Monday, June 30, 2014

Risk vs Reward

I had a fun afternoon on Sunday, racing with the Massapoag YC Laser fleet in Sharon MA. The wind was blowing at over 10 knots from the S down the major axis of the lake. Except for the odd occasions when it was 1-2 knots, or from the E, or from the W. Hey, that's lake sailing. Deal with it.

I had a typically mediocre series of races but I did learn a few things about starts. Or maybe relearned them.

There was one race where the boat end of the start line was favored. Another boat and I set up high and a boat just to leeward of the committee boat luffed us up and closed the gap on us and stopped us from barging. Quite right too. I was able to tack and gybe around and start a little late. But the other attempting barger and the boat that luffed him ended up getting tangled up with each other and they both had terrible starts.

Lesson #1: Don't barge.

Lesson #2: Enforce your rights but don't be so aggressive in defending your position that you end up tangled with another boat and you both get bad starts.

Then there was another time when the pin was favored and I attempted a port tack start. When I had checked the wind about 90 seconds earlier it was impossible to lay the pin on starboard from the boat end of the line, so it should have worked. But the wind had shifted and I realized way too late that I would have to duck the first boat reaching down the line towards the pin. And then when I had ducked him I had to duck the next boat… and the next… and the next... Oops.

Lesson #3: Don't try to port tack the fleet unless you are absolutely sure you can pull it off.

Or perhaps it was really Lesson #4: Don't try to port tack the fleet unless you have nerves of steel so you won't chicken out when you can see the whites of the eyes of six starboard tackers reaching straight at you.

On the other hand in the races where I set up for nice safe conservative starts on starboard tack away from either end of the relatively short line, I got decent starts and respectable finishes.

Memo to self: You don't have to "win" the start. You just need to get a good start, near the favored end, with room to leeward, accelerating at the right time, on the line at the gun, and preferably bow out on the boats to windward and leeward.

Don't roll the dice.


Most dinghy sailors don't like chop. You are cruising along all fat dumb and happy on a light wind day on relatively flat water and all of a sudden you hit some nasty short waves stirred up by some thoughtless dude in a powerboat who has been blasting around on your race course. Your bow slams into the chop, the boat almost stops, and by the time you have got the boat moving again your competitor on the other side of the course has gained several boat lengths on you.

Chop! Ugh!

That describes the conditions where we were racing on Saturday at Duxbury. The wind hardly ever got above 5 knots and, because it is now summer, all the yahoos from Duxbury were out on the water zooming around in their motorboats. So there was quite a lot of motorboat chop. But only in certain places. Over most of the course the water was flat.

Usually on a day like that I would start whining and complaining and probably give up racing early. But, for some unknown reason, I was in a more positive and constructive frame of mind on Saturday.

Hmmm, I thought to myself. There's chop. That's interesting. What can I do about it? If I can find a way to sail through it without getting slowed down too much (and my competitors don't) than I can make some gains.

So I experimented.

When I saw myself heading towards some chop I moved back in the boat a little if I was sitting right up by the centerboard (as one does in light airs.) And I heeled the boat to leeward as the chop approached. Both of these seemed to lessen the impact of the chop. And flattening the boat again after getting through the chop gave me an extra bit of acceleration too.

The other thing I did was if I was approaching some chop on the beat where I would be hitting the waves head-on and there was no good strategic or tactical reason not to tack, I would tack. I either avoided the chop altogether or took it on the side of the boat which was no real problem.

It seemed to work. I won three races, and had two seconds and a third. Not a bad day at the office.

Of course it probably wasn't all to do with the chop. When we were talking after the races one of my friends complimented me on my finishes and said he couldn't understand why I was faster in light air when I was so much heavier than him. (I think he means I'm fat.) I gave him a spiel about my momentum theory - that heavy people do well in light airs in Lasers because their extra weight gives the boat more momentum to keep going through the lulls (and maybe the chop.) He seemed to buy it.

But when I told the guy who had won the other three races about my momentum theory, he dismissed it out of hand. (He was lighter than me and faster if anything.) It's all about having the skills to keep the boat moving, he explained. Nothing to do with momentum.

Whatever the reason. Chop, momentum or skill, my finishes were 2,1,3,1,2,1. I'll take it.

