Saturday, May 30, 2009

Tiller Man

Its nine o'clock on a Saturday
The regular crowd shuffles in
There's an old man sitting in Frisco
Making photos of wahines and fishin'.

He says, son, can you show me a Force 5?
I'm not really sure if it's Joe's
But it has a comfortable seat
And I know half the fleet
And it sort of planes when it blows.

La la la, de de da
La la, de de da da da

Write us a blog, you're the Tillerman
Write us a blog tonight
Well, we're all in the mood for a parody
And you've got us feeling all right.

Now Apparent Wind's Yarg is a friend of mine
He lets me sail at his club for free
And he's pretty thick-skinned
When he tacks on my wind
But there's no place that he'd rather be.

He says, your skill I believe is what's killing me
As his boatspeed is way off the pace
Well I'm sure that I could be a sailing star
If I could just win one more race.

Oh, la la la, de de da
La la, de de da da da

Now Adam's a real smart blogger
Who likes to sail with his wife
And he's talking with Bonnie
Who is terribly funny
And probably will be for life.

And the Dutchman is practicing fact-finding
As the left coast guys slowly get stoned
Yes, they're sharing a program called Wordpress
But its better than blogging alone.

Write us a blog, you're the Tillerman
Write us a blog tonight
Well, we're all in the mood for a parody
And you've got us feeling all right

Its a pretty good crowd for a Saturday
And Carol Anne gives me a smile
'Cause she knows that its me
They've been coming to see
To forget about life for a while.

And the blog, it rumbles and rambles
And the stories are crazy and queer
And they log in from afar
And leave comments bizarre
And say, man, what are you doing here?

Oh, la la la, de de da
La la, de de da da da

Write us a blog, you're the Tillerman
Write us a blog tonight
Well, we're all in the mood for a parody
And you've got us feeling all right.

Saturday Speedlinks

Inner Sailing by Zen. The title says it all. Much wisdom from the master.

Psyche of Sailing by Tim Warrhol. A view from another world, Second Life, but just as applicable in real life sailing.

24 Great Ways to Get On the Water in NYC (plus a couple of spots in Jersey) Without Your Own Boat from bonnie of frogma. Wow! If you live in or near New York City, this post is packed with ideas on how to get out on the water this weekend.

Friday, May 29, 2009

5 Possible Answers to a Great Question

An anonymous commenter to my last post asked the following question...

It’s interesting that the clip you chose to show (the light air jibe) shows the sailor violating the rules of propulsion, by coming out of the jibe faster than going in. I have several other training DVD’s and they all seem to train and advocate the same thing. (One even says to do this carefully so as not to alert the refs.) What gives?

What gives indeed?

I can think of 5 possible answers...

  1. He wasn't going faster. It's just an optical illusion.

  2. This is only a training video and the sailor was exaggerating to illustrate a point. When racing he would never come out of a gybe faster than he went in to it.

  3. He was only going a little bit faster after the gybe, and only for a little while. The judges wouldn't call him for such a minor violation.

  4. Everybody does it. You have to do it if you want to be competitive in a Laser. Don't you ever drive over the speed limit?

  5. All Laser sailors are cheats.

Which of these answers is nearest the truth? Or can you think of a better explanation of what you see in that video?

Advanced Laser Boat Handling DVD

I have had the pleasure over the past few days to review the Advanced Laser Boat Handling DVD produced by my friends at the Laser Training Center in Cabarete, Dominican Republic. And I must say I am very impressed. This is the best video training aid I have ever seen for teaching the techniques of Laser boat handling.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I raced in the Laser Caribbean Midwinters and participated in pre-regatta clinics in Cabarete in 2007 and 2008.
The 2008 clinic was taught by the head coach at the Laser Training Center, Javier Borojovich, known to everyone as Rulo, and he is the brains behind the Advanced Laser Boat Handling DVD. Rulo is an excellent coach and I learned much from his classes in Cabarete. The best way to describe the DVD is that it has captured Rulo's lessons on boat handling in a medium that you can use at home. If you can't attend the Laser Training Center at Cabarete, then owning the DVD is the next best thing. And even if you have sailed with Rulo at Cabarete, the DVD is the best way to remind yourself about everything you learned there... and more.

So why is this DVD so good? Essentially... attention to detail.

The DVD covers tacks, gybes, mark roundings and penalty turns. But it breaks down each of these maneuvers into several categories, e.g. the section on tacks covers light, medium and strong wind tacks separately. Then for each of these it breaks down the maneuver into a series of steps and illustrates each step with slow motion video taken from various angles: the coach boat, aerial shots, and even cameras mounted on the Laser. The coverage of exactly what to do in each step is meticulously and clearly explained in the commentary.

As an example the section on light wind tacks has...
  • a discussion on why good technique for light wind tacks is so important

  • overview of objectives of a light wind tack

  • two keywords to remember

  • detailed explanation of how to execute the four steps of the tack
    1. heading up
    2. heeling to windward
    3. switching sides
    4. flattening the boat
    with several tips on each step illustrated with video taken from a coach boat...

