All posts by Paul Tomblin

Long Lake Long Boat Regatta 2017 Video

I shot this one in 4K/30fps. 30 frames per second doesn’t capture the motion as well, but I think it does more justice to the amazing scenery. Also, it’s a bit easier to recognize people coming in the other direction – I had real problems with that doing the Lighthouse to Lighthouse video.

As I post this, YouTube is still working on it, so it’s not available in full resolution. If it doesn’t look really sharp, come back later.

It’s such a relief to have a GoPro on the front again. Hopefully, the new rig doesn’t allow in water the way my jury-rigged extra battery did.

Long Lake Long Boat Regatta 2017

I’ve done this race a bunch of times, and it remains one of my favorites. The Adirondacks are gorgeous this time of year, the weather is usually pretty good, and I love the new two-pronged course they’ve been using for the last couple of years.

This year, the weather was the best it’s ever been. The sun was bright, not a cloud in the sky, no wind, and temperatures that were warm but not hot at race time. Also, there was a bit of fall color in the trees. Just perfect.

Unfortunately, some people I know didn’t show. Todd, John, and Mike all stayed home in Rochester. Adirondack transplants Doug and Roger didn’t show. However, there were plenty of people I knew and several I didn’t. In unlimited kayak, as well as Jim and Royal there was a guy in an ICF sprint boat, as well as a couple in V10Ls, his was a GT and hers was an Ultra. Another guy had a Stellar SR18 but and it looks like he registered in unlimited class although he was probably eligible for touring. Eric, the guy I unsuccessfully chased last year was also in his touring class Epic 18x. They started the touring class boats in the first wave, so I wasn’t going to get a rematch with Eric, which was too bad because I’m pretty sure I’m faster this year. So, as usual, I figured I was probably going to finish about fourth or fifth in unlimited and I just hoped I would make a good showing against the strangers.

When we lined up for the second wave, there was a lot of lineup creep. Over on the right side, people were about two boat lengths in front of the line. I was hanging back anticipating that Brian would get people to move back, but when he told people to move back and they barely budged, I moved up level with them. I believe in rules, but I’m also not a sucker. I heard him give a number of seconds to the start but didn’t hear the number, so I started my GPS just in case it was a small number. After 15 seconds I heard “30 seconds”, and then 30 seconds after that, I heard “15 seconds”, so my GPS was reading 1 minute about when the gun went off.

At the start, I immediately latched onto the wake of the C-2 that started right beside me. I heard a war canoe on my left say “go right, Epic” but I don’t think he was talking to me. Maybe the video will show that (Update: it was the guy in the V10L GT). Under the bridge, the war canoes finally got up to speed and started passing us. One passed to my immediate left. Its wake threw off the C-2 and I went to the C-2’s right and passed them. I was getting a good ride from the war canoes wake, although I was working pretty hard to stay with them. There was another war canoe to my left and just slightly ahead of me – I was trying to stay far enough ahead on the first war canoes wake so I wasn’t getting thrown around by the second war canoe’s wake. Ahead of both war canoes and to the left, I could see the lead pack of Jim, Royal, and the ICF guy. I guess I’d left the two V10Ls behind, although I had no idea how far.

Things stayed like that for about a kilometer. I had initial fantasies of being pulled up to the lead pack of kayaks in this wake, but it didn’t happen like that. The second war canoe (can I just call them wcs? I’m getting tired of typing out “war canoe”) got close enough to the first one that his wake was throwing me around a bit, and I dropped off the first wc’s wake and got on the second, but I couldn’t hold him for long. Soon I was on my own, just as we were starting to pass the first wave boats.

Rounding the first turn boat, I didn’t think to look back to see where the two V10Ls were, but I didn’t see them coming in the other direction afterward so I should have known they were close. Unfortunately, I’d just discovered that my drink system wasn’t working right and I could only get a small sip after providing a lot of suction. On a hot day, that’s not ideal, and it was distracting. On the way back to the bridge, there were lots of boat wakes. I could see well up ahead that Jim and Royal were still pretty close together, but the ICF guy was tucked into the wake of the last wc and they were having to turn into every boat wake as they hit it. I was trying to figure out if I was getting closer or further away – I thought maybe they were fading or having problems with the wakes.

Just before the bridge, I decided I really needed a drink and I stopped to fiddle with my drink system. It didn’t help. Then coming under the bridge I picked up a weed on my bow. So much for catching the ICF boat. Fortunately, there were still boat wakes around so I cleared it after a bit. But maybe a kilometer after the bridge I grabbed my drink hose for one of those “high suction and low return” sips, and I felt a tap on my stern. It was the black V10L GT. No idea how long he’d been there, but obviously stopping to fiddle with my drink hose had been a big mistake. He came through, and I glommed onto his stern wake.

