Friday, November 20, 2015

If I Had A Boat

If I had a boat 
I'd go out on the ocean
I'd ride him on my boat 
And we could all together 
Go out on the ocean 
Me upon my pony on my boat


Ride a pony on a boat?

A little boat like a a Laser or an RS Aero?

What a ridiculous idea!

What on earth is Lyle Lovett singing about?

Well it may mean different things to different people. But it seems to me that this is some kind of escapist fantasy. As a boy I always dreamed of owning a boat and going out on the ocean in it. And my granddaughters have been known to say they want ponies for their birthdays. (Not that any of then have had that wish fulfilled. At least not yet!) Is the central theme of this song a combination of those two childhood wishes?

Not that escaping on a boat is merely a childhood dream. For me, and I suspect for many people, the appeal of sailing is that it takes us away from the everyday life of working and living in little boxes and driving in little boxes on roads, and shopping in big boxes (ugh - I hate supermarkets) and bills to pay and the Internet and computers and phones and blogging...

Stop! I need to finish this blog post.

For some of us, sailboat racing provides relief from the pressures and tedium of everyday life. For others, just taking a small boat like a Laser or an RS Aero out to play on the ocean in big waves is their escape route.

But what is Mr. Lovett trying to escape from?

Maybe the first verse will give us a clue?

If I were Roy Rogers 
I'd sure enough be single 
I couldn't bring myself to marrying old Dale 
It'd just be me and Trigger 
We'd go riding through them movies 
Then we'd buy a boat and on the sea we'd sail


He doesn't want to marry "old Dale." He is pulling back from a relationship with a woman...

Roy and Dale

 ... and going back to a childhood fantasy of a man and his horse. 

Roy and Trigger

Maybe the song is about the bitterness of a man who was hurt in a romantic relationship that went wrong?

But wait. What is in the second verse?

The mystery masked man was smart 
He got himself a Tonto 
'Cause Tonto did the dirty work for free 
But Tonto he was smarter 
And one day said kemo sabe 
Kiss my ass I bought a boat 
I'm going out to sea

Lone Ranger and Tonto

The Lone Ranger.  A man and his horse. But now the singer identifies with the lone ranger's Indian companion who "did all the dirty work for free." And it is Tonto who says "kiss my ass" to the boss and goes off on his boat to escape. Or is there an undertone of a sexual relationship here too? Whatever the nature of the relationship it's clear that the image of going out on the ocean on a boat (with or without a pony) is a release from a human bond which the singer wishes to escape.

But things get even more confused in the third verse.

And if I were like lightning 
I wouldn't need no sneakers 
I'd come and go wherever I would please 
And I'd scare 'em by the shade tree 
And I'd scare 'em by the light pole 
But I would not scare my pony 
On my boat out on the sea

Lightning? Sneakers? What does that have to do with the other verses? Well I guess it's all about escape and freedom again so he can "come and go wherever I would please." But there's a touch of anger and maybe even revenge too.  "I'd scare 'em by the shade tree and I'd scare 'em by the light pole." Who does he want to scare? The mysterious woman? Her new partner? The boss man? All of the above? Whatever the source of his rage it is in contrast to his liberation with his pony on his boat out on the sea.


I guess I really am no good at analyzing song lyrics.

All of the above is probably utter nonsense.

You are probably laughing at me because I am too naive to understand the true meanings of "pony" and "ride" and "lightning."  They are likely references to drugs or sex or both, subjects of which I know so little.

So how do YOU explain this weird little song?

This post was inspired by today's post on Damian's excellent blog, The Final Beat,  which is about a different song called If I Had A Boat sung by a musician friend of Damian's.

If I Had A Boat - the Lyle Lovett song not the one by Damian's friend - was one of the the Top 10 Sailing Songs in a vote held by Adam in 2007 on his excellent blog Messing About in Sailboats.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Throwback Thursday - Bitter End Yacht Club 2011

This is one of my favorite photos of me sailing.

Or should I say "not actually sailing?"

This embarrassing incident happened during my stay at Bitter End Yacht Club in the BVI in December 2011.

I was racing in the Laser regatta on my first Sunday there. I won the first race. Then in the second race a squall came through and my mast broke on a beat. Of course I fell out of the boat.