  • close-up videos of the same steps from a camera mounted on the transom of the Laser picking up some more detailed issues such as exactly what to do with your hands and feet through the tack

  • a variation for extremely light winds

  • what to do if you come out of the tack too low

  • two ways you can go wrong and how to correct them

  • tips on how to improve

Get the idea?

To give you an even better feel for the quality of this DVD check out this short clip from the section on light wind gybes...

And the sailors in the videos are world class Laser sailors such as Brad Funk, Andrew Campbell, Anna Tunnicliffe and 3-time Olympian from Poland, Maciej Grabowski. I've never seen anything quite like this before.

I can imagine using the DVD before a training session to focus in on one aspect of technique before going on the water. Now let's see exactly what to do with the sheet in a roll tack. Exactly when should I sheet in, when should I ease, how much should I ease, when should I sheet in again, and how fast should I sheet in? It's all there. Attention to detail, as I said. Review the DVD. Remember the details. Go on the water and practice. You couldn't wish for a better training aid. I'm sure I'm going to be using it a lot this summer.

The Advanced Laser Boat Handling DVD is available from the Laser Training Center for $49.95. Full disclosure: I was provided with a review copy of the DVD for free but if Ari Barshi hadn't sent me a free copy I would certainly have bought one at this price. Hell, don't tell Ari but I would probably have paid even more for it; it's that good.

One last point... I am really hoping that Rulo and his friends in Cabarete will produce a second DVD on the techniques for sailing a Laser upwind and downwind in those classic huge Cabarete waves. That would be make for an even more spectacular DVD.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

UK-Halsey Racing Rules Quiz Program

A few weeks ago, I was asked to review the animated Racing Rules of Sailing quiz program produced by UK-Halsey. There is a free version of their rules quizzes available on UK-Halsey's website but the version I am reviewing here is the downloadable version available from their online store for $55. (Full disclosure: I was given the download for free. More later on the difference between on-line and downloadable versions of the quiz.)


There is no doubt in my mind that it is much easier to learn the rules from animations than from than static diagrams. UK-Halsey have done a good job of presenting common situations that you will run into on the race course and each quiz typically presents several situations illustrating different aspects of the rule or rules in question.

In the current version of the software, all the answers to the quizzes have been re-written for the new 2009-2012 rules by Rob Overton, the chairman of the US Sailing Rules Committee, so you can be as sure as you can possibly be in the sometimes murky world of rules interpretation that the answers are correct.

The program was quick and easy to download and install, and works swiftly and flawlessly. (I use Windows/XP on a Dell Inspiron 1525.) The rules quizzes have an excellent presentation, with a window for the animation of little red and green boats bumping into each other and various obstacles (just like in real life) and a window alongside that presents 'The Situation' and then 'The Answer' in text format. The Answer has 'Facts Found' and 'Conclusion and Rules That Apply' just like a real life protest committee might sum up and announce its decision.

One thing that I usually hate about reading rules articles is that the experts ramble on about Rule 17 and Rule 31 and how Rule 18.2 (d) does or does not apply and I don't have a clue what they are talking about unless I have a rule book handy. So I especially appreciated a feature in 'The Answer' sections of the downloadable UK-Halsey Rules Quiz where every time a Rule is referenced, or for that matter when one of those tricky terms in the Definitions such as the always confusing 'proper course' is used, there is a hyperlink to the relevant Rule or Definition. Makes it so much easier to follow the argument.

So Tillerman, how tough are these quizzes? Will they be too easy or too hard for me?

To answer this question I gave myself a test. I did several of the quizzes and then checked my answers against the ones given by the program.

Before telling you how I did, let me explain that I'm not exactly a novice when it comes to the Racing Rules. I've been racing sailboats for over a quarter of a century and I try and keep current on the rules. I am the kind of guy that used to get invited to sit on a protest committee or even give a talk to the club about the rules at my last sailing club. Having said that I'm not an expert; I am not qualified as a judge or an umpire like my blogging friend Jos.

I tried five of the quizzes, most of them involving more than one situation between different pairs of boats.

I got the answers completely right to three of the five without help from the rule book or the program, in the sense that I correctly identified all of the boats which were in the wrong, but in a couple of cases my reasoning in the conclusions was slightly incorrect.

On one of the quizzes I correctly judged the first situation but messed up the second one because I overlooked some rules that applied in that situation.

And on another quiz I got two of the three issues correct, but didn't really know why on one of those two until I checked the rule book. I was totally wrong on the third issue... all to do with bolloxing up that pesky proper course issue again, of all things!

So to make a long story short, the UK-Halsey quizzes will be very helpful to people just learning the Racing Rules, and will also teach a thing or two to arrogant bastards like me who think they know it all.

