Saturday, January 7, 2017

Good While It Lasted

After several days of thick fog lasting until late morning - yes we get that in Abu Dhabi - it was a clear day on Friday, with winds predicted at close to 20 knots. They didn't get quite that high, but it was a good breeze.  A nice day for the first race of the New Year.

The race started well - I had a good spot midline and relatively clear air. I worked hard the first couple of minutes and found an opportunity to tack away.  Then, I realized our top Kiwi sailor was not ahead of me - how was that possible?  After the race he said he thought he was OCS and so had gone back.  Oh well, during the race, I was happy to indulge in the fantasy I was just sailing well.  I was first around the windward mark and had lengthened my lead to at least 5 or 6 boat-lengths at the gybe mark.

Then my luck ran out.  Concentrating on a smooth rounding with a gybe, I did a great job until my boom gently kissed the mark.  I thought I still had time to do a quick 360 before the others rounded the mark. I tacked and the others were just at the mark, I started to gybe when the first one was rounding the mark and I realized I would have to complete the gybe very quickly or I would be interfering with him. Haste then quickly made waste - or, more accurately, a swim.

And that was it - I capsized to windward, so that meant a second capsize to leeward (no California roll).  A good part of the fleet passed me and I managed to catch several boats but it was all over.  Just spent the rest of the race practicing.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Strange Beasts

I came across some fascinating art by Dutch artist Theo Jansen.  

His creations look and act very alive and are propelled by the wind - quite remarkable.  

Here is one video of his beach creatures.

He explains a bit more in a TED talk.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

An Embarassment of Embarrassment

Yesterday's race was in higher wind than we typically experience - close to 20 knots.  So, I wondered if I might get my sails washed.

The afternoon started well - sailing out to the race area I practiced gybing several times and everything went fine.  I practiced beating and tacking with the kicker pulled on hard and everything went fine.  I was keeping the boat more or less flat and congratulating myself.

Then the race started and things stopped going so fine.  At the start another boat capsized right in front of me and I almost slammed into it, but managed to somehow go around - making me a bit late for the start.  Never mind - I ended up at the committee boat end of the line with good clean air.   I was about 30 meters behind our top Kiwi sailor who was hiking like crazy keeping his boat flat - until he flipped over the side when his hiking strap broke.  So, he fell behind most of the fleet until he finally jury-rigged a repair to his hiking strap with the end of his main sheet - and proceeded to beat everyone by a long way.  We really have to discover where he hides the motor in his Laser.

I was doing well - in 3rd place with no major mistakes.  Then I got to the windward mark on the 3rd lap where the Committee Boat was parked to observe and be the eventual finish line.  And I proceeded to provide it with an eyeful to observe.

First, I misjudged the mark a bit and was pinching trying to get around it - but the tide laughed at that maneuver and pushed me into the mark.  Well, with the Committee Boat only a short distance away I had no choice but to do my penalty turn (not that I would dream of cheating if the Committee Boat had been far away).  So, I tacked and then gybed and then capsized.  Oh well, still not a disaster (yet).  So I righted the boat but the tide had already pushed me past the mark so I had to bear away and then tack to go around the mark.  No sweat - just a little tack.  But it was a tack with no speed, right into a wave. Smack. Stop. Scramble, praying for something positive to happen. Capsize.  This was starting to get a bit silly.

Dear readers - I am chagrined to report that before finally rounding the mark there followed two (or was it three?) more capsizes for no remotely good reason that I can honestly identify. Can I blame it on fatigue ? There was certainly that as my aching muscles abundantly attest this morning.  Can I blame it on slow tacking with insufficient speed? There was plenty of that as I was desperately trying to do everything as quickly as I could to be clear of what I was sure was an abundance of gleeful smirking on the Committee Boat.  Could I blame it on poor housekeeping resulting in the main sheet not running free and being too tight following a tack?  That happened - or at least it seemed to me to be happen - although at this point I was ready to blame anything other than a lack of skill/attention/care.

After finally rounding the mark I did not capsize again, but needless to say, I did not finish the race near the lead.  The leaders had almost lapped me, but I hasten to add that I was not last.  In fact, my good friend and arch rival who had managed to build a good lead on me after my adventures at the top mark, capsized coming into the leeward mark and the knot at the end of his main sheet came undone and when he righted the boat he discovered that his main sheet was completely undone.  He had to recapsize the boat and struggle a long time to get it operational again. I beat him - or more accurately, he lost to me.

The good news - we all had a lot of laughs in the bar afterwards.  And in retelling our adventures, I noticed that the wind speed increased dramatically with the number of beers. Maybe that was the reason for my capsizes.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Did Mozart Sail a Laser ?

I am not sure what the historians would say about Mozart and Lasers  (or the fact that Bruce Kirby allegedly invented the Laser after Mozart's demise).

But I think the evidence of Mozart sailing a Laser should not be dismissed.

A couple of weeks ago I was out for our weekly race and, as usual, once I was on the water everything seemed right with the world (except for my race skills - but that is another matter).  I was particularly struck by just how right everything seemed.  The quotidian cares of the world completely dissipated. My existential angst evaporated.  Silly worries over life, money, relationships, etc. simply floated away in the wake of my boat.  I honestly don't remember how I did in the race - it doesn't matter.  I knew that sailing in my Laser was a restorative balm and that I had been granted entry into a space that was, if not other worldly, at least close enough to sense the peace emanating from it.

Then last night I watched for about the 5th time Joseph Losey's amazing film of Mozart’s Don Giovanni.  And, several times during it, Mozart's breathtakingly beautiful music and the exquisite Italian setting transported me away to another space that was also far, far removed from the daily clutter and messiness of my life.  Mozart was clearly a genius and Don Giovanni is an absolute proof of that.  The story, like many opera stories, is better not examined too closely for logical consistency – but never mind - when the music is so heavenly, storyline logic is not very relevant.

So, what could have inspired Mozart to compose such incredible music?  It must have been something that allowed him to sense things beyond the everyday, beyond the ordinary.   Laser sailing immediately springs to mind as a possibility. In fact, listening to his operas is all the proof I need to know that he sailed Lasers.

But, just to be sure - is there anything else that might be evidence of his Laser experiences? 

We could look to the beautiful "Soave Sia Il Vento" trio from Così Fan Tutte which may well be another proof.  The lovers bid adieu to each other, singing “On your voyage, may the winds be gentle; may the waves be calm; may all the elements respond to your desires…”  I can well imagine that, following a few hours of Laser sailing in 25 knots, Mozart felt fully inspired to compose the lovely music as an ardent hymn to the wind gods.

There you have it. Who could doubt that Wolfgang was a Laser sailor.

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