Monday, December 31, 2007

Forecast for the New Year

Forecast for tomorrow where I am now
High 40 degrees F
RealFeel 29 degrees F
Cloudy, breezy with a mix of snow and rain in the afternoon

Forecast for tomorrow where I'm going to be later this week
High 79 degrees F
Wind speed 11 knots
Waves 1.7m

Before the middle of January, I'm planning on ticking off at least the first seven of my one hundred days of Lasering in 2008. But can I sail more days than Edward next year?

Sunday, December 30, 2007


I'm not going to do New Year Resolutions this year. They are a waste of time. In the last few years I've set myself resolutions to do unrealistic things like 'run a marathon' or 'move house to Rhode Island' or 'finish in the top half of the fleet at the Laser Worlds'. Ha. What a waste of time that was!

Freakonomics has an interesting post under the meaningless and misleading title of Economics and New Year Resolutions in which they discuss whether NYR's are aspirations, commitments to self, commitments to others, a clean slate, a signal, intertemporal reallocation (whaaaaaat?), or cheap talk. Geeze, I hate reading stuff by people that are even more anal and analytical than I am.

Anyway, where was I? Where am I? Oh yes. New Year.

I guess I do have some 'aspirations' for 2008.

1. Learn to kayak. I've been inspired by blogs like frogma and KayakQuixotica. It seems like a perfect complement to sailing (what to do on days when there's no wind) and running (how to exercise the other half of the body). Now I live in an area full of ponds and bays and rivers it's time to try out kayaking.

2. Take up some form of sailing that's parent-child friendly or more accurately grandparent-grandchild friendly. Laser sailing ain't, not really. Again I've been inspired by other bloggers, especially Edward at the EVK4 HyperBlog who writes about introducing his kids to sailing on San Francisco Bay. I want to be doing that with my grandkids in the not-too-distant future. (Oops - didn't mean to reveal any secrets - make that one grandkid for now.) Emily is only two but the last two years went by in a flash. I have a dream that one day I will be taking her out on a boat where she can have a gentle and safe introduction to sailing and that, as a result, she will get hooked on sailing for life. Need to find the right boat first.

3. Get involved in giving back to the sport of sailing again. When I started writing this blog three years ago I was involved in all sorts of activities especially with kids to introduce others to the sport, and in other volunteer efforts to support local sailing activities. I gave all that up when we left new Jersey. I miss it. Need to start doing something along those lines again, maybe with one of the local community sailing programs.

4. Learn a new sailing skill. Perhaps trapezing. Hmmm. Did it once. But not well. (That's a story in it's own right that I need to tell here one day). Can't stop learning just because I turn 60 in 2008.

5. Sail my Laser at least 100 days in 2008. Geeze, that's almost a resolution. I've never really kept count but I doubt I've done 100 days of Lasering in any one year before. So this year I'm going to count the days and write about every one here.

6. Find something interesting to write here on the other 265 days. No wait, 266 days. It's a leap year.

Happy Sailing New Year for Tuesday.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Man Cold

I'm just about recovering now from the second of two back-to-back Man Colds. Women don't appreciate how much we men suffer. This clip from the BBC show Man Stroke Woman is yet more proof of women's persistent failure to realize that our colds are far far worse than theirs.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Drunk Blogging

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. We surely did at the Tillerman house. All the various Tillerman sprogs and the sprog-sprog were here at various time. Vast quantities of roast beef, turkey, plum pudding, fruitcake, and wine were consumed.

Which brings me to the question of the day? Did anyone indulge in any drunk blogging over the holiday? Apparently it's becoming a well-know social phenomenon. It can be embarrassing, but it's not as bad as drunk eBaying. Yikes, fancy waking up the next day with a hangover and finding out that you'd bought a Force 5!

I'm not sure what the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Rowan Douglas Williams, the spiritual leader of my nominal faith, was imbibing over the holidays. Apparently he gave a radio interview in which he claimed that the nativity story was "nothing but a legend". C'mon Bish, stick to the script. If we can't rely on you to tell us the truth of the Christmas story we might as well all become Pastafarians or Festivusians. (Is there such a thing as drunk sermonizing?)

Anyway, if you spotted any examples of drunk blogging posts in the sailoblogosphere over the last few days, please let me know. Maybe I could even have a Top Ten Drunken Sailing Posts list?

PS No entries allowed from 1000 Days at Sea. I'm beginning to believe that friend Reid is high on something every time he posts.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Chrifsmas

I'm not a Pastafarian but I do think it's important to be tolerant of all religious beliefs. Pastafarians are clearly passionate in their belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster and are doing sterling work to improve the education system in Kansas.

So in the spirit of the season, and continuing my recent series of posts on alternative views of the holiday, let's
not forget to "put the FSM back in Chrifsmas".

Happy Chrifsmas to Pastafarians everywhere.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Air Your Grievances

Thanks to Mal of Team Gherkin for reminding us, amid all the crazy commercialization and other pressures at this time of the year, that today December 23rd is the feast of Festivus. Happy Festivus to you Mal. Have a good one.

One of the most charming of the Festivus traditions is the Airing of Grievances which normally takes place immediately after the Festivus dinner has been served. It consists of lashing out at others and the world about how one has been disappointed in the past year.

So in the spirit of the season I would like to invite you to air your sailing-related and sailing-blogging-related grievances in the comments to this post. Maybe you're still fuming about that guy who ruined your finish by T-boning you in a blatant port-starboard foul just before the finish line in the most important regatta of the year. Or perhaps you really want to vent about that race committee who were so slow in setting up the course that they missed the best wind of the day.
Or maybe there's some sailing blogger who drives you to distraction with his pathetic attempts at humor and his sappy posts about his granddaughter. Whoever it is, now is your opportunity to express your disappointment with them in a seasonally appropriate way.

Let me start the ball rolling by airing two of my grievances...

