19 September 2009

Racism: it's not black and white

This is a nice article by Charles Blow of the New York Times: Here We Go Again

In the "political discourse", too many people are focused on blaming everything on racism, or, refusing to acknowledge the role of racism.

Blow writes:

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll conducted in January of last year found that 60 percent of whites agree that they underestimate the amount of discrimination that there is against blacks and 59 percent of blacks agree that they overestimate the amount of racism against them. How can we measure truth when everyone’s twisting it? A better question might be how much racial prejudice are people aware of and willing to acknowledge.

An ABC News poll released in January asked, “If you honestly assessed yourself, would you say that you have at least some feelings of racial prejudice?” Thirty-eight percent of blacks answered yes, as did 34 percent of whites.

Update: check out Bob Herbert's counterpoint in the same paper:

Did we really need Jimmy Carter to tell us that racism is one of the driving forces behind the relentless and often scurrilous attacks on President Obama? We didn’t know that? As John McEnroe might say, “You can’t be serious.”

17 September 2009

R.I.P. Keith Young

Keith Young has just passed away.

I knew Keith as a fellow candidate for the UBP, during the slog up to the 2007 election and the time since. I will remember Keith for his warmth, infectious positive attitude, and his low-key but unmistakable passion for making Bermuda better.

In Bermudian politics, which is filled with self-interested egomaniacs and tired old blowhards, Keith stood out for his genuine commitment to his family, his neighborhood, and his Island.

We need more people like Keith, not fewer.

My deepest regrets to his family.

10 September 2009

"Bermuda Night Sold Out"

From the PLP Blog, we learn that "Bermuda Night" at Fenway Park in Boston was sold out. That's great news, and it sounds like it was a good event.

But, if you know anything about baseball you'll know that every night is sold out at Fenway park well ahead of the baseball season, regardless of what the event is.

Love the spin ball...

09 September 2009

505 Worlds Wrap-up: 68 out of 99.

Well, as they say, better late than never. I

To jump to the chase, here are our finishes in the 9 races. Bracketed finishes are discards:

68 9005 BER Douglas De Couto Gareth Williams 67 [99/DNF] 59 77 [99/DNF] 41 79 52 45 total points: 420.00

We lost a tie-break for 67th. Full results available here. (sorry for the strange link, I couldn't figure out how to link from the official site as it's a pop-up).

Net-net, it was a grueling, tough regatta that tested us mentally and physically. Although I can't look back and say it was 'fun', like a 'vacation' is 'fun', I have to admit that I achieved my goal of 'mid-fleet', without completely embarrassing myself. And, there were a few hoots and hollers. Importantly, Gareth and I were able to make a strong finish that popped us up into the 60s, and put us ahead of some competitors I was targeting in the boat park -- people about whom I thought 'we can beat them', which is satisfying. That result is in no small part to taking some of Gareth's advice on starting. As someone told me, as is always the case, now we are ready to do a worlds in San Francisco. Maybe next time...

It is over a week and a half since the last race and the last day of the worlds, and it feels like forever. Being back in Bermuda and in the office is a whole different world. Too be honest, it's been a bit of a relief: I get a full lunch every day, I don't have to put on a wetsuit, and my arms are not nearly as tired. Oddly enough, my back seems more sore now!

So let's see what I can remember -- in our last installment, I left us at the beginning of the second last day: two races & one night to go until the end of the regatta, a Friday and a Saturday.


Friday was forecast to be a light air day, so they pushed the start back to 1:30pm to give the breeze time to come in. It turned out to be a hot, clear day on the beach, an everyone was lounging around, waiting for an AP, and delaying the awful act of putting on the wetsuit in the hot sun. The committee boat was hanging around off the beach, and as they looked like they were ready to go, parts of the fleet started suiting up. Old pros that they are, the RC popped the AP from the committee boat once about 1/3 of the sailors had suited -- those wiley coyotes! If they had raised the AP on shore, they would have to give a 2 hour gap between lowering it and starting the race; by raising it on the water (but while floating off the beach where all the sailors could see it), they only need to give a few minutes. Sure enough, the breeze started filling in verrrrrry slightly, the RC put up the 'Follow Me' flag, and the fleet went into the water for a 45-minute tow out to the course.

