Monday, August 29, 2016

RS Aero US Nationals 2016 - Offset Mark Mayhem - Almost

Thanks to Cheryl Muir for these great photos of some of the action at the offset mark at the RS Aero US Nationals in the Columbia River Gorge a couple of weeks ago.

Here comes Tillerman in 2017, close behind Scott Malone in 1731 when Scott's RS Aero decides to do a windward roll on him.


Is this the dude who sailed single-handed non-stop across the Pacific with one hand tied behind his back. (I am sure I was told something like that by other sailors over a few beers on the night before the regatta.)

AAAAGH! He's going to take me out. His mast is going to land on my deck. How can I avoid him?

No wait. Phew! 2017 has escaped a close encounter with 1731.

But here come three more boats about to ram into 1731's hull and make massive gashes in it.


And where is Scott. Has he drowned?

Oh wait. Scott didn't drown. There he is again. Thank god for that!

But 1251 is going to sink Scott!

No wait. 1251 missed him.

But here comes 1422.  Eric Aker, El Presidente, is about to punch a YUGE hole in Scott's hull. And Scott can't even see him... yet.

And who is that coming into the frame from the left?

Oh look! Nobody hit the capsized boat.

But where is Scott?

Has he drowned again?

And Tillerman has rounded the offset mark, clear of the pack as he heads down the run.

Scott is still alive and hanging on to the transom of his turtled boat.

Woo hoo!

I probably screwed up big time later in the race.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Sailing World - What Motivates RS Aero Early Adopters

I have been an avid reader of Sailing World magazine for as long as I can remember. But I don't think I have ever been featured in it before.

If you are not already a subscriber to Sailing World then head on down to your nearest source of top quality sailing magazines, buy the September/October issue, and check out the article EMBRACING BETTER by SW editor Dave Reed on page 14.

The article is all about Dave's experiences attending an RS Aero clinic and sailing in the RS Aero Atlantic Coasts in Newport back in July. In the first part of the article he writes about some of the other participants at the clinic, how they became Aero fanatics, their views on the Aero and so on. Regular readers of this blog may find some of the players somewhat familiar, especially the fellow who is described as a "prolific blogger of the Laser lifestyle."

But what I really like about the article is how Dave captures exactly the spirit of us early RS Aero adopters, and explains why we went out and bought a boat which was so new and where no fleets yet existed. He talks about our "fun first fleet second" attitude, about how we "saw a better boat and knew the soulful satisfaction it would bring" and how we are showing off our Aeros wherever we go "recruiting or converting one sailor at a time."

I couldn't have said it anywhere as well myself. I guess that's why Dave earns the big bucks as editor of Sailing World and I'm just a humble not-very-prolific-these days blogger.

Tomorrow I'm off to give a sailor of some other class his first sail in an RS Aero and see if I can make a convert of him.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

You Saw it First in Rhode Island

On Monday, Tillerwoman and I took the High Speed Ferry from Fall River to Block Island to visit my son and his family, and play with our granddaughters on the beach.

On the way there and back on the ferry we saw a couple of sights which I suspect will become more common across the country in the coming years. 

1. America's First Offshore Wind Farm
The builders are just in the process of completing the construction of America's first offshore wind farm at Block Island. It is due to start generating power in October.

2. VX Evos 
Coming back into Newport in the evening we saw some VX Evos racing off Goat Island, along with at least one VX One and some other boat (a Melges 20?) The VX Evo is a new single-hander from Bennett Yachting designed for larger sailors. I think there are only six VX Evos in the country so far but I suspect many more are on the way. It's good to seem them already racing in Newport.


You saw it first in Rhode Island.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Wheels on the Bus

RS Aero racing on Lake Massapoag
Not last Sunday

On Sunday I went to scenic Lake Massapaog to do a spot of RS Aero racing.

Before the racing I met a new member of the club who owns a Laser Pico.

She explained to me that she was looking for something a bit more exciting than the Pico, and that someone had recommended she should check out the RS Aero.

Thank you "someone" whoever you are.

We had a good discussion about the RS Aero and the three rigs and the differences between the Pico and the Aero. Look forward to giving her a demo in the Aero one day soon.

Then I went off to race my RS Aero with my two fellow founders of the Boston Aero fleet.

I have to say they have become annoyingly fast over the summer. But that's OK. It's good to have training partners who are a bit faster than you, they say. Whoever "they" are.

In two races, first one "friend" and then the other "friend" basically took me out of the race on the start line. But that's OK. I need to learn to be more aggressive on the start line.

In the other race, my cunningham came out of its slot and I had to stop to do emergency repairs. But that's OK. I need to learn to remember to tuck the tail of my cunningham under that little bit of shockcord whose sole purpose is to keep the cunningham from coming out of it slot. Duh!

