Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Final Beat



I have a new favorite sailing blog.

Actually The Final Beat is a lot more than a blog. It has the ambitious goal of being...
"the website that helps dinghy sailors get better, quicker. All the best information about dinghy sailing on the web in books and on DVDs and CD-ROMs to help you find out what you want to know, when you want to know it."
And it's certainly true that the website is a great resource for finding all sorts of information about how to improve your sailing.



But the author, Damian, also writes blog posts. I would read it just for the blog posts. Actually I do read it just for the blog posts.

Damian hits a variety of topics related to dinghy sailing in his blog posts and is, at various times thoughtful, inspirational, provocative, humorous and touching.

For example…

He wrote a series of posts about the Great Retention Problem - how clubs can deal with the problem of once active junior sailors dropping out of the sport in their late teens or early twenties, discussing the pros and cons of such ideas as giving away free memberships and whether sailing clubs should have fleets of club-owned boats.

On a completely different topic, as someone who is completely incompetent at boat maintenance (or anything practical involving hand tools for that matter) I had a good chuckle over How to Fix Anything on your Boat in Just 23 Steps. It made me glad to learn that I am not the only sailor with two left hands and a klutz complex.

And this week Damian shared with us an hilarious story about when he and his wife took their two very young children sailing for the first time, and what his kids taught him about sailing, a post with the quirky title Toe Straps and Shark Attacks. And an Apology.



If you like Proper Course, I think you will like The Final Beat.

Check it out.


Three Types of Laser Fleet



There are three types of Laser fleet in the world. (Or you could probably generalize that to any one design fleet.)


1. There is the fleet where you are the best sailor in the fleet. You win all (or almost all) the races.

2. There is the fleet where the majority of the fleet is much, much faster than you. The guys at the top of the fleet are past or current national or world champions in this class and other classes. You never win a race. You feel like you've had a good day if you break into the top half of the fleet in even one race but most of the time you are chasing around at the back of the fleet with the tail-enders.

3. There is the fleet where most of the sailors are about the same standard as yourself. Maybe there are a few beginners at the back of the fleet but on any given day any one of a whole group of sailors might win a race and sometimes even you do.


Believe it or not I have sailed my Laser in all three of these types of fleet. Yes even #1. And even these days I have the choice of whether I want to sail in #2 or #3.


So I started asking myself some questions…

Which fleet would you rather sail with?

Which fleet is the best for you if you want to improve?

Are there any of these three fleets that you would never want to sail with?

And why?



Related Posts

What's Wrong With Being Number Two?

Not Playing the Red Sox

Who am I?


Saturday, July 26, 2014

I Love Traffic



I love traffic.

In this part of southern New England the traffic to and from Cape Cod every summer weekend is legendary. More and more people are wanting to spend their weekends on Cape Cod to enjoy the beaches, the seaside towns, the natural beauty, kayaking, cycling, shark spotting… not to mention this weekend a Sunfish Regional at Wequaquet Lake and the Hyannis Regatta where a number of my friends are sailing Lasers and Radials.

Cape Cod is so popular - and all the traffic has to funnel across the two bridges over Cape Cod Canal - that six hour traffic delays are not unknown. One local Laser fleet (not on the Cape) even schedules its weekend races to avoid the worst of the heavy traffic coming from the Cape on local roads on Sunday afternoons. It's no fun sitting in traffic for several hours just to travel a few miles.

But I love traffic.

I should be Laser sailing on the Cape at Hyannis this weekend but I'm still rehabbing my sore back. So there I was sitting at home on Friday afternoon and feeling a bit sorry for myself when the phone rang. It was my son who lives in Massachusetts. He had been thinking of taking his kids to the beach but when he checked online he realized that this would be a bad idea because the route to their favorite beach was blocked with… you guessed it… all those cars going very very slowly to Cape Cod. So he asked if it would be OK to bring his family to our house in Rhode Island for the weekend (a journey which is not encumbered by the Cape traffic) with the intention of taking them to a beach near our house on Saturday instead.

Of course we said YES. And now on Saturday morning we have four grandkids in the house and, as I write this, I can hear the patter of tiny feet and the chatter of happy tiny voices.

Life is good.

I love traffic.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Optimists at Rutland

Yesterday's post Dirty Duck mentioned a little about my own sons' sailing Optimists at Rutland SC in the late 1980s.

Fast forward 25 years, here's a video of a few Optimists racing at Rutland last year.

