May 29, 2014

Sports Without Balls

by Pam
No, this isn't an answer to Reaching Broadly's latest post.

If you are a regular reader and refresh your browser cache (Shift+F5 in most browsers) you will see a menu banner (they call it a hat) appear across the top of our blog denoting the fact that we joined The Active Times as a content provider.

As we had it explained to us, The Active Times is an aggregation website dedicated to sports without balls. You gotta love a female director who will just come right out and proudly announce that as part of her pitch. She really didn't have to sell us since it seemed like a natural fit.

They don't want to control, censor or change our content in any way and just want to link us to a larger community of people living healthy outdoor lifestyles. They might have advertising but we still do not. They might make money on their site but we still do not. I went to their site and saw lots of interesting things I'd like to do, see, and learn more about. As we understand it, nothing on our blog changes except the addition of the menu at the top. Click on that and you're off to Never Never Land and I think you might decide to make that trip often.

When I hovered over the "Water" tab on their site, there was Canoe, Kayak, Surf and Gear. What? NO SAILING! That just wouldn't do. The world of active outdoor lifestyle folks need to know about the wonderful world of sailing so we said yes, please feel free to point to our posts. They say that they have over one million visitors per month. That's a lot of potential new sailors. 

The director was telling us that she will ping folks in The Active Times community through social media to engage them. She'll ask things like, 'what's the temperature where you are?' or 'if you could change places with your partner for a day, what would your day look like?' I think I'll like the stimulating questions. We might choose to add some 'how to get involved in the sport of sailing' posts and we might offer more explanation on various terms but other than that, nothing should change.

So ... we just moved an old post up (after this one). Ute from Germany has a follow up question on the main sheet snag. Who can help?

May 28, 2014

Laser Mainsheet Snags

By Doug

This good question comes from one of our German readers: When gybing in medium or stronger winds, I often encounter the problem that the main gets caught around the end of the boom. In regattas it is one of the many reasons for frustration.

There are 3 ways for a Laser main to get caught:

  1. The main gets caught around the transom when jibing. This happens to all of us. In light air, I like to pull the main in as much as possible in front of the ratchet block so there is less slack to get caught, and the boom goes out much easier without having to run through the ratchet. When the wind is higher, a sharp tug when the boom starts to come across usually lifts the mainsheet just enough to clear the transom. If it gets caught, the way the pros free it is by hitting the inside of the main with the tiller extension rather than moving to the back to free it by hand.
  2. As mentioned, the main gets caught around the end of the boom. I've had this occasionally happen and am not sure how to prevent it, so I'm open to suggestions. But one thing is for sure - the only way to fix this is by reaching back and freeing it with one hand. This can be tricky in a breeze.
  3. The main gets caught in the clue boom block. In my 38 years of sailing Lasers, this has only happened to me once and yes, it was at a critical moment in the final race at the Jeju Worlds. Pulling harder only jammed it more, so my best advice when you cannot figure out what's wrong is to stop, go back, and look at the problem. In my case, pulling hard just made things much worse.
Peckover's Law: easy problems happen during easy times. The really difficult problems nail you at the worst possible times.

Update 5/28/14:  I'm putting this back up to the top because we're still getting comments and it appears there is more to discuss.

May 23, 2014

Seeing the Wind

By Doug

My good friend Joe from Canada sent us this amazing video and added, "could this fog flow be an insight to how you can see the wind.. almost like a giant wind tunnel... note how the flow is like the current in a river with eddies and different strength." I'm not sure, but it sure is good to watch.

May 21, 2014

Spring DinghyFest at Rush Creek Yacht Club

by Pam

In my opinion, this venue and event is not for beginners. In the Dallas area, it is pretty much the only lake where you get conditions that will help prepare you for open water. It is Doug's preferred venue for training for the Worlds.