But Tillerman, these rules quizzes are available for free on the UK-Halsey website. Why should I pay 55 bucks for the download? What's the difference between the two versions?

Good question. Here are all the differences I could find.

  1. You can play the animations at full-screen size in the download version. Might be handy if you are going to use it as a teaching tool.

  2. You can adjust the speed of the animations in the download version. Not a big deal in my opinion as you can pause the playback in both versions if you want to study a particular situation in more detail or just need more time to think.

  3. The download has 26 quizzes, but there are only 20 on the free website.

  4. The download has a copy of Part 2 of the Rule Book that can be navigated with hyperlinks from a list of the rules by name and number. Somewhat easier to use than other online versions of the rules which are usually in PDF format.

  5. There is what is called a "blog" on the download. But as far as I can see this is just a copy of some posts by Rob Overton about the changes in the 2009-2012 Rules which are also available for free online at Racing Rules Blog.

  6. There are apparently three bonus PDF files on the downloadable version. But these are actually links to PDF files on the UK-Halsey website. So if you knew where to look you could get them for free, though as far as I can see there is no navigation to them on the free site. The three files are some appeals cases; some questions and answers that help you understand many of the terms used in the rules; and a short excerpt from Bryan Willis's rules book. All good stuff if you are really into the rules.

  7. A number of videos (ten in the version I downloaded) of Butch Ulmer using the Rules Quiz Program to teach the rules at various seminars. These would be an excellent tool to use if you were teaching the rules to a group of sailors and they explain much more comprehensively than the quizzes various rules issues and situations. It was one of these videos that prompted my Rules Question post a few days ago.
So is the download worth 55 bucks? You will have to decide for yourself on that one. Speaking personally I probably wouldn't have bought it at that price. But in the days when I was working as a sailing instructor I might well have invested in the download as, with the full screen feature, the online rule book, and especially the Butch Ulmer videos, it is a much better teaching tool than the free quizzes.

If you are interested in purchasing the downloadable Racing Rules Quiz Program it is available at the UK Halsey online store for $55, or $40 for owners of the previous CD version. If you want to get a flavor for what the quizzes are like, try the free version first at the UK-Halsey website.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Quote of the Day

From a Scuttlebutt interview with Andrew Campbell, US Olympic Laser sailor in 2008 now campaigning in Stars...

You have noted how Laser racing at the marks can be a cross between tactical turns and mortal combat. How did that fit with your personality and sailing style?

Mark roundings can be lawless in any fleet, but the Laser fleet has an especially wild reputation. I learned through 10 years of Laser sailing how to read sailors as they entered those types of situations. Having an understanding of when to assert yourself so that other sailors respect your position on the course, having a firm and confident grasp that you are, in fact, doing the right things usually is enough to establish yourself even in the most wild-westish situations. Also, knowing when to back off and simply let a team make fools of themselves can be the best play. Tactics are as much or more about anticipating the other boat’s moves as it is about planning your own. I am a firm believer in controlling other boats by your actions, but there are great skills to be learned in the Laser fleet by reading other players as they enter the gladiators’ arena at the three-length zone.

Just another confirmation that this guy was playing the game on a whole different plane from me. I never realized before that there was an alternative at crowded hairy mark roundings to the "just close your eyes and shout a lot" approach.

Anticipation? Reading other players? This opens up a whole new world for me.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Visitor #250,000 to this blog arrived here at 3:23pm today, Tuesday. Site Meter couldn't identify a referring URL which means, I think, that my visitor wasn't referred here by a search engine or link from another site. So perhaps they have Proper Course bookmarked and might actually be a regular reader rather than a casual passer-by?

Here's where it gets interesting. Visitor #250,000's Internet Service Provider is the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland which I assume means that he or she is a midshipman, or member of staff, or other employee at the Naval Academy. Maybe it's the Superintendent? Maybe it's the janitor? I don't know.

Anyway, he or she entered on the front page, lingered here for 1 minute 49 seconds and then clicked out to... oh no... they out-clicked to the site of my blogging nemesis, Joe Rouse, producer of the infamous The Horse's Mouth blog, a somewhat dodgy soft porn site full of semi-naked women photographed in suggestive poses with fish. You really don't want to go there.

Admiral! How dare you! And on working hours too!

So, if visitor #250,000 is prepared to identify themselves I would like to honor them here (assuming that by doing so I won't earn them demerits or anything bad like that.) It has been suggested that the lucky person #250,000 will win naming rights to my Laser and I am happy to award such privilege if they are interested.

Emily's First Boat Ride

I've been looking forward to the day when we can introduce my granddaughter Emily (now three years old) to boating. Well, apparently I missed this momentous occasion. Her parents took her to New Hampshire this weekend and, for reasons that are still a mystery to me, her father took Emily rowing in the dark and someone took a photo of them without using the red eye elimination option on the camera.

But at least I have a record of this major milestone on her unstoppable journey to Olympic sailing gold.

