Friday, March 31, 2006

Boating Blog Roundup

It's almost three months since I posted the Top Ten Sailing Blogs of 2005. Since then a lot has changed in the boatie blogosphere. (By the way if a law blog is a blawg, is a sailing blog a slog? No, that doesn't seem right. Or is a boating blog a bloat? No?)

Anyway, as I was saying, things have changed. Most of the top ten are still active though some have posted less frequently in recent months, perhaps a symptom of the northern hemisphere winter and less sailing activity. But there are also some new contenders for top ten ratings out there.

Foremost among the newer sailing blogs, in my mind, is Live Sail Die. LSD is written by a couple of sailing instructors from the sailing school at the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron and has a clean, attractive website design and an always interesting mix of breaking boating news and personal sailing anecdotes. Plus if you're nice to them they will even send you Live Sail Die stickers!

Another frequent poster is Dan Kim from Adrift at Sea. Dan is fitting out a brand new Telstar trimaran and is telling us all the details from the electrical system to
the safety gear and even the lettering. It's a fascinating account by a guy who has clearly thought out all the details for his dream boat. I look forward to reading about all the voyages he is planning -- all over New England, to the Chesapeake, and to Key West.

Then we have Peter Huston at Buffalo Niagara Sailing who is doing a sterling job of stimulating sailing activity in his region with posts on such diverse subjects as high school sailing, stupid rules that discourage participation and youth sailing opportunities in other parts of the country. Always thoughtful, always opiniated. You may not always agree with him but he does make you think.

Eli Boat
has some strong opinions too. He has recently ranted about kay-whackers as he calls them, asking "how many morons are actually into kayaking?" and the Mac 26x which he calls a "floating ass-box". He also educated us on subjects such as electronics and carbon fiber, but my favorite posts on his blog are when he tells us about sailing in Cape Cod Frosties and his attempts at ice-boating. Eli Boat is just like a box of chocolates -- you never know what you're gonna get.

Talking of kay-whackers, I mean kayakers, I've also been following a couple of kayaking blogs lately. Partly because I have a yen to try out kayaking one day; and partly because there are some great kayaking bloggers out there. Bonnie at frogma has kept me entertained the last few months with her tales of paddling at various sites around New York City in the winter along with occasional other accounts of NYC life. By the way is there anywhere in the USA other than Manhattan where kayakers take a break for sushi? (Trick question - the answer is yes - Bonnie paddles over to New Jersey for her sushi. Go figure.) And she even gets to go sailing sometimes. One thing I have discovered is that kayakers are really into "rolling" - which as far as I can gather is a variation on underwater power yoga. Here is how Bonnie celebrated New Year's Day.

H2uho started life as a blog of "bonehead moves on the water" but has lately branched out in a more general watery blog with musing on such diverse topics as waves, long-distance kayaking and the green flash.

I've been trying to expand the geographical coverage of my boating blog viewing. My blogroll currently includes blogs from USA, Canada, UK, Australia, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Spain, France, Switzerland and Italy. Ah yes, Italy -- the home of sNIPEOUT. I wish I could read Italian because it looks like an amazing mixture of great pics, amusing notes and sailing news. I occasionally try and translate some of his stuff into English using Google Translate but the result loses something in the translation, I am sure.

On the other hand, I'm not at all sure I can classify About Sailing at as a blog at all, but Ward Esaak continues to produce fascinating news and stories and advice about sailing that are as compulsive reading as the best blogs. He also keeps giving me the occasional plug so I owe him one.

Also check out the blog of one of my most frequent commenters Litoralis. He ranges from drawing our attention to a cute legal joke about sea sponges, ranting on about the relative health of dinghy sailing in the UK as compared to the US, and doing some shameless name-dropping about the summer he worked for an America's Cup syndicate. Apparently he sailed a Star last year but plans to move up to a Laser this year. Smart move. If you read his blog carefully you will find that at least as of today (31 March 2006) he hasn't actually done any sailing since he started his blog. But he talks a good talk.
Finally we have one of the most original sailing blogs to hit the scene, The Captain Humphreys Project. Actually a vlog, not a blog, a humorous daily video blog about a former bartender planning to sail around the world in an 11 foot boat. A very professional production. But I haven't quite worked out yet whether it is about a real sail-round-the-world project or just a theme around which to develop some hilarious comedy sketches. Time will tell. In any case, compelling viewing. Check him out.

So there you have it. Just ten of the blogs that would be strong contenders for the top ten list if I were drawing it up now. So you writers of the original top ten, look to your laurels. The competition is snapping at your heels.


Thursday, March 30, 2006


I was rereading Buddy Melges' Sailing Smart this week, an excellent source for all kinds of go-faster advice. Buddy is big on awareness of and sensitivity to the surroundings and to the feel of your boat, including this piece of advice.
I don't like to wear gloves, for I lose the touch of the helm and the feel of the sheets -- and these are inputs that tell me when I am in the groove and when I am not. I recommend sailing with bare hands, because you get a better sense of what the boat is telling you. Working a piece of rope back and forth in your hands while you are ashore is one way to toughen them up.

On the other hand Live Sail Die had an article recently about a Laser Radial Sailor whose hands bore the marks of damage from sailing.
The torn and blistery skin was a pale white with prominent salty stains and wrinkles, a soft, yet rough surface which would crumble if manual labour were called upon. These sailor's’ hands were the victim of a 20 knot southerly and a mainsheet that took no prisoners.

And I'm sure I remember an article a few years ago by a medical doctor and top Sunfish sailor, Len Ruby, who recommended wearing full finger gloves all the time while sailing because of the risk of severe long term consequences caused by those apparently temporary blisters and sores.

I'm in the middle ground on this issue. I'll wear gloves when frostbiting because it's so frigging cold. And I will wear gloves in heavy weather otherwise I will damage my hands. But in lighter winds I do like to sail bare-handed to be able to feel the tiller and sheet better as Melges recommends.

What do you think? Are you a "bare hands at all time" kind of guy? Should I be more like Buddy and find a piece of old rope and start toughening up my palms while watching TV?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

FiberFix Survey

There's a lot going on in the world of fiber rigging these days. The latest issue of Sailing World carried an article comparing wire and PBO and asking "Is it Time to Upgrade to PBO Rigging?"

I just can't keep up with it. But that's OK because, as a Laser sailor, I don't think I'm going to be in the market for a PBO backstay any time soon.

Today, an engineer who has been recently active in this field and who is now working on his MBA sent me this FiberFix Survey and asked me to post the link on this blog. Please take a few minutes to complete the survey -- it's not what you think.

Sailing Team Workout

NOT the Bowdoin college sailing team working out in the gym under the direction of coach Stay of Execution.

Thanks to Cardinal Martini for this one.

Dave and Steve

It's shaping up to be an interesting weekend. I had to miss Laser frostbite sailing last Sunday because of my long-standing commitment to do some racing rules education at my other sailing club. When I first agreed to do this last fall I hadn't appreciated that the meeting would be on a Sunday in the frostbite season. Damn!

So first of all I should be Lasering on Sunday. Forecast is for 52 degrees and 12 knots of wind. Frostbiting doesn't get much better than that.

