June 30, 2012

More Video Tips - Taking Videos While Sailing

By Doug
Tillerman has asked for more tips when taking videos while sailing, so here are two more.

When I was coaching last year at Cabarete, I took videos of my students so they would have something to enjoy after they returned home. I used a Kodak PlaySport and held it in my right hand while holding the main sheet and tiller with my left - something that is easy to do on starboard tack and harder to do on port. In light air this is pretty simple, but it's difficult to see the little screen in the sunlight. So, my first tip when taking hand-held videos is practicing pointing and shooting without looking at the camera.

Sailing videos can be pretty boring and it's best to be close to the action. So, at 1:30 in this video you can see my second tip - learn to sail close to another boat, with your wrong hand, facing backwards, going down waves. What could be simpler?

June 27, 2012

LaserPerformance United Unions

by Pam
After my Kirby Sailboat post, I ended up talking with Bruce Kirby and also with the ILCA. Bruce pointed left and the ILCA pointed right but they weren’t pointing at each other or even at the exact same thing.  But to my surprise, they were more in alignment with each other than I would have thought.  Performance Sailcraft Australia seems to be getting along with everyone.  LaserPerformance (“LP” for short), however, doesn’t appear to be aligned with anyone except its sister company, Maclaren.  Together they appear to be posturing to sweep the table and take over everything associated with the Laser.  Someone, please tell me I’m wrong.

So far, we haven’t been given any explanation from LP as to what this really means.  Doesn’t this sound familiar?  We’re being encouraged to do something and not being given enough information to make an intelligent decision.  Well, I’m not falling for that twice.

So, I started trying to learn more about LP and Maclaren and it somehow left me feeling like I needed to do some laundry.  I talked with a couple of FBI agents that came to my house (for another matter) and I described the seemingly complicated business structures that I had found and they assured me that many businesses with these types of complicated structures are completely legitimate ... and some are not.

In the end, I had more questions than answers and as a result, I've decided that I won’t be abandoning the ILCA and joining any LP union without alot more disclosure.

Here, is a summary of my findings, which I hope leaves you with questions of your own.

LP/Maclaren Connection

So what does Maclaren (baby stroller manufacturer) have to do with LP (sailboat manufacturer)?  LP says they are part of the same business group.  What is commonly understood is that both companies are ultimately owned by Farzad Rastegar, an Iranian born venture capitalist who resides in Connecticut.  Virtually all of the Rastegar entities that I could find are privately owned limited liability companies except for the Maclaren entities in the US which are corporations.  So why have the corporations (not the LLCs) provide the sailing sponsorships?  Tax reasons?  Public relations campaign after Maclaren’s baby stroller recall? Other reasons?

Maclaren Amputations/Bankruptcy/Fraud

Maclaren USA, Inc. now known as American Baby Products, Inc. filed for bankruptcy on December 29, 2011.  This was following several lawsuits from families whose children were among the 20 children who had their fingers horrifically amputated in the strollers prior to a recall that some say was delayed too long.  There are lots of questions and speculation surrounding Maclaren.

Related Entities

Trying to figure out how everything is connected was the most frustrating part of my research.  Multiple companies with the same addresses, officers or owners.  It was difficult to a draw direct relationship line from one company to the next since alot of information was not available to the public but the addresses and officers were intermingled in varying degrees which seemed to confirm that the entire jumble of companies were interconnected. 

300 Highpoint Avenue, Portsmouth, RI 02871
LaserPerformance LLC

200 Highpoint Avenue, Portsmouth, RI 02871
SailLaser LLC
LaserPerformance Sail & Sport LLC
Quarter Moon, Incorporation
Vanguard Sailing Center
Vanguard Sailboats
Vanguard Racing Sailboats
Garda Company LLC

4 Testa Place, S. Norwalk, CT 06854
American Baby Products, Inc. f/k/a Maclaren USA, Inc. (in bankruptcy)
Excelsior Testa LLC
Excelsior Property Holdings LLC

25 Van Zant Street, Norwalk, CT 06854
Maclaren N.A., Inc.
Maclaren Services, Inc.
Dory Ventures LLC

Station Works
Station Road, Long Buckby, Northampton, Northamptonshire NN6 7PF
LaserPerformance (Europe) Limited
SailLaser Limited
Maclaren Europe Limited
Ronson Limited
Ronson International Limited
Full Moon Holdings Limited
Sina Holdco Limited

Richard M. Gauvin
Attention of - SailLaser LLC
Senior Corporate Paralegal - LaserPerformance LLC
VP Legal Affairs - LaserPerformance Sail & Sport LLC
Secretary - Quarter Moon, Incorporation
Secretary - Vanguard Sailing Center
Secretary - Vanguard Sailboats
Secretary - Vanguard Racing Sailboats
Secretary - American Baby Products, Inc. f/k/a Maclaren USA, Inc.
Secretary - Maclaren N.A., Inc.
Secretary - Maclaren Services, Inc.
Gauvin’s Business Address - Garda Company LLC
LLC Member of Garda - Quarter Moon Incorporated

This is just naming a few of the connections.  It was enough to convince me that everything is related in some way or another.  Rastegar was directly named in connection with the Van Zant Street companies.


