Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sorting Things Out

Above: Long beach pier data 3/30/08
Below: Seal Beach wind sensor (other end of the sailing area - a bit more sheltered)

Pulled the blue pajamas out for one final fling today as the forecast said breeze and the air and water temps are both about 50. Borrowed a page from Bora's book and spent the afternoon in one big "Don't take no for an answer" gybing session of figure 8s. Too much rudder lift at first had me wonder what was going on but turned out my little hinge covers were actually doing something. Wand is too darned stiff so downsizing the fishing pole. Making some progress with the gybes but truth be told probably not the best conditions to be trying them in as it was sort of game on. A bit more sorting out to do with switching hands but overall reasonably happy with my progress. Sailed quite late and was the last one off the water after all 30 or 40 kiteboarders packed it in. Should have quit sooner as was definitely slipping backward by the end. All in all a lovely day, though I did see one dead seal which was sort of depressing. I guess they have to die sometime. Not many sailboats out today - thought I saw some A-cats in the distance when I was rigging but it seemed pretty gnarly for a mast that tall today and they all zipped in before I got out.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf's a flower.

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.
- Robert Frost

Stop lights had me in an existential frame of mind today. Here in LA everyone drives everywhere, and the people who stubbornly refuse to drive or use public transit get run over. It's pretty much that simple. So everyone takes two tons of steel with them wherever they go. And they seem to love to accelerate that 4,000lbs of steel to amazing velocities before encountering the next physical obstruction, which is generally a traffic light, requiring them to press their shiny disc brakes into service and send the remaining 30% of the energy they just used to accelerate themselves to Warp 9, back into the atmosphere as heat. So when the BMW next to me floors it as the light turns green, I look on with wonder as it flies down the road, only to stop at the next light and wait for me to catch up. At which point I wonder: are we all in some sort of cosmic race that no one told me about?

On the race course, it's all clearly defined, and we accept that getting to the finish even one second sooner than the other guy is significant. After all, on a Moth, the benefits of skill actually do translate into significant amounts of time and distance - never mind that the finish line is generally in the same place you started - and who knows? Someday you may be tapped to sail your Moth up the Alaskan coastline in the dead of winter delivering pertussis vaccine, and lives may hang in the balance. One missed gybe and little Jimmy doesn't make it. Kind of makes you feel good about all that practice now, doesn't it?

And evenings in the garage? Simple. Decades hence sailors will still refer to the pioneers of foiling as giants among men - like Paul Butler and the sliding seat. Never mind that sliding seats were in use by others well before him - somehow he gets the credit, which probably beats winning any race when it comes to infamy.

So my advice to all you budding foilers is to give up on beating Si Payne and Rohan and the rest of the really great sailors who spend incredible amounts of time figuring out how to sail Moths faster than everyone else. They are probably more focused than you, have made more time in their lives for this than you have, and likely had more talent to begin with - unless you happen to be an Olympic level sailor yourself (in which case what the hell are you doing reading my blog)? The rest of you, think up some useful little gizmo or technique that pushes foiling technology forward in a useful way, name it, and show up at a regatta somewhere. Whether it's a May Stick, Veal heel or an F-box, your place in the history of the class will be secure, and forty years from now no one will care whether you finished first in the racing. After all: there is only one World Champion, but there is almost certainly still a lot of low-hanging technological fruit out there to be picked in this Golden Age of hydrofoil sailing.

Worst case scenario? It doesn't work. But in the end it's better to regret the things you have done than the things you haven't. Or is it?


Well the first of what may be annual whupass sessions in Coronado is a week gone. All I can say is that the level of this fleet is pretty darned high for a bunch of guys who just started sailing the boats a few months ago; top four boats were consistently on foils during gybes, and the rest foiled through nearly all gybes only to fall off and get going again quickly. Then there are people like me who have cool looking newly-built hydrofoils in the garage, but less gybing prowess. My ego is slightly less bruised by the fact that some of these guys have won Olympic medals and such, and by the fact that they are fun to hang out with. We have a good bunch of folks here.

It would be nice to think that prowess in one area, like designing something new, can somehow compensate for lack of prowess in boathandling, but this is an exceptionally long-range view. Racing is not much fun if one is in a different zip code from the top of the fleet. So I will be focused primarily upon gybes for the foreseeable future, as everything else seems to be going pretty well.

The LA times started showing up again on Thursday, without apparent correlation to any known determinant of newspaper delivery, e.g. paying the bill, subscribing, failing to pay the bill because I haven't received the paper in four months, etc. Good thing as I was running out of drip papers for the floor of the garage...

Friday, March 21, 2008

Off to see the Wizard

Ah, Spring! Season of slightly more reliable winds, fair temperatures, no heating bills, and cautious optimism.

Big weekend for mothing both here in the US and in Australia, where the NSW titles are underway. For us it's the first ever (as far as any of us know) Moth Pacific Coast Championships, at Coronado Yacht Club in San Diego, CA. Over ten boats are expected, with four journeying down the coast from as far as Seattle, one from San Francisco, one from Detroit and around six locally - possibly more. Woo Hoo.

The fleet is out today tuning up without me, as I had other obligations. Occasionally I question whether I have my priorities straight, but it was very difficult to arrange coverage for Easter weekend at all, let alone the Friday preceding, especially given that I called in a favor to get LAST Friday covered. I have one of "those" kinds of jobs I guess you might say - no rock stars here - unless they're sick anyway.

Foils are coming along nicely, but it's time to go sailing for a change. New proto sail for the boat so will be interesting to see how that goes. Apart from that it's all in the corners and whether you can put them when and where you want them without cashing it all in.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Moving On

Blog has taken a back seat to much of everything else lately. As the old canard goes: Those who can, do. Those who can't, write. Not sure where that leaves me in the scheme of things tonight, but I have a good idea...

Drinking Maudite listening for sounds of carnage from the bad bearing on my vacuum pump motor, or so it seems. The little ceramic heater is cranking away in a race to get the epoxy to kick before the motor dies permanently. Fortunately for me the death seems to be lingering on a bit.

Not much available time before PCCs in Coronado in 1.5 wks. OOT this coming weekend so it will all go flashing by and I'll be gasping for air on the upwind legs in no time. Certainly need to amp up the fitness regimen and tighten the hiking straps.

Alex finally made it out of LAX back to his home galaxy last week, but not before a glorious Sunday of ripping around Long Beach harbor on the Moth. Sorry to see him go as he was actually a lot of help laying up the first set of foils, and won't get to see the finished product - at least for a while.

Anders stopped down and got foiling just long enough to get half a mile offshore before he tried to tack. I had launched him on a water start, but out there the wind had dropped and he had no idea how to get into the boat. So he drifted slowly back to shore, getting progressively more hypothermic all the while. Good sport about it though. He was fine once the boat was up, but righting a Moth in light air has no equivalent in the dinghy world - or anywhere else outside the circus.

Off East for the coming weekend to see the boys and get in on a little baptism, Russian Orthodox style.