Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Time For Every Purpose

It was a long sail out to the Laser circle at the Hyannis Regatta last weekend.

By the way, Brian Raney mentioned this issue in his brilliant write-up of the Hyannis-based Laser North Americans in the current issue of the class magazine, The Laser Sailor. What a gifted writer. He made the regatta sound so superb that I hardly recognized it. And I was there.

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes. Long sails out to the race course.

It's a dirty little secret of dinghy racing that you can spend many hours on the water for a relatively short amount of time actually spent racing. This is not meant to be another anti-race-committee rant. A lot of this time not spent racing is inevitable. If the racing area is a long way from the launch site then you can easily spend two hours of the day sailing to the racing circle and back.

I'm not sure how I feel about this so I interviewed some of my closest friends. Here's what they had to say...

Testy Ted complained: What a waste of time. I come here to race. All this time getting to the course is just a pain. I'm going to be tired out before I even start racing. I need a mommy boat to tow me out.

Indifferent Ian responded: Hey, it's just part of the game. Chill out. Relax. We'll be racing soon enough.

Logical Len mused: You came here to sail didn't you? Well, you're sailing aren't you? Just shut up complaining and enjoy it.

Learner Larry explained: I can use all this extra time on the water. On the upwind sail to the course I can tune my beating technique. Then on the run back to the club at the end of the day I can try different methods for catching rides on waves. One hour of upwind and one hour of downwind? That would be a good practice session on a non-racing day.

Earnest Eddie enthused: This is a great workout. Much more fun than running or biking or working out at the gym. And much more specific to sailing. Every hour I spend on the water I'm just getting fitter and fitter.

Restless Ron asked: Are we nearly there yet?

Mad Mike ranted: This is a terrible place to sail. I'm never coming back here. Over two miles to the course and having to dodge all these ferries and don't even mention the fog. What a drag.

Anal Alan suggested: We should calculate the ratio of time spent racing to total time on the water. For example, today we were on the water six hours for three thirty minute races. That's about a 25% productive racing percentage. They should publish the percentages for every major regatta so we could see which ones give us the best value for the time spent.

Neighborly Ned asked: Hey Tillerman. Let's tune up together on they way out to the course. We can check out the shifts and the tides and work out the best way to work the waves. Isn't it great to have an hour to do this before we have to race?

Of course Ted, Ian, Len, Larry, Eddie, Ron, Mike, Alan and Ned are all just voices in Tillerman's head.

Is that a problem, doctor? Yes, I hear nine different guys arguing in my head. I shouldn't worry about it? It's completely normal to hold mutually inconsistent opinions? Lawyers and politicians do it all the time? OK. Thanks doc. That's a relief.

Oh, and I talk about myself in the third person. Is that normal? No, I thought not.

Hmmm. I think I must have been in the sun too long last weekend.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Hyannis Regatta 2007

Three days. Nine races for the Laser fleet. Great race committee work and on-shore hospitality. Thank you Hyannis Yacht Club.

Seeing old friends. Making some new ones.

Too much pizza. Not enough beer. Probably better that way round than the other. (I'm not saying the beer ran out. Just that I was too exhausted most evenings to be able to break any drinking records.)

Eight solid finishes and only one bad one. Hey, that's pretty consistent I reckon. At least for me.

Strong winds. Light winds. Waves. Flat water. Bit of everything.

Current sometimes. No current other times. Hey, if I can't detect it, then it ain't there.

Sunshine. Fog. Thunder boomers. But no rain while we were racing all weekend.

Some great starts. Some mediocre starts. No OCS's. Probably means I'm not trying hard enough if I'm never OCS. But in a regatta with no throwouts allowed it paid to be a little conservative on the start line. At least that was my theory.

Finding the secret for sailing a Laser on the beat fast and high in light winds and chop. Hey, if I told you it wouldn't be a secret would it?

Not finding the secret as to why the top guys were so much faster than me downwind in light air. Possible theories: I'm too old, too fat, too clumsy, too dumb, or too lazy. Hmmm. That's a tough one. All of the above?

Rounding the windward mark in first place in one race on the last day. Oh did I mention that I was ahead of last year's Central American and Caribbean Champion, the current US Masters Champion, and this year's North American College Sailor of the Year? Well yes, they did all roll over me on the downwind leg but it felt good for a while. When you're an old duffer like me you have to relish those small moments of glory.

Overall score for the regatta in the top 25% of the fleet. And everyone ahead of me was younger than me and had a newer boat than me. Hmmm. I guess I could fix one of those issues?

Beating that guy. I told you I would. Didn't you believe me?

Getting home in time to see my granddaughter before she left our house on Sunday evening. She still remembered who I was and demanded a hug. Actually several hugs. Priceless.

How was your weekend?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Red Hand Gang

It could have been entered for our most embarrassing moments in sailing project. Bill Faude's moment occurred while sailing in the Pan Am games in Brazil and is recounted on his Lightning in Rio blog.

This morning we went out onto the racecourse before the racing to check out the conditions. One of the things we regularly do is to sail by a permanent sea buoy of some kind to check the current. We have tide charts that tell us whether the tide should be coming in or going out. But the wind delays that sometimes. Or else the wind can even prevent the tide from going out at all. This happened on Tuesday. Anyway, we put a sponge in the water next to a big red buoy. The sponge floats low in the water so that when it moves you know it's the current that's moving it and not the wind. You might also do this with a weighted stick. OK, so we picked up the sponge and I told David I wanted to touch the buoy for good luck. I smacked it a good one as we went by. Later I looked down and saw a red splotch on the side of the boat. I thought someone was bleeding but in reality it was a hand print. The red sea buoy 3/4th of a mile off shore. The red sea buoy smack dab in the middle of the dirtiest harbor you'd ever never dream of swimming in. The red sea buoy, one of thousands in a gigantic country where very little appears to get periodic maintenance...had just been painted. Incredible!