"Luckily" the official photographer was on hand to capture this photo just as my little head in my favorite orange sailing cap popped up out of the water.

Tillerwoman insisted on buying a 12x8 print of this image (the one with the broken mast - not the one of the orange cap) to frame and hang on the wall at home.

For the record, I was towed back to shore, got myself a new rig, came back to the racing, and won the bottle of rum awarded for first place Laser.

Yes, the photo of me and my broken mast has been posted once or twice on the blog before.

There may have even been a picture or two of bottles of rum here before.

I am allowed to do that on Throwback Thursday.

I really need to get back to BEYC some time soon.

Anyone up for a sailing bloggers' reunion there?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Six Words of Sailboat Racing Advice - Learning Experiences

A few days ago I challenged readers to give me their best racing advice in six words.

There have been dozens of wise - and flippant - responses and they are still coming in.

But I wondered, what have I learned from my own racing experiences recently? How could I sum up those learnings in six words?

Racing with the Newport Laser frostbite fleet a couple of weeks ago, I discovered a counter-intuitive way to sail the first beat of a race in a highly competitive fleet and arrive at the windward mark up with the leaders. See Hubcap Diamond Star Halo 56th Sail.


In one race I started at the "wrong" end of the line, I sailed the "wrong" side of the course, and I banged the corner.

But that meant I sailed the whole race in clear air and did the minimal number of tacks. In that race that strategy worked better (for me) than fighting for position on the crowded end of the line, fighting for a clear lane against all the top sailors in the fleet, and being bounced around doing multiple tacks in traffic on the busy side of the course.

Clean start and clear air wins.

Last month I sailed my RS Aero in a local fun pursuit race against an assorted menagerie of craft, the Archipelago Rally.  I came 2nd in the 43 boat fleet. See How I (Almost) Won the 2015 Archipelago Rally.

Some other sailors (behind me)

But I was very lucky. The tide situation favored the faster boats, but even more importantly the leading boats made not one, but two navigation errors! On a course that only had three rounding marks! And I happened to be placed to take advantage of their mistakes. It helps to be lucky but the real moral is...

Know the course. Write it down.

In July I sailed in the RS Aero North Americans in the Columbia River Gorge. I had a blast but on the first day of racing I capsized in three of the four races. I was pretty slow at capsize recoveries and my results were mediocre. See RS Aero Capsizes - Mission Accomplished and RS Aero North Americans.

Some other sailors (way in front of me)

In retrospect it was apparent that I had not practiced enough in the kind of conditions I should have expected in the Gorge - strong winds and short waves. Almost all of my RS Aero sailing in the summer had been done on a lake, on flat water, and usually in quite light winds. There are places in Rhode Island where I could have found conditions more similar to the Gorge and I should have done some RS Aero training there before going to the NAs. (I should have practiced capsize recoveries more too.)

Train for the conditions you expect.

Next year it will be different.

How about you?

Do you have any "learning experiences" from races or regattas that you can sum up in 6 words of advice?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Is the RS300 a Cult?


What is the RS300?

Well it's a singlehanded sailing dinghy from RS Sailing - just like the RS Vareo and and the RS Aero and the RS100, boats I have sailed and written about on this blog.

Well perhaps not quite like those boats.

This is what RS Sailing say about the RS300 on their own  website...
The original fast, responsive and challenging single-hander. 
One of the fastest singlehanders with a cult following.


Really? Cult following? What does that mean?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary has these definitions for "cult" ...
1. a small religious group that is not part of a larger and more accepted religion and that has beliefs regarded by many people as extreme or dangerous  
2. a situation in which people admire and care about something or someone very much or too much  
3. a small group of very devoted supporters or fans

 Another cult


Well, I guess we can ignore definition 1.

Surely RS300 sailing isn't a religion?

And are RS300 sailors really dangerous?

RS300 sailors at 2015 UK Inlands
They look mostly harmless to me

But perhaps definitions 2 and 3 are true?

Does the RS300 only have a small group of devoted fans?

And do they admire the RS300 too much? Are they a "cult"?

I have no idea.

The RS300 was Sailboat of the Year in 1998 so it's been around a while. From what I can discern on the interwebs there are not many new boats being sold today. But on the class website I do see a list of over 150 boats and owners registered and I found a 2011 post on a Yachts and Yachting forum that said about 220 boats had been built at that time.

