Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sea Sail


Fornells Bay (bottom right hand corner of map above) the home waters of Minorca Sailing, must be one of the best locations for dinghy sailing on the planet. Two and a half miles long and about three quarters of a mile wide at its widest point, it is big enough for serious fun without being so big that you are ever out of sight of Minorca Sailing's rescue boats. And when the wind blows from the north - I think they call it the tramontana in those parts - and you can surf the waves zigzagging down the full length of the bay - well it's just dinghy sailing heaven.

But it is a bay. And sometimes even we dinghy sailors crave to sail on the open ocean - or the Mediterranean Sea in this case. Thankfully, Minorca Sailing recognize this and usually organize a group "sea sail" out of the bay once a week. I remember on one of our first visits to Minorca Sailing 30 years ago going out of the bay in 470s and encountering swells that made the other members of our fleet disappear from view in the troughs. What's the height of a 470 mast? As a newcomer to sailing I was blown away by the experience, not realizing I would never sail in such waves again for many years. And on our visit last year, we sailed out of the bay and over towards Cala Tirant and the wild headland to the northwest.

Of course, Minorca Sailing only allow their clients to go on the sea sail when conditions are suitable. Not on a day like this, for example...



I don't think I would want to sail a Laser through the narrow entrance to the bay in those waves!

On the Wednesday of the first week of our vacation in Menorca a sea sail was scheduled. Tom, our instructor, gave our Laser class a lesson on all those tricky back and forth shoulder movements that Laser sailors do in waves, but it was all to no avail. The winds were very light. There were no waves. We did enjoy a long sail in patchy light winds to just outside the bay entrance. But as soon as we poked our noses out of the bay it was time to sail back for lunch.

The winds were light for the afternoon racing too. I won the first race because of my superior wind sense and tactical ability not to mention my amazing light wind boat-handling skills... and lost the second race to some kid who was 55 pounds lighter than me which made him about 5% faster on every offwind leg. Well, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. It could have been luck in both races, I guess.

On balance it was the least interesting and least blogworthy day of the whole vacation, but back home a day like this would have ranked as one of the most enjoyable sailing days of the year.

After lying down for an hour or two to demonstrate my amazing willpower not to do too much, Tillerwoman and I walked to Fornells where we enjoyed a langosta paella washed down with some local wine I would guess. Mmmm.

And so to bed...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Knees Up

As I was saying before I got diverted to blogging about half marathon running and fantasizing about big wave sailing that never happened, I spent two weeks at Minorca Sailing last month and had only got as far as telling you about the third day there.

On the fourth day, our regular instructor in the Advanced Laser Class, Tom, was back on the job and we were joined by a couple of renegade students from the Advanced Asymmetric Class. The forecast was for Beaufort 5 and 6 gusting to 7, which in terms more familiar to knotty sailors is 17-27 knots gusting to 33.

Woo hoo! What did I just say? 33 knots? OMG!

Tom gave us a briefing about heavy air technique, most of which I knew before but had never been very good at executing. He also spent more time explaining something he had mentioned two days previously: how to sit in the boat when sailing downwind.

Anyone not interested in reading 3,000 words about how to sit in a Laser may want to skip to the end of this post for the food section...

I thought I knew how to sit in a Laser, but apparently not. For many years my downwind technique has been to have my back calf tucked under the toestrap, my back knee on the floor of the cockpit jammed against the leeward cockpit wall and my front knee alongside the daggerboard (at least in light winds.) I held the tiller extension so it ran along my forearm. This always felt very stable and locked-in.

But apparently that is all wrong. Kurt Taulbee at SailFit a few years back tried to encourage me to keep my weight on the soles of my feet but I never really got the the hang of that. It felt terribly unstable.

Now Tom returned to the thankless task of teaching Tillerman how to sit properly in the boat. Tom described it as the "knees up" style, but that's pretty much the same as what Kurt was saying. Feet on the cockpit floor =  knees up...



(I never knew Petula Clark and Noel Harrison were Laser sailors.)

