November 22, 2012

Everyday is Thanksgiving!

by Doug

He carries these pictures with him everywhere he goes. It reminds him that every day is a day for giving thanks!
The story has been told before, even written up in a chapter in the book, Pirates Aboard!, but when I sat down with him recently, I heard a different version.  Details I didn't know, lessons learned that I didn’t realize and pictures I hadn't seen.  There is a message in the story. It is a story of compassion and grace. Being thankful. It was a wake up call that changed his life.
I was invited to go with Brad on a sailing trip in Tobago Cays, about 30 miles north of Grenada, but I had to pass.  He decided to go alone.  I have often wondered what the outcome would have been if I’d gone.  It’s been 11 years.
Seven days into the trip, alone on the Beneteau 46 he’d chartered, three to four men wearing hoods and masks and carrying guns boarded his boat about 10:00 in the evening.  He didn’t see their faces and couldn’t identify them and wasn’t even certain how many there were.  He gave them his money and didn’t resist but they argued amongst themselves and shot him anyway.  The first bullet went through his left arm and into his body puncturing his lung, kidney, liver and diaphragm.  They disabled the radio and phone.  The second shot was fired point blank at the base of his skull and he was left to die.  This is where his story begins.  Brad later gave me a copy of the Pirates Aboard! book and signed it, “God’s classroom of character building.”  Indeed.
Miraculously, Brad awoke after the second gunshot and was still alive.  He was in pretty bad shape but managed to drag himself on deck and discovered the tender was still attached to the boat so he climbed into it and headed to a nearby, mostly, unlit island.  And so began a bizarre and lengthy version of island hopping.  Calls for help went out through the communities and Brad was ferried by dinghy to a bigger boat that had a doctor, who then motored to a bigger island, Union Island, where he was taken by truck to a clinic, who then sent him to an airstrip, so he could catch a ride on a plane, to take him to a bigger island, St. Vincent, where he could finally be stabilized, and he was then hospitalized for 36 hours before being flown back to the USA with two bullets still in him.
Charge it!
It took approximately 5 hours to reach the hospital in St. Vincent and it was through no small effort of the locals.  You see, a sailor being shot by pirates was unheard of and the locals took it personally.  The transfer from Union Island to St. Vincent alone was considered a dangerous night time rescue mission.  The landing strip at Union Island had no lights and night landings were not permitted because of a hill at the end of the runway. So several people drove to the top of the hill and used their headlights to mark the hill so the plane could land. The volunteer pilot of the Mustique Airways plane was Jonathan Palmer, the owner and CEO of the airline.  And as for Brad’s plane trip home, his father, desperate to make sure Brad received the best care, charged the LearJet charter on his credit card!  Fortunately, insurance reimbursed him.
Brad's injuries included damage to Willis’ Circle, which joins together the four major blood vessels that supply blood to the brain and one of the vessels remains shut down to this day.  Several doctors have told him this damage alone should have caused a stroke.  His only long term issue is a loss of hearing in one ear.  That, and the fact that both bullets are still in him.
The police caught the men who shot Brad and apparently beat the crap out of them.  Brad flew back for the trial and saw their faces for the first time.  They were in their 20s and wouldn’t look at him.  The men were acquitted due to their treatment by the police but Brad has no animosity towards them.  His life had been drifting off course but the attack was a wake up call.  He calls it a warning shot. 
The bench outside the court house at the trial
When Brad went back for the trial, the pilot that rescued him from Union Island said he would normally insist that Brad stay with him but his house was currently being used as a set for a Disney movie.  They were filming Pirates of the Caribbean.

Brad is my best friend and one hell of a role model.  He is a picture I carry in my head to remind me to give thanks.  What pictures do you carry?

November 21, 2012

2013 Florida Masters Circuit

by Pam
This is being republished from (ILCA-NA).  Rather than linking I'm republishing here because there is something very wrong with the  website.  It takes forever to load and sometimes times out.  Being almost 50 now, I find that slow computers and websites are problematic for me because by the time they load, I've completely lost my train of thought and stupidly click away only to remember a short while later what it was I was wanting to check.  Also, Doug almost never checks that website and I know he's planning to attend this event so this way he'll at least see it.  

