Sunday, February 28, 2010

Music for Fridays: The Cherry Coke$; Bullet for Vapid Beer

A high energy Japanese Irish band. Bring it!

Frostbiting vs Anything Else

I've been enjoying Tillerman on his great post about his travails in the current Newport RI Laser frostbite season . Frostbiting in small sailing dinghies is something I did in my twenties but now, at this stage in life, I cannot drag up any great enthusiasm for ice cream headaches, complete numbness in hands and feet, and having to pee, all the while encased in a waterproof suit that takes 20 minutes to put on or off. I must be approaching "old codgerism" where it is easier to relate tales of "when I used to chip ice out of the bilge and then brave multiple capsizes in gale force winds and frigid waters" than it is to actually go out and do it.

One of my substitute activities during the winter is ice skating. I jury rigged a head cam during an ice skating session at McMullen Ice Arena. My test market (did I say friends?) say it is my most boring video ever. One wag says it looks like I'm stalking the skate guards. Will this stop me from foisting this on my blog readers? No way!

Olympic Hockey is Over; Regular Programming will Resume

What a gold medal game! USA heart vs Canadian skill. Whew!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

America's Cup is Boring, Boring, Boring......

Certainly the just completed America's Cup in giant multihulls ranks up there with the other modern Deed of Gift match (1988 - Dennis Connor's cat vs. NZ Michael Fay's big Farr boat) as two of the most boring America's Cup matches ever. But the America's Cup as a visual sport, even with the old IACC keelboat class, is a dud. And with the professional's (technologists and sailors) driving the game, I fear it won't get any better. There's big money (meaning big boats with lots of technology) involved when the billionaires play the game. That's good for the professionals but not the game itself.

Let me detail what the Grand Poobah's directing the America's Cup have obviously forgotten;

  1. America's Cup = Watersport - The America's Cup is a watersport; a basic fact that seems to be lost among the technology, the litigation, the bigger, faster is better mantra, etc. The most dramatic scenes in the America's Cup are when water intrudes into the racing. Who can forget TNZ dramatically bailing the water out during the opening race of 2003 America's Cup? Who can forget the dramatic sinking of One Australia in 1995? Or the near sinking of Larry Ellison's challenger? Most pundits agree the 1987 America's Cup in the ocean off Fremantle, Australia as the best ever. Why is that? You had the slow, heavy 12 meters bashing their way through the breezy ocean swell, spray everywhere, solid water coursing down the decks. You had watersport! Contrast that with the America's Cup that just finished. I groaned when I was subjected to those long video shots from the aft quarter of BMW/Oracle. A solitary James Spithill, back to the camera, on this huge arm, suspended above what? Was there water down there? Was he supposed to be steering? Well, we needed the faraway helicopter video shot to show we are indeed racing on that medium called water. And even with the IACC keelboats, did spray ever make it back to the helmsman, tactician? Even with the onboard video shots taken from the stern of the IACC keelboats, we rarely saw water make it over the gunwhales.
  2. Sport = Action - Sport usually has humans running, jumping, kicking, throwing and so on. When sport has the humans as static drivers, it helps that the there is visual image of speed to attract the viewer (NASCAR, offshore powerboat racing). Sailing, unfortunately can be mostly static, both for human action and visual speed. I would say sailing is worse than golf (which in TV land has the ability to pan to many different golfers throughout the golf course, so even though the game of golf is mostly static, on TV there seems to be plenty of action to keep viewers occupied). When sailing explodes into action is in the course changes and where there are mistakes or breakdowns. So lets have racing with more course changes, in boats that require lots of crew movement, with the number of crew that are deliberately kept lean. I actually think you get more action with a boat like a 12 meter; large overlapping genoas that are a bear to tack, symmetrical spinnakers that require much more expertise in a gybe, that are low freeboard so that the crew must contend with solid water (see watersport above).
  3. Match Racing = Boring - Let's give a synopsis of match racing tactics as seen in 2007 Valencia. In the prestart we have the dial up where both boats shoot head to wind and stop. There is much shouting, gesticulating, waving of flags by the afterquard, until, after an interminable wait, the weather boat bails out. This must be totally bizarre, not to say boring to most viewers! Now the boats must get back to the correct side of the line. We have a parade of the leading, trailing boats sailing dipsy doodles through the spectator fleet. Eventually both boats turn for the line and since both crews are very practiced at this, they start right on time with maybe 1 1/2 to 2 boat lengths separation. Then for the next ten minutes it's speed on until one boat forces the other one to tack onto port. At Valencia, most often there was a left hand shift so the leading boat wouldn't immediately tack to cover, instead the leader would wait for the shift, tack, and then it was game over. Game over usually in the first 20 minutes. The viewer would then be subjected to the rest of the race where the two boats were usually sailing in two different parts of the course. Boring! Bring back fleet racing to the America's Cup, where there are much more boat on boat tactical decisions, much more course changes (see above; sport=action). They had fleet racing in the IACC class during the off years before Valencia and what little I saw of it, I thought it much more exciting than match racing.
  4. National Identity = Excitement - To sail for a yacht club in a country, you must be a citizen of that country. No carpet baggers! Most American sailors know there was only two Americans sailing on Ellison's DOGzilla winner. That puts a big asterisk out there. Multinational crews just reinforces the perception that the America's Cup is just a closed rich man's sport. I know, I know, New Zealand, Australia, England could stock two of three America's Cup with qualified professional sailors. What will we do with all those unemployed professionals? But National Identity is a big factor in sports interest to the general public. In Valencia 2007, one of the big stories was the Republic of South Africa, where if I remember correctly, the crew was all South African, inexperienced, but keen, and able to take some races off the big boys. I don't watch NHL hockey but I do watch Olympic hockey and the big factor in my enjoyment is the competition between nations and their citizens. Ovechkin plays for the Washington Capitals in the NHL. He plays for his country, Russia, and not the U.S. in the Olympics. Bring that back to the America's Cup.