Or maybe I was just lucky?

Does anybody have any other suggestions about what to do with chop?

Blowout of the Blowout

After sailing yesterday, my friends were talking about a couple of the videos I posted recently on this blog - the 2012 Semaine Olympique Française Finn Medal Race at Hyères and the 2011 Columbia River Gorge Laser Performance Clinic. Someone commented on the number of the number of capsizes in the Gorge video.

"You ain't see nothing yet!" I replied. "One year they had to abandon the Gorge Blowout because of all the carnage. I'll post the video of that."

So here it is. The 2010 Blowout of the Blowout…

0:20 One dude capsizes about 15 seconds after the start. Could this be an omen?

0:33 Nice whitecaps. Breeze is building.

1:40 Oops. Somebody lost it in a gybe.

2:00 Radial going faster than a train. No. Really!

2:15 Lonely sailor capsizes. Where has everybody else gone?

2:34 I know that guy. What is he messing about at? You are supposed to have the long pointy thing aiming at the sky.

2:40 Oh dear! That mast looks a little bit broken.

2:57 What's the dude with the radio saying? Is it, "Mayday. Mayday. Mayday"?

3:00 Laser sailors hanging out on a beach. What are they up to? Sunbathing?

3:22 This is my favorite bit. Radial sailor in the water holding his Laser near some cliffs with huge waves trying to smash him and his boat into the rocks. I wonder what is he going to do for his next trick?

Damn. Now I've posted this, none of my friends will want to come to the Gorge with me next year.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sailing Where JP Morgan Fished

When I was Laser sailing with my friend near the mouth of the Sakonnet earlier in the week, at one point we were quite close to West Island near the Sakonnet Point Lighthouse.

On the island there are three tall stone columns but no other obvious signs of any kinds of buildings. My friend wondered what they were. I had seen them before but had never bothered to investigate the story of why they were there.

So after our sail (and a few beers at Evelyn's) I did a bit of digging around on the Google and discovered that they are all that remains of an exclusive sport fishing club that operated on the island from 1864 to 1906.

The West Island Club in the late 1800s
Photo courtesy of Little Compton Historical Society

This is where the likes of JP Morgan and Cornelius Vanderbilt and Grover Cleveland and many other of the rich and powerful from that era came to socialize and to fish, and no doubt do a little business and lobbying on the side.

But eventually the fishing declined, the club membership dwindled, and the club closed in 1906. The club buildings fell into disrepair, a fire destroyed them in 1929, and the Great Hurricane of 1938 stripped the island clean except for those three columns.

There's much more information at The West Island Club on the Earth Sky Ocean Redux blog, and at In Search of the West Island Club on the New England Boating website.

And from that latter source also, check out this video that will give you a very good feel for what West Island and the waters around it are like today.

Friday, June 27, 2014

14 Reasons Why Little Compton is the Best Place on the Planet for Laser Sailing

On both Monday and Tuesday afternoons, a friend and I sailed Lasers at the mouth of the Sakonnet River launching from Little Compton. I can't remember enjoying two training sessions quite so much. It was as if the fates had conspired to deliver two perfect afternoons of sailing. I'm sure the aforementioned fates will make me pay for it later.

Fates conspiring against Tillerman

Here are the 14 reasons why Little Compton is the best place on the planet for Laser sailing...

1. The drive to the launch site in Sakonnet Harbor in Little Compton is delightful. Farms, road stands, stone walls, beautiful houses, distant views of the river. Perfect for forgetting about the outstanding chores and maintenance tasks at home and getting in the mood for sailing.

2. Ample parking for cars and trailers just across the road from the boat ramp.

3. Short walk to beach in a harbor protected from the winds and waves.

4. If Sakonnet Harbor is not the most picturesque harbor in Rhode Island then I don't know what is.

Possibly the most picturesque harbor in Rhode Island
or I don't know what is

5. Short sail until you are out on the Sakonnet River in the real wind and waves.

6. Did I mention waves? They were just what we were looking for on Monday and Tuesday. Perfect for practicing our downwind wave skills but not so crazy that we spent all our energy desperately trying to keep the long pointy thing pointing at the sky instead of the bottom of the river.

Laser sailor having some problems
with his long pointy thing

7. Ditto for the winds. Enough wind to have us hiking hard upwind and having fun downwind without putting us in survival mode.

