Monday, September 22, 2014

Don't Do Stupid Stuff



"Don't do stupid stuff" may not be a organizing principle for planning a campaign to be the best Laser sailor on the planet, but it sure is a mantra that can radically improve your results when racing in a small local fleet.

Two Sundays ago I raced with the Duxbury Laser fleet. I only did one really stupid thing (capsizing while tacking - don't ask - I have no idea why it happened) and I won a number of races and was first overall for the day.

Yesterday I raced again with the Duxbury Laser fleet and did lots of stupid stuff. As a result my results were abysmal. But I still had fun.



Somehow I won the first race. I did that last week too. Maybe I warm up and get in the groove faster than the other sailors. But it was all downhill from there.

In the second race I was OCS and had to go back to restart. In a close fleet on a short course it only takes one incident like that to dump you way down the fleet. Actually I don't really count one OCS in nine races as stupid stuff. I almost take pride in it because it shows I am being aggressive on the start line and I did have some very good starts in the other races so that was all good.

In the next race I tried to cross a starboard tacker on the beat and he just clipped my transom. That's really stupid stuff. I should know better.

I did my 720 for that incident. Later in the day I asked the fleet captain whether the local rule was a 360 or a 720 for boat to boat rule violations. Turned out it was a 360 (as it is in some other local fleets.) Not knowing the local rules (or reading the SIs) is more stupid stuff.

In another race I was behind two boats coming into the gybe mark. I figured the outside one would round wide and I would be able to follow the transom of the inside boat and sneak inside the outer boat. I was wrong. He closed the gap on me. I ended up going the wrong side of the gybe mark AND hitting it. Duh! More stupid stuff.

Then there was another race where I was leading and I was heading for the right hand gate mark on starboard tack, but another boat managed to get an overlap to windward of me on what would be the inside well before we entered the zone. So, as leeward boat, I sailed him way to the right of the mark, gybed and entered the zone clear ahead. I was pretty pleased with myself for about a millisecond, until I tried to gybe again and round the mark. I dropped my tiller AND rounded up head to wind AND hit the mark AND snagged the mark's line with my rudder  (don't ask - I have no idea why it happened) AND dragged the mark upwind a few boat lengths before I figured out what was happening. Quintuple duh! Lots of stupid stuff. The other guy was so disgusted at my antics that he wisely decided to keep well clear of me so he went round the other gate mark and beat me handily as did most of the rest of the fleet by the time I had disentangled myself.

So yes. I did lots of stupid stuff yesterday. If I hadn't done so much stupid stuff my finishes would have been so much better.



On the other hand, look on the bright side...

Tillerman's stupid mistakes were fodder for much hilarity and teasing over beers at the Milepost Tavern later. I suspect it will take me a few weeks to live it all down. I am pleased that I am able to afford my friends so much amusement.

We do learn from our mistakes, don't we? I figure the memories of yesterday's mistakes are so seared in my mind that I probably won't make the same mistakes again for a while.

And when I do lots of stupid stuff, at least it gives me something to blog about.



PS. Yesterday was my 42nd day of Laser sailing this year. My regular (male) readers know what's coming next…


Saturday, September 20, 2014

An Ode to Frostbiting

Forget Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Forget John Masefield.

Forget Hilda Doolittle. 
(Actually most people have already forgotten Hilda Doolittle.)




There is a new sailing poet ready to enter the Sailing Poetry Hall of Fame 
along with the other immortals. 




This poem will change your life. It is earth-shatteringly brilliant. 
(I know this is true because the author has modestly pointed this out to us.)




And he is right.

Read it now.



Friday, September 19, 2014

Laser Mark II Sail

A few minutes ago LaserPerformance Sailboats posted this message on their Facebook page.



LaserPerformance introduces the New Standard Laser Mark II Sail! 
This is the sail everyone has been waiting for. Sailors can now enjoy an optimized training experience thanks to the Mark II!
The Mark II is considerably more durable with its bi-radial construction and manufactured with a longer lasting 4.5 ounce Dacron cloth. Optimized sail patches, new luff tube design, larger window, and a blue starburst are all new features on the Mark II!
The Mark II Sail is available now for pre-order on a first come first serve basis. It is available for purchase starting in January 2015.