Killer Bees

Joe wants bees.


Oh no! Not that guy again. I'm getting soooo tired of seeing his transom...

There's this guy. About my age. Good Laser sailor. I've known him for years and after we moved to this area he was one of the first to welcome me to the local fleet.

We've raced in a few regattas together this season. And every single time he finishes in front of me. Not by much. A place or three. A few points maybe. And it's driving me crazy.

My main motivation for trying harder and for racing better is to beat this guy. I'm consumed by it. I measure my performance against him. If I beat him I think I've had a good race. As the season progresses and my regatta finishes creep closer to his I think I'm improving.

The logical side of my brain tells me it's crazy to measure myself against one other sailor. He might have a bad day. On any given day he might be unwell, or worrying about his work, or have an equipment breakdown. But if I beat him I will be all puffed up with pride and think I have become a better sailor.

Logically I should measure my performance against the whole fleet. I should be setting myself targets to be in the top 30%, the top 10% of the fleet. Not to beat just one guy.

But the emotional irrational side of me can't help it. I have to beat this guy. What's he doing differently from me? Does he have better equipment? Does he rig his boat differently? Does he hike harder? How does he trim his sail downwind? Desperately I have to find out how he's beating me every weekend and I have to, I just have to find a way to get past him.

Am I crazy? Or are you like me? Is there one boat that is always just ahead of you in the races? Are you focused on beating it? Or do you see the bigger picture?

Another regatta this weekend. He'll be there. That guy. I know he will. This weekend I'm going to beat him. Just watch me.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Cow on a Beach

Why a picture of a cow on a beach? I have no idea. Ask Adam.

This photo was taken in 2005 on some Caribbean island but it was so good I'm not telling you which one. Or I've forgotten. One or the other.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Some sailing bloggers like Andrew are jetting round the world to major championships and have every reason to expect a good result...
"... held on Robert Scheidt’s hip most of the way up the beat. We tacked and I was able to pinch him off..."
(God, it must have felt good to be able to write that bit!)

Others have more relaxed ambitions. The author of J24 Blog has these expectations for Friday night racing...
  • To have fun

  • Don’t hit any other boats

  • Get more friends and family out racing with us

  • Prove Bill wrong that it is possible to BBQ hot dogs on the pushpit-mounted grill while underway in a race.
What are your expectations for sailing this weekend?

Who Needs An SUV?

Len Wells from Columbus, NC gets the award for most unusual way to tow a Laser. Len and his Laser are powered by a Honda Gold Wing.

Thanks to ILCNA District 12 and Marilyn Sechrist for the photo.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Not Today Please

Cheat the nursing home, die on your Laser.
But please... not today.

The photo shows Joel Lambinus and his Laser after being run down by a tour boat in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina while sailing in the Charleston Yacht Club Open.

"I looked over my shoulder, and I saw the boat, about 75 yards away and headed dead straight for me," said Lambinus, 57, an experienced sailor. "A Laser sits 6 inches above the water, and that boat is four stories tall and 100-something feet long," he said.

He recalled hearing a woman aboard the tour boat scream as he hit the water. "I thought, what a hell of a way to die. I'm going to die underneath a tour boat in Charleston. What kind of a way to die is that?"



Why Sail?

Why do we sail? What is it about sailing that grabs our attention, fires our enthusiasm, and turns us into lifelong passionate devotees of the sport?

I came across some answers to these questions yesterday in an unlikely source...

1. As compared to other methods of transport the uncertainty of sailing is part of its charm. (Apparently the author had never had the pleasure of flying with Northwest Airlines.)

2. The fact that skill and attention are required at almost every instant of the journey makes it more satisfying than other methods of travel. (Please note, that guy on port tack in Newport. You know who you are.)

3. Sailing is a game in which the mental power and physical activity of the sailor are pitted against the forces of nature. All other games are essentially rivalries between opponents in the exercise of some skill. But all of life is not combat; it is often the exercise of our ingenuity in dealing with natural forces over which we have no direct control. So sailing gratifies one of our deepest human instincts: it mimics the struggle of humanity to progress by taking advantage of the forces of the natural world.

4. The sailor uses his skills and intelligence to beat against the wind, an apparently impossible act to the uninformed layman. Just as in life, the stupid or lazy person will drift with the wind and be buffeted wherever life takes him; but the smart, diligent person finds a way to make progress in life "against the wind" whatever that may mean in his vocation. Is the feeling of rounding the windward mark in first place after a long hard beat so different from the pleasure we feel from scoring well in an exam, finishing a tough project, or winning that promotion at work? It's all about the mental payback that comes from success after putting in the necessary hard work to achieve it.

5. In light winds the sailor is constantly on the lookout for small opportunities to make progress that may be missed by the less capable or careless. Also in life, the person with the skill for seeing small opportunities and taking advantage of them will often go far, whether we are talking about personal finance, looking after your own health, tending a garden, or... finding subjects to blog about.

Which brings me (somewhat prematurely) to the question of where the hell did I find these weird ideas to blog about? Well, they were in a long article by P.G. Hamerton entitled Sailing Analogies in an 1883 edition of The Contemporary Review. The sailing essay was tucked away between ones on The Saints of Islam and The Nonconformists and Church Reform. (Hey, I'm sure they were topical subjects when Capt. Nat was in his prime.)

Dear old PG goes on to draw analogies between sailing and life in such areas as putting on more sail (which apparently explained why the Poles, Italians and Egyptians were respectively getting more or less than what they deserved in the 1880s), the role of ballast (a somewhat contrived analogy to the power of moral energy), and lastly the similarities between the sinking of a sailing vessel and our own death. Heavy stuff man. PG sounds like a bundle of laughs.

