Did you learn how to sail on an Olympic class sailboat? Probably not, but untold thousands did!
While searching for some sailing stats (Ted Turner’s best result in the Flying Dutchman class), I came across some kewl graphics on Wikipidia of the boats raced in certain Olympiads. I’m sure there are others, but I stopped at three.
Who in the group has sailed an Olympic class boat (or board)? It’s something. Not all excellent boats make it to the Olympics… but all Olympic boats are arguably excellent. And, some of them are versatile. The Soling? One of the most heavily used designs for adult sailing instruction in the US in the past (and still in use today). My dad’s sailing school (New York Sailing School, now out of business), taught untold numbers of adults how to sail on them. Laser? Found all over the world for beach resort rentals, junior training, and all levels of racing.
The first graphic shows the 1964 lineup. Why ’64? Year I was born, and also the Olympiad I thought Turner either sailed in or campaigned for through the trials. (Still can’t verify if he was in the trials or on the Team; found conflicting info on whether he ever won the Worlds in that class.) Turner was one of the most prolific and accomplished sailors ever to race. Inshore? Flying Dutchman and 5.5 Meter chops (world level if not actual world champ, and he might have won a 5.5 Meter Worlds. Americas Cup? Won that. Offshore? How about he won the Fastnet in 1979, when 15 people died and many boats had to be rescued or at least didn’t finish?
Next one: 1984. Why? There was a graphic for it, and it was the year Paul Elvström just missed bronze in the Tornado Catamaran. Why would one care? Because he was 53 at the time, and his teenaged daughter was crew! Elvström, lest I let anyone forget, won multiple Olympic gold medals in the Finn and was European or World Champion (or close) in a number of other classes. Elvström, a Dutchman, was competitive in the FD. 1984 was also the first Olympiad with female sailors. Only two, but at least it finally started.
Finally… 2012. The venerable Star Class saw its last outing. At the Olympics, anyway. It’s still a super relevant and competitive class, as evidenced by the Star Sailors League invitational regatta featuring champions from many classes and always a tight tourney. Past Champions at the World and Olympic level include Lowell North, Dennis Conner, Robert Scheidt, and many other notable names. The 2012 Games were the last to have keelboat classes race.
Which Olympic classes have I sailed? I have a lot of time in Lasers and Solings, and an outing or three in Stars, with racing from the most local of club levels to regional regattas such as the East Coasts. I haven’t sailed any of them in awhile. I miss the Laser the most. It’s the simplest to get back into, so who knows. (For racing purposes, due to boring legal stuff, it’s referred to as the ILCA Dinghy, and the familiar laser logo is gone.) Most people ought to spend at least a little time in a Laser. To paraphrase that line from Risky Business, “there is no substitute.”
Pandemic living has some interesting scenarios for learning how to navigate or sail on Zoom.
“The Cat ate my homework” starts to sound reasonable! While I haven’t heard that (or by dog) from a student in our “Live 105” Coastal Navigation courses on Zoom, I’ve seen some strange stuff. Strange is purely subjective and relative, of course.
First: what’s this course? It’s our Start Navigating course, ASA 105 Coastal Navigation. It has no prerequisites, and no prior navigation experience or training is necessary. (It is helpful to have done some boating or sailing for better perspective, but we assume none of that when we teach you.)
PC (Pre COVID), we taught this in small group settings both in Manhattan and New Rochelle. Last March, we switched to Zoom: the first school doing it, and the only one I can actually verify as doing so. It’s gone quite well! It’s almost as if we’re all in the same room together, and allows people in different locations and time zones to navigate together and make new friends and potential sailing buddies.
Anywho, as most people are doing this from home, we get a glimpse of what home looks, sounds and feels like. That includes critters.
So far, we haven’t seen the proverbial pirate parrot perched on anyone’s shoulder, or carrying off plotting tools as a prank, but a number of cats and dogs have scored some screen shots.
I host and teach all our Zoom sessions. It comes naturally to me, and is fitting as I wrote the book we use for the course. Why not use the ASA book? That’s a loooong story, but short version: got tired of waiting for them to revise and professionally print their very good old book. Had to write supplements for it for topics covered on exam but not in book, for example. Started drafting my own. Almost done; needed a few final copies for first course of a winter season. They gone went and published an entirely new book by another author rather than revise the old one, and instead of the expensive price going down, it actually went UP further. But wait – there’s more! They also had a separate companion book that wasn’t just practice problems or resources, but also part of the text.
