Sunday, June 29, 2008

Who Comments on Sailing Blogs?

Who comments on this blog and why?

About 250 people come by this blog on an average day. Another 300 or so access it via email or the RSS feed. Yet it's a good day if 3 or 4 people leave a comment. So I've been wondering. What motivates someone to leave a comment? What kind of person leaves comments on blogs? And why?

I read a fair number of sailing blogs myself. I leave a comment if I like what I read, if I disagree with the post, if I want to express support with the writer or commiserate with her, if I find the blog funny or informative, if it raises a question in my mind, if I feel I can add something to the discussion... whatever. I'm not a naturally chatty person in real life. Maybe I'm just a geek who finds it easier to communicate via blogging. But I'm sure all commenters are not like me.

So please tell me why you comment on this blog. Or why you never do. Or why you think other people comment. Or why you comment on other blogs but not this one. Please tell me why some posts provoke comments and others do not.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Lobster on Fridays


WHEREAS, the Department of Environmental Management, with cities and towns in Rhode Island, will place large amounts of toxic poisons into catch drains and, sewers in the hope of killing mosquitoes; and

WHEREAS, this same toxic poison, as it finds its way into the bay, has the same deadly effect, upon the larvae of lobsters; and

WHEREAS, one of Little Compton’s leading industries is the harvesting of lobsters from the harbor, bay and sound, and this discharge of toxic poisons will have an adverse effect on this industry; and

WHEREAS, Little Compton is the end destination of tourists enjoying the historic sights, our beaches but also the fine lobster entrees offered by Little Compton restaurants.

Now Therefore Be It RESOLVED: that the Town of Little Compton intentionally refrains from the use of any methoprene and any other toxic poisons that present the same risk as methoprene in the mosquito abatement program and look to other less invasive methods of mosquito control.

Adopted by the Little Compton Town Council on April 10, 2008.

Are pesticides killing Rhode Island lobsters?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

My Bay

Mount Hope Bay is my bay. I don't mean that I actually own the whole freaking bay, of course. But it's the water I see when I wake up in the morning and look out of the bedroom window, it's the bay I see while I sit here typing away at my keyboard, it's the foreground for the spectacular sunsets I enjoy sitting on the deck with Tillerwoman sipping a cocktail or three, and it's that body of water once referred to by my granddaughter as "Grandad's Pool". Yes, Mount Hope Bay is my bay.

For the geographically challenged, Mount Hope Bay is the north-eastern arm of Narragansett Bay, bounded by the towns of Bristol and Warren on the west, Tiverton and Fall River on the east, Somerset and Swansea in the north, and the northernmost tip of Aquidneck Island in the south. It's a relatively quiet corner of Rhode Island waters. The busiest time is Wednesday evenings when Tiverton Yacht Club holds some races in Mount Hope Bay. At other times we see a few recreational boaters, the occasional commercial fishing boat, and a few times a week a freighter, usually I assume carrying coal to the Brayton Point power station at the head of the bay.

I don't often sail my Laser on Mount Hope Bay. The most convenient launching sites (especially for a solo sailor) around here are actually into other nearby parts of the Narragansett Bay system. Which is a shame. Because Mount Hope Bay is my bay. However, on a Wednesday afternoon a couple of week ago I did launch my Laser at high tide from Independence Park in Bristol, sail out of Bristol Harbor, past Hog Island, under Mount Hope Bridge, at one time the longest suspension bridge in New England (didn't know that did you?), and into my bay.

I sailed the three or four miles from the bridge over to the water in front of our house. If I squinted I could just see a dot on the deck that might have been Tillerwoman. Later I discovered that she had been taking some photos of the crazy Laser sailor of Mount Hope Bay. I look like a white dot in the photos. Some of the best one have all of seven pixels representing my Laser. Distances can be deceptive.

And then I sailed upwind back through the bridge and to where I had launched. Sailing back is always good. Beats the alternative.

My bay has been in the news this week. There has been a proposal bouncing around for some time from an outfit known as Weaver's Cove to build a terminal for Liquefied Natural Gas tankers in Fall River which would involve supertankers traversing my bay to reach the terminal. There was much local opposition to the idea, and this particular scheme was eventually killed when the US Coast Guard announced that they didn't believe LNG tankers could safely navigate the constricted waterways and bridges in the town of Fall River.

So then those clever LNG chappies came up with a new scheme. Build an offshore berth and floating natural gas terminal for the tankers in Mount Hope Bay and have an underwater pipeline from the offshore berth up the Taunton River into the re-gasification plant at the northern end of Fall River. Suck on that one US Coast Guard.

There have been some meetings this week to allow "input" from the public on this clever idea. Of course all the local politicians and environmentalists are against it. As one of our local state representatives said, "What angers me, what incenses me … is that these people have the audacity to construct this facility in our bay. Mount Hope Bay belongs to the people, not Weaver’s Cove." Hmmm. It belongs to us does it? Maybe it really is my bay.

Anyway I haven't made up my mind yet how I feel about this issue.

The concerns of the environmentalists no doubt have some validity but they are often stated in somewhat hysterical terms. One of the scariest prospects raised is that LNG tankers and terminals are a target for terrorist attacks and that if one ever did blow up it would incinerate every living being within a mile radius. Interestingly the proposed offshore berth is a mile offshore. Hmmm.

On the other hand we do need fuel for our power stations. Apparently most of the power stations around here use natural gas, and of course demand is rising. If we don't use gas then what? Shall we build a nuclear power station on my bay instead? And I don't want to be a knee-jerk NIMBay (Not In My Bay). The power stations to generate the electricity for all of those electric cars touted by John McCain have to be built somewhere, and the fuel for them has to be shipped in somehow. Who am I to say that they can't use my bay?

Second Date

On Wednesday of last week I took my new Laser sail out for another gentle breaking in-session. Mainly reaching around in medium winds, no excessive tightening of the sail controls, much along the lines of how I treated her on the First Date. At the end I concluded she was ready for use in a real regatta at the weekend.

Why is this necessary? I don't have a clue.

I asked another sailor about this topic of new sail care the previous weekend and he quoted no less an authority then Ed Adams as saying that such gentle treatment of a new sail extended its useful racing life by at least 50%. But my friend couldn't explain what this method actually does physically to the sail to boost its longevity.

Anyone know the answer? Why can't you just go and take out a new Laser sail in 25 knots? What harm would it actually do to the shape of the sail? What is actually happening to the sail fabric in the traditional breaking-in method? And do sailors of other classes care for their new sails the same way? Or is it just the crappy fabric used in Laser sails that needs this kid-glove treatment?

In desperation I turned to The Google and uncovered basically the same question posted in the archives of the Laser email list, from the good old days of the Laser on-line community when larger-than-life characters like drLaser and LaserBabee roamed the land. The question was in fact posted by the legendary LaserBabee in 1999...
I have a new sail I intend to start using in a few weeks. A couple years ago there was a letter from Dan Neri of North Sails posted on the list that explained all about the proper method for breaking in a new Laser sail. All I remember is the part about reaching back and forth for a couple hours in moderate winds.

Does anybody have a copy of the letter or does anybody know why reaching back and forth for two or three hours would help my new sail??
There were no replies to the post.

So here is an opportunity for all you expert sailors, armchair sailmakers, sailing geeks, and folk who just like to spout on topics on which you know little and understand less. What is the physics of all this "breaking in" of Laser sails? What does it actually do to the fibers in the sail? Or is it all some urban legend like the port tiller rule?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


I mentioned casually in my last post that I skipped the regatta dinner on Saturday night at the US Laser Masters National Champs to go home and see Cutest Granddaughter in the World and plant subliminal subversive messages in her two-year-old head that will make her demand her own sailboat from her father for her seventh birthday.

This turned out to be not so great an idea. Not the bit about whispered messages on the delights of sailing to Emily as she was dropping off to sleep. The bit about not hanging out at the sailing club on Saturday evening. Because I missed a somewhat important change to the sailing instructions that was posted at the club some time on Saturday evening when I wasn't there.

I left home at 9:20 am on Sunday morning to arrive at the club at 10:00 am, leaving me plenty of time to rig, dress, eat an early lunch, launch around 11:00 am, sail out to the course, and tune up a bit for a noon first warning signal as per the SIs. The original SIs.

