November 30, 2013

Doug's World

by Pam
The Laser Master Worlds in Oman right now is a bit of a throw back regatta for Doug. With the oil in his good eye, his vision is such that he's struggling to see and recognize people. 

When I first met him (before his multiple eye surgeries), he seemed so very odd because he would say hello to the same person repeatedly on the docks as if he'd just seen them for the first time that day. Come to find out, everyone was a blur and he didn't know who he was talking to until he either recognized their voice, the subject they were talking about or some distinctive hat or clothing color. Added to the vision problem is that his hearing isn't the best so when someone would talk to him and he couldn't see their lips moving, he wasn't sure who was talking, if they were talking to him, or what they were saying so he'd just start talking about random subjects that seemed to have no connection to the conversation taking place. Until I realized what was happening, I thought he was just the strangest guy.

We were talking by Skype this evening and he tells me he's finding himself avoiding eye contact with folks in Oman (like he use to) because of the whole 'who is that, are they talking to me and what the heck did they just say?'  So, if you're in Oman and you read this blog, help Doug out by putting a hand on his shoulder, talking loudly and identifying yourself every time you strike up a conversation. He does much better once he's on the water. To him, people have distinctive ways of sailing, be it their posture, where they sit, hiking style, their boat handling, sail trim, etc. Even though he has much better recognition on the water, he still can't hear very well. So if he ignores you, he isn't being rude on purpose. All that said, do not cut him any slack on the water or you'll regret it. 

After several eye surgeries, Doug's vision was better than 20/20 in his good eye (which it will be again when the oil comes out in a couple of months).  For reference, we were once looking at some blurry pictures and I asked him to point out which ones were close to what his vision use to be. Check it out ... it just blows my mind!

Doug's vision in 2006 when he won the Worlds in Korea
Doug's vision in 2009 when he came 6th at the Worlds in Halifax but he claims his weight was the biggest problem

Oman Worlds - Who's Ready?

by Doug
Good evening ma'am
The competitors have had up to five training days including the practice race that we just finished. It's interesting to listen to people speak about their experiences so far. There is a consensus that it will be light, it's hard to see the wind patterns on water, there are some very strange variations in pressure, big shifts, and even talk of how current may be a factor. Some countries with lighter competitors could do very well.

Here's an example: yesterday I was sailing with a fellow from SUI on my hip just 10 meters away. In the light breeze, he was faster and he started to roll me. I thought, no problem, I'll get the breeze in a moment. Well, he rolled me and I never did get that breeze. Just 10 meters away!!! I told this story to a quick Aussie and she said that I had done this to her the day before. Go figure!

Normally light conditions are familiar to me because I sail in Dallas which is inland and only has small lakes. But nothing that works in Dallas works here - it's like learning all over again. This really gives you an appreciation of how consistently good Robert Scheidt was last week.

Our practice race confirmed what the conditions will be like - changes in pressure, shifty, and very tactical. And there are some people in our fleet with some real speed. One thing for sure - it will be important to look around to watch others for clues on the water.

I may have to use others to spot the pressure because of something that happened on Thursday evening. The US team had a Thanksgiving dinner, and at the entrance I was polite, smiled, and said 'Hi' to our hostess standing at the entrance ... only to realize is was a wooden mannequin. Boy, am I glad that no one was watching.

November 28, 2013

Sailing Movies Shopping List

by Pam
Tillerman has started a group writing project for reviews of the best and/or worst sailing movies ever. Having only seen a handful of sailing movies, I felt completely unqualified to join in. Instead I turned to Google and found Geni and John’s Nautical and Ailurophile Page with John’s Sailing Movie List where he has listed and reviewed every movie he could find that had something to do with sailing. I’ve heard of more than I thought but it appears there are many sailing movies out there that are worth seeing.

He rated White Squall pretty high and we were in agreement on a few others I had seen so I’m going to cheat off of John even though he hasn’t updated his list since 2011. Also, I’m essentially changing the writing project to a shopping list of sailing movies that a sailor should see.