Monday, May 25, 2009

28 (plus 3) Amazing Lists About Sailing

Thanks to everyone who participated in our May group writing project, Lists. We had 28 entries in all and the complete list of entries is at the bottom of this post. This project was a little different from the ones we have run before. Usually I suggest a topic, whereas this month I only suggested the format, a list post. How did you like that? Was it easier not to have to rack your brain to address a specific topic? Or was it too vague an assignment to be a real challenge?

List posts are supposedly very popular with blog readers. It seems that a title saying "X Something Or Others" draws the reader in. They're probably thinking, "Oh there's only X. It won't be too long. I might as well check it out." And then the format of a list is easy to scan for our notoriously lazy readers. They can see if the post is of interest much more easily than they can if they are glancing over an unstructured post of long paragraphs. Do you find that?

On the other hand some folk find list posts trivial and some bloggers think they are a lazy way to write. They are right. But, hey, what's wrong with trivial? This whole blogging nonsense is a pretty trivial pursuit when you think about it. Isn't that the point?

Anyway, before I get too philosophical, here is the complete list of lists. Enjoy.

  1. 18 Advantages of the Laser Sailboat

  2. 5 Things a Sea Kayaker Needs to Pass a CG Auxiliary Safety Inspection

  3. 8 Things I Learned While Boating

  4. A Dozen Places to Sail Before You Die in the Desert and Mountain Southwest

  5. Fifteen things that bugged me during last Saturday's single-hand race

  6. Six things that went right during the Joshua Slocum race

  7. 8 Things To Think About Whilst Learning To Sail

  8. 10 Things I Won't Leave My Urban Dock Without Having In My Sea Kayak

  9. 13 Lucky Charms for when the park ranger pulls alongside your boat

  10. Two people who won't sail with me right now

  11. 12 Ways to Sabotage Your Start

  12. Three Pieces of Windsurfing Gear I've Owned More Than Ten Years

  13. Four Surefire Ways to Look like a Dork when Sailing

  14. 6 Reasons why Yachts are better than Dinghies

  15. 6 Reasons why Dinghies are better than Yachts

  16. 28 checks for trailer sailors before launching a boat from a trailer

  17. The 3 least understood Racing Rules of Sailing

  18. Eleven Crazy Things You Can Do on a Laser

  19. 10 (or maybe only 6) things in a code of conduct for keelboat guests

  20. Six not quite good enough reasons to sell the Laser

  21. 10 Ways to make Sailing part of your Zen practice

  22. Top Ten Lame or Not-So-Lame Excuses Not To Get to the Lake

  23. 5 ways to improve the chances your wife will want to sail with you

  24. Five Ways to Improve Your Regatta Score Without Really Sailing Any Better

  25. 11 Reasons to Love High School Sailing

  26. Four Things My Dad Did That I'm Too Chicken to Do

  27. Seven Things That Would Make Joe Rouse's Blog Even Better

  28. 6 Reasons Why I Don't Have A Sailing List.

    Update: two late entries added...

  29. List of Lists For List of Lists

  30. A Sailboat List

    Update #2: another list that was brought to my attention later...

  31. 5 greatest dinghies of all time

Final List of Lists

Five more contributions to our group writing project Lists came in before yesterday's deadline...

High school sailing coach Yarg from Apparent Wind has
more words of wisdom with Five Ways to Improve Your Regatta Score Without Really Sailing Any Better.

And here are some ideas from Yarg's whole team who have 11 Reasons to Love High School Sailing.

David of Small Boat Sailing Adventures tells us Four Things My Dad Did That I'm to Chicken to Do. Hmmm.

I was pleased to hear from the legendary O Docker who has Seven Things That Would Make Joe Rouse's Blog Even Better. Classic O Docker brilliance!

And then from the aforementioned Joe Rouse, after a series of posts whining about how apparently I was forcing him to write a list, we have 6 Reasons Why I Don't Have A Sailing List. I guess, for all his bluster about me, that even Joe likes a bit of Proper Course link love. And what a list he has: one drunk, one fish, two dogs, six comfortable boats, and nine female bottoms. What else did you expect from The Horse?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

249,449 and counting...

Some time in the next couple of days the 250,000th visitor will arrive at this blog, or more accurately the 250,000th visitor since I turned Site Meter on.

Statistically speaking the probability is that the 250,000th visitor will arrive here via a Google search, quite likely one that has nothing to do with sailing, such as "silly awards" or "what's a histogram". They will then realize their terrible mistake and quickly leave Proper Course, never to return.

However, in spite of the likelihood that Mr. or Ms. 250,000 will be a random passer-by, I do feel that this event should be commemorated in some way. I would like to give the lucky guy or gal a special gift. What would be appropriate? A free life-time subscription to Proper Course? A chance to pick any item from the tray of random pieces of junk at the bottom of my sailing toolkit? A free 15 minutes of consultation on how to write "biting wit and heavy sarcasm", as Joe Rouse refers to my material?