The LASER trademarks seemed to be the trump card that LP played to motivate the ILCA to introduce the fundamental rule change which essentially booted Bruce Kirby.  That didn’t sit right with me and it was the intellectual property (patents, copyrights and trademarks) that originally made me start checking things for myself.  I found that LP does not own the LASER trademarks.  At least not directly.  The LASER and MACLAREN trademarks are held in offshore holding companies.  The companies share addresses and officers and run through several offshore jurisdictions that have favorable tax laws with limited to no public disclosure and, interestingly, are in jurisdictions that have legalized gambling.  Is that a coincidence?

Karaya (Jersey) Limited, 14 Conway Street, St. Helier, Jersey
For $3.5M Quarter Moon, Inc. (Vanguard) sold its trademarks to Karaya Holdings Limited which then transferred it to Karaya (Jersey) Limited.  The interesting thing here is that A--, signed on behalf of Karaya and is listed as the correspondent on the bulk of the US trademark work and he appears to correspond with the Trademark Office strictly by email.  When the US Trademark Office recently mailed a document to the Karaya address in Jersey, it was returned as undeliverable.  When I searched for the address on the internet it showed to be the office of a licensed betting shop.  I sure would like to know if Karaya is really at this address but I don't plan to visit the Channel Islands anytime soon. The listed Karaya shareholder is Spring Meadow Holding Limited, Mill Mall, P. O. Box 964, Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands.

Velum Limited and Armon Limited
17, rue du Cendrier, PO Box 1699 CH-1211, Geneva 1, Switzerland
These two companies hold some of the LASER (Velum) trademarks and all of the MACLAREN (Armon) trademarks.  Both are Antigua/Barbuda companies using the same Switzerland address.  There are no public records to check the ultimate owner.  I searched the US Trademark Office for Switzerland addresses and found some 50,000 registrants.   But when I narrowed the search to Switzerland addresses and Antigua/Barbuda registered companies, only the Rastegar trademarks came up as using this particular business structure.  Why?

This is an European attorney who appears to be managing the Rastegar trademark work and who also signs on behalf of many of the Rastegar entities and he seems to be associated with two service firms, B-- and C--.  A-- uses different variations of his name and also uses the various addresses of the Rastegar entities as well as addresses in London, Isle of Man, Monte Carlo, and even a global mail drop box in a strip mall in Houston, TX.  Why?

So, if a US company (LP/Maclaren) pays royalties to an Antigua/Barbuda company (Velum/Armon) with a Switzerland address, in what country is the bank account for that payment?  Then if the trademark service company (A--) with addresses in Isle of Man, London, and Monte Carlo also gets paid, in what country is his bank account?  But, then there is the US service company (Dory) so I guess money flows back to the US to pay them too but there is also the ultimate shareholder whom we don't know for the Velum and Armon companies but might guess is in the British Virgin islands like for Karaya.  But, as we've seen, the companies are all interrelated and Rastegar is the presumed ultimate owner so it would seem that money comes out of the US and goes to several countries, with some staying offshore and some returning to the US.  And now we're being offered sailing sponsorship money from Maclaren and the LP unions.  Is there a connection?  I simply don't know how these things work.  Someone please tell me that this somehow makes perfect sense in the business world.

I tried but I simply could not piece this puzzle together so I'm going sailing.

LaserPerformance Update (7-10-12)

June 25, 2012

District 15 Texas Laser Circuit - Seabrook

By Doug
In 2008, Hurricane Ike smashed into the Texas coast causing almost $30 billion in damages. Our friends at Seabrook took a direct hit and, as you can see, their facilities were destroyed. Last w/e they hosted the next Laser circuit event and it was great to see their new clubhouse. The work (and view) is fabulous!

The sailing was interesting for me because it was similar to the light conditions expected at the next Laser Worlds in Oman - light and lumpy. Add the waves from the nearby motorboat racing and it was a great opportunity to do some speed testing, especially with fast people like Colin and  Mark.

I had a slight speed advantage upwind by footing with a tight vang and easing the main (more than others) yet pinching slightly without stalling the centerboard. The key was steering the boat through the waves by moving my weight more than my tiller. Downwind, Colin and Mark had the advantage by working the main and waves better than me, so it made for some close and interesting racing. I led at every mark on Saturday but was reminded not once but twice that it's important to know the course, especially when sailing with other fleets! Sunday had less waves and the speed was much more even with James and Dave moving up in the fleet. Colin won with impressive finishes in all of the races.

