Thursday, February 25, 2010

Finding Yourself

Yesterday's post was about the well known Myers Briggs personality typing system. Although it is THE system of choice in the corporate world and elsewhere, there are some other ways to categorize personalities. If it is helpful to define yourself in such a system, here are a few more ways to look at it. Find yourself in each one. All serious discussion has been omitted here as I let the visuals speak for themselves.

The Ennegram defines personalities in nine basic types, and within the types, you have a "wing" that leans to one of the types next door.

Never having been a corporate type, this is more my impression of how personality typing really goes in the business world.

Asians have a whole different terminology if not a completely different way of understanding things. I'd need a little help placing myself in this system.

Back to Western thinking, this one has some fancy terms that look very serious. I would need to read the instruction manual to figure this one out. Myers Briggs calls me a thinker and blue is the color of my eyes, so there must be somethhing to this one.

Apparently the technological world has a different way of defining us.

When we transcend our own machines and venture out into the Internet, it gets more complicated. I'm stuck in the two squares in the bottom left corner. I suspect many of you are more daring.
This last one says it all. I have people in my family within each of the four types.
Since each system has its limitations, looking at a multitude of schemes may give us a more complete understanding of who we are. It that really helpful?

I have no graphic that analizes each of us by the type of boat we sail, so there is still some room for academics to write new books.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What if Myers Briggs is Full of Crap?

Tillerman just cranked out over a thousand words to prove to himself that he is the INTJ that Myers Briggs personality testing told him he was, not the ESPN (or whatever) that Typealyzer says his writing suggests he is. That INTJ or ESPN designation can be a comforting source of identity that reminds us who we are. It tells us how we approach other people and life situations.

Perhaps the results of personality tests should be printed on a little card that could be put into our wallets next to our driver’s license and social security cards. They’d surely provide more useful information about any “real” identity than height, weight, hair color, eye color, and last known address.

The personality card would be a handy reference for ourselves. In times of trouble and soul crippling crisis, we could refer to it for guidance as to how our particular personality type should proceed. If we can read the road map that is encrypted in those four letters - ESPN – we will find a way through our dilemma. Our personality will approach the situation in this general way of that general way.

But is this understanding of “who we are” descriptive or prescriptive? If it describes us, it only helps us understand our behavior in the past. It tells us which of our inner tools we prefer to use or have preferred in the past. If we apply the same toolkit to new situations, aren’t we likely to get the same results? Doesn’t it take some “out of character” act to avoid living in the endless loop of Groundhog Day?

According to one personality typing theory I have read, Personality Types - Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery, personalities are somewhat more of a limitation than an asset. As we get older and healthier, we tend to demonstrate a wider variety of personality characteristics. If there is a goal, it is to achieve a balance between the types, giving us access to all the tools and allowing us to use the right one for the job. By that logic, it is a very good thing to get somewhat different results on different tests. (And it has to be good to frustrate the testers!)

I’m sure that Tillerman was the most entertaining of all possible IT managers, but I wonder if his old business world friends would guess that Tillerman and their old friend inhabited the same body. I suspect that in Proper Course he uses some inner tools that weren’t in his briefcase and that some of his work devices don’t get as much use as before.

For my money, I give as much credence to Typealyzer as the Meyers Briggs test. There is no reason both can’t be pretty accurate – or completely full of crap. If Tillerman has been tagged with some new letters now so as to be an alphabet soup of personality, it’s a credit to his complexity, versatility, and mental health.

In this case, the words of Walt Whitman apply to our blogmaster: “I am large. I contain multitudes.”

Yarg, a humble INTP

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Fear Factor

I’m not a sailor. When I met my avid sailor husband, I decided to try to take up the sport, but it hasn’t really happened. I’ve done a little sunfish sailing. That’s it. Why haven’t I learned to sail? I’m afraid of capsizing and looking foolish, and, believe it or not, the threat of spiders on the boat.