You people who maintain websites that look like sailing blogs but that don't allow comments are annoying the hell out of me. Sure, you write well-informed articles about sailing and often have strong opinions on various topical sailing issues. But that just makes it worse. Your posts are sometimes so stimulating that I have a strong urge to write a comment agreeing or disagreeing with your point of view. Then I find there is nowhere to leave a comment. Who do you think you are? Are you so egocentric that you don't care what your readers think? Don't you get it that blogging is all about participation and interaction? I could name names, but you know who you are. And so do most of my readers. You have disappointed us big-time.

Anonymous. Yes you. And you. You people that leave comments on my blog and refuse to sign them are intensely irritating. If you want to preserve your online anonymity, I understand. But you don't have to use your real name. On a Blogger blog like this there are lots of ways you can tell me who you are. You don't have to have a Google account. If you have an AOL/AIM, Live Journal, TypeKey, WordPress or any OpenID identity you can use it to post your comment. Or you can just click on the Nickname radio button and make up a nickname, with or without an associated URL. It's easy. Just pick a nickname and use it when you leave comments here. That way I and other readers will get to know you by your comments and we can respond and interact with you as a individual. Anonymous comments are like graffiti on my garden fence. Please sign your graffiti and stop disappointing me and others.

Aaaah. That feels better. I just love this time of year.

So now it's your turn. Get in the spirit of the season by airing your sailing grievances in the comments. After that, please feel free to celebrate the season by singing Oh Festivus and wrestling the head of your household to the ground.

Happy Festivus everyone!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

That Was The (Lasering) Year That Was

Another year almost over. A year of change and new adventures and some modest achievements. Lots of sailing but, as always, never enough. A year of increased focus -- the first year for me since the early 90's of sailing nothing but a Laser.

The year started with a bang in early January with what turned out to be one of the high points of the year, my trip to the Dominican Republic for a Laser clinic and the Caribbean Midwinters in Cabarete. I was challenged by the awesome waves but in the process learned some things, broke some personal records (though not in a good way) and even had my fifteen seconds of glory. As I wrote back in January it was an "
amazing, brilliant, challenging, draining, exhilarating, exhausting, exciting, humbling, inspiring, instructive, rewarding, scary, sunny, rainy, windy, wavy and totally worthwhile experience".

I was confined to virtual sailing in February and spent way too much time playing with Tacticat, the online sailing simulator. For a while I was one of the top-ranked players in the game and shared what little knowledge I had gained with fellow Tacticat sailors in a series of posts on
Tillerman's Top Ten Tacticat Tactical Tips. They were...

  1. Get a Great Start
  2. Watch the Wind
  3. Stay out of Trouble
  4. Beware the Port Tack Layline
  5. Starboard Tack Danger
  6. Clear Air
  7. Downwind in Tacticat
  8. Gates

Hmmm. Seems like there were only eight tips, not ten. I guess I knew less than I imagined.

In February and March I was somewhat distracted with the final stages of selling our old house in New Jersey which included dealing with a rash of problems found by the house inspection (there's what buried under the drive??????), throwing out twenty years of accumulated trash, packing way too much stuff that we should have thrown out, coping with the foibles of lawyers and real estate agents some of whom were supposed to be on our side, and all other sorts of related matters. I could have written many fascinating posts on the whole process but this isn't a house moving blog and there was too much of a risk that I would write something publicly that would only complicate matters even more. Somehow in the middle of all that I continued the final weeks of my training for the marathon.

By April I was living near my son in temporary accommodation in Massachusetts and was able to go out Lasering with him. Then it was off to England for the London Marathon, my third marathon and my first in a major city. I did finish but it was bloody hot on a sweltering day when over five thousand runners were treated by the ambulance service, over seventy ended up in hospital, and one died. My feelings about the experience are still very mixed and I'm not sure whether I will ever run another marathon.

In May I sailed in my first regatta of the year on the New England circuit and between house-hunting managed to fit in some Zen-like Laser practice. More importantly we found a house in Rhode Island that we wanted to buy, had our offer accepted and completed the purchase only two weeks later. Hooray. I am a Rhodilanda.

Then before I knew what had hit me it was June and I was off to one of the major events of the year, the Laser North Americans in Hyannis. In retrospect this was a totally ridiculous idea for all sorts of reasons, but I did have some awesome days, even though I was in the end totally humiliated.

In early July I had a blast sailing with my son at the Buzzards Bay Championship. Then on to the Newport Regatta where I had photographic evidence that I was faster than some of those hotshot kids, and at the end of the month to the Hyannis Regatta where I finally felt I had rediscovered my groove and I actually beat my nemesis, That Guy.

In August my son and I sailed the Buzzards Bay Regatta though we had one or two issues with a certain inedible uncrustable lunch snack and an overstressed regatta parking lot attendant. I'm glad my son was there, always fun playing mind games on him. I'm so mean. Then later in the month we both had some wild rides, and did a bit of swimming, at the Leukemia Cup in Bristol, on a day when NOAA had issued a Small Craft Advisory for Rhode Island waters.

Early September I sailed the New England Masters out of Third Beach in Newport, one of my favorite places to sail. And then my son took me up to sail in a series he had discovered in 2006, the Ponce de Leon Dinghy Series in Marblehead. I won one race and came second overall for the day. Woohoo! I actually won a trophy, the only one all season. But that's OK.

A summer with more Laser regattas against tough competition than I had ever sailed before. Excellent preparation for my trip to Spain in late September and early October for the Laser Masters Worlds, which turned out to be the largest Laser regatta in the entire history of the universe. A truly amazing experience, a long week of competition in all kinds of conditions, sometimes frustrating, always challenging. But I finally achieved my goal, after 26 years of Laser sailing, of finishing in the top half of my age group fleet at a Masters Worlds.

Looking back on the year I think there were three keys to the progress I made. Starting the year with the practice and racing in big waves in Cabarete, moving to Rhode Island so that I was able to sail so many regattas on the sea (as opposed to my former sailing life predominantly on inland lakes), and the focus on Laser sailing to the exclusion of other classes.