Here are three movies with John's rating/review that I’m putting on my list of movies to see during this holiday season:

Riddle of the Sands *****

1979 Simply the all-time best small-boat sailing/adventure movie! The movie manages to capture the spirit and ambiance of Erskine Childers' 1903 novel, and, with the exception of deleting the Baltic sequences, and the character of Capt. Bartels, remained remarkably faithful to the book. Simon MacCorkindale and Michael York are perfect as Davies and Carruthers, and are well supported by a superb cast, including Jenny Agutter, Jurgen Andersen, and Alan Badel. All the elements that made the book a classic are here. A must-see for all sailors, finally available on DVD in the US.
Available DVD, VHS

Violets are Blue ****

1986 Sissy Spacek, Kevin Kline, Bonnie Bedelia. An endearing and well-crafted love story set in a small town on Maryland's eastern shore. This movie has some excellent small boat sailing sequences, including a pretty exciting Hobie cat race. Sissy Spacek is portrayed as a competent sailor, with sailing as an important element in both the plot and in the relationships between the characters. This movie is particularly appealing to me because the characters approach sailing the way most of us do; it’s their recreation, it’s what they do for fun.
Available DVD, VHS

Lucky Lady ****

1975 Comedy about Prohibition rumrunners with Burt Reynolds, Gene Hackman, Liza Minelli, Robbie Benson, John Hillerman and a yacht named Lucky Lady.  (Liza was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a comedy). This movie sticks in my mind because if I remember correctly, they gave away the sailboat as a promotion for the movie (and I think Lucky Strike cigarettes had something to do with it - but I'm not positive). Anyway, I didn't win it, and had to wait 20 more years to get a large wooden sailboat. I recently bought a DVD of this movie, and watched it with the wife. It starts kind of slow, and a little lame, but picks up, and becomes a very enjoyable film. There was actually quite a bit of sailing in the movie, and Burt, Liza and Gene looked like they were having fun making it. Aside from the one sailboat, there are about 40 power boats in the movie, and at the climax they are all on the screen at the same time. It’s one of the few sailing movies where the interior scenes were shot on a boat at sea. According to the director’s commentary, they shot the movie aboard the boats, on the Sea of Cortez, without models, or tanks. He said it was absolute chaos, which is why it’s so rarely done.

Available DVD

Laser Masters Thanksgiving in Oman

Team USA Thanksgiving in Oman

November 26, 2013

Full rig or radial?

by Pam
When I first met Doug he weighed about 192 lbs. When we started eating together, I soon realized that I was going to end up gaining weight and that just wouldn’t do. I introduced him to something called food combining and convinced him of its health benefits.

Unbeknownst to me Doug doesn’t do anything half way. He jumped into food combining with both feet and in a matter of about a month he’d dropped 30 lbs. He stabilized at about 162 and said he’d never felt better. At that point he didn’t look like his skin fit anymore and people were beginning to politely inquire about his health. Oops!

He competed in the Master Worlds in Halifax and sailed a full rig and came in 6th in the Grand Master full rig division. It was a windy series and he swore he couldn’t hang with the guys in front. He could hold his own downwind but they’d gain about 10 seconds every upwind leg. He made a couple of stupid mistakes that probably cost him a place or two and it was before his multiple eye surgeries so he was pretty much legally blind (kind of like now). Nevertheless, he was certain that even if he’d sailed a perfect regatta, he couldn’t win at that weight, in that fleet, in the full rig.

Doug tried to put on weight before competing again but it just wasn’t happening. He decided to switch to the radial rig for World competitions and stay at what he thought was a healthier weight. He came in 4th after a three way tie in Brisbane in the Grand Master radial division. He didn’t blame losing on his weight but on his technique in open water. He had one race where everything clicked and felt right and he was launched and won by a good distance. But that only happened for one race.