But before that, on Saturday, Cedar Point Yacht Club is hosting a tactics presentation by Dave Dellenbaugh. As the website says ...
Nationally recognized sailing expert David Dellenbaugh, author of "Speed and Smarts", will kick off our 2006 sailing season with a presentation entitled "Top Ten Tactical Tips". Dave's remarks will cover both tactics and strategy on the race course. He will also be available to answer all of your questions. We expect a few other surprises for the session, so stay tuned to the CPYC web site for updates.
I've never heard Dave speak before so I'm looking forward to it and hope to learn something. Actually I hope too learn a lot. Wonder what those "few other surprises" will be?

At the meeting of my other club last Sunday I picked up some old video tapes from the club library. They are of the 1995 America's Cup Defender Trials when Dave was tactician on the women's boat Mighty Mary. I have this fantasy that I will see him make some tactical error on the tape and then on Saturday I can ask him a question along the lines of, "You just said X but back in 1995 you did Y."

It's only a fantasy -- it's not really going to happen.

Then on Sunday, after racing, the Laser fleet at CPYC is hosting a seminar by Steve Cockerill. Steve is well known in the Laser sailing world as the winner of multiple UK national championships, owner of Rooster Sailing, and more recently for his Boat Whisperer DVDs. These contain some superb video footage of Lasers and other small singlehanders along with in-depth instruction from Steve on techniques for both upwind and downwind sailing.

In our post-race skippers' meeting and discussion a couple of weeks ago it emerged that our local fleet guru was recommending totally opposite techniques from Steve for boat-handling in certain situations so I'm looking forward to some lively discussion on those issues.

Who knows, these talks (and the sailing of course) might even generate some items to write about here next week.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Rule 42

After the burning of the socks ceremony on Sunday, the major part of our sailing club meeting was given over to a seminar on "Rule 42" given by myself and the club's protest chairman, a former Olympic contender in the Flying Dutchman class. Rule 42, for those readers who are not racing sailors, is the racing rule that defines the legal and illegal ways in which sailors can propel their boats. To vastly oversimplify: using wind and water to make the boat move OK; using unnatural body movements to squirt your boat forwards not OK.

The problem is that the rule is somewhat complicated and quite difficult to interpret. And, partly for that reason, it can be a very emotional issue among sailors. The situation at this lake-based club where I have sailed the last few summers is a case in point. There is a group of old members who think that some of the newer members are breaking rule 42 on a regular basis. The new guys for the most part think that they are just sailing their boats athletically but legally; nowhere does it say you have to sit like a statue in the boat (even though watching some of the older sailors you might think so). Compound this with the fact that most members of this club don't really understand the rule, and hardly anybody in the club knows what you are supposed to do if you see somebody breaking this rule. Two myths (both untrue) that are believed by a bunch of members are that one sailor cannot protest another for illegal propulsion; and that race committees are empowered to arbitrarily disqualify competitors who they think are breaking the rule. The whole thing has been rumbling on for years with various petty resentments and grumblings but nothing really out in the open.

Things came to a head at the club championship last year when the principal race officer (also the club commodore that year) saw what he believed were rule 42 violations by the two leading competitors (blatant and persistent body pumping), even warned the whole fleet about it between races, but then failed to follow through with a protest of the competitors concerned when the cheating did not stop.

Ah yes. The C word. Cheating. That's another reason that Rule 42 is such a contentious topic. For some reason that I only partly understand, if I crash into your boat in a port-starboard incident you will think that I am merely guilty of stupidity and incompetence and we will have a good laugh about it over a beer afterwards; but if some new member does a roll tack that you think is "too good" you will think he is a cheat and you will mutter to other members that he is a cheat and he will spend the next five years wondering why everyone in the club is shunning him. That's one reason that there are so few rule 42 protests by competitors. Nobody wants to call a fellow sailing club member a deliberate cheat to his face. (Even if you think he is).

Anyway, last year's commodore was so incensed about what happened at the club championship that he asked us to run a session to educate the members on the propulsion rule at one of our winter meetings.

So we gave our lecture on Rule 42. We explained each section of the rule -- the basic rule, the specifically prohibited actions, and the exceptions. We talked through the document on Rule 42 Interpretations published by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF). And we showed a video produced by ISAF which has sailors deliberately demonstrating various kinds of legal and illegal propulsion. The video has green and red lights to show situations where there is no rule breach or a clear rule breach respectively. And it has a yellow light to show more borderline situation where there is a "probable rule breach".

The video created a lot of healthy discussion among the members. Surprisingly there was very little disagreement between the sailors as to which of the demonstrated actions were legal or illegal. And there was even general agreement that one or two of the things rated by ISAF as "clear rule breaches" were things that nobody would complain about in regular club racing.

At the end of the afternoon I led a discussion on the general theme of, "So if we see somebody breaking the rule what are we going to do about it?" This was partly to educate the membership on the rights of sailors and race committees to protest violations of the rule and how best to go about that. But, more importantly, I wanted to get the members to agree that the best thing to do first is to talk to the sailor concerned about what they are seeing and to ask them to stop it. Sometimes that means a quiet word after sailing; sometimes it means a shout on the water, "Hey - quit that rocking and rolling". In my experience, nine times out of ten this is enough to resolve the situation.

I thought the session went well. I hope everyone understands the rule better and that we have cleared the air on how we are going to deal with any member who is pushing things too far.

Only time will tell.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Heave Away

It's sad. When my knees finally give out and I'm too old to hike and I have to give up sailing Lasers, I will probably end up doing something totally lame like singing sea shanties with a group of pathetic old geezers like these ones.

Problem is I can't even sing in tune.

With a bit of luck this fate may still be 30 years away.

Better get back to that hiking bench.

First Annual Burning of the Socks Day

On Monday I saw the post about sock burning on About Sailing and on Tuesday I emailed the commodore of our sailing club to suggest that we adopt the same tradition. So, on Sunday we held our club's First Annual Burning of the Socks Day at our members' March meeting.

In line with the principle that no good suggestion should go unpunished, I was appointed to read a proclamation and propose a toast. After ringing a bell and intoning, "Oyez, Oyez Oyez!" in best English Town Crier style I read the proclamation from the commodore that

in order to celebrate the arrival of spring, he does hereby proclaim March 26th 2006 as First Annual Burning of the Socks Day.

I went on to read his decree that

from this day forth until the end of the sailing season, the official dress for all members of the sailing club while engaged in the activities of the club, will be white shirt, khaki pants or shorts, and boat shoes WITHOUT SOCKS.

Then I loudly declaimed his call for

all members to celebrate this auspicious day by attending a Burning of the Socks Ceremony at which appropriate, respectful and solemn ceremonies will be held to celebrate the arrival of spring which will require the removal and casting off of socks, and the incendiary destruction of said socks.

I then proposed a toast to the commodore, we burned our socks and we went back inside to proceed with the meeting. As the smell from the sock fire wafted into the meeting room, the first order of business was to pass a motion mandating that no synthetic fiber socks would be allowed next year -- cotton only. Thus is a new tradition established.

I wonder if the first American Independence Day was as awe-inspiring as this?

Sunday, March 26, 2006


Enough of this frivolity. An end to all this talk of rubber boots and sock burning, and pictures of upturned feet. What is it with the foot fetish this week anyway?

It's time to return to the serious discussion of how to turn Tillerman into a lean, mean racing machine.


Yes, I guess, I know that's impossible. So let's settle for making him just slightly meaner by the end of the year. OK?

OK. But quit referring to yourself in the third person. It's pretentious and annoying.


