Opti Haters

July 12, 2012 § 21 Comments

From the series Here Come the Optis, by Curt Crain

From the series Here Come the Optis, by Curt Crain

On the subject of kids learning to sail, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a discussion thread on a sailing website or an op/ed in a sailing magazine that doesn’t include extreme opinions about the Optimist Dinghy (Opti) and other similar one-person prams like the El Toro. Folks either hate them or they’re resigned to them.

Generally, the Opti-resigned assume that the only way for a kid to learn is in a pram, starting precisely at the age of eight. Opti haters blame the boats for scaring kids away, or, at least, for not being enough fun to sail to hold their interest after a time. The resigned often get their cues from people who sell prams. And haters get theirs from people who sell something else.

Of course, neither claim is true. Optis can be a heckuva lot of fun, but they aren’t the only way to learn.

Deeper thinking than rants and promotions takes you to a place where the flaws and the benefits are found in the programs, not the boats. « Read the rest of this entry »

Sailing won’t soon forget the Kaszubes

July 4, 2012 § 1 Comment

In about a week, sailing kids from all over the midwest will arrive at South Shore Yacht Club (SSYC), my home club, for the annual, traditional Kaszube Cup regatta.

Kaszube 420s

Kids sailing in the Kaszube Cup off of Jones Island

Usually, there are about thirty 8-13 year olds sailing Optimist dinghies, and another fifty or sixty teenagers on Lasers and 420’s. There are typically two race courses, one inside the Milwaukee break wall for the younger kids, and another about a mile and a half offshore for the rest.

Like many large youth sailing regattas, this one will depend on parents to volunteer to make sandwiches for lunch, supply berths for out-of-town kids, and they’ll board spectator boats to snap pictures and offer encouragement.

The regatta has a special place in my family’s collective heart, in part because of the fun sailing memories that it provides my kids, but more importantly, because it celebrates a people who might otherwise be forgotten. My wife and daughters have deep Polish ancestry, some of it Kaszube.

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Is there cheating in sailing?

July 1, 2012 § 6 Comments

Extreme Kinetics“Is there cheating in sailing?” asked the nationally acclaimed basketball coach.

An odd question, I thought, but logical. He lives in an ultra-competitive world.

“Sure”, I said, “boats can be improved illegally by subtracting weight.”

The Sports Psychologist added that on the race course there are opportunities to cheat when judges can’t see the action, and that there are rules against kinetics that can be hard to enforce.

We were together at the start of the All Instructors Symposium of the Junior Sailing Association of Long Island Sound. I was to speak on mentoring.

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Sailing Country

June 15, 2012 § 1 Comment

This from one of my sailing heroes, Marc Fortune in Nashville, who assembled a top-notch team and broke new ground in sailing advocacy over the winter. It’s starting paying off for kids and families in and around the area.

Now that sailing season has returned for my fellow cheese heads, I am delighted to report that our Regional Summit has fired up the deckhands. Our sailing camp is as popular as ever and we may be adding a remote program to a community 50 miles south of Nashville. “It’s what Nick talked about at the Summit,” the promoter told me.  So, my friend, you are indeed making this a better world – one sailor at a time.

Thanks for all you do for our sport, for what you helped us with in Nashville.

The big bonus: I learned that I have been harboring a secret love of country music. Look up Don Schlitz when you have a moment.

Here are a couple of highlights.

Sailing at the Parthenon

How to find sailing in Nashville: Start at the Parthenon

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Spinnakers and Speed

April 15, 2012 § 1 Comment

Spinnakers on Milwaukee Bay

Another great group at last Thursdays’s MCSC Advanced Sailtrim Theory class. Nothing like a polar diagram to show why downwind sailing should really be called downwind flying if it’s done right.

We discovered that the iPad Wind Tunnel app is just as good a tool to explain downwind sailing as upwind sailing, and more importantly, why “dead down” is appropriately called “dead down” (lot’s of drag, not much lift.)

Thanks to all who attended this series of classes. There are still a few great ones left at MCSC. Register here.

If you’re looking for the slides, missed the class, or would like to use these ideas for your own class, feel free to download the pdfs, and use the message tool below for feedback – questions, corrections and ideas. All welcome.

MCSC Advanced Sailtrim 201

Trepidation.

April 10, 2012 § 2 Comments

Watching from the dockIf you’re a seasoned sailor, you probably don’t feel much trepidation when you’re preparing to leave the dock. You’re familiar. You speak the language.

But nearly everyone else in the world does.

Sailing is one of those things that almost everyone would like to try, but few do, in large part, because of trepidation.

It can seem daunting. Imagine imagining what it might feel like to sail when you’ve never done it. You might be panicked about the motion, not knowing the names of things, not having the right clothing or safety equipment, feeling helpless when someone asks you to do something using words you don’t know, like “ease the sheets” or “trim the guy”.

But a small, unpretentious publication captures that transcendent moment when one who aspires to sail meets the one who will help them realize their dreams. It begins with an unusually firm handshake, an authentic meeting of eyes, the confidence of basic english, and the trepidation melts away so that the grand adventure can begin.

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Explaining lift

April 7, 2012 § 1 Comment

Wind Tunnel

I enjoy volunteering to teach sailing classes in the winter months at the Milwaukee Community Sailing Center. Last Thursday was Sail Trim Theory 101.

I’ve tried many ways to explain”lift” in a classroom setting, like imagining the feeling of making a wing with your hand out the passenger window of a fast-moving car…

A friend (Mark Waltz – who sails on the venerable Golden Goose) suggested an iPad App call Wind Tunnel ($1.99), and we tried it this time. It seemed to work well. You can see pressure and speed and particles in the abstract. It’s easier to demonstrate angle of attack, the stall, and the effects of too much or too little camber in a sail.

The big bonus, I think, is that while the load and drag calculations are relative not real, they do offer a rich visual and numeric way to show and think about how a main and jib sail are better than just a main or jib sail.

Thanks to everyone who came to class this week. Hope to see you at the Advanced Class (201), this Thursday, at 6pm at MCSC.

Here are the slides from 101, for anyone interested.

Sail Trim Theory 101

Sail Trim Theory 101

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