And how the heck did I find this gem? Am I in the habit of perusing the local libraries for 19th century editions of The Contemporary Review? No. It was all thanks to our good friends at Google. This document was digitized by them as part of their Google Books project and discovered by their search engine when I was trying to find out more about that eerie quote in yesterday's post about one of my heroes.

Anyway I'm sure PG's style of sailing writing went down well in Victorian times. If alive and kicking today he would probably be writing The Horse's Mouth.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Ben Ainslie

The hero is not fed on sweets,
Daily his own heart he eats;
Chambers of the great are jails,
And head-winds right for royal sails.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Dear Race Committee

Dear Race Committee,

Thanks for giving up your free time to run this regatta for us. I appreciate that you are all volunteers, would probably rather be sailing yourself, and that some of you may be relatively new to the sport and have been invited to make up the numbers on the RC boat so you can see what racing is all about.

Having said all that (and I do appreciate you, I really do, and I have been in your shoes many times) could I please offer a few suggestions...

1. If the sailing instructions say that the first warning signal will be at 11am, and the winds are steady, and there has been no postponement on shore, and all the competitors can easily sail to the course by that time... please, please, please be on station at 11am, have the marks in the water, and be ready to start a race. There is nothing more frustrating for us racers than to get up early on a Saturday morning, drive several hours to the regatta site, rig our boats, spend an hour sailing out to the course... and then have to sit around for another hour while you get yourselves organized.

2. You've been watching the America's Cup on TV haven't you? You saw how Peter 'Luigi' Reggio waited each day for the perfect wind, and adjusted the course and start line for every little windshift... and now you want to be just like Luigi?

Please don't. This is not the America's Cup. Luigi only had to run one race a day, and even if he didn't run a race today there was always tomorrow. For us there is no tomorrow. This is a one day regatta. We want as many races as possible. Please don't futz around for 40 minutes moving the course marks for every 5 degree wind shift. We don't care. We just want to go racing. In any case the chances are that the wind will shift some more by the time you position all the marks exactly where you want them, so forget about it. If the line and course are more or less right, then start the sequence and let's race.

3. Have you ever thought that the most important thing about the visual signals you make is that the sailors can see them? So if the fleet is going off upwind after the start and you want to signal a general recall, please don't ask the smallest person on your team to stand on the stern of the RC boat with a general recall flag that's totally obscured from the racers by the cabin on your boat. I know you're getting frustrated when it takes such a long time for all the fleet to come back to the start line after every recall. Have you stopped to wonder why?

4. And while we're talking about how you assign tasks to the members of your team, what were you thinking when you selected the guy to read the sail numbers at the finish line? Has he seen an optician lately? Or did he forget to bring his spectacles?

Here's a clue that he may not be the best man for the job: you find that a significant percentage of the numbers that he called don't match to any of the numbers of the sailors registered for the regatta, and on the other hand you end up with a bunch of sailors who are entered who apparently didn't finish some of the races at random even though you didn't spot anyone leaving the course or ducking out of any race.

5. We like to hear from you. If you are about to do something unusual then do us the courtesy of using that loudhailer that you have on the RC boat. For example if you signalled a two-lap course and then after a couple of recalls and postponements, you change your mind and decide to give us a one-lap course then please, please, please make sure we all know about it.

Don't just ask one of your team to erase surreptitiously the numeral 2 on the course board and expect us all to spot the change. Some of us are not that smart and have other things on our minds like "which end of the line should I start this time" or "will my wonky tiller extension universal hold together for one more race" or "do I have time to have a pee before the next start". We're not all mind readers. Please hail and let us know you've changed the course.

I think that's all for now. Thanks for being on race committee. I appreciate all your efforts. I really do.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Three Watery Bloggish Thingies

It's a while since I published my last Top Ten Sailing Blogs post and since then a number of new entertaining and informative blogs have popped up... or maybe I just became aware of them. I'm not planning to do another Top Ten list before the end of the year, but here are a few blogs and websites that are worthy of mention and may be contenders for that next list. (Current top ten honorees look to your laurels.)

is a videoblog that features bouncy presenter Julie Perry in 3-5 minute online shows covering all manner of boating-related stories and news. Today for example she hits on dredging the Great Lakes, a yacht marooned in Key West, boat renaming ceremonies,
and a "Best Viewed from a Boat" Fireworks Contest. Seems like she is seeking comments and feedback on the blog..."It takes a village people! Or at least a marina."

Rule 69 Blog
succeeds in its aim to be "fun, light-hearted and informative on a daily basis". It warns that "the views, at times, may be scathing, unpopular and left-field" but, hey, that's its major charm. (Did I get the apostrophes right there Carol Anne?) Edited by Magnus Wheatley (by no means as easy on the eye, or as bouncy, as the aforementioned Ms Pepper) Rule 69 Blog has recently covered such topics as how the clowns at America's Cup management are ruining our circus, why Ben Ainslie would be crazy to join the British AC challenge and a nightmare stag night prank. More controversial than Scuttlebutt but, dare I say it, more wary of libel laws than Sailing Anarchy, the only real beef I have against Rule 69 Blog is that it doesn't allow comments.

And then we have SplashVision. It's relatively new and I'm not really sure where it's heading. Easiest way to describe it perhaps is YouTube for boaters. Or in their own words SplashVision is "the Only Social Network in the world targeted towards Scientists, Water Enthusiasts, Seafarers, Beach Lovers and Hobbyists. It is a community site which has to do with anything related to bodies of water including Oceans, Lakes, Ponds, Canals, Fjords, and the like. Also included are Beaches and Vacation destinations along their shores and the People, Organisms and Creatures who survive, navigate, search and scour them." Oh, and they do plan to have a splashblog too.