But when I arrived at New Bedford Yacht Club at 10:00 am all the other Laser old geezers had their sails up, were changing into their sailing gear, and were preparing to launch. "Hmmm. Why is everyone so eager this morning?" I thought. A quick question to the first sailor I saw confirmed my worst fears. The race committee had changed the first start to 11:00 am instead of noon, had posted a change to the SIs to that effect the previous evening, and had presumably announced it at the dinner too.

Shit. This reminded me of a similar situation at the Masters Worlds at Hyannis a few years back when Tillerwoman and I had arrived at Hyannis YC at our usual time in the morning to find no Lasers in the parking lot and 400 dollies on the beach. The whole fleet had left without me for a start that was three hours earlier than normal, I think. I just hadn't bothered to swing by the yacht club the previous evening and check for any changes to the SIs. On that occasion no harm was done because, after rigging hurriedly and sailing half-way to Martha's Vineyard in the fog, I met the whole fleet coming back to the beach because the RC had abandoned racing due to an incoming storm.

Since then I've been pretty good at checking the official noticeboard every evening after dinner, even if I'm not dining at the regatta site. But not this time.

So I broke all personal records for rigging the Laser, cladding myself in neoprene and Goretex, bolting down a Clif Bar, drinking a bottle or two of water, and sailing out to the start line. I made it.

The first race started in a light wind that became stronger as the race progressed. I was not pointing well in the light or strong winds. That guy beat me. What's new?

Then followed a long demonstration of how hard it is to find a spot in Buzzards Bay where a race committee boat can make an anchor stick in the bottom of Buzzards Bay. They motored around. They dropped anchors. They hauled up anchors. And repeated ad infinitum. They motored around to somewhere else and repeated the process. Then they motored back to near where they were the first time and tried some more. Fascinating stuff. Eventually the anchor stuck in the bottom of Buzzards Bay. Hooray.

The black flag was flying for the first attempt to start Race 2. General recall. But no sail numbers were posted. Can some rules expert explain this to me please? Rule 30.3 clearly says...

If a black flag has been displayed, no part of a boat’s hull, crew or equipment shall be in the triangle formed by the ends of the starting line and the first mark during the minute before her starting signal. If a boat breaks this rule and is identified, she shall be disqualified without a hearing, even if the race is restarted, resailed or rescheduled, but not if it is postponed or abandoned before the starting signal. If a general recall is signalled or the race is abandoned after the starting signal, the race committee shall display her sail number before the next warning signal for that race, and if the race is restarted or resailed she shall not sail in it.

My emphasis in bold. Surely if the race committee signals a general recall they must have been able to identify some of the boats over the line in the last minute before the start? At least one, even if she was hiding all the others? And the rule says that for any such boat "she shall be disqualified" and that "the race committee shall display her number".

What am I not seeing here?

Anyway, we eventually started the race. Still not pointing well. It was gusting over 20 knots by the end of the race. Woo hoo. The race committee chose not to start a tenth race for the regatta and we sailed in.

That guy
beat me again but I did beat the guy immediately above me in the grandmaster placings in both races so that was good.

A good weekend of racing and seeing old buddies and learning experiences. Can probably milk the event for at least three more blog posts on such erudite topics as...

  • Why the hell do I do it?

  • A better way to assess progress than obsessing over that guy.

  • Twenty seven possible reasons why I am not pointing as high as the other sailors and much over-analysis as to what to do about it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Dirty Duck

On the second day of the US Laser Masters in New Bedford last weekend the winds were more challenging for the race committee with some big shifts before the third and final race causing one start to be abandoned, much moving of marks, general recalls, and other non-productive activity. But we did fit in three races in spite of all the waiting around.

As per my discussion in (and the very helpful comments to) What Would Ben Do? I was trying to be aggressive and to break my old conservative, play-it-safe habits...

  • I was daring and bold on the start line; but sometimes I was out-dared and out-bolded by the boats around me.

  • I boldly delayed my entry into the starboard tack parade at the windward mark, and daringly tacked under starboard boats near the mark. When it worked, it worked. Then there was the time I couldn't lay the mark and had to gybe around. Needless to say this lost me a few places.

  • I was bold and daring in fighting for the inside position at the leeward marks and, perhaps because I was usually trying to out-bold and out-dare some of the fleet tailenders, I usually succeeded.

So what did I achieve for all my aggressing and bolding and daring?

  • My one good finish was not quite as good as my best race on Friday.

  • My two bad finishes were not quite as bad as my worst race on Friday.

  • That guy beat me twice and was now ahead of me in the standings.
Hmmm. Maybe there's some other problem with my sailing?

I skipped the Saturday night regatta dinner at the yacht club and went home as my son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter were still at my house.

My two-year-old granddaughter Emily must have missed me because I was the center of her attention all evening. "I want to do something with you Grandad," she was saying before I was barely in the door. Hmmm. I needed to rinse my sailing clothes. Emily likes to play with hosepipes. So I let her spray water all over my sailing gear (and occasionally me) and she was deliriously happy.

I was even chosen to be the one to put her to bed and tell her bedtime stories. So I told her about when her father was a little boy and how he and his brother used to ride on my Laser sitting in front of the mast. And how we went camping in France with the Laser and the boys sailed on a lake with me. And how when her father was seven I bought him a green, wooden Optimist whose name was Dirty Duck and how he used to sail that all by himself.

Her last words before she drifted off to sleep were,
"Maybe one day I can have a dirty duck?"

Monday, June 23, 2008

My Best Friend

The first day of the US Laser Masters National Championships was held on Buzzards Bay last Friday. We sailed four races in around 10-12 knots at the start of the day building to 15-20 knots by the end of the afternoon. The cream of American old geezer Laser sailors was there... and me. The sun shone, the race committee work was superb, and I had an excuse to clock up my 41st day of sailing this year.

In the first race I pulled off a squirrel start at the committee boat, a little late but good enough to be able to find a clear lane heading right. They always say head right on Buzzards Bay, don't they? A couple of the top guys were with me so I was confident in my decision in spite of the other fifty seven sailors heading left. Anyway we banged the right corner, and I rounded the first mark in the usual mayhem of sixty boats all trying to occupy the space available for ten. Nothing terrible happened in the rest of the race and I was crossing tacks with that guy all round the track. I finished in the mid 30s but a couple of places behind that guy. 0 and 1.

In the second race a lot of terrible things happened...

In retrospect it probably wasn't a great decision to line up on the start line between two of the best sailors in the fleet because, as I should have predicted, after the start I was squeezed out the back like the proverbial lemon pip. Isn't there a proverb about lemon pips? No? Oh well, you know what I mean. Needless to say I was already way down the fleet.

Then, in spite of my recent improvements in mainsheet management, I discovered after rounding the first windward mark in a respectable (for me) position that my sheet had tied itself into a triple buntline carrick bend double surgeon's clinch knot and I was unable to bear away. I actually had to luff up to undo the mess and after untying aforementioned knot I was still faced with a double fisherman's alpine butterfly rolling hitch in the bloody rope. Needless to say I lost a few places.

Then, coming in to the leeward mark, I was really smart and actually did what the book says, and attempted to slow down so that I could round right on the transom of the inside boat of a pack of boats approaching the mark. Unfortunately the skippers of the boats inside me had read the same book and were also slowing down. Among much pushing of booms, oversheeting, and unintentional double gybes, a whole mass of boats rounded in a slow pinwheel instead of the usual fast pinwheel, with me on the outside of course. Hmmm. The book didn't cover this situation. Needless to say I lost a few more places, and finished in the 40s.

That guy
beat me again. 0 and 2.

In the third race I remembered the discussion about being aggressive in What Would Ben Do? and made an aggressive start in the front row at the favored end of the line. I was looking good but unfortunately I was not aggressive enough at the windward mark and had to duck a lot of starboard tackers on the layline. I saw the guy who I can only describe as the Ben Ainslie of Laser Great Grandmasters overtake me by waiting longer before entering the starboard tack parade, tacking under some starboard tackers near the mark, and (even after doing his 360) gaining some good distance on me. Hmmm. There's a learning experience for you.

