Monday, April 30, 2012

The America's Cup is Coming Home

Not Rowing in the Rain

Another entry today in this month's group writing project Top Sailing Destination on the Planet.

Contrary to what many Americans think it does not actually rain all the time in my home country, England. Sometimes they experience long dry spells lasting months. The local media go crazy over this, spinning wild stories about how the water supply will run out and everyone will have to drink beer instead of water and stop flushing their toilets and other dire measures. Eventually things get so bad the D-word is invoked and it's officially declared that the country is suffering from a "Drought" as if they were in Somalia. Sometimes they even appoint a Minister for Drought. This always works. As soon as the D-word is used, the heavens open and it rains solidly for 40 days and 40 nights. The Minister for Drought is hailed as a hero and immediately renamed Minister for Floods and eventually promoted to Baron (whatever that means.)

It seems that the old country is in one of those phases right now, enjoying what one of my friends waggishly called "the wettest drought on record." It was raining so heavily yesterday that even a hard-core rower like Chris of Rowing for Pleasure didn't think there would be any pleasure in rowing. Instead he retreated to the library in his country house and wrote a post for our group writing project.

What I imagine Chris's library looks like

Surrounded by books by such authors as Anthony Hope, Richard Adams, H.P. Lovecraft, Anatole France and Robert Louis Stevenson, Chris dreamed of the top rowing destinations on the planet and ventured to waterways that even Ryan Air cannot reach. Much more fun than Rowing in the Rain.

Today is YOUR last chance to write about YOUR recommendation for Top Sailing Destination on the Planet. What are you waiting for?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Lobster Roll

Thanks to Diabolo214 for this entry in our group writing project Top Sailing Destination on the Planet.

Drifting along the river early on a beautiful summer morning, watching the wildlife on shore. Planing across a mile of bright sunny water on a breezy afternoon. Cruising around a peaceful inlet as the sun sets behind the pines. The New Meadows River off Casco Bay in Maine is the best spot to sail in the world.

With your boat, be it Laser or Sonar just in front of the house, it's only a couple of minutes to be afloat whenever the mood takes you. 1 mile across and 3 miles from the open bay, there are many smaller inlets and islands to explore. Seals can be seen basking on rocky ledges when the tide goes out. Ospreys and Eagles are often seen sitting in the trees watching for prey and their babies can be heard calling for food.

If you feel peckish yourself, Cundys Harbour is on the other side of the river where Holbrooks can supply you with a drink, ice cream, or a lovely lobster roll while you sit on their pier amongst the lobster boats as the sun goes down.

Each Sunday all the local sailboats have a handicap race around the buoys and the fleet can be anything from an Optimist to a Tartan 38. The "Excuses Tea" follows as competitors sit on our deck, overlooking the river while drinking tea or lemonade and cookies. The results are read out and excuses start to flow with many stories about what might have been if only!

What could be better?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Wine Dark Sea

One of the most gratifying things about this month's group writing project Top Sailing Destination on the Planet is that many of the contributions have been by bloggers from whom I hadn't heard before. Most of the usual suspects have been absent without leave this month, but the newcomers have filled the gap admirably.

Today we have a post from another first-timer whose blog isn't even a month old yet. And he's another "senior" Laser sailor, to boot. The author of Reaching Broadly sails out of the Abu Dhabi Sailing Club. I've never sailed in the Middle East but rumor has it that the Laser Masters Worlds will be in that part of the world next year, so I might have to follow his blog to pick up some tips. I did like his story about how on hot days (and I guess that means really really hot in Abu Dhabi) you have to hose the Laser down after you take the cover off so that you can touch the spars!

Our friend's top destination is The Wine-dark sea. I am sure that all my readers know that the phrase "Wine Dark Sea" first appeared in Homer's Iliad in the the scene where the grieving Achilles looks out to sea just after the funeral of his beloved Patroclus. But, in his post, the Broad Reacher is referring to the waters around the Dodecanese islands, the northern part of the Croatian coast and Turkey around Gocek which he would like to explore with his friends from the Abu Dhabi Sailing Club.

So now it's time for YOU to tell us about YOUR Top Sailing Destination on the Planet.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Scotch and Titanic

Two more entries today for this month's group writing challenge - Top Sailing Destination on the Planet...

Captain JP sounds as if he is becoming a little jaded about sailing on the Solent and is wanting to get away from the crowds and go sailing in Scottish Water. He hasn't done it yet but he is nominating Scottish Water for his top sailing destination on the planet. That's OK. I hoped that some people would embrace this challenge in that spirit and write about the destination of their dreams.

The Knitting Sailor also contemplated for a while writing about somewhere she hasn't sailed yet - the Lakes of Titan. (Titan, for the astronomically challenged, is the largest moon of Saturn. Hey, I did say it had to be the top destination on the planet but I didn't say which planet.)

But in the end she decided to be more provincial and chose her home sailing club on Kielder Water as her top destination. She even pointed us to a video about Kielder. As she says...
This is a club video put together last year and it sums up why Kielder is the best place to sail in the entire universe (yes, even better than Titan). It’s not just the place, it’s the people. We have found friendships we didn’t expect and more support and enthusiasm than we could have dreamt of. The people we sail with make our sailing what it is, make us want to return and share the moment with them.

Looks delightful.

You have until the end of April to nominate your pick for top sailing (or kayaking or rowing of windsurfing or kitesailing or... well almost anything except jet skiing) destination on the planet. Full details of how to participate at Top Sailing Destination on the Planet.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Play in May

A couple of years ago I participated in something called NaBloPoMo or National Blog Posting Month. NaBloPoMo is for a group of people who commit to updating their blogs once a day for an entire month. And each month has a theme. The theme back in March 2010 was STRANGE. I am quite strange so it was fairly easy for me to write a bunch of blog posts about why I am strange and all the strange things I do.

