Liberty is being free from the things we don't like in order to be slaves of the things we do like.--Ernest Benn

Monday, December 26, 2011

Your Dog Can Get You into Trouble

Today I had to check on my Laser-38. Since I hadn't given Doberwoman her morning beach walk (too many hours squandered on the English Premier League), she had to come along as escort, bodyguard and conversation piece. We discovered conditions of super-low tide. The gang plank down to the floating docks was extremely steep. So I let Doberwoman run ahead much of the length of her Retractable Belt Leash as we approached the locked gate to the marina.

There was a well-dressed, 20-ish blonde woman with immaculately coiffed 'big hair'. She was waiting by the gate for the next passer-by with a key to let her through. She was pushing an elaborate baby carriage. The only passenger in this carriage was a highly-coiffed runty little dog, maybe half as big as my 3/1/2 month old, 18 lb granddaughter. This little bratty dog was snarling, growling and barking at my perfectly behaved Ms Ballou. As I was opening and holding the gate for Lady McHair to pass through with her entourage, I heard her speak:
"You know there is a law that restricts your leash to 3 1/2 feet." My first and only reaction was this stranger was accusing Ms Ballou of being a loose Doberwoman. In a word my Doberwoman was being called a slut and a whore.

Big Hair was walking behind on the dock so I slowed down so she could hear me as my mouth moved faster than my brain:

What are you? The self-anointed dog police? Der canine Korps? Are you German? Are you a Republican? If I knew you were going to act like such a narc, I wouldn't have let you in the gate without a key. There's probably a law against that. And your little joke of a pampered pooch is ten times more vicious and out of control than my purebred gentle lady.
And with that I completely unchained my Doberwoman and let her lope ahead of me, all the way to the boat. 

If Trophy Wife had been along, she would have been mortified. On second thought, had T.W. been there, Lady McHair would have gone for a swim.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Dear Joe Letter

Dear Joe,

I think it might have been easier watching what we were doing yesterday than doing what you were watching. I actually mentioned to the crew several (at least three) times that I hoped you were not watching! Truth is I felt your eyes on us much of the race. I'm just glad you didn't see the start.

In 2-3 knots of wind, I was forced to use the momentum tactic: pushing the boat forward at five knots and then switching off the diesel with 4+ minutes to go. The problem was that I mentally zoned out and was too far from the line when I hit the switch. Plus there was a huge adverse current. But the real problem is my mind. I just do not have that competitive cutting mental edge any more. Trophy Wife was puzzled. She doesn't understand  my wish to resume civilian (land-lubbering) life. Far from spending time on the water not learning anything more, I am actually unlearning stuff that I know I knew before.

For instance, results in a yacht race are due to the accumulated mistakes made by each boat. For me, one deja vu learning is that racing actually leads me into bad seamanship at times. When I get into trouble, I often resort to improbable, low-percentage, long-shot, risky efforts to recoup losses. For example, you saw how we endeavored to keep the spinnaker up by over-standing K-Mark far enough so we could gybe around it instead of dousing and tacking. From shore, it must have looked like shit. Except it happened so slowly, you probably lost enough interest at several points not to have understood what we were trying to do.

The only thing I can say about the start is to focus on other facts: it wouldn't have made any difference in the long run: ultimately, we weren't able to complete the course because the current was going twice the speed of the wind and we were swept outside the gate. Secondly, we were not the only boat to abandon.

But Thank you for loaning me two crew. Both were good sailors and quality people. K looked like she had grown up lifting spinnaker poles and J was ever ready and capable to take on anything. I hope I haven't embarrassed myself so much on that start, not to be able to get another waiver on these two wonderful people in the future, should my needs arise...

Well, irony of irony. Yesterday was the make-up for the Memorial Day Race, which was cancelled because the wind was 40 knots? Go figure.

No matter. I'm done. Insert fork.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Fútbol Dudn't Get Any Better than Dis!

Arsenal Celebrated it's 125th anniversity today. The Gunners' legends including Frank McLintock, Charlie George, David O’Leary, George Graham, Robert Pires, Jens Lehmann and Henry - who yesterday had a bronze statue of him unveiled outside the ground - all helped make up a guard of honour as Captain Robin van Persie led the current side onto the field. With 20 minutes remaining in the game, Alex Song and the Flying Dutchmen exceuted this poetry in motion:

The three Gunners on Vigilance FC (my rotisserie team) are Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and RVP. Together they netted more than half of my points this week. Last August, my rotisserie opponents derided my first round draft of RVP as the man with the glass ankles. That's because of his past history of injuries. Mid-season now, and I go to bed every Friday night with my fingers crossed and wearing an Arsenal shirt. If these rituals work their magic, Robin will remain the man with the golden feet!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Queen to Play

By high school standards I was an extremely mediocre chess player. despite the fact that I spent hours studying boards and texts, my game never attained enough critical mass to fuel ambition. My best performance was when our class champion, Clint, and I arranged to play a rehearsed and memorized game before a handful of unknowing classmates. As far as playing real games was concerned, I used to say that the only thing worse than losing to Clint in chess was beating him because you had to work so hard.

