Monday, March 25, 2013

Mama Never Told Me There'd Be Days Like This


Mama never told me there'd be days like this.

How could she? She wasn't a Laser sailor.

I've had my moments when frostbiting this year.

Like last week when I had a decent day (for me) and finished in the top half of the fleet.

Or the even better day in February when I led the fleet around the windward mark in one race.

Yesterday was not a day like that.

Mama never told me there'd be days like this.

I just couldn't pull off a good start to save my life.

I just couldn't seem to find any upwind speed.

I was slow downwind.

And I couldn't work out why.

On the good side I did ace all the crowded leeward mark roundings (even if I do say so myself.)

And I passed boats on every one of the final short beats to the finish line.

Some days you're the windshield.

Some days you're the bug.

Yesterday I was the bug.

Mama never told me there'd be days like this.

But Doug / Pam of Improper Course did tell me there'd be days like this.

Look at the top of their blog.

There is this picture (attributed to Demetri Martin who wrote a book called This Is A Book.)

Yesterday was just one of the downward squiggles on the relentless journey to the top right hand corner of life.

Doug / Pam did tell me there'd be days like this.

36 Weeks And Counting...

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Where am I?

Where am I? 

 And what am I doing?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

This Year Will Be Different...

Two weeks ago, three friends and I spent four days at a Laser sailing seminar run by Kurt Taulbee of SailFit in Clearwater Beach, Florida.

The four of us were quite varied in previous Laser sailing experience, but Kurt did an excellent job of giving each of us personal feedback and advice based on our individual needs. In fact in every drill it seemed like he was able to give me some specific advice to improve my performance, and the other sailors seemed to be getting just as much attention as I was. 

It is amazing in a way that after over 30 years of Laser sailing I still haven't got it right. But, on the other hand, you don't go to a seminar like this to be told, "You're doing fine. Carry on as you are." Speaking for myself, I was very grateful that Kurt pointed out so many ways that I could improve.

Kurt gave me very specific advice on how I can...
  • make better starts
  • improve my upwind speed
  • do better tacks
  • do better windward mark roundings
  • improve my speed on reaches
  • do better gybes
  • improve my speed on runs
  • and do better leeward mark roundings.

Hmmm. I guess that pretty much covers everything.

Some of the things he told me I already "knew" but I wasn't doing them consistently or correctly.

Some of the things he told me were aspects of my boat-handling that I felt weren't optimal but I wasn't sure exactly what I was doing wrong.

Some of the things he told me I hadn't heard about before.

As Donald Rumsfeld said, there are known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns.

The truth of the matter is that all this advice isn't going to improve my racing performance unless I go out and practice all the things that Kurt told me to do. Just being told how to do something isn't enough. 

Some of the things I can do if I think about them consciously, but they have to be practiced until they are automatic.

Some of the things he told me I can't even do at all, or at least not very well, yet. They need even more practice.

And so we are almost at the start of another summer sailing season.

And I still have the delusion that "this year" I will learn to sail smarter and faster.

This year will be different.

Won't it?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


On Sunday I went for my tenth Laser sail of the year.

It was blowing around 12-20 knots and it was frigging cold.

At first my face and fingers were cold.

I thought my face might drop off.

Then my face and fingers went numb.

That's better, right?

There were just over 20 Lasers racing.

I sailed pretty average but not terrible.

Made the top 10 in a couple of races.

Some decent starts, some mediocre starts.

Some decent mark roundings, some major screw-ups at mark roundings.

You can lose a lot of boats if you don't lay the windward mark.

But I was working hard and sailing as well as I could all afternoon.

My finish overall was in the top half of the fleet, which is always gratifying in a fleet this strong.

I was pleased that I could keep sailing hard for all seven races without feeling too tired or getting cramps or my fingers falling off or my face falling off.

It gave me a lot of confidence that I will go into the coming season with a much better level of fitness than I did last year.

This post is sponsored by the International Andalusian and Lusitano Horse Association.

Mrs. John Derek likes Andalusian horses.

She was in a movie called 10 back in the 1970's.

I remember it.

For some reason.

That's a picture at Mrs. Derek the top of this post.