Suggestions please...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Seven Things That Would Make Joe Rouse's Blog Even Better

This contribution to our Lists group writing project is supposedly from the mysterious O Docker, a legendary leaver of comments all over the sailing blogosphere. But who is O Docker? Does he actually exist or is he really Edward Superblogger's sock puppet? Or perhaps he is Joe Rouse's PR man? Can anyone solve the riddle of O Docker's true identity?

Joe Rouse certainly produces one of the finest blogs in all of sailing blogdom. Like any other red-blooded American male, I enjoy looking at all the fine photos he posts of fish.

But this is America, darn it, and we should always be striving to improve. With just a little more effort, Joe could take it over the top and absolutely dominate the world of sailing blogs. Here are seven ways he could do it.

1) More fish videos. Sure, the surfing and wipeout videos are great, but when it comes to fish, all we get are still images. Fish move, too, Joe, in ways that some of us find hypnotic. Work a fishing pole in, if you can. I'd love to see some of your fish dancing with a pole.

2) More marine business analysis. Face it, Joe, what sailor isn't curious about quarterly earnings reports from the major marine manufacturers like Beneteau and Hunter? Spice that up with timely sidebars on market capitalization, and you've got a surefire winner.

3) More posts on knitting and macrame. OK, OK, surfing, wipeouts, extreme sailing, monster waves, and, of course, fish, are what most sailors want to see, but Joe you live where it's warm - you're on the water year round. Don't you realize some sailors are freezing their butts off all winter? A few posts on knocking out a comfy sweater, knit watchcap, or even a nice tea cozy would give your blog more universal appeal. Knit one, purl two.

4) More existential philosophy. All sailing and no ontology makes Joe a dull boy. Wake up, man! Many front line sailing blogs regularly consider fundamental questions posed by Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, and other intellectual heavy hitters. Alright, admittedly this is a tough one to balance with pictures of fish. If you Kant, you Kant.

5) More Force Five coverage. Joe, baby, is the Force really with you? There's that technicolor logo, alright, but, like, that's it. Where's the coverage of the Force Five Nationals, The Force Five Brats and Beer Summer Wingding, the Force Five Round the Buoys Poker Run? See, I have no idea what Force Fives do. If we don't get this from you, Joe, who we gonna call? Some guy in Rhode Island claims the Force Five is a mythical boat that doesn't exist, like the Pequod or Bigfoot. Say it ain't so, Joe.

6) More posts about Britney Spears. Joe, blogging is all about numbers. A few posts about Britney every month and your hits would be off the charts! On Twitter, a gazillion people follow Obama's tweets, but two gazillion follow Britney. Nuff said. Photoshop her onto a Force Five and your traffic will be up there with Huffington.

7) And last, but not least, explain, once and for all, who is Bunty and where the heck is Gozo?

Saturday Speedlinks

Three blog posts that caught my eye this week...

Pierre Jasmine wrote a terrific account of sailing in the recent Laser Masters' North American Championship 2009 off the coast of Carolina. He absolutely captures the essence of what Laser Masters sailing is all about.

The Twittering of Moby Dick. I have no idea why anyone would want to read Moby Dick in 140 character bites but, in case you are interested, it took 12,849 tweets, or about 45 Twitter posts per day for nine-and-a-half months. Hilarious.

And finally, Tweezerman at Earwigoagin was mystified by a word used by a sailing pro but explains it to the rest of us in jocular fashion at Pro Speak... Duh!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Tom Slingsby Sailing

This one is for Joe. If you watch the whole video you will see Tom demonstrate #3 on my list of Eleven Crazy Things You Can Do on a Laser.

Four More List Project Entries

Four more entries today in our group writing project of the month which is the very simple task of writing a list post about sailing.

From The Good Old Boat Redwing 10 (or maybe only 6) things in a code of conduct for keelboat guests.

Andrew from SadlerBootwerk has Six not quite good enough reasons to sell the Laser. Phew. Thank goodness they weren't quite good enough. You had me worried for a moment there Andrew.

Zen knows 10 Ways to make Sailing part of your Zen practice. Great stuff.

And Carol Anne has Top Ten Lame or Not-So-Lame Excuses Not To Get to the Lake, all used by her friend Zorro apparently. But she still loves him.

I think that makes 22 entries so far. Thanks to everyone who has contributed but where are some of our regular participants? Joe? O Docker? Edward? Adam? There is still plenty of time for them and YOU to participate in this project, perhaps the easiest one of all the projects we have run here. Just write a list post about sailing and let me know about it before this Sunday, May 24. You don't even have to have your own blog to join the party. Full details at Lists.

Update: Oops. I missed one. The Skipper of the Starboard Racing Vessel has 5 ways to improve the chances your wife will want to sail with you.

Fish Fingers on Friday

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Even More Sailing Lists

Three more entries today in our group writing project of the month which is the very simple task of writing a list post about sailing.

