July 31, 2012

Olympic Sailing - Day 3 - Front Row Seat

Photo courtesy of Brett Beyer

Olympic Sailing - Day 3 - Video Observations

By Doug

Women's Radial: Annalise Murphy (IRL) is having an outstanding event with 4 bullets. Here are some pictures of her downwind speed from race 4:

Men's Finn: Ben Ainsley (GBR) has his hands full because he has been beaten by Jonas Hogh-Christensen (DEN) in all 6 races. Here's the close finish in race 6:

Men's Lasers: Race 4 was fun to watch. It was a left-favored course so the fleet bunched up at the pin. Note the 30 seconds left on the committee boat timer and the perfect position of the camera:  

The fleet pulled the trigger with 1 second left. Was GBR over? Hmm...

Favored Tom Slingsby (AUS) started 1/3 of the way down and was immediately in trouble:

Pavlos Kontides (CYP) had a great first leg and punched out while AUS slipped to 24:

AUS in deep trouble:

AUS on the second beat protecting the left:

AUS still moving up:

AUS on the next run in traffic:

Downwind by the lee, leach almost folding:

CYP powering ahead with a huge lead:

AUS still moving up:

Judges watching closely:

AUS still moving up:

CYP jibed and finishing, AUS still moving up:

Tom Slingsby finishing an unbelievable 6th, up from 24th. Still in the overall lead:

July 25, 2012

Laser Cheat Sheet - Sailing Fast Windward Heel

By Doug
Laser Cheat Sheet. Watching windsurfers has always fascinated me. I love the way they pull the rig to windward as shown on the left. They dig in when a gust hits and then take off. If the gust is really strong, it knocks them vertical but they're still under control.

Less experienced windsurfers sail with the rig straight up, as shown in the middle. When a gust hits, they're knocked over, out of control, and overpowered even through they're spilling wind.

Heeling to windward, trapping the wind, and going vertical in a gust all seemed to make sense, so of course I wanted to try it in a Laser. And this led me to another discovery from sailing at night. Here's what I learned:
·        This only works in relatively flat water.
·        You cannot go block-to-block and the boom appears to be higher in the air because of the windward heel.
·        The feeling of speed only lasts for a few seconds and you then have to go vertical and bear off a little to keep your speed.
·        But the best part: you can really feel the lift from your centerboard as it digs in.
Volumes have been written about getting more lift from sails, but how much has been written about getting more lift from your centerboard? Water is more than 800 times denser than air, so how the centerboard moves through water really should matter. Just hold a centerboard beside a motorboat moving even slowly and try different angles and you'll feel the lift.

Here's what I think is happening. The windsurfer in the middle diagram has the wind go across the sail, which is what we expect. The windsurfer on the right has the air go up the sail. Both are bad because of the vortex created at the top of the sail. Airplanes have this same problem with the vortex at the end of each wing, and they're refitted with winglets to reduce these vortexes and save about 5% in fuel costs.
Courtesy of Boeing
 The windsurfer on the left heeling to windward has the wind going down the sail and there is no vortex because the water is acting like a winglet. The air is trapped and not wasted. It's similar on a Laser when heeled to windward with the air trapped at the bottom of the sail, and it's fast. But that's not the best part!

Everything is the same below the water with the centerboard, except it's reversed: the push comes from the leeward side, the lift is on the windward side, the water flows up, and the winglet is the hull. And you can feel the centerboard dig in and lift, and this force can be significant as our motorboat test showed.

When we were in Sydney visiting Frank Bethwaite, I asked if he agreed that this hull-as-a-winglet was probably the reason for the lifting feeling and he agreed. So, we still have much to learn about how to get extra speed when sailing Lasers.

And with the right touch, this trick is easy to learn. When Pam was brand new to Lasers, she lifted so much that I had to keep asking her to please put her foot in the water so that I could catch up!
Excellent form... and fast!

July 18, 2012

Laser Cheat Sheet - Sailing Fast Observations

By Doug
Laser Cheat Sheet.  So, you're sailing on a lake trying to hold your position on the line and the race is about to start. You look ahead and see motorboat waves coming when you least need them. Most people think, "These could not come at a worse time." I think, "Goody."

