Sunday, May 3, 2015

2015 Opener - Messy Messy Messy

Ron Baerwitz started using the nickname Ted "Killer" Keller. I have to agree. I beat Ted 3 out of 6 races and lost to him by 19 points. Ron put on a clinic on Sunday and Ted opened the door slightly, but Ted still won this regatta by 11 points, a mile in regatta score terms.

For me, this was the "shake off the dust" regatta. I literally had to get the winter storage dust off everything. The boat hasn't touched the water since Labor Day, and I haven't done anything sailing related since then either.

The too-small starting line for race 1 was crowded. It's really light air with big shifts. With 30 seconds to go, a puff rolls through the fleet and slides everyone left as they luff. A personal hole opens up at the boat just for me. Perfectly timed I have a great start. My butt puckers.

A couple years ago butt puckers were just normal. My pre-race routine is to spot both ends of the line, check the wind directions, watch the shifts, get the 5 minute flag on the watch, then look around for competition. With 3 minutes to go I pick an end. With 2 to go I set up trying to find the right people to set up around. Then I have to poop. No really. My body says "Um did you you forget to do something this morning?" It never fails. Even if my digestive health is perfect and it is a local club race, the competitive streak kicks in and the Imodium doesn't. One minute to go. Check the watch, check time and distance, squeeze, check the watch, keep the boat in position.

30 seconds to go and everything goes into overdrive. And without fail, I no longer have to poop. And I knew this 30 seconds ago! It always goes away. This was typical for all my E-Scow sailing (even as crew), and most of the start of my MC-Scow career.

But 2 years ago I "retired." I put the boat up for sale and decided to step down from the really competitive thing and just sail local and maybe a regatta or two. Other priorities and my middle aged body helped the decision along. I made a mental shift. I started sailing in "whatever" mode. That means lazy, fun, not serious, and the poopy issues went away. I didn't travel to regattas and only sailed my own regatta. The race I won there was because Ron Baerwitz went to the wrong mark.

Think of golf. You can play golf one of two ways: battling the course and your scorecard to see who wins, or striking each shot the best you can and whatever happens happens. I call the latter "whatever" mode. It doesn't mean not trying, it means not caring.

So Hoover always kicks my butt. My starts are bad, my scores are all over the place, and here I am the start of the first race with a great jump, a brand new sail, and it is looking super. The competition thing comes all washing back from 2 years ago and my butt puckers. See? It was a significant thing. You thought I was just being silly. Whatever mode went completely away.

So...I sailed into holes and out of phase turning a great start into a 20th ish place rounding and finished 15th before Matt Fisher withdrew after missing the offset.

Race 2...full butt pucker. I was 2nd row on port with 30 seconds to go, unable to find any space on the line. I tack into a tiny hole and get closed out. Then with 10 seconds to go tada! Think angel sounds. The boats trying to win the boat get stacked up and slowed. I flop to port and hit the line at the boat with speed. Another great start. In fact half way up the leg I'm leading, assuming no wind shifts. HA! It's Hoover. I round like 15th and wallow.

I spent the race reminding myself about "whatever" and changing my goals. Just figure out how to make the boat go fast. Just look 1 puff ahead not to the awards ceremony. Just pass THAT boat in front of you. Don't read sail numbers. They don't matter.

Race 3 is a long one. The wind is up a bit. The RC lengthened the course and made it a 5-lap race. So it will be a grind that sorts out the fleet. I get a good start and hit the shifts and I'm leading at the mark. I lead at the first 3 marks. But at the 2nd windward there is no wind. I have to be there. It's where the mark is. Between the mark and the offset a gang of boat comes down on me with the next puff I lose 5 boats in the next minute.