Wise skipper that I am, I neglected to tape up the transom flaps before launching. Typical M.O. in SF had been that taping them up was unnecessary, as a) we'd spend most of the time with water sloshing into the boat anyway, and b) we'd be planing most of the time as well. Of course, that was not the case on this day. The end result involved Gareth in a compromising position straddling the bow of the boat while I tried to recycle some used tape to seal up the flaps -- which of course were now wet. Lesson learned...

To be honest, I don't remember most of the race, but here goes. I believe this was the day I said to Gareth, 'If anyone hits the gatekeeper launch, it's going to be us'. Luckily, it wasn't us, but we had an awesome front row start, lots of speed, some space to leeward, etc. One minor problem: the boat to leeward of us was my sailmaker (Ethan Bixby, finished 14), and the boat above us was Mike Martin, you know, they guy who won 6 out of 9 races. Plus he had a 2nd. So, although it was a great start, it ended up being a you-know-what sandwich, with us as the you-know-what. After falling back 15-20 boatlengths, we finally bailed out and tacked to the right about 1/3 of the way up the beat. From that point on, it was simply a question of trying to sail fast, execute maneuvers, and get around the course. This was a 52.

This race had actually had a great moment on the first downwind mark rounding. We came in a massive pack but managed to find a slot inside for the mark to our left, and zoomed around with a great lane while the pack wallowed in a lull. Unfortunately, next time around this was not the case... we touched a boat that had somehow gone from our inside to our outside and then magically appeared right in front of us as i was rounding. I thought they had been gone, but apparently not.... anyway, a few strong words, a 720, and we ended up heading the other way with no wind, no lane, no speed, and very bad karma. Actually, maybe that was another race or rounding -- I can't really separate them all out anymore.


Now on to the last race, on Saturday. I had almost decided to blow off the race, and spend the day being relaxed & derigging early; but, I am glad I did not as it was probably our best race. In keeping with the "let's hit the gatekeeper" starting M.O., we had a great start in just-starting-to-get-windy conditions (of course, after SF, my whole definition of 'windy' has now changed). Funnily enough, it always seems to pick up about 8 knots between your upwind tuning checks and the first gun, leaving you to pull on a lot of strings without getting to try them out. Great suggestion from Gareth: put on the flattening reef. This was good and saved us a lot of grief later.

After the start, we were neck and neck with the boat underneath us for a very long time. However, despite a slight lift, the other boat was better at the speed/point tradeoff, and we were forced out. This time, however, we made it much further, and had much better lanes. After we tacked for a clear lane, we headed right, with the strategy of leading other right boats back. When we finally did this, it was magnificent to be sailing on starboard tack, looking up at the top mark, and not seeing any boats in front of our bow. This was not a sight we enjoyed very often. Sure enough, they did all eventually come charging out of the left, but apparently we rounded the top mark in the 20s. From then on, it was our race to drop places. The usual suspects prevailed: a place or two at the hoist, a slow reach, a missed jibe or bad jibing angle, extra tacks to clear for a lane at the mark, missing a shift, not concentrating, etc. For most of the race (and others) we could count on ok boat speed, probably at the 50th percentile level, meaning I think we were faster than at least half of the boats there (weight & new boat & sails helped). Of course, we didn't have the best height. This meant that with enough runway & assuming we didn't pick the wrong direction too badly, we could pick up a few places upwind if we fell too far back into the pack. However, for this last race, we didn't have it for the last beat - I couldn't quite find the grove steering, with the right balance of being powered up, yet not forced into pinching and having to jerk the tiller around. Anyway it still ended up being our 2nd-best finish, 45th, plus we had the experience of being able to look back at big packs of boats for lots of the race, and actually racing in the pack with boats around us. Exhilarating!

The End

The rest of the day was a blur. Gareth had brought Heinekens out to the race course for a celebratory drink on the way home (props to Gareth), but it was too windy to really enjoy them and actually make any progress to windward. At the beach, we rushed to derig, and I was stressing about getting derigged and the boat cleaned up in time to load the truck with the other East Coast teams. I needn't have worried. Loading the truck was a long painful process that meant most of us were very late for the banquet & prizegiving. In fact, Sarah and I weren't even able to attend as we had to leave the city at 8.30pm to head to the airport, return the rental car, and get organized for our flight.

The boat is now sitting at the American Yacht Club in Rye, NY, thanks to the hospitality of the local fleet, and I am figuring out what to do next.

Thanks for reading,