Friday, December 28, 2018

Foiling in the hands of the Olympians

There has been a lot of digital ink from the sailing punditry community on how foiling is going to change sailing. No longer are we to bash and pound, or surf and plane, but rather fly... that is the future! So without further comment, let us observe how the Olympic Nacra 17 and their professional sailors play the foiling game; in one of the qualifying races at the Aarhus World Championships. (Though it must be admitted, compared to the Moth, which foils all around the course, the Nacra 17 must be considered semi-foiling as it doesn't fully fly upwind.)

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Header Photo: Stuart Walker: Over the Bar

The previous header photo was of the legendary Stuart Walker, on the plane in his International 14, US 578, a Fairey Mk VI. The photo was taken in 1956. The crew was his college room-mate. If I remember correctly, this photo was included in one of his first books, "The Techniques of Small Boat Racing."

This past November, age 95, Stuart Walker passed on.

I've written about Stuart Walker before on Earwigoagin. Of all the Type-A competitors in sailboat racing, he was the most singular human being I have come across. Stuart, for his entire adult life, was obsessed with winning sailboat races. It wasn't unusual to wander down to Severn Sailing Association, his beloved home club, and see Stuart, age 90 or so, climb up the ladder, clamber in the cockpit of his Soling sitting on the hard on the trailer, to look carefully at a new jib. It wasn't unusual to see Stuart, age 90 or so, and his crew launching the Soling in the winter to go sailing by themselves to tweak something that wasn't quite right the weekend before. (Stuart loved winter sailing and the SSA Soling fleet had a winter series.)

Stuart readily admitted that, if he won on the weekend, it set him up for a happy week; if he lost on the weekend, the following week was not happy as he analyzed and came up with a plan to return to the top.

The result of this constant striving to be a winner was a spate of books and magazine columns that covered all aspects of winning sailboat races; boat handling, tactics, tuning, weather, psychology and sail trim. For my generation they were the bibles and they were frequently referenced in post-race kibbitzing. Most of Stuart's writing on tactics and wind were of his own races, good or bad, and he could present his failures with unvarnished clarity.
"My disastrous showing in the Ice Bowl of '68 prompted my competitors to remark that I wouldn't write that one up for publication. However, disaster to me is a challenge which demands the salvage of some profit. I barely fought my way out of last in the final yards of the race but I learned something and I can write about it!"
Yacht Racing, February 1972

This past August, Stuart had a party down at Severn Sailing Association to introduce his latest book, a history of Severn Sailing Association. I bought the book. I've owned several of his books, which I read cover to cover, but they seem to have gone missing. In my library, Stuart's last book will have to do. He will be missed.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Mystery Sailing Canoe - How her identity was solved.- Part 1

Every once in a while I get dragged into trying to identify an obscure vintage small sailboat. I find it fun in a way; a test of your knowledge of sailing history.

Back in the beginning of November I received an email from sailmaker Douglas Fowler regarding the original provenance of the design of a sailing canoe model  he just bought off Ebay. (Doug, at one point, had collected two of the most historically significant 16X30 decked canoes, Mermaid and Tomahawk.)

The original Ebay photo of the model Doug bought:

Photos of the model on Doug's loft floor.

Doug was wondering if the model was a early rendition of an International Canoe and was missing the sliding seat. This started a back and forth between several "experts" which I'll detail in Part 2 of this series.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Music Whenever: Rufus Wainwright, Sting, "Wrapped Around Your Finger"

Rufus Wainwright is best known for the lush orchestration and the Broadway show tunes vibe of his songs. No surprise that we have the same here with Rufus, Sting and a large ensemble coming together in this very cool version of Sting's "Wrapped Around Your Finger".

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Three Rivers Race: I can't get enough of Dylan Winter!

If I had a bucket list (which I don't; I am more of the type to play it by ear, see what life offers up, and see what falls out), racing in the U.K Three Rivers Race on the Norfolk Broads would be at top. I have written several posts over the years about the Three Rivers Race, most of the posts featured the superb Dylan Winters videos which have since disappeared. However, this Dylan Winter video on the Three Rivers Race has resurfaced and is a perfect summery antidote for a Mid-Atlantic evening where we are bundled up in an early December cold-snap and the temperatures at night have been dipping well below zero.