It is at this event that I first met Doug. He sat down next to me at lunch, was introduced to me, shook my hand, said hello, asked me how it was going, didn't wait for a reply and has completely forgotten meeting me there. In his defense, his house had flooded that day and he had only just arrived and had other things on his mind. I was miserable at that regatta. First time sailing a Sunfish there, no idea how to de-power the boat, so far behind the fleet that I was the last person off the course for lunch and there was no one at the ramp to help me and when I got to the club for lunch, most people were done. It went downhill from there.

One year, I quit early on the first day, sat up on the hill watching and listening to the race committee on the radio. Several Lasers were tipping so much that they were tying up the rescue boats and becoming a hazard and the RC was discussing forcing them to go in after x number of tips because they had no business being out there in those conditions. Lots of boats from all fleets left the course voluntarily that day.

Another year, I was quickly blown off the course and had strained and fatigued every muscle I had. I jumped on a Sunfish with Doug insisting that I didn't have the strength to pull or hold the mainsheet. The picture of us at the upper right corner of this blog was from that day.  The picture represents bad memories but lots of gratitude for Doug.

Once again, this year I arrived half full of dread and really not wanting to sail. It was blowing, of course, and the waves were more than I'd ever seen. The Lasers have stopped showing up for this event so Doug and I were both sailing Sunfish. I considered quitting several times on the race course, I considered quitting after we came in for lunch and I was shivering from being so wet, and I considered quitting the regatta and not going back the second day.

Nevertheless, I sailed all 6 races and it was definitely no walk in the park. Of the 16 boats registered in our fleet, 10 opted out of one or more races. Of the 43 boats registered for the regatta, 21 opted out of one or more races. One boat, an 18 foot Aussie skiff was the entertainment of the weekend as we all took bets on whether they'd make it down the launch ramp, out of the harbor or to the start line. Two attempts, a rig change and a shredded sail and the winner was 'they made it down the ramp, out of the harbor but never made it to the start line'. Note: it wasn't being sailed by Aussies but kudos to them for trying and having such a great attitude about it at the prize giving, promising to start a race next time.

Meanwhile, I had managed a 3rd in one race with Doug so far back I couldn't see him. In another race I crossed a boat, looked back and it was Doug with the most surprised and perplexed look on his face. At the next crossing, he was starboard and even though I usually call out "wife" which trumps all when crossing Doug, he wasn't giving way and I had to duck him. When I tacked back to starboard, a gust hit that just about took me over. Doug hiked, flattened the boat and left me behind. I finished the regatta in 6th place and Doug finished in 2nd. Did I mention that of the 17 boat fleet, 10 opted out of one or more races and one of those still finished above me ... so beat 1 boat. Two of the better sailors didn't sail all the races or Doug would have finished 3rd or 4th.

Let it be known, this was the weekend that Doug decided to train for the Laser Worlds by sailing a Sunfish.

Many years ago Doug was out in his Laser training for the Laser Worlds and Paul Foerster (Olympic gold and multiple silver medalist and, oh yeah, multiple class, multiple World Champion) was training in his Sunfish for the Worlds or Pan Am games and he started going upwind with Doug. Doug was thinking he's in shape and geared up for the Worlds and he's going to smoke poor Paul in his little, tourist, rinky dink, beach boat. And Doug learned that day that a well sailed Sunfish can hold a Laser in a breeze. Doug couldn't shake him no matter what he did and when they went downwind, Paul passed him.

Doug has been fretting about not having a decent sailing partner to train with for the upcoming Worlds so as he was sailing against Greg Gust and Paul Foerster this weekend, having really inconsistent races but once actually being in front of both of them for a couple of legs and mixing it up for a little bit, the light went on ... even though I'd been suggesting it for years … the sailing talent is certainly in the area, they just aren't sailing a Laser ... the downwind techniques the Sunfish uses are essentially the same for a Laser … and a Sunfish sailor is born.