So what comes next? I will be back in Cabarete in January and then there is another Laser Masters World Championship in Australia in February. It never stops. It's a tough life. But somebody has to do it.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Frost on Fridays

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Season's Greetings

One of the joys of living in a house with an uninterrupted view across open water to western hills is that one becomes much more aware of the changes in the position of the setting sun from month to month. In June the sun set directly across the bay behind Mount Hope. As the year progressed the sunset moved to the south, across Bristol, behind Mount Hope Bridge for a while, and is now setting behind Aquidneck Island. And today is the winter solstice, so it will start moving back north again.

Of course, ancient people spent most of their time outdoors and the seasons played a very important part in their lives. Because of this many ancient people had a great reverence for, and even worshipped the sun. The Norsemen of Northern Europe saw the sun as a wheel that changed the seasons. It was from the word for this wheel, houl, that the word yule is thought to have come. At mid-winter the Norsemen lit bonfires, told stories and drank sweet ale.

The ancient Romans also held a festival to celebrate the rebirth of the year. Saturnalia ran for seven days from the 17th of December. It was a time when the ordinary rules were turned upside down. Men dressed as women and masters dressed as servants. The festival also involved decorating houses with greenery, lighting candles and giving presents.

In my home country, Britain, the Druids celebrated the winter solstice by cutting the mistletoe that grew on the oak tree and giving it as a blessing. Oaks were seen as sacred and the winter fruit of the mistletoe was a symbol of life in the dark winter months.

It was also the Druids who began the tradition of the yule log. The Celts thought that the sun stood still for twelve days in the middle of winter and during this time a log was lit to conquer the darkness, banish evil spirits and bring luck for the coming year.

I don't subscribe to the religions of the Norsemen, the Romans or the Druids, but this week most of us are celebrating the season in a combination of their traditions. We have greenery and candles around the house, I'll light a fire and give my family some gifts. I'll tell some stories on the blog and have something to drink, though probably not sweet ale. There will be at least one feast but I'm not going to go the whole hog and emulate the Romans by dressing up as a woman. (Though there was a time at a party on a sailboat once when ... but that's a story for another day.)

Have a great Winter Solstice. 'Tis the reason for the season.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Party Like a Sailor

Don't believe everything you read on the Interwebs. Some other sailing blogger wrote a post today about what he claimed was history's largest cocktail. Some rather pathetic story about some dude in a wig who mixed a cocktail in a garden fountain with a few hundred gallons of liquor.

That's not a large cocktail. That's an itsy-bitsy pre-party warm-up drink for girls and Force 5 sailors.

If you want to have a real party this Christmas and want to go for the real world record for history's largest cocktail then you're going to have to concoct something bigger than the Margarita measuring 7039 gallons that was made on 17 May 2001 by staff at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville and Mott's Inc., Universal City Walk, Orlando, Florida, USA.

Now that's a cocktail.

Die Hard, True Grit, Sail On

I didn't sail on Sunday. My post on Saturday about the weather forecast should be sufficient explanation. But at my former frostbiting club in Connecticut seven "insert suitable adjective" Laser sailors did go out racing on Sunday. Here is part of the story of the day as written by Race Officer and Fleet Captain, Stephen Fisk...

Sunday morning 9:12am Dec. 16th the last day of the Fall '07 season: Forecast Gale warning, nor'easter with winds in the 40's, coastal flooding, raining, sleeting, snowing cats and dogs, crappy roads, emails and phone calls arriving furiously at PRO headquarters, what to do? This was probably one of the harder calls I had to make all season, do we believe the forecast and call it off, cuddle up to a good book in front of the fireplace (both of which I do not have), or actually go sailing?

I could hear and feel the pain of RC for the day, why come out for the day when in most likelihood sailing will be canceled? Damned if you do, damned if you don't but we decided to go for it...

So I drove down early to the club at 9:45 to scope the scene, and it was bad. I rounded the corner to the club and through a driving sleet and fog saw the easterly driven frothing rollers between the club and Cockenoe island, definitely no sailing outside. But in the bay things looked good, smooth water, it would be high tide soon and the wind was only in the mid 20's.

By 11:00am a few sailors started showing up, probably more out of curiosity, but things were falling into place. Just enough RC was expected, the wind was moderating to the high teens, gusting mid twenties, and by noon it mellowed to the low teens! The only delay was getting 4 inches of ice off all RC boats.

Seven brave sailors and five RC volunteers in 3 skiffs (two operating, one towed out because the battery was frozen) went out to the middle of the Saugatuck Bay....

Read the rest of the story on the Cedar Point YC website...

Why Don't Bubba Windsurf?

What's your image of a typical windsurfer?

Personally I admire these guys for all sorts of reasons...

  • Windsurfing ain't easy. I know, I've tried. It's harder than it looks.

  • Windsurfing is an athletic sport that works just about every muscle in the body.

  • Windsurfing is gentle on the environment.

  • Windsurfing is accessible to folk of almost any income level. It must be about the cheapest way to enjoy sailing. It's the antithesis of the rich yachtie life style with megayachts and fancy marinas and swanky yacht clubs.

  • Windsurfers will go out and sail in crazy windy cold rainy conditions that would drive any normal sailor to the comfort of his fireside. These guys are tough.

But apparently I don't understand American culture (in spite of having lived here almost twenty years). For reasons that are a mystery to me, windsurfing is seen by many Americans as elitist and effete. I became aware of this image of the sport during the 2004 presidential campaign when candidate John Kerry took an hour or so off from campaigning to go windsurfing. The press filmed him and the resultant coverage was used to brand him as an out of touch liberal elitist.

Sure it didn't help that his opponent produced a juvenile ad using a clip of Kerry windsurfing to draw a parallel between his tacking back and forth on his board to his history of "flip-flopping" on political issues. Kerry had surely deserved the flip-flopper charge. But the harm to his image was also largely because, horror of horrors, the guy was actually windsurfing!!!

I don't get it. Why is windsurfing seen so negatively? What sports are acceptable in the land of the free for someone with presidential aspirations?

