Monday, June 25, 2012

A few more early-action regatta pictures from Chatfield (12:27 to 12:28 pm, PHRF fleet!)

no. 3643 Michael Cotton's Hunter 23 "High Cotton" heads upwind no. 3644, 12:27 pm 23 June 2012 High Cotton between fellow members of the PHRF fleet at the 2012 Colorado Leukemia Cup. no. 3645 The Moreland's Catalina 25 no. 4986 "Rainbow Chaser" and sail no. 325, Ron Chalian's blue-hulled Lancer 25, "Dream Weaver" no. 3646, 12:27 pm 23 June 2012 sail no. 7593 in foreground, Catalina 22 "Azure Luna", Trey Hegstrom no. 3647 Don't be fooled by the 15088 jib; that's still no. 7593, Azure Luna! no. 3648 Panorama of PHRF fleet boats at the race start. Sail 6148 in left background is the Catalina 27, Bruce Budy's Kaija. no. 3649 Azure Luna and Kaija in left and right foregrounds, respectively. Kaija went on to win the PHRF fleet, always finishing (corrected) in the top half of the fleet and scoring three bullets in the seven races. 3650 Kaija and Rainbow Chaser head up the course 3651 Dream Weaver gives starboard tack a try

First Look: Racing begins at Chatfield Lake for the Colorado 2012 Leukemia Cup

2628 Santana 20, sail no. 50, Toby Hammer's "Sockeye", near the beginning of the 2012 Leukemia Cup at Chatfield Lake. ~ ~ ~ /) ~ ~ /) ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 2629 Santana 20, sail no. 50 J/22, sail no. 1326, Ken Barbe's "Pass Me Knott", which started the regatta with two first-place finishes in the J/22 fleet. This group of snapshots is a sampling of the action early during Colorado's Leukemia Cup Regatta on Saturday, 23 June 2012 at Chatfield Lake near Denver, CO, USA. 3630 One of the boats competing at Lake Chatfield makes a close approach to the signal boat during her start; David Ostrander's J/22 "O", sail no. 523 3631 An even loser view as "O", the boat shown in the previous picture starts near the race committee signal boat no. 3632 General view as the fleet beats up toward mark 2 near the Chatfield dam no. 3634 J/22 sail no. 284 belonging to Jed McClelland no. 3635, J/22 sail no. 284, another look

Thursday, June 14, 2012

End of the day for sailboats at Chatfield Lake

Pretty All Right finishes her race sunstruck in colorful Colorado
Sweet Scarlet, Cat 27, with her jib enflamed by the last bit of sun at Chatfield Lake
And a Merit 25 finishes at the end of the day for the Colorado Sail and Yacht Club

Sail Racing, Chatfield, Colorado

The sailors at Chatfield Lake in Colorado are very loyal to their Wednesday night series racing; about 25 boats and a hundred sailors joined to eke out all the fun they could from a pretty day on the water. A bunch of J-boats were front and center in the first starting group of the evening.
A mix of boats made up the second starting group on Wednesday, 13 June 2012 at Chatfield Lake, near Littleton in the southwest corner of the Denver Metro area.
Pick white sails or colored sails; it's all fun.
Spinnaker finish for a couple of J/22s locked in close competition in the Colorado Sail and Yacht Club's Wednesday night race.
Composition of cloud and water at Chatfield Lake

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Is a sailboat just a toy?

In a discussion about buying a boat, a correspondent opined that a sailboat is just a big expensive toy and that boat owners are materialist consumers. In answer, I've posted a poll and response on a popular sailor's site.