There you have it. Let's have an America's Cup in smaller, less expensive boats that are close to the water (even in it at times), are hard to sail, give lots of action for everyone when turning. Let's have fleet racing as a major component of the Cup and let's keep everyone competing on the boats as citizens of the country they represent.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Worst Stream of Consciousness; Tillerman

Tillerman has another writing assignment; Worst Sailing Innovation Ever. I started out with the best intention to keep to the Tillerman topic but, alas, my stream of consciousness derailed it totally.

My original rant was straight forward; how the singlehanded assymetric dinghy was the worst sailing innovation ever. Why take something (an assymetric spinnaker) that is perfectly sensible when the duties of hoisting, flying and stowing are done by a crew, and then innovate the systems so now we can dump all that work on just one skipper. Pity the poor fool. First he pays a pretty penny for all the extra complication of the spinnaker gear and then he has to sail the damn thing. When he goes blasting down a reach, his total focus must be on the spinnaker and steering, not the reverie of the bow wave squirting out from halfway back on the hull. Heaven forbid, don't ever take a peek back at the stern wake, whooshing away flat and fast, lest that moments inattention put you in the drink. Good luck facing the arduous task of retrieving the spinnaker before righting the boat. Expensive, complicated, and tons of work... just doesn't make sense.

And to compound the foolishness, new assymetric singlehanded classes keep coming and coming. Two, the RS100 and Devoti D-One, have been introduced in the past eight months. Never mind that, except for the loony Brits, assymetric singlehanding has not been a marketing success.

But Mr. Smarty Pants blogger, how can you deny there are assymetric singlehanded sailors, normal blokes, who have geat fun blasting around under spinnaker, who love the speed, the difficulty and the challenge of doing everything themselves?. Plus, Mr. Smarty Pants blogger, wouldn't you say your beloved International Canoe is also a tad complicated with a sliding seat and a jib and you also loved the challenge of handling all this complication. Who are you to rail against complicated singlehanders? Hypocrite!

Hmm....Point well taken.

And then I thought.....I had it all wrong. What was worst about this, wasn't the assymetric singlehanded concept itself, but all the hype that surrounds this "innovation". All those magazines, big name professionals, and even a blogger or two that tout assymetric singlehanding as the next wave of singlehanded dinghy racing and how we all should throw away our current singlehanders and join the bandwagon. And this despite all evidence that the assymetric singlehander is a tiny niche market and will never make inroads on all those pokey singlehanded classes with one sail and one sail only. Even the Grand Daddy of sailing blogs, Sailing Anarchy, piled on more hype, somehow managing to finagle a trip to Italy to test sail the Devoti D-One and write how this was indeed the future of singlehanded sailing and that everyone should buy a Devoti D-One. What a Corporate tool!

Well Mr. Smarty Pants blogger, if you were offered a trip to Italy to talk up the Devoti D-One as the culmination of all singlehanded development, wouldn't you just get on with it and book that ticket without a second thought.

Err.... Point well taken.

And another thing Mr. Smarty Pants blogger, have you ever stepped foot in an assymetric singlehander? I thought not! This is just another ill informed rant to add to the legions of ill informed rants the Internet offers up on a daily basis. What a loser! It's people with attitudes like you who are keeping sailing in the dark ages. Just go back to your hole and take your Fuddy Duddy opinions with you.

Guilty as charged.

Two videos;

Here's a promotional video of the class that started all this craziness in the early 1990's; the MX-Ray

And a recent video of the Devoti D-One;

Cold here; Cold there.... Sigh!