Enjoy!


RS Aero Spotlight: Sails



Earlier in the year, RS Sailing promised that they would "drip feed" us videos of the RS Aero. I had never hear of this concept of "drip feed marketing" before, but I guess it makes sense as they ramp up production to meet the customer demand for Aeros. Keeps all of us interested through the months we are waiting for the boats better than a dump of all the information at the launch would do. I guess.

True to their promise, RS Sailing released a video about the sails of the RS Aero today, over two months after their previous spotlight video on foils.




Jo Richards, the designer of the Aero, explained some of the thinking behind the design of the RS Aero sails and talked about the roles of the three different rigs, the RS Aero 5, 7 and 9.

Key points….
Three rigs for sailors of different weights and for different conditions. But no hard and fast rule about if you are this weight you need this rig. 
Having said that the suggested match of rigs to sailors is...
RS Aero 5 - kids from 77-120 lbs
RS Aero 7 - 120-170 lbs
RS Aero 9 - 165-220 lbs. 
Dacron is better than Mylar for an unstayed carbon rig that has a lot of difference in bend in different conditions and different points of sail because it stretches better to accommodate the different mast bends. 
Sails are about a square meter more area for a boat of this size than you might expect.  It's comfortable to sail upwind but the extra sail area and lighter hull weight give "electric" downwind performance.
Hmmm.

As someone who fluctuates in the 190-210lb range, it sounds as if RS Sailing would definitely recommend a 9 rig for me.

What else?

Wonder when we will get the next drip feed?


Drip.


Drip.


Drip.



Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dirty Duck




For Throwback Thursday this week I give you the Dirty Duck.

Dirty Duck was a wooden Optimist that I bought for my sons in the winter of 1985/86.  We were in the  process of moving house from west of London (where I sailed at the sailing club on Taplow Lake) to the county of Rutland where I planned to sail at Rutland Sailing Club on Rutland Water. Rutland SC had an excellent Optimist junior training program and so I was keen to buy an Optimist so that my eldest son (then 7) could join the beginners' class in the summer and my younger son (then 5) could do the same in a couple of years.

One of my colleagues at work was a member of RSC and had a daughter (older than my sons) who was already in the RSC Optimist program. It was the time when all the hot sailors were switching from wooden to fiberglass Optimists, so he was quite happy to sell me the Dirty Duck. I took the boat back to the rented home where we were staying and set her up on the lawn. My sons just had to try her out right away.

By the time we moved to America at the end of 1988, both sons had learned to sail in the Dirty Duck and we had acquired a new fiberglass Optimist for the older boy. We imported both boats into the USA in the container with our furniture (along with Laser 134628 which I had bought earlier that year before I knew I was moving.)

Dirty Duck (sail number K1400) was sailed in New Jersey at Mountain Lakes Sailing Association (the home of Sunfish Fleet 17) and eventually sold to another English sailing family who lived across the road from us. They exported her back to England, their kids are now grown up, and I have no idea where she is now. Probably rotted away or ceremonially burned. Does anyone sail wooden Optimists any more? All that painting and varnishing every winter!


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Chasing Roosters

Back in June I received an email from the one and only Baydog, the author of 829southdrive which is the best blog on the planet about tortillas and penguins and oysters and pointy football.

He wanted to know if I would like to borrow a DVD called Chasing Roosters. I had no idea what he was talking about but I humored him and said that it I would love to borrow his DVD and maybe I could even write a blog post about it. This is that blog post.

Chasing Roosters?

What?

I had heard of roosters chasing people.




But why would people chase roosters? Is it some weird sport that they play down in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey?



A few days later a DVD arrived in the mail and the next free evening I settled down in front of my DVD playing machine to watch Chasing Roosters… and it turned out to be all about sailing. In fact it is a DVD made to celebrate 100 years of sailboat racing organized by the Barnegat Bay Yacht Racing Association.

And then I remembered. Baydog often writes fondly on his blog about his memories of his childhood summers spent with his family racing on Barnegat Bay. And he had even written a couple of times about the tradition of the Rooster flag...
When one wins a Bay race, he or she receives the class Rooster flag to keep for one week. Write your sail number and race date on the flag before returning it the next Saturday. Some sailors like to see their name as well. Hmmmm........On the last Saturday of the summer, the winner keeps the Rooster. 

