December 27, 2013

The Ultimate Two-Way Radio for Sailors

by Pam
I’m always in search of shortcuts. The quickest learning I’ve ever done is when Doug is sitting right next to me on the boat so that I have instant answers to my questions as well as timely instructions when I’ve gone astray. So far, I’ve learned at an accelerated pace with Doug sitting next to me but there are still a number of things I have to learn without him on the boat. This means having Doug holler things I can’t hear or understand while on the water, waiting until I return to land or get a chance to raft up and then ask questions (if I can remember all my mistakes and questions), or heaven forbid, reading a book, attending a sailing clinic or seminar, and then experimenting and finding all the wrong ways to do things before stumbling upon something that works. Over and over I’ve said, I just need Doug to be able to talk to me while I’m sailing on my own and give me instant feedback and instructions. Not while racing but while I’m learning. With all the coaching I’ve seen him do, I know he could accelerate the learning curve by days and weeks if he could just talk to people while they are sailing. He can see so much while sailing beside someone or even from a chase boat but can’t communicate enough of what he sees while on the water. A two-way radio would be the ultimate shortcut (not to mention excellent safety gear).

We’ve been searching Google and there are so many options. We need a two-way radio that is submersible, floats and a hands-free headset would be optimal. Then we have to consider range, clarity without static, whether the wind would trigger the hands-free mode keeping the mic open, and whether it will pick up nearby sounds that distract from clear conversation. I talk to some people on their cell phones and it sounds like they are sitting in a quiet room even though they might be at a noisy hockey game and others are simply in the grocery store and I hear the background music better than I can hear them. Obviously, a two-way radio on the water that picks up all the surrounding sounds would be pretty much worthless. I’m sort of technologically ignorant as to why one phone is better than the other and although Doug is more savvy than me, he is the one with the iPhone that amplifies the annoying grocery store background music.

So, we begin our quest to find the ultimate two-way radio for sailors. We’ve done some research and have identified a few options and will purchase one and test it in a variety of sailing conditions. We’ll update this space as we purchase, test and either return or keep one until we have identified what we feel is the best option in quality and affordability. 

With all the flags that we have in sailing for signals, I’ve yet to see the “taking suggestions” flag but just assume we’re always flying it and would love to hear suggestions, comments and feedback on what we should try.

Update 2-2-2014:  Uniden Model GMR5089-2CKHS - Submersible/Floating 50 Mile Range FRS/GMRS with 2 VOX Headsets and 2 Carabiners. Doug and I started with this model because it was the only one that had everything included and Uniden seems to be a marine favorite. We tested the units at home and got the voice activation to work.  We learned that Doug's Canadian voice just doesn't activate the mic but my Texan voice has no problems activating the mic so we decided Doug would be on the committee boat using the headset for hearing but keying the mic on the handset to speak and I would be sailing with a headset and be voice activated.  The test was me staying at the house while he walked the dog.  Stupid mistake.  On the water, the wind kept activating the hands free so that my mic stayed open and Doug couldn't get a word in edgewise.  He could hear just about everything I was saying or doing but for me he was essentially silent.  Next time, we both stand in the wind and mess with the voice activation sensitivity settings.  If we can't get the settings to work in wind, we return this model and move onto the next.  But, if we can get this to work, we might just stick with this model.  Stay tuned.

December 19, 2013

Oman Open Worlds Videos - Day 3

By Doug
The videos that I took were with a pocket camera from a small, unstable boat. We're fortunate to have much better videos courtesy of Brett Beyer who had a much better camera and a bigger boat. This is pretty cool because we get to see how some of the best small boat sailors in the world position themselves on such a competitive starting line.

And as a bonus, we get to hear Brett's comments about the two sailors that he was coaching: Kristian Ruth (NOR) and James Espey (IRL). These two are easy to see on the line because they both have sponsor markings on their sails. We have Brett's videos from 4 days, and will end with the gold medal race won by Robert Scheidt.

We start with James (192703) fighting for a position at a very crowded pin. He jibes and then tacks further up the line to find a hole. General recall.

Next, we see James getting out of a jam to get a bad start, and there's another recall.

Here, James has an OK start, gets off the line well, and finished the race in 12th.

In this next video, we have Kristian Ruth (204758) holding his position and getting a good start. General recall.

Here we have Robert Scheidt (205239) sailing on port behind Kristian and then starting 3 boats to windward. Both started well. Kristian finished 15th and Robert 2nd.

In the second race of the day, we see Kristian fighting for his place, and another recall.

This start is from the committee boat end under a black flag. As Brett says, Kristian does not get a great start. He finished 28th in this race.

