October 1, 2006


I’ve enjoyed sharing ideas with you – time now to quietly sail into the sunset


Surfing & Sailing

September 27, 2006


Laird Hamilton – Paddle Surfing


No wind?  No problem – paddle surf for fun and conditioning

A common denominator that is often found in great downwind helmsman is that at one point in their lives they were probably gymnasts, snow skiers (probably now snowboarders, too), or surfers.  It’s a balance thing.  No question that I saw this in SoCal with some of the people I sailed with – legend has it that Dave Ullman was a great surfer before – and during – the time he owned the 470 class. 

Laird Hamilton is the current icon of the surfing world – he’s credited with inventing, or at least perfecting, foilboarding, along with plenty of other tricks in the sport.  He’s also pretty darn good at getting endorsement deals from big companies, not the least of which is American Express.  Is there a currently sailor with an AmEx deal? 

Now it comes that Laird is being given credit for the next trend in surfing – “Paddle Surfing” – just like it sounds – a paddle and a surfboard, a “stand up” activity.  That sounds like fun – but also – it sounds like a great workout.  Imagine the benefit – a bit of balance training, and pretty much a total body workout.  So, for all those days that we get beached from no wind, maybe this would be a better way to pass the time while we wait for the wind to blow.  And maybe it will come to pass that someone will build one of these boards that can serve as both a windsurfing and paddle surf board.

Great pictures in the Los Angeles Times story here.


Surf’s Up!

September 26, 2006


Surfin’ the Canadian Riviera – Buffalo in the background

When I first moved to southern California, the locals used to say “what on earth could you possibily know about sailing in heavy weather – it never blows on the Great Lakes”.

Oh really?

Forget the mecca’s of SoCal surfing like Trestles, The Wedge, Huntington, or Malibu – come to the Canadian Riviera and surf the Palmwood break – it was happening the past week.  Above pic of some dudes from Toronto who came to surf the Canadian south shore – 7 footers happening in 43 knots of breeze.  Sounds to me like this was the same front in which the J-24’s NA’s sailed in the next lake over in Rochester, where a couple of them sunk.

Then it got windy and the 9 footers at the Palmwood break made The Wedge look tame.

Nice story in the Washington Post here on local Great Lakes surf action.

And if you think this is a good place to surf – you should see the windsurfer’s in this area – several locals who also sail the Hawaii big water live for days like this around here.  I’m sure the crew was out en force.

Won’t be long now and we’ll be sharping the runners on the ice boats for these very same waters.

Surfin’ Canada at the Palmwood – who knew?



September 25, 2006


The exciting new H-10

No, it’s not the new Huston-10 – though I wish I had the talent to have put this new boat together.

This is the new H-10 – the H is shorthand for Hoyt – as in Garry Hoyt, he of a prior post on the excellent Alerion line of boats.

Nothing in my lifetime is ever going to be an Opti-killer, but the H-10 is one of the new alternatives for kids who want to sail something other than a slow square box. 

Built of carbon, it will weigh only 72 pounds.  Simple lanteen rig.  Garry told me not to long ago that it planes easily – the new Sail Magazine suggests it even planes to weather.

I also like the new Bic O’Pen and Iain Murray’s Nippa out of Australia, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the H-10 is going to catch on as well.  All three of these boats have their advantages – and while many think the sport should have only one world wide youth training boat, I disagree.  That is like saying you can only listen to one kind of music, or wear one kind of clothes, or eat one kind of food.  Opti’s are fine for some, but the H-10 is going to be great for others.

The above pic was borrowed from Sail Mag – let’s hope that orders for the H-10 pour in and Garry gets a proper website up and running very soon.

Be the first kid in your bay to own the coolest new boat floating.   

H-10 could also probably stand for Happy-10, because any kid that gets one of these as a 10th birthday present is going to be very happy.   

Curmudgeon Casts Off

September 22, 2006


Tom “The Curmudgeon” Leweck

The message in the inbox had a headline of only “retirement”.  I knew this day was coming, but never wanted to think it would actually happen.

The Curmudgeon has announced he is handing over the helm of Scuttlebutt to son Craig.

Scuttlebutt began life on September 27, 1997 with 40 of Tom’s closest friends getting an email about amusing things that were happening around the southern California waterfront.  Fletcher’s job of the week.  Gaudio’s latest victory.  A new big boat here.  A screwy race there.  Little by little, ‘butt grew to a national publication, then international.  What started as something to just keep alot of us more connected to each other between races each week in SoCal helped to changed alot about the sport for the better on a global basis.

But let’s back up a minute – I get asked alot – “Who is the Curmudgeon?”.  I think the more interesting question is “What is the Curmudgeon?”   

I had the good fortune to stumble into him in the late 80’s when Leslie DeMeuse and I were helping the Sled class with some prospective TV and sponsorship opportunities.  Tom was the then Executive Director of the Sled class – he did a great job balancing the competitive interests of a bunch of guys who are all used to getting their own way.  The duration of the class on the west coast is largely due to his ability to herd a bunch of (really rich) cats in the same general direction.  So, let’s start by saying he’s a darn good diplomat.

Back up even further to the time before I knew him when he was racing, and winning, in a wide variety of boats from Lido 14’s to Wavelength 24’s.  Along the way he picked up a talent for navigating big boats – especially down the west coast of Mexico.  Local lore has it that he’s done 52 (or maybe 53, I’ve lost track) Mexican Races.  Won more than a few of them too.  Also a handful of Transpacs too.  Even knows celestial navigation pretty darn well.  So lets call this part the adventurer.

