Monday, July 31, 2006

The Ballad of Tillerman - Oh No!

Standing on the dock at Fort Adams
Laser rigged, just laze in the sun
The man in the cap
Said, "You'd better launch chap
Or you're gonna be late for the gun."

Christ, you know it ain't easy
You know how hard it can be
The way things are going
They're gonna DNS me

Finally made it out to the race course
Tide pushing me over the line
My timing's all crap
It's hard to stay back
The RC can see me just fine

Christ, you know it ain't easy
You know how hard it can be
The way things are going
They're gonna OCS me

Sailed all the way to the corner
Hoped to find wind over there
Dave Dellenbaugh said
"What's wrong with your head?"
I said, "I'm just trying to find some clear air."

Christ, you know it ain't easy
You know how hard it can be
The way things are going
They're gonna DFL me

Saving up my money for a new boat
Buying all my gear from APS
Last night the wife said
"Oh boy, when you're dead
You don't take nothing with you
But your sail, think!"

Made a lightning trip to Annapolis
Regatta gave me a cool Tilley hat
My darling wife said,
"With that thing on your head
You look just like some guru in drag."

Christ, you know it ain't easy
You know how hard it can be
The way things are going
She's gonna ridicule me

Caught an early place on the start line
Right up there in the front row
The men on the boat
Said, "You haven't a hope,
There's a black flag up and you're over, we know."

Christ, you know it ain't easy
You know how hard it can be
The way things are going
They're gonna BFD me

with apologies to John and Yoko and millions of Beatles fans

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Historic News

What was the most momentous news in the sailing world this weekend?

Was it Simon Payne from the UK winning the International Moth Worlds in Denmark? Was it Finland's Silja Lehtinen and Australian crew Scott Babbage winning the 29er Worlds in the UK? Or was it that Elia Borrego from Spain and Theofanis Kavvas of Greece won the girls' and boys' divisions at the Optimist European Championships in the Netherlands?

No. None of the above. The most auspicious event in the sailing universe this weekend was... Tillerwoman went sailing.

For those that don't know my darling wife let me explain some of the history. She and I learned to sail together at Minorca Sailing back in the early 80's. At the end of the week with Tillerwoman crewing and me on the helm we won the beginners' race. At which point she announced that she had decided she didn't like sailing and I embarked on my subsequent career as a single-handed sailor.

Occasionally, very occasionally, in the intervening years she has been tempted on to a sailboat. When the planets are aligned absolutely correctly, I have been able to persuade her to take a ride, such as one afternoon when we took out a beach cat on Rodney Bay in St. Lucia. She has even more rarely been persuaded to crew in a friendly race such as the time she crewed for a friend in the Rhodes 19 racing at Bitter End Yacht Club. They won. Or the afternoon at BEYC when my family and some friends took out a couple of J24s and organized some informal match racing in North Sound. Tillerwoman's boat won.

In spite of her unbeaten record as a racing crew, she still maintains that she doesn't like sailing. I sail several times a week. She goes for years without stepping on a sailboat.

But this weekend Tillerwoman went sailing. Both my sons along with their partners and our granddaughter are visiting us this weekend. On Saturday afternoon, son #2 and his girlfriend decided they wanted to go sailing and went out on our lake in my Laser. Much to my astonishment Tillerwoman decided she wanted to do the same, so she and I floated around the lake in the other boat in the Tillerman fleet, a Sunfish.

She was hanging on to the edge of the cockpit with both hands in a death grip for the first ten minutes or so. She considered for a while whether she might feel safer sitting on the floor of the cockpit rather than the deck. She was convinced at first that she would never get under the boom during tacks -- but she did. She refused my suggestion to "hold the rope thingie". (I have given up trying to teach her correct nautical terminology such as "trim", "line" or "sheet.) She was horrified when I told her we needed to gybe to return to the launching ramp -- but she survived.

There was more laughing than screaming; more smiles than expressions of sheer terror.

All in all, an historic event that probably won't be repeated this decade. Mark the date.

On July 29 2006 Tillerwoman went sailing.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Rohan Veal at the Moth Worlds

Check out the accounts by Australian Rohan Veal of the racing at the 2006 International Moth Worlds which are being sailed on a Danish fjord at Horsens.

Videos of the action, courtesy of Rohan's Dad, are below. Man those things are fast on their foils.

The last two races are today, Saturday, and its looking like a showdown between Simon Payne of the UK and Rohan for the title.

Update: There was no racing today so Simon Payne is the new world champion.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Survivor Marine Base

If you get into trouble in US waters you might call BoatUS or the US Coast Guard for assistance.

But what if you run aground in Aitutaki in the Cook Islands? If you're lucky you will be rescued by Survivor Marine Base.

Who? Yup, that Survivor. The TV series Survivor. They're currently filming Survivor Cook Islands and came to the rescue of Mark and Judy Handley in Windbird when they ran aground this week trying to enter the lagoon.

I'm not sure what this proves. You can never really get it away from it all? Reality TV is more real than you thought? Fact is stranger than fiction? Tillerman is feeling lazy this week and not writing anything original?

Thursday, July 27, 2006


Apparently I was wrong. Not for the first time. Brendan Casey won the 2006 Laser North American Championships but he is not the Laser North American Champion (as I wrongly suggested here).

See this gobbledygook from ISAF for an explanation.
Australia's Brendan CASEY came out on top of the 62 strong fleet at the ISAF Grade C1 Laser North American Championship in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Michael LEIGH (CAN) finished in second place to claim the title of Laser North American Champion.

I don't get it. Is this discrimination against Australians?


Darren Rowse asks us
what would we do different
if start blog again?

not a lot my friend
only thing I can think of...
sail more and write less.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

North American Champion

Congratulations to Australian Brendan Casey for winning the 2006 Laser North Americans sailed over the last few days in St. Margaret's Bay, Nova Scotia.

Congratulations also to Americans Brad Funk 8th (who coached me in Florida last year) and Andrew Campbell 9th, who has been writing about the championships on his blog, CampbellSailing.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Rambled Muddlings

I was accused by a commenter yesterday of muddled ramblings. Oh baby, you ain't seen nothing yet. Today we will explore headstands, mistresses, butt photos, fridge doors, cephalopods, nose-picking, a torture gym, attempted rape and bondage.

Ready? OK. Hold on to your hats. Here we go.

At my first sailing club on Taplow Lake in the UK, most of the Laser fleet were in their teens or twenties. One of our favorite games was seeing how far you could climb up a Laser mast until the inevitable capsize happened. And a rite of initiation into full fleet membership was to be able to do a headstand on the foredeck of your Laser.

A few weeks ago I was reading Kayak Wisconsin and Derrick Mayoleth's accounts of various balancing feats in kayaks. I rather flippantly challenged him to do a headstand in his kayak, not even dreaming such a feat would be possible. It must be much more difficult to achieve on a kayak than a relatively broad-beamed Laser. But, whether as a result of my challenge or otherwise, Derrick has done it.