8. Warm sunny days. Probably the best days of summer so far. Call me a wimp but, I prefer warm to cold.

9. Quiet. We hardly saw another boat on the river all the time we were sailing. Miles and miles of open water all to ourselves.

Miles and miles and miles of open water
Actually not the same miles and miles that we sailed on Monday and Tuesday

10. Learning. I wrote a post Training Partners a couple of weeks ago asking whether you learn more from training with someone a lot better than you or someone of a similar standard. I still don't know the answer. I think both have their merits. But my companion this week was of a similar ability to me so it made us both push hard on all points of sail to see who would be fastest. And then, when it was clear who had the temporary advantage, we would stop and debrief and discuss what we were doing differently and why one of us had the edge. I think we both learned a lot.

11. Scenery. On Tuesday when we came off the water we were met by a fine looking young lady wearing a bikini who wanted to talk about Laser sailing with us. At my age, that doesn't happen to me every day.

12. Shopping opportunity. As we were derigging on Tuesday a man in a truck stopped and asked if we were interested in buying an awesome surround sound system and a 72-inch flat-screen TV at a very good price. As it happens we weren't in the market for such fripperies but how kind of him to stop and make us the offer.

72 inch flat screen TV available from random man in truck

13. Did I mention the drive down to Little Compton was gorgeous? Ditto for the way back. Perfect for chilling out and relaxing after sailing.

14. Evelyn's. We stopped for dinner both nights at Evelyn's Drive-In in Tiverton. If sitting on Evelyn's patio with a beer and some stuffies, watching the sun set over Nanaquaket Pond, is not the perfect way to end a perfect day, then I don't know what is.

A beer and some stuffies at Evelyn's

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Masters Enjoy Virgins

Masters Enjoy Virgins.

Yes, that really was the headline for this article in the Spring 1992 issue of the North American Laser Class newsletter, The Laser Sailor.

It's an account of a Laser Masters Regatta held at the Bitter End Yacht Club in the British Virgin Islands in Thanksgiving week of 1991.

Somehow I missed out on this regatta. BEYC is one of my favorite places but I didn't go there until 1994. And I'm not sure this particular regatta was ever run again.

The designer of the Laser Bruce Kirby sailed in this regatta, as did Laser legend Dick Tillman.

That same issue of The Laser Sailor had lots of other items that are now of historical interest...

The class was considering whether to pursue the idea of the Laser becoming an Olympic class. I wonder how that turned out?

One of the events on the District 7 (New England) calendar was the Atlantic Coast Championships at Wianno YC on Cape Cod preceded by "Mastermania" a clinic for masters only, run by Brad Dellenbaugh. I went to the clinic and the regatta and remember that Brad told me I did excellent gybes. (I think I have gone downhill since then.) That was probably the first time I met that guy, John Bentley, my sailing nemesis, who sadly passed away in December 2012.

There was an article bemoaning the introduction of the "silly rope tricks" Laser boom vang - not because it was so awful (at least when compared to our current vangs) but because it marked the end of the era of the "knee-to-boom boomvang cracker" a trick that all Laser sailors prior to then had had to try and learn.

And there was this Rules Quiz…

It is Throwback Thursday.

A little Laser nostalgia is allowed.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Review of a Review of a Boat

The best review so far of the RS Aero was published on Scuttlebutt a couple of weeks ago. Check out Singlehanded Sailing: The Next Level by George Yioulos of West Coast Sailing.

George is a dealer for both RS Sailing and LaserPerformance and, although I have never met him, I gather he is very well respected by his customers as someone who will give them some straight talk about any boat he is offering. Check out his dealership website at

He really gets into the details of the features of the RS Aero and how it sails - which is, after all, what we all want to know.

I was wondering about upwind performance in waves and George has the answer…
The boat does not wobble fore and aft as it goes over waves; it feels crisp and connected to the water. With that, if you sit too far back, the transom drags. You need to be at or near the front of the cockpit to get the boat to rotate around your body mass and track over waves.

