January 26, 2015

Reaching Tricks

By Doug

Green has just rounded the windward mark in first place and red is just behind, and there are lots of others following. Red heads up, sails faster, and tries to pass green. One of two things will most likely happen:
  • Green says, "hey, let's head straight for the mark and get ahead of these others." Meaning, let's make sure we come first and second, and we'll decide who wins later (another example of how the game is played at the front of the fleet). Consider yourself lucky if you hear this on the race course.
  • Green defends against red by also heading up. 
The first example is a rare treat because it means that green is experienced and is good at percentage sailing. This post is about the more common second example.

Would you rather be green or red?

I prefer being in red's position because green almost always defends by also heading up, so at the end of the reach it has to bear off to head for the mark. The more green defends by heading up, the better red will be at the end of the leg. This is how I won a national championship last year in another class.

In this case, green was being sailed by a very experienced, very fast, multiple national championWe were tied in the standings and a pass would give me a 2-point gain on him (which turned out to be the winning margin for the championship).

Even though green was well ahead, it defended by also going so high that we were almost on a run as we approached the mark. This gave me the advantage, the pass, and the win.

So if red has the advantage, how does green defend?

If there are waves, the one best one at catching them will most likely win. But what if it's flat water or the boats have the same speed? This is when it gets really tactical. Green winning depends on two things:
  • keeping track of the apparent wind, and
  • playing the different changes in the wind pressure that can be seen on the water.
Let's go back to the moment when green has make the decision.

If green bears off, it immediately slows down while red is picking up speed.

Looking at the wind shadows, green is already in trouble because of its lost speed plus less wind.

Trying to escape by bearing off more just slows green down more.

Advantage red, which gets and easy pass. But green bearing off is actually a winning move if done properly:
  • Green can use the technique described in this post to determine exactly where the apparent wind is coming from. It's not coming straight down the course but has shifted forward.
  • But this is still dangerous. For this to work, green still needs a little more speed.
  • To get this, green waits for a little more pressure that can be seen ahead on the water.
  • With the pressure, green and red both speed up and the apparent wind shifts further forward.
  • If green bears off slightly now, it has a little more room to work with before it's affected by red's shadow.
  • Bearing off in pressure has another advantage. Because green is going more with the wind, the pressure will last slightly longer, so green gets more time in the pressure. Some call this "stretching" the puff.
  • If the red starts to roll green, green heads up to even the speed, shift the apparent wind a little forward, and hold its position.
  • Each time green has a little extra pressure, it bears off slightly again.
  • While this is happening, red might have its hands full from boats right behind it, and red may have to head up just to defend against them. Advantage green.
  • It's tricky, but if done properly green can get low enough so that red's wind shadow is minimal and green can sail its own race.
If green is able to sail lower it gets more separation, clearer air, and more speed.

At the end of the reach, green is in a great position because:
  • it's on a closer reach and going faster,
  • it has clear air because its apparent wind is way forward, and
  • it has all of the rights against the red boats because its the leeward boat at the mark.
The key to this working is knowing and feeling where the apparent wind is coming from and using the slight differences in the wind pressure. It's tricky and something that we all get wrong occasionally, even at the national championship level.

January 14, 2015

Sailing the the Middle of the Fleet - Dirty Air

By Doug
Another question from Pam: how can I tell if I'm in dirty air? It's a simple question with a simple answer - the wind creates waves, so look at the direction of the waves to see where the wind is coming from.

The waves are coming straight towards us, so we must be looking directly into the wind. So white is creating dirty air for green, right?

Actually, the answer is no. In fact, green is in clear air and can easily hold this position. The reason is because both boats are moving, so what we call the apparent wind actually shifts forward. The faster the boats go, the more the wind shifts.

Here's the position of a boat sailing in dirty air.

And looking at the wind shadow, you want to be in green and not red.

So, what we see can be very misleading.

Here's a trick to accurately know where the apparent wind is and if you're in dirty air:
  • Look at the breeze and feel it on your face.
  • Now, close your eyes and move your head back and forth slowly. The sensation of pressure on your face will move slightly from side to side.
  • If the wind is light and you don't feel any difference, splash some water on both of your cheeks and move your head back and forth again to feel a slight change in the temperature.
  • When the pressure or temperature you feel on both sides of your face is the same, open your eyes. You're now looking directly upwind.
  • If you're looking directly at a boat, then you're in its dirty air. The closer it is, the more it will affect you. To get into clean air, tack or bear off.
When you get good at this, you'll also be able to feel when you're in dirty air because your boat will feel different, sort of like when a car is misfiring and not running smoothly. Sailing is similar because you'll feel the turbulence of the dirty air from the boat to windward of you.

