November 21, 2014

Differences at the Front of the Fleet

By Doug
Pam wrote a post about how the rules are used differently at the front of the fleet vs. middle and back, and many including Abe and Paul made some good points. 

Here are a few examples.

At Hyères, I sometimes found myself well back in the fleet. When on port and a starboard tack boat was approaching, without exception the other boat would call "starboard" as he should.

On the second day, the breeze was a little lighter and I was leading after the windward/leeward. Right behind me was Peter Vessella (USA) who is really good in these conditions. I took the right gate and he thankfully followed. We were well ahead but I chose not to put on a tight cover because I wanted to beat him with boatspeed and by playing the shifts, rather than by just sitting on him.

We stayed close but sailed our own race, playing the shifts differently at times. Half way up the beat, we were on port and I could see Peter 10 meters away in my window. He then edged ahead and I could not see him. A few seconds later, I heard him say, "Go ahead Doug and cross."

This caught me by surprise because I did not know that he had pulled even and that he had tacked. Not seeing where he was, I instinctively bore off and ducked him saying, "Sorry, I heard you too late."

Here's how the front of the fleet is different:
  1. Peter knew we were on a collision course and that I did not know that he had tacked. Some middle-of-the-fleet sailors use this to their advantage. Peter did not.
  2. He wanted to go left while I was going right, and this was more important than using his starboard-tack right-of-way. To beat me, he was prepared to bear off and let me cross rather than risk having me tack and mess with him.
  3. I apologized for not being able to take his offer to cross and stay ahead of him.

This moment was how Peter unintentionally took the lead to win the race. While I hate missing out on a bullet at a Worlds, it's a pleasure to compete with good, gentlemanly sailors at the front of the fleet who use the rules differently.

A rookie at the front of the fleet:

The 1996 Master Worlds were in Cape Town and there were about 120 boats one the line (this was before they split the fleets). I had never won a race at a Worlds and was surprised to be leading in the race on the second day. Defending champ Keith Wilkins (GBR) was right behind. So what did I do? I sat on him for the entire race and boy did he make me pay! We seemed to sail through every header and dead patch. I managed to hold on and win what was, until then, the best race of my life, while Keith threw out the 2nd and won the regatta.

The huge mistakes I made were not working together to stretch out and not learning from Keith by letting him sail his own race. This taught me so much that it changed the way I sail and was the main reason for my win in Chile the next year.

And the punishment for not working with a world champion? Being totally forgotten. Pam and I had supper with Keith and Linda in Hyères and were reminiscing about the good old days. I told Keith about this race in Cape Town and how much it meant to me. I then asked him if he remembered it. He said "no."

Another rookie at the front of the fleet:

When leading around the bottom mark, you can use your advantage to point high and force other boats to tack into traffic, which would slow them down.

Triple World Champ Glenn Bourke (AUS) would not do this. When in the lead, he would invite the boats behind to follow him to the right. Sure he could mess with them but he choose not to. The reason was that he wanted to keep the leaders together as long as possible so he didn't have to worry about who to cover. To make going right look more attractive, he would even foot a little so that others might think "wow, I'm pointing really well, I'll keep on going."

Starting the second beat in the first race at Hyères, Roberto Bini (ITA) was leading just in front of me, had rounded close to the mark, and was pointing high. Roberto had excellent speed and I wanted to tack twice to stay with him going right but in clear air. As soon as I tacked, he tacked and match raced me for most of the beat as I tried to break free. Sure enough, the right paid and several boats passed us.

As Keith Wilkins taught me, there is a fine art to staying ahead of a leader while letting him or her sail their own race and having them teach you along the way. Roberto should have used his excellent speed to lead me and others off to the right. And I should have cut my losses earlier and footed to get clear air to be able to sail my own race.

The bad news is that that we should have finished 1 and 2 instead of the 3 and 7 that we got. The good news is that Roberto is a great guy and we have become good friends and will hopefully share many more experiences as the years go by. 

As you transition from the middle of the fleet to the front, there is a shift in the way the rules are used and applied. It may look to some like team racing but it's actually very tactical by delaying the head to head competition until the end of the race.

Leaders at the back of a fleet:

In Hyères, in the final race that determined the championship, the front of GM standard gold fleet sailed into the back of the GM standard silver fleet. The leaders in the gold fleet were in a close competition to win the championship and they suddenly had to contend with the back of the silver fleet. How quickly the leaders were able to transition from a front of the fleet mentality to a back of the fleet mentality, ultimately determined the winner. Anyone who was there can tell you what that sounded like.

So as you move through the fleet, back to front or front to back, it's important to be aware of the nuances in tactics and how the rules are applied in different parts of the fleet.

November 19, 2014

World Journals

by Pam 
I have put Doug's world journals back up on the blog but the current one will always remain private until three to six months after the event. 

Doug is keeping an email list of those who would like to receive his daily journals during the events. 

When we were in Australia, we stopped in to see Mark Bethwaite and he had so many cubes they were stacked several high and covered multiple shelves and most were three chevrons. When I stacked up Doug's cubes to take a picture, it reminded me of Mark's shevles and made me laugh. 