I sorta kinda had a chance some times to go as fast as my friends upwind, but downwind they were much faster than me. But they are skinny, scrawny kids who are respectively at least 20 and 40 lbs lighter than me, not to mention a couple of years younger. So it's just physics. I should sail my 9 rig next time and show them what a fat old dude can do.

So I mellowed out and sang a few verses of Wheels on the Bus while I was sailing and enjoyed sailing on one of the prettiest lakes in New England in the coolest boat on the planet.

Life is good.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

RS Aeros and Whaleboats

On Saturday I sailed a regatta for RS Aeros and Azorean whaleboats.

I know. It sounds surreal. It was.

21st century sailing dinghy meets traditional wooden working boat.

The regatta was hosted by the Low Tide Yacht Club in New Bedford, MA - once the center of the American whaling industry and home to a proud Portuguese immigrant population from the Azores.

I still am not sure exactly what happened.

We RS Aero sailors were paired with whaleboats.

The whaleboats rowed one course. We RS Aeros sailed another course.

Somehow the cumulative score of a whaleboat and an RS Aero decided the event.

One of my friends was paired with Pico, one of the boats in the video above.

I was paired with "A Gig" whatever that means.

I still have no idea which team won.

But it was fun, which is all that really matters.

Friday, August 19, 2016

RS Aero US Nationals 2016 - Columbia River Gorge

After moderate winds for the clinic on Wednesday and Thursday which were perfect for the purpose...

And a light easterly for the long downwind race and speed challenge on Friday which was exactly what was NOT needed...

For the RS Aero US Nationals on Saturday and Sunday the Gorge did what the Gorge does.  The westerly came in with a vengeance and then continued to build.

On Saturday it started at around 10 knots and then built up to about 22 in the puffs.

Me in 2017 getting a not too bad start. It was probably a general recall!

Four races were held each day. I survived three races on Saturday without a capsize although the conditions were very challenging for me in the third race. My finishing position improved in every race - but even so they weren't anything to write home about. After three races I was mentally and physically exhausted so I decided to call it a day.

On Sunday it was really nuking, with an average wind speed of 25 knots and over 30 in the gusts.

Me in 2017 - looks like that once again I didn't get my vang on before the start

In the first race I was hit on the head by the boom (duh!) but survived the experience and finished the race.

In the second race I was surfing downwind in a enormous gust - probably the fastest I have ever sailed in an Aero - and, remembering something a coach had once told me about it being easiest to gybe when you are going fastest, I attempted a gybe.  The coach was wrong! After the gybe the boat got an attack of the wobblies. (Apparently this is the official term for this phenomenon. At least, it was the term used by RS Aero uber coach Peter Barton at the clinic.)  First the boat tried to capsize to windward. I saved it. Then it tried to capsize to leeward. I saved it. Then it DID capsize to windward.  Glug, glug, glug!

Not the gust that did me in.

After righting the boat without too much trouble and watching the rest of the fleet sail over the horizon, I decided that I had had enough for the day and sailed slowly back to the beach.

When I got there, somebody looked at me and said, "Are you bleeding?"

Apparently I was. Even carbon fiber booms can draw blood. Is it time I started wearing a helmet for sailing?

Hmmm. I asked a doctor friend if there are any differences between the symptoms for concussion and the symptoms from drinking too much beer, and he said no. So I started early on the beer.

OK, I only completed half the races but I was so pumped up after five days sailing an RS Aero in the Gorge, that I am determined to improve my physical and mental fitness and heavy air skills so I can do better when I come back to the Gorge next year.

Oh, and by the way I was not the only sailor who struggled a little in the prevailing conditions. Out of 35 entries, 21 sailors failed to start or finish at least one of the races.

Aeros mating

Not a broken mast in case that's what you were thinking

Being towed in for an emergency repair after a collision

Just another capsize recovery
Even some of the sailors at the front of the fleet capsized occasionally

Thanks to Sean Trew for his amazing photos of the regatta, to Columbia Gorge Racing Association for hosting the event, to the regatta chairman Michael O'Brien, the coach for the clinic Peter Barton, and to all the volunteers who worked so hard to put on such a great event for us.

And a special thanks to a long time follower of this blog, John from PDX, who was one of the mark boat volunteers. It's always good to meet the crazy people who actually read the utter nonsense I post here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

I Love RS Aero Sailors

What do you do when the downwind race is actually upwind?

That was the dilemma facing the race committee last Friday at the RS Aero US Nationals in the Columbia River Gorge.

Prior to the real regatta for the national championship at the weekend, Friday had been scheduled for a long downwind race - a shorter version of the famous Laser Gorge Blowout.