And in 1977, Baydog's father won the Penguin race on the last day of the season and so he got to keep the Rooster flag from that year. And Baydog, being a sentimental kind of person, kept that flag after his father died. Who wouldn't?



So that's what Chasing Roosters is all about. 100 years of sailors racing every summer weekend on Barnegat Bay. It is a very professional production and is narrated by Gary Jobson, himself a boy who grew up racing on Barnegat Bay.

The movie follows a season of racing on the bay, showcasing each club that hosts the races (a different one every week) and the various classes of boat that participate in the BBYRA races, with numerous interviews with sailors of all ages. The videography is superb with many aerial shots of the sailing and sequences filmed on board the yachts during races (with some judicious editing of on-board audio that was too "salty" I suspect.)

What comes across is an overall impression of a wonderful community of people brought together by their love of sailboat racing. Many of the interviewees spoke of how important the BBYRA scene had been to their families over 4 or 5 generations, and clearly the racing there is very much a family activity with youngsters encouraged to learn their racing skills by crewing for their older family members and friends.

Another persistent theme of the movie is the friendships that are formed between the members of the different clubs in BBYRA. With 13 clubs all within 10 miles of each other and with racing rotating to a different club each week, there is clearly a strong community linking all the clubs and many bonds of  friendship (and romances and marriages too I suspect) between the clubs.

There is some heartbreaking footage of the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, but it was very gratifying to see how it didn't break the spirit of the BBYRA and how they somehow managed to carry on with another racing season in 2013 even if some of the clubs were in ruins, and homes and boats had been smashed to pieces. Sailing has a very high priority in the lives of these people.



I wasn't as lucky as Baydog was to grow up in a family sailing environment like BBYRA. But after we moved to New Jersey in 1989 I did get to visit some of the clubs in the BBYRA for Laser regattas for me or Optimist regattas for my sons, and it was good to see those clubs in the movie…

Lavallette YC - whose Laser regatta was always one of the first I sailed each season and where I took my son to an Optimist regatta of which he later wrote, "What happened in the summer of 1989 at Lavallette Yacht Club on Barnegat Bay is without doubt the highest point in my life so far." One of the people at Lavallette who welcomed me and my family to his club was John Applegate and I was very pleased to see him in the movie.

Island Heights YC - where I sailed in at least one Laser district championship and also took my sons for some junior events.

And Mantoloking YC where I took some of my Opti sailors to a junior regatta when I was the Head Sailing Instructor at Hopatcong YC. There was a huge fleet of Optis at the event and I think my students were blown away by the experience of sailing with so many other kids, mainly from the Barnegat Bay clubs.

So it was no surprise to me that in the Chasing Roosters movie, time and again sailors spoke of their club's and their own personal commitment to junior sailing and from what I could see of the size and excellence of the junior programs and the commitment to intergenerational participation, BBYRA is in great shape for many more decades of chasing Roosters.



The video below by Peter Slack isn't from Chasing Roosters but it does have a similar feel to it. The Barnegat Bay A-Cats are only one of many one design fleets raced in BBYRA, but perhaps they exemplify more than any other class the tradition and style that is Barnegat Bay yacht racing.

Enjoy!


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Foil

Apparently Oracle Team USA has been tuning up for the America's Cup by learning to sail foiling Moths at some place called Wangi Wangi in Australia.

In honor of the foiling camp, the team's favorite singer, Weird Al Yankovic, has composed a team song… FOIL.





Oh?

You wanted to see some sailing?

OK.





What?

No. I am definitely NOT going to post a picture of Jimmy Spithill sailing a Moth naked.

That would be very silly.


Egotist or Masochist or Manly Man?

In a comment on my report about the Newport Regatta (where I chose to go in early on both days because I felt like I had had enough fun already) kiwiyates posed this question…
When our boat is designed to be changed to suit the conditions/sailor, why is it that Laser sailors seem to so resistant to downsize the sail to suit the forecast conditions or their current ability? I assume you had a Radial class too. Wouldn't it have been even more fun to race Radial and be able to participate more under those conditions? It seems that Laser sailors have big egos and never want to go "down" as though it was going backwards. What do you think?

And he (or maybe she) followed up with another comment on the topic…
Here in Florida, we try to maximize the fun while trying to level the playing field. Since we get so many light days, all the kids go up to Full. Only the few heavy days, the adults go down to Radial (with some convincing). Whats the point of 1/2 the fleet going in because "its to windy for me" (young or Masters). This means we have more boats on the start line, more even competition, more races and more fun. Isn't that the goal?