The theme for NaBloPoMo for next month, May, is PLAY. As I'm retired, pretty much everything I do is play. Certainly sailing is play. Always has been for me. So I think I'll be able to think of something every day to write about on the theme of "play."

Darren Rowse is a serious bloke who writes the best serious blog on the planet about how to make serious money from blogging. But even he has had a go at NaBloPoMo and wrote a post about what he learned: 5 Blogging Lessons from NaBloPoMo.

When you sign up for NaBloPoMo you can, if you want, add your blog to a blogroll of other blogs participating that month. That's so we can all find each other and go and read each others blogs and leave weird comments on them. Or something like that. On the entry form you are asked to choose a "category" to describe your blog. This stumped me at first.

Should I claim that this is a "sex" blog"? I might get a lot of hits that way. On the other hand I hardly ever write about sex, unless you count Sex Change Operation or, ummm, Sex Education or, oh yes, Sex in Prison or... oh, I guess there were a few posts about sex in 7 years of blogging. I am human.

Or should I say this a "hobby" blog? Definitely NOT. Sailing is a sport, not a hobby. Making model boats out of matchsticks is a hobby. Collecting beer bottle tops is a hobby. Writing a blog about finding loose change is a hobby. Sailing is a SPORT. This is not a hobby blog.

For a moment or two I was tempted to choose the category "Psychotic Ranting/Anonymous Foaming." I do do a bit of psychotic rambling/anonymous foaming from time to time. Especially on topics that warrant it such as Mommy Boats and Uncrustables.

In the end I registered as a "Niche" blog. My niche is "Old Geezer Laser Sailing Blogs." It's a pretty small niche.

But that's OK.

I'm going to play in May.

Mystic Clouds of Nostalgia

Gunkholing on Chesapeake Bay

Another entry today in this month's group writing project Top Sailing Destination on the Planet. Mitch who writes Bone in its Teeth says...

You're kidding me, right? How about 330+ entries about the TOP sailing destination on the planet? Here's the link -- I'll go make a sandwich while you catch up on what I've been posting about for the past couple of years. In all seriousness, I can think of no finer area to go sailing and gunkholing than in the Chesapeake Bay and the surrounding coastal waters of Maryland and Virginia.

And he has a list of eight reasons why Chesapeake Bay is the top sailing destination on the planet, including awesome critters, spectacular gunkholing, and soft bottoms.

Hmmm. I wish I knew what "gunkholing" was. I know that a lot of sailors like it. What's the attraction about gunk? But I do know what soft bottoms are and I like them too. Oh, and by the way, Mitt says it's huge. I found the photo at the top of this post on Mitch's blog. I don't think that's the boat that he sails around the Chesapeake on but it is a pretty cool picture.

So thanks to Mitch and all the other participants so far.

But where are the Usual Suspects?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Round up the Usual Suspects

A few days ago, out of the kindness of my heart, I performed an act of public service to my fellow watery bloggers. I suggested a subject for them to write about: tell us what you think is the Top Sailing Destination on the Planet.

It's called a group writing project. That means a whole group of people each write a post on the same topic. Then we read each other posts and leave weird comments on them. It can be fun. We've done it before. Often. Total frigging waste of time of course but probably not quite as pointless as watching Dancing with the Stars.

But where are the usual suspects?

The only participants so far have been Michele, Kevin, another Kevin, and Sam. To be sure, Sam is one of the usual suspects. He is a frequent commenter on this blog and writes one of the best blogs on the planet about How to Sail the Laser. But Michele, Kevin, and another Kevin are newcomers to our group writing projects, I think. Good for them. It's always good to hear new voices.

But where are the usual suspects?

Where is Captain JP? Oh yes, JP has written a post telling us why the Solent isn't his top sailing destination and promising to tell us more tomorrow. I look forward to that.

Where is Baydog who submitted 17 (or thereabouts) entries to our last group writing project?

Where are Carol Anne and Pat? Are they lost in the desert?

Where is Joe? Who will speak up for Hawaii?

Where is O Docker? I always look forward to his off the wall contributions.

Where are Panda and Zen? We can always rely on them to give us a different philosophical slant on any topic.

Where is Noodle? Is she lost in her Second Life?

And where are Chris and Bonnie? We need some input on best rowing and kayaking destinations on the planet.

And where is my2fish? Sunfish sailors are people too.

And where are the rest? BJ and Smilicus and Andrew and Tweezerman and Toby and.... YOU!

Where ARE the usual suspects?

Surely you are not going to leave this project as it stands now with the combined wisdom of the world's watery bloggers saying that the top sailing destinations on the planet are some obscure channel in the northern Great Lakes, a river in the mid-west, some pubs in Ireland, and an alligator-infested lake in Florida? Really?

Please please me by writing something before the end of April. I promise not to be (too) sarcastic about your contribution. Full details at Top Sailing Destination on the Planet.

Moth Porn

"It's cool, man. We get to fly."

The Wrist Starer

I was thinking of buying one of those fancy GPS watches to use when I'm running. Being an anal-retentive type I was thinking it might be fun to be able to monitor all sorts of data on my run like distance, elevation, grade, heading, current pace, average pace, heartrate, lap heartrate, average heartrate etc. etc. etc.

Then I saw this picture and I realized that I've seen so many runners who seem to spend the whole time on a run staring at their wrists. I was running alongside one of these runners for several miles at the Great Bay Half Marathon. She kept telling me that all the mile markers were in the wrong places (according to her wrist.)