In this start, we see Robert sailing on port looking for a hole that he found about 10 boats to windward. Kristian starts well but is unable to hold his lane and has to tack. He finished 28th. Towards the end, we can see Robert with the yellow hat. He had a good lane off the line and went on to win the race.

December 12, 2013

Robert Scheidt at the Oman Worlds

By Doug
On the final day of competition, everyone was kept onshore as there was less than the 5 knots needed to start a race. Robert had a one-point lead over Pavlos Kontides but looked relaxed as he hung out with other members of the Brazilian team. I thought our blog readers would be interested to learn from him, so I asked if I could take some pictures and have him explain his rigging and strategy.

He started by saying his setup was pretty simple. He was one of the last to switch from the old vang to the new vang, and had taken one of the loops out because the new vang is too powerful. The result is a 10:1 rather than a 15:1. You'll see that there were some markings on the vang rope.

The rest of his rigging looked like any other boat:

Looking at Robert's setup, it's clear that it's not the boat.

Robert does not sail with a compass and has not since the 2000 Sydney Olympics, which apparently did not allow them. He did say that there were times in Oman when he missed having one because the windward legs were sailed towards the open water and there were no land references.

I asked what he's looking for when he stands up 2 minutes before the start. He usually does this from the leeward end of the line but I saw him once planing down the line on port standing on the transom with the tiller between his legs. He explained that he likes to plan the first 2-3 minutes of the race and then starts accordingly. He added that in light air as we had in Oman, starting in the middle of the line is risky because if anything goes wrong, there's no escape.

After the awards ceremony, I bumped into him as he was heading back to the hotel with an armful of trophies. I told him that a lot of people were happy that he had won. He responded in his usual gracious way, "You brought me good luck."

I assured him that it was not me and it was not luck.

December 05, 2013

2013 Laser Master World Championships (Mussanah, Oman)

by Doug

Bear - upon hearing how his Daddy did today ...
Day 1

Race 1: breeze 5-8 with a light chop

Pam and I decided I would wear a head-cam so that we could watch the racing later. I started the first race the middle with a fairly decent lane. The breeze went left and I waited for it to come back, but as you'll see in the video (if interested) it did not, I waited too long, and a bunch of boats crossed on port. It seemed like the middle was not working because the boats that went right were also ahead.

About half way up the beat I stopped the camera as it was a distraction and was thankful of this because when I rounded the first mark there were only 3 boats behind me. Ouch - welcome to sailing in a world championship. I must admit that I was unable to see much of the wind on the water or sailing angles. But I also have to admit that my speed was not good when it counted.

So now for a confession - I have a partial tear in my rotator cuff in the left shoulder that will be operated on later this month. While the forecast for Oman was light, the conditions at a worlds are rarely what's expected. So with orders of not doing any strenuous exercise from two doctors (shoulder, eye), I decided to sail a radial. But if it stays light, this is probably a mistake because I have a much better feeling in these light, sloppy conditions in a full rig. Pam, you were right.

So I caught a few boats and finished 15th. The middle defiantly does not work and I've got to find more speed. If you've never sailed in a world's the short video will give you an idea of what it's like - pretty brutal at times.

Race 2: same conditions.

Started in the middle but could not hold my lane, so tacked and ducked about 12 boats. Played the right in clean air close to Bruce Martinson (USA), he rounded 3 with me about 6. The reach was uneventful except for being rolled by Vanessa Dudley (AUS) in the reach - she's really good! On the run and next beat there appeared to be definite wind lanes but I could not see them. The racing was close and I finished 6th with about 5 boats just below me. It was good, close sailing.

In both races, Bo Johannisson (SWE) played the left on the first beat and I think led at every mark - very impressive. Also impressive were Vanessa and Bruce who each has a 2nd and a 3rd. All three sailed really well and have a good lead over the rest of the fleet.

Others had an average day. Jaap Mazereeuw (NED) is a light-air specialist and was my pick to do well. He won the practice race but today finished with a pair of 9's. Lots of speed, and lots more racing to come.

Pam:  Seriously? Blind, injured and in a radial - you can still sail better than this. Are you just going to roll over and let me be right? Turn the camera off, pick a different dance partner, trust your instincts, feel, don't think and do better tomorrow. The goal is not 11, it's 1. Close one eye ... there. that's it. Now do it tomorrow ... no excuses.

We head out after waiting for the breeze to fill in
Day 2

I talked with Pam and told her that it was time to start taking chances, and also do more tuning with someone who is fast. We were kept onshore for an hour waiting for the breeze to pick up, which turned out to be a good decision.