I'm proud of Doug and what he's accomplished and glad he's willing to share and let others learn from his his mistakes.

Was it Eleanor Roosevelt or someone else that said ... "Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself."

November 15, 2014

The Big Reveal - Poland Syndrome

by Pam
Fasten your seatbelts because I'm going to reveal Doug's biggest, deepest, darkest secret … he has Poland Syndrome. Dave (from Houston) go ahead and hit the delete key unless you've always wondered why Doug's shirts fit funny, why he's been walking with a limp for several years, and why he's faster on one tack than the other.

Poland Syndrome (PS) is a rare birth defect with varying degrees of severity and didn't even have a name until 1962 (when Doug was 12). This blog post does a great job of explaining it and showing pictures which are very similar to Doug. Doug has a mild case in that he is only missing his entire left pectoral muscle (sternal and clavicular head), has a smaller and weaker left arm and has mildly limited left arm rotation. Think about that for a second … how many things do you do when sailing that requires the use of your pectoral muscle? Pulling in the main, pulling on and releasing every sail control, steering, getting on the centerboard to right a capsized boat, launching a dolly, stepping the mast, loading and unloading a boat from a trailer. It's a fairly comprehensive list.

Having PS has meant that Doug has a lifetime of experience in accepting that he is physically incapable of doing some things in the same way as others and must therefore think outside the box and look for ways to adapt and overcome. Since Doug is a two time Laser Masters' World Champion and the only US sailor to have ever won both a Master and Grand Master World Championship, I'd say that he's adapted and overcome quite well. Hopefully, that statement will come off as encouraging to those with this condition and not as bragging.

I'm writing about this for a few reasons. First, and foremost, I’m seeking input for a specific issue from anyone in the medical field or with personal experience with this condition. Secondly, it's to provide a means of reaching out and connecting with others with this condition who, like Doug, have only recently learned the name of what they have and why they are different.

From my research, it appears that most people hide this condition and have never been officially diagnosed. Throughout Doug's lifetime, until several years ago, most doctors have simply looked at his chest and said 'well how about that' completely stumped as to what they were seeing. Doug learned the name of this when I started doing research and then he confirmed it with his doctor when he had his left rotator cuff issue a couple of years ago.

Three notable athletes with this syndrome, two of which, have the rarer left pectoral muscle missing as opposed to the more common right, are: 1) French boxing, Olympic silver and bronze medalist, Jérôme Thomas; 2) Spanish Formula 1, two-time World Champion, Fernando Alonso; and 3) American golfer, PGA Tour winner, Bryce Molder. I've seen pictures on the Internet of Jérôme and Fernando without their shirts and it appears they have some muscle tissue (clavicular head) which Doug does not have.

I first learned about this shortly after meeting Doug when he was trying to encourage me in sailing. I'm fairly petite and was convinced that I was not strong enough to sail a Laser (I'd only tried a full rig) so he challenged me to an arm wrestling match with my strongest left arm. With a small effort, I beat him and was convinced he let me win only to learn that he had not. That's just how weak his left arm is. So, for all those sailors over the years who have come to his aid when they noticed him struggling to step a mast in a breeze, lift a boat onto a trailer, drag his dolly out of the water after a windy series, get back on the docks after falling in the water, or right a capsized boat … he genuinely needed and appreciated the helping hand.

After Hyères, and watching Doug struggle in those conditions … and after he had lost 30 pounds a few years ago when doing the food combining I had suggested ... and after he has been unable to put any weight back on for years now, I felt compelled to take matters into my own hands. Armed with the knowledge from one college weight lifting class, my trusty book, "Strong Women Stay Young" and my nifty Internet research skills, I've taken on the task of becoming his personal trainer. After all, very few doctors or trainers know anything about PS and its limitations, so why not jump in and see what I can do.

This is where I need input (ideas, personal experience, anatomy knowledge, etc.). My goal is to add about 10 to 15 pounds of muscle primarily to Doug's upper body in time for the Worlds in Canada in June 2015 (don't laugh). Because he has always been lopsided, he has avoided doing any upper body exercises except for arm strength because he didn't want to emphasize the lopsidedness. So, my task is to figure out which muscles are there and build the heck out of them and, so far, they're building pretty fast since he's never worked them before.

I started with measurements of everything and an evaluation of physical movement. Doug is 64 years old and never knew he had limited rotation of his left arm until I had him go through the motions (without weights) of two lifts using proper form. Sure enough, the left side has restricted movement. I'm not going to post pictures of Doug without his shirt but this image is very similar to what Doug looks like with his arm raised. I'm most concerned about that stringy tendon looking thing that connects his arm to his body. That part is exactly like what Doug has.

In two weeks, using only two slow lifting exercises targeted for his shoulders and back with 10 and 15 pound weights, we've improved his posture, added 1 inch to his chest measurement and 3 inches to his shoulder/chest circumference measurement. Clearly, building muscle isn't going to be a problem despite his age but doing it slowly and without injury is going to be the challenge.

Ideas anyone?

Rotator Cuffs

By Doug
With only one exception, every time I've injured myself sailing has been when I've skipped my stretching routine, so I do this religiously. For me's it's cheap insurance. 

