Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Strange Beasts

I came across some fascinating art by Dutch artist Theo Jansen.  

His creations look and act very alive and are propelled by the wind - quite remarkable.  

Here is one video of his beach creatures.

He explains a bit more in a TED talk.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

An Embarassment of Embarrassment

Yesterday's race was in higher wind than we typically experience - close to 20 knots.  So, I wondered if I might get my sails washed.

The afternoon started well - sailing out to the race area I practiced gybing several times and everything went fine.  I practiced beating and tacking with the kicker pulled on hard and everything went fine.  I was keeping the boat more or less flat and congratulating myself.

Then the race started and things stopped going so fine.  At the start another boat capsized right in front of me and I almost slammed into it, but managed to somehow go around - making me a bit late for the start.  Never mind - I ended up at the committee boat end of the line with good clean air.   I was about 30 meters behind our top Kiwi sailor who was hiking like crazy keeping his boat flat - until he flipped over the side when his hiking strap broke.  So, he fell behind most of the fleet until he finally jury-rigged a repair to his hiking strap with the end of his main sheet - and proceeded to beat everyone by a long way.  We really have to discover where he hides the motor in his Laser.

I was doing well - in 3rd place with no major mistakes.  Then I got to the windward mark on the 3rd lap where the Committee Boat was parked to observe and be the eventual finish line.  And I proceeded to provide it with an eyeful to observe.

First, I misjudged the mark a bit and was pinching trying to get around it - but the tide laughed at that maneuver and pushed me into the mark.  Well, with the Committee Boat only a short distance away I had no choice but to do my penalty turn (not that I would dream of cheating if the Committee Boat had been far away).  So, I tacked and then gybed and then capsized.  Oh well, still not a disaster (yet).  So I righted the boat but the tide had already pushed me past the mark so I had to bear away and then tack to go around the mark.  No sweat - just a little tack.  But it was a tack with no speed, right into a wave. Smack. Stop. Scramble, praying for something positive to happen. Capsize.  This was starting to get a bit silly.

Dear readers - I am chagrined to report that before finally rounding the mark there followed two (or was it three?) more capsizes for no remotely good reason that I can honestly identify. Can I blame it on fatigue ? There was certainly that as my aching muscles abundantly attest this morning.  Can I blame it on slow tacking with insufficient speed? There was plenty of that as I was desperately trying to do everything as quickly as I could to be clear of what I was sure was an abundance of gleeful smirking on the Committee Boat.  Could I blame it on poor housekeeping resulting in the main sheet not running free and being too tight following a tack?  That happened - or at least it seemed to me to be happen - although at this point I was ready to blame anything other than a lack of skill/attention/care.

After finally rounding the mark I did not capsize again, but needless to say, I did not finish the race near the lead.  The leaders had almost lapped me, but I hasten to add that I was not last.  In fact, my good friend and arch rival who had managed to build a good lead on me after my adventures at the top mark, capsized coming into the leeward mark and the knot at the end of his main sheet came undone and when he righted the boat he discovered that his main sheet was completely undone.  He had to recapsize the boat and struggle a long time to get it operational again. I beat him - or more accurately, he lost to me.

The good news - we all had a lot of laughs in the bar afterwards.  And in retelling our adventures, I noticed that the wind speed increased dramatically with the number of beers. Maybe that was the reason for my capsizes.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Did Mozart Sail a Laser ?

I am not sure what the historians would say about Mozart and Lasers  (or the fact that Bruce Kirby allegedly invented the Laser after Mozart's demise).

But I think the evidence of Mozart sailing a Laser should not be dismissed.

A couple of weeks ago I was out for our weekly race and, as usual, once I was on the water everything seemed right with the world (except for my race skills - but that is another matter).  I was particularly struck by just how right everything seemed.  The quotidian cares of the world completely dissipated. My existential angst evaporated.  Silly worries over life, money, relationships, etc. simply floated away in the wake of my boat.  I honestly don't remember how I did in the race - it doesn't matter.  I knew that sailing in my Laser was a restorative balm and that I had been granted entry into a space that was, if not other worldly, at least close enough to sense the peace emanating from it.