Where to start? Last Sunday, after racing we all gathered for the post-race skippers' meeting. Once the pizza had been consumed, the winner for the day, a very smart sailor, talked to the fleet about how he had sailed, and took questions on difficulties that other sailors had faced. There was a lot of discussion about how to set up the Laser for heavy air sailing and boat-handling techniques.

He also talked about how the left side of the course was favored because of a geographical shift from the land on that side of the course. Then one of the other sailors made a comment about how the direction of the waves was so different from the wind direction and this triggered a discussion of whether or not to ride the waves out to one side of the course.

Geographical shift? Wave direction? It dawned on me that these people had spotted things out on the racecourse that had gone totally over my head. (Actually the waves were literally going over my head several times during the afternoon but that's a different problem.) I had been concentrating so hard on trying to tame the beast and keep the boat upright in the rough conditions that I had been totally unaware of what the wind and the waves were doing.

This is not a new problem. I have often been surprised in the past when talking to the winner of a regatta or an experienced coach about how much these folk are aware of what is happening with wind and current and waves. They are thinking on a totally different level to me. They are not only processing information about what the conditions are now, they are also predicting what is going to happen next.

Why can't you do that?

Oh, I have plenty of excuses ...

First of all Sunday. In the second race I went out to the right of the course and beat the whole fleet to the windward mark. So what's all this nonsense about the left being favored?

Hmmm - thinking about it more it seem that on the very rare occasions when you have an outstanding first beat in this fleet it's because all the smart sailors went one way and you went the other way. Is this because you suddenly got smarter than all these hotshots? I don't think so. It's because you got lucky. The smart money bet one way -- you bet the other. Something weird happened to the wind in one race and you lucked out because you were blithely unaware of why the other side of the course was where you really should have been.
As Scott Adams at the Dilbert Blog would say, BOCTAOE.

So do you want to have only one amazingly astonishingly outstandingly excellent result per season; or a string of consistently good results race after race, week after week? If you want the latter you need to be aware of what the wind and the water are doing in the same way that the good sailors are. So what other excuses do you have?

Did I tell you that referring to yourself in the second person is also extremely irritating?

OK. I'll try to stop.

Another excuse is my eyesight. I wear bifocals. I have astigmatism. I have poor depth perception. I just don't see the wind on the water the same as these young guys.

Oh, quit your whining. Does it take good eyesight to pick up the direction of the waves you're sailing in? Do you need sharp eyes to see that the top ten sailors in every race (except that second race) came in to the windward mark from the left side of the course?

I suppose not. So here's another excuse. When the wind is over about 12 knots I have to concentrate so hard on keeping the boat moving and avoiding capsizes that I have no mental bandwidth left over to think about shifts and tides and stuff.

So your excuse is that your brain is too tiny to do two things at once?

Well ... not exactly. And there's no need to be rude.

OK, let me put it another way. Is there any reason why you couldn't spend a minute or two between races working out what is happening with the wind?

I guess not. By the way do you realize you're talking to yourself?

Sure. Anyway, if you want to raise your game up to the next level you're going to have to figure out a way to become more aware of weather and currents and waves. "Get your head out of the boat," as we coaches say. It's partly a skill but also a habit. You just need to get into better habits of observing these things.

Thanks Coach. So how do you suggest I do that?

Oh - you're on your own on that one. You're self-coached, remember?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Loaded The Woodcock

Thanks to sNIPEOUT and Google Language Tools for the following instructions which, as far as I can tell, are how to -- and how not to -- load a Snipe on to a road trailer. Even if the translation from the original Italian leaves something to be desired (when asked for a comment Google said, "We're working on it") the little cartoons tell it all ...

Rogna of the famous refuel/defuel é to all the those that have loaded the woodcock also only once.

One of the pregi of the system seen over é that one to put in condition two normodotate persons, otherwise said "crew snipe", to quickly load the own small boat and without multiple sfiancamenti.

We are not saying that this is the ONLY SYSTEM to concur that, we only say that with this system the refuel/defuel é reduced to a strazio bearable also from how many does not vote you to the martyrdom!

Presupposing that the forward ones are lighter, even because pulzella (less than the pulzella former lanciatrice of weights of the DDR is not one!! in the which case enough to invert the roles!!), it is placed to the portalbero of the street undercarriage on which the boat is wanted to be loaded, not before having same very open the cloth-cover-hull-imbottito on your fiammante invaso..come it is looked at here under!
 Door the boat with the prow on the poppiera extremity of invaded (é the that opposite one to where there é the portalbero!!)
The prow of the boat is leaned, raising it from the carrellino of alaggio..come is looked at here under!!

It is begun to push ahead in the boat (pressing from breast).
The boat, to part the prow, still rests on the carrellino of towage.
Therefore making the boat cover-hull previously spread will slip on the cloth on the invaded one.
Obviously the street undercarriage will have

the pulled brake-to-hand!!..

otherwise the boat does not slip and you are carrying to spasso boat, carrellino, street undercarriage and forward!!

With this operation the weight of the hull will begin to weigh on not more on the carrellino but the street undercarriage.

Given the position of the axis of the wheels of the street one regarding the hull of the boat that you are loading, all that will make


..questo, if it had not been understood, é the topical moment, than then é the moment in which it enters in game the forward ones, which it will not have to make other that from contrappesso, grabbing hold of to the portalbero of the street undercarriage, as it is looked at here under!

NB: to make from counterbalance DOES NOT WANT TO SAY to prevent to the undercarriage of impennarsi!!

the undercarriage MUST IMPENNARE

but it must be a controlled action, that is sweet and not excessive!
regarding the illustration here over:
C min.circauguale B
such that
To Push-lethal inferior for helmsman!

the impennata one is such to facilitate those a lot that pack-saddles of hull-invaded alignment! (the helmsman is continuing to ahead push the boat with a sure decision, inferior to the push that it would be fatal, obviously!!)

Passed the moment of the impennata one, the weight of the hull, mainly rested on the invaded one, it will replace in horizontal position the undercarriage, operation that the forward ones it will accompany avoiding to make to break the wheel of the undercarriage for terra!!..vedi here under!

The operation, goes from if, é easier it makes that to dirsi.
Of sure one what gives


é to put the forward ones to the portalbero without before to have explained well and it are assesses better to you that it has comprised the own function of counterbalance-assets.

in contrary case turning out of the operation could be that one of under ritratta, cause of considerable disdoro:

  • for the chine of breast of the boat;
  • for the foot of the helmsman, put in means (the foot) in the vain attempt to reduce the damages to the chine of breast of the boat;
  • for the forward ones, talked nonsense via towards a landing not necessarily gradevole;
  • for the helmsman, target of the ire funeste of the forward ones, to prescind less from the gradevolezza or of the landing of the same one!

Friday, March 24, 2006


Tillerman to Commodore and YC Committee
I have discovered that some yacht clubs - especially those in the Annapolis area - hold a ritual "burning of the socks" to welcome the arrival of spring. For example see here or here. This ceremony is to signify that as from this date official nautical dress is boat shoes WITHOUT socks. How about a "burning of the socks" ceremony at our club meeting this Sunday? We have, of course, missed the official vernal equinox but we could always argue that spring arrives later in New Jersey than it does on the Chesapeake.

Commodore to YC Committee
Super idea!!! Never heard of this tradition, but, as some of you might know, I abhor SOCKS and am ready to burn mine. I have a call in to Fred at the inn to arrange for the Burning of the Socks this Sunday at 1pm on the patio.