During the long downwind I pick up two or three and come off the bottom gate in a huge right shift in a drag race with Ron Baerwitz and Ted Keller. I sailed on port off the gate just 10 seconds longer than Ron and was able to stay high of his line getting some great speed runs down onto him. I rolled him half way up the leg and he takes a hitch behind me. Ted was to leeward a bit and 3 lengths ahead and we are on a layline for the finish. I work my traveler to work down on him and stay above his line and get an overlap. 100 feet to go and I'm out of tricks. I let out a tension growly scream, do one more dip for speed, hike hard and shoot the line. The RC is hooting with joy. We clear the line and look over and they say " an inch or two." Ted and I both laugh hard. It was the kind of finish you dream of and remember for a long time. It is the kind of finish that keeps you wanting to sail.

Whatever. Just enjoy. The regatta was over for me anyway opening it with 2 bad races. But yes, I can still put a race together once in awhile.

The radio crackles to life. The PRO says "we have abandoned the race."

What? I look around confused. It turns out we almost caught up to the tail of the fleet. The RC at the leeward mark lost track of the leaders and last place and picked up the leeward gate after 19 boats rounded. There was a gaggle of boats around the RC boat trying to find the gate.

They repeat the message "The race is abandoned." My highest high you can get in sailing just crashed hard. They can't abandon a race after we finish can they? After a bit I settle down. Just ask them to save the results and sort it out later.

Race 4 is now a 3 leg shorter race since we only have a couple hours to get in 2 more races to get our 4 in for the day. I have a poor start, get spit out and bail out to clear air. The wind is getting lighter and shiftier and the mark is placed up under the corner making it worse. I'm mid fleet half way up the leg. Just stay in clear air and tack on the shifts. Stay in whatever mode.

The wind drops to almost nothing but there are 30-40 degree shifts. I'm 100 yards straight downwind of the mark. I tack maybe 10 times, sometimes within 10 seconds. But each tack is right, sometimes nearly auto-tacking me. By the time I get to the mark I'm second, well behind Ted Keller though. I lose a bunch of boats downwind in real streaky conditions. Then I gain some back upwind finishing 4th. On the way to the next start we hear the announcement that we are done for the day. Whew. I was fried. A pair of 14s and a 4 are not a good day. But I hit a few fairways, hit some greens in regulation, and sank a few putts. I also enjoyed what I could see of Ted Keller's schooling on the fleet.

On shore it was only just before a fabulous prime rib dinner that the RC has come to a decision to file for fleet redress for race. The boats that finished get their place and everyone else gets the next place, 20th. It was as fair as it could be and reinstated my win. I was amazed to see I was sitting 5th with only 5 points to second place, only 2 points behind Ron Baerwitz who is rapidly becoming my new arch nemesis!

Sunday was more sedate. The air was lighter. It was a low side sailing day. For race 5 I started on starboard and won the pin immediately tacking to port essentially port tacking the fleet. I led at the top mark over Ron and Pete Comfort but could not hold on downwind. I had moments of some comeback and ended up 5th. Pete won with Ron second. Whatever. It was a nice sunny day.

Race 6 started with no wind showing on the water. We low-side sailed right as a fleet. My bad start put me in bad air and unable to keep going right. I tack left, duck a bunch of boats and end up mid lake in clear imaginary wind sailing on glass flat water, but moving well! In fact by the top mark I was about 4th or 5th, which didn't hold downwind. I over the next 2 legs the wind slowly filled in. We actually hiked out a little going into the finish! I tried a few risky moves and closed some distance, but could not catch the leaders. I did however hold off a charging Clark Wade and picked up a boat late to get 5th. That turned out to be the difference between 3rd overall and 4th.

Ron locked up top Master and 2nd overall. Ted Keller won easily even putting a 10 on the board in the last race. Nobody had all single digit races!

Interestingly, once race 3 was thrown out, I enjoyed the regatta more. The results and competition were not on my mind. I met and re-met a lot of great guys. The sunset was pretty and the beer free. What could be better? I could be home painting the ceilings in our house with my wife...... naaah!

So "whatever" mode it is! Yes I have a new sail. But even hack golfers like to use new clubs. You can't blame the equipment.