The last time I went out sailing, my greatest fear was realized. Before I launched, I carefully inspected the whole boat looking for spiders, great and small. I checked every crack and crevice, everywhere they might lurk, and I insisted that the ones I found disembark immediately. Only once I felt confident that the boat was spidey-free did I tentatively set off. But the little devils are tricky, and out of nowhere, a very big, very burly arachnid suddenly appeared shortly after I was underway. To my horror, he made a beeline straight for me as I cowered in the back of the cockpit. Shrieking like a girl, I tried to splash him off before he could sink his fangs into my leg. (Actually, people say that they don’t often do that, but one can’t be too careful.)

Making a hasty and wobbly tack back toward the dock, I threw myself into the water as soon as it was shallow enough and left the still gliding boat to my eight legged antagonist. My husband on shore, aghast that I’d abandon ship in such a fashion, grabbed the unmanned boat before any damage was done. He was slightly amused and disgusted at the same time. I just felt ashamed. Frustrated, my husband pointed out that spiders would not set up camp on the boat if I sailed it every day. Despite this fact, I am disinclined to risk another excursion any time soon.

Mrs. Yarg

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Chaotic Waves

It has been about a month now since returning from Cabarete, DR, where I had the chance to try to learn something about sailing a Laser in waves. I thought I’d throw out a few observations. Any comments would be very welcome.

Sailing upwind, I had to unlearn some things. We flat-water lake sailors try very hard to keep the boat flat. But with waves, some heel (? 10-20 degrees) may be required to keep the waves from breaking over the windward bow, filling the cockpit, and to facilitate the heading up move as you rise up each wave. Bearing off at the top of the wave to slide down the other side doesn’t result in the lee bow plowing into water despite the heel because the bow is actually somewhat airborne at that point.

Waves often come from odd and constantly changing directions. You can frequently have large waves that are easily 45 degrees or more from the wind direction. On one tack upwind, the waves are broadside, but on the other tack, they are head-on. I found that often the boat was buffeted by the waves seemingly in a random fashion with rolling, pitching, and yawing - at least it seemed that way to me, especially on a beat. The sail luffs one second and is over-trimmed the next. I found myself madly trying to correct with the tiller which I’m sure was only making things worse.

I am still confused as to the best way to deal with these chaotic waves. Maybe I need to hike out more horizontally to increase the rolling moment of inertia and reduce the rolling. Maybe I should try to actively change my hiking to keep the heeling more constant. Maybe I should play the sheet more, and the rudder less. Maybe I need to better judge the approaching waves to make adjustments preemptively. I imagine that the best approach is different for each wind and wave condition.

Then I took a second look at the photo at the top of this post which I believe was taken shortly after a start. There is quite a bit of variation in the hiking styles and maybe a correlation between these hiking styles and the sailors’ positions in the race. I am embarrassed to note that I appear to be just casually sitting on the deck of my boat (133827 in the foreground). Maybe I just need to hike!

Although I know I’m just beginning to learn how to sail a Laser in waves, I do feel quite a bit more stable and comfortable now sailing in these conditions which was the main goal for the trip to Cabarete. I think I am able to time the tacks earlier so they are completed by the top of the wave if a flat spot to tack is not available. I know I must cross the boat very quickly and aggressively during both tacks and jibes to avoid capsizing and maintain momentum. I know how to sit in a more “locked-in” position while riding waves downwind and to simply steer left or right to avoid slamming the bow into the next wave. I know I have to stay more alert at all times. (Once I capsized while just resting before a drill because I didn’t notice a wave coming that crashed over me.) Putting it all together, I think I am nearing the point where sailing in waves will actually be fun!


Monday, February 15, 2010

It Goes Without Saying

After an exhausting six hour delay, I watched yesterday’s America’s Cup race on ESPN’s webcast. Gary Jobson and Randy Smyth did a terrific job of talking sailors through the race. Randy Smyth, former Olympic silver medal winner (twice) in Tornadoes, (catamarans) added an area of expertise that Jobson lacked and was tremendously informative on the techniques and art of multi-hull sailing. I thought he brought out the best in Jobson and that they made a great team.

