April 26, 2016

Sailor Down!

by Pam 
'Sailor down! Sailor down!"  And about 10 or 15 minutes later, he was dead. 

Dear, dear, lovable, wonderous, full of surprises, Peter Stephinson.  You know, the foiling Laser guy a/k/a the Australian GGM Laser National Champion a/k/a the guy who fell out of his boat and finished a race at the Kingston Laser Master Worlds while simultaneously driving and hanging onto the stern.

Well, Peter decided he would race in both the Radial and Standard fleets this year at the Laser Master Worlds in Mexico.  But, things didn't go as planned.  He finished the practice race and ... well, that was the end of his World's competition. 

So here's what happened ... and by the way, Peter is very much alive, having died for a few minutes but the Powers That Be sent him back.  Having been born again on Mexican soil, he is now considered a Mexican citizen and says he'll be applying for his Mexican passport soon.

We talked with Peter, I mean Pedro, today who was still feeling a bit weak but he wanted everyone to know he was okay and, more importantly, he wants to share what happened.  He's an inventor, researcher and explorer at heart and he learned a lesson he wants everyone to know about.

First of all, he didn't have a history of heart problems but a brother and some good mates who had heart problems motivated him to see a heart specialist for a full workup and he was pronounced healthy.  He's fit and if you've ever been around Peter, he's always cracking jokes and laughing and has the best attitude and just goes with the flow.  Not a candidate for a heart attack ... and yet.

Practice race for the Radial Masters in Mexico and he finished the race and had a dull ache in the center of his chest, said it felt like his chest had been bruised.  He wasn't pleased with his performance in the race and decided he'd better get in some more practice so he headed back upwind by himself.  His plan was to just go to the top mark and then reach back to the club at a better angle.  By the time he got to the top mark, the wind had picked up to 20+ knots but the pain was gone.  He headed back to the club and lined up in the queue for take out but had started to feel badly again and knew something was wrong.  He decided to relax and stay calm and wait patiently.

A female sailor in front of him noticed he didn't look too hot and offered to let him go ahead of her.  Being the gentleman that he is, he insisted she go first.  The sailor asked multiple times but he kept insisting on waiting his turn.  Finally, he got his boat on the trolly and he simply couldn't get it out of the water and told the young fellow helping at the ramp that he was going to have to pull his trolly all the way up to the boat yard, where he had a prime position right next to the club.  When they reached his destination, he was feeling fairly weak and just laid down on the ground.  One of the American gals close to him jokingly called out "sailor down" which got the attention of Andy, the local organizer.  Bless his heart, Andy took the comment seriously.  Peter inquired about an ambulance but it was out on a call so he told Peter they would have to walk a couple of blocks to the emergency clinic.  They got about 100 yards and Peter could go no further.  Andy got a taxi and Peter jumped in, still in his wet sailing gear except for his life jacket and off they went.

At the clinic, they got his shirt off and got all the wires hooked up on him and then they started tugging at his boots and getting his hiking pants off.  As the pants came off, remember they have a bit of compression to them, Peter told the doctor he was feeling tingling in his hands.  The doctor told him he wasn't surprised since he was currently having a heart attack.  And Peter lost consciousness and remembers nothing more.  He flat lined and was dead for three and a half minutes.  They had to use the paddles on him a couple of times but they got him back, he had surgery to put in a stent and was put on a ventilator and into a medically induced coma for 24 hours.  Pedro woke up in the hospital, no clothes, no wallet, no iPhone or access to his contacts. 

Pedro most certainly would not be here today if not for Andy and being in the emergency clinic the moment he had his heart attack.  In hindsight, and this is what he wants everyone to know, he calculated that he had about an hour and a half warning before having a heart attack.  The dull pain in the center of his chest was the early warning sign.  Something he shouldn’t have ignored.  Instead of going upwind by himself in an increasing breeze, he should have called for immediate assistance and gotten to a hospital straight away.  The hiking pants, he theorizes, provided compression which gave him a little extra time to get to help because the moment they came off, things went south immediately.

Pedro was in good spirits when we talked this evening and his family is with him.  Well actually, they were at the mid-week festivities at the club and his fantastic travel insurance is void if he leaves the hospital for the night so he called us instead.  Once he gets clearance to travel, although he would like to stay for a while in Mexico and enjoy his new home country, he was overruled and will be skipping this Worlds and heading back to Australia ... most definitely a winner!

Looking good Pedro

April 21, 2016

My Quest for Fitness

By Doug
Someone once told me that Lasers were never designed for people over 35, but he was clearly wrong. So, how long can we competitively sail a Laser if we stay fit and avoid injuries? And what what kind of exercises would be needed? And who would know ... 
 