Well, there's shooting of course. It's almost mandatory that anyone with ambitions to sit in the Oval Office spends at least some time in the woods dressed in camo blasting away at furry or feathery creatures (not to mention winging the occasional lawyer.) Even if you've never hunted in your life, you'd better do your best to fake it for a photo opportunity.

And golf seems to be OK. Presidents Clinton and Bushes have often been filmed on the golf course playing each other or visiting dignitaries. Nobody seems to think that this betrays them as being part of the country club elite. And nobody dares to resurface in the presidential context the old joke that golf is a sport for "white guys dressed like black pimps".

So why has windsurfing got such a bad press? Apparently if you are a windsurfer it proves you are unable to relate to regular Joes in the South and Midwest. Doesn't anybody windsurf in Texas or Georgia or Ohio? Don't any of those guys with a pickup truck displaying a Confederate flag ever throw a board in the back and head off for a quick blast around the local water hole?

Is it true as the conservative National Review claimed that Bubba Don't Windsurf?

Please help me out with this. What is your image of a typical windsurfer? Why is it such a negative in a country proud of its traditions of tolerance and diversity? And if you're not American does the same image hold true in your country? For example, would you advise David Cameron or Brendan Nelson to avoid being seen reaching around on a windsurfer?

Please comment. But please restrain yourself from rubbishing the policies or personality of any individual politician. If you want to indulge in Bush-bashing or Clinton-bashing or Kerry-bashing there are plenty of other places on the Interwebs you can do that. Let's keep the discussion to the place of windsurfing in popular culture, why it has such an elitist image, whether it's deserved, the reasons for it, etc. etc.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Wave Energy

There's a lot of energy in waves. Every sailor knows it. The photo above is of 2003 Laser World Champion Gustavo Lima catching a ride downwind on a typical wave during last year's Caribbean Laser Midwinter Championship in Cabarete, Dominican Republic. Can't you just feel the rush of adrenaline as he takes off down the wave? Mmmmmm. Don't you wish that was you? It could be. 21 days from today I'm going to be riding that wave (or one very much like it) in Cabarete. Come join me.

But what about all that energy in waves? With all the recent news about climate change and greenhouse gases and the need to start using more renewable energy sources, isn't it about time we started using some of that energy in waves to warm our homes and cook our turkeys and light our Xmas trees this holiday season?

It sure is. So I was especially pleased to read that my recently adopted state, Rhode Island, is planning to to develop two wave-energy facilities off the coasts of Point Judith and Block Island that would convert energy from the waves into electricity. Rhode Island is partnering with an Australian company, Oceanlinx, to develop the facilities. Here's a picture of what they will look like.

I've no idea whether this project is actually going to happen. Clearly there are all sorts of political, legislative, financial and technical obstacles to overcome. I'm sure some local water users are going to come up with all sorts of objections why the facilities shouldn't be built in their backyards. And even if these generators are built, who knows if the power they generate will be economic? And why on earth are we using an Australian company? Aren't there American companies who know how to do this stuff?

But I am kind of proud of my little ocean state for leading the way on this issue. As the rest of the world loses patience with the failure of the Bush administration to take the perils of climate change seriously it's good to know that at least one state government, led by our governor Donald Carcieri, is trying to address the issue.

Ride the wave, Don dude.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sydney Scramble

The first time I visited Sydney I took a ferry from Circular Quay to Manly, as many tourists do. Coming back through Sydney Harbour on the Sunday afternoon I was amazed at the sight I saw. Sailor's heaven. Sailboats of every type you can imagine as far as the eye could see. Seemed like there were dozens of clubs running races all over the harbour, not to mention all kinds of cruising yachts out for a blast.

US Laser Olympic entry Andrew Campbell is currently racing in the Sydney International Regatta. I could relate to what he saw on the first day of racing...

A typical Saturday in December on Sydney Harbor can be quite a scene. Add a few hundred Olympic one designs to the mix and you’ve got one of the most crowded sailing areas in the world. Local clubs around the harbor are running their own races for classic 18-footers, Etchells, and hundreds of PHRF style classes. Those are added to super-maxis and other grand prix boats in final tune up stages for the Sydney-Hobart Race that starts next week. Beyond that is the normal ferry-boat and seaplane tour traffic, augmented by the standard anglers and pleasure sailors. If it weren’t enough already, add puffy 12-18 knot breezes and you’ve got yourself a sunny summer day in Sydney. Adding two forty-boat Laser fleets to the middle of the channel already chock full of 49ers, radial, finns, and 470s is a recipe for disaster.

The Sailing Instructions for the regatta recognize the need for racing sailors to keep out of the way of those damn ferry-boats.

Local Rules require sail craft to keep out of the way of ferries displaying the orange diamond. Pass the ferry clear at least 200m ahead and 30m either side and astern.

Apparently one of the Laser fleets did have a close encounter of almost the worst kind with a ferry. As Andrew tells it...

While you are racing you have to stay on your game or else you might find a two hundred foot ferry doing 11 knots bearing down on you, horns blasting. I happened to be in the other fleet when that incident occurred yesterday, but with the fleet rolling out left, into the channel and more favorable current, the ferry had nowhere to go but on his horn and in full reverse. Quite a scene, I’ll tell you.

Laser World Champion Tom Slingsby from Australia was disqualified as a result of the ferry incident, a major disappointment as he had won the race. He failed in his obligation to pass the ferry clear of 200m ahead and admitted so to the regatta's International Jury. Tough way to start a regatta.

In case anyone is in any doubt that those ferries mean business, check out this video of a famous ferry vs sailboat incident some time ago...

Good luck to Andrew who has won one race and is currently in third place overall, only two points out of first.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Weather Forecast for Sunday



Hmmm. Rain, snow, sleet. 40 knot gusts. Doesn't look like ideal weather for my first day of Laser racing in two months.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Fish on Fridays

Thanks to phlog that! for the photo and the claim that it shows "two starfish making love in the sand at Morro Bay, California."