Tom had another twist on downwind technique. He recommended putting the tiller extension down on the leeward deck and holding it there, so that you are not waggling the rudder about so much as in the extension-under-the-arm style. And he was big on sitting sideways in the boat, rather than facing diagonally forwards as I used to. His logic for this is that you need to be frequently looking back when sailing downwind because that's where the wind is coming from. And it's much easier to look back if you are facing sideways than if you are twisted around facing forwards. As Sam Chapin would say LASERS LOOK BACK.



All very logical, but did I want to experiment with a different style in 33 knots? So I took the easy way out and asked to sail a Radial rig (as did the rest of the class.) We sailed up and down and back and forth all over the bay and gybed and tacked in the heaviest wind of the holiday and I did sail with my knees up and I didn't capsize. Tom was right - of course - it is easier to balance the boat and avoid the dreaded death roll when you have your weight over your feet. Holding the tiller extension on the deck felt strange at first but I could see how it avoided unnecessary rudder movement. And I did look back.

In the afternoon racing I won both races using the knees up style (in a full rig Laser.)

After lying down for an hour or two to demonstrate my amazing willpower not to do too much, Tillerwoman and I walked in to the local village of Fornells where I enjoyed a plate of assorted grill fish washed down with some local wine. Mmmm. And so to bed...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Third Beach Wave Fest This Weekend?

The 2011 Laser New England Masters at Third Beach, Newport happened while I was in Europe but, by all accounts, I didn't miss much. There was fog and light winds and they only managed to complete three races.

But.... check out the wind forecast for the end of this week. Heavy winds from the south and the south-west starting Wednesday night and continuing into Friday.



Should be enough to build up some big juicy swells in the mouth of the Sakonnet for Friday and they could well still be there on Saturday morning. Classic Third Beach sailing conditions.




Might even be as good as that late October day three years ago that I wrote about in Fat Boy and Little Man.

I wonder if I can persuade any of my friends to join me for a Third Beach Wave Fest followed by a pitcher of beer, bowls of chowder, fried oysters and clams at Flo's?

Newport Half Marathon

On Sunday I ran the Newport Amica Half Marathon. What a glorious day! And what a spectacular course!


We started at 8am at Easton's Beach as the sun just poked over a bank of low cloud that had obscured it at sunrise. Just after mile 2 we were at the southern end of Newport Harbor and the course carried on past Ida Lewis and Newport Yacht Clubs before taking a detour down to Brenton Cove at Fort Adams for another splendid view of the harbor. At mile 6 we passed Castle Hill and were treated with breathtaking views across Narragansett Bay to Point Judith. The next 3 or 4 miles snaked along Ocean Drive, surely one of the most magnificent ocean roads in the country. Then it was up Bellevue Avenue past all the Newport mansions and down the back roads through Salve Regina University before a most welcome downhill jog down Memorial Boulevard to the finish back at Easton's Beach. Wow!

The course was wonderful. My performance... not so wonderful, mainly because I hadn't properly trained for this event. My first half marathon in 2007 was only about a month after I ran the London Marathon so 13.1 miles was a piece of cake after doing over 26+ miles so recently. Then when I did two half marathons in the spring of last year I had religiously followed a half-marathon training program doing long runs of successively 8,10,12,14 miles on alternate weeks prior to the first half-marathon.

This summer my training was a bit more sporadic and a lot more random, partly because I let sailing interfere with running. If I did a hard 3-day Laser regatta at the weekend I didn't feel up to a long training run only a few days later... and then the next week I had the same excuse... and the next week... and so on. I did complete a 12 mile and a 13 mile run during the summer but I fear that any training effect from those runs has long worn off by now. Then I only did a few short runs during our recent 3-week trip to Europe (see terrible warning about old dudes avoiding over-exertion on sailing holidays.) I have done one 10-mile run since that vacation (and a few shorter ones.) I feared it wouldn't be enough for me to run yesterday's half marathon at anything near the pace of any of my other efforts... and I was right.