On his wake, sometimes I thought I was working too hard and other times I thought I was recovering. My heart rate was in the high 150s and then down into the mid 140s. I couldn’t figure it out. About a minute from the second turn, I could see that this C-4 we were catching was on a collision course. We were on the inside line to the buoy and we had the right of way, and I kept wondering why they weren’t steering away. As a matter of fact, they looked like they were on a line that would take them inside the turn buoy, not around it. We got closer and closer, and suddenly it became apparent that they had absolutely no intention of turning away – as they got so close that the people paddling on our side of their boat couldn’t get their paddles in the water without hitting us, the sternsman yelled “keep paddling” at them. Their boat gave the V10L a small push on his stern, steering him briefly to the right. I had to go the long way around them to the left. I was livid. I swore at them something fierce for deliberately interfering with another race (ie ours). Then out of breath from swearing at them, I had to sprint up to the stern wake of the V10L just in time for the turn. He turned sharper than me, so I had to sprint back up again. Then stupidly I decided I needed another sip of drink, losing me the wake and forcing a third sprint. I was pretty beat. That was about when my heart rate monitor decided to show numbers in the 80-90 range, which I knew was about 80 beats per minute too low. It’s done this before, so I figured it would work itself out and sure enough, it was soon back in the more believable 150-160 range (although I did get some more glitches later on). It was as much as I could do to hold on to the wake and try to recover a bit. But at least at the turn, I was able to see the woman in the V10L was far behind us.

I stayed in his stern wake most of the way home. With probably 2 km to go, he tried to outfox me. He slowed right down, causing me to pull out to his left side wake. I grabbed my drink hose to take a sip rather than be forced to take the lead, so he sprinted off to the right. He would have gotten away from me too, but for some reason, he veered left in front of me, and I was able to get back on. He tried a similar move with about 500 meters to go, but this time I tried to sprint side by side with him and he got away. I really didn’t have anything left for the sprint. Official results aren’t up, but I’m sure he got 30 seconds or more on me. (Update: Official results are up, he got me by 21 seconds. And I was 3:41 faster than Eric!)

And even though the conditions change and the length of the race changes depending on where they decide to anchor the turn boats, I’m extremely happy with the fact that I’m about 14 minutes faster this year than last, and my average speed went from 10.5 km/hr to 10.9 km/hr. Next year I’m going to break 11.

I took a quick look at the video from my two GoPros, and I think it’s going to be a good movie. Watch this space.

Lighthouse to Lighthouse 2017 Video

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a GoPro for the camera on the front of the boat, so I had to go back to my old Contour Roam 3. The Contour has good battery life, but unfortunately, it doesn’t do 1080p at 60fps and it doesn’t have image stabilization. As I found out in this race, it also doesn’t have a good strong mount so it wobbled around a bunch and then flopped over.

On the plus side, I have a new GoPro for the front for next weekend’s race – it arrived at home about the same time I was arriving in Norwalk.

The video is a little on the long side. What can I say? It was a long race and there were a lot of other paddlers to interact with.

By popular demand, I went back to using music. Hopefully, since Great Big Sea is basically broken up they won’t be siccing the YouTube police after me.

I’d appreciate any feedback anybody would like to offer. Are the videos too long? Should I show fewer incidents out on the course? Fewer jump cuts? Keep the cuts, but make each one shorter? And what about the music/no music question?

Lighthouse to Lighthouse 2017

So this is my third Lighthouse to Lighthouse (L2L). I did it in 2014, then they didn’t have the race in 2015, and I did it again in 2016. I had high hopes this year because I’ve been training hard with Tom Murn trying to fix some flaws in my technique and add some speed to my great base that I’ve built up by paddling all winter and spring with Jim M.

L2L is a great time to catch up with friends from Traverse City and with people I’ve met out west and here at L2L. We met a good crowd the night before at the Tavern on Seven and more at the race site in the morning.

Ok, some salient points in case you haven’t read my posts from the previous times I’ve done this race:

  • It’s long. Nearly 22km.
  • It seems to always be hot.
  • It’s dominated by boat wakes from all directions rather than wind or tide driven waves.

As in previous years, the water was flat as hell when we arrived. It was also foggy. At race time there was a light breeze that was basically along the long part of the course between the two lighthouses – at our backs on the way out, in our faces on the way back in. The waves were small on the way out, and maybe about a foot high on the way back. The fog had lifted a few feet off the water so you could see the other racers and the landmarks.

At the start I did two things right compared to last year: I lined up sort of in the middle but one row back, and I didn’t go out too fast. I’d sort of hoped to keep up with Chris Chappell but he rocketed off the line so I settled into plan B and tried to find somebody’s wake to ride. After the first turn, I was behind a guy in a red Nelo. I’m not sure, but I think he was the guy who paddled a V8 last year with no shirt under his PFD.

