Sunday, February 28, 2010

It's Us, and the Public Good, Not the Industry That Matters Most

Young Canadians did superbly at the recent Laser Midwinter's East in Florida. I'm not going to bother reporting who and how well. In a roundabout fashion, the regatta got me thinking about broader issues. While the competition may not be quite the same as a world championship, it was still very high. With roughly half an Olympic cycle to go before the next games it says a lot about how high the calibre of our racers are. The potential to medal is high. It is curious then that so little attention is paid to these athletes by the professional, large-scale media. I guess it is because so small a proportion of the general population sails. I suppose not a lot of subscriptions or advertisements are sold covering sailing. Despite the size of the America's Cup, and consolidation in favour of some big players, sailing is not big business for the most part. Participation has declined in some demographic categories and in some areas. Curiously, not here, although it remains limited to predominantly  wealthier, white, old men. I guess it is already a small, niche sport here. Profits have shrunk or been stagnant too. Professional writers and sailing analysts fret about this. I've decided that I don't care.

I don't sail in order to support a large-scale, ever-growing industry. I sail because it is fun. I race because it is exciting, and I like to challenge myself. I like to get away from stress and obligations on the island of Montreal. The closest place to do that is the surrounding waters! It can also bring me afar in search of more racing and social ties. None of that is impacted by how many boat builders or businesses exist to suck money from my wallet. We don't sail to serve business behemoths. Why are some people and commentators so obsessed with sailing as an industry? Are we not trying to escape industry, at least for a bit? Maybe I'm a spoil sport, but I'm even turned off by the Olympics as a big business model. The Canadian hype for the Olympics is high with the current games in Vancouver. I enjoy sport as much as the next sailor, but I say must it be so intensely exploited and exploiting? I say let people sail big and small regattas for our own social experience and personal glory. If the rest don't find out how special the sport is, all the better. Some commentators have eternal anxiety over the dearth of sponsors in our sport. Call me old school, but I say, get rid of 'em, and all the yachties who raise the ante to play as well!

A better reason to want to grow the sport would be because it is healthy and fun, to contribute to the public good. If we want more people to be aware of and benefit from sailing, and other water sport, the best action would be to encourage public ownership of the waterfront. It is deplorable how much waterfront is privately owned. It is unacceptable that the public is given little access to what should be a public and preserved natural resource. I don't even care if we don't have more, bigger yacht clubs. Let there be more natural shoreline, clean water, parks, and simple ramps and access points to launch. I suspect a lot more people would be paddling, rowing, and sailing if we could be more aware of what wonderful, hidden possibilities exist.

Oh yeah, to check the results of the Laser Midwinter's in Clearwater Florida, click here!

- Photo by Beth Dolezal from the Clearwater YC site.
-Ralph, Montreal Sailing, blog of the people!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Canadians Doing Superbly at Laser Midwinter's East

Photo from Sailgroove site.

The racing is pretty interesting at the Laser Midwinter's East in Clearwater, Florida. Canadians continue to do well, throughout the ranks.

Emil Cedergardh has a strong lead in the Laser Gold Fleet. Two elite Canucks, Lee Parkhill and Michael Leigh are holding 2nd and third respectively. The next Canadian is one I have long thought is a prospective Olympian to watch, Robert Davis from Kingston YC has been growing and getting stronger and stronger with each season. He is now in 12th overall ahead of some extremely high calibre sailors. He's one point up in the standings over Master sailor, John Bertrand. That is the former Laser world champ, Finn silver medalist, and America's Cup tactician for Dennis Connor. Davis is also 10 points up on Paul Goodison, Laser sailor #1 in the World standings and Olympic Gold medalist in the Laser. Goodison is coming back from a break after the last Olympics. Davis is sailing better and better, and by the time 2012 rolls around, I expect to see him having challenged the standard bearers for a Canadian spot.

Young Olivier Corbeil (CVL) made it into the Gold Radial Fleet. He has had superb races finishing in the top ranks, until Saturday with a DNF and 34th. His best race was a 7th which must've been exhilarating. I predict this is another sailor to watch. American Paige Railey is demolishing the competition in this fleet. Having a great regatta are Lisa Ross in 3rd overall and Jen Spalding in 6th overall.

Alexandre Stranix (PCYC), who was pulling the strings in a 420 during last season's Fruitbowl Training Regatta is now sailing the Radial in the Silver fleet, where he his holding 14th overall. Good show! 