If you're from the Mid-Atlantic seaboard, when you pack up the boats for a February Midwinters, it's going to be cold, maybe snowing or just snowed, sleeting, maybe a cold hard Northwester. You definitely will be wearing a knit cap to keep the bald head warm. But the expectation is Florida will be sunny and warm. Shorts, T-shirts, sun screen, flippy flops are all packed. But the three Florida Midwinters I've done have all been chilly to cold. This year we sailed Sunday with temps in the high 40's (Fahrenheit.... 9 degrees C), and overcast. So out came the wetsuits and knit caps. Sigh!..... maybe next year...........
Pics from John Z and Len Parker

Music for Fridays; Bright Eyes; "First Day of My Life"

Some of you who read my blog may have deduced that I was down sailing in Florida while my hometown was hit with a very nasty blizzard. Some of you who know me personally also realized that my wife was left to dig herself out by herself. And there was a record amount of snow! Well, she's tough as nails, and did it matter of fact, no complaining, and actually welcomed me back with open arms. Meanwhile what little snow removal I've done has left me with a sore shoulder and wrist.

Happy Valentines Day Jeanie!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Classic Moth Midwinters 2010

A quick synopsis. I'll have more to add later.

Team Annapolis arrived Friday to rig boats and have a practice sail, only to have a cold front roll through with torrential rains and gale force South winds. The boats stayed on the trailer while a large group had a late lunch in an Italian restaurant in downtown Gulfport; watching the horizontal rain and waves from Boca Ciega Bay crashing on the shore. Saturday's forecast was for 15-25 mph on the backside of the front and it didn't disappoint. The RC and some competitors put their game face on and ventured out, but it was too much. Racing was cancelled. Sunday dawned with a manageable 8-12 but cold; felt like November in Annapolis. Seven short races were quickly dispatched to make the series. Mike Parsons continued his string from 2010 to take the Midwinters. John Zseleczky took second and Mark Saunders third. Fourteen Classic Moths registered with 10 making it out on Sunday. Tip of the hat to local Mothboat Floridians for shelter, parties and brauts, burgers, beer........ Rod Koch, Jeff and Amy Linton, Merv and Barbara Wescoat, and the Gulfport YC Race Committee team.

A YouTube clip from Saturdays aborted attempt to get some racing in.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Music for Fridays; The Cornhole Song

This week, instead of being perennially late with "Music for Fridays", I'm early. What's up with that?

Tomorrow, I'm off to the Classic Moth Midwinters. The fact that I put the Classic Moth away after the Nationals in September, only to uncover her for this regatta, will mean much flailing around and gnashing of teeth on Boca Ciega Bay. But, not too worry. At the Classic Moth Regattas, there is much more than sailboat racing and that means playing the official Classic Moth apres-racing land sport....... Cornhole.

Cornhole is like portable horseshoes. Played with bean bags, the object is to sink them in a hole cut in a plywood base. Mothboat teams form up, dissemble, and reconmbine as the games keep rolling along till dinner. No one keeps track because most of us can get hot for a game and then stink it up the next.

So today, saluting the Classic Moth land sport, we feature Rhett and Link "The Cornhole Song".

Monday, February 1, 2010

Classic Moth tinkering; Different sail plan

The Classic Moth has a classic pinhead sail plan. There has been a small movement in 2009 by two Moth boaters to see what the boat would look like with a more "modern" sail plan.

Scott Sandell, who has assembled a fleet of cast off Europe Moth dinghies at the tip of Long Island, has been working with Farrar sails to develop a larger sail plan. His first attempt piled on the roach; I think about 18" more than the class legal sail at mid girth.

Picture of Scott's first sail....

A picture of Scott's sail sailed by Ed Salva next to a class legal Classic Moth.

Scott decided the first version was too powerful, especially for the light weights, and this fall came out with a smaller, less roachy sail.

Meanwhile, your blogger, spurred on by friends who said the class legal sail looked too "Classic", built a fat head sail with a straight leech (it met the Classic Moth mid girth rule). I raced it (non-scoring) at Chestertown in the summer. My thoughts at this time are it may be too powerful and may change the class too much. I need to do some more sailing with it in 2010. A picture of me with the fathead with George Albaugh in his Europe dinghy.

Long live the tinkerers!

Addendum; Email from Scott Sandell.......

My peeps are requesting you change your description of our fleet. We have two boats that won the world championships, three from the last Europe trials, and one incedibly beautiful Cristalli built in Belgium. Hardly cast offs! Thanks!

We feel we have the sail nailed. I cannot ever imagine the CMBA taking much of a look at it, but this design works for a wide variety of helms. Thanks for the encouragement along the way!