Saturday, October 30, 2010

A competitor

A competitor is what you need in order to have competition.

But what is it that makes the game worth the candle? What makes competition meaningful and worthwhile?

I thought of that in the context of our state's lagging University of New Mexico football (American) team, which under its current coach is doing its best to claim uncontested occupancy of NCAA division one A's cellar. The New Mexico Lobos were shellacked by the Oregon Ducks earlier this season by what looked like a basketball score on the Duck's side. But even so, the two teams were in the same athletic division and had roughly comparable equipment, budgets, staff sizes, player weights, etc. So the Ducks could take some satisfaction in hugely defeating the hapless, poorly coached Lobos.

Even so, there is little honor in sports in "running up the score" and it's actually somewhat embarrassing to play inferior opponents. It may need to be done in order to keep ratings and ranking poll votes up, but it doesn't feel all the great. And it's certainly nothing like the satisfaction that comes from defeating an opponent who actually has a good chance to beat you. And it's nothing remotely like the exultation of defeating a stronger opponent.

Of course, there would have never been a question of the Oregon Ducks or even the poor Lobos playing some rural small high school team. Of course that would not be allowable, but it would also be incredibly unsporting even if it were.

Nor would you ever see Notre Dame playing a football game against some high school team in Ohio, or UT-El Paso playing a sandlot team from Anthony, NM. It just isn't done; it isn't sporting, right, fair, safe, or meaningful.

When the competing teams or individuals are hugely mismatched and the hapless inferiors are mercilessly ground into the dirt, that isn't real competition or sportsmanship. Such so-called victories resemble nothing so much as schoolyard bullying by immature thugs who are wholly clueless of sportsmanship and fair play.

In sailing, the meaning of competition can get interesting, given that in many regattas it's possible for rank amateurs to sail against seasoned professionals who have the resources to spend most days of the year out practicing, and who can afford the best boats and equipment. For this reason, some elite class regattas give separate trophies to amateurs, and a true amateur who does well against professionals is highly regarded.

In college sailing, fortunately, there often seems to be a high standard of sportsmanship and support for other sailors. Gerald, when his ASU sailing team visits California, has reported favorably on the hospitality, cooperation, and mutual support among Pacific Coast college sailors. Protests are rare, yelling is limited and kept to the course, sails and gear are frequently made available to others, and the members of different teams enjoy each other's company.

One-design sailing has often been touted as the solution to many of the problems of sailing competition, particularly issues with widely varying boat capabilities that bedevil handicapping systems.

Of course that only works when the boats are actually quite similar to each other. There's one-design and then there's one-design. If boats and crews are hugely divergent in their equipment and performance, then what's happening certainly isn't one-design racing. If the differences between boats are completely unbridgeable, then the one-design fleet is likely to fail as the tail-enders can never hope to make any progress against the fleet leaders. This can happen when a class is dominated by a small cadre of highly skilled professional sailors and no consideration is given to the needs and development of the mid-fleet and tail-end crews and boats.

In the best one-design fleets, this rigid stratification, fossilization, and fleet failure don't happen. That's because the best fleets provide support, advice, and coaching for all fleet members. Tuning tips, go-fast advice, tactics, equipment, and more get discussed freely. Information is readily available to help the mid-fleet and tail-end sailors upgrade their boats. Fleet and class leaders are readily accessible. Fleet and class membership are affordable and have good benefits to make joining worthwhile.

So, how does your fleet rate? Do you sail in a REAL one-design fleet?
What does competition mean to you?

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Poetry Corner: Springsteen

Glory Days Lyrics
Artist: Bruce Springsteen
lyrics from

I had a friend was a big baseball player
back in high school
He could throw that speedball by you
Make you look like a fool boy
Saw him the other night at this roadside bar
I was walking in, he was walking out
We went back inside sat down had a few drinks
but all he kept talking about was

Glory days well they'll pass you by
Glory days in the wink of a young girl's eye
Glory days, glory days

Well there's a girl that lives up the block
back in school she could turn all the boy's heads
Sometimes on a Friday I'll stop by
and have a few drinks after she put her kids to bed
Her and her husband Bobby well they split up
I guess it's two years gone by now
We just sit around talking about the old times,
she says when she feels like crying
she starts laughing thinking about


My old man worked 20 years on the line
and they let him go
Now everywhere he goes out looking for work
they just tell him that he's too old
I was 9 nine years old and he was working at the
Metuchen Ford plant assembly line
Now he just sits on a stool down at the Legion hall
but I can tell what's on his mind

Glory days yeah goin back
Glory days aw he ain't never had
Glory days, glory days

Now I think I'm going down to the well tonight
and I'm going to drink till I get my fill
And I hope when I get old I don't sit around thinking about it
but I probably will
Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture
a little of the glory of, well time slips away
and leaves you with nothing mister but
boring stories of glory days

Chorus (repeat twice)

and a link to a youtube video

Glory Days

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pictures from the Governor's Cup at Elephant Butte Lake

Scenic Elephant Butte Lake with International Etchells USA 125 "Black Magic".

Crew on "Black Magic" caught as we sailed downwind past the committee boat. Steve got these nice views from his boat, where he and Nellie dog were doing race committee duty.

Stern view of the sloop Black Magic on Sunday, October 17, 2010, at Elephant Butte Lake during the final race of the Governor's Cup regatta.