Things were going good for the first 8 or 9 miles. I was relaxed and running a slightly slower pace than my last half-marathon. But mile 9 was hard... and mile 10 was even tougher. Then I totally lost it. I just couldn't run more than 2 or 3 minutes at a time, and I must have walked as much as I ran during the last 3 miles.

Oh well. I guess it just proves that the recommended training programs really do work. As Sam Chapin might have said RUNNERS TRAIN.


This morning I have a few aches and pains and was feeling a bit sorry for myself until I read this story about a 100-year-old guy who finished a marathon in Toronto yesterday. Yikes!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Lasers Tie It Down


On the third day of my vacation in Menorca, we had a different instructor, Joe, in the Laser class. Must have been Tom's day off I guess. The topic of the class was reaching and running and, after some instruction on tactics and strategy for offwind legs we headed out to practice the same.

I thought the most fun part of the morning was when we practiced going downwind with the tiller tied in a central position. I knew I could steer the boat on a run by varying the heel of the boat but I don't think I had ever done gybes without touching the tiller before. I'm sure it was a very good drill for curing me of the problem that Tom had identified on the first day - my tendency to oversteer in gybes. LASERS TIE IT DOWN as Sam Chapin would say.

After a leisurely lunch with Tillerwoman, followed by a short power nap, I headed out for the races in the afternoon. I didn't notice it until I sheeted in at the start of the first race, but my sail had a tear in the foot, on the seam for the luff patch. I suspect it happened at the start. I'm sure it must have caused at least a 0.001% reduction in boatspeed, but in spite of that I managed to win both races. Woo hoo!

On returning to the the hotel later that afternoon I discovered that one of my fellow sailors had badly injured his knee. After much protestations that he would be OK after a good night's sleep his wife insisted on immediately taking him to the hospital in Mahon to have the knee checked out. The staff of Minorca Sailing were very helpful to them, arranging appointments, transport etc. and magically producing a pair of crutches. (I wonder how many pairs they kept in reserve for such incidents.) The poor guy wasn't seen again until the next day when he appeared with his knee all strapped up and a diagnosis that basically meant he had screwed up everything in a knee it was possible to screw up. I took it as a personal warning not to overdo things on this holiday. The knee guy had been doing lessons every morning, racing every afternoon, and then going out with instructors or more advanced sailors on various fast, sexy boats in the late afternoon. Another guy who had not windsurfed for years came to Minorca Sailing that week to windsurf, hurt his back, went windsurfing with his hurt back and then really hurt his back. The combination of over 50 years on the planet, a Y chromosome, and way too many cool toys to play with in one week seemed to be a dangerous combination for some. I spent the rest of my vacation preaching this sermon to any other over-achieving middle-aged guys who would listen to me...

Where was I? Oh yes, Monday afternoon. After lying down for an hour or two to demonstrate my amazing willpower not to do too much, I staggered off to Ca Na Marga with Tillerwoman for some Sobrasada (Menorcan sausage) followed by grilled lamb chops. Mmmm. And so to bed.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Lasers Lift Weights


The second day of my Advanced Laser Course at Minorca Sailing was all about upwind sailing. Tom, the instructor, gave me a lot of tips on upwind technique of which the most important, I think, was to hold the sheet with my sheet hand in front of my chest (close to the tiller hand.) With the hand this high, and arm bent, it is then relatively easy to ease the sheet in the gust by straightening the arm. If you sail with the hand closer to the block, the only way to ease the sheet is to let go of it, which is somewhat lacking in control and may end in disaster.

We did some long upwind speed testing, and Tom said he thought my upwind speed was pretty good. (I think he was being polite.) We ended the morning with rabbit starts and wind sprints and some drills designed to cause maximum mayhem at windward and leeward mark roundings.