This appears to be the long-awaited more durable Laser sail that was supposedly being delayed because of Bruce Kirby's lawsuits against the Laser builders and the Laser class.  It looks as if LaserPerformance has decided to give Laser sailors what they want and not let the legal process hold it up any longer.

The sail is available on both the US and European LaserPerformance websites for $395 and £246 respectively - a lot cheaper than the current official Laser sails.

However, there is a bit of a caveat posted on those websites…
Although it has not been approved by the Laser Class or ISAF for competition, it is time to put the training sail out in the market for the sailors to train and enjoy. 
While we wait for its approval, with each purchase the consumer will also receive a rebate coupon towards their purchase of a class approved Mark II sail, if and when it becomes available. Coupon will be valued at $80 redeemable through dealer or directly through LaserPerformance. After class approval, the Mark II starburts will revert back to red. Don't miss a great opportunity, order them as soon as you can.

I wonder what the response of the class will be. Can we even approve it while the legal battle continues?

Of course I am sure that the conspiracy theorists will see this as some kind of tactic in the war for global domination between LaserPerformance and Global Sailing, and others will whine that you can buy cheaper "training" sails elsewhere. But I'm a "glass half full" kind of guy and prefer to see it as a positive step in the right direction.


Bart's Bash



Want to race against Ben Ainslie and Iain Percy this weekend?

You can, wherever you are in the world and whatever kind of boat you have.

Go to www.bartsbash.co.uk and sign up.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

27 Things To Do on your Laser or Sunfish While Waiting Between Races



A reader asked what you should do when waiting between Laser races at a regatta.

Good question.

Personally I hate waiting for anything.  But it's an inevitability at many large regattas. We wait for wind. We wait for the RC to adjust the course. We wait for other fleets using the same course to get their starts off. We wait while other fleets using the same course have a gazillion general recalls.

etc. etc. etc.

Ugh!

So what to do.

1. Hydrate. Very important on a long day of racing, especially if the weather is warm. Sometimes the RC will hand out water and sometimes you have to bring your own drink. Whatever. Drink something between every race. Dehydration will degrade your racing performance and make you feel weird too.

2. Pee. You did read #1 I hope. After drinking gallons of water, eventually the time will come when you have to get rid of it. We all do it. But if you are a man and are going to stand on the transom of your Laser and unzip and wave it around, then sail a distance away from your fellow sailors. We all have one. Well most of us do. But we don't want to see yours.



3. Eat something. Whole screeds have been written on what to eat during exercise that lasts several hours. Sometimes we race more hours in a day than it would take us to run a marathon. Nutrition experts will lecture you on what to eat and what not to eat. My own personal advice would be to find something that works for you and stick with it. Personally I like Clif Bars and those energy gels that long distance runners use - especially the ones with caffeine. What do you like to eat on the water?



4. Stretch. Some people are quite skilled at doing all those fancy yoga stretches on a Laser but I never seem to manage them without falling off the boat. I should practice this more.

5. Watch the other fleets starting. As Yogi Berra said, "You can observe a lot by watching."  What's the bias on the start line? Which side of the beat seems to be paying? Stuff like that.

6. Plan your strategy for the next race. What are you going to differently?

7. Chat to your friends. Talk about baseball or where you're going for dinner. Tell some jokes. Sail over to that weird looking dude and ask him if he's Tillerman. Talk some trash about other sailors. You could even ask some of the good sailors what they did in the last race. You might learn something.

8. Relax. This is my favorite. Get your bum in the cockpit and stretch out. Sometimes other sailors even think I am asleep. Maybe I am sometimes.



9. Watch out you don't get run over by a mommy boat. Especially if you are asleep. Enough said.

10. Pull up your hiking pants. They always slip down when racing. At least mine do.

11. Check out your boat. Is anything working loose? Coming untied? Falling off? Ready to break? Maybe you can do some emergency maintenance before the next race. You do carry an emergency kit don't you? Seriously, I was in a race this season where another Laser sailor had his mainsheet break! You think there might have been a few warning signs first?

12. If there's no wind and it's a hot sunny day and it looks like there is going to be a long wait, then strip off, hang your sailing clothes on the boom to dry, and work on your suntan.

