Friday, June 26, 2015

The Pursuit of Happiness

I am finding that one of the things I am enjoying most at the sailing club I recently joined is the Wednesday night pursuit race. This week was no exception.

The original pursuit race. 
"The unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable." - Oscar Wilde
The fox never did agree with the Portsmouth Yardstick for the dogs.

Pursuit races, for the uninitiated, are when multiple one design classes race together with staggered start times. Based on the published handicap numbers for each class - or local variations of those - the start times for each class are set as near as possible to compensate for the different speed of each class so that, in theory, if all the boats were sailed perfectly they would all cross the finish line together after the fixed time set for the race. Of course none of the boats sail a perfect race so the first boat across the finish line should be the best sailor across all the classes. In a club like ours with multiple classes it is a good way for everyone to participate in a race together.

I find it's best not to take any handicap racing, including pursuit races, too seriously. Handicap numbers are at best only an average across all wind conditions, and some classes will do better in light air, others do better when planing is possible, and so on. Moreover in a pursuit race, boats usually start at whole minutes after the slowest class starts so that is another approximation and hardly ever reflects the precise differences in handicap numbers. You can drive yourself crazy if you start worrying about whether your class is disadvantaged in some way by the handicap system or pursuit start times. It's best just to forget all that and focus on staying in front of the fleets chasing you from behind (if you started first) or catching as many boats as you can if you sail one of the faster classes and start later.

The Bloody Mary is a really serious pursuit race for really serious sailors.
It is the largest inland dinghy race held in the UK.
It happens in January.

At my club the Sunfish start first. One minute later the Day Sailers (usually there is only one) start. Two minutes after that the Lasers - now joined by the RS Aeros - start, and the Flying Scots start one minute after the Lasers.

So far this year, before this week, three different Flying Scot skippers have won a race, and the Day Sailer has won one race.

One of the great pleasures of a small lake club like this one is the camaraderie between the sailors on the beach as we rig our boats and get ready for racing. This week was no exception.

Camaraderie on the beach.
Not at Lake Massapoag.

I arrived early and immediately met a man who told me he was going to be crewing on the Day Sailer. We were exchanging information about our sailing backgrounds when we spotted a car with a trailer that seemed to be shuffling backwards and forwards on the boat ramp and basically going nowhere sideways. We hailed the driver and asked if help was required and we gave assistance to unhitch the trailer and push it to where the driver wanted it. I am too gallant to reveal the gender of the driver.

Another sailor arrived whom I recognized as another new member because I had met her at the mandatory safety seminar for new members earlier in the year. (A great idea, by the way. How many other sailing clubs make the effort to make sure all new members are well trained in boating safety?) I knew she had been looking for a used Sunfish in good condition for racing, so we chatted about her new acquisition, a 20-year-old Sunfish in great condition and with new foils. Reminded me of my last Sunfish,  of similar vintage but with teal deck and purple cockpit.

On the beach one of the Flying Scot skippers came over to welcome the lady with the Sunfish to the club and admire her boat. It was the same man who had welcomed me to the club when I first showed up at the beach with my RS Aero. Apparently he has been a member of the club for decades and seems like a really nice guy. Once he left I told the Sunfish lady that he was a really good Flying Scot sailor and probably the man to beat tonight. "If you can stay in front of him you will be doing well." She laughed and said she didn't think that she was that good a sailor.

And so on. You get the picture. Just rigging our boats and chilling out with other sailors and having fun with some friendly banter and help and encouragement to each other

The breeze was surprisingly good for a summer evening. It was certainly stronger than Sunday, 6-9 mph I guess, but with some interesting shifts and variations in wind speed across the course.

The three Sunfish started.

The Day Sailer started.

2 minutes later it was our start.  4 Lasers and 2 Aeros.  My son was sailing one of the Lasers. (I forgot to mention - he has now joined this sailing club too.) I sailed with my 9 rig. The other Aero sailor opted for his 7 rig.

The boat end of the start line was slightly favored and I could see that three of the sailors were setting up to play games of  "Don't go in there!" and "Up up up!" right by the committee boat. So I stayed clear of them and started a little further down the line. I came in below them, got a great start and jumped out into clear air straight away.

The only lady in the Laser fleet was spotting the shifts better than I was on the first beat and we were dueling all the way up that first leg and I was only just ahead of her at the windward mark.

I had thought there was more wind on the right of the course (looking upwind) so I played that side downwind and passed the leading Sunfish, pulled out a lead on the Laser sailor and got the inside overlap at the leeward mark on the Day Sailer to take the overall lead.

