Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Brittany Storms

I just returned from a week in Brittany where the weather was unseasonably mild.  No storms, but it is not always like that.

Amazing video of storm waves in Brittany crashing against light houses - beautiful and  scary to watch.

By the way, this video is part of SailingNews TV - a good French sailing YouTube channel. Here is another one which opens and closes with some of the same lighthouses and some Volvo Groupama action.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Championship Rigging

The Sailing World Cup finals were held in Abu Dhabi recently and I had the chance to see all the top Laser sailors launch on the Medal Race day.

It was also quite interesting to see the clockwork precision with which a top-level regatta is run.  On the Medal Race day, each class was given a specific time to be ready for inspection and then launch. Sailors who were late by only 10 minutes were penalised by the Jury.

As the Laser sailors prepared for inspection, I looked at how each rigged their Lasers and while there were no great secrets learned, it was interesting to see the differences.

First, the outhauls - some had the small block at the back half of the boom (which is what I am used to) and others had it in the front part of the boom.  This is Pavlos Kontides with his outhaul block upfront.

Both Australians, Tom Burton and Matthew Wearn have theirs at the back.

The bungee cord attached to the clew. Some were straight to the jam cleat and others criss-crossed under the boom.  Sam Meech criss-crosses, as does Kontides.

But Robert Scheidt uses the straight technique.  And, speaking of the clew, note that Robert Scheidt uses just a bit of thin rope for the clew tie-down - none of that fancy Velcro stuff for him.

About half of the people used tape or string to hold the vang into the thing (whatever it is called) on the boom.

Both Kiwi boats - Michael Bullot and Sam Meechy - had several bands of tape around their booms between the mast and the vang connection (in addition to tape holding in the vang connection) to mark their outhaul position.  

Meechy had his outhaul block at the front part of the boom and could read its position against the tape. Bullot had his outhaul block at the back part of the boom and had put several bits of tape around the outhaul cord to measure against the tape on the boom.

On launching from the beach, the over-the-transom mount was the favored approach.  And everyone stood up to insert the centerboard, tidy up and generally survey the scene.  This is Tonci Stipanović about to insert the centerboard.

And Robert Scheidt remained the longest - standing until he was a good 200 m or more away from the shore. That is him in the middle boat, still standing, facing forward.  Unfortunately he was headed out for a terrible medal race - he was comfortably in second place and then sailed into a hole, dropping quickly to 9th place where he stayed until the finish.

Monday, October 19, 2015


We had an incident in our club last week that left a bad taste in our mouths.

One of our best sailors - let's call him Sinbad -  has not been sailing with us much lately since he often goes to another club with better competition.  When he races with us he is almost always in the first 2 places. But last weekend he came to sail with us and we were glad to see him again.

Since our best sailor was not there, Sinbad was practically guaranteed to win the 3 races scheduled for the day - and he did so.   But, it was clear that he was cheating in the process.

At one of the starts I was coming up below him near the Committee Boat and yelled "up, up" and he just looked at me and said "but I am stopped here and can't do anything".  He made no effort to sheet in and turn up. 

On a broad reach toward the leeward mark, I was about 2 boat lengths behind him and another boat and he was blatantly violating Rule 17, luffing the windward boat far, far above his proper course. I yelled at him and said "Hey, Sinbad, you are way above your proper course. This is Bull***".   He didn't react at all and sailed on.

The wind was relatively light and on several other legs he was rocking and pumping like crazy - one particular incident occurred when a middle of the fleet sailor was briefly ahead of him.

No one protested and no said anything to him back on shore about the cheating. He acted as if nothing had happened and didn't say anything about my yelling at him.   He left as soon as his boat was derigged.

Several of us talked about it afterward - basically shaking our heads and saying the whole thing was so unnecessary for him. 

I really don't know the best approach to take.  We don't have a culture of protesting in our club and when an incident does occur on the water, we usually discuss it in the bar afterwards and sometimes I post a Rules Quiz based on the incident for comments and general education during the following week.

But Sinbad is very experienced and surely knows Rules 17 and 42 and I had shouted at him on the water. He chose to blatantly cheat.

Should we have protested or at least said something back on shore and gotten the issue out in the open?  Sinbad would have won anyhow. Nothing really changed for the other sailors' standings. 

