|Green Fleet (Radial Apprentice) at the 2012 Masters Worlds|
Many years before, Doug met his very good friend, Brad, at that same infamous Laser regatta in Austin when it was Brad’s first time to sail and race a Laser. Doug saw Brad rigging and noticed the tangle of lines and the clueless expression on Brad’s face. Doug stopped to help him sort out the rigging and then Brad spent the day swimming. Brad was so far back in one race that the race committee didn’t even realize he was racing and they started the next race without him. As he was coming into the finish line, the guys starting were screaming at him to clear the line.
Just a couple of years ago, I was at another regatta. The local Laser fleet, for some inexplicable (or maybe not so inexplicable) reason had all but disappeared from circuit racing. Attendance was down and at this particular regatta, there weren’t enough Lasers signed up to make a fleet so the few diehard Laser sailors switched to Sunfish which had 30+ boats. So there I was, still directionally and rules challenged, and I was coming into a mark as Eric Faust (our current ILCA General Manager) was leaving the mark. Eric knew I’d sailed Butterflys with his father in Dallas and that I was married to Doug and it appeared he made the natural assumption that I had a clue what I was doing. But as I was headed straight for him still trying to figure out what tack he was on, the light went on for him and he said “starboard’. So, then my brain was trying to figure out if I was starboard too and whether I was windward or leeward. The distance was closing fast and one of us was obviously going to have to avoid the other but I hadn’t a clue who. Well, with almost no time to react, Eric began a rapid fire “starboard leeward, starboard leeward, starboard leeward” with each repetition getting louder. I started trying to avoid him but those dang Fish booms are pretty long and I clinked him with the end of my boom as we passed. Crap! So I rounded the mark and started doing my circles but with every turn I fouled yet another boat and just kept spinning. When I was finally done, I was head to wind and rapidly sailing backwards into the mark. It was at that regatta that I decided I needed some type of warning sign for others.
This past April at that ever so popular Easter Laser Regatta, I was back racing in Austin. Scott Young, a friend who is almost always favored to win the event, did something that was interesting. I’ve been the marshmallow (or is it cream puff?) that folks find along the start line and get below and then screw up my start while they have a nice little lane. That usually happens about once at a regatta where Doug is sailing with me and then at the next start Doug lets that person know how it feels to have their start ruined. Well, Scott started just below me several times. At first, I was just sure, friends or not, he was going to mess up my start, but he didn’t. See, Scott knows I’m not that great of a sailor and could easily bet that getting off the line with speed isn’t something I’ve mastered. It seemed like he perfectly matched his skill and mine so that he powered up and took off with a nice gap above him, and with him out of the way, I had room to foot a little and get speed off the line which I rarely have.
It has been my experience that
newbies fresh sailors are not even a remote threat to an experienced sailor so long as the experienced sailor can identify the newbie inexperienced one. And even a newbie an unseasoned sailor coming across another newbie unsalty sailor, can benefit from knowing that they are about to encounter someone with as little experience as themselves and start talking alot sooner to avoid the inevitable disaster. I didn’t do the whole junior sailing scene with the Opti green fleet, etc. I started as an adult and I’m pretty sure I should still have some type of “Learner’s Permit” warning indicator when I’m on certain boats and in certain conditions. At the Masters Worlds, the various fleets all had colors on their masts to identify which fleet they were in. The competitors could easily identify their competition versus those they didn’t need to worry about. So, if the juniors do it and the Masters do it, why can’t the rest of us do it? Is there a down side to clearly identifying the masts of challenged sailors so people know who could use a little extra room, encouragement and advice? I know the Laser fleet is known for being ultra aggressive but, the number of sailors racing in our district circuit keep going down. Would that change if the newer sailors felt a little more supported and were given an opportunity to get their feet wet without a trial by fire episode every time they raced?
I just hate that term newbie, newbies, etc. Not that marshmallow or creampuff is any better. Praying on those type of people kills your fleet and class, and people wonder why the sport has an issue getting novice sailors up to speed. Youth fleets are huge because they tend not to victomize each other as the youth get smarter and older it starts happening more.ReplyDelete
I'm confused. Newbie is offensive? In the dictionary it isn't indicated to be a slang or derogatory term. Instead it is all inclusive of newcomer, novice or inexperienced. I'm one of those folks who needs a little TLC on the race course because although I'm not a newcomer, novice or inexperienced, I am inexperienced when it comes to the Laser. Laser sailors can be quite harsh and I must admit I sail the Laser infrequently for this very reason.ReplyDelete
How about you just say your a fresh Laser sailor.Delete
I think it is a great idea to identify your skill level for all the reasons you point out. And it will be an interesting and revealing exercise to see how various people respond.ReplyDelete
Bravo to you for getting out there and trying - and bravo to those who helped you. Everyone has been there and should remember how much a little help is appreciated.