Is a sailboat just a toy?
1. Yes, and sailors should lighten up and not take themselves so seriously.
2. Yes, and too many owners are into boats as status symbols or ego trips.
3. No, not "just", because toys are very important
4. No, my boat is part of my family and a big part of my life
5. No, a boat is ___________________ (post a comment)

A sailboat is about
1. crushing the competition
2. becoming more skilled
3. picking up chicks/guys/social stuff
4. escaping the land and exploring the world
5. ______________ (post a comment)

Treating the sailboat as an expensive toy or status symbol would be too limiting an attribution of motive for sailors. To be sure, there's ego gratification in owning a particularly well-regarded or well-performing boat, and "yachts" in generally are status symbols. If the "difference between men and boys is the price of their toys", then at least some sailboat owners are potentially very manly men indeed. The perceived and often real exclusivity and expense of yacht clubs reinforces this exclusive image. And, the public regards "yachting" as a particularly inaccessible and upper-class recreation, even if many not-so-ultimately-privileged sailors know somewhat better.
Yet, sailboat ownership and the sailboat as object are bound up intimately with the sport, recreation, lifestyle, and sometimes occupation of sailing, which, depending upon the sailor can be a very engrossing hobby and expression of personality. Sailing as a sport is particularly equipment-intensive, and one in which the equipment varies enormously and has many subtle features, some of which are learned by only the most dedicated and elite within the fraternity. For some sailors the boat is a platform upon which to test their abilities strenuously, and they will risk much of their time, money, health, and safety in so doing. And a few will die, as was so tragically illustrated this season in California. If a boat has performed well in difficult circumstances, such as facing the awesome and humbling experience of storms at sea, it would not be unreasonable for its owner and crew to feel something akin to gratitude. Also, while the bare fundamentals of sailing may be learned quickly, sailing is a difficult sport to perform well and requires a significant investment of a participant's time and attention, much of which has to be spent learning the many peculiarities of the boat and the rather limitless and subtle interactions possible between sailor, boat, and environment. Sailors have to find ways to justify that huge investment, both to themselves and to others, and naturally regard a boat as rather more than a casual tool or acquisition.
And, outside the realm of sport, the boat itself can be a home for cruising sailors and a symbol of escape from limiting life circumstances for others. The boat can serve as an gateway or magic carpet to the world and all its cultures.
Sailing is also very often a highly social sport and hobby. It is one that can be performed on relatively equal terms by men and women, and by youth and elders, and even by the disabled. (No, I don't know what happens in college sailing; I think it stays in college sailing.) It is one of relatively few sports that a couple or family can perform together, and which can be performed, even sometimes at a high level, for a lifetime. And, as a somewhat unexpected quirk, the sailboat racing community is small enough that even newer participants can compete quite often on the same playing field as the elite leaders of the sport.
Aesthetically, sailboats also represent a lengthy evolution in rather gracefully fitting form to function. Sailing craft of course served a historical role in enabling humans to explore the alien majority of the planet's surface, and this memory is a cultural artifact of some significance and ubiquity. Sailors have a long history of personifying their boats, and a long history of creating and maintaining traditions and superstitions about the sea and about their vessels. Sailors are no longer charting new territory in literal terms, yet many feel as if they are doing so as their boat becomes a crucial component in voyages of self-discovery. The sailboat and the obsolete craft and sport of sailing are a nostalgic tie to times past, to voyages of discovery, conquest, trade, and immigration; to tales of heroism, cowardice, suffering, enlightenment, and achievement; to much of civilization's voyage. The unique language of sailing, along with the non-obvious and hard-learned capabilities of the sailboat, give the sailor a feeling of apartness and distinction from the land-bound herd. As members of a somewhat exotic community, sailors are well poised to acquire tall tales and myths with which to entertain their landlubber friends. Not only are sailboats the frequent vehicles of fantasy, but they are also well represented in depictions of romance, in print as well as on screen. And, in aesthetic and artistic realms, for inanimate objects, sailing boats and ships have inspired an inordinate amount of literature and art.
So yes, if life is just a game, then the sailboat is just its toy

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Seen from the middle, the political extremes