I kept on his wake for a little while before dropping off. Then three more guys came by and I couldn’t get on any of them for any length of time. One of the guys was in a Fenn Swordfish, who I later found out was Ray Fusco (who organized the Mayor’s Cup races a bunch of years ago) and another guy had an Epic paddle with gold blades (possibly Yosef Dayan).

After the first lighthouse, we turned generally downwind. It was hot and humid but I was catching some waves. Cliff Roach from Goodboy Kayaks (they make really good v-racks) came up beside me and started chatting. I didn’t look back to see who he was talking to, but he told somebody else to slot into my stern wake – I think he called him Allen or Alex but I don’t see any likely candidates in the results. I looked at my video, and I couldn’t read his boat number. I also could not see him pass me either then or anytime after. He was in a black Stellar with orange tips – not sure if it was an SS20 class boat (SR) or unlimited. (Looking at the video from the start, it might have been Bradley Ethington.)

I was catching waves and I pulled away from them. I caught up to Ray Fusco again, and he also wanted to chat. I stayed with him and it looked like we were catching the guy with the gold paddle blades until the water got really choppy and confused. Then Ray and gold paddle guy pulled away like I was standing still. Soon afterward, so did Cliff. That always happens to me – the segment from the end of the last island to the second lighthouse and back is a confused mess of waves from all directions and I slow right down. I said to myself as it happened “oh, this is where I lose all the gains I’ve made so far”.

After the lighthouse and back to the island, but it wasn’t really getting easier because the headwind, while refreshing, was also throwing waves straight at our faces. There was a sea kayaker who was just a few meters ahead of me at the turn, but I just couldn’t seem to catch him. We paddled parallel courses for ages. A guy in a v14 came paddling by. When he had his paddle in the water, he was pretty fast, but he kept having to brace, and one time he let go of his paddle and put his hands in the water – I was sure he was going to lose it there. A classic case of a paddler who would be a lot faster in a boat he could actually put power down. But he managed to pull away.

The guy with the gold paddle blades was bracing a lot, and I was actually catching him. It was so unusual for me to pass anybody in the rough part of that race that I actually asked him if he was ok as I passed him.

After a while, it settled down a bit and I started to speed up. I passed the guy in the sea kayak – we had a brief conversation about camera mounts. Evidently being chatty with people you’re passing is contagious. I felt like I was catching back up to Cliff as well, but he had a substantial lead by this point.

After turning around the second last island to the lighthouse I was catching waves and it suddenly became fun again. I passed one of the Achilles doubles (Achilles is an organization for disabled paddlers) and I tried to say some encouraging words to them. I think the guy in front is blind – I’d seen him walking around on the beach before the race with a white cane. I thought about making some joke about him being in a chair with somebody blowing a fan and spritzing him with water, but I didn’t know how it would be received. As I got to the actual lighthouse, I was trying to plot a course between the lighthouse and a rower who was kind of zig-zagging around so I didn’t say much to the second Achilles double I passed.

Right after the lighthouse, this gigantic fishing boat cut between me and a woman paddler I was chasing (I found a picture on Facebook where I could read her number, and it was Linda Aragon in the SS20 category). I had to brace a bit when the wake hit me and I swore out loud – somebody behind me, either the Achilles double or the rower apologized, but I wasn’t swearing at them, I was swearing at my inability to handle a boat wake at that point. The wake make me brace, and when I got into the middle of their wake I hit heavily aerated water that you couldn’t really paddle hard in, but I sprinted over to the other side and caught a ride on it, enough to catch the woman and pass her. I was putting in a full-on effort – Cliff was up there, but I didn’t think I could catch him. I went a little too close to the last island and it got slow in between waves because it was so shallow. But I still had enough energy to sprint, but I never quite caught Cliff.

There was one of the official boats at the last turn buoy and it looked almost like the finish was there. It didn’t fool me, but Mike got briefly confused. I was already fading from my sprint, but I keep going with whatever I had left.

In the end, I ended up 32 seconds behind Cliff Roach, and nearly 9 minutes faster than last year and 7 minutes faster than 2014. I’m pretty satisfied with that. I think for next year I’ll have to spend more time in sloppy conditions. I don’t enjoy them, but I’ve got to figure out how to maintain speed when the waves are coming from every direction. I think I say that every year after L2L – one of these days I’ll figure it out.

Then after the race, it was time to eat and tell stories. They put on a pretty good spread at L2L. Really good chowder and chili. I’d tell you how good the hot dogs were but I dropped mine when I was trying to roll up my sleeve to show my tattoo to Tim Dwyer.

Ok, Final Cut Pro has finished transcoding my video, time to start editing.

