June 14, 2014

Happy Father's Day

by Pam
Same message of appreciation ... two very different ways of expressing it.  Which video is more impactful? Which makes you feel the best?

June 13, 2014

Coaching - Doing It Right!

by Pam
Shout out to Ryan Minth down in Houston for doing it right. We're not really tapped into the junior sailing programs but the sailors in Houston consistently get our attention. They have terrific parental support, great coaching, they tend to arrive in bulk at regattas and they do very well. 

One of the young sailors featured in the news below won the recent Easter Laser Regatta, giving Doug a real workout and totally re-energizing his sailing. Whatever Ryan is doing, he's doing it right. He's fun, easy to be around, seems to have a great rapport with the sailors and has managed to create a program that just plain works. 

Although Ryan is doing a great job with his sailors, we also have other great junior coaches in Texas, not to mention students who have remarkable attitudes, like young Caleb in Dallas, who has impressed Doug with his tenacity even in challenging conditions. The future looks bright.

Even though Ryan is an accomplished sailor and coach, I find it difficult to find much information about him online. He is the creator of C-Vane and was US Sailing's 2009 Developmental Coach of the Year. Their write-up, although old, speaks volumes:

US SAILING’s 2009 Developmental Coach of the Year: Ryan Minth 

In a short six-month time span, Minth coached a team of young, unknown Texas sailors to become top-ranked North American Laser Class Grand Prix sailors in the Laser, Laser Radial and Laser 4.7. In February, Minth began coaching the first-ever team of young Laser sailors at the Gulf Coast Youth Sailing Association (GCYSA), developing a training program that fit the varying ages, abilities and experience of the sailors. Since then, the team members have competed against the best Laser sailors in the United States at major national regattas, including the Laser National Championship, Laser North American Championship and several regional Laser events. At the Laser North American Championship in June, three team members finished in the top 10; at the Laser National Championship in August, all five team members finished in the top 19 with two Laser Radial sailors in the top 10 and the Laser 4.7 sailor finishing second.

Minth’s expertise of developing high performance sailors can be attributed to his own success as a competitive sailor – he was on the 2005 US Sailing Team in the Laser -- and coaching a variety of classes, ages and abilities. He also stresses the importance of working with several coaches to provide different perspectives and expertise to the team, so each athlete can develop his or her own style and build on their strengths.

"Ryan’s coaching style encourages hard work, physical fitness and consistent regatta preparation,” said GCYSA President Edmund Martinez. “Ryan’s coaching philosophy encourages sailors to look at the Big Picture of sailing – to try sailing different boats, to work with different coaches and to think beyond your next regatta. His passion for the sport of sailing and his dedication to developing young people into exceptionally competent physically fit sailors as well as exemplary sportsmen make him an excellent choice for this honor. This year’s sailing results are a testament to his coaching abilities. Our sailors’ loyalty to him and their growing confidence is a testament to his leadership.”

June 10, 2014

Hyères World Championships Checklist

By Doug
Bruce in Australia is one of the 537 people who may be going to Hyères and suggested I post a checklist for the Worlds. Here's a checklist of things to remember:

Before leaving
  • Resist mentioning travel plans to strangers on Facebook.
  • Notify credit card companies on dates and countries.
  • Get local medical references in advance (for me, vision).
  • Turn off cell phone roaming unless you plan to pay for it.
  • Replace the universal joint on your extension tiller.
  • Consider taking your own hiking strap, supplied ones can be rough (see comment below, this may have changed).
  • Take along a universal power adapter.
  • Backup your computer.
In transit
  • Buy Jet Ease that is available at most airports.
  • Some airlines are not permitting tillers as carry-on luggage.
  • Take a trash bag for wet clothes on the way back.
Your charter
  • Tillers hit the traveler cleat of some European Lasers - use a strip of Teflon to lift it.
  • Consider buying a rolled sail in France to save shipping hassles.
  • You can change deck fittings but must replace them after the competition (see comment below - I don't do this but others routinely have changed fittings).
  • Miscellaneous items: compass, gloves, wind indicator, telltales, sponge, duck tape, electrical tape, ratchet block, hat, sun block, lip protector, spare glasses.

Conditions to expect courtesy of Brett Beyer who has been to Hyères many times

  • Our Masters is late season and Hyères always seems to be very influenced by the weather systems at the time.
  • Any Northerly gradient wind can intensify into the well known “Mistral” wind which is why this place is favored by sailboarders and kitesurfers. Those winds are quite cool, flatter water, land affected, strong and shifty.
  • The other wind is an onshore E/SE with big rolling waves if its fresh or at least, always choppy even if not fresh winds.
  • I am expecting a variety of wind and chop conditions.
  • Some people have said it may be lighter winds during that time of year, but I’m not convinced.