By Peter Seidenberg
I am 78 now, going on 79 in November, and I still sail the Laser competitively and with some success, albeit preferring the smaller Radial rig because it is more suitable to my weight of 160 pounds. The Radial is also becoming more and more popular with ever increasing fleet sizes for meaningful competition at regattas. Admittedly, the Radial is a bit easier to handle, already on shore with stepping the mast and, of course, on the water with having more control over the boat on windy downwind legs. Upwind, however, the Radial still requires full-out hiking, just like the Standard, only that ones efforts result in less healing, and therefore in better upwind speed and more sailing enjoyment.

Of course, to sail the Laser competitively requires fitness, and the higher the fitness level – the better the sailing results. This simple formula is my incentive to work on my fitness. As we all know, without an incentive, good fitness intentions generally evaporate.


Since the fitness requirement for our sport is multifaceted, I gear my work on my fitness accordingly, doing various exercises generally for one hour every morning in my basement gym. I rotate some of the exercises to allow my muscles and joints to recover. My versatile workout station helps me to do a variety of exercises. They consist of:
  • 5-minute stationary bike rides for warm-up,
  • 15-minute yoga stretches for flexibility,
  • sit-ups on my hiking bench for core strength,
  • bench presses for shoulder strength,
  • reverse sit-ups for lower back strength,
  • lateral pull-downs for shoulder strength,
  • leg-raises for knee and quadriceps muscle strength,
  • butterfly pulls for shoulder strength,
  • wall-sits for knee and hip strength, and
  • arm curls for bicep strength.
Aside from my morning exercises, I attend a yoga class once a week throughout the year and ride my mountain bike in the summer twice or three times a week. While doing all these exercises, however, I am mindful of the saying that everything should be done in moderation. I pace myself to avoid injury and set-backs as a result.

Whenever possible, however, I sail my Laser, since I believe in the saying that nothing beats time in the boat. On weekends in the summer I go to as many regattas as I can, and there are plenty of them along the New England east coast. I also take part in Tuesday nights practice sailing in the Newport area whenever it is on the agenda.

I am really lucky and happy that my sport and passion gives me the incentive to work on my fitness, and I intend to continue for as long as I can.


Update: Peter's training worked again - he won the 2016 Master Worlds in the Legends category (75+). 

April 16, 2016

Steering for Balance

by Doug
There's a mistake that even the experts make when sailing in a breeze, and it has to do with sailing downwind when it's windy. It's something that both Frank and Julian Bethwaite explained to me about sailing 18 foot skiffs on Sydney Harbor.

You see, there is far too much power in the sail to control with crew weight alone. They explained how it's done by trying to balance a pencil on your finger, taking all the variables into account as shown in this video.

You have to actively stabilize by steering the boat under the top of the rig, which means bearing off in pressure. Here's how Frank described it in a 2008 Sailing World article called Steering for Better Balance:

"Some years ago I coached several mature and experienced sailors on the 59er, and I was astonished to find that so many of them were unaware of the steer-for-balance principle. More accurately, most thought they knew what it meant--and that they would be able to use it naturally, if and when it became necessary. But when faced with real speed and a sudden gust they turned the boat the wrong way and simply "lost it." 

Only a handful of experienced sailors know how to control a sailboat at speed and get peak performance while doing so. Most top sailors believe they know what steer-for-balance is, and they believe they can do it. But when put to the test, they don't know and they cannot do it."

Bearing off in pressure does more than get the hull under the rig. It puts pressure on the windward side of the centerboard to push the rig to windward and, of course, going more downwind stretches the puff.

This can be seen in an excellent Laser foiling video taken recently by Ryan Minth of C-Vane when Peter Stepinson of Glide Free was introducing the juniors of the Gulf Coast Youth Sailing Association to their first experience on a foiling Laser:   

*

Foiling will definitely teach you better boat handling downwind. Imagine how having such an intro to the speed and foiling experience at a young age would have affected your sailing.  What an opportunity for these kids.  Ryan now has a set of these foils for his kids to use for training which might just give them an edge on their competition. 

I love the commentary when Peter, a Great Grand Master, jumps into the boat and effortlessly shows the young-ins how it's done. These same kids all call me "sir" when I compete against them on the water and now I know why.

April 11, 2016

Houston We Have Lift Off!



Peter Stephinson from GlideFree stopped into Houston, Texas for a little foiling camp with the local juniors and shared some of their comments with us:

K.O.:  Yesterday's sailing experience was amazing. I personally had never done anything like it before. I really liked how you could feel the boat accelerate as you began to foil. Thank you for the experience.