A huge thunder and lightning storm blew across the bay during lunch and we set off for the afternoon Laser races in a wind of 18-21 knots gusting to 27. I won the first race when my closest competitor capsized downwind. He won the second race when I capsized twice attempting heavy air gybes. On both occasions I ended up in the water and reminded myself the hard way that I am sorely lacking in arm strength for pulling my fat old frame on to the daggerboard. Along with Tom's recommendation about how to hold the sheet (which is also tiring on the upper arms) I now know I do need to get back to some more serious weight work this winter. LASERS LIFT WEIGHTS as Sam Chapin would say.

There was a video debrief of the racing which thankfully didn't dwell too long on my ignominious capsizes and painfully slow capsize recoveries. Then it was off with Tillerwoman for pizza and a bottle (at least) of Rioja at Ca Na Marga. And so to bed...

Friday, October 14, 2011

Hand Up Lasers


The first week I was in Menorca last month I signed up for the Advanced Laser Class in the mornings and raced in the Laser races every afternoon. The coach, Tom Hayes, was a young Englishman who had represented Great Britain at the Laser 4.7 Worlds in Rhode Island as a boy, been a training partner for members of the UK Olympic Development Laser Squad, and had more recently been coaching some of the top British Laser Radial sailors. I couldn't have asked for a better teacher.

On the first day the topic was tacking and gybing. We did many drills as I demonstrated my usual total ineptitude at roll tacks and roll gybes. Tom gave me much helpful feedback about steering less in the tacks and gybes. I guess he was just pointing out my most egregious faults and overlooking the rest. We finished off doing 360 turns around Tom's RIB until our arms dropped off. Tom suggested to me that a faster way of sheeting out in 360s and at windward mark roundings is to lift the sheet hand over the head and then quickly dump several feet of sheet at once by dropping that hand to the mainsheet ratchet block, a technique I hadn't heard of before. HAND UP LASERS as Sam Chapin would say.

Tom joined the other Laser sailors for racing in the afternoon. I did lead him around the whole first lap in the second race but he got past me eventually, of course. At 6:30pm there were welcome drinks on the beach and then it was off to Fornells with Tillerwoman for a delicous dinner of sea bass and grilled sardines. And so to bed....

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Are Sailors Dyslexic?


Are sailors dyslexic?

Of course not. What a stupid question.

But on my recent vacation at Minorca Sailing, someone posed a more subtle question about sailors and dyslexia. She was at Minorca Sailing to learn to sail and by profession she was a tutor for dyslexic students at a well-known British university. After a few days of sailing lessons she expressed the opinion that sailing was a skill that might be easy for people with dyslexia to learn and wondered if, as a result, dyslexics are over-represented among sailors.

Dyslexia, if you're not familiar with the term, is a learning disability that impairs a person's fluency or comprehension accuracy in being able to read. Most people don't learn to sail by reading a book, or at least not by only reading a book (although there was one client at Minorca Sailing who was doggedly studying a sailing textbook in between lessons and he was having more difficulty than most at mastering beginner dinghy sailing.) Ultimately you learn sailing, especially dinghy sailing, by hands-on practice and experience. Instruction is often given verbally, so difficulties with reading are no real barrier to learning to sail. Perhaps my tutor friend was on to something?

A quick Google on dyslexia and sailing throws up some supporting evidence for her theory. "Pull the Tiller Toward You" is an article about a sailing school and especially about how well dyslexic kids respond to sailing.

“We found a curious thing along the way with learning disabled children, particularly dyslexic kids,” Mrs. Parry said. “Sailing is an absolute natural for them. There is no reading. It’s all hands on. It’s all auditory.”

And here's another example. Jessica Watson who became the youngest person to sail non-stop and unassisted around the world last year at the age of 16, is apparently also a dyslexic.

Do any of my readers have experience on this question? Are sailors dyslexic?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Mechanics


About the only sport I really enjoy watching on TV is baseball. And I have noticed that, in that sport, there is much attention given by commentators, coaches and players to something called "mechanics."

No wait. This post really is about sailing. Please bear with me.

