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 (www.glidefree.com.au), 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. 

Illegalities … Where is the Line?

By Pam
An anonymous poster reading Doug's sailing notes from the recent Worlds commented that Doug did something illegal and suggested he withdraw from two races. This has given rise to some discussion and reflection. I generally encourage Doug to refrain from addressing such accusations. I'm sort of protective that way.

Doug follows three basic rules when sailing: don't get greedy at the marks, do your circles and avoid the protest room at all costs. I imagine most of the front of the fleet guys have their own simplified version of the rules that keep them out of trouble most of the time and, when in doubt, they can spin on a dime and not lose anything they can't get back.

The Worlds are Doug's main sailing event each year but he doesn't get the least bit nervous anymore. For him, it's about staying fit, seeing old friends who he's sailed with for decades and meeting new ones and he loves going head to head with really good competition and learning and trying new stuff. He has no desire to cheat or do anything illegal in an effort to gain any unfair advantage. I'm pretty sure he only skimmed SI's for this event. They were in small print and he's still having problems with his eyes and he just assumed they said what they always say.

During the postponement on the first day we were talking with Brett Beyer and I mentioned the yellow bracelet everyone was wearing. Doug told me it was to get him into the various events and mine was a cloth one since I wasn't sailing but I had seen a sailor with a cloth one and was confused. Brett started laughing and asked if Doug was serious. He explained that Doug was supposed to put the bracelet on the check-in board before sailing and then remove it when he returned or he'd receive a 6 point scoring penalty for the day. Good thing we had a postponement and talked with Brett.

When Doug got to the first mark leading in the first race, he turned to Roberto Bini (ITL) right behind him and asked if they were sailing the inner or outer course. Doug was confused because the fleet in front was on the inner course and previous Worlds alternated inner with outer. It was indeed the inner again. When they returned to shore, Roberto came over and asked if Doug really didn't know or was just messing with him. This is classic Doug. Absent minded professor type, good guy, talented sailor, not sweating the details, lucky as can be, and usually surrounded by really good people.

So, to the illegalities, the rule of thumb is that if you are fast, you don't change a thing but if you are slow, you keep trying different things until you are fast. In the tune up event Doug found he was slow so he experimented with equipment, rigging, technique, clothing, etc. A few things he tried were: a new light air mainsheet in the practice race, a rolled sail, a hastily broken in sail that he stretched the heck out of on shore, a new rigging system for his outhaul that wouldn't tweak his rotator cuff which is still healing, sailing with and without a compass, a new knee brace, ankle boots, ankle support wraps for his feet in place of ankle boots, a different starting technique, sailing the course vs. the fleet, sailing on the less dominant right side of the course vs. the left side, a new lightweight wool top, and the alleged illegal heavier warmth layer on one particularly windy day that added weight when sailing.

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

Bottom line, Doug was not aware of this rule and probably would not have tried a 'heavy when wet' warmth layer if he'd known about it. However, it did not provide him with an advantage. He was dead last at the 3rd mark in the first race that day and he was so far back in the second race that the rib I was on could not wait for him to finish. He edited his post to add warmth over weight so as to not wrongly influence others who might read the post later and also because it was equally true. This lengthy post is ensure the subject is not dismissed out of hand but given proper attention and focus for others in the future.

So, was trying a heavy when wet warmth layer illegal? Personally, I don't think so. Doug added one 'heavy when wet' shirt. He generally wears less gear than most competitors (no boots, wet suit shorts - not pants). Any reasonable person would be cold in his usual gear. On top of that he bangs and scrapes his knees and feet on everything and bleeds all over the place and he usually doesn't feel the cold or see the blood or missing skin until he's between races or when he gets to shore. If he would just wear the gear I've bought him, he'd be much heavier and injury free at the end of the day. Despite the warm temperatures, Doug returned to shore most days and was wet, cold and shivering. He does this often (which really sort of ticks me off) and when he went with the heavy warmth layer on the day the wind was up, part of the reason was actually because he began to wonder if he might be making mistakes because he's cold (to which I say, duh?). Even though he was warm that day, the results appear to show that his Canadian brain does better when chilled. Actually, I think he's just a creature of habit and the less he has on, the more connected he is to the boat and the more he can feel the changes in the wind.

Should he now withdraw from the two races? Well, one was his worst race and was already discarded. If he withdrew from the second, he'd move down 5 places. Sure, he wants to do the right thing but he also feels like one heavy layer worn one day as an experiment by someone out of the top 10 who did horribly that day just isn't that relevant. I could point fingers in other directions at things that others at the front of the fleets are doing that is relevant but, really, does it matter? They pay for the trip, they pay to sail, and they sail for fun and fitness. When they win, they only receive a tiny little cube, not money.

Doug does his best to sail clean and fair and to be very open about what he's doing (not many publish a race-by-race account) His results in this regatta were what would be expected of someone of his talent with a weight disadvantage. He rose to the top in the light stuff and fell back in the heavy stuff. Everything was as it should be. A blog post that emphasized one aspect of a selected layer is shaky grounds for accusing someone of illegal behavior and asking for his withdrawal from races. 