A.M.:  Thank you for this amazing/awesome/rad/gnarly experience. I figured out how to get up about the second I got on. It felt like the helm of an i420 on a reach balancing the crew and the boat from flipping on top of you but instead you're just balancing yourself and the boat. It's exactly like balancing a broom on your hand. I don't think there was much wrong with it, it seemed very well developed. 

M.M:  The glide free foils I tried out yesterday was an amazing experience. The feeling of flying across the water was one that I have never had before. The extreme speed on top of the height above the water was unbelievable. 

M.G.:  … it was an amazing experience ... I do like the product very much and believe that it is a fantastic way to get someone into foiling boats in a relatively affordable way. I myself am very interested in a set, however that does depend on whether or not my father is interested too … I really appreciate you taking the time to introduce us to the fantastic experience of foiling. 

A.H.:  … it was great experience. The speed was greater than any other sail boat that I’ve ever been on. The blood rush was insane. … All in all the experience was fun and exciting. 

S.B.:  It was awesome, only problem is for a beginner figuring out how to work the center board is a little confusing. 

F.M.:  I really enjoyed the glide free because it was an exciting feeling to be foiling in a Laser. The ability to foil, and do it so easily is a luxury. The reliability of the foils is incredible. With the amount and power that I crashed I was impressed by the durability of the product



April 09, 2016

Laser Foiling in Texas

by Pam 
Despite that AUS on the sail, this is Texas Laser foiling and those aren't Aussies.  Peter Stephinson (AUS) from Glide Free Design is in Houston, Texas for the weekend and letting the kids in Ryan Minth's sailing program at Texas Corinthian Yacht Club try their hand at foiling.  Peter reports that the overwhelming response from the kids was "Awesome!"  Peter's response was sort of funny ... he wanted to know what was up with the dirty water.  Welcome to Texas!




April 05, 2016

Beware GGMdom

by Pam
Doug became a Great Grand Master (65+) at the end of last year just after the Kingston Worlds. Medicare kicked in and thanks to Obama Care (said sarcastically), he now has cheaper and better medical insurance than I do. Nevertheless my company’s insurance made a non-mandatory accident policy available at a super cheap price that covers both of us and pays me cash every time one of us has an “accident.” I don’t know exactly why, but I sort of bet on injuries this year and signed us up.

February rolled around and Doug headed off to Florida for the three event Florida Masters Week. Early into the second event, he retired mid race in pain and unable to pull on any controls.  He called to ask what I thought he should do. No brainer, head to the nearest emergency clinic. With his medical insurance, it was 100% covered with zero out-of-pocket. Sure enough, bruised ribs. My odds bet paid off and I got a check for his troubles. 

He came home, took it easy, rested up and healed then March rolled around. Doug was out back playing with our dog who had the zoomies and he put a hand out and she ran right through it. He complained about the pain for a day but his hand looked and worked perfectly fine. My policy only pays if care is sought within 48 hours so off to the nearest emergency clinic he went. Sure enough, broken thumb. He got a little thumb splint and my odds bet paid off again. 

April rolled around and Doug had been warned to be extra careful with his hand because if things went south he would probably miss two sailing seasons. After four weeks of healing, he decided he could probably manage a little light wind and went sailing over the weekend just before his four week follow-up. Monday rolled around and off he went to the doctor and came back with a full blown cast half way up his arm with his thumb sticking straight up. Cast equals more money for me!

I really don’t enjoy seeing him get injured but it is sort of nice to get a check every time he does. But seriously, what gives? Is it just Doug or is it GGMdom?  

At the France Master Worlds, we spent time with GGM Keith Wilkins (13 time Laser Master World Champion).  I don't remember his exact words but the takeaway was that age does catch up and things just aren't as easy as they use to be.  

At the Canada Master Worlds, we spent time with GGM Mark Bethwaite (9 time Laser Master World Champion).  His ride to the regatta/hotel got delayed in the locks in upstate New York and he drove ahead to train and bunked with us for a night before driving back and picking up his hotel. As fit as he looks on the water and on land, he too confirmed that age does indeed catch up eventually. 

So, if anyone has any suggestions about supplements, diet, exercise, etc. that helps an old GGM heal faster and stay less breakable, I’m all ears. And, of course, Doug will be giving a thumbs up to everything for a few more weeks. Let’s hope the cast comes off in time for Mexico in May.

Nervous Before Racing?

by Pam
Perhaps you’ve noticed that our blog posts have dropped off in the last year or two. It’s my fault. Doug is always sailing, always learning and always willing to share anything he knows but I stopped following him around like a two-year old constantly asking ‘why?’ and insisting he find a way to make it easier for me to understand.