May 16, 2014

Hyeres France Laser Masters Worlds - US Team Shirts

by Pam
Update:  this post was revised 5/21/14 and again 7/22/14 ... this is now the official US Team shirt (interpreted to mean no one else volunteered and this is the only US shirt)

Doug has registered, we've booked our flights, hotel, rental car and made arrangements for house sitting for our very large, protective and spoiled pup (meaning, the house is not empty). It appeared we were behind schedule because the flights and hotels were already selling out so we grabbed a place away from the hustle and bustle of 600 crazy sailors. France, here we come!

US Team Shirt for 2014 Masters Worlds
We here at Improper Course always seem to be out of step, swimming upstream, and doing all things improper. What fun would life be to follow the crowd? Anyway, since the normal mode of operation on US Team shirts is to sometimes wait until the last minute, we decided to start kicking around ideas early when, of course, we should have been booking our travel. 

This started out as an "unofficial" US Team shirt but is now the US Team shirt and it is available for order now and will be delivered to you in France. Feel free to send us an email (somewhere in the right margin under our "About Us" is an "Email Us") and let us know your size (men's or women's) and quantity. We don't yet know the final price but it should be under $25.00 depending on how many are ordered. The design will be embroidered and I already bought a sample shirt just to make sure Doug liked the quality. He gave it two thumbs up. Men's and women's shirt and sizing detail is below.  

I think everyone knows the connection between the US and France and the Statute of Liberty … but I did some research and found a lot of things I didn't know so here are a few tidbits. Can you guess which are not true?

Tidbits about the Statute of Liberty: 
  1. Lady Liberty is French by birth, immigrated to United States in 1886 and is among the most famous American symbols in the world. 
  2. Her full name is Le liberté éclairant le monde (Liberty Enlightening the World).
  3. She was given to the United States by the people of France to commemorate the centennial of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and to represent the friendship between the two countries established during the American Revolution.
  4. In addition to the US and France, there are replicas located in Argentina, Austria, Australia, Brazil, China, Ecuador, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Kosovo, Malaysia, Mexico, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Spain, Taiwan, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Vietnam (pictures around the world).
  5. In the early 1950's, Boy Scout troops erected over 200 replicas in 39 states of the US to celebrate Scouting's 40th anniversary theme "Strengthen the Arm of Liberty." (photos across the US).
  6. The most recent replica in France was unveiled on February 1, 2014 in Nice about 80 miles from Hyères and commemorates 100 years since the First World War. She stands in the Quai des États-Unis (Quay of the United States) which was named in honor of the US when they decided to join the Allied Forces in 1917. 
  7. French historian Edouard de Laboulaye suggested the statute.  Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi sculpted the statue and obtained a U.S. patent (D11023S) for its structure. The framework was designed by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel (the man behind the Eiffel Tower).
  8. She functioned as a lighthouse from 1886 to 1902. In high winds of 50 mph, she can sway up to 3 inches and the torch can move 5 inches.
  9. It is claimed that the seven spikes on her crown represent the seven oceans and the seven continents of the world, indicating the universal concept of liberty.
  10. When Lady Liberty arrived in the US, the US had agreed to provide funds to build her pedestal but the funds had not been raised and there was no pedestal. John Pulitzer (yes, that Pulitzer) took on the task of raising the funds and asked people to send in their pennies. $102,000 was raised from 120,000 donors.
  11. Her meanings have changed over the years: a monument of political cooperation between France and the United States; a monument to the end of slavery in US; a monument to American national unity amid ethnic diversity; a monument to immigration and economic opportunity; a monument to political liberty and freedom around the globe; and post 9/11, a monument to the resilience of New York City, and by extension, of humanity, in the face of destruction.
  12. In 1984 she was added to the list of the World Heritage Sites.
  13. In 2007 she was one of 20 finalists in a competition to name the New Seven Wonders of the World.