Robert Scheidt, a 40 year old master, competing in a full rig in the open fleet in Oman last week was sailing against the fittest and best Laser sailors in the world. He weighs about 2 pounds less than Doug does right now. Hmmm.

As a female learning how to play golf a few years ago, I soon learned the difference in muscle power and technique. My male golf partner could out hit me from day one and I couldn’t match him no matter how hard I tried. Then I took some lessons and learned the secret power behind proper technique. A swing with proper form produced a beautifully light sounding ‘tink’ and seemingly, without effort, the ball was flying through the air with the greatest of ease. My partner had muscle and I had technique and I was winning.

I can’t help but wonder if Doug is doing himself a disservice by not embracing the opportunity to fine tune his technique instead of focusing on tonnage.  

November 24, 2013

Is It A Coincidence?

By Doug
The open sailors have left and on Sunday the masters have started to arrive. The first were Wolfgang Gerz (GER), Peter Seidenberg (USA), Greg Adams (AUS), Keith Wilkins (GBR), Kerry Waraker (AUS), and perhaps 2 others. If you include Brett and myself who were already here, this means that 7 of the first 9 to arrive were current or former world champions who have collectively won close to 40 world championships. Is it a coincidence that people who arrive early tend to do well?

We now have 6 days to prepare for the Master Worlds. Oh, and the food now is even better.

November 23, 2013

Oman Open Worlds - Day 7 - Scheidt Wins!

by Doug
They held everyone on shore waiting for the breeze to fill in. We went out at about 1:00 and then sat and waited some more. With a few minutes before the 3:00 cutoff, the gold fleet finally got off. Here's the moment just before the gun taken by Brett from a different angle. It's a great example of why Robert, in the middle, gets off the line so well.

Robert went left with good height, tacked on the first shift, and led at every mark to win. There are a lot of people very happy to see him win. It was really an honor to have him back sailing Lasers.

Robert wins the last race and his 9th Worlds.  I took lots of video, hope some of it's usable.

November 22, 2013

Oman Open Worlds - Day 6

by Doug

More torrential rain overnight and some rooms in the hotel actually got flooded. The little boat I've been using had about 8" of water in it. I wouldn't be surprised if the local farmers try to get another Laser Worlds ASAP because of all the rain that we bring.

There was lots more talk about yesterday's racing. The key part of the race was being in the right place when a shift hit, and of course the first shift is really important. With all those boats with good speed, being on the outside of a circle really hurt, especially at the top of the course. The last shift is always persistent and being on the wrong side cost many people many places. So the most important shift for many was the last shift of the first beat.

The other thing that I noticed was how Robert managed the top of the first run. He was on the left and the outside of a rightie at the first mark and rounded in 14th place. Robert is known for his downwind skills, so it was interesting to see at the end of the top reach that he continued past the mark for about 20 seconds. This looked more like trying to stay in clear air than looking for pressure. Playing the right worked until the bottom of the run because the boats in the middle had a better angle with the breeze. But the right/clear air certainly worked for most of the run.
With so much to learn, I focused again on Robert today and saw something I had not seen before in a race. With 2 minutes to go, he wanted to check upwind from the boat end of the line, so sailing on port while planing, he stood on the back of the deck for about 8 seconds looking upwind. He must have liked what we saw on the right. With a good lead and being conservative, he started in the middle of the line. After a few recalls, you'll see Robert set up and defend. A minute after the start, he tacked and won the first race.

In the second, you'll see another way that he defends by tacking twice. In this race, he had a bad first leg and finished 26th.

Pavlos sailed really well and had finishes of 3 and 6, so he is now just 1 point back with one more day to go.


November 21, 2013

Oman Open Worlds - Day 5

by Doug

The fleets were split into gold and silver and, of course, all of the coach boats wanted to watch the gold fleet. This video is not going to win any Academy Awards - the conditions for videoing were good but with the slop, I had trouble holding the camera still as you'll see. 