Life sort of knocked me down and I gave into that little voice in my head that said ‘stay down, rest.’ I settled into a normal routine and caught up on sleeping, eating, working and not sailing. And during that resting period, my behind grew a little wider and cushier and an obstruction has attached itself to my abdomen which makes movement a little less fluid. Finally, I’ve decided, rest and old age be damned! I’m getting back up. Comfort is a bad thing and a little discomfort just might be what it’s all about.

I’ve been back on the water for the past two weekends and despite mistakes, confusion, and pain, I’m managing to land closer to the front than I’ve earned. The questions are all starting back up again.

The first thing that I noticed upon my return to sailing is the nerves. Maybe adrenaline is the better word. Just like clockwork, when I go sailing, about 10 to 15 minutes away from the club, I suddenly have an urgent need to hit the head. It never ceases to amaze me that my voluminous download always exceeds my moderate upload. That’s just regular racing days. On regatta days, there are multiple downloads before I ever hit the water. Why?

I’ve asked Doug, I’ve asked another sailor who lands in first place more often than not and I’ve asked my brother, a retired professional tennis player. Doug doesn’t get nervous anymore. He did once upon a time but after winning two Laser Master Worlds, he just doesn’t. In fact, he can’t even make himself get nervous about a regatta. The other sailor said he has a similar issue as me and he’ll be going off the back of the boat right up until racing begins. The sailor says he channels the extra adrenaline into improving his performance. My brother tells me that if I have nerves, then I’m sailing for the wrong reasons and I’m holding on too tight. He had a back injury that looked like it would end his tennis career so when he was miraculously able to return to the court, he said there was a shift and even though he absolutely wanted to win, he never lost sight of being grateful for still being able to compete.

An interesting mix of perspectives. One who doesn’t get the adrenaline rush, one who channels it into a better performance, and one who tempers it with gratitude.

This past weekend, I competed against 17 boats and finished with a 2 and a 3, then Doug and I sailed together with me driving and we finished 5th. Except for the last race, the adrenaline was still there but my focus was different. I was putting more emphasis on a personal challenge of handling the conditions better than I have in the past and using it as a benchmark of my physical and mental condition. Having decided that comfort is a bad thing, I was sort of welcoming the challenge of the discomfort.

So, in my highly unscientific study, I’ve noted a few different experiences. I wonder which is more common.

April 01, 2016

DIY Laser Foils

Don't want to pay $5,000 for a foiling Laser kit?  Now you can build your own! Here's the affordable Laser foiling system. I understand this was the original 'concept prototype' for the Laser foiling system. It actually worked and this design will foil! 
Peter Stephinson, is one of the inventors of the foiling Laser kit. He also happens to be the current GGM Austrialian Laser National Champion.  Peter is always looking for creative ways to sail as can be seen in this video of a truly unique finish (starting at about 2:50) at the 2015 Kingston Laser Master Worlds. 

Peter will be making a stopover in Houston, Texas on April 9-10 at TCYC on his way to the Laser Master Worlds in Mexico.  He will be demonstrating the high dollar foiling Laser system and allowing sailors to give it a try.  At that time, you will also be able to purchase the DIY design kit and have first hand instruction on how to make it.  Here are a few pics of the installation process.  When you make that first cut into the hull, just remember, it really does work!




March 29, 2016

An Aussie Compass Update

By Rob Sykes

I put a Silva compass on the boat some years ago and have been questioning whether it made my sailing worse or better.  I have pondered discarding it. Either way, I realised that I was often reading it incorrectly partly because I sail in lumpy water and it is easy to miss a shift (hence the compass) and because I could not see the arrow head of the green and red markers at either side of the card.  I engraved a H (for header) at the point of each arrow with a soldering iron and then filled in the groove with white paint.  Easy to see.

Perhaps some of the lesser sighted could benefit.


More on compasses can be read here.

March 25, 2016

Ian Bruce 1933 - 2016

By Doug

Only a genius could take this Bruce Kirby sketch and turn it into a worldwide phenomenon. Ian Bruce was that person, and within three years his company Performance Sailcraft was making Lasers in eight countries.

As luck would have it, I learned to sail in Montreal and was briefly a member at Point Claire Yacht Club, home of the Laser. But I left for Sydney in 1971, just before Lasers were introduced. It did not take long for them reach the Aussie shores and dominate both in numbers and talent.

Sydney Harbor was full of Lasers and the Manly hydrofoil ferry had to weave through a fleet. It was quite a sight to have a hydrofoil come straight at you before turning away!

