Saturday, June 27, 2009

Log Canoe Season Starts Today

The Chesapeake Log Canoe is the Chesapeake Bays most famous classic class with some hulls dating back to the late 1800's. Most of the owners have now hotted up the canoes with higher aspect blades, triradial sails, carbon fiber planks and the racing has a very keen fan base that watch the races from assorted powerboats. Island Blossom and Island Lark have been duking it out the past couple of years for the season championship. The class is based around St. Michaels MD but does travel to other venues on the Eastern Shore. A good YouTube showing the boardmen throwing their boards as well as the bail out after a capsize (support boat comes over and the masts have to come out first)......

Update: Andrew Campbell, 2008 Laser Olympic Rep was out on a log canoe that weekend and writes about it on his blog

Music for Friday; Joe Walsh, Funk#49

Saw Joe Walsh, early 70's in Cleveland. Memory is somewhat hazy but Joe is one mesmerizing guitar player.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Return of Eric Arens

Eric Arens was in town a week ago. He moved out to SF on the left coast some 20 years ago but we get to see him out East every five years or so. I am a member of the select club of Eric's International 14 crews back in the 70's and early 80's. From Annapolis that includes Ned Lawson, Roger Link, Dick White, Paul Weiss (somebody will have to fill me in on his West Coast crews). Eric still races the modern I14 with Alan Laflin (I think both Eric and Alan are 69 yrs in age) though they pick their days (as is their right!).

Eric learned to sail in an International 14; an extremely challenging ordeal but he persevered to become one of the top in the Annapolis fleet. Eric was always a very steady driver, you could depend on him to get around the course, sail side up, most of the time. Eric depended on his crews to give him tactical input, something rare in the 1970's, but which made crewing for him fun.

Eric was a talker; being a PHD physisist at NASA, he would sprinkle the sailing tales with interesting scientific topics. Eric was eager to learn, sailing or otherwise; if you had something interesting to talk about, he would listen intently. Just be ready for some probing questions if your logic was faulty.

After the days racing, the drill would be for Eric to help you get the I14 on the trailer and then he would be off, making his rounds of the dinghy park. It was the unwritten code of Eric's crews that you would put the I14 to bed. Eric might stop by and give you a hand and then he might not. You would shower and change and catch Eric still in his torn wetsuit and his torn canvas Topsiders..... still kibbitzing. If it was a cold day, Eric's lips were blue and he was shivering but he seemed not to notice. You would drive out and Eric was still talking. I don't know what time he got home but it drove his first wife nuts.

Tip of the hat to Bob Ames who hosted the party for old 14'ers to celebrate the return of Eric and to tell tall tales from long ago.

I'll have more from Eric Arens down the road

Laser Carving Downwind (vs. Finn)

No sooner did I post about Laser Carving Downwind than another YouTube popped up; this one of a Laser vs. a Finn downwind. As you watch the video you notice the Laser's course change is more radical than the Finn's. This is also one of Erik Bower's pithy observations; the Laser being lighter and more nimble than the Finn, there are more gains offwind for the Laser in the larger angles of up and down. That being said, the Finn class allows unlimited pumping when the wind is greater than 12 knots. Not sure if the wind is 12 knots but I would suspect the Olympic Finn sailors would be "air rowing" all the time in these conditions.

You may catch a glimpse of the dinghy ahead of these two, at one point rocking and rolling close to capsizing. This is a production RS300, longer, high aspect ratio fully battened rig, but the closest production singlehanded design to the narrow waterline Gen 2 Classic Moths. Mothist's who have sailed Mistral designs can sympathize. Sometimes the best way to get these Moths downwind is to eschew the fancy stuff, keep it bolt upright and steer for the mark.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

On the Road; Brigantine NJ

The Mid Atlantic Classic Moth Championships were this past Saturday; hosted, as always, by George Albaugh at the Brigantine YC. Brigantine is the next beach town north from Atlantic City, the East Coast gambling mecca. Sailing takes place on the back bay, hemmed in by marsh but still within clear sight of the Atlantic City skyline of casinos and wind turbines. Thirteen Classic Moths showed up despite an abysmal weather forecast.