Then last night I watched for about the 5th time Joseph Losey's amazing film of Mozart’s Don Giovanni.  And, several times during it, Mozart's breathtakingly beautiful music and the exquisite Italian setting transported me away to another space that was also far, far removed from the daily clutter and messiness of my life.  Mozart was clearly a genius and Don Giovanni is an absolute proof of that.  The story, like many opera stories, is better not examined too closely for logical consistency – but never mind - when the music is so heavenly, storyline logic is not very relevant.

So, what could have inspired Mozart to compose such incredible music?  It must have been something that allowed him to sense things beyond the everyday, beyond the ordinary.   Laser sailing immediately springs to mind as a possibility. In fact, listening to his operas is all the proof I need to know that he sailed Lasers.

But, just to be sure - is there anything else that might be evidence of his Laser experiences? 

We could look to the beautiful "Soave Sia Il Vento" trio from Così Fan Tutte which may well be another proof.  The lovers bid adieu to each other, singing “On your voyage, may the winds be gentle; may the waves be calm; may all the elements respond to your desires…”  I can well imagine that, following a few hours of Laser sailing in 25 knots, Mozart felt fully inspired to compose the lovely music as an ardent hymn to the wind gods.

There you have it. Who could doubt that Wolfgang was a Laser sailor.

Friday, October 21, 2016

New Sail

I recently bought a new (unofficial) sail from Intensity - and I opted for the Red, White and Blue version.   Quite versatile - it could be a reference to the red/white/blue flags of the US, France, Holland, Russia, Czech Republic, Norway, New Zealand, Australia, UK, Luxembourg, Liberia, North Korea, Iceland, Cuba, Chile or Costa Rica.

Despite what I was hoping for, I am still a mediocre sailor with it, but at least I really stand out in the fleet.  And it is a lot harder to get lost in the mid-line sag at the start.

By the way, this photo was pre-race - before the Warning Signal.  I was really not that far behind the fleet.  As to the race itself, never mind - just admire the lovely sail.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

What It's All About

We had our Monthly Mug race yesterday - one 90 minute race.  Nice conditions - about 10 to 12 knots, with small waves and a gentle incoming tide.

I managed to come in second in the race - our top Kiwi sailor did his usual horizon job and our usual second place sailor was the race officer, so I managed not to screw up in any big way and hang on to beat a fellow who beats me often.

And it was a glorious afternoon.  I really concentrated - but in a non-stressful way.  I tried hard to think ahead - OK, at the leeward mark I need to account for a bit of tide, go slightly wide and watch out for the boat to windward - he will probably not get an overlap and have mark room, but be ready just in case.  Take your time, nothing rushed, round up next to mark and head toward the shallow water for beating into the tide.  Nothing dramatic, but a conscious thinking ahead.  Not a semi-panic process (which I know well), just a calm checklist type of thinking.

And I was really hiking.  Of course my old muscles have their limits (which arrive disturbingly quickly), but I was making concentrated efforts to do some real straight leg hiking (or at least my version of it) in prolonged (surely a few seconds count as prolonged) sessions.  And it helped.

And finally, sometimes I was sailing a bit closer to the wind than I often do - outside telltale flowing but inner one not flowing so well.

But, best of all, I was enjoying myself - just the sheer pleasure of being out there, going (relatively) well and staying ahead of my friend who tried several times to catch me.  It was definitely Flow.  I am reading Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's excellent book Flow now and that is definitely where I was yesterday.

Flow is basically having all one's psychic energy focussed on something where skill level and challenge are both high enough to produce a maximum of "flow".  The point is that even at my level of skill level, I can be in that state when the challenge is appropriate.  It is really a great feeling.

I will be teaching some beginner sailors this afternoon and I hope I can have them experience at least a few seconds of what I felt yesterday - if so, they will be hooked.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Support Persons

I am a bit of a geek when it comes to the Racing Rules of Sailing.

There has long been the issue of how to deal with coaches, parents and others who cause trouble. For the time being there is no way to really deal with them under the RRS.  

But, starting 1 January 2017, “Support Persons” will be covered and will be required to comply with the Rules (which include Notice of Race and Sailing Instructions).  The 2017 - 2020 version of the Rules are available at

Who is a Support Person?

