Saturday, January 31, 2015

Paige Railey Looks Cool in Sailing Helmet

Paige Railey (USA) after winning the medal race at the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Miami today, a result good enough to place her 4th overall in the regatta.

Paige was injured in a biking accident last year and was forced to miss the major sailing events in the latter part of 2014. Her first regatta after the accident was the Lauderdale Olympic Classes Regatta earlier in January, which she won.

Congratulations to Paige and best wishes for continued success in the run-up to the 2016 Olympics.

And there's an even better photo of Paige looking cool in a sailing helmet here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


"My name is Oli Tweddell, and I sail for Australia."

Watch the video. Is this hard core… or what?

Baydog says it's on his bucket list to sail a Finn - like Oli.

Should I challenge Baydog to a Finn race?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Happy Frogma Day

10 years ago today, 20 January 2005, a lady started a blog…

The first line of the first post was, "I am a sea kayaker."

And the title of that post was what's a frogma?

10 years on Frogma is still going strong.

The author styles herself as Bonnie K. Frogma but I have a sneaking suspicion that that name may not be exactly her real name.

Bonnie describes her blog as "The Continuing Adventures of a Woman and her Trusty Kayak in New York Harbor, the Hudson River, and Beyond (with occasional political rants just to keep things lively!)

It's much more than a kayaking blog. There's music. There are lots of photos of NYC and other places to which Bonnie travels. There's food. Lots of food. Especially spam.

And other good stuff. Even some sailing occasionally. Always interesting. Always entertaining.

Frogma has been a real inspiration to me in my own puny blogging efforts. So, in honor of Bonnie's ten years of blogging success, let us all celebrate in traditional kayaker style by putting on neoprene helmets and dunking our heads in ice-cold water.

I declare that 20 January shall henceforth be known as Frogma Day.

Monday, January 19, 2015

RS Aero Spotlight - Ultra-light!

Just in case we hadn't yet appreciated how much lighter the RS Aero is than certain other older designs of mass-market single handers, here is another spotlight video from RS Sailing about that topic.

I was interested to see how the sailors in the video were carrying the Aero on their car the right way up with dolly attached and with the rig etc. inside the boat. Never seen that before with those "older designs of mass-market single handers."

And for all of my readers who are native French speakers (or know how to use Google Translate)  here is a link to an interesting (and long) discussion about the new single handers - Aero, D-Zero, Melges 14 - on Forums Breizhskiff. Apparently one of the contributors Cédric F reads this blog. At least I think that's what, "Je suis fan du blog de ce laseriste (et futur Aeronaute ?)" means. And it also explains why I have been getting lots of hits lately on my post about the RS Aero Rigging Guide which Cédric F apparently doesn't entirely agree with.

Hmmm. Maybe I should change the blurb in the "Who am I?" box on my sidebar to "Laseriste et futur Aeronaute?"

Saturday, January 17, 2015


Laser? RS Aero? Melges 14? Finn???? Foiling Moth?????? 

Too many choices.

Sailing is too complicated.

What I really need is a Quadrofoil.

The blurb says...

Quadrofoil is an electric hydrofoiling personal watercraft (PWC), which provides the most economically efficient and completely environmentally friendly mode of recreational marine transportation. Due to hydrofoiling and patented steering technolog, riding feels like flying onwater and provides an entirely new and thrilling water experience.
The watercraft operates quietly and doesn’t produce any waves or emissions, which makes it suitable for lakes, rivers, seas as well as marine protected areas, where most motor boats and personal watercrafts are prohibited. It has a top speed up to 40 km/h (21 knots) and a range of up to 100 km (54 nautical miles) and can be fully charged in under 2 hours.

I need one.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Is the Melges 14 a Clone of the Australian NS 14?

Melges 14


One of my readers says that the Melges 14 is "close enough to be a clone" of the Australian NS 14 dinghy. Apparently some of the NS14s are sailed single-handed with mainsail only.

What do you think?

