May 23, 2016

Mexico Laser Master Worlds - Day 2

by Pam
More fishing off the finish line boat today.  Except this time, we stopped to pick up a fish floating in the water.  There were some attempts to revive it and send it on its way but he was too far gone.  So he was tossed into the cooler and gutted with a sharp knife while the the boat was rocking and rolling and Brett Beyer (AUS) was crossing the finish line.

A rare sight ... Pablo Robago (MEX) and Brett Beyer (AUS)
Oh yeah, Brett got beat today.  Not by much and you won't see it in the scores because he wasn't beat by anyone in his fleet.  Pablo Rabago (MEX), the first place Apprentice, using an old sail, gave Brett a good battle.  They looked like they were having fun with each other.  Even though they weren't racing each other, it was obvious that both wanted to beat the other.  In the second race, Brett came back strong with a decisive finish with quite a distance between him and the closest competitor.  It is clear that the only one in Brett's fleet who can beat him in this regatta is Brett himself.  Let's hope he doesn't do that.

Brett Beyer (AUS) finishing with his 4th bullet
And then there is Mark Bethwaite (AUS) with his fourth bullet, making it look even easier than Brett. Doug gave him a small amount of competition today and was in front of him for just a few seconds but Mark was able to pinch Doug off and then stretched his lead.  Doug is suffering from sail envy. He says that Mark has never been able to point higher than him and it's always been Doug's secret weapon but with the new sail, Mark is pointing much higher.  A quick pow wow with Brett after racing confirmed that Brett felt the same.  I think this regatta may be the death of the old sail. Doug isn't counting himself out of this one just yet.  Mark is rolling the dice each evening with the local Mexican cuisine and Doug thinks it just might slow him down a bit.

Mark Bethwaite (AUS) also finishing with his 4th bullet ... and the rare sight of other boats close enough to be in the photo
Meanwhile, in the GM fleet, Gavin Dagley (AUS), using a new sail, has strung together some consistent races and is leading in the GGM fleet. This one is still a toss up but so far the Aussie's are dominating at this regatta.

Gavin Dagley (AUS) finishing in the lead today ... love the green gloves

Mexico Laser Master Worlds - Day 1

by Pam
Two races today after a postponement with winds between 9-12 knots in the first race and building to 13-16 knots in the second.  The finish line boat started to really rock and roll during the second race. Our driver had the motor running and was driving under anchor during the entire second race finish in order to keep the boat lined up on the line.  

Things in Mexico work a little differently than other world regattas that I've been to.  First, they do the same job with less than half the number of people.  Second, it's a mostly Spanish speaking operation.  Third, they multi-task quite well.

There is one launch ramp and it's one of the smallest I've seen at a regatta and yet, it was also one of the most efficient operations I've seen.    


When the sailors reach the bottom of the ramp looking refreshed and with a smile on their face, you know they really appreciate the organization,


Although my maiden name is Balboa and my great, great grandfather illegally immigrated to the United States and left 11 children behind before being deported, I only have half the work ethic of a Mexican and I don't speak Spanish.  So that leaves me on a boat taking videos and looking for things to entertain myself.

I did a quick survey of the top 5 finishers in each fleet.  Brett Beyer (AUS) was the definitive first place finisher in the Masters/Apprentice finish and was using an old sail.  Mark Bethwaite (AUS) was the definitive first place finisher in the GGM fleet and was using a new sail.  In the GM fleet, Al Clarke (CAN) and Nick Page (NZL) each had a first place finish and both have the new sail.  A tally of the top five finishers in the first two races, there were 20 new sails and 10 old sails being used. With more data, we might be able to draw some conclusions about which sail does better in which conditions or maybe we'll see that it's the sailor and not the sail that matters.

As I understand it, the race scores are being posted before the sailors even return to shore.  There are three people doing scores.  One calling, one writing and the other supervising, I think.  At the end of each race, they appear to be confirming that they've accounted for the entire fleet, snap a picture and send the scores to shore.  

