Saturday, June 1, 2013

Stopper Knot

The Laser is a physical boat - what else would you expect from an Olympic class?

But that does mean that an aging body has issues to contend with and at our race yesterday mine contended.

It was our Monthly Mug which is one 90 minute race and we had great wind (16+ knots) and a tide that was one of the stronger ones I have experienced here. Even though it was with the wind it managed to create various swirling, choppy patches with the added bonus of wind holes -  a real washing machine at places.

Rigging up, I pushed hard on the top part of the mast to get it into the bottom part and my hand  slipped and cut a couple of fingers - not an auspicious beginning.

But never mind - I had a good start.  Doug's recent advice about getting into clean air quickly was fresh in my mind and concentrated on that.  I headed for the pin end and was alone there, finding plenty of clean air. I tacked onto port after a couple of minutes and easily crossed ahead of several starboard boats that started close to the Committee Boat. I was third to the windward mark and doing OK. Then downwind across the channel.  I had a new Rooster sail and it had a fold all along the luff when going downwind with all the controls were off. I put on a bit of vang and that got rid of the fold but I am not sure it helped the overall shape.  After the race I asked our bosun about it and he said that the Rooster sails are very stiff in the beginning and with a bit of use the problem should disappear.

Still doing OK and then on a routine gybe I capsized for no particularly good reason. Oh well, I thought, just get it back up and carry on.

Nope - as I started to right it, expecting it to swing into the wind as usual, the boom remained horizontal and would not move.  Something amiss. As it came up more, I saw that the stopper knot in the mainsheet had come loose and the sheet had come entirely out of everything up to the boom becket and had wrapped itself in such a way that the boom was now held almost amidships.  I realised I could not right the boat with the boom swinging free which meant it would certainly blow over again.  Luckily our RIB was not far away and I motioned for him to come over. While he helped a bit, I spent the next 15 minutes or so in a very frustrating time of undoing the mainsheet and re-rigging it in the boat on its side. Having to undo knots in the sheet a couple of times. And thinking to myself, I am getting too old for the crap.  Or some such nonsense.

Finally things were resolved and the pack was coming by after having gone around a couple of marks. I joined them and just sailed the rest of the course for fun and practice with a DNF.

Afterward I was tired and sore. Of course I expected that since I had not sailed or been to the gym for over 2 weeks. But I was wondering if the Laser (or any physical dinghy) is still the boat for me. There are so many things to like about dinghies but it is also a fact that their physicality will become increasingly a potential source of frustration.  Of course most of that frustration would be the result of attitude - like thinking I am competing with athletic sailors 40 to 20 years younger - which is certainly not an intelligent thing to do. And certainly part of a vain wish to rebel against getting older.

But also while a Laser represents a very pure form of sailing right in the midst of the elements, its single sail simplicity also leaves a gap. I enjoy working with headsails and spis.  I may start doing some 2 handed dinghies along with the Laser.

And triple checking that my stopper knots are tight.


  1. Great post. But I'm sorry you had such a rough day. Laser sailing does get harder as you get older I think. And I do think it's a question of attitude.

    I may have to write a post myself about growing older as a Laser sailor and how that affects my attitude to sailing. Only come to think of it, my whole blog is really about that isn't it?

  2. glad you had the RIB nearby to help you out - that would have been tricky to resolve on your own!

  3. I laugh with Pam about this: I'm either stiff after I go sailing or stiff because I'm not getting enough exercise. Given the option, I choose the former and am grateful that we have a sport that we can enjoy far longer than with most other sports.

    Just showing up and being able to play with kids young enough to be our grandchildren makes us all winners.

  4. All you younger old guys are winners just for getting yourselves out on the water. If it still has to be Lasers, it's still way better than watching from shore.

  5. I played competitive soccer until I was 50, my dad played until his knees were gone well into his 60s and still plays goal keeper at 80. Sailing a Laser by comparison is pretty easy; it's a matter of perspective. Sail on my old friends. Never give up.

    1. Excellent advice - thanks. What are you doing now to keep yourself active and fit?


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