Friday, January 29, 2016

Laser Frostbiting with Dave Perry

The last time I sailed with the Newport Laser frostbite fleet (aka Fleet 413) was on December 20. We enjoyed a special treat on that day because we had racing rules guru Dave Perry give us a seminar on the Racing Rules before sailing. Then we did our normal racing and Dave came out in a motorboat to shoot some video of us. After racing, Dave gave us a debrief using some of the video from our racing to illustrate various points about the Racing Rules and tactics and other good stuff.

A guru - not Dave Perry

So it's now 40 days since I last went sailing and I am getting a serious case of cabin fever.

A cabin

There have been a few weekends in the last few weeks when there was no sailing at all by the fleet on account of circumstances beyond our control like Christmas, gale force winds and heavy rain, winds in the 20s and temps in the 20s, or other such nonsense.

Fleet captain checking whether it is OK to sail this week

And then on the weekends when there was some sailing I wimped out on account of the dreaded man cold or the dreaded twisted ankle from falling over in the kitchen (how did that happen?) or other such nonsense.

I have been reduced to writing blog posts about such fascinating topics as squeezing a pimple, gasometers,  and Strictly Come Dancing. Blame the cabin fever.

Strictly Come Dancing

So let's get back to some real sailing again.

My performance when racing on that Sunday before Christmas was about the same as every other week I sailed this season.

  • One fairly good race, when I managed to find a clear lane not too long after the start, play the shifts and the puffs more or less correctly, and arrive at the windward mark with the Laser sailing rock stars.

  • A couple of bad races when I got totally blown away on the start line and spent most of the first beat gasping for air on account of the 40 or 50 Lasers in front of me.

  • A couple of races where I arrived at the starboard tack layline simultaneously with the majority of the other 40 or 50 Lasers, tacked on what I thought was the layline, only to discover because of the tide or a big lefty shift or not being able to judge the layline properly or other such nonsense that I wasn't going to be able to lay the mark, and having to gybe around and go back down the line of 40 or 50 boats to try and find a gap to tack through which usually was between the boats who were 47th and 48th in the race. Ugly!

Here for your amusement are a couple of Dave Perry's videos.

The first is from my only good race that day. Dave used this video of a leeward mark rounding to teach us about communication at the mark.  That's me in 157812 rounding in the company of sailors who usually finish way ahead of me. I think I scored a 5th in this race

And here is a windward mark rounding. Dave used this video to explain why it is better to overstand than to tack short of the layline in a crowded fleet. If you look carefully you can see me in the middle distance bailing out when I realize I won't lay the mark and going the wrong way to try and find a gap between the 47th and 48th boats or something. 

Have a good laugh at my expense.

You're welcome!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Question for Sea Lawyers

I was just browsing the Notice of Race and Sailing Instructions for the Sailing World Cup (as one does.)

The Sailing World Cup Miami Round is under way this week and this event will be the first of two regattas by which US sailors will be selected for the 2016 US Olympic team in eight of the ten Olympic sailing classes.

Among the usual gobbledegook you find in NORs and SIs, the table below caught my eye. It defines the minimum third-party liability you need to enter each of the round of the Sailing World Cup.

Can anyone explain to me why it varies so much from country to country?

For example...

On the one hand, Australia - 5 million dollars and UK - 3 million pounds

On the other hand, USA - 300,000 dollars

And don't tell me the answer is exchange rates. The Aussie dollar and the GB pound are not THAT weak against the US dollar!

I thought the USA was the home of litigiousness, and ambulance chasing lawyers willing to sue on a contingency basis for personal injury, and outrageously high awards of damages (as well as being the home of the brave and the free, of course.)

Why do you need so much higher liability insurance to compete in the UK, Australia or Europe?

Monday, January 25, 2016

Hammerhead and Gasometer - Digging Up Isle of Wight History

Is there anything you can't find out on the Internet?

Yesterday's Where Am I? photo quiz was a great example.

I posted a photo of myself sailing a Laser about 30 years ago because I had totally forgotten where it was taken. Would any of my friends know where I was?

A few hours later, Bursledon Bogger had the answer. On the River Medina in Cowes on the Isle of Wight. And he identified it by using a landmark in the photo that I had hardly noticed - two tiny little black squares in the far distance, probably about a mile away, which he recognized as the Cowes Hammerhead Crane.