Picking the correct side was important and the leaders played the right on the first beat. I talked briefly with race winner Nick Thompson (GBR) and he played the middle right and led at each mark. It's amazing how important the first beat is as the positions rarely change much after that. The rich get richer... 

Neither Robert or Pavlos had a stellar first leg or finish. 

We only got in the one race because of the big front that came through. You'll see a part of it at the end of the video. One of our roommates is Colin Leonard and after standing on our balcony he said, "that is the quickest I got soaked ever." And he's from Ireland!!! 

Like the locals say about the weather at so many Laser Worlds: it's never like this.

Oman Open Worlds - Day 4

by Doug
A lot of people are enjoying Robert Scheidt (BRA) in this competition and he's well-known for his speed, especially downwind. Here's something that may not be as well-known - his reading of the wind going upwind.

One of my roommates is Kristian Ruth (NOR) and he told me an interesting story about Race 5 yesterday. He and Robert were about even in the mid-teens on the run, and for the first part of the next beat. There was no speed difference between them. Robert then tacked away for 30 seconds and then tacked back again to catch the edge of a wind line that put him in more pressure sooner and longer. When Kristian tacked, Robert was 50 meters in front and went on to finish 2nd. Kristian finished 15th. I asked Kristian if he saw what Robert saw and he said no.

The breeze today shifted to the north and was lighter. The first race started in about 4 knots and this increased to about 8 knots. The waves are the gentle chop you can expect in open water. The shifts were 20º and pretty random. People feel that rolled sails are an advantage in these conditions. There were about 20 yellow flags handed out today and you'll hear the whistles in the video.

Robert had a 28, his drop, and another bullet. I tried to focus on him and between races, you'll see a short close-up video of his setup for these conditions. You'll also wee a video of him starting the next race near the boat, waiting for a port-tack lane to develop, and then tack and duck one boat to go right and win the race.

One other thing to report... others are carving, jibing, and trying to catch waves going downwind. In the conditions today, Robert heads straight downwind.

Olympic Silver Medalist Pavlos Kontides (CYP) has sailed with great consistency and is 5 points back but has a drop of only 10, which is pretty amazing. I've watched him start and he likes being near the pin and always seems to get away with a good lane.

[Warning - this video might make you seasick]

Rain on the way ...

November 20, 2013

Oman Open Worlds - Day 3

By Doug
The size of my little boat for veiwing
The forecast was the same but it felt windier because the waves were bigger and I had a lot of trouble taking videos while being bounced around. And I was under doctor's orders not to have much sudden movement after my eye surgery last week. And the boat did not have an anchor. So the videos are pretty bad, but I learned that even bad videos can be useful as you will see.

I'm always looking for something different, something special to remember, but this can difficult in an event that lasts for 7 days. I saw something at the end of the first race today that I thought would be the highlight of the day. It was the bottom reach in the first race and at the beginning the two leading boats had a comfortable lead and were very close. By the end of the reach, one had pulled ahead by what looked like about 100 meters. I thought, both are world-class sailors... how can one be soooo much faster? And who was it?

Two minutes later, they finished and it was Robert Scheidt (BRA) who had pulled away from Nick Thompson (GBR), who is not at all slow. I thought wow, that was fantastic!

Nick is also in this report because in the next race there was a collision and he was disqualified. While unfortunate, that's not news. What is news is that he was in the 40's, which shows how brutal the conditions can be. Here's your new phrase of the day, spoken by an Aussie: anyone can have a shitter of a race.

But what made this day memorable happened back on shore. There was an unsolicited comment from one of the coaches about a US sailor who was 'yellow flagged' twice today. Translation - too much kinetics. Translation - cheating. The comment was made in the context of coaching. I added how US coaching at the college level is a disgrace because of the illegal (by international standards) kinetics that are actually encouraged. The international judges aren't stupid and know this, so the US coach here has a tough job having to un-train their sailors of the techniques that helped them get here. It's unfair, and the results were seen today. The coach I was talking with summed it up by saying that talented US sailors are nowhere close to their potential.