Sailing at night taught me something that was completely unexpected - how to sail faster through certain types of waves. This is what works for me - please post your own comments if you disagree.

First, a review: all boats are good in some types of waves and bad at others, and it has to do with the relative size of the boat and the waves. Motorboat waves are bad for Lasers because they creates a fore and aft rocking movement, and the slapping of the bow into the waves can kill the speed of a Laser. If you can stop this rocking you'll come out of these waves faster. So, let's try an experiment.

You have two eggs at room temperature, one is raw and the other is hard boiled. How can you tell which one is which? The answer is that you spin them - the one that stops sooner is raw. So, I'm guessing that something that has a center of effort that moves loses its momentum, while the one with a fixed center of effort keeps its momentum.

Back to Laser sailing. Slapping into waves, or rocking, or resonating is because the center of effort is fixed, and I wanted to know what would happen if it moved. Obviously, the center of effort of the hull and rig is fixed, but our bodies are not and most of us weigh a lot more than our boats. So I experimented  sailing at night, and here's what I found out:

  • The boat has to "know" where you are, so I used my mainsheet hand to grab the gunnel and stiffened my arm so that my body was now a part of the boat.
  • Body movement in and out had no affect.
  • Movements fore and aft work, but they have to be random. The best way to do this is look at different things from different positions - under the boom at another boat, up at the sail, back in the cockpit, behind at the boat on your hip, etc. all with my arm still stiffened.
When I do this, I'm sure that no one understands what I'm doing because these are all natural movements sailing a Laser. But with my arm stiffened and making sure that my movements are random, my Laser has the same problem keeping the slapping motion that the raw egg has spinning. It's absolutely amazing, and feels like the waterline is longer as my boat goes though certain types of waves.

The result in our starting example is that I come out of the motorboat waves with 50% more speed than the boats below me or on my hip. What an awesome way to start a race!!

July 17, 2012

LaserPerformance/Maclaren Invitation

by Pam
We received a negative comment on the LaserPerformance Update post which I felt warranted being pointed out rather than left buried under the post.  The comment was left by “Anonymous” but my statistics tracker indicated the IP address belonged to Maclaren USA (the bankrupt entity).  According to the February 29, 2012 daddytypes.com post, after the creation of Maclaren NA in late 2010, Maclaren USA became essentially a zombie company that nobody wanted to talk about. On the company's computer network and IT system, USA was closed off, with Rastegar retaining the only login.  Does this mean my Anonymous poster is none other than Farzad Rastegar?

Welcome to my site Mr. Rastegar.  So glad you came to visit.  I am delighted to hear that you are offended by my 'biased point of view.'  I am one of many Laser sailors expressing their frustration and confusion as to what the heck is really going on with LP.  We have been unable to get answers  and we are the customers.  We would love to be treated with enough respect to be given an explanation.

Below is an image that shows the audience locations of this blog for that past 5 months.  If you would like to take a step forward and provide us with an a brief, or better yet, elaborate explanation of things from your perspective, I will gladly publish it, unedited, in its entirety.  I am sure sailors around the world will be very happy to hear your side of things.  

July 15, 2012

Laser Cheat Sheet - Sailing Fast Pipeline 2

By Doug
Cheat Sheet.  My preparation for the Laser Master Worlds has always been practicing on Dallas lakes and then arriving early to hopefully get a feeling for the open-water conditions. One of the really cool things is that the Master Worlds are often scheduled right after the Open Worlds, so I got to watch Robert Scheidt win in Algarrobo, Cancun, Cork, and Hyannis, as well as watch his epic battle against Ben Ainslie in Melbourne. Robert was easy to pick in a crowd because of his fore and aft movement in the boat - he really punched through the waves and I'd listen to various discussions about the legality of these movements. The consensus was that something this beautiful to watch was surely legal. In fact, many feel that Robert redefined what was "legal" in sailing a Laser.

