Friday, May 29, 2015

The Question With No Answer

I was sailing on Lake Massapoag the other day when another sailor asked me a question I couldn't answer.

I don't mean I didn't know the answer. There are a lot of questions about sailing that I don't know the answers to. Questions like... "How is it possible to sail faster dead downwind than the wind?" or "Why does the US Olympic team not win more medals?" or "Why did they get rid of Rule 17.2?" These questions are, in theory, answerable and somebody knows the answers - I assume. But the question I was asked totally stumped me because it did not compute, it was like one of those impossible paradoxes such as, "Which came first the chicken or the egg?"

But first let me digress and give you the background.

I have been sailing my new RS Aero quite a lot in the last few days. Mainly because I am entered in the first RS Aero Regatta in North America east of the Continental Divide tomorrow and I still have no idea how to sail the boat properly.

A couple of days at the lake it has been very windy - about 18 mph with 30 mph gusts and shifts up to 90 degrees. These are not the ideal conditions to learn how to sail a new dinghy. To be honest on those days I have mainly concentrated on keeping the long carbon pointy thing in the air and not in the water. But man, when you take off in an RS Aero on a reach in a 30 mph gust, you are really flying. And on those windy days, although I wasn't sailing very well, I consoled myself with the thought that which does not kill me makes me stronger, as the famous German Laser coach Friedrich Nietzsche once told me.

The other two days the winds were around 10mph so it was possible to work on boat-handling skills and boat-speed and all that other stuff that coaches call "training" and I call "having fun in the boat." One day I mainly worked on tacking and was starting to do something a bit more like a proper tack instead of my original method of "push the tiller over and pray." The other day of medium wind I sailed up and downwind with a Laser and another Aero which was great for working out things like whether to go high or low upwind and what angles were fast downwind.

And I am so pleased that I have two friends with Aeros on the same lake. We are all learning from each other and passing on little tips and tricks we discover. Everything from how not to break the outhaul (oops) to the optimum position to sit in the boat downwind.

All good stuff.

I am not really ready to sail this baby in a regatta yet but I am having fun, and that's what it's all about, right?

So what was this impossible question?

It was, "So do you like your Aero better than your Laser?"

I was nonplussed.

The question didn't make sense to me.

OK. I know we ask questions like this about consumer products all the time. Do you like your Audi better than your Subaru? Do you prefer Smuttynose IPA to Bud Lite?  Did you like The Graduate better than Honey I Shrunk the Kids?

All good questions. All easy to answer.

But a boat, at least a single-handed sailing dinghy, is not like any other consumer product. Not to me anyway. It's almost like a living thing. It's an integral part of who I am and how I have fun. It's a lifestyle. It's a community, or at least the way into a community. And that's all about the people you meet and the friends you make.

The Aero and the Laser offer different sailing experiences and entries into two different communities. Different opportunities to sail in different places. But I couldn't possibly say I like one more than the other. Not the way I feel right now, anyway.

You might as well ask me which of my sons is my favorite as question whether I like my Aero better than my Laser. The question is meaningless and impossible to me.

So I fudged the answer…

"I refuse to draw comparisons. I really enjoy having two boats. End of story."

Am I strange?

If you have more than one boat do you feel the same way?


Michael O'Brien said...

I feel exactly the same way. I got an Aero and I'm actively sailing my Laser.

They are very different. You really feel this when you go back to the Laser after sailing the Aero for a while. The Laser has momentum and that makes all the difference. Neither good, nor bad ... just different.

Some folks think the Aero will "kill" the Laser and their questions are framed as a winner takes all proposition. For me, I want both to continue and thrive. I know this is equally unhelpful as an answer.

Tillerman said...

I think we are on the same wavelength Michael. I have no intention of giving up Laser sailing.

This summer I plan to sail my Laser a couple of days a week and my Aero a couple of days a week - depending on weather and other plans (e.g. time with grandkids) of course.

I will probably sail three Aero regattas, the one at Massapoag tomorrow, the NAs at the Gorge, and the AeroCup at Barcelona in October.

I will sail at least two Laser regattas, the district championship in June and the Newport Regatta in July and probably a few more.

I think I have the best of both worlds. And I hope both classes thrive.

Anonymous said...

But if they were both sitting on the beach... which would you rather sail?

Tillerman said...

Good question.

If it's a Saturday or a Wednesday - the Aero - because that's when the organized racing for Aeros is happening at Lake Massapoag.

If it's a Sunday - the Laser - because there is racing at Massapoag and Duxbury.

If it's a Tuesday - the Laser - because there's racing/practice in Bristol.

Any other day then it depends on what friends are sailing and what boats they are sailing.

If I'm in Minorca then Aero one week and Laser the other week.

If I'm at Bitter End YC then a Hobie Wave if it's Tuesday beer can races or Hobie Out of Bounds day or Tillerwoman wants to sail with me, otherwise usually a Laser or some other random boat.

Unknown said...

I have a Laser, and RS 400 and half a Sigma 36 (Complete with lid and potty). Whichever I'm sailing I usually conclude its the wrong one and I actively dislike the one with the largest outstanding bill. Does that help?

Unknown said...

Please share: How do I "not break my outhaul", and where should I sit going downwind in my Aero?? By the way, I too have both an Aero and a Laser, and I love them both, for different reasons.

Anonymous said...

I have an O'Day 22 and a '70s Hilu (think ~ put all Sunfish stuff on an outriggered pontoon instead of a sailing hull), the wife has a pontoon boat, and we have a kayak and a canoe. She loves motoring on her party barge, I love sailing, and when we want time together, we paddle...

Noodle said...

In my virtual world I have at least forty different boats to choose from. Probably around five are among my favourites; Why? Because they kinda act like real boats. In Real Life I'm in a YC, so I regularly must choose between numerous boats ranging from 45 footer racers to single seater dingies. They are so different. A comparison makes no sense. Luffe 44 or X79? Yngling or Moth? No sense at all.

Fact is that the Aero takes time away from your precious Laser. Everytime you sail the Aero, the Laser dies a little. Unimportant. The question you should be asking is, will you become a better (Laser) sailor by sailing the Aero... My take: Probably yes!

PeconicPuffin said...

For me the answer changes based on the sea state, and perhaps my mood. BTW there is a correct answer to "which came first the chicken or the egg?" The first chicken was born from the first chicken egg. The first chicken egg was laid by a bird that was almost a chicken, but not quite. A mutation of the almost-chicken genes caused the first chicken egg.

Tillerman said...

Sandy - the broken outhaul story is quite complicated and worthy of a separate post some time. As for where to sit downwind - we don't have the answer - we were just comparing notes of what we did in light winds.

Noodle - I like your last question and I think you have the right answer. Also worthy of a separate post.

Puffin - the egg answer is brilliant!

George A said...

I have a boat shed full of different Classic and Vintage Moth Boats. The joy of a development class is in the many different boats all striving to be "the" solution rather than "a" solution to the 11 foot equation. The boats mirror different design philosophies as well as the expanding nature of technology over time. Some are beautiful works of art; polished bronze and varnished cedar and mahogany. Others are just flat out fast and are about as forgiving as a Kentucky Derby entrant. There have been a few dud Moth Boats over the years but only a few. I tend to like them all. It's a disease.

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