One of the members of that Laser fleet in Taplow was a teenage girl named Roberta. Full of enthusiasm and highly competitive she raced against the men every weekend and frequently beat us. Fast forward twenty years or so and that girl is now a married woman and already has a couple of Female Laser Master World Championships under her belt. It was a pleasure to meet up again with Roberta Hartley at the Masters Worlds in Cadiz in 2003.

I see that this week Roberta is racing in the UK Laser Masters at Stokes Bay. At the end of the second day she is leading the female masters (no -- we don't call them mistresses) and is second overall in the Laser Radial fleet. Way to go Roberta.

Yacht club websites usually have an attractive picture of their clubhouse or of some of their racing action. Kudos to Stokes Bay Sailing Club for daring to be different and having a picture of a Laser sailor's butt on the main page of its website.

When are we going to get to the bondage? Just be patient.

The responses to my questions as to Why Do You Hate Laser Sailors? were revealing. Many of you told me about how you think Laser sailors are the most wonderful people in the history of the planet and how all this inter-class rivalry is so juvenile. What a mature bunch you are.

But Fred, who is from Germany, at least gave me an honest answer. He said that one reason he hates Laser sailors is that Lasers look like a fridge door. So just for Fred who sails a Flying Dutchman, here is a picture of a fridge door.

And here is a picture of some Lasers.

And here is a picture of the skipper of a Flying Dutchman.

Fred also seems to be under the misapprehension that all Lasers are built in one big factory, whereas in fact they are built under license around the world in Europe, Japan, Australia and North and South America.

So again for Fred, here is a picture of an Australian.

And here is a picture of a North American.

Eugh. That's nasty. Sorry about that.
Just be glad I didn't give you a link to the video.

Did you forget about the bondage? Hey, this is a sailing blog. I think you're in the wrong place. Or maybe not.

One of my original Top Ten Sailing Blogs was Five O'Clock Somewhere. It continues to be one of my favorite sailing blogs with fascinating accounts of Carol Anne racing her Etchells, and insightful observation on sailing and family relationships. But please please do NOT go to read today's post on Five O'Clock Somewhere -- unless of course you really do want to read all about a torture gym, bondage and attempted rape.

OK thanks.

Oh. He went anyway? I guess he won't be back here anytime soon.

Was that muddled enough for you?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Clif Bars

sailing my Laser
need snack between the races
munch on a Clif Bar

easy to transport
pocket in my PFD
room for two Clif Bars

perfect sailing snack
does not melt in hot weather
still chewy when cold

packed full of good stuff
organic ingredients
healthy and tasty

organic rolled oats
organic roasted soybeans
soy flour and flaxseed

protein and fiber
carbohydrates, minerals
and vitamins too

glycemic index
is moderate which gives you
sustained energy

hey, you say, who cares
forget all of the science
they just taste damn good

great tasting flavors
plenty of variety
you can try them all

Black Cherry Almond
Carrot Cake and Chocolate Chip
are some of the best

tasty Apricot
and Oatmeal Raisin Walnut
sailing nutrition

munch between races
gives you an energy boost
hike harder next race

in frostbiting season
I rely on my Clif Bars
see me through the day

but don't dump wrapper
into the ocean or lake
keep it on the boat

and spell the name right
it's named after someone's Dad
one F please not two

makers have a blog
proves that they must be good guys
check out blah blah blog.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Maidenhead Sailing Club

If you are a dinghy sailor in the UK you are spoiled. You have so many sailing clubs to choose from. When I lived there it seemed like there was a club racing dinghies on every little patch of water in the country. I'm sure it must be the country with the highest density of sailing clubs in the world.

So when I lived in Maidenhead back in the early 80's and was looking for somewhere to race I could have chosen Maidenhead Sailing Club which is only a mile or two from the one in Taplow that I wrote about a few days ago. Like Taplow Lake SC, Maidenhead SC also sails on a small lake left over after gravel extraction. I remember going there for an evening meeting for potential new members. After a few free beers I was button-holed by some rabidly enthusiastic Solo sailor who took me outside in the dark to look at his boat and who then gave me the hard sell as to why the Solo was the best class in the world, the only boat that anyone with an ounce of intelligence would choose.

Somehow I managed to escape and for a while was thinking of buying a Solo. But then the impartial advice of another sailor whom I respected and the chance to try a Laser on vacation tipped me over into choosing a Laser. I joined Taplow because of some guy I met on the same vacation who was a member there and who invited me to join.

But Maidenhead Sailing Club was the place where I sailed my first "open meeting". Translation note for speakers of American English: when a sailing club hosts an event for members of other clubs to come and race with them, in Britspeak it is an open meeting, but in Amerispeak it's a regatta. Just like for reasons I never understood, in Britain we raced around buoys pronounced boys; but in America we race around buoys pronounced boo-eeze.

Booyah! No that's something else. Where was I?

Oh yeah. After a year of racing at Taplow, I was invited by the top Laser sailors there to go with them to the open meeting at Maidenhead. I didn't think I was ready to go and race at other clubs but they persuaded me and I am glad they did. I think I came around 6th or 7th in a fleet or about 20 boats so I was pretty pleased with myself and started traveling to more open meetings after that.

As I recall we raced some crazy figure eight course around those islands.

Judging by their website, Maidenhead SC is still thriving and has an active Laser fleet. Oh, and fleets of Solos and Albacores and a "menagerie" fleet too. But who cares about them? Regular readers of this blog know why Lasers are best and why other boats suck.

Only joking guys. The comments on this post about why so many of us become myopic about the "one true boat" were excellent. Live and let live, say I. Even Solo sailors.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Laser Beam Cocktail

Thanks to Joe Rouse for his post yesterday about the Laser Beam Cocktail which he dedicated to myself and a few other bloggers.

Here's Joe's recipe...

Laser Beam
1 fl oz (30ml) silver tequila

1 fl oz (30ml) Jack Daniel's

1 fl oz (30ml) amaretto

1/2 fl oz (15 ml) triple sec

Add ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Cover and shake. Strain into an old-fashioned glass. Drink at once and call the Tillerman in the morning about upwind sailing tactics.

Of course, being a suspicious kind of guy I had to check whether Joe was just spoofing us. A quick Google confirmed that there is indeed a real cocktail called a Laser Beam. Jennifer Oulette who writes a fascinating blog called Cocktail Party Physics (well fascinating if you are a geek like me) has some Physics Cocktails in her sidebar including this version of the Laser Beam which looks to have a lower Gillette rating than Joe's Laser Beam. (You didn't know that the Gillette is a unit of measurement of Laser output power?)

Laser Beam
Warning: may result in amplified stimulated emission.

1 oz Southern Comfort

1/2 oz Amaretto

1/2 oz sloe gin

1/2 oz vodka

1/2 oz Triple sec

7 oz orange juice

Combine all liquor in a full glass of ice. Shake well. Garnish with orange and cherry. Serve to attractive target of choice.