According to the SI's (4.5 and 5.1), the whole wet clothes or equipment issue can only be addressed or protested by a class representative, race committee or jury. Doug brought the matter to the attention of a class representative and was told "there is no way you should ask to be tossed from those races. You are a totally honest sailor and it was an honest mistake, and clearly didn't give you any advantage." Doug is now acutely aware of Rule 43.1(a).

October 14, 2014

Kids - You Can Never Start Them Too Young!

By Doug
One of the things that we love about sharing our adventures is hearing from others about what they have learned. At Hyėres, we met Alle Roodbergen (NED) who proudly showed us pictures of his son on a hiking bench and encouraged us to keep blogging. 

Alle's 4 year old son, Floris, getting in shape for his Optimist career that will start in just 2 years:


Alle said "Your hiking bench without question has played a big part in me getting in shape for this event. At 1.74 mtr and 78 kg [5' 8" and 172 pounds] I have been struggling with these conditions and I'm sure it has been the same for you. With tomorrow the final race day I am 11th now overall in the Standard Apprentice fleet, so I am very happy!" Alle finished 12th out of 42 in the Apprentice fleet. Congratulations!

October 06, 2014

Hyères Master Worlds - Day 1 & 2 Pictures

Team USA - most of them 
Foiling Laser rigging is here along with the foiling Laser inventor who is competing in Scheidt's boat (not foiling).  We were supposed to get demos and rides on Wednesday but they've cancelled the lay day. 
Standard rig  parking - part of it
Wind ... let's launch 250 boats all at once

Standard fleet on the horizon ... some of them

September 29, 2014

No Compass - No Problem

by Pam
Doug's first post from France was that his bag had been lost in transit. It turns out that it wasn't lost but merely detained in the US by the TSA. 

Apparently, they decided his hiking stick, compass, life jacket, hiking pants, vang, and various lines looked like elaborate equipment for some sort of sinister plot. So, the careful packing of his compass inside his life jacket was all for naught. The contents of his bag had been turned inside out and his compass was broken in transit. Fair warning to other sailors traveling. It might not be a bad idea to put a brochure of the event you're headed to along with a picture of the boat and its various equipment inside your bag so security can figure out rather quickly what you're up to. 

After Doug's post we received a very helpful email from Mike with a brilliant suggestion. Since there might be other terrorist sailors making their way to France armed with dangerous hiking sticks and compasses, this might come in handy for others whose compasses are lost or broken along the way.

The shadow of your mast on the deck can be used as a compass with reasonable accuracy. The earth revolves at 15 degrees per hour, so at the equator the shadow of a stick moves at 15 degrees per hour. It is less or more depending on latitude and winter or summer because the vertical angle to the sun is less than 90 degrees.

Anyway the important thing is the shadow will only shift 1-2 degrees per leg of a race due to the sun so 5 degrees shifts are detectable.

For a Laser, 5 degrees will be 1 ¾” on the deck edge opposite the mast, so that is probably the resolution of measurement. If the shadow reaches the transom it is about 7” per 5 degrees shift.

The biggest source of error can be heel angle. If the sun is side-on port tack, the shadow will be opposite the mast with a resolution of about 2” per 5 degrees.

However on starboard the shadow will be on the bow or stern with a resolution of ~7” per 5 degrees, but the shadow will move a lot due to heel.

Also, on port the shadow will move with pitching, whereas starboard will be insensitive.

Anyway I don’t think about it too hard – I just note the positions of the mast shadow when I’m lifted and knocked on both tacks.

Thanks Mike!  Doug really appreciates you sharing this. 

For now, I'm posting and commenting for Doug because Blogger keeps translating everything to French. Hopefully, he'll find a workaround for posting his competition notes. 

September 28, 2014

Hyères - Good News / Bad News

by Doug

Good news - got to Hyėres and the place where I'm staying is better than expected.

Bad news - none of my sailing gear arrived and has been lost.

Good news - was able to get my charter boat and borrow a sail and rigging for the practice regatta - thank you Regis!

Bad news - Saturday, just made it to the starting line on time, light conditions with lots of chop with the open water. Upwind speed was wasted because I did not have my compass and never got into phase, was spanked by almost everyone.

Good news: practiced with Martin (SWE) after the racing, upwind speed was good.

Bad news - Martin is much faster downwind. Hmmm.

Good news - woke up Sunday after a second good night's sleep. No jet lag.

Bad news - British Airlines is still looking for my sailing gear.

Good news - got a text that my gear has been found, no details about when it will be delivered.

Bad news - three races in 10-20, sailed again in my 'plane' clothes. When I was practicing in Dallas, the boat felt like an extension of my body. Here in the largest waves for me since Jeju (2006), I really struggled. No hiking pants + no compass = getting spanked, again.

Good news - two days of racing and a long list of things to work on this week.

Bad news - the freight company did not get an answer at my hotel and could not deliver my sailing gear.