So there you have it - rely on what you feel and not not what you see.

January 01, 2015

2014 - Those Who Inspired Me

By Doug

I keep reading that people who appreciate things live longer, happier lives so since 2010 I've kept an appreciation journal. It's pretty simple - every day you write down 5 things that you appreciate, but there's a catch because you cannot write the same thing twice. This makes you more aware of what there is to appreciate. Most days are pretty easy - a smile from a cashier, an unexpected call from an old friend, synchronized traffic lights in rush hour, a plumber showing up on time, etc. But some days are much tougher and I find myself struggling to think of just one good thing. These are, of course, the days when an appreciation journal does the most good.

So, here are some of the people that I appreciate who inspired me.

Wild Oats has just won the Sydney to Hobart Race a record eighth time. This year it was different because of Comanche, a brand new super-maxi from Jim Clarke skippered by Ken Read. These are amazing boats as you can see as they start. So, what's it like to sail a super-maxi and what does this have to do with Lasers? Vanessa Dudley (AUS, GM winner at the Oman Worlds and kicker of my butt) sails a super-maxi and has just completed her 19th Sydney to Hobart. How impressive is that!

It always amazes me how the cream rises to the top. The Hyères Master Worlds had a record turnout with amazing competition, but Mark Bethwaite (AUS) and Keith Wilkins (GBR) won again bringing their combined total to an astonishing 21 Laser World Championships. While they're both Great Grand Masters, Mark sailed a full rig while Keith sailed a radial. I'll be joining them as a GGM in a year and will have to choose which one to compete with. Either way, it will be competition at its best.

Brett Beyer (AUS) gets a special mention. I watched him in Oman coaching sailors at the Senior Worlds and then practiced with him for the Master Worlds. Just before our competition started, he got a call from home telling him that his dad was very ill. I was with Brett and his immediate reaction was to go home to be with family. Twenty minutes later a second call came telling him that his dad had passed away. Brett was on the next flight back to Sydney. Family first, no Worlds. With his busy schedule, he had little time to practice for Hyères, but again, the cream rose to the top. In the largest and most competitive fleet, he still won with an astonishing 9 bullets to win his 9th Worlds (you can see how he sails in these conditions in the right column and also here). Would he have won in Oman? I have no doubt, but family comes first.

In my Grand Master fleet, Andy Roy (CAN) should have won but in the last race he did not transition from rules at the front of the fleet as we sailed into the back of another fleet. I too have lost a World Championship by a single point and hope that I had the grace that Andy had in Hyères.

Every class needs an Ellen Burks. In this part of the world, she's known as the Sunfish Mama and is personally responsible for promoting the Sunfish class, a great Texas circuit, getting juniors into the class, and great after-sailing sessions. Back surgery prevented her from sailing this year but did not stop her from supporting all of the events. I wish we had a Laser Mama for our class.

We have blog readers in 150 countries and over 2,000 locations. The top cities are London, Sydney, Auckland, San Francisco, and Melbourne. Some of our readers may remember an anonymous comment that accused me of cheating in Hyères when he/she read my worlds journal. I like to share what I learn and comments like this remind me of the Chinese saying "when you open a window for fresh air, a few flies will come in." So I choose to appreciate all of the comments we receive both public and private. And then there was Pam.

I love Pam as a stand-up-when-others-sit-down kind of person. She addressed this anonymous comment, spent days researching the rules, and she contacted the ILCA, ISAF, US Sailing, and two judges. The people who did get back told her there was nothing illegal in my actions, but Pam is still trying to get a clarification on the various rules that seem ambiguous. This will help us all. Pam also designed the Team USA shirts, took great pictures and videos in Hyères, supports me, has helped me as I regain my vision, found a way for me to recover from a torn rotator cuff without surgery (shared here), and has done all she can to support Bruce Kirby.

I'm inspired by Bruce Kirby for designing our favorite boat, but most of all, at the age of 85, for continuing to fight for his rights. 