This all came back to me as we watched Queen to Play last night. Hélène, played by Sandrine Bonnaire, is cast as a Cinderella-like housekeeper at a luxury hotel in Corsica. She has a volatile teenage daughter and a husband who does the bottom work on yachts. As the film progresses, in her normal daytime work Hélène witnesses an intense game of chess between a sexy American couple who are guests at the hotel. When she see the woman (Jennifer Beal) win, Hélène is intrigued by the game. She decides to stretch household funds enough to buy a computerized game for her husband. When hubby turns out to be too stressed keeping his job and making a living at the boat yard to have any surplus energy for chess, Hélène begins to look into the rules. As soon as she makes the ominous discovery that the queen is the most powerful piece on the board, an increasing obsession with nighttime study and practice inevitably begins to affect her daytime work. Indeed, all of her relationships with her husband, daughter, employers and friends undergo profound changes.

She ultimately engages with a retired American doctor (Kevin Kline) to exchange housekeeping chores for chess lessons. When the doctor eventually begins losing games to her, Kline's character pronounces Hélène to be a natural talent, a quality which cannot be taught.

At this point in the movie, I catch a sense of foreshadowing and foreboding: in her pursuit of her own ultimate self-fulfillment, Hélène will embark on progressively greater and more ambitious challenges on the checkered board.

Or is it deja vu? Will she eventually discover as I did with Clint, that the only thing worse than losing at chess is winning. Or maybe not...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Late Again! The Clipper Race 'Round the World Starts Without Me!

The sixth stage in the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht (Virtual) Race from Tauranga to Gold Coast, Australia.
The 1150 mile course began in effect with 15 to 20 knot winds heading north-east, and the first to turn at Te Hapu - the North Cape of Maori - should see a reverse effect of the winds changing to Southwest which shall be "interesting" without doubt.

The start of the race sees the fleet slalom the Colville Channel avoiding the aptly named Great Barrier Island. From then on, the crossing should not be too problematic and the arrival at the Gold Coast, a beautiful port located south of Brisbane will be made all the more magnificent with Mount McPherson setting a spectacular backdrop.
Hours late at the start, I've worked myself up to 4,282nd place!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

News Item: In America You Can Do Your Damnest to Kill a Sitting President and...

if you fail, no matter how many people you wound and maim,
you can get time off for good behavior.....

Monday, November 28, 2011

Keeping Tabs

Robin Kirkcaldie and Stephanie Mortensen

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Wanted: Mainsheet Trimmer!

Today Mother Nature and the Race Committee combined to offer us a 3.5 mile course 13-18 knots of wind on a sparkling warm day. We were short-handed. (I would have emailed Baydog return trip tickets, but it was the wrong season: this time of year he's hard-wired into the New York Giants!) Short of hands, we finished as the top boat in the 2nd half of the 14-boat fleet. But it was a fun sail and party afterwards. Thing of it was, being another stupid triangular course, I can't think of anything I might have learned today. The one accomplishment is that the spinnaker is finally dry from last weekend! There aren't any action photos, because we were shorthanded. (Did I mention we were short-handed?) These shots were taken during the post-race party.

I finally got around to this month's Latitude 38, in response to Mikey's query a couple of posts back. There's a great shot of about 8 or 9 Wyliecats racing DDW. That's the high point of this month's issue for me. But I did get a kick out of the article Lee Helm's about PHRF. The discussion at each mark of the time deltas between boats epitomizes PHRF racing for me. I remember that group number-crunching going on whenever I've been crewing on PHRF boats.

I repeat my mantra: 

  • One-design racing is yacht racing in its purest form; everything else (all handicap formulas, algorithm, ratings, etc.) is equally fraudulent. 
  • If all of us are to settle for racing what variant boats we end up owning, the least (or the best) we can do is to arrange for pursuit races.

Then the fraudulent ratings schedule the starts for each boat as opposed to scoring their finishes. That done, for the rest of the time on the water we can all concentrate on sail trim, course and boat handling, boat for boat, like we would in one design. No more holding hand calculators at mark roundings to gauge deltas.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

My Fellow Americans, Happy Thanksgiving!