Melges 14

Fear not dear reader, I am not going to be attempting to master the foiling Moth, in spite of what you may have read earlier this week on this blog and in certain rash statements in the Twitterverse. I know my limits.

But I can definitely see myself adding another single hander to the Tillerfleet in 2015. Something a bit more modern in design than my Laser (which I will not be abandoning either.) The RS Aero made quite a splash in the UK last year and I was able to test it out when I visited Minorca Sailing in October. Some friends and I have deposits down on RS Aeros and are eagerly awaiting the day when we can have a demo in New England waters and perhaps join others in building a local fleet.

But now there is the Melges 14 - another entry in the 13-14ft single hander market, and this time from an American manufacturer. Looks like they are launching it at the Chicago Boat Show this week.

We could debate the technical merits of the RS Aero and the Melges 14 - and no doubt we will on various online forums if nowhere else. But there are other questions. Is there room for two new single-handers in the US market?  If Melges concentrate on their home market in 2015 (as RS Sailing did with their home market - the UK- with the Aero in 2014) will the Melges 14 outsell the Aero in the US and become the defacto new generation single-hander here, whether or not it is technically superior?

The game is on.

Here's a video.

What do you think?

Monday, January 12, 2015

RS Aero Rigging Guide

I may not be an RS Aero owner yet but I have been watching with interest the launch of the boat around the world and especially its huge success in the UK. More on that in another post.

It's clear that RS Sailing know exactly how to successfully design, build and bring to market a new sailing dinghy, and they have the process worked out down to the smallest details. As an example, I found, via a link on the RS Aero Class website, the RS Aero Rigging Manual, the 59 page instruction book that is mainly about how to set up and rig your boat the first time.

I suppose that you, like me, have suffered in the past with instruction manuals. "Easy self assembly" are words we dread to see when we purchase any product. I have puzzled for hours over instructions for the assembly of everything from boat trailers to garden furniture, model airplanes to IKEA furniture. Almost all of them seem to be poorly translated from the original Chinese (or Swedish) and have incomprehensible diagrams that seem to bear no relation to the items in the box. I usually prevail (stubbornness is one of my more admirable traits) but I had to admit defeat recently with a tent that someone in the family had bought my granddaughter for Xmas.

I also remember recently offering to help a poor fellow at the sailing club who had just taken delivery of a new sailboat with which I have more than a slight familiarity. He couldn't work out how to rig the damn thing with the bits of string in the box and zero instructions. After puzzling over it for a while I had to give up; I couldn't figure out either how to possibly rig the beast with those particular bits of string.

Where was I ? Where am I? Oh yes. The RS Aero Rigging Manual.

Now I haven't actually used it to rig an RS Aero yet but the manual is so well organized and clear and superbly illustrated that it should be a piece of cake (provided, of course, that the right bits of string are in the box.) By the way, have you noticed that LEGO, no matter how complex the kit, ALWAYS manages to get exactly the right bits in the box. How do they do that? If you discover you are short of a piece it's always because your kid has already used it in the wrong step. But I digress. Again.

Here are just a couple of examples of the clarity, level of detail and quality of illustrations.

Hey, that's a trick I could use on my Laser too. I never thought of using cable ties to compress that spring that holds up the mainsheet block. Or am I the last sailor on the planet to learn this trick?

And there are five whole pages (only one of which is below) that guide you through the process of rigging the outhaul and downhaul so that you don't get your knickers -I mean strings - in a twist.

Whoops. Anyone spot the deliberate mistake in step 16? Well, nobody's perfect.

It really is a very impressive job. They even call a vang a vang and not a kicker.

There are also a few paragraphs on how to launch and sail the boat… and look at this, an explanation on how to do a capsize recovery.

I wish I had seen that before my struggles to do an "over the side" capsize recovery in Minorca. Yes, it is possible to "capsize the boat back on top of oneself in spite of the form stability."  After over 30 years of doing countless successful capsize recoveries in a Laser without that problem, I didn't even think to test out whether "this can be counteracted with a little mainsheet tension somewhat like water starting a sailboard."