I discovered the one injury exception when I had trouble with one stretch - the one where I bend over, grab my hands behind my back, and then try to lift them over my head. It's a yoga move I've done for 20 years and this one time there was a sharp pain in my left shoulder. An MRI showed a partial tear in my rotator cuff. 

The strange thing about this injury is that you may not feel it at the time but it's very painful later. I had a pretty good idea of how I tore it. Rounding a bottom mark in a breeze, I'd pull on the vang and cunningham by leaning back as hard as I could and I'm sure I just pulled it out of the socket.

I've heard from fellow Laser sailors who have had surgery to repair the tear and without exception they have all talked about the pain and the long recovery time. Sailing a Laser in a breeze has a lot to do with pain management, so when a world-class Laser sailor talks about pain, it must hurt.

I was scheduled for surgery at the end of 2013 but cancelled it with the hope that there was a better solution. Sure enough, Pam found a series of exercises that looked promising.

The first step was using ice initially and the second was heat and massage to increase the blood circulation. For this, I used an industrial-strength vibrator every day for months. The next step was really basic exercises that were trivial compared to regular sailing, so I did not bother. But there was another reason - my shoulder no longer hurt.

A word of caution: I'm not a doctor, I only had a partial tear, and this is what has worked for me. I share this with you because I avoided the pain and lengthy recovery time of surgery and was able to sail in a breeze at Hyères without incident. Here are the other steps I use to protect my shoulders.
  • I've increased the purchase on my cunningham to 10:1 so that it's much easier get it tight.
  • When I pull on a control, I pull with my arm muscles flexed and not just by leaning back.
  • A exercise I did for years was tricep dips. These are apparently really hard on my rotator cuffs, so I don't do them any more.

Death Roll

by Rob Sykes (AUS)

Many thanks to Rob for his contribution in a comment that deserves to be a post.

A bit off topic, but helping sailors. I promised I would send this data to Doug (not sure if Pam was present at the time). I have just returned from Hyeres and was reminded of my promise by a photo on Thom Touw showing a master death rolling and doing it incorrectly.

Neither of these film clips were posed or acted.

Death roll

This is about 12 knots, Note position of rudder (central) and how Mitch is holding the main sheet. Nice and fast.

Mitch starts an up turn to get speed to catch a wave. You see him sheet in and accelerate. Almost immediately he bears away to take advantage and jump to the next wave. He dumps the sheet but does not bear away enough so the boat begins a death roll.

He moves to lee trying to bring the boat upright, but sheets out (now the boat wants to bear away more) instead of sheeting in. He also pulls the rudder so as to luff up. This action tips the hull over to windward even more and he goes in.

He might well have saved the capsize by sheeting in instead of out during the death roll and also bearing away violently.  Saving a death roll. Running, rudder central (good) but the main sheet from the block. This is not as fast as Mitch. (He is very very much faster than me, particularly downwind).

Here the scenario of an up turn followed fast by a down turn is the same. The wind was a bit heavier (15 knots). I was under sheeted anyway as the stopper knot on the main sheet made the boom go out too far.

The up turn is ok, you see the boat accelerate. Immediately I dump sheet to do the down turn, but because the stopper knot is in the wrong place, the boom goes too far and the boat starts to go over to windward. Because I have the main sheet from the block, as I move to leeward, I tighten the main sheet (good) and note how the helm is in bear away mode, not luff up. The boat is not responding so I push the rudder hard and the boat comes upright. If I had pulled the rudder, I would have gone in. See how the water flows into the cockpit.


Think of the boat half over to windward. The rudder blade is only just in the water. If you pull the rudder, lift the transom up and twist the boat and increase the tipping motion of the death roll. If you push the rudder, you sink the transom and twist the boat decreasing the tipping motion of the death roll.

You may have to play the movie at super slow or single frame to see the sheeting and rudder positions.

Thanks to Steve Cockerill for showing me how to do it.

October 26, 2014

Open-Handed Regattas

by Pam
Everyone is familiar with the term single-handed or double-handed but what about open-handed? The SIs at the recent Laser Masters Worlds specifically denoted that a sailor in the water shall raise an arm with a closed fist if he does not require assistance and raise an arm with an open hand if he does require assistance. When playing a game of cards for the first time, it isn't uncommon to play with all cards on the table, facing up for all to see.

Hence, my newly created term, "open-handed regattas." I think every fleet should have an open-handed regatta at least once or twice a year.

Doug and I recently sailed in a regatta that was more like a clinic. There were 17 short races and only one person running the regatta and she had a few simple instructions. She would be coaching people as they sailed past her. There would be no yelling or protesting or we'd have to kiss and make up afterwards. Finally, we were to help those that needed it.

Those instructions, however, did not eliminate the competition element of things. Indeed, I kept getting repeatedly rolled by a sailor going downwind. No matter what I did, this sailor always rolled me going downwind, got inside rights, and finished just ahead of me. It didn't feel good. When I asked a question once that the sailor clearly knew, there was a grin and a shoulder shrug but no reply. Finally, Doug got frustrated with watching, so when I rounded right behind him once and we turned downwind, he talked me through taking his air and getting inside rights. Even though I've watched his downwind videos and have even been at the helm when he was sitting right next to me having me play what felt like a game of chicken with another boat's stern, I still did not learn the fine art of passing someone downwind. So, he sat there acting like me, a sitting duck, not defending, and talked me through the process. He said the next step is learning how to defend. It was such a wonderful way to learn. Everyone should be so lucky.