John F. Kennedy on Thanksgiving:
It is fitting that we observe this year our own day of Thanksgiving. It is fitting that we give our thanks for the safety of our land, for the fertility of our harvests, for the strength of our liberties, for the health of our people. We do so in no spirit of self-righteousness. We recognize that we are the beneficiaries of the toil and devotion of our fathers and that we can pass their legacy on to our children only by equal toil and equal devotion. We recognize too that we live in a world of peril and change - and in so uncertain a time we are all the more grateful for the indestructible gifts of hope and love, which sustain us in adversity and inspire us to labor unceasingly for a more perfect community within this nation and around the earth.
PROCLAMATION 3505 (November 7, 1962)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Yacht Racing Is Always a 3-Way Contest

The forecast was hopeful: rain on Saturday and clearing with 20+ knots on Sunday. Optimal conditions for us for a 12-mile race. But it turned out the storm was late and the rain came Sunday. It's my experience that it dudn't blow much while it's raining. But we have a rule: never call it off until you're on the boat.

Once I was on-board, it looked so cold & rainy Sunday I would have called it off. That's how much the fire has gone out of me. But it was my misfortune that my Laser-38 was in 1st place in the series and we just felt we had to man-up and have a go at it.

Turned out that it was a 3-12 knot breeze in a chop, not our conditions at all. Tailor-made for the Beneteau 40.7 who was carrying a better throw-out than we were. We suffered, but the team was stronger for the experience.

I made a disastrous decision of keeping up the spinnaker too long: when I saw others take theirs down I just had a strong dose of exceptionalism and believed my Laser 38 could carry hers. I wanted to save the crew from the task of dousing it and re-hoisting after we rounded the final mark. Stupid. I always forget: they are young and I am old.

We finished in 7th place and 2nd in the series. At my request, a friend checked the elapsed times and figured if we had finished in front of Merit 25 which blew past us during my aberration, we would have still corrected out behind the Beneteau. Don't ask me if he's still would have been a friend had his calculations led to a different conclusion!) So, my stubborn obstinacy was just a inconsequential gamble of a sailor in desperate circumstances.

Of course, Monday dawned the way Sunday should have.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A National Football Championship Comes to Los Angeles

In real football, having a "soft touch" is a really valued asset. Observe this clinical display by British import Robbie Keane and American home-grown Landon Donovan.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

You Can Take a Doberwoman to the Surf but You Can't Make Her Swim.

She actually does swim very well in the flat water of the harbor. Enough, anyways, that I am confident she could manage to save herself in a sea long enough to be hoisted back aboard. But in the surf, she is just an accidental swimmer. My theory is that it is the outgoing under-tow that creeps her out.

My Doberman who preceded her, could beat Labradors through the surf to his tennis ball, nine times out of ten. But then Red October was an Alpha Dog. Ballou is just a Beta Dog. But she's still cool.

Pretty woman. We rescued her and she rescued us right back.We are inseparable.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

November Race

14 boats started this pursuit race in 19-28 knots. We managed to be 4th to the weather mark but, in fact, we were the 2nd boat to round it successfully. It was that kind of day.

As we approached the reaching mark, a J-109 rapidly overtook us. She was flying the only spinnaker in the fleet today. We managed to secure inside-at-the-mark status.

Given the differential hull speeds involved, I didn't feel like it was anything more than a momentary advantage, and commented that the J was going to be the winner today.
MVP would not agree. He silenced me with,

You can never tell. The fat lady has not yet sung. Don't put your bats away. Stuff can yet happen!
Indeed. In the wake of our flawless gybe, the J-109 spun out. It turned out they couldn't carry their asymmetrical on the 3rd leg's angle to the wind. Of course, I couldn't afford to look back, but my reports were that they had trouble dousing the chute and a lot more trouble threading in their No. 4 blade. Of course, I felt their pain.

By the time we reached the final leg, the J was back on her feet and looked to begin to reeling us in a little; at least enough to give us reason to concentrate things other than keeping our hull under our mainsail. We applied a loose cover, watched our tacking angles and clinched the race by multiple boat lengths.

Very satisfying.

6 Nov Gallery for Friends

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Clipper World Race: Australia-New Zealand

Today sees the Clipper Race fleet start the next leg of the 40,000 miles adventure with the race from Geraldton, Australia to Tauranga, New Zealand.

Race Director, Joff Bailey describes the route:

After a 400 nautical mile upwind leg down the coast of Australia, the teams can start to ease the sheets and head east across the Great Australian Bight. Going south of the rhumb line to get stronger westerly winds may be the fastest option but will add extra miles. The next stage of the race is a dash across the Tasman Sea to the far corner of New Zealand before the final few miles down the east coast to Tauranga.
Dudn't sound like something I would want to do on the real sea. But on the virtual ocean, I would pay to do it!As a matter of fact, I have already paid!

This screen shot was taken 12-Nov 2011 at 0315hrs PST. I have to post this meaningless and fleeting moment just because my leads over Contiguous never last. After shooting this, I immediately gybed on to port, gained nine more boats, and went back to bed. I did not want to watch such a beautiful position erode before my sleepy eyes.

Here's the photo finish. Don't know how the green arrow got in there, but it's pointing at Open Container III, the green hull!

Further comment is diverted to new thread!