September 15, 2006



The Lightning Class webpage has a link to a new Web 2.0 mashup called Frappr – Web 2.0speak for “Friend Mapper”.

Basically, what you do is put your location (prefered address) into the system, and then your interests, and up pops one of those Google Map pin-points featuring you.   I’ll bet the next thing someone will do is make this GPS enabled so everyone will know where you are are 24/7 – wait – the NSA already does track you via your cell phone.  I digress….back to our regulary scheduled programming. 

The Lightning Class is on to something here – this is a cool tool.   I can see how classes all over the world (presuming this has global capabilities) can use this.  We all know where the class regulars live – but what about the people who we see only occassionally?  Go to a regatta – meet someone who only sails once or twice a summer – and get them into this database.  It will be one more way to help keep track of boats, members, and prospective members.

I could see setting up a section devoted only to boats in a class – not sailors – just boats.  Everyone probably knows where some boat sits that isn’t sailed very often, isn’t part of the class, and/or the records of it are so old they aren’t valid any longer.  Clearly there is a trend in the US towards sailing alot of old traditional boats – I saw that Jud Smith is sailing a Rhodes 19.  How many old Rhodes 19’s are there that someone would love to buy for a couple of bucks, put it back together, and go race Jud?  Beats spending $50,000 (or whatever) to go race him in an Etchells.  Knowing where all these types of old boats are can only help older classes revive, it not even become very alive again.

Frappr seems to have alot of emphasis on Myspace – and while Myspace isn’t exactly a place for me and my friends, my friends kids seem to hang out there alot.  So, for classes that deal with youth/young adult sailing, Frappr is also something that can help them sustain growth.

Check out the Frappr Lightning site here – and if you aren’t a Lightning sailor – create a Frappr for your class. 


Sail on Cy….

September 14, 2006


Cy Gillette

Being very active in USYRU/US Sailing in the 80’s and 90’s gave me a benefit that I probably never would have had otherwise – getting to know guys like Cy Gillette – he of Honolulu – a great sailor, great Judge/Umpire.  I’ve just learned that he passed away – and rather then being redundant about his life, the best way to learn more about one of the guys who helped to advance the sport in so many ways is via this link on the America’s Cup Challenger’s blog .

I – and plenty of others – learned alot about the rules and how to administer them from Cy.   Friend/mentor’s like Cy are what make the sport so special.  Sail on Cy…. 

And A Good Time Was Had By All…

September 14, 2006


The Throckmorton’s & Underhill’s Enjoying Subsidized Dining at the Yacht Club

It’s coming to Annual Meeting season, the time of year where club members gather to argue the spending of relative nickles and dimes for the purpose of supporting their favored segment of their club. 

I’ve always thought process was sort of funny – relatively wealthy people (both Dems and Repubs in the US) talking like socialists, acting like communists, who all really just want to be the Monarch. 

The vast majority of large facility clubs with big restaurants have a monthly tax beyond the dues to support the overhead of keeping a private waterfront restaurant, with generally marginal quality food, open.  OK, I like nice places as much as the next guy, but why does it seem that it is generally easier to get money to support a money losing operation that was an afterthought when the club was created, than it is to get the most basic of things to run the sailing program – especially the junior sailing program.  The answer is obvious – the membership dynamics of clubs have changed – the average age of some clubs I go to seems to rooted somewhere south of Pleistocene era, and those members only care about the food and beverage facilities of the club.

But another part of the problem is the way sailing is presented at an Annual Meeting – that is if it is presented at all.  Sure, we all need to know about P&L for the club operations, but when was the last time anyone has heard of a club annual meeting spending any significant time talking about the product it is really suppose to produce – days of sailing for members and their guests?

In the snow ski biz, the primary barometer of facility use is “skier days” – meaning in a general sense the number of lift tickets purchased.  Yacht Clubs ought to also talk in terms of “Sailor Days” – one prime measure being the total number of people who crossed the starting line through the season.

The Underhill’s have said told me that they will be buying a round on the house for any club who calculates the success of their season this way.

Nice people, those Underhill’s.

Tennis Anyone?

September 13, 2006


Women’s Tennis is changing for TV

The Freakonomics blog has an interesting post on changes coming to Women’s tennis – driven by TV.  So, it’s not just sailing that is changing for TV.