The real issue for me now is that I'm sitting in my hotel room typing this out. Business travel keeps me away from home too much. I miss my family, my dog, my to-do list, my cottage. So I doubt I will be hitting too many regattas for awhile. They are fun, but take a bit too much of my home time away from me.

Thank you Hoovers for hosting yet another fine event, even if the sailing itself was messy at best thanks to Mother Nature. I will be back. And Ron...I still have you in my sights!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

And So It Begins Again

The boat is out of the barn. I ordered a new sail. And I have started registering for regattas. The season has started.

The prospect for this year is different. I am older, in worse shape, and I suspect I can't remember how to ride this bike. Plus my weight is different, somewhat lighter, although not at my target weight yet. That means fitness will be more important in a blow. Or maybe I just pick up crew.

I also have some new local competition, hopefully. Ron Baerwitz, a past Olympian and great guy, has moved nearby and will hopefully sail his MC at Keuka this summer. Between him and Scott "Chuck" Norris I may not be winning much.

I'd like to try to get in 6 regattas this year. I will do Hoovers, Keuka, Saratoga, Masters Championships, and maybe Cage Match and Cowan. I work during the week in Columbus, OH, so travel on the weekend to newer locations like Tennessee is possible without losing too much work time.

But the big wrench thrown into the whole thing is the fact that I am selling my home and buying another. This will happen probably right in the middle of the sailing season.

Regardless, I am looking forward to getting back on the water.

One thing I am dabbling with is a GoPro mast head mount that swivels with the wind. That should make for new video!

Monday, January 12, 2015

2015 - New Year, New Toys

2014 was an off year. In fact I don't think I even posted here in 2014.

I sailed the local club races in MC-Scows and had a pretty good year only because I sailed more races than anyone else. Chuck Norris joined the club and sailed a few times kicking my butt all over the place. It was appropriately humbling.

In the Nor'Easterns regatta we only got three races in on Saturday. I started slow with a bad race and won the third race as the wind picked up. In the end I think I was third.

I packed up the boat and put it away knowing that I didn't get any better. In fact I got lazy and out of practice.

So I lost 25 pounds, plan to lost another 15, and started a bit of a workout program. Now that I'm over 50 all of those thing are VERY HARD TO DO!

Even though I still travel every week I'm getting into a routine, and starting to find ways and time to do things. So I picked up a hobby/side job. I bought a portable roll swage tool, 1500 feet of cable, a variety of sizes of roll swage terminals, the right tools, and built a Facebook page and a storefront of sorts. In the last few weeks I built 3 full sets of DN iceboat stays, and replaced a pair of DN sidestays. I also started the project to install cable railings in the Yacht Club replacing the rope work that is 42 years old.
It will be a long time before I make any money at this if ever. I tend to sell to friends at cost. But it is nice to be able to help out.

I'll post some pictures here of the railing project once that gets rolling.

So what is going to happen in 2015? I plan to get a new sail, do some more regattas, and keep sailing. I also plan to sell my house, buy a new one, build a shop, and rebuild my powerboat. So something will have to not get done because I still only have 2 days a week and no evenings to do this. I do plan to sail more at Hoover this summer. It is a nice bunch of guys.

So Happy New Year! See you on the water, hard or soft.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

2014 - An Off Year

I have decided to go slow this year. My work and personal life have taken much of my free time. My weekend time will be more valuable to me than it used to be. And yes, this means it is more valuable than sailing time.

As a result, my planned regattas consist of the local Keuka regatta in late August, and possibly nothing else. I will have to play each weekend by ear.

This time of year is normally when I go through some serious withdrawal, where I need to get out on the water. The Florida circuit regattas are a good fix. But I will not be seeing any Spring regattas.

Knowing that the Summer is light, I'm not having as much of a problem not sailing now. It's not like I'm prepping for an upcoming season. In fact I have had no desire to collect my boat from storage yet.

I wonder if this is what everyone experiences before retirement? I have no plans to retire from sailing. If my circumstances change I'm back in full force.

