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 rime - 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.

November 07, 2016


by Pam
Doug and I split tacks this weekend with me being dropped off in Austin and Doug heading a little further south to compete in Wurstfest, the last regatta of the season. The common highlight of both of our weekends were two 17 year olds.

On my end, my brother's wife lost her battle with cancer a couple of weeks ago, leaving my him a single father of a 17 year old, whose world had suddenly changed. A reality check for me on how fleeting life can be and how important it is to enjoy every moment.
Doug, on the other hand, found himself sideways with a 17 year old, two parents and a coach, which ended a little like how our US presidential debates and campaigning have gone.

Now really, which story do you want to hear about? The correct answer is neither. Surely, we’ve all had enough reality TV type drama with the US presidential election.

However, in hearing about Doug's weekend, compared with my own, my perspective was one of trying to find the good in the situation and I was surprised at how much good there was to be found.

So, yeah, there was a junior in the full rig fleet with a Rule 42 protest against him by the District 15 Secretary and Doug was called in as a witness. The protest committee ruled something along the lines of even though he jibed repeatedly and he did indeed come out of the jibes faster than he went in, he still didn't actually gain through the activity therefore it wasn't a violation. The District Secretary doesn't agree and will be appealing the ruling. Before the protest when Doug went to speak informally to the coach … well … things turned south. The coach, the parents and the junior did not agree with Doug’s interpretation of Rule 42 and vice versa. It will be interesting to see how the appeal turns out. There’s more to the story but you get the picture. Drama!

Here's the deal. That little disagreement was a cluster and there is fault to be found on the part of all parties. Here you have a junior whose parents and coach have done a good job of developing a talented sailor who is now competing at a level where he is a contender on the full rig course. That is to be commended. On the flip side, you have a Laser district with a leader who is looking to develop a competitive district that adheres to certain standards where everyone feels they are competing fairly and respectfully. That too, is to be commended. As the two merge, the junior into the full rig fleet, there are bound to be some bumps. If either handles the bumps too abrasively, they run the risk of discouraging and losing a talented sailor and/or ticking off an entire fleet. Neither has a good outcome that is for the betterment of sailing and competition.

But, you see, this regatta, for that kid, was his graduation. He had arrived. He was accepted as being on the same level as the adults. Getting called out was a compliment that says he's no longer a junior on the course and he no longer gets a free pass on his behavior because he’s a junior. His coach and parents have taken him to this point and now it's time to let go and let that oddly nuanced fleet polishing experience take place. That transition where he learns to play nice with a different peer group and somehow emerges a more humbled, respectful, experienced and confident human being.

Several years ago, Doug and I were sailing in the Sunfish fleet against a very young and talented Stewart Draheim. A name that I'm sure will be around in sailing and well respected for many years to come. Stewart was aggressive, highly talented and kind of an ass to sail against. I intensely disliked sailing anywhere near him. At one regatta, Doug finally had enough and decided to engage him. Doug spoke to Stewart’s mom and she gave him the green light. She knew that Stewart had to earn the respect of his peers and she seemed to recognize that even though he was pretty dang young at the time, he was essentially being invited to graduate from junior status and into a different peer group. The Stu that emerged in the next year was a sailor I respect, admire, trust and enjoy sailing against. He was always a good sailor and a good kid but the contrast from the boy he was then to the man he is now, is night and day. A coach and parents can provide the tools and opportunities but they really can't teach a kid that transition. It seems to happen on the race course and I couldn't even tell you how. It hasn't happened to me. I must not be good enough or tolerant enough to be "polished." I would, however, advise that if a young sailor has reached that level and is being invited to graduate, jump in with both feet and let the fleet do their thing and find the diamond within.

Once upon a time, I blogged about
A Father’s Gift of Sailing. The transition I’ve seen several times still puzzles me as to how it happens but maybe what happened this weekend with Doug is how it begins.

October 30, 2016

2016 European Masters

By Doug
Here's a quick update from Roberto who completed in the European Laser Masters this week. It was held in Hvar Croatia (not far from where next year's Master Worlds will be held in Split). The results can be seen here.

