Thursday, April 30, 2015

Training Goals

Several of my friends are going to race in the Laser Masters Worlds this summer.

Two of them are taking it all very seriously and have been emailing me and each other about what their plans and goals should be for the next time we go sailing together - which apparently is now referred to as a "training session." Phrases like "work on boat speed" and "drills that Olympic sailors do" are being thrown around. They are starting to scare me.

Clearly they have not read (or have forgotten reading) the definitive advice about the Laser Masters Worlds and how to prepare for the event which was published back in 2010.

Be that as it may, I thought I would humor them and let them know my own "specific" goals (apparently goals always have to be specific) for the next time we have a "training session" (oh, how I hate that phrase) together.

1. Arrive at the "training" site without having left something vitally important (like my towel or my cup-holder) at home.

2. Rig the boat without making any major mistakes like forgetting to put in the sail battens or putting the tiller over the traveler.

3. Spot and correct, before launching, all the inevitable minor rigging mistakes like rigging the in-haul shock cord around the mainsheet, putting the sheet the wrong way through the ratchet block, or leaving the drain plug out.

4. Launch the boat without hitting any rocks, the dock, or other boats.

5. Have fun.

6. Sing all 27 verses of Wheels on the Bus while sailing.

7. Shout "Gaaaaargh!" at my "training partners" at least 19 times.

8. Spend the time of the "training session" broad reaching 58.7% of the time, sailing downwind 37.2% of the time, and beating 4.1% of the time. Is that specific enough?

9. Not have any disagreement with my "training partners" about where to go for a drink after sailing.

10. Not find out that Aidan's Pub has run out of Old Thumper when I order it.

11. Not find out that I have any body parts missing when I wake up the next day.

Throwback Thursday - Where Am I?

I had to dig deep in the boxes of old photos to find this one.

It will do as Throwback Thursday and a photo quiz.

Where am I?

What year was this?

What class of boat am I sailing?

Who was crewing for me and what did she have for lunch?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Definition: An experiment is an orderly procedure carried out with the goal of verifying, refuting, or establishing the validity of a hypothesis.

Hmmm. What do experiments have to do with sailing?

I had a bit of a revelation about how important experimentation is to sailing during one long afternoon racing with the Duxbury Laser Fleet last year. I was not having a good day. I figured I was of a similar standard to the top 5 or 6 sailors in the fleet but somehow I never seemed to be at the front of the fleet that day. I was getting a bit frustrated to be perfectly honest. I thought I was sailing the boat well. I thought I had a good strategy and was getting good starts. But somehow it never paid off in my results.

After the racing was over and we were back on shore, I asked one of my friends, who had had some excellent races, what her strategy for the day had been. Her answer was something like, "Well, at first I thought the left looked good so I went that way in the first race but that didn't work out. So the next race I went right and that was worse. So after that I just played the shifts up the middle in every race and that seemed best, so I stuck with it."

Ahah! That explained a lot. In every race, I had checked the wind before the course and thought I could see more pressure on the left so I always went that way. And it never worked out. But I was stubborn and kept persisting in my failing strategy. In retrospect I think there was more pressure out to the left but often it was beyond the layline of our (short) courses and so it did me no good. What's the definition of insanity again?

Another of my friends had capsized while going downwind in one race. I asked him what had happened. "Oh, I rounded the windward mark in third place but I wasn't prepared to settle for that, so I tried sailing by an extreme angle by the lee and heeling to windward more than usual." It didn't work out for him but he was experimenting, trying something a bit different, getting out of his comfort zone, testing a hypothesis you might say… and in the process learning something.

It's OK to use some races as learning experiences. Eric Twiname said so in his classic book about self-coaching, Sail, Race and Win. In fact he recommended that you use some races to experiment with your technique, recognizing that this means your race results will probably get worse before they get better.

Now that I remember it, on that long afternoon last summer in Duxbury, I did notice that I was doing mediocre tacks. But I didn't do anything about it. I was trying too hard to do well in the races. In retrospect I should have said, "I am just going to use the next beat to work out why my tacks are all wrong and try some different things until I get it right. Bucket."

The reference to a bucket won't make any sense to you unless you listened to President Obama's speech at the White House Correspondent's Dinner last Saturday night.

So that's another resolution for racing this year.

Experiment more.