Pat from Desert Sea - New Mexico Sailing knows
28 checks for trailer sailors before launching a boat from a trailer. I wonder if anyone will come up with a longer list?

The 3 least understood Racing Rules of Sailing from Jos of Look to Windward was a bit of a surprise to me. He clearly thinks that most of us casual racers don't know the rules very well so, instead of choosing some of the more obscure rules, he has picked what I always think of as three of the most fundamental rules: DYT, DBASL, and DHA.

Finally today we have a list from one of the vast unwashed horde of blogging Laser sailors Eleven Crazy Things You Can Do on a Laser. This guy is nuts.

There is still plenty of time for YOU to participate in this project, perhaps the easiest one of all the projects we have run here. Just write a list post about sailing and let me know about it before this Sunday, May 24. You don't even have to have your own blog to join the party. Full details at Lists.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sailing Anarchy Spam

My name is miss Victoria i saw your profile today on( became interested in you,i will also like to know more about you,and i want you to send a mail to my email address so that i can give you my picture for you to know whom l am. i believe we can move from here.I am waiting for your mail to my email address above.Remember the distance or colour does not matter but love matters allot in life. Please reply me with my email address here (

Dear Victoria,

Thank you for the intriguing invitation but, apart from being happily married for 36 years, I could never fall for a woman who doesn't understand when to use upper case letters, full stops or spaces, and is prone to confuse "a lot" with "allot".

Rules Question

Here's a question for all you Racing Rules of Sailing experts out there...

When do you have to sail your proper course?

Sailing Gear Reviews: New Policy

Thanks to everyone who contributed suggestions on how to deal with the Dilemma I posed last week of whether or not I should accept sailing gear from suppliers in exchange for writing reviews on Proper Course. There was quite a range of responses, reinforcing my suspicion that there is no black and white answer to the question. However, after weighing all your comments I have decided on what my policy for writing reviews will be...

To vendors: I am a sailing gear whore. Send me your products for free and I will write reviews of them on Proper Course. (I suggest that you check first whether I want your stuff. I'm a Laser sailor, so winch handles and bilge blowers are of no interest to me.) I don't guarantee that I will write a review straight away; sometimes it takes a while to test out a piece of clothing or equipment fully and sometimes I am just plain lazy. I don't guarantee that I will write only kind comments about your product just because you bribed me by giving it to me for free, but it's possible. I don't guarantee that I will give you a right of reply if I don't like something about your product, but if I know you personally I probably will.

To readers: I am a sailing gear whore. Suppliers send me stuff for free and I write reviews about that stuff here. If I like a product I keep it. I try not to let the free gift influence my ability to write an impartial review, but I am human. Some of you have been kind enough to say that you trust me to be unbiased; thank you for that trust though I suspect it's undeserved. Others of you say that I should not accept free gifts of gear in exchange for reviews; hey, you don't have to believe what I write if you don't want to. I will try and remember to disclose in each review whether the item was given to me or whether I bought it, and whether or not I know the supplier personally; but sometimes I forget important stuff like that.

I am a sailing gear whore. I am human.
I am lazy. I am forgetful. You don't have to believe anything you read here. You have been warned.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Eleven Crazy Things You Can Do on a Laser

Those Laser sailors are an imaginative group. Over the years they have invented an amazing number of weird things you can do on a Laser. Some of them have practical value; some of them are good training drills; and some of them are just plain silly...

1. Stand in front of the mast facing backwards, hold the mast and rock it from side to side. Laser sailors soon discover that (lacking a paddle) this is the most effective way to propel the boat back home when the wind dies completely. When I attended a Laser seminar run by Gary Bodie in 1995 on Lake Cayuga he had us doing this maneuver as a drill. He claimed it helped light wind boat speed. Either that or he had run out of other things to teach us during a week-long clinic with practically no wind.

2. Tack the boat by running round the mast. Absolutely no practical value as far as I know other than to show off to your friends. And I guess it does avoid the risk of hitting your head on the boom.

3. Sail standing up.
Kurt Taulbee used this as a drill both years I attended his Sailfit clinic. He had us sailing upwind standing on the side deck. I guess it teaches balance. I have terrible balance in any sport involving standing up. That's why I sail: so I can sit down most of the time.

4. Sail standing up on one leg. One of my buddies did this last year as we were sailing out to the race course on Buzzard's Bay. I think he does yoga classes. Not sure what use it is other than to show off to people who can barely sail standing up on both legs.

5. Sail upwind with your eyes closed. A great drill for learning to use sound and feel instead of sight to keep the boat in the groove. Do not attempt by yourself in a major shipping channel.

6. Climb up the mast until the boat capsizes. This was a contest that the Laser sailors at my first club liked. Highest climb wins. No practical value except to cool off on a hot day.

7. Do a headstand on the foredeck. This was some kind of rite of initiation for full acceptance into the Laser fleet at my first club. Geeze, I can't even do a headstand on dry land.