May 11, 2014

Use It or Lose It

by Pam
Several years ago I met the conditioning coach for an NHL (national hockey league) team. He was 40 years old and standing among several 20 something year old players. He looked the same age as they did but he also looked like he was in better shape than they were. Back in his 20s he was an Olympic level decathlete and twenty years later he still worked out and ate as though he were still competing. Being just a year younger than him, I wanted what he had and he was free with the advice. The secret was really simple: hydrate like crazy, NEVER eat anything unhealthy and exercise regularly and the body will respond.

He talked about exercising being the same as going to school. You can't start in college or graduate school. You have to start in elementary school and build up to college level exercise and it takes years.

About three weekends ago, Doug and I sailed Lasers in Fred's infamous Easter Regatta in Austin. I sailed three races in light to medium wind and called it quits. Doug didn't quit and came in 4th. Two weekends ago, Doug and I sailed in a Sunfish regatta. I sailed three races in heavy wind and then joined Doug on his boat and didn't sail the 2nd day. Doug didn't quit and came in 2nd. Yesterday, we sailed Butterflys in some heavy wind.  There were only 3 races and I sailed in all three and was in last place and Doug sailed in all 3 and had a 1st and two 2nds. 

I've been popping anti-inflammatories for weeks now like they were candy and there isn't anything that doesn't hurt. Doug gets a solid night's sleep after sailing and is good as new the next day. It's really starting to tick me off.

A couple of months ago, we were headed to the lake for some weekend sailing and I said, we need to grab a snack to take for lunch. We got in the car and I looked over and Doug had an apple and a banana and I had a box of Girl Scout cookies. Clearly, he's in grad school and I'm in elementary school and I've been here way too long.

You have to learn to walk before you run.

The body will respond to the stress you put upon it.

A picture is worth a thousand words … and this one is getting taped to my bathroom mirror. 

May 02, 2014

Commodore Cup - CSC (2014)

by Pam
Getting under the boom when tacking was a challenge!
This past weekend Doug and I sailed in a small regatta at the Dallas club which is always a special experience for Doug when he returns to sail in their open regattas. 

First of all, the Laser fleet that sailed was excellent. Small fleet, new blood, really good group of sailors and they had to work extra hard to stay on the course because it was a breezy weekend with gusts near 30 mph. It was so windy that a young 4.7 sailor took second place while a full rig or two had some swimming lessons. 

Second of all, although we sailed on the same course with the Lasers, we opted to sail Sunfish instead. The local Fish fleets have top notch competition and Doug was on the receiving end of sailing with sailors more talented than himself. I hiked for all I was worth and am proud to say I didn't tip once. I even stayed on the course with gusts to 28 mph and I swear one hit the minute I turned downwind to come in for lunch. I was launched, bow 3 feet in the air, a wall of water spraying out the back on both sides and as I neared the docks I was coming in hot and hollered for Doug to catch me. After a couple of unplanned gybes, I rounded up two feet from the docks as Doug jumped in to grab me. Back on the docks catching my breath, the kid I me said 'holy crap that was fun, let's do it again' and the old lady in me said 'ouch, I'm done.'

After lunch, I abandoned my boat and joined Doug on his boat and Greg Gust schooled us on the art of balance. Two people hiking like heck and Greg goes by us, sitting up, not hiking, and probably even had the main cleated. Doug couldn't believe his eyes. Our tacks were pure entertainment. I watched Doug slide back and press his face to the deck as he switched sides and got to laughing so hard I almost didn't make it across. I had to quit watching after that. We learned that Doug has never chicken gybed in his life and hadn't a clue how as we came to a dead stop at the lower mark.

Afterward, Greg was more than willing to share information on the art of getting the boat balanced so that it wasn't so much work. Doug missed his Laser. I loved watching him be challenged and puzzled. I think the Fish has something to teach us and the Fish sailors are wonderful. We'll be sailing it more this year. I'm betting it will make Doug a better Laser sailor.

Shout out to young Laser sailor, Caleb and his parents. Awesome job!  Keep it up.
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