I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of being a house guest at the Leweck homes.  For someone who has sailed alot, and won alot of trophies, when you look around their tasteful Marina del Rey condo, you don’t see any trophy clutter – in fact, you see almost no trophies.  But you see alot of books – cool books on alot of different subjects, but for sure, alot of sailing books.  However the sailing books aren’t about how to win, they are more about how to enjoy the sport.   So let’s call this the intellectual part. 

Consider for a minute that ‘butt started during the first light of the internet age.  Many of us had been using email for a couple of years by ’97, a few for as many as 10 years.  Back in the late 80’s and early ’90’s, then US Sailing Executive Director John Bonds sort of mandated that committee members join Compuserve so we could communicate with each other more easily.  Many of us began email communication about sailing well before email was as easy as it is today, and certainly long before the web was mainstream.  As a former communications profressional (Tom was the PR dude for GTE in California) he was always interested in various new forms of communicating.  When ‘butt began, who know where the internet was going to go exactly (who still knows?), but he knew that it was a good way to spend time, and to spread the word.  There is little question that ‘butt has become the de facto standard when it comes to promoting progressive change that betters the sport, especially in the US.  Ever sail in a regatta where the RC uses VHF radio’s to communicate with sailors before and during the start?  You can thank The Curmudgeon for beating that drum constantly.  So, let’s also put the tag of visionary on him too.

One thing is also certain, for all of the progress he’s been a part of, it is rarely about him, and most often it’s about others when it comes to passing out credit for a job well done.  As the long standing MC for the North Sails Race Week prize giving in Long Beach, he had a certain way of making all the non-winners feel great about just being in the event.   When the TP 52 class was starting, who did they turn to as their first Exectutive Director?  The Curmudgeon.  When he realized his interests were being divided between spending time against helping that class or furthering the interests of ‘butt, he stepped aside and helped current ExDir Tom Pollack take the helm of that class, which by any measure is now a huge success.  Are you sailing on – and/or making money from – the TP 52 class these days?  Say thanks to Leweck, but while he’ll say all the credit is due to Tom Pollack, I’d bet Pollack would be the first to say the class would not have been able to prosper as it has without the early foundation provided by Leweck.  That both of the Tom’s will deflect credit to the other is probably exactly why the class is at the top of the sport these days.  As an editor, for both Sailing World, and obviously ‘butt, he’s probably lost count long ago of how many stories and editorials he’s had to whip up into shape.  Back in the Sailing World days, he took a decent idea, with terrible prose, about creating a list of Group 2 & 3 sailors and turned it into this article.  As a result, that list was created, which helped a couple of classes better manage their growth.  Ultimately, the list that US Sailing created became the foundation for the ISAF Sailor system.  So, let’s add mentor to the list of what Tom is.

So what The Curmudgeon does somewhat defines who he is – and ultimately there are only really really three words that can define him – “family man” & “friend”.

And probably one more…


And like anyone of his calibre, “retirement” is the wrong word for what The Curmudgeon is doing.  He’s just getting off the helm of the boat called “Scuttlebutt” and jumping ship to the world of radio controlled boats where he has an accelerated interest.  One wonders how long it will be before RC boats have their own little special edition of “RC ‘butt”.

Knowing him as I do, he’d not want alot of attention about this change, or the sort of accomplishment he’s achieved for the sport through ‘butt.  But for those in the US who understand what the Herreshoff award is, can you think of a more deserving candidate?  I can’t.

The sport of yacht racing is a better game today than it was on September 27, 1997 – Thanks, Curmudgeon.


High School Sailing

September 19, 2006

One of the better trends in sailing in the US is the growth of high school sailing.  I had the good fortune to watch high school sailing grow significantly in the 80’s and 90’s in southern California, largely as a result of the hard work and dedication of guys like Bill Wakeman and Tim Hogan.  While SoCal has some obviously advantages over teams in the northeast, there is never the less a strong group of young sailors in this region who will give the traditional powerhouse schools in San Diego and Newport Beach a good fight.

Concurrently with witnessing the growth in SoCal high school sailing during the end of the 20th century, I had the privilege of serving with Larry White on the USYRU/US Sailing Inshore Committee for many years.  Larry was the steady hand that helped to nuture the Interscholastic Sailing Association.

The MASSA qualifiers for the Cressy Cup were held in Rochester last weekend – while there wasn’t much wind, they were still able to get a regatta completed.  Rochester YC Race Admininstrator Jason Evans and his wife are about to have their first child at literally any moment, so it is understandable the full results aren’t posted yet, but enjoy this pictures of high school kids doing something far more productive with their time than playing video games.  Let’s hope this trend continues to expand. 





photos courtesy of AbinoMan Images

Sing A Long Time @ The YC

September 18, 2006


Pre-dating the start of MTV by about six months, the world once found humor in “The Preppy Handbook”.  Time and technology changes, but preppies endure, only occassionally adopting new technology.  Oddly, or maybe not so in some sense, I recall my first experience with rap and sailing at the Long Beach Yacht Club, when a team off of a Soverel 33 blasted “Staight Outta Compton” on the long dock right in front of the clubhouse.  Needless to say, the Underhill’s and their friends were not pleased.

Eventually rap became mainstream, and now I can’t get on a boat with college kids as crew and not hear it in one fashion or another.   I’ve always found it rather ironic that rich white kids who couldn’t survive for 10 minutes in the ‘hood want to pretend to be just like a bunch of rappers. 

Seems like some prepsters have figured out how to marry technology and their (our?) cultural subset with this cute white boy rap song about life in the preppy ‘hood on YouTube here.  Enjoy.