The other learning experience was when due to inattention on the run I dug the bow into a back of a wave and watched it go down, down, down into the deeps. I really thought I might break the mast or the mast-step as the bow plowed towards the ocean depths and the pressure in the rig kept building. Eventually the bow surfaced again but not before the cockpit was full of water. Slow, slow, slow, but I did finish in the low 30s.

And I did beat that guy. 1 and 2.

By now I was pretty tired and was seriously wondering whether to call it a day. However I thought I would at least do the start of the fourth race for practice and then decide whether to continue. I had my best start of the day and so chose to keep going. However, I was definitely pleased when the RC shortened the course after a 3-leg WLW course instead of the 5-leg races we had been doing all day. Even the young kids under 45 said they were happy about that call too. Turned out that it was my best race of the day, with a finish in the mid-20s.

And I did beat that guy again. 2 and 2.

Then home for lamb chops and salad with Tillerwoman, Cutest Granddaughter in the World, Tiller-Son#1, and Tiller-Daughter-in-Law who had all come to see us for the weekend. I checked the results for the races on the web and saw that I was leading that guy by a few points. Woo hoo.

Apparently Cutest Granddaughter in the World had been asking where I was. When told that I was sailing she had said, "Grandad is my best friend."

Life is good.

Commemorative Number Images

By popular demand of 25% of my regular readers
a running record of the commemorative images of days sailed
is now maintained at Numbers.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Three Lines

I sailed in the US Laser Masters National Championship at New Bedford Yacht Club this weekend. At the awards ceremony the commodore of NBYC gave a speech that was the best speech I have ever heard at such an event. At some of the Worlds I have attended the ceremonies can drag on for hours as every local dignitary and politician has to give a rambling speech about how glad he or she is to see us, which is even more excruciatingly long if it has to be translated into more than one language.

The commodores' speech was three sentences and went something like...
We love holding events like this.
It's the reason we exist.
Thanks for coming.
The guy received a huge round of applause. Brevity was appreciated by sixty Laser sailors weary after three hard days' racing and eager to hit the road for the long drive home.

I often wonder why folks who make speeches for a living don't realise that every important message can be summed in no more than three lines, and will be more memorable that way than in three thousand words. I am enthused by Barack Obama's speeches but I have to admit that all he is really saying is...

George Bush bad.
A vote for McCain is a vote for more Bush stuff.
Change is good.

And of course it's a standing joke that every sentence in Rudy Guiliani's speeches could be boiled down to "noun verb 911".

I'll probably find the energy in the next few days to ramble on in a few posts about the sailing this weekend and the many learning experiences. But for now please accept this summary...

Sailed in the Masters Nationals.
That guy beat me again.
What's new?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Thursday, June 19, 2008

What Would Ben Do?

How important is it to be aggressive if you want to be a successful racing sailor?

A sailing magazine that I picked up in Australia started me thinking about this whole question of the role of aggression and boldness in racing. There was an article in the mag about Ben Ainslie, surely one of the accomplished sailboat racers of his generation... and likely by the time he has finished (he's only 31) to rank as one of the greatest racers of all time.

The essence of the article was that Ben is so good because he is not afraid to be aggressive in tight situations. If the pin end of the start line is favored he will fight to win the pin. If approaching the windward mark close to the port tack layline he will not hesitate to tack under and close to starboard tackers to squeeze between them and the buoy. If the left side of the run is favored he will immediately gybe on to port after rounding the windward mark even in heavy traffic.

Hmmm. I don't do those things. In fact most of the books I have read about sailing preach the exact opposite. Be conservative. Don't take big risks for small gains. Play the odds. If you like the left end of the start line, avoid the crowd at the pin and find a gap a bit further up the line. Don't jam your bow into a potential pile-up at the windward mark; instead duck a couple of starboard tackers and round in clear air above the mayhem of boats trying to luff around the buoy. Stay out of trouble. Sail clean.

I started wondering. What came first the chicken or the egg? Is Ben great because he goes for these risky, bold, aggressive moves? Or is he only able to pull off these moves because he has nerves of steel, superb boat-handling, razor-sharp reflexes, an uncanny ability to foresee developing multi-boat interactions... etc. etc.

More to the point, if an averagely talented mid-fleet sailor suddenly started to sail like Ben would their race results improve? Or would they be spending every evening of every regatta in the protest room? Speaking for myself, I suspect that if I changed my style tomorrow to always go for these daring maneuvers... win the pin in a tough fleet, approach a crowded windward mark on port tack and tack inside all the starboard tack boats... nine times out of ten I would screw up and end up doing 720's.

On the other hand, the top sailors do have the ability to succeed in these aggressive tactics. So how do the rest of us become more like them? Do we just do it? Start going for it every time, recognizing that we will make lots of mistakes (and maybe lots of enemies) at first, but over time we will develop the skills to be more successful? Or do we ease into it slowly by being bold when racing in small fleets in which we feel our abilities are as good or better than the opposition; and continue to sail a conservative game when playing against the big boys?

Just as an experiment I've been practicing the aggressive approach recently in SAILX (the tactical simulator formerly known as Tacticat). I'm not sure how true a simulation of real life it is in this respect but I'm coming to believe that trying to win the pin or tacking into the inside of a pack of starboard boats at the windward mark are not as high risk moves as I once thought. Even if you end up doing a 360 I figure you usually come out ahead of where you would have been by playing a more conservative game. (Did someone say Rule 31.2? Ah yes indeed. "If a boat has gained a significant advantage in the race or series by touching the mark she shall retire".)

So what do you think? How do you weigh up when to be daring and when to play it safe? How can a mid-fleet sailor develop a more aggressive style? What comes first... the mental attitude to be bold and daring, or the boat-handling skills to execute bold and daring moves? Chicken or egg?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Trophy Wife

Last Thursday I launched my Laser down the ramp at Colt State Park in Bristol for yet another solo practice thereby confirming once again the prejudice that some folk have about Laser sailors that we are all anti-social loner delusional nutjobs. We're not all like that. But I am.

Before I launched I noticed some mega-SUV drive up towing a slab of white fiberglass that must have been about three Lasers long. The mega-SUV was driven by one of those bulky guys about my age with longish white hair and a bushy beard that made him look vaguely nautical. Mentally I gave him a nickname that fitted the image he was trying to portray, Grizzled Old Salt.
I figured that in real life he was probably a retired hedge fund manager from Boston out for a spot of yotting.

His companion was a woman about half his age, slim, long hair, attractive if you like that kind of thing, wearing the perfectly fitting designer jeans that are de rigeur for woman of that type. Did you know that scientific research has proved that it takes a woman on average 47 minutes to buy one pair of jeans; and it takes the average man 6 minutes?

Anyway I was trying to figure out the relationship between designer jeans lady and Grizzled Old Salt. Father-daughter? Instructor-student? Then I got it. GOS had retired from hedge fun managing with a chunk of dough and got himself a Trophy Wife and a Yot.

Anyway, I went off Lasering on my own. Upwind for a stretch in the north-westerly. Then playing the waves downwind. Then a loooooong port tack close-hauled leg way into the mouth of the Warren River. Up there the wind was coming across Barrington and was all chopped-up and nasty. Is this really where the Barrington frostbite Sunfish fleet sails? Ugh.

Then back to the ramp. The inverse of a port-tack close-hauled course is of course a starboard-tack broad reach course. Wooooo hooooo. Planing for a couple of miles. Coarse.

Back at the ramp after an hour or so of sailing I see that GOS and Trophy Wife have erected the mast on their yot and are now hogging the ramp. They are doing mysterious time-consuming tasks associated with readying a three Lasers long fiberglass slab for a wallow around the bay. They probably have to swing some lead down so the thing doesn't tip over at some point but what do I know about yots?

Never mind. I start practicing my tacks, twenty or thirty or so. Then my gybes, ditto in number. Some practice starts. Man I'm fast when there's no competition. After a while GOS and Trophy Wife eventually manage to pull away from the dock and free up the ramp.

I sail back to the ramp and give GOS a cheery wave as he motors out to the middle of the bay. As I pull my Laser up the ramp after about 90 minutes of superb sailing I feel sorry for them. I've been sailing; they've spent all that time preparing their yot to go yotting.

As I derig I see Trophy Wife in her expensive carefully chosen perfectly fitting designer jeans heading forward on the three Lasers long fiberglass slab, presumably to actually raise a sail or two at last...