Now that I have said nice things about them, it’s time to slam them. It’s really just picking a bone, but we’ll call it slamming for the indignant blogger’s effect. Is it really necessary to skew criticism and praise so that the loser gets all of the former and the winner all of the latter? It’s not fair, and it’s not deserved. It seems to me that Jobson and Smyth could never get over the facts that Alinghi had not used those high tech curved daggerboards and that they had a windward rudder that frequently dragged in the water. They brought it up repeatedly at five minute intervals. They were rightfully hard on Alinghi for the pre-start fouls which on both days were inexcusable for racing at this level. (Why wasn’t Ed Baird driving? Really, come on!)

But on the other side, I thought they let BMW off the hook for not following the Sailing 101 textbook. Right there in the chapter about one on one sailing (which applies to match racing, team racing , and fleet racing) it says that the boat ahead should cover the boat behind. This must be even more true when the boat ahead is faster. The only way for the faster boat ahead to loose the lead is to allow the opponent to sail in different wind where they might get a favorable shift and/or more wind.

The situation happened just after the start. BMW Oracle got into a controlling pre-start position and then watched Alinghi do an agonizingly, horrendously slow escape tack. The result that was the BMW Oracle had a substantial lead at the start. Alinghi had already committed a foul, so she was, in fact, behind by a penalty turn plus the gap at the starting line. Because Alinghi tacked, they were on port and headed right. BMW Oracle was still on starboard. The standard move is for BMW Oracle to tack and cover. The view from the boat must be different. BWM Oracle must have seen something they liked on the left, but the faster boat sailing in the same wind, BMW Oracle could have pretty much put the fork into Alinghi early on.

Shortly after the start of the second race, Alinghi on port and BMW Oracle leading on starboard tack.

I don’t know what happens, but it seems every time I’m absolutely sure the opponent is going the wrong way, and I don’t cover, the other boat gets the shift and takes the lead. It’s embarrassing how many times this happens. You think I would learn. It must be Murphy’s law of sailing. (Remember when Dennis Conner made the same mistake to lose the cup in 1983?)

Sure enough, Alinghi got a 20 degree shift and eventually took a substantial lead.

Jobson and Smyth had called for the early tack even before Alinghi got to the starting line, but BMW Oracle sailed on, splitting tacks, and giving Alinghi the leverage they needed to have a chance. Both commentators made the suggestion to tack about a minute and a half later, but it took about three full minutes before the tack actually occurred. By that time, the boats were about a mile apart. Why weren’t Jobson and Smyth shouting about this apparent blunder? They know better. BMW Oracle handed Alinghi their only real chance. Once the incident was in the past, the announcers dropped the subject. For a while, not surprisingly, the faster BMW Oracle boat continued to gain, getting as much as a 500 meter lead. But then Murphy’s law (and the better wind closer to shore) began to take effect, gradually eating up the lead and then advancing Alinghi to as much as 590 meters ahead. As BMW Oracle lost the lead and then got significantly behind, Jobson and Smyth said nothing about their failure to cover. As a coach, albeit one at a very basic level of sailing, I’m jumping up and down in these situations ranting about obvious mistakes.

How could Jobson and Smyth just let this go so quietly? I understand all is forgiven after BMW regains the lead, but if you are talking about match race tactics, this is quite an omission.

All in all, we knew this was an engineering contest to build the fastest wind powered rocket ship, but shouldn’t world class sailors get the basic match racing stuff right? It’s not as if there were many opportunities for mistakes and somebody made one. There were only a handful of times the racing was tactical, and mistakes were made about half the time. And shouldn’t big time sailing commentators use this opportunity to hammer home to interested viewers the tactics of match racing? If one team makes a mistake, say so! It shouldn’t be hushed up just because it’s our team.

And congratulations to BMW Oracle, the better sailors and by far the better rocket ship.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Organized Racing Without the Organization

Everybody involved in sailboat racing understands that the following statement from US Sailing is obvious and boringly self-evident.