Monday, April 27, 2015


Mentor in Greek mythology, was the friend of Odysseus and tutor of Telemachus.

You knew that, didn't you?

Nowadays, of course, a mentor is a more experienced or more knowledgeable person who helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The mentor may be older or younger, but have a certain area of expertise. It is a learning and development partnership between someone with vast experience and someone who wants to learn. I copied all that from the Wikipedia so it must be true.

It occurred to me recently that there are a few bloggers whom I look to as my mentors, as sources of knowledge and experience which I can use to become a better sailor. Don't laugh! I can count on these people to inspire me, to guide me, to teach me. They have become - whether they like it or not - my webby, bloggy mentors.

So I have picked out four blogs which I have found to be most useful in this regard and put them at the head of my blogroll over there, on the right, in my sidebar.

Here they are...

Take the Tiller
Deborah sails a 100-year-old boat and writes on such diverse subjects as what makes a great sailor, cellos, marathons, the perfect little hat and one-buttock sailing. I'm learning a lot from her and she is threatening to learn to sail a Laser. Scary!

Improper Course
Doug is an old guy who has had some sailing success and /Pam is a (not as old) girl who is still learning how to sail. Doug writes posts full of ideas on how to be a better Laser sailor. Recently /Pam has been tenaciously pursuing some Racing Rules questions and reporting on the Bruce Kirby lawsuits debacle. All good stuff!

The Final Beat
Damian lives in Ireland and his aim is to help dinghy sailors get better, quicker. Recently he has been writing about what to do before you get up in the morning, morals, obsession, leeward mark roundings and racing Iain Percy in an Optimist. It says on his blog that he is "at various times thoughtful, inspirational, provocative, humorous and touching." No wait. I said that!

Center of Effort
Judy was the coach at the Laser Center of Cabarete this last winter so she knows her stuff. She has advice on what to do if you are looking at your cunningham with concern and your vang with vexation. She teaches us about starts and lay lines and why words matter. She even has a post about a Lake Sailing Love story which has a picture of someone who looks very familiar. Oh no!

Which blogs teach you the most?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Chicago Express

Holy smokes! That's a lot of containers.

I wonder which box has the RS Aeros?

Friday, April 24, 2015

30 Things You Will Never Hear a Laser Sailor Say

1. Make the Laser sails more durable? Nah, I like them the way they are.

2. I only need one Laser.

3. Torch? You mean like an imaginary friend?

4. Regatta photographers always capture my good side.

5. Wow, that regatta entry fee was cheap.

6. I'm not that tired, shall we sail another 10 miles just for fun?

7. I didn't really touch that mark, did I?

8. Why pay a regatta fee when you can go sailing for free?

9. I always sail better just wearing a Speedo.

10. I'm just so glad the RC is moving the marks again so I can have a rest.

11. I regret taking up sailing.

12. Reaches in 20 knots are so boring, I'd rather be beating.

13. AP is my favorite signal flag.

14. I'm so glad I'm 5'2" tall. That's the perfect height for a Laser sailor.

15. Hiking isn't really painful....honest.

16. I don't want to talk about sailing, it's boring.

17. Oh no, not a downwind leg. I hate these.

18. I have no interest in going to sail in Cabarete.

19. No, I'm not sure how many Grand Prix points I have.

20. 40 knots and 5 degrees below freezing. Perfect day for a sail.

21. I'm trying to avoid beer at the moment.

22. The Laser self-bailer is the best invention of the 20th century.

23. Isn't it wonderful that the Laser designer is suing the Laser class?

24. No, this new sail wasn't expensive at all.

25. Let's work out on our hiking benches instead of going sailing.

26. What's a vang?

27. Yuk! I hate waves.

28. Do these hiking pants make me look fat?

29. Judges are so considerate, they always look the other way when I am pumping.

30. I am 100% satisfied with that regatta, there is no way I could have done better.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Rowing Photo Quiz

I did row one year when I was at university.

But I don't really understand rowing.

Can anyone explain to me why the cox in this four is in the middle of the boat?

And bonus points if you can tell me…

At what event was this photo taken?

What year was it?

What did this team win?

What are the names of all the ladies?

Where can I buy one of those hats?

What did the stroke have for breakfast?

Related post - My Rowing Career.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sons of a Son of a Sailor

All three of our grandsons spent the day at our house yesterday.

Life is good.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Rhode Island From Above

Some people retire to Florida.