(a response to a primarily liberal advocate, but the sauce in here often applies to geese as well as ganders; and part of a discussion that originated in the wake of Wisconsin’s hotly contested and divisive recall campaign)
There you partisans go again. The saw about feeling sorry for the poor corporations and recognizing that they’ve spent lots of money on both Republicans and Democrats is a quip, a thingy called humor. Although Wiki says the USA has about 412 billionaires, far more than any other country, the People's Republic of China, and Russia, with more than a hundred each, are threatening to catch up. Obviously, that's a threat to our national security and something that right-thinking Americans shouldn't tolerate. More seriously, the meat of corporate power doesn't come from a few super-rich individuals at the ultimate pinnacle; it comes from a relatively broader group of only moderately filthy rich people who aspire to be super rich; the one per cent rather than the 0.0001 per cent. And, to understand the broader citizen sympathies that might seem to be at odds with the direct self-interest of ordinary Americans, you have to recognize and understand these aspirational dreams and wishes and vicarious fantasies. Americans root for their larger-than-life characters, billionaires along with ball players, movie stars along with presidents. To fail to allow for this in one's activism is to set one's self up for failure.
-- However, the line about corporations does have a serious point that's more than mere muddying or obfuscation or trying to use justify wrong behavior by the wrong actions of the other side. While progressives and liberals may feel outspent by conservatives and corporations, that doesn't change the fact that they all spend vast amounts of money on the political process. Can you really convince the American people that only some of this money is bad, but the money spent by one side is inherently virtuous and expect them to believe you? That the money spent by a George Soros or a Hollywood actor (but not all of them) or a tech billionaire is automatically on the side of the angels but that spent on behalf of the bad people and corporations should be illegal because it's automatically corrupting?
-- Like most middle-aged middle Americans, I'd have to lose a few pounds and do a lot of yoga before having much of a chance of being able to navel-gaze, though I suppose someone like Mr. Limbaugh has even less hope in this department. However, it's those skinny, vegetarian, yoga-exercising progressives who are far better at that sort of thing. Much more seriously, one fault too many progressives and social conservatives seem to share is a disdain for those who are not fully of their beliefs. That's poison for their cause, though. But maybe some those on both ends of the political left-right would rather be pure than bother to make cause with the ordinary people in the middle. And maybe the extremists are afraid they'll be contaminated or weakened by gasp horror actually trying to understand the uninformed, ignorant, manipulated masses rather than to actually listen to and understand them. And it goes without saying that extremists should never try to understand people on other side, instead of the business as usual of underestimating the enemy and remaining ignorant of the actual reasons as to why ordinary people listen to those bad boys and girls.
-- That goes to the heart of another trend in American politics; the tendency to demonize the opposition (and the corollary behaviors of punishing one's one people for talking or compromising with the "enemy" and of shutting one's ears and eyes to inputs from outside the circle of one's fellow True Believers). We once tried to join a particular church. The people there were sweet and compassionate; they were sincere and active, and they lived their beliefs without hypocrisy or falsity. However, it was utterly inconceivable to them that good people could have significantly different and sincerely held social and political beliefs. And that frightens me. What progressives and social conservatives are extremely loath to believe is that their opponents can have sincerely held, genuine, honest, and yet diametrically opposed beliefs.
* Yes, there is chicanery, hypocrisy, manipulation, misrepresentation, lying, misdirection, and false promises in politics (and lots of it). Yes, there are many leaders who manipulate their followers along with the public. Yes there are hidden and not-so-hidden but utterly selfish agendas. Yes, there are well-paid advisors who train candidates and their staffs to go low and use dirty tricks in the name of fighting tough and everybody does it or the end justifies the means. And, yes, some pols are more notorious and willing to dive deeper into the much than others. And, yes, the hypocrisy and deception and manipulation should and must be exposed.
* BUT, and this is an enormous "but", all the major parties and essentially all the sides to each of the major issues have millions of leaders and supporters who are sincerely, truly devoted to the proposition that imposing their beliefs will make the world a Better Place. And, they do not believe they are being selfish or untrue in so believing. Their beliefs are deeply cherished. Someone from the opposing party or view point who is the least bit clumsy in criticizing the errors or falsities in the views of the other side, or hypocrisy by its leaders, risks angering that side's true believers and devoted partisans -- in other words, disturbing a hornets' nest. Clumsy, inept criticism of the other side is self-defeating. It unifies and energizes the opposition while arousing the sympathy of the unaffiliated to the opposition and against the critic.