I'm planning to do a long run later today. Looking forward to enjoying the scenery. Not the view of my wrist.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Gideon Sundback

The "relief" zipper on a drysuit is surely one of the greatest humanitarian inventions of the last 150 years. Who can begin to imagine the millions of divers and kayakers and sailors whose lives have been enriched by this innovation? So today, on his 132nd birthday, let us pause and give thanks for the life of Gideon Sundback. He may not have actually invented the zipper but he was the one who perfected it. In his honor, Google have a doodle today that lets you unzip the page to reveal everything you never knew you wanted to know about the Mr. Sundback and his toothy device.

The Snodder

I received this email today which is apparently a response to my post about The Reset Button. Certain names and other key details have been redacted to protect the innocent.

Happy to tell you I have had a "reset button" on every boat I've owned for 40 years. I call it the Snodder.

Here's the one on my last ████ that I sold a few years ago.

This must be used sparingly -- only in cases of dire emergency, such as when you've totally blown a good race and suddenly find yourself at the back of the fleet. Maybe gloom sets in, or worse, the crew starts making pointed and sarcastic remarks. It's time to adjust the Snodder. Pull it in just an inch, or maybe two inches if things are really bad. I can tell you it works every time. Never fails to brighten spirits, and the boat starts going faster, overtaking other boats, getting back into the action.

 My first Snodder was fitted to our ██████ in the seventies by my middle man, █████ ███████. We had changed some systems, and there was a spare cleat on the console, like the one pictured above. █████ was (still is) a man with a nice sense of humour. He put a line through the cleat, tied it the other side to a piece of bungee which ran forward and was tied off to the bulkhead below.

Thus adjusting the Snodder is purely a psychological ploy. You're only pulling on the hidden bungee a bit. But as I said, it really works. Of course it would be pretty hard to put one of these on a Laser. How would you hide the secret mechanism?

If you reveal this on your website, I may have to kill you.
Best, ████████████

Oh. Wait. I didn't read that last bit. He is only joking? Right? No? He is, isn't he?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Tiller Extensions Float

The Reset Button

Sometimes in sailing you need a "reset" button.

There was a great post on the Laser forum about a week ago from a guy who clearly needed a reset button...

Help!! I've been an avid laser sailor for about 5 or 6 years now. Never a top level guy, but definitely a weekend warrior. However, a few weeks ago in my frostbite sailing I had a awful crash and burn. To the point where I couldn't get the boat righted and had to be towed home.

Since then, I'm definitely not sailing as well as I did, nor being as aggressive. Today was a SW 10 to 15 and I just could not mentally get myself in the game.... I've stepped up my physical training and managing the boat wasn't an issue... I was just psyched out...

So, I'm wondering if this has happened to anyone else and the best way people have gotten back into the saddle.

Oh yes. Been there. Done that.

In fact, this issue of a bad experience "psyching me out" is probably the major problem I have had with sailing in the last few years. And it affects me on several different timescales.

First, there is the experience when I'm sailing on a heavy air day and experience several bad capsizes. Each one tires me about a bit more than the one before. And worse, each capsize saps my confidence. I start sailing less aggressively and the more tentatively I sail, the slower I become and the more likely I am to capsize again. Eventually I just give up and head for the beach. I wrote about one such day at Losing It.

On days like that I need a reset button. A way of making myself forget the first capsize, the second capsize... and just continuing to sail to the best of my ability.

Then there is the situation where one bad day on the water or a bad regatta can so mess up my head that I avoid sailing certain kinds of events for months or even years.

One example was the first day of the frostbite season in winter 2008/2009. I wrote about it at 10 Reasons Why I (Almost) Gave Up Sailing This Year.

Pretty much everything went wrong that day. The wind was nasty and shifty and gusty and chopped-up with vicious slam-dunk headers. There was a huge turnout of sailors on a short course so the start line was too crowded, the mark roundings were too crowded and there was way too much bad-tempered shouting as we played bumper-boats. I tried to make the best of it and write it off as a learning experience but I think it planted a seed deep in my mind that keeps reminding me that racing isn't always fun; sometimes it's just plain frustrating and annoying.

That one day messed up my head for at least a year. As I said in that post, "Surely all the hundreds of memories of good days on the race-course would outweigh that one bad day?" Apparently not. I really needed a reset button that year.

Another example is the funk I seem to be in now about sailing in the Laser Masters Worlds. I've had some of the best sailing experiences of my life at Master Worlds but my bad experience at Hayling Island in 2010 that I wrote about at Half a World still seems to be weighing heavily on me. I did skip the 2011 Worlds in San Francisco, partly because I am just as happy to be sailing in and around Rhode Island in the summer. But I also skipped the 2012 Worlds in Australia last month. I still don't really know why. I love Australia. I love getting away from the New England winter to sail somewhere warm.

Actually I do know why. That dismal performance in 2010 has made me question whether I still have the skills and stamina to sail the Masters Worlds any more. Totally irrational. I need a reset button.

So how do people deal with this? What advice did that guy on the Laser forum receive?

Let's see...

1. Face your fear... don't miss a week... have fun... make a reasonable goal each week.

2. It is a confidence thing. I would say sail in winds you are comfy in and then gradually push the limit back up.

3. Show the boat who's boss... curse like a sailor.


There's a lot more I could write on this topic (and I probably will.) But this post has gone on way too long and I think it's time to let someone else get a word in edgeways.

Do you get psyched out if things go bad when you are racing? How do you deal with it? What's your reset button?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Cork, Huron and Eustace

Here are three more entries in this month's group writing project Top Sailing Destination on the Planet.

Kevin writes a blog called Lost at Sea which is about "Sailing, Sailing and more Sailing." Hmmm. My kind of blog. Kevin's top destination is apparently called Pfft. No, wait. His post is called Pfft. No, wrong again. It's actually called Pfft… Why West Cork Is Better Than Just About Anywhere.