In the summer, the winds in the Gorge "always" blow from the west because there is cold, dense, marine air at the western end of the Gorge (Portland) and hot, dry, not-so-dense air out in the desert at the east end of the Gorge. Hot air rises. The desert sucks. Portland blows. And the walls of the Gorge focus all that airflow into a narrow slot. Result - west winds nuking up the river every day. Perfect for the Blowout.

But not on Friday. For some reason Portland was super-hot that day - not cold. At first there was no wind. We went into postponement and were warned that the downwind race almost certainly wouldn't happen. Then the wind filled in fairly strongly across the other side of the river from the EAST. The wrong way. It was decided to do one "practice" race for the regatta instead of the downwind race, but by the time we had all sailed out to the course and the east wind had filled in on both sides of the river, it was very light. Rather than hang around for the RC to be ready to start the race, I chose to sail the course for practice on my own, and headed back to the beach when I was done.

Oops - I see the photographer snapped me on the way in. (See top of post.)

Wait! Why is this post called "I Love RS Aero Sailors?"

Be patient dear reader. I love RS Aero sailors because of two things that happened on Friday that had nothing to do with the long-downwind-oops-only-joking race.

1. RS Aero Rides for Kids
There were a few families with kids hanging out on the beach where we stored our Aeros for the clinic and regatta. I guess when there is no regatta going on, they think of it as "their" beach. Anyway, the kids were interested in these cool looking boats on their beach and Marc Jacobi took the lead by offering to give one inquisitive little girl a ride on his boat (with permission from her mother of course.) Pretty soon, several other sailors were giving boat rides to the kids.

What a nice gesture! Who knows if these sailors inspired some of the kids to take up sailing as a sport. But they were certainly great ambassadors for sailing in general and the RS Aero class in particular. I love RS Aero sailors!

2, Speed Challenge vs Beer
The other event that was scheduled for Friday was an RS Aero Speed Challenge. This is where sailors take out an Aero with a Velocitek Speed Puck and blast around on the river with the objective of achieving the highest speed (averaged over a 10 second interval.)

By the time we were ready for the speed challenge, a light to moderate breeze had filled in from the west, but by no means strong enough to set any impressive speed records.

The regatta chairman polled all the sailors: "What do you want to do? Speed challenge or relax and drink beer?"

The result was unanimous. "Relax and drink beer" won the day.

I love RS Aero sailors. They are my kind of people.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Thought for the Day - Hebrews 12:1

Briefing from the Principal Race Officer on day one of the RS Aero US Nationals at the Gorge.

The wind for the first race on Saturday at the RS Aero Nationals was around 10-15 knots increasing to 16-22 knots for the subsequent three races. Marc Jacobi - one of the best sailors at the regatta - has already posted an excellent account on his blog of the action at the front of the fleet. Marc capsized three times so you can imagine the mayhem at the bottom end of the fleet where I was.

Some day soon I will get around to posting my usual list of excuses for how badly I was sailing on Saturday. But as today is Sunday and "they" say it will be even windier for day two, I thought some biblical inspiration would be appropriate.

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Blind Squirrel Finds Nut

Peter Barton - International RS Aero Class Manager
and coach at RS Aero Performance Clinic at the Gorge

On Thursday, the second day of the RS Aero Performance Clinic at the Columbia River Gorge, the winds were a little less challenging than on the first day, perfect for practicing the topic of the day: straight line boat speed on all points of sail.

Peter Barton took us through all the key aspects of the topic. That's Peter in the photo at the top of the page. There is no truth in the rumor that Peter was given that Chevy Camaro by RS Sailing as a bonus for helping them to sell over 1000 RS Aeros within two years (although he certainly deserves such a bonus for all his efforts.). In any case, a good sturdy Volvo with a roof rack would be much more practical for a man like him.

Where was I? Where am I? What were we talking about?

Oh yes, there was no wind in the morning on Thursday so we listened to Peter explaining how to go fast in an RS Aero and I took copious notes (which I now find are almost illegible.) The wind filled in at lunchtime and we went out to practice what we had learned.

After a few windward-leeward races with the fleet working on high modes and low modes and reaching angles and running angles and how not to get stuffed on the start line, I decided to go off on my own and do lots of slow tacks aiming to fix the deficiency in my footwork that I had discovered on the first day of the clinic.

After a few gazillion very slow, but gradually improving, tacks I rejoined the fleet for a long downwind race up the river. This only served to confirm that (a) I am on the heavy side for the RS Aero 7 rig in these conditions and/or (b) I am not very good at sailing downwind in an RS Aero.