8. Sail without a rudder. A classic training drill in two-sail dinghies. I never worked out how to do it in a Laser though I suspect somebody has.

9. Sail without touching the tiller. At this year's Sailfit clinic, Kurt had us doing this as a drill. You leave the rudder down but are not allowed to touch the tiller. For me this was somewhat easier than sailing without a rudder at all. The secret is to move your body weight way forward. I found it easier to sail upwind by holding the boom rather than using the mainsheet. One guy on the clinic said he couldn't tack the boat when sailing like this; I could barely stop the beast from tacking all the time. Go figure! I guess the drill teaches something about using boat trim to steer.

10. Maximum heel drill. Another one of Kurt Taulbee's favorites. Sail downwind heeling the boat to windward as far as you can. If you never capsize you're not really trying. Teaches you how far you can heel to windward without doing a death roll. There was one kid from the Clearwater youth team who joined us for the weekend of the clinic who could heel the boat to about 80 degrees from the vertical in a solid breeze and then not only recover from the death roll but also go straight into a gybe. Amazing!

11. Tack the boat by stepping through the gap between the sail and the boom. Another way to avoid hitting your head on the boom, I suppose, but it does look incredibly silly.

Thanks to Segling till 2Tusen12 for the two videos.

Anyone know any other crazy Laser tricks?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Ask the Audience

Fans of the TV quiz game Who Wants to be a Millionaire? will know that contestants are allowed three "lifelines" to help them when they can't answer a question. One of these is Ask the Audience, in which the host polls the audience for the correct answer. Apparently the audience is right about 95% of the time.

News comes this weekend that Ask the Audience is now available to sailboat racers. The Green Dragon team in the Volvo Ocean Race have decided that they are going to "ask the audience" for help in tactical routing decisions on the current leg of the race.

According to Yachts and Yachting...

Every twelve hours during the leg, the virtual skippers in the Volvo Ocean Race Game will be sent a poll from Green Dragon. It will include a description of the current situation (details on weather conditions, boat condition and the crew) as well as an outlook for the next 24/36/48/72 hours.

Each of these polls will include at least three options for the route the team should sail. The poll will be posted on the game website for an hour, and the game players will have an opportunity to vote on the preferred route. The results of that vote will be communicated to the entire fleet, including Green Dragon, by the Duty Officer at Volvo Ocean Race headquarters.

Green Dragon may then, at the discretion of the skipper and navigator, follow the guidance of the online community. If the team decides not to take the advice, they will send an explanation for their reasoning.

Hmmm. That's novel. Two thoughts spring to mind...

  1. How could I use this technique in Laser racing?

  2. Who is going to ask Green Dragon, "Is that your final answer?"

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Lots More Sailing Lists

Wow. Our group writing project on Lists has inspired some major blogging activity over the last couple of days...

Mal of Team Gherkin seems to have had some bad experiences when he was learning to sail and recounts
8 Things To Think About Whilst Learning To Sail.

Bonnie of frogma is still educating us on kayak safety with 10 Things I Won't Leave My Urban Dock Without Having In My Sea Kayak.

And Pat's latest list also has a safety theme. He has 13 Lucky Charms for when the park ranger pulls alongside your boat.

It seems that Greg of Love and Coconuts still hasn't been forgiven for a somewhat disastrous sailing outing last year and tells the sad tale of Two people who won't sail with me right now.

While Yarg of Apparent Wind is trying to remember all the things not to do when starting a sailboat race including 12 Ways to Sabotage Your Start.

The Puffin is getting nostalgic about some old gear with Three Pieces of Windsurfing Gear I've Owned More Than Ten Years.

And Tweezerman of Earwigoagin tells us Four Surefire Ways to Look like a Dork when Sailing.

Meanwhile poor old Captain JP seems to be positively schizophrenic with 6 Reasons why Yachts are better than Dinghies and 6 Reasons why Dinghies are better than Yachts.

Plenty of time left for you to participate in this group writing project. Full details at Lists.

Moran Sighting

3 Speedlinks for Saturday

Here are three posts that caught my attention for various reasons this week. Enjoy...

  1. The author of The Good Old Boat Redwing has been attending the US Sailing Small Boat Instructor Course and his account reminded me of my own experience of doing that a few years back. And shock horror! He actually has to go Laser sailing. Small boat Instructor, day 1. Laser sailing!

  2. I suppose that many of you, like me, struggle with a lack of discipline in sticking to a physical training program, or motivating themselves to go out and practice their sailing when the weather is less than perfect. I came across a different approach to this problem on zenhabits. Among other things the author believes that "discipline is just an illusion." 6 Small Things You Can Do When You Lack Discipline.