On the next beat I went right and the leading Laser went left and that really set her back. I was sailing in good pressure and being lifted into the mark. Down the second run I could hear the wake of the leading Flying Scot behind me getting closer and closer. But he couldn't catch me and I won the race!

So a singlehanded sailor finally won the pursuit race this year! Five different skippers from three different classes have won the five races so far this season. The handicap system might not be perfect but it certainly seems to be giving a number of different classes a chance to win.

Back at the beach my son came over and congratulated me.

The skipper of the Day Sailer came over and congratulated me. (He won the pursuit race a couple of weeks ago when I was second.)

The sailor of the RS Aero 7 told me I had probably ruined the current handicap for the Aero 9.

Whatever. I really can't get worked up about it. If it is decided that Aero 9s should start a minute after the  Flying Scots instead of a minute before them, it really wouldn't bother me.

The RS Aero 9 rig feels to me like the rig that the boat was designed for. It seems to perfectly match the boat. I am sure I will still want to use the 7 rig when it gets really windy - just as many Laser sailors will switch down to a Radial when they are overpowered in a full rig Laser.

Life is good.

I love pursuit races.

I love my RS Aero 9.

I love having an omelette and a glass of wine with my bride at home after the pursuit races.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Back to Little Compton

On Monday this erstwhile RS Aero sailor drove down to Little Compton for what turned out to be a superb afternoon of solitary Laser sailing. The trailer parking lot only had one other trailer in it and there was nary another boat in sight on the river when I launched.

The wind was around 5-10 knots but I think it must have been stronger earlier because the waves seemed better than that. It's hard to describe but they are different from Bristol waves. I did some long upwinds and downwinds like I did last year with various sailing friends. The wind seemed to be getting lighter as I sailed but I managed to get some good rides on waves while sailing by the lee.

The lighthouse looked spectacular when I sailed up close to it. I had forgotten what a beautiful spot this is. I think Little Compton may be the best place on the planet for Laser sailing. There are at least 14 reasons why.

Sakonnet Lighthouse

And that's not even counting the fact that JP Morgan used to fish here.

And did you know that the inventor of the three-ring-binder lived in Little Compton?

A three-ring-binder

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes, Laser sailing in the best place on the planet for Laser sailing.

There is a group of Really Serious Laser Masters Worlds Sailors who have a Training Group that sails out of Third Beach Newport (not in Newport) on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  I saw a couple of Lasers (actually a Radial and a Laser I think) come out from Third Beach on the other side of the Sakonnet River just as I was about ready to come in on Monday. They were probably some of those Really Serious Laser Masters Worlds Sailors getting some extra training time in on Monday because of the forecast of thunderstorms and tornadoes and giant hail stones for Tuesday. They probably sailed in the thunderstorm too. They are really serious.

A really serious man

I guess I used to be a Really Serious Laser Masters Worlds Sailor myself. I used to join in with those guys when they had RSLMWSTGs at Third Beach or Bristol in other years. These years I'm only a semi-serious Laser sailor. I'm not going to the Masters Worlds this year like all those guys in the  RSLMWSTG. Been there. Done that. Actually done that six times. Got it out of my system. Ticked it off my bucket list.

My bucket list

Actually I suppose I am a semi-serious semi-Laser semi-Aero sailor these days.

Evelyn's Drive-In looked to be doing a roaring trade as I drove home. Next time I must come earlier with some friends so we can get back to Evelyn's by around 4:30 and snag a table for a leisurely dinner by the side of Nanaquaket Pond.

The outside dining area at Evelyn's
with some tables you could snag.

The lobster roll and fries at Evelyn's

Two of the Tiller family at Evelyn's
Labor Day Weekend 2010

Life is good.

I love my Laser.

I love Little Compton.

I love sailing on my own.

I love Evelyn's

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The RS Aero 9 is Too Fast

For those new to the story, the RS Aero has 3 rigs, with sails of approximately 5, 7 and 9 square meters.

RS Sailing recommend them for people of different body weights.

Many RS Aero owners are buying the boat with more than one rig. Some sailors may use a 7 or 9 rig most of the time but also have a rig one step down for heavier wind conditions. Or, like me, they may have a 7 rig for most conditions but also have a 9 rig for those lighter wind days.

Of course, other things being equal, the boat with a larger rig should be faster. But is a 9 rig with a heavy sailor much faster than a 7 rig with a lighter sailor? In heavier winds can a sailor in a 5 rig beat a sailor in a 7 rig who is overpowered?