So what is this "mechanics" thing? Well, I guess it refers to the whole physics of the sport. How to use a machine, the human body, to transfer energy to the baseball in the most efficient and effective way, whether you are batting, pitching or throwing. Go to any website about baseball mechanics and you will find much discussion about angular momentum and torque and similar mechanical concepts. And they are full of advice to the player on exactly what to do with their hands, their arms, their legs, even their toes; and when and how to move all the various body parts in unison to achieve that perfect swing or pitch.

It all sounds very analytical and... well, mechanical. Nobody can possibly remember all that advice about what to do with every body part in the fraction of a second they actually have to hit the baseball. So that's why they practice. Tweak the mechanics. Practice it until it's natural.

No really, this post is going to get around to sailing soon. Don't go away.

At the highest levels of the game, coaches still seem able to fix a player's "mechanics." A batter will be in a slump. He takes a few days off from playing and works with a coach to fix something mechanical. A longer stride perhaps. A shorter swing maybe. Then, as soon as he's fixed it, his performance improves dramatically. There are even rare occasions when a pitching coach will correct a pitcher's mechanics in the middle of a game.

"Mechanics" is not a word that I've heard much of in sailing. But during my recent vacation I was lucky enough to work with an excellent British Laser coach, Tom Hayes, who gave me much helpful feedback. And it dawned on me afterwards that a lot of the things he was telling me about were the "mechanics" of sailing (although he never used that word.) How to sit in the boat on a run and where to place the feet. Where to hold the hands on a beat. How to use the hands to sheet out most effectively when rounding the windward mark. All about using the machine of the body in the mechanically most effective way.

But is there a right way and a wrong way to sail a Laser... or to hit a baseball for that matter? Look at baseball players. They all stand at the plate in different ways. They all hold the bat at different angles. Some like to crouch. Some stand tall. All the different ways seem to work at times. (Except when they don't.) Isn't the same true of sailing? Aren't there lots of different ways to sail a Laser and still win races?

Well, I guess there probably is a standard model of how to perform in both sports. And if you are a beginner or a mid-fleet mediocrity like me it's probably a good idea to listen when a coach tells you how to correct your mechanics. If you are a Derek Jeter or a Ben Ainslie and you find something works better for you than the standard method, then good luck to you. We mere mortals are better off sticking to the textbook style.

But it's hard to change your mechanics, especially when you've been doing something the "wrong" way for the best part of thirty years. But that's what I was trying to do in Menorca. Picking up tips from Tom in the lessons in the mornings in the first week, and then trying to sail with different "mechanics" in the races in the afternoons. (I could only do that in fun races like that which didn't really count for anything. In the excitement of a "real" regatta I would forget the lessons and revert to my bad old habits.) Then in the second week I would sometimes take out a Laser in the afternoons on my own and just sail up and down the bay, working on those mechanics, trying to make the right mechanics part of my "muscle memory" (if there really is such a thing.)

So why don't people talk about "mechanics" in sailing? Is it just a different word for "boat-handling"? Not really. When people teach you boat-handling they inevitably focus on the boat. "Sail the boat flat." "Roll the boat to windward as it passes head to wind." They don't always talk about what you need to be doing with your arms and legs and feet and hands and butt to make the boat go fast. Perhaps it's really only an issue in light little boats like the Laser where bad mechanics can have such a large impact on performance?

I seem to have been rambling on for more than long enough on this topic - which may not even be a real topic at all. What do you think? Is there room for a new book on "The Mechanics of Sailing" (that wouldn't be about winches and pulleys and swing keels)?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Last Blast


Something very strange and unusual happened to me on Saturday...

As planned, I went to sail in the Last Blast Laser Regatta at Quannapowitt Yacht Club. To be honest, the wind wasn't exactly a blast, but it wasn't a drifter either. Nothing strange so far.

I wasn't going with any great expectations of doing well in the racing. I was motivated more by meeting up with some old friends and catching up with them about sailing plans this winter. I also had fond memories of the excellent hospitality at Lake Q from the only other time I sailed there back in 2008. And I've always wanted to learn how to spell Quannapowitt. Nothing unusual here. Let's move on.

