Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Sea Sail

Today at Minorca Sailing was the best day so far.

Sunny. High 70s. Force 4 to 5 winds in the morning, and force 4 in the afternoon.

In the morning, we had the legendary Sea Sail when the brave Laser sailors in their petites bateaux head out of the bay on to the wild and wooly Mediterranean Ocean for some wave sailing and informal racing.

Here are our intrepid sailors leaving the relative shelter of Fornells Bay as captured by Tillerwoman from her vantage point on the rocks.

And here is another Tillerwoman classic of 10 white dots in front of the Cap de Cavalleria, artistically framed by a cleft in the rocks. Can't you just feel how much fun we were having?

"Laser is love. Laser is LIFE!"

And then in the afternoon I did something I have never done in my life before… I had my first sail in an RS Aero.

I suppose I am going to have to write another blog post about that some time.

Sunday, October 05, 2014


As expected the video debrief on the Laser racing this evening at Minorca Sailing this year was somewhat embarrassing for me.

I settled in for the session with a large glass of beer to dull the inevitable pain.

First there was a shot of me sailing upwind on which the instructor made no comment even thought it looked to me like I was doing OK.

Then there was a shot of me sailing upwind on which the instructor pointed out to me that I wasn't sailing the boat flat enough and I should get my shoulders back more. Good feedback. Thanks.

Then there was a shot of me dropping the tiller in a tack and heading up and slowing down, so much in fact that I then had to duck a starboard tacker whom I thought I would cross. The instructor didn't need to make any comment. The many howls and hoots of derisions from the peanut gallery said it all.

I now hate those guys in the peanut gallery.

Those guys in the peanut gallery

Then a shot of me doing a leeward mark rounding. If I do say so myself, I thought it was pretty decent.

The instructor said it was "textbook."


I think that's a compliment.

It must be at least 20 years ago I went to a one day masters clinic at Wianno YC held before the Atlantic Coast Champs there. The coach was Brad Dellenbaugh. I still remember that Brad Dellenbaugh said I did an "excellent" gybe.

People remember positive feedback a long time.

Instructors and coaches and teachers should know that.



And so to bed.

Is that a tornado?

"Is that a tornado?"

I have been sailing for over 30 years in waters off 4 continents and taken classes from coaches and instructors in all sorts of places. I thought I had seen it all and heard it all. But I was wrong.

I had never heard a sailing coach, out with his class on the water, look at the sky and ask the class - or perhaps himself - "Is that a tornado?"

But it happened on the second day of our vacation at Minorca Sailing this year.

The weather forecast did call for thunderstorms during the day and as we set sail for the morning session of the Advanced Laser Class there were dark clouds in the sky and distant rumbles of thunder. The Minorca Sailing staff were closely monitoring the situation and warned us that the lesson would be curtailed if lightning was seen.

We sailed off to the designated area for our practice in a light northerly. The clouds got darker. The thunder got louder. And then our instructor looked over to the west and said the most unexpected thing… "Is that a tornado"?

I looked over to the west.  Everyone in the class looked over to the west. There was this lighter spirally cloud snaking down from the dark cloud towards the ground.

Yikes. I had never seen a tornado before. Never been to Kansas in my life. But it sure looked like a tornado.

It was decided that we should sail back closer to the beach. The thunder sounded louder. Lightning was spotted. It was decided we should sail back to the beach.

The squall hit us just as we hit the beach. Perfect timing.

The rest of the morning was spent in a question and answer session with two of the coaches in which I learned two things I had never heard before - a different twist on a way for spotting start line bias and a different method for pointing high in a Laser when it is tactically necessary.

Sailing is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get. As someone's Mama almost said.

But let me backtrack…

No wait. I first need to explain why I started this post by writing about the morning of the second day of our vacation. Why not start at the beginning?

Blame Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Doris Kearns Goodwin

Doris Kearns Goodwin is perhaps best known for writing biographies about American presidents.

I was listening to an interview with her on National Public Radio a few days ago and she told of how she started researching for a book about Nelson Rockefeller, who was Gerald Ford's vice-president.

Nelson Rockefeller

Doris (I hope I can call her Doris) said she had worked out a perfect opening for her book about Nelson Rockefeller. She was going to start with his death.

For this whose memory of American history (or scandals from the 70s) is as shaky as mine, you should know that Mr Rockefeller died, as they say, "in the saddle" or to put it another way "in flagrant delicto." Apparently the young lady concerned was one of his aides, Megan Marshack.

Megan Marshack

What a great way to start a book!  Sex, scandal and death!