Of course the guys at Absolut Vodka have to have their own version of the Laser Beam which contains ice cream and raspberry puree and looks like a girlie drink to me. Definitely has a lower Gillette rating than the Joe Rouse Laser Beam.

Finally I would like to recommend to Joe these Laser Cocktail Parties.

A Evening of Fun, Friends and Fuzz Removal
Laser hair removal for the bikini line.
Bring 2 friends with you for laser treatments and your treatment is free.
Bikini $150
Brazilian $200
Prices are per session
Cheese, Chocolate and Cocktails Served

Friday, July 21, 2006

Taplow Lake Sailing Club

Seems like all my sailing blogging buddies are catching Google Earth Fever. Soulsailor, Litoralis and a ton of folk on the LiveSailDie forum are posting satellite image screen shots of where they sail now, or where they learned to sail, or their back yard swimming pool where their Dad threw them in the pool when they were three.

So to continue the trend here's a shot of Taplow Lake near Maidenhead which is west of London in the UK.

It's currently the home of Taplow Lake Sailing Club but when I sailed there back in the dark ages it was known as ICI Slough Sailing Club. It was really a company sailing club (ICI had a paint factory in Slough) but they accepted some non-employees like me. This is where I first started racing my Laser. I wrote about it here. You can see the club docks on the left side of the lake; I've no idea why all those cars are parked on the right side. The diagonal line across the top left-hand corner is actually a railway embankment for the main railway line running west out of London; it caused some interesting effects in a north-westerly wind.

It's good to read that they still have a Laser fleet -- here they are in action.

So, with the exception of the couple of years I sailed at Rutland Sailing Club, my summer "home" club has always been a puddle like Taplow Lake or the inaccurately named Mountain Lake in New Jersey where I live now. There is a theory that puddles breed the best racing sailors (along with mosquitoes and frogs of course). What do you think?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Where You At???

The LiveSailDie forum has a thread entitled Where you at??? in which contributors are encouraged to post a Google Earth screen shot of where they sail. Problem is that I'm a sailing vagabond.

vag·a·bond n.
1. A person without a permanent home who moves from place to place.
2. A vagrant; a tramp.
3. A wanderer; a rover.

I live near a lake with a Sunfish fleet with which I sail only occasionally nowadays; I am a member of another local club on a reservoir where I sometimes sail Lasers on Sundays and Sunfish on Wednesdays; I travel around to Laser regattas; in the winters I do Laser frostbiting at yet another club two states away; and when I worked as a sailing instructor it was at another different club.

I don't have a "home club".

But here is a screenshot of the first lake mentioned including a picture of my house if you know where to look.

And here is a photo taken of sailing on this lake around 1912.

In 1912 the town was still being developed. There are more trees now and the boats being sailed have changed a little... but not much.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Seven Reasons to Hate Laser Sailors

Why do people hate Laser sailors?

No, I'm not getting paranoid. That was a question that OG from LiveSailDie asked me in a Skype Chat we had yesterday. To be fair to OG her question was a little more mild, "Why do non Laser Sailors dislike Laser sailors so much?"

And she went on to explain, "RQYS is a massive Laser club. We have world champions, national champions, state champions. But there are some who think they are lonely boring people with no life, just cause they are a single handed class."

I must admit her question floored me. In 25 years of Laser sailing I've not come across much antipathy from other sailors. So I can only speculate on why some folk may have a thing against Laser sailors...

1. Laser sailors are cheats. I have heard some people express the opinion that Laser sailors use too much kinetics and that they just rock and roll their boats around the course. One reason that I was invited to give the Rule 42 seminar at my club this winter was, I suspect, that the powers-that-be thought that as the most experienced Laserite in the club I would have had more exposure to illegal propulsion examples. It is true that the Laser responds well to all the banned go-fast techniques - pumping, rocking, repeated roll tacks and gybes etc. And you do occasionally see it. But my experience is that we are pretty good at policing ourselves and at major events we have judges on the water strictly enforcing Rule 42.

2. Laser sailors are a bunch of drunken party animals. Way back in the early days of the Laser when it was predominately sailed by a bunch of aggressive young guys there were some stories of wild behavior at regatta parties that was frowned on by the more staid members of host yacht clubs. But the class has aged. A high percentage of the class membership are now masters (over 35) and our alcohol tolerance is nowhere near good enough to get wasted on Saturday night and then sail a Laser all day on Sunday. Sure, there are always new youth sailors coming into the class but my experience of the young people in the class these days are that they are, for the most part, well-behaved, respectful, and serious about their sport.

I was interested to observe that at this year's Newport Regatta there were no 420's. The reason I discovered was that they had been banned because at the previous year's regatta the 420 class had been so badly behaved. What's the world coming to? Kids in 420's outdrinking Laser sailors!

3. Laser sailors don't spend enough in the yacht club bar. Come on guys. You can't have it both ways. We can't be wild debauching drunks and stingy teetotallers. Actually this one may be nearer the truth. Laser sailors love their racing. Indeed some of them (but not all) are so serious about it that they will be very careful about their alcohol consumption during a regatta. Most of us join a yacht club for the sailing, not for the social scene.

4. The Laser isn't a "real" sailboat. There is some snobbery against Laser sailors. Some people seem to think that a "real" sailing dinghy has to have three sails and preferably a trapeze or two. So what? If you want to sail a 505 or a 49er go for it. Each to their own. Just because you prefer a particular class of boat don't go around saying other boats "suck". Even Optimists have their place. 188,000 Laser owners can't be wrong.

5. If we allow Lasers at our club it will hurt the other classes. Yeah, there may be some truth in this one. The Laser is a popular class. It may steal fleet members from classes that are not so much fun to sail, or that are more expensive, or that are more work to maintain and transport. But inter-class competition is not a zero sum game. Clubs need popular fleets that will grow the sport.

6. The club is getting over-run with Lasers. This is an actual quote from the commodore of the club where I started a Laser fleet last year. All of a sudden one Sunday it seemed like there were Lasers everywhere. They had become the largest fleet at the club almost overnight. So what? Don't you want to attract new members and have active thriving racing fleets?

7. Laser sailors walk around with big smiles on their faces exuding a feeling of smug satisfaction that they sail the best boat in the world. True.

So what have I missed? Why do you hate Laser sailors?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Caption Contest

I know I'm going to hate myself for doing this but there is something about this lady's hiking style -- not to mention that hand behind her -- that demands I challenge my readers to a contest to devise the best caption for this photo. The pic was stolen from Sailing Anarchy and is from some girls' regatta in Catalina 37's on the left coast of these united states.

Usual prizes -- winner receives a cup-holder for his or her boat lovingly crafted from duct tape. Second prize -- two cup-holders. And so on.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Publicity for Fleet Building - Seven Tips

Ten days ago I wrote Top Ten Tips on Fleet Building in which I promised to post more on the subject of publicity in support of building a fleet of one-design racing dinghies. This is probably the most important part of the whole job of fleet-building. "If you build it, they will come" ain't necessarily true if "they", your target audience of fleet members, have never heard of you.