Hey, if I don't get to my 43rd sail this year, at least you had some eye candy.

Let's Sing a Gay Little Spring Song


"Pain in the pinfeathers, I call it."

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Saturday, March 16, 2013

31 Weeks And Counting

I can't keep it a secret any longer.

I just have to tell you.

Yes, it's true.

In only 31 weeks from now the North American Laser Masters Championship will be hosted by the New York Yacht Club in Newport and sailed over three days on Narragansett Bay.

This is surely the biggest news in the sailing world since that big cat regatta decided to go to San Francisco. And from what I hear there will at least 50 or 60 times as many boats at the Laser NA Masters as will be in the final of Larry Ellison's little match race whatchamacallit on the left coast.

And it's in Lasers. Real boats that plane on the water, not machines that somehow fly over the water on foils.

Or maybe it will be in Torches. Who knows what they will be called by then? It doesn't really matter.

I remember the last time the NA Masters were at NYYC in 2003. It was epic. 130+ boats on one line. Did I ever tell you about the time I beat over 100 boats in one race? It had never happened before and it hasn't happened since.

And how often do we sweaty old geezer Laser sailors in our stinking hiking boots and ragged hiking pants get to hang out on the terrace at Harbor Court and drink rum cocktails served by white-coated stewards while half naked servant girls massage our aching thighs and...

Oh. I think I got carried away a bit there. I may have exaggerated slightly. I do have trouble distinguishing my fantasies from reality these days.

But anyway...

This will be the 2013 Grand Prix of sailing. The World Series. The SuperbOwl.

The dates for the regatta are 18-20 October.

Spread the word.

It will be epic.

Friday, March 15, 2013


Enough with all these posts for my more hard-core Laser-oriented readers.

Enough with talk of torches and plaques.

Let's talk about food... and the weather.

On Wednesday I sniffed a hint of Spring in the air and, as we all know, in Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of...

I forget.

Anyway, I took Tillerwoman for a walk around the garden to search for hints of Spring.

We found all sorts of bulbs coming up, and snowdrops in flower.

We found leaves coming out on the honeysuckle and buds on the roses.

And we found shoots on the rhubarb!

I could definitely have gone for a rhubarb crumble with ice cream, or even better - custard, but this rhubarb wasn't ready for picking yet.

So I did the next best thing.

I went Laser sailing in Bristol.

It was blowing around 10 knots from the west and the air temperature was about 50 degrees.

Woo hoo! Spring!

Last week I spent four days in Florida with some friends, training with Kurt Taulbee of SailFit. I came back with a long list of ways to improve my Laser sailing technique that Kurt pointed out to me (more on that in another post) so on Wednesday I worked on a few of those for an hour or so. It felt good.

As I was derigging my Laser on the beach some random guy came up to me and asked the question that random guys always ask, "Is that a Sunfish?"


Then, just as I was finishing packing up the boat on the trailer, one of the Bristol Tuesday night Laser sailing regulars came by. He had obviously been out for a run on the East Bay Bike Path. We had a good long chat about the local Laser sailing scene and how to make it even better than it already is.

Today it's colder.

But Spring is definitely on the way.

You gotta believe.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Read the Small Print

Every Laser has a shiny plaque affixed to the back of the cockpit.

It's the way we know that it's an official, legal Laser. (Or at least we thought we did until recently.)

I hardly ever look at mine. I just think of it as "the ISAF plaque."

Occasionally I do look at the plaque on charter boats or resort boats to see what the original sail number/ hull number is.

As I wrote on Monday, Bruce Kirby, the designer of the Laser, has recently filed a lawsuit against one of the Laser builders, LaserPerformance, and the International Laser Class Association and the International Sailing Federation. One of the main claims in that suit is that ISAF and ILCA should not have been issuing plaques to Lasers built recently by LaserPerformance because LP was in breach of its agreement with Kirby, that those boats were not authorized by Kirby, and that by issuing those plaques ISAF and ILCA were infringing Kirby's trademark (his name.)

What? I never even knew Bruce Kirby's name was on that little shiny plaque.

So I checked my own boat.

Sure enough. The plaque does say that this boat is authorised by...