Dylan Winter is asking those who enjoy his videos to consider contributing some cash. His website is over here.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

12 Sq. Meter Sharpie: Another Dylan Winter Short

I've written about the 12 sq. meter Sharpie before in Earwigoagin. (The Sharpie was the doublehander class at the 1956 Olympic Games.) Here is a video about the small fleet of vintage 12 sq. meter sharpies based out of the tidal rivers of northern Norfolk, U.K., done by one of my favorite sailing videographers, Dylan Winter. Dylan Winter started off documenting his circumnavigation of the U.K. coastline in a Mirror 19 (under the "Keep Turning Left moniker"), then put his videos behind a paywall, and has now brought them back out in the light for public viewing. I am always fascinated by odd-ball, local fleets of one-designs. The 12 sq. meter Sharpie has the added photogenic quality of being gaff rigged.

Other Earwigoagin posts on the 12 sq. meter Sharpie:

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Where in the heck is sailing going?

I came across this interesting video this past week. Marketing guru and avid sailor (with Olympic classes in her resume), English-woman Liz Rushall gave a talk sponsored by the RYA (Royal Yachting Association for the Yanks) and presented a gloomy assessment of where the sport of sailing is headed. The video is 40 minutes long; well worth watching if you have the time. If you don't, here are my takeaways from Liz's talk:
  • The only population segment where sailing is growing is with the old farts. They are retired and have the time and money.
  • Everywhere else it is declining.
  • Those with families are running their kids around to their activities, which have grown exponentially. Sailing is not a family activity anymore.
  • Most worrisome is the millennial's. They are not interested in how we have set up sailing over the past 70 or so years, with private clubs and weekend racing. They are not interested in hard-core competition, they are into shared experiences with friends.
  • If you have a class where it is expected that you need to be mucking around with your sailboat during the week to prepare for the weekend wars - you may be headed the way of the dinosaurs. The millennial's aren't into that either.
Liz is pushing for a complete rethink. Shall we blow it all up?

Coincidentally, last weekend I had a 15 minute conversation with Jonathon Phillips, the new commodore of Severn Sailing Association. Jonathon has a very solid dinghy racing pedigree, in both the Laser and the 505. He was rather non-committal about what and by how much Severn Sailing Association need to bend their very strong racing program to this new data. He did say that millennial's, when confronted with the much higher dues rate for the club boat model, they generally head for the door. He acknowledges that new boat prices, even for sailing racing dinghies, are generally out of reach for many millennial's (and if we believe the marketing survey, they don't care anyway).

Two years ago I wrote this post: Whither the Millennial's. It's worth reading the comments to this post as those who put a comment up are close observers of the sport.

I've dragged two comments from two of my favorite bloggers out into the main post. From Kiwi Alden Smith.
"I think the worriers and hand wringers with their evangelistic attitudes to maintaining and increasing sailing, with their plans and graphs and charts and mission statements about growth should simply stop worrying and go sailing. Future generations will choose how they will use their leisure time themselves.

And from Tillerman of
"Personally I don't need a fancy yacht club with tennis courts and swimming pools, or 200 boat regattas, or harbors and marinas crowded with big fat old yachts to enjoy sailing. All I need is about 6-10 friends who want to race the same small singlehanded boat as me and I am happy. I have enjoyed doing that in Lasers, Sunfish and RS Aeros over the years. If others want to build wooden boats, or blast around on a kiteboard, or potter around on a boat you can sleep on and poop on, then good luck to them.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

The Contender: Always on the Outside Looking In!

Speaking about singlehander classes trying out for the Olympic circus, one cannot forget the Contender. This Ben Lexcen design was a winner over a set of three singlehanded trials in the 1960's with the express aim to replace the Olympic Finn. Never happened. This didn't stop the class from prospering. Another set of great videos from the same videographer that brought you the Garda Europeans for the Europe Dinghy, featuring the Contenders and their jolly skippers on the trapeze.

The Contender is one of the few International classes where wooden boats (in this case beautiful cold molded versions) remain competitive. Huzzah! Huzzah! for classes that have woodies racing for their championships.