Robert had a great day with a 1, 2, 1. I congratulated him after the racing and the first thing he said was "I got a 2." From anyone else in the fleet, this would have been a statement of pure joy. From Robert, it sounded more like an apology.

The highlight from this memorable day happened after dark. There was an incident at the end of race 4 when Kristian Ruth (NOR) was fouled on the finishing line by another boat and I happened to video the incident. So my video was used as evidence which several people have told me is very rare because it has to be conclusive. The other boat also had a witness from Korea. We waited several hours before the protest hearing was held which Kristian won. It was the Korean's word against my video.

Here's the funny part - it could be the first time in sporting history when it was the Asian who did not have the camera.

[Warning - this video might make you seasick]

November 18, 2013

Oman Open Worlds - Day 2

by Doug
My first day in Oman happened to be His Majesty's birthday and the customs fellow at the airport said that I should be very happy. He was right, but perhaps for a different reason. I got to the hotel at 5:30 AM local time, having taken more than 50 hours to get to there. It was great to see Brett again, meet the fellows from Norway and Ireland he's coaching, check out the hotel (very nice), food (excellent), and start to get settled in.
Coach boats are extremely rare and Brett was unable to get his own, so he is sharing one with the Japanese coach. Everyone was a bit shocked when I was offered my own tiny boat by simply asking. The offshore breeze dies before the sea breeze kicks in, so there was a delay. We headed out just after noon.
So, here's my first Oman trivia question: what's the one thing that should never be hard to find in this part of the world?
Answer: Gas!! My boat had perhaps a liter and the coach from Tunisia had none and, get this, they stop selling gas at the marina at noon!!
It was one of those we-didn't-come-this-far-to-sit-on-the-shore moments, so I asked my new Tunisian friend if he would like to jump in, go 2 km upwind, drop the anchor, watch the starts and finishes, and then come (drift?) back to the harbor. He had no other option.
There's a joke amongst Laser sailors that the conditions for the Worlds are never what's expected. It only rains here 5 days a year and, sure enough, the outdoor opening ceremonies gala on Saturday was marred by, you guessed it, lots of rain. And the winds here have not been above 12 for the last month, so the first day was "fresh" as the Aussies like to say.
This second day was also windy - perhaps building to 15. But it's shallow so some the waves make it feel stronger. The waves reminded me a little of the Melbourne Worlds that was also in shallow water.
A rule is that no coach/media/spectator boat is permitted within 100 meters of where a competitor could sail, so getting good pictures is always a challenge. Add to this the bouncing around in our little boat, using a hand-held camera, using the zoom, and the sunlight reflecting off the tiny screen all made it hard to imagine what I was capturing ... but then I was having trouble seeing anyway.
We limped out to the starting area where all of the coach boats park behind the starting line. There were none at the pin so I suggested we park there, so here's the pin-end report.
The 120 competitors are split into 2 fleets for the first few days, so there are 2 starts.
Robert Scheidt (BRA) is back in Lasers and he has a very predictable starting sequence that I first noticed at the Ireland Worlds. He stands up with 2-3 minutes to go at the pin (part of the reason I wanted to be there), watches for about 20 seconds, and only then makes his final decision about where to start. No ones else does this.

The first fleet had 4 recalls and under a black flag about a dozen were disqualified including leader Nick Thompson (GBR). It's interesting to note that the middle of the line is where a lot of boats started early - there was no line sag. I also got a video of the end of the run of the second fleet, and you'll see Robert in the lead. He went on to win his race which is the second-to-last part of this video. On the way in, the fleet converged at the harbor entrance and a sailor beside was sailing hard by-the-lee, so I grabbed the camera and got a few seconds of that as well.

