Sunday, November 25, 2012

Extreme Speeds

The New York Times web version has a front page video in its extreme sports series - about kite surfing champion Rob Douglas seeking to regain his world sail speed record that was recently broken by the Vesta Sailrocket.

I had mixed emotions reading it - it was great to see sailing on the front page of the NYT but sailing at extreme speeds in specially constructed canals several inches deep is so far removed from the sailing that most mortals do that it seems to me a poor way to promote the sport to the general public.  As someone says at the beginning of the video, it is like driving a Formula One race car.

Which reminded me of a debate I used to witness with respect to sponsorship of Formula One races in general.  From a marketing point of view, is it a smart investment?  Sure, there is great brand exposure but are the colossal sums likely to pay off by really convincing enough consumers to purchase a particular brand of car, tire or whatever?  Personally I would not make much connection between the hyper-sophisticated machine on the Formula One track and the car or tire I am considering.

Back to sailing, one could say that the new America's Cup is pretty far removed from our weekly dinghy racing but it is really just pushing an existing format/activity to another level - admittedly out of reach of most sailors, but I personally applaud the new format and think it has a much better chance of attracting spectator interest than the traditional America's Cup.  And I really enjoy watching it with the graphics.

Another thing that annoyed me about the NYT video - particularly as a front page exposure to sailing -  was its heavy dose of sensationalism - featuring clips of some kite-surfing idiot who jumped over Brighton Pier and an even bigger idiot who took a bone smashing jaunt in hurricane force winds.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Otherwise Occupied Again

As I reported before I had neglected my blogging in September for a good reason - the marriage of my daughter.

It happened again - my other daughter  - and I plead happily guilty.  Needless to say, the same emotions ran high and it was an experience to cherish.

Although they don't celebrate Thanksgiving in this part of the world, I certainly have plenty to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Hiking Strap

As I mentioned in my previous post, I drove a safety RIB in our race last week and was able to closely observe the top Laser sailors do things that elude me.  Our Kiwi, who won the race, had borrowed my Laser and since for some reason it doesn't win races with me at the helm, I thought it worthwhile to study his technique.

His Scottish competitor was better downwind, but on the beats the Kiwi was clearly superior.  Afterward, he said that with the wind at 12 -14 knots he thought it would be a good opportunity to use his fitness - and he did, with a lot of serious hiking resulting in a particularly flat boat upwind.  His competitor had more finesse downwind but was not in as good shape physically and was visibly tired on the last long beat.

The following day, I took my Laser out and discovered an important element in the Kiwi's success (in addition to good abs) - he had loosened the hiking strap drastically compared to where I keep it, which allowed him to hike with his bum far over the side of the boat.  I had noticed that he was hiking with his body very low to the water and the looser hiking straps certainly allowed that.   Trying the loosened straps, I realised how much easier it is to get weight (yes, I refer to my bum) further out with more leverage.  However, in this position, hiking pants with a hard pad is absolutely necessary - without them, one's hamstrings quickly become sore as they press against the gunwale.   The only thing I don't like about the loosened straps is that in lulls it is harder to get your weight back inside and I had to occasionally grab the strap itself to pull myself in.  But overall, I am a convert, at least for stronger wind.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Death Roll Stance

We had nice race wind last weekend with 12-14 knots.  I was driving a RIB safety boat and got to observe the Laser race leaders more closely (when sailing, I usually have a distant view of their sterns).  The Scottish fellow who lead most of the way (but who was overtaken on the last leg by our Kiwi) was impressive with his downwind sailing - working the small waves very adroitly. And at least twice he seemed about to succumb to a death roll but recovered nicely.

After the race we got into a discussion about downwind runs.  He said that for optimal performance you need to keep the boat just on the edge of control - with the vang off and the centerboard up.  With the twist in the sail, gusts will be pushing directly on the top of the mast and accentuating the leverage and setting up a death roll - so you have to be ready to react quickly.

He asked me how I would sit downwind and I showed him - sitting at the front of the cockpit to get the transom out of the water - but mainly sitting on my bum.  He put his hand on my shoulder and said - OK, now if I apply a little force here (pulling me slightly back toward the side of the boat) what happens? Quickly losing my balance backward, it was obvious.  

He showed me his stance for downwind in all but the lightest of breezes.  You basically face almost forward, with a four point stance.  Assuming you are on port tack, your left leg is bent, at the front of the cockpit, with about 3/4 of your weight on your left foot in the front left corner of the cockpit and some weight on your bum which is against and slightly sitting on the left side of the cockpit. Your right knee is behind, against the other side of the cockpit and your right foot is under the toe strap (from right to left) with your right foot touching the left side of the cockpit, ready to push against it.  You are nicely braced and balanced on four points - left foot, left bum, right knee and right foot.  You are ready to shift your weight to either side.

I tried it the next day and it works nicely for me.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Different Disasters

After reading the many posts describing Sandy's wake - especially in New Jersey - I am very thankful to be able to report that I don't have much to report on, other than life more or less as normal. We had another regatta over the weekend and I crewed with another colleague in an RS400.  No major mistakes and relatively good starts. Third place overall.

I really felt for those in the Northeast and their hardships and am very glad that Baydog, FrogmaGeorge and others came through without a major disaster scenario.

Of course there were people who lost their lives or their houses and many communities suffered devastation that will have long lasting effects.

I had an interesting conversation last night over dinner with a Lebanese friend that caused me to reflect a bit.  We talked a bit about the ravages of Sandy and he said that a friend from New York had described the situation to him as like a "war zone".  He said that for someone from Lebanon, that was a bit much.  He wasn't meaning to belittle the real suffering, but he meant to distinguish between a natural disaster and a human-made war disaster.  It made me think - living any disaster is bad enough, but how hard it must be to live a human-made war disaster - lasting an unknown and often very long time, perhaps involving enemies who were once neighbors.  And no opportunity to come together as a community to repair the damage, let alone hoping for any government help - and being mostly ignored by the rest of the world.  How utterly soul destroying that must be.
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