I received a similar suggestion after my rather disastrous showing at the Laser Masters Worlds in 2010 and answered it with a post Random Radial Ramblings.  To save me repeating everything I said in 2010 (of if you have no idea what a Radial rig is and how it fits into Laser sailing) I suggest you read that post now before I go on.



Pause to allow you read old post.



OK? Everyone up to speed now?



So (while trying to avoid repeating what I said in 2010) here are 5 reasons why I don't yet own a Radial rig and 3 reasons why I should probably get one soon.



5 Reasons Why I Don't Own a Radial Rig And Never (Well Hardly Ever) Sail One.

1. There's a difference between stamina and skill. It wasn't that I couldn't handle the conditions at Newport. I am perfectly capable of sailing in winds of 15mph gusting to 25mph with moderate waves. In fact I enjoy and relish sailing in those conditions. It's just that it was my first regatta this season and I wasn't fit enough and/or didn't feel like sailing all day. I was getting tired.

2. I have sailed a Radial (at Minorca Sailing) a couple of times when it was forecast to be gusting over 30 and frankly I found it a little tame.

Demonstration of how tame a Radial really is

Maybe I could have a sailed a couple of extra races at Newport if I had been sailing a Radial, but I suspect I wouldn't have had so much fun. And, hey, I sail to have fun not to stick it out all day just for the sake of it.

3. There often is a start for Radials at the regattas I sail - and there was at Newport - but often it's quite a small fleet (the notable exceptions being the Hyannis and Buzzards Bay Regattas which attract huge Radial fleets.) If I had sailed a Radial at Newport I would have been sailing against 4 other sailors. In the full rig fleet we had 44 sailors. 44 is more fun than 4.

4. I am quite a big fellow as Laser sailors go. Currently hovering just over 190lbs. The Radial is best for sailors in the 130-165lb range. I did ask a coach, whose opinion I deeply respect, about whether I should move to a Radial as I am getting older and he told me definitely not. If anything I am heavier than the optimum weight for a full rig, so the coach felt I should stick with the big rig.

5. I am a masochist. Yes, I do sometimes find it challenging to sail the full rig Laser in big winds and waves. But (most of the time) I enjoy the challenge, I like the way it pushes me to try harder and to develop heavy weather sailing skills. I like the feeling of sailing on the edge of control. As Bob Marley almost said, "If it's easy, it won't be amazing." (Actually he said "she" not "it" and he was talking about women. But same principle.)

Well known Laser coach Bob Marley


3 Reasons Why I  Should (Probably) Buy a Radial Rig Soon

1. Laser Masters Worlds. In my 2010 post I wrote about how the International Laser Class expected sailors over 65 to sail the Radial rig at Laser Masters Worlds. The only fleet for sailors over 65 - Great Grandmasters - was a Radial fleet. That's no longer true. Thanks to campaigning by some sailors around my age who didn't want to be forced to move to Radials at the Worlds there is now a Great Grandmasters Full Rig Fleet at the Masters Worlds.

Oman, last year, was predicted to be a light wind venue so if I had gone there I am sure I would have sailed the full rig. But Hyères, this year, could well be very windy. See this video for example. Moreover, it doesn't seem like the option to sail a full rig at the Masters Worlds is very popular with my age cohort. There are 8 full rig GGMs registered for Hyères and 80 (EIGHTY!!!) Radial GGMs.

80 is more fun than 8. If I were going to Hyères (which I'm not) I would definitely sail a Radial. And if I were going to sail a Radial there I would want to practice sailing a Radial at home first.

2. Solo Practice. Regular readers of this blog know that I like to practice sailing my Laser on my own quite often on the local bays. Some days, I feel the conditions are such (maybe too windy and too cold) to sail a full rig on my own. Too much chance of something bad happening without anyone around to help me - or even notice. On some of those days I might go out in a Radial.

Typical day when I might downsize to a Radial for solo practice


3. Frostbiting. Most winters I sign up to sail with the Newport frostbite fleet. On some Sundays I feel that it's too cold and too windy for me so I don't go and race. On some of those days, maybe most, I would sail a Radial. In that fleet the Radials and full rigs all start together and are scored together. A fat boy like me would probably be at the back of the fleet in a Radial. But, hey, that's better than missing all the fun of racing in the snow and hail and sleet while dodging icebergs in the freezing waters of Newport.