Some random thoughts on naming conventions

Something recently made me think about product naming conventions. It seems to me you can start off with a really nifty naming convention, but after a while, it gets so cluttered with exceptions and new products that it doesn’t work anymore, and then you have to throw out the whole thing and start again.

Take, for instance, Epic Kayaks. Now I’m not 100% sure of the history, but I believe their first surf ski was the V10, and their second was the V10 Sport. Calling it “Sport” didn’t make a ton of sense because the V10 Sport is actually a less capable surf ski, but was wider and more stable to appeal to a less elite audience. To me, “Sport” usually implies a faster or more capable model, like the “Sport” model of many cars that maybe has more horsepower and gripper tires, or maybe just go-faster stripes and a manual gearbox. They also have a V10L which was at the time just a low-volume version of the V10. I believe they’ve redesigned it since then to be more of its own boat specifically for lighter paddlers.

But since that time, they’ve added the V12 and V14, each of which is narrower and less stable (and faster) than the previous, and then the V8, V7, and V5, which are increasingly more stable and slower as the number decreases. Then they made a boat that was sort of intermediate between the V8 and the V10 Sport (which was already intermediate between the V8 and the V10) and found themselves naming it the V8 Pro. Not as bad a decision as the use of “Sport” in the V10 Sport, because it does imply something faster than the V8, and it is. But still an obvious shoe-horn into a naming convention that was already under stress.

Then this year they demoed a boat that had the same width as a V12 but which was shorter (shorter even than the V10 Sport) to handle short period waves. When they were demoing it, they were calling it the V12M. And that wasn’t a horrible name because really I think it was designed to be “like a V12, but only for specific conditions”. But then they announced it officially as the V11. That to me implies something faster than the V10 and slower than the V12, and it probably actually is.

But I think their number system is getting crowded. It mostly works that the higher the number, the narrower, longer and faster the boat is. But there are exceptions. The space between the V8 and the V10 has two boats, neither of which is called the V9. There are three boats that are called “V10” (ignoring the V10 Double for a second), with pretty different characteristics. People confuse the V10 Sport and V10 a lot. There aren’t that many V10Ls around here, so I don’t know if they get confused for V10s a lot.

Epic is going to continue to design new boats. Some of them are going to be brought to market. I think sooner rather than later they’re going to have to throw out the whole “V number” system, and either just bring in new boats with a different designation or maybe even redesignate the whole fleet.

Naming conventions are tricky. I like that a person can broadly tell whether an Epic boat is more elite or less elite just by the name. I can’t tell anything about, say, the Fenn boats because they use proper nouns instead of numbers. But on the other hand, as long as Fenn designers can think names, they’re never going to have this problem.

At least they aren’t doing stuff like the computer hardware world, where you get horrendous long names with numbers and letters in riotous abandon. I’ve got an HP OfficeJet 6700 Premium printer. That name doesn’t tell me anything about its capabilities or how it stacks up against the OfficeJet J6000 or the OfficeJet L7000 or anything else in the HP printer line.

I’m reminded of the software world. Basically, most software uses monotonically increasing version numbers, usually with a minor and maybe a semi-minor version number as well, and you know that a change in major number probably means something significant and a change in semi-minor is probably invisible. So macOS 10.12.6 is obviously newer than macOS 10.12.5 and possibly just fixes some bugs, but it probably has some feature changes from macOS 10.11.1.

Windows started off with monotonically increasing numbers (Windows 1, 2, 3.11) and then switched to the last two digits of the year (being the only people I know stupid enough to set yourself up for a Y2K problem with only 5 years left to go) with Windows 95 and 98, broke the convention with Windows 98SE and Windows ME, then looked like they were going back to it with Windows 2000. But then they switched to names that meant nothing (XP) and then back to numbers for Windows 7 and 8, but due to problems caused by lazy programmers in 95 and 98, had to skip Windows 8 and go directly to Windows 10. Ugh, what a mess!

One piece of software I used way back in the day was a dBase III compiler called “Clipper”. I used to love the fact that their naming convention was actually the season and year of release, so Winter ’84 was followed by Summer ’85, etc. Good, because it was easy to tell if the version you found on the shelf was newer than the one you were using. But people evidently didn’t like it, because for their 6th release, they switched to calling it “Clipper 5.00” (yes, it was the 6th release – I guess that means they started from 0) and then “5.01”, then “5.01 Rev 129” because who needs consistency? Although looking at Wikipedia, it’s possible that people didn’t like the seasonal names because they lied a lot. “Summer ’87” was released on 21 December 1987.

So I guess what I’m saying is I’m glad I don’t have to name stuff because my OCD would want the names to tell you something, but I’d also want to leave room for fill in products without breaking the convention, but at the same time be memorable and not confusing.