1. Build a killer website. In this day and age the web is the prime source of information on local sailing opportunities. So if you build a professional-looking website it will get out the word about your fleet but also, very importantly, communicate that you are serious, well-organized and know how to do stuff properly. As a role model look no further than the site of the Cedar Point YC Laser Fleet in Connecticut. First thing that hits you is a picture of around 30 Lasers racing so you know straight away that this is a thriving fleet that might be worth joining. Basic information about the Laser and the CPYC Laser racing program follows immediately and then you can browse through a vast amount of information about the fleet: race reports, results, picture galleries of racing, notice of race, sailing instructions, schedules, links to class associations, boat shop, weather sites, how to contact the fleet captain... In other words everything you could possibly want to know about the fleet. Plus the whole site communicates an image of an active, well-run, thriving fleet.

2. Use the local press and TV. Don't just rely on the internet. Get the news out about your fleet in the local traditional media. Invite journalists to visit your club and take them out sailing. Here for example is a three page spread that one local New Jersey fleet managed to place in their local newspaper simply by inviting a journalist and photographer to visit them for their Wednesday night sailing.

3. Organize a regatta. Your fleet may be small now but one way to publicize it and help it grow is to organize a regatta. This will attract other local sailors of your class to your sailing venue and they will spread the word around the class about your fleet. Of course you are going to blast about publicity about the regatta, before and afterwards, on the web and in traditional media, and this will also help to tell the world about your fleet.

4. Do publicity stunts. Stunts? Sounds a bit negative? Not really. What I mean is that everything you can do to place articles in the media about your club and fleet is worthwhile. (Well, I guess not literally everything. I don't recommend burning down the clubhouse for example.) The local press are aching for unusual stories. The little sock-burning event that we organized last winter wasn't really about destroying old socks or even celebrating the vernal equinox. It was an opportunity to provide the local newspaper with a quirky story about the sailing club and to make local readers aware of our existence.

5. Publish a fleet newsletter - or place articles about your fleet in the club newsletter. Again - don't just depend on the web. Old-fashioned paper newsletters are picked up by all kinds of people. Send copies to your local boat shops, other local yacht clubs, local press outlets. Hand out copies to everyone who expresses a vague interest in your fleet.

6. Publish an email newsletter. Send out a short weekly email about the recent and future happenings in your fleet. Send it to all current fleet members, everyone who has inquired about the fleet, friends you think might be interested in your fleet, people you think ought to be interested in your fleet... Some may see it as spam but it will continue to communicate that the fleet is active, interesting stuff is going on there, and maybe next Sunday I'll mosey on down to the club and check them out.

7. Make up some fliers about the fleet and stick them everywhere you can think of. The Laser fleet that I started last year sails on a reservoir and there is a large boat park that is open to the public, not just sailing club members. So we left fliers about our new Laser fleet under the cover of every Laser in the boat park and attracted some new members that way. Post the fliers on noticeboards that will be seen by prospective sailors. Hand them out to anyone even vaguely interested in the fleet.

OK - I'm sure there are lots of other ways to publicize a fleet. What am I missing?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Losing It

I expect everyone has seen the Zidane headbutt incident from the World Cup. And we can all tut tut about these emotional soccer players, and how sailors would never lose their temper and do something disgraceful like this. But is that true? I can think of two incidents, one on the water and one off, where dinghy racing sailors have committed outrageous incidents at least as crazy as this one.

World Cup foul

Have you seem anything like this in sailing? A prize of a duct tape cup-holder for the best story.

Image copied from montevino's photos on Flickr.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

How Slippery Is Your Bottom?

We all know that we need to keep the hulls of our racing boats clean and smooth. We are sure that if the hull is covered in scratches or grime or barnacles it will slow us down. Smooth is fast. But how smooth? Is it sufficient to wet-sand the bottom of the hull with 400-grit sandpaper or do we need to sand it with progressively finer and finer grades, and polish it until it shines, and apply special slippery finishes (if our class rules allow them)? If you are a racing sailor you can really obsess over this stuff. How slippery should your bottom be?

You could ask the scientists and engineers and they will confuse you with talk of boundary layers, and laminar and turbulent flow, and Reynolds numbers and drag coefficients. Just remember folks, these are the guys that designed the Titanic, not to mention racing yachts whose hulls snap in half and canting keels that leak. It should be obvious that despite all the high-faluting talk of hydrodynamical and aerodynamical theories, nobody really understands everything there is to know about how to make a yacht go fast. How boring it would be if they did. The rest of us would have nothing to argue about.

All the theoretical spouting about hull smoothness seems to assume that water at some point is flowing smoothly in a layer close to the hull. Hello people. Come sail a Laser some time. It's bouncing around in the waves and the chop. I find it hard to imagine any water molecules flowing smoothly like they do in all the fancy hydrodynamics textbooks.

So how do you know if your hull is smooth enough?

Feel the surface with your fingers? Who says that water "feels" the hull the same way your fingers do? Admire the shiny polished surface that you can see your reflection in? Why should how the water flows over the hull have anything to do with its optical qualities? (And by the way, that reflection of you is even uglier than the real thing.) Oh, so you applied Teflon polish to your hull and the water "beads up" on it? So, you're telling me that your hull repels water and you think that's a good thing? Hmmm - don't know about that.

And what about riblets? Sharks seem to do pretty well with a rough skin. Perhaps tiny little grooves or even dimples (think golf balls) would be faster than a perfectly smooth finish. Dennis Conner seemed to think so with his riblets on Stars and Stripes in 1987.

Or is it all psychological? Will you be fast if you think your hull is fast? If you spend hours sanding and polishing your hull will it give you the feeling that your preparation is as perfect as it could be and that you have left yourself with no excuse to lose. Will your brain magically make you superfast? Maybe.

What do you think?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Bad Race

After a great general recalled start, I struggled for a lane off the line in the second start. A group of 5 boats tacked inexplicably onto port directly in front of me leaving me only one real option: to tack. Upon completing my tack onto port, only one guy was left in the bad air and wake of the committee boat end. I glanced, thought I could cross, and knowing that there was little chance any Newport sailor on my hip would respond to a "room to tack" hail, I pressed my bow down to attempt to get across. My friend on starboard seeing the entire situation develop as I had chose a different option than to tack like I had or crack off slightly and duck, instead smacking my transom about 3 inches from the back. I don't really know why I didn't spin a 720, but perhaps I've had too much of Newport, and Newport sailors blatantly cross without a care in the world as to who was on starboard. I raced on to my worst race of the series, a 45th only to learn that I was under protest when I checked in at the dock.

Sorry. I've been messing with you. I bet you thought that was a story about me sailing in my usual mediocre way in the bottom half of the fleet at Newport last weekend? It could have been. But it's not. The whole paragraph should be in block quotes, and instead of the references to "Newport sailors", substitute "Europeans". Sorry Newport guys -- you're the best.