Lindsay Davenport, former number 1 ranked female tennis player, talking about the new tournament format being introduced in professional tennis, via Reuters:

The ATP, as part of sweeping changes aimed at making tournaments more attractive to fans, television, players and tournament directors, plans to play early rounds of tour events as round-robins to ensure that marquee players remain throughout the week.Davenport said the idea, due to start next year, could lead to tactical play.

“There’s [the potential for] a lot of fixing if your friend needs you to win or lose or whatever. A lot of things could happen. There are some kinks to be worked out for sure,” the American said on Monday.

Players might also not compete so strongly if they knew they would not be eliminated with one defeat, Davenport said.

“That could happen, although in women’s tennis I don’t see it happening because everyone’s so neurotic about always winning.”

(Hat tip to my former student Pericles Abbasi.)

So, are women tennis players more neurotic than sumo wrestlers? Probably.

Read the Freakonomics blog and comments here .

Another way to increase the ratings for Women’s tennis would be to figure out how to Anna back in Top 20 form – or maybe just be a talking head.   OK, go ahead, call me sexist.  Guilty as changed – I’m a red-blooded American male.  i make no apologies, either.  And Anna doesn’t seem to complain about this sort of attention either.


The Olympics Is A TV Show

September 11, 2006


The way we offer sailing for Olympic TV – black & white thinking in the age of HD

There was a minor bit of fury around the recently completed Pre-Olympic test event in Qingdao, China this summer.  Some were saying the conditions were awful, that the place never should have been selected as the host site, that this was all ISAF’s fault.

Really?  The IOC picks a host country, and then sites for events within that country, based on what ISAF thinks are the best places to sail?  Hardly.

It seems from most reports the facility is superb.  Andy Horton called it the best he’s even seen.  Was the sailing tricky, full of light air and current?  Yup.  Did that matter to the Brits?  Nope.  And the US had a very good showing too.  Great sailors can win anywhere.

But there were flaws – mostly in the way the “medal” event was conducted.  Two of the Gold medals were won before the last race – the “medal” event – was run.  Imagine a sprinter being given the Gold medal in the 100m dash based on this qualifying times.   No one would watch track and field then. 

The problem is not so much the idea of a medal event, the problem is the way too many events in sailing are scored with allowing a drop race.  Why on earth in the Olympics are we rewarding inconsistency in any respect?

Who in the general public that somehow finds sailing as part of the Olympic telecast is going to understand all of our arcane scoring?  No one.  It is lousy TV.   Scoring format that isn’t perfectly clear to the first time view is a scoring system that will also make them a last time viewer.

The format should be 10 races – count the first nine, all nine – add up the scores and the top 10 go to the medal event.  One race.  Three medals.     

Now, I’m not the only person opining about problems with the new Olympic format.  Check out the comments by 2000 Star Gold medalist and ISAF Sailor of the Year Magnus Liljedahl in the Letters to the Editor section of the September issue of Sailing World.  To paraphrase him, Magnus says the Star finals at Kiel Week this summer were flawed primarily because of the judging – that the courses were too short, and course location was absurd.  Welcome to the world of TV and the Olympics, Magnus.  He goes on to say about the Judges that (and I’m quoting now) “As it is now, they seem to know it all and they are not very considerate as to what the sailors view as legal versus illegal kinetics”.

Well, he’s got that partially correct – there has always been a battle between Judges and sailors regarding kinetics.  One suspects Paige Railey would have the same sentiment after the Laser Radial Worlds at Cal YC this summer when she got tossed out a couple of races on Rule 42 issues.

But the issue isn’t sailors versus judges – the issue is our seeming need to protect the entrenched sailing beauracracy versus the need to feed the global viewing audience with a story they can understand easily – want then want to watch over and over, because it is full of human drama.  People watch people – they don’t watch rules.  Does anyone seriously think that any non-sailor is going to understand an umpire blowing a whistle on a Star sailor for the way they run back and forth on the deck to get it to plane downwind?  Hell no.  And Star sailors racing back and forth on the deck is potentially great theatre – especially if one falls overboard in the process.

We have strict interpretations of Rule 42 because we have historically tried to have a one size fits all rule for the entire sport.  Some classes tinker with it a bit, but in the end, it’s just tinkering.  If windsurfers want to air-row around the course, well, I guess that is one way to sail, but it’s not something that appeals to me.  It just doesn’t look like very much fun.   Maybe in Olympic sailing, we ought to allow all forms of kinetics – even sculling.  The solution is two-fold and simple – sail blindingly fast boats in big breeze.   The global TV audience is addicted to speed, and the human drama that comes with crashes – the agony of defeat.