Hmmm. Nice story, but according to Wikipedia (which is never wrong), starfish don't do it like that. Instead, "fertilization takes place externally, both male and female releasing their gametes into the environment."

Being a romantic at heart, I prefer to believe the phlog that! version. Did someone say, "Caption Contest"?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ernesto or Reid? Who Would You Rather Be?

Who would you rather be, Ernesto Bertarelli or Reid Stowe?

In case you've been living under a stone for the past few months and don't know who the hell I'm talking about, Ernesto is the head of the Alinghi syndicate that won the America's Cup in 2003 and 2007;
Reid is the guy who is attempting to spend 1000 days at sea under sail.

Aside from being sailors these two guys have something else in common: they have both been the subject of a massive wave of criticism and abuse, especially on the Internet, over the past few months. So in some ways I'm asking you to choose between two bad options; that's why it's an interesting question. Who would you rather be, Ernesto or Reid?

Ernesto has been under attack for the way in which he has handled the preparations for his eventual defense of the America's Cup. A fake challenge from a virtual club, a lawsuit which he lost, stalled negotiations, self-serving press releases, more threatened suits from aggrieved challengers... you can read all about it at Rule 69 Blog.

Reid is being reviled for almost every sin under the sun from drug-running to fraud,
on a parody blog 1000 Days of Hell and in a long-running thread on Sailing Anarchy entitled Couple Cruise for 1000 Days, This is totally fucking ridiculous.

So which would you rather be?

On the surface it is an easy answer. Ernesto is younger (42 to Reid's 55), fabulously wealthy ($8.8 billion according to Forbes), has all the expensive toys that any sailor could desire.... and, oh yes, he just won the America's Cup, twice. Surely our friend Ernesto is living every sailor's dream?

But wait. Think about it. How is Ernesto spending his time these days? My guess is that he is embroiled in endless boring meetings with lawyers, PR guys and other suits, trying to find a way out of the hole he has dug for himself with respect to the next America's Cup match. That can't be much fun.

At least Reid is out on the open ocean with the wind in his hair, sailing a boat he built himself, dealing with whatever the sea and weather gods serve up, riding along with the porpoises and the albatrosses. Right now he is somewhere in the southern Atlantic along with his crew, a woman less than half his age variously described by his supporters and (some of) his detractors respectively as his "girlfriend" or his "sex slave". Man, that's better then every sailor's dream. Isn't that every old fart's fantasy?

(Just in case my wife's reading, I don't mean my fantasy, of course not dear.)

So who would you rather be? Ernesto Bertarelli or Reid Stowe? And why?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Sailor, Remembered

Longtime readers of this blog may remember from my first list of Top Ten Sailing Blogs a blog by the name of Stay of Execution written by Sherry Fowler. Truth is it never really was only a sailing blog, but a blog by an excellent writer who had a passion for sailing and who wrote about many other things too.

Sherry eventually retired Stay of Execution and started another blog Stay which has a very different style and which she updates much less frequently. She has married a man she met through her blogging, and is still the sailing coach at Bowdoin.

Sadly, a young man on her team, Nick Barnett, was killed in a car accident at Thanksgiving. In A Sailor, Remembered Sherry writes about Nick, what he meant to the team, the gift of "easy, visible happiness", and the "joy in the daily routine of practice".

Check it out. This lady can write. Her writing was one of the major inspirations to me in starting this blog almost three years ago. Her eulogy to Nick on her blog brings a stranger's personality to life again and almost makes me feel like I knew him.

My condolences to Sherry, the team, and all of Nick's family and friends.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

"Beautiful Monster"

Is this the future of the America's Cup?

On the Road Again

I went for a run this morning. The ground was covered in frost and the trees were encased in ice and shining like glass ornaments in the sunshine. Very wintry-looking. As I jogged along the road at the top of the hill behind my house, the sun started to melt the ice on the trees and shower me with icy shards. Man, it felt good.

It felt good because I've been out of action for about seven weeks now with a couple of minor health problems. No running. And if that weren't bad enough, shock, horror, no sailing. It's been a tough time as I need physical activity to keep up my morale, especially at this time of year as the days become colder, shorter and darker.

I've tried not to whine about it (too much) in this blog. But regular readers will probably have noticed that this sailor's sailing blog hasn't been carrying any news about this sailor's sailing. Because there hasn't been any.

I missed the Fat Boys Regatta in Bristol at the end of October and I've also missed the first six weeks of the Newport frostbiting season. Yikes. Being able to sail in Newport in the winter was one of the reasons we moved to Rhode Island. Thank goodness it wasn't the only reason.

It seems that one of the penalties of aging is that comparatively minor aches and pains and infections just take longer to clear up than they used to when I was in my twenties. And I'm pretty sure that Laser sailing in 20 knots is not the best cure for a bad back. And I have a hunch that immersing myself in near-freezing water every Sunday afternoon is not the best treatment for a severe chest cold.

But today I went for a run in the ice and frost. Man, it felt good and I feel like I'm back to my normal self again.

However, the weeks with no sailing and little exercise have taken their toll. I've put on a few pounds and I'm nowhere near as fit as I was after a summer of active sailing followed by the trip to Spain for the Masters Worlds. I dread to think how clumsy I am going to be next time I try and sail my Laser.

Meanwhile the Australians are in their summer and are sailing all the time in preparation for the next Laser Masters Worlds near Sydney in February. The way things are I'm thinking I'm not going to surpass or even equal my performance in Spain. So I'm approaching the Worlds with a different attitude this time.

I'm going to the Dominican Republic again in January for a clinic and for the Laser Caribbean Midwinters. Then off to Australia in February for the Laser Masters Worlds. My mindset is that both these events are just for fun and to get me in shape for the start of the 2008 summer season in North America.