Unfortunately, I also watched another champion win an event that was definitely illegal. I was just ahead of this World Youth champion as we headed for the finish line and could hear his boat accelerating and decelerating as he rolled me. I turned around to watch 90 degree sit-ups.  He stopped, gave me one of those what-the-hell-are-you-looking-at stares, and then continued. I gave up sailing for several months out of disgust.

For those readers who may not be familiar, try this next time you're sailing upwind in a medium breeze: lean in and out so that you can feel the sail fanning or pumping the breeze. With each pump, your boat will accelerate.

Why does this work? Surely, any gain leaning out is negated by the corresponding opposite movement in? The reason is that the pressure is the square of the wind speed. So a 7 mph (square=49) is slower than 5 and 9 (average of 25 and 81=53). The bigger the pump, the bigger the advantage. This of course is illegal in a Laser because the rules state that sailors "shall not otherwise move their bodies to propel the boat." And at judged events, the things that judges look for is this in and out movement and also the resulting movement at the top of a mast.

So, we have a fore and aft movement that is legal and an in and out movement that is illegal. Sailing at night helped me find something in between and, yes, it's legal because I've had World's judges watch and follow me without objection from just a few yards away. Disclaimer: this is what works for me - if you disagree with any part of this, please post your own comment.

Besides being illegal, there's a problem with an in and out movement. On the left, we can see that the additional pressure on the sail is sideways and not forward, so it's not very efficient. But on the right, a movement that combines both in and out and fore and aft works with the part of the sail that moves your boat forward. And the more the fore and aft the movement, the closer we're getting to Robert's legal movement. And if it's so subtle that there's no movement but rather just feeling the slight changes in the pressure at the front of the sail, the top of the mast does not move and it's legal. And it's fast!
Sailing at night helped me develop a better feeling for Laser sailing and taught me to focus on subtle changes in the direction that I want the sail to go, both sailing upwind and downwind. This was really obvious when watching Robert sail downwind:

Photo courtesy of sail-world.com
Sailing update: Robert is now the current world champion in the much larger Star class and is Brazil's Olympic representative. And yes, he does sail it just like a big Laser:

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com

July 10, 2012

LaserPerformance Update

by Pam
The investigation into Farzad Rastegar, Maclaren, and LaserPerformance just keeps on turning up interesting information.  Alice Hines from the Huffington Post writes:

Maclaren was founded in 1965 in the U.K. by aeronautical engineer Owen Maclaren. It changed ownership several times before being acquired out of receivership in 2001 by current Maclaren USA CEO Farzad Rastegar, an Iranian businessman. Rastegar had invested in Maclaren since the mid-1990s and helped restructure the stroller company. He moved manufacturing to China under the direction of a new company, Maclaren Hong Kong Limited, and established Maclaren Europe Limited and Maclaren USA as regional distributors.

In March, Rastegar's bankruptcy lawyers claimed that Maclaren USA had no knowledge of the ownership of Maclaren Hong Kong Limited. Bankruptcy trustee Napolitano disputed the claim in a court document filed April 24, writing that she believed the U.S. company possessed "knowledge sufficient to allow complete responses to her requests for information." Maclaren USA owes $13.1 million to Maclaren Hong Kong Limited, according to bankruptcy filings.

Rastegar, subpoenaed in New York on May 10, testified that both Maclaren Hong Kong Limited and Maclaren Distribution Limited (the parent company of Maclaren Europe Limited) are owned by his mother and sister.

Hmmm ... this sounds a little familiar.

Update:  Videos that were here were removed due to Anonymous comments on later post

July 06, 2012

Laser Cheat Sheet - Sailing Fast Pipeline

By Doug
With the Cheat Sheet articles about "be smart" completed, I'm going to post some thoughts about "be fast" (you can review the 3 sailing gears here). For me, these are the conditions above 5 and below 15 where boat speed is everything.

I grew up and learned to sail in Montreal, where Bruce Kirby and Ian Bruce introduced the Laser and yes, I knew some of the people working at the original Performance Sailcraft. But I left for Sydney a year before the Laser was introduced and it was not until five years later that Frank Bethwaite suggested I buy one. While moderately competitive, I did not win a major event for the next 15 years and was never fast enough to go to the open worlds. It was not until I as in my 40's and I bought waterfront property in Dallas that I really learned how to sail. After putting my sons to bed, I'd go for a night sail as a way to wind down, and certainly did not expect this to change my sailing forever.