The next race, I had boats ahead of me on the downwind leg and decided to try rolling the nearest boat and getting inside rights. Worked like a charm, then I rounded slow and tight and forced the sailor wide. But afterwards, I didn't like the way it felt. That sailor usually places behind me at regattas and it almost felt like I was picking on him. Afterwards, I told him I had just learned that from Doug but it felt like a shitty thing to do. He agreed that it was indeed kind of shitty but then he saw my discomfort and added that it was shitty in the same way that jumping a man when playing checkers was shitty … it's the way the game is played.

When Doug plays with people at the front of the fleet, they all know the typical tactics and have similar success with execution. They know how to attack, how to defend, when to do it,  when to expect it and when to ignore it. It's a more evenly matched game.

At the middle and back of the fleet, it is far from an evenly matched game. It can be a little cut throat with folks tacking on you and doing things that don't make good tactical sense but seem purely personal (i.e. at least I'm going to beat YOU). You see some get intimidated because they don't know the rules or they haven't learned certain techniques and strategies. It sometimes feels hostile to me and I find it objectionable. If I rolled someone over and over using the same technique, I'm more likely to take the time to tell them what I'm doing and why it's working and when I learn how to defend, talk them through what they need to do to defend. Otherwise, it isn't a fairly matched game. There is no satisfaction or accomplishment in beating someone who is at a disadvantage.

When a front of the fleet person starts late, makes a mistake or otherwise has to sail through the fleet (back to front), they usually try to do so without disturbing or creating hardship for those that aren't in their league. Listening to two front of the fleeters at the recent words describe their experience of having to sail through a fleet was satisfying because they found it just as objectionable as me. Confirmation for me that It's not the way it's meant to be.

In comments of earlier posts about rules, people expressed concern about what is being communicated to newer sailors with respect to the importance of rule observance. This really seems silly to me because every person has their own moral compass. I follow rules based on my own moral compass combined with what has been passed to me from observing Doug and others.

Intentionally cheating, failing to do circles when you knowingly break a rule, protesting people on technicalities that don't affect the results, picking on someone with less skill and/or failing to volunteer to help someone all come from a place of a win at all costs attitude and I want no part of it.

Conversely, attempting to obey the rules, taking penalties when you've knowingly broken a rule, not picking on those that are not of your skill or knowledge level, not protesting others for minor and technical infractions and voluntarily helping those that you can every chance they will let you all comes from a place of wanting safe, fair, fun competition.

I will always prefer talking to someone over protesting them. One is playing with an open hand and the other is holding on a little too tightly. It is my own personal opinion that rigidity in mind extends to rigidity in body. Years ago, when I ended up having back surgery and my active life came to a screeching halt, I had plenty of time for reflection and looked for both physical and emotional triggers for my body's failure. One of the things I had noted was a tendency to dig in on issues, with a breaking instead of bending attitude and I sort of vowed try to retain a healthier "in the big scheme of things" perspective. 

Rule observance is less important to me than people observance. Some people are not nice and I stay away from them, some are trying to learn and I feel compelled to give them room or help if I can, some are more knowledgeable and skilled and I try (often without success) to stay out of their way, and a few are actually on my level and I enjoy the back and forth friendly competition as we trade places beating each other and continuing to communicate about what we've learned. 

Everyone should have the privilege of sailing with those more knowledgeable than themselves and being talked through various techniques and strategies on the race course with no holding back of information. It's a win-win. Good for those learning, good for those teaching, increases communication, brings up the knowledge and skill level, and builds friendships. How do you think the concept of an open-handed regatta would be received in your area? 

October 22, 2014

Altered Foils - Are They Legal?

by Pam
A favorite saying that I learned from a friend of mine is, "Sunshine is the best disinfectant." Since our readership seems to be up and there is no shortage of opinions, perhaps now is a good time to shine a little sun on the subject of altered foils.

Laser Class Rule 14(c) Surface refinishing of the centreboard is permitted provided the original shape, thickness and characteristics are not altered.

The first time Doug heard about the subject of altered foils was a few years ago from a Masters sailor (sailor 1) who had them and named about a half a dozen sailors who also had them. Doug was told that many of the top level Masters sailors use them and 'if you want to win, you have to use them too.' Then sailor 1 explained that there was a loophole in the rules that allowed for alteration without specifically breaking the rules. And even though it's supposedly "legal" no one talks about it. There is a template for measuring in at the Worlds that is a rectangular slot with equal thickness and the centerboard has to fit in the slot. This controls the maximum thickness of the board but not the placement of the thickness (up, down, forward, back). Doug's theory is that the alteration is a movement of the thickness but he doesn't know for sure.

The entire subject made Doug uncomfortable. First, because of the people named (at the very top) and second because it didn't sound legal and he didn't want to believe that he had to use them in order to be competitive. Doug never considered using them but would keep an eye out for signs that others were indeed using them.