Hooray for Lasers. And hooray for Tillerwoman. Who needs a yot and a trophy wife?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Em Post

Andrew Sadler sent me today the twelfth entry for our Sailing Goals group writing project and tells me that his goals are basically to go sailing, get Em sailing, just keep sailing. I gather that Em is his nine-year-old daughter and assume that she is the rather fierce-looking young lady in the photo. Wouldn't want to try and steal a late inside overlap at a buoy on her! He writes in his post about watching Em train in her Optimist and muses about the circle of life.


"I think you're over-analyzing," my younger son told me when he called me on Sunday evening to wish me a happy Father's Day and I started to tell him why I thought I had done so badly in the regatta this weekend.

He may be right.

So here is my account of day 2 of the Saltmarsh Trophy Regatta in which I will attempt to avoid over-analysis. I'll just give you my gut feelings about why stuff happened.

It was a cool, drizzly, light east wind kind of day. It was decided to delay rigging until the rain stopped which was promised by noon. About half an hour after noon it was still raining. So we rigged in the rain. We sailed out to the course in the rain. In honor of the cooler weather I was wearing my famous sailing socks.

The first race went off in a lull. I started near the committee boat, tacked on to port right away and was soon in better pressure as I headed directly away from the shore. I checked out the fleet and saw that I was leading the pack going right and looking good compared to the pack going left in the lighter winds near the shore. I can't really discuss tides without being accused of over-analysis but I figured that they would help me too.

About three-quarters up the first beat I decided to dig back in to the middle. I had my reasons but to tell you them would be over-analysis. I was crossing the usual fleet leaders ... everyone it seemed except that rogue former All-American out on the left. As it always does, things started to go downhill a bit for me in the top quarter of the beat and one day when I'm in a mood for over-analysis I'll write a post on that topic too.

In any case I rounded the windward mark up with "the names". You know, those guys who always win the regattas in this district. Downwind I was going well, hanging in there with the names and extending my lead over that guy. I should note why I was fast downwind in these conditions but that would be over-analysis.

Anyway I ended up finishing with my best result of the regatta, just behind that other guy, so he was happy too. Gut feeling as to why? The socks of course

Race 2. Total disaster. Tried the same strategy. Right was wrong. Left was right. Rounded the windward mark at the back of the fleet with some kid and one of the Newport fleet regulars. Downwind things got worse.

After the racing I was commiserating with aforementioned Newport sailor and asked if he had noticed that even "that kid lolling in the back of the cockpit with his feet in the air" was faster than us downwind? He had, and pointed out that "that kid with a loose traveler up and down-wind" was also faster than us on the run. Gut feeling as to why? Not socks.

The race committee attempted to start a third race. Huge wind shift. General recall. More rain. Threatening clouds. RC abandoned racing for the day.

The RC was holding out cans of beer so I took one and drank it while we sailed in. Cleated the mainsheet. Tiller in one hand. Can of beer in the other. I was chatting to that other guy but, all of a sudden, I noticed I was sailing so much faster than him. By the time we arrived back at the beach I was 200 yards ahead of him. He wasn't drinking a beer while he sailed.

Now I don't want to over-analyze but there's something about this sailing one-handed while drinking beer that's really fast...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Hostile Takeover

I followed a link to this blog back to Blogshares, the fantasy blog stock market, and discovered not only that the valuation of this blog is B$3,168,403.90 (whatever that means) but also that TAHOEJimbo420 performed a hostile takeover of this blog at a total cost of B$1,276,932,897.04 on 20 Apr 2008.

TAHOEJimbo420 now owns 80% of this blog. And, if those staggering B$ sums are to be believed, he made an amazingly bad investment having paid about 400 times market valuation for his new toy.

Anyway in light of this new situation I need to go and check my bank account to see if that transfer of
B$1,276,932,897.04 to my account has gone through yet. I will then be taking a well-deserved retirement from blogging while spending my B$ somewhere on a Caribbean island with Tillerwoman and a bottle of tequila. Hope you enjoy reading what TAHOEJimbo420 has to say here about Laser sailing.

So it's Goodnight from me and it's Goodnight from him.

An End to Goals

There were eleven participants in our recent group writing project about Sailing Goals... not counting one person who emailed me originally to tell me how excited he was about the subject, but then emailed me again today to say he had failed in his goal to write about sailing goals. Oh well.

As I had anticipated some of you decided to challenge the whole concept of having goals in relation to a relaxing pastime like sailing.

Captain JP asked Sailing Goals - What Goals? and protested that the concept of a goal "is slightly against the whole spirit of just doing it for the fun of it."

Pat thinks that "the whole notion of goals seems a bit too Type A" for the kind of sailing he enjoys and in sailing-goal-like-thingies told us about his plans for a hammock.

Likewise in My Goal Post Carol Anne explained why she has a "goal not to have a goal".

Mondale just wants to get back on the water and talked about his plans to do some Warm Beering, Cold Beering.

Bonnie pointed out that "boating is something I do for the enjoyment" and said she has Little Goals for her kayaking this year, including paddling ten miles a week.

Soulsailor wondered how to set his priorities for sailing this year, particularly the balance between Open Meetings vs Club Racing, and how to spend more time with SoulCrew.

David Anderson wrote in Lessons from Race 4 and Some New Training Goals about his training goals for an upcoming regatta.

Zen had a whole list of goals in Goals 08' and a big one for 2011.

I contributed some
Muddled Musings on Sailing Goals.

Jos told us in a unique style about Sailing toward a Goal?

And last but not least we have Edward who puts us all to shame with his goal to cross an ocean this year. However he also has some Secondary Sailing Goals, including seeing his daughter sail by herself and taking a moonlight sail.

Thanks to everyone who contributed. Now I have a goal to think of a subject for next month's project.


"I believe you may be delusional," wrote an anonymous commenter here a few months ago.

I'm beginning to believe that he or she may be correct. In my profile over there on the sidebar I wrote that, "Even though I am rapidly approaching 60 years of age, I suffer under the delusion that it is not too late to discover how to sail smarter and faster." It was meant to be a joke. But maybe it really is a delusion?

This weekend I sailed in the Saltmarsh Trophy also known as the Championship of Buzzard’s Bay. I had high hopes of a decent result. After all in the last few months I have...
  • attended a racing clinic in the Dominican Republic
  • attended a racing clinic in Florida
  • raced in the Laser Masters World Championship in Australia
  • raced in the Caribbean Midwinters
  • raced in a couple of local regattas
  • practiced on my own 16 times in the last couple of months
  • sailed 37 days this year.
However, on Saturday my racing performance was awful. I was consistently awful. In every single race my upwind speed was lacking, I always rounded the windward mark about three quarters of the way down the fleet, and I was never able to improve on that position. Awful.

But every day on the water is a learning experience, right? So what did I learn?

  1. Solo practice does nothing for your boatspeed.

  2. Beer and pizza and hanging out with friends after racing is often more fun than the racing. Actually it's usually more fun than the racing these days.

  3. I believe I may be delusional.

Oh yeah, there was one other important lesson. After racing I was chatting with a bunch of other Masters sailors and someone mentioned the sudden death last week of Tim Russert at the age of 58. Everyone in the group was around that age or older. After we all agreed how shocking and sad the news was the oldest guy in the group said, "And you know what the lesson is? Sail as much as possible while you still can."

How true.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Top Three Things I Hate About Sailing

Regular readers of this blog (all four of you) will have gathered by now that I am somewhat passionate about the sport of sailing. But there are some things about the sport that I totally abhor. So here are the top three things that I hate about sailing...

  1. Waiting. I am a very impatient person. I hate to wait in any situation. My wife doesn't like going shopping with me any more because of the various highly embarrassing (to her) ways in which I display my impatience if we have to wait in a store checkout line for more than thirty seconds. Apparently deep sighs, rolling of the eyes, and glaring fiercely at the enormously overweight, painfully slow checkout clerk are not acceptable husbandly behavior at our local Stop-and-Shop.

    But the waiting I hate most of all is the waiting I am doing when I think I could be sailing. I think one of the reasons I am enjoying all the sailing alone that I have been doing lately is because there is no waiting. I look out of the window and see wind; I hitch up the boat and drive to the launch site; I launch; I sail.

