Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Egotist or Masochist or Manly Man?

In a comment on my report about the Newport Regatta (where I chose to go in early on both days because I felt like I had had enough fun already) kiwiyates posed this question…
When our boat is designed to be changed to suit the conditions/sailor, why is it that Laser sailors seem to so resistant to downsize the sail to suit the forecast conditions or their current ability? I assume you had a Radial class too. Wouldn't it have been even more fun to race Radial and be able to participate more under those conditions? It seems that Laser sailors have big egos and never want to go "down" as though it was going backwards. What do you think?

And he (or maybe she) followed up with another comment on the topic…
Here in Florida, we try to maximize the fun while trying to level the playing field. Since we get so many light days, all the kids go up to Full. Only the few heavy days, the adults go down to Radial (with some convincing). Whats the point of 1/2 the fleet going in because "its to windy for me" (young or Masters). This means we have more boats on the start line, more even competition, more races and more fun. Isn't that the goal?

I received a similar suggestion after my rather disastrous showing at the Laser Masters Worlds in 2010 and answered it with a post Random Radial Ramblings.  To save me repeating everything I said in 2010 (of if you have no idea what a Radial rig is and how it fits into Laser sailing) I suggest you read that post now before I go on.

Pause to allow you read old post.

OK? Everyone up to speed now?

So (while trying to avoid repeating what I said in 2010) here are 5 reasons why I don't yet own a Radial rig and 3 reasons why I should probably get one soon.

5 Reasons Why I Don't Own a Radial Rig And Never (Well Hardly Ever) Sail One.

1. There's a difference between stamina and skill. It wasn't that I couldn't handle the conditions at Newport. I am perfectly capable of sailing in winds of 15mph gusting to 25mph with moderate waves. In fact I enjoy and relish sailing in those conditions. It's just that it was my first regatta this season and I wasn't fit enough and/or didn't feel like sailing all day. I was getting tired.

2. I have sailed a Radial (at Minorca Sailing) a couple of times when it was forecast to be gusting over 30 and frankly I found it a little tame.

Demonstration of how tame a Radial really is

Maybe I could have a sailed a couple of extra races at Newport if I had been sailing a Radial, but I suspect I wouldn't have had so much fun. And, hey, I sail to have fun not to stick it out all day just for the sake of it.

3. There often is a start for Radials at the regattas I sail - and there was at Newport - but often it's quite a small fleet (the notable exceptions being the Hyannis and Buzzards Bay Regattas which attract huge Radial fleets.) If I had sailed a Radial at Newport I would have been sailing against 4 other sailors. In the full rig fleet we had 44 sailors. 44 is more fun than 4.

4. I am quite a big fellow as Laser sailors go. Currently hovering just over 190lbs. The Radial is best for sailors in the 130-165lb range. I did ask a coach, whose opinion I deeply respect, about whether I should move to a Radial as I am getting older and he told me definitely not. If anything I am heavier than the optimum weight for a full rig, so the coach felt I should stick with the big rig.

5. I am a masochist. Yes, I do sometimes find it challenging to sail the full rig Laser in big winds and waves. But (most of the time) I enjoy the challenge, I like the way it pushes me to try harder and to develop heavy weather sailing skills. I like the feeling of sailing on the edge of control. As Bob Marley almost said, "If it's easy, it won't be amazing." (Actually he said "she" not "it" and he was talking about women. But same principle.)

Well known Laser coach Bob Marley

3 Reasons Why I  Should (Probably) Buy a Radial Rig Soon

1. Laser Masters Worlds. In my 2010 post I wrote about how the International Laser Class expected sailors over 65 to sail the Radial rig at Laser Masters Worlds. The only fleet for sailors over 65 - Great Grandmasters - was a Radial fleet. That's no longer true. Thanks to campaigning by some sailors around my age who didn't want to be forced to move to Radials at the Worlds there is now a Great Grandmasters Full Rig Fleet at the Masters Worlds.

Oman, last year, was predicted to be a light wind venue so if I had gone there I am sure I would have sailed the full rig. But Hyères, this year, could well be very windy. See this video for example. Moreover, it doesn't seem like the option to sail a full rig at the Masters Worlds is very popular with my age cohort. There are 8 full rig GGMs registered for Hyères and 80 (EIGHTY!!!) Radial GGMs.

80 is more fun than 8. If I were going to Hyères (which I'm not) I would definitely sail a Radial. And if I were going to sail a Radial there I would want to practice sailing a Radial at home first.

2. Solo Practice. Regular readers of this blog know that I like to practice sailing my Laser on my own quite often on the local bays. Some days, I feel the conditions are such (maybe too windy and too cold) to sail a full rig on my own. Too much chance of something bad happening without anyone around to help me - or even notice. On some of those days I might go out in a Radial.

Typical day when I might downsize to a Radial for solo practice

3. Frostbiting. Most winters I sign up to sail with the Newport frostbite fleet. On some Sundays I feel that it's too cold and too windy for me so I don't go and race. On some of those days, maybe most, I would sail a Radial. In that fleet the Radials and full rigs all start together and are scored together. A fat boy like me would probably be at the back of the fleet in a Radial. But, hey, that's better than missing all the fun of racing in the snow and hail and sleet while dodging icebergs in the freezing waters of Newport.

RC launching on perfect sailing day for Newport frostbite fleet

See also Why Manly Men Never Use a Radial Sail by my friend, yarg. Yarg is fast in a Radial. On a windy day Yarg often beats me when he is sailing a Radial and I'm not.

So am I an egotist or a masochist or a manly man? Feel free to hurl other insults at me in the comments.


kiwiyates said...

He thanks you for opening a "new" discussion. I see why you wanted to sail Full at Newport and at least you are open to changing in the future, depending on the event. I guess is comes down to where you are sailing and who with. If the goal is to maximize participation (and fun) then RCs needs to be flexible and sailors need to be flexible. As a coach, I often have to make the rig call depending on the conditions and my kids abilities - and often we get it wrong! If sailing was easy - then everyone would be doing it....
Now you will have an even greater dilemma - what size RS Aero sail to I order / sail???

kiwiyates said...

As an aside, my Brother-in-law sails in New Zealand. The is part of the Manly Yacht Club (no - thats its really name - its a place). He sails off Big Manly Beach or Little Manly Beach (and I don't think how cold it is determines the location.. )

Tillerman said...

Oh yes.

The RS Aero sail size is already a matter of debate.

RS Sailing's recommendation is
Youths - RS Aero 5
Women & light men - RS Aero 7
Men - RS Aero 9

I take that to mean roughly the same split as 4.7, Radial and Full rig for Lasers. So I have ordered an RS Aero 9.

But George Yioulos of West Coast Sailing did a demo of the boat, published a review on Scuttlebutt, and has been discussing it on Sailing Anarchy, and his advice was that unless you are 200+lbs you should start with an RS Aero 7.

As it happens Yarg (who wrote the Manly Men post) also has an Aero on order. Not surprisingly he is arguing that al of us locally who have ordered one should buy 7's so we can race them on a level playing field against each other.

I am hoping I can get a chance to demo both the 7 and 9 so I can decide for myself.

Sam Chapin said...

OK folks. The Lasers are all the same so when you get up to hull speed, having more sail area won't help any till you get planning on a reach. A few years ago I even won a race sailing 4.7 (with the help of a big shift). Tillerman, you need to get a radial and a 4.7 and go sailing in all the races when the wind is up.

Anonymous said...

Please remember that the Laser Radial mast is not as strong as the standard and 4.7. The tube is thinner and there is a reinforcing sleeve at the bottom. Consequently a competent heavy sailor, hiking hard, will destroy the radial lower relatively quickly.

Tillerman said...

That's a great point Anonymous. Never thought of that. I wonder if an incompetent heavy sailor (like me) would have the same problem?

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