I need another session on an Aero to practice my "water starts."

Seriously, congratulations to whoever produced this rigging manual. Great job!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

4 Ways to Win Respect on the Race Course

What kind of qualities do you appreciate in the sailors you race against?

How do you want to be seen by your fellow sailors?

Who do you respect, and why?

I was reading an article the other day about a famous man who plays a different sport. It doesn't really matter who he is. In reading the article, which including interviews about this man with several people who have played with him, I found myself thinking, "Yeah. That's exactly the kind of person I like to sail with." Bear in mind that I am a Laser sailor, so I am not talking about someone who is a good crew member, team player, yada, yada, yada. I am talking about someone who is good to compete against in an individual sport.

Here are some quotes from the article (changed a little to make the comments applicable to sailing rather than the other sport.)

1. “He’s honest." This is important for me. I want to race with people who do their turns when they have broken the rules, or who will retire from a race if they realize afterwards that they were in the wrong. I remember one friend who was sailing a series with me, who announced before the racing at one event in the series that he had decided to retire from a race in a previous event because, after checking the rule book and thinking about an incident some more, he concluded that he was at fault. I am probably not the only one who remembers this, even though it was probably at least 15 years ago.

2. "He just seems happy to be out there. Mistakes don't bother him. He keeps his composure no matter what goes wrong.” It's easy to get angry or depressed when you are having a bad day… sailing slow, capsizing a lot, hitting marks or other boats etc. etc. etc. We have all had days like that. I really admire the people who see the bigger picture, and don't let things get them down. A bad day on the water is better than a good day at the office, as they say.

3. "He smiles. He makes a mistake and he makes fun of himself. You make a mistake, and he makes a joke with you." I appreciate fellow sailors who keep things light, who can laugh at themselves, and cheer me up with a joke when I have screwed up.

4. "He doesn't quit." Persistence is a quality that I really respect. I used to be that guy who never gave up, who sailed and finished every race no matter how tired I was. I even won an Ironman trophy one year for sailing and finishing more races than anyone else in a very tough competitive frostbite fleet. I haven't been that way the last few years. I have got into the groove of sailing a few races and then going in early when I feel a bit tired or am losing my focus. This year will be different. I will get fit. I will be one of those sailors who doesn't quit.

Anyway, I though that was a pretty good list of attributes that I value in my competitors, and to which I can aspire myself. I count myself lucky that many of the people whom I sail against have most or all of these qualities, and that several of them are my friends.

What about you?

Would you add any personal qualities to this list?

Or to turn the question around, what kind of bad behavior by your competitors really ticks you off?

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Jayne Mansfield and The Two Ronnies

I'm not big on New Year Resolutions, but at this time of year I do find myself looking back at my typically mediocre sailing performance in the previous year and thinking about what I could do differently in the coming year to be a slightly less mediocre Laser sailor.

But how should I go about this process?  How do I decide what sailing skills to work on? Should I focus on fitness or boat-handling the most? Or is the answer in sports psychology? Or perhaps what I really need is a new boat? Should I do more practice or more racing? Will I improve more from solo practice or training in a small group? Should I focus on one or two key things, or aim to make all-round improvement? Is it just about lots and lots of time on the water or could I make big improvements from a few small changes?

Choices, choices, choices.

The experts all advise different approaches.

One of my favorite sailing authors, Eric Twiname, in his book Sail, Race and Win, advises selecting three areas of weakness and discusses a potential twelve ways to work on each weakness. And he says a good starting point to identifying your weaknesses is to ask yourself, "What don't I like?" Hmmm. Do I really have to do all the things in sailing that I don't like? Hard to get excited about that.

Dennis Conner in his heyday had a philosophy he called No Excuse to Lose. Basically Dennis's approach was for him and his crew to put in the time and effort to eliminate every possible reason that would prevent them from winning the races. Then, in their minds, they literally had no excuse to lose. So they won. (Well, until that little regatta in 1983.)