For most races in the country, a yacht club is the organizing authority. … As a host, the yacht club provides the venue and facilities for the regatta, and may or may not the responsible for the duties of the organizing authority. When it is not the organizing authority, it usually provides the facilities, the equipment, and the race committee to conduct the racing to the organizing authority…… - US Sailing Race Management Handbook (9).

Yet, as I was driving home from an informal meeting where sailors were organizing spring laser sailing, it occurred to me there was no yacht club involved - and no organizing authority either! A bunch of sailors had decided it would be fun to race lasers together and had gotten together (starting last fall) to figure out how to make that work for the most people. Doesn’t sound like the US Sailing version of organizing racing, does it?

And as I thought about it some more, it seemed I could rattle off many examples of regional laser sailing happening outside the auspices of yacht clubs.
  • Duxbury spring and fall series – self organized using Duxbury Bay Maritime School facilities
  • Winthrop Frostbiting at Cottage Park Yacht Club – where virtually no winter sailors (lasers or interclubs) are members of the club but there is a symbiotic relationship between the groups (maybe good customers at the club bar)
  • Newport Frostbiting – self organized fleet using Sail Newport facilities
  • Sail Salem is a public sailing organization promoting a laser fleet
  • New England Masters Regatta is run from a public beach with help from sail Newport and other individuals
  • Frostbiting and summer sailing in Bristol – self organized, but using yacht club facilities (especially the bar) in the winter, and no connection to any yacht clubs in the summer
  • Saltmarsh Regatta is run from New Bedford Community Boating – is there a yacht club involved? Does Community Boating take the lead in organizing, or are the facilities just “borrowed?”

There may be more.

In my limited experience, this seems to be unique to lasers, at least to the degree to which it seems to be happening. Why is the relationship between yacht clubs and laser sailing any different than between yacht clubs the sailing of other boats? What’s up with laser sailors, or the boats, or the yacht clubs?

Some solid hypotheses:

  • Simplicity of boats. The boats are very portable and mobile. They are light and easy to car top or trailer, usually by only one person. They are quick and easy to set up and launch. They are self rescuing and therefore need little or no rescue support (depending on conditions of course). It only takes one person do decide to go sailing. However, this is all true for Sunfish too.
  • Simplicity of race management. With less need for rescue support, fewer people are needed to run a race. In local racing, the races don’t need to be long. A starting line, windward mark, and a leeward mark make a fine racecourse. One person can do it. Some fleets eliminate the starter altogether and do rabbit starts.
  • Out of season racing. A lot of laser sailing is frostbiting or spring and fall extensions of the yacht club summer season. Clubs are closed or barely interested in the off season. Those with bars have more interest.
  • Sailor enthusiasm. In addition to sailing when others have put their boats away and sought indoor warmth and comfort, laser sailors seem willing to travel long distances (100 miles or more- wow!) for a day of sailing. They sacrifice convenience to find good competition. They also seem to self-organize as needed to immediately satisfy their sailing habits, rather than depending on others (including slower moving yacht clubs) for help.

Other more speculative and perhaps cynical explanations involving potential character flaws in both laser sailors and yacht clubs:

  • Laser sailors have less need for boat storage and therefore don’t have compulsory ties to yacht clubs.
  • Saying you are a yacht club member says little about your interests in sailing. Calling oneself a laser sailor is a meaningful description. Laser sailors have a stronger allegiance to the class than to a club they may belong to.
  • Some yacht clubs may historically not have had enough laser sailors as members to establish a critical mass within the club to satisfy laser sailors.
  • Laser sailing is growing in popularity faster than yacht clubs can organize to keep up.
  • While yacht clubs continue to support some of their long standing fleets in spite of diminishing numbers they don’t appear interested in hosting and supporting newly self organized laser sailing. Laser sailors don’t seem to have enough clout at clubs to get them interested.
  • Laser sailors can be independent and self indulgent to the point of not tolerating certain yacht club organizational sluggishness. They seem to lack the patience required to work with the staid traditions of yacht club organization and would prefer to “just do it”.