Sinbad has been a supporter of the club, volunteering for duties in the past, and his son is very active in the youth program. And Sinbad is sailing less and less with our club.

As a general matter, sailing is self-policing and no one, including the protest committee, is required to call a foul.  If no one wants to protest, even in big regattas, many judges will leave it at that for routine violations, even if they see one. Nothing in Rule 60 requires anyone to protest a boat, with "may" being the operative word (except when the Race Committee receives a report from an equipment inpsector or measurer on weighing of clothing/equipment or compliance with class rules)..

But, of course, sailing with Sinbad will never the same for several of us who understood what was going on.  I had always felt he pushed the limit of rules, but this was far beyond the limit. 

What is the best solution?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

More Judging

I spent the last weekend at the Monaco Yacht Club for an ISAF Judging Seminar.

It was a great experience with excellent instructors and fellow geeks from 8 countries.

Needless to say the facilities were not your typical dinghy club. It's the multistory white building below.

It is certainly the nicest yacht club I have ever been in (and the only one I have been to with a jacket and tie required for dinner). And it has a superb bar with the bar in the shape of a famous Riva Aquarama.

We had lunches on a terrace overlooking the water and various cruise liners and yachts.

Quite interesting to see an Optimist regatta (the little white dots in the photo above) just behind a cruise liner and various posh yachts. 

I also visited the Oceanographic Museum and Aquarium.  Both were very well done and worth the visit.  I especially enjoyed some beautiful jellyfish displayed in a soft blue light, pulsating slowly. And I saw what is probably the ugliest and deadliest fish in the world – a rockfish with venomous spines.  It is really hard to see against the bottom - two of them in the photo below. According to the information displayed, stepping on them or otherwise getting injected is fatal to 25% of human victims.  Yikes!

And another fish (I forget the name) is born a female and dies a male. Not sure about all the details but it brings the notion of transgender to a new level.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

A Great App

I have discovered what looks to be a really fabulous app for sailing -  and it is free.

Go to and check it out.

All you need is a smartphone - either Android or Iphone (or Ipad) and you can get a great track of your race or wherever you go.  A GPS also works.  Blackberries don't work.

I tried it today with my Ipad (in a waterproof covering) strapped to the front deck of my Laser with a bungee cord and it worked beautifully - with my track accurately recorded and with different colors for my speed - my top speed was 10 knots on a reach.

Then you can upload the track to the RaceQ website (free) and do all kinds of neat stuff with it. I am sure I have a lot to learn about the possibilities, but even on the first day, I am pretty excited about it.

If other sailors were in the same area at the same time (like during a race) and have also uploaded their tracks, then all show together.  There are avatars for each boat and, if you fix the phone or Ipad to your boat, you can get all kinds of neat info on what you did, with a 3D boat. (I am still trying to figure out how to get the big keelboat to look more like a Laser - but even I can't, still a cool app.)

I hope I can convince a number of sailors in our club to do this and then we can see our races afterward.

And the same folks have some very interesting training videos based on some of the races uploaded.

Give it a try.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

What is it?

I was in Brittany last week, revelling in the beautiful scenery and cool weather.    I went out 3 times in my yacht, below,

but unfortunately, the wind was never over about 10 knots in puffs and even less on average.  This meant I had to be very attentive to the tide and not get caught.   On the last day, I could make no headway at all against the tide and had to paddle back. 

Fortunately, the lovely scenery included several of the classic American boats of the same owner who took me for a sail last year in his American scow.   His latest acquisition is pictured below - I have photoshopped over the sign on the boom which identifies it.

Do either of my readers know what it is?  Hint - it is an American design and the original ones were all in wood dating from the time of the First World War. This one is a modern one with a fibreglass hull, but it is a faithful reproduction and still has lots of beautiful wood plus reproduction bronze deck hardware, including cleats, winch and tow bitt. The only modern fittings are a couple of jam cleats.

Bonus question - in what American museum is there a model of one ?

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Troll's Older Brother

We have a large highway bridge at the north end of our sailing area and a troll lives under it.  I know this because at times when you sail near it, especially with an incoming tide, there are various wind shadows, eddies and general mischief that cause one to become completely disoriented, becalmed and befuddled.

I now know where the troll's big brother lives.