Of course after racing for two miles downwind we had to finish off the day with a two mile upwind race. I pondered the strategy. I didn't have a clue what the wind was doing, or more importantly what the wind would do in the next half hour, but there was certainly more favorable current on the right hand (Washington) side of the river so I decided my strategy was to go right and stay in the channel. I started near the starboard end of the line (which was actually a government mark for the edge of the channel) and tacked to port as soon as I could. About half a dozen RS Aero 9s (larger sail area than my Aero 7) started 30 seconds later.

It soon became apparent that most of the Aero 7s were heading left to the Oregon shore of the river, and only a couple of other Aero 7s came to the right with me. Whereas almost all the 9s went right.

Hmmm!  I wonder why?

Anyway I tried to adjust my sail controls to keep the boat powered up in the wind conditions and hiked as hard as I could. I was in clear air most of the time and didn't have to deal with any other pesky sailors crossing me or making me tack, so I could just concentrate on getting in the groove, as they say, and sailing as fast as I could (which after all was the topic of the day.)

I was expecting to be passed pretty soon by the Aero 9s but it didn't happen. Maybe they were slowly gaining on me but they weren't catching me. One other Aero 7 sailor was sailing much higher than me but I decided to keep the bow down and sail low and fast, just to see what would happen.

Eventually it was time to head back left cross the river to the finish line near the Oregon shore and it became apparent by now that the strategy of staying in the channel had worked out... big time. The first few boats to cross the finish line had all gone right. The race was won by an Aero 7 sailor who in a former life was one of the best Sunfish sailors in the world. And I was passed just before the finish by one Aero 9 sailor who in his former life was one of the best Laser Masters sailors in North America. And I took third (out of 22 boats.)

Not too shabby for an old guy.

Me crossing the finish line not sailing very flat
Yes, those little white dots in the distance are in the same race

And so to dinner with a few fellow sailors at the Thunder Island Brewing Company which apparently is an "adventure based" brewery whatever that means.

Coming soon - what to do when the downwind distance race is actually upwind... and a poll of what RS Aero sailors think about beer vs sailing.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Tacks and Gybes and Beer

On Wednesday the winds were "on the strong side of moderate" for the first day of the two day RS Aero clinic at the Columbia River Gorge.

The coach running the clinic, Peter Barton from the UK, mainly had us focusing on our technique for gybes and tacks.

I learned a lot...

1. My footwork in tacks is all wrong and is the reason why I am so slow in getting into the toe-straps and hiking properly on the new tack. I blame 30 years of Laser sailing for giving me bad habits. Unfortunately I wasn't able to break the key bad habit yesterday. My tacks didn't really improve after a whole day of tacking and gybing on the whistle. More practice is indicated.

2. The timing and technique for grabbing the "falls" of the main sheet to pull the boom across and initiate gybes is more subtle than I realized.  I was doing much better gybes after a day of tacking and gybing on the whistle.

3. A day of practice in "strong side of moderate" winds has done wonders for my confidence.

4. Coming second in the last race of the day did even more for my confidence.

5. Beer immediately after sailing is a recovery drink.

After the clinic we enjoyed an excellent dinner of pulled pork and all the trimmings served outside on the lawn by the side of the river in the Marine Park. RS Aero sailors seem to enjoy discussing...

1. How many different ways can there be to score a class with three rigs racing together? Answer - a hell of a lot once you start thinking about it.

2. Will anybody ever break Chunky's 23.9 knots RS Aero world speed record? One of our number believes he can do it on flat water on a day when it's blowing over 40 knots.

3. What will the winds do for the rest of the week. Will they "invert" - whatever that means? Answer - nobody knows and in any case we will just sail the winds we get. In 2 knots we will go sailing. In 40 knots we will go sailing. (Well maybe the guy who wants to break Chunky's record will go sailing.)

4. Why is that boat flying a Union Jack and who is responsible?

5. Have you sold your Laser yet?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


It's funny what people remember about my blog.

Yesterday I travelled to the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon and for the next five days I will be taking part in various RS Aero activities, a two day clinic, a long downwind race, a speed challenge, and two days of racing for the RS Aero US National Championship.

I met up yesterday evening with some sailors I knew from my trip to the Gorge last year, and a few new faces, and we had dinner at the Red Bluff Tap House in Stevenson. Inevitably one of the sailors had read my blog and was telling the others about one of his favorite posts Laser Sailing: The Rules - which is really a disrespectful and profane guide to Laser sailing culture and etiquette. He particularly liked Rules 16-20 which are all about how to not look like a dork. Or maybe he really liked the photo of fellow sailing blogger, Tweezerman, looking like a dork.

Sorry Tweezerman. Apparently you are famous in the Pacific North West.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. Maybe even some sailing posts.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Where am I?

Tillerwoman found this old photo of me.

I am on a boat and I am smiling and I have hair!

But where am I?

And what year was this?