Before the first race, Bruce Martinson (USA) and I went upwind for a bit and then compared notes. There was no difference in our speed, but on the run he has his boom further in and pays more attention to the telltales.

Race 3: breeze 8 with a light chop on top of rolling swells

Bo Johannisson (SWE) won both races yesterday by going hard left on the first beat, so I won the pin and went hard left with Michael Pridham (GBR) on my hip and pointing higher. He had great speed. When we got close to the lay line, he tacked and I followed. The fleet from the right merged with Bruce in the top group, and there was a lot of traffic. Michael managed to round about 4th and I got caught in a group and rounded 17th. Ouch. The top reach and run were just trying to hang on to that place, and the next beat I decided to play some of the minor shifts. On the final run, Jean Philippe Galle (FRA) passed me with some good downwind technique. I was just able to get room at the mark to move into 11th. The wind was picking up and there was some good surfing on the bottom reach but no passing. On the final beat, Takafumi Nishino (JAP) was just ahead and tacked, so I went to what I thought was the starboard lay line and then tacked and was able to get him on port/starboard at the line to finish 10th. Bruce sailed a fantastic race and finished 1st. He now has a 3rd, 2nd, and a 1st - well done!!

This is clearly not a boat speed event but rather a pick-the-correct-side-and-play-the-shifts. There's lots of speed in this fleet and any of the top 10 could win this, but picking the correct side is the most important part.

Race 4: breeze 10-12 with the waves building

So, where do you think I wanted to start this time? Take chances + the right is working = the committee boat. The only problem was that Jean Philippe positioned himself perfectly in my spot and did not drift out of the way until he bore off at the gun. I was able to squeeze in and bear off on his hip, and heard my favorite two words from any race committee - all clear. Good, and the breeze was filling in. Most of the fleet went left, I played a few shifts in the middle. When we converged near the mark, Michael was slightly ahead and rounded 10 seconds ahead of me. There was a tight group fighting for 3rd place with Rob Hodson (USA) in the hunt. On the run, Jean Philippe passed me again. Rob was in about 6th but, this was the last time I saw him. Jean Philippe and Michael took the left gate while I took the right because the breeze was coming over my left shoulder. They tacked and we went left this time. When they were headed, I tacked to take the lead. Michael is really fast in these conditions, so I covered him to make sure I didn't go the wrong way and led by 20 seconds at the top mark. On the run, we had marginal surfing conditions so I tried carving which did not work because he went straight to close the gap. The bottom reach and final beat were uneventful and I was happy with the finish.

Bruce finished 19th. He had a bad first leg and was then fouled by another boat at the bottom of the run. 19th was the best he could do - shows you how competitive the fleet is!

Waiting for the AP flag to drop... can you see it?
Day 3

This was a carbon-copy with an onshore delay and very similar conditions when we went out. Bruce and I did a little more speed-testing and we were equal.

Race 5: breeze 8 with a light chop

The pin was really favored so there was no option of starting with the plan of going right. Would have won the pin except a GBR came in below me with 10 seconds to go, leaving me no way to foot after the start. General recall. Under a black flag, lined up in the same place and Bo Johannisson (SWE) came in from port. I defended by bearing off towards him and he continued past me. Got a good pin start in good pressure. Wanted to tack and go right but could not until Michael Pridham (GBR) on my hip tacked. And then we were lifted in good pressure, with the boats below going right looking slow. Life is good. But then the last few shifts at the top of the beat did not work as planned and I rounded behind Michael Pridham (GBR) and Max Hunt (GBR). What the hell happened to my lead? The reach and run were very nerve-racking with lots of fast boats all around. On the next beat we were joined by Bruce Martinson (USA) and Vanessa Dudley (AUS). There were lots of shifts and I bounced around between 3rd and 5th. Approaching the top mark, I started to roll Michael when we were headed. So we tacked on the port-tack layline. As we approached the mark, I realized we could just cross the 4 boats on starboard. Michael was overlapped, so I pinched him off just outside the 3-boat lengths. And rounded in 1st just ahead of the 5 others. Phew! Starting the run, they sailed to the left by-the-lee so I headed straight for the mark. Vanessa was going really fast so I sailed by-the-lee to position for room at the bottom of the run. As we converged, there were 6 boats right behind taking our wind, all being closely watched by a jury boat. Was able to catch a wave, break any overlap, and round just ahead of Vanessa with Bruce right behind. At the end of the reach, I decided to cover Vanessa and we had a little tacking duel before she broke free, but I was on starboard and had her pinned. We tacked, and I, Vanessa, and Bruce finished within 3 boat lengths. I've won races by a good margin and that were relaxed and stress-free. This was not one of them.

