time Ever

SPLASHED: In Early May! First Time Ever

Yacht owners from around here write posts with titles like that. No self-respecting New England Laser sailor would. Surely?

Charles Doane explained the problem facing the poor yacht owner in a post with that title on his Wave Train blog.

Every spring I've launched a cruising sailboat in New England, I always swear I'll be afloat as early as possible in May. But something always happens--endless varnishing projects (back when I had boats with brightwork), or some awful unforeseen time-consuming repair (most commonly), or simple mission creep (stuff taking much longer than expected)--and usually I'm lucky if the damn boat is in by mid-June.

But Laser sailors don't have to deal with all that boat maintenance shit. That's one reason we are Laser sailors, isn't it?

In any case, Laser sailors sail all year round in New England, don't they? Another reason we are Laser sailors.



Regular readers of this blog might have noticed that I haven't written anything about real Laser sailing for a few months. That's because I haven't done any real Laser sailing for a few months. But on Monday afternoon I took the Laser over to Bristol for a blast around on a wonderfully warm day in a wonderfully brisk southerly breeze that stirred up some wonderfully frigid waves and spray that splashed over my wonderfully surprised face and body.

Splashed! In early May! First time ever! Is this a record? (For lateness of my first sail of the year - not earliness.)

Well, actually no.

For reasons that entirely escape me now, I did go Laser sailing locally a couple of times in January. I even blogged about it at (the ironically titled) First Day of Spring.

And then for reasons that also escape me now, I didn't sail at all in February, March or April.

That's probably a record.

PS. It would have been a great day for an RS Aero demo.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

What Are These People Smoking?

Apparently the Recreational Boating Industry in the USA is trying to encourage people to take up boating by comparing the cost of boating with other activities such as golf, hunting or going to watch professional sports. They have developed an online cost comparison tool. Below is a screen shot from this tool, showing the first step in the process" "SELECT YOUR PREFERRED COST OF A BOAT."


Your choices for cost of a boat range from $10,000 to $100,000!!!!!

What are these people thinking?

Are they trying to frighten people away from boating?

I have over my 30+ years as a recreational boater bought eight eleven boats, I think, and I have never spent anywhere near $10,000 on a boat.

Let's look at a few examples of boats you could buy to enjoy boating as a recreation.

New Laser - $6,065

New Sunfish - $4,265

New Hobie Wave - $5,499

But of course you don't need to buy new. Our local Craigslist has second-hand Lasers of various ages listed from $650 to $1800 and Sunfish from $450 to $2250.

And if sailing isn't your thing, I see that our local kayak dealer has all manner of used kayaks listed from $500 to $2700.

Of course I know you could spend $10,000 or $100,000 on a boat.

You could spend $800,000,000 too. If you really wanted a yacht that is $536 ft long with 2 helicopter pads, 24 guest cabins, 2 swimming pools, assorted hot tubs, a disco hall and a mini-submarine. So what?

If you are trying to persuade people to take up boating by giving them tips about boat buying on a budget and showing them that boating is no more expensive than camping or motorcycling for example, why would you perpetuate the myth that you have to spend something between $10,000 and $100,000 to buy a decent boat?

What are these people smoking?

Sunday, May 11, 2014


I could have used this as a What and Where quiz.

But it would be too easy to google the answer.

And you can probably even see what this wave sculpture is made from.

Bit creepy, huh?

Friday, May 09, 2014

RS Aero Spotlight: Foils

Lots of techie details about the RS Aero foils in this video.

Rudder is glass and epoxy and carbon? Is that good? Will it chip? If so, will it be easy to mend?

So fast downwind they had to design a totally new rudder stock? Really? Faster than all those RS boats with asymmetric spinnakers? Surely not? But I'm glad they did what they needed to do to stop the speed wobble. I hate speed wobble.

But it is really fast downwind. I think the clip at around  0:47 in the video is the broadest reach I've seen in any of the videos of the RS Aero so far and it's smoking.

Thursday, May 08, 2014


I just received this email….

Hi Team,  
I trust you are doing splendidly,  
I have gone through your website and I comprehend that it’s well built, but can be improved in several ways to get better sales and revenue from the site. If you would like me to send you a complete list of upgrades and improvements we could do to your site then kindly let me know so that I can send you the brief quotation for your website. After in-depth research about your website and analyzing the targeted market for your business to prevail, we also execute effective online marketing campaigns by targeting not only local markets but also provincial and international markets as well. However you will be getting all-in-one services when contacting us.

It goes on in a similar vein.

How flattering!

The gentleman who went through my website must have been very impressed with it to be under the delusion that it was assembled by a "Team."

And he clearly must have got the impression that this blog is already generating some "sales and revenue" because he wants to make my sales and revenue even "better."

He thinks I (sorry I and my Team) are a "business" and wants to analyze our "targeted market." I'm not sure what my (sorry our Team's) targeted market is. People who are a bit quirky and like playing on the water? Potential RS Aero buyers? People who once knew somebody who sailed a Sailfish? I have no idea.

What should I do?

Should I reply saying I am interested in seeing the "complete list of upgrades and improvements" that my (sorry my Team's) site clearly needs.

The rest of the email has a lot of stuff I don't understand about "back links" and "white hat techniques."

And a rather ominous statement that says before they can move on they need to discuss my goals.

Unfortunately I don't have any goals.

I think I might have some cricket stumps somewhere.

I wonder if that would do?


What would Oh Docker do?

Freak of the Hurricane - Throwback Thursday

I Want One

What do you give a man who has everything?

Yeah, pretty much everything.

An amazingly successful career. Universally respected. Gobs of money. Mansion on the water in Florida. Gorgeous girlfriend.