Yesterday, we had a longer race with a straight run south, west into a little channel and then under a little bridge, around a buoy and back home. That was the plan.  But there was also a quite strong incoming tide and the troll's big brother was lurking under that bridge.

We had a great run, cruising down the channel with the tide, turning into the channel, still with the tide and rushing under the bridge with the tide.  As we ran under the bridge, we noticed that the first 2 boats had already rounded the mark and were struggling - really struggling - back towards the bridge against the tide.

The water under the little bridge is only 90 meters across, with two sets of supports, dividing the water into 3 parts, with the middle portion slightly larger than the 2 end portions. The tide was really pouring through the funnel created by the bridge, with the wind directly in line with it. So, the all 10 boats started beating up the narrow channel (with lots of "Starboard !" and other hails) against the tide, making slow progress until arriving at the narrowest point just under the bridge where progress became virtually impossible.  Finally, our Kiwi sailor made it under by going to the far right, tacking constantly and squeaked through.  He was followed by another Laser and a double hander a few minutes later who made it through the middle.  And that was it.  The troll let them through for some reason and then he closed the gate.  The tide was getting stronger.

The rest of us spent what seemed like hours trying every way possible to get under.  Not only was the tide too strong, but if we went too far left,  there was a monster wind shift caused by the bridge and everyone capsized at least once.  Most of once capsized several times.  One of the Kestrels bent its mast during a capsize in shallow water.

Eventually, one by one, we all surrended to the troll and accepted a tow by our safety boat under the bridge to an area we could navigate.  I kept trying until the very last, hoping I could make it, but eventually admitted I was not going to make it and was becoming seriously tired from the trying.  So, I took the last tow and eventually arrived home, just before dark.

In the bar afterward, we had quite a discussion.  The PRO noted that the Kiwi who made it through first succeeded due to his very quick, precise tacks.  He lost very little on each tack, whereas the rest of us would tack and, during the tack, be swept back more than we had gained to the point of tacking.  The PRO was aware of the potential problem since he had kayaked under the bridge during a strong tide and knew how vicious it could be.  He thought if the wind was too light he would not have us go under the bridge.   But we all figured that with a wind of 14 or so knots it should be doable.  Wrong.

Friday, August 7, 2015


I sailed a catamaran (a Hobie 16) yesterday.  It was the first time I have sailed a catamaran (Photo from Internet - not here).

My friend, Mark, who owns a beach sailing club here, invited me to give it a try, assuring me they are lots of fun.  And we picked a good day, with the wind gusting above 15 knots.  The sailing area is relatively sheltered with islands so the waves were not big, but they were still a factor in tacking.

One of his employees, Keith, took me out to show me the ropes and explain how tacking, especially in the wind and waves we had, is potentially tricky.  So, off we went.  It is true, that the cats accelerate quickly - but, to be honest, a screaming reach on a Laser is just as exhilirating since you are even closer to the water.  We tacked a few times, only having to do the backward turn once.  Then we gybed once and it was my turn.

A few clear mistakes - inspired by thinking I was in a Laser.  First, I kept trying to bring the tiller extension around in front of me, instead of leaving it behind.  Not a good idea.  Second, I kept wanting to cross over too early in the tack - Keith told me not to cross over until it was clear we were going to make the tack (with the jib backed).  And when I did cross over, the trampoline felt clumsy (OK, I was clumsy) and it took me a while to get settled, with my feet under the toe straps.  But I did a few tacks and they worked - meaning at least we didn't stall out.  I am not saying they were elegant.

I was starting to feel tired - not being used to the boat I was not comfortable in maneuvers and that took a lot of energy.  So, since Mark was out practicing in a Topaz (he is going to the first Topaz UK nationals in the UK next week), I ended up going back to the beach (beaching a cat is a neat way to get ashore - no trolley, no centerboard, no hassle - just head to the beach and slow down a bit and there you are).  I rigged up a Topaz and went out for a spin with Mark.  Ours were rigged only with a mainsail, but they can also have a jib and even an asymmetrical spinnaker.  They are robust little plastic boats - good for beach club rentals, but not racing machines.  We enjoyed the sail and came back for a welcome beverage.

As for future cat sailing - I would like to try more and get to where I am a bit more comfortable.  But, I don't rank that as a top priority for now.
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