Apparently "West Cork is where paradise is on Earth. This place has absolutely everything a sailor could ever want: waves, wind, islands and a pub on every corner." And something called "The Craic." Sounds wonderful.


And here's another entry from someone called Kevin. Another Kevin writes a blog called Sail Far Live Free. Another Kevin's top destination is Lake Huron's North Channel which he and his family cruised in the summer of 2010.


Another Kevin even made a video all about the North Channel cruise. Looks wonderful.

Our third entry today is from somewhat not called Kevin. He is called Sam and he writes a blog called How to Sail the Laser which is something I've always been meaning to learn how to do. Sam says Lasers like Lake Eustis. Lake Eustis is in Florida, and Sam makes it sound like Laser sailing heaven.


Thanks to the four people who have already sent in entries. You have until the end of April to send in your contribution. Full details at Top Sailing Destination on the Planet.

RIP Bert Weedon 1920-2012

If you hadn't heard of him, Bert Weedon taught the guitar to Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, Keith Richards, Pete Townshend, George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney... and me.

Or to be more accurate, we all learned from this book of his.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

RIP Levon Helm 1940-2012

Familiar Waters

The first entry in our group writing project Top Sailing Destination on the Planet is from Dan and Michele of Follow the Horizon. They are a young couple with one small child who have recently made the decision to buy a boat and sail off to wherever it might take them. But they are still in the early stages of saving and planning for their adventure so Michele, with a wisdom beyond her years, says that the best sailing destination on the planet is "wherever your boat is floating right now" - Familiar Waters. Apparently for them right now that is the Illinois River.

As Michele says, "Is the joy of the water dependent on the type of sand beneath it? I certainly don’t think so."

She has a good point.

Only nine more days left for you to enter the group writing project. Full details at Top Sailing Destination on the Planet.

Friday, April 20, 2012


Over the last few years it has become apparent to me that some of my readers and fellow bloggers have a fascination with the subject of poop and its relationship to boating. They appear to have a morbid interest in the whole issue of how to deal with pooping on boats, what kind of toilets should be used on boats, and how to fix problems with toilets on boats when there is a poop blockage. I have even had readers ask me how I, as a Laser sailor, deal with this everyday need.

So, as a public service I offer you, my poop-obsessed readers, the following graphic as food for thought.

Lack of Sanitation

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Improper Course

There's been a thread on the Laser forum the last couple of days about an issue at some Laser fleet in Texas. Sounds like they don't want some guy to sail with them. Knowing nothing about the people or the real issues involved I joined in with a couple of typically sarcastic asinine contributions. I never let ignorance stand in the way of being a wiseass.

Then it emerged that one of the reasons claimed for keeping this guy out of his local Laser fleet is that he has a blog, and he is not prepared to guarantee that he won't write about his experiences sailing with the fleet.


This could explain a lot. Is this why hardly anybody would sail with me in Bristol last year? Is this why I always have to practice on my own?

Anyway, Laser sailing is a small world and it was pretty easy to put two and two together and come to what is probably a totally incorrect conclusion as to who my fellow sufferer from blogger discrimination really is. Turns out I have met him a few times over the years.

And he has the most amazing blog which is one of the best resources about Laser sailing I have ever seen. I could study it for hours and hours (and probably will) and learn a gazillion things from it. The oldest post on his blog is dated 1990, which is pretty incredible considering Blogger wasn't launched until 1999.

I like the title of his blog too. Improper Course. Enjoy!

Top Sailing Destination on the Planet

What, in your opinion, is the best sailing destination on the planet?

In this month's group writing project you are invited to share your opinion on this question with the world. Maybe it's a spot you discovered on a vacation or a cruise? Maybe it's your current home sailing waters? Maybe it's some place you've only read about and it's your life's dream to sail there one day?

I shared my own views about what I consider the Top 9 Sailing Destinations on the Planet a few months ago. Three were places that I love to go to for sailing vacations these days as often as I can. Three were my favorite places to race Lasers on the east cost of the US. And three were places I discovered when sailing in Sunfish or Laser Masters World Championships. Now it's your chance to tell us about which place should be added to these nine to make it a round Top Ten Sailing Destinations on the Planet.

Usual rules...

1. Write a post on your blog about what you consider to be the top sailing destination on the planet. Tell us why you think it deserves that honor. Include some pictures if you have any. (If you're into some other kind of boating then you can still enter. Just tell us about the top kayaking destination, top windsurfing destination, whatever...)

2. Once you've posted your entry, let me know about it by sending an email to including a link to your post. If you don't have a blog just email me the article and I will post it here. Please let me know about your post, or send me your story, before the end of April.

3. Please give your post a unique title, ideally including the name of the place you are writing about. I don't want 20 posts all titled "Top Sailing Destination on the Planet." That will just confuse people.

4. I will post here two links to your article. Every day or so I will write a post listing any new entries in the project. Then at the end of the project I will provide a summary post with links to all of your articles.

No prizes. It's not a competition. Just a chance to share your special place with a bunch of fellow boating enthusiasts.

Go for it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sail Over

Less than 100 days now to the 2012 Olympics.

Things were a little different 104 years ago at the 1908 Olympics in England. One of the classes in sailing was the 7 metre class. The photo above is of a 7 metre. In the 1908 Olympics there was only one yacht entered in the 7 metre class. Three races were scheduled but as there was only yacht entered, only two races were sailed.

There were four sailors on the victorious (British of course) yacht. The skipper was Charles James Rivett-Carnac who, at the age of 55 in 1908, remains the oldest Briton to have won an Olympic gold medal in sailing. His wife, Frances Rivett-Carnac, was one of the crew, and became the first woman to win an Olympic gold medal at sailing. The Rivett-Carnacs also became the first husband-and-wife team to share Olympic gold in any sport.