Sunfish Fleet Captain to YC Committee
I LOVE it! Publicity Director, could we get a story in the local paper? They love stories like this.

Albacore Fleet Captain to YC Committee
Could you imagine if there was a mishap here and we had a fire? The local newspaper front page would read something like "YC gets hot foot members hot to trot burn down club building".

Past Commodore to YC Committee
Sounds like fun, but what are the environmental issues? I mean we're burning socks! Anybody heard of the EPA? And what is to be done with the grill after the rites are completed?

Newsletter Editor to YC Committee
If we could pull this off at this Sunday's meeting, the entire front page of the newsletter is available.

Flying Scot Fleet Captain to YC Committee
Do white socks burn better than colored socks? Is there a particular brand that burns better than the others?

Ladies Fleet Captain to YC Committee
Is burning of pantyhose consistent with the tradition?

Commodore to YC Committee
OK guys, we're on for Sunday at 1pm, before our meeting at the inn. Owner Fred said he'd bring some socks and would appreciate some publicity too.
Who will bring a grill and a little charcoal or wood and get it going?
Tillerman, would you lead the brief ceremonies?
Socks are for the birds.

Tillerman to YC Committee
I will lead the ceremony if you wish.
Does anybody know any appropriate rituals, poems or prayers to accompany sock-burning?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Dennis Says

Dennis The Peasant has recently been offering some advice on blog writing. Part Three of the series is on how to select your blog's theme. Dennis's advice is ...

It is surprisingly easy to develop a successful blog site theme as long as you remember these two rules:

1. You must be able to express your entire theme in five words or less, and

2. You must hate at least two separate and distinct categories of human beings and/or things.

Helpful Hint:
Here is a template that many of the leading bloggers have used to become successful:

I hate [insert Demographic/Thing #1 here] and [insert Demographic/Thing #2 here].
Judging by the number of political blogs that seem to be based on the themes of "I hate Conservatives and Christians" or "I hate Liberals and Muslims" it seems that a lot of bloggers have been taking Dennis's advice.

Now, if you have been following this blog in recent weeks you might think that my theme is "I hate Daniel Bernoulli, Jim Madden and jetskiers". Or if I have to follow Dennis's advice and state that in demographic terms "I hate 18th century mathematicians, owners of ostentatious racing yachts, and teenagers overdosing on testosterone".

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I have never met Professor Bernoulli -- or any other 18th century mathematicians for that matter. Our Daniel seems to have been a fine looking fellow though with rather an effeminate taste for long curly wigs, but that was probably perfectly normal for folk with his particular lifestyle. His choices of book titles, Exercitationes and Hydrodynamique, are not quite as compelling as A Brief History of Time but I am sure they were best-sellers in their day. And, in spite of what you may have assumed by reading my various ramblings in recent weeks on how wings and sails work such as this and this, I am not denying the validity of the good professor's famous principle or even arguing that it does not have some relevance to how wings and sails generate lift. I am just saying that the conventional explanation of how Bernoulli's Principle applies to sails is total BS. And I will prove it here some other day. Uncle Al may say that Bernoulli sucks but what does he know?

And as for Mr Madden. Yes, it is true that I poked fun at his style of sailing here and here. But if you read his own accounts such as here and here, I think you will see that our Jimmy has a gentle touch in self-deprecating humor and is actually quietly mocking his own extravagances.

It would appear that Mr Madden is seriously rich. (As opposed to filthy rich or extravagantly rich -- I would never want to be one of those.) By "seriously" rich I mean that he is a self-made man who built a successful company and is now enjoying the fruits of his labors. Hey, there's nothing wrong with that. I suspect that if I could afford to spend several million dollars on a plaything I too might splurge it on a racing yacht with flat screen monitors in every stateroom and a wine cellar. Good luck to him. I'm only jealous really.

So no, I don't hate Bernoulli and Madden.

But I still detest jetskiers.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Live Sail Hike

Guy Talk

Overheard in the men's changing room at the yacht club on Sunday morning ...

M: (struggling to get his head through the latex neck seal of his dry suit) It really pisses me off that I have to shave on Sundays when I come sailing ... this damn neck seal.

S: Yeah.

M: And even if I shave I still end up with this red rash all round my neck at the end of the day.

S: Vaseline.

M: Vaseline? Never thought of that. Thanks for the tip.

M: (observing S easing the latex booties of his dry suit into his hiking boots) What's that you're putting on your booties?

S: KY Jelly.

M: KY Jelly?

S: Yeah. Works like a charm. And it's water soluble so no mess afterwards.

Pause ...

S: And ... you know ... it doesn't harm the rubber ... given what it's actually made for ....

Pause ...

Yeah ... just lube it up and it slips in nice and easy.

Rest of conversation redacted in interests of keeping this a family-friendly blog.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Come Monday

Mondays are for taking it easy. Now that I've started sailing on Sundays, especially after a day like last Sunday, my plan is to do no physical exercise on Mondays. No running. No weight training. Just recovery. Sunday was a day when I pushed myself to the physical limit - four hours of Laser sailing in heavy air and I was done. Knackered as we say in British English. So Mondays are for letting the aching muscles recover. A relaxed stroll around town with Tillerwoman maybe, but I have to keep reminding her that we're not in a race; her idea of walking pace is only slightly slower than my running pace.

But that's not all. Mondays are also for what Eric Twiname calls "race post mortem". Post mortem? Hey, I may be tired but I'm not actually deceased. Let's call it post race analysis. It's one of the twelve ways of learning that he suggests in his book Sail, Race and Win - the bible for anyone trying to coach themselves to improve at sailboat racing.

Over the years I've kept notes about my racing on and off. More often off than on. One of my resolutions this year is to keep a log after every day of racing and every day of practice. Here's what Twiname says ...

For the coaching-self the race begins when the boat has crossed the finish line. Mistakes were made, boats overtook. Why? Can the same problem be avoided the next time? Mentally re-running the race is a valuable way of making the most of it and learning from mistakes........ It is the most convenient way and easy way to improve.

So on Mondays I make notes of what went well and what mistakes I made. Things I need to practice in future. Even if I never refer back to the notes, the mere acts of sitting down for a time of reflection and writing down the conclusions are a way of solidifying the lessons learned from a day's racing.

In our frostbite fleet, the tradition is for the daily winner to speak at the post-race skippers' meeting on how he (or she) won the day. This can also provide valuable insights that are written down in the same logbook. What did he do that I didn't? Did he spot something about the wind or the current that I missed? Did he set his boat up differently? What are his boat-handling techniques in certain conditions?

I'm building up a long list of things to work on. But there's one significant area of racing skills that is emerging as a key priority for me to develop this year. I'll write about it later this week.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Changes in Attitudes

When I arrived at the yacht club for sailing on Sunday it looked as if the weather forecast was wrong. As we rigged the boats, the wind was less than 10 knots with some light snow flurries. But, after we launched, the wind built and built throughout the afternoon until by the last couple of races - and for the long beat back to the club after racing - it was blowing a good 25 knots in the gusts.

As the wind strengthened my mental attitude changed ...

Huh - stupid weather forecast - this isn't going to be all that much fun.

Slow, slow, slow - might not even get to the start on time in this wind.

Whoah - that's a nice gust.