I love that laser sailors are self organizers. It’s good for the sport, good for the organizers, and good for their fellow sailors. Sailing should be supported and promoted in every way it can, inside yacht clubs, in public sailing organizations, and in independent sailing without organizations. Isn’t that the whole idea?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Sense of Proportion

It is reported that Larry Ellison and the BMW Oracle campaign has spent a lot of money - $250 million by some estimates - on this year’s America’s Cup three race regatta. We are so used to hearing large numbers that we don’t really put them in terms relative to our own spending. I fully realize than an egotistical billionaire wouldn’t think of spending his sailing money in the ways we ordinary Plebian sailors do, but just imagine if he did. I know it’s a silly, kind of an apples and oranges thing, but I tried to figure out what the money spent could mean in terms of the boats and activities of some my favorite bloggers.
  • 45,620 new race-rigged Lasers
  • A new laser for each sailor in 537 fleets the size of the very large Newport Frostbite fleet (85)
  • A new laser for each sailor in 2281 fleets the size of the one at my yacht club
  • 65,274 new Sunfish
  • 31,486 new 420’s or FJ’s
  • 13,736 new Flying Scots (about twice the number ever built in 50 years)
  • 2631 new Catalina 309’s
  • $523,102 for each high school and college program in the US
  • 66 new boats for each US high school and college with a sailing program
  • $43,165 per year in perpetuity for each high school and college sailing program if invested in an endowment yielding 5% a year
  • Or 5.4 new boats per year for each high school and college sailing program – forever
(Boat costs are taken from the manufacturers’ retail price on their website, the Catalina price from a Cruising World review, and the number of college and high school sailing teams from their respective national organization websites.)
And even for the billionaires:

  • Thirteen 1980 vintage America’s Cup winning campaigns
  • 2 ½ 2007 America’s Cup winning campaigns
  • 24 Newport mansions like the one Larry Ellison just bought
It seems the world has lost track of where to put the decimal points. And I really don’t understand big numbers.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Club Champion

Who can resist a Tillerman writing project – a tried and true cure for writer’s block? My nomination for the worst ever sailing invention is the concept of the season series Club Champion.

Most local yacht clubs run one or more regular series of races over the sailing season. They are convenient, usually great fun, and get a lot of us out for frequent sailing. It’s all good until there is a need to crown a winner for the series. Because the series runs for a substantial period of time, everyone misses some (usually quite a few) days of racing. All the players do not compete against all the other players throughout a season. So lots of people can qualify, there are usually numerous throw outs.. In terms of a serious competition, it is inherently an unequal playing field.

Does the randomness of it somehow level things out? Is there some kind of scoring system that can make this as equitable as head to head competition? Not in my admittedly limited experience.

Is winning a three boat race against a couple of second tier guys while the best guys are off at a regatta the same as winning the day against all the best ten guys? Should the light air wizard be the champ because he picks all the light air days to sail and goes white water rafting on the windy ones? Should the heaviest sailor or crew be the winner when he sails on days it howls and plays golf when the wind won’t blow his ball around? Is it a fair competition when some guys sail more often, get more throw outs, and more chances to do well?

So why do we need to call someone a champion in a series with all these screwy irregularities that we would not tolerate in a serious regatta? We seem so juiced on competition that someone has to prove his thingie is bigger than the other’s guy thingie, even if the other guy just got out of an icy swimming pool. Can’t we get more women in this sport to stop this nonsense?

It can’t be good to take this Club Championship with anything less than a whole shaker of salt. If the champ is so far superior to the rest of his fleet that he wins all the time at the local level, he should move on to bigger or more challenging events. Should we respect the narcissistic egotist who, year after year, aspires only to be the big fish in the little pond? And when the series winner is one of several relatively equal sailors, the issue is probably decided more by the serendipitous variations in attendance than any differences in skill. Is that a champion or the winner of a raffle?

Valid competition only exists when all competitors have an equal chance in equal conditions, an impossibility during an extended series. Winning the day (or the regatta) produces a great feeling for us competitive junkies. Can’t we be satisfied with that? Why can’t we just celebrate our moments?