Fellow road warrior John Z. and I went up in double deck trailer mode. Saturday's forecast, like the rest of the East Coast, was for rain and more rain. Luckily Sat. dawned cloudy with no rain but shortly after launching, around 10 am, a dark line appeared in the West and rapidly ensconced our racing in moderate to heavy showers. The plan was for five short races, back to back, to avoid the predicted thunderstorms of the afternoon. Well, we avoided the thunderstorms, and thankfully, the rain let up once the racing ended only to start up with a lighter drizzle when we packed the Moths up.

It was a light air day. The start line was short and the weather mark was tucked up under the weather shore to make for some very tricky conditions. The Classic Moths are like the 6 meter keelboat class, we divide our trophies up depending on the age and the speed of the various hull designs.

Mike Parsons, who owned the favored left end of the start line the last two races, won the higher performance Gen 2 division. Joe Courter, sailing his Maser (modified Laser) registered some high finishes to take Gen 1 (slower, higher wetted surface designs) and Greg Duncan took out the Vintage Division (restored hulls from designs dating from the 1940's and older).

Your humble scribe finished third in Gen 2; getting to the weather mark OK but getting stuck in the water in the calm zone compared to the high flying Mistral designs.

Some pictures from Ingrid Albaugh. Click on picture for a larger, higher res view.

Start with Harrahs casino and wind turbines in the background.

Erik Albaugh coming to grips with the narrow waterline Mistral design.

Exiting the dead zone around the weather mark. Raining pretty hard.

Approaching the reach mark.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Good breeze from the NE with a tricky chop. Tip of the hat to John Z for the photos.

Laser start

505 Upwind

Laser upwind

Bill Beaver flying his International Moth

Fuller Moore, Ted Morgan on RC duty

Downwind sailing; Laser carving the waves

Offwind sailing in Lasers has become very sophisticated compared to the 70's when I was racing. To facilitate surfing on waves, the top sailors have developed a radical carving technique of diving off by the lee and then heading abruptly up.

After TESOD racing, while munching on my dinner, I had the pleasure of talking offwind Laser sailing with a very articulate and knowledgable collegian, Erik Bowers, from the College of Charleston. Erik has aspirations for the Laser Olympic berth down the road but his explanations were so detailed he would make an excellent coach (he is spending the summer with the junior program at Tred Avon YC over at St. Michaels).

Here is what I gleaned from Erik;

  • Minimize tiller movement. Body movement and sheeting are the two keys. You must be balcanced in the Laser to facilitate rapid body movements.
  • Work perpindicular to the waves. This may not be the rhumb line course. If you are not sailing the rhumb line, you may have to work one angle harder to get back to the rhumb line.
  • Course change in Lasers can be up to +/- 40 degrees.
  • Heading up is mostly massive sheeting in. Erik grabs three handfuls of sheet to begin the head up and also in breeze, you need to throw your weight to windward. In lighter wind, you stay centered to help the Laser head up.
  • Body Movement fore and aft. If the waves are catching you, keep your weight forward, if you are faster than the waves, keep your weight back to keep the bow light.
  • This technique is mostly about feel and is hard to describe in words. Erik was bouncing around in his chair trying to demonstrate.

Here is a great YouTube video with Brendan Casey using onboard audio to give his description of how he carves a Laser offwind.

Music for Friday; I Just Want to Dance, Alison Jiear

A Broadway tune for a change of pace. I need to add some culture every now and again. How can you go wrong when you start and end the video with Mary Poppins?

From "Jerry Springer, the Opera"

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Culture Clash Redux

Tillerman has taken the coaching issue by the horns and ran hard with it. Bully for him! It's been fun to stand back and watch the fireworks. I have a couple of points I would like to add to my original post on the Culture Clash.