Here's one of the videos from SplashVision...

wind surfing - cheating death

Puffy is that you?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Harry Potter - Spoiler Confirmed

Confound you sceptics. I could just sense that some of you didn't believe my exclusive scoop of the ending to the Harry Potter series revealed here yesterday. But now the front cover of Harry Potter and the Deaf Ear Hellos has been made public and I am vindicated.

It's clear that the ending is a tale of sailboat racing because it's absolutely obvious that the cover depicts three wild-eyed Laser sailors dashing to the protest room at the end of a hard day's racing in order to be the first to file protests against the dastardly forces of evil that they have been struggling against all day.

That brainy looking chap in the front, elbowing all the others aside, is clearly ready to take on the dark powers of the race committee and is planning to file a request for redress for their wicked plot to confuse him about the number of laps to be sailed in the second race.

And that angry female behind him (Paige is that you?) is still hyperventilating about that incident with her rival in the Radial fleet at the leeward mark in the first race. "Like I told you like no room like and you were like I have room and I was just like no way and then I like closed the door and you were like I don't care I'm coming through that gap anyway."

And why is that third sailor looking so terrified? Has he just seen the clock and realised that he only has three minutes left to write up his protest and find some witnesses before the time limit expires? Or has he realised that the bar has just opened and that he is going to be locked up in the protest room for the next two hours while his buddies are drinking?

Remember, you saw it here first.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deaf Ear Hellos

Spoiler warning. As a result of my close relationship with JK (or Jo as her intimate friends call her) I can now reveal some hints of the contents of the seventh and thankfully final edition of the Harry Potter twaddle...

Almost every other character in the story comes to a sticky end, and then Harry at the ripe old age of 17 discovers that Laser sailing is more interesting and complex than that Quidditch folferole and leaves Hogwarts to train to win the UK Laser spot in the 2012 Olympics. Thanks to his magical powers he can spot every windshift and easily beats all the muggles and the RYA select him as their candidate. Unfortunately in the medal race the judges rule that his magical insights count as outside assistance and disqualify him under Rule 41 thereby allowing a 64-year-old formerly British recently naturalized Virgin Islander to become the oldest person ever to win the Laser gold medal at the Olympics.
Good triumphs over evil. Ron and Hermione finally hook up and name their first child Tillerman and life goes on.

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes. Please don't post any of the above on the usual HP forums. Jo would be upset.

Newport Regatta

Thanks to Eli Boat for pointing me at the source of pictures of the sailing at the Newport Regatta last weekend. Turns out that he (in a 110) and I were actually racing on the same circle on Saturday and Sunday.

As they say, if there's no photo it didn't happen. So here's definite proof that I do stay ahead of some of the kids some of the time, I do get my butt over the side of the boat some of the time, and I do sail my boat flatter than some of the kids some of the time.

No Wind

In a comment to my previous post, the picture of my former sailing lake in New Jersey showing a typical wind situation there (little patch of wind one place, no wind anywhere else), Edward -- yes the same superstar Edward who writes the EVK4 SUPERHYPERDRIVE BLOG -- asks...

did you have to scull over the the other side? that seems like a bit of a bummer every time you go sailing. Could a laser be fitted with an outboard bracket?
Great question Edward.

First of all let me say that that lake has produced some of the best Sunfish sailors in the world. (We mainly sailed Sunfish there.) There's something about little lakes with challenging shifts and patchy winds that seems to develop the talents (in some people) to eek every fraction of a knot of speed from the boat, to read wind conditions with a sixth-sense-like intuition, and to know instantly how to to deal with every tactical situation that can come up in crowded starts and mark roundings. Unfortunately I was not one of the people who ever acquired those particular talents.

Secondly you learned that no matter how still the water looks there is almost always some wind. Maybe not much. But if you have some sensitive wind indicators made out of cassette tape maybe, heel the boat to leeward to help the boom stay out, and stay absolutely still for eons... .... ..... the boat will slowly, slowly, slowly ... .... ..... yes actually accelerate to a tenth of a knot. Many is the time the fleet has inched its way around the course like that. As a result, even though I am a fairly big guy, I do seem to be able to keep a boat moving in light airs and flat water in conditions that will defeat sailors who haven't had the "benefit" of training and racing on a lake like that.

Thirdly... I always took a paddle.

Summer Day 1912

It seems like a long time since we left New Jersey. It's not really 95 years (only 4 months in reality) but this old photo from 1912 captures exactly the spirit of the world we left behind. The shot is taken from the place just across the road from our old house, at the bottom of the ramp where I used to launch my Sunfish. The tantalizing strip of wind on the far side of the lake is typical of what I would often see when launching to go racing on a Sunday morning. The summer house in the picture still stands at the bottom of our ex-neighbor's garden.

Now I spend my summer weekends racing my Laser in Buzzards Bay or Narragansett Bay in 15-20 knots. And yet I still feel an occasional twinge of nostalgia for the patchy winds on that tiny lake. Very very occasional.

And before anybody asks, no, I didn't take that picture myself.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Shower Curtain Ring Guy

Two weeks since the Buzzards Bay Championship and my Teaser post and so far I've only written one post about it, in spite of all the "teases". And now another regatta under my belt this weekend with potentially lots more to blog about... a costly blunder by most of the fleet, a couple of racing rule conundrums, musings on sailing fitness or lack of it, my one brilliant strategic decision (they happen occasionally, very occasionally, I've no idea why), what motivates me to sail better and why it's probably a bad thing... Not to mention a day of practice in Bristol Harbor.

So why am I not blogging about sailing? I keep thinking of the quote from Steve Martin's 1987 movie, Planes Trains and Automobiles.