Geeze - I'm out of touch - can't get the boat going in this stuff.

OK - next race I need to start in a place where I have freedom to tack in these shifty winds.

Hah - big lefty and I'm the first on to port tack after the start - clear air, going fast - here's a righty, tack back - looking good - nice to be able to play the shifts without worrying about boat traffic - holy shit I'm first to the windward mark.

Wow - these gusts are getting stronger and lasting longer.

Yeah baby - this is where my height and weight (including the extra 7 lbs I gained over the winter) and the time I spent on the hiking bench are really really paying off - hike from the toes - grind 'em down.

Hmmm - we're only half way through the afternoon and I'm already getting tired.

Yikes - that's a big gust.

Great - some triangle courses after those windward leewards - now for some fun on the reaches.

Ohmigod - I'm out of control - this thing is going so fast I have no idea if it's ever going to stop planing - here comes the gybe mark - go for it - wow - how did I survive that?

Oh no - this reach is even more out of control than the one in the last race - there's all kinds of carnage at the gybe mark - let's go for it - aargh - didn't make it that time.

All these capsize recoveries are really starting to wear me down.

Just hang in there. You can do it. Looks like at least a third of the fleet have already called it a day. You don't need to hike hard - just keep the boat upright and you'll get some more top ten finishes.

No more gybes - just tack around - I'm not the only one - there's centerboards pointing at the sky all over the place - whooah watch that guy - he's lost his boat and is swimming for it.

Just when you think the wind can't get any stronger, it does.

OK, this should be the last race - I know you're tired but just hang in for one more lap - final reach - bear away more - oh no, death roll - it's getting harder every time to do the recovery and climb back in the boat - get your breath back there's still boats behind you - bear away again - another death roll - another recovery - OK, that's it - call it a day - the DNF can be my throwout.

Holy mackerel it's a long way back to the club. A really really long way.

What a great day.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Weather Forecast Sunday

NW winds 10 to 15 kt with gusts up to 20 kt.

Seas 1 to 2 ft.

Air temperature 36 degrees F.

Water temperature 41 degrees F.

Perfect ! I'm going sailing.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Albert Einstein - Sailor

It's not widely known that Albert Einstein was a sailor. Indeed his friends gave him a yacht for his 50th birthday in 1929.
The sailing magazine Die Yacht described this boat in detail. Sadly, after the Nazis came to power and he moved to America he had to leave this boat behind in Germany, and the boat was eventually confiscated by the state. He continued to sail small boats while working at Princeton. Here he is sailing on Lake Carnegie in Princeton with a female friend and this site has a picture of him sailing off Long Island in 1937.

One can only assume that he spent some time pondering how sails work.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Spray Chill Factor

OK - all you amateur sailor/scientists who like to argue about something none of us really understands ... we'll return another day to the confusing question of how sails don't work the way all the books say they work.

Today I have another question for you, thanks to Steve Cockerill of Rooster Sailing. We all know about "wind chill" which takes into account the combined cooling effect of air temperature and wind speed. But this doesn't adequately reflect the total chill experienced by us crazy frostbite sailors - in particular that invigorating feeling you get when a wave breaks over your head or icy spray slaps you in the face.

Steve says ...

I am trying to develop a new Chill Factor that takes into account the situation that dinghy sailors find themselves. Wind Chill takes into account the extra cooling effect of the air on bare skin and is only half of the equation. It does not take into account the additional cooling of water (a substance that can cool 27 times faster as it has a higher conductivity) or the dew point - a measure of how dry the surrounding air is (dryer air encourages water to evaporate, leaving you colder) and the water temperature.

So what do you think? How would we calculate a Spray Chill Factor?

In line with the high standards of scientific debate already established on this blog by the author (and others) do not allow your lack of qualifications to deter you from answering this question. If in doubt answer another but apparently similar question, provide links to dubious authorities who can't answer the question either, or indulge in gratuitous name-dropping. Go for it.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Pretty Darned Cool

Bonnie from frogma said in a comment that she thought my post about the physics of sailing was "pretty darned cool". Thanks Bonnie. Actually there were three posts in all on the topic at here, here and here. But I haven't finished, so let's return to the subject.

What started me off meandering around the question of how sails work was that I was uneasy with the standard explanation that you read in most sailing books. It usually goes something like...

A sail is like an airplane wing and it generates lift for much the same reason. Because of the curvature of the upper surface of the wing, the air passing over that side has to travel a greater distance than that passing under the wing. Since it has to go farther, it has to go faster in order to reach the trailing edge at the same time as the air flowing past the underside of the wing. Because of the Bernoulli effect the faster flowing air on the upper surface has a lower pressure than the slower moving air on the underside of the wing; and the pressure difference generates the lift.

There are a couple of reasons why this seems like nonsense to me. Or even it does explain some of the lift generated by sails and wings it is by no means the full story. Here's just one reason...

Check out this video.

If an airplane flies because the upper surface of the wing is curved, then how do you think a plane can fly upside down? Surely if the Bernoulli force is balancing gravity when the plane is flying right side up, then there would be double the force of gravity pulling the plane towards the earth when the plane is upside down?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


It was raining all the time on the 80 mile drive to the yacht club on Sunday. I changed into my drysuit as soon as I arrived and rigged the Laser as it continued to rain. It was raining when we launched. It was raining as we sailed out to the racecourse. It was raining almost continuously for the three hours we raced. The wind for the six races varied from zero to four knots. The sky was grey; the sea was grey. My results were mediocre at best.

But it was the first day of frostbite racing at the club for three months and a bad day of sailing beats a good day of ... well, whatever else you would be doing on any given Sunday.

Ward Esaak of About Sailing wrote a post a couple of days ago entitled Expect Mistakes warning sailors, especially beginners, to expect things to go wrong when they go sailing. Eric Twiname in his book Sail, Race and Win makes a similar point. He encourages every sailor to be their own coach and points out that the sailor and the coach in each of us have different reactions to mistakes that happen during a race. For the helmsman they are frustrating and annoying; for the coach, "mistakes are welcomed as imperfections in sailing ability which he can help the sailor work on and iron out, so they will not recur in future races".

Ah yes. Imperfections. Always find some of those when I race. Sunday was no exception. Yes Eric, I will try and welcome them and do some ironing out.

This time it wasn't anything disastrous like the boat breaking into pieces, getting into it with a fellow sailor or a major screw-up at a mark rounding. For those of you that enjoy reading about my major goofs I apologize. But I did learn a couple of things...

Firstly my boat speed upwind in this light stuff was way off the pace. I think the main reason was that I rely too much on the telltales on my sail for finding the groove in upwind sailing. With the telltales plastered to the sail by the rain I wasn't receiving the usual visual - and audible - signals from them and was unable to find that sweet spot of sailing high and fast. Note to self: go out and practice in the rain and practice sailing without telltales too.

My other learning was on how to handle the run when the current is running across the course and is strong relative to the wind. I tried the up-current and down-current side of the course when sailing downwind in different races. Big difference. Up equals good. Down equals bad. Coming into the leeward gate in light wind against the current is not a good idea. Very slow. Lost lots of boats.

It was raining as we sailed back to the beach. It was raining as we hauled the boats back to the boat park. It was raining as we derigged the boats. I rolled up my wet sail and put it in the car. It was raining as I drove home from the yacht club. I turned on the CD player and had to laugh at the first song that came on.