I was wondering about how easy it is to do capsize recoveries and entries from the water, and George has the answer…
I capsized twice during gybes and found the boat very easy to right. You have to remember when you are in the water next to the boat that you weigh twice as much as it does. I reached in, pulled on the hiking strap, and pulled myself in. The prototype boats didn’t have grab rails, which will make it even easier to recover. The boat is fairly stable throughout the process, I don’t have concerns here.

George does not shy away from criticizing certain aspects of the design that are less than ideal in his view. For example he points out that the outhaul and cunningham are difficult to adjust under load on the prototype boats (apparently being fixed in the production version.)

But all in all it's a very positive review.

Inevitably George is obliged to compare the RS Aero with the Laser. Is it faster than a Laser? Is it going to replace the Laser? Is it the long-awaited "that boat" the one that takes the single-handed market by storm like the Laser did 40 years ago? George's conclusion is probably the wisest thing written yet on this topic.
It’s not a Laser, and I don’t think RS wants it to be. After sailing it and reflecting on my experiences, I’m not sure any sailor would want it to be either.

Exactly. I don't want a boat that's like a Laser. I don't actually want a boat that's "better" than the Laser necessarily. I want a boat that's different from a Laser, that will give me a different sailing experience. If it's more fun on some points of sail that's great. If it's more challenging in some ways that's great too. I don't sail a Laser because it's lacking in challenge; I sail a Laser because it challenges me physically and always leaves me something new to learn and demands techniques that can always be improved.

I'm hoping the RS Aero will do the same.

And I expect to be sailing Lasers for many years too.

3 Random Laser Photos

Three random photos of Lasers I found on the Interwebs...

 Spot the interloper

Spot the crazy Aussie Laser sailor 

Wait. How the hell did this photo get in here?
Anyone would think the Internet was invented for cat photos.

Photo #1 - RS Sailing Facebook page. At Kiel Week.
Photo #2 - Live Sail Die Facebook page. You can see where this is.
Photo #3 - LaserPerformance Sailboats Facebook page. Some dude's back yard.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Dogfish Head

Just another summer week in Rhode Island...

On Monday afternoon I went sailing by myself in Bristol Harbor, sailing out of the harbor beyond Poppasquah Point. It was blowing 15-18 knots from the South and there were some nice big juicy waves. Call me anti-social if you like, but I get a special kind of kick from sailing on my own in perfect Lasering conditions. No competition. No need to follow the crowd. Just pure selfish hedonism.

Tuesday evening I trained with a couple of other sailors in Bristol in 10-15 knots from the South, doing windward leeward races with about a half mile beat. The first couple of races I couldn't seem to get my act together, not hiking properly, taking many waves over the bow, filling the cockpit up with water. I got angry with myself and in the next two race started sailing with more intensity, hiking hard, focusing on every wave upwind and bearing off to avoid the sharpest wave fronts. Surprisingly I won both races. I was so pumped (and tired) that I decided to call it a day and sail back to the beach. My two companions followed my lead in spite of their initial protestations that they wanted to do another race. That first glass of Maibock at Redlefsens never tasted so good!

On Thursday a bunch of us sailed at Third Beach, Newport (not in Newport) in about 15-18 knots, more W than S. We ended up doing a long windward leeward course right across the Sakonnet River. For some reason my heart wasn't really in it. Don't know why. The conditions were at least as good as Monday or Tuesday but I just wasn't feeling it. But the first glass of IPA at the Coddington Brewery tasted pretty good anyway.

The weekend was the date for the two-day John Bentley Regatta at New Bedford Yacht Club always one of my favorite regattas. But then I discovered that Sunday was also the day for the joint birthday party for my two eldest grandsons, Aidan (turning 6) and Owen (4). I couldn't miss that! Although I can't imagine what my son was thinking when he decided to let his wife give birth twice in the middle of the sailing season! Didn't he think ahead to the clashes of birthday parties and regatta dates? Thank the FSM that all my other 4 grandkids' birthdays are in colder months.

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes, whether to sail on Saturday. I could have done one day of the John Bentley Regatta but that seemed to be a bit pointless. Then when I received a report on the regatta on Sunday evening, I wished I had. Saturday turned out to be the best weather of the regatta with a classic Buzzards Bay SW sea breeze of 15-18 gusting 20, sunshine and whitecaps. Bummer. Still I did enjoy the party on Sunday and especially the Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA that my son was serving at the party.

Two great sails.