The Cowes Hammerhead crane is a massive dockyard crane at the mouth of the River Medina and is unique in being the only pre WW2 dockyard crane left in existence in England.

This was excellent confirmation for one of the locations I had suspected for the photo, as I do remember taking a sailing course at the National Sailing Centre in Cowes which was about half a mile upriver from the crane.

But one thing troubled me initially about my theory that this could be the location. What about that even more prominent landmark in the photo, that black cylinder on the right of my photo? It looks like one of those gas holders aka gasometers that you used to see in almost every English town. I couldn't find any such object in the satellite view on Google Maps anyway near where the photo must have been taken.

But wait, surely the Internet could solve the mystery.

A quick Google yesterday afternoon turned up this old Pathe newsreel (sadly with no sound) of the Duke of Edinburgh officially opening the National Sailing Centre in 1969. I don't think I can embed it in this post so you will just have to follow the link to watch the video. (You can buy it for 40 quid, if you want!)

At 1:00 the Duke arrives - by boat of course!

At 2:00 the Duke gives a speech to a crowd assembled outside by the side of the river. Hoorah!

At 2:16 the camera pans right to look upriver and you can see a gasometer!

At 2:33 the camera pans right again as the Duke enters the building and looking upriver we see not one - but two gasometers. (You can see them also at about 1:50.)

At 2:40 the Duke unveils a plaque to commemorate the event. God save the Queen!

At 3:07 the audience seeks shelter from the rain. (It is England in summer after all.)

At 3:14 the camera pans left to look down the river - it is still raining - and we see through the drizzle.... the Hammerhead Crane!

So there were a couple of gasometers on the East Cowes side of the river, upriver from the NSC. Why can't I see them on the satellite view in Google Maps?

In researching the gasworks in East Cowes on the Google, I discovered this email (on of all places) which said that the works were resited to Kingston Road in the 1920s or 1930s.

So I went back to Google Maps. At the end of Kingston Road by the side of the River Medina we see this!

Hmmm. Looks pretty conclusive to me. I bet those circular concrete pads were the bases of the gasometers, one of which is in my photo.

So the photo of me, taken by the course instructor presumably, shows two of the most prominent and memorable landmarks on the River Medina and I didn't remember either of them, even though I had visited the NSC two or three times and must have sailed on that river about ten times.

I am only grateful that we have the Google these days to assist the failing memories of old geezers like me. Why bother to remember anything when almost everything worth knowing is all on the Interwebs... somewhere.

This silly meme, currently doing the rounds on Facbook, didn't quite get it right for me.

Tillerman DOES annoy his friends by asking stupid questions.

Then Tillerman googles the questions and annoys his friends even more by blogging about it.

Oh well.

I am what I am.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Where Am I?

Where am I?

This photo quiz is a little different from previous ones, in that I don't actually know the answer myself. I am hoping one of my clever readers will tell me where this photo was taken and that I will then have an "AHAH!" moment and my memory of this day will come flooding back.

So here is what I do know and what I don't know (as best as I can remember.)

I have never owned a Laser with a sail with a rainbow stripe like that.

I have never owned a sail like that.

It looks like the sail number starts 11xxxx.  I have never owned a Laser with a number in that series.

My first Laser was number 93933 and it had an orange hull and orange sail. It was bought in the early 1980s.

My next Laser was number 134628 and it had a teal hull and a white sail. It was bought in 1988.

So the sail in the photo was from a Laser sold in the mid 1980s.

So if it's not my Laser why am I sailing it?

Maybe I was doing some sailing course where the boats and sails were provided?

The fact that I appear to be being followed by a motor boat suggests it might be from some kind of course or coaching session.

Or perhaps I just rented or chartered that Laser when I was on vacation somewhere?

Or borrowed it from a friend?

The fact that I seem to have some hair left in this photo, and was wearing that red non-USCG approved "bubble wrap" PFD suggests that this photo was probably taken in the 1980s or early 1990s.

I moved from England to New Jersey at the end of 1988. So the place could be either of those.

Or France. Or Spain. Or somewhere else in the north-eastern US. Or Canada. Or Texas. Or Florida. Or somewhere else that I don't even remember visiting in this years.

It's just a hunch (and I could be wrong) but I think the most likely explanation for this photo was that it was taken on a sailing course I went on before leaving the UK.