June 20, 2012

A Good Roll Tack

By Doug

Someone took this picture of me half way though a roll tack way back in 2004. I was grateful because not all of my tacks are nearly this good, but this one was not excessive, my weight was forward (the transom was out of the water), and the mainsheet was out so that it could be pulled in gradually to accelerate on the new tack. A good flat-water tack for sure.

Others apparently liked this picture too, and I was happy to see this on the back of a T-shirt at the recent Texas Laser Championships.

June 18, 2012

District 15 (Texas) Laser Championships

By Doug
A local Dallas club hosted the state championships this past weekend.  This is the home of that "special" Laser fleet.  So you know, this is one event I just had to attend.  Two things made this event interesting - one was the unusual course and a trick that helped win the event. And the second was a long overdue spanking.

After one of my favorite sailors (said sarcastically) took some liberties with the rules, I took the liberty of sailing moderately aggressively against him. These actions prompted the sailor to offer me some unsolicited advice, sprinkled with lots of colorful language that somehow made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. After 8 races, I discarded a 3 and finished with 9 points. I must say it was one of my most satisfying wins in recent months (results).

Tactically, the first day was really interesting:
  • We had 22 sailors, with about 15 skilled.
  • The conditions were shifty with lots of holes.
  • A windward leeward course with mid-line start/finish.
  • The line was pin-favored and looked very tempting.
  • The windward mark was set to the right.
  • The first beat was really short, as little as 2 minutes.
  • When the wind went left, it was possible to lay the mark by starting at the pin on port tack.
Starting was everything. So, what trick helped me win 4 of the 5 races on Saturday? It's human nature to start at the pin when it's that favored, but I could not tack early enough to consolidate. With a good line sight, I could start in the middle of the line and then tack away. But this is risky because there are boats on my hip that prevent tacking. The best start was at the committee boat because the boats below cannot tack. The key was picking exactly when to tack, even if it's not until the port tack layline. In each of the 4 races, I had the option to tack when I wanted and was the first one to do so.

Note to self: with a really short first leg, the first boat to tack has the best chance of winning. Boatspeed, line bias, and shifts are all secondary. 

On Sunday, we had a longer windward leg and Colin, a young and very talented college sailor, had great finishes of 1, 1, and 3. Here he talks about how he did it:

June 17, 2012

2012 Butterfly Single-Handed Nationals

by Pam
Photo by Frank Richards
Last weekend, Doug and I sailed in the Butterfly Nationals.  Doug won overall and I won top woman.  We aren't certain but we think we might have made history as the first husband and wife to win.  It was a fun event.  A full write-up is on the Butterfly blog.

I was sailing an old boat that was my brother's first boat when he was a kid and she has been in my family for over 40 years and Doug was sailing with my boat's original 40+ year old centerboard. So it was a double win for the old girl, aptly named, the Fighting Lady.

June 13, 2012

Finding the Right Match

By Doug
Still shot taken from a Sail Pro video at the Aussie Nationals
Tillerman challenged bloggers to share their number one tip for capturing good water shots/video.  For me it came down to finding the right match between purpose, camera, mount, and software.

First came the purpose.  I began taking pictures and videos to teach Pam how to sail better.  Little did I know that she would become a full time project, not to mention my wife.  She still provides most of my motivation and purpose in the shots I take... 'get me a picture of this, take a video of that.'  Then she wanted to see what it was like to race along with me. And then she wanted a play by play color commentary. Pam constantly challenges me and my skills keep evolving.

Early on, I was simply using my Cannon PowerShot and Pam's waterproof Pentax Optio.  Both took decent shots and had some video capability, but there were some limitations with zooming the video and when cropping the shots later to capture more action and less boring background, I lost quality.  We liked the idea of having high definition video capability and saw this inexpensive little Kodak PlaySport that looked like a toy, but it took some impressive videos and pictures. We decided to give it a try, but the files brought both my laptop and iPad to their knees when editing.  So I upgraded my computer to an Intel I7 quad core (wicked fast processor) and tried again, but the editing was too crude. I bought some video editing software and got some help learning how to use it and presto, had the right match. I later bought a Sail Pro camera as well and we still switch between the Kodak and SailPro depending on the needs.

So after getting the right cameras, I had the challenge of how to mount them. Most people attach their cameras to the boat which, in my humble opinion, is interesting for about 30 seconds unless something really funny happens.  I'm more interested in the tactics, so I like to attach it to my hat. You can spend $25 for a fancy attachment but I use a 1/4" bolt, nut, and a few washers. But be careful because any attachment will point the camera too low, so I wedge in two bolts (in green) before I glue-gun everything.

The first thing that I noticed is that I moved my head around much more than I thought. A backwards glance off the starting line has no meaning to the viewer unless you hold your head still for a few seconds. Here are some early videos from Sunfish and Butterfly races with a video editor that I would not recommend. 