We have been trying to work out how we are going to race the Aeros at our lake. What we have discovered so far is…

1. Lasers and Aeros seem to be quite comparable in speed and we are having close competitive racing by starting Lasers and Aeros together.

2. The 5 rig is indeed an excellent option for a sailor who finds the 7 rig too much to handle on a very windy day.

3. The first day we raced 9 and 7 rigs together the three boats finished a 30 minute race within a second of each other.

The Seattle RS Aero fleet have also been trying to work out how to race the different Aero rigs together. Here is what Seattle Aero sailor Michael O'Brien wrote in a comment to my post Three Flavors of RS Aero.

When we have a regatta with 10-20 boats per rig size ... no problem. Race in per-rig fleets. 
But for now, while building fleets, I favor scratch racing where you can use any rig in any race. It is simpler and works surprisingly well. As you say, the 7 and 9 have differences in speed, but when sailor weight is factored in -- it is often the sailor weight that is the bigger factor. Rig size gives the heavier and lighter sailor the chance to extend their range both up and down.
Our experience seemed to support the same conclusion.

But it seem we may have been wrong.

On Sunday the winds were very light. Maybe 5 knots at best but often much less than that and sometimes only 0-1. The water was flat (of course). There was a light drizzle at times.

In these conditions the RS Aero 9 blew the Lasers and the RS Aero 7 away.

I am the heaviest Aero sailor in our fleet. I was sailing the Aero 9.

Upwind it was easy for me to establish a lead on the rest of the fleet. Although, in the first race one Laser sailor did stay within a few boat lengths of me on the first beat.

Downwind I don't think the Aero 9 had much of an advantage, if any.  I was passed on one run by a Laser and the Aero 7 also closed the gap on me. I suspect I don't really know how to sail the Aero properly downwind in light airs yet. Or maybe I am just too fat.

I won both races by a considerable margin. And it was all due to distance gained upwind.

After the two official races, we asked the race committee to give us a start for a "race" back to the club. It was a reach all the way. The Aero 9 pulled out in front of the Lasers and Aero 7 immediately after the start, and just kept extending its lead.

In these conditions, it seems the RS Aero 9 is way too fast for fair scratch racing with Lasers and smaller Aero rigs.

But it did feel good!

I love my RS Aero 9!

Further research is indicated.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Rules Quiz - Outside Help

If a racing sailor receives information from someone else during a race has he infringed the Rule against receiving outside help?

The question came up in a friendly discussion among the Laser and Aero sailors after the finish of one race yesterday.

It seems the courses we sail most often at the club are W4 and W5. As you can see from the club sailing instructions a W4 course has a downwind finish and W5 has an upwind finish. On Sunday we were sailing W4.

Actually the diagrams in SIs don't tell the whole story because we also use W4 when we have the start/finish line in the middle of the course. Everyone knows (at least I thought we all knew) that this means start-1-2-1-finish. A downwind finish. The number indicates the number of legs, not the number of laps.

This is what happened on Sunday. The Aeros and Lasers were racing together (as usual.) The first boat - an RS Aero - crossed the line going downwind on the second run and was given a finish horn. (Modesty prevents me from naming the sailor.) A little while later the next two boats approached the finish line. One sailed outside the line and continued downwind towards the leeward mark. The third boat was clearly sailing a course which would take him outside the pin. So the winner of the race, being a kind, friendly person, hailed his two friends and told them it was a downwind finish. #2 came back and #3 changed course and they crossed the finish line downwind as required.

Then the discussion started...

1. Was the information received from another sailor against the Rule against Outside Help?

2. Even if it were legal in these circumstances, would it have been illegal in other circumstances?

3. Would it have been OK for the Race Committee to advise the sailors verbally of the correct course once they noticed that they appeared to be sailing the wrong course?

4. Would it have been OK for the Race Committee to answer a sailor's question if he had asked the RC if he was on the last leg of course and was approaching the finish?

Here is the relevant Rule. Other Rules may also apply of course.

What do you think?

And just because I like it, here is the video again of me (in the RS Aero 7) crossing the finish line of a W4 course at the club RS Aero/ Laser/ Sunfish regatta at the end of May. It was a little windier that day.

In the interests of full disclosure I should reveal that I was also suffering from course amnesia in the race in the video and was initially planning to sail outside the line and keep on going downwind towards the leeward mark. But I realized at the last minute that I should cross the finish line (maybe I saw the course board - duh!) and headed up to a broad reach to cross the line.

PS Apparently this video is one of the most watched videos on the MYCSunfish Fleet YouTube channel - (is that the right word?) but there's a lot of other good stuff there too, so head over there now and SUBSCRIBE!!!