I do remember doing one such course at the National Sailing Centre in Cowes and another one at the Calshot Activities Center. So this photo could have been taken on the Isle of Wight or somewhere on the mainland opposite IOW.

Or did I do some other sailing course in a place I can't remember now?

That big black cylindrical object on the right of the photo might be the best clue to the location.

Could that be one of those gas holders aka gasometers that you used to see all over England? If so, remember this photo is probably almost 30 years old, so that gasometer may have been demolished by now.

Or maybe it's not a gasometer at all, but some historic coastal defence tower? It's hard to tell.

Anyway, that object would surely be remembered by anyone who had sailed this waterway. (Except apparently not by me!)

So please help me! Where am I?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Winter Storm Jonas - This Too Will Pass

The weather forecast for tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon...

Looks like a perfect day for frostbiting!

Hard to believe when we also have this winter storm warning in effect for today and tonight.






Nothing to do but hunker down and dream of sailing. (And maybe put a snow shovel in the car to dig the boat out?)

Where's my bottle of rum?

1:23pm Saturday: Update just received from the fleet captains via email...
Hello Fleet 413, 
We are planning on racing tomorrow! 
Bring snow shovels!  

Thursday, January 21, 2016

D-Zero and RS Aero Review

In March 2015, Steve Cockerill of Rooster Sailing fame published an account on his blog of testing the RS Aero and the Devoti D-Zero in 20 knots of breeze (gusting to 25) at Stokes Bay Sailing Club in England.

For those of you who have been living under a rock for the last year or so, the Devoti D-Zero and the RS Aero are two new lightweight single-handers which were both launched at the UK Dinghy Show in March 2014. Both of have sold in large numbers in the UK. Here in the USA (where I live) there isn't a strong distributor network for the D-Zero, so the RS Aero has been much more successful. (So far.)

Living under a rock

Steve's review of the two boats is very comprehensive and covers pretty much everything you would want to know from what it was like to launch and recover them off a lee shore in strong winds, to how it felt to sail them on different points of sail, to how easy it was to adjust the controls, etc. etc. etc. You can read his review here.

Inevitably Steve also compared the performance and feel of the D-Zero and RS Aero with the more ancient but extremely popular Laser.  And I was particularly amused by how Steve chose to describe the sensation of sailing downwind in the three different boats.

He writes that, "As a Laser sailor who works very hard to get my Laser to manoeuvre, I normally feel like I am dancing with Ann Widdecombe." 68-year-old Ann Widdecombe, a former British Conservative MP, appeared on the British TV dancing competition program Strictly Come Dancing which is presumably where Steve gained his impression on what it would be like to dance with her...

"Works very hard to get her to manoeuvre"

By contrast Steve found that the D-Zero was "eager and responsive" downwind and was moved to comment that it was more like dancing with Caroline Flack. The 36-year-old Miss Flack is an English TV presenter who appeared on Strictly Come Dancing in 2014 and actually won it.

"Eager and responsive"

I don't think Steve liked the RS Aero quite as much as the D-Zero. He reported, "The Aero was very stable and took the downwind easily whether I opted for wave avoidance or just took her straight downwind by the lee. Pretty much predictable downwind sailing. You might find a hint of disappointment in my words, as I do like to do a bit of a dance, and this reminded me of dancing with Judy Murray – sportie robust but rather stiff."

56-year-old Judy Murray is a Scottish tennis coach and the mother of professional tennis player Andy Murray (currently ranked #2 in the world.) Of course she also appeared on Strictly Come Dancing. How else would Steve Cockerill know what she is like as a dance partner?

"Sportie, robust but rather stiff"

And that, of course, is the answer to yesterday's photo quiz post. Thanks to everyone who took a shot at it. Sorry this one was so obscure!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Sailing Photo Quiz - Really

Thanks to Captain JP for the inspiration for this post.

What is the sailing connection between these three photos?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

3 Amazing Things I Learned From Sailing Blogs

It's amazing what you can learn from sailing blogs.

Only this week on three different sailing blogs I learned that some science that I thought I knew was totally wrong, I discovered some excellent marital guidance counseling, and I became aware of a solemn duty that nobody had told me of before.

1. How Tides Really Work

I thought I knew how the moon and the sun cause the tides on earth. But apparently the explanation I had heard (and which I suspect 99% of my readers believe) is actually totally wrong. The blogger known as Keep Reaching who writes the excellent Laser sailing blog Reaching Broadly has a link to a video that puts us straight.