There's something sexy about the rain
And sometimes when it's pouring down
I feel her kisses on my skin
I spread my arms and spin around
And let that summer island storm
Hit me like a hurricane
It's like she's right here whispering
There's something sexy about the rain
No, Mr Chesney, you are wrong, there is nothing remotely sexy about the rain.

Monday, March 13, 2006


ABN AMRO ONE may have been romping away with the Volvo Ocean Race up to now. But if you're a betting man (or woman) now is the time to withdraw your life savings from the bank and bet it all against both ABN AMRO boats.

They are doomed.

How do I know?

Someone from the domain has just been reading my post on why do sails work. If that is the source of their technical information they are in deep doodoo. Yup. Chopped liver. They are history.

You heard it here first folks.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

I Love The Now

Today I am going sailing.

Man, it feels good to be able to say that. Yes, a new season starts today.

The last time I sailed was three months ago and I wrote about it in posts on frostbiting, observations on squirrel starts, thoughts on how to get into trouble at the windward mark and how to make even more dumb mistakes. From the perspective of providing raw material for this blog, that was a hell of a productive day's sailing.

Since then I have written a post almost every day, most of them with some tenuous connection to sailing, without ever once setting foot in a frigging boat. Yeah sure we had the occasional diversion into quail hunting, a concert in Detroit, the wattle, and church signs. Hey - it's been a long winter. But most of the time I managed to stay on topic. Bloody brilliant, I would say.

But the long dark winter is over. Today I am going sailing. So, once again, I will have some actual sailing experiences to recount. Thank you dear readers for your patience, support and kindness, and for helping me through this difficult time. It hasn't been easy. (Sounds of muffled sobbing.)

I would just like to say that it warms my heart to know that you, my readers, are leading edge sailors, thoughtful people who come here to expand your intellectual horizons and read sophisticated, fact-based analysis about sailing.

At least that's what I thought until I read all this stuff about you at Dennis The Peasant.

Please tell me he's wrong. I may have to change the whole emphasis of this blog if he is right and actually start trying to entertain you. Yikes.

Anyway, did I mention? Today, I am going sailing.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Big Rig

You think roll-tacking requires some skill?

Nah, it's as easy as pressing a button. Well, if you are the owner of Stark Raving Mad, literally all you have to do is press a button. Or if that's too hard you could ask one of your crew to press it for you.

Yup. According to Scuttlebutt the canting keel on this 66 foot pile of plumbing and computers is controlled by the buttons in the picture above and, if you time it right, you can even make this baby roll tack.

While the winds were light, the usefulness of the canting ballast was quickly evident as it was moved to windward during a puff. Something akin to the crew of a dinghy moving from the leeward side to out on the trapeze wire, and quickly flattening the boat to accelerate in the puff. Additionally, the use of the canting system during a light air tack is much like the use of crew weight when roll-tacking a dinghy. Move the ballast too fast and you come out of the tack heeled to windward. But used effectively, you can come of a tack with a slight heel, and then roll the boat flat to gain dinghy-like acceleration.

The owner is Jim Madden. Wait a minute - haven't we come across him before? According to this story, the name of Jim's toy was chosen by his wife "because of its enormous price tag".

Yes folks. His wife may think he's stark raving mad, but he can do awesome roll tacks.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Boat Drinks

I gotta fly to St. Somewhere.

Treat Her Like a Lady

Pat Byrnes, the commodore of the New Mexico Sailing Club, has been writing in his blog Desert Sea some advice for race committees on "at what point does the committee cancel the race?" I'm assuming that this is triggered, at least in part, by some hairy incidents on a windy weekend a couple of weeks ago. Pat, in a comment on this blog asked me for some feedback on his guidelines.

I don't feel it would be appropriate for me to write specifically about what wind strengths are safe or unsafe at the New Mexico Sailing Club as I don't know anything about that club other than what I have read in
Desert Sea and Five O'Clock Somewhere. There are so many variables in a decision to abandon racing - the seaworthiness of the boats racing, the skills of the sailors, the size of the fleet, the number of rescue boats, the distance from safety, the water temperature, the likelihood of local abrupt changes in wind strength ... And I don't anything about those issues at Pat's club.

But his request did start me thinking about the same question at the venues I do know. How would I decided as a race officer when to abandon racing? What wind strengths am I prepared to race in myself? 20 knots? 25 knots? 30 knots? Where to draw the line?

Warning - Small Blog Advisory: Tillerman feels strong urge to recount all sorts of tales about heavy weather sailing. Get yourself a beer or a rum punch and settle down. Let the old guy ramble. He might even be trying to make some kind of point. You never know.

Like the sailors in New Mexico I do most of my sailing on inland lakes, but I do try and travel to regattas on the ocean as often as I can. Inevitably I get a lot more time in light airs when I am lake sailing; and am often challenged by much stronger winds when I venture on to the sea.

I remember vividly the Laser Masters Worlds in Cancun, Mexico 2000. Check out an excellent account of the regatta by Canadian sailor, and fellow inland sailor, Ben Pickford. Here is just a taste of Ben's description.

It was a wonderful experience to sail on the Caribbean Sea at a Worlds Masters Laser regatta. To witness 145 boats of one class stretched out as they sailed from the beach to the starting line was a sight I've never seen before. 145 boats going every which way at the starting line as we waited for the start of the first fleet, to be surrounded by 45 boats on the windward leg and to be able to see another 50 boats sailing in the fleet ahead and another 50 boats in fleets behind is wonderful. Add the beautiful blue waters of the Caribbean, sunny skies, warm spray and it was fantastic to be there. HOWEVER; my one year experience in a Laser obviously did not prepare me for the level of competition, particularly in strong winds. I don't think I've ever had so many baths in my 35 year sailing career as only the first day was sailed in a nice breeze with all the other races sailed in whitecap conditions(20 mph +).
The winds were consistently strong all week and one day racing was canceled altogether because it was too windy. As a lake sailor I was totally outmatched by the guys who had much more experience racing and training in these conditions all the time. I remember dueling with Ben at the back of the fleet in several races. I did finish ahead of him in the overall scores - but only because I was more stubborn than him and managed to struggle across the finish line in every race whereas he had the sense to take a break and recover in some races. By the end of the week I was aching and sore in places I didn't even know I had places. But I was a lot more confident sailing in heavy wind and waves than I was at the start of the week.

The point to the story is that you are only going to become confident in racing in over 20 knots if you do a lot of sailing in those conditions. So, if you are running races at a location where winds in the 20-30 knot range are rare and most of the sailors have no experience in these conditions, then anything over 20 knots may cause so much havoc in the fleet that racing should be abandoned.

Different classes of boat have different tolerances for wind strength too. I recall traveling to Newport a few years ago for the annual Sail Newport regatta. I took my Laser but a group of friends from my lake club raced in their Jet-14s. The winds were around 20 knots, I'd say, and I had a blast. Maybe capsized a couple of times but I completed all fourteen races. Phew! But my friends in their Jet-14s had all sorts of trouble - broken gear, demastings, near-sinkings. They all packed up and went home after the first day of the regatta. I guess some boats (or maybe some sailors) are more fragile than others.