No, I didn't write it. The story was stolen from here and is an account by Andrew Campbell of one of his races in the recent Laser European Championships in Poland. Andrew Campbell is one of the leading American Laser sailors, winner of the 2005 North Americans and Midwinters East, winner at CORK in 2001 and 2003, and ISAF Youth World Champion in 2002. Like many of the top guys from the Americas and Australasia he knows he has to compete on the highly competitive European Laser circuit if he is ever going to raise his game to the next level, to qualify and medal in the Olympics.

Why did I steal Andrew's story? Well, in a strangely perverse way I found it motivating. It helps when I have a bad day on the water to know that even the top guys have disappointing days too. (Andrew's story is taken from a post titled Bitter Disappointment in Poland.) Even if you are a big fish in a pretty big pond, you can still be humbled when you go and sail against the even bigger fish in the ocean.

But that's the only way to improve: to race against the best. I should remember that.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

And The Winner Is...

I didn't exactly set up my questions about a sailor's "edge" as a competition. But if I had, the winner would be the wise and insightful comments from Zen, who chose to make an analogy with martial arts training.

But first let me clarify the question as it appears that I confused at least one commenter. By "edge" I mean the advantage that a good sailor in a particular racing class has over average sailors in that class. It might be boat speed, better boat-handling, superb timing on the start line, or all of the above. Anyone who has spent any time in a one-design class knows that there are some sailors who have that "edge" and others who don't. Of course it's all relative. I have an edge, an advantage over the other sailors in my home fleet; but when I go to major regattas as I did last weekend I find many sailors whose edges are sharper than mine.

The question was how to hone and maintain that edge. Is it better to stick to one class of racing boat or spend time doing various kinds of sailing in a variety of boats?

Interestingly the answers were all over the map. Hydroceano wrote that diversifying my boating activities "would be like asking Hemingway to write fan blogs about Buffy the Vampire." Hmmm -- what an image that conjures up! Might be a good challenge for a writing contest. And several commenters agreed with OG that variety is the spice of life.

But Zen took a middle view between the two extremes with these thoughts based on his martial arts experience...

We train with several different weapons to know different "feels" and energy of it is applied. However there is "one" weapon that becomes you. Though you play with others there is one that is yours. Depending on much you toy with the other main gets better if you do not abandon it. You do not give it up you just expand your experiences and it sometime makes you better, because SOME things which are to that other weapon's experience and therefore new can be adapted to raise your main weapon skill level.

Or another way, Doing Tai Chi, helps improve one's Shaolin style.

However... they must be kept as separate minds

Cross training can be effective to understand weak and strong points of another style. All is not Yang or Yin, both contain elements of the other. To understand one better, the other must be experienced.

Eric Twiname who wrote Sail, Race and Win, the best all-time book on self-coaching for sailboat racing, would have agreed with Zen. Twiname lists "swapping boats and classes" as one of his twelve ways of learning. Quoting Gary Hoyt's Go for the Gold, he says that "each class emphasizes some particular skill, and if you learn that class you will have learned that particular skill better than anyone who has not sailed that class."

I especially like Zen's opinion that "there is 'one' weapon that becomes you." In the subtitle of this blog I unconsciously defined myself as "a Laser sailor", not as a guy who sails Lasers a lot and sometimes sails other boats.

Has my weapon become me?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Newport Regatta - Top Ten Random Memories

The annual Newport Regatta on the weekend of 8/9 July welcomed 254 Boats from 18 States, the USVI, Canada and France. With racing covering 5 racing circles in Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island Sound, there was racing absolutely everywhere. On the circle for the Laser class we had 49 Lasers and 26 Radials including some of the best Laser sailors in New England.

And I hear that fellow blogger Eliboat was there too, narrowly escaping death 110 style.

I could tell you about the light winds on Saturday and the better winds on Sunday and give you a blow-by-blow account of how I managed to maintain my mid-fleet mediocrity in every race. But instead here are my top ten random best memories of the 2006 Newport Regatta.

1. Being Recognized. I drove into the parking lot with my boat trailer and the guy in the next slot said to me, "Do I know you?" We exchanged (real) names and discovered that we had met at the Rick White Seminar last year. Then when he told me where he came from I realized that we had both sailed at Lake Whippersnapper on the same day three weeks ago.

"Oh yeah, you whipped ass that day, didn't you?" he recalled.

"Sure did."

2. Sailing with the 12's. On the way out to the course on Saturday morning there were three classic 12-metre yachts sailing up the bay too, including Freedom the winner of the America's Cup in 1980. What a thrill to be sailing with these old ladies.

3. Losing and finding my groove. On Saturday the winds were light and shifty and I felt out of touch with the boat and that I didn't know how to sail. Then on Sunday the wind picked up and I could hike and plane and ride the waves and I felt like I was in the groove. Funny thing though -- my results were much the same both days. Go figure.

4. Sunday morning church. I'm not a religious person so on Sunday morning at 10 am I was sailing a broad reach out to the race course, screaming across the width of Narragansett Bay on a broad reach, the Newport Bridge towering over me, sailboats of every description all around me, big smile on my face, hell I might even have been shouting out a few whoops...

Is this heaven? No, it's Rhode Island.

5. Laser Girls Kick Ass. As expected there was a strong contingent of females in the Radial fleet but also several very good women sailors in the Standard Laser fleet. That's a good sign as for too long there have been very few women sailing Lasers. I find myself dueling in several races for mid-fleet places with a tall fit young woman and thinking, "Who is that gal?" I googled her afterwards and discovered she is an internationally ranked sailor in Europe and Laser Radial classes and a national champion (as crew) in Lightnings and Snipes.

Hmmm - I am moving in some good circles these days.

6. Meeting a former pupil. Hey - I know that name. There was this 14-year-old kid sailing in the Laser Radial fleet who turned out to be a kid I had taught to sail in a Sunfish when he was about 8 years old. The family had moved to Rhode Island and I hadn't seen him for years. I met his parents on Sunday and they proudly told me how he was racing 420s in high school and had been enthusiastically sailing his Radial every weekend of the bitterly cold New England winter with the Newport Laser Frostbite fleet.

It's gratifying when you can light a spark and see it turn into a raging fire.

7. Straightening out a cheater. I came round the weather mark in one race on Sunday, caught a wave and then saw this young guy in front of me wildly pumping his mainsheet like he had a tic in his elbow.

"Hey - the rule says one pump per wave, not one pump per second. Pack it in if you don't want to get protested."

He looked back at me sullenly but toned down his pumping. I worked my way past him on the next beat and after rounding the leeward mark on the next downwind leg I saw that he had capsized on the run.

Ha. There is a god. Cheaters never prosper.