  • the International Yacht Racing Union (now called ISAF - this is a sign how old my boat is)
  • the International Laser Class, 
  • Bruce Kirby Inc. 
  • and maybe somebody else whose name has been rubbed out after 18 years of wear.

I guess it's a message that you should always read the small print.


What are those shiny letters running diagonally all over the background of the plaque?


What the hell does that mean?

Do I have a counterfeit boat?


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Kirby Torch Song

I have no idea what this is all about but it's out there on YouTube...



Thanks to commenter Litoralis on yesterday's post for discovering that Bruce Kirby Inc. has recently filed a trademark application for this stylized image of a torch, and for pointing out that if you were planning to market a boat called a Kirby Torch, this would be an excellent sail insignia to use.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Kirby Torch

There have been a lot of rumors floating around the Interwebs that the Australian manufacturer of Lasers, PSA, with the support of Bruce Kirby the designer of the Laser, is planning to distribute in various parts of the world a boat that looks like a Laser, swims like a Laser and quacks like a Laser, but that would not be called a Laser (on account of the fact that PSA does not own the rights to the Laser trademark in the territories where it wants to sell this boat.) See, for example, this post on the Laser forum.

The Laser Center at Cabarete even ran a competition to select the new name for the Laser-that-is-not-a-Laser.

I did submit a brilliant suggestion to that competition but I just discovered that it was probably wrong. Today while idly googling for information about Bruce Kirby trademark registrations (as one does) I came across this trademark application filed on behalf of Bruce Kirby, Inc. in November 2012 under the Goods and Services category of "Boats; sail boats" for the trademark KIRBY TORCH.

Hmmm. Now I wonder what boat Bruce would be planning to use that trademark for? It wouldn't be a bad name for a single-handed Olympic sailboat, would it?

Update 12 March 2013 7:20 PM. And by the way, the domain name was registered by Bruce Kirby's lawyer last month. See WHOIS.

Update 12 March 2013 9:30 PM. And has also been bought by the same lawyer. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Shit Hits the Fan

The shit finally hit the fan...

I have written before (see Three Laser Classes? for example) about the dispute between the designer of the Laser, Bruce Kirby, and the major Laser manufacturer in the world, LaserPerfomance.

The Laser class has been caught in the middle, trying as best it can to help the parties resolve their differences and not to get caught in the crossfire. The dispute has dragged on for a couple of years.

Now it has gone legal...

Bruce Kirby has filed a lawsuit against LaserPerformance (Europe) Limited, its owner Farzad Rastegar, a couple of other companies which, as far as I can gather, are part of Rastegar's empire and...

the International Laser Class and 

the International Sailing Federation.

What should I do?
  1. Hunker down and hope it all gets solved satisfactorily sooner or later?

  2. Buy a new Laser before they run out?

  3. Not buy a new Laser because it might not really be a legal Laser?

  4. Buy as many good quality second-hand Lasers as I can in order to make a killing when the supply of legal Lasers runs out?

  5. Switch to sailing Sunfish?

  6. Emigrate to Australia?

Any IP lawyers out there who can explain this to me in words of less than four syllables?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Rocket Science?

What is this?

An ad for the American Ladder Company?

A deleted scene from the movie Good Will Hunting?

The design team for ORACLE TEAM USA working on the AC72 foil design?

The Executive Committee of the North American Laser Class trying to figure a way out of the current dispute between the Laser builders and the Laser designer and ISAF and god knows who else?

I have no idea.

Laser Yoga?

I have warned you people before.

Please don't leave totally anonymous comments on my blog. Even if you are not able to use any of the options offered by Google to put a name on your comments, then at least put some pseudonym at the end of your text like Genie and Wavedancer do.

Then we will all sorta kinda "know" you if you leave multiple comments and that helps build the sense of community among the people who are crazy enough to follow this blog.

Look at the dude in the picture.

He is one of my anonymous commenters.

But thanks to my Granular Online Ubiquitous Tracking and Personal Identification Sleuthing Software, GOUTPISS, coupled with my Correlated Holistic Optimized Portal to Sail Numbers and IP Addresses, CHOPSNIPA, I now have the technology to identify anonymous commenters. I then place a contract with my global network of paparazzi and they find the guilty parties and shoot intimate photos of them at their most embarrassing moments.

