Monday, December 31, 2012

J-Class yachts and the Irony of History

I was watching the following video on the modern J-Class and pondering this irony of history; some of our most colossal, awe-inspiring examples of art, engineering, and beauty have been created by the super-rich. It couldn't be any other way. The masses would never have the wherewithal to accomplish this expensive bigness.

Such is the case of the largest of the racing yachts, the J-class. The class of the super-rich in the 1920's, the class of the America's Cup and the Lipton's and Vanderbilt's, the J-Class flourished up to the Great Depression and, now, with the rise of today's super-rich, this large expensive colossus has taken off again with many new J's under construction in this, the second decade of the third millennium.

My sailing (and social) tastes being more plebian in nature (see the current header photo of the 6-foot Frosty dinghy), I still cannot help to be awed at the size, power and beauty of these behemoths and if I ever get an invite to tour one of these modern J-class, you will see me toss aside my social consciousness for the moment, and, with my mouth agape, and a boyish giddiness I would poke around one of these modern classics, imagining a Charlie Barr, braced to the wheel, wind whipping over the gunwhales, eyes alternatively taking in the sea-state and the massive sails, and a boat and crew, looking forward, going on forever.

John Summers, one of several friends who is conversant in all things to do with sailing history, put this very appropriate quote in a comment (which I have moved to the main post);

As Douglas Phillips-Birt said of that era in "An Eye for a Boat:" "Yachting was as exclusive, as brilliant, as undemocratic as a Florentine palace. Some of the most original and talented minds in several countries devoted themselves to the creation of the yachting fleets. . .Yachting had its roots in wealth, and there is no need to be so fervidly democratic as to condemn it for that reason."

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Header Photo: Pinasse a voile d'Arcachon

As in the previous post on the Monotype d'Arcachon, we remain in the French Bassin d'Arcachon. The header photo for the past month was of the traditional waterman's small workboat of the area, the Pinasse, a narrow double-ended canoe-like craft over twenty feet long carrying an enormous dipping lug sail (the foot is a long as the craft). I have featured the Pinasse in a previous post. (I have spelled it two ways, Pinasse and Pinnasse - it looks like Pinasse may be correct, derived, I assume from Pinnace, which means ships tender.)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Le Monotype d'Arcachon - 100 years

I've mentioned in a previous post that the modern Laser singlehander has turned 40 years old but, under the radar, there are local traditional small sailing craft that are celebrating their centenarys, their origins going back to the beginning of small boat racing. One of these, the French dinghy class Le Monotype d'Arcachon, marked their 100 years in 2012. Designed in 1912 by Joseph Gudeon as a trainer for the Bay of Arcachon, it appears upwards of forty of these 14 foot dinghies survive (see below) and continue to race today. Looking at the numbers on the sails, about 300 were built. These dinghies were solidly built with the weight quoted as 225 kg and used a balanced lug rig. A very pretty sailing dinghy.

A picture I lifted from the Bibout blog.

A French video of the centenary regatta. (As I mentioned before, I'm a typical American monoglot; I am hoping, if the video shares more history on the Monotype, then those with French language skills will share this by adding a comment to this post.)

Update: The fellow who blogs about Laser sailing in Dubai has kindly done a broad translation of the video. I have dragged his comment into the main post.
"Glad to help with the French. The man in in the interview, Mr. Lacoste, has a lovely accent from the southern part of France. He explains that they are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the boats which have a long history in the Arcachon region. The boats today are recent ones - the original ones have all disappeared. About 500 were built and in most cases were kept by a sailing family for use by the children, while the parents sailed a Dragon or other boat. They are made only for recreation - not working boats. Today they have about 40 boats in the association, with about 20 showing up regularly for regattas. They come mainly from the Archacon area, but some from Bordeaux and further away".

Les cent ans des monotypes from televisionbassinarcachon on Vimeo.

I had previously mentioned Le Monotype d'Arcachon, in a post about the Pinasse Voile d'Arcachon, another traditional craft of the bassin du Arcachon.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Music Videos and Beer

I have had a surprising amount of readers who have complained that I've stopped my regular music video feature, "Music for Fridays" (well, two of you have raised your voices). The simple explanation is that I've found other modes of time wasting on the Net rather than watching music videos. For those who enjoy music videos, may I suggest you make regular stops over at My2fish and Baydog, both still have a regular music video post as part of their blogging repertoire. All is not lost as I still have some music videos bookmarked and one never knows what random research and linking will point to other music videos (see below). Don't despair, Earwigoagin will, out of the blue, have a music post.

Another feature that seems to have disappeared from Earwigoagin is the posts about the beer I have been currently drinking. Nope, I haven't stopped sampling beer - by the time I get around to thinking about the beer I've been drinking, I've gotten confused about what and how did it taste. Better to drink and not worry about writing about it. However, here are some of the recent beers that made a decent impression on my taste buds;

  • Smashed Blueberry - by Shipyard - A sweet Scottish ale married with blueberry.
  • Sam Adams Winter Lager - A dark, spiced beer with a malt base which fits my taste.
  • Sam Adams Imperial Stout - A dark, dark, stout with a distinct licorice flavor.

And courtesy of random Net research, the Bonzo Dog Band, just recently featured in this post, a germane music video to beer (and other drinks to imbibe this holiday season).

And a very merry holidays to all of those out in the bloggosphere. (With these craft beers, you just need to slowly sip just one, roll it around the tongue once or twice.)

(With apologies to John Lennon and Yoko Ono.)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Shannon One-Design

Saturday morning saw me at West Marine, browsing their magazines (like all cheapskates who digest the content at the local bookstore rather than pony up some cash) and I read an article about the just completed Irish Raid in September with two of the classes comprising some really ancient vintage dinghies (the WaterWags go back to 1887 and the Shannon One-Design to 1922-23). There was a picture in the Classic Yacht magazine of the Shannon One-Design ripping along in 25 knots, a wow-ee photo which looked ripe for some further research, especially since they were designed by Morgan Giles, the go-to designer in the 1920's for the International 14's (before Uffa Fox came along). In doing so I stumbled across a very delightful documentary, put together by Irish TV, of a Irish farmer, Jimmy Furey, building the clinker Shannon One-Designs. Split into three parts on YouTube, of about 9 minutes each, this is a fascinating look at how sailing dinghies were put together at the beginning of the 1900's. Although my craftsmanship tilts more to slathering on thickened epoxy rather than finely shaping a piece of wood, synapsing an expertly guided plane, most of us can well appreciate the craftsmanship on hand shaping a boat (the first mechanical device is a planer that appears at the end of video 2) and chuckle at the down-home wisdom of a taciturn Irish farmer.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Ironing Board

The previous post about Ian Bruce reminds me that the Laser dinghy is now 40 years old (the actual anniversary is somewhat muddled - do we go with the first appearance of the "Weekender" at the TeaCup regatta in Wisconsin in 1970 or with the very successful introduction of the production "Laser" at the New York Boat Show in 1971). Tillerman made an oblique reference to the Laser reaching age 40 in this homage to his forty year love affair with Tillerwoman. The Laser is now so ubiquitous, found in every nook and cranny sailing water throughout the world, it is hard to imagine a world where the Laser was the newcomer.

I remember reading about the new "Weekender" dinghy in ODandOY (for young whippersnappers, this was the One-Design and Offshore Magazine, the forerunner to the now Sailing World magazine, of which Bruce Kirby was the editor and the organizer of the TeaCup regatta.) Although the Laser topped the results, there didn't seem to be much to choose from between the Laser and the other singlehander making it's debut on the national scene; the West Coast designed and built Banshee (based on a Flying Junior hull).

I saw my first Laser the first year they came out, 1971, though the dates, times, chronology and characters have been clouded by the years. It was Septemberish and I, as a Midwestern college student from Miami University of Ohio, who couldn't get enough of dinghy racing, had finagled an invitation to the University of Wisconsin Hoofers Intergalactic Tech Dinghy Championships. And as was common and completely normal for a college student who didn't own a car in those years, I hitchhiked those 400+ miles through Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and into Wisconsin (this may have been the trip where I spent the wee-morning hours trying to sleep on the hard seats in the bright lights and elevator music of the Milwaukee Airport - hitchhiking being a very non-linear form of travel - but this may have been on another hitchhiking foray into Wisconsin).

The Hoofers Club Intergalactic Tech Dinghy Championship put their 40 or so Tech dinghies on the line, a singlehanded championship that featured mostly current Hoofer's skippers or alumni such as the Harken brothers, Peter Barrett, Charlie Miller and I'm sure there were some scow champions sprinkled in as well. The weather was warmish, the breeze about 8-10 and I finished somewhere in the middle, middle-to-back. A great regatta. There is always something special about the Midwest lake sailing hospitality. On the way back out, I arranged to stop at Peewaukee, Wisconsin where Vanguard/Harken Blocks and North Sails Midwest (Peter Barrett and Charlie Miller) were neighbors in a business complex. Vanguard was closed when I showed up but there was someone at North Sails to show me around the loft. Tucked in one corner was this oddball dinghy with a completely flat deck.

"What is this?" I asked.

"Oh, this is the new Laser dinghy." came the reply.

"What a weird looking deck!" I was having a hard time getting my brain around something so flat looking.

"Yeah," the North sailmaker said, "Around here we've nicknamed them the Ironing Boards."

I nodded in agreement. At that moment I couldn't imagine a boat so different looking (yes, even ugly) ever getting off the ground.

Later that fall I hitchhiked into Annapolis to crew in an International 14 regatta. Good friend Sinjin Martin, who had been selling Ian Bruce's International 14's to the local fleet, was Annapolis's first Laser dealer and they had been selling like gourmet cupcakes. He stuck me in a Laser for a test sail. Light, fast, responsive; when I stepped back onto the dock at SSA I knew this was a special dinghy.

And that ugly flat deck - that kinda grew on you.