Masters at Play. OK, guys and gals, here’s the deal for February.

You pack up the Lasers, get on the road and head to Florida to arrive at Charlotte Harbor Feb 1 for the start of a super week of racing and hanging out with a bunch of good folks.  Bring your golf clubs, spouse (or significant other), sunscreen and whatever other toys you need to enjoy your stay.  Go online to register for all three events – Masters MidwintersMidweek Madness and Florida Masters.  The Notices of Race are there and registration is open (FL Masters is coming soon).

The folks at Charlotte Harbor have put together a really good on shore show to go along with a great sailing venue.  We’ll be sailing from a beach area just a short ways to the race area.  Check it out on the regatta website, or Google it.  Carl Schellbach has been recruited to run the races, so there should  be no whining about the PRO not knowing what we want in courses!  We’ll be sharing the beach area with catamaran sailors participating in the Charlotte Harbor Regatta and partying Friday night with all the Charlotte Harbor Regatta participants.    Saturday night is a fantastic Beach Party right where we’re sailing.  These will be great opportunities to swap stories with non-believers and perhaps gain a few converts.  Sunday dinner will be ours alone at the Charlotte Harbor Yacht Club, as the other sailors will be heading home.  Oh yeah, for the adventurous types, there will be limited camping and RV parking allowed.  Check it out on the website and register with Brian Gleason  There are also special rates available at some local hotels.  Info is on the website.

Our lay day on Tuesday, Feb 5, gives you an opportunity to explore and enjoy some of the Punta Gorda/Charlotte Harbor area before heading to Jensen Beach for Midweek Madness, Wednesday and Thursday.  Friday is another day for relaxing (and recovering) before the start of the Florida Masters and the hunt for the coveted Dirty Old Man of The Sea Trophy at Palm Beach Sailing Club.

You can become famous and save yourself an entry fee by submitting the winning T-shirt slogan for the Florida Masters.   These can be irreverent, politically incorrect, and typically centered around the benefits (???) of senior citizenship.  Just no profanity!  Submit your entry to Sloan Davant at by January 9.

So there you have it – all the justification for escaping from work, cold, neighbors, or whatever to come play and enjoy some real yachting on your Laser!  

November 16, 2012

Keep it Level

By Doug
Someone asked me a question that I thought was strange. "It's been suggested that I put a level on my Laser... where would you suggest I put it?"

You know, a level used by carpenters. I guessed that this was the result of a discussion about keeping a Laser flat. But were they talking about flat vs. heeling? Or keeping the transom out of the water? With so few surfaces on a Laser that are level to begin with, where would you put it? And how would you read it without moving closer and changing the heel/trim before you could read it?

Way too complex for my little brain.

Here's a much simpler suggestion: let a small amount of water into the cockpit and then keep track of it during a race... in the middle as much as possible to keep the boat flat, on the leeward side when it's very light so that gravity helps keep the shape of the sail, and on the windward side when there are no waves and you want to dig in your centerboard to get more lift. I like to get my Laser going and then look at the back of the cockpit to see if the water is where I think it is.

That's the in-and-out trim. Fore-and-aft trim is easy and does not require any water. Just keep your weight as far forward in the cockpit as comfortably possible until other factors become important. Like having to hike or having to work your Laser over the waves.

So much simpler.

What Happens on the Internet, Stays on the Internet?

by Pam
I put up a post that was full of some half baked ideas and theories.  The post was up overnight and then I took it down.  But the web crawlers or whatever you call it that scrape and mine data from a website that then stores it in some cache that leaves it on the Internet forever had already done its thing.  I deleted the text of the post and replaced it with a single sentence.  If you searched for any text from the original post the Google search engine would find the post but when you clicked on it to open it, it was the sentence post and not the original post.  It was an experiment to do it that way and appeared to have worked.

But then the post's suggestive title drew comments anyway with some interesting but incorrect guesses as to the reasons behind the removal.  To complete the experiment, I took the replacement sentence post down the next day by "unpublishing" the post.  So, is the original or replacement post still cached on the internet forever?  You tell me.  Can you find a copy of the original or replacement post on the Internet anywhere?