What could you possibly give someone like that as a retirement present?

A pinstriped paddleboard, of course.

For those of you who live under a brick - or maybe just don't follow baseball - Derek Jeter, captain of the New York Yankees baseball team, has announced he will retire at the end of this season. So on various days throughout the year he will be playing his last regular season game in other teams' stadiums. A kind of a farewell tour. An occasion to give the fans of the other teams a chance to say goodbye to Derek and to express their appreciation for his career. This occasion came up yesterday evening at Anaheim in Southern California. Before the game, the fans gave Derek an enormous ovation and the home team Angels gave him… a giant paddleboard decorated in Yankee pinstripes.

Derek celebrated by hitting his first home run of the season in the game and the Yankees expressed their gratitude by beating the Angels 9-2.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Where am I?

Where am I?

You had better be quick if you want to beat the Lion of Lawrenceville and the Sage of Sacramento who will probably get this in one, and know exactly what Tillerwoman had for lunch too.

RS Aero - Yachting World Review

At last we have a video review of an RS Aero by an independent expert, Matthew Sheahan, the Racing and Technical Editor of Yachting World, who took the RS Aero out for a test sail and made this video.

OK we get it. This boat is light. Every review and video so far seems to make a big deal about how light the hull is and how light the boat when fully rigged is - 48 kilos according to Matthew (or about 105 lbs.) And in this video Matthew demonstrates how this means he can carry the rigged boat on its side down the beach, just as we saw in an earlier RS Sailing video. Well yeah, I can lift 105 lbs and stagger a few steps with it too. But I don't think I'm going to use that as the normal launching technique for my brand new shiny $7,000 RS Aero (when I get one.) I'm going to use a launching dolly just like I do with my Laser. And what else did he say? "This boat all-up weighs less than most people's launching trolleys." What? I don't know what you use to launch boats in the UK these days but my Seitech Laser dolly weighs around 30-35lbs I think, nowhere near 105 lbs.

So yes we get it. The boat is light. I understand that means it's going to be a lot easier to handle on the land and it's going to feel a lot different from the Laser on the water. So I'm hoping future reviewers will focus more on exactly how that light weight does impact sailing performance and technique.

And we also get that this boat is a blast on a reach. All the previous videos of the RS Aero seem to have concentrated on showing it on planing reaches. It looks like a hell of a lot of fun doing that. Matthew even comments that it feels a lot like windsurfing. Most windsurfers I see seem to spend as much times as they can reaching backwards and forwards. But I don't want a boat that is only fun on reaches. I want a racing boat that is fun upwind and downwind too.

It's trickier upwind, Matthew says. "You really have to concentrate when driving upwind because there's no momentum in the boat to help you." I wonder what that lack of momentum would mean for beating in a typical Narragansett Bay chop. It can be a challenge to keep a Laser going well upwind in choppy waves. Will the RS Aero be even more tricky?  And there's no sign of the "planing upwind" that that Irish guy mentioned in a video a few days ago. But it clearly takes off like a rocket if you bear off a few degrees. I wonder if you would actually make better VMG to windward in some conditions by sailing a few degrees off the wind?

How easy is it to capsize? How easy is it to do a capsize recovery? One thing I will certainly want to do (if they let me) when I have my RS Aero demo is to test out its capsizability and its recoverability. Am I going to spend even more time in the water than I do with my Laser? Does it tend to turtle? Can I easily reach the daggerboard to do a recovery when I am in the water? How easy is it get back into the boat after a capsize?  Does the cockpit have any water in it after a capsize and, if so, how fast does it drain?

Matthew does capsize the boat in the video but I am not quite sure what I am seeing. Did he deliberately capsize it at the start of that sequence (2:50) or did the boat roll over on top of him while he was trying to get in it? We don't see the actual capsize recovery so we can't assess how easy it is. And then he appears to be in the water again on the rig side of the boat. What happened?

Apparently Matthew's full report will be in the June issue of Yachting World. I might just have to go and buy it and hope it answers some of my questions.

Monday, May 05, 2014


Because we haven't had an RS Aero post for at least a week...

Showing all three rigs, the 9, 7 and 5, lined up on the beach.

Photo shamelessly stolen from the Facebook page of West Coast Sailing.

George and Phil from West Coast Sailing have been in the UK checking out the RS Aero.

George posted a brief report on Dinghy Anarchy about the demo, and is promising a full report later.

Quotes from that post…

The boat was quite different than I expected. Once I got over that, it was, perhaps ultimately similar to the feel of driving a go kart after years of driving a muscle car. It was both precise and crisp in response to control and kinetic inputs. It comes to life as you forget some old habits.
I am quite confident there isn't anything like it in the US. 
Amazing experience. I do this for a living and I still had to chuckle at the fun we were having.

Three Things

Three of my favorite sailing blog posts from the last few days….

Why People Don’t Protest Each Other (and Why They Should) from Damian at The Final Beat.
One of my own personal beefs. The title explains perfectly the topic of this post. And Damian has some excellent suggestions for dealing with the issue.

The fear of sailing from John Vigor's Blog.
I've written a few posts myself over the years about the fear of sailing and how to deal with it, mainly in the context of heavy air sailing in Lasers. John addresses it from the perspective of ocean cruising and discusses why fear makes sailing attractive to some people and what its uses might be.

Top 10 signs it's time to leave the island by Behan on Sailing with Totem.
Absolutely hilarious. Behan and her family are sailing the world on S/V Totem and have been parked in Langkawi in Malaysia for a while. Actually I think they have only been there for a couple of months but you wouldn't guess if you only read this post!


Friday, May 02, 2014

Thursday, May 01, 2014