June 04, 2014

Gybing - Thoughts from Steve Cockerill, Frank Bethwaite... and me

By Doug
In the post about Laser Mainsheet Snags, comments were made about how Steve Cockerill's video suggests letting the boom out to initiate a heavy-air-gybe. I commented that surely letting the boom out would not work because it would be too unstable.

The boom is waaaaay too far out. But even a little out makes things unstable.
Then one of the sailors that Steve sponsors said this comment was correct and the reason for letting this boom out was to intentionally make the boat unstable.

So, let's recap:
  • We're in strong wind on starboard and want to gybe.
  • Almost all top-level events are held in open water, so there are probably big waves - a tricky situation.
  • Steve suggests letting the boom out which is how you invite a death roll and swim (the twist at top of the sail is pushing everything to windward).
  • The center of effort is now to the right of the boat which now wants to bear off.
  • This initiates heavy air gybe with little or no rudder movement.
I have never tried or even seen this, but it's brilliant!! Except for one problem - it's a controlled heavy-air-death-roll-that-ends-up-in-a-gybe. Steve is a better man than me because my priority for a heavy-air-big-wave-gybe is getting the boom across without tipping.

This brings to mind comments from another world-class sailor. Several years ago, there was a Sailing World cover story article by Frank Bethwaite about how you bear off in a strong gust rather than the more intuitive heading up. 

Trying to head up in a strong gust.
Frank called this 'steering for balance' and it was controversial at the time, with lots of people saying that Frank was wrong. Frank was, of course, correct.

One of the key points Frank made was that by turning sharply in a gust, the boat wants to 'trip' over the centerboard. And the higher the speed, the more the importance as you lose control from the pressure in the rig.

I learned this by accident about ten years ago practicing on a local lake in a 30 knot breeze. With each gybe, the boom would slam across and there was a huge pressure on the rig and in the steering as I tried to get the right balance again. We've all had this problem.

So I tried something different and for me, counterintuitive: as the boom slammed across and I was on a new tack, I bore off to head straight downwind - steering for balance. The helm went neutral and everything worked beautifully, even in 30 knots.

So here's a combination to try when it's really honking - sheet out a little to start a gybe, let the boat bear off on its own, and as the boom slams across, bear off sharply to neutralize the helm. Oh and Ute, try to not wrap your mainsheet around the end of your boom!

In the 90s, the Worlds courses included a gybe mark and in a breeze it was referred to as the graveyard because so many boats would tip at the mark.  My practice sessions would include gybing at a certain point in a breeze and not waiting for lulls.  The goal was to have enough practice and confidence to gybe at any time while maintaining control at all times so that I could maneuver around boats that were scattered in the graveyard. That era inspired Laser sailors to practice and perfect various techniques.  That's the key ... pick a technique that works best for you and then practice it until you're comfortable.

June 02, 2014


by Pam
Doug and I had a little adventure this past weekend. Sunfish Southwest Regional Regatta down at Lake Canyon, TX. Drama seems to follow us around wherever we go. Or do we create it? You decide.


Other obligations pull at your time and you're late getting on the road and you arrive at the yacht club gates Friday night at 2:00 AM, no cell phone reception, the gate code provided doesn't work and you're in a remote location about 20 miles from the nearest interstate highway.  Do you …
  1. Try to locate a nearby hotel at 2:00 AM
  2. Drive to a location where you have reception and try to call some lucky sailor at 2:00 AM and ask for the gate code.
  3. Put it in "Park", turn the car off, lean the seats back and retire for the evening.
  4. Climb the gate with barbed wire on the sides, surveillance cameras and warnings of no trespassing so you can go in search of someone with the gate code.

As Doug was straddled atop the 8-10 foot gate and I continued to punch in variations of the gate code, I had a vision of Doug suddenly being whisked to the side while riding the gate with all sorts of obstructions to get tangled in. He must have had the same vision running through his head because he shot me a dirty look and I stopped punching in codes and he dropped down and disappeared into the night.

You've illegally broken into a yacht club by jumping the fence and left your wife at the gate to deal with any police that may have been called. You have located a few cars you don't recognize in the parking lot that might have sailors sleeping in them and you now need to wake someone up, hoping not to get shot by any gun wielding Texans, so you can get the gate code.  Do you …
  1. Pick out a car that looks less likely to be "carrying" and knock 'not like a serial killer' and persist until someone wakes up and gives you the code.
  2. Shout loudly and wake up anyone within earshot and ask for the gate code.
  3. Abandon your wife who tried to open the gate with you on it and just find a lounge chair by the pool and settle in for the night.
  4. Make your wife climb the fence too, leave the car, grab a pillow and blanket and you both go find a lounge chair by the pool.