You think Justin Bieber has it bad? Think again.

The photo is of commenter "Anonymous 2:03 PM" from my February 27 post Learning from a Gold Medalist. He is the first lucky participant in the GOUTPISS CHOPSNIPA program.

What is he doing?

One-legged downward-facing dog?

The latest "fast handling" technique for reaching in a Laser?

Practicing for the new "Synchronized Ballet on Laser" event at the 2020 Olympics?

I have no idea.

You have been warned. You might be next.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Where am I?


1. I went Laser sailing.

2. Tillerwoman and I had some Blue Point oysters as an appetizer at dinner.

3. We saw some windmills.

Where am I?

Four Pillars

A wise man once said that the four basics of Laser sailing are

  1. Boat-handling skills
  2. Racing skills
  3. Physical fitness
  4. Mental attitude

The wise man said that if you can get the four basics right you will be a good Laser sailor.

You will win races.

By coincidence, a not very wise man writes a blog where he writes a lot of utter nonsense about Boat handling, Tactics, Physical Fitness and Mental Fitness. The blogger uses slightly different words but he means the same things.

I guess the same four basics would hold true for racing many other kinds of sailboats too.

And I guess you could make a similar list for other sports.

But can you really work on all four at once?

If you wanted to to focus on only one of the four this year, which one would it be?

Is there one that you have to get right before all the others?

Is there one that will give you the biggest bang for the buck?

Is there anything major missing from that list?

Should there be a hyphen in "boat-handling" or not?

Will Tillerman ever stop writing these posts with lists of annoying questions?

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Heavy Air Fear

Every dinghy sailor knows that they have an upper limit on the wind strength in which they are comfortable sailing.

For some it might be 18 knots; for others it could be 35 knots.

What goes through your head on a day when you go down to the bay and it appears to be blowing harder than that limit?

What do you say yourself to get you in the mood to go sailing?

How important is what other sailors say to your decision to sail or not?

Do you want other people to encourage you go out and test yourself against your limits or to encourage you to give into your fears?

Do men and women have different approaches to this issue? Is there a testosterone factor?

How important is peer pressure?

Do you want to be the guy who says, "It looks great out there. I'm going sailing. Who's coming with me?"

Or are you more likely to be the sailor who asks him, "Are you crazy?"

Does it make a difference whether this is a race day, a training day, or just a fun sailing day?

Do you think about the last time you had a bad day from sailing in too much wind, or about how much you will regret it tomorrow if you don't sail today?

Do you think about how hard it will be if you test your heavy air limits, or about how you might learn something about sailing in windy conditions?

What's stopping you from going sailing in these crazy winds - your lack of heavy weather skills, or your mental attitude?

If it's a skill deficiency, how are you going to ever improve if you don't go sailing today?

It it's mental attitude, how can you change your attitude?

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Tell Tales

What are those ribbons on the sail for?

They are called tell tales, I think?

Why do we need them?

Do you watch them?

Are there other ways to know if you are sailing too high or too low without looking at the tell tales?

Should you look at the tell tales most of the time when you are sailing?

What would sailing be like if you didn't have them?

Should the Opti kids have tell tales or should they learn to sail without them?

Do you have any good tales to tell?

Monday, March 04, 2013

Photo Quiz



Can you eat it?

How would you cook it?

Where is the nearest sailing club?

What did Tillerwoman have for dinner?

Sail in More Wind

The second lesson from Steve Hunt (aka on SailX as flow) is "Sail in More Wind."

Pretty obvious, right? The darker the water, the stronger the wind. The stronger the wind, the faster the boat.

I find this easier in SailX than in real life. I'm pretty good at spotting the gusts on flat water on lakes. But on the sea, where there are more little waves and chop, I find it much harder to see small changes in wind strength. I do have polarized lenses in my sunglasses which is supposed to help. And some days I can spot something and take advantage of it. But usually I'm not very good at spotting the stronger wind on the sea. My eyesight is certainly deteriorating as I get older and even my prescription lenses can't totally correct all the problems. Anyway, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

Once again, Steve makes it look easy in the video....