  • As I mentioned in a previous post, I was Vice Chair for Laser ACC for the full rigs and I cannot remember any coach boats at that regatta. Maybe the three young, fit and top notch Canadians (who I assume were on the Canadian Olympic Development Squad) had a coach boat, but it was so inconspicuous as to slip my memory. Five or six Laser sailors brought out waterproof duffel bags which they stored on the RC boat and retrieved between races if they needed a gear change. If adult Laser sailors at the ACC's, including one who sailed in the Quindao Olympics and many workaday Laser Joe's with a lot less hours in the Laser this year than a junior, if these adult Laser sailors can eschew individual coaches at a regatta, why is it any different for the juniors?
  • I am not against coaches. There is a time and place for them. If I wasn't such a cheapskate, I'm sure my sailing would benefit tremendously from some coaching ........ but sentiment seems to be trending on clamping down on selective coaching at regattas. I understand even the big money classes such as the Star and Etchells 22 have issued new rulings on coaching at regattas.
  • One other issue that doesn't seem to be addressed in this discussion. If juniors are getting top notch coaching and then Master sailor Mike Shmidt condemns juniors as by and large, rule cheats, then ipso facto, the coaches are teaching the kids to ignore the rules.

An interesting coach/pupil turnaround; at the Laser ACC full rig regatta, Olympic boardsailor Farrah Hall (yes the one that beat US Sailing upside the head with the IOC) was watching her Olympic manager, John Bertrand, racing .... unfortunately with two OCS for the day.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Tom Price Illustration; Windrustler

Good friend Tom Price, knowing my interest in all things to do with Classic International 14's, sent along one of his charcoal illustrations of Tom sailing his International 14 over in England, circa probably early 1980's. Although Tom doesn't make a living as a professional artist, his work has illustrated Stuart Walker's books and one of his drawings hangs in my living room.

Tom currently is a top competitor in the Star and 210 fleets as well as a crack helmsman on several larger keelboats on the Chesapeake Bay.

From Tom's email;

"Windrustler" winning "Old Boats Prize" at POW, Hastings, sailed by Tom Price, Louis Phillips from Annapolis, Md. Super Casson III design, McCutcheon built originally for Jeremy Pudney,

Music for Friday; Southside Johnny, Bruce Springsteen

Late again.

Another rocking live performance.

Hope you have a foot tapping, body swaying Sat. nite party for this summer day.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Laser ACC Radials; Culture Clash?

The companion event to the Laser ACC Full Rig event, the Laser Radial Atlantic Coast Championship, was held by SSA this past weekend. Another light air event with about half the sailors comprised of juniors. The juniors walked away with the top five placings. In talking to a couple of oldsters competing (oldster here being over 30) I got universal negatives about the number of coach boats employed by the juniors. Comments ranged from "annoying" on the RIB's buzzing about the race course to the snide "I would have done better but I didn't bring my coach with me". Certainly if we conservatively estimate that a coach for the weekend probably cost around $880 to $1000 for their services, I don't think this Opti mentality was appreciated by the weekday working stiff/ Laser weekend warrior.

And then in today's Annapolis evening rag, The Capital , we have this comment by Mike Schmidt, top Master at the Laser Radial ACC,

Schmidt said he has noticed one drawback of competing against younger sailors and that involves a complete disregard for the rules. The Pasadena resident said he has come to accept the fact that fouls will occur constantly and that no one is going to perform penalty circles.

Whew! that is one damning quote, particularly since even regular Laser racing can be like the Wild West.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Restored Aussie scow

Brit Len Parker, knowing my weakness for all things scow related, sent along pictures of an Aussie scow Moth, vintage late 60's, that his buddy Ray restored over the winter.