Many years later I moved back to Montreal and remember Ian showing up for a local regatta with Laser number 100,000. We all just shook our heads in amazement. 

The way that Ian designed the Laser and its manufacturing process was pure genius. The two-piece mast made it easy to store and transport. The loose-foot and mast sleeve were also new. And at a time when boats were still made of wood, it was the first time I saw a fiberglass deck and hull glued to make a finished boat. And it was Ian who insisted that the Laser be held to a strict one-design so that is was the best sailor who would win.

Ian passed away this week after a courageous  battle with cancer. Some will remember him as the winner of two Prince of Wales Trophies, the world championship for the International 14. Others will remember him as an Olympic sailor in both the Finn and Star classes. Others will remember him as a award-winning industrial designer. I'll remember Ian as a passionate gentleman who put Canadian sailing on the map.

March 10, 2016

MK II Sail - Downwind Feedback


By Roberto, Wavedancer, and Brett
Here's an update from Roberto who has been testing the new sail on Lake Garda:

The MK II in the foreground was slower.
My personal experience is still doubtful. I like the new sail upwind in 6-16 knots and downwind in the range 8-16.  But I found it awful downwind below 5-6. Downwind and in very light air experienced two problems:
  • The leech remains closed as shown in the picture.
  • There is too much draft forward in the sail, just close to the mast.
You can reduce this draft by pulling hard on the vang to bend the mast but this makes the first problem worse. My outhaul in the photo is too loose but pulling it only makes it worse. The sailor with the older sail was definitely faster.

On the same topic, here's a question from Wavedancer and a reply from Brett: 

I am still wondering about the fold (top to bottom) near the luff downwind in light air (~5 mph). Should I try to get rid of it by putting on a lot of vang, or just let it be? Wavedancer

Just make sure you have your Cunningham set-up to be VERY loose for downwind. Even if you have to go forwards and push the sail up the mast. Don't use vang to remove it otherwise you are over-vanged downwind and will suffer. Brett

February 18, 2016

Brett Beyer’s Personal Experience With the MK II Sail - an update...

Brett has just won the Aussie Laser Masters, again, beating 38 competitors (and discarding a 1st). While his speed downwind was good, he feels that his speed upwind was not. Here's his report.

By Brett Beyer
I used a brand new MarkII sail at the AUS Master Nationals. About half the fleet used the old cut sail, including some very competitive sailors. I’ve seen the sail in use many times line up against the old cut sail but this was the first time I’ve had the opportunity of using it myself.

Upon first impression, as expected, was the sail has very nice shape and produced more power (but more weather helm) than the old sail. This suited the flatter water and light breezes very nicely. The deeper head and firm leech really provides great feedback and feel. This was very nice upwind, on reaches and downwind. In fact, downwind is where sailors that struggle to precisely set-up correct vang will mostly benefit. It is simply easier to get right downwind and on reaches.

This is all very positive so far and is an easy decision in such conditions. It is when the breeze picks up along with the chop that things can begin to change around.

With most of our races sailed in choppy 8 – 15 knots, I found the sail too ‘sticky’ upwind and couldn’t release the power easily enough. This is usually done with either downhaul and/or vang, but this sail suffered when I pulled any of these systems on. Also, simply getting the sheet tension correct upwind took so much attention away from my sailing that it was difficult to have anything left over for tactics or technique. Any upwind speed advantage I used to have was no longer there with the new sail. At best, I could only stay with the top guys upwind and made all my gains downwind mostly due to technique and not the sail.

Brett in the middle - downwind speed was good.

The perplexing thing for me was that some of those ahead of me were using the new cut sail and seemed to make it work upwind. So whilst I was coming first across the line, I was quite disappointed with my performance upwind. After 3 days of racing I had made up my mind to definitely not use the new sail for Worlds, preferring instead to rely on the predictable performance of the old sail.

On the last day of racing, I had my only upwind where I felt the speed was superior. This, in similar conditions with similar set-up. So why? It seems the sail, with its firmer leeches and better quality cloth needs more ‘break-in’ time than the old cut sail. This was the general agreement amongst those that have used the sail far more than I have.


So, what sail for the Worlds?
  • Answer 1: Old sail if you can’t get enough training time with the new sail.
  • Answer 2: Old sail if you are already comfortable with your speed/height/versatility upwind and wave catching downwind.
  • Answer 3. New sail if you think wind will be lighter, water flatter and you have good sheet tension skills.
  • Answer 4. New sail if you can get to use it in training for more than 1 week.
  • Answer 5. New sail if you expect good winds (14kts+) and have good upwind technical skills and fitness.
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