RC launching on perfect sailing day for Newport frostbite fleet



See also Why Manly Men Never Use a Radial Sail by my friend, yarg. Yarg is fast in a Radial. On a windy day Yarg often beats me when he is sailing a Radial and I'm not.

So am I an egotist or a masochist or a manly man? Feel free to hurl other insults at me in the comments.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Newport Regatta 2014

Last weekend. My first regatta of the year. Also our district championship. Just down the road in Newport.

44 full rig Lasers. 15 races over 2 days. Wide range of ages from kids to grizzled old grandmasters (like me.) Both genders. Lots of new faces I've not seen on the local regatta circuit before.

Sunny warm weather.

Wind. Oh yes, we had wind. Let the pictures tell the story.


Saturday



Sunday



I learned a lot over the two days.

1. I currently don't have the stamina to sail 15 races in 2 days in winds occasionally gusting over 20mph. I actually sailed in only 4 races on Saturday and 3 on Sunday. On each day I sailed as hard as I could until I was getting so tired that I knew that I would start to make (even more) stupid mistakes and that I wouldn't be enjoying it any more. So I said my goodbyes to the race committee and sailed back to the beach. Maybe it's partly mental, but it's mainly physical. Hey, I'm "pushing seventy" as my Dad was fond of saying when he was about my age. I do it for fun and when it's starting to be "not fun" on any given day it's time to quit.

My attitude to regatta racing is basically the same as it was in the summer of 2012 which I summed up in a blog post titled Sailing Philosophy with Crappy Chart. If I sail more multi-day regattas and sail more races each time (and eat more spinach) I'm sure I will get fitter and eventually end up completing all the races. If I don't, I won't. I yam what I yam.



2. There is no practice for racing in large fleets that compares to actually racing in large fleets. I've done a lot of sailing, mainly with one partner or in small fleets, over the past few weeks, but I still felt very rusty on the first day at Newport. On Saturday my starts were poor, I made bad strategic decisions, and my mark rounding tactics were mediocre. In the 44 boat fleet I had several finishes in the low 30s and one in the mid 20s. Not good…

And yet…

I was having fun. And my competitive juices were flowing. I really felt that if I could get my act together I could place a lot higher. It seemed that there were about half a dozen boats at the back of the fleet that I could easily beat and then a large group of 12-15 boats ahead of me… but not far ahead. Maybe it was an optical illusion but it seemed that I only needed to make a small improvement in my starts or my boat speed or my tactics at marks and I would be able to pass that big clump of boats in front of me and break into the top 20. Maybe.

And in the first two races on Sunday that was exactly what happened. I think I was just more comfortable with sailing in a regatta with a largish fleet again. I wasn't consciously doing anything very different but I seemed to be finding a clear lane to the favored side of the course soon after the start, I was thinking ahead about which sides of the downwind legs I wanted to sail, and I wasn't totally screwing up every mark rounding. I was beating some of the sailors who had been consistently ahead of me on Saturday. And it felt good. I scored a 16 and a 21 in the first two races. Much better than Saturday. (Although it must be said that attrition of the fleet due to breakages, capsizes, too much Bacardi on Saturday night, and over eagerness on black flag starts was also a factor in boosting my scores.)

And in the third race on Sunday, I managed to kick it up another notch. I was really warmed up now and had good boat speed upwind and downwind. All that practice at Little Compton over the past three weeks was paying off. I nailed the starboard tack lay line perfectly on the first beat and rounded the mark way up in the fleet. I was catching good rides on the waves on the first reach and managed to hang close to the leaders. It felt weird but I felt like I was sailing better because I was surrounded by better company than I had been hanging out with in the earlier races. Be that as it may, I held off a challenge on the second reach and extended my lead over that boat on the final beat, hiking like a demon and working the boat hard through the waves. I thought I had finished just outside the top ten but it turned out that there were four boats who had been black-flagged in front of me so I actually scored a 7th.

Wow. I was mentally and physically drained, and I figured that I would call it a day and end the regatta on a high note, so that I could revel in the memory of that race for a few weeks and motivate myself for the next regatta.

I sailed back to Fort Adams and derigged my boat. There weren't many people around so I stretched out on my back on the grass in the sunshine and stared at the sky for a few minutes and just reflected on the joy of sailing in the waves and the wind and the sunshine and what a great weekend it had been.


3. In other good news, I think I have a new That Guy.


4. Today, my back hurts.