One OK sail.

One missed opportunity.

One party.

Three cold beers.

Just another summer week in Rhode Island.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

One Million Candles

Some time yesterday this blog clocked up its millionth visit on SiteMeter. (The number of page views is currently just below 1.8 million.)

That's a scary amount of wasted time and lost productivity by people stumbling over here to read my utter nonsense and insane ramblings.

Unfortunately I can't identify who the actual millionth visitor was. Too bad. That person deserves some kind of recognition.

I wonder if Tillerwoman could make a cake with one million candles?

Saturday, June 21, 2014


I have discovered the secret of always having great winds when I go sailing…

A few weeks ago I received an email about a product called PaddleHand. It's essentially a very small paddle for very small sailboats that you can Velcro to the deck or tuck inside a bag under an inspection hatch. Then when the wind dies and you can't sail back to the place from which you launched, you just use the PaddleHand to paddle yourself home.

As it says on the website...
PaddleHand is the original folding hand paddle designed specifically for dinghy sailors and racers.
All Laser, Sunfish and Butterfly sailors should have a paddle on board when the wind dies. 
PaddleHand easily stores on your aft deck under the tiller ( waterproof Velcro included), in a deck port, on the mast, or anywhere you choose.
Designed to be held and paddled with one hand with an elastic finger band that can be used with or without racing gloves!
Increase your paddling speed back to the wind/shore by 3 times!
Made from unbreakable 1-piece plastic with a fatigueproof "living" hinge. 

It sounded like a handy thing to have (no pun intended) so I asked to have one to review on the blog. It arrived at the end of April and since then I have been sailing on my Laser 15 times - hoping that one day the winds would die so that I could test out my Paddlehand and write a review of it.

Every single one of those 15 days the winds stubbornly refused to die. (Actually that's not quite true. They did get very light for a while in the middle of the afternoon I raced at Lake Massapoag but they picked up again after a few minutes for some more races and the sail back to the club.)

So the question I am asking myself is, "Could the PaddleHand have secret magic wind generation powers?  Is it actually a perfect insurance policy against no wind?"

To be continued...

Friday, June 20, 2014

Down Down Down

Conversation over beers after sailing yesterday evening turned to Laser sailing in the Columbia River Gorge and specifically downwind sailing.

Every year the Columbia Gorge Racing Association organizes a race called the Laser Gorge Blowout which is described as an "eighteen mile, white knuckle downwinder from Cascade Locks to Hood River, OR. Should be on every Laser sailor's bucket list."

Indeed. 18 miles downwind in great wind and waves. No slogging upwind. What could be better? That definitely is going in my bucket.

Usually each year in the week before the Laser Gorge Blowout, CGRA puts on a Laser clinic and I see that this year the Gorge Laser Clinic is being run by one of my favorite coaches, Javier "Rulo" Borojovich. The website say that at the clinic "special emphasis will be placed on downwind technique in big wind and waves, a condition for which the Gorge is particularly suited!"

I have to do it.  It's probably a bit late to arrange everything for this year as it's in early July, but next year, Gorge Laser Clinic and Laser Gorge blowout, here I come.

In the meantime, here's some video from the 2011 Gorge Laser Performance Clinic.


I guess I have a year to get fit.

Thursday, June 19, 2014


Not my knees

Does bare skin help you sail better?

A couple of weeks ago I joined some friends on Lake Massapaog for an afternoon of friendly Laser racing. It was typical lake wind conditions - lots of shifts and puffs and lulls with wind filling in from all sorts of unexpected directions. You really had to keep your head out of the boat (as they say) and be aware of what the wind was doing all over the course. It's hard to be consistent in those conditions, and I hadn't done any lake sailing for quite a long time, but I did surprisingly well in the races.

Contemplating afterwards why I was sailing well that day made me wonder if bare skin is the answer.

Every time I had sailed before this year I had been covered up in drysuit or wetsuit and long sleeved rash guard and spray top and gloves. About the only thing exposed to the elements was my face. But on that Saturday afternoon at Lake Massapoag I wore shorts and a short sleeved shirt. I had bare knees and bare arms. Not only did I feel so much more mobile in the boat by not being encumbered by all that cold weather gear, I could also feel the wind on my skin. Did that make me more sensitive to subtle changes in wind strength and direction?