We had the well-known northeast wind called 'bora' blowing at 20-25 knots with a lot of shifty gusts. Jose Lius Doreste won in the overall and the GM fleet (actually the first 3 in overall are GMs) while Peter Seidenberg did very well with a 4 and 5 in the radial fleet.

Too bad they didn't have this sign for swimmers at the Rio Olympics.

September 26, 2016

Laser Sailing Update from Down Under

By Doug
Here's an article just published by the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron which is just opposite the Opera House on Sydney harbor. At the recent Master Worlds, Pam's vantage point for taking pictures on the finish line was good because we got close-ups of how people sailed. Another good shot is this one of Brett finishing - with the way he punches out, I wonder how many people have actually seen how he sails (who knew his outhaul was so tight?) We're looking forward to more good pictures at the next Master Worlds in Split Croatia.

August 31, 2016

International Sailing Academy - More Less Hiking

By Doug
The ISA has another great article about conserving energy when hiking. There are some subtle ideas, like the one about using the cunningham to fine-tune weather helm. It makes sense, but I've never thought of it that way.

August 17, 2016

Kirby v. Laser Performance, et al.

by Pam
And we finally have a decision on the pending lawsuit ...

(of a 14 page Order from the Judge)
For the foregoing reasons, the motion for summary judgment by LPE and QMI (Doc. #186) and the motion for summary judgment by ILCA (Doc. #183) are GRANTED in light of my conclusion that plaintiffs Bruce Kirby and Bruce Kirby, Inc., have no standing to maintain their claims. The motion to dismiss by ILCA (Doc. #174) is DENIED as moot in light of the granting of its motion for summary judgment. The motion for summary judgment by counterclaim defendants Bruce Kirby and Bruce Kirby, Inc. (Doc. #180) as to several of the counterclaims asserted by counterclaim plaintiffs LPE and QMI is GRANTED in part (as to Counterclaims III and IV) and DENIED in part (as to Counterclaims V through IX). The motion for summary judgment by counterclaim defendant GSL (Doc. #184) against LPE and QMI is GRANTED in part (as to the claim of overpaid royalties for the Laser Radial and Laser 4.7) and DENIED in part (as to the claim of overpaid royalties for packaging).

But what does that mean ... basically, it appears the court is recognizing the sale of Bruce Kirby's intellectual property rights to Global Sailing and not recognizing the return of those rights to Bruce.  So, really it's just a passing of the torch (pun intended) to Global Sailing.  Global Sailing can now bring suit against Laser Performance and begin another 3 years of limbo for the Laser class. 

July 22, 2016

NS-14 Photo Contest

By Doug
I've used this picture on a few posts and would like to add a little more about its story.

It's from way back in 1971 when I jumped into a small runabout and took pictures of Frank Bethwaite sailing with Julian at Northbridge Sailing Club. Most sailing pictures are boring because they're taken too far away, so my goal was to get some close-up shots.

The NS-14 (which stands for Northbridge Senior) is an amazing "development class" because, as you can see in the picture, they're planing upwind with no trapeze and the boat has just 100 square feet of sail. In fact, its DNA can be found in many other classes including Julian's 49er.

Frank commented at the time that the pictures were the best he had seen for NS-14s and he later used this picture on page 254 of High Performance Sailing

Thirty years later told he how this picture changed his thinking about how rigs work. 

So, who can tell us what Frank saw and why it changed his thinking?

July 13, 2016

International Sailing Academy - Less Hiking

By Doug
The ISA has started a series of articles that will help you hike a little less going upwind. I'm really impressed with their coaching, so if you haven't checked them out this would be a good time. Their clinics, conditions, and facilities are first class.

July 06, 2016

International Sailing Academy - Head Cam Videos

By Doug
Most of our readers have never gone to a Laser Worlds, and many have never sailed in open water. And many have never sailed in a really good clinic. Because of a broken thumb, my training for the Worlds was derailed and consisted of second helpings and very little exercise or time on the water.  As a result, I was heavily reliant upon the sailing clinic just prior to the Worlds to get me ready. On the last day, I wore a head cam so that you can ride along and see what it was like.

The camera that I use is shown here, and I like it because it takes Hi-Def videos, is light, and has a low profile so it's less likely to get snagged by the mainsheet. Because it's a sealed unit, there is only muffled sound which I have turned off.