13. Put some more sunscreen on.  Preferably before #12.

14. Play. You did bring a frisbee and a water gun didn't you?



15. Have a beer. I have raced at places where the RC hands out beer to Laser sailors between races. Personally I have never indulged until all the races were over. My sailing performance is bad enough without being under the influence too. But whatever rocks your boat.

16. Pose for the photographer boat.



17. Work out exactly what you are going to write on the protest form about that fooking idiot who fouled you in the last race.

18. Get yourself fired up for the next race. Talk to yourself. Mutter your mantra.


What else?


Update Sep 19: This post was first published on Sep 17 as Waiting - 18 Things. An anonymous commenter suggested another 9 things to do (some with photos to illustrate them) that are so good that I have added her contributions to the list and changed the title of the post. 

19. Check all the GoPro cameras and other gizmos on your boat and body.

20. Use one camera to make better photos then the photoboat (and charge nothing.)

21. In case you misinterpreted the wind for the race you just finished, change the 'boat mode' eg the mast rake or goose-neck (Sunfish!)



22. Clean your sunglasses.

23. Cool your feet.





24. Read a newspaper (or SI or ..)



25. Do Yoga exercise.

26. Discuss your sailing with your coach.



27. Do some swimming

Thanks to Hertogenbosch for her contributions to this post. (Note the  new policy on this blog: anonymous commenters will be assigned genders and names at random by the blog owner.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Short Batten

Last night I had the strangest dream I ever dreamed before.

I dreamed I was at a Laser sailing clinic in Puerto Rico.

(In real life I have been to Puerto Rico several times, but never to a Laser sailing clinic there.)

After we sailed for a while we would stop and haul out our boats on to a floating dock and then drag them inside some classroom on the dock where the coach would give us some more instruction.

Then we would go sailing again.

One time after we had hauled all our Lasers inside I couldn't remember whether I had pulled mine out of the water or not.

I looked for my Laser. It wasn't in the classroom. I couldn't see it out on the sea.

After a while the instructor joined me in looking for my Laser and we got in the coach boat and went searching for it.

We never did find it.

But all the time I had a batten from my sail in my hand. The short batten.

Laser battens



What does it all mean?


Monday, September 15, 2014

Travel

When I started sailing in England I belonged to a sailing club on a lake only a few miles from my home. I sailed there pretty much every weekend. It was fun. It was what hooked me on sailing.

Yes, I know those aren't Lasers. But that is the right lake.


Then some friends at the club invited me to go and race with them at some other clubs nearby. We called these events "open meetings" in the UK. Once I even drove about 50 miles to an open meeting and raced a sailor who had just won the European Laser Championship. But most of my sailing was at the local lake.



When I moved to America there was a sailing club on the lake just across the road from my house. My sons and I sailed there pretty much every weekend in the summer. They sailed Sunfish at the club so we sailed Sunfish too.

I still had a Laser so occasionally I would travel to the Jersey shore, or Lake Hopatcong, or Marsh Creek in Pennsylvania to compete in Lasers. They call these events "regattas" in the US. I went to the Laser US Nationals in New Jersey in 1990. But I never drove more than two or three hours to a regatta.



Them I got the travel bug. I had heard about events like the midwinter regattas in Florida (for Sunfish and Lasers) and the Sunfish North Americans and the Sunfish Worlds. So some winters I drove to Florida. And then I started flying overseas to regattas and went to the Sunfish Worlds in the Dominican Republic and in Colombia. It was exciting going to new countries and experiencing their culture and their food and meeting other sailors from other countries.

And then I realized I could go to Laser Masters Worlds and went to England and Mexico and Spain (twice) and Australia. Tillerwoman always came with me on these trips, and after I had retired we took the opportunity to tack on some extra weeks and explore the countries hosting these regattas.

Random photo to illustrate foreign culture
Not Australia


When we moved to Rhode Island I discovered there were so many regattas locally that I didn't need to drive very far to sail in them. I didn't even have a regular club to sail at in the summer. It was all regattas. And lots of practice days on the bays locally, sometimes on my own and sometimes with friends. There was frostbiting in the winter too when I felt like it.