I went for a run today. Man, it felt good.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Seven Reasons Why a Cat Fight Would Be Good for the America's Cup

Nobody seems to know what will happen with the America's Cup. Apparently the two warring parties led by Ernesto Bertarelli and Larry Ellison will have a sit-down this week to try and negotiate a way forward. Failing that the next cup will be be a so-called "Deed of Gift" match, best of three races, between Larry's men and Ernie's men under the terms of the challenge made by Larry back in July.

The challenge (officially from the Golden Gate Yacht Club) even includes a Certificate of Name, Rig and Specified Dimensions of the challenging vessel (even though, by all accounts, this vessel is not yet built.) The vessel described in the challenge as a "keel yacht" will be 90 ft long with a beam of 90 ft, with a hull draft of 3ft and a draft of 20 ft with boards down.

Hmmm. Keel yacht? Sure sounds like a catamaran to me.

And if Larry has a 90 ft cat then everyone assumes that Ernie will have to have a 90 ft cat in order to be competitive. For some reason, the whole world seems to think that this outcome, a best of three series sailed between two monster cats next July, would be a retrograde step for the America's Cup and a disaster for the sport of sailing.

I beg to differ. So here are my Seven Reasons Why a Cat Fight Would Be Good for the America's Cup.

1. Tradition
A match sailed under the Deed of Gift would be more traditional. We have strayed a long way from the original concept of the Cup since the 1850's. The way it was supposed to work was that some rich old coot would write a posh letter to the New York Yacht Club essentially saying, "My boat's faster than your boat. Nah nah nah nah." The NYYC would accept the challenge by writing another posh letter saying effectively, "See you next July off Sandy Hook. Nah nah nah nah." The NYYC would then find some other rich old coot with a faster boat, meet the first rich old coot off Sandy Hook, crush him, and all would be well with the world.

So let's get back to that tradition. One defender. One challenger. Two crazy rich old coots. The way it was meant to be. Yachting needs to honor its traditions.

2. Excitement
There's no argument, multihulls are faster and more exciting than big monohulls with all those tons of spent uranium or whatever metal they use now in their keels to slow them down. Let's face it, the 50 knot speed barrier will be first broken by some kind of multihull (not counting windsurfers). Can you imagine a round-the-buoys race between two cats sailing at that speed (or anywhere near it)?

3. Simplicity
Cats are not going to frig around doing dial-ups and dial-downs and all the other rigmarole of match racing that only 27 people in the whole world really understand. They are going to accelerate off the start line in clear air and go for speed, speed, speed baby. Bang the corner. Tack. And then off on another wild ride to the first mark. I know, I've sailed cats on Tacticat. All that boring tacking and ducking and covering stuff just slows you down. And if we are going to make yachting appeal to a wider audience we need racing to be easy to understand. Anyone can understand the concept of "faster boat wins".

4. Cost
If we have a deed of gift match next July, then Larry and Ernie are going to spend a few millions building a couple of cats, some port that Ernie chooses will get to host them, and someone vaguely impartial but really working for Ernie will lay on three races. That's it. No endless expensive series of "acts" over many years and then a costly challenger series dragging on for months. No "challenges" from no-hope syndicates from Luxembourg or Namibia or wherever. No chasing around for sponsors. Easy. Cheap.

5. Unique
The deed of gift match between catamarans of essentially unrestricted design will be a test of technology and yacht design more than seamanship. This is a good thing. The Olympics and each class World Championship are the events designed to find out who the best sailors are. The America's Cup needs to differentiate itself from these events. The America's Cup should be all about the nerds in the design office. Rich old coot with the best nerds wins.

6. Technology Trickle Down
You know trickle down? That's the economic theory that says its a good thing for rich people to have big expensive toys because eventually the money trickles down to the little guy who pumps out their holding tanks. More importantly, while Larry and Ernie are building the biggest baddest cats you ever saw, they will be spurring invention and creating technical improvements that you will eventually use on your Hobie 16. Yeah right. OK, well the other 6 reasons are still good.

7. Spectator Appeal
The cat fight is going to be the most stupendous event ever in yachting with huge appeal to on-site spectators and TV viewers around the world. Why? Well, because of all the reasons above. To summarize, the audience will love it because
  • it will be traditional
  • it will be in fast boats
  • it will be exciting to watch
  • it will be easy to understand
  • it will be a one-off event lasting a few days
  • it will be a show-down between two crazy rich old coots whom we all love to hate
  • a crash between two monster cats approaching each other at around 50 knots will be spectacular and the best thing ever to demonstrate to the general public why yacht racing is so much fun. After that, sailing will be bigger than NASCAR.

Update 11 Dec. Extract from interview by Ernie in LeTemps yesterday, translated and republished in a Sailing Anarchy forum.

Le Temps: You thus prepare with a duel in the multihulls in 2008?
Ernesto Bertarelli: With Larry, we will clash with two beautiful monsters. He who spends the most money will win.

Yeehow. Let's do it

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Painting Quiz

Here's a little weekend teaser for you.

Who painted these two pictures of boats?

Update 12 Dec
Clue #1: Both pictures are painted by the same person.
Clue #2: The person is famous but not for being a painter.

Update #2
Congratulations to tugster for working out that the painter (of both paintings) was Winston Churchill. I found them in a quiz in which you have to guess which of 10 paintings were by Churchill and which by another World War ll leader and sometime painter, Adolf Hitler.

How Readable Is Your Blog?

I always wonder, when I write a post on this blog, whether it is going to make any sense to even half of the readers. It's clear from some of the comments that I confuse the hell out of certain people.

I just came across something that might help me, an online tool that analyzes the readability of blogs in terms of the education level necessary to understand a blog. So I ran some of my favorite sailing blogs through The Blog Readability Test.

Here are the results...

Elementary School

Junior High School

High School

College (undergrad)
College (postgrad)


Hmmm. I expect I will be hearing more about that last one.

Anyway, run your own or your favorite blogs through the tester and let me know what you find out.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Fish on Fridays

My post on Ten Reasons Why Sunfish Are Better Than Lasers generated quite a lot of interest...

Scuttlebutt sent out a link to it.

Somebody posted a link to it on the Sunfish forum.