    Whereas if I travel to a regatta I might have to...
    • wait on shore for the wind to come in, sometimes all day
    • wait on the water for the wind to come in
    • wait on the water for the race committee to get their act together and start racing
    • wait on the water in between races while the race committee try and square up the course and the line because of a two degree wind-shift
    • wait after racing for the results to be published and trophies to be awarded.
  2. Breakdowns. Why do things break on my boat on the rare occasions when I'm doing well in a race? The classic example is the day at my old frostbite fleet when my gooseneck broke on almost the only occasion I was leading a race by enough to have a legitimate chance of still being ahead at the finish.

    I suppose I shouldn't really complain. The Laser is a pretty tough little boat and if I only took the trouble to check fittings for corrosion more religiously I would have even fewer problems. In twenty-five years of racing I can only recall one example each of breaking a mast, breaking a boom, pulling out a traveler fairlead, and pulling out a boom block. Of course that could be a case of the old geezer losing his memory. In any case, however infrequently it happens, I hate it when bits on my boat break.
  3. Injuries. And the third thing I hate about sailing is when bits on my body break. Actually it's not so much a problem of stuff breaking but of stuff hurting too much to allow me to sail. It never seemed to be a problem when I was in my thirties, but now I am pushing sixty various body parts seem to be complaining more often about the treatment they are receiving. The back seems to have all sorts of excuses for saying it's hurting too much to go Laser sailing. There was the time I hurt my back shoveling snow and missed a frostbite season. There was the time I hurt my back putting on my socks of all things and missed a frostbite season. Currently I'm trying to pretend that the twinges in one ankle (probably caused by running) and one elbow (probably caused by too much digging in Tillerwoman's garden) are not really serious and not good enough reasons to miss any Lasering.

    Wait. All these injuries were caused, not by sailing, but by other pursuits such as shoveling snow and putting socks on. There's a lesson there somewhere.
I did think of adding a fourth thing that I hate about sailing. Cheaters. People who blatantly break Rule 42 and think they need to rock and roll and pump their boat around the race course to beat an old geezer like me. Or the guy who fouled me in a clear port-starboard incident on the starboard tack layline at that regatta a few weeks ago. (You know who you are.) But I don't really hate these cheaters. I pity them. If they really feel they need to cheat in order to win a cheezy plastic trophy then I feel sorry for them. I really don't care enough about winning a race or a regatta to want to do it by cheating. If you beat me by cheating then you didn't really beat me, did you? I know that. You know that. Everyone else in the fleet knows that. I don't hate you. I feel sorry for you, you worthless scumbag.

So that leaves three things I hate about sailing. But wait. All those things are just obstacles that prevent me from sailing. Whether it's waiting to sail, or not being able to sail because a bit broke on my boat, or not being being able to sail because a bit broke on me... I only hate them because they are stopping me from sailing. I guess I really like everything about sailing, after all..

What about you? What do you hate about sailing?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Yet More Sailing Goals

I was eagerly anticipating what Zen would make of my Sailing Goals writing assignment. I was wondering... do Zen followers have goals, or are they mutually incompatible concepts? As usual Zen surprised me with his article on Goals 08'. It made me feel tired just reading about all of his short-term goals, not to mention the big one for 2011.

Pat is another one of those who thinks that "the whole notion of goals seems a bit too Type A" for the kind of sailing he enjoys. But then he reels off a whole list of sailing-goal-like-thingies even if one of them has to do with a hammock.

And then we have Jos who writes a fascinating blog Look to Windward about the Racing Rules of Sailing and has come up with what surely must win the prize for the most creative way to communicate on the issue of goals in Sailing toward a Goal? Hmmm. After reading it several times I'm still not sure what his goal is. I think he's just going around in circles.

There are still a few more days for you to contribute to this group writing project. I'd love to hear your take on this whole topic of sailing goals. You don't have to have a blog to participate. It doesn't have to be a long story. Surely you have at least one sailing goal? Full instructions are at Sailing Goals.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Dale Webster

OK. I give up. I recognize I have met my match.

I have this rather pathetic little goal to sail my Laser 100 days in 2008. Less than one day in every three. For just one year.

Then there's Dale Webster. He has surfed every day, every single day for the last 32 years. And he's still going. This dude is my age. I salute the master.

Of course it takes some sacrifices to achieve a feat like this. "I have no retirement plan, no house, no four-oh-ten-K or whatever those numbers mean," he says. "My attitude was always, If I can just get to the beach, the rest of the day will take care of itself."



Regular readers of this blog (all three of you) will know that I have occasionally sailed in the Laser Masters World Championships. I've done it five times in the last eight years, most recently in Spain in 2007 and in Australia earlier this year.

Just to explain, the designation Masters in the Laser class means the event is for sailors over 35 (old geezers by Laser standards) and we race against other sailors in our own 10-year age group... 35-44, 45-54, 55-64, 65+. Up until now the Laser Masters Worlds have been open to anyone who wants to sign up. No need to qualify in any way. But this is about to change.

I do confess that attending a Masters Worlds is very much an excuse for a superb vacation for my wife and myself. We only go if the event is being held in a country that we will enjoy visiting for reasons other than the championship and we usually tag on a few extra days (or weeks in the case of Australia) to explore that country. It's the perfect getaway for us... an interesting trip with a week or so of Laser racing thrown in for me. I suspect I'm not the only one who looks on the Masters Worlds in this light... and therein lies the problem.

There has been talk in the last year or so about introducing a qualification system for the Masters Worlds, and not allowing them to be completely open as they are now. There appear to be two reasons for this...
  • Some sailors are treating them just as an excuse for a vacation. Shock horror! More specifically what apparently has been happening is that a few chaps with little or no Laser experience look at the location for the next Laser Master Worlds and think, "Hey, I've always wanted to go to Brazil. All I need to do is charter a boat and buy an air-ticket and I can sail in a World Championship. Wow. Count me in." Then they show up at the Worlds, get totally blown away in 25-30 knot winds, spend most of the time upside down, are a danger to themselves not to mention an unnecessary burden for the safety boats, and everyone else has to sit around and wait for them to try and finish every race within the time limit.

  • Sometimes the entry is totally dominated numerically by sailors from the home country or region. This happened this year where the vast majority of the sailors were from Australia with relatively small contingents from other continents. There is a school of thought that a true World Championship should have an entry list more representative of all regions of the world.
Let me clarify what I said above. It's not entirely true that the entry to the Worlds is totally open. There is always a practical limit on the number of sailors that the host site can accommodate, usually in the region of three or four hundred. But these events are so popular that often the demand for slots is even higher than that. So the system has been first come, first served. Sign up on the web and when the entry limit is reached you go on a waiting list and hope.

This year the Aussies were very savvy to this and signed up for the Worlds in their own country in huge numbers in the first few days the entry was open. By the end of the first week, and before many sailors in other regions had woken up to what was happening, the entry was full. Regular readers of this blog (all three of you) will recall how I beat the system and got my entry in on time.

So our intrepid Laser Class leadership has decided to fix these problems. There are going to be quotas for each region to try and address the need for good representation from each part of the world. And if any region has more potential entrants than their quota then that region will have to decide how to rank its sailors to decide who will qualify to attend.

I must admit to mixed feelings about this...

On the one hand if more sailors want to attend a world championship than the host site is prepared to handle, then I think it's only fair that the best sailors should be allowed to attend. And we really shouldn't allow sailors to attend a Worlds who can't sail competently in the prevailing conditions.

On the other hand I was concerned that I could be one of the sailors squeezed out of the event by any qualification system. I'm not at the front of the Worlds fleet by any means. I was even DFL in a race at the last Worlds (once). Would I conclude that my life is worthless and give up Lasering if I am told I am unqualified to attend a Masters Worlds? No. But it is kind of cool to have the option to go.

So I waited with some trepidation to see what qualification/ranking system would be used for Masters Worlds entries from the North American Region. It was announced a few days ago on the class website. For the 2009 Masters Worlds in Canada next year the number of berths for North American sailors is apparently not yet known. But the qualification system for we North American sailors will be as follows...