You know everything is not an anecdote. You have to discriminate. You choose things that are funny or mildly amusing or interesting. You're a miracle! Your stories have NONE of that. They're not even amusing ACCIDENTALLY! "Honey, I'd like you to meet Del Griffith, he's got some amusing anecdotes for you. Oh and here's a gun so you can blow your brains out. You'll thank me for it." I could tolerate any insurance seminar. For days I could sit there and listen to them go on and on with a big smile on my face. They'd say, "How can you stand it?" I'd say, "'Cause I've been with Del Griffith. I can take ANYTHING." You know what they'd say? They'd say, "I know what you mean. The shower curtain ring guy. Woah." It's like going on a date with a Chatty Cathy doll. I expect you have a little string on your chest, you know, that I pull out and have to snap back. Except I wouldn't pull it out and snap it back - you would. Agh! Agh! Agh! Agh! And by the way, you know, when you're telling these little stories? Here's a good idea - have a POINT. It makes it SO much more interesting for the listener!

Let's face it. A lot of posts on many blogs -- including a lot on this one -- don't have a point, or are even mildly amusing or interesting. Edward at the EVK Super Hyper Blog wrote about the problem with sailing the other day: a beautiful fun relaxing sail does not make for good blog material. Nor necessarily does a beautiful fun exhausting series of races.

When I used to write a sailing column for my local newspaper I always tried to have a "hook" for each article. I tried so hard not to write stories about our fleet that essentially said "some of the fleet went right, some of the fleet went left, the left was right" or words to that effect. But I often failed.

Can't a blog just be a daily journal? Sure. A lot are. "Got up. Had breakfast. Chatted online. Did some weeding." You don't want to read that sort of drivel here.

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes.

This is all just a long roundabout way to say that I seem to have bloggers' block. I blame Steve Martin and Edward.

But I refuse to be the shower curtain ring guy.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Three Three Three

Here is my list of the Top Three entries in the Blog Project Three contest which I entered earlier this week with my modest but incredibly witty post-modernistical-ironical post on 3 Fatal Errors of Blogging...

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes.

I can't vote for myself so here are the next best three entries...

Get Healthy in Three Minutes

3 Reasons Running is Good for You

Three reasons to try a marathon

The contest wasn't about health and fitness but I chose three from that category because they're closer to the theme of this blog than entries about Blog Stickiness, Kermit the Frog, Transformers, Sexy Cover Ladies, or Why Superheroes Wear Their Underwear On The Outside. Hey, look them up yourself if it that's your thing.

Having spent three minutes writing this post I'm going to follow the three pieces of advice in those three posts and go for a three mile run. See ya.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Clerihew Round Up

Thanks to all who contributed clerihews about themselves or others in response to yesterday's request. Here are the best of the best...

Once had a plan
To blog about sailing,
Too bad that he's failing.

my name is Tim
and I'm not so thin
If I lost some weight
well that'd be great

Kayaker Bonnie
Loves her Romany
and is also quite true
to her charming TQ

Carol Anne
Had a plan
To blog this and that
'Til caught by a cat

Adam Turinas
Rhymes with... ? umm Venus
Or maybe with highness
So cock, why the shyness?

Joe Rowth
Has a blog called Horse's Mouth
Thorry about the lithp
I hope he wont be pitht

My name is the Horse
and I love the Force
If I got a Laser
I would be even crazier

isn't known for his lightness
he got a new sail
but to no avail

Is such a He Man
On a laser
He amaze yer

To race or cruise
You cannot lose
Get on the water
You know you ought ta'

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Go Anna!

Congratulations to Anna Tunnicliffe for her 5th place finish at the ISAF World Championships in Portugal in the Laser Radial class. And less than one point per race out of the first place. So close to gold!

Is it too much to hope that we may yet see Anna on the podium with an Olympic medal in China in 2008? I think not.

Clerihew Day

Thanks to Freakonomics Blog for pointing out that today July 10 is Clerihew Day, marking the birth date in 1875 of Edmund Clerihew Bentley, the British writer who invented a four-line rhyming verse, usually biographical in nature and resembling a limerick, that came to be known as a “clerihew.”

What has that got to do with economics? I dunno. What has it got to do with sailing either? If Joe can blog about Fish on Fridays and Carol Anne can write about cats then I can ramble on about clerihews.

Where was ? Where am I? Oh yes. Clerihews.

According to Word Daze...

The clerihew is a biographical form that begins with the subject's name (or at least contains the name in the first line). It is made up of two rhyming couplets (thus the rhyme scheme is AABB). The only other requirement of the form is that it should be light hearted or humorous.

Here are a couple of examples of Bentley's clerihews:

Sir Humphrey Davy
detested gravy
He lived in the Odium
Of having discovered Sodium.

Edward the Confessor
Slept under the dresser.
When that began to pall,
He slept in the hall.

So today's challenge is to write a clerihew about yourself. Publish it on your blog and email me about it and I will post a link. Or email the clerihew to me and I will post it here. Or just post it in the comments.

Here's my contribution...

Once had a plan
To blog about sailing,
Too bad that he's failing.

Laser Sails

Alan McNab asked a question about Laser sails in the comments of one of my posts yesterday...

Just curious if your new sail was Laser standard issue from Sri Lanka or the upgraded version from the UK (I think). You can feel the difference in the material.

I had to smile. Lasers are of course strict one-design boats so an official Laser sail is an official Laser sail. Right? Well, maybe not. In the search for that elusive edge over the competition who are all sailing (almost) identical boats, Laser sailors will pursue almost any (legal) stratagem. Their quest is, to some extent, provoked by the fact that hulls, spars and sails are manufactured at different factories in different parts of the world so it's natural to assume that minor differences in manufacturing methods or sourcing of materials might mean there are differences in performance. Are European spars stiffer? Are Australian hulls lighter? Maybe it's worth finding out. Or maybe you just need to have faith.