I remember a story about Dennis Conner back in his America's Cup winning days that said he always shaved the back of his neck before every important race so he could feel changes in the wind better.

I also remember the only time I ever won one of the highly competitive Sunfish regattas on the SANJL (Sailing Association of North Jersey Lakes) circuit many years ago. It was a cool October day at Green Pond and almost everyone else in the fleet was in long wetsuits and drysuits. But I wore a shorty wetsuit and had bare knees. Is that why I won the regatta? Are my knees smarter than they look?

So what do you think?

Does bare skin help you sail better?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Day at the Park - Best Father's Day Ever

My son said he wanted to take me out to a park for Father's Day.

What? Does he think I'm some old geezer whose idea of a good time is a trip to a park? I'm a Laser sailor, a runner, a skier (well, I used to be a skier), a kayaker (well, a few times a year.)  Why didn't he choose something sporty like that to do with me on Father's Day?

Anyway I decided to humor him. So on Sunday morning my son, my son's wife, my two eldest grandkids and I all packed into their minivan to drive into Boston to go to the park. They seemed to think it was a big deal. Apparently it is a very historic park.  And through my daughter-in-law's general famousness and awesomeness as a mommy blogger she had secured for us what was apparently the fantastic privilege that when we got to the park we would be allowed to go on "THE FIELD."

They always said "THE FIELD" as if it were in capital letters and quotes. That's how I knew it was a special honor and privilege to be allowed to go on "THE FIELD." Apparently while were on "THE FIELD" we would be able to watch BP.

BP's new corporate logo

I didn't quite know why we would want to watch BP but I humored them and went along with the flow.

We got to the park. We parked the car quite close to the park. I could tell this must be a very famous and popular park because it cost $40 to park the car. Some very nice gentlemen took our money and showed us where to park the car. Apparently this parking space belonged to Brad. 

Brad's parking space

Thank you Brad.

My daughter-in-law found the gentleman at the park who was there to help us and whispered to him the secret password. (It was "mommyblogger" but don't tell anyone.) The gentleman ushered us through some secret doors and tunnels and opened a gate for us so we could go on "THE FIELD."


It was quite a big field shaped a bit like a pizza slice. The grass was very nice and green. I think they use Scott's fertilizer like I use on my lawn at home. 

The hallowed turf of "THE FIELD"

But we weren't allowed to actually go on the hallowed turf of "THE FIELD." We had to stand on some dirt at the edge of "THE FIELD." 

The dirt at the edge of "THE FIELD" 

But we were quite close to the hallowed turf. It was almost like being in church.

showing how close I was 
to the hallowed turf

Anyway after a while the gentleman who was there to look after us said it was time to go to our seats. My son was very impressed with our seats because apparently they were the original seats that had been there since the park was first opened, coincidentally the same week that the Titanic sank. 

Seats as old as the Titanic

Judging by the legroom, people were a lot smaller in 1912.

Proof that people were a lot smaller in 1912

The other thing I noticed was that we were in a part of the park that had a roof over it and there was water dropping from the roof on to us. At least I hoped it was water. Maybe the roof had been there since the Titanic sank, so it was not surprising that it had a leak. The Titanic had a leak too, I believe.

Roof that lasted a lot better than the Titanic
even if it did leak a little bit.
The roof not the Titanic.
The Titanic had a much bigger leak.

Anyway by now it was time for lunch so we went and bought some hot dogs and pizza and beer. I knew it must be very good beer because a glass cost $10. I was beginning to enjoy myself. Maybe the park wasn't so bad after all.

So we hung out at the park in the seats from the Titanic and drank the very good beer and I got to meet some of the other famous mommy bloggers who all seemed to have very cute kids, although not as cute as my grandkids of course.

My grandkids standing on the dirt
at the edge of "THE FIELD"
and looking for BP

After a while someone sang the National Anthem and then some guys in white and grey uniforms came on "THE FIELD" and played rounders for about 17 hours... and then we went home.

What an awesome day.

Not at all what I expected.

Best Father's Day ever!