RRS 43.1 - Clothing Weight

by Pam
As a follow up to one of our most commented on series of posts:

Hypothetical Facts

Case 1:
Sailor A wears an additional shirt that has been specifically designed to allow for the insertion of lead weights and weights are inserted, however, the total weight of Sailor A's clothing is 7.5 kg, as measured according to Appendix H, which was strategically calculated to be just below the 8 kg limit imposed by RRS 43.1(b). Is Sailor A in violation of 43.1(a)?

Case 2:
Sailor A wears an additional shirt that is heavy when wet solely for the purpose of adding weight, however, the total weight of Sailor A's clothing is 7 kg, as measured according to Appendix H, which is well below the 8 kg limit imposed by 43.1(b). Is Sailor A in violation of 43.1(a)?

Case 3:
Sailor A wears an additional shirt that is heavy when wet for the primary purpose of warmth with the added benefit that it also adds additional weight, however, the total weight of Sailor A's clothing is 4 kg, as measured according to Appendix H, which is well below the 8 kg limit imposed by 43.1(b). Is Sailor A in violation of 43.1(a)?

Case 4:
Sailor A, due to financial limitations, wears technical sailing gear that is old and outdated and made of heavier materials, therefore the total weight of Sailor A's clothing is 8.5 kg as measured according to Appendix H, which is in violation of the 8 kg limit imposed by 43.1(b). Is Sailor A in violation of 43.1(a)?

Applicable Rules

RRS Rule 43.1(a)
Competitors shall not wear or carry clothing or equipment for the purpose of increasing their weight.

RRS Rule 43.1(b)
Furthermore, a competitor’s clothing and equipment shall not weigh more than 8 kilograms, excluding a hiking or trapeze harness and clothing (including footwear) worn only below the knee. Class rules or sailing instructions may specify a lower weight or a higher weight up to 10 kilograms. Class rules may include footwear and other clothing worn below the knee within that weight. A hiking or trapeze harness shall have positive buoyancy and shall not weigh more than 2 kilograms, except that class rules may specify a higher weight up to 4 kilograms. Weights shall be determined as required by Appendix H.


Opinion of a US Sailing Judge:
Cases 2, 3 - Legal
Case 1, 4 - illegal

Opinion of senior Laser Class Representative:
Cases 1, 2 - DSQ
Case 3 - Legal
Case 4 - was not presented for opinion

Interpretation by ILCA, ISAF and US Sailing:
No response


I attempted to find an official interpretation of RRS 43.1(a) and (b) by going both up and down the chain of command and learned the following.  Individual members of US Sailing and ISAF are not entitled to ask for an interpretation of the rules. ISAF will only acknowledge an International Judge or a national authority on such matters. US Sailing (a national authority) will only acknowledge a club or organization on such matters. A US Sailing Judge can apply the rules, as he/she understands them, to a protest situation but cannot provide an official interpretation of the RRS (only the Appeals Committee can do that).

I asked a senior Laser Class representative to submit the hypotheticals, on our behalf, to US Sailing's Appeals Committee (RRS 70.4) and the request was refused, saying this was a non-issue and there were more important things for the class to be focused on.  I begged and pleaded and even threatened to sign up for the 4.7 Worlds in Canada and test out each hypothetical each day and encourage someone to protest me so I could appeal and get an official interpretation. The representative didn't budge.  Non-issue … move on. 

Since neither the US Sailing Judge nor the Laser Class official can render an official interpretation of Rule 43.1, I have not named them since I felt they gave me their opinion merely as a courtesy and not in an official capacity. 

However, the Laser Class representative is presumably entitled to some official capacity regarding Doug's issue in Hyeres and I am of the opinion that I was told to quit wasting the time of the Laser Class on this non-issue. Doug will not seek to withdraw from the two races (one of which was dropped anyway) where he wore an extra shirt for warmth that was also heavy when wet. Specifically, because he would see it as a nuisance to do so and also because he feels he's been told by a Laser Class representative that it's a non-issue. 

Rooster Sailing has an interesting write-up about the changes to the rules over time regarding the weight of a Laser sailor's clothing and the challenges of staying within the weight limit and also staying warm:

I am unsatisfied with the answers I received and will probably continue to seek an official interpretation but it appears this is going to take some time and effort. I challenge anyone with the time and desire, to press your class or club officials to seek an official interpretation from your national authority and then from ISAF on the hypotheticals above. I didn't want to stop at receiving the answer I wanted, but rather when I received the official answer, so one day (or year) I will update this post. 
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