June 24, 2013

2013 Butterfly Single-Handed Championships

By Doug
Pam's favorite class is called a Butterfly, and she has one that has been in her family for more than 40 years. A Butterfly is a small scow designed in the early 60's that is actually pretty neat. Its rounded bottom makes it very responsive and its over-rotating mast makes the mast bend to windward to give the sail a 3-D curve, so the rig is more powerful than a Laser/Torch. There are two things I do not like: 1) its name [and Pam sometimes makes me wear a t-shirt with a big Butterfly on the chest when I race against the Dallas Laser Fleet] and 2) the rudder is a metal plate that stalls out very easily. Scows are sailed mainly on lakes because they do not handle waves well.

Their national championship this year was in Spring Lake, Michigan which was on my way home after the Canadian Laser Masers, plus I had won this before, plus it's always a fun event. So I dropped in, borrowed a brand new boat from Windward Boatworks and was able to defend my title.

I wore my hat cam for some of the races and made three videos that Laser/Torch sailors may enjoy. The first is about starting:

The second is a race that shows the tactics needed to win a race. This was on the second day when the wind increased with gusts of 30 mph according to the local paper:

The third shows a series of bonehead mistakes that I made on the first leg and how I was able to come through the fleet once I got my act together.

Update: at the end of this last video when describing how I caught the leader on the final leg, I ran out of time because of YouTube's 15 minute limit . Here's more detail: I tried to get him to choose between covering me tacking on the shifts/pressure and his preference of staying close to the favored right shore. At one point, I went way close to the shore, he covered, ran aground in the sand, and lost his speed trying to tack away. I think this is where he slowed down enough for me to catch him. Another example of the perils of covering!

This is a really fun class that is a good training boat for Laser/Torch people who live near a lake. And the people it attracts enjoy good competition without the sometimes intimidating intensity of the Laser/Torch class.

June 20, 2013

Laser Sailing at Age 74

Pam:  In response to my 'Am I Too Old For This?' post, we received an email from Joe who sailed in the recent Canadian Laser Masters Championship with Doug.  After an incident on the water many years ago in which Joe wondered if Doug had eyes in the back of his head, these two have been sneaking up behind each other all over the world, covering the other's eyes, disguising his voice and asking 'guess who?'  Joe sent us an excerpt from his personal journal which we asked if we could share.  Clearly, he didn't do as well has he expected, but under the circumstances, he's a winner in my book. From Doug's cryptic messages, I understand that they 'never get those conditions' and everyone struggled to string together a consistent series.  In 3 days they had huge shifts (Doug claims one was 90 degrees), 1 mile legs against the current, and wind that really picked up for several races, plus it was cold and wet. Challenging conditions for any age, let alone age 74. We all hope that we'll still be sailing a Laser at that age ... Joe is living the dream.  Thanks for sharing!

by Joe van Rossem
Home Monday morning after the Canadian Masters in Beaconsfield Quebec. Sitting on the sofa in my house coat with my coffee reflecting on the last four days.

What happened? Well let me tell you, S#!+ happened! However, there is no one to blame except me, for sailing a bad regatta.

Maybe, I'm getting too old!  And my memory is fading as well, if I can't even put my finger on what went wrong! All those thoughts come into my head as I sit here reflecting on the past weekend. Then, a thought came to me, why don't you write it down and maybe learn a bit from all this. Then again (at seventy four) if I don't know it all by now, I'll never will. However, hence this writing.

Friday, first race, started at the pin end, and wanted to sail the first leg in the middle right side of the course and ended up doing the exact opposite. Fighting bad air and lifted the wrong way and trying to catch up.

Second race. Same as the first.

Third race. Started at the committee boat, approached the line on port and saw an opening and just continued, worked the middle right   Ended up in front at the top mark with no air, however, after rounding, the wind picked up again nicely (now from the North), half way down the leg, the mark boat greeted us with the checkered flag, calling off the race. Miller time? Swenson would say.

Learned what?

If before the start, you have decided to sail the fist leg in the middle right, you should at least try to start in the middle right of the line? Right!