At the recent Masters Worlds, the subject came up again. This time another sailor (sailor 2) gave another list of specific names, some of which were in Doug's fleet and one of which, (sailor 3), Doug knew beyond a shadow of a doubt would never use them. But then sailor 2 went on to give specifics about what was done and how to tell them apart from regular blades. How they are fatter and some may be slightly weighted at the bottom to the point that they don't float like other foils, how they are more rounded here and bull-nosed there. He said those who have them don't have to hike as hard. 

This prompted Doug to talk to sailor 3 who would have been sailing right next to one of those that had been specifically named by both sailor 1 and sailor 2 and asked if he noticed anything when they were side by side. Sailor 3 said the other guy seemed to have a more relaxed style and didn't seem to be working as hard as he was in order to go the same speed. Sailor 3 hadn't heard about altered foils and he didn't seem to really care. He had noticed a consistency problem in manufacturing and some boards were generally thicker than others and when selecting stock foils, he advised choosing the thicker ones. Same thing with centerboard trucks, some where narrower which is also better.

Having a little time on my hands at the Worlds, I went on a reconnaissance mission, covertly taking pictures of the foils of one of the sailors named that was in Doug's fleet. Later I zoomed in on the pictures. They looked like charter blades to me. Although that sailor was doing quite well, he wasn't on the podium and he seemed to be working just as hard as Doug. Then I skimmed through my photos and checked the tops of the centerboards of a few of those named that would have flown to the event and could tell who appeared to have brought their own blades and who was using charter blades.

In the meantime, Doug chatted with two class officers on the topic. Both were surprised to hear of the issue and both named the US person most people used to finish foils but they hadn't heard about alterations of any sort. Both encouraged Doug to talk to the class measurer about changing the measuring process to eliminate any doubt about alternations. One of the officers did ask rhetorically why anyone would bring their own blades and risk damage when they were getting perfectly new ones with the charter. Good question. 

So far there is one admission of use, some casual mention of others' use, one potential observance of use, but mostly, just unsubstantiated claims. I suggested Doug order a set to see if they really do make a difference because there is simply no other way to know. He refuses to do so. I told him they could be for me since I already work harder than everyone else to stay on the course and I don't ever win anything on a Laser. He still refuses.

What would you do with this information? a) Nothing, it's irrelevant; b) investigate it quietly; c) investigate it loudly; d) order a set and join the crowd; e) sail your own race and forget about it; or f) other? Doug tried a and b and has opted for e.

Tag … you're it.

October 20, 2014

Rules at the Front vs. the Middle and Back

by Pam
Doug won’t write this post but we’ve talked about it often over the years and it’s a topic that I find interesting. Then we saw an example play out this past week where some zigged and others zagged. I believe it is what separates those at the front from the rest of the fleet.
Have you ever observed the mark roundings on a keelboat course on a windy day with traffic converging as the crews set and douse spinnakers? Ever noticed how the front of the fleet rounds in almost complete silence with flawless crew work, the skippers communicate with each other with simple glances or nods. The loudest thing you hear is the spinnaker pop as it fills and the sound of waves as they disappear downwind. It’s a thing of beauty to watch. Then the middle of the fleet starts rounding and you start to hear the skippers shouting ‘starboard’ and ‘room’ as they get close to the mark, which is followed by calling out instructions to their crew. Then, it gets even louder as the back of the fleet arrive, skippers shouting at each other and at their crews and the crews shouting amongst themselves, feet pounding on the deck and poles being slammed around and dropped as things go horribly wrong. It’s hilarious to watch and such an incredible contrast from the front to the back.
We are all subject to the same Rules of Racing but we don’t all play the game the same way. The back of the fleet tends to be very rigid, tacking on each other, enforcing their starboard rights, often without any good reason other than to just keep someone behind them. Their strategy is often just to beat so and so. They protest each other and argue about the rules. I don’t find it fun. It gets a little better in the middle but oh how I would love it if we could all sail like I hear they do in the front.
There are unwritten rules at the front … get clear of the fleet, separate, and then we’ll play. They work together, they don’t tack on each other out of the starting gate, they let each other sail their own race, and sometimes even let each other “play through” so to speak so that they can separate from the pack and go play and learn from each other and they all just keep getting better and better. There is a fluidity, a give and take and they save their battles for the end when they know how many points separate them and then everything they do is for a strategic purpose that yields x number of points. They don’t protest each other over technicalities and things that clearly do not yield an advantage (it's not honorable). When they do see clear infractions without circles, they note it for sure and it factors into their respect for the sailor but they usually let it slide and balance it against everything else ... he’s sailing better than me and is going to beat me anyway … or he’s sailing worse than me and I’m going to beat him anyway … or sure he may have just grabbed a point but I lost 5 with stupid mistakes so I’m not going to make a big deal of it, etc. They embrace the essence of the rules … safe, fair and fun competition … more than they do the specific rules. Sure, there are times when a protest is necessary but it is usually based on things that do matter or happen to be a zero tolerance issue of a particular sailor (like Rule 42).
So, when Doug was faced with someone accusing him of breaking a rule, he was thinking like those at the front of the fleet. When he consulted with a class representative who is also a front of the fleet sailor, and offered to toss the races, the representative was also thinking like those at the front. In the grand scheme of things, it was irrelevant because there was no harm, no foul. When that resulted in others being all up in arms and insisting that it darn well does matter, it still didn’t matter to Doug and he was still willing to withdraw and not waste his time on the matter. However, not being a front of the fleet sailor, I wanted to get down in the mud and "wrestle with the pigs" and don’t want him to concede the point unless it’s proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.
In the meantime, Doug has moved on but asked me to go ahead and remove his World’s journals from the blog. In being transparent, there was an implied agreement of trust between he and the readers and that trust has been violated. It’s unfortunate. Prior to having a blog, during the Worlds he simply sent out a daily email to friends who were interested, supportive and offered suggestions. He’ll probably go back to that format.
Yes, we are all supposed to follow the same rules and play the same game. But there are two different ways of playing the game and following the rules. Do I want to encourage new sailors to be rigid, inflexible and judgmental of their fellow sailors or do I want to encourage them rise above it all, embrace the essence of the rules with a slightly different concept of honorable sailing? I play one game and Doug plays another. His game and the people he plays with seem to have a hell of a lot more fun.
The World's journals have been removed. That's the game Doug plays … he moves forward while others sail themselves to the back of the fleet. The posts and comments with all the drama have not been removed. I think it's educational and shows the game that most of us play. Which one is more appealing to you? 