* Smart criticism is another matter. Smart criticism illuminates errors in thinking along with hypocrisy and wrongness without unnecessarily threatening and belittling supporters and the unaffiliated. Smart advocacy and criticism is like smart salesmanship; it comes across as friendly, from a basis of common interests, from an interest in finding common ground and compromise solutions and problem-solving, and exploring and finding new solutions and in restructuring problems. It comes from a creative, counseling, supportive focus, and dare we say it, a "love thy enemies" perspective. It's also missing from the behavior of all the bloody-minded political jihadists. Take that you %&*-! political jerks!
* Too often, people believe that two opposing beliefs about something are the only beliefs to be considered, and that these beliefs are automatically irreconcilable. Beyond ruling out compromise, they rule out the possibility of new information, new beliefs, creativity, and new solutions. The extremists rather remind me of the old-line Marxists, who sought to persuade others that their social version of a Hegelian dialectic had led them to produce the ultimate society. The flaw, of course, was their dogmatic belief that there could be no dialectical or other progression beyond their “ultimate society”. And yet, time and time again, one day’s ultimate is overtaken, buried, and forgotten. “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” (Shelly) applies to more than merely Rameses.
~ ~
* Also, honest, penetrating examination and understanding of both major parties or of opposing groups or all sides of an issue, and criticism of hypocrisy and logical flaws on all sides, and recognition that one side may be guilty to some degree of what it opposes in the other side, is NOT a surrender to moral equivalency, apathy, neutrality, or indecision. Nor is tolerance and a multiculturalist perspective an automatic abandonment of judgment or evaluation. For example, one can be deeply appreciative, understanding, and accepting of Hispanic culture while still criticizing the negative social effects of “machismo”, just as one can criticize harmful aspects of any culture without being an enemy of that culture. In fact, it is only those who are most open to self-analysis, and who are most open to outside input, who have the best chance to grow, adapt, and succeed. It is they who can overcome obstacles and opposition. Yes, there is a danger that inept self-criticism might confuse one’s followers or lend ammunition to one’s foes, but we’re stronger than that aren’t we? A true, just cause will not only survive self-examination, but be re-invigorated and renewed by it.
~ ~
Too much the political extremists mistake strength for weakness, weakness for strength. They think it is weakness to actually listen to ordinary people and respect their concerns. Instead they tell them what to think. They lecture them from their invulnerable, insular fortresses of self-centered superiority. They belittle them when they don't vote "correctly" and tell they they're nothing but the mindless manipulated robots controlled by the evil enemy.
Of course, scapegoating the stupid ignorant people or the irresistibly powerful and overwhelmingly wealthy and evil enemy is a fine and wonderful way to deflect blame from the one's own failures of logic, understanding, persuasion, communication, and effectiveness. After all, if a group were to blame itself for failure to change outside opinion, it might actually have to change its message, beliefs, and behaviors -- and obviously a group can't do that if it and its Dear Leaders are obviously Perfect in Every Way.
And, if it's weakness to value what the ordinary people think, then it is utter anathema to actually listen to and try to respectfully understand the opposition -- whoops, sorry, the terrible, civilization-destroying, barbarian enemy who seeks to destroy the world and exterminate civilization as we know it. Of course, compromise is right out. Besides, if we understand what the other side really thought and wanted, we might be tempted to work together on solutions with them, and that simply can't be allowed. Heresy! And if we knew more about them, we might quit under-estimating them. Surely we can't have that when we'd rather go down with the ship and be irrelevant rather than contaminated seemingly say the self-centered purists. It’s so much more comfortable to stay within the warm, snug cocoon of mutual adoration within a group, and to accept leadership uncritically. Maybe that works out okay for bees and ants.
Look on my feelers, termites, and despair
I am the biggest ant you’ll ever see.
The ants of old weren’t half as bold and big
and fierce as me. (Monty Python)
-- Without scouts, seers, philosophers, navel gazers, or plain old self-examination and "heads outside the boat", it's all too easy for group-think, paranoia, tribalism, fossilized thinking, and maladaptive behavior to dominate a political organization or group of believers. Only genuine openness to new ideas and even to the "enemy" can save a group from irrelevancy. Listening genuinely and thinking freely is only a threat if a person or group cannot survive change; or if one's own character has no foundation, and one’s own beliefs are without foundation. Otherwise, listening is the path to growth and success.