The first part is going downwind and while there are less boats than in a Worlds fleet, it sometimes feels like a real race because the boats around limit the wave selection and options. I was practicing a downwind technique shown here that for me was new, and I wasn't good at it. My speed was very average... there's still lots to learn and I will definitely return for more training. They have excellent downwind clinics at the International Sailing Academy in La Cruz, Mexico. It is almost impossible not to improve after doing one of these clinics.

Because of my vision issues, I have no depth perception. So, you'll notice that I judge the size of a wave by its color. I'm envious of people who can actually see the size of the waves around them.

The second part of the video is a short clip that shows what it's like in a good Laser fleet when you don't set up early enough. Getting a crappy start is a waste of good boatspeed!

July 01, 2016


by Pam

For years Doug and I have been without a sailing club to call home so we have just called ourselves NOMADS (NO More Annual Dues Sailors). It's been rather perfect. But that all changed this week. Doug woke up on Wednesday to find that his usual honorary Aussie status has been upgraded to be an honorary member of Double Bay Sailing Club on Sydney Harbor in Australia. Doug felt so honored because it is his favorite place in the world to sail and Aussies tend to be his most challenging and rewarding competition.

The DBSC weekly newsletter is always quite a fun read with all the nicknames for everyone and a wicked sense of humor. Dear Leader and the Black Pope were both at the recent Laser Master Worlds in Mexico and were a heck of a lot of fun to be around. I believe the Black Pope dubbed Doug the "White Arrow" after watching a video of Doug winning just ahead of Dear Leader in Mexico. Perhaps that will be his DBSC nickname?

Loved reading about DBSC's limited space solution. Active racing sailors have priority on space. Not active ... move. I can't count the number of times Doug has commented on nonactive sailors turning sailing clubs into an expensive storage facility and killing the local fleets by not having space available for active racing sailors.

Yep, it's a perfect match ... except for that commute to the club ... a minor detail. 

June 26, 2016

Thank you Art Mayer

By Doug
The Aussies dominated the recent Master Worlds with Gavin, Brett, and Mark each winning their divisions. I've had a 40-year connection with Australian Laser sailors, but that was never the plan. I went to Sydney to learn how to be a better crew, not how to be a better skipper.

As I mentioned in this post, I arrived in Sydney as a 20 year old kid out to see the world and to crew on one of the famous 18-footers. My first stop was Double Bay that had one of the two two skiff sailing clubs. After some very strong beers (12% alcohol!) I was introduced to Art Mayer (related to Louis B Mayer) who owned one of the older skiffs. We went to his boat shed and I saw something that I had never seen before - lots and lots of controls on a low, sleek hull built for speed. 

After a few minutes of chatting, Art looked at me and said, "this is not what you want to be sailing."

I was crushed. "Why not? This is why I came to Sydney."

"You see, for every hour on the water, you'll have to spend three hours working on this boat."

"What would you do if you were me?"

Art paused for a moment and then said, "I'd call a gentleman by the name of Frank Bethwaite."

It turned out to be some of the best advice I ever got, and began a 45-year friendship with the remarkable Bethwaite family. Within 2 weeks of arriving in Sydney, I was helping Frank in his factory and taking pictures of him and Julian testing different settings.

Used on page 254 of Frank's High Performance Sailing. Years later, Frank told me how
this picture changed his thinking
about how rigs
At Frank's invitation, I became the race secretary of this development class, called the NS14, and today its DNA can be found in every high performance boat in the world. Frank, Julian, Nicky, and Mark have all been at the leading edge and have all won world championships. Their friendship and mentoring changed my life.

So without Art's suggestion, what would skiff sailing have been like? And what would I have been doing as crew? I found this vintage gem made by Art perhaps featuring the boat I would have been sailing...

Of course, my path would have crossed with the Bethwaites because of the huge impact that Frank and Julian had on skiff sailing. Here's what it looks like today.

This looks like a blast, but it's not something that I could have physically done for very long. I could well have ended up crewing on bigger boats. For me, staying on as a skipper in smaller boats like NS14s, then Moths, and then Lasers was definitely the best option for me. I treasure the pure competition that Lasers offer, the travel to events around the world, the sharing on this blog, and many friends that Pam and I have made.

Thank you Art Mayer. 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...