  3. I've written before about the challenges of parents sailing with their kids, the stresses on the relationship and the dangers of turning the kid off sailing - or at least some aspects of it. Ant, the author of Soulsailor, confesses his own struggles with this issue in I am the Worst, I am a Non-Soulsailor.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

First Six Lists About Sailing

First out of the starting blocks on this month's group writing project Lists was Sam Chapin with 18 Advantages of the Laser Sailboat. Honest. I didn't make this up. He really was first. Sam seems to be even more of a Laser zealot than myself. He even has a blog titled How to Sail the Laser which is now proudly featured in my blogroll.

Then Bonnie at frogma gives us a safety lesson in 5 Things a Sea Kayaker Needs to Pass a CG Auxiliary Safety Inspection.

Debra Brown may not be the most experienced sailor in the world but she has "been on a boat" and tells us about 8 Things I Learned While Boating.

Meanwhile Pat from Desert Sea - New Mexico Sailing has been blogging up a storm with three list posts already...

A Dozen Places to Sail Before You Die in the Desert and Mountain Southwest

Fifteen things that bugged me during last Saturday's single-hand race

Six things that went right during the Joshua Slocum race

Plenty of time left for you to participate in this group writing project. Where are my usual writing buddies this week? Full details at Lists.

How to Roll Tack a Laser 2

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


It feels about time for another group writing project. This one is easy. All you have to do is write me a "list post" about sailing.

For some reason, list posts are very popular. At least that's been my experience. Posts like Ten Reasons Why Sunfish Are Better Than Lasers and 7 Reasons Why a DoG Fight Will Be Good for the America's Cup have been among the most popular items on Proper Course. Seven Reasons to Hate Laser Sailors even has its own Facebook group.

I guess readers like lists because they are well structured, easy to read, and usually prevent the blogger from rambling on too much. The good news is that they are easy to write too.

So that's the assignment for this month. Write a list post about sailing. It could be on any aspect of the sport or your experience with it. Examples that some of my favorite bloggers might write could be...
  • 5 Sexiest Mustaches Worn by San Francisco Bay Sailors
  • 6 Best Places to Watch Boats in New York Harbor
  • 31 Reasons Why Trimarans Are Awesome
  • 7 Men I Would Like to Kiss on my Boat
  • 3 Least Understood Racing Rules
Your list can be long or short, serious or funny. But please follow these rules...
  • Your post must be about sailing (or close)
  • The items on the list must be numbered
  • The number of items must be in the title
So here is how to participate...

1. Write a list post about sailing on your blog. Please publish the post before Sunday May 24.

2. Once you've posted your list, 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 your list and I will post it here.

3. I will post here two links to your list. 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 publish the ultimate, definitive, official, all-time "List of Sailing Lists" post. I wonder how many we will have? 99 Lists About Sailing sounds like a good title to me.

Look forward to hearing from you...

Monday, May 11, 2009


I need your help with a dilemma that I am facing...

From time to time I review sailing products on this blog. Sometimes they are of products or services I have bought; other times the manufacturer sends me a sample of his product and asks me to review it on Proper Course. My question is whether it is ethical for me to accept such a "sample" and write a review of it. I ask because perhaps there is a risk that I may write a more favorable review because I was given a sailing goodie for free, or at least my readers might perceive that my opinion is biased because of accepting such a gift from the maker.

A few days ago I received an email from a vendor who recognizes how tricky this situation is. He would like me to try out a new product he is launching and if I "think it is good" to write about it on my blog. (Hmmm. What if I think it's crap?) But he is worried that if he just sends me the product for free that I "may feel obliged to write good stuff." (True. That's the dilemma.) At the same time he feels that he cannot ask me to buy the product at full price and then enjoy the benefit of a favorable review. He suggests the Solomonic solution of a 50% discount... or perhaps a larger credit against one of his other offerings. But I'm not sure that either of those really solves the problem.

To complicate the issue somewhat, the sender of the email is someone I already know through sailing... not a bosom friend but a sailing buddy at least. (That's true of some of the other products I have reviewed here in the past too.) Does that influence me to write favorably about his products? Maybe.

So what do you think?

  • Is it OK for me to accept free products and services and then review them here? Would you believe such reviews?

  • Does it solve the problem if I disclose the fact that I have received the item under review for free and/or the manufacturer is someone I know personally?

  • Or should I never accept such free "samples"? I suppose I could pay for them in full, send them back after testing them (if practical), or donate them to other sailors.

  • Does the value of the product make any difference? For example, would it be OK to accept gifts up to a value of $100 say, but not anything worth more than that?

  • Or do you think I am making too much of this? Most of the reviews of stuff you read in the mainstream media is given to the review writers by the manufacturers, so why should bloggers be held to a different standard? (I've no idea if the first part of that last sentence is true, by the way.)

  • Or do you think it's a non-issue because you never believe anything you read here anyway. You think that most of what I write is utter nonsense, or the opposite of what I really think, so you never give any credence to my reviews.

  • Or perhaps you don't want me to write reviews here at all. You just want more stories about Tillerman making a fool of himself on the race course.

Seriously, I would like to know what you think. Comments please.