Friday, June 13, 2014

I Remember You

I remember you. You were the father racing Lasers with his son on that light wind day many years ago. We were approaching the leeward mark and I was clear ahead when we were about to enter the zone. So you executed two enormous, totally unnecessary, totally illegal roll gybes that accelerated your boat way faster than it would have been in the absence of the gybes, and you zoomed past me to secure the inside position at the mark. Did you really have to cheat to beat someone like me? What a fine example you were to your son. All those years ago but I still remember you.

I remember you. You were a big deal class champion, and I was a nobody and a newcomer to the class. You fouled me in a blatant port starboard incident. I protested you and asked you to do your turns.  Your response was to tell me to, "Fuck off!" Nice. You made me wonder what kind of people sailed in that class. I don't sail in that class any more. But all these years later, I remember you.

I remember you. I was a Laser sailor in a club where the biggest class was the Sunfish. You lent me your Sunfish so I could try it out and see if I liked it. It felt weird at first but I ended up buying a Sunfish and qualifying for the Worlds and sailing in the Dominican Republic and Colombia and meeting all sorts of wonderful people in Sunfish land. All because of your act of kindness. It must be almost 25 years ago but I remember you.

I remember you. You were the one who welcomed me to the new fleet, the new club, the new country, the regatta in a new region, to sailing on a new lake… There are lots of you. You are the ones who make sailing such a friendly sport. You probably don't remember me but I remember all of you.

How will people in sailing remember you?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Training Partners

If you want to improve as a sailboat racer should you train with the best sailors you can (even if they are much better than you) or with sailors who are about the same standard as yourself?  Which will help you the most?

I didn't sail at all in February, March or April, but I've been sailing my Laser two or three times a week in May and June. I was pretty rusty after a three month layoff, so I see all the time on the water right now as (somewhat belated) spring training.

I've done a few solo sessions.

I've raced with local Laser fleets a couple of times, six to eight boats each time with the top four or five sailors being about my standard or a little better.

And I've had a number of practice sessions with one or two other sailors. In every one of these sessions the constant factor has been my friend who is a much better sailor than me. Way better. Like one of the best Laser sailors in the world of our age.

I've enjoyed all these formats and I feel like I'm improving. Getting fitter. Smoother boat-handling. Going faster.

But I'm wondering what kind of training partners give the most benefit.

Should you always train with the best partner you can find? Someone who will really stretch you. Someone who is the best example to copy. Even if sometimes the challenge is to not let him extend his lead from ten boat lengths to fifteen boat lengths on a short windward leeward course?

Or do you improve faster working with people of your own standard or only a little better? Does the possibility that you might actually beat all these people in a short practice race motivate you to try harder? Or do you sometimes get fat, dumb and happy (and lazy) when the racing isn't quite so challenging? Do you even pick up bad habits from training with people who aren't really any better than yourself?

I really don't know the answer. In any case, even if I did know the answer, I'm not about to turn down any opportunity to go sailing with some friends.

What do you think?

What kind of training partners help you improve the most?

Monday, June 09, 2014


It is a truth universally acknowledged that the British, if they possibly can, will take a perfectly sensible sport and devise a race: 
1) With rules so complex that they are impenetrable to any outsider. 
2) Which is so potentially dangerous that, had it been invented today it would be banned. 
3) Where there is a clear hierarchy that is very difficult to challenge. 
4) That has its own nomenclature and arcane rituals. 
5) Where the spectators can drink copious amounts of alcohol in very pleasant surroundings and treat actually watching the racing as an option.

The photo and quotation above -  and an example of the quote's truthiness - can be found at Bumps to the Head, on the excellent 'Hear the Boat Sing' blog which, although not about sailing, must be the definitive blog in its own watery sporty niche. I only wish I had the knowledge, the talent and the time to write a blog that is even half as good about sailing.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Some More Marketing Fluff - RS Aero From the Air

A few weeks ago, there were three RS Aeros (all three rig sizes) at Hayling Island Yacht Club in the UK available for demo.

This was about the same time that George and Phil from West Coast Sailing were also at HIYC to try out the boat. There are some pictures and a brief report of their trip on the West Coast Sailing blog.

According to his posts on Dinghy Anarchy, George has written a five page report on the trial which will be published shortly.

In the meantime, here are some video shots from the air of the RS Aeros at Hayling Island.

RS Aero from the air from FlyThroughVideo on Vimeo.

