July 29, 2017

Marc Jacobi - Aero World Champion!

By Doug
Marc has just won the first RS Aero World Championships that were held in France. He was competing in the fleet with the largest of the three rigs and had a big enough lead to not have to compete in the last two races. Well done!

Marc leading.

Foiling Pedro was also there.

You can see a video of Marc, Pedro, and me foiling an Aero here. You can also read more about the World Championships here.

July 25, 2017

What's Missing from my Practice Laser?

By Doug
The training has started for people going to the Laser Master Worlds in Split in September. Here’s my practice Laser, do you see anything missing? 

I like practice to be a little harder than normal, so here’s what I don’t use to force me to be more aware of my surroundings:
  • A compass to keep my head out of the boat.
  • A watch so I can focus on boats around me at the start.
  • A flag at the top of the mast forces me to feel the wind.
  • Hiking pants helps me feel the boat.
  • An old MK1 sail is not fast and makes we work harder.
So, here’s what’s missing – my practice sail has no telltales. This forces me to sail by feeling the pressure on the centerboard, rudder, and sail. Sailing at night is the best way to get the feeling for a boat but if you can’t to this, sailing without telltales is the next best thing.

July 16, 2017

A Lesson In Boat Design

By Doug
On a recent drive back from the lake there were repairs being made to the highway, and there was heavy traffic and lots of bumps in the road. At one point, all traffic stopped and when I started to move again, felt my trailer behind me shudder. Looking in the mirror, I could see that a truck was really close but because of my vision issues, I could not see how far back it was.

Did it bump my Laser or did my trailer hit a bump in the road? I thought about getting out, but being in the middle lane with lots of traffic, I decided to continue driving.

When I got home, I checked the back of my Laser and could not see any damage. Good, I must have hit a bump. I told Pam about this and she immediately checked out the back of my Laser, saw no damage, and then called me an old man who didn't know how to drive.

But then the trunk of my car would not open properly. And then I noticed that the front of the trailer was really bent. Yup, I had been nudged by something solid enough to push my Laser into the back of my car.

So, here’s the lesson. My Kiwi Laser was built for the 1993 Worlds and I’ve sailed it every year since then. Many people feel that Lasers are now outdated and are looking to newer designs like the Aero and Melges 14. It’s a natural progression as boat designs get lighter and more hi-tech.

When Lasers first came out, they were a modern and, as my aging Laser proved, a really durable design. Let’s make sure that newer boat designs are not sacrificing durability for better performance.

July 01, 2017

Happy Birthday Canada!

By Doug
Today is Canada's 150th birthday and as a Canadian, I'm feeling a little homesick. We have a lot to be grateful for, and in our sport we have a bunch of really good up-and-coming sailors.

I had the pleasure of meeting Forest Wachholz in Florida, one of the many sailing ambassadors that Canada has.

June 21, 2017

Bermuda Update

From Pedro
Pedro, the Laser Foiling Guy, is in Bermuda and called with an update as we watched Team NZ lift its rig for a practice sail. 

Pedro shared an interesting rumor. The huge wing is articulated so that the angle of attack can be controlled for the lower, middle, and top third. Just like flattening the top of a Laser sail, the AC trimmer can control the twist when overpowered. Nothing new here.

But the rumor is that on some boats, the top can be be twisted further to create a negative twist to push the rig to windward when really overpowered. Interesting!

June 18, 2017

Did Anyone Else See This?

By Doug
In race 4 of the America's Cup final, Oracle trailed Emirates again by 400 meters. The coverage has been fantastic as we get to see much of the live action on each of the boats. Take a look at this short clip to see what Oracle was doing to gain a little speed.

If you listen closely, the sound of the winch gives it away - the wing trimmer is pumping the main! With the help of hydraulics, this can be done with just one hand.

I'm not sure if this is legal, but the idea of pumping a sail this big is pretty amazing!

May 18, 2017

Bottom of the Run Strategies

By Doug
Here’s a really cool trick that I learned from our district secretary Griffin Orr while I was asleep during a race. We were approaching the bottom mark and I was inside Griffin with an overlap. I thought to myself that this should be an easy.