I have learned all sorts of useful stuff about sailing on Damian's excellent blog The Final Beat. But I didn't expect to read that sailing might ruin my marriage. Don't be like Damian. Learn from his mistakes. Let this be an awful warning to you.

If you want this...

but she wants this...

then you will have too much of this...

and you might end up doing this...

and will never get to this.

I am always looking for a good excuse to drink rum. But I never knew before that it is our duty as amateur sailors to drink rum.

Thanks to John Vigor's excellent blog which is cleverly titled John Vigor: Blog I have learned a lot about the history of sailing and rum - not to mention futtock shrouds - and why this means we absolutely have to drink rum.

Futtock shrouds

A mug

Some rum

I think I'll have a tot of rum now and take a nap.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Looking at my Feet

Looking at my feet

Before heading off on my vacation in the BVI last month, I downloaded a copy of Nick Craig's book Helming to Win to my Kindle. After reading Damian's review of this book on his excellent sailing blog The Final Beat, I was eagerly anticipating learning some new tricks to improve my sailing.

I think I read most of the book while sitting on airplanes and/or sitting in airports while waiting to sit on airplanes.

I guess there was also a bit of time for reading too while I was at the Bitter End Yacht Club i.e. when I was not actually sailing or kayaking or eating or drinking or walking back and forth between our "tree house for grown-ups" and the places for drinking and eating, and the places for sailing and kayaking and other good stuff.

Tree house for grown-ups

Place for sailing and kayaking and other good stuff

Place for eating

Place for drinking

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes. Nick Craig's book.

There's a lot of good advice in it, but one thing that caught my attention early in the book was the chapter on Where to Look when Racing. Nick says there are 5 modes (places to look.)

1. Your feet
2. The telltales on your sail
3. The water
4. Spotting the next few shifts
5. The big picture

Of course there are times when you need to use each one of these modes - yes, even mode 1 - but generally speaking, as you become a better sailor, you should be spending most of the times in modes 4 and 5, with modes 1, 2 and 3 coming instinctively. Your boat handling should be slick enough without having to look at your feet, you should be able to sail fast without staring hypnotically at the telltales all the time, and a fleeting glance should let you know what the wind will do in the immediate future.


This is certainly an area in which I could improve. I think I spend way too much time looking at my telltales to focus on boat speed (mode 2.) I might occasionally look upwind to see if a gust or a lull is coming (mode 3.)

As for spotting the next few shifts, I can count on the fingers of one hand the times I have been able to do that. No, wait that's an exaggeration. I can remember only one single time in my whole racing career when I was in mode 4.

As for mode 5. The big picture is usually that most of the fleet are way ahead of me. What help is it to focus on that?

Turn out I was wrong. I am not even in mode 2 a lot of the time.

Here is a picture of me racing with the Newport Laser frostbite fleet on the Sunday before Christmas.

It looks like I am in the process of rounding a leeward mark and still sheeting in.

Am I looking up the course to see where the stronger wind might be?

Am I trying to see where the next shift - or even better, the next few shifts - are coming from?

Am I checking out the big picture of what the sailors ahead of me are doing?

No. I am not.

I am looking down at something in the boat.

Not my feet perhaps.  But there's nothing on my foredeck that's going to give me any useful information for the next leg of the course.

I am sailing in mode 1! Ugh!

One thing I learned from this photo is that I need an external view - a coach, a video, a photo - to remind me from time to time what I am doing wrong when I am sailing.

Maybe this year I will finally get around to buying a GoPro camera and videoing my own practice sessions.

As Yogi Berra said, "You can observe a lot by just watching."

And you can learn a lot by reading this book...

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Weather for Sailing on Sunday


31mph winds gusting to 59mph at 1pm.

Getting stronger later in the afternoon.

And raining.

I expect any minute now we will get an email from the fleet captain telling us it's going to be an epic day for sailing because the temperature will be in the 50s!

Monday, January 04, 2016

A Sailor Looks Back on 2015

2015 was another funny old year.

Inevitably I will remember it as the year of the RS Aero.

Let's see what I blogged about...