October 19, 2014

Weight of Clothing and Equipment

by Pam
This is a follow up to my Illegalities post.

Practically everyone knows about the Kirby, ILCA, ISAF, LP, PSA, Rastegar lawsuit. The various forums have been buzzing for years now about who is right and wrong and Kirby, the ILCA and Laser Performance have been repeatedly tried and convicted by countless posters with uninformed, biased opinions. Fortunately, our laws don't work that way. Trials allow an impartial Judge or jury to decide proper application of the law and then to decide on appropriate penalties.

Our Racing Rules of Sailing and the ILCA Class Rules are no different. They have put a system of protests, protest hearings and appeals in place whereby, those who are qualified, interpret the rules and decide on appropriate penalties, if any. Many people protesting another have been convinced beyond doubt that they were correct only to find that they were not and that they misunderstood the rules.

Doug is a front of the fleet sailor. When someone protests him on the water, right or wrong, he concedes, does his circles and moves on. If he breaks a rule that he is aware of: hitting a mark, fouling a boat, etc., he does his circles and moves on. When an anonymous comment suggested he broke a rule, he didn't agree and didn't really pay any attention to it. But when "anonymous" continued to press and outright called his behavior illegal, while Doug still did not agree he was prepared to concede, withdraw and move on. I called foul and said no way. I read the rule, I read the SIs and I suggested he run it past the properly authorized authority who said he should not withdraw. 

Additional comments have already tried and convicted Doug. So, I read the RRS and then I consulted with a US Sailing Judge and asked him to explain how 43.1(a) and 43.1(b) related to each other and the intent of the rule. He explained that 43.1(a) was to prevent the use of clothing that was specifically modified to include the insertion of weights (weight jackets, for example). He explained that because it is also possible to add weight by layering up that 43.1(b) was to impose a maximum limit of weight that could be added by layering up. Appendix H specifies how to measure any additional weight that is added. So, I asked if I added a cotton layer that had the (intended or unintended) effect of adding weight but I was still way under the maximum allowed under 43.1(b) as measured by Appendix H, does that violate 43.1(a) and he said no, that's fine. A US Sailing Judge is qualified to know the rules, why they were established and how to apply them. I trust his opinion far more than an anonymous comment. I do not know whether a consensus of Sailing Judges would all come to the same conclusion though. 

However, I continued to research and read the Laser Class rules when it comes to the weight of clothing even though no one mentioned any violation of Laser Class rules. The Laser Class rules modify RRS 43.1(b) in a way permitted by the RRS but they also modify Appendix H which is specifically prohibited. Gasp ... did the ILCA break a RRS rule? Then they added a little twist about a prohibition on non-floating clothing and equipment that probably few people know about that leaves me with unanswered questions about the definition of "dead weight" and "protective clothing."

"Cheating" as defined by the Laser Class rules is doing something you know is illegal. Sportsmanship, as defined by the RRS indicates that if a competitor breaks a rule, they should promptly take a penalty which may be to retire. There is no way to cheat if you do not know if something is illegal and there is no way to immediately take a penalty if you do not know if a rule has been broken. 

Yes, we should all play by the same rules and we should take our penalties when we know that we have broken a rule. But what about when you don't know if you've broken a rule but someone who does not have the authority to protest you nor the qualification to interpret the rules, declares that you have broken a rule but those that who have the authority to protest you refuse to do so and those who are qualified to interpret the rules say that you have not broken a rule. What then? 

Here are the applicable rules ... so far as I know. Educate yourselves and ask questions from those that are qualified to answer them.  

2013-2016 Racing Rules of Sailing

Competitors in the sport of sailing are governed by a body of rules that they are expected to follow and enforce. A fundamental principle of sportsmanship is that when competitors break a rule they will promptly take a penalty, which may be to retire.