In the last few years, I haven't felt much like driving hundreds of miles or flying thousands of mile to sail when I can have just as much fun sailing locally.

Recently I have occasionally sailed with a couple of Laser fleets that are each about an hour's drive away from my home. It reminds me of the days when I started sailing. Small fleets. Short courses. Minimal waiting around between races. Everybody knows everybody. Not too serious. Just half a dozen or so Laser dudes having fun sailing round a sausage.

A sausage



On Sunday I sailed with the Duxbury Laser fleet. We had about 10 or 12 knots of breeze from the north. We did 7 or 8 windward-leeward races and had some good close races and all came off the water thinking we had just had about as much fun in two hours as it is possible to have in a Laser.

Some of my friends drove 8 hours to Rochester to sail in the Laser Masters US Nationals. They had fun too. But there was no wind in Rochester on Sunday so there were no races that day.

Some sailors will drive 3,000 miles to a regatta. Sometimes they have more of an adventure on the the drive than they do at the regatta. Check out Carol Cronin's Deer in the Headlight:Better Lucky than Good for example.

Interesting map of the likelihood of hitting a deer 
with your car in the next year in the US by state.


I seem to have lost much of my passion for travel to sailing events these day. I feel like I'm returning to my roots.

Am I getting old?

Or getting young?



Maybe one day I'll get the travel bug again and jet off to New Zealand or Argentina for a Laser Masters Worlds? Or maybe not.



Wait. I forgot. I just booked a trip to go sailing in the Mediterranean in a few weeks.

Just ignore everything I just said.

Like you usually do.

Me sailing in the Mediterranean in a few weeks
If I get young again



Enough about me?

Do you have the travel bug?


Saturday, September 13, 2014

RS Aero Tidbits



Thanks to the author of the Reaching Broadly blog for posting a summary of a French Review of the RS Aero.

It's from the French sailing magazine Bateaux, and as far as I can tell the original article is only available if you fork out 5 Euros for access. I'm sure Keep Reaching has captured the main points so if you are interested in the RS Aero, check out his article.

I see there's also another French review of the RS Aero at BreizhSkiff.com but I didn't learn a lot there I didn't know already.

Closer to home, I understand that the first two RS Aeros will be arriving in the US at the end of this month in time for the Annapolis Boat Show on Oct 9-13, which I guess will serve as the official US launch of the boat. Another eight boats should be delivered to the East Coast distributor in October so we should be able to have some demos around here soon.

In other good news, Minorca Sailing now has an RS Aero so I may well have my first opportunity to sail an Aero there on what has become our annual pilgrimage to Menorca in the early fall.

Just think, we could be holding the first RS Aero races in the Western Hemisphere some time in November! Perhaps we could even call it a regatta and award an orange coffee pot to the winner?


Friday, September 12, 2014

Exciting News from Canada





Exciting news from Canada this week. (How often do you read that?)


The Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, announced that underwater archaeologists have discovered one of the two ships belonging to the Franklin Expedition lost in 1846.


And if you have no idea what the Franklin Expedition was all about then go to the link above or watch the video below.


Collision Avoidance and Offset Marks



Many of you have probably already seen this video of a port-starboard collision at the recent E-Scow Nationals, but I haven't sen much discussion about it online. So here's my take on the situation and what we can learn from it and how such situations might be avoided in future.

As always, all opinions are my own and may be ill-informed, confused, or even downright wrong. So feel to disagree and abuse me in the comments if you are so inclined.



So what do we have here?

A large fleet.

A crowded windward mark rounding.

Boats on starboard bearing away on to a run and raising their spinnakers, while port tackers further down the fleet are still racing upwind towards the windward mark and are crossing the path of the starboard tack boats.

And one of the port tackers collides with a starboard tacker.

It's one of the most dangerous parts of the race course. Everyone knows that port should give way to starboard in this situation, but it's complicated by the facts that the starboard tackers are changing course and the the crew of the starboard tackers are probably busier than they are at any other time on the race course. It's bad enough on the Laser... sheeting out, pulling up the board, releasing the outhaul, maybe resetting the vang if you released it too much at the windward mark, catching the first wave… and I suspect it's even worse on a boat with a spinnaker. So sometimes the starboard tacker doesn't have their eyes out of the boat enough, and the port tacker may see the starboard tacker but isn't sure exactly when she is going to turn and how sharply. I've seen a similar incident in a Laser fleet which put the starboard tack sailor in the hospital.



