Saturday, November 26, 2005

Olympic Team Racing

The ISAF recently announced the new format for Olympic Sailing.
The big difference is the Medal Race on the last day. Only the top ten boats advance to the Medal Race and all boats advancing to the medal race are required to compete. The Medal Race cannot be discarded and race scores are doubled (2 points for first, 4 points for second, and so on). The score from the medal race is added to the series score to determine the final scores. There will be an on the water jury for the Medal Race, so all protests will be decided on the water.

So, a sailor who sails consistently to a series lead of less than 21 points over the previous 11 races could lose a medal by having a bad medal race. I think this changes the fundamental requirement of consistency over the range of conditions and situations in the regatta, in favor of a one race sail-off in what could be different conditions, in an artificially smaller fleet, with jury decisions made on the water. The ISAF seems to be under pressure from the IOC to change the format of Olympic sailing to make it more exciting for the media. I wonder if other sports are having the same problems...maybe the Olympic marathon could be decided by a 100 meter sprint between the top ten finishers on the day following the marathon finish.

I think a better solution would be to add an Olympic Team Racing event. My suggestion would be for teams to be composed of the sailors already qualified in other classes and for the event to be sailed in identical boats (i.e. Vanguard 15s). (Only countries with enough sailors qualified in enough classes would be able to form team racing teams.) Top sailors from each country would team up to race with sailors from other classes in an exciting conclusion to the sailing events. The 49er and 470 sailors would probably remain together as partners, but perhaps the Laser skipper and one of the Yngling sailors would form the third boat in the team. A team race format could be TV friendly and explained in terms that casual viewers could understand.

Team racing is becoming well known worldwide. The 2005 ISAF Team Racing World Championships were held in Newport in October. Teams were from Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Great Britain, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, United States and the USVI. The event was won by Team WHishbone - Tim FALLON (N. Falmouth, Mass.), Karen RENZULLI (Needham, Mass), Mark IVEY (Hungtington Beach, Calif.), Matt LINDBLAD (Newport, R.I.), Tim WADLOW (Beverly, Mass.), and Ery LARGAY (Osterville, Mass.).

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Squirrel Starts

"Even a blind squirrel gets a nut sometimes."

Tillerman recently discussed his efforts at being more aggressive at the start. He talks about two techniques: "You can hold station on the line trying to stay in position just below the line while protecting the gap to leeward as best you can. Or you can be a "shark". A shark cruises along behind the line of boats holding station until he sees a good gap then scoots into the hole at the last minute. A shark can approach the hole on port tack in which case he has to tack into it. Or he can be a starboard tack shark. In the drills, JK had us practice all three options -- hold station, port tack shark and starboard tack shark."

In college, one of the guys on our team had a reputation for another type of start that became known as a "squirrel start". It's not really anything new, but he had the technique down to a science. He would line up at the starboard end of the line just downwind and outside the committee boat about one minute before the start. As the boats on the line started to accelerate for the start an opening would typically open up just to leeward of the committee boat. The key would be to time the approach so as to reach the line at full speed right where the hole had appeared. Obviously this technique could be disastrous alot of the time, so there was a certain amount of skill involved in deciding if the placement of the rest of the fleet was optimal for attempting the start. When it worked it had a similar result as port-tacking the fleet from the pin end of the line; he would be ahead and to windward of the fleet in clear air. When it didn't work there would be alot of yelling and protests. In college regatta size fleets (~18 boats) with short courses the squirrel start was very effective.

I have used the "squirrel start" technique quite effectively in my own sailing although in bigger fleets and in bigger boats the risk involved often outweighs the potential rewards. If you are in "shark" mode and there is no good hole somewhere in the favored half of the line then it can be worth a try.

The times when it seems to be worth it are:
- in a fleet of less experienced sailors
- in boats that don't accelerate without considerable sideslipping
- when the committee boat doesn't create an enormous wind shadow
- when the boat end is weakly favored (or is about to be favored just after the start)
- when you want to go right anyway (even if you are the second row right at the committee boat there can be an advantage in being able to tack away immediately after the start)
- in heavy air
- in small fleets with short start lines

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Boats I'd Like to Sail: RS700

The RS700 is another singlehanded skiff with a spinnaker. This one has what the manufacturer calls a "performance equalisation system" using adjustable width wings to adjust for the weight of the sailor.

Again, it looks like this like the R700 is only sailed in Europe...but it looks like fun.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Boats I'd Like to Sail - Musto Skiff

I decided to start a series of posts on boats I'd like to sail. First up is the Musto Skiff:

The Musto Skiff is a single-handed skiff with a gennaker but it seems to only be sailed in Europe so since I like actually having other boats to race against it's unlikely I'll ever sail one. It looks like a ton of fun to sail though.

Baby Dream

I don't usually remember dreams, but last night I had a dream about a baby. This is probably not that unusual considering my wife is due to have a baby any day now. All I can remember of the dream is picking up my baby and realizing that someone (I distinctly remember thinking it was someone from my wife's family) had put the baby's diaper on wrong and there was poop all over the baby's back. I also remember the little girl clinging to me and feeling such love for her.

Running again

I was inspired by Tillerman's post from last Friday and went for a run today. I ran and walked for about 30 minutes but I definitely felt out of shape. I used to enjoy running but that was back in high school. I ran on the cross country team for one fall season (after injuring myself playing soccer) and then ran the 2-mile on the track team in the spring. I once ran the 2-mile in 11:02.
Then I went to college, drank too much beer and pretty much stopped running.