43.1 (a) Competitors shall not wear or carry clothing or equipment for the purpose of increasing their weight. 

(b) Furthermore, a competitor’s clothing and equipment shall not weigh more than 8 kilograms, excluding a hiking or trapeze harness and clothing (including footwear) worn only below the knee. Class rules or sailing instructions may specify a lower weight or a higher weight up to 10 kilograms. Class rules may include footwear and other clothing worn below the knee within that weight. A hiking or trapeze harness shall have positive buoyancy and shall not weigh more than 2 kilograms, except that class rules may specify a higher weight up to 4 kilograms. Weights shall be determined as required by Appendix H. 

(c) When an equipment inspector or a measurer in charge of weighing clothing and equipment believes a competitor may have broken rule 43.1(a) or 43.1(b) he shall report the matter in writing to the race committee. 

See rule 43. This appendix shall not be changed by sailing instructions or prescriptions of national authorities. 

H1 Items of clothing and equipment to be weighed shall be arranged on a rack. After being saturated in water the items shall be allowed to drain freely for one minute before being weighed. The rack must allow the items to hang as they would hang from clothes hangers, so 
as to allow the water to drain freely. Pockets that have drain-holes that cannot be closed shall be empty, but pockets or items that can hold water shall be full. 

H2 When the weight recorded exceeds the amount permitted, the competitor may rearrange the items on the rack and the equipment inspector or measurer shall again soak and weigh them. This procedure may be repeated a second time if the weight still exceeds the amount permitted. 

H3 A competitor wearing a dry suit may choose an alternative means of weighing the items. 

(a) The dry suit and items of clothing and equipment that are worn outside the dry suit shall be weighed as described above. 

(b) Clothing worn underneath the dry suit shall be weighed as worn while racing, without draining. 

(c) The two weights shall be added together. 


86.1 A racing rule shall not be changed unless permitted in the rule itself or as follows

(a) Prescriptions of a national authority may change a racing rule, but not the Definitions; a rule in the Introduction; Sportsmanship and the Rules; Part 1, 2 or 7; rule 42, 43, 69, 70, 71, 75, 76.3, 79 or 80; a rule of an appendix that changes one of these rules; Appendix H or N; or ISAF Regulation 19, 20, 21 or 22. 

(b) Sailing instructions may change a racing rule by referring specifically to it and stating the change, but not rules 76.1 or 76.2, Appendix R, or a rule listed in rule 86.1(a).

(c) Class rules may change only racing rules 42, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53 and 54. Such changes shall refer specifically to the rule and state the change. 

ILCA Class Rules


In our sport in every club and class there is the odd person who needs to cheat to win. Cheating is doing something that you know is illegal. Whether you gain an advantage or not is irrelevant.

(a) In alteration of RRS 43.1 (b) the maximum total weight of competitors’ clothing and equipment shall be 9 kg (for Laser Radial and 4.7 rigs please see part 4).

(b) Competitors shall not wear or carry non floating clothing or equipment which in total weight 
exceeds 500 grammes dead weight except protective sailing clothing. 

(c) For the purposes of weighing clothing and equipment as required by RRS Appendix H three coat hangers may be used instead of a rack.

October 16, 2014

Hyères - Observations from the Sidelines

by Pam

First and foremost, many, many thanks to sailing coach, Eduard Rodes, from Barcelona for allowing me to tag along and watch him work. Coincidently, that meant following the Standard Grand Masters (Doug's fleet) around the course. Eduard is Spanish but spoke English with a British accent and also easily switched to Italian and French. He was very knowledgeable and an absolute delight to spend the week with and watch work. He apparently frequently communicates with Julian Bethwaite in exploring new ideas and ways to do things.  Small world.

Eduard Rodes
We primarily followed Miguel Noguer, 1980 Olympic gold medalist in the Flying Dutchman class. Eduard mentioned that Miguel was an Olympic champion and a dentist but I had no idea that he and Alejandro Abascal earned Spain's first Olympic gold medal in sailing. I would imagine that makes him a bit of national hero in Spain.

Alejandro Abascal (left) and Miguel Noguer (right) - 1980 having just won gold medal

Miquel Noguer - 2014
Leave it to Doug to get lucky and meet just the right people in line for measuring the morning of the practice race and get me such a wonderful front row seat. I spent every day but the last day on the rib with Eduard which allowed us to move among the competitors as though we were one of them. This shot of Tracy Usher between races with my little handheld waterproof camera shows just how close we were allowed to be. Pretty awesome.

Tracy Usher
Wind Conditions

Getting upwind to the windward mark was a bit of a beating when the wind was up and I noticed the official photographer only made the trip up on the first day when it was relatively calm with flat water. Not even the jury boats ventured up that far. Windward mark roundings were strictly on the honor system.

I wish that I could have taken pictures or steady enough video to capture the waves on the windy days. I hung on for dear life on the rib as we climbed up wave after wave and dropped off the other side. There was definitely a pattern of one to two big rolling waves, then a handful of little choppy waves followed by one to two big rollers. I was in awe of the sailors in those conditions because it flat out would have terrified me.