Saturday's racing started with a nice breeze that did not hold leaving us with waves and little wind. Then the wind came back but the struggle remained, the old '78 Laser I was using for this regatta was groaning and moaning in the short steep waves like saying enough is enough. Never mind my legs. Back to the bike (maybe twice a day for an hour each, starting today). The whole day was a struggle that's all I remember.

Sunday's racing, umm? Dressed light, for light air prediction. However the wind pick up nicely at starting time. Picked the port end again, nobody there and started on port way too late. If you attempt a port start, at least be on the line on time. Ha ha, you old fool, I screwed that start! Anyway, got to the top mark deep with no chance to catch up, in any case, the race committee shortened course to just two and a half legs. After the finish, we drifted around in the rain for quite some time and got really cold. The committee boat, after a while, moved close to shore. Assuming they were going to can it for the day, so I sailed in and packed up only to find out that there was another race on the way and I missed it.

So, shit happens to us all from time to time. If we were perfect, we would win everything and that would be disastrous. It is always easy to blame someone else for your problems but that just would not work. To be critical of a race committee who are there for you and volunteer their time freely for the sailors, is not very productive for anyone. Although, I must admit that, at times, race management leave a lot to be desired and can get you down before racing even starts.

Final thoughts: Never too old, going to lose some weight, going to work a little harder on my fitness.

June 16, 2013

Am I Too Old For This?

by Pam
A friend recently asked me if I thought that she might be too old for sailing? It’s a recurring theme I’ve seen lately. A recent post by Broadly Reaching wondered if the Laser was still for him. Tillerman recently pronounced that he’s come full circle and traveling to regattas has lost its appeal. The post contained a comment with a copy of a recent rant on the Sailing Anarchy forum of a sailor who was tired of the entire ‘Regatta Rat Race.’

If you sail long enough, at some point, maybe several, you will likely ask yourself if you’re too old for this boat, this wind, the traveling, the regatta routine, or, worse, sailing altogether. If you’re asking the question, then the short answer is, YES, you’re too old for it. After all, you wouldn’t be asking the question if you didn’t already feel too old for it. I live with a man who is a daily reminder that asking if you’re too old for something is the wrong question.

The real question is do you want to feel too old for it? Because really, it’s a slippery slope. If you give in, before long you have a long list of things you’re too old for and life becomes boring, your body goes to hell and your mind to mush. Nobody, and I mean nobody wants to feel too old for something, unless, of course, it’s a stupid, self destructive something.

It is an undisputed fact that the weather conditions at the back of the fleet are far worse than the weather conditions at the front. It’s hotter, colder, windier, choppier, shiftier, wetter, dryer, calmer and it’s no where near as much fun. The statistics must show that the largest percentage of sailors that leave a particular class or the sport of sailing come from the back or middle of the fleet and not the front. Doug always says that being fit makes sailing a lot easier and a lot more enjoyable. I mean, really, who enjoys a good ass-kicking?

Well Doug is off traveling for various regattas. I’m at home in the hot Texas summer and the lawn had to be mowed. We cancelled our mowers last year and got a reel mower because Doug wanted the workout to keep him fit for sailing. A reel mower has no motor and is the old fashioned push mower. It’s a strength and cardio workout all in one and you have to have a little momentum to even get it to cut. We have a big corner lot with slopes. I’ve watched Doug run back and forth mowing the lawn. Heck, I’ve even talked with him on the phone while he’s mowed the entire lawn. How hard can it be, right? Well, I spent the entire day alternating between pushing that dang mower, laying in the grass panting like a dog and crawling into the house to get into the air conditioning. If it doesn’t kill me first, I know it will be good for me but if he ever tries to take away my electric weed-eater/edger, I’m calling a lawyer.

Doug is a little over a decade older than me in years. After today, I’d guess he’s at least two decades younger than me in health and fitness. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Doug ask if he’s too old for sailing. I, on the other hand … am going to have to mow that damn lawn once or twice more before Doug gets back. I might be too old to be a homeowner, but I’m definitely not too old for sailing. And if that man keeps traveling and I keep mowing, you probably won't ever hear me asking if I'm too old for something again. I bet he planned this.