There is more wind on the left so he fights for and wins the pin which is slightly favored.

This video is actually just as instructive about how to win the pin. Notice how Steve refuses to allow any boats to get to the left of him and then actually has to luff a bit above close-hauled to make the pin. As I was saying in the previous lesson, unless you are really sure of your boathandling, fighting for the pin can be a high risk choice. Notice how, of the five boats closest to the pin, three are OCS and one is penalized by the system for a collision with flow. The latter boat immediately protests flow. I wonder who won the protest?

Anyway, Steve is in the stronger wind and in the lead. Some wind fills in more in the middle of the course so he tacks back for it. He can't quite cross the boat in second place so he leebows him and then is pretty soon on the port tack layline for the mark. Notice how fast that came up. It's very easy to get pushed beyond the layline on these short courses in SailX.

Steve rounds the windward mark in first place, but then somehow is passed on the run by the boat that was in second place boat who used her windshadow to slow Steve down and pass him. In Lasers in real life, I always try and get clear of groups of boats behind me on the run. The wind shadow from a group of boats can really mess up your day.

But never fear. Our hero sees more wind on the right before his rival and heads over there to regain the lead.

Doesn't he make it look easy?

So why don't we all do that?

It's another one of those "words of wisdom" that everyone knows but it always seems to be the same guys that make it work for them time and time again.

Why is that?

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Before The Music Died

Nothing to do with sailing.

Just looking back like grumpy old guys do.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Latest Kinetic Techniques

Saturday Spam-a-palooza

It's been quite a good week for comment spam at Proper Course, so here is the second in my Saturday Spam-a-palooza series. First of all we have that spam which attempts to sneak under the radar of the alert moderator with outrageous compliments. I am always a sucker for people who tell me how wonderful I am. Here are some of the best examples of that genre this week....

This is really interesting, You are an overly professional blogger. 

I do not know who you are but definitely you are going to a famous blogger if you are not already. 

You ought to be a part of a contest for one of the greatest sites on the net. I will highly recommend this web site!  

Magnificent goods from you, man. I have understand your stuff previous to and you are just extremely fantastic. I actually like what you've acquired here, really like what you are saying and the way in which you say it. You make it entertaining and you still care for to keep it smart. I can not wait to read far more from you. 

Thanks for the feedback guys. In future I will try not to be "overly professional" whatever that means, and to continue to deliver "magnificent goods", man.

Then we had the spammer who seems to be interested in my sex life. (And who isn't?)

If you have attempted to have sex recently and failed the next time could be an anxious moment and the more you think about it the more you are likely to fail again... Another excellent tip is to prevent consuming tea an time either part of getting the products and to prevent liquor if you can. 

Well thanks for the advice sir, but I don't have any difficulties in that department. If I ever do, I will certainly try your suggestion to "prevent consuming tea."

And finally we have a selection of the truly bizarre, from playing basketball with some Germans in a dungeon, to a an owl gift which is also a saber-toothed tiger, and something to do with how the Bible tells you to sharpen iron in order to tone up your buttocks because raspberry ketones, or something.

These five free basketball game apps for the i - Phone will surely help you get your game on. WIFI:Als Verbindungsmoglichkeiten ins Internet stehen Ihnen WIFI wireless lan zu Verfugung. The player guides Phen through 10 levels of dungeon gameplay, finding a whole host of weapons and other items as well. 

The presentment of promotional owl gifts, which is a beautiful saber-toothed tiger cat that isn't a puzzle.  

Рrovеrbs 27:17 sауѕ Irоn sharρenѕ іron; so οften tгoublesome on univeгѕity especiallу ωhen you are taκіng antіdepгеssаnts or mediсatіоns to bоoѕt уour Raspberry Ketones goals with ease, аnd alѕo to tone up youг buttocks.

Which one do you like best?

Did you get any "extremely fantastic" spam on your blog this week?

Friday, March 01, 2013

Fish Choices on Friday

Omega-3 fatty acids good.

Mercury bad.

Which fish have the most and least of each?

Healthier choices top right.

Riskier choices bottom left.

I like anchovies and sardines.

Click on image for larger view that might actually be readable.