But just before we got to the three boat length circle he headed up, accelerated, broke the overlap, and said “no overlap.” He then bore off and I had to slow down to let him round in first place. It was a great move that caught me completely by surprise. 

Here's the definition of clear ahead that determined whether red was required to give green room at the mark: "One boat is clear astern of another when her hull and equipment in normal position are behind a line abeam from the aftermost point of the other boat’s hull and equipment in normal position. The other boat is clear ahead."

A line abeam is shown as the doted grey line in the diagram.

So, how could I have defended? I should have kept track of the rhumb line - the imaginary line between the windward and leeward marks.

The trick is for green to anticipate and get red to sail to the right of the rhumb line (looking downwind). This is made easier because green, being the leeward boat on starboard, is in control and can blanket red if it heads directly to the mark. So when red bears off to head for the mark, it has to give room to green. 

Green has successfully got red to sail into the red zone. Advantage green. How does red defend against green doing this? Red needs  to get to windward to get green's wind. Green will most likely sail into the green zone. Advantage red.

This can be quite a battle! Many years ago, I was racing against Paul Foerster (Olympic USA gold medalist) where he was green. I was taking his wind and he was sailing so far into the green zone that we would have sailed past the mark if I had not broken it off. He never lost control, headed up still with an overlap, got room, and went on to win.

Lessons learned:

  1. Green should use its leward advantage to force red into the red zone.
  2. Red should get to windward and try to force green into the green zone.
  3. The boat that anticipates best will have the advantage.
  4. Be prepared to for an aggressive response.

May 03, 2017

LASER FOLKS - Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace

by Pam
Dear Laser sailors, ILCA, and Performance Sailcraft Australia: 

You have until June 2, 2017 to file an opposition with the U.S. Trademark Office to stop Velum Ltd. from being granted the exclusive right to use the Laser starburst mark in connection with the services below

Organization of sports competitions; Organizing and conducting sporting events for the purpose of helping high school seniors earn a college scholarship in their respective sport; Organizing and conducting college sport competitions and athletic events; Organizing, arranging, and conducting sailing events; Organizing, conducting and operating sailing tournaments; Instruction in the nature of sailing clinics; Instruction in the nature of sailing lessons; Organizing and conducting college sport competitions and athletic events; Organizing and conducting sporting events for the purpose of helping high school seniors earn a college scholarship in their respective sport; Organizing and conducting sporting events for the purpose of helping high school seniors earn a college scholarship in their respective sport; Providing information relating to organizing community sporting and cultural activities, contests and games; Providing information relating to the organizing of educational, cultural, sporting, or entertainment exhibitions; Providing news and information via an Internet web site in the field of competitive sailing 
On December 28, 2016, Velum, Ltd. applied for registration of the US service mark on the Laser starburst design. It has been approved and was published for opposition on May 2, 2017. 

Publication for purposes of Opposition

According to the US Trademark Office, "Any party who believes it will be damaged by the registration of the mark may file a notice of opposition (or extension of time therefor) with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. If no party files an opposition or extension request within thirty (30) days after the publication date, then eleven (11) weeks after the publication date a certificate of registration should issue."


Karaya (Jersey) Limited and Velum, Ltd. are the most recent owners of the trademarks for the word LASER as well as the Laser starburst design. That right has historically been limited to the use of the mark in connection with goods, like sailboats, etc. They never acquired the right to use the mark in connection with the provision of services, like running regattas. Or more specifically, the exclusive right to use the mark in connection with organizing, conducting and operating sailing tournamements. As we all know, that right has historically been assumed to be owned by the ILCA and, by extension, the members of the ILCA. 