Survived the Governors Cup Weekend

For once, we had a fair amount of wind for a weekend of sailboat racing at Elephant Butte Lake without having way too much and getting blown out of the water. The winds were very switchy, which is par for a high desert lake, but we never were quite completely without wind, and the puffs were never too much to handle.

Carol Anne had not been sailing in nearly six months and the long neglect had both us and our boat a bit rusty. And, in our absence some more items had deteriorated on the boat, further adding to our long list of projects and replacements for the coming year. Among other things, during the weekend we had a jibsheet break in half, our spinnaker started to fall apart before we could even use it, the mainsheet block would not release, and then we did some damage to the boat and trailer when preparing to haul it out of the water. And, Carol Anne re-injured her back when helping launch her boat Saturday.

But, even with all these happenings, it was still good to get out on the water, get lots of New Mexico sunshine, complete five races, let our friend "Cornhusker" drive the boat during Saturday's two races, and re-acquaint ourselves with the lake.

After Saturday's second race, we sailed "Black Magic" to the Rock Canyon Marina and got a ride to our vehicle. We also got to have a nice visit aboard "Erebus" with "Ross" and were lucky that he had some special medicine that helped Carol Anne's back greatly. We also saw a couple of other sailing friends at the marina that evening.

Sunday morning the other boats were running a bit behind, but so were we; the races started while we were still on our way to the starting area. The morning was breezier than expected, but we were able to get sail the boat out of the marina without incident once we got going. We were able to get there and start while one of the boats was still starting and catch up with one of the other boats, though a big wind hole at the beginning of what should have been a downwind run left us nearly drifting for long while, even though we could see other boats not far away moving in better wind. We were able to keep the boat mostly flat during the puffs (though we have outhaul problems) and may have even been a underpowered in the lulls because we had too much shroud tension for the conditions that wound up being typical of the day.

At least we did do reasonably well on today's starts. And, we enjoyed having mostly usable wind and a variety of conditions that challenged us. The boat also kept us busy adapting to various challenges. It also could have been much worse; I had been holding on to a jib sheet on Saturday when it broke but fortunately I didn't go overboard, which could have been a big problem in cool water with a powered-up boat that would have been hard for the remaining crew to maneuver for a crew overboard recovery.

As it was, we did have a nice visit to the lake as the sailing season there comes near to an end.

And, there is the possibility that next year we might be sailing in some new and interesting venues. Nothing's for sure or committed, but maybe we'll be putting some new waters under our keel in 2011.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Quiet beginning to the RGSC Fall Series 2 Regatta, October 9, 2010

Balboa 20 sails by the C&C28 Renovatio, which was anchored as the race committee signal boat prior to starting the first race of the Fall Series 2 Regatta at Elephant Butte Lake. Two races were completed on Saturday in spite of very gentle breezes. All of the boats at this race were from the Rio Grande Sailing Club's cruising fleet.

Elephant Butte Lake scenery, October 2, 2010

Hunter 34 Windependent on her mooring at Elephant Butte Lake, NM, October 2, 2010. A boat that has lost her skipper is a sad thing.

Old-timey fire truck at the Elephant Butte Lake fire station at Rock Canyon Road.

Thursday, October 07, 2010


Bits and pieces. Now that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has voted 9-2 to approve the term sheet for working out an America's Cup agreement with BMW Oracle, there's a better chance that America's Cup activities will happen in the City on the Bay and that we'll be visiting there in future years.

We expect to be at Elephant Butte Lake soon, while Gerald will be at Lake Pleasant this weekend and McKellips Lake the following weekend, and then sailing on Mission Bay in San Diego the weekend after that. Gerald now has passed the New Mexico EMT test and received his patch and card; with a couple more steps he'll also be able to practice as an EMT in Arizona.

Some safety discussion is still ongoing with respect to the tragedy in which one New Mexico sailor died this spring.

More to come....

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

San Francisco Board of Supervisors Contacts for America's Cup Decisions

City Hall
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, Room 244
San Francisco, CA 94102-4689
Clerk’s Office (415) 554-5184
Fax (415) 554-5163
TDD/TTY (415) 554-5227

Michela Alioto-Pier
District 2, room 274
(415) 554-7752 - Voice
(415) 554-7843 - Fax

John Avalos
District 11, room 256
(415) 554-6975 - Voice
(415) 554-6979 - Fax

David Campos
District 9, room 272
(415) 554-5144 - voice
(415) 554-6255 - fax

David Chiu - Board President
District 3, room 264
(415) 554-7450 - Voice
(415) 554-7454 - Fax

Carmen Chu
District 4, room 260
(415) 554-7460 - Voice
(415) 554-7432 - Fax

Chris Daly
District 6, room 273
(415) 554-7970 - Voice
(415) 554-7974 - Fax

Bevan Dufty
District 8, room 268
(415) 554-6968 - Voice
(415) 554-6909 - Fax

Sean Elsbernd
District 7, room 280
(415) 554-6516 - Voice
(415) 554-6546 - Fax

Eric Mar
District 1, room 284
(415) 554-7410 - Voice
(415) 554-7415 - Fax

Sophie Maxwell
District 10, 279
(415) 554-7670 - Voice
(415) 554-7674 - Fax

Ross Mirkarimi
District 5, room 282
(415) 554-7630 - Voice
(415) 554-7634 - Fax

Land Use & Economic Development Cmte.
Supervisors Sophie Maxwell (chair), Eric Mar (vice chair), David Chiu
Every Monday 1:00 p.m.
Clerk, Alisa Somera, 554-4447