In January, as usual, I was pondering my New Year's Resolutions. To resolve or not to resolve; that is the question. Eventually I decided to ignore what Eric Twiname and Dennis Conner said, and instead to follow the advice of Samuel Beckett and Damian from The Final Beat blog, not to mention inspiration from Jayne Mansfield and The Two Ronnies.

The Two Ronnies 
with someone who is not Jayne Mansfield.
Sorry about that.

The plan was to
1. Envy more.
2. Do more than those guys do.
3. Fail again.
4. Fail better.

It didn't exactly work out because "those guys" did even more.

But I did achieve #1 and #3.

Oh well!

February's blogging was a little sparse, touching on such topics as Janet Jackson's breast, how to get from Rhodes to Rhodes, and why America still seems strange to me even after living here for over XXV years. Nothing to see here. Let's move along.

March 2015 is a month that will go down in sailing history for being the first time that an RS Aero was sailed in Newport, Rhode Island. Or anywhere in Rhode Island, I guess. Probably the first time in the whole of New England.

It all happened because of the ingenuity, persuasiveness and persistence of my friend, the sailor formerly know as the Email Dude. The Email Dude had had an RS Aero on order for a year. But he still hadn't had a chance to try one. So he persuaded our friendly local RS Aero dealer, Scott Hardy of the Boat Locker, to lend us his demo RS Aero. Not deterred that we were in the middle of the worst winter in living memory, and that all the lakes and most of the bays were frozen over, the Email Dude took the demo RS Aero to Newport... and the rest is history.

The Email Dude launching his RS Aero in Newport

I was still waiting for delivery of my RS Aero in April.

But it was on its way!

I was so excited I even blogged about the container ship it was on.

And obsessively followed the ship's track.

What can I say? It was a long winter. I even lost Tillerwoman in the snow one day.

Sorry about that dear.

May was a great month. A HUGE month.

On May 14, Scott delivered three RS Aeros to my house. The Aeros Have Landed!

Three shiny new RS Aeros

My two friends and I had a few chances to practice with our RS Aeros, including one memorable day when it was gusting 30 knots, and then at the end of May we raced in the First RS Aero Regatta in the USA East of the Continental Divide.

These two quotes from that post say it all.
"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 can't remember the last time I had so much fun at a regatta."

 Me in an RS Aero

June was a great sailing month too.

I mixed it up with some Laser sailing in Rhode Island and RS Aero sailing at the lake club in Massachusetts. This caused me to write a post pondering the benefits of sailing in two different classes A Tale of Two Boats.

Me in a Laser

I was also competing in the Wednesday night pursuit races in the club and wrote a post trying to explain why I was enjoying this experience so much - with the cheesy title The Pursuit of Happiness.

What can I say about July?

I sailed in one of the most amazing sailing venues on earth, a place long on my bucket list, in the first North American Championship for the coolest new singlehander on the planet.

What could be better than that?

August was a quiet month for blogging in Lake Wobegon, apart from some more babbling about how awesome the RS Aero North Americans had been. I think I was still high. Sorry about that.

September was memorable for the 66th Annual Massapoag YC Regatta which is famous for having the largest ever fleet of RS Aeros to sail in a regatta east of the continental divide. One of my blogging friends described this post as, "Best race report which barely discussed sailing I've ever read."

Skippers' meeting at 66th annual MYC regatta

I've noticed I have developed a tendency to write very long posts about the first day of a regatta and then forget to write anything about the second day. Sorry about that.

October was memorable for the day when I (almost) won the 43 boat Archipelago Rally. Thankfully it was only a one day regatta so my readers weren't deprived of half the story.

For some reason this photo is in my post about the Archipelago Rally 
but now I don't recall actually seeing this boat in the race.

November was memorable for my return to Laser frostbite racing in Newport.

I wrote about it at the pithily titled Hubcap Diamond Star Halo 56th Sail.

Me sailing my Laser in Newport 
and actually doing well in one race
Bang a gong!

December was memorable for another awesome sailing vacation at Bitter End Yacht Club and actually doing well in another race with the Newport Laser Frostbite Fleet. I haven't written about either of them (much) yet. Sorry about that.

2015 was another funny old year.

I sailed small boats  - RS Aero, Laser or some variety of Hobie cat - on 66 days in the year, which is about average for recent years.

But I only wrote 128 blog posts which is way down from my usual output.

Sorry about that.

Maybe I should scrap this blog altogether and start writing a new one called Sorry About That?