1)To be eligible you must have:

a) Competed in a Laser World Championship (Master, Senior or Radial) in the past 5 years, or

b) Competed in a major North American Master's event (North Americans, US or Canadian Nationals, MMWE, etc.) AND finished in the top 75% of your fleet.

2) If, after satisfying the above, there are more applicants than spots available then entries will be taken in order of registration.
Hmmm. Interesting. My immediate reactions are...
  1. You are in if you have sailed in any Laser world championship including the Masters in the last five years. This is good for me having sailed in the Masters Worlds in 2003, 2007 and 2008. But is this really a good test? Could folk who don't qualify under this heading see this as protecting the interests of the relatively small clique of sailors who always attend this event? Who's to say that other sailors who haven't been to a Worlds before aren't more worthy than an old duffer like me?

  2. You are in if you have competed in a major North American Masters event and finished in the top 75% of your fleet. It's not entirely clear to me if they mean you must have achieved this in the last five years (as per the first qualification) or whether this test has to be passed in more recent events. I haven't sailed many of these national masters events but if the five year span does apply to this rule then I am OK on this test too, having finished in the top 25% of the grandmaster fleet of the last such event I did sail, the US Masters Nationals in 2005.

  3. Apparently this is the system for the 2009 Worlds only. But I also have more than a passing interest in going to the 2010 event in England (if only for the chance to go and visit my mother during the trip) and the 2011 event in Perth/Fremantle Western Australia (birthplace of Tillerwoman and one of the most awesome places on the planet for sailing.) It's not at all clear what the qualification system for these regattas will be.

So what to do? Well, it seems that our esteemed North American leaders are favoring using results at major North American Masters events as a factor in the qualification. That seems as fair a system as any. So just in case anyone changes their mind about the "if you sailed a Worlds in the last five years you're fine" test, and just in case the five years rule doesn't apply to the "top 75% in your fleet at a major NA Masters event", and just in case that generous 75% bar gets raised higher in future years, it seems that if I want to keep my options open I should start sailing more of these major national Masters events and chalking up some results likely to pass any more stringent qualification rules that might apply in the future.

Let's see what's coming up... US Masters in New Bedford in a couple of weeks, Canadian Masters in Novia Scotia in September, Masters Midwinters East in Florida in February.

I will just have to sail in these regattas. It's a hard life but somebody's got to do it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Top Five Questions From Brave Novice Laser Sailors

From time to time I receive emails from folk who are interested in taking up Laser sailing. Typically they stumble upon this blog and after reading a few posts develop the dangerous impression that when it comes to Laser sailing I know what I'm talking about. So they fire off an email to me with a few questions. This is fine with me. I love to talk about stuff even when I don't know what I am talking about. It's genetic. I caught it from my son.

Here's an inquiry I received a few weeks ago...
I have sailed a Laser exactly 5 days in 2008. I (and the mast) spent about equal parts above and below the water during this time. This is 5 days more than the previous 46 years, and approximately half the total amount of days I’ve spent in any kind of sailboat. So clearly the next step made sense: I acquired a used Laser about 3 weeks ago and hope to get it into Long Island Sound this weekend, although I’m still gear short – no wet suit and certainly no dry suit (and none of them fancy schmancy socks you write about).

Well, at least this guy learned from this blog how important socks are to Laser sailors. (Only joking.)

The email goes on with "the questions". I have started noticing a trend in "the questions". To wit, they're the same ones over and over. Again, I don't mind answering, but I really should share.

  1. Are there any good books, or other resources, about Laser sailing?

    Indeed there are. And a great place to start is to browse through the books and DVDs available at Laser Library on the International Laser Class website. The international office is based in the UK so all the prices on this list are in pounds sterling. But you don't have to buy them from ILCA. You can find most of these books at, APS and other sources. (Hmmm, why does that link to an search for 'laser sailing' display an Anne Cole Halter Mio with Laser-Cut Detail? Weird.)

    Anyway, my own brief comments on the list...

    Dick Tillman's book is a classic. Been around for a while but has been updated. A good choice for someone new to Lasering.

    Ainslie's book is excellent for racers, but perhaps the best all-round book on every aspect of Laser racing is the one edited by Ben Tan.

    The Goodison book is new and I haven't seen it yet, but ideas on Laser racing technique do change a bit from year to year so it may be worth taking a look at the newest book from one of the top Laser sailors in the world.

    And if you really want to learn the secrets of Laser technique, especially in heavy air, you have to see Steve Cockerill's Boat Whisperer DVD's.

  2. What should I wear for sailing?

    A good starting place could be to read the advice in Steve Cockerill's article on All Weather Clothing. Of course he is promoting his own Rooster Sailing gear but it gives you an idea of how you will use layers in different temperatures.

    To simplify, in warm weather you will need a rash-guard or similar top, hiking pants, and hiking boots. As it gets colder you will add more layers to keep warm, perhaps a spray top, a wetsuit, and in the coldest weather a dry-suit. Don't forget PFD (a.k.a. life jacket), hat and gloves... and of course socks (only joking.)

    But talk to other sailors in your area. See what they are wearing in different conditions. Some of those books above also give advice on clothing.

  3. How do I transport my boat?

    You basically have four options.

    • Upside down on a roof rack on top of your car.

    • Upside down on a trailer with suitable supports for the deck.

    • Right way up on a purpose-built Laser trailer that supports the hull under the gunwhales. Trailex and Kitty Hawk make excellent trailers of this type and I have used them both.

    • Right way up on a launching dolly on a trailer, so you can just slide the dolly off the trailer and you are ready to go. There is a Seitech set-up for this but many Laser sailors make their own slides and supports.

    Each method has pros and cons which are pretty obvious. (Or if they are not obvious to you fire me an email and I will write a post on Top Five Questions About Transporting a Laser.) Personally I have a Trailex trailer with a swivel front support which means I can unload the boat by myself. But I'm thinking of switching to option 4 which has the same advantage and is slightly more convenient to load and unload.

  4. Where can I sail?

    Almost anywhere with a suitable beach or a ramp to launch your boat into a puddle, pond, lake, river, bay, sound, sea or ocean. That's one of the beauties of a little boat like a Laser. You don't need a marina or a hoist. You can do it by yourself if that's your thing. If you don't know where there are launching sites in your area use The Google.

    But do check out your local Laser fleet and go sail with them too. To find them go to the Laser Class association website for your district or region. In North America go to the ILCA-NA website where there is a clickable map of Districts in North America which will lead you to information about fleets in your area. Or find out who is your district secretary and ask them.

  5. How do I find out about regattas near me?

    Same as above. Your local class website should have a schedule. Here, for example, is this year's regatta schedule for the New England district

Strangely enough nobody bothers to ask the question that my friend Edward, the brave oceanic sailor, often receives from folk who are curious about his brave oceanic sailing, "How do you go to the bathroom?" Maybe because I already answered it here.

Monday, June 09, 2008

While Cruising Round Yarmouth

While cruising round Yarmouth one day on a spree
I met a fair damsel, the wind blowing free
I'm a fast-going clipper, my kind sir, says she
I'm ready for cargo, my hold is quite free

What country she come from I could not tell which
But by her appearance I thought she was Dutch
And her flag wore its colours, her masthead was low
She was round in the quarter and bluff in the bow

I gave her my rope and I took her in tow
Yardarm to yardarm towing we'd go
We both towed together till we came to the head
We both towed together through to Calgary Bay

She took me upstairs and her tops'l she lowered
In a neat little parlour she soon had me moored
She laid in the foresails, the staysails and all
With her lily-white hand let me reef-tackle fall

The watch being ended I said, Maid give o'er
'Twixt wind and water you've run me ashore
My shot-locker's empty, my coal is all spent
I can't fire a shot for it's choked at the vent

Well here's luck to that girl with the black curly locks
Here's luck to that girl who ran Jack on the rocks
Here's luck to the doctor who eased all his pain
He squared his main yards - he's a-cruising again

First Date

She's been sitting on the shelf for several months as I just hadn't felt it was the right time yet to take her out. However, last week I decided to take the plunge and start a relationship with her but only on special occasions for a while.

Dressed in some nifty new red and black numbers she looked ready for action. I was excited to be giving her a whirl. After all she's never been rigged before and I was about to take her out for her first ride around the bay.