Good news - the driver figured it was sporting equipment, saw the yacht club, and stopped to ask if anyone knew me. The office did and my gear was waiting for me after the racing. Thanks to a brilliant driver for the extra effort!!

Bad news - a card in my baggage told me that it was held up in the US by the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) which is responsible for airline security. In going through my gear, they managed to break (open?) my compass.
Good news - repaired my compass and look forward to more practice this week with the many friends who have arrived.

Dallas - RIP Bear

by Pam 
A very special nod to Bear, the 120 pound dog, who was the glue behind Improper Course.

Bear came to me as a foster dog when he was about a year old and a little less than 100 pounds. He had been repeatedly discarded, adopted out and returned until he came to live with me. His legs were scarred from some affliction from the first year of his life and his nose was healed up from what looked like a trauma that had split it open. He reacted badly to loud voices or noises. He was a reflection of the humanity he had encountered in the first year of his life and it wasn't pretty.

After about a month I had to take a two week trip out of the country and since he'd been in quite a few shelters, I left him on a dude ranch where he could roam. When I returned to get him, he caught sight of me and froze. I swear I heard him say "you came back!" as he ran toward me and wrapped his paws around my waist. He adopted me. I became a foster failure.

When Doug was abruptly ejected from his home, I offered him a spare room. I came home from work one day and the two were playing and Doug was singing "Ba-ba-ba-Bear, Bear, Bear, where is the Bear" and I swear I heard Bear say "can we keep him?". Bear adopted Doug. I eventually realized he had chosen well.

We lost our dear boy on Friday to late stage liver disease.  Blood work at his wellness exam in April was perfectly fine. The liver is the one organ in the body that can completely regenerate itself but it can also be 80% to 90% damaged and still function normally so by the time symptoms show up, it's too late. 

So, for all you beer drinking and Ibuprofen popping sailors out there ... take your Milk Thistle to keep your liver healthy. We just added it to our daily supplements.

Rest in peace my dear boy ... you were one of a kind.

September 16, 2014

Bart's Bash

by Pam
Four days until the "largest sailing race in the world." Lasers (full rig) have the largest class with over 1,000 boats registered. An unimpressive 21 of those are in the USA. What happened?

Honestly, I'm a bit disappointed. We contacted multiple people and the reactions went from 'never heard of it' to 'sounds like a good cause' quickly followed by lots of reasons why it just wasn't feasible.

I had heard about Bart's Bash earlier in the year but didn't quite get the concept. Over a month ago, I started learning more about it and looking for a venue where we could race in it. That's when I learned that it just hadn't caught on in the USA.

There was definitely a widespread awareness problem in the USA. Even though Jimmy Spithill was registered to do his Bart's Bash in an E-Scow regatta at a USA venue, the club where he was registered didn't begin announcing or advertising the Bart's Bash portion of the event until this past month.

Hopefully, this will become an annual event because there is a lot of room for growth.

In the meantime, it's not too late to make a small donation to the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation (click the link below). Bart's Bash is a fundraiser event to help the Foundation continue Bart's legacy of paying it forward.

In the words of Ian Percy:
 "We would have had a hard day’s training in whatever country we were in, and we’d have gone to bed and I would sleep almost immediately. Sometimes, though, I’d wake up and hear the tap, tap, tap of a keyboard and I’d ask Bart what he was up to and why he wasn’t going to sleep, and he would just reply, ‘Yeah, I will in a minute, it’s just that (insert name of young sailor here) is having a couple of problems and he/she just needs a little advice.’

Nothing was too much trouble for Bart – he believed passionately in supporting the next generation and he did it because he cared.’

September 08, 2014

Getting Ready for Hyères - Starting

By Doug
I'm really looking forward to Hyères because with more than 500 entries, it will be competition at its best. I really hope that they do not split up our fleet because having that many boats on the line will be a real challenge and treat.

So, as everyone prepares for the huge fleets, here are some starting thoughts from one of the best - Paul Goodison on his way to winning one of his European Championships.

I've highlighted Paul in green and we'll be watching how he manages his main concern - the boats just above him on the starting line (SWE1, SUI, SWE2).

This sequence begins with Paul in a bit of a jam.

Paul heads up slightly with 30 seconds to go. SWE1 reacts, SUI and SWE2 do not see this.

Paul bears off, SWE1 does not, SUI is in trouble, SWE2 is not reacting yet.

SWE1 is trying to protect against SUI while SWE2 is only now reacting. Paul is sitting pretty.

SWE1, SUI, SWE2 are fighting, Paul with a good lane bears off to build speed before the start.

At the gun, Paul flattens to accelerate while SWE1 only now gets ready to accelerate. SUI is trying to hold off SWE2. Note that Paul, with a good lane and speed, is already focusing on what's upwind.

With good speed, Paul outpoints SWE1.

SWE1 looks for a lane to tack into...

...and gets out of there.

A simple bump-and-go with 30 seconds to go caused the windward boats to defend at the moment when they should have been thinking about ways to be aggressive and accelerate.

This turns a being-jammed-start into a textbook-perfect-start.
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