8. Seeing Northern Light. On the way back to the launch area, after racing on Sunday, I was rolled to windward by the vintage wooden 12-metre US-14 Northern Light built in 1938 and restored by Robert Tiedemann. Hey - this beauty was in WoodenBoat magazine recently - that's why she looks so familiar. I did have luffing rights on her but out of respect for such a beautiful yacht I chose not to exercise them. I just hung out there in the sunshine and breeze and enjoyed the moment.

9. Dissing a big ass powerboat. A few minutes later the sun and wind were shut off as some ugly slab of a luxury "megayacht" chugged by with the roar from about 2000 hp of diesel engines and the windshadow you would expect from a four story apartment building approximately the length of a Manhattan city block. I shouted at the fat white guy standing on one of the after decks who I hoped was the owner, "Why would you want to own a piece of shit like that when you could be sailing a Laser?"

And I meant it.

10. Sharing the weekend with Tillerwoman. My wife doesn't sail. But she comes to most regattas with me. This weekend she was there for me, picking up my dolly after launching, going off to browse the shops in Newport while I sailed, and then there again with my dolly as soon as I hit the beach at the end of each day, tolerating a car full of wet smelly sailing gear and never complaining.

Thanks you dear -- you're the best.

Wait a minute -- she doesn't read blogs either.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Duct Tape

I always take a roll of duct tape with me when I go sailing. It can fix most things that need a temporary repair. Seems like those NASA astronauts have the same philosophy: one of the astronauts on the current shuttle mission suggested using duct tape to fix a loose jet-backpack.

So what's the most unusual use of duct tape that you've come across?

Monday, July 10, 2006

Sailor's Edge

Paul Foerster, 470 Olympic gold medalist in Athens, won the Sunfish North Americans in Texas last month.

The other week, after Wednesday night Sunfish sailing, it was my pleasure to sit next to a former North American Sunfish champion. Very former. Let's call my friend Dave. Just as well because that's his real name too. Dave won the NAs over 40 years ago and is still sailing Sunfish and winning regattas.

That I was sitting next to a national sailing champion for beer and pizza is not too surprising. This Wednesday night fleet that races a weird little boat design that's over 50 years old on an obscure lake in New Jersey includes at least four former national champions in various classes, a couple of former Olympic campaigners, plus two guys who can regularly beat the lot of them in Sunfish. If I break the top eight in this fleet I know I'm having a good night.

But I digress. As I mentioned, Dave has been sailing and winning in the same class for over 40 years. He was telling me a tale about winning a regatta recently at a club that had a perpetual trophy - one of those where they engrave the names of the winners on plaques on the trophy. Well, it was noticed that someone with the same name as Dave had won the trophy back in the 1960s. Dave, whose sense of humor is even more droll than mine, had convinced the regatta organizers that the winner back then was his father. Of course it was really him.

Anyway, after a few stories like this I thought that Dave was the perfect person to answer "The Question". This is the question that has been bugging me after reading all these boating blogs for the past year or two. You see I'm a bit like Dave. Not in being a champion, but in sticking with the same boat, in my case the Laser, for decade after decade. I only sail the Sunfish because that's what they sail in North Jersey lakes and when in Rome...

But you guys who write blogs have started me thinking. Dangerous stuff thought. You see you sound like you're having so much fun doing different kinds of boating from the stuff that I do. Dan is taking out friends for rides on his trimaran on Buzzards Bay, Bob has been sailing a Beneteau from Bermuda to New York, Orkun has been match racing a J24 with a multi-national crew and Michael has been "tripping the Gaspe" in his kayak. So I keep having these thoughts that I should try different sorts of watery activity, cruising or day-sailing or racing keelboats or sea kayaking. So many choices.

So I asked Dave the question. "In all the years you've been racing Sunfish, have you never been tempted to try some other kinds of sailing?"

He thought for a few seconds and then asked me in a puzzled tone as if the question had never occurred to him, "Why?"

"Well, I've been thinking it might be fun to sail bigger boats or go cruising or maybe even kayaking. None of us are getting any younger. It seems a good idea to try as many options as we can while we're still fit enough to do them."

Dave looked troubled and pondered this for a few more seconds. "I suppose you could. But just remember, you'll lose your edge."

Dave has an edge racing his Sunfish for sure. I'm not sure I have an edge. What is an "edge" anyway? What do you think? Do we become better racing sailors by sticking to one class for decades; or do we develop more as sailors by sailing different boats? Comments please.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

'Live Sail Die' Goes to Mecca

Newport is the Mecca of world-wide yachting.

OK. OK. I know some of you want to argue about that. The Brits will tout Cowes, the Aussies will rant about Sydney, the left coast Yanks will rave about San Francisco Bay, and the Chesapeake Bay crowd will even suggest that Naptown can compete for the title.

But they are all wrong. Newport is it, the center, the place, the Mecca of world-wide yachting.

And this weekend, Live Sail Die, that little upstart sailing website enterprise from the other side of the planet, made it to Newport in the form of a sticker on my boat trailer at the Newport Regatta. I'm sure the business will take off like a rocket after this exposure to all the yachties in Newport.

Well done guys. You have arrived. (But it was pure luck. If I hadn't broken my Laser trailer last week, I wouldn't have needed to use my Sunfish trailer with the LSD sticker to take my Laser to Newport.)

More on the regatta coming soon...

Saturday, July 08, 2006

College Admission for Sailors

Scheherazade from Stay of Execution, who in real life is the sailing coach at an elite US college, had an intriguing post on Thursday. She said...
I would never blog about the things parents do and say to coaches, in an attempt to gain an advantage for their children in the admissions process.

Which is too bad for you, because sometimes, it is extremely misguided, and extremely entertaining.

I can't imagine what she is talking about. Buy maybe you can. Here is the challenge. What do you think is the most outrageous, misguided or entertaining thing you might do, or say to the college sailing coach, if you were desperate to secure the support of the coach in assisting your precious child, your pride and joy, to gain admission to that college?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Top Ten Tips on Fleet Building

Some ideas on how to encourage growth of a racing fleet...

I've been a member of various fleets of racing sailboats over the years and seen lots of others. Most of them were in a state of decline or, at best, holding steady in terms of numbers of sailors participating. One or two were a roaring success, growing every year, breaking records for participation every season. What were the successful ones doing differently?

What follows are my random thoughts and observations on the subject. Feel free to disagree, argue, add your own ideas. I don't claim to be an expert on this subject by any means. Also, bear in mind that my experience has mainly been with small one-design dinghies. Different factors may come into play with larger boats and handicap fleets.

Publicity. You have to get out the word about your fleet to every potential member in your area through every possible medium. This is so important that I'll write a separate post on this subject.

Go with the flow. By this I mean you have to recognize what kinds of boat are popular in your area and what is likely to be successful. If you live in an area where every other club has a thriving fleet of Boat X and they already have an established inter-club racing circuit then there's probably a good reason for that and you will have more fun sailing Boat X too and a greater chance of success building a Boat X fleet at your club. Don't try and grow a fleet of Boat Y which is a near clone of Boat X.