But wait – there’s MORE!!! There was also a companion DVD . Took a look at that for about 30 seconds, couldn’t take it any more. Tossed it like a frisbee for the cat who pounced on it. Never saw it again. (Ultimately, after breaking their own arm patting themselves on the back for this rollout, they gone went and did what they said they were originally: revised the OLD one. And, they published that as well, offering both texts. At that point, I’d been using my own for a few years, and have simply tweaked that and never looked back.)
So, cats, and dogs. Here’s one pic in an Instagram post from a live class, PC of course. The pic is a link…
My cat attends each Zoom session. He interferes while lounging across the chart, or gets annoyed if he senses I’m paying him no mind and talking to a computer screen that is talking back. Then, he gets very intrusive and has to be escorted out.
Just before our most recent session, I had the chart spread out to review one of the practice plots. Buddy jumped up on it, but it was draped over the side of the coffee table, and he didn’t land cleanly on the table. So, the slash-n-scramble routine ensued. End result: I needed oxygen and the chart looked like this:
BUT WAIT – there’s MORE!… It’s like an actual cartoon, where the Warner Bros’ Looney Tune tears ass through a wall leaving the outline…
Pets are optional, of course, for this course. But if you’re managing work, family/kids, or those perpetual 2 year-olds… pets… bring it! It’s all manageable on Zoom.
For more about our “Live 105” sessions on Zoom for Start Navigating, here you go…
We hope you’re all enjoying the holiday season despite the encumbrances bestowed/inflicted upon us. We do what we can.
@mariebarrue decked out and rocking the deck of her Laser. This is a screen-grab from a clip we re-posted on our Insta). We’ve said it before, and will keep saying it: there’s nothing like a Laser, one of our top favorite designs of all time.
“There’s nothing you can’t do on a Laser!”
Captain Stephen Glenn Card
What makes them so special? Versatility, impeccable sailing characteristics, highly transferable skills, and just sheer fun. Everyone who can ought to spend some time on one. And, it’s not as difficult as some pics and clips portray it. Just like skiing and riding, one doesn’t need to do icy double-diamonds to have fun on the surface.
A Festivus for the rest of us!..
Who hasn’t seen this facade? Okay; but who’s seen it with an actual freakin’ Festivus pole?! Your correspondent did, last winter… and cleared people away for this shot.
Still don’t get it? It’s Tom’s Restaurant near Columbia U, the facade made famous by the Seinfeld series. Festivus is an alternative holiday created by character Frank Costanza (George’s father). It includes the pole, of course, plus airing of grievances, followed by feats of strength. Example: the man who schlepped this pole down from Washington Heights to pose it properly.
“Have your boots and your rifle? Good – you can walk into combat!”
Clint Eastwood’s Marine drill sergeant cum battle commander in “Heartbreak Ridge”
The Burton Kilroy snowboard. Note the face doodle at the letter ‘N.’ This iconic image dates back to WWII, where it spread wherever the US Armed Forces went. A similar graphic adorns the transom of our Pearson 10M, Kilroy Was Here. There are two basic variations on the them. We chose the one that was chosen for the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. There’s a narrative of the doodle’s history, to the extent it’s fully known, and visitors are invited to find the Kilroy tags at the monument.
Christmas ain’t complete without a wreath…
The socially-distant, mask-compliant pig outside the lodge at Windham Mountain Resort, the ‘other’ mountain in the Catskills! (Well, there’s also Belleayre, but who’s counting…) Hunter is better known; Windham isn’t exactly a secret however. They seem to go toe-to-toe. Windham had more acreage until Hunter leapfrogged it with a 5-trail and 1-lift area expansion. That lift is a high speed 6-pack, so one can seriously lap that area. However, it gets little to no direct sun so stays icy/scratchy longer. (Personally, I like to see where I ski. Or board, which is what I actually do, but more often than not I board with skiers.)
One foot or two; always woo-HOOOO!
Vrinda Hamal (@vrinhamal) one-footing almost on the beach at Los Roques, Venezuela. Note the beach umbrellas! She’s on a kiteboard, and she’s quite extraordinary on one.
Kiteboarding is on our backburner list of things to try. We almost pulled the trigger on one of our Virgin Islands trips (BVI) not long ago, but the next season saw it all wiped out with the hurricanes. It’s coming back; one outfit on Anegada was doing it this past winter but we discovered it too late to try it out. Another time, perhaps…
Whatever you’re doing during this holiday season, stay safe – and have fun. Cheers!
Women just steer better, but 3rd time’s the charm for Joe Biden.