Race 6: breeze 10-12 with short waves that we slammed into

The line was square, so I won the committee boat end and tacked to go right, leading. When we converged at the mark, there was a parade that came in from the left. Darn, I misjudged that one. Rounded in 6th with a very fast Jaap Mazereeuw (NED) and many others right behind. Positions did not change on the reach. On the run, most went by-the-lee left so Vanessa and I headed straight for the mark. At the bottom, the wind switched from over my left shoulder to right behind me, so I took the right gate right behind Vanessa and then tacked to go right with Ryo Miyoshi (JAP) who had taken the left gate. Everyone else went left, and I knew that they were being headed. Ryo banged the right corner while I was a little more conservative and played the middle right with Bruce who looked very fast. Well, the left must have had more pressure because when we converged, Vanessa was launched, followed by Bruce, and then Ryo. I was still in 6th. Had a good run to move into 4th, while Bruce passed Vanessa on the run to win his second race. It was another long, close race.

Current standings: in day 2, I moved from 11th to 6th, and today moved to 3rd. But this is very misleading because both Bruce and Vanessa gained a point on me, and Vanessa has yet to have a bad race. We're allowed 2 discards, so if we do this now, Bruce has 7, Vanessa has 9, I have 12, and Michael has 14. We're half way through the event and have tomorrow as a rest day. We still have a long way to go, and there are lots of very, very good sailors still in contention. Should be fun.

Waiting ...

Pam: Cue up the Jeopardy clock music while we wait for Day 4 racing ...

Brett Beyer very generously left Doug all of his video footage of every single start in the Open Worlds. Better boat, better angle, better camera, from a phenomenal coach with a keen eye of what to watch. You already saw a screen shot from one video and then there is his other videoBe sure and check back after Doug returns home and has time to go through the footage. 

Lay Day
One of His Majesty's boats
Muscat Bazaar

I took this picture at the end of the top reach
Day 4 

Another delay and very similar conditions when we went out.

Race 7: breeze 5-6 with a light chop

The breeze was shifting 20 degrees and was to the left just before the start. But a pin-favored start meant having trouble tacking onto port, so I started again at the committee boat and tacked with Alan Tarrant (GBR) to go right. We were the only ones on that side of the course and took the lead as the others came in on a knock. I led at the first mark and at the end of the top reach. So far, so good. But on the run I played the middle and both sides were faster, with Vanessa Dudley (AUS) was just flying. So I rounded a close 4th. On the second beat, there were lots of shifts - it amazing how well some of these sailors play them when without a compass. Michael Pridham (GBR) and I played them best up the middle and we rounded the top mark in that order, just a few feet apart. On the run, I tried jibing to sail by the lee but that did not work, so I jibed back again. Big mistake - in doing so I let Michael get away - should have covered him to go for the lead. Instead, I had to defend against Vanessa who again was flying, Max Hunt (GBR), and Alan, with Vanessa passing by the bottom mark... just too fast. The positions did not change for the rest of the race, so my 1st ended up a 3rd. Darn, one mistake and a lack of downwind speed wiped out a bullet.

Race 8: breeze 8-10 with a steeper chop

The breeze was neutral and the pin was favored, so I started one up with Vanessa on my hip. After about 2 minutes she tacked on a knock and I followed. A whole bunch came in from the right with Bruce Martinson (USA) leading. There was lots of tacking and trying to stay in a clear lane, and tacking above the starboard tack layline really paid off as many got greedy and tacked too soon. Rounded 5th behind Bruce, Michael, Vanessa, and Bo Johannisson (SWE). She went high on the reach with speed and took the lead, and then took off on the run. I passed Bo to move into 4th. The next beat was fun to watch as Bruce and Michael tried to reel in Vanessa and they were even at the end of the next beat. Bo passed me on the last shift and rather than try to pass him again, I had to defend against Jaap Mazereeuw (NED), Takafumi Nishino (JAP), and Max who were right behind. While Vanessa and Bruce were fighting it out on the final beat, Michael passed them both for the win, his second today. Nice.

Standings: with 2 discards, Bruce and Vanessa would be tied with 13 (but Bruce would win the tiebreaker), Michael has 16, and I have 20. But had I held on to my 1st and 4th, Bruce would have 13, Vanessa 14, and I'd be tied with Michael with 17 (but I'd win the tiebreaker). This is what I love about competing at this level - the tiny little mistakes make a big difference.