I think things are going to be a little more competitive in Weymouth this summer.

The Progression of Kayaking

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tillerman in Queensland?

Photo courtesy of

I had a bit of fun back in January when Puma sent ten bloggers to Abu Dhabi to cover the Volvo Ocean Race by writing a post, Puma Loves Bloggers, in which I expressed fake outrage that Puma weren't sending any of my favorite sailing bloggers to cover such an important sailing event.

It seems like the idea of sending a bunch of bloggers on a trip to an exotic location to promote tourism to aforementioned exotic location is catching on. Darren Rowse of ProBlogger fame recently announced a competition to select ten bloggers to fly to Queensland in June this year for some blogging workshops with Darren and to blog about their experiences in Queensland, including a visit to the Great Barrier Reef. Darren mentioned that they were looking for entries from bloggers in various niches, and gave parenting, food and photography blogs as examples that would work.

Well, of course I had to have a shot. I love Australia and, although I have visited Queensland before, I've never been to the Great Barrier Reef. And how could they fully cover the amazing itinerary they have planned without having at least one watersports blogger?

So I've sent in my entry. I hear they have hundreds of entries so my chances are slim. But wish me luck anyway.

PS. And keep your eyes open for future opportunities of this kind. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the "send ten bloggers" option doesn't become a common tool in the tourism PR world.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Running in the Heat

I am not good at running in hot weather.

Today was a very hot day for the time of the year in this corner of southern new England. A few miles north of here in Boston they were running the Boston Marathon. The temperature reached the high 80's in the afternoon. The organizers even took the unusual step before the race of warning runners about the health dangers of running in this heat and offering a guaranteed place in next year's race for any entrant who decide not to run.

About 22,000 runners did start the race and, of these, about 800 sought medical assistance along the route and about 50 were taken to hospital by ambulance, but thankfully I haven't seen any report of fatalities.

It reminds me of April 2007 when I ran the London Marathon. That was also an extraordinarily hot day for marathon running, many of the runners were hospitalized or received treatment on the course, and one did die.

I am not good at running in hot weather. I feel like there's something about my physiology that makes me feel the heat more than most folk. I certainly sweat more than most folk. Maybe it's something genetic. Perhaps my so far unproven theory about my being descended from Vikings?

I had a bad experience with running in the heat while training for that marathon back in 2007. I wrote about it at Running Where Einstein Sailed. I was supposed to do a 25 mile training run but had to cut it short at 16 miles because of the heat. The temperature was 82 degrees.

I have been loosely following the marathon and half-marathon training programs produced by Jeff Galloway. His advice is that when the temperature rises above 60° F, runners should slow down by 30 seconds a mile for every 5 degrees above 60° F. I should remember that more often.

Today I felt like I needed a run. I hadn't run for a week because I have been suffering from the Dreaded Man Cold. I still have a bit of a cold but I was missing my regular runs. It wasn't as hot here today as it was in Boston but was still pretty warm. I adopted a strategy that I have found helpful on hot days; I went for a run in the woods. There aren't many leaves on the trees yet but it was still cooler on the woodland trails than on the open road. I carried a bottle of water with me. I ran slowly. I am not good at running in hot weather but I felt good after an hour or so of jogging in the woods.

To celebrate my return to running I took Tillerwoman out for lunch at our local clam shack, Evelyn's, which has just opened for the season. We sat outside by the water and feasted on stuffies and other local delicacies.

Beer is good.

But I am still not good at running in hot weather.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Laser Sailing: The Rules

Laser Sailing: The Rules - by The Keepers

We are the Keepers of the Vang. In so being, we also maintain the sacred text wherein lie the simple truths of Laser Sailing etiquette known as The Rules. It is in our trust to maintain and endorse this list.

#1 Obey The Rules.

This isn't the Pirate's Code, for Pete's sake. These aren't guidelines. These are The Rules.

#2 Lead by example.

Be the one in your fleet saying things like "It's only blowing 35 knots. Let's go racing!" and "It will only take us an hour or so to dig the boats out of the snow. Let's go racing!"

#3 Guide the uninitiated.

Novices should be guided in the ways of Laser sailing. HOW ELSE WILL THEY LEARN IF YOU DON'T
SHOUT AT THEMgently tell them of the error of their ways?

#4 You sail a Laser because you like pain.

The sooner you appreciate this fact, the happier you'll be.

#5 Harden The Fuck Up.

You should not need telling again.

#6 The purpose of competing is to win.

It's not about enjoying being on the water or having fun with your friends or the T-shirt or the "taking part".

#7 Friends, family and social life do not come first.

Laser sailing does.

#8 If it's not hurting, you're not hiking hard enough.

Hiking is hard. It stays hard. It hurts. It's meant to hurt. See Rule #4.

#9 There are only two remedies for pain.

- Meditate on Rule #4.
- Beer (after the race, not during the race, in case you were wondering.)

#10 It never gets easier, you just go faster.

To put it another way, "Laser racing is like fighting with a gorilla. You don’t stop when you’re tired. You stop when the gorilla is tired."

#11 Tanlines on your legs should be cultivated and kept razor sharp.

The few inches of tanned shin between the top of your hiking boots and the bottom of your thee-quarters length hiking pants are a proud sign to the world that you are a Laser sailor.

#12 Tanlines on your arms are a sign of weakness.

Wear a long sleeved rash guard. Tanlines on your arm are just a sign that you spend too much time mowing the lawn in a T-shirt. Real laser sailors don't go sailing in T-shirts.

#13 Facial hair is to be carefully regulated.

You may never shave on the morning of an important regatta as it saps your virility, and you need that to kick ass.