…where are we going with this? Well, the obvious announcement as called by all news outlets on Saturday is, well – obvious. Assuming no legal challenges affect anything (and so far, they appear to be non-starters), Biden will be the next President and Harris the next VP – and first woman in the role.
This post came about initially as I searched for a ‘skipper’ reference. “Hey, Skip!” “You got it, Skip.” Whatever. But nothing like that came up. Instead, when searching on Biden & ‘Skipper,’ I found this:
Magdalena Skipper, the Editor at Nature, did that post. Guess what? She’s the first woman to head up the journal! Took the helm in 2018. So, there’s that.
All this reminded me of a time-proven fact: women learn to steer better. They just do. I’ve been teaching sailing since 1981, and observed it before then. Women take naturally to learning to steer a boat than men do. Not every woman, but the overwhelming majority. Why ? Probably because…
They don’t try to force things when they should be finessed.
Here’s a clip from our Instagram of a woman solo-tacking. She’d never tried it before…
Look through our Insta for more pics and clips of women steering and sailing in general.
One of the world’s premier watch manufactures, Ulysse Nardin, has an artist’s series that are largely on the provocative side (shown in a previous Blog Rant of ours about timepieces and the history of determining longitude at sea). Here’s one apropos to the topic at hand…
To any women who wonder whether they can learn to sail, and might be feeling any apprehension about it – DON’T! You got this. And when you come to us, we got you. You’ll be a skipper in a few days, and we’ll prove it to you by letting you out to solo on your own.
It’s that time of year; weather is warming up, and thunderstorm activity is heating up as sailing club, school and rental activity opens up. We revisit this topic every year as a public service. One reason: people still don’t seem to ‘get it.’
In that pic: screen capture of radar images on Wednesday, June 3, in the late AM. We had a private lesson booked that day with an experienced sailor. The forecast was for thunderstorms – not a chance, or a likelihood, but just… thunderstorms. And, they warned of potentially damaging winds and hail. Not a garden variety summer forecast, which is “chance of showers and thunderstorms” or similar language.
Oh, no… it’s ON!!!!
Below, I’ll share how the day of June 3 unfolded forecast wise, and also stories about two needless tragedies in the past that happened when people didn’t pay attention to the forecast.
The first step of the day is to check the forecast. That should be done several times as the day progresses to look for updates. The next step is to check the radar. Easier than you might think; just look at the pic above. Pretty clear that something is brewing. And, even if the forecast winds up being off, the radar doesn’t lie. It doesn’t take a meteorological degree to read a radar app. It just takes a little time and experience.
On two occasions since I’ve been operating New York Sailing Center, which I founded in the fall of 1997, there were particularly violent thunderstorm systems that passed through the region and resulted in a fatality at some other school/club. NOT AT MY SCHOOL/CLUB. At others.
The first was in 1998, before we all had smart phones and radar apps at our disposal. It was old school; check the forecast, check the sky, and listen to the VHF radio weather band for updates. The forecast was doom n gloom: thunderstorms, some of which could be severe, and which had a large outer perimeter of strong wind (meaning no way to see it coming). And, the storms had already started upstate and killed a few people.
Make no mistake; winter is coming…
So, I kept everything on a super tight leash that day in 1998. We had one class with a veteran instructor. We talked about it and decided to confine the boat to the anchorage. No further than the outskirts of the anchorage. The anchorage is small. More maneuvering, then! Marina customers were warned of the storms if they showed up. A few did and just turned around and went home. One woman chose to sit on her boat at the mooring for awhile and then go home.
Eventually, after frequently checking the sky to the north and west, I didn’t like the look and feel. I started radioing the instructor to come in, and saw he was already approaching the mooring. They took one shot, and fell short… and then it hit. BAM. Nothing to be seen in advance. Just wind laying the boat over and flogging the sails. They didn’t have a chance to sail back to the mooring; no way. The boat was basically blown down onto the next pier, and the instructor wisely off-loaded the students and left the boat. I went out with a few experienced people and two solid motor boats, and towed the sailboat off and moored it. It took two boats just to pull it off and suspend it into the winds, which were at least 60 knots and possibly as much as 70. When it subsided a bit, we moored the boat.
It was over quickly. It always is. But it takes little time to cause mayhem. We got away with a torn sail and a fright. Down in New York Harbor, they weren’t so lucky. One large club/school had allowed at least one member to go out with his family. The boat took a complete knockdown, and the man was in the water and separated from his family. He wasn’t wearing a PFD. His body was found a few days later in Gravesend Bay, Brooklyn.