Day 5

For only the second time in Laser Worlds history, a girl has beaten all of the boys. Vanessa Dudley (AUS) scored a 1st and 2nd to win her first world championship with a day to spare. I trained with her last week and competed against her this week and can assure everyone that she deserved the win.

Another delay and very similar conditions when we went out.

Race 9: breeze 5-6 with a light chop

Race 9, top reach
The breeze was swinging back and forth about 20 degrees and the line was pin favored, but with 2 minutes to go, the breeze went right so I decided to start again beside the committee boat. At the gun, Bo Johannisson (SWE) tried to get inside but fouled me. I tried to play the shifts in the middle but the sides came in leaving me 5th at the first mark. Bo was just ahead and I reminded him that he had not done his circles which he immediately did, putting me in 4th behind Vanessa, Bruce Martinson (USA), and Michael Pridham (GBR), as shown in the picture above. These three also happen to be the three ahead of me in the standings, in that order, so I  knew it's going to be tough catching up. Notice how Vanessa goes high on the top reach into her passing lane. The run was uneventful only because you get used to having lots of really fast people right behind. The next beat was tricky and I misjudged the final shift permitting John Reay (GBR), Bo, and Ryo Miyoshi (JAP) to pass me. Got back Ryo on the run, held even on the lower reach, and caught Bo on port on the finish line to finish 5th. Vanessa won this race by leading at every mark. Very impressive. It always amazes me how important the first beat is, with the first 6 people around the first mark finishing in almost the same order 40 minutes later.

Race 10: breeze 8-11 with steep waves

Race 10, top reach
Line square, right looked good, so I started at the committee boat again. Bo decided to start below me this time and we worked the shifts on the middle left. Bo played the shifts better and rounded 1st followed by Vanessa and Bruce, as shown in the second picture. Notice how Vanessa is again in the passing lane on the top reach. In the run, for perhaps the first time in the event, I had speed downwind and surfed past Bruce into 3rd. Only at the bottom of the run did I realize that I had forgotten to let out my outhaul. Hmmmmm. On the next work, I got caught by the last rightie and Ryo rounded ahead with Bruce right behind. I did not let out the outhaul on purpose and surfed past Ryo back into 3rd. Bo finished well ahead, followed by Vanessa, me, Ryo, and Max Hunt (GBR).

Current standings: Vanessa has won so it's now a race for second place, with just 6 points between Bruce, Michael, and me. One more day to go.

Day 6 - final day

Being 4 points out of 3rd and 6 points out of 2nd, I decided to roll the dice and take chances trying to move up. It was another groundhog day with similar delays and conditions.

Race 11: breeze 5-6 with a light chop

Decided to start at the committee boat and go the opposite direction to get some separation. The fleet went left so I sent hard right. Did not work, rounded 12th. Tried different things but none worked, so I finished 11th, which was my drop. Bo Johannisson (SWE) had a 4th and was now just 6 points behind me. He's won 3 races in this light condition, so it was now time to switch from offence to defense to hang on to 4th.

Race 12: breeze 5-6 with a light chop

Pin favored, planned to start at the pin below Bo but he pulled the trigger faster than expected and I could not really see where the line was. With the guys in the pin boat staring right at us, thought I was early, so I jibed around and sailed under the entire fleet on port. My worst start, and Bo was leading the fleet to the left. Played the shifts in the middle, Bo rounded the first mark in 2nd with me in 7th. If he could get one more boat between us he'd take 4th. Ouch. On the run I played the middle left in a narrow lane in tricky conditions. The boats on the right came in faster at the bottom mark with Bo still in second. At the end of the next beat, Bo was still 2nd with me 6th but with 4 right behind. If 2 passed, Bo would win the tiebreaker.

Grabbed this picture on the bottom reach.
By start of the bottom reach, Falque Olivier (FRA), Max Hunt (GRB), and Takafumi Nishino (JAP) were trying to roll me. Very nerve racking because if one blanked me, the others could follow and I could only afford to lose one. Was able to just hang on to finish 6th to secure 4th overall.

Bruce Martinson (USA) sailed really well today and won both races. He deserved to come in second overall. Michael Pridham (GBR) had a pair of 3's to finish third. Along with Vanessa, they deserved the top three spots. There were several others who had speed when it counted and I'm thankful to have finished 4th. I must admit that I did not have a good enough feeling for the radial and did not have the speed that I can usually count on.

I appreciate the many supportive comments about this blog and only wish that Pam was in Oman to hear them as well - this blog is very much her idea and hard work. It started from us talking about what works on the race course and what does not. It's grown, and the posts of the Oman worlds have been read by people in more than 1,000 cities. Pretty cool.

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