So what happens if Mr. Farzad Rastegar (the man behind the shell companies) successfully obtains the exclusive right to use the Laser mark in connection with running regattas? We can only speculate. He is a businessman after all and not a sailor. I would assume he is obtaining the mark for the purpose of making money. He already uses the offshore companies to license the use of the mark to Laser Performance, then shifts that income stream offshore for tax purposes. Being able to collect licensing fees from the ILCA, or its members, every time they have a Laser regatta seems like an income stream to me and would seem a logical conclusion to draw as to his intent. Of course, he might be of a more benevolent mind and he might just be trying to secure the mark to make sure no one can come along and hold the ILCA hostage while demanding they change fundamental rules to suit one side over another, or that they relinquish their patents on the Mark II sail, or that all big events be run in one builder's territory and and not another, or some other such mischief. 

So, what can you, the ILCA, members of the ILCA, or PSA do about this?  If ever there was a time to pay an attorney to protect your rights, it is now. 

Where should they look? Well, for starters, I would certainly ask for a qualified legal opinion, on the following:

1. Look at the specimen they filed as proof of their use of the mark.
2. Look up the term Collective Trademark because the ILCA and, by extension, its members, would appear to possibly have a priority claim of use of the mark in connection with regattas. A win of a collective trademark for the ILCA might also lead to being able to unravel some of the other LASER trademark registrations in the US.

3. Look at the ownership chain of title for the existing LASER trademarks. There are some breaks and the true owner may not be Velum at all. There may even be a possibility to claim that the LASER mark has effectively been abandoned for years.  An opposition filed by the ILCA to this latest registration attempt might turn out to uncover a bigger problem and ultimately shift ownership of all the LASER marks in the US to the ILCA. 

4. Look at Velum's previous attempts to register the service mark in the US and at Bruce Kirby's oppositions to the registrations. One of the oppositions is still pending which I assume prompted them to refile this recent application using a different specimen, trying a slightly different spin.  Velum argues that it has already licensed the trademark to the ILCA and then extensively detailed the ILCA's control over the entire Laser game.  Is there such a license?

5. Oh, and PSA, when you look at the Kirby oppositions you will find that the US Trademark Trial and Appeal Board has already ruled that the agreement signed previously, which prevented Kirby from ever contesting the marks, does not apply to this newly claimed use of the mark for services. It's fair game.  If the ILCA won't defend their right to the mark under a collective trademark or otherwise, then there may be angles PSA can exploit to claim a right in the service mark in the US.

Lastly, those of you in the EU.  Might already be time to bend over.  The service mark in the EU was filed at the same time, has already gone through the opposition period, and a registration certificate was issued on April 12, 2017. I wonder if the ILCA has already received a cease and desist letter asking them to pay a licensing fee to run Laser regattas in the EU.  Does any of this have a connection in why the charter fee is so steep for the Master Worlds in Croatia this year?  Surely not.

May 02, 2017

The Aero – My First Thoughts

By Doug
This is my 40th year sailing a Laser and we have seen many new classes challenge the Laser without success. I recently competed in a new RS Aero for the first time.

Things I liked

The Aero reminded me of sailing an NS-14 in Sydney, which is the highest compliment I can give. It’s a skiff hull with a fine entry that loves sailing upwind in waves and anything that comes over the bow goes through the cockpit and out the open back. However, the fine entry makes sailing downwind a little tricky compared to a Laser because it’s easier to bury the bow.

The Aero loves these conditions
An Aero comes with three sail/bottom sections to choose from: a 50, 70, and 90 (indicating the size of the sail). I sailed the 90 on the first day that was breezy and the 70 on the second that was less (with more experience I would have done the opposite). Both rigs are beautifully balanced which is a real compliment to the designers.

The curved deck is comfortable for hiking but next time I’ll wear hiking pants to get my butt a little higher.

The attention to details is really impressive. I liked having a halyard and there’s a pocket in the sail for its storage. There’s lots of carbon fiber to keep the weight down, the control lines automatically retract, liner in the trunk to hold the centerboard in place, and there are many more examples of good design.

Here's a short video of the racing, with first-time sailors  right up to national champions.