I love this club.

I love my RS Aero.

I love this video (even if the caption is slightly misleading.)

No, I love this video because the caption is slightly misleading.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Embrace the Boredom

Boredom is good?

I don't know what to think of this.

I would appreciate your opinion.

There appears to be a whole series of posts and articles lately on the general theme of how boredom is good for you and why you should "embrace the boredom."

For example, James Clear had a chance to talk to a top Olympic coach and ask him the thing we all want to know...

“What’s the difference between the best athletes and everyone else. What do the really successful people do that most people don’t?”  
He briefly mentioned the things that you might expect. Genetics. Luck. Talent.  
But then he said something I wasn’t expecting. “At some point,” he said, “it comes down to who can handle the boredom of training every day and doing the same lifts over and over and over again.”

Hmmm! The boredom of training.

It sounds right, If you are going to be good at anything - running, sailing, playing the guitar - you are going to have to do lots and lots of practice and training.

And sometimes that gets boring. The ones who succeed learn how to "embrace the boredom."

I can see that. The people who rise to the top are mentally tough enough to stick at the training plan and keep working at it even when they are bored with it. They "fall in love with boredom."

But is that really the only way?

When I was training to run marathons I had to do a number of really, really long runs. Longer than the marathon distance itself in some cases. And what's more boring than running? Put one foot in front of the other. Repeat for 30 miles.

I solved it - to an extent - by exploring different places to run. Trails through unfamiliar woods (until the time I got lost and had to run even further than planned to find my way home.) A trail alongside an historic canal in another part of the state. Actually it was still pretty boring at times.

It's much the same with sailing.

The top Olympic sailors are sailing on at least 100 days every year. I think even sailing would quickly become boring if you were doing the same drills with the same people in the same boat at the same place day after day after day.

Of course, we sailors are lucky in that the winds are rarely the same from one day to the next so that introduces some variety into the program.

But we can also avoid boredom and burnout by mixing it up. Sail in different places. Sail on the sea and on lakes and on rivers. Sail on flat water and in waves. Do solo practice. Tune up with one training partner. Attend a group clinic. Sail small regattas. Sail large regattas. Travel to other countries to sail. Sail in different boats.

But surely most of us sail for fun. Why do it at all if it's boring?

What do you think?

Do you have to "embrace boredom" to succeed.

If so, how do you make yourself do that?

Are there other tricks if you want to put in the time to hone your skills to a high level without getting bored out of your mind in the process?

Is embracing boredom the new mindfulness?

Does embracing boredom make you more creative?

Or is boredom just a bore?

Surfing a bore

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Why are some days on the water kind of blah - and then just when you least expect it you have a day that brings a huge smile to your face?

Yesterday afternoon was one of those special sailing sessions that make you glad to be alive, glad you sail a Laser, and glad you have such good friends to go Laser sailing with.

The only word to describe it is… stellar.

Stellar - definition:
exceptionally good, outstanding, 
marvelous, outstanding, superb, 
first-rate, out of this world.

The omens were not good at first.

On Monday I had floated the idea to a few friends of sailing Lasers in Bristol on Tuesday afternoon 

We agreed to check the weather forecast on Tuesday morning.

One of my friends was concerned the winds would be too light.

I had seen some forecasts that suggested we would get showers and even thunderstorms.

Tuesday morning was very foggy with no wind.

In the end we decided to go sailing anyway.

At lunch time the fog cleared and a southerly breeze started to build up the bay.

When we launched in Bristol around 2:30pm there was a juicy 10-12 knot breeze from the south that was stirring up some interesting crunchy waves.

We raced WL courses with rabbit starts around a couple of government marks.

Somehow I had got it in my head over the winter that this is about the most boring way imaginable to spend a couple of hours on the water.

I was wrong. We all had a blast.

It was one of those days that repaid hiking hard, sailing the boat flat, and working the boat through the bigger waves upwind. In spite of my sore back on Monday after sailing on Sunday, I threw myself 100% into the fray and worked as hard as I could.

It felt fast upwind and my back wasn't hurting. Is adrenaline a painkiller?

Downwind it was possible to catch rides on some of better waves and I played around with different angles until I found out what seemed fast. I felt loose and relaxed in the boat.

I can't remember the last time I had so much fun in a Laser.

And so to Redlefsens for some pasta and a couple of glasses of Warsteiner Dunkel, and the usual exchange of information about why A was faster than B today and the usual trash talking about all our sailing friends who weren't there. (Only joking people.)


Monday, June 15, 2015

Back to the Laser

I have been neglecting her.