November 13, 2012

Laser Cheat Sheet - Sailing Fast - Pressing

By Doug 
Laser Cheat Sheet

Before I started sailing at night on a Dallas lake, I couldn't win anything above a local club event. After learning how to sail at night, I won my first national championship and started getting top 5 finishes at the Laser Master Worlds. The improvement was from learning the "feeling" for what my Laser was trying to do, and how to react with my four controls (mainsheet, tiller, weight in/out, and weight fore/aft). Sailing at night is impractical for most, but almost everything in the fast column of my cheat sheet, I learned at night.  

A little background - there were several reasons for my sailing at night. These included "me time" after the kids were in bed, the beauty and the solitude after a long day, and a way to escape the brutal summer heat. But there was one more reason that can be seen at the end of the movie Wait Until Dark. As described in IMDB, a killer is chasing a blind Audrey Hepburn "leaving us with the question how does a blind woman defend herself?" The answer is that she leveled the playing field and actually gained the advantage by turning out the lights.

So, the other reason why I sailed at night was because, while my vision has always been a problem, it was rapidly getting worse and I was on the way to going legally blind. Sailing at night was empowering because I did not have to see the sail to learn how to improve my sailing.

Sailing downwind was fairly simple. The obvious question sailing upwind is "How can you sail if you cannot see the sail?" Good question, because you cannot see its shape or the telltales. The answer is that you do not need to see the sail. Here's why.

The purpose of the sail is to deflect the wind. The trick of course is to deflect as much of it as possible so that the wind is deflected parallel to the centerline of the boat. Too little and you can be underpowered, and too much and you can be overpowered, so you want as much as possible until just before you're overpowered. This deflection is invisible, but you can feel it... on your butt and the back of your legs.

A small puff hits you and the boat heals, and you can feel the increased pressure. The puff ends, the heeling stops, and you can feel the pressure drop. Everything that happens up there is felt down here. But we have an advantage over keelboats because we can prevent a boat from heeling by, you guessed it, putting more pressure on our butts and the back of our legs.

Hiking pants dull the feeling, so I only wear them when it's windy.
Here's how Pam described this when I first taught her: pressing is a subtle weight shift to where you feel the boat on the back of your thighs. This didn’t make any sense to me so Doug had me sit and feel the pressure on the back of my legs. No biggie. Feels like my legs sitting on a chair. Then he said to keep my upper body straight and he proceeded to slightly push me backward and in order to maintain my balance and stay upright, I had to increase the pressure on my legs. Definite difference.

Understanding this increased pressure at the right moment helped me develop a new way of sailing a Laser, something I call "pressing." It's the awareness of what's going on "up there" and my conscious effort to control it "down here" in order to squeeze every drop of boat speed out of the conditions as they constantly change. Boat speed is like squeezing juice out of an orange. An average sailor gets a certain amount, a good national sailor will get more, and a top international sailor will get even more. And in a class that is so equal in so many ways, the top Laser sailors are the ones who get those extra few drops of boat speed.

The recent Championship of Champions reminded me of how important this is. The regatta was held in C-Scows - a boat that I had never sailed before. I never did get a feeling for the boat, and my results were that of an very average sailor at a national championship.

So, try focusing less on what the sail looks like and more on the pressure on your butt and legs. It's a great way to develop better boat speed.

But if you're sailing by feeling and not looking at the sail, what else are you looking at? The answer is simple - everything else. The water, the competition, the compass, the angles, the waves, etc. In addition to boat speed, pressing gives you an increased awareness of what's going on around you. 

That way, you're not using your new boat speed to just go faster the wrong way.

November 05, 2012


By Doug
Some of the recent comments on Pam's cheating post focused on centerboards. I have some very strong opinions on this.

When I first arrived in Sydney more than 40 years ago, I was fortunate to meet Frank Bethwaite and was able to assist with some wind tunnel testing and NS-14 class management. Frank's company at the time was called Starboard Products (now Bethwaite Design) and one of its specialties was making rudders and centerboards. Frank started with raw lumber, used an ingenious routing machine to get the rough shape, then shaped by hand, and then painted them with 2/3 resin and 1/3 thinner. The results were spectacular, and all of the high-performance boats in Sydney used them.