2013 Canadian Master Laser Championship

by Pam
Overall results
Group results

Doug held his 2nd place.  Woohoo!  Now he's headed to the Butterfly Nationals in Spring Lake, Michigan, then he flies home and without so much as a full night's sleep, he will drive straight to Houston for a Laser circuit stop.  The man is addicted to sailing.

Apparently, there are some really good pictures and the conditions were fairly challenging.  I'll post a link when I can figure out where they are.

Beaconsfield put on a great event. 

With Joe and his Pam.

By Doug: OK, here's what happened.

Day one had a crazy first leg in race one with the wind shifting right 90 degrees by the time the last 10 boats rounded. Many good sailors got caught on the left including me. Thank goodness for drop races.

Day two started light and built to the 20's with some wild rides downwind. Rob, Tobin, Philippe, Richard, and others were great, especially on the one mile downwind sailing by the lee. For a light person, Nigel had awesome speed in the breeze but his boom vang tang broke. My speed was mediocre at best and I missed too many shifts.

Day three had Rob showing great speed upwind in the light chop in the first race. The committee kept us on the water as the cold rain killed the wind. When it reappeared from the east, we had lots of shifts for the final tricky race.

Rob won easily with good speed when it counted. For me, it was a wake-up call - too much rust and an urgent need to practice with people who are faster and smarter than me.

June 15, 2013

2013 Canadian Master Nationals - Day 2

by Pam
Doug is in Montreal for the Canadian Master Nationals. He had a horrible first day, and exhausting and non-noteworthy second day but when the guy walked by the the scores (which I can't find online anywhere), he snapped a picture and sent them to me. Tomorrow is expected to be light and variable. The first day was like that and he claims he got caught on the wrong side of a 90 degree shift.  

I'm going to post the scores while he's in 2nd place because I don't have high hopes that he'll be able to hold that position. 

Trivia question - there are two sailors who list their home club as NOMAD. Who knows what that stands for?

June 14, 2013

Malcolm Eggins

By Doug
It's a sad day for Aussie sailing with the passing of Malcolm Eggins. I met Malcolm in 1972 at my first NS-14 regatta at the NSW State Championships. He won the event in a way that I will never forget. 

Every high-performance dinghy can trace its roots back to this class that was started by Frank Bethwaite. As a development class, it's rules were simple - 100 square feet of sail, no spinnaker, and no trapeze. You could build your own hull and sails in any way you want. And the innovation and refinement resulted in the speed that has been passed down to all high-performance classes. 

I had just built my first NS-14 based on a Mark II kit designed by Frank and it was launched at this state championship. Being brand new to the class, I was not competitive. Malcolm's boat was memorable for two reasons: it was the most beautiful woodwork that I had ever seen, and it was the first boat to plane upwind in the conditions at Jervius Bay that weekend. Remember - 1972, no trapeze, just 100 square feet of sail, and planing upwind! Malcolm won in a really competitive fleet on pure boatspeed - it was a pleasure to watch. 

It was great to hear Frank's comments on Malcolm's design. While whey had worked independently, their resulting designs had many similarities. They were true sailing pioneers that, in my opinion, helped put Australia on the sailing map.

June 09, 2013

Sailing in the Middle of the Fleet - When is Someone Behind or Ahead?

By Doug
A good question from TillermanMy problem is that I never know whether a boat in a position like that on the same tack would be behind or ahead of me (unless it's very extreme like I can see him through my window.) What's the trick to judging that?

A Laser/Torch tacks through 90 degrees in almost all conditions. So, put some tape along the deck that's at a 45 degree angle to the center of the boat. Start near the CB and have the tape go up to the gunnel beside the mast.

I'm at the committee boat close-hauled. The pin is behind the red line. Boat favored.
In this example, the boat end of the line is favored. If I was racing and a boat was where the pin is, that boat would be behind me. If it's on the line then we're equal.  If it's ahead, then it's ahead - how much ahead will help you prepare for a port-starboard possibility. These angles will change when you get lifted and knocked. For many people, this is much easier to understand than a compass.