Fast forward to August, 2010. Morning forecast: about the same as the 1998 incident. Thunderstorms. Severe. Moving fast. Clear band of strong winds. This time, however, we had smart phones and radar.
I kept the one class we had that day pretty close for our morning sail. I intended to do a short n sweet lesson, get off the water way early, and watch it all blow through during lunch and some extra classroom. While on the water, I got a call from a recent graduate hoping to come out for one of his practice sails that afternoon. Sorry; no. Bad forecast. He pushed; I explained the severity of the forecast. He tried some more.
“No fucking way! I’m not going to let you come out here just to die in some violent thunderstorm! You’ll come out another time – live to sail another day!” The first sentence is an exact quote; the second is approximate. The message is clear.
What happened then? We sailed back to be safe. Sky still looked fine. Checked the update radar while waiting for our launch ride. Whoah…. it was the largest Darth Vadar Death-Star-looking doom ‘n gloom ball of red, orange and yellow I’d ever seen – before or since – on a radar screen. It was moving south and clearly going to hit all of Western New Jersey, Westchester, NYC, and Nassau, Long Island. All of it; all at once.
So, I shut down the operation until further notice. Told my launch operator to go somewhere inside for lunch on the avenue and stay there until I told him to return. I took my class to do the same, with some classroom props.
It did hit. We were basically done with lunch and b.s.-ing about other stuff. Suddenly, it was very dark. Stuff was flying around like that scene from the Wizard of Oz. Darker; windier. Eerily, we couldn’t really hear it as the place was well sound insulated and we were in the back looking down the hall at the front door. And, almost as soon as it started, it was over.
We paid up and walked back to the marina. None of us had ever seen so much random debris blown around by a squall. The waterfront was worse; the waterway itself was a shit show of stuff blown offshore by the storm. There was zero wind. Sun was back out. Surreal.
And then, I got a text from one of my instructors. He let me know that another school (again, not ours) had a class out during the storm. They lost one person. Literally. The body was found a day or two later. This was disturbingly close to home, in lower Westchester, within sight of my school on a clear day. it was day one of a learn to sail course (compared to day 3 for mine that day). They went out in the afternoon (as opposed to my coming in at around mid-day). No one aboard was wearing a life jacket, or PFD. (We spend extra money on comfortable automatic inflatables with manual overrides, and make people wear them.) The boat had no lifelines, which are wires or ropes that are elevated above the deck going around the boat. (Not all boat designs have them, but it’s riskier when they don’t – especially for beginners.) Everyone on that boat wound up in the water; all but one made it back to the boat.
All but one.
I knew several sailors who got caught out in that same storm. They all fared well, but got quite a fright. I heard of others who got caught as well (also survived). The common denominator? And, what was reported in the news regarding the fatality in Westchester?
“It happened so fast.” “You couldn’t see it coming.”
But, you could. On the bloody radar! And, you KNEW it was coming. Why wait to see it? Does that sound simplistic? Well, it really is that simple.
In that pic: all gone – out to sea, but I pity the fool who got caught out in that. It intensified as it neared shore and got over the water. Wednesday, June 3.
Remember the DUCK boat incident a few years ago? We did a blog rant about that. Same shit; different details. Only that time, many people died. I’ll link back to that blog post below.
The lesson: people don’t seem to learn the lesson. Here’s how I suggest you manage the risk of getting caught in a squall or thunderstorm on the water during the summer, which is when most of them happen, and also when most of you would likely do most of your boating.
start the day with the forecast online, cross referencing at least two sources.
If there’s some risk of thunderstorms, consider skipping boating that day.
If you go anyway, check the update forecast upon arrival at the marina.
Start checking the radar at that time as well. If it looks dicey, don’t go!
If it looks like it’s far off, or just not developed, stay close and check frequently – at least every 20′.
As soon as it’s looking worse, assume the worst. Head back. If you have an engine, turn it back on (yes, you should have checked it before). Stow sails.
Moor or dock the boat. Double check the radar and forecast.
If still no good go home! If the risk went away, it’s your call.
I’m not a meteorologist. I’m not a weather forecaster. I’m not a climate scientist (although I know one who’s a PhD candidate at Columbia). But, I am an expert and well-seasoned mariner. And, I have to make decisions all season that affect other people: whether they get to play or not that day. it comes down to whether they’re safe or at risk of death. And so, I check the weather and radar pretty obsessively.
“What do we say to the God of Death?”
Arya was bad-ass enough to slay the Night King. But even she knew the universal truth:
“Don’t f*%! with Mother Nature!”
The Radar web site (not an app per se) that I like to use for the northeast…