There are some rules for the first date. I'm not quite sure where they come from but current etiquette has it that you don't want to get your vang too tight and it's not a good idea to yank too hard on the downhaul in the first couple of hours. Something about letting her relax on your first encounter so that she will be in better shape on future outings. Apparently it does wonders for her performance over the long term.

So that's what we did. On Friday evening I took her over to one of my favorite spots in the East Bay where I've had some success before. She looked crisp and white and so young, with not a wrinkle in sight. Made her predecessor look old and tired by comparison.

We took it gently to start with but, at least on my part, it was love at first sight. She seemed a bit longer in the luff than her immediate predecessor; I'm a sucker for long luffs. Her bottom had a perfect curve, not too full, just a perfect shape. Her leech was nice and tight as it should be. Not a flutter in sight (except in my heart.)

I tried some gentle beating and I was surprised by how well she responded. But mostly I reached around a bit and that was the most exciting part of the evening for me. Man, she seems fast.

I haven't been block-to-block with her yet but I suspect that is a definite possibility the next time we go out. I'm planning a special trip for our next date when I am looking forward to showing her off to some of my old friends.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Not Post

More Sailing Goals

When I proposed the subject of Sailing Goals for our current group writing project I had an inkling that some of my regular readers would react by submitting articles that questioned the whole concept of having "goals" for their sailing activities. I know that some of you are ambitious racing sailors, but many of you view the sport as a relaxation, an escape from the stress of the daily grind, a chance to enjoy time on the water with friends and family. Who has goals for that stuff?

Captain JP perhaps summed up this reaction best in his post Sailing Goals - What Goals? by arguing that the concept of a goal "seems a bit too organised for a hobby which is by nature more ad-hoc, and having one is slightly against the whole spirit of just doing it for the fun of it."

Carol Anne's My Goal Post (ouch - that's worse than some of my post title puns) is all about her "goal not to have a goal". Or is it? She says that she has "a seriously jaundiced attitude toward all that optimistic goal-setting stuff" but does share with us some of her aspirations for youth sailing in her area and her hopes for her friend's success in the Mallory Cup. That's OK. I spent six sailing seasons a few years back focused on developing junior sailors in various ways and that's a pretty damn fine goal too.

Now Soulsailor was once a national champion in the Optimist Class and has recently been one of the UK hotshots in the Enterprise class. But he's now a family man and starting to do more sailing with his kids. So even he is wondering how to set his priorities for sailing this year, particularly the balance between Open Meetings vs Club Racing, but one thing he is sure of... he wants to spend more time with SoulCrew.

And then we have that poor old confused soul, Tillerman, who wrote some Muddled Musings on Sailing Goals. Sounds to me as if he too is finally starting to realize that sailing is all about enjoying as much time on the water as possible, and that racing successes don't amount to much except a few dusty trophies on a shelf.

I have promises of some more posts for the project in the next few days. A couple of people have already sent me hints of what articles they are going to write. One promises to be an extremely original and graphic way to present a goal; the other will be some thoughts about goals from a sailor with a deep appreciation and understanding of our sport.

So please have a shot at the group writing project yourself. Full instructions are at Sailing Goals. You have until next Saturday, June 14, to send in your entry.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Muddled Musings on Sailing Goals

Some random thoughts about this whole process of goals in sailing...

Why do we have them? How to state them? What good are they?

Last year I had a goal to "finish in the top half of my fleet at the Laser Masters World Championships." Very specific. Very measurable. But not much good by itself. What am I supposed to do with a goal like that? It talks about an outcome that I can't control. It all depends on how good the other sailors at the regatta are, and whether the weather and wave conditions suit me or not... all variables outside my control. If it inspired me to take some other actions like fix some faults in my technique, improve my racing skills through competing at more events locally, practice more, achieve the best target body weight, improve my fitness etc. etc. then it would be of some value. But by itself it is worthless.

As it was, I achieved that objective at the 2007 Worlds in Spain in October but failed at the 2008 Worlds in Australia in February. So what does that prove? I dunno.

This year my primary sailing goal is to do 100 days of Lasering between Jan 1 and Dec 31. Something that's very much in my control. Every day when I get up I can choose whether to go sailing or not. If I don't make it to 100 I have only myself to blame.

Of course the hidden agenda is that I am hoping that my sailing skills and my racing performance will improve if I spend significantly spend more days on the water in my Laser than I ever have in my life before. Still that Type-A personality who always wants to do better. Still hoping for some positive impact on the outcome of the races I enter.

But how I choose to achieve the 100 days is completely open. Maybe I will spend a whole day out on the bay. Or maybe I will just fit in an hour or so of practice one evening. Maybe I will travel to sailing resorts, or go to regattas abroad, or sign up for a couple of clinics. Or race lots of local regattas. Or go frostbiting. Maybe I will sail with some friends or just go out for an afternoon and practice on my own. Or all of the above. Actually "all of the above" is exactly what I am doing.

It's a bit of an experiment. If I sail a Laser 100 days in 2008 will I achieve better results in races in 2009? I don't know. We will see.

So how is it going?

At the beginning of the year I had a rough plan that I would sail 40 days in the six colder months of the year Jan/Feb/Mar and Oct/Nov/Dec and 60 days in the warmer six middle months. That would require six or seven days a month in the colder months and ten days a month in the warmer months. Seemed doable.

I figured I would get a running start on the year by going to Cabarete in the Dominican Republic for a clinic and a regatta in January, to Australia for the Masters Worlds in February, and to Florida for a clinic in March. But somehow since then things have slipped a bit. I hoped to be at 40 days by the end of May but I only made it to 33.

So what to do? Adjust of course. I will need to sail more days a month than I had planned in June, July, August and September in order to catch up. That's one of the values of a goal, so you can make adjustments along the way if you're not on track to achieve your goal. I just have to sail more days this summer.
It's a hard life but somebody's got to do it.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Tiverton Tilling

I explained before in The Constant Gardener how my hasty choice of the unoriginal and entirely obvious pseudonym Tillerman for my role as the author of a sailing blog turned out to be apt in another way that I hadn't considered when I chose the name. Briefly... my wife is an avid gardener and I like to help her with the gardening which involves "tilling" the soil, so we are both "tillers" in the agricultural sense of the word...Tillerman and Tillerwoman. Cute, eh?

I've been doing a lot of tilling lately. This spring I've made three raised beds for vegetable gardening, a perennial border, and a rock garden. It was harder than I thought. Either this land hasn't been plowed since Weetamoo roamed these hills or, more likely, when the builder of our house blasted out a ledge on the bedrock on which to build the foundations he simply piled soil on top of all the rocks left over from the blasting.

There are a lot of rocks buried in our back yard. Little rocks. Big rocks. Huge bloody rocks. Before preparing an area for planting I've been digging over the soil and removing those rocks. When I come across a rock that's way too big for me to lift I dig all around it and see if I can lever it up half an inch with my shovel. Being a stubborn kind of fellow and a fan of Archimedes I figure that if I can move it up half an inch it's only a matter of time and sweat and levers and ramps and wedges to be able to move it up three feet and sideways thirty feet.

I've spent many hot sweaty sunny afternoons in the last couple of weeks removing rocks from an area that Tillerwoman had chosen for a perennial garden. Then I spent a couple of days burying all the rocks again in another area that Tillerwoman had designated to be a rock garden.

Don't ask. I'm sure there's some method in this madness.

Anyway, on Tuesday this week I finished tilling and fertilizing the perennial patch, Tillerwoman and I visited the local nursery and bought plants to fill it, and by late afternoon she was happily planting said plants in aforementioned patch. I made some sarcastic comment about how it took me two weeks of heaving rocks so that she could enjoy an hour of planting, and then suggested that maybe it still wasn't too late for me to fit in a sail as a reward for all my efforts.

My wonderful wife agreed that dinner could easily be delayed a few hours as we were "only having salad". (Having seen the masses of green stuff now thrusting its way up in the raised beds, I suspect we will be having a lot of salads this summer.) So before she could change her mind I left her to her planting, hitched up the Laser trailer to the car, and went off for a blast on the Sakonnet River.