The Laser class try very hard to maintain consistency of equipment between different manufacturers. Apparently there's a very detailed comprehensive (but secret) builder's manual that defines exactly what materials and methods to use for every component of the Laser. And I understand that the class has a technical manager who visits and inspects the factories and sail manufacturers to make sure that everything is being done to spec.

So why does Mr McNab think that there is such a thing as an "upgraded" sail from the UK? Here's the scoop...

Laser sails are made by North Sails (for the North American and Australian markets) and Hyde Sails (for Europe). You can buy a Hyde sail in the USA but it is more expensive than the North sail. But is it better?

This issue has been debated ad infinitum on the Laser forum and the general consensus seems to be that unless you are in the Ben Ainslie/ Robert Scheidt stratosphere the difference in performance (if any) between North and Hyde sails is so minuscule as to be irrelevant to the average weekend warrior.

And before the comments develop into a rant about outsourcing and third-world manufacturing standards and slave labor, let me just point out that both North and Hyde have their Laser sails made in Asia, in Sri Lanka and the Philippines respectively (I think).

So is MrMcab right in saying that you can "feel the difference in the material" between the Hyde and North Laser sails? I dunno. Never had the two side by side. But it did seem to me that the new North sail that I just acquired does not feel as stiff as the last one I bought. No idea whether this matters. I'm not going to worry about it. I'm just going to go sailing and concentrate on hiking hard, sailing flat and trying to be first to the next shift.

See you on the water.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Proper Course Banned

I finally made it!

After my dismal performance at only achieving a PG rating for my blog a couple of weeks ago, my recent attempts to make Proper Course a bit racier have succeeded. My spies tell me that I have been banned as unsuitable material for work-time viewing at a certain large-stuffy-Boston-law-firm.

I know, I know. It's probably all done by automatic web filters and using the N word five times in the last post could have had something to do with it.

But I'm proud anyway.

Nude Recreation Week.

This week is Nude Recreation Week during which we are encouraged to enjoy clothes free-relaxation by participating in such activities as gardening, exercise, housework and telecommuting in the nude.

Hmmm. Any suggestions?

Nude Laser sailing.... sounds extremely uncomfortable.

Nude running up the main road... probably get arrested.

Nude blogging anyone?

Buzzards Bay Blast

It's the first race of the Buzzards Bay Championship. After a wait for the sea breeze to settle in it's blowing the proverbial medium-sized dogs off rusty chains. White caps and waves.

Crank-down-the-sail-controls and hike-as-hard-as-you-can weather. What's that? Umpteen knots? I dunno.

I'm psyched up. I have my new sail. And son #1 (reputed heavy air fat-boy fast-guy) is racing with a new sail too. I actually worked out this week (at least once) so I'm at the peak of my form.

It's a long start line so it's easy to find a gap and reach off for speed at the gun. Bang. I'm off. Sheet on. Hike from my toes. Ugh -- torque the boat over the first wave. Ugh -- and the second one. Man this feels good. I'm driving over the boat to leeward and have the bow well ahead of the boat to windward. Ugh -- torque over another wave and it's looking good. Have a clear lane and freedom to tack. Life is good.

Working hard all the way up the beat. My quads are screaming but I'm hanging in there with kids a third of my age. Geeze 0.8nm is a long way.

Closing in on the windward mark I cross the guy who won the regatta last year and round in the top five. Wow. I'm not as slow as I thought I was.

But then there's a whole line of boats coming in on port tack and I can't bear away immediately on to the run. (Excellent article by Dick Rose on this situation in the June Sailing World magazine, by the way.) I lose a few boats on the run and son #1 almost catches me. Can't hike as hard on the second beat but I still score a top ten finish in a fleet of over twenty boats and win the Tillerman family duel. Not too shabby Grandad.

So what did I learn?

a) The new sail made a huge difference. As a Laser sail ages the differences from week to week are so small as to be almost unnoticeable. But they add up. I could feel how much better I was punching through the waves upwind compared to my dismal performance at Hyannis.

b) If I hike hard and work the boat aggressively through the waves I'm faster than most upwind.

c) Fitness counts. I can't work that hard for more than about ten minutes in any given race. George was right. Need to get fitter. Wonder what would work best, thinking about it, blogging about it, or actually dusting off the hiking bench?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

ISAF World Championships

Congratulations to Andrew Campbell and Anna Tunnicliffe on their performances so far in the ISAF World Championships currently being sailed in Cascais, Portugal. They are the leading US sailors in the Laser and Laser Radial fleets respectively and have made the cut for the gold fleets in the second half of the championships.

What I find particularly impressive about these two leading contenders for spots on the US Olympic team for 2008 is that they not only have the energy and ability to go out and race their Lasers against the best in the world in crazy winds and huge waves, they also have the creativity and commitment to blog about their experiences after every day's racing.

Good luck guys. Keep on blogging.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

3 Fatal Errors of Blogging

There are 3 things you must never ever do on your blog...

1. Don't stray from your niche. Unless the topic of your blog is catholic culinary doctrine, feline transportation techniques or inside-the-beltway gossip, do not pad out your blog with posts about Fish on Fridays, How to keep a cat happy, or Truth and the Bush Regime. Your readers come to your blog because they want to read about the main subject. That's why you will never find me writing about ditsy subjects like goldfish, carrots, or sunsets.

2. Don't piss off your most loyal readers by criticizing their blogs.

3. Never, never, never write a post purely for the purpose of entering one of those tantalizing blog competitions, even if there is a chance of winning a hundred bucks.