Things that surprised me

The biggest problem is that for many people the Aero will not be self-rescuing. After tipping, it's easy to get upright but getting into the cockpit from the water is a challenge because the boat just tips to windward. There are tricks like letting off the vang, or grabbing the mainsheet, or climbing in over the transom but these are difficult in a breeze. I tipped in one race and it took several minutes to get going - enough time for two rescue boats to circle me and ask if I needed help.

Many people have told me that sailing a Laser is hard on their knees - something that has never been a problem for me. But the Aero's double bottom (to drain water out the back) means that there is little difference in height between the side deck and cockpit floor. For this reason, most moved around on their knees which for me was uncomfortable.

In some circles, I'm called the barefoot sailor. The Aero cockpit floor has a rough non-skid finish, so being on your knees means that the tops of your feet take a beating.

There will be no barefoot Aero sailors!
To sum up

From a design perspective, the Aero is a worthy challenger to the Laser. The Laser politics and the lack of dealer support in many countries could not come at a worse time. If the Laser does not get its act together, we'll continue to lose many of our good sailors to Aero fleets.

Thanks to Rob Zedric for the videos and some of the pictures.
Thanks to KO Sailing for the charter.

April 29, 2017

Foiling for the Masses

By Doug
Question: Foiling takes how long to learn?
Answer: About 15 minutes.

Pedro is in Bermuda with the latest Glide Free kit for the O'Pen Bic. This video shows a junior foiling on an O'Pen Bic for the first time. Foiling is no longer a sport for the the full-time professional sailor

Micah Raynor is a 15 year old Bermudian Laser sailor and is foiling at the Americas Cup Endeavor Program. After receiving a briefing from Shaun Priestley, the foiling coach at the Bermuda Yacht Club, Micah was foiling within minutes.

April 25, 2017

Foiling in Conroe

By Doug
Pedro traveled from Sydney via Dallas to the first annual Texas Aero Championships. So Pam and I drove down to Conroe Yacht Club with him to get some foil mentoring, and Pam got some great videos. As you’ll see, CYC was an ideal place for this. Many thanks to KO Sailing for providing some excellent Aeros to play with. This was my first experience in an Aero which I'll write about in my next post.

This was actually the Laser foiling kit with a prototype Aero centerboard insert. So you can foil on both the Laser and Aero with the same kit. For more info, contact Pedro.

Update: Marc Jacobi won the first Aero World Championships!

February 17, 2017

Peter Vessella sailing upwind in a breeze

by Doug
The Florida Masters Midweek Madness was a two day event that started light on the first day but then got breezy on the second. Peter Vessella (USA) won the event with finishes in the breeze of 4, 1, 1, 1 against a competitive fleet. Here, he explains his starts, upwind strategy, Mark II setup, and how he adjusted his controls. There's a lot to be learned from  Peter's simple explanation.

February 13, 2017

Drop Race Strategy

By Doug
A good regatta strategy is sailing consistently to preserve your drop race as long as possible. In this way, you can use it for tactical reasons later on in the regatta. This certainly was not what happened at the 2013 Canadian Master Championships when I got a 29 in my first race (hate those 90 degree persistent shifts!) This appalling start really limited my strategy for the rest of the regatta.

A better example was the recent Rock the Ice event. After the first day I was in first place with 10 points and a 2 as my drop. My main competition had 15 points with a 4 as his drop, so a real difference of 3 points.

The next day would be light and Griffin is a great sailor with several advantages – sailing regularly on this lake, being 20 pounds lighter, and having the Mk II sail which I’m convinced is faster in these conditions. In fact, at times he had much better upwind speed.

In the next race at the windward mark, Griffin rounded just in front of me with the rest of the fleet just behind. Here were my options for the downwind leg:
  • If we finished in that order, my lead would be just 2 points with 2 more races to go, and this finish would equal my drop.
  • But if anyone behind passed me, then a 3 or worse would mean that this would have to be my drop.
  • The only way for this to not be a drop was by beating Griffin which would increase my lead to 4, but this seemed unlikely in these conditions.
It looked like this race would be my drop, so I decided to make the most of it. I covered Griffin going downwind, he defended, we sailed off to the left, and we lost many places. We played games on the next beat and final run, and Griffin finished with a 4 to my 6. 