This year's Clearwater regatta is showing Canadians and Montrealers having made big gains and bodes well for these folks in Olympic class sailing. Racing concludes with perhaps one or two races today. Sail fast Canadian and Montreal sailors.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Strong Canadian Showing So Far at Laser Midwinter's East


A lot of Canadians are racing at the Laser Midwinter's East in Clearwater, Florida, including Montreal-area sailors like Martin Robitaille pictured above. Robitaille had excellent races the first day, placing in the top third of 90 registered boats. His best score amongst an impressive international fleet was 13th. Robitaille sails out of CVL. So does Olivier Corbeil who currently is in 23rd in the Radial Class. Holly McGarr from PCYC had a great Radial race yesterday picking up a 19th out of the 94 registered boats. 

There is plenty of Canadian representation at the regatta including Lee Parkhill only one point out of first place in the full-rigs. Mike Leigh sits in 6th overall. In the Radials, Jen Spalding and Lisa Ross are tied with 35 points each in 5th and 6th overall. Robert Davis from Kingston YC continues his climb up the ranks of Laser sailing. He took 4th in the last race yesterday to put him in 15th overall so far in the regatta. 

One sailor I enjoy following is an old guy named John Bertrand. After sailing large, fancy racing boats, big money sailing is in a deep slump. So, he has come full circle to race once again in single-handed dinghies. He took third in the last race yesterday, and holds down 8th overall. Wow.

The large number of sailors had been divided into different fleets. Now, they will be re-divided into gold and silver fleets for the regatta climax.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Rahns get First, first, and first in Wayfarer

Peter and Alex Rahn had another successful trip to Florida, winning the 2010 Wayfarer Midwinter championship with a perfect three firsts in cool, breezy weather Feb. 5-7 at the Lake Eustis SC.
Gosh, the mainsail looks big in this pic. The Wayfarer website is where this photo is from. They are now announcing their 2010 World Championship in Weymouth, England. I think our champs should go.

The Rahns usually have their Shark ready pretty early. Since it is kept accessible indoors when work is done, I bet Peter is already considering his To Do list right now. Since their Shark named Eclipse sported the inspiring  nickname "My Stimulus Package" on the starboard side, I'm considering the nickname "Deficit Spending" for mine. Come Montreal racing season, I aim on switching again to "Boom Town". 
Woo-hoo, good times ahead!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Breaking News Post - AC 33

Historical Archive Photo

As the years go by, here are the likely breaking news headlines of the future in the Scuttlebutt newsletter:

  • Scuttlebutt Editor Announces New Format to Replace Outmoded Twitter and Email. Breaking News to be Delivered to the Built-in Screens of i-glasses popularized by Jimmy Spithill and Apple
  • Russell Coutts Announces New One-Design RC44 with Hardwing
  • Julian Bethwaite's Great-grandson to Propose Hardwing Moth as Replacement for the Outdated, Slow 49er in a new Olympic Class. Purists Protest Amid Confusion over Aircraft and Sailing vessels
  • Larry Ellison buys North and J Boats, Merging Them to Market Revolutionary Hardwing Racing Yachts
  • Traditional Sailmakers and Yacht Builders of Pre-Hardwing Era Open the Old Boat School
  • Talks Rumoured of a Quantum and Melges Alliance
  • Melges Announces the Q, an Affordable Hardwing Scow. Praised for Affordable Inland Sailing 
  • Mega production Loft in China Reports Upswing in sales of Tanbark-coloured Hardwings as Tradtionalists Try and Capture Nostalgic Bygone Era
  • Airbus buys Beneteau and confirms intentions to realize new line up of moderately-priced, dual-purpose sailboat/aircraft
Remember, you read it first on Montreal Sailing

Friday, February 12, 2010

Today, we saw the future?

Have we seen the future today? Pictured above is the hard wing that today clearly was the factor that won race #1 for BMW Oracle Racing. B-O clearly were able to keep their windward hull more consistently out of the water. The Alinghi Catamaran was thought to have a light air advantage, particularly downwind. However today showed that would not be the case. It appears that any such weight advantage was overcome by the power of the hard mainsail.

So, how long before we start seeing hardwings in Montreal!? I'm still using dacron whites as per class rules. Some of you are using higher tech sails with composites. The prices of some laminate sails have come down. Heck, given how far behind we are (fine by me for now), could it be decades before our sailboats have aircraft-type hard wings?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Local DN fleet enjoying the mild weather

A few days ago I noticed the DN fleet out on Valois Bay again. The ice looked pretty clear. I guess the lack of new snow accumulation and some breeze has been helpful. Along with mild temperatures, it seems pretty ideal.

Photo of same location in December - Ralph, Montreal Sailing

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

AC Regatta postponed again. Feed them to the Sharks

Ho hum, the America's Cup racing was postponed for yet another two days. Monday, they didn't have enough wind throughout the 20 miles to the windward mark, and it was shifting considerably. Today, they may have had too much wind. I couldn't be bothered to click again to find out. Maybe Friday. Sigh...