After a while, remove all but the last 3" of tape at the gunnel for a quick reference. Pretty soon, you'll have a good feeling from the angles alone and won't need the tape.

Pam: When Doug recently told me about the tape thing, I wasn't sure it was right so I told him to take a picture and show me.  When he put up this post, I didn't know he'd done it and thought the middle of the fleet title wasn't appropriate because probably lots of middle of the fleet people can tell if they're ahead or behind.  When I saw the picture I thought that pin was favored and Doug said the boat was favored by about 4 boat lengths.  Then he blew up the picture to full screen and covered the red line portion and asked me if it was easy to tell if the pin was favored ... then I realized he was right ... again. 

June 05, 2013

Teach Me How to Dougie

by Pam
Tillerman of the Proper Course blog recently posted that he's thinking about doing a Prancercise routine as his warm up before sailing.  While that might be the "proper" thing for old folks to do, at ImproperCourse we're thinking the Dougie is more our style.

Lyrics (clean) - Canada and Dallas - go figure.  I think it was indeed named after Doug.  

We spent some time practicing this.  Here is Doug's version and here is Pam's version. 

How Long Can Someone Survive Under Water?

By Doug
This is something from this morning's news. When I learned CPR we were told that there was little hope for someone after just 6 minutes. Hopefully news like this will help save lives. 

June 04, 2013

Sailing in the Middle of the Fleet - Do Your Circles

By Doug and Pam
Lots of them... before the start.

I see lots of sailors doing something really strange. They sail up to the starting line, go head-to-wind, and then take a look along their boom at where the wind is coming from. Sure, it's accurate to see how the wind is shifting in relation to the weather mark. But I've never understood this because (1) any head-to-wind reading is useless unless you're in the middle of the course and (2) you cannot use this type of wind reading when you most need it - when racing!

I much prefer a compass reading and looking at the angles of the boats around me. But that takes years of practice.

So, what's a really simple way to get a feeling for the wind direction before the start if you don't have a compass? It's something that I thought pretty much everyone did until Pam told me that I'm the only one. Here's how it works.

Pam:  Maybe everyone does it, but Doug is the only one who ever explained what he was doing so he's the only one I see doing it.  It is Doug's basic starting routine ... and now mine.  

When I first met Doug we were at a regatta and he was on a Laser and I was on a Sunfish. He saw me struggling before the start and sailed past me going the opposite direction and said the wind had just changed and to follow him. I tried to turn around and promptly when into irons. He looked back and thought I had ignored his generous tip and decided that was a wasted effort. I eventually sculled my way around and followed him to the other end of the line and all the way around the course as far as I could and it was my best race of the day with a 2nd or 3rd.  

I had never been able to detect a wind change while in a starting sequence and wondered how he did that. He, of course, can feel it, but his starting routine also constantly tests the wind and even someone like me can use it to detect a wind shift before the race. 

Begin by coming up beside the committee boat and pull your sail in to close hauled as though you are racing.  As you cross the start line, look down the line at the pin and imagine another boat starting with you on the same tack at the far end of the line. Would this boat be ahead of you, equal to you, or behind you? This tells you which end of the line is favored. Now tack, sail around the committee boat, and kill some time. Then repeat again every 2 minutes and keep asking if the other boat would now be ahead, the same or behind? Any change means a change in the wind direction. For example, if the boat was ahead and now would be even, then the breeze has gone right.

Repeat this until the final 2 minutes and you'll have a good idea of (1) what the breeze is doing, (2) which end of the line is favored, (3) where you want to start, and (4) a line-site of where the line is if you're not beside the committee boat. If you're aggressive, then you'll head to the favored end of the line. If you're more conservative then you'll probably head for the other end or the middle of the line.

Pam:  It is also a great way to get warmed up and get a feel for things and practice a few starts before the real deal.

Of course, if you foul someone, you need to do the other type of circles.
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