It was interesting to note that the conditions on the radial course were much tamer than the conditions on the standard course. The weather report came from the airport which was sheltered and closer to the radial course so it always underestimated the conditions. That might have played a role in why two of the switch hitters, Doug and Al Clarke, chose the full rig as opposed to the radial. The SIs originally had the courses flipped but someone must have decided it would be fun to put the full rigs in the heavier wind because they swapped them just before racing began. The radials didn't get a race off the first day while most of those in the standard fleet were hiking a little. Quite a difference. After experiencing the heavier wind, my instructions to Doug each day became really simple, 'just stay upright and stay alive.'

There was a capsize witnessed near the rocks that was rumored to have resulted in a death of a competitor which sort of freaked me out. It was just an example of the communication mix ups with various languages being spoken. In reality, one of the volunteers had lost his father recently and scattered his ashes and brought roses for all of the sailor's to drop into the sea on their way to the race course. So far as I know, only two sailors required medical attention. One lost the tip of a finger when it was crushed between two boats and another had a collision between his eye socket and a deck cleat.

Sobering Reality

We were situated close to a French naval base with military aircraft also stationed nearby. On several occasions, we saw fighter jets fly over, fully loaded with bombs. It was a sobering contrast between 499 sailors from all over the world peacefully interacting in a friendly competition versus planes overhead headed to bomb another country. It was impossible not to stop and take notice.


There were 499 competitors at this event which is the largest they've ever had. The lady managing the 160 charter boats said there will never be another Laser event this large. They had to buy 160 boats and no one else can afford to do that again. She indicated that the boats were being shipped off to dozens of different dealerships after the regatta.

Charter boats after the regatta
Charter boat check in line
The logistics of distributing and checking in 160 charters, not to mention measuring in 499 boats was quite a feat. Due to language barriers, the instructions on the charters had become confused with half being told they didn't have to keep the numbered trolly with the number assigned to the boat but just needed to have it on a charter trolly and the other half being told that they must turn in the trolly with the same the number as their boat.

Sailors coming off the water would stand waste deep in the water alternating between pointing at charter trollies and shouting out for a specific trolly number (in various languages). It was funny and sad all at once. Especially, after one or two charter trollies reportedly sank which turned coming into the harbor into a game of musical chairs with the last person getting tires or bottles to set their boat on. Fortunately, the correct instruction was no matching between trolly and boat number and luckily, Doug, whose fleet was the the last in on the final day, had finished the last race in 2nd place and was able to get a trolly. I have no idea what happened to the last charter guy in.

Hello? This is a Masters Event

The SIs for the event were made available online only and not printed and handed out at registration but a copy was posted on the notice board for sailors to refer to. The notice board area was fairly large with different panels for SIs, notices, standard and radial fleet scores, and daily fleet assignments for those with split fleets. But the print was small and also posted up high which was the worst combination for Masters over 45 trying to see the information. Everyone was constantly looking for reading glasses or trying to stand back in a crowd to see the board or just asking the person next to them what it said.

Doug and I went to read the board one day and he stepped forward and I looked down to find my reading glasses. I then snuggled up behind him, wrapped my arms around his chest and rested my head on his shoulder. Then I had this odd sensation and the guy I was snuggling turned to look at me and I looked left and saw Doug standing next to me. Oops!

When is someone going to change the rules for Masters regattas to require a minimum 16 point font size for all instructions, notices and scores. Better yet, just project it up onto the side of a building.

Foiling Laser

Peter Stephinson, co-inventor of the foiling Laser kit (, was competing in the Standard Grand Master fleet in Robert Scheidt's old charter boat.  He also had 4 Laser foiling kits with him for people to try. The lay day was to have been a chance for demonstrations but the lay day was cancelled which was the biggest disappointment of the trip.

Peter Stephinson - this guy was one of a kind and impossible not to like
He indicated to Doug that the ideal configuration for Laser foiling was sailing double-handed with a 4.7 rig. Perfect for me and Doug. Apparently, it won't work if you try to sail it like a Moth, instead you just sail normally and up and away you go. He even went out one evening after racing, using a fellow's boat that had pulled the drain plug and it was full of water, but up out of the water it went. I watched him coming into the harbor and land and remove the foils in about knee deep water. It just took a minute. He said they are designed to immediately disengage should you hit something under water and they had in fact hit a stingray once and it disengaged immediately. They plan to test it with a submerged log but haven't found a test pilot yet; however, he's confident it will disengage and not damage the blades.

They've had success in the Australian and European markets but haven't yet even attempted to market it in the US. They are looking for a dealer so if you're interested, get in touch with Peter. We offered to bring one back and demo it but apparently we weren't the only ones trying to score a free set for demo purposes ... no shortage of volunteers there. But they are seriously trying to find a US dealer. We asked about the sticking point … the price, and it's not going to be discounted any time soon because they are selling plus they have been named Yachts and Yachting's Dinghy of the Year for 2014.

Lay Day

First day of racing was Sunday and it started with a postponement. By the end of the day the notice board announced the cancellation of the lay day on Wednesday. That actually worked out because due to a freak storm in Dallas, it kicked off delays and missed flights that had me traveling for 24 hours and I was really suffering from jet lag. This is how I started the week and exactly how I ended it too. 

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