Sell to everyone. Have the attitude that everyone you meet is a potential fleet member. Let people know you sail and find opportunities to strike up conversations about sailing and your fleet. At work. At parties. At other activities. In shops. Who knows? Your mailman, or the guy that services your car, or the kid that photocopies your newsletter may be the next recruit for your fleet. (You do have a fleet newsletter don't you.)

Find boats and put people in them. This is critical. Scour newspapers, forums, eBay, craigslist, every source you can imagine to find second-hand boats for sale. Then when you come across a potential fleet member you can put them in touch with someone selling a boat. It may be obvious but this is crucial. You won't get people in your fleet unless they have the right kind of boat for your fleet. So make it easy for them to buy the right boat.

Be friendly. Go out of your way to welcome new members to your fleet. Help them with rigging the boat. Offer advice. Answer their questions. Give them tips. Make them feel wanted.

Organize well-run races. Sailors like to race at a club where things happen on time, start lines and course are square, signals are clear and correct, etc. etc. If you let race management become sloppy, sailors will get pissed off and go somewhere else.

Insist on fair racing. Nobody likes protests but serious racers don't like racing in fleets where nobody cares about observing the racing rules either. Create an atmosphere where it's expected that rules will be followed, penalties taken and, if necessary, protests speedily and fairly handled.

Teach. Organize seminars and clinics, informal or formal, to teach new fleet members about how to improve their racing skills and how to go fast in your fleet. Everyone wants to improve. Make it easy for them. One simple way to do this is to have the winner of each day's racing do a short debrief after racing on how he or she did it. The more you share the more the fun for everyone.

Socialize. Organize off-the-water social activities where the sailors in your fleet can hang out together and have a good time. It might be as simple as beer and pizza after racing or as elaborate as an annual dinner dance. For many people the social side is just as important as the racing side of fleet membership.

It's up to you. Every successful and thriving fleet I've ever seen has had one enthusiastic individual who is plugging away year after year at all these activities of fleet building. A relentless dynamo of a person, a cheerleader, who devotes all of his or her energies to promoting and growing the fleet. I've seen one fleet where the same guy has been doing this for twenty years. He may not always be the fleet captain. He may delegate a lot of the jobs of running the fleet to others. But he's there behind the scenes pushing, persuading, promoting, twisting arms, solving problems, making things happen. Can you be that person for your fleet?

OK. What have I missed? There must be a hundred items we could add to this list. Go for it.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Happy Birthday

They say it's your birthday
It's my birthday too, yeah

They say it's your birthday

We're gonna have a good time

I'm glad it's your birthday
Happy birthday to you.

Happy Birthday George. We share a birthday and are much the same age but we don't have much in common.

One thing we do have in common is that we have both been married to our wives for a long time -- in my case over thirty years. Our wives were both schoolteachers. I hope you realize that marrying these ladies was the best thing either of us ever did.

Since 2000 you and I have both been living the life of which we dreamed. I have been sailing and living slow and traveling to Australia and Europe and the Caribbean and chilling out with my bride and my kids and my granddaughter. You have been... oh never mind. Each to their own.

I'm glad it's your birthday. Happy Birthday to you. Today you have a meeting with some guy from Canada and I'm going to see my granddaughter. I hope you have as much fun as I do today. But somehow I doubt it.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Triple A Blues

Life's a reach and then you gybe.

So there I was on Tuesday morning, driving to the lake with the beautiful Tillerwoman by my side, my fast shiny Laser on the trailer behind us, thinking back to the post I wrote earlier about how much sailing I was doing lately, and looking forward to the long-distance race around the reservoir and the picnic and barbecue to follow, feeling mellow and self-satisfied and in the slow living fast sailing groove... when all of a sudden there's a kind of jingling noise from the back of the car.

I stop and pull over off the highway. Hmmm. It's not one of the safety chains dangling on the road. Oh no - much worse than that. The single leaf spring on one side of the trailer has snapped. The tire is already shredding the plastic fender to smithereens. And we're stuck. Like any good sailor my thoughts immediately turn to duct tape. No. Don't think duct tape is going to cut it this time. Other options? Abandon the trailer by the side of the road, drive home, fetch another trailer to pick up the boat, come back again with the second trailer to carry the first trailer? Complicated.

So I phone AAA. For the non-Americans reading this, AAA is the nationwide roadside emergency recovery service in the USA. I've been paying over $100 a year for their Plus Enhanced Super Duper Get-You-Home-Fast service or whatever it's called and never had to use them before. Now's the time to get my money's worth.

While I'm waiting for AAA to answer, a state trooper pulls up behind us and hails us on his car's loud-hailer, "Do you need any assistance?"

Not having a loud hailer as part of my car's standard equipment, I start to walk back to him to engage in a person-to-person as opposed to car-to-car conversation, when he suddenly turns on his flashing blue lights, hails, "I'll be back," and disappears in hot pursuit of some transgressing vehicle that he has spotted.

In a surprisingly short time, no longer than a couple of aeons, AAA answers the phone and a nice lady asks how she can help me.

"I'm in New Jersey on route 78 westbound at mile 24 and I'm towing a boat trailer and the leaf spring has broken so we're disabled."

"Which state is that in?"

Uh oh. Now we're really in trouble. I wonder for a while if I'm talking to some call center in India.

"Um, actually New Jersey IS a state."

"Oh. I'm in Michigan. I wonder why you got through to me."

So she's not in Mumbai. I marvel at the wonder of an American (she sounds American anyway) who doesn't recognize the names of all fifty states. Don't they all learn the state capitals too in fifth grade? OK, I can forgive someone for thinking that West Virginia is only a country song. But New Jersey? Come on people. It's July 4th. Much of the Revolutionary War was fought here. The Statue of Liberty is here. (Check a chart of New York Harbor if you don't believe me.) Simon and Garfunkel had a song about counting the cars here. In any case I'm dependent on this geographically challenged lady for my recovery.

After another couple of aeons and much polite chit chat about my accent and where I'm from and so on and so on, my new friend in Michigan manages to locate New Jersey on a map and even finds the road I'm on.

"So what city are you in?"

"I'm not in a city - I'm in the middle of nowhere at mile 24 on route 78."

Michigan Mary finally deduces to her satisfaction that I'm actually in the "City of Lebanon." OK, if it makes her happy. As long as she doesn't send the tow vehicle to the "State of Beirut." She then asks if it's OK if she puts me on hold while she transfers me to one of her colleagues in New Jersey. Fine.

So there I am waiting by the side of the road for a lifetime or two listening to the AAA recorded Michigan Muzak until Nancy from New Jersey comes on the line. I explain my predicament and then she tells me that AAA only covers car breakdowns not trailers, so I'm not covered. But she can give me the number of a local towing service if it's OK if she puts me on hold while she looks for it.

