Saturday, March 28, 2009

Art of Sailng

Almost every week on the news you hear of some "sail machine" breaking the sailing speed record. Macquarie Innovations broke the record this week with a top speed of 54.23 kn0ts (100km/h) and an average of 50.43knots in a 500m stretch of water at Sandy Point.

Can one call this sailing? What happened to the Sailor, canvas sails and the art of sailing. These boats don't resemble a sailboat. It looks more like something out of a Mad Max film or Kevin Costner's career sinker, Water World. Now don't get me wrong, I am all for new inventions, better technology and breaking records. But where do one draw the line.

How can one put these "Sail machines" in the same class as a sailboat? They are all about aerodynamics, the latest technology and lightest materials. Just build to go down a straight line in order to get a break a record. No more is the man, the artist, a factor only the machine.

In this pursuit what happened to looking at tell tales, trimming the sheet on your mail and flying the spinnaker in the most effective way? What happened to outsmarting your opponent by just catching a header before the rest of the fleet?

Why would one like to scream down a line in a machine build to go straight when you can outsmart and out run your opponent around the cans in a race. Is it all the fault of the big corporations trying to beat their foe with there latest technology? Maybe it is the humans nature to be competitive, no matter what art form they destroy.

Call me old fashioned or not, but I still believe in the Art of sailing where man is still major factor.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Gone is the North West er that gently blew wind into my sails to nudge me across the ocean. Gone is the days of hanging round the yacht club, staring endlessly at the ocean. Gone is the days of sleeping late and working from home. Gone is the days of waiting till late morning so I can miss all the traffic.

Back is the howling South Easter that rattles my rigging and pushes me to the edge, just waiting for my yacht to broach. Back is the days of sitting in traffic for 2h30 hours a day. Back is the early to rise to beat the worst part of traffic, arriving at work just in time to make the morning meeting.

I started this week at Heart of Healing based in the center of Cape Town city. I will be running one of their projects, Charity Wines. We raise funds for different charities in the wine lands, including funds for children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

As soon as the dust has settled and the traffic noise has died down, I will be able to blog again.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Two sides of the same coin

I just came across this, an interactive guide to the racing rules for 2009 - 2012. It has everything from narrated learning guide to animations and quizzes. Rules Master really thought of everything in this nifty little package. You can own it for only $75.90 and start sailing your best race yet.

For those who don't want to spend all their hard earned cash or their last little bit of pension money, there is Uncle Al's . You can download PDF files with all the rules and pictures explaining more than you'll ever remember on the water.

These two are truly Two Sides of the Same Coin. Racing Rules is up to date with technology, featuring boats and gear we use today. With Uncle Al's you will get pictures that looks like it was taken from an amateurs home movie while filming the Lochness monster or from local regatta.

Racing Rules vs Uncle Al's

Either one will give you the the complete set of rules you need to be competitive. I personally use Uncle Al's, but if South Africa's currency was stronger I would definitely have Rules Master shipped to me within a 48 hours.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Fires Blazing

Fires ripped through Australia, left thousands of people homeless and hundreds of acres burned down. It seems South Africa isn't far behind. Fires have been blazing in the Western Cape for almost a month now. The couple of heat waves we had the last few weeks are not helping the Fireman's effort to control the blaze.

Fires Raging in Jonkershoek

It started in Stellenbosch and Somerset West, just a few kilometers from my home. Lourensford and Vergelegen, two well known wine farms in the region has been struck by the fire and lost some of their 2009 Harvest. Last week, fires started in Paarl as well and dozens of houses and two school was under threat of going up in smoke. The Jonkershoek Nature reserve, in Stellenbosch, is still burning after the first fires started a month back.

Fires Raging in Jonkershoek

I cant help but wonder what this will do to global warming, all this CO2 released into the atmosphere. According to Sky Climate Watch it will definitely have a negative influence and measures must be taken to prevent future fires raging on for weeks at end.

One cant help but wonder if this is natures way of turning a new leaf or simply arsonists.

Pictures form a local Africans news paper : Die Burger

Monday, March 9, 2009

Decisions Decisions

Since I changed jobs and industries a while back, I am no longer able to do keel boat racing. This left me with a difficult decision.

Which sailing dinghy should I buy? What will I use it for? Where to store it? Tillerman will try and persuade me to buy a laser, because it is simplistic, an Olympic class and very competitive. But what if I want to do a little bit of double handed sailing?

Then Tim will try and persuade me to buy a Enterprise. You can comfortably sail around on the lake, race and take the family out for a little bit of adventure. It has pretty blue sails and are very stable. But what if I want to sail alone?

What if....What if...What if?

People would think I am an old lady struggling to make up my mind over which color serviettes to buy for a tea party. So I made a list of what I want in a dinghy.

1. Must be able to launch it from the beach - Hobie/Laser
2. Must be able to sail it on my own and with Rozanne - ?
3. Must be able to store it in my garage - No Hobie will fit - Enterprise/Laser/Finn
4. Must be a competitive class in South Africa - Enterprise/Laser/Finn/Hobie

So I drew my finale conclusion:
I must have two Dinghies. A laser/Finn for when I want to launch from the beach and sail alone and an Enterprise or Laser2 for when I want to take Rozanne along.

Any suggestions?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Hot as hell

It's Saterday today and I'm nowhere near water. I'm sitting at the Wine Cellar in Rawsonville. Some would think this is the ideal way to spend a Saterday, surrounded with vineyards and wine.

It is 36˚C (98˚F) in the shade outside, not any sign of wind. My air con kicked the bucket yesterday and I'm sweating as if I just ran the Boston marathon in high heels. Conditions like these makes it easy to day dream of sand boarding in the dessert, but difficult to daydream about sailing. I wish I could be out on the water.