One of Frank's first overseas clients was a Tornado sailor in Hawaii. Frank made a beautiful set of CBs from alternating light and dark wood, and the craftsmanship would have put most cabinet-makers to shame. They were beautiful, but the best part came later. The Tornado sailor was so pleased that he wrote Frank explaining that they were so fast that he had to de-tune the rest of his boat just to make it fair for the other sailors. I learned that, yes, CB shape is really important.

The Starboard Products logo (drawn from memory) shows Frank's belief that sailing is really about two foils - one in the air and one in the water. It was a great logo because it showed the importance of what very few people at the time knew - what's under the boat is just as important as what's on top.

Sadly, wooden foils were phased out in the late 80's. At the 1992 US Laser Masters, one of the competitors brought along wooden foils that were in pretty bad shape. But I knew that Frank could restore them, so I traded my new white foils for the old wooden ones (the guy thought I was nuts). Off they went to Sydney, Frank restored them (with notes assuring me that the shape had not been altered), and Mark brought them to the 1993 Master Worlds in New Zealand. Call me old fashioned, but having beautiful, legal, wooden foils from Frank was like owning a piece of history.

And then someone objected, saying that this would give me an unfair advantage. I thought, how can this be? Everything was from an authorized builder and the foils were restored to their original shape. Jeff Martin's decision was that he could not prevent someone from protesting me, so I decided to sail the Worlds using the rudder and CB supplied with the charter boat. My gorgeous wooden blades have a sentimental value but have never been used at a national or Worlds competition.

People must have had some pretty strong feelings because after the Kiwi Worlds, the class added a rule stating that a wooden rudder or CB could not be used on boats manufactured after a certain date. I have never understood this because they perform the same and its easier to alter painted blades.

Fast forward to another national championship, where a good US sailor and I went out to practice. This fellow had the most amazing trick - going upwind in waves he would sail with his bow one foot behind my rudder... and stay there. Like, I could not shake him loose. It was like he was drafting behind me upwind. I thought, that's a trick I have to learn because it would be like a get-out-of-jail-free card off the starting line if I was pinched off by the boat below me - I'd just slip behind and then draft. But when we switched places, I could not and have never been able to make this drafting work.

On shore, I asked this fellow how he did it. He just smiled and said, "it's the centerboard." He explained that he had borrowed this tricked-out CB from a very well-known NA sailor and it made all the difference. This was my first exposure to altered CB's. All I know is there appears to be more than one way to make them faster and it costs at least $500. I have since seen them used at national and Worlds events, but people don't like to talk about it. The closest explanation I ever got was "if you want to win, you have to have one."

The Aussie Laser that I bought 3 years ago came with the brown CB and rudder (these now come painted white). While I do not understand the reason the manufacturing process was changed, I liked the brown boards  because they would be nearly impossible to alter.

And I disagree with those who think that you need a cheater CB to win. I've won two Master Worlds and, with some hard work and a little luck, look forward to maybe doing it again.

2012 Laser District 15 Final Circuit Standings (Unofficial)

by Pam
The Laser District 15 racing circuit consists of 7 regattas.  To "qualify" for the circuit, you must attend at least 4 regattas.  The North Texas circuit consists of 4 regattas, 3 of which are the same as the District 15 circuit regattas.  The purpose of the North Texas circuit was to encourage sailors in the D/FW area to start traveling.  Approximately 90 sailors attended at least one of these regattas, 6 qualified for the District 15 circuit, and 2 qualified for the North Texas circuit.

Austin had the highest regatta attendance with 43 and 18 at their two circuit stops and the Houston area had the largest number of sailors participating in the District 15 regattas.