So there I am still waiting by the side of the road, while a couple of galaxies form and die, listening to the New Jersey AAA recorded messages telling me about what a great service they provide and how I can book a cruise or a trip to Europe or get my toenails cleaned through them. (I may have imagined that last bit). But apparently paying for a tow vehicle to recover a broken trailer is not part of the service that I've paid two thousand bucks for over the last few years. Nor apparently is finding that phone number of the tow service before a significant percent of the life of the solar system has elapsed.

I'm still on hold with Nancy and the recorded messages about rotating your tires and flossing your teeth or whatever when the state trooper comes back. With the phone in one ear I explain my predicament. "Oh, I can get you a tow service," he says. He goes back to his car, makes the call, returns and says the towing service will be here "momentarily". I hang up with AAA in the middle of a recorded message about life insurance for pets and thank him profusely.

And he was right. A truck arrives in a few minutes and we quickly winch the boat and trailer on to the flatbed and we're on our way home. It wasn't free. It wasn't cheap. But it was fast and friendly and efficient.

I never thought I'd say it but I love the New Jersey State Police. What service!

And AAA sucks.

How was your Independence Day? Better than mine I hope.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Today's Tuesday - I Must Be Sailing

Life seems to have settled into a very satisfying groove just lately with days of sailing alternated with days of living slow.

Last Wednesday was twilight Sunfish racing series at the reservoir followed by beer and pizza at the local inn. My racing results were very average but the company and conversation afterwards were first class.

Thursday I was aiming to go for a run but my ankle was hurting and getting worse the further I ran and then the knee on the same side was starting to hurt so it was a good excuse to take a few days off running and live even more slowly.

Friday it was back to the reservoir with the Laser to practice for the pursuit race on Tuesday. A superb afternoon for sailing, cruising all around the lake into bays into which we only venture during the July 4th long distance race.

Saturday I dug out the bike from the back of the shed and went for a spin to get some exercise without running. Just a short loop around the local llama farm. Baaaaah. Spit.

Sunday I had a choice. Laser regatta in Connecticut, Laser racing back at the reservoir, or Sunfish sailing on the lake across the road from home? Feeling lazy and not wanting to spend any unnecessary time driving or stuck in traffic jams on a hot holiday weekend, I chose the fleet across the road. This is the ultimate off-the-beach club. No clubhouse. No safety boat or race committee boat -- indeed no race committee. The wind was from the south at 10-15 knots which is the only direction that is at all fun on this lake. Even so it was crazy shifty and puffy. We raced for three hours and towards the end I was finally getting back my Sunfish groove and hanging in with the fleet leaders.

Monday I went for a run to test out the ankle and found that it was OK. Jogged for forty minutes. Must register for my next marathon soon. Strolled down to the local restaurant with Tillerwoman. Smoked trout for starters and then soft shell crabs. Life is good.

Tuesday, today, is America's birthday so it's back to the reservoir for the pursuit race and then barbecue on the beach and just chilling out by the lake to celebrate Thomas Jefferson's inventing fireworks and hot dogs and apple pie when he wasn't too busy impregnating the slaves etc. I guess life was good in 1776 in Virginia. Happy birthday America and Tommy. Oops sorry Tommy -- I almost forgot -- it's not your birthday, you died on July 4th 1826. I mean, "Rest in peace."

Wednesday is another day for chilling out.

Then Thursday is President George Walker Bush's birthday. Hooray. Wave some flags. Has anybody organized a regatta? No? Ah well. This would be a sailing day but we'll be driving up to New England.

Friday is for chilling out with cutest granddaughter in the world.

Then Saturday is back to Laser racing again. I just registered for the Newport Regatta in Rhode Island. Last time this was a blast with a gazillion short races in the weekend just off Goat Island in Newport Harbor.

Life is good.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Upcoming Features

Upcoming Features in the July issue of Proper Course ...
  • Top Ten Tips on Building a Racing Fleet - partly in response to Carol Anne's query about how to revive a racing program.

  • Race Management - another guest appearance by world-renowned expert Joe the PRO (if I can persuade or bribe him to write some more stuff).

  • Teaching Sailing to Kids - how to combine fun, learning and safety in a junior sailing program.

  • Reviews of Sailing Gear - Johnsee has a wiki, Ant likes tags, I'm just going to review some of the stuff I have, throw it out there and see where it sticks.

  • Technical Corner: more geekfests on some fascinating topics such as How Slippery Should Your Bottom Be? (requested by Litoralis) or How Do Sails Work? (requested by Cardinal Martini) based on Tillerman's complete ignorance about the technical aspects of sailing and infinite confidence in his ability to bullshit on any sailing related topic.

  • More thrilling accounts of Tillerman's bumbling attempts to race his Laser and Sunfish against his youngers and betters. Possible regattas this month -- if he doesn't find something better to do those weekends -- are the Newport Regatta at Sail Newport, the Laser Atlantic Coast Championships on Long Island, and the NJYRA Laser Championships (somewhere in darkest NJ) -- plus club racing some Sundays and Wednesdays.

  • Random snippets of overheard conversation, words of wisdom from sailing buddies, oddities found on the web, and if you're really really lucky and ask nicely... more pictures of cutest granddaughter in the world.

  • Plus bonus feature... Tillerman's mid-year round-up and review of watery blogs. Who will make the Top Ten this time? The suspense is killing me. No wait - how can I suspend myself? Oh never mind.

  • What else? Any requests?

Saturday, July 01, 2006

What's a Histogram?

Kids say the darnedest things.

One of the pleasures of helping out with the sailing classes this week was chatting with the kids and hearing their conversations with each other. I don't often hang out with 11-year-olds these days and I had forgotten how interesting they are at that age. Trying on different roles and characters. Wanting to fit in with the their peers but each one unique too.

The girls with their excited chatter, high-pitched, hyper-ventilating voices, "... and I was like ohmigod and she was like falling out of the boat and the boat was like so right on its side and I was like ohmigod I'm so going to fall in and it was like so wet and..."

And the boys trying to sound grown-up and tough and cool and smart, jousting by lobbing Your Momma jokes at each other, but not inventive enough to come up with really sharp one-liners so it always came out something lame like, "Your Mom's bald." Huh?

At the lunch break the head instructor asked the kids whether they had any questions arising from the morning's practice on the water. There were a few questions about the usual stuff like getting stuck in irons and then one boy put his hand up and asked, "What's a histogram?"

Without pausing to think as to what this had to do with sailing or anything that had been said before, the instructor launched into a long answer. "That's a great question. A histogram is a special kind of graph used when you want to show how many things fall into certain ranges. It uses bars and the height of each bar to indicate how many things are in each range. By the way in real life I'm a geometry teacher so you asked the right person. Let's say for example that you wanted to make a chart showing how many kids in this group were various heights... and so on and so on ... and on and on ... blah bah blah..."

After about five minutes he paused for breath and I took the opportunity to jump in and ask the boy who had asked the question why he wanted to know. He pointed at his friend and explained, "He said, 'Your Momma's a histogram.'"

I guess it could have been worse.