The first race was scheduled for 11am, and at 9 minutes to 11 I was still on the land, talking to my younger son on the phone and wishing him Happy Birthday. My baby is 31! How did that happen?

Somehow I managed to launch and sail out to the course in time for the first race, even fitting in a quick recce of the winds up the race course. It looked to me as if the stronger puffs were coming in from the right side of the course. I sailed over to that side of the course and, as expected, all the puffs were starboard tack lifts. So that was the plan: start near the right end of the line, tack over to the right side of the course as soon as possible, and try to stay in those gusts.

I pulled off a decent start near the boat end of the line and was sailing high and fast in clear air. As soon as the opportunity presented itself I went right towards a juicy looking gust, tacked on the expected header and was looking good. A little while later there was another gust coming in from the right, so I tacked over to take advantage of that one too. Lake sailing often is a game of "connect the dots."

I was pleasantly surprised to see that my plan had worked and I arrived at the windward mark in first place! Woo hoo!

The second place sailor was close behind me and started heading straight downwind until I reminded him that there was an offset mark to round first. (Actually I almost forgot that myself.) The other guy did a better bear-away around the offset than me and was soon ahead of me on the run. (Still need to work on that bearing away thing.)

He was still leading me at the leeward mark, but the wind had shifted further right so he tacked fairly soon after the mark. (Sail the long tack first, I guess.) But I carried on a bit further before tacking, still liking that right side of the course. And once again it was the correct choice. I was to the right of the fleet and with all the lifts from every little gust I was being progressively lifted above them. I arrived at the windward mark the second time with a much bigger lead than on the first leg! Woo hoo again!

I gybed around the offset mark, led the fleet down the run, still had a safe lead at the leeward mark, and crossed the finish line first by a healthy margin. I let go off the sheet and tiller, and turned to the race committee with palms up and an astonished expression and asked, "How did that happen?"

How did that happen indeed? It took a while for it to sink in how unusual this win was for me. I have won Laser races before, even won the occasional regatta, but never done it in a fleet that had more than 15 boats. There were 24 Lasers at Lake Q on Saturday. I've also beaten more than 23 boats in a Laser race many times before, but never combined that with crossing the finish line first. So this wasn't just an unusual result for me; in 30 years of Laser sailing it was unique.

Sure, there was a wide spread of abilities and experience in Saturday's fleet but there was some real talent at the top end including a many-time Laser Masters World Champion, and last year's Sunfish North American Champion (who is no stranger to Lasers.) There were probably at least half a dozen sailors there whom I hardly ever beat.

So I have to chalk up that first race as my best Laser race win ever.

Of course I couldn't keep it up. For the rest of the regatta I reverted to my usual mid-fleet mediocrity and felt somewhat fortunate when I discovered I had finished 9th out of 24 overall.

I drove home with a big smile on my face and casually mentioned to Tillerwoman over dinner that I had won the first race. Trust my lovely wife to bring me down to earth...

"So was it skill or was it luck? And if it was skill why didn't you win all the races?" she asked.

Hmmm. Good question.

No, I don't think it was luck. I researched the wind. I formulated a plan. I made a good start. I executed my plan. My plan turned out to be a good one. I didn't make any stupid mistakes. I didn't choke. No, that isn't luck. That's skill. (At least I would like to believe it.)

Sure, there's always some luck in sailboat racing, but as much you can overcome luck and win a race by having a good plan and executing it well, I think I can claim I did that.

So why didn't I do the same in every race? Good question. Maybe other people wised up to what the wind was doing? Maybe I didn't always get good starts? Maybe the wind pattern changed later and I didn't work out how to take advantage of it? Maybe I just got tired and starting making stupid mistakes? Probably all of the above.

