August 20, 2013

Finding Something Positive to Say

By Doug
Larry Ellison was interviewed this week and he proudly called the America's Cup boats the fastest in the world being sailed by the best sailors in the world.  

Before the series started, I predicted here and here that the America's Cup could be won by the team that does not have a major problem. In the Louis Vuitton final, the first three races have been won because the other boat failed to finish. Let's hope my prediction does not continue to be correct.  So far, the total lack of tactics and winning margins of minutes (when a second boat is able to finish) makes it pretty boring even for sailors.

Australia put its winner in a museumbut it's safe to say that this year's winner will not fit in a museum. While you can still see 12-meters being sailed on Newport and Sydney harbors, it's unlikely that any of the AC72's will ever be sailed again (hey team, let's rig up and go for a sail... who's got a 150' crane?) So they'll be mothballed after the series is finished.

In the interview, Larry Ellison admitted his disappointment from the lack of competitors. He even mentioned a preference for a return to the AC45's next time around. So it's easy to get a little cynical about the current series, the financial bath that San Francisco is taking, and especially the death of Bart Simpson.

So where is the positive? This is a very special moment in sailing history because we may not see anything like these boats again. It's a once-in-a-lifetime pinnacle in our sport, so enjoy because they're probably not coming back. 

An unbelievable sight of the team I think will easily win the Cup.

August 18, 2013

Sailing in the Middle of the Fleet - Windward Mark Strategies

By Doug
So you've had a good start, stayed in clean air as much as you can, and have tried to stay with the leaders. And you may notice that if the first leg is one mile long, then half way up the leg it's also one mile wide. So the fleet often spreads out to give you more room to find clean air. But then something terrible happens - in the second half of the leg the fleet comes together to round the windward mark. And then all hell can break out.

Think about it - the starting line might be several hundred feet wide, but all of those boats have to squeeze through a space only 10-20 feet wide. From up to a mile wide to just 10-20 feet! And some of the leaders will make things even worse because they'll round the mark and then head downwind straight at you screaming.

Here's what a middle-of-the-fleet sailor has to consider. And as an example, we'll take the worst-case scenario of rounding onto a run with no offset mark (rounding with an offset or onto a reach are easier).

Firstly, recognize that a plan is needed, and this graphic may help:

There are 4 boats in 4 positions:
  1. is on starboard tack approaching the mark.
  2. is on starboard tack and has rounded the mark.
  3. is on port tack approaching the mark.
  4. is on port tack and has rounded the mark and jibed.
Secondly, know that each boat has well-defined rights:
  1. always has rights and can head straight for the mark.
  2. has rights over 3 and 4 because they're on port, but if 2 jibes like 4 then it has no rights.
  3. only has rights over 4 because 4 is to windward.
  4. has no rights at all and must keep clear from everyone.
Thirdly, understand the rules of thumb:
  • The ideal path to take is shown in green - starboard into the mark area and starboard out of the mark area.
  • Avoid port-tack approaches to the mark. A boat rounding the mark is permitted to cut right in front of you because that's its proper course, so you have to anticipate this and stay clear.
  • When you round the mark and would want to jibe, sail by the lee instead to stay on starboard. This way, you'll at least have right of way over the boats approaching the mark on port.
  • If you round the mark and must jibe onto port, realize that you have no rights.
Don't forget to verbalize what you're doing. Saying things like "I have room coming up" or "I'm bearing off" or "hold your course" avoids confusion and is appreciated by those around you.

I've sailed against people who are very aggressive at marks and do things like bear off to head straight downwind knowing that there are boats on port tack going upwind that have no chance of avoiding them. This is quite selfish because they really would not lose any distance by sailing on a broad reach until there's a place to bear off. It's much more fun sailing with people who try to cooperate. The managed chaos can actually be really fun.

With a good mark rounding, middle-of-the-fleet sailors now prepare for the part of racing where the big gains (and losses) occur - downwind.

August 09, 2013

Look Who Just Turned 50!