He had to count his score while I was able to drop mine, so instead of my lead being reduced to 2, it was increased to 5 - a nice cushion. This made the rest of the event easier so I could sail my own race.

Note to self: play it safe (one way described here), preserve your drop race, and use it in the second half when needed.

February 06, 2017

Stay in the Football

By Doug

Over Super Bowl weekend, we had the inaugural Rock the Ice Regatta that attracted a small but competitive fleet. It seems appropriate that we can use a football metaphor to describe the racing.

Steve Bourdow is a great sailor and coach, and would say that when sailing upwind you need to stay inside the football (translation – don’t bang the corners). The first day’s racing was a textbook example of why this works.

In each of the six races I found myself in the lead with my main competition sailing to either the right or left corners. If you want to beat that person, you have to go with them, but there’s always the risk of losing to the rest of the fleet – winning the battle but losing the war. Even when someone on the edge was in more pressure, I resisted the temptation and gave up the lead.

This strategy paid off – four of the six races were won by one one of my main competitors banging a corner while I settled for sailing in between what looked good and the rest of the fleet. As a result, I had four seconds in those races. This ‘percentage sailing’ paid off – at the end of the day I had 10 points while my two main competitors were less consistent and had 15 and 25 points (results here).

After the racing, I told the juniors that if you want to win the occasional race, bang the corner. But if you want to win the occasional regatta, stay in the football.

January 02, 2017

2016 - Those Who Inspired Us

By Doug
Sydney gets our vote for the best New Year's fireworks.
I keep reading that people who appreciate things live longer, happier lives, so since 2010 I've kept an appreciation journal. At the end of each year, Pam and I look back and write about the people who have inspired us that year, so here goes.

Before the Master Worlds, I trained at the International Sailing Academy. The guys that run this all-inclusive clinic do an outstanding job in every way.  It's a worthy part of any training program.

The Worlds this year were actually three back-to-back events for the open, radial, and full rigs. Linda, Andy, and their team put on what many are calling best Laser Worlds ever. They kindly shared how they did it.

Tillerman writes what I have called the gold standard for sailing blogs. He's done this for years and has been a long-time supporter of our little blog. In spite of going over to the dark side to sail an Aero, his blog is an asset to the Laser world.

Rule 42 problems come and go, and 2016 saw a few juniors (and their coaches) permitting and even encouraging this behavior. Griffin Or is the new district secretary for Texas and he has decided that 2017 will have less rocking and rolling. It's not the most popular thing to do, but the right thing to do.

Pam and I were thrilled to be made honorary members of the Double Bay Sailing Club in Sydney - the best Laser fleet on the planet. Members currently include the current Youth World Champion and the current Great Grand Master World Champion. And there's a ton of really good sailors in between. Like the Black Pope, who provided us with our new profile picture.

There's a current shortage of Laser parts and sails in North America. I was told by a dealer this week that they've been waiting for sails since April, and another dealer told me that he's had to buy a new Laser to cannibalize it for it's parts. Whether you support Bruce Kirby or not (we still do), we appreciate the game he created and we miss the good old days when the designer, builder and class all worked together.

As Masters continue to sail way beyond the originally targeted age group, health and insurance is becoming more and more important. Pam signed me up for accident insurance that actually paid her whenever I got hurt, so in 2016 I was actually a profit center. Bob Blakey (NZL) and three others had health issues at the Master Worlds and could not compete.  And then there was Pedro...

Peter Stephenson (AUS), the lovable Foiling Laser Guy, had chest pains at the Worlds and was taken to a local clinic where he flat lined and died for three and a half minutes. The doctors were able to revive him with what the Aussies call a Packer Whacker. Being reborn in Mexico, his name is now Pedro and he's alive, well and back in Sydney. We can all learn from his warning signs that he described here.

The 2017 Worlds will be in Split, Croatia. Pam and I will be staying with a friend on Lake Garda to train with others including defending GGM Champion Mark Bethwaite (AUS).  Pam will be joining me to see Italy for the first time - it should be a blast.