You see, sailing at night was completely different because it cut me off from from my regular senses. I could not see the sail or waves and could not judge my speed, but I could feel the boat and hear the differences in speed as my boat moved through the water. After a few months, I found a whole new way to sail, everything from getting more lift from the centerboard and trapping differences in wind pressure to going through certain types of waves faster.

It was amazing, and I started winning major events on boat speed alone. Instead of trying to figure out the  local shifts, current, and conditions, I simply picked a person I wanted to beat (more on this here) and then went with that person. If I got behind, I'd stay with the leader instead of taking a flyer. Boat speed made me a more patient sailor.

It's interesting to note that my vision was failing at this time and I was on the way to slowly going legally blind. But rather than slow down or quit, sailing at night actually helped me improve enough on my own to win master national and world championships (I wanted to keep my vision issues private but some people figured out that I could not properly see laylines, wind patterns, and even my own sail).

I tried variations, like sailing during the day blindfolded to simulate sailing at night. But believe me, it's not the same because I really had to starve my normal senses to make this work. For most of us, sailing at night is impractical and even dangerous. So rather than recommend this, I'm going to share everything I learned to improve my boat speed.

Everything was centered around what I call "pipeline" which is a term I got from watching the skiing halfpipe competitions on TV. In the middle, they're going the fastest and they slow down and stop on either side. Speed in the middle is everything, and pipeline is my way of describing the feeling of finding something in the middle that is really fast. I used this feeling with the only real controls I had sailing a Laser - my mainsheet, my tiller, my weight in and out, and my weight fore and aft. While this might sound simplistic, there are many combinations that are really fast, and my purpose of sailing at night evolved into getting extra boat speed from these four controls.

For example, heading up stalls and slows the boat down and you counter this by leaning in. You then bear off again and lean out as you accelerate. While the pressure on the sail changes, the top of the mast does not move, so it's completely legal.  Pam calls this "fishy" because of the way the boat goes through the water, and can be really fast in 6-10 with small waves because it leads to a trick I learned called "pressing." This will be discussed in more detail.

The truly great sailors instinctively find and use the fastest combinations of these four controls to give them additional speed. The most gifted sailor I have ever watched is Robert Scheidt. In my next Cheat Sheet post, I'll discuss my observations of how he used his fore and aft movement to go over waves which contributes to his distinctive style and amazing speed.

July 02, 2012

An Ounce of Prevention

by Pam

It’s day 2 of a windy regatta series, the alarm goes off in the morning, you reach over to turn it off and your body talks to you.  In your younger days, it’s an awareness that you had a really good workout the day before.  But as you get older, the previous day’s effect feels more like a punishment.  You realize that you aren’t young any more and you begin to wonder how many more years you can keep this up.  You decide to get in better shape for next time or maybe you start to accept that age might be catching up with you.

Since my late 30s, I’ve been waking up on day 2 feeling like the older sailor.  Doug, however, at 61, wakes up feeling like the younger sailor. So, what’s the difference?  No question, he has good genes as his parents are still alive and his father has outlived my mother by 30 years and counting.  But, I’m not exactly in bad shape, so why do I wake up feeling older than him and he wakes up feeling much younger than me?

Back some 20 years ago, Doug began doing one very simple thing just before hitting the water and he does it with religious consistency - he stretches.  He’s noted over the years that virtually no one else does this.  It hardly seems like this could make the difference but it does give new meaning to phrase 'an ounce of prevention.’

In his 30s and 40s Doug had a stiff back and pulled muscles like everyone else and he was actually told in his 20s that he needed back surgery (which he never had).  His stretching routine takes less than 5 minutes and the only time Doug feels his age has been on the rare occasion  when he didn't stretch.  He calls it cheap insurance.

So, do you want to feel older or younger when you wake up?  The difference may very well be 5 minutes.
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