Monday, June 02, 2014

How to Market a Boat

Imagine you are RS Sailing.

You are launching a new boat, the RS Aero.  You hope it could be the most successful single-handed sailboat since the launch of the Laser.

How do you go about developing a marketing campaign?

Do you tease your potential customers, like Volvo appear to be doing with this ad for their upcoming launch of the new Volvo XC90?

That's it for now. Just slow panning shots of the high end luxurious interior featuring such details as a gear lever made from crystal glass as well as a diamond-cut engine start-stop button and the tablet-like touchscreen control console that is "virtually button free."

Nothing about engineering or performance or safety or how it feels to drive or anything that's really important.

Geeze they aren't even revealing whether the cargo compartment is large enough to accommodate a (dismantled) Dynamic Dollies Laser dolly. Come on people.

It certainly looks like RS Sailing are going the "tease marketing" route with the RS Aero. So far we have only seen two videos spotlighting the hull (it's really light) and the foils (they are really shiny.) And a few shots of it sailing (it looks really fast on a reach.)

Speaking purely personally I am hungry for more details. Where's the beef? How about some video of it punching upwind through waves in 25-30 knots? And going downwind in big waves too? And comparative data on how it performs on all points of sail vs the Laser? And more techie details about the mast and the sail and the control lines etc. etc. etc. ?

Instead of doing a Volvo-style tease let's have some old-fashioned Ginsu knife style marketing.

Show us the RS Aero doing the metaphorical equivalent of slicing bread so thin you can see through it.

Show us the RS Aero doing the metaphorical equivalent of cutting through a tin can.

Wait. There's much much more!

Promise it will last for ever.

Offer us the matching fork and the 6-in-1 tool and the unique spiral slicer.

Guaranteed in writing for 50 years.

Do it.

Don't tease me.

I will buy it.

Who am I?

On Sunday I had the choice between driving over three hours to a regatta in New Hampshire, or driving about an hour to join some friends sailing in a local fleet in Massachusetts. So being lazy I chose the easier option and went to sail with my friends in Massachusetts.

I arrived at the same time as another Laser sailor whom I vaguely knew - we had sailed in some of the same regattas last year - but we had never spoken. So I introduced myself and he replied, "Oh yes. You're the Facebook Guy"


Facebook Guy?

Where does he get that from? We're not even friends on Facebook. Although I guess he has seen the odd Facebook post from me in sailing related groups or something. But I'm not that much of a Facebook fanatic, am I?

I'm not the Facebook Guy.

This is the Facebook Guy.

Anyway I unloaded my boat and rigged it, and my friends showed up and we launched. I was one of the first boats out on the course so I practiced a bit and the race officer blew a few practice starts for us. It was a glorious sunny day with about 8-10 knots of breeze and it actually felt like summer... at last.

It was way past the time that racing was supposed to start but some Lasers were still making their way out to the course so the race officer ran a "practice" race for us. The pin end of the line was favored and I nailed a pin-end start, led the fleet out to the left side of the course (which turned out to be the favored side all afternoon) and I was first at the windward mark and went on to win the race. That felt good.

Once the real races started I was usually around the middle of the fleet - as per normal - but I wasn't far away from the leaders and I was having fun.

The afternoon was passing quickly and somehow in the sixth race (or maybe the fifth or seventh - I had lost count) I played the left side again and won a "real" race.

Man, that felt really good.

So good in fact that I decided to call it a day. The wind was dying anyway and I didn't think they would get many more races in. (Only one as it turned out.) And by quitting while basking in the glow of victory I would enjoy that feeling all week.

I sailed back to the dock and derigged my boat. As I was packing up, a couple walked by and the man looked at my Rhode Island license plates and said with an incredulous tone, "Surely you didn't drive all the way from Rhode Island to sail here?" There may have even been a bit of a sneer on his face when he said "here."

Hmmm. I know Rhode Island is almost like heaven - sailing heaven anyway - but there's no need to put down other perfectly fine places by the ocean. So I explained, in my defense, that I had come "here" to sail with some friends, so the couple accepted by excuse and walked on.


Guy Who Drives All The Way From Rhode Island To Sail Here?

That is not who I am.

This is Guy Who Drives All The Way From Rhode Island To Sail Here.

This is who I am…