It was a warm sunny evening. It was a good sail. What else can I tell you? Did you think this blog was about sailing?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Fogland Fartlek

In my younger days (warning: old geezer reminiscence coming up) when I was more serious about running as a sport, I used to do something called interval training. Basically this means running fast for a while and then slower for a while and then repeating until you collapse in a puddle of sweat. The running books are full of detailed instructions for intervals that read something like "run 6x800m at 3:30 pace with 400m recovery at 2:00 pace followed by 4x400m at 1:40 pace with 400m recovery at 2:10 pace....and so on and so on." It all has the impression of being very carefully and scientifically worked out to optimize your training success. Incredibly earnest, not to say obsessive.

Then there was something called fartlek which is a form of interval training for folk who are a bit more casual or perhaps just numerically challenged. It has the same mix of faster and easier running intervals but you can be more flexible about the length and spacing of the intervals. Maybe you just say you are going to run at a faster pace to the next tree and then jog slowly for a while. Then run to the next corner and walk until you reach the lake. No need for a measured track or a stopwatch or a 500 page training manual.

For those of you in the back row snickering at that word "fartlek", it's Swedish and means speed play. Fart=speed. Lek=play. Now stop snickering.

I've never heard of anyone using fartlek in sailing but then I don't get out much these days. Last Friday I launched my Laser off Fogland Beach on a gorgeous afternoon for sailing with just enough wind to demand full-on hiking upwind but not so much that the waves were actually hitting me in the face. Perfect. So I decided to see if a version of fartlek would work for building hiking stamina and endurance.

You see, I take it as an article of faith that the reason that all the fit young guys beat me upwind in a blow is that they can hike harder and longer than I do. The harder you hike the faster you go. The fitter you are, the harder and longer you can hike. Must be true. So if I want to go faster I need to be younger and fitter. Well, fitter anyway.

So on Friday I invented a sort of hiking fartlek. I hiked as hard as I could while I counted up to 50, and then shifted gears to slightly less intense hiking while I counted up to 50 again. (If there were trees and corners in the middle of the Sakonnet River I could have used them as landmarks to break up my hiking fartlek as you do in running fartlek. But there aren't any. So I counted.)

And then I repeated while I counted up to 60, 70, 80, 90.... until I reached the point where I had reached my maximum time for flat-out full-on hiking also known as onset of the quads saying, "Hey dude, enough is enough. Who do you think you are, Paige Railey?" So then I carried on with the exercise but counting down and doing progressively shorter intervals.

It's amazing how such a simple act as concentrating on counting makes the time go quickly. A bit like counting sheep to help you go to sleep I suppose. So after half an hour or so of upwind I went downwind for a spell, way past my starting point and then started fartlek hiking again. This time the quads insisted on some shorter intervals so it was count up to 30, tack, count up to 30, tack, and so on and so on until I was back at the beach.

Well, wasn't that incredibly anal-retentive of me?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Moonlight, Warm Beer, Whiskeytown and Hamster Wheels

Our group writing project on Sailing Goals is off to a flying start with four talented boating writers crossing the line right after the gun.

Almost OCS but actually winning the start was Edward with Secondary Sailing Goals, a reminder that even if you have a big ass main goal like "cross an ocean" it's also good to maintain balance by having some broader goals such as seeing your kid sail by herself or taking a moonlight sail. Edward also breaks the news about who is really behind the most controversial decision in Olympic sailing this year.

Mondale just wants to get back on the water as often as possible, a fine goal. He has some specific plans and some "partners in crime" to go with him. I look forward especially to reading on his blog later this summer about how he succeeds with his aim to do some Warm Beering, Cold Beering.

David Anderson has been racing his Megabyte in the Whiskeytown Regatta and, after a few learning experiences there, has developed some training goals for the upcoming High Sierra Regatta. I can definitely relate to most of his Lessons from Race 4 and Some New Training Goals. Sail faster downwind? Get in better shape? Learn to roll tack properly? I'm with you dude.

Bonnie's article about Little Goals is ostensibly about kayaking rather than sailing, but has some lessons for all of us Type-A personalities who sometimes take our sports a little too seriously. She has written about why chasing high-ticket dreams is not right for her just now; and why what she describes as a "little goal", paddling ten miles a week, makes more sense. As she so wisely says, "I think I should just chill a bit, I'm stressing out over this a lot and first and foremost boating is something I do for the enjoyment." Something we should all remember.

Great stuff. Keep the stories coming. Full instructions on how you can participate in this project at Sailing Goals.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Sailing Goals

After the success of last month's group writing project on Learning Experiences, let's do it again... The topic for this month is Sailing Goals. Your task, if you choose to accept it, is to write a post about your sailing goal or goals.

We all have a goal don't we? Edward wants to cross an ocean to teach his kids that adventure is good and will be sailing in the Pacific Cup in a few weeks; I rashly announced at the beginning of this year that I want to sail my Laser on 100 days in 2008; and Christy wants to heave to in the very center of the lake in order to kiss a boy. How's that for three different sailing ambitions?

Or maybe you're less driven than Christy, Edward and me. Maybe your goal is to have fun sailing with your kid, or to install that new gizmo on your boat, or perhaps you have some zen-like goal to enjoy sailing without goals? Whatever. Write about that.

But please write something new. If you've already written a post on your blog about your 2008 sailing goals then you could write about what progress (or not) that you're making towards those goals, or how to set goals, or why sailing goals are (or aren't) a good thing... I'm sure you can think of something.

And you can participate even if you don't have your own blog. Same rules as before. This is how it works...

1. Write a post on your blog on the subject of Sailing Goals.

2. Once you've posted your story, let me know about it by sending an email to including a link to your post. If you don't have a blog just email me the story and I will post it here. Please let me know about your post or send me your story before Saturday 14 June. Choose a unique title for your story please. We don't want a dozen posts all entitled My Sailing Goal.

3. I will post here two links to your story. Every day or so I will write a post listing any new entries in the project. Then at the end of the project I will provide a summary post with links to all of your articles about sailing goals.

Please participate in this project. Do it for fun. Do it to so that new readers will find your blog. Do it so that we can marvel about how many different types of sailor read this blog and how different their sailing aspirations are.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Lasers Suck

Can you hear that giant sucking sound?

Actually I don't mean the giant sucking sound that Ross Perot talked about back in 1992, the sound of all our jobs going to Mexico. Of course he was only half right... all of our jobs eventually went to China... but he had the right idea.

No, I'm talking about the giant sucking sound that the Laser autobailer makes when you're tanking along at a speed that feels like warp 3 but is probably only about 4 knots or so. I love that sound.

God knows the Laser autobailer is one of the worst components ever installed in a boat. The little O-rings that keep it shut perish and break. And it's all too easy to kick it closed with your foot when you really want it open and you don't realize what you've done until the cockpit is half full of water and you're wondering why the rest of the fleet is so much faster than you all of a sudden. But I love that sweet sucking sound it makes when it's working properly.

Short pause to consider how many minutes will elapse before Joe Rouse posts a comment here telling me how the Force 5 autobailer is far superior...

Pause over.

Last Thursday I went for a sail from Colt State Park in Bristol over to Aquidneck Island heading directly for that monstrosity on the Portsmouth skyline known as The Tower at Carnegie Abbey, a 22 storey skyscraper that would look more at home in downtown Manhattan than in Portsmouth one of the most beautiful towns in New England with its farms and pastures and 56 miles of coastline not to mention its status as "The birthplace of American democracy - 1638".

Hey, look it up. It's true. 1638. American democracy started here. It says so on a sign when you drive into the town so it must be true.

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes, I forget to mention that you too can live in the Great Silo of Aquidneck if you want to find 950 grand for a one-bedroom apartment or maybe 7 million for the penthouse. You'd better hurry though, it's selling fast, with those superb views of the crazy old man in his Laser sailing over from Bristol.

Oh yeah. I forgot. This is really a post about Laser sailing.

Anyway, the wind was from the south-west, a tasty 15 knots or so, and I could just about lay the Carnegie Abbey Phallus on a beam reach with only a bit of upwind work to clear Poppasquash Point each way. Man, what a ride. Wild planing reach for several miles. And all the time... that giant sucking sound. I love that sound.

There was a ketch out cruising the Eastern Passage but otherwise not a lot of other boat traffic. Just me and my little Laser and the giant sucking sound.

Lasers suck.