When Doug returned to the gate, having successfully retrieved the code and not been shot, we entered, left the trailer in the launch area, and went in search of a place to pitch our tent. We got into the tent at the top of a hill and woke up the next morning at the bottom. Upon putting our sleeping gear away, we looked down at the trailer hitch on the car and even though the trailer was in a different location, the connector was firmly attached with a bunch of wires hanging there.  Note to self … 2:00 AM is not a good arrival time.


It was a bit of a rough night and the wind for Saturday is looking iffy. You rig, sail out and start racing. Long about lunch time, you finish the 2nd race in 4th place while your wife is still on the course. It's hot as hell and the Race Committee sends the early finishers in to have lunch in the nice air conditioning.  Do you …
  1. Go in, sit down and relax in the air conditioning and have lunch.
  2. Hang around for a bit, chat with the Race Committee and pretend that you are waiting for your wife, and after waiting a respectable amount of time but before the wind dies completely, slowly head toward the club.
  3. Settle in for the very long, hot, windless wait for your wife who seems to have been parked or sailing backwards for at least 10 minutes.
  4. Accept the tow from the chase boat when the wind dies and abandon that wife who tried to open that dang gate with you on top of it.

As Doug lounged in his boat near the finish line, the wind died and the motor boat slop caused him to drift backwards onto the race course while still well clear of any competitors. When there was a touch of a breeze, he sailed back up above the line but when sailing across the finish line a second time, the Race Committee sounded a horn and scored him with an 11th place.


When the scores come out for Day 1 and you see that your 4th is now an 11th and a little chat to correct the mistake reveals an interpretation from Race Committee that you had continued to sail and they must now count the 11th.  Do you …
  1. Laugh along with all the other sailors getting a kick out of you being penalized for waiting for that wife that tried to open the gate with you on it.
  2. Chalk it up to education and forget about it.
  3. File a Protest
  4. File for Redress

As Doug was called into the redress hearing he was introduced to the protest committee: Bubba, Bubba, and Wayne.  Real names, I swear. Great guys, with a combined age that was well over 200. The redress hearing was most unusual wherein Doug stated the facts and the Race Committee said, I agree 100%. 

You've lost your redress hearing but you don't agree with the results and you've heard that this issue has come up several times and it's becoming a precedent in the region.  Do you …
  1. Forget about it, because it doesn't change the end result anyway.
  2. Forget about it, because it was a Worlds qualifier event and you aren't a member of the class and shouldn't have been allowed to race in the first place.
  3. Make a note to cite this ruling to that wife of yours so you no longer have to wait for her after you've finished.
  4. File an appeal with US Sailing just because it's an interpretation that should be challenged.

Did you know that if you contact the US Sunfish Class Association to inquire about an appeal, you'll talk to the the same folks managing the Laser Class because both classes are managed by the same company Laser Class Secretary because the Laser Class is now managing and running the Sunfish Class?  

Since I don't want Doug to have an excuse not to wait for me at the finish line, "we" filed an appeal.  How would you rule?

Grounds for Appeal:

Improper interpretation by Protest Committee of the following:
Definition of "Finish" - part (c) … continues to sail the course (pg 7 of RRS)
"Fair Sportsmanship" (rule/definition ?)

Facts: These facts were undisputed in the protest hearing. Appellant finished the race and was scored in 4th place. While the first three finishers left the course for lunch, Appellant then lounged in his boat and waited for approximately 10 minutes above and near finish line for his wife to finish the race. The wind died and motor boat waves caused Appellant to drift below the finish line while still well clear of the course of any competitors (it was a long finish line). There was a slight breeze and Appellant used that to sail out of the racing area and upon crossing the finish line for the second time, the RC sounded a horn and re-scored him with an 11th place finish.

Dispute 1: RC and Protest Committee contend that Appellant had "continued to sail the course" when he drifted below the finish line. Case 127 of The Case Book - Interpretations of the Racing Rules 2013-2016 clearly indicates a competitor is finished when 'no finishing mark is influencing her choice of course." Appellant, by definition, had finished racing when he was scored in 4th place and scooched down in his boat to wait for his very lovely wife.

Dispute 2: Protest Committee also contends that "fair sportsmanship" required him to clear the finish line for all other sailors. This is a subjective statement with no rule cited as being broken and no such definition in the RRS.  Appellant was exercising "fair sportsmanship" to wait for his wife at the finish or there would surely be hell to pay if he didn't.

Lake Canyon Yacht Club is a great place to sail and they really go over the top on meals and in welcoming competitors. The Race Committee and Protest Committee were very well trained, very friendly and very respectful.  There were four competent PROs on the Race Committee and they had all been to training and a similar scenario came up on the test. They ruled the way they were taught. I just want to know if the instructor had it right because it doesn't feel right.

So back to the drama question, it's us isn't it?
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