Sunday, May 22, 2016

Toestrap Adjustment

While rigging up for our weekly races, I chatted with our Kiwi sailor, who in addition to being our best sailor is a very nice fellow, always ready to share tips and strategies.

The line holding my toestrap had broken just before a race last week and I had repaired it temporarily with a bit of line I had with me.  Now I was replacing it with something a bit better and I asked our Kiwi how he thought I should thread the lines.  He took the time to show me how he does it, but most importantly, we told me how he would set the looseness for upwind - he sets the toestrap so that I you pass a stick under it at its highest point, the stick would rest on the deck on both sides.  The point of this is to make straight leg hiking easier - and it does.

I had been using the toestrap tighter than that - why I really can't say.  But once I loosened it to what he suggested it did make straight leg hiking easier, with the calves more in line with the deck and not pushing down on the corner of the cockpit.

I did relatively well in our first race, finishing in the top quarter of the fleet. In the second race I did even better - but was also OCS which I learned about almost at the finish line.  The tide was pushing all of us toward the start line and I was struggling not to be pushed over, backing my sail and hoping. I heard no signal and saw no X flag so I thought I was lucky and sailed blithely on. But, it turned out the lack of signal and X flag were the result of a new member serving as Race Officer for the day - and who didn't know about those details.  Oh well.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Friday Luck

I have often wondered why I make so many mistakes in our races and why my boat speed is the same as a Laser dragging 2 large anchors.

I now have the answer - because I am racing on Fridays.   As John Vigor explains in his excellent blog, Friday was the day of Frigga, the Norse goddess of love and fertility, the wife of Odin, the most powerful of all the Northern gods.  Then when the Christians came along they claimed she was a witch and all sailors became very superstitious about starting a voyage on Friday.

I get it now. Frigga is watching me, incensed that I have started my race on Her Day.  She sends her minions to wait for me at the windward mark, snarling my mainsheet just before I need to bear away.  And then they scoot down to the leeward mark, making sure I round up just a tad too quickly after the gybe, catching my boom in the water and laughing derisively as I take a swim.

Yes, I know everyone else in the race also started the race on Friday, but they somehow escape her wrath. Have they made some burnt offerings before the race?  Sacrificed a goat ? Do they know some ancient Norse incantations ?

Are there any Frigga worshippers among my readers that could suggest the best remedy (not involving hard work and more training) ?

Sunday, May 8, 2016

International Regattas

I really love international regattas - seeing all nationalities having fun together.

At the recent Asian Federation Youth Championships, where I was on the jury, I took the above snapshot of a Greek and Turkish Optimist together.  In fact, the story is even better - the Turkish family stayed in the Greek family's house in Abu Dhabi.

Sailors came from 13 countries and the race officials/organizers were from: Turkey, Singapore, Japan, India, Holland, USA, Morocco, UK, Oman, UAE.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Maltese Laser Clinic

I just spent 4 days at a Masters Laser Clinic in Malta with Sailcoach.  This is my first Laser clinic so I can't really compare it to others in the market, but I was 100% satisfied.  One of the other masters at the clinic had previously done Laser clinics at Minorca, Dominican Republic and Greece and he said this one was the best.  I am not surprised.

First, Malta is spectacular sailing - both in the harbor surrounded by beautiful old forts, churches and citadels.  Check out the photos on their website.

View from the yacht club with the Irish flag raised on 17 March.

It was really nice (and, I admit, occasionally a bit distracting) to look up and see the lovely old architecture all around.  Going outside the harbor is also very nice with some waves to play or contend with.  We had one day outside the harbor with 20+ knots and close, choppy waves - I didn't handle that well.  After about 20 minutes in the washing machine, 3 of us Masters returned to the harbor where the wind was the same but the waves were absent.  So, clearly for me the waves were the problem, not the wind.

But the best part of the program is the Sailcoach personnel.  It is owned by Trevor Millar, a genial Irishman who constantly went above and beyond the call of duty in making it a very pleasant stay for the masters - he took us to great little restaurants we would never have found on our own (including a great wine bistro in the old city with superyachts, including the Maltese Falcon, parked nearby) and personally transported us from and to the airport.  And since our stay included March 17, he even took us to a St. Patrick's Day party. And with a smile at all times.

Trevor has been coaching for over 35 years and used to be based near Toulon, France but moved to Malta 3 years ago. He coaches Olympic sailors and some, shall we say, not yet Olympic Master sailors like me.  And we were lucky because every day, we had short races with the Olympic sailors he is currently coaching - who were very nice and fun to chat with after.  Most of the races were organized so that all had a good experience.  They were windward-leeward with 2 laps and we all started together. Of course, the Olympians pulled away from us relatively quickly (except for one Irish master who generally kept a respectful distance behind them and even beat 2 of them in one race when he caught a gust they missed). Then they would round the leeward mark and stop, waiting for us to catch up (no, don't ask how long they had to wait) and then we would all do the second lap together.

Our instructor was Miguel - a rather laconic but very friendly and enthusiastic Portuguese sailor.   My colleague who had done the other Laser clinics made the point that at one of them the instructor devoted most of his time to the top 2 or 3 sailors, neglecting the others. That was not the case here - Miguel was very attentive to everyone and seemed genuinely interested in helping each of us - both on the water and in the video debriefs.   And he was very insistent on basics - returning constantly to the basics. He said that was especially important, even in training the Olympic athletes. Of course they are looking for refinements in techniques and small details to adjust, but sometimes it was the most basic thing that had to be looked at again. For instance, one of the Olympic sailors was not satisfied with his speed and tried all sorts of things, until finally, closely re-examing videos with a fresh look, he and Miguel noticed that he was actually pointing a bit too high and losing speed.

Miguel was assisted in debriefs by Alex, a Moldovian Olympic hopeful. He raced with us every day and offered tips on the water and did one video debrief that was very thorough. A very likeable fellow.

The accomodations were in a simple but adequate hotel that was a pleasant 15 minute walk away along the waterfront.

Am I better sailor now?  Well, at least I understand a number of things I was doing wrong and picked up some tips that should be helpful.

I am ready to return.

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