But these Jet sailors had done almost all their sailing on the reservoir at our home club which is in a state park. And there is a state rule (maybe law) there that says if the wind exceeds 25mph all boaters must immediately go in to shore. There's actually a flashing light rigged up to an anemometer and when the light flashes all boating stops. It probably makes sense in this environment because the reservoir is used by sailors, fishermen, canoeists, kayakers - including many casual users who come to the park and rent boats and who clearly have little boating experience. But if you sail at a club where you never sail in a wind exceeding 25 mph (about 22 knots) you are never going to learn how too handle stronger breezes - or even find out if your boat itself can survive these conditions.

It's actually worse than that. I have a theory that you only become confident and expert at racing in any given wind strength if you have actually been out, at least for practice, in even stronger winds. So my friends who had probably never ever experienced 25 knots were totally fazed when expected to race in 20 knots.

Another Laser Masters Worlds Championship springs to mind, the 2002 event in Hyannis Massachusetts. The race officer had a rule that he would not start races in over 25 knots. We were racing in four different fleets and he managed to start two fleets, including mine, after which the wind piped up to 30 knots. He canceled the starts for the other two fleets but let us continue racing. That was a learning experience I can tell you. I lost count of how many times I capsized on the run. But I did finish the race. And after that 25 knots doesn't feel (quite) so scary.

There are some US Laser sailors who feel that US race officers are too conservative. Their view is that is we don't get any experience racing in 30 knots (or stronger) and then when we travel to international events where the winds are that strong we are at a disadvantage. This seems to have been a factor at the 2005 Masters Worlds in Brazil at which the Australians dominated and even very experienced American sailors were struggling. Check out this report by Eric Robbins for example. Here is his story of one day at the regatta ...

Into the maelstrom ...........

Racing today was postponed onshore for 90 minutes, as the wind held at 29-32 knots. When it dropped to 25, in the LULLS, they sent us out. Spray was flying off all the whitecaps on the 10-foot rollers and, as usual, the chop was coming from a somewhat different direction.

I got a good start, and was moving well ........ for about five minutes. I am just not strong enough for these conditions. As Halsey said: "If the Aussies like these conditions, they can KEEP them!" On the first downwind leg, when the view from atop my centerboard showed the fleet pulling away, and nobody behind me, I stopped my feeble attempts to RACE, and start to have some fun. I reached back and forth, with a few jibes, and hitting mach 2 down some of the biggest swells. Once I stopped trying to race around marks, it was a great day!

So where does that leave us? As a competitor I would like race officers to give me the chance to race in anything up to 30 knots - at least. If it's too tough I can always make the decision not to race. But the only way I am going to master heavy winds is to experience them. So give me the chance, please.

However, as a race officer I will take into account the experience and ability of the fleet, the quality and quantity of safety boat coverage, the distance from safety etc. etc. I will also play it by ear. Once a number of crews are in trouble, not able to recover from situations unaided, then it is definitely time to consider abandoning the racing.

This seems to be about where Pat from New Mexico has settled too after some feedback from his members. 30 mph limit - but strong encouragement to less experienced sailors to bail out at lower wind speeds. Looks like they will get a chance to test out these new guidelines this weekend!

And before we get too complacent about the relative safety of boating on sheltered inland lakes, check out this story about how police are still searching for the bodies of six men who have gone missing over the last three decades while boating in a local reservoir in New Jersey. This is the same lake where I sailed in February 2005, actually the first sail that I wrote about in this blog.

I'm one of the lunatic fringe. Last weekend my friend S. and I sailed our Lasers on Round Valley Reservoir. There were huge gusts scooting across the lake whipping up whitecaps. On the dam the warning light was flashing intermittently. This is supposed to indicate that the wind is over 22 knots and all boating must cease, but we didn't believe it. Over 2000 acres and 55 billion gallons of icy water and 2 small sailboats planing back and forth in the middle. No sight of another human being. It felt quite isolated, wild, remote. And then it started to snow. Magic!
I guess we were lucky that they're not searching for eight bodies now.

So what's the bottom line? Know your limits - and the limits of your fellow sailors. Treat the water with respect. Sail fast, live long.

Some of us sailors call her home
She's big and she's strong and she's mighty
Some of us sailors call her our own
Guess that's the reason why
I treat her like a lady
Treat her like a lady

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Nautical Wheelers

I first wrote about the Hoot a few weeks ago. So how do you like the picture of the Hoot being wheeled down to the water? The wheels are mounted on axles which go into holes in the aft part of the Hoot. Once the boat is floating in the water, you just pull out the wheels and leave them behind.

Even easier than the ubiquitous Seitech dollies. Will this idea catch on in other new designs, I wonder?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Somewhere Over China

Last week I carried some important advice for sailors on how to avoid the Asian bird flu.

For some reason this public service announcement was much appreciated by my readers so, in the same vein, here is a video from the Centers for Disease Control with more helpful advice on the topic especially for your children.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Spending Money

There's a smell of spring in the air. All over the northern hemiblogosphere boaters are getting ready for a new season. Planning upgrades. Working on boats. Spending money.

Out in California EVK4 has been buying some new running rigging for his Newport 28 and in Massachusetts litoralis is building a trailer and buying new control lines for his Laser. Carol Anne from Five O'Clock Somewhere in New Mexico spent the weekend driving a third of the way across the continent to collect the Etchells that her husband bought her for Valentine's Day and Derrick in Wisconsin has bought a new Acuta kayak. Tim in the UK, who has been repainting his Enterprise, took a trip this weekend to the RYA Dinghy Exhibition in London to buy some of the cheap stuff on sale. Dan from Adrift at Sea has been buying all sorts of goodies for his Telstar trimaran - flares, GPS, windvane, boom brake, watermaker, drogue ... you name it, he's bought it. And the college sailors at Bowdoin have been meeting with their coach to talk about goals and working out in the gym.

Yup. Everywhere boats are being readied and money is changing hands. The new sailing season is almost here. Sailors are getting excited.

So what are you buying Tillerman? Thanks for asking.

Bah, Humbug! You can't fool me. Just because we've had two sunny days in a row doesn't mean that spring is here.
Oh yeah, I know the spring Laser frostbiting season starts on Sunday -- and I will be sailing. But it's only March. The water will be very cold in Connecticut. It's still drysuit weather in these parts. So I'm buying what I really need.

More thermal underwear

Monday, March 06, 2006

You Call It Jogging

I run to keep fit for sailing.

Well, I guess that used to be true. But somewhere along the line, running became an end in itself. I started entering races, 5Ks to start with, then 10Ks, and then I wanted to improve my race times so I started looking at training programs and doing interval training. And then I started dreaming about running a marathon and eventually surprised myself (and everyone I know I suspect) by actually completing a marathon. And then doing it again.

Oh yeah - I'm a runner; not someone who just runs to keep fit for something else.

I came back from my run yesterday and there was a note on the kitchen table from my wife who had gone out. "Presumably you went jogging ...", it started. Oops - I must have forgotten to tell her I was going out. When I left she was down in the basement doing whatever it is that wives do in the basement. It's too easy to lose each other in this crazy big house.

No dear. I wasn't jogging. I was running. (Not "running around" which is something else altogether.)

What's the difference between jogging and running? Is there a difference?

Is it speed? No, I don't think so. There are slowish people (just like me) out there who are truly serious about their training, running and racing. They continually try to improve in relation to their previous performances. Yet....without being born with speed genes we aren't going to beat the field. Still, these folks are certainly runners.