And do the members of the "cult" (if that's what it is) admire their boats too much? Well, it's hard to say. I'm sure a lot of readers of this blog would say that I admire my own boats the Laser and the RS Aero too much. Indeed, I was once accused by a reader of writing too many "up the Laser rants."

So just like me, the members of the RS300 "cult" will praise their boat to high heaven.

For example, the famous Steve Cockerill is quoted by Wikipedia as saying the RS300 is  "one of the most challenging and exciting dinghies I have ever sailed”  as well as "the first boat that I have sailed that is a joy just to sail around the course let alone race."


Steve Cockerill winning the RS300 UK Nationals in 2003

Steve Cockerill
Not an RS300

But then there's the other point of view.

Here is a perspective on the RS300 posted by Ian C on the Dinghy Anarchy thread What is the most difficult boat to sail?

I've sailed Cherubs, campaigned a 12 for a few years, sailed 18s for a couple of years and currently have a 49er. However, the one boat that just seems intent on murdering you given half a chance in a blow, is the RS300. 
From the moment you put it in water, it wants to fall over. Then all the sail controls work in reverse...if you flat out overpowered on a reach, you pull MORE kicker on to lose power. By which time the sail is so flat you can't read it. Going downwind the silly nose wants to bury all the time, and just at the point that you get far enough back to make a difference, you run out of gunwale. I don't know if it's because it's only got one sail and one person in it, so if any of it is in the wrong place it's going to bite, but gybing the thing is a sod. And when you inevitably piss it in, the thing inverts almost immeadiatly and the daggerboard falls out. Getting back in over the front of the wings almost always ends up in squashed bollocks...

...and getting in over the back invovles 10 knot bodysurfing. And don't forget it looks like someone has thrown a kayak and a windsurfer rig into a skip. Pretty, it ain't.
In lighter winds the boat is an absolute joy to sail, it's fully powered up in a F2. But I just hate them in a F4 or more...they just make you look like a total amateur. I'm practice would help (I've only borrowed one a few times) but I'm not sure I'd make it through the pain barrier! 

 Stuart Hopson sailing in the UK RS300 Slalom Championship in 2015

So what do you think?

Is the RS300 a cult?

Should I buy one?

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Best Racing Advice in Six Words

If you only had six words to pass on some advice about sailboat racing to a new racer, what would they be?

For example, the first answer that springs to my mind when faced with this question would be the somewhat cynical...

"Win the start. Extend your lead."

But I am sure you can do much better than that.

Please leave your answer in the comments to this post.

This post was inspired by the post The Best Cruising Advice in Six Words on Windtraveler the excellent cruising blog about that "estrogen-rich family" Brittany, Scott, Isla, Haven and Mira. (The estrogen quote is theirs, not mine.)

That post was inspired by a recent New York Times contest calling for parenting advice in "six words or less" which was, itself, inspired by the book The Best Advice in Six Words: Writers Famous and Obscure on Love, Sex, Money, Friendship, Family, Work, and Much More.

Is that what they call a "meme?" Whatever they call it, please participate, and leave your answer in the comments.

Racing advice in six words.

First thing that comes into your head.


This challenge is a little reminiscent of the group writing projects we used to run on this blog.

For example in 2008 I asked people to write blog posts or articles on the theme of Best Sailing Innovation Ever which received 25 entries.

A couple of years later we turned that one on its head and had a group writing project on Worst Sailing Innovation Ever which had 28 entries.

Wurst - Worst. Get it?

Some of our group writing projects have had even more entries than that.

But today's challenge is a lot easier than writing a whole article.

Just six words.

Six words of racing advice.

How hard is that?

Please leave your answer in the comments.

Your name - or nom de plume - would be nice too.

"Nom de plume" is French for "name of pen."  Some stupid name you make up if you don't people to know who you are and, really, who could blame you.

Where was I?

Where am I?

Oh yes. Six words of racing advice.

Submit more than one idea if you feel like it.

In the comments to this post.


I don't know what I will do with all the answers.

Probably put them all in a separate post.

Maybe organize them into categories.

Perhaps use some of the best ideas as jumping off points to write some of my own blog posts, full of insane rambling and half-remembered reminiscences about races in which I used - or failed to use - your advice.

I'm not in this video but it does cover a situation which is pretty typical of my own racing career.