To sum up, here's what I use:
  • Kodak PlaySport with this sample. Pros: picture quality, good audio quality when not at certain angles to the wind, you can turn it on and off, price. Cons: sound interference from the wind at times. 
  • Sail Pro with this sample. Pros: much smaller, lighter, more professional, good video. Cons: very little audio, hard to turn on and off.
  • There are lots of good video editing programs around. So far my perfect match is Adobe Premiere Elements 10.
One word of caution:  if you use a hat cam, your hat is now worth money so you may want to tether it. But be careful when tethering since this almost cost me my life. I once tipped (before I started wearing a camera), was under my boat, and could not surface because I was being held down from behind. After a few very confusing seconds, I did something you should never do - I took off my lifejacket. And surfaced.  I had tied my hat to my life jacket and the hat had come off but the tether wrapped around a line that was holding me under. So, any tether must have a release clip.

Also, when you tack, you need to keep your head way down or you'll catch the main sheet. Say "kiss the floor" each time you tack.

For a more appealing video, cut out the parts that only grandma would like.  And a good audio track helps.  I've found that if I watch the raw footage and then come up with a song, I can then edit the video to fit the song and it all falls into place rather easily.

Once you get everything working properly, the results are a lot of fun.

June 07, 2012

Greg Martinez Downwind

By Doug

At the recent Gulf Coast Championships, Greg Martinez scored all bullets and threw out a third because he was OCS and had to restart. Greg had good upwind speed and just outstanding downwind speed. Here he explains one of his tricks.

June 04, 2012

2012 US Laser Nationals

by Doug

With just 16 full rigs registered, I decided to join the 46 boat radial fleet to get more competition and learn a little more about sailing the smaller rig. The results were surprising, to say the least.

This was a young, heavily supported bunch of sailors with no less than 15 coaching boats watching their every move. Actually, it felt more like a closely supervised summer camp with equipment that would put most fleets to shame. I saw a beautiful enclosed trailer that carried 2 lasers and had lots of spare parts and gear. It looked like it belonged to a Laser dealer but no, it belonged to one of the teams! Sailors came from as far away as New Zealand and included 2011 Youth World Champion Erika Reineke from the U.S. Just a few weeks ago, Erika came 8th in the radial worlds and beat Paige Railey who is our Olympic representative in London. Lots of talent!

Racing started on Thursday and the conditions were light and lumpy - something I like in a full rig. But in the radial, everything felt underpowered. We only finished one race and on the last leg I was passed by about 20 boats that went off the course to catch a huge right shift. I went to bed that night in 31st place. Ouch!

The conditions on Friday were the same with lots of holes and shifts, and I just could not get the boat going. With 2 mediocre finishes I ended the day in 21st place. These kids are good starters and fast all around the course! I went to bed Friday night hoping for the breeze to fill in.

And it did. On Saturday, we spent a total of 7 hours sailing 4 races in a 12-15 southerly with short, choppy waves. In my best race, I went hard right off the line to get a nice right shift and led at the first and second marks. But on the run, several surfed past me and for a short time, I was able to watch their techniques. The most impressive was Erika who gained 100 yards on me and 50 on the leaders. Her style is interesting to watch as she carves back and forth in a movement that looks like a pendulum. Very smooth and almost always on a wave. I thought, no problem - I'll get the leaders back again upwind. But they cranked on all of the controls and then pinched over the waves. I could not point as high and footing worked, but I just could not regain that distance upwind. So, I went to bed Saturday night exhausted and in 11th place with the realization that Laser sailing is now very much a downwind sport.

Sunday was again windy and we spent another 6 hours sailing the final 4 races. Two of them were so-so because of missed shifts. The other two had me leading, and I was able to copy the downwind techniques as the leaders reeled me in. It's very hard to describe, but it's all about wave selection, keeping your weight forward at the right time, and coaxing the boat around without too much tiller movement. The rides were better and I was able to hold off a flying downwind Erika to get a 4 and a 3 (had she been using a compass she would have been more in phase upwind and would have beaten me easily). So, I ended the event in 7th place, the only master, and old enough to be the grandfather of most of these kids!

Here's the best part - all of them were a pleasure to sail with. They were great starters, fast, aggressive but well within the rules, good at communicating (please sir, can we start now?), and very clean. There were no ridiculous roll tacks or intentional collisions at the marks that we see in other fleets. Several judge boats followed us closely and I only saw 2 yellow flags in the 11 races and both calls were picky, in my opinion.

I've always thought that you learn more in the middle of the fleet than at the front or back, and this Nationals proved that as there is so much to learn from these future rock stars. Did I miss sailing a full rig? Yes. Would I sail a radial with these kids again? Absolutely!
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