Sunday, May 12, 2013

Random musings about safety and the Artemis tragedy

The Aegean and Low-Speed Chase losses and deaths were the result of tragic errors of prudent navigation and judgment, with no implications for yacht design and with little at all in common with this week's Artemis crash and Bart Simpson's death. This week's boat failure and violent capsize tragedy has perhaps more in common with last year's loss of Wingnuts and two of her crew in the Chicago Mackinac race or the entangled drowning death of Olivia Constants in the Severn River off Annapolis.

Some speculation can reasonably be made as to whether it might be possible to tame the AC's giant cats a bit to bring them back from the very edge of what the fittest and most skilled humans can possibly sail. Could the bows be altered or rudder and foil designs changed so that bows are less likely to dig into the water and trip the boat during a gybe or bear-away? Should the hulls be instrumented so that designers better understand the actual forces acting upon the boats? Should the rigs be reduced or re-designed so as to be able to shed some power?

Or, perhaps there might be better ways to protect and rescue the crew. For example, is it possible that an automatically activated personal locator device would have helped rescuers find Bart Simpson more quickly? Can the crew positions be "hardened" for when the crew aren't moving across the boat?

Perhaps none of these or other ideas would have saved Bart Simpson, but it would seem certain that the America's Cup authority and investigators will want to show that they have looked at all of the possibilities for making the event safer and avoiding an unnecessary race to destruction.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The trophy dilemma for small sailing clubs

For smaller sailing and yacht clubs, traditional metal pickle dish and cup have become so expensive as to just not make sense for racing awards. Some traditional trophy items have more than doubled from 2007 catalog prices. That makes it much more challenging for race committees to find prizes that people can be proud to receive, and don't look too cheesy, without breaking the RC budget.

So, do we get things that look like traditional trophies, but are made of less expensive materials, or do we adapt all sorts of non-traditional items as trophies?


Here's a letter I sent out to my race committee this week:

In the past week, it's been an interesting experience learning about the trophy racket.

One challenge is that traditional old-style yacht "heavy metal" trophies have become breathtakingly expensive. A very small pewter cup that was $35 in the 2007 Prize Possessions catalog for example, now is $80 -- more than double the prize in just six years. These sorts of trophies are pretty much beyond the reach of a small club such as the RGYC for any sort of routine use.

There are less-expensive trophies that are marketed more for youth sports and less upscale groups. These are pretty much all plastic or resin and can be a bit cheesy. But, at a glance they look decent and some of them may not be too awful. I'll be trying some of these and see how people react.

Another option is improvising trophies from hobby and craft stores. Unfortunately, most have very limited selection and the better sorts of things that they have and not cheap, unless you happen to catch just the right thing when it goes on sale. They do have some things that might be fun, so long as people are a bit open-minded about getting things other than pewter/silver traditional pickle dishes and cups. One disappointment was that I was looking for shadow-box sorts of items like we'd gotten before, and wasn't finding them... only one little bitty knot box with a cracked glass that I passed over.

I did find an on-line seller of model yachts that had relatively reasonable prices for some of their items. Unfortunately, their flat-per-item shipping charges made it impractical to order their less expensive models, so I only got a few of their fairly nice models for top-end series trophies.

Engraved glassware like what Stras did with wine glasses may be something we try more of in the fall -- it would be available from sources other than high-markup trophy dealers. I think you can even get a bottle full of wine that's engraved.

The Fiesta Regatta last weekend at Chatfield, by the way, went with three sizes of engraved glass beer mugs... nothing too fancy or traditional.

I still need to buy about five trophies... mostly second/third places for spring series and third and fourth for the Anniversary Cup; should be able to find something interesting and not terribly costly.

Monday, May 06, 2013

A Little Too Late... We miss an opportunity to taste a local tradition

While driving to Colorado to do race management for the Fiesta Regatta at Chatfield, Carol Anne and I decided to stop in Las Vegas, NM, for a bite of lunch. Carol Anne particularly wanted to try something local and non-national-chain-cookie-cutter, and was excited to find good reviews on-line for a little hole-in-the-wall sort of local institution of a small New Mexican restaurant in the historic part of Las Vegas. Reviewers, including some from this spring, were enthusiastic about a completely unpretentious but reliable eatery called Estella's. We arrived, parked, and got to the restaurant well before their scheduled closing time of 3:00 p.m. But we were still too late.

Perhaps a couple of weeks or several weeks too late. The restaurant was closed up, with auction notices posted on the windows. Sigh. After 63 years in business, we'd missed the opportunity to eat there by perhaps a month or less. Now, that's a pity. Probably local folks can fill us in on just what happened.

We wound up trying another local place across the street, but found it closed to the public because they were having a private funeral banquet... and yes, they had posted the name of the dearly deceased guest of honor.

So we then went to an Italian pasta and pizza place, still in part of the historic district... and did have a good meal. But, it didn't have chile verde. Oh well.