In the meantime, our driver, not wasting a precious minute of time doing nothing, is busy catching dinner off the back of the boat - multi-taking at its best. He was so efficient, I didn't even know what he was doing until he'd cleaned the fish.



And we're off to day two.  Doug is busy writing and will be posting his race journal after the regatta.

May 22, 2016

Mexico Laser Master Worlds - Practice Day

by Pam
I only arrived about an hour before the practice race so I opted to skip jumping on a boat to watch.  I sat and watched the boats come in and did a quick survey.  44 boats using the new sail and 17 boats using the old sail.  Lots of boats never went out so it's hard to tell what the real split will be.  If I'm not too busy on the finish line boat, I might try to get another count.  Either way, it will be interesting to see what people think at the end of the regatta.

I noticed in Kingston that the Aussies don't seem to give any merit to the 'never win the practice race' theory.  Brett Beyer won it in Kingston and he also won the championship.  Mark Bethwaite also won his race and championship. 

Well yesterday, the GGMs and GMs were in the same start.  It was a GGM, Mark Bethwaite, that finished the race first.  I believe Mark's comment was along the lines of 'well someone had to win it, why not me?'  It was just the practice race and not everyone sailed, or sailed their hardest or even finished.  It would have been interesting to see how the GGMs stacked up against the GMs.  I believe Mark already proved they are still a force to be reckoned with.  Doug, now on his third injury in the last couple of months, got stuck behind a wall of GMs and couldn't even see the leaders. 

However, there was a petition that circulated after the racing and they are splitting the GGMs to their own fleet for the regatta.  As Mark put it, the old gentlemen have earned the right to have their own start.  And the Laser class apparently agreed.  And we're off to the first day of racing today ...

May 20, 2016

International Sailing Academy - The Pre-Worlds Clinic

By Doug
I really like this place because of their attention to detail. Their meals, for example, are exactly how I like to eat during a competition - a late brunch, a light meal after the sailing, and then supper later. Max is anxious to help with all of the details we get in a foreign country, such as taking me to a nearby English-speaking doctor to check a potential injury to my neck.

The clinic started with brunch...


...followed by a chalk-talk that included some really good videos...




...and then we're on the water by 1:00. Being at the north end of the bay near mountains means that we got a wide variety of conditions as the gradient winds from the north-west fought the building sea breeze from the west. We had everything from steady 15-20 to pulsing 5-15, so there were lots of gear change practice with the various controls.

After 40 years of sailing a Laser where I'd move forward to catch a wave like surfers...



...Coach Colin had me working on something new, where I'd move back to catch a wave, as shown by Tom Slingsby winning the medal race of the 2011 Laser Worlds:




It's a lot harder than it looks because as the boat accelerates, the apparent wind shifts forward taking pressure off the sail and making the boat really unstable. I may not have time to get this right before our Worlds start in 2 days, but I appreciate the chance to learn something new.

Good clinics attract good sailors, so it was great to practice with people from the US, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Sweden, and Australia.

May 16, 2016

International Sailing Academy - First Impressions

By Doug
With no one to train with in Dallas, I like to show up early for a Worlds event to watch the open guys and get in some training with the early birds who are usually the top master sailors. I stayed for one day at the host site Paradise Village (4.3 Google stars, discounted ILCA rate of $120 US) before heading to the International Sailing Academy in La Cruz - a town further up the bay - for a 4 day clinic.

It's been a pleasant surprise for several reasons. The supplied Lasers, rigging area, and sailing conditions are all first class. And rather than staying in a hotel, we're at a large home near the boat park. There's a large back yard and pool.


La Cruz has lots of local restaurants that serve good food at reasonable prices.


But there's little need because the food served by the Sailing Academy's Petra is even better.



The clinic participants are from the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and all are serious sailors who make the on-the-water drills challenging. Perhaps I'm biased, but it seems a lot more civilized spending time with fellow sailors in a quiet setting than in a large hotel full of tourists.


If Pam and I were to come back just for a vacation, we'd prefer to stay at the Sailing Academy than at a hotel. The sailing is, of course, a bonus.

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

Update: Robert Scheidt with Pedro just before heading back home to Sydney.

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.
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