1Doug PeckoverNOMADFull[4]11[2]11[1]
2James McTurkSSCFull[11]3435
3Sebastien DuboisSSCFull[16]710811
4Greg WallaceCSCFull[25]8[21]11[13]712
5Norm GrailCSCFull211052
6Forest AtkinsCSCFull151194
Non-qualifying - less than 4 events attended
7Colin FeikFWBCFull631
8David MorganSSCFull1443
9Alanna StrongCSCFull1663
10Bruce MooreCSCFull1887
11Britt FeikFWBCFull1896
12Mike Lindstrom  CYC  Full22810
13Marshall WoodsonArYCFull23205
14John MillerKansasFull82
15Fred SchrothAYCFull124
16Owen BushawCSCFull612
17Mark UnicumeColoradoFull135
18Mark McAnellyCSCFull919
19Charlie DanielAYCFull2411
20Doug KernAYCFull1
21Hank SauragePYCFull2
22Claude WellesAYCFull2
23Mark BabbCSCFull2
24Chris AlexanderCCYCFull2
25Mike LipariGSC/CSCFull3
26Scott YoungAYCFull3
27Patrick HitchinsAYCFull4
28Eddie LockeyCSCFull4
29Mark Eldred  SSCFull5
30Benjamin KennadyGalvestonFull5
31Ravi SubramanianAYCFull5
32Peter Jackson  SSCFull6
33Max LipariGSC/CSCFull6
34Jack HattendorfArYCFull6
35Martin Van WeltswinhelCSCFull7
36Alexandre Tupinamba  SSCFull7
37Drew JohnsonCSCFull7
38Jon LarsonHYCFull7
39Christa HvidstenCSCFull8
40Ash BeattyMISAFull9
41Mike RistCSCFull9
42Brad WinslettCCYCFull9
43Travis ArlittNoneFull10
44Eric FaustAYCFull10
45Josh DavidsonFull12
46Nick Schischka  SSCFull12
47Andrew Swan  CYC  Full13
49Jacques FaquetFull14
51Brian GrothusFull15
52Sandy DenisonCSCFull15
53Charlie ArnoldFull16
54John FlatoFull16
55David GrogonoFull16
56Mike HansenCSCFull17
57Jonathan BakerFull17
58Samuel StrongCSCFull19
59Pam NewtonNOMADFull20
61Will SchwartzFull26
1Thomas ButcherTCYCRadial51
2Mason Crowell  LYCRadial1
3William RomeoHYCRadial1
4Greg Dorflinger  LYCRadial2
5Ben LipariCSCRadial2
6Alan RochardAYCRadial2
7Olivia McAndrew  LYCRadial3
8Max LipariGSC/CSCRadial3
9Haddon HughesTCYCRadial3
10Kylie Schischka  SSCRadial4
11Christa HvidstenCSCRadial4
12Daniel KendrickHYCRadial4
13Mike LipariGSC/CSCRadial5
14Max GuerrieroTCYCRadial6
15Marshall McCannTCYCRadial7
16Kate EastonRadial8
17Alanna StrongCSCRadial9
1Meredith MorranAYC4.71
2Parker HughesTCYC4.72
3Ford McCannTCYC4.73
4Macey McCannTCYC4.74
5Lenox ButcherTCYC4.75
6Christine KendrickHYC4.76
7Madeleine ButcherTCYC4.77
8Reese GuerrieroTCYC4.78

North Texas Circuit

1Doug PeckoverNOMADFull41111
2Greg WallaceCSCFull4282176
Full Rig - attended 3 of 4 regattas
3Forest AtkinsCSCFull181143
4Owen BushawCSCFull226124
5Marshall WoodsonArYCFull302055
Full Rig - attended 2 or 4 regattas
6Jack HattendorfArYCFull862
7Norm GrailCSCFull12102
8Alanna StrongCSCFull19163
9Britt FeikFWBCFull24186
10Mark McAnellyCSCFull28919
Full Rig - attended 1 of 4 regattas
11Mark BabbCSCFull22
12John MillerKansasFull22
13Colin FeikFWBCFull33
14James McTurkSSCFull33
15Eddie LockeyCSCFull44
16David MorganSSCFull44
17Benjamin KennadyGalvestonFull55
18Mark UnicumeColoradoFull55
19Nick KeathlyFull77
20Drew JohnsonCSCFull77
21Sebastien DuboisSSCFull77
22Reed DouglasFull88
23Bruce MooreCSCFull88
24Mike RistCSCFull99
27Sandy DenisonCSCFull1515
28Mike HansenCSCFull1717
1Thomas ButcherTCYCRadial11
2Ben LipariCSCRadial22
3Max LipariCSCRadial33
5Mike LipariCSCRadial55
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