It's tough having to depend on this obscenely monied AC lot for entertainment. Wait we must, till spring and own sailing season begins. Oh, how much more exciting to actually be racing in our own plebeian fleets, such as the Sharks here. Lots of boats, intense mark roundings, real action. Yes, we were there, in the thick of it! Blizzards of boats that is, not snowstorms. Well okay, not exactly in the midst of it. We were quite a bit further back, but we had high drama in mark roundings too. We were part of the fun and glory for all. In our case, a Shark World Championship. Just last August, it was a highpoint of our racing fun. A good number of Montreal sailors were there, and fared very respectably. The point is, you, me, all of us would rather be sailing.

What a colossal amount of money being wasted on the America's Cup right now. It is just a pretty poor bargain. Imagine making that kind of investment, and not even being able to race for a week. When, they finally do, it isn't likely that they will have tight, intense racing as in the battles going on in our own everyday regattas. The two mammoth boats that will eventually race this year's America's Cup will probably be miles apart most of the time. They may not even be able to see each other on the race course. BORING! Well, perhaps boring is too strong a sentiment. I will be watching, just like many of you. Really though, part of the attraction is the spectacle, the excess, the incredible indulgence of it all. For real fun, partaking in our own working class racing is far superior. As the ubiquitous slogan goes, "Just do it".

Bob Barratt took that exciting photo.

Monday, February 08, 2010

AC 33: Finally, Put up or Shut up

Racing was supposed to begin this morning, but has been abandoned due to unstable wind. Now race #1 will be on Wednesday 10:00 Valencia time. All the legal hoo-haa had me tuned out of the event until literally this morning. There is no televised action for us in Montreal. However, there are three live video feeds we can watch online. I downloaded the free player without issue.

The AC website
BMW Oracle Racing
Boats on TV

From initial poking around, the BMW coverage seemed to be the most complete and smoothest online. However, I was still yawning and consuming my first cuppa joe very early this morning. Surf about. You can also get live tweets with the quickest live texting of conditions and racing at the official Twitter AC  feed.

I have no idea who really has an edge, and haven't followed very closely. It's still more fun to follow the racers we actually compete with in Montreal, because we're all in the fleets. Amazing though, the boats were doing about 22 knots boatspeed in very little wind pre-race. That makes me wonder how much the wind can build before they start to break apart. The hard wing sported by USA looks pretty rad. Hopefully, we see who's got go, and who's got show on Wednesday.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Tanzers on Labour Day week end

This photo was taken at the Hudson Labour Day Regatta in 2007. It was the last run to the finish line. We were racing Tanzer 22, #92, Ambitious, and Keith Grassie's Tanzer 26, #404, Therapy was catching up. They did pass to finish ahead, and we settled for placing higher on corrected time. It was a fun, challenging day. The Tanzer 22 one design racing has expired locally, but it remains by far and away the largest class at the HYC regatta. Many other Tanzers including the 26 and 7.5 come out for the event.

Ralph, Montreal Sailing

Monday, February 01, 2010

Eric Spencer 1923-2010

Eric Spencer passed away peacefully at the West Island Palliative Care Residence on January 26th, 2010. I did not know Eric well, but after acquiring my first keelboat, a Tanzer 22, and then as as a Past-President of the Tanzer Class Association, I was fortunate enough to meet him on a number of occasions. Eric was a speaker at our AGMs and the main supplier of parts for our Tanzers after the builder closed its doors. I was always struck by his keen knowledge, generosity, and patience. When he gave talks at our meetings the hall was always silent, as members tried to retain every word of help and wisdom. After he would finish, a line up of those with questions would garner the same attentiveness. It is obvious to me that beyond boats, people like Eric Spencer are what make our pastime so special. Here is an excerpt from the recent obit. - Ralph, Montreal Sailing

Eric was born in Cromer, England, served as navigator and became a Commissioned Officer in the Pathfinder Force of the RAF from 1941-1946. He settled in Canada in 1957. A life-long yachtsman, he became president and co-owner of Tanzer Industries from 1968-1986. His knowledge of sailing craft was considerable and highly sought-after by enthusiasts the world over. He established his "retirement project", Yachting Services in 1986, which he operated with Patricia's help to the end. Eric loved books and enjoyed serving on the Beaconsfield Library Book Selection Committee for several years. Eric was a dynamic person, who lived keenly, and was very brave throughout his final years, bearing the cruelties of terminal illness. He was a member of the "Best Generation", and we who knew and loved him have been privileged to have had him in our lives.