So for now, I watch, maybe teach a little, maybe sail a little. Who knows.

Monday, October 7, 2013


I weigh about 220 pounds. An MC-Scow weighs 420 pounds. So I was just over half the weight of the boat. E-Scows run 650 pounds of crew for 965 pounds of boat (2/3 the boat weight). And that varies by boat and wind. So how much weight is good for how much wind?

The way I sail the MC, I start depowring the sail at about 12 mph of wind. By 15 I'm pretty well depowered. By 18 I'm in full feathering mode finding the narrowest of sailing grooves to keep the speed up. I'm pretty good at depowering and still keeping up the speed. Against anyone else in similar weight ranges I'm okay.

What if I had another 100 pound person for 320 pounds? Or what if I was 140 pounds (ha!)? Well the depower numbers all shift by about 1 mph of wind for every 15-20 pounds. This isn't by any scientific method, just from observations. So the 140 pound person depowers at 8-9 mph, and the 300 pound team at 15-16.

What I saw at the Blue Chip was that I was near full depower as soon as race 2, and crewed teams simply walked away from me. I was out pointing them but at a severe speed cost. Essentially I was feathering up while they were driving away.

This video shows Allison Price (2025) tacking onto my hip at the start. Within the 1:20 of the video she has walked over and away from me by about 10-12 boat lengths. Multiply this over three windward legs and the advantage is obvious. And she probably only had about 75-80 pounds more on the boat than I did. Allison went on to win the race.


There is no getting around it. Crew weight is a massive variable in the MC-Scow fleet. The ability to change it from race to race can be a HUGE advantage. And therefor the inability to change it is a huge disadvantage. 

Different fleets handle this differently. Some require crew weights to be within a certain range, or up to a certain max for all racing. E-Scows require that the crew compliment remain constant for a regatta. So who you sail race 1 with is who you finish the last race with.

MC-Scows have no rules around this at all, no max, no minimum, no limits on changes. At Blue Chips, many people found crew, arranged ahead of time, forced their wives to sail for the first time in years, retired on boat to combine both skippers into the other boat with one as crew, etc. Of the starters of race 3, I think all but 4 had crew. And those 4 finished in the bottom 5 boats.

I was in a jam. I was offered crew, but at the cost of someone else's race. I believe they ere willing to give up crew to be very nice. I couldn't do that. So I really had no crew options. 

I knew it was going to blow. I knew I needed crew. But I had no option to bring anyone with me. And then what if I did? That person would have sailed 3 of 6 races, and sat on shore bored stiff unable to even see the racecourse all day Sunday. Nine hours drive each way, having to share a hotel room with Farty von Snore (me), and only sailing three races is a hard ask to make. 

So I did the best I could. I suspect it cost me 7-12 total points, or 2-3 overall places. 

Is that fair? Do locals with support boats and crew have a distinct advantage over visitors? What can be done about it?

I don't know why the fleet has no rules. I can only assume it is because MC-Scows are an old man boat. Adding and taking away crew allows 70-year-olds to compete. Should the rules be different based on age group? What's fair?

Here are some optons:

1) Under 50 must keep their starting compliment for the regatta, Masters can change each day but must remain with that configuration for the whole day, and Grand Master and up have unlimited changes?

2) Under 50 has a combined crew weight limit of 250, Masters 300, Grand Masters and up 350. The idea is to limit the ability to improve with the addition of crew since the add may be slight for fat guys like me. But lightweights and old guys can pick up enough weight to compete. It is a playing field leveler.

3) Total boat weight (crew plus boat) must be between 620 and 720. Water bladders on either side of the boat behind the board wells or lead on the keel under the deck will be used to bring the boat up to minimum. The impact of this is that lightweight skippers lose the light air advantage. But the argument can be made that immovable ballast is a penalty. The 200-pound person is fully mobile while the 140-pound person and 60 pounds of water is not. It's not a good plan. The 150-pound person would have to find competent 50-pound crew to be competitive.