No, it's worse that that. Ever since I took delivery of my RS Aero, I have been totally ignoring her.

We have had so many good times together - and helped each other through a few bad times - for so many years and yet I just put her aside.

Yes it is true. Until Friday I hadn't sailed my Laser at all since that memorable day when my Laser and I crushed my friends in their Aeros on the last race of the day on May 17. Crushed!

Michael O'Brien from Seattle who has also been committing boat bigamy with a Laser and an RS Aero warned me. He said in a comment on A Tale of Two Boats
"When you switch back to the Laser after sailing the Aero for a while, you will feel like you are driving a truck. The momentum and weight difference is dramatic."
So I took my faithful but neglected old Laser over to Bristol last Friday to give here some attention and renew my relationship with her.

I wasn't sure what to expect.

But it felt good.

It felt familiar

It was fun, even exciting at times.

It wasn't like driving a truck at all.

A truck

Phew! I was seriously worried that sailing an RS Aero for a few weeks might have killed my passion for  Laser sailing. Far from it. In fact it felt so good to be back in the Laser, almost as if my time in the Aero had re-energized my enthusiasm for the Laser. I guess I really am going to be a two boat sailor.

The next thing I was interested to explore was an initial answer to the question I asked myself in A Tale of Two Boats - would sailing an Aero help develop sailing skills that would also make be a better Laser sailor.

Sailing upwind in 6-8 knots I did notice three things…

  1. I was much more sensitive to weather helm. I think I had got used to sailing the Laser with a heavy helm - because I wasn't sailing the boat flat enough - that I had grown to tolerate it. The Aero is very light on the tiller and now I was more sensitive to when the Laser had weather helm and was naturally trying to reduce it.

  2. I was much more active in the boat - moving my upper body in and out a lot to balance the boat. Whether this was because I had got used to doing this in an Aero or whether it was in response to the extra sensitivity when the helm felt too heavy, I don't know. A Laser coach once told me that I am not active enough in the boat; I tended to lock my body in one position and hope that would work all the time. Sailing the Aero seems to have cured me of this fault in a Laser.

  3. My tacks seemed a lot smoother and under control compared to how they were before in the Laser. I really don't know why, because I don't really feel I am doing good tacks in the Aero yet. Perhaps I am really comparing my current Laser tacks to my current Aero tacks, but I don't think so. Or perhaps in struggling to get my Aero tacks right I have somehow indirectly made my Laser tacks seem easier.
It's early days yet, and I wasn't comparing my boat speed to another boat. But it does seem that sailing the Aero may develop skills that will positively impact my Laser technique too.

On Sunday, I took my Laser out for a sail on Mount Hope Bay. I was expecting to be drifting around practicing my roll tacks, but almost as soon as I launched the wind picked up from under 5 mph to more like 17 gusting into the low 20s from the south-east.

So, I cranked down the cunningham and cranked on the vang and hiked as hard as I could and worked my way through the waves upwind for a couple of miles or more, towards Roger Williams University.

I have nothing positive to report at all about how sailing the RS Aero may have helped my upwind technique in a Laser in stronger winds. In fact quite the reverse. Either I am not hiking hard enough in the Aero, or maybe the Aero hiking position is so different from how you hike in a Laser, that it's no real help when you go back to the Laser. Whatever the reason those two upwind miles felt like damn hard work.

I have a vague recollection that after dinner I fell asleep on the living room floor. This morning my back feels like it always feels when I go back to Laser sailing after too many weeks off.  Sore.

Memo to self: the only way to keep fit enough to hike hard in a Laser is to do a lot of Laser sailing in heavier winds. Seriously.

But going back downwind, even though the wind had dropped a little, was pure pleasure.

I love my Laser

I love sailing on the bay.

I am a two boat sailor.

Magna Carta

We haven't had a Maps on Monday post for a while so as today, 15 June 2015, is the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta let's have some maps related to that.

Magna Carta was agreed by King John of England and a group of rebel barons at Runnymede, near Windsor, on 15 June 1215. Although Magna Carta was somewhat limited in scope, dealing with such issues as the rights of the church and protection for the barons from illegal imprisonment, the political myth of Magna Carta as a document guaranteeing widespread personal liberties persisted until well into the 19th century. It influenced the early American colonists in the Thirteen Colonies and the formation of the American Constitution in 1789.

This strip map from a 1675 "road atlas" of England and Wales published by John Ogilby shows the routes that would have been taken by the king and the barons to the field at Runnymede where the Magna Carta was signed. The king rode down from his castle at Windsor and the barons crossed the River Thames at Staines, where a "wooden bridge" is marked on the map.

Researchers at Cambridge University have recently created the first digital maps of the travels undertaken by King John and of his successors Henry III and Edward I during their reigns. It turns out that John was pretty much always on the move raising taxes and holding court, trying to hold on to his authority in spite of the challenges from those pesky barons.

And what does all this have to do with sailing?

Not a lot.

Except I think every sailor has at some time lost a "personal treasure" overboard. A cell-phone. A pair of sunglasses. A favorite hat. Yes?

So show some sympathy for King John who lost most of his personal belongings, including the Crown Jewels, as he and his retinue and their pack-horses crossed one of the tidal estuaries which empties into the Wash.

Oh, and for all my American readers, did you know that every American president except one, is descended from King John?

Can you guess who the exception is without going to that link first?

And what is the most valued "personal treasure" that you have lost to the ocean depths?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Three Flavors of RS Aero

The RS Aero comes in three flavors - 5, 7 and 9.

The numbers refer to the approximate sail area of each rig in square meters.

Each rig has a different sail area and a different length bottom mast section.

So you can have whichever flavor - or sail area-  suits you best.

As you can see, RS Sailing suggest that you should chose a rig based on your weight. On their website they also sum this up in a slightly different way, saying that the rig options will typically suit…

RS Aero 5 - youths

RS Aero 7 - women and small men

RS Aero 9 - men

Uh oh. Here we go again.

If you are a manly man you will want the RS Aero 9.

A manly man

It's just like the Laser and the Laser Radial. As my friend Yarg of Apparent Wind so eloquently wrote in  - Why Manly Men Never Use a Radial Sail - there's no way a manly man would want to sail a Radial or an Aero 7 rig. Those are for girls, right?

As it turns out… wrong. Very wrong.

Back in last March when I placed what was apparently the first Aero order from North America, I ordered it with the 9 rig. I was hovering a bit over 200lbs at the time and based on what I read on the website it seemed that that was the rig for me.

But then George Yioulis of West Coast Sailing went over to England to try out the RS Aero and came back saying he was advising his customers that even men of my size should initially buy the 7 rig. And when I went to Minorca Sailing in September I tried both the 9 rig and the 7 rig and came to much the same conclusion.

A much better looking sailor than me 
in an RS Aero at Minorca Sailing

The 7 rig was enough of a challenge for me in strong winds. On the other hand the extra sail area of the 9 rig was a delight in lighter winds.

So I decided to buy both the 7 and 9 rigs.

Yum - 2 flavors in one pie

My two fellow sailors in the Boston Aero Fleet also ended up buying two rigs. Yarg, who weight is in the recommended range for the 7 rig anyway, opted to buy the 7 rig with a 5 rig for those heavy air days. And the Email Dude, whose weight is somewhere between mine and Yarg's bought a 7 and 9 rig like me.

So then we were faced with the decision as to how to race these rigs. There isn't really any handicap racing at our host club, so at our winter planning meeting - at Mick Morgan's Irish Pub - we all agreed that for racing we would use the 7 rigs (at least initially) so we were on a level playing field. At least I think that's what we agreed. It was very noisy and I had lost count of how many pints of Guinness I had had by then.

While we were pondering how we would use the 5 and 9 rigs, the Class Rules for the RS Aero were published and they addressed the issue of how Aeros would be raced,  but when it came to the rules for swapping rigs they had us scratching our heads.

The rules say that the Aeros should be raced as separate fleets by rig size 5, 7 and 9 "where numbers permit" and that otherwise they should race using Portsmouth Handicaps.

Fair enough. But the next rule had us puzzled.

So Yarg could swap to his 5 rig if we were sailing a handicap series (which we are not.)  So if it was really nuking and he was totally overpowered in his 7 rig, the rule seems to imply that he couldn't sail his 5 rig because we were essentially doing fleet racing of 7 rigs. That seemed a little weird.

The second part of rule C.1.4. is even weirder. You can switch to a bigger rig but you rank as a "new entry."  A (perhaps unintended) consequence of this rule has already come into play in a series in the UK. There are 4 events in the series with best 2 scores counting. So you could sail a 7 rig in the first event, switch up to a 9 rig for 2 of the subsequent events, and sail the 7 rig in one of the subsequent events. You would then count as 2 entries with 2 scores for each. So you could actually be both first and second in the same series??? How does that make sense?

None of this made it any easier to figure out what our local rig-swapping rules, if any, should be.

In the end it was moot.

At our first regatta - the First RS Aero Regatta in USA East of the Continental Divide - it was really nuking. Well it was quite windy. We all started in 7 rigs but Yarg did capsize a few times. I know he capsized because in every race in the morning on one of the downwind legs I heard a big splash behind me and someone cursing a lot.

At lunchtime, Yarg switched down to the 5 rig and I didn't hear any more splashing or cursing in the afternoon. In fact he seemed to be doing really well on the first beat of every race in the afternoon but then his 5 rig seemed to lose distance to the 7s in the rest of the race. So we didn't need to protest him under Rule C.1.4. in the end. (Only joking Yarg.)

Of course that opened the floodgates.

If  a lighter sailor can switch down a rig in the heavy stuff, then it must be OK for a heavy sailor to switch up in the light stuff? Right?

OK. I know it's debatable. We have debated it a lot in my other class. In fact the old geezers in my other class debated it so much that we now have a rig-swapping rule for North American Laser Masters regattas that, as far as I know, nobody else in the Laser class in the world uses.

In any case, when the three of us raced in the Wednesday evening multi-class pursuit race last week I told Yarg I would like to use my 9 rig, just to see what would happen. If we don't test out these different rigs we never will figure out whether and how we can race them together. The Email Dude opted for a 9 rig too. So we started together, one 7 rig and two 9 rigs.

The other two Aero sailors got better starts than me so I was playing catch-up all the way up the first beat. As I recall, Yarg was leading at the first mark. I had a good downwind leg and gained the lead. On the second upwind, the first boat chasing us, a Flying Scot caught, up with us. I led the Aeros down the second downwind but the Scot rounded ahead of us at the leeward mark. Yarg, close behind me,went right on the short final beat, so I went the same way to cover him. The Email Dude went left, got a lucky shift and gained on us. We converged at the finish line. It was almost a tie. We finished within a second of each other, with the Email Dude in second (after the Scot), me third and Yarg fourth.

So what does that prove?

The 7 and 9 rigs are actually the same speed in light air?

Or, perhaps, more likely, a 160lb sailor in a 7 rig is as fast as a 195 lb sailor in a 9 rig in light air?

We should just sail the rigs that suit our weight and we will have even racing?

If only I had got a better start I would have won the race?

Yarg is a much better sailor than Email Dude and me?

All of the above?

More research is indicated.

Three things I do know…

I do love pursuit races.

I am so glad I bought this boat.

I am so glad I joined this club.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Throwback Thursday - Another Tiller

Tiller Extension #1

Must have been 1979, I guess.

Tiller Extension #1 on the patio of our house in Maidenhead, England.

I am called Tillerman because I steer a boat with a tiller.

Tillerwoman is called Tillerwoman because she is married to me and because she is an avid gardener. She tills the soil.

I hadn't started sailing in 1979. That came a few years later.

But here is photographic evidence that Tiller Extension #1 was interested in gardening - also known as playing with dirt - at an early age. He was probably "helping" his mother to plant some flowers around the patio. He didn't take up sailing for another 6 or 7 years.

He's still sailing.

He's still gardening.

Tillerwoman grows vegetables in raised beds.

Tiller Extension #1 grows vegetables in raised beds too.

A raised bed made by Tiller Extension #1

Tiller Extension #1 is a better sailor than me.

I think he would concede that his mother is a better gardener than him.  But they do learn things from each other. They are both better gardeners than me.

And here is the same little dude again at his 15 year college reunion last weekend.

Tiller Extension #1 in his college reunion photo

Can you spot which one is him?

Hint: He's not carrying a trowel or wearing a blue cardigan.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

A Tale of Two Boats

I now own two boats.

A Laser and an RS Aero.

It seems hard to believe but it's less than four weeks since the Aero was delivered.

I have to admit that in those few weeks I have sailed the Aero more times than the Laser, partly because I was desperately trying to learn how to sail the boat properly in preparation for racing in the first RS Aero Regatta in North America this side of the Continental Divide.

But the longer term plan is to split my time more or less equally between the two boats.

The question I have is whether sailing two boats that are similar in some ways (both hiking single-handers) but very different in others (designed in different centuries - one half the weight of the other) will make me a better sailor in either or both boats - or just very confused.

Some of my Laser sailing instincts undoubtedly help me in sailing the Aero. Some of those instincts may be totally wrong for the Aero. I need to unlearn old habits and learn new ones for a new boat.

Some of the challenges I face in learning to sail the Aero might help me with the Laser. Better feel for balancing the boat downwind perhaps? More practice at capsize recoveries maybe?

I don't know.

In his classic book on self-coaching in sailing - SAIL, RACE AND WIN - Eric Twiname lists swapping boats and classes as one of the twelve main ways of learning, right up there with race experience and solo practice and group coaching.

Twiname quotes Garry Hoyt in support of this theory…
It happens to be great fun to learn the quirks and idiosyncrasies of different boats. You will also find that each class emphasizes some particular skill, and if you learn that class you will have learned that particular skill better than anyone else who has not sailed that class.

So what do you think?

Will sailing the RS Aero make me a better Laser sailor?

Will continuing to sail the Laser make me a better RS Aero sailor?

Or do you only become a good sailor in one class by devoting all your time on the water to that one class?

I would really like to to hear your experiences and opinions on this question.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

TBT - Norfolk Broads - Messing About in Boats

Norfolk Broads in England - probably 1985.

Must have been the same week as the photo in this quiz.

For those how have never heard of the Norfolk Broads they are here…

The Norfolk Broads are a network of navigable rivers and lakes in the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk.

A great area for yachting and motor-cruising and generally messing about in boats.

My sons and I would have been about the same age as my two oldest grandsons and their father are now.

Life is good.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Roll on Columbia

I live in Tiverton, Rhode Island on the east coast of the United States.

At the end of July I plan to do a spot of yachting on the Columbia River, at Cascade Locks in Oregon, way over on the other side of the continent.

The Columbia is the fourth largest river in the United States, the largest river in the Pacific Northwest, and the river with the greatest flow of any North America river draining into the Pacific.

But I will not be the first sailor from Tiverton to sail on the Columbia River.

Far from it.

If you had asked me who were the first Americans of European origin to travel on the Columbia River, I would have guessed Lewis and Clark.

But I would have been wrong.

In fact the first American of European origin to sail a boat on the Columbia River was a native of Tiverton, Rhode Island - Captain Robert Gray.

Robert Gray was a merchant sea captain who undertook two trading voyages to the northern Pacific coast of North America, between 1787 and 1793, and pioneered the American maritime fur trade in that region.

He also completed the first American circumnavigation of the world in 1790.

Not many people know that.

During his 1792 journey, Gray noticed muddy waters flowing into the Pacific from the shore and decided to investigate whether he might have encountered the "Great River of the West."

On May 11 1792, he ordered a small sailboat launched to attempt to find a safe passage across the sand bars at the mouth of the river. On the evening of that day, his men found a safe channel, so he sailed his ship into the estuary of the Columbia River. Once there, they sailed upriver and Gray named this large river Columbia after his ship.

So that's why the Columbia River is called the Columbia River.

It's also why British Columbia is called British Columbia.

All down to some sailor from Tiverton.

Many years later, Woody Guthrie wrote a song about the Columbia River

And that's all I have to say about that.

Related posts
Down Down Down
Blowout of the Blowout
The Graveyard of the Pacific

Monday, June 01, 2015

First RS Aero Regatta in USA East of the Continental Divide

And so the big day arrived.

The first RS Aero regatta on the east coast of the US. (The Seattle fleet beat us by a couple of weeks to stage the first ever RS Aero Regatta in North America.)

Saturday was a perfect day for racing on Lake Massapoag, sunny, 80 degrees, wind from the SW in the mid-teens gusting into the 20s. Champagne sailing conditions.

I think that counting my days in an Aero in Minorca last year, the days in the demo RS Aero in Newport and Bristol in March and April, and the days on Lake Massapoag more recently in my own boat, this would be my 12th day sailing an Aero.

But I had never raced it before.

The race committee gave us 6 races with windward-leeward courses, usually 2 laps with a downwind finish, except for the last races of the morning and the afternoon when we had upwind finishes near the windward mark - and nearer to the club for post-race refreshments. As well as the 3 RS Aeros, there were 18 Sunfish and 8 Lasers at the regatta too.  The RS Aeros started with the Lasers, as we will for club racing. It seems to work out well and means less waiting around than if all the fleets had separate starts.

The short video gives you a good impression of what the sailing was like. But the caption "Tillerman Wins in an Aero" is totally wrong.  The blog reader who posted this video to YouTube exaggerated slightly. One Aero had already crossed the line so I was actually second Aero in that race, which is where I finished in the regatta too.

Not that I was too much worried about the result. My objectives for the day were basically…

1. Have fun.

2. Don't break anything on the boat.

3. Don't break anything on me.

4. Finish every race.

5. Have fun.

With a couple of minor exceptions to objective #3 (more in another post perhaps) all objectives were achieved.

Especially #1 and #5.

I can't remember the last time I had so much fun at a regatta.

I think I'll watch the video again now.