Thanks to a Chicago Mechanic

By Doug

I got a really good deal with my Turkish Airlines ticket to Oman in part because it permitted up to 120 pounds of luggage at no cost. This is a sailor's dream come true, especially for the return trip in case there is wet clothing. And it was not until after I had booked the ticket that my friend, Laban, told me that it was a real shame that I would be connecting through Istanbul without seeing the city. I had a feeling that leaving Chicago late because of a mechanical problem would put my connecting flight to Muscat in jeopardy. So yes, I got to see that great city.

Most people would think that having to kill 22 hours with only carry-on items as a bummer, but I had the feeling that it would be an adventure. So here's what a Laser sailor's one-day can look like with the help of a young Turkish guide whose name I could not pronounce, but thankfully whose friends called Dolphin.

The first thing I decided was to travel by bus and tram rather than take cabs. Not many people spoke English, but everyone was really friendly. After checking out the layout of the Old City, my first stop was the Blue Mosque. It was huge and when I stopped to marvel at it, a voice beside me said, 'that's the Blue Mosque.' To my left was a 17-year old fellow on his way to prayers, and he offered to take me through it. Not knowing any of the customs, I accepted. Thus began an extraordinary 5-hour friendship where he would show me his city in return for me helping with his English. I guessed he thought that doing someone a favor was worth skipping prayers.

A 2-car traffic jam. Neither one wanted to back up.
After the Blue Mosque, we circled behind it to see one of the smaller bazaars and then headed for something Laban said I would love - the nearby Hagia Sophia. It's a 1,500 year-old church that was later a mosque and is now a museum. But on the way we passed the Underground Cistern and Dolphin insisted that I check it out. It was an underground cave built in the 6th century, then forgotten for 900 years, and then discovered again in 1545. Walking through it was list like being in a James Bond movie, and holding up the Old City were row after row after row of columns ... very cool.

Dolphin's uncle owns several shops nearby so we had to drop in to say Hi. I'm not a coffee drinker but could not pass up a chance to have a Turkish coffee and talk religion, politics, and economics in the middle of hundreds of Turkish rugs. When I convinced him that I was not going to buy one, we moved to the jewelry store next door where it was harder saying no to a surprise gift for Pam (I tried that once in the Dominican Republic without success).

So when the uncle realized that I would not be buying anything, then he said, "Time is money" and led me to the door. Only then did I realized that Dolphin was nowhere to be seen. "He had to go," so off I went. And sure enough, he was waiting for me a block away.

We walked though the Hagia Sophia and I can sum it up with it's massive, it's beautiful, and well, it's massive. I was impressed that it's a museum and open to people of all faiths ... and not to be missed!

My friend Laban told me that one of the first things he would do was walk to the old harbor and have a freshly-caught fish sandwich. So that's Dolphin and I did. The meal for two including drinks was 15 lira, or about $8 US.

Right next door was the Spice Bazaar which felt it was out of the same James Bond movie. I kept telling myself, "got to get something for Pam and Laban," but what? At one shop a fellow gave Dolphin a big hug and invited us in. For the next half hour, we were treated to some of the most exotic treats and tea that I have ever tasted. Finding gifts wound no longer be a problem!

We had one more hour to kill and Dolphin told me that he liked to play  Backgammon, so we found a small outdoor cafe at the end of a tiny alley and we had more tea and played lots of games. Let's just say that I'll stick to competitive sailing!

The hotel where I had checked my carry-on luggage was a 1km uphill walk and I knew that this was out of Dolphin's way, but he insisted on walking with me. When we got there I was half expecting the kind of handout request that you see in so many other cities, but Dolphin asked for my Facebook address, shook my hand, and thanked me for the English lesson. What an awesome young man!

My only regret was that the Grand Bazaar was closed on Sunday so we could not see it, and the only thing missing after a long day of walking around the Old City was a really friendly German fellow insisting on buying me a cold beer at the airport. Which of course is what happened. Thank you Chris!

And of course a special thanks to a mechanic in Chicago who could not quite get the problem on our plane fixed in time. So, now it's on to Oman.