#14 If you don't have a strip of skin with no hair on the backs of your calves, you're not hiking hard enough.

HTFU and refer to Rule #5.

#15 Sunglasses are to be worn in all weathers.

The correct way to wear your sunglasses when they're not shielding your eyes from the sun/glare on the water/glare on the icebergs/whatever is upside-down on your head/hat. If your sunglasses cannot achieve this, buy new sunglasses.

#16 Don't wear a handkerchief hat to go Laser sailing.

It makes you look like a dork.

#17 Don't wear cycling tights to go Laser sailing.

It makes you look like a dork.

#18 Don't wear knee pads to go Laser sailing.

It makes you look like a dork.

#19 Don't wear yellow shoes or turquoise Crocs to go Laser sailing.

It makes you look like a dork.

#20 Wear sunscreen.

But don't slather zinc oxide all over your face. It makes you like a dork.

#21 Be self-sufficient. Rig your own boat.

As a Laser sailor you should be able to rig your own boat. If you need someone else to help you lift the rig into the mast step then take up Sunfish sailing. Letting one of your parents rig your boat for you is strictly forbidden. HTFU. See Rule #5.

#22 Be self-sufficient. Fix your own boat.

You should carry enough tools and spare parts in your car so that you can fix anything that's broken on your Laser without having to ask someone else to borrow a wrench, transom plug, sail repair tape, mast top section or whatever.

#23 Never ever use a Mommy Boat.

Laser sailing is all about being self-sufficient. See Rules 21 and 22. If you need a coach (aka a Mommy Boat) to help you at a regatta you're not ready to sail in it. Be self-sufficient - carry your own drink and food and spare clothing. Mommy Boats are for wusses and pussies. HTFU and see Rule #5.

#24 Respect the ocean. Don't litter.

Sailing is not an excuse to litter. Do not throw your energy bar wrappers or empty drinking water bottles in the sea.

#25 No stickers on the boat.

Nobody gives a shit what causes you support, what war you’re against, what gear you buy, what Laser Girls kick, or what year you sailed Miami OCR. See Rule #5 and just sail your boat. Exceptions are made for Master sailors who may have one sticker on their boat saying Cheat the nursing home - Die on your Laser.

#26 Writing WIN or HIKE HARDER or HTFU on your boat makes you a massive douche.

1) We all like winning, you idiots.
2) If you need to write something on your boat to remind you to HIKE HARDER or HTFU, you need to HTFU. See rule #5.

#27 Support your local Laser dealer.

Never buy parts, clothing or accessories online. Going into your local shop, asking myriad inane questions, tying up the staff’s time, then going online to buy is akin to having a beer with your best friend and then sleeping with his wife. Online is evil and will be the death of the local Laser dealer.

#28 Drink real beer.

Sailing and beer are so intertwined we may never understand the full relationship. Beer is a recovery drink, an elixir for post-racing trash talking, a pain-killer and a just plain excellent thing to pour down the neck. See Rule #9.

We sail to drink so don’t fool around. Drink quality beer from real breweries. If it is brewed with rice instead of malted barley or requires a lime, you are off the path. Life is short, don’t waste it on piss beer.

#29 In summer the only acceptable headgear is a sailing cap.

This should be at least 10 years old, stained with sweat and salt and a little blood, and with the logo of some obscure sailing club, preferably from the other side of the world.

#30 In winter the only acceptable headgear is a knitted beanie cap.

This should make you look like a total badass who is really a member of some elite Special Forces unit just taking a weekend off to do some Laser sailing before flying off to Pakistan on Monday to assassinate some terrorist leader or other.

Absolutely never wear a neoprene helmet. It makes you look like a kayaker. Are you really planning to spend as much time with your head underwater as kayakers do?

And never ever wear one of those Peruvian llama herder hats. It makes you look like a Peruvian llama herder.

Peruvian llama herder hat

#31 Learn how to do a California Roll.

#32 The correct number of Lasers to own is n+1.

The minimum number of Lasers you should own is three, one for racing, one for practice and one to lend to your friends. The correct number of Lasers to own is n+1, where n is the number of Lasers currently owned. This equation may also be re-written as s-1, where s is the number of Lasers owned that would result in separation from your partner.

#33 Display your Laser sailing injuries with pride.

Bruises, blisters, sores, scabs, cuts and calluses are signs that you have been sailing hard. Cherish them. If there's no blood on the deck at the end of a day's sailing, you haven't been trying hard enough. See Rule #5.

#34 Build the sport.

Be the guy who calls three of his friends and invites them to come Laser sailing with him this weekend. Seriously. Just do it. Now.

#35 Volunteer.

If you see something that needs to be done in your local fleet, club or district and it isn't being done or isn't being done as well as you think it should be done... then don't whine about it; do it yourself.

#36 If you can't think of anything else you can do to help the sport, then be the guy that brings the beer.

See Rule #28.

#37 Speedos are not appropriate attire for Laser sailing.

Trust me. You don't want to know how I know this.

#38 Learn how to do a headstand on the foredeck.

#39 Learn how to tack the boat by running round the mast.

#40 Learn how to tack the boat by stepping through the gap between the sail and the boom.

None of the last three rules will give you skills that are remotely useful when you are racing. They are only to be used for showing off to noobs and impressing them with what a badass you are.

#41 Embrace Laser sailing in bad weather.

If you are out Laser sailing in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Those who go Laser sailing in foul weather – be it freezing cold, pouring with rain, or blowing dogs off chains – are members of a special fraternity. Just think about all your competitors who have wussed out. FUCK THOSE GUYS.

#42 Don't make your excuses before you race.

STFU and refer to rule #5.

#43 Don't make your excuses after the racing either.

STFU and refer to rule #5.