If Then Else

Why are there all these blogs about sailing? As Edward recently pointed out on his grandly rebranded EVK4 Superblog most of sailing is uneventful: "A beautiful fun relaxing sail does not make for blog material".

Which got me to thinking? If you didn't blog about sailing what would the subject of your blog be? And why?

I'm not sure what my answer would be. There are plenty of running blogs but they are even more boring than sailing blogs. Went for my usual three mile run. My mile times were 12:30, 12:25 and 4:00. I don't think so.

Or I could write yet another raving, ranting, hyperventilating political blog about how those other guys are evil monsters bent on destroying life as we know it. Too boring.

Or I could cover baseball from the vantage of my couch in front of the TV. But the Yankees are having such a horrible season that that would be way too depressing.

Or I could do one of those food photo blogs and be one of those incredibly annoying people taking flash photos of every dish they eat in fancy restaurants.

Or do something totally wacky like that guy who only writes about the loose change he picks up in the street.

Or be incestuous and blog about blogging.

So many choices. Perhaps I'll just stick to sailing. What about you?

Friday, July 06, 2007

Hike Harder Tillerman

They say it's your birthday
It's my birthday too, yeah

They say it's your birthday

We're gonna have a good time

I'm glad it's your birthday
Happy birthday to you.

Happy Birthday George. Yeah it's our shared birthday again already. Came around fast didn't it?

It's been a great year for me, thanks for asking George. Two fabulous sailing trips to Menorca in October and Cabarete in January. Then the London Marathon in April and a half-marathon in Boston in May. More significantly we had something of a surge to achieve one of our long-standing objectives, to move to a new home near the water in Rhode Island. Took us a bit longer than we had expected but we can now say with conviction, "Mission Accomplished".

How was your year George? You had a surge too? Things taking a tad longer than expected as well? Good luck. Let us know how it turns out. Soon please.

I hear you were in the area last week. I don't think I received an invitation to your speech in Newport on Thursday. You had a tour of the tall ships? Wow, what a coincidence, so did I. You and Laura should drop by next time you are in Rhode Island. I know you like clearing brush so you can give me a hand with the back yard.

So have a great day Mr. President. I hear you're thinking of retiring soon. You should.

And thanks for the advice. I should hike harder. At least you're right about that. But today I'm just going to relax and enjoy my birthday.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Wifely Words of Wisdom

So there I was last Sunday evening, dozing on the sofa and groaning about my aches and pains after a hard (and extremely enjoyable) weekend of Laser sailing, and the lovely Tillerwoman gave me the benefit of her wifely wisdom on the subject.

What do you think she said?

a) You're too old for this game. At your age the most energetic thing your Dad did was an occasional game of pool down the pub. It's time you started acting your age.

b) I have no sympathy. You know you're going to feel like this after you go sailing so why do you do it?

c) If you actually used that hiking bench and weights down in the basement maybe you wouldn't feel so bad after sailing.

d) Shut up and come to bed.

e) You should sail more.

f) All of the above.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Lies, Damn Lies and Blogs

Laser Sailor Wins America's Cup

Wow. What an amazing race to close out the 32nd America's Cup. Who said the America's Cup is boring?

No point in rehashing the details of the race. You either saw it on Versus or have read about it on any number of blogs written by authors much closer to the action than I am. I'm just pleased for Ed Baird, 1980 Laser World Champion and now 2007 winning America's Cup helmsman. Ed has been one of my sailing heroes ever since I started sailing and racing Lasers in the early 80's. I still have my well-thumbed copy of Ed's 1982 book Laser Racing which I studied intensely when I was learning to race Lasers back in the day.

There's a closer connection between the Tillerman family and Mr Baird. Son #1 a.k.a. Litoralis was lucky enough to spend one summer while in college working on the design team for Baird's Young America AC syndicate. He even went sailing with Ed on one of the syndicate's IACC boats. AC aficionados may recall that during the second Round Robin of the Louis Vuitton Cup in November 1999, Young America's USA-53 reared up in a set of waves whilst tacking, the hull cracked in two, and the boat nearly sank. Litoralis tells me that he was working on sail design and analysis, not the hull, but I'm not so sure.

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes.

Congratulations to Ed Baird. An American wins the America's Cup just in time for July 4th. More importantly a Laser sailor wins the America's Cup. Just as I expected.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

You Are The Problem

You. Yes you. You are the problem. It's all your fault.

What me? What problem?

The decline of the boating industry. It's all your fault.

Me? Why me?

Because you're sitting in front of a computer and according to Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the reason why his members aren't selling so many boats these days is all because of computers.

Yes those damn computers. Instead of going out for a blast around the bay you're sitting in front of a computer reading mindless blogs while the marine manufacturing industry is going down the drain and it's all your fault. At least that's what our Thom is reported as saying at SignOnSanDiego.com today. Or words to that effect. Kind of.

I guess it's a theory. I'm tempted to list all the ways in which computers support and enhance the sport of sailing and why anyone in Mr Dammrich's position should be finding even more ways to leverage the power of computers and the Internet to promote the sport of sailing and incidentally his members' businesses.

But no. I'll leave it up to you dear reader. As it's all your fault in the first place. Tell Mr Dammrich what you think of his opinion in the comments to this post. Knock yourself out.

Oh, and by the way, if you were going to chose someone to promote an activity that is often seen (unfairly of course) as a pursuit of the idle wealthy classes, don't you think you would find someone with a better name than Damn Rich?

Thanks to Anon north of 49 for the heads up on this one.