4) Finish with what you start with - no changes within the regatta. You need to decide if you are willing to sail light in a blow or heavy in light air. I suspect this would lead to very few crew for a mixed forecast regatta. Is that unfair to the elderly? Juniors?

There is no easy right answer. But if I had to choose, I'd go with option 1, since I'm about to become a Master myself.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Blue Chip Results Graphs

Final scores here.

Overall place by race:

By overall score:

Blue Chips 2013

What a simply great event. Spring Lake has been putting on this event for something like 95 years, since Happy Fox was a boy. This was my second trip to the event. The first time there was interesting to say the least.

The Mystery Guest was Michael Kiss, Melges 20 repeat National and European Champion. He had his wife along for crew. One of the biggest challenges for anyone jumping on these boats is remembering to switch the boards. I reminded Michael once and saw him from afar with the wrong board down more than once. Still he seemed to have a lot of fun even though he didn't fair too well.

This Blue Chip I had no excuses. Ranked third nationally and planning to get out of MC-Scows, it was my duty to go get my ass handed to me by those much better than me. And I can dutifully report that I did.

The week before the event I was working in Columbus, Ohio. The boat was right outside my hotel window. I spent the week occasionally looking at it. But I wasn't getting nervous like I usually do before regattas. It was almost surreal. It may also be because I saw the forecast and ate like a pig all week to pack on a few extra pounds...always a nice time.

The consensus forecast all week was getting more ominous. Early in the week it called for Saturday winds of 10-15. By Friday the Saturday forecast was 15-20 with gusts to 25 and highs in the low 60's. I made sure I had enough pain killers and warm clothes and headed for Spring Lake.

Saturday lived up to the forecast, but it took until lunch to get really bad.

Race 1 was a tough one for the star-studded race committee. They eventually sent us to the Red course on the picture below. The green arrow is the club.

With the 5-12 mph wind really trying to go left and the shore being in the course, it was definitely interesting. The wind was way left at the start. I started mid line on port got a nice right shift and was sitting in about 5th place. I tacked to port on another shift, in phase. I needed a bit more left to clear the point. I got some, a bit more, maybe with the point curl I can make it...I ran aground, had to tack lost boats etc. But my boards are now nice and polished.

I rounded the top mark at the back of the lead pack, worked my way around inside there a bit and finished 7th. The names at the top were who I would have expected: Jamie Kimball, Cam McNeil, Andy Molesta, Brien Fox, Ted Keller, all people I strive to sail as well as.

Race 2 brought us back to the orange course, and the wind was up to 10-15 consistently with some heavy puffs. Most people who had crew picked them up. I think the first start was recalled. And I really don't remember where I was in the second start. I know none of my starts were very good so we'll say second row. In fact I think I rounded the top mark about 15th. I found good shifts and sailed through the "B" fleet to find myself almost crossing the gap back to the "A" fleet. I finished 8th, very respectable. In fact it was my best sail of the weekend tactically. I just started pretty far behind.

Lunch. We watched the wind build.

After lunch the RC blew a horn and left the dock, and nobody else did. With about 7 minutes before the start I was second off the dock. Eight boats chose not to sail. One was due to a mild concussion, a few were to combine people into two-man boats, and a few used their common sense and avoided the chaos that was to follow. Of the 17 boats that sailed, at least 12 had crew. 

The start was made more interesting by some 40+ foot Titanic of a ship plowing through the middle of the line with 2 minutes to go. But nobody got sunk. With a minute to go I was right of the boat on starboard. I thought I would idle down to mid line and start easy, just trying to stay upright. At full luff I slid all the way to the pin. I won the pin, but of course the line was heavily boat favored. Everyone with crew took off. I had to wait not only for them to get ahead, but far enough ahead that I could control the boat in the turbulent 20+ wind. I dialed in and stuck to long tacks. I rounded and remained about 10th the entire race. My body lasted 4 of the 5 legs. I lost 3 boats at the finish totally due to my inability to straighten my arms, trim, tack, or hike. By the finish I was spent. 13th place was only 4 ahead of last. But I was first or second of the boats without crew. So I'll be proud enough of that.

more impressive was Allison Price winning race 2 with her father Pete Price as crew. Allison went on to be 9th overall, top female, and top junior.