The folk on the Yahoo group for the Arizona Yacht Club started discussing it.

I received a very nice email from someone who I can only describe as one of the elder statespersons of the Sunfish class thanking me for the post.

Someone posted it on the New Orleans Yacht Club website but renamed it 10 reasons why Sunfish are better than Finns. Apparently I've been sucked into some long-running feud down there between Finn sailors and Sunfish sailors.

During the ensuing flame war, one of the Finn sailors posted more reasons why Sunfish are better...

Mostly girls sail them.
They have pretty sails.
Its funny to watch them when Finns gobble them up and crap em out.
They look cute on the beach.
No pesky Olympic sailors to compete against.
They are cheap.
Grandma, Grandpa, and 6 year old can all share the same boat.

Just kidding....we love our little sunfish friends. Just keep out of the way!

And now apparently there is a challenge to be held between the Sunfish and Finn fleets...

When: Superbowl Saturday
Where: BWYC
What: Just Bragging Rights
Two Teams (Finns and Sunfish)
9 boats to a Team.
8 Races!

Teams must be comprised of sailors from AL to LA.
Team Captains: Bad Dog and Anne Edwards!

Geeze. What have I started?

Sailing Blog Blurbs Contest

From time to time, readers tell me (usually in the comments) what they think about this blog. I've collected some of that feedback in two of the sidebars over there >>>>>>. The ones headed What the Critics Say and More Reviews. Gathered together they read a bit like those blurbs you find on the back cover of a book.

I know, I know. It's very pretentious and egocentric of me to gather random observations from the comments and flaunt them like that. Hey, what can I say?

But I've tried to be even-handed and include the (rare) note of negative criticism along with the vast number of positive notes of praise.

Indeed some of the comments about this blog are embarrassingly hyperbolic. "Best sailing blog on the planet" for example. What nonsense. But I usually reward such examples of obsequious approval by including the author's blog in my Top Ten Sailing Blogs of the year post. Flattery works.

Other comments are more ironic or even ambiguous. What am I to make of "I just blew the ice tea out of my nose" or "I would miss your blog more than toothpaste"?

Hmmm, as someone would say.

A few weeks ago Scott Adams ran a contest on his Dilbert Blog inviting his readers to submit "humorously over-the-top" blurbs for his new book STICK TO DRAWING COMICS, MONKEY-BRAIN! His suggestions of the kind of thing he was looking for included...

"I laughed so hard, one of my kidneys shook loose and I pooped it out. I can’t wait for the sequel!"

And "My acne cleared up, and I threw away the Viagra!"

The winner of his competition was..,

"'What a perfect companion for my afternoon milk bath,' I thought while picking up this little gem on my way home from work. Within the hour I had laughed myself into a neck-deep tomb of butter. My wife came in, sipping her eggnog, and topped me with meringue."

One of the runners-up was...

"This book was so good, I showed it to my wife and said, 'This is how sex is supposed to feel like.'"

Another entry was ..,

"All the brilliance and wit of a blog, but in book form for old people like you!"

You get the idea? Here is the full list of winners and runners-up.

OK. OK. I know it's taking me a long time to get to the point. Here it is...

Can you think of an outrageously funny, totally over-the-top blurb for a sailing blog? Doesn't have to be this one. I think it would be best if the quote had some nautical flavor to it. I'm sure the creative readers of Proper Course, many of them boating bloggers themselves, can do even better than Scott Adams' readers.

Go for it.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Hmmm. Multihulls?

Why is it that the recent decision by ISAF to drop multihulls as a sailing event in the 2012 Olympic Games has produced an outcry of complaints that a bunch of idiots are ruining the Games, that it will reduce the spectator interest in the Games, and that it will be bad for the sport of sailing...

While at the same time the likelihood that the next America's Cup may well be a match between two multihulls has produced an outcry of complaints that a couple of idiots are ruining the Cup, that it will reduce spectator interest in the Cup, and that it will be bad for the sport of sailing?

Doesn't anyone else see a contradiction here?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Ten Reasons Why Sunfish Are Better Than Lasers

Regular readers of this blog will know that I'm something of a Laser nut. I am so emotional about the Laser that, at the slightest provocation, I can be triggered into a rant on why the Laser is the best boat in the world and into heaping scorn on any other kind of sailboats be they keel boats (leadmines), multihulls (why do you need training wheels?), or Force 5's (Laser wannabees for old farts).

In my more rational moments I am sometimes prepared to admit that all kinds of sailboats can be fun in the right circumstances, that we are all different and have a right to make different choices in the boats we sail, and that we should respect each others' choices of sailcraft. (And stand united in our common hatred of jetskiers, of course.)

I used to sail a Sunfish for reasons I have discussed here before. I sold my Sunfish over a year ago and don't miss it (much). I still feel that for me, given my height, weight, location, interests, ambitions, fitness etc. etc., the Laser is the best boat. For me.

But the Sunfish is an excellent little boat too. So, for all the times I went on what SoulSailor calls one of my "big up the Laser rants", as a kind of penance, here is my list of the top ten reasons why the Sunfish is better than the Laser.

  1. It's cheaper. A new race-rigged Laser will set you back around $5345 right now; but the equivalent Sunfish is "only" $3995.

  2. It's faster to rig. For the Sunfish all you need to do is step the mast, hoist up the upper spar with the halyard, cleat it off and you're about done. (If you have controls for outhaul and downhaul they stay rigged on the spars when you pack the sails and spars away.) On a Laser you have to put both halves of the mast together, put the sail on the mast, put the battens in the sail, step the mast in the boat, and then depending on how you derigged you will have some more work to do to set up your outhaul, clew tie-down or strap, cunningham and vang.

  3. It's easier to rig. Stepping the Laser rig in the boat can be a challenge for smaller, less strong people especially in a blow. And catching the clew of the Laser sail and attaching it to the boom isn't exactly easy either in a strong wind until you get the knack.