During the Qingdao regatta I recall reading a report from an official that said they would consider changing angles of some of the legs and a few other minor things to help the racing.  Please…..  As if any of that is going to make one bit of difference to the viewing audience.  Just tinkering at the edges.  Because of the way the Olympics is run, there likely can’t be any wholesale changes in the format for 2008, but for ensuing years, if we really want sailing to be in the Olympics, then we need a completely TV-centric format, and we are going to have to think like a Hollywood producer.  Forget the audience of yacht club members, and all the traditional elements that we think make good races – for sailing to remain an Olympic sport, we have no choice but to find ways to make it far more appealing to a mass audience.  We don’t need ISAF, US Sailing, or the RYA talking about what we need to make sailing TV friendly – we need CAA, William Morris and ICM.  Let’s have lunch.  I’ll have my people call your people.  Love ya, babe.

Right now, what we do is present the sport in exactly one format in different boats.  We need to can a bunch of boats – why, other than politics, do we have both the Finn and Laser for men?  (IOC President Rogge is an ex Finn sailor, so good luck getting rid of the Finn).  How can the global viewing audience discern the difference between a Finn and Laser?  They can’t. 

Here’s what we need for boats and format – Fleet Racing – Laser, Men/Women – Windsurfer, Men/Women – 29’er/Women – 49’er/Men – Tornado/Open – Star/Men. Then, we need to get Match Racing back in – maybe it should be an Open event in Melges 24’s.  Then, we should take a page from Track & Field and Swimming and have a Medley event – race around a fairly short circle course in four different boats – top six countries in terms of numbers of medals won qualify for this event, which will be after the fleet racing is completed, but prior to the Match Racing finals – first boat would be the Laser, then Windsurfer, then 49’er, with the Tornado the last boat.  It’s a format that would attract viewing interest.

Getting match racing back in the Olympics is critical – with the America’s Cup drawing such massive attention – including an entry from China – why would ISAF and the IOC not want to capitalize on the equity in the sport that the America’s Cup develops globally, especially on TV? 

I love sailing on well prepared high tech boats on a crowded starting line with a great crew in big breeze, up a long windward leg.  But the global TV audience will go to sleep if we keep trying to shove that down their throats during the Olympics.  The IOC will eventually kick us out of the Olympics – and the sport will be worse of for not being part of the Games. 

Let’s junk that piece of furniture with that black and white tube, and move into the HD age by showcasing the best of our sport in a more dramatic fashion to the global TV audience every four years.  We deserve no less.  


Class Act

September 11, 2006


E Scow

I’m not exactly sure why the sailing media doesn’t give more love to the Scow world, but they should.

They are amazingly cool and fun boats.  Which is probably why they attract the kind of people they do to the class – fun and cool.  Fast boats tend to gather those sorts of people.

Another thing that is interesting to note are the constant progressions the class makes in terms of equipment changes – moving chainplates, removing running backs, changing foil configurations on rudders.  The sort of specification changes that other classes think will kill them if they try to change seems to only make the E Scow more appealing.

92 boats at the just completed NA’s.  They must be doing something right.

Here’s the excellent NA regatta website.

Oh, and when the kids want to use the family power boat to go tubing – maybe you should hook them up the the E Scow instead and take them water skiing like this dude they call Buddy does.



Friday Funnies – Easy Come, Easy Go

September 8, 2006


J Boat “Endeavour”


Dennis Kozlowski

The former CEO of Tyco, Dennis Kozlowski, has sold the J Boat “Endeavour”.  He sort of didn’t have much choice as he’s in jail for a pretty long time after having been convicted of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars of shareholder money.

You can read about the details of the sale in the NY Times here where there is also a link to a Bloomberg article as well.

Kozlowski having to sell one of his prized possessions to pay fines and restitution – about that only that could be better is a picture of his picking up soap for his cellmates.  Nothing charming about this guy, because it was crooks like him that lead to the creation of the Sarbenes Oxley act, which is costing companies that play by the rules tens of millions of dollars in new paperwork each year.  Maybe he and the Queen of DUI – Paris the Heiress – are sharing a cell today.