In 2016, we lost many good sailors. We also lost one of the best sailors - Paul Elvstrøm. Such a classy guy, and such a strong supporter of fair sailing.

People often leave comments which we appreciate. Some are critical from which we try to learn, while others just make us feel good, like one from Joshep who commented on how our articles inspire him. We appreciate all of the comments, especially ones like that. Joshep also referenced a blog that has lots of good content and graphics for those new to our sport. Definitely worth a look.

Finally, we admire all of our fellow masters who show up to race year after year. Some measure success by getting a top five result, others by not tipping, and others by not getting hurt. In our view, just showing up makes you a winner.

December 15, 2016

Very Last-Minute Christmas Ideas

By Doug
Great news - Brett Beyer will be giving a clinic at the International Sailing Academy in April. This is a rare chance to train with and learn from the best.

And this is my all-time favorite gift from Pam:
We use these whenever we talk about starts, shifts, or tactics. It's a great teaching tool and way to visualize different scenarios on the water. You can buy this from these suppliers.

December 11, 2016

Last-Minute Christmas Ideas

By Doug
One of the most experienced Laser coaches on the planet is Brett Beyer who sometimes offers online coaching. This would make a great gift.

For owners of a GoPro who would like to video their form on the water, check out Julian Soto's GoPro Mount.

For sailors tired of having their wind indicator hooked and then ripped off by someone's mainsheet, consider Ryan's C-Vane.
On January 1, the 2017- 2020 World Sailing Racing Rules go into affect. If this is for a youth, consider highlighting the section on Rule 42.

Update: click here if you just want to see the significant rule changes (thanks Cameron).

Of course the new Laser sail would make a great gift. They last longer and, as I found out at the last Master Words, they sometimes point higher. Available from your local dealer.

The new carbon top sections will be available in the next few months. We don't know how they'll perform but they're sure to please any Laser sailor. Again, check with your local dealer.

And finally, the ultimate gift is Pedro's foiling kit. We have a set and, yes, they're a blast. Above the water, it's so fast that the steering becomes really sensitive, so much of the control is with the mainsheet. It's a completely different experience!

December 09, 2016

Paul Elvstrøm 1928 - 2016

By Doug
We've have lost one of the greatest sailors of all time. Paul won four consecutive Olympic gold medals and pioneered many of the things that revolutionized our sport: hiking, automatic bailers, boom vangs, and cleats.

In 1966, I went to junior squadron at Pointe Claire Yacht Club in Montreal (home the home of the Laser) and the winner that year was given an Elvstrøm lifejacket. It was a pretty big deal.

Paul's FD crew was Hans Fogh who later opened up the Elvstrøm sail loft in Canada. Ian Bruce asked Hans to design the Laser sail which is why the Elvstrøm logo can be seen in early Laser pictures.

A recent post about winning and Rule 42 violations reminded me of my favorite Elvstrøm quote: "You haven't won the race if in winning the race you have lost the respect of your competitors."

For his contribution to our sport, Paul was named Danish Sportsman of the Century.

December 07, 2016

A Great Christmas Present

By Doug
If you're looking for a great Christmas present for your spouse, favorite teenager, best friend, or yourself, look no further than a clinic at the International Sailing Academy. Like everything in life, there's coach and there's first class. The this is first class. Here's an example of a starting drill:

I've been to many clinics over the years and trained at the ISA for the recent Master Worlds. Here's what you can expect:
·       Great sailing conditions in the open water with lots of different types of waves that make for great practice.
·       Excellent coaching with subtle tips that make a difference. For example, check out how to manage changes in pressure going upwind.
  • New boats from the 2016 Worlds, with all the spare parts you'll need.
  • All-inclusive room and board, with outstanding meals by chef Petra.
  • Helpful staff. I had to visit a doctor and Max took care of everything.
And being a tourist destination, there are lots of other things to try like the zip line that Pam and I enjoyed. The whole experience was first class and would make an excellent Christmas present for some lucky person.
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