On the way back to the start I got headed for shore in a blast. I jibed by reaching up and grabbing the mainsheet by the boom and pulling it across. The top of the sail popped across, lifted the boom, looped the mainsheet around my hand and snapped it shut like a bear trap. The crush made a crunch. I luffed up and fell into the boat. Immediately I thought it was broken. I couldn't move it at all. I was in trouble. I waited a minute before grabbing the radio. In that time the "stinger" pain came. It wasn't numb any longer. It was coming back to life. I worked it for a couple minutes, found I could get my fingertips together. So I sailed on. By the start I was about 50% with that hand. No gripping strength but I had the ability to grab and hold the tiller and sheet with no pressure. And the white skin had turned red and other colors. I had blood flow.

Race 4 was more of the same. I had run out of bottled water in race 3. By half way up the first leg both thighs cramped up with Charlie Horses. Then my left arm which I was over using curled into a pretzel with cramps. I had to crack off and wait a minute, losing valuable distance. I was in the top 10 and picking the shifts well. Downwind was a welcome relief. The rest of the race was a constant effort to not cramp, relax, let the muscles recover. I sailed in 20+ cleated, just feathering the tiller, a slow way to go. I had hope though. I was still ahead of a bunch of boats with crew including Chris Craig. I think I rounded the last mark 7th. In the end I lost a handful of boats in the last half of the last leg, including Chris Craig. I just couldn't control the boat any longer. I finished 11th.

Many other people had problems. Pete Comfort and his wife had mainsheet issues in race 3, then death rolled in race 4. Easily half a dozen others capsized. Some retired, some continued on (assistance rule was waived). My boat is none the better for the day. I need to order a new goose neck, and my sail lost quite a bit of life.

Dinner was a welcome respite with prime rib and rum. Very nice.

Day 2 started with no wind. I was relieved as my hand felt like I had a glove on it that was 2 sizes too small. The breeze was all over the place. The RC sent us to the yellow course on the map. Left was favored but right has more air. I stayed middle to ensure I would not get either advantage. but I cleared my air, stayed cleanish, and rounded in about 6th. I picked up a couple boats downwind and rounded the bottom mark about 4th or 5th. I picked course left gate coming out on starboard. But left put you up under the lee of the shore. I needed to get right but there was a giant fleet of downwind boats to get through. I got stuck too far left and ended up losing maybe 6 or 7 boats right away. I spent the rest of the race in the crowd trying to find clean air. I lost more boats finishing 11th. Yes my hand hurt but I just stunk up the place decision wise. I deserved the 11th. But I was 5 places ahead of Chris Craig putting me 1 point ahead overall. One more mission to accomplish - beat Chris.

Race 6 was almost exactly the same, except Chris had a great start, rounded 2nd and was off. If I had 1/2 a boat length more I would have rounded 5th. Instead I had to duck and rounded 10th. I picked up one or two each of the next 2 legs and found myself once again bridging the gap to the "A" fleet. I rounded the last mark opposite gate from Chris Craig, maybe 2 boat lengths behind him. Bu the split was wrong. I had to quick tack twice to avoid people, then found myself on the wrong side. In the end I lost all the gains I made and more finishing 10th. 

So 2 good races, 2 races where I desperately needed crew (or two), a two light medium races where I stunk. Yup. That's about right. 

Final results are here. Eighth place overall was reflective of my abilities in these conditions. 

Jamie Kimball, Ted Keller, and Cam McNeil had quite the fight down to the last race. Cam got caught out and Jamie just beat Ted to take the title. 

I'll post videos and pictures in the next couple days or weeks. I think I have most of 5 races on GoPro. Plenty more to come from this regatta.