So, whether it was skill or luck, it certainly was a strange and unusual event. A day to remember. October 8. I think I can remember that date.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Minorca Sailing Revisited

I have just returned from a fabulous two week sailing vacation at Minorca Sailing. It was my fourth visit there, the last one being in 2006. I'm planning to write some posts about my specific sailing experiences there over the next few days, but I suggest that, if you're not familiar with the company, you first revisit a couple of my 2006 posts about the Minorca Sailing experience such as Minorca Sailing - 25 Years Later and More on Minorca Sailing. Pretty much everything I wrote back then is still true.

The first week of my vacation I concentrated on Laser sailing, taking the advanced Laser class in the mornings and racing Lasers every afternoon. The coach in charge of the class was excellent and gave me much helpful feedback on how to improve my Lasering technique. It's a bit humbling to discover that I still haven't learned to sail this simple little boat properly after 30 years of trying!

The second week I signed up for classes in Asymmetric dinghies. (I had to explain to Tillerwoman that Asymmetrics are so-called not because the hulls are asymmetric but because their spinnakers are.) I sailed a variety of boats and also did a bit more Lasering some days too. I didn't do any of the organized racing in the second week other than the traditional pursuit race on the final day, so it was quite a change of pace from the first week.

I don't think you could possibly sail every different class of boat at Minorca Sailing in only two weeks, but I did get to try out some of the boats that I have fantasized about on this blog in the past but, prior to this vacation, had never had the opportunity to sail.

Back in 2007 I wrote that if I still lived in the UK and if for some reason I grew tired of racing a Laser then I suspect I might seriously consider switching to the Laser SB3. Last week I had my first sail in an SB3.

Then in 2009 I was ruminating in Laser Killer? about which boat might be the one to topple the Laser from its position as the world's dominant single-handed racing class, and ended up drooling over the RS100. Last week I had my first sail in an RS100.

Closer to my Laser sailing roots, we must also mention the R-word. Actually two R-words.

Last year in Random Radial Ramblings I discussed some practical reasons why I ought to try sailing the smaller Laser rig, the Radial, occasionally and also reviewed some of the cultural pressures that inhibit big guys like me from going down that route. There was one morning in Menorca when the winds were forecast to be Beaufort Force 6, gusting to Force 7. i.e. 21-26 knots gusting to 33 knots. Most race officers in the US wouldn't run Laser races in those conditions. Every other sailor in the Advanced Laser Class opted to sail with the Radial rig that day, so I thought I might as well do the same. First time in a Radial in 30 years of Laser sailing!

In 2007 I wrote a post Fat Boy Laser about the Rooster 8.1 Rig, a larger Laser rig intended to suit sailors over over 90Kg in most conditions and lighter sailors in light airs. I don't think I had ever seen one before last week (except on the Internet) but when I discovered that there was one Rooster rig at Minorca Sailing I wanted to give it a shot. My opportunity came in the light wind pursuit race on Friday morning, the last sail of the vacation in fact. Interesting!

I suspect that many visitors to Minorca Sailing discover that it turns out to be a much more expensive experience than they had expected. Not because the actual holiday costs too much; it really is great value for money. But because with so many different boats to try I am sure that some people go home from Menorca with the ambition to buy one (or more) of the boats that they have tried there.

So will I be buying a new boat?

What about the SB3?


Well, much as I enjoyed helming the SB3 all the way down the Bay of Fornells flying its 46 square meter spinnaker, I don't think a $40,000 sportsboat is in my immediate future. I am still a dinghy sailor at heart.


Perhaps the RS100 then?


That is certainly more tempting. But I don't really want to be the only guy in New England with an RS100.  However, if a local fleet starts to develop I can see myself wanting to join in.

Well, if you're going to stick with Lasering for now, how about those other Laser rigs, the Radial and the Rooster 8.1? Maybe I should. The Radial would enable me to go out in heavier winds than I would currently be comfortable sailing in a Full Rig Laser, not to mention that if I want to keep going to Laser Masters Worlds after I am 65 (a couple of years from now) I will be forced to sail a Radial there so I may as well start getting used to it now. And the Rooster Rig certainly makes for a more exciting sail on light wind days especially for a bigger guy like me.

Are you listening Santa?