I really do need your advice.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Throwback Thursday - Dylan Goes Electric - July 1965

I have just finished reading Elijah Wald's excellent book Dylan Goes Electric. Hard to believe that it's 50 years since Bob Dylan shocked the folk music purists by playing a few songs at the Newport Folk Festival using a band with electric guitars. Oh the humanity!

But it was a big deal at the time. "The Night that Split the Sixties."

The book is a fascinating read. As the blurb on amazon. com tells it....
(The book) explores the cultural, political and historical context of this seminal event that embodies the transformative decade that was the sixties. Wald delves deep into the folk revival, the rise of rock, and the tensions between traditional and groundbreaking music to provide new insights into Dylan’s artistic evolution, his special affinity to blues, his complex relationship to the folk establishment and his sometime mentor Pete Seeger, and the ways he reshaped popular music forever.

As always, there's a lot more to the story than the simple myth that Bob Dylan picked up an electric guitar one July night in Newport in 1965 and changed popular music for ever.

Little did we know at the time, that the same weekend Dylan was in Newport, US President Lyndon Johnson was huddling with his military advisors in Washington, and a few days later he announced his order to increase the number of United States troops in South Vietnam from 75,000 to 125,000, and to more than double the number of men drafted per month - from 17,000 to 35,000.

And of course nobody (apart from the immediate family) took any notice at all that on the last day of July 1965, a couple of newly-weds in England, an aircraft engineer and a science technician, welcomed a baby girl into the world. They called her Joanne but she goes by the name of J.K. Rowling these days.

What does all this have to do with sailing?

Not a lot.

I don't think LBJ and JK were sailors.

But Bob Dylan is (or was.) Check out Snowy Day Laser Sailor Blues which has a photo of Bob Dylan sailing a boat that's not a Laser and some lyrics about Newport.

And for your listening enjoyment - or you can boo if you want to like a lot of yahoos in Newport did - here is the first song in the performance that caused all the brouhaha on July 25 1965.

Well, I try my best 
To be just like I am 
But everybody wants you 
To be just like them

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Two Soups

I recently discovered a new (to me) sailing blog and it's already one of my favorites.

Check out RS300 393 - adventures of a boat and her incompetent skipper.

That's the author, Chris Arnell - "looking awesome downwind wearing the camera hat."

I love this guy. He has everything going for him...

  • He is British.
  • He is a singlehanded racing sailor.
  • He sails an RS Sailing singlehander.
  • He celebrates his own incompetence.
  • He writes with self-deprecating humor

I mean, what's not to like about someone with all those qualities?

His latest post is Not an event report. The RS300 Inlands.

Apparently he was asked to write a report about the RS300 Inlands for Yachts and Yachting magazine and he refused to do so....

OK – let’s be clear about this one. I am NOT writing a Yachts and Yachting report for an RS300 event where I was too far behind to see who won and too busy trying to stay upright to notice what the weather was like or whether the start line was good, bad or indifferent. The only thing I remember is there were never more than 6 boats behind me and even if I knew who they were I’d be accused of cyber-bullying if I mentioned them by name. Nobody needs a defeat by me mentioned in the yachting press.

Sounds fair enough to me. At least he wrote a "not an event report" blog post.

Apparently the RS300s shared a course with the Phantoms whose skippers seemed to Chris to be "elderly, tubby, humourless jerks" and he should know because he admits to being elderly, tubby and humorless himself.

There is an excellent review of the Bed and Breakfast where he stayed, complete with embarrassing revelations about his interactions with the landlady and a complaint about the breakfast. "For £95 I think a rasher of bacon, a fried egg and a chipolata would have made a nice accompaniment to the muesli."


Bacon is essential food for sailors of RS singlehanded classes. Beans, black pudding and fried bread are good for you too.

Chris realizes that a real event report should include a long list of names "probably in the order they rounded some marks." This challenge seems to be beyond Chris so in his "not an event report" he just provides a list of the most popular names in the fleet...
The most common name in the fleet was actually "Chris" as there were 3 of us. Just behind us, with two each, were the Steves, Alastairs, Daves, Marks, Richards and Ians. The poor guys who couldn't even muster a single namesake included Sam, Luke, Tim, Stuart and Mike. But if you sail as well as these folks it probably doesn't matter.
So creative!