Is it attitude? There are others, who, while they may have the built-in ability to move truly fast, are not motivated. Perhaps they train once or twice a week to maintain health, lay off for awhile, then come back and put in a few miles. On the face of it, we would probably call them joggers. Unless of course, they wish to be considered runners. If so, let them be runners.

Who really cares? If pressed, I'd say if you run with a stopwatch, you are a runner. If you keep obsessive records in a running journal for more than 10 years you're a runner. If you are already thinking about what race you're going to enter 10 months from now you're a runner.

I've been taking it fairly easy since the marathon in January. But now the days are getting longer and warmer (we can live in hope on the latter) I'm looking forward to training more seriously again. I'd like to work on improving my speed in the first half of the year then switch over to marathon training in the fall.

My goals for this year are to run a 5k in 22:30 and a 10k in 46:00. I've done these times before but not for many years. We do get slower as we get older. So if I can repeat the times I did when I was much younger I will feel I've achieved something. I won't actually be any younger but it might feel like it. I want to run a half marathon in under 2 hours. I've never even run a half-marathon before so this will be a real achievement. And I aim to run a marathon in early 2007 in 4:20 - a personal best at the age of 58. That will be something.

OK, now I've actually put out those goals for all the world to see I'd better get serious. I'm off to go for a run. (Not a jog). See ya.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Take It Back

At least one of my readers has been getting herself qualified to drive a personal watercraft and another has been educating us about Admiralty Law. So for the two of you (if nobody else) here is a legal case from the United Kingdom that hinged on the question of, "Is a personal watercraft a ship?"

Apparently the driver of this particular chainsaw-on-water had rammed his weapon-toy into a fellow idiot-jet-skier and severely injured him. An ingenious prosecution charged the miscreant as the master of a sea-going vessel and he was sentenced to six months in prison. (Far too lenient in my opinion).

Unfortunately after what sounds like some expensive legal tap-dancing he won his appeal. I still hate jetskiers. This ultimate PWC repellent is the best way to deal with them as far as I am concerned.

Never Work In Dis Business Again

Interesting item tucked away at the end of an article in the UK newspaper The Independent about Ellen MacArthur's decision to give up single-handed sailing, at least for a while.

Chay Blyth, who in 1971 became the first person to sail non-stop westwards around the world, paid tribute to Dame Ellen but also commented: "It's not that unusual to give up single-handed sailing. [It] is actually illegal and it is only a matter of time before the authorities come down on it."

Illegal? I didn't know that. Presumably he is referring to the requirement in the International Collision Regulations to keep a proper lookout by sight and hearing at all times -- which is impossible on a long single-handed voyage. But is there really a likelihood that the "authorities" will eventually ban single-handed voyages?

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Who Are we Trying To Fool?

Everything you have read about the America's Cup ain't exactly true. Some of the myths around the Cup races in recent years in Australia and New Zealand are debunked in this article by Peter Ballard in which he proves conclusively that the America's Cup stories are confused, contradictory, and unbelievable.

For example ...
The identity of the supposed owner of the (Australian) yacht is a mystery. The books give his name variously as "Alan Bond" or "Bondy". In my research, the only person I could find of either name was an inmate of Perth Gaol in 1991. It is not possible that this felon could have once been a yacht-owning multi-millionaire.

In both myths the opposing skipper is called Dennis Conner. Since it is absurd to suggest that the Americans would allow the same skipper to lose the Cup twice, it is clear that the New Zealand legend is simply an adaptation of the Australian myth.

Black Magic also has divine assistance, with the only yacht to defeat it being struck in half and sinking in three minutes. Of course this incident is not historical (as if a multi-million dollar yacht would break in half and sink without even colliding into anything).
What's going on here? What is this guy smoking?

From what I can gather, Ballard is attempting to
bolster his defense of the credibility of myths in the Bible by demonstrating that just because certain other accounts are implausible and inconsistent it doesn't necessarily prove that the underlying stories are untrue.

But then, I guess that's more or less what James Frey was saying too.

Friday, March 03, 2006


British sailing star Ellen MacArthur has just returned from a trip to South Georgia to highlight the plight of the albatross which is heading for extinction, mainly because of unintentional drowning of the birds by "longline" fishing boats. There are several articles about the trip on Ellen's website and more information about the threat to these magnificent birds at Save the Albatross.

Any sailor who has read Coleridge's poem about the fate that befell the Ancient Mariner after he shot the albatross should be in no doubt about why they are precious to us.

And I had done an hellish thing,
And it would work 'em woe :
For all averred, I had killed the bird
That made the breeze to blow.
Ah wretch ! said they, the bird to slay,
That made the breeze to blow !

Not to mention that og from Live Sail Die apparently eats albatross poo for breakfast.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Fool Button

Just in case you were wondering how to protect yourself from avian flu, the official advice to yachtsmen from Britain's Department for the Environment, Fisheries and Agricultural Affairs is, according to The Reluctant Sailor, "Don't eat bird poo".

Gee - I'm glad someone told me that.

Semi True Story

Dear Tillerman,
I finally built a hiking bench and I was wondering if there were any particular "workouts" that you can recommend for me to do while on the bench.
Yours energetically
Joe Youngblood.

Dear Joe Youngblood,
I think you have completely misunderstood why Laser sailors own hiking benches. They are not to do "workouts" on. They are to psyche out the other sailors. Here are a few examples of how you can use your bench ...

1. Get yourself a website and put up some pictures of your hiking bench. Establish your reputation as a guy who knows how to design and build a hiking bench. 99% of your readers will naturally assume that you actually use the bench. More fool them.

2. Post a message on the Laser Forum letting all your competitors know that you have a hiking bench and know how to use it. I didn't say you actually have to use it. Just lie a lot and make sure that the whole world thinks you know how to use it.

3. Plaster your hiking bench with stickers saying things like "Olympic Sailing Equipment" and "Live Sail Die" and then place it somewhere prominently in your house - say the TV room. Make sure that your sailing buddies see it when they come round. After the guys have left use the bench as a table for your beer and pizza while you watch Monday Night Football.

4. If anyone asks you how long you hike on the bench, say, "Oh 30 - 45 minutes or so I guess." It's perfectly true - you have hiked on it for 30 minutes. Accumulated over your whole life. Have a beer with the guy who was gullible enough to think you meant 30 - 45 minutes in one session.

5. Write a book about Laser sailing and include a picture in the book of you sitting on the hiking bench showing extreme hiking form. Hey, you only have to hold that pose long enough for someone to snap the photo. Have a beer afterwards.

6. Write a book about sailing fitness and include a picture in it of you sitting on a hiking bench holding a 50 lb weight and twisted in some contorted position while some girl in a sports bra presses down on your shoulders. Include a scary sounding cautionary note about how these advanced exercises should not be attempted until the muscles have been strengthened over a period of many months by doing 300 crunches a day. Have a beer after the photo session. Don't forget to give the girl in the sports bra a beer too.

7. Prowl the sailing forums and blogs and pounce immediately if anyone posts a question asking about how to use a hiking bench. In your reply don't provide any specific ideas on how to use the bench but emphasize how much hiking is supposed to hurt and write things like, "I don't care if it hurts...hike out! What, you can't? Why not - are your legs going to break? There's no excuse for not hiking hard." This will ensure that your competition continues to hike hard (even though their form is all wrong) until they injure themselves, at which point you won't have to worry about them any more. Have a beer to celebrate winning the race.

Good luck
The Tillerman