November 17, 2013

Road to Oman

by Pam
Blue Mosque, Istanbul
Doug left for Oman and for the next few weeks, I’ll be keeping an ear open for the phone or computer to ring and checking the Internet for updates. I discovered that the Oman Laser World Championships have a really good website with live coverage. More like live blogging but I’ll take it:

Doug tends to have unique, one of a kind, ‘you can’t make this stuff up’ experiences. He booked his trip through CheapOAir and I had to wonder if he’d make it to his destination. So far, flight delays, multiple aircraft mechanical failures and missed connections left him with an overnight stay and a day in Istanbul instead of on a coach boat watching the first day of the open worlds. He has the clothes on his back, a recently purchased toothbrush and razor and has been at the mercy of the airlines to take care of him.

When we Skyped last night he was wearing his “Canadian” lapel pen on his t-shirt and was ready to hit the streets of Istanbul squinting like a pirate trying to see out of his bad eye with a view that looks like a wavy, Arial Narrow font. He held up his makeshift map written on a napkin with the main attractions a friend said he just had to see.

First stop, a 17 year old kid wanting to learn English comes up and talks to him and they’ve been best friends all day. The kid has been his personal tour guide taking him all over the city. With Doug’s luck, they’ll exchange email addresses and the kid will grow up to be someone quite remarkable and he and Doug will still be good friends.

Hopefully, he’ll make it to Oman by Day 2 of racing and start sending up some news and pictures.

November 12, 2013

Get Out of Jail Free

by Pam
When the wind is up, Doug heads to the lake to practice what he calls his 'get out of jail free card.' He says that if you can tack or jibe in a breeze on demand without having to wait for a lull, then you can escape many situations. Below is a short 5 minute video of one of his practice sessions. The uncut raw video is a full 45 minutes and he tacks and jibes dozens of times. He cut the entertaining tips after he got tired at the end. My favorite was the 'uh oh' as he lost his balance and slipped backward and fell in the water. And a close second was seeing his feet in the air as the boat came over on top of him and he went under. 

Pins and Needles

by Pam
A week ago Doug thought he had a good shot at doing really well at the Worlds in Oman. Now, we just have our fingers crossed that 1) Doug is able to leave for Oman later this week and 2) that he makes it to his destination safely. If anyone happens to see him wandering around any airports looking lost, please help him out.

Saturday was to have been one last sail together before Doug heads to Oman but it didn’t work out that way. At 4am Saturday morning Doug started experiencing flashing in his vision. By 7am he had a black curtain making its way across his field of vision and he was freaking out. Detached retina and this was his ‘good’ eye. By 11:30am his doctor was making calls to assemble a surgical team. He had two options. One would not allow him to travel and the other would leave him with really crappy vision for a couple of months but allow him to travel. The hospital was deserted. Doug was the only patient in pre-op and I was the only occupant in the waiting room and the lights were off. I grabbed a couch and waited in the dark. By 12:30pm Doug was in recovery with an eye full of oil.

Sunday, his patch came off and we all held our breath as he opened his eye for the first time and looked around to determine whether his vision was good enough to sail. It was a bit of a déjà vu. He could see. Not well but he’s sailed for many years with vision this poor. All the old instincts will surely come back and he’ll be relying on sound and feel more than his eyes. I should say eye. Doug’s eyes have never worked together. He switches back and forth and his brain shuts one down or he has double vision. His less used eye tried to take over while he had a patch on but as soon as the patch came off, his brain switched to his good eye which is now full of oil and probably close to 20/200. It will be an interesting couple of months while we wait for the retina to re-attach before scheduling yet another surgery to take the oil out.

As part of Doug’s mental conditioning he keeps a gratitude journal where he must list 5 new things each day for which he is grateful. On Saturday and Sunday he had no trouble being grateful.

If the doctor clears him for travel to Oman later this week, he’ll be wearing a hat cam when he sails and in a couple of months he’ll be able to sit down and watch what he missed. If he goes, he’ll be going early enough to watch the open Worlds and hopefully get some video footage (if someone points him in the right direction). 