Monday, July 02, 2007


This weekend I sailed my Laser in the Championship of Buzzards Bay and my aching body this morning is telling me I must have had a great time. Lots to blog about including my new sail (yes I finally splurged), what I learned about sailing fitness, losing and finding my groove, watching and learning from a master of the sport, my devilish scheme to beat Litoralis yet again, Tillerwoman's advice on sailing, and coming out of the closet. I may even get around to discussing some helpful advice I received on urination technique, and what was in that mysterious pink drink.

Given that I've been able to milk my experiences at the Laser North Americans for almost two weeks of blogging, I fully expect to be able to do the same for this event.

More to follow...

Class Act

Our group writing project on worst race-committee screw-ups revealed some amazing tales of staggering ineptitude, conceit, foolishness and even intoxication. Why is that some of us who are probably highly successful in our careers as well as being excellent racing sailors suddenly become blithering idiots as soon as we step on to a race committee boat? Who knows?

On the other hand there are some extremely competent race committees and regatta organizers out there. One place that I can always rely on to run a professional event is the Hyannis YC, host of the Laser North Americans a couple of weeks ago. I've sailed several other major events there before, so with Peter Johns as regatta chairman and Tom Duggan as Principal Race Officer I had high hopes for a superb weekend of well-run sailing.

Thursday was a frustrating day with no racing because of high winds. I talked about this day in Waiting Game and discussed some issues relating to such days in Are You Experienced? There was some grumbling in some quarters about the decision not to race but personally I'm sure Duggan made the right call. Certainly I would not have taken 200 Laserites of varying abilities a couple of miles offshore in those conditions, no matter how many Mommy Boats were there to support me.

So the qualification series was cut to one day and we had an awesome day of racing on Friday with the best conditions one could hope for, and with the Hyannis YC race committee doing their usual top-notch professional job enabling us to complete the maximum allowed three races on that day.

The results of the qualification series weren't posted at the club when I left around 7pm that evening. Not that I cared. I knew that my scores were "good" enough to qualify me to sail in the silver fleet for the rest of the regatta. And I wasn't wrong. When I arrived at the club on Saturday morning and all the sailors clustered around the noticeboard to check the scores I had to squat down on the floor to find my name way, way, way down near the bottom of the list.

But wait. What's this? Some sailors are complaining about the scores. There appears to be a major problem. Some sailors who thought that they were at the front of the fleet haven't made the cut for the gold fleet. The committee is busy handing out forms and various sailors file their complaints. A postponement is signalled. A notice is put on the board explaining that some scores are in error. And we wait.

The problem is that we can't go sailing until the scores are corrected. Today we are going to be split into gold and silver fleets and it would certainly be unfair to put a genuine contender for the North American Championship into the silver fleet along with bozos like me. So we wait. And wait.

The breeze fills in to a juicy 10-12 knots and we all want to go sailing. A rumor goes around the boat park that the Standard Rig scores are now correct but they're still working on the Radials. More grumbling. Harsh words are spoken about the competence of the race committee. We wait and wait as the morning drifts by with the postponement flag still fluttering in the breeze.

But what else can the race committee do? Mistakes will happen when you are running a major regatta. Humans err. Equipment malfunctions. Anchors drag. Software fails (apparently what happened here). The measure of a good race committee is that they recognize when there is a problem and then go ahead and correct it as quickly as humanly possible. If you make an error in a starting sequence, blow off that start and do it again. If you signal the course wrongly and half the fleet goes the wrong way, abandon that race and start it again. Many of the stories told by contributors to the Top Race Committee Screw-ups last week are about race committees who were so ignorant or oblivious that they didn't even know they had made a mistake.

So what did they do at Hyannis? They corrected all the incorrect scores and re-posted a list of who had qualified for the gold and silver fleets. I checked the list again to make sure. Hmmm. I went up two places. How did that happen? In any case my name was still only a few inches of the floor and I was comfortably in the silver fleet.

We eventually hit the water around 11:30am if I recall correctly. Out on the racecourse the race committee had a tough time with shifty winds and a strong upwind current leading to many postponements and recalls. But they persevered and pulled off three fair races for the Standard Rigs. We were back at the club around 6pm so no real harm was done by the scoring screw-up.

At the regatta dinner that night one of the organizers apologised to all the sailors for the problems with scoring that morning. I was impressed. Having spent a good chunk of my professional life running an IT service organization I've been in that guy's shoes more times than I care to recall. Computers have glitches. Stuff happens. Real world activity has to be delayed while the IT guys clear up the mess. And the IT manager has to go to the users and apologise whether there was anything he could have done to prevent the problem or not.

Hats off to Peter Johns, Tom Duggan and all the volunteers who did a magnificent job in running the 2007 Laser North Americans. You guys are a class act. I will be back.

How to Run Sailboat Races

OK -- it's time to wrap up the group writing project on Top Race Committee Screw-ups. Thanks to all who participated. There were some truly awful stories of incompetence, arrogance, ignorance and stupidity of the highest order. It's good to see that the fine tradition of abysmal race management is alive and well at the grass-roots level. After all as my friend and occasional guest blogger Joe always says, "If a thing's worth doing, it's worth doing badly."

Here is the complete list of entries.

The RC is Always Right from M Squared.

Miller Genuine Draft by Carol Anne from Five O'Clock Somewhere.

No Foul by jsw225.

Sex Change Operation

T E A S by Chris Jordan.

April Folly.

Joe would be proud of you all.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

So fellow bloggers, you liked the Rate Your Blog post last week?

Here's another test: How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

One again I totally failed to live up to my own expectations.

55%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

Mingle2 - Online Dating

Only 55%? I thought I was much higher than that. You mean there are people even more addicted than me? Sad.

Hmmm. I see now that the test is on an online dating site. And it's asking me if I want to meet someone from Pawtucket. No thanks. I'm happily married. And I've never been to this site before. Honest dear.

But I do feel a limerick coming on.

There was a young girl from Pawtucket...