Chris seems to suffer from the same problem that often plagues me. The official regatta photographer always seems to shoot me when I don't look like I know what I am doing.

Lardy marble attempts to reach high side of boat

That's Chris in 393. His caption - not mine. He does seem to be a bit obsessed with the Phantom sailors and how "lardy"he is.

Some of the Phantoms capsized while tacking; their sailors rolling like lardy marbles from the high side to the low side of their boats. I think I’m probably more of a Phantom sailor than an RS300 sailor. It’s a depressing thought.

Chris does remember to report on the prize giving. "We had one."

And in a brilliant conclusion he publishes a photo of the results which are totally illegible.

I like this guy. Go read his blog. Subscribe or follow it or whatever it is you do with blogs.

In his "not an event report" Chris mentions one sailor who has the nickname "Two Soups."  I have no idea why anyone would be called "Two Soups." Perhaps it's something to do with this classic sketch featuring Julie Walters as the waitress?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Hubcap Diamond Star Halo 56th Sail

What a superb day it was for sailing on Sunday!

I hadn't sailed with the Newport frostbite fleet at all in the last couple of winters.  I can't really remember why not. Maybe it gets cold in the winters around here?

Anyway I was already enthusiastic about doing some Laser frostbite racing this winter even before Sunday's racing. I think maybe all the RS Aero sailing I have been doing this summer has made me nostalgic for the Laser scene. Whatever the reason, I signed up with Fleet 413, paid my dues and towed the Laser down to Fort Adams in Newport on Sunday morning.

It was good to meet up with some of my Laser sailing friends that I hadn't seen for a couple of years. Most of them recognized me even with the beard I grew last winter.

There were 44 Lasers on the line so, as per usual for this fleet, the starts were crowded and competitive as were most of the mark roundings and there were plenty of boat to boat interactions around the course. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood and there was none of the bad-tempered shouting and cursing that you sometimes experience in big fleets on small courses.

I was feeling pretty mellow myself and whenever a port tacker crossed me when they shouldn't have, I decided to be "very British" about it and just signify my awareness of their infringement with a slight clearing of the throat or sometimes a non-confrontational "Ahem!"  I was quite enjoying this game.

I finished in the mid 20s in the first race which I was quite happy with, having not done any Laser racing in a fleet this competitive for quite a while.

In the second race, I was approaching the windward mark on the starboard tack layline when a very nice lady on port tack crossed a boat to leeward of me, tried to cross me but instead rammed my boat and pushed me head to wind. This did make me a little bit upset so I did let loose a plaintive bleat of "Oh really?"  By the time I got out of irons I was in second to last place and the very nice lady was in last as somehow she managed to capsize while doing her penalty turn. But I did manage to pass a few boats on the next two legs to score a finish in the mid 30s and the very nice lady did apologize to me after the racing and we had a very nice chat while we were hosing off our boats so that was all very nice.

In the third race I did everything wrong.  The wind went left just before the start but I started at the unfavored boat end of the line. The left side of the course was favored all day but I tacked immediately and went over to the right side of the course. All the sailing books say you should never sail to the layline too early but I went all the way to the right of the course and banged the corner.

I think that's a picture of me in this race at the top of the post.

So, having done everything wrong, I arrived at the windward mark in the lead - well actually simultaneously with the leading boat coming from the left side of the course. I guess sailing the whole windward leg in clear air and only doing one tack may have had something to do with it.

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

It was very educational sailing with the best sailors in the fleet down the run and watching what they did to sail faster than me down the run and leave me in their wake.  I think I ended up 5th in that race which is totally absolutely awesome for me in this fleet, so that was very nice too.

I was on such a high after that race that the next two races are a bit of a blur in my memory now. I see I scored another mid 20s finish and another mid 30s finish (without benefit of the excuse of being rammed by a very nice lady) and ended up with a final score for the day about in the middle of the fleet.

So, all in all, it was a very good day and I can't wait for next Sunday. To add to the awesomeness of this awesome day, one of the other sailors whom I hadn't seen for a while told me that my beard makes me look younger.

Wow! Bang a gong!

Thank you to my sponsor for my 56th sailing day of 2015, Hubcap Diamond Star Halo who are celebrating 44 years of serving the hubcap diamond star halo community.