By Doug
Question: what do you get when you have original old maps of the Pacific Ocean and add sailing items like pieces of old compasses, an old sail, canvas, part of a mainsheet, ring dings, wet & dry sandpaper, and a Zhik bag? You then add a little silk, coins from the US, Canada, and Spain, and some feng shui. You then give it to Erika Iris, an extremely talented artist who inspired a music video that has been seen over 700 million times. And what do you get? A portrait of Pam for her 50th!

The background of the Pacific Ocean is because that's our background too - we both have distant relatives whose paths crossed many, many years ago. Pam's relative actually discovered the Pacific and my relative was the most traveled person in the Pacific in the 1700's (on all of Captain Cook's voyages as well as the Bounty). So sailing is very much in our blood. How cool is that!

Update from Pam: My 50th was something I was hoping would just sneak by without notice. Doug, on the other hand, wanted to make sure it was celebrated, commemorated and never forgotten. Mission accomplished.

It’s very flattering for Doug to have put so much thought and planning into his gift and it has such meaning to him which makes it even more special. First, it was done by his favorite artist who is quite selective in the projects she takes on. Getting her to do it was his first hurdle. After she agreed, the project took on a life of its own and pushed the artist way outside of her comfort zone since most of her art has a simple white background. Second, it is made entirely of materials that have special meaning to us and celebrates how our history (and destiny) has crisscrossed and stretched back hundreds of years.

The picture doesn't do the portrait justice. There was no ‘ink to paper’ on any part of this portrait. The white of my face is made from an old Butterfly sail and the features of my face and hair is made from the material and netting of a Zhik bag with a little gray wet/dry sandpaper mixed in for texture. The highlights in my hair are both from the cord of the Zhik bag and well as a piece of Doug’s main sheet that he used when he won his first Laser Master Worlds in Chile (in the Pacific Ocean). My earrings are ring dings. The background is sprinkled with history and symbolic items that range from maps of the Pacific, Texas, and Canada to compass parts facing my best feng shui directions and includes sail canvas cut into bread fruit leaves (symbolic of the Bounty), scores from the Chile worlds and coins of significant year and origin. The silk ribbon at the top is intended to come off but Erika added it as ‘gift wrapping’ and silk is the traditional gift for 4th anniversaries which Doug and I just celebrated a few weeks ago.

Well played dear Doug. Yesterday, as Doug sat and watched the video of the foiling Laser on the 100 Races blog he was grinning ear to ear and drooling and said he’d picked out his Christmas present. Coincidence?

Many thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes. 

To highlight the talent of the artist, this is the picture Doug sent her and the first sketch she sent him. I rarely like any picture of me but a sketch that removes wrinkles, dark circles and all signs of age is just plain cool.

August 07, 2013

Bob Saltmarsh

By Doug
Bob on the left hamming it up at the 1992 US Masters at Lake Moosehead.
Very sad news - we have lost another gentleman from the sport of sailing. Bob was one of the most gracious and fun people I have even met. RIP my good man.

August 06, 2013

Sailing in the Middle of the Fleet - Staying Clean Air

By Doug
Even with a good start, middle-of-the-fleet sailors have to deal with boats in front of them. It's really important to stay in clean air, especially on the first windward leg when the boats are more bunched up. There are two ways to do this. The first is visual.

If you're green and red is between you and where the wind is coming from, then you might think that you're sailing in bad air. This would be true if you're not moving (in which case you have other problems!) But when you're moving, the apparent wind shifts forward so you're probably OK for now.

You'll get the best reading if red has a wind indicator at the top of its mast.
You'll be surprised by how long you can hold this position. This is especially important when sailing in a group, and being able to do this is called "holding your lane."

It's like a get-out-of-jail-free card because holding your lane as long as possible helps you stay with the leaders as the rest of the fleet thins out behind you.

As mentioned, there's a second way to tell when you're sailing in bad air and that's by feeling. You'll feel your boat hesitate and slow down. You can also feel a slight turbulence on your face. When this happens, it's time to look at your options: bear off to get a little speed and clear air or tack if you can. If you want to stay with the group, putting in 2 tacks to get clean air is better than sailing in bad air.
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