We retired to Rhode Island.

No regrets.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Winter is Over?

The Sharon High School Sailing Team sailing on Lake Massapaog
(with a couple of the Tiller extensions in the foreground)
on an 80 degree day in March 2012.

The Sharon High School Sailing Team sailing on Lake Massapoag
while there is still ice at the edge of the lake
in April 2015.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Throwback Snowday

Here it is.

The last tiny patch of snow on our property, tucked away in the shade of a north facing wall.

I expect it will be gone by morning.

Ten weeks ago I was dealing with this.

I don't know where Tillerwoman was.

I hereby declare winter is officially over at the Tillercottage.

Let the sailing season commence.

I think I'll go and burn my socks now.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Sailing the RS Aero in Bristol - and Plans for the Summer

The ice has gone from the bays, the snow has almost disappeared and it almost feels as if spring has finally arrived in Rhode Island.

I described in A Laser and an RS Aero in Newport how my friend persuaded our local dealer to lend us a demo RS Aero and how he sailed it on a couple of days in Newport while I tagged along in my Laser.

The picture from that post (above) created a small stir in the RS Sailing social media community with comments like, "Epic levels of commitment. We salute you!" Well, it did until some over-achiever from Norway upped the stakes by posting this picture (below) with a caption about "getting ready for Easter sailing" and a claim that he was part of the "most northerly Aero class."

If I ever get the chance to race this Norwegian guy in an Aero, I'm going to CRUSH him!

Anyway, we have taken the Aero out three more times in Bristol Harbor since then. By "we" I mean the three of us who agreed over a dinner and (more than a few beers) to put down deposits on RS Aeros a year ago just after it was launched in the UK. As I had had the chance to sail the Aero in Europe last year I have been letting my two friends have first dibs on sailing the Aero here in New England, but on Monday this week I thought they had had enough time in the boat and monopolized it myself. As I blasted upwind from the beach in a juicy south-easterly I couldn't resist shouting out to anyone close enough to hear me (i.e. nobody) - "I want one!" - meaning that the boat is still as good as I remembered it from Minorca and I still want to buy one. Thankfully my two friends feel the same way so we are looking forward to taking delivery of our three Aeros in a few weeks.

We all plan to keep our Lasers and continue to race them too. At least initially we will race our Aeros with the Sunfish and Lasers at Lake Whippersnapper on Saturday afternoons, and also in the regatta there at the end of May. Several other sailors at that club have expressed interest in trying out the Aero so we hope we can build a larger fleet there. And we will race our Lasers in Duxbury on Sundays and whatever other Laser regattas around New England we feel like doing. And one of my friends, maybe even both of them, are planning to go to the Laser Masters Worlds in Canada this year too.

I should really write a whole separate post about the pros and cons of owning just a Laser, or a Laser and another class of dinghy, and I probably will.

And I should really write a whole separate post about why I am buying a new class of dinghy that hardly anybody in the US is sailing yet, and I probably will.

Where was I? Where am I ? Oh yes. Sailing the RS Aero.

My friends and I don't really know how to sail the RS Aero properly yet. There is no published tuning guide. Every time we sail it we come back with more questions. Why is the Laser faster than the Aero in those conditions on that point of sail? Should we be sheeting at a different angle? Do we need more vang? Was the outhaul too loose or too tight? Should we be heeling more - or less? Etc. Etc. Etc.

But we are gradually figuring it out. And that's part of the fun.

What we really need is a clinic where someone who has figured it out already can teach is in one day what it will take us months to work out by ourselves.

And, as luck would have it, there is going to be a one day clinic in the US in July, run by the RS Aero Class Manager, Peter Barton from the UK. It will be on the Friday before the RS Aero US Nationals at the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. It's too good an opportunity to miss. So I have told the powers-that-be that I am going to the clinic and will be sailing the Nationals too. And if that Norwegian shows his face I am going to CRUSH him.

Sailing the Gorge has been on my bucket list for some time.

I thought one day I would sail there in my Laser.

But instead I have committed to sail in a national championship at the Gorge (a notoriously windy and wavy venue) in a boat I don't even own yet and which I have, as of today, no idea how to sail properly.

Am I crazy?

Thanks to George Yioulos at West Coast Sailing and Scott Hardy at Boat Locker for their generous support and encouragement to me to sail the Gorge.