#44 Do your turns.

Nobody likes a cheat. Some Danish guy once said if you win the respect of your competitors while losing the race they are more likely to buy you a beer afterwards than vice versa. Or something. See Rule #28.

#45 Simply owning a copy of Ben Ainslie's book does not make you sail faster.

Some training is involved.

#46 Don't be intimidated by other people's expensive Zhik sailing gear.

They could just have rich parents and own a copy of Ben Ainslie's book. Doesn't make them fast. Take them the fuck out in your beaten up 30 year old green Laser.

#47 Never argue with the official measurer.

You can never win an argument with an official measurer armed with a steel ruler.

#48 Don't be a jackass to the other sailors.

Worst case, you will get banned from sailing for two years and your name will become a verb meaning "being a jackass to other sailors." Best case, nobody will want to have a beer with you after racing. See Rule #28.

#49 Don't be a jackass to the race committee.

They are all volunteers giving up their time so you can go Laser racing. They deserve your respect and pity. Besides, the PRO can call you OCS in the next race and you will never be able to prove that you weren't.

#50 Just don’t be a jackass.

But if you absolutely must be a jackass, be a funny jackass.

The Keepers of the Vang have asked me to give credit to Anna of Something about rowing...? who wrote Rowing: The Rules, and Velominati: The Keepers of the Cog who published The Rules of cycling. Apparently, these were the inspiration for the creation of Laser Sailing: The Rules.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Yoga for Sailors

Should dinghy sailors do yoga? What are the benefits?

A few days ago in Top Two Tips for Laser Sailors I posed a question. What were the top two tips given by a coach to a bunch of Laser sailors like me, i.e. aging, unfit, clumsy, uncoordinated, erratic, usually bottom half of the fleet, passionate Laser sailors? What things could we do that would give us the biggest bang for the buck?

The 7th comment got one of the right answers: work on improving starts.

And after a few hints from me, someone finally got the other tip in the 15th comment: yoga.



I was surprised at this suggestion. Not because I hadn't heard it before. But is it really one of the two most important things that Laser sailors like me can do to improve our performance?

Why did the coach give this answer?

I didn't really have much of a chance to ask him to explain the reasons for recommending yoga back in the airport bar at Puerto Plata because my friends and the coach were soon off on one of those discussions about boat handling at the start accompanied by much waving of hands to represent boats on the start line, what was referred to in this month's Sailing World as "bar karate."

Don't get me wrong. I do see some benefits from yoga. I have a series of yoga stretching exercises that I do sometimes after Laser sailing to ease the aches and pains of the day, and occasionally the next morning to work out the stiffness. My exercises mainly concentrate on stretching the lower back, quads and hamstrings.

And I have a couple of friends, very good Laser sailors, much better than I will ever be, who go to yoga classes. I've even seen one of them sailing a Laser standing up on one leg. Not that that's a very useful skill to have when racing but I guess it does mean he has much better balance than I do.

Could it be that the coach had been watching us sail all week and had realized that lack of balance and flexibility and agility in the boat was a major factor in holding us back from achieving our full potential? Did he think that time spent doing yoga would enable us to perform graceful, flowing roll tacks and gybes? Was he saying that, after a few yoga classes, we would be able to sail the boat downwind in waves in 30 knots balanced perfectly on the soles of our feet as we carved turns like alpine skiers?

Or are there other reasons?

What do you think?

Yoga pictures from Wandering Lotus.
Karate picture from Wado World.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Great Bay Half Marathon 2012

There was no racing scheduled for my Laser frostbite fleet this weekend (something to do with a goddess called Eostre and rabbits and eggs, I think) so I drove up to New Hampshire on Saturday and ran in the Great Bay Half Marathon.

What an unexpected pleasure! Much of the 13.1 mile course was in the Great Bay Estuary and National Wildlife Refuge, a beautiful area of pine and oak forest with ponds and marshes and distant views of the Great Bay Estuary itself. Several miles were on dirt roads through the forest, which made a pleasant change from hammering away on paved roads.

The course started and finished in the charming little mill town of Newmarket, which is built around the Lamprey River. I wonder if there are lampreys in the Lamprey River?

A surfeit of lampreys

About the only thing I know about lampreys is what every schoolboy of my generation in England learned at an early age, that King Henry l died of a "surfeit of lampreys." At the time I didn't really know what "surfeit" or "lamprey" meant, but it did not sound like a very pleasant way to die. I always felt that a much better way to go would have been the fate that befell the Duke of Clarence in 1478 who was executed by being drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine. Although the "surfeit of lampreys" was probably not as bad as what happened to poor old Edward ll in 1327 who was allegedly murdered using a method that left no marks on the outside of his body but which involved the use of a red hot poker. Ouch!

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes. The Great Bay Half Marathon.

One of the unexpected pleasures of the Great Bay Half Marathon was coming across entertainers at random intervals round the course. We were running along the dirt road in the depths of the forest and we started to hear in the distance what I thought at first was a recording of a human voice, electronically enhanced in some way. Eerie. Magical. Even better, perhaps it meant there was a water stop around the next bend?

But when we reached the source of the music, we saw that it was actually a guitarist at the side of the road playing an electric guitar plugged into an amplifier, powered by his truck battery presumably? One of the runners near me commented that this was the "Backwoods Rock and Roll Half Marathon."

After the guitarist we were entertained by an accordionist, a one man band, and a folk group. Just before Mile 11, there were were even some dancing girls!

A surfeit of belly dancers

After my embarrassingly slow half marathon last October, I must admit I was wondering if I was getting too old for this lark. In that race, I totally ran out of steam after about 9 miles and basically hobbled the last 4 miles to the finish. If I couldn't do better than that on Saturday, I was ready to give up the whole idea of running half marathons and take up something less strenuous like... ummm.... black belt sudoku, maybe?