Maybe I should whack on some sunscreen, sit uncomfortably on the edge of my chair and put the desk fan on high. And just for effect I must get a colleague to splash water in my face and move the desk fan every 5 minutes so that it seems I am tacking and gybing. Maybe that will get me daydreaming about sailing today.

Now where can I find a willing colleague?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Handicapped System

If you are french, they call it the System Handicap Nationale and if you are Swedish it is called Leading Yard Stick or LYS for short. In South Africa we call it The Unfair System. Sailors all over the world think their handicap system are unfair. I like to call it the Handicapped System.

According to my knowledge, which is sometimes limited, a handicap rating can be calculated by either two principles.

1. Observing actual performance and then creating a handicap

2. Measurements taken and formulas used to predict performance

This is according to an article by Jim Teeter : Yacht Racing Handicap System. These are two very different views. The first takes actual race results and base their handicap system on that. The second takes in account all the physical attributes of a boat (weight, length, sail area, etc)
These systems are then used to give boats the same equal opportunity of winning.

I have one big problem with both these systems, one major factor in boa speed is not taken in to account. The major factor being you, the sailor. Take Tillerman , he sails a Laser and competes with people half his age. They are younger, more agile and more fit than him, but they have the same rating. On his blog he complains of not winning races, even though he sailed his hardest and best race. Is this fair?

Another example is when I started sailing, the yacht had a 0.95 rating and we were all beginner sailors. We always ended up in the end of the pack, dead last. Now, two years later the yacht is still on a 0.95 rating, but an experienced crew is sailing her. We take home the medals almost every week. Could that one factor make such a difference, I think so.

A skipper I once sailed under recommend that we don't give the system the boot, but adopt a golf handicap system. Still keeping the current rating, but bring the skipper and crew into the equation as well.

Basic golf handicap is calculated as follows, add your 10 best scores of 20 and then you can determine where you are on the handicap system. With each new game, you enter your result and your handicap get recalculated again. With this system you can still stay competitive even if you just started out.

By doing this beginners and seasoned sailors can race against each other competitively. Each regatta you can test your own ability and that of your boat.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Idiot or Novice?

I remember my first sail. Ooh, how that changed my life from a landlubber to a sea going maniac.
I grew up in the middle of South Africa. No water mass big enough to go sailing on. My contact with water sports was paddling with my canoe on the almost non existing river in the Olifants Valley or over a long weekends going water skiing with friends.

Living in a small town everybody knows everybody and I knew of an old Sonnet Dinghy standing in someones backyard rotting away. So I had it looking like new again with a nice thick glossy layer of epoxy. Now, I didn't know a thing about sailing, less about rigging a dinghy. I got my hands on a sailing book from the library. I think the book was older than me. Read every little thing in there, from righting your dinghy to sail adjustment. Weird thing I could not figure out was why they were talking about apparent wind. According to the book you need to have the sail set this way for this angle to the wind, etc.

So I set of for the a piece of water large enough for the "Art of Sailing". Rigged my dinghy and was launching it just as the wind started to pickup. In the dinghy and off I went. Sail adjustment was easy, but awfully wrong. In the book they just told you what apparent wind was and that you should sail to the angle of the wind.

So clever me was watching the wind sock at the clubhouse for direction, sailing and adjusting my sails to True Wind. Idiot!! Needles to say the dinghy didn't perform like the previous owner described it: It shoots off like a Rocket.

I enjoyed myself so much that I transformed into a sailor for life. Next chance I got I went to the city to buy myself the Complete Sailing Manual, I needed to know more about my new obsession. When I learned that you should sail on apparent wind, I shot off like a rocket.

Idiot? I believe novice.

P.S. Not me in the picture

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sea Monsters - Fact or Fiction

I remember my first off shore race. Fresh out of Sailing school, with my skipper ticket in hand, I boarded a Bavaria 36 for the Mikonos Off Shore Regatta. Foul Weather gear and all the gadgets a young student could afford. The race there was uneventful with 0 wind. 90% of the fleet hoisting the iron sail and the old diesels purred up the coast to Mykonos. at 8pm the evening we entered the Harbor and looked for our mooring.

The next days bay racing was a different story, winds up to 35knts. Exhausted but still in good spirit the crew and skipper decided to head out to sea as the sun started to set over the horizon. We wanted to anchor at Dassen Island for the evening, only 20 miles away. As we rounded Jutten island the fog set in and so the ocean was starting to play tricks on us.

We were motoring in 35 m of water, 2miles form the coast line. Suddenly the echo sounder's alarm sounded, depth from keel to ocean floor read 2m. Skipper and crew alike started to question the instruments and their own knowledge of the ocean. Out popped a school of Dolphins at the bow and the echo alarm stopped.

Weird how ones mind starts to play tricks on you as the fog rolls in and night creeps nearer. With visibility down to zero, so did our speed. We were doing 3knts, crawling slowly towards the Island and a safe anchorage. In the fog eerie sounds seem to come from nowhere as you can hear whispers on the wind, yachts and trawlers a like sound their fog horns and somewhere in the distance a scream.

That scream was from our own bow. I think it sounded like TORPEDO! But that cant be, we aren't in hostile waters. I make my way to the bow only to see green streaks in the sea darting for our bow. Just as we brace ourselves for impact out jumps a friendly illuminant dolphin covered in phosphor. One of the most remarkable things I've ever seen. They were darting to our bow and jumping for 20 min before we entered house bay at Dassen Island, our anchorage. Relieved and exhausted 1am in the morning the entire crew stood at the stern and wrote their name on the phospor coverd sea.

Out came the bottle of sherry and tales of sea monsters and torpedoes.

Do sea monsters exist, our is it just a bottle of sherry and our imagination?