November 05, 2013

Sailing in the Middle of the Fleet - Putting It All Together

By Doug
I tried putting all of my sailing-in-the-middle-of-the-fleet tips into an actual event at the final Texas circuit event of the year, which was the Wurstfest Regatta at Lake Canyon Yacht Club. It was a good turnout with 23 boats that included Olympic Coach Luther Carpenter, who I had not had the pleasure of sailing with before, and Hank Saurage, former runner-up at the Sunfish Worlds. It was a good fleet with lots of speed.

Do your circles. I checked the wind direction several times before the start of each race and had good compass readings. Surprisingly, I was the only person in the top five sailing with a compass.

Using the unfavored end. The line was short so the bias didn't really matter. I started at the committee boat end most of the time to be able to tack away to stay in clean air if needed.

Clean air right after the start. Starting beside the committee boat worked except for race 6 where a junior got in the way (I refuse to yell at kids). I ended up in the third row, tacked away, and missed the first shift. Being out of phase, my position at the first mark was about 15 ... such is the luck in sailing. It was by far my worst race.

When is someone ahead or behind? This was really important in the last few races because Luther was within a few points and there were lots of shifts. Knowing when to tack was important because it was a balance between staying in the pressure and keeping track of where Luther was. Several times he got away and had the speed to stay in front.

What to do with clean air. You could see the wind velocity on the water and the fleet that started ahead gave us good clues about the direction, so sailing with your head out of the boat was really important.

Staying in clean air. The fleet tended to stay together so it was really important making sure to stay in a lane with good pressure. With so many good sailors in this fleet, lack of pressure could cost you many places very quickly.

Windward mark strategies. The courses were windward-leeward and some of the mark roundings were crowded. The trick was not getting to the starboard tack layline too early and then getting away from the crowd ASAP after the rounding.

Finding clean air downwind. This was really important. It was balancing the need to stay in the pressure while staying out of others' wind shadows. At one point I thought I was OK until I looked at a flag at the top of the boat behind me and realized that what I felt and what I saw were different. I often changed sides to stay in the pressure and this worked well.

These factors worked and the results can be seen here. OK, I admit that my boatspeed was better than your average middle-of-the-fleet-sailor because of my training for the Oman Worlds that start later this month. But without these sailing-in-the-middle-of-the-fleet tips there would have been no way to stay with Luther, Hank, and several of the other great sailors in these tricky lake conditions.

Next stop... Oman.

From Pam:  Oh now he's just screwing with us. Yeah, right! Just get a good start, stay in clean air, go the right way and avoid the crowds and you too can win the regatta. Sure you might have one bad race but you can always throw that out. Not real helpful for those of us whose best laid plans just don't work out quite like we expect them to. So, what I'm hearing is that even the top sailors are following some of the same basic rules of thumb as the rest of us but they are just doing it better. 

I get the opportunity to debrief Doug after racing. He loves the close racing and loves it when he's able to do something that others can see happening but can't quite figure out how to copy. So, here's a shift, while Doug writes about how easy it is for middle of the fleet sailors to do well. I'll write about how easy it is for top of the fleet sailors to do better.

This past weekend was light and gusty. Doug is surprisingly consistent in that stuff and I've figured out one of his secrets. He doesn't rely on tell-tales and feels the wind and anticipates better than most. That makes his gear shifting super smooth and he doesn't lose momentum which pays bigger dividends in the light stuff. Middle of the fleet sailors aren't good at shifting gears period. Top of the fleet sailors have an easier time shifting gears when the wind picks up than when the wind lightens up. 

When Doug see a puff coming, he hikes out and heels the boat to windward and traps the puff so that when it hits, it brings him vertical instead of knocks him down and spills the puff. He gains. When Doug feels the puff lighten up (the boat begins to go slow), he eases everything and powers up so that he keeps moving. He can gain two boat lengths this way. Yeah, I mean that's so simple, don't know why all the top guys can't do that. 
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