Anyway, as you know, there's never any sex on this blog and I don't have a death or a scandal to report. So I decided to start this account of my 2014 Minorca Sailing vacation with a tornado.

If Doris Kearns Goodwin can write books in the wrong order then I can do the same in blog posts.

Where was I?

Where am I?

Oh yes. Backtracking in Minorca.

We arrived on Friday evening after an uneventful journey.

We went to the welcome dinner.

I learned some stuff about the RS Aero from one of the instructors.

I started to feel weird over dinner.

In the night I threw up.

In the morning I had a splitting headache and still felt weird.

I didn't sail in the morning.

I sailed a Laser around the bay on my own in the afternoon instead of trying out the RS Aero, because as one of my commenters said yesterday, "The Laser is pretty damn close to the perfect "classic" sailing dinghy. Laser is love, Laser is LIFE!"

After sailing I felt much better.

We went to another welcome party and I learned some more about the RS Aero from another instructor.

The second morning we had the tornado.

On the second afternoon I joined in with the Laser races. There were about 15 Lasers. I had terrible starts but I think I was "second full rig finisher who was not an instructor" in both races. So that's something.

They are going to show some video of the races later this evening so that is bound to be embarrasing.

I know. That last section is a bit boring.

It was a bit like writing about Nelson Rockefeller's work on the Federal Compensation Committee and the Committee on the Right to Privacy.

Poor fellow.

Nothing about him was quite as interesting as the manner of his death.

Probably the reason that Doris Kearns Goodwin never did get around to writing her book about him, even though she did have a very good idea for the opening.


This post is way too long.

Maybe I should finish it here with a nice picture of a tornado and lightning.

To be honest, today's tornado and lightning were not quite as spectacular as this, but I didn't have my iPhone with me on the boat so you'll just have to make do with this photo I found somewhere on the Interwebs.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Another Review of a Review of the RS Aero

I see that Yachts and Yachting have now published a review of the RS Aero.

It may be a little biased because it seems it was written by Pete Barton who is also the class manager of the recently formed RS Aero Class Association. But let's see what he has to say that hasn't already been reported elsewhere…

It's light. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We get that. And all it means on and off the water.

Some interesting explanations of the design concept. Maybe I missed some of this before? Carbon in the high load areas. Transom angled to ensure "bow up" planing downwind. Gunwhales help deflect spray. Knuckle on the daggerboard to reduce downwind drag. All good stuff.

You can get it to plane upwind if you crack off a little. There has been a lot of derision about the "upwind planing" claims in some online forums. I will be interested to try this out for myself when I get a chance.

"After a beat across the Solent the backs of my thighs remained comfortable …. I don't see any need for hiking pads." Now that's impressive. I hate wearing hiking pads which are pretty much of a necessity on the flat deck of the Laser.

Gybing was "simple."

Getting back into the boat after a capsize sounds like it may be a bit tricky for a heavier, less than agile sailor. Sort of what I expected for such a light hull. Again I look forward to trying this. If all else fails, climbing in over the stern may be the best option for the agility-challenged.

Bring it on!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

First Day of Fall Sailing

It was a wonderful summer.

Three of my good sailing friends are going to the Laser Masters Worlds in October and they have been happy to come out and sail with me at various locations around Rhode Island during the summer as part of their preparation for the Worlds. As a result I have done much more training with a partner or a small group and less solo sailing than I usually do. It's been fun.

But this week was different. You would think my friends would all be training hard before flying off to France.

But no.

One of my friends has already left for France traveling via Turkey and Georgia.

 A friend in Georgia

And another friend, who originally said he wanted to sail a lot this week, has had his travel arrangements disrupted by the Air France pilots' strike and is preparing to travel earlier, so now he can't sail.

A French pilot

And my third friend has a shoulder injury and is resting it before going to Hyères.

A shoulder

So I'm back to sailing on my own again this week.

Tuesday was a superb, warm early fall day. The winds were forecast to be light so I did a bit of reading about light air technique and then headed over to Bristol planning to practice roll tacks and roll gybes and light air starts and stuff.

When I got there it was honking. So I practiced trying to keep the long pointy thing aiming at the sky and worked on making impressive whoop whoop sounds as I rode the waves on screaming reaches across the harbor.

It was one of the best days for sailing this year with some nice chunky waves and lots of refreshing spray. I came home and had a couple of glasses of Smuttynose IPA and slept like a baby.

Tuesday's sail, the 43rd of the year, was sponsored by ACCOMABP, the Allegheny County Chapter of Moms Against Body Painting.

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.


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.)