So what can be done to avoid these collisions?



Options for the sailors

Under Rule 10, the obligation is clearly on the port tackers to keep clear. What options do they have? Slow down, head up, bear away, or tack I suppose.

Bearing way is certainly an option but you had better do it soon enough to be able to pass cleanly ahead of the starboard tacker. The port tack boat in the video tried to bear away but was too late. Tacking wouldn't usually be necessary or even advisable so close to the lay line. Slowing down or heading up are the best possibilities I suppose for avoiding one starboard tacker. But what if there is a whole parade of starboard tackers, as there is in this incident? Do you luff up and wait for them all to pass? You might wait for the whole fleet. Or do you choose a likely looking gap and go for it? It can be a tough choice.

The real lesson is that port tackers should really anticipate this situation and not put themselves in the situation of having to cross a crowd of starboard tackers bearing away to the downwind leg so close to the mark. It's a bit like the old joke about a tourist in Ireland who asks one of the locals for directions to Dublin. The Irishman replies, "Well sir, if I were you, I wouldn’t start from here."



And the starboard tack boats are not entirely immune from the responsibility to avoid a collision. Rule 16.1 says, "When a right-of-way boat changes course, she shall give the other boat room to keep clear." So if a starboard tack boat wishing to bear away sees a port tacker approaching, sailing in a straight line course that would cross to leeward of the starboard tacker if she maintained her course, the latter can't just bear away in front of the port tacker and immediately claim right of way under Rule 10. She has to give the port tacker room to keep clear.

Not that I'm saying that the starboard tacker in this incident changed course in such a way that she infringed Rule 16. But if the port tacker were so minded she could certainly argue a case under Rule 16 in the protest room.

It is interesting that the two starboard tack boats rounding the mark after the one involved in the collision chose to sail high to avoid another port tacker rather than bearing away in front of it. That may have been for strategic reasons (wanting to sail on that side of the downwind leg) but it was probably also smart tactics to avoid any risk of getting tangled up with the port tacker.



Options for the race committee

OK. So I hope we can all agree that having a bunch of port tack close-hauled boats sailing into a bunch of starboard tack boats trying to bear away and raise spinnakers is a situation fraught with risks of collision. The classic race management solution to avoid this problem is to lay an offset mark to define a short reaching leg for the boats after the rounding the windward mark. Then when they do round the offset mark and start to bear away they will be several boat lengths to windward of the port tack lay line and so when the the boats going downwind meet the port tackers they will be settled on their downwind course and not trying to make dramatic changes of course.

It's a good idea and it has its merits. But there is an offset mark in this incident. And still the port tackers are tangling with the starboard tackers as they are bearing away to start the downwind leg.

So what went wrong? Why are the port tackers so close to the offset mark?

Let's be generous and assume that the race committee placed the offset mark correctly (although that doesn't always happen.) Maybe the port tackers overstood the layline? Or perhaps there was a big left shift late in the race? Whatever the reason, this offset mark clearly isn't preventing the problem it was designed to solve.

I have heard talk this year of a different race management solution. Instead of the conventional offset mark defining a short reaching leg, place a mark a few boat lengths directly downwind from the windward mark with the idea that port tackers on the beat must pass it to leeward. (Not sure exactly what language you would use in the SIs to achieve this. No boat on the windward leg may cross the line between the windward mark and the offset mark?)

It sounds as if this variation of the offset mark would achieve the aim of keeping boats approaching on the port tack layline away from boats in the process of rounding the mark and bearing away, as the port tack layline would essentially be the layline to this new "offset" mark.

Has anybody heard of a race committee trying this option? Any experience or views on how well it would work?



And now over to you. Have you been involved in situations like this? Have you seen, or been involved in, similar collisions? What is your plan when you are the starboard tacker or the port tacker? Do we need any changes in the Rules to help make this part of the race course more safe? Are there other things race management can do?