The Great Bay Half Marathon was billed as "challenging", a "roller coaster course" with "some steep hills." Hmmm. Knowing how the people who write these descriptions are usually iron men who run 20 miles up a mountain before breakfast every day, I was assuming that the description was probably understating the difficulty of the course.

But I needn't have worried. I set off at a cracking pace (for me) on the relatively flat roads in the first few miles, slowed down a bit on the hilly middle section (even walking up the occasional hill), then picked up the pace in the final few miles as I bantered with my fellow runners about how I was in a hurry to get to the beer tent. And then we were back in the center of Newmarket, running downhill alongside the Lamprey River into a surfeit of spectators including the beautiful Tillerwoman, who captured a perfect photograph of me looking totally insane, waving my arm in the air and with what looks like an umbrella growing out of both sides of my head. How does she do it?

I had not only beaten my goal time for the race. I had run it 13 minutes faster than my half marathon in October. So maybe there's life in the old dog yet?

But why was I faster this time?

I can only attribute it to my training diet. For the past few weeks I have been on a strict Marmite diet. Marmite with grilled cheese. Marmite on bagels. Marmite on turkey sandwiches. I don't know if it's the high B-vitamin content, the riboflavin, the niacin, or some other secret ingredient, but it definitely worked.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Battle Shots

Thanks to Bowsprite for bringing my attention to this alcoholic variation on the old game of Battleships that we played when we were kids. I thought this picture might be a joke at first but apparently it's only a slight variation on the commercially available board game Battle Shots. You can even buy it online at Battle Shots!

As blogger (and law student) George at Trickum Legis says, Battle Shots is the New Beer Pong!

Please drink responsibly, do not drink if you have a drinking problem, do not drive if you have a driving problem, excessive consumption of alcohol causes... and blah, blah, blah. Seriously, be good.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Dinner with Ben Ainslie

First of all the answer to this week's photo quiz. Then the back story...

In my Picture Quiz post yesterday I posted five pictures and asked, "What do these people have in common?" I did give a clue that the answer had something to do with sailing.

The answer is that, according to an interview given by Ben Ainslie to Lymington's online magazine and portal Lymington Dot Com, these are the five people that Ben would most like to invite to dinner. Many of you guessed some or all of the names of the people in the pictures, but for the record they are Mr Blobby, Billy Connolly, Kirsten Dunst, Robbie Williams and Gisele Bundchen.

I didn't realize it would be such a hard question. I thought some of you would find the answer via Google for sure. Just googling Dunst Blobby will get you there, for example.

The back story is that the Ben Ainslie Fan Page on Facebook has been posting a quiz every Monday in which the prize for the first correct answer is a cap signed by Ben. This Monday the question (I'm sure you've guessed by now) was, "If Ben could ask 5 people for dinner (dead or alive) who would it be? First person to get 3 correct gets the signed cap."

Hmmm. So I did extensive research on the question using my vast knowledge of popular culture coupled with in-depth psychological analysis of Mr. Ainslie's personality to come up with my answer.

That last paragraph is, of course, total bullshit. I just googled: Ben Ainslie dinner guests. And up came that site from which I copied and pasted the answers into Ben's Facebook page. Hey, I reckon a signed cap from Ben Ainslie is worth at least the 30 seconds of work it cost me to enter.

Of course I knew this didn't guarantee that I would win. Ben might have changed his mind about his preferred dinner guests since giving that interview. He might have forgotten what he said in the interview. The fact that the question allowed for "dead" guests might have changed his answer. Whoever is running the quiz might have decided that was already out there on the Interwebs would not be the "right" answer this week, just to stop smartasses who have a Google and know how to use it, like me, from winning. I did notice that the Lymington interview is undated, but that the last one of Ben's achievements it listed was his Finn Gold Cup in 2005. So that post is probably from before 2008 (when Ben won his third Olympic gold medal.)

I also thought it was a pretty cool group of people to have over for dinner. Two sexy, beautiful women. Two male entertainment personalities with something of a bad boy image. And Mr Blobby! What a dinner party that would be! You couldn't help admire a bloke who would choose a list like that. What a lad!

No surprise, I didn't win the quiz on Facebook. The "correct" answer of who Ben would like to invite for dinner was Nelson, Churchill, JFK, Kate Beckinsale and James Corden.

Really? Nelson, Churchill and JFK?? How predictable. How politically correct. Beckinsale? She doesn't even drink and, as far as I know, has never ever been photographed putting on her socks before her underwear. And no invite for Mr Blobby? Shocking!

I think I preferred the younger Ben.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

29th Philadelphia Laser Championship

When I lived in New Jersey, the Philadelphia Laser Championship (not in Philadelphia) was one of my favorite regattas. It was usually the first Laser regatta in the year and, being a great fan of small lake sailing, I made the annual pilgrimage to Marsh Creek (not in Philadelphia) many times.

I have several trophies from this regatta on the wall of my man cave, most of them for "first old geezer sailor who didn't finish in the top three." But I did take third overall in 2000 and almost won the Marsh Creek Fall Regatta that same year.

It looks like it's a totally different bunch of sailors from when I used to sail there, except for one name I recognize. And I do remember the lady on the RC who introduced the video. She used to be, maybe still is, a very active Sunfish sailor. At my first Sunfish North Americans at Lewes YC in Delaware in 1995, the organizers paired off sailors with "buddies", I guess in an attempt to foster camaraderie and to help us get to know each other better. She was my "buddy" at that regatta and helped me one day when my rig fell down just before the start of a race.

Happy Days.

Picture Quiz

What do these "people" have in common?

Clue: this blog is about sailing. No, really it is.