  4. In some places, like northern New Jersey where I used to live, the Sunfish is the dominant single-handed class in that area. In my book, that makes it the best boat to sail there. Better be racing against forty other boats in a competitive fleet of Sunfish than be tooling around in a Laser on your own.

  5. The Sunfish depowers better in gusty winds. The thin upper spar of the Sunfish bends and spills winds more readily than a Laser rig does. For the puffy conditions we used to have sailing on small lakes in New Jersey, the Sunfish was a much easier beast to handle than the Laser in one of those unstable north-westerlies with gusts coming over the hills.

  6. The Sunfish rig can easily be depowered even more for lighter sailors in a strong wind using a Jens rig, which basically just involves tying the upper spar to the mast in a different way. Skilled sailors can even switch to a Jens rig while out on the water. In the Laser if you want a less powerful rig you basically have to buy a different bottom mast section and sail.

  7. Sunfish sailors are more diverse and it is more of a family friendly class.

    Because the Sunfish has an inherently less efficient sail than the Laser (even though it is roughly the same area) and because of the last two points, the Sunfish can be sailed by lighter sailors over a wider body-weight range than the Laser; and it is not as physically challenging.

    As a result the Sunfish appeals to a much more diverse group of folk than the Laser. Younger, lighter, smaller people as well as biggish guys like me. That means more kids and more women find the Sunfish a boat that suits them. Yes, a lot of fit young women are now sailing the Laser Radial but the sight of a woman over 40 at a Laser regatta is a real rarity. Not so at Sunfish regattas.

    The attractiveness of the Sunfish to such a broad range of ages, weights, fitness levels and both genders gives Sunfish events more of a family atmosphere than Laser regattas. You do find the occasional father-son combination at Laser events. But family combinations sailing in the same races are much more common in the Sunfish world.

  8. The Sunfish has a neat little cubby-hole at the back of the cockpit where you can store extra clothes, lunch, drinks, a paddle, a sponge, a camera, all kinds of stuff. There is no equivalent on the Laser unless you want to add an inspection hatch and a bag and store stuff inside the hull.

  9. Even a doofus like me can get invited to sail on the US team at the Sunfish Worlds. Don't get me wrong, the standard of sailing at the top of a Sunfish Worlds fleet is as high as in any class. But it seems the talent pool of people interested in traveling to sail in a Sunfish World Championship is maybe not as deep as it is in other classes. In theory you need to qualify for the Worlds but in most years they are practically begging people to fill out the numbers in what has traditionally been a 100 boat fleet.

  10. I hope some of my hotshot Sunfish racing friends won't take offence at this final comment because it is meant in a positive way... Sunfish sailors are generally more "laid-back" than those ultra-competitive, type A personality, Laser chaps. If you don't believe me, just look at the picture at the top of this post again. If that's not laid-back sailing, what is? When did you ever see a guy sailing a Laser with a cushion?
Update 2 Feb 2008: the picture at the top of the post shows one of my friends from Hunterdon Sailing Club in New Jersey. Here are some links to more stories about sailing at HSC.

Related posts
Hunterdon Sailing Club
Sunfish Fleet 17
Wednesday Night Racing

Monday, December 03, 2007

Camels in Narragansett Bay

Last summer, after moving to Rhode Island, I enjoyed sailing my Laser at various locations around Narragansett Bay. There were a number of regattas, and then on other days I just went sailing on my own exploring some of the bays and inlets, nooks and crannies of this fascinating area. Tillerwoman and I have also explored from the land side almost every legal access to the shoreline of Mount Hope Bay, the north-eastern arm of Narragansett Bay and the part closest to our home.

Not once did I see a camel.

I was therefore shocked to read that a 2005 survey of the bay discovered the remains of over 100 camels littering the Narragansett Bay shoreline. Whaaaat? How did that happen? Where did they come from?

The survey I mentioned was carried out by two Rhode Island mariners, Captain Alan Wentworth and Captain Ed Hughes. They found hundreds of tons of debris on the bay's shoreline, including the camels, and drafted a report documenting the types of trash and its locations.

The two captains took their survey report to anyone that would listen and as a result, ridding the bay of debris has become a priority to local, state and federal agencies and officials, and has also led to a major public, private and volunteer effort to clean up the bay.

Starting in August 2006 the first phase of this initiative has removed over 1,000 tons of debris from Narragansett Bay and its shoreline, but the program is far from complete and it will continue next year.

But what about those camels?

Well, apparently they don't look like this...

They look like this...

Well, I learn something new every day.

Apparently the good captains found over 100 of these heavy wooden objects, weighing over a ton each and soaked in cresol, on the shores of the bay. There was a suspicion that they might have been used by the US Navy as floats for anti-submarine nets but most of the camels only had nails where identification plaques had once been. So it was tough to find someone to take responsibility for their costly removal.

However, in 2006 the bay clean-up crew found a plate on one of the camels clearly identifying its naval origin and the US Navy quickly took responsibility for removing the camels.

So the story has a happy ending.

But to all of my readers please do your part to keep the bay clean. In future, please take care of your camels and make sure they don't escape when you're not looking. And if you have any camels you no longer need, please please please don't leave them in my bay.

Related links

What about those camels?
Locations of the camels and other debris

News of the status of the bay clean-up initiative
Clean The

Sunday, December 02, 2007

More Moth Porn

I expect that by now you've all seen videos of Rohan Veal and others sailing those amazing foiling Moths. But here's a different view. Rohan and Andrew McDougall (a.k.a Amac) mounted a waterproof video camera on Amac's foredeck with a carbon bowsprit and produced this gem of Amac flying at Blairgowrie.

Look to Windward

Just discovered a new blog that aims to help "sailors, race officers, committee members, judges and umpires to get a better understanding of the Racing Rules of Sailing in general and of anything to do with protests." It's written by Jos Spijkerman who is an International Judge and International Umpire. He's only been posting for a couple of weeks but there's some excellent material up there already if rules are your thing.

Check out Racing Rules of Sailing - Look to Windward. (Yeah, I know today's post is in Dutch but most of the others are in English.)