I'm not sure I want a kid knowing I don't know as much as he / she does. As a 55 year old "newbie" on a Laser, I need all the help I can get. Having a flag on my mast that says "No idea what I'm doing" doen't seem to me to have any advantage.Delete
Maybe a better way of dealing with the treatment afloat in the event of a fouling situation, onshore we should prepare the "newbies" to take anything said with a grain of salt and learn from it.
I understand the desire to keep your cards hidden and not show your hand but I would consider the mast coloring as saying "open to suggestions" and expect to get some good advice all along the course instead of learning new curse words. I suspect you have a little more confidence in your sailing than I have in mine.Delete
KR. Thank you! Would love to see this catch on if only as a voluntary thing that some use but others universally understand. Don't know how to make that happen though.Delete
Wonderful post. It's my first season as a 'newbie' Laser racer in my 40s, and it is going pretty well, with all competitors helping me out when I ask. Of course, some are not so generous, but I suspect they are like that all the time. A learner's permit might be an easier way for everyone to understand you are just starting out. I wouldn't be offended at all. In fact, it might give more of us some confidence and avoid so often saying "I'm sorry!"ReplyDelete
Thank you! Good luck in your first season on the Laser. It's terrifying and thrilling.Delete
I have just recently discovered your impropercourse page and especially love this article. Being an unexperienced master sailor myself (I started sailing only a few years ago and now, I am in my third radial and my second regatta season), pretty often I would love to tell the rest of the fleet to just keep their distance - to the benefit of everybody. Unfortunately, I don't have a partner who sails in the radial fleet as well and can teach the other sailors to leave me alone. My partner is in the standard fleet. Thus, I have to talk to people on the course - a concept that to my understanding is pretty common in the US but in Europe people tend to just yell "room" without any further explanation. Thus, I am learning the hard way, very slowly step by step, and try to avoid crowded situations whenever possible. But the latter strategy makes my whole sailing even more defensive then it already is.ReplyDelete
Do you find that you are sailing with men, women or juniors in the radial or fleet? I am small enough that I should be in a radial or 4.7 but I sail with the full rigs because I've chosen to sail with my age as opposed to my size. Those juniors just have unlimited energy and won't wake up sore for another 10 years. It's too bad they won't let masters women sail with the full rigs.Delete
My first experience in the laser was trying to survive in a full rig, old style set-up for two years in a region where you have a lot of wind most of the times. At that time, I didn't know anything about how to depower a rigg or other necessitites for surviving. Thus, when I started to learn the basics and got to know the radial rigg, I made the decision to stick with the radial rigg whatever the conditions. With the exception of the master regattas, which I extremely enjoy, in most of the regattas I am the only person older than 20 or 22 sailing in the radial fleet. In the beginning, I didn't like this at all. But I got used to this situation and the kids got used to me. Most know now that although I am "old", I am not experienced. In Germany (where I am from) there are just a few women my age who like to sail. At master regattas, which sailors from several countries attend, we usually are like 4 - 8 women sailing with 70 or 80 men. There are two advantages to this: the first is that the showers are empty.... :-)), the second that I found my niche - although I am a lousy sailor, my ranking in the female master fleet on the European level is absurdly high.Delete
To sum all this up: No, I don't want to sail the full rigg. I would just love to see more women my age in a boat that does not have a caboose.
You, my dear are an inspiration to me! I don't really want to sail a full rig but I'd like to be able to compete in a radial against my age group even if they are in full rigs. I'm told a well sailed radial with a lighter sailor can actually keep up and beat a full rig when the wind is up.Delete
Well, that's the theory - at least for me I suspect that it will remain a theory for ever .....Delete
The Hobie 16 fleet in Syracuse, NY has a special beer can series for fresh sailors. Check it out here: http://fleet204.com/newbie.shtmlReplyDelete
Wow! I love that concept and the site. Sounds like a really connected and supportive group.Delete
In one of my first regattas (on a little puddle in England) the young man who had just won the European Championship showed up to race. It was his local puddle I guess. I vividly remember being at the tail end of the fleet halfway up the beat on port tack as this recent champion was already coming downwind on starboard. He didn't need a sign to say I was a learner. I was starting to panic as I was on a collision course with him and I wasn't sure who had to give way. He was kind enough to hail to me to hold my course and he changed course to avoid me.ReplyDelete
I was lucky enough to see that kind of helpfulness often during my first few years in the boat. Maybe I was lucky but I always found more experienced Laser sailors who were considerate and helpful to me when I was a beginner.
I've found that the very top of the fleet is almost always helpful and treat me like a speed bump. It's the middle and bottom that can sometimes get scrappy and I'd like to warn them that they're playing with fire. I never know what my boat has in mind until it shows me.Delete