A Support Person is any person who
(a) provides, or may provide, physical or advisory support to a competitor, including any coach, trainer, manager, team staff, medic, paramedic or any other person working with, treating or assisting a competitor in or preparing for the competition, or

(b) is the parent or guardian of a competitor.

Are Support Persons Covered by the Rules?

Rules 3.1, 3.2 and 3.3 make it clear that Support Persons are covered:
3.1 A support person by providing support, or a parent or guardian by permitting their child to enter a race, agrees to accept the rules.
3.2  Each competitor and boat owner agrees, on behalf of their support persons, that such support persons are bound by the rules.
3.3 Acceptance of the rules includes agreement…
(d) by each competitor and boat owner to ensure that their support persons are aware of the rules.

Who can protest a Support Person?
There is no right for an individual competitor to protest a Support Person.

Only a Protest Committee may “call a hearing to consider whether a Support Person has broken a rule, based on its own observation or information received from any source, including evidence taken during a hearing.”  So, presumably a competitor could inform the Protest Committee who would then have the discretion to call a hearing.

What Penalties Can be Given for Breaches by a Support Person?

Penalty on the Support Person

When the protest committee decides that a Support Person who is a party to a hearing has broken a Rule, it may
(1) issue a warning,
(2) exclude the person from the event or venue or remove any privileges or benefits, or
(3) take other action within its jurisdiction as provided by the Rules.

Penalty on the Competitor

The Protest Committee may also may also penalize a competitor for the breach of a Rule by a Support Person by changing the boat’s score in a single race, up to and including DSQ, when the protest committee decides that

(1) the competitor may have gained a competitive advantage as the result of the breach by the support person, or

(2) the Support Person commits a further breach after the competitor has been warned by the protest committee that a penalty may be imposed.

Rule 69 Misconduct

A Support Person is subject to Rule 69.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Future Sailor

I am very pleased to post a photo of a future sailor - my second grandson, held by my daughter a few hours after his birth yesterday.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Toestrap Adjustment

While rigging up for our weekly races, I chatted with our Kiwi sailor, who in addition to being our best sailor is a very nice fellow, always ready to share tips and strategies.

The line holding my toestrap had broken just before a race last week and I had repaired it temporarily with a bit of line I had with me.  Now I was replacing it with something a bit better and I asked our Kiwi how he thought I should thread the lines.  He took the time to show me how he does it, but most importantly, we told me how he would set the looseness for upwind - he sets the toestrap so that I you pass a stick under it at its highest point, the stick would rest on the deck on both sides.  The point of this is to make straight leg hiking easier - and it does.

I had been using the toestrap tighter than that - why I really can't say.  But once I loosened it to what he suggested it did make straight leg hiking easier, with the calves more in line with the deck and not pushing down on the corner of the cockpit.

I did relatively well in our first race, finishing in the top quarter of the fleet. In the second race I did even better - but was also OCS which I learned about almost at the finish line.  The tide was pushing all of us toward the start line and I was struggling not to be pushed over, backing my sail and hoping. I heard no signal and saw no X flag so I thought I was lucky and sailed blithely on. But, it turned out the lack of signal and X flag were the result of a new member serving as Race Officer for the day - and who didn't know about those details.  Oh well.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Friday Luck

I have often wondered why I make so many mistakes in our races and why my boat speed is the same as a Laser dragging 2 large anchors.

I now have the answer - because I am racing on Fridays.   As John Vigor explains in his excellent blog, Friday was the day of Frigga, the Norse goddess of love and fertility, the wife of Odin, the most powerful of all the Northern gods.  Then when the Christians came along they claimed she was a witch and all sailors became very superstitious about starting a voyage on Friday.

I get it now. Frigga is watching me, incensed that I have started my race on Her Day.  She sends her minions to wait for me at the windward mark, snarling my mainsheet just before I need to bear away.  And then they scoot down to the leeward mark, making sure I round up just a tad too quickly after the gybe, catching my boom in the water and laughing derisively as I take a swim.

Yes, I know everyone else in the race also started the race on Friday, but they somehow escape her wrath. Have they made some burnt offerings before the race?  Sacrificed a goat ? Do they know some ancient Norse incantations ?

Are there any Frigga worshippers among my readers that could suggest the best remedy (not involving hard work and more training) ?
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