No excuse for losing - 1983

Hmmm. That sounds a bit extreme. I'm not trying to win the America's Cup. I would be quite happy just not being in the bottom half of the fleet at local Laser regattas.

So the approach to improving sailing skills that has been bouncing around in my head for the past few weeks was in a post by Damian of The Final Beat blog. The post has the snappy title Ever Tried. Ever Failed. No Matter. Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better. I think that's a quote from the well-known Irish Laser sailor and avant-garde writer, Samuel Beckett.  Not the snappiest blog post title ever, but we will forgive Damian that because the ideas in the post are better than the title. And he's Irish too, I think.

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes, Samuel Beckett's advice on how to improve Laser sailing skills.

Beckett's, I mean Damian's, post starts off as an idea on how to avoid the perils of the "pecking order" - that feeling that you just can't beat those guys who are always in front of you in every race because they are just better than you. And once you start believing that, of course, you are screwed. You never will beat them.

British pecking order - 1966

So this is what Damian says you need to do…
  1. Decide where you would like to get in the pecking order. Be realistic, but ambitious. Ambitiously realistic. 
  2. Look at who you’ll have to beat to get there. 
  3. Figure out what your reasons are for not being there already. 
  4. Do more than they do in these areas.

And then you will believe you can sail better than "those guys" who are usually in front of you. Your mental pecking order has you in front of them. So your mind won't keep on sabotaging you in every race and putting you behind them.

But wait. Those four simple steps of Damian's aren't just about fixing your mind. They are exactly what you need to do to fix your sailing performance in the real world.

For me, the instruction to "do more than they do in those areas" was, for some reason, very motivating. I guess it appealed to my competitive nature. My mind immediately started thinking about "those guys." How fit are they? What do they do get fit? How much do they practice? What kinds of practice do they do? How many regattas do they do? What do they do to prepare before racing? Of course the answer to beating them is to do more in the key areas than they do. It's pretty obvious when you think about it.

I was wondering whether it's a little pathetic that I need to focus on "those guys" to fire myself up to work harder at becoming a better Laser sailor. But then I came across this sports psychology article from the world of running, How Envy Can Make You a Better Runner.

We are brought up to think that envy is a sin.

Sophia envies Jayne - 1957

But the article discusses the two kinds of envious feelings that you can have towards the runners who are faster than you - benign envy and malicious envy. Benign envy means that you desire to match someone else's success; malicious envy means that you hope the other person's success ends. It is benign envy that motivates you to run faster. It's much the same thing as Damian was writing about.
In benign envy, enviers may try to level themselves up to become as successful as the other person… This notion is supported by findings showing that envy can increase personal effort, propel behavior aimed at obtaining a desired object, and shift attention toward means to attain it. In running terms, this translates into more specific goal-setting (e.g., "I want to run as fast as Jill did in her last marathon") and doing the training necessary to meet the goal.

So this year will be different.

I'm going to...

Envy more.

Do more than those guys do.

Fail again.

Fail better.

What about you? What are you going to do differently in 2015?

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Absolutely Chavulous

We have just signed up for a cruise on the inland waterways in England later this year. The price was amazing.

(Thanks to Absolutely Chavulous @AbChav on Twitter for the photo and the tip.)

Friday, January 02, 2015

Stop Motion KiteSurfing

We celebrated Xmas at New Year in our house on account of the flu epidemic wiping out half my family last week.

Yesterday, on New Year's Day, the three big grandkids spent a lot of the day working on making the Lego kits that we gave them for Xmas. Yes, Virginia, there is a way to get American kids to put away their Wiis and iPads and actually play with real toys like their parents used to.

The uber-blogger of the family and her technical support staff (son #1) were working in the afternoon on editing and producing a video of a luxurious ski weekend that she had recently scored through her blogging business.

Lego? Video? Someone mentioned the possibility of making a stop-motion video with the Lego. Maybe with a sailing theme?

Oh! Look at this. Somebody beat us to it. Stop Motion Lego KiteSurfing!

Check out that left-hand towel reef break!

Well done Tom Court.