From Len;

Thought you might like this. I've just spent 10 days on the Isle of Wight. While I was there , my sailing mate Ray & I got the wingless Imperium design scow Moth "Billabong" in the water. The first time she had been sailed in over 30 years !


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Phil Bolger and the Alternate Universe

Phil Bolger, the prolific boat designer, died last week. Phil didn't design racing sailboats; you won't find a fleet of "Martha Jane" designs doing a NOOD regatta, nor will you find a fleet of Windsprint's sitting wrapped in top and bottom covers in a dinghy park. As far as I know, Phil had only one production fiberglass design, the Dovekie. Phil did over 700 designs. Some of them were weird concepts.... in the realm of lets throw this against the wall and see what sticks.

A racing sailor, if he recognizes Phil Bolger's name at all, knows him as a eccentric designer of boxy, high sided, plywood craft sporting classic rigs; lug, gaff, sprit .... the "Instant Boats". That was also my opinion of him when I was in my twenties. But with age, comes wisdom, and an understanding of the creative genius of Phil Bolger.

What Phil did was create an alternative yachting universe; just like Hobie Alter did with the beach cats and Hoyle Schweitzer did with the Windsurfer. Phil's plywood boxes were easily homebuilt and today, with other designers working in the same medium (Jim Michalak), there is an entire boatbuilding/sailng/cruising culture that shows up to myriad Messabout gatherings such as Cedar Key (80 boats) and Mid Atlantic Small Craft Festival (close to 200 craft). Phil was the original American homebuilding beatnik that presaged by 30 years today's boat building boom in kayaks, and canoes, a boom fueled by "make your own boat kit" companies as Chesapeake Light Craft and Pygmy.

Phil wasn't just box boats, he had an encyclopedic knowledge of North American maritiime history and he could draw a curvaceous schooner, a dory, a rum runner speed boat, a traditional cat boat..... with the best of them.

Phil, like many successful designers was a good promoter, writing monthly design brief columns in "Small Boat Journal" and "Messing About In Boats". His books published detailed plans of many of his boats, so much so that you could build his boats out of the books and avoid the royalty fees, as I assume many cheapskate sailors have done.

I will have more on Phil Bolger boats down the road. If you tire of reading one of your several books on Laser racing, I recommend you pick up Phil's book "Boats with an Open Mind" to get a flavor of his multifaceted genius.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Tuesday Night Racing Commences

I raced my first Tuesday night for 2009. It was my varnished Classic Moth again, in and amongst the Lasers at SSA's TESOD (acronym definition - Tuesday Evening Sailing One Design). I did this a fair amount last year as well though most Laser sailors think I'm some kind of nutter. The Classic Moth is slower than the Laser (with one or two exceptions) so I've tried to come up with a slow boat game plan. It's tough when you can't hold your lane after a start, or sail deeper offwind angles like the Lasers with their unstayed rigs. Avoiding bad air, you usually end up early to the laylines upwind, which in short course racing, can be either all right or all wrong. Offwind, my higher angles usually put me also out on the edges. I count it as a good race if I manage to finish mid fleet.

One of the attractions of racing Lasers is getting the Classic Moth closer to Laser speed. Part of the fun is tweaking the Classic Moth in ways completely foreign to the Laser fraternity; new sail designs, different masts, even different hull designs!. I've made progress but since I rank myself somewhere between number 6-8 nationally, there are other Classic Moth sailors that would keep it closer with Lasers.

Well this Tuesday was a good day against the Lasers. Very light air is one condition where my Classic woodie can hang with the Lasers and that is what we had. I had one of those days on the start line where the holes suddenly appear at 10 seconds and I managed to get to the weather mark in 2nd place twice. Offwind usually 5-6 Lasers would go by to get me finishes upper mid fleet.

Not bad, not bad at all.

A video of